Monday, November 25, 2013

Tri-Thankful



The most important buckets in my life are family, mental and physical fitness and friends.  This is wrapped in philosophy of spiritual endeavor and adding value to those I interact with via the Four Agreements.  1- Be impeccable with your word 2- Don’t take anything personally 3- Don’t make assumptions 4- Always do your best.  (The Four Agreements - Ruiz)
     Triathlon supports these mainstays of my life.  To me being a good triathlete or endurance athlete is about the whole person.   I was lucky enough to be chosen for the Rev3AG Team and their support of the athlete and their family is in a direct alignment with the values of my family.  I also need to acknowledge that I like being on a team.  If it weren’t for the Rev3 AG Team I wouldn’t be so passionate about Triathlon.  They bring the same verve and dedication to the sport that my Sailing Family did as I was growing up.  The sponsors Rev3 brings to the table are tremendous too - that took a lot of "hard" decision making out of the equation for me when awesome products and solutions are delivered to your door on almost a monthly basis how can an Athlete go wrong!?  
     Staying committed is probably the “easiest” part.  I approach each day with the attitude that 100% is a different effort every day.  Some days just hitting the trainer is 100% other days pushing the sprints in the pool after 2000yds is 100%.  The physical and mental boundary expansion is as much a treat as it is intimidating.  But at the end of every day I acknowledge myself for putting in the effort and as long as I feel I’ve put in that day’s 100% I will push new frontiers and stay balanced.  In the spirit of transparency, I do have a coach 6 months of the year and that helps me gauge effort levels in the off season.  :)  
     The great thing about triathlon is I learn more and more not only about myself but also incremental success.  I am attracted to spaces where the fa├žade of the rapidity of technology is debunked often and with an exclamation point.  Being a triathlete spits in the eye of instantaneous accomplishment.   I get to compete against myself in every training session and event.  I move the needle based on my goals and the quiet success of achievement is something I carry close.   Sure I’ve gotten stuck on plateaus and had weeks of frustration either due to being sick or feeling as though I’m not moving closer to a goal.  And, therein lies the beauty of any endurance sport – not just triathlon – once those weeks of discipline are behind you they are wells of strength to dip into.   We all know it’s not the little things in life that derail us it’s the switchbacks that are unexpected and the blind turns where we have to slow down and reconsider each shift of the wheel and rubble on the road to avoid skidding out.  My dad used to say “little corrections all the time.”  But this takes time, the ability to endure and dig a little deeper for the light and success becomes paramount to a fulfilling and meaningful trove of life experiences. 
     Part of what keeps me going back is the consistent fulfillment to be myself.  Training, racing planning – these are all daily reminders that this thing is PERSONAL.  :)  It helps me command my own limitations more freely.  For instance, sadly, life has left a lasting mark to always have a reserve tank and no matter how many times I mentally run through “what’s the worst thing that can happen.”  I always leave a little in the tank.  On the up side, I’ve moved on from waiting for the next shoe to drop and one day I’ll blow the reserve tank and open up a whole new level of freedom in which to live life.  The most spectacular part of this is if you can fully embrace it, you have the ability to empower others to be themselves too and I think there is no greater gift to another human being.
     On a lighter note – I’m easily bored – the intensity and complexity of the multisport is intriguing.  I have no desire to do a marathon per se but I’m hopeful for a full 140.6 in 2016.  Also, the planner in me likes that this stuff is planned out to a T.  I like that it’s a multi-year objective too.  So I hope this gives some insight into what the beginning stages of Triathlon looked like for me and encourages a hopeful to dip their toe in - its a lot like they say about snorkeling versus scuba diving, the former is like looking at the outside of the circus tent while the latter is being inside where all the action is!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2014 Race Calendar In the Works



2014 Race Schedule

It seems only fitting to be putting this together with biotta juice and prosecco in hand... After a successful foray into the world of Triathlon, I am hooked.  A huge part of my mental and physical success is the AG Team Rev3 - thanks y'all!


April 13, 2014 Rock 'n' Roll comes to Raleigh!  Rock 'n' Roll
     Let's hope this lives up to Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas both in entertainment 
      and PR!
   Bright and early at 7AM - the Half-Marathon
    Goal time: 1:47

May 18, 2014
Rev3 Knoxville Olympic
  Goal time -- anytime would be better after last year's
                                 

June 15, 2014
   Headed up to Williamsburg to support Team Rev 3

June 21-22, 2014
    Goal time:  TBD by Coach and Athlete

July - 

BIRTHDAY MONTH -- Sweet treats both to drink and eat and all the sun and sand I can take in!










September 7 -  Rev3 Cedar Point
    Rev 3 Cedar Point Olympic
Goal time:  TBD by Coach and Athlete

November 2013 - Seems only fitting to cap it off in Florida with my Rev3 Family!
      Rev3 Venice FL


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dry Squall...the Raleigh 70.3



Dry squall is a term used in sailing when the seas and winds are violent and unexpected like that of a storm but the skies are clear.  Sunday morning the sky was clear the breeze gentle with only a hint from the barometer of the rain to come that evening.   As Alan Paton writes in Cry the Beloved Country, “out of a cloudless sky these things come.”
I spent Friday afternoon getting a tune up on the bike and relaxing in the good, calm company of Jim Hale.

  He generously lent me some significantly lighter wheels since climbing is not yet a strength of mine and the Raleigh course captured 1890 ft.  in elevation. 
Sunday morning came early but I was awake before the alarm – got out bed started prepping, getting plenty of TriSlide applied to me and my kit since I knew it would be hot and with an estimated finish time of 2:30 I’d be right in the heat and rising humidity.  Throughout training and previous races I’d start the morning with a bite of fruit some yummy Dreaming Cow Yogurt to get the juices flowing.   My rockstar friend Julie picked me up at 4:35AM to drive me downtown to where the shuttles were transporting athletes out to T1. 
Before the swim with Julie
Normally on race morning I’m jittery and easily rattled right up to the start.  However, this morning I was pretty calm and focused.  I got downtown in plenty of time set up T2 and hopped on the bus.  The arrival at the swim put me there almost 2 hours before I was supposed to start so I just plugged in some tunes and rechecked T2…. which is a good thing because at some point from Saturday to Sunday AM my cap and timing chip disappeared from my bike setup.  I got all that squared away and figured if that was the worst thing that happened I was in pretty darn good shape …famous last words.  I found Andrew Corbin who is always entertaining and we chatted while waiting in the “honey bucket” line.  
Waiting for my Swim wave with Andrew

 Forty or so minutes from the start I put on my HRM and watch, double checked the Velcro on the timing chip, chose the goggles appropriate for sun since it was getting pretty bright out on the water.  Julie again rocked it out – she was there to take my gear bag back to Raleigh and cheer me through the bike transition.

This is only my 3rd open water swim.  I find I’m pretty calm and it feels like I’m back at sailing camp trying to swim between boats.  After the athlete meeting I opted not to bring my wetsuit and the official temp was 76.  However, I’m slow in transition out of the wetsuit so no big loss there.  I think having to make the decision that morning would have caused some stress.  I spent some time watching the pros and waves before me but didn’t readily see any advantage to take.  I rookie’d it in the middle of the pack and then had to swim out to find some clean water – moments which were few and far between.  The first lap I was kinder about being swum over, slapped and kicked.  The second two I got a bit more aggressive about defending my territory.  We swam up to a boat ramp which for me made it tricky to determine when I “hit the bottom.”  I was roughly 1 minute off my anticipated swim time and since I’d allowed time for wetsuit removal in transition I was well within schedule.  Got my bike gear on – hit the Trislide again down the kit and in the shoes. Rolling out of transition I felt good.  My watch gave me some fits so I had to pull it out of multisport and reset to the bike.  Now, the first 3.5 miles is uphill and my coach wisely sent me out there to do hill repeats long before race day.  I knew what to expect and what my plan was.  I stuck to my plan as people pedaled by.  About 6 minutes in I looked down at my HR to check that the way I felt correlated to my zones.  SHOCKER – I’m clocking at  Z4.3 DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER….  I should be in the high 2’s at most low 3’s.  In no other way do I feel like I’m in a Z4 – breathing is moderately tough but not gasping, no burn in the legs so I watch my speed – which was right around 8-9MPH – where it should be.  I finish the climb make the first turn onto a nice rolling downhill, smooth road.  Give myself a few minutes and check my zones again still a high 3 in a light spin – in that moment I make the determination that my HRM must be wrong – change the display to keep an eye on speed.   I also rode the course in full twice before race day and other pieces multiple times to give me an idea of what my pace should be.  I felt great  - thinking that my HR data was invalid I kept a conversation with myself, a little singing... Give Blood by Pete Townshend kept popping in my head - go figure-- to check breathing and MPH clocked where I thought it should be.  I certainly felt the hills but kept an eye on my speed. I also took into account the headwind and would drop back on speed being mindful of power output when there was a headwind.  For 56 miles I was the most disciplined athlete I think I’ve ever been.  I borrowed a strategy from a Rev3 Team member  - since there were just a few hills (ha, ha) and I haven’t mastered the climb, I made a point to pass people on the downhill where I could and force them to either pass me on the uphill or go my speed on the ascent.
Throughout the entire bike, ever mindful of the rising temps and humidity I’m taking in EFS and my PowerBar Energy Blends (how yummy is the strawberry mango?!?!?!)  on the off chance that HR Zone was correct I didn’t want to find myself low on calories for the run.   I slightly modified my hydration/nutrition plan from every 30 to every 20.   I probably over did the refill – taking water at every opportunity but the advice from my coach to pour any excess water from the aid stations was a huge help – I never felt overly hot. 

T2 left a bit to be desired running in bike shoes over uneven pavement and winding through what felt like a snake (it is the year of the snake though ?!?!)  course to get to my spot.  I get there and I’m pissed because some chic has racked her bike in my spot – I move it – get racked and focused back on my game.  Now, there’s a niggling thought in the back of my mind that I haven’t had to use the bathroom despite the amount of fluids I’ve taken in and on every other bike ride I generally have to go about half way through.  So while I’m right there I hit the honey bucket and do get rid of some fluids.  I cruise through T2 pretty pleased – I’ve got almost 20 extra minutes in the bank – I anticipated 3:45 for the bike and knocked it out in 3:25.  I made the switch on my watch to run mode in before exiting T2 .   The first part of the run was uphill and I notice I’m cruising at under an 8:30 which I can’t sustain so I take a step back, a big breath and move down to 9:30.  I know I’ve got some brutal hills between miles 6 to 8 and I don’t want to find myself out of whack.   The aid station at mile 1 I take a bit of water.  Somewhere between mile 1 and 2 my stomach starts to feel like a boulder.   And we all know how fun that makes a run.  Before I even get to the aid station at mile 2 I can’t get my HR regulated – I don’t know why I believed it was right on the run yet wrong on the bike but I did.  The numbers were all over the map –so I stop and walk over the EMS folks and tell them I can’t get my HR regulated – suddenly I can’t tamp down my emotions so I start to do that awesome cry, get mad, calm cycle (I’m sure this helped me tremendously - :P)  they take my BP and tell me its 78/49 – “dangerously low” and their “medical recommendation” was that I stop.  They ask if I’m dizzy and I say – “I wasn’t until you asked me to sit down,”  so I promptly stand up – which didn’t make me their favourite customer.  In retrospect they did a great job stalling to make me take some more recovery time.  I had to answer about 10 questions and then sign a form saying I understood their recommendation was to quit and I was choosing to go on of my own volition.  I have to wonder if you could argue that at that point I clearly wasn’t operating with full cognition… if you’re in the peanut gallery on this one you can save it.  haha
Enter in the dry squall analogy – I am at a total loss between miles 2 and 9 – the medics said my electrolytes were clearly off so I didn’t take any more endurolytes, I tried to get down a Energy Blasts (they are usually like candy to me) to no avail.  I’m looking for anything to relieve my poor stomach.  I also tried to remove any time goal and just focus on finishing. 
Around mile 6 I get my BP taken again and it’s moving into a more “normal/resting” range at 90/60.  I feel more alert but continue to walk since every time I pick up the pace my abdomen rejects that plan.   Again at mile 8 or so I get the Raleigh Fire Dep’t to take my BP again – its up to 110/70 or so.   At this point because they are measuring it I realize that my HRM is feeding good data to my watch.  So possibly it’s been right all day.  One of their firefighters walked a loop with me – which was great to have company.   At this point I feel like my BP/HR has “recovered” but my stomach is still giving me fits.  I periodically find child’s pose in some cool grass – I have no idea why but it felt good.  As I begin to head back towards the finish line I am willing myself to run the last 4 miles a good clip – yet every time I try it’s just not there.  So I decide to run the downhills and walk the uphills which worked out marginally well.  At mile 12 I am fed up with feeling like crap and decide to run the last mile (vanity’s a bitch with all those cameras isn’t it…..) As I’m finishing I start to realize I can’t really see anything so as I cross I slow and ask for the med tent.  My HR at this point is way beyond my “redline.”  They get me in a lounge chair, ice me down and start in on the BP/HR measurements again.  Good news/bad news – I tend to “recover” really quickly so while the numbers were still high they were moving in the right direction.  I was also able to take in additional fluids at this time too – and when the Dr asked if I’d used the bathroom it hit me that I never went again after T2.  

I don’t know what happened.  I don’t like not knowing.  I am a problem solver and I’m willing to work at the solution.   I am still in that place where I don’t feel like I accomplished anything despite finishing and that was ultimately the goal.  But having done the work and setting an attainable goal, I still feel a loss.  As another coach from the past posted today,  “A period of time is needed to alter the outcomes of your new beliefs.  The structure learns to adjust to the new preferred outcome ~ gestation periods.”

To paraphrase a team mate, many thanks to Rev 3, blueseventy, Quintana Roo, Pearl Izumi, PowerBar, Biotta Naturals and Compex – wish I could’ve give you a better race.

Monday, May 6, 2013

June ...here we come!!!



After a leisurely drive, we rolled into Knoxville just in time to see say hello to some team members and see the Glow Run finish – what an amazing tribute to Rev3 and Nicole Gross and her family, who were injured in the Boston Marathon Bombings.    

The Rev3 Knoxville Oly was a ramp up to a 70.3 in June.  My attitude going in was to learn as much as possible for a great performance in June.
Saturday was a whirlwind of events – I got to pick up my new QR and Adamo saddle – took a spin on the trainer under the watchful eye of Rev 3’s expert Alex Poon to make sure all the geometry was set for a solid race Sunday.  Sunday’s race presented the first open water swim … as long as countless hours goofing off sailing don’t count…. One mantra of mine is “you play like you practice.”  Having never put on a wetsuit or braved temps under 75 the practice swim on Saturday was a must for me.   What a difference team mates make -- @tribirdie and @trihollywood were a huge help – nifty tricks like pinching instead of grabbing with finger nails to pull up the wet suit, getting it as far up my lower leg as I can first and spraying the hotspot on my neck!  TriSlide made all the difference in the world getting in and out of the wetsuit – there’s never too much!  The water was …. breathtakingly balmy at a 58.5 degrees F.   I swam around a bit to get my bearings and gage what hurdles Sunday might present.  I got through setting up transition and went to an early dinner at the Knox Mason with my husband.  


Sunday morning came early, cold and wet.  Sleep is rarely my friend and she goes AWOL when I travel.  Due to the predicted temps and precip I was concerned that being tired would amplify the cold.  I can’t say enough how lucky I was to have my husband there to schlep my stuff from one place to another keeping it warm and dry! 

The swim was something else.  I acclimated to the cold but could never quite get a solid stroke rhythm going – coming back with the current was marginally easier.  I had a few hiccups – made the decision to stay relaxed and float and focus on the end game.   The run to transition was miserable for me.  My feet are the first thing to get cold and the last to warm up – the entire run up to T1 I felt like I was running on glass.  Found the bike got geared up and after struggling with stuffing my pockets with nutrition Kristin Deaton’s awesome suggestion that cleavage is a great place to store PowerBars saved the day!  :) Seriously- I wouldn’t have had any food on the ride without that nugget of wisdom.  I've been riding on the road for over 2 years - anything from winds so strong that I've had to pedal downhill to being smothered in sand -- these 25 miles were the most mentally challenging yet.  I made the decision early on to take it safe.  Most of the ride I couldn’t see, my feet were entirely numb and I was ever mindful of the blind curves outlined in the Athletes Meeting.  The QR has different bottle cages that I’ll be practicing with in the next 30 days which made taking in fluids tough.  Due to the wet conditions I was so glad I didn’t have to reach around my back to grab some food – the hills required some calorie intake and it was awesome to have it within “reach.”  ;)  On the back split I was closer to the 16.1mph June pace.   Bike to run transition seemed smooth … getting my feet in my shoes was tough-- the numbness caused some pain –and running on numb feet for about 2 miles was a new experience.  But I was clocking along pretty well – keeping my HR in the right zone – got a big smile from @tribirdie who I was so glad to see having a good run and BAM –it hits me I forgot my race belt back at transition.  I was pretty pissed at myself since periodically on the ride I would remind myself to put it on.  Alas, you can only control your response to events – on the return I went back through transition and got the race belt and kept on trucking to the finish line.  I’m thinking I’ll never forget my race belt again.  ;)

I’ve been reading some other posts and remarks about the weekend.  The cold and rain were miserable.  Endurance training is about the long game, making choices that get you through the current race as well as the next one and sometimes those goals are in conflict.  I wanted a better time Sunday but I made the most of the race and I am more prepped than ever for the Half in June.
As a long time member of the sailing community I have high expectations of an athletic community.  I am continually rewarded by my Rev3 Team mates and Race Directors at the caliber of competitors and race production quality!  What a fantastically fun weekend!!!



Monday, March 18, 2013

The "bike" fit

 Saturday I headed up the Rev 3 HQ in Manassas Va.  It was quite the day - 8 hours on the road-- ultimately worth the time -- a great fit.  I experienced the exceptional attention to detail from Alex Poon and Tim Andrus of Rev3. 
Growing up sailing really set a high bar for me in the sense that I expect "experts in the field" to be generous in sharing their knowledge and experience.  As a community, we send our seasoned sailors out with the new ones to share tips and anecdotal information to nurture the love of the sport.  Over the years I've not always had the same experience in other fields of sport. 
So for me as an embryonic triathlete this was potentially a nerve racking experience.  I like having my questions answered not sneered at and I am a sponge for details.  Tim and Alex not only took in the information I gave them but they also asked lots of good questions.  Within 5 minutes I felt completely comfortable -- so in the spirit of transparency I took ownership of my ride and gave them as much information as I could so they could make informed decisions and give some solid direction on what choices I need to consider.
I have two big races coming up- Rev 3 Knoxville in May and a 70.3 in June. My current bike is sufficient but not enabling me to perform at my best due to some discomfort in the saddle -- when I say discomfort I mean after 40 miles significant pain -- I get that cycling is not like sitting on your recliner watching Bond reruns but at times this is beyond belief.  
 Alex asked me to bring my pedals, shoes and cycling shorts.  I wasn't strong enough to remove them so I just brought the whole bike.... what a treat for me-they were able to take a look at some of the components and give some suggestions. 


I spent several sets on the bike all hooked up to some technology measuring different angles and pressure points -- these guys want me to ride well!  They don't want me focused on shifting around on my saddle finding 30 seconds of comfort -- they want me looking down the road picking off the next competitor.  When I say attention to detail - they were both genuinely interested in any feedback I gave even when it consisted of "wait, I dropped my chin and now I'm back to the pain spots."  I got fed some yummy Powerbars to keep my momentum up!
After lots of pedaling, measuring, retooling and re-measuring I'm sold on the tri-fit.  A QR is in my near future .. the bigger question is do I get it now or wait for the PINK one.  :) 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

First Tri - one and done!

Cross pollination in learning is a strength of mine on the rarest of occasions - I think I've spent the last 5 years or so looking at that process and implementing it as often as I can -- I just wish it hadn't take 30 years for me to figure out how valuable it is.  Must be those long zone 2 runs and rides allowing my mind to wander aimlessly.

I jumped on the 70.3 bandwagon last August mostly in with mindset of seeing if I could "just finish."  I could already swim, I cycled to improve my running and I am a runner.  The race is coming to my town -- how could I pass up something where I can practice where I'll actually be competing!  I spent the fall putting on what I now know are called base miles.  My dad spent most of my youth telling me that prior preparation prevents poor performance and if out of earshot of my mom .. piss poor performance.  You Squids out there will recognize the phrase.  Come January I began a formalized training schedule complete with a Coach (@tribirdie).  I decided early I did not want the pressure of having to figure out the training schedule, what I should be accomplishing and how to surmount hurdles other than the workout in front of me.  What an ease to the brain! Just prior to that I was encouraged to put my name in the hat for Team Rev 3 - the amount of colour and underlying support this has added is beyond description - they are a tremendous group of people and give honour to the word team!  I'm sure I'll have more to add as the weeks go by on that experience.



Swim roster












So back to the premise... I've been in finance for over 15 years and it only just hit me last week that training for endurance events is lot like fiscal success - regular contributions to the overall objective - right down to any setbacks.  Since January I have approached training with discipline and even in the moments where I think "I can run faster than this," I've stuck to the plan trusting in my coach to get me to the finish line.  I got sick over President's day weekend in February and I'm still carrying a cough.  For two weeks working out was a daily decision.  I killed it at the end of week two and found myself bed-ridden for another weekend.  At this point I'm losing my mind with worry ... the starting line date hasn't changed just because I"m sick.  The hubris of inexperience ... I took with glee permission for one more day off and eased back in - smarter not harder and have been building up to this past weekend since.

Azalea Sprint Tri-Wilimington 2013
Well ... I raced my first Tri ever yesterday as part of practice for the big day in June.  A multitude of firsts... I took the advice of the race organizers and put myself in the "first time tri" swim group ... yeah should have listened to the veteran Coach ... almost got jammed up but spent a bit of time watching the folks in front of me as I waited my turn and figured out where I might need to hit the gas to get out around.  Number 600 in front of me had great etiquette - she turned around before we even started and told me just to tap her to pass her -- I took her up on it -- always easier when the expectation has been set. 

One decided highlight of the day is having teammates who have finished hours ahead of you hang out to yell support during transition - I think my favourite line was "drop the hammer Rachel!"  :)  Huge shout out to Tara Martine (http://www.taramartine.blogspot.com) and her ENTIRE FAMILY (they were my hosts Friday evening as well - funniest people ever!) and Andrew Corbin - If I forgot anybody by name - please excuse me.  :)  I almost chuckled at the finish when the MC announced ..."and with a determined look, Rachel Stephenson from Raleigh finishes."  A lot different from running when there are too many finishers at once to add any commentary.  :)
I think assuming anyone is interested in reading a blow-by-blow is alarming.. my biggest takeaways go back to the beginning -- putting in the incremental work leads to tremendous success, there are always setbacks and as the old adage goes you can't control what happens to you just how you respond to it.  I read somewhere to practice your response to those setbacks.  I need some more work there but life is full of opportunities to put that into play.  As we say in the sailing community ... fair winds and following seas.


Nice guy putting on numbers asked me if I wanted a smiley face -- why not?!

Flowers from Hubby for finishing