Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Many Thanks for 2010

It's that time of year when we step back, reflect on the past year and think of what's to come for next season. I have a lot to be very thankful for looking back over 2010, and while it has been many years of hard work in the making, there is no question that success' do not happen overnight nor do they often happen alone. It is only fair that while I have talked of how races played out and what has happened over the course of the season, I also take the time to recognize and appreciate all of those who have been right alongside of me through this journey.

Derick - My husband for believing in me and putting up with me for many years of hard work, little financial return, and what felt like at times more wheel-spinning than progress. Funny how perseverance and belief in a goal (but moreso believe in oneself) can reap rewards, as we have seen not only with my racing but with his business success' with Durata Training. I have to thank Derick for being an amazing partner and husband for the past 8 years. I could not have gotten to where I am today without him.

Family - I was lucky enough to get to have so much family support this year, with mother and father-in-law Donna and Fred being at Knoxville, to my mom being at Quassy, both of my parents at Steelhead for my first 70.3 "W", my Aunt Sandy, Uncle Del, and cousin Brian and his wife Leigh at Branson for my second 70.3 win, ending with my parents and Derick all in Hawaii. Despite having taken a 'unique path' (to say the least)though my life at age 33, my family has stood by me the entire way, with unwaivering support.

Zoot Sports - I have been with Zoot since 2007, and I love their products; from clothing to wetsuits to running shoes. They are a small but powerful company with an amazing staff who simply loves the sport and are dedicated to their athletes. Have I mentioned how much I love racing in these shoes, namely the Ultra TT and the Kapilani? They have powered me to many PR run splits this season!

Quintana Roo - This was my first season aboard with Quintana Roo, and the CD0.1 seemed to fit me like a glove. From flat races such as Lonestar to hilly and very tough courses like Rev 3 Quassy, I felt comfortable, powerful and always in control on this bike; even despite the crosswinds in Kona. I am excited for more years to come with this awesome company out of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

PowerBar - I cannot stress this one enough, if you live in a hot climate, you should be using PowerGels for your training! They have 200 mg Sodium to most gels 50 mg. Not only are their products palatable and tasty, but they work miraculously well on my stomach and fueled me to a 9:39 first Ironman this year in CDA, and a 9:36 second ever Ironman in Hawaii. What do I use? Half IM: 7 gels on the bike, 4 on the run. Full Ironman: 15 gels on the bike, 2 bottles PowerBar Endruance, and 6-8 gels on the run. Works like a charm.

Katalyst Multisport - I came to Chris in late 2008 interested in working together, and while he was full and unable to bring me on, I persistently approached him again in 2009. He has been an instrumental part in helping me truly be able to make triathlon my 'career' this past year, and for this I am so grateful. So Chris, thank you for believing in me!

Xcis Software - This is a software company out of Houston, and they were nice enough to financially support me in both 2010 and already for 2011. Racing comes down to a lot of financial balancing, so any extra bit helps, and I am so appreciative to Arnie and the Xcis crew for their support.

Jack & Adams - If you live in Austin, and even if you don't, you probably know of Jack & Adams. And hopefully you are also lucky enough to know Jack, the owner, who is not only a sincere, honest, reputable business owner but he knows this sport inside and out and he simply loves triathlon. And it shows in all he does. It is in part due to Jack that I believed I was capable of racing and racing well in Hawaii; not sure if Jack knows that, but now he does. Endless thanks to James as well, who keeps my bike squeaky clean and in working order.

Hill Country Running - The ONLY place to get your shoes if you live in Austin, people! Jamie and Andrea have got the running store business dialed and they have everything you could possibly need, including a treadmill to do a quick gait analysis to ENSURE that you are in the correct shoe. And, they put on quite possibly the best race ever, the Donkey & Doggie Dash 5K. If you have not been in here, you are going the wrong shoe store!

Advanced Rehabilitation - Dr. Zelinski has built this business from the ground up and when it comes to active release technique for injury prevention and maintenance, he is your man. Plus he has a great crew in his office to take you through exercise and treatment. He has learned from the best and in a few years become the best.

Go with the Flo Acupuncuture - This is my good friend Karen Smith's business, and while I had never had acupuncture until 2009, I never knew how good it could be. The way I see it, Karen is a little blonde busy body runner who never stops moving; anything that can get her to stop for 2 hours to poke needles into someone (and moreso spend years learning how to do it) MUST BE WORTH IT. Fatigue, tweaks, aches or pains, headaches, recovery,...possibilities are endless.

3 Cosas Massage - Another local business started by good friend Cecilia Llanos Hernandez, who has been a triathlete herself but is now looking after her new little one as they recently started a family. That said, Cecilia is an excellent massage therapist who knows what I need without tearing my muscles to shreds; in short, this is not my 4th workout for the day! She has helped keep me healthy for the past 2 years and it is much appreciated.

Road ID - This is a new sponsor who came on board late in the season, thus I was well-equipped in Hawaii for any potential meltdown with my brand new Road ID. I spent far too many years training without one of these; I now have two and always have one on. I do 90% of my training solo, including 100 mile rides out to Johnson City and back. It's a pretty easy measure to take to ensure your safety when out training; simply put, these save lives. So stop thinking about it and drop the $30 to potentially save your own.

Friends - ALL OF YOU! From my closest Austin friends to those who are all over the country, to those of you who leave comments on my blogs, drop me good luck or congrats notes here and there, facebook messages; no single note ever goes unnoticed! It all means so much to me. Looking back at Steelhead, and the 'waiting at the finish' incident... something that I really did not think was much of a big deal, the reception that I got from my fellow competitors was overwhelming. I think that it showed that no matter our finish, no matter who wins, podiums and who struggles to finish on the given day, we are all in this together and the sport in its entirety is about much more than times and results.

Seeing that my 'thanks' blog got a bit long-winded, I will wrap this one up and let you take a breather. Next up, a quick season re-cap of 2010!

Thanks for reading,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ray LaMontangue "Old Before Your Time"

The following are the lyrics from Ray LaMontangue's "Old Before Your Time", off of his most recent album God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise. Derick and I have been into this album lately; it just never seems to get old, and gets better every time. Last night when I was making dinner, he said to me, "Listen to the words of this song..."
It is so easy to listen to music and just go with the rhythm, love the song but never really listen to it. Especially with singer-songwriters like him, it's great to try to hear the words to the songs. This album totally nails it in my opinion; if you are in the hunt for new music I highly recommend it! I italicized some of my favorite parts to this song...

When I was a younger man lookin' for my pot of gold
Everywhere I turned the doors were closin'
It took every ounce of faith I had to keep on keepin' on
And still I felt like I was only losin'

I refused then like I do now to let anybody tie me down
And I lost a few good friends along the way
I was raised up poor and I wanted more
And maybe I'm a little too proud
In lookin' back I see a kid who was just
Afraid, hungry and old before his time

Through the years I've known my share of broken hearted fools
And those who couldn't choose a path worth taking
There's nothin' in the world so sad as talking to a man
Who never knew his life was his for making

Ain't it about time you realize? It's not worth keepin' score
You win some, you lose some and you let it go
What's the use of stacking on every failure another stone
Till you find you've spent your whole damn life
Building walls, lonely and old before your time

It took so long to see
That truth was all around me

Now the wren has gone to roost and the sky is turnin' gold
And like the sky my soul is also turnin'
Turnin' from the past, at last and all I've left behind
Could it be that I am finally learnin'?

Learnin' I'm deserving of love and the peaceful heart
I won't tear myself apart no more for tryin'
I'm tired of lyin' to myself, tryin' to buy what can't be bought
It's not livin' that you're doin' if it feels like dying

Cryin, growin' old before your time
Cryin, growin' old before your time

Monday, November 29, 2010

Amico's Big Day - Donkey & Doggie Dash 5K

As parents of a 2.5 year old Australian Cattle Dog (Amico), we could not deny the little guy the opportunity to do a local doggie dash, only 3 miles from home nonetheless. This is a bit of a delayed update, but I wanted to wait until I got the pictures from Jake North Photography to post it, as the pictures really do the race justice.

It took place back in late October, and it was put on by Jamie & Andrea at Hill Country Running. It was the 2nd Annual Donkey & Doggie Dash 5k. There was a donkey out on the course, hence the "donkey" involvement...very much an Austin kind of event! It was also 2 weeks after Ironman Hawaii, so I figured that while Derick ran the pup, I would blow out my legs and see if they had any speed in them. So, I did the people race, Derick & Amico the people & dog race.

I jogged over to the start (3 miles from our house), while Derick drank coffee and left as late as possible, getting there a few minutes before it started. It should also be noted that in honor of our dog, who looks quite like a coyote or a little fox, he wore his 'wolf shirt':

Onto the race. There was a nice little crowd, including Richie Cunningham and his fiance Melissa, and their Whippet Sam Shermingham. Richie had been talking some smack, so we had pumped up Amico a bit prior (not really but it sounds good). Derick, Amico and all the others with dogs lined up in the 'people with dogs' corral, while myself and the others lined up in the 'people only' corral. We then all anxiously awaited the gun...and off we went.

A picture (or a few) really can be worth a thousand words. The start went something like this: Amico bolted, as in we guess his first 400 meters was probably at about 4 min/mile pace, and a few 'yelps' were let out in the crowd. I looked over, a bit scared, and the comments I heard around me were "Good lord, what'd you feed that dog this morning?" "Is that a dog or a coyote?" I was between a panic and a laugh, and luckily Amico jumped to the front to get out of the crowd! It was a good sprint for Derick that's for sure. We finally got out onto the awesome, fast 5k course and this is what it looked like:

Needless to day, Derick and Amico crossed the line 2nd person/1st person + dog in a blazing 16:20. Shocking! They flew! Which is why I think I was also able to muster a huge PR on the course of 16:57. I was chasing them! The first thing I asked someone was 'Was that short?' I usually hate those people; always assuming it was short, or long, etc...a race is a race, you take it! Especially when it is fast! But, Jamie & Andrea did a great job with this event and it was a USATF certified 5K course. Melissa and Sam were not too far behind with an 18:38, as the second people+dog group too (sorry Richie, we took this one!)

...and in the end, all were happy. Amico got some sweet awards at the awards ceremony, not to mention Derick and I got a free pair of shoes and some cash! Not a bad deal when you only traveled 3 miles to a race!

(Amico is not a big eater...the only source of food he gets excited about is either people food or Greenies. The 22# cat on the other hand was very interested in this bag of goods when we got home!)

All's well that ends well. We had proud parents, happy me for having run fast, and a VERY happy pup because he got to at least attempt to wear himself out! And despite the smack talk between Sam & Amico (or Richie & Derick), all were still friends after the Donkey & Doggie Dash 5K. The End.

Thanks Jake North for the pictures, Jamie & Andrea at Hill Country Running for putting on an awesome event, Logan Delaware announcer extraordinaire and Austin for being such a damn cool town!!

'Til next time, thanks for reading...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Learning Experience in Miami

I wanted to put up a quick write up about Miami 70.3, as I know many friends have been asking. It was quite the day out there. I decided to come here somewhat last minute, feeling rather good after Hawaii and still having a strong motivation to race again. Mentally I was far from 'fried' and physically I seemed to bounce back decently. Remember; that was my second Ironman, so I may not be the best judge of what that means! :)

Long story short, I decided to solo it to this race, being a quick trip. The race kicked off soon after 7:00 and the pro field of women (maybe 15 or so of us) was off. It was still quite dark, so sighting was interesting to say the least. Luckily Nina Kraft and Leanda Cave were here and we often swim well together, so I stuck with these girls. I felt decent in the water; not spunky, but not too bad. We exited and I was third out of transition and on to tackle the streets of Miami.

Nina and I seemed to find a rhythm near one another, as we were riding exactly the same pace. We seemed to yo-yo a few times; especially if one of us would grab water from an aid station. About 1 hour into the race, I believe I briefly looked back; I think I was going to move left perhaps to avoid the rut I was about to hit. Next thing I knew, I was flipping over my handlebars; ass over teakettle as they say. I just remember losing control of my bars from having hit a 'bump', and flipping; then skidding a little bit. I immediately looked around to see where Nina was, I so did not want her to get tangled up in my mess! Luckily she avoided it, and I was at an intersection which had many cops. I got out of the intersection and assessed the damage; some pretty good road rash to my right side (hip, back and ankle) and the bike had taken a beating too. My rear derailuer was in the spokes, SRM had broken off and bars were bent down a bit. The paramedics came and checked me out, and I did not feel too shaken up; moreso pissed off at myself! I had been feeling quite strong out there. After about 30 minutes, and one of the guys bending my derailuer back out with a wrench (and spinning through my gears), they said "So do you want a ride back?" I looked at them and said, " far to the turnaround?" Then, stupid or stubborn I am not sure which, I opted to continue on. I figured that if I was in OK shape to go, even if I had lost a bunch of time, I could perhaps claw my way back on the bike and try to put down a stellar run to get at least slightly back in the game. After all, this was my last race of the season! As I said above, stupid or stubborn...

I carried on through the bike, feeling rough at first and then with about 30 minutes to go I started feeling better, stronger. I entered T2 FAR back, I have no idea how far but most women were probably well into the run at that point. I busted out of transition and threw down an amazing first 3 miles that definitely would have worked me back into the picture had I of been able to hold that pace! Immediately upon hitting mile 4, everything started to unravel. My body started to hurt, legs felt like they would cramp, and my breathing started to get quite labored. I realized that we all have our limits and this (given not only the race but the entire season) was probably mine. I dialed it back and kept plugging along, but it just got harder and harder. Again, that stubborn streak kicked in and I could not quit. I finally made it to the finish line, had somehow managed a 1:30 run while it felt like about 1:45, and was complete toast. I was taken to the med tent and just quite panicky feeling. They put an oxygen mask on me, and I am not entirely sure why; but it felt good. Friends surrounded me, Desiree and Pat and his family, which was so sweet. They said I needed to go to the hospital much to my not wanting to. But, I knew I had to take their advice. So off I went. (this just keeps getting better!)

In the ambulance, they did an EKG that was a bit odd. When I got there, they did another one. They found that I was having heart arrythmias, what they called "Bigeminy" (which I believe is one regular heart beat followed by an irregular one). I had to stay there through about 7:00 pm, at which point they let me out (I hate hospitals!) on the grounds that I would see a cardiologist upon my return to Austin and get an echo cardiogram along with a holter monitor which would monitor my heart rate for a 24 hour period. Whew. Day is done.

The big picture here and something many may ask is, "Kelly, WHY on earth did you finish?" Again, I know it may not have been the smartest choice, however I look at this as my job. Yes, my health comes first; but I was there to race, and if I was told 'you are ok to finish', by all means I would finish. You never know what is going on ahead of you; I had to give myself an honest shot out there. Additionally, I was running from the back of the pack. I have felt amazing the past year; in a way, almost invincible. But I am not; none of us are. If this was the wake up call that I needed, so be it. I tried to savor running from the back, saying to myself, "You do not always feel good, this is what makes you who you are. One foot in front of the other." I do know when to say when; in Canada last year, when I had abdominal pain beyond belief, I stopped at mile 6 and was taken back to medical. Today, yes I crashed but physically I (thought) I was fine; just having a rough patch. It ain't always gonna be easy. And the even bigger picture here, the big positive that came out of this, is that now I am aware of this 'arrythmia' going on. Sure, I went to extreme measures to figure it out! But when your job entails going out and pushing your body to its limits for 2 to 10 hours, you learn to turn off the pain switch.

I have a plane to catch... but I will do another post soon on a final season re-cap. In the meantime, thank you friends and family for all of your concern and support. I am sorry I scared ya'll. That was not my intention! And, I want to thank my sponsors for their endless support this season: PowerBar, Zoot, Quintana Roo, Jack & Adams, Advanced Rehab, Xcis Software, Hill Country Running, Go with the Flo and 3 Cosas. It has been a great year, and I will not let this one race ruin (or as Stewie Griffen would say, "ru-eehn!") that fact. Good things can come from bad races, and I will learn from this, take some much needed down time and come back stronger in 2011.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ironman Hawaii '10

At the start of 2010, I did not ‘expect’ to qualify for Hawaii. I believed that I was capable of doing so, but as with anything, the Ironman distance was still an unknown to me, and I have immense respect for the distance. I was fortunate to put together a race in Coeur d’Alene, and a bit to my surprise, secure a slot for Hawaii. I could not possibly turn this down, so taking my slot, I began to prepare back in June for the World Championships.

Going into Ironman Hawaii, I maintained a low profile, and while I wanted to be familiar with the course, I also wanted to keep a rookie attitude about the event…mostly to alleviate nerves and pressures, which I put on myself. Everyone likes to talk of how you must know the course, how brutal it is; I tried to simply look at it as another race, every one of which is challenging in its own way.

I arrived to the big island about a week in advance, to adjust to the time change, the weather and become somewhat familiar with what I was in for. My nerves were completely in check, almost too much, up through the Thursday before the event, when suddenly the entire vibe of Ali’i Drive just felt like nervous energy; a rubber band wound tight waiting to snap. Saturday could not come soon enough. I kept telling myself, “It’s just another race; focus on execution, nutrition, pacing and staying mentally strong.” While I know this to be true, I had big expectations even for my first time there; I wanted to be in the Top 10.

Race morning, I arrived in plenty of time to get set up, and I then went to the waters edge to relax. I entered the water at about 6:05 for the 6:30 start, and looked back at the seawall; there was already a solid line of people building up, waiting to take in the swim start. I had to smile at the sight. I entered the water and swam around a bit to shake off the nerves. We waded out for the deep water start at about 6:20, and I mentally prepared for the journey the day had in store; good or bad, I was excited to have the opportunity and I did a quick gut check to remember to (try to) truly enjoy my day.

With a field of ~120 men and women, I opted to start wide left to avoid a position whereby I may get pummeled. In hindsight, I played the swim start too safe, and I completely missed the top group of women. I found myself taking an extremely long line in to the buoys, and I know I was swimming far longer than I needed to; but I wanted to avoid any chance of panic. By the time we hit the turn boat, I had found a small group of men and women and we headed back in. I started feeling stronger, more relaxed, and with the cleaner, calm water I ended up pulling this group most the way back in! I thought I was on track for a great swim, perhaps low-50 minute range; but I exited and saw “57” on my watch. I quickly said something like “Kelly what the hell were you doing out there, looking for turtles?!” and then tried to get over it. I ran to my bike, taking in some PowerBar gel blasts on the way, and hopped on the CD0.1, ready to settle in for a nice 112 mile pedal.

As I biked out and back the Kuakini Highway (about a 10 mile stretch), I noticed so many women up ahead of me who I had beaten out of the water numerous times! Again, no use in dwelling on it, I focused on finding my rhythm on the bike, letting the heart rate settle down and riding within myself. My plan for the bike was to bike strong yet very controlled, as I wanted to run better than I did in Coeur d’Alene. I also wanted to front load my nutrition, so that if the winds were bad in Hawi (the turnaround), I would be able to keep my hands on my bars and ride, without fear of bonking. I took in Powergels regularly, along with PowerBar Endurance drink; passing a few women, and getting passed by some. I felt stronger than expected, and I ended up pushing the bike slightly harder than I had planned. The most exciting part of the bike was getting blown OFF my bike coming back from Hawi. It was minor, going up a small hill at a slow speed, and I was proud of myself for a quick recovery! I banged my knee on the frame a bit, but no damage was done.

The bike passed quicker than expected, and I still felt strong coming back into town, which is a huge step forward for me. However, getting off the bike and running into T2, my legs felt shaky. I threw on my Jack & Adams visor, Zoot Kapilani’s, grabbed my gel flasks and was off for the final leg of the journey, and what I hoped would be the best part.

The first 10 miles (down and back on Ali’i Drive), I felt very rough. I saw so many people cheering, and I checked some mile splits, which were in the 7:00-7:30 range; but it felt so challenging. I knew there were women out there running faster, but I tried to remember another piece of advice… “There will be so much carnage the last 10k of the run.” I did not want to BE the carnage, but I wanted to eat up the carnage! When I hit the 10 mile mark, I was told by Chris McCrary, as he could tell I was not feeling great, “Kelly, it will get better. Just keep going, it’ll get better.” I heard this and I believed it. There are countless ups and downs on the marathon, and you have to push through the downs yet not get too excited on the ups. It is all about a ‘controlled hard’. I had been told by Derick I was in the Top 20, and I knew I wanted to be closer to Top 10; but I did not panic, I just kept running. By the time I hit the energy lab, I had started to feel much better and find a smooth stride. I actually exited the infamous energy lab feeling strong, and knew that only 10k to go was nothing after a long season and countless run sessions.

The final 6 miles, I simply gritted my teeth and tried to take off any women up ahead I could. I was passed by one, which made me angry, but again I focused on the road ahead and the sight of the finish line. By the time I hit Palani (which is a short downhill with about 2 miles to go), I started to open it up and increased my pace. I actually got a bit emotional, as I knew that I had conquered the day with all I had and whatever the result, I would be proud at the finish. I finished with a 3:11 run, faster than I had done previously.

I crossed in 15th place, with a 9:36, which was a 3 minute improvement from CDA and absolutely nothing to be upset about for my second Ironman. In hindsight, I sit here thinking… could I have gone harder? Did I have too much left on the run? I know I gave up a few minutes on the swim. But the bottom line is, I executed a smart, controlled yet aggressive race and I think I proved to myself that I do belong among the best racing Ironman; that in itself is a big mental barrier to get past. Another interesting part about my day was that I GAINED 4 lbs! I went to medical, they plopped me down on the scale and when they told me my weight, I said, “I am ok…that is up 4 pounds!”

I think it is healthy to set out big goals. Whether we do or do not get there, it gives us a purpose, something to focus on and the bigger the goal, the more we’ll get out of ourselves. I firmly believe that I am capable of not only Top 10, but ideally Top 5. That said, I know of the loads of experience and talent among my fellow competitors, and if there is one thing I have learned in my 8 years of racing, it is the value of patience. This season has been incredible, and the support from sponsors, family and friends makes me feel truly blessed to be able to do what I do every day. I can look towards next year with more experience under my belt, and having pushed myself to new limits. Do not be afraid to raise the bar for yourself. There is no failure if you are always learning from what you do; and most importantly, enjoying the journey along the way.

This first Ironman experience was not only about my race, but I was also able to raise $6270 for Multiple Sclerosis, through many generous donors, in honor of my amazing Aunt Sandy, who has had MS since she was 30. The week after my race, she was told by her doctor that he wants to get her out of her brace she has worn for 17 years and try to get her walking again. I gain strength from watching her. It is not about what life hands us, but in how we react to it; which is entirely in our control.

Thank you to my amazing sponsors, friends and family; this journey is all the better with people to share it with! 'Til the next one, keep looking forward and keep your eyes on the horizon.

Thanks for stopping by,


Monday, September 20, 2010

Branson 70.3: A Win & Much More

I have always believed that racing triathlons as a professional, even if you can manage to win the race, has always held a 'bigger' meaning. It is not just about winning, or posting certain times, but to go out and push yourself to the limit for so long, there has to be a larger drive coming from somewhere. This weekend racing in Branson, Missouri, taking the win in front of a spectacular crowd and most of all my family was definitely all the more special with my Aunt Sandy along the sidelines, cheering her heart out, as she is my reason for fundraising for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for my Ironman Hawaii race.

The Race: I knew when Branson 70.3 was put on the list of events, I wanted to come. It is a 10 hour drive from Austin and I was able to stop in Oklahoma to see my aunt and uncle en route. My mom flew down to Austin, and she made the drive with me, which was great as well. So we arrived to Branson on Friday and I realized all of the hype about the 'hills' was for real! In addition to the hills, Branson has lots of old people and a 'strip' much like that of a mini-Vegas. That said, it does not feel overwhelmingly big because the 'strip' is only a few miles long and despite the busy-ness of the main drag, the town still maintains a bit of a cozy, quaint feel to it (probably all the cute old folks around). Friday and Saturday were the usual pre-race happenings, along with the arrival of my Aunt Sandy, Uncle Del, cousin Brian and his fiance Leigh and their baby Ava. Such a treat to have so much family here to support.

Swim: I was feeling quite unsure of what to expect from my body, being about three weeks out from Hawaii, but as we all know how you 'feel' going into a race rarely equates to how you perform. We kicked off Sunday morning in beautiful and crystal clean Table Rock Lake right at 7:00 AM, in the warm 76-degree water and a wetsuit, and my body felt quite mediocre. I was able to stick on the feet of strong swimmers Nina Kraft and Pip Taylor, and while I thought I could make a pass a few times and take a pull, I did not quite have the gear to do so; so every time I drifted back, I told myself to focus and stay in the draft, as my mind started to drift as well. I tend to enjoy solo swims, but I have realized this is not so efficient when racing! The swim felt endless, but was a nice out and back well-marked course and I was glad to get out and take off my Zoot sleeveless suit as it was much too warm to use one at all. The run up to transition was like a slap in the face, up a very steep hill with steps! Quite cruel actually! But forced you to find your running legs.

Bike: We exited the park and immediately were hit with hill after hill, on a gorgeous and foggy winding road. I was able to exit transition in 2nd place, and Pip and I exchanged the lead for the first 15 miles or so at which point we finally hit the 'main highway' were we would proceed to do our two loops. I was able to pull ahead here and through non-stop work, maintain the bike lead. Picture a long tree-lined highway ahead of you that is either a long uphill or a long downhill; this is what the course entailed, for the entire two loops. Despite the fast descents, the miles seemed to creep by! I recall seeing the Mile 20 mark and looking at my watch, throwing out a few choice words, shocked it was taking so long! I could see the gap between myself and the other women, but I know there were strong girls behind me so I stayed on the gas the entire time, even on the descents. We finally exited the roller coasters and took the final 8 miles back into downtown Branson, which was predominantly downhill, a good place to fuel up and spin out the legs a bit for the run.

Run: I literally said to myself upon coming into transition "SWEET, held the lead, now legs what are you going to give me? Are you still there? Please have something left after that punishing ride..." I hopped off and ran to my shoes, which felt quite snappy, a good sign I hoped. The crowd was incredible and it was so great to hear the cheers from my family! But, I stayed focused and started to push the run right off the bat. We had a 3-loop course, which took us through the Branson Landing (an outdoor mall) along Lake Taneycomo and then into neighborhoods. I knew I needed to run hard from the start to put a gap on 2nd place, as she had gained on me on the bike. I pushed the first loop and was feeling strong, yet the heat was kicking up. I knew I had increased the lead, but tried to keep pushing on Loop 2 as I like to run fast even if I do have a lead. By the time I approached the 9 mile mark, I started to hurt a bit. I had been watching my splits, seeing 6:00, 6:10's, 6:20... I told myself I could probably safely drop to 7-min pace and still win, so I dialed it back a bit as to prevent a full on blow up. When I started to hurt, I tried to look relaxed and strong because when you start to grimace, I think it only gets significantly worse. I finally saw the 12 mile mark, and knew I had it from there on in and started to think about the finish.

The Finish & More: I was hoping that my Aunt Sandy would be there along the finish chute as I approached, and she was. I spotted the finish area, fountains and all, which is always the most welcome view of the entire day, and started to celebrate a bit. When I saw my family, I ran over to her and gave her a big hug before crossing. She was so happy, as was I, and it was a bit of an emotional moment. My Aunt got MS when she was 30 years old, and while it has limited her in ways physically, she has an incredible attitude and she never makes an excuse. She is one of the most caring, genuine women you'll ever meet, yet she is also honest and tells it like it is. I figure when I am out there hurting in a race, or in a training session, who am I to complain about it. I am inflicting this pain upon myself; some people in life have pain they do not choose for themselves. She never complains. I know she appreciates all she has in her very blessed life, and this inspires me to appreciate the ability to go out and push by body to its limits. The win was incredible, especially coming after winning Steelhead 70.3; almost even more special to see that I could win another one, but having my family there to support meant the world to me, and I just try to keep it all in perspective; appreciate every single minute of it because we never know what tomorrow may bring.

I need to send out a HUGE thanks to my sponsors, who have been instrumental in my success' this year: Zoot Sports, Quintana Roo, PowerBar, Katalyst Multisport, Xcis Software, Jack & Adams, Hill Country Running, Advanced Rehabilitation, Go with the Flo Acupuncture and 3 Cosas Massage. And a thanks to my family for having supported me on this crazy journey for the past 10 years, and my husband Derick, who on our 2 year anniversary weekend was across the country in Bend, Oregon doing Xterra Trail Nationals, picking up 6th overall and an age group win!

**I am in the final push to Kona, and I am racing for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and raising money through the Janus Charity Challenge. I am just shy of my goal of $5000, so if you are interested you can donate here. ** Thank you for your generosity, not from me but from every person who is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis every hour of every day.

Onto Kona! Thanks so much for reading ~

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Austin Triathlon - A Win!

The Austin Triathlon is quickly becoming one of the best multisport events in Austin. It is very local (right around Auditorium Shores, in the heart of downtown) and is a well organized, loop format course, which makes it very spectator friendly. High Five Events heads this one up along with Jack & Adams. Dan Carroll is the 'man in charge', and when he is working, he may be better called Mr. Attention to Detail. Just as in the past few years, the Austin Triathlon did not disappoint this weekend.
This race came about 5 weeks out from Hawaii, so, of course my trai
ning has been rather heavy the past few weeks. I actually had to change things up a bit last week since I found my energy levels were beginning to drop. This seems to be a very tricky time, since you have the cumulative fatigue from the season building up, yet a good level of fitness; my husband Derick is a great sounding board, as when he sees me dragging around the house talking of needing a nap, he usually tells me to take an extra rest day. And he is usually right. Anyhoo, I had thoughts of not racing this event, but I knew that despite slightly tired legs, once race morning came around I would get in the mood and once the gun went off, I'd go into race mode and love it.I spent Sunday at the expo doing a brief transition clinic, followed by a pro panel, which was entertaining even on my side of it listening to Richie Cunningham and Michael Lovato talk smack to one another; definitely crowd pleasing. We kicked off Monday morning promptly at 7:00 AM (sans the usual Shawn Colvin, who often sings the national anthem! ) in the wetsuit-legal 1500 meter swim, down and back up Town Lake. It was actually a very pleasant swim, despite a large Open wave, people seemed to spread out nicely and there was no jockeying for position. I found some calm water and cruised along pretty much solo, coming out on the heels of Todd Gerlach, and about 20 seconds down from Tenille Hoogland, the first woman out. I hustled through transition and was out on the bike which consisted of 3 loops (24 or so miles total).
This bike is fun in that we head up South Congress Avenue (a hot spot in Austin, in terms of restaurants, bars, trailer park eateries and most definitely people watching) which gives
us a long steady climb then come bombing back down it towards the Capitol. While it is a 'fast' course, it has a few hills which keeps it honest. I hammered away from the start, as I had about 45 seconds to make up on 1st place. I finally caught her on the third lap, but just as I did Desiree caught me so I knew that I needed to stay on the gas. I was quite surprised my body was giving me this much knowing how my legs had felt prior to the start! I guess this is called the 'adrenaline effect'. I had taken my two PowerGels and as the loops became a bit more crowded as we progressed, I was anxious to get off the course as it was also getting a bit wet with some spitting rain. We entered T2 together (Desiree and I) and I knew it would not be easy from then on as she is a great and tough runner! Photo by Mario Cantu

We started the 10k run out of transition and right onto the grass, talk ab
out a cross country course to start! I was using my new Zoot TT 4.0's which felt great, and were a nice bright PINK. Very visible! We had two loops, and the first couple of minutes we spent on a grassy section before we hit the road. I pushed hard from the start, knowing that Des would be tough to stay away from. After about 1.5 miles, we hit another grassy stretch winding through a park and then hit pavement again, as we also hit the crowds. This is always nice, especially if you do not want to 'look back' because they seem to tell you what is happening! I knew I had gapped her a bit, but I never take that for granted and kept pushing hard. We started the second loop, and I took my Raspberry PowerGel to ensure no bonking. I tried to stay on pace, but also tried to keep myself controlled, starting to feel the race catching up to me. Once I hit First Street bridge (and the final mile), I knew I likely had the win and I really enjoyed the crowds cheering. It felt so good, as I had gotten passed the previous year (by Des!) about halfway through the run and lost by 30 seconds or so. I was able to come away with the win, and about a 6 minute improvement on last years time, along with a 2-hour flat overall time! Very pleased with this result, and so nice to do it in a 'home crowd'!

Thanks so much to all of the local support that I have in this amazing town, including Jack & Adams, Hill Country Running (Jamie & Andrea, the watermelon post-race was delicious...!), Advanced Rehab, 3 Cosas Massage, and Go with the Flo Acupuncture. Also a big thanks to my sponsors Zoot Sports, Quintana Roo, PowerBar and Katalyst Multisport. And a huge congrats to the top men Ph
ilip Graves, Richie Cunningham and Michael Lovato for duking it out for Top 3. And thanks to fellow women made me work so hard for this win, Des, Tenille, and fellow Zoot'er Sierra Snyder.
Next up is a bit of recovery from this event, and then Branson 70.3 right
around the corner on September 19th. Then the season finale, Hawaii, on October 9th. It's been an incredible year, and I already feel very blessed with this season. That said, I still want to finish with a bang! Thank you for stopping by.

**Please note, I am in my final weeks of raising funds for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society through the Janus Charity Challenge via my participation in Ironman Hawaii. My goal is $5000, and I am about $1500 short right now. I really think I can make this goal! Please contact me ( to find out about how you can donate to this cause. It is one very close to my heart, and your support makes a huge difference, no matter the amount. Thank you!**

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Steelhead 70.3: First W-I-N!

It was only 5 years in the making, but I finally secured a 70.3 win. Wait; that's not entirely true. I did win Racine 70.3 in 2007, but of course, it was not technically a '70.3' yet. I guess you could say the wait was well worth it, as yesterday at Steelhead, it all came together and it felt amazing.

I had been in Salida, CO (~7,000 ft. elevation) prior to this race. Derick and I decided to escape the Austin heat for a few weeks, and found a small, outdoorsey town that we both love that would suit us well. The cycling out there is incredible, but I found after about a week, my quads had a constant 'ache' to them which was due to the huge climbs (and inescapable false flats). Needless to say, when I flew to Indiana from Denver on Thursday, I proceeded to take 2 days entirely OFF going into Steelhead. Not typical for me, but my body was quite tired and I felt it needed some extra rest. Point being, I had no idea what to expect from having been at altitude coming into this. My cycling felt strong, but I had been swimming solo (and missing the awesome UT Masters group) and my running felt it was missing some leg turnover. That said, I was excited to race having taken 5 weeks away from competing since Coeur d'Alene.

We drove in on Friday mid-day, and I hit up the usual pre-race meeting, only to see 3 pro women there! I figured that a few more may trickle in, but I knew then that this would be a rather small race. Nonetheless, I figure you have to go out and attack it no matter who shows up. Anyone can be on top on any day, and a chance to race can always be an opportunity to get stronger. I love to race big, high quality fields, but a smaller field like this makes it a bit more laid-back which is always a nice thing.

I arrived at about 5:30 to transition on Saturday AM to find Heather Jackson there as well, and we set up our things under a steady, cool rain. I am not sure where all the other pro's were, but I was a bit jealous of them, obviously staying under shelter, warm and dry. I finally made my way down the 1 mile beach walk to the start, in my Zoot speedsuit (to sadly have to be retired in a month!) and found myself shivering for about 30 minutes! The weather was not threatening, but we were going to have very wet conditions for at least the first half of the bike. We were off right at 7:02, 2 minutes behind the men, all 4 of us, the non-wetsuit, straight shot swim in Lake Michigan.

I found a groove pretty quickly and plugged along, solo, catching a couple of men but mostly enjoying the nice splash in the lake. It is pretty cool as we swim only about 50 meters out from the beach right along the lake, so the spectators can walk along beside us. I exited in about 26-min flat, which was rather quick for the distance without a wetsuit, and began the challenging run up the beach. I did not know who was behind me and by how much, but pushed as quickly as I could to get onto the bike, as Heather Jackson is a phenomenal cyclist and I did not expect her to be too far behind.

Out onto the QR CD0.1 machine and I just hammered it! Having come off of Ironman CDA, I had to really pace myself there, coming through the first half with it feeling 'easy' and resisting the urge to hammer the hills like I would have liked. I like to go HARD! So now I had my chance again! I have to admit I was biking scared, as I knew that if Heather caught me, I would have my work cut out for me. The awesome Aaron Scheides along with his guide passed me, part of the K-Swiss team, and I have to admit I was glad it was THEM in the white and blue and not Heather! I continued to stay on top of my PowerGel's (I take about 7 of them throughout the 56-mile bike), push the flats and keep aero as much as possible on the flat yet slightly rolling course. I could not see the Mile 55 sign too soon, and I was ready to be done with the bike and see what my running legs had in store for the final 13 miles.

Into T2, I grabbed my PowerBar visor, slid into my Zoot Ultra TT's (just like green slippers!), gel flask in hand and was off. I did my usual hair-fix as exiting transition area (low pony-tail to high, gotta be comfortable!) and quickly found a rhythm. This run course is not particularly flat, but I have done many significantly more challenging. It greets you with a hill right at Mile 1, and you then proceed to wind through a neighborhood. You then come to the 'sucker' part of a lollipop loop, which you run around twice. At both Miles 5 & 10, you hit the other good sized hill; nothing crushing, but enough to keep this an honest run course. I felt great cresting the hill, especially the second time, and they are nice enough to not have a Mile 11 marker so that Mile 12 looks even better. As I came back towards transition, I saw many exiting who were starting the run, yelling and cheering at me... Thank you so much for the cheers, and I am sorry I did not return them! I was in a world of hurt and ready to see the finish line by this time. Which brings me to the finish...let me flash back to pre-race on the beach.

Karen had jokingly said as the 4 of us stood there, "So, ladies, lets all get paid today! No super hero's out there today, are there?" (To which I thought, "Well, hell, I hope I am a super hero today! I want to win!") There is currently a rule intact which states that to take home any prize money, a professional must finish within 8% of the winners time. While I can respect the rule in that it is aiming to 'raise the bar' for us professionals, I would also like to see those who show up get paid, especially when the field consists of only 4 women. After Karen said this, the idea kept creeping back into my head throughout the race. So, as I approached the finish line, I figured why not take this opportunity to at least try to allow us to all get a paycheck. I did not know the exact spread, but when I came to the line, the clock said "4:15" (which was 4:13 as we had gone 2 minutes back) and upon a quick calculation, I realized this was going to mean they would need to be within about 18 minutes. I slowed down, high fived a few spectators, then about 5 meters from the finish line, stopped and waited. People looked around, a bit confused, but I knew what I was doing and simply held there for 2 minutes or so. Not knowing the exact spread, and knowing that Heather was likely not too far behind, I decided not to push my luck too much and crossed. While a bit anti-climactic for my first 70.3 win, it still felt incredible to break the tape, while also showing some respect to my fellow competitors.

It was awesome to have my parents there, as they have seen me through this crazy sport from the start. The Muncie Endurathon was my first half-ironman race back in 2004, and I distinctly recall coming in from the bike, hearing my dad yell out, "Kelly, where ya been?!" to which I replied not so silently, "Shut UP, dad!". Good times. Anyone who says the bike is the easiest discipline to 'pick up', I beg to differ. It used to be I would post one of the fastest swim and run times, yet the bike would be so slow it would remove me from contention at all. I have always known that I was better than that, better than the mediocre bike splits I kept posting, it just took a few years to dig it out of me.

Thanks to my parents and my husband Derick, who have seen me through many ups and downs the past few years. Thanks to the Steelhead 70.3 crew; you all put on a spectacular event, even better than in 2009. And thanks to my fellow competitors, albeit a small group of us, Heather Jackson, Karen Smyers and Annie Gervais. I have seen Karen at races here and there for the past few years, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for her. I hear she is a big fan of good beer, as am I. I sure would like to share a few with her someday! It has been a long time coming to 'officially' be a 70.3 Champion, and I am going to savor this one. Hopefully there are more to come!

Next up is Austin Triathlon on Labor Day, a local favorite, put on by only the best, Jack & Adams and High Five Events. Thanks so much for stopping by!

P.S. BIG THANKS to Sean Watkins ( for the awesome photos during the event!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Grandma Handel - 96 Incredible Years.

Last night, my grandmother of 96 years passed away. This is "Grandma Handel", to me. She lived a long and very full life. She lived in Columbus, Ohio, so unfortunately I was unable to see her as much as I would have liked regularly. I did however see her over Christmas, as she had moved into Knightsbridge Forum; an 'assisted living' place but she did have the freedom of her own apartment. It is very hard to realize that she is 'gone'. I find myself alternating between overwhelming sadness, and then happiness at the life she was able to live. She moved out of her own house only one year ago. She out-lived my grandfather by about 20 years. He was an incredible man himself, as he taught her (and my father) how to camp, even writing a book on 'cooking in the outdoors'. So, she was living on her own in her own house (probably 1500-2000 sq feet of house, with a basement she used to do her laundry and wrap gifts) through age 95. How many people will ever get to do this? That in and of itself is incredible. It was hard for her to move out of 3122 Glenrich Parkway, but I think she knew that it was time for her to simplify her life a bit.She loved a few things, some of which included her family, giving gifts (she had Christmas gifts wrapped by June each year!), Ohio State football, lunches with her lady friends, crossword puzzles in the mornings. She rarely skipped a day without her 3:00 'highball', a simple glass of whiskey (usually Kentucky Tavern). I am tempted to say this is what helped her live her 96-years. :) Grandma was always up for a visit from us, though I only wish I could have done so more often. Life can be tough; we do the best we can, but ultimately we have to 'live our lives' and she was nothing but supportive of what I have chosen to do with mine.

I spoke with her just 2 weeks ago, upon our arrival in Coeur d'Alene. She called me after receiving a card in the mail, and after her highball, which made her quite chatty. While she was a bit short of breath, she was animated as ever. Her mind quick as a whip. My mother told her last weekend of how I performed, telling her that I 'qualified to race in Hawaii'. Her response? She lit up, smiled and said "Ooh, that's the big one!" How she knew this, well I can only say it is because she is Amazing Grandma and she just 'gets it'.
Grandma Handel even picked up emailing the past few years, keeping up with the times. She had a 'mail station' which she used to open up and correspond with people via email. She made friends easily and in her 20 years living alone, had her fair share of boyfriends. She would tell you of how a few wanted to marry her. She'd kind of giggle and make light of how she was 'outliving them all'~! When we visited her house even last year, the light in her living room would automatically go out at 10:00 PM. This was when it was "time for Doc to go home." (Doc being one of her past boyfriends).
I will miss her dearly. Just writing these thoughts down hurts. There is no way around it, dying sucks. I know it is a cycle and I should be thankful for her time here with us, but when Grandma has always been here and always been so quick and smart, it is incredibly tough to try to imagine moving forward without her. That said, I can only hope to remember all the amazing times we had with her, and carry on with the so many things that she taught me. Grandma knew how to take care of herself; while she was fiercely independent, she loved deeply. She was a beautiful person inside and out, and not surprisingly, I think she just got tired. We will all miss you Grandma, and you will live forever in my heart.