Off Season Shenanigans

Poof, 5.5 weeks GONE! In the blink of an eye it seems that December is lurking. I really like December, it’s a fun month! Looking back on the last month, I’m kinda wondering what on Earth I even did with myself. I wasn’t particularly diligent in any one area. I did get some home stuff done. Both cats are now current on their shots and on official weight loss food. The vet saw Grey kitty for the first time in 4 years and although I thought she MUST have a thyroid condition, it turns out she’s just fat. Apollo is also fat. We raise fat cats, we have no backbone. So, now everyone is on a diet.

The Wooden Bowl found it’s permanent location in our bed headrest. Please ignore the bag of pretzels and the bag of trail mix, sometimes I get snacky at night. Speaking of night, they are a lot more lively now that I don’t spend them in bed exhausted. We have been having oodles of family adventures and that has been SO MUCH FUN. We each take turns picking an adventure and then we pack up the car and off we go. We have tried to institute a no cell phone rule during the adventures and that’s made it extra fun. We even went to a chocolate festival, it was amazing and I ate like $50 in chocolate in like 90 minutes. Hooray for the off season! Being able to relax and engage with each other – man was that needed! I really love that Troy and Annie are so chill and easy going. I got the cream of the crop!

Ummm, can I get a woot woot for the Giants winning the World Series?! Thank you Punky for sending me a world series hat. The coolest part…they won on my birthday. I was so happy for all the people I have met this year that are associated with the Giants, they sure are some great folks working behind the scenes and I can’t wait to celebrate with them a little when I make my way back to the bay area for more training.

IMG_7042

Last weekend was Ironman Arizona. Never have I ever been so happy NOT to be racing! I knew a lot of people on the start line and had 5 athletes of my own out there towing the line as well. My new razor scooter got put to work, 27 miles I scooted on that thing in one day! Morgan and I scooted around all day chasing everyone we know around the course. It was great to see the Coach Muddy athletes knock it outa the park and to watch my own athletes lay down some stellar performances! My two girls Ellen and Mikki both ran 3:41 and 3:43 respectively off the bike and dang was I proud of those chicks’ run splits! Ellen missed Kona by one place with a 4th and I’m excited to see where next year will take her. It was great to hang with Mo a lot of the day and I roomed with Ali, who signed up for next year, and AZ will be her first. I’m excited to watch her progress through that journey next year!

Dude, the scooter is awesome because I can go around the course and pick up all the Garmin heart rate straps that people ditch when they are sick of them. Those things are like $70 and I’ve ditched my fair share of them running through aid stations. Into the washer and bam…all mine! Score. It’s also funny how many people throw stuff at me during the race and then I spend this week mailing little packages all around the county to return it all. Too funny! And again, I’ve had people ship me back stuff that I have tossed to them. It’s like Ironman karma!

I’ve spent a fair amount of time the last few weeks stalking the country of Norway via the internet. I have SO much to learn about the Norseman race course and google maps has been my best friend. I finally got lodging for the two days before and the two days after the race for my family and my crew. I’m so excited that Laura and Andrew from the UK are going to fly over and crew for me. They will have a 2 year old and a 2.5 month old by this August and I’m so excited to meet the babies! Laura and I trained in Kona together several years ago before we both had somewhat disastrous races and we haven’t seen each other in 2 years. This reunion will be so sweet for me, and I know that they will make the best crew a girl could ask for.

I’m still researching what Troy, Annie and I are going to do after the race but I know I want to SEE NORWAY! When Annie and I were in Disney World this year we watched a video showcasing Norway and all I can think of is hiking hiking hiking. Annie is going to need to do some serious training this summer so she’s fit and ready to keep up with post Norseman mom and dad. I really want to go to the Trolltunga, and also to Preikestolen. Huge rocks, epic views!

This is what I look like most the time when I am researching Norway and trying to pronounce all the Norwegian names for things. This is also what I look like when I am trying to convert American dollars to Norwegian krone. So confusing! Eventually I know it will all come together and we will have an epic trip, but in the mean time I expect to have this face for a few more months. I read one blog of a family who did a camping vacation there and food was so expensive that they literally bought 8 steaks and cooked one caveman style over a fire every night. I have no idea what else they ate, but every night they had a steak on the campfire. Note to self….bring lots of bars.

My dog and I have been attached at the hip for 5.5 weeks. When I leave the house and don’t take her, she sits at the front door scrunched up in the little corner looking out the front door window and she waits for me to come home. When I’m home some part of her is touching some part of me 24 hours a day. She loves her mama. I never knew she could be such a cuddle pup but she sure is. When I took Annie to Glenwood Springs for her birthday to soak in the Hot springs I didn’t dare leave her home. 8 hours in the car that day, and Lolli was happy as a clam. And look at how cute my munchkin Annie is getting. She is a happy girl, and she’s 9 now! Also, I looked a little into modeling and I think she is too tall to be a child model. So we decided we will wait until she grows up a bit more and then look into our options. Annie just has one of those photogenic faces and she’s long, tall, a great traveler, and great with people.

IMG_0013

While I did take a huge break from swim bike and run this off season, I did not take a break from my BUTT! I have been really diligent this off season on continuing with my glute and core work with my trainer Jenny. She has this class that I take 2X a week where we spend an hour just strengthening our whole hip region and our core. I have been in this class for 2 years now and it’s amazing how much progress I’ve made. It’s always crazy when someone new shows up to class, usually a triathlete and they are doing the exercises for the first time. Oh lordy! Knowing how to fire your glutes first and foremost, thus lessening the dependence we tend to have on our back and hamstrings has been such a game changer for me the last few years. I also learned that “activating the hips” really just means “engage your butt” or similarly weak hips really means glutes aren’t firing. I may not look any stronger, or have any sort of well defined abs (genetics and body fat %), but they are strong and they are functional.

IMG_0018

Okay, I am so hesitant to share this next thing. Half of me wants to keep it all to myself, but sigh, that’s just not me, now is it? My friend Matt sent me the best book! I have had so many ahh-haha’s from this resource. As a coach I have watched some of my athletes never have to foam roll a day in their life, no injuries, no issues. And then others ones are just on the thing all the time. I have often thought that there has to be a better way, there has to be more information about what we should be doing for consistent body maintenance.

“If you’re going to make the demands on your body that being an athlete requires, then it’s your job to support that body” –Dr. Kelly Starrett

I totally agree, but the devil is in the details. I think we all agree that foam rolling is a generally accepted “good practice” and that just straight up stretching is a “heated topic.” I like this book so much because it really walks you through figuring out where you are week and how that general body maintenance can be steered to minimize those problem areas. I found out that I am the queen of Plantar Flexion, but have a long ways to go with Dorsiflexion. My Hip Flexion is amazing, especially with all the Jenny work these last few years, but my Hip Extension is ridiculous. Like, really bad. The “couch stretch”…eye papi! Needless to say I devoured this book and have already gone through it like three times to reread the parts I needed more help with.

Me attempting the couch stretch  (you’ll have to get the book) and of course the dog must be involved. She totally scrunched herself into that tiny little corner while I was stretching. I think all the moans and groans had her concerned. Oh Couch Stretch, you are my nemesis!!!!

2015 is going to be the year of awesomeness and I had so much fun putting together my race and travel plan for the season. The entire spring is going to involve a ton of running. I’m very excited to get back to my roots and I’ve already spent some time on my favorite trails! I signed up for 2 ultras this winter that I’m nervous, scared, and excited for. It’s been years since I’ve raced this long and honestly, I pine for it often. When I am running in the hills it’s a very zen experience for me. The time flies by and I love leaving the rigors of pace this and pace that. Sometimes you run 14 minute miles and sometimes you fly downhill at 8 minute miles. Constantly watching where you are stepping with my favorite tunes in my ear is basically like ice cream for me. I bought myself a pair of Hokas for the trails this winter, didn’t know what to think, but common, they are hilarious and cloud like, and amazing all at ones. So, Hokas in the trails, New Balance flats in the gym, and my Kona kinvaras for kicking around.

IMG_0017

Between now and April I’m going to do a 1/2 marathon in December, a 50k in Cali in January after the Coast Ride, a 100k in February that has me scared, another 1/2 marathon in March, and then Boston in April. It will be nice to get a solid 5 month running block in. After April I will be happy and content and can start spending day and night riding my bike through the Colorado mountains in prep for Norseman. Also, the 100k in February is a qualifier for Western States. Only the top 2 get a slot, therefore this race is the one I go to bed at night dreaming about. I have wanted to race Western States since 2008, and I’ve always said I can’t go for it until I take a break from Kona. So, I’m going to train hard for the 100K, and see where it takes me! Life sure is an adventure, I can just never predict where it’s headed, but it always ends up being AWESOME!

 

Ahhhh What Now

You know what happens when you are trying NOT to think about something? Now add to that, trying not to think about something AND having oodles of time on your hands.

You pretty much just sit around thinking about what you aren’t supposed to think about.

After Kona, the idea was to rest, let everything sink in, don’t worry about the future. Ha! Between the seasonal effective disorder I experience every year, my birthday and the realization I’m getting older, some pent up issues I ignored through the Ironman build, and very little endorphin highs, I was sliding off the deep end. Depression set in nice and strong. Ahh, lovely.

I have gone to Kona the last 5 years, and I have also structured my years around qualifying for said Kona and then racing well there. At the end of this season I refused to think “after Kona” thoughts because I wanted to put all my energy into doing well. So after the race was over, I felt a little empty, and lost. I have had a set north star in front of me for so long and I’ve let it guide most of my decisions. What now?! Muddy totally warned me that this would happen.

This year’s Kona push felt like the end of something. I did things this year that weren’t sustainable long term, like being away from home, dedicating lots of $$ resources, cutting back my number of coached athletes, training like a pro. They were shorter term, end game decisions. When I was on the Kona course this year I felt like I wouldn’t be back in 2015, but when I got home and even thought about not being there next year I cried huge fat tears. I really love that race.

Sadly, I know that I hold onto it for more reasons than I like to admit. The race has given me the opportunity for focused purpose. I liked that. Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t remain active without that purpose (the last 4 weeks have been evidence of that). I feel accomplished when I tell people I’ve raced Kona 5 years in a row. I have an ego, it exists, I admit it.

But both Muddy and I knew that at least for this year, an emotional break was in order. He didn’t tell me flat out No, because he’s not like that, but we both knew that this was a good time to take pause and reevaluate. There is a bigger picture to be had here, and long term emotional health is important to me too.

Still, I was looking for something to do with myself to keep busy and if I wasn’t going to go all Kona next year, I wanted some adventure in my life. I love to travel, I love to travel to races, I like to see new places. I was scanning the list of Ironman races and I settled on IM Taiwan. Sounded like a fun adventure, I have good friends who are living in Shanghai who agreed to help me make it happen. Muddy gave thumbs up because I just wanted to go on an adventure. But in the back of my head I was nervous about what I would do if I raced well enough to get a Kona slot. I couldn’t reliably see myself turning it down.

Then something kinda magical happened. The day of my birthday the Norseman lottery application period opened. I spent the night before watching all the videos and reading some blogs. I knew about the race, had watched with interest this year when Maggie got second (read her report, it’s awesome), and was pretty intrigued. I just envisioned all the training I would get to do for a race like that and just how well it suits those of us from Colorado where I have 54 unique opportunities to end my bike rides with a run up to 14,000 feet. I got really excited.

I asked Troy and Muddy if it was okay, and then I applied. They have about 2,200 people apply and they can only accept 260 athletes. This race has no aid stations, you have to bring a support crew to attend to your needs out there. They reserve 15 male, and 5 female elite slots that you can apply for if you meet the minimum standards. I met them with flying colors so I applied for one of those. Then I waited, still rather sullen, but a little spark was lit within me. I had this deep inner feeling that they were going to accept me. Not because I was super qualified, but just because I really felt I wanted it, and I don’t know, I felt good about it. I knew that a break from Kona was good for me and I knew that if I got into Norseman, there is zero financial probability of me going to Kona as well.

Unknown

Then one day before they were to announce the lottery results, on Nov 8th, I woke up like I had come out of a fog, Troy even said, you are so peppy today, yea!! Later that day I get a congratulatory text from my big brotha’ Beeson. I responded “???” and he told me I was in! He saw the press release well before me. I was ranked 3rd behind last years winner Line Foss, and multiple Ironman champ Heleen Bij de Vaate who has gone like 9:16 for IM distance recently. I felt honored. Also ranked 4th nd 5th were Charlotte Knudsen and Kristin Lie, both Norwegian ladies and veterans of the race.

I was the only American in the Elite selection for men or women. THE WHOLE OF USA is on my shoulders!

The moment I found out I literally FREAKED out. Honestly, I surprised even myself as I ran around squealing and jumping and smiling. Just being selected felt like such a huge win.

IMG_9872

So, if you ask me “What next?” I shall say Norseman. A race that is half way across the world, against 260 folks, mostly tough sturdy Norwegian men (only 41 women on the start line), that ends by by running (errr…walking) 5,000 feet up a mountain. There are no prizes, no money, no trophies. You either make it to the top and get a black shirt, get turned around on the climb by race officials and end up with a white shirt, or don’t make it at all and get no shirt. That’s it. It’s raw, it’s hard, it’s cold wet and windy, it’s a family community of a race, and there are naked people in transition. This is what I know!

For me, the excitement comes from the thrill of the adventure. Pair that with the tough training I get to do, and I’m a happy girl. I’m going to Norseman to give my absolute best to get through the race with a smile and up that mountain where I hear there is hot coco and waffles at the top (as long as you bring cash for them), but I plan to have a lot of fun along the way this year. It lets me breathe a bit and get back to my trail running, mountain climbing roots. It also give me some space to work a bit closer with my athletes this year, and Muddys girls team as well. That really feels awesome.

I plan to mix in some races that help me get tougher this year along the way, and I want to have some epic training days and trips this year in the mountains I love so much. As for what happens after Norseman, not a clue. And for now, that’s A-ok.