Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections on my years in Triathlon!

It has always been very clear to me and I have always expressed how much I love to race! The feeling I have always got being on a start line is like no other. Excitement, anticipation,satisfaction, appreciation, gratitude, love of life...I can go on and on. So there is no doubt that I still have an enormous passion for being out there.

Ironman South Africa
Triathlon has tested me in so many ways.

Most people don't know this but I started competing in triathlon back in 1998. 14 years ago WOW!!!! At first it was just the local sprint races. I have to see if I can find some photos.  I had moved from NYC and was intrigued by a small group of triathletes at my gym. In NYC I had a pool on my roof so I would swim daily.  I was fit as I was a trainer and would run around Central Park. I even commuted via mountain bike...yes I was one of those crazies riding around Manhattan dodging cabs and open car doors.  Little did I know that this was my early training for triathlon.

Upon moving to the Jersey Shore this handful of triathletes (Jamie Carey, Bruce Robinson, Jack Meyer (RIP) convinced me to try my first triathlon. I forget if the first one was the Brigantine triathlon or the Monmouth Park Sprint. But it was new and exciting. Everybody was fit and I fell in love with it.
It was ugly back then. With little actual training and it was all about survival. Getting through the swim, riding my bike as fast as I could without crashing and then trying to overcome the hyperventilating and jello legs on the run. I loved every minute and I remember thinking those first few races I could get on the podium.  As with any new sport there was a learning curve,  and the guys like to remind me how I used to break down crying when I failed to unclip at a stop light and would come crashing down.  I remember my first ride with local roadies Christian and his Thursday night hammerfest thinking I could ride with the big boys and then getting dropped in the first 5 miles. Yes I cried again but I was determined to get faster. It did not take long and I was winning my age group all the while still riding in my small chain ring as I did not know how to work a road bike and only swimming junk miles.

I knew I could be good, but how good I was unsure.  What was apparent was the more I trained the better I got. This sport does not come easy. It takes commitment, dedication and passion and lots of time.
In 2001 I was taken in by Geoff Schroeder (The General) and his group and for the next 4 years I would develop into a real triathlete. We worked out HARD. It was a great group and we would go on long 100 mile rides, laughing and making jokes the whole time we pushed each other. We had our Tues/Thursday/ Sun long runs which people used to joke that when you showed up you had to bring a number as they were like races. This group and especially Geoff Schroeder got me to placing 2nd in my age group in Hawaii in 2005 and 7th Amateur in the world! Geoff had a knack for realizing talent and he pushed me daily with his rigorous schedules and belief in me. This was probably the most fun I had in triathlon and I am very thankful to him for getting me to Hawaii as a top age grouper.

In these early years it was all about FUN! I loved to train and looked forward to each and every workout. There was no pressure, no heart rate monitors, no power meters.  Just Geoff yelling out our pace per mile, or us seeing how hard we could go on the bike for as long as we could. There was satisfaction when we dropped someone on the ride or some laughs when we saw someone had pushed too hard and was starting to crack. Back then after Hawaii we would pack our bikes away for the winter and would not bring them out until the weather broke in March. In the meatime we would focus on our running and swimming. It was simple yet very effective. I miss that group very much and those early years.

Once I turned pro in 2006 things changed a bit. I got a new coach, Paulo Sousa, and I took my training to the next level. I was a lot more focused and I stopped doing the group workouts as I was now on a schedule. During my early years (1999 and 2002) I had had 2 children where I took a year off after each child. So my schedule being different to others I really had to do a lot of my workouts during nap time, then school hours and normally on very little sleep. As my kids got a little older I got to race a bit more and even go to training camps where I got the feel of the old times and training with a group and of course racing!!

With a new coach I made improvements and after a year or two started cracking the Top ten and then the top 5 in the pro field. I knew the training worked and I kept my will to succeed and work ethic. I never missed a day of training and I put in 100%. In the mean time I watched triathlon grow. What started out as a handful of people racing in my area had now had become a hundred more.
I was always thankful to have a small group of hard working athletes to train with a couple times a week that were willing to do my ride, or swim my workouts with me and support me in what I was doing!  Big thanks to Maggy Guinco, Joe Donahue, Laura DeMeo especially!!!

 I have learned many things over the years.
If you want to be really good you have to put in the work.  It helps to have people to push you and to share the accomplishment of a hard days training with.

Celebrating with QT2 Teammates Jennie Hansen and Jessie Donovan at IMLP
I love to train and be outdoors but it is not always fun, sometimes it is really miserable. But if you can wrap your head around it..what you have to accomplish that day. Whether it be a solo 5 hour ride on the trainer or 5 hours out in freezing conditions with wind blowing 20 mph or getting caught in down pours. Training when you don't feel well or pushing through when your body is fatigued. If you can find the positive in it...if you can ask yourself what is right about what you doing and come up with an answer then you have already accomplished alot. You see people ask me how I have managed to only DNF one race in my life after 22 Ironman and probably 40 70.3's and many more. You see I don't give up as I have taken my mind to those ugly places in training where you are miserable but have endured and ultimately find great satisfaction in doing that.

Back racing on the Timex team in 2007
What I have noticed in the last few years is that I am becoming softer. I opt for my trainer if the weather gets too bad. If I feel sick I listen to my body more and take the time off. My kids sports take priority now more than ever. I will work my schedule around there's. Sometimes life gets in the way and I just can't get the training in.
 Crashes twice over the last 4 years set me back and have hindered my performances repeatedly. You work so hard get fit, start getting results then crash you are out! You mentally and physically take a hit but yes you come back, you work hard, your build back your strength and you return stronger. Another great life lesson..that you can lose everything but you can come back rebuild, and be better if you want it. Sometimes you are forced to start over...

I have always believed I can win an Ironman and that drive has kept me going for the last 10 years daily. But as this sport becomes saturated with talent and athletes willing to make the extra sacrifices I know that this goal becomes more difficult. With that being said I was very happy with my 3rd at Ironman Lake Placid this year  and I continue to work to that goal!

Coming back strong after my 2011 crash but disappointment when I double flatted early on the bike in Panama!
I chose to finish the race and PR on the run! 

To be the best these days means you need to have the best support system around you, you need to be selfish, you need to make sacrifices, you need to be mentally strong, you need to want to win, you need to believe in yourself and your capabilities. To give anything less is to cheat yourself of being your absolute best.

With that being said I feel I have given all I can for as long as I can with always believing I was keeping the balance in my life and being the best mom I could be. I am so thankful to my family who has shared me with this sport for so long and have been so proud and supportive.

Heading into 3rd place at IMLP. A highlight of 2012!

Huge satisfaction and a huge comeback for me after my crash!

This race was done on pure will. Probably the hardest and most mentally taxing race of my life coming off a downhill crash and then arriving in Phuket to see these 22% grade hills. I wanted to cry and to not just enjoy being with my sister but I knew I had to do it!!!

This sport has been so much more for me. It has got me and my family to travel the world. It has exposed my kids to what you can do if you commit yourself and work hard to achieve a goal. It has shown me and them that "Anything is Possible." Yes cliche but I honestly believe that racing Ironman has taught me to never give up...if I want something I can achieve it. Nothing is beyond my reach. You just have to have a dream and have the will to work.

For 2013 I will continue to work hard and enjoy my time racing. I am still looking for the WIN. I am still looking for PR's but I am taking some of that self imposed pressure off of myself. So I can just enjoy my time racing. I tried to keep this thought process this whole year. Racing a lot, being in the moment,  and just having fun. Just enjoying the process and trying not to worry to much on the results!

So I look forward to 2013 and hope you all do too!

Triathlon is an incredible sport and I am grateful to all I have met along the way and all those I have had the opportunity to race, to the friends I have made, to the sponsors that have supported me and to my coaches that have played an integral part of the last 15 years.

My dear friends and family after IM NYC!
Thank you Coach Jesse Kropelnicki for believing in me and working with me and getting me through this last crash and back ready to race. It was an amazing comeback year of racing! I know it was not your idea to race so much but when it gets taken away from you temporarily it makes you want to come back stronger and race more even if it was not the way to go!

Thank you Rev 3, Charlie Patten, Eric and the rest of the crew for putting on a great series!!! You guys are the absolute best! Its been an amazing 3 years as Part of this team!

Many thanks to PowerBar for a year of fueling! I went through boxes and boxes and am so thankful to them! What a great product!

Big thanks to Blue Seventy, Kestrel, NormaTec , Louis Garneau, TorHans Hydration Systems, Brielle Cyclery, Dr Goldberger and Advanced Orthopedics Institute and Sports Medicine, Dr Liz Perez and ART, Shelby and her amazing massage and acupuncture.

Its been an amazing 2012 and I am wishing you all the best 2013 where you take big steps to achieve all your goals!

Find your rainbow in each day!

South Africa Ironman 2012


Shawn and Tracy said...

You are an amazing athlete and can't wait to follow your 2013 season! Hopefully in a year or so I may even have the chance to toe the line with you again ;-)

Jacqui said...

Thanks so much Tracy!!!!! I miss seeing you in the sport and can't wait for you to get back at it!!! But more importantly I am so excited of the year ahead for you. Having a baby is the best thing in the world....Enjoy every minute!! I know when the time is right you are going to come back even stronger!!

Jacqui said...
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