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Monday, March 10, 2014

New Orleans Rock N Roll Half Marathon 2014

Okay, I've been meaning to write this post for over a month now.  It's not just that I've been busy with work, training, and life that had me putting this off, but partially the memory of the pain of this race has had me shy away again, and again from reliving it.

Last year, the NOLA Rock N' Roll became such a big event for me because of media fire storm surrounding Nic and Monique's amazing story. My plan was to run it again with some focused training this time.

The training was difficult.  Living in Colorado now, there were many days that it was too cold to train outside, resulting in several very long treadmill days along the way.  When I could get outside, Charles would do my workouts with me, which made it a little easier to get in those 12 mile runs.  He pushed me every step of the way and was my greatest support, my stand-in coach for Team EC coach Dan Arnett!  My hardest training days were probably the 8 or 10 mile race-pace training runs.  My goal pace was 6:50 per mile so I could be under the 1:30 mark at 13.1, and 8 miles of that was brutally hard and made me wonder if my goal was too ambitious.  

Running in the thick fog near miles 9-10

Six days before the race, I was doing and easy 4 mile run when I felt a pop in my Achilles and instant pain.  I stopped immediately and saw a PT the next day, suggesting it may be a small tear.  I was devastated, after all that training that I may not be able to run.  So the days approaching the race, I swam, cycled, and did water running.  For as they say "the hay was in the barn."   With 6 days to go, the training was done, and I either achieved the fitness I strived for or I hadn't.  It all came down to race day.

It was dark, warm, foggy, and incredibly humid.  Good 'ole Louisiana weather that I learned to love running in while in college.   

The national anthem, and the gun. 

 Like last year, Charles paced me the entire way.   As a distraction, we knew that Monique had started 2 hours before us, and we would look for her on the course at around the 5 mile mark by her predicted pace.  

Mile 1: 6:28.  

A fast start.  I check my heart rate, around 165, good.  We ease into the pace.

Like clock work, we tick off the miles in perfect pace.  The first 5 were 'comfortable'.   I thought of my sister at all the check points, knowing that she would be getting all my splits, and thinking she would be proud of how exact my first and second 5k splits were (21:18 and 21:20), and that my Achilles was holding up!

Seven miles in and still no sign Monique.  My mind was having a hard time with distractions from the pain. Charles and I were nearing the Mississippi river and the fog was incredibly thick.   The runners in front of us disappeared in it and we were running alone.  The mist covered us in moisture and we were dripping wet, the roads were incredibly slick with oil on the surface.  There was literally a rainbow over the surface of the road for nearly a mile with oil.  Around this time we had to maneuver to the edge of the road to find solid footing, our feet were slipping out from under us as if running on ice.  Charles guided me to the edge and we didn't lose the pace as I feared we might.  

Love this one:  Running stride for stride

At mile 8 we finally spotted Monique!  Way ahead of schedule!

The last 5 miles are mostly a blur.  Every step was so painful.  No more distractions, just looking straight ahead and clinging to the pace.  I whispered to Charles, "I'm fading, I can barely hang on,"  but the next mile split was right on.  And we pushed through. My quads, hamstring, calves were all on fire and begging me to stop running.   All the while I had no idea where I was in the race in comparison to the other athletes.  The fog made it difficult to tell, and based on last years times, I assumed I was somewhere in the top 50 women.

Celebrating my PR while crossing the finish!
By mile 12 I knew I was going to do it.  We crossed the 13.1 mile split at 1:29:33, with an extra 0.16 on the course.  My official time is 1:30:34.

It was only a while later that I got a message from my father that I was 4th.  Age group I assumed.  Then my best buddy Jeanne, that I was fifth!  Fifth??  Overall!, she said.  The official results finally were posted, and sure enough, a 5th OA place finish.  So a 4 minute PR and my first top 5 finish at this distance!  Such an incredible feeling, I'm thrilled to still see dramatic improvements like this in my 30's!  I was even mentioned in Colorado Runner Magazine for being the top Colorado female finisher at the race.

The rest of the morning was great, watching all the other athletes come in and cheering them on.  Including my brother Nick who completed his first 'real' half marathon in under 2 hours, and dear friend Charlotte, finishing her first one.  Monique's story is too much to include in my blog.  So please be sure you connect over to hers to see how her comeback is coming along and all the incredible press coverage following the race, here!

Special thanks to Charlotte for putting us up in NOLA!  and of course Charles for all his encouragement and support building up to this race, he also carried my visor in his hands from about mile 2 through the finish - you'll see it in his hands in all the pics.  And of course to my coach Dan, I can't do any of it without his guidance and the support of all Team Endurance Concepts.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The ITU World Championships in London

What a year, and it all comes down to this big race week!  We (Laura, Charles, Analise, and Patrick) all arrived in London on Tuesday with the Aquathlon only a few hours away, Wednesday morning!  After a delayed flight, a long ride on the tube, and picking up our race packets, it was time for dinner, and bed, and the next thing I know I'm up and in my uniform and heading to Hyde Park for the Aquathlon World Championship race.   It was all held at the same location as the 2012 London Olympics triathlon venue.

Looking nervous and getting into the wetsuit
With our wave starts being really spread out, Charles started 40 minutes ahead of me, enough time for him to complete the entire race in a personal best time, crushing his 5k PR with a 17:07 and good enough for a 9th place finish.  I was in the starting corral when I watched him cross the finish line, just before heading to the platform for my own race to start.

Grouping area for the athletes - with my wave, the yellow caps, lining up on the platform
The start was a quick - 'athletes get in the water' and GO!  No time to get used to the shock of the cold water (60 degrees), just time to swim.  With over 150 athletes in my starting wave, the water was a choppy mess for most of the 1000m.  I hopped out in 18:06, had a great transition and started my run.  I could hear Analise and Charles screaming at me through my transition but never looked up to see them.  I felt very sluggish my first mile, topping out at 7 min pace, way too slow - the jet lag was clearly getting to me, as on my body clock, it was about 3am.  I managed to pick it up miles 2 and 3 but had already lost a lot of time, clocking in only a 20:50, good enough for  a 27th place finish AG and 2nd American athlete.  

Shoes and race numbers are all that's needed for this transition

Laura and Charles out of the water in the Aquathlon World Championship Race 

Doing the Aquathlon was a great way to warm up for the main event, the Sprint Distance World Championships, a chance to see the course, get the butterflies out, feel the water, and shake out the legs.

Running into the Aquathlon finish
And onto the main event!  We got a typical rainy London day for our race.  The rain poured and poured!  Charles, Analise, and I headed down to set up our transition areas with about 15 minutes to spare.  It had rained all night and the place was a muddy mess.  At 8:55, Charles is in the water.  Analise and I are lined up side by side waiting to start, at 9:10.  We watch Charles come out of the water, 6th in his wave and give a cheer before heading once again to the platform.
On the run course
Analise was the most nervous I'd seen her in years.  She's shaking her hands and can't stay still.  I'm trying to remain calm as we sit on the dock and let our feet hang in the water.  We hug, wish each other luck, I'm so proud to be on the starting line next to her again for the first time since Nationals last year.  And so proud of how hard she has worked to get here.   Next thing I know, we are plunging into the water and the horn sounds.  Go time! 

I feel strong, better than in the Aquathlon and am out of the water in ~13:50, a good swim for me.  I began the 600m run to the transition area from the water and spot Patrick cheering, I'm waiting for him to tell me how far behind Analise I am - but apparently I beat her out of the water this time by a few seconds.   I grab my bike and go, running to the mount line and take off, slipping my muddy feet into my shoes.  I know Analise is right behind me and I'll see her shortly on the 3 loop course.  

Charles crushing it on the bike
It's POURING rain.  The roads are incredibly slick and with all the sharp turns its hard to get into a rhythm.  People are crashing all over the course, there are a total of five 180 degree turns on the course and 2 sharp 90 degree turns (per lap, in each direction!)  not the best design for going fast on wet roads.    I am able to push it for one mile stretches at a time before having to sit up, ease on the brakes, and get around the corners.  I see Charles completing his last lap.  Starting my second loop I expect to see Analise.   I'm distracted by all the team USA uniforms and can't spot her.  
Analise, out of the water and on her way to transition

At the turn around I do, but she's off her bike!!  I screamed her name and kept going.  But now my mind is wandering - "did she get a penalty?, did she crash?  Is she ok?"  I hear Patrick cheering and just keep pedaling, I'm sure I'll see her on the next turn around but never spot her again.  The 14.5 miles go by quickly and I'm turning into transition.   That's when I hear her - she got a flat tire and had to pull out of the race.   She screamed,  "You're racing for both of us now!"  In that second I thought about all those times I dreamed of this moment, stared at the London poster on my wall while riding the trainer during the winter, all the swims, all the runs, the pain, the sweat, the tears.
Post race, USA USA USA!
I know I need a better run than in the Aquathlon, I need it come together now, for me, and for her.  And it did.  My fastest run of the year in 19:22 (6:14/mile), finishing in 38th place, 5th American.  
Charles destroyed the field with a 19th place finish and a lightning fast 5k in 17:10.   But my heart was broken for Analise.  I'm hoping she takes the opportunity to compete again in the next few years.

Lastly, our dear friend Amanda M. was the guide for one of the USA paratriathletes.  Ivonne is completely blind and Amanda led her through the swim, bike, and run and on to win the GOLD medal for the USA, in the pouring rain for them too!  Fantastic job ladies!!

Amanda M. and Ivonne, Gold Medal winners
The rest of the trip we used to enjoy the sites and explore the city of London.  There are a few pics below.

With Team EC athlete, Thomas P.

Watching the 2 of the Worlds best triathletes battle is out for the Championship title. Jonathon Brownlee and Javier Gomez
The London Eye
Riding the London Eye (as promised to me last year)
Parliament building

China town
Obligatory phone booth pic
Trafalgar Square

In Bath
The giant blue chicken

Natural history museum

Buckingham Palace
Amazing friends Ivanna and Konrad who were out cheering on the course!
funny little story, as a consequence of the soaking race conditions, all our wet shoes in the tiny apartment we rented resulted in a horrendous smell til they dried, haha!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

London, here we come!

It's that time of year again!!  I'm changing out of my Endurance Concepts kit and stepping into the red, white, and blue.  I'm so proud to be representing the USA with Charles again this year, and even more special, with my twin sister, Analise, competing in her first World Championship race!

Laura and Analise

 Charles and I are toeing the line in the Aquathon on Wednesday morning, September 11th, and all three of us are competing in the Sprint World Championship race on Friday, September 13th.  There is not current race tracker listed online but you can check the website:  for updates.

Laura and Charles

Well, Here we Go!!

Here is a  link to my recent publicity, thanks to my "press manager" Monique Koll (follow her blog here).
As featured on the ITU Road to London site:

We were also featured by USAT here:

Analise and I were also featured in "The Vermillion" - school news paper at my Alma mater, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Friday, August 23, 2013

USAT National Championships 2013 - Milwaukee, WI

This was my 4th National Championship race since starting in triathlon 4 years ago.  It was in the beautiful city of Milwaukee, my first time ever visiting Wisconsin, and dubbed an 'urban' triathlon.  And that it was, right in downtown Milwaukee with the bike course even going onto the interstate!  

My season has been a little tough this year, adjusting to the altitude in Boulder CO.,and struggling with nutrition issues and my run speed (there will be another blog about this sometime), so I decided only to race the sprint. 

Exiting the water
My morning began with the typical routine, eating some oatmeal, a bit of coffee, exactly two hours before my start time as I have discovered this is the best time for me to eat.   Transition was set up by 7:30 and the first wave off!  My wave was not scheduled to start until 9:16am so the waiting game began - trying to stay calm and focused knowing that many other athletes will be finished before I even start!  Everything is going to plan!

On the bike course, of course going up the hill and the one 
moment I was out of aero that the pic was snapped

But of course leave it to fate to keep things interesting!  Just as we headed over to swim start, minutes before our waves, there is an announcement that the swim is being postponed.  An athlete has gone missing in the water.  We all wear timing chips that are activated as you walk down the ramp to the water to account for who has gone in, and who has come out.  There was a swimmer missing and unaccounted for from an earlier wave.   The officials are scanning the water from the boats, divers are sent in, and there is nothing we can do but watch and wonder what happened to this man, and is he at the bottom of the lake??  Very nerve racking, as several people die every year in triathlons.  

taking off on the run

Nearly an extra hour goes by until we are given word that the race will resume.  The missing swimmer was found spectating on the bike course, clueless to the commotion he caused.  The story - from an unnamed race official - he said he was having a bad day and decided not to race, so swam to the shore and climbed out, without notifying anyone.  Sigh.  ONWARD to the race!  Now starting nearly an hour later than scheduled, it was time to focus and before I know it, Charles is taking off and I'm in the water!

My favorite way to finish, surrounded by American flags!

I feel great in the water, strong, and come out in 15th position in my AG.  A quick transition and I was out on the bike.  A great ride for me too as I am picking off girls in my AG.  The advantage of the later start was I knew every girl in front of me was in my AG and with an out-and-back bike course, I knew I was heading into the run in 11th place - top 10 was in sight!   The run.  I have struggled so much this year in the run, not running under 21 minutes all season.  It's been discouraging and disheartening, and going in, it was an unknown how this part of the race would go.  

But as I take off, my legs feel good.  My legs feel REALLY GOOD!  Within a mile I had already picked off two girls in my AG and looked at my watch in astonishment as my first mile was in 6:15, and felt great, strong, ready.  It's a flat run and I cruise through the next mile picking off a few more.  One mile to go and I see 2 girls just in front of me, I'm thinking, I feel good, and today is my day.  Charles is screaming at me to dig deep and pass them, and I go for it!  Everything I've got!  And I run into my highest placing finish ever at nationals, 6th, and a new sprint distance PR time, with a run of 19:50, :40 seconds PER MILE faster than anything I've run this year.

It all came together at the right place and the right time, and I punched my ticket to my 4th World Championships next year to be held in Edmonton, Canada.  I couldn't be more thrilled.  Thank you everyone who has supported me this season, specially my family, Charles, and Coach Dan Arnett.   Coach's predicted run time for me was only off by 2 seconds per mile, and I didn't believe it!  Impressive!!

Charles also had a fantastic weekend.  He clobbered his best placing and time in the Olympic Distance breaking the 2 hour mark with a 1:59:59 and taking 7th place, his highest in this distance.

Charles and his game face!
he popped his head out of the water to yell to me and waved!!

check out the sweat dripping off his nose!!  Working hard!
On to a 30 second 10k PR!!
On Sunday he slaughtered the field with a 3rd place finish.  So we will both be representing Team USA next year in Canada.

Here's some other pics from the city and race :)

Charles in the pack!
View of the swim course, amazing for spectators!
Coffee and restaurant area along the course 
random house along the Oly bike course
transition area, pre-bikes
transition, with bikes!