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Freeplay https://freeplaymagazine.com Women's Endurance Sport Magazine Fri, 22 Sep 2017 17:34:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://freeplaymagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/cropped-SpadeLongShadow_500px-32x32.jpg Freeplay https://freeplaymagazine.com 32 32 81304204 Tough is Fun! Recapping the Ironman 70.3 World Championships… https://freeplaymagazine.com/tough-fun-recapping-ironman-70-3-world-championships/ Wed, 20 Sep 2017 01:17:44 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5960 When I first heard that the Ironman 70.3 World Championships were to be held in Chattanooga, Michael and I immediately thought we would try to qualify and make a trip home to see friends and family. The location was announced probably 18 months out from the race date, and our decision to shoot for the […]

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When I first heard that the Ironman 70.3 World Championships were to be held in Chattanooga, Michael and I immediately thought we would try to qualify and make a trip home to see friends and family. The location was announced probably 18 months out from the race date, and our decision to shoot for the trip waivered. I let a slot roll past me at Vineman 70.3, and my friend and training buddy Carrie took one. That was the first thing that made us reevaluate and then evaluate some more. There were so many events taking place that weekend and the surrounding weekends that would require travel.

Ultimately we decided that Michael would not plan to attend as a spectator or competitor, but I would strive to earn a slot. Neither of us thought it made sense to significantly alter our race schedule for me to qualify, so that meant that I’d have one chance, at Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’ Alene, just 2.5 months before the Championship events.

I’m competing in a new and very large age group this year, so there were quite a few championship slots, spanning most of the top 10 in my AG which enabled me to earn one at my single shot in Idaho. On the way home, I spoke with Carrie and we coordinated travel. At the time, I thought the women’s race was on Sunday so was not concerned with arriving on Thursday to Atlanta.

Traveling to the Race

Fast forward to September! I stayed at Carrie and Steve’s house – both competing, too – on Wednesday night so that we could be en route to SFO airport by 3 AM on Thursday for our 6 AM flight. Vomit, but the plus side is that I got sleep at all, which doesn’t happen on a red eye for me, and that we’d be on east coast time and able to fall asleep early Thursday night!

We landed at 2 PM on Thursday in Atlanta, and drove to Chattanooga. I later realized that the women’s championship race was on Saturday, so we were aiming to get to Chattanooga by 4:30 or so to allow us to check in for our races and then attend the athlete welcome dinner and race briefing. In retrospect, we all decided that we’d change two things: 1) arrive a day earlier to give us two full days on site before race day (the only positive here is that if we’d have left early, I *might* not have packed my wetsuit, as I thought that this race would not – in a million years – be wetsuit legal and I even posted that on the event’s Facebook page 2 – 3 weeks prior ha ha!) and 2) use Tri Bike Transport! Item two is particularly important given how close we arrived in proximity to the race date; not a lot of time to rebuild bikes and trouble-shoot, which adds stress. And the costs aren’t that much more to use TBT – worth the extra cash to reduce the effort of lugging bikes through airports, hotels, etc; allowing us to rent a smaller car; and not having the headache of lost sleep to build bikes and stress to make sure they’re functioning properly.

We were on the road to Chattanooga from the Atlanta airport right at 2:30, but given all the North-bound traffic from Florida escaping Hurricane Irma, it took us nearly 3.5 hours to make the ~100-mile trek. We missed check-in, but made to the athlete dinner and were able to see some other friends there. The dinner did not disappoint, it was so nice to have southern food again! I instantly felt at home.


We stayed up until midnight Thursday night rebuilding bikes and then tried to get a little sleep ahead of our long day of prep on Friday. Friday was b-a-n-a-n-a-s! We went to race check-in and were planning to squeeze in a practice swim. I needed to buy some items from the bike tent and was hoping to have time to buy some race merchandise – I always love a good water bottle and mug! The line at the bike tent was suuuppppperrr long and not moving because there was only one person running check-out *insert eye roll emoji*. After a few minutes, I had to put all my items back so that we could make it to the practice swim before it closed, so no time for merch *sad face emoji*.

I went back when the men were racing and got some goodies, but they were already out of water bottles and didn’t have my size anymore in the cute grey hoodie I wanted, dern!

There was a line to get into the practice swim area before it closed and the officials manning it were pressuring people to jump in really fast. It was more chaotic than a race environment and fast guys in wetsuits – I was just in my swim skin – seemed like would-be pummellers of girls in swim skins. It was a little unnerving but the water felt good and I felt good in the water!

After that, we hit up a bike shop for the items I was trying to get at the expo and I also had them take a look at my bike, as I was concerned with a couple of things, to be brief. Soooo glad I did, my rear derailleur was bent, eek! The guys at the trek store, were quick and efficient while also being friendly and thorough and totally getting my bike straightened out – so grateful! After that we walked across to the Whole Foods to stock up on nutrition and ran into the legendary Dave Scott, who wasn’t racing because Ironman “would have to pay him a lot” LOL. I’ll gloss over the rest of the other things that happen on race day eve: shakeout ride and run, bike and gear drop/check, eating all the carbs, putting on all the tats and so forth and so on.

Race Day!!!

Race morning felt fairly easy. I had snagged an English muffin and banana from the hotel breakfast the day prior, so I added some caffeinated almond butter (found it at Whole Foods, I’m now HOOKED!) and honey to the English muffin and had that with green tea. I opted to save the banana until closer to race start, which was almost 8 AM for me – a long time after our 4:30 AM wake-up call to get to transition when it opened at 5:30 AM. I had been off caffeine for a couple of days, and after that almond butter and green tea, I felt like a million bucks and was ready to get the party (race) started at 7 AM!

Since we’d dropped everything off the day before, there was very little to do race morning; just add bottles and nutrition to bike and pump tires. I took my time putting on my wetsuit, which is a cardio event in and of itself, and went to meet my parents and relax with them pre-race. I was happy to run into some Atlanta friends and my coach during this time for some good race day vibes.

The Swim

My age group was – I believe – the fourth to start. We got into our starting corral and then lined up to get onto the starting dock. The starting dock had ten “lanes” like you file into when you’re waiting to board a roller coaster car, and that’s just what it felt like. Every 15 seconds, a row of ten girls jumped into the water, and suddenly it was my turn, so exhilarating! I jumped in like I jumped off the boat at Escape from Alcatraz – in chair pose so that my goggles didn’t come off (I have a small head).

Immediately in the swim, competitors had to cross the river to hit the turn buoy, with a current trying to push us downstream.  This was also like the Escape from Alcatraz swim in the sense that I aimed up the river a bit while swimming across it so that I didn’t get pushed downstream. The long stretch was into the current and it didn’t feel as tough as I was expecting based on the long stretch into the current in the Russian River at Monte Rio Olympic. I focused on finding some power for my stroke and my arms didn’t start to feel tired until the last 300 meters up stream. Surprisingly I was even passing people on the swim, like a lot of them, at the World Freaking Championships! Full disclosure though, I seeded at the back of the swim because the last time-seeding sign was 38 minutes, my typical swim time on a course with no current … file that under “things that aren’t intimidating.”

After that, we crossed the river, again trying not to get pushed downstream. This turn was confusing since it was a downward angle instead of being straight across and I saw at least one person in my age group cut across before the red buoy, going straight across to the first yellow buoy and cutting the course by 200 meters. Kayaks were trying to alert that person but I don’t think they were able to, which is irritating because it’s technically cheating if you don’t go back and complete the course and that person should have been disqualified.

The rest of the swim was uneventful and the buoys came really fast with the current! I was happy to hit the swim exit stairs still feeling pretty good.

T1 – Swim -> Bike

Immediately out of the swim, we grabbed our transition bags from a line of blue bags. Fortunately my race number was amazing – 1000 – and it was at the very end of a row! Steve was also stationed nearby pointing it out to me, great to already see a cheerleader immediately out of the water.

We then ran up a steep slope to a changing tent where I ripped open/into my bag instead of taking the time to untie it, grabbed my sunglasses and helmet to put them on immediately and then ran to my bike carrying my cycling shoes.  I was trying to adjust my helmet and make sure it was on straight during the hustle, but I don’t think I did a very good job of that in looking at my bike photos, ha!

I remember hearing shouts of my name that I was pretty sure included my coach – again nice to have (!) – as I ran to my bike, which was the last one left on my rack. I kind of expected this. Typically I am in the top ~25% of my AG out of the water in a 70.3, but at Worlds “38 minutes” was the tail end of the swim seeding.

I grabbed my bike and headed out of T1, still carrying my bike shoes and not putting them on until I got to the mount line – it was a long T1 and I’ve learned that transitions matter.

The Bike

This is a good opportunity to mention nutrition. For this race, I kind of ended “winging it” as much as I ever do that, which is not much. I usually make my own potato gels and drink custom Infinit mixed with flavored Red Bull (Blue, Red or Yellow). Our accommodations got mixed up a bit, so I didn’t have a way to make potato gels how I usually do. My back up plan was to buy some roasted or boiled potatoes from the Whole Foods hot bar, and mash them up, adding veggie broth. I did this and added about ½ – 2/3 a vial of Base Salt but the potatoes smelled strong like they contained a lot of spices. The second thing was that instead of worrying about buying Red Bull, I just took the free Red Bull that was being given away at athlete check-in. The problem with all this is that the potatoes were very spicy AND salty (evidently they’d already been salted before I added loads of Base), and they kind of tasted like bacon, or what I would imagine bacon to taste like as some who has never eaten it and doesn’t care to. What I’m trying to say with all these words is that the potatoes were pretty gross and they were also pretty spicy! It doesn’t help that I don’t drink regular Red Bull because I drank too many Jaeger Bombs in my early twenties and now it usually elicits a gag reflex. On top of all that, it was the end of the season so I didn’t have much custom Infinit left, and probably shorted myself 1 – 2 scoops of calories and liquid nutrition. I’m just proud that this combination didn’t result in any vomiting on the bike, projectile or otherwise. And I guess the spicy potatoes were good because I have never drank so much water in a race!

The first five miles didn’t feel very fast due to turns, rail road tracks, etc but I suppose they were, and after that we started a steep pitch that began the climb up Lookout Mountain. The climb was not longer than anything I normally do, but it did represent some of the steeper sections of what I climb. Overall, I really liked this portion of the race and was sad when it was over, which seemed very quick. The climb was followed by some fun rollers and then some less fun rollers that felt like legit climbs.

Climbing Lookout Mountain! Sometimes you have to look around and smell the roses 🙂 I was really trying to take it all in!

There was an out-and-back section and I was trying to be mindful of proximity to other bikes and their draft zones. I saw officials at the turnaround and was nervous that I’d be judged to be close to the bikes ahead of me, so I attempted a pass. Not a good idea to pass on a super tight u-turn on a tiny two-lane road when your bike handling skills are not up to speed (I mostly ride outside on my road bike). I didn’t make the turn and wiped out. The top of my draft box broke off, spilling my flat kit. The bottom was wedged against my wheel, so I had to take off my wheel, and then pile my flat kit into my tri top since there were still 20 miles left on the bike.

The cage holding my aero bottle broke, so the bottle was un-secured and flopping around, spilling a sticky mixture of Infinit and Red Bull all over me. It had gotten on the back of my knees, and with the pedaling motion, I could feel them developing a chafing burn. I had also banged up my left side and back with the fall, so the final 20-miles were pretty uncomfortable, not to mention the wicked headwind that had picked up.

I’ve had a lot of awkward chafing situations, but this was defiinitely one of the weirdest!

Just scrapes and bruises along my left side, not real road rash, phew!!

I was a little worried what the lower left back pain would mean for the run, especially since my left hamstring had been bothering me during some runs for the final four weeks or so leading up to the race.

On those final 15 miles, there were two other girls that I was constantly leap frogging with and it helped provide a mental distraction, wondering when one would pass or when I should make a pass on one of them (i.e., after I’d backed off for long enough in between surges).

I felt like my time on the side of the road after wiping out at the turnaround had been an eternity, but Strava and Garmin suggest that it was only about 90 seconds, or no more than two minutes.

T2 – Bike -> Run

I handed off my sticky bike and yelled for my transition bag. The volunteer asked “one thousand and what?” … “just one thousand!” I had thought my race number was pretty killer right up until that moment, ha ha!

I collected myself quickly and headed out to run, trying to stay focused.

The Run

The first mile or two of a triathlon run is always dicey. I always find myself evaluating if I really want to do this or if I want to turn in my timing chip. In this instance, I realized I wouldn’t get the event t-shirt unless I crossed the finish line, so I reluctantly pressed forward and was surprised to see that my first split wasn’t too slow at all and it didn’t feel like much effort to generate despite some early climbs. It made me think that I could continue and see how the next couple of miles felt.

I was intrigued by the course, to see what it was like, and excited to see so many cheerleaders out from ATC (Atlanta Tri Club) and other Atlanta groups. On the super-tough back half hills, our friend Tom from San Francisco was blowing his taper for his Sunday race by cheering hard. He selected a GREAT cheer spot ? I also saw some of our friends local to Chattanooga out on their golf cart riding the hills and cheering. It actually made the toughest part of the race really fun! Following the hills, the pedestrian bridge takes competitors back to start the loop again, and there were also a lot of cheering spectators on this stretch. The spectator scene on the run was amazing, such a great energy.

I wore what Michael calls “the run turban” and was stuffing sponges in it throughout the run – it has a cooling effect when wet 🙂 

After having done the first loop, I was mentally able to break up the second loop and didn’t mind it at all. I heard some strong cheers from my coach on the final mile and really tried to finish hard and bring it home running my best.

This pretty well captures my elation at finishing and having a fun day on a tough course!


This was a really amazing course and event, and the organizers in Chattanooga did a phenomenal job. I was uncertain how I’d feel about different race days for men and women but I really loved racing so many fast women and then getting to cheer on the men on a different day.

I raced more competitively than I thought I would, and it left me feeling excited for what I could do in 2018 with a focused but dialed back off season. Onward!

Official [free] event gear and finishers swag!

In our welcome packets, we had letters from the local school children. It was so sweet! I seriously took this advice about hydrating, ha ha!

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Race Report: Folsom Triathlons 2017 https://freeplaymagazine.com/race-report-folsom-triathlons-2017/ Sun, 17 Sep 2017 17:55:12 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5957 Race: Folsom Triathlons Distance: Sprint Location: Folsom, CA Date: 08/06/201 **For health background, please see “Preface” in previous blog post “The Fall & The Fight.”** 3 weeks after my last race, California Triathlon, I made a life changing decision for my health – to go Vegan. If you read the Preface to my first race […]

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Race: Folsom Triathlons

Distance: Sprint

Location: Folsom, CA

Date: 08/06/201

**For health background, please see “Preface” in previous blog post “The Fall & The Fight.”**

3 weeks after my last race, California Triathlon, I made a life changing decision for my health – to go Vegan. If you read the Preface to my first race report of the 2017 season, it’s no secret that my health took a turn for the worse towards the end of last year and beginning of this year. Needless to say, it’s been a rough go around this season. Nutrition and diet has played a major role in managing my overall health over the years in battling conditions, diseases, illness, surgeries, etc. Before going Vegan, I’d tried just about every “diet” out there. Some helped better than others – and I believe it helped me make it into remission once upon a time.

In my current disease state, I was running out of options to help get my health back under “control.” Honestly, I was beyond desperate to feel better again. It was time to try something new – enter, going Vegan. I went into it having the mindset of “I have nothing to lose” – if it didn’t make a difference, then no harm done. But, if it did help – oh what a dream come true it would be. Literally life-changing for all aspects of my health. Within the first week, I had already noticed significant changes. By the time I raced Folsom Triathlons, I was 2 weeks in.

In regards to health related changes, I noticed: lessened fatigue and inflammation, and an overall more “well” feeling and less “ill” feeling (kind of a difficult thing to explain accurately to people who have their health). These changes directly contributed to changes in my triathlon training. Changes I noticed in training: increased energy and ability, quicker recovery time, and an overall more “strong” feeling. For the record, the only thing I changed was what I was eating – with that being said, I can say with confidence that all the credit was owed to going Vegan. Did I mention it had only been 2 weeks? Insert smiley face here.

I was feeling great going into race day! Disclaimer: “feeling great” does not mean no symptoms from all my ailments. In my world, “feeling great” means symptoms are cooperating enough to be more manageable than normal. I was so excited to race at my favorite local triathlon venue. I think it’s my favorite one each year! The early morning air was cooler than past years, which made me very optimistic for the temperature for the rest of the day. Past years had been high 90’s and even triple digits – I’ve even had heat exhaustion on this race course before. So the cooler temps gave me an extra boost of motivation.

Kicked off race day as I normally do – got in a little run warm up, stretching, and then the warm up/stretching feat of getting into the wetsuit. The wetsuit part is always a joy! Said no triathlete ever. Got into the water to get acclimated to the cold crispness and take a look at how the swim course was laid out. Just once, I would really love to have a swim course start opposite of the rising sun. Just. Once. I was completely blinded by the sun and could not make out the buoys very well at all. Good thing I’m not the fastest swimmer, because I’d definitely be swimming off course! I started off in a good pace and felt like I stayed consistent throughout the race, and even had some extra oomph to pick it up a bit on the stretch to the swim exit. I will say that I was caught off guard by how choppy the water was the entire course. Swallowed more water than I wanted to (not on purpose) – but it kept it interesting and challenging.

The bike course at this triathlon is one of my favorites, ever. Got out of the danger zone mounting area as quickly as possible, and was soon settling into my happy place on the rolling hills course. (Rolla coasta of love…rolla coasta…oou oou oou!) I was bringing down the hammer out there. That is, until I realized that the course was actually a longer distance then what I had thought it was. In a state of confusion, I checked how far I had come so far, and tried to calculate how much further I needed to go to make it to the end of the bike course. I was close to hitting the 10 mile mark, but was still far out from the finish. Since an average sprint bike course is under 15 miles, I knew something was not right. Turns out, what was “not right” was my thinking that the course was less than 15 miles! The course was 19 miles – which pretty much could have just been the 24 mile Olympic distance bike course. Despite it, I fought my darndest to keep up the pace. Since I didn’t train for that distance, my body was not prepared and I was feeling that the second half of the course.

In T2 my lower body was beat. So beat. My upper body was feeling it too, due to the aero position of my tri bike. Which was to be expected, considering my mistake of not checking the mileage when I registered for the race. Lesson learned! I knew I was in for yet a second beat down of the day on the run course. I felt disappointed in myself because I was really looking forward to doing well on the run this year. One positive? It wasn’t too horribly hot yet. Second positive? I wasn’t doing to 10k. At this point, I was grasping at any little bit of positivity I could to keep me digging deep. Despite how hard I tried to push the pace, it just wasn’t happening. Instead I was plagued by legs cramping the entire way. All I could do was put a smile on my face and run with my heart.

Crossed that finish line and could feel my legs giving out from under me, in 3…2… and 1! Shout out to the awesome medics who get me to the med tent when I can’t do it on my own. Spent some extra time lying down in the med tent icing my legs, hips, and back – then my fiancé signed me up for a massage. Hobbled around with his help, and kept icing as I waited my turn. Let me tell you, the massage I got was amazing. It hurt like a mofo, but afterwards I was feeling SO much better than when I crossed the finish.

I figured that it wasn’t likely that I made podium this time, so we were thinking about just taking off before the results were posted. Once they were up, I figured I’d check them anyways and we could be on our way out. To my great surprise, I did in fact make podium, taking 3rd place AG! I PR’d the swim and the run from last years splits, and had the 2nd fastest bike split in my AG – but, I missed an overall PR by just one minute. Although they weren’t major accomplishments, I was still blown away at what I did that day. And then came the rush of incredible emotion, stepping up on the podium for a second time this season.

Honestly, it’s never really about the actual podium or medal – it is instead about the FIGHT it signifies. The hard fought battles day in and day out with autoimmune disease, chronic illness, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and the list goes on. I made podium, but achievements like that come with a high price. That high price is enduring the backlash of the all of the above disease/illness/conditions. But that FIGHT – it’s always worth it. As always, a huge THANK YOU to my incredible sponsors, for their undying support and belief in me: Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, Love The Pain, Kinetic Cycles, and Team Freeplay.

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Tuning Up at Oakland Tri Fest Olympic! https://freeplaymagazine.com/tuning-oakland-tri-fest-olympic/ Mon, 04 Sep 2017 17:54:01 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5951 The Oakland Tri Fest was my first multi-sport event in California when I moved here three years ago. I raced it two weeks after moving as a way to check out the local multi-sport scene. It was fascinating in that respect and I also met two of my now-close training partners and friends at the […]

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The Oakland Tri Fest was my first multi-sport event in California when I moved here three years ago. I raced it two weeks after moving as a way to check out the local multi-sport scene. It was fascinating in that respect and I also met two of my now-close training partners and friends at the event. Earlier this year, I volunteered at another event put on by the Oakland race organizers, USAP, and in return received a discounted race entry. I opted to use that entry on the Oakland event given my experience three years ago – and that it was close and convenient from home (!) – and that it was to take place two weeks prior to Ironman 70.3 World Championships, great timing for a tune-up.

This really is a unique event; it truly is a festival with mutliple distances/events – aquabike, aquathon, duathlon, relay, Sprint, Olympic, etc – and it’s urban setting provides some very unique race challenges.

On race day, Michael and I woke up super-early to get to the race venue right around 5 AM. There were some logistics to consider with a point-to-point swim and a very long transition: dropping off shoes at the swim exit from transition and getting 1K down to the swim start. It was nice to see friends from my club at our club bike rack in transition and prep for the day with them, as that creates a more laid back race day feel, which has been a big goal for me this year. After setting up transition, we walked over to the swim exit to place our shoes. I normally would not do this (put on shoes for transition), but the transition was long – at least a quarter mile – and it was on city streets/surfaces and included climbing and descending six flights of potentially slippery stairs to cross a pedestrian walk way over train tracks. No reason to chance incident or injury during all that with my A-race two weeks out, and I could probably do this more quickly with running shoes on my feet! The shoe drop had cones so that people placed there shoes according to race number, and I opted to wedge mine into the horizontal railings above the shoe drop, coming up the dock out of the estuary. I assumed I wouldn’t have to bend down as much to grab them from the railing and that they’d be easier to find than if they were lined up with dozens of other shoes. I then put on my wet suit, which always feels like an aerobic warm up itself, and walked down to the swim start in some of Michael’s old flip flops.

Oakland Transition in ROKA

I got in the water about ten minutes before my scheduled wave start to splash around and warm up. It was helpful in getting used to how salty the water was – I wasn’t expecting that – and getting my goggles leak proof. The swim is a deep water start in a cove, where athletes swim a box-shape around cones and then take off in the straight line with the current down to Jack London Square. The current wasn’t extreme, but I could feel that I was moving well, so it was definitely there. The swim seemed to go fast, and aside from the start, was fairly un-physical.

I wrapped up the swim and hoisted myself onto the floating dock, and ran up the ramp to the boardwalk where our shoes were stashed. I had already taken off my goggles and pulled down my wetsuit. I knew I could run fastest while wearing running shoes and no wetsuit for the long T1, so I took the opportunity to snag a bench by the swim exit where I could pull my wetsuit off while shoving my feet into the old pair of running shoes I’d brought for the T-run. I saw Michael, Carrie and Madison cheering during the first stretch of T1 as I was taking off prepared to hustle.

Oakland T1 Run

I didn’t feel tired from the swim, and I wanted to use T1 to make up for as much swim time as I could, so I ran hard. I noticed I was running by a lot of people still wearing their wetsuits. As difficult as it was to round the sets of stairs with my hands full of wetsuit, cap and goggles, I still felt like I was being aggressive with transition speed. And I did have the fastest female T1, a win for this girl who usually has a T1 that suggests she was enjoying tea and cake or taking a nap :).

The bike course is the part of this race that gives the sense of “urban triathlon” the most. It’s comprised of a lot pot holes, u-turns, sharp rights, train tracks, speed bumps and other items that you might not experience in a typical triathlon. These are the elements that make the course technical and allow it to really slow you down. I haven’t been riding my tri bike outside much to work on bike handling skills so was red-lining on the clear straightaways to make up for the lost time on the rest of the course. This was two loops of the sprint course and it seemed to go by very fast. Despite the technical aspects, it was still an Olympic bike course PR for me.

In T2, I focused on changing from bike shoes to run shoes, and kept telling/reminding myself to take off my helmet before leaving transition. There was definitely a race where I had to entrust my bike helmet to an unsuspecting and honest-looking spectator on the run course! Again, I felt like I was racing the transitions and had the energy to do so, which I actually feel is an extension of fitness more than a “fourth discipline” in and of itself, as I remember in races in previous years being so spent coming off the bike that I felt I needed to linger longer in T2 to collect myself. I was the only lady to complete T2 in under a minute and won that, too, ha!

On the run course, I didn’t see many people, even fewer than I did running at Donner Lake Olympic. This course was a lollipop. I passed a couple guys, and a couple guys passed me, but I didn’t see any other ladies. I started to see other racers coming off the lollipop and heading back towards the finish, but they were just starting their run and heading out to the loop. I was starting to finally get tired on the last mile, and that was my first one slower than 7 minutes. I had been consistently hitting my sub-7 splits on the run, the best Olympic run I’d even had. I also finally caught a glimpse of a female racer ahead of me as I was navigating back to the finish on that last mile. Right at mile 6 we came to the train tracks, meaning six flights of stairs up, and then down. I was getting closer to the other lady, but there wasn’t much left of the course at this point! I ended up finishing :15 behind her, and since she started in my wave, my race finish time was :15 behind her, too. She was the first female finisher overall and I was second! Though that makes you wonder: would I have been able to run just a little faster had I known that information?

Overall, I was really happy with this as a tune-up race in the sense that I felt relaxed and confident, and was able to “race” from wire-to-wire, even feeling strong in transitions and throughout nearly the entire run. And I got to see old friends and make new ones! Another great event from USAP, and with complimentary Sierra Nevada brews and burritos at the finish line, the mark of a great event 🙂

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USAT Nationals https://freeplaymagazine.com/usat-nationals/ Mon, 28 Aug 2017 19:08:13 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5900 I competed in USAT Nationals in Omaha NE. in a new age group this year! But apparently no one there knew about slowing down as you get older. In fact the top 2 or so finishers in my age group beat many younger age group top finishers. I was honored to toe the line with […]

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I competed in USAT Nationals in Omaha NE. in a new age group this year! But apparently no one there knew about slowing down as you get older. In fact the top 2 or so finishers in my age group beat many younger age group top finishers. I was honored to toe the line with these fast ladies.

A little about my race…

Out of 19 age groups starts my group was 16th. With just the 25-29 men, 25-29 woman, and 24 & under men behind us. That meant setting up transition before 7am then sitting and waiting 2.5 hours. But that gave me time to drink more coffee, use the port-a-potty 100 more times, and work on not freaking out.

The water was warm so no wetsuits. The swim went smooth, not too much bumping around. I tried to find feet and did a couple times but then lost them. So I was alone for the most part, but did notice someone drafting off me! Wasn’t sure if I should get mad or feel honored ha! For the first time racing I made sure to concentrate on not kicking too hard. Without the wetsuit, and my tendency to kick more than a triathlete should, I wanted to make sure to save my legs for what was ahead. The swim ended up being one of my slowest 1500m times. I did start my watch about 30sec early but when I exited the water it was 2-3 minutes slower than my typical time. Not knowing where I stood coming out of the water I was relieved when I got to the racks I noticed many bikes were still there (they rack age group together). Turns out the swim was maybe a bit long and there might have been some currents, because everyone’s times ended up being slower than usual. So as long as it slows everyone down I’m okay with my slow time! 

The bike course was flat with one steep climb about mile 8. It was there I saw some funny signs that made me laugh “Smile if you peed in Carter Lake” (I smiled, don’t judge) and “This hill is easy, like your mother!” (whaaat?!? Well I never…). Later I passed a gal in the age group ahead of me, and when she saw my age on my leg she yelled out “You are in 6th position!” That floored me because 1. that was top ten, 2. she was keeping track, and 3. that she told me! So nice. On the bike I worked hard, kept to the non-drafting rules (there were many officials on motorcycles out there), and had to tap into the songs in my head to distract from thinking about “will I be able to run after pushing this hard?” Believer by Imagine Dragons was what keep me going strong at the end. And counting my pedal strokes.

The run was a 2-loop 5K and very flat, my favorite. Well, slight downhill is my favorite, but flat is a close second. It was packed with racers. Being one of the last groups to start the race, and a 2-loop course, I was constantly passing people from other age groups. And every so often a racer from the younger age group behind me would fly by me like I was standing still. I remember passing someone in my age group and she said something to effect of “go get ‘em girl!” Side note: I have to say that even though we are all out there competing and wanting to place well, the encouragement from other racers is amazing. Everyone is out there giving their best and still encouraging others to do the same. It makes me tear up a little….
Anyway back to the run
At mile 4 there was a gal in my age group I was slowly catching. I was debating to stay behind her and try to pass her closer to the finish, but then I thought if I passed her maybe I’d keep running faster than her… I decided that since my goal was top 10 I had nothing to lose and I should run my hardest. So I passed her. Then not too long after she passed me back! I stayed with her on her heels, we were zigzagging through so many people! It was fun to chase her like that. With a little over a mile to go I started to feel light-headed, I kept counting to distract from the pain but didn’t want to pass out before the finish so I ended up slowing slightly. She ended up beating me by 11 seconds. Turns out there was a gal behind us who was gaining ground, she came in 15 seconds behind me. When I came to the finish line I heard Tim Yount announce my name and that I was 5th place! I was beyond thrilled. Becky, who came in 4th, and I hugged and we thanked each other for the push to the finish. Then 6th place, Kirsten, came in and was so thrilled to come in top 10 as well. We hugged and laughed! She told me she didn’t tell anyone (well maybe one person she confessed) that she secretly wanted top 10 but wasn’t sure if it was doable. I told her I felt the same, I had told a few people but really wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. But there we were, we had just accomplished our far fetched goal! It was amazing.

The weekend was more than the race… I had an amazing time hanging out with Sarah who I met at ITU Cozumel last year, we made a plan in Mexico to have a reunion at Nationals. I miss her already and wish she lived closer. I loved seeing triathletes I’ve met while racing over the last few years, and meeting new ones. And hanging with my husband and so much family from the area was icing on the cake.


photos from the weekend

Sarah started 2 hours before me, so I got to cheer for her coming in from swim.


my age group swim start!

swim exit, a very long T1

corn fields!

lots of corn fields…

on the red carpet!

the finish! Kirsten in the black Watte Ink kit close behind!!

we all met last year at ITU Worlds in Cozumel

Sarah stuck around for 2 hours to watch me finish, and then joined me in the cold pool!

45-49 year old podium!

before hitting the town in our bling

friends and family post awards celebration!


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Whistler Winds of Change – Ironman 70.3 Canada https://freeplaymagazine.com/whistler-winds-change-ironman-70-3-canada/ Mon, 14 Aug 2017 05:34:04 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5890 “Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do, you will be certain to find something you have never seen before.” Alexander Graham Bell, who spent part of his life living in Canada, is credited with this quote. It aptly suits my trip to Whistler, BC for Ironman Canada […]

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“Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do, you will be certain to find something you have never seen before.” Alexander Graham Bell, who spent part of his life living in Canada, is credited with this quote. It aptly suits my trip to Whistler, BC for Ironman Canada 70.3

Last year I did Ironman Canada as my second full IM distance. It has a beautiful swim and run, and one heck of a bike course – spectacular views and memorable (notorious!) climbs. I loved Whistler so much that I had to go back, but this time for the more manageable 70.3 distance.

Making the race really special was having my Canadian cousin Christine and her husband Jim travel hundreds of miles to be there for the race. Christine and I had never met; it was a highlight of my trip. It was their first experience at a triathlon. They got to take in the race energy and excitement in Whistler Village.

The historic Olympic rings had a sign saying “no climbing.” Oops! Sitting doesn’t count, right?

Race day dawned with good temperatures and seemingly ideal conditions. The full Ironman started at its typically early hour. The 70.3 didn’t start until mid-morning. I lined up in the rolling start and got going in the water. I’d felt slight tenderness in my right pectoral muscle before the race. I felt it more in the swim. I don’t know if that added to my feeling of not breathing well, but for the first time in a couple of years, I had anxiety during the swim. More than once I did a bit of breaststroke. I really wanted to quit, but knowing that Christine had made the big trip there for my race kept me going! As the swim progressed, so did the intensity of the wind. It got choppier than I’d dealt with before, and that taxed me. Finally, to the finish with my slowest 70.3 swim yet. I had to put it behind me and get on to the bike!

Alta Lake, where the swim takes place, has captivating views.

The bike course leads us out on to the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway where we headed toward Callaghan Valley Road, which was the site for events at the 2010 Winter Olympics. The 70.3 athletes turned around only 750 meters up this beautiful and challenging climb. Back on to the highway for a spin to Pemberton. We had a lot of downhill aided by a good tailwind. The road does have some climbs, but the “best” would be on the way back. I saw one athlete at the bottom of a steep descent on the ground getting medical aid. It kept me in check within my own level of descending skills. The turnaround took us back up those same hills, which added a couple of thousand feet of climbing (at least!). The climbs were made even more “fun” with some good headwinds and crosswinds. Getting back into Whistler meant reaching the relatively flat section and, as always, I looked forward to being off the bike. I ran into transition to grab my run gear bag, and was able to see Christine and Jim there, which pumped me up.


Beautiful Green Lake, which we pass on the bike and run.


I look forward to the run because it’s safer than the bike and it’s where I just about always catch up on a few people. I got going but didn’t feel as strong as I’d like. Within the first mile I felt my quads act like they were going to cramp (I rarely have issues with cramping). I walked about 10 seconds and got back to running. I stopped at aid stations for ice in my tri suit (thermal regulation in the afternoon sun!) and also kept up on my gel blocks and a couple of salt tablets. After a few miles I settled into a better pace. I’d caught a couple of people in my division and knew I needed to keep working as I assumed several more were still ahead. I still struggled physically and sometimes mentally, and took a few 10-second walking breaks (atypical for me in those conditions). The run took us past spectacular Green Lake, which we’d also passed on the bike. Several miles are on a pedestrian/bike path with a canopy of trees. Unlike last year, I didn’t see any bears during the run! The miles clicked down and finally I was back into the Village with just a few turns to make before turning onto Blackcomb Way with a nice little descent to the finish line.

A beaitofi; water feature we pass in the Village as we near the finish.

I was back to feeling stronger and saw Christine and Jim on the left as I ran toward that arch. I was so glad to finish! It was one of my slowest times, but for me, that’s due to the bike course, which I consider more challenging than any of the other 70.3 courses I’ve done.

I ended up in 6th in my division, less than two minutes behind 5th. Yes, I’ve thought about where I left those two minutes on the course, more to learn from it than to berate myself. I consider the race a big block in the training, where I gained additional fitness and strength.

So into those woods I went, and although it wasn’t the ideal day for me, I found some things in me I’d never seen before, all to learn from for the next time.

I love the maple leaf on the finisher’s medal.


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Race Report: California Triathlons 2017 https://freeplaymagazine.com/race-report-california-triathlons-2017/ Thu, 10 Aug 2017 22:13:17 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5886 Race: California Triathlons Distance: Sprint Location: Pleasanton, CA Date: 06/25/2017 **For health background, please see “Preface” in previous blog post “The Fall & The Fight.”** Race Report: Nothing like a 2am wake-up call on race day! Especially when you only got a solid 3-4 hours of sleep. Gets me every time. Every. Time. Sometimes I […]

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Race: California Triathlons

Distance: Sprint

Location: Pleasanton, CA

Date: 06/25/2017

**For health background, please see “Preface” in previous blog post “The Fall & The Fight.”**

Race Report:

Nothing like a 2am wake-up call on race day! Especially when you only got a solid 3-4 hours of sleep. Gets me every time. Every. Time. Sometimes I nail the sleep before race day – those “sometimes” are rare this season. Obviously chronic pain has something to do with that – it just comes with the territory. Had to be out the door around 3am to make it to the race venue in Pleasanton by 5am when registration and transition opened. I drove my fiancé and myself so that he could get some extra snooze time – it’s the least I can do since he is always at every race supporting me while I chase my dreams.

When we arrived I was hurting. Fatigue was high, head was pounding, and pain was high – especially in my back. The sun was just starting to rise and the temperature was lovely – not too cold and not too warm. I spent extra time stretching and listening to my body and giving it what it needed – physically, and mentally too. Before and during races I do a lot of talking to myself in my head – encouraging myself, reassuring myself, motivating myself. Some races I rely more heavily on the mental pep talk than others – this was one of those races.

My wave start was 6:53am, so I made way into the water about 10 mins before that. It’s always important for me to get in the water and get acclimated and comfortable before my wave. Easier on my body that way, plus I swim better because I don’t feel so anxious (breathing is more controlled). The water was perfect – warm (my body likes that). So warm that I regretted wearing my wetsuit a little bit, because I could’ve cut down T1 time struggling to get that darn wetsuit off.

As I was swimming around a bit getting warmed up, I looked back at the shore and was stunned to see that it was covered by triathletes. Then the race director got on the megaphone explaining that the race start was being delayed because so many triathletes were still trying to get into the venue. I’ve done this race 3 years in a row and have never seen that many people racing it. I opted to stay in the water until race start – which actually ended up being pushed back about 10-15 mins or so.

So I swam around and waded in the water longer than my actual swim course race. Probably wasted some energy, but oh well. Felt damn good during the swim, minimal contact with other swimmers, sighting was on point. Overall I just felt good, and strong. As I ran out of the water I checked my time and suddenly realized why I was feeling so good – because I was swimming SLOW. “Awesome. Nailed it Dina.” The good news was, my body wasn’t very angry with me yet. With my slow swim time getting under my skin, I was beyond ready to crush the bike leg.

The bike course starts on an immediate steep climb out of T1. BAM. Climb this hill NOW. There’s also not a lot of space for mounting bikes, so it can be quite chaotic. I was so focused on getting out of the danger zone that I thought I had clipped in both of my pedals. As I started to climb one of my feet slipped and obviously was not clipped in. Not ideal when on a steep hill from a dead stop. “Please don’t roll backwards, please don’t roll backwards.” I quickly realized I was not in a climbing gear, for funsies. Because you know, that would have been way too easy.

Obscenities poured from my mouth as I climbed. Wrist pain, hamstring cramp. “Push those pedals faster.” Hip pain, back pain. “Dig Deep inside. Fight for it.” Averaged about 19mph, so it was worth it (as it ALWAYS is). Mentally I was feeling incredible. I killed that bike course and totally surprised myself. “YES, I got this!” Kept that positivity up in T2, and headed out on the run. My first thought was, “Sweet, it’s not triple digits! Thank you triathlon God’s.” My body wasn’t as angry as I had expected it to be. A bit past the mile marker my second thought was, “I’m actually feeling pretty good, time to pick up the pace!” Almost instantaneously I rolled my ankle. “Well. There goes that.” And again with the hamstring cramp when I was attempting to empty the tank. Apparently my bodies tank was already empty.

Crossed that finish line and made my way straight to the med tent (per usual) – mostly for my rolled ankle. Each time I cross a finish line, no matter what kind of race I had (good or bad), the full weight of what my body had actually been feeling hits me like a ton of bricks. It speaks volumes to the power of mind over matter – and furthermore, what we can truly endure despite the odds.

Somehow, I PR’d my overall course time and earned 6th place AG in a very competitive field. My PR was a minute faster than last year’s. (To put it into perspective – competitive field, meaning that last year I took 3rd in my AG and was a minute slower than I was this year.) This may not sound like much for the average triathlete, but for ME this is a hard fought for accomplishment. This year, my training and racing is nowhere near the level it was last year – due to my health (autoimmune disease, chronic illness, other chronic conditions, etc). I’ve accepted that, but am still fighting. Neither are easy, but I’m letting it be enough. So to be in my shoes that day, and do what I was able to do filled me with incredible strength and restored much needed belief in myself. It’s enough – powerfully enough.

As always, a huge THANK YOU to my incredible sponsors, for their undying support and belief in me: Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, Love The Pain, Kinetic Cycles, and Team Freeplay.

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Racing Myself at Donner Lake Triathlon https://freeplaymagazine.com/racing-donner-lake-triathlon/ Sun, 30 Jul 2017 20:03:59 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5876 The last couple of years (triathlon seasons) living in NorCal, I’ve really enjoyed racing Big Blue Adventure events, as they’re fun with a great vibe, are set within gorgeous venues and offer a reason for a weekend in the amazing Tahoe-Truckee area. In 2015, I raced Donner Lake, and then Lake Tahoe Tri in 2016. […]

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The last couple of years (triathlon seasons) living in NorCal, I’ve really enjoyed racing Big Blue Adventure events, as they’re fun with a great vibe, are set within gorgeous venues and offer a reason for a weekend in the amazing Tahoe-Truckee area. In 2015, I raced Donner Lake, and then Lake Tahoe Tri in 2016. Neither disappointed with tough and honest courses, beautiful swim settings, phenomenal bike course views and runs that are sure to test your legs and lungs. My husband and I decided to return to do the Donner Lake Olympic this year, partially because I love the idea of racing on my birthday and he was much more open to a local Olympic than an Ironman!

This was especially neat because it represented the first time I’d ever repeated a triathlon. Until this race, I’d had no barometer for year-over-year improvement aside from %s, rankings, scores, etc. In order to race my 2015 self, I would need to structure the weekend similarly. That meant doing a long ride the day prior that was a loop of the Ironman Tahoe bike course. I loved that course and it was a treat to re-ride. It seemed easier than I recalled and just as beautiful. In looking at the data, I summited Brockway four minutes faster on my pre-race ride this year than in 2015 – that’s a nice gain! This was all especially meaningful for racing on a day where you officially age up and hope to not decline with added years.

The rest of the weekend, similarly, consisted of relaxing with friends and enjoying the area. A lot more friends this time around since we’ve met so many amazing people living here! The friends we stayed with have a standing reservation at a lovely mountain house directly across the street from the race – you’d be hard pressed to find a parking spot that was closer than the house where we stayed. This made race morning easy breezy. We got in line to get into transition right when it opened and secured a prime spot for our bikes. We had assigned rows, but were otherwise able to snag the rack and spot closest to “bike out” on that row. And then returned to the house to get ready at a very leisurely pace.

I walked over with my friend Kathy about 20 minutes before our swim waves were scheduled to start, and saw my husband finishing his warm up as I waded in to get used to the water and temperature – always a prudent idea at altitude and with cold water. We’d taken a short dip in the lake the day before, jumping off a bridge with just our swimsuits – no wetsuits – and swimming over to the beach where the swim start was to take place. I felt pretty comfortable, a lot more so than I remembered being in this lake.

When it was time for my swim start, I seeded right on the buoy line, but kind of near the back of the pack. When the horn sounded, I was surprised that people didn’t bolt to start swimming so I pushed ahead of them and got myself started. I felt a lot more confident in the water than I have in the past, and took a straight line to the turn buoy, getting in the mix. I felt like I was swimming a more direct line – difficult with the glare from the sun in this race – and also with more strength than in swims past. I didn’t feel like I was really getting passed/caught much and was doing a fair amount of passing myself. Thus I was surprised when I emerged from the water with a slower swim time than 2015 by nearly two minutes. I haven’t compared Garmin distance but overall swims looked slower this year and my finish % was a good bit better this year. Another factor could be that I used a sleeveless wetsuit this year, so less of that buoyant neoprene.

I remember transition being right in front of swim exit and also by bike out but it seems like it moved to the left a bit this year. I had to drag my bike from transition through about 100+ meters of sand to the mount line, and my transition time was about :60 slower this year.

The climb up to Donner Pass on the bike course starts immediately, so my breathing and HR were pretty nasty coming right out of the swim into that stretch. I also needed to determine good times to take in nutrition. I had forgotten to pack the cage for my BTA bottle so I was relying on my rear cage as my only hydration. I don’t get a lot of practice using this on the move, especially at race effort, so I wasn’t very smooth with this. The times when I was negotiating the cage were the only instances on the main climb where I would get caught/passed. I felt strong and was rolling right by everyone.

After the bike turnaround, there was a long, long climb back to the rollers before descending Donner Pass. After the turnaround, a lady caught me who was in my age group and we leap frogged along the climb based on who was taking in nutrition. My gear and equipment are pretty old these days, at least in the tri world, and it can be intimidating when the other girls in my AG show up with the newest, fastest bikes and accessories. This gal had all of that. And she *looked* like a cyclist. I just kept telling myself that there was one discipline left in the race and it was my strongest. I was certain that upon cresting this long climb and reaching the rollers, she’d really drop the hammer on me. As we neared the crest, I decided to act first and hit a bigger gear and went for it. I kept waiting for her to roll up beside me on her fancy bike and disc wheel, but I never saw her again. The descent back down to Donner Lake was much less frightening and much more fun that I remembered!

Donner 2017 bike

Because the screaming descent takes you right to T2, there is a spot as the descent levels out where you must stop and put one foot down and then continue to dismount. I did that and ran back through the sand to T2. I guess that was good prep for starting the run. I racked my bike and was out fairly quickly though again slightly slower than in 2015.

Donner Lake 2017 Run

Starting the run, in the sand, with visor in hand.

I was expecting to feel kinda terrible on the run but actually felt pretty strong! It was a nice feeling but I really didn’t see anybody for the first mile, so was wondering if the course had changed and if I was going in the right direction! I did finally come up on all the people who were just ahead of me and there was a good stream of folks to try and pick off while looking for the pony tails. As I got to the far end of the lake, a gentleman volunteer gave me some encouragement on my running and I soon spotted a gaggle of ladies across all age groups. After that were the super-tough climbs on the back half of the run course and there weren’t many folks on that stretch to try to reign in, so it was a bit challenging but helpful to know that I was closing in on the finish line. I could see on my watch that I was in a position to beat previous year by 5+ minutes, so was incented to keep running hard and see what I could do. I noticed I was dripping sweat, which rarely happens to me out west. The day was humid and 10-15 degrees warmer than the last time I’d raced the course. The water stations were well-placed for taking in fluids and dumping them overhead.

Donner Lake Finish 2017

I don’t remember posing for this photo, but clearly I was pleased with myself!

I finished more than six minutes faster than in 2015 and was shocked to hear that I was the second female to cross the finish line, though did end up third since the lady behind me also started in a wave five minutes back from me. I was most excited to see that I had bettered my bike split by seven minutes with four of those coming on the main 3-mile climb and then I was still able to run a minute faster on a hotter day. Yay for improving with age!! Makes me excited to keep racing 🙂

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Chasing Goals at Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’ Alene https://freeplaymagazine.com/chasing-goals-ironman-70-3-coeur-d-alene/ Sun, 30 Jul 2017 18:44:04 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5871 I’m fairly certain I’d rank Ironman 70.3 Coeur D’Alene in the Top 3 of all the 13 different 70.3 races I’ve completed. I think it nails the mark on: The town – such a cute and wonderful town filled with breweries, trails that are steps from downtown and an amazing BnB (not of the “Air” […]

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I’m fairly certain I’d rank Ironman 70.3 Coeur D’Alene in the Top 3 of all the 13 different 70.3 races I’ve completed. I think it nails the mark on:

  1. The town – such a cute and wonderful town filled with breweries, trails that are steps from downtown and an amazing BnB (not of the “Air” variety). We stayed in MacFarland BnB run by Nancy. It reminded me of my sorority days in college. A house approximately 100 years old with common areas that were actually used, snacks readily available at all hours and prepared food at meal times (okay, breakfast). It was fun; I enjoyed meeting the other lodgers and hearing their stories. Nancy also had secure bike storage, and for years has been taking custom orders from athletes for their preferred pre-race breakfast at the appropriate time on race morning.
  2. The race venue – the lake was the perfect temperature, just north of 64*, and clear enough to see to the bottom at reasonable depths. The views from the bike and run course were outstanding with beautiful scenery and the town really showed up to support the athletes and bring out their sprinklers and spirited cheers.
  3. The course – Each of the courses and the single transition area were ideal. Transitions felt quick. The bike course had some climbs, but nearly always offered momentum. The run course had nice views and fun twists and turns to keep the energy high.

This was my first time racing with the newly implemented rolling swim start at an Ironman 70.3. I wasn’t sure what to expect but was frankly a bit worried that the course may feel crowded and physical. I seeded right behind the 35/36-minute line and jumped in the water pretty easily. Usually I get major nerves on race morning and am surly about the idea of racing. On most race mornings, I mention retirement a few times. It helped on this day that it was right on top of summer solstice, so the sun rose at 4 AM. With a 6:15 AM race start, it had been light out a bit and it felt like it was time to start exercising. With the rolling start, it look me more than 15 minutes to actually arrive at the start line and begin swimming.

I decided to try to swim the buoy line and see what would happen. I started off in similar rhythm to the swimmers next to me of both genders. As it turns out, it was nice to have swim buddies! After the first few buoys, I noticed that I started passing all the swimmers I came upon. I was hoping this meant that I was doing well. I felt like I was swimming on course, fairly straight and pretty strong. Though as I got close to the finish chute, I did have the impression that I’d been in the water for a while. Not surprisingly, I logged a 38-minute swim. Because I ALWAYS log a 38-minute swim. No matter how I feel about the swim – it was tough, I swam off course, I was nervous/anxious/scared,  I was tired, I was strong, I swam straight, I was confident – the result always seems to be the same.

You never know how folks (other competitors) are handling the day, so I’ve learned to take these initial results with a grain of salt and to simply press on. Looking back, the swim times for the top 10 girls in my age group were all very erratic. Still not sure what to make of it.

I felt like a rocket in transition, running hard and getting ready to load up with my cycling gear. This was one of the few 70.3s with wetsuit strippers, which was a nice treat!

I got out on the bike and took the first loop with an effort that was probably slightly below race effort, but it allowed me to settle in and take in some early nutrition. I noticed as I took on the climbs of the second loop – the ones I was nervous about – that they set up very much like the local climbs I ride on the regular. They were long for a 70.3 but not for where I ride, which made them feel pretty easy. One reminded me of a local climb of about five miles that I used to take in my little ring and would struggle along, but I’ve come to love and embrace it and now often ride it in my big chain ring, while in aero. I was able to take that race climb like I now do the local climb, and felt strong. Most of the climbs offered momentum into the next. For all the ascents on the bike course, it felt pretty fast. The roads were nice and smooth, too!

I was able to complete the bike course a bit faster than I anticipated, which was a great feeling! It was fun riding, too!

During the first few miles of the run, I was hitting my target pace. Then I encountered the first real climb on the run course and my pace faltered. As I neared the turnaround for the second loop, I could tell that it was heating up outside and that the fatigue was starting to catch up to my legs. The second loop was a struggle.

I was targeting a 5:08 finish time for the race. This was a totally flawed strategy, but it had worked for me at Oceanside 70.3 the prior year. I looked at what time would net a podium finish and then how I could hit those splits. I executed exactly as such as Oceanside. The problem at Coeur d’Alene though was that this would be a PR for me at the 70.3 distance, on a hot day and a tough course with an honest swim (and bike and run, too).

On the second loop, I could see that my pace was slipping. Early in the loop, it looked like I could hit 5:08 if I maintained my pace, but my pace had started to slip. I was now thinking that 5:10 was a best case scenario, and that would still be a PR, so I would be happy with that. As I reached mile 11 and then mile 12, I started to get ecstatic. I saw that I could still achieve 5:08! I remember how elated I was running down the main drag in town toward the finish line.

My other two goals for the race (aside from a time goal) were to podium and earn a slot to 70.3 Worlds. As it turns out, alllllll the fast girls showed up this year. The gal who had won my old AG the year prior didn’t even make it on the podium with the same finish time as prior year. My new AG was large and fast. I still made the top 10 but I was a little bummed that was all my best could get me. But it did snag me a spot to Worlds! Given that it was a large AG, we had six slots (six!) allocated, so I was able to snag one of those. I knew this new AG would be tough, but it’s even more so than I could have imagined. It’ll be an interesting stretch racing these speedy ladies!

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just keep counting, just keep counting… https://freeplaymagazine.com/just-keep-counting-just-keep-counting/ Wed, 05 Jul 2017 22:45:31 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5803 Your brain can’t multitask… (Really? But I’m a mom, of course my brain can multitask.) I heard this when I went to listen to Simon Marshall, PhD & Lesley Paterson speak at the San Diego International Triathlon expo promoting their new book Brave Athlete, Calm The F*ck Down. Simon said your brain can’t multitask, so […]

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Your brain can’t multitask…
(Really? But I’m a mom, of course my brain can multitask.)
I heard this when I went to listen to Simon Marshall, PhD & Lesley Paterson speak at the San Diego International Triathlon expo promoting their new book Brave Athlete, Calm The F*ck Down. Simon said your brain can’t multitask, so if you start counting (swim strokes, pedal rotations, breaths or strides) you can’t also think about how much pain you are in. Then your brain won’t tell you to slow down. I was floored to hear this. He also said, which I already do, that your brain doesn’t like to think about the entire race/distance in one big chunk, so divide it up. Just swim to the next buoy then to the next one, cycle to the top of the current hill, run to mile 2, then mile 4, and so on. Your brain will get a small shot of dopamine (pleasure juice for your brain) when you accomplish each small task. Same with counting, get to 8 – wahoo! Start over, 1, 2, 3… Basically your brain can’t think of more than one thing at a time.

I’ve been struggling with pushing myself during a race, especially on the run. I train well and some days I even feel fast. But when race day comes I don’t always race up to my potential, I feel like I give up and keep myself in my comfort zone, my brain tells me it doesn’t like my body to be in pain and to please stop pushing so hard. When I finish I’m upset with myself and wonder why the heck I can’t go as fast as I do in training. So hearing about this counting trick I decided to give it a shot … come race day the next day, on my run, I counted to 10 keeping in time with my steps (6 or 8 seemed too short). I also did my usual run to mile 2, now run to mile 4, now to mile 5, only one mile to go! Oh yeah kill this last .2, it’s less than 1 lap around the track! Go! (San Diego ended being 6.4 but you get the gist). It worked! I ran about what I’ve been able to run in training. I didn’t tell myself I’m too tired or to slow down because it hurts, I just kept counting, reaching my mile markers, and running my pace. My brain stayed distracted. Simon was right, my brain can’t multitask. Which is great news for my racing, but maybe not so great news for my parenting (sorry kids).

A race recap for the last two races…
June 11 Tri4Real #1 — I swam well, not my best but not my worst; bike was good but didn’t realize my new glasses were polarized and I couldn’t see my garmin watch so I thought it was broken! (have you heard the never try new things on race day ? well it applies to sunglasses too); run didn’t go that well, I didn’t push myself. I finished 4TH overall female and 1ST age group.
Highlight of the day: my 7 year old racing her first kid’s tri and loving it (she came in 2ND in her age group!). She’s hooked.

June 25 San Diego International Tri — my swim wasn’t great, I got distracted by a paddle boarder who I thought was telling me I was going off course, but ended up he was just paddling out of my way. My swim wave didn’t have strong swimmers so I was by myself for most of it. In hindsight I should have pushed harder, my pace was slower than usual. Bike went very well, such a beautiful & fast course! And I felt great on the run, or rather I distracted my brain as I described above. I ended up 5TH female (2ND amateur), 1ST age group.
Highlight(s) of the day: my 14 year old nephew, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple years, running along side me & cheering for me during part of my bike; the bike course going by my elementary school, and around Cabrillo National Monument twice; and my parents being able to watch me race.

just keep counting…

My team is made up of such supportive woman and I can’t thank them enough for their encouragement and bad-assery (is that a word?) influence. Go team Freeplay! My coach Stephanie who makes sure I suffer in training. My amazing sponsors who believe in me and help me excel: Freeplay magazine, FLUiD, Salming Running, Hoffart Chiropractic, Roka, Rudy Project, xx2i, Natures Bakery, Sacramento Running Association, & Folsom Bike. And my husband & kids for coming out to each & every race even when you’d all rather sleep in.


had to throw this photo in (coming into transition2), my toes match my race kit! 🙂

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The Fall & The Fight – Tri Season 2017 https://freeplaymagazine.com/fall-fight-tri-season-2017/ Tue, 04 Jul 2017 19:10:53 +0000 https://freeplaymagazine.com/?p=5798 Race: Folsom Lake Triathlon Distance: Sprint Location: Granite Bay, CA Date: 03/13/2017 Preface: This triathlon season is going to be hard. The hardest yet. Each season is difficult for their own specific reasons, mostly due to the unpredictability and state of my diseases, conditions, and chronic illnesses. The sport of triathlon is a hard enough […]

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Race: Folsom Lake Triathlon

Distance: Sprint

Location: Granite Bay, CA

Date: 03/13/2017


This triathlon season is going to be hard. The hardest yet. Each season is difficult for their own specific reasons, mostly due to the unpredictability and state of my diseases, conditions, and chronic illnesses. The sport of triathlon is a hard enough sport for people who have their health. The fact is, it’s harder for people like me who live with and fight an obscene amount of symptoms and side effects on a daily basis that literally never end. This season is particularly harder though, because my disease state is the worse it’s been in 6+ years. This puts me in a scary place, mentally and physically. A place where I’m loosing the triathlete I worked so damn hard to be – the person I’ve worked so damn hard to become. A place where I swore I would never let myself fall to again. It terrifies me to be so close to falling back to that place and that state I was in so long ago.

Some background here – beginning in March I started a new treatment plan, which was desperately needed to attempt to get my disease in a more manageable state. Since Fall of last year, my disease became very aggressive – I was experiencing horrible flares that would last for months, and at one point my feet were so bad that I was having trouble walking (among many other symptoms).

My new treatment plan included a new biologic that I would be taking once a day (for reference, my previous biologic was once a week), and the injectable form of a chemo therapy drug (I’ve been on this before in past years, but had been on the weekly pill form as of recent). Adjusting to this new treatment plan (side effects galore) took at least 4 weeks – after that I was starting to be able to “manage” a bit better. This is a whole life adjustment – an everyday change from my previous life on other treatments. This isn’t an “I take this medication now and I’m all better.” As one can imagine, this also hinders triathlon training.

Which brings me to April – when I was having a particularly hard day/week mentally and physically, wanting so badly to train consistently again and race. So I signed up for the Folsom Lake sprint triathlon that was about 4 weeks away. At the time, I had not been “race training” – heck it was a major struggle for me to just train on any type of consistent basis. Nothing like signing up for your first race of the season to help turn up the motivation and positivity! I did my best to train enough to be capable of completing the race – that was my only goal. It sure as hell wasn’t pretty or perfect – but I was still “doing” it, I was back to training. That was the important part, and it felt good in my soul.

This puts me at a cross road – do I stop triathlon or do I fight for it, despite the worsened disease state? So I’m doing the only thing I know how to – fight. And trust me when I say that I’m fighting LIKE HELL for this. Making this choice means accepting that I won’t be at the same level as a triathlete that I have been the past couple of years – and letting that be okay, letting it be enough. This is no easy feat for me, and is a constant internal struggle. So this season is brand new in a way – new perspectives, new expectations, new ways of thinking and doing in order to keep chasing my dreams.

Race Report:

Race morning started off at 3:30am with my alarm going off and I instantly wanted to turn it off and skip the race. I had slept all of 3-4 hours (per usual – darn those race nerves). My race started at 7am, which is a bit of an earlier start than I’m used to. It was also a race that was a bit earlier in the season than I’m used to. Which means it was cold at 7am. Like a layer of fog is still sitting on top of the lake water kind of cold.

Transition opened around 6AM and my race start was at 7AM, so I didn’t have much time to set up and warm up. I’m used to a bit more time in transition before race start, so I felt like once I was all setup it was already time to get my wetsuit on and head down to the water. Feeling rushed and anxious I had my fiancé help me into my wetsuit – which is helpful because my body was still feeling stiff and achy (RA and chronic pain issues), plus my wetsuit was new and this was the first time I was getting in to swim in.

Made it down to the water with 5 mins to spare until my wave start and the race director was on his loud speaker telling all the triathletes to get in the water before their wave in order for the body to get acclimated to the cold water. I hate swimming in cold open water (so does my angry body), so I heeded his warning and got in right away. I knew it was going to be cold, but holy iceberg it was freezing! Side note – my new wetsuit is sleeveless. I submerged myself underwater and my initial thought was “I’ve made a huge mistake. This is way too cold for me!” I did some “warming up” in the water and my second thought was “YEP. This is gonna to suck!”

The start sounded in the loud speaker and I was just thinking about swimming as quickly as I could to get out of that ice box. As soon as I took off my back started locking up (told you my body doesn’t do well in the freezing water). Felt that stiffness and tingling travel down to my legs and knew that I was basically going to be relying on my upper body to pull me through the swim course. (This has happened before, so at least I had some experience in this type of scenario? Trying to look on the “bright side” here.) Oh and let’s not forget the debris in the water that made it feel like an obstacle course. There was so much wood floating around. Towards the end of the swim I literally ran right into a log – knocked myself right in the head, ha!

I shuffled up the beach into T1 looking like the tin man – shivering as I was getting my wetsuit off and cycling gear on. Although the sleeveless suit made for a colder swim, I was loving the extra added ease of getting it off. A significant improvement for me since I have to race with a heavy duty wrist brace on – the brace causes such a struggle to get off and back on when it’s wet from the swim. With the sleeveless wet suit, there was no struggle with the brace (metal body parts win!).

The bike course went by so quickly, it seemed like a blur. A struggle fest blur! For the life of me I could not get it together to hold a consistent race pace. The course consists of lots of steep climbs/downhill’s, with lots of twists/turns. The sandy patches along the course made for an added “fun” challenge, especially on the downhill twists/turns! This race was my first time riding outside for many months, which was definitely highly responsible for my feeling of not being able to get my sh** together out there. My muscles were screaming at me the whole way – it quickly became clear to me that I had no business racing with so little training under my belt for the season.

In T2, I noticed that I was still soaking wet from the swim and covered in goosebumps. “Oh joy, I’m still freezing.” That’s what I get for racing earlier in the season than I am used to. I was convinced at this point that my autoimmune self was going to be sick in the days following the race (I was right, body fought something off for about a week). Have I learned my lesson – probably not.

Headed out on the run on angry legs – crazy tight and pained from RA/chronic stuff and sore cramping muscles from the bike. Right away my right calf cramped up something wicked! Almost came to a dead stop, but I can’t stand the thought of stopping or walking on the run so I sucked it up and was running on my tippy toes trying to lessen the blow of the cramp. I don’t think it helps much but it keeps me moving.

The run was mostly trail – which I enjoy but don’t get to train on often, as I’m a road runner. Not having any trail run training, my goals were to: have fun, run as fast as I could, and not fall on my face. I did just that! I encountered someone who had fallen on the trail and was yelling out obscenities. I asked if she was okay and offered to help her but she insisted I keep going. “Roger that!” I reminded her that she was a bad ass and kept going. With the finish line in site, all I could think about was getting in a warm bath with lots of Epsom salt, my TENS unit and a hoodie.

I crossed the finish line taking 3rd place AG! Standing on the podium, I was remembering how hard my disease knocked me down – the farthest and darkest place I’ve been before many many years ago. Reminding myself of the strength it’s taken to pick myself up again, and being proud of that – of the fight. Podium or not – I’ve already won. “Little brave, breathe…There is a warrior within you.”

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