One Is Better Than Two

Greetings, friends! Its finally happened: The long anticipated merging of our two mediocre blogs into a Gestalt-like one. Figuring Jesse’s mom needed a break from switching from page to page (hi, Melinda!), and not wanting to lose Amy's three readers in South Korea, we have decided to keep our friends and family updated from the same internet home. This blog is a collection of pictures, recaps, and ramblings from a pro triathlete and elite runner. Jesse has been racing triathlon since 2007, turned pro shortly after, and has posted several top-10 Ironman finishes. His eyes are on Ironman Lake Placid, Ironman Chattanooga, and Ironman Arizona in 2014. Amy is a former division one swimmer turned triathlete turned elite runner. In 2011, she decided to stop cycling and swimming in pursuit of marathon glory. She has since won several races, including the 2014 PF Changs Rock n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. Her sights are now set on qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

EUROTRIP Part 1: Denmark

Ciao friends! We are settled in Italy for our Euro training camp, and are going to blog about our Eurotrip one experience at a time. We started with a week in Denmark, where Jesse raced his A race for the spring! Please excuse any formatting errors; we are getting used to blogging via iPhone!
 Jet lag and pre race nerves made us a tad crazy....

Jet lag is real. Our journey started with a drive, 2 flights, rental car #1, more driving, a flat tire, rental car #2, and three confusing gas station stops before we arrived in Filksov (voted best small town in Denmark in the early 2000s!). At this point, we were thrilled to meet our home stay family for the week, Hanne and Niels. They were awesome and welcoming, so much so that we may still have the key to their house! They helped us blunder our way through prepations for a two transition ironman in a foreign country, which was (un)surprisingly challenging!

Our host dog, Frodo, her cool family, and their gorgeous backyard! This was taken by a local reporter, who came to interview Jesse!

Teaching Amy to drive a stick shift while simultaneously trying to locate the swim lake proved problematic, resulting in her having to bail on the Challenge Women's 5k the day before Jesse's race. While she was sad to abandon racing as bib #1, keeping the awesome Schwag bag was a good consolation!

After setting up transition, we dialed in our race day plan. It required Amy to drive the stick shift car for 90 minutes solo and be ready to hand Jesse a mid race Snickers 2x during the bike. Let's just say we were both pretty nervous for the 3:30 AM wake up the next day.

Jesse's Challenge Denmark Race Report:
With an extremely solid block of training under my belt, I was feeling good despite a frantic, jet lagged few pre-race days. Walking towards the swim start was intimidating, as the local pros were a head and shoulders taller than me. This proved problematic from the gun, making the first lap feel like a boxing match. By the middle of the second lap, I saw some clear water and was able to bridge the gap, moving into third place. I came out of the water in this coveted spot, giving me an unfortunate confidence boost. 

I spent the next 2 hours riding about 20 watts too hard in order to keep the lead vehicle in sight. The course was flat, but winded through the Danish countryside, complete with cobblestone, roundabouts and bike paths. This slowed things down in the rain! Once I settled in, I tried to take in some calories after my foolish start to the ride. My 1000 calorie bottle slipped from my hand in the rain, leaving me in a bit of a rough patch. The special needs was self supported, and luckily Amy was there with the planned Snickers bar. I suffered through the second half of the ride, realizing that digging too deep early on was going to haunt me later. I entered t2 in 5th or 6th, grabbing a couple gels to work myself out of the calorie hole.

The first 5k of the run felt great; I felt smooth and strong. Then, in a matter of two strides, everything hurt. My left quad felt like it got ran over by a truck, and the pain from my mistakes set in. I settled I for two hours and forty-five minutes of painful, ugly running. I was still able to pull out a marathon PR (3:05, getting closer to sub 3!), an overall PR of 8:44 and top 10 finish!

                      Top 10 men!

My equipment worked flawlessly. I had great reach in the water in my flexible Zoot Prophet. My PRSix was amazingly stiff, and paired with my Easton EC90s, I felt incredibly stable on the wet cobblestones. For the first time, I ran the marathon in the Zoot Solanas. Not coincidentally, it was the first time my calves felt great at the end of the marathon. Huge thanks to these companies for helping me towards a new PR and podium spot! Thanks also to Well Food Company and RBar Energy for providing top of the line nutrition to get us through our travels!

We ended our week in Denmark with some celebratory wine and beer with our host family, a day trip to Ribe, and a night in Copenhagen. This also happened to be our wedding anniversary, and we made sure to celebrate with a nice dinner and drinks! Being in Copenhagen (along with the rest of Denmark) was really interesting. The Danes were recently named the world's happiest people due to their active lifestyles, universal healthcare, education, etc. You could really see this when strolling through the city - bikes were everywhere, along with other awesome things: people drinking beers at an outdoor concert, free swim lanes in the river, etc. We loved it and hope to be back someday! For now, though, more of Europe awaits!

    Eating our way through Scandanavia... 

          Free swim lanes in the river!

Anniversary beers, bikes everywhere, and a post-run Danish!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Everyone Likes A Comeback

by Amy

The start next to Hayward Field

I'm not going to sugarcoat this. I'm in a pretty dark place at the moment. Eugene was supposed to be the realization of my biggest dream, yet I'm about to recap my first DNF. I should be relaxing, drinking Jam Jar, and enjoying recovery walks with Addy while reveling in the satisfaction of being an Olympic Trials Qualifier. Instead, I'm aiming to make it through the work day without crying (good so far today!) while trying to figure out how the hell I'm going to get back on this horse.

I have dreamt of qualifying for the Olympic Trials for 4 years. The OTQ was a beacon for me, getting me out of bed for 4am 14 milers before work, giving me a reason to push at the end of my long runs, forcing me to say no when friends wanted to go out for drinks. None of this was particularly hard to do. I love running and the journey of chasing big goals. But, as Lauren Fleshman once aptly wrote, "There is a Herculean price to pay for making yourself vulnerable to a dream." I truly believed that I would qualify in Eugene. Now, I'm dealing with the reality of that not being true.

The hardest part for me is to acknowledge that I made some mistakes in the race. Prior to racing Eugene, I had negative split 4 marathons by listening to my instincts and being willing to run alone if I had to. My 2:45 marathon in Indianapolis was a nearly 60 second negative split. In Eugene, I made a plan to stay with our pace group. I told myself to trust my training and my ability to hold the pace. I didn't even look at my watch. When it started feeling a little harder than I wanted, I should have checked our pace and made a decision to go at it alone. We came through the half in 1:20:30, which was about a minute faster than planned. By the time I realized this, it was too late. This is no one's fault but my own! I didn't respect the marathon distance.

At 17 miles, I was still with the group when my legs started cramping. WTF was this? I have never experienced cramps in any race or training run. My calves and adductors felt like they were being squeezed.  I told myself to stay calm and that it might just be a rough patch. Soon, it got worse. My stride kept breaking from the cramps and I was weaving all over the bike path. I couldn't even hold a straight line, and felt like I might pass out. I stopped and sat in the dirt around mile 19. My coach (on bike) and Jesse caught up to me (he had run the first 16 miles at our pace and was doing his planned easy run to finish the race). I ran with Jesse to mile 21, then stopped again. I couldn't even get below 7 minute pace. I felt awful, but put in one final effort to finish the race. I didn't want to DNF, but the day was taking an emotional and physical toll on me. I reached a breaking point. Just shy of mile 23, I stopped for good. Two kind strangers offered to drive me to my hotel. I broke down in tears in their car. My dream was gone. I still don't know whether DNFing was the right choice, but I can't change that now. I accept my decision and I'm ready to move on.

I've had some bad marathon bonks (Vermont City 2012 and Phoenix 2013 - finished both races but with an over 10 minute positive split), but never experienced cramping like that. I still don't understand why. Yes, the early pace was slightly too fast for me, but I wouldn't have expected such a severe blow up. I took in 5 8oz bottles of water mixed with 1.5 powergels (in each bottle) on the course. This was the same nutrition as my past 2 marathons except in those I took the gels separate from the water. Autumn said it looked like I wasn't quite finishing my bottles, but there was extra gel in each one to make sure I was getting in the calories. Maybe mixing them with water was a mistake, but it was something I'd practiced in training and it worked great. Maybe my brain likes the feeling of concentrated sugar in gel form when I'm racing at my maximum? It was a little warmer/more humid than I would have liked, but nothing that suggested running fast would be impossible. I ate a lot of calories/carbs before the race, and my stomach was fine. I didn't feel too nervous. I was in damn good shape heading into this race, so I truly don't understand why it was such a disaster. If anyone has any insight/experiences dealing with cramping, I'd love to hear them! The only thing that's strangely comforting is that it seemed to be a tough day for many. The winner, Catherine Watkins (who is the nicest person ever!) said she felt she was in 2:35 shape but ended up running a 2:42. She's Canadian, so it turns out no Americans qualified for the Trials in Eugene. For whatever reason, it was a little harder than expected for all of us...

The only thing worse than failing again would be not trying at all, so I'll be back at it. I'm thinking about returning to Indianapolis this Fall and praying for another cold day ;). In the midst of this darkness, I can still keep perspective. This isn't the end of the world. I'm healthy, I'm strong, and I'm able to run. I have until January 2016 to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon, and I'll try until the last day of eligibility if I have to. I'll learn from this experience and race smarter next time. If I don't make it then, I can walk away knowing I gave it my best effort. For now, I'll try my best to enjoy some down time and celebrate the awesome training cycle I just completed. Although the end result was far from my goal, I know I'm the fittest I've ever been. I still believe...

Thanks to all of you for your support, to my Sonoran Distance Project coach, teammates, and sponsors, and to the staff at the Eugene Marathon for welcoming us so warmly! Thank you to my family, in-laws, and Jesse for being there in Eugene and for telling me you were proud of me even though I fell far short of expectations. None of this would mean anything without you all.

post race with my people! love you all!
Next up is our EUROTRIP! Turns out there is an all womens 5k the day before Challenge Denmark. I think it's a sign. Time to get back on the horse. Everyone likes a comeback!