Its put on by my buddy at Boston Common Coffee Co. The event is on September 20th and 21st and has some serious climbing! My fave! Its a timed event and they have KOM and QOM jerseys. I want one.
Check it out here: Pain in the Mass Tour
Warning: This is a totally gross post! People always ask why I don’t eat wheat. This picture is why. I ate wheat (a small amount) while working last weekend and this is my body’s reaction. This is the skin flaking off of my scalp and hair coming with it. It also bleeds but isn’t that bad this time. If this is a reaction I notice (inflammation), I imagine my body reacts negatively in other ways as well (silent inflammation). I treat this with a special shampoo and get back to avoiding wheat in my diet.
When I used to eat normal amounts of wheat products I had this constantly, all over my scalp and onto my forehead and my hair became very thin. I also had chronic migraines. I haven’t had a migraine in 6 years now that I’ve stopped eating wheat and this nasty scalp issue comes up very infrequently as a way for my body to tell me that I got “wheated”. And I don’t have celiac disease!
So there you have it! You’re welcome.
Have I ever told you I love this race? I’m IN LOVE with it, for real. I love the beautiful views, the technical terrain, the people who organize it and the brave athletes who race it. Mainly I love the fact that you really need to be at least a little crazy to line up at the start. And with some luck, and massive guts, you’ll even get to the finish.
In the days leading up to the race I began to ponder the potential surprise obstacles that could be thrown at us on race day. The last couple of years Mother Nature got in on the fun of making us suffer with the “Rain Year” and the “Hot Year”. But the weather was looking like it might be perfect so there had to be something else. “Am Zof is never kind” is what I repeated over and over to myself while I went through my pre-race ritual. I looked forward to the wild card I knew would come. I like a challenge with a heaping side of extra challenges.
On race morning I was nervous. I was lining up as 2x champ, which was a new flavor of pressure I had never tasted before and I had grown rather fond of being known as the Queen of Am Zof. I looked to John for advice and encouragement. He grabbed a sharpie and wrote on my forearm “RACE LIKE A CHAMP”. I felt ready. My training for this race was near perfect, minus a week of being sick with the flu. I had been sleeping amazingly well for months thanks to the new sleep supplement I discovered, FemMed Sleep. Sleep is one of the best things you can do well as an athlete and I’m stoked to finally have it down. And I knew I had the advantage of having escaped winter to train for this race in Spain at Strong Like Bull while most others hadn’t had many outdoor rides since last season. BRING IT.
The start was announced and I hopped in the front with the fast guys. I kept them in sight for the first mile and it felt effortless. We got to the first turn and the usual left turn was blocked off so we took a right and everyone who had done the race before began to chatter about how the RD didn’t mention the course change, which was a surprise. Perhaps it was a last minute decision. I just hoped the new loop would be as hard. I was sure the trail marker hadn’t been changed because it was very convincingly blocked and roped off. It was definitely not a sign turned the wrong way. We continued to run and I talked the ears off of the people around me. I was excited. I was in my element and I was running really well while putting a gap in between myself and the other ladies. After running for 1.5 miles, the guys who had gone ahead were suddenly running towards us and telling us to turn around. NO. THIS CAN’T BE REALLY HAPPENING. “Am Zof is never kind”. As we ran back in the other direction, the people behind us were told to turn, not having run as far as us. Soon we saw the women behind me. “There goes my gap” I thought as they jumped in our growing pack of runners. I had run over three extra miles when we got back to mile 1 when someone suggested we just run back to the start and have a do over. I liked that idea but as a group we decided to just continue along. I stepped on the gas, determined to get my lead back because running is a strength for me. In retrospect, this may have been a mistake but it was a tactical move that I made and when racing “like a champ” you gotta take risks. I got out of t1 with only a two minute lead. John was there and I babbled at him about what happened, though he had already heard. He told me to stop talking and get it out of my head. Good thinking. Easier said than done.
My goal for the bike was to keep my heart rate between 150-155. The ride starts with dirt to get out to the road which is crazy fun. Then you start the ride halfway into the toughest climb so it feels like you’re getting a bit of a break. I felt great and stayed with my plan. After about 45 minutes I sensed a woman approaching. At the beautiful switchback I got passed. She was flying. I focused on riding hard enough to keep her in sight in hopes that she was inexperienced with this race and blowing herself up. I definitely picked up my pace substantially and began to ignore my heart rate goal. At the end of my first loop I got a split from John. I was only 3 minutes behind. I could still catch her on the run. At this point I had confirmation from her teammate that she was the woman who took second last year. I knew she was a monster cyclist but that I was the stronger runner. With this knowledge, I decided to get back to my heart rate goal and save myself to destroy the run. I was ready for some exciting racing in the trails. At the end of my second lap I got my next split… 13 minutes back now. At this point I was feeling pretty cooked from the additional running miles on the first run and then drilling the first lap of the bike. I picked the pace back up for my third lap but I was fading and hoping that my run legs wouldn’t be too badly effected. At about mile 12 of the last lap I got passed by another girl. At this point I started to get really negative and angry about the extra running in the beginning of the race. I never let negativity into my head when I race and this time it got the best of me. I rode another 5 miles or so making a stink in my head. Then I caught myself there and I decided to cut it out. I raced the last of that loop hard and started the second run 18 minutes and 8 minutes back from the other ladies.
The chances of me catching them now were very slim but anything can happen on that run. The run is where the wheels really fall off in this race. I ran without walking the enormous hills but I was suffering. When I got my split I hadn’t put in any time. After the second loop it was the same but I heard that second was catching first. At this point I knew I wasn’t catching either of them. I allowed myself to hike the hills on the last lap and I focused on how much I love the course.
I finished in third after some tough racing. I did “Race like a champ”. I’m proud of the risks that I took and I’m grateful to race at the front of the toughest duathlon in the world against such talented women. The woman who won is such a badass cyclist and she likely would have beat me even without the extra running in the first lap. Congrats on your win, Queen of Am Zof!
And now, onward to Long Course Worlds in September on the original Zofingen course! (After a serious mid season break – maybe MMA or roller derby for a couple of months?).
“Welcome to, something like elation when you first open your eyes, just cuz it means, you must have finally got to sleep last night” – Ani Difranco
So you guys may not know this about me but I have been struggling with insomnia for about 6 years now. It had gotten to the point where I would get jealous of people who complained of being sleepy. I’d get angry at John for being asleep next to me as I laid awake for 2+ hours every night. I consider myself to be one of the lightest sleepers on the planet. The slightest noise, movement or light will wake me up. Over the last 6 years I have tried everything and have done countless hours of research. I started with natural supplements, changing my sleep environment, removing ALL caffeine, sleep apps, etc. I’m ashamed to say that I got SO desperate that I tried prescription sleep aids from my doctor. Even those didn’t help and the side effects freaked me out. Ambien came with warnings that I might hallucinate and drive, cook, or have sex in my sleep. Before going to bed for the couple of weeks that I tried that med, I said goodnight to John with an apology for anything I might do to him while unconscious. Nothing exciting happened because the drugs didn’t help me sleep. Eventually I found that one glass of red wine right before bed helped me to fall asleep but not sleep deeply. Falling asleep was at least something, so I went with that one for a long time. A glass of red wine every day is fine for a lot of people but I wasn’t comfortable with NEEDING wine to sleep, so I continued my search.
One day I was killing time in Duane Reade and I saw a bottle of femMED Sleep on the clearance rack. I have no idea why it was 50% off but I liked the list of ingredients. I had become familiar with skullcap (to relax your brain), melatonin (to help fall asleep), 5-htp (for sleep and mood) -but I hadn’t found anything that combined them all. There were also a few ingredients listed that I hadn’t tried (magnolia bark, lemon balm, passion flower, amur bark, L-theanine). I decided to give it a try. Lo and behold – I slept on the first night and every night after! I fell asleep within 15 minutes, slept through the night, and woke up singing Hallelujah! If you have ever struggled with sleep you know what I’m talking about. It is a feeling of elation to wake up knowing you finally slept. That was 3 months ago and now I sleep EVERY NIGHT. I even ran out of the supplement because I couldn’t find it in the store again and I slept anyway, even without taking it. This leads me to think there is a bit of an adaptogenic effect on me. This year at SLB was the first of 4 years that I actually slept. I have had awful insomnia there in the past which has lead to unbearable anxiety. Now that I was able to sleep, my training increased from 15-18 hours per week to 21-26 per week. My day was packed and I felt AWESOME. I would wake up, food shop, put out lunches, train for 4-7 hours, then cook dinner for 10-14 people – like I was a superhero. I did my fastest climb for my first QOM of SLB and beat some very talented athletes up that mountain. And when it was all said and done I felt like I wanted more. I even came back to NYC craving a race. I honestly credit this improved performance 100% to sleep. Even before SLB I was reaping the benefits of my renewed sleep habits during my 90-mile run weeks to train for Rock N Roll New Orleans Marathon. Plus, I had that January Watchung Marathon overall win. I think I’m headed into a breakthrough season and I have a couple of big surprises up my sleeve in terms of events and qualifications *hint* *hint*.
So, I emailed femMED with a testimonial and a thank you. I also wanted to inquire about where to purchase their product but instead they agreed to a sponsorship deal because they were inspired by my story! I’m wildly excited about this. The company is founded and directed by women and the products are geared towards women’s health. None of the products are tested on animals. Check out their story. Their blog is also awesome.
A word about my position on supplements: I am constantly approached by supplement companies offering me product sponsorship and I’ve never even accepted samples from any of them. I don’t just accept sponsorship deals willy-nilly, you all know that. I believe in trying to take care of my body through diet and lifestyle FIRST. I don’t put my name behind products that I don’t LOVE. That said, there are certain health issues that require more than just diet and lifestyle changes. Hormonal imbalances, chronic insomnia, nutritional deficiencies… these are all issues that female endurance athletes are known to struggle with. I take supplements for these specific issues when my training load increases throughout the season. I use them a bit less during the off-season. I found femMED through my own exploration and I know that their products work for me. I will be trying the Hormonal Balance (I’ve had nasty PMS crankiness for the last few months, so much so that John had to wait to propose to me. HA!). I’ll also try using the Energy supplement only as needed if I have a blah day. And I’m going to replace my multi with the femMED Multi + Antioxidants.
And here’s more good news. My peeps get a 10% discount. Go to www.femmed.com and use code “holistic”.
What a freaking awesome trip! Last week I trained 26 hours! I cooked for up to 14 people nearly every night. I made new friends and got to hang with old friends. SLB has come to an end and I already can’t wait for next year. I’m ready to be back home, take some recovery, start my new internship placement, and focus on my final push for Am Zof! I also have some other exciting news… I’ve been named an All-American Duathlete through USAT! And Jasmine was too. Woot! We had a blast being giddy about the news together. We are both hoping for spots on Team USA for Duathlon World Championships in Zofingen, Switzerland. Fingers crossed!
Camp 2 begins! This is the easiest SLB we’ve had yet in terms of logistics. The transfer days went of without a hitch. I trained a bit less last week (just under 20 hours) but it would be insane to try to keep up and balance the responsibilities of SLB without taking a bit more recovery. Honestly, I think that a large part of the reason that this year has been the easiest for me is that this is the first year I’ve been able to sleep! I found these new magical sleep supplements that are the perfect balance for what I need to fall asleep and stay asleep. They are called FemSleep. The problem is that they’re hard to find in stores near me. I’m going to have to do some research when I get back to refill my stash.
Can you even believe it?!?! How awesome. What a perfect moment. It was better than I ever dreamed, just like everything is since I met John. It was especially awesome to have so many friends to celebrate with after the ride. Everyone killed the Pico ride. Especially Tammy who even did the 10k bonus climb at the bottom. She’s so fit this year!
Today we rode Guadalhorce and it was incredible. Brett even jumped in the water! Then I beat all the boys up a long, steep climb. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day. Actually I can. Eugene is the real champion of the day. He rocked this entire ride and he just learned to clip in a few days ago!
I am so excited to be in Antequera! We have a lot to do to get ready. I’ll get comfy using my new kitchen and making sure we have everything we need. There will also be a massive food shop, which is actually a lot of fun because I love checking out grocery stores in other countries. Another important task for this week is a bit of ride recon. We’ve moved a bit further away from some of our rides and closer to others. For the rides that are farther away, we will need to find new rides to replace them with. We’re already hitting the jackpot.