The Elephant Journal published the following poem by Jennifer Kimble after being inspired by Lindsey Vonn, introducing it with a nod to all amateur athletes:
For Lindsey and so many other female athletes, their beauty blooms from struggle. Broken bones, blown out knees, and severed tendons leave scars of accomplishment as they fearlessly get back on that mountain, back on their bikes, or back in the water time and time again.
It’s noon and she still has raccoon eyes…. not the typical “day after” makeup, but residual rings from her sunrise swim.
Her hair, always in a messy bun, will have to do— for she would rather run an extra 30 minutes than spend the time with a straightening iron. Her curves are in her biceps and calves instead of her chest, and veins pop in her forearms at the mere mention of the gym. Perpetually cold and hungry, she always wants more.
Wrinkles surround her sun-kissed smile. Instead of spending money on fake eyelashes, she gets a tune up for her bike; and her Cover Girl is sunscreen. Her tan lines look ridiculous in frilly dresses; but who cares, she prefers Lycra anyway. She has muscles down to her toes where black nail polish covers bruised toenails, and chaffing in places she’d rather not mention.
But oh, the sparkle in her eyes And desire in her heart. The passion that permeates her being!
She is strong and confident, and damn—she is beautiful.
Coming back to triathlon after a break can be a double-edged sword. While the excitement and motivation to get back into the swing of swim, bike, and run can light a fire under many triathletes, there is always that moment where you suddenly realize just how hard it can be to get your body, mind, and fitness level back to a place where you don’t feel like throwing in the towel.
Three-time IRONMAN world champion Mirinda Carfrae is no different when it comes to handling a changed body and level of fitness after having baby Isabelle this past August. We caught up with the new mom about what it’s like to go from running down the finisher’s shoot to run-walking through her neighborhood. Check out how Carfrae stays positive as she eases herself back into training, new curves and all.
Mirinda Carfrae: I absolutely love being a mom! You can’t really describe the feeling of having a baby and showing the baby the world. I love all the little things that come along with it, like the first time they see new things. It’s cool to witness how exciting that is for them and to be a part of Izzy’s journey.
What is a significant difference in your life now as you juggle motherhood and triathlon?
Coeur Sports has announced they will launch the Collective Beat women’s triathlon community in 2018:
We created The Collective Beat so that we could expand our community beyond our team of ambassadors and professionals. The goal is to draw in more amazing women who are instinctively aligned with the Coeur mission of building a nation of encouraging, supportive, and positive endurance sports athletes.
Our goal is to help make connections that can last a lifetime.
There will be a nominal fee to join The Collective Beat and we wanted to share our thinking behind the program and also tell everyone about the benefits.
So, let’s start with the benefits. We set up the benefits so that members will receive much more in value than the cost of membership. First, members will receive a $200 clothing allowance that can be used to purchase some beautiful and exclusive apparel.
The gear will be designed specifically for TCB members and will be delivered around the first of April next year. Just as the North American Tri Season gets going.
Members will also receive a free women’s specific triathlon training plan that was developed by the ladies over at Hardcoeur coaching. These plans retail for up to $149.99 and we have a selection of distances that range from sprint to full iron distance.
We’ll also be giving members an an unlimited use, 20% discount code that is good all year long for Coeur Sports and Zele by Coeur products. You’ll be able to begin using your discount as soon as you join and it can be used on the new 2018 line that we just rolled out.
Plus, our amazing partners are also providing some incredible discounts. So if you’ve ever wanted to try something from great companies, like Barnanas, Zelios, Breakthrough Nutrition, Normatek, Inside Tracker and more, then this is your chance. Just sign up and do some shopping.
Finally, members will have access to a social site where they can cheer for each other and keep up with new benefits as they become available. In our heart of hearts, we believe that the social connection will be one of the most special benefits that members receive.
If this plays out the way we hope, people will know that if someone is wearing TCB gear, then there’s an extremely good chance that that individual is positive, encouraging, relatable, and approachable. We’ve said it time and again, that the first step (or pedal) into endurance sports can be a bit scary and we hope that Collective Beat members will be little beacons of encouragement all around the world.
All in all, we think this is a fantastic package of benefits that will more than cover the $250 cost of the program. We’ll be welcoming members until January 31, 2018 and then the membership will be valid until January 31, 2019.
If you’re like me, you’ve watched the movie Legally Blonde close to a million times (and counting!) and can quote most of it by heart. There’s a scene in which Elle Woods hands over her resume to Emmett, her professor’s junior partner at Harvard law. As she walks away he sniffs the pink colored perfumed paper he says “Do you think she just woke up one day and said… “I’m going to go to law school?!”” This is how I feel about my intro to trail running and I’m assuming what most of you might be thinking, “Did she just wake up one day and decide to trail run?!” Well yes, yes I did!
It’s crazy what can happen in a year. I started this journey with the intent to get myself healthy. Have you ever looked in the mirror and completely hated the person staring back at you, someone you no longer knew? Well, that’s where I was. I had a disappointing running season last year, but had made new friends, joined a club and community that gave me new meaning to life. But, you never know when life is going to throw you a curve ball. Late last summer my dog was viciously murdered, my fiancé and I decided to part ways after 9 years, AND my work was closing its doors after I had been there for a little over 6 years! When it rains it truly pours!!!
Starting over is never an easy thing to go through. Devastated, I picked up what pieces remained, tucked my little turtle tail between my legs and retreated home for a bit. I knew this year was going to be about trying to focus on me, which was something I’d never done before (aka hard!) and proving to myself that I could do this trail running thing. It was the only thing that provided therapy and relief for me and still connected me to Boulder and my friends. But I also found myself even more lost, so much change had left me confused on who I really was! (So I apologize if I have appeared like a basket case to any of you! It’s been a whirlwind and I know I haven’t been the best of a friend. Thank you for still being there!)
I decided to go back this time and get my revenge on my racing season. There was method to my madness! I signed up for my 100 miler first, then went back and signed up for the distances I didn’t finish at last year… so a 32 miler (out of 50) and a 50 miler (out of a 100). Coincidentally or not, each race corresponded to something meaningful in my life. Therefore each race had some sort of message or mantra that I boldly wrote on my arm to remind me what I was doing. Last year I was obsessed with cutoffs times, this year I decided to put away that part of my brain that was always worried about time, and use my determination to propel me. Which, mind you, is way easier said than done when you’re mid race!!
At Dirty Thirty, I wanted that finish because I had never actually done a 50K. Apparently I skipped that last season in favor for a 50 miler! Go figure! On a friend’s fridge was a quote to “remember who you wanted to be” I found this very fitting for me at the time, as I had lost sight of what I was trying to become, why I had even started this journey in the first place. This became my mantra. I also ran for my dog, whose death anniversary was the same weekend of the race. I know that sounds weird but I ran a disappointing Leadville Marathon last season because I had lost her that week, and I wanted some sort of vindication this go around. Also, if a six pound dog who was literally ripped apart by two big dogs can still be alive even for the briefest of ten minutes, I sure as hell can survive some pain. I ate an Oreo in her honor at the top of the last peak, screamed some profanities, shed my first tear of the race and finished my first official ultra!
Next was Leadville Silver Rush 50M. Good gracious my oh my, don’t even get me started on Leadville!!! I love it, I hate it, it’s easy, it’s “runnable”… but it’s hard!!! I had it out for this place. Vendetta. We were at war and I was going to finish as redemption for the 100 last year. It was solely that motivation that got me to the finish. I went out feeling great and I made the turn around in what was a great time for my turtleness! But around mile 40 I lost my marbles… and my shot of whiskey I had been saving (which really works p.s.!) I walked it to the finish, but I learned some valuable lessons. Tape your feet and lube ‘em up, no one likes blisters! Saltine crackers at 10,000 feet are gross! Shoe insoles, duh! Tip from a pro, fill one of your bottles up with Coke-A-Cola… why didn’t I think of that?! Oh, and everybody hurts (another pro tip)!
So, I hit a bit of a lull after the fifty miler. I found myself depressed, after race blues are a real thing I’m finding out! This was my first time driving to work in 8 years, usually I bike, which is extra fitness if you’re training for things! I had lost that and was honestly putting more miles on my car than my body. I was also stressed trying to balance work, dog sitting, running, relationships that I completely sucked at having, and trying to maintain some sort of a social life… that I broke said car. (Another life lesson learned: OIL, you need to put oil in your car. Oops!) I would have quit the 100 miler, it was counting down quickly to race time. But someone so graciously made a post about my adventures and I knew I couldn’t quit ( p.s. thank you for that!) I knew I had to keep running, but it was so darn hard to find the motivation or drive. I was thankful for everyone’s support, but I also wasn’t taking their advice for running strategies. “You need to run 30 miles back to back!” “You need to do speedwork!” “You need to run A LOT more than you are now!” Woof, I liked my bed and wallowing in self-pity more. Truthfully my work schedule didn’t allow me to run back to back without going to work like a complete zombie, and I’m sure I had already stressed them out enough with my race schedule and crying over my life bouts! It took a couple weeks but I got moving again, thanks to friends getting me up and out. I made the turn around in my brain and the last four weeks I got the job done. And I’m so glad I got out on those last few big runs, some of my best memories of summer!
I went in to Run Rabbit Run 100 comparing myself to last year. I felt like last time I had run more and was lighter and leaner! However, this year I had run much longer quality distance runs, and I’d like to think weighing more meant I had more muscle, I wasn’t sure which version was better! I’m also not good with the whole planning out your race or pace chart thing… aka spreadsheets. Like I said, I get so consumed with the cutoff times that it can royally mind screw me. So, I never really looked at them or had them memorized. I said: Screw it!!!! You’ve done everything you could have done, you’re as fit as can be, and you’ve done the work, just know the basics and keep moving! Obviously my crew had the info and could figure out where we needed to be and when. But I didn’t want to know and I told them to lie to me about it, and everything else! Tell me I look great, even though I’m 99% sure I didn’t for 99% of that race!
There’s a lot that happens in a 100 miles. It’s hard to describe in words even. I feel like I blacked out for most of it. I can tell you that it’s really, really, REALLY far and there comes a point where even another darn mile seems like eternity… “another three miles to the next aid station?! but that’s so far!!!” I don’t think our brains can fully fathom that distance, even though I’ve done it, I can’t explain how far it is. You also go into this awful self-loathing period of time, no one tells you about it, or when it will strike or how long it will take for you to work yourself out of it. It can happen repeatedly too! (Joy!) It is literally the epitome of darkness. I won’t even say what I told myself for hours upon end in those moments, because no one should say those things to another. And that’s why my motto or mantra for the race was to “Have courage, and be kind and all will be well” It’s a Cinderella quote, judge all you want!!! But it’s in these dark spaces of spaces to find the courage and strength and to be kind to yourself and to others around you that keeps you going. Also, whiskey at mile 65 and 82, messages from friends and pancakes help.
I left my crew a note that they read after I had already started the race. I thanked them all for taking the time to come and help me and how much it mean to me to have them there. I said how I knew I wasn’t the fastest, fittest, strongest person out there but I KNEW I could do it, and needed them to believe in me too. I said how I wasn’t doing this to “prove” I could run a 100 miles, which is awesome and all. But more so I wanted to prove that it all had been worth it. All the loss, the pain, the staying up at night not knowing what the hell I was doing with my life at 30 years old! I wanted to show myself I could do it. That all the hard work mentally, emotionally, physically had paid off. That I was strong and was determined to show what I could do!
Although it helped I was physically capable to do such a thing, I probably could have trained harder upon closer look, and it’s most likely recommend to do so. But at the end of the day, I am a firm believer that you can do anything you put your mind to. Yeah, that cheesy life quote we’ve all heard before! It’s the truth! Yeah it takes works, sometimes lots of work. With determination anything is possible. And that’s why I finished my races this year. I am incredibly proud, most days it still hasn’t sunk in even! I’m so glad I’ve overcome what I have. I am constantly learning and as always am never perfect!! Now that the dust has settled, I’m feeling more like the person I’ve longed to become!
Some call us crazy for doing what we do. And it truthfully is! I think that’s what we like about it. To see what your body can do and overcome is truly one of the most amazing experiences I’ll never forget, even if it hurt. It’s empowering what your mind can do, from the depths of the dark to the moments of joy and peace. It’s this great community of runners and friends, who build each other up, even when you fail or falter, and is always there for you! I’m not sure if you’ve looked around you but Colorado is a pretty rad place and being able to explore miles of untapped beauty on your own two feet is another thing you can’t describe till you’re in it! SO call me crazy, I don’t “love” to run but I do love what it’s brought me. Determination, discipline, adventure, patience, slowly but surely confidence and the strength to ask for help when I need it. There’s also the friends, new places, and new lease on life that I have… that maybe even one day I’ll make my very own turtle spreadsheet.
New York City Marathon champion Shalane Flanagan hasn’t slept much since Sunday, when she became the first American woman to win the race in 40 years, but she’s still exhilarated. “I updated my Instagram profile and wrote ‘New York City Marathon champion,'” she said. “Adding that title, that validation that I’m not crazy that I thought I could do it, that feels so good. That sense of accomplishment is huge.” We spoke to Flanagan on Tuesday from her home in Oregon to break down her tactics, her emotions at the finish and her thoughts on whether she’ll race at the marathon distance again.
ESPN: Have you taken the laurel off yet?
Shalane Flanagan: I’m trying to figure out how to preserve it. It’s slowly decaying and I need to figure out somehow how I can keep it pristine, because it’s probably my favorite piece.
ESPN: You put your goal out there so explicitly. It strikes me as a risk, that only one result was going to be acceptable to you.
SF: Part of me is like, ‘Oh, don’t say exactly what you want. Maybe sugarcoat it.’ But then I have this verbal problem where I can’t keep it in. I say to my dad sometimes, ‘Maybe I’m too honest.’ And he says, ‘Shalane, since when is being honest not a good thing to be?’ If I feel I’ve had good preparation and I think I have the potential to do something, I’m excited and I want to convey that excitement. I guess it could be a bit dangerous, because yeah, there is only one result that would ultimately make me happy. There’s some accountability behind it, so I think that creates some pressure on me, but I don’t mind that. It’s a good position to be in at times, to make sure you’re doing your job.
ESPN: How did the race evolve compared to what you thought might happen?
SF: My coach and I had analyzed Mary [Keitany’s] past couple wins, how she’d captured those wins. It seems like she just kind of listens to her body. She’s run it in a variety of ways — very aggressive from the beginning, aggressive at Mile 10. She ran 2:17 within the last year, so we knew her fitness should be really high. Six months ago, she was the best in the world and set a world record in London. Given that data, I prepared myself for literally any kind of race. She knew the course really well, having won three times. She was for sure the woman to key off of, and a lot of times I would actually try to run right behind her so that if she made any distinct move, I’d be there to cover it, I wouldn’t be caught off guard and gapped. My coaches said if the race wasn’t a full-on assault of 26 miles, every mile that was kind of slow was to my advantage. I saw her split at halfway, we were about 76 minutes to the half, and I started to get excited. . .
The season isn’t over, but according to Challenge-Family’s prize money rankings Daniela Ryf is ahead of her male counterparts on the prize money front in 2017.
When it comes to earning prize money in 2017, Daniela Ryf has moved to the top of the castle, overtaking Mario Mola thanks to her $120,000 payday at the Ironman World Championship earlier this month. Patrick Lange, who earned the same amount as Ryf in winning the Kona race, moved himself to fifth on the prize money standings on the men’s side.
It’s interesting to note that ITU World Champion Flora Duffy, second in the women’s rankings, is also ahead of the second-placed man in the standings, Javier Gomez, who won $45,000 as the Ironman 70.3 world champion. Ryf took the same amount thanks to her win in Chattanooga, too.
Two-time ITU World Champion to pursue professional marathon racing
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — U.S. Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen today announced her plans to officially transition from professional triathlon and pursue a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in the marathon. Jorgensen, who last year in Rio de Janeiro earned the United States’ first-ever Olympic gold medal in the sport of triathlon, makes the announcement after not competing in the 2017 season to give birth to her first child in August.
“Gwen will be forever remembered crossing the finish line in Rio to claim the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics, a true watershed moment in the history of USA Triathlon,” said Barry Siff, President of the USA Triathlon Board of Directors. “But she has also personified the ultimate role model for all athletes by continually giving back to the sport through efforts like the Gwen Jorgensen Scholarship. On behalf of every triathlete in the U.S., I wish Gwen — as well as her husband Patrick, and their new son Stanley — great joy, success and happiness in every possible way.”
“USA Triathlon brought me into this sport, and now I’m incredibly privileged to step away at the top, with an Olympic gold medal. Though my near-future training will be focused on winning gold in the marathon in Tokyo, I will always be a part of the USA Triathlon family and look forward to embracing every opportunity to help grow the sport of triathlon. In fact, I hope this new adventure in running will play a big part in doing exactly that,” Jorgensen said.
“Gwen has left an indelible mark on triathlon in this country and lifted the sport’s profile to unprecedented heights through her remarkable career over the past eight years,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “As a highly accomplished athlete who is yet so balanced in other areas of her life, Gwen has always served as a tremendous ambassador for USA Triathlon and will be sorely missed. We fully support her decision to pursue new dreams as a full-time marathon runner, and wish Gwen and her family nothing but continued success in this exciting new chapter.”
A standout runner and swimmer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jorgensen was recruited into the sport in 2010 by USA Triathlon through its newly developed Collegiate Recruitment Program (CRP). That year she balanced work as a Certified Public Accountant at EY (formerly Ernst & Young) with training during her first season as an elite triathlete. She was named the 2010 USA Triathlon Rookie of the Year after a standout season in which she earned three podium finishes as a pro.
Jorgensen made the choice to pursue triathlon full-time in 2011, and claimed three ITU World Cup podiums. She qualified for her first U.S. Olympic Team in 2012 and was one of the United States’ top medal contenders in London, but suffered a flat tire on the bike and finished 38th overall.
Her 2013 season included a USA Triathlon Elite National Championship title, three ITU World Triathlon Series (WTS) victories and a bronze medal at the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships.
Jorgensen went on to post a record-breaking 2014 season in which she became the first woman in ITU World Triathlon Series history to win eight career WTS events and five in one season. She claimed victory at the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final and earned the overall world championship title, becoming the first U.S. triathlete — male or female — to win a world title since 2004. Jorgensen’s 2014 season also included a win at the inaugural Island House Triathlon, a two-day stage race in the Bahamas.
In 2015, Jorgensen went undefeated in seven WTS starts and extended her win streak to 12. She became the first U.S. athlete to win back-to-back ITU World Championships, and punched her ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games with a victory at the Rio de Janeiro ITU Qualification Event. She capped her historic season with a successful defense of her title at the Island House Triathlon.
Though her win streak was broken with a silver-medal finish at ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast in April 2016, Jorgensen earned two more WTS gold medals and a bronze as she built toward the Rio 2016 Olympic Games that August. She also helped the United States capture its first-ever ITU Mixed Relay World Championship title in June 2016 alongside teammates Ben Kanute, Kirsten Kasper and Joe Maloy.
As the heavy favorite in Rio, Jorgensen outran defending Olympic champion Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and claimed the gold medal, becoming USA Triathlon’s first-ever Olympic champion. She covered the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run in 1 hour, 56 minutes, 16 seconds, crossing the line 40 seconds ahead of Spirig. Jorgensen went on to place second at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final that September and take silver in the overall 2016 WTS rankings.
“It has been both a pleasure and an honor to work with Gwen over the years and to see her evolve from a newcomer in the sport to dominating the world’s best fields in Olympic-distance triathlon,” said Andy Schmitz, USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager. “Her accomplishments have permanently raised the bar within our U.S. National Team Program — for both women and men. And I have no doubt that her strong commitment to excellence will translate to a tremendous career in marathon racing.”
Shortly after the 2016 Olympic Games, Jorgensen announced her plans to run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, as well as her intention to start a family with husband Patrick Lemieux. Racing in her first-ever marathon, Jorgensen placed 14th in the elite women’s field with a time of 2:41:01.
She announced her pregnancy in January of 2017, and welcomed baby boy Stanley Allen Lemieux on Aug. 16.
Known for her strong run, it was a common sight for Jorgensen to make up significant deficits on competitors coming off the bike. In June of 2016, she overcame the largest deficit in ITU World Triathlon Series history in Leeds, England. Trailing Bermuda’s Flora Duffy by 1 minute, 40 seconds at the start of the run, she ran a 33:29 10k and won the race with a 51-second margin over Duffy.
Jorgensen leaves a legacy in the sport through the Gwen Jorgensen Scholarship, which she launched in 2014 to assist junior draft-legal triathletes and paratriathletes in their pursuit of excellence in the sport. More than $90,000 has been awarded to date in conjunction with the USA Triathlon Foundation, which contributes a matching grant. The recipients of the 2017 scholarship will be announced on Nov. 10. Gwen has also directly supported female development athletes by volunteering as a mentor coach at the USA Triathlon Junior Select Camp in Colorado Springs.
For Jorgensen’s personal announcement on Facebook, click here. For her complete career results and bio, visit usatriathlon.org.
Three years ago, barely a year into recovery from the scariest and most devastating day of my life, I stood volunteering for the San Diego Triathlon Challenge. Surrounded by people with all different disAbilities, I said to Sam, “You know what? I’m going to be back but I’m going to be on the starting line.” He said, “Yes you will.”
Three years later, I stood getting ready to race. Even though the swim was cancelled (the waves were HUGE), I was ready to start the 44 mile bike. I inched slowly closer to the start. I didn’t start with most of the challenged athletes because I was chatting it up with April, my shadower for the bike. We started up the first hill. We thought it was kind of tricky but we were glad it was done. I knew there was a bigger hill coming but honestly, without riding it, I didn’t really know… 1 ½ miles later, we started up Mt. La Jolla Shores Drive (I heard someone call it that and thought it was very appropriate…) I was getting a little cranky, so I started doing math problems as I went up that mean ol’ mountain. 2 plus 2 is 4… 4 plus 4 is 8… and so on aaalllll the way up that hill. I saw multiple people walking. That’s how I knew this thing was no joke. But I finally made it!
A few miles of pedaling later, April and I suddenly heard whooping and crazy yelling coming from the side of the road… that’s right, there was my husband, my sister, my mom, and some of our friends all shouting from the side of the road. I looked at April, said “That’s my family right there!” We kept on going and came upon THE DOWNHILL. I started my adding trick again. I swear, we went 2 miles downhill. Somehow we got down that thing still on the bike.
From there on out I kind of blocked the hills from my mind because the whole ride was hills. The course was kind of a lollipop shape, and we got back to the stick part of the lollipop, which was at the bottom of THE DOWNHILL. So I changed its name to THE UPHILL. It took a solid 10 minutes of going. Constant. Going. I even passed some other racers! Finally I made it to the top. Such a glorious feeling! We stopper for water and Electrolytes at the aid station up there. By then it was HOT and my tummy wasn’t much of a fan of anything else.
Next, we came to the descent of Mt. La Jolla Shores Drive. It was steep. I had to whip out the ol’ math problems. But finally I made it! I rode each hill up and down WITHOUT having to walk my bike.
Finally, after one more super steep hill I made it back to transition!
I knew I couldn’t run much, but I said I would run, so I had to a little bit. I climbed up that last steep hill made it to the top and I was going to turn around right there, but one of the crossing guards encouraged me to make it to the corner. So I did. I turned around a bit after that. I knew it was time. If I had gone further, I seriously thought I was risking injury. So I swallowed my pride, and turned around and finished that crazy event UNINJURED.
Fat, Drunk, and Out of Shape is No Way to Go Through Life
That’s the line that’s been going through my head almost daily for the past four weeks, ever since my off-season got extended well beyond what I’d intended. (And yes, it’s an Animal House reference.)
I’ll back up by saying that I am a strong believer in the importance of an off-season, on having some time when your focus isn’t on training: When fitting in your workout isn’t the driving force behind how you organize every day. When you have the option to go for a hike or take a yoga class instead of a swim/bike/run workout. When you ease back on the miles and give your muscles and your joints some time to recover.
And that’s why I extended my off-season from the originally planned four weeks to a solid, plenty-of-time-to-get-antsy, eight weeks. I was really enjoying the hiking and the yoga and totally blowing off masters swim and drinking margaritas at lunch. Part of the reason I enjoyed it so much, I think, is because I knew (or rather believed, incorrectly) that it was pretty finite. And then on September 9th I developed a stress reaction in my foot. (How I managed to do that on reduced mileage is a story of total idiocy that I won’t include here. Just chalk it up to my being a moron.)
Suddenly my off-season was extended to … twelve weeks? sixteen? I thought I handled the news pretty well, but looking back on it I was hilariously, quietly, unknowingly, losing my marbles. I figured I was really taking things in stride because I wasn’t making a big deal of the stress reaction. Sure, I couldn’t run for 4-6 weeks, but I could swim and bike and I wasn’t training for anything so really it wasn’t a big deal. People would ask me what was new, and I wouldn’t even tell them about the stress reaction. I mean, when a triathlete doesn’t talk about an injury you know that shit has gotten weird.
So, I can’t run. I am just working out aimlessly, with no goals and no plan and no purpose. Fall is crazy, crazy quiet when you’re a triathlon coach because most of your athletes are in their off-season, so I don’t have much work to do. And since I don’t have a lot of work, and don’t have to be feeling good to tackle some tough workout the next day, I am consuming a glass (or two or three) of wine every night. But if I average out the whole year including my big training weeks where I didn’t drink at all, it’s really totally fine.
Fat, Drunk, and Out of Shape is No Way to Go Through Life.
Clearly it’s time to pull it together: I find a plan on TrainerRoad and start burying myself in some sweet spot bike workouts. I hatch plans for multiple projects: I’m going to write a blog! (Evidence of this effort is obvious.) I’m going to finally organize all my coaching systems and notes into a Filemaker database! (That’s what happens when you were once a management consultant.) I’m at least keeping myself occupied … but something’s still off.
It took me another week to put my finger on it, but then it hit me: I am filling my weeks with coffees and lunches and have absolutely nothing to say during any of them. I don’t even know who I am when I’m not training for something.
Does that statement make me sound totally unhinged? Or at least massively addicted to training? Sure, I’ll own that. But batshit crazy or not, this is where I am. So my off-season now has an official expiration date of Oct 31st. It’s time to pick an Ironman for 2018 and start setting some goals for next year. And then maybe I’ll start to feel normal again.
This morning Jen Findley and I were honored to attend a very special WITSUP Brunch in a foothills mansion high above the cacophony of the Kona Race Week activities at sea level.
An annual event celebrating women in triathlon, the sold out Witsup Kona Brunch featured triathlon legends Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae and Rachel “Joycey” Joyce, moderated by WITSUP “Chief,” Stef “Steffie” Hansen (who is quick to note, one may only address her by this moniker if you are an IRONMAN World Champion). This is the “fourth or fifth” year of the event (and one we will not miss in the future).
Sponsors Cervelo and Ceramic Speed were well represented with signage and prize drawing giveaways.
Our plates piled high with delicacies prepared by Stef’s “chef” husband Brett, we settled in to luxurious chairs as she opened the casual Q&A session by introducing “Two of the most wanted athletes in the world,” Rinny and Rachel.
Stef introduced Rachel, pointing out that the Boulder-based pro completed three IRONMAN races in just ten weeks (including winning IRONMAN Boulder!) after giving birth to her first child, Archie, just 13 months ago.
Rinny was next, asked about what it was like to be in Kona and not be racing: “Izzy is taking most of the focus – it’s very different being here without the anxiety of racing, and just supporting Tim (O’Donnell).”
It was then Rinny’s turn to ask Stef a question… In her trademark feisty and spirited way, Rinny asked Stef point blank if she plans to have kids. Once the room settled down after some barbs and an eruption of laughter, Stef admitted she’d “never been embarrassed on stage.” She then turned serious: “I find the subject fascinating because it’s a dilemma for athletes – age groupers or pros – pregnancy affects sponsor relationships, requires a break from training and racing; it’s one of the biggest challenges in being a pro triathlete, and any working professional. It concerns me – what would happen with WITSUP? I’m not ready to compromise that. Not now. Eventually. But not until it can be my number one priority.”
There were many murmurs of agreement from the attentive audience, most of whom were women, some Kona athletes and some not, and a good smattering of supportive men.
“Moving on,” Stef commanded, slyly changing the subject. She asked Rinny what it has been like “getting back in shape after having a kid.”
Rinny responded that so far she’s had just two runs and two swims – and, she “pulled out sore” after 20 minutes on the run. “It’s gonna be tough,” she said, succinctly.
Rachel responded to the same question, saying, “It taught me patience. I remember my first swim – I was completely exhausted after just 1500 meters – it was so different from being so in shape before. I had to switch my mindset to looking forward, instead of back. I couldn’t rush it. I had to focus on, ‘I’m better than I was last week.’
She continued, “It was hard work, especially the core strength. When I stood at the start line of my first race back I thought, ‘Wow, six months ago I was only walking around the block. You have to take baby steps. Don’t rush it.”
Stef then asked, “It’s similar to injury, then, taking it day by day, right?”
Rachel responded, saying it is similar to injury in that you need to look forward at your progress, and not wishing you were back to where you were before. Then she added, “You have all that, plus breastfeeding. Your body’s main function is to support another human. And the physical changes, like wondering, ‘when will my stomach stop jiggling?’ I felt like my legs weren’t attached to my top half – there was no ‘pop.’ It’s a foreign feeling. My body felt disconnected getting back into training. You have to be patient.”
Rinny was then asked if the past 6-7 weeks since Izzy was born have been similar to the rest she usually takes after Kona. Rinny replied dryly, “Well, this has been 6 or 7 weeks of doing nothing, and also I had a human come out of me.” The room erupted.
She continued, “My core is lost after having to make way for all the expansion. But I’m sitting here listening and trying to take lessons from what Rachel said. I’ll look ahead. Next year I want to be back here and be a contender.”
Stef paused dramatically, and commented, “The best contraception is talking with you two.”
The discussion then turned to race day strategies. Stef asked, “How do you switch off your usual ‘nice’ personalities to “terminator” mode on race day?”
Rinny responded, saying, “When I started (as a pro) I struggled with my friendships with competitors, how to manage that. But I learned that when gun goes off it’s a war… you must be no one’s friend.”
Stef and Rachel joined in with some barbs, Stef saying, “The smack talk is starting now.” Rinny responded, “This year it’s ok because I’m just watching … but next year – looking at Rachel -all bets are off.”
Rachel commented, “You have to think of it that they’re just people I want to be ahead of – I’m very single-minded. It doesn’t matter whether you’re friends or not.”
Nodding agreement, Rinny added, “At that point in the race (during the run) we’re all suffering, so you feel bad. You want to say “sorry- but I’m going on ahead of you.”
The conversation went on to cover advice for the strong Queen K cross-winds (“Trust your bike – it was designed for the wind – try to relax into it”), descending from Hawi (Rinny: “Put it in the biggest ring and go for it!”), and Race Week nerves (Rinny: “I want that – it shows the race matters to you;” Rachel: “If I didn’t feel nervous I’d wonder what was wrong”).
And then the Hot Topic: For pro women after having a baby, they have to do so many races in order to get points for Kona… there is no current carry over or accommodation for maternity leave…
Rachel noted, “We want to have the best women and men racing in Kona. We need to work back from that. Despite fitness before giving birth, it just takes a long time (to get back in shape). We need to look at other sports and consider how to take maternity leave. It’s very complex – we need a statistician to sort rankings, and look at the possibility of carrying over points from the prior year.”
Rachel continues, “There isn’t an easy answer. Women need to not rush back and risk injury – we need to accommodate that.”
Agreeing, Rinny added, “We want the best athletes in their best form – whether it’s a point system or whatever. There are lots of different ideas, and we need to look seriously at the rules.”
Stef concluded the topic saying, “We need a better solution – there’s not a perfect solution, but there is a better way.”
After some talk about finding your “zone” on the Kona run (Rachel says, “The blanker and freer you can keep your mind the better… think about rhythm, nutrition, form”) and a possible 2-day race formula for Kona, like 70.3 worlds in Chattanooga (both women were in favor of it “to showcase the women’s race properly”), the discussion turned more philosophical.
If not triathlon, then what career would you want to pursue?
Rinny explained she studied physiology and kinesiology in college, and she would likely pursue those fields. Rachel, a former lawyer said, “I definitely like the law, but I’m not sure I’d go back to a law firm.”
And, finally, the most memorable moment over time on the Big Island?
“Winning in 2013 ,” Rinny answered without hesitation. “I had won in 2010 and then I had a couple of not-great years. Winning in 2013 validated that it wasn’t a fluke – the day flew by went perfectly. And it was also pretty special because Tim came in 5th. It was the most memorable.”
(Stef pointed out that they were engaged, noting the famous photo of Rinny jumping into Tim’s arms, laughing and saying “you needed the money for the wedding, right?”)
Rachel found her first time at Kona as the most memorable. “I didn’t yet identify as a pro triathlete – I felt out of depth.
I came 6th that year – I came in 4th off the bike, and I heard Greg Welch saying, ‘I think we’re going to see this one go backward…’ I thought, I’ll show you. It was so memorable. It was not my best race, but it ewas the start of a proper pro career.
Predictions for the pro field on Saturday? Rinny was quick to say, “I’ll answer that. I’d pick Rachel or Daniella for one and two, and then Heather (Jackson) or my dark horse pick – Lucy Charles. She’s my dark horse.”
Be sure to check out the WITSUP website for all the “Wahine Warrior” videos of Kona pro women!