Sunday, July 24, 2016

Milwaukee Vaultfest

            This past weekend a student-athlete of mine traveled down to Milwaukee with me to partake in the Vaultfest.  Set along the waterfront of Lake Michigan at a Rugby Park, two pits were set up for a full day of vault competition.  Being along the Lake could have provided an amazing backdrop, but instead the high heat and humidity mixing with the cold water created a fog so thick it was like being surrounded by clouds.  It kept the temperature lower and also provided some relief from the intense sun further in land from shore.  We couldn’t even hardly see the Lake!
Daisy and I were both in the 2nd of 3 flights of females.  Our flight consisted of 17 females, so our warm-up time felt rushed with so much wasted time spent in line.  Daisy started at 9 feet, and ended with making 10 feet for the day, which was only her second time in competition clearing that height, so that was exciting!  I came in at 10 feet.  The majority of the day just felt “off” and it was tough trying to coach myself and remove emotions from it.  I made a very ugly 10’ and 10’6”.  Nothing felt right, and I kept trying to adjust the standards to match my inconsistency and it was just rough.  I doubted my decisions.
After 3 misses at 11 feet, I bought a 4th attempt and squeaked my way over it.  I told myself to get my act together.  I now had 3 attempts at 11’6”.  The first 2 attempts were worthless.  The third could have potentially been a make if I had set the standards deeper.  Looking back through videos, I can see that nothing was going well with my vaults that day, and that’s frustrating.  I was also vaulting on brand new poles for the first time, and I think I would have been better off if I had just moved down a pole for competition.  Again, these decisions would have been more easily made with the help of a coach. 
It is definitely a learning process trying to coach myself with something so technical, and something that I am so passionate about (which makes it tough to remove emotion from it).  A tough day out vaulting is still better than a day of no vaulting at all!  Count every blessing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Putting on a Top Event

I was asked, “If you could create your own fitness event, what would you include to make it stand out?”
Done!  I absolutely LOVE the Three Eagle HalfMarathon & 5K, and can confidently say that it is one of the best events in the area.  Organization is the most important part in making a race successful and fun.  It means that there are adequate porta potties, aid stations, smooth packet pick-up, safety measures taken, and things run flawlessly.  Each year we have worked to further improve, and based on survey results, we are hoping that this year we go from an A- to A+! 
What else do participants care about? 
  1. Course: we utilize the Three Eagle Trail for a point-to-point course that is mainly crushed limestone and winds through the woods for miles on end.  We have our signature pumpkin mile markers to help count down the miles along the way (we are the same date as the annual Pumpkin Fest in town).
  2. Date: Our race takes place mid-October for a cooler half marathon, but starts at 10am so it is not too chilly.  We have had ideal weather the past 2 years, though we know that can easily change as we are in the unpredictable Northwoods of Wisconsin.  Being in the fall, our Trail is also made even more beautiful by the fall colors.  Last year we had peak colors for our race.
  3. Price: We have one of the most competitively priced events around.
  4. Swag: Who doesn’t love good race swag?!  Our participants receive long-sleeve performance shirts.  I have received too many tech shirts that have short “long” sleeves.  What is with short and wide shirts?  I don’t know either, so we use a brand that is long in the sleeves and body.  They run large, so we encourage participants to order down a size.  We have custom made half marathon finisher medals.  We made the mistake of using the same design for our second year, so we have completely redone our medals this year for something exciting, new, and unique!  We have also gone a new direction with our Awards, and we will be giving out customized glass mugs this year!
  5. Post-Race Offerings: We offer tasty post-race food, such as bagels, home-made peanut butter, bananas, bakery cookies, and pints of chocolate milk.  Our first year, they accidentally ordered quarts, so we had a real party with it, but you can still find hundreds of pints of chocolate milk at our finish line to help tired muscles recover.  We also have over a hundred exciting door prizes that local businesses have donated.  From snow shoes, to smart wool socks to many other awesome prizes, you have a good chance of going home with something really cool.  We have already started collecting some awesome prizes that I wouldn’t mind going home with…
While we are currently listed on, you can find many other cool local events using as well.  They include more than just running events, but also free events can be listed on it for promotion, as well as being a site that sells tickets to events.  Putting on an event is a big task, especially in the first years as you work out the kinks and find out what works and attracts participants.  I have learned an incredible amount and have only utmost respect for successful race directors, as I now understand the immense amount of work that goes into it.  Check out what is in your area, and consider being a apart of the ThreeEagle Half Marathon & 5K coming this October (price increases August 1)!  We are confident it will be our best one yet!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Graniteman Triathlon: "Conquer Yourself"

            I came down with a bad cold this week after lack of sleep (thanks, Myles), so I wasn’t sure how this race was going to go.  The weather ended up being perfect, and we got to the race plenty early enough to set up and get a good warm-up in.  The swim was beautiful, as the water was clean and calm.  I felt strong during it, but wasn’t sure what kind of pace I was pushing.  I came out of the water with one of my faster splits for a 1,500m swim and almost a minute faster than last year at this race!
            This was my first race in a very long time that I would be racing by feel on the bike.  I wasn’t able to get my power meter working right before the race, so I had zero feedback via watts to tell me my effort, and just had basic speedometer feedback.  The bike was also 4 miles longer than a regular Olympic race, and the same distance as my longest training bike rides this season, so I was a bit nervous about it.  It was 2 laps, and as each lap progressed, I actually felt stronger.  I ended up only 18 seconds slower on the bike this year than last, but still had the fastest bike split for females, averaging 22mph.
            The run course is nothing short of a challenge, and as I set out, I knew I didn’t have the pace I wanted in me.  In training, I’ve been able to run off the bike for 3-4 miles and feel comfortable at a 7:30 pace or faster and feel like I could have kept it up for a full 10K.  I struggled to hit 8 minute pace for my miles.  It is an out and back run, with the first mile running out being off-road and hilly.  Once you hit a road, you encounter long climbs with only one short flat section. 
            Less than 2 miles into the run, I was passed by a woman who was clipping along as I “trudged.”  Nearing the turn-around, she was the only female ahead of me, but there was another woman who was closing the gap on me.  First place was out of reach, but could I hold my position?  I feared not.  As we neared the last big climb before heading off-road on the return, the woman in third passed me and I watched her slip away from me.  Into the woods we went, and I thought our places were already determined at that point.  Then a man came running up behind me and as he passed, said, “Always finish strong.”  I thought, “I just want to finish.”  But I picked it up and told him I would try to keep pace with him. 
Then we began closing the gap on the woman who passed me.  He said, “Go for it,” and I did.  We probably had at least half a mile left to go and I came up next to her, only to have her bolt away from me again and I couldn’t match her.  Again, I thought that was it.  She had a good lead again.  This is where it becomes just as much of a mind game as anything else.  This is where you find out what you are made of.  You have the choice to give up, or to dig deep and discover what is inside of you.  With less than .2 miles to go, I figured I could run hard for less than 2 minutes and gave it all I got.  I caught her with about 150 meters to go, and we raced.  I pulled ahead and beat her by 4 seconds to be the 2nd overall female finisher!
            My run was terrible, but having a finish like that reminds me why I’m still doing this.  I ended up 43 seconds faster overall than last year, even though my run and bike were both a few seconds slower.  The biggest difference in how I felt walking away from the race between this year and last year?  The finish.  You’re not always going to have somebody run up alongside you and give you the encouragement (or the kick in the pants) that you need, but use it to fuel you when you do.  You’re not always going to have somebody there to duke it out with all the way to the finish line, but when you do, embrace the suffering that it takes in order to beat them.  Can the Graniteman theme, "Conquer Yourself," be any more appropriate?

Monday, July 4, 2016

River Vault 2016

            There has been frustrations with training and performance with triathlon, but there has just been a ton of fun with pole vault this year.  After having a blast at Badger State Games, and being told I could borrow UW-La Crosse’s poles again at the River Vault if I attended, I REALLY wanted a chance to compete at it.  In order to make my 3rd trip to La Crosse within 5 weeks possible, a lot of things had to fall in line.  I lucked out!
            The River Vault is a street vault competition on a barge in La Crosse during their River Fest days.  The flights were divided by heights.  So there was an under-11 feet flight that took place before mine (11’-11’5”).  11’6” and up would take place the next day.  It was an absolutely beautiful, sunny day.  My early vaults just felt “off” and it took me a second attempt to make my opening height of 10’.  While it was still rough for a bit, I cleared 10’6” and 11’ and was ready for my chance at 11’6” (my goal of the day).  I made it!!

            It has been 6 years since I vaulted in college, but also 5 years since I’ve ever even made 11’ (before this year).  By time I got to the higher heights, it also started feeling like things were clicking.  While I know there are plenty of things that I can improve upon, the vaults also felt really GOOD.  While 11’6” was my goal, and I would have been disappointed if I wouldn’t have made it, I also feel like vaulting is a lot more fun now that I am so removed from what should have been my best days.
            12 feet was crazy.  I honestly didn’t think I would have a shot at it before that day.  First attempt wasn’t special, but the 2nd and 3rd attempts were ridiculously close.  One coach said, “That was the best vault I’ve seen all day.”  It certainly felt like one of my best vaults EVER.  We could buy a 4th attempt, and I did, and while it wasn’t as good of an attempt, the day was nothing short of being absolutely awesome.  Six years and 2 kids later and I’m back to chasing the elusive 12’.

            I didn’t win my flight, but I did win as a sub-master competitor (as I turn 30 this year).  I was told that in their 7 years of holding the River Vault, I am the first female sub-master to compete.  Earlier in the day, we watched a lot of older men vault, but it is hard to find women still vaulting after college, and especially after having kids.  To me, this is disappointing.  Ladies, keep having fun and chasing those dreams!  Don’t stop playing.