After my last race of the 2015 season (Ironman Western Australia on December 6) I took a few days to indulge and celebrate my first Ironman win, and then promptly dove into a strict elimination diet.

I need to provide some background here. When I was 12 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and since that time I have been on medicine to replace the hormone my body doesn’t produce. To be honest, I never really thought much about taking this medicine and frankly, I never felt like I even experienced the symptoms that are often associated with the disease. Throughout my teens and 20’s my parents were always harping on me to be consistent in taking my medication…and I did….and then I didn’t….and then I did. I didn’t take the time to really learn about and concern myself with what was going on with my body. Eventually though I did start taking it with regularity. For almost 6 years my thyroid levels didn’t change and I was on the same dosage – 75 mcg (micrograms).

Then in 2014 things changed. I broke my leg. And when that happened, Matt Dixon, my coach, suggested I go have some blood work done and have a bone density scan. The blood work showed my thyroid levels WAY off and my bone density scan showed osteopenia (a precursor to osteoporosis). It was THEN that I began to learn in detail about what the thyroid does and the implications of abnormal levels. For example – an underactive thyroid can cause osteopenia and other bone density problems. It can increase your chances of sickness as it lessens your immune system. It can cause severe inflammation, swelling and bloating. It can impact your sleep. It can make you feel constantly lethargic. It has a profound impact on metabolism and thus weight. It can make things like pregnancy difficult. The thyroid regulates so many functions in your body that when it doesn’t work properly it is actually pretty darn hard to function and feel like a normal human being.

In addition, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, which is a genetic disorder in which your body recognizes your thyroid gland as a foreign body and attacks it (hence why mine is under active). I had to made some sweeping changes to my diet as a result – removing things like gluten, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc as the chemical makeup of these foods actually worsens the condition vs improves it.

Over the course of the last year my thyroid dosage went up and up and up. And every time I went back to the doctor to get tested, it was still low. As it FINALLY started to regulate (at 150 mcg in August of 2015 – a full 16 months after I fractured my leg) I began noticing massive changes – my energy levels went way up, my body leaned out, my sleep improved. But one thing didn’t change – I was still struggling with inflammation and swelling. To the point that sometimes – if I ate something “off” – I would retain upwards for 10-12 pounds of fluid as my body reacted negatively to whatever I had consumed.

As I consulted with my nutritionist, Phil Goglia from Performance Fitness Concepts, we agreed that I needed to do some form of elimination diet to fully understand what foods were causing the swelling and inflammation for me. During the season it was extremely hard to implement a diet like this because the removal of things like sugar and grains can have a highly negative impact if done during periods of intense training. The only time to do it was right after my race when my training volume and intensity was low/non-existent.

Initially we removed grains, sugar, alcohol, legumes and dairy. I was allowed to eat protein, fruit, nuts and seeds, vegetables and potatoes.

And yes….this meant no holiday cookies or wine while sitting in front of a fire….tears!

We eventually ended up removing fruit too as that turned out to be a major source of bloating for me. Though restrictive, and definitely a bit annoying at times, the diet was fascinating. Quite quickly all inflammation from my body was gone and once we removed the fruit, the bloating left as well. I felt great. I was sleeping like a brick. I didn’t have huge energy fluctuations. And, I actually didn’t find the diet to be that hard. I realized that my eating plan I follow in-season isn’t dramatically different. Yes I have more grains and more sugar, but on the whole, I eat very very clean, and so eliminating things like processed foods wasn’t a struggle at all.

During this period, I had to be creative in what I ate, and THAT is where I discovered the power of egg whites. I had no idea that they could act as a wonderful binding agent for making things like bars, nut blends and protein pancakes. After doing a little research on the subject, I found some other great benefits:

– one of the highest quality proteins of any food available
– Protein packed! One egg has more than 6 grams of protein
– A great source of riboflavin (helps red blood cell production), selenium (fights cellular damage) and potassium (sodium-potassium pump people!!!…not to mention heart health, bone health and overall cell and organ function)
– No saturated fat

So….if you are looking for a quick and easy way to bake up some homemade goodness and keep things healthy, consider removing the flour and using egg whites as an option. Check out these two recipes that I love:

Protein pancakes (Thanks Holly Lawrence for the recipe):

  • 4 ripe bananas (easily mashed)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup oats (but you can put in as many oats as your want to your preference)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (again – adjust to your preference)
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • ground flax seed

You can also add things like chopped nuts!

Mash the bananas and then add the egg white and mix into a batter-like consistency; add oats, chia seeds, almond butter, ground flax seed and anything else you would like; mix well

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

On wax paper over a cookie sheet, place cookie-sized dollops of the mixture. Cook for ~20 minutes/until golden brown on top

Sugar Free Fruit and Nut Bars:

  • 2 cups Pecans chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts chopped
  • 1 cup almonds chopped
  • 20 dates finely chopped
  • ¾ cup of eggs whites
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • a dash of vanilla.

I also add unsweetened cranberries and a few scoops of almond butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

mix well, place into a baking pan; cook 15-20 mins

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It is Monday morning and I am sitting at the kitchen table of my homestay here in Oz reflecting a bit on the last year while simultaneously getting myself into “race mode” and mixing in a bit of online Christmas shopping!! Talk about multi-tasking at its finest (how can you go wrong with Xmass shopping?!?!)

This coming Sunday (December 6th) I will be closing out my 2015 season with Ironman Western Australia. It was at this race 12 months ago that I returned to Ironman racing after my injury. Coming back here makes it hard NOT to sit back and reflect upon the journey we have taken over the last 12 months. A year ago I was still in pain; the longest run I had done was less than 10 miles; I felt wildly under-prepared for this race. I was far from fit. And I was in a financially tenuous position after having spent 8 months dishing out money to pay for not just every day expenses but also my recovery. I finished 8th in this race, just out of the money and walking away a little more wide-eyed then when I arrived, realizing I had a LOT of work to do to make it back to being able to make a living out of this sport.

Over the course of the last year I rebounded – getting stronger and stronger throughout the season and making my way back. I had an early season break-out run; I won a 70.3 and podiumed in 3 others. I broke a bike and overall course record at a 70.3. I ran a 3:00 marathon and posted my fastest ever Ironman (9:03). I finished 6th in an exceptionally strong field at the Ironman North American Championships. And at the Ironman World Championships I placed 7th, posting the 2nd fastest run in field stacked with amazing runners.

Beyond the results, I feel that I have pushed new limits, reached new heights in my training, created a better and increasingly more productive relationship with my coaches, and I have matured as an athlete in ways I had not been able to before.

I am beyond proud of this season – for all that we – as a team – have accomplished.

Despite all of this, there are two goals we didn’t achieve – to win my first Ironman and to go under 9 hours in a race.

Leading into Kona (The Ironman World Championships) I felt the most prepared and the most confident I have ever felt. I was training with the kind of consistency I could only dream of – to the point that I was almost paranoid of when I was going to “lose” it. I felt fresh –mentally and physically.

After Kona Matt Dixon (My coach, and head of Purplepatch Fitness) and I sat down and decided to race once more – to head back to where it all began… or at least re-started for me – Busselton, Australia to race Ironman WA.

To say my training has been anything but consistent in my prep for this race is somewhat of an understatement. It took me a LONG time to recover from Kona – probably 6 weeks (As a total side note – I have NO idea how people recover from Kona so quickly and race within a few weeks after!! My body was a wreck!). My body just didn’t want to come around. One day I would feel great, the next I’d be completed shattered from my efforts and my recovery from hard sessions took longer than usual. I truly underestimated the toll Kona was going to take on my body – the harshness of the conditions, the intensity of the race, the stress of being the biggest race of the season, the sponsor and race commitments – they all play a role in how long it can take to recover. I KNOW this, yet I was still surprised at the time it was taking me to come good. This made mentally re-focusing when the body wasn’t always agreeing an added challenge.

In light of my yo-yo of a prep, I am SO excited to be racing. I’m going into this race with some big goals, big dreams and big beliefs in what is possible and what I want to achieve on the day. I have the confidence that I am fit and in what my body can do. I’ve learned over the last 8 weeks to take the good with the bad, to roll with the punches a bit, and to (TRY!!) not worry about the ups and downs. As Matt said to me in one e-mail recently

“The absolute black hole of all this is comparison figures and analysis between a prime IM build, and a follow up IM that occurs within 2 months of the one prior. #2 is much harder to find rhythm and pattern going into, as it is a build based OFF the fitness of the previous build, and requires a recovery component from race #1 (Kona), an aim to maintain fitness from the previous build (August and Sept work), and a sharpening component. You (the royal you) requires LESS load and specific prep for number two… but it is entirely normal to feel weird and funky.”

Matt and Paul have been wonderful – reminding me that I am neither better nor worse athlete since Kona. The ups and downs are NORMAL, and that the focus should be less on the numbers, and more about doing everything possible to heal my body – focus on the hydration, the recovery, the sleep, the nutrition and the strength work and activation.

So… it is race week and I am headed into “The Poo Cave” – the nickname that my friends and family have so endearingly labeled my pre-race mental zone. From here on out it is about staying relaxed, enjoying being here in Oz, and prepping myself to get the most out of my body come race day!
Thanks for reading and I’ll check in post race! Here we go – closing out the 2015 season! Wish me luck!

Until Next Time – Don’t Dream it. Be it.

-Little Red

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Kansas 2015 - Mike Malfer was an amazing training partnerIn late July I flew to Kona for a 10-day training camp with our resident Purplepatch bike guru Paul Buick.  While there, I was training well, but something was missing for me – particularly on the bike.  I was hitting my numbers, but I was lacking that feeling of fluidity and ease that I so often feel when I ride.  I noticed it and Paul noticed it too.  We were talking one evening after a hard day and he said to me flat out – “I don’t see it in your legs.  You’ll know when you are there.  It’s not about how lean you are or how fit you are, it’s about being in that place where everything flows.  Things are not flowing for you right now”.

I walked away from that camp stronger and more fit, but I knew he was right.  Something was missing.

As Matt and I sat down to talk about my Kona prep I knew what I needed.  For me on the bike it was about riding on roads where I could pedal endlessly for miles and find rhythm.  And it was about having training partners who could push me in just the right ways and at the right times.  I was strong and fit, but I lacked rhythm.  I asked Matt if I could head down to Santa Monica and do my Kona prep there.  I knew the roads well and knew they would be good for me.  I had spent 2 years training with Gerry Rodrigues and Tower 26 on the swim and knew Gerry would push me hard in the water.  But Matt had another idea. “Kansas” he said.  “Kansas?!?!” I asked/exclaimed!  Kansas was the last place I would have expected Matt to suggest.
“It is the ideal training place for Kona.  It is hot.  It is humid.  It has rolling terrain similar to Kona.  There are no cars.  It is windy.  And you have 2 great guys who will be perfect to train with.”

"race morning - pre race pic with my training buddy, Mike Malfer"

“race morning – pre race pic with my training buddy, Mike Malfer”

The two great guys were Brian Weaver and Mike Malfer – both Purplepatch athletes.  Both EXCELLENT elite amateurs.  Both getting ready for Ironman races – Mike for Kona; Brian for Ironman Arizona.

After our meeting Matt reached out to both of them and they responded immediately with open arms.  Before I knew it I was packing my bags and headed to the Midwest.

And it was PERFECT.  For two weeks the three of us lived in our world of a mini-training camp of 3.  We pushed each other to new levels across swim bike and run.  There were days when each of us wanted to give up or give in, and the other two were there to motivate and inspire.  It was hard work.  Very hard work.  But I cannot imagine two people I would have liked to have done that with more than Brian and Mike.  It was an incredible combination and I am extremely grateful to them….and to their wives and families for welcoming me in to their homes and letting us immerse ourselves in the training the way we did.
And…along the way I found my rhythm.  I walked away from that camp READY FOR KONA.  I was finally back to biking like my old self, I was running better than I ever had before, and I felt I was swimming better than I had for a long time.  I came home from Kansas feeling the most prepared I have ever been to race an Ironman.  I felt SO prepared and things were working so flawlessly that I was almost anxious – I kept saying to Matt and to Mike (my boyfriend) that I was afraid to lose the momentum and the feeling.  They assured me I wouldn’t.  Every training session I would head out, tense that maybe it wouldn’t be there that day.  And day after day the momentum waIMG_0655s still there.

Before I left for Kona Matt and I sat down to talk about my race plan.  I expected it would be similar to the other Ironman races I had done this year – try to limit my losses on the swim (always shooting to get out of the water in under 10 minutes behind the leaders), ride the bike like a 70.3 and chase them down on the run.  But Matt (and Paul) had a different race strategy in mind.  As Matt said – he was taking a risk, betting on my current run form and playing the odds that it would come down to the run, as is typical at this race.  If I could run a 3 hour marathon or under, I would do well.
Matt said to me – “the swim is what it is.  I don’t care if you come out 5 minutes back, or 10 minutes back (…or 15 minutes as it actually happened to be!!), in this race, you will not chase on the bike”.  He said, “Your mantra for the day is TRAIN ALL DAY.  I want you to ride strong, but conservatively.  I want you to have a consistent ride and with 15 miles to go, no matter where you are or how you feel, you pull back – you ease up on the tension and you start to prepare for the run.  You also CANNOT miss a feed or a drink on the bike.  That is key.  If you are riding with a pack and they skip the aid station, you DO NOT skip the aid station, even if it means losing them.  Eating and drinking is paramount.”

“When you get toKansas 2015 Training Camp - Heading out on a 130 mile ride the run, you do not chase.  I run YOUR race.  Settle into your pace.  TRAIN ALL DAY.  Focus on core temperature management.  Do not go out too hard.  And if you get passed, do not go with them.  None of it matters on Ali’i Drive.  The only thing that matters is what happens on the Queen K….and really in the last 6-8 miles of the run”.
When I heard the plan, part of me felt anxious about it – to not chase on the bike would be hard as that is my thing – that is what I do.  But part of me loved the plan.  I’m someone who warms up and finds my flow over 30-40 minutes, so sometimes going hard from the onset can take a toll on me.  I felt this strategy could actually play in my favor and set me up better.  And I felt so confident about my run I knew running my race would be ok – I didn’t need to run anyone else’s.
Leading into race day I’ve never felt more confident.  I truly felt READY and feeling ready is a pretty amazing feeling.  I was also nervous.  I believed if I biked and ran to my potential, I could run into the top 10.  BUT, I also knew that there were 30 women out there who also were able to finish in the top 10.  30 women capable of being in the top 10…only 10 of us can finish there.  It was going to be a fight.  And a lot of things had to go my way to have that result happen.  Being at such a deficit out of the swim, my bike and run HAD to be great, and as with racing – anything can happen.

On race day the gun went off.  I had lined up by Heather Jackson and Beth Gerdes – both of whom I believed I could swim with….or at least draft off of long enough to get into the pack and then just hang on.  As it turned out, we lined up right, the big pack went left, I have a terrible take out and suddenly I was by myself.

IMG_0633As I exited the water and ran to my bike I saw there were two bikes left on the rack. “Well” I said to myself “I am not last.  Just focus on the bike now”.

For those of you who don’t know the Kona course, there is a 5-6 mile out-and-back section that runs through town.  It is a great way to see your competitors and where you stand relative to them.  As I went out for my loop the lead pack was coming through – by the time I hit the turnaround I realized I was 16 minutes behind!  Yikes!  Way worse than I had hoped for or expected.  But, I just put my head down and committed to the race plan.  I repeated to myself “Train all day” and focused on just that.  The rest of the ride was easy.  I rode conservatively (by way of comparison, my avg HR in an IM is typically around 161-163 and my avg HR in this race was 155), but I was smooth and consistent – just as Matt had asked.  And I was passing people.  It surprised me, actually, because I thought I would have a much harder time bridging up to the women ahead of me when I was riding a much easier and more conservative ride than normal.  And, I figured I would be losing time to the leaders.  There was a strong headwind all the way out to Hawi and I rode alone the entire day.  Yet when I reached the turnaround I saw my time gap was the same to the front women.  HOLY COW!  I thought.  I started to get excited and part of me wanted to start chasing, but I pulled myself back and went back into my “TRAIN ALL DAY” mode – just steady and consistent.  And, as Matt asked (and this was admittedly very hard for me to do) with 15 miles to go I let up and started to prepare for the run.  I spun a higher cadence and lower power output, I spent more time out of the saddle loosening my hips and pedaling upright.
Rolling into T2 I have never felt more fresh after a 112 ride than I did at this race.  I never hit a low on the bike and my legs didn’t feel smashed.  My back didn’t hurt.  I just felt fine.

Kona 2015 - In the Zone on the Queen KAs I left T2 someone yelled to me that I was in either 16th or 17th place.  “Perfect” was my thought.  I BELIEVED in my run.  I knew it was there.  I had been running so well, I knew what I needed to do.  So I set out.  I didn’t have a set pace I wanted to run- I just wanted it to feel easy and fluid.  As I started out my watch said I was running 6:40’s – but it felt easy.  And that was how I was going to run all day – at a pace that felt easy.  Matt and Paul were there just as I began running through town and Matt yelled to me “Don’t chase!  You are in a perfect place.  Just race your race”.

The one thing I have learned about Kona (having thankfully raced here twice before and gained valuable experience) is that it is SOOOO hot!  And if you don’t focus on core temperature management, your day will be over.  According to reports, this race was the hottest day Kona had seen for the World Championships in 8 years.  It was HOT.  And there was little wind in town, which made it that much hotter.  For the first 10 miles, despite feeling great overall, I was just managing from aid station to aid station.  At every one I stopped, dunked my head into the trash cans filled with ice and water for the sponges.  I grabbed sponges.  I stopped and had volunteers pour cups and cups and cups of ice down the front and back of me.  I drank electrolyte drink, I drank water, I drank coke – I literally did everything in my power to cool myself down.  It would last for 4 minutes and by the time I reached the next aid station – roughly 7 minutes after the last one, everything had melted and my core temperature would be rising again.  This is how it went.  And I didn’t care if that meant losing time.  For me, I knew it would play a critical role in how I ran the rest of the race.

The first 10 miles of the marathon are along Ali’i Drive – it is 5 miles out and 5 miles back.  The street is LINED with people, the energy is high, and typically most people run too fast.  As you come back through town you make a right hand turn onto Palani and run up a ½ mile long STEEP hill, and then make a left out onto the Queen K highway.  This is where the race really begins.  The next 16 miles you run completely exposed, through the lava fields (which brings the ambient temps up even more) and at a certain point spectators are not allowed, creating an 8 mile period when you are alone.

As I turned onto the Queen K I was in 14th place – having gained only 2 or 3 places in the first 11 miles.  But as we hit the turn around to head back to the finish line – with only 8 miles to go, I got a good look at where I was.  People were hurting.  I was feeling great.  There were 4 women definitely within reach.  “I can do it!!” I thought.  “I can get into the top 10”.  Nothing really changed – I just kept my pace and started passing women 1 by 1.  12th, 11th, 10th (!!!), 9th!!  8th!!  With 2 miles to go I saw Matt on the side of the road and he yelled to me – “Camilla is 90 seconds up on you and Susie is 2.5 minutes ahead of you.  Both are hurting!  I NOW GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO RACE!!!”

In my head I thought “What the F, Matt, Have I been doing for the last 9 hours??  Not racing??”  But just those words and hearing how close I was helped me find another gear and I went for it.  At the top of Palani I passed Camilla Pederson to move into 7th, and ran as hard as I could to catch Susie.  I fell short – she finished 40 seconds ahead of me in 6th place.

Kona 2015 - Making the pass into 7th place in the final miles of the raceAs I approached the finish line I started to lose it.  I was SO emotional.  Exactly one year ago I was hardly running.  I was still in pain.  I didn’t know if I would be able to get back to the form I had been in before I broke my leg.  I had put in SO much work and just held on to this belief for so long and suddenly here I was….7TH IN THE WORLD!  I felt so proud.  So SO proud.  So grateful.  So humbled.  SO thankful.  When I crossed the line I pumped my fists, and I broke down into tears.  I couldn’t contain it.  I was just SO SO proud of that race.  When I saw Matt and Paul and my brother and Mike and my mom and Anthony – we all embraced in some of the best hugs I have ever had in my life.  It was one of those memories and moments that you will never forget.

In the aftermath of it all, I’ve had this mix of emotions.  Part of me is inspired – I think about the minutes to be gained and things we can change and lessons I learned.  And it gets me so motivated to go out and work harder for next year.  Part of me is scared (!!) – Just because I finished 7th doesn’t mean there are not so many AMAZING women out there who are not equally as capable, if not more so, to have finished that result or better.  I just happened to have MY day when others did not.  So I feel scared/motivated to get back and not have it be a fluke.  Part of me is so proud.  Part of me is still a little disbelieving.  I’ve had this dream and goal since I started triathlon to be world class and it was realized in Kona….but sometimes it just feels so elusive that when it finally becomes a reality it is a very strange feeling.

IMG_0758

Matt congratulating me post race

But mostly, mostly I am proud.
I need to thank SO many people.  I remember a couple of years ago I was at a race that Meredith Kessler won, and in her post race speech she said that while it seems like this is an individual sport, it is not.  It is a TEAM that makes all of this happen and we, the athletes, are simply the technicians.  And she is right.  I have experienced this TEAM more than ever over the last year as so many people have spent time, energy, money and continued to BELIEVE in me and what was possible.  This race was a TEAM SUCCESS – the success and win for so many:

  1. To my coaches – Matt Dixon, Paul Buick and Gerry Rodrigues. The masterminds behind it all.  You three know me and have managed my training, my mental state, my goals over the last 5 years with such skill.  The PROGRAM is not just about the workouts – it is about creating the workouts that are right for the person, about creating emotional responses that are right for the person.  About enabling and educating in the way that is right for the person.  You have done all of that and more.  PURPLEPATCH has become my family.  Thank you so much for all you have done.
  2. To my “trainers” – Avanzare Chiropractic, Craig McFarlane, Brendon Rearick, Ryan West, Phil Goglia of Performance Fitness Concepts, Jesse Rice of Inspiraling Movement Arts, Kevin Burn from SF Sports Massage, Byron Thomas – You guys have done so much for me – from helping me rehab from my leg, to keeping me on the right nutritional path, to identifying key weaknesses that can help my swim/ride and run, to keeping my body loose and injury free. You all are so pivotal in my training and recovery process – such an important part of my progression over the last year
  3. Having my Mom and Mike in Hawaii to support me was amazing!

    Having my Mom and Mike in Hawaii to support me was amazing!

    To my family and friends – This sport requires a level of commitment and dedication which in turns requires a tremendous amount of understanding, patience and giving from all of you. I spend countless number of days on the road, I’ve missed family vacations, I don’t speak with those closest to me as much as I would like, I go to bed and get up early, socializing is minimized. Yet through it all, you all have supported me, loved me and embraced this journey as part of your own.  THANK YOU

  4. And to my sponsors – Cervelo, Shimano, Clif Bar, Saucony, Roka, Rudy Project, Boheme Wines, Scicon, Bear Mattress, PowerTap, CycleOps, WidSix, Corin Frost, JSY Public Relations, Purplepatch, Shift-SF and Polar – I believe wholeheartedly in each of your brands and I am so proud to be part of each of your teams. THANK YOU for believing in me and taking part in this journey.
  5. To the Purplepatch and Tower 26 communities – I feel so fortunate and lucky to be part of such an amazingly supportive group to people – thank you for being my friend, training partners and family
  6. Last – but most CERTAINLY not least – THANK YOU to Brian Weaver, Mike Malfer, Jim, Luke, Drake, Bryan and Terri – The Kansas “A” team. You guys were absolutely AMAZING and hugely instrumental in my successful preparation for Kona this year.  I cannot thank you enough for your support, for your push during training and for all you have done.  I am grateful to you all and hope you will have me back next year!

 

I am now back to training and getting ready for my final race of the season – Ironman Western Australia on December 6th.

 

Until next time – don’t dream it.  BE IT!

 

Little Red

 

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Hey All

Just a quick update here on my end. Last Sunday was Ironman Mont Tremblant and my day frustratingly ended with a DNF. I think I wrote on twitter that I started having Achilles pain at 8k into the run but thinking about it after the race it really started more around 10 or 11k.

In short – this was totally unexpected. I went into this race feeling the best and the most confident and the most prepared than I have at any race I have ever done. My training has been great. I’ve been healthy, strong and just overall in a great place. I felt rested. Heading into race day I couldn’t believe how calm and relaxed I felt – I was really just ready to go and felt completely confident and excited about how I planned to execute. I felt calm about my Kona qualification.

Race day was solid. I think I executed my best-ever swim. And while I wasn’t thrilled with my bike riding, I still worked my way up the field and came off the bike in 3rd and in a place where, if I could run as we had planned, I would be in a fantastic position.

When I started the run, Mike, my boyfriend, asked me how I was and my response was “hurting” – I was definitely in a low moment. But my legs actually felt really good and so I went about getting calories in – coke, bananas, gels, electrolyte – everything I could. And after about 3-4k everything came around and I settled in the pace I was very happy with – the goal was around a 3 hour marathon and I was right on track and felt strong.

About 7k in I got passed by Lisa Roberts who was running SO fast. I started to run with her, but she was putting down 6:10 miles and after about 1 minute with her I knew that pace was not something I could sustain long term (and suspected she couldn’t either) so I backed off and let her go. As a side note – she did go on to set a new run course record in just over 3 hours – it was awesome to see!

Once we made the turn around that is when things went south. My right Achilles initially started aching and then started giving me shooting pains. I slowed my pace significantly and was heavily favoring my right side. It quickly turned into a situation where I wasn’t able to run and was questioning whether I’d be able to make it back to town on my own. I stopped, took my shoe off, stretched and started massaging my ankle. Eventually I got going again and things were better for about 1k and then the pain started again but was worse. I could hardly run uphill and I was completely favoring my right side. I stopped again and did the same thing. I was frustrated and totally confused as I have had no Achilles issues at any point this year. And my day had gone from racing for a podium spot to just trying to get through. When I got back into town (having finished the first loop) I saw my dad and my boyfriend and stopped to talk with them. We called Matt (my coach) and collectively made the decision to pull out.

After the race I was very bummed out – I’ve always been a firm believer in the notion that if you can finish a race, you should. And frankly – I could have finished the race yesterday – I certainly could have walked. So I kind of feel like I let down myself and all the people who were out there walking the course. BUT, I also think my decision showed growth as an athlete. I’ve always been the kind of person who will not stop unless I am properly and thoroughly injured. But I learned that lesson last year the hard way. Waiting to stop until you are injured is a recipe for a lot of time out off of training and out of competition and I won’t put myself back into that position again.

After the race I kept questioning whether I was being overly conservative having stopped, but in the few days after I became increasingly more confident in my decision.

Since I race I’ve had my leg checked out and the prognosis is that I have a bit of tendonitis in my Achilles, which was brought on by some plantar facia issues that I had been managing all year on my right side.

Am I injured? No. I have a niggle that we need to address. Had I kept going I think the likelihood is that I would have come out of it injured and my season would be over.

In fact, I am excited to report that today (Friday) I’ll be going out for a mini “test” run to see how it is and from there we will plan forward. My doctor says it will be 3-4 weeks to totally recover.

Am I bummed? I am. But that is how racing goes sometimes and we just have to take the bad with the good. And I guess in the end I got in a solid 7.5 hours of training – something that is bound to help me on the whole.

As for my Kona qualification – I needed that race in Tremblant to secure my spot to Kona, so as of now, there is a chance I don’t qualify (and this weekend it will all be determined). I feel pretty calm about it all – This year has been a wonderful year – I’ve gotten stronger and stronger and stronger throughout the season and I feel excited not just for the end of this year, but what is to come next year and the year after. I feel great about where I am now and what is to come. So if Kona happens – awesome! I will be ready and I can’t wait to go and fight like hell to reach our goals. And if it doesn’t – there are quite a few other Ironman races around that time and you can be sure I will be at one of them.

One of my goals this year was to win and Ironman, so I’ll always welcome and opportunity to give that a go!

Now it is time to get this niggle addressed, get back to training and figure out what is next!

Thank you to EVERYONE for their support, concerns and well wishes! A HUGE thank you to Cervelo – they brought a massive team out to the race and were incredible incredible INCREDIBLE cheerleaders on the day! Thank you to my Boyfriend, Mike, and to my parents for being there on race day. To my coaching team – Matt, Paul, Brendon, Kevin, Phil and so many other – THANK YOU!

And last but not least HUGE congrats to Mary Beth Ellis, Liz Blatchford and Lisa Roberts – the top 3 ladies. They were spectacular and it was awesome to be able to race with them and then watch them thrive out there. I am loving how women’s racing continues to be elevated and am proud of everyone who is doing their part to push us all to new limits!

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

Sarah-

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I woke up this morning at 4:30. For a moment, when you first open your eyes, you feel like it is just another normal day….until you try to roll over or move in any capacity and you become immediately aware that it is not any other normal day. It is the morning after an Ironman. The pain, the soreness, the stiffness, and chaffing in places you should never be chaffed…

I got up and waddled to the bathroom, braced myself against the wall and the vanity into a half squat – way too sore and pained to actually be able to even sit on the toilet seat – its never a great way to start the morning. But at the same time, there is always a sense of pride, relief, adrenaline, sometimes mixed with letdown.

Yesterday was the North American Ironman Championships. Every year there are 5 global regional championships events – Asia Pacific, Africa, South America, North America and Europe. These are huge races for the professional ranks and they bring out the biggest, most competitive and deepest fields outside of the World Championships. Yesterday was no exception. For the women’s race, it was arguably the biggest and deepest field ever assembled outside of Kona.

It was interesting going into the race – listening to the commentary and speculation about who would win, be top 3, top 5. There were lots of conjecture, but there was universal agreement – there were 10 women who could contend for the win or a podium spot…and any of those women could be 1st or could just as easily be 10th. It was a race that we knew would be close, there would be some epic efforts, some epic blow ups, and would prove to be an exciting day to follow.

Going into this race I was in the best place I have ever been as an athlete. I felt strong. I felt mentally confident and prepared. I not only knew what I had to do to be competitive – I believed and trusted that I was in a place to be able to execute on it. I was nervous before the race – but not because I was afraid of the competition or unconfident. I was nervous mostly out of anticipation of the day – how long it is, how low the lows can be, and how deep you have to dig. But I was ready!

I never really like to talk about what my goals are with anyone except maybe Matt Dixon and Paul Buick – my coaches. And even with them, we rarely talk about placing – we talk about execution with an understanding that IF I execute, the result will be a great one. This race was no different.

I believed that if I could put all the pieces together a top 3 race was on the table and potentially, a title could be there. Lofty? Yes – I couldn’t have just an average day and pull either one of those off. I knew that. But I truly felt confident and in a place where I thought and believed something great was possible and within me. Matt and Paul believed it too.

I also don’t really like to talk strategy, but here is what I knew – I KNEW I was going to come out behind on the swim. And I knew to be on the podium I would have to bike faster than then almost everyone, and then get off the bike and run a 3-hour marathon. And I was right. If I had biked a 4:41 or a 4:42 and then run a 3:02 marathon or even a 3:03 or 3:04 – I would have achieved that podium result. I BELIEVED heading into the race that I could ride 4:40 and run somewhere between 3:00 and 3:05.

The skinny? I was solid – not bad, but I wasn’t great either.

Am I disappointed? No – I’m not – or at least mostly not. I think maybe the thing I am maybe a little disappointed….or at least feeling ambiguous about is my “warrior” attitude.

I think in this race, for a racer like me (with the level of swim I have), you had to be willing to lay it all out there and take some big risks. Corrine Abraham and Angela Naeth both did that. They rode hard and their rides paid off by bringing them to the front of the race. And Angela’s strategy worked because she ran well. Corrine blew up (but still managed to hold me off by 1 minute!). But I look at the race and admire their courage to put it out there.

My take away was I have to be more aggressive on the bike – not just “conservatively aggressive”. I need to be willing to put it out there.

Swim – 1:04 –

Thanks ROKA for all the Support - LOVED my swim skin and amber goggles for this swim!Let’s face it – my swim was dreadfully slow. I came out 11 minutes down from the leaders. Oupppfff – painful.
BUT…not all was lost. I went into the swim with one goal in mind – MAKE the sub 1 hour pack. And I did. I made it. And I swam at the back of the pack until the first turn buoy 1200 meters in.

It was funny because the first 300 yards I was working hard to stay on, but once things settled I was ok. But I was at the back of the pack. And I kept thinking to myself “If Gerry (Rodrigues…of Tower 26) were here, he’d be telling me to try to move up, because if the pack splits, I need to be in a position to go with them.”

And then it happened. Just before the 1st turn buoy one of the girls 3 or 4 people up from me began to fall off. I saw it happening and I swam like hell to move up and ensure that we didn’t get gapped, because I knew once the pack split it would be hard to bridge it back.

I fought hard, but I couldn’t make it happen and from there, that was it. Within 300 meters the group had a 30+ second gap to my new swim group.

So…yeh, my swim wasn’t great, but for me – that experience alone was a confidence builder that I CAN make that pack….and also a learning experience in terms of position in the pack. I can’t settle in at the back.

Furthermore, I ended up swimming with Corrine Abraham, who, like me, has a weaker swim and very strong bike. I felt as though she and I could ride together, and use the company of one another to bridge up and close the gap to the lead women.

Bike – 4:49 –

Going into the race I knew there were some women who were going to put the hammer down on the bike. And I also knew if I was going to give away minutes on the swim, I could not afford to give away minutes on the bike. Point blank – I needed to be prepared to ride between a 4:40 and 4:42.

…and I was right. That is exactly what I needed to ride….but I didn’t.

I guess I have a few comments here. First – that thought about Corrine and I riding together…yeh…didn’t happen. She was in and out of transition in a flash and was up the road before I even knew what was going on. I never saw her again on the bike. As it happens, she DID ride a 4:40 and got a new bike course record. She and I were on the same bike plan…except she executed!

Looking at my numbers – they weren’t bad. My power was actually roughly in line with what I was expecting; my heart race was about 5-7 bpm lower than what I expected.

And lastly, I rode alone – almost the entire ride. This was hard. Even when riding legally (with a 12 meter gap between cyclists) there is a benefit to having someone to ride with and work with the bike. It can help with rhythm and with motivation with you hit a low. Riding (at a legal distance) behind another rider can give you a mental break – it’s a huge huge benefit. And on a course like the one in Texas, that was big.

Angela Naeth and Corrine both rode hard, but I also think they rode incredibly smart races. They rode to get themselves to the front of that race and once they were there, they were able to use each other and push each other. It was smart. It was risky, but it also had to be done.

I built in to an Ironman effort and then just tried to be consistent. And I rode solo.

I learned a lot from that – because in reality, in Kona, that strategy could be hugely advantageous. And what I also learned is that I need to up my training thresholds. I didn’t ride poorly – I rode well. But can, will and need to ride faster, and I need to start mentally as well as physically preparing myself for a different kind of execution.

Run – 3:13 –

For me – I knew the race would come down to the run. I came off the bike in 8th with plenty of contenders in front of me and behind me. There was no opportunity to really falter, the key was a consistent and strong run. I think in an environment like that, it is REALLY easy to go out with guns blazing, but I went out more reserved (which had not been the plan) and I think it served me well in the end. I didn’t have the run I was gunning for – not even close. This was perhaps the only part of the race where I felt disappointed.

As I predicted – LOT’s happened on the run. People melted. People dropped out. People walked. And some people, like Angela Naeth, prevailed. She pretty much executed the race I was hoping to execute – a decent swim, an exceptional bike and a strong, solid run. She was great and I was truly excited for her and inspired by her performance. She was consistent all day long. It was awesome and she earned and deserved that win.

At the end of the day I earned 6th place. And I did EARN it. I worked hard all day. That 6th place didn’t fall in my lap. And while yes – I would have loved to have been better, I feel good about my effort. I guess maybe because I can see some obvious changes to make to a few spots in my training, and I walk away from this excited to make them and see what happens in the next one.

I’ve done 5 races (4 70.3’s and 1 Ironman) in 8 weeks. It is a lot of racing. So this week is all about clean out – just mentally and emotionally resting and re-grouping. Then I’ll get back on the horse. I have 4 weeks until Eagleman 70.3 and 6 weeks until Ironman Austria.

Some Thank You’s – First a foremost, I have to thank Matt Dixon and Paul Buick of Purplepatch fitness. Finding a coach/coaches who are in sync with your personality and mindset and where things just flow and work easily is hard to come by. I have that with them. I value their guidance and expertise immensely and I credit so much of where I am today to them. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Matt, Paul and the Purplepatch team.

To my sponsors, but in particular to Cervelo, who were onsite at IMTX and doing everything they could to make sure my bike was ready and my race went as seamlessly as possible. Massive massive thank you to Saucony, Shimano, Clif Bar, Rudy Project, ROKA, PowerTap, Marc Pro, Boheme Wines, Corin Frost and to Red Bull for their support and for making just amazing products. I am truly lucky to be able to wear, ride, run in, eat and drink these brands every day.

To my mother and my brother who were there at the race cheering me on. Yes, I do this as a profession and I am used to doing these races on my own, but having family there to cheer you on and support you after a race like an Ironman means a whole lot. They were huge out there on race day and gave me motivation at times I needed it.

To Brian and Tina Trimble – my host family in the Woodlands. This is an AMAZING family and I always feel right at home every time I am I in their house. THANK YOU for helping make my Ironman prep stress-free.

To so many others – My boyfriend – Mike – who is exceptionally understanding and supportive of my quirkiness and big dreams, to Jordan Blanco and Leslie Lasmachhia for the amazing cheers out on course, to my Purplepatch teammates and friends – Sarah Cameto, Laura Siddall and Laurence Delisle. And to so many others who support me and my dreams, day in and day out. To Verdict Digital for being on course and capturing some amazing shots from the day – love your work!

And finally to my agent, Jane Bolander of JSY Public Relations. She and I partnered in June of last year and she has worked tirelessly to help me build my brand and gain exposure and raise the profile of our dear sport of triathlon. She is a rock star and I cannot wait for what she and I have in store for the coming year. THANK YOU!

Vacation time!

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

Little Red

This chick ROCKS!  Thank you Leslie for the amazing support out there all day!

Comments Off on 2015 Ironman Texas – a Race Report

I wrote this blog the day after 70.3 Texas (so on April 28th) but am just getting it onto my website now! Sorry for the delay!!
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It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog. I guess a big part of that is because for a while I was pretty frustrated and dis-satisfied with my performances since I have come back from injury. I wanted to come back with a BANG! But that didn’t happen, and the road back has been longer and harder than I had anticipated.

And for me – when things get tough – everyone says I go into “ghost mode” or into the “Poo cave” (my nickname is “poo”), where I get focused, put my head down and go into the zone. I think sometimes when things get hard I don’t like to talk about it – I just need to work to get back on the horse.
Last May I broke my leg, and that derailed my entire season. My first race back was in October of last year- Miami 70.3. And while, ultimately, we were able to look at it as a success – coming back and racing and recovering from it healthy (or reasonably healthy) – the experience was tough. I was earnest when I said I was grateful to be back and how amazing it felt to cross the finish line and be back racing. But frankly, the experience also left me a bit wide-eyed. It made me realize just how much fitness and strength and speed I had lost during those months off. I think I had taken for granted…or maybe not even quite realized just how amazing we women are as a collective group of professional athletes. I truly thought I would come back and be right there again. To not be….and to experience how hard that race felt to me…and how far I had to go…I felt like was that I was starting all over…it was like I was racing as an amateur again and I needed to make some serious gains if I was to race and be competitive as a pro. But my timeframe to be competitive wasn’t 2 years or 3 years….it was a few months.

In December I went and raced Ironman Western Australia. And again…that race was a bust. And yes – I GET IT that it was my first Ironman back and that I needed to cut myself some slack. And I GET that I wasn’t even 85% healed at that point and was still having some serious hip pain. And I GET that I was undertrained going in the race (my longest run had only been 7 or 8 miles). But again…this sport is cut throat and at the end of the day, you either step up and make the cut….or you don’t. I simply didn’t perform at a level I expect of myself at this point in my career. I didn’t fly all the way across the world to have an average race. I flew there to have a great one. The problem with these lofty expectations was that I felt the least prepared for an Ironman than I had ever felt before. I don’t think I have ever been more nervous for a race than I was at IMWA. I knew I needed to step up…but I didn’t know if I was there or I had it.

I do a really good job of being pragmatic. I am able to rationalize things and while in some aspects of my life I don’t manage stress as well, when it comes to competing and my job, when things get tough, I DON’T Accept NO for an answer. FAILING is not an option. I REFUSE to fail. Simply put. It will not happen. So despite being scared, wondering if the pain in my leg was ever going to go away, if I ever was going to return to the fitness levels I was – I put my head down, I told my sponsors I WILL BE THERE, and I got to work to SUCCEED.

Fast forward to January. Over the Christmas holiday I ran for the first time (and for consecutive days) without any hip pain. It was an incredible relief to head out day after day. You know when you are expecting something negative to happen – you go outside and are hit with the wall of freezing cold, or the piercing heat – you brace yourself for the impact. That was how I felt every time I went to run…I braced myself for the painful steps I was about to take. But then suddenly they went away…and as day after day went by, I got more and more excited about what was happening.

As I headed into the New Year I was feeling great. My numbers were coming back on the bike and I was finally starting to build back some run resilience and speed. I felt set up to have a great South Africa 70.3. After the fear, concern, a little bit of apprehension I had felt for so many months after my wake up call at Miami, I really felt ready to have my comeback race.

Except it didn’t happen. My trip to South Africa went about as bad as one could possibly expect. My cell was stolen on the plane in London. When I arrived in to East London, South Africa, I got food poisoning within the first 12 hours of arriving and spent the first 3 days constantly on the toilet…whatever went in came immediately out. I was so scared to eat anything from that point forward that once I could eat again I lived off of seeds I had brought with me, a jar of almond butter and Clif Builder Bars. Literally – that is all I ate.

On race day a chain mechanical left me on the side of the bike course for 20 minutes and put me fully out of the race. By the time I came into transition I felt completely, totally, utterly defeated. I felt angry. I felt frustrated. I felt a little panicked. It was the first time in my life when I have legitimately wanted to quit a race. But….after I moped my way through transition, I knew I wouldn’t give up. I knew I wouldn’t quit. Because it isn’t in me to do that. And I sort of fear that phrase “once you quit once, it is so easy to quit again”. I’m scared to find out if that is true…and I never want to go down a path where quitting becomes easy.

More than anything though, it was the first time since I started this journey where I became a bit panicked that maybe I wouldn’t make it. I hadn’t made a legitimate pay check since May of 2014…and really April, because my pay for my 8th place finish at the US Pro Championships was $1000. Frankly, I didn’t know how I was going to survive. After the race I was working out in my head all the ways I could cut down expenses. I wasn’t sure I would have enough to pay rent…let alone food, coaching, etc…..I felt panicked. I had some equipment I could shed, and knew that would help me for a bit, but I was in a dire place. I had the thought “Am I going to make it through this?? Will I actually make it through to give myself a shot at achieving my dreams and goals?”

I left South Africa in a bad place mentally. I flew from there straight to Hawaii for the Purplepatch Pro training camp. Matt Dixon (my coach) was great when I arrived. I think he could see that the South Africa debacle had really derailed me. On a ride the first day we pedaled side by side and he told me to keep doing what I am doing. He assured me I was in a good place and moving in the right direction and that it would be ok. He just said – don’t let this shake you. Put your head down and work hard at this camp and you will be fine.

Two days into camp, I got sick. I was throwing up and having some serious GI issues. For 4 days I couldn’t keep anything down and barely got out of bed. I felt physically and emotionally depleted. But, after 4 days things started to come around. For the next week we were able to ease back into my training and by the end of camp I was feeling great again.

Coming out of that I put up a solid training block and was feeling great about where I was at. The first test was Monterrey on March 15th. In the days leading up to the race I was exhausted and completely worn out. The first day I arrived I went out for a ride and was not able to ride over 120 or 130W – I was clearly coming down with something. The weather in Monterrey turned that day and for the next 3 days it poured rain. The only thing I could do was sleep and that is what I did. One afternoon I took a 5 hour nap and I think that extra rest is ultimately what saved me on race day.

The race was interesting. I had an absolutely TERRIBLE swim – probably one of my worst ever, and once on the bike I struggled to find my legs or get into a rhythm. I was verging again on a bit of panic as I rolled into T2…I just felt like I really couldn’t afford to have ANOTHER failed raced…..but off I set on the run. A few days earlier Gwen Jorgenson had come from 1 minute back in a Sprint triathlon and won with a stellar run. I thought about that the entire run that day…..that you just have to believe and keep working your way to the front. As it turned out, I had an excellent and breakthrough run – and ran myself up to 2nd place. The relief! It was so great for me to have a podium finish. It was amazing to finally put up a run I knew I was capable of. And more than anything, it was a massive financial relief for me at a point where I was at my last straw. While it wasn’t a GREAT race, it was a stepping stone and a result that was moving in a positive direction.

As soon as I arrived home from Monterrey I got sick. Just like Hawaii I couldn’t keep anything down or in my body. I had a fever, body aches and a tight chest. I was one sick girl.

Just a week after my return from Monterrey I was set to head down to Oceanside, CA to race Oceanside 70.3. Matt asked me a number of times if I wanted to race (give how sick I was) and my answer was a resounding “yes!”. Part of me was scared because I had barely trained, I had zero energy from lack of calories and my chest cold was making it damn hard to breath. But Oceanside is a great race with great competition and I wanted to line up with these girls. In the days before the race I was pretty nervous. I tried to go out for a run and my energy was so low I was not able to run faster than a 10 minute mile. And when I went out to ride, it was a true effort to ride over 100 watts. I was completely depleted. And I was damn scared to get last on race day.

So how did it go? As a performance – it wasn’t a good day…..but on the flip side it was actually a very good day. I went out there and fought all day on very little reserves and battled to finish in the money. I raced with guts and I was actually really surprised of how well I did given how I felt. I was proud of my race.

Just before I left for Oceanside I had gone to the doctor to get tested for giardia – a parasite that affects your gut. When I returned from the race I went to meet with the GI specialist and he confirmed I had the parasite. It was a relief – Since January I had lost a ton of weight, my appetite was nearly nothing, I was heavily fatigued, I wasn’t recovering well from training and the bouts of vomiting and diarrhea were debilitating. While I had been trudging through it, it had been a tough few months.
The doctor put me on a course of medicine that effectively killed everything in my gut, and have followed that up with a probiotic. My energy and appetite have returned, my gut is now back to normal and I’ve been able to go back to consistent training – a relief!

Oceanside really marked the start of an intense training and racing period for me. One week after the race, the PPF pros headed to Stinson Beach, CA for a week for our annual April pro camp. It was a great camp this year with some truly solid work put in. I returned from camp, had one day to unpack and re-pack and then was on my way to New Orleans and Galveston for the two Ironman 70.3 races.

I arrived in to New Orleans ready to go – I felt good – a little tired from the camp, but honestly all around really good. My stomach was feeling better and I was retaining calories so my energy levels were way up. On race day I was really pleased with my swim – still not fast, but I thought I swam decently. Once I got onto the bike I just went. My legs felt great and I was quickly moving through the field. At around mile 25 I was in 3rd and about 30 seconds out of the lead, when…….Psheeeeewwwwwww – I flatted. I was disappointed but I also knew, based on how I was feeling, that I could get myself back up to the front. By mile 50 I had the lead girls right up ahead of me and suddenly – psheeeeewwwww – flat #2. I was PISSED! I thought my day was over and that I was out of the race.

I always ride with 2 spare Co2s and I had one left so I decided to see what would happen. When I put the air in it held so I hopped on my bike and prayed it would get me to T2. About a mile or less from the finish I was flat again but was able to ride it in at that point.

I came into T2 very frustrated – this was NOT turning out to be a good day despite feeling physically great! Where I had gone in believing I could win, I re-adjusted my expectations as I knew a podium finish was achievable. Off I went. The day was hot and immediately on the first few miles of the run, I could feel my core temperature rising dramatically. I ended up stopping at an aid station and dunking my head in a trash bin full of ice water. It helped a ton and from there I was able to start running well. At the turn around I saw that the lead girl was only 400-600 meters up the road in front of me and at that point all frustration went out the window and I went on a mission to get myself to the front of the race.

Winning New Orleans was significant for me because while it wasn’t the first 70.3 race I have won, it was the first one where there was a swim/bike/run. I always had it hanging on my shoulder that my first 70.3 win was a duathlon (the swim had been cancelled because of weather). And so it was validating for me to be able to have had a complete race and walk away the winner.

Yesterday I raced my second 70.3 in two weeks. What I would say about the race was….it wasn’t great, but I am also not that disappointed. For me, racing 70.3’s in back to back weekends is very challenging. Some people pull it off with amazing success, but the second race for me has always been a struggle. My double was perhaps the best I have ever felt in my second of two back to back races, and I took a lot of positive from that as it shows my body becoming more resilient and strong. I was tired out there on the course and I didn’t have a lot in the tank, and there were some great racers out there – so while I didn’t race where I would have liked, I truly was happy to walk away with 5th. Hopefully one day I will become one of those rockstars who has the resilience to be able to put up two great races one after another….but I am happy with the strides I have made. And….I am a big believer that the double is a great build for an Ironman – so while hard, I’m really pleased with how it is setting me up for Ironman Texas.

I’m on the plane headed home after being on the road for the last three solid weeks of training camps and racing. I’m home for a couple of weeks now and then am headed back to Texas on May 9th – Ironman Texas is May 16th. I am SOOOOO excited for this race. The field is amazing and I cannot wait to line up against everyone. It is going to be some phenomenal racing!

I know this is a long update and a long blog, but I suppose more than anything, and the biggest thing I want to convey through it all is to never give up belief in yourself. Over the last year I have been faced with a lot of challenges. A lot of things haven’t gone my way. But this is life. Things like these happen to everyone. Lots of people get sick, injured, have a flat tire. We all have challenges that we face and need to overcome. But ultimately, as individuals, we have a decision to make. We can either let these things derail us from believing in ourselves and continuing to fight to achieve our dreams. Or we can take what is thrown at us, deal with it, manage it, overcome it, and continue down our path to greatness. I could not be more proud about where I am at right now as an athlete and how I have evolved and grown. I’m thrilled with the journey my coaches and team have gone on with me. And I will continue to BELIEVE, will put my head down, and keep working towards achieving my goals and dreams.

Thank you to SO SO many for all of the support, encouragement and love over the last several months. Big thank you to my family – my parents, brothers, sis-in-laws, nieces, aunt and uncles, cousins – , to my best friend Avery, to Matt Dixon, Paul Buick and Kelli McMaster from Purplepatch, to Anthony and Robin DuComb, to the Purplepatch community and to my team…and to all my sponsors – Cervelo, Saucony, Shimano, Clif Bar, Roka Wetsuits, Rudy Project, WIDSIX, Marc Pro, Foundry Performance, Boheme Wines, Shift SF and Corin Frost – Thank you for all the wonderful support. I am truly fortunate!

Until next time – don’t dream it be it!

Sarah-

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On Saturday afternoon (November 29th) I boarded an Emirates plane at SFO. Technically I was bound for Dubai, where I had a layover, but I final destination is Perth, Australia. I’m racing Ironman Western Australia in 1 week – my first Ironman back since I broke my leg. My journey begins.

My route is likely not the most direct, as it involves a 16 hour flight from SFO to Dubai and then another 10.5 hour flight from Dubai to Perth. But, it was the cheapest option I could get, so as with many things, sometimes we have to sacrifice one thing – in this case flight time – for another – cost.

Currently I’m about 5 hours out of Perth and I’ve been thinking about the way in which I’ve traveled – the things I’ve done on the flight to minimize impact to my body, and I thought I’d share how I travel. This process has evolved…and continues to evolve, as I learn and grow as an athlete.

Here the 8 things I think about (and in some cases failed on!) on a long journey:

  • Clothing
    • An obvious tip and widely in practice in the world of travelers, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of comfortable clothing. I typically wear my Saucony compression tights, a soft, loose-fitting t-shirt, and a pair of shoes (like my fav Saucony Jazz’s) that are easy to slip on and off. I also bring a sweatshirt and usually a jacket of some kind – you never know how hot or cold the planes will be, and when worse come to worse, using the clothing as an extra pillow is great!
    • I also bring a change of clothes in my carry on. After sitting in the same clothes in stale air for 30 hours, it is nice to put on something fresh and clean!
  • Food
    • I have ALWAYS brought my own array of snacks with me to either replace or augment the food offered on the plane, but on this trip we brought it to a whole new level. Prior to my departure my nutritionist, Phil Goglia, created a detailed plan as to exactly what I would eat and when during my trip. When I read the plan, it looked like an incredible amount of food and frequent small meals, but he assured me that it would help with the body’s ability to cope with the travel, as well as retain an eating pattering similar to what I do when I am at home.
    • For my 28 hour journey I pre-packed the following: 7 hard boiled and peeled eggs; 5 “mashes” (1 mash = ¼ cup dry oats, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 tbsp jam (only sweetened with fruit juice, not sugar), ¼ cup apple sauce all mixed together….sounds gross but is actually delicious!!); 1 lb grilled chicken cut up into slices; 2 cans of tuna mixed with hummus and veggies (modified tuna salad); 1.5 cups cooked rice and 1 medium sweet potato cooked in coconut oil; 1 large bag of carrot and celery sticks; 3 Justin’s single-serve Chocolate Hazelnut packets; 2 pears; 1 Clif Builder Max bar (Cookie Dough); 1 Clif Builder Bar (Cookies & Cream), 1 Clif Bar (Sierra Trail Mix)
    • When I prepared what I was supposed to eat I never thought I would get through it all. That is a lot of food! But…shockingly, I’ve never been so happy to have each and every meal. I’ve been hungry throughout the journey and rather than eating foods that only hurt my recovery, I’ve kept a plan I feel great about. And there is really nothing worse than being on a long flight and either starving and being cranky, or having access to food that isn’t great for you. Bottom line – on long flights plan ahead and don’t under-estimate how much food you might eat!
  • Hydration
    • A pillar of travel for me and key to alleviating stress on your body. When I am awake, I strive to drink at least 1 water bottle of water every 45 minutes to 1 hour. I alternate, too, between drinking a normal bottle, one with electrolytes, and one hot bottle (hot water helps with digestion).
    • The down side? A lot of trips to the bathroom. But – that is a small price to pay to help flush your body and keep it hydrated
  • Compression and recovery
    • I have a sensitive body and pretty much anything I do makes me swell. I eat too much junk food. I swell. I don’t move enough. I swell. I fly. I swell. I do an Ironman. I swell.
    • As a result I do whatever I can to help maximize blood flow and minimize the swelling and negative impact on my body. I always wear my Saucony Compression tights when I travel.
    • On this trip I have done a combination of other recovery and blood-flow-promoting things. First – I used my MarcPro almost continuously throughout the trip. The MarcPro is like electric-stimulation. You attach pads to your body and select the strength and frequency. It causes fast muscle contraction and helps to flush the lymphatic system. Second – I wear my Saucony Compression socks. And third, if I can (not always a possibility) I try to elevate my feet for at least some portion of the trip
  • Movement
    • Movement is another key one that I use in conjunction with my frequent trips to the bathroom and to bide time during layovers. Keeping the body moving is really important, so on every trip to the toilet, I do calf raises and stretch my quads, abductors and hamstrings. In my seat I have a small stretch band, and loop that around my knees and do some resisted leg movements. I have two lacrosse balls I use to massage my back and hamstrings in my seat. And during layovers I pull out my foam roller and roll like crazy. I also do my rehab exercises and glute, core and hamstring activation exercises. Don’t worry about the funny looks! Your body will thank you for it later!
  • Sleep
    • When you fly, the best thing you can do is let yourself relax. I was laughing to myself earlier because I felt like a newborn baby on this trip. Pretty much my schedule has been, sleep, eat, toilet, sleep, eat, toilet, etc etc etc…flying is a perfect opportunity to try to get some extra rest and truly let your mind and body detach from the stresses of daily life.
  • Minimizing the white noise
    • You may not realize it or think about it, but that white noise you hear the entire plane flight is really hard on your body! It is a constant stimulant and doesn’t fully let your body relax. The best way to shut that out is through using noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs. On this trip I forgot to check the batteries on my headphones and so unfortunately I’ve been without, but once you experience the pleasure of flying without the white noise, you will never want to go back!
  • Access to the bathroom
    • Until I became a triathlete, I loved the window seat. I liked to be able to look out over where we were flying and liked being able to use the plane wall to rest my head. Nowadays, the aisle is the way to go! I have to get up so frequently to move my legs and use the toilet and refill my water bottle, the aisle is the best way to have easy access and avoid ticking off your seat mates.

Australia awaits! Hopefully everything I have done on this trip will set me up as best as possible for my race. I am beyond excited to get to Busselton (or “Busso” as I’ve been told to call it!) and throw my hat in the ring this coming weekend. 

Until next time…

Don’t Dream It. Be It.

Little Red.

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3 words: Racing. Is. HARD.

I’m about a week post my comeback race and am still recovering! Holy cow that race did me in! I was Ironman-style sore for about 4 days after the race, hobbling about everywhere, and I’m still feeling hormonally run down. Bed time can’t come soon enough at night, and my body is only just letting me start to push a bit more in training.
But I raced. And I finished. And I was THRILLED. It was exactly what I needed and wanted. And I learned a few things to boot.

Going in to the race I felt pretty prepared and ready to race. I was nervous, but confident, and I was excited to see how I fared. As soon as I was out on the race course though, it was a different story! There is a BIG difference between training and racing, and when you are out of competition for so long, I learned it is a true shock to the system when you throw yourself back into it.

In short, I was slow. I was slow on the swim. I was slow on the bike, and I was surprising pleased with my run.
When the gun fired I pretty much got dropped immediately. At 300 meters in, I was thinking “this is SO hard!! OMG I still have another 1600 meters to go! OMG!”….but I plugged along and tried to keep general contact with the girl just up ahead of me.

When the swim was over, I was so amped to get on my bike. I knew I could ride well and really was looking forward to putting up a great ride. NOPE. Didn’t happen. About 5 miles in I felt exhausted. It wasn’t because I was having an off day either – I realized I am not in race fitness and wasn’t ready or used to that level of intensity. As someone who love love loves the bike portion of the race, it was a sinking feeling to feel exhausted with 51 miles left to ride. I wanted to get off my bike, cry, and then take a nap. This was SO much harder than I remembered it being. I wanted to push and my body was yelling back “WTF?!?! STOP!!!!” At the turn around on the bike I could see I was losing time to the lead girls and I was still very far back. I put in a good effort on the back half, but it showed me I’m not where I thought I was.

Coming in to T2 I felt like I had just done an Ironman. I was wondering how I was going to make it through the run. But, I put my shoes on and got out there and started running. It felt surprisingly good. I was running 6:20’s-6:40’s, which given how little running and how little speed work I had done, was really about the best case scenario for me. I was worried that perhaps I was going out to fast, but decided to roll with it and just see how it all would unfold. I really had nothing to lose.

At mile 6.5 we got brought to a dead stop. A freight train was coming through Miami and went right through the run course. We got put into a corral and I sat there for about 3 minutes. It was so weird having that break in the middle – and then off we went. In the end I ran a high 1:25 (which is faster than what is recorded online, which doesn’t account for the mid-run pit stop), which I was thrilled with.

At the end of the day I was 7th. On one hand I was disappointed. It wasn’t what I had expected of myself. It wasn’t where I thought I could be. It wasn’t where I WANTED to be. On the other hand, I was SO SO SO thrilled and happy to have raced. I was grateful for the opportunity to see truly where I am at. And I was humbled and reminded of the fact that you can’t take 3.5 months fully off of all forms of training, come back, train for 2 months and then expect to get out there and compete with some seriously fast and amazing women. It showed me I have to put my head down and work harder. It showed me I have a lot of work to do. It showed me I am not there yet.

Was I disappointed? Perhaps slightly – only because I am competitive and want to do better. Was I discouraged? Really not at all. I’m motivated and hungry to get back to work and get to a place I can feel good about in my next race. Was I happy? I was. Crossing the finish line with no pain and having battled through a lot of “This is SO HARD!” thoughts all day; being reminded of how tough racing at this level actually is – I was very proud and excited to be back out there.

I’m back in SF now. My head is down. I’m focused. And I’m working hard. Next up – Ironman Western Australia on December 7th. Lot of work to do between now and then. Wish me luck!

Until next time
Don’t dream it. Be it.
Sarah-

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Video: ROAD TO RECOVERY – SARAH PIAMPIANO – LITTLE RED RACING

Insight into Sarah Piampiano’s journey back to training from a broken leg

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I’m sitting on a plane, bound for Miami, shooting off e-mails to my sponsors letting them know that “Yes!  I am racing this weekend”!!  I’m also seriously contemplating what is ahead for me this weekend.  The term that keeps coming to mind is “Yikes!”.

It’s been almost 6 months since I last raced.  I know of MANY other athletes who have been out for longer, but 6 months, nevertheless, seems like a long time.  It feels like ages ago when I toed the line a healthy athlete, as almost every race I did this year was executed in pain and with a progressing injury.  This will be my first race of 2014 where I will be healthy.

I’m thrilled and excited and really quite joyous about competing this weekend.  It is a celebration of a lot of hard work and patience over the last many months.  A lot of time spent resting.  A lot of time spent rebuilding.  A lot of time spent on strength, mobility, technique.  A lot of time spent in rehab.  It’s a great feeling to be returning to the thing I love most about this sport – the racing.

But I am also admittedly nervous.

On one hand I know the pressure is off.  It is my comeback race.  I only started running 4 weeks ago and I know I am not in peak racing fitness.  This race is meant to dust off the cobwebs and get my body ready for the coming months of racing.

On the other hand, I feel pressure.  All self-inflicted, of course.  I don’t like using excuses as a pre-cursor to performance – I feel like when you line up to race, you race to win.  No excuses.  And where I have no gauge as to where I am at – the unknown is a scary feeling.

I’m also putting pressure on myself because I want to do my sponsors proud.  I want to validate to them that I not only will be back, but that I WILL be back better and stronger and faster than when I left.  Performance is only one part of how we contribute as sponsored athletes, but it still plays a role, and putting up wonderful races is a way to inspire, motivate and capture the attention of consumers.  So yeh – I want to perform.

One this is for sure, this weekend will be an exciting and special weekend for me, and I truly cannot wait to get out there and at least get a benchmark of where I am and where I need to go.

Miami 70.3.  The start of a new season.  2015.  Here.  We.  Go.

There are SO many people to thank, but a few special shout outs go to Matt Dixon (my amazing coach), Foundry Performance (strength and rehab), Stacy Sims (nutrition), Kevin Burns (massage), Anthony & Robin DuComb (fake SF parents), My real Mom, Dad, brothers and their families, the Shift SF Cycling and training studio & community, and my dear friends and training partners – you all have been so instrumental and played a significant role in my rehab process – Thank you, and I hope you all will be celebrating with me this weekend when I cross the line!

Until next time (and post-race)!

Don’t Dream it.  Be it.

Little Red

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