Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lovely Lausanne

After 10 race starts, I’m starting to resemble my race flats: smelly, icky, a bit worn, and yet remain functional. While I don’t have the nice bounce of a brand-new pair of flats, I am pretty comfortable just plodding along, not causing any nasty blisters or raws spots. Like my shoes, I needed a few days of airing out after my last race in Lausanne (although thankfully I wasn’t stuffed into a plastic bag due to the odors I emanate) but I’ve since returned, dear readers, to give an overview of my latest WCS racing endeavors.

Davos to Lausanne involved a 4 1/2 hour train ride across Switzerland with a small bag, bike and parents in tow. This year I’ve managed to travel to 3 of the WCS races without flying: traveling without a bike bag is a joy. Once in Lausanne, I jetted off to leave my vacationing parents to run rampant around the lakeside city and I settled into my pre-race routine. Given the high cost of food in Switzerland, however, I was certain to reconvene with the ‘rents at mealtimes: a very convenient arrangement for me, but a raw deal for them, as they ended up with my paltry company in exchange.

After high-pressure London (test event/ selection race for many countries), the race atmosphere of Lausanne was markedly different, resembling more of a triathlon party amongst friends. Although the racing was still as fast and furious as one might expect at this level, there was a relaxed air permeating the venue. Perhaps it was the heat or the lakeside setting that lulled us into submission. Maybe it was the addition of the Team Relay that created a greater sense of community.

Saturday’s sprint distance race went by in a flash. Before I knew it, I had crossed the finish line in a solid 7th place and was celebrating Barbara Riveros Diaz’s victory alongside Coach Daz and my other training partners. Our Chilean chiquita had a brilliant race: she was a pit bull to my Golden Retriever on that day. Hopefully some of her fighting spirit will transfer over to me in the next couple of weeks.

As short as Saturday’s race felt, the team relay was even speedier. As the lead-off, I had the longest leg for Team USA: a paltry 20 minutes. My head was still in T1 by the time that I handed off to Barrett Brandon, who gutted out a minor crash and road rash to hand off in a good position to our running superstar, Gwen Jorgensen. While we all had solid legs, the relay hero of the day was our anchor, Mark Fretta. Through his huge final effort, we managed to squeak into a 6th place finish. Probably the best moment of the weekend for me was witnessing Mark’s elation upon crossing the finish line. He described the experience as “the most fun [he’s] had racing in years”. ITU is trying to push the inclusion of the team relay for the 2016 Olympic Games; we should have plenty of team relay opportunities in the next few years. I just need to get a few more speed sessions in the interim!

The next morning, I hopped on the train, bid adieu to my wonderfully supportive parents and headed back to our little Alpine town. In a couple of months, I will get a much-needed off-season break and my well-worn, well-travelled shoes will be relegated to the trash bin. With a few races to go, however, I still have to remain focused and with my race flats nearby. As long as they remain in their plastic bag quarantine, I should be just fine.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I ♥ you, Santa Claus

Dear Santa,

I know that it has been a couple of decades since I’ve written, but I hope that you know that I’ve always been a super-duper huge fan of your work. While I am a decent multi-tasker, you put me to shame, Mr. Kringle! And all of the smiles that you deliver across the planet? Amazing! Although I probably have more naughty days than nice ones, I hope that you know that I still try really really hard to make your good list. I really do!

Over the years, you got me some seriously awesome presents (although I still am waiting on that African Grey! :-), but I think that you really outdid yourself this time. Back in December, when I asked you for an Olympic spot, you were so funny when you acted all startled and stuff. Thankfully I knew better and didn’t lose faith in your ability to deliver my first Christmas request in years. Sure, I trained hard and everything, but it really was just an insurance policy in case you dropped the ball. You understand, right? But soooo glad you came through!

When I was out on the race course in London this past weekend, I totally could sense you pushing me along on the run with your magic North Pole skillz. In the last kilometer, I swear that I heard sleigh bells and looked behind me a few times to check. Whoops- I forgot that you know when I’m lying! I didn’t really check for you; I was actually fading on the run and doing the shoulder check to make sure that I wouldn’t get passed and lose my Olympic spot. But I promise that I was thinking of you; I even had a pic of the two of us as my Facebook profile pic as a reminder of my Xmas wish in the lead up to the race. I’m sure that you saw it. BTW, why aren’t we Facebook friends?! Did you ever get that friend request? I sent it like a million years ago.

Anyway, I am super stoked that I got my automatic qualification and get to represent my country at the Olympic Games next year. You should totally come and hang out with Gwen and me (she also qualified- did she ask you too?). It is going to be the sweetest party ever!!! Thanks again, Kris. This definitely makes up for any lame presents you ever gave me. I can’t wait to catch up in December over some hot chocolate, buddy. Don’t worry- I’ll bring something special for yours. It will be our little secret; I know how upset the Mrs. gets when you take a nip on the job. Just don’t be surprised if I ask for something again this year! A little hint: I wouldn’t mind something shiny and metal & I don’t mean jewelry. LOL!!!



P.S. Sorry to make this totally awkward, but I hope that I’m not misreading your gift. Just in case, however, I think you are super cool and all, but I’m in a relationship and you just aren’t my type. I won’t even get into the fact that you have been married like forever. That being said, if I wanted to date a bearded mythical man you’d be #1 on my list. Oh man, I’m totally busted lying again to Mr. Know-It-All! Okay, you’d be #2 after Zeus ( C’mon, can you blame me? Have you seen him in a toga recently? Who knew high-carb nectar & ambrosia would make for washboard abs?!). But you’d totally be ahead of leprechauns and elves since a girl likes to wear heels on occasion. Hope that I didn’t make things weird between us, S.C. I’m sure you understand; you have to get into trouble on occasion with the whole lap-sitting move, right? :-)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Report of a Hamburglary

Last week I travelled to Deutschland for the ultimate Euro-tri experience: the Hamburg WCS race. While we knew that I wouldn’t be firing on all cylinders for the race, given how it fell in relation to our prep for August, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take part in this great race. We had two objectives for the race: secure my spot for the Pan-American Games team and get more race practice under my belt. With a solid 13th place finish, I was successful on both accounts. I’ve also managed to stay in 7th place in the WCS rankings.

The racing was fast and furious, as we knew that it would be, and my skills were tested on the technical course. Although I would have loved to feel a bit sharper in the race, especially on the run, I’m pleased to have been able to play triathlon with some of my international friends. The Aussie Emmas were absolutely brilliant on the run; they’ve definitely set the bar high in regards to the run standard. Wowzers! Hopefully the work that we are doing right now will get me a bit closer to them the next time when I toe the start line in London.

On a completely unrelated note, I had a short pre-race interview with Universal Sports where I was given the opportunity to share some of my lame cow jokes (or should I say “cheesy”). Here’s a new cow joke for you: “What do you call an unproductive dairy cow?” Answer: “A Milkdud!” or, if you don’t know what a Milkdud is, “And utter failure”. Oh man, too funny...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

36 hours later...

8am train departure from Davos Dorf. 8 hrs of travel: three trains, one plane and a traffic jam through Montmartre and down Champs-Elysees. Drop off the bags and search for a pool begins. 2 hilarious kilometers of swimming playing Frogger with slow-moving Frenchies. Thankfully avoid making a face plant into the breaststroking, hairy-legged, Speedo-clad lane mates, despite ~10 close calls. Back to the hotel, build the bike and wait for dinner. Late, long and lovely meal with my Charleville-Ardennes team. Realize that my knowledge of French vocab is 8 food words for every 1 non-food words. Helpful for reading a menu, but that is about it... 5am wake up with the tv alarm. End up totally mesmerized by a French hunting show for about 15 minutes. Quick breakfast and off to the race site, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Quick warmup followed by long cooling down on the pontoon, aided by the wind and chilly air temps. Race is off! Super short, fast and over before I know it. Bad T2 means that I end up running by myself, trying to catch the leaders to no avail. C’est la vie! But finish in a solid 6th and, more importantly, my team ends up 1st with strong races by Moffy (1st) and Anja (9th). First win ever for Charleville-Ardennes and team manager Eric couldn’t be more excited. Sample the post-race noshes and then off to cool down while the men race. Total Brownlee brother domination. Awards ceremony, followed by quick stop at the bakery for a heavenly almond croissant (when in France...) and back to the hotel. Best multitasking ever in packing while catching up with former training partner, the incredible Dave Matthews. In the lobby for a champagne toast with the team. Load up the van, reverse journey and back at home by 8pm. Successful trip, but now too tired to write properly. Sister will be horrified. Too tired to care, so I’m off to bed...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making my Pops proud

This past Sunday was both the Kitzbühel WCS race and Father’s Day in the U.S. I was able to give my dad (self-proclaimed #1 fan- he actually signs emails with that) a pretty special Father’s Day present by finishing 3rd- my first major podium finish and the first WCS podium by a U.S. woman. I know that he watched the race from start to finish, as he does with every race. When I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t help but imagine him, along with my other loved ones, in the early-morning glow of their computer screens. They’ve been there all along, over the years that I’ve been racing and through all of the tough times (and there have been many). I’m just pleased that they could share something special like this with me, albeit with an ocean separating us.

To be honest, I went into the race thinking that the best present that my dad would get from me this year would be to (grudgingly) fulfill his request for one of the Groffy-bumcentric race posters. I didn’t feel especially great going into the race and had only questionable confidence about my fitness. I had a decent swim and tried to have fun on the winding, scenic bike course, even when the hail started to pummel us. Once I was able to pull my flats on with my cold-numbed fingers, I had to bridge a fair gap to the front group, but the second that I found myself there, I was determined to hang on as long as possible. I was able to sit behind super-athletes (and super-nice) Paula Findley and Helen Jenkins and watched as girls were popped from the group one by one. Going into the last lap, I was a bit shocked to find that I was the last one still running behind the two leaders. When Helen and Paula surged and left me in their dust, I had to redirect my focus to maintaining my form and speed for the rest of the lap. By the time that I reached the blue carpet of the finishing straight, I had enough time over the 4th place finisher, the speedy Emma Moffett, that I was able to enjoy my moment. And yes, a few happy tears were shed in the process.

While my #1 fan wasn’t able to be there with me in person, he has been there all along, from my very first triathlon. Thank you, Dad, for teaching me patience and the value of hard work. Thanks for never pressuring me to get a “real job” and for believing in me. Thanks for giving me your cheesy sense of humor and showing me that you should always be able to laugh at yourself. And, finally, thanks for your genetic contribution. Who knew the Groffy hay bale-lifting genes might translate decently to triathlon? Seriously, Dad, I couldn’t ask for a better father than you.

Thanks to everyone for their kind messages after the race! And thanks for not teasing me too much for my post-race tears. Feel free to tease my coach for getting teary-eyed, however. He pretends to really tough, but he is actually a fairly sensitive dude. (Sorry, Daz- your cover is blown.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

This blog brought to you by the number 7

It has been 7 days since I raced in the Madrid WCS race, where I finished 7th, and I have 7 days to go until the WCS race in Kitzbuhel, Austria. That means two things: 1) I’m a very lazy blogger and 2) two weeks between races means that I’m the midst of that odd inter-race phase where you somehow have to get the mix between recovery and prep. Do too much and you show up to the race and feel flat. Do too little and you also feel flat. Hopefully we get the balance right.

Back to my race in España... After crashing out in Sydney, I was keen to get in a solid WCS result, but was skeptical that my fitness was adequate enough. We haven’t done much quality training yet and have been conservative with our training for the past few weeks (acclimatization to altitude is tricky), so I wasn’t feeling super confident in my fitness. Once the gun went off, however, I just tried focus on “keeping my nose clean” (Coach’s words) in the swim and bike and to try to survive the run. I was fortunate enough to come out of the water in a good position and to thus be part of the front pack on the bike. Between the heat heat and hills, the bike course in Madrid is pretty tough and it took its toll on a number of athletes. Since it tends to lead to more interesting racing, I wish we had more courses like it (minus the heat, perhaps!). While I was definitely outclassed by the likes of supergirls Findlay and Jenkins, I was able to put together a solid enough run to finish 7th place, right ahead of a fast-charging Laura Bennett (I definitely dropped pace the last few ks= room for improvement). With two of us in the top-8, it was a good day for the U.S. women. The only thing that completely ruined my day was that I had to spend an eternity in the drug testing tent, unable to chow down on the delicious post-race feast provided by the race organizers. Oh comida española, tan sabrosa... garrrrr.

As I type, I realize that I wrote an incredibly lame post-race report. I blame the cold temperatures in Davos for constricting the blood vessels in my brain and thus hampering my thought process. Hopefully my next one after the race in Kitz will be a bit more thrilling. Or maybe I’ll just include more exclamation marks to try to trick my readers into thinking that I wrote a super exciting account of my race. Everyone loves enthusiastic punctuation, right?!

I wish you sweet dreams of paella and jamón serrano. Although salty might be a more apt adjective...

Until next time,


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oink, oink!*

When I asked my vivacious Charlesville-Ardennes teammate (also training partner, travel buddy and current roommate- good thing we get along!) Vicky Holland how she would describe the French Grand Prix races, she used three adjectives: fun, fast and furious. After doing my first Grand Prix this past weekend in Dunkerque, I can definitely vouch for her enthusiastic assessment of these sprint races. While the over 20 hours of travel, requiring buses, trains, planes and vans, in two days was pretty exhausting (all for a sprint distance race), I finally understand what the fuss is all about.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Grand Prix, the series consists of multiple sprint races around France. When you race, you do so for a team, which means that you receive assistance with travel, housing, uniforms and help at the race. The race itself becomes a team endeavor since your three highest ranked athletes score points. To have your team finish well in the race and in the overall series is of extreme pride to the club, so they have turned to recruiting foreign athletes over the years. My team, Charleville-Ardennes, had five girls racing this weekend: Brit Vicky, Aussie Emma Moffett, Frenchie Delphine Py-Bilot, German Anja Dittmer and me.

The race itself was very professionally done and required a high level of skill and ability to be able to be competitive. The field was strong and the short distance means that there is little margin for error. The Grand Prix has essentially served as a developmental training grounds for European, Australian and Kiwi triathletes for years. After doing one of these races, I can see why athletes from those countries tend to be the most skilled in ITU racing. Personally, I wish that I had done these races from the start of my triathlon career, as I am just now catching up on those aspects of triathlon. While there is growing support for draft-legal racing in the U.S., we are decades away from having races of this level in terms of professionalism and field strength.

As for my performance, I was pretty pleased to walk away with a 5th place finish behind some pretty stellar triathletes at my first Grand Prix. It felt incredibly short after years without doing any sprint races, but this sluggish Yank was able to hang in with the speedsters. I am really pleased that I was able to contribute to our team’s 2nd place finish (Charleville’s first ever podium finish!) behind powerhouse Poissy. While I’m not sure which Grand Prix races will fit into my schedule, I really hope that I’ll be able to don the Charleville uniform again! While it is too late for me to do these race for development, I can certainly use them to become a more refined triathlete. On that note, it is back to work in Davos. With some big races looming in the horizon, I have serious training to accomplish!

Au revoir,


* The Charleville-Ardennes symbol is a wild boar- something that was a good source of entertainment for us. We briefly considered a porcine-themed team cheer. Originally I was going to title this post “Groin, groin!”, the sound that French pigs make, but I thought that it might get misconstrued.