Tuesday, September 10, 2013

70.3 World Championships: Giving my inner critic a swift kick in the booty!

Danny and I arrived in Vegas for the Ironman 70.3 WorldChampionships on Wednesday. And then it hit me: I would be toeing the line with the best Professional female triathletes in the world on Sunday.  Yay! To say I was a little excited was an understatement. I felt fit and ready to fight a honest battle.  This year has been one of mini breakthroughs and benchmarks and I felt motivated to race aggressively against some of the fiercest girls in the world in fabulous Vegas.

The training on Wednesday was a swim session and shake out run.  Since we were both tired from travel I decided to complete my swim workout in our hotel pool since it was quite large.  I did briefly forget that I was in crazy Vegas vacation land which meant I spent the majority of the swim dolphin diving and zig-zagging over/under/through the copious amounts of tipsy Vegas goers.  Just picture dozens of bikini/speedo wearing drunkards and ME with my swim cap, goggles and one piece.  I was happy to have made it out alive. 
Big Dork

After the scorcher of the shake out run (temps hit 105!) we spent some time wrestling the one arm bandits.  I chose the penny slot machines because that’s the kind of high roller I am.  And I would like to point out that at one beautiful moment in time I was 360 up. And I’m talking 3 dollars and 60 big cents. And then I lost it all.  But you know what they say in Vegas? Fold and forget.

On Thursday I completed my swim workout at the local YMCA. It was a beautiful facility with no drunkards. Perfect. I then hopped on the speedy Felt DA for a ride which was very short lived because I couldn't shift.  I dismounted thinking I would give it another check over since yours truly assembled the bike and that is always a fingers-crossed-hope-I-did-it-right ordeal.  Soon after getting off the bike I noticed the pulley system of the rear derailleur was in bad shape. 

First I cried. And then I got down to business. Luckily my great friend and bike mechanic, Myles Chase, would be flying into Vegas that day.  

Short story: we ended up over-nighting a rear derailleur. 

Long story: the derailleur did NOT arrive in 24 hours and fell subject to Murphy’s law.  And the long story also involves a grand UPS mix up, a lazy loading dock, an incompetent stripper, a large annual gay parade and the sketchiest back alley Vegas has to offer.  What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. All you need to know was I got my derailleur.  ;) 

My sister was also competing in the race and it was awesome to have her there. Our parents came down to cheer/Sherpa as well so the positive energy was flying high.  We filled the days with lots of relaxing, laughing, eating and of course wrestling some one arm bandits. 

Race day came quickly as always. I miraculously was able to sleep the night before which may or may not be due to the VERY strict caffeine taper I had completed. I started 2 weeks out and made an honest effort to wean my way down to 0 mg of caffeine for several days pre-race.  And if you know me and my coffee addiction this was a big win for me.

Race morning I woke with good energy at 3:30am, showered, massaged my muscles, ate my breakfast and had my first coffee in weeks. Ahh, the sweet nectar of the Gods!  I was totally ready to go and then someone gifted me the best race day present: As we drove to Henderson it started to sprinkle. And then it started to RAIN. It was raining in the desert. Sweet Jalissa!  I was psyched, smiling ear to ear. I LOVE racing in the rain and to go from expecting race day to be a dry 105 degree scorcher to getting rain and humidity made me giddy.

Danny and Myles had scored themselves VIP passes so they were in transition helping the sisters out. The rain was cooling me down, but even so, right before heading off to the swim start I shoved a mound of ice down my Zoot speedsuit. The water was 80 degrees and I had no intention of overheating 20 minutes into a 4+ hour day.  I said good luck to my sis, my awesome teammate Heather Jackson, my friend Magali and then I was diving into the brackish water that is Lake Las Vegas. They announced the pros, gun goes off and I’m feeling great! And then trouble strikes. I am on the front line but a distinct pack is forming to my right and my left. I want to jump on a lead pack but I have to literally make a split decision. I chose the pack to my right because the course eventually turns right but I got caught up on some slow feet and had to swim to the very edge of the big pack until I moved myself up to the top of the 12 girl pack. I spot Magali and Heather Wurtele so I know I’m swimming strong. Gotta love aquasphere goggles for allowing you to actually survey your environment.

The pace felt easy and relaxed.  Actually, a little too easy so I swam out to the side of the pack to test some open water and tried to make a move. That’s when someone swam over me and then another grabbed my feet and pulled me under. Never had that happen! I calmed my breathing and made the executive decision to expend as little energy as I could in the swim.

I exited the water and sprinted through the long transition. I mounted the Felt (with the disc!) and immediately had to discard the glasses. It was dark and pouring. I laughed out loud. It’s raining in Vegas!  

The first 5 miles of the bike I dealt with some bad luck and got stuck behind some girls who were sitting up going down the first descent. I lost some time navigating around them and it frustrated me as I knew my teammate Mandy Mclane was just up the road and I wanted to bridge the gap. Cat Morrison passed me around 20 miles in and I tried my hardest to keep her in sight. I stood up on the hills and tucked my head and pushed hard on the pedals.  I was trying to stay aero and do all the little things the head honcho Kurt taught me but at the same time my stomach started to revolt. After that point I had trouble keeping any liquid down and I spent the ride vomiting the GU I tried to take down. At one point I wanted to put my head in my aero bars and cry.  My worst enemy was giving me 100 reasons why I should throw the towel in.  I was way out in no-man land, feeling sick and not very powerful. I knew how important nutrition is on the bike and here I was unable to take anything down. Would I be able to even finish? And then it happened. I smartened up and clubbed my inner critic over the head.  

I began to think of all the POSITIVES. All the wonderful people I have in my life that had helped me get here: my husband, my coach, my training partner Ryan Kelly, Myles Chase/MC cycles, my mom and dad and so many others along the way.  If I wimped out, I would not be honoring them.  At that moment I quieted my mind and regrouped.

Of course it’s easy to have self-confidence when the race is going great.  But I am a strong believer that BIG breakthroughs rarely take place in that environment. The most worthy breakthroughs happen when you dig yourself out of very uncomfortable/tough situations.  During the race, I believed that even on a day of vomiting my nutrition, getting T-boned on the swim and getting caught in no-man’s land, a breakthrough was possible but not if I quit.  I was going to fight tooth and nail if I had to and get myself to the finish line.    

I finally dismounted the bike, slipped into the Zoot Kiawis and sprinted out of transition. The miracle of this day was I felt OK on the run.  Except for the 4 emergency bathroom stops - at least I wasn’t throwing up - I felt better than I thought considering I had zero nutrition in me. My cadence was up and I was chasing girls down. The course was an intense roller coaster and an absolute quad buster. My Mom, Dad, Danny, Myles, Jim Johnson and PJ (my wonderful homestay/friends from Oceanside), Jake, Kim and other Zooters were cheering like crazy and it was so helpful. I was smiling on the run and absolutely loving that I was finally getting in a groove!  

I crossed the line hurting, suffering and smiling. The moral of the story is there is ABSOLUTELY no harm in giving 100%. Ever. Even if 100% on that day does not live up to your expectations. After giving my inner critic a swift kick in the booty I was able to move past the challenge of the moment and strengthen myself as an athlete, physically and most importantly, mentally.  I stayed tough, stayed engaged, gave 100% and got what I was looking for: a world championship worthy mental and physical battle.

Next up: The dirty double of Miami 70.3 and Florida Ironman!



  1. You have always been a fighter - doesn't surprise me one bit that you fought hard again in Vegas when things weren't going right! Congrats on getting the job done!!

  2. Way to go Amber. I know what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but lets hear a little more about the incompetent stripper.

  3. I loved this RR. I am so impressed with your toughness and attitude. You are a total inspiration and have the mental fortitude of a champion. Congratulations! That day is one you'll pull strength from as you go forward!

  4. Good job, i did the same thing on my Run Across NH, as I was throwing up on the last day every 100 yards, and forced down fluid to have something to throw up later. Great Job again.


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