I know I am late, and we are now almost 2 weeks into 2016 (time flies when you are having fun), so I’ll make it short (who am I kidding - you should still grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable).
For those that forgot that coffee, here are the cliff notes.
The 2015 winter was long! Lots of magic (hard work) happened indoors. At my 1st race of the season, I lost a 10 min lead on the run at Challenge Quassy even after running a PR on that course. During my 2nd 70.3, I forgot to turn at a turn buoy and got lost on a swim course (duh!), I lost all my nutrition on the bike course, and even got knocked off my bike by a car. I somehow still landed on my feet unscuffed and won the race. I completely underperformed in my last race before Kona (Timberman 70.3), but didn’t let that affect me. I used it as fuel! And Kona – what an experience! A lot of fun went on in between these races, but for that you will need that coffee.
2015 was the year in which I have learned many valuable lessons. There were lots of highs, and also lows. With successes come failures and it’s not always as rosy as the world of social media can sometime portray. Here are just a few lessons learned:
- Know your “WHY”. I was reminded more than ever that mental toughness is the KEY to success (Sure – there were tears of joy, lots of laughs, but also the times that make you wonder WHY, and is this really worth it)
- I learned to better control my own head (If you think you can – you will, but if you won’t, you won’t – it’s that simple – it really is, and there is a big difference between saying you will and actually BELIEVING you will). Believe!
- I de-attached myself from numbers and focused on effort - 99% of the time my effort resulted in more watts, or faster paces (I do still struggle with this at times – what can I say – I love numbers)
- I realized that one bad day doesn’t define you (What’s done is done, one must learn from it, and move on – no need to dwell)
- Stressing about rest days doesn’t help with recovery! Accepting how you really feel is key (My rule of thumb is to start a workout and let the first 20 min determine my faith)
2015 was the year in which I put all my eggs into one basket – the Ironman World Championship basket. I had already qualified back in November 2014 at IM Cozumel, so 2015 had a singular focus! I wanted to win and stand on that awesome Ironman World Championship stage/podium (It always was the best stage I ever laid my eyes on, but after standing on it – I can’t even explain the feeling – simply THE BEST!)
It all started back in January after a 4 week break of no swim, bike, run – I guess that’s the “reward” you get after racing 2 Ironman’s within 6 weeks of each other. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary!
Between January and April, I spent a lot of time in the pool – I sort of learned how to flip turn. (Read swim without oxygen)
I swam my fastest 200 and 500 time trials, and I added a few more swim toys to my already extensive collection. The snorkel! I don’t know about you, but shockingly, you won’t catch me swimming with a snorkel, unless there is a nose clip involved (it’s just safer that way for everyone involved).
I also found my new favorite pair of goggles.
And I extended my collection of swimsuits! Thank you BlueSeventy.
I did a lot of super short essentially ALL OUT efforts on the bike, and more times than not those were harder for me than racing an IM. The truth is – I am much better at going long and I can ride at 70-80ish % of my critical power almost all day, but I suck at going short and super hard. Noneless I have re-named these intervals “Where is the puke bucket” intervals! Thankfully, I have only come close to needing that bucket (many times), and as a result, I ended up with my best 5 min power EVER by a long shot!
That hurt, but oh so worth it ;)
Higher 5 min power, more room to grow that 20 min power, hence improving the Critical Power, and riding better in Kona - you get the picture!
Running was mostly easy at first, and mostly on the treadmill. I have learned to love the treadmill, and found it extremely useful.
When the streets you run on look like this, it’s just not all that safe to run outdoors.
The treadmill helped me to keep my pace honest. I have incorporated a ton of plyos, as well as hill reps into my treadmill training, and do I dare to say it was fun even if I wasn’t going anywhere?
I had definitely drowned a few treadmills in the process, but I had become stronger for it.
I had pay attention to details which included not only accepting recovery and the easy days, but also taking a look at my nutrition. Not because I wanted to “diet” – that is a dirty word in my vocabulary, but because I wanted to optimize my nutrition intake to give my body what it truly needs to perform and recover well. I had an extensive blood panel and analysis done thanks to Inside tracker and I was on my way. Few tweaks later, I can honestly say that I was starting to feel the difference especially in the way I was recovering from session to session. If you are interested what my daily nutrition looks for the most part, you can read about it here. (My daily nutrition)
By April, I was ready to come out of “hibernation” and take some of my training out on the roads. Nearly one week in the sunny Tucson at the 3rd annual E3 Training Solutions training camp did the trick and the weather didn’t disappoint.
Ton of swimming (in beautiful outdoor pools)
Riding the famous Tucson routes including the Shoot out loop, Kitt Peak, Madeira Canyon & Mt. Lemmon of course (hill repeats up Gates Pass were also on the menu – can you say ouch?), and of course running under the Tuscan sun (oh wait Tuscon sun ;)
Mt. Lemmon (this time now snow)
More Tucson Shenanigans
When a top of Mt. Lemmon, one must refuel for on of the best descends ever!
Little nap time after all that climbing is also key to have a great Mt. Lemmon descend
"Fireball" ready to say "see you later" to Tucson with some hill reps up Gates Pass
Once back from Arizona, it was back to the world of indoor swimming pools, trainer riding during the week on my trusty CycleOps trainer, and outdoor riding on weekends. I do wish I had discovered and used Zwift earlier, but I do love the focused trainer sessions even if I have no one to chase thanks to Zwift. (If you haven’t checked out Zwift, you should!)
The roads were finally clear enough to take my running out on the roads, although one session a week stayed on the treadmill. (I told you I have grown to like the treadmill – I think it can provide the right level of focus/consistency that one may lack outdoors – there is just no hiding from a certain incline at a certain pace – you either do it or you don’t, and that ladies and gentleman – builds a certain level of mental toughness and fearlessness”
By May, I included a once a week track session with my E3 teammates to try to find some speed in the mega legs. (Remember - I would rather run all day, then run 1 hard mile, never mind 800 or 400 repeats).
Working on that speed
Little spin, followed by a little run around the track
I kept swimming (maybe a bit less than in the offseason in the interest of time), and riding both indoors (during the week)/outdoors (on weekends).
1 interval at a time
1 sweat puddle at a time!
I attended another – this time a bit shorter E3 Training Solutions training camp in Waterville Valley, NH, where I got to meet a bunch of new teammates.
Awesome training weekend in NH with the E3 folks
In June, the race season was finally here, and I competed in my first 70.3 of the year – Challenge Quassy (Formerly knows as Rev3 Quassy). It was a first great benchmark that was closely followed by a 2nd 70.3 in 2 short weeks and my favorite local race (Patriot 70.3). That race was a comedy of errors, but a great one that prepared me to deal with adversity. Later that month, I attended a 3rd training camp of the year in the flat mountains of Vermont. 4 days of climbing mountains, one Gap at a time.
Lots of suffering
And recovering at the top
My favorite gap
To say that I was spent after this one was an understatement, but my parents had come to spend almost an entire month of July with me, so there was no rest for the weary! I haven’t seen my parents in a long time (too long), so this was awesome! We got to spend lots of quality time together, and they got to finally watch me swim, bike and run. I was so sad to see them go.
And just like that July was gone, and summer was coming to an end. August saw me travelling to Lake Placid for a long weekend of - you guessed it swim/bike/run
I finally got to climb that famous Whiteface mountain! I have never had to pay to ride my bike up a mountain but it was worth every penny! 8 miles, 8.6% avg grade, this mountain is a beauty and well if you are suffering you have some absolutely amazing views to distract you from the pain! I can't wait to do it again!
Swimming in the beautiful mirror lake! The one body of open water where even "I" can swim straight ;)
I also spent some time training with teammates on the Timberman course and also having some fun.
Little boat time at the end of the day on Lake Winny
T I raced it. I was ready to have a kick ass race, and finally come under that 4:30 mark, but I turned out to be very average across all disciplines, and didn’t even come close. My finishing time was 4:40 and although it was good enough for 2nd overall amateur, I wasn’t happy at all. I knew I could do so much better than what I showed. I guess I was saving the best for last?
After Timberman, all eyes were on the final Kona training block. I spent another long weekend (Labor Day weekend), in Vermont, posting some of my best training day after day. I was swimming well, riding strong, and running better than ever. I spent a lot of time wearing all the different recovery products that EC3D puts out there! Good thing their product is so comfortable because their recovery tights had turned into my pyjama bottoms.
Getting Ready for bed
And sometimes recovery deserves some ice cream! YUM!
I had just done one of, if not the best long training runs ever, and my foot began to hurt. I had done all I could to heal it and get back to 100% pre Kona, but that pain never went away.
It had gotten significantly better and better thanks to magic hands of Dr. Pete Viteritti whom I highly recommend for you local to the Boston area, and Byron Thomas who had helped me while I was in Hawaii.
My runs for the 6 weeks before Kona could be counted on one hand, yet I still believed I had what it takes. This time I really believed - I didn't just think I believed because others told me I should, and I was rewarded.
You already know what happened in Kona (Race Report here), and just like that the year was done. Just like in 2014 when I knew immediately after I crossed the finish line in Kona, that I had to race again to get my spot to come back in 2015, I knew that this time I was done for the year. I still knew I wanted to go back to Kona in 2016, but I also knew I will have to find a race in 2016 to do so. I was physically tired, but mostly mentally and emotionally exhausted. (In a good way for the most part)
2015 – You were real! I tasted defeat, but also the victory of a long time dream come true! The year, in which I truly went from never wanting to do an Ironman and questioning my goals (isn’t that what usually happens around mile 18 of the run?) to coming back stronger than I ever thought I would. Going from feeling defeated and sorry for myself, to believing that I can, to being fearless.
It was THAT moment (at mile 18 of that run) that changed me as an athlete, and I can’t explain why or how, but I know it was a defining moment in my triathlon career that I will draw upon in many races or even tough training sessions yet to come. Thank you to all my sponsors for the support! Castelli for the chaif free, super fast tri and cycling apparel (The Stealth top is the bomb!), Powerbar for being my to go for anything nutrition during all my training sessions and races, BlueSeventy for the kick ass fast, comfy suits, speedsuits, wetsuits and goggles, EC3D for helping me recover faster with the variety of super comfortable apparel, Landrys Bicycles for the one and only "Fireball", and where would mega legs be without PowerTap.
If you made it this far, hopefully you listened to me and had at least one cup of coffee! thank you for reading :)
Now it's onto 2016. 2016 – the year of opportunity!