My body is in a good place right now.
I feel healthy, resilient and strong.
Well, in all honesty, right now I am exhausted, tired and sore and I've gathered just enough energy to ride my road bike for an hour (Sunday) and swim 1500 yards (today) in the last 48 hours.
On Saturday, I checked off another race in my 10th year of endurance racing and I couldn't be more grateful to my body as it did not let me down when I asked it to go hard (like really, really hard) for 70.3 miles at the Lake Logan Half .
For the past ten years, I have been developing my fitness and skills as an endurance triathlete.
Over the past nine years, I've remained illness and sickness free.
Over the past three years, I have raced better than I've ever raced before since starting endurance sports at the age of 23.
When you are healthy, your body can perform amazingly well.
And now, it seems as if it's all coming together as I have never been happier training and racing as a endurance triathlete.
You may wish that there was a simple answer, a perfect training plan, a few must-do workouts or a list of magic foods that have helped me achieve race day success over the past few years but I believe that making mistakes, being open to change, developing and learning has given me many opportunities to find a better way of training and racing.
The more I fail, the smarter I become as an athlete.
I have failed a lot.
I have learned a lot.
After every race, I find myself reflecting more on the journey to get to the race start line rather than picking apart and over-analyzing the race itself.
Like many athletes, I could easily critique my entire race day effort and think about all the things that didn't go well or what I could have done better but instead, I like to first put my energy into what I did in training which helped me excel on race day.
The evolution of me as a cyclist has been a long time in the making. Karel has tweaked my fit year after year and I'm in the most efficient, yet powerful, position on my bike than I've ever been before. Plus, this is the first year that I am sitting on my saddle correctly (thus putting my hips in the right position so I engage my glutes and don't overwork my quads) and I just love my Adamo saddle that has helped me ride so happy (so comfortable!). But, I'm sure this is not the last of Karel dialing me on my bike.
I have super speedy Alto Cycling race wheels (56 front, 86 rear), a great bike mechanic who keeps my bike clean, safe and in great working condition all the time, I race with a a 54-39 cassette in the front and a 11-28 rear cassette which helps me climb and descend with constant chain tension, I love my S-Works Women's Evade tri helmet and I love my Di2 shifting.
But take away the fancy gear (but keep Karel) and you have a girl who knows how to finally ride her bike. Not only do I love riding my bike but I feel at one with my bike. I am constantly working on my skills to make sure I am always safe on the road but I've done a lot of specific trainer and outside work to help me ride stronger and more efficient outside. I've trained smarter on the bike than ever before with a lot more specificity in every workout. I ride on the trainer about 75% of the time (long rides I ride outside) and that has helped me tremendously to improve my steady efforts and to improve my variable cadence. Oh, and I love hilly terrain so nothing makes me happier than selecting races that are very challenging. A flat bike course would take me way outside my comfort zone and would actually make me more nervous than a hilly bike course.
Run: I use to feel the constant need to be a better runner but Karel has always reminded me that if I want success in triathlons, I need to be a great triathlete. As I have discussed before, trying to make myself become a faster runner is risky and I will likely lose more than I can gain as there is a great risk for injury with my body if I try to train long and fast. I am taking a year off from Ironman training/racing next year to safely add a little more intensity into my training but I can't be upset with my running this year because in all honesty, I don't do a lot (if any) specific "speed" work to give me a competitive edge on the run on race day. I am ok with this as this has been our strategy in helping me become a faster triathlete. My run training includes hill work, strength training, frequency running and brick runs which has improved my resilience in the later miles of an endurance triathlon. Whereas before, I may have been a faster runner off the bike, I have always slowed down. Now, I am running more steady throughout the entire run and this is after biking a lot harder than I've ever biked before on race day. I know I will never be a gazelle-style runner so I have created a running style that works for me which also keeps me injury free. I'm not trying to run like anyone else but instead, myself. Also, an improved position on the bike keeps me legs working hard when I ride but I can still run well off the bike, without feeling like my quads are exhausted. In my mind, I may not be running faster off the bike but I am running stronger than ever before (I can also tell this from my running form which stays the same throughout the entire race vs in the past, my form would get ugly in the later miles).
Gadgets - They are there when I train and race but I don't use them on race day. I go entirely by feel. This gives me so much more freedom, less pressure and more engagement with my body and mind. I don't chase time goals, a finish time, watts or paces but instead, I just race. I do use my gadgets in training as it helps me stay accountable to efforts but I am always adjusting the effort based on how I feel.
Mindset - I love training and racing. I don't do it for anyone else but myself. I love the process of training and developing and I am fired-up that I am still improving. I also love competition - it brings out the best in me when I can race against strong, fast athletes. I am constantly working on my mental skills but luckily I have a great sport psychologist who I can also call my best friend.
I love working on the race week eats as I feel it's something that must be mastered in training, well before race day. I feel super confident in my pre-race low fiber/low residue nutrition plan in the 48 hours before the race. I am learning that I need to keep myself calm by staying relaxed with visualization to reduce any chance of any pre-race nerves upsetting my tummy. Also, I need to be careful with time zones - in looking back at the 3 Ironman races when I had tummy issues (never in a half), I've also had a 6-hour time difference.
Despite racing at a higher intensity in a half vs in an Ironman (and a much shorter race), I need to be careful with the concentration of my sport drinks on the bike and the run. While this may increase a chance for bonking, I consider myself a very efficient athlete (10 years of endurance sports has helped!) - I have never suffered from dehydration or a bonk in a race. For this race, I did dial back my hourly caloric intake by about 60 calories compared to what I did in Austria and it worked really well on the bike - I took in ~240 calories per hour with 26 ounce fluid (3 bottles) and I stayed on a strict schedule with drinking every 15 minutes (and the occasional as needed drink). On the run, I took in 100 calories per flask (sipping every 5-8 minutes) to finish a flask every ~45 minutes instead of 130 calories. While it may seem like small changes, sport nutrition is all about the little tweaks that make a big difference on race day. Practice, tweak and keep on dialing it in. Even sport dietitians need to keep tweaking their sport nutrition!
Thank you Lake Logan for the beautiful views, the challenging terrain and the great community/crowd support. Plus, you gave me so many animals to look at throughout the race and nothing makes me happier than furry friends out on a race course (Shhh, don't tell Karel - he tells me to focus when I race and to not say hi to animals.)
I lead from the start of the race and felt empowered by the ladies behind me to give it my all. While it can be fun to be in the front of the race, it's not an easy position to be in when you have no idea what's going on behind you in the race.
They raced as hard as I could as I couldn't give up until I crossed the finish line.
With a lot of energy expended at Lake Logan, I crossed the line as first overall female and with a new 1-minute half Ironman PR.
Above all, thank you to my body - I'm having so much fun with you in training and on race day.
Stay tuned for the full race recap.