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2018 Racing Recap - Marni and Karel

After a well-deserved mental and physical break from structured training, we have officially closed the chapter to our 2018 season of racing. We are excited about the partnerships, opportunities and events that we have planned for 2019 and most of all, living a lifestyle of swimbikerun. Our excitement and passion for triathlon is just as great as when we started the sport and I contribute so much of that to coaching and surrounding ourselves with mentors/professionals who also love the sport. As a coach, I am reminded daily of how the sport of triathlon enriches the lives of so many people, of all backgrounds, from around the world. 

After a race, it's normal for your inner self critic to break down the race, reflecting on the mistakes, errors and failures. While it's good to reflect on your flaws to find ways to improve, it's important to acknowledge what went well.

Every year, Karel and I reflect and talk about our season. The highs and lows and everything in between. Through reflection, we make sure not to put all our focus on results, such as finishing times, PR's or places. We find it important to take note of what was going on in life before the race and how, in spite of obstacles or setbacks, we were able to get to the start and finish line.

 Ironman 70.3 Haines City
Marni - 4:44.52, 1st AG (35-39), 5th female
Karel - 4:27.33, 3rd AG (40-44)

As the first race of the 2018 season, we didn't put any pressure on us to perform. I still get very nervous before I race so I always look forward to the first race of the season as a great opportunity to dust off the rust and work through some race-day nerves. Plus, with so many of our athletes participating (as part of the Tri Club Championships) I had a smile on my face all day as I had so much fun racing. I was able to put together a strong performance whereas Karel didn't have too stellar of a race. He didn't let it get to him as a month-long cough affected his training for most of February. Karel went into the race knowing that he was not there to break any records and he had a very long season ahead. He knew it would take some time to build his race fitness so he didn't care too much about his result/time. 

Marni - 4:53.27, 2nd AG (tie)
Karel - 4:30.26, 3rd AG

We arrive to St. George excited to race. With this being our 2nd time racing this very challenging event, we felt like we knew the course much better, which would help us better execute. Karel felt like he was racing his way into fitness and he executed/felt much better at St. George compared to Haines City. Karel doesn't like to gain fitness very quickly in the early part of the season (or else he risks injury) so he was really happy with this race, especially compared to how he felt/performed at Haines City. We both improved our overall times compared to 2017 but the competition was super fierce. I was most happy with my performance as I was in the thick of writing my book and so much of my mental energy was on researching and writing. While I managed to stay up with (most of) my training, it was hard to put my focus on this race as I had a tight deadline approaching. I gave it my best and I was happy with what I could do on race day. Soon after the race, it was back to writing. 

Karel - 4:23.55, 1st AG, 2nd overall amateur

A last minute (more like 2 weeks out) decision to race Raleigh turned out to be a great decision for Karel. As  I was nearing the end of my book-writing process, Karel took a solo trip to Raleigh to see what it was like to race a half Ironman without a taper. As mentioned above, Karel feels like he gains fitness better when he races more often compared to training weekend after weekend. With a tough week of training on Mon-Thurs, Karel dialed back the training on Fri/Sat and felt surprisingly good (mentally and physically) going into the race. This was one of those races that doesn't happen often for an athlete - everything just felt good all day long for Karel. Despite a very hot run, Karel was flying through the competition. Karel ran a 1:22.47 half marathon off the bike, which was the fastest amateur run of the day and he placed 2nd overall amateur (a youngest in the 25-29 age group beat him by a minute). This was also Karel's very first AG win in a 70.3! Karel left this race confident and happy about his current fitness. After Haines City, Karel wondered if he would be able to run "fast" (or keep getting faster) as he got older and he was thrilled that he was not slowing down. 

Marni - 10:23.10, 2nd AG
Karel - 9:20.02, 5th AG

I put a lot of pressure on myself with specific time goals that I wanted to achieve at this race. Going into the race, I felt like I was capable of achieving my goals. However, when our bikes did not arrive with us in Prague, my mental strength was tested. Once we received our bikes, race week presented us with a few uncontrollable events that left me a bit frazzled (yet still smiling because hey, we are in beautiful Austria!). With this being our third time racing IM Austria, it was a treat to share it with two of our athletes, Justine and Natalie. But when the day turned out to be a tough day of racing for us all, reaching the finish line was the main goal. My body felt empty all day and I really questioned why I was doing this sport. It was a huge effort just to reach the finish line and I was unsure of my future as a triathlete. I finished the race feeling accomplished (and in shock that I placed 2nd in my age group despite feeling so blah all day) but also sad about how my body performed. After a week of sorting through my thoughts, I was determined to put together a solid performance at Ironman Wisconsin. Although a tough day for Karel as he continues to deal with back issues on the bike, he was happy that he finished top 5 in a very competitive age group (40-44), with tough international competition. This was a special race because Karel's mom came to watch us and it was her first time seeing Karel in a triathlon. Karel and I love IM Austria but we didn't feel like this race left us with the same amazing feeling that we received the past two times we raced there (2014 and 2016). I suppose mentally, we just were exhausted from all that happened during our travels and on race week. 

Marni - 4:48.21, 1st AG, 4th female amateur
Karel - 4:17.22, 1st AG, 6th amateur

What an experience! Racing in the heart of downtown Prague goes down as one of the coolest triathlon experiences of my life. Challenge put on a great event in a logistically tough venue. Plus, racing in Karel's home country of Czech Republic made this race extra special. My body did not recover very quickly from Ironman Austria so it was a big unknown as to what my body would do in a half Ironman just four weeks after a full distance Ironman. It took a solid 2 weeks until my body felt somewhat normal again. With only one week of true "training", Karel and I went into this race with no expectations. There was also the new experience of racing a half Ironman that started at 12pm! Which by the way, we loved the later start time. We both surprised ourselves with how we performed and we had a blast racing! The course was incredible and it was the perfect way to end our 5-week European race-cation. 

Marni - 10:32.29, 1st AG, 5th female amateur
Kona qualified

After feeling flat for much of Ironman Austria, I didn't want to experience that same feeling at Ironman. To help with that, I really focused on my mental state going into the race. This was a bit difficult as there was a lot of talk about a cancelled swim and modifications to the course because of the flooding in the area. I tried to focus on what I could control and prepare myself for all types of scenarios. I also had no outcome goals for this race, except with the goal of Kona qualifying. After a 4-year hiatus from racing in Kona, I finally felt ready to return back to the big island, if I got a slot. But most important to me, I wanted to put together a solid race. While I had a few low moments on the bike, I put together a run that made me so proud. It was a very exciting day as I felt like I was "racing" for all 140.6 miles. After 13 Ironmnas, #14 was my perfect race. I was grateful to have Karel (and his mom) cheering me on on the sidelines and being able to share the course with so many of our athletes. Plus, Campy was there with us which helped with my pre-race nerves. Unlike IM Austria, I felt strong and in control of my body for all of the race. And I also loved riding my new Ventum, which I had only ridden just a handful of times before race day. 

Karel - 4:13.17, 1st AG, 5th amateur

Karel loves to race. He would much rather race than train. Augusta was a tune-up race for Kona so like Raleigh, Karel decided not to taper but instead, to train like normal up until Thursday evening and then treat Friday/Sat as he would for any other race. While a normally fast downstream swim for everyone, Karel was able to put together his best-ever bike/run combo, finishing with a 1:21.29 half marathon off the bike. Karel won his age group for the second time (both wins were this season) and he had the 2nd fastest amateur run. With this performance and how well he managed the heat, Karel felt even more excited for Kona in 3 weeks time and felt like he could put together top-notch performance on the big island. 

Karel - 9:45.15

With all signs pointing to a phenomenal race day performance by Karel, he felt calm, cool and collected going into the race. After a best-ever Kona swim for Karel, his heart sank to his feet when he took his first few pedal strokes on the bike and realized that his electronic shifting was not working. On a record setting day for many of the athletes, Karel had his own battle to fight for the next 112 miles. Karel used so much mental energy to get through 5+ hours of riding on one gear. Although he was able to put together a decent run performance on a very hot and humid day, this was not the performance that he trained so hard for all summer. Karel was healthy and strong but was not able to showcase his fitness. But as every athlete will learn, racing can be cruel and unfair. It's through these lessons that you learn so much about yourself.

Marni - 58:47
Karel - 1:04.45

Just throwing this in here as I was super pumped about my first sub 1-hour open water swim without a wetsuit! Woot woot!

Marni - 4:43.11, 3rd AG (30-39)

Two flat tires, wet roads, a chill in the air and a whole lotta climbing in 80 miles (8100 feet), I gave it my best effort from start to finish. 

Marni - 1:33.10, 1st AG, 6th female

As a last minute decision to participate in a half marathon road race (my first in nearly 6 years), I had no expectations as to what my body would be able to do after a long season of triathlon racing. I was super proud of my body and I had a lot of fun racing as a runner. But I'll stick with triathlons...this race beat me up so bad! I took me longer to recover from this half compared to a half distance Ironman! 

Karel - 9:28.14, 1st AG, 6th overall
Kona Qualified

With the recent location change of IMFL (from PCB to Haines City), Karel was looking forward to a more difficult race course, which would suit his strengths. IMFL was a big test/experiment to see how his body would perform with two back-to-back Ironmans within 3 weeks. Well, Karel learned the hard way that his body was not recovered from Kona - mentally or physically. With Karel's back bothering him for much of the bike (nothing new for Karel) and all of his mental energy spent on Kona, Karel did not feel like himself for the run - for a solid 24 miles. With the thought of quitting in the front of his mind for much of the race, something inside of him kept him going. In 26 miles, Karel moved from 7th to 1st and managed to close a 25-minute gap to win his age group. With the 2nd fastest run of the day, it didn't take him long to get into the medical tent once he crossed the finish line. Karel was mentally and physically done. With no idea of how the day went, Karel couldn't believe his results. When I told him the news of his overall and age group result and his run time, Karel was in shock. Although he retired from the sport of triathlon many times during the race, Karel is looking forward to heading back to the big island where we will race together in our 4th (Karel) and 5th (Marni) Ironman World Championship.