Sunday, August 26, 2012

What I have been up to since Buffalo Springs

 It’s been FOREVER since my last post though it feels just like yesterday when I claimed that Kona spot I set my eyes on last winter when it was time to figure out the goals for the 2012 racing season.  After couple of years of talking about maybe doing Lake Placid, I finally got the green light from the master  - Jorge to try to qualify, but not by doing another IM, but by trying to qualify at a half ironman.  We picked Buffalo Springs, TX more or so due to the timing of the race rather than anything else. I had no idea how I was going to handle the dry Texas heat in June, especially after my not so stellar run debacle at last year’s 70.3 World Championships in Vegas but you all know by now what happened.

Believe me, it wasn’t easy to wait this long to just have a shot to make it there. I would constantly find myself checking the Kona qualifier list and results of different ironmans to find names that I usually compete against at the 70.3 distance punching their tickets left and right. The peer pressure was also there, and many wondered why I didn’t try sooner. Honestly, I am not sure I knew “WHY” then, but I chose to listen to the master, and only NOW I know why.

I used to think it was because I couldn’t swim fast enough and my deficit out of the water would simply be too much to overcome if I wanted to win, but now that I am in the midst of getting ready for my first ironman, I finally know WHY! And I couldn’t have been more wrong! I have been working with Jorge since July 2010, and I have watched myself improve year after year, month after month and week after week.  It hasn’t been easy by any means, but trying to get ready for the Vegas/Kona double has opened my eyes to the reality!

This IM stuff is no joke! It will tear you apart if you are not ready for it. And I am not talking just physically, but also mentally! There is absolutely NO WAY, I was even ready to train for one 2 years ago – NOT physically and NOT mentally, and I am so glad I listened to Jorge.  I am now 47 days away from toeing the line or treading the water of Kailua Bay in Kona, HI and I wouldn’t lie if I wasn’t nervous as hell.  YES – it will be my 1st IM, and yes – it will be in Kona against the best of the best, but I will be as ready as I can be and I’ll have no regrets on that day because regardless of what happens, I know I have put all my heart and soul into being as ready as I can be on that race morning. I have trained my little ass off, and I hope there is some left in those 47 days or else it will be a long 112 miles! J  There isn’t much more time for anything else besides work, train, eat, sleep and repeat, and I can’t say enough for those that support me and tolerate my “crazy” goals. You ALL know who you are! Thank you – it really means a lot!

Throughout this IM training, I am learning a lot about myself, and I am sure I’ll learn more on race day, but as I said earlier, I have to know I did absolutely everything I could to get there and be ready to compete.  And this leads me to the MAIN focus of this post, and goes back to what I initially thought was the reason why Jorge was advising me to NOT do an IM 2 years ago – SWIMMING! My triathlon resume doesn’t extend that far but here it goes:

  • Year 1 – 2 sprint races, 2 olympic disntace races which was enough to get me hooked
  • Year 2 –3 x 70.3s (Mooseman - My first half ironman – I guess I like to do things backwards and I did my first 70.3 before I ran an open ½ marathon), Timberman, Clearwater World Championships) and  1x Olympic distance race – it was in July of that year I started t work with Jorge
  • Year 3 – My first ½ marathon, 1 indoor time trial,  3 x 70.3s (Quassy, Providence, and Las Vegas World Championships), Am. Zofingen duathlon which may as well count since to date that is by far the toughest race I have done even though it doesn’t include swimming). If you want to read about my experiences there – check out my race reports from 2011, and 2012.
  • Year 4 – 2 x ½ marathons, 2 Indoor Time Trials, why not do that crazy Am. Zofingen duathlon again, and I’ll end up with 3 x 70.3s(Quassy, Buffalo Springs, Las Vegas Worlds) and then finally Kona

You may notice, that there is no mentioned of any swim races, and or a marathon! Yup – you got that right – I have NEVER raced an open marathon, nor have I ever ran more than 14.5 miles at once and that was last weekend. I’ll change that today, when I put up 16 miles as my new all time high, and I’ll get to 22 come race day, but Kona is going to be a challenge in more ways than one. FUN challenge of course, and I’ll have expectations.  It’s actually pretty “scary” but if it all comes together, I could have a hell of a race, but I know it will be a long day and anything can happen especially with it being my 1st shot at the distance.  

And then there is no swim races! That may also change as of next week, though I still didn’t click “Register”. I know deep down inside that doing this swim race will help me regardless of what happens. This race won’t be about winning, but rather about getting over myself.  This will be a training race, and let’s face it – although winning rocks, and I like to win every race I enter, my race will not be next week in that Merrimack river, my race will be in 2 weeks in Vegas, and in 5 weeks in Kona.  I will potentially get my ass handed to me by real swimmers, but I guess that’s ok. I bet if I asked them to come race me on a bike or on the run, I could return the favor. The win for me will really be just toeing that start line, and doing my best. No time goals, just swimming.  Just like Dory says:

But where did this “crazy” swim race idea come from?  

I have recently started to work with a swim coach, and seriously, I am one lucky girl that coach Jorge recommended Karen to me because Karen rocks!  Yup – she can swim FOREVER, she can swim FOREVER  and faaaaaaaaast, she LOVES open water, and really she just LOVES the water, and LOVES to swim.  That is all awesome, and I hope it rubs off on me, but more importantly she is an unbelievable coach!  We have been working together for 3-4 weeks now, and yes – she is helping me with my technique, and all that other fun stuff, but more importantly she somehow sees right through me, and knows exactly what buttons to push when.  We may have swam together all of 8 times, talked a bunch of times, and she has me figured out. And THAT is NOT easy! She knows when to be tough and tough she is. I am sure I have only seen the beginnings of that, and in a strange way I am excited to see more. I am pretty sure she could make me cry in my goggles, BUT she also knows when to pull back, which I never really realized was SO KEY to a potential breakthrough. I have a hard time pulling myself back, because I am just way too competitive, but Karen is changing that. I am still competitive and always will be, but my outlook is changing a bit.  And that’s when this little green light started to go off in my head.

Few weeks ago, I had a sucky swim workout. Like awful! I know those happen every once in a while, but I was bummed and just over it. I have just started to work with Karen, I have been doing bunch of dryland work including stretch cordz, upper body and core stuff. That day, I could barely make it through 3,500 yards. I finished the workout, but I literally wanted to cry. How the hell am I to swim 2.4 miles if I can’t even make it through 3,500 yards in a pool? The doubts started to creep in. I had some 100s in the end of that workout, and I swam them so freaking slow, I was really over it. I pretty much told my coach Jorge, that maybe NOT swimming will allow me to get faster because one would never know I actually swam quite a bit. That entire offseason when I bitched and wanted to ride my bike instead of going to the pooI every night after work, it all was really started to get to me. I am by no means the one to quit, but I was just THAT down and over it. Two days later, coach Karen does what? Yup – you got it – more 100s, more 100s the week after that and let’s just say though I knew what she was doing, I wasn’t thrilled at all. When I showed up this past Friday, I was expecting more 100s, or perhaps something even more “torturous” J. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had the most FUN swim workout ever. Not that 100s aren’t fun, but this was SUPER FUN in a laid back kind of way. Not only did I have a blast, but in the process of caring less about the clock, I actually swam the fastest 200s and 100 I have swam in a VERY long time.  I was seriously super happy, and I actually felt “fast for me” in that water – that too was FUN!  Since I was on a swimmer’s high, I figured I should sign up for that 2 mile river race mentioned above, but I made it all the way to the “pay now” button and couldn’t do it. Ugh!

I swam with Karen this morning (OWS), in a place we swim at ALL the time – for locals – Walden Pond.  There was barely anyone there and the water was so smooth! My 1st thought was – perfect was water skiing! I went from not being able to get up on one ski, to tearing up that slalom course and actually even entering a few competitions! I can have no fear, I just have to get over myself!

 We made it ¾ of the way through and I noticed Karen had stopped. I just figured she was watching me swim my zig zag line as I was making my way across to the other side of the pond (I think I actually for once swam pretty straight), so I popped up expecting some sort of advice, but instead we just chatted our way across to the other side and all the way back enjoying the quiet pond that Walden was yesterday morning.  We saw very few swimmers around but not many, and the few we saw really had no business of being in there – they made ME look like Michael Phelps, but they didn’t care and they were just enjoying themselves.
It really was the combination of the today’s swim/chatting session, and the super FUN workout yesterday that made me realize something! I have been swimming at Walden pond for 2 years now, and I have NEVER just floated around and really looked around and just relaxed. It has always been about how fast I can make it to the other side, and how much faster I can make it back. Even if I was just suppose to swim EZ, I would always pay attention to that watch!

I had a 112 mile bike to follow yesterday’s swim, and I actually spent good 3 hours thinking about swimming,  and what is it going to take for me to learn to like it, and love it. I actually don’t hate it, or dislike it, I just hate being “slow”.  I know I will one day love swimming, and I can tell you that this offseason will be a fun one because Karen and I are going to make it happen. I know it, I can feel it! The only reason why I struggle with it a bit right now is because of I am sort of slow (too slow for myself), a bit too slow if I want to be winning races overall, and that’s why it bugs me, but that will change. Looking at the final results, coming 3rd overall by 2 minutes but getting beat in the water by 10 minutes is OLD, and tears me up inside EVERY time! Sure, I am still able to post awesome results, but I want better. I want to bike from the front and build the lead rather than bike through the field to get the lead.

I have tried fixing the swim myself with the help of Jorge who has gone over and beyond what a triathlon coach really should do.  I have gotten better, but it hasn’t worked as well as I had hoped for.  Karen is definitely going to take me out of my comfort zone – that 2 mile race next is of course HER idea J, and she is making me see the real FUN aspect of swimming so much more than I ever could have.  Some days it will be about the clock, and some days it won’t. I am sure I’ll still have days when swimming can bite me, but I am so excited for the new journey ahead.  I know I can do it. When on that bike today, I thought about the days when I first came to the U.S. – 19 years old, thousands of miles away from family and friends, just following my dream of playing basketball and really learning English.

Swimming is easy compare to that. I tend to forget because it has been so long ago, but it wasn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world. It was HARD! I did take English in school, but it was British English, and let’s face it – I was a bit lost. It’s kind of like I could swim as in I wouldn’t drown, but I never swam laps, never mind miles. No friends, no family, everyone spoke what felt like million miles an hour, and let’s just say it was extremely frustrating to have to ask everyone to repeat everything at least 3 times and then still don’t understand. I couldn’t joke with anyone, and I was too shy to speak because I thought I sounded funny!  That’s a bit similar to how I feel entering a swim race! I could potentially be surrounded by swimmers that have been swimming all their life, and then me – the swimmer wanna be.

It wasn’t until I got over the “fear of sounding funny”, that I started to get better. Sitting at home, talking to my friends in Czech online and studying my dictionary wasn’t going to work, just like swimming on my own won’t.  I stopped worrying about what others thought, and if someone wanted to laugh at me because I sounded funny, so be it. I knew they couldn’t say a word in any other language but English.  I had to get out of my comfort zone and try to talk to people if I wanted to make friends, learn the American English and all the awesome slang that comes with it. And no – you will NOT find slang in any dictionary. Oh, do I have plenty stories about the use of slang! But it finally dawned on me yesterday morning, that  swimming is actually VERY similar to what I went through 12 or so years ago. I know deep down that in order to become a swimmer, I have to tackle swimming head on, and I have to step out of that comfort zone. That comfort zone of swimming alone all the time, the constant ” me vs. the clock battle”, I have to find the real FUN in swimming.

The point I am trying to make with myself, and I am on the right track, is that if I was able to pack “my life” into 2 bags (120 lbs) leave for the unknown, and come out of the shell, swimming has nothing on me. I’ll be a fast swimmer one day! Learning English, and actually having to carry on a conversation didn’t exactly take over night, it took months, and it really took years to get to where I am today. Some people don’t even believe me when I tell them I am not American, so I have come a long way! So yeah – I will one day be a great swimmer, and I’ll let Karen take me out of my comfort zone. It’s barely been 4 weeks, and she has honestly changed my entire outlook on swimming (and really NOT just on swimming) in so many ways.

So now that I shared my thoughts with the world, I think I am ready to do finally leave that comfort zone, which means I better swim that 2 mile race next weekend, eh?  Oh boy J

In the mean time, with Vegas being  13, and Kona  47 days away – I can assure you I’ll be ready!  I’ll definitely be in the best shape of my life, and I am looking forward to some revenge on that Vegas course. I  have had a GREAT training block since Buffalo springs, and I am ready to race again. I have put in some tough, tough training sessions, and I am so ready to race. I am stronger than I have ever been across the board. I am feeling stronger in the water, my biking keeps improving, and I have been feeling stronger and faster on the run than ever before.  Week in and week out I have been able to improve, and amaze myself with how much my body and mind can actually handle without giving me that middle finger.  Had I tried to do this 2 years ago, I stood no chance. I would have fallen apart, my body would have fallen apart, but I am ready now! Thanks Jorge! J

So here you have it, this post has 3,000+ words and it used to take me hours/days to write an essay for English class with 500 words.  You know what that means


  1. Very inspirational post. You are so motivated and sound like you are on a mission. Conquer Kona! Good Luck!

  2. Awesome post, Jana. And great comparisons to language v. swimming, etc.

    You are one of the few people I know that say "I am going to do this" (and "this" is never an easy thing) and then actually go out and do the VERY HARD work to make that "this" happen. It's awesome.

    Just keep swimming!