Tuesday, April 8, 2014

to chase, to leap, to burn

When I signed up for my first ironman three years ago, I wrote a blog post about how it takes a village for me to do most things.  I was one of those PITA tweeters who couldn't decide whether or not I was ready, I drove myself and everyone else around me crazy with indecision until I finally whipped out the credit card, filled out the form, and spent the next three days walking around, unblinking, saying WHAT DID I JUST DO.  And it took that whole village to get me through the first ironman.  Friends, coach, internet, parents, husband, puppies, I was often alone, but I was never stranded, I was never more than a phone call away from the support I needed to survive the hell I put my body through that summer, and I was grateful for every last bit of it when I got myself over the finish line in Idaho that June.
Fast forward a year to last July.  As we were driving back from IMLP, I got an email from Hailey which prompted me to pick up the phone and call my friend Kebby.  You see, a sneak peek of a new company had been leaked into social media, and it had Keb's fingerprints all over it.  We chatted as I sat in the passenger seat, damaged feet resting on the dashboard, non-functioning kidneys and raging sinus infection and slightly bruised spirit ahoy, and after telling me all of the amazing things that she had planned, I leapt at the opportunity to join her.  Kebby, you see, is one of those people that is going to change the world, quite possibly by accident and maybe her earrings don't match, but change the hell out of it indeed.  She could have picked any vehicle to do so, but she chose women in triathlon because she believes so strongly, I've heard her say it dozens of times, a rising tide lifts all boats.  Women are storming the triathlon castle, and it is certain that the world around them isn't growing fast enough.  Enter CoeurSports.
Starting a new business from scratch is never going to be an easy task.  And what rises to the top in that first year is the things that matter.  I've never met anyone that cares more fiercely, that is more protective of her athletes, than Kebby.  She sent me a demo kit a couple of weeks before IM Cozumel, and some things were amazing (CHAMOIS) and some things were slightly off (in an email: did you realize you sent MY ass an extra small pair of shorts?) but I was thrilled to enter the water wearing it that morning, and even more proud to cross the finish line in it so many hours later, battered as I was.  It's probably long overdue to say so, but it must be obvious that I am pleased to spend 2014 - and hopefully many more years after that - representing this brand.  And while I'm slightly intimidated by the company that I'm keeping as a member of the elite racing team, it's possible that I can take enough pictures of my ass make my own small contribution towards lifting the CoeurSports boat, towards lifting the boats of all women, especially those that are entering triathlon for the first time.  I could talk about the gear - and it is amazing gear - but what matters more are the people behind the logo that support me.  And not only me, but Coeur is supporting my athletes this year, many of whom are entering the sport for the first time themselves.  The first piece of my village.
The second piece of my village came about through CoeurSports.  After some issues at IMLP, Sonja helped me completely revamp my training and racing nutrition to include OSMO Nutrition.  She had been using it all year to great success, and after a week or two with it in my bottles and my belly, I could see why.  Late last fall, OSMO released women's-specific products, and after about six months of regular use of all three (preload, active, and recovery), I can't imagine ever using anything else.  No low spots on the bike in IMC (other than getting creamed by an idiot with zero handling skills), no emergency porta potty stops, less ups and downs on the bike, and better recovery between sessions.  What we know about training nutrition for athletes is a constantly-changing knowledge base, but Stacy Sims is very definitely leading the pack on this, especially for women, and I feel lucky to be a part of the OSMO family this year.

Then there are the people.  In Boulder, there are a few that regularly deal with my body when it throws a rod.  It has taken time and plenty of failure to find them over the past eighteen months, but now that I have, they are never allowed to move or change professions or even their phone numbers (although they all collectively may want to do so).  Heather North at Red Hammer Rehab is a huge part of the reason that I was able to even get on the plane to Cozumel last November.  Her needles, elbows, and overwhelming sense of calm in the face of a panicked athlete helped me stay level every single time I thought a chance at racing was out the window.  Geoff Hower at Fuelary has the sharpest thumb of any human I've ever met in my life.  He also does not mind that I chatter nonstop through the entire length of our sessions and can be bribed with doughnuts when I frantically realize that I broke something I really need in two days and his schedule is booked out for a week, for these reasons and many more, Geoff might be an actual saint.  Josh Shadle, also at Fuelary, constantly impresses me with how much focus he places on the recovery aspect of training, certainly an area quite neglected by many athletes, and over the past year has created in me a serious addiction to massage, painful toys and the crazy air space boots.
Without Charlie Merrill at Merrill Performance, it's likely that the poet would have filed for divorce and shipped me off to the funny farm by now; I definitely would not be able to stand on any sort of line.  Despite the fact that I am certain he wants to pack me, my bike, my seventeen pairs of shoes, my knife emojis, my tweets, my tiny pants, and my emails that I am sure got less and less witty as the weeks passed, all into his truck and back the lot of us off the nearest sharp turn in a canyon, he remained patient as he untangled a puzzle that I was convinced no one would be able to crack.  He gets credit for quite literally dealing with the worst parts of who I am, the panicky babbling stressed-out overly-extroverted pain in the ass triathlete straight-up terrified of a future that might not involve the joy found on two wheels.  Over three months he completely disassembled both my body AND my bike and, with great care, put it all back together into a machine (a beautiful machine) that I can't wait to test out this weekend.  He also gets a special place in my snarky little black heart for encouraging my obsession with throwing around heavy things and conquering circus tricks.
Then there are my coaches.  Jonathan Modine is singularly responsible for the fact that my swim even vaguely resembles anything normal.  He is one of the best swim coaches I have ever worked with, both as a swimmer and alongside as a coach, and not once have I spent time in the water under him and not learned something about the body, the swim, the balance of a workout, the stroke.  His time and effort to take my stroke apart (lots of disassembling of the body in Boulder) last summer has not only changed me into a swimmer that I never thought I would be, but also made me realize how much growth in the water is still to come.  
And Sonja. There are not even close to enough words in the language to describe how Sonja has changed me, over the past two years but even more so over the past four months.  What Sonja wants more than anything on this earth is to leave people better than she found them, and with modesty, I hope that I am one of the better examples of this accomplishment (please don't leave me anytime soon though).  Her grace, her brilliance, her firm hand on the navigation of my journey in sport and the peace that she brings into my life is not something that I could really describe or ever put a price on, but I know enough to say that I would be lost without her, and I am grateful on a daily basis for whatever force of the universe decided that our paths should cross.  
This weekend I will line up to race the first triathlon of the year, so I thought it appropriate to pause and recognize the people and companies that will stand with me when I do.  This is only the first, shaking off the cobwebs, testing out the body, and I have no idea what's going to happen, what the clock will say, when the pain will start, how my day will unfold, how much heart I will have, if it's enough.  But I do know that there is nothing in the world that I love more than an opportunity to walk directly into the fire, and I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to share all of the people - my people - that have made it easier to do the things I love the most, that have lightened my own load with their hands and shoulders and love, that have helped me grow, that have taken away my pain.  All of them will be with me as I cover the miles, and I am grateful to each that I have the privilege to go out and ask the questions of myself, to chase, to leap, to burn.

10 comments:

  1. Good luck this weekend in Hawaii! Er. Wait. Where you going again? Hee hee...JK! Kick some ass seabass!

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  2. That first IM photo looks so old-school! Still remember doing laps around Hains Point with ya and getting the recap (your feet hurt so badly! Crazy Newtons...) ;)

    GO KILL IT this weekend. You know you have all of it in you, without a doubt.

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  3. How timely, was just admiring the Coeur Sports swimsuit in the Triathlete magazine gear spread - will have to go check them out! Good luck this weekend, stay fully present and enjoy every moment!

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  4. Your posts are inspiring... Thanks for the insight into your journey :)

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  5. As a breathing, heterosexual male, I can unequivocally say that the Coeur tri kit is hawt. Perhaps even more hawt than lingerie or something that is supposed to be more sexy than functional. so, damn girl. yes.

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  6. You have an awesome pit crew, your smile says it all.

    Have a blast and never stop smiling.

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  7. Have a good race Miss Katie! Would love to chat with you about how you are using Osmo. I have the products just not sure how to make them all work together (which sounds so dumb but it is the truth...).

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  8. Yet again a great post. Good luck today, and I'm sure your team and crew will be supporting you!

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  9. Good luck, and please also high-five the person who took that photo of you diving into the water!

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