Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Moving

This blog is moving to a new location!  Hope to see you there - I've recently posted my 2015 Ironman Texas race report:

http://multisportmastery.com/ironman-texas/

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Chatter




The other day I was out for a long ride – 90 miles.  I’m training for an Ironman.  Actually, I’m just about done training for Ironman.  Taper is just around the corner for Ironman Texas.  I didn’t realize I was training for an Ironman until the last 4 weeks or so which is around the time I started to hate training.  Not surprisingly, as fatigue builds, so does my disdain for training!  Not so much that I get tired from the training (that’s actually the FUN part), I just get tired from fitting the training in around life. 

(Life is fun too but when combined with training it can get, well, difficult)

On this particular ride, I set out at 6:45 am.  It was cold, windy and I was (mostly) alone.  In 90 miles, I passed 3 cyclists.  I’ve endured some fairly long rides in preparation for this early season Ironman.  There have been countless 4 ½ rides on the trainer.  There was even one that lasted 6 ½ hours.  Those were easy – climate controlled, fuel at hand, headphones, internet to keep me busy for hours. 

In contrast, the long rides (and runs) outside are perhaps the only time these days where I’m totally disconnected and alone with the voices in my head.  And, boy, do they talk loud.  The more tired I am, the louder they talk.  The first 45 miles of my ride were a constant chatter of hatred for everything – Ironman, my training, my bike shorts, myself.  What was I thinking – train for an early season Ironman, 8 months after a baby, with mostly indoor training and setting out today WITH NO CHAMMY BUTTER!?  What is WRONG with me?  It was around 2 hours into the ride when I found myself bare-assed in a ditch off of Grove Road taking a pee, actually peeing on my bike shoe.  The wind was whipping 20 mph from the east.  I was tired.  My legs hurt from a long run two days before.  Even worse, I had set out for the ride without coffee. 

I couldn’t help but wonder: am I the only one?

Your Twitter feed is full of pictures of perfectly executed workouts of nothing but awesome done with tailwind at your back and nothing but sunshine.  No one posts pictures of themselves shorts down, peeing on their bike shoe and one pedal stroke away from crying because the thought of going another hour into the wind is that overwhelming.  No one takes pictures of those meltdowns.  No one takes pictures of themselves with hands over ears at mile 38 saying trying to silence that voice in your head that says you’re slow, you should stop, what were you thinking.  I want to see that picture.  That’s real life training. 

Someone humor me next weekend, please?

The voices in my head run constantly.  If I’m not doubting myself about parenting, I’m doubting my ability to be a good wife, mother, coach, athlete.  Self-doubt is sometimes the backdrop of my mind.  In my moments of weakness, my self-doubt is a comforting friend.  See, I told you so.  Nearly 40 years old and I have yet to figure out how to silence those voices.  The older I get, the more that is thrown in my plate, the louder they get.   

The only thing I have learned to do is let the voices run while I keep moving forward.  I can hear them but it doesn’t mean I have to listen.  If they choose to stick around for the ride, know that at some point one of us is going to give in.  And hell if it’s me.  I don’t give up easily.  So I challenge those voices to keep up.  My hope is that I will outlast them.  I might be 80 when that happens but at least I know I’ve given it a good fight. 

Between the chatter, the winter, two kids, trying to regain fitness/race weight after pregnancy, training for this Ironman has been a challenge.  I’m not one of those people who nurses their way to race weight.  At times, I counted calories.  I’m not one of those people who ran all through pregnancy and emerged just seconds off of my old pace.  My first runs back were still 2 minutes per mile slower, which was slower than some of my pregnancy runs (HOW?!).  Needless to say, there have been very few magical days in training.  No glorious sunny days to capture in photo and post on Instagram.  Most of my runs were done in the dead of winter.  No warm weather triathlon camps to escape life and focus on ME!ME!ME!.  I’ve done my training in the maelstrom of every day – those days where everyone needs something all at once, all before 7 am, all at the exact moment I start to put food into my mouth.  How can all 3 living things under 40 lbs in this house need to crap SIMULTANEOUSLY!?  

NO magic.  Instead, it’s been nothing but a grind. 

(and if you don’t know what the grind is, watch this:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNL_DAI19_I)

Real life pulls at me in so many ways that skipping my training or giving up on my goals feels like the easier way.  When I was in my late 20s, even early 30s, training for BIG things was easy.  It was all about me.  And a little bit of my husband.  And a small house.  These days, I feel like ME gets the shortest reserve of focus and energy.  I need to remind myself that I’m worth it, that my goals are worth it.  The voice in my head tries to lure me to a more comfortable way of life by way of guilt or doubt.  It tries hard to undermine me.  At times, I feel like my own worst enemy. 

Some people get all pent up about the chatter their head.  They listen, get scared and cower back.  They think it means there’s something wrong with them or that they lack self-confidence.  In the past 24 hours, I’ve had two athletes talk to me about their own chatter.  The impression I get is that we  think that once we start hearing the voices, we have to listen and then we are doomed for failure. 

Trust me, the chatter doesn’t mean you’re broken, weak or not meant to be a winner.  Some level of doubt is normal, even healthy.  You can be highly confident in your abilities yet at the same time full of doubtful voices in your head.  Those doubts are just helping you do your homework.  You see, if anything, the voices in my head have kept me honest.  It’s tougher than any competition.  It’s me against me.  What are you doing, Liz (I better know my WHY).  It knows exactly what button to push and senses my weakness.  It constantly does calculations, looking for the distance from where I am to where I want to be.  It tries to convince me I’ll never get there.  If I want to get there, I’ve got to be able to do what it’s telling me I can’t do.  You’re slowing down (better work harder).  You’ll be out here riding all day (better find a way to push more power).  You’re crazy for even trying (I better reconnect with my motivation).  I’ve got to rise up above myself. 

On race day I expect there will be voices.  I know it’s going to get tough – no, ugly.  I expect it to be sweltering, competitive and long – after all, it’s an Ironman.  I expect to have moments of feeling totally awesome but even more moments of feeling like I want to quit.  I know the chatter will speak the loudest when I am at my weakest and most uncomfortable.  I know, too, from going there in training that all I have to do at those moments is keep moving forward.  Sometimes I hear the chatter go on and on and on about how it’s hot or the legs are tired or how I’ll never be fast again.  Yet I never change what I’m doing.  I just keep going with chatter ticking away in my head.  At some point, I figure I’ll outlast it or very simply get the workout done. 

And at its most basic level, that is the purpose of training: to just get the workouts done day to day.  The pay off from the grind is a very potent variable called consistency .  Training can feel like a grind and still be very, very effective.  It doesn’t need to be magical or life changing!

When you hear the chatter – don’t get scared or think there’s something wrong with you.  I took a huge step forward in life when I just embraced the inner voices, let them chatter on and stopped trying to control or wish away every little damn bad thing about myself.  They’re chattering for your attention so don't give it to them!  We make mistakes when we change our course of action based on what those voices are saying.  Instead, I've learned the best way to manage the chatter is to just stay the path, to move in a forward direction towards your goals or the end of the workout.  Chances are you'll get fit, finish or surprise yourself.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Time To Fly


Spring has sprung and that means it’s time for the masters state swim meet.

My last trip to the state meet was two years ago.  I swam the 1650.  This year, the meet was special.

We were defending champs.  Every point would matter.  The peer pressure was intense  – 140 other swimmers were swimming.  There were signs on deck calling out those who weren’t registered.  But most importantly, we were swimming in honor of two swimmers who we lost this year.  One who was especially important to me.

Years ago, I let a brilliant young woman named Clari borrow my cyclocross bike to take it on the adventure of a lifetime.  She rode it across America for a charity group to support research for a condition that her brother had.  That same summer, she also babysat Max at the quarry while Chris and I went swimming.  When pregnant with Mackenzie, Clari and I swam in the same lane at the monster swim.  Over the years, Clari’s mother had been a frequent lanemate of mine.  In 2013, I advised her on how to train for her first Ironman – as a thank you, she bought my plane ticket to the 70.3 World Championship.  Clari and her mother were a part of our life in very unique and close ways. 

This past November, at the age of 19, Clari passed away.  Unsure of whether it was the personal connection or the fact that I now had my own daughter, I felt incredibly sad.  When the head coach announced that we would swim the state meet in memory of Clari, I felt compelled to swim.  I felt it was the best I could do to honor her life and spirit. 

Now, I’m a decent triathlon swimmer but pool swimming is a completely different story.  I can fake it in the fast lane but I’m guilty of lane line pulling, open turning and putting on toys when intervals get really tight.  When it comes to swim meets, I’m not exactly going to be a high points earner.  So when I asked the head coach what I could do to gain points for the team, she came back with an immediate answer: 

200 fly 

I couldn’t believe I walked right into that bear trap. 

No swimmer in their right mind wants to do 200 fly.  It’s painful.  Most triathletes cannot even do fly.  But as the coach reminded me, you’re an Ironwoman, you can do this!  Mostly I just wanted to stay on her good side for the next year.  Being on the head coach’s bad side could mean very, very painful things for a full year at masters.  If all it takes is less than 4 minutes of pain, get me registered!  Sure enough I looked at the results from last year and only 5 women did the 200 fly.  As long as I finished, I would get points. 

I had two weeks to panic train.  In that time, I tried to swim as much fly as possible.  Every workout I attended the coach suggested I do fly.  Sprint 25s?  Do them fly, Elizabeth.  Distance day?  You should do the “fast” as “fly”, Elizabeth.  One day, she put Andrew (another poor swimmer who asked what he could do to get points) and I in a lane and made us do 200 fly in its entirety.  The good news:  I didn’t die.  The bad news: that’s a lot of fly – 8 x 25 with NO REST!

A few nights, I even researched my strategy.  I watched videos and searched forums how to race 200 butterfly.  The general consensus was: 1) don’t, 2) go very easy for the first 50.  

All of this effort was impressive if, and I mean IF I actually knew how to swim proper fly.  And technically speaking, I have no idea what I am doing in the water.  Years ago, tired of watching other swimmers so effortlessly move through the water with both arms and hips undulating as I had to substitute free for every set of fly, I finally said f-it, I'm trying.  So I just started doing what I thought fly looked like.  For whatever reason, it worked.  I was moving forward and actually had some rhythm.  But I still have no idea if what I think I’m doing is actually what I’m doing.  I have visions of my Phelps-like powerful arms sweeping through the water with an explosive dolphin kick.  When really I’m 62 inches tall and turnover like the wings of a hummingbird on meth.  That fast.  More like frenetic.  As my masters coach said when I did the 1650, I cannot take credit for that stroke (in other words, she won’t). 

The day of the meet, I traveled an hour north to Wisconsin for the Illinois state meet (huh?).  The facility was beautiful – two pools – one for men, one for women with an additional warm up pool attached to an indoor water park.  My mom accompanied me with the kids and after the meet we enjoyed that water park!

The warm up pool was salty mess of swimmers of all paces.  Pretty much all that I accomplished was getting wet.  I then waited nervously on deck, I in a bright pink cap and rainbow suit while everyone else around me had on one of those speedsuits.  

Next up: 200 butterfly 

In the 30 seconds before the race started I decided I would indeed dive off the blocks.  But first I had to get on the block and look down.  OH MY GOD WHO PUT THESE BLOCKS UP SO HIGH!?  A long whistle, a take your mark and a beep.  It was go time. 

Sitting on the bulkhead was Amanda, Taylor and Beth (mother of Clari).  An audience!  I can only imagine the heckling.  I glided through the first 50 (easy, go easy, this feels amazing!).  The next 50 felt fantastic.  That is, until right before the wall when I missed a breath.  And then I started to burn – bad.  I pushed off the wall and felt myself losing it.  PANIC!  But I was trapped in the 200.  There was no turning back, no breaststroking.  I had to regain my rhythm.  And is that wall actually moving further away?

HELP!

At that moment, I actually thought about Clari.  As cliché as it sounds, it’s the truth.  I thought of her spirit and how she would love to be there right now swimming.  Pull it together, Liz.  And then remembered something a lanemate said:  Remember the time Gary did 200 fly and hung on the gutter for 2 seconds at every 25?  I was going to channel my InnerGary.

Each pause at the wall was longer.  At one point, Beth asked Amanda if I was ok.  100 yards left.  75, 50.  The final 25 I picked up the pace. 

I didn’t break any records, didn’t win my heat but did earn points by finishing 5th place in my age group.  That would be 5th of 5.  But really, I was 1st place. 

Listen, it’s not my problem those other 4 swimmers showed up and stole 1st place from me.

Next up, 200 free relay.

Amanda, Beth, Carrie and I stood on deck.  It felt special to be in a relay with Clari’s mom, Beth.  She swam so many events in honor of Clari’s memory.  She even swam 400 IM.  I’ve never seen someone so relaxed about the 400 IM – it’s easy, you don’t have to go fast you just have to finish it

I've also never seen someone so frantic about my limited counting/number turning skills when Amanda swam the 500 and someone (AMANDA) told Beth to keep an eye on me because of my potentially sub-par sign flipping skills; put it in the water - now, NOW!  Get out of the way of her flip turn!  More to the left!  Don't turn it until she hits the flags!  Pay attention! 

Our relay ended up placing 3rd in state – though I had the slowest time of all 4 of us!  Turns out I swim faster at practice from a push.  The reason?  Even my nonathletic mom said it:  it’s your dive and she then proceeded to demonstrate some bizarre arm flailing and belly flop motion which made me realize if that’s what my mom sees god help me with what the athletes and coaches were seeing!

And that is how I ended up starting IN the water for the 500 free.

500 free.  My last event.  The long whistle and I hop into the water.  I had been wet, standing around in my bathing suit going in and out of warm up lanes for the past 3 hours.  I had eaten nothing but chunks of bagel and was really thirsty.   But once the the race started, I felt amazing.  One of those times where you feel totally in sync with the water and like nothing can slow you.  I counted down the laps until one to go when I realized the final lap bell was being run IN FRONT OF MY LANE!  The winner of the heat got a stuffed teddy bear and all I thought about was I want a damn bear!  I swam one of my best 500 free times at a meet and won my heat.  And, Mackenzie got a new teddy bear! 

At the end of the day I was cold, wet, tired and yet invigorated.  There’s just something about swim meets.  Maybe it’s the energy of people of all ages, all sizes, all speeds sharing a common interest:  swimming.  First timers, ex collegiate swimmers.  Triathletes talk about enjoying races because they get to share the course with the pros while they’re racing.  Been to a swim meet?  Sometimes I watch people like Adrienne on our team who threw down a 1:53 for the 200 free and wonder how they let me even swim in the same pool let alone the same lane.  And what I love about swimmers?  When we have swum together on sprint night, even when I’m panting with a time seconds slower than hers for a 25, Adrienne turns to look at me and says, good job, Elizabeth.  I feel like the newbie swimming with the pro.  And, I don’t know, it makes me feel all giddy.  It makes me wonder if I can one day look that effortless and powerful.  It makes me want to keep trying.

For the first time in a few years, our team didn’t win this year but … I think this year we did it for other reasons.  It was a large coming together of people who wanted to honor two women who were completely different yet shared the same passion for swimming.  I’m glad I was a part of it.  And I’ve already decided that I’m going to do 200 fly again.  I have a mental map of where it goes and how it feels.  And next time I’ll be ready for it.  I only have to take off over a minute to be the state champion.  

That’s 15 seconds per 50. 

I better start training.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Island Racing


Racing is always an adventure and this weekend’s race in San Juan provided plenty of it!

Six months ago, after Mackenzie was born, I thought about racing.  I had “exercised” through pregnancy but emerged in typical post-partum shape: heavy, slow and wondering when I would wear my real clothes again.  Though race shape seemed very far away, I started to think about racing.  I knew I needed to have a big, scary race on the calendar early to keep the momentum going through the cold of winter and the fog of having a new baby.  San Juan, an early season island race getaway seemed like the perfect goal (and escape!).

I traveled to the race with my long time friend, mentor, long ago coach and now one of my own athletes – Jen Harrison.  This year is unique – we both compete in the same age group, something that happens only once every 5 years.  When I told her I was signed up for San Juan, in typical Jennifer spirit she invited herself along.  And then in even more typical Jennifer competitive spirit she said train me to beat you

To get myself ready, I enlisted the help of a great coach, Matthew Rose, out of Atlanta.  I’ve worked with several incredible coaches and being a coach myself I set the bar high.  Matthew has far exceeded my expectations of what I thought a coach could deliver in terms of service, caring and my own performance.  To introduce yourself to a coach and say “you have four months to make me fit” is no small task yet one he has excelled at!  I couldn’t be more satisfied.

Jen and I both worked hard in training this winter.  You don’t sign up for an early season, hot, hilly, competitive half Ironman without putting in the miles.  Albeit they were miles in the pool, on the basement trainer and runs in what had to be one of the coldest winters on record.  Every time I had a long run scheduled, it was about 16 degrees – where your Fuel Belt bottles freeze after 8 miles and the snot is frozen on your mittens.  Not only was I cold but slow.  Fitness after pregnancy never comes back quickly enough and it’s hard to keep sight of your goals in the midst of measuring yourself against where you used to be and where you want to go.  Many times I felt discouraged.

And many days I was just plain tired.  The fatigue of caring for a newborn and a 4 ½ year old was (and still is!) unrelenting.  I nursed until nearly 5 months which meant the demand on my body and energy levels was draining.   Up until a few weeks ago, Mackenzie still wasn’t sleeping through the night.  My body and mind carried around a deep fatigue that not even coffee could help.  As I fit in training sessions at all hours of the day, routinely two times a day I questioned the choices I made – what am I doing here? 

And why?

None of this was perfect preparation which was difficult for a hard-charging “perfectionist” to accept.  But something I read from Lauren Fleshmann resonated with me: there is no such thing as perfect preparation, only excellent adaptation.  Each day required many, many adaptations. 

Yet somehow I arrived at race day feeling ready.  That is, until the plane touched down in San Juan and I looked out the window at blue skies and palm trees thinking to myself WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE?  This was real.  This was really happening.  Here I was – not entirely fit, not entirely at race weight, not heat acclimated, race wheels haven’t touched pavement since September of 2013 but still I was here to compete at a hot, hilly 70.3 with a heck of a start list.  As I deplaned, I thought to myself – WHAT was I thinking?

 The day before the race was filled with the usual preparations.  I did my usual pre-race run which felt horrible.  Just as I expected.  We did a pre-race swim which felt amazing.  Then we prepared our gear for the race.  We stayed conveniently near the swim start but inconveniently about 1.5 miles away from transition.  This meant a lot of walking.  The day before the race I walked over 6 miles! 

I rarely ride my bike before a race but I wanted to be sure all of my gears shifted.  So we rode over to bike check in.  I stopped to fiddle with my water bottle cage when I heard the sound of a tire popping and thought to myself oh that poor person who now has a flat!  Unfortunately, that person was ME!  That led to some panic-ridden texts to my husband, a friend at the race who is a bike mechanic and a poor attempt at trying to express my frantic I NEED 650 TUBES emergency to the bike shop at the expo, in Spanish.  Como se dice 650?  No necessita 700s!   Mas pequeno!  Something that wasn’t in my high school Spanish arsenal was how to say “extended valve.”  

(thanks to mechanic Erik for helping me!)

Race morning arrived.  Jen spent all night on the bathroom floor with food poisoning.  As a friend and her coach, I felt sad for her and didn’t know what to say.  But I’ve known her long enough that I didn’t need worry – if I know anything about Jen it’s that she has the ability to gracefully accept obstacles, move on and race another day.  I left the hotel to set up my gear in transition, alone.  It was dark, everyone around me was speaking Spanish and I felt, well, lonely.

The non-wetsuit swim started in a lagoon, absolutely a perfect temperature and then went under a bridge into a cove off of the ocean.  Before I knew it, my swim start was approaching.  Months of training came down to NOW, this moment.  Once they let my wave in the water, I quickly (and aggressively!) made my way to the far right next to the buoys and then set out to take up space.  I’m small but the key to a clean race start is making yourself as big as possible – I was on my stomach with arms and legs moving.  When the starting gun went off, no change in position necessary, I just accelerated. 

As I’ve gotten more experienced in the sport, here’s what I’ve learned about swimming – so little of swimming well is about fitness. It’s a matter of skill, position and tactics.  I had a clean line from buoy to buoy.  While the other women were beating each other up to my left, I was smooth sailing to the next buoy in my own space.  By the time they had faded from their initial surge, I caught up smoothly and settled right into someone’s draft.  There were 4 of us, we worked together, moving effortlessly through the other waves.  I kept hearing Matthew saying do NOT overkick – so I let my feet hang out, kept my turnover up while making myself as long as possible to sail through the water.  I felt great.  As we approached the bridge, I dropped the other women in the chop and pulled ahead.

I hit the mat in a little over 30 minutes – right around where I expected to swim and 2nd in my age group.  I was absolutely elated.  It’s been a long time coming to have one of the top swims in my age group.  As someone who used to swim around 38 minutes for a half Ironman WITH a wetsuit, I am proof that if you stick with it, put in the time and embrace swimming, you can make tremendous progress.

The run to transition was about 600 meters on very rough pavement.  My plan here was to be efficient and quick.  As I started running, I wished I had put a pair of shoes by the swim exit – ouch!  I fumbled a bit with my sunglasses in transition and then – for some reason – decided to take the time to spray myself down with more sunscreen.  It may have cost me an extra 30 seconds but as I’d soon learn, it may have saved me my life!

The bike course started with a series of short rises around some highway ramps.  The course was fairly empty as I had swum through many of the earlier waves – leaving me on course with mostly men.  About 5 minutes into the ride, as I was approaching an overpass, I heard something that sounded like 4 to 5 rapid succession gunshots.  Two spectators ran out in front of me looking startled and a police car started to turn towards me.  Moments later as I passed under the overpass, I saw some bikes on the ground and a woman who clearly had been hit in the leg with something.  

In my 15 years of racing, I’ve ridden through a lot of things: rain, snow, 35 mph winds but never, EVER gunfire!  The thoughts were flying into my mind quickly as I started to put together what was happening.  First thought: my mom is never going to let me race again!  Second thought:  my kids.  What if something happened to me today while – all of things – RACING?  The next 10 minutes were a blur of escalating panicked thoughts at 22 mph ---- what’s happening behind me?  Would the race be stopped?  Was that woman shot?  Should I keep going?  Am I still racing? 

Meanwhile, no one was saying anything.  The competitors ahead of me kept riding.  A man started to pass me and I said to him what was that?  He said, gunshots, let’s get the hell out of town

So I kept riding.  My legs were burning – maybe from the run to the swim, the pain of rusty fitness or my body not being able to integrate the confusion of what just happened with the pain of racing.  I had my range of watts but I was about 10 under it.  I didn’t see any women and wasn’t sure where I was in the race.  I wasn’t even sure if there still was a race.  At that moment I said to myself emotional control, Liz.  Manage your emotions, go by feel and stay the path. 

From that point on, I rode by feel.  The course flattened out and the road was empty.  I passed a few men and a few men passed me.  We had a nice tailwind on the way out and coming back a light crosswind.  I started getting passed by 25-29 guys which reassured me that the race was going on as I knew they started 4 minutes behind me.  I figured I was near the front of the age group race so I kept telling myself to see how long I could hold off any women.  20 miles.  30 miles.  On the second loop, the day started to warm up and the wind picked up.  It took until about 40 miles for another woman to catch and pass me.

The final 10 to 15 miles of a half Ironman are typically a struggle – I expected to revolt aero position, ache in my quads due to lack of outdoor miles or limited fitness.  None of that happened.  Instead, I got hot.  The wind picked up.  I struggled to maintain my focus.  I was getting dehydrated, not good with no more aid stations.  Up until then I was on track to ride 2:30 but I started losing watts and dropping speed.  Hindsight is much clearer but I fell apart in those last 30 minutes.  I hit the mat in 2:35, second in my age group.

I dismounted and immediately wondered how I would run a half marathon – on these legs in this heat.  I felt one salt tab away from an entire body cramp and my head was burning.  I took the time in transition to pour an entire bottle of water over my head and then shuffled out slowly.

The run course is a series of challenging hills and turns with spectacular views of the ocean.  Two loops and between the spectators and competitors, the course felt narrow and tight.  At times that was motivating, yet at other times I found it overwhelming.  The sun was out in full force and the way out was a strong, stifling tailwind.  The way back was into a stiff headwind, though cooling, it felt like I was running uphill the entire way!  Around mile 2.5 you made a cobbled descent into a fort entrance which then snaked along the ocean on a twisty path.  No aid stations, no spectators.  The next water stop was 1.5 miles back down the path and up the cobblestone hill. 

Early in the run Jennifer called out some splits – I knew that first place was 3 minutes ahead of me while third place 6 minutes behind.  I did the math and knew that 3 minutes over the course of 13.1 miles was nothing!  I can do this!  Yet at times it didn’t feel like I was racing - just chugging away at a consistent but slow pace (for me).  My run fitness after Max took about one year to return to full speed as well as my weight to completely drop to where I race best.  Not surprisingly, on the course I felt a little flat and heavy – lacking my usual oomph and that extra gear to go chasing.  I’ve always been able to use my run to chase down other competitors and as I did the math on the out and backs I realized I wasn’t gaining on first while third place was closing in on me.

I won’t lie – it was a tough place to be and a new experience.  But I never lost the spirit to fight out there.  I thought about something I read on the plane: one person’s challenge is another person’s breaking point.  This was my challenge today.  And it would not break me.  Thoughts were creeping in of walking the aid stations – but no way.  Every second would matter.  Anything can happen.  I’m in this until the end.  I took me 1:42 to finish – by no means slow but definitely off for me.  In the bigger picture of the past 6 months, it’s something I just need to accept right now.  Regaining fitness after baby is a process, one that moves slowly but surely.   

In the end, I finished 7th overall and 3rd in my AG.  On this day, I was lucky enough to race against really strong competition.  Competition that made me rise up and stay honest under challenging conditions.  As I continue in the sport after so many years I see my competition is changing.  They’re getting faster, the sport is stepping up.  My goal as I get older is to stay in step with them, to be consistently competitive for top 3 in my AG.  And to get to the very top of the AG, this race reminded me that it takes perfect execution of all of the little details during the race. 

All of this – the preparation, the process, the details, the challenge, it’s what keeps me racing.  I have this enormous drive to be at my best, whatever that means for the place I’m at in life right now.  That challenge is my why – and I had to think about the why many, many times this weekend.  When that challenge no longer interests me, then I will be done racing.

Not yet!