Thursday, February 11, 2016

What this race taught me: TRIRock Philly – 6/28/15

TRIRock Philadelphia Olympic distance (turned Du) – 6/28/15, 1st amateur, fastest bike split (including pro’s), another p-card qualification

When planning my season, I put TRIRock Philly on my schedule for three reasons. One, my good friend, Blair, lives in Philly and we’d be able to spend the weekend with him. I could just stop there, ‘cause that’s more than enough! Two, this is the best an Olympic distance race fit into my schedule prior to Age Group Nationals. Three, this was another opportunity to qualify for my pro-card, if my first go in Raleigh was a flop.

As race day approached I was SO eager to test my fitness, specifically the swim. Raleigh had been a long swim and was non-wetsuit, so it was hard to compare my swim fitness to the previous year. Alas, the swim was cancelled due to excessive rain –and to my surprise, this evoked a small bit of panic in me. I’m not a strong swimmer, but I’m mentally tough –I’d rather an uncharacteristically tough swim than no swim at all.  I also think, in general, the swim hurts me less than it does most runners turned triathletes. Without the swim, I figured I'd have more competition.

I decided that it didn’t matter, because… well… it didn’t. I turned my focus to what I could control –attacking a technical and wet bike course and digging deep to still run well afterwards.

It’s risky business balancing the swim/bike/run –wanting to push each right to the edge of complete implosion to get the most out of yourself. The cancelation of this swim, for some reason, gave me permission to be a little reckless. I decided to wager more and in the process I experienced a new level of acceptable pain on the bike, only to get off and crush my 10K pr. In short, I learned I can actually ride a bike well.

Overall amateur podium at TRIROCK Philly

But there was a greater lesson that came from an outside source a few days later.
As it turns out, you can have a good-for-you race that includes an all-time 10K pr and still be called out in an online publication for 'fading' on the run. And, despite starting a solid 90 minutes after the elite field, in writing it can look like you let 5 people run away from you rather than the racing-off-the-front-all-by-yourself scenario that actually existed. 
What this race taught me?
Clip from

If it's not clear, the Slowtwich article got in my head a little bit. This was a valuable lesson moving forward as I'm sure I'll continue to come across references to myself that feel a little like salt in a sensitive wound (i.e. I know I have work to do on my swim AND run...and bike for that matter...). Toughen up, kiddo! It REALLY doesn't matter what others think or write in regards to my performances. If I need external sources to make me feel validated or valued, then it's time to refocus and remember why I'm in this sport.
Until the next tale,

Monday, February 1, 2016

What this race taught me: The other lesson from Raleigh 70.3

Raleigh 70.3 – 5/31/15, 1st amateur, PR, pro-card qualification

I've already posted a key lesson from 2015's Raleigh 70.3 race. In an effort to keep that post short, I touched on the primary lesson: I can, by myself, get shit done. Within this race, there was a hidden agenda as well as a hidden lesson. 2015 was the year that I would strategically put myself in position to qualify for my elite license. I worked three qualifying races into my schedule and decided that 2015 would be the only year that I 'chased' a pro card. 

I had a quiet confidence going into this race and I was ready to sit comfortably with whatever unfolded. I am who I am and that is all I can ever be.

My constant self reminder that I am me. Simple as that.

On race morning, I felt joy and excitement as the pro men lined up and were soon sent on their way -the best of the best, pinned against one another in head on competition. WOW. Not long after, the pro women were called to the water and the horn sounded. The race was on.

I was immediately transported to the water. I felt myself jostling for position, looking up and seeing half of the field swim away from me. I had an over whelming feeling that I didn't belong in that wave. I was suddenly terrified. I couldn't do it. If I did manage to qualify for my elite license, I would not take it.

What changed? Because, spoiler alert, I've got that shiny new pro card tucked into my wallet. I began my race some 20 waves after the pros, with every single male on the course in front of me and nearly all of the other women. In 56 miles on the bike, I passed over 1500 athletes. 1500! While I love seeing others take on the challenge of triathlon (and I truly mean that!), my personal race was greatly compromised as I spent much of the time navigating around bikes that I was literally traveling twice as fast as.

What this race taught me?

While I may not truly believe that I belong on the start line with the A-list pros, I know that it is dangerous for me to begin a race behind 1500 people. It has huge negative effects on my race and personal performance. I would also guess that watching some chick wiz past on the bike can leave some feeling a little defeated and maybe even a little anxious. I want to have a positive and safe race experience and I want the same for others. No matter if the pro field swims away from me this year or if it turns out that 2015 was the best that I can be, I will remember that I am who I am and that is all I can ever be.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What this race taught me: Raleigh 70.3 – 5/31/15

"Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn." C.S. Lewis 

Raleigh 70.3 – 5/31/15, 1st amateur, PR, pro-card qualification
If I truly have a unique strength, I’d say it’s the ability to adapt. I signed up for this race in October and planned to carpool with a friend, stay at their friend’s house and have a race day Sherpa. This race promised to be a great early season opener and an opportunity to ‘go for pro’ as it meets the requirements for elite card qualification. Two weeks out from this race, my friend bailed. Their friend was going through a divorce and their house was no longer available, nor was her race day Sherpa-ing. Mired in fatigue from my final build, I had to accept the fact that my race budget was just blown up and figure shit out. I booked an Airbnb that was a long walk from T2/finish area and found a hotel to break up my 10 hour drive along the way.

Pre-race: just me and my thoughts, hopes, dreams, and even a few doubts.
For the first time in my life, I asked a stranger to zip up my swim skin. I walked to the water without anyone to wave to, hug goodbye, and kiss for good luck. In a sea of thousands, I was by myself. I crossed the finish line uncertain of my finish time, place, or splits (watch malfunction). I had no phone. No one handed me my special post-race recovery. I wondered to the food tent and sat on the curb with a Coca-Cola and made a new friend. No entourage, no congratulations… just me and my race. All mine and only mine.
What this race taught me? 

I, by myself, can get shit done. I seriously doubted my ability to race effectively when left to do it all alone -especially when 'alone' meant a solo drive of over 10 hours to the race with numerous more hours in the car going from downtown Raleigh to T1. More so than the speedy-for-me time or pro-card that this race produced, it showed me that I am tough and capable. It showed me that, while racing is enriched by having those I love and care about with me, the ability to race comes from within. I can and I will get shit done.

Bonus lesson?

The lack of external feedback (data and spectator) immediately following the race allowed space for me to ask how I did and produce an answer that was internal and raw. Again, making the race even more so my own. 

Until the next tale,

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What this race taught me: Fly by Night Du – 5/10/15

As I plan for the coming 2016 race season, I can't help but to think about all the lessons 2015 racing taught me. Since I didn't do a single race report last year (or at least post any here), I'm going to post a quick recap and "what this race taught me" for each 2015 race over the next few weeks. Be warned -they'll be short an maybe just a bit raw, but lessons are what they are.

My favorite kit (by Coeur Sports). Raced in this kit all season, but got
things kicked off in the Monaco at FbN -appropriate as it's 'race-car-inspired'!
Fly by Night Du – 5/10/15, 1st female

A formula 1 style duathlon with a 1.6 mile run, 10.2 mile bike, 1.6 mile run, 10.2 mile bike, 1.6 mile run… on a race track… under the night lights… freaking awesome. This race is a favorite of mine, not surprisingly, for the amount of threshold pain it inflicts –it’s a true hammer fest. This was my fourth year racing and my second year winning. The race itself was pretty uneventful; I went out hard, established an early lead and played chicken with complete and utter implosion.

Race track ride-by on my fav long ride route.
What this race taught me?
The competition comes from within. With a win of over 10 minutes, I knew early on that I could have backed off the pace. I could have raced comfortably and coasted across the line. I didn’t toe that start line to win. I was there to see what I was made of –to get uncomfortable and to power through. Mission accomplished.

Until the next tale,

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Day 28 of 365: Build, Build, Build, Recover, Repeat

There was a time when I would skip recovery weeks. Everything I did was as fast as I could do it and there was little difference between my easy pace and my fast pace. Understandably, I needed a day off every week and I was beyond tired for weeks on end. At the end of a season, I was ready to file for “separation” from my sport.

“It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s just that I need a little space from you.”
December 2013 – just over a year ago – I began working with Mary Eggers. I still remember my heart sinking when I first looked at the first 4 weeks of my training. There wasn’t a single day off until Christmas Eve. I immediately began complaining – internally, of course. I can’t go 23 days without a recovery day! I’ll fall apart!
Then… I learned what it meant to build. For the first time in 4 years of training, I did a proper build. Everything felt SO SLOW. The complaints were standard.

“I can’t go that slow, it hurts too much.”
“This pace is embarrassing!”
“I’ll never get faster with these HR zones!”
“Shouldn’t I be working harder?”
It turns out that building is not working as hard as you can until you crash and are forced to take time off. Rather, building is a process of gathering fatigue slowly over a few weeks with a majority of your sessions falling in the aerobic category and a few select session truly challenging you.
Today... it's been 40 days since I've had a day completely off and that's day was only because I was sick. I've built up durability. I've developed a much greater speed range in swimming, biking and running. I am both slower AND faster. I also no longer have thoughts of filing for separation. I'm happily married to my sport.

I’m in the third week of a build right now and the sum of my training is weighing me down with fatigue. There wasn’t a single set in the last 2.5 weeks that wrecked me or left me truly broken down, but when you add them all up, even easy feels hard now.
It’s always in this third build week that my mind begins getting the greater of the workouts. My motivation is low. My desire to sleep is high. The joy that typically flows during my workouts is dammed up. This third week is when my goals and dreams compel me forward. Without complete dedication to my goals, I would quit early. I would give in to fatigue.
Learning what it means and feels like to build and to build well has given me new appreciation for recovery. I welcome a recovery week. This step back week, which is a reduction in work load by as much as 40%, allows my body to rebound from all of the acquired fatigue and like flubber, I rebound to even higher levels. Races, after all, come at the end of a recovery week. 
I guess this goes back to day 23 and my thoughts on ordinary vs extraordinary. Commit to the ordinary days. Let them build on each other and, in turn, tear you down. Respect you’re recovery and keep your eyes looking ahead. It’s the sum of the ordinary that results in the extraordinary.

Until the next tale,

Friday, January 23, 2015

Day 23 of 365: Find Extraordinary

I’ve been thinking about the ordinary and the extraordinary lately. I’m a believer that race day is reserved for extraordinary performances. If training has been appropriate and recovery given respect, then race day is where we do something that was previously impossible. On race day we find new possibilities- we find new selves.

There is a universal “extraordinary”. These people and performances are world record holders, Olympians, and champions of the highest level.

There is also a personal “extraordinary” where we better our own personal records, where we champion our own minds, where we unlock new levels of possibilities.

Extraordinary performances are made up of ordinary days filled with relentless self-belief.

Believe in yourself relentlessly.

Be persistent and consistent on the ordinary days.

When the day comes, forget about what you thought possible and accept the possibility of extraordinary.

When it comes to blogging, I often feel the pressure to write about the extraordinary. I’ve decided that this year I will do: Day XXX of 365 posts. They will be of the ordinary days that are filled with relentless belief. One page in my chapter, one chapter in my life.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sprint to a championship - Sprint Age Group Nationals

At last, my long overdue race report for the Age Group Nationals Sprint distance. You can check out my favorite moment from nationals here and my Olympic distance race report here.

Age group nationals, sprint distance, Milwaukee WI.

The format for short course nationals is the Olympic distance race on Saturday (entry by qualification only) and the Sprint distance race on Sunday (open to any USAT member). Over the course of the season I had monster training days followed directly by races, so I was very confident in my ability to recovery well and perform on back to back days. In fact, I find for sprint distance races, I prefer to come in under heavy load – everything just seems numb and the body is too tired to complain, so the brain gets to lead the charge!
The greatest difference between Saturday and Sunday, was that I got to watch the first few waves start, transition, transition again and FINISH all before I even had to warm up! In fact, I was able to use my warm up to cheer my friend and travel companion, Andy Pierce, to an excellent (and TeamUSA qualifying) performance!
I did my typical warm-up of 10-15 minutes of light jogging, a few accelerations, some dynamic drills and nervous consumption of water. Thankfully there was once again an opportunity for a quick swim warm up and I did a few lung busters to open my lung capacity  up a bit.
The Swim!
Unlike the Saturday race, the swim started on time which I’m sure everyone was thankful for. With the sound of the gun, I took off, swimming nearly as hard as I could. I found myself just off the back of the second pack and threw in a big surge around 350 meters to catch up to them. From there, I just hung on! When the arms started burning, I really focused on pushing the water all of the way out the back of my stroke, finishing as close to my knees as I could. I just pulled and pulled and pulled and came out of the water with a HUGE swim. Up the ramp and through the shoot where my trusty race Sherpa, Tim, told me I was in 12th. I was slightly confused, but mostly excited- there was a lot of race left and only 11 women to chase down.

The Bike!
I had a mechanical coming out of T1- in my eagerness to get through transition my chain had popped off. I crossed the mount line, flipped it back on and jumped on my bike – 10 seconds lost, max. From there I just rode hard. I knew the course and was really looking forward to the slight climbs throughout as I’d had success on them the day before. My glutes were pretty tight early on and I spent a fair amount of time arguing with myself over whether or not I should shift. I was spinning a little too much, 95+ rpm, but the thought of finding a bigger gear made my legs scream and when I did shift, I couldn’t power above 80 rpm… so I spun things out for the first 3 miles or so. Once we hit the first turn around and started a slight decent, I was ready to drop the cadence and increase the power. From that point on, it was hammer down. I encountered a steady stream of competitors to pass, no one passed me and no one that I passed tried to come with me. I felt strong and I knew that I was doing well.  

The Run!
I came into transition and Tim shouted that I was in 2nd, just 43 seconds back from first. By the half mile mark, I was informed that I was down 30 seconds and "she's hurting". I hit the first mile marker in 6:25 just as I made my pass for first. 50 meters later, there was a hairpin turn… I’d already gapped her and there was no one else within 4 minutes of us. I ran by Tim at around 1.5 miles and he looked confused… almost surprised to see me so soon and wasn’t sure what position I was in. I subtlety gave him a number one hand gesture and a smile. Luckily at this point the course was stung out with runners and I just worked on picking them off, one after another. I also had it in my mind coming into this weekend that I could break 20 minutes in the 5K if I was willing to dig deep enough- that goal helped me keep the hammer down. Before I knew it mile 2 clicked by in 6:22. I was hurting, I wanted back off, but I knew that it was just another 5 minutes and then I could kick it in. Just before mile 3 clicked by ( in a 6:18), I opened it up… I went for broke.
It felt superb to cross that line… “Ericka Hachmeister is your 30-34 National Champion!” I couldn’t believe it! To say I had a smile on my face would be an understatement. I was delighted.
The most amazing and inspiring thing for me: There is more to be had. I’m excited to work hard and hurt well. I feel eager to continue to find belief in myself and break barriers of self-doubt. I am thankful for this journey of self-discovery and I am thankful that it has only just begun.

Until the next tale,