Friday, July 25, 2014

Esprit de She: an incredibly motivating and inspiring night

Ever since I was in kindergarten, I aspired to be a talented runner. That perception changed from kindergarten, to middle school, to high school, to college, and post-college. My definition of "talented" meant many different things to me as I was going through these stages of my life, and the definition continues to change as I continue to grow.

I have always wanted to use my "talent" to help others, whether through advice, training, running with them, or even just simply reading my blog. To hear someone use the words "motivating" and "inspiring" to describe me truly brings tears to my eyes. I was fortunate enough to have another one of those experiences last night (Thursday, July 24).

For those who don't know, I am the "Run Coordinator" at Life Time Athletic in Vernon Hills. Basically, I organize our Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday runs and create training plans for both groups ("people training for the Chicago 1/2 marathon") and individuals (personalized coaching).

Our most recent group training plan concluded last night at the women's only Esprit de She 5k and 10k. This race is held at Montrose Harbor (for all you Chicago people) and put on by Life Time Athletic Events (and Life Time Run has a strong presence as well). I knew that 10-12 of my training groupers would be there, so was excited to see them run well with the perfect weather we had.

Setting up beforehand.

Life Time Run Coordinators: 
Deborah (Romeoville), Karie (Algonquin), me (Vernon Hills) and Ryan (Warrenville)

Some of the runners that come to our runs had teased me about never seeing me actually run a race, so I planned to run the Esprit de She 10k. I told Coach Jen not to modify my schedule in any way, that I just wanted to run the race, so I had a lovely 3800 swim workout beforehand (swimming is still not my favorite).

I arrived in the city after the longest drive ever to meet with the other Run Coordinators and then set things up for the race. We even had some Subway sandwiches for dinner (thankfully, since I was starving), and I didn't care that I was eating that close to the race. I truly was just going into this race to run it and cheer on my runners and the thousands of awesome ladies pushing themselves.

 Fun pre-race tattoos: "Dare you to chase me"
 Gooooooooooo Linda!!!!!!!!!

Well. My legs and brain clearly don't communicate since the outcome was much better than I had even imagined.

Coach Jen told me not to run too hard...give a good effort, but nothing that will keep me sore on Friday since we have a LONG hard ride in Madison on Sunday and some longer stuff Friday and Saturday as well.

The 5k runners went off 10 minutes before the 10k runners. Both courses were out and back loops, with the 10k turnaround being slightly further than the 5k turnaround. I checked with my friend Lynn to make sure there was no way I could get lost since there was a strong possibility I'd be leading this race (God help us all...girl with no sense of direction leading a race). She assured me I would have the lead biker as well to help, so I toed the line confidently.

The gun went off, and another lady was right next to me. My only focus was on the lead biker since I didn't really want to embarrass myself and make everyone go the wrong way. The lead biker was great: she was calling out to the 5k run/walkers, "Lead 10k runner coming through, stay to your right." And it worked for some people, but I did do a lot of weaving. The paths in the city of Chicago are only so big, after all!

My Garmin beeped just before the 1-mile mark (I'm reeeeally good at running the tangents?).

5:55. Hmm. This actually feels pretty comfortable. Let's see where this is going.

At some point (maybe 1.3miles?), the 5k runners turn right and the 10k runners go straight for a little bit before turning right, making a loop, and catching back up with the 5k runners. During this little extra loop, a LOT of the path is covered with sand. It was SUPER windy on Wednesday and a TON of sand covered this path. Like so much so that the lead biker had to get onto the grass because the sand was too hard to pedal through. So I immediately assumed my second mile would be slower. I didn't really care, since I wasn't planning (or supposed) to run hard.

5:50. Uh, what? 

At this point, we've reconnected with the 5k-ers who are finishing, and the lead cyclist is again shouting, "Lead 10k runner coming through, stay to your right!" All of the weaving didn't bother me since all of these runners were SO amazing. "Holy sh*t!" "You go girl!" "Oh my gosh, keep it up!" "Is she for real?" "That girl is flyin'!" Basically anything that you want to hear as you're running past people was said during this time. It definitely motivated me to push hard, despite knowing I had a decent gap on 2nd place.

And then I ran past one of the ladies in my training class. She went CRAZY for me, which of course made me tear up (it was windy?) and push harder. She was cheering, "Go Jacqui! That's my trainer!" and I just felt so amazing. Side note: she ROCKED her race, PR-ing in the process!!

At the Life Time Run aide station, the 10k-ers turned to do another loop and the 5k-ers went straight to finish. Fellow Run Coordinators/Leads were there cheering their heads off and it was awesome! The runners (and I!) just LOVED it! Thanks for the motivation, guys!:)

I figured after I hit mile 3 that I would just slow the pace since I didn't want to be tired on Friday.

5:50. Yep, definitely slowing down now. No one else is around, I know the loop, let's take it easy.

Remember when I said my legs and brain didn't communicate? Yeah:

Mile 4--5:52
Mile 5--5:56
Mile 6--5:58

I knew at mile 5 that breaking 36 was a real possibility. There was a lot of congestion in the last 0.5mile, though, and when the time came where I had the chance to sprint to the finish chute, I couldn't get myself to "blow by" other runners for my own selfish reasons. These ladies worked just as hard, if not harder, than I did, so I was not about to ruin their moment or make them feel silly by sprinting past them.

36:11...5:50 pace.
*Note: I ran an 8k on 4th of July at 5:49 pace and my legs were EXHAUSTED the next day. No soreness today must mean something good!
Life Time Run!

As soon as I finished, I was greeted my one of my training groupers and was SO excited to hear how she did. Another one of the "regulars" was there cheering for her sister and just said how much fun it was to actually see me race...which of course made me blush and get all teary-eyed. I'm such a softie sometimes!

I ran back to get mom, and was SO happy to see how excited she was. She was just CRUSHING it and was beyond thrilled with her finish. Super proud moment.
Running like the champ she is!
Linda Aubert: Rock. Star.

The rest of the night was spent socializing with the other amazing women who finished this race and accomplished some tough running goals. It was fun to connect with the other Life Time employees as well and just enjoy the positive vibe that the night brought.

I am so blessed to be part of such an amazing community in running (and triathlon). To hear the runners who go through my training be SO excited about their performances and thank me (they're the ones that put in the work, though!:)) just makes me so happy. I hope to continue to motivate and try to inspire throughout the next few months leading up to Kona. Thank you, ladies, for an incredible night!

Up next: triathlon return part 2--Steelhead (August 10th).
 Some of the *newest* runners to our group...they killed it!:)
 Mother daughter photo op <3 nbsp="" p="">
Awesome group of runners, even better people.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Muncie 70.3: Triathlon Return!

Going into Muncie, I had three weeks of tri training under my belt.

I knew not to have super high expectations...but at the same time, I am very competitive and feel that the right mindset can boost your performance to come close to those high expectations.

Coach Jen had me send her a race plan, detailing how I envisioned the race going and how I would prepare to have it go that way (or what I would do if it wasn't going that way!). I cc'd both myself and Ryan on this as well since I think it is SO important to share your goals with others.

If you don't share your goals, you have no one holding you accountable and no one to help support you in reaching that goal. I am the "Run Coordinator" at Life Time in Vernon Hills (shameless plug, come join us!!) and had a goal-setting seminar a few weeks ago. I encouraged all of the runners to set goals and email them to me/someone that will hold them accountable. Having these goals also help you, as an athlete, strive to reach them for many reasons, but primarily because you have that proud, energizing, exciting feeling post-goal completion.

I had a few goals coming into Muncie. I had looked up previous results and knew around a 4:45 is what generally wins my age group (25-29). For me, being a weaker swimmer, that would only be doable if I was to break 40minutes on the swim. I cross-checked my competition with other races (have they done Kona? Cabo? how did their times compare?) and decided that I could potentially win my age group if everything came together on race day.

I also looked up my time compared to Eagleman. Now, Eagleman 2013 was an awesome race: it was flat, fast, and, though it was hot, the heat did not bother me. I was in really good shape, so I didn't want to overestimate how well I could perform at Muncie, especially since the bike (and run) at Eagleman is MUCH flatter.

I told Jen that my reachable goal was to break 4:50, my challenging goal to break 4:45. I didn't care about winning my age group since I would not be taking the 70.3 Worlds slot anyway, so it didn't really matter to me about placing, but rather the effort I put forth.

My plan to achieve my goals:
-40minute swim....I predicted I would go 37 minutes
-sub 2:40 bike...I predicted I would go 2:37 since I went 2:35 in Eagleman
-1:24 run...I was hoping to have the fastest amateur run

I told myself that I was going to break 4:45. I knew that would mean having a darn good day, and that my biking and swimming weren't where they were at during Eagleman since I had only been back in the tri world for a few weeks, but I'm also a super competitive person and wanted to challenge myself.

We left on Thursday after I was done teaching summer school and arrived at our hotel around 8pm. After grabbing some food, we called it a night.
The bread made this place way worth it.

Ryan was working the expo, so I got a good little workout in before heading to Starbucks to work on grad school, summer school, and Life Time training stuff. I swam for 10 minutes with some pickups, biked for 30 minutes on the course with some pickups, and ran for 30 minutes with some pickups. The awesome part about this race is that Ryan and I did PowerMan Muncie here a few years back, so I knew exactly what to expect on the run course and was pretty excited about that.

After Ryan was done working, he picked me up and we headed to Scotty's Brewhouse for some bison burger and beer. I couldn't help myself and ordered the beer flight to taste some locally brewed beers.


The hotel we stayed at was pretty far away from the race site itself (there's not much around the actual race site), so that made for a late night and early morning combination.

Race Day:
4:30am wakeup call (3:30 IL time) was definitely not fun, but parking can be very chaotic at this race so Coach Jen and others had advised us to arrive by 5am. We struggled a bit to get moving, but made it to the race by 5:30am.

Morning nutrition: I ate a banana and a PBJ PowerBar around 5am and drank 8oz of water/G2.

Since Ryan was working it, we got in pretty quickly and parked close to transition. I mixed my bike bottles, pumped up the tires, checked everything was good to go, and dropped my bike off in transition.

I visited the porta potties twice before the race to make sure I felt good going into the water. This is important to note as it later factored into my race performance.

Ready to hop in!
 Thumbs up for the first race back (or being wetsuit legal :))

At 7:20am, my wave of females 18-34 jumped in the water. I made sure to position myself higher up than I normally would since I did not do that at IM Cabo. I have to remember that in Ironmans and 70.3s, I actually am a decent swimmer compared to the others toeing the line. This isn't Kona, and I'm not the slowest swimmer so I need to start closer to the front to better position myself. I started a few rows back, on the inside since I focus on taking the shortest path during the swim.

The swim course was great: 9 buoys were marked going out, about 100m apart from each other, we turned right and swam for another 2 buoys before making our last right turn to knock off another 7 buoys. I had a new race strategy to use during the swim that was actually perfect: at the Lake in the Hills open water swim on Wednesday, Jen had me go 50 strokes hard/50 strokes easy for one of my 1/2mile loops. That one turned out to be my fastest loop, so I figured I'd try that during my race and see where it put me.

 Ryan was SHOCKED!
 Running to my bike. No time to walk!
 Smiling after my good swim!
Happy girl:)

37:29. 11th/58 females 25-29! 406 overall, 96th female overall
Splits-- 13:47, 12:44, 10:48

The transition from the water to our bikes was uphill, thankfully carpeted, and I breezed my way through a bunch of people to get to my bike. Since I registered the Tuesday before the race, my bike was racked with randoms rather than my age group (something I sadly was unaware of until post-race), but it was in a good location and I made it out of transition quickly.

2:57 T1 transition.

I had my shoes already clipped onto my bike, so mounted quickly and tried to take off. As Ryan noticed, I tried to get my feet in my shoes too quickly rather than focusing on taking off on my bike. This is definitely something I will work on before Steelhead as I want a flawless race there (Muncie was simply about getting back into triathlon).

My first 5-mile split was 13:44. I remembered from Eagleman that most of my splits were low 13's, so the fact that I split this close to that, being only my first split, kept me confident that I could even hit the 2:35 bike split from Eagleman (which would be huge for breaking 4:45).

My times were going well, I was hydrating and taking in nutrition...maybe too well. It was uncharacteristically mild weather for this race (usually 100F, maybe 80F today), but I had planned my nutrition based on the usual temperatures. At mile 25, I found myself really having to go to the bathroom.

 Saying hi to Ryan and Erin!
 I'm pretty sure I don't stop smiling when I'm racing....
 ...except for when I'm making weird faces like these...

Call it gross, but I would venture to say most longer distance triathletes pee on their bike. I did in both Kona and Cabo and have no problem with it. However, during Muncie, I could not get myself to go. Around mile 30, fellow Illinois triathlete Amanda W. passed me on the bike. I tried to go with her, but couldn't, so knew then that stopping at the next porta potty was a priority. Luckily, that was around mile 33 or 34, so I didn't have too long to wait.

I actually timed myself to see just how much time I was losing out. 2 minutes I was in the bathroom for... not even taking into account the fact that I had to slow down, get off my bike, get back on my bike, and wait a few seconds for the bikers stopping at the aide station to pass.

Frustrating? Yes.

Motivating? YES.

I got back on my bike PISSED and rode like a madwoman. My watts and speed dramatically increased over these last 20ish miles and I got off the bike in 2:37, which is what my prediction was. Only 2 minutes slower than Eagleman, and 2+ minutes were tacked on from my bathroom break, so to say I was pumped and ready to run would be an understatement.

Bike notes:
Jen has me working on improving my cadence and watts on my bike. Both she and Ryan have commented a few times on how shocked they are that I can run so well off of the bike considering I'm pretty much just grinding my way through.

A good cadence to ride at is overall average was 79 (though part of that was due to other even let's say 81). My watts average, again decreased from my pit stop, was lower than Cabo and Kona, which isn't good since Muncie is a much flatter course.

Bike nutrition: I probably hydrated too much. I filled my front aero bottle three times and nearly finished. I also ate a package of Gel Blasts and a PBJ PowerBar throughout the ride. My cage bottle consisted of 5 Vanilla PowerGels, 2 scoops PowerBar Perform, and water and I finished probably 80% of that since I didn't want to have to stop to go to the bathroom again.

Bike recap:
2:37:40.  3rd/58 females 25-29. 296th overall (passed 100+ people!), 39th female (passed 50+!)
Splits--13:44, 14:12, 14:24, 14:20, 13:20, 13:16, 15:01, 16:07, 13:19, 12:15, 14:04, 3:33... can you tell where I stopped for the bathroom? jeesh.

Transition 2 was smooth as I found my rack and traded my bike for my run stuff. 1:31

It's time to run!
Finally! After a quick transition, I was out on the run course and loving life. I flew by people within the first two miles, and saw the Pro men coming back in and congratulated the few that I knew. Unfortunately, my urge to pee had come back and I stopped at mile 2. Let's just analyze my splits for a second here... most of my splits were around the 6:30 range, and mile 2 was 7:53. Yep, I was in the bathroom for 1:29 (timed it again) attention since this is important later.

I was in a groove and feeling pretty good. Miles were clicking like crazy, and at mile 5ish, I passed Bishop Racing friend Clint, who gave me even more encouragement and excitement to push hard. The course is an out-and-back, so I knew where the 2-3 girls in my age group were and knew 2 were for sure reachable.

Unfortunately, since I registered so late, I didn't realize that the 6xx numbers were actually my age group, but thought numbers 15xx were my age group (since one girl who was 28 was 15xx). So I did miss one girl when I was counting, but luckily I had Ryan tracking on his phone as well.

Miles 8 and 9 felt really hard mentally and physically for me, but I saw Coach Jen who shouted encouragement that kept me pushing hard. Just after mile 10, I saw Ryan and he told me there was 1 girl right in front of me that I could catch and another one that could be reachable.

Well, I most certainly was not going to let my rockstar husband down.

Game face on, I made myself get mad from having to stop to pee since that could cost me in the end (in terms of placement). Right before mile 11, there was a slight uphill and I made my big move. The girl did try to come with me, but I did not look back and just kept pushing. Ryan took a pretty nice picture of the move.


Ryan kept encouraging me to dig deep and push hard in hopes of catching the first female in my age group. Unfortunately, I came up 1:11 short... remember how long I was in the bathroom? Yep. Dang.
Sprinting to the finish!

Run nutrition: I drank water at every aide station and PowerBar Perform at most. I had a gel around mile 5 and mile 10. Poured water on my head as well!

Run splits:
1:25:55. 2nd fastest female run/1st fastest amateur. 2nd female 25-29, 95th overall (passed 199 people!), 14th female including pros, 4th female amateur.
Splits--6:19, 7:53, 6:14, 6:23, 6:29, 6:23, 6:34, 6:39, 6:44, 6:34, 6:32, 6:17, 6:13, :35 (6:03pace).

My overall finish was 4:45:26. I was BEYOND happy with this time since I lost 3+ minutes from having to stop to pee. My time in Eagleman 2013 (where we qualified for our first Kona from) was 4:48, so on a harder course and with stopping for 3+ minutes, I was very pleased with my results.

While I didn't win my age group, I was not upset since I was not planning on taking my 70.3 World slot anyway...but I was bummed to see that it was such a small time difference between the two of us. Luckily, I still had the fastest amateur run split (2nd fastest including the pros), which is something I always strive for with my running background.

Overall, this was a very good race back. I felt proud of my swim, excited about my bike, and content with my run. Once I can figure out the whole peeing-on-the-bike thing (or just hydrating better so I don't have to!), I think I can turn a few heads at this 70.3 distance. But for now, I'm continuing to work on that swim/bike combination that is key in these shorter distance races for me.

Thanks as always to Ego p/b Sammy's for my awesome bike and gear, PowerBar for supplying me with top-notch nutrition to keep me flying, Saucony for shoes that help me rock the run, Coach Jen for an awesome first tri back, and my crazy supportive husband for pushing me to my limits (and then rocking his own sprint tri the next day on little sleep and lots of driving...this guy is superhuman).

Not at all relevant, but check out this sweet car/alienship we passed driving home!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Back in action!

So much has happened over the past few weeks that I feel like I could write a novel. Don't worry, I'm not going to, but to say that my summer is going well would be an understatement at this point.

Change in plans:
After sustaining the deep bone bruise that left me unable to compete at Grandma's, I instead went up to Wisconsin to spend time with Ryan and watch him demolish the field at the Rev3Dells race (half Ironman). I wrote this blog while I was there, since I wasn't at Grandma's where I so badly wanted to be.

 Winner by 15+ minutes. AMAZING!

Just a few days prior, I decided to make a big change in coaching. I put a lot of thought into things, and realized that my bone bruise was simply a test to see how badly I want to run a marathon in hopes of an Olympic Trials Qualifier (OTQ). 

Because (a) who doesn't like Steve Jobs? and (b) it seemed fitting

Because an OTQ was still in my mind, but just pushed toward the back, I felt I needed to have a change in coaching. Coach Dave was actually recommended to me by Jen Harrison, a local (awesome) triathlete. To ask her about coaching me so that my transition back to Dave would be seamless just seemed to make sense. This way, Dave could still have input on my run workouts while training for Kona and Jen could adjust my training to allow for bike/swim improvements to occur while still running enough to attempt an OTQ this year.

It was definitely hard to leave Coach Bill. Not only did he obviously make me into a better runner and triathlete, but his training schedule allowed Ryan and I to do many workouts together. [We have two computrainers, so Ryan is working just as hard as I am during the workout.] I really missed training with Ryan when I was training for the marathon, but I also know that having Coach Dave in the background is what is going to most benefit me when I choose to chase that OTQ dream again.

Back to running:
Just as I had remembered from the previous time I sustained a deep bone bruise on my right knee cap, it took 12 full days for it to heal. I worked with Physical Therapist Earl, and he even had me go on the AlterG (so I was only running at 75% of my body weight to see if that made a difference on the knee) the Wednesday before Grandma's just to test things out. As figured, the pain continued to show up until literally the 12th day.

Luckily, Coach Jen had me biking and swimming again since neither of those caused any pain. To say I enjoyed getting back into triathlon training would have been a lie during the first week back. I am just now, almost 3 weeks later, starting to feel good on the bike and better in the pool. 

Jen had me do a power test on the bike, and I was happy to see that I hadn't lost much fitness from when I was a few weeks out of Cabo. The swim...that was a different story. Luckily, friends joining me during these painfully slow workouts really helped.

First Race Back:
Ironically, the 4th of July last year was my first race back after another unplanned break (semi-literally, when I almost broke my face last year after crashing on my bike). Let's just say this year's 4th of July was WAY better than last year's.

Ryan and I went back to an 8k that we had done for quite some time on the 4th. I had only done one "workout" leading up to this, and even though it was really awesome, I was unsure of what I could do.

After warming up, the race director announced that there were two Elites joining us this year. I had already noticed the girl, so was not surprised by that announcement as I had already decided at this point to go HARD since I was finally able to and just see what would happen.

The gun went off and so did we. My breathing was much more labored than I thought it would be, and we were only 1/2 of a mile in. Myself, Andrea (the Elite) and Shannon (running friend) stuck together as we weaved along the bike path.

5:42. Umm, did I just potentially jeopardize my entire race?

The second mile was a little frustrating since I was on the outside and had to continuously tuck in so as to not run into the runners/bikers on the opposite side of the bike path. By the time we hit mile 2, I had enough and decided to take off.

5:49. I'm gettin' outta here!

I gave myself a, "this is what I'll write in my blog" thought, telling myself at mile 2, I took off and never looked back. I kept urging myself to push on so that I could write that in my blog (sometimes, you find the weirdest things to tell yourself in a race, but if it works--who really cares?)

We hit the turnaround--a 180 degree turn around two cones--and I could see Andrea and Shannon were not giving up. A fellow runner kept encouraging me, which was nice to have since I was not about to turn around and see how close they were!

5:50. Over halfway done, just maintain and you're golden!

I did the math and realized that I ran a sub-18 minute 5k and was pretty excited with that. I immediately wished that this race was a 5k so I could have PR'd since that's how good I was feeling. Dang.

5:51. Less than a mile! You could break 29 minutes! Holy cow!

Being the nerdy math teacher I am, calculations were going on in my head and I was getting more excited as the race went on. Don't get me wrong, I was also fatiguing, but I knew breaking 29 was within my reach if I finished strong.

5:42. Who finishes a race with the same split that they started the race with?!?! (side note: the last 1/2 mile is a slow, annoying incline, so I really was pretty beside myself that I ran this split)
28:57.....5:49 pace (5:46 pace according to my watch that said it was 5 miles...I like that better!)

I seriously could not believe that I was able to pull of what I just did. After 12 days of no running, to come back this strong was incredibly encouraging.

Looking forward:
Naturally, after having a good race, we look for what's next so that we can again push our limits. For me, as appealing as competing in a running race would be, I really knew I needed to get back into a triathlon. I have planned on doing Steelhead 70.3 in August, but I want that one to go REALLY well (like HUGE PR, perfectly executed kind of well), so to have a tri prior to that would be ideal.

Ryan just happens to be working Muncie 70.3, Coach Jen just happens to be it just seems kind of meant to be that I should race it as well. I am beyond excited to compete in a triathlon again. 

Thank you again to everyone for the support and kind words during my "break." Those will be with me on Saturday as I dive back into the amazing world of triathlon!

Full Circle

Some of my best thoughts come to me while I’m working out. Unfortunately, a lot of those thoughts stay with my workouts and never quite make it out of my mouth to either be heard or written down.  Luckily, the thoughts from yesterday’s ride really clung to me and I am able to express them through this blog.

Right before my senior year of college began in 2007, I reunited with Ryan Giuliano after seeing him out one night. We had discussed my 2007 Chicago Marathon training and my Achilles injury leading me to bike, elliptical, swim and lift only and how frustrating the whole experience was for me. Being the wonderful guy he still is today, Ryan created a plan to help me successfully finish the 2007 Chicago Marathon.

His training plan helped me see that biking and swimming fitness could get me (anyone) to the start line of a marathon if done correctly. Fast forward to the Spring of 2008. Ryan trained me to run the GO! St. Louis marathon as my first real attempt at a marathon, and it went pretty darn well. I was even more into this “cross training” stuff since it seemed to keep me stress fracture free (I had 2 fractures and 4 reactions in college).

Ryan, my boyfriend at the time, then dropped the news on me: since you have all of this swimming and biking fitness, would you want to do a triathlon that could qualify you for Kona? Let’s be honest, I knew what Kona was after having seen a video on it at EIU Running Camp in 2002, but I had no idea how to qualify or really how to even compete in a triathlon at this point.

Long story short, I missed qualifying for Kona by 9 seconds. As much as I had hoped the girl who beat me would not take her Kona slot, she did. I got over it pretty quickly, instead choosing to go back to running, but still incorporating the biking and swimming since those clearly were the keys to my injury-free running.

Fast forward to Chicago 2009. My first time breaking 3 hours. An incredibly exciting experience, and one that caught the eye of my next coach, Cari Setzler. She also believed that not only could I qualify for the Olympic Trials (2:47 standard at the time), but that I could do so while still incorporating the cross training.

Unfortunately, I partially tore my hamstring in my attempt to qualify, once at Milwaukee 2011 and then again at California International Marathon 2011.

While I was naturally upset over these events, I met an awesome guy (Earl from RMS Physical Therapy) because of it….so to tie into my last post, I truly believe everything does happen for a reason.

Back to my title of this post: Full Circle.

When I was riding yesterday “with” Ryan (as in he was going as slow as he could and was still killing me), I realized that the last time I picked up swimming and biking because of a running injury, it led to really great things.

After the partially torn hamstring in 2011, the biking and swimming proved to be enough to keep me healthy long enough to go back to Milwaukee in 2012 and win the marathon.

Funny how the “temporary fixes” we place on things end up taking over. If someone had told me in 2007 that the swimming and biking I was doing to hopefully make it to the start line of the 2007 Chicago Marathon would later help me almost qualify for the Ironman World Championships, I would have laughed.

As I am writing this, a ton of speedy ladies are punching their tickets to the 2016 Olympic Trials. Theoretically, I should have been there with them, celebrating instead of writing this. But, as so many circumstances in my life have proven, everything happens for a reason.

Remember that “I partially tore my hamstring at CIM 2011?” part of my story? I have said since that day that I will be going back to beat the CIM course, and this may be my perfect opportunity to do so.

So while I may not be punching my ticket to the Trials, I know that I still have plenty of time, and one tiny race to tackle first. Onward and upward: Kona here we come!