Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Race Report- Ironman Mont-Tremblant

Whoa!  So, there went eight months.  And seven races.

When I started racing as a pro this year, there were a lot of things I wanted to do.  Buy recovery boots. (Fail)  Stop eating cherry sours so often. (Fail) Keep my apartment clean and become a master of time management. (Fail) Blog regularly. (Double fail).  But, we move on. 

Backing up a bit-- I raced my first pro race, the San Juan 70.3 in March.  Then I did five more 70.3s over the next four months - New Orleans, Chattanooga, Victoria, Coeur d'Alene, Budapest.  It was an exhausting whirlwind of travel, learning new lessons, making lots of mistakes, but generally exceeding my own expectations for the season.  Blogging just never happened.  But Ironman Mont Tremblant was just too much of an experience not to share, so I'm wiping the slate clean and starting anew. Maybe I'll go back and review those six 70.3s later, or at least drop some pictures.

It was after race #5, the Coeur d'Alene 70.3, and during one of the only good weeks of training I've had in the past eight months  (racing has gone decently, training not so much),  that I came up with the brilliant idea to throw an Ironman in the mix.  Ironman was never part of the whatever plan I had, the focus for this year was always going to be the 70.3 distance.  I don't really even like the Ironman distance, and I'm not entirely sure what motivated the impulse other than the feeling that as a pro, I should do one Ironman for the year.   But, once the seed was planted, I scanned through the list of pro races and settled on Ironman Mont-Tremblant, six weeks later.  And for good measure, I added on Budapest 70.3 right in the middle of that 6-week time frame because a family race-cation to Hungary was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
This is not Mont-Tremblant, this is Budapest, which was stunning

I wouldn't change anything because the experiences were amazing, but those six weeks of panic training were really not good  Turns out time-zone hopping and trying to train on the road isn't so optimal for building fitness, and I forgot to take this into account when I decided to do Mont-Tremblant. After getting back from Coeur d'Alene, I flitted all around the world, rarely home for much more than a day or two.  I headed to Ohio for my sister's wedding shower, then quickly to Boulder for a coaching conference, then straight to Budapest for an unbelievable (but tiring) week but a pretty average race.  Lots of workouts were missed, some due to circumstances I couldn't control, some due to circumstances I could control but didn't, some due to sheer exhaustion.  My bike always came with me but didn't always make my flights, unnecessarily adding to the stress.

By the time I got back from Budapest, I had about 10 days to really prepare for this Ironman before heading to Canada.  I did the best I could with that short timeline, but all the travel combined with the extreme dose of panic training meant that I arrived in Mont-Tremblant feeling pretty shelled, exhausted, unable to sleep, and very, very unsure of myself and my limited preparation.  Confidence has never been my strength, but I think I reached a low even for me before this race.
Beautiful Mont-Tremblant
After we got settled in Canada, I rested as much as I could and just tried to soak up the atmosphere.  No town loves triathlon the way Mont-Tremblant does, and the energy was palpable.  I was lucky to have my mother along as Super Sherpa and she tolerated my grumpiness, indulged my pre-race meal requirements (well, pizza's not that hard to go along with), and tried to stay as calm as she possibly could be expected to be about the sub-optimal coffee situation we were facing (did you know there's not currently a Starbucks in the Mont-Tremblant pedestrian village?  Did you also know that caffeine addiction is very much a hereditary condition??)  Gradually,  the fog lifted,  my mood improving bit by bit every day and my body starting to feel a little more normal with every hour.  By Saturday, I actually felt something like a full-fledged human being and ironically, the night before the race I had the best night of sleep I'd had in quite some time.

Pre-race pro picture. They treat the pros so well in Mont-Tremblant
We stayed at the Residence Inn right by the finish line and a mere five minute walk from transition (great call),  which meant for the very first time in my life, I arrived at transition before it had even opened.  With bike freakouts addressed quickly, and game-time costume decisions made after learning that for the pros, wetsuits would not be allowed (age groupers were allowed to wear them), I had plenty of time to chat, head back to the hotel for a real bathroom, make the long walk to the swim start, and warm up a bit before getting a serious case of the feels and tears-welling-up thing when a fighter jet did a fly over right after the Canadian national anthem started.
Definitely get a kick out of personalized bike spots
SWIM (1:05:51, 6th Pro)

My game plan for the swim was simple-- don't swim alone.  This is one big difference I've found between the pro and amateur race- the swim starts much faster and, with a smaller number of racers (only 10 female pros in this race) staying with a pack is pretty critical. 

The horn fired, we ran into the water, I promptly slipped, belly flopped and then just started swimming while the women around me executed graceful dolphin dives and pulled ahead (great start).

The first few minutes were frantic and I could tell by the sound of my own gasping that I was swimming WAY too hard for an Ironman, but I desperately wanted to stick with the pack so I carried on, hoping the pace would settle.  And when it finally did, I found myself right with 3 other women.  From then on, all I focused on was following feet, but as the new kid, trying not piss anyone off by following too closely and actually hitting those feet too many times.  And, one other thing I've learned about racing pro this year?  Sometimes if you accidentally hit the feet of the person in front of you, they'll flip over and start backstroking, making you take the lead and do all the work (didn't happen here, thankfully). 

For the next hour and 5 minutes (oof), Amber expertly led our little train through Lac Tremblant (thanks Amber!).   Jessica hung right on Amber's feet, and I followed Jessica, swimming at a pace that felt manageable but required concentration.  Any little lapse in focus and suddenly those feet started pulling away and I had to put in a little surge to catch back up.   The male age groupers, wearing wetsuits when we were not and starting only 3 minutes behind, started passing us early, which was a new experience for me, but by and large, they were respectful and didn't swim over or interfere with our little train, which was very much appreciated.

The water was really choppy, especially at the far end of the lake, and without wetsuits, I knew the swim would be slow, so I didn't even bother looking at the clock as we exited.  Turned out it was really slow-- a 1:05+, my worst Ironman swim ever despite feeling like I'd swum quite well.   I'm actually glad I didn't know my time, because I got on the bike feeling pretty proud of myself for a well-executed first leg that put me in a decent position.

Bike (5:13:21- 3rd Pro)
T-1 was long  and speedy, much, much faster paced than any transition I'd ever done as an amateur, but I didn't want to throw away all the work I'd done to stick with a pack in the swim by letting them leave me behind in transition (been there, done that) so I ran hard, transitioned fast, and was off on the bike right with Jessica, Amber, and Caroline.  

Of those three, I was really quite happy to be starting the bike at the same time as Amber.  We both raced the Chattanooga 70.3 earlier this year and had gone back and forth all day on the bike before she promptly dropped me like a bad habit in the first 200 meters of the run.  Given that, I felt like our cycling abilities matched well, and she's a very seasoned and experienced Ironman racer, so I figured that if I could stay near her on the bike like I'd done in Chattanooga, I'd be doing well.

But then, maybe one mile in, Amber flew by me like a freight train.  I tried to pick up the pace a bit to go with her but she was seriously hauling,  I couldn't do it, and she quickly disappeared up the road as I grew quickly discouraged.  Age group guys started passing regularly, more so than I remembered in other races.   (Thankfully, there were officials on motos everywhere keeping the racing clean and the men were generally very respectful of not interfering with womens' race, a pleasant surprise).  I was pretty sure that despite my power readings being right in line with what I'd planned, I was totally sucking.   I started freaking out that something on my bike was rubbing despite no actual evidence to support this theory.   That freakout lasted for about an hour.

And then, it started raining-- several hours earlier than we'd anticipated (forecasts called for a 100% chance of storms, starting at 11:00 AM or so).  In a way, the rain was a blessing-- it took my mind off of my perceived suckiness and put it more on trying to stay upright and ride safely.  As the rain became more torrential and the winds picked up, I oddly felt better and better on the bike.  At turn-arounds, I deduced that I was in 5th, and maybe not sucking all that bad after all.  It was hard to see my Garmin with the rain pelting down, but it seemed that I wasn't losing much time on the girls ahead (except Mary Beth Ellis, she was in a class of her own) and actually seemed to be chipping away at 3rd and 4th.  I felt strong on the climbs, nutrition was settling well, power and speed were on point, and all was OK in the world.

The last 12 miles is an out-and-back on Chemin Duplessis-- the punchiest and toughest part of the course.  As we turned on to the road, I looked ahead a bit and was surprised to see both Amber and Amanda Stevens right ahead, riding in 3rd in 4th.  I passed both of them and pushed the next few climbs-- ill-advised maybe, but I thought coming off the bike in 3rd would be pretty cool so I went with it.   I kept pressing that section, feeling actually quite good, until the very last hill when I made a rookie mistake in shifting and dropped my chain in the middle of the climb.  I hopped off, swearing under my breath, and then decided that trying to re-start on that hill in the rain wasn't going to work, so I walked  up that hill like a total pro, fully expecting Amanda and Amber to pass me right back in the most embarrassing of situations and being pleasantly surprised when they didn't.  (And, to my athletes who have resisted my suggestion to walk up the new 18% hill at Ironman Wisconsin because it'd be "way too embarrassing"--- I walked up a hill in an Ironman while in 3rd freaking place and survived the shame-- you can too!)

I rolled into transition in 3rd place, really, really pleased with a strong bike in challenging conditions and getting a little kick out of Mike Reilly announcing me in.

Run (3:41:39, 7th Pro)
The run was absolutely the leg of the race that I was the most uncertain about-- my running this year has been sub-par to say the least, both in racing and in training, and I knew coming in I just did not have the preparation to have a strong marathon.  But, I was intent on running as smart as I could and not making any stupid mistakes.

Starting in third, I got myself a bike escort and, nerve-wrackingly, a motorcycle with a camera filming me for the entire first 5K of the run.  This was both incredibly awesome and incredibly not awesome.   Last year, Ironman had live commentary going on all day for this race-- I recall watching the coverage while riding on the trainer.  They didn't have that this year, the filming was for an after-the-fact production, but I didn't know that, and in my mind I was imagining myself as the subject of discussion on the live coverage.  I imagined Lisa Bentley saying things like, "we're not sure who this is, but she doesn't look so good."   I didn't feel horrible running, I actually felt OK, but I wasn't running fast at all, at least not by pro standards, and I knew this.  I even apologized to my lead biker at one point when it seemed like he was having trouble going slow enough to stay upright:  "I'm sorry, I'm just not a very fast runner!"  For that first 5K, I felt like a total imposter, a shuffler who biked herself towards the front of the race, but didn't belong there.  (Yeah, still working on that confidence thing).

Heading out with a camera in the face, soon to be joined by another
After 5K, we got to an out-and-back on a bike path, and I started to settle the mind a bit, responding to cheers and telling myself to enjoy the moment instead of feeling intimidated by it.  At about mile 5, Amber ran by me as I fully expected she would, and as the cameraman turned his attention to her, I breathed a sigh of relief and got friendly with my new 4th place bike escort.

But then, a couple miles later, there was Amber in sight again, and I passed back into 3rd place.  Amber was in a terrible bike crash just a few weeks prior -- I knew she wasn't at her best and I think it's pretty amazing that she raced at all.  However, regardless of circumstances, I felt like I was actually competing in the race, and that gave me a little boost.  I trucked on forward, still not feeling very fast, but executing my plan quite well, weathering the highs and lows, and feeling cautiously optimistic that this was shaping up to be a good day.   The volunteers and other racers were incredibly supportive and having a lead biker netted me a lot of cheers, each and every one of which I appreciated, even if not always capable of responding with much more than a half-wave or smile.

Coming through town at the end of the first loop, I was stoked and shocked to still be in 3rd place, but still not expecting it to last.  I knew Amanda Stevens was right behind me and gaining, and while I felt OK and nothing was wrong, my pace was slipping a bit, so I started in on the Nectar of the Gods (Pepsi)  with a Red Bull every now and then. C'mon caffeine, keep me in this race.

Led through town by the 3rd Place bike

Amanda passed at mile 14 (oh, hi again 4th place biker), but then she slowed, appearing in pain, and I passed her back in the next mile (like Amber, Amanda is twice the runner I am, but she came into the race fresh off a broken foot....that's the thing with pro races, it seems like most everyone out there is dealing with something -- coming off injury, illness, racing tired or racing undertrained.. .it's just the nature of the beast). So in third I remained, somewhat shocked that with a very average run, I'd stayed in this position this long.

Then, things just went downhill.  Nothing went wrong, per se-- I just lost it. My legs hurt but I wasn't cramping, overheating, cold, or injured.  I didn't make any mistakes and kept the calories coming in.  I just got slow.  My heart rate dropped, my pace slowed, my cadence fell.  I puzzled over this after the race (why did I get so slow when I executed so well??)  but the answer is simple-  I just lacked run fitness.  I didn't have the durability to run a fast marathon, I hadn't trained well, there'd been too many skipped runs, no long runs, lagging paces.   I got what I trained for.

Jessica passed just after mile 20, and then Amber passed at mile 24.  I had no response.

The last 6 miles were ugly-- head down, just shuffling slower and slower forward.  I didn't walk a step, I may have been faster if I had!  I was just in slow motion, like a wind-up toy that just wound down.   My now-5th place bike escort was phenomenal, clearly recognizing that I was struggling and doing everything in his power to get me to that finish line.  Seriously, every person should have their own personal cheerleader for the last 2 miles of an Ironman!  He got the volunteers cheering for me, he himself urged me forward every 15 seconds, "hang with me Amanda, you've got this, just keep following my wheel, you're doing great."  He took me all the way to that last downhill turn with one last, "finish strong, enjoy it, you did it!" I waved a weak thank you as we parted, and then let myself fall down that final hill, crossing the line in 5th in a time of 10:06, happy, but so very, very tired.  

Finish-  10:06:50, 5th Pro

I was happy that night and the next day.  To finish 5th in the professional field at an Ironman was not something I would have envisioned at all this year, especially not for an Ironman that I hadn't really trained for.  Standing on that stage the next morning with some legends was pretty awesome.

But, in the days that followed, disappointment seeped in, too.  I feel like this sounds spoiled so it's hard to admit, but I found a million ways to minimize the result (small field, etc. etc) and felt worse and worse about it as time passed.  Mostly, I was very disappointed with my run, which I didn't feel was at all representative of my ability.  I was actually a little embarrassed-  a 3:41 is not a pro-like marathon and won't cut it at this level-- I know this. 

The disappointment was a rooted a bit in anger-- at myself and how I'd trained this summer.  Truth is, I just didn't prepare anywhere near as well as I could for this race, and hadn't really been training well since the spring.  I've made lots of effort to set myself up to go "all-in" with this triathlon venture, but in my day-to-day choices, I haven't gone "all-in" at all.  My execution of my training this summer was just not good-  skipped workouts, shortened workouts, backed-off workouts- these were all the norm.  Nor did I nail all the "extras" -- nutrition, sleep, recovery.  I made a lot of excuses for these shortfallings.  I said I was burnt out, tired from so much racing, a little depressed.  I blamed the weather, I blamed external stresses in my life and really, I cut myself way too much slack instead of just getting the work done.  In the end, it was  that lack of preparation and attention to detail that really showed up in the last 10K of the run, as I slipped from a position firmly on the podium into 5th.

The up-side:  this was kind of a kick in the butt that I've needed for a while.  After seven days of laying around, sleeping a lot, and moping a little,  I had almost an epiphany, finally accepting full responsibility for the outcome and setting in motion a game plan for the next part of my season.   I'm excited to finally have a nice big chunk of time to just train and get fit again and see what I can do if I do if I start acting like the professional I want to be.

Of course, I need to thank all those who who have helped me get through this first phase of Pro racing.  I'm so happy to be sponsored by Coeur Sports this year-- I truly believe not only in this company's products, but their entire vision and approach.  I'm honored to be a part of the team. has supported me for years and I can't thank them enough.  Liz Waterstraat with Multisport Mastery has coached me from the very beginning and really deserves some sort of special award for still putting up with all my nonsense.  Thanks to my friends at Endure It! for getting the bike race-ready, Achieve Ortho for keeping me healthy, and Base Performance for introducing me to an electrolyte product that actually works for me.  And last but not least, thank you to my family, who have been been so incredibly supportive in every way, every step along this way.

And up next (I think)...I'm going to Miami!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 in Review

 2015 came and went, and with one exception, I forgot to blog.

But despite my silence, a lot went on that I don't want to forget, and I've enjoyed reading other's year-in-review posts, so I thought I'd put together my own "Best and Worst" of 2015 by AirDropping a bunch of random iPhone pictures to give a little snapshot of what went on this year, mostly in my training and racing life.   The ordering is random and flighty ...but then, so am I. 

Best Training Spot
Madison, Wisconsin.   Always.  The Wisconsin Love runs strong here.  I spent almost as many weekends in Madison this summer as I did in Illinois.  The memories are vivid - hill repeats in the rain with Nick.  Getting dropped like a bad habit by Bob, and texting him from the gas station to "forget about me, I'm having a moment here."  Suffering through the hottest and most humid day I can remember in Madison with Machee, Liz and Chris.  Stopping with Kristy for cheese curds that were desperately needed. Chatting with Erin and accidentally extending my ride to 7.5 hours because the conversation was so good.  Sliding out on freshly-chipped roads.  I put in many, many, many miles on my bike in this town.  My Kona race was made in Madison.
Many rides with Kristy, our bikes here at the Lion Water Fountain
Always (or, often) blue skies and puffy clouds in Madison
Best New "Life" Development
In January, I was given the opportunity to start coaching runners and triathletes through Multisport Mastery.  I've done some coaching in my past (track, cross country, swimming), so I knew this was an area I'd like to branch into, but I had no idea how much it would add to my own life.  It's been challenging, no doubt, but ultimately incredibly fulfilling.  My athletes' successes have, on many occasions, been more satisfying to me than my own, and going through the daily ups and downs with each individual has added all sorts of new dimensions to my life.  

Anne's first race post-baby!
The very first athlete to take a shot with me, Rachel
Best Ways to Enjoy Triathlon without Participating

Sherpa-ing and spectating!  Did you know being at an Ironman without actually participating in an Ironman is amazing fun?  True story.

Carrying triathlon bags is much like this
I went to two Ironmans I didn't race.  First, Ironman Texas in May.  Liz brought me to Texas as her sherpa.  In the days before the race, I tried to do my best to help her out and keep her company, and also fit in some of my own training.  I absolutely loved the Ironman Texas course and would do this one in a heart beat if it wasn't always a million degrees.
Got my swim mojo back in Conroe, TX, the best pool of 2015
 I am not sure I ever fully understood how thrilling, but exhausting and nerve-wracking, it is to spectate and support someone with big goals in a big race.   With a ground crew of multiple people, we tracked Liz's position all day, I rode my bike all over the course cheering and providing updates and occasionally stopping in at a bar to chug a beer and visit with the rest of the spectating team, before getting back on my bike to find Liz again.  Ultimately, she won her age group and punched her ticket to Kona.
Sherpa-ing is even more satisfying when Sherpa'd athlete kicks ass!
I think I was more exhausted than she was when the day was over, and had gained a serious appreciation for those who have served as sherpas and support crews for me in the past. 

Spectating on the run course, look closely, bike grease ALL OVER my legs.  Because I am me.

A couple months later, I spectated Racine 70.3 one week after injuring my leg at mile 2 of the Muncie 70.3.  I was in a lot of pain (even walking really hurt, I accidentally jogged for two steps while cheering for Kristy and almost screamed in pain) and I was pretty sure my season was over, so selfishly, seeing others racing a race that is very meaningful to me was emotionally difficult.  To cope, I sat under a tent and drank a lot of beers and that made it better.

And then, in September to my favorite race in the world, Ironman Wisconsin.  I've missed spectating this race for the past 3 years-  racing 70.3 Worlds in 2014 and 2013, and racing IMWI myself in 2012.  I had several athletes and friends racing, and it was good to be back on the sidelines acting like an idiot.
Taylor killing the swim
Chris, smiling through his first IM

Me and Scary Clown-  Left, 2015, Right, 2012

Best Gas Station
In response to all the triathletes out there posting pictures of their bikes propped in front of beautiful mountains and coastlines, we western suburban Chicagolanders had our own response-  the CITGO in Morris, Illinois, a dumpy little town 30 miles from Naperville.  Also known as the gas station that frequently saved my rides by selling me Five Hour Energy, Pop Tarts and/or Mountain Dew Code Red.  But never live bait.

Morris Cuisine
With Bob
With Kara

WTF, who stole our spot?

Worst New Normal

Flat tires! Before this year, I'd never had a flat tire in a race.  This year, I had SIX-  two simultaneously at a small race in Terre Haute (completely my fault, in the moment I looked down at my bike computer, I slammed into a massive pot hole at 28 miles per hour, immediately flatting both tires....badly); one in Kona; three in Cozumel (more on that later).  This is not a trend I wish to continue into 2016.

This ride in May should have been my warning of things to come: 

Liz's flat.  "Did I hit something?"
And 90 miles later, my own flat, which ended with a ride home from a random stranger
Best Race Result
In light of all the circumstances preceding, a third place at Kona was something I am tremendously proud of, but overall, I think the actual best race of my season was  Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston in April.
I am sorry, but Galveston is kind of a dump.
I trained like an animal in January, February, and March-- likely too much in light of things going on in my life at the time (I always need to throw in the disclaimer that I pushed myself well beyond what which was prescribed in my training schedule) -- but I was super fit in April and had a race to show for it.  4:23, a 10-minute PR, an age group and overall amateur win, the fastest female bike split (period, across all divisions, but to be fair, the winds shifted during the race and were much more favorable by the time my wave hit the bike course than they'd been for earlier waves).  Just a great success.
Brother came from San Antonio
 Why didn't I ever write about it?  Frankly, I'd been teetering on the edge for some time going into that race, carefully walking the line between peak fitness and meltdown, and Galveston drained the tank and left me a little broken and not really in the mood for writing for quite some time.   Lessons were learned:) 

 Most Meaningful Race

The Naperville Esprit de She Womens' Triathlon.  I swim Masters with one of the funniest and most energetic women I've ever met-- Beth.  Beth's daughter, Clari, tragically passed away last year at the age of 19.   Clari had previously been a part of a relay team that won this race.  The day before the race, Beth and I were talking at Masters and decided to enter a relay team to race in Clari's honor.  It a matter of hours, we pulled together an "All-Star" team-  Beth swimming, me cycling, and Amber, an Olympic Trials level runner --  and we raced in memory of Clari.  We won, by a lot (but shout out to local stud Jenny Garrison, who still had a faster time by herself than our relay), and the sentiment behind it made it all the more meaningful.

Best (or Worst?) Pre-Race Accomodation 
I should never have done the Muncie 70.3 in early July.  I'd been fighting a knee injury for a few weeks, had just had an MRI that showed a lot of "stuff" going on, and every training run was like rolling the dice as to whether I'd be able to run or be doing the walk of shame home.    

But I was stubborn and I raced, swimming well, riding really well, was leading my age group and the overall race by a good chunk of time when, 2 miles into the run, I felt something in my knee tear and the leg gave way.....multiple times (because, stubborn, I kept trying until succumbing and ending up in the ambulance).  I was certain I needed surgery; luckily I didn't, but that race turned what was possibly a manageable injury into one that took me out for months.  
Text messages I should have listened to....with PT
Anyway.  I traveled to Muncie with Liz the day before the race and it took us almost five hours to get there from Chicago.  Turned out the only hotel we could get was another hour away, we were tired of the car, so when we heard about a church a mile from the start that, for $15 a person, was providing cots and Sunday school rooms in which athletes could sleep, we were in.  A quick trip to WalMart to get blankets and pillows and we were settled into our chosen room-  the Sunday School Snack Room.  

The room door had a sign reminding us to "Bee Your Best"

 The room was freezing, the cot was less than comfortable, and I slept approximately 20 minutes, kept awake by the cold, pain, and an impending sense of doom regarding the race the next day (I knew I shouldn't be racing).....but it was a memorable accommodation for sure!

Best Random Midwestern Town in Which to Race

Hard to tell.  In May and June, I raced several short course races, mostly in somewhat less than glamorous locations.  None of the races were super stellar and a couple were downright bad, but I saw some great places like....

Terre Haute, Indiana!  (I double flatted)

Apartments next to our hotel, someone hoarding vacuums
 Hammond, Indiana!  (It rained, the course was delayed and shortened to a Super Sprint, I just had a terrible race...but got to wait out the storm with friends!)

Waiting out the pre-race storm with Megan, Jennifer, Karen, Jenny and Chris
 Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin! (Actually went pretty well, 2nd overall to speedy Pro Jackie H., and taking home some dough)
A decent and free run picture!

With Chris.  And Chris.  And Chris

Best Food Place I Should Not Go To as Much as I Do

Best Month in Which to Race, if You're Midwestern

February!  It was still snowing in Chicago.  My Masters Swim Team did a training camp in Palm Desert, California, which happened to coincide with the Desert International Triathlon, a season kick-off race for the So Cal crowd.  I was so nervous -  big shots do this race, and I did not feel at all ready to be racing fast in February, but it went pretty well, second in the Elite division after a speedy Carly J. navigated the soft sand and ran me down like I was standing still.    It rained so they cancelled the awards ceremony, because that's apparently how it goes in California.

It's fun when you're friendly with your competitors.  Carly and Jen F.
Better scenery than Hammond, Indiana, for sure.

Most Fun Non-Triathlon Race 

Jennifer Harrison and I teamed up the Endure It Team Time Trial in January.  The "team" part of this time trial incorporates the "drafting" setting in Computrainer and we basically had no idea what we were doing or how to draft off each other.  It was comedy of errors, but despite less than smooth transitions of the lead, we powered through for the female win and more importantly, coordinated our outfits quite nicely.  

Runner- Up:  The Well-Fit Beer Mile.  This was more painful and uncomfortable than the TT for sure.  I thought I'd sail through the beer mile because I like beer and I like running.  In actuality, I kind of sucked.  I broke 10 minutes, but barely, I almost DNF'd during Lap #2,  and it was Beer #4 where I lost the race.  Much more practice needed here.

Podium pic- I'm in the skeleton suit

 Best Pictures Covertly Taken by Others to Prove the Point that I Have a Phone Addiction


At the Illinois State Masters Swim Meet
OK, actually staged.  We were pretending to be bored. We weren't- the Bulls went to Quadruple OT
Best Lucky Charm 
It was New Years' Eve and there was definitely alcohol involved when a tiny, plastic yellow hanger came into my life.  It became my good luck charm and I named it Baby Baby Hanger.
And then I lost it and things started to go downhill. 

So I searched the internet to find more Baby Baby Hangers.

Several of the replacement Baby Baby Hangers were on my dining room table when US Anti Doping Agency officials showed up to my place on an August Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM to do blood and urine testing, and I had to push the BBHs out of the way when we used the table for sample sorting.  I told the USADA folks the whole story I just told you about the Baby Baby Hangers, and they looked at me like I was bat shit crazy, because I probably am. 

And, yes, that was my back-handed way of saying that as an amateur, I was tested out-of-competition.  It was shocking (at the time, I'd never heard of amateurs being tested out-of-competition) but also encouraging, and I mention it here only because I think Ironman tested a small number of amateurs in part as a deterrent to clean up the sport, so it feels almost a bit like my duty to help create that deterrent effect.  Race fair, folks.

Most Discouraging Months
July and August.  I was out with an injury that was unpredictable and kept re-inventing itself.

I frantically texted my PT regularly to tell her where it hurt the most, today.
"Can you see the swelling?? Help!"
 And then I bought a waterproof iPod, a water running belt, and got to work water running while I couldn't run on land.  It was boring, but I worked really hard, and was shocked when I returned to land running and actually found that my paces hadn't fallen far off.  I'm a huge fan of water running now.

It sucked but it worked
Best Moment Overall
This one is pretty close:

Best, or Maybe Worst, Decision....We Shall Find Out


I took my Pro Card in November.  I raced an Ironman as a Pro in December (or part of one, at least), I'll write more about that, but in short, Pro Debut was pretty much a failure.  Debut #2 will be in 2016.  So, that's where this train is going, and whether it was a smart decision, I can't yet say, but I am excited to find out. 

 Best Pictures Taken By Others
I have no selfie game.  No GoPro game.  But, I need to get better at this, I think.  Here's a start.
IM Coz practices swim with Maggie, Christine, and Cris

Selfs on bikes (with Maggie)
Showing off a kit from new 2016 sponsor, Coeur Sports!

Pre-race ride with Liz on the Queen K

Me and Mack in FermiLab
 Best End to 2015
Unseasonably warm temperatures and outdoor riding in December.  While home for Christmas, I made Rathbone, Ohio, my new Morris, Illinois, so of course, there was a picture of a bait sign.  Of course.

They have bait but not sure if Live