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, 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!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The One and Only

by  Jesse

Wildflower Triathlon

This hard ass race has been haunting me for the past two years. Last weekend was my fourth go at this EPIC half ironman.  Two years ago, I raced and completely came unglued. I was far too scared to race it in 2014. By 2015, the pain in the memories had subsided and I remembered all the positives of the race. Take a seat, there are many.

Tri-California does an amazing job putting on the race. They treat every athlete as a special person. They take amazing care of the professionals, and seem eager to help in any way that they can. After racing a ton of races where athletes are treated like items on an assembly line, it is amazing to be taken care of. Wildflower is set in an absolutely beautiful area. The views are stunning. The camping gives it a fun vibe well, like no other (one and only!) The course is stupid hard, the field is always stacked, and everyone is ALWAYS smiling. A great place.

I drove from Tucson to Wildflower with a friend, Cameron. Amy Cole was unable to make the journey since she has her own race to run this coming weekend, oh and hit the OTQ! Cameron and I took shelter in Pasadena part way through the drive, got ripped off by a locksmith, stayed up way too late, and got lost heading out the next day.

We finally arrived in Wildflower in time for a quick swim, and the awesome realization that we were in a house with two rock star Canadians! Nathan Killam and Rachel McBride were chilling in our shared house when we arrived. About 45 seconds later, Nathan's mustache led to a string of pedophile jokes that are surely not done, and Cameron's name/his unfortunate luck to be born a ginger led him to be named the Spicy Shrimp. I blame the Violet Dragon, but you never really know.

our favorite Canadians!

We eventually ended up at the race start. My bag and I took separate buses, because I tend to have some serious pre-race stupids. I did a bit of a warm up jog, jumped in for a splash, then the gun went off. It was a fairly standard start. I thought I was most likely going to die. Someone hit my feet for the first 800, then hit harder as I fell off the main group. I am not sure if they thought that I would be able to swim faster if they hit me, but for future reference, it does not help. Finally a few guys came around and we worked together for the remainder of the swim.

Getting out of the water I was scared. Wildflower has a 2 mile run before you bike, then run again. I have done one duathlon. I ran the first 5k with a buddy who is a much better runner, and spent the entire ride in the small ring because of that. So, at Wildflower I wanted to be conservative. In retrospect I could have gone a bit harder, but so it goes. On the bike I was also scared. The race starts with a mile climb that in past years, I have blown up on and had to ride 54 subsequent slow miles.

I started the ride conservatively, and tried to keep it steady all day. I faded a little bit at the end, but nothing crazy. I set out on the hardest run course in the sport. I had a few guys around me so I kept the pace up early. But by mile 8 I was way too low on nutrition, solo, and flat. I barely made it over the last climb and could not stride out on the vicious down hill. But I finished.

I ended up within a minute of my 2009 and 2011 times. At first I was angry about this. I thought that I should be faster than I was then. After some serious discussion with my coach, he convinced me that the race was harder in this format (those years were standard 70.3 distance and did not have the swim-run-bike-run), so going the same time is improvement. I hope he is right; he sold me on it.

Next up is the big day for Amy Cole. I will be out there for a while with her. This may be my first DNF so that I can run the beginning with her and still see her finish. Yeah, that means she is faster than me now and I can't pace her while taking pictures like the good old days. I am excited to be there and see her family and my family. Apparently when Amy races, it is a party!!

In the words of Dr. Amy Prefontaine Cole, "Jesse may beat me, but he is going to have to bleed to do it."