My journey, though it may be tiring and jam packed full of erroneous mind games, certainly brings a sweet sigh of relief (sometimes). As the dust settles and the medal is draped around your neck, all that can be said is…Hell yea! What’s next? The morning routine, multiple bowel movements, gear bag shuffle and myriad of logistics that tag along with any race are now second nature (16 total races this season). I travel with a carry-on full of necessities and my bike/race gear-nothing more. Awhile back I’d imagined what this lifestyle might feel like; traveling, racing, recovering etc. Now, here I sit with my loose fitting board shorts, compression socks, Team shirt and hat- Headed home from yet another race…. getting mentally ready for the next race in California, 70.3 Vineman. Another big Pro race.
First off, I’m the type of person who focuses on efficiency. The airlines drive me nuts and so does TSA! More notably, people who travel often leave me perplexed while they mill about the airport. Where else is it acceptable to drink at 6:30 am? Only at an airport terminal! Also, we’re so quick to emphasize problem like it’s the only problem occurring at that moment. We will inconvenience hundreds on an aircraft (that’s already running late) with arguments of seat selection or overhead luggage space. What I’ve learned most during this journey is we’re habitual time wasters. I’m guilty of this pretty often. In no way am I saying we’re lazy because our culture is typically always doing something. Too often and in excess. My opinion is, we spend too much time in focusing on “the end”. But what about a mind-set where our decisions leave us an opportunity to take a few deep breathes and appreciate a nice view…or even a smile (and actually mean it). This gray area is tunnel vision. A place where we pile up our “tasks” that we allow too define us. To help re-focus on what matters, before every race, I’ll get as far away as I can from the loudness. Away from the announcer badgering athletes in transition and the endless conversations about how the course was "easier last year"- I get away from all of that. In those few moments before race start, I’ll seriously just breathe and imagine myself falling, light as a feather. This may last 20 seconds, or it may last 5 minutes…who knows. It all depends on where the bathroom is right? I mean come on, race morning means NEVER trust a fart and always know where the crappers are! You’d also be keen to note this…I’ve found many hidden, secluded bathrooms that aren’t overcrowded and “full”.... Wait….you mean you like to stare down a hole full of liquid butt lava? Ok, then stay with the masses! But really, branch out and find your zen moment before a race and know that you can handle anything the course throws your way. This skill has really helped my race focus.
To wrap up this mess of thoughts, let’s remember we love this sport and lifestyle and couldn’t imagine living any other way. I mean seriously, FOCUS on that! Besides working, commuting, eating, sleeping and dealing with this complex society…we’re training 10+ hours a week. We’re a badass culture and trust me, no one will really understand until they’ve lived it. We’re a select few of successful people who grind out a living, raise our kids right and try to live a healthy lifestyle. This blog post is most definitely inspired by my latest race at REV3 Williamsburg.
REV3 Williamsburg..The Pro Race that Wasn't
Since USMES already got us tickets and airfare, we were committed to this race. So when REV3 unexpectedly pulled the plug on the pro race, we had no choice but to follow through in the age group ranks. I can’t complain too much since the significantly aided my 5th place finish…so no big deal, right? The most amazing part of this race was to be welcomed into someone’s home with open arms, open fridge and a set of car keys! (Oh yea, freedom to explore). Yes, Nicholas Sterghos and I were most definitely spoiled by our home stay. My most humble “ THANK YOU” to Alan and Laura (pictured above) for their deep hospitality. They’re the whole package when it comes to family values and are no strangers to hard work. Seeing them interact, support each other and manage two young children was inspiring. It’s just me, Karen and 2 dogs….we’ve got it easy! Anyway, if you’ve ever hosted a pro athlete, you have no idea how much we appreciate your drive to support this wonderful way of life.
For this race, I felt a little awkward racing the Olympic since there was a Half going on but I could go faster so, hell yea. Once finished I thought differently…”Ah yes, I’m already done”. It was a sigh of relief and a warm energy of accomplishment certainly prevailed. No matter the race, finish time or placement…crossing that line just does it for me. So my general thoughts on the race are…”freaking awesome” “jitterbug” “Jay-z” “get off my wheel you dick” “wow, we’re running in the woods” “I’ll never race with a damn Garmin watch again” “Can I run away from this mud butt”? “Please don’t let these fools catch me on the run” “Hey look, my there’s a lot of blood on my shoe”.
Specifics on the race:
Swim: The cannon booms, heart rate soars…and it’s time to find some feet. After I found the feet I wanted, I momentarily lost focus and then it was just me…per the usual. Hearing “4 minutes” down as you exit the water is never awesome. I think my legs have ears though, they knew it was time to work. My heels started hitting my butt, I sense because my legs were planning to kick my ass. HA!
Bike: I Accidentally hit a button on my watch indicating “transition 2”….at the start of the bike (Doh). No power data for me! Oh well, I got this! With foggy glasses and a drive to catch Mr. Sterghos…I took off. For nutrition, I mixed 3 scoops of OSMO and an added Honey Stinger Gel in a bottle. This protocol works best for me during an Olympic race. I charged ahead, leading about 4 guys who were in the “legal” draft zone…By the way! I forgot how easy it is for our amateur field is to draft. From my perspective they were pretty close, but who knows…I saw a ref bike trailing us so I was confident they were at least careful. In the Pro field you don’t even want to be within what seems like a mile…they love handing out the penalties and have different rules. Either way, I was happy to have the 3rd fastest bike split. I knew I worked my butt off to try and gain ground. I didn’t end up catching Nicholas Sterghos but I did see him running out of transition as I pulled in. Time well spent. My hopes were that my competition had to work really hard to hold on (turns out they did). It’s not over til it’s over! No one was gonna run me down!
Run: I knew to take the 1st 3 or 4 minutes at ¾ speed since my body needs that time to re-arrange how it’s activating muscles. Nutritionally I felt fine and after some caffeine, I felt even better. I sipped a gel flask every 2 miles and use the aid stations to splash cold water while using the out and back section to judge how much ground I was gaining…(or losing). Turns out the studs who hung on me wheel dug a little too deep, BOOM…run run run! Finished feeling strong and was overjoyed to know USMES had 2 on the Podium. 5th place was a good day for me. It was also great to know Kathy Rakel took 2nd overall female.
The past few races haven’t been very stellar as far as results go but I know I’m getting more durable and developing some great mental strength. Nutritionally, I’m completely plant powered and have never felt better. The protein hype has been proven to be more of a nervous retreat to a “brainwashed” mentality and I know my body is totally nourished by what I eat….Plants, Nuts, Seeds, Fruit, Legumes. As with everything the devil is in the details. So the caveat would be to always stay whole foods plant based! Duh!!