Wednesday, November 11, 2015

LITTLE VICTORIES



I remember it so well.  I would see the M-Dot logo on someone’s t-shirt or hat and almost burst into tears but had no idea why.  I remember my first coach explaining to me that someone could not just “sign up” to “do” Kona and that set me on the long journey to “just get there once”.  I would watch the live coverage and my stomach would ache with desire to know what it felt like.  The second Saturday in October in my house was a sacred day.  I would stay up all night long to watch people cross the finish line.  The more involved I got in the sport the more people I knew to follow and would cry every time someone I knew crossed the line.  Then IT happened to me!  Well it didn’t just “happen”.  I kept the dream alive through two back surgeries, through many close calls, through frustration and injury, through finding a coach in Hillary Biscay that scared me and also knew she understood my dream and me.  Four years ago I crossed that finish line and realized there was still so much more for me to learn about myself.  I was not able to return to race in 2013 due to a bad bike crash. I went back in 2014 and was reminded of the magic and challenge that makes racing the Ironman World Championship so exciting and hard.  I realized then the caliber of athleticism that makes those that win and do well the very best in the world.  I left the island last year with a feeling of dissatisfaction and wonder about what I really could do.  I raced the following month and picked up another chance to dance on the big island for the third time. 
So I entered my 10th year racing Ironman in 2015 with a Kona entry in my back pocket, my season not “chasing” a slot, my first 365 days in five years without a stress fracture and a decision to do more than I ever had to prepare to see what I could do on the island.  I raced my 11th Ironman at Ironman Texas and finished in 11:11!  Not my best time nor my best race but a good benchmark for where we were.  I went to my favorite training playground for a month to learn about myself and train with my favorite partners who could push me.  I also had “life” in big doses.  I have always believed that when I declare what is really important to me, life is going to make me “prove” it and that what usually shows up sometimes  appears as an obstacle that reinforces my decision.  What I knew for sure was that I was in the best shape I had ever been in going into that race. 
Race morning came and I was thrilled to see what I could do and represent my sponsor in my very cool new Smashfest Queen kit. I know going into each race I am going to look great and comfortable gear is never going to be an issue. 
 I got to the race start at the same time as a very good friend in the sport – we went through body marking together, hugged and wished each other well.  I went to set up my transition and get ready to swim.  I felt certain that I was swimming more strategic and stronger than I had last year.  The swells were big enough to be deceiving.  There were many times I was sure I was swimming with the front group only to have a wave crest and see the front group was far ahead of the group I was with.  


 As I got out of the water I saw that the swim was slow but I knew it was a long day and the bike was where I had done the most progress this season.   
My Dimond bike has to be my most comfortable ride ever.  I am so grateful for the Dimond team for their close attention to those of us on the bike and to their product.  That kind of dedication to the athlete is appreciated and makes me want to strive to be the best I can be on that bike.  I knew it was going to be a hot day when even heading out on the Queen K early on I could feel the heat.  I had not noticed that in previous years but this is Kona and anything is probable.  We were treated a little rainstorm at the turn around.  The ride back to town proved to set the tone for the rest of the race with the usual headwinds from Waikoloa and what felt like riding into an oven.  As I turned the corner into T2 I got a bit choked up that I realized I was very close to a bike personal record on that course. 
The run started out with a bang.  I felt a bit snappy and was happy to be on the course and excited to see my loved ones.  Unlike the year before I was actually able to run right away.  It wasn’t long though before the feet started to act up.  When that happens it is about managing the nerves that are cranky.  I also realized this was HOT.  All of Ali Drive was soaked from the sprinklers trying to keep us cool.  I was in a battle of adjusting shoes and trying to run.  I realized that if I just kept moving even it wasn’t running then things would settle and I could pick up the pace for a bit.

 I have been at this long enough that I know there may come times where the plan must adapt.    We were getting to that time quicker than I had hoped.  For a while, I have preached the motto “it isn’t about the finish line” to the people I am privileged coach.  I have learned that it is in the process in which we are forged.  There were times over the year that looking at an entire day and training session was more that what my mind would accept but if I chunked it down into bite size pieces I would experience a sort of victory.  The idea of “tiny victories” was born out of a season of major life changes and a decision to do more than I ever had in training and coaching.  I started looking to each aid station as a victory.  We were going to break this thing down into manageable pieces and celebrate each one.  Palani Hill was on the horizon and I knew I had mentally cracked the two previous attempts.  It isn’t long, but that piece of the course can feel brutal.  I decided that no matter what I was not walking it.  “Lean forward, knees up, short stride, get up it!” and I did!  Time to celebrate!  Then the left turn into the oven or the Queen K.  I decided I was going to celebrate each time I got to an aid station running.  I got to have a few more tiny victories than the year before. 

The “energy lab” was approaching.  I started to decide how this was going to be tackled.  In 2014, I watched the sun set as I started down the descent towards the turnaround close to the beach at mile 16.  I decided that no matter what I was going to get in and out of this stretch before the sun set.  That became the tiny race I was going to have with myself.  I would tackle the rest of the race after I got this accomplished.  As I rounded the corner back to town in the daylight, I had a tiny celebration as I high- fived a volunteer.  The next mini challenge was to see how far up the Queen K I could get before sunset.  As each aid station came to me in the dimming sunlight, I knew this was a race against time. I celebrated a little, as I was close enough to town to see the lights from the shopping centers as the dark of night settled on the road.  Getting this far was better than chasing glow sticks like I did the year before.
Running down Palani and towards the finish never fails to bring tears to my eyes as I know all the legends of our sport that have run that same road.  I am always reminded of all the stories I have read about that stretch of road as I studied the paths those took before me.  This year the familiarity of those last few miles were not lost on me.  How much had I gone through, fought for, and worked on to have that feeling of familiarity?  The ramp up to the finish line with the giant screen that allows those from all over the world to experience that magic is the Ironman finish line is overwhelming and fantastic.  The feeling of crossing this time was a bundle of stacking together a bundle of tiny victories.  
I don’t know of another life circumstance that magnifies the gratitude for my family, my loved ones, my coach, my sponsors and my teammates quite like that single moment of crossing that finish line.  I know that there isn’t a single athlete that gets there without a small village of love, support and encouragement even when they are torn at the missed moments and milestones.  In the lights of the finish line, the cheers from the crowds, the outstretched “high-fives” from spectators and the announcement of  “You are an Ironman” each participant knows a bit more about themselves and is able to be more of a partner, friend, family member, co-worker to that village. Therein lies the big victory that Ironman gives to everyone.  In the midst of the tears and pain, miracles and magic and tiny victories happen on that day and I am reminded that as humans we are capable of much more than we know.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Only Thing That Stays the Same is Change

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 In an effort to get back to blogging, I thought I would start with some musings after my Tucson Training Camp Extravaganza (more on that to come)
The only thing that stays the same is change - those are the lyrics from one of my favorite songs.  I believe that it is a constant reminder of life.  Our sport often seems so monotonous.  Swim, Bike and Run – repeat and then repeat some more. 
We find solace in those familiar routes.  We get comfortable with that “certain” wheel in front of us.  We know what our watts or heart rate are at any given time. We become experts in knowing what is the perfect pre-race meal for our perfect performance.  We know what workouts will work.  We develop that perfect routine day in and day out.  We have that dependable pattern that those around us can depend.  We are those “type A” folks.  We are those “creatures of habit.”  So much of success in this sport is about consistency. Showing up to our prescribed workouts day-in and day-out results in progress – this is proven.  Those with the greatest results are fiercely committed to following their workout plans regardless of what other “life circumstances” are happening.  There is comfort in the whirlwind of life to get on the trainer and settle in to an hour or so of control.  In uncertainty of less-than desirable news, the constant of the black line at the bottom of the pool and the truth of the pace clock becomes desirable.  When the noise of a job, children, or just the voices between our ears gets loud, a set of headphones and a whirl of the treadmill make for welcomed comfortable discomfort. 
The beauty of our sport is like life; just when things get predicable and certain, in comes “Change.”  My experience is that often, it isn’t a little change but big whopping, catch-your-front-wheel change.  We ride our favorite route and the road is closed.  We get in the pool and the pace clock doesn’t work.  We show up to get on our favorite treadmill and the sign says, “out of order.”  Those gifted athletes are the ones that ask, “Okay, so what can I do?” They roll with it.  In a race when all nutrition is lost – well, they rely on course nutrition.  They get a flat when leading the race – stay calm change it and get back at being thankful for a bit of rest.  I recall one time seeing that a pro leading Ironman Arizona was having trouble with his shoes – so, he took them off and ran barefoot.  I have always believed that our sport prepares us for life.  Everyday, I show up to my beautiful Dimond bike with her little wheels and brakes and trust she is going to take me on an adventure.  Sometimes she gets a flat or her brakes or chain need some attention.  Everyday, I lace up those kicks that worked for the last 50 runs and this time, there just isn’t the same spring in my step.  Well, I have had plenty of examples of learning to carry on.  I have been taught to “ask better questions.”  I have learned that the best lessons in life and sport are that as long as I put one foot in front of the other, take one more stroke in the water, push the pedal over one more time  - I will get where I need to be and more will be revealed.  That is the beauty: find the certainty in the uncertainty.  As long as I get more information, I will be able to make a new decision.  If I drop out, sit down, throw in the towel – I will miss the lesson or the gift.  I am so grateful for my Smashfest Queen mentors and sisters that encourage me every day to move with intention each session.  My coach, Hillary Biscay, responded to the question, “Why do you keep doing this?” with the answer that spoke to me – “to see if I can get faster, stronger, and tougher.”  Do the scary stuff and facing our fears is where we’ll find the magic. Hillary often replies to my questions with the question, “why not?” I try not to find an answer to that question so that I can move forward.   Change will happen. That is a given. It is when we roll with it and keep moving forward that we become the champions in our life as well as in our sport.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Number 10!


Number 10!
There are few things I like more than pushing boundaries.  The best way to get me to try something is to tell me I can’t.  I know that is why I was drawn to Ironman.  It seemed something impossible to most who knew a girl like me.  But in the long run there would have no other way for me to be the woman I am without it. 
There was a time when I was told by many doctors that I could not/should not do Ironman.  When I was 18 after being in a car accident that resulted in my already crooked spine being crushed that I was given a list of things not to do… don’t run long distances, don’t ride roller coasters, don’t ride horses, don’t jump out of airplanes.  Well I am pleased to say that I have done all of the above and lived to tell about it.  Then came the time when I was told to stop racing, that I only had so much in my body and that I was wearing it down and to “think of my grandchildren”.  What?  What grandchildren?  I felt fairly certain that by the time I had grandchildren I would be just fine as long as I lived my life to the fullest and dared to have big dreams. 
So I set to work with some big dreams – like doing an Ironman, like qualifying for the Ironaman World championships in Kona and over time I started to think of doing something a bit more defiant like doing many Ironman’s in one year.  For some time I had adopted the idea that there was only so far I could take the vessel.  I had “sorta believed”  what some of the “experts” said about limits.  I couldn’t, however, deny that little voice that said more is possible.  I couldn’t shut out the  “what if…” when I looked at what my Coach had accomplished.  The fact that Hillary was all about doing epic stuff was what made me want to be under her coaching.  Hilalry’s “why not” attitude was what I wanted to learn and live. 
So here I sit on the plane on the way to do number 10!  More importantly – this is number three in six months!  I am not in a boot, not a single bone is stressed to the brink, not a single muscle is yelping at me to stop, according to the life insurance dude – I have the best blood pressure he had ever seen.  I am healthy!  I am not broken.  I am strong.  I get to go do something that I love to do with some of my dear friends who will also be out there seeing what they can do.  We will be pushing each other to see the best in ourselves.  We will be playing the ultimate game of chase just like we did on the playgrounds of our youth before we may have been told “girls wear dresses” and “girls don’t get dirty” and “girls don’t fight” or “girls aren’t strong” and we will experience our strength.  How cool is that?  How fitting to be contemplating this on Thanksgiving on the plane to the race.  I have much to be thankful for – 3 beautiful and talented teenagers that I get to be mom to,  a brother and sister that are always supportive of me, Mom and Dad that love me unconditionally,  a plethora of friends and family who accept me for me even when they don’t exactly get it, team mates that are always raising the standards by which one would think the body and mind can do ( one of my team mates is doing the Ultraman World Championships- double Ironman distance this weekend), a coach that has taught me more about myself than I could have imagined, athletes that trust me so much that they share their most valuable dreams with me and ask me to share my experience strength and hope with them.  I am certain this is just the tip of the avalanche of blessings and honors I have been fortunate enough to have in my life.  All of which I will defiantly carry with me the entire 140.6 miles of Number 10!  So to Dr. so and so… I can’t do what?  Watch me!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Time Under Tension


One of my first mentors, Dr. Jack Barnathan taught me that strength comes from time under tension.  While I know this to be the case, never have I remembered it more than on the Ironman World Championship course in Kona last Saturday.  Some time ago I cooked up the idea that doing both Half Ironman World Championship and Ironman World championship in the same season would be a cool thing to do.  This year it all came to fruition yet not without plenty of time under tension.

In training, often the benefits of time spent under the tension doesn't show up right away.  Such was the case in my life.  Last season saw the end of my marriage, my oldest off to college and a bike crash that resulted in my collar bone in many pieces.  Emotional, physical and mental tension was the constant at the end of the 2013 season with a bright spot at Austin 70.3 in more ways than one that resulted in a slot to the  2014 70.3 World Championships. Soon after a plan was cooked up by one of my favorite competitors, Sue Aquilla and a HPB team mate Tim Perkin to go to Ironman Texas and see if I could punch my ticket to Ironman Worlds as well.   Thanks to excellent coaching by my coach, Hillary Biscay and my sponsors Promotion Physical Therapy and the Alter G we did just that.

Before I knew it, I was landing on the big Island.  I was on a new bike - thanks to Dimond Bikes and excited to meet up with my other amazing sponsor the girls at Smashfest Queen and the rest of the Team HPB crew racing.
Of course, we had bikini swims and made Tim wear a pink Smashfest speedo!  The week before the race is full of so much fun, food and a little tune up training.
 
These signs are everywhere!










Michele the Smashfest Queen herself paced me for my last tune up run!

How many of these can I eat in a week?  Not nearly enough!













Before long it is time to get the show on the road and check in all the gear for the next day.  For me it always feels the same as when you have stood in line for the roller coaster, the car pulls up and the rail goes down.  At that point you are strapped in and are going on this ride regardless of how you are feeling.  In Kona it is the time to see all the rock stars and get the lay of the land.


We are off to check in - So excited to ride her tomorrow! Thank you Dimond Bike

She is racked and ready to go!


Once all the logistics are handled, it is time to eat (this is the point where I feel like I can not put another piece of food in my mouth) and go to bed.  I was relaxed and excited which is usually a good sign.  I slept well and woke up ready to go with two excellent shepas in tow - Chris Phillips and George Scharmen were the true rock stars just keeping me calm as I headed to body marking. As we walked up I could see the swells. To see swells that big and that early ment that the swim was going to be a bit more of a roller coaster ride.  Coachie had told me I was going to have to swim hard and that it was going to be a different animal that past swims so hold on tight... Time under Tension! Yep it was choppy and yep the new swim start was not ideal for most of us age group women but still it was beautiful and it is Worlds.  Swimming around the Body Glove boat always make me think about all the years of watching on TV and I am amazed at how early I can hear Mike Reilly and the music.  For me, the end of the swim is almost always bittersweet as my day is 1/3 over and still I was really excited to get on the bike.   The days leading up to the race had calm winds so I figured a fast bike and HOT run.  Madame Pele had an entirely different day planned.  Right before Waikoloa the winds picked up.  I should know better but I thought "wow - this could mean tail winds on the way home". Like I said - I should know better.  The bike was hard.  It is always hard in Kona. 
At this point I had just seen that Maik Twelsiek (Coachies Hubby)  riding the Dimond bike like mine was leading the race!  I was a bit excited. 
While the Dimond is the fastest bike I have ever been on,  the winds were the strongest winds I have ever ridden in.  Cross winds often had me bracing for dear life or found me in the other lane.  It was a ride.  At some point going down hill sitting at high watts going 9 mph, I thought about Dr. Jack teaching about Time Under Tension.  I knew that this day was going to have an entirely different meaning for me than I had thought.  I realized that this was going to be about experiencing my mental and emotional strength much more than my physical.  I started to draw upon the previous year.  My mantra was Time Under Tension Dawn - you have had a sh-load of it and you are strong enough to get through this.  I thought about all the times I just wanted the tension of life to ease up and yet I put one foot in front of the other.  I thought about what a freaking privilege it is to race on that course.  I thought about the doctors standing over me when I broke my back that gave me a list of things I shouldn't do - Run, ride horses or roller coasters, jump out of airplanes. Well I have done all of the above and here I am racing Ironman in Kona.  I thought about the Phoenix and rising from the ashes (ok I know it is cliche but at that point one starts grabbing for anything and it was hot!) and I thought about how blessed I am to have the most amazing people on the planet for me to call friends.  I have more than my fair share and felt all the love and support from all of them.  As I was making my way back to town I came across Miriam Cole.  She and I have raced against each other often and she kept me in the game those last few miles.

Back into town and off the bike and the winds had taken their toll.  My back was not allowing me to run at all.  As I tried to move through transition everything was locked up.  I knew I just needed to get on the course and things would come around.  Well they didn't.  Still on the course, there are times that the lesson to be learned is just about putting one foot in front of the other as fast as you can in the moment.  I resorted to walking 20 steps and then doing a funny little shuffle/run as long as I could.   Again - time under tension.  This was not about physical strength or conditioning at this point.  My mental and emotional conditioning is what I would be using at this point.  Every step was about experiencing the mental and emotional strength developed over the last few years.

Not feeling very strong at all and Allison filling in for Coachie telling me to find my run! For a girl that doesn't race - she sure gets the game.  
 While I didn't relish the slogging through the Energy Lab and in the dark on the Queen K, it did give me plenty of time under tension to consider the times I would cry when I watched this race on tv, the times I would follow friends all night and all the love and support from my family, friends, coach, sponsors, athletes and team mates.  Once again - the surreal feeling running down Palani and Alli ...

It even looks like I am running!






This one was not my best - far from it in terms of my ability to race.  What I did get to experience is my tenacity even when the chips are low, my love for this sport because I get to meet myself coming and going and my mental fortitude to finish what I started no matter what happens.  Life doesn't always go the way we plan.  In fact rarely does it - success is defined by how many times it does not go our way and we stay at the journey and get up one more time than when we get knocked down. 

The journey is far from over and I couldn't get through it without the support of my sponsors and my coach.  A very very special Mahalo to Hillary Biscay, Promotion Physical Therapy, Smashfest Queen, Dimond Bike

A very warm hug of gratitude to Allison, George and Roxanne Scharmen and Chris Phillips for toughing out with me and being the best Iron support out there! And all the love and words of encouragement to all of those at home and all the Tri-Belief athletes, know that is what carried me through!







Wednesday, August 27, 2014

To The Moon and Back!

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Where did the summer go?  It seems like just yesterday I was prepping for Ironman Tx. With a stress fracture in my left foot and in the boot yet again – this has become a bit of “old hat”.  As we have done this three other times before, coach said, " this is just how we do it".  I am so grateful for my sponsors at Promotion Physical Therapy and the use of the Alter G treadmill.  I ran several 20-mile runs on the "moon".  The day of the race came and as usual for us - I just wasn't sure how the foot would feel but I trusted that we were well beyond the healing period and my drive and passion would carry us through.  Sure enough the foot held up as the temperatures rose. 



 I thought it was ironic that I went from running on the mood to racing on the surface of the sun.  The swim was a mess and I had the worse swim that I have had in years.  Just didn't find my rhythm nor was I clear on the course.  I knew I had work to do on the bike to make up the deficit I had created by having a poor swim.  Thankfully coach and I had created a great plan.  I had power numbers thanks to the sponsorship from Britton's Bicycle Shop and helping me get an awesome race wheel with power.  I stayed right on the edge of within myself and felt so solid with the plan.  One-loop courses don't usually work for me, as I like to chase so I made up my own chase game.  Before I knew it I was back to the Woodlands and saw one of my most amazing support group ready to call into the rest of the crew that I was headed to transition.  As I came off the bike, I heard the crew tell me I was in second.  All right lets stick to the plan and see what the legs and feet can do.  Having not run on gravity for over 6 weeks, how much pounding the legs can take is always the unknown. 


As I started the run I knew my spotters would be cheering for me and I would be easy to spot thanks to my new Sunrise Kit from my sponsor Smashfest Queen!  A big group of girls that I work with would also be decked out in Smash gear and I spent each loop looking for those hummingbirds!  First loop came and went and as I started on the second loop I realized I was feeling a bit and the stomach was not cooperating.  Ok hang on and we can mentally chunk down this next loop.  I went from spotter to spotter and that is how we did the second loop.  I know that seeing those that are important for me along the course is like mental Windex and helps me to remember that I am not whatever I am feeling at the moment. I knew I went from second to third and I knew that I was holding my place.  The third loop included messages from Coachie in Australia, Chris in Tucson and chunking it down even more into little tiny pieces.  This was my second fastest Ironman and the most meaningful.  It was truly a "this is your life" day from racing through the town I lived in a s a little girl, to having my dearest friends from throughout my life to my children and finally to those I coach cheering and spotting as well as my "brother from another mother" team mate Tim Perkin racing with me. 


 At the awards ceremony I found out that I had indeed performed well enough to punch my ticket to the Ironman World Championships in Kona yet again.  Yep, I was over the moon as it is such a privilege to get to compete at the championships on the same stage as some of the most talented athletes in the world. 















Like any big accomplishment, it never is a solo effort.  I am blessed to have a team that all get to take credit in this journey.  I never could have made it to the start line or the finish if not for the team that shared in my goals and passion.  My coach, Hillary Biscay who worked with my physical therapists Justin Martindale and Ashley Belrose at Promotion Physical Therapy to create a training plan that allowed a solid progression on the Alter G treadmill and strong strength work to correct the niggles that continue to haunt me.  Hopefully we have uncovered one of the issues contributing to the problems with my feet.  Smashfest Queen for making me look awesome before the race, on the course and on the podium!  My chiropractor, Nick Milnor kept weekly tune ups on my very crooked spine to keep the lines of communication open between my core and the rest of my body. Coach Susan Ingram pushed me in the water to get my collar bone strong in the water.  All my friends and family gave me the nod of encouragement and support along the way. 


So begins my journey back to the surface of the sun on the big island of Hawaii.  I am less than 60 days out and training is going better than it ever has.  My feet are showing no signs of break down.  My mind is as sharp as ever.  New benchmarks have been hit as well as a strong plan for accomplishing a good race.  The team at Promotion have tweaked and tuned my body and played detective to see what it needs to perform at my best.  Hillary as given some me some new benchmarks and we have chipped away to be fitter than ever.  So I have been to the moon, to the sun, back over the moon and looking forward to my dance on the surface of the sun!


Monday, April 21, 2014

What Now??? Staying in the Game



Well it happens to the best of us.  It also happens to most of us if we move.  We get a “niggle” or worse – an injury.  Either way, we are stopped in our tracks.  As an athlete that likes to see what is possible, I have had more than a few of these experiences.  As a coach I have seen what happens to the athlete as it becomes their reality.  Learning to manage the situation regardless of the severity will make all the difference in the outcome. 
The first issue that must be addressed is the fact that most of us have our identity wrapped up in the results of our sport.  When we can’t perform we are forced to ask the question “who am I”.  This is a valuable process but also very difficult.   We must extract our ego from the result and get clarity on why we do whatever it is that we chose to do.  What do we get out of it?  How does it feed our soul?  What do we really have control over?  Is our self worth dependant on results or the process of getting results?
Once we have a grasp on where our value really comes from and what our identity truly is as an athlete, then we can begin to evaluate what we chose as the process of getting back to action.  We become aware that our experience really is about the journey rather than the destination and this is just part of the journey.  We stop giving attention to the limiter and start focusing on the solution to getting back on the path because we know that the “path” is just that a path.  When we get out of our own way, the body can on with it’s job of healing.  I have been told and have experienced that fact that the body is an amazing healing machine.  Our job is only to coax it along and get out of the way of that healing.  As a coach, I have seen so many athletes trying to “force “ the healing by rushing the process or by ignoring the symptoms all together.  This doesn’t allow the body to do what it needs to do and the athlete becomes even more frustrated and a very vicious injury cycle starts.  So at this point in the process, we start asking what the body needs to heal and creating a team of objective advocates for our body.  I have a complete team of “healers” and advocates that I trust and know what my goals are and can remind me of the process while coaxing my body into the healing track.  My body’s advocates include my physical therapists at Promotion Physical Therapy, , my sports doctors, chiropractor at 4Xtreme Health and my coach, Hillary Biscay.  They all communicate with one another and are on the same page. 
Now we start to ask the best question: What can I do to stay in the game and out of the way?  Are there modalities that will allow me to be in the game?  Can I do some of my sport? Can I just move?  Is there technology available to keep me moving?  Studies have shown that movement helps the body heal at a quicker rate than sedentary.  It is critical to get moving in the way that supports healing.

Finally and perhaps the hardest part, is applying the lessons learned from the beginning of the process to what the process looks now.  If I can only walk, can I walk with the same excitement and dedication as I did before?  Can I still glean the lessons I need to learn while not working at the same place as I did before the bump in the path.  If I am focused on the bigger questions I will get the lessons I need and will return to the game.  In that process, I become a more complete person and athlete.  I will be able to play again even harder until we come back around to learning the next lesson.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sharks and Minnows




I am not sure when it happened exactly.  At some point, I began to care less about being the Best and became much more interested in becoming the best that I can be.  There is a difference.  I was less interested in being the big fish in a small pond and much more interested in being a small fish in a big sea.  The Best is relative to those with whom I am surrounded.  The Best is about my ego.  The Best is short lived.  The Best is about being a big fish in a small sea.
The best that I can be is not dependent on anyone else but myself.  The best that I can be is about telling myself the truth about who I am at any given time.  The best that I can be is always about seeing a new level within myself.  The best that I can be is about being a small fish in a big sea.
At any time we are given the ability to make a choice with those whom we chose to associate with.  We are faced with choices daily to reach for the challenge or stay within our comfort zone.  Here is the thing – many people convince themselves that they can’t do more.  Fear of failure is a powerful thing. 
What is often forgotten is that we are able, prepared and fully capable of doing the very thing we convince ourselves we cannot do.  Most of us in this sport have figured this out on some level – that is how we got to triathlon.  Yet, within the journey of preparing for a race there is any number of opportunities to consider the many places we have questioned our abilities.  I have had the experience many times where a particular workout or interval has shown up in my plan and I have had the chance to rewrite the idea that I don’t have what it takes and have surprised myself.  I have done this enough times that now I look for the times when I can amaze myself. 
Somewhere along the line I adopted the idea that to get the results I desired all I needed to do is find someone getting those results and do what they did to the best of my ability.  Sometimes that means swimming with the sharks and feeling like a minnow.  As I get ready to go to training camp, I have that familiar feeling. Just like going to camp as a kid – who will the new kids be?  Will I be able to hang with them?  I can’t wait to see my old friends! The best part of putting myself in a new training environment with new training partners is that I get to see what I can do.  I get to redefine the Best that I can be.  Being a small fish in a big sea is about learning to be faster, stronger and tougher both in Ironman and in life!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Anchors Aweigh!






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Do you remember it?  That first school dance?  The first date? The song you listened to on the way to your first race? The song playing at the finish line of your first Ironman?  I often refer to these moments as anchors.  Sometimes they are the “lucky … whatever”.  These are how we get anchored to our memories.  I have mine and if anyone knows me it is always music.  I have the songs that my kids call “pump up music” that they know as Mom getting ready for a hard session or a race.  I have those artist that have “held my hand” to get me through some rough times.  I have those songs that seem to always show up on a play list right when I need it to get through the next interval.  All of them – I have learned to use as an emotional anchor to get me where I need to be.  Today I learned that one of my favorite bands is calling it quits.  So while I was on the bike I got to thinking about anchors.  These were my “go to” songs and theirs was the “go to “ concert to watch when Coachie need me to learn knew levels of Smashfests. 
But here is the thing about anchors – they are just that, an anchor.  The heavy weight to hold a ship in place.  There isn’t much progress in that.  Sure it is fun to remember the good times.  To reach back and feel what it felt like to party like a rock star or hit all new watts or make that interval is great.  The thing is that if I stay in that place – I don’t get on down the road.  I don’t feel new great victories or have new incredible experiences. 
I don’t drive the race course and I certainly don’t pre ride it.  I have found that has the possibility of creating a negative anchor.  I have found for me it is best to let the race come to me on the day and trust my training.  I don’t want to have some apprehension about “that hill”.  I know how to handle all the conditions if I have prepared. 
So here is to anchors away and charting the ever changing course.  Here is to embracing what unfolds on the day because that is what racing and training for Ironman can do for us.  We can learn to roll with the punches and live on the Wild Side! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

What goes on between the ears....



Yet another Ironman weekend in the books.   I am so thankful for this sport and all the wonderful friends I have made since being in the sport.  What a treat to get to see so many of them lay it all out there last weekend.  I am always amazed that the quality of human tenacity and spirit that propels the body over the course of the day.  While getting in my own training with a friend, I was asked what I think about when I am racing and training.  I actually have been thinking of writing about this so the timing was perfect - thanks Megan!

I have and am very fortunate to have had some amazing mentors and coaches to light the way for me.  Some of them may be surprised to realize that their words of wisdom were not always lost on me and in fact stuck only to be replayed during any given training session.
Simon Lessing told me that the pool is the one place that I can and should always "race".  There are those times where I can get into just an easy rhythm rather than really grabbing the water.  This takes some commitment to really focus on the clock and tell myself the truth about what is showing up in the pool that day. 
Todd Erickson reminds me to avoid getting flat.  His take is "don't be a barge". This is a thought I have replayed during just about every race since I first heard him tell me. 
Susan Ingraham  is always tweaking my stroke and has taught me to ask the question "why not" fearlessly.  
Chris Aarhus was my first triathlon coach as well as cycling coach.  Volumes could be written here on all that I learned from Chris.  For the purpose of this piece I will stick to just a few.  "If you want to go faster pedal faster". Seems simple but often I find that it is easy to just get into a rut rather than really stay focused.   Sometimes it is just about turning the peddles over faster – although not necessarily in an easier gear!  Chris also taught me the importance of accepting the suffering, “give the legs time to accept the discomfort, Dawn”. 
Chris Legh was so brilliant to teach me the concept of “it’s not like you are going to die”. He should know as he gave it to himself so hard at Ironman that he collapsed.  He came pretty close and if he didn’t, the likelihood of me meeting the grim reaper on the course is slim. 
  Hillary Biscay has and continues to teach me so much about going for it.  Before every race, I ask for a race plan and at the end of each of those conversations she reminds me that “we are RACING”.   Hillary has also reminds me that the pain I can experience is directly in my control and that I can make it happen more that my competitors if I chose.  I love that I am in control and I can “make it hurt”.  So much of life feels like we don’t have a choice with discomfort and in racing, reaching my goals is in direct proportion the my willingness to embrace the suffering as a good thing.  
When I am training and racing I have realized it is critical to listen to what I actually telling myself.  Words have power - not only those that we hear from others, but just as important are those that we tell ourselves.   Being ever conscious of what is happening between the ears makes all the difference in any training session and race.  

Monday, November 04, 2013

Sometimes it is just Messy

There are those times.  It just happens naturally.  Everything just seems to fit and flow perfectly.  It is amazing.  When it does - I feel unstoppable and on top of the world.  And, Thank God it does!

And then there are those other times.  When everything seems slightly off.  Timing is just not right.  It is messy.  It feels slightly forced.  That was what Longhorn 70.3 felt like.

I had a full weekend that did not include ideal racing conditions.  It was my college homecoming and one of my dearest friends was coming in for her birthday which developed into a min reunion of some of my oldest friends.  Because adding this to my race roster was a last minute decision,  I was forced to do the 80 mile drive to packet pick up, back to San Antonio then back to Austin for the race on race morning.  Not a lot of rest.

Morning of the race the heavens decided to grace us with a steady downpour.  Now on one hand that would mean cooler temperatures and on the other that would mean a muddy T1 and wet slippery roads.  I have not been cleared to go down again and put the clavicle at risk so wet roads are not ideal.  Coachie had given me a goal for my watts to keep me honest and I was grateful for that and a bit nervous as well.  I knew the swim would be tenuous at best.  I had been banned from the pool for 2 weeks prior to the race in order to allow the scattered bones of my collarbone to find each other and connect.  My run training had been solid so I knew it would a great chance to see where the run actually was.  I also knew that this course is conducive to some fun racing conditions for me as a chance to see friends and loved ones on the course during the race.

As the sky's cleared and we lined up for our wave starts, I was relaxed and excited to meet up with a very good friend and fierce competitor. Karen and I have raced against each other since the beginning of time.  I have such respect for her as a mom, woman and competitor and I know that she will always bring out the best in me.  Lining up next to her is a treat as we become like two school girls squealing, hugging and catching up right until the gun goes off.  When it did - she was gone! Like really gone.  Now we usually swim very similar times so this was a bit telling.  About this time, I started to mentally write my race report.  That one included all kinds of explanations about a broken collarbone, lack of swimming and a fair amount of mental sandbagging.   I know better.  I know that if I allow myself the luxury of this kind of mental masterbation I am setting myself up for a crap race that I wont get back.  See once the splits are recorded no one cares how or why they are what they are just that they show a disconnect.   There is no "do over".   This is racing.  Racing requires presence of mind.  So I pulled out all the stops to get my mind back on track.  I reminded myself that the quickest way out of the frustration is to actually swim hard or at least as hard as my body would allow.  I focused on the fact that once I was on the bike I could re-asses and settle into the plan.  So I dug deep and fought against the lack of connection with the water.

The interesting thing about racing in South Texas is that there is any number of external challenges that can add to the flavor of a race.  A pleathera of sadistic little stickers required carrying our bikes through the long transition area to avoid flats.  That also required running through the mud bath in our cleats.  As I got to the mount line I realized I had cleats full of mud and a chain that was off the ring.  Crap!  Do not write the race report, do not write the race report... stay in the moment.... stay in the f'ing game. Yep at this point the voices in my head resorted to stronger language.

The bike was uneventful.  Having the pleasure of being one of the earlier waves resulted in one of the cleanest rides I have had in a long time.  I did not have the massive peloton passing me that I have had on other races.  I was thankful for the watts goal as that kept my head focused even when I felt as if I was in no mans land.  Still much of the ride just felt "off". The legs pushed but felt harder than I thought it should based on my training.  "Stay out of the Story and Dig Deep" was the mantra.  There are just times that it doesn't feel "right".  It is important to remember that just because it doesn't "feel" right doesn't necessarily mean it isn't right.  Sometimes it is just a bit messy and off and that doesn't mean it cant be good.

In to T2 and I was ready to run or rather get off the bike.  The run in Austin is different almost every year.  There is no shortage of crowd support and usually heat, humidity and  hills.  This year the cloud cover staved off the heat for much of the day.  The run was 3 loops and through plenty of mud - yep more messiness.  Again, early on it I was aware that it just didn't feel "right".  At this point in the day, we are presented with options.... walk, walk aid stations, walk the hills, jog or make it hurt.  That became the new mantra - "make it hurt".  No matter how much it hurt, I could make it hurt more. At least then the messiness would be on my terms not on factors out of my control.  The fastest way to the end is to move as hard and as fast as I could.   So that is what I did, even when the Garmin said I wasn't moving very fast.  Sometimes you just have to fake it and make it look like you aren't.



That is how it goes sometimes.  There are times that it just flows.  It is perfect and feels almost easy. That it is fast, furious and really fun.  Then there are times that it is messy and hard and requires digging deep to stay in it.   We remember that we decided to do this when it felt good and we stick with it even when it doesn't.  When we have an entire community pulling for us to make it. When we do all the hard work it is easy to think that the result will be one of "those" times and can be shocking when it isn't.  The good news is that like any great commitment - the reward comes from staying with it through the hard times, through being willing to dig deep even make it hurt a bit and staying present to the lessons to be learned, to fake it until you make it and avoiding "riding shot gun through the valley of the shadow of doubt" that gets you to the finish line and the time of your life.  Such is how it is Ironman!


Thanks to my coach Hillary BiscaySmashfest Queen for making me look great, Robert Cordova photography for capturing it all, Gu and Vega for fueling the day and Rick Avalos and Brittons Bike Shop for taking care of me and Crush so that we can dig deep. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Growing Pains

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  - Theodore Roosevelt

My very first mentor, Dr. Jack Barnathan introduced me to the teachings of Theodore Roosevelt with applications to being in the world of fitness and physical accomplishment.  I will forever be grateful for Dr. Jack as he raised the bar for me.  I have blogged about sitting in front of the TV watching Ironman when I was a teenager.  The next piece was sitting in a class that Dr. Jack was teaching and listening a guest speaker talk about her experience in doing a triathlon.  After a weekend of being challenged to rise above conventional wisdom and choose greatness from Dr. Jack, I knew there was no turning back from the Ironman journey.

While not everyone in my circles has understood how and why I train the way I do, I have had many an opportunity to examine what is right for me.  I have been challenged to "dare greatly" in this sport by my coach, friends, team mates, those I coach and those that went before me.  When stepping out to do that, the one thing that can be assured of is the risk and most certainly the stumble.  I have made mistakes along the way.  They were only mistakes when I chose to not glean a lesson the first time and had to do it that way again.  I have stumbled and have been "marred with dust, sweat and blood".  Yet every stumble, every scrape and every break as proven to provide me with a metaphor for sport and life.  When a bone breaks and then repairs, the place where the break once was is now stronger than ever.  I remember that my soul is like a bone, the times that I feel broken are also the times that I am being forged to be even stronger in life and in sport.  It is my belief that those of us that chose to put it all out there risk much and gain even more.

So I am on the road to recovery from my epic flight over handle bars.  After Las Vegas I was to take two whole weeks non weight bearing on my shoulder.  The good news is that there has been obvious physical healing. The uncertainty is that now the structure of the shoulder is much different and the remaining anatomy is getting to learn to operate in a new way.  This is painful.  I am reminded of when my children had growing pains.  Those pains were very real as are those in my shoulder.

I get to let go of where I was in July.  I get to let go of old times and standards.  My path just took a new turn.  I will get to retrain my shoulder.  The learning curve will be what it is and will not be rushed.  That is how the sport is for me.  There are no shortcuts and only processes that demand complete awareness and consciousness.  There is not magic but there are miracles.

So for now... back to some baby steps and growing pains and lots of fun on the way to victory and defeat!  Thank you Dr. Jack for making me Dare Greatly!