Thursday, September 27, 2012

...and I'm BACK in the GAME!

Thank you to Chris Barnes for this and all pictures within this post!
Good morning Branson! As the sun peaked over the hills of "crazy town" (my self proclaimed name for Branson, Mo), I couldn't wait to toe the line, dive into the water, and get back to the very thing that makes me feel most alive: RACING!  My last race was almost 4 months ago. I've been chomping at the bit/dying to get back out there. This race offered me the opportunity to get my heart back into the game. Lay it out there, have fun, and remember why I love this sport so much!

Race weekend started with an eventful Frontier flight from Denver. The flight (like last year) was loaded with most of the pro field.  It was awesome to reunite with some great friends.  Together we shared MANY laugh as we geared up for Sunday's show down. Dinner that night, on the Branson Landing, included a standing ovation when (very randomly!) Whitney Houston's voice started playing over the loud speakers and we were entertained with a water and fire show. Only in Crazy Town! I think I can speak for the entire pro field in saying that we loved the town, volunteers, atmosphere and race! Unique indeed...
Race morning was cold. I have been trying to figure out a way to conquor my inability to jump off the line and hang with the top swimmers. I've included more race morning simulations in my training as I work on creative ways to warm-up. During swim workouts it takes me over 1,000m to feel like I loosen up and can really get after things.  We rarely have that much time in the water before the gun goes off.  Stretch cordz haven't really worked for me as a pre-race warm-up, so at least once a week I run15-20minutes before jumping in the pool. I then dive in and sprint from the get-go. I'm not sure if this is the answer, but I arrived at the race site bundled from head to toe and headed our for a quick run. By the end I was sweating and felt my engine was ready.
Into the water (me on the right, Nina on the left) we go. I lined up right next to her and was ready to challenge myself to HANG ON!
And we're off. Yowsers, I hung onto Nina's feet with all my might. After about 300m I faded a little, but fought back. Can't breath, heart racing, uncomfortable, TOO BAD! "Be tough Caroline, you do this all the time in pracitce. Now is when it counts. Fight!" Back onto her feet. The pace was still high. She surged. I faded. I held onto a strong rhythem but lost contact. However, this time I didn't back off. 20 strokes hard, 20 strokes harder. I fought back. I thought of my weekly 10x400 workout. "Just swim like that Caroline and you can catch up. Try! Don't give up. Keep your head in it." Around the first buoy, 30m back. It was 450m to the next buoy and I was determined to catch her. Jenny caught up to me, and we worked together until the next buoy. I still hadn't reconnected to Nina's draft, but knew a quick turn around the second turn buoy and I'd have her. Score - just like that and I was back in the game. I sat right in the draft and almost pinched myself. I have crazy respect for Nina -she's a very consistent and speedy swimmer! Nina, Jenny and I all exited the water together (even though the swim splits say otherwise). I was told that our race leader- super dooper fast swimmer Tammi Richie- was a minute up. I entered transition in 4th....
and exited transition in second. One thing I always do well is transition. No B.S'ing around. In, out, thank you mam. I brought back Richie's lead in a jiffy and within 1 minute on the bike I was into the lead. Leading on the bike is not exactly a place I find myself very often. Nina was about 1 minute back.  I felt cold, stiff, cold, and cold (oops did I mention that?)
The bike cours is AMAZING! Huge climbs and descents that even I can fearlessly fly down. The climbing helped warm me up, however what goes up...must go down.  Frozen again. I relinguished the lead to Jenny a few miles up the road, before we entered the portion of the course that is closed to traffic. A group of cars got between her and I. This caused me to drop back more than I would of liked and suddenly it was as if they were "out of sight, out of mind." This isn't to say that it is anyone's fault but my own. I had the choice to stay in the game or drop off the pace and I chose the latter. That choice had it's consequences.
The Branson bike throws almost 5,000 feet of climbing in your face! The majority of the course is closed to traffic- offering us 2 lanes in each direction to race fair AND safe. I've heard rumblings that the race contract was not renewed, and this really saddens me. I wish more courses out there mimicked this one. Safety first, and this course provides that.
I think I finally came around until mile 30.  I rode blind. no power nor heart rate. Where other girls are coming off months and months of dedicated training, I am only about 6-8 weeks of significant training in the legs. It showed. My bike split was slower than last year, and last year I raced IM Wisconsin the week before. I learned that I have to go with the lead girls and hang on. Once I'm off on my own I drift too far and I can't keep leaving this much for the run.
I exited T2 on a mission (as per-the-usual). I didn't know how far out of the lead I was at this point. When I approached Jenny, and then Nina, I got a time check on them. I was over 10 minutes back. I needed to try to hang around 6:15 pace to have a shot. Head down, work hard. My leg turn over felt great. The run course was 3 loops and I was able to get time checks on all the girls at the far side of each loop.  As I started my second loop I checked in on my average pace: 6:20. I knew this wouldn't cut it. I dug deeper, and continued to fight.
Months and months away from running hasn't hurt me as bad as I thought it might. I felt ok, especially considering the fatigue in the legs from the tough bike course. As I passed Jenny and Nina I took another time check. I was making up ground, but not enough. I'd have to speed up and they'd have to slow down. Thing is, when you're about to win your first race you find an inner strength- and Jenny did just that. She came into the race questioning her run but found a power and speed to hang on. HUGE props to her for that!!!  Ultimately the run came down to positioining. I was too far off from 2nd and knew I could hold off the girls in 4th and 5th. So I stayed put and tried to run my own race. I've learned never to give up or settle, because anything can happen out on the run course.
In my last post I promised I would smile out on the run course if indeed my foot pain was gone. I wiped the grimice from my face (because I was so mad with how poorly I biked) as I remembered that I have finally overcome a huge hurddle. For the first time in 2 years I raced without forefoot pain. I can't believe it!
One thing I try to reiterate with other athletes is the need to didgest a race, learn from it, and then move on. Dwelling on the past doesn't help us in the future. Professional athlets have no choice but to become good at this. So....
3 positives from Branson: 1) I finally overcame a huge mental block in regards to my swim. I got out with the fast girls, fought the whole time, and was rewarded kindly.  2) Happy feet are fast feet. I've finally tackled this endless mystery! 3) I returned to the podium. Enough said.
1 negative: my bike split. Problem will soon be addressed as I am using the prize money from this race to buy a Computrainer!

I was a bit overwhelmed with just how happy I was out there. I love to race, to test myself and dream big. Every race is a learning experience, and this one was no different! Things are lining up well for a very strong 2013 season. I have some honest (and very painful) work to do, but this is something I welcome with open arms.
Thank you TYR for your continued support and belief in me. One step closer to living by our slogan of "always in front." Vision and FSA thank you for my amazing wheels and components. I love my bike set up and the ease of shifting was essential out on that course. Scott for a bike that I absolutely adore and continue to admire! My Garmin computers provided accurate information I needed out on the bike and run course. Gu and FRS were my go to nutrition: bike: 4 GU's, one Roctane GU drink, and 3 FRS soft chews to get me past the low moments. Run: 1 package of GU strawberry chomps.  Big time congrats to Jenny Fletcher on her first win on the Ironman circuit; and to Nina Craft for throwing down a gutsy race!

Happy training and racing to all! and a special good luck to those preparing for the big dance in Kona.

Monday, August 13, 2012

PATIENCE

Where on earth have I been? Short answer: (a) trying to figure out the nagging foot injury that's been plaguing me for over a year; and (b) embracing an exciting change in my life.

While watching the Olympic marathon (where 2 of our US hopefuls had to pull the plug on their London dreams) I was reminded that as a professional athlete one of THE hardest things to deal with is injury. Our heart and mind holds a deep desire to push the limits, while our body sometimes cries "please stop!"
Yes, life has been crazy busy (see below) but I am perfectly able to admit that my absence from triathlon's social media scene has largely been my inability to accept that I had to take a break. Inevitably every race last year led to an intense burning pain in my forefoot. I remember running down the course in CoeurD'Alene complaining that my feet were cramping, throbbing, burning, etc. I still pulled out the 2nd fastest run split and a solid finish- so off I was in search of my next race/challenge. This experience repeated itself over and over...and over! After each race I faced the internal battle of "how fast could I go if I wasn't running through this kind of pain?"
Early this year the pain started to creep it's way into my training. Ultimately, my frustration reached an all time high and I knew I couldn't keep pushing things as I was. I've consulted with several professionals whom I trust 900%, and finally (after over a year of pain) decided to try cortisone shots. This has always been a last resort and an option left as a drastic ditch effort. The thought was: decrease the inflammation and then begin physical therapy and intense a.r.t. treatment to get mobility into the area. 2 weeks after the shots I was off for Mont Tremblant.
The race ended with my first ever IM70.3 DNF. The cortisone shots had a reverse effect. My pain threshold has been tested many times over my athletic career, and although I've learned never to "compare" injuries or pain this was completely intolerable! After 30miles of biking my feet were on fire. I kept trying to move my feet around in my shoes but nothing relieved the discomfort. Once I hit the run the discomfort turned to pain, and by mile 7 I could no longer stand. Not finish a 70.3?!?! It had to be B.A.D! I literally had to sit there until someone came to take me back to medical- not ok!
- I must digress for a second, and give proper attention where it's due - Mont Tremblant was THE BEST 70.3 course I've done!  90% closed bike course, rolling beautiful country side, huge crowds lining the entire course, newly paved smooth 'n fast roads, and a killer run on a packed dirt trail. Swim, bike AND run were all one loop (a rarity now!). The city and community are fully on board and excited to make their city a triathlon destination. Thinking about racing there? Two words: DO IT! This finish line awaits you:
I returned home completely baffled and frustrated. I couldn't bike more than 30mins or run more than 10 minutes without debilitating pain. Not exactly the result you want from cortisone. Patience? I was trying with all my might, but by this point I had none! Thing is, I didn't have a choice now...I could no longer push through the pain.
With no choice but to back off it was time to keep digging for the cause AND (another) solution.  I sought further opinions and increased my efforts to pray the pain away. After reaching out to several trusted medical guru's I found my solution. I am happy to report that together they solved the problem and I'm back up and running. I wasn't after a short term "get me through" solution. This problem has been impeding my abilities for too long and I needed to address it. I have a lot of re-building to do but my runners high and smile have returned. It took drastic measures to get me to pull in the reigns but I wonder if I would have ever reached my true potential had things not gotten that bad. Thank you is not enough for those that have helped me step back, find patience, and address this problem!!! The smile I hope to show at my next race is dedicated to each and every one of you. 
I spent the last week in July jump starting my return to racing with a killer training block at altitude in beautiful Lake Tahoe.
Still with me?
Now, onto my next "excuse" for not keeping you in tune with my current happenings - this one's a BIGGIE.  I recently accepted a new job in the San Francisco bay area! This meant leaving the place I've called home for almost 10years, saying goodbye to some very close friends, and taking on the challenge of starting over.  San Diego is not an easy place to walk away from, but the right opportunity came along and made the decision much easier. Embracing change isn't easy for me, but I felt deep in my heart this was the right move. I've been interested in living in the bay area since I first moved to California, and Sunny San Diego remains a short flight away:
Those who know me personally know that it's never been my desire to race full time. I believe 100% that pursuing my career goals while racing is ideal for me. Athletics has always been a PART of my life, not my entire life. I believe wholeheartedly that this career balance is what I need in order to reach my potential in the sport and beyond.
My brother lives in San Francisco and the move means being closer to him. Sibling rivalry is alive and well! Chris and his AIMP athletes have embraced me into their community and made the move quite a bit easier. Tour guides galore!!!
                                         My brother and I enjoying the views of Mt. Tam
Every training day is a new adventure. After a week training camp in Lake Tahoe I'm settling into my new home in Walnut Creek and enjoying my new playground:

The mountain roads and running trails outside my door will undoubtedly be my go to source for  entertainment and sanity. The 2012 season is far from over, and I will be back racing again in September.
I've moved away from the law firm life (who doesn't love billable hours?!?!?) and am now working for a software company. My years as a litigation attorney taught me so much, but for now there isn't even a small part of me that misses those court room walls, arguing over discovery, or preparing for trial.  I'm ready to take that desire to WIN elsewhere...
I never could have scripted this year as it's unfolded, but now that it's all coming into view I foresee some amazing things on the horizon. My fitness won't return over night, but I'm excited to have a few races to look forward to while keep my goals and focus centered around a strong AND healthy 2013!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FORTITUDE --- IRONMAN TEXAS

When I rolled into town I wasn't sure how The Woodlands would compare to other race venues. Everything is bigger in Texas though, so I was ready to be wow'ed. The Woodlands is a quaint area with several hotels, restaurants, bars, and shopping. Everything you'd ever need or want before and after a race was right there, including a KILLER 50m pool.  Huge props and gratitude to the community for welcoming us with their gracious southern hospitality.
The lead up to this race was challenging and presented several obstacles. I handled each with heart and passion and believed I was ready to put together something very special.  I entered the race on about 50-60% the training volume, but with a renewed sense of tranquility knowing I had my career and life back. Yes, this means less time to train and added stress, but there is a calming feeling that comes from knowing race day is not the end-all-be-all to my life!
Photo by Larry Rosa
Swim: After walking the 1.5miles down to the swim start I was feeling a bit anxious. It is crazy, but the swim was what I was most worried about. I've been swimming a few days a week, FAR less than what I need. After a quick warm-up and a quick chat with fellow AIMPer athlete Eric I swam up to the line. I opted to line up on the inside and away from the heavy hitters. I hate the frantic sprint at the start, but this choice cost me dearly. 10 strokes in and I was alone. I swam to the first buoy with one girl on my feet, I tried to put in 50 hard strokes but wasn't gaining on the huge pack ahead of me. I didn't sprint off the line hard enough, and in turn had the worst swim split in probably 5 years. Not ok, but luckily I didn't see the clock as I exited the water so had no clue what my swim split was. Had I known I might have given up right there. I got to the women's rack to see only 4 bikes remained- seriously, WTF! NOT OKAY! Focus on what I can do and put the past behind me, let's ride...
Bike: I felt pretty strong through the first miles. I didn't look down at my Garmin too much, but instead focused on finding my legs and building into the ride. I took heart rate off my computer so I wouldn't see it. I wasn't use to the heat and knew my heart rate would not be a good indicator of how I was riding. I got through mile 30 and started a few 10 minute efforts. I was riding alone and needed to occupy my brain and push my legs harder. I felt strong. My pedal stroke was solid and flowing. People who haven't ridden the course will tell you it's flat. It isn't, there are rollers. Small rollers, but enough to allow you to move around, get out of the saddle and utilize different muscles.
Around mile 35 I had a few spouts of bad luck. First, a bee fly into my top. Seriously?!?!? Who are you kidding you darn pest- I am not well endowed there so I have no clue how you managed to squeak your way in there. Luckily he flew out and left me unharmed. A few miles later I was forced to stop at a traffic light. The road narrowed and the traffic was stopped. I couldn't get by the cars, and eventually went around a huge truck on the left side. I got back into my groove only to have said truck come up on me and run me off the road! Yes, literally I was in the grassy ditch. Thankfully I stayed upright, got off my bike, back to the road and continued on. Back at it, laugh it off, stay positive. The black truck then slowed down again. Ok, now I'm scared...you know Texans like their guns- ummmmm, anyone out there? Help! Instead he just blasted black exhaust in my face and drove away. The joys of an open course, right.
Hot, it was HOT! I doused myself with water at each aid station, and utilized my TYR arm-coolers. Due to my poor swim I started getting caught by age group men around mile 60. I felt ok, not amazing or excellent but ok. I focused on nutrition and riding strong over the last 40miles.
Around mile 75 age group packs started swooping me up-groups of 15+ men with one loan female in the middle of each one.  Unfortunately age group athletes are not made aware of the fact that the pro drafting rules differ from theirs. We can not pass one athlete at a time, and leap frog. Once we move within 5 bike lengths of a rider we must stagger to the left, avoiding their slip-stream, and pass ALL athletes who are legally (or illegally in this case) spaced.  So in order to get around one athlete I had to crank up the power and fly through them all. I had an official with me for a good 90 minutes assuring I took each pass fair. I tried hard not to get frustrated, but it wasn't easy! I tried to focus only on riding a clean strong race, and not on the fact that these groups weren't getting penalized. Out of my control, and focused on MY job.
I was feeling strong and starting to power my way through the final miles. Then, WA-BAM, around mile 90 my bars went south, literally. I only have myself to blame as I am the one that tightened them after unpacking post-travel. I tried to stay in the drop bars and hold them up, but it got a bit dicey over the last 15 quite bumpy miles. Deal with it Caroline! I was worried I'd hit a crack/bump and go flying so I stopped riding aero. The bars kept getting worse and worse. I rolled into transition with them shaking all over the place. Sorry to all the volunteers that were there to catch my bike. I pretty much chucked it at them out of frustration! Run, time to R.U.N! Race isn't over until it's over, and somehow I'm still having fun.

Run: I entered the run course in 9th and was up for the challenge. Chris was standing 1/4 mile in and reminded me to chill. This has become quite customary for him by now... I come off the bike too far back and want to reel everyone in ASAP. It's a marathon though and I'd have to be conservative and stay smart in this heat. It was surely over 90 degrees by now. I love racing in heat, but I hadn't adjusted or acclimated to it at all. 2 steam room sessions were not going to do the trick and I knew that. I focused on hydration, not over eating and constantly throwing water on myself. I quickly found myself settling at 7minute mile pace and feeling pretty comfortable. My race was far from what I had scripted, but I stayed calm. I can do this, and I'm not going to quit.
I saw Kurt around mile 3 and got splits on the girls sitting 5th-7th. I was over 10minutes out of 7th, but didn't think for a second that was impossible.  I passed Jackie after the first loop, and was now running in 8th. Bikes, I want the lead bikes- I want 7th, then 6th, and hoped for 5th. I felt strong and confident. My stride felt great, and the foot pain I've experienced in the past was pretty minimal. Not-Giving-UP!
During the second loop things started heating even more and I had to force myself to get in more calories. My stride still felt good, and I remained light on my feet. Then, around mile 19 I feel apart. It wasn't a slow process, everything became unrailed in a flash. I got an awful cramp in my left glut and could hardly put one leg in front of the other any more. My legs felt good, but the spasm left me at a hobble. I wanted to know how far back 9th was (see pic on the right-I was running scared). All I could do now is fight to stay in the money and hold onto my position. 9minute pace, and for the first time since my very first Ironman I walked. I walked the last 2 aid stations not knowing how I'd start back up again. I yelled (more than once) at my sherpa crew demanding to know if I was going to get caught (ok, I'll admit it, I'm not always the nicest person while I'm racing!). I had to keep fighting. At the final out and back I got a gauge on Jackie, and knew I could hang on. I crossed the line with a smile- a forced & painful one! But a smile nonetheless.
This was not the race I had dreamed off, but in the end I found reason to be happy. It took a little calming from coach, but I had to be honest with myself. That doesn't mean I was satisfied-not in the least- I just had perspective and found happiness in my day. My training was not ideal for a PR, especially in those conditions.  I jumped up on stage to accept 8th very proud of how I've battled through some difficult decisions and transitions the past 6 months. I had fun out there and was honored to represent my sponsors, coach, and friends the best way I could on the day.
As I said on twitter (@ckgregory), sharing the stage with amazing women like this NEVER gets old. We fight hard out there and I admire the tenacity and passion my competitors. I promise you, each of us dug DEEP. The conditions-wind and heat- were tough! Congrats to each of you who finished this race....and here's to the next one! FORTITUDE...I've got it and it's not going anywhere...

Thank you TYR for being the backbone of my triathlon support team. I loved the non-wetsuit swim and Torque time, even if it was a little more "time" than I would have liked. My Scott Plasma is da-bomb, and look forward to further challenging myself to race like I train and conquer an Ironman bike course. Vision, thank you for making my bike frame into a rocking machine-race wheels, components, I love the whole Vision package. I rely on my Garmin bike computer and forefunner everyday in training & racing and am appreciative that I get to test out all their fancy dancy new products.  Nytro, My crazy/hectic life means I couldn't do this without your amazing bike services! Kurt, endless thanks to you for your support, cheers, and facilitating so much for me down in San Diego while I'm up in LALA land playing attorney!  Oakley, my shades match my red TYR carbon kit perfectly - thank you. And Chris/ AIMP Coaching, HUGE thanks for all you do to help make this journey what it is! I love being part of this amazing group of AIMP athletes- 5 of us raced IMTx and it was awesome to all have each other's back and have Chris out there beer drinking... I mean cheering.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

S*%t Show

a.k.a- Ironman Packing. If you were anywhere around San Diego this past weekend you might have seen a glimpse of my FLYING by. I didn't have much time to sit in any one place for too long. Last quality training sessions to put in, packing to do, and a lot of errands to run. It's my mom's bday tomorrow - girl had to shop! As I flew in and out of my favorite bike shop Nytro (yes, ok, maybe I did forget something every time I went and had to go back 5 times in one day) I was referred to by a loved one as  "s*%t show." What can I say, I had to get it all done, pack everything and get my butt back to LaLa land for the work week.
I do have a go to packing list to help race packing go a bit smoother. Unfortunately an Ironman takes a little more attention to detail, and my 1 hour throw it all together, ready-set-go, doesn't work as well. Here is my packing list of everything and anything I need/want. Try making your own and I promise it will eliminate a tiny bit of your packing headache. It also eases your mind knowing you have everything.
Thanks to TYR and Scicon I have the best luggage and bike bag to help with the process.

Swim:
-Wetsuit (full)
-Wetsuit sleeveless
-Speedsuit
-Goggles x 2 (pack clear)
-Cap
-Anti-fog
-Practice suit
-Race kit
-Bodyglide
-Wetsuit spray
throwaway sandals

Nutrition
-Gu
-flask x 2
-Gu drink
-Carbo pro
-Gu chumps
-Nuun
-Mix1
-FRS chews
-PowerBar(s)
Bike:
-Aero h20 bottle
-Water bottle
-Spray sunscreen
-Zip ties
-Bike shoes
-Bike Orthodics
-Helmet
-Socks
-Sunglasses
-Bento box
-Spare tire(s)
-yellow tire lever
-CO2 x2
-Razer blade
-Garmin500
-Pedals
-arm warmers
-Arm coolers

Other:
-Flashlight
-Sunscreen
-Training running flats
-Permanent marker
-Pump w/ disc wheel extender
-Garmin Charger (x2)
-HR monitor strap
-Number belt
-Training clothes
-Allen wrench
-Timing chip strap
-Warm morning clothes
-Zip lock bags
-Electrical tape
-stick or foam roller
-Foot roller
Run
-Racing flats
-orthodics
-Socks
-Visor x 2
-Garmin 910




One more sleep and it's off to Texas. I.AM.READY!



Friday, May 4, 2012

Coast Ride on SPEED!

Last week I had the opportunity to join Chris for another Coast Ride, 4 day extravaganza. To say this was a bit different than the coast ride I've done the past 2 Januarys would be an understatement. For the January ride I jump on my bike in San Francisco with little to no fitness in my legs. I use the 3-4days to jump start my training after a solid 2 month break. This time we were focused, fit, and ready to throw down a much needed solid training block before IMTx in 3 weeks.
We rolled out from San Francisco on a dreary, rainy day. We waited for the rain to pass, only to have it return on and off for the first 3 hours of our day. But we were tough, unlike all the other cyclists we saw huddled under covers for safety. (ok yes, I was the one fridgid begging for Chris and Craig to pull over- to no avail).
After a slow first hour in the saddle Chris came by and threw down the hammer. That was my wheel, and for the next 4 days I did everything to hang right there. Fact is, Chris isn't just my coach he is my favorite training partner! Nick/aka Sag Monkey captured the moment beautifully (Chris and I are leading the 2nd group on our way to swoop them up and spit 'em out-first pack wasn't part of our group):
video



Chris knows how to motivate me. It isn't with hugs and that warm motherly tone you see in some coaches-that wouldn't work for me, and instead makes me want to gag/vomit- nope, it's usually a slap on the ass or what I call "the 5 word phrase" that gets me every time (I'll let you ponder what that might be- 5 words, ends with a "?")   The final 10miles of day one were cold and windy. Chris and our ultra-runner extraordinair Tyler Stewart pulled me through to the hotel. No rest for the weary quite yet however. Running shoes on and we were off again. With that, Day 1 was in-da-books: 125miles of riding, and a nice 4mile run.
Sag Monkey was waiting for us at the end of each day with cool treats and hot eats.
Day 2- THE most spectacular and challenging day of them all: 134 miles, and over 8,000 feet of climbing.
Awesome images in route to Big Sur
Whew, again I clung onto Chris's wheel for life. Once at the hotel I downloaded my ride file from my Garmin 500. I need to look but I'm pretty sure the number it spit out for "average power" rivaled my best power output from my Ironman races last year. N.I.C.E..... Soon after we got to the hotel the winds picked up and were howling at 35+. I threw my shoes on and tried my darnedest to put together a decent run. Thankfully I ran into the wind on the way out and was carried back at quite the brisk pace. By days end I was a bit of a wreck. Nighty Night campers!
video
 Doing the work- look hard and you'll see my smile!
Day 3-Marina to Morro Bay- Could I back it up? I had a little low moment in the middle of the ride, but I'd say that is quite acceptable at mile 280. When the crew stopped for lunch one of Chris's new rock star athletes, Maury, and I rolled through. Eyes on the prize. HE MADE ME WORK! This might of been both the highlight and largest challenge of the weekend. The entire day was strong, steady and satisfying! I've certainly never rolled into Santa Barbara on Day 3 feeling like that. Love these AIMP athletes. Every camp/ride/visit to SF I meet more remarkable people and athletes. Chris picks them well. Day 3: 118miles, and yes another transition run. Chris rolled up ready to jump off the bike and run. I was quite content remaining in the ez chair, but again...throw down those 5 words and it's as if my running shoes put themselves on. This one, not so pretty- but beneficial.  




Day 4- Morro Bay to Santa Monica: The group stayed together for the most part. I got dropped by a few guys who opted to hold onto the SagMonkey for all of the climbs into Malibu- but caught right back up. Little energizer bunny they called me. Girl on a mission is more like it! I don't get to ride outside all that often anymore, so when I do you better believe I'm going to enjoy it and make it count. I was elated to be out there on day 4. No tears like the last coast ride when I was sick, slow and unfit on day 4.   
This adventure gave me the bonding time I needed with my Scott Plasma/Vision racing machine. I had a few questions after Galveston regarding fit, and just needing to find my comfy spot on the new rig. Questions answered. My fit is superb, I felt great for 470 miles, and it handled better on the winding descents in and out of Big Sur than ANY bike I've been on to date. I couldn't be happier with my bike and component choice for 2012. A huge thanks to Scott and Vision for helping me ride my machine of choice! I put my Vision Trimax to the test with some gnarly cross winds on days 2 and 3- I am not a big fan of the cross winds, but they handled remarkably well! SOLD! This is how we roll:
video
THANK you first and foremost to the SagMonkey crew for carrying us down the coast. I am the first person to pass up on a road stop or continuous refueling breaks, but you can't get away with that for 4 days. The van was always there when we needed bottles topped off or more fuel for our fire! Several bike repairs were made along the way, and these guys handled each one with open arms. Thanks for the fun video clips as well - even if you did get pulled over by a state trooper while shooting one of them. Jimmy and Nick, props to you both. SagMonkey is amazing! (Look for the monkey out on the Tour of California course- follow them on twitter: @thesagmonkey).
Chris you scored again. That was one happy little (compared to the 60 athletes he carted down the coast in January) group of cyclists. I love being a part of these training opportunities. Thanks for kicking my butt and making sure we're up for our next challenge: IM Texas- 2 weeks and counting. Both mind and body needed this training block!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

2012 Is HERE!

I have admittedly started about 10 blog posts over the last 2 months but haven't posted any of them. But....I'm back! Let's just say things have changed here at the Caroline Camp.  I decided to accept a job as an attorney with a national law firm with offices in Los Angeles. So, like most of you, I've been cramming in as much as I can into each day. 2 demanding jobs, moving, living in too many places to count, you know the typical professional triathlete lifestyle.
I had planned to start the season with Galveston70.3, and although I almost pulled the plug the week prior I am SO HAPPY I went! I needed to leave behind the weighted stress I had in Cali and return to the scene that makes me feel happy, alive, gracious, and fulfilled.  This would not have been possible without the support, love and hand holding from my sponsors and friends. I drove from L.A. to San Diego and arrived to find my bike race ready and packed.  I did a quick pack job of everything else and took off for Tx Friday morning.
The highlight of this race was seeing many of my friends I haven't seen during the off season months. With a smile on my face I embraced the huge pro field and caught up with great friends. The feel around the pro meeting was electric, thanks to our pal Lance Armstrong for coming to race. This race adopted the title "US Championship" - and didn't disappoint! This was the strongest & deepest field I've raced at the 70.3 distance. Approximately 75 professional athletes were on hand to kick off the U.S. 2012 Season! 
Race morning was a bit cooler than I had hoped for. Cloudy skies and steady 15mph winds. I prayed the sun would peak through the clouds and warm us up, but it turned out to be a decently "cool" affair in my book.  Did I mention that I was just elated to be away from the other stresses in my life and out there doing what makes me happy?!?!?!
Photo thanks to Paul Phillips / Competitive Image
TYR SWIM: I stood in transition and contemplated- sleeveless or FREAK?!?! I went with the Freak, but in retrospect should not have believed the 71degree water report. More like 75. If I can have my arms/shoulders free that is what I prefer. Stupid me!  I started off to the left, and once the cannon blew realized I should of started right. The current was pushing us and I struggled to get onto the buoy line and on feet. I remained patient and knew once I got to the first buoy I'd have company. Sure enough I did. I picked my head up to see we were part of a chase back, but significantly back from the leaders. There was a steady chop and current to contend with but I held my line (and my feet) and stayed right in the mix. We closed the gap to 2 other girls twice but never fully closed in. With 300m to go I tried to sprint up to them but realized I was working hard and wasn't really getting around my close friend Sierra (welcome to the pro field. LOVED sharing this day with you!!!). I sat back in her draft and exited the water with a group of 5-6.
Into transition we went. Racing is about setting little games and challenges. I challenged myself to make it out of T1 before anyone else in this group, and easily did so.
Haven't scored any race day bike pics yet,
but this was my KILLER machine for 2012
SCOTT + VISION BIKE: I've been in blissful heaven ever since I jumped on my new Scott Plasma. I just got my final fit on it 6 days before the race, so I wondered how the completely flat/don't move from aero race would go. This bike is more responsive and speedy than any I've been on before, but I just didn't get things dialed in as quick as I wanted to. By mile 15 my hip flexers and gluts were on fire. I questioned my fitness, time spent training, and stress life has placed on me. God slapped me in the face for thinking that way, so I threw my head down and remembered how happy I was to be RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. Goal, fight my own battle through mile 28 and that head wind might turn to a tail wind for the return home. I never really found my groove. The ride back to transition offered more swirling winds so my dream of a free ride back to camp didn't come true. I'm disappointed with my ride, but this is race #1 and with a little more bonding with the new bike I'm sure things will improve. Training is about quality over quantity for me now, and I believe in the work Chris and I are putting in.
Thanks again for this one Paul/Competitive Image
GARMIN + FRS RUN: The first two miles of the run were frustrating. I wasn't having the race I wanted and now my legs weren't ticking over the miles with swift mindless ease like I'm use to.
I wondered if it was worth the fight, but again turned my mindset around and reminded myself of the fitness gains that come from racing hard. During lap 1 (a 3 lap run course) I did a time check with a group of 3 girls ahead of me. When I saw them again I realized I wasn't closing in very fast.  This killed my mojo, and I don't know that I ever really got into the run.  I haven't put in a ton of high quality running to this point, but dang I've surely been running faster and more efficient than this. Ok, things weren't all roses out there on the run course. I looked inward. Right here, right now, what can I gain from this?  "Race for fitness, race for fun, race for the love of this sport, just keep your head together Caroline and RACE!" With that I made a few passes, and played a few games with those who tried to hover over my shoulder. A sub 1:25 was very do-able for me on that course and I didn't come close. Fuel has been added to my fire!
I finished feeling pretty deflated and frustrated. I questioned myself. I wondered if I really can get everything I want out of this sport while trying to make enough $$ to survive (and pay off those dreaded law school loans). I pouted and stomped my way back to the car. With 4 hours until I flight packed my bike up on the spot. As I drove to the airport I got over my disappointment.  It won't do me any good, and it WAS a FUN weekend!  I'm blessed in so many ways! Perspective and focus, it's a must! The season has only just begun and I KNOW I will achieve greatness if I keep my head on straight. I went out there, tested myself, learned, and most importantly enjoyed the moments.
Awesome job to my fellow pro athletes, and a special congrats to our winners on the day: Kelly Willimson and T.O.  IMPRESSIVE performances indeed.
Thank you Chris, my rock and superstar coach! He's got my back and once again is keeping me grounded and motivated.  This is going to be a great year for AIMP Athletes!
Nytro and Kurt, this race wouldn't have happened if not for your joint efforts! In the midst of the crazy pre-CA70.3 thank you for your getting my bike ready while I was off in lala land.
To my 2012 Sponsors I can't thank you enough:
TYR, at this point you're family to me! Let our journey continue... 
To those joining me for 2012 I can't wait to build our relationship:
Scott, thank you for helping me get on my #1 bike of choice this season. I'm in heaven. Vision, I absolutely love my Metron wheels, aero bars and bike components. It is going to be fun watching this brand grow!
Oakley, you make me fast and fashionable!
FRS, I turn to you when I'm down in the trenches and need the ultimate pick me up. Serious energy for serious athletes!
Elite Feet Orthodics: Thank you for all of your efforts in working with my "difficult feet," and for laughing at me almost as much as I laugh at myself! Seeing you out in Tx was a true highlight of my race weekend.

There you have it. Galveston70.3 was a whirlwind weekend offering a warm welcome back to racing. HAPPY TO BE BACK AT IT AGAIN!