Wednesday, October 1, 2014


It's high time to break the radio silence on my blog.  A lot of you are aware of this already, but I might as well make my situation public knowledge for those of you who feel out of the loop.  I'm finishing my dissertation this winter, and I reorganized my priorities over the summer in order to accommodate the larger time and energy requirements of this final push.  Among other things, I decided to take a break from triathlon training and racing until after I defend my Ph.D.

I've always been the girl who tried to do it all, and earlier in the year I'd been (naively) optimistic that I could continue to train and race normally at least through the summer before things got too crazy with school/work (as a graduate research assistant, they are the same thing).  On some level, I knew what was coming and tried to front-load my race season.  But even back in the spring, training was never a priority this year the way it has been at many times in the past.  I have continued to discuss things with my coach at SBR as the situation has evolved.  As my work got increasingly consuming back in July, I lost my ability to complete even half of the workouts on my training plan as written.  I had signed up for two August races far in advance (Age Group Nationals sprint and Chicago Triathlon Olympic), so for a short time we tried to reduce my training load further, to a bare minimum that would help maintain my fitness.  Even the reduced plan of no more than an hour a day proved too much for me to reliably complete, and the workout failures only added to my overall life stress.  I finally pulled the plug on any sort of training plan in August.

Athletics have always been an outlet for me: an emotional release, a safe space.  To preserve my sanity, I haven't given up exercise completely during this time.  Instead, I have removed all expectations: of performance, of acceptable frequency and duration, etc.  Instead of training, I'm "working out" occasionally: to do things like spend time with my athlete friends, celebrate a productive day, or clear my head during a stressful one.

I've been doing my best to pare down the demands on my time to the things I consider the most essential: focusing on my work/career, getting enough sleep to be able to think clearly and stay healthy, and maintaining good personal relationships.  So if you've noticed that Summer has seemed a bit "off" recently, that she hasn't commented on your Facebook posts, that you haven't seen her attacking Strava segments, that she hadn't written a blog post since Rev3 Knoxville- there's your explanation.  In addition to completing research and writing, I'm taking advantage of U.W.'s career services and any other helpful resources I can find.  I'm looking into and applying for job opportunities and fellowships.  There just isn't enough time to keep up with everything that's going on with everyone I know, or to do everything that I find fun and interesting.  If I've missed something that you consider important, I'm truly sorry, and I promise that it was unintentional.  It's taken a bit of experimentation to find a new balance for myself this year, and it's an ongoing process.

Though I am done training and racing for now, I'm doing my best not to neglect the triathlon scene completely.  It's a special time for Rev3, as their new partnership with Challenge Family means that the event branding and age group team will transition to Challenge in 2015.  I am spending much less time on social media these days (with the exception of LinkedIn, for career purposes), but I take my commitment to Rev3 seriously and you will continue to see occasional updates from me about Rev3 and the rest of the Team Rev3 sponsors- PowerBarSBR SportsPearl Izumi, and BlueSeventy- throughout the rest of the year.  The support from these brands and the people behind them has been incredible, and I am grateful for all they have done for me in the past two years.  I will be continuing on with Challenge in 2015.  If you're interesting in joining the Family as an age-group triathlete next year, you can find the application here.

At last, 10 years of "college" is coming to a close and it's time to join the workforce.  Am I nervous?  Oh yes.  But I'm trying to think of the jitters the same way as I would the nerves before a race: as simply my body's way of preparing to do something awesome.

The race is on.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rev3 Knoxville- Age Group Championship Race

My big outing in May this year was to journey down to Knoxville, TN for the Rev3 Age Group Series Championship race.  This race had been on my calendar for a long time, and Ben and I rearranged our schedules to turn it into a short "race-cation" with a stop in Asheville, NC afterwards.  The age group series worked by recording the best 2 Rev3 race finishes of each participant throughout the previous race season. The top scorers were invited to compete in the championship race, which was a distance in between the Olympic Rev and Half Rev course lengths.  Along with bragging rights, there was prize money on the line for the 1st-3rd place finishers in each age group in the series, and sponsor prizes for 4th and 5th places.  It was a great opportunity for age groupers to have a competitive, "pro"-type experience, so of course I couldn't pass it up.  The Age Group Series is running again in 2014 with the championship in Knoxville in 2015, so start planning and collecting your race finishes now!

The Knoxville Sunsphere at World's Fair Park, site of the expo and finish line
It's a long drive from Wisconsin (10.5 hours, if you believe Google) so we left Madison reeeeally early Friday morning (closer to Thursday night...) in order to make it to Knoxville in time for dinner with the race staff and Team Rev3. We also ended up with time to check in at the expo, so we were able to pick up our packets and swag.  Rev3 seems to have upped their game in the swag department this year with a few new and unique items, which was cool to see.  Included among my freebies: a little Rev3 logo bag inspired by cycling musettes, a Rev3 Buff, a Rev3 sticker, a PowerBar, a cute female-cut black shirt that was specific to the championship race, and a Headsweats Rev3 Knoxville visor.  Quite a haul!  We stuck around after dinner to cheer in the runners at the Rev3Glow run. They had both a 5k and a 1 mile course, so a lot of families and kids were racing and seemed to have a blast.

In typical Team Rev3 fashion, my morning was spent at the practice swim introducing athletes to the great products SBR Sports makes.  Team members handed out samples from the TriSwim line, samples of Foggies, and even sprayed athletes down with TriSlide to help them slip in and out of their wetsuits with ease and avoid chafing. The water temperature much warmer than last year, hovering around 70*F- perfect for just shimmer suits!

Next on the docket was a quick bike ride to wake up our legs.  I was eager to see the new section I would be running on the AG Champ course after racing the Olympic distance last year.  I always highly recommend checking out courses in advance of racing them if possible, to learn the nature of any technical or difficult sections and check out road quality, etc.  However, you should always do so carefully!  Keep an eye out for pedestrians and vehicles as well as any other hazards that you might not be dealing with on race day.  In this case, Blake, Ben, and I were startled by a bridge lip coming down a steep hill at mile 5.4 of the championship course.  A small bump that wouldn't have been worth mentioning on a run turned into a problem while cycling- Ben flatted and I warped the rim on my race wheel slightly with the impact.  Always pay attention!

The last major task of the day was to check in our bikes at transition.  The transition area at Knoxville changed locations slightly from last year, from the bottom floor of a parking garage into a pretty spot next to the greenway that also made for a shorter run in transition 1.  The bike check went quickly and smoothly.  I like advance check-in a lot, especially for large races, because it cuts down so much on race morning chaos for both the athletes and staff.  For example, there are no lines in the morning to check race numbers and bar ends, and no athletes distractedly careening around trying to make last minute checks and repairs.  I like being able to roll out on race morning with just a backpack, knowing that my bike is already safely where it needs to be. 

Iggy is all settled in for the night

Race Day
Last year, Rev3 Knoxville took place on a somewhat chilly and rainy day that had most people longing for the usual southern heat and humidity.  Luckily, this year Mother Nature smiled upon us with beautiful weather!

Swim: 1.2 mi, 30:33
The Knoxville swim is point-to-point in the Tennessee River, from Calhoun's dock down to the Lady Vols rowing boathouse. The only change from the Olympic course was that the Half Rev and Championship swimmers had a longer stretch upriver to start off. 30+ is not a great time for me, but I always take swim splits with a grain of salt since conditions vary so widely (current, chop, etc.) and it's hard to set an accurate buoy course and keep all of them from moving.  The best way I know to judge a swim is to consider what I felt like in the water, how straight I swam, and how my time stacks up compared to others whose swimming ability I am familiar with.  I felt like I put in a good effort and I came out of the water just ahead of my Rev3 teammate Maggie, who is very strong, so I am happy with this swim.
T1: 1:37

Team Rev3, pre-race!
Bike: 40 mi, 2:08:06
This course was REALLY FUN: quiet, twisty, and green; rolling terrain with a few good climbs.  It actually reminded me a lot of one of my other favorite bike courses, the American Triple-T course.  Unfortunately this year Triple-T and Knoxville were on the same weekend so I had to make a choice, but I think I made the right one-- the Knoxville course was definitely a challenge! The race was a little bit longer than I was really prepared to be competitive at this year at that point in the season, so coach Bill and I decided it would be wisest for me to ride at my half iron power and use any extra energy later on the run.

My one major mishap of the race happened within the first two miles of the bike- my front water bottle, which was new for this race but a style I'd ridden with before, flew forward completely out of its bracket. The velcro strap holding it in was slightly shorter than on my last bottle, and it had popped open as I hit a hard bump. Miraculously, I caught it before it crashed onto my wheel or to the ground (I am not known for my hand-eye coordination).  I awkwardly fumbled with it for a minute or two trying to put it back on while keeping my bike moving forward in a straight line.  It was useless.  I quickly considered my options.  Ditch it?  It's an expensive bottle, and there were no aid stations for over 10 miles. Attach it somewhere else on the bike?  No place was secure.  I landed on the best option being to carry it in one hand and try to chug it while controlling the bike with the other hand.  The only way to carry the bottle without it compromising my handling was to put it down my tri top, and the only way that would work was if it was empty.  Game on.
I cringe to think of how much time I lost as I was soft-pedaling and riding super conservatively over bumps and around corners holding that darn water bottle, but looking back I can't see how I could have handled the situation any better in the moment.  C'est la vie.  I did lose my straw out of my back jersey pocket sometime during the bike ride, but on the whole this was a successful equipment save.  I was able to ride at the goal power we'd chosen, and before I knew it I was back at transition.
T2: 1:33
^- "What the heck is she doing?"

Run: 9.8 mi, 1:18:07
The run went about as well as I hoped it would, considering all of the factors involved.  I started out at a smart pace, knowing it would get harder to hold as the race went on.  I have to admit I was a bit jealous of the Olympic racers as we passed their turn-around point, but hills build character, right?  The climbs were gnarly, but I was glad I was mentally prepared for them and had left some gas in the tank.  I started to struggle about mile 7.5 as the day heated up and my lack of training volume caught up to me, but it helped a lot to see so many friendly faces heading the other direction and have some Olympic racers ahead to chase down.

Total: 3:59:56, 3rd F25-29

Well, I ended up the 4th amateur female at this race, coming in long behind three superstars (2 of whom were in my AG-- congrats, Leslie and Maggie!) but through the way the series was scored, I actually had the best series total in F25-29.  Honestly, I had not reread the age group series info page for a while and was under the impression that the cash prizes were based on this race's results, not the series.  So I was quite surprised to be called up to receive the top prize of $500, plus a gift certificate to the Rev3 store (where I picked up some cute Oiselle gear!).  So I guess I was somewhat lucky in my choice of Rev3 races last year, and very grateful that I was able to put together good races where it mattered.

Overall,  Rev3 Knoxville was definitely an honest, championship-caliber course, and I hope the circumstances come together for me to return next year.  If you have any questions about the Knoxville courses or the age group series, feel free to ask in the comments section!

I even made it into the Age Group Recap video this year with my thrilling pre-race insight. Haha.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Getting in Gear

Wow.  With respect to the weather, this winter has seemed abnormally long.  However, on the other hand I feel like I blinked and the off season had come to a screeching halt.  With my first outdoor triathlons of the season coming up this weekend (yes, multiple...), it's high time for a blog update! 

As the title of the post suggests, I've been spending the past few weeks "getting in gear" both figuratively and literally.  A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be able to make it down to Manassas, VA for the annual Team Rev3 summit- along with about 45 of the coolest and most inspiring people I know!  It was a blast to bond with both the new and returning team members before the Rev3 season kicks off in Knoxville next month.  We also received our new kits for the season, and as usual the Pearl Izumi custom department outdid themselves with those.  I'm so excited to rock mine this year!  With the addition of a new team visor, a couple of shirts, a Polar bottle, and a wealth of exciting information about where Rev3 is going as a company, I definitely headed home feeling like a very lucky girl to be back with the Rev3 team this year.

But this coming weekend is all about my other team... the Wisconsin Triathlon Team, which has been more like a family to me over my 6 years as a grad student at UW.  I'm back in Tempe for what will be my final Collegiate National Championships.  And just like last year, I'll be racing "the triple":

Friday, 11 a.m.- Individual Draft-legal Sprint
Saturday, 7:30 a.m.- Individual Olympic distance (non-drafting)
Saturday, 4 p.m.- Draft-legal Mixed Team Relay

Of course, I always want to do well and leave the race course with no regrets, no doubts about whether I could have pushed any harder.  But my primary goal this year is just to enjoy the experience, no matter the outcome.  As I had anticipated late last year, my training this spring has been much less consistent than I would've liked due to work/school priorities.  My practice performances haven't been too bad, just (again) a bit inconsistent. My running has probably been, relatively, the best of the three.  However, it is where I am most likely to suffer due to heat.  The women race first in the Olympic distance this year, so hopefully I will be ok and be able to race to my ability level.  But coming from Madison, where 40F still seems like a warm day right now, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about it. 

To make up for my somewhat shaky confidence in my current fitness, I've been doing the best I can to prepare my equipment well and ready myself for the tactical parts of the races.  I'm absolutely a detail-oriented person, and there are a ton of details involved in executing these races.  Competing in the two draft-legal races requires a road bike and helmet, so I'm traveling with even more equipment than usual.  Taking the time to think through each part of each race, including strategy, possible scenarios I might be in, and each piece of gear I might use is a valuable exercise- I'd recommend a similar process to anyone else who might be facing a bit of pre-race anxiety.  Looking after all of these little details helps to calm me down, help me focus, and help me feel more mentally prepared for the challenge at hand.  Once I'm out on the course, it's time to just be in the moment, enjoy the journey, and let the results follow.

Thanks to a quick tune-up from Pete at Rocket Bicycle Studio, Denali is ready to play!

The Badgers have almost 30 athletes competing this year, and our coach (and my own coach) Bill also made the trip down to help us out.  Since this is a collegiate championship, I'll be racing in Badger red, white, and black all weekend (along with a few Team Rev3 tats and accessories when possible). In addition to on my own social media accounts, you can follow along with our adventures here:

Team twitter: @WisconsinTri
Event twitter: #USATCN14
Team Facebook
USA Triathlon coverage (DL- live blog, Olympic- live stream)

Go Badgers!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Thousand Words Isn't Enough: a Reflection on Images

Well, this isn't the blog I promised next, but it's something I've been thinking about and felt like I needed to write down.  Recently, I was watching a pretty in depth "behind the scenes" feature on a movie I loved, and it yielded a lot of insight about the nature of the creative process and the execution of a creative vision.  By that, I mean the manner in which a lot of little details coalesce to contribute to the aesthetic, tone, and themes of a film and serve to advance the narrative.  It was fascinating, and was the kind of thing I hadn't thought so much about in while (probably since my humanities classes at Berkeley).

Anyway, my thinking eventually segued into considering the ways we craft the images of ourselves that we present  to others.  I'm not really referring to physical appearance in this case (though sometimes that can be part of it), but the representations of ourselves that we present to the rest of the world.  In addition to impressions in person, opportunities abound these days to shape digital versions of ourselves through social media and other outlets: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., ad nauseam.  With my recent introduction into the world of smartphones, I have greater access to these than ever before, as well as an Instagram account to add to my personal  list (don't expect much yet: I'm still learning how to use it).  Branding is an increasingly prevalent concept to individuals, no longer just a corporate buzzword.  In the noisy online landscape, often a snippet seems to be all we get to create an impression.  Sum yourself up in 140 characters.  We become preoccupied with fitting ourselves into neat packages and classifying them.


Different people take different approaches to navigating this landscape, and the observer is left to draw his or her own conclusions from the information available.  To some, less is more.  Others take more of an "open book" approach, perhaps in hopes of presenting the observer with enough data to ensure them a well-rounded view into the various facets of their lives.  One way I've noticed people trying to gain and provide understanding about themselves lately is the taking and sharing of personality tests, often based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  There plenty of places to take a comprehensive test online for free, and a lot of fun twists on interpreting the 16 types have cropped up (my favorites so far are Buzzfeed's Animal Personality Type and Geek in Heels' Star Wars MBTI chart).  I've taken various versions of the test and seem to come out about equally INTP and INFJ.

I'm somewhere over in this corner of the chart.  Hopefully not Palpatine.

The heart of this practice seems to be driven by the human need to learn about ourselves and be understood for who we really are, or at least, who we view ourselves to be.  Many of us crave connection.  Interestingly and understandably, the majority of the people sharing their personality results appear to be those classified as introverts.  Maybe we feel the desire to explain ourselves better than we're often able to in groups.

The point of this post is a reminder that all of these representations are merely like coarsely pixelated images of ourselves: the general idea is presented, but not the core of what makes an image unique.  Its real beauty and value lies in its details, its intricacies.  All we can do is try to display a faithful representation and hope the people who matter to us care enough to dig deeper-- to start filling in the blanks and painting in the details for themselves, and hoping they find something beautiful and real.