Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Professional Christening

My Florida70.3 race weekend was magical, and not just because anywhere you go within Disney you're told to "have a magical day." The entire experience was new, exciting and inspiring! Even my pre-race glitches (significant bike issues, and almost getting hit by a car) couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I was the most relaxed I've ever been for a race. Honestly, it didn't really make sense...I always thought I would be more nervous pre-race as a professional, because "it would matter more." Turns out, it's all about perspective! This was another new and excited adventure that God guided me to, and I was/am excited to see where it will take me.
I awoke, at 4am (yes, that was 1 A.M. to me!) to strong wind, rain and thunder. I didn't panic, or even think of a canceled swim. It's Florida, and with 2.5hrs until the start I knew it could easily blow over. Once in transition it was dark, still raining, and still storming. While attending to my bike and setting up transition (under layers of towels and plastic bags to keep things dry), race director T. Ziebart came over and showed me the radar weather forecast. "No worries" he said, we'll get you guys in there. (a much better attitude than what I experienced at NOLA).  So, while it was still raining we made our way to water's edge. We couldn't see the first, let alone second or sixth buoy, but we were ready....ready to wait. They delayed the start a bit allowing the sun to sneak over the horizon and light our way.
A special thanks to stud/studette pro vets Cait Snow, Heather Gollnick, Andy Potts and Ian Mikelson. Each of them welcomed me to the pro field and made me feel right at home. There were a few other first timers out there, so together we kept the mood light and fun. I had never formally met Heather or Cait. These little gestures went a long way with me. Thanks for keepin' it real girls!
Swim: TYR ready. Always out that's where I started. Ok, so I wasn't "as" confident as I am amongst the age group women. So I started right behind the girls I thought would lead the pack. I was right. Within 10seconds they were off. Within 2minutes I was alone.
I am right in front of red suit girl
I picked my head up to see how far ahead the lead girls were. 3 girls ahead of me, all swimming alone. Head down, no one on my feet. You're good girl, just GO! Kick, remember to kick. Pull, hand entry, freaking go! I was working, I swear. Once to the first turn buoy Gollnick appeared out of no where. Ok, we're probably 4th and 5th, get her feet. I'm on. Go! Then she started viering to the right. I always tend to go a bit left, so this was a bit uncomfy for me. Where are you going girl, buoy's that way. To stay on the feet and swing wide, or to create my own path? (the water was very murky so it was tough to see her feet even when they were 2inches ahead of me). I stayed to my course (which clearly was the wrong decision, since she beat me out of the water. Lesson learned. check).
2nd turn buoy, bring 'er home. Go! Kick, pull harder. I felt good. On the way in the chop picked up, and I swear I saw a water snake right under me. Ick! That got me moving again. One of the buoys was a bit off course, and far right. I don't like going to my right so I aimed past it. 20feet later Disney's finest lifeguards were yelling at me. Were they cheering? I lifed my head up and they yelled at me to stay right. WTF, it's not a turn buoy. But it's my first pro race and I'm not letting something dumb take me out of it. I went back a bit and rounded the buoy. Smart? Maybe not, but I heard the same thing happened to a few others. Whatever, keep going.  When I exited the water the cheering was intense. I felt good. Thankfully I didn't see my time or I might of been pissed. Top 5, not too far out of it, I'm good. My time doesn't show it, but I was swimming well. I'm ok in this department. A few lessons learned for sure!
Bike: Alright Quarq Cinqo, let's see some numbers! The plan was to somewhat ignore the wattage numbers, and instead chase anyone ahead of me and hold off anyone behind me. Around mile 5 the first pass was made, and in case you can't guess by my bike split, it wasn't me doing the passing.
Both of us eating...I'm sure the pass happened soon after this shot was captured
Grrrr, come on legs it's like the Wednesday group ride, jump within a legal distance and hang on...let's reel them in. My legs answered with a big fat NOTHING. Ummmm, hello, I said "Go. Now." Nothing. Ok, maybe they aren't in it now, but stay positive and they'll come around. The next pass was made around mile 15. Another opportunity, ride with someone. Nothing. Without going into the details of the next 56 miles I'll leave it at that. My legs just weren't there. It was bad, like zone 2 training ride bad. The goal was to be with the group, to push with them, answer back and ride strong with them. I missed every opportunity to jump on and be within the mix. A group of 5 formed, and I was left behind for a solo session.
Run: When I came into T2 the announcer welcomed me and told me I was in 8th. I believed him, but I'm not sure why. I knew there were at least 10 girls ahead of me. But why wouldn't he be right?!?!?! I ran out of T2 like I stole something. I probably looked like it too. My hands were full of every variety of GU nutrition you could ever want. I like options ;-) Chomps, Roctane, salt, Gu Brew/Carbo Pro mush...let's Go!
 Within the first mile I dropped half my salt and passed one girl. Ok, I'll trade salt for moving up one position. Who's next. Ahhhhh, no one....anywhere. I asked a few people where the next chic was and the answers weren't pretty: "4minutes" "between 5 and 6 minutes" "it's been a while since I saw one." Awesome. Mentally I was weakening. My pace wasn't fast. I quickly learned why this run course hasn't produced any record breaking run splits. They description says there are some "off road sections." Picture a field of unmanaged grass, random divots and holes, and tractor wheel carve outs guiding the way.
My stomach wasn't happy. It was warm, but not hot. I wanted hot, however maybe my stomach wouldn't of approved to any more heat. Good thing I packed options, but none sounded appealing. My mental and physical state remained stationary...until I saw a group of girls within reach. I only had 4.2 miles to go, but I was excited to play again. "Alright Caroline, set the treadmill at 6:20 pace and go. You've done this how many times? Garmin, show me 6:20. Grass or no grass, just get-a-move-on." I was smiling again, and back to the chase. Within a mile I caught one girl. I paused for a few seconds behind her. Yeah, she was holding a much slower pace, no reason to stay here. Grass again. Ugh! 2 girls right ahead. I twisted and turned my way through the age groupers (3 loop course= busy busy!). No time to pause. I'm good, I can take them. I still didn't feel great, but passing people sure does help the whole mind over body thing. Final mile, ticked off one more. Ugh, does the run have to end, it was just starting to get fun.
Through the line, and the announcer welcomed me as 5th. Huh? I was a bit delusional, and believed him for a minute. Then I saw a slew of pro women hanging out around the finish. Unless they arrived here some other way, other than through the finish line, I clearly was not 5th. When I realized I was 8th I felt a bit sad. But once it all soaked in, and I really looked at the big picture, I WAS SO HAPPY! (yes, you guessed it, coach Chris talked some sense into me).

Thanks: where do I start! The messages before and after this race ALL mean a ton to me. I know you read various blogs put out by pro athletes, and the all end the same way. But the reason, is because the support we get from family, friends, and sponsors really means something. Race day is exponentially enhanced because of the people we share them with. So thank you for the calls, texts, and messages! 
TYR: My loyalty to TYR is firm! There is a reason 90% of the professional athletes at the start line were wearing TYR. Their increased product line this year is amazing...and I can't wait to see what they'll come out with later this year and next. Thank you for your support. I'm beyond honored that you believe in me and allow me the opportunity to promote my favorite swim and triathlon apparel!
 Newton: It's simple, their running philosophy, science, and shoes are the reason running has become my strength. If things keep improving as they have this past year I'm going to be one very happy triathlete. Plain and simple, my improvement is a testament to the shoes and Newton's dedication to speed.
Quarq: I swear my cycling is coming along. I know when it appears in my race results the proof will be in the power...the power meter that is. Training with my Cincqo has been key! Stay tuned, I know I'm going to be in the mix on the bike. Not only has Quarq been amazing, but I can already see the strength they're gaining from the SRAM acquisition. 
Thanks for reading! What's next??? All eyes are set on Ironman Coeur D'Alene. 8 years ago I completed my first ever ironman on that course. I can't think of a better place to jump into the ironman professional scene.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Florida 70.3 With Smiles!

I am honestly so excited for tomorrow! The weekend thus far has been amazing, and I know I'll top it off with a killer first pro race. Thank you to everyone who's sent good luck messages....they really do make a difference and keep me energized and digging deep come race day.
One of my closest friends and teammates from college will be racing with me tomorrow. While rowing at UofM, her and I had to work our asses off in hopes of deserving a second of attention from our coaches. The two of us were two of the only lightweight rowers to survive amongst the wicked talent of open weight girls. Let's just say, we formed a very strong bond over years of sweat, tears...and probably some blood too.  Ever since Jeanine got into the sport I've been dying to race with her. She's a little fireball, and one of the hardest working athletes I've EVER had the privilege of calling my teammate. After NOLA I knew I wanted to fit in a May 70.3. Knowing Jeanine would be here made the decision easy. So tomorrow I get to share my first pro race with an athlete and friend that I admire beyond words!
Yes, she's TYR ready! Good luck Seeger...I can't wait to throw a few Go Blue's your way!!
Race prep has been pretty stress free, and loads of fun. I did have a bit of a hiccup today while out on my training ride today (other than coming 2inches from being nailed by a Disney tourist speeding for mickey mouse), but thankfully Zipp and Ironman wheels came to my rescue. Just another example of the great people behind the awesome brands within this sport.
I'm crazy excited to take in every aspect of tomorrow's race day experience. It's going to be painful, but that's exactly what I want. My fellow pro women are going to make me dig deeper than I ever have, and I can't wait to answer the challenge.
Race to bed!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

One more BIG Change!

In my last post I left one really big change off my list. After Kona last year I really began throwing around the idea of getting my pro license. I've had a tough year, but triathlon is a door that keeps opening doors for me. When people would ask if I was going to get my pro card I sincerely dismissed the idea. However, after Hawaii the list of "reasons to get my pro card" started to grow, while the list of "reasons not to get my pro card" lessened.  Although the wheels started turning in my brain months ago, there were some major road blocks that I first needed/wanted to overcome. In terms of athletic capability, the largest of these was to gain confidence on the bike! Having a strong swim and run simply won't cut it if I want to toe the line with the top women in the sport. It's one sport, not three!!! It's great to excel or specialize in one of the three, but in order to compete you can't have a real weakness.
In looking for a coach I wanted to find someone who could help me make the pro card decision. This is why Chris was such an amazing match for me. He's been there! He raced professionally, while also holding a demanding job. Triathlon was a component of his life, not his entire life...and he excelled at it! This is what I was after. I believe the only way to be your best is to race the best. Although I was excited about the opportunity to race at the professional ranks, I ultimately want to maintain perceptive. A professional triathlete's career, even if they're lucky/crazy talented, is extremely attorney's career-much longer. And fact is, I enjoy using this brain power that I paid so much for ;-) I enjoy being challenged...both intellectually and physically. Chris understands this "honest reality" I have with myself, but also believes I can really make something happen if I believe in myself!

Soooooo after NOLA we had a few talks. Immediately after the race I didn't feel like I proved (to myself) that I was ready. He did. I thought I should of been closer on the bike to the top pro's, he thought I was there. After a few days of digesting I agreed with him. I trained, prepared, and didn't taper similar to how a pro would prepare. Chris gave me a racing strategy that was pro minded...not amateur. I honestly didn't realize how different racing as an age group athlete was until he started pointing out these mental and physical differences. He was getting in my head, and in turn prepared me to BELIEVE! I'm there! I'm ready! I'm EXCITED to COMPETE with the best!
I can't wait to RACE! I had a ton of fun moving up among the amateur ranks, but I want to race! I don't want to wonder where I am in comparison to others, and feel like every race is a time trial format. I want to race! I want to see how fast I can go when I'm pushed to my limits by other amazing women! I will get my chance next weekend. Florida70.3 will be my first pro race.
I am so appreciative of everything Chris has done to help me get to this point...mentally, emotionally, and physically. His coaching reaches far beyond the training day...he keeps me in check, keeps everything in perspective, and reminds me that together we can do this! AND HAVE FUN!
To those who've supported me and helped me reach this decision, THANK YOU (you know who you are)!!! For those who continue to support me now that the journey appreciation is endless! (I have also finally joined the twitter bandwagon: if you want to follow me...ckgregory)
Ok, speaking of Coach Chris...time to get back to my IM St. G online spectating. He's killing it out there! Fastest amateur swim ( far!) and he's hanging right in there at the front with some young studs on the bike. Inspired??? Yes!

Sunday, May 1, 2011


In terms of my training things sure have changed! I'd summarize by saying it's been about QUALITY over quantity...but then I look at this past week and I realized it was my highest volume week ever. Here are a few changes Chris has made in my training.
  1.  Fewer 5+ hour rides through San Diego County (although I'm sure this ride volume will come soon), and more 3 hour solo smash fests.
  2. I bike almost every day. Clearly we know where my weakness lies!!
  3. In an effort to eliminate this weakness the work begins the second I start peddling! Like I said in my last post, I use to spend a lot of time in zone 1 or killing myself. Now (unless it's a recovery, coffee, chatty cruisy cruise) power application starts almost immediately.
  4. My intervals on the bike are a bit longer than in the past. More 3x20, 3x40 type intervals. The second the interval ends, no crusisy cruise! This is where the work pays off...back to a strong powerful zone 2 effort. 
  5. Rest. When it's prescribed I take it! I no longer hate rest days. I work hard when I'm suppose to so I NEED recovery days to regroup physically...and mentally.
  6. Taper. Thankfully, after NOLA Chris pointed out that "we didn't really taper for that race." Ok, thank you for the affirmation. I thought I felt a bit tired (not too bad, just not fresh/tapered). It's all part of his forward thinking plan. I like it!
  7. Back to work. Within 3 days of NOLA it was back to work for kiddo Caroline! I woke up Wednesday morning and jumped in on the Swamii's train-of-pain group ride. I figured I'd roll up there and get spit off the back on the first climb. Nope, just the opposite. I had one of my best rides to date. I don't say this because I hung onto the pack for the whole ride, but because it was...dare I say it...easier than it's ever been. The rest of last week was focused and solid! 2 super solid weeks that also included a *half ironman (*swim excluded).
  8. When a workout isn't going well I try to listen to my body and not beat myself up over it. I've even opted mid-workout. Yesterday I got in a solid swim and then had a long ride planned. For various reasons this ride did not go according to plan. I canned it. Instead of making up for it (as I use to) I got over it and moved along with a smile and positivity today.
  9. Swim. When your coach has "olympic swimmer" on his resume, you can't help but feel motivated to swim faster.  All I have to do is swim up to my potential! I've been working on the entry of my stroke quiet a bit this winter. This means changing the ingrained muscle memory that dates back 20years. The past few weeks things finally clicked. Ahhhhhhhhhh, yes that is what it should feel like! Effortless power finally propelling me forward!
  10. Where did all those chill transition runs go? Ummmm, Coach Chris...I like those ;-) Here are a few examples of my new transition run protocol:
    •  4 hour ride. Legs were feeling nice-n-toasty.  T-run time: 2miles cruise to find the legs. Then 12x400 sub 1:30 with only 45seconds  rest. slog fest a few miles back home before falling over. 
    • This past friday I had a 3 hour substantial ride (with some of those fun fulled 20minute efforts).  Once off the bike it was 45minutes at 6:30 for me. My legs were semi trashed going into the day, so it hurt...but what hurt worse was getting back to my car only to find that my key fell out of my pocket. Rest assured I wasn't going to re-do that run to find it! Thank you Mr. Mailman for calling AAA for me!
    • Then there was the 11 mile run the weekend before NOLA-10mins 6:45, 10mins 6:15. If his goal was to make 6:45 seem "easy," mission accomplished. 
    • More of the same. Soon my legs won't know what pace to move off the bike- other than FAST ;-)  

There you have it, a little glimpse into the fun filled hard work I've been putting in. Ultimately I don't believe there is a single format/answer to triathlon training. For me I just knew in order to really make improvements I needed change! The changes in my training have really challenged me, and, in a sick-sort-of-way, have been pretty fun.
Great job to all who raced this weekend at Wildflower, St. Croix and St. Anthony's !!!