Sunday, November 29, 2015


How we see the world is created by our past experiences.  In 2014 I had a very successful season and I recently spent some time looking back at that training model and I almost e-mailed my coach to propose we do the exact same thing to prep for 2016. And then I had a brilliant idea.
'Just got a brilliant idea' face

Training is complex. Training to excel at 3 sports is even more so.  I can’t help but have faith in my 2014 season build up, what worked, and who influenced me along the way.  But I want to grow as an athlete.  And I’m talking about on all levels. It is not just about getting faster and stronger. It’s about training the mind. Thinking outside the box and avoiding the default to our comfort zone.  

It seems obvious but we are all biased toward favoring what we know, what we believe in, who influences us, what we excel at. Perhaps that’s why my intelligent strength coach friends live in a world of sets, and reps and are confused in regards to the point of my Saturday Long runs.
Church of Saturday Long Run

I prefer certain workouts prescribed by my coach because I am biased towards them. Where does the bias come from?  Probably the workouts I enjoy are because those are the ones I excel at.  These workouts in turn make me feel strong and that feeds the cycle.  But is that what I need now?

Being biased is not ALWAYS a bad thing. Learning from what has worked is obviously important.   Just as important is learning from poor performances or injury and avoiding what did not work.  But I don’t want to get stuck in a rut, defaulting to my comfort zone.  I am branching out for a little winter side project and this excites me!

So what is all this rambling about? I know you are all on the edge of your seats. This winter’s project (along with training 15-18 hours per week for the old Ironman thing) is entitled the MILE CHALLENGE. 

DISTANCE: Race an indoor mile on the track at the end of January
 - Break 5 min ( please refrain from laughing)
- Wake up some hibernating fast twitch fibers
- Delve into the unknown
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Who is with me?!?!? ;)

Editors Note: After this post was published Amber completed her first mile workout involving repeat 200’s.  Her hip flexors remain intact.

Follow along this winter to see if I CONQUER THE MILE!!!

And I can't sign off without giving a MASSIVE thanks to my sponsors this year:

Sunday, October 18, 2015


I love cycling. But I didn't particularly want to ride my bike a total of 7.5 hours this weekend.  I begrudgingly wiggled into my VELOCIO wool socks, Wyman Signature RECON overpants, Wyman Signature thermal bib short, Wool Long Sleeve, Wind Vest, Riding Jersey, cycling hat, cycling shoes, Velocio Zero booties. Done.

And then I had to PEE.

It snowed here in New Hampshire.  The thermostat never clocked in above 38 degrees.  My toes were the first to tell me that.  They were frozen. I ran off the bike and my little feet felt more like little ice bricks.   

I love my BIKE. On most weekends, all I need is my bike, the workout, the outdoors and I am a happy camper.  I follow the training and keep to the basics because I know that is when fitness comes around.

Pretty! And then it snowed.

Fitness is stubborn and won't give in easily.  It has dogged determination despite your best efforts.  So you must put yourself in a position for fitness to find you. Everyday.  It's really no use to hope or to day dream.  You can't hope for fitness but it is attracted to the distinctive stench of sweat.  Put your nose to the grindstone and do the work. Even when your toes freeze.  The tough work you undertake will eventually pay off to the extent it may actually turn your life around.  And it is NOT simply a chance-thing.      

Done hoping for fitness? Ready to DO WORK? I am accepting applications for coached athletes now. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Triathlete goes to Green Mountain Stage Race

Timberman 70.3  - Character Reveal-er!
On August 16th I raced Timberman 70.3.  It was the much anticipated debut of the brand-spanking-new Velocio Speedsuit.  The plan was to go super fast with a smile and give credit to the Velocio Gods.  I have had more than enough time to digest what happened so here is how it went down.

I had a solid swim. I fought like a little honey badger to stay with the front pack.  I got out of the water in 5th and planned to bike hard to stay in good striking position.  I soon discovered that this would be one of those races where EVERY pedal stroke was an effort. Every step forward took too much work.  I felt lucky though. Racing for me is love.  It gives me energy that ties everything in my life together.  But it is one thing to race when the body is naturally flowing and gliding forward and it is quite another to race when you feel like you are biking with a monkey on your back.

But here is what I know. You've got a good thing going if you can mentally stay in the game when the physical body is cramping and crying, the breathing is labored, and the quads are quivering. You've got a good thing going because these kind of struggles don't build character, they reveal it.
Look at the smile. Not one clue I was about to embark on a 70.3 pain train.

GREEN MOUNTAIN STAGE RACE - Cyclists are NOT weenies.

A 4 day bike race in the hilly heart of Vermont sounded like one hell of a good time. I got the OK from the boss (Kurt Perham), packed the car and headed off with high hopes of building some biking mitochondria and channeling my inner quadzilla.

This stage race proved to be 'what it is all about.' And I don't mean it's all about winning. Don't get me wrong. It was way cool to win my very first crit AND overall stage race.  But 'what it's all about' is the journey, the detours, the new friends, the croissants (!) and the route that led there.  The awesomeness and the low points.  The roller coaster of sport.  I had a plan this March to re-qualify for Kona as a pro. It didn't happen. So I adjusted. I raced an ultra trail race, I kept my chin up and head down. I embraced the daily training grind.  

Stage 1: The Time Trial
OWWWW!!! OUCH OUCH OUCH.  Time trials hurt so badly it makes me want to say mean things but I won't.

I won by 11 seconds.  And I won only because of my VELOCIO speedsuit.  This is a proven fact.  
That is all I have to report after this first stage.  Also, you should get yourself a Velocio speedsuit.

Stage 2: The Circuit Race
I entered this stage with the yellow jersey.  The yellow jersey (a.k.a humongo jumbo target on your back).

All I wanted during the circuit race was to snag the Queen of the Mountain title. Mainly because the polka dot jersey is the BOMB. (Yellow is not really my color and we all know I am very fashion forward).

However, it has been proven time and time again that the faster I race the dumber I get. Bigger quads = smaller IQ. So with this in mind, it will make perfect sense to you that my plan would be to ride at the front of the circuit race for as long as I could and then sprint up the mountain to take the polka dot prize!  

After 20 miles of drilling the pace and covering every surge I thought: Good lord, I'm only half way done and I'm smashed.  It was also at this exact moment I saw the gigantic sign at the base of a mountain for the QOM challenge. DOH! Time to sprint uphill. See what I mean about the IQ thing? Thank goodness for Infinit

I chugged a full strength bottle and went for it.  

Won by 2 seconds. 

Proceeded to draft my dumb a$$ to the finish.  

And then fell fast asleep that night in my polka dot jersey. Mission accomplished.

Stage 3: The Road Race
The road course was ferocious! Cyclists are NOT weenies.  The course had 3 Gap crossings.  The first crossing is via Middlebury Gap where the steepest grade is 18%.  Eighteen percent.  Sounds bad, huh? Well it is until you realize you have a 4K finishing climb with the steepest pitches of the day at 20% over the App Gap. OWWWWW!  While you're crying uphill the final pitch is lined with hundreds of cheering spectators to witness the cyclists as they nearly self destruct. 

Prior to the start I realized that I was practically an open book to the girls I was racing.  They knew a few things for sure.

1.) I was very, very dumb and will pretty much take the lead any chance I get.

2.) I had could push some watts but had absolutely NO wits. 

But what they didn't know was HOW MUCH DID I HAVE LEFT IN THE TANK!

Unfortunately, that is something I didn't know either. 

The start gun sounds and we all pedal like good pals through the neutral start section.  It was about 2 miles of 'no racing allowed' so I just tried to breath, and drink and convince myself to stay controlled until Middlebury Gap.  I used EVERY bit of self control I had. Off in the distance I see a sign for 10K to top of Middlebury Gap Queen of the Mountain Challenge. I was LOVING these 'within the race' races. Time to make these quads burn.  I took off at the sign and went for the win up and over the gap. But I didn't stop there. I had opened up a 3 min lead and decided to time trial away in a solo effort until I either imploded, or got caught.  
My lead car and moto were AMAZING.  They gave me updates on the chase pack behind me every few miles. I was feeling confident as I started to gain more and more time on my contenders. 

My confidence grew each pedal strong. I started to believe I could hold off the pack with a solo effort.  There was part of my that wanted it so badly. I loved being chased. I wanted to hurt and make the girls behind me hurt. And I wanted to win.  Suddenly I hit a dirt/off road section and immediately my lead car yelled: Move over! They are coming to pass.   

I was deflated. They caught me.  

Thirty seconds later a hundred quads came charging passed me.  The power in the group was unreal. I held on to my bike tight and pedaled like crazy, barely able to see with the dust from the dirt road being kicked up everywhere.  Screw winning now I was praying, eyes closed, that I would make it out alive.

Moments later I felt a pat on my back and male voices yelling: Up, Up, Up!  I open one eye (pleased that I was upright and pedaling) to see the male PRO pack riding away. 

I still had the lead and was at the base of the hardest climb of the day: App Gap. I knew at this point I had a 6 minute lead of the chase pack so I decided to enjoy the views and the climb.


Stage 4: The Crit
Very nervous going into this gnarly loop.  It was bike racing on steroids. All out sprints, crazy corning and bumping your cyclist rival if you moved off your line even a hair.   The announcer said it perfectly when he shouted: Look at this! Amber, the triathlete, has never had to corner in her life and she is leading crit.

You know what my secret was?

Just close the eyes tight before entering every turn. Yep.  Takes fear right out of the game and then it's all gravy from there. (Watts NOT wits...remember?)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Always be ready to have the Time of your Life.

If you haven't noticed, 2015 has been the year I switched it up. Trail races and bike races and off days and donuts.  My body needed to heal from the physical torture I placed on it during the 2014 race season and my mind needed to heal from the mental strain of racing hard for points on the PRO circuit.

But my more importantly, my heart needed to heal.  And the latter is the most important.  What I have learned from heartbreak is the human spirit is stronger than anything can happen to it.  And what helps to ease the heartache a bit is laughing. If you have a friend that makes you laugh, spend lots and lots of time with them.

2015 is the year to test my limits in new races on new continents but to also appreciate the lazy days (and the donuts).  It would be a shame to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.

So enter stage right: The Laugavegurinn Ultramarathon

If you have been to Iceland and not experienced the Laugavegurinn trail you have not experienced Iceland. 

The course itself is never the same, it is a winding trail of flickering light, glacier tongues, cold creeks, sand, snow, and mountains taking mysterious forms and making for some ferocious terrain.  It was one hell of a first Ultramarathon.

I can't even begin to describe the beauty of the Laugavegurinn Ultramarathon in words, it needs to be experienced. 


I did run away with the overall women's title and I was close to a course record but not without fighting one of the hardest fought battles. The magic prep for Iceland was nothing more than regular Ironman training plus a bit more dedicated trail running on my long run days.  I would say I went into this race foolishly underprepared but I did so with abundant enthusiasm (and a smile).   And I hope I can recall it like it was yesterday for as long as I wish because it was one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been to.

Iceland made me realize even more so that if you love life, it will love you right back.

Next up: My Timberman Race blog which features the HOT NEW speedsuit from VELOCIO.  :)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Ironman Coeur 'd Alene: Why Everyone Should Ride a Felt

Ironman Coeur 'd Alene was my 14th full Ironman. I crossed the line in 9 hours and 58 minutes after partaking in one of the toughest Ironman battles of my career. The course topography, the Fahrenheit and fierce competition all stepped up to deliver a worthy engagement.

9 hours and 58 minutes is 35,880 seconds. The peculiar thing about this race is the second that stands out most in my mind is the one right before the starter fired the gun. That fraction of time between the command 'Get Set' and the start. Index finger flexed on the trigger.  I remember feeling immensely happy and excited. I was ready for the pain of racing and more than ever I was hoping for a battle.

Well, Amber got what she wanted. (Laying on the suspense pretty thick here...)

But first up on deck is a BIG THANK YOU to my wonderful Homestay: The Pinkertons. They welcomed me like family, fed me, laughed with me and cheered me on during the race. I miss them like family and I will be back to CDA next year for sure. Thank you Pinkerton's!!! I can't tell you how much you eased my nerves and made me feel at home.  Also, big shout out and fist pump to my new friend Matt Lieto.

I just got a Rubix Cube Tattoo in your honor #IsThatCreepy?
The average temperature in Coeur 'd Alene is 78 this time of year. When I saw the 10-day forecast calling for 108 on race day I laughed out loud and thought for sure that would change. It didn't. I'm pretty sure I suffered some form of heat exhaustion just walking the 5 minutes to the PRO meeting.

Race day tactics were going to have to change.  The night before the race I had a little chat with the coach and it went like this:

Me: Kurt, I promise I will ride smart and won't take any stupid chances. I will ride steady and conservatively.

Kurt: That's nice to hear you say out loud Amber but you're a honey badger. Just don't do anything TOO stupid.

Me: Doh!

Race morning I woke at 3am, ate breakfast and applied sunscreen like it was going out of style.  Before I knew it I was on the start line at 5:30am with the rest of the pro girls.

Finger flexed on the trigger. Time stands still. I wonder what adventures this race will bring? (More suspense...oooooohhh)

Swim portion brought to you by ZONE3 :  The moral of the swim story is Amber needs to learn to GET. OFF. THE. LINE.  When I say if feels like 'time stands still' right before the starter fires the gun maybe it is because Amber is still standing STILL after the gun is fired. Doh! The PRO girls have taken off, better go chase!  The good news is I only lost 2.5 minutes to super swimmer Dede Griesbaur and I didn't overheat. Which will be the ONLY time I don't overheat all day.

Bike portion brought to you by FELT and MC CYCLE and SPORT:  I sprint through transition, grab my 8 bottles of Infinit and I am off and riding in 6th place.  I am feeling strong and at the first turn around I get a time split on 3rd place. 4 minutes up the road. Only 4 minutes!  Someone woke the honey badger and I spent about 30 minutes overriding trying to close the gap.

And then I smarten up. It's only 8am at this point and the temperature is on the rise. I think for the first time in my pro career I decided to ride steady and I had moved myself into 4th place and was feeling strong. For 3 hours I road solo in 4th and was being very conservative (ie: Boring). This means no standing on the hills, watching the Watts like a hawk and reminding myself that it is now 100 degrees and the race is not even half over.

At around the 3 hour mark 4 age group guys passed me coming down a hill and into another sharp incline. 99.99% of the time I would have dropped out of their draft zone and then sprinted and re-passed the guys to get out of a potential sticky situation. (The age groupers have different draft rules than the PROs so it can be very tricky riding near them.)  But I was being a smart athlete and trying at all costs not to spike the heart rate. So on this particular day when the guys passed me, I sat up, starting drinking and chilled out.  And then I got a penalty. My first penalty EVER. And the referee explains that because I didn't drop out of the draft zone fast enough I deserve a penalty. The kicker was we were on a STEEP HILL. I like to keep this piece of Internet space family-friendly but that was a BULL SHIT call.

And then I get a flat tire.  Double whammy!  I jump off my bike and as I do 2 guys pass and scream: 'GO FELT!' And one throws me a Fix-a-Flat. Talk about an act of kindness. The flat tire is fixed in no time and I hop back on and ride like my butt is on fire to the penalty tent.

And then I sit and wait. I watch 4 pro girls pass me. Now I am in 8th.

5 minutes. The longest 300 seconds of my life. But what was so cool was the athletes riding by screaming: "GO FELT!" and "You'll catch them back FELT!"  IT. WAS. AWESOME.

Enter stage left: Dumb Amber. No more riding like a smart girl. The honey badger was out in FULL FORCE. I was so irritated that I spent 3 hours riding conservatively and got a penalty that I road with the intention of catching everyone back. And I did. I was figuratively (and now that it was 108F) literally on fire. Soooo hot.

So there you have it. Ride a FELT because the acts of kindness you will encounter are endless. Riding a FELT also awakens your inner honey badger and that is never a bad thing.

Run portion brought to you by VELOCIO:  I immediately started running and shoving ice down the bra and shorts and chugging the Infinit. My race kit was designed by Brad Sheehan who has an amazing creative gift and is a talented cyclist. He is passionate about the sport and it shines through in his company. I loved the cheers I got from spectators shouting: Go Velocio!! The brand is picking up steam and for good reason. It is hands down the most comfortable and cooling fabric I have ever raced in.

But it's not ALL about fashion. While my kit looked cool, I assumed the role of the fiery Tasmanian devil at all the aid stations. Ice in the bra, ice down the shorts, water on the head, Infinit in the mouth.  I ran in 3rd for about 13 miles and then the speedy Kim Schwabenbaur  passed me. I couldn't respond. I gritted my teeth for 13 miles to hold 4th position and then as the finish line drew near I heard a roar from the crowds. I took a look behind and there was 5th place about 25 yards back. GULP!  I sprinted the 300 yard straightaway to the finish line to just clinch 4th place.  A sprint finish after 140 miles of race. What a way to end the day!

Next Up: Iceland Ultra Marathon and then Ironman Mont Tremblant!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015


The start of 2015 has been a relatively quiet year in regards to racing and for good reason. I needed the break.  

Mind, body, and soul.  

Athletically, 2014 was the best season of my pro career. And it was NOT only because of the work I did in 2013. It was the hard, consistent work that happened in 2012, 2011, 2010 and even in 2009. It was the ability to push my mind and body through 25 hour training weeks. Week after week after week. It was calling on the confidence to keep training hard even when I didn't win. It was chasing after a dream and believing in myself even when the going got tough.  
 But why was 2014 such a soul-sucking, energy sapping year?  

Last year’s Kona qualifying season I went 9:07 at Ironman Florida, I came 3rd at Ironman Texas with one of the fastest run times and then the big WIN came at Ironman Lake Placid. I received dozens of e-mails congratulating me and asking if I had punched my ticket to the Ironman World Championships as a professional. 

I had to politely explain that, as a professional, I race for points and I had just missed the cut off. What that meant was I needed to race yet ANOTHER Ironman in just 3 weeks if I wanted to race on the big Island as a professional. 

But what I should have politely said was, as a FEMALE professional I need to race again in 3 weeks. 

Because if I were a MALE professional I would have been able to put my feet up after Placid, punched my Kona ticket and planned my attack for Kona.  

But I am a FEMALE. And we as FEMALE professionals fight for 35 slots to the IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS when the MALES are awarded 50. 

In a 12 month span I raced 5 FULL IRONMAN distance races. How could I hope to race well at the World Championships with a schedule like that? It's less than ideal. It's not sustainable. And it is NOT fair.  

This is an open question to Andrew Messick, IRONMAN CEO.  

Dear Mr. Messick, 
Throughout history, women have faced intense discrimination—from a lack of legal rights and ability to vote, thought to have inferior brains and amazingly even encouraged not to run marathons for fear of their uteruses falling out! Isn’t it a shame that while Ironman could be seen as a bastion of hope and motivation to all the female athletes out there striving for equality, you instead opt to create a rift in equal opportunities at your highest level on the largest stage?  

My question is WHY? As an entity, Ironman has so many good things going for it. We finally have equal male and female prize purses, we have moved the start of the FEMALE pro race back from the MALES so that we have our own separate race. We promote a fun healthy sport to the masses. Why not seal the deal for gender equality in ALL aspects of the sport? 

Gender inequality at the biggest stage this sport has to offer is a glaring affront to all those female athletes who race and all those young girls potentially exposed to the sport. If Ironman claims that 'Anything is Possible' why not make this harsh inequality go away? #50womentokona 

Dear Andrew Messick, how will you explain to this little girl that when she grows up she will have an unequal chance to qualify for Kona?