Hello everyone! After a significant and honestly unwarranted hiatus on the blogging front, I think an update is long overdue! As I write, I am on a plane headed to California, where my coach and his other pro athletes have already started our summer training camp in Agoura Hills, which is in the Santa Monica Mountains just north of Los Angeles. For the next 9 days we will be hard at work as we all prepare for what is gearing up to be an exciting end of an already thrilling season.
The last six weeks have been interesting for me. Training-wise I have put up some phenomenal blocks and have headed into my races feeling fit and ready to FIGHT. At Eagleman 70.3 in mid-June, despite what was truly an abysmal run and an average bike, I felt pleased with my race on the whole. I say this because a year ago, my recovery from an Ironman event was a 5 week affair. My first couple of Ironman races took a huge toll on my body and hormonally I was in the weeds with exhaustion for weeks. Eagleman, however, came just 3 weeks after Ironman Texas, and while my body was not 100% recovered for the race, I was recovered enough to go out there and put out a solid effort – to push my body and have it respond. I walked away feeling that from a developmental standpoint, I have made big gains and am becoming a stronger and more resilient athlete. I was pleased.
Muncie 70.3, which was my lead-up race to Ironman Lake Placid was a big wake up call. It was a slap in the face. Not that I wasn’t already well aware, but this race only further solidified in my mind just how far I still need to go to be able to consistently compete against the best. I believe that the best triathletes – whether Ironman or Olympic Distance racers – are capable to performing and contending at ANY distance. They are versatile athletes who have an arsenal of weapons that they can pull out and use at a moment’s notice. The race is shortened? No problem – they have the speed and the high intensity required to get through the race. Oh it’s an Ironman – no issue. They have the endurance and aptitude to transition and push the limits on long distance events. I, however, do not have this versatility…just yet. And that was on clear display in Muncie. Forgetting about my swim, which, as you all know, continues to be a work in progress for me, I believe that on a given day I can ride with many of the top women. But my bike is also inconsistent. When I am on, I am ON. And when I am off, I am way way off. My power fluctuations can swing widely, and it is something that we need to work on – bridging the gap between my off days and my great days. I knew that I was going to come out far back on the swim, and my only chance of salvaging a race would have been to throw down a phenomenal bike split and hold on for a strong run. I didn’t and I came in dead last in the professional women’s field. DFL. That sucked. So many people said to me after the race “oh, but you are training for an Ironman – you don’t have the speed in your legs for an Oly”….but to be honest, I HATE that excuse. In my mind, it doesn’t matter. Every single one of those women that were ahead of me are also 70.3 and Ironman distance racers and they were able to perform substantially better than I. That is why they are great, because they possess the versatility to race and compete no matter the distance or the conditions. I have so much to improve upon.
Moving on to Ironman Lake Placid. I went into Lake Placid more prepared than I have been for any race I have done to date. I was fit. I was mentally prepared. And I was entering a race where there was a true possibility of capturing my first Ironman win. I was prepared to fight and I was so excited for the race. I also knew there was a wide discrepancy in strengths amongst the women’s field. Some of the women were very strong swimmers, but weaker on the bike and run. Others were strong runners, but weak swimmers. I felt the dynamic of the race would be very interesting and I was excited to see how it would play out. I can’t actually remember a race I have looked forward to more than Lake Placid. Coupled with all of this, nearly my entire family and some of my friends were making the trip from Maine, Boston, and New York City to come and see me race. My support network was phenomenal and I was excited to perform in front of them.
Race day came. My swim was fine. Nothing terrible, but certainly nothing special. Having raced a 2 mile OWS event the weekend before, I felt confident that this would my race where I would break the 1 hour barrier, so when I came out in 1:02, I was a bit disappointed. That said, a 1:02 is still a significant improvement over anything I swam last year and I continue to show progress in almost every race I do, so I generally take a fairly pragmatic approach to my swim result. Good. Done. Onto the bike.
As is typical, I exited the water feeling nauseous, chilled, and extremely thirsty. I ran slower than normal through transition and took my time in the changing tent to down 5 cups of water. I was so thirsty I could hardly stand it, and I thought if I let my stomach calm down a bit in transition it would help me out on the bike. That, however, proved to not be the wisest decision as I began puking within the first 3 miles of the race. Nothing was staying down, and the more I threw up, the thirstier I became. It was a vicious cycle – extreme thirst led me to consume fluids at every aid station, only to immediately throw up whatever when into my stomach. It worried me, as I knew I needed to get calories and fluids in, but around mile 30 my legs started feeling half-way decent and although I was still puking I was hopeful maybe I was actually holding in more calories than I thought and that my stomach was settling. I went through the next 45 miles feeling good – not awesome, but good. Good enough to make up some time on the lead and to feel that I was getting stronger and stronger and had a good chance to bridge the gap on the second lap. When I started on my second loop I really was starting to find a great rhythm and I was going for it. Just before the big descent down to Keene, I took in some calories and as I descended everything came up. When I hit mile 75 the wheels began to come off. First I started feeling very weak and completely parched. Then I started feeling dizzy. Then I was having moments of losing my vision and not being able to ride in a straight line. At one point one of the Ironman officials pulled up next to me in the car and said there had been some reports over the radio of me being in a pretty bad state and wondered if I was ok. I couldn’t even talk and just nodded. I kept replaying the words “I am a warrior” in my head and telling myself if I could just get to the run I could walk and finish the race. That anything could happen in and Ironman. People were passing me like crazy. Another vehicle stopped a few miles up the road and asked if I had a flat tire because I was riding so slowly. At that point I was pulled over on the side of the road puking and then trying to hold down some calories. It was quite scary, to be honest. Nausea during the swim and puking on the bike is a regular thing for me in races – in fact I’ve only had one race – New Orleans – where I didn’t puke on the bike. But I’ve never been in such a state where I was so incoherent and dizzy and out of it – it was like I was completely drunk, but obviously hadn’t consumed a drop of alcohol. I also felt extremely fatigued. Incredibly incredibly tired. Somehow, amazingly, I made it back into town and when I was about a mile from the finish was pulled off course. I had toppled off my bike and just lay in the road. Volunteers rushed bags of ice to me and tried to feed me water, which I promptly threw up. The overwhelming feeling of exhaustion was too much and I passed out from exhaustion – completely spent. My day was over. In the med tent, another racer had apparently voluntarily walked himself in for some medical support and they let him go back out on the course to continue racing. When I woke up from my nap and heard this my hopes soared and I jumped up and asked if I could go back out – anxious to finish what I started. But, they said no. My chip had long been taken away and because I was carried into the medical tent, they couldn’t let me continue with my race. Bummer.
In the aftermath of it all, I have of course been intensely studying what went wrong and conferring with my coach, doctors, nutritionist and family members. Some feel it was dehydration. Others thought possible water intoxication. At the end of the day we’ve figured out I have some kind of sea/motion sickness issues in the swim, which I need to figure out how to deal with. That translates into the sickness on the bike. Consuming large amounts of water early on in the ride does absolutely nothing for my stomach. My electrolyte balance during my pre-load phase going into the race also seems to be off and is something that needs to be worked out.
I spent the better part of the last week doing a lot of “testing”. We did many open water swims in the lake and in the river trying out different anti-nausea treatments – ginger before the swim, pressure-point bracelets, the quantity and type of fluids consumed before a hard effort. And we are making good progress. We also did a few race simulations, where I’ve been focusing on NOT drinking or eating in the first 20 minutes of the bike to allow my stomach to settle. We are learning some very interesting things, and although LP was a big bummer for me, I think we are taking that experience and making lemonade out of lemons…really honing in on problems that have existed for a while. And hopefully – just hopefully, this will help to make me a better and more versatile athlete down the road.
California awaits. I can’t wait to spend time and train with my teammates from all around the world, and to have the opportunity to work for a few weeks with Matt and Gerry watching out every move.
And then….Ironman New York City is August 11th! And I will find my redemption.
I want to give a huge huge thanks to my family who have supported me tirelessly over this journey, but in particular over the last week. Their time and dedication to helping me get better and also find solutions to the issues at hand have been amazing and I am so grateful to have them in my life. Mom, Dad, JM, Vanessa, Jeff, Laura, Althea, Lilah and little Louisa and Meara – thank you! And I love you all so very very much.
Until next time.
Don’t Dream It. Be It.
My Dairy Free Month of June
All I have to say is THANK GOD it is July and I can eat dairy again! Yessss! Wahoo! Weeee! Wha wha! I’m clearly happy to be back on the dairy train (at least temporarily).
During the month of June I did a little experiment on myself and went dairy free. I’ve always been resistant to giving up dairy as I am a big believer in simply eating a balanced diet and generally avoiding processed foods. That being said, I do admittedly understand the logic behind WHY many nutritionists and fad diets are anti-dairy: we are the only species in the world that continues to consume milk-based products post the breast-feeding stage. When you think about it – it’s kind of weird. And with everyone touting how much better they feel going anti-dairy, and me being the competitive person that I am, I decided to give it a go.
Aside from the fact that I LOVE my cheese (and honestly, “love” may be an UNDERstatement…), dairy has been a really critical source of protein for me. I put Greek yogurt in my oatmeal in the mornings, I eat cottage cheese a lot of times for lunch, and I roll a slice of deli meat and cheese together for mid-day snacks. I do drink protein drinks, but I don’t really like relying on those as my KEY source of protein, and typically try to limit my shake-ness to 2-3 times per week.
So…how did it go?!?! – I am sure you are all wondering.
Actually giving up dairy was a lot easier than I expected it to be. I didn’t crave it like the way I crave red meat and vegetables. I found I felt better and did genuinely feel like my body was a bit less swollen.
However, I also found it really really super duper ridiculously crazy difficult to find a natural protein source that could replace my dairy-based, protein-filled snacks throughout the day. I’m a big grazer, so in place of dairy I was constantly munching on nuts, beans, vegetables, nut butters smeared on bananas and rice cakes as well as a boat load of hard boiled eggs.
But none of these snacks were able to curb my hunger or my cravings in the way my dairy delights do. Because I wasn’t getting enough protein, my cravings were through the roof. Under my normal diet, I felt like I really striking a wonderful balance – I rarely had cravings for carbs, and I just felt like I was providing my body with what it needed – most of the time. During DFJ (“Dairy Free June”), the only thing I wanted..all the time… was sweets and starches. My overall hunger went way up, and my feeling of being satiated – even after I had stuffed my face with food – went way down. I couldn’t find the balance I had been able to achieve in months prior, and it was very frustrating for me.
The net net is that for ME dairy is a significant and important component of my diet. That doesn’t mean I am not wary of trying to limit its consumption (for example I drink almond milk in place of regular milk), but my body clearly needs a lot of protein, and dairy provides the goods. Sure I saw some benefits in eliminating it, but I think the actually negative overall effect on my dietary balance was more significant that any positive benefits gained.
Today (Tuesday, July 3rd) I am going to begin working with a new nutritionist here in LA. I know he is anti-dairy, So, I am going to have to do my best to convince him that diet with dairy = happy Sarah, and hopefully he will let me stay on the dairy train.
I’ll let you know how everything goes, but rest assured – I am Pro Dairy all the way!
Until next time. Don’t Dream It. Be It.
As some of you may know, grocery shopping happens to be one of my very favorite things to do, so you can only imagine how excited I get going to a Farmer’s Market. Unfortunately, since I moved to LA, finding one that conveniently coincides with my training schedule has been difficult…until last weekend that is. While I typically do my long rides on Sunday, smack dab in the middle of the Brentwood Farmer’s Market, this last weekend my schedule was flipped a bit and I found myself on Sunday at the end of a long run with an hour to spare before the market closed.
So off I went – sweaty and dusty from the trails. I have to say, hitting up the Farmer’s Market in the last 45 minutes was a serious and unexpected score as all of the stall proprietors began discounting their produce. With only $7 in my wallet I was able to buy 4 organic avocados, beet greens, 10 perfect organic tomatoes, 18 organic eggs, and these: 1 pound of some of the most gorgeous green beans I have seen in a long time.
Green beans have always been a favorite vegetable of mine (….though I guess technically they are a legume), and growing up my mother always served them in a number of different ways – steamed and drenched in melted butter and salt (yum yum); as “dilly beans” – essentially pickled and canned. She always made them with the perfect crunchiness, the perfect spice, and the perfect zing from the vinegar; and – green bean salad.
Cool, crisp salads epitomize summertime for me, so green bean salad has become one of my favorite summertime treats. Enjoy!
Treat #2: Green Bean Salad
- 1 lb green beans, washed and with the ends snipped off
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 large cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and chopped (I chop fairly course chunks, but you can do more finely, or even mince to your liking. Use 1-2 cloves to your liking)
- Sea salt and pepper
Place the washed beans in a pot with about a cup+ of water and place heat on high, bringing the water to a boil. Steam for up to 5 minutes. It is really rally important not to overcook the beans, so test them frequently. As soon as they appear slightly cooked (yet still retaining their crisp, crunchy texture), remove them from the stove and pour out into a colander. They will continue to cook until they cool. If you over cook them, they become soft and mushy – not ideal!
In a large bowl, combine the cooked beans, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic and mix thoroughly to ensure the beans are coated. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste.
Place in the refrigerator to chill and Voila! Total prep and cook time is under 10 minutes. Super simple, and great for you!
Did you know…?
- Green beans are a great source of fiber and anti-oxidants such as Quercetin, lutein and beta-carotene, among others
- Green beans also contain silicon, which helps bone health and the formation of connective tissue
- Garlic helps to promote increased blood flow and heart health (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/15/unlocking-the-benefits-of-garlic/)
Hope everyone is enjoying their summer and staying cool!
Until next time…
Don’t Dream It. Be it.
We often hear about the importance of incorporating variety into our diet in order to maximize both nutritional intake and our overall enjoyment of meals. But, if you are anything like me, every trip to the grocery store is the same. Particularly as someone who is on an incredibly tight budget, I have little room to make extraneous purchases beyond what I NEED. And for all of us Type A personalities out there who also happen to be athletes, we fall into a comfortable and soothing pattern of eating the same thing day after day for breakfast, for snacks, before, during and after workouts, and for lunch and dinner. Consistency provides a sort of mindless comfort and means one less thing for us to stress about.
But, patterns like this aren’t always good. Whether active or not, eating the same things day in day out can mean missing out on vital stuff our bodies need, which can lead to unruly and unwanted cravings, and ultimately complete breakdown and diet implosion (and then a serious guilty complex).
In my life overhaul this year and in my own attempt to bring variety into my diet, I decided to sign up for a farm share program here in Los Angeles. I’m thrilled with this decision because I get to support local farmers in the area, all while receiving fresh, in-season, organic produce. It is forcing me to try new recipes and expand outside of my comfort zone.
As eating is such a core part of my training, I have really enjoyed coming up with different takes on some of my favorite meals and snacks. As a result, I’ve decided to start “Little Red’s Weekly Treats”. Everything will be simple and easy to prepare. Some things may not require preparation at all, but just a reminder of the wonderful fruits and veggies that are in season and for which we all should be taking advantage.
So without further ado, This week’s treat: Fruit compote
A few weeks ago I received 4 huge beautiful stalks of rhubarb in my farm delivery. I honestly wasn’t really sure what to do with them. The only way I ever really eat rhubarb is in pie (YUMM!)….but let’s face it, as much as a freshly baked pie was calling my name, I was trying not to go down that route. I spoke with my mom and her amazing genius-self had the perfect solution: Compote!
Fruit compote is such a great treat. It is ridiculously easy to make, can be made with all kinds of fruits, and you can always have a supply in your fridge to dollop in your oatmeal, smear on a rice cake with almond butter, or just eat on its own. And, it is nutritious and low calorie, made only with fruit and a touch of sweetener.
Slice up your favorite fruit into smaller chunks. Throw the fruit with a bit of water into a bread tin and stick in the oven at 350 degrees. Let the fruit bake until soft. Then add any berries, continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes, then remove and mash. For added sweetness you can stir in a dollop of raw honey, maple syrup or Agave nectar.
Here are a few of my favorite combos:
- Strawberry Rhubarb compote
- Pluot/ plum blackberry compote
- Rhubard nectarine compote
One word on sweeteners: I try, whenever possible, to use unprocessed sweeteners. For me the go to’s are raw honey, maple syrup or organic agave syrup. Using spreads with processed sugar can spike your glycogen levels and leave you craving more sweets!
Enjoy this week’s treat!
Until next time
Don’t dream it. Be it.
So…I wrote this blog about a week after Ironman Texas (on May 19th), and then sat on it, not really sure I wanted to post about the race at all. I know race reports are an important part of our communication to fans and other athletes, but I walked away from Texas feeling…well…honestly.. just feeling really tired. I had put myself into a hole from New Orleans that I never got out of and after Texas the focus for me was to get better. Almost all of my energy went completely into my recovery and making sure I got back on track.
But, as I thought about it, I think it is important, not just for all of you, but also for ME to record these moments, so in the end, while delayed, here is my race report from Ironman Texas.
A big BIG congrats to Mary Beth Ellis, Caitlin Snow and Amy Marsh for truly wonderful performances on a tough day. I aspire to perform like you three, and am so impressed by your courage and strength out there.
Ironman Texas 70.3 Race Report (written on May 23, 2012):
A few weeks ago my coach, Matt Dixon, wrote a blog about how one race does not make a season. The blog was in reference to me and my recent win at the New Orleans 70.3 triathlon.
The same can be said for a less-than-ideal performance.
This last weekend I raced at Ironman Texas, and on the whole it was a sub-par day. There were some highlights, such as my PR swim…ok….so maybe there was ONE highlight. I of course had hoped to back up my New Orleans result with another great race, but my hopes aside, given my training and fitness, the result just didn’t reflect where I am at.
Yes I finished 6th, gained some valuable Kona points and made a bit o’ money, but what I was looking for, more than anything, was consistency. I didn’t need to win the race, but I wanted to put up a competitive performance, or at least one that showed, even on a “bad” day, that I was still able to be in the running for a top spot. Finishing nearly 1 hour off of the lead female is anything but consistent.
That said, I remind myself that one race does not make my season. Just like New Orleans. Texas did nothing but create a fire in my belly. I want to figure out what went wrong with my recovery BEFORE Texas, what we need to consider in the future, and go into the next race better educated and prepared to reach my “purplepatch”.
The quick rundown of my race:
As I noted above, I don’t feel as though I ever fully recovered from New Orleans. Before Texas I wasn’t able to put up a single truly successful bike session. My power numbers were way off, and I’d have one good day followed by several days of complete exhaustion. So while I hoped my legs would come around for race day, when they didn’t, it wasn’t a huge surprise to me. On race morning on my warm up I actually felt very good – my legs felt loose and limber. When I got in the water my stroke felt good. I felt like it would be a very good day, and I got on that starting line prepared to fight like hell.
- The Swim: Solid (for me) with a 3+ minute PR
- Trouble in T1: When I opened my T1 bag, my gel flask with all of my salt had exploded, and in the process liquefied all of my Clif Bloks (which I had opened up before the race) – my nutrition and salt for the day was gone. Crap. Though not ideal for little Miss Sensitive Stomach here, I knew I’d have to grab the gels and nutrition at the aid stations along the way and hope I could hold something down.
- The Bike: The plan was to build over the first 50 miles and then hammer the second half. By mile 10 I was struggling. I was puking every which way, my legs felt dead, and I was tired. When I hit mile 50 I decided to do 2×10 minute hard efforts in the hopes my legs would open up. But… they didn’t, so I backed way off the bike knowing if I kept putting up a big effort for not too much power I would cook myself. I put all my chips into the run.
- T2: I hit T2 and completely bonked. I ran into the transition tent yelling “I need food! I need food! Food!! Food!! Where is Food?”…I’m not kidding…I really did!! And when you have a marathon to run and want to cry because you are so hungry, it is only a sign for what is to come!
- The Run: I suffered through the first lap, trying to eat and drink as much as I could get my hands on trying desperately to get myself back up to neutral. I was in a bit of crisis management at that point. On loop two my legs came around – or so I thought! I was surprised to see (after the race) that my split times for loop 2 recorded by the Ironman website were slower than loop 1, because I honestly thought (perhaps deliriously so…) that I was running much faster. Loop 3 – the only thing I could focus on was putting one foot in front of the other. I was surviving aid station to aid station taking everything they offered: water, ice, sponges, sports drink, coke, twizzlers, oranges, watermelon, bonk breakers, grapes, gels….I did avoid and pickles and potato chips…but everything else was mine. Keep in mind that I have NEVER taken coke in a race before…so I knew I was in trouble when I went for the good stuff!
- Cramping and 1.5 hours spent in the med tent with multiple IV’s, drinking hot chicken soup like it was going out of style until I could pee
- Then…8 pieces of pizza, 6 spinach stuffed meatballs, a huge 22 ounce steak, an ice cream brownie sunday and a half gallon of ice cream deliciousness
So ….lessons for the day –
What did I do well?
Matt said to me before the race – “you don’t have to feel great to have a great performance”. Mentally I think I stayed very rational and handled every “problem” well. When my nutrition was gone in T1, I figured out what I needed to do and went with it. When I felt terrible on the bike, I took a calculated risk to not cook myself in the hopes of putting up a great run (which I failed at…but I still believe it was the right call). And on the run, when I was cramping and struggling to get one foot in front of the other I kept reminding myself of Kona last year when my race turned around halfway through. I kept reminding myself that finishing meant a possible pay check and Kona points. And I kept reminding myself that anything could happen.
I also walked the aid stations on the run. I am not a huge fan of walking, but I knew I needed to get nutrition in me if I was going to make it through. I took advantage of every aid station I passed to the max!
Lastly, I kept my body temperature under control. Unlike Kona where I got off the bike really feeling like I was overheating, at this race I felt I managed my body temperature very well on what was a hot hot day. On the bike I was diligent about pouring cold water on myself, my arms, in my helmet, etc. And on the run, at every aid station I made sure to get COLD water, and put ice down my sport bra, shorts, and held it in my hand.
What did I not do well?
A few things here:
- I had opened all of my clif bloks before the race to make them easier to access on the day of. When my gel flask of salt exploded, it created one huge sticky mess. Note to self: wait until on the bike to open my nutrition
- I also need to make sure to put more spare nutrition in Special Needs. I had only put 1 extra gel in my bike special needs and NO salt tabs, so I had effectively no salt the entire ride. When that happens, no matter how much fluid you take in, if your body can’t absorb it, you are screwed.
This was perhaps the hardest race that I have ever done. It was a HUGE HUGE mental and physical battle for me to make it through and there were moments on the run when I was vowing to myself never to do another Ironman! Oopf…It was a hard day. But, I’m not a quitter and I never gave up. Sure, I was disappointed, but the race did little to deter me. If nothing else, I am more motivated. For me, the sign of “arriving” as a pro is when on really bad days you are still competitive. And I clearly have a long long way to go.
The one thing I can say is (despite cursing it for the better part of 26.1 miles of the run) I LOVED this course and I LOVED this race. Texas – you may have beaten me this time, but I am coming back to do it again.
Thank you to my Mom and my aunt, Patty, for being such AMAZING supporters out there. Ironman is such a long, hard, emotional day, and those two poured their heart and souls into cheering for me (and my mom was ridiculously sick as well, making her support that much more amazing). In my darkest moments all I could do was move a finger to try to acknowledge them, but in my mind…their support was what kept me going all day long. Thank you to you both. I love you both very very much.
So….Until next time…the journey continues. Another race down. Another experience to drop in the bucket. And now I move forward and look ahead to the next one.
Coming up: Eagleman 70.3 in Cambridge Maryland on June 10th!
Until Next Time – Don’t Dream It. Be It (Y’all….)…
(pdf – requires Adobe Reader)
It has been about a week now since the NOLA 70.3 (or the NOLA 67.1 duathlon, as it actually was), and I’m finally sitting down to write my blog.
Winning New Orleans was nothing short of a complete shock – to me, to my family and friends, to my coaches, and certainly to the rest of the triathlon community who had no idea who I was. I could hardly believe it (and quite frankly, am still a bit mystified by how it all happened), but it was a thrilling experience for me, and a big win for a little first year pro against a fairly strong field of professional women, including Mirinda Carfrae (2010 Ironman World Champion), Caitlin Snow (the top American finisher at the Ironman World Championships the last two years), as well as Heather Wurtele, Amy Marsh, Magali Tesseyre and Amanda Lovato – all mutli- 70.3 and Ironman Champions. With the level of competition in Sunday’s race, where I am developmentally as an athlete and the duathlon format – if this were a horserace and I were a horse, I definitely would have been the longshot bet!
Needless to say, the last week has been a huge emotional roller coaster for me. I was so high on adrenaline for the first few days, I could hardly sleep, much less focus on anything at all. I was just so amped up and kept on replaying the race again and again in my mind, trying to savor the moment for as long as I possibly could. On Thursday I pretty much hit a brick wall and crashed big time, and spent Thursday and Friday as a total zombie. My daily activities included waking up, eating, swimming, napping, running/ cycling, eating, napping, eating, napping, sleeping. I was exhausted. Luckily Matt, My coach, anticipated this all, and encouraged me to rest as much as needed, versus pushing myself back into hard training. I finally feel back on track now and also ready to move on and get back to work.
I don’t normally write out blow by blow race reports, but given the significance of this first win for me in my triathlon career, I’m going long on this report – be forewarned!!
Race Strategy/ Plan:
Heading into race day I felt unusually relaxed. Having gone through a hard multi-week bike and run block, I was definitely feeling a little fatigued, but on the whole I really did feel great and was looking forward to the race. I had one simple goal: put together my first great run off the bike. And for the first time ever, I had the confidence that I could make it happen.
In every race I had ever done previously there hadn’t been a whole lot of strategy. Even as an age-grouper my races typically went something like this: Come out WAY behind on the swim; hammer as hard as I could to catch up on the bike; run to hang on. This time around I was trying something different. We actually had a bike strategy to set me up well for a good run. And having learned a lot about how my body responds off the bike in the prior few weeks, I was excited to give it a go and see if I could make the run breakthrough happen.
The other thing that I was going to be trying out was a slightly revised nutrition plan. I have always had bad stomach issues on the bike, pretty much emitting a constant stream of puke from start to finish. I always thought it was something in my fueling, but at our Hawaii training camp this spring my teammate, Matt Lieto, suggested that perhaps what I was eating BEFORE the race was playing a role. Rather than my normal oatmeal with berries, yogurt, flax, chia, and nuts (which is what I eat every morning in training), I decided to take out all the fluff and eat just oatmeal with berries. I also decided to cut back my fluid intake for at least the first 30 minutes on the bike to allow the nerves to settle and to build into a controlled pace.
One new race strategy and a change to my pre-race meal. I hoped for the best.
The 2-mile Run:
Race morning came and I have to be honest, I felt just OK. With the duathlon format, I increased my run warm up to about 35 minutes, progressing as I went, but as soon as I started running the nerves sky rocketed. I didn’t feel that light on my feet and a relatively slow pace was feeling like a hard effort. I tried to stay calm, but it definitely had me worried.
My plan for the 2-mile run was to go at a pace at which I would run the first three miles of an open half marathon. Based on my current training and where my speed was, I figured 5:45-6:00 minute miles would be enough to keep me competitive, but wouldn’t thrash my legs for the rest of the race. When the gun went off everyone went out as conservative as I, which quite frankly surprised me as I expected it to be a mad dash. With a big group running together, I tried to take advantage and position myself on the inside to block myself from the winds, which were coming across the lake from the North. I felt as though a lot of people would expend a lot of energy either fighting the wind or fighting for position, and my goal for the first segment was to stay as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
Coming into T1, I was pumped! I couldn’t believe the group was together and I hoped that if I could find my legs and have a good bike that perhaps I could come into T2 with the front pack and maybe, just MAYBE, if I had a good run, position myself for a top 5 finish. THIS was an exciting thought!
My bike, however, started out somewhat ominously. First, I was a total idiot and didn’t attach my bike computer to the mount before the race, so somewhere between T1 and 200 feet out of T1 my computer was gone. I only noticed it when I looked down to start it up and saw only the mount staring back at me. In past races this would have been cause for panic and total freak out, but I had been doing a lot of base rides over the winter where often I would just go out with nothing but a watch to learn to ride by feel – no speed, watts, or cadence – nothing. So rather than hitting the panic overload button, I stayed completely calm and thought to myself “OK Sarah, you’ve done this before, you just have to ride for feel.” And with that, the missing computer was a distant memory.
I also had worn socks on the first run, so putting my shoes on out of transition turned out to be an event in and of itself! My socks kept on sticking to the velcro on the shoes and I was a bumbling fool trying to get my feet in, get moving, and stay upright on my bike (which was proving to be serious a challenge). Finally I got my act together, but by that point the lead group I had exited T1 with was 20 seconds up the road, and any benefit I had gained from the run was gone.
Going into the bike I knew the winds were coming from NNE, and so I expected fairly significant cross and head winds heading out, and cross/ tail winds coming back. The wind was no joke on race day – when I was warming up in the morning I saw 15 porta potties get knocked over by big gusts….yeh….it was going to be that kind of day. But… I also knew if I could stay mentally strong and work hard into the wind and then ride a big gear with the tail winds I could make up a lot of time.
My strategy for the bike was to build in over the first 10 miles, ride hard until about 10 miles to go, and then ease up on the power and spend some time out of my saddle in order to prep my legs for the run. This was foreign to me. The build and hammer I knew (and knew well), but the easing off and sitting up/ stretching was something I had to mentally get my head around. I was scared to lose time on the bike, but I also knew this was the perfect opportunity for me to try out something new being my last race before Ironman Texas (on May 19th).
As I headed out onto the bike course I felt good and quickly caught up to the group in front. I wondered if I was biking too hard and missing out on something that they knew and I didn’t. I did an “effort level” check and felt comfortable with what I was putting up, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disconcerted by the fact that I was suddenly finding myself at the front of the pack. Not only was it a new experience for me, but one I didn’t expect in the slightest. I tried to set the intimidation of it all aside and told myself to ride my own race, and if that meant leading, I had to embrace it. “Race within yourself, Sarah”, I repeated to myself. And off I went.
The bike was tough. I am not sure if the winds changed directions or what, but I felt I was fighting a head/cross wind for about 45 of the 52 miles. It was tiring and you had to continually stay focused on the road ahead. As I came into T2 my legs were feeling right on the edge of possible crampage and I thought, “Oh Sh*t, I totally messed this up and biked too hard! This was not the plan”, and then thought “OK Sarah, you’ve got some ridiculously fast girls behind you, and the whole goal for this race is to have a good run. Just go for it and see what you can do. If you blow up, you blow up, but at least go down fighting/ trying”. And so….I ran for my life!
One of the things I had learned in my training the last few weeks was that the first 12-15 minutes off the bike for me are pretty brutal. I feel terrible, awful, and like I want to cry. BUT, if I can push push push the limit for those 15 minutes, my legs will open up and I can comfortably hold a strong clip. So I ran hard and about 3 miles in my body responded just how I had hoped: The pace became easier, I started to feel good and got into a rhythm. Typically I do a terrible job keeping track of my pace – I don’t even know why I bother to wear a watch. But, under the circumstances, I was somehow able to focus enough to check on a few of the miles and saw I was running 6:00-6:10’s – perfect. “Just hold this pace, Sarah. This is great. You can do it”, I kept repeating to myself. I have to say – I have never been one for a lot of positive self-talk during races, but there was a LOT of it going on during that run. Like serious amounts!
When I hit mile 9, I did a time check on Heather Wurtele and Amy Marsh (who were running 2nd and 3rd), and on Rinny. It was such a shock to see I was holding strong in the lead! It was at that moment when the thought of winning entered my head. I was starting to fade and my fear of hitting a wall was going up by the minute, but I just told myself that if I could avoid bonking, I might just have a chance. I ran hard and I ran scared. I’d never been in this position before, and I had no idea if these women had ridiculous kicks for the last 2 miles where they could instantaneously eliminate deficits as if they never existed. I mean – these are PRO triathletes…they all practically have super powers. I just didn’t know. So while the THOUGHT of winning crossed my mind at mile 9, it wasn’t until I was about 200 meters from the finish when I let myself smile and realize what was actually happening. As I approached the finish line I was SO freaking excited, and shaking, and in shock, and just overwhelmed with emotion. I think there was a constant stream of swears swirling around there too! I was thinking about my family and how excited they would be, and how proud I hoped my coaches would feel. And then I started panicking about what I was supposed to do with the breaktape! I just couldn’t believe it. My first win! Amazing.
I feel so fortunate for this opportunity to race as a professional this year, and I feel even more so for having had the chance to stand up on the podium with such amazing athletes and women. As my coach, Matt Dixon, said in his most recent blog – I am not “world class” and I am very much still a developing athlete. So it was weird for me (not to mention slightly intimidating) to be standing next to women who ARE world class and whom only two short months ago I was emulating. I felt star struck by the chance to even meet them. And here I was, little first year pro Sarah, standing up there with them, and standing up there as the champion. I’m still blown away by it all.
So….that is the download! I am so proud of the win, but also proud of having successfully executed the race in the way we had hoped. I had a very strong bike, and I had that breakthrough run I had been hoping for – a nearly 8 minute off-the-bike PR. I also, for the first time ever, didn’t throw up ONCE the entire race. That, my friends, is exciting news.
Now, it is time to move forward – Ironman Texas is less than 3 weeks away and there is much work still to be done!
As I look back over the past several months and years, so much of this would not be possible without the help of so many. I hope you all know how much I value your support, love and encouragement.
To my sponsors: Saucony, Cervelo, Shimano, Clif Bar, CycleOps, ISM – It sounds so cheesy, but I feel incredibly lucky to be representing your brands and be part of your teams. Thank you for this opportunity.
To my coaches: Matt and Gerry – you guys are phenomenal at what you do – sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am to have access to such a world class coaching program. Thank you.
To my family: Mom, Dad, JM, Jeff, Vanessa, Laura, Marcia, Adam, Travis, Eliza, Zoe and My BFF for life, Avery – Seeing your joy and excitement over this result was OVER THE TOP and it meant the world to me to be able to share this moment with all of you
To my mentors, Meredith Kessler and Linsey Corbin: Thank you SO much for taking the time over the last year to educate me on all things Triathlon, and support my development in the sport. You are amazing athletes, amazing role models, and incredible ambassadors for this amazing race. Keep on Keepin on!
To my California crew: Steve Pressman, Kelly Chrisman, Todd Larlee, Jennifer Tetrick, Sean Jefferson, Marky V, David Lee, Reilly Smith, Holger Beckman, Lanes 1 &2 at Tower 26, Pete Smith, Mark Vermeersch, Tina Geller and Jesse – Thank you so much for the homes to stay in, rides and swims to push me on, countless meals, PT and body work, and all of the emotional support and fun discussions that go with it – you guys are all awesome.
To my NYC peeps: Kate, Elena, Amy, Heather, Susan Q, Carla, Ben Colice, Paul Behar, Yutaka Tamura, John Park, Daniel Pike – I miss you all terribly, but know I love you and am so thankful for your support
To my host family: Angele and Dave – I loved meeting you both and once again, laughed my way through the weekend! You guys are the best!
And Finally – BIG thanks to Todd Elmer – Without you dude, I would still be standing on that NYC street corner, smoking my cigarettes and only dreaming of what it would be like to be a pro athlete!
Until Next Time,
Don’t Dream It. Be It.
I am currently in the middle of a big run and bike-focused training block that has been leaving me feeling a little bit less than fresh. Last week I got on the bike on the final day of a hard three-day push, and I didn’t know if my legs were going to carry me through. So what did I do? I BLARED my music, not just to motivate me, but also to help me look past the exhaustion and visualize what was possible.
The result? Well… I pretty much blew at the start (ha!), but I stuck with it, my legs came around and I actually had an extremely successful bike workout, and then a great run session and day as a whole. It was huge for me mentally to see that even when I’m tired and beat down, my body still has the capacity to perform and perform well. It is often our state of mind that is the limiting factor.
For me music motivates. It gets me going. It helps me believe in myself. When I listen to music I am able to easily envision winning a race, or toughing out a hard part of a course, or feeling great and strong in the face of difficult situations. Music facilitates positive mental visualization, and it is those thoughts that help push me in every workout that I do.
Every person is different. Some people listen to heavy metal, show tunes, country. But for me, its rap, hip hop and techno.
Here is my playlist that got me through Thursday’s training. And no, it’s not a typo – I have some songs on there multiple times. Don’t laugh, just enjoy J!!
Little Red’s Playlist 1:
- Where The Girls At – David Guetta (feat. Niki Minaj)
- Right Round – Flo Rida
- Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO
- Love the Way You Lie – Eminem (Feat. Rihanna)
- Lose Yourself – Eminem
- Getting Over You – David Guetta (Feat. Fergie & LMFAO)
- Silence – Delerium (Feat. Sarah McLachlan)
- Sandstorm – Darude
- Angel – Akon
- Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol
- Dog Days Are Over – Florence & The Machine
- All the Above – Maino (Feat. T-Pain)
- Levels – Avicii
- The Show Goes On – Lupe Fiasco
- Rolling In The Deep – Adele
- Without You – David Guetta (Feat. Usher)
- Good Feeling – Flo Rida
- Animal – Habitats
- Good Feeling – Flo Rida
- Good Life – OneRepublic
- Levels – Avicii
- Heartless – Kanye West
- Angel On My Shoulder – Kaskade
- Midnight City – M83
- Young Blood – The Naked and Famous
- California Love – 2Pac
- Yeah – Usher (Feat. Lil Jon and Ludacris)
- American Boy – Estelle (Feat. Kayne West)
- Hypnotize – Notorious B.I.G.
Don’t Dream It. Be It.
Last week I flew to Galveston, Texas to compete in the Ironman Texas 70.3. This race was exciting for a number of reasons:
- The Lance Factor – There has been such mixed reaction about Lance Armstrong’s return to triathlon. I don’t care what anyone says – I am excited he is back. Lance is, undisputably, a huge brand and an incredible athlete. His presence brings attention to our sport and it ups everybody’s game – both positives in my mind. And as a little first year pro, I was pretty darn excited to be able to race against him!
- My First Pro Race (of 2012) – Ok, so this may not have been my first pro race EVER, since I raced at Ironman Cozumel last year, but I felt like it was. Texas was my first race since committing full time to training, and coming in this time around felt different – I felt as though I was competing as a pro for the first time.
- U.S Pro 70.3 Championships – There were nearly 100 pro men and women competing on Sunday, which made it a huge and world class event. There were more past Ironman and 70.3 champions that you could count on one hand in the women’s race alone, so you knew it was going to be an exciting day.
I went into this race with a completely open mind and no idea what to expect. As my coach, Matt Dixon, put it – it was a blank slate. Rather than being results focused, I was intent on racing my own race and seeing where my off-season training had taken me.
I was excited. I was nervous, but I was also controlled and calm. This winter, most of my training has been all about the swim – by far my biggest weakness of the three disciplines. I’ve been completing more than 8 swims and anywhere from 40-60k yards a week. On the bike I have done a lot of base riding with tons of climbing to work on my glute and hamstring strength, which has also been a big weakness for me. And while running took a bit of a back seat for a variety of reasons I was feeling great.
I felt confident that I would see some good progress in my performance.
Fast forward to the day before the race. I started to get a little bit (read A LOT) more nervous and the confidence I had been feeling was starting to wane. Thoughts like “what if I DON’T swim faster” started to creep into my head. Oopf – no good! During a taper week you often end up feeling pretty crappy and flat in the days before the race. And despite understanding that feeling flat=good, it is hard not to get a little nervous that your mojo won’t show up for race day (Note: on the flip side, feeling great the days before a race is also cause for nervousness out of fear you peaked too early). Needless to say, in my hour long ride and 10 minute jog on Saturday I was having one of those moments where I questioned how I was going to EVER ride 15 mph or run an 8 minute mile, let alone 24 or 25 mph or a 6 or 7 minute mile pace. I felt like poo.
But race day came and all I can say is that I am thrilled with my performance. I still have a ton of work to do across all three disciplines, but I was really pleased with where I am at for the start of the year. My swim was 4 minutes faster than last year and a PR by more than 2 minutes! I know, I know – a 30 minute swim isn’t exactly something to be writing home about, but it is big step for me in the right direction. My bike was solid and was the 2nd fastest female split. I felt great, but more importantly I came off the bike feeling fresher than I ever have before. And my run….oh my run. I had hoped for more, but at the end of the day, even with an average-at-best performance, I maintained my position and I finished 6th, which I was completely stoked about. I made a pay check, and my self-proclaimed pro debut was about as successful as I could have possibly hoped it would be.
A few key highlights from my week in Texas (and in no particular order):
- Watching Balazs Csoke (My crazy Hungarian Cervelo teammate) eat an entire jar of raw garlic cloves (which is apparently normal for him) – Gross…and really weird!
- Eating 3 “Frank” Cheeseburgers and a huge bowl of chocolate ice cream after the race in the amount of time it took my homestay mom, Lulu, to finish half of one burger
- Eating a 4th “Frank” Cheeseburger on the drive to the airport, and then getting some Blue Bell ice cream before my flight….I might have been a little hungry
- Making some incredible new friends in the Woodlands in the Trimble Family, Austen Trimble, The Gibbons, Daniel Fontana, Carla Stampfli, and Balazs Csoke
- My AWESOME homestay family in Galveston. They rocked. Be jealous. I’ve already called dibs for next year. They feed me ice cream and cheeseburgers.
- My PR Swim and a huge PR swim for my Purplepatch teammate Jen Tetrick. We are making strides Jenny T! Heck Yeh!
- My rocking new Saucony race kit. I love it. #findyourstrong
- Knowing I made the right choice to pursue this dream. I am happier than I have ever been. It is awesome and a very special time for me.
Time to get back to work now! New Orleans 70.3 is coming up in a few short weeks and then we’ll be making the final push for Ironman Texas on May 19.
A huge thank you the Trimble and Benavidez families for their warmth and hospitality and truly opening up their home to me. You both really made me feel so comfortable and welcome – thank you. To Balazs Csoke, Daniel Fontana , Carla Stampfli, Maureen and Greg Gibbons – Such wonderful people and great competitors – I can’t wait to share many more race experiences with you. Austen – Thanks dude for everything you did last week and congrats on completing your first 70.3.
Last but not least I really need to thank Gerry Rodrigues from Tower 26. It gets me a bit choked up just writing this, but he has been EVERYTHING to me out here in Los Angeles since I arrived on January 1 – a coach, mentor, friend, parent, Matt Dixon’s “eyes”. I have a huge amount of faith in Purplepatch and the Tower 26 programs to progress me as an athlete to be my very best. Thank you Gerry, for all that you have done these last several months, and for being willing to take this journey with me.
Until next time. Never stop reaching for the stars
Don’t dream it. Be It.