The last few months have been a whirlwind of change, development, growth, excitement, success and – most recently – a bit of frustration. It’s all been an experience, and I’m excited to share the updates of what has been going on.

At the end of January I boarded a plane, bound for Kona, where the team of Purplepatch pros descends every year for a several-week training block. I love our camps – our crew has this really unique ability to push each other to new limits, all while supporting each other, AND while living in close quarters for an extended period of time. My bestie, EK Lidbury, astutely said one night at dinner how amazing it was that 8 athletes, beasted and famished could collectively navigate our way around a kitchen in an amicable way without ripping each other’s heads off in a scurry to get food in our stomachs at every meal. She could not be more right. It’s a hilarious sight actually – all of us arriving home, dripping sweat, dirt covering our bodies, stinking like no other, all racing to the kitchen, a few profanities here and there about how “F-ed” someone is, all shoving our faces with food. And then suddenly, the frenzy is over, everybody clears out, and the house becomes dead silent as everyone retreats to their little nooks to nap, watch episodes of “Breaking Bad”, talk to their kids, read a book – whatever. And then, as the next session approaches, we all emerge, slowly at first, and then the eating frenzy begins again before we head out the door to be beasted all over again.

I love it. And I love the camaraderie and positive environment that our team fosters and creates. It is truly a special team that Matt has created.

One day in the middle of camp, Matt and I sat down and had a long talk about where I was, what our goals were (short- and long-term) and what we needed to do to get there. We both agreed that this year would be a defining year for me in my career, and that it was imperative for me to step up and start racing “like a big girl”. I had expired my two years of “new-to-the-game pro” status and was in a place where I either needed to become a contender, or re-think where my career was headed. I’m not in this sport to be average. I’m in this sport to be great. I want to win. And with that comes an expectation in terms of my progression as an athlete.

We asked the questions: how do we make that happen? What do I need to do? What has been working? What needs to change?

Collectively we decided the best option for me was to head up to San Francisco to spend time directly in front of Matt. We planned for me be there for 2 months. As soon as I arrived back in Los Angeles, I packed my bags, said goodbyes to my amazing group of friends in LA and drove up to San Francisco.

And…it became almost immediately evident that the decision was a wise one. Everything I had been needing and looking for (and things I didn’t even realize I needed) was there in front of me. Matt has pushed, supported and encouraged me to become a stronger and better athlete, and I have started to evolve.

While swimming has taken less of a priority in terms of my training hours, every second spent in the pool has been highly focused. If I take one stroke that is lazy, Matt is on my ass, not allowing me to stop focusing for one instant. We’ve worked on stroke rate, arm position, body position, breathing. On the bike, I do two bike trainer sessions a week in front of Matt at Shift SF (an indoor bike training facility in downtown San Francisco). If my body position moves, my head goes down, my hands are not where they are supposed to be, Matt calls me out. He monitors my watts and my efforts and we adjust things on the fly. Several runs a week Matt is there, his stop watch out, watching my form, my leg turn-over, my knee drive, my arm carry.

I also started working with a great strength, conditioning and rehab team (Foundry Performance) who have played an instrumental part in my training program, and have created a platform for communication with Matt that keeps everyone connected and in-the-know. These guys are showing up at my 5:30 am swim sessions and watching my stroke to discover real-time weaknesses. Same with the bike and the run.

Such positive momentum was hard not to see, and within weeks we had decided that SF was the right place for me to be right now (as much as I love LA and feel it offers so much in terms of training environment). Rather than a 2-month stint, we decided I would re-base myself in San Francisco for the 2014 season. I’m keeping my apartment in LA, and will be back in SoCal several times throughout the season to do some work there, but I’m taking advantage of the opportunity now to be in front of Matt and work with the team of people I have set up there to take the next step up. It is going to be an exciting thing to watch so stay tuned!

At the end of March, as I was getting ready to head off for my first races of the season (including my dirty double (Texas 70.3 and New Orleans 70.3)) I started feeling a bit of tightness in my hip flexor. It was nothing serious – truly nothing preventing me from doing any of my training, but it was there. I would get it worked on with my massage therapist and ART/Chiro team and generally felt like it was improving. When I left for 70.3 Galveston at the beginning of April I didn’t think much about it. I hadn’t even mentioned it to Matt as to me, it was a non-issue – just a small niggle that needed to get worked out.

Galveston was a solid race. I was REALLY nervous beforehand. I had been feeling like my position on the bike was off leading up to the race and I had not been feeling that comfortable or feeling like I was getting good power generation through each pedal stroke. Knowing the bike is a strength of mine, I was anxious on race day as to how I would perform. The entire ride I felt absolutely terrible, but I also was passing people and seemed to be making up time on some seriously strong riders and contenders, so I just kept my head down, stayed focused and tried to not to think too much about how I was feeling. When I pulled in to T2, I was in 3rd, and only a few minutes down on the lead. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the results at the end and saw I had broken the bike course record! Out on the run I started out strong and running right on the pace I wanted. But about 6 miles in my energy started to wane, and I bonked big time. The last few miles were miserable and I sort of limped my way into the finish. It wasn’t a bad race by any means though! I took so much away from it, and my bonking actually led to some big changes in what I was doing for my race fueling, which has had really positive effects for me in my races since.

After the race my hip tightened up a lot – it was the first time I was worried at all about it. The next day it was again tight. When I arrived in to New Orleans later that day I spoke with my Chiro and ART guy, who gave me some stretches and activation work, and I sought out a massage therapist who was able to work on me several times that week leading up to the race.
Race day came. The morning of the race I went out for my typical runs (I do a run first thing in the morning when I wake up and then another at transition), and my leg was hurting me. Not terribly so – but it was there. Once the race started, I felt no pain. It was time to race.

The race was ok. I was exhausted from the week before and really did not have too much to give. My swim was average. When I got out onto the bike, I felt like I didn’t have much power, and it was a frustrating ride for me as with almost no course refs there was a lot of drafting going. I was disappointed I didn’t have more to give as it meant I wasn’t able to break up what was going on behind me.

When I got to the run, I started out feeling very controlled and strong. At mile 9 I was running in 2nd, and I could see the lead girl was fading, but my stomach was not happy. I was trying to keep the pace, but my focus had turned to keeping everything down. I ended up stopping on the side of the road and puking everything up. As soon as that was over, I felt so much better, but I had lost a bunch of time and was in 4th. Once I got going I was able to pull myself back and finish second. I was disappointed with the result and frustrated with the race dynamics, but I also knew that the double was providing me with a great foundation and base to lead me into Ironman Texas, which was coming up in May, and just took it for what it was.

I had a flight out of New Orleans that night as I needed to get back to San Francisco for a team training camp that was starting on Monday. Before I even got on the plane my leg was throbbing and when I got off the plane I was having a hard time standing on one leg, let alone walking without a massive limp. Something was obviously wrong. As so many of us do, I kept telling myself and my team that I was fine; it would be fine in a few days; it was just a muscular thing. And I believed that, but there was admittedly some doubt and worry that had started to creep into my mind.
I went to the camp that week, but with the exception of one 30-minute run to “test” my leg, I did not run at all, and that one run did not go well. When camp ended, I immediately went in for an MRI, which came back negative for everything – no stress fracture, no labral tear – nothing. We all consulted, and it seemed, based on the MRI results, that the pain I was feeling was a muscular issue. We came up with a game plan that involved no running and a boat load of rehab – massage/PT/Chiro/ART/ stabilization work, etc. We decided to move forward with my race schedule and to race both St. George 70.3 and Ironman Texas as we all truly believed I would not be hurting myself further in competing.

St. George was the first big test. I hadn’t run in 3 weeks (effectively since New Orleans) and though I knew my leg was still bothering me, I had no idea how it would hold up in the race. The race itself was good. I had a decent swim – I was pleased with it all in all, but I also felt like I settled in too quickly. Part of it for me is that I have this fear of completely blowing up in the first 200 meters, so I tend to settle quite quickly and go into my pace. It is something I need to work actively on moving out of. Out on the bike I knew there were a lot of very strong riders competing. This race (for those who are not familiar) was the US Pro Championships, and the field that was assembled was effectively a World Championships field, save a few other women. So the level and depth of talent was incredible. Based on that I knew I had to bike my own bike and not fall into the rhythm of the other ladies. I did that for about 25 miles and when I caught the second pack of women, it was hard to break them. There was a lot of back and forth, which meant a lot of short spurts at higher power, etc and I struggled with that. It wasn’t what I was used to, and I honestly didn’t know how to manage it. It completely broke my rhythm. The bike ended up not being an average ride, but I learned so much from the experience and was actually very thankful for that as it gave me a lot of insight into some specific training I will need to do to get ready for 70.3 worlds.

I had a solid run. I had agreed with Matt that I would run the first 4 miles fairly controlled and then would try to open it up. It worked out well as for the first 6 miles of the run my leg was killing me. I actually contemplated stopping, but decided to run one more mile, then one more mile, then one more…and by the time I hit 6 miles I didn’t feel any pain anymore and was able to run in the way I knew how. I felt light on my feet and pain free and I was able to push it.

I finished the race in 8th – a result I was definitely pleased with – and I took a ton of knowledge away.

Immediately following the race my leg felt the best it had felt in ages. It didn’t even hurt and I felt very positive about it. That night though I woke up in agonizing pain. I couldn’t put any pressure on my left side, and was up for 1 hr letting Advil kick in and trying to roll out my leg (as I thought it was muscular) before I was able to get back to sleep.

In the morning I again could not walk on my leg, but thought maybe if I loosened it up a bit it would feel better. So…I hopped on my bike and road for 2 hours. And honestly, it DID feel better. I got off my bike and could walk, and my leg felt much looser.

The week following I was actively doing PT/Massage/etc to rehab my leg and by the time I left for Ironman Texas I felt like I was back to the point it had been before St. George. We all agreed this wasn’t an ideal situation – managing things from race to race – and after Texas I would take a break and let my leg rest and fully heal. But, The MRI had been negative and my overall experience with racing on it in St. George had been very positive, so we did not think it would be a high risk racing on it at the Woodlands.

Ironman Texas was an OK race all things considered. I had an absolutely TERRIBLE swim. I completely missed the pack I should have been in and came out of the water at least 3 minutes back of where we expected me to be. That sucked.

On the bike the first 50 miles were the most enjoyable 50 miles I have ever ridden in an Ironman! We were expecting a strong headwind on the back half of the bike, so my game plane for the front half was: Patient, Conversational riding. I had to write it on my water bottle so that I would not ride hard because what I wanted to do was GO! But I followed coach’s order and when I hit mile 60 the leash came off and I was allowed to ride my bike. Where most of the girls rode 1-2 minutes faster than me on the front half (if not more), I rode 12-20 minutes faster than everyone on the back half. It was a new strategy for me and honestly, I think I rode a bit too easy at the beginning, but all in all we were successful the execution and I put up a solid ride all in all.

The goal for me on the run was to be consistent – to just run consistently. I had no idea how the run was going to go, and as soon as I got on course my leg was in pain. My stride was way off. My knee was collapsing in when my left leg hit the ground. It hurt. So I just focused on engaging my core to support my legs and stride mechanics. I had hydrated and eaten SO well on the bike, so I felt great on the run – the only limiting factor for me was my leg and not being able to push at all. At the mid-way point I took some Advil and once that kicked in I felt WAY better and started to run a bit harder. My pace increased from 7/7:15 miles to 6:30-6:50 miles and I felt great. With 2 miles to go I was in 4th and 1 minute out of 3rd, and suddenly my leg just stopped working. It was the strangest feeling I have ever experienced. My body felt fine. I had great energy, I did not feel fatigued. Mentally I was focused and moving forward, but over the course of ½ mile my leg just completely shut down. The muscles just stopped working and eventually I couldn’t take another step. Rather than driving my knee I was trying to swing my leg around, but the problem was that when I landed my leg just collapsed in. There was nothing I could do. It wasn’t a pain factor for me – I can run through pain. It was a body-flicking-me-the-bird factor. I was 1.5 miles from the finish. I sat there and I knew my day was over – there was nothing I could do. But I hated the idea that I had done all that – worked all day – and RUN on that leg for 24.5 miles to stop 1.5 miles from the finish. I felt like I owed it to myself…to my damn leg..to get to that finish after all I had asked of it, not to mention just respecting everyone out there who was also suffering. My view – if I could walk and put one leg in front of the other, no matter how humbling or how I finished, I was going to walk across that finish line. And I did. My last 1.5 miles took me nearly 35 minutes to complete.

After the race I have NEVER been in as much pain as I was then. It hurt so much it was nauseating. I cried…which for someone who has a high high pain tolerance, meant I was in a tremendous amount of pain. My brother called me the day after the race and when I answered the phone I just started sobbing. It hurt SO much and there was nothing that was helping it.

When I got back to LA, I was able to get in to see one of the top hip specialists around (Thank You Bobby Jaffe for getting that set up). They did an MRI and the conclusion: A fractured Femur – specifically a hairline fracture in my Femoral neck. What does this mean? It means roughly 2 weeks of non-weight bearing movement, then I can start slowly adding pressure to my leg; 3-5 weeks on crutches; swimming only with a pull buoy and no pushing off the wall; 6 weeks of no biking; 3 months of no running. I’ll be back in for an MRI in 6 weeks and hopefully if it I’m healing right I’ll be able to get back on my bike.

Am I bummed? Yes, of course I am. Completely. I LOVE to race. I love it. I LOVE what I do. I love it. So to be sitting on the couch right now as opposed to out in the sun riding my bike – yeh…it bums me out. Do I regret racing Ironman Texas? I do not. My personal view is that as elite athletes we are frequently riding a fine line between injury and not. And I believe that to be great, we have to push ourselves, take risks and take chances. Sometimes those risks/chances and decisions we make don’t turn out in our favor. And sometimes they do. I believed I could win Ironman Texas – even with my hurt leg. And I was prepared to give it a go. I knew I was hurt, and I knew that once the gun fired I would have the capacity to push through any pain. I could have easily pulled the plug on the morning of the race and said I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. But I didn’t. I made the decision to race. If someone had said to me that the result would have been a broken leg – well then of course I would not have raced. But given the information that we had and based on what unfolded in St. George, I felt as though it would be ok.

Am I bummed? Yes, of course I am. BUT….I am also thrilled I don’t have a labral tear, which would have required surgery, taken much longer to recovery, and the guarantee of getting to 100% was much lower. So I feel “lucky” it is only a broken bone.

Am I bummed? Yes, of course I am. Kona is out for me this year. But….I recognize that while this does impact my season, perhaps this is my opportunity to focus on my swim in a way I never have before, and perhaps that will allow me the breakthrough I truly need to have. Perhaps this is an opportunity to help me take that step and become a better athlete and become great.

The near term disappointment is inevitable, but I’m looking for how this is giving me an opportunity to make my medium and long-term brighter. And I promise I will be doing everything I can to make the most out of this time out of competition.

I know this is long, but I really need to thank so many people for their support.

EVERYONE has stepped up and supported and helped me in ways I did not expect, and I am so grateful to you all:

- To Brian and Tina Trimble for taking care of me as soon as I crossed the finish line – getting me in a car, taking me home, picking up my car, my bike, my bags, getting me ice – you two were amazing and I am not sure what I would have done without you.

- To Joseph and Lucy Major and Maureen and Greg Gibbons for helping me pack all of my things the day after IMTX.

- To Tim Floyd for getting me to the airport and checked in to my flight

- To EK Lidbury, Stacy Tager, Heather Gillespie, Heather Reed, Jesse Rice, Laurel Wassner for picking me up from the airport, taking me to my doctor appointment and MRI, for picking up food and my medications for me, for coming to my apartment to do body work, for the flowers and the company – THANK YOU

- To the guys at Foundry Performance – Craig McFarlane, Michael Lord, Ryan West for your help in getting me around, helping to get a plan in place and starting to move forward to get me back to healthy

- To Matt Dixon – for your support, guidance and honestly, just being a freaking amazing coach, person and friend. Thank you!

- To Bobby Jaffe, Dr. Stephen Lombardo and Dr. Jason Snibbe for getting me in quickly and getting an answer even faster! Thank you!

- To Anthony DuComb for helping to get me back to San Francisco

- To so many others – Stephen Clouthier, Eric Neponaschky, Phil Goglia, Gerry Rodrigues, my family and friends – thank you for your support

I’ll be back soon – better, stronger and faster than before. It’s time to rehab!

Until Next Time. Don’t Dream It. Be It!

Little Poo (AKA Little Red)

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Like most people, I really enjoy listening to music when I train.  In the early parts of the season I always have my headphones on, but as the season progresses I actually tend to do most of my training music-free so I can learn about the sounds of my breath and feel what it is like to push myself without David Guetta or some other upbeat DJ burning in my ears.  Particularly for Ironman – developing other cues in training that I can use to motivate me through the tough patches is important.

But….right now I am all about the music!  My musical tastes are pretty diverse.  I really enjoy Top 40 music, hip hop and rap, country, indie rock, coffee house/crooner-type artists, jazz, hard rock, techno – everything.  With the exception of heavy metal (though I can say there are a few Metallica and Nine Inch Nails songs that I like) – I can listen to anything as long as it fits my mood.  I used to only listen to rap to get my fired up in training.  But recently I’ve really been getting more and more into alternative rock and new types of music I had never listened to before.

So – I thought I would share my playlist of the moment.  I have it titled in my iPod as “two steps forward” just signifying the motivation to always be trying to move forward and striving to improve.

Hope you enjoy!

Little Red’s January 2014 Training Playlist

1901 – Phoenix

Young Blood – The Naked and Famous

Wake Me Up – Avicii

Closer – Nine Inch Nails

ATLiens – OutKast

Demons – Imagine Dragons

Outro – M83

Hurricane – MS MR

Nightcall – Kavinsky

Pepper – Butthole Surfers

This Must be The Place – Talking Heads

Team – Lorde

Sweet Disposition – Temper Trap

Spotlight – MuteMath

Sail – AWOLNATION

Shot At the Night – The Killers

Nothing Left to Lose – Mat Kearney

A Real Hero – College & Electric Youth

Trojans – Atlas Genius

V.A.L.I.S. – Bloc Party

She Is Love – Parachute

Payphone – Maroon 5

Once In a Lifetime – Talking Heads

Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men

Mercy – Kanye West

Love Somebody – Maroon 5

Kids – MGMT

Holy Roller – Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Ho Hey – The Lumineers

Fire & Rain – Mat Kearney

Gold On the Ceiling – The Black Keys

Everything You See – Portugal. The Man

Fans – Kings of Leon

Counting Stars – OneRepublic

Clocks – Coldplay

Black Skinhead – Kanye West

 

Happy Listening!

 

Until next time.

Don’t dream it.  Be it.

-          Little Red

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It’s Saturday afternoon and I am sitting on my couch snuggled up with a blanket, listening to Christmas music and feeling…content and happy.  As I sit here and reflect on the last 12 months, it has been filled with many highs and equally as many lows on both professional and personal levels, but this year has also been one of the most beautiful and amazing years of my life and I walk away feeling….thankful, inspired and forward-looking – all really positive emotions.

This time of year is about giving thanks, so I thought I would share with all of you what I am thankful for.  This year, the people in my life and my relationships with them are THE reason why I am sitting on my couch today feeling the way I do.  I’m no Barbara Walters, but here are the most influential people in my life in 2013:

1. James Duffy
James is one of the most important people in my life – not just since I arrived in Los Angeles, but ever.  He has supported me unconditionally through the highs and lows of my job and along the way has pushed me to face fears and strive to become a better person in ways no one ever has before.  His intuition, patience, poise and kindness have helped transform my life and opened doors for me I am not sure I could have on my own.  He inspires me in a truly unique way and I am forever grateful to him.

2. My mother
When I decided to leave the world of finance behind me and take a chance on triathlon, both of my parents has serious concerns and reservations (and for good reason!).  But they swallowed all of those and have shown nothing but the utmost support to me in my endeavors.  My mother has become a veritable triathlon groupie – she reads the blogs of every athlete, she runs the statistics on every race, she knows the nuances of every course from the elevation gains and losses on bike and run courses, to the water temperature, water quality and speed of every swim. She has immersed herself in this sport in support of me and has stood by my side, cheering me on to be the best athlete I can be.  I am so thankful to my mother for her unwavering support and her open-mindedness in allowing me to take my own path and create my own destiny.  Thank you mom!

3. Emma-Kate Lidbury
Eeks, Eccles, EK, EKs – my dear dear friend.  EK moved to LA not even a year ago and I feel like I have known her a lifetime.  She has not only become my closest friend in LA, but one of my dearest, most loved and valued friends in my life.  We have pushed each other in workouts, challenged each other on personal levels, are fierce competitors in races, but at the end of the day love and respect each other.  One day we are beasting each other in training, the next we are cooking dinner together and laughing, and the next we are back at it – creating new physical and mental limits.  We have succeeded in mixing business and friendship so well – something that can be hard to achieve.  I feel so lucky to have EK in my life and her presence in LA has been more important to me than she will ever know.

4. Gerry Rodrigues and Matt Dixon
My growth in triathlon has been a project.  And both Matt and Gerry have taken this journey with me with their arms wide open.  Over the last two years, these two individuals have grown not just to be coaches I respect so much, but friends and family who have offered words of support, love and kindness in ways I did not expect.  I have a family in California, and Gerry and Matt are very much part of that.  I cannot express the gratitude I have for their coaching, guidance and friendship.  We have few opportunities in our lives to have people like Matt and Gerry take part, and I value these relationships so much.  Thank you to you both for being part of it all.

5. Stacy Tager, Heather Gillespie, Todd Larlee and Caroline Bird
My relationship with these three ladies and one gent have grown in exponential ways this year and I could not be more thankful for their friendships.  Each of you have shown what spectacularly loving, kind, generous and thoughtful people you are and anyone who is lucky enough to have a friend in you is blessed.  Thank you all for being part of my life.  I cherish your friendships.

6. My family
Where I would be without my family, I don’t know.  The perspectives, differences in personality and individual strengths and weaknesses bring color to my life.  As we’ve grown, our lives have changed.  We all have taken different paths.  We have evolved as people, as parents, siblings, spouses, cousins and children.  But at the end of the day, we all have each other’s backs, we aren’t afraid to speak the truth, and we push each other all to achieve greatness.  I love you all so much.  I value and love my relationships with every single one of you.  Thank you Mom, Dad, JM, Vanessa, Jeff, Laura, Marcia, Adam, Travis, Zoe and Eliza.

7. Avery Roth
Avery is like my long lost sister.  She was my roommate in college and like James, she has pushed me to break down barriers on a personal level that I am not sure I ever would have without her in my life.  Her loyalty and friendship has created a bond that will never be broken.  Thank you Avery for being such an incredible friend and sister.  I love you!

There are so many other people and things I am thankful for – for the generosity and kindness of so many that have helped me along the way in my triathlon career, to my sponsors, whose support and belief in me means the world, to the city of Los Angeles for bringing joy and happiness into my life.  To Sweet Rose for making un-freaking-believably amazing ice cream and for being located just a few shorts miles from my apartment.  To Primo Passo for their delicious lattes.  To Father’s Office for their ridiculous burgers, and the Taco Truck for mind-blowingly good Ceviche tostadas.  To the beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the Pacific that make me smile every day.  To my girlfriends in NY (V, Kate, Elena, Amy) who I love and miss every day.  I could go on and on.

In a few weeks it will be a New Year and a new triathlon season.  I’ll be taking everything I learned and all of the experiences from this past year with me and working to be a better athlete, better person and better ice cream eater :) .

Happy Holidays everyone.  Have a safe, wonderful and joyous Holiday season and Happy New Year.

Much love,

Don’t Dream It.  Be It.

xxx

Little Red -

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Yesterday I raced Austin 70.3 as a prep race to lead me into Ironman Arizona, which is coming up in 3 short weeks. I hadn’t raced since Tremblant, and I was keen to get a shorter race under my belt and get back into the race mentality after a relatively long break from the competition scene.

I didn’t go in with any expectations (honestly) other then to test myself and see how I was feeling and gearing up for Arizona. We took the opportunity to try a few new things in a stress free environment. I lined up for the first time ever in the middle of the swim pack (versus on the outside, out of the way of the faster swimmers) and I went out much harder than I normally do (only to then blow up and promptly move to the back of the pack!). I also tried a few new things nutrition-wise on the bike in terms of how many, when and how I took my calories.

Net net, I walked away really pleased with how the day went. While my swim time wasn’t amazing, it was a solid swim, and more importantly I felt great – and even stronger as I went along. I felt phenomenal on the bike. I was strong, controlled, and when I asked my legs to respond they did. I’ve been doing almost all my riding in aero-position lately and I think it has made a big difference for me. I ended up posting the fastest female bike split, which is always a nice little perk!!

I came off the bike in second and as I started the run I felt great. My legs felt light, my turn over was good. I felt strong, but very controlled. I kept looking at my watching at seeing 5:30, 5:45, 6:10. Ideally I wanted to try to run a 6:10-ish, pace, so I was happy with what I was seeing. For a moment I felt like I might be able to catch Bek Keat (who was leading the race). And then towards the end of the first lap (about 3.5 miles in) my right quad started cramping. Then my left quad. I slowed significantly hoping to work it out, but nothing changed. As I ran up the hill back into the stadium, Mandy McClane had caught me. I felt comfortable running with her, but then my hamstrings started cramping. I’ve never cramped before in a race so had no idea what to do! I ended up stopping at the aid station (literally stopping) and started downing cup after cup of electrolyte drink.

…..And that pretty much summarizes my last 9 miles of the run. Run, cramp (quad, hamstring, calf – some or all of the above), stop at the aid station – drink cup after cup of electrolyte drink), run, cramp, repeat….

I ended up finishing 4th, which I was thrilled with because the last 4 miles were painful and tough to get through. I was just trying to hold on. even with 1/2 mile to go I had to stop at the aid station and take in more electrolyte drink to make it to the finish.

Austin 70.3 Run

I’ve never cramped before in a race, and in the aftermath I’ve been trying to figure out why that happened. Did I not have enough electrolytes leading INTO the race? Normally I only drink water on the bike during 70.3′s and in this race I actually added in my Clif Shot drink mix. I did take in fewer calories on the bike than I have in the past, but I never felt as though I was going to bonk, and my energy levels were good. The only thing I keep coming back to is perhaps not enough in the days/week leading up after some pretty big and hard sessions.

Anyway, most importantly, I really had fun at this race. I really enjoyed the course, It was a fun race for the women’s field with a real battle for 2nd 3rd and 4th. I gained a lot of confidence in terms of where I stand for AZ, I made a little bit of money, and I got to try out some new things in a stress free environment.

Congrats to Bek Keat, Rachel McBride, and Mandy McLane for well-fought races and for making the race interesting and fun! Well done ladies!

So….that is about it for now! A big thank you to Kara and Donny Hall, who put me up in Austin (and Eric Nepomnaschy for helping set it up).

And to my sponsors: Cervelo, Shimano, ISM, PowerTap, Helen’s Cycles – Thank you SO much for the amazing bike set up!

To Saucony, Clif Bar, Timex, AquaSphere, Game Ready, Kask – Thank you so much for your support and help.

Until next time…

don’t dream it. be it.

xxx

Sarah-

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Over the last month or so I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about balance in my life. As a pro athlete there are a lot of choices that we make to further our development. We may put ourselves on a strict diet, or go to bed every night at 8:00 pm, or rarely eat out or socialize. We train 7 days a week and we are “on” 24 hours a day because how we train, how we rest, how we eat – it all has an impact on how we perform. We put so many of our marbles into our jobs and we ask so much of ourselves – both physically and emotionally – and of the people around us. It is hard sometimes – particularly at the end of the season when fatigue and burn out are creeping in and we are ready for that much needed break.

But, pro athlete’s are not the only people who struggle with balance. In my prior life as an Investment Banker, I worked 120 hour weeks and had no balance at all – in fact, probably much less than I do now.

James has often said to me how lucky I am to be able to ride my bike every day or swim in the sunshine vs in the dark morning hours. He looks at my life and he sees the sexy side of it – I lead a ridiculously healthy lifestyle; I am in better shape than most people could even dream about; I get to run, ride and swim outside all day long; I get massages at least once a week; I get to travel to amazing locations to compete; I have an incredible set of sponsors whose products I get to wear, ride, and test. It seems so glamorous. And in many aspects it is. But like any job, it has its downsides too.

On the flip side, I can look at James and think – he only has to work 5 days a week. He can eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He can take vacations in months other than November and December. He can leave work at 5 pm and shut it off. He can stay out late and drink one too many beers if he wants to. He can decide to go surfing one morning instead of to swim practice, or if he wants to go to that concert on Sunday night and get home at midnight that is ok – the lack of sleep won’t really impact his job the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that. James, on the other hand, only sees the fact that he sits in a 4×4 cubicle with fluorescent lights shining down at him all day long as he pours over documents and answers e-mails. He would kill to be outside.

My point in all of this is that no matter what you do and how you choose to live your life, there will always be amazing parts to it, and there will also be not so amazing parts.

I absolutely love my job. As I have stated so many times, I have never been happier in my life than I am now. I feel lucky every single day that I have been afforded this opportunity, and the people I have met and the places I have been as a result of it are relationships and experiences that I would not change for the world. I. Am. Lucky.

But – part of loving what you do, and continuing to be fulfilled means also taking responsibility and recognizing what is important to you and what your needs are to keep you motivated and loving and living life to the fullest.

I remember when I was working in banking and had just become serious about triathlon. My life was either training or working. That was it. I didn’t have time for much else. And as a result, I began to resent both my job and my then-hobby. I wanted to go out with my friends and have more social time – that is important to me. And I wanted to have time to myself where I could just relax and de-compress. That is also important to me. I was pursuing two things that I loved, but the combination of the two wasn’t particularly fulfilling for me. I suffered through that year. And when I look back, I wish I had taken my training load down a notch, and allowed time for other things in my life.

And even last year, when I moved out to LA, I went full steam ahead. I restricted myself in every way I possibly could and was so focused on achieving greatness that I never came up for air. By July I was fried. I was emotionally done. And once Kona was over I let loose in a big way. I needed to because I hadn’t had any balance in my life for so long. I needed to learn that lesson though to understand that sometimes succeeding (for me) means not holding on so tight.

Today, when I look at what is important to me – I really enjoy that random glass of wine at night with dinner, or my beloved Sweet Rose ice cream for dessert. I love being spontaneous versus always planned and calculated. I love spending time with the people that I love. I love spending time on my own to just be in my own headspace and think – to not talk to anyone. I need these and other outlets in my life to stay healthy, stay happy, and also stay motivated in my job and be the best person I can be for those around me. Yes – there is a time and a place to restrict yourself from certain things or where we have to make difficult decisions. But in general – always asking yourself what is most important to you, and being diligent in remaining true to yourself – the outcome hopefully will be one of great reward.

It is so easy to get sidetracked or lose sight of this. And reminders every once in a while do us all well.

Here is to better balance!

Until next time.

Don’t dream it. Be it.

Sarah-

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It has been a few months since I have written and I feel like I have so much to say! A lot has gone on, from race highs and lows, an amazing mid-season break and vacation, lots of travel, new favorite races, and some training ruts. For now I’ll focus on a race update and my recent decision not to race the Ironman World Championships this year in Kona.

I think when I last wrote it was just after St. George back in May. St. George was a great race for me as it showed I was ready to compete with some of the top ladies. But…that race took a LOT out of me and I really struggled to recover. My recovery time was sort of an in between of a 70.3 and an Ironman. It was frustrating, and mentally took a lot of patience and resolve. I race 70.3 Florida a few weeks later and then Ealgeman 70.3 in early June as my last tune up before I flew to Austria to race an Ironman there at the end of the month.

Florida was a total disaster race – well – maybe not complete disaster. I have an OK swim, but when I got on my bike one thing after another kept happening. The entire ride I thought I could hear my brake rubbing, but I was too impatient with trying to catch up to the lead girls to stop. Only after the race when I returned to my bike did I see that in fact it was. It went less than a quarter turn before it came to a complete stop.

Then, about 20 miles in, I was mis-directed on the course and ended up riding an extra 3 miles. And with about 8 miles to go part of my aero-bars and extensions fell off. The last bit wasn’t a huge deal – I just couldn’t ride in aero. But the combination of events played with my psyche.

When I got off the bike I had no idea what place I was in, but I knew it wasn’t good. After having a pity party for myself during the first of the three-lap run, I made the decision that if I was going to finish this race, I was going to finish it right! For the next 9 miles I just put my head down and ran as best as I knew how.

My result wasn’t great, but I did end up with one of the fastest run times of the day, and I walked away feeling proud of myself for simply just “hanging in there”. It would have been so easy to quit, and it was certainly humbling to finish so far back, but I couldn’t let myself give up, and I did what I could to make the most of the day.

At Eagleman I finished 5th. I had a terrible swim, but was generally happy with my bike and run. It wasn’t my best race, but I have certainly had worse!

I left for Austria on June 22nd – a full 8 days before my race. I didn’t have an international plan on my phone, so when I arrived in to Venice, Italy, I was relying on the google map print out to take me to my homestay in Klagenfurt. The problem with this is when google maps says “Go North” and you have no idea which way North is, it doesn’t do you much good! After driving in many different directions from the airport, I finally was on my way. When I arrived in to Klagenfurt, I once again got lost. Little did I know that few people in the town speak English, so after numerous attempts to get directions, a gas station attendant finally was able – through lots of hand movements – to at least point me in the right direction. I arrived at my homestay after midnight and collapsed into bed.

The family I stayed with were AMAZING!!! The daughter, Anna, actually works for Ironman Merchandise in Europe, so is part of the Ironman family. Her parents, Sissy and Albert were just extraordinary. They made me feel SO at home and we had a great time teaching each other words in German and English (mind you – most of them were food words!). haha. Seriously though, they just opened their home to me and are a huge part of what made my experience in Austria so special. When my cousin, his wife, and James all arrived, Sissy, Albert and Anna welcomed them too. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I was excited about the race in Austria and when race day came I felt ready to go. I was a little worried as I had really struggled to adjust to the 9-hour time change, but I knew once the race was underway, all of those feelings would be out the door and replaced with adrenaline and focus on the race.

I had what I consider to be a breakthrough swim. I came out of the water only 5 minutes down on the lead girls, which was a significant improvement over where I typically exit. Once on the bike I felt great, and I went to work. By the time we hit the turn around to start loop two I had moved myself up into 3rd place (from 10th) and was only about :30-:45 seconds back of the lead girls. I put in a push to catch up to them, thinking that once I caught them I could ride with them for a bit, recover, and then put on a strong surge in the last 20 miles, but the closest I got was about 15 seconds back. At mile 70 I just died. I completely blew up and the wheels started coming off. As I watched the lead girls ride off, and as I started to get re-passed by others, I wondered what to do. “Do I go with them?” “Do I hold back and recover?” – I didn’t know. The thing about the Austria course is that it is not easy – there are a few significant climbs that are steep and long, where you have to spend a lot of time out of the saddle. I felt like I had cooked myself too much on loop one and I knew if I went with them that I would be even more cooked by the end of loop two. So I held back, hoping that I could find my run legs and that someone else might explode from over-biking.

By the time I wimpered into T2 I was in a VERY bad mood and feeling like the race was not unfolding as I had planned. But as I started running and looking down at my pace, I was running fast. Matt had said to me before the race “Be patient, Be strong, and then be a warrior”. So as I looked down, feeling like I was running easy, and saw myself running 6:20′s, I kept saying to myself – “save it for the end”. “Don’t run too hard now”. – I made myself slow my pace and not run faster than 6:35, and I instead turned my attention to being vigilant about my nutrition. Every 20 minutes I took a gel and I walked through each aid station where I took sports drink, water, and almost always a slice of nice cold watermelon (thanks Linsey Corbin for that suggestion!!). As I went, I started passing girls. I came through the first 13.1 miles in 1:27 and kept thinking – “Holy Cow – I could break 3 hours!!”. I continued to feel great until miles 15-20 where things started to hurt. But…I was 4th and making up time on the women ahead of me. With 6 miles to go I gave it everything I had – I pushed the pain aside and just went. Looking back at my splits I actually negative splitted those last 6 miles from the first loop.

Unfortunately I didn’t catch the girls ahead and crossed the finish line in 4th.

Part of me was disappointed about the day. I felt like I hadn’t biked even close to my potential, and when I set out on this adventure, I set out to win that race. I wanted to get my first Ironman win. So to finish 4th – it just wasn’t what I had envisioned.

But when I took a step back and I looked at the race as a whole, it was really hard to be bummed. I thought about how almost two years ago to the day I had done my first Ironman (Coeur D’Alene) and finished in 10:03, and today I had completed a similarly challenging course almost an hour faster. I had a HUGE breakthrough swim. And an even bigger breakthrough run – nearly 14 minutes faster than I had ever run off the bike before as well as the fastest run of the day (a first for me). And while my bike wasn’t good at all, from a strategic and mental standpoint I made the right choice so that I was able to get off the bike and actually run well.

So…I walked away proud.

After the race, James, Travis, Zoe and I drove up to Lienz, Austria where we spent two days hiking in the Alpes. It was absolutely stunning there and I had such a wonderful time spending those days with people that are so important to me.

James and I then drove down to Tuscany, where for 10 days we lived the life. We had strategically positioned ourselves where we could take a lot of day trips and see different parts of the country without having to constantly be moving hotels. It left us both feeling very grounded. We ended up renting an apartment in an agritourismo just outside of an amazing medieval village called San Gimignano. We were 20k from Sienna, 1 hour from Florence, 2 hours from Cinque Terre, and sitting literally in the heart of the Chianti region.

We took every day as it came. Some days we were up early and took excursions to the coast. Some night we stayed up late and drank endless bottles of wine and Italian beer. We visited wineries. We went to farmer’s markets and got fresh vegetables, meats, fruits and breads and made some amazing meals at home. We took walks in the vineyards. We went for a few runs. We took a hike. We ate gelato at LEAST twice a day. We strolled through old towns and meandered in and out of stores. We went to Florence. And on our last day we made our way to Venice.

It was hands down THE MOST amazing vacation I have ever taken in my life. It was very special and memorable and …to be honest, it was really darn hard to come back!! Italy just sucks you in. The light in tuscany is so warm and inviting. The smells of the flowers and trees just linger everywhere you go. The cities are incredibly romantic. The food – yum! the wine – even more Yum!! It was great.

When I got back, we both struggled to get back into a routine. For me it meant getting back into shape! But week after week I just couldn’t seem to recover. I was tired, I felt heavy in the pool, on the bike and on my runs. My times and wattages were way off. On one threshold workout on the bike I couldn’t even hold Ironman level watts. I was struggling across the board. Mentally I felt fresh and ready to go, but my body just was not responding. It was very stressful for me. We all thought I was going to return from my mid-season break fresh and ready to go – but I wasn’t. Matt and Gerry both felt that perhaps my run in Austria took more of a toll than we had initially thought, and so after a bit of time, we just took a big step back and let me rest.

Around the same time, the first cut off for Kona came and went, and I was not on the list. I knew this was going to be the case, as I needed a top 3 finish in Austria to secure my ranking and spot for Kona. It was stressful for me, and incredibly dis-appointing. Kona is THE race for sponsors and the sport, as well as (in addition to 70.3 worlds) a very big deal to all of us athletes. For me to qualify, I knew I would need to do another Ironman, which had not been in the plan earlier in the year.

Knowing I need a lot of rest after an Ironman, and a longer and bigger build up, we had structured my season so that my last Ironman race before Kona would be in June (Austria). I didn’t know what to do, but in the end, we decided to have me race Ironman Mt. Tremblant on August 17th. The race was the North American Championships, so in addition to giving me the points I needed to get my Kona spot, it offered the allure of good prize money and high exposure for my sponsors.

My lead up into the race was not pretty. I literally just could not get my body to come around. I was starting to play mind tricks with myself and try to convince myself that I was feeling better and better each day. But, I also am a believer that the body is an amazing thing and you NEVER know what can happen on race day – particularly in an Ironman. I went in to the race really believing I could have a great one. As it turned out – that didn’t happen!

From the gun, I was smoked. I was exhausted the entire day, and it showed in my swim, on the bike and in my run. We actually have video of me looking miserable as I started on my second loop of the run and my dad yelling across the crowd “Suck it up! Suck it up!”. haha. You could see I was hurting.

But – I was surprisingly not too hard on myself after that race. I knew how I had been feeling going in. I knew the race was a total gamble, and honestly, I was just really proud of myself for not giving up and making it to the finish line.

I got my Kona spot, but I have since declined it. It was a very hard decision to make. There were sponsor considerations. There were financial considerations. There were emotional considerations. But at the end of the day, I had to make a call quickly. It was only 1 week after the race and I was not in a position to know where my body would be 5 weeks from now. Under the new points/ world ranking system for pros, I would need to finish in the top 15 at Kona to put me in a strong position for next year’s qualification. It was a risk to take for me as if my body didn’t recover, and I went there and didn’t finish in the top 15, my season would be over (after 3 IMs back to back, I wouldn’t be looking to race again), and I would potentially be in a position to be scrambling for my spot next year. This is something I don’t want to do. Not only that, if I am going to race in Kona now, I want to race there to compete – not just to show up.

So, instead, I have decided to take the pressure off, allow myself to properly recover, have a nice long build in, and then race Ironman Arizona on November 17th.

I am bummed. Kona is a special race for so many reasons, and it is hard to turn down a chance like that. But I also want to be successful in this sport, and to do that, I have to think about what is going to be best for me today, to set me up well for the future – and in the end, I do feel confident that I have made the right choice.

The last 1.5 weeks I have been in Henderson, NV helping my friend and training pal EK Lidbury prep for her big race this weekend – the 70.3 World Championships. I feel a bit bitter-sweet about it all – being here and knowing I had the chance to race and also chose not too. But I also have loved the chance to spend time with EK and be part of her process to greatness.

So – that is it! I get back to LA in a few days and am looking forward to starting new, putting the stresses of the last few months behind me, and getting back to work.

I wanted to extend a huge thank you to all the people that have been such amazing supporters of mine over the last 3 months. You can never under-estimate the power of great friends and family. A big thank you to James Duffy, Travis Keller, Zoe Keller, Avery Roth, Emma-Kate Lidbury, Heather Gillespie, Todd Larlee, Gerry Rodrigues, Emile Levisetti, My parents, Elena Pavloff, Kate McGlynn, My brothers, Vanessa Piampiano, Sarah Cameto, Linsey Corbin and so many others – Thank you.

To my sponsors for their incredible an amazing support of and belief in me. So many of you could have insisted I race Kona, but every single one of you have supported and encouraged me to make a decision that was best for my in the long run. Thank you. To Saucony, Cervelo, Shimano, Helen’s Cycles, Clif Bar, CycleOps, PowerTap, Timex, AquaSphere, ISM, Game Ready, Widsix, and Kask Helmets – Thank you thank you thank you.

A big shout out to Phil Goglia and Performance Fitness Concepts, The Chris Pogson and his team at Pogson Physical Therapy, and to Eric Nepomnaschy at Bay Chriopractic – you guys have all given so much of your time, energy and loyalty to helping make me a better, smarter, healthier, leaner (!!) and more balanced athlete. Thank you so much for all you have done.

And of course – Matty Dixon and Gerry Rodrigues (Ger!!) – for being there for me 100%. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about how much you guys have helped me and how much I value these relationships. Thank you for being such wonderful coaches and friends.

Until next time, don’t dream it. be it.

xxx
Sarah-

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Hello Hello!

It is a beautiful Saturday here in Southern California!  This weekend is supposed to be incredibly warm and is finally starting to feel like summer!  I have to say I can’t wait!  While the LA winters in no way compare to the cold and snow that the mid-west and east experienced this year, there is something wonderful – no matter where you are – to get that feeling that “summer is in the air”.  It brings an added spring in your step and a desire to get outside and be active (yeh yeh…I know…it is cheesy, but it’s true!!).

….that is, unless, you raced at St. George last weekend.  And then there is absolutely no spring in your step…or at least none in mine!

For those of you who follow the sport of triathlon, you’ll know that St. George was the US Pro Championships on an exceptionally challenging course with the most stacked race outside of the World Championships.  For those of you who don’t follow the sport…well…let’s just say this race was NOT EASY!  For me it was (and I think many others) the hardest 70.3 race I have ever competed in.  the swim, while calm, was in cold water.  The air was super dry and at 3500 feet, I certainly felt the effects of the elevation.  The bike was extremely challenging with many long climbs (over 4,000 feet of climbing in total).  And then run….welp – it pretty much either went up, or down.  This race was a show down and one where the slightest let up of focus or resolve meant changes in position and getting dropped.  You could never give up.  And the difficulty and the competitiveness of the race made it a beautiful and amazing thing to be part of.  I absolutely LOVED it.

And…it completely smashed me.  I feel more like I raced an Ironman than I do a 70.3!  I actually felt great in the days after the race because I think the adrenaline from being part of such a competitive event had me feeling good.  But then I came down from it all and have been dragging ever since.  The last few days I’ve sort of slogged my way through sessions and then spent the rest of the day in a daze.  This race definitely got the best of me!  Luckily this weekend my scheduled is about getting “cleaned out” (as my coach likes to say…which is really a fancy triathlon term of trying to get recovered).  I don’t have much on the schedule and the focus is on rest!  So….here I am…on a beautiful day where I want to be outside running around and doing what I love – training – and instead I am sitting on the couch, curled up in a blanket, alternating between catching up on work, napping and watching golf and the Giro!  Lucky for me, this is SoCal and there are many more warm and sunny days in my future :)

As a quick recap, my race was really solid and I was definitely happy with the result.  Just like Ironman Melbourne, there were plenty of areas where I made mistakes and could have raced better, but I also learned a lot and took a great amount away from the race all while putting up a performance I was happy with.  It was a success.

This was a big race for me.  It wasn’t necessarily one that I highlighted on my schedule as a focus race or one I was peaking for from a performance perspective, but it was significant to me (whether I wanted it to be or not) from a mental standpoint.  This race was THE race that would give me a fairly good benchmark of where I stand from a competitive standpoint.  I was actually REALLY excited to race and believed I was ready to step up and put myself in contention to be amongst the top girls, but I just didn’t know.  The days before the race I was nervous.  What if I was dillusional thinking I stood a chance at competing and I just got completely smoked?  How would I feel?  Would my confidence be shattered?  I felt like a lot was on the line for me from a mental perspective.  I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen and how I would react.

But…it turned out ok (thankfully!!).  I went to St. George and completed what I set out to do:  Show to myself that I am ready to compete.

The breakdown – My swim was good.  It was my best 70.3 swim I have ever done (from a time perspective), but I walked away feeling a bit frustrated that I hadn’t made the next pack of girls.  But…after talking with my swim coach, my perspective changed and I actually feel ok about how I swam.  I was happy with my bike (second fastest – wahoo!!).  I made a few tactical errors, but on the whole, I really feel pleased with how I rode….and for me, every race where I can come out of the swim, hop on my bike and not spend the entire 56 miles managing nausea is a success.  It has been exciting for me to have that issue dealt with and get on the bike and ride in a way that reflects were I am at in my training.  And then run…oh man!  My run was not so hot, and that was frustrating to some extent, but I also understand why, so it is something that will evolve.  I said to Matt after the race that while I do a great job of putting myself into the hurt box in hard run sessions on a stand alone basis, I don’t yet have the skills to do that off the bike.  It is a very very different feeling and a different type of hurt to make yourself run your race pace off the bike and get to a point where you can settle in.  It’s another step in the process for me.  But it also didn’t take away from what I felt was an overall very solid performance and leaves me feeling excited and looking forward to the rest of the season!

So…a few days of relaxation and some lower intensity training, a few days of work and then believe it or not, I am back on a plane on Thursday on my way to Florida 70.3.  The name of the game is hot and humid!

My friend and teammate, Meredith Kessler, put on TRULY INSPIRING performance last weekend in her win and claim to the US Pro Championship title.  She has always had an amazing swim and ride and she has been working so hard on her run, so it brought me a tremendous amount of pleasure and pride to see her win her race on the run.  She was incredibly gutsy and I couldn’t be more excited for her and her accomplishment.

In her winner’s speech at the awards she commented that her win was a team effort – that she would not and could not do what she did without the support of so many.  And her words could not ring more true.  while outsiders view us as competing as individuals, every time we tow the line, we are out racing for our teams – for our sponsors, our coaches, our families, our friends, our homestays, for race organizers…for everyone that have extended themselves in any way to help us in chasing our dreams and for wanting to be part of our journey.  I could not be more proud when I put up a strong race because I feel like any success is one celebrated by everyone who has supported me along the way.

To my sponsors – to Saucony, Cervelo, Shimano and Aqua Sphere for being there before, during, and post race day – It is always such a pleasure to have you at the races!  Your support is second to none and I am not kidding when I say that EVERY DAY I think about how lucky I am to be part of your teams.  THANK YOU

To Helen’s Cycles, CycleOps, Clif Bar, Kask, ISM, Game Ready and Timex – Each of you contributed to my performance last weekend, whether it be in pre-race prep (Helen’s and CycleOps), race nutrition (Clif Bar), equipment (ISM, Kask, Timex) or post race recovery (Game Ready) – WHAT A TEAM!  I am so lucky to have such a phenomenal support crew and couldn’t be more proud to represent all of your brands.

To my St. George homestay family (The Dansie’s) – WOWZA!  You guys ROCKED!  I think Jess Smith and I seriously had the most rock star fam out there!  Your family is incredible – so kind, welcoming and engaging!  We were so lucky to be able to meet you and spend time with you!

To my family, friends and boyf – the emotional support that you have all given to me over the last however many year is unprecedented.  You all are my rocks.  And I truly could not do this without you.  Thank you

To Emma-Kate Lidbury – My other ROCK!  Having you in Santa Monica this year has been the highlight of my year.  Your companionship as a teammate has been absolutely AMAZING – the support and the way we push each other in training is the most positive training experience I have ever had.  I feel so lucky to have you here.  But more than that, as a friend, your support, love, laughs, jokes and all around amazingness as a person has been an incredible addition to the SM crew.  I LOVE having you here and feel lucky to have you in my life.

To My chiro and nutritionist – Bay Chiropractic (Dr. Eric Nepomnaschy) and Performance Fitness Nutrition (Dr. Phil Goglia) – Your combo over the last year has been pretty critical to getting me healthy and strong.  Thank you so much for all of you help and continued support.

And last, but not least…

My Coaches – Matt Dixon, Gerry Rodrigues and Paul Buick – It is a process that is still going, but this has been a tremendous experience and I thank my luck stars every day that I have the team of coaches that I do.  The amount I have learned and how I have grown as an athlete and person over the last 1.5 years has been a special experience and I owe a lot to you all.  THANK YOU

ok….off to nap!  Yeh Recovery!

Until next time…

Don’t Dream It.  Be It!

Sarah-

 

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Hey Everyone!

Hope you are all great! Just a quick update to say hello as I know a blog is long overdue! I also know I still owe an update from Melbourne, but as I get that in order, I thought I’d tempt you with this!

I just got back to LA last Tuesday from a week-long training camp in San Francisco and Stinson Beach. The time flew by, and although I lived in SF for 3 years after college, it was my first trip to Stinson. SB is about one hour north of SF and is part of the Red Triangle, which is considered to be one of the deadliest, most shark invested areas of the world. So, when I say I was practically pooing myself in the days and weeks leading up to my trip there, I am only moderately exaggerating! As the worst swimmer in the group I was very stressed out about getting dropped and being the lone swimmer as sharks swarmed around me. I even woke James up several times in the nights before I left having nightmares of getting attacked by sharks! haha. No good! Luckily though, as it turned out, we swam in this amazing protected lagoon with nothing but a few jellyfish to taunt us. It was an absolutely perfect setting for swimming open water and all fears were quickly put to bed. And… the bonus was that the water was a balmy 60+ degrees:)

Honestly though, I was blown away by Stinson, Point Reyes and Mt Tam – It was simply stunning and so vastly different from LA – it was a wonderful setting for a training camp. The cycling was challenging, which I LOVED – with tons of climbing. One of the days we only rode 45 miles, but we still managed to tack on over 6,000 feet of climbing. It was solid. And the views were amazing!!! I felt so lucky to be there. It almost reminded of my home in Maine and our family’s cabin. Everything there is simple – life is simple, and it allowed us to put aide all outside distractions and just focus on the work we needed to get done. Stinson’s population is only 480 people. The town has a bar, a bakery and an inn and that is IT! And all of the surrounding towns were like that too. Everything is green, lush, and smells like a mix of salty air and farmland. I love love loved it!

Anyway – I am home now – getting caught up on life and doing my final prep before heading to Utah next week to race St. George 70.3. Then the season is full on! I’m headed to Florida a few weeks later, Maryland a few weeks after that, another camp in SF and then off to Austria and Italy for 2.5 weeks of racing and vaca! The summer is going to fly by! It is always hard to believe once May hits that the race season is here – it is definitely GO TIME!

As a side note – this time of year is often mixed for me a bit – while I love racing (of course!!), the lack of rhythm and routine that comes with it has been stressful for me in the past. But…Matt said something to us while we were at camp that resonated very strongly with me and I thought I would share; he said simply that we have to embrace the lack of routine, to understand what we CAN keep constant and strive to maintain balance in those areas, and then simply to make every day and every workout as productive as you can. If you let the lack of routine and rhythm overwhelm you and become a negative, it creates far more stress than is necessary. Something clicked for me and the anxiety I have felt about not having the consistency day in and day out that I so love has me actually excited. My view is to take every day as a new day and make it as productive and as good as I can – both from a training, a recovery, a nutritional and a personal standpoint. Sometimes it is about shifting your lens…

A big thanks to Matt Dixon and Paul Buick and the rest of the PPF crew for their time and incredible effort they put in to making our pro camp possible. We have something very special with our group – everyone is so positive, works incredibly hard, and supports each other in a way I have not seen before. So THANK YOU M&P for everything!

Also a big thanks to Verdict Digital for their time at Stinson. These guys put out ridiculous stuff and we are always so lucky to have them there filming us and taking pics!

Off to pack for Utah!

Until next time…Don’t Dream It. Be It!

Xxx
S-

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Over the last few weeks I’ve wanted to write about mental imagery as the subject of my next blog.  This was largely driven by the fact that during my recent training block in Kona, Matt Dixon, my coach, had me complete two significant runs in the Energy Lab and along the Queen K, which are sections of the Ironman World Championship run course that are notorious for soaring temperatures, few spectators, and the point where World Champions are made or broken (for context, the temperatures off the tarmac on the Queen K often hit 130F+; they say an egg can fry in less than a minute).  To succeed in this section of the course, mental toughness and preparation is critical (For a closer glimpse into one of the sessions fellow Purplepatcher Meredith Kessler and I did, take a look at this vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg_-LDuEaZ0).

 

These two sessions were HUGE positive mental boosters for me – but not JUST in terms of my race prep for Kona.  They will act as key motivators for me in other training sessions throughout the year and in upcoming races, including the Ironman I will be racing this weekend in Melbourne.  I will draw up them and other important workouts time and time again.  They give me confidence to push past barriers, a belief in myself, and are a motivator for success.

 

Then, as I was preparing to leave for Australia, James (the boyf) and I spent a decent amount of time talking about the race, about my preparations, about how I was feeling, etc.  As we spoke I mentioned to him that I was feeling great and ready to put up a great bike and run, but with the inconsistency in my swimming the last few weeks – I just “hoped my swim would show up”.

 

For some background – In February I went to Hawaii for a pro camp with my fellow Purplepatch pros.  As I have mentioned before, I was nervous heading into the camp.  My swim progression in Santa Monica had been going very well and my overall swim confidence was up.  But I was worried that being the worst swimmer at the camp would actually set me back mentally.  However, the camp went great and seeing my progress relative to the rest of the team was a huge motivator for me.

 

One thing I have learned, however, is that high run volume and high run intensity too frequently has a strong negative impact on my swim training.  In Hawaii I had done three significant (and needed) runs to help prep me for Melbourne, but the result of that was a longer than normal recovery process in the pool once I got back to California.  And then, just as I was feeling better, a nasty bug side-lined me.  The result: some inconsistency in my swimming.

 

With my lack of confidence so glaring (despite knowing why my swim had been up and down), James looked at me square in the face, and told me to stop – right there.  He reminded me that even on my bad days in the pool, I’m still swimming faster than last year.  And that whatever happens out there, whether I feel good or not – worrying about it was only creating negative emotional stress and wasted energy.  I needed to work on positive mental imagery.  I needed to think only about feeling great in the water, and I needed to believe in myself and what I am capable of doing.  Talk about being put in my place!  But the truth is…he’s right.  And even though what he said is nothing I don’t already know, executing it on one’s weaknesses takes work.

 

With my biking and running – I have confidence in myself, and a belief in what is possible.  But with my swimming, I wake up every morning and head to the pool with an anxiety and nervousness – and lack of confidence – wondering – “will my swim show up today???”

 

My point?  Mental imagery is important and it MUST be incorporated into our training across sports, and with different purposes.

 

In running or on the bike I use mental imagery more as a facilitator to push through the pain of hard workouts or at difficult points in a race – to breakdown barriers.  Certainly those run sessions in Kona and many others will be instrumental to me this year.  They fuel me in training and races to know what is possible when you are hurting so badly you’re not sure you will make it.

 

But in the swim, the imagery is about building confidence in myself – learning to believe what I can do in the water – that takes more work.

 

This week I have been focusing on only the positives in my swim and providing myself with a lot of positive self talk when in the water, not allowing myself to doubt my swim progression and believing in what I CAN do – not what I can’t.

 

Ironically, when I took my passport out to fill out my customs form on the plane, I came across a fortune I had saved when I first moved out to LA – it is a quote by Walt Disney – “If You Can Dream It.  You Can Do It”.

 

Mental imagery is SO important and should be incorporated into our training in the same manner as nutrition and recovery.  And sometimes a swift kick in the butt can be all that it takes to re-focus our lens!

 

Big thanks to Verdict Digital and Purplepatch/ Matt Dixon for the great footage and vid of an epic training day!

 

Until next time, DREAM IT…and BE IT!

 

Xxx,

 

S-

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For anyone who read my blog back in September (Motion Sickness..and how I am going to fix it) or the Triathlete.com article written by Jene Shaw in October (http://triathlon.competitor.com/2012/10/athletes/sarah-piampiano-finds-her-bearings-in-kona_63910) – I think it was obvious I was in a fairly desperate state to get this little puking issue of mine under control.  Clearly desperate.  I mean – I had sinus surgery weeks before Kona, spoke with a healer and was walking around my apartment doing neck exercises to mimic breathing while swimming – can you get more desperate than that?

 

I received a lot of responses from people with helpful advice and suggestions (thank you!!) and it was actually because of all of you that I was able to get to the root of the problem – or what seems to be the root cause.  Many have asked where it all stands, and so I thought it was worth a blog to update you on my mysterious case of the throw-ups.

 

So…people’s responses to my blog in September got me thinking that maybe my issue wasn’t motion sickness at all, but perhaps was more vestibular or even muscular/nervous system related (Ellen Bowden, and all you super smart peeps that suggested I see an ENT and a vestibular specialist – thank you!).  First I went the ENT route, and after several consultations I had sinus surgery in September to open up my nasal cavity.  The purpose for this procedure was that my ENT believed that my severely swollen sinuses were actually pressing on my eardrum and causing motion sickness.  Unfortunately, while the theory sounded great and the surgery did wonders for my ability to breathe, it didn’t do much to solve my problem.  Bummer.

 

So…I went and saw a vestibular specialist.  For 4 weeks I went to vestibular PT and through these appointments we pin pointed that my nausea was caused by turning my head to the left and right – the exact same motion done to take a breath while swimming.  Boom!  Big progress there!  My problem wasn’t solved, but we knew what caused it.  That was pretty exciting and a big step!

 

Somewhere in the mix of all of this a close friend, Ellen Bowden, told me that the Vagus nerve runs from the neck to the stomach and that a possible impingement of that could cause nausea.  While I wasn’t sure that was necessarily the case for me, it did beg the question whether my problem was a cervical spine issue rather than a vestibular one.  Between what we determined with my vestibular PT and Ellen’s idea, I was sent for a CT Scan where a slight bulge in my C6 vertebrae was found.  While not significant, the doc speculated the bulge could be causing muscular tightness and a potential impingement in my neck – possible cause for my vomiting.

 

We decided collectively to try out a Chiropractor and so from September onwards I began seeing Dr. Eric Nepomnaschy at Bay Chiropractic 2-3 times per week.  In each session he gave me an adjustment, and then over time we began layering in stretching, massage of my neck and shoulders, and ultra sound or laser treatment.  We’ve worked closely and monitored how I’ve felt after every swim/bike session and even scheduled appointments directly ahead of swim-bike days.  We have developed a stretching routine to help open up my neck and spine before I get in the water.  And…well…it has worked!  Since Kona I have had zero issues with nausea in my training, and when I raced in Pucon in January, for the first time not only did I not throw up on the bike, but my legs felt great and alive out of the swim.

 

It is hard for me to be fully convinced – I’ve gone so long with this problem that I just keep waiting for it to come back, but everything we are doing seems to be working and it seems clear that keeping my neck open is critical to keeping me puke-free!

 

So – fingers crossed this continues, but all signs are pointing up!

 

Thank you again to everyone who took the time to write or call me and offer help and advice.  I read and listened to everything you had to offer and applied it.  It was because of all of you I have been able to get to this point!

 

Also big thanks to Dr. Eric Nepomnaschy who has been so dedicated to helping me get over this hurdle.

 

While I know it just won’t be the same without the token puker out there on the race course, I’m hoping 2013 will be filled with a lot less throwing up and much cleaner bikes post race!

 

Until next time – Don’t dream it, Be it.

 

Xxx

 

S-

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