Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oiselle Love: FLY!

When I first applied to be on the Oiselle team, I saw it as an opportunity to get to know a local brand of running clothes, get some free gear, and do what I could to promote women’s running through some store promotions, social media, and simply talking about their product to other runners. My blog twin Alyssa sent me some information and put me in touch with the team manager. I completed the thorough application and questionnaire and was quickly notified that I had been accepted as part of the team.

For a bit of background, Oiselle (pronounced wa-zell) is a brand of running clothes started by the ever talented, Sally Bergesen, who wanted to find the perfect pair of running shorts. It’s “A French word for bird, it alludes to that feeling of weightlessness that most runners know and love. That sense of flight – when the legs go fast and the heart goes free.” In Sally’s quest, she’s crafted beautiful (not your typical adjective for sweaty running clothes) apparel. But more importantly, she’s built a company, a running team, and the “Oiselle family” that travels in flocks to starting lines, workouts, and most recently the Olympic trials in Eugene.

Being part of the Oiselle team, has given me a new sense of pride as a female runner. Sally and her team have a way of making every “bird” feel special, as though we’re all on the same running plane…or rather, invited to the same track. When the Olympic trials were in Eugene last month, Oiselle hosted a contest called “totally trials” to invite a duo of non-sponsored runners the chance to spend three days at the Trials meeting some of the Oiselle athletes competing and watching American running history unfold. Through the Trials coverage, seeing the pictures from the Oiselle team, and reading the interviews on Flotrack, my heart went out to many of the athletes. From the courage by LaurenFleshman, to the heartbreak of Julie Lucas, and the resilience and total domination by Amy Hastings, I could feel the emotions. I realize I’ll never be this caliber of an athlete on the track. Even the McMillan calculator tells me my 5k time would be minutes off the qualifying standard (and the chances of me signing up for a track meet are slim to none). But I’ve also had my ups and downs in sport, we all have, and this will never change.

Through my connection at Oiselle, I feel like it’s a team and a brand that would support me no matter what. Even after my first DNF earlier this year, I received several sweet messages from teammates and our team manager, Kristin Metcalf. I know I am very fortunate to be one of their “birds,” because it’s a network of strong women with a passion for running. Oiselle crafts ideas by using words like: empower, beautiful, transform, compete. And browsing through the team blog, I liked the way Kristin described Oiselle: “A company founded on the idea that running makes us stronger women and makes us better people because it challenges us and inspires us to push harder and to continue to learn about ourselves.”

In college at Gonzaga, I studied Accounting with a concentration in Entrepreneurial Leadership. The concentration was more of an afterthought after receiving a small scholarship to take part in one of their new academic programs. But throughout my courses, I gained a new respect for people starting their own businesses and learned that secrets to success, like running, include hard work, enthusiasm, perseverance, and some level of crazy (mile repeats in the dark early morning rain, anyone? anyone?). Oiselle was started in 2007 and has beaten the odds of success faced by many small businesses through the passion, care, and dedication from Sally and her team. I see this same sense of pride in athletic brands like SOAS and Betty Designs, who have beautifully designed triathlon kits created by women athletes.

When I wrote this blog post in my head – on a run, might I add – it wasn’t meant to push Oiselle products on any of my readers, though their clothing is great, functional, and stylish. I really just wanted to spread the word about a company who is doing great things by empowering women runners across the globe to stand by the company’s motto: go fast and take chances. I feel like all women runners (and triathletes) have this universal connection. We all know the foot pounding, heart racing, tear welling feeling of (literally) chasing down a dream to reach a goal. Whether it’s pursuing your dreams, starting a business, or running a race, get out there, spread your wings, and fly, ladies, fly!

Pictures from @oiselle website, @oiselle_sally, and Oiselle blog
Bottom center is Kate Grace @katefullofgrace in the 800
Follow the team of flyers at @oiselle_team

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lake Stevens 70.3 Race Report 2006-2011

Another race report from the vault: I wanted to share anyway to give you a glimpse of my triathlon progression over the years. I wrote the section below after Lake Stevens 70.3 in 2011. I've done this race every year since 2006. I will not be racing this year, but will be out there cheering for all the athletes the entire day.

where it all began...

For anyone racing this year, here’s my brief race preview:
Swim – The lake temperature is comfortable for sleeveless and full sleeved wetsuits and it’s a basic rectangle, so there’s no reason to swim off course. There’s also a cord that attaches the buoys and basically gives you a lane line, if you don’t mind swimming close to the other athletes. It bunches up a bit, with all the waves, but overall it’s a pretty pleasant swim. It’s a small lake and the water is typically very calm.
Bike – The bike course is new this year. I had a chance to preview it and it includes some parts of the old course. It’s technical with some sharp turns followed by steep uphills. If you have a chance to drive the course before race day, it would be worth your time. The new course definitely isn’t fast, but it might be just a touch faster than previous years.
Run – The run is very friendly for spectators and gives you a chance to keep an eye on your competition. It’s basically a ~3 mile loop and then a ~3.5 out and back that you do twice before you head to the finish. The loop has some rollers and the out section has a good uphill that you get to go down on the back portion. The run definitely can get hot, but there’s adequate support and usually some garden hoses out to cool you down. You’ll see the finish line from across the lake, which can be annoying or awesome, depending on how you feel.
Compared to some other WTC events, Lake Stevens doesn’t provide a lot of frills. But it’s a good course, good competition, and you shouldn’t be signing up for races for the frills anyway. I hope you enjoy my race report from last year. Or if you’re “tuning in” to this blog because you are racing LS70.3 and have race brain and can't concentrate at work and came across my blog through an internet search for “Lake Stevens Race Reports,” well then, have a great race on Sunday!

2011 Race Report:
There's something about Lake Stevens 70.3 that always makes me a little nostalgic. 2006 was the inaugural year for the Ironman branded 70.3 event and also where I got my first taste of long-distance triathlon. Going into the race in 2006, I was completely na├»ve. I had done several marathons and seen Ironman coverage on TV, but I didn't know what it took to qualify for Kona or anyone who had been there. I had no clue of names like Dave Scott, Chris McCormack, Paula Newby-Fraser, or Chrissie Wellington, who had yet to make her Ironman debut. And I definitely didn't have any first-hand experience with trying to get to a World Championship race or place in my age group. The race was going to be about survival and finishing, rather than any specific time or place. I remember being on a date, drinking beers (some things don't change), and telling the guy, "it's over 70 miles," as the distance was still so daunting. The relationship didn't work out (again, some things don’t change...mild attempt at self-deprecating humor), but my love for training and racing is still going strong.

I did my first couple triathlons in 2005 - 2 sprints. And then got the itch to move up to the longer stuff, mostly inspired by my friends Andy Bechtel and Malia Greening who were also racing. Malia had already done a half Iron and Andy was giving the distance his first shot. I also had some inspiration from my new friend Julie Glade. Julie and I were both working at the same public accounting firm and were connected through friends of her twin sister. We still reminisce about the time we met up at Starbucks across from the KPMG office to talk about training and signing up for this endurance test. She still teases me about the research I had done and "training plan" I had printed out after finding online.

Fast forward to 2011 and my life, mentality, and training plans have all changed. This year I went into Lake Stevens with confidence in my fitness after winning my age group at Ironman Coeur d’Alene and grabbing a Kona slot for the second year in a row. This was meant to be a “B race,” but as most competitors know, it’s hard to hold back when there’s a finish line ahead.

Swim: 2006 - 41:51; 2011 - 35:53 - Despite lots of swimming over the past couple years compared to 2006, this is still an area that needs some attention. This is why I'll be back in the water early tomorrow morning, and the next day, and the next day. My coach wants me swimming 4-5 times a week if I want to get faster for 2012. Today's swim was slower than I had hoped, despite feeling pretty good in the water.

T1: 2006 - 2:15; 2011 - 1:43.

Bike: 2006 - 3:19:20 16.86mph; 2011 - 2:50:53 19.66mph and almost a mile slower than my Ironman pace in Coeur d'Alene.  As a side bar, in 2006 I rode in running shorts over padded swimsuit bottoms; it was a stealth look! I clearly did not have a coach back then, as she would have instantly put the kibosh on that one. I don't remember how I felt on the bike in 2006, but I'm guessing it wasn't as sluggish as I felt this morning. For some reason, I just didn't have the "get up and go" that I normally do on the bike. I started feeling like myself at about mile 47...not what you want in a 56 mile race.

T2: 2006 - 1:09; 2011 - 1:21. I guess I could learn something from my 24-year-old self.

Run: 2006 - 1:49:40 8:22/mile; 2011 - 1:36:28. 7:21/mile. I had 24 marathons under my belt the summer of 2006, so the run was the least of my worries back then. Now, it's part of the race I know is going to hurt. I figured I had some ground to make up on the run after my less than stellar bike and swim, so I took off fast hoping to run faster than the 1:33 I ran at Oceanside. It wasn't a great run, but I stayed strong and chased down one girl in my age group around mile 5 and held her back for the rest of the run.

2006 Run - in the 90s that day 

Andy, Malia, me, Julie - the only 3 other triathletes I knew back in the day
Finish: 2006 - 5:54:15; 2011 – 5:06:22. In 2006 I finished 2nd in my age group and got a roll down spot to the 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, FL. I really had no idea what Clearwater was, but Malia was going and I wanted to tackle that distance again soon. I will not be competing in the 70.3 World Championships this year. I turned down spots in Oceanside and now, Lake Stevens. It’s too close to Kona for me and I’d benefit more from a long week of training versus tapering and racing a half Iron. Besides, I have big plans for 2012 which will involve plenty of travel. I was hoping to finish in 4:54 today to mark an hour improvement from my first half Iron 5 years ago. But today was just not my day. I'm pleased with a 2nd place finish in my age group and I think it's funny that it's the same age group placing I had when I first did this race. The competition is getting tougher, however; my 24-year-old time would have placed me 4th this year.  Today was still a good day and now I'm excited to get serious about Kona training to be ready for October.

It's fun to look back and see how far I've come and how many things have changed in life. It sounds a bit dramatic, but when I think of how important triathlon is right now, Lake Stevens 2006 was pretty much a life changing day. Yes, every race holds a special memory and place in my heart, but I feel like this was definitely a turning point. At the time I didn’t realize how the sport would lead to so many memories and opportunities. Over the past several years, I’ve been challenged both physically and mentally with some really great results. I’ve traveled around the country and competed on the world’s stage. Some of my best friends and biggest role models were found in training. But I haven’t forgotten where I’ve come from and the people who helped me get here. My parents still call to wish me good luck the night before and then want to hear the race report after, my non-triathlon friends are still as supportive as ever (in person and from across the country), and I still look for a hug from the first volunteer I see at the finish line (a race tradition I picked up at XC ski races in high school).

Even without racing, it would have been a fun day. In 2006 I knew 3 other athletes. Now, it’s hard to walk 20 feet in transition without seeing a teammate or friend also competing. And then out on the course, there’s an even bigger support crew. Thank you to everyone who made today a great day to swim, bike, run, smile, laugh, and love! I’m confident the next 5 years will bring even more memories, opportunities, and improvements.

Congratulations to all finishers and best of luck with what the next 5 years will bring for you.