Monday, August 12, 2019

Cleveland Nationals!

            After Nationals in Omaha, I had low expectations for Cleveland as a race venue. After just 2 weeks of focused triathlon training to prepare, I had low expectations for my race results as well. My goals: 
-       30’ for the 1500 swim
-       at least 19mph average on the bike (I only biked 4 times prior to this)
-       sub 8-minute pace for the run.
I had put in a lot of good run training over the winter months, but once I started competing in June, my weekly mileage dropped in half and I only got a few hard workouts in. 
            The venue was at Edgewater Park in Cleveland. It looked beautiful, overlooking Lake Erie with a nice view of the city skyline as well. The swim as IN Lake Erie, and while water temperature was not a concern, the huge waves sure were! On race morning, it was announced that because of the rough water conditions, the swim would be cut in half. I am glad they didn’t cancel the swim portion altogether. That was the wildest swim of my life though! I was slammed and tossed by waves, which made me feel almost a little seasick even. I came out around 14:30, in the middle of the pack, and I was perfectly happy with that.
            After a long run to transition, I was off on the bike! Cleveland shut down a big main road and we rode over the bridge and came down by the Brown’s stadium. We rode through part of a park and in front of the apartment we stayed at the night prior! Based on my training rides, I had low expectations for my watts, but the competitive side of me was pushing 20 watts harder than I did in training, though I was nervous that the more aggressive ride would burn me out for the run. My main goal was to have fun, and I was enjoying pushing the bike, so I continued to do so and averaged 21mph! I was definitely nervous transitioning to the run. My legs were feeling the hard ride and my toes were cramping on one foot, making putting shoes on a slower process. I was hoping things would loosen upon the run. 
            I felt terribly slow running but I pushed the effort. I was hoping for sub-8 and I felt like I was 9’ pace or slower. I didn’t have immediate feedback to know how I was actually doing, and I thought that was probably for the best! I estimated an early mile to be around 7:15, so I thought I must have gotten that wrong. Then my watch beeped giving me times for the next 3 miles of around 6:56 (that can’t be right!), 7:02, and 7:20. At that point, I figured that even if my pace fell off, I would still do just fine. The run included several hills, a couple even that were a steep decline with a U-turn at the bottom to immediately turn around and run back up. I knew that had to have hurt my pace, but I went on effort, and after coming up one hill in the park, we were treated with a gorgeous view of overlooking the lake and the cityscape in the background. It was such a beautiful course, it was impossible not to enjoy!
            A big downhill led us past the beach we swam at, a quick punch up and down over an overpass, and we could see the finish line. I didn’t know the age of the woman ahead, so I set out in a sprint to the finish line. I averaged 7:05 pace for the 10K run! It blew all expectations out the window. My biggest goal was to have fun, and I truly enjoyed the entire race.
            To add to a gorgeous venue and fast results, was also that I placed high enough in my age group to potentially get a roll down slot for the 2020 World Championships in Edmonton, Canada (if I want to take it). Besides the great race, it was also my birthday and I got to spend the weekend with Andy, and our friend Rob flew up from Florida (he’s from the Cleveland area), and we got to meet and stay with his awesome family.
            I had already registered for Milwaukee Nationals for next year, but this race offered so much for me. Now I’ll officially end my season and give my body a much needed break for a bit before starting up with off-season training. What a spectacular year it has been!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Two Weeks Notice

            People usually put in their 2 weeks notice when they are about to quit something. Instead, I had 2 weeks notice for starting something. This Saturday, I will be competing at the USA Triathlon National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. I will have roughly two weeks of training under my belt for it (including a couple days of taper for a track meet in there!). 
            So what’s the story behind it? I qualified for Nationals with the High Cliff half-iron distance race that I did last summer (and somehow won!). Since our good friend, Rob, is from Cleveland and it qualifies for World’s in Canada, I originally thought I would compete at it this year. I started training 6 months ago (a logical time to start training for a big race). Shortly after, I was feeling defeated and overwhelmed with trying to balance everything. I told Andy that I decided I wasn’t going to race Nationals. He replied that I could probably do just fine without even training for it. I told him that I would not do that kind of thing.
            A couple weeks ago, USAT announced the location of Nationals for the next 2 years – a return to Milwaukee! I raced at Nationals in Milwaukee in 2014 and 2015, when I qualified for Team USA for Chicago and Cozumel. It has been one of my all-time favorite triathlon courses. I was originally anticipating that Nationals would be far away, and so I was prepared to give a longer break to triathlons altogether. With the location announcement also came another announcement – qualification criteria for next year’s Nationals in Milwaukee would be waived for participants of this year’s Nationals. And here I go! I don’t have to worry about qualifying at a race next year in order to compete at Milwaukee. I have the added bonus of this being a no-pressure race. I biked 4 times and swam a handful of times in order to prepare for this. Good thing I had at least some running under my belt, although I have done minimal distance work since June.
So instead of packing poles, I am packing my bike for this weekend! Wish me luck!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Final Three Eagle Summer Track Meet

            On Wednesday night, we hosted our final summer meet of the season. The youth crowd was large! It was awesome to see all the little competitors. The pole vault crew was still small, but some great talent nonetheless! Between moving hurdles and watching my kids race, I would quick jump a height. Pretty hectic, but I guess it worked! I cleared 10-6, 11, and 11-6 on my first attempts. I really wanted to end the season with something big again, and I did! I cleared 12 feet for the second time this season!

            I couldn’t be happier with the progress I made this year. Four out of the Top 5 marks of my life were set this year. My goal as a college senior, 9 years and 3 kids ago, was to make 12 feet. Unbelievable that at this point in my life, I did it! Dedicating an entire off-season to the weight room and work on the high bar paid off.  I had 3 indoor meets, a spring outdoor meet, and 6 summer meets. 10 total meets this year! That’s a lot! Out of those 10, only 3 had marks lower than 11-6. Four of the meets, I had post-collegiate or lifetime PR’s (or tied them). What an unbelievable season!
            Next weekend, I am off to triathlon Nationals in Cleveland – a last minute decision that I made a week ago. Which means I have one week of triathlon training under my belt! This will be an experience!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

USATF Masters National Outdoor Championships

            Andy and I traveled down to Ames, IA to take part in the Masters National Championships this past weekend. The meet actually takes place over the course of 4 days, but since our main events (pole vault and triple jump) both took place on Sunday for us, we just competed in one event each. The forecast had a high of over 90 degrees, full sun, and very humid. All of the women actually competed together, versus being split into two flights, so there were 20 of us competing together! I was the youngest at 32, and the famous 85-year old Flo was the oldest of the group. The line was pretty long for warm-ups, but staying warm wasn’t tough when it was so steamy out. 
Based on how pole vault at the decathlon played out, I knew I would have a very long wait to get through the lower heights until I would come in. After my warm-ups, I was able to go watch Andy triple jump. He was having a frustrating day, especially when his best jump was a scratch. He still broke 40’ and took second in his age group behind a pretty elite triple jumper. 
After waiting for well over 2 hours, the final pole-vaulter went out, and I was able to do one run through before moving the bar up to 3.20 meters (roughly 10-4). I cleared it and passed to 3.40, then 3.50 (11-2 and 11-6). While I wanted to clear 12’ again, I really didn’t want to end at just 11-6 again. We put it at 3.61 meters (11-10), which was my college PR, and I cleared it! Deciding to go for a PR, we moved it to 12-1.25, and I missed. It would have been great to PR again, but I feel great about tying my second best jump, and being consistent at the higher heights this year. Going into this, I was also a little nervous how it would go after sitting for a couple hours, and then competing by myself. I had a lot of fun, and definitely had a lot of adrenaline going, as I was gripping at my highest, and on my biggest pole – and with the standards pushed back.
We had a fun surprise with Mrs. Z (now Mrs. Messenger) working the meet, too! She was our elementary art teacher, and we usually get the treat of seeing her at the WI State Track & Field meet, as she officiates that big meet as well. There was also a group of women that pole vaulted that I also did the decathlon with back in June. It’s always fun seeing familiar faces! Andy and I competed under the Three Eagle Track Club, and as a Club Team, we ended up 61 of 115 Club Teams. Pretty cool!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Hometown 5K

            We were back in our hometown a few weeks ago, and although I was not looking to run a 5K, nor did I have any interest or desire to, Andy ended up registering me for it (so of course I had to then!). It was a very hot, sunny day, and I have not been putting in the mileage to run a fast 5K. He has not been doing much distance running at all, so neither of us were very optimistic at what our results would look like!
            I was the pacer, so fortunately, Andy just stayed with me and we let all the crazies pull ahead in a start that is always too fast. I had no idea what I could really do, as I had recently run a PR 800, but did not feel like I had the stamina for a fast 3 miles. I was correct. We picked off runners ahead of us one-by-one until we were in the top mix and I was top female at that point. We mainly just tried holding on for the second half as the heat and lack of training caught up to us!
            We ended up 4thand 5thoverall (and first female for me) with a time of 21:12 (ouch!). My PR is almost a full minute faster than that. Nothing to get excited about, but at least it got my hard run out of the way for the day! ;) 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

2019 River Vault

            This was the first year that I made the trek to La Crosse alone for the River Vault. Since this was my 4thyear there, and the pole vault community is rather small, there was a lot of friendly faces there that always make it a fun event. It was a steamy hot, sunny day. I felt like I was clicking with warm-ups (as always), and started at 10-6. This was also the first year that I competed in the top flight of women, which was also exciting! It also made for the smallest flight out of them all though (an extra bonus). I cleared 10-6, 11, and 11-6 all on first attempts. 
I am now getting a ton of clearance on 11’ that I feel like I could potentially make that my starting height even, which is a great indication of how far I have come this year! I came down on the bar at 11-6, but it stayed up. This also should have prompted me to either a) move my standards up, or b) lower my grip to get in deeper. Instead I did neither of those things heading into 12’. My first attempt at 12’ was the best jump I had at the height. If I would have made either of those adjustments, I am confident I would have cleared it, as I had the height, but came down on it, knocking it off. My takeoffs at 12’ all felt terrible, but I tried to make the most out of each jump regardless. 
Clearance on 12'
            I feel very fortunate to have already hit the 12’ mark this year, so that I don’t feel pressure at these competitions as the season is already drawing close to the end. Walking away from the River Vault, I didn’t feel as disappointed in the result, as a result of having hit my goal already. However, watching the videos from that day, I feel extra motivation to end my season with a bang – because the height is there!
            Heading into Masters Nationals Outdoor Championships this weekend, I am really excited to jump at a big meet like this for the first time. I have some reservations, as there will be 20 women, and I will most likely be starting after most all of them have gotten done competing. This means that I could be sitting for a very long time just waiting to start. At the decathlon, however, I sat for 1.5 hours to wait for only 7 women to finish, and was still able to go in and perform well. It will be both an opportunity and a challenge that I look forward to taking on. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Three Eagle Summer Meet #1

            Last night, the Three Eagle Track Club (which I am the Club Director and Head Coach of), hosted it’s first of 2 summer meets. These are super low key and inexpensive meets, but it provides an opportunity to compete locally during the summer (instead of driving 4 or more hours). It's also a chance for our kids to have fun with track too! It was forecasted to be hot, and it didn’t disappoint. I spent the morning dragging everything out. My expectations for my personal performance at these meets are pretty low, as I need to make sure the meet runs smoothly as well, which means setting up, moving, and clearing hurdles, and also chasing after our own kids. There were only 4 of us vaulting, and as much as I encourage the crew to get started, it never seems to actually start until I return after the hurdle races (and the 50m, as all 3 kiddos ran that).  I cleared 10-6 and 11 on my first attempt, and 11-6 on my second attempt, but I felt like I was way over it. Definitely getting consistent with that 11-6 bar this year!
My legs honestly felt terrible, but after the big clearance over 11-6, I wanted to go straight to 12’ instead of messing around with anything else. After all, that’s what I was really after. I had so much adrenaline pumping that as I went back on the runway, I said to a fellow vaulter, “Can you film this? Because I’m going to make it.” At that point, there wasn’t room for any doubt. This was happening. First attempt – CLEARED IT! It’s been 9 years and 3 kids since I first set the goal of 12’, and I finally did it. And I still have 3 competitions left to the season! I have things to keep working on (like my weak take-off and getting off the pole sooner), but I think that’s also the exciting part – that I made the height with so much room for improvement. 
What’s it like to accomplish a 9 year goal? Absolutely surreal. TWELVE FEET– that’s legit!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Badger State Games Track 2019

            Badger State Track was hosted in Wausau this year (typically it is in La Crosse), and while the forecast kept showing rain, and Andy had done nothing prior to the week leading up to it, we were set on going. We both picked 4 events and kept pretty busy. Not sure if I have had really bad allergies, or a very bad cold, but I have been miserable and not getting much sleep. Why not go compete in the rain?!  
            The day started overcast and misting. We had a headwind(!) in pole vault, but were told that moving the pits was not an option. Fortunately it was calm at times, and we were allowed to wait for the wind if we needed to (definitely waited it out a couple times). I squeezed in my warm-up and ran over to discus to get warmed up and to throw. I have been working on disc quite a bit lately, and the All-American standard for female sub-masters was over 88 feet. My PR the weekend prior was 84-2. I threw 94’ for a 10’ improvement and I smashed the standard! Getting close to 100’ makes me feel a bit more legit throwing the disc!
            I got back over to pole vault for run throughs to start at 10-6, and I was already the only female remaining in the competition (the next best height was 8’). After making 10-6 and 11, it took me a couple attempts to make 11-6 (which I have now made 3 times this year)!! Since I was the only female remaining, I chose to go for 11-9 first. My college PR is 11-10, and post-college best is 11-6. There was definitely some bar love but I cleared it!! I got a lot of height on one 12’ attempt, but not enough depth. To be honest, most of my vaults with the bar up felt like junk! While I am frustrated that I am not putting things together better with a full approach at a meet, I am also a bit impressed that I have been making the heights with such poor jumps. I have 4 more meets this summer to put it together to make my 12’ goal!
            I had probably one of my worst throws over at shot, but fortunately I also had my best throw, with a new PR of 29-10 (so close to breaking 30’)! After achieving 3 new personal bests, I felt like I HAD to PR in the 800 as well. My official PR time for the 800 was a 2:46, although I unofficially ran a 2:43 in the Coach’s Race at our home meet this spring. I was seeded with the youth, and they didn’t fail in helping push me and I dropped my time to a 2:39.96!
            Andy also had a fantastic day, and his “philosophy of zero training” seemed to have worked again for him, as he triple jumped over 40’ and broke 19’ in the long jump! On top of all that, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out and it ended up being an all-around great day. We had a few other Three Eagle Track Club members competing at the meet as well, which always makes it more fun when you can compete with your team!
            My personal theory is that when the odds are not in your favor, that’s when you can really shine. My best jumps in college were like that. I sprained my jumping ankle the week of indoor conference. At conference, with a ton of tape on it, I vaulted my indoor record of 11-8. On a crazy windy day at Hamline (I should include that I am a headcase when it comes to wind!), I vaulted 11-10 for my ourdoor record. The wind that day was constantly shifting. Sometimes a tail wind, sometimes cross, and even sometimes a head wind. In those situations, I take the pressure off of myself to perform.  If it doesn’t go well? Well, there’s an external factor to blame (ha!). Either way, it’s about having fun and not letting outside factors get the best of you. My motto this year seems to truly be: “it’s about overcoming- not about having all the stars align.”

Monday, June 10, 2019

My First Decathlon

            What an experience! Ten events over two days. The first day did not have any of my strengths, and these ladies were amazing athletes! I had no expectations for the 100. Long jump was definitely not my best, only jumping 13-5. I was hoping for closer to 14 feet. When you don’t do well in one event though, you just move on to the next, and that’s exactly what I did! My best throw of shot was in college, somewhere in the 29’s. Last time I threw at a meet though, I don’t think I hit 28. I threw 29-4.75! I have always struggled with high jump. I jumped 4-6 ONCE in high school, and while I understand HOW to do the event, I have a hard time converting horizontal speed to vertical height. That would be true of all jumping events, including pole vault. This high jump bar was VERY forgiving though, so I managed to make 4-4! I have had close attempts in practice at that height (with better form), but a slight brush of our bar would make it fall. My goal for the 400m run was to go under 1:15, and I came in at 1:12! 
First time doing the 100m hurdles!
            Results that surpassed my expectations for most events helped to make it a successful day, but I won’t lie, I definitely felt out of place with some of these ladies. One had a lifetime PR in shot of 55’! Another had a lifetime PR of 14’ in pole vault, and while one woman in her 50’s just started competing in track a few years ago, she definitely kicked my butt in high jump. And there was a well-rounded college superstar multi-eventer/pole vaulter. Day one was a reminder of my high school days, where I was mediocre at best in everything. It was also an honor to meet and compete with these awesome women though!
Clearing 11-5.75!
            The second day I was really excited for, but also tried to hamper my expectations a bit since I was a bit sore from the first day. However, I know that more than anything, I have endurance, and I am also used to doing track events as my second workout of the day, meaning that I am used to jumping or pole vaulting on tired legs. I started with my first-ever 100m hurdle race, and while it wasn’t fast, I met my goal of 4 stepping all 10 hurdles. Next time, I will definitely shoot for a faster time! I actually had enough fun with hurdles that I would like to stick with it a little bit for fun. I was looking forward to discus, since I had been practicing it quite a bit the last few weeks, and even worked on the rotation instead of just power throwing. My best in high school, if I recall correctly, was around 77’. My first was my best with 84-2! The other two throws were also over 82, so I was very happy with how that turned out. We got about a half hour between events (and to use as warm-up for the next event), so I hustled over to pole vault to get in a good warm up. After a good warm-up, three of us (the only ones who vaulted in college) had to wait more than an hour (1.5 hours actually), to even get to our starting height. We got one run through to re-warm up, and while my first make was ugly, it still got the job done. Made 3.10 meters (10-2 roughly), passed to 3.30 meters (10-10 ish) for a make, cleared 3.40 and then 3.50m (11-5.75)! I had attempts at 3.60 (one cm shy of my lifetime PR), but failed to clear it. What a great showing in my best event after 7 other events!
Discussing the game plan to get Jen an American Record
            I held a javelin for the first time at the end of the first day of competition, and did not have much for confidence with that, so all I will say about that is that I got a mark and I have lots of room for improvement on that event! The decathlon concludes with a 1500m run. At that point, one woman had already acquired enough points to set a new W40 American Record for the decathlon, but another woman was very close to setting a new W50 AR as well – if she could run a fast enough time in the 1500 to get her enough points. My legs were pretty beat at that point, but I told her I could pace her well, so she shouldn’t let too big of a gap come between us. I was hoping for at least 5:50 or under. The college athlete pulled away for a big gap between us after just the first lap, but then I held the gap for the next lap, caught her with one lap to go, and pulled ahead of her to finish the 1500m run first, with a time of 5:34, which put me on pace for a sub-6 mile – at the END OF A DECATHLON! The woman I tried pulling along, came in under what she needed to get enough points to break the American Record too – that’s the kind of stellar field of women I was competing against!
The gap between the leader & I at 1 lap in; catching the lead w/ 1 lap to go; crossing the line 1st in 5:34!
            Usually when we get a chance to travel to compete, the kids stay back at home, but this was one of the times when they ALL got to come along. They came out to the track on the second day and got to see me compete in my best events – pole vault and the 1500! It was nice having them be a part of the weekend, and fun hearing, “go, Mommy, go!” I was out of my comfort zone for a lot of it, but I am glad I did it anyway – what an experience!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

When the Stars Don't Align

            A couple months ago, I told my husband that the USATF Masters Outdoor Combined Events National Championship was going to be hosted in Wisconsin of all places this year (last year it was in California). This event has the option of a decathlon for women (women normally just do the heptathlon, which doesn’t include pole vault). Now I will quickly own up to the fact that I was never good at any of the Track & Field events, except for Pole Vault. Over time, I have become more competitive with distance events, but I attribute that to the fact that with distance, you have a shot at out-training some people (hence why I was so competitive with triathlon!). Nevertheless, it did intrigue me, as I have a least a little experience with almost every event in Track & Field, and I’m pretty fit. 
            A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to stay late after practice, so I worked on hurdles and disc (the first time this year), and while I felt like it went well, I had in my mind that I probably wouldn’t actually go through with the decathlon. My one multi-event experience was my freshman year in college when I did the pentathlon. I was most likely last, or second to last if I was lucky (not the most positive experience). I did high jump in high school (my best was once making 4-6). I have a little bit of experience with long jump (best was 14-4). I threw disc a little in high school (I think my best was in the 70’s). I learned shot for the college pentathlon (best was around 29’). I did the 60m hurdles just for the pentathlon as well. And I was not a runner in college, so my 800m time was definitely slower than 3 minutes. 
            With a decathlon, pole vault gets added to the mix, so I SHOULD excel in at least one event! The 800m gets bumped up to a 1500m run, which I feel good about. Other running events are the 100m and the 400m, both of which I’m not going to stress about, just do my best and know that it will be quickly over! As Andy said, “This would be too fun to pass up!” So I am going for it because that is exactly the right mentally to have about this! I have since gotten in some practices for every event, and it affirms what I already knew – I am “average” at best in everything except pole vault! Nevertheless, I am having fun with the events, and I know that there is zero pressure, which makes it even more fun, as each event is just a challenge to see what I can do. (Plus, if one event goes poorly, you just move on to another!)
            A week ago, while working on shot with an athlete, I actually sprained my right ankle (oops!). Terrible timing. I remembered my own words that I told my friend who was shooting for a PR in her half marathon recently – “It’s about OVERCOMING, and not about all the starts aligning.”There are so many obstacles and challenges that will jump up in our way, whether it be sickness, injury, time constraints, etc. Does anything in life really just fall into place? Fortunately, the sprain was mild, and I have been able to run and jump on it after a few days, as long as I have it taped. Hurdles have also been challenging, not just because of the technical aspect, but because I am learning to hurdles with my non-dominant leg, which has caused my right hip flexor to flare up as it is getting worked in a new way. Stretching, icing, and knowing my limitations has been key.
            So on June 8-9, I will be competing in my very first decathlon, against women of all ages (and I fully expect to get whooped in some events by ladies twice my age). I will put on my big girl pants and face my fear of failure and embarrassment. I am certain that I would regret it if I didn’t.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

CSP Meet: Part II

            I had been mulling over the 5K since I asked coach to put me in it. I wanted a test run at a 5K, but was this really the time or place? I hadn’t tapered for it. I only ran outside once (it’s been all treadmill work otherwise). I didn’t feel the need to win it, but I didn’t want to be last either. There was a 21 minute seed, and one close to my 20:13 PR that I set last fall at the Three Eagle 5K. I’ve been putting in a lot of work on my run, but these were COLLEGIATE distance runners I would be up against. Let's first just remember that I was never a runner, ok? Not a distance runner, not a sprinter. Any running I had to do in college, I struggled with.
I was 95% sure I wouldn’t run. If I got a NH for PV, then I thought I would have to (which was almost the case)! Was I going to let the fear of failure keep me from taking a risk? Or maybe it was really the fear of embarrassment holding me back. My legs were fatigued from vaulting. I had been in the sun all day. I watched the 1500 race and saw how fast the girls went out. Could I handle it? What did it matter anyway? Would it matter if I was last – by a lot? At the end of the day, who would even know, or care? Sometimes when you crack open the door to self-doubt, it ends up being flung wide open.
            I also knew that I didn’t want to look back and regret not taking the chance. I checked in, re-warmed up, put my hip numbers on, and toed the line with the (gulp) college girls. My only strategy was to drop to the back right away and try not to go out too fast. I hung at the back, but stayed on the girl in front of me. First mile was 6:24. Too fast I knew. We caught up to another girl who was dropping back, passed her, and I lost the one I was hanging on to. 
I slowly reeled in another girl, but when I tried to pass her, she picked up the pace and I pulled in behind her again. We ran the next several laps together, and whenever she would slow up on the one corner, I would say a few encouraging words and she would pick it back up again (better than me trying to pass every time). I hung on to her until the final lap when she kicked in the final stretch and I didn’t have what it took to go with her. I finished in 20:23, taking 9thout of 10. Andy told me that if I beat one collegiate distance runner, then I could consider myself successful. Score! I’m glad I sucked it up and just ran it. It was tough, but a really great experience that I would do again. I like the strategy and mental aspect of distance/endurance racing.

            All in all, it was a great day! I can’t be too upset about missing out on 11-8. It will come. The 5K wasn’t a PR, but I still ran well. And I had my Mom and Katie there cheering me on. I would do it all again!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

CSP Meet: Part I

            On Thursday, I found out that my alma mater (Concordia St. Paul) was hosting a women’s meet the next day. I told Andy about it and his response was, “Go ahead.” Heat sheets were already out, but the coach put me in anyway. I was immediately in a cold sweat of nerves and excitement. I got entered in both the pole vault AND the 5,000m race. Now let me be clear: in my college days, I was not a runner. I was not a sprinter, or a distance runner. I was slow and terrible. I have come a long way, and my training over the winter has been going really well. But a race with actualcollege distance runners? Was this a stupid idea? I’ll get to that race in my next post.
            There were 10 other women pole-vaulting, but all had seed heights a foot lower than me, which was a big confidence boost. My short approaches in warm ups felt good, but my take-offs struggled as my approach lengthened. When stuck in a gym, I haven’t been able to practice that. I was also getting on big poles with higher grips. This was my first time outdoors since last summer as well. While it was a tailwind during warm-ups, it would shift during competition to a crosswind or head wind at times. I came in at 10-4, as they were only going up by 10cm (4”) at that point. Opening height was at 8’, so I had some downtime before starting. My first 2 attempts at 10-4 didn’t go well. My final attempt was ugly, but I did what I had to do to make the height.
11-8 Attempt

            At 10-8, there were 5 of us still in. I made it on my first attempt, but no one else made the height, which meant that I not only won the meet, but that I could also pick my heights from then on. I jumped up 6” to 11-2.25, which I also cleared on my first attempt. I still wasn’t feeling good about my jumps though. We raised it to 11-8. It would be a post-collegiate PR (by 2”) and also tie my 2ndhighest jump ever. On my first failed attempt, my elbow hit the bar really hard, and my right hand went tingly. Fortunately, I had 5 minutes between attempts, and I got feeling back in my hand in that time. My second attempt was better, but not there yet. My third attempt was my best jump of the day, and I felt like I was doing what I needed to do to make the height. I had put the standards pretty deep though, and it was too much for that jump. I had a lot of height, but I came down on the bar. I had a great day overall, but I was crushed. I wanted that height so bad. I wanted to make another run at 12’. I could have made that bar with room to spare if I hadn’t had my standards so deep. I won my home meet at CSP though!
            Check out the video of my 11-8 attempt. Despite having a terrible take-off, I still got a lot of height out of the jump (as you can see in the picture I am far over the bar, but my legs are touching it on my way down). Stay tuned for the next post regarding that 5K…

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Indoor Season Wrap-Up at UWSP

            After a couple of fantastic indoor meets, I looked at UWSP’s indoor schedule, and saw they were hosting a Final Qualifier on March 2nd. It was a college meet, but also open to Unattached/Club athletes. As a Final Qualifier, the purpose of this kind of meet is to have one more chance at getting marks to qualify for Nationals. The field size ended up being ideal, but the starting height reflected the fact that it was a Final Qualifier. There are college meets that may have opening height in the 8-9 foot range, but this meet was starting at 10-9! I usually start at 10 feet, so this was a little steep for opening height for me even.
            With UWSP only being a 1:40 drive from home, it was too enticing to pass up (much better than the 4 hour drive to Bethel for the last one). Walking into a college meet to compete brought out two strong feelings: nerves because it brought back college memories, and it also made me feel really old! I was surrounded by such youthfulness! While all these college vaulters had the advantage of being able to practice and have a coach, I had the advantage of experience. The nerves quickly died down once we got started. If nothing else, I have come to rely on the consistency that comes with 14 years of vaulting. I was also determined to strive for any edge I could gain, which included going all the way back to a 14 step (7-left) approach for the first time in 9 years!
            Out of 13 vaulters, only one passed the first height. I was the fifth in the order, but the first (and possibly only) one to clear the bar on the first attempt. Only 7 girls even made opening height. At 11-3, one girl cleared it on her first attempt. I cleared it on my second attempt, and the third girl who went on, cleared it on her third attempt. While the winner went on to clear 11-9 right away, I and the other girl failed to clear it, which left me as second overall! At a COLLEGE meet. While of course I was really hoping to make 11-9, I also need to keep it in perspective that my only practices have been at these meets, and I have done REALLY well! I am super excited to get into the summer season and see what I can do!

Monday, February 18, 2019

USATF MN Indoor Meet

            After such a great time at the USATF WI meet, I decided to squeeze one more meet in for this indoor season. There was an all-comers meet hosted at Bethel University, and while that’s a solid 4 hour drive, it’s also where I spent a year training during my internship year, which added to the appeal with a return to the old stomping grounds. It took a few days to recover from the last meet, but now that I had a recent meet experience under my belt, I was hopeful that I could turn up similar results again.
            It was a large field, with 20 total vaulters, and the entire meet was run co-ed. Despite the long line for warm-ups, I felt good going into competition. I cleared 10’ and 10’6” on my first attempts. Mentally, I was already happy with how I was doing, even though I knew I wanted more from the day yet. I made 11’ on my second attempt, and got some decent height on my 11’6” jump, with plenty of room on top, and while I bumped it on my way down, the bar stayed up! Alright, I’ll be honest. It was actually in metric at 3.50 meters, which puts it 11’5.75”, but close enough! February 6, 2010 – My one and only other meet I ever had at Bethel. I was a senior at Concordia. I won the pole vault with a vault of 3.50 meters as well! Here I am 9 years and 3 kids later, and I just jumped at the same place with the same height. I ended 4th overall and 2nd female.

            This really shows that what I’ve been doing in the weight room has done wonders! Triathlon is still on the fence a little bit for this summer, but I do know for sure I will be shooting for a new lifetime PR of finally clearing the elusive 12 foot bar! Other fun highlights from the day included dropping 4 seconds from my 800m time for a 2:47.62, in a very large heat of 16 athletes. My state miler, a senior this year, also ran a 4:48 mile and followed it with a 2:11 in the 800m. He will be starting this season off fast. Since this meet was in the Twin Cities area, I also had fans, which included Andy’s family, and my dear friend (and also a former Golden Bear trackster), Katherine, who will hopefully be re-entering the track scene with me next year! Now the tough part will be waiting 4 months to finally compete again!

Monday, February 4, 2019

BIG Week!

            As I contemplate Triathlon Nationals, part of the debate is whether or not I want to get back on the bike, or push hard workouts in the pool again. I’ve enjoyed being able to focus on lifting weights and running. This last week though, I hopped on the bike for the first time in over 7 months! I quickly remembered two things: 1) biking hurts! and 2) I have to break my butt back in to the seat! While it was tough, I feel like I could build back into it fairly well.
            I have also been working a few harder efforts into my swimming, but it’s always after a run and 45 minutes of lifting, which, frankly, means I’m exhausted. I had a chance for an evening swim this past week, so I did 10x100 on 1:30 (the staple workout) and killed it! That gave me confidence to move forward with Nationals in mind. I’m 6 months out, so it’s time to start training.
            The most fun part of this last week was on Sunday when Andy and I went to Carthage College for the USATF WI Indoor Open and Masters meet. To make it even more fun, two of our former Blue Jays (and also our first 2 kids we ever took to State!) came and competed with us. Since I haven’t vaulted in 6 months, I set low expectations, with my goal being 10 feet (that seemed realistic). Warm-ups went well, so I started at 10’ as normal, cleared it by a lot, and went on to make 10’6”. This was already a worthwhile day, but then I made 11’! I had some good attempts at 11’6”, but just wasn’t there at this point. I’m ecstatic that all of my weight room and high bar work set me up so well! (Although even all those box jumps could not prepare my calves for that much running on my toes – hurting today). There were 27 female vaulters (including youth) for the day, and I had the 3rd best mark (and definitely the only one with children)!
            I also ran the 800m with two other women. I am usually pretty good about being able to pace evenly by feel, but I haven’t ran that fast in 6 months (my fastest stuff being threshold pace), and I struggled with confidence to push harder in the middle 400. I had a lot left for a strong kick, but should have picked it up a lot earlier. It was still fun and I still finished in 2:51, which was definitely satisfactory (and a learning experience). Andy had a great day with the Long Jump and got to run the 55 as well (2 events he felt the best about doing without training for them)! We each came home with 2 medals and some hurting bodies. It was worth it! I am looking forward to everything that 2019 brings!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The New Year Post

Customized gift for our friends with their dog & her giraffe!
            Since the 5K in October, I have been focusing a lot on weight lifting, while still pressing on with the my weekly threshold run work (something I thought I was ready to drop for a few months at least and then didn't). I am looking forward to my own track season this year and I’m hoping that the work I am doing (especially with the work in the weight room and high bar pole vault drills) pays off. My swim has been pretty minimal and I have yet to venture back onto the bike. I have, however, been ice-skating a lot with the kids, and have taken up painting again! I used to do a lot of artwork in high school, and haven’t done a lot since then. I have really gotten into water coloring lately though, did a series for my youngest, a few gifts, and then turned out a recent favorite portrait. Do what you are passionate about, right?!
My most recent (& now favorite) painting
            My plans for this year include a LOT of pole vaulting, including the summer meets our Club hosts, Badger State Games Track, the River Vault, and this year I would also like to compete in the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships since it will be held in Iowa! Will I venture into the triathlon world again this year? I have been asking myself that a lot lately. I qualified for USAT Nationals, held in Cleveland in August, with my High Cliff Half victory last summer. If I race, it will be another one-and-done season with Nationals. The question is whether or not I have the motivation to put in the work to race it. I would want 6 months of training for it, so I would need to decide soon if I’m hopping back on that bike soon! I could also approach it like High Cliff, where I trained early on before deciding to fully commit or not.
            Looking further ahead, World’s are being held in Bermuda in 2021, which means racing Nationals next year in order to qualify, which means I would need to qualify prior to racing that as well. I could also shoot for World’s in Canada in 2020 as well. Or I could do none of that. I really love the way that triathlon training makes me feel. I also really LOVED World’s in Cozumel and everything that came with that experience. Triathlons can also give you really good perspective on life. I have reflected back on my High Cliff experience a LOT, and I think there are a lot of great takeaways from going through that. I love the challenge of it. The best things in life are the things that challenge us, excite us, and have the power to at times, even change us (sounds a lot like parenting!). That’s what I also love about pole vaulting and painting. 
So this year, find what challenges you, excites you, and has the power to change you. Happy New Year!