This is what started my summer of insanity!
I have been meaning for a few weeks to recap my summer of limited racing. The one disadvantage of working in a bike shop full time is that the busy season is summer, which means that training and racing are less than ideal. But I did not let it stop me or slow me down, it just required me to find unique times to train and to focus on only a few key events. The drawback of trying to squeeze in training time is over-exhaustion. All summer, I worked out at 5 am and by bedtime I was plain and simply wiped. I am thankful my family and friends put up with me during the whole training ordeal, I was anything but a fun person to be around and know I created a lot of undue stress in the household. After my long summer of chaos, it made me really wonder how Ironman athletes do it. The family-work-training balance was tough enough just prepping for Olympic Distance Age Group Nationals. I cannot even begin to imagine the pressure and stress related to a full Ironman. Kuddos to those that are really dialed in when it comes to balancing everything.
Some of you have asked me to highlight my race experiences from summer. So now that my triathlon race season is over, I can finally digest the coaching and two races I did and reflect. Summer started off with training my triathlon clients for their events. For the 5th season, myself and my gym sidekick Stacy trained a large group, approximately 30 clients, both male and female to prep for events such as Omaha Women’s, Omaha Triathlon, Papillion Triathlon…The exciting news this year was we gained a handful of awesome guys. They brought a nice balance to the group and I can’t lie, the male aspect was a pleasant change. As in years past, all the athletes challenged and motivated one another and made the season fun. I am very fortunate to have such a great group of athletes at the gym to train. I love being a mentor, friend, fellow triathlete, and coach. It was a very rewarding season full of successes and pr’s.
Open Water Practice Swim w/ my PLF peeps
A portion of the PLF ladies at the Omaha Women’s
Somehow in the middle of our group season, I had my arm twisted to do the Papillion Sprint Triathlon to prep for Nationals, and of course in my true nature, could not say no. I may have grumbled a bit since it is not my favorite race. But by signing up for a second event, it motivated me to get my arse in gear and actually work on my swim-bike-run. The night before the race, I did what I lecture my clients not to do. I checked out, lost all mojo, wanted to bail on the race, and plain and simply put, did not care. But then race day came and I gained my mojo quickly. Seeing a bunch of my clients ready for race day and giving one another lots of praise and positivity gave me just the competitive edge I needed. I had a very strong swim, but my go to goggles decided to leak, not once but 5 times, so the speed I had was lost treading water trying to readjust the goggles. The bike was a bit of a challenge. Much hillier than folks would expect and was a 3 loop course. I was happy with my ride, but my ongoing aches and pains I have been fighting for the past few years decided to say hi on the bike. I was able to suffer through the ride just in time for my least favorite part of the race. THE RUN, ugh. My body and me have a disagreement when it comes to the run. Surprisingly enough, I made it through the 5k with only minor aches. I had told myself on the run to just take it easy and do a slower pace run and it worked. At the end of the race I was happy with how I felt and went over to look at the results. I was absolutely floored. I aged up this year to the 40 year old ladies and to my amazement, took 2nd overall in the 40-49 age group. It still blows my mind that I did that well. All of my clients that raced also did very well. There were a lot of big smiles, pr’s, and positive energy post race.
Me and my sidekick Stacy. Thanks for guilting me into racing!
So after my unexpected success at the Papillion Triathlon, my energy level went up and I started to get much more amped up for Nationals. Training started to really increase, especially the bike and swim portion. My run started to really fall apart and my back, it-bands, and piriformis were giving me serious fits so I spent the two weeks prior to the event getting dry needled, massaged, and acupunctured. It helped a bit, but I knew in the end that it would probably not be enough. But I sucked it up and said my famous Heatherism (thanks Renee), “it is what it is”. Anxiety levels were definitely high for Nationals. I knew I was a bit out of my league, those at this event are the best of the best age group athletes. I kept trying to come to grips with this known fact, but mentally it was a hurdle that I could not jump.
But you have heard enough about my injuries and jitters. Jump forward to the race. The day before the race, I stopped down at the race check-in. Parking was beyond a disaster and my kids did not appreciate the tour of the less than ideal part of Omaha to get to Carter Lake. After taking the long walk into the event with my bike, my anxiety level started to go through the roof. I have a very nice Trek Madone road bike, but looking around at all the $5K-$10K bikes I really began to realize how out of my league I really was. The folks at the race were not just average joe triathletes, they were amazing athletes. I have done over 20 races in the past 5 years and typically there are some superstar athletes with a lot of average every day athletes at the venues. This time, I felt like the flubby out of shape athlete compared to all the beautiful physiques that I was surrounded by. Even my kids kept commenting about how lean and strong everyone looked (which is quite scary since they are only 9 and 11 years old).
Hanging with the kiddos pre-race
Getting a quick photo op
On race day, 4 am came way to early. As I ventured off to the race I was at peace with myself and confident that I would at least have a decent swim and bike and knew the run, even though flat would be a challenge with my injuries. Once I got to transition, I right away found a few of my gals from Prairie Life and we ended up hanging out til go time. We shared a some laughs, plotted the course, networked with fellow triathletes, and got rather relaxed since most of us had very late start times, mine being one of the last at 9:45 am (the latest start time I have ever had for a triathlon).
Oddly enough, even all the way up until my start time, I stay very relaxed. It seems I worked out all my stress of the race long before. Once it was time to hit the dock, I was more that ready to tri. The swim was in the less than ideal Carter Lake. In Omaha, it is known as a pretty nasty lake, but I know the race directors were focused on keeping the race in an area close to the downtown. I embraced the fact that I was swimming in Carter Lake and with my track record would most likely pick up a bacteria infection (which ironically I did). So back to the swim, it went decent. Our start was a bit unique, almost 200 gals lined up side by side on the dock and waited for what seemed like 15 minutes before we got the go ahead to get into the lake. Once in the lake, we waded for a few more minutes before the horn went off. Once it was time to go, everyone spread out amazingly well. These were definitely no average joe swimmers, I knew I had to swim strong and hard to keep up. Which is exactly what I did. I did not have the swim time I wanted, but coming out of the water I was happy with my swim. I barely got touched or bumped and everyone was very courteous in the water which is rare to find in an open water swim. Once I came out of the water I did my usual strong run to transition and took off as quick as possible. I am scolding myself for not paying more attention to the actual course though. With over 2000 athletes, transition was big which is to be expected, but what I was not prepared for was running in my cycling shoes for about 1/8 of a mile before being able to hop on the bike. After getting on the bike I did my normal routine of relaxing the body, hydrating, and getting into my ride mode. The ride was very pleasant, the only thing I disliked was that the younger guys, 35-39 were behind me so once all the tt bikes started to catch me all I could hear was heavy breathing and deep dish wheels flying past. I had an ok bike overall, I could have gone faster and stronger, but decided to save my muscles a bit for the run.
The LONG Bike Transition
So onto the run. It was a very flat run going through Carter Lake and heading south through the industrial park to TD Ameritrade baseball stadium. About a mile in my left knee started to swell. I said I was not going to walk until absolutely necessary so I sucked it up until the 2nd water station. By then the air temp was getting very hot and humid with no shade to be found anywhere. During the turnaround in the baseball stadium at mile 3ish, my body told me it was done. I knew from that moment that the last 3 miles were going to be painful and ugly. I did a sufferefest run/walk combo just with the goal to run through the finish line. And that is exactly what I did. Not only was it amazing to cross the finish line, but some of my friends from Prairie Life were volunteering at the finish line and swooped in to care for me. They made me feel like royalty even though in the back of my brain I knew I did not have the perfect race.
I am frustrated by my body, but am very proud to say I was able to compete at such a high level. This race has given me a new respect for the sport and has given me the drive to really focus on healing my damaged body and set some new race goals.
Fit and healthy is my new strong moving forward!