‘Tis the Season

August 24, 2012 § 7 Comments

So, it’s that time. Early bird pricing for 2013 races are happening – if not already over (which reminds me – have you signed up for Rev3 Knoxville/Quassy/Williamsburg yet??) Those of us with fall races on the horizon  are entering our big pushes in the last of the training blocks, trying to maintain focus on these races while simultaneously planning for next season. It was also around this time 2 years ago where I finished my second iron distance race, and I knew something had to change if I ever wanted to go further in this sport. Flying home from Madison in 2010, I had some time to think. I knew in my heart that I was good. Or rather, I was arrogant enough to believe that I was good even if I didn’t have the results to back it up. But, I also had the realization to know that I couldn’t take myself to the next level on my own. When I got home that week I e-mailed Hillary Biscay.

Looking back, I am so glad that I took the leap of faith and, after talking to her more throughout the weeks, committed to being one of her athletes for the upcoming year. I am writing this blog now because I believe that there could be some people out there reading this who have had that lingering thought in their mind that they should get/want/need/would like to have a coach. For me, that thought was there for about 2 years before I actually acted on it. Back in 2008 I had graduated college and moved to Baltimore, with my first IM on the horizon. I had a couple of friends who pointed me in the right direction and I reached out to handful of coaches. For a few reasons, I never followed through. The financial commitment, not really feeling a connection with the coach, or whatever it was, I decided I could do it on my own.

And then there I was in 2010, still stuck at square one. Two years later though, I’m happy to report that I am leaps and bounds from square one.

Since I am a huge advocate of getting a coach, here are my tidbits of advice for those who are in the market:

Do your research. There are plenty of (current and former) pros and elite age groupers out there who are coaching. Follow them. Go back to as far as you can see results for them and see how they’ve progressed. Find out who coaches them. Find out who they train with. What are their strengths? Weaknesses? When you approach a potential coach, you should know as much about their background as you do your own.

Have your crap together. Don’t just shoot an email and say you’re thinking about getting a coach. Guess what – many of them probably get multiple of those e-mails a week! As much as you should be thinking about if they would be a good fit for you, you also need to make sure you are selling yourself to them. Triathlon is about to become a second job, treat it as such! I have a running/triathlon resume that I keep more up to date than my corporate one. Send that with your inquiry. Make sure they know that you are serious.

Don’t just jump at the first person you can afford, or who is accepting athletes. While Hillary is the best coach for me right now, it doesn’t mean she’s the best for everyone. And it doesn’t mean that she would have been the best for me 2 years ago, or will be in 5 more years. We don’t know that. The important thing is finding a coach for where you are right now. It should be a process, complete with interviews and conversations. Ask them questions, and they should be asking you questions. I went back and forth via e-mail with Hillary several times, and met her in person for coffee. This took months! Be patient, but more importantly – give yourself time to be patient! Start the conversations now if you want a coach for next season. Be honest with them about your expectations, and make sure that you completely understand what they’d expect from you.

Once you have found a coach, go all in. Commit yourself to their plan, and don’t question it. Give honest feedback, but give them all of your trust. Don’t expect results in days, or weeks. Evaluate progress in months and years. If you work hard, you will earn their respect, and you will also earn the respect of everyone else around you who is watching. Enjoy the process, and focus on that – results will come in time.

When you suddenly decide to commit yourself to this sport, it is going to change things, and people will take notice. Suddenly you won’t be going to all the happy hours you’re invited you. You will show up late to parties with wet hair and goggle marks. Your tan lines will never match the bridesmaids dress, ever. All of these things will happen because training will be your priority. And, while many may never say it, people will admire and respect your dedication to your goals. One of the most poignant moments where I realized this was last winter.  After about a year of working with Hillary, the company I was working for began layoffs. Ten percent of the company was gone in a month. As we all know, having a coach is a huge financial commitment, and it was one that I am lucky I afford. But, if I lost the job, I wasn’t sure I could keep being coached. One night I was talking this through with a friend, explaining how nervous I was now everyday going in to work, and how afraid I was of having to sacrifice something that I love and that has made me who I am. This was a friend who knew nothing about triathlon, but always would listen patiently when I talked about my races, and would politely ask how they went after I raced. This was a friend who, prior to working with Hillary, I hung out with about once a week. That dropped to about once a month – even every other month – when I put triathlon at the top of my priorities. After listening to my concerns, my friend looked at me and said “you know what – if you lose your job, I’ll pay for your coach in the meantime. You can pay me back eventually. But this means a lot to you and I believe in you, so don’t worry about that.” I will always remember this gesture by my friend and it was in that moment it became clear that while it is easy to think of pursuing this sport as the most selfish endeavor in the world – you have to think beyond that. My friend didn’t care that I rarely saw them, or that I was usually in bed before they even went out for the night. They cared about seeing me be happy and pursuing my goals. This also goes hand in hand with building a tribe of people of who support you and can be positive influences while you train. You don’t need a huge tribe, but at more than one time has the phrase “it takes a village” come to mind when I reflect on my training.

 How do you prepare for the realities and the unknown? Hopefully you have a mentor, a Bowerman who pushes you at that critical time. A time when someone has a belief in your future more than you do.

-Geoff Hollister, Out of Nowhere

I can’t say enough how happy I am that I finally made the decision to commit to this sport, and step one of that was getting a coach. If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out to me!



August 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

Swimming, more than any other sport, requires a massive training load and consistency to truly evolve into a solid performer. There is no easy way.

– Matt Dixon

If you’re looking for some Friday reading, check out this one by Matt Dixon on Sarah Piampiano’s journey from amateur to professional triathlete. Good stuff!

Carol of the Dells: Christmas in August (A Rev3 Race Report)

August 15, 2012 § 6 Comments

There was no snow on the ground or cookies in the oven, but coming home from Wisconsin this weekend, I had a lot of the same post-Christmas feelings that I do in December. There were a lot of good things waiting under the tree for me on race day, and we’ll get to that, but first I’ll go through the usual routine. You know how your dad always makes you wait at the top of the steps before coming down and seeing the presents? Well, sit down on the top step my friends. Because I have to go get out the video camera, charge it up, and ask you the obligatory “what day is today?” before you’re going to get to the good parts!

Prior to CDA, I had a completely different race lineup for pre-Kona. I planned on maybe a local race in August, Cedar Point (half), then Kona. I wasn’t sure if I was feeling racing a lot, and just wanted to do a big training block with Cedar Point thrown in to get the lead out. After CDA, Coach and I chatted and we switched it up. The plan became “Bike Camp” through the Dells, a quick turnaround before racing again at Rev3 Maine, and then play September by ear. After all the hours of bike camp and a fairly stressful July, the Dells became the light at the end of my tunnel. I put my head down and was grinding away, and before I knew it I had my 3 day (gee, 3 whole days, I am lucky! 🙂 ) taper starting and I was boxing up my bike.

As usual, traveling was no cut and dry ordeal, and I owe a huge thank you to Erin for helping make this trip happen! Erin was doing a 200k organized ride Saturday – but she gave up her Friday evening to pick me up from the airport, help me build my bike, then make the late night drive to Madison where she organized a stay for us at a friend’s house. And then after getting up a 4am and riding 200k through hilly Wisconsin, she came out to the Dells to offer race support and drive me back to Milwaukee…..and then got up early on Monday to take me to the airport. Cannot thank this girl enough!

Erin left early on Saturday morning, but I was able to relax a little bit in Madison which I was really excited about. I slept in a bit, went for a quick spin around Lake Wingra, got some spicy cheese bread at the Farmers Market, and even got in a short jog. I really love Madison and if it weren’t for the harsh winters I think I’d be sold on living there! But it was fun to be back after 2 years away, and hopefully I can make this a yearly trip! Then Erin’s friend Patrick swung through Madison to scoop me and my bike up, and we headed out to the Dells….aka the Midwest Jersey Shore! This town was hopping all weekend, and when it was dinner time we managed to find a quieter Italian restaurant with Maggie.

Sunday morning came and was chilly for those of us living on the east coast these days. But once I put the wetsuit on I was able to stay warm. The swim venue at this race is really neat – you swim from where the Tommy Bartlett water show is. You don’t have to know who TB is – you just have to know that he has a huge amphitheater right on the lake. This made it super spectator friendly, and gave plenty of seating for those of us competing to not be on our legs before the swim. It was a TT start, 2 at a time, and my age group was in the back. By the time I started there were plenty of people in the water and I did my best to just reel in everyone I could one by one. The water could not have been more calm which was a nice treat after the choppy water I had at last week’s OWS (Christmas in August present #1)! On one hand, I felt like I was flying in the smooth water, but on the other hand it did start to feeling like I was flying for many minutes, and I wasn’t too shocked to see 32 on the watch when I came out. But after running into transition, I didn’t see more than a few bikes gone, so I knew that placement wise I was right where I wanted to be.

Knowing that there were a few bikes gone was just the motivation I needed on the bike. Well, that, and the bajillon hours of bike camp I wanted to make good use of 🙂 But seriously, if nothing else the one thing bike camp gave me was confidence. I knew nothing about the course previously. In retrospect, I had plenty of opportunities where people offered to give me details, but my busyness/laziness factor took over and I ended up blindly going in knowing nothing other than people saying it was hilly. Having done IM Wisconsin, and the rides I do at home, I knew hilly was relative. All in all, I would put this course somewhere in between Quassy and Knoxville, more skewed towards Quassy. There were 3 killer climbs, but I did find that there were some open road sections to really hammer as well. We had favorable conditions with it staying cool and cloudy, and the wind wasn’t a factor (Christmas in August present #2). And it was a HUGE boost that Erin made the effort to make it out to 2 places on the course. So awesome! As I was riding out the final few miles I knew I had passed a couple women but wasn’t entirely sure where I stood given the TT start. I decided to swap to my Garmin for the run. As I put my original watch down, I saw that I had to run about a 1:35 to have any prayer of getting under 5 hours.

By the time my Garmin picked up satellites, I was about 1.5 miles in, so I literally had no idea of my cumulative time on the run. But, I knew a pace for a 1:35 was 7-lows, so that was where I was going to try to stay. The run course was a little tight at times, but I really liked the part through the downtown area of the Dells. The backed up traffic offered some cheers from the cars, and some people pumped the jams as I ran by which, coupled with those people out on the streets, was a great boost. You also run right by the upsidedown house, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

My legs felt good…..really good (Christmas in August present #3). I stayed within myself through the whole run, keeping it dialed back until I knew that it was time to let it hurt. With 5 miles to go I opened up and emptied the tank. The final couple hills were tough, but this was definitely a race where I was able to stay in control. Haley has mentioned before that she talks to herself when things get a little rough, and I used that here as well. When I’d start up a hill I’d begin repeating to myself “you are stronger than this hill” over and over and over. And before I knew it, I was at the top. I also *never* look at my Garmin on an uphill. I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that I’m slowing down when I run uphill! It also helped that once again Erin was popping out at random places on the run, keeping me guessing where she’d be! As I ran through the finishing chute, Laura and Eric (two of my favorites from the Rev3 fam) were there to give me high fives, and the burning in my legs let me know I had run a great race.

The only question that remained was my time. As I was catching up with Tara and Kurt afterwards, Kurt pulled the results up on his phone and let me know that I did in fact get the sub-5 time, with a 4:59:27. This is a 6 minute PR for me, but more than that I finally broke that 5 hour barrier – and on a tough course (Christmas in August present #4)! I’d say this bodes well for the things to come. All too soon the fun was over…..but, just like Christmas when you have New Years to look forward to – I have Rev3 Maine in 2 weeks! Bring it on 🙂

Bike camp by the numbers

August 9, 2012 § 9 Comments

1,207 – miles I rode. (Julie guessed it!!) If my ride was indoors I used 16 mph as my conversion.

30 – days of bike camp (July 9-August 8)

20 – number of hours I spent in the saddle in each of the last 2 weeks

4.5 – number of hours of riding I could squeeze in a day while still working from 9 – 6

2 – hours of my longest run off the bike

3- number of live “wild” animals I saw while riding…..2 deer and a raccoon. (National Geographic should be calling me any day for a story, I know it.)

115 – length in miles of my longest ride.

5 – number of times “hey can I ride wit you” was yelled at me while riding through West Baltimore.

7 – minutes faster I am riding my 2 hour loop since the beginning of camp

4 – seconds faster I am running my 400’s since bike camp happened.

As you can see there has been a lot of quality chamois time going on here! This was definitely one of the more challenging training blocks I’ve experienced, but I have no doubt the mental and physical gains are worth it. Goodbye (for now) bike camp!

While I Was Biking….

August 8, 2012 § 5 Comments

If you remember this post, I have been working to reduce my soda consumption lately. One of the suggestions I received was to get a Soda Stream. My roommate, Carly, had other plans. Soda Streams are great – but they are also somewhat limited with what bottles you can use, what you can carbonate, and having to purchase CO2 tanks fairly often.

Why not make our own? Then we could carbonate whatever we wanted….in whatever bottles we want….and a CO2 tank that could make over 1100 liters (so only refilling it every 2 years or so).

Please note that I may say “we” or “our” in this post – but Carly made all the magic happen. All things told, it was about a day of effort to gather the supplies, but putting it together only took about 30 minutes. And this was all for just over $100 – still less than the starter set of the Soda Stream!

For me this past Saturday was another long ride day. For Carly, it was Carbonation Day! I came home to this:

And have been enjoying carbonated (sugar free) beverages ever since! Love it! Thanks Carly!

The Weight of the World

August 5, 2012 § 4 Comments

It was impossible to keep my heart from breaking yesterday morning. I woke up before the sun to catch the women’s Olympic triathlon live and as I watched Paula Findlay’s race crumble beneath her, my heart simply ached. Paula is like the Taylor Swift of triathlon – her young innocence and seemingly overnight success have gathered her a fan base that is nothing short of overwhelming. When Paula crossed the line in last place yesterday, she wasn’t thinking about herself. Mouthing “I’m sorry” over and over as she fought back tears, she was thinking about her fans. About her country. About everyone who believes in her.

Now let’s make a few things clear. I have no idea what it is like to be in the Olympics. I have no idea what it must be like to have your country wearing your name on their shirts (Though I do think ‘Godesky Fever’ doesn’t have the same ring…so when my time comes we’ll have to brainstorm). But I have learned a lot in the past few years as I have turned a corner in my own athletic endeavors. And one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that just because everyone loves Taylor Swift doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a little Kanye in you too.

So, what does that even mean? It means: brush your shoulders off! Haha, okay, that is pretty much the extent of my rapper euphemisms, so don’t worry.

One of the greatest things about the Olympics for me is watching all of the young, bright, shining naive faces of the first-time Olympians. But the other greatest thing is watching the old schoolers – Misty May and Kerri Walsh, Laura Bennett, Hunter Kemper, Dara Torres – the list goes on and on. This isn’t saying that there weren’t moments in their Olympic careers where it felt like the weight of the world was on their shoulders. And that’s not to say that they don’t feel that is so even today – but they don’t show it.  They have a maturity that speaks volumes. They have a swagger . They have that Kanye.

People have been quick to criticize Paula’s coaches. They judge how her coaches have dealt with her injuries and training and that’s the reason that she showed up to the Olympics with legs that weren’t all there. But to be honest – I’m moreso hoping that Paula’s coaches pay attention to the fact that this poor 23 year old girl is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. More than bike rides, swim sets and running miles, that girl needs a hug. She needs the reassurance that win or lose, she’s got us behind her. Paula, I am not alone in saying that I could care less that you were last place. I have loved watching you compete in the past few years, and I love watching you win…..but more than that, I know that your successes have come from hours and hours of work. And THAT’S what I care about.

I’ve learned that in sport it’s great to have some Taylor Swift in you. But there’s also times to have a little Kanye. Here’s to hoping you find that balance, Paula. Take some time to just do you. We’ll be fine, I promise. And in 4 years, I’ll be rooting for you. #Rio2016


Dog Days of Summer

August 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

My mind is going numb these days but I do know one thing is true: if you survive a period of time that is deemed “camp” of any sort by Hillary Biscay, you are going to come out stronger for it! I am hitting a training volume that I never imagined right now during bike camp, but I am happy to report that I have been making big gains and am excited to get in some races in August.

I can barely think enough to blog, but I was inspired this morning as one of my local radio stations was having people call in their “simple pleasures”….so here’s my triathlete version:

  •  An outdoor pool to yourself while the sun comes up.
  • Finding a hidden favorite gel/chew in the pocket of a jersey/shorts/bento box that you forgot about.
  • A newly paved road on your favorite bike route.
  • That moment in a group ride when everyone is content in the pace line and 20 people are working as one unit.
  • Sleeping.
  • Having dinner made for you after a long day of work/training.
  • A bike ride where the bike doesn’t creak or many any weird noises.
  • The moment you open the front door for a run and realize it’s a cool 70 degrees with no humidity.
  • Hitting all green lights on your ride/run.
  • A million hours of Olympics DVRed to watch on the trainer.
  • When the weather is crappy all day when you’re stuck at work, and the moment you leave the sun peaks out.

Happy training everyone! Here’s to hoping you find your simple pleasures 🙂

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