My Triathlon Training and Racing Blog

Friday, April 10, 2015

Race Report: 2015 OCEANSIDE 70.3

I just counted. I have TEN drafts saved on here. Ten potential blog posts from the last few months that I have a put a fair amount of work into and then never got around to finishing them. That makes me sad. Because I truly like to write and share more than just race reports! So here is to a new start and keeping this blog more regularly updated. Not because I think more than five of you care but because I care! And because I have a degree in linguistics after all. So scribbling down grocery lists and workout notes doesn't always cut it.

Photo credit: Katie Morse

I did this race in 2012 and wrote ALL about it here. It wasn't one bit what I had been hoping for (except for that slot to 70.3 Worlds) and I had no desire to go back. So I didn't. But with Leadman 125 no longer an option, I had to reconsider Oceanside. And I am so glad I did!!! What made it so miserable in 2012 was mostly the weather. All winter I had been looking forward to warm and sunny California but race week turned out to be wet, grey, and cold. This time it didn't disappoint and all of my (weather-related) dreams came true!

First thing I did to get ready for this trip was to walk downtown with Max to rent a car. First time in my life that I rented a car! Pretty exciting and so much more fun to drive than our old and beat-up Subaru. That way Karl and kids were able to go on their own adventures while I was in California. Huge thanks to D. Bednar Law Office for making this possible! 

Perfect day for a little ride!

First thing I did in California was to go for a bike ride to the ocean with my home-stay, John! THAT was awesome. I called him when I got off the freeway and he said: "I am about to go for a bike ride." And I said: "Wait for me! I wanna come!" Good thing John is a very patient man because what should've taken 15 minutes ended up taking 45 since I like to drive old-school and figure out where I am going by myself. Which sometimes means I get lost. A whole bunch. But then afterwards I know my way around pretty well! 

My beautiful home for the weekend. 

I have to admit I was a little beside myself on the first day. Or two. Or three. I had pretty much just arrived in paradise and I couldn't get over how people actually LIVE here and don't just burst with happiness every single day. Seriously.

Alga Norte Public Pool 

Next up was a dip in the new community pool just 3 minutes down the road. Talk about a fancy pool! I counted more than 20 lap lanes! And ran into Coeur Sports teammate Andrea which was so fun! Swimming after a long day of driving is simply the best! And a good way to calm down...

The next morning brought more fun and awesomeness! I got up, walked out the front door and through this beautiful little park...

...and - voila - I was at the little neighborhood pool which I had all to myself!

See what I mean? I called Karen about every 3 minutes all weekend long because I had to share this goodness with SOMEONE! (And I was afraid that if I called the husband every time, he would send someone to come get me for fear I was never gonna come back.)

 I could've swum in that nice warm pool all day long. But all I got was 15 minutes and that was ok because I then got to ride my Fuji bike in paradise for a bit.

Definitely not a bad place for some transition training.

Packet pick-up and pro meeting aren't my favorite things to do but considering that this was the venue, it wasn't too bad:

Oceanside Pier and Expo

And it's always fun to meet friends and make new ones. I had brought my wet suit (which I hadn't worn since November) hoping to take a quick dip in the ocean to get a feel for things but then I chickened out all by myself and figured race-morning would be soon enough.

The kid at packet pick-up gave me this lucky bag, so I figured nothing could go wrong now!


First one in transition. Just the way I like it. Plenty of time to get everything organized, warm up, chat with friends, and wait in line to use walk straight into the port-a-potty that says Female Pros Only. Yep, it's the little things that get me excited! I even had time to make a new friend as we were squeezing ourselves into wetsuits. I really do love all of the girls I get to race with!

Photo Credit: Triathlete Magazine

The Swim - 29:42 (1:32/100m)

Water was 10 (!) degrees warmer this year than in 2012! That made me happy. However, the pro men got 10 minutes to warm up in the water and we only had about 3. I had figured as much and planned accordingly by bringing cords to warm up with on land but what a disappointment when it comes to gender equality in this sport!

I had a hard time figuring out where to position myself since the kayak trying to keep us in line seemed to take up half of the space between the buoys. And so I promptly found myself in the wrong spot when the gun went off. Sort of in no-man's land from the beginning. Which made for a very calm start but not a very happy Coach afterwards. And - WHY didn't you find a group to swim with in a rather large field? - Ahem, well, I sort of messed up the start. I get worried about having an anxiety attack at the beginning of the swim and suffocating in the water. - And you are trying to race as a Pro? Get your act together! Ok. These weren't her EXACT words but... pretty much.

The good news is that there was PLENTY of oxygen in the air! When you are used to swimming at 7,000ft and come down to sea level, everything at least breathing seems much easier! So I found a good rhythm and kept the group ahead of me in sight and half-way to the turn-around I could tell that I was making up time on them! And by the turn buoy I had caught up, took the very shortest line around, and found myself right behind the girls leading the pack! Talk about a fun ride all the way back to the end! I was LOVING it.

Overall, I am happy with how it went. Mostly because I felt like I had burned ZERO mental matches due to the calm start and swimming back with a little pack. The time is decent but improvable. And I had a LOT more fun than last time.

Lesson learned: 

Be smarter and more aggressive at the start! You can actually swim with (some of these) girls, so you'd better be ready to hit it when the gun goes off! And, no, you will NOT die if someone touches you or if you swallow a bit of water. Even if it might seem like it.

T1 - 3:07

I was super happy to see that I came out of the water right behind Sarah P, Liz L, and Laura S! I consider that some pretty good company. And, boy, were they SPRINTING down and back up that long transition. Like - all out! I was already trying to hang on for dear life and we hadn't even gotten on the bike yet!

Luckily I transitioned well except for the snafu with the race belt we needed to wear on the bike already. Only took me - oh - 25 tries to close it with my cold hands.

Considering that I always put my shoes on BEFORE I get on the bike, I was happy to get out of T1 right with the other girls. And here is proof that you can do a decent mount WITH your shoes already on your feet: 

Photo Credit: Tri Club California

The Bike - 2:31:59 (22.11 mi/h)

Same issue as last time: WHAT to do with the sunglasses? It was super foggy again and the glasses were a mess. No matter how hard and often I tried, I couldn't see a thing through them. It could've easily pissed me off because I HATE riding without sunglasses, but I stayed surprisingly focused and eventually gave up. Sunglasses in the bra it was. Another reminder of how much I truly love racing in the DESERT! 

Sarah P disappeared into the distance rather fast but I was feeling quite fine riding behind Liz and Laura. UNTIL the fog started to affect my brain after about 5 miles and I was thinking: Who do I think I am riding with these girls? I am not in their league and I'd better let them go because... well, I am just not as strong as they are. I will try to stay with whoever comes by next. 

Now THAT was a mistake. Because no one ever came by! And by 'ever' I mean not for another 38 miles! At which point we had been climbing some hills and I was seeing a few girls up ahead that I was closing in on. And the first male age grouper had caught up to me. But 38 miles is a HECK of a long time to be riding completely solo in a race! I will give myself some credit for staying pretty focused and not letting it affect me too much. At least I didn't have to worry about any penalties! And seeing how there weren't NEARLY enough hills for me on this course, I am super excited for St. George 70.3. I love me a hilly bike course! 

Lesson learned: 

Do NOT let girls get away simply because you decide you can't ride with them. Try to (legally) hang on and see what happens. SO WHAT if you die on the run? Find out what your limits are and then reassess. 

Photo Credit: Katie Morse 

The Run - 1:34:41 (7:13/mi)

Well, THAT certainly wasn't the run I was hoping for! And, yes, I still dislike the run course just as much as I did back in 2012. And I am not even sure why! I mean, who doesn't like to run along the ocean?!? But lest you think it's flat - it's NOT! Nor is it hilly. I don't know WHAT it is. But I do know that this run course and I don't get along. So there. 

I have a feeling that Coach thinks I had already decided to hate the run (again) before I even started it but I honestly don't think that was the case. I was trying to give it my best shot but my best just wasn't very good that day. And I am ok with that. I know that I didn't give up on myself and (unlike 2012) I have no regrets. I did what I could - mentally and physically - and that's all I can ask of myself. 

One thing that did perform flawlessly was my Coeur kit. Just love it! 
Photo Credit: Katie Morse 


Post-race went like this: 

Oh, hey, Gregg! Thank you so much for coming down and cheering for me! Did you bring your swim shorts? Let me run to my car and get my bikini and then let's swim in the ocean, shall we? 

I did grab a few bites to eat and chatted with some of the other girls but then it was straight to the beach and into the waves! Best warm-down ever! The waves washed away any traces of disappointment that I may have had regarding the race and I came out of the water happy and grateful. It was so much fun! Thanks, Gregg! 

Not a bad place to hang out and wait for John to come home and tell me all about his first 70.3. Them I was off to find my way over to Encinitas for a Coeur Sports get-together which was, of course, fantastic! So fun to meet such a great group of people! And, by the way, their gear this year is THE BOMB! 

John and his daughter

John did fantastic and it was fun to share race stories. His wife and daughter had come to cheer him on and found me as well. Thanks for the cheers! In case you can't tell, I COMPLETELY lucked out with this amazing home-stay family. I am so grateful to Ironman for hooking us up and to the Rollins Family for hosting me. It was a weekend in paradise! Thank you! 

A huge Thank You to my fantastic sponsors:

Coeur Sports - The BEST in women's athletic wear

 T3 Triathlon - My FAVORITE triathlon shop

Fuji Bikes - In LOVE with my Norcom Straight

Zoot Shoes - My shoes of choice since 2008

Cobb Saddles - Most COMFORTABLE saddle ever

Osmo Nutrition - Hydration at its BEST

Tifosi Sunglasses - I wear them every single day! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

A little adventure in a GRAND CANYON

Sunset at the Canyon

With Ironman behind us and Thanksgiving break upon us, it was time to do some more exploring of the Grand Canyon!!! The GC is basically in our backyard, only a short 75-minute drive away from our home in Flagstaff. My last GC adventure consisted of a 180-mile bike loop from my house to the South Rim, along the rim, and back home. That day was super fun but now it was time to spend a few quality days as a family and to get down into the canyon. 

(Rim-to-river-and-back report is further down if you want to skip the family part...)

Love this place!

I mean: Who doesn't want to run to the bottom of all of this awesomeness
Especially when there's water down there? 
(A lake? A river? A waterfall? A puddle? Count me in!) 

But first my shopping buddy, Max, and I had some grocery shopping to do while Noah opted to stay home alone and read. So we bought lots of healthy Thanksgiving food and a big can of whipped cream just for fun. Partly because Max insisted, partly because canned whipped doesn't exist in Germany and so I was going to pretend I am Max's age and spray some lots in MY mouth as well! 

Gross yumminess! 

Wanna know how most all of our family hikes into the Canyon go? 

We have fun up at the rim and goof around:

Wow. A family picture! 

The kids run/roll/fall down the trail at lightening speed and I don't get any pictures. 

Eventually we take a break, have a snack, take some pictures: 

We keep going down. Then something happens. This time Noah fell and hit his head on a rock. So we take a long break during which the kids suddenly get VERY tired

Once we give in and decide to turn around, they suddenly realize how far UP they have to go. Max throws a temper tantrum and refuses to walk one. more. step:

We are Karl is extremely patient and comes up with all sorts of fun games to keep the kids entertained and going. When that doesn't help anymore, we resort to our last trick - candy! It works like this: 

 I hike ahead and hide two gummy bears somewhere on the rocks and they have to come and find them. It works like a charm! Suddenly there is no more complaining. Just happy faces: 

a gummy bear in hands = happy Max

It took a total of 12 gummy bears to get them back to the top. So the sugar high was minimal. 
Good times all around. 

Ok. Not really. Max started to get sick Wednesday afternoon on the drive there and then threw up a whole bunch of times that night. Otherwise he seemed fine so we were blaming the giant can of whipped cream. Until he told us that one of his friends at school had thrown up in the middle of the carpet on Tuesday. Oh boy! Sure enough, Noah and Karl got the stomach bug Friday night and all Saturday. Not such good times but they rallied and we still had fun! 

I got in one morning run along the rim and the sunrise was spectacular:

can't get enough of this view

We stayed in a small apartment that belongs to Karl's friend, who is a wildlife biologist in the park but was with his family in Flagstaff, which worked out so well! Not a fan of winter camping! The neighbor had a super nice dog the kids loved and we took for a few walks: 

sweet Maggie and my boys

Thursday night it was time to plan my little running/hiking adventure! It's sad but I had never been down to the bottom of the Canyon. Not sure why. Just never made it to the top of my priority list, I guess. And, I have to admit, steep long trail runs like that make my legs ridiculously sore because I don't do them often enough. So, naturally, I had made plans to run rim-to-rim-to-rim (also known as a Grand Canyon double crossing) in one day. All or nothing, right? I live in some sort of distorted world where everybody I know that goes to the Canyon does rim-to-rim-to-rim. So, needless to say, this spectacular adventure is on my bucket list and I only have about 5 more months to check it off! 

But - I didn't do it. It wasn't Go big or Go home this time around. Because, after all, it is my off-season and I can do whatever the heck I want during those few weeks. And I can change my mind and back out of things even if it hurts my pride. It kills me to say I am going to do something and then not follow through. So hard for me. Which is why, if I am not sure I actually have the guts to do something, I announce my plans to a few friends and then there is no way out. Works well for me! 

But, for this one, I had enough reasons (I am not going to call them excuses...) to be content with cutting my voyage into half. Besides the fact that it might be a good idea to just to down-around-up before going down-over-up-down-over-up and get a better idea of what you are in for, my body wasn't fully recovered from Ironman and neither was my mind. I just didn't feel like dealing with more logistics, nutrition, hydration, getting up at 3am, and getting to the point where I may not be having fun anymore. Plus, I would like a buddy or two for the big trip...

So this was the revised plan

1) Bike to the Bright Angel bus stop

It was dark and freezing and I had trouble finding the actual bus stop. Barely made it in time. Also, turns out that biking with two hand-held bottles is a bit tricky... 

2) Catch the 7am express shuttle 

Bus was nice and warm all 8 of us became friends and shared stories. But it still took too long (about 30 minutes). Should've run the extra 5 miles along the rim trail. Next time... 

3) Down South Kaibab Trail

Wow! A cold, quiet, absolutely gorgeous morning in paradise! Only encountered a few other hikers. Took it easy on the downhill. I was running but certainly not fast. I really took in the beauty of the Canyon and let it sink into my soul. 

4) Cross the Colorado

Nothing like running through a small rock tunnel, crossing a fast and furious river on a tiny bridge, and finding yourself at the very bottom of a 6,000ft canyon. Amazing! 

5) Explore the campground and Phantom Ranch

I wasn't in any hurry. So I ran around the campground and found a lovely spot for our little backpacking tent once the kids are old enough to hike down here AND back up. Which will hopefully be by June... Phantom Ranch is pretty cool too and I wouldn't be opposed to staying there either... 

cannot WAIT to pitch my tent here

6) Check out North Kaibab Trail and Clear Creek Trail 

I still wasn't ready to head back up, so I ran a few miles on North Kaibab and a bit on Clear Creek. Running along the creek was so nice! Water makes all the difference to me and I decided to finally stop for a second and get my phone camera out of my pack. I don't mind going slow but I hate stopping, especially when it's cold. And cold it was! In my head it was going to be nice and warm down there. Warm enough to want to cool off in the creek. Haha! Not so much. I was in the shade for  the entire run (maybe 10 minutes of direct sun) and never really got warm. It was still gorgeous though! 

7) Come back across the Colorado

I was sad to leave. I am so coming back to camp down here for a few days. It's a promise, Karl! But NOT in the winter. 

8) Run/hike up Bright Angel Trail 

I like this trail better than South Kaibab. Especially the bottom half where you are running next to (and sometimes through) Pipe Creek and then Garden Creek. So fun and pretty! 

It just gets prettier and prettier up to Indian Garden. Water, green, leaf trees, fall colors, awesome trail, HEAVEN! 

If the kids can't make all the way down by June, I think I would be fine to just hike to Indian Garden and camp there next year. It's that nice! 

Then my phone died, the trail got steeper and more crowded, and I was still having a blast. It was fun from beginning to end! 

I have absolutely no intentions on setting any speed records in this amazing place. Not this time, not next time, and not when I do rim-to-rim-to-rim. It's all about finding my happy place and taking in as much of this beauty as possible. Enjoying the journey. 

Sorry. No selfies. Both my phone and I suck at selfies. And I still can't stand the thought of someone catching me taking a selfie. But in case you are wondering, here is what I had with/on me: 


Tri shorts by Coeur*: Loved them. Yes, I realize they are made for running AND biking and thus have a thin fleece chamois but they are my favorite shorts for running. And I love the pockets in the back which will even hold my phone in place nicely without bugging me. And, believe me, I get bugged easily. 

Compression Socks by Coeur*: I don't wear compression socks in public places. But I figured the Canyon isn't really a public place. Haha. And it wouldn't hurt on that long and steep downhill. They added some warmth and kept the rocks and dirt away from my feet. 

Tank top by Zoot: I figured by the time I got down there, it would be so warm I would want a tank top. Haha! Still turned out to be a good choice in combination with the arm warmers. 

Arm warmers: I didn't want to futz around with arms warmers that slide down, so I wore my makeshift ones. Just get a pair of knee-high socks and cut off the toe part. Voila. Easy and cheap. 

Light jacket: Found this one at H&M in Germany. Perfect choice since it provided plenty of warm and then still fit into my tiny backpack. 

Gloves: The super cheap ones from Target. Definitely needed those since I was using hand-held bottles. 

(*Random lady I was passing: Hey, you. Ironman was last weekend. Me: I know. I did that one too. Lady laughs: Of course you did! Haha. Looks like I am not going to pass as a cool trail runner chick anytime soon!)


The Zoot Ali'i 14 is one of my favorite running shoes. It's obviously not made for trail but it turned out to be the perfect choice. Just enough grip and lots of comfort while being light. My issue with trail shoes is that they are usually rather heavy. I own about 3 pair and dislike all of them. 


I used two of Karl's Handhelds with my T3 Triathlon bike bottles in them which was plenty. More than enough actually. I would've been fine with just one since it was cool all day and I was able to refill at Phantom Ranch and at Indian Garden. Still nice to have extra though. 

I also had a tiny old CamelBak on that someone handed down to us recently. That's about all I can handle and if it doesn't fit in there, I am not bringing it. Worked out great. 


One bottle of OSMO pre-load on the way down. Two bottles of OSMO active.  Two bottles of plain water. 
Two Think Thin bars. Because those taste the best! 
An apple. 

That's it. After almost two weeks of eating whenever and whatever I wanted to, that's all I needed for a five-hour run/hike. Actually, one bar would've been plenty but, like I said, they just taste so good! I also had rice crackers, veggies, a gel, and some chews with me just in case. 

Now that I have a few things figured out, I can't wait to do rim-to-rim-to-rim. It's gonna happen. Believe me. The plan is to do it in May after 70.3 St. George. The WHEN is sort of up to Coach, just not the IF. 

So if you want to join me, I am going to accept applications starting in January ;)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Race Report: IRONMAN ARIZONA 2014

This novel of a race report needs a little foreword, so here we go: 

I just poured my heart and soul into this blog post. Something I don't do often. Or ever. Because it makes me vulnerable. But I realize that it's necessary. Not because YOU need to know what went down on Sunday but because I need to understand. I don't have all of the answers but I have done a lot of introspection and soul-searching to figure out what happened. And that is a little miracle in itself because, as Karl can attest, I am not a fan of introspection. And, yes, I realize that this is JUST a race. And yet it's so much more! Which is why this post turned out so ridiculously long. Sorry! So, if you decide to read this, please be kind and understanding even if none of this makes any sense to you. Thank you! 

Photo by Kerry Yndestad

Wow! WHAT a weekend! WHERE to start? 

In all of my 17 years of racing triathlon, I have never had a race fall to pieces


Sure, I've had many races not go according to plan. I mean, when do they ever? I've had flat tires, struggled with stomach issues, been angry and disappointed, gotten off course, bonked, and raced sick. But I have always rallied, made the very best of the situation, and walked away with a satisfying result. I LOVE racing and I KNOW how to put together a good race no matter the circumstances. I can rely on my strengths and know I am not going to let myself down on race day. 

Or so I thought. 

Sunday was different

I just know that some of you are thinking: Oh good! Finally. Sarah Jarvis had a bad race! It's about time!!! And it makes me smile. Because: You are right!!! It's about time things weren't going my way AT ALL in a race and I had to figure out how to keep going anyway. It was a chance to look deep inside of myself and see what I am made of.

That's the beauty of Ironman:
It's gonna strip down your appearance, expose your weaknesses, reveal your character,
... and leave you to deal with the mess.
(Apparently, I deal with the mess by crying. Who would've thought?)

At the end of the day, this was NOT a bad race. I just sucked on the marathon. I courageously lined up with the Pros, raced my first Ironman 140.6, and walked away with a PR. I finished what I started and I've never been prouder of crossing a finish line!

 This year was all about getting this ship of mine out of its little harbor.

In my little triathlon harbor I raced the Olympic and 70.3 distance as an age grouper with great success. It was good and safe fun. But I wanted to explore the open sea a bit by getting (back) to the long stuff. However, there was no way I could take even more money out of our small budget for this already ridiculously expensive hobby. So I had two options: Stay in the safe harbor and keep playing the same game. Or venture out into the middle of the ocean, get my Pro card, race Ironman, and see if this ship of mine is sturdy enough to survive the storms.

And, I am happy to report, the answer is: YES!!!

It's not going to win races anytime soon (if ever) but it's also not going to sink. And, let me tell you, it's been a fantastic ride out on those waves and I am not ready to come back in!

Photo by Kerry Yndestad on Slowtwitch

As you can probably tell by now, this is going to be a rather lengthy race report. (Karl: What? You've been working on this post for hours now and haven't even gotten to the start of the race?!? Ahem. Yes. Oops.)  So if you just want to have a quick look at the results and move on with your day, go ahead. I can't blame you. You are excused! ;)

Yes. I placed 14th Pro out of 17. Lots of room for improvement here! And, let's be honest, 4 age group girls posted faster times than I did. All of these chicks ahead of (and behind) me are super studettes and I really don't mind them kicking my butt! It's what I signed up for after all! I just hope I won't make it as easy for them to pass me on the run next time! But, hey, I made it onto BOTH of the Slowtwitch IM AZ Pro galleries (here and here), so I count that as a win! ;)

Words of Wisdom by one of my favorites. So true!


Things were going well. Really well. Granted, right after the race that didn't happen at Lake Tahoe I got pretty sick and it took me a long time to recover from it. I missed some quality workouts but, after the Soma Half went really well, I was not worried about it anymore. I figured there might be some coughing during IM AZ but overall I would be fine. And, hey, I can do anything while coughing by now including swimming and eating, so I was set! 

beautiful riding on the way home from Tahoe

I had gotten in plenty of good riding up here in Flagstaff, on my own and with the crew. Love riding my bike and love my biking buddies! (Sometimes I dream of being a cyclist rather than a triathlete...) The swim is the swim but the last few weeks before the race I wasn't feeling like complete crap in the water anymore, so I took that as a good sign! And the running? I am still stoked about some of the long runs I was able to pull off and, believe me, that doesn't happen very often. Flagstaff has such a wealth of world-class runners that we get to mingle with weekly that inspiration is never far off. I finally regained some confidence and was ready to prove to myself that I can run a good marathon off the bike. 

Ironman Arizona was going to be my fourth 140.6 event but my first WTC Ironman and I was absolutely thrilled! After Challenge Roth in 2007, HITS Lake Havasu Full last November, and Vineman Full this summer, (I thought) I was ready to try to actually RACE this distance rather than just finish decently. Vineman went well with a 10:13 on a hot day and with less than ideal training, so there was hope. The plan was to go sub-10 which I thought was totally doable barring any major mishaps. I also had a I-am-not-going-to-post-this-on-social-media-because-it's-way-too-personal-risky-and-lofty goal which was to go 9:40. It was on my bathroom mirror. It was simple: swim 1:00, bike 5:10, run 3:20. Include 10 minutes for transitions. BAM! 


I believed that if things came together really well and if I could find some Race Day Magic out there, I would have a good chance of nailing it. And I still think so! 

Why aim so high

Because sub-10 wasn't the challenge I was looking for on Sunday. For some reason, although this was basically my IM debut as a Pro, I didn't want to play it safe. I needed something that would force me to get WAY out of my comfort zone. Something that would make me have to dig deeper than I ever have. Something where failure was a strong possibility. 

One of the best things last weekend was that my friend, P Bless, let me stay at his house before the race. Not only was he also racing IM AZ as a Professional but we both grew up in Germany, as little* triathletes back in the 90s, until we came to the US in college. Good times!!! He also happens to be one of the kindest guys around with a ton of racing experience, so - needless to say - I enjoyed the stay and learned a ton! Vielen herzlichen Dank, P!   

*Ok. So I was a little nobody and he was hot stuff winning National Titles with his team every year. But who is keeping track anyway? ;) 

I am almost wondering if things were going too well. I didn't lose it during taper. I almost lost it during taper but then pulled myself together and tried to act like a Pro. I had a couple new body issues come up and, although he wasn't happy and kept calling it a shit show*, Dr. AJ Gregg kept his calm and  (with the help of his awesome brother, Dr. Wes) we were able to get things back under control. A big thanks also to Stephanie and Shea for helping me to feel pretty confident in my body by race day!  You guys are the best! I was as certain as one can be before Ironman that my body wasn't going to give me any good excuses for not going after my goal! The last couple of days before the race were smooth, calm, fun, and a good mix of talking to friends and quiet time. Just what I needed! 

*Thanks a lot, AJ, for putting that word into my head! It kept haunting me during the race... 

Thursday. Sent Karl and the kids off to school. Got stuff ready for their weekend of soccer. Was super sad that I had to miss yet another soccer tournament. Because who doesn't want to sit in the warm sun chatting with friends and watching their son do what he loves? Threw a whole bunch of triathlon crap and food into the car. Talked to family and friends on my drive down to the Valley. Was so excited!!! Rode my bike, ran, swam, ate, slept.

ready for a little pre-race ride

 Friday. A little bike ride to the pool because I just can't get ENOUGH of swimming outdoors! I miss it so much already! Packet pick-up: Nice and quick. Pro meeting: The usual. Plus a looong reminder NOT to urinate in public. I am always amazed by how friendly, down-to-earth, and ridiculously fit the other girls are! It's such a cool group of chicks and I am looking forward to getting to know more of them! Another little bike ride. Sunshine, warmth, low elevation, and riding my bike makes me so very happy! Dinner. A whole lot of futzing around with race gear and nutrition. A (for me) late night because I just wasn't tired enough to go to sleep no matter how hard I closed my eyes! No pre-race anxiety, just a whole lot of EXCITEMENT!

Saturday. One last short swim-bike-run thingy in perfect weather. Lunch. Bike and gear bag drop-off. A little visit with my coaches, Heath and Mahogani, who had driven down from Utah for the race and I LOVED seeing them! I was determined to make them proud and show them how much I appreciate their support during the race. Well, I certainly failed in that regard but I am still super grateful for them! Dinner. More futzing around. A dip in P's permanent ice bath. So nice! Found out that Noah played well, scored some goals, and won both games today! Family was doing great and having lots of fun. I missed them and was more grateful than ever for a capable, willing, and loving husband. A snack. Bedtime. No sleep. Dangled my feet in the ice bath some more and - voila - slept great until the alarm went off at 3am.

I love race morning and I (have come to) love the big races! 3,000 friends about to undertake a huge challenge. It was great seeing those I already know and meeting a few more of you! Thousands of friendly and helpful volunteers. Couldn't do it without you! Even more enthusiastic fans and supporters. You guys rock! And I was in the middle of it, happy as a clam, not really worried about a thing, just excited and a bit nervous to see what the day was going to bring and hoping I had what it would take to make it a success! It was great to have P as my partner in crime over the weekend but especially on race morning. We each did our thing but it can get a bit crazy and it's so nice to have a good friend around. Thank you!!! 

The Swim

I remember thinking: Wow. This is SO FUN! I am loving this swim! I feel pretty good! But I sure hope the swim isn't going to be the highlight of this day! Well, you never know what you're gonna get during Ironman, so you might as well enjoy the good times while they last!

I do as Coachie instructed and line up with the biggest group of girls in hopes there will be someone I could hang with. As usual, (most) everyone is super nice before the start and there is some friendly pre-race chatter. I don't really feel like I am a part of the group (yet) but I also don't feel out of place. Mostly, I am just in awe. Of everything and everyone. How did I get so lucky?!?

Age group start. Ours was NOTHING compared to this craziness!

The cannon BLASTS and off we go. I go hard but not too hard and nobody touches me. Yes! We are close but not too close and it is as smooth of a swim start as it possibly could be! Nothing like the age-group mass start 10 minutes after us. And there is oxygen in the air! Living and training at 7,000ft sucks a lot of the time but comes in quite handy for swims at low elevation. And so I swim along happily with a few girls around me. After the turn-around there are two of us left but the other girl keeps pulling left and hitting me. Great! Just what I was hoping for! We have this whole lake and she is basically on top of me trying to push me to the wrong side of the buoys. I speed up, no luck. I slow down, no luck. I start hitting back, bingo! She drops back and gets on my feet. Fine by me. So I swim back with no one in sight but still having fun!

Just as I near the finish and try to figure out how to best get out of this lake and up those ridiculous steps, my watch beeps. One hour. Yes! I even make it up the stairs without biffing it in front of hundreds of spectators. That is a small victory in and of itself!

The next few minutes, from the swim exit to mile 1 of the bike, are AMAZING! I hear so many people cheering and yelling my name, it's incredible and puts a HUGE smile on my face. I can even pick out some dear friends and - wow - I am a lucky girl for sure!

Coeur teammate and friend, Jeana, cheering for me. Photo by Erin Klegstad

Transition goes well. Not the fastest with all that running but I get through it quickly thanks to the great volunteers! I have a hard time stuffing all of my crap into my wet back pockets so into my top it goes. Lots of room for salty balls, a Bonk Breaker, OSMO single refills, and a gel in there. Sometimes a rather flat chest comes in handy! It seems like a great solution until I see pictures after the race and think: Would you stop putting so much crap in your bra!!!

The Bike

I was ready to bike my little heart out while leaving enough in the tank for a speedy marathon. Turns out that is much easier said than done! Once I get organized and everything is in the right place, I put my head down, get to work, and think: FINALLY! I get to ride my bike as long and as hard as I want to! There aren't a whole lot of things that make me happier! And so I may have gotten carried away a bit and started out too fast. Not sure. It certainly didn't FEEL too hard. But I am learning that, while I can (and like to) race shorter distances according to feel, it doesn't seem to be working so well for Ironman. I have yet to upload my Garmin and analyze the data. Except that there isn't a whole lot to see because I ride without a power meter or heart rate monitor...

I pass a couple of girls early on and am catching up to Mackenzie Madison. She and I end up doing at least half of the ride 'together' and it's great to have someone in sight to keep me honest, motivated, and in check. I am definitely not a fan of the bike course itself (3 times going out and back through (the outskirts of) town and along the Beeline Highway) but on the 1st lap I am thinking: This isn't too bad! This is FUN! I ride back to the turn-around by transition which is the BEST part of the course because there are TONS of spectators and friends cheering. Including my favorite, Karen, who is jumping up and down on the side of the road like a crazy person! Love it!

coming through town

I am ready to tackle the 2nd lap with a big smile on my face. The wind is picking up and the course is now crowded with age-groupers but it's not nearly as bad as I had feared. Every time a race official comes by on the motorcycle they give me a thumbs up which is very helpful. I know I am doing my best staying away from any sort of drafting but it's nice to have the officials acknowledge that. And, for once, I don't give crap about what anybody else is doing. Just focusing on my own race. I keep asking myself: What can I do RIGHT NOW to make sure I have a great race? The answer varies but not much: eat, drink, take some salt, eat, drink, keep up cadence, eat, drink, get more aero, push and pull... The eating and drinking gets old really fast and even I, who doesn't ever have a problem stuffing her face, get tired of it. 

We pass a couple of Pro girls just after the half-way point, then Uli Bromme comes flying by us, Mackenzie goes with her, and I have to let them go. A bummer but no big deal. I keep the pressure on and fly back to town with the wind in my back. SO MUCH FUN! It's really windy by now but I have only one more lap to go and am still feeling great. What? Only one more lap? These miles are flying by! I am not ready to get off my bike anytime soon. Oh boy! Little do I know what's awaiting me on that 3rd lap...

This girl definitely needs to figure out a way to get more aero while keeping her glute/hip/hamstring happy!

Winds are horrendous on the way out of town. All I think is: I like challenging conditions! And I usually deal with them really well, so I am not worried. When I make the turn to go up Beeline for the 3rd time, I am ready: Stiff headwind? Bring it!!! You're not going to get me down. I can do ANYTHING for 10 miles and when I get to that turn-around I am going to be FLYING back home. This is going to be a shit show and I am going to OWN it!

Haha. Not so much!

I am still not sure exactly what happened during those 10 miles but my mental state went from good to bad to ugly rather quickly. Ok. You might be going slow but so is everyone else. Just keep at it. - What is wrong with you? You are barely passing the age groupers. Get on with it. - Keep your head down and stay aero. Just keep moving forward. - Who do you think you are racing as a Professional? You are going 14 mph. This is NOT considered racing. - This hill is never ever going to end. How long can it possibly take to ride 10 miles? - How can these age group men be so strong in this ridiculous wind? - Take it one mile at a time and think positive. - What?!? 5 more miles? You've got to be kidding me! I am never going to make it. And so I beat myself up mentally for a good hour or so. I try to be kind to myself but the negative voices are stronger. 

still climbing into that headwind... 

 When I finally make it to the top, I am about to have my first of many cries today because I realize that I have nothing left. Zero. The tank is empty. Those 10 miles chewed me up, spit me out, and suddenly I get scared because, heck, I still have a marathon to run! Yikes!!! 

And THAT is how fast things can change in an Ironman.

Ok. Calm down. I have 18.5 miles to get my crap together before I am getting off this bike. I do everything I can to be on top of my nutrition and hydration, gather myself, put the last hour behind me, move on, and - most importantly - get to a better place mentally. Nothing I haven't done before. But this time it's not working so well. I am really only 3 minutes off my goal pace in the end but that means nothing. When pulling into transition, I am still wondering where and how I am going to find the physical and mental strength to tackle this marathon that I had been so excited for!

Never have I been in such doubt during any of my races. NOT GOOD. 

The Run

This marathon will go down in the history of SJ racing as both a complete disaster and tremendous victory. Yep. Both. Simultaneously. And here is why. 

It's going to get hard. Really hard. No doubt. Whether you are having a great day or a shitty day. It's what we sign up for, what we train for, what we anticipate and (secretly) love. But there are different kinds of hard. There is the I-am-deep-in-the-pain-cave-but-this-is-my-happy-place-and-although-it-hurts-like-hell-I-am-nailing-it hard. And then there is the Every-single-step-is-a-struggle-and-I-have-no-idea-how-to-keep-going-because-this-is-no-fun-at-all-and-I-suck hard. And there is a HUGE difference between the two. The first feels like FREEDOM and the second like a PRISON you can't break out of. 

The first mile was a mess. Ok. No big deal. Get to the first aid station and regroup. Fix all of the little things that are bugging you and you'll be good to go! Clearly, there is no way you're going to feel like this for the next 4 hours, so don't worry! I approach the empty aid station, point at a super enthusiastic girl and say: I need you! She laughs but I am like: No. Really. I need you to clean my sunglasses while I am going pee. I hurry and add a Please! before disappearing in the port-a-potty. When I get out she hands me my clean glasses. Thank you!!! Besides wanting to be able to see clearly and having to pee really badly*, I am in desperate need of some vaseline for my chapped lips but no one can find it and I am not willing to wait, so off I go. A minute down the road, some super nice guy comes sprinting up next to me and hands me vaseline on a stick. Thanks again!!! Volunteers are the best! So now I am all set. Ready to hit the reset button and get my run on!  

But - NO LUCK. 

*Yeah, I know. What Pro actually pees in a port-a-potty? Not me! But I needed a few seconds in a dark and quiet place. And at this point they were still pretty clean. Also, I couldn't really let it go on the bike and, after the head referee gave us a stern talking to about peeing in public, I was a bit apprehensive...

How I am HOPING to look on the run. 

When I posted the above picture of me running at the Soma Half four weeks ago, my friend, Therese, commented and said: How do you manage to look cool, comfortable and HAPPY at that pace? The answer is: Because I WAS! It was hard but I was in my happy place and feeling free! And that's how I was hoping expecting to feel this time around as well. (At least for the first 15 miles or so.) That feeling is the VERY REASON I love triathlon! 

But don't be fooled, you need to put in a good amount of work to be able to get to that place in a race. I had so many good training runs, including a 2-hour run off a 6-hour bike ride on this same course where I was hitting race pace no problem, which gave me more confidence than I have ever had in my ability to run a marathon. I felt like I had done all I could in my preparation to be granted some Race Day Magic. But then again you have to BELIEVE  in it and, in hindsight, maybe I didn't believe enough. 

How I REALLY look on the run. 

And so here I am. Stuck in my own little prison during every single step of those 26.2 miles and I can't quite figure out why. I also can't find a way out of it. I tell my Coach M at mile 4: I feel terrible but I will come around. I haven't given up hope at this point. It's Ironman after all. Everyone has their ups and downs throughout the day. There's always enough time to come back around. Mile for mile I go through my box of tricks, which has grown rather large during the years, and... nothing. 

At mile 5 I run by Karen for the first time and she is trying to give me some splits like I had asked her to. I just shake my head: I don't care about numbers or time! But will you please start crying? I need a good cry right about now!!! Luckily, I hadn't lost my sense of humor. Yet. You see, Karen had sent me a text before the race saying: I am so looking forward to your race. When I see you, I might cry. Hope I don't. I showed the text to P and told him: I love that girl. She really will cry, I know it. She will probably cry for the BOTH of us since I don't cry easily. Haha. Turns out that was a big fat LIE. Sunday and Monday became one big cry fest! Thanks for always being there for me, Karen! 

At mile 7 the husband shows up out of nowhere! Instead of showing some excitement to see him and my other friends, I yell: Where are the kids? More cheering. WHERE ARE MY KIDS? No answer. So I start to lose it because I was really hoping to see my kids. I knew it was a long shot that they would want to come after a long weekend of soccer and it isn't really fair to make Karl deal with them AND me. So I trudge on. 

See? That's what I am talking about. Too much crap in my top. 

Here is the thing I am most upset about: This is my hometown race! I live 3 short hours up in the mountains and I know SO MANY people out there. Racing, volunteering, and cheering! It was never about proving anything to them, it is about INTERACTING with them, showing them my GRATITUDE, and having FUN with them. My favorite part of racing! 

There is none hardly any of that. Every time I manage to think of something to say, I end up with a coughing fit. And I am so sad about that. Sad? Are you sure? We didn't know SJ was capable of feeling sad during a race. Ha! True. But I just don't have enough energy to be pissed. Hard to believe, I know. At mile 13 I make Karl borrow a bike so he can join Karen in being all over the course. (Thanks for the bike, Therese!) Shortly thereafter I tell him in tears: I am so sorry!!! That is truly how I felt. I was so sorry about letting my dear friends down and being such a pain in the ass to cheer for! Turns out they all had a FANTASTIC time anyway. I should've known. Spectating Ironman Arizona with the Flagstaff crew is an absolute blast! I love you, guys! 

Rory cheering for Ryan. This sight put a smile on my sad face! 

And, of course, I can always count on my Utah friends as well! There are lots of them but Rory Duckworth takes the cake. He is all over the course cheering for his brother, Ryan, who is never far behind me. First time I spot him in the crowd on the bike, I remind him: I thought you said you were going to make people laugh out here?!? Every time after that he has something funny to say or show. The swim suit and umbrella in the above picture are definitely the highlight! Thank you, Rory, for the excellent entertainment

Other than that it is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Mile after mile. I never do come around for more than 20 seconds at a time. It's very frustrating and I keep trying for a long time  with no success. But I also can't stay out of my own head. I have one thought that's haunting me: I left it all out there on that last lap of the bike and now I've got nothing. I try to shut it out of my brain but it keeps coming back. That thought is quite possibly the reason for my miserable marathon. I MUST have more in me but I just can't access it. 

Still hanging in there... With both feet off the ground even! 

I am exhausted and I have serious doubts about making it to the finish line. And so I spend the entire marathon scared that I might lose it for a second, pull over, and quit. I have never been in a situation like this so how can I trust myself? How do I KNOW that I will not let myself down completely? What if I suddenly decide to give up? What if I am not as strong as everyone, including myself, thinks? I don't have bad races because I am cautious and pace myself well. I will ALWAYS leave just enough in the tank to make it to the finish line safely. Because I am afraid to find out what happens when the tank is completely empty. 

SO HERE IS THE THING, you guys! 

Here is the BEAUTY of this disaster! 

(Y'all realized this at least 10 minutes ago, I am sure, but I am a little slow...) 


Remember the ship and the ocean and the waves? How I was going to go out there and be brave and courageous and all? Seems like in the mayhem of the marathon I FORGOT ALL ABOUT THAT! I wanted to be back in my little harbor. But it was TOO LATE! Because I was SMART enough to put the 9:40 on my mirror so I wouldn't forget or let myself back out of it. 

I was finally forced to go to a place 
where I would see what I am made of! 

It was scary but here is what I found: 

 I am not a quitter. 
I don't just walk away when things get hard. 
I can handle crap not going my way. 
I will find a way to keep going even if I don't know how. 

This is SUCH a relief

Because, honestly, I wasn't sure before Sunday. I just didn't KNOW. Now I know. No one can take that from me. And it will come in quite handy down the road because, as P pointed out, if on my (so far) worst day of racing I can still pull off a 3:47 marathon and 10:06 Ironman, then that's not really all that bad! And I could't agree more! 

I finally cross the finish line, relief and exhaustion getting the better of me after hours of self-doubt, and I fall into Karl's arms. Let the cry fest begin!!! It wasn't pretty or glamorous and I am ok with that. All of my friends at the finish understand and there are lots of hugs! I appreciate each and every on of them so very much. THANK YOU!

And then there was a shower, a comfy couch, snacks, friends, dinner at PF Changs, lots of good talks, and all of your thoughtful and loving comments. They mean a lot! Overall it was a wonderful weekend that I am not ever going to forget! 

Snuck into the Anthem Country Club on on my way home Monday. Thank you, Jena! 

As for all of those tears on Monday, I think I finally figured out that they were tears of relief and gratitude. Relief to finally know. To have found something deep inside of me that I can be proud of. And gratitude for this beautiful (yet far from perfect) life I get to share with my family and friends! Thank you for all of your help and support on this journey! 

And then I went home and hugged my kids for a long time.


A huge Thank You to my fantastic sponsors:

Coeur Sports - The BEST in women's athletic wear

 T3 Triathlon - My FAVORITE triathlon shop

Fuji Bikes - In LOVE with my Norcom Straight

Cobb Saddles - Most COMFORTABLE saddle ever

Osmo Nutrition - Hydration at its BEST