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!
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!
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!
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.
Where in the World Has Little Red Been? A LONG overdue update
Well well well…ok ok ok….it’s time. I can’t avoid it any longer! This blog must get written!
So – I have sort of gone back and forth with what to write, and honestly, since it has been so long, I feel like picking some random topic probably isn’t really the right thing to do. I think I’ve got to fill you all in on the last 3 months that I have been MIA from blog-ville and update you on my life. Then maybe I can start being picky about what I write! So here we go….Wish me luck!
After Kona this year – well actually before Kona…well….actually before Ironman NYC really– I was completely fried. To say I was burned out was an understatement. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. I was done. I look back at my performance in NY and I am even MORE proud of that result now knowing how I was feeling.
My plan had called for me to race Ironman Arizona in November, but as soon as Kona was through I knew I needed a break. Last year was such an invigorating, momentous and special time for me, and I was so proud and excited by my accomplishments and gains. But….I went full force from Jan 1 on at an unsustainable pace. By the time Kona rolled around I had already fallen flat on my face and was firmly rubbing it in the dirt. I don’t think Matt or I fully realized where I was until the race was done, but we quickly came to the same conclusion that Kona was to be my last race of the season.
So…the break came. And I released in every way. I drank beer and wine. I stayed up late. I went out with friends. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted giving no concern for carbohydrate, protein or fat intake (and believe me…it showed). I just completely shut down the triathlon side of my life and enjoyed the time off. It took me 3 weeks before I was ready to even begin contemplating training again…but then 4 weeks into my break…suddenly….I was ready. The vim, vigor and excitement for the sport I love returned, almost out of thin air, and there I was – ready to go and wanting to get back to work.
Starting in early November I began training again. The focus – as it has been for the last year – was my swim. I did some riding and running, but generally pretty limited and all VERY VERY easy. We put the attention where it belonged. In the pool. And….I am so proud to say I have made some great progress. I made another big step in my swim and am feeling, probably for the first time ever – truly confident that I may actually be able to do this – I might actually be able to get to a point in the swim where I am not the last person, or near last person out of the water in a race. Wahoo for that!
I also started to grasp concepts that my swim coach, Gerry Rodrigues, speaks so adamantly about. Concepts like tautness and body alignment in the water. When Gerry talked about it before I was mystified. I’d tense my whole body and make it what I thought was “taut”. What would then ensue was me holding my breath, quickly go into an hypoxic state and promptly return to my wiggly, writhing self, gasping for air as I swerved my way down the pool. I was a real sight! But…as I’ve progressed over the last few months it’s suddenly clicked and I’ve been able to start doing it – making myself taut, while remaining relaxed. Granted, I can’t do it all the time, but I get it now, and its been exciting mentally to be able to start making these connections.
So nowww….here I am in Hawaii for a two week training camp with Matt and the other pros he coaches. Coming into this camp I was feeling a little bit nervous because the pro group that was showing up are all front pack, amazing-ass, 4th place in the Olympic trials swimmers….like really good. Over the last few months its been a confidence booster for me to move up and consistently be swimming in Lane 1 back in Cali, but as I prepared for my trip here I knew I would be by far the slowest swimmer in the group, and most likely would be lapped every 100 yards. Talk about instant ego deflation. It’s hard to be that bad and consider yourself a pro athlete! Anyway – the improvements I’ve made have shown through in a big way and its actually been a huge motivator for me to see how much closer I am to everyone versus a year ago – or even 6 months ago at our last camp in California. Yay for progress!!
I am sure so many of you wonder what we, as full time pro triathletes, do either when we are not training or are in the post-season when we are off all together. One word: SPONSORS! Managing sponsor relationships is actually a job in and of itself. I would say that in any given week I allocate 10-15 hours towards sponsor communication, relationship building, fulfilling existing sponsor commitments, and working to further progress my brand. It takes a lot of work. At the end of the year this time requirement goes up as the focus turns to re-negotiating existing contracts (if they are due), negotiating new contracts, and also going through an annual review to make sure both you and each sponsor are getting what they expect and want from the relationship. This is such a critical piece of the puzzle and takes a lot of time. For me – This last bit was a 2-month process post-kona, and I dedicated typically full 8-hour days, 5 days a week to this until my contracts in place and finalized.
When I initially sought out sponsors my goal was to work with companies whose brands I already used and believed in and whom I felt I could truly build a long-term relationships with. The longevity of my relationships was important to me, and I was excited to work with brands with the same sentiment. So…with that in mind, I am REALLY so happy to announce that I have partnered again this year with all of my sponsors from 2012 – Saucony, Cervelo, Shimano, Clif Bar, Kask, CycleOps, ISM, GameReady, WIDSIX and Verdict Digital.
PLUS have added two new sponsors – Helen’s Cycles and Aqua Sphere. Helen’s is THE largest bike shop in southern California and a big supporter of road teams and many of the cycling events that take place in the area. I’m excited about working with them as one of our main goals is to encourage and empower beginner cyclists and triathletes looking to enter into the sport but wanting more guidance and support than they might otherwise get. My partnership with Aqua Sphere is equally exciting! This company has made its name by putting an incredible amount of R&D into product development and listening to what consumers need and want. And I can attest – their products ROCK! I used their Phantom wetsuit for the first time in Pucon in January as was blown away by the flexibility around the shoulders, the support and structure in the stomach area – it was amazing.
So yay for existing sponsors and new relationships!
This year, I have a few goals – win my first Ironman, podium in 70.3 races, and not just qualify but compete well in Kona.
We learned last year that I need more time to recover between races. I’d love to be someone who bounces back quickly and can hop right back into training, but I’m not. I need more rest. This year we listened and planned accordingly.
We built a season that allows me to complete a full schedule – 4 Ironman races (including Kona) and seven 70.3s. The key though is allowing adequate time for recovery between races. That means 2 months between Ironman races and in some cases up to a month between 70.3s. I started my season early this year at Pucon 70.3 in January (where I placed 2nd!!). It was a great way to kick off the year and was a perfect prep for my next race – Ironman Melbourne in March. It will be a hugely competitive race, but I am REALLY excited to go and get in the mix and see where I stand next to some pretty awesome women!
After that look out for me to do some domestic 70.3’s and then get ready for Ironman Austria in June! It’s going to be a fun year!
Personally, I’ve had a few changes in my life. Big changes actually. To be candid and very upfront, in 2007 I went through a break up that shook me to my core and left me emotionally closed off and completely convinced that not only did I never want to be in another serious relationship, but also that I never wanted to marry. As a relatively pragmatic person I understood that people go through challenging breakups all the time, but for whatever reason I could not and would not let myself go down that road again. This sentiment was further compounded by my transition into triathlon and my move out to LA in January 2012. I had one goal – be successful in triathlon. I wanted no distraction, least of all, a man in my life. And then I met James. He has completely enhanced my life in the most positive ways, opened my eyes (and my heart) to how wonderful being in a relationship can be, and has helped me learn how to have the focus I so desire to be successful at my job, while also maintaining balance in my personal life and letting someone in. It has been an extremely special time for me, and I believe it is because of him that I have been able to make some very positive changes in my training and overall life balance that will benefit my career going forward. So….stayed tuned!
So that is the update! Check back soon! I need to get on a blog roll!
Until next time. Don’t dream it. Be it.
I promised myself that this year in Kona, I would not get too wrapped up in performance and I would enjoy the experience and the opportunity. It was very important to me to keep perspective, to remember everything I had achieved this year, and that the opportunity to race in Kona was from the culmination of a lot of hard work and a little luck. Sure I had some goals going into the race, but I knew I wasn’t going to win, I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be in the top 5, and I would have had to have the race of my season to crack the top 10. And so – I took the pressure off and enjoyed my experience. I didn’t get stressed. I tried to soak in what it meant to race as a pro in Kona – from the sponsor events, to the pro meeting, to the press – it was so unique and so vastly different than what I went through as an Amateur in 2011. It gave me an even greater appreciation for the performances put up by the top pros after factoring in so many media and sponsor obligations that are fit in to already hectic race preparations.
My race – well it wasn’t great. But I have never committed myself emotionally more than I did in Kona this year. I have never cried at the end of a race, but when I crossed the finish line 10 hours after I started, I was spent – physically and mentally…and I completely broke down into hysterics. Later James (the boyf..also dubbed by a few people as Mr. Sarah P) asked me why I was crying – was I disappointed? It was a completely logical question, but I didn’t know how to explain it. I didn’t cry out of disappointment or happiness or frustration – I think I probably cried out of relief – it was such a hard day and those last few miles of the run took so much out of me. When I crossed the line, I had nothing left and the emotional release was overwhelming. It was actually an incredibly moving and beautiful moment – perhaps the most poignant moment I can remember since I started this sport. I will never forget it.
So…yeh my race wasn’t awesome, but my Kona experience was pretty freaking amazing. It was fresh and unique. And I was proud of myself for keeping the perspective I so hoped I would all the way through my time in Hawaii.
I thought I would share my top 10 moments of my Kona week (and truly in no particular order!!):
1. Crossing the finish line with Reilly
Reilly Smith has become one of my best friends and top training partners in Los Angeles. He is my “person” – the person I can confide in about my insecurities, my fears, my confidence, my frustrations – both inside the sport and out. We are competitive, but we support one another and push each other at every practice and every time we step on the starting line. He has been such an incredible supporter of mine this season and someone who’s friendship I value immensely. So it was only fitting that Reilly and I crossed the finish line within 10 seconds of one another on race day (and yes…that means he did beat me by 25 minutes….dammit!!). When I crossed I had nothing left, and there stood Reilly, waiting for me, with arms open. He took me in and gave me this massive hug, and together we stood there and cried. It was such an awesome moment. I could not have planned a more perfect way to end my season and end my Kona experience. Reilly – THANK YOU for being the incredible person that you are. You are the bomb!
2. Going back to cheer on the midnight finishers with James
Despite being in incredible pain after every Ironman I have ever done, the finish-line party in the hours leading up to midnight are moments that I relish at every Ironman event – whether it be at Kona or elsewhere. To feel the satisfaction of your own achievement from the day, and then to channel that energy into celebrating the accomplishments of all the other finishers is an experience unlike any other.
My boyfriend, James, had come to Hawaii to watch my race. I was unsure if he would be up for returning to the finish line later in the evening, but he was a trooper and trudged down to Ali’i Drive with me. We stood in the bleachers, dancing and cheering loudly as the final finishers came in. I was SO HAPPY.
James said he had never seen me so happy before and that it was his favorite moment from Kona. And he was right – being there and feeling the pride of the season and what I had achieved, the relief of the day being done, being in the presence of someone for whom I care so much, and the excitement in cheering on the final finishers had me bubbling over with happiness. It was so great.
3. Attending the pro meeting
Yeh – ok. That sounds a little weird. But as a little first year pro, attending your first Kona pro meeting is a pretty damn cool experience. Everyone is kitted out, representing all their sponsors. There is media and cameras everywhere. The nervous energy in the air is tangible. Everyone looks ridiculously fit, slightly jittery and ready to go. It’s insane. And it’s awesome. Definitely the coolest pro meeting I have ever been to.
4. Seeing a floor-to-ceiling-sized poster of me in the Clif Bar Lounge
Again – Yeh. OK. That might sound a little lame, but honestly, the first time you see a giant poster of yourself, well – it’s also a pretty damn cool experience. And I get that I should probably be playing it cool, and obviously I’ve got a long way to go to be anywhere in this sport, but I still had to pinch myself and appreciate the moment and how far I have come. And sometimes jumping up and down inside just isn’t enough!
5. The pride I felt all week to be part of my incredible team of sponsors
This may SEEM like a bit of a sponsor plug, but it’s honestly not intended to be. I just can’t say enough about the team of people that supported not just me, but all of their athletes all week. These guys worked their butts off! Everything from bike support from Cervelo and Shimano and swapping out wheels last minute, to Saucony making sure I had the right shoes on race day, to getting me my “mini” Clif bars for the race, to the custom kits Helen’s Cycles had made with all of my sponsor logos – These guys were awesome awesome awesome. I felt (and feel) so honored and proud to be part of such amazing brands. I feel lucky and thankful every day.
To Cervelo, Shimano, CycleOps, ISM and KASK – You guys have gone above and beyond this year in terms of making sure my bike (and my head) are always safe and race ready. THANK YOU for your continued support
To Saucony – I can say, without a doubt that you make the best product out there. The brand has continued to surprise me throughout the year with how amazing everything you make it – from shoes to apparel. I love this brand and I could not be more proud to be part of the Saucony team.
To Clif Bar – Awesome product. It has kept me going through SO MANY hours and hours and hours and miles and miles and mile of swimming, biking and running this year. You make absolutely awesome tasting products and I am so stoked to be part of your team.
To Helen’s Cycles – What a great surprise to start this relationship! Your support is amazing, and the Helen’s team is the best around.
The Game Ready – You saved my legs after the race! No joke! I was literally crawled up in the fetal position on the ground, and 40 minutes and 1 Game Ready compression & icing cycle later I was like a whole new woman, dancing up a storm in the bleachers on Ali’i Drive. Seriously – you make fantastic stuff that has been a huge part of my training and recovery this year – thank you!
To WIDSIX and Verdict Digital – What can I say. Everything you guys do is Magic. The dedication and professionalism you have shown this year in helping me with my website and the videos has been second to none. You both have great companies and are great people. Thanks for being part of the journey
6. Surfing with the Cervelo crew post race
On Monday after the race, the entire Cervelo team went surfing. It was so chilled out and relaxed, but after what was an incredibly long, tiring and hectic week for everyone, it was great to see the weight of the race lifted off everyone’s shoulders. It was awesome to see everyone out there laughing and catching some waves and enjoying our last moments together in Kona. THANK YOU Cervelo for an amazing experience!
7. Enjoying the first 10 miles of Ali’I Drive
I know this may SOUND a little odd, but it is true. Last year when I came here, everyone told me how awesome I would feel along Ali’i Drive during the run – there was a breeze from the ocean and the crowd support was unmatched. Well – last year I overheated on the bike and spent my entire Ali’i experience sticking my head in ice buckets, puking on the side of the road, and wondering how the heck people thought Ali’i was “the great part of the run”. This year, I got it. With my body temperature under control, the first 10 miles were awesome, and I was smiling both inside and out……and then I hit the energy lab and it all changed….
8. Seeing my mother out on the course, standing all day in the beating sun with her “Don’t Dream It. Be It” signs
It’s no secret that my family was not exactly in favor of my decision to turn pro. With a great job and many years of blood sweat and tears put in to reach the point in my career that I was (in Finance), my parents had a hard time justifying my decision – and rightly so. But despite their concerns, once my decision was made they have stood by me and supported me with all of their heart and soul. And this was epitomized in Kona when my mom stood out on the Queen K all day, with her “Don’t Dream It. Be It.” signs, cheering me on with everything she had. My grandmother is quite sick right now, and I know it’s been a hard few months for my mom. So it meant so much to me that she was there supporting my every step on race day. It gets me all teary eyed, actually. Mom I love you SO much. Thank you for being my #1 fan and being there at the race. I needed you there.
9. Ice Cream and Cheeseburgers
All year we focus focus focus on everything that will give us that extra edge in racing – our diets, our recovery, our equipment – everything. And sometimes things we love have to be given up. For me…that is ice cream and cheeseburgers. In the days (read weeks) after the race my diet consisted almost entirely of ice cream and cheeseburgers….and they were HEAVENLY. It was awesome! They were so well deserved, which made the eating experience that much better!
10. Purplepatch and Tower 26
My coaches, Matt Dixon and Gerry Rodrigues, have been such important parts of my life this last year. And so it meant a tremendous amount to me that they were there on race day. Good or race or bad, they have been my everything in terms of my progression as an athlete, and I was proud to race in front of them. THANK YOU to you both for everything you have done.
So! That was it – my Kona experience in a nutshell! A big thank you to The Ogin family for their amazing hospitality; to my mother, James and Bryan for your amazing support on race day; and to my coaches and my sponsors – I would not be here without you!
I am now into my off season, and enjoying every minute of it!
Until next time.
Don’t Dream It. Be It.
Vegas. 70.3 World Championships. Holy cow. That sucked. I’d like to use some other, significantly more offensive words to describe how I feel about Sunday’s race, but to spare you all, I’ll leave it at that.
Sunday was a very tough day for so many people I care about. It was like we all had been sucker-punched in the gut, then kicked in the head and had rocks thrown in our faces. Some people’s races blew up more than others, but at the end of the day, we all blew up. I was bummed for my race, but in the aftermath, not being able to celebrate the success of many – well, that brought me down a bit further. We all went in with our game faces on and ready to shine, and at the post-race bbq held by one of our Purplepatch teammates, we all had smiles, but the pain and disappointment that lingered in the air was tangible.
We are all tough. We are all warriors. That is why we were standing there in the first place. And so we’ll all bounce back, learn from the experience and use it to become stronger, better and faster athletes. But man. That sucked.
I am disappointed and I had hoped for more, but when I take a step back and remove myself from the moment, I do remember the simple fact that I got to race on Sunday, and as a first year pro, that is pretty damn great. Not everyone has that chance – in fact few of us do, and good race or bad, being able to take that experience, learn from it, and put it in the bank for next year – I am incredibly thankful for that.
Looking at my race, I know what the issue was: My stomach. Same as it always is. Motion sickness. I did everything I had practiced. I wore the pressure point bracelets. I ate ginger before the swim. I wore ear plugs. I didn’t eat or drink for the first 45 minutes of the ride. I did everything to settle myself, and let the blood start flowing to my legs and not to my queasy mid-section. But this time, nothing worked. And as I have learned in the race simulations we have done over the last month, until my stomach settles, I can’t get my power up. In fact, when I am sick, I ride 75 to 100 watts lower than what my typical 70.3 race pace would be. 100 watts! That is a big number for a little person like me. That is a big number for anybody.
Placid was a blessing in that we finally were able to identify an issue and started tackling it. At Ironman New York everything worked perfectly. I had some sickness out of the swim, but my stomach settled within 30 minutes and I was fine. In Vegas, not so much. I kid you not when I say I threw up over 40 times in the ensuing 69.1 miles after I exited the water.
So as I sit here thinking about the race, my thoughts are less about feeling sorry for myself and more completely focused on figuring out how the hell I solve this problem. So I thought I’d throw out the issues to the world and see if anyone has any ideas:
How it begins: Whenever I swim – whether in the pool or in the open water I get some form of motion sickness. Sometimes I don’t feel it at all in the water, and other times, like in Las Vegas, my stomach starts doing flips and turns before I get out. The roughness of the water seems to have no bearing.
When I exit the water I always get one of those massive head-rushes like when you stand up to fast and your blood pressure drops. I feel like my legs are like lead and my heart rate spikes when I run through transition. The degree of this also varies based on how I feel in the water. At IMNYC my stomach was more settled than normal and I felt the best I have ever felt running into T1. Other times, such as at Eagleman, I felt so nauseous in transition I was dizzy and couldn’t see straight.
Out on the bike, I have no power. My legs are dead weights, and I throw up a constantly. And when I say throw up – I’m not exaggerating. Imagine wretching your entire night’s dinner out – that is what happens to me. It is only once my stomach settles that my power returns and I can ride properly. Sometimes in training I wait up to an hour after a swim to ride, and even then my stomach still won’t have settled down.
I now wear pressure point bracelets on both wrists, wear ear plugs and take ginger – all homeopathic remedies. None of this has solved my issues, but I have found, generally, it has reduced the time from when I exit the water to when my stomach begins to feel better. I wear the pressure point bracelets on the bike too.
I’ve gone and done the balance testing and everything has come back normal. And I have visited an ENT specialist. She says I have ridiculously inflamed sinuses and believes the degree to which my sinuses are swollen impacts my balance, and thus the degree of my nausea issues. This is entirely plausible. As I sat back and thought about both Placid and Vegas – I had colds and sinus infections for both. In fact the days before Vegas my sinuses were so blocked I had a terrible headache as the infection set in and went to bed at 6 pm the night before the race because my head hurt so much.
So that is it. Kona is 4.5 weeks away. And I’m on a mission. Not just for Kona, but for next year. My performance in races cannot be at the whim of this issue, or, if it is going to be, I need to figure out how to fix it quickly when it happens. Any thoughts? Ideas? Comments? Are my ear crystals out of wack? Anyone? Anyone? I need help! There has to be someone out there that has had the same issues…..right?
So – that is the deal. Now it is back to work – focusing on getting this issue further sorted, putting up a solid training block before Kona and putting up my best performance of the year.
Thank you so much everyone – fans, family, friends, sponsors, coaches, and my fellow competitors for all of your awesome support out there on the race course and in the days leading up to and after the race. I couldn’t do it without you all!
Until next time.
Don’t dream it. Be it.
Just over a week ago I raced at Ironman New York City and had, what I felt, was the best race I have ever executed. That doesn’t mean I had my greatest swim, bike or run – in fact I made plenty of mistakes in each, but the way in which I handled every situation and strategically maneuvered through my day was as good as I could have hoped for. I was rewarded with a race with which I am completely happy, and one that I would consider to be my “purplepatch” race of the year.
For those of us that have completed an Ironman distance event before, you know that half the battle is a mental one. Those that can stay mentally tough and problem solve the best are the ones that will come out on top. People frequently ask me for advice as they prepare for their first Ironman race, and my response is always the same: set an alarm on your watch for every 15 minutes. When that alarm sounds, eat something, drink something, and do a full body check to figure out how you are feeling. If something is wrong – you are tired, thirsty, hungry, etc – figure out how you are going to fix it and go to work. This was the same advice my teammate, Linsey Corbin, gave to me before my first Ironman in 2011, and is something I have carried with me since. In practice, it is much easier said than done. In times when we feel great it can be easy to forget to eat and drink, and in the times we feel terrible, the idea of shoving another gel down our throats is nearly unbearable. But if you can stay mentally strong, be rational, and follow that simple plan, these are the biggest facilitators (in my mind) of having a successful day.
For me, I am superstitious with just about everything. I’m not kidding. The last two competitions before Ironman NYC I braided my hair, and I had the worst race of my career, followed by a DNF. Needless to say, I did NOT braid my hair for NYC. I also had brought a dress to wear in my last two races in the hopes I might make it onto the awards podium. For Ironman NYC my dresses were left hanging in my closet. It’s funny, not to mention mildly psychotic, that things so insignificant as braiding one’s hair can have an impact on your psyche on race day. But ultimately, whatever is going to put us in the best possible mental place when the canon fires, no matter how trivial, becomes important.
In addition to my dozens of strange idiosyncrasies, my pre-race conversations with my coach, Matt Dixon, are extremely impactful. When I speak with Matt I am always searching for that little something that sticks – that triggers a bump in mental strength and confidence in my ability to succeed. And there are times, such as at NYC where Matt’s words are like gold.
I won’t go into the nitty gritty of my pre-race call with Matt, but there were a few things that he said to me that stuck and were, quite frankly, what I drew upon when times got tough:
- You won’t feel great when you get on the bike, but you will be riding stronger than you think. Stick with it, find your legs, and build.
- Do not be afraid to take risks.
- The run will be a game of attrition. You MUST stay mentally strong. Be a warrior and under no circumstances do you give up.
None of these pieces of advice were rocket science, overly complex, or even, for that matter, things I didn’t already know or even suspect. But hearing it from him was PERFECT. Perhaps it was the delivery, the tone in his voice, certain key words – I couldn’t be quite sure. But whatever it was, as the day progressed it was his voice in the back of my head and advice that kept me calm and able to tackle whatever I faced.
When I got onto the bike I was immediately passed by 3 girls. I thought to myself – “be patient Sarah, let your legs come to you. Matt said you would feel like poo at the beginning. Wait until you get on the Palisades Parkway and then begin to build”. Which is what I did…..but I still didn’t feel great for a while. When you feel like you are riding at a snail’s pace, and you know how much of the day is ahead, it can be easy to feel frustrated and become hard on yourself. But I used Matt’s words as guidance and slugged on – never actually feeling that deterred. Any time I felt down, I remembered “you might not feel great, but you will be riding stronger than you think”.
Lo and behold as I went back and looked at my bike splits, Matt was right – I was riding stronger than I thought. It was satisfying to see, but also further convinced me of the fact that you simply cannot think about anyone else’s day other than your own. No matter how you feel over the course of an Ironman you never know what is going on around you or how other people are feeling. The only thing you can control is YOU and your mind. It would have been so easy to fall apart mentally from the very start of the bike, but I didn’t, and I came into transition having moved up from 17th out of the swim, to 5th at the start of the run.
Out on the run I felt a twinge in my calf during one of the many long uphill climbs that all but dominated the first 16 miles of the run course. I started freaking a bit. It was the same twinge I felt almost a year earlier when I pulled my calf muscle at Timberman 70.3 and was forced to pull out of the race. This was bad news. I was unwilling to accept ANOTHER DNF in consecutive Ironman races, but here I was, hanging on the edge of a full on strain that, if my calf had released, would have reduced me to a limp for the next 20 miles. “Just keep going, be a warrior”, I repeated to myself. I pushed on, thinking about every stride. I was favoring my left step a bit, but by mile 9 I had moved up into 4th position and was going to be dammed if I was going to give up. I knew there were some super-fast girls behind me, but I kept saying “you can do this Sarah, you can get 4th, you can do this”; “Matt said to be tough, Matt said to be tough, you can do this”. I gave everything I could, praying my calf would hold together til the end. It did. I got my 4th place. And I was pumped.
After the race, all I could think about was how perfect and helpful Matt’s words were to me. They were the magic potion that helped me hold it together mentally in the face of a ridiculously hard day. And it reminded me of the importance of having mantras and sayings to draw upon in races. Not every race is going to be the same, but having them there – something we can use to propel us forward and to stay strong, IS what helps us all keep going when the pain and hurt of the Ironman day begins to catch up to us.
I want to extend a massive congrats to Mary Beth Ellis, Bec Keat and Amy Marsh who posted fabulous days, and continue to keep me inspired and reaching for that next step up. Also to Jordan Rapp, the men’s winner, for an incredibly dominating performance.
As a caveat to my race report, I know there has been a lot of hype and talk about Ironman NYC, and for what it is worth, I wanted to offer my two cents. I LOVED this course – I felt as though it was incredibly challenging and truly worthy of a championship race. Having lived in New York for the last 7 years I was highly skeptical coming in of how Ironman was going to successfully pull this race off. What transpired far exceeded my expectations. I felt as though they took an extremely complex venue and created an iconic event.
Were the logistics challenging? Yes, they were. But New York City is one of the largest cities in the world, and I felt Ironman did a fantastic job of having a centrally located expo and terminal base, and coordinating ferries that made it fairly simple to get to and from transition. Yes we had to take cabs everywhere and the stress and energy of the city added to the chaos, but that is NYC for you.
Was the course hard? You’re damn right it was hard. But it was AWESOME. We got to ride car-free on a highway that had never been closed before. We got to run over the George Washington Bridge. We got to dive (or jump) off a barge constructed in the middle of the Hudson River as the sun rose over the GW Bridge and the skyscrapers that line the city. I know the bike was tough and the run amazingly hard, but that is what made it so special. This is the US Championships – it is supposed to be tough! And anyone who knows NYC knows that in the middle of August, 90 degrees with 100% humidity is pretty much an average day. Ironman is not supposed to be cake walk.
Was it difficult for spectators? It sure was. But again, as someone who has lived in NYC, I honestly expected NO spectators to be out on the course. I was positively surprised by how many there were, and I was blown away by how great the volunteers and aid stations were. I also felt that Ironman did what they could to help with spectator support, providing ferries on the swim, as well as to and from transition. I do see the potential for improvement in future years – maybe a bus to a designated viewing spot on the bike course, for example, but then again, I have done enough Ironmans now to know that on many bike courses there is no spectator support and you are out there all on your own.
Did the awards ceremony suck? Yeh, it did kind of – sorry Ironman. But, that is something I see as an easy fix – not something that is fundamentally wrong with the race as a whole.
Is the race expensive? – It is. But that is the price for the opportunity to race an Ironman in New York City. New York is expensive. Period. When I lived there I paid $2,500 per month to live in a 300 sq. foot studio apartment. 300 square feet! Ridiculous, right? And I didn’t even live in one of the more desirable areas of town! I can only imagine the cost of not just putting on this race, but doing so in a manner that met the strict regulations of the City all while striving to give competitors a unique experience.
Net net – Like most races after their first year, there are things that can be improved upon, but I also feel the negative backlash was unwarranted. I loved this race and I felt for the first year running Ironman did a fantastic job. I truly hope to see it return next year. Putting on as well as competing in an Ironman in a big city like New York is not going to be the same as putting on and competing in an Ironman in random rural town USA.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
It’s been a while, but I owe many thank you’s
To my sponsors – It continues to amaze me how lucky I am to have the opportunity to represent such amazing companies and brands. To Cervelo (Les and Jak, in particular) – THANK YOU for everything you did at this race. Getting my P5 set up in time, making sure our bikes were ready to race and standing out there in the crazy heat all day cheering every one of us on. It was so special having you there. To Shimano – thank you for the help and support on race week. And to my amazing other sponsors – Saucony, Helen’s Cycles, CycleOps, Clif Bar, Kask, ISM and Game Ready – thank you for your faith in me as an athlete and person.
To my BFF – Avery. Avery got up at 3 AM with me on race morning, came on the ferry and raced around all day cheering me on everywhere; taking pictures; calling, e-mailing and texting my family and friends with updates; and helping me in a way only family would in the hours after the race when I was struggling so very much. Avery I love you so so so very much. Thank you!
To Heather, James, Amy, Brandon and William – for your unwavering support, hospitality and smiles during race week. I am so lucky to have all of you in my life.
And to Matt Dixon – My coach extraordinaire. It’s hard to believe how far we have come from that coffee in San Francisco 2 years ago. I can’t thank you enough for your faith in me and willingness to take me on.
Up next: 70.3 World Championships in Vegas….and then….KONA! That is right! I qualified!
Until next time.
Don’t dream it. Be it.
In 2012 I started working with CycleOps as one of their sponsored athletes. CycleOps is a brand I love and believe in for so many reasons. For me, I strive to partner with brands that not only have amazing and reliable products, but also companies with unyieldingly high standards and values that are in line with my own. Saris/ CycleOps has incredible character and in working with them and through their support, I have made tremendous strides in my cycling in a very short period of time. I’m so proud to represent the CycleOps brand. Here is a look into what it is like to be a CycleOps Powered Athlete! Thank you so much to Verdict Digital for their amazing work on producing this vid. They are the bomb diggity!