I don’t talk about it much online and on social media, but one of my favorite commitments in the past two years has been coaching for Girls on the Run. I’m the Head Coach for the team at my son’s school, and to the surprise of many parents and other coaches, I do not have a daughter in the program. I do it because I love it, and I love the idea of instilling in young girls a love of running, and the confidence, happiness, and healthy habits it brings.
What is Girls on the Run?
Girls on the Run is a wonderful program for girls in third through fifth grade. It operates as a non-profit organization, running after-school programs in elementary schools across the United States. At our school, the program is 10 weeks long, from March through mid-May. Twice a week after school, the girls play games that keep them active, engaged, and get them to think about and discuss topics that, frankly, I wish I could have been able to talk about when I was their age. We talk about ways to deal with bullying, gossip, and other negative behaviors at school, and how to turn negative thoughts into positive ones, gain confidence and love ourselves for who we are.
Oh, and we run, of course! The program culminates with the Girls on the Run 5K. In our area, more than 5,000 girls and their families participate each year!
As a non-profit organization, Girls on the Run redirects all registration fees towards covering program costs – putting up a 5K for thousands of participants is not cheap! – and providing scholarships to families who would not be able to participate otherwise. The organization has very few full time employees in each area. Here in Silicon Valley, I believe there are four or five GOTR employees altogether, and I won’t be surprised if most or some of them are part-time. GOTR relies exclusively on the efforts of volunteer coaches and race volunteers. And, it counts heavily on its sponsors and fundraising efforts.
Each GOTR chapter partners with different organizations and has its own fundraising initiatives, and all participants and coaches are encouraged (but not obliged!) to fundraise. Which is where it gets tricky for me personally: I love GOTR and would love to fundraise. But I hate asking people for money! I feel that I already bug my friends and neighbors enough with so many other fundraising efforts, our school’s annual Walkathon, Jump Rope for Heart, Fall Harvest, the this and the that – how many times can you ask people for money before they block you on Facebook?
So I was really excited to learn about a program that allows us to fundraise – without asking people to donate.
Shop with Scrip
I learned about Shop with Scrip through a Fit Approach campaign – and it was like a breath of fresh air to my weary self.
What is Shop with Scrip: it’s a platform that enables organization to run fundraising campaigns by facilitating families to buy gift cards to places where they already shop. Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Bath & Body Works, Starbucks, Kohls, did I say Amazon? Literally, every big retailer I can think of is on their list.
As a fundraiser, you simply ask people to order the gift cards they think they might need for their shopping needs (and who doesn’t shop on Amazon these days?) — and a percentage of all card values goes to the organization for which you are fundraising. The average is about 4%, but some gift cards kick back as much as 9%.
Fit Approach registered a fundraising campaign for Girls on the Run, and as a participant, I could order a $200 Amazon gift card — and 2.5% of that would go to GOTR. It’s not much, but imagine hundreds of people contributing – who otherwise would not have donated to the organization directly.
Every little bit counts, and now that I know I can contribute to GOTR by ordering all those gift cards (for teacher gifts, birthday gifts, and my own shopping needs) — I’m looking forward to kicking off our 2018 GOTR season even more!
You can use Shop with Scrip to fundraise for any nonprofit organization, school, church, sports club, music and band program, and many others. If fundraising is as big a pain in your butt as it has been in mind, it’s definitely worth checking it out!
Disclaimer: This campaign is sponsored by ShopWithScrip. Through my affiliation with the Sweat Pink Ambassador community, I’m fundraising for Girls on the Run, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young girls through running. All monies fundraised are donated to Girls On the Run at the conclusion of the campaign. Thank you for your readership and interest in forwarding Girls On the Run’s mission of: inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.
I placed 5th in my age group at Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz and stood on the Ironman podium. I also snagged a spot to the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa.
Those sound like alternative facts, but no. It’s the truth!
Many things came together for this to happen – timing, circumstances, luck. But a lot of it was also hard work. And it likely is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me, so I’m going to write it all, relive it, and enjoy it over again. I hope you do, too.
A late-season decision
I was not planning to race IM703 Santa Cruz this year. My only 70.3-distance race in 2017 was supposed to be Santa Rosa in May, but I crashed my bike two weeks before that one and had to drop out. That left me with a few Olympic-distance races for the rest of the year and a new A-race, Escape from Alcatraz.
Well, Escape didn’t go to plan, either, what with the cancelled swim. I did well otherwise – placed 10th in my age group and had a solid bike and run in very harsh wind. But I paid that exorbitant race fee to escape from the Marina Green and do a brick workout on some San Francisco hills. It just didn’t feel like the highlight of my race season. (It was such a letdown to not be able to swim, in fact, that I have yet to write that race recap. Maybe one day soon!)
I let my Escape disappointment stew for a few weeks, then asked my coach what he thinks about Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz. Mostly, I wasn’t sure if it would be smart to do it just two weeks before another race I’ve had on my calendar for a while, the Olympic distance at Santa Cruz Triathlon. He gave me the green light, though, and here I was:
Standing in the middle of several million dollars’ worth of carbon in the dark-as-pits morning and asking myself, why am I not in bed like normal people?
Because I love it, that’s why!
I had the most fun race morning hanging out with my Betty Squad teammates: in transition, on our way to the beach, and then for quite a while, on the beach. And I mean quite a while. When the sun finally came out, it quickly became clear that the sky was anything but: a thick, thick fog lay over the ocean; so thick that even walking on the sand, we were hardly able to see the water!
The swim start had already been moved about 200 yards up the beach, away from the Santa Cruz Pier, because of red algae that had blossomed there due to unusually high temps the week before (it had been 106 degrees in Santa Cruz the previous weekend!) So instead of the typical swim out and around the pier, we were going to swim diagonally towards it, then around it and back to the usual swim-out location.
The foggy sky had other plans, though: since none of the buoys were visible, race organizers deemed it unsafe to start the swim. And after a half-hour delay, they announced that the swim will be moved to the other side of the pier altogether — and shortened to half a mile.
And so off we went again, more than 2000 athletes in black (wetsuits), walking along the ocean, under the pier, and out into the Swim Out chute that was now split in the middle into two narrow tunnels, one for those going in the ocean and one for those coming out.
It was going to take forever for us all to get in, but hey: what’s “forever” when you spend it in good company? We danced a little, joked, laughed, talked – and what do you know, the fog started to lift. The pros were off and soon after them, it was our turn.
We had a rolling start this year, which meant that everyone was supposed to seed themselves based on expected swim time rather than start with their age group in a wave determined by the race organizer. That’s fine, except when you move 2,000 people across the beach to a different start location, all order and logic go out the back door. It was just one huge crowd funneling through a narrow tunnel, making slow progress towards the water. At least we saw all the pros run through, having completed the course in around 10 minutes.
I started my swim at 8:36 a.m., a good hour and twenty minutes later than planned. The water temperature was a balmy 68 degrees — unusually warm for this location. And with the fog all but gone and a short rectangular swim course, I could literally see all the buoys any time I sighted. It was pretty amazing.
I was a little further on the outside perimeter of the course than I’d have liked to be – that is, closer to the safety kayaks than the buoys – but overall, I felt great in the water and the swim went well. No collisions, no punches. Quick and easy!
Swim time: 15:57 (for a half mile)
Division rank: 29
Half-mile run from the beach to transition, as usual. I ran barefoot. Some people bring shoes, but I don’t think these are that needed to run on asphalt and concrete, both fairly smooth. (Others had brought flip flops, which I thought was just awkward…)
I’d forgotten to bring a towel, but the turf surface in transition ensured little to nothing stuck to my wet feet. I pulled on socks and shoes, put on my helmet and glasses, grabbed Magic Bike and off we went. Luckily, my rack was right behind the pros and very close to Bike In/ Bike Out.
T1 time: 5:34
First, this bike course is beautiful. It’s almost entirely along the ocean, so the views are amazing. It’s all rolling hills and has few, wide turns. Not technical at all. This year, the organizers changed it back to the original Big Kahuna bike course, removing the Swanton Loop that was added on for 2016. That pegged the total elevation at around 2800 feet (vs 3800 in 2016). So already it was a faster course.
Second, I got myself a sweet bike upgrade earlier this year: a pair of ENVE SES 7.8 wheels, and those are fast. And I mean, fast! They are amazing!
Magic Bike not only looks incredibly spiffy these days, but he is one heck of a smooth and speedy beast!
Those two things combined equaled the most awesome ride in the world ever! I was going 40-45 mph on the downhills with little need to brake. In fact, I think I only had to hit the brakes once when an SUV cut me off merging onto Hwy 1 from the left. But what are you going to do. Traffic is never completely stopped during these events, no matter how much we pay to race safely on the roads.
There was a lot of drafting happening, though. I was catching up to peloton upon peloton of bikes and having to pass them so far into the road, I was riding in the middle of it rather than on the shoulder where we’re all supposed to be. Who is to blame, though? When you shorten a swim this much and send more than 2,000 people on the road on a rolling basis, packs inevitably form. Even among the top age groupers, I saw many riding in pace lines. Drafting is becoming more common these days, unfortunately.
I tried to not take the drafting personally, although I will say this: Guys. When a faster girl is trying to pass you, let her, yeah? Sometimes, women are faster than men, and that’s OK. But when you refuse to let them pass and shamelessly draft – then you’re just embarrassing yourselves. Why don’t we all focus on our own race?
[Not ALL guys are like this, of course! Some quickly re-pass… on the right. Ha. But I did also get quite a few “Go Betty” cheers. So yes, I don’t want to generalize. Just saying.]
Other than a few little frustrations like that, I had a great ride. There were some foggy patches, but nothing with terrible visibility. This race is worth doing at least once in your life simply to enjoy the beautiful ride!
Bike time: 2:47:43
Division rank: 9
I have no idea what I did in there for nearly three minutes… T2 Time: 2:25.
The biggest benefit of racing in Santa Cruz is usually the weather. You’re by the ocean, so it’s almost always breezy, often overcast and at this time of year, you can expect it to be in the 70s, tops.
Not on this race day. As I started the run, it already was hotter than it ever got all race long last year. The scorching sun was full on.
I settled into a comfortable pace and focused on doing my run thing: reeling in the slower runners. I was getting passed a lot, too, of course. But focusing on people ahead of me who are going slower and working to pass with control helps keep my mind away from things like, “one mile down, 12 to go, oh man I’m only getting started.”
The first three miles are on West Cliff Dr along the ocean. Those always feel great. Then we turn into Natural Bridges, then on a bike path alongside Highway 1, and then we have a hill going up to Wilder Ranch. Wilder Ranch is all trail.
I felt strong and smooth the first three miles, but as we climbed into Wilder Ranch and hit the trails, I felt myself slowing down – a lot. I almost made peace with the fact that I’m not going to PR this run course this year, it felt like I was losing minutes, not seconds, each mile. Which is funny, because I later compared my mile splits year to year, and they are almost identical:
I was better prepared for the uneven surface of the trails this year, with regular running shoes. (Last year’s racing flats felt a bit too thin for those rocks and the significant camber.)
I saw many teammates on the course, and many, many women wearing Betty Designs kits. It was great to encourage and be encouraged by fellow women who believe that #badassisbeautiful and go out to #doepicshit!
The last three miles are back along the ocean and it was like the breeze breathed life back into my legs and my brain: I got my second salty wind and picked up the pace. I have to say, it’s so satisfying to finish a run feeling strong. It’s 1000% better than when you know you will finish, but you’re getting slower and slower because you just don’t have it.
For this one, I felt I had it. It was my fist-in-the-air victorious finish
Run time: 1:43:20
Division rank: 4
I had some water, ran into my friend Tina, and we headed back to transition for food and to hang out. (The post-race “feast” at Santa Cruz is back in the Expo/ Transition area because the beach is too small to fit everyone… and I’m guessing they don’t want us to make a total mess of paper plates and soda cans.)
So Tina and I had some pizza and Coke (no beer at this race, either. why?), went back to our bikes and were chatting while putting away our stuff, when I realized that my phone was overheated and not working and I asked a guy standing nearby if he could check my official time.
Sure thing, he says, what’s your bib. “It says here, you finished in 4:54, 5th in your age group.”
But it was! And Tina got 4th!
It only got better after that: my teammate Jonya (we spent all morning together before we started swimming at the exact same time) got 3rd in her AG, and so did Elke (3rd), Jordan (1st), Ellen (3rd)… Janae and Gabby finished strong with big PRs. It was total Betty Squad domination!
I headed back to the beach to look for friends and ran into Jonya and her hubby, and we enjoyed some celebratory adult beverages by the beach until the time for awards.
Those were the best!
Then I went to grab my bike from transition and head to the car, when I walked back through where the awards ceremony had been and realized they’re about to do slot allocation for World Champs 2018. With 5th in the Age Group, I didn’t have much chance at a spot – there is usually just one per age group – but I figured I’d stay and see. And it paid off! We got a second spot because an older age-group finisher did not want hers, so it was allocated to the F35-39 division. And the top three gals were either gone or did not want a spot, either; so the 4th place woman and I grabbed the two spots!
We’re going to the 2018 World Championship in South Africa! Crazy!
What do you do when a bike crash sets back your training for three weeks?
Keep calm and triathlon!
(The following rundown of events is related to the MHST, so I’m including it here. Bear with me.)
During a training ride on April 30 — just two weeks before Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa — I lost control of the bike, veered towards the middle of the road, hit the ground pretty hard and rolled over into the opposite-traffic lane, all at the soundtrack of my bike making scary clattering sounds behind me. Luckily, there was no traffic at either direction at that moment and I found myself lying down with my left leg bent outward, at a painful 90-degree angle.
The clattering sounds, it turned out, were just my toolbox breaking into pieces and all the CO2 cartridges and allen keys rolling down the road. The bike is fine and only needed some smoothing round the shifters and handlebar edges.
My knee, however, was not: besides the road rash, it felt painful and wobbly as I stood up. I took some time to clean up and assess the damage — with the help of two Park Rangers who blocked traffic and provided first aid supplies, thank you! — but when I tried to pedal home with my group, I knew I’d need a ride home.
The day after the crash, I saw my doctor and while he assured me that structurally, everything looked OK, my knee was quite painful and stiff. For three days, I limited myself to slow walks in the neighborhood; after that, I tried some easy, flat riding. It wasn’t impossible to ride, but definitely not good enough.
A few attempts to run failed – too much pain – and five days before Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa, I made the decision to pull out of the race.
The following week, I had an appointment with a knee specialist who confirmed that I had no soft-tissue damage to my knee. I wasn’t at 100%, but the pain and stiffness were fading away and the surface wound was healing up.
So here I was, six days before another race – the Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon – wondering whether I should sit it out, or give it a go.
The Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon is a bit of a misnomer, as it isn’t really a “sprint,” with its quarter-mile swim, 16-mile hilly ride and 5-mile run. But let me tell you, it’s all about perspective. At that point, it had been weeks since I’d run longer than a couple of ill-fated miles at a time, and five miles sounded like a long run!
But, I’ve done this race before and I ride on the course almost weekly (in fact, my crash was a few miles down the road from the race venue) — so I decided to give it a go.
Arrived to transition area with a good hour to spare! This almost never happens, but I learned my lesson from last year: the backup that forms on the single road leading to the race venue is brutal, so don’t leave at the last minute.
Even had some time to take goofy photos with friends and go on a little warmup run. Winning!
The swim was as uneventful as it gets for me. It’s a deep-water start, so we all got in the water a few minutes before our wave. Perfect water temperature for a wetsuit, not to mention clean and calm. We were, after all, swimming in one of the reservoirs that supplies our drinking water.
I didn’t get smacked or kicked at all during the entire swim! Even sighting was kind of easy because of the way the swim course loops around, so you just need to make sure you swim close to the shore the entire time.
My watch shows I swam 1,372 yards, which is as close as it gets to the official race distance of 3/4 miles, or 1320 yards, so I’m quite OK with my swim on this one. My time was nothing to write home about, as usual, but I beat my swim time from last year a little bit, so there’s that!
Swim time: 24:40
There is a very short run up a ramp to the transition area, which seemed even shorter this year as the reservoir is at the fullest it’s ever been! Before the swim, I had taken the advice of a friend to spray some TriSlide around the bottom of my wetsuit legs, and I enjoyed the benefits here: I have never slipped out of my wetsuit faster! It did not stick to my feet at all, just went “phlewwwwwp” out of my feet and on the ground. Helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes and onto the bike!
T1 time: 1:33
Obviously, I was hoping to have a much faster time on this bike course than I did last year, when I raced MHST with only three weeks’ worth of bike and swim training. (My focus had been elsewhere before that.) But with a bike crash three weeks before this race, it was all a question mark.
I had ridden the bike course with my training group the previous weekend, but kept a low effort throughout, and especially on the climbs. The course is all rolling hills, with one short but steep climb at around mile 11 of 16.
So I got going, squirted some Gatorade Endurance in my mouth every now and then (quick calories!) and even choked on it once, trying to swallow while also breathing pretty hard. I guess I was working it.
My knee was not complaining. In all training rides before that, I had been feeling a pull on the back side of my knee, but I guess the adrenaline of race morning was enough to mask that.
I passed some people, got passed by a few, and rolled back into transition in less than 50 minutes. So, I did manage to get through the bike a teeny bit faster than last year, after all.
Bike time: 49:30
My favorite thing to happen in transition took place here: I couldn’t find my rack spot! I ran my bike over to what I thought was my rack row, but didn’t see my towel there, so I panicked a little bit. Looked over the next rack, and the next. Finally, after what seemed like at least a minute (it was probably just 20 seconds or so, though), I saw my space. My wetsuit was just strewn all over my towel, hiding it completely. Note for next time: hang wetsuit on rack, leave recognizable things in transition spot (such as bright towel) open!
T2 time: 1:25
And now, the true test of the day: running five miles after a hilly bike ride, off of just about no run training for three weeks and on a knee that was functioning at 80%, at best.
I remembered every single mile of this run course from the previous year, which was both a blessing and a curse. It’s always good to know what to expect, and I knew when I’d be running uphill on the way out, going down on the way back. “Hill” is kind of relative in this case, mind you; they are small inclines that you’d hardly feel if you kept an easy pace. Obviously, at race effort things are very different.
The entire run felt hard. As it should! But in addition to the physical part of it, I was feeling doubt in my head – which anyone who’s had their share of racing will tell you, can be key to whether you have a good race or not. If you’re not on top of your mental game, forget about being on top of your race game!
Then, at around mile two, I spotted a familiar race kit running ahead: my Betty Squad teammate and USAP Ambassador Julianne! Julianne is in my age group, so technically we’re competing directly — but as I ran by her with a quick “Hi” and tap on the shoulder, she did the most Badass Betty Sister thing of all: gave me relevant race course intel!
“Keep going, there are only two women ahead of you!” she said.
“Age group?” I asked.
“Yes!” she confirmed.
And somehow this gave me the willpower to keep pushing. My knee was not in pain, my brain was: I was feeling the lack of proper training in my entire being. But heck if I would not try my best to catch those gals. I passed one of them before the turnaround, and the other shortly after. There were still about two miles to go: two miles in the pain cave. I don’t really remember much happening, other than me wondering the whole time whether I’d get passed back. I knew I was running slower than the previous year, when I threw down two seven-minute miles to the finish. This year, my pace was closer to 7:30. But I did drag myself through that finish, and I won’t lie: I was happy to be done!
Run time: 36:53
Things got better almost right away, as I ran into a few friends and the beer and food line were still pretty short. Once you’ve crossed that finish line, life is good!
It turned out that I had, indeed, passed the first two ladies in my age group and took the AG win (my first at this race; last year I was second). Sadly, they seem to not have stuck around long enough to get their AG prizes, so I had the podium all to myself. Oh well! Here’s a huge closeup of my face, then. #DoEpicShit!
As usual, we pretty much closed out the event, hanging out with our beers and burritos, having a grand ol’ time!
Congratulations to everyone who raced, but especially to Jen and Tina, who also took Age Group/ category wins; Lisa, who took second in the Aquabike, and all my training buddies who rocked the race in all their goofiness and awesomeness!
I love this sport so much!
Bike 49:30 (19.39 mph)
Run 36:53 (07:22 min/mi)
Total time: 1:54:04
Overall: 68 of 517
Gender: 8 of 179
Age Group: 1 of 23