Here's the story . . .

"KMF - Do you know what that stands for?" my father asked me.  We had just finished the Long Course Duathlon National Championship in Texas (2015).  Nope.  No idea.  As it turns out, on the second run there was a guy in front of my dad with "KMF" on the back of his shirt.  Try as he might, my dad couldn't catch up with him to ask what it meant, and it was driving him crazy.  He said that he kept his eye on him after the finish, and tracked him down to find out.  "Keep Moving Forward".  As well talked about it, we decided it was a great motto - for life and triathlon.  Especially during an Ironman race when the overwhelming tendency is to want to slow down, to take a break, to stop - just for a second; but you have to just keep moving (preferably forward).  Same with life - when things get crazy or don't necessarily go the way you hope or plan - break it down into smaller pieces and, well, KMF!

     ....and Smile.  There are oh so many reasons for this.  I have been sidelined by many things - I have fallen off my bike (a lot) - I have taken corners too fast, been taken out by others who have taken a corner too fast, I have been hit by a car, I have failed to unclip and hit the ground; I have had a stress fracture (and later a broken foot . . . ); I have had two children - there have been times I just could not race - or even just go for a swim/bike/run.  If you have been there, you know, there is nothing that makes racing or training more appealing than NOT being able to do it.  I have friends who would give anything to be able to race.  A long-time family friend battled tonsillar cancer a few years ago.  He would come to our monthly time trials wearing his chemo pump - and he would be so happy just to be able to be out there.  The next year he was in remission and had one of the best Ironman races of his life.  Another close friend of mine who is a long-time swimmer found a few years ago that his times were getting slower and he was having difficulty with arm fatigue while swimming.  The verdict - ALS.      There are so many people who would give anything to be able to do what we take for granted most of the time. I try to keep that in perspective - especially while racing.  It is easy to get caught up in the race, to set high goals and expectations - and sometimes things just don't go as planned.  I try to truly enjoy the process - even when it hurts - and just be thankful I am able to do what I do.  Push yourself, test your limits, but remember to have fun!  With all that in mind, I figure there is nothing left to do - but smile, smile, smile.

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Some 'Magic' Racing

    For a number of reasons, it seems I have had difficulty posting many stories this year.  Several have been started, and hopefully I will get them completed.  As it turns out, I also have a story from last year that I have not shared.  I remember writing this up after some local Team Magic races last year, and time slipped away, so I decided it would be fun to post them before the races this year.  Well, it was pretty bittersweet re-reading it, but I wanted to share . . .  

 

Some ‘Magic’ Racing with my Dad and Friends

 

I love to race in Tennessee. Over the years I have gotten to know more and more of the area racers - and usually a good group of friends end up at the same races, which makes it very fun. Team Magic Racing puts on many events, but two of my favorites are the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon and the Music City Triathlon (in Nashville of course). For the past several years I have had conflicts and had to miss the Chattanooga race, so I was very excited when this year worked out. Not only that, my father was going to be racing, as well as several of my local triathlete friends - which made it even better!

The Chattanooga race has a lovely downstream swim, a new bike course this year cut out a lot of hills and made for a really fast bike, and the run wound down along the river and back. The city is, of course, just beautiful, and a whole group of us managed to have dinner together the night before. I have to tell you, I just love racing with my dad. Even when he is not with me I always think of him - what he would think about the course, how we would discuss it after - what was the best part, what was tough, who had faster transition times, the ‘race within the race’ of the hometown crowd, etc - so having him racing was really special. I saw him as I headed in from the run, and he was just smiling and so excited cheering me on. Afterwards we met back up at post-race tent, and discussed our races. We both ended up making the podium - and I just could not have asked for a better day.

The Music City Triathlon is at the end of July and is notoriously HOT and HUMID. And - I love it. Again I was excited as my father was racing, along with tons of friends from home and the Nashville area. The swim is in the Cumberland River, and is a race director’s nightmare because the current can sometimes be rather ‘challenging’ shall we say. Team Magic has done wonders in adapting the swim course to negate this, and this year went nice and smoothly. The bike is on closed roads, the majority on a 4 lane parkway, completely closed to traffic, with some nice rolling hills. And the run, is hot. Very hot. I had a friend, Kevin Elmore, fly in from California to race, and again a group of us were able to meet the night before for a nice dinner.

The race went well, it always makes me happy to see my dad out there on the run, and we all tried to encourage each other along as we melted…

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 I am lucky to be able to do a lot of different races in a lot of different places, but these ‘hometown’ races still rank up there as some of my favorites. There is just something really special about racing with so many friends, and I never take for granted being able to race with my father. My heart is full.

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Thanks for reading. If you get a chance, come race with me in Tennessee!

 

                                    Back to 2018 . . . 

 This year I was fortunate enough to be able to once again race in Chattanooga and in Nashville.  The friendships and support of the triathlon community helped me through - although my father was, of course, very much on my mind.  The Music City Triathlon celebrated it's 40th anniversary - which is pretty amazing.  Kathleen Johnston did an incredible job rounding up memoralia from the previous years - including lists of race results.  Turns out my first Music City race was in 2000 - my second year of doing triathlons!  The most exciting thing for me this year, is that my 18 year old niece, Abby Maimone, flew down from New Jersey to do her first triathlon!  She was with me in packet pickup when we discovered this, and she looked at me and said, "That means you did this before I was born".  Yes.  Yes, indeed.  Lol.

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     Abby had a great race.  Elvis and the kids were there cheering.  I saw tons of friends from the area out there racing.  The weather was the coolest it has probably ever been.  The triathlon community was as supportive and encouraging as always.  And, I thought about my father.  And I thought of all the years we did this race together.  And how proud he would be to see everyone out racing.  And what we would have laughed about, and discussed, and strategized about after the race.  And then I went out to a wonderful brunch with the family and some friends that I met . . . through triathlon.  And although my heart still aches something fierce, it is still full with all that life has given, and continues to give, me.  And I am so very thankful I never took for granted a single race I shared with my Papa.

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 Once again - Thanks for reading. If you get a chance, come race with me in Tennessee!

 

 

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One of my favorite pics from last year - my Dad stopping to say hi to a friend, Tomas de Paulis, who was diagnosed with Stage 2 Lymphoma. He was unable to race last year, but his treatments were successful, and this year he not only raced, but won his age group. So very awesome!

 

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2017
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2018 - Keeping the tradition going

 

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It was a good day in Nashville.

 


Jumping Back In . . . With Amy Dixon

 One year ago, I was contacted through a network of people, and asked if I would be interested in racing as a guide for a visually impaired triathlete. Something I had long contemplated, I jumped at the opportunity. After a lengthy phone conversation gleaning tips from the amazing Caroline Gaynor, I traveled to Florida and met the incredible Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt who patiently taught me what I needed to know to help guide her though a swim/bike/run. Hands down one of the most terrifying, and rewarding things I have ever done - and I remain absolutely passionate about today.

 

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With Ivonne, March 2017

A few short months later I was able to fill in as a guide for Amy Dixon, another incredibly talented visually impaired paratriathlete, and we hit it off fantastically. I ended up guiding for her in Yokohama, Edmonton, and Rotterdam in 2017. Although I am very much at the lower end of the totem pole compared to the caliber of guides these athletes have, I offered to continue guiding for her in 2018 - making her races my number one priority - if she needed me.

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With Amy Dixon

So, one year later, I am back at the Sarasota CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships, this time guiding for Amy Dixon. Thankfully a little more experienced and prepared - but no less nervous, humbled, and inspired by the athletes that surround me.

Amy had overcome even more challenges since we last raced in September 2017; she had a hernia repaired, and continued to battle her progressive eye disease which had resulted in further deterioration of her vision over the winter. Non deterred, she had already been back in serious training mode, and even put together a camp helping teach guides and visually impaired athletes how to swim/bike/run together. Her biggest goal of this early season race was to finish within the qualifying standards to make the national team. There was a strong women’s field - the competition was going to be tough.

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Happiness is an outdoor pool in the warm sunshine!

While the days leading up to the race were warm and sunny, race day brought cool temps and drizzle. We had a solid swim and exited the water in 3rd. Amy’s coach, Jim Vance, was out on the course giving us stats on the bike - which was awesome. The bike happens to be both of our favorite part of the race. And - Amy has the most incredible tandem (named Bomber) that you can imagine. The course was perfect to just settle in and go - which we did. However, the competition was strong - and we came in off the bike still in 3rd position. Out on the run, a 5k, and the goal was to run negative splits. We passed Jim, “You wanted a race, well you’ve got one!” he called to us.

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And - Amy ran such a great race. She was able to dig deep and negative split her run. She held her 3rd place spot, and best of all - she made the cutoff and qualified for the national team. And - I think she might have even smiled out on that course somewhere!

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It never ceases to put life/training/racing into perspective for me, to spend a few days surrounded by such amazing athletes. The challenges they overcome on a daily basis, the things they accept and refuse to be limited by, the dedication, the determination, the grit that they all possess - it just puts so much of life into perspective. Thank you, Ivonne, for trusting me that first race, and thank you to Amy Dixon for continuing to trust me, and allowing me to be your guide. It somehow makes all my years of training and racing mean something a little more to me - and I am so incredibly honored and humbled.

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Shattered.

Shattered.

 Totally. Completely. Shattered.

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Tuesday. February 20. A day just like any other. For the past few months I had been leaving my house around 4:15am to meet my dad at a pool about 30minutes away from my house to swim. This morning, I did not. I was hosting the “Fresh Freestyle” swim camp at my house the upcoming weekend, so I swam at home to make sure the pool was ready. I saw my dad at lunch - we had a work meeting with all the providers at the medical clinic where we work that he leads monthly. It was an absolutely beautiful day for Feb, and I was not the happiest to spend my lunch hour indoors, but it was a good meeting. On the way out, I stopped and told my dad - “Good meeting, Papa.” He gave his typical response, “Was it ok?”.  "Yes, it was good", I replied. I finished up my afternoon seeing patients, and at one point I had a break and swung by his office - but his door was closed signaling he had left for the day. “Good” I thought. It was just beautiful, and I hoped he was out on his bike enjoying it.

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My day ran later than expected, and I was trying to get out on the bike myself. I was literally in my kit opening my car to get out my bike when my phone rang. It was my husband, Jeff, which was unusual because he almost never calls unless something major is going on. “Your papa has had an accident, I am bringing him in, are you at work?” Not what I wanted to hear. This wasn’t the first call like this I have received. He had a nasty attack by a pit bull while cycling a few years ago, and Jeff had to bring him in - it tore his entire calf muscle. My standard response is to go alert my nurses, and then find his partner, Dr. Colotta, and warn him that I need him on standby. This time, however, it was not a simple fix. Jeff pulled up and my dad was in the back of the car - completely unresponsive. We rushed him next door to the ER, and within 20 minutes he was life flighted out to the Vanderbilt Trauma Center in Nashville.

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What happened, still remains a mystery. My brother-in-law was at the end of my driveway collecting the trash bins, and saw something in the road about 100 meters away. Luckily he went to investigate, and found my dad in the road. He had been riding his elliptigo - which was barely scratched. His helmet was cracked. The front of both of his knees were scraped - but not much. His head had taken the brunt of the fall. Later investigations ruled out any type of hit and run. We simply do not know what happened.

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My sister, two of my brothers, and I headed to Nashville. Upon arrival we sat down with the neurosurgeon - and the news was grim. He had sustained severe head trauma - a skull fracture, bleeding, and swelling of the brain. The next 72-96 hours would be critical. If he made it past that, we were looking at long term rehabilitation, and he would likely never practice medicine again.

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The next few days were spent driving back and forth to Nashville, trying to continue seeing my patients, and praying like crazy for a miracle. We were very blessed to have a friend with an apartment about 15 minutes from Vanderbilt, and Roy graciously opened his doors to us so we had a place to stay in case we received a dreaded midnight phone call. One morning after staying there I finally had a chance to put on my running shoes and head out the door. And I stood on the sidewalk, in the rain, and I honestly did not know if I could run. For the first time in my life. Running has always been my therapy, my break, my chance to sort through every day life or leave it behind. But it has also always been my connection with my father. And, I didn’t know if I could do it. I weighed my options - go back and lie in bed, sleepless, with my mind filled with unbearable thoughts, or put one foot in front of the other and move. So - I started walking. And oh so slowly, started moving a little faster. I was able to run, maybe not run so much as move my legs and let my mind go. And- cry. Because I knew my father was fighting the hardest battle of his life. And, the outlook was not good any way you looked at it. But selfishly I so wanted him to fight and make it through. And, I cried.

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Friday. The first day of the Fresh Freestyle Camp. I had so been looking forward to this weekend. My dad was supposed to be participating too. A short couple hours into the swim camp and I heard from my sister that all was stable with my dad. We were getting close to our 96 hour mark, still praying for a miracle. And then, just like that, things changed. Within fifteen minutes I got a call saying his condition had changed. I needed to get to the hospital. I let my brothers know, and we headed back to Nashville.

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Back to the conference room. Back with a neurosurgeon. Where my father was at least responsive to painful stimulus up until this point, he was not any longer. More tests were being done. Some couldn’t be done until the next day. But, we already knew the odds were not in our favor. Back to Roy’s that night - where the dreaded midnight (actually it was around 11, but close) phone call finally came. Further changes, none of them good. Back to the hospital, a CT scan showed the swelling was getting worse. Only thing to do now was wait until another test could be done Saturday to show the extent of the damage.

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I do 'wellness visits' at work, which include counseling people on completing a living will. Countless times I have explained the importance of having one, if not for yourself then for those you love and who have to make the decisions if something were to happen.  Unbelievable, here I was now, in some surreal reality, thankful that my father had a living will, but absolutely hating that it was necessary. He very clearly and explicitly stated his wishes, and had already told us all numerous times. No life support. DNR if no chance of improvement. Let him go.

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Saturday. Februarly 24. The final test was done. At 3:28 pm my father crossed that final finish line. And - my heart Shattered. My life Shattered. My world. Shattered.

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This year will mark 20 years since I first toed the line at the Memphis in May triathlon. My father signed me up, and put me on his bike. And that started a wonderful adventure into the world of multisport and a new relationship with my father. He bought me a bike for my birthday that year - and we rode 40 miles together. We rode together all summer, and he used to say his favorite thing was seeing my shadow right behind him as we rode. I was still going to university at Western in London, Ontario, Canada - but spent my summers at home where we raced all over TN.

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I did my first marathon with him - the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans. He ran the whole thing with me - it took me almost 5 hours. And, he never complained once. When I finished school in Canada I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah - and kept doing triathlons, convincing several friends there to race with me too. I met my mom and dad in Las Vegas where my dad and I did the half marathon together. While I was in Utah he did his first Ironman - the Greater Floridian, and he sent me the bumper sticker from it - “Are you tough enough?” No way, I thought. That was 2000. In 2002 I moved home, and in 2003 we did Ironman Florida together.

 

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Later I ran the San Antonio Marathon step for step with him

 We both loved to race so much. And back-to-back races. It was such a challenge. One year we did the MachTenn triathlon in Tullahoma on Saturday, then drove to Columbia Missouri to do the 1/2 Max (half ironman) the next day. One of our favorite races was the Max-O-Mania race weekend (also around Columbia) - 3 days and 5 races as a team. I remember on the bike I was feeling really good, and it was so fun I thought he might like to pull, when I asked him he was like, “That was NOT part of the plan”. So I laughed - and kept pulling. In the evenings there was a big dinner with all the racers, and “yellow jerseys” were given to the race leaders - and we were very proud to get a few of those. The last event was an olympic distance triathlon, and it was so fun to cross that finish line together.

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 A few years ago one of our friends wanted to go do the Disney marathon. Sure, that would be fun - and a good destination for the kids. Well, then I discovered you could do a “Dopey” challenge - start on Thursday with a 5k, then Friday 10k, Saturday 1/2 marathon, and Sunday full marathon. No takers - except my dad (although a couple did the Goofey Challenge - which was the 1/2 marathon Saturday and the full on Sunday). So - we did the whole thing. However, while I ran, he took advantage of the fun aspect and took his picture with all kinds of characters.

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During the marathon he even stopped and rode the roller coaster. And, my father does not like heights, and is not big on roller coasters. But, he had so much fun he rode it AGAIN! And then completed his marathon.

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And so it goes - year after year filled with bike rides together, long runs, pool swims and open water swims. We did several Ironman races together - Florida, Wisconsin, NYC, Hawai’i and Florida again.

 

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When he got a lottery slot into Kona he came to cheer for me in IM Louisville as I attempted to get a slot to race with him

 

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And we made it do Hawai'i together!

 When Ironman races in North America filled up faster than the hottest concert tickets we traveled to destination races - and did Ironman Lanzarote and Nice, France (where there were more people still out from the night before than there were people headed to the race start). He always wanted to do Escape from Alcatraz - so one year a whole group of us entered the lottery and all got in.

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We would sit down in January with our race calendars to plan our year - first putting in our favorite local races: always starting with the Steamboat Triathlon in Cape Girardeau,

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then the Los Locos Duathlon, Memphis in May weekend,

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One year the race was in Tunica . . . interesting transition....

 

Chattanooga Waterfront, and Music City Triathlons.

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Then we would pick somewhere new - one year we did River Cities in Shreveport (just for the race swag), and one year it was the NYC triathlon.  

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We loved to find a fun end-of-the-year beach destination sprint (Panama City has a great one) so that we could race and then enjoy the beach for a few days.

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We would ride our bikes to local 5ks, run, then continue on our ride. No matter where we went we generally found a race, or at least found a place to swim/bike/run together. When I qualified for Boston he came with me and cheered me on.

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With my Uncle Peter and my dad before Boston Marathon

 

And - the highlight of my triathlon career - last year (2017) at the USAT National Championships, he was not able to race, but he was there and cheered me on as I by some absolute miracle won both the Olympic and Sprint distance races. And the best part? He was there. The.Best.Part.

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Different race, but you get the picture....


 

When I first started racing, we did every race together. As the years passed I started racing more on my own - but I always, ALWAYS, had him with me. From finding a hotel close to the race. To setting up transition. To surveying the swim, watching the current, the sun, finding the best strategy for starting position. To the bike - how he would have loved the course, or where the tough parts were.

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And the run, always picturing him there, seeing him smile, hearing him say, “Go Kirsten, you gotta dig deep now”. And when I crossed that finish line, he was always my first thought. The first person I contacted to let him know how things went. When I won Worlds in Chicago I messaged him, “Papa - I think I just won the whole freaking race - can you believe it!?!?!?!”, and his response - “I am smiling so big right now”. And no matter what, when we saw each other again our first question would always be - “How was your race?” Every detail, however insignificant others might find, was always of interest. When we asked each other what we had planned for the day/weekend - we knew it related more to swim/bike/run/race than anything else.

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Shattered.

 We worked together. Our houses were close enough that he paved a lane between the two so my children could ride their bikes to GrandPapa’s without having to go out on the road. Despite the chaos of life, work, and racing, my brothers and sister and I would make the time to have dinner together with him on Sunday nights. We celebrated every birthday and holiday together. He was so much more than just my father, my Papa - he was my coach, my training partner, my racing partner, my best friend, my rock. And now, I am adrift. Shattered.

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I’m going to be honest, it is going to be so incredibly hard for me to race this year. Even though I have carried him with me for years, and will continue to do so, I catch myself thinking about what I want to tell him about. And, I can’t. That I will never again survey a swim with him and plot our strategy. That I won’t meet him out on the bike course somewhere and hear his “Go Kirsten”. That the run course will not have his smiling face on it - urging me on. That we won’t ever sit together afterwards, waiting on awards, rehashing all the details, excited about what went well and pondering on how to improve our weaker areas.

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 In some ways it is like when you fall off your bike and end up with a bad case of road rash. The first step is to scrub it out while things are still somewhat in shock. And when you wake up the next day, just for a split second you hope and pray it was just a bad dream - that it didn’t really happen. And then you move - and everything hurts. And it is tempting to just stay perfectly still, and keep pretending it isn’t real, even if it’s just for a few minutes longer. But then you realize that things won’t get better or disappear, and lying there isn’t going to solve anything. So you get up, and try not to let on how badly you are hurting. And at first everything is hypersensitive - the slightest touch makes the nerve endings scream, and you try to avoid any contact with the injured areas. But - that is easier said than done. You alternate between keeping things covered up, and letting them breathe - generally when no one else is around to see. And slowly things start to heal - often breaking open a few times in the process. The deeper the injury - the slower the healing, and even when things heal, the scar remains forever.

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People keep asking how I am - and telling me I am strong. I am not. I can smile, say that I’m ok, taking things one day at a time, some days better than others - you know all the standard responses. But - I am absolutely, shattered. And I am holding on with everything I have to the sliver of light that I know is there, that the utter and complete darkness of despair threatens to eliminate. It will get better with time. I know. But it does not change what is. The light holds the memories, the good times, the races, the finish lines, the swims, the bikes, the runs, the trips, the Sunday night dinners, the list goes on - and I really did appreciate each and every one of them. And as utterly crushingly hard as it is to imagine racing without him - it is even more so to imagine NOT racing. He instilled in me a love of the sport, and to stop would disappoint him terribly - of that I have no doubt. So, slowly, I will try to pick up the pieces. I will try with everything I have to Keep Moving Forward. And, this year, I will race for him. And - while racing provided a bond with my father that I treasure beyond measure, it may just be what saves me in my loss of him. That is the light that I cling to.

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However, I remain - Shattered. Totally. Completely. Shattered.

 

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Ironman Florida 2017 Group
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Paris Landing, TN Tri 2017

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Valentine's sometime around 2000
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When we were unable to ride home from work together I'd find these on my bike...

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Shattered.


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Totally.  Completely.

 

Shattered.


 

 

 

 

 

 


Race Schedule

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Yes - I love to race.  

I love to race a lot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Race Schedule (subject to random, spur-of-the-moment additions)

 

3/11 - Sarasota CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships - Guiding Amy Dixon

http://www.triathlon.org/events/event/2017_sarasota_camtri_paratriathlon_american_championship 

 

4/7-8 - USA Duathlon National Championsips

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/National-Championships/2018/2018-Duathlon-National-Championships 

 

4/15 - Los Locos Duathlon

https://loslocos.racesonline.com

4/29 - Steamboat Triathlon, Cape Girardeau, Missouri

https://www.cityofcapegirardeau.org/departments/parks/special_events/race_events/steamboat/

 

5/19-20 - Memphis in May Triathlon Weekend

https://runsignup.com/Race/TN/Millington/MemphisInMaySprintTriathlon


6/24 - Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon

http://team-magic.com/events/95

 

 7/6-14 - ITU Multisport World Championship Festival

https://www.fyn2018.com/en/home


7/21 - Music City Triathlon

http://team-magic.com/events/119 

 

7/27 - Edmonton ITU Paratriathlon - Guiding Amy Dixon

http://edmonton.triathlon.org/events/world_paratriathlon_series/


8/11 - USAT Olympic Distance Nationals

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/National-Championships/2018/2018-Age-Group-National-Championships

 

8/12 - USAT Sprint Nationals

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/National-Championships/2018/2018-Age-Group-National-Championships

 

9/13-16 - ITU Age Group Olympic Distance World Championship

https://goldcoast.triathlon.org

 

 

 

2017 Races

 

3/11 - Sarasota CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships - Guiding Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt

http://www.triathlon.org/events/event/2017_sarasota_camtri_paratriathlon_american_championship 

 

4/9 - Los Locos Duathlon

https://loslocos.racesonline.com

4/29 - Long Course Du Nationals (5mi/20mi/5mi)

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/USAT-Events-Calendar/2017/April/29/Long-Course-Duathlon-National-Championships

 

5/13 - Yokohama ITU Paratriathlon - Guiding Amy Dixon

http://yokohama.triathlon.org


5/20-21 - Memphis in May Triathlon Weekend

https://runsignup.com/Race/TN/Millington/MemphisInMaySprintTriathlon


6/3-4 - USA Cycling Master’s Nationals - TT

https://www.usacycling.org/2017/masters-road-nationals


6/10 - TN State TT Championship

http://www.tbra.org/raceschedule.php?year=2017&raceid=3419


6/17 - Du Nationals

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/National-Championships/2017/2017-Duathlon-National-Championships

6/25 - Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon

http://team-magic.com/events/95

 

7/8 - Paris Landing Sprint Triathlon

https://paristntri.racesonline.com


7/15 - Rockabilly Women’s Bike Race

http://www.tbra.org/raceschedule.php?year=2017&raceid=3606


7/23 - Music City Triathlon

http://team-magic.com/events/97

 

7/28 - Edmonton ITU Paratriathlon - Guiding Amy Dixon

http://edmonton.triathlon.org/events/world_paratriathlon_series/


8/12 - USAT Olympic Distance Nationals

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/National-Championships/2017/2017-Age-Group-National-Championships


8/13 - USAT Sprint Nationals

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/National-Championships/2017/2017-Age-Group-National-Championships

8/19-27:  Penticton 2017 ITU Multisport World Champion Festival

8/19 -  Sprint Duathlon, draft-legal
8/21 - Standard Duathlon, non-draft
8/25 - Aquathlon
8/27 - Aquabike

https://penticton2017.com

9/
9 - 70.3 Worlds Chattanooga

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman-70.3/world-championship.aspx#axzz4Zebh3uM9


9/17 - ITU Age Group Olympic Distance World Championship

http://rotterdam.triathlon.org


10/14 - Ironman World Championship - KONA!

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/world-championship.aspx#/axzz4Zebh3uM9


11/4 - IM Florida - (because my father, my husband, and most of my friends are doing it)

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/florida.aspx#/axzz4Zebh3uM9

 

 

2016 Races

 

4/10 - Loc Locos Duathlon   

 http://loslocos.racesonline.com

4/18 - Boston Marathon    

http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon.aspx

4/24 - Cape Girardeau Steamboat Sprint Triathlon   

 https://www.cityofcapegirardeau.org/parks/races-events-triathlons.aspx

 

5/14 - Long Course Duathlon National Championship   

 https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/USAT-Events-Calendar/2016/May/14/Long-course-duathlon-national-championships-2016

5/21 - Memphis in May Sprint Triathlon    

https://runsignup.com/race/tn/millington/memphisinmaysprinttriathlon

5/22 - Memphis in May Olympic Triathlon    

https://runsignup.com/Race/Events/TN/Millington/MemphisInMaySprintTriathlon#event-80762

5/27 - Master's Cycling Time Trial National Championship    

https://www.usacycling.org/2016/masters-para-road-nationals

 

6/4 - ITU Duathlon Standard Distance World Championship

http://www.triathlon.org/events/event/2016_aviles_itu_duathlon_world_championships

6/11 - TN State Time Trial Championship

http://www.tbra.org/raceschedule.php?year=2016&raceid=3419

6/25 - Duathlon National Championship - Standard and Sprint Distance

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/National-Championships/2016-Duathlon-National-Championships

 

7/9 - Muncie 70.3    

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman-70.3/muncie.aspx#/axzz4E8xS27V3

7/24 - Music City Olympic Distance Triathlon, Nashville      

http://team-magic.com/events/64

 

8/13 - USAT Olympic Distance National Championship     

 https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/National-Championships/2016-Age-Group-Olympic-Distance-National-Championships

8/14 - USAT Sprint Distance National Championship   

 https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/National-Championships/2016-Age-Group-Sprint-National-Championships

 

9/15 - ITU Sprint Distance Triathlon World Championship  

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/USAT-for-Me/Team-USA/Cozumel-2016

9/17 - ITU Olympic Distance Triathlon World Championship  

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/USAT-for-Me/Team-USA/Cozumel-2016

9/24 - ITU 1/2 Ironman Triathlon World Championship    http://www.friendsofmultisport.com/event/world-championship

 

10/9 - Ironman Louisville . . . 'cause all my friends are doing it . . .   http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/louisville.aspx#/axzz4MQrXV3kP

 

11/13 - Long Course Triathlon National Championships     

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Events/USAT-Events-Calendar/2016/November/13/Long-Course-Triathlon-and-Aquabike-National-Championship


KONA

KONA

IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

 

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A: AKAHAI - Kindness
L: LOKAHI - Unity
O: ‘OLU’OLU - Agreeable
H: HA’AHA’A - Humility
A: AHONUI - Patience

“From the ocean to the mountains, the spirit of Hawai’i and its guardians maintain balance and harmony through Aloha. The lessons of humility, patience, and perseverance are gifts passed down through generations; they remind us that as we move forward we should embrace and respect our past.”

That was the theme for this year’s Ironman World Championship race. Appropriate on a number of levels. And I certainly experienced humility, patience, and (thankfully) perseverance.

Ahhhhh Hawaii. Fortuitously the week leading up to the race fell on my children’s fall break. We were very lucky to all travel there in 2015 when my father and I both raced - which was really special. Since that time, it has been the one place my kids have always asked to return to. “When are we going back to Hawaii?” is a recurrent question. Bella even said to me one day, “Mama, smell this flower, it smells like Hawaii”. My sister, Robyn, was coming with her family (Fred and Caitlyn), and my youngest brother, Roman, was also joining us.

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So, while the trip was about the race, it was also about family time and enjoying the destination. I had coached an open water swim camp in Kona with Total Immersion Swimming in 2015, and one of the swimmers who attended the camp lives part of the year in Hawaii. I contacted her before we went, because I had seen where she had done a ‘Lavaboat Tour’ in the spring, and if the volcano was active I thought that would be a pretty amazing thing to do. She gave me the info for the company she used (www.seelava.com) - the family was agreeable, so we booked it.

We arrived in Kona late Saturday night. Sunday just spent an easy day, did some grocery shopping, and checked out the nearby beaches. Monday was our lava boat adventure. So…we decided to do the sunrise tour (I mean, sunrise over flowing lava - how cool is that?), and we had to be there at 4:30 am. And - it was a 2 1/2 hour drive. Thank heavens the 5 hour time change was in our favor, because we sure did load up in a van and head out at 1:15am. Our captain was great - very no nonsense, and went through a whole list of information - things like….hang onto the bar in front of you at all times, we will be in the open ocean, waves can be 10 feet or more, if you’re not hanging on you risk cracking your head on that metal pole, if you get sick we prefer you to throw up off the back of the boat, raise your hand and we will help escort you there, if you are pregnant, old or disabled, this is not for you. OK.


So we climb onto this boat which is still loaded on a trailer, drive over to the ocean, back in, and suddenly we are afloat, in the ocean, in the dark, in the waves, heading off to see lava from an active volcano. We were not in the water for 30 seconds when Sebastian started crying that his belly hurt and wanting to get off the boat. And, I am thinking … what have I gotten us into? Oh, man, I was pretty concerned for a while. I got him to lie down in my lap and close his eyes, and he settled down. Luckily it was a relatively calm day, but I kept a tight grip on my metal pole. And then, ahead, out of the dark you could see a glow. It was absolutely one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. Our captain was amazing - he got us so close you could feel the heat - he said it was about 2000 degrees, and the water we were in was about 100. And as the sun came up in the distance, it was a pretty spectacular way to start the day. Sebastian rallied, and by the way back he was sitting next to the railing laughing as the boat rocked and rolled over the waves. Thank goodness.

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Sebastian

The rest of the week was a combination of training, my family pitching in to help watch the kids, visiting some different beaches, seeing the wildlife - turtles, fish, dolphins, and getting in some relaxing.

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There were athletes everywhere - running, swimming, cycling - continuously. And, the really, REALLY cool thing is - everyone was SO friendly. Running along Ali’i Drive with a constant stream of runners pretty much everyone made eye contact and gave a smile or a wave. Very cool.

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Jeff, Roman, Fred, and Robyn

We stayed in a condo and cooked in for the most part, so in the evenings we gathered together and ate outside watching the sun set over the ocean - and of course watching for that elusive green flash. Yep, life is good.

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And then, race day was here. Jeff (my husband) drove me down early Saturday morning and dropped me off. I like being early, so I had a few minutes of standing in line before body marking opened. When they opened the gates all the volunteers cheered and clapped, then applied our number tattoos for the day. We went around a corner for a mandatory weigh in for medical, and then had access to our bikes (we had to check our bikes and our gear bags for the bike and run the afternoon before). Every row of bikes had 2 floor pumps at each end, which was very nice, so I pumped my tires, put on my water bottles, attached my shoes, made sure all was good - and found a place to chill for the next few hours until the race began. I watched for Jeff Fejfar (a friend of mine from Memphis who was also racing) and never found him, but my friend Michael Ross from Paducah found me - so we hung out and waited together. And then - it was time.

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Michael and I at a practice swim the day before...

Swim start - amateur females were the last to go, at 7:20. It was an in water start, just a little off the beach. The last time I did this I started beside the pier on the far right - and got absolutely beat up. So - this time I started far left. And, it was perfect. Right from the start I found a pair of feet that were going my speed, staying out of the chaos, and holding a good line. I usually prefer to swim on my own and choose my own line - but every time I strayed from those feet I had to sight more and work harder and went slower - so on those feet I stayed. For the entire swim. It was the nicest, smoothest, least stressful swim I have ever had at an Ironman. We went a little wide a few times - but it was still much faster for me to stay on those feet. A friend of mine who coaches Total Immersion, and Fresh Freestyle swimming, and who has worked with me the past two springs named Dinah was actually doing the “Swim the Suck” a 10 mile swim in Chattanooga the same day - and I just pretended I was on her feet (and happily only doing 2.4 miles). At the far end of the course where you turn around the huge Bodyglove boat and start heading back I thought about my dad. When we did the race two years ago, as I was swimming around that boat I looked over and, out of the thousands of people out there racing, there was my father. And, yes, I gave him a good poke in the ribs when I realized it was him. Pretty amazing! 

Out of the swim, through the showers, through the change tent where I got my bike bag and got sunscreened up - to the bike, and out on the course. The first part of the course winds through town a bit, lined with spectators - so that is really fun. I saw Mary Ann (who recommended the lavaboat tour),

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Seems Elvis also found Mary Ann (left) and her friend Phyllis

then a couple that I coached at a Total Immersion course in Florida (who had come to watch me race - I am still beyond honored by that) - Don and Misty Wright.

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Misty with her amazing sign!!!!

A little further down were Elvis, Robyn, Fred, and Caitlyn, and then Wendy Fejfar (first time I’d seen her on our trip!), and then Dave, Angela, and Nathan Hacker (also came to watch, combining it with an anniversary trip/vacation). Then the road turned to climb to the Queen K - and it was out to the lava fields. All in all, I was very happy with my bike. The one thing I did prior to leaving for Hawaii was make a trip to Memphis to visit with Dale Sanford and Bryant Funston (BPC Performance Systems) and had a Precision Hydration sweat sodium test done (more info on this here: https://www.buildpeakcompete.com/hydration/). I have always felt I am a ‘salty’ sweater, and often succumb to muscle cramps at the end of hard efforts - and especially in hot weather. If I started to cramp on that bike it was gonna be a long day. I am so, SO thankful I did that, it gave me more info going into the race and made me again realize just how important the nutrition/hydration/electrolyte part of an Ironman is. I stuck with my plan, forcing myself to grab a bottle of cold water at every aid station. The winds picked up going into the turnaround at Hawi, but then the tail wind reward on the way back in was really, really sweet. Conditions were pretty classic otherwise, relentless heat from the sun and the lava fields, with occasional beautiful views of the ocean in the distance. Just kept it steady, and felt I was where I needed to be.

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Always good to be cheered on by Elvis...

And then, the run. A volunteer grabbed my bike for me after the dismount line, and I collected my run bag, got more sunscreen applied, race number and run stuff on, and got back out there. Legs didn’t feel too bad all things considered. My plan was to start super conservative, even walking if I felt I needed to (I hate walking in races unless I have no other option, so I just jogged slowly), but I felt ok. Tried to keep around an 8:15 pace or so. The first several miles of the run are an out and back on Ali’i Drive - again lined with spectators and music and beachfront views. Very fun. Saw all my group again, including Don and Misty, Captain Thad and Nicole (from the Music that Moves Tri group out of Nashville), Celeste and Cleve (more friends made through Total Immersion swimming - both are coaches), found Roman wandering along Ali’i, and the rest of the family (with Elvis) were at the far end by the turnaround. Even (finally) saw Jeff F. and also my friend Michael Ross - both looking great. I felt good all the way until we made the turn out onto the Queen K again, and the heat, and then things started slowly deteriorating.

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It.Was.Hot. I.Was.Sunburned. I could feel it. Heat from above, from the pavement, from my back. Every aid station cold water went in me, on me, on me, on me, in me. A lot of places there were so many people you had to get your own water. Some aid stations had cold sponges, some didn’t. I kept sticking to my hydration plan, making sure I got enough sodium in me while getting water down. I took one gel with electrolytes around mile 8. And then, my stomach started rebelling. Off the Queen K is a left hand turn down to the Natural Energy Lab - an amazing stretch filled with music and the energy from the aid stations is just palpable. By the time I made it to the turnaround at the far end, it was getting bad. I was extremely thirsty, but so queasy it was hard to make myself drink anything. I’ll spare details, but I did have to make a quick stop. As I started back the desire to walk was getting stronger and stronger. It is always there, a little voice saying how nice it would be just to slow down for a bit, just walk a little, but - I have had to walk a few Ironmans. And - it is a long day. After a particularly rough race one year my whole goal became to do an Ironman and not walk the run. I managed to do that and vowed that if at all possible I would not walk another one. I may be a little stubborn at times, so despite going slower and slower, I kept ‘running’ - well, maybe shuffling - but I did NOT walk.

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My shuffle from the Energy Lab - thank you Steve Brandes for the cheers and the pic!

I got passed by lots of people. Lots. Some I knew. Many I did not. All offered words of encouragement. Some tried to get me to run with them, ‘just to the next aid station’ - didn’t happen but it was a nice thought. I thought about everyone I knew watching and cheering every time I crossed a timing mat. I thanked the volunteers, I sang songs to myself, I thought about Bobby McGee run form (even while shuffling), I pulled out every mental strategy I possessed, and I kept moving forward. I made it to the turn down Palani Road and saw Cpt Thad and Nicole again - I had 1.2 miles to go. Getting there. Turned on Kuakini Hwy, then down Hualalai Road where I found Robyn and Fred - and they were SO excited. I think I even got a comment from Robyn about being able to run faster than me…which she certainly could! lol. And then, finally, I made that last right hand turn onto Ali’i Drive. People were everywhere. And there my sweet, dedicated, amazing family were waiting - cheering like crazy. I nearly cried. And - they were SO excited.

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Patiently waiting...

My friend, Bailey Bell, recently did his first Ironman in Chattanooga. I had messaged him good luck, and he responded to me afterwards and said, “what an experience! I can see why you are hooked!”
My immediate thought was, ‘the finish line of an Ironman is a very dangerous thing to get hooked on’.


There are no words that can describe it, no pictures that do it justice. An Ironman finish line is one of those things that you have to experience to understand. My father told me after we did our first one (Ironman Florida) together that there are few things (if anything) in life that you put so much time, effort, training, and sacrifice into that come down to one day. 17 hours is the cutoff time for most Ironman races. 7am to midnight. A whole day spent swimming, biking, and running. But the race is so much more than that. There are the elements, the nutrition/hydration, the mental and psychological, and the inevitable things that don’t go according to plan (and there is always at least one of those - at least!) and you have to react and adjust to on the fly. To persevere and to overcome, and to keep moving forward until you reach that finish line, that is a true test on many different levels. So - let me tell you, that finish line is a special thing. And while on some levels it is individual, there is something to be said for every person who is out there cheering. The energy from those cheers have kept me going on many an occasion. And...that finish line stretch is just magical. Again - I don’t have words to do it justice, but if you have been there, you know. The music, the crowds, the knowledge that you will make it, the relief in that knowledge, the pride in overcoming all that threatened to prevent you from making it, that no matter the outcome your hours of training and dedication got you to that line, and hearing those oh so wonderful words . . . “Kirsten Sass, You Are An IRONMAN”. Oh, yes. That is a dangerous thing to be hooked on indeed.

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The next day was my daughter Bella’s 8th birthday. For years the one thing she has wanted to do was to swim with dolphins. So the next morning we packed everything up, and went out on a boat ride to see some dolphins. We did see a few up close, which the kids were really excited about - but unfortunately the water was too rough to actually get in. And, that was ok, because there was a little hesitancy about actually getting in the water with dolphins when it came right down to it.

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Bella and Jeff - obviously not snorkeling, but I like this pic!

We were taken to a nice snorkeling area in calmer waters which seemed to suffice. And - we left a little something to do should we ever be fortunate enough to return. We wandered around the street market downtonwn for a while, had a nice meal together, then headed to the airport to begin the long journey home.

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I can never say thank you enough to all of those who watched, cheered, sent good vibes and positive energy, and spent your day following mine. Every one of you crossed my mind at some point out on that course. Thank you to my coach, Suzanne Atkinson, who I present more challenges for than probably anyone (despite all my attempts to be low maintenance). Big shout out to Dale and Funston for taking the time with me and answering all my sweat related questions - and had I not done that it would have been an even longer day out there, if you have not had this done - you need to. Period. (https://www.buildpeakcompete.com/hydration/) And - to those who traveled to Hawaii and cheered me on, I cannot begin to tell you how much that means to me. My cup runneth over indeed. And, especially, to my family - helping me get my training in leading up to the race, staying out there and cheering until the end, helping me carry my bags during the long trip home, and putting aloe on my incredibly sunburned back - thank you. I am one very, VERY lucky girl. Finally, to my father. You were on my mind the entire trip, and especially during that race. Thank you for teaching me, and showing me, that Anything Is Possible.

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My father, Volker Winkler, finishing the race in 2014

So - here are a few random numbers just for interest’s sake:

13 - years since my first Ironman Hawaii
3 - number of times I have done Hawaii (though I have qualified 4 times)
13 - number of Ironmans now completed

8 - number of World Championship races this year (including one as a guide)

8 - weeks between the first and last

And - that’s about all the number stuff I have. ;)

OK - and some pics!!!!

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Caitlyn, Sebastian, and Bella
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Jeff, Bella, Kirsten, Caitlyn, Fred, Robyn, Sebastian and Roman
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The girls - who love birds!

 

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Roman and Bella
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Robyn and Bella exploring

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With my friend Cleve (left) and Jeff at bike/bag check in
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Cat Whiskers (kudos to Robyn for keeping the kids entertained while traveling!)
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...and crow's feet :)

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Mahalo for reading!

 


Balance, and the Lack Thereof....

Balance

Penticton - Part Two

“Everything in Life is About Balance”
and
“The Key to Keeping Your Balance is Knowing When You’ve Lost it.”

 

ITU Multisport World Championship Festival. What exactly is that? Here’s the scoop: 5 events over 8 days. Multiple event racing encouraged. Anyone racing in 4 or more events considered a “Multisport Legend”. All-in-all, my kind of racing! This was the lineup:

Saturday (8/19) - Draft Legal Sprint Duathlon (5k run/ 20k bike / 2.5k run)
Monday (8/21) - Standard (Nondraft) Duathlon (10k run/ 40k bike/ 5k run)
Wed (8/23) - Cross Triathlon (1.5k swim / 31k bike / 8k run) - off road
Friday (8/25) - Aquathlon (1k swim / 5k run)
Sunday (8/27) - Aquabike/Long Course Triathlon (3k swim / 120k bike)
(Long course triathlon adds a 30k run)

So, I raced Saturday, Monday, Friday and Sunday (the aquabike). And between the races I did some training, some eating, some meeting up with old friends and making new ones, and a LOT of catching up on sleep. It was interesting to stay in Penticton from the beginning of the racing to the end. There were a good number of other athletes doing the ‘Legend Challenge’ who were also there for the duration. But for the most part, the athletes came and went. The duathlon crowd. The cross crowd (a whole different kinda racing - my hat’s off to them, just wow). The aquathletes. And the long distance folks.

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Aquathlon Team

Aquathlon morning was - chilly. And the swim - was choppy. Although I was happy with my swim I came out of the water quite a bit behind the lead women. I put down the best run that I could, and ended up 4th in my age group, 10th female overall. And you know, I am very happy with that. I like to say that, as long as I race to the extent of my abilities that is all I can do -and I feel that is what I did. I grabbed my USA flag from Tim Yount, and proudly carried it across that finish line. No matter what, I enjoy every finish line - each one is the summation of countless hours of training and dedication, and each one should be treated as a treasure!

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Aquabike Team

Aquabike. 3k swim. At least the water was smooth and calm. This was an interesting change because all the other races up to this point were relatively short. Standing on the lake shore looking out at the buoy line, the turn buoy was not even visible. Enter the mental game. I caught myself before I even dwelled on that, and instead turned my focus to the swim training I had put in, finding a steady pace, and making each stroke count. Exit the swim, onto my favorite, the bike.

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A beautiful morning for a swim...

The first stretch of the bike was flat - a good opportunity to get the legs going. Then there were 2 loops that were just absolutely beautiful, around a lake and through some countryside, complete with some climbs. I confess, I did take it in. I raced hard, but had to appreciate the absolute beauty of seeing the racers in front of me winding down this road through an absolutely gorgeous day in such a picturesque setting. How lucky to be able to be a part of it. By the time the hills came around on the second loop, my legs were starting to feel it. I got a couple of those ‘warning twinges’ in my quads that caught my attention and I knew if I pushed them too hard they would end up in full-blown cramps, not my favorite.

 

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Absolutely gorgeous bike course around this lake

The aqua bikers started after all the long course athletes, so although I passed a fair number of women, a lot were those who still had to run afterwards, and I had no idea where I was as far as my division went. So, I went as hard as I could, without cramping. One of my long standing mantras is, “Every second counts.” I say that to myself and think, if someone finishes one second ahead of you, can you be satisfied knowing you gave all you had and did not have another second in you? Up the last climb, I passed an aquabike girl. She passed me back. I had to fall back the required distance, then she slowed and I passed her back. Just before the downhill I passed another aquabike girl. At the bottom of the hill she passed me back. I again fell back. I knew we had one more uphill and then it was downhill to the finish. What I did not know was whether I could push as hard as I needed to without cramping. Well - one way to find out. I passed her at the bottom and gave everything I had left to the top of the hill. The aquabike finish line was actually on the road before transition. So, bottom of the hill, sharp right hand turn, then maybe 50 meters or so to the finish. I rounded the corner, went as hard as I could, and finished 2 seconds behind the winner of my age group. Yep. 2 seconds. But, you know, I did all I could to make every second count. That’s racing.

A couple really cool things about that aqua bike race though . . . the overall female winner was over 50 years old. That just rocks. And, even though our race finished on the road, we were still able to go put on running shoes and do a token run through the finish line. So, the top three of us ran in across the finish line, together. I thought that was really special. So, second age group, third overall, world chamionship multisport legend status achieved. I really could not ask for more.

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Aquabike Finish!

The courses were great. The competition was fierce. It was everything a World Championship Festival should be. I like to race, and I like to race a lot - but by the time Sunday rolled around (despite all my catching up on sleep), I’ll admit I was tired. And, for me, it was a little too long to be without my family. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret doing it, it tested me and presented me with new challenges to focus on, I learned a lot, and I really enjoyed getting to spend time with Team USA staff and racers.

Congrats to all who raced, be it one event or ‘Legend’ status. I truly enjoyed meeting many of you, and racing alongside all of you. The time and dedication and courage involved in participating in a World Championship is not to be taken lightly, and is certainly something to be proud of. I hope to see you and race with you again soon. And if it is ever something you have dared to dream of - I encourage you to try!

In closing, I do have to say that one of the most important things I came away with after this adventure was this: For me racing is about balance - the racing with my family and the rest of my life. In this case the balance got tipped towards the racing side, and my heart really started aching around Thursday. Initially my father was to meet me in Penticton and do the aquabike race with me - and for a number of reasons he was unable to.  Without him, and without my husband and kids, there was just a big ‘something missing’. I was too gone for too long I guess you could say. So, be forewarned - the next Multisport World Championship Festival I certainly hope to attend, with 2 little kids and an Elvis in tow. Bring it on.

 

There are too many people to name, but for everyone who took the time to chat with me, share a meal, a bike ride, or just give a high five or a hug after a race - thank you. My ‘Team USA’ family certainly helped get me through while I was missing my other family. And here are some pics of a few of those people:

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Pam Tate - I'll say it again I just LOVED having you here!

 

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Kimee Armour - "The Dancing Queen'

 

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Leslie Battle, who I feel like I have known forever but only just now met in real life!

 

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Rachel Carter - also feel like I have known forever and finally got to meet!

 

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And with Ashley Miller!
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Kevin Elmore took it easy on me....
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Marc from Raceday Transport - I just can't say enough good things about this guy....

 

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Lucky to dine with the 'Who's Who' of Team USA Support Staff!

 

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The TN Aquabike Contingency (Koz we will let you be an honorary member)! Rick Kozlowski, David Price, Gary Mappin, and Maday and John Lines (who has helped me tremendously with my racing - much appreciated!)
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I just love this pic - I am surrounded by greatness!!!

I failed to get a picture with a few people that deserve a mention  . . . Kate, Emily and Josh I really enjoyed hanging out with you guys after the race Sunday (for those of you who keep up, Kate is my friend I see EVERYWHERE and was mentioned in one of my stories about the Memphis in May race this year; I found her at the swim start and tried really hard to stay on her feet unsuccessfully, lol).

Also my racing soulmate Ellen Hart - she not only achieved legend status, but LEGENDARY status for racing in 4 events and was undefeated in her category for ALL FOUR.  Incredible.   

 

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And...Balance RESTORED!!!!!!

 

 

Thanks for reading!

 


Feed the Good Wolf

Feed the Good Wolf

Penticton - Part One

A friend of mine recently posted about this, and it has been on my mind since, so bear with me as I begin with a story . . .

There is an old Cherokee legend known as the tale of two wolves A grandfather explains to his warrior grandson that there are two wolves within each of us: One wolf is positive and beneficial, while the other wolf is negative and destructive. These two wolves fight for control over us. The grandson is curious and asks, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

I am going to be honest, my “Bad Wolf” was howling loudly as I took off for Penticton. I got home around 3am on Monday morning after driving with my father straight from Omaha and USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. I unpacked, cleaned, and repacked my race gear. I worked. I tried to get some training in. And I spent as much time as I possibly could with my family. Similar to the majority of people who traveled to Penticton, my travel arrangements were a little crazy. What sounded perfect months ago when I made them - not so much in reality. I left my house at 1:30 am, drove 2 hours to Nashville, flew to Atlanta making it just in time to board for Salt Lake City, was sitting on the runway in Salt Lake as my flight boarded to Vancouver, did the classic ‘run through the airport’ (because of course my flight was on the opposite end) and somehow made the flight, found my way to pick up my rental car, drove 4 1/2 hours to Penticton getting in around 6pm, and found my way down to the event venue where thank heavens Marc from Raceday Transport was still there and graciously let me pick up my road bike so I could do the course ride the next day. Whew.

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With Marc from Raceday (actually in Bend, but one of my favorite pics)


     Meanwhile the howls went something like this. . . “Really? You are going away for 11 days?” “You should be home with your family.” “Can you really afford to take that much time off work?” “Why are you traveling all that way to race?” “Why do you feel the need to do four races?” “And why are you going by yourself when no one in your family is traveling with you?” “Are you really going to be able to find your way around and figure out what you are supposed to do?” etc. etc. etc. Yep, it was howling LOUD.
Thankfully, enter the good wolf. “Yes, I am going for 11 days.” “My family understands, they know that I love them, they respect my passion for racing, and they support me wholeheartedly. Yes, I will miss them and they will miss me, but we will be fine and it just makes us value our time together that much more.” “My work understands and supports me as well, and I will make it up by working longer hours when I am home.” “I am traveling to Penticton because I have always wanted to go there (my father and I had hoped to do Ironman Canada there together but alas it was discontinued before we were able to do so), and because it is the first Multisport World Championship - and I WANT to do it, and I’m doing four races because I CAN and I LOVE to race.” And, “I know other people who will be there, Team USA is hugely supportive, and I will figure things out eventually.” Scared? Slightly. But you know the saying:

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So - Exit Zone

 

    At risk of being annoyingly repetitive, I have to say this again. Whenever the bad wolf howls and I allow myself to worry about what people think about me and my racing (bad mother, doesn’t work, races too much, etc etc), my good wolf’s reply always comes back to the same thing . . . You just never know. I see it so often - at work and on a personal level. You just never know when everything could change. Nothing is a given. I have a friend who loves to swim more than anything and one day received a diagnosis of ALS and is no longer able. I have friends who have been hit by cars while riding their bikes - or even running. I have a friend who had an earache that ended up being tonsillar cancer. I know people who had planned on coming to Penticton to race and were unable due to illness or injury.  You just never know. There very well may come a day when, heaven forbid, I am not able to race. When that day comes I want to look back and know that I seized every opportunity I had when it was presented. It is my passion, it balances me out, and it makes me very happy. Yes, I took time off and time away and spent money I probably should have saved, but it is the memories of the races and the people I shared them with, and knowing that I dared to put myself out there and toed that line, that I will remember. And I hope if that day ever comes, that will be enough.

OK - enough of that. PENTICTON!!!!! Beautiful Penticton. I was really excited because a friend of mine from Memphis who I know through bike racing, was here to do the draft legal race - Pam Tate. We met up for the Team Ride of the sprint course Friday morning, and she and her husband Byron let me tag along with them and join them for meals.

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USA triathlon goes above and beyond for the athletes at these events - there are team massage therapists, bike mechanics, and a chiropractor (all of which were just amazing). There are coaches who talked us through the courses, rode the bike course with us, gave us tips on what to do (and not to do) to ensure a good race. Five star treatment all around.

The duathlon was Saturday morning - a 5k run, 20k bike, and then a 2.5k run. The run was along the lake which has a distinct ‘beach’ atmosphere with restaurants lining the way. The bike was 2 loops including a pretty good climb, and then a fast descent which looped around for a view across a beautiful vineyard and down across the lake - absolutely stunning.

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I was very fortunate to have a great race Saturday. And it was very special to see so many other Team USA members have great races as well. I spent about as lazy of a Sunday as I could, and had a beyond amazing race on Monday doing the Standard distance duathlon - 10k run, 40k bike, 5k run (no drafting). The course was flat, fast, and fun - the crowds were fantastic, and by the time I rounded the last corner to the finish line I had given it all I had. Just an incredible experience.

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There is something about a world championship race that makes it like no other. Perhaps it is all the travel involved in getting to the race, or just being in another country racing. Perhaps it is being out there racing for Team USA and encouraging each other throughout the race. I always try to take a moment to give thanks, “How cool is it that I am in Penticton, and able to race?”. And always, ALWAYS the crowds are unbelievable. Nothing like cheers of “Go USA”, and “Go Sass”, to make me smile a little bigger and dig a little deeper. And, of course, the BEST part of the race is grabbing that USA flag from Tim Yount or Lauren Rios, or any of the other Team USA members and carrying it proudly across that finish line. That is just the best.

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Tim Yount - ALWAYS makes me dig deeper...

If you ever, ever have a chance to participate in a world championship event, it is so, so worth it. All the doubts, worries, and howls will disappear - I promise. The experience is just priceless.

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And remember - always, ALWAYS feed the good wolf.

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Omaha - It's the heart that matters...and MY DAD WAS THERE!

Omaha
Somewhere in middle America
Get right to the heart of matters
It’s the heart that matters more…

 

     Thanks to Tami Winston who sent me the link to that Counting Crows song - this was on ‘repeat’ in my mind for most of the weekend. Oh, Omaha. It was good to me last year, landing me on the podium for my first ever overall win at a USA Triathlon National Championship, in the Sprint distance. That was especially sweet because (apart from being totally unexpected) my coach, Suzanne Atkinson, had made the journey to come watch my races - so it was very cool to have her there for that! This year I was excited to have my hometown friends - the aforementioned Tami, and Gwin Anderson coming to race, and my father was meeting us there as well. However, I honestly had no hopes of repeating an overall win this year. While my training was going well I had a number of setbacks basically all summer which meant my ‘5k’ pace in training was more like my ‘10k’ pace. It was improving, but I was out of time. Plus there are always girls who show up for nationals that are just so, so fast; I had raced one of them at the Duathlon nationals this year - and my bets were on her to sweep both races. And, I was ok with that. I had already decided that I would race as hard as I could, but would be very happy just to podium in my age group - there are plenty of speedy girls in that division!

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Race day for the olympic distance was just beautiful. Last year's blistering heat had given way this year to very mild temperatures. I was lucky to be in one of the early waves to start (in years past I’ve waited for hours to start - so I was very happy to start early!), and took my place on the dock. I just love how friendly triathletes are. Here we are, lined up on this dock at a national championship race, and everyone still takes a moment to give a high five and wish each other good luck. Just awesome. And - the race began.

I was happy with my swim, and headed out onto my favorite part - the bike. Oh yeah. The highlight of my ride was coming in and spotting my friend Gwin heading out. Now, there is one pretty good hill on the course, and when I met Gwin he was coming down the other side, but interestingly enough there was a guy wearing a red-white-and blue speedo riding one of those fat-tire bikes (I mean really fat tire bikes) just in front of him. Hmmmmm - surely that guy didn’t pass Gwin going up that hill?!?!?! I filed that away to be explored later….

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Off the bike, onto the run - and there was my dad about 1/4 mile in cheering me on! That made me pick it up - let me tell you! It is very seldom we race together, but even less often that he is there spectating (neither one of us willingly chooses to spectate - we do much better racing as well), so that was such a special thing for me. I managed to have a solid run, and was thrilled to cross the finish line and hold up that banner. There were a couple interviews and a trip to the USADA tent for testing (which I love doing because I want that on my record at EVERY opportunity), and the whole time I was kind of laughing because I knew those girls in the later waves were going to beat my time handily. Regardless, I was really happy with my race because I felt I gave it everything I could have based on my training leading up to it. And - my dad was there.

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Back at the hotel, my dad was on his tracker watching the rest of the race. "Oh, it’s going to be close", he told me. He started scribbling numbers and calculating - "I think you may have it". No way. Not a chance. But he was so excited to think so, I just kind of shook my head.

We met Gwin and Tami for lunch - unofficial results came through - "You did it!!!!!!" my dad told me. No way. I have a hard time believing any results until awards are announced . . . but according to the race timing - I had the fastest time. NO.WAY. How very ironic - there were years in the past that I felt like I had a chance at standing on that top step - but not this year. I hadn’t even contemplated it. But, it happened. And the best part? My dad was there.

Sunday morning. Parking is always crazy, and I am one of those people who much prefer to be an hour early and drive in by myself than sit in traffic for an hour worrying. So I was at the venue super early, laid my seat back, turned on some tunes, and just hung out. When transition opened I went in and got my tires pumped, but it started raining so back to the car I went with my gear. I didn’t even know it was supposed to rain?!?!? I was tired, and stiff, and sore, but today was like a ‘celebration’ race - and there is something about racing back-to-back days that I really like. It’s a test of the mind probably more so than the body - and I just like the challenge of seeing how I can overcome that. Gwin and Tami were heading home, and my dad was unable to race today for a number of reasons. With the race schedule and the drive home, I calculated I wouldn’t be home until 2am the next day, and he was supposed to ride with me - but I messaged him that if he would rather ride with Gwin and Tami I understood - it would be much more civil for him.

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Gwin and Tami

As the rain continued to drizzle on, I finally put the rest of my stuff in transition and made my way to swim start. My swim start was later this time, with the younger girls finishing about the time I started. And, once again, far from hot it was closer to chilly waiting to start. Finally made it to the swim start, and again I was happy with my swim. Out on the bike, a little extra cautious around the corners on the wet roads, just gave it what was left in my legs. Off the bike, out onto the run - and there was my dad, right where he was the day before! That made my heart leap and put a spring in my step. "You gotta go, Kirsten" he called. "Every second counts", and then something about 20 seconds but I couldn’t hear. Well, ok. I didn’t have much left, but I gave it all I had. I turned off my mind, focused on my Bobby McGee run form - and just ran with everything I had for as long as I could. Coming back in there he was again, "GO, GO, GO!" he cried - and I went. I came into the finish line stretch - and I will never forget it. The crowds were going crazy, the announcer was saying, "It’s going to come down to the line, to the second" - and let me tell you, that’s as close to falling across a finish line as I have ever come. Once I crossed the announcer had me wait to do an interview - but refused to tell me the final result. He had me tell about my race and how I felt, and after it was all over told me that, indeed, I had won - by a matter of seconds. And, my dad was there. And he was SOOOOOO excited. And - I was just in disbelief.

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I am 38 years old. I have 2 kids. I work. I had setback after setback this summer largely because I fell off my bike multiple times and had to take time to recover. I even got to the point that, for the first time ever, I sent my coach a desperate plea to help me through and keep me going. I came into these races knowing I was not where I wanted to be, but determined to give what I had. And - somehow, that was enough. What an amazing sport that a person can still find success against the odds. It just really blows me away. But you know, the best part is - my dad was there. The.Best.Part.  

 

Oh - and for the record, that guy on the fat tire bike? He passed Gwin….going up that hill.  However, Gwin assured me that he passed him back shortly thereafter....

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Gwin Anderson - finishing it up strong!

 

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Somehow I managed to NOT get a SINGLE picture of my dad and I together.  However, I have to share with you what was going on back home while I was racing . . . it seems that the National Championships fall the same weekend as the Elvis Presley 5k at Graceland, and in my household that seems to be the priority...

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My husband, Jeff (right) and his buddy Troy (left) - Elvis 5k
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My Sebastian

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Meanwhile my amazing sister, Robyn, was sharing adventures with Bella!


 As always, thanks for reading! 


Memphis In May Triathlon Weekend

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Ahhhhh Memphis in May. Triathlon weekend. One of my very favorite race weekends. Although I feel this story is getting worn out - I still want to share it again. You see, this is where my triathlon story begins. My first triathlon. 1999. 19 years old. My father excitedly signed me up. I rode on his old bike - and didn’t get in the aerobars at all. At that time there were over a thousand racers - and most of them passed me. And - most of them encouraged me on. The finish stretch of that race is across a grassy levee that overlooks the swim course, then down a little hill to cross the finish line - and I was SO proud to make it to that line! And - the after party… Live music. Memphis BBQ (of course). Beer trucks. Elvis. People everywhere - swapping race stories, tales of past races and those planned for the future - all ages and abilities. Suddenly a roar arose from the crowd - there was the final finisher, crossing the levee - escorted by Elvis himself, complete with a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Everyone stopped to cheer as they crossed that finish line. I was inspired - I decided I liked this triathlon stuff. Maybe if I worked at it, I could even get a little faster.

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My dad framed my race pics from that 1999 race - and I have them hanging in my 'tri room' - and still look at them every day.

I have done the Memphis in May triathlon every year since then, except for two. In 2007 my father, my husband, our good friend Jimmy Crossett and I all went to do Ironman Lanzarote, which fell the same weekend as Memphis. And in 2011 I was about 8 1/2 months pregnant - I’m pretty sure the race management was relieved I decided not to race. The Memphis in May Triathlon has been a big part of our lives. Jeff and I even used the DJ from the race (appropriately named Elvis - I kid you not), at our wedding party.

The race itself has seen some ups and downs. It changed locations from Millington, TN (just outside Memphis), to Tunica, Mississippi for a few years. Then, for a number of reasons, it ended up back in Millington. While the number of competitors has decreased, the quality of the competition certainly has not - and the race continues to draw amazingly talented athletes from the region. Driving home on Sunday after the race, I pondered what exactly it is that makes Memphis in May so unique . . . so here are the top 5 reasons why I would recommend coming to race . . .

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1.  Elvis. I mean - it is Memphis you know.
I can remember when I first started racing, I was in University up in Canada at the time, and managed to convince a group of my friends to come down and do the race. The guys all grew out their ‘Elvis chops’ - then had the race Elvis judge who had the best. Funny story - one guy was so proud that he painstakingly shaved his chops into Elvis’s logo - unfortunately he ended up with TLC (vs TCB). Now, in a funny twist of fate, my husband has been the ‘Elvis’ for a couple years - and my pre-race anxiety only involves him remembering all the words to the National Anthem . . .


2. The Amateur Challenge
It is no secret that I like to race a lot. So, it is right down my alley that this race offers the opportunity to race a sprint distance on Saturday, followed by the Olympic Distance on Sunday - take the combined time from the two, and split a prize of $5,000 between the top 10 males and top 10 females. And - the competition is pretty serious.

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2017 Edition

3. T-shirts
Every year the race pays tribute to a different country, and designs a t-shirt accordingly. They are always unique, good quality, and are some of my favorite, most worn race shirts. This year was Columbia.

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The awards...
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Bella is as excited as I am...

4. The Awards
For the award winners of the Olympic Distance race on Sunday, the prize is a glass pyramid with the design from the country of the year in the center. To receive one of those has always been an honor - and they are the lone trophies that my father proudly keeps on display in his office at work. 

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I didn't get the 'big picture' of post-race celebration - but this is what mine looked like!

5. Post-race Celebration
The race has continued the tradition of live music, BBQ, and beer. We jokingly say that we first set up our ‘race transition’ but equally important is our ‘post-race transition’ of blanket and chairs in the shade near the band and food (and some years that has even been set up before the race transition . . . ). Over the years I have come to know more and more of the racers, and enjoy catching up with them afterwards - swapping race stories, tales of past races, and those planned for the future. And - we all stop to cheer as Elvis runs in across that levee with the final finisher.

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The "King and Queen" of Memphis in May - Elvis with race director Pam Routh

I can’t tell you that the swim is in pristine waters - because it’s not. The roads are rough in places, and tend to flood if it rains too much. It can be hot and humid. The run is deceptively challenging. But the race is very well directed, the volunteers are fabulous, and it has a true family, grass-roots feel to it. It certainly has character, and continues to be one of my very favorite races that I make a point to do every year.

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This year I am VERY excited to be racing on my first ever DISC WHEEL! I feel like I have graduated into a select club . . . Thank You Frank Rehnelt!


So - the races this year had some added challenges for me. However, I was able to complete both days, and I gave it the best I had. I enjoyed seeing my friends out on the course - and of course Elvis and my kids cheering me on always makes my heart happy. There were some faces missing this year that I closely associate with Memphis in May . . . my father was racing Chattanooga 70.3 with Gwin Anderson, Tami Winston, and Jimmy Crossett. I always think about Shane Long, Jack Dawson, and my dear friend Ron Turney (Ron - you would have beat me handily on both swims this weekend).

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(L-R): My dad (Volker), Jack, Ron, Shane, and Lance - back in the day!

My sister Robyn and her husband Fred were missing as well. And, I always, always think of my Canadian friends who for many, many years loaded up, drove through the night, and spent the weekend with my family. On the flip side - it was really cool to know so many people racing - and share words (or nods, or just thumb’s up) of encouragement along the way. As I crossed that levee on Sunday, I took a moment to take it all in. The crowds, the finish, the memories - and I was just so incredibly happy to be right where I was, in that moment, back where my triathlon story began.

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Out to the run!
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Finish line - with my good friend George!

 

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One more flashback - post-race party - my dear friend Colleen, Gwin, my dad, and Ron


If you are perchance interested in hearing more about my ‘challenges’ since returning home from Japan, and those that arose during the weekend’s races . . . I debated long and hard about recording them. However, the ‘rest of the story’ (seems my favorite phrase these days - anyone remember Paul Harvey news? I always listened to that with my dad when he drove me to school as a kid . . . but I digress) is available. You will have to go to my website -
www.kirsten-sass.com  and scroll down - it will be just below the Memphis in May post and is titled - 

“A Series of Misfortunate Events - May The Light Shine”.

Read at your own risk . . .


A Series of Misfortunate Events - Let The Light Shine

It seems I seldom have/make time to read, but am currently reading a book called, “Daring Greatly” written by Brene Brown. In it the author discusses being vulnerable - a word that still makes me cringe, and something we (or I) learned at an early age to avoid being at all costs. Yet, every time I write one of these stories, or even toe the line at a race, I feel I am being vulnerable to an extent - putting myself out there, testing my limits, sharing my thoughts and feelings. In the book she quotes a Leonard Cohen lyric from the song “Anthem”, which really resonated with me (I love quotes you know) . . .

There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

I just love that.
Well - here’s me being vulnerable and sharing a few of my many ‘cracks’…


I hate hitting the ground. I also seldom use the word hate, but I really do hate getting hurt - especially doing dumb stuff. In fact, I go to great lengths to pay attention to avoid doing just that, because I can be somewhat clumsy - and I do (usually) learn through experience. I’m also not terribly superstitious, but it has been said that things happen in 3’s….

Number One. Backtrack to Yokohama. Amy and I met at the airport and took a shuttle bus to our hotel, which took about an hour. After a long day of traveling and a significant time-change - I was exhausted. We finally reached our destination, and while getting off the bus (which was filled with all these elite athletes including some Australian pros and Javier Gomez himself . . . ), I tripped down the stairs of the bus with my suitcase and crashed my left knee into the bus door, toppling down onto the road. Yep. Right on my kneecap. Gashed it. I was not impressed, at all. It really was more embarrassing and annoying than anything. It was swollen and hurt, but it was only superficial and (thankfully) would not affect the race. Fortunately, that was the only fall for the weekend, so it certainly could have been much worse. In fact, I wrote a whole story largely celebrating the fact that Amy and I managed to avoid hitting the ground. Well…

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One of my favorite photos - finish line with Amy


 Number Two. I got home from Japan around midnight Sunday night. Monday night was the ‘local’ time trial my family puts on. It was a beautiful day - and I was pretty excited to meet up with my multisport and cycling friends and share some stories. My coach and I decided it would be good to ride for about an hour and do some intervals before the time trial, then do the time trial and follow it up with a brick run - a good solid training day to get back on track. The time came to get on my bike, and I was ‘slightly’ tired. In fact, it took some serious mental talk (maybe including a Rule #5 moment) to get myself off the couch and onto my bike. But - it was a beautiful day, and I love to ride my bike, and I knew I would feel better for doing it. Heading out I could not get over how weird it felt to be on my bike. After riding a tandem for the past few days, I felt really wobbly by myself. However, things seemed to get better as I kept going - I did my intervals, and was heading to the medical clinic where I work before the time trial when things started feeling ‘off’ again. Now, I had a flat on my rear wheel that I changed prior to Japan, and I never discovered what caused it, so my impression was that it was going flat again causing the unstable feeling. I was less than 1/4 mile from the clinic, so decided to just ride easy (as it was not completely flat, just low), and change it when I got there. I was turning into clinic drive from the highway when suddenly I found myself skidding along the asphalt. Just like that. Fortunately - I was not run over. Unfortunately, I broke the shifter from the end of my aerobar and had road rash all down my left arm and leg. But - no broken bones. I called Jeff who was just leaving the house, and asked him to bring my other bike for me. I got my chain back on, got back on my bike, limped my way to the clinic, showered and scrubbed the asphalt out of my wounds, put on some tegaderm, got back in my kit (which fortunately only had a small hole in the side), and showed up for the time trial trying like hell to pretend nothing had happened (of course, cyclists are pretty good at spotting road rash…).

 

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Time Trial lineup - good turnout!

I made it through the 12.6 mile time trial (not surprisingly it was not my finest effort), and even did a short brick run after. (For the record, none of this was the smartest decision, but I can be slightly stubborn, and I did notify my coach before said time trial, who advised me to eat ice cream and sent me a picture including beer and guacomole, and told me the the time trial might be therapeutic but I could skip the brick run if I wanted to - might I add I absolutely love my coach, she is awesome - thank you Suzanne Atkinson!). So - what caused my wipe-out? Probably a combination of many things. When I later checked the bike my front tire (not the rear after all) was low, and my back wheel was not secure. Bottom line - it happened, it sucks, but gotta just keep moving forward and deal with it (I will spare you the photographic evidence....).

As I really do not like making a fuss, I tried like crazy to pretend everything was ok at work the next few days. I wore long sleeves to cover my skinned up arm, and stood as much as I could. Road rash never happens in great places you know - it’s areas that you need to apply pressure - like your butt, or your forearm right where it rests in the aerobars. Of course. I also managed to continue my training - although it brought new meaning to making deposits in the ‘pain account’. And then it was time for my FAVORITE race weekend - Memphis in May.

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With Elvis, Pam Routh (race director), and one of my all-time favorite race announcers....

Number Three. So - there is just no way to hide road rash in a tri suit. Period. I was just praying for a non-wetsuit swim Saturday morning - and that was granted. I figured the worst part of the race would be getting through the swim without anyone crashing into my left side . . . and that worked out too. Sweet. Through transition, onto my favorite part of the race - the bike. Just as I am mounting my bike something hits me hard from behind . . . and just like that I am on the ground. Again. Right foot and right palm bloody from the asphalt. Again. Someone had run into me from behind - OK, not much I could do, get on my bike to go, but something was wrong. Rear wheel was off. Usually I can deal with setbacks pretty calmly and keep my composure - but I can’t say that I did very well this go-round. Something about so recently hitting the ground, hurting like crazy already, then going down again, plus a bike mechanical on top of it - well, it was a bit much. However, I was able to get the bike sorted, and try again. Headed out on the course, shifted gears - to find that the bike shifted all the way into my hardest gear, and stayed. Right. There. I tried multiple times throughout the race to shift gears - with the same result, nothing. So, what could I do? I rode it. Good thing I like to mash gears. I just had to laugh. Especially at the turn arounds, heading back up hill - standing and mashing, just trying to make the best of the situation. And - I made it through. And - I made it through the run. And - everything hurt. But that finish line sure was an accomplishment!

Sunday morning. My five year old son, Sebastian, asks me before the race, “Mama, do you think you can ride your bike today without falling down?”. Sounded good to me, and I promised him I would try. The swim - wetsuit legal. Yep. And I wore one. Might have been the toughest part of the race, putting that thing on. But I did - and I made it through the swim.

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Surveying what was to come...

Thanks to Josh Jacobs of Bike Peddlar, my bike was back in working order, and I was very thankful to him every time I switched gears on that ride. And I knew the run was really going to hurt, so I just rode as hard as I could - ‘cause I really do love to ride my bike, despite everything. And - I managed NOT to fall off.

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Have I mentioned how much I love my bike? And my disc wheel?

Headed out on the run - a solid 30 seconds slower than my ideal pace . . . but I was running. I figure every race has about 3 goals: 1) an exceeds all expectations, everything-goes-right, best-case-scenario goal 2) a more realistic, ideal, training-pays-off goal and 3) an “I’m just gonna be happy to finish”, rule #5, make the best of it goal. Well - today was a #3 type of day. I focused on all the run form tips from my coach and from the great Bobby McGee. I thought about all the things I said to Amy last week in Yokohama, encouraging her on. I gave thumbs up to my fellow racers out there digging deep and testing their limits.

At the turn around I caught sight of my friend and competition - Kate. Interesting thing about Kate - I see that girl everywhere. I’ll be at a random race on the other side of the country, and she will be there. In the pre-dawn darkness before the start of the Vuelta Puerto Rico I look over, and there she is. Be it a triathlon or a bike race - I end up racing with her all over the place. So - she started before me in the race, and she was running strong, but I could tell she was digging deep too. I would feel a little better and reel her in, then she would feel better and pull away again. At the 5 mile mark she really picked it up and I thought, “Oh geez, she is going to sprint this last mile” - so I tried to pick it up a little, and kept her in sight. We reached that long grassy levee to the finish, and I finally catch up with her. A number of thoughts raced through my mind . . . “We could run in together, that would be pretty cool”, “I don’t really think I have it in me to beat her across the levee”, “I think she has more left to give, she should go for it” . . . and so, that’s what I told her. Something along the lines of - ‘you’ve got this. go for it. just across the levee. give it what you have left’. - probably not exactly, but that was the gist of it. And - she did. And, I couldn’t stay with her. But - it was a beautiful thing to see. We’ve all been there - testing our limits, and being able to find that extra strength to push past what we think we can do - it was so, so awesome. So, I watched Kate race across that levee and I continued to push myself with whatever I had left. I took in the crowds, the announcer, Elvis, my kids cheering me on - and I was so incredibly happy to be right where I was, in that moment, back where my triathlon story began.

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That would be Kate - charging to the finish! Thanks BPC for capturing that moment!

After the race we all congratulated each other on surviving a tough race, then gradually dispersed, but a few minutes later Kate came back over to me. She said, “I just have to give you one more hug. I just got my results, and that was my fastest run - ever”. Well, I have to tell you, every night before my kids go to bed I ask them what the best part of their day was. I can tell you right now, in a weekend full of great memories, THAT was the best part of my weekend.

So, I am now battered, bruised, and sore all over. If misfortune does indeed come in 3’s hopefully I have that out of the way for a while - make that a VERY LONG while. I will confess I stopped on the way home, and I bought ice cream. And I enjoyed every bite (except the couple Jeff managed to sneak). And - that’s the story of a few of my cracks. I hope the light shines through . . . or, better yet, I hope it shines some light for someone else.

“And now you know the rest of the story”

Thanks for reading.

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Women's podium from Saturday's sprint race: Kate, myself, Lesley, and Elizabeth - oh, and Elvis