The adventures of a paratriathlete

2012 Wrap Up- Because I haven’t blogged since August? Oops.

Well guys, here I am. I am finally attempting to write again about the past few months in racing and life. Go ahead and call me a slacker- ITS TRUE!

A lot has happened since I last posted wayyyy back in August. The majority of it has been pretty freaking exciting! So excuse me if this is super long and you have to nap in between. I may have to nap while I write it.

1. I moved. You may have guessed it but I finally moved back to San Diego! It was an incredibly tough decision to leave USC and TriFit. The main reason I left was to be closer to my family. But, I did really enjoy the 3 years I spent in LA. I just didn’t see it as a place I wanted to live long term. It was SO tough to leave USC because I seriously loved my bosses. It was EVEN TOUGHER to leave TriFit and Bernard and Gina. I would not be where I am today as an athlete or as a person if it weren’t their team. Part of me almost stayed because of that reason alone.

2. I have a new sponsor. Okay so I’ve been holding out on this one for quite some time. It’s been in the works for awhile and if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been traveling to Chicago A LOT. (I love it there by the way. Maybe I should move?) Chicago is home to Brian Tolsma and Midwest Orthotic and Technology Center‘s Chicago office. And MOTC is now one of my main sponsors and I couldn’t be happier. Since August, I have received a new running prosthetic, a biking prosthetic (eeep!) and soon, a new walking leg. The coolest part? I’ve learned a lot throughout this process because I get to watch it happened. I get to be behind the scenes and it is so cool to see! I ask wayyy to many questions but I’ve never really understood what goes into making a prosthetic. Case in point- I didn’t even know what type of foot I was wearing.

Okay another cool thing is that everyone I have met at MOTC is amaaazing. They care about their patients so much and I truly trust them with my prosthetics. The lines of communication are always open and I think that’s something I was lacking with previous prosthetists. I think it’s important to be involved in the making of your prosthetics and trusting your prosthetist.

Side note- I got to race Chicago Tri in August for MOTC and it was great! Chicago Tri is supposedly the biggest triathlon in the country. I can kindaaa vouch for that because never in my racing career (a whopping two years) have I screamed “ON YOUR LEFT ” so many times. I almost got taken out on my bike. Enough said. Still fun though!

Brian also was in Auckland for ITU Worlds and it was incredibly reassuring knowing that if something went wrong with my legs, he would be there if needed.

Check back in a few days (or weeks knowing me) and I’ll have a whole page dedicated to this! Yaaa.

3. I went to New Zealand yo. To race. Duh. Isn’t that the only reason I ever get out of this state? I was pretty freaking nervous going into this race. It’s been a tough year of racing. I know you’ve heard this all before but when I landed in New Zealand, I thought well this is where I leave it all out on the course. Apparently I was really stressing over this because I ended up getting shingles while I was there. So typical. But I raced hard and left it all out there and I took 2nd. And I wasn’t toooo far off of first. More details on this later. I WILL DEFINITELY DEDICATE A WHOLE POST TO THIS. Cross my heart.

4. Generation Why on Huffington Post. This may be the greatest thing I’ve seen in awhile. Someone FINALLY recognized that there is this diverse and unique population of Adolescent and Young Adult cancer survivors. And so they asked these AYA patients and survivors to write articles on the issues we face. It’s incredible to me because I can relate to EVERY article. I’d like to write an article for them so if you guys know someone who knows someone, try to hook it up! But in all reality, go to Huffington Post and read one or two of these articles. It’ll give you some perspective.

Speaking of cancer, last night I went to my first Stupid Cancer event. It was fun and the first time in a VERYYY long time I’ve been around that many survivors. I’m hoping to get more involved again so hopefully they’ll have a few more events.

5. Purpak launched.ย And I love it. I drink it every morning and it’s definitely changed things for me. Usually when I race I bonk a little at about mile 1 of the run. So basically I get off the bike and feel good and then I start feeling dehydrated but have to kick it into high gear for the run. So then I stop and try to grab water at every station. It’s stupid and drives me CRAZYYY. So before I left for NZ I started drinking Purpak daily and continued into NZ. The morning of the race I had half a bottle of it and went on to race. AND I DIDN’T BONK. Did not take in water on any of the course and felt great. It was fan-freaking-tastic. By the way, it is never advisable to change up your race routine before your “A” race. But I did and it worked.

Anyway, that is all thanks to Purpak. It is a unique combination of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, electrolytes, and supplements that was crafted to be an integral part of a balanced approach to healthy living. Visit their website here and try it!

6. The Chargers suck. Like maybe I’m a dreamer or something but I was under the impression that if I moved back to San Diego they would win for me. BOY WAS I WRONG. But I can’t stop watching. I guess that’s kind of okay since they actually beat the Steelers last week. I’ve worn my Rivers jersey once this year. It’s sad.

7. Off-season re-evaluating. This is the first year I’m going to have an off-season to train. Last year, I was prepping for yet another surgery. So this year, I’m training and enjoying it. I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself and just remember why I started racing in the first place. But one of the big things I’m doing is looking into other sports. I’m focusing on rock-climbing and rowing right now. Don’t laugh but I’ve been fascinated with rowing for a long time and I could really use some upper body strength, so why not?

Alright folks, I think that is enough for now. You are officially caught up. My life hasn’t changed much since coming to SD clearly. I seriously hope you napped at some point while reading this blog. I did.

 

Viewing the 2012 Olympics Through A Different Lense

Every 4 years, I get extremely excited. It usually starts around May or June. Why so excited? For the Summer Olympics! I love them!

I used to be OBSESSED with gymnastics and even got a serious gash up my leg in 3rd grade when I was pretending the railing on my deck was a balance beam (I fell off onto a tree trunk and that was the end of “playing gymnastics” at my house) and I’ve always liked swimming (I have a slight obsession with Michael Phelps that happened to increase exponentially when I saw him EVERYDAY while I was at the Olympic Training Center).

But this time around it’s different. I’m watching this round with a different perspective on competitive athletes. I haven’t made nearly the sacrifices they have but I think I understand it a bit more.

When I watch the swimmers, I have a whole new level of respect for them. I’m no world class swimmer or athlete but when I see them swim 100m in the time it takes me to swim a 50, I’m in awe. Like I can’t get over it. Every night I say the same thing, “WHOA. It would take me that amount of time to swim half of that distance!”

Well I’m kind of lying, usually I know the results- GRRR NBC and all other media outlets. But I just deal and pretend I don’t know! I basically record every thing I miss while I’m at work and then sit and watch it ALLLLL night after I work out. For this reason, I am lacking the sleep department. I just can’t turn it off! When you find yourself watching fencing, you know you’ve got a problem.

I know that reports say that after the Summer Olympics, there is an influx of new swimmers and runners and whatever sport you’ve chosen to become obsessed over and yes, some don’t like that but I am all for it. Even though my pool was PACKED last night, it is exciting to see people excited about sports. Plus it motivates me too!

And what is most exciting to me is that this time around I’m aware of the Paralympics and I CANNOT wait to follow them closely! (Please try to check out these amazing competitors here!)

Even more exciting is to think about how many of my peers are training right now with one thought in mind- THE 2016 PARALYMPICS. Because that is when paratriathlon will make its debut!

Recently USA Triathlon wrote a fantastic article about some of our preparation during the High Performance Camp with the ultimate goal being 2016. AND THERE’S A VIDEO. Silly. Absolutely enjoyed every second of that camp with the athletes and coaches! I hope you read/watch and enjoy learning more about our sport.

What I’ve been up to: Oh you know just training away over here. I haven’t been documenting it nearly as well as I used to but I swear I’m doing it! I’m still participating in the Friday morning swims and even upgraded to a faster lane last week (YESSSSSSS! Love seeing that progress!) Anyway, more about me another day!
Oh, also superrrrr cool but Fit Fab Fun wrote up a great piece about CAF and the charity ride with Cycle House LA! Check it out! (Thanks to my cousin, Shannon, for finding that!)

Seeing Improvements at PATCO Paratriathlon Championships

First off- I flew to Canada on 4th of July. How sad.ย  I love 4th of July and there I was leaving the US of A. Good thing I like triathlon.

Now on to the race recap- You know when you work really hard at something and then finally see an improvement in the form of results? Well that finally happened for me this past Friday when I raced in Edmonton at the PATCO Paratriathlon Championships.

Since returning from the USAT High Performance camp at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center, I’ve been focused on getting better. I started working more on my swim technique and swimming with a class on Friday (the horrors, I am no longer training solo!!). I’m also riding more and getting more and more comfortable on the bike. I’ve worked on my running form a lot (including a prosthetic adjustment and new running shoes) too.

So going into Edmonton I felt a little different. I knew that in comparison to Nationals and Denver I was finally feeling 100% again. I was also focused. I knew what I needed to do. One of the things that has been incredibly difficult for me recently is the mental aspect of triathlon. I continuously get inside my own head and the negativity is bogging me down. After meeting with my coach before the race and also talking with one of the coaches on-site for both camps and the PATCO race, I realized I needed to focus on myself. I was also told to “trust my training”. And I did.

A quick recap:

- I finally returned to my pre-race tradition of listening to certain songs that get me pumped (I’m a huge fan of a little Call My Maybe remix these days) and focused. I didn’t do this in Austin or Denver and I think it threw me off.

-Before the swim, we were allowed to warm up. So I did. I wish more races gave us this opportunity. It’s just like when I train- I don’t really want to swim during the first 200 or so but after that I’m comfortable in the water.

-It was a mass start in the water. I need to work on this. Oh it was also in a pond. NO NOT A LAKE. A POND. At any point I could have stood up, which isn’t saying much seeing as I’m barely breaking 5 feet. I had a good swim though. Until I needed help getting out. And those helpers who were supposed to help were not. I had a little disagreement with the people assisting me out of the water. They kept telling me how to put pressure on them to get up the hill. I didn’t appreciate being told what to do during a race. ALSO THEY WERE SLOW.

-Swim out to transition was far. I had to put on my running leg to run up the grass to get to the bike to switch legs. But I worked out a great system with a really great handler so I got through it.

-The bike was 8 loops. YES, I said 8. That is a lot. And each loop went through transition. I felt good on the bike. But I could feel better. The bike is always the leg of the race where I think more than I probably should. But this time when I started to feel a tiny bit tired I reminded myself of everyone who was rooting for me. (I hope some of them actually were or I may be delusional).

-I came off the bike feeling great. I had a QUICK transition (less than a minute) and headed out. Immediately my visor was driving me INSANE. It was crooked. I couldn’t get it to stay on (hats don’t fit my head well). I thought about abandoning it but remembered the rules that anything you take out on the course, comes back with you. Anyway, I love running and the run went great! I was quick and passed the competition. I kept mooooooving.

-Then I crossed the finish line feeling GREAT! I took first and it was my first win of the season. I needed that win to prove to myself I was still a competitor and that last year wasn’t a fluke.

Embarrassing but here I am crossing the finish line. Notice the crooked visor. ANNOYING.

Take-aways:

I’m ready to focus on the bike more. I think I can get strong there.

Don’t wear a visor because my head is not made for one.

The US athletes who raced at PATCO

Oh and by the way- Canada is cool. It is pretty and the people are incredibly friendly. I think I’ll go back.

Vote for Melissa Stockwell for The 2012 ESPYS- Best Female Athlete with a Disability

My good friend and fellow paratriathlete Melissa Stockwell was nominated for an ESPY recently! She is nominated in the category for Best Female Athlete with a Disability and she more than deserves to win this nomination!

I met Melissa last year at my first Olympic distance race, the 2011 Accenture USA Paratriathlon National Championship in New York City. I’d been reading about her accomplishments for years so I was incredibly excited when I finally got to meet her! Later, we roomed together in China for the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships where she won her second-straight title. This year, Melissa has encouraged me in my return from surgery and recently was my roommate (again!) at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Melissa and I after finishing at Worlds. Two VERY happy campers!

Melissa served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army during the Iraq War and became the first female soldier to lose a limb in combat. She has been awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for her service.

I’m truly lucky to call her my friend and admire her so much! So please take a few minutes out of your day to vote for her. Plus, this means she’ll have to come to LA for the awards and then I’ll get to see her!

 

Click here to cast your vote!

Indoor Cycle for Challenged Athletes Foundation at Cycle House LA- Powered by ZICO

Hey! You! If you live in the Los Angeles area, come out with me and ZICO to Cycle House LA tomorrow to support the Challenged Athletes Foundation! As you know (or should), it is a great cause that has helped me tremendously. It’ll make you feel great because you are a.) supporting a fantastic cause and b.) getting your workout in! Plus, we can hang out. So come, okay?!

Getting out of my comfort zone.

If you have been following this blog since I started it (almost a year ago!!), you’ll recall that I normally train alone. It’s not that I choose to train alone, it is that I’m fairly intimidated by other triathletes- mainly those who have been doing this for a long time and have done longer distance races like 70.3 and IM. I still consider myself a beginner and worry that on a group ride or group swim, I’m going to get dropped. But you only get better when you train with others, so last Friday and Saturday I did just that!

On Friday morning, I got up bright and early to join other TriFit members at the pool workout led by Rad. He also coaches the USC Triathlon team. I’m glad I went because my coach was there and I would have been in BIG TROUBLE if I had hit that snooze button on my alarm. Anyway, I was nervous. VERY NERVOUS. But I got in and started. I was in the beginner lane and realized halfway through it that I was actually the fastest in that lane. Phew! Nothing to be worried about. I only struggled on one technique drill that required kicking. With one leg doing all the work, I was MUCH slower than the others. But I did it! So I’ll be there this Friday and the next and the next!

Then on Saturday morning, I got up bright and early (I’m not kidding. I was up at 5:45 so I could have my coffee and breakfast) and headed out to Malibu to meet the group for a bike ride. I didn’t feel ready for this step but I was confident that I would try my best and go from there. Well, I managed to do pretty well. I felt strong and kept up for the majority of the ride! I did some climbing and am feeling better and better each time I get on the bike! Woohoo.

So it just goes to show that new experiences might be scary and nerve-wrecking at first but often times do not need to be!

Until next time, happy training!

 

P.S. I also managed to get in a 1 hour and 20 minute run on Sunday. Needless to say, my social life is in the gutter again because all I do is work and train. Little sacrifices for the long term.

 

Where in the world have I been?

Where have I been since I last posted? To Austin, San Diego, Denver, and back to LA. Only to prep for more traveling and racing.

I haven’t posted in a while which could be a good thing because it means I’m pretty busy. But also a bad thing because none of you know what I’ve been up to since… oh mid-May?

Things YOU should know-

1. National Championship Race in Austin- I went. I raced. Not my best but trying to keep it in perspective. I did have surgery in January and struggled to come back from it. So I was happy just to be able to race. I went into the race with a positive frame of mind. I tried to focus on a few key things rather than splits or my finish time. My main focus was to have a great swim and not panic in the first few minutes of the swim like I usually do. I accomplished that. The bike was rough because I had some issues with my brake rubbing. This seems to be a common theme with me (happened in Beijing too). I thought I had learned my lesson by asking a bike mechanic to check it out but that wasn’t so. My run was great. Usually is. Because at that point I know I’m home freeeeee! It was hot coming off the bike. It is after all Austin in late May. I was pretty relieved that we were racing Sprint distance and not Olympic. Also happy because despite taking 4th place (no podium. blah.) I had a PR! Fastest race yet.

Here I am with Amy Dodson, who is also a cancer survivor and amputee. She is someone I truly look up to!

2. I GOT A NEW BIKE- After I raced at Nationals, I realized in order to be competitive I REALLY needed to be on a triathlon bike. My Trek has been wonderful but I needed an upgrade. In all honesty, I was stressed about it. You see I feel that I have the potential to be pretty strong on the bike once I develop the skills and have the right equipment. And I want to get better on the bike. Fortunately for me, I have a little Aunty looking out for me who help me get this new bike. So I headed over to TriLab and got the QuintanaRoo Kilo. It was pretty exciting!!

3. Denver Triathlon- This year USAT created a Paratriathlon Race Series and Denver was stop #2 in the series. I decided to race because my mom is located in Denver and I thought she might enjoy seeing me race. Altitude and I did not get along. Not at all. It hurt me most on the bike which led to a slower finish time than I am used to seeing. But I went out and raced and took 2nd in the TRI5 Female category.

A picture from the Denver Triathlon on my new bike!

4. A week at USAT’s first High Performance Paratriathlon Camp at the Olympic Training Center- I can sum up my week at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in one word: amazing. First, it was a fantastic opportunity to interact with coaches who are working with paratriathletes. Second, the training was great. I like to hear what others are doing. The coaches were able to give us a significant amount of feedback to improve our racing. Third, being in that environment where all you are focused on is your training and your sport was incredible! It is also extremely motivating to be around elite level athletes who are at OTC to train for the Olympics or Paralympics. Plus it is always a fun group of athlete. I feel like we all have this common bond and when we get together we have a ton of fun! We spent several afternoons at the Raven’s Nest grabbing coffee after workouts and even got a little bit of hiking in! I learned so much. I have ALOT of improving to do but it truly reminded me that I do love training and racing. Here’s to hoping I get another chance to go back and train!

The athletes and coaches at the High Performance Camp

Hiking Pike’s Peak. Then it started to thunder and rain. We got out of there pretty quickly because metal prosthetics and lightning just don’t mix.

I got to room with Melissa again! Had such a great time with her as always!

I met with my coach as soon as I got back to update my training plan. This morning we worked on some running techniques.

6. I have to train with the big guns now- I don’t normally train with a group. I ride on my own and I swim on my own. But one thing I learned at the camp is that to become better, you have to train with others because it forces you to push yourself. I’ve been pretty hesitant to take advantage of everything TriFit MultiSport has to offer me. Mainly because I don’t think I’m a strong enough athlete or that I’ll be able to keep up. But I have to start going. So I will be up bright and early tomorrow morning for my first swim class at TriFit. I’m SCARED. Like, I might be more nervous than I was for my first triathlon. Sad but true. Then Saturday, I’ll be riding out by Pepperdine. I’ll probably get dropped in the first 5-10 minutes but I have to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’ll let you know how it goes!

So there you have it- I’m busy. And blogging takes time. But I’m feeling good! All of this racing and interacting with fellow paratriathletes has renewed my love for the sport. I was seriously struggling to get my mind refocused after my surgery but now I’m ready to dive headfirst into training and racing again!

What’s next? Racing in Edmonton in a few weeks.


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