Thursday, November 2, 2017

Salinas World Cup Race Recap

I will begin with sharing how excited I am to have experienced my debut world cup with my coach, Ken Axford, giving me guidance. It is amazing to think how far we have come together; I still remember being an average age group 19 year-old when I first approached Ken. The rest is history...

We were planning to wait until next season to race my first world cup, but Salinas ended up working out, given it is a sprint distance event, and Ken was able to travel to the event. I don't have a fancy recap, but all I can say is I gave it my everything, and given that I was unfortunately still battling a virus and 70% healthwise, I am pleased to come away with a top 20.

The swim:

  • Had an average swim start. Looking back I wish I had reacted better and gotten a step ahead
  • Got boxed in and was stuck in the mix for majority of the swim. As Ken tells me, chaos is good. If you are in the chaos that means you are in the race.
  • Swam with main chase until the last buoy where I unfortunately fell off pace
  • exited the water 15 seconds down from the first chase with second chase pack

The bike:
  • had a solid pack including Neres, Yelistratova, and Hauser. I truly believed we could bridge up, but for whatever reason the pack could not get organized
  • a little sketchy with a few crashes, so did my best to stay safe
  • 15 seconds grew to over a minute deficit unfortunately

The run:

  • Everyone seemed to go out sprinting, but I followed my typical race plan and went out controlled
  • slowly picked off girls throughout the last lap of the run
  • body hit the wall with 400m left
  • ran my way up to 19th and was passed in finishing shoot to finish 20th

Final Review:
I had wished that I had swam slightly stronger, but also given it was an accurate course, a 10:15 swim ( including beach exit) is a PR for me, so I will gladly celebrate that. Each and every race is a learning experience and another growth opportunity. My body is a little tired from illness and travel, so the focus for the next week is to remain active but recovery is priority. I am motivated to take the lessons I have learned into my next and final race of the season, Santo Domingo on November 12th! I'm ready to fight like a dog and to give it my everything.

entering T2
onto the run

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Champions Adapt-Hong Kong ASTC Triathlon

I am writing this recap from the confines of my bed, with my humidifier running, a cup of tea, and our house pup, Dobby on my lap :)

Over a week ago, I was thrilled to have finally made it to taper for the first time in a long time. I have always seemed to struggle with the final week of training before taper; my body is tired physically and mentally from pushing for so long and I tend to need to begin my taper early. Not this time. It was a brutal workout in which we did some parking lot races (crit style), and ended with 20 minute bike races but having my teammate, Amy Cymerman, to push me helped me greatly. It took about 1.5 hours to execute the whole workout, and I fought hard to execute a solid workout. It felt like a huge success to make it through that. After the workout I struggled with the normal exercise-induced cough; it wasn't until the next day I realized I was starting to become sick.

The timing couldn't have been worse, given I was set to depart for Hong Kong on Monday, October 16th and racing Saturday October 21st. I was extremely frustrated and feeling sorry for myself, but despite starting to get sick, I decided to board the plane. My health deteriorated during that 15 hour flight, which felt like torture. I am grateful that I had my mom with me for the trip. Unfortunately she fell ill too though. I did my best to rest and stay hydrated all week, sipping on my daily hydration mix from Infinit Nutrition.

how I spent most of the week
The two of us spent that entire week leading into the race in bed in the hotel room. I barely slept for the four nights leading into the race, as my cough got worse, congestion worsened, and I developed a fever. The whole week felt like a fog to me; I have never been so ill while abroad. In my heart I knew that the race was not going to go well, and I believed it was highly unlikely I would finish, let alone get to the start line. My Coach Ken Axford and my mom helped me find the courage to commit to racing, for I was fearful. I struggled to hold even 6 minute pace on my run during race prep, so I had no reason to be confident. My swim has been my focus for a while, and for whatever reason that was what felt the best all week, which was great!

My alarm sounded at 3:30 am on race-day, though I was awake already for hours with a cough. The athletes boarded the shuttle from the hotel at 4 am for the 35 min ride to the venue. I listened to music and closed my eyes, but couldn't seem to get the anxiety out of my mind. I texted Ken telling him that I was incredibly fearful and that "if I can execute today, I can do anything." He reminded me that I might actually surprise myself and that there was nothing to be afraid of, for my body will only give what it can. Ken has never steered me wrong so I trusted him. He gave me the courage to go out there when I was probably only 50% healthwise.

I did minimal race warm-up prep to conserve my energy, but I made sure to know the course and rode one lap of the bike course. The gun went off and my body knew what to do. I stayed calm and strong on the swim, and due to a cross current, I had to do a number of cross-overs before finding my position and getting on feet. Two girls broke away on the swim, but I exited with the lead pack for the first time! I couldn't believe it. I gave my mom a thumbs up.

Transition was a mess since it was the width of a sidewalk split in two, so only one bike could make it through at a time. I sprinted to try to stay with the top five girls, but was unable to pass others because of the narrowness. Due to the set-up of transition, this caused a split in the lead pack. We spent three laps chasing and we eventually caught the first pack on the end of the third lap. The two leading girls were still out front. I did my best to stay safe on the bike but there were some sketchy areas due to the nature of a narrow bike course and a language barrier between riders. I made a sprint to get to the front before T2, only to get held up by an ambulance which jumped in front of the pack. How frustrating! We slammed our brakes and the group came together once again. We all entered transition together and it was chaos for we couldn't pass one another and we were tripping over bikes and shoes.

I started out controlled on the run and built up my pace once I felt a bit better but I knew I couldn't run much faster than 5:50 pace given how my lungs and energy felt. I was determined to finish. I found my rhythm and I ran my way up from around 15th to 9th place. About 800m from the finish, my hamstrings began to cramp up; this was certainly related to illness and not my fitness. I knew I needed to stay calm if I wanted to finish. I was passed back by two girls near the finish line, and I crossed in 11th. I wasn't disappointed because I knew my body gave whatever it could on the day. I was physically and emotionally exhausted though.

Post-race my mom and I spent much of our time in the steamroom at the hotel (thank goodness for that) and eating + hydrating. Though we were both sick for the entire trip, I feel it was quite an experience for both of us being in Hong Kong for the first time and I wouldn't change what we went through because I feel these experiences make me stronger as person and athlete. I am learning that ITU triathlon is all about adaptability; champions adapt.

My key takeaways from this experience are the following:

  • trust your body and trust your coach- you've trained thousands of hours and your muscles know what to do
  • be relentless!!! Be mentally tough. 
  • life is 1% what happens to you 99% how you react to it
  • the mind is stronger than you think, and you are capable of more than you believe
  • if racing sick, do whatever you can to stay hydrated leading up to the race. Drink electrolytes and tea whenever possible.  I train and race with Infinit Nutrition. I also have a daily hydration mix which I sipped on all week.
  • don't push yourself to do pre-race workouts if you are ill. Limit all exercise and keep duration short to simply activate the muscles
  • when the gun goes off, turn off the negative thoughts, and allow your body to do what it knows how to do
I am eager to recover so I can be well enough to race Salinas World Cup this Sunday. Given my current recovery, things are looking up! I have never been more proud of a finisher medal than I am from the one I received this week. I now know that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. We all are.

Never been more proud of a finisher medal
mom and I post race

During call down

narrow transition

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tips For a First Year Pro Triathlete

It has been a while since I have had the time and experience to share my thoughts of my first year out of college and my first professional athletic season with the general public. It has been a year of highs and lows and what I have learned to realize is that I would rather live an exciting life of highs and lows, given the nature of my lifestyle, than to have a monotone but stable existence.

I will begin with my biggest struggle, that being the divorce of my parents and the ripping apart of the single stabilizing force in my life. My family is everything to me, and though at times I handle this trauma with a sense of acceptance, other times I become very sad and reflect on what could have been. This is something only those close to me know about, however, I feel the responsibility to help others who may be going through the same thing. The dust will settle, just give it time. I promise.
My first elite season began one year ago in the summer 2016, shortly after graduating Engineering School at CU Boulder. I had unrealistic expectations transitioning into my post-grad life and elite racing. I always had this belief that once I was done with engineering school, life would be easy, I could simply focus on training, and my stresses would go away. What I learned very quickly was that the real world is anything but easy, and the thought of "growing up" overwhelmed me. The real world has its own stresses and this year has been about learning how to manage those stresses and to find a balance between training to be an elite athlete while independently supporting myself, and being the best version of myself.

The learning curve has been and remains to be steep. I went from being a deer in the headlights on the starting line in my first major elite race, The FISU World University Games (which was a disaster), to breaking top 100 in the International Triathlon Union rankings, having a number of top 10 finishes at the Continental Cup level, to finally feeling like I could compete at the elite level and be competitive. I wanted to lay out a few of the many lessons I have learned and continue to learn. I cannot say I have found the consistency yet in my performances (mostly translating my pool swim to open water), but that too takes time and experience. The trajectory is overall upward, so I try to focus on that.

Some tend to be more confident or act more confident than others. An interesting idea my dad told me the other day was that if you are doubting yourself a lot, why not doubt your doubts? Your thoughts are simply thoughts, not reality, and that is all they are. If you can name them, you can tame them. This is #1 for me.

There will be good days/bad days but more often than not it should be a good day. Remember to embrace the process, for success is only a moment of success, a culmination of thousands of hours of work; celebrate the small successes and thrive in the journey. Meet new people, make new friends, and enjoy traveling the world!

It is critical to maintain a growth mindset, especially when working towards a goal, otherwise you will often feel disappointed or unhappy with yourself. For me, this is something I struggle with and it is critical to remind myself that each athlete has their own trajectory, so it is important to solely focus on your own process-related goals and to trust your coach's plan.

Allow yourself to feel the way you feel and don't fight it. Your body and mind are trying to communicate with you, so it is important to listen and to be compassionate to yourself. If you are tired or unmotivated, maybe you need to have an easier recovery session or take a day off. Listen to your body! This means especially to TAKE YOUR EASY DAYS EASY!!!

Having a positive environment and team is critical to one's overall happiness and longevity. Find a group of teammates, friends, and a coach whom you support one another unconditionally. It is on the hard days that you uplift one another and bring the best out of each other. You need each other, so compete WITH one another not against one another. Trust me, it makes the time at practice and outside of it much more enjoyable :) What's the point of getting on the podium if you have nobody to celebrate it with?! I feel blessed to have the team of people around me that I have in my life.

I often forget that I came from a tennis background and that I only began training full-time for triathlon a year ago. It is tempting to often look ahead at where you want to be and to become overwhelmed by how far you still have to go. Remembering how far you have come is a healthy reminder that your past improvement can predict future continued improvement.

It is important to eat a TON of food, even when you aren't hungry, no matter the circumstances, because this fuel is what enables your body and mind to recover and perform at its best. Give a car poor fuel and it will under-perform. It is not necessary to eat the "healthiest" all the time, for as an elite athlete, sometimes the most calorically dense food is what your body desires and needs.

Accept that this journey is not an easy one. Anything can happen on race day and you are allowed to have bad days. After analyzing the top WTS athletes (where I hope to be one day), it became apparent that they too endure the roller coaster of the highs and lows in elite racing. It is critical to move on whether you have a good or bad workout, a successful or unsuccessful race. This is a lesson I have had to repeat from being a tennis player because I never learned it. You miss a shot, move onto the next shot with the same enthusiasm you had when you began. Easier said than done, I definitely know :)

Last but not least is to never give up. I have learned more from my shortcomings than I have from my successes, and I feel that the bad days are what have made me a better athlete and more importantly, a better person. It is the feeling of returning to the start line after a bad race and overcoming, or returning to practice after a sub-par session with the same motivational drive that should empower you.

My season is far from done. I am excited to finish out the Major League Triathlon Series at the Final race this weekend in Cleveland. I am also looking forward to feeling settled at home and putting in a solid training block before some Continental Cups and maybe dipping my toe in the water for my first World Cup this fall :)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Major League Triathlon- 2017

I am honored to have been selected to be one of 32 athletes competing in Major League Triathlon series this year! It is my first season racing at the elite level and I am thrilled for some fast, fun racing with some of the speediest athletes in the country.

A little about Major League: It is the first and only professional triathlon league in the United States. It is a unique format of racing, in which each athlete races a super sprint (300 meter swim, 4 mile technical bike loop, and 1 mile run) before tagging the next teammate. Each team consists of two men and two women. I have been drafted to represent my home state of Colorado on The Colorado Peaks with three other strong, experienced athletes: Paula Findlay, John O'Neill, and Alex Libin!

Feel free to check out Major Leagues' Website and their Facebook Page to follow the series.

Below is the schedule for the 2017 season, and first stop is in Charlotte!
1. MLT Charlotte-Saturday, May 20, 2017
2. MLT Atlantic City P/B The Claridge Hotel-Saturday, June 3, 2017
3. MLT Vail Valley (woot woot!)- Saturday, August 26, 2017
4. MLT Cleveland-Saturday, September 9, 2017

Being a newer athlete on the elite circuit, not many people know my background, so I would like to give an introduction of myself; it is not brief, so grab a blanket and a cup of tea!

I am proud to be a Colorado native, growing up in Denver. I have three sisters, and I am one of triplets :)  While most of my competitors were in the pool at age five (or younger), I spent hours hitting a fuzzy yellow ball across a mesh net for hours at a time. I went to Cherry Creek High School and my triplets and I were varsity tennis players there. The only year I played on the team (sophomore) I won an individual state singles title, while my sisters were finalists in doubles. In high school, I finished second in The Copper Bowl National Championships (doubles) and went on to play division 1 tennis at Santa Clara University my freshman year of college.
I was introduced to the sport of triathlon my senior year of high school by a tennis friend, though I didn't begin training intensely until my sophomore year of college at the age of 20. I initially used it as a cross training tool, and I enjoyed being a multi-dimensional athlete. After my freshman year of college, I transferred to the University of Colorado Boulder to earn a degree in mechanical engineering, and I committed to pursue the sport "full-time" (as much as I could with the demands of engineering school). I went from being a complete rookie to winning the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club Draft-Legal National Championships my Senior year.

My first triathlon, in which I wore a waterski wetsuit (which filled with water), sported running shoes in baskets, a swimsuit with bike shorts, borrowed a size 52 bike from a friend, and wore a camelback...this was a sprint triathlon :-p

Collegiate Nationals 2016

Because I am relatively new to the sport (at least at the elite level) my goal is to continue an upward progression of improvement, getting stronger in the water, on the bike, and in the run. Learning how to swim late in life at the age of 20, has created its own challenges. My main goal is to make every stroke count, developing the right technique in the water so I can swim to the ability of my aerobic engine. I am committed to working hard day in and day out, and my motivation is to find long-term consistency; therefore, I can be the best athlete I can possibly be.

My strength in the sport is the tenacity I have developed, coming from a tennis background; when you are on your feet for 3+ hours, the court temperature is 120 degrees, the rubber on your shoes melting, your legs are cramping, and you're in the final set, it comes down to who wants it the most. Interesting fact about my athletic background before triathlon is I moved away from home at the age of 13 to pursue the sport professionally. I was homeschooled on and off for two years, and I lived and trained with the Hungarian Federation National coach until the age of 15. I learned the value of hard work at a young age, and this skill continues to propel me forward in all aspects of my life today.

When I am not training, I like to enjoy the simple things of quality time with others, cooking with friends, hanging with my sisters, exploring the outdoors, trying different foods/restaurants (I am a huge foodie!), solving engineering problems, and reading a good book. I currently work as an engineer for Keysight Technologies, one of the world's leading companies for manufacturing test and measurement equipment; most of my time outside of training is filled with working to support my lifestyle :)

I currently live and work in Colorado Springs, Colorado. My favorite place to train is in the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs. It is only five minutes from the office, so I enjoy exploring the endless trails for running, and embracing the technicality of the roads for riding in the park. I love the thrill of pushing beyond my comfort zone, ripping corners, and building my overall strength as a cyclist on the climbs. I also love the peacefulness of riding the country roads out in Fountain, Colorado.

Through triathlon, I have been fortunate enough to travel to some pretty amazing places including Switzerland, Argentina, and Cuba. I am definitely a people-person, so I love having the opportunity to meet new people, learning about other cultures, trying new foods, and taking on the challenge of performing in an unfamiliar environment.

It is difficult for me to put a time stamp on my racing, for triathlon has become such a lifestyle for me. I think realistically I can see myself racing through my mid-thirties, however, once I have a family I would like to ensure I have the right family/life balance. I am a competitive person by nature, so I will most likely always be competing in some fashion :)

If I could offer advice to someone looking to enter the sport it would be to join a club (or college team if in college), have fun, don't take yourself too seriously, embrace the relationships you make along the way, and be patient. It can take years to develop as an athlete, so keep showing up, make good habits, and take your easy days easy!

After I am finished racing in triathlon, I would love to continue in the engineering/management field and serve as a mentor to young girls pursuing engineering and sport. I hope that through my life experiences, I can guide young girls and women to embrace their development professionally and athletically with a growth mindset.

Given the diversity of the Colorado Peaks, I believe through intelligent tactical choices and hard work, we have the ability to bring home the Major League Championship this season.

In the interim, I will keep training with purpose, put in the work every day, and ensure that every swim stroke, stride, and pedal stroke counts.

How to Stay Motivated in the Winter

I get asked the question "how do you stay motivated in the winter?" quite often really. I am human, like everyone else, and t...