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!


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!


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!