Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2010 underway and ...

Main goal of season accomplished!

I am very happy to report that in my first "A" race of the season - The Philly Tri - I accomplished my goal of qualifying for my professional status.

This is a huge accomplishment and I am very proud, however, it did not come easily, nor did I expect it to happen this early.
Rewind:  April - home from Tuscon training camp, but deferred from St. A's with achilles tendonitis, not running, miserable.  May - week in Paris (vacation with mom, gmom and sis) great mental "break" and amazing place to begin running again, no real workouts, just exploring the most beautiful city in the world on foot (and thrilled to have my right one not hurting with every step).  Then home to realize this season is HERE and I need to be TRAINING.  Two pretty disappointing "test (fitness) races."  June - after deciding Philly is going to be my first "A" race, ready to work hard to address nutrition, fitness, and equipment issues that could be holding me back.  Nutrition: Extra cals to fuel workouts, specific macro nutrient goals, coach's super shake (3x day) = energy UP.  Fitness: with more energy, the head was in it, attacking workouts
Equipment:  THANK you, Brian!  My sponsor, Keswick Cycles, has been amazingly supportive - even to the extent that Brian, the owner, took the time (spent about 3+ hours w me one morning) to do time trials with me on the Philly course with two different bikes (one 650 wheels, one 700) to figure out which bike was going to work best for me.  This has proven to be HUGE.  Two more "test races" that were much more successful.  An overall win at an Olympic distance race and a 2nd female in a sprint (no taper) and posting my fastest 5k time off the bike to date (also almost 2 mins faster than last year - same course)!  Confidence back.  Still nervous for Philly though.
I knew at Philly the competition would be a different level.  Some very elite females registered.  Nonetheless, I knew that I had to go into the race believing I was fit enough and ready to compete among them.  Then, the twist came.  At the sprint race the day before (which Mike competed in - last minute decision- and did amazing!) there was a tragedy.  A man died in the swim and police the search for his body in the river was continued Sunday morning (our race day) so the swim was canceled.  Our race became a duathlon (run, bike, run).
Most people would say, I should have been thrilled (swimming is my weakest leg and running my strongest).  Although I knew this would give me an advantage, I also knew that no matter what, it was going to hurt!  Running a 5k as fast as you can, then biking a very challenging (both technical and hilly) 40k bike course, THEN running another 10k as fast as you can, is no joke on the legs.  There was no doubt that the second run, the longer run, in 90+ degree heat (thanks, mother nature) definitely tested the limits of all athletes competing that day.
Also, I knew a few athletes competing in the elite female field were some very strong runners that would have the same "advantage" I had.   So, nothing was taken for granted.  At the start, I mentally prepared - I'd have to hurt to place.
That is always the case, I've concluded.  If you want it, you have to push harder, and for longer, than everyone else to get it.  No win, or goal, or success will (nor should) ever come easy.
At Philly I pushed - everything I had on the bike (which was my biggest fear - not knowing what the last 10k was going to feel like/be) - then again on the run.   I admit, I conserved a little (just enough) on the first 5 k - which ended up paying off.  I had the 4th fastest 10k time (even among pros!) of the day.
After this race - I've gained confidence, definitely fitness, and most important of all - experience.  
I was 2nd elite female (needed to place top 3 for pro qualification) and 9th overall - including the pro field - which had some top notch athletes in it.
I know the duathlon gave me an advantage, and I do not  plan to take this for granted.  I am very relieved to have the pro qualification standard met, but I will continue to race elite for the remainder of the 2010 season.  I still need to continue to work a ton on my swimming.  My bike and run also need to continue to get stronger and faster progressively.  And with a new motivation (to compete among the professional field next year) I am ready and focused on using this season and next off-season to put in HARD, SMART work.

Thank you, always, to my support system - your confidence in me, inspires me to continue this journey, chasing my dreams.

the chase continues
:) A

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's been a while

And a lot has happened.  The short version:  I endured and successfully completed a pre-training camp build through the month of therapy.  This build had me thinking and feeling like I was in - or getting in - great shape.  I was running splits I had not run in over 5 years.  Although, by the end, I was really struggling mentally with training alone and almost always inside for a few hours a day, I was proud of the work I had put in and looking forward to training with PEOPLE and in a state I've never been to, with all sorts of terrain to challenge me/us. 
And it did!  Tucson training camp was ... challenging.  I swam in an outdoor pool in 40 degree air temps (and rain).

 I biked up a mountain that ascended about 6000 ft in elevation, then rode 30 miles home, I ran 1k repeats with the Elite National Champion and ITU pro racer, Jasmine Oenick -hung in for 5 at a crazy fast pace that she made look like a breeze.  And swam more, and biked more, and ran more. And more, and more, and everyday - and always in HILLS.  Apparently, there is no such thing as "flat terrain" in Arizona.   Mountains are everywhere.  If you're not going up, you are coming down.
Physically the camp was a challenge, but I was happy with my efforts.  I knew I had put everything I had into each work out.  I also found out that "what I had" was good - but not on the same level as the pros.  At first this realization depressed me somewhat --- but then I realized how lucky I actually was - to be here (there), in Tucson Arizona, training with people with years of experience and tons of advice, guidance and support to offer.
Oh, did I forget to mention that one of the two coaches running our camp was the (only) US Olympic medalist in the sport of triathlon, Susan Williams.  Not to discredit MY coach - the other coach leading the camp, Bob Seebohar - MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, USA Triathlon Elite Triathlon Coach, 2008 Olympic Sport Dietitian, 2008 Olympic Triathlon Team Sport Dietitian, Strength and Conditioning Coach. And, as I learned quickly during our trip - nationally coveted speaker. 

Our coaches were only a tremendous reflection of the talent and integrity of the athletes at the camp.  I can genuinely say that I learned something, if not A LOT, from each and every one of them.  I thank all of you guys and feel blessed to have met and trained with you all! (an entire post, sometimes 2, could be spent describing each, and how they influenced me... yea, probably should have done that in camp, but honestly at the end of each night, all i could think about was "EAT, SLEEP."  and "oh man. tomorrow!"

Yet I survived, and took everything I could from the energy, enthusiasm, instruction, correction, guidance, advice, support...etc. I could. 
But then I took it too far.

My achilles tendon on my left leg started bothering me about the 3rd day into camp.  I iced and ignored it as much as I could, trying to avoid missing any workouts.    I continued.  Endured pain.  And was proud at the time.
It was truly an amateur mistake.  I spoke to many of my fellow campers and pros, since.  I should have stopped.  I should have been pro-active, especially in the pre-season. 

I didn't, so now I suffer.  Physically, yes.  But mentally, much more. 

I apparently have a severe case of achilles tendonitis at the insertion (where the tendon meets the heal).  I know it is not torn, because I can walk, but I cannot put a shoe on a run.  Anyone who knows me, knows that if you take away my ability to run, my confidence and - thus (which shouldn't coincide) - my enthusiasm toward my 2010 goals are .... a struggle.  I am TRYING to see the positives - I am able to work/focus on the two weakest parts of my race -swim and bike. 
But, every competitive athlete knows, you need those uppers/accomplishments to make the "hard" parts worth fighting for.

So now I am working on the "hard parts" (swim and bike) and trying to block out the thoughts that I might be losing any of my running fitness.

Luckily I have an AMAZING and supportive team of experts to help keep me from going totally crazy-or into a state of depression (given my anti-running situation).  I have a P.T . who nursed me through an adductor strain this winter.  I don't know what I'd do without her.  She treats me with all of the latest and greatest therapies and technologies.  I trust her with every fiber (literally) of my body.
My boyfriend, is also HUGE support that I rely on physically and mentally.  He knows physiology, anatomy, and treatment (especially when it comes to athletics and rehab) better than most medical professionals I know.  I swear I'm not biased.  He truly is a wealth of knowledge and will be an amazing chiropractic, sports medicine, rehab doctor soon.  For now, I am lucky enough to have him utilize his certification in ART on me and help with my daily aches and pains.  He has also adapted my strength program to take any stress off of my left foot.
Check it out.

With Dawn and Mike's help I can feel my foot healing itself each day.  Progress is slow but I know I need to be patient.

My friends, family and training partners have also been so inspirational, in there positivity and words of encouragement.
Thank you everyone. 
And lastly, thank you, Mother Nature, for another beautiful day to go out and ride my bike.

The sunny and warm weather has been helpful in turning my spirits around, knowing that at least I can enjoy long bike rides outside.  And thinking back to last year, I am genuinely thankful for this.  Last year at this time I was in pain, and in a sling, immobile.  Good Friday 2009, I broke my collar bone and wasn't allowed to do ANYTHING for 3-4 weeks.  I raced and placed in June.  So, this year, I'm not running (on land)- but still biking and swimming, hoping to race (and place) by the end of May.

This journey is a rollercoaster.  Today, I'm on my way up.  Swam with my masters group this morning (yey, for friends in the pool!) and looking forward to an awesome afternoon ride in the sunshine.

:) A.O

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


For most people means "Yey! No school! No work! An excuse to stay cozy indoors, a do-nothing/bake/ read/relax kinda day."
But not for me! :)) while I was maxing out my heart rate (down my basement on my treadmill), the anchorman on the t.v was telling people, "Make an in-dent in your couch" (yes, his exact words). Warning people to stay off the roads and remain indoors. Granted, we are technically in a "state of emergency" and there are blizzard-like conditions out there right now, but I had to laugh to myself (in my head, because certainly laughing was not an option, as I was gasping for air).

drive-way (post 3 rounds of shoveling)

our back deck

So for ME, a snow day means... treadmill, and trainer... no pool (but my psychic coach decided to give me this day off from swim), and plenty of opportunity to get some good hard work in (jump squats and jump rope included). Add three roungs of shoveling the driveway... and there's my "strength session" for the day.  So really, the workout component is not a-typical.

BUT snow day also means workouts don't need to be scheduled and squeezed into days also filled with work and normal every-day activities... So, YES!, I too have more time to ...

bake (cream cheese brownies, Momma O's special recipe!)

... blog

... board games/ RECOVER (w good eats, thanks to my gourmet Dad)
mahi mahi enchiladas w tomatillo sauce!mmmm...

... relax (AND RECOVER more)

(food coma) -- hey coach, notice the compression sox!
So I too like to lounge on snow-days. I am more than happy knowing I put in some hard earn my dent in the couch!

Yey, for snow-days!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wild Wild West

So now I have the bug!

I think my trip out to Colorado for a little "pre-season assessment" was more of a clever marketing ploy used by my coach to convince me that I need to be living out West. Tricky, coach! You're a pretty smart guy.
I'll be the first to admit. It worked! Colorado (Littleton, specifically, where I stayed) is BEAUTIFUL. I'm surprised I didn't crash my cousin's SUV driving (up and down, and up and down - I swear I didn't drive, bike or run on one flat road) to the training facility each morning. On the horizon, right in front of me were gorgeous snow-caps, I swear it looked like someone set a backdrop of the most heavenly and enticing mountains one could image. I had to keep refocusing on *driving* and getting myself psyched for some *triathlon training* - when all my mind kept tellling me was to follow the signs to the ski resorts.

The air is so clear and clean. And the weather was perfect! I packed like I was going to the North Pole, little did I know, every day was above 50 degrees by noon. On Sunday, I ran in shorts! AND in the mountains no less. (So far my favorite run of 2010)
yup, those are the mountains I ran 13 miles in!

In addition to the beautiful scenery, I got to spend time with some beautiful people. I stayed and hung out with my cousins and their 3 adorable (soon to be beautiful;) girls. We had so much fun and they couldn't have made my stay more comfortable and easy. Coming home from a full day of training and sitting down for a game of crazy dominoes (a lil different from the regular domino game) or a heated fencing competition on the Wii was a blast! And finishing off the nights with some tivo'ed Cake Boss episodes (I credit my cousins with introducing me to my NEW favorite reality t.v shoe-- and it's not even on Bravo! (yes, I'm addicted to Bravo)) made for 100% fun-filled days and nights.
jen, john, and catie

julia, me and maren

Sadly, the time flew by, and since then I can't stop dreaming, day and night, about ways to get back.
My conclusion: keep working hard! Training, training, and more training until I reach the level I know I am capable of.

February is going to be tough. I know this, thanks to coach. He told me today, "Ashley, weeks 2-4 in February will be tough." Awesome!

I am definitely scared, yes. But I am definitely more motivated than ever because this intense training block is designed specifically to get me ready for when I go back out WEST! This time it will be Tucson. But I am more psyched than ever to see yet another part of the country that I never dreamed I'd have the opportunity to explore.

But before this whirlwind begins, back on the East coast, I am looking forward to next week (with a very special motivating force headed my way right when I need him) and a build up to get me ready.

Then the first of MANY tests.

The beauty is, to get me through each and every test, all I have to do is picture those snowcaps. All I have to do is picture the ability to open my windows and breath the fresh air every morning. Think about how wonderful it will be to train and live where training facilities, terrain, training partners and motivation are abundant and contagious. I hear the chiropractic practices out there are Wonderful as well! ;)

So, coach, Vitella's, Crazy!(you know who you are), and all of the magnificent friends I made out there in the Wild West, I hope to see you all again very soon! And for all my East Coast peps! I am --- and forever will be--- a Jersey girl (but Never referred to by any non-sense name like "Snookie" or "The Situation") . I can learn to pump gas, but if Bon Jovi starts to play I might pump my fist - be ware! (and hopefully I'll have a side-kick pumping his right there with me)

And fam, the Vitella's and I will do our best to move you all out there with us too. Part of our family has moved south as a unit, we can expand west-ward. right?
please say yes!

xo - A.O

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's here!

2010 is here!

The year that I talked about in so many previous posts has arrived. And it seems, somehow, to be flying by. I don't know how, but we're already half way through the first month. And, for me, that means one thing - my first official trip out to Colorado for "pre-season assessment."

This trip has provoked a roller coaster of emotions.  First, (back in December) I was SCARED, but with good reason, as I have been fighting with a rotator issue for a good two months now. The pain was bad enough to make me stop running (yes, that bad) for a good 6 weeks, in an effort to let it heal. When that wasn't happening, I began to get anxious, angry, discouraged... you name it. Every negative emotion that could creep into my head, was. And, in the back of my head, the clock was ticking. I knew I had/have very BIG goals for this year and I need each and every week of workouts to be effective in getting me closer to the level of competition I dream of being at.

I already blew coach's plan of starting the pre-season with a swim-run block (changed to swim/bike). But I fought with myself daily to make the most of the swim and bike sessions I was assigned. Like I said, the negativity was (self-induced, yes, but) a major challenge. I just wanted to feel GOOD! And RUN!

I am proud to announce, I made it through the running hiatus, it is now officially 2010, and feel GREAT today - after my second day of 10 + mile workouts!--- running, yes!

Now, don't get me wrong. I didn't go from 6 weeks of zero to 10 miles and more in a day (or even a week). And the loss of running fitness, from that break, was noticeable and alarming at first (another bout of negativity).

But getting back to this past week of a little "build" and a lot more running... I'm on a high.

My hands are in the air and I'm smiling ear to ear on this roller coaster.

Tomorrow I might be screaming and scared again (on my way down), because as excited as I am about going out west and hanging out with Coach for the weekend ;) , I'm scared too. I want my effort to show, I want to be able to hang in workouts with some very talented athletes out there, but I'm afraid that I won't. I know that I am not at my best right now (in terms of fitness). I also know that most triathletes, at this point in the season, aren't either. It could be detrimental, in fact, if they were. We need to be at our best in 4 months from now and maintain that ultra-high level for the 4-5 months after that. It is unknown (to me) where I should be right now. How fit, is fit enough? Where do I need to be right now? The unknown, to me, is the scariest.

But my goal right now, is to not let fear get the best of me. Rather I will use it to motivate me. It will be the crank, or the engine (not sure about the mechanics of a rollercoaster, haha) that gets me back to the top of the peak and smiling again. Ready to throw myself into a new (possibly scary) challenge.

And knowing the valley will always be there, I'll use them and the lessons learned down there to power me back up.

Cheers to what's bound to be a fun ride - 2010!