Friday, January 24, 2014

Immigration NIGHTMARE

I'm making my incredibly unjust immigration story public to garner enough attention to hopefully finally make some progressive change in immigration. It is time to shine a light on cases such as mine that, to date, have no avenue for justice.

I'm a 26 year old from Mexico City who has been in the US legally (through visas) since the age of 3. I speak both languages flawlessly and have fully assimilated to US culture. Despite that, I continue to face insurmountable obstacles toward naturalization. Even the DREAM Act excludes me, shockingly, because I've been here legally vs illegally!

I studied marketing at SMU in the highly competitive business scholar program, and finished in 3.5yrs with a 3.6 GPA. As well, I've been an athlete my whole life, at first as a tennis player gaining top ranking in the state of Texas as a junior and eventually into triathlons in my university years which led to my title as 2x World Champion in Ironman distance.

Graduating in 2008 wasn't ideal given the economic hardship the country was facing at the time so finding a job was rare especially for someone needing a visa sponsorship, like myself. Luckily my stepfather had a job that I qualified for and I've been fortunate to be working part time with Brundage Management since the end of 2009. It is not the job that I ever intended, but it is what has kept me in the US.

However, in Dec 2014 my 5yr H-1B limit for that part time job ends. It is baffling that with my background and exemplary behavior both as a student, athlete, and civilian in the US, I face such obstacles toward residency, much less citizenship.

Moreover, I cannot simply go back to "my country" because I am as foreign to Mexico as any American. I only attended pre-school there and have since visited occasionally on holidays or other vacations. My mother is now a citizen of the US as a result of her marriage to my stepfather. They happened to marry a year after my 18th birthday and thus I could not get officially adopted by my stepfather.

Daniel, my 20 yr old brother, was born in San Antonio and, as such, is a US citizen as well. The fact that two of my immediate family members are US citizens, makes it nearly impossible for me to ever be granted another student visa (for pursuit of a masters degree to extend my stay), or a tourist one (at least for a few years) to visit, in the horrible case that I end up having to return to Mexico.

I want nothing more than to be able to travel freely without the worry of being allowed back to my true “home” in the States, and get a job that aligns with my skills and passions. It does not seem just that there are immigrants working here without any desire to assimilate to US culture, or some that are naturalized after living here fewer years than myself and illegally, to top it off.

I have had tremendous internship offers from companies that could evolve into full time jobs but it's hard for them to hire me, however well qualified I am for the position, because I can't accept an internship- the company would have go through an entire part time visa petition for what they could just get a "work authorized" American on payroll for the next day!

For a full time job It's a horrible catch 22: companies file visa sponsorship mainly for full time over qualified employees, typically with multiple years of experience, but I am not that type of foreigner. I can't help but be just like any Amarican girl/guy in their mid 20s, semi-entry level, because I AM!!...and without the job, I can't get experience.

My life is here, my family is here, and despite being an anomaly to Mexican immigrants, my American Dream should not remain an illusion.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fin.

I think I owe it to friends, and other people that counted on me being in Kona for Ironman to explain why I’m leaving after 2 days since my arrival- and thank you to those that messaged me concerned :).

When I arrived on Sunday, for the first time I was completely apathetic to the whole thing. It's been an ongoing process all year, and I just really had to be slapped like yesterday, seeing people running and riding ALL freaking day, and I'm only thinking, "what for?!".

I’ve been in Kona countless times, I've raced and won here, I've come and not raced and had a blast, and all that can happen this time is a repeat of last year with the same people at the same places.

For the last few months, I’ve had other pressing things in mind at this chapter of my life and really just need to be home to make progress on that front. I almost didn't get on my flight at all, but at that point I did fear regretting it. It’s sad it took the expense and travel to get here and see my gut was right. I’m selling my TT bike and finally moving on for good. It sounds drastic but I came to a place that used to thrill me and light me up like a little kid, and realized it's not longer relevant to me.

With that said, this blog will close. There’s no kidding myself about my back pain, and also the career and “life” goals I have that I need to pursue outside of triathlon. It has been an incredible journey, an honor meeting and racing all these incredible people, many whom I now call friends, and I’ll obviously continue to be immersed in the sport with my brother, Daniel, just beginning his trajectory as a triathlete.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Summer Already! A little update...

It's hard to believe we're halfway through 2013 already! I'd like to re-do the last 5 weeks if possible. Since my announcement to take a mental and physical break from being a “full time” triathlete, a whirlwind of stuff has happened- some really fun and cool, some not so much.
I actually continued training quite consistently and was having a blast because suddenly I had lifted a backpack full of pressure from myself that I would have denied ever having. Letting go made me realize how much I forced upon myself and how much misery that added to my workouts. When I finally didn’t care, I was able to, for the first time, actually “coach” myself and let my body tell me what to do. Before, when I had tried that, I was never really listening because my mind would take over with “they’re out there working harder”, “you have to prove yourself”, “you have to get on the podium”, “you’re a winner” …blah blah blah. In the end, I found out no one cared but me. Heck, I pretty much left all my sponsors behind in the elite amateur world when I turned pro, anyways.


So come mid May I was excited to take a trip to Hawaii 70.3 with 3 girlfriends and spend a week after the race in town doing my favorite things like swimming at the pier and grabbing some acai at Basik. I was even excited about my potential performance because that race has always kicked my a** and this time I was feeling renewed, fit, and with absolutely nothing to lose and all fun to be had.
3 weeks out, I agreed to help my friend Chris, who works for Orbea, at the Tour of California; spreading the word on the “Respect Campaign” which addresses the 3ft rule between cyclist and motor vehicles. It was the perfect thing to do because Chris, Heather (another girl that does tri and rides for Orbea that helped out too), & I are all athletes so we’d be sure to squeeze in a few runs and swims along the way.


The experience was awesome! I’d never really hung out around pro cyclists, or followed the sport in general(shocker?), but I figured they’d be geeky-obsessed like a triathlete to the power of 10. On the contrary, they’re the most chill, normal people who just happen to ride bikes incredibly fast! We got to meet a few guys from the Orbea Optum Team and the United Health Care Team and they were all super nice.

We went all the way from Day 1 in Escondido to Day 5 in Avila Beach- and met some really cool people in the cycling/endurance world. Not to mention, Chris & Orbea really treated us as if they were working for us, not the other way around.

We stayed at some great places, ate some amazing food, and managed to throw back quite a few drinks some nights.









Once we got back, all I planned to do was pick up my brother from the airport and get in one solid week of training with him and then taper and leave for Honu.
WRONG.

I woke up on our last day on the Tour with a sore throat. But thinking it was just a late night and all the days on the road, the next day I had a genious idea to sign up for the Encinitas Triathlon. When I woke up feeling like crap, I still drove down and lined up at the start. The waves were massive. Okay maybe not massive, but big enough that I couldn't break through and did the shameless, not shameless, walk back up the beach to switch to the duathlon. Now I was soaking wet and waiting an hour for the du. By then the cold was taking over. I did the 30min 1mi beach run, 6mi bike, 2k run, feeling like my head was in a panini press.
Suprise surprise...I got a 10 day cold, got Daniel sick, got better for a few days, then came down with strep throat on Monday and am now on day 3 of antibiotics. SO MUCH FUN.
I missed Honu, and today jumped back on the bike and it was ugly. I’m bummed but not completely torn. On the plus side, I got to spend an extra week with my brother, and took him to Santa Barbara (the few days we both felt okay after the cold), and my back feels surprisingly good. Santa Barbara with my brother was yet another sprinkle of proof that everything happens for a reason. I've been dying to show him that part of Cali as it's one of my dream places to live. We stayed two days at this cute little hotel by the ocean on Cabrillo St., walked around State Street stopping in for some fantastic food at Pierre La Fond Wine Bistro, and got in a run on the SBCC track/stadium stairs followed by a swim at the awesome Los Banos 50m pool!




 

















 
Not to mention, I’m now crawling out of my skin to get in shape. It’s one thing to take a break from training and racing like an elite athlete but it’s entirely different to be bed ridden sick and then not be able to climb a hill without gasping desperately for air. In this sick adventure, I gave up coffee- yay, go me! I am emptying the aisles of green tea though. I also realized I have no time or races left that fit my travel/work schedule until late October so I’ll try to race Austin 70.3 and in the meantime have a ball getting in shape.
This is day one of training to wear a bikini righteously :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A New Chapter at 25

It feels like I’m literally dusting off the blog to write this post. I returned from the month long Kona trip in October, started training with my new coach, Jesse Kropelnicki, and enjoyed some time in San Antonio with my family through the end of the year.


My training included several weeks of snail pace runs and rides and easy monotonous 3-4x1k or 3-4k straight swims mostly alone until I was back in SD for masters in January. I had to become a numbers person again, letting that HR monitor guide my workouts; though I still don’t even have a cadence computer on my bike  I kept up the PT for my back, and spent through February doing 3x a week of solid gym sessions.

By the time I headed out to our QT2 Pro Camp in Clermont (Feb 14- March 4), fitness was coming along nicely! My back was solid- it would tighten up now and again but I felt optimistic I could handle the heavy mileage at camp. My runs went from being at 9-10min miles in Z1, to high 7’s, low 8’s. Weight was slowly coming off without a rush, and in Clermont Jesse made it clear and simple how we’d get to race weight and fitness through Galveston 70.3 on to the goal of a PR at IMTX.

Camp started out really rough for me. For female reasons I had a horrible first 3 days which really worried me, especially since Jesse had said this would be the most training any of us had done, and there’s no way we’d make it through without perfect recovery techniques. After that patch, though, I came around well, mostly excelling in the pool. I adore swimming so having 18 days of a squad environment swimming 4-7k/day was a thrill!

The riding was great- it reminded me of the Texas Hill Country. Clermont indeed has “hills”! I’ve never ridden that kind of mileage in my life. I have yet to go back and tally it up but nearly every day was 3-5 hrs. I learned to hurt on the bike more than I ever thought possible and surprised myself in various group TT and “road race” workouts. Going to the well on the bike seemed to affect me way more than the rest of the group. Therefore, I had a few forced off the legs days and sat out of some run workouts. In fact, I recall only 2 runs where I felt decent. The rest were crap.

As a whole, the camp was by far the most humbling, eye opening, and beneficial (for personal and athletic growth) experience I’ve been lucky to partake in. I was simply in awe of the resilience and work ethic of our QT2 pros. But more than anything, I was grateful to be in the hands of Jesse- if only we had met 5 years ago! I digress; I think everything happens at its supposed time and for the right reasons.

Jesse’s system at camp was what “hardened’ me the most- he’d announce at the pool deck each morning what the swim set would be, and then after we were done and showered he’d say something along the lines of “ride to the meeting place. Be there at 10:30am, bring enough fuel for 5hrs”. That could mean anything. All you had to know was: be there and definitely bring enough fuel! I looked forward to the only real meal I’d get each day: dinner. But I never knew what time I’d finally be sitting down for it. After our ride Jesse would normally say “see you at X place at X time for a run”. Awesome.

The most epic session was an evening run after a day of swim/bike that started just before sunset and went through almost midnight. 20x1mi as a relay (Brianna & I did 15x1) and you had to run each mile faster than the previous one or incur a 15min penalty. I loved it! But let it be known that if it had been one of the days it was 40F and not humid and 80F I would’ve been in absolute misery.

18 days later, I was back in San Diego feeling fitter than ever and overjoyed at the fact that my back only got achey on two of the last rides at camp and nothing I couldn’t manage! My improvement in the pool was clear once I returned to my masters group, and the mental tenacity that Jesse instilled in us with the “unknown” method at camp had me checking off workouts like they were a walk in the park.

Through all of this progress and content emotion that I was on the right path toward my goals for the year, and slowly but surely paving the way for the dreams that still lay 10 years into the future, something (actually many things) in me had changed in the last 6-8 months…

Like all humans, I often act on impulse. For general every day things it can either turn out favorable or lead to a petty mistake. However, a few crucial times in my life this “impulse” has felt absolutely right. It’s something that comes from the heart and pulls me with such strength that I’m hopeless trying to ignore it. I may delay the action, but it’s inevitable. These circumstances make me believe that each of us has a true purpose in life and a path we’re destined to be on. Whether we see it to fruition or not is a choice.

I had this gut order on quitting tennis and leaving the Academy, on what college to go to, on moving to Encinitas to pursue triathlon the day after my final exam at SMU, and a couple more personal situations that truly influenced who and where I am today.
Since it became evident around Sept last year, that this back pain was an actual trauma in my L4/5 and I would have to carefully manage it the rest of my life, it really made me analyze things. Immediately following the MRI consultation, I had to see myself without triathlon at all for the first time in 6 years. It wasn’t just like a potential bad break up- it was like being dumped at the altar. I had just turned pro! My first reaction was that of a kid throwing a tantrum, and it lasted a few weeks. I just wouldn’t accept it, I cried, and felt sorry for myself, and then trickles of enlightenment began to erase those immature and selfish thoughts. Was that all I wanted of myself? A 9hr something Ironman? Another Umeke from Kona but with a Pro label? Besides the love and desire to compete and challenge myself, what was I chasing? Anything outside of the pure love for sport was about the ego.
Being in Kona to watch the race opened my eyes even more- I enjoyed not racing a little too much. I did burn inside on race day, but I realized that more than anything, I love training, I love the triathlon lifestyle, I love the industry, and I love traveling. The urge to race in Kona and to win this and win that wasn’t overpowering me. I had been there and done that. Sure not as a pro, but I had still spent 6 years approaching this sport with a professional mindset. I’d raced Kona 4x and been on the podium each time. I rarely lost a single race in my age group, and came out 11th Amateur in the 2011 World Championship. If I needed to push myself to extremes and prove that I am an elite athlete, I had done it.
Warnings of the consequences of doing so many Ironman races before I turned 24 (8) were everywhere. I didn’t listen. I’m Sagittarius. I’m stubborn, even if it’s just to go against others. Now my body was letting me know. Despite days feeling great in training, and after the high of being so fit after camp, there’d be that little voice saying “just take a break”.
Almost like an out of body experience, I’ve witnessed myself becoming much more relaxed and participating in “normal” things like going out late on the weekends, starting a morning swim hungover, and being completely okay and guilt free when cutting out a workout because I’m toast. It’s not to say that I’m training to race as a pro with a careless attitude, I’m just seeing that I have better workouts and am happier when I really listen to my body and do things I’ve shut down completely for months on end simply for the sake of an upcoming race. But I also have to be realistic. With the growth of triathlon, comes the surge in talent. I have a grasp on what I’m capable of and I would have to implement that monkish approach to my training nearly year round to have a shot at podiums- and at the expense of doing further damage to my back.
I’m calling this my quarter life crisis. Tragedies like the Boston bombings make it horrifyingly clear that life is too short. I feel like I’ve accomplished so much in triathlon that one more PR or winning an Ironman as a Pro, wouldn’t raise my satisfaction level significantly higher, and definitely not proportionate to the beating I’d have to endure physically and the crazy cost of PT just to withstand it. There’s so much more I want to do in my life that’s not about me. I’ve spent 6 years focusing on ME. I want to have a positive impact on others. I want people to remember me not by my race times but by how I was able to inflict positive change in this world and help other people.
So what am I getting at here? Well, I raced Galveston 70.3 last weekend and it went just fine. I had no expectations on placement as the goal was to have a pain free race; and I did. I swam horribly but all else was good and I felt fit. It was easy in terms of how fast the race went by and it felt great to go hard (vs when you’re not fit and it just sucks to go hard). Somewhere along the bike and again on the run, I was just “over it” it was cool to be exercising for this long, racing the clock, and getting to have a yummy dinner and fun times with friends after. But that ferocious eye-of-the-tiger focus and intensity that I’ve had before and that is required to podium at these races was just not in me anymore.
Talking to Jesse after the race I told him I simply see nothing worthwhile about racing Ironman Texas than another shot to break 10hrs and get a tshirt ;) I would honestly rather do an 8hr training day without destroying myself with a marathon, still feel good after and actually be able to enjoy a dinner, and keep working out days after.

There was my answer. It’s time to move on. I’ve been an academic my whole life, and reading for pleasure and having this part time job from home is not challenging enough nor am I doing anything meaningful. It was a good break after college, but my mind needs to be put to greater use! I’m ready and excited to work full time 60, 80 hours, whatever! I became a triathlete because I have that OCD extremist personality and it’s time to put it to use in the work place. At the same time, I do have an obsession with being outdoors and being active, so I’ll undoubtedly continue to swim, bike, run, and plenty of other activities that I’ve yet to explore.
For now, I’ll continue to train and race as a pro through the end of the year- doing short local events that are cool and exciting and only some halfs I love as an entire trip such as Honu and Vineman. I’m not “quitting” I’m just taking a step back. Truthfully, I feel that if I ever want to accomplish anything as a pro in triathlon, or lay down a sick PR, this step back is necessary. My body is tired. I lost the core of why I’m a triathlete- the fun of it- somewhere, and I need to get it back in order to revive that hunger to compete at that level. I may not ever race pro again and just come back in a few years and tackle the AG in Kona. Or I may have a few good results at 70.3s this year and renew my pro card and keep making steady casual progress, who knows? The point is, it’s only a part of me, a sport I enjoy, but it’s not all I want to be, it’s not an identity.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kona from the sidelines

Since 2007 I have been going every year to race the World Championships- except for 2008 when I was supposedly going to take a break from Ironman but later regretted it and raced Arizona (sound familiar? Hehe)




I was often asked if it’d be hard to watch the race live without even mildly yearning to be a contestant. The answer is no, because despite the low back injury that ruined my season- and continues to plague me 4 months later- I had established after I had a great day there last year that I would not return to Kona simply to participate as a pro. I had no delusions of garnering enough points my first pro year to make it there in the first place, and even if by some miracle I did, it’d be a guarantee I’d toe the line tired and without a chance to contend. I don’t race unless I believe I can place…and yes this whole year every race I did I convinced myself beforehand that my back “issue” was sorted/in the past, and I’d get a chance to show the fitness I knew I had, and thus place.

But I digress- this won’t be another post centering on my health, or lack thereof. This post is a fun and inspiring one- primarily about the AMAZING time I had on this trip as a spectator of the Ironman. I trained…errrr exercised….heaps, and drank/stayed up seriously more than in all my college years combined.

I arrived to Hawaii mid September, thanks to my awesome friend Cody who let me crash at his house for a month! He bought a scooter sometime in the summer too, which I more than borrowed through my stay. Believe it or not, chilling in Hawaii for a month I was actually saving money- at the minimum on driving/gas.
The first 2 weeks I was there the Ironman swarm had not arrived- just a few pros like Leanda Cave, Luke McKenzie and his wife Amanda, Natascha Badmann, Marino VanH., Bruno Clerbout…and less than a handful of other pros or ag’ers (you can never tell, everyone is so FIT!).

The atmosphere at this time before the race is my favorite…you can sense the race is near, there’s excitement in the air, there’s always a group to swim with in the morning at the pier (but no so large a crowd that you can barely find clear water), you can count on someone wanting to run or ride for any given distance, but there’s not the uber packed psychosis of compression/spandex/visors/race kits. Here's a pic with some local Kona friends at Humpy's plenty of days pre madness, and another with the good-lookin' French Canadians ;)


Before I get into who I trained with and what I learned from them, let me explain this “training” of mine. First and foremost, I firmly believe that miles you bank don’t disappear. There’s not really such a thing as training without purpose so long as somewhere in your future there’s a goal you’re aiming for. What I mean is, despite knowing that after this trip I’d take some time off the bike again and focus 75% or more on strength/mobility, getting in a ton of s/b/r now would still benefit me further down the road. Your body forgives, it does not forget.

I got in some solid masters swims before the pool closed down for a few days, and some ocean swims with a few pros and ag friends. Twice I was lucky enough to swim with two pro women whom I greatly admire and respect- Natascha and Jessica. In short they taught me that we are all the same on race day- we all get nervous, we all have our weaknesses, doubts, and pressures. We carry unique motivators that drive us to succeed, and that we count on to lift us up through those bad patches in the race. This was eye opening for me because it made me realize that even those girls that I see as literally made of Iron, are not. Without any disrespect, we are all breakable.

Who knew ocean swimming was a place for such enlightening conversation, huh? ;)


The bike- oh the bike- thank you, thank you Amanda for the numerous rides to Waikoloa shops and back. It was standard to ride 3hrs pretty much every day. Taking my road bike to Kona was a double edged sword. My upper back/shoulders/neck were literally destroyed right around the 3hr mark, my low back still hurt on certain rides without relief….but fighting the headwind and trying to keep up with people on their aero little TT bikes made me strong! Often times I found myself angry that I was riding so consistently and felt so strong, because racing is something that I know I still cannot do.


Running I did alone, focusing mainly on 45min or less with lateral drills on the grass and plenty of stretching after. I also did a few Pilates Reformer classes, which if you haven’t done and want to prevent a back injury go do Pilates! It is something that I will definitely keep doing throughout the year.

I am also grateful for getting to see Dave Dyrbshire for treatment/assessment on my back. Never discount a part of your body that’s entirely “separate” from where you feel pain for being the root of your problem. My back issue according to Dave: caused by the 4 years of imbalance/compensation since my accident in 2008 where I broke my right collarbone, and fractured the L5…root: collarbone.


Suddenly, race week was here! Now I get to dive into the real fun, and some awesome sessions that were not training at all- they were about people with a passion for living, enjoying life.


Monday I swam with Kim to the second to last boey (Kim & I in pic above post swim!), got an acai bowl (pic2) at BASIK, and on my way home saw Mike Rouse, some Zoot peeps, and Hillary keeping him company for the initial miles of his birthday 60miler. I scooted to change into run clothes, caught them right before Magic Sands, parked, and ran 15 miles in 2hrs with the group. That was the longest run I’d done since Ironman training and the most enjoyable in a while! It went by so fast and Rousey had it made with Kimmie (his wife) set up at mile marker 1.5 with a cooler full of drinks, the Powerbar and Cytomax houses/stations, and random water fountains all spread along Alii Dr. Not to mention, the tons of people all over town. Mike is incredible- and the dude eats hot dogs to fuel these epic runs!


From there Hillary mentioned she was taking one of her athletes, Alyssa, to ride the Hawi section of the course, I asked to tag along and after another quick change of clothes and some food, hopped in the car with them to drive up to the Mauna Lani and start our ride. This is a ride I will never ever forget. We started at about 3pm, and ended at sunset. We got the one period of the day where the ocean/air is STILL and it was the most magestic ride in the coolest part of the Ironman course I’ve ever experienced. We literally rode back into the Mauna Lani with the sun setting!! BTW, Hillary cracks me up- that girl is on another level…she had run THIRTY miles with Rousey, and called this 3hr aerobic, but still 3hr not-flat ride, “therapeutic”. It’s how you choose to look at things. (pic of Hills & I riding back into sunset- thanks Alyssa for the shot!)

After our ride, we showered/changed at Hillary’s luxurious Mauna Lani abode, and drove down to celebrate Mike’s bday a different way- drinks at Huggos! We closed down Huggos that night :

Tuesday I think was the day we went to Lulu’s for Wattie/Heather’s happy hour- or maybe that was the day we went to Humpy’s and there was that pint holding contest that Heather took second in (pic below), and sausage eating contest that Wattie won.

Wednesday: trained some, helped out at the Expo, and there was another trip up to Mauna Lani with Jennifer- stud athlete from Austin (check out her nutrition coaching site: www.toronutrition.com) - to join some other fabulous ladies at Hillary’s vegan dinner at the Canoe House. OMG YUMMY. I am not vegan, not even vegetarian. I’m from Texas, and you’d have to kill me first before removing meat from my diet. But this vegan feast was delicious! For dessert they did this quinoa-peach tart that I could’ve eaten 3 of.
Thursday: ran around all day and helped out LAVA at the expo- so fun! I think this day I also got a morning run in with Andrew (from Beaker Concepts), Jason, and some Zoot people. That night was probably another Humpy’s/Lulu’s excursion.

Friday Beth and I rode the Ironman course  It started out great, and I was thrilled that she was on a road bike too. She borrowed Cody’s bike so props to her for riding 112 miles on a bike that didn’t fit at all! I was really concerned about my left shoulder/neck because the dang road position left it tender to the touch/not able to look right after a few hours- imagine 6! But Beth and I agreed that was just a get ‘er done ride and taking in the scenery. Okay. We made it to Hawi with just a quick pit stop at Kawaihae. Cold drinks up there, then a longer stop at Waikoloa shops on the way home. Each stop was a huge relief that allowed me to stretch out/ relieve pain (why can’t we have these stops in Ironman? I’d be able to race! ) After Waikoloa things went awry. The headwind was pretty intense, Beth got a flat somewhere along the airport and I felt like a turtle (speed, neck, shell for a back). No way in hell were we riding the 18% grade (pic is only the start) up to Cody’s house. We parked ourselves at BASIK and Cody picked us up!



Back home to shower, and get somewhat decent for the TGINR (thank God I’m not racing) Party at Huggo’s! First we got some killer sushi at Shiono's (pic1) with Tawnee, Cody, and Ben. At the party, they had these lychee-vodka drinks that I might’ve had too many of. They were killer because they tasted delicious and were deceptively hydrating- uh oh! Back at home around 11pm, Beth & were still a little hungry :P (pic2)


RACE DAY: Beth and I scrambled to get up, fix her flat quickly, and roll down to see the swim on time. I got a coffee at Lava Java, a delicious GF berry scone at this other hidden coffee shop by the pier, and watched the swim. I cried. I got the same butterflies and thoughts that I did last year when I was in the water. It was the first time I knew I had to be in that water again. I not only knew, I FELT how significant this race is to me. Ironman is a part of our identity. I don’t need a tattoo- Ironman tattooed me when I first crossed that finish at 19 in 2007.

From there, Tawnee, Beth and I scrambled up to the grassy area on Palani hill to watch the initial part of the bike. This revealed something to me that TV coverage/articles/tracker does not: if you’re not in the mix from the start, unless a lot of people bonk to pieces, you’re out of the race. You must be a TRIathlete. “I am a swimmer”, “I’m a biker”, or “I’m a runner”, works for the amateur race (drafting, cough cough) and maaaaybe for top 10 in the pro field if you’re super lucky.
I had promised myself after too many late nights out and consuming beverages that I normally don’t even sniff, that today I’d watch my friends finish, and be in bed around 8. Riiiiiiight.
From Palani, I was innocently walking to get breakfast when Rachel (110% Play Harder- best ice/compression recovery ever) and Hannah were at Bongo Ben’s already getting started on mimosas. Crap. I had breakfast and a virgin fruit smoothie. But then Kim Rouse came along and suddenly we had ordered a bottle of champagne and more juice. The funny thing is, when the runners started coming along, 5 min under the burning sun on Alii Dr and all the champagne from a mimosa evaporated from my system. I also began the process of losing my voice yelling for all the athletes.
It is harder to watch than to race. When you’re racing you’re moving and expecting to sweat. When you’re in regular clothes, standing under the sun baking, it is hell-ish.

As the runners passed along, you could see in people’s faces who would crumble and who would prevail. This reminded me of what I’d seen through race week- people leaving their races in training. There’s the pros that have raced too much and get here exhausted. Or those that get greedy/panicked and do too much. Then there’s age groupers, close friends of mine, that have this false idea that the pros/top of the top train at least 30 hours a week, even 50 for the men. I heard some people riding 6hrs the week before because they felt they were young and could recover from it. It killed me. You see the potential, the great races they’ve had this year, the heart that goes into it, and in a few days, or in one session, they give it away.

Race week be the king/queen of lazy. See the podcast I did with Tawnee for Endurance Planet (http://www.enduranceplanet.com/week-of-kona-tatiana-vertiz-ironman-research-team/ )

After about 3 hours of that, I walked down to a Thai place to get mango sticky rice (pay attention to the amount of sugar I consumed this day haha). That left me bouncing off the walls, I could barely sit still as I watched Rinny try to catch Leanda on screen at the Clif Lounge next door.
More time was spent down at the stretch to the finish watching/yelling as Pete and the top men come in, followed by Leanda and the women, and my amateur friends.


From there Rachel and I met at the King Kam- we tried to rinse off at the beach by the Pier but of course that was closed to only athletes/etc. So we got into the pool. Bad mistake- it was pee/sweat filled and I got out feeling disgusting. But, nothing a few pina coladas couldn’t fix! More. Sugar.

Then I went with Tawnee and Ben to that same Thai place for dinner, and some chardonnay. It was great talking to these two about how far our sport has come and how lucky we are at our young age to pursue this as work (as an athlete and/or involved in the industry). Neither of us sits in a cubicle all day, and we’ve all had our share of critics- mainly those from older people that either don’t understand this sort of “work” or are too bitter that they could never go after it. We want to live while we we’re at our prime, not when we have to limp around on a cane. We also came to the realization that we are a part of the future of endurance sport and how we present ourselves and what we innovate and carve out for the younger generations is extremely important.

Quickly thereafter I bought a cheap-semi normal, but kind of teenage-skanky looking, outfit at the ABC store to go to Huggo’s without looking like a 12yr old girl ready for soccer practice (my spectator attire). More pina coladas with some friends at Huggo’s and a late night taxi that took forever to flag down to take me home!!!

Sunday- swim, attempt to show Beth the gorgeous South Loop which was an utter failure because not even 30min into the very gradual Queen K climb to Keahou/Kam III, my back raised a huge middle finger at me. I unclipped and tried to see if I could just stretch it out but it was hurting to stand- feels like a wooden block inside. So I called Beth and said sorry but I have to turn around. Went back to the gym to stretch, and jogged an easy 30min. After that I had the whole day to kill so I went shopping, got lunch at the Thai place again(!), went back home to shower/change, had dinner with Rachel at the Thai place again(!!), and then thought I was going to see the awards once the pros were going up to stage. Wrong. At 7:30 they were barely starting the age groups! At last, I enjoyed the speeches…Leanda’s cracked me up, and Pete’s inspired me beyond words and made me teary eyed with his closing!

It was now time for the KSwiss After Party at Huggo’s! Honestly, my friends and I concluded that the best party there was in 2010. 2011 was meh, and this year was kind of a mess. The food is awesome as always, and you can’t really have too many vodka-cranberries, can you? Hehe…But really there was just something about our group in 2010 that made it rad. I made the mistake of heading to the Clif Lounge after Huggo’s closed down, but by then my buzz was fading and I was kind of over the whole thing and wanted to go to sleep! I kept finding people who were heading down Alii mile 4 to drop me off at the house but kept losing them so before I knew it I was in a taxi with some Aussies at 4am delirious.


Monday is a blur, I felt like crap- not hungover just dead tired. I went to bed at 6pm and slept 12hrs!Tuesday I felt great, was on the second day ordered by my new coach, Jesse (QT2), of no training for the week so I just lounged around. I had dinner with Jennifer and her husband at Huggo’s where I discovered they give out bbq ribs during happy hour. Coupled with the teriyaki steak I ordered after= food comma.


Wednesday I finally flew to San Diego where I’ll be until the 24th and then head to Texas to be with my family and watch my brother, Daniel, race Big 12 Champs next Saturday in Austin!


This trip taught me a lot and it allowed me to socialize with people in our industry that I never had the chance to when I’d go to race. If you’re a pro, you have to go to Kona at least once and watch/experience it from the sidelines. At the least, to give back in support for the many times others have cheered for you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Injury/Rehab update!!

Tomorrow afternoon I leave for Hawaii- a one month escape to literally lose myself in the peacefulness of the Island...at least until Ironman arrives ;)

Only a few months ago I was making this trip with all the motivation and optimism for the racing season- intent on getting really fit and kicking things off at Honu.

Wow, what a rollercoaster I've experienced since then. It honestly seems like a very distant past. I have incredible memories from the 2 months I spent there- mostly nestled in my little studio apt plugging away workouts, cooking my meticulous meals, and incredibly grateful for getting the opportunity to pursue a career in the sport I adore.

Simultaneously, a part of me wishes to block out that part of my life because it pains me that all of that work and all the positive energy thrown into it turned so very sour...race after race ending with the thing I detest the most: a DNF.

After Louisville I was on a mission. There has been nothing, and I mean NOTHING taking priority over finding out what's going on and addressing it. It consumes 24hrs of my daily life. I've even had dreams about this whole ordeal in and out of racing/training context.

Rarely have I gone to bed without a decent sobbing session, and multiple times I'll break down in the car crying at the thought of not just what happened and all those I feel I let down, but thinking of my goals and wondering if I will every get my body 100%---- heck just figure out the correct diagnosis!

I don't say this to get others to feel sorry for me- not playing victim here. I'm saying this because it is what it is, it's the truth and it's okay to hurt for something you want more than anything in this world.

So what's the news so far? We took and MRI- I have spondylosithesis of my l5- it's basically a slipped disc- of a few mm. This could be causing spasm/really bad pain that I feel on the bike especially after a semi arched back from the swimming, or it could be totally independent. I also have found very tight fascia on the upper glute where it attaches to the illiac crest. Both of these discoveries were not made immediately post the MRI- there was only a vague idea.

It was only until yesterday that I visited with the most knowledgeable guy out of any doc/alternative medeicine/pt guy out there- and that's Chris Maund here in Encinitas who's part of the CHEK Institute. The good news Chris gave me is that it's not career ending...research has shown me Lance Armstrong has it, another successful pro triathlete I know also has it, Andre Agassi has it....I'm in good company.

I have DAILY rehab exercises/stretches to do in order to help correct some of this slippage and at the least keep it at bay- over the years it's almost a guarantee this leads to spinal compression/lumbar fusion (look at me being all medical :) hehe) which is a nightmare apparently. No thanks! I am now a dedicated stretch-er person. This is my entire focus now.

I got a new bike- a Slice, fits my geometry great. But I can't take it to Hawaii :(  I hate not getting to play with my new toy but Chris said take the road bike only until I get back and see him and get my "body working normally again" so that's that. I'm at the point that if I'm told to eat horse shit, just point me to it.

My joint mobility has improved heaps in just a few weeks of working with Brian at Rehab United, and even acupuncture gave me some relief.

So now for this one month on the rock, I seek primarily to check out mentally from "real life" put in my gym work, ride a road bike and work on using muscles that apparently have been asleep for a long while, keep up my running and swimming (with some limiters- for anyone w/ this condition: no downhill running for a while, no fly stroke), and when Ironman arrives- give out all the positive energy that I've received in all the years I've raced there, to those tackling it this time around.

Cheers.

Monday, August 27, 2012

2012

The Mayans have predicted 2012 to be the end of our existence. I don't know about that but yesterday when I got back to my hotel room I felt like this was the end of MY existence.

I recently wrote that I would never DNF a race, and I reached out to my friend Hillary Biscay- an athlete/person who I greatly admire for her unbelievable determination to finish anything she starts- letting her know how much I respect that and wanted to follow in her steps in that regard.

Well at yesterday's Ironman Louisville I felt like I was between a wall and (instead of a sword) Hillary and also Michelle (Mitchell) who walked her way to a 13+hr Ironman after a series of back to back races to squeeze in the points needed to toe the line in Kona. HUGE RESPECT.

DNF means "did not finish" (as we know) but I've been telling myself that it can also mean "did not fail". Failure would've been to not start the race at all, or to drop out because my tummyhurt or I didn't really feel so good or fit, or I was simply out of contention.  

I unstrapped my chip knowing that since the first quarter of the bike leg I was in bad pain that only came and went in certain sections and took a lot of sitting/standing/stretching. From mile 60 on I had various moments of "should I just stop now?" "how much damage am I doing?". By the last 15mi, having missed an aid station and feeling super lightheaded, I was praying I'd pass out so that I wouldn't have to actually get to T2 and hand the chip in.

When I got to t2, I didn't know who to say I am done to, or where, so I proceeded to grab my run gear and when I tried to run out of T2 it was clear running was not going to happen. I thought ok, I'll go into the portapoty and stretch a few minutes and re-assess.

I tried running 2miles, and was frankly at that point waiting to get out of the miles where the crowds were massively lined up so I could stop and call it. It was so ironic to hear people yelling "great form!" "oh wow she's a runner!" haha....I guess I looked okay but they had nooooo idea what was going on internally. The whole SI joint/low back ridge across was like a locked stabbing pain block of hell.

Going in I was 95% certain I wouldn't get back pain and if I did it'd be super mellow and zero on the run. I've been to every ART/chiro/massage guru and had all the surrounding areas loose and fresh race morning. I even swam that 1hr split falling asleep- it was cruiiissseeeee effort the whole way. What happened was I lined up far right (mistake cuz I breathe to my right) and when we took off my attempt to sprint and cut left was halted by others not budging their spot haha, so I eneded up swimming the most chillaxed Ironman swim of my life behind this one other guy with calm water the whole way. I thought it was a blessing in disguise that would help even more for a pain free bike ride. NOPE!

Long story short, I cried, I had thoughts (still do) that I will never fullfill my potential, that my back pain is now an established part of my life, that my dreams will remain dreams.

But deep down, I believe. I know. I know what fitness I have been carrying, I know the work I've put in. I know there's more doctors to see, a real break to take, a rehab to try, a strength season to undergo, and a build up from phase one for months of long slow volume. Perhaps this is what had to happen for me to start over, rest, come back with asbolute health and renewed strength to then, and ONLY then, be able to one day win an Ironman, and one day to the line with the best pro women in Hawaii.

Plus who doesn't love a good comeback story, right?!?! ;)

For the next few weeks I plan to swim heaps, get going with check up/rehab exercises/routine, cheer on friends and get even more inspired at the World Champs, and around mid October have a few months as a "runner".

Thank you to the following amazing people in my life: my family, my coach, my close friends (that this season has shown me who they really are), TYR, Nytro, SOAS, Powerbar, & Newton.

Never. Ever. Give. Up.