Finding the Joy

When I first stated doing Ironman, I was newly unemployed with kids who had just started going to school full-time. I had time on my hands and wanted to try something new, something other than running. I didn’t care how I placed or what the time on the clock was. I was just so proud to get out there and conquer my swim fears and hopefully finish with a fast run split.

That lasted for one season.

Then I decided to get more “serious.” I hired a coach, followed a plan, and started the quest to see just how much I could improve. And in just five years, I went from newbie to vet, from novice to Kona, from not knowing much about triathlon to a ten-time Ironman.

Along the way, I’ve realized that triathlon has given me a lot – fitness, friends, confidence, new experiences, to name a few. But I also started to realize it couldn’t give me everything that I was looking for. It couldn’t substitute for voids in other areas of my life the way I thought it might. That’s why sometimes even after having a great day in training or on the race course, I didn’t always feel fulfilled in the way that I wanted. Something that started out fun and new had become just another area in my life where I felt like I didn’t always measure up.

Last year I was pretty sure I was going to stop doing Ironman in 2016. With nothing left to prove to myself and no real desire to put in more work than I had been doing, I felt like I had reached the end of my journey in the sport. But then, as I like to say, the tri gods had other plans.

I embarked on the world’s longest off-season, which has included tons of organizing and purging of junk, a home renovation project, and many days on the slopes with my husband and kids.

I’ve done a bunch of running since December when I thought I might try to run 100 days in a row – I made it 22 until I got sick and skipped two days – but the runs have been mostly slow and short. There have been zero bikes or swims.

I’ve spent some time this off season (yes, I’m still in the off season) wondering what I want from triathlon and what it can realistically give me. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that all I really want this season is to regain my fitness and have some fun. I want it to feel more like it did when I was new and less like a job or something I am doing out of a hard-to-define sense of obligation.

It’s easy to forget when you immerse yourself in our world, but if you step back and think about it, it’s a pretty amazing thing to accomplish, covering 140.6 miles all in one day, oftentimes in less than ideal weather or on challenging terrain. It’s special. I’ve needed some time away to remember that.

So my wish for 2016 is this: I hope to continue the quest to find fulfillment and joy outside of sport. And if I make some progress on that, I hope to allow myself to approach my training and racing with the joy and wonder of someone just discovering it.

If you have recently felt like our sport is not bringing you joy, I challenge you to ask yourself what you are trying to get out of Ironman and if you are asking for more than the sport can deliver. If so, you can do what I’m doing and try to figure out how and why other areas of your life are lacking and hopefully find a way to stay in triathlon that makes you feel good about yourself. That’s what I hope to do.

I am not quite ready to delve back into a training plan just yet, and if I believe what social media says, it feels like I’m the only one. But I hope when I am ready to return to more structured training, I will have an appreciation and renewed drive to face the 2016 season and be my best. Or if not the best, then to have a smile on my face and continue to enjoy this privilege we call Ironman.

Gratuitous ski pics since that’s mostly what I’ve been up to lately

Your Guide to Navigating the 2016 Team Application Process

It’s 2016 team application time! This is the time of year when teams and brands select the athletes they will partner with for 2016. With that in mind, I thought I would prepare a little guide explaining the types of teams that are out there and how to select the right team if you are thinking of going the team/ambassador route in 2016.

Just a few short years ago, it was relatively uncommon for an amateur to be “sponsored” by a brand and this privilege was usually reserved for the few and fast “elite amateurs.” Times have changed.

Before you leap in with an application, it’s worth your time to do a little research into what’s out there and what the membership entails. Does the team have a selective application process or can anyone who pays the fee be part of the team? Is there a fee to join? What’s expected from you – the athlete? What can you expect in return for your agreement to be a human billboard/marketing machine?

Some of the following info was a little hard to come by and, despite being really good at Google, I had to, in some cases, do a fair amount of digging to find the 2016 application. If you are having trouble, check the company’s Facebook and Twitter feeds which may have more current info than their website. If after doing your due diligence you are still unsure about the application process, reach out to the team and ask!

Performance-Oriented Teams

Many teams accept athletes of all abilities and don’t necessarily look for a roster of podium winners, but for a few teams, results matter, and questions about your recent results are right on the application. Examples of these teams include the Timex Multisport Team (not to be confused with the Timex Factory Team), Trisports.com Elite Team, Team Zoot, and, for the guys, Team Every Man Jack (who were everywhere this year).

Timex application open now. The oldest and original tri team. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t figure out if there was a fee or when the application closes.

Zoot this longtime tri apparel company currently sponsors a pro and an age group team. Historically this was a more front-of-the-pack team with a smaller roster, but it was expanded last year to include over 100 athletes around the country. Application for 2016 should open soon, but spots might be limited.

Trisports.com this is a national team of faster athletes who rep the Tuscon-based (and large on-line) store. Application is open until 11/20.

Team Every Man Jack I thought this was open until 10/30, but the app link from Facebook says they are no longer accepting responses. Annual fee of $125 (I think this includes the kit, but I couldn’t tell for sure). Again, this is a guys-only team.

Maverick Multisport this team has a pro division and a small, selective age group team, which is currently open to 12 athletes for 2016. They are looking for strong results and a social media presence. No fee if accepted to the AG team. Application open until 11/15.

Company Ambassadorships

This category of team is near and dear to me because I am currently on Team Coeur, the ambassador team for Coeur Sports. An apparel company ambassadorship might be the best route for you if you really like a certain brand, are active on social media, and want to be part of a national group.

How do you pick a brand to apply for? If a certain style, messaging or attitude speaks to you, that is probably your best bet. You should already own some of the brand’s gear so you can speak authentically about what you like about their stuff, Many of these types of teams have created partnerships with other companies who offer product discounts to team members. For example, Team Coeur is partnered with Argon 18 bikes, Smith Optics, ENVE wheels, ROKA wetsuits, and Osmo hydration.

Some of these applications have already closed (Coeur, Betty DesignsSOAS ), but some – Wattie Ink and Smashfest Queen – are still open or are coming soon. Check your favorite brand’s website and social media for more info on their team. Note that most of these applications ask about your social media activity because they count on members to support the brand and its partners on social media.

Friends With Benefits

I call this next category of team “Friends with Benefits” because these teams likely do not care how many Twitter followers you have or how you placed in your most recent Ironman, but are geared towards putting together a like-minded group of athletes who want the camaraderie of a team and access to brand discounts, but may not want the responsibilities of reping a certain brand.

Team TRS Racing application open now until 11/15 (or sooner?) There is a $250 fee to join, which includes a sweet Coeur kit for female members! Even if you aren’t interested, I think Ben’s Donald Trump spoof on “Making Triathlon Great Again” was pretty funny. I think this was more of a guy’s team in 2015, but the Coeur kit shows they are actively trying to recruit some women.

Timex Factory Team application always open. Their site says this can be a possible stepping stone to the 50-member, performance-oriented Timex Multisport Team. Looks like you get some free stuff, along with access to partner discounts. I thought there was a fee to join this 250+ person team, but I can’t tell from the website or application.

Rev3 racing is back for 2016! They used to have an active and passionate group of ambassadors and will probably put together another great team. There’s no fee for this team, and it includes a kit, free race entries and sponsor discounts. Their app closes tomorrow (10/24).

Big Sexy Racing $240 fee if selected to the team, which includes kit, sponsor goodies, and access to team-only site. This is another big, national team that looks like they have some fun.

You Are Nuts for a Product or Service

Sometimes a single, non-apparel brand has its own ambassador team. If you are always trying to get your friends to try a certain product because you love it so much, this type of ambassadorship might be for you. If you’re not sure if a company sponsors ambassadors, it never hurts to reach out and ask. Examples of these types of teams include TriBike Transport (closed for 2016), Cobb Mobb (Cobb cycling’s tri team), and Hammer Nutrition.

I’ve been a Nuun ambassador since 2012 and they have a well-organized, sizable, multi-discipline ambassador team. There’s no fee to be part of their program and it entitles you to some product discounts and occasional Nuun swag. They have a very active member Facebook group with people from all over the county in all different sports. This is also my sole opportunity to be a teammate of Kara Goucher.

Charitable Teams

A lot of athletes combine their love of sport with fundraising for a charity and joining a charitable team is a great way to accomplish that goal. Eleonore Rocks is a fundraising team created around the mission of donating rocking chairs to hospitals and providing support to families with sick or terminally ill children. Their application for team members is open until 12/25.

The largest and best known of the endurance sports charitable teams is Team in Training, a fundraiser for the leukemia and lymphoma society. Team in Training usually focuses its fundraising around certain events and is a welcoming group for athletes who are newer to endurance sports.

Your Local Tri Shop

Your local tri shop may sponsor a roster of athletes or have a paid ambassador team (or both). Examples of Denver-area shops with teams include TriBella Women’s Multisport and KompetitiveEdge. The advantages of being affiliated with a shop are that it can be a one-stop-shop for all of your tri needs, including – if you’re lucky – bike services! A downside might be that the shop doesn’t carry your preferred brands.

These types of teams may require volunteer hours to support races the shop sponsors, and if that is the case, make sure the requirements are all stated upfront, and you enter the arrangement with your eyes wide open.

Like a company ambassadorship, you shouldn’t be a stranger to the shop when you apply for the team, and the shop will likely expect you to do most of your tri shopping with them, as well as send potential customers their way.

If you weren’t selected to the team of your dreams this time around, start working now to create a relationship with a brand or team for next year. Buy their gear, get to know their members, and start participating in the community, because after all, creating a sense of community is the reason most of us joined these teams to begin with.

Up next, my Dos and Don’ts of Being a Brand Ambassador

No off-season for the weary

Lately, I have been getting a lot of “what are you training for?” when people see me swimbikerunning.

The answer is – next season. I am training to become a better athlete next season. And to achieve my goals, I have decided that there will be no “off season” or extended period of rest.

When pros or top age groupers describe the “secret” to their success in triathlon, a common theme recurs. Consistency. They are not taking a few months off after an event and then re-building their base and starting from scratch. Nope. They’re at it 12 months a year, usually day in and day out.

We used to do this differently. I watched my husband race one Ironman per year, usually in the summer, followed by a winter of taking it easy. Each spring, he would struggle to lose the winter weight and re-develop his base fitness. Then, a couple of years ago, he decided to start training year round, and not coincidentally in my mind, a lot of PRs have been set in the meantime.

Some people claim it is hard for them to keep the focus when their goal event is months away. I don’t feel that way. I always have the clock and my Garmin to tell me how things are going. The numbers never lie, and they are there every day to let me know how I am doing, if I am coming closer to those goals for 2012.

So, for me at least, there will be no true “off season” this year. Here are my off season S/B/R goals:

• get my 100 time into the 1:30s
• find 10 more watts on the bike at MAF HR
• break 1:30 for the half marathon in California in Feb

See you on the roads or at the pool!

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