Tuesday, September 6, 2016

LEED

Photo credit: World Triathlon

On the rare occasion that Southern California brought weather that required winter clothing in December and January, Paulo would show up at the pool with his LEED hat. I always looked at the letters, but never asked what it meant. Eventually, only perfect warm days filled the calendar and the hat was nowhere to be seen.

On Thursday last week I stopped at the squad house to pick up LEED hats Paulo had left for Summer and I, and upon arrival in Edmonton, it was an essential part of my wardrobe. Brrrrr.

Even still, the first few times I wore the hat, I had no idea what LEED stood for. It was just a fuzzy thing that kept my head warm, and I got to match my best gal pal during our Edmonton excursions.


This girl. SO PROUD. 

"Living Excellence Every Day."

Initially, this acronym sounded intimidating. When I think of "excellence," the tendency is to only think of its association with achievement on race day. Of course, winning is excellent. After more thought, though, I realized that excellence doesn't always look like someone standing on the podium. Excellence has many forms. It can be the way you commit to your craft on on a daily basis, with focus and intention. It can be the consistent decision to show up, do your job and be better than you were yesterday. We don't have control of much more than just that.

My races in Canada can best be described with words other than excellent, but the process that I followed to get back to the start line is something I am proud of. Achieving my own excellence, which looks slightly different day by day, has been at the core of that process, and will be moving forward.

I am, as always, incredibly thankful to my support team: Paulo, the Triathlon Squad, my family, friends, ROKA, BiPro, Off the Front Multisport and Team Psycho for all that you do to help me achieve excellence, through good times and testing times. I couldn't do this without you.


Jess






Monday, July 25, 2016

Why do you do it?

Over the last few months I have been presented with this question on a number of occasions. Family members reaching out to see how I am doing, friends expressing concern as they search the ITU results pages and fail to see my name anywhere....and of course, I ask myself this question too.

My introduction to triathlon was on the sidelines, as a spectator to what appeared to be a form of torture that my Mom participated in. But as challenging and crazy as it seemed, I was lured by the unique nature of the sport, and the transformation of pain to elation I witnessed on faces at the finish line. It sparked a curiosity in me that I had never felt before. 

Local events brought success in my age group, and through each race I competed in, I was learning more about myself and growing in ways I never imagined. I began to experience the power of sport and all it can teach you, something my parents always preached but I never quite understood. I guess I just hadn't found my sport yet.

As my passion for triathlon grew, chasing my dreams and the self discovery that went along with that took precedence to the normal life of a teenager. I spent time before and after school training and trying to get better. My weekends revolved around the process of becoming the best student and athlete possible. My social life withered, but my life seemed more profound and meaningful than ever. The things that mattered to me were very different from my peers, but I was grounded in the pursuit of excellence and inspired by the process of getting there. 

Eventually I was contacted to pursue "draft legal racing," which after googling, seemed terrifying to a newbie who spent time putting on bike gloves in T1. But true to the nature in which I do things in life, I threw myself at the challenge. I hired a real coach, studied the sport, and made goals to try to qualify for one of three spots on the Junior Worlds Team in 2009. I could sense that this was a lofty goal to a newcomer, but I didn't really care if other people thought I was crazy for dreaming big. At one of the qualifying events in California, I did it, less than a year after my first draft legal race, all with a broken toe (this is a story for another time). The pursuit of this goal was the most rewarding process I had experienced in my life. 

That fearless teenager is still in my heart as an athlete today, and through the trials and tribulations, it is important for me to remember how far I have come. At the core of it all, the process of training to compete professionally at a high level in triathlon is no different from the process I followed to achieve my first big goal in 2009. Dream big, work hard, get better every day, keep it simple. I certainly have lost sight of this along the way. Thankfully and gratefully, I have incredible people in my life who have helped me refocus on that vision.

What I am most proud of has nothing to do with where I have finished at races, teams I have made, honors I have earned, but instead, what I have overcome in nearly 10 years of competing in triathlon, and all it has taught me about myself, life, love, happiness and much more. Standing on the podium is a pretty remarkable feeling, and winning is something I will never stop chasing, but this sport has enriched my life so far beyond those moments. That is why I do it. 






Thursday, April 21, 2016

Force play

"One thing I've learned in twenty-nine years of playing tennis: Life will throw everything but the kitchen sink in your path, and then it will throw the kitchen sink. It's your job to avoid the obstacles. If you let them stop you or distract you, you're not doing your job." - Andre Agassi

After several people recommended Agassi's autobiography "Open," I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. I am only about fifty pages in and I am really enjoying his story. Authentic, raw and honest; a combination that is quite rare in athletics. His awareness of detail is remarkable, and as he describes the mental component of his sport and inner dialogue around matches, it reminds me that all athletes aspiring to be at the top of their game are slightly insane. I think you have to be. It takes a special breed to get out of the trenches time and time again to put it all on the line for those small moments of glory. Heck, Agassi didn't even like tennis. In fact, he talks about how much he hated it. But he also talks about how the forces pushing him away telling him to quit were always overcome by the forces pulling him back to the court.

I think a lot of athletes deal with these types of "forces." After watching Gold Coast WTS I read a quote from winner, Helen Jenkins: "I came close to quitting a few times and I'm so glad I kept going." This is a common quality among the best athletes in any sport: Resiliency. They just keep going. They do their job. They love the highs more than they hate the lows. So they just keep coming back for more.

What I have come to learn in my athletic career so far is that "doing your job," doesn't necessarily mean getting in the pool, riding your bike, or going out for a run. Because let's face it, sometimes you can't physically do those things. Sometimes it means chatting with your "team," seeing doctors, devising a new plan, eating well, resting, writing, reading, recalibrating. This stuff isn't endorphin-rushing fun, but sometimes this is is the process that needs to be carried out.

I have had a great team around me the last few months, helping me get through this type of process. Although incredibly frustrating at times, I have been able to maintain a relatively positive attitude which I believe is essential in the healing process. Sure, I have thought about quitting. I wouldn't be human if I didn't have the occasional "Why do I put myself through this crap?" moments. But then I remember the very special moments, those "forces" in my career so far, and just how much they mean to me. So I forge on, slightly insane, crazy passionate, eager to get better and continue learning. There is so much in there that I haven't found yet, and that's a force I can't ignore.


:)

Friday, February 26, 2016

The best version of yourself

For all of 2014 and 2015, I watched what was going on around me. I soaked in every ounce of information I could. The visual learner in me would see what others were doing, and I would just go do it too. I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to work with such amazing athletes, and believed that success would stem from a commitment to being more like them.

And it did. I got better. To me, what I achieved was success. So I kept doing it.

The better athlete in me was happy because performing well is exciting. Standing on a podium makes all the voices in your head go away. Why question the process if it appears to be working? I was making the decision every day to become more like the athletes surrounding me, than to uncover the absolute best version of myself. And I couldn't see it happening. When I was in it, I was blinded.

When you string together a daily decision like this, time goes by and before you know it, you are looking in the mirror at yourself, unable to recognize the person standing in front of you. I felt like I took the quote, "We are what we repeatedly do," to the extreme. I lost sight of who I was at my core as an athlete, and a person. I cared about the wrong things.

When I joined The Triathlon Squad, one of the first things Paulo said to me was "We aren't going to try to change you." In this moment, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt like my world completely changed the instance he explained that instead we would bring out the best version of myself. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was enough. I don't need to try to be anyone other than myself.

This isn't all smooth sailing. It is hard work both mentally and physically. It means that I have to focus on myself and the mindset I choose when I go about what I am doing every day. It means that I take ownership of what I am doing in my athletic career, and I am the pilot. It means that I have to do some digging to find myself again. It means that I have to take a few steps back before I take leaps forward. And I am ok with that.

I am excited to travel to Australia in a week to kick off the 2016 race season in Mooloolaba. I know there will be several challenges ahead, but I have been able to replace fear of the unknown with excitement for self-discovery, excitement to be in the driver's seat, excitement to live my life instead of just watch it go by, excitement to start writing my own story instead of being a chapter in someone else's book.

Carpe Diem.

-Jess








Friday, July 31, 2015

Finding peace

The past few months haven't been the most fun, but I've chosen, yet again, to learn from the obstacles in my life verse being bitter about them. Not to say that has been easy....at all.

Leading in to Chengdu and Yokohama I was in lifetime best shape after making the decision with Darren to stay put on the Gold Coast for the final phase before these races. It wasn't an easy phase- training was hard, the squad was gone, and I had to create my own energy every day in training. It was a good test both physically and mentally, and I'm proud of the work I put in, and the athlete I became in the process. I had done everything I could to prepare for competition, and I felt more ready than ever to execute. This is the best feeling before a race, and I was extremely calm and relaxed....at peace. 

Long story short, I got quite sick shortly after my arrival in China and had to withdraw from Chengdu. I was gutted, but quickly directed my focus to the following weekend- another opportunity to demonstrate all the hard work I had put in since WTS Gold Coast.

I started the race in Japan, but withdrew on the bike when I couldn't keep fluids down. Devastated. 

When I arrived in France to try and prepare for London, I knew something was still very wrong. A week later I was on a plane back to CT, and a few days after that I got test results back that were positive for Campylobacter, a nasty bacterial infection that had been swarming in my gut for nearly four weeks. 

It's hard to explain the emotions I experienced following all of this. When you invest yourself completely in a preparation, and the build up is to nothing at all, it's heart breaking. As I sat in my room at home recovering, day by day, I felt the fitness I had worked so hard for slipping away. With that, I saw my plans of competing at the test event in Rio diminishing as well. 

So, when it looked like I wouldn't be in shape to really compete in Rio, and not just participate, I pulled my name from the list and decided to stay put in Europe and focus on preparing for Tiszy and Stockholm instead. Not my original plan, but my new plan that I am now excited about.

I'm bummed to not be a part of the Olympic test event this weekend, but I'm at peace with my decision and know it is the right one. I wish everyone competing all the best this weekend! 





Jessica 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

WTS Debut


After years of watching the big dance from my computer screen, I finally got the opportunity to be a part of it all at WTS Gold Coast, the third stop of the 2015 series. I was pretty excited to travel up the road to Southport, and it was so close to my homestay in Australia that I actually decided to bike there. Easiest travel day ever.

I was feeling pretty calm in the days leading up to the race, and with seven of the Dsquaders competing, it just felt like our group picked up and moved to a new training location. The race venue also brought back great memories from 2009, my first international competition at the Junior World Championships. This familiarity made pre-race seem extremely relaxed, and I was really excited to toe the line when Saturday rolled around.

I had a pretty good first lap of the swim, but between choosing the wrong line around the first buoy on the second lap, and getting in to a bit of a water battle in the last couple hundred meters, a gap opened and I ended up in the first chase pack. The bike course was mentally and physically demanding- quite technical and a different course from the race in 2009. Our group never caught the front group, despite being only 25 seconds down at one point, and we entered t2 about 50 seconds down on the lead group.

After somewhat poor T2 positioning in Mooloolaba and New Plymouth, I had a goal to be more aggressive in to and out of transition. I am happy to say I improved on this execution, and the excitement from doing so fueled me to a stupidly quick first kilometer on the run. You could call it a #YOLO moment that I seriously paid for a few kilometers later.

Although things were getting ugly, I kept fighting with everything I had. Andrea and Rachel came by and I hung with them as long as I could. Then Aileen and Lindsey came by and I ran with them, got dropped, got back on, got dropped, got back on...and then dropped. It felt pretty cool to be running with two training mates, and I am so happy for them with top 10's. Go Dsquad :) It was an exciting day to be a part of, with the USA ladies sweeping the podium (Well done Gwen, Sarah and Katie!)

I finished the day in 14th, and am proud of my effort and all the lessons I learned along the way. I tend to race with a "risk everything and go for it," attitude, which obviously isn't always the smartest approach. However, to quote T.S Elliot (without being corny), "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." As I become a more seasoned athlete, I hope to find a balance of risk-taking and sensibility with my execution on race day.

I am on the Gold Coast until early May, then I take off for China to race the Chengdu World Cup (where it all started for me in 2014). The following weekend I will go off to Japan for my second WTS in Yokohama.








Thursday, March 19, 2015

Happiness...and finding it

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."

I sit here in my apartment in New Plymouth, NZ as I write this, looking out my window at the serene city streets below and the beautiful ocean in the distance. This place, like many of the destinations I've traveled to in the past 15 months, is brilliant.

I'm coming off a race last weekend in Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast of Australia (super brilliant place), and am really happy with my performance there. The end of 2014 was rocky, so to start 2015 off with a good day was really satisfying. I grit my teeth through the bumps, learned a whole hell of a lot, and dove into 2015 head first- a sensible and smarter head first.

I can't even believe how much I have grown since embarking on this journey as a full-time athlete at the beginning of 2014. And even more incredible to me is how much happiness I have found in the process. I am proud of the person I'm becoming, and I have sport, the people in my life, and the places I've been to thank for that. I am constantly learning, soaking up every experience good or bad, and moving forward with a deep, burning passion and love for what I am doing.

I race on Sunday in the New Plymouth World Cup, and am then back to the Gold Coast to rejoin the Dsquad for camp and race Gold Coast WTS in three weeks time. To all the people in my world- thank you for everything.

Xxx

Jess