Friday, January 2, 2015

Top Hits: 2014

Every year has some ups and downs and 2014 was no exception. Not every day was filled with sunshine and roses and there were brief moments when I would have preferred a beach vacation to a race vacation. But the life that I’ve sculpted played out pretty well in 2014. There were times when I got to see the sun rise up over a glassy Lake Washington, many finish lines I was healthy enough to cross, mountains I climbed via two wheels, miles and miles I was able to run, and family and friends I could turn to anytime I needed a good cry or a laugh (mostly laughs). I put together a Top Hits List of 2014 that made my year well-rounded. I hope you enjoy it.

1.   My Dad’s Clinical Trial – about a year ago my dad entered a clinical trial for his Melanoma. I’m happy to report that the drug seems to be working and the doctors and nurses at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, as well as the supporters from Bristol-Myers-Squibb believe this drug may someday go to market.

2.  The Pantry Kitchen Assistant – Prior to August, I had attended a handful of cooking classes at The Pantry. It’s a community kitchen in the space behind Delancey Restaurant in Ballard. The classes have 2-3 assistants helping with food prep, serving wine, clean up, etc. In August I asked what I needed to do to become an assistant, and the instructor simply said, “email us and let us know you’re interested.” I’ve been helping with 2-4 classes per month ever since and I absolutely love it; it’s very different than my job and a lot of my activities. Plus I get to meet new people interested in cooking good food and I get to try all sorts of different cuisines. I will continue to help as an assistant in 2015.

Honorable mentions in this category are also the pie making class I took at A la Mode Pies where I learned the secrets of a perfect crust (chunks of butter + lard) and the dinner boxes I've been ordering from ACME farms. Their meal boxes provide fresh local meat, grains, and produce along with new recipes for me to keep mealtime healthy and enjoyable. This lets me experiment in the kitchen without the list of ingredients getting out of control.
3.   Cohabitation – my boyfriend moved in with me in August and I certainly do not miss the routine of packing an overnight bag (+ workout clothes for the next day). So far it’s going well and we’ve learned to share space. We’ve also set up the spare bedroom as a bike storage/Computrainer/TRX area. And for our Christmas gift to each other, we split the cost of a pair of Recovery Boots.

4.   The Joys of Running – it is no secret that my love for running runs deep. While I came up short with some triathlon PRs this year, I did best my half marathon time (1:22:51) and my 5k (17:49…though the course was short, so it was probably more like an 18:36). Not only that, I was able to run in a couple really fun xc races and got to see some great track meets in Seattle. 

5.   Read more books and GEEKED out on public radio: once I realized how much I prefer to listen to audiobooks versus the local radio stations while commuting, I started reading more books via audiobooks from the public library. When I read before bedtime, I usually only get through a couple pages, but this way I am able to “read” 15 to 30 minutes before and after work. I also listened to some audiobooks on long road trips when we traveled for races over the summer. For audiobooks, I recommend autobiographies or ones with uncomplicated plots (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, and Lena Dunham’s books were all good). My favorite books that I read (with my eyes) were “The Opposite of Loneliness” and “Looking for Alaska.” The books Gerry and I “read” together on road trips (and good books for men or women) were “Unbroken” and “The Boys in the Boat.”

And just like millions of other people, I was sucked into “Serial,” but this wasn’t my first exposure to NPR podcasts. I’ve been nerding out “This American Life” and “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” for years. I like to listen to them on long runs or when I’m cooking. Sydnie surprised me this year with tickets to see “Wait, Wait” when it was taped in Seattle.

6.   In January of 2014 I started a job at Seattle University that I really love. I get to work with smart people who believe in a mission that strives in empowering students for a just and humane world. I’m inspired as I walk around campus and hope to make a difference as an employee and a human in 2015.

7.   My Life of a Professional Triathlete was a lot like the life of an amateur triathlete, but it did have some perks. And after every race, even during the races, I was 100% happy I made the move to the pro ranks. I know I have a lot to learn, but after one year under my belt I am even more inspired than I’ve ever been.
Top left clockwise: prepping at The Pantry, my parents on NYE, xc racing with Oiselle,
seeing Wait Wait in person, the start line at IMCdA, and one of my favorite books from 2014.
Looking ahead to 2015: I have a new coach and a new sponsor (more on that later). My race schedule looks awesome! And my resolutions include keeping my desk organized at work and cleaning out the trunk of my car (aka – my traveling locker room).

Health, Happiness, and PRs in 2015,

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rookie Year in Review: 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, I’ve had time to get lazy – both physically and with this blog. Along with some offseason weight, I’ve gained some perspective. I’ve had time to reflect on my season and I’ve started to look forward to the years of racing I have ahead of me. When I made the decision to race as a professional, I thought it would somewhat of a “good experience” year. But the races were so different and hard (and fun!!), that I’m really looking forward to 2015 and 2016 and the seasons ahead. I believe I made the right decision to race as a professional and despite times and placing that left me a bit unsatisfied, I don’t believe there is any age group award that would have filled my void. I’m healthy, I’ve had amazing racing experiences, and I continue to make friends no matter what level I’m racing.

To give you a brief recap, I raced 2 full Iron-distance races (Coeur d’Alene and Penticton) and 2 half-Iron distance races (Wildflower and Austin).  Among the professional women, I was 17th at Wildflower, 7th at Coeur d’Alene, 9th at Penticton, and 8th at Austin. I would have won the W30-34 age group at all these races. If you told me these results at the beginning of the year, I would have been quite pleased. But I felt like my performances were a little stagnant this year. I even felt like I was somewhat depressed after Coeur d’Alene when I didn’t have a “breakthrough” type performance. My training was harder this year and I was definitely more focused, but that doesn’t always translate to results, so I had to learn (still am learning) to be patient with it.

The professional races are different. It’s hard to explain without experiencing first hand, but racing against 20 really fast women versus racing against the age group field requires more mental toughness. It also doesn’t allow for any weaknesses. Even with a good swim (for me), I was coming out of the water minutes behind the other girls and I found myself biking in no man’s land as the other women put more and more time into me. Yet despite the gaps between me and the race leaders, I found myself trying to claw my way back. Even if it meant moving from 10th place to 8th place in a race that only pays 5 deep, I did my best to fight through every single mile. This gives me hope for future races – the fire still burns!

At one point during the year I joked, “if you can’t beat ‘em, find the small fields with big prize purses that pay deep.” My schedule lined up with Coeur d’Alene and Penticton that happened to pay nearly all the professional women who showed up to race. I didn’t make the leap to the professional ranks to make my living, so I’m not necessarily plotting my season based on prize purses. However, with the coming changes from the WTC, I believe it will be more difficult to make a paycheck for the new and up and coming professionals. With this in mind, I am happy with my 2014 triathlon earnings and I know it’ll take more in 2015 to make some prize money.

2014 was tough and challenging and fun and exciting in every way I wanted my rookie year to be. I rubbed elbows with some really fast people, had wonderful homestay experiences, and made some new friends with the professional women I now race against. 2015 will bring some changes and I believe a fresh outlook to my training will help set me up for new success.

Thank you to everyone who supported me and cheered for me this season. Part of the reason I love this sport so much is because of the wonderful people who make it possible:

My competitors – thank you for pushing me and being tough. Thank you for the kind words of encouragement and showing this newbie the ropes this year.

The race organizers – thank you the people of Tri-California, WTC, and Challenge Penticton for putting on safe and organized races.

My coach and team – Kainoa got me to every start line happy and healthy. She was the tough love I needed to finish a hard workout and the cheerleader after every race. Thank you for providing a network of talented athletes who help make workouts fun and fast.

My family – thanks Mom, Dad, Stephanie, John for caring about my races even when we are several states away. I look forward to a Knutson family vacation when you all watch me race (just kidding).

My boyfriend – Gerry, thank you for being a super Sherpa at some of my races and the phone calls when I was traveling on my own. Thank you for biking with me, encouraging me, and making more breakfasts than I can count.

My friends – thank you to all my friends in this sport and those not in it; you all keep me balanced. Not every workout, race, or day of training leaves me happy, but I have a lot of people who can shoulder tears and make me buckle over in laughter. Thank you for all that you’ve done this year.

I look forward to seeing you all at the races, in the water, and on the roads in 2015. Thank your body and all the wonderful people who help you get to the start line.

With Heart,

My first pro podium - CdA
Words of encouragement from my favorite Sherpa
Hanging out with blog twin Alyssa at Wildflower

My patio turned into a bike shop a couple nights this summer
The final carpet at Challenge Penticton

My mom on FaceBook - there's a story behind "BIG HEART"
that I'll share another time

The final training rides were solo and soggy

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sometimes Weekly Roundup - 9/17

Soaking up the sunny weekend with some lovely rides along Lake Washington.

Apple season is here in the state of Washington. I picked these lovely Gala's at Gerry's parents' house in Orondo over Labor Day. There were too many to eat plain, so I baked a Smitten Kitchen apple cake and shared it with my co-workers.

Also taken from my bike this weekend - Husky football fans on their way to "sailgate" before the game. It's a popular way to enjoy UW football. Although I really enjoyed how Sydnie and I got to the game this weekend - rode our bikes and then used the UW bike valet. Fast, secure, and we basically had all of Montlake open to us as we rode home.

Action shot from the slip and slide relays over Labor Day at Gerry's cabin. The childhood favorite, now enjoyed by adults, has evolved from an actual slip and slide purchased from Wal-mart to visqueen, tarps, and snow tires, to what we are now using: visqueen, a tarp at the end, and pool noodles to funnel the water. I was really hesitant to try this, but it ended up being a ton of fun. And I'm not sure how much of a workout it was, but my abs were really sore the next day. Totally worth it.

My new favorite morning snack: homemade granola from the dahlia bakery cookbook (birthday gift from my friend, Sarah).

Action shot from my favorite race not to race: Starcrossed! It's fun to watch and cheer from the beer garden. And it's also a good chance to catch up with cycling buddies. One of my friends who raced in the women's elite race AND the single speed race (where she placed 2nd) said she'd teach me some skills and let me borrow her bike someday. I said, "not until my tri season is over." CX looks like a blast, though I'm afraid it would take away from the lazy off season I'm planning.

I hope you're all having a wonderful week as we transition into fall. And although I try not to gush over my sponsors too much (to the point of it sounding insincere), I have a true sense of pride today in seeing the enthusiasm Oiselle has created garnered for women's running.
With Heart,
PS - something for October and November: coffeeneuring

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why Penticton?

Tomorrow after work I leave for Challenge Penticton, a race I’ve been looking forward to ever since I decided to apply for my professional license. Amid the craziness that is the lead up to a race (scrambling to finish work items, packing snacks for the long drive, and fitting in a pre-race pedicure somewhere…ya know, the important stuff), I wanted to mention a few things about why I chose this race.

Run along Skaha Lake
As a Seattle triathlete, Penticton is a special place. It’s close enough to drive and often a wonderful capstone after sunny months of summer training. For years it’s seemed that as soon as Penticton was over, I struggled to find training partners unless someone was lucky enough and fast enough to get a Kona slot. If you talk to any Seattle based athlete who has “raced Canada” they’ll get a bit nostalgic and agree that Ironman Canada will always be the race that takes place in Penticton the weekend before Labor Day. If you want to read some of the background about the ownership of this historic race, check out the articles here and here.

Last year I had the opportunity to crew for an Ultraman team in Penticton. I drove up with my friend John Bergen, who took 2nd in the event, and he talked about his years “racing Canada.” He went on and on about the community support. And he mentioned the time in 2003 when they almost cancelled the race due to forest fires. Several of the volunteers were firemen who stayed up all night fighting fires and showed up the next morning to help with the race so the event could take place. I find it hard to believe that many other small communities could pull off something like that. I remember getting chills when John told me about it.
As part of an Ultraman crew, I got to know some of the biggest triathlon supporters in the city. I remember Steve Brown, Ultraman Canada Race Director and 2014 Challenge Penticton Director of Race Operations, talking about how Ultraman was made up of athletes who really loved to do crazy things (obviously). But the way he talked about it, I could tell he did his work not in the name of registration fees or branding. I got the sense that he just “got it” when it came to the love of the sport, and doing a race in this city would be something special. Not only that, I got to enjoy the stellar announcing by legendary announcer Steve King. I can only hope he’s back at Challenge Penticton this year. Check out this interview with Steve King on Breakfast with Bob at Challenge Roth in 2013. He has a resume unlike any other announcer in the sport – fast, intelligent, and entertaining. The interview is worth a listen.
And for all triathletes, Penticton should be special. It was the second Ironman (behind Hawaii) and a place where many of the sport’s legends raced for years – Peter Reid, Faris Al-Sutan, Thomas Hellriegel, Paula Newby-Fraser, Lisa Bentley, Erin Baker, Paul Huddle, Team Hoyt, and Sister Madonna Buder. The list goes on and on. I found this article about some of the other notable events over the years this race has taken place, as well as a good course description.

One of the rollers off Richter Pass
I never had the chance to race in Penticton when it was a WTC event. As my times improved I would try for Kona qualification in CDA versus a late season race. I somewhat regret not having raced it in its heyday. But that's part of the reason I chose Penticton for this year. I want to see this event gain back its traction. I want to experience it firsthand and be able to speak highly of the event. I’ve seen the course and it's challenging and scenic. I gave up my Hood to Coast spot with Puke and Rally in order to race Canada, so I better take full advantage of making it the “weekend of the year.” And beyond that, I’m excited to become part of the Challenge Family. I can’t think of a better place to do so than in Penticton.

Best of luck to all the athletes this year and thank you to everyone for making this event happen!

With Heart,

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sometimes Weekly Roundup - end of June, July, part of August edition...

It's been a very busy summer and although there have been a lot of opportunities for fun photos, I'm often not the type to slow down, stop what I'm doing, and capitalize on documenting the moment. Here are a few pictures from fun memories this summer and a glimpse of what I've been up to:
Prior to CDA, my friend Jill hosted dinner at her house to celebrate Susan's birthday and get "the divas" together. These girls have been friends through thick and thin and it was extra special to have Susan's daughters, Ellie and Lucy, join us for the night.

Two beverages I've been slurping on all summer are iced coffees known as shakeratos, based on the recommendation from Orangette. I use homemade cold brew coffee and sweetened condensed milk. It's such a delicious treat. The other frosty beverage I like to make, much easier now that I have a Ninja blender, is frozen coconut limeade from Smitten Kitchen. I feel like the lime is a very underrated fruit. Also, I tried this with light coconut milk last night and it wasn't nearly as good - stick with the full fat option. If you've stumbled upon my blog, you're probably working out a bunch anyway.

Shortly after CDA, I enjoyed a local beer tasting with my friend Elizabeth (first timer at IMCDA - she did great!). I swear these little tasters look bigger in this picture. Anyway, it was nice to enjoy some good beer outside with a good friend on a school night as we rehashed our races.
Obligatory Golden Gardens summer sunset shot - doesn't get old.

The last weekend in July I traveled down to Santa Rosa and played Sherpa as the BF raced the full Ironman at Vineman. He's  one of the red caps in the Russian River in the picture above. Gerry raced well and placed 3rd overall. I was able to get in some fun Ironman workouts and check out the great riding around there. The day after his race, we joined some friends and spent time on Lake Sonoma. It was hard to leave.  

Last week I went and watched some super fast ladies at the local all-comers meet. They set up a high performance women's 1500m and I was able to cheer for Oiselle teammate, Kate Grace.

Over the years I've attended a handful of cooking classes at The Pantry, a community kitchen in a beautiful space behind Delcancey restaurant. This shot was from their Summer Farmers' Market Class. Amazing. I finally inquired about becoming a kitchen assistant and am now part of their team. Last Sunday I helped with a sauces and condiments class and this week I'm helping with a class on Pacific Northwest cuisine. The instructors are very knowledgeable and even famous (this Sunday I'll be cooking with Kari Brunson, ballet dancer turned chef). It's a great chance for me to learn a few things in the kitchen and I get to try some delicious food.
I'm a real sucker for Starbuck's treat receipts. And I went for a big one ($2 for an expensive coffee drink - yes, please) on this particularly hot summer afternoon. I'm sure there is a health magazine somewhere telling me not to "drink my calories," but the chocolate whipped cream made me weak in the knees.

Two weeks ago I lost my keys on a long run (left them in a Starbucks bathroom and had to run extra long to retrieve them) and then last week I "lost" my phone (it was in my lunch bag). After feeling particularly stressed out and loopy, I broke my rule of "no drinking on a school night" and treated myself to a cold one on the deck. It was also a reminder that I need to chill out a little, especially as training and racing build.

My patio was transformed into a bike shop the other night. Just add Papa Murphy's pizza and Sydnie as the supervisor.

I'd like to get back in the routine of posting on a weekly or at least semi-weekly basis soon. I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful and safe summer.

Best of luck with all your training and racing,

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Race Report: Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2014

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. On one hand, my race in Coeur d’Alene wasn’t anything special. My time was about 15 minutes off from how I raced in 2011 and it didn’t unfold into any spectacular finish like my amateur win in 2013. But on the other hand, my first professional Ironman is a big effing deal (for me at least). And if I didn’t document some of the memories from such a special weekend, I would regret it years from now. Let me start off by saying “thank you” to my coach, teammates, friends, family, boyfriend, host family, competitors, and all the people in Coeur d’Alene who either supported me in getting to the start line or were there on race day. Without this support system, triathlon wouldn’t be nearly as fun or rewarding, and my life would be quite lonely.

I'm the third from the left, thankful I blend in with the other pros. Picture credit here.

Onto the race…as I lined up to race last month in Coeur d’Alene, I thought about how doing this was one of the scarier things I’ve ever done. It wasn’t the distance or the conditions that frightened me - my 11th Ironman and I’ve seen my share of windy days. It was the exposure of racing up front and against some of the best athletes in our sport. “Everyone would be watching” is what I told myself. All the spectators on the beach and athletes waiting to start were watching my start and would be able to see how quickly (or slowly) I’d make my way through the first loop of the swim. Thirty-five minutes *should* be enough to get through 1.2 miles, but I worried about getting dropped before the first turn and swimming solo the entire way. As I watched the men start, I seriously wondered if any professional athlete had ever had a panic attack before even getting in the water. I took some deep breaths and knew I couldn’t set that stage for the age groupers watching. Besides, get it together, Cathleen, you prepared for this! Be courageous and trust the training and years of experience that have basically been a gift in getting you here.

Part of the reason I was a bit intimidated. Photo credit here.

Backing up a bit, Ironman Coeur d’Alene is one of my favorite race weekends. I get to meet up with some old and new friends and I usually know the best spots for dinner, a cup of coffee, or a post-race beer. I’ve had pretty good results here several times and I like the local feel, being only a long drive from Seattle. I often have a handful of teammates toeing the line for their first Ironman, which is always fun to see. This year I had the pleasure of getting to know the CDA community even more by staying with a generous host family – the Pinkertons, who fully immersed themselves in volunteering. My race weekend started out well and everything was pretty much stress-free in getting to the start line. I had the usual pre-race routine and met with my coach to zip up my wetsuit and get final good luck hugs from friends and teammates.

With my friends Helen and Cecil.
As I mentioned above, I was a bit scared at the beach start, but when it all came down to it, I had the BALLS to dive in and start racing. With a strong wind all day, we had some pretty serious chop on Lake Coeur d’Alene. After the 8 pro women went off it was basically swim as hard as you can and don’t get dropped until you settle into a rhythm. I remember thinking it was sensory overload as I kicked and stroked and breathed. Every breath to the right, I could see the flashing lights from the police boat as the waves bobbled us up and down and up and down. Finally, I settled into a pack with Olesya, Ali, and Jennie. I stuck with them until the second turn buoy where I got a mouth full of water. It was a big enough gulp that I needed to cough it up and lost their feet. Luckily, I swam hard enough to catch back up before we were back at shore to finish our first loop. We made it through the first loop in about 32:40, ran on shore, and were back in the water to start loop 2. Two minutes into our second loop the age group wave started and my pack of four pro women was quickly swallowed up. I’ll admit, it kind of sucked getting swum over by the fast age groupers, but it’s motivation for me to keep working harder in the pool and eventually crack the hour barrier in an Ironman. I made it out of the water in 1:06:37.
Starting loop 2 - I'm second here.
I was quick through the empty transition tent, much different than the crowded T1 tents in my age group days, and ready to bike. We all knew it’d be a slower day on the bike with a strong headwind on the up hills and tailwind on the down hills. My time goals were readjusted and I tried to focus on power. I knew I was in 7th place after the swim and I quickly passed Jennie Hansen, who it turned out was having mechanical issues all day. Not long after that, Ali Black passed me and we all held our positions the remainder of the ride. I struggled quite a bit on the bike. At some point during our first loop I could tell I was having stomach problems. I figured I’d be fine and would just use a honey bucket in T2. But as I started the second loop, I felt so bloated I thought I might crap my shorts. I don’t know if it was some seasickness from the choppy swim or the amount of lake water I swallowed or something that went wrong in my nutrition plan the days prior. But my stomach ached and it was getting to the point where I was struggling to eat. I figured a quick stop in a porta potty was a safer bet than no calories and I also thought briefly of this post from Jordan Rapp. There are worse things that could happen with stomach issues. All the bike times were slower than past years, but I rolled in with a 5:49 – ouch.

Two shots - not sure if the second pic is just a bad angle or if my
stomach was starting to bloat in the bottom picture.
That's how I felt most of the day. Super attractive.
Based on my run training this year, I was ready to lay down a solid run. I had hoped my stomach settled and based on my lackluster bike knew I didn’t ride too hard. And I actually felt pretty good out there. My pacing was where I wanted it to be to have a run split I could be proud of and I was honestly having a good time. I got to see several of my friends and teammates cheering, volunteering, and racing. I was passed by speedy runner Jennie Hansen about 7 miles in, but I kind of knew that was coming. At the halfway mark, my coach yelled words of encouragement to catch 6th place (Ali), but with 4 bathroom stops on the run (yes, I know), I came up short by less than 2 minutes. There were parts of the run that were super uncomfortable and not because of my legs. In the end, I ran a 3:30 marathon and finished with a total time of 10:30:43 and 7th place for the pro women. I consoled myself knowing I wasn’t the slowest swimmer, biker, or runner, even if I was the slowest finish. Plus, with a small field and purse that paid 8 deep, we all made some cash, which was definitely something new.

As I turned down Sherman Ave to run toward the finish chute, it was truly a special moment. And it wasn’t because I had laid down a blazing fast race or won anything spectacular. But I knew I had followed through on my goal of racing as a professional this year. Yes, I was the last finisher of the pro women, but it took some guts and a hell of a lot of dedication to get to this point. I’ve chatted with a few other pro women who’ve reminded me that it takes some getting used to when you make the leap from amateur to professional. My new competitors have been nothing but nice and inspiring and I’m fortunate that I can consider them my new peers (even when they finish way the hell in front of me…Heather Wurtele). The hours and days after the race I was left on a high of only wanting to work harder and get faster. It helped me realized that “going pro,” as I contemplated for years, was the right decision in keeping this sport fresh and exciting for me.

I learned a lot over Coeur d’Alene race weekend including that in reality I don’t think “everyone” was watching the beach start or really paying too much attention to my race all day. Athletes worry about their own races and spectators sometimes don’t know what’s going on. I know starting with the pros and having a “P” on my calf all day makes people think I’m going to race fast, and that is what I hope for every day. I can use that expectation to push on when things get tough. My boyfriend, friends, teammates, and coach watched as I ran on the beach to complete the first loop of the swim, but I’m the one who put the most pressure on my day. This Ironman made me excited for the rest of the season and future years. There are more races to come. Again, thank you to everyone who made is so special.

Until the next one,

Other random thoughts from race day:
  • It was another fun weekend of racing with my friends David and Adam. We travelled to St. George in 2012, had a blast, bought matching sweatshirts, and take advantage of wearing them together in public when we can. It was great seeing these guys race, but we’ve decided that the three of us often have bad luck with the wind.
It's like they're taking this picture with me!

We LOVE our St. G sweatshirts and leftover pizza.
  • I nerded out at the pro meeting and told Heather Wurtele that she won Ironman CDA the first year I did an Ironman (2008). She was really cool about it.
  • Race morning I asked some random male pro to borrow a bike pump. That random pro was Andy Potts. I was totally star struck. Geez.
  • My host family was awesome! I was very lucky to be paired with such a fun and supportive family. I hope to keep in touch and visit them the next time I’m in CDA. All four of them also volunteered in T1 and had some hilarious stories from the changing tents.
  • Major thanks to my friend Kevin Tu for many of the great pictures above. He takes excellent race day photos.
  • Mike Reilly still pronounces my name wrong. Instead of K-newt-son, he says NUT-son. At the swim start, Jess Smith leaned over and laughed and told me “that’s why you marry a Smith.”
  • I got to know both Jess and Ali Black a little bit during over the weekend. I hope to run into them at other races, as they are both very down to earth and kind.
  • I also got to meet up with Haley Chura who was in town for SMASH. Both she and her mom were really sweet. I was impressed by her dedication to squeeze in a swim workout, which made me understand why she’s so fast. I hope to see her again at some races.
  • I have yet to decide on my 2015 season, but I do hope to race again in CDA. I need to break that 10 hour barrier and doing so in CDA would be really special.
  • Finally, a belated Happy Birthday to my boyfriend. June 29th (race day) was his birthday and he spent it as my Sherpa. :)
Many more races together...hopefully a little faster and not on your birthday.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Through the Ages

I've been thinking about this blog post a lot lately. In fact I would have posted earlier, but I’ve been preoccupied this week with the typical race week distractions – packing, last minute purchases, pre-race massage, focusing on getting more rest, etc. It’s a delicate balance of getting your shit done and staying calm. Or maybe I’m the only one who struggles with this? For me race week, especially when it's a race with so many memories, churns up nostalgia and I feel the need to reflect on how far I've come since I started racing Ironman. Here are the “Clif's Notes” versions of race reports from the past five times I’ve toed the line in Coeur d’Alene:

The year was 2008 and I had signed up approximately 365 days prior (this race used to sell out back then) thinking it might be a "one and done" type of experience. My training consisted for running a couple half marathons and marathons, buying a TT bike (that I rode until April of this year), swimming solo at the gym near my house, and way too many late nights and early mornings lifting weights or on a stationary bike (before I understood the benefits of a bike trainer and when I worked too many hours in public accounting). I actually stumbled upon my training plan the other day while I was cleaning out a closet. It was something I found on the Internet and printed out and put in a 3-ring binder. I don't remember much from the day other than it was really a lot of fun. My friends and family were out on the course and I remember the crowd was really supportive. I finished in 11 hours and 49 minutes and was pretty much hooked after crossing that finish line.

Support crew - Malia, Sherry, Andy, Jill, John, Lane

2008 Finish line with Jill, Lane, and Sherry
In 2009 I decided that I didn’t want to put in that much time and not get faster, so I hired a coach. Kainoa, who still coaches me to this day, whipped me into shape and prepared me to be more competitive in my age group. The weather that afternoon was cold and gray that day; it rained a bit on the run. My goal that year was to bike under 6 hours and run under 4. I succeeded in both and finished in 11:11:01, which was good enough for 5th place in my age group. Unfortunately, the Kona slot only rolled down to 4th place who finished about 90 seconds ahead of me. The girl who finished fourth, Lilia, and I are now good friends. Being that close and not getting a Kona slot was motivation that would help me through training the following winter. 
2009 Race morning with my friend Lindsay
In 2010 I knew I had a better chance of getting a Kona slot than the year prior. My run times were getting faster and I was showing improvement on the bike and in the pool. I swam okay, for me, got through transition quickly and got to work on the bike. I remember telling my friends and family that if I had a perfect day, I’d bike around 5:35. I biked 5:32 and was leading my age group as I started the run. My run was less than stellar – it was hot and I paced it poorly, but I held on to finish in 10:42 and got my first age group win in any distance triathlon. I had friends, family, and teammates at the finish line. When I was digging through pictures to post for this blog, I noticed the Facebook album I posted for this Ironman was titled, “Race of My Life.”

2010 - when I learned how to ride a bike

2010 - holding position on the run

I could probably argue, however, that 2011 was the race of my life (up for grabs this weekend, I hope). I put a lot of pressure on myself that year to qualify for Kona. I knew a couple fast girls from Seattle in my age group (Lilia mentioned above and Sam Mazer), not to mention all the fast girls who could show up from other states. Plus I felt like I had something to prove after winning my age group the year before. My training had gone well – I had a new stand-alone marathon PR that year (3:05) and I had also done well at Oceanside 70.3 that spring. And when race day came, I executed it almost perfectly. I posted a real race report here. The icing on top was that I had so many friends and teammates there who also raced well and that was really special.

2011 podium with Lilia in 2nd and Sam in 3rd - an honor to share
 the stage with such talented friends

2011 run
Last year was special for me in a new way. I learned to calm down a little and focus more on what I could do as an athlete versus worrying about how others were racing or what it would take to get a Kona slot. At the end of the day, I won my age group and was the first amateur female, something that would eventually lead to my decision of going pro. Racing CdA last year was a good reminder of how much I love racing and that I love Ironman. I got to experience racing up near the front and head to head with another competitor. It gave me a confidence boost and was a good stepping stone for this year.

2013 run -  hoping to improve on last year's race.
I'll likely have this same dorky smile.
So when I arrive in Coeur d’Alene this week, swim in the lake, and stroll up and down Sherman Ave, there will be a lot of memories giving me a lump in my throat (because sometimes I’m a total sap). But there will also be a ton of positive energy on the course for me on Sunday. Apart from the hustle of getting ready to race, this week has been awesome in terms of getting so many wonderful messages from friends and family. I have some fears about my first Ironman as a professional and the usual nervousness I get before a race, but I’m looking forward to writing about a new year and new experiences.
Best of luck to all athletes on Sunday! Have a safe and memorable race! This could be the start of something amazing!