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Triathlon

Life Stuff with Laura Callen

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If you are fortunate enough to know Laura Lynn Callen, then you understand how deeply her smile penetrates your heart. Laura lives joyfully and selflessly. Ventura locals may recognize her as one of the energizing red carpet emcees at Mission Church’s annual “Night to Remember” prom for special needs guests. She also sings like a sparrow and composes ad lib melodies which she calls “Laura Lynn Callen Originals”.

In addition to her musical talents, Laura is an accomplished endurance athlete. When I first met Laura, she mentioned to me that (at the time) she had finished “one triathlon”. I pried a bit and found that this “one triathlon”, Laura’s first triathlon, had been at Ironman Louisville in 2013. Having competed in triathlon for over 10 years myself, and never having finished a race longer than 70.3 miles, I was astonished that a “beginner” would sign up for–and complete–140.6 miles in one go. Just last year, in October 2017, Laura finished her second ever triathlon–yes, it was another Ironman event. Laura recently took the time to share with me what endurance sport means to her: a therapeutic outlet when “life stuff” happens.

“When I was at the University of Kentucky, I worked with a man who became my good friend. He supported me as I moved from Kentucky to Ventura (to work for Mission Church) and our friendship continued to grow. After the move, I felt even more connected as friends. But then I learned that he had some unhealthy behaviors and was making unwise choices. It hurt me that he was making these choices, and I realized that if I kept being his friend it would impact me and I would end up being hurt even more. So I had to make one of the hardest decisions in my life: I had to cut him out. One night I Facetimed him and told him that although I cared so much for him but had to step away. He completely understood, which made it even more difficult for me to let go. So I ended that friendship and I was so, so sad. My heart was hurting. 

The next day, I was feeling very out of sorts– emotionally drained. I didn’t know what to do. I thought ‘you know what? I am gonna go on a long bike ride.’ I had no plans on where to go. I didn’t even bring food. I had a water bottle and my phone.

On the bike, I was pedaling and processing and talking to God and crying. I ended up biking for over 60 miles. I wasn’t even training before that. It was just a spontaneous ride. I let out all the burdens, all the hurt, and all the frustration. I felt like I was just pedaling it all out. At the end of the ride I felt so relieved. I felt lighter. I was a little tired, but I was so grateful to be able to process and release stress by moving my body. I was thankful that I had a bike, a place to ride, and a body with the ability to do so.

Training has been a huge outlet for me. Whenever I’m working out –running, swimming, biking–I find this is a space where I get to really unpack anything that I have pushed down deep and thought ‘I’ll get to that later’. The things I’ve been holding in, I can let them out. I feel like when I workout I am overall becoming more complete as a human–spiritually, physically, emotionally.”

Austin 70.3 and Curiosity

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You know how sometimes someone says something that you have always known without knowing it? They put into words what you have felt to be true but never really expressed. This has happened to me twice in the past month or so; both times regarding the topic of curiosity. Two athletes that I admire, both runners, mentioned something very nonchalantly about their motivation to compete. Both spoke with simple terms that conveyed a message my heart had always known. Both spoke of a deep curiosity–a deep yearning to know what might happen if ____. What might happen if I give my best? What might happen if I dare to lay it all on the line? What is possible for me? I am recognizing that at the root of my sporting endeavors is this same curiosity. I am curious about where my God-given limits are. I wonder what potential lies within me. I think that inquisitiveness can spur me on in all areas of my life. Some areas are just better at provoking my curiosity–and those areas are the ones that I will pursue with the most passion. Maybe I need a spark of curiosity regarding bathroom cleaning techniques…

In other news, I finished my last triathlon of the 2017 season at Austin, TX. Brice and I stayed with some good friends (Thanks, Lauren, Vincent, & Mona pup!). We had a nice sampling of Texas food (tacos, coffee, baked goods, Italian, and Tex Mex). We checked out Lance Armstrong’s bike shop/cafe, and swam in the Barton Springs pool. We even got to see our Aussie/Kiwi friends, Emma & Sean, who are currently living in Houston.

Here’s my recap of race day:

I woke up race morning and felt that with each piece of race preparation–the brushing of teeth, the eating of breakfast, the drinking of coffee, the putting on of socks– I was getting ready for battle. That feeling can be scary and intense. It can make you feel so alone. But then I remembered that I don’t have to feel that way because the Lord is with me in every moment. I don’t have to do any of it alone. He is with me (Psalm 118:6). He is for me (Romans 8:31). He is my helper, so I will not be afraid (Hebrews 13:6). Remembering these truths gave me so much relief. I can’t do it, but He can. All my confidence is in Him (Jeremiah 17:7).

Austin was uncharacteristically cold for the day- just under 40 degrees at the start. But, the water was warm (and just barely wetsuit legal), so the swim felt comfortable. I was able to get out quick and then settled into my own pace for the 1.9km. It was my fastest 70.3 swim split to date–win! The transition was fine. I still felt pretty warm and decided not to put on any extra clothing for the 56 mile ride, assuming I’d warm up and be fine. I was wrong.

I now know that low 40s is too cold to ride my bike for almost three hours in nothing but a wet bathing suit. I could not feel my legs or hands. When I picked up my snacks/bottles I did so very slowly and carefully because I couldn’t feel whether or not I was actually gripping them. My power meter worked for about 5 minutes of the race. I am not sure what went wrong–it was fine the day before the race, and it’s fine now. Hmm…so this combination of not feeling my legs, getting limited food/drink in my mouth, and having no power meter made for an interesting bike. Also, my chain fell off halfway up a hill so I put it back on and then walked my bike to the top. I remember thinking to myself that these moments when things aren’t going “our way” are so important; We can choose to give up, get negative about it, or we can trust that God is in control. We can give our best to Him and trust that He knows what we need. Even though I felt like my race was going downhill, I could have a little laugh about the situation and then do my best to move my legs and warm my body up. Once things thawed out, I felt strong again and was surprised to have a bike split not too far off my fastest 70.3 bike split–Hooray!

T2 was smooth and I was finally feeling warmed up. By the time I hit the run course I could even feel my feet! At the start of the run I was happy to see that my legs were moving faster than they felt, as had been the case at both of my previous 70.3 races this season. It wasn’t as hard as usual to settle down into my goal race pace (usually I start too fast and have to control myself for the first few miles). After about 3 miles, I knew I was drifting off of my pace and felt that I was slowing (it was hard to tell with the rolling hills on the course), so I ignored my watch and tried to go by feel. I even started mentally checking out and thinking about what I was going to say to my loved ones after my “bad race”. I had to remind myself that it wasn’t over yet and that I needed to stay present. The inner conversation went something like: “Don’t write yourself off yet! (10 points if you just started singing Jimmy Eat World) Just because you might not hit your “A” goal doesn’t mean you default to ‘just get it over with mode’. Stay in it! Focus on the opportunities still in front of you rather than what is behind you.”

Then, a male age grouper going the same pace as me ran with me for the middle 4-5 miles and was super encouraging–thank you, friend! At mile 9 I had to stop to use the porta potty for the first time in a triathlon, ever. After the stop, I felt great and starting speeding back up, only to slow back down for the last couple of miles. Those were probably the most mentally tough miles of the whole year for me–I felt so slow. Thankfully, I had Brice, Emma, and Sean to cheer me on and greet me at the finish.

Overall, I was happy to come away with a 70.3 PR. I don’t typically worry much about times since every course is different, and I don’t believe that times tel much of the story, but PRs are hard to come by so I celebrate that. Thanks to Coach Gareth for preparing me for the pain. Thanks to Metal Mountain Cycling for keeping me confident in my rocket ship. Thanks to Dr. Romeo for the top-notch treatment. Thanks to our Austin hosts, Lauren, Vincent & Mona, and to our “Juan in a Million” friends, Emma and Sean for making the trip out to Austin so we could see you. Finally, heaps of thanks to my handsome photographer-sherpa-husband, Brice <3

Meet the Athlete: Kathy

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Kathy Broder could be enjoying her retired years with extra hours of sleep and leisure travel. However, in her 70th year of youth, she would rather be waking up at 5 a.m. to walk onto a cold pool deck and plunge into a pool with her teammates. She prefers to travel with her bike and piles of triathlon gear to compete in triathlons for hours on end. I find Kathy’s daily decision to endure discomfort inspiring, and wanted to find out more about her “why”. Thanks for taking the time to fill us in, Kathy!

Current place of residence: Camarillo, CA
Hometown/place of birth: Los Angeles
Day job: Retired
Dream job: College career counselor
Favorite sports or hobbies (besides triathlon): running, grandma-ing

If you had to remove one leg of the triathlon and swap in a new sport, what would you subtract, and what would you add, and why? My swimming is very sad, so I would dump swim and put in jump roping.
Dream race: Perfect weather, down current swim, hilly bike, downhill run in the shade
Current triathlon/race goal: to survive IM AZ
Why do you want to accomplish this? Not sure…because I spent the money and because I allowed my teammates to badger me into doing a full. (Not really, I just got weak and signed up.)

When/how/why did you start triathlon? In 2008 I was camping in Carpinteria the weekend of the tri. I had never seen one before, and I was hooked. I started the following year…then I signed up for swim lessons.
Favorite accomplishment in sport: Surviving 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga this year. (Note: Kathy finished 5th at Age Group Worlds!)

Still smiling, and on her way to finishing 5th in the world!

Favorite non-sport accomplishment: Raising 5 fabulous kids.
Hardest race and/or workout you’ve ever completed: St. George 70.3 a few years back. I was so cold that I couldn’t think how to stop racing. It never occurred to me to stop and ask an official…I just kept going through the freezing wind and rain.
Most memorable training race moment: Memorable would have to be getting a flat at 5 miles before the end of the bike at Coeur d’Alene this year.

Best athletic encouragement you’ve ever been given: Just enjoy yourself…I forget that one a lot!
Words of wisdom to someone considering training for their first triathlon: Take it slow and grow into the sport. Buy your equipment after you figure out what you really need.
Something you’ve learned about yourself through triathlon: I’m pretty tough, but I really don’t like to hurt and I don’t push myself into that zone.
What motivates you to keep training and competing? I love the sports and the camaraderie. I look forward to training.
What motivates you when it gets tough during a race? I think of all the money I spent to hurt so bad.
Who inspires you and why? My teammates and all the other racers in the events. It’s amazing what we all do!

Race mantra: For the run, when it gets tough, I count one “e” and a two “e”…up to twenty, then I walk one “e” and a two “e” up to five. (This must be a piano player thing)
Pre-race ritual or superstition: I stress out on the minutia of it all…believe it or not, that’s what calms me down.
Pre-race pump up jams: “White coral bells upon a slender stalk…”

What is the first thing and last thing you do each day? Drink coffee; drink wine
Favorite type of running shoes: Asics
Dream training camp location: Coeur d’Alene
Training “secrets”: I always have a variety of food available
Racing pet peeve: People who arrive late and expect me to move over…not gonna do it.

What does “Fuel” mean to you? Nutrition that varies with length of race
Any favorite recipes to share? I swore off cooking when my last kid left the nest.
What does being “Fit” mean to you? Being in excellent shape

Pick one:
Long swim, long ride or long run? long run
Open water or pool? pool
Trail or track? track
Snot rocket, sleeve, or tissue? sleeve
Solo or group training? either
Chocolate or cheese? both
Watch on your left wrist or right? left
Morning or evening workout? either
Hat or visor? hat
Swim cap or no cap? swim cap
Cheerios or Wheaties? Cheerios
Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate? coffee

Any other fun facts about you? Don’t get me started on my newest grandson…he calls me blam-ma (I think.) Cutest kid ever!

On her way to an age group WIN at Santa Cruz 70.3

Update and Reflections

By | Race Reports, Triathlon | 4 Comments

Hey there!

Here are some updates from the last couple of months– race reflections and general observations.

So, Brice and I took a trip to Ottawa, Canada in June. The people we met there made our trip one of our favorites yet (and we have taken quite a few in our 3 years as a married couple). We were picked up from the airport by Jamie (the best volunteer ever), stayed with the most kind and generous host family, and even got invited into our host’s in-laws home for snacks and coffees (and a post-race shower…fyew). Our new friend Jamie loaned Brice a bike a to use for our stay, so we were able to use cycling as our main mode of transportation for exploring the city. The roads and paths were very bike-friendly!

During our 4 days in Ottawa, I got to compete in two draft-legal triathlons. It is always a plus when I get multiple race experiences in one trip, because all this travelling and time off can be costly. The first race was a “super sprint” semifinal, which took about 20 minutes to complete–three sports and two transitions in 20 minutes! This meant that the intensity was about as high as it gets in triathlon. It was painful. I got off to a great start, finishing the swim just at the leader’s feet, hung on to the back of the front bike pack (dreadfully fast ladies in my heat), and then ran as fast as my legs would go to cross the line 7th and qualify for the A Final the following day. It was a great opportunity for me to be in the A Final so that I could test myself in a strong field

Day 1 Swim Start

Day 1 Swim Exit

Day 1 Bike Finish

 Exploring Ottawa Post-Race

Checking out the locks

 

When we arrived at the race site for the final the following afternoon, it was warm and very humid. My pre-race anxiety began to get the better of me and I suddenly thought something that I sometimes think–even though I don’t want to think it–before races: “I don’t want to do this.” I had no motivation. But, I chose to do what I do often in training: kick in the autopilot and just “get on with it”. There are so many people on my team to whom I owe my best effort.

When the race starts, many of the jitters float away and I am left with the sound of my own breath, of water through my swim cap, and the sight of arms flailing, feet kicking, bodies splashing all around. The swim started out great, and I was near the front for a while. Shortly before the first turn buoy, I had a familiar feeling of doubt. Instead of being proactive and confidently swimming ahead, I started worrying about people catching me. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I quickly found myself near the back of the large pack, where I stayed for the remainder of the swim. Once you are toward the back, it is so much harder (it feels impossible) to overtake other swimmers and gain position again. It’s much easier to find a place at the front and stay there (as I had the day before). Exiting the water at the back of my swim pack, I struggled to catch the group ahead of me on the bike. I eventually joined a group with some riders behind me and stayed with them for the rest of the 20km. I was glad to be in a group, especially because it was blustery in some areas. I felt like I actually contributed to our group on the bike, which was a victory for me. On the run, I was able to find my pace and stick with it. I passed a few girls who seemed to have outdone themselves in the heat, and finished “in the mix”–another big victory.

 Day 2 (Final) Swim Start. Thanks to swim coaches Coach Mary and Steve for making me an “aggressive starter”

Day 2 Bike Course Turnaround- U-Turn into a big uphill. Ouch.

 Day 2 Run- Photo Credit: Stephen Maunder


After the race,
Brice and I got to have Father’s Day dinner and gelato with our host family before heading home early the next morning. We made lots of good memories in Ottawa, and we hope to visit again sometime.

Next up was Des Moines, Iowa. The first and most important thing that happened was that we located a Trader Joe’s and R.E.I. very close to our hotel. Double Win! We ended up making several trips to the R.E.I. for some supplies and mechanical help with my bike :\

Once again, it was warm and humid out. The water was also warmer than it had been in Ottawa. One of my pet peeves is swimming in warm water. I am one of those people who ask the pool maintenance folks to please turn off the heaters! But, sometimes I have to suck it up. As the noon start time approached, I could feel the adrenaline building and calming myself down became my main objective. I got in the water for a “warm up” swim but found myself doing a lot of recovery stroke on my back because I needed to calm down and breathe. I trusted that my body would know what to do when the gun went off. I envisioned a happy dog running into the water and embraced the SwimRun rule of “dogging in”.

Thanks to USA Triathlon for the photo!

To my surprise, the heartbeat sound which is used in World Triathlon Series events was played prior to our start. Just in case I wasn’t anxious enough. At the sound of the gun, my body knew what to do. Thanks, body! I ran like an excited dog into the water and found myself at the front of the group going stroke to stroke with the eventual leader out of the water.

It was going great…until it wasn’t. Halfway through the swim, my fight or flight instinct ran out. I was now entering survival mode. I turned over onto my back a couple of times to catch my breath and as the majority of the field passed me I began to wonder whether I would be able to continue the race. I attempted to stand on the beach and wobbled my way up the sand, feeling like I had never stood on two feet before. I slowly regained composure as I made my way up the path to transition.

I was still a bit out-of-sorts in T-1, and threw my goggles on the ground. A  referee had to tell me twice to put my goggles in the bin (you get a penalty for leaving equipment outside your bin). I noticed that there were still a few others behind me and decided to take it easy until they caught me on the bike and then try to stay with them. I mounted my bike and pretty soon the girls behind me caught up. Around that time, I noticed that there were an awful lot of barriers and people wandering through the middle of the course, so I yelled at them to move! Then, I realized that we were no longer actually on the course. Thankfully, we found our way back after losing a couple of minutes to our detour. It wasn’t until later that night that I realized it was me who made the wrong turn and unfortunately for the ladies behind me, they followed me–so sorry!

The rest of the bike was okay. I began to feel strong again and was thankful to still be moving forward. Off the bike I locked into a comfortably hard pace and made it to the finish line in one piece, happy to be done but disappointed in my haphazard swim execution which had an unfortunate impact on the rest of my day.

That evening, Brice and I went out celebrate his birthday. He chose a zombie-themed burger and shake joint where we had a good time consuming large amounts of saturated fats and empty carbs.

The next few days were spent extracting some lessons from my less-than-ideal performance. I made a new friend on our flight who happened to be a psychotherapist. He helped me sort out my feelings about the race and even gave me some insight based on his own observations. He suggested that I might have placed a little too much weight on my performance, and on the triathlon part of my life in general. He mentioned a sort of “importance range” where our passions should be. A little too far to either side of that range, and we get off balance. We lose sight of who we really are and what our ultimate focus is. For me, that is being a child of God and following after Him wholeheartedly. My new friend and I shared this goal, and we talked at length about life– about how our passions, relationships, stuff, talents, etc can be such blessings* to ourselves and to others, but those same good things can become idols which distract and harm us. This conversation has stuck with me, and I have been asking myself more frequently what is really the greatest desire of my heart. Is it to be great at doing something (i.e. Triathlon)? To be liked by people? To be perceived as “good” or “nice” or “pretty” or “fit” or “strong” or “religious” or “successful” or “____”? If the answer is yes to one or more of these–which it often is–I need to redirect my gaze and put the “idol” in its rightful place: important, but not too important.

*About that word: blessing, I have been thinking about what it really means. It gets thrown around a lot lately, which is fine. But, I think we tend to look at a blessing as something like winning, or getting presents, or accomplishing a goal, or having things go our way, or not getting hurt, sick, etc…When I hear the word “blessing” it is a reminder to me that God can make everything work for our good, no matter how bad it seems (Rom. 8:28). He can make a blessing out of a curse (Deut. 23:5). So, whether I win or lose, it can be considered a “blessing” depending on how I look at it.

In other news: Brice and I gambled for the first time during our layover in Vegas. There goes $5 and all my race winnings (oh, wait…).

Up next for me: IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Cruz & Austin!

Food for thought: There will always be a reason why you can’t. There will probably be lots of them: You aren’t genetically gifted or talented. You don’t have money for fancy equipment. You have asthma. You have an abnormality that limits you. You started later in life. You aren’t strong enough. You have poor flexibility. You keep getting injured. You are busy. You are tired. Your friends don’t think you can…Instead of focusing on why you can’t, Find the reason(s) why you can.