Board Certified Sport Dietitian, Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, 25-year Vegetarian, Writer/Speaker, 11x Ironman finisher including 4x IM Kona finisher, Doggy-mommy, Wife to an amazing Czech cyclist turned Ironman Kona finisher, Triathlon Coach.
If you have a friend/spouse/significant other who is an athlete, there's a good chance that you have spent a weekend or two at a race, waking up early to cheer, stand on your feet, take pictures, carry around stuff for your athlete and eventually, finding yourself exhausting by the end of the event. Rain, heat, wind or shine, you have been there from start to finish and you know that spectating is hard work!
Although spectating makes for a long and tiring day, there's no better way to make memories and celebrate an accomplishment with someone who is close to you. Additionally, surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals or being around inspiring athletes can be very motivating. Although spectators don't receive medals, it's the spectators that help athletes get through the race (and make racing so much fun). In thinking back to all eleven of my Ironman events, it was the spectators and volunteers who kept me going during the low, dark times when I didn't think I could move forward with my tired body and kept me smiling during the good moments.
Because every athlete has his/her support crew (family, friends, teammates) to help out on race day, here are a few guidelines for your favorite spectathlete:
Follow the plan - Athletes are pretty regimented and they typically have a to-do list (or rituals) that need to get done before the race start. In order to keep your athlete relaxed and stress-free, be flexible, calm and easy-going and be available to help out your athlete whenever possible.
Be ok with a different schedule - Your athlete may have an itinerary for sleeping, eating and working out. This schedule may be different than what you are use to. For your athlete to get into his/her zone, try not to interfere with the planned (or changing) schedule.
Don't ask too many questions - Athletes can be a bit unpredictable on race week. One minute they are happy and outgoing and then next they are jumpy, anxious and easily bothered. The rush of emotions that an athlete experiences before a race is hard to anticipate so it's best to avoid asking questions like "what time will you finish" or "are you ready" as some questions may bring self-doubt, anxiety or worry.
Your athlete is not his/her normal self - It's easy to assume that your athlete is a changed person on race week and well, that's true. He/she is anxiously awaiting the event that he/she has trained for for many months and the time is finally here. Yes, your athlete will not be like his/her normal self and this ok. I assure you that after the race, your athlete will act more like him/herself but before the race, understand that your athlete may have a different personality, all in an effort to mentally and physically prepare for the upcoming race.
Scope out the course - Review the course maps and walk/drive some of the course before the race to determine the best spots for spectating. Your athlete may suggest for you to be (or not to be) at certain places on the course. You can also ask experienced spectators who have been to the event before for a recommend place to watch your athlete in action. Make sure to understand the layout of the finish line area (and cross walks) so that you don't miss your athlete at the finish line.
Track your athlete - Now a days, most events are using sophisticated tracking apps and systems to help you follow your athlete on race day. Understand the tracking technology ahead of time so that you can keep up with your athlete on his/her special day.
Review the athlete guide - Although the athlete guide is designed for the athlete, many of your questions can be answered in the athlete guide. You can learn about the race course, race start and other important details that will help you out on race day.
Be prepared for a long day - Although most spectators find that race day does go by quickly, it's still a long day when you consider when you wake-up until when you leave the race venue. It's important to dress appropriately for the day (anticipate a change in weather temps and conditions) and plan for idol time after the race when your athlete is recovering, waiting for awards or getting his/her stuff. Make sure to bring a portable phone charger to keep your phone charged all day, especially if using your phone for tracking and taking pictures. Research the area for places where you can rest, eat and explore during the race, but make sure you don't miss your athlete in action!
Fuel and hydrate like a pro - It's easy to let several hours go by without eating or drinking. No one wants to be around you when you get hangry. Make sure to bring along plenty of snacks and fluids for your day and extra money if you need to restock your food/drink supply.
Don't make assumptions - Anything can happen on race day. Don't give your athlete wrong information about a fellow competitor, tell your athlete where to turn on the course, give an update on his/her placement or make assumptions as to how his/her race is going unless you know that your athlete wants that information and it is accurate information. Give your athlete positive vibes all day and keep the cheers going until he/she crosses that finish line. Too much information/questions can distract/overwhelm an athlete from his/her race strategy but just the right amount of cheers (and supportive signs) can make for a fun day of racing. By now, hopefully you know how much energy to give your athlete. After the race, don't be quick to ask questions about the race. Show your support and excitement with a hug or a smile and give your athlete time to process the race. Eventually, he/she will be ready to give the run-down of the race.
Dream big (with your athlete) - Your athlete may not always show it but he/she appreciates your unconditional support. Truthfully, your athlete likely feels guilty from all the time spent away from friends/family throughout the training and this weighs heavy on the mind before the race. Make sure your athlete knows that you support him/her and that all that training was worth it and you will be there for your athlete until the finish line. Show your athlete how much you believe in them by being there for them at the race (even when you don't feel that needed). The more support, love and excitement you give your athlete, the more he/she will be able to race to his/her potential. Hopefully your athlete will show you his/her appreciation after the race with a big THANK YOU.
On Saturday morning, before heading out for a 3.5 hour brick workout with Karel and Thomas, I came across a quote that spoke loudly to me. It read, "Good things fall apart so that better things can fall together."
I think any athlete would agree that sports can be so exciting and fulfilling and also cruel and disappointing. But it's through the setbacks and failures that we develop a stronger and better appreciation for when things go well.
Although the sadness of not competing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship hit me hard for a few days, my mind was ready to move on once the cuts and bruises on my face finally healed. Setbacks are normal and I believe that you can only gain experience, wisdom and gratitude by going through the hard times. Tough times make you stronger!
If you have recently experienced a setback in your athletic journey, I give you permission to be upset, frustrated and disappointed. Negative emotions are normal but make sure to not to blame others or yourself. Process what happened, reflect and learn from it and then, when you are ready, it's time to move on. Don't be afraid to talk to a professional (sport/clinical psychologist) if you find yourself depressed or angry (especially for an extended period of time) because of your recent setback. Talking through your thoughts and emotions can be very therapeutic.
To move on from my recent setback, I needed to return back to my normal work and training routine (after getting permission from my doctor to resume back normal training). Having my routine back, seeing familiar faces and being in my home environment really helped me move on from the missed race.
After much discussion with Karel, I knew that I couldn't end my season with a DNS at my big race of the season. To be honest, I have felt a little bit empty without closure to my 2017 race season. I feel like something was taken away from me and I had no say in the matter and now I want another chance to race. After all my doc appointments and labs came back normal and I got the OK to race again, Karel helped me organize my thoughts after I physically and mentally recovered from my blackout and I have finally selected another race for my schedule (which I will announce later this week, just to remove any extra pressure off myself as I am naturally competitive and love to race and share my race experiences with others).
Since my accident appeared to be blood pressure related, likely vasovagal syncope, I would like to describe my missed race as a detour in my athletic journey. Setbacks are bound to happen to us all and when you experience a setback, you have two options: See it as a road closed sign and give up on your journey OR take the detour route.
I am embracing my detour in life and moving on. Thanks to many positive messages, emails and texts, I will grow and learn from this recent experience and I look forward to new and exciting experiences and opportunities with my body.
With Ironman Chattanooga in just two weeks, I was a little nervous about how Karel would manage his effort at the IM 70.3 WC as he is no stranger to giving a hard effort when he races. But I could tell from his attitude, especially after what happened to me on Saturday, that he was not going to take any risks and he was going to give a good effort, without leaving it all out there. Never has Karel raced a half Ironman just two weeks before an Ironman but there's a first for everything.
I set my alarm for 4am and slooooowly, got myself out of bed. Karel went through his normal pre-race routine of coffee (espresso), bathroom, food (for this race it was oatmeal + granola + almond butter + frozen raspberries) and then a short jog outside to help him move everything through his system. Karel also sipped on a scoop of OSMO pre load in water before we left the house.
At 5:15am, we headed down to the race venue. Although I was still bummed about not racing on Saturday, I was excited to use my tapered and fueled body to cheer for Karel. I just love watching Karel race and I was also excited to spectate our athlete Alvaro for his first 70.3 World Championship.
After Karel pumped up his tires and placed his 3 bottles of sport nutrition (2 bottles with Levelen, 1 bottle with INFINIT) and Garmin on his bike, we walked back to the car for Karel to relax. With Karel being in the 3rd wave (Pros, then PC athletes and then Male 40-44), Karel had enough time to not feel rushed but at the same time, the early morning went by quickly before it was time for Karel to head back down to the water.
Prior to walking to the water, Karel did another jog warm-up to get his system going. Around 6:30a, we walked down to Ross's Landing, where we stood around until Karel walked over to the corral for the start of his wave.
Al getting ready for his first 70.3 WC but playing it smart as he also has IM Chatty approaching.
Karel was a little worried about not being able to get into the water before the race as his pre-race swim has been a ritual for him to get a good feel of the water and to adjust the wetsuit but I brought a bottle of water for him to pour inside of his wetsuit so that he could avoid the "sucking" feeling of the wetsuit being tight on the chest when he entered the water. Karel received his swim cap after entering the corral and lined up in the sub 30 minute group of men in his AG.
It was awesome to see the pros go off and then the PC athletes and before we knew it, Karel was in the water (still loving the Ironman tracker app!). With this being a rolling wave start, a small group of athletes dove (or jumped) into the water every 15 seconds.
After wishing Karel good luck and to have a great race, it was time for my spectating duties to begin!
It was fun to have so many Trimarnis out on the sidelines to cheer - including Kona, the furry spectator. Campy stayed back at our rental house so that I could put all my energy into Karel.
I couldn't believe it when my phone chimed to let me know that Karel was out of the water in 30 minutes! I was thinking that Karel would be happy with sub 34 minutes but I knew he would be thrilled with his 30 minute swim. Karel said that the current didn't feel too strong in either direction but he was certainly swimming faster (per his Garmin) on the way back to the swim exit. Karel was surprised that he felt so good in the water and even more shocked that he was passing athletes as soon as he dove into the water. What a great confidence booster, especially since Karel has been working so hard on his swim for many years.
Since my athlete Meredith was spectating on Saturday, she knew all the hot spots for us to go in order to see the athletes on the course. After we saw Al, we waited a few more minutes for Karel. We caught Karel after he grabbed his blue bike gear bag and ran up the ramp to the changing area and quickly after, we sprinted our way to the bike out area to catch Karel get on his bike. As Karel was running to his bike, he took in 1 Enervitene cheerpack.
It was impressive to watch Karel do his first ever flying mount on his bike and naturally, he looked like he had been doing it all his life. I guess being a former cyclist has it's benefits - anything on the bike feels/looks natural.
There wasn't a lot of waiting around after Karel got on his bike because I wanted to watch the professional men run up the hill as they started their run. I walked to my car to grab a snack (PBJ sandwich and a yogurt) and then walked to the hill under the blue wooden bridge.
While we watched the pros, I was keeping track of Karel on the tracker and I was really impressed with the bike ride that he was having. In most of Karel's races, his back is his limiter as it tends to tighten up as he pushes, which keeps him from riding the race that he is capable of riding. Although he had some back tightness in the last 10 miles of the ride, Karel felt really good on this bike course. He told me later on that he just loved this bike course and it was just perfect for him as it suited his riding style. There were lots of opportunities for Karel to sit up and get out of the saddle and other places to use his skills. In addition to his liquid sport nutrition, Karel had a pack of Skratch chews, 3 HOT SHOTS (in a squeezable flask) and an Enervitene cheerpack. He did not grab any other water or nutrition on the course. Since the first chunk of the bike course is very similar to what we ride on in Greenville, SC, Karel was really happy out on his bike, which made racing a lot of fun for him. The weather was cool in the morning but just perfect for the 56 mile bike ride. Karel never felt too hot or cold.
After Karel got off his bike, his running legs came to him rather quickly and he settled into a rhythm for the first out and back section out of the transition. I was shocked to see Karel in 14th place off the bike and I couldn't wait to share this information with him when I saw him. Although a part of me was worried about telling him that he was close to being in the top 10 of his age group because I didn't want him to dig too deep, I knew that Karel would process the information and be smart with his race effort. Somehow, Karel always knows how to put together a great race.
We gave Karel a big cheer as we saw him run up the hill and he looked calm and in control. After the race, Karel told me that he just loved the run course and he felt great all day. Since our terrain includes lots of hills where we run, Karel put himself into a familiar environment and just settled into a strong effort, without taking any risks or digging too deep.
As I saw Karel finish up loop one of two after crossing the bridge I noticed on the tracker that he was moving up in his age group. Although there were some faster guys in the top 5, I was feeling confident that Karel could move into the top 10 - which would be a huge accomplishment, seeing that there were over 400 guys in his age group.
Karel was running super steady and it was impressive to track him throughout the 13.1 mile run. With every mile as the race went on, it seemed like Karel was getting stronger and faster. Since Karel was saving one extra gear throughout the race, he put it into that extra gear just for the last 3 miles. Because of the wave/rolling start, Karel was not sure where he was in his age group but that really wasn't a focus for him as he was racing. His goal was to put together a solid race to build confidence for IM Chattanooga in two weeks.
For sport nutrition, Karel used Precision Hydration 1500 (in two flasks) and 2 Enervitene cheerpacks (in 1 flask) throughout the race. He wanted to use LEVELEN on the run but because Karel was not able to access his gear bags on race morning, he used the Precision Hydration instead. Karel did not use any coke/red bull on the course as he felt energized all day. He felt very comfortable out on the course (temperature wise) and only used water to sip on and cool his neck a few times throughout the run.
With Al being just a few miles behind Karel, we secured a great spot at the finish line to watch Karel (and then Al) run down the magical red carpet and across the finish line. A few guys went by and finally, there was Karel.
In typically Karel fashion, he was running strong. Later I told Karel that he was less than 30 seconds away from 6th place! He joked "oh man, maybe I should have ran harder."
After we met up with Karel, he looked really good. Not too beat up and walking semi-normally. I told him about his 8th place finish and he couldn't believe it. He was in shock that he was 8th in his AG, especially on a day when he felt in control and so good all day. Karel felt like not having any pressure on himself to perform well and not digging too deep really helped him pace the race and put together one of his best half Ironman performances.
For the last part of Karel's race, I completely forgot about my face and the accident which kept me from racing on Saturday. I was just so happy for Karel that he had such a great day of racing. Although Karel was really sad for me that I could not race on this course, we are a team and when one of us succeeds, we both feel like winners. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Karel had a few nice words with Jesse Thomas after the race and then we got a picture together.
Karel wasn't interested in any food after the race so he drank a Cheribundi recovery drink that I had brought for him and about 30 minutes later, he sipped on a coke to keep his blood sugar up. It wasn't too long after Karel finished that Al crossed the finish line.
It was so much fun to share the race with Meredith, Natalie, Peggy, Leyla, Leigh Ann, my mom, Stephanie and Laura, along with others that I saw on and off the course. Thank you Stephanie G for some of these pics!
The IM 70.3 World Championship was an incredible experience. Even though I didn't get to race, it was still one for the memory books. Since we returned home, I have had blood work, BP testing with my sport doc and an EKG with a cardiologist. Everything came back good and I am otherwise healthy, minus the scary blacking out episode that occurred on race day. The docs contributed it to getting up to fast with low blood pressure. Hopefully just a one time accident. I also received the OK to resume back normal training and permission to race again this season!
Since the race, Karel's recovery has been going well as he gears up for his last race of his season. As to be expected, he has waves of feeling good and then being tired but his recovery started just a few hours after the race when he had on his training plan to do a 90 minute EZ spin to help flush his legs.
Now that the 70.3 World Championship event is behind us, we have to get ready for another trip to Tennessee. On September 24th (two days after Karel turns 41!), it's time for Ironman Chattanooga!
A BIG thank you to our
2017 Trimarni sponsors and affiliates:
-Run In - for helping us with all of our running needs -New Wave Swim Buoy - for keeping us safe and seen in the open water -Mg12 - for helping our muscles stay relaxed -Clif Bar - for quality ingredients in quality sport nutrition -Cheribundi - for providing a safe, natural and delicious way to reduce inflammation -Veronica's Health Crunch - for the most delicious hand made crunch - ever! -Infinit - for customizable sport nutrition -Levelen - for helping us optimize our hydration needs through sweat testing -Hot Shot - for keeping Karel cramp-free! -Solestar - for maximum stability, better power transmission -Boco Gear - for helping us race in style -Canari - for the most comfortable, functional and stylish gear
On Friday morning, I woke up feeling excited that I only had one more sleep until race day. While I loved the idea of having women and men race on separate days, it was a little strange to think that I would not be racing with Karel, on the same day. But at the same time, I was super excited to give my best effort on race day (Saturday) and then get back out there on Sunday to cheer for Karel.
The morning started with us driving a few miles downtown so that we could get in a bike and swim workout. As we were driving to the race venue, I felt a little short of breath but I simply contributed it to nerves and my menstrual cycle (day 3). In other words, everything that I felt on Friday felt very normal to me. Once we got on our bikes, I felt much better and the excitement replaced the nerves/anxiety and I was itching to race. After our 70 minute spin on the race course, we followed it up with an open water swim. We heard the water temp had dropped and there was a good chance it would be wetsuit legal but we only brought our speedsuits/swimskins to the practice swim (wetsuits back at the rental house). Thankfully, the water felt great without a wetsuit. Karel and I swam together, one loop of the pre-race swim course (about 15-20 minutes - I didn't wear a watch). The current was not as strong as our practice swim on Wednesday and I felt very good in the water. Once we exited the water, it was time to head back to the car and then back to our rental house to eat.
I had a delicious breakfast of potatoes, eggs and lots of fruit with yogurt. Karel headed down to the race venue without me so that he could help out his friend Roman from Czech (the one who received a rolldown slot for Kona in Karel's age group) who was getting his new Ventum. Karel needed to translate for him and help him out so as Karel was at the race venue, I relaxed with Campy and repacked my gear bags. I was a little frustrated that we could not access our gear bags on race morning, which meant that I had to fill up my hydration belt flasks on Friday to leave overnight but I didn't let it stress me out. There's no point wasting energy on things out of my control.
My friend and athlete Natalie picked me up so that we could both go down to the bike/gear bag check-in together. Of course, Campy went along for the ride, along with Natalie's 8-month puppy Kona. It felt great having Campy with us as he keeps me calm and relaxed.
When we arrived, we met up with Karel and he was put on dog-watching duty as Natalie and I checked in our gear bags and bike. It was a cool experience to be rolling my bike into a 70.3 World Championship transition area and I was getting more and more excited to race.
After setting up our stuff, I waited for Karel to be finished with helping Roman at Ventum, which worked out great as my mom (and my athlete/friend Meredith) was soon to arrive to the race venue. We headed back to our rental house around 4pm and then it was time to relax for the rest of the evening.
Seeing that my appetite had been great all race week, it was not hard for me to eat my pre-race meal of tempeh and basmati rice - nice and simple. An hour or so later, I was feeling a little hungry so I snacked on saltine crackers, with a little peanut butter. I spent most of the evening in bed, relaxing and visualizing myself on the race course. Around 8pm, I was ready to fall asleep and surprisingly, I went to bed very quickly and slept great on the night before the race.
My plan for the morning was for my mom and I to get picked up by Natalie so that Karel could sleep in and do his own thing as he needed to get ready for his race on Sunday. I asked Karel to be on the run course to cheer me on but other than that, I didn't need to see him at the race.
When my alarm went off at 4am, I got up very quick out of bed because I didn't want to wake-up Karel. Campy was not thrilled with my early wake-up so he just stayed in bed with Karel.
After I got out of bed, I grabbed my iPad and phone and went right to the closet where I had my race outfit in a bag. Within less than a minute of getting out of bed, I bent over to get my clothes and then headed to the bathroom, which was attached to our bedroom.
I felt a little dizzy when I got up but I didn't think too much of it as my mind was in race mode and I was so focused on my pre-race routine before Natalie arrived at 5:15am.
When I went into the bathroom, I shut the door to the bedroom so that I wouldn't wake up Karel and sat on the toilet to go t the bathroom. I started to feel the same dizziness from a minute earlier as I was emptying my bladder. After I washed my hands, I rinsed off my face, hoping that the cold water would wake me up.
After washing my face, I don't remember what happened next as it was around 4:10am when I woke up, realizing that I was on the kitchen floor, just outside of the bathroom, flat down on the ground.
As I woke up from my blackout, still laying flat down on the ground, I wasn't fully with it so my immediate reaction was "I am very tired but very comfortable on the floor so I will just stay here for a few minutes and sleep." I actually remember reaching for my phone and setting the alarm to wake me up at 4:15am. I didn't have the race on my mind as I was so sleepy. After setting my alarm, I felt the taste of blood in my mouth and touched the inside of my lip and didn't understand why I had blood inside of my mouth. I didn't put together the pieces that I was not in bed and was on the kitchen floor with a bloody lip but because I was so tired, I convinced myself that I needed a little more sleep and I was totally cool with sleeping on the floor (apparently, at the time it felt as comfy as a mattress).
Around 4:14am, before my alarm went off, I felt like I had enough energy to stand up. I slowly got up and walked to the bathroom to check out my face. Since the light was on in the bathroom, I immediately saw my face and well, it did not look good. The inside of my lip was sliced open, I had bruises on the left side of my face and the top of my nose was cut. I was starting to slowly comprehend what had happened but because this had never happened before, I was still so confused about the situation.
I opened the door to the bedroom and woke-up Karel by telling him "Ummm, Karel, I think we have a problem. I fainted and hit my face on the floor." I felt so bad for waking up Karel but he was so scared about what had just happened to me and felt so upset that he didn't get up with me to help me out when I blacked out.
I made my way back in bed as I was so exhausted and I couldn't help but think about the race that I had dedicated my entire year to, was about to start in 3 hours. Karel immediately called Natalie to tell her not to pick me up and that I would not be racing. To be honest, even though I was upset why this had to happen on this day, I was so exhausted and my face felt like I was punched in the face, that the thought of racing wasn't very appealing.
I laid in bed until 5am and at that point, Karel wanted me to get something in my belly. I wasn't sure how eating or drinking would work with my busted lip but I gathered some energy and headed to the kitchen to drink a glass of OJ along with a waffle with syrup. Since this was part of my pre-race meal, I started to think that maybe I could still race. I was still so upset about the situation and a big part of me still wanted to race. I texted Natalie not to tell the officials that I wasn't racing yet, even though Karel told her earlier that there was no way that I was racing. After eating/drinking, I still felt so tired and empty and after much discussion with Karel, we decided that racing was not a smart idea. Something was wrong with my body and no race was worth compromising my health even more so that it was already compromised.
I made my way to the couch with my iPad and turned on the live broadcast of the Pro female race. Even though I was not racing, I still wanted to watch the race. I was dealing with a lot of waves of emotions, especially after I told our athletes/team and on my Trimarni page that I would not be racing. There were some tears and my heart ached at the situation that I was put in as I couldn't help but think "Why on this day??"
Karel was so shocked by the situation and he did not want to leave me but by 8:30am or so, I told him to go out on his bike and get in his pre-race warm-up. Although Karel managed to spin his legs, his head was not in the right place and he was so sad for me as he was confident that I would have a great race and that this course was just perfect for me. Karel felt so bad for me as we spent the morning together on the couch, watching the race and tracking Trimarni athletes Natalie and Stephanie, along with some of our other female friends who were racing.
Saturday morning was one of the most scariest and hardest days that I have ever experienced as a triathlete. I have never missed the start of a race before in my 11 years of endurance racing and never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that this would be how I would miss the start of a race. Although part of me was trying to put together the pieces as to why this happened - was it low blood volume related to my menstrual cycle, low blood pressure or something else - I couldn't stop saying to Karel "I should be racing right now." It was a sad and frustrating morning and as the day went on, it became more and more difficult to handle.
Around 2pm, I felt like I was ready to get out of the house as I was feeling almost back to normal (besides feeling like I was punched in the face) so I headed down to the race venue with Karel, my mom and Campy as it was time for Karel to check-in his bike. Karel was not in his normal race mode due to my fall in the morning but there was no way that I would let him miss his race as I needed him to race for the both of us.
As I walked to the transition area, tears started to flow into my eyes as I saw the many female age groupers walking around with their finisher medals. I didn't think I would be so emotional but it was very hard to process the fact that I had just missed out on the race that I had dedicated my entire season to. As I was picking up my bike and unused gear bags, I ran into several of my friends who had raced and had to explain the situation of me not racing over and over again. Although it was tough to hear myself say that I didn't race, somehow, talking about my fall and hearing the reactions from others who were concerned about me, was very therapeutic. Although I was still grieving about not racing, I knew I had made the right decision not to race as I am a huge proponent of health first, performance second. As the day went on, I started to physically feel a lot better (although tired all day). By evening, I was so exhausted, mentally and physically and I was quick to fall asleep.....but not quick to get out of bed on Sunday morning.
I want to thank everyone who texted, emailed and commented to me on social media. It means so much. I am not one who likes to make excuses or talk about my problems but it really helped to share my story and to hear from so many of you who have experienced something similar or expressed your sympathy.
Now that I feel completely back to normal (ego is healed and my face is healing), I have already started my process of trying to figure out what happened by getting blood work done on Monday, seeing my sport doc on Tues and today, I will see a cardiologist. I am hoping that there is nothing underlying going on and it's either blood pressure related (freak accident) or related to my fluctuating hormones/menstrual cycle (ex. blood volume/blood pressure). If you know me, I am very passionate about the sport of triathlon. This sport means so much to me and I really don't want my season to end like this. So far, everything is coming back normal so if the cardiologist doesn't find anything serious/alarming, I should have the OK by my doc that I can get another race on my calendar to finish out my season. I'll be sure to keep you updated on my health but in the mean time, I have Karel's race report to write and it's a good one!!
Sometimes you will be able to address something specific that negatively affected your race performance and other times, you may have done everything right in training, yet on race day, the results were what you hoped for. When things do not go your way on race day, you are presented with a unique opportunity
to learn about yourself as an athlete.
Here are few tips to
help you learn from a race that did not go as you had planned.
you constantly dwell on what should have/could have happened, you will never accept what
you need to change or be able to move on. If you went into your race healthy, injury
free and fit, you may see your race as a failure if you did not meet your
predicted race outcome or feel a certain way on race day. For other athletes,
who may have experience a setback, inconsistent training or a challenge in the
training journey, you may find yourself unappreciative for your current
abilities, considering all that you have been through in the past. Regardless if you started or finished your race, reflect on your season as a whole instead of focusing on just one race. Once you reflect
with an open mind, discuss your thoughts, concerns and areas of improvement
with your coach. Talking is healing and therapeutic. It's ok to grieve and to be upset. Don't let
a bad race fill you with self-doubt. Assess and then use your last performance as motivation
for your next training block as you believe in your ability to succeed and learn that
racing is much more than a finishing time - and sometimes the success doesn't come from finishing but simply getting to the start line.
Don't rush recovery - It's very
typical for athletes to feel the need to jump right back into training (or
register for another race) in an effort to redo what didn't go well in the
previous race. There may be some good in this if a health issue (that is now resolved) set you back or you are unable to finish a
race due to a mechanical/gear issue or bad weather cancels your race and you
want to use your accumulated fitness. But always put your health first and if you do not get the results that
you wanted, be respectful to your body after the race for you need to recover
from the physical and emotional stress on your body. What you do after a race
determines how well you will perform in your next race. A DNS, DNF or bad race teaches you to
celebrate the good races. During your recovery, work on your confidence and
self belief to ensure that you come back to training with excitement and
appreciation for what your body can do.
Don't take it out on your body - It's very easy to get mad at your body if it doesn't perform like you wanted or if it lets you down before or during a race. Accept that not every
race will be a "great race". As an athlete, it's not a guarantee that you will always get to the finish, let alone the start line. Racing is a puzzle with
many pieces contributing to your race day performance. What you do before the
race can be just as important as what you do on race day. Not always do the pieces of the puzzle need to
be tightly in place for you to perform well but be sure all the pieces of the
puzzle are in front of you, so that you don't hope for a good result but
instead, set yourself up for success. And if something happens before or during the race, discuss with a professional who can help you figure out what went wrong.
Keep your eyes on your short and long
term goals - Sometimes you have to change the plan but never change the goals.
When a race doesn't go as planned, let your post race feelings bring
intense motivation and commitment to mastering your training, mental strength,
skills and nutrition/fueling for your next race. Consider your season as a
whole and don't just look at your season as "one race". With a global
approach to your season, make every race count but don't count on performing
amazingly well at every race. Set small, meaningful goals to reach along the
way to help you acknowledge that your training is working for you. Don't just
focus on the metrics or race outcome but consider little things, that perhaps
you once were unable to do (or never thought to do) before or on race day. The body is an amazing thing and it puts up with a lot to help you do incredible things with it.
expectations - No matter the race priority or what happens on
race day, your race doesn't define you as an athlete. When you can manage your
expectations, you can easily navigate through the obstacles that arise on race
day. No race can be planned for as your body has to perform under the circumstances
that it is given. A good or bad race can often be decided by the weather,
competition and course, your health and not necessarily by your current level of fitness or how hard you trained to prepare. To help you enjoy your developmental
journey, avoid comparing yourself to other athletes or a past version of
yourself. Make no assumptions for race day and understand that racing is more
about the process than the outcome. Your finishing time does not define you as
an athlete. Throughout your athletic career/hobby, there will be many ups and
downs in training and on race day. Some races will go amazingly well and some
races will be hard to forget. Just because you don't meet a time or place
goal, didn't start or didn't finish, don't assume that your race was a failure. In other words, instead of seeing a race as either
"good" or "bad", consider a new definition that helps you
learn from race to race and to find success in every race experience. A
disappointing race can leave you with a mix of uncomfortable feelings but you have it within you to effectively move forward with confidence that no matter what happens on race day, you can make
the most of every situation and learn something from every experience.
There are many times in life when we can plan, prepare and perform. Times like these make life easy and fun. And then there are times when life throws you a curve ball and you can't help but think "this sucks."
As a lifelong athlete, I have experienced a lot of success in sport but I have also learned many important life skills and lessons. The hardest lessons are often the most valuable ones, as it's never easy to overcome obstacles and to manage a setback.
This weekend was filled with highs and lows. As much as I wish I could be writing two race reports from the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, I can only write Karel's race recap and not my own.
As you may have heard on social media, on Saturday morning (race day for me), a few minutes after my 4am alarm went off, I blacked out and ended up on the kitchen floor. My face took a good beating and since this has never happened before, it was very scary. I was alone when I got out of bed so when I woke up from my accident, it was hard to tell Karel that something was wrong as I knew he would be very worried and scared. Karel was quick to tell me that I was not going to race. I agreed with him but to be honest, the decision included some tears. I've dedicated my entire season to this race and since we arrived on Tuesday, every day made me more and more excited to race on this tough course with so many fit and strong female athletes. I felt in great shape, my mind was mentally committed and to be honest, I was just telling Karel how healthy and strong I feel going into this race. And then comes that curveball, out of the blue.
I've always believed that a setback paves that way to a comeback. Unfair situations help us grow into the person that we are destined to become. Without a setback, we wouldn't learn about our health, our strengths, our weaknesses, etc. But more importantly, when an opportunity is stolen from you, that emptiness that you feel, typically filled with sadness and heartache, eventually becomes full again with a good or better feeling.
Like with most things in life, time heals. Although a part of me will continue to grieve for the loss of not participating in my first IM 70.3 World Championship, I am thankful for all of the kind words and support from Trimarni followers, my Trimarni athletes/teammates, my family and most importantly, Karel.
Although physically I was feeling back to normal a few hours after I fainted, I was still devastated that I was not able to race. Picking up my bike and my gear bags on Saturday afternoon was tough - tougher than I imagined it would be. But, I could not have been more thankful that I had Karel's race to watch on Sunday. I just love watching Karel race and being out there with Trimarni athletes Natalie and Stephanie (who raced on Sat) and also watching Trimarni athlete Al on the course, along with my spectating buddies Meredith, Peggy, my mom, Leigh Ann, Leyla and Laura, and running into some familiar faces, was exactly what I needed. I needed to surround myself with others, smile, laught and watch the sport that I am so passionate about. I was happy to be out on the course - even if it was just on the sidelines.
As for Karel's race - what a race it was! Karel raced very smart and although he did not take it easy, he did not dig deep or take any risks as he has Ironman Chattanooga in 2 weeks, which is a very important race for him. Well, this strategy of racing smart and pacing well paid off as Karel put together an unbelievable performance, placing him 8th in his age group (40-44) out of 403 athletes (and less than 30 seconds away from 6th place!). Karel looked comfortable, in control and confident all day, on a course that suited his strengths.
I'll be writing more about the race weekend but for now, here are Karel's race stats:
Travel After an early morning bike/run workout (~90 minutes) and a massage, it was time to pack up the car and head off to Chatty! We left on Tuesday morning to drive 4.5 hours up and over to Chattanooga (through Knoxville). For our first time to Chatty, the drive was scenic and we had little traffic. The only negative to our drive was the pouring rain that lasted the last 3 hours of our drive. Thankfully, we made it to our rental house safely, around 5pm. Campy is joining us for our trip because he does a great job of keeping us both calm and stress-free on race week.
Nutrition To make it easy for us, I did some grocery shopping and a lot of meal prep on Monday before we left. Although we have a kitchen at our rental house, I wanted to avoid the hassle of grocery shopping when we arrived and then making food each day. Having a stocked fridge as soon as we arrived was a great thing and it made it easy to get to bed early for a good night of sleep on Tuesday evening. We won't be eating out during our time in Chatty before the race so all meals and snacks will be in our control and we will stick to our normal daily diet and pre-race diet as we both know what foods work best for us. We have lots of food for snacks (ex. fruit, yogurt, pita chips, raisins, chocolate) and meals (potatoes, eggs, chicken for Karel, tempeh for me, waffles, croissants, bread, soup, rice, cheese, OJ, milk, hardboiled eggs, eggs, pizza, Kefir, nut butter, syrup, etc.) so eating is familiar and easy to accomplish every day.
Wednesday For our first official day in Chatty, we drove the 5.5 miles down to the race venue/village with our bike and swim gear for a longish morning workout. Our athlete Natalie met us at the swim. I really looked forward to getting in the water and experiencing the changing current. The water temperature felt great in my swimskin and I enjoyed the challenge of navigating the current, especially with it to my side or swimming against the current. After the swim, I was a little chilly (as the air temp was in the 60's) but I reminded myself that on race day, I would warm up fast. Plus, I wanted to practice in my same gear as race day (one piece tri suit and same sport bra) to feel comfortable swimming with sleeves and a swimskin, in the case that it is not wetsuit legal (which I am hoping for). After the swim, we all got ready for a 2ish hour bike on the course. I was really looking forward to getting on the course and experiencing "the climb". Although I had a rough few weeks around the time I was racing Lake Logan half Ironman, my legs have really come around and I am itching to push hard and race. I took it rather easy on the climb to save my legs a bit for Saturday and wanted to soak in the view before I am laser focused on race day. After "the climb", there was another long section of rolling hills, with about 4 big kickers. I couldn't help but think "am I in Greenville?" as the terrain is very familiar to me and reminds me of our normal routes in Greenville (just with less farm animals but I did manage to say hi to a few horses and saved a baby turtle). We covered the first 18 miles of the course (and warmed up nicely) and then turned around to head back to the venue. Natalie and I checked in and picked up our bag and we briefly checked out the expo as we were all ready for some food. As for the rest of the day, it included eating, laying around and relaxing. Campy had a little playdate with Natalie's dog Kona which was fun to see Campy (who is 10) play with an 8-month puppy. It was early to bed and we slept great (about 9 hours).
Thursday After previewing the swim venue and some of the bike, I was anxious to get out on the run course. Around 8am, we parked near the village and met Natalie for an early morning spin. It was rather cold out (in the upper 50's) but it warmed up nicely as the morning went on. Like the bike course, the run was marked with arrows so it was easy to find our way around (although we did get turned around a few times). Like I was told, the course is hilly but once again, it reminded me of my terrain in Greenville and the type of run course that I love to run on in my races. As we covered the course, I couldn't help but think "this is going to be a tough run" and then I followed that thought with "I am so excited to run two loops on this!" Karel keeps telling me that this course could not be better designed for me as it is very challenging and requires great strength, smart skills and resilience over speed so Karel's confidence in me is getting me very excited to race. And the weather couldn't be more perfect for race day. After we biked the run course, we went for a shake out run. Karel ran by himself and Natalie and I did 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back on the run course, just nice and easy, all conversational pace. The course, although very challenging, is also very pretty. I imagine that the course will be lined with spectators in certain areas of the course, which will be great for an energy boost on race day. After the morning workout, Natalie and I strolled through the expo and merchandise tent as Karel checked in for the race. Around 11:30am, we left the venue, headed to Wholefoods for a few items and then made it back to our rental house around 12:30pm. The rest of the day included eating, a little work on the computer and in a few hours, I will enjoy my pre-race pizza and then we will head downtown for the mandatory pre-race athlete meeting at 8pm.
I am getting super excited to race and I can't help but think back to my previous training and all the hard work that went into the preparation for this race. Years of experience and a season of athletic development to get to where I am right now. No matter the outcome, I feel excited, healthy, fit and confident and I am looking forward to the opportunity to race my competition in the 35-39 age group and give my best, with what I am given on race day.
Here are some pictures from the last few days:
Karel's new Wacaco nanopresso. Now he can enjoy an espresso when we travel.
Road trip from one mountain view to another.
Snack for the car.
Room with a view.
Recovery coach says it's time for a nap.
My go-to pre-workout meal.
We have arrived!
Time to preview some of the bike course.
Riding to "the climb"
Up I go!
What a view of Rock City Waterfall near the top of the climb.
Potty stop - well hydrated and fueled after 2.5 hours of riding on Wednesday.
Campy loves his new race tee. Thank you Natalie!
All checked in!
Love the race theme - An adventure for your soul.
Hand written drawing from a local school kid.
Two lap dogs. One is 12 lbs and the other is 40.
Thank you Hot Shot for our goodies!
Exploring the run course.
View from the run course.
Over the bridge on the run course.
Over another bridge on the run course.
Must stop for a high five.
More from the run course.
Conversational pace run makes it OK to stop for pictures (coach approved).
Back to athlete check-in for Karel.
Race week tradition - love Mojo bars (all flavors)!
So much signage around the city.
Someone couldn't wait to eat.
Post workout meal - Icelandic yogurt, french brioch bread (cinnamon and cheese) and lots of fruit.