Friday, January 6, 2017

Bring on 2017

This is not exactly how I wanted this year in review post to read, but here goes...

Goals set for 2016:
1. Qualify for the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship FAIL
I came close at IM 70.3 NC, finishing 4th with three spots in my age group (unfortunately the top three all accepted).  Ironically I still have a chance to qualify in Chattanooga this May, but given my travel schedule for Penticton (see #2), I would most likely decline and let my spot roll down.  I'm still disappointed to have failed to meet this goal, but given the way that my 2017 race calendar has shaped up, I think it might be for the best.

2. Qualify for the 2017 ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championship SUCCESS

I needed to place in the top 18 in my age group, and finished 7th, so my 2017 summer vacation is now planned around the ITU Multisport World Championships in Penticton, British Columbia.

3. Top 5 AG finish at the Long Course Duathlon National Championship SUCCESS
I'd said last year that based on the 2014 results, I'd have to take about 20 minutes off my time from my 2014 Nationals.  Ultimately I finished 21:52 faster to place 4th in my age group and 10th female overall.  

Maybe it's the blah of 2016, but even though I met 2/3 goals, set PRs ranging from the mile to half ironman, and found myself on an Ironman 70.3 podium, I found the year to be kind of disappointing.  Part of it might be that it had to follow 2015, when I didn't just meet my goals, I crushed them.  I know that level of improvement is not sustainable, but it felt awesome, so by comparison this year sort of fell flat.  It really just felt like the year of close-but-not-quite... 4th overall at the TOA sprint (one off the OA podium), 4th in my AG at LC Du Nationals (one off the podium), 6th AG at IM 70.3 Raleigh and IM 70.3 Augusta (which have podium spots for the top 5), 20:07 at the Butte to Butte 5k (I really wanted to break 20 minutes), and of course one spot away from the World Championship spot I'd been working for all year.

Swimming: 172 miles (2015:139)

I definitely saw improvement in my swimming this year.  The only stand alone open water swim averaged 10 seconds per 100 faster than my sole OWS of 2015 and I somehow managed to get out of the water 8th in my AG and in the top 10% of all women at IM 70.3 NC.  Considering that I've historically been pleased with finishing in the top 1/3 on the swim, I was extremely happy with that.  That said, I am still very slow by swimmer standards, and I still don't really like swimming.  So we'll see what happens... 

Cycling: 3,772 miles (2015: 3,855*)
*My new trainer does not estimate distance

I seem to enjoy being on my bike more and more each year, and I really love my new IA10 (despite the bento box design flaw).  I was only training for half IMs this year, but still rode more miles than I did in preparation for B2B last year, which was actually a really nice surprise (thanks, coach).  Honestly, despite the danger of riding on the roads, there is nothing better than to get out on the bike on a beautiful summer day.  I set a new 40k PR (1:08), upped my 20 minute max average power to 220W, and had the 6th fastest female bike split at IM 70.3 NC (unfortunately 40 miles of headwind prevented that effort from translating to a half IM bike PR).  Though I have been riding pretty well, there's still a sizable gap to the top and I think there is quite a bit of improvement yet to be made, so I am looking forward to putting in the time and work to try to get a little higher up on the podium.

Running: 839 miles (2015: 1,190)
For the first time since 2009, I didn't break 1,000 miles.  This was largely due to the knee injury that prevented me from running in January and February, but I also had nothing longer than 13.1 on my calendar, so the year was devoid of any real long runs.  But what I lost in volume I made up in quality, with an even greater commitment to making all of the hard miles (intervals, progression runs, fast finishes) count.  That translated to short distance PRs (mile, 5k) as well as better strength off the bike (a faster second run split than the first at Du Nationals, a near PR despite the heat in Augusta).  And of course, the crowning accomplishment of my running career... becoming a beer mile champion ;)

I have to remind myself that just finishing four half iron distance races in a year (and especially 3 in 7 weeks) is something my pre-2015 self would have never thought I could do.  All told, I ended up with Ironman All World Athlete Gold status in the 70.3 rankings and USAT All American status, so even though I never had that perfect race, I'm more or less pleased with the year as a whole.

20th (of 2,579) F35-39 American athletes
in the Ironman AWA 70.3 rankings 

With all of the training and racing, I sometimes forget that I do other things as well, and reflecting on this year is a good reminder of that.  Though most of my travels are usually around races, this year included trips to Mexico, the Pacific Northwest, Vermont, Colorado, Texas, and Florida; with the sole purpose of having fun and spending time with friends and family.  As much as I was over 2016, these memories definitely help me to regain more of a glass-half-full perspective, and I appreciate having such special people in my life.

Goals for 2017

1. Finally break 5 hours in a 70.3
I came (sort of?) close at Augusta, finishing in 5:06 despite a last minute change to being non-wetsuit legal and the temperature reaching up into the 90s.  I'm racing IM 70.3 Chattanooga in May and IM 70.3 North Carolina in October, so I'll have two shots at this (again).  If I am fortunate enough to stay healthy and have decent race conditions, I'd like to shoot for sub-5:00 at Chattanooga and sub-4:50 in Wilmington.

2. Podium the Long Course Duathlon National Championship

After a big PR but slightly disappointing 4th place finish, the goal here is to go home with a National Championship AG medal.  

3. The elusive 1:29:59
I've been wanting to break 1:30 in a half marathon since I ran 1:33:01 way back in 2012, but the closest I've gotten was 1:31:25 in June 2015.  To actually do this, I'd have to average 6:52/mile, and I am not sure it's even feasible.  Even if the sub-1:30 fails to happen, I'd be happy to walk away from this one with a PR to start the year.

4. Sub 3:15 at CIM
If I do actually manage to run under 1:30 for 13.1, the calculators suggest I should be able to squeak in under 3:10 (7:15/mile), but I'll cross that bridge if I get there.  For now I'd be happy to break 3:15 (7:27/mile), which would mean cutting about three minutes off of my current marathon PR.

5. Qualify for the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Though it would have been convenient to race IM 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga, the 2018 race will be in South Africa.  What it lacks in convenience it makes up in checking "African Safari" off of my bucket list, so my hope for the NC race in October is to walk away with both a PR and a spot at Worlds.

It takes a village

First, congratulations to Dark Horse Triathlon for finishing 1st in the Americas in the Ironman Triclub Division V rankings!  I could not have made this much progress or balanced my heavy fall race schedule on my own, so I am thankful to have such a great coach!

Another big thanks goes out to Triangle Multisport and Inside Out Sports, who provided a ton of support for me through the TMS-IOS Elite Team this year.  In addition to the sponsorship benefits, it was great racing with a team and making new connections with such badass athletes, and I am really grateful to have had that opportunity.

Though I won't be rejoining the TMS-IOS squad in 2017, I am excited to announce that I'll be racing for the TriSports Elite Team!  I'm also happy to be continuing my affilation with Honey Stinger through the Hive Elite Program and representing Salming as an ambassador.  

And last but not least, thank you to my friends and training partners who make all of these miles much more enjoyable.  It's a long road, and sharing this journey with you means so much to me, so thank you for the company, laughs, motivation, and inspiration.  xo

So I guess with help from Dark Horse and my sponsors, I have coaching, nutrition, gear, and apparel covered... all that's left is to do the work!  Here's to an amazing 2017!