My Triathlon Training and Racing Blog

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Race Report: SOMA HALF 2014

Crap. I would really like to write a lot MORE on here than just race reports! I write an awesome blog post in my head at least every other day but I just can't seem to get my act together to actually write it down. That's going to have to change. Not that you want to read about ALL of the random stuff going on in my life but this is about SO MUCH MORE than just racing and I would like my blog to reflect that. And I really enjoy writing! So I should do more of it before I have killed off any and all remaining brain cells... 

Love sunrise in the desert! 

Having missed out on Ironman Lake Tahoe because of the smoke and Silverman 70.3 due to sickness, I was pretty excited to finally race again after Vineman Full in July! That's almost 3 months of NO racing in the middle of the season. Yikes! 

I was also a bit worried. After 3 weeks of being sick, training was finally going well again and I sort of didn't want to interrupt it for a race. Not with Ironman Arizona just around the corner! I was having fun biking and running* again and what if I wasn't going to have fun racing? What if I didn't even like racing anymore? Haha! Who am I kidding?!? I can't believe that thought even entered my mind! Of course I love racing! I was loving every second of the SOMA Half and I am so glad I didn't miss out. 

*I am not even going to mention swimming. It's been a while since I have used swimming and fun in the same sentence... 

None of the pre-race stuff went quite the way I like it to but that was ok. It was more of a soccer than triathlon weekend which meant logistics for 4 soccer games in 2 different locations and 1 triathlon were a bit challenging with 1 car but we managed. Only thanks to Karl, the husband, who pretty much took care of the kids and soccer stuff. The only bummer was that I missed all of the 7! goals Noah scored while also being goalie for 2 halfs. Yep. Proud mom! 

Swim in Tempe Town Lake - Photo by Life Time Tri

Hotel was closer to soccer than triathlon and I like to be early to races, so the alarm went off at 3:30. Why am I doing this?!? Good thing Tempe is in the desert and I LOVE race morning when it's already warm by the time I get to transition! 

This race had a few professionals and the lady at check-in the day before informed me that most of the other pros preferred to start with the first wave of men rather than our own wave. Fine by me. In hindsight, I should've asked how many female pros were going to race. (Answer: Only me. But I didn't find that out until we lined up at the start on race morning.) Then I should've requested to start in the first wave of women. But I didn't want to ask for any sort of special treatment and so I racked my bike among everyone else and enjoyed the camaraderie of strangers and friends. At heart, I am and always will be an age grouper. Let's face it: I am really NO different than they are. 

If you just want the stats, here they are: 

If you like some more details, here we go: 

The Swim

I am among those men somewhere! In a red cap front right. I think. Photo by Life Time Tri

Once I had waddled to the start of the line in my awesome Wetzoot, looked around for a second and noticed nothing but men, I was pretty sure I was the only female pro. Oh well. Same thing happened at Leadman Tri earlier this year and that race was a ton of fun! Worst case scenario: I get beat by an age-grouper for the first time since turning pro. Big deal. I always knew it was going to happen sooner or later and I wasn't worried about it. 

Swim was rather uneventful except for a whole bunch of coughing. The cough is sticking around even now that I feel much better and is probably here to stay until March or so. Fortunately, I have learned to swim WHILE coughing and, although it's not fun, it works ok.   Starting with the boys wasn't bad at all and I swam in a little group until the turn-around. Not sure what happened after that but I swam solo on the way back. Definitely not a great swim but, considering how crappy I have been feeling in the pool the last few weeks, I'll take it. 

The Bike

Bike course is not my favorite. Flat, a gazillion u-turns, and even more corners. But I LOVE riding my bike, so even on a so-so course I have a lot of fun on the bike! And the hamster in me doesn't mind 3 laps at all. As a matter of fact, I was a bit bummed I didn't get to go out for a 4th lap like I did at Leadman! I just can't get enough of my Fuji Norcom Straight!  

I did manage to piss off a couple of guys that were blatantly drafting because I kept calling them out on it. I couldn't believe it! I have seen my fair share of drafting over the years but never have I seen anything like this! And I wasn't about to just sit there and let them do their thing. So at every u-turn I would yell something among the lines of: You guys are cheaters!!! At one turn, admittedly, I got a bit too close to the guy in front of me myself, so then they were yelling back at me. It wasn't pretty. And after maybe 8 miles of that I decided, while the distraction had been nice and all, I needed to get back to focusing on my own race. So I did... Until mile 54 when I realized that I was about to pass one of them. Solo. I came up with a bunch of snarky remarks to throw at him while passing, but then decided: What the heck. It's not worth it. I'd rather be friends. So I told him SORRY for yelling at him. To which he responds: I am sorry too. And gives me a big smile. Ok, so you are nice and cute. But you are still a cheater! At least until you tell me your story and convince me otherwise! 

The Run

Thank you, Kerry Yndestad, for the photo! 

Coming off the bike I was really hoping for a lead bike on the run. And I got one!!! It's SO FUN to have and, although I knew all along that I might not ACTUALLY win the race, I wasn't going tell the girl to stop. She did an awesome job! Thank you! 

My goal was to run sub 7:20 pace. That's definitely not very fast but these legs haven't seen speed work for a while and I had no idea what they were capable of. So I am very happy with a 1:33 and 7:08 pace! Sure, it would've been nice to go sub 1:30 but I am pleased with how I felt. It seemed comfortably hard, my mind was in the right place, no rough patches, and I was ENJOYING the run. This gives me a bunch of confidence heading into Ironman Arizona in a few weeks! 

Then I got to break the tape. Which hardly ever happens because either I don't win or there is no tape! Ha! Again, I realized that there might be faster girls behind me but what was I supposed to do? I am still not sure. So I acted as if I had won the race! Only to find out later that the awesome Cathy Yndestad had beaten me by a few minutes. Second it was. Which was a bit disappointing but I was still very happy with my race, so it didn't affect me much. It could've (should've?) been embarrassing but I choose not to feel embarrassed because I don't think there is anything to be embarrassed about! And if people think otherwise, well, that's their problem. 

Cathy and I both agree that it would be nice to have an elite wave or an open wave where anyone contending for the title needs to be in. That would've made the race a LOT more fun for me and maybe for her too! And who knows what would've happened... Either way: Congrats to Cathy!!!

Coeur is the BEST!

There wasn't a lot of time to hang out or be social afterwards (or even go to awards, unfortunately) because I needed to bring the car back to the boys as soon as possible. I did, however, still manage to chat with some old friends, make some new friends, and get a picture with fellow Coeur girl, Bree, who WON the Olympic distance that day. Huge congrats!

Overall a great and very fun day at the races! I am SUPER excited for Ironman Arizona in a few weeks at the same venue! I can't wait!!! Coeur Sports just put up a helpful little course preview here, if you would like to check it out. 

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014


This is how gorgeous it COULD have been... 

I wake up at 3:30 and I smell smoke
Inside the house through closed windows. 
No need to even take a peek through the blinds. 

I knew there was a good chance this would happen after seeing the smoke roll back in the night before but I was hoping for the best... only to wake up to the worst. 

Thursday, when we rolled into town, the air was terrible. 
Like the-minute-I-got-out-of-my-car-I-got-a-headache terrible. But there was hope because, hey, winds change and firefighters are hard at work and there were more than two days left before the race! 

This is what Thursday evening looked like down by the lake: 

I didn't do much that night. Just a a very easy little jog along the beach to shake out the legs after a day of driving. And super short swim because I couldn't wait any longer to swim in that beautiful lake!!! But then, of course, I got wimpy again swimming all by myself in that big lake and talked some poor guy, who had already finished his swim, into going back out for another little loop with me. Many thanks to you, stranger! 

Friday was definitely much better. 
Smokey but not bad. Winds had shifted and we all got our hopes up again! 

Northstar pool on Friday was lovely! 

At the pro meeting there wasn't a lot of talk about a possible cancellation of the race because predictions for Sunday were looking good! So smiling faces by us Coeur girls all around! 

Love my Coeur teammates! 

Saturday was even better! 
So I took my lovely Fuji bike for a nice little ride before checking it in. 

All good to go! 
Huge thanks to my personal bike mechanic, Karl Jarvis, for taking excellent care of my bike! 

And then Sunday, race day, the air was at its WORST and looked like this at the finish and most of the course: 

Squaw Valley

The swim start was one of the few places where the air was relatively good: 

Picture by Sherry Daerr

Depending on in which direction you were looking, it was a quite beautiful morning: 

Picture by Sherry Daerr

 But you can see the smoke looming in the background and to the west: 

So while eating breakfast 
(white rice with 1/2 banana, almond milk and small greek yogurt with 1/2 banana) 
I knew there was a good chance WTC would cancel the race. 

I mean, what choice did they have? 

But since I hadn't heard anything and knew they wouldn't make an announcement until 5:30-6 when most athletes were in transition, we drove down to the start and I went through the usual pre-race routine. At least physically. Mentally I wasn't about to get myself psyched up for something that might not be happening after all. It rained on us for a bit and we hoped by some miracle that would help with the smoke. Not a fan of rain but in this case I was hoping for a major downpour! 

When dropping off my special needs bags, I asked: 

"So we are dropping these off pretending like the race is going to go off without a hitch?" 

The answer was: "Yes." 

Ok then. On we go. 

I was a bit worried about my precious special needs bags. Because, heck, these days you don't get them back! So I wasn't going to put anything of value in there. And, yes, a nice bike bottle is 'of value' at our house. 

At 6:15 there still hadn't been an announcement of any sort, so we put on our wetsuits, headed to the water, and warmed up. 

Picture by Sherry Daerr

Apparently I was so relaxed that I was doing arm circles and talking to a couple other girls with my eyes closed! Although at this point I was convinced the race was actually going to happen. Otherwise they would've told us already, right? 

We headed to the starting area and lined up behind the male pros and then at 6:28 - 2 minutes before the start - the announcement came. 

"Race is canceled due to terrible air. 
You have until 10 to check out your bike and until 12 to head over to the finish to pick up run gear and special needs bags."

WTC made the right call
No doubt about it. 
The air was dangerous to everybody's health. 
There are numbers to prove it but I didn't need numbers. 
I had seen and smelled the air and it was obvious. 

But I am a bit frustrated regarding the timing and deliverance of the cancellation. 

From a few things that were said, it was clear that WTC knew very well that they would cancel the race by 6:00 the latest. So why wait until 2 minutes before the start to announce it?!? Why pretend while we are pumping up tires, putting nutrition on our bikes, filling water bottles, eating one last snack, putting T1 bag in place, and squeeze ourselves into the wetsuit? I would really like to know. 

And how about putting some heart and feeling into the announcement? Just enough to let us know that you care about us and feel very sorry about the situation. That would've been nice. 

Heading out to swim. 

The first thing any of us pro girls said after the announcement was: 

"Let's go swim the course anyway!" 

The air was still fine and buoys set up, so we asked an official and he gave us the ok. 
We walked into the deeper part and off we went. 
It was just what most of us needed to deal with the situation. 
I am sure most of us deal with crap by exercising. 
So that's what we did. 

A few of the guys joined us as well. After one loop, we had a quick chat, and some of us went for a second loop to swim the official 2.4 miles. The water was fantastic but I felt average. I even had moments where I thought: Man, I am glad this is not a race or I might be dead last pro out of the water. Ha! Clearly I would've happily taken that scenario over the present one. 

Then we grabbed all of our crap and packed it back up and all went our ways. 

Karl and I went back to the car. I changed out of my wet and cold Coeur kit on the side of the road and proclaimed to Karl after he gave me the look: 

The last thing I care about right now is public nudity

Because that was the truth. 

In the car I ate a whole bunch of Thai Lime & Chili cashews. I don't even like those! But what else was there to do?!? Then I took a long, hot shower. Long and hot showers solve a lot things. But I am not so sure about this one. 

By now it was only 8:30 in the morning. 
What to do?!? 
I decided to do what was going to make me (somewhat) happy
And that is swim-bike-running! Surprise. 

So I rode my bike for 6.5 hours, 
swam another 30 minutes.
and ran for an hour on the treadmill. 

Don't ask me for miles or meters. It wasn't about numbers today.

And in case you are worried about my health

I escaped the smoke for a while by biking on the east side of the lake and then climbing a very long, steep hill. I took a selfie and sent it to my friends back home who had sent me a picture of them riding  the Wupatki loop in glorious sunshine. Well, this wasn't Wupatki or glorious sunshine and I was all alone but I was going to make the best of it! 

Look who I ran into at the top of the mountain and rode with for a while? Mackenzie Madison. 
Fellow pro girl and fun riding buddy! 

I certainly wasn't the only athlete out riding my bike which was nice! But by now smoke was everywhere and there was no getting away from it. So when Mackenzie turned off, so gave me one of her masks she had brought so I could avoid the worst. 

You know it's BAD when I am willing to ride around like this for hours:

Karl says I handled it really well. And I agree. 

 But it still sucks. Big time. 

Yes, there are many worse things in life. No, it's not the end of the world. But it's the end of a dream for many of us. Are there other races we can do? Certainly. Does that mean it's no big deal? NO! This is a big deal to most of the people that lined up on Sunday morning to accomplish a huge goal. I am fortunate that I decided to race professionally this year. Had I decided otherwise, I would be in the same boat as many of the age groupers who have saved up for this race and this trip for many months, made incredible sacrifices, and had their dream crushed minutes before the start. I truly feel for them and my heart goes out to them and their families. It's no one's fault (except the person that purposefully started the fire) but it's an incredible disappointment nonetheless. 

I think it's ok to be frustrated, sad, angry, depressed, and crushed. For a while. 
I thought I was just fine until we got home and the kids left for school this morning and Karl went to work, and I realized that I am not fine. Yet. And I can live with that. I don't have to pretend that it's no big deal. Even of others think so. Which is why I didn't leave the house. Because I am tired of hearing things like: 

"Oh, your race got cancelled? Well, at least you are signed up for Ironman Arizona as well." 
"You didn't get to race? Well, at least you and Karl got to go on a trip." 
"Such a bummer. But at least you didn't have to pay for a hotel." 

Have some of these same thoughts? You are right. It's all true statements. And, obviously, I know that! But it's just NOT helpful. 

Karl shared this little clip with me the other night and it fits this situation perfectly. If you know me, you know that I am not the best at showing empathy. Which is exactly why Karl showed it to me. So I am going to watch this clip every now and then. To remind myself to be more like the bear and less like the deer. And because I love Brene Brown! You should watch it. It's rather eye-opening. 

So now what

I had signed up for Silverman 70.3, Soma Half, and Ironman Arizona at the beginning of the year thinking I could pull off two Ironman and two Halfs in 7 weeks. Then I changed my mind about Silverman but never notified WTC. And now I have decided that I will go and race in Vegas next weekend after all! Because I LOVE that course. And because it's my birthday! And who cares that I have no speed in my legs! And who knows what will happen next year. I am not a fan of putting all of my eggs into one basket, so I'd rather have a bunch of B races then one super important A race which might get cancelled or shortened or I get two flats or get sick... Speaking of being sick, I am currently not feeling well and my body seems to have finally succumbed to the illness Karl has had for over a week now. So we will see how these next few days go. 

A huge Thank You to my fantastic sponsors:

And also to Karl for his patience and support!

And to Naomi who graciously offered her wonderful home to us, made us feel very welcome, and helped us out in many ways! 

(Separate blog post about our 10-year anniversary trip to and from Lake Tahoe to follow. Boy, do I have some good stories!)