Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Final Update

Guys. I created a website.

I'm hoping that this website can be an insight to those getting into the triathlon world and am hoping to do a better job of updating it with not just blog entries, but also recipes and articles that I feel are educational for beginners and pros alike. Being a teacher, I'm all about spreading knowledge so hopefully my website can do that!

Check it out: http://jacquisjourney.com/blog.html

Thanks for following me and my journey!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

That hurt.

If I could sum up the Grand Rapids Triathlon in one word, it would be... "humbling." 

After my (positively) shocking result from Leon's last weekend, I had confidence that my body was half Ironman race ready (I naturally do better when the distances get longer since I'm more of an "endurance" athlete), and set a few goals. 

Yeah, that weekend kind rocked.

One goal I always set is to have the fastest run as this forces me to push hard the entire time: regardless of what place I'm in, if this is a "key race," I should push hard until I cross that finish line. Advice to anyone coming back from injury: don't set big goals for your first race back unless you have a positive support system to help you handle your emotions after crossing the finish line.

When I came back from my knee injury last year and raced Muncie 70.3, I was in a similar situation in terms of fitness, so used those swim/bike/run times as my goals.  At Muncie last year, I swam 37ish minutes, biked 2:37ish, and ran 1:25:55. 

Keeping in mind that I did not start triathlon training with Coach Bill until May 3rd, I reminded myself that my swim and bike might not be quite where I would hope. The goal for Grand Rapids was to be under 40 for the swim (again, a slow swimmer with only 5 weeks of practice... not a good combo), under 2:40 for the bike, and 1:25 for the run. I figured the run would for sure happen, and the other two would just be icing on the cake.

Good thing I didn't bet Ryan on it, because I would have lost money.

A few weeks before Leon's Triathlon, one of our EGO p/b Sammy's Teammates, Alex, had mentioned the Grand Rapids Triathlon. It offers a Sprint, Olympic and Half distance, so Ryan and I were sold, but I just had to decide if doing a Half would be a smart idea. After running 10 miles on Memorial Day with no pre/during/post-run pain, we figured my body was back to normal and I could register for the Half. EEK.

Alex was awesome enough to host Ryan, me, and our teammates Chris and Katie. His mom, aunt and awesome wife Dani treated us to a delicious pre-race meal of bison/sweet potato tacos and spinach salad. I can't believe I didn't take a picture, but boy was it delicious. 

This would be Alex's first Half, so we planned around his schedule in terms of race day arrival (note to first-timers: it's always important to arrive earlier than you would expect to kind of ease your mind/body of any nerves). Alex's lake house was about an hour away, so we were up at 3:30 (2:30 Chicago time) to head out by 4am. It was again down-pouring and I was starting to get nervous for what this could mean for our race. I mean, we didn't drive all this way just to eat brunch (though, that was an added perk of doing this race).

Luckily, the only lightning we saw was on the car ride to Grand Rapids. When we arrived (maybe the 8th car to do so!), we figured we would grab our race packets then come back to the car and get race ready. Ryan, Alex and I walked the quarter mile to grab our packets, and realized we should have just brought our bikes. Instead, we walked back to the cars to get race ready. In the midst of rushing, I left my Garmin 920 on the passenger seat. Fortunately, I had my bike Garmin...which really is all that matters since that's the area that I need to improve in the most (though I secretly like knowing my run splits!).

The Swim:
Fastest 1.2mile swim to date!!
Ryan and Alex started before my teammate Katie and I did, so we had a good 10 minutes to hang around. This proved to be a good thing as getting on wet wetsuits is actually much more challenging than you'd think. 

I also had time to find someone with a dry shirt (a challenging task on this rainy day!) and asked this cute older man to borrow a dry portion of his shirt to wipe my goggles. Thanks goodness he let me!

I positioned myself in the middle of the group of women and listened to the countdown. We had been told that the turn buoys were the "candy corn" looking ones, so while other girls were going around the circular and non-candy-corn-colored buoys, I was making a straight path the the candy-corn colored one to swim less yardage! I do wish I would have had my Garmin 920 on so that I could have seen the path I took as it definitely felt as though I took the most direct route in comparison to the other girls who followed the sight buoys. I used my "50 strokes HARD/25 strokes easier" technique and was actually passing a lot of people, which naturally shocked me. I glanced at the time-of-day clock as i came out of the water--7:45:xx. This got me thinking, If they really sent us off at 7:10 like they said, that means I swam a 35:xx, whaaaat?! I would have to wait until the results were posted to find this out, but I still felt pretty good coming out of the water.

Transition 1:

Un/Fortunately my bike was racked with Ryan and our teammate Chris, so there was only my bike and one other left when I got to the rack. My only thought was Please tell me there's a porta-potty in transition...no luck. After thinking that I was having a good swim and that this could mean a good day for me, I tried to focus my mind on other things and quickly left transition.

1 bathroom break

I wasn't able to focus my mind for long. For those who maybe don't do the longer triathlon distances, I'll let you in on a little secret: triathletes pee on their bikes. Think about it: you have to slow down to pull up to a porta-potty, then you actually have to go to the bathroom in the porta-potty, then you have to start back up again on your bike from a dead stop....even if you're only in the bathroom for 1 minute, the time it takes to stop and restart is probably close to that so you essentially waste 2-3 minutes!

For me, it was something I had to do. This cost me at Muncie last year, and I knew it could potentially cost me my hopeful top-3 finish today, BUT I also knew that my watts were SUPER low since I couldn't push my legs like normal. 

The volunteers were so cute and held my bike as I flew in and out of the porta-potty. I checked to make sure I wouldn't be violating a USAT rule that could potentially DQ me by mounting my bike when no other riders were coming. Almost immediately, I was riding less than 10 watts under what I was hoping for (prior to my break, I might as well have been on a spin bike in terms of my low watts!). Unbelievable what one little bathroom break can do!

The nice part about the Grand Rapids Tri was that it was a simple out and back bike course, so I was able to not only see Ryan, Alex and Chris crushing it, but I was also able to count how many girls were ahead of me.

The tricky part was that the Athena and Relay ladies started 10 minutes ahead of us; I decided just to count every girl I saw as I would rather count too high than too low. At the turnaround, there were 12 girls ahead of me. I had hoped to have less than 10 to catch, so was a bit bummed, but that turned into motivation on my ride back.

I hopped off of the bike with only 8 girls to catch on the run, knowing I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to reach my goal of a top 3 finish.

Transition 2:

All the bikes except for mine back on the rack, I had to find an open spot to throw my bike (two riders placed their bike where mine should have been...oh well). I grabbed my Fastwtich and socks out of the garbage bag, and was surprised that they weren't completely drenched. I threw them on, grabbed my bib belt and 2 PowerGels and headed off to the run.

Fastest female run. 8th overall fastest run.

Finally! I honestly had not even looked at the course as I didn't care to psych myself out for any portion of my first tri back. I quickly learned it would be a double-loop course, which could potentially work in my favor in terms of seeing what girls were ahead of me.

I saw one female almost right away, thinking there is NO way this girl is NOT on a relay...she is SO far ahead! Turns out she would be the winner by almost 10 minutes. What? Yeah, she out-biked all but 17 guys out of the 438 finishers, so I'd say that's probably how she won the race. 

I saw two other girls relatively far ahead, and figured a top 5 is still a respectable first-race-back kind of finish. It felt like it took forever to reach the girls who were ahead of me, but each time I did, I felt a tiny boost of energy.... similarly to the boost I'd feel after taking my two vanilla PowerGels! I know it seems crazy, but I swear those things get my legs pumped back up and reenergized! 

I was not a fan of the run course to be honest, despite many factors working in my favor. The run course is a 2-loop course. Instead of just being a loop or an out-and-back, there were two times where you'd turn onto a street, run to the end, run around something to turnaround, and run back out... while it was great in terms of seeing people in front of you, mentally it kind of sucked. Plus, these parts also had hills so it definitely challenged everyone both physically and mentally.

By the time I started my second loop, I had calculated that the best place I could do was 4th, which was what my teammate Katie was currently in. She had done major work on the bike so was pretty far ahead of me, but I knew if I was to dig deep and really HURT, I could potentially catch her just before the finish line.

Sure enough, at mile 11.5 I could see her in front of me, within striking distance. I was lucky that the last 1.25miles were either flat or downhill, and used that to my advantage. Katie was hilarious at the end: "And then just before mile 12, Jacqui comes flying by me, and I'm pretty sure I actually saw dust come off of her feet as she smoked past me." I do kind of wish I had my watch with me for the last 2-miles since I really feel like I had one of my best finishes of a triathlon during these last 2 miles. 

Home stretch!!

4th place female
Fastest female run split

LOVE this team<3 p="">
One of the most important things that I learned from this race was to be realistic. Yes, it is awesome to set high goals for yourself and get pumped up about a race....but when coming back from an injury that kept you out of training for 5 weeks, having high goals might set you up for disappointment. 

If I'm being honest (which, let's be real, I'm honest to a fault), I pictured myself running into Ryan's arms and breaking down crying about how awful this experience was for me multiple times on the run and the bike. All I kept wanting to do was finish the race so I could have my cry sesh with Ryan... yet, when I finished the race, Katie's comment really just made me feel so much better about my day, despite having no clue what any of my splits were. 

A big takeaway from my "comeback race" is that it's important to have those "test" races prior to a big race when coming back from any sort of injury. Use this "test" race as a learning experience and as a way to get your feet wet again in terms of competition. Not only will your body be able to physically adjust and remember what the race feels like, but your mind will be able to adjust as well. Having a "test" race is almost like a pre-test in school: you then get to correct your mistakes, learn from them, and perform better on the big test when things actually count. And this, I plan to do in a few short weeks. Stay tuned!

Reasons why I keep coming back for more.

As always, thanks to EGO p/b Sammy's Bikes for the sweet uniforms, team camaraderie, and best bike/equipment and bike tune-up in Chicagoland. Thanks to PowerBar for the nutrition that keeps me energized. Thanks to Saucony for the amazing shoes that help me chase down as many people as the race allows. And thanks to my incredible friends and family who believe in me and encourage me when I need it the most.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Exceeding Expectations

I promised in my last post that I would give it everything I had this weekend. And I did just that.

I had been very unexcited for Leon's Triathlon as the Olympic distance triathlons really just don't suit me well with my slow swim/mediocre bike/good run combination. I just kept reminding myself that it would be nice to get back onto the triathlon scene without any real expectations, and really just see how my knee would hold up with a swim and bike before my run.

All week Ryan, last year's champ, had been watching the weather. Crazy thunderstorms and 30+ mph winds were predicted for Sunday ever since he started looking at the 10-day forecast. Yeah, tell this to the girl who still gets scared of crashing on her bike. Ryan has incredible good bike-handling skills, so he wasn't worried, but I was kind of terrified that it could be down-pouring during our race.

If I'm being honest, I was pretty exhausted going into this race. Coach Bill had been increasing distances and intensities over the past few weeks after my knee was responding so well, so my body was feeling that fatigue. PLUS, the last week of school had just concluded. Let's just say that the energy levels of the kids during this week are through.the.roof. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love that these few days are a little more laid back and really cherished the time with my students, but boy did I crash HARD on Friday night.

Race morning came and we were up at 4:45 to make the drive from Ryan's parents house to Hammond, IN. The real nice part about this race being two days after school got out for summer was that 4:45 felt like sleeping in to me! After a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts for some coffee, we were on our way....to get there early and then just sit around for a few hours before our wave would begin.

As we were getting our transition area ready, Ryan was interviewed just like last year. We were about ready to leave transition when the reporters came back to interview me too, which was pretty cool (also super awkward since I wasn't really in the "runnings" to be a top finisher!). The only question I had a hard time answering was, "What is the best part of the race?" because I honestly wanted to say "the second I get out of the water"....but went with "the moment you cross the finish line and celebrate" instead. Hey, some people like swimming, so my actual answer seemed like a better response at the time.

Bikes in transition.
 Pretty much a celebrity.

Leon's Triathlon would be focusing mostly on the Military Race as it was the Military Triathlon National Championship race. The Military Race began at 7:30 and our Elite wave was set to take off at 8:45am.

And then the severe weather showed up. Ryan's dad made the trip to Hammond, IN, with us for the triathlon and told us that Ryan's youngest brother informed him that his baseball games were canceled due to the fields being under water. That storm was heading our direction.

Will they change it to a duathlon? Will they just do a bike/run race? Will they just do a running race? Will they cancel the race altogether?

My EGO p/b Sammy's teammates and I were huddled under the Sammy's team tent discussing those options. I told them I didn't really care what decision was made.... as long as we could all go out for breakfast after. I mean, that's part of why I get up for these early morning races/training days after all.

 "But we will get brunch after no matter what, right??"
All smiles when the new distances are announced!

At about 9:50am, over an hour after we were supposed to start our race, we were informed that we would be doing a modified sprint triathlon not only for safety reasons (in the water) but also due to flooding (on both the bike and run courses).

400m swim, 10mile bike, 5k run.

I quickly did the math in my head and realized that this actually bettered my chances of doing well in this pretty stacked female field. Local studs Jen Garrison, Jen Harrison, and Amanda Wendorff plus 2014 champ Megan James were all toeing the line, and I was honestly just hoping to not get smoked by this talented group.

Being that running is my strongest discipline, I knew that I would actually have a shot at being competitive with the change in distances of this race. I tried not to let myself get too excited by this realization, as anything can happen in a triathlon, no matter the distance.

THE SWIM--7:52, almost last place
There was mass confusion regarding the actual swim course, but most people seemed to get it figured out just before we took off. I hadn't worn a wetsuit probably since August (oops), but I was glad to have had it on since the water was cold (for me, who hadn't been in anything but ocean or pool water since August).

I like to pride myself in always finding the most direct route for the swim (mainly because I want to get out of the water as soon as possible), and Strava data showed I could claim that distinction with my swim from this race. I was able to sight pretty well despite the buoys being on the left (I breathe only to my right...something I need to work on) and kept noticing people drifting off course. This was likely the only reason I was not the last one out of the water from the "Elite" wave ;)

Transition 1--1:34
I quickly tore off my wetsuit as I ran toward transition, trying not to fall on the wet sidewalk and grass. I almost missed my bike as I was SO used to my old P5 and not my very distinct new red P5. I quickly threw on my helmet and rushed out of transition. As I hopped on my bike, I noticed big puddles of water in my right shoe and couldn't get my foot in right away. Ugh. Ryan's dad found a friend while spectating, who yelled out, "Not exactly a flying mount!" regarding my slow start on the bike. At least I can provide some laughs.

THE BIKE--28:01, 22ish mph
My bike Garmin wouldn't start, so I am glad I had my 920 on my wrist to at least gather some sort of data for me since I knew I would be pushing myself hard. The modified course was now just three loops with two hairpin turns down Calumet Avenue. At the first turnaround, I noted where my teammate Katie was and made it a goal to keep our gap the same each time as I know she's a good rider, so if I could maintain our gap, that would mean I was riding well.

With a sprint tri, there's really no point in even looking at your power since you just have to GO the whole time. 10ish miles isn't enough time to slack at any point. Ryan had warned me prior to the race distance change that the bike would be tough for me since I'm not very good at hairpin turns, so I tried to take them harder than usual while also being cautious of other riders.

Each loop got more challenging as more riders entered the course. Since I didn't have any data from my Garmin to look at anyway, I made it a goal to simply not crash with all of the mobs of people entering the course as the race went on.

I was only passed once... by my teammate Katie at the very end. I was beginning to pass a guy who was also nearing the end of our third (final) loop, and he freaked out and started pushing saying that we were close to the end... so I started to get my feet out of my shoes, only to realize I was doing it all too soon. Katie flew by me, so I told myself to make a quick transition out of my mistake.

Transition 2--
I quickly racked my bike, removed my helmet, took my shoes out of my garbage bag, decided not to use socks, slipped my shoes on, grabbed my race belt/bib, and was off.

THE RUN!!! 17:35 "5k"
FINALLY! I knew I had my work cut out for me as I thought I was sitting in 6th place. My top 5 goal would be pretty doable as I could see 5th place right in front of me. My teammate Alicia was biking in as I was running out and yelled to me, "The leader is only 400 yards ahead," which shocked me. I knew Jen Garrison was leading since she was right behind Ryan/Alex on the bike every time I saw her, which also told me she would be uncatchable. She is a threat in all three disciplines, so to even be close to her is considered a huge accomplishment!

I didn't know the run course, so was excited when I saw Ryan running my way (with Hootie leading him on the bike!). Ryan yelled to me that I could catch all of the girls, which made me literally laugh out loud as I was running. I was almost at the mile mark, so only had two miles to make up the time I lost on the bike and swim. Lucky for me, the run course had somewhat of an out-and-back so I was able to see how far down I was from the other girls.

I passed Jen Harrison just before the turnaround and her encouragement really ignited a spark in me. I split the first mile in 5:45, completely shocked since I felt like I wasn't moving very fast.

As we turned around, we were running into a wicked wind of 15-20mph. I told myself I needed to use this wind to my advantage and really power through it. Everyone I know who didn't start off as a runner prior to triathlon tells me that mentally running is the hardest, so I knew if I could stay tough that I would have a shot at catching up to most of the other girls ahead of me. I went past Amanda at about halfway and she looked strong, so I ran scared the rest of the way in.

When I saw my second mile split was a 5:47 with those crazy winds, I was a little scared that I was in for a whole lot of pain on the third mile.

I love running in the rain.

I thought at this point that I was in 2nd place, but didn't see last year's winner, Megan James, yet as she was pretty far ahead. It wasn't until we were closing in on the 3mile mark that I realized there was another girl ahead of me. The crowd at this point (near the swim exit) was going crazy, and Megan saw me coming.

I split that final mile in 5:56, but knew I had to dig real deep if I was going to get that second place finish.

We both full out sprinted, and I had my mind set on collapsing at the finish line if that's what it was going to take. I made a promise to myself, to anyone who reads my blog, and to my teammates that I was going to give it everything I had, and I honestly did not save anything.

I crossed the line in second place, shocking the heck out of Ryan. To see the shock and excitement on his face made me light up. I was so happy to have given it everything I had, especially after not even wanting to compete in this race at the beginning. The best part was that my knee didn't feel ANY sort of pain after the race, which means I am finally over this patella tendinitis!!!

Right after the race. Huddled under the pavilion for warmth.
1st place Coed Team division!!!

I can't even begin to describe how amazing everyone was before, during and after the race today.

My EGO p/b Sammy's Bikes teammates had the confidence in me that helped me stay tough and push hard the entire 56 minutes;) Really though, knowing that this was a team competition made me stay in this mentally because I wanted to help the team reclaim the Team trophy. Sammy does an incredible job of making sure we are all using top-of-the-line equipment and that we look good while racing;)

We ate as if we raced an Ironman or something....

Life Time Athletic Events and Dave K.: thank you for your excitement for me to be racing, and for your encouragement post-race as well. This crew knows how to have FUN at races and I can't wait to see you all this summer!!

HUGE thanks to all of our friends that were spectating and racing and cheering like crazy. Your excitement and encouragement gave me chills (it wasn't just the rain!) and I am so lucky to have such amazing friends that are as passionate about this sport as I am.

And lastly, thanks to everyone who has sent good vibes my way. Anyone who has gone through any sort of injury knows how hard it is to come back. The moments of doubt were seriously all erased as soon as they came because of all of the support I have had during this comeback :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Changes and Updates

Well, today was the third to last day of school. I had multiple students mention how I haven't blogged since April.... which is so cool to me that they think I'm interesting/crazy enough to read my blog, but, uh, YIKES, I can't believe it's been so long since I've written here.

You'd think since I was injured and out of running for 5 weeks that I would have had time to blog, but the funny thing about injuries is that they actually make you MORE busy. Physical therapycross training, and trying to get in that extra sleep (healing time!) really just add up, and here it is already June 3rd. Well, I'm happy to report that things have finally been going well, so here are some quick updates!


People use this phrase all the time (or maybe it's just a junior high thing...either way, I hear it all the time). I think one of the hardest parts about any injury is seeing someone close to you have the success that YOU were hoping to have. Ryan has just been DOMINATING the running and triathlon scene this year; because my big race was geared toward an OTQ at a marathon, it was really hard to see Ryan PR'ing left and right in running races. Obviously I am beyond proud of him, but at the same time it definitely made things harder since I wanted to be the one having that running success.

I think what helps in this situation (as I know a few others going through it) is to look back at times when you were successful as well. And, talk to someone about it. Talking to Ryan about how crappy I felt about myself when he would go and crush races helped me get my frustrations out.

I think something else that was really helpful was recognizing that since I couldn't run, it was just a sign that I needed to focus on my weaknesses (swimming and biking). I had so many people reach out to me during this hard time and tell me their struggle/comeback story and am incredibly appreciative of all of the support. It helped me stay positive and confident in my comeback and I hope I can do the same for someone else going through an injury as well.

Finally, a big thing that helped was focusing on what was positive in my life at the time. I am so lucky to have students who thing my running/triathlon journey is cool and some of them dressed up as me for "D: Dress Like a Teacher Day" for our ABC's End of School Year countdown. Seeing that they think my hobby is cool made me know that I need to take the healing process seriously so that I can come back and make them proud!

 Saucony clothes and shoes... I'd say they pegged me pretty accurately.
 My "School ID"
 I mean, how awesome are my students?
Ironman birthday card!! :)

The timing of my patella tendinitis was unfortunate as it happened right when track season began. Track practices were generally from 3-4:45pm Monday through Thursday, so getting in my physical therapy 2-3 times per week really exhausted me as I felt like my routine was just wakeup-workout-teach-coach-PT-workout-grade-bed and I could never catch up.

But, even with an overuse injury like patella tendinitis it is important to see a physical therapist as it really does speed up the recovery process. Plus, I revamped my strength training program with Earl at RMS Physical Therapy and have been feeling so much stronger lately. Even though they are just junior high students, I am absolutely going to be a stickler next year about incorporating a good strength program so that my athletes not only make it through the season without injury, but also develop good habits for whatever sport they may continue to participate in once they get to high school.

I have been coaching track ever since college and have been fortunate enough to coach at the high school and middle/junior high levels (two VERY different types of coaching!). Ever since I began teaching at my current school, I have been coaching the track team.

This year I seriously debated coaching or not because I knew I'd be into heavy training, but the excitement that I got from my students and last year's track athletes really convinced me to stick with it. And, boy, am I glad I did.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I was honored to join 5 of my junior high track athletes at the IESA State Track Meet in East Peoria, IL. An 8th grade shot put boy qualified as did our 7th grade 4x100 team, of which two athletes also competed in individual events (the 200 and 400).

 You're right. I didn't teach him anything about shot...but I was darn good at cheering.
Oh. The 7th grade Boys 4x100 got THIRD in State! WHAT?! 

I had secretly told myself in my "comeback schedule" that I would race Soldier Field to see where I was at....and then my boys qualified for State. This past track season has been interesting to say the least, and there are a lot of changes I'll be making for next year, but I was not about to pass up an opportunity to see this group give it their all at the State meet (plus, they asked me daily throughout May to come with...I mean, how can you say no to something as cute as that?).

Not gonna lie...the social life? almost nonexistent when Ryan and I are hardcore Kona training. We love hanging out with friends and family, but as anyone training for an Ironman knows, it's no easy feat and is incredibly time consuming.

With being unable to run for 5 weeks, I was able to add more social events to my calendar: bridal showers, baby showers, family parties, and even a bachelorette party for a good friend. Shoot, I even went all fancy and got my nails done... yep, the not running thing definitely affected my head;).

Can't even wait for June 20th!!! :)
Is she not the most adorable bride-to-be ever?
I was also able to have a mid-week date night with this stud for my birthday :)

I've alluded to it in posts before, but I am happy to actually write it in my blog: I am back training with Coach Bill Bishop. He was my first true triathlon coach when Ryan and I first qualified for Kona back in 2013. I took a few times to train for an Olympic Trials Qualifier for the marathon, so now that  the goal is Kona again, it only seemed right to return to the training that I knew and loved.

I learned a TON from Coaches Jen and Dave during my time with them, but it was really hard to not be doing the same training/be on the same training schedule as Ryan. My job is much more structured (i.e., I have to be at school from at least 7-3 daily, often staying until 4 or 5), so it's nice to have the same workouts to plug into the computrainer and have a little "date night" on the bikes with Ryan sometimes.

So romantic.

One of Bill's biggest concerns that we talked about was how I spread myself thin. Between teaching, coaching, getting my Master's (done with that), being the Run Coordinator at Life Time and training, Bill understandably was concerned for my sanity. This summer will obviously release many of the above responsibilities, but once school starts again I do plan on only teaching and training (and coaching track).

Kona 2014 was a horrible race for me with my giant mental breakdown on the bike, and that breakdown was caused by simply spreading myself too thin. So many triathletes are Type-A personalities, and we often put too much on our plates. I am very lucky to have people in my life to tell me that I'm doing too much,

After testing the knee on a few different types of runs, Bill gave the go ahead to run in a 10k this past Sunday. I am SO excited to report that it went well. The goal was to run it at usual Olympic distance triathlon pace (about 37-38min for the 10k). I ran it in 38:20 with slowing down dramatically during the last half mile to play it safe (really, check out the Strava file).

First place! Course Records! #FindYourStrong

Since we know the knee is good, I'm ready to go for Leon's Triathlon this coming Sunday. Olympic distance do not suit me well at ALL since I'm a slow swimmer, mediocre biker, and strong runner. The distances (1500m swim, 24.9mile bike, 10k run) just don't make it a race that I can be good at with my current fitness levels, but honestly, I'm just doing the whole thing with a giant goofy grin on my face because I am so freaking happy to be able to race again. I'm going to give it my all, since I have learned to use my talents and race even above my potential since I never know when it could be taken away from me.

Look for another blog update post-Leon's Triathlon. Thanks to everyone who has supported me through these past few months of coming back. I am truly blessed to have such an incredible support system in my life and can't wait to show you how much I appreciate it through my racing!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

More than a runner

If you haven't figured it out by now, blogging is kind of like therapy to me. Running is usually my "out," but when that is not an option (for whatever the reason may be), my mind naturally starts over thinking and I become preoccupied with the "when can I return to running?"

Over  these past few weeks, I've tried to focus on the positives.

Less working out means I can spend more time doing other things.

Throughout these past few weeks, I've realized that I am more than just a runner. I think so many of us runners (and even triathletes) feel such a strong attachment to the running community that "running" feels like it defines us.

Yes, we are runners, but we are so much more than just runners.

Sometimes, injuries or unexpected circumstances allow us the opportunity to define ourselves in other ways.

I have been able to see myself as a teacher, not just helping my students learn math, but making connections with these students and making them change their attitudes about math, and school in general. Every Friday, I have my students fill out an "Exit Ticket" and always include an "Anything else Mrs. Giuliano should know?" section as I know how important it is, particularly in this day and age, that students DO feel like they can confide in a teacher, and sometimes it's easier to send an email than talk to a teacher face to face. This past week, I had two students answer this question by telling me that they hated math until this year. To say that this made my heart melt would be an understatement as I truly had tears in my eyes reading that. Most teachers enter the profession to make impacts on students and help them become learn skills that will prepare them for the real world, but to hear that these students at one point hated math and are now liking it...wow.

I have also been able to see myself as a "housewife" over these past few days. Normally, Ryan would prepare dinner for us, partially because I'd get home so late after teaching then training (but also because he is truly the better cook out of the two of us). Over these past few weeks, I have been able to help more in the kitchen and have been better at cleaning up messes I would normally make when rushing to pack things for the busy week ahead.

I have been able to be a better friend. Texts and emails sometimes would get "marked as unread" so that I would get back to them when I had "time." I have been much better about communicating with those who text/email me these days, which has really deepened my relationship with these people.

I have been able to be a better coach. I absolutely LOVE training people (regardless of age or sport) and would make it my full-time job in a heartbeat if I could. Over these past few weeks, I have been able to really focus on the "why's" of workouts I'm providing and give my trainees more tips on things to help them improve in their sport.

I have been able to be a better colleague. I have been able to let my mind focus more on school-related things over these past few weeks so that it is not focused on running/triathlon and I think that I have come up with some of the best ideas ever to improve my teaching and learning process.

I have been able to be more relaxed. As silly as this sounds, and Ryan would completely confirm this, when I am tri or run training during the school year, I am crazy. I rush from one thing to another and that definitely stresses me out sometimes. Not having to rush home after track practice to swim/bike/run has made me more relaxed.

So you see, there are SO many other things that we who define ourselves as "runners" or "triathletes" really are. As exciting as it is to be referred to as "that runner" or "that triathlete," there are so many other ways in which we are valued.

While injuries and set backs are incredibly upsetting, it is so important to focus on the positives and see the values that you bring to the world outside of the sport. Once you can do this, not only does your mind find healing, but your body also is able to better heal itself as well since you are not stressed about coming back. Easier said than done, but I truly believe we must focus on the power of positivity.

Friday, April 10, 2015


I'm a pretty lucky girl. I haven't experienced much loss in my life with the exception of my three grandparents (all of whom I was lucky to have in my life for over 20 years!). I know friends and family who have had many loved ones pass too early, so I consider myself fairly lucky in terms of losses in my life.

It sounds kind of crazy even typing this right now, but I do feel as though I experienced a bit of a loss over these past two weeks. Before telling everyone how dramatic and extreme I am being, hear me out.

When a person experiences loss and are grieving, they go through stages. There are five stages of grief, according to psychologists.

  • Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger: Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  • Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

If I'm being honest, I have/have been experiencing all of these stages for the past few weeks:

  • This knee thing isn't real. You're going to wake up tomorrow and it'll all just be a bad dream.
  • Seriously?! Really?! I did nothing wrong to make my knee hurt. I've been nothing but careful and have been following my training to a T.
  • Okay, body, I'll just say March was a bad month. So April, you'll work again, right?!
  • All I wanna do is sit on the couch, watch meaningless TV shows, eat copious amounts of candy that I'm supposed to be filling eggs with for our Egg Shell Shuffle race, and sleep. This not running thing is pretty much the worst thing ever.
  • Well, it's been too many days of no running... gotta call U of I now. At least the whole Kona goal is still reachable. 

Exactly one month before my goal race, the U of I marathon on April 25th, I began experiencing a familiar pain in my knee. This pain was JUST like the pain I experienced when I developed that deep bone bruise last June, just weeks before hoping to run Grandma's Marathon, from hitting my kneecap on a chair.

The feeling I was hoping to have on Saturday, April 25th.

I'll save you the time (details here) and just say I haven't run since Sunday, March 29. I've run through stress fractures and stress reactions. I've run through partially torn hamstrings. I'm really not a wimp, but I couldn't handle running the past 10 days.

Timeline of events: (Mainly for my own records in case this craziness happens again)

Wednesday, March 25th: had an AWESOME mile repeat workout.. and knee strangeness followed. Not pain, just stiff feeling. Ignored it since it didn't bother me during the workout.

Friday, March 27th: ran 11 miles... second half is when my knee finally loosened. No prob, I'll just always do a 5.5 mile warmup.

Saturday, March 28th: ran in some park in Arizona that pretty much made me stop every mile from knee and/or blister pain.

Sunday, March 29th: last day of running, despite having a great workout in my long run. The 4 mile warmup had my pain scale at an 8/10, and that's likely not good.

Tuesday, March 31st: tried ellipticalling and aqua jogging. Only felt pain when I moved (like to get a drink or to wipe sweat). Success in my book.

Wednesday, April 1st: saw my PT cousin, discovered I have extremely weak hips

Thursday, April 2nd: I saw an Orthopedic Sports Medicine Doctor (who specializes in knee injuries) (8 days after the pain developed) and had an X-ray done as well.

Saturday, April 4th: our Egg Shell Shuffle race... pretty sure my knee was going to fall off.

Tuesday, April 7th: tired of feeling like a fat, lazy slug, I decided to try biking this morning. My knee didn't hurt as much at school. I tried ellipticalling after school....unsuccessful. Not only did it hurt my knee (after the fact), but my calves have been flared up for the past three days now.

Wednesday, April 8th: I called the doctor back ready to get an MRI done since it was honestly getting to the point where I couldn't even walk around in my classroom. The doctor called back, said he wouldn't do an MRI and suggested I start poppin' pills, ice, rest, and withdraw from my race.

I finally had my much needed, long overdue cry. Poor Ryan came home and the water works started. I'm not gonna lie, it felt really good to let it all out.

Thursday, April 9th: ...and all of the sudden, I was walking pain free. It was the most bizarre thing ever. Wednesday was pretty torturous, so to wake up to absolutely no pain was mind boggling. I decided not to test my luck.

Friday, April 10th: today marks 12 days since I stopped running. When I had that deep bone bruise last year, it took 12 days to heal, which leads me to...

Saturday, April 11th: the day Jacqui attempts to run again. I seriously feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve, that's how excited I am to attempt to run tomorrow.

Throughout these past 12 days, I've had many thoughts. Ultimately, I've decided I cannot run the U of I marathon in 2 weeks. If I go and attempt to run a sub-2:43, I know right now I'll fall short with all of the time I've taken off (22 of the past 46 days I have had to take off of running...not so good).

This weekend will hopefully guide me in the right direction: do I pursue another marathon attempt? do I go straight back to triathlon training? how can I prevent this from happening again (already have some things in motion for this one)?

While I am uncertain of those answers right now, one thing that I can say for a fact is that I can RUN again tomorrow. And for that, I am beyond grateful.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools

Today is the day that many people are posting jokes on social media. Ultrasound pictures, phrases that make it sound like they are pregnant/engaged/etc., and so on. Unfortunately, the timing of my post happens to fall on April Fools Day, and I wish I could say that this was all just a joke.

I figure it is probably time to come clean and update people who read this about what is going on with my training since I haven't really done so for awhile now.

Many Type A athletes like myself tend to think that we are invincible if we follow the plan that was designed for us and cross our t's and dot our i's. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that this is not quite the case...and unfortunately, it's been dropped on me three times over the past six weeks.

For those who are grossed out by "feet stuff," maybe skip this blog. [I warned you]

During the last week of February, I was feeling some pretty bad blood blisters filling in nicely underneath the calluses on the outside of my big toes. I generally get a pedicure every 6-8 weeks that takes care of this since I had been pretty diligent about using my "PedEgg" to file down said calluses 1-2 times per week.

Something that didn't quite occur to me: I was using the PedEgg 1-2 times per week when I was tri training, therefore running a high of 50-55 miles per week. Over the last few training weeks, I had been putting in up to 75 miles per week. Obviously this is a big difference and would dramatically affect my feet (and other areas of my body).
Pink: what I used to use
Blue/white: heavy duty one Ryan bought at Walgreens to tackle my nasty feet

Let's just say I don't think I'll be getting a pedicure again anytime soon. While not fully to blame, the lady just KILLED my feet, and I could barely hobble 4 miles worth of running the next morning. The following day, I requested an emergency appointment with my dad's running friend (who happens to be a podiatrist).

He's filed down my nasty calluses before, but he was in for an extra special treat this time. Is it weird to want to add on a few extra $$ to my bill as a "tip" since my feet were (and I quote), "Possibly the worst I've seen in awhile"?? All kidding aside, he was able to fix my feet and just told me to stop the running for a few days.

Four days later, I was doing hill repeats with both coach's training groups and surprised at how much better my feet felt. Until a week later when the outside of my left foot (the one with the REALLY bad callus) started bugging me. I told Ryan I thought I broke my little to, that's how bad the pain was. However, if he or I touched it, I felt no pain whatsoever; the pain only existed when I would run.

This happened during the week before March Madness. While Ryan, my coaches and I all discussed this issue, it was never really a question as to if I would be running the race or not. I saw another one of my dad's friend (a physical therapist--I'm lucky my dad has so many friends, huh?!) and he verified that I was fine to run, but just might feel the discomfort on my foot.

Well, we all know how March Madness turned out. I talked with my dad's friend post-race and decided to take a few days off (three to be exact). That was the "miracle drug" and my pain subsided.

Until this week when my knee started acting all funky after my awesome treadmill workout on Wednesday. I didn't think much of it as my knee just felt stiff at the time, but during my Friday workout, when my knee pain felt like it did back when I banged it real hard on the chair, causing me to withdraw from my hopeful Trials qualifier (Grandma's 2014).

My Spring Break started on Friday, so Ryan and I were scheduled to fly out to Tucson to visit my sister, Kristina. I obviously had all sorts of running clothes packed (hello sports bras and shorts weather!!!) but unfortunately, they just sat in my suitcase (perk: less laundry to do now). After our "welcome to Arizona" trail run caused my blisters and knee to flare up, I proceeded with caution for Sunday's 14 miler with 3x2miles HARD/1mile easy on deck.

Post long run smiles and brunch.

Kristina took us to a beautiful path to run on (Rilitio River Path I believe), and I thought the change in scenery from my basement "pain cave" to these beautiful mountains might take my mind off of my knee.

The first four miles were meant to be a warmup, so despite feeling an extreme amount of pain (like an 8/10 on a 1-10 pain scale), I pushed through since I knew based on Friday's progression run that the pain would likely decrease once I got to the HARD sections.

Sure enough, it did and I was able to complete the workout...albeit, feeling like death due to the dry air (let's not even TALK about how disgusting my lips were post-run). And then I stopped running and was pretty positive I broke my knee. Slight exaggeration, but my GOSH was the pain intense. I texted Coaches Jen and Dave to fill them in.

Luckily, for the next few days, I was able to just relax and soak up the sun like I think normal people do during Spring Breaks, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of Ryan riding his bike up Mt Lemmon or Kristina running a kick butt track workout. As any athlete knows, it is SO hard to be out of training/competition, so it broke my heart to not be able to do more fun things that Kristina had planned because of this random injury.

 Yep. This is the scenery climbing Mt. Lemmon. Can we move?!?
Ryan eating his well-deserved cookie at the Cookie Cabin at the top of Mt. Lemmon.
Don't worry, I totally had some too despite simply driving a car to the top.

How's this for irony: I have all the time in the world to focus on my training....and I can't even train. All negativity aside, I do realize this is just my body's way of telling me that this shift to more of a "run focus" is hard on me and that I need to do a better job of seeing the "signs" and catching them before something freakish like this happens again.

When I had my blisters, I kept telling myself, "You'll look back on this in a week and wonder why you were upset about it." When I had that weird pain on the outside (little toe area) of my foot, I kept reminding myself, "This, too, shall pass." For some reason, it's hard to think that way with the knee thing going on...maybe because it is SO much more intense and more obvious than the previous flare ups. I am hoping that in a few days from now, I can just look at this as my body playing an April Fools joke on me:)

For now, Ryan and I have a race to prepare for. I can't believe this is our FIFTH year of putting on the Egg Shell Shuffle 1/2 marathon and 5k. Shameless plug: for anyone wanting to run a 5k or 1/2 this Saturday, we'll have race day registration this year. Go to www.eggshellshuffle.com for more info.
So blessed to have had a wonderful few days with these people :)

Sweet medal for ALL finishers :)