Wildflower has amazed me. It is the kind of race that will chew you up and spit you out. I strangely enjoyed its level of difficulty. For much of the race, I thought I had taken myself out of the equation of being competitive due to the fact that first I had mechanical issues on the bike and then come the run portion, I was moving slower then molasses. I learned late in the race, roughly around mile 8 of the run where a woman on a relay team told me that she believed I was one of the top female competitors as I passed her. I was being severely challenged by my mental demons until this lady told me I was still in the race. I immediately was shocked to hear this and felt a wave of energy as hope filled my heart. I just couldn’t believe that I was apparently ahead of most of the field after my set back on the bike and how slow I believed I was moving on the run. This race was truly about sheer grit and the ability to thrive under adverse conditions and situations. A new type of racing that I had not experienced before. If going into the race you can truly understand that this was the way the race was going to go you would be just fine. To accept that PR’s on the bike and run would be unlikely and even the fittest athlete can crack under the brutal conditions of the race, then you’ve got yourself a race strategy. Again, I strangely admired the challenge of this race. The challenge was in the conditions you must withstand. The heat, hills and trails are not to be underestimated.
I had a pretty solid swim. I felt strong throughout the entire swim and stayed in control of my pace. I stayed with a good pack and tried to stay on people’s feet as much as I could. Out of the water there is a nice hill to run up to get to your bike. Running up the hill I laughed thinking this is such a cruel joke!! Starting the bike I felt strong and optimistic I could take down this bike course. Coming off of my training I felt well prepared. Constantly climbing for the first 15 miles or so, I stayed calm and spun up the hills and powered the down hills as planned. I was amazed at how smooth and efficient I felt. I just felt this steady strong power as my heart rate stayed low. It was becoming an amazing ride for me. Then the unexpected happened. My aero bar extension came loose on me at 30 miles in and then completely off hanging only by a Di2 cord. I pulled off the road for about 5 mins ditching my aero drink and feverishly trying to reassemble my aero bar extension. No luck so I decided to just hold it, it was only 26 more miles. There was no was I was letting this ruin my race. I realized this was a great opportunity to practice my resilience. Nothing is ever guaranteed to go your way in races. The only thing you can ever control is how you handle yourself and I chose to fight.
I don’t claim to be perfect; I was upset over the set back on the bike and had some demons in my mind I was fighting. I was fighting to stay in the race but had a sinking feeling I had taken myself out of being competitive since I was moving so slowly out of transition on the run. More then half of the run I fought with myself to believe. The run was mostly on a sandy trail with constant leg burning hills dispersed evilly apart. Sometimes you just need a little angel to whisper in your ear and give you that extra push. I had two during my race. First was the lady I passed letting me know I was one of the top females that were passing her and that gave me that extra little push to change gears at mile 8 of the run. The second was a man named Kevin I met during the last couple of miles of the run. He had done this race last year and knew there was a giant hill at mile 11 to climb, but mile 12 was all down hill to the finish. I cringed of the thought about climbing another killer hill at mile 11 but stride for stride he talked with me up that hill. I would have walked that thing if it were not for him my legs were that numb. Thank you Kevin for being that second little angel to help me fight when I was feeling weak. Mile 12 finally came and all the anticipation of ending this brutal race exploded within me and I took a mile long sprint down this giant hill, put my arms in the air and crossed that finish line.
I took 2nd in the 25-29, which I am OK with. I am just still amazed that I took a podium spot when I thought I was done for much of the race. It taught me a lot about resilience and the power of continuing to believe. It is not over until it is over. You ought to fight to the very end. Never ever ever give up. Even if you come in dead last, you cross that line, because when you commit yourself to something you owe it to yourself to see it through. Now with that said there are absolutely extenuating circumstances like illness and injury that it would be silly to go on, but taking those factors out of the equation, just always believe that when the going gets tough, the tough get going (tuff).
And to bring it full circle, being the Timex athlete I am, it is all about being able to take a licking and keep on ticking!
A phenomenal thank you to both my team Timex who I had a number of teammates out there who rocked it and Tri Lab who has continued to be a huge support for me. I wore my new Timex race trainer 2.0 during the run and although I did not like the numbers I was seeing, I loved the ease of use and high visibility it gave me from start to finish. Tri Lab being the best triathlon retailer of all time hooked me up with my disc wheel for the bike. A huge thank you to Hypoxico altitude systems for sponsoring me this year and giving me the means to train with altitude so when I get the chance to race at altitude I will rock it!
I am also incredibly blessed to have such a phenomenal coach Chuck Kemeny of Revolutions Tri Coaching for believing in me and being such a force in my racing. He truly knows how to execute a training protocol for even the toughest races and get my butt in gear when I fight my doubts.
And finally Joshua, my rock. I don’t know what I would do without such an amazing man in my life.
It has definitely been a journey reaching the athletic level that I have. One thing I know for sure is that perseverance has been the key to my success. Trusting the fact that anything is possible, all you have to do is dare to dream it. Anyone can have a dream, but it takes guts to persevere all the good and the bad. It is never easy, nothing worth anything ever is. You have to want it everyday, through thick and thin, rain or shine, good and bad and love every minute of the process.
It is a confident curiosity that drives me. I know and trust I can achieve any goal I put in front of myself, and a curiosity about how tough I can be and how much I can withstand. I know I will never let myself down thus the beautiful journey continues.
I had a knack for running starting back in middle school track. I ran the mile in middle school and always had the same strategy. Get behind the leader and stay on their heels until the final 200m and then sling shot past them and take the win. It was epic. I was always undefeated in the mile in middle school.
Running is in my blood. My parents are both marathoners who have countless marathons under their belt. My older brother and sister were both star runners in High School and very well known for their running accomplishments. My brother has such an incredible range. He was a top cross-country runner in High School but also ran the 800 meters during track. He was unbelievable the watch! He would be the only white boy killing the 800 meters and beating everyone! Pure talent. He has started long distance running again and training for a half marathon at the moment where he plans on setting a personal record.
It was very hard being my sister’s younger sister in High School. Luckily I was a freshman when she finished high school so we never had to run together on the same cross-country team. She was that well known as a high school runner. She was simply unbeatable and always in the newspaper setting records. Beginning high school cross country I was known as “little Coates” and felt a lot of pressure to live up to my older sister. It really took some joy out of my running. But I loved running; it was fun pushing myself and having the team camaraderie. I was always a varsity high school runner but never at the top. Never leading races like my sister. I was happy to be a part of a great team and to run and push myself. I enjoyed the journey very much.
It wasn’t until I began running for FSU where I truly became captivated by running and realized how much it meant to me. A new women’s coach came to FSU to take over the women’s program and she had a great impact on me. She was fierce and relentless. She believed in the team and sharpened my skills as far as digging deep and pushing myself to my limit and beyond. I loved it. It was a new level of appreciation for running and I was fascinated by how the human body has some unbelievable capacities, you just can’t be afraid to find them. You have to want to find them. Upon finishing running for FSU I realized a passion had grown. A passion for pushing the envelope and being amazed at what I found.
I found ironman triathlon as the perfect race to really rip a human down to the core and see what is left. Every ironman I do I find that moment where I am giving it my all and pushing the limits, not sure how much more I can give. Ironman reaches the soul of athletes and challenges the sheer will. I think that is beautiful. To me, there is nothing more incredible then to see an athlete reach their limit, but will themselves to continue. Ironman is more then physical. It is mental and spiritual. We have been blessed with these incredible bodies. It is a gift. What better way to return the gift, then to use it, challenge it and watch it grow.
Here is to the continued journey. May every step be filled with laughter, tears, pain, elation, success, failure, and most importantly, growth.
I am proud to call Ironman Arizona my 4th consecutive Ironman. Tempe Arizona provided an incredible venue for the race. The swim was a gorgeous one loop swim in Tempe Town Lake where we swam under a couple bridges which I liked very much. It was also a water start which reminded me of Kona and I really enjoyed treading water waiting for the gun to go off. The bike course was 3 loops which was energizing to come back in town and hear all the cheering. The run was 3 loops as well with a 2 hills. One of which is sort of long. I enjoyed the run because it was hot and spectator friendly so you are never far from people cheering and offering encouragement. I will definitely do this race again. When I arrived in Arizona I immediately thought I was not going to like the course because Arizona is sort of the dessert with random cacti about. Off in the distance you can see rocky, dry mountains. I thought, hmm this isn’t my beautiful Oregon now is it? But I was shocked at how my opinion changed after experiencing 140.6 miles of it. It has its own beauty and charm. I respect it and now I cannot wait to go back.
Coming into this race I felt a bit uneasy. I had a goal to re-qualify for Kona and wanted to go after it fiercely, but I was having trouble battling thoughts that asked me “Are you ready?” “What about all those swim sessions that you missed?” I was shocked at how much my mind was fighting me. Before I left, my coach sent me an email that really calmed me and kicked my head in gear. I was ready. All I had to do is be smart and execute my race like I had practiced.
I got a chance to do my pre race workouts with my team mate Kelly Fillnow. We had some events that went less then smooth and joked that the worse the events leading up to the race, the better the race. Example: it took 3 pools for us to finally find one we could swim in for our practice swim the day before the race! What is even funnier is that my bad luck lasted up until the very moment I jumped into the lake. I was standing at water’s edge ready to jump in when I decided to tighten my goggles. I tightened the strap and the strap snapped all the up to the clasp in the back so it would only take one more tug and my goggles would come undone!! I was thinking, wow this is going to be one heck of an awesome race now!!
I jumped in the water and swam out to the start. Treading water felt like an eternity but I hung off one of the canoes with other athletes and we joked and wished each other good luck. Despite feeling unprepared for the swim I had one of the most amazing swims I have ever had in an ironman. I stayed calm, let aggressive swimmers swim by and took it easy up until the turn around. I focused on long strokes and moving water. It was the first time I ever felt so strong and relaxed from start to finish. I got out of the water and looked at my time and thought, wow that is not bad at all for swimming relaxed and calm. I can’t wait to see how I do if I start swimming fiercely and really keep consistent with my training. I was preparing to write this blog. Before the race I was thinking that when I wrote the portion about the swim to inform my readers that No, I didn’t swim off course, No I didn’t lose my goggles, No I didn’t get attacked by the monster on the bottom of Tempe Town lake, I just have been a little inconsistent at masters practice thus my time was a little weak. I am sure if any of my former FLA master’s team mates are reading this they are laughing because they would remember how I would be MIA for a couple days and then randomly show up again. Yes, I can be a bit of a goof sometimes when it comes to motivation for swimming, but what can I say? I am a runner. But after seeing how much I have improved in the water may have been that motivation I needed. I leave this race curious now. Curious and determined. And that is a deadly combination.
Jumping out of the water and getting on my bike I could not stop thinking about how happy I was that the swim went so well given the circumstances. I seriously could not stop smiling. But I got my head back to the bike and decided to get out hard to immediately pull away from people early so I could lock into a pace the second lap and stay the same distance ahead of everyone by likely averaging the pace they were. The second lap came around and I relaxed a bit going out. I sat up, stretched my neck, but then the turnaround came and I realized I was having the time of my life out here and was feeling way too good. I got back down into my aero bars and hammered it all the way in for one more final loop. I checked in with myself asking how I was feeling and again, the answer was AMAZING. I thought, ok lets finish this strong and I had one more loop of feeling in control and strong.
Throughout the bike I concentrated on nutrition and really felt like I hit it spot on. I felt energized hopping off the bike and going into transition. I knew nutrition on the bike went well by how good I felt the first couple of miles. I remembered what my coach and I had planned though; take it easy the first half of the run so that the second half can be just as strong. I did well with pacing by monitoring my watch closely. That lasted until 2 miles though. I made the mistake of turning on my GPS on the watch the morning of the race and then putting it in my race bag. The watch died 2 miles into the run. So I knew that when I run by feel I usually run too hard so I concentrated on holding back.
I feel like the run was going very well. By mile 2 or so on the run I was leading my age group and since there were 2 spots for Kona in the 25-29 I had a good cushion to reclaim my spot. Something went wrong at mile 17 though. All of a sudden I felt my quads tighten up and I could no longer hold my pace. I could no longer hold my place for that matter as well because it was around that time that 2nd place passed me and a mile or so later 3rd passed me as well. Being the competitive athlete I am I don’t take getting passed lightly. I jump on peoples heels when they pass and take on their pace and run right next to them not letting them get away. But as the girls passed I felt powerless. I felt if I picked up the pace when they passed I could maybe run with them for a minute or so but then fall flat on my face. I hit the wall. I started thinking oh my goodness I went to hard on the bike! But after deep reflection of the race and then events that happened, I truly believe I did NOT go too hard on the bike. I was ready for that bike split. I trained hard for that bike split. My trouble on the run was truly nutrition. I honestly do not know what was going through my head, but I remember having a conversation about what Crowie eats on the run and I was told Crowie drinks the flat Coke at the aid stations…there was more to the conversation then that because Crowie eats more than just the Coke during the run but somehow that part of the conversation did not enter my mind. I thought wow that is much better then eating gels because A. Coke is on the course so I wouldn’t have to hold gels and B. Coke is a liquid so it is absorbed quicker. I did have my gels with me packed neatly in my pocket. I planned on having a 100 calorie gel every 30 mins during the run but I crossed the finish line with zero gels eaten. At about every aid station which was about a mile apart, I grabbed a cup of Coke and drank that thinking this was the same thing as eating a gel. Again, I don’t know what I was thinking especially with my degree in science from FSU! A cup of Coke has waaay less calories then a gel and not only that; they are different sugars then in gels. Power bar gels have 3 different types of sugars that absorb at different rates offering longer lasting energy. I simply hit the wall because I was not taking in enough calories and watched my Kona spot slip through my fingers.
I admire the girls in my age group that grabbed the Kona spots, they had fabulous races and I got a chance to talk to them after the race. They are so wonderful and nice I am honored to have raced with them. I leave this race more determined than ever to requalify for Kona. Next race is Cour D Alene in June. This race I reached a new level and will act as a catapult into next season.
I honestly could not have done this race without the help of my sponsors. A huge thank you to Timex Multisport team. I love my team very much. My team mates are such amazing, wonderful people. I had Kelly out there on the course along with Barry Siff and Luis Alvarez. Tristan Brown who keeps us all in check worked so hard out there for us. Even my team mates who were not there helped me so much with advice and well wishes. But to the ones who were there and not racing, you know how much I loved seeing you on the side lines screaming for me as I ran by! I am so honored to be a part of this team.
Tri Lab who has been there for me since the beginning set me up with my disc wheel and made sure I had everything I needed. Lloyd Taylor is the bike shop owner and is a very dear friend.
Shimano was there to make sure Kelly and I were all taken care of and Power bar always delivering the best fuel out there on the course.
My coach Chuck Kemeny of Revolutions Tri coaching has been more then I could have ever asked for. He carefully crafted my workouts to make sure I was able to light this course on fire. He can truly create some diabolical trainer workouts! What’s more, he is there for me as a friend and knows when I struggle mentally and knows how to get my butt back in gear. Revolutions Tri coaching based out of Tallahassee, Florida has some amazing athletes and some of which are very dear friends of mine. Any time of day I can email one of them anything from a quick how are you to a full on asking for advice, I am nervous for this race full pager. I love them all very much!
I also got to race with an incredible athlete and friend who lives back in Tallahassee. Sandy Holt is so inspiring to me not just because she will be doing every Ironman in the continental US next season, she is someone I look up to because of her relentless positivity and love for life. She always has a smile on her face and love in her heart. I can be very serious and sometimes overly nervous and competitive when it comes to racing and need to remind myself of the girl who knows how to remain calm and smile every step of the way. Sandy you are incredible.
To my family who was with me every step of the way. I love you all. In my heart I dedicated this race to my older sister Catherine. This time last year she was in a life changing car accident and has been in the process of learning to walk again. She has come so far because of her determination and sheer will. I thought about her many times during the race and how she would never give up. I fought hard for her.
Last but not least, the man who has been by my side every step of the way. Who has trained with me, put up with my “Ironman crazies”, given me love and support. Josh, I could not have done this without you and love you very much. I cannot wait to race Cour D Alene with you, and no offense, but……
Just when I thought Oregon couldn’t impress me anymore, I stand corrected. Best in the West Half Ironman is held in Sweet Home, Oregon that is about a 2-hour drive from Portland. It was a beautiful and challenging course. The water was perfect and clear surrounded by tree-covered mountains. The bike course was as challenging as it was beautiful. Constantly in and out of my big chain ring, I had some big climbs to tackle throughout the 56-mile course. The run was an undulating challenge as well. At about mile 4, you start to climb steadily but irritatingly up until the turn around. Once you turn you enjoy the decent but have to turn off the road and do a quick out and back over the dam. The last couple of miles are undulating as well with the last 2 miles having some very uncomfortable hills to climb especially since by this point your legs are pretty tired. I really enjoyed this course though. Very well put on and beautiful scenery.
This was not only my first Triathlon in Oregon, but also my first race since May, which was Florida 70.3, so you can imagine I was a bit nervous.
I have recently started swimming with a new masters swim group here and it has been a slow progression getting back to how I was swimming when I was living in Florida and with my masters group there. Any swimmer will agree that taking just a couple days out of the water makes it challenging coming back. Well I had more then just a few days out of the water during my drive across the country and getting situated. Now that I have gotten in a groove finally, I have been able to really snap down and get consistent with masters swimming. It is a great group and I really feel pushed which is great. So the swim at the race felt OK, I didn’t have a problem with the distance, but I did feel my arms and shoulders getting a bit tired so that just tells me I need to strengthen up more and I know that will come with consistency in the water.
I have slowly been getting used to Oregon and the terrain. I have found some beautiful rides here, but it is one thing to do a training ride covering climbing, but it is another thing to basically time trial a 56 mile bike ride in the mountains. I am very proud I did as well as I did since I just moved to this terrain about 2 months ago. It was very difficult though; the climbs were big enough and long enough to have to get out of your big chain ring. At mile 5 my bike computer cleared because I forgot to delete the memory and the memory became full so it cleared. I didn’t want to sift through the computer trying to erase data so I decided to not worry about what distance I was at and look at my watch on my wrist to time my nutrition and overall bike time. I could still monitor my speed though; I just couldn’t see distance or time. No big deal until it was getting toward the end of the bike and I started anticipating being done with the bike. I anticipated the bike being over for about 25 minutes, which was really annoying because my legs were really feeling the burn, the last portion of the bike leg. I felt my nutrition was spot on, but the only thing that made this bike course difficult is that my legs are not used to all the climbing just yet. The woman who ended up winning the race was just in front of me on the bike and I was watching how she climbed during the race. I was amazed at how strong she was. She just wouldn’t let up. I tried for the longest time to keep her as close as possible, but it felt like we were racing a sprint triathlon, that’s how fast she was screaming up these climbs. I did my best to match her but it was early in the race still and I decided to par back a bit because I knew I still had to run and I am an EX-flat Lander. Part of long distance racing is being smart and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Climbing isn’t my strength just yet, but just give me a couple months. The reason I rode as well as I did is because I have been getting these great compu trainer workouts form my coach that are designed to really strengthen my legs up. I felt the benefits of all those past workouts I did. Don’t get me wrong, I rode solid, but am not about to go challenging veteran climbers just yet. So I stayed within my range. I probably could have paced a bit better or climbed a bit smarter because the last 5 miles of the bike, my legs were burning and I felt pretty weak.
I got off the bike as the third female not too far behind first and second. I was maybe half a mile from them and they were both pretty close together. First women looked strong, but the second place lady, I could just taste blood. I caught her at about mile 4 right when the climbing on the run began. I couldn’t really see first place at this point but after the race found out I was gaining on her quick, I just ran out of ground. I am very surprised I ran as well as I did since I got off my bike with burning legs from all the climbing.
My goal was to stay calm and patient and lock into a solid pace and slowly reel in first and second. This race was really a practice for my upcoming Ironman in Nov. so I started off conservative at ironman pace and slowly started to loosen up and lock into a solid range. I did my best to zone out because right now in my training I am still building up to the long distances. I would zone out and then be pleasantly surprised that 4 miles had just flown by. That was my strategy. I just wanted to stay calm and not be overwhelmed with the distance I had to cover on tired achy legs. I locked into my pace and just plugged away. It was amazing to suddenly see 2nd place right in front of me, but as much as I tried I could not reel in first place. I felt proud I finished as close to her as I did since I later found out she has raced Kona numerous times and this was a prep race for her as well, only her Ironman is in October. Yes, she is prepping for Kona again. I was very inspired by her. She is a very strong triathlete that challenged me and made me race hard. So second overall female in a challenging race with some strong athletes pushing me? I am proud. And I can never be disappointed in any of my performances as long as I give it my best. I feel lucky that I get to do this.
I have loved living in Florida my whole life. Moving up to Tallahassee to go to school at FSU was quite the change from growing up in West Palm Beach. I got to experience some great running trails and great back roads for biking on. Florida has been a great chapter in my life. When thinking about where I wanted to move to, I thought about how much I love the Appalachian mountains. I went to running camp every summer in high school in North Carolina and fell in love with lush green trails and breath taking climbs up mountains. I would have moved to North Carolina in a heart beat, only problem was that those mountains were located amongst cute little mountain towns and I wanted to live in a town a little busier. Where could I find those green lush mountains I yearned for and have it all? Oregon came to mind and I just knew. Its been about 2 months since moving from Florida to Portland and it is everything I imagined it to be. Its purely amazing here. Its a runners and cyclist paradise. I can't run or ride anywhere without climbing up some great inclines. I've found some incredible cycling routes, one in particular that is quickly becoming my favourite ride is a nice little 60 miler, but I climb nearly 5000 ft over the course of the ride. Now some riders who are used to climbing may chuckle that I think this is a lot, but I'm from Florida son lol nuff said. Now some of the descents I have had my life flash before my eyes, but im getting much better at decending. I keep telling Josh when we ride together that the only reason he gets in front of me is because he is fearless and I get a little scared on the descents thus he pulls away. Only reason. nah just kidding Josh is not only an incredibly strong cyclist, he is a wonderful training partner that puts up with a lot and I love him! Today was the first day I rode my long ride without him and I realized you know you are a real cyclist when you are on a ride completely by yourself and you are still pointing out pot holes. At least I didnt yell out "car back" but I still think that was pretty funny! So Portland is again absolutely amazing. Its been a process getting back into a routine and learning new routes all over again. Maybe I could have moved not in the middle of triathlon season, especially when you are training for an ironman and want to do well, but things are really coming along. The people here are amazing, and I have been warmly welcomed by the running community as well. Im excited to find some group rides as well. Whats neat is that I can also jump in a lake and not be scared about getting eaten by a gator! Right now the weather is beautiful and its so nice to not have humidity. I am well aware about the weather here. All I have to say about that is, i've got this really cute new lululemon rain jacket that I cant wait to wear!!