2015 came and went, and with one exception, I forgot to blog.

But despite my silence, a lot went on that I don’t want to forget, and I’ve enjoyed reading other’s year-in-review posts, so I thought I’d put together my own “Best and Worst” of 2015 by AirDropping a bunch of random iPhone pictures to give a little snapshot of what went on this year, mostly in my training and racing life.   The ordering is random and flighty …but then, so am I.

Best Training Spot
Madison, Wisconsin.   Always.  The Wisconsin Love runs strong here.  I spent almost as many weekends in Madison this summer as I did in Illinois.  The memories are vivid – hill repeats in the rain with Nick.  Getting dropped like a bad habit by Bob, and texting him from the gas station to “forget about me, I’m having a moment here.”  Suffering through the hottest and most humid day I can remember in Madison with Machee, Liz and Chris.  Stopping with Kristy for cheese curds that were desperately needed. Chatting with Erin and accidentally extending my ride to 7.5 hours because the conversation was so good.  Sliding out on freshly-chipped roads.  I put in many, many, many miles on my bike in this town.  My Kona race was made in Madison.

Many rides with Kristy, our bikes here at the Lion Water Fountain
 
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Always (or, often) blue skies and puffy clouds in Madison

Best New “Life” Development
In January, I was given the opportunity to start coaching runners and triathletes through Multisport Mastery.  I’ve done some coaching in my past (track, cross country, swimming), so I knew this was an area I’d like to branch into, but I had no idea how much it would add to my own life.  It’s been challenging, no doubt, but ultimately incredibly fulfilling.  My athletes’ successes have, on many occasions, been more satisfying to me than my own, and going through the daily ups and downs with each individual has added all sorts of new dimensions to my life.  

Anne’s first race post-baby!
The very first athlete to take a shot with me, Rachel
Best Ways to Enjoy Triathlon without Participating

Sherpa-ing and spectating!  Did you know being at an Ironman without actually participating in an Ironman is amazing fun?  True story.

Carrying triathlon bags is much like this

I went to two Ironmans I didn’t race.  First, Ironman Texas in May.  Liz brought me to Texas as her sherpa.  In the days before the race, I tried to do my best to help her out and keep her company, and also fit in some of my own training.  I absolutely loved the Ironman Texas course and would do this one in a heart beat if it wasn’t always a million degrees.

Got my swim mojo back in Conroe, TX, the best pool of 2015

I am not sure I ever fully understood how thrilling, but exhausting and nerve-wracking, it is to spectate and support someone with big goals in a big race.   With a ground crew of multiple people, we tracked Liz’s position all day, I rode my bike all over the course cheering and providing updates and occasionally stopping in at a bar to chug a beer and visit with the rest of the spectating team, before getting back on my bike to find Liz again.  Ultimately, she won her age group and punched her ticket to Kona.

Sherpa-ing is even more satisfying when Sherpa‘d athlete kicks ass!

I think I was more exhausted than she was when the day was over, and had gained a serious appreciation for those who have served as sherpas and support crews for me in the past.

Spectating on the run course, look closely, bike grease ALL OVER my legs.  Because I am me.

A couple months later, I spectated Racine 70.3 one week after injuring my leg at mile 2 of the Muncie 70.3.  I was in a lot of pain (even walking really hurt, I accidentally jogged for two steps while cheering for Kristy and almost screamed in pain) and I was pretty sure my season was over, so selfishly, seeing others racing a race that is very meaningful to me was emotionally difficult.  To cope, I sat under a tent and drank a lot of beers and that made it better.

And then, in September to my favorite race in the world, Ironman Wisconsin.  I’ve missed spectating this race for the past 3 years-  racing 70.3 Worlds in 2014 and 2013, and racing IMWI myself in 2012.  I had several athletes and friends racing, and it was good to be back on the sidelines acting like an idiot.

Taylor killing the swim
Chris, smiling through his first IM

 

Me and Scary Clown-  Left, 2015, Right, 2012
Best Gas Station
In response to all the triathletes out there posting pictures of their bikes propped in front of beautiful mountains and coastlines, we western suburban Chicagolanders had our own response-  the CITGO in Morris, Illinois, a dumpy little town 30 miles from Naperville.  Also known as the gas station that frequently saved my rides by selling me Five Hour Energy, Pop Tarts and/or Mountain Dew Code Red.  But never live bait.

 

Morris Cuisine
With Bob
With Kara

 

WTF, who stole our spot?


Worst New Normal

Flat tires! Before this year, I’d never had a flat tire in a race.  This year, I had SIX-  two simultaneously at a small race in Terre Haute (completely my fault, in the moment I looked down at my bike computer, I slammed into a massive pot hole at 28 miles per hour, immediately flatting both tires….badly); one in Kona; three in Cozumel (more on that later).  This is not a trend I wish to continue into 2016.

This ride in May should have been my warning of things to come:

Liz’s flat.  “Did I hit something?”
And 90 miles later, my own flat, which ended with a ride home from a random stranger

Best Race Result
In light of all the circumstances preceding, a third place at Kona was something I am tremendously proud of, but overall, I think the actual best race of my season was  Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston in April.

I am sorry, but Galveston is kind of a dump.

I trained like an animal in January, February, and March– likely too much in light of things going on in my life at the time (I always need to throw in the disclaimer that I pushed myself well beyond what which was prescribed in my training schedule) — but I was super fit in April and had a race to show for it.  4:23, a 10-minute PR, an age group and overall amateur win, the fastest female bike split (period, across all divisions, but to be fair, the winds shifted during the race and were much more favorable by the time my wave hit the bike course than they’d been for earlier waves).  Just a great success.

Brother came from San Antonio

Why didn’t I ever write about it?  Frankly, I’d been teetering on the edge for some time going into that race, carefully walking the line between peak fitness and meltdown, and Galveston drained the tank and left me a little broken and not really in the mood for writing for quite some time.   Lessons were learned:) 

Most Meaningful Race

The Naperville Esprit de She Womens’ Triathlon.  I swim Masters with one of the funniest and most energetic women I’ve ever met– Beth.  Beth’s daughter, Clari, tragically passed away last year at the age of 19.   Clari had previously been a part of a relay team that won this race.  The day before the race, Beth and I were talking at Masters and decided to enter a relay team to race in Clari’s honor.  It a matter of hours, we pulled together an “All-Star” team-  Beth swimming, me cycling, and Amber, an Olympic Trials level runner —  and we raced in memory of Clari.  We won, by a lot (but shout out to local stud Jenny Garrison, who still had a faster time by herself than our relay), and the sentiment behind it made it all the more meaningful.

Best (or Worst?) Pre-Race Accomodation 
Muncie!
I should never have done the Muncie 70.3 in early July.  I’d been fighting a knee injury for a few weeks, had just had an MRI that showed a lot of “stuff” going on, and every training run was like rolling the dice as to whether I’d be able to run or be doing the walk of shame home.
But I was stubborn and I raced, swimming well, riding really well, was leading my age group and the overall race by a good chunk of time when, 2 miles into the run, I felt something in my knee tear and the leg gave way…..multiple times (because, stubborn, I kept trying until succumbing and ending up in the ambulance).  I was certain I needed surgery; luckily I didn’t, but that race turned what was possibly a manageable injury into one that took me out for months.  
Text messages I should have listened to….with PT

Anyway.  I traveled to Muncie with Liz the day before the race and it took us almost five hours to get there from Chicago.  Turned out the only hotel we could get was another hour away, we were tired of the car, so when we heard about a church a mile from the start that, for $15 a person, was providing cots and Sunday school rooms in which athletes could sleep, we were in.  A quick trip to WalMart to get blankets and pillows and we were settled into our chosen room-  the Sunday School Snack Room.

The room door had a sign reminding us to “Bee Your Best”

The room was freezing, the cot was less than comfortable, and I slept approximately 20 minutes, kept awake by the cold, pain, and an impending sense of doom regarding the race the next day (I knew I shouldn’t be racing)…..but it was a memorable accommodation for sure!

Best Random Midwestern Town in Which to Race

Hard to tell.  In May and June, I raced several short course races, mostly in somewhat less than glamorous locations.  None of the races were super stellar and a couple were downright bad, but I saw some great places like….

Terre Haute, Indiana!  (I double flatted)

Apartments next to our hotel, someone hoarding vacuums

Hammond, Indiana!  (It rained, the course was delayed and shortened to a Super Sprint, I just had a terrible race…but got to wait out the storm with friends!)

Waiting out the pre-race storm with Megan, Jennifer, Karen, Jenny and Chris

Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin! (Actually went pretty well, 2nd overall to speedy Pro Jackie H., and taking home some dough)

A decent and free run picture!

 

With Chris.  And Chris.  And Chris

 

Best Food Place I Should Not Go To as Much as I Do

Duh.

 
Best Month in Which to Race, if You’re Midwestern
February!  It was still snowing in Chicago.  My Masters Swim Team did a training camp in Palm Desert, California, which happened to coincide with the Desert International Triathlon, a season kick-off race for the So Cal crowd.  I was so nervous –  big shots do this race, and I did not feel at all ready to be racing fast in February, but it went pretty well, second in the Elite division after a speedy Carly J. navigated the soft sand and ran me down like I was standing still.    It rained so they cancelled the awards ceremony, because that’s apparently how it goes in California.
It’s fun when you’re friendly with your competitors.  Carly and Jen F.
Better scenery than Hammond, Indiana, for sure.
Most Fun Non-Triathlon Race 
Jennifer Harrison and I teamed up the Endure It Team Time Trial in January.  The “team” part of this time trial incorporates the “drafting” setting in Computrainer and we basically had no idea what we were doing or how to draft off each other.  It was comedy of errors, but despite less than smooth transitions of the lead, we powered through for the female win and more importantly, coordinated our outfits quite nicely.  
 

Runner- Up:  The Well-Fit Beer Mile.  This was more painful and uncomfortable than the TT for sure.  I thought I’d sail through the beer mile because I like beer and I like running.  In actuality, I kind of sucked.  I broke 10 minutes, but barely, I almost DNF’d during Lap #2,  and it was Beer #4 where I lost the race.  Much more practice needed here.

Podium pic- I’m in the skeleton suit


 Best Pictures Covertly Taken by Others to Prove the Point that I Have a Phone Addiction
 

 

At the Illinois State Masters Swim Meet
OK, actually staged.  We were pretending to be bored. We weren’t– the Bulls went to Quadruple OT

Best Lucky Charm 
It was New Years’ Eve and there was definitely alcohol involved when a tiny, plastic yellow hanger came into my life.  It became my good luck charm and I named it Baby Baby Hanger.

And then I lost it and things started to go downhill.

So I searched the internet to find more Baby Baby Hangers.

 

Several of the replacement Baby Baby Hangers were on my dining room table when US Anti Doping Agency officials showed up to my place on an August Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM to do blood and urine testing, and I had to push the BBHs out of the way when we used the table for sample sorting.  I told the USADA folks the whole story I just told you about the Baby Baby Hangers, and they looked at me like I was bat shit crazy, because I probably am.
And, yes, that was my back-handed way of saying that as an amateur, I was tested out-of-competition.  It was shocking (at the time, I’d never heard of amateurs being tested out-of-competition) but also encouraging, and I mention it here only because I think Ironman tested a small number of amateurs in part as a deterrent to clean up the sport, so it feels almost a bit like my duty to help create that deterrent effect.  Race fair, folks.

Most Discouraging Months
July and August.  I was out with an injury that was unpredictable and kept re-inventing itself.

I frantically texted my PT regularly to tell her where it hurt the most, today.

“Can you see the swelling?? Help!”

And then I bought a waterproof iPod, a water running belt, and got to work water running while I couldn’t run on land.  It was boring, but I worked really hard, and was shocked when I returned to land running and actually found that my paces hadn’t fallen far off.  I’m a huge fan of water running now.

It sucked but it worked

Best Moment Overall
This one is pretty close:

 

Best, or Maybe Worst, Decision….We Shall Find Out

This:

 

I took my Pro Card in November.  I raced an Ironman as a Pro in December (or part of one, at least), I’ll write more about that, but in short, Pro Debut was pretty much a failure.  Debut #2 will be in 2016.  So, that’s where this train is going, and whether it was a smart decision, I can’t yet say, but I am excited to find out.
 Best Pictures Taken By Others
I have no selfie game.  No GoPro game.  But, I need to get better at this, I think.  Here’s a start.
IM Coz practices swim with Maggie, Christine, and Cris

 

Selfs on bikes (with Maggie)
Showing off a kit from new 2016 sponsor, Coeur Sports!

 

Pre-race ride with Liz on the Queen K
Me and Mack in FermiLab

 Best End to 2015
Unseasonably warm temperatures and outdoor riding in December.  While home for Christmas, I made Rathbone, Ohio, my new Morris, Illinois, so of course, there was a picture of a bait sign.  Of course.

 

They have bait but not sure if Live

 

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