Two flats, two feet, and a little heart…

“Not again.”  That was my first thought. “This cannot be happening to me again.”  I had ridden to mile 40 in Ironman Texas 70.3 and I had flatted in a race. Again.

The race up until that point had been blissfully uneventful.  I managed to stay with the back pack during the 1.2 mile swim, rip off my wetsuit, and grab my new Cervelo P5 for what I hoped would be a powerful, yet vanilla, ride.  On the way out I managed to reel in two pros and after the turnaround I had a renewed sense of purpose when I saw how within reach some of the other girls were.  My nutrition was dialed in and everything was going according to plan.  That is, of course, until my front wheel met that rock around mile 40.  As soon as I hit it I knew.  I knew I had a flat.  I knew I had to stop.  I knew I was going to lose time. And I knew I could only rely on myself to fix it. (In the athlete briefings leading up to race day the officials always talk about support on the course.  From what I have experienced there is never tech support when you need it.  Never. Ever.) So I pulled out my can of Pit Stop, a sort of on-the-go sealant that oftentimes relieves a very anxious and harried cyclist from having to change a flat.  But when I started to use the Pit Stop by pressing the rubber end onto the valve of my flat tire, I quickly realized this job was a little too big for such an easy remedy.  For when I pressed that rubber end onto the valve, the white foamy sealant went into the tube and then immediately back out of the hole created by the blowout and then, quite hazardously into my face.  Luckily for me, when getting my bike race ready in addition to the Pit Stop I opted to also carry a spare tube.  So what’s a girl to do when plan A doesn’t work?  She has to put on her big girl panties and change the damn tire.  So that’s what I did.  About ten minutes after my date with the rock, I was off and rolling again. Of course while I was doing all of this, the pros that I had managed to reel in had cut the line and raced ahead.

16 miles.  16 short miles. That’s all that stood between me and T2 – where I would find my socks, my shoes, a visor, and the final leg of the race where mechanical issues couldn’t bring me down.  Anyone can ride 16 miles right?

About a mile and a half out from T2 I rode down what can only be described as the ugliest patchwork of asphalt ever called a street.  My heart skipped a beat with every jolt, every bump, and every dip.  The sidewall of my tire was compromised from hitting the rock earlier and if a pothole so much as looked at my front wheel cross eyed I was doomed.  Somehow I managed to make it down said street.  But just as I approached the airport tarmac that made up the last mile of the course, a strip of dirt and rocks appeared where the asphalt had been completely torn away.  I rode over it and… Sssssssss.  Flat. Number. Two.  Only this time?  Not only did I not have race “support”, I didn’t have Pit Stop, and I didn’t have another spare tube.

One mile.  One long mile.  That’s all that stood between me and T2 – where I could finally rack this hobbled machine and get on with the race.  Anyone can run a mile right?

I took off my bike shoes and put them in my left hand (because no one wants to start a half marathon with bloody heels) and I grabbed the saddle of my bike with my right hand and I ran… barefoot, across the tarmac.  Oh and that one pro I had managed to reel in again after flat number one?  She passed me.  Again.  When I finally made it back into transition I was so happy to be there all thoughts of DNFing disappeared.  I had made it this far, what was 13.1 more miles?  All things considered, I managed to turn in a pretty good run split as I tracked down and stalked the girl that passed me during my two flat debacles.  In the end, the final pass of the day would be mine.

While this certainly wasn’t the race I had hoped for, I certainly hope to have this much heart in every race.  Next up?  St.Croix 70.3.  I can’t wait!

Two bare feet… And sweet sweet shoes!

photo (6)


Second Verse Better Than the First

DNF.  Those three little letters strike fear in the hearts of endurance athletes everywhere.  Months and months of training, planning, and organizing culminate in one race and the letters DNF will ruin the whole thing.  On Sunday, I DNFed my first pro race.  Just before the halfway point, after going through a particularly bumpy patchwork of asphalt, my back wheel felt “off.”  I was hoping it was just the gnarly road conditions throwing me for a loop. But, alas, when I pulled over, the disc wheel I was riding was completely flat.  As I started the process of changing it, I hoped that a sag vehicle with a savvy bike tech guy would pull up and fix the flat in no time.  No such luck.  I didn’t break any speed records while changing the flat, but I was able to replace the tube without incident and get back on a working bike.  Unfortunately soon after I pulled over, the four or five pro females that I had been leading zoomed past and more and more age groupers emptied onto what was now a very crowded loop course.  After passing the halfway point, I knew I had a tough decision to make.  Should I continue the race and try to claw my way back into a very deep field of professional athletes for only a few points or should I consider pulling out of the race, avoiding the very challenging run course in order to save my legs to race again another day soon?

As I weighed my options I kept coming back to something my coach told me on a ride soon after we started working together.  We were talking about her experience as a runner and her strategy going into a marathon.  She said that before she starts a marathon she studies the course and plans an escape route.  That is, if things are not going well, she has a place on the course where she can pull out and easily get back to her support crew.  Her logic?  Why compromise your whole season for one race?  When she told me this I honestly thought, “This lady is a crazy person.”  Pull out of a race?!  Pull out of a race voluntarily?!?!?!? No. Way.  Fast forward a couple of years and that is exactly what I did.  I finished the bike leg of the race (because why shouldn’t I get in some sort of workout) and after I got out of T2 I handed my chip over to an official. D. N. F.  My first 70.3 as a professional athlete turned out to be a very real dress rehearsal. And though I am disappointed with the way it played out I learned a lot and I know I made the right decision when I look at the bigger picture.  DNF…  “Did not finish”?  Or “Definitely not finished”?  I choose than latter.  Bring it on.

‘Twas the Night Before…

You know what they say about sleep before a big race?  It’s not the night before that matters.  (For surely that sleep will be fitful and interrupted and stunted by nerves just tingling at the surface waiting to mar your precious rest.)  They say it’s the night before, the night before the big race that matters.  You still have a little buffer before the big event and sweet sweet sleep bestows her graces upon you one more time before releasing you to pre-race jitters.  A few nights ago I experienced the uncomfortable uneasy feeling that I usually only get the night before a big race.  The problem?  I was more than two weeks away from race day.  (TWO weeks!). Why so antsy you say?  Instead of giving into the rest and recovery that lie ahead, I was focusing on “what if”s.  What if Leanda Cave, Mirinda Carfrae, Kelly Wlliamson, Jodie Swallow, and Caitlin Snow all show up at San Juan 70.3 (as they are scheduled to)? What if I have a bad swim?  What if I get lost on the bike course?  What if? What if? What if?  I was so worried about how I was going to perform, I could not fall asleep.

I recently read a great article by QT2 Systems head coach, Jesse Kropelnicki.  In it he describes where athletes typically put their focus and where athletes should put their focus.  According to Jesse in the focus hierarchy, goals should come first, targets second, and outcomes should come third (and last).  Oftentimes we reverse the order of things and become obsessed with the outcome or end result without mastering the first two items on the list.  The problem with that? Outcomes can be largely out of our control, especially if you haven’t worked on achieving your goals (like learning how to pace or developing mental toughness) or worked on hitting your targets (like achieving a certain swim or run pace).  If you work on your goals and targets first your desired outcome is more likely to fall into place.  Obsessing over how we are going to place or if we are going to podium is just wasting energy that could be channelled elsewhere.  If you focus on the process, not the end result, everything changes.  EVERYTHING.  I am so happy that I was reminded of this going into the 2013 season.  Bring on the journey!

Balancing Act

Life is a balance right?  Sometimes it is really hard to fit it all in.  One of the athletes that I work with recently asked me how I fit in training without making my loved ones angry.  Here is a copy of my response to her.  I don’t know that I have this down to a science but there are a few rules I try to live by…

1.  Schedule everything. If it’s important you need to schedule it.  There are many many times when your training will come into conflict with other things you need or want to do (taking a trip, spending time with your family, fulfilling work commitments). What I have learned?  If you want to do it all, you need to schedule your time impeccably.  This often means getting up at 4am to get a session in before work or going for a run when everyone else is taking a nap on Christmas Day.  Want to train? Schedule it.  Want to have a night of cooking with your significant other? Schedule it.  Want to go on a weekend trip and still get all of your workouts in? Schedule. It.

2.  Be open and upfront about your training.  There is nothing worse than when your idea of how your day is going to go and your significant other’s idea of how your day is going to go do not mesh.  Tell him/her in advance what your weekend is going to look like so he/she knows ahead of time that you will be unavailable for a few hours on Saturday or that you will be coming home late because you need to get a swim in.

3. Keep your loved one involved, but not TOO involved.  It’s important that your significant other support you in your endeavors.  Maybe he/she trains with you, or travels to races with you, or helps you plan out your season.  But it’s also important that he/she keeps who he/she is in all of this.  Just because you are doing a half Ironman doesn’t mean your significant other has to train like a fiend.  He/she should still have events/projects/goals that are their’s and only their’s.  If you become too wrapped up in each other’s hobbies, things can get a little too emotional and heated.  You need your things and they need their’s.

4.  Don’t forget your trump card.  Sometimes you have to realize that all of your training is a strain on the relationship.  When you sense that things are getting a little out of whack at home and your loved one misses you or starts asking pointed questions with answers that can only disappoint, play a trump card.  Go to see a movie that he/she likes, go for a walk together even if you are tired, pick him/her up a little something… The possibilities are endless.  Sometimes our loved ones might feel like all we care about is triathlon.  You have to show them that is not the case.

Here’s to fitting it all in!

Shorter is better.


Last weekend Fredericksburg played host to the Endurance Sports Expo.  Vendors like Zipp, SRAM, Skratch Labs, and Newton were all present as were an unbelievable field of speakers and presenters. Brian Walton (an Olympic silver medalist in track cycling), Hunter Allen (a former pro cyclist and power training guru), and Allen Lim (nutritionist and physiologist to a number of Tour de France athletes) were all on hand to share their expertise.  In addition to presenting their own talks, many of these individuals gathered together for an “Ask the Coaches” session that I was lucky to be a part of. It was amazing to hear what all of the coaches had to say.  They gave great advice on everything from key workouts to common mistakes most athletes make.  My favorite response of the weekend came from Hunter Allen when the panel was asked, “Why hire a coach?”  I get this question a lot and I hear all kinds of answers from different coaches.  Hunter’s response was beautiful in its simplicity and succinctness.  “You should hire a coach to shorten your learning curve.” In triathlon where tons of time can be spent on swimming, cycling, running, and learning how to race is there really any time to waste?  Oh and Mrs. Debi Bernardes, coach, mentor, elite athlete, and friend – you rock!  Thank you for continuing to shorten my learning curve.