2015 – First Pro Year in Review
Well it’s 2016 so it’s about time to reflect on my first year racing as a pro. Following Austin (back in November) I took two weeks completely off: no swimming, no biking, no running and no strength work. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ever took that much time off since I started swimming competitively at age eight. It was definitely a good mental and physical break before building back into some solid training for 2016.
It’s hard to recall all the way back to early March when my season began in Clermont, Florida, seventeen races ago. With the Lifetime and 5i50 series crumbling last year my season became a random mix of short course draft racing (including a super sprint), non-draft Olympic racing and an intro to 70.3 racing, something I definitely wasn’t planning. Here’s a quick look back at my schedule/results from the year:
- March 7th, Clermont Camtri ITU Draft Legal, Clermont FL, 10th
- March 14th, Sarasota Camtri ITU Draft Legal, Sarasota FL, 8th
- March 15th, Las Olas, Ft. Lauderdale FL, 2nd
- April 26th, St. Anthony’s, St. Petersburg FL, 3rd
- May 17th, Challenge Knoxville Half, Knoxville TN, 8th
- June 7th, Pigman Tri, Cedar Rapids IA, 2nd (local race)
- June 14th, Copper Creek Tri, Des Moines IA, 1st (local race)
- June 28th, TriRock Philly, Philedelphia PA, 11th
- July 19th, NYC Tri, New York NY, 5th
- July 26th, Chisago Tri, Chisago Lakes MN, 1st (local race)
- August 8th, Super Sprint, Milwaukee WI, 14th
- August 16th, YWCA Women’s Tri, Minneapolis MN, 1st (local race)
- August 30th, Challenge Penticton, Penticton BC, 4th
- September 12th, Square Lake Tri, Stillwater MN, 1st (local race)
- September 2oth, One Last Tri, White Bear Lake MN, 1st (local race)
- October 4th, Silverman 70.3, Henderson NV, 2nd
- November 8th, Austin 70.3, Austin TX, 4th
Before I get into some reflection on the year I want to start out with a thank you to those people that help me be the best athlete I can be, because without these people I would not have made it to the start line of all those races.
First up I have to thank Patrick. He deals most closely with the ups and downs that I go through training and racing. He’s been there to talk through my frustrations, calm my nerves and fears, hash out training and race plans, and even hugged me through some tears. I rely heavily on Patrick for support and I’m very lucky to have him.
Secondly, a huge thank you to my parents. My mom or dad are almost always traveling with me or home watching my pups for me while I’m out training and racing. I’ve been lucky to always have someone with me at each race to help with gear or simply out on the course as a friendly face. I definitely could not do this without their support.
Next up, a thanks to Kevin and everyone at Gear West Bike & Tri. They treat me like family and make sure my bike and gear is always the best and in great shape. I cannot thank them enough for dealing with the random once in a lifetime bike issues I’ve had this year, like when my water bottle screw broke off in the down tube and Kevin had to drill it out. I learn something new every time I go to the shop and I can’t thank them enough for their continued support.
Thanks to sponsors like Blueseventy, Zipp, Trek and Lazer, I’m racing and training with some of the best and fastest gear out there. I really could not be racing at the level I am without support from these sponsors.
Next thank you goes to the people that help keep my body in tip top condition all year. I have been doing bi-weekly massage therapy sessions with Tony Christopherson and Bianca Benites for a couple years now and I’ve remained overall very healthy and uninjured. They’re able to work out my nagging aches and pains and help keep me loose in general so I can be at my best. Tony also recently helped me re-vamp my strength routine so I’m looking forward to seeing that pay off in my racing (In just over a month I’m already feeling much stronger and I’m not even lifting heavy weights). In the last year I’ve also been lucky enough to work with fellow triathlete and Chiropractor Michael Williams of Premier Sport and Spine. Between massages if I’m feeling some pain coming on he’s helped me work through it. Huge thanks to these folks for keeping me injury free!
Lastly, thanks to all my family, friends and fans. Thanks for following me in my first year of professional racing, looking forward to the year ahead!
Now some reflection….
Best Decision of the Year – This definitely goes to – racing Las Olas. I was in Florida for the Clermont and Sarasota races and found out about the race the Monday before it was going to happen in Fort Lauderdale. After mapping out the drive from Sarasota to Ft. Lauderdale and finding it was only 3.5 hours, I emailed the race director to find out if I could still get an entry. I made the final call Thursday night and was registered by Friday morning. Luckily I had brought my tri bike to train on for the week (I was racing the road bike for draft legal) but I didn’t have my race wheels. Patrick decided last minute to fly down to Orlando to drive with me to Ft. Lauderdale after the race in Sarasota Saturday (conveniently, he also brought my wheels). It was a long day of racing and travel but I got a decent 7 hours of sleep and was ready to go again in the morning. I ended up placing second to Leanda Cave achieving my first pro podium, I could not have been happier with that last minute decision. I got to spend the next couple of days in Sarasota with my sister and my nieces on the beach and by the pool, a great way to start the year!
Biggest Mistake – I was in good position within the front pack at the Milwaukee Super Sprint at the start of the bike. I had just gotten new bike shoes and they were really stiff so after mounting the bike and pedaling on top of the shoes they had collapsed and I couldn’t get my toe under to open them up. After a few tries I guess I pulled a little too hard and pulled my shoe right out of the clip and dropped it on the ground. I stopped, pulled over to the side, left my bike to run back, grab my shoe and put it back on. Jumping back on my bike going to clip I realize I wasn’t careful enough setting my bike down and the chain had come off and was jammed between the gears and the frame. After a few yanks I was able to get the chain out and get back on my bike but I had already been lapped. This took me out of contention for a decent finish but I trudged on, doing whatever I could not to finish last after being lapped. Even with the setback, it was a great day. I loved the format and it was a ton of fun so no regrets here. Next time I may go with the method of taping my shoes open for easy entry and exit.
Favorite Race – My favorite race of the year was Silverman 70.3. Going into the race I was really nervous about the heat but in the end I didn’t mind the dry heat as much as the humid Minnesota heat I’m used to. I absolutely loved the course. Swimming in Lake Mead and biking through the hills in the dessert was epic. The wind was intense that day making for a really tough swim and bike. I’m not usually a fan of riding in the wind when you have to grip your bars tightly the entire race but I loved the climbs and the scenery. The fact that it wasn’t a technical course also played to my strengths. The pristine roadways also made for a smooth ride- no doubt the most well-kept bike course I have ever raced on. The run was hard: basically half uphill and half downhill but it was two out and backs three times so there were people lining the entire course cheering you on and water stops just about every mile. This is where I met Triton and Team Silk, the most awesome cheer squad. Even though I had the worst stomach issues I’ve ever experienced during a triathlon, the fans got me through the second half for a great finish. I definitely want to return to this race and highly recommend it to others.
Best Race – I could argue a few races here but I think my best race was Silverman 70.3. Not only did I take 2nd in a solid field, I had great bike and run splits, especially considering the hilly terrain, wind and heat. My swim could have been a little faster but maybe that gave me a little extra kick on the bike.
Worst Race – My worst race of the year was definitely Tri Rock Philly or as I like to call it “Du” Rock Philly. This wasn’t just my worst race because they had to cancel the swim due to unsafe water conditions but the bike course and conditions did not suit my strengths and my body wasn’t quite back in shape after an early summer sickness. Race morning it was raining so the course was wet. The bike course was two loops each with 4-5 technical climbs and descents. I didn’t mind the climbing but all the technical turns and descents killed me. With the wet conditions I’m much more cautious, slowing down for turns and riding my brakes on descents- I lost a lot of time here. At the end of May I also was really sick for a couple weeks, 5 days in which I couldn’t do any sort of activity followed by a couple more weeks where my stomach still couldn’t process food well. I definitely lost some fitness during the period and felt it racing here. Each of those climbs took way more out of me than usual. By the time I got to the run it was all about surviving and just finishing. We’ll see if I try to redeem myself on the course in the future.
Lessons -I definitely learned more than a few lessons this year, some worth sharing….
- Sickness – I’d like to think I’m invincible and won’t get sick or that I can train through sickness but this just isn’t the case. Unfortunately, sometimes we get sick and we need to sit back and let our bodies recover or it could drag out longer and get worse. When you do come back, ease into things and be realistic. As much as you want to (and I know I did) don’t compare your workouts to those right before you were sick. You need some time to get your fitness back and it’s not the end of the world and you WILL get your fitness back. Maybe timing wasn’t the greatest (i.e. I had 3 races in June after being sick) but be realistic with your expectations, reassess workout schedule/race schedule, make a plan and move forward.
- Bike Skills – These are something one can easily acquire by doing more road riding, group riding, drills or by working with an experienced cyclist (probably worth the 80$ for an hour skills session). Working on your technical skills will make you a safer, more relaxed rider and it will save you time. It’s free speed on the bike with little to no cost to you other than time.
- Crashing – I finally had my first bike crash, something I’ve feared for a long time. I will say it hurt way less than I feared because it was sudden and unexpected. Honestly I think I can ride with a little less fear because of this. I think the lesson here is first and foremost take care of your body. Pending the severity make sure you give your body the needed recovery and seek out medical attention needed. Also make sure to get your bike inspected by an experienced mechanic! You never know if something was tweaked or cracked and it could be unsafe to ride.
Bike Building – After taking my bike apart and putting it back together for MANY races this year I’ve gotten it down to a reasonably smooth process. The first few times of putting the bike back together were nightmarish, taking multiple people over an hour. I’ve slowly learned the best order to put things back together and usually can build my bike back up completely in under 30 minutes. Along the way I’ve learned a lot about my bike and I am much more confident making adjustments and maintaining my bike. If you have time in the off season it would be a good “activity” for you to try. Remember to always double check your screws, shifting and brakes before hitting the road after a build.
Coach – I worked with a coach for the first time ever last year, well November 2014 – July 2015. I definitely learned a lot about bike and run training and I saw improvements. What I struggled with is finding the time between work and workouts to communicate well with my coach. If I didn’t understand something, questioned something or felt I wasn’t getting feedback enough, I mostly just stewed about it and got frustrated. Every so often I’d find the time for a longer phone call, which would back me off the cliff but this cycle continued and I figured it would be less stressful to go back to self-coaching for the time being. In the future I think I need to work with someone that I can physically meet with and get regular feedback from.
Racing Highlights – A few racing highlights from the year
- Las Olas – Here I was second to Leanda Cave with one of my fastest run paces for international distance racing.
- St. Anthony – I made the last spot on the podium behind Alicia Kaye and Magali Tissyre.
- Silverman 70.3 – I was second to Lauren Goss by 4:25, who had beaten me by 5:17 at NYC, so a very solid race and podium. I had some of my best splits here as well.
- Austin – Just shy of the podium but fastest swim, first off the bike and 4th overall.
Other Highlights — A few highlights not directly related to racing
- Travel – I traveled a lot this year and several times to places I’ve never been. I love traveling so it’s an added bonus when I can add a little sight-seeing to a race trip. I especially enjoyed Penticton, Canada for its scenery. I would highly recommend a visit. Vegas tops my list as well because my dad and I made a trip to see the Grand Canyon, I don’t think I need to say more there. It’s also nice to travel when you have friends all over the country that you don’t get to see often. I was lucky to catch up with an old college friend in NYC and hope to see more friends around the country this coming race season.
- Making new friends – Racing in Minnesota is awesome because it’s a fun, welcoming community and you typically see the same faces throughout the season. It’s harder to have that community while traveling for every race, but the people have been welcoming and it’s been fun getting to know many different racers throughout the country. It’s also been fun getting to know some of the other professional athletes that I’ve crossed paths with a few times. Everyone has been kind and I’ve really enjoyed meeting so many new people this season.
- 70.3 Racing – I raced my first 70.3 distance race, survived, and maybe even enjoyed it enough to do 3 more. I was always worried about the half marathon for two reasons: 1- extra mileage needed in training when I’ve been injury prone, and 2- the 10K in an Olympic distance race is already painful enough, how would I survive this? Gradually building my long run over the year helped me adjust to the longer distance and stay mostly injury free. Having the training to back up the half marathon definitely helped me tolerate the run but I’ve also found it’s not as bad as the 10K because the pace toned down. In general, I like that 70.3 racing isn’t pedal to the metal for 2 hours, it’s more threshold. Obviously you’re still racing hard and pushing yourself but there’s more strategy, pacing and patience involved. It’s a long race and there’s lots of room for error so the race can change at any moment and I love that!
- Draft legal racing – I know I have absolutely no Olympic potential but I wanted to try some of the draft legal racing before completely writing it off. Racing draft legal was fun, fast paced as well as frustrating at times. I love the fact that there were always very talented swimmers to push me and it was aggressive which taught me that I need to do this in all my racing, not just draft legal. The biking was frustrating, but mostly my own fault. Not being comfortable in the draft pack and doing technical riding made it really challenging. With practice this will get better. Coming off the bike with a bunch of people is fun, it actually feels like a race when you’re in a pack of 5-10 people verses running solo like I do in most non-draft races. I love the spectator friendliness as there are more fans cheering you on and more opportunity to see where your competition is at. There’s probably not a ton of draft legal racing in my future but maybe here and there for fun.
2015 fun and beautiful places 🙂 Here’s to more ice cream in 2016!