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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Quick update: OFF TO OZ!

Camp #1 is nearly over, and it doesn't surprise me that the time flew by here in California. It has been a solid block of work thanks to my Dsquad teammates, Darren, our physio Lisa, and the nearly perfect weather Mother Nature decided to give us for the past seven weeks. No complaints!

I get on the big bird to Australia in five days for camp #2, which will convene on the Gold Coast. I went to Australia back in 2009 for the Junior World Championships (was that seriously 6 years ago?!), but had to rush back for school, so I am pretty eager to get back to a place that I remember being quite cool!

We did a local event this past weekend called the Tritonman- a draft legal race put on by the UCSD Triathlon team. It was great to get the cobwebs out, and go through the processes of racing again after  several months away. It was an opportunity to execute the race checklist, and a chance to see what things still need some work, and what things were done well.
On a mission after a little break in the penalty box. Oops!
The skill of reflecting on the race as a whole allows us to move forward having learned from the experience, whether it was complete crap or a brilliant day. In the midst of great races, there are still things that aren't done so well, and on really rough days there are still some positives somewhere (hopefully!) if you can remove the emotion and analyze the race objectively. With the feedback from the race, I am really looking forward to kicking things off at Mooloolaba on March 14- an opportunity to do a better job in some areas and continue building momentum in others. A big thanks to the UCSD Triathlon team and coach, Kim McCormack, for letting us be a part of the fun on Fiesta Island.

I won't be back in the USA until the end of May, so I am happy to break that long stint up with a visit from my Mom, who flies in to California tonight. I think she is happy to escape the polar East Coast to get some sunshine and beach time, and she might be happy to see me too ;)

Keep smiling!

Jess




Tuesday, February 3, 2015

And some more ramblings (Part 2)

I spent the remaining weeks of 2014 at home in Connecticut with my parents and sisters. The weather was a bit of a shock after the warm climate in Kenya, with freezing temperatures and no sign of the sun. However, as corny as it sounds, my family brings all the sunshine I will ever need into my life (awwwww.) We celebrated Hannah and Scarlet's super sweet 16th birthday on December 11th, with a pretty awesome surprise party. I adore my little sisters, and it was very special to be a part of that day. I soaked up my time in CT, knowing very well that the next 18 months will be full-on and I won't have an extended period of time at home in a long while.

Scarlet and Hannah- Sweet 16 party.

Spent a lot of time with this guy. :)
The conclusion of my time at home was our traditional Christmas celebration. Upon my return from Kenya, the consumeristic culture presented a polar opposite shift from the simplistic way of life I experienced in Africa. I tagged along for some shopping and really struggled to understand why we were buying things we didn't actually need. I chose to go the sentimental direction with my gifts, instead of just buying things to buy things. I desperately pleaded with my parents to not get me anything, knowing very well they would anyways.

 Christmas morning photo on the stairs









The greatest joy I had on Christmas came from how content I was, just being together, with no where to go, nothing to schedule, no phones, work or distractions. I did squeeze in my annual Christmas long run- but it didn't feel like work ;) I love Christmas, and it is probably my favorite day of the year.

A memorable quote on Christmas Eve from my Mom: "God bless whichever one of my daughters messes with our Christmas first." She said it of course, in the sweetest way possible. I think it's safe to say I will be spending Christmas in Middlebury, CT until I am quite old- and I don't mind! I love our traditions just as much as my Mom does, and there is something very special about spending the day together, just the six of us.



I left Connecticut on December 30 and flew to Arizona to visit Chris in Phoenix, where he has been training since November. We had five days together and it was the perfect end to my 2014 and start of my 2015. We did some training together, went to the movies a few times, had some yummy lunches at Whole Foods, and dinners out in Scottsdale. I had the best pizza of my life on our last night there, so that was a real treat! Mainly, it was just great to spend time with the love of my life- someone who always knows how to make me smile big, laugh hard, and has taught me to not take myself too seriously. 


We said our farewells and I hopped on a short flight to San Diego to kick off camp #1 with the Dsquad in Chula Vista, where it all began in 2014. I have been at camp now for nearly a month and I kick off my 2015 season with a fun event called the Tritonman in San Diego on February 21. Then I get on the big bird to Australia early March for camp on the Gold Coast.

Pre run session. Photo credit: Kevin Koresky
Mobility drills before the session. Photo credit: Kevin Koresky

In the thick of things with Lisa and Lindsey. Photo credit: Kevin Koresky

We have a really great crew here in Chula, and as always, I feel pretty lucky to be a part of the Dsquad. I am learning every day, chipping away at bigger goals one session at a time, and making sure to enjoy the journey too :) I really love what I am doing, and that passion is what keeps me rolling through the highs and lows. It is a pretty remarkable opportunity to pursue sport at a high level. I intend to make the absolute most of this process: exploring the depths of my body and mind to discover how good I can be as an athlete. I am really excited for 2015, and will keep you updated as it all unfolds. 

xoxo
Jess

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 ramblings: Part 1

Current Location: Chula Vista, CA, Dsquad Camp

I am writing to you from the warmth of my amazing homestay here in sunny California. I can't say that I am missing the East Coast right now with the several feet of snow and negative temperatures. I do miss my family though...always.

The past few months have been quite eventful. I put the not so exciting Tongyeong and Hong Kong experiences behind me, and traveled to Iten, Kenya to the High Altitude Training Center with a growth mindset and curiosity to explore unchartered territory. 



                 Overlooking the beautiful Rift Valley.
For those without Geography knowledge, this is where I was in Africa!




I love traveling and immersing myself in a new environment, taking on the challenge of adjusting to a different culture. I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous to arrive in Kenya, especially since I was there for two weeks before any of the other Dsquaders traveled over. Thankfully, I latched on to the group of British runners that arrived at the same time as me, and made some great new friends. Also, as soon as I started chatting with the local runners and people in Iten, I felt at home. Of all places I visited in 2014, Kenya had the most impact.



With Stevie Stockton, an amazing British runner and friend.


Some little girls asked me to take their photo when I went for a walk. Adorable!

After the initial adjustment phase, I could see why Darren wanted us to be there. Living amongst elite runners, watching them in their daily environments, observing some of their key sessions, and experiencing a way of life that is so drastically different from ours was transformational as an athlete... and a person. 



Sport is something a lot of us choose to do, because we have the incredible opportunity of deciding it is what we want to pursue. For the Kenyan runners, sport is more than just something they do- it is their way of life and potentially, their way to a better life. Living at the training center alongside some of the local runners was educational in itself- their days are simple: run, eat, sleep, eat, run, eat, run, sleep. The power goes out, the wifi gets disconnected, but you soon realize that it is these luxuries that we have in our daily lives that are actually just distractions. Life goes on without checking twitter and Facebook every four minutes. People communicate without technology through face to face conversations, which are more rich and meaningful. Kenya taught me a lot about seeking simplicity in life, and simplicity as an athlete.

My closest friend from the trip- Timo Limo.
I met some amazing people including the one and only, Timo Limo. He is a father of two adorable little girls (who I got to meet, along with his wife!), and an 800 meter runner for Adidas. He led some of the strength/pilates classes at the training center, and I spent quite a bit of time chatting with him at meals and during rest time between sessions. He shared some great stories from his life in Kenya and his experiences as a competitive runner. He talked about overcoming injury, the power of the mind and staying positive through obstacles, and how everything you do mindfully and with intention, whether it is 10 minutes or two hours, is contributing to becoming a better athlete. His perspective was admirable, and his personality beamed with radiant happiness and appreciation every time I saw him. Meeting him was a highlight of my trip.


With Paul and Ali- two runners at High Altitude Training Center.


Ironically, I traveled home from Kenya just in time for Thanksgiving, and was probably more thankful than I have ever been on the holiday...with a deep appreciation for the things that really matter in life: health, family and everyone who loves you, making a difference by giving back and helping others, doing what you love, being happy. The rest is just fluff.


Part 2 coming soon.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Who I am

I have always been a fighter. Ever since I was little, I have fought for the things I want. My parents remind me all the time how challenging I was as a kid; strong-willed, stubborn, and relentless. From what I remember, I just wouldn't quit when I set my mind to something.

These may have been qualities that created a great deal of stress and hair-pulling for my parents (my Dad has been bald for years), but I am proud of who I am, and wouldn't want to be anyone else.

When I was no longer fast enough for the "A Relay," on my USS swim team, I worked harder and fought for my place. I was surrounded by athletes with talent flowing through their veins, and then there was me; all hard work, sweat and guts. I made certain that the only way I would be left off the team would be because I just wasn't good enough, not because I didn't work hard enough. I quickly learned that there were no shortcuts to the things you really want in life, and although I never made it back on the team relay, I worked my ass off, gave my absolute best effort, and had no regrets. I was 11-years -old at the time.

That trend has carried me through to where I am now, 13 years later, pursuing triathlon full-time and striving to be world class, with the same "give it all you've got and fight for what you want," attitude. It has been an amazing journey so far, and I am incredibly thankful for the support system I have behind me, riding the roller coaster of highs and lows.

This year has been a major step forward for me in a lot of ways. I joined Darren Smith in January, and in a rather short amount of time, transformed into an athlete I didn't think I could be. Again, it was a lot of hard work, sweat, guts, some tears, but a massive commitment to getting better every day that really paid off. The consistent training, world class coaching, and the relentless fighter in me was the recipe to creating some magic. My first ITU podium at the World Cup level was an incredible feeling, and backing up my race in Chengdu with another podium at our Continental Championships in Dallas was a personal confirmation that I was moving in the right direction, racing consistently, able to execute under pressure on the days that it matters. On to France I went with much excitement to continue working hard toward my goals.

Things got a bit off track after a few weeks in Europe, and despite some obvious signs that my body needed to slow down a bit, I kept fighting. No surprise here. "Don't give up," I told myself, "This will pass." It didn't really pass, but I still kept fighting. I had gotten through some tough times before, and I felt like I could get through them again. But progressively, despite a positive attitude, I didn't have much fight left.

Fast forward three months to avoid some of the uglier bits, and I am here in Hong Kong, where I am supposed to be racing tomorrow. After a period of rest at home with my family from early August to late September, I traveled out to Boulder to join Darren and some of the Dsquaders to train and prep for some end of season races, with the hopes that my overtrained body had moved on to happier days. There were some signs of good things, and glimpses of my early-season fit self, so I made plans to race the Tongyeong World Cup (an ugly bit) and Hong Kong Asian Cup (I am no longer racing) to finish out 2014. Turns out it has been a bit too much too soon.

Sometimes, even if you are inherently a fighter, you have to step away from the fight. Even if you really want something, and even if your goals and dreams consume your thoughts from sunrise to sunset, sometimes the best thing you can do is just relax, rejuvenate, and refocus for something better down the road.



Friday, August 29, 2014

Roller coaster riding and reflection

As we all know, life is a roller coaster. Cliche or not, it perfectly describes this journey.

You sit down, get buckled in, and have no idea what will happen next. But that is the best part- throwing yourself into the unknown, wholeheartedly. 

As the ride starts heading up toward the sky, you know that a drop could be around the corner, but you hope that if or when it arrives, it doesn't last long and isn't too scary. You crest the top and want to hold on to that moment forever...the views are amazing up there; it's exhilarating, yet peaceful. You look down and see just how far you've traveled to reach that point.

Then you start heading down, you fear the speed and the lack of control. After the fall, when you think that it is time to go up again, you are jolted left and right, and left again. You feel nauseous, anxious, crazy and completely out of sorts. But eventually, the momentum from the downfall and all the detours in every which direction drive you back up again. 

A roller coaster is what it is because of all of these parts. Where would the fun be if you traveled in a straight line forward on ground level? Without the turns and falls, there wouldn't be the incredible momentum to drive the coaster back up to the highs. 





I think a lot of athletes can relate to this metaphor in their careers. The ones who are on top now have overcome detours, highs, lows, twists and turns on their tracks to success. We all travel on different roller coasters, varying trajectories unique to each athlete.

I had a great Skype conversation with my coach earlier this week about the year so far. I am guilty of not stepping back and truly reflecting on how far I have come, and what I have achieved. I think that a lot of people can relate to this; we are often the  "go-getter," type, eager to get the most out of ourselves while lacking the patience and precision necessary to do that in the right way. Something I have learned is that it is okay, and also extremely important, to step back and just be happy for a few minutes, and think "wow, look what I have done! Look where I was last year! This is sweet !" Reflection is a key component of being an athlete; learning from our successes and our failures, and choosing to move forward with more knowledge because of it.

I am in the middle of detour at the moment, but one that came after some fantastic high roller coaster riding. In seeking those highs, and chasing lifetime best shape, I overcooked myself a bit and my body needed some time to rest and recharge. My coaster decided to go down at a less than ideal time, since it is the middle of the race season, but I am choosing to use this twisty section as a time to learn more about myself as an athlete, make some changes, and reflect on all the highs of 2014. 

I am incredibly lucky to have the support of my coach Darren Smith, the D squad, Chris, my family, USA Triathlon & OTF Multisport throughout all of this. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather ride a roller coaster with :)

Onward and upward.



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

BONJOUR!

I have been in France for five weeks now and I must say, I LOVE IT HERE! Time is flying by, training is going well, I celebrated a birthday (24!), and I am one happy chick. I think I have also finally figured out how to say hello (bonjour) properly. Well, at least I can say it better than when I arrived.

Me, happy in France with flowers from Chris on my birthday!


But first- an update on my last race in Dallas.

I had a great weekend with my Dad and Chris in Texas, and I guess third time is the charm. Two years ago I had a heat stroke in Dallas, last year I was affected by the heat and performed poorly, but this year I can honestly say that I am really pleased with my race.

With my Dad and Chris in Dallas.
I had a great two week build up to the race at home in Connecticut. Being with family is always such a treat. My parents would take off for work in the morning, and my little sisters would head off to school, and I would go about my daily routine of swim-bike-run-strength-eat well-rest-stretch-treatment etc. I spent a lot of time in the dungeon (basement) doing hard treadmill runs and bike-run sessions to prep for the Dallas heat. I think the pain and suffering paid off, so thank you Darren!


By the time everyone got back home, I was usually done with my training for the day, and got to spend some quality time with my parents, sisters and dogs. I hadn't seen everyone since Christmas, so I made the most of our time together. 

With the legend, Moo Moo at home in CT.


The race:

I exited the water at the front of a group of seven or eight girls, which would eventually become the chase pack, with three Americans up the road 40 seconds. We caught the group of three towards the end of lap 2 on the bike, and ended up forming a front pack of about twelve. The course was pretty straightforward- an out and back on a flat road, which meant not an overwhelming number of turns or technical bits to deal with. We entered T2, and besides the transition rack completely falling as I placed my bike on it, it was quite smooth! I came out of T2 a bit back after this chaos, but found myself at the front about 400m in.

Heading out of T2. Photo credit: Talbot Cox.


By the halfway mark I had opened up a gap of about 30 meters, and continued to focus on my checklist- what I needed to do each step to run well. Every time I came through the turnaround near transition, I could see my Dad giving me a thumbs up, and Chris was out on the run course encouraging me every lap. I took the run out hard in Dallas, which was quite different than the conservative approach I took in China. I got passed with just over a kilometer to go by an athlete from Mexico, and the eventual winner. I surged to get on her shoulder, re-passed her at the last turnaround, and she surged on me again on the slight downhill bit. With just under a kilometer to go, I dug as deep as I could, but didn't have the extra gear to go with her.  I definitely risked a lot on the run, and perhaps could have raced a little smarter...but I also learned a lot, which is part of racing and becoming a better athlete. I finished second place, tank empty, all smiles as I got to hug my Dad just after crossing the line. What a special day to share with him.

After my time at home, and a solid race, I felt recharged and ready to head to Europe and join Darren and the squad for our summer camp.

FRANCE:

I lived in Morzine for the first two weeks, then moved 12 kilometers up the mountain to the beautiful Avoriaz. It felt a bit like a ghost town for the first week, but families are flowing in now for holiday, shops are opening and it is certainly a special place.

Swim training in Morzine. Photo credit: Rob Holden.

After falling in love with New Zealand earlier this year, I didn't think a camp could top the one we had there. However, France is quickly becoming one of my favorite places in the world. I love the environment Darren has created here- simple and effective.

Running at Lac de Montriond. Shadow is Coach Daz.
Run session with the girls at Lac de Montriond. Photo Credit: TriDynamic.

I am currently in full-on training mode for my next race- the Jiayuguan World Cup in China on July 26. Back to China I go- hopefully it will be good to me again, and maybe I will get some more smiles this time :)

Lunch w Aileen and Jodes in Morzine.


au revoir for now!!

Jessica