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choked up

May 24, 2013

I have to be honest, I’ve been choked up most of the week. The trial for the two…. for lack of a better word…. individuals…. drunk drivers who killed out friend Heather Boyum last summer. Click here to refresh the story.

Heather 1

I need to thank Victoria Freile, reporter for our local paper, for her minute by minute updating of the trial via Twitter. For all of us this has been hard. Every day we think about her. Now her family and those who were there, have to relive this nightmare. Victoria has allowed us to follow along when we can’t otherwise (and shouldn’t otherwise) be in that courtroom. Thank you Victoria.

Heather’s family and friends need your prayers and support right now. More than ever.

I think about her every single day. I think about her when I am out riding. I still can’t believe this happened. We are a community that is still in mourning. We will be forever. Her family….. I just don’t understand why children had to lose their mother. A husband had to lose his wife. Why. Why.

It’s that feeling of when will this pass…. and I hope it never does.

Heather you are so missed. So celebrated. And you live on in each and every one of us.

heather's site

For the first time… possibly ever…. I can’t even write more than this. We just miss you so much.

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The final push

May 18, 2013

I woke up early this morning … to sit on the back deck with a cup of coffee. I wanted to listen to the birds. That’s one of my favorite things about the morning. I love when the world is quiet like this.

It’s the end of recovery week and the beginning of the final push towards Ironman. I have reflected a lot upon the journey of the past year. Actually the past few years. What I have been through…. how I have come out of it…. where I am today. As I make my way towards my last Ironman (not last triathlon, it will be 70.3 and shorter) I am savoring every moment of it.

I love it.

There is a fine between passion and obsession when it comes to myself and this sport. I have been in the throws of obsession. When a missed ride would throw me for a loop, or not hitting XX pace for XX miles would cause me great worry. That’s long…. long gone. What drives me is the passion I have for not so much this sport per se….. but for the ability of even being an athlete.

I have been an athlete all my life. I grew up at morning swim practices. I grew up performing in front of large crowds. In some way shape or form I have been able to use the gift of being an athlete… the gift of movement… the gift of health….. to navigate my way through life. I know too many people who want to be able to DO….. and simply can’t. Because their body, for whatever reason won’t allow them.

I have lost my health twice and trust me….. I don’t take it for granted. It my worst problem today is that I miss a run or that I go slow…. it’s still a good day. Every single morning I give thanks for the steps I get to take. For the hours I get to spend on a bike, for the ability to cruise through the water. To pick up heavy things (—> heavy for me… and this is a new talent).

What drives me is not panic. Not insecurity. Not fear.

What drives me is again…. passion.

If there is any obsession here it’s the obsession of movement. The obsession for the feel of the wind in my hair. The obsession for what I get to see while I am out on my bike. What I have been through has caused the obsession for paces and mileage and weekly hours to vanish. Every step I take is a step forward. Every stroke I swim is a stroke towards. It’s never missed it’s only gained. If it’s missed there is always tomorrow.

It’s a good place to be. A good stage of my athletic life. It makes training and competing… happier. More fulfilling. More meaningful. I have to do things that have meaning. I can’t just grind in the face of the grind….. just because.

This Ironman has a lot of meaning for me. Why I am here in the first place. What I lost, then gained. The fact that it’s a literal family effort. Every day I thank my lucky stars for that. Trust me that this is so much richer and experience than not knowing why you are out there and being out there empty.

In three weeks I am headed to Mont Tremblant with a couple of friends. It’s one of those training weekends that we will each do our own thing yet we are up there together. In these scenarios I am not one for doing everything as a group, like in a camp situation. My goal is to be on the course and soak up the amazing beautiful scenery. I know how I pace Ironman. I know how I fuel Ironman. I don’t need to connect with the logistics or the details. I need to connect with the big picture. I need to feel the town. I need to feel the roads. I need to see the culture and the beauty of what will be around me.

In these types of training weekends I am very relaxed and very casual. I like going with good friends because I want to savor the experience. Years later you look back on these types of weekends as a “remember in Mont Tremblant when….”.

In these types of training weekends we have our own agenda. I have to be in charge of nothing. I like to lay back and relax and get to know what I am there to get to know. It has nothing to do with paces and wattage and nutrition. I know all that. I have all that down.

I am there to connect. To enjoy. To create what I need to create so that when I come back for Ironman…. it’s like I have a secret. And the only one who knows, who cares….. is me.

I am standing on the edge of this final push feeling very happy. Very rested. Very content. There are some wonderfully hard and longer days ahead and I look to them with hope. Last year at this time I was not in this place. I was at the beginning. And while there is no end to where I am going…. right here is the most amazing place.

 

 

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On recovery

May 17, 2013

Recovery week. Something I have talked about many…. many times before. Something I have emphasized the importance and necessity of time and time again. Something I too…. am not great at. Until it gets put into perspective. Upon the realization that there are three recovery weeks between now and Ironman…. suddenly I got as serious as I should be about them.

As athletes training through blocks we expect that through the weeks we get faster. That things get better. That’s not really the case. As we travel through a block and the training stress increases (through volume and / or intensity) we accumulate and carry around fatigue. It’s like adding a drag suit in the water. The intervals we hit more often than not….. get harder to hit, take more effort, and in a training block that can feel discouraging.

That’s what happens when you look at the small picture. Step back. Look at the aerial view. We have to shed that fatigue and allow physiological change to happen (it takes longer than 7 days for adaptation to occur). That typically happens on race day. Mentally that can be hard to accept, especially when we are tired.

What happens when it counts…. is what counts. Expecting to see improvements in day-to-day training metrics is setting oneself up for emotional failure. That insecurity leads to our favorite social media posts, bragging about miles ridden, hours trained… etc. Instead….. have quiet confidence in what you do rather than looking for “wow, you’re amazing.”. Insecurity is a dangerous poison. That poison is what keeps us from realizing our true potential, and is the number one culprit in screwing up our recovery weeks.

“Jane rode 200 miles in 2 days…… oh god! So must I.”

Let Jane be Jane. Focus on YOU.

Recovery weeks are about shedding fatigue and allowing the adaptation to happen, so we can accept a bigger training load going forward. Here are my top recovery tricks:

1. Nutrition: I eat as nutritiously as possible (and I never… EVER said I was perfect!). By getting in the good stuff you feed your body what it needs to allow recovery and adaptation to occur.

2. Sleep: I am normally a good sleeper but I try to get a little more. Sleep is when a lot of healing takes place.

3. Massage: I get a massage from Kara at Midtown Athletic Club (she’s the best).

4. I cut volume and intensity: by 50-55%. Try as we might to place a magic number and % on the “right” amount of recovery….. the right amount truly depends on what you have done previously and what stressors are present in your daily life. Life logistics are one of the most important pieces of adding training load in my opinion…… and a facet that gets ignored most often.

Recovery can be difficult if you allow ego and insecurity get a hold of you. Those two things cause doubt and doubt leads to ignoring recovery…. which leads to 15 other issues. Trust your plan and trust yourself.

As you know…. my husband has taken the reins as my coach… and I couldn’t be happier with how it is going. I map out my training. I look at the data…. he keeps his eye on the big picture. What he’s done mostly is schedule in rest. There is no one I trust more than him…. and the partnership is going beautifully.

Wish I would have thought of this a few years ago!

Having that mentor or coach….. helps when you are trying to achieve something big. It helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of. It helps when that person truly understands this sport from the inside out. It helps when this person put a ring on your finger 13 years ago too!!!! As I head to this last Ironman (not my last triathlon…… in 2014 I will be focusing on the 70.3 distance, FINALLY) it feels special.

In my opinion….. even though I too have a hard time with it sometimes….. recovery is critical. Allow recovery and adaptation to occur, the next time you get to a starting line…. you’ll be rested, recovered and ready.

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Weekend recap

May 13, 2013

On Sunday night I fell into bed with the feeling of… I can’t believe I get to do what I do. I am guilty of packing a lot into my days…. likely too much. But that’s a life worth living in my opinion. I get to do everything I love to do.

Saturday morning, Midtown Triathlon

I am not one to jump to be a race director, but for our club I got to be part of a great race directing team. Directing a race is not easy. Even an indoor tri.

Doug Mauro, myself, Tim Auerhan and Missy Witte. Awesome to work with.

Doug Mauro, myself, Tim Auerhan and Missy Witte. Awesome to work with.

Through four weeks in April I got to create and run an iAM Triathlete program. We brought 12 new triathletes to the sport, I was so proud of all of them!

midtown tri 1

So proud of this group!

So proud of this group!

midtown bikes

It was a blast. Our day began pretty early, which is usual for me. What is not usual for me is our son begging to work all day with me. He got himself up at 5am and even came to the Fly by Night Duathlon with me. His mother’s day gift to me was being my right hand man.

midtown peeps

It was so much fun. A ton of work goes into an event like this…. and trust me….. we as athletes never understand, never see and completely under-appreciate that. This is the only race I will help direct. Make sure you hug your race directors!!!!

Saturday Night; Fly By Night.

While Curt was out getting some training in and running transition clinics for Towpath Bike shop, we came home and took a quick one hour nap. Then we were off to race announce the Fly by Night Duathlon, one of my favorite events to announce! It’s on the Watkins Glenn race track! How neat is that!

fly by night

Even though it’s a long drive, I wouldn’t miss this event for the world. It’s like the first day of summer camp…. you get to see all of your friends you haven’t seen in so long. I was excited beyond belief to hug so many people. Even our QT2 Systems pro Doug MacLean was there, dipping his ironman toes into a formula one duathlon!

Travis Kuhl won the event for the 8th year in a row. I always adore announcing this guy…. he’s a former professional triathlete (has a few sub 4 hour 70.3 races to his name), father of two, owns two businesses and he’s really what our sport is about. He also absolutely dominates this race annually.

mary and travis

Never mind that he’s won this race 8 times, how about my fabulous hair!

Sunday: Mother’s Day

I operate under self imposed pressure to get my training completed early in the day so I can spend time with the boys. To me, training must be secondary, never the first thing on my list. That’s just how I am. On Mother’s Day Curt and Luc insisted I sleep in (I made it till 6:45), took me out to breakfast and sent me out on my bike for 5 hours. That was their gift to me, and trust me it was a struggle to accept that (real world problems here, I know).

I had a fabulous ride. It was sunny, crisp and heck I even got a little bit of hail. When the 45 mph winds began to swirl I may have ridden a  little white knuckled but I was outside and it was sunny. It was good practice for me. It all went smooth, fine. I loved every second of it.

I loved the quietness of the ride.

As we were at Mother’s Day dinner …. I felt tired yet so exhilarated. It’s a lucky thing to be able to do everything you love to do. Every day. All day long. It’s a lucky thing to be able to share this life with these two guys.

Every time I go to Wegmans I stop and look at the Orchids. There’s a gorgeous display they keep up almost all year round and I think an Orchid is the most beautiful flower there is. I will never buy one, they are just too expensive, (yes I can afford one, I am just cheap) I can’t justify that much money for a flower… but I always look at them. I have never mentioned this to the guys.

But they bought me an Orchid and it brought tears to my eyes. They blew me away with that one.

It was an amazing weekend. Filled with everything, literally everything. Thank goodness this week is recovery week!

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Pieces

May 11, 2013

At the end of my yoga classes I read a passage from a book called “Journey to the Heart”, by Melody Beattie. It was given to me a long time ago, has been lost, found and then lost again. My most recent copy was given to me by a nun, who was also a yoga student of mine. She’s someone who… without needing to know the details….. knows the details.

I am a person of faith. Dare I say spiritual. I don’t go to church, I worship in my own way. I think many of us do. But I believe that there is something or someone… the higher power as we say….. and I believe with everything I have. Although it’s not always easy.

In one particular reading of the book, she speaks about a mosaic heart. To her it’s representative of life…. of the many fracture lines that run through our own hearts. They don’t heal, they are always there…. and they are a part of who we go forward as. The lines can become smooth, and they become what joins the broken pieces of us together again.

Photo by Kenny Maths

Photo by Kenny Maths

A few years ago I endured a tremendous loss. One that I have never recovered from. One that I will never recover from. Details aren’t important…. loss is loss. We have all been there. We all share that in our lives, mine is not exclusive.

A wise woman once reminded me that there are things in our lives that we never get over. We only get through.

It’s been a long time. The space between then and now is wide. Like an ocean separating us. I can go months, dare I say a year without shedding a tear, and then all of a sudden something… somehow raises it to the surface and I feel the world crash down all around me again. In this case literally. This week was that week. There was an anniversary of sorts, something caught my eye on the news…. I took an unplanned trip down memory lane. Nightmares returned. The kind that wake you up at 1am with a heart rate of 175, feeling like someone is crushing your chest.

All of a sudden it’s right here in front of me again.

Friday night I went to Yogapoluzza at Midtown Athletic Club, where I teach. I had the honor of team teaching 100 yoga students with 12 amazing people who I teach with. It was beyond fun. We laughed. We giggled. We were ridiculously silly.

My yoga family is amazing. And fun.

My yoga family is amazing. And fun.

It was beautiful. I stood in the back row with my fellow teachers and as the rain poured down so hard you could hear it…. we flowed. We took turns teaching and we took silly pictures during. And it was light. It was fun. In yoga I get to feel so vulnerable and so protected. Like I have said before you don’t have to come there for any reason or even lay it all out on the table. We get one another. We flow and move and share that energy. As hokey as it sounds….. it’s real, if you are open to that sort of thing. It’s like the old school radio tuning into the radio station. If you can find the right station, and have patience you can hear it loud and clear.

As I said we laughed and flowed and were just…. together. I could feel that old grief…. that had come to the surface so unwelcome and so violently…. I felt it there. I felt it pretty deep. Just standing where I was standing was healing. Just being in the middle of that group of people was good for me.

There is no instruction manual on this stuff. You just have to ride the wave when it comes and not fear the wave when it rolls out to sea.

I left right afterwards not because I didn’t want to join the after yoga party….. but I just needed to… have space. Cry, remember, and run my fingers along that fracture line in my heart. Trace the pattern and know it will never go away, I don’t want it to go away. I am afraid of forgetting. I am afraid of moving on. I am afraid of losing the memory.

When it comes back like this it comes with things I swear I can still smell, hear and see. I can even remember texture. The feel. The embrace. The voice. The day before. The week before. The month before. The year before. Grief is fickle and finicky. Not only is there no instruction manual there is no map.

In my life…. I am the person people come to. Which is what I want. Which is what I love.  I am calm and resilient. I can see the big picture, I can see different points of view and I am a listener. I love to listen. I love being the go-to person for people. I love the feeling of being trusted.

What I am terrible at is reaching out. You start to feel like you should just be able to handle these waves as they come. So you get on the bike and you turn the pedals. You run the hills harder. You swim the laps faster. You know the depth of the pain in your heart and maybe if you go hard enough you can go deep enough to match the pain or maybe even touch the pain.

But you never…. ever can.

You don’t reach out… because there is just nothing more to talk about…. this wave has the same stories, same feelings….. there is just nothing to be said. It’s just grief. It never gets better, just further away.

As I walked to my car it was raining. That spring rain that promises new life. Part of me still reels, part of me still is ricocheting from it…. part of me wants it to just stop coming back…. and part of me is grateful that it does.

I find healing on that mat. I find healing walking in the rain. I find healing driving home in silence. I find healing in many places. In many people. On my bike. In the pool. Running. In that text from someone who doesn’t even know… just asking how you are feeling…. because you haven’t been yourself today. In the smile from the barista at starbucks when he guesses your drink before you order.  I find it everywhere. I am open to it. I take it wherever I can get it from. Because that’s what the world is for isn’t it?

There are a lot of fracture lines on this heart of mine. I am sure you have just as many. What shatters us into a thousand pieces is not always easy to articulate. It’s not something we ever HAVE to get over. But we get through. The pieces come back together and form this mosaic heart within us. There are the experiences that makes us who we are. That enables us to be there for others. To lend the shoulder.

Remember, the heart doesn’t stay broken. It becomes mosaic.

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The hunger

May 7, 2013

Ever wake up hungry? Not for food but for the day you’ve been waiting 15 weeks away from a year for? It’s a hunger that gnaws at you deeply, gets into your blood and plays your emotions like a tight guitar string. Some days you hit the wrong tune while others you strike it just right… just right so that beautiful music resonates through your entire soul.

Sometimes it takes me by surprise. I still have this feeling? It’s still there yet it’s so different. When I was younger it was to prove to others. Get on top of that podium. Now that I am deep within this sport I find it much more personal, it’s not about the podium at all… yet sometimes I still land there….. this is a good place to be. I am not out there because I feel the pressure for the win…. I am out there because it makes me feel so vividly alive. From the tips of my hair to the tips of my missing toenails I feel alive when I am out there. I am giving it my all with so many people around me yet I am entirely alone.

I am not dictated my numbers per se. I am not aiming for specific grams or specific amount of time in particular zones. I pay attention to that stuff on a broader level… eat four fruits and veggies, fuel in the windows….. all that stuff. But no spreadsheets.

Instead there is fresh air. Sun that’s shining. Looking around and feeling the feeling of moving through the world at a pace I have known for longer than a heart rate monitor has been in existence. I know my body better than any watch can ever track or notify me. Like I said before I black box the data and look later because I like to play the game of… how close did I come.

I won’t let this drain me. I will only allow it to invigorate me. I will only allow it to bring me back to living. Feeling. Moving. Breathing. That’s what this is about for me. As an amateur athlete there is no need to allow this to become me, I can still become it.

This sport and I are old and good friends. We’ve had our moments, both good and bad. We have learned form one another. We’ve been together through some good health and some devastating health. But we’ve stayed together longer than most people ever last around here.
And it’s amazing because I love it more than ever. I love it. The love has come back to me. That flutter of my heart kind of love. Like that 5th grade crush when just thinking about it makes the butterflies begin to move around in your belly. That deep deep fire that slowly slowly burns.

The love has come back to me.

There is no reason to spend this kind of time and money on something that you don’t love. Every single time I turn the pedal I think about love. Every time I lace up my run shoes or pull the goggles over my eyes my thoughts revolve around the love I have. I might be tired and sore but it’s my choice and privilege to be.

swim-off-1.jpg

In the rare instance I don’t want to do it….. the solution has become simple. I don’t. But by design I don’t typically get there. I let it come to me rather than force it.

It is possible to work hard, be dedicated, and love what you are doing. There is nothing about this that needs to be a sacrifice. A sacrifice is donating a kidney. All of us get to do this as a privilege and a choice.

Give it a try. Treat it as something you GET to do and not something you HAVE to do. Last I checked whether you are an amateur or a professional… we choose this. We get to do this. It’s amazing no doubt but it’s nothing we HAVE to do.

DCIM100SPORT

Treat it like that and watch the love for it come back and roll you over it’s so strong. Treat it like it’s the greatest gift besides your spouse and children and watch what happens. Treat it like the gift that it is and watch the real magic take place. You will be free to dig deep within yourself and find out what you are really made of…. Rather than be told what you are capable of and not capable of given numbers and power and paces and heart rate.

No great performance was careful. Every great performance required us to take chances. Every great performance asks us to go somewhere we’ve never gone before.

Guts… grit… passion….. love. That is what performances are made of.

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Retul bike fit with Steve Stanziano at Towpath

May 6, 2013

A few weeks ago I got a Retul bike fit at Towpath Bike Shop, here in Rochester. It was one of the best things I have done in my triathlon career.

Let me preface this with a few things: I have always had good bike fits. By luck I have always been connected with very savvy bike folks who know their way around a time trial bike fit. I have great trust in these guys as well.

The second thing I need to preface this with, is that when I go do something like this, I put myself into the hands of the expert. When I got married and picked out my wedding dress… I asked the bridal consultant to pick it for me. What did she think I looked best in? I got the perfect dress. My wedding cake… I told the bakery the same thing. Best cake ever. Wedding flowers… what did they think? Most beautiful lilies ever. In fact I told my sister and my matron of honor to pick their own dresses and wear what they felt good in. They had never met until the rehearsal and lived in different countries. They showed up in identical dresses, No kidding.

In my opinion…. when you go to an expert… let them be the expert. I am not someone who fiddles with my position…. I will let them know if I am not comfortable, but I let them do what they do best. Fit me to the bike.

Steve Stanziano is the Retul bike fitter at Towpath, and he comes with a ridiculous amount of experience. He’s trained with the best of the best but is one of those bike guys who doesn’t introduce himself as “Hi my name is Steve I have fit _____ and ______ and trained with _____ and _____.” He would tell you if he asked him, but he’s not the kind of bike guy who needs to tell you who he knows and where he’s been. I appreciated that. You can’t imagine some of the stories I have heard.

I am all about old school bike guys, and Steve is an old schooler. Sometimes I test out my bike guys by talking about friction shifting. If they don’t’ know what that means…. I usually walk. There is just something about the old schoolers that resonates with me.

Expect a fitting like this to take 2-3 hours. And expect to ride a good hour …. and expect to ride hard. Don’t do this kind of fitting at the end of a hard workout day. I’d advise doing it during a recovery week when you aren’t executing a hard morning ride, working a full day, then coming to a bike fit after intervals on the track. Be fresh…. you will have to put out some solid effort, and bring some hydration and fuel.

We began with an assessment. Steve starts by having you stand normally and looking at how you stand, your posture. etc. He walks you through various positions to assess your flexibility and range of motion as you are standing, balancing on one foot, bending forward, etc. He then has you lie down on a massage table and brings your legs and hips through more planes of movement to get a thorough assessment.

Retul 1

This is one of the rare instances that I was considered to be on the flexible side! YES!

That process took about a half hour. No one had ever done that sort of assessment on me before. When I have been asked whether I am flexible or not, I normally say no. But in this case I tested higher…. in the cycling world my flexibility is higher. That makes a difference in a bike fit.

Next Steve suited me up with several sensors, from my heel up through my head. He set up my bike on the Cycleops trainer, hooked everything into his fancy computer, and we were off.

retul 2

I warmed up for about 15 minutes, and then Steve took me through a series of efforts, from short to longer, harder efforts. The sensors allowed him to measure several different angles at those different efforts and how those angles changed. Believe it or not as intensity increases we sometimes change our own position on the bike. But he was really comparing angles and ranges with power data. I was out of ideal ranges in several places. This is where we could tweak the position to see whether a new saddle height, a fore / aft change, etc could improve the output. Here is where we get some free speed without any more training. Bonus!

The changes that Steve had to make were not big ones. But they gave me bigger results and much more comfort. I don’t care if you get into a wind tunnel and the position that you are put into is the most “aerodynamic position ever”. If you are not comfortable in that position, then you aren’t going to ride well. You must be comfortable. Sometimes the initial changes aren’t necessarily comfortable. They are different and may take a week or two to get used to.

Some of the final measurements looked like this:

retul 3

The adjustments that needed to be made were very minor. My seat needed to come down and forward, and my aero bars moved back just a touch. My aerobar set up is such that my pads can’t just be moved back independently. They are part of the system. Steve could have tried to talk me into a new set completely, and this is what I appreciate most about guys like Steve…. he began to fish. In my opinion a good bike mechanic will not just be a salesman, but a good mechanic. He found what he needed to make what we need to happen… work. Flawlessly.

My final fit:

retul 4

I have been riding this position for a little less than a month…. and I am happy. I am comfortable and life is good.

I keep getting asked if I think the Retul bike fit is worth the price. The full Retul fit is $300. I think it is worth it. I always fail to understand why people spend $5k on a bike and then don’t invest the extra $300 … or even $150 for a good fit. All of that $5K that was just spent is null and void without a good fit. At Towpath there are some other options for fitting packages, any of which I think are great. Click here for those.

I personally think that one can learn a lot from a guy like Steve. His experience says it all. He has the answer to every single question, the education and expertise to fit just about anything to anyone and make it work and make it work well.

I walked in there with a baseline feeling of trust. I had met Steve before and I am really comfortable with Towpath Bike shop. What these guys are doing over there is pretty significant if you ask me. And I have been around my fair share of bike shops, trust me.

If you are interested in a fit…. better get yourself scheduled. STAT. Steve is pretty full 2-3 weeks in advance. The fitting takes 2-3 hours. Bring fluids and fuel and be prepared to ride. You will get out of this experience what you put into it. But I can guarantee one thing… you’ll get a great fit.