Where is my bro tank?

Where is my bro tank?

The gown engulfed me. It was nicer than our gowns in high school – more legitimate and regal. Just as I felt. I stood to address the small crowd – we were each told to say a few words of gratitude, perhaps share a memory or two. I felt put together and at ease standing at the podium. I thanked my mentors and professors, the academic program, and my peers. I looked at my parents, preparing to graciously thank them for their support and love. I couldn’t muster a word. My throat swelled, my eyes flooded, and the gravity of the day hit me harder than a freight train. This graduating a year early thing was no longer an idea or penciled in plan – it was real. It is real. Standing in front of strangers I squeaked, “I’m going to cry,” and between hiccups and timid sobs I looked my teary eyed parents in the eye and said, “without your support I would have never gotten my dream job.” And then I cried.

It’s surreal. Realizing that three years of being engulfed in this culture and environment that we call college is suddenly over. Twenty minutes before commencement I was constantly refreshing my health economics page to check my final exam grade. Now I’m being handed certificates and diplomas; I’m being asked to address my peers and make small talk with the university president. When did this happen? How am I supposed to instantly go from student to alumna, from Birkenstock and oversized bro tank wearing college kid to pencil skirt and heel clad adult? Can everyone else tell that I’m faking it? Because getting ready for work still feels like playing dress-up and sitting at a desk with my name placard feels like playing school. Perhaps we’re all faking it. Let’s all just fake it ‘till we make it, shall we?

At the end of my freshmen year I wrote a “Year in Review,” with some of the lessons I learned that year. As I embark on this next chapter of my life, I thought I’d share some of the lessons and practices I learned throughout my time in college. Some are introspective, others are logistical; all have led me to this moment of rubbing my feet after wearing heels working all day.

  1. Always make the bed.
  2. Don’t date freshmen boys.
  3. People have to earn the right to see you under the influence.
  4. Have a bedtime routine.
  5. Control the controllables.
  6. I am not the center of anyone’s universe but my own.
  7. Seek inspiration and happiness. Not accolades.
  8. Plan everything in pencil.
  9. When in doubt, go for a run.
  10. Read books outside of class.
  11. Watch documentaries.
  12. Journal.
  13. Laugh at yourself multiple times daily.
  14. Call your parents.
  15. Take notes with real pen and paper, not the computer.
  16. Self-care is nonnegotiable.
  17. Complete assignments at least 24 hours in advance.
  18. Dwell in positivity and cleanse your life of all the things that berate you.
  19. Ask the question.
  20. Apply for your dream job(s).
  21. Pray when everything is going right.
  22. Pray when everything is going wrong.
  23. Do yoga.
  24. Give yourself permission to switch directions, shift priorities, and change passions.
  25. Keep dark chocolate on hand at all times.
  26. Get a hard drive and back up your computer.
  27. Eat what you crave.
  28. Always carry a water bottle.
  29. Listen to everyone, follow no one.
  30. Use a calendar.
  31. Crying is not a shameful act.
  32. Embrace and own your mistakes.
  33. No one actually knows what they’re doing.
  34. Interview your future self. It answers a lot of questions.
  35. Own a lumpy Christmas sweater.
  36. Say no. Embrace and respect your limits.
  37. Learn how to cook chicken well.
  38. Embrace who you are today. Don’t compare yourself with your past self, future plans, or peers. You are the only you in this present moment – and that is more than enough.
  39. Relish the butterflies – it means you care.
  40. Count your blessings in the bad, hard, and disappointing seasons of life.
  41. Wear whatever the hell you want. Wear what empowers you.
  42. Sit at the table.
  43. When doubting yourself ask, why not me?
  44. Remember: The worst they can do is say “no,” which actually isn’t that bad.

Twenty Years

Twenty Years

Last night a friend asked me where I want to see myself in 20 years. And I blanked. I haven’t even been alive for twenty years – and most of my time on this earth has been spent learning to walk, attempting to understand societal norms, and enduring six years of prepubescent, adolescent confusion. The thought that I have 20 more years of navigating who I am and what I want to do with my life is daunting, but it’s also exciting. As my friend said, nothing I can imagine today will live up to where I am 20 years from now. And he’s right. I cannot predict the future, and that is what makes it so enticing. If I knew exactly what I would be doing 20 years from now, I would drop my books, stop training and stop living. I am driven by the idea that my actions, my decisions and my passions create the path I’m following. I choose which path to take; I choose which direction to follow. While, yes, sometimes I reach a fork in the road and have little control over which path to choose, it is my actions and my outlook on life that determines if the rough, off-beaten path is worth taking or too difficult to traverse. No path is too difficult to trek, you just might need better hiking boots.

When answering this question last night, there were some basic things I wanted to include in the 20-year-Samantha-life-plan: a family, a dog or two, a home near the mountains, multiple bikes… But as I continued thinking about where I’d like to be by age 40, I realized there’s so much that can happen. The possibilities are limitless. And words cannot describe how fortunate I am to be able to have that perspective on this question.

Too many individuals have to live day-by-day. Too many individuals lack the liberty to dream big, and lack the security to dream free of worry for their health, their families or their futures. I do not have adequate knowledge to propose a solution to such societal ills; however, I do have enough passion to understand that something needs to be done. I cannot sit idly dreaming about winning triathlons and earning multiple degrees in the next 20 years while realizing that so many individuals are dreaming of just surviving to tomorrow. Whether it be a life stricken by war, poverty, inequality or violent intolerance, it is a life lacking the freedom to dream.

In the next 20 years I want to make a difference. I want to help individuals fulfill what I believe to be the innate right to dream. Yes, I want to race and hopefully win some triathlons, but I also want to further my studies in bioethics to garner a greater understanding for the barricades preventing individuals from dreaming. This semester I have been fortunate enough to take courses specifically pertaining to my biomedical ethical interests, and these courses have broadened my understanding of the discourse that is human rights and access to the rights I have taken for granted.

There are some crossroads intertwining my passion for triathlon with my passion for the study of human rights and bioethics. The following are two of my favorite organizations at this crossroad:

Every Mother Counts. Every Mother Counts is a non-profit advocacy organization with the mission to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for women ages 15-19 in the developing world. One woman dies from childbirth complications every two minutes. A family was in my 20-year plan. Too many women world-wide lack adequate access to healthcare to live that dream. Every Mother Counts has partnered with one of my favorite companies in the endurance industry, Oiselle, who donates 40 percent of their net profit to organization. Oiselle (pronounced wa-zelle) is a women’s running apparel company with a mission to provide the best running clothes for women in terms of comfort, performance and passion. Oiselle’s powerful mission to revolutionize women’s running as an industry and sport has helped many female athletes, including myself, find the strength and confidence to take flight on and off the track.

Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is an organization that unites girls through running. Through a 12-week program culminating in a 5K race, girls learn that they have the power and ability to do anything. The program focuses on gaining self-confidence, self-understanding, strength of character and a passion for taking care of oneself. I found myself through running. Running has been my therapy, my coping mechanism and my love. Lacing up my running shoes has a therapeutic effect and grounds me. Without running I would not be who I am today. Girls on the Run helps girls discover the psychological, physical and emotional benefits of lacing up their shoes without the competitive aspect of other youth running organizations. Find a Girls on the Run Council near you.

As I become more enthralled in my studies this semester and more committed to my passion for triathlon, I have realized how fortunate I am to be able to dream, and to dream big for that matter. My aspirations require a lot of hard work, support, time and dedication, and I am extremely lucky to have access to all of these things. As I continue navigating my path toward my goals and dreams, I aspire to also provide others the support and access to what is necessary for their dreams.

Twenty years is a long time, and I hope mine will be filled with plentiful training sessions, exciting races, friends, ethical quandaries and the opportunity to help others discover the reality of their dreams.

I encourage you to investigate Every Mother Counts and Girls on the Run. Consider donating. Buy some cute Oiselle apparel, which is also donating. Then lace up your shoes and go for a run. It’s the best therapy.

College: Round 2

College: Round 2

It’s good to be back.

After a year of constant transitions – including completing my freshman year of college, driving across the country for my dream internship, moving to a place where I knew all of two people (via Facebook – I never actually talked to them before arriving), driving back to Indiana only to completely change my training, mindset and perspective, to take on intense treatment for my tibial stress fracture and then to pack everything up once again to move down to Bloomington – it’s nice to finally settle in, if only for two semesters.

I’m out of the dorms this year, but am still living on campus, this time in an apartment. I’m living with my best friend, who’s also my role model and mentor. And it’s fantastic. We moved in less than a week ago, but I already feel at home.

Coming to Bloomington was a bit of a shock to the system at first – I spent the majority of my summer being a bit of a hermit, training, working and then religiously watching The Mindy Project alone in my apartment. I went to bed early, woke up with the sun and enjoyed following my own schedule with zero distractions from anyone other than my roommate and the bunny we pet-sat for a couple weeks. I was able to focus on placing myself first, something I neglected last year at IU, and I formed some great habits. I took care of my body, relished in simplicity and rekindled my love for cooking. What began as an eight-week internship with my dream publication became eight weeks of self-discovery, healing and prioritizing, with a nice internship on the side.

Now, it’s time to test these lessons I’ve learned, and the exam has already begun. With Welcome Week.

Welcome Week is known to be a bit boisterous, with a lot of activities, drinking and partying. Essentially the opposite of my summer. Needless to say, it has been and continues to be fantastic to catch up with friends, meet some new ones and be surrounded by tens of thousands of others my age, but it has also been overwhelming. Gone are the quiet streets of La Jolla. Instead, hoards of girls in high-waisted shorts and guys in bro tanks fill the scene. Beer cans, empty liquor bottles and red solo cups line some streets and yards, and as comical (or depressing – depending on how you look at it) the scene of a large public institution may be during a hot and humid week in August, it’s also reassuring. It reminds me that while, yes, the party culture is present and thriving – so is another culture, a culture of watching a documentary with my roommate; of going for a bike ride with friends, or catching up with those you’ve missed over pad thai and frozen yogurt. A culture of going to a party and encountering intellectually stimulating conversations, laughs and zero pressure to drink. This is the culture I have found and embraced at IU. This is why I am proud to call myself a Hoosier.

A large part of this week has been welcoming the freshman class of the scholarship program I’m a part of at IU. Thinking back to a year ago – the thoughts and anxieties that ran through my mind while moving in, the first party I went to, my first friendships, and the inevitable mistakes I made – has forced me to experience an upheaval of emotions this week. Some regret, some angst, some fear, but also plentiful happiness and a lot of gratitude. Gratitude for the patience of those around me and for my own patience. College is tough, but it is also magical time. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that you cannot live with regret, with mistakes come knowledge, with knowledge comes preparation, and with preparation comes a brighter tomorrow. While there are some things from last year that result in me shaking my head, they also result in me stepping forward with greater confidence, experience and knowledge for the exciting road ahead.

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future. – Fulton Oursler

The pangs of regret that we all inevitably experience at one, or several, points in our lives do little to promote our happiness. The fears we have of the future, its darkness and entrapping corners, do little to help us navigate it. While banishing regret is easier said than done, especially when triggers arouse emotional responses and memories, it’s a worthwhile effort. Living each day without fear, fear of consequences, the unknown, regret, is equally as challenging and rewarding. With a new school year comes new beginnings, and these beginnings start with me. I’m making the conscious decision to banish regret, live without fear and begin each day with a bold step forward. A step toward my dreams, toward the unknown.

Here’s to another year as a Hoosier. Another year of self-discovery, newfound passions and cream and crimson. Another year of hard bike rides, healthy runs and bigger dreams. Another year of friendship, learning and exploring. Raise your glass, whether it’s filled with cheap beer, water or a protein shake, to year No. 2 – the best year yet.

Game plans, banana bread and the Mojave Desert.

Game plans, banana bread and the Mojave Desert.

Between packing up my short-lived California life into my mighty Volkswagen Rabbit and trekking across America to rekindle my Hoosier roots, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Here are some highlights of the road trip:

– The car didn’t overheat in the Mojave Desert.

– Going for a run in my favorite place on Earth (Boulder, Colo.) along with a plateful of the greatest gluten-free pancakes I’ve ever had (Reason No. 5463 I love Colorado).

– Reporting a brush fire along the highway in Colorado, essentially saving the entire state from sheer mayhem.

– Starting and finishing Matt Fitzgerald’s Racing Weight and Matt Dixon’s The Well-Built Triathlete, complete with notes and diagrams.

– Reuniting with my mom and having four 15-hour days of driving to catch her up on every minute of every day I spent in California.

I had a fantastic time in California. My internship with Triathlete Magazine exceeded my expectations, and I made memories, friendships and professional connections to last a lifetime; however, I learned far more than I bargained for outside of the office. Between my first bike crash, first professional byline and first series of anxiety attacks, it’s been an exciting summer to say the least. I’ve learned more about mental toughness than I thought possible, and with it have come some valuable lessons and difficult decisions. I am gradually learning that living a healthy, happy and fulfilling life is an emotional investment, and I am finally making some deposits in the bank. I’ve spent the last few months placing my efforts, time and energy into making others happy, into satisfying their demands, interests and needs, leaving myself vacant. I lost sight of what is important to me, as I was blinded by what I had presumed to be important by others’ agendas. This lifestyle led to anxiety, injury and a lot of bloating. And no one likes bloating. I became dull, mentally, emotionally and physically. I lost sight of my dreams and aspirations – I handed the pen I once gripped so tightly my knuckles turned white to others, letting them write my life by their standards. I lost trust in myself. I lost my emotional compass and my abilities as a student and athlete. And, now, the pen is back in my hands.

A lot has happened since April and as I grip this pen, a bit more relaxed and at ease now, I have noticed that with the good, the bad and the ugly have come tremendous lessons and leaps toward happiness. This time, on my terms. Everything that has happened was with good intent; there was no malice or ill will, but it just wasn’t right for me. And if I’ve learned anything these last five months, it’s that I have to listen to my heart, head and gut. If any one of the three speaks out, it’s time to reassess. I’m never letting go of that pen again.

So, what’s the game plan now? A series of things, integrated in hopes of leading to a healthier and happier me. Here’s the plan.

– Tackle my perfectionism and practice acceptance. Reorganize my toolbox of mental toughness and dust off the forgotten tools I once handled so well.

– Coach myself and learn as much as I can about triathlon, training and my strengths and weaknesses. While this is a bit of a risk, the benefits far outweigh the costs at this stage in my athletic development. I have had to back out of five of the six races I registered for this year due to injury, and I feel out of synch with my body and training. Now is the time to experiment – I am young, motivated and have plentiful resources.

– Run with the Run Club at IU. Buy a singlet and race. Ditch the Garmin for a while. Have fun running again.

– Work with a qualified physical therapist and strength coach to become bullet proof. Lift heavy and get strong. Do a pull up.

– Stick with my current commitments and find peace in simplicity.

– Train more with the IU Triathlon Club. Make new friends with compression socks. Discuss bike porn.

– Schedule meal times into my calendar. Make them a priority. Cook a couple times a week, because it’s fun. Make banana bread.

– Foster my connections from the summer and beyond. Ask for advice. Freelance. Treat every door that is slightly cracked as though it were open with a welcome mat. Do what I love with passion.

Shavasana weekly.

– Blog regularly.

– Smile often.

If anyone has any advice on how to make delicious gluten-free banana bread, or on how to do a pull up, please let me know. Both would be appreciated.

Habit forming role models

Habit forming role models

As promised, I’m back at the keyboard.

I wanted to avoid this and continue scrolling Instagram, but I thought better of it. I can watch 10 second videos of professional triathletes riding on the trainer some other time, for now I have a habit to form.

While this daily blogging habit idea has been a personal goal for quite some time, the extra push needed to make it a reality came from a role model of mine, Lauren Fleshman. Yes, I know – I said I wouldn’t base my personal “flashes of brilliance” on others’ own habits, but Lauren Fleshman is an exception. While I’ve only interacted with her via twitter (@laurenfleshman), I feel like I know her. She is a fantastic writer, writing about the true struggles a professional athlete, mom and entrepreneur endures with zero boundaries, making her blog incredibly relatable and inspiring. I hope to muster up the courage to bare all, the good and the bad, the successes and the pitfalls, with those around me. When I am unsure of what to do or where to go next, I find myself on her website, scouring the Ask Lauren Fleshman questions and answers, sure someone else has experienced this dilemma. More often than not they have, and Lauren further confirms that we are not alone. We are never alone.

Lauren Fleshman is real. She is brilliant, witty, passionate and genuine. She is an incredible athlete, but an even better person. Her stories serve as a reminder that no matter what happens down the road, it will all be okay. No matter how insurmountable today’s challenges may seem, nothing is impossible.

While, yes, this is essentially an elongated tweet expressing my admiration for an elite athlete I have never met – who happens to be married to another idol of mine, Jesse Thomas, but that’s only slightly relevant – it is also a sentiment toward the future and what I aspire to become. An individual as powerful, humble and determined as Lauren Fleshman. Someone with the courage to share my story with the world, because for all I know there may be another young girl, looking for a reason to keep dreaming, and maybe, just maybe, I can eventually be the one to help fuel that dream. By sharing my story. By helping others realize they are not alone. By shining light on the endless possibilities before us. Here’s to dreaming – and then writing about it. Thanks, Lauren.

 

A Year in Review

A Year in Review

And like that, it’s over.

The year I had been anxiously awaiting has come and gone, and with it came some valuable experiences, lessons and friendships. I have found a home in Bloomington, and this home has provided me with more knowledge in all facets of life, far beyond the textbook. While the year was anything but consistently easy, that’s what made it such a fulfilling experience: the lessons, the harder times and the constant desire to find the mold I’d like to fit within. The hardest lesson of all, however, was learning that there is no exact mold. I cannot and should not aspire to be malleable enough to fit the standards set before me. Instead, I must stretch my imagination, goals and aspirations to create my own mold, one where I am not too comfortable, but comfortable enough to continue reaching a little further, to continue seeking that next milestone.  A year ago I would have assumed this mold was limited to just my academic life; however, if there is anything I have learned this year it is the interconnectedness that is life. I can no longer isolate each aspect of my life into its own category, assuming that other areas won’t spill over and mix. There is a lot of spillage. A lot.

Life’s messy. But it’s better that way.

Nothing fits the cookie cutter I once tried to shape my life with. Everything affects everything else, whether it be socially, academically or athletically; they are all interconnected. There were weeks where one aspect of my life would completely dominate another; stressful weeks in school resulted in lackluster personal habits, late nights and frustration. Testing times in friendships and relationships left me longing to take a break from reality, all aspects of reality. On occasion I called home and asked for permission to crawl in a hole for a couple days and escape it all. I never found a suitable hole. Instead, I learned to face these harder times head on, whether I wanted to or not. Throughout high school I tended to mind my own business, keep my nose safely nestled in a textbook and refrain from doing anything that wasn’t related to homework on Friday nights. At IU, I peeked out from behind the textbook and never looked back. I found my academic passions, surrounded myself with people who make my cheeks hurt from smiling, and finally made taking care of myself a top priority.

Freshman year was hard, but it was also wonderful. It is a year I will cherish.

Here is a brief list of the lessons I can remember best from the year, some relate to me, some to others, all to college.

1. Always bring an umbrella to class.
2. The “Testosteroom” is another name for the weight room between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. on Friday nights. You have to witness it to understand.
3. Never trust a guy who wears socks up to his knees that are not compression socks. Just don’t.
4. Always wash your face before going to bed.
5. Few things are worth being out until 2 a.m.
6. Sleep is not for the weak, nor is it overrated. Go to bed.
7. Buzzfeed quizzes are not a waste of time, unless you do more than ten in a row. Then it is time to reevaluate.
8. Don’t measure yourself by your relationship status, unless it’s your relationship with yourself; that should never be complicated.
9. Obtain the largest, warmest and fuzziest sweatshirt you can find. Live in it.
10. Take good care of yourself; eat well, sleep, smile and breathe. Sometimes it feels like you’re all you’ve got, and that’s okay.
11. Take a deep breath at least three times a day.
12. Smile when walking to class.
13. Don’t break up with anyone over the phone, or at 3 a.m. Nothing good happens after 3 a.m.
14. Listen to your gut. It knows all.
15. Fear is not an adequate reason to not do something.
16. Existential crises are perfectly acceptable, and you’re not the only one.
17. You always have time to hug a friend, wipe a tear or be a shoulder to cry on.
18. Laughing until you cry is the best feeling. Don’t try to mask it, even if your make-up gets smudged.
19. Always take advantage of an opportunity to wear heels. Just be sure to bring bandaids.
20. Be open, share your thoughts and don’t fear judgement. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”

While I’m still learning and trying to practice these lessons in my own daily life, I cannot wait to see what the future holds. The unknown can be scary, but that’s what makes it so exciting.

Collegiate Nationals Race Recap

Collegiate Nationals Race Recap

Note: In eighth grade I was diagnosed with vocal cord dysfunction (VCD). VCD is a breathing disorder that occurs when the larynx (or your throat) closes when I inhale and opens when I exhale, the opposite movement of a normally functioning larynx. My throat was 80 percent closed when I inhaled during testing. I was told that in competition, it is over 90 percent closed. The closure results in heaving and high-pitched gasps, rather than breathing. When diagnosed I underwent treatment involving speech therapy and teaching myself how to breathe again while running. I only underwent treatment for running, because in eighth grade I was a runner. I didn’t even know triathlons were an actual thing. Little did I know.

Collegiate Nationals Race Recap  
Draft-Legal Race 
Original race plan: 
Swim: Swim as fast and as hard as I can
Bike: Bike hard, really hard, and hold on to a pack
Run: Leave it all on the course

This was hard, different and intimidating. Going into the race my greatest fear was being lapped on the bike and not finishing (it’s a four lap bike course, and if the leader laps you, you have to drop out of the race). I wish I were a better swimmer. Here’s a play by play:

Swim: We started at the wall, pressing start on my watch made me lose the first kick-off with everyone; I was swimming strong and fitting my way into the pack telling myself I could hold the pace; there was the expected thrashing, pulling and kicking. About 200 yards out my breathing was sporadic, another 50 yards later or so my body seized up, the girls swam over me, and my throat completely closed. I immediately stopped swimming and treaded water; I held out the neck of my wetsuit (more so a mental coping mechanism than anything) and tried to catch my breath. I couldn’t get a wisp of air, and the normal wheezing that accompanies VCD attacks was absent. I forced myself to breathe in through my nose as I watched every single girl swim ahead of me. Far ahead. I was finally able to open my mouth without exasperation, after at least a minute, and I was hyperventilating and trying to make eye contact with the nearest lifeguard. I was about to wave her over, thinking my race was completely over; there was no way I’d be able to catch up on the bike. Period. Frazzled and disoriented I took a few strokes, the exasperation returned and my throat tightened up again. I stopped, caught my breath, watched the girls near the far buoy, about 100 yards away, and took a couple more strokes. They were slow and controlled with minimal kicking. Every five or six strokes I had to stop, tread water and orient myself with the situation, my breathing and my surroundings. As I turned the buoy I caught up to a girl. As I turned the following buoy I caught up to another girl. My plan was the drop out of the race and swim to the swim finish after the first lap. I was still disoriented, my breathing was only controlled because I forced it by swimming – whenever I treaded water or sighted the next buoy it would become a heaving mess with wheezing and hyperventilating. The mental game being played out in my head was outrageous: get a lifeguard. Give up. Stop. You cannot breathe. Okay, just make it through this lap, swim to the ladder and breathe. As I neared the final buoy, where I could either swim in or turn for the second lap, I felt embarrassed. Each breath as I swam was a loud raspy gulp of air, which everyone had the opportunity to witness from the edge of the water for 100 meters. I didn’t swim into shore, and I have no idea why. As I finished the second loop I tried to catch the pack in front of me, but I couldn’t go any faster without feeling a wave of panic wash over me in the water. I survived the swim and decided I’d move on from there.
T1: Coming up the ladder and into transition, my vision was blurred, and I was disoriented. I got the top half of my wetsuit off fairly quickly and took assessment of the remaining bikes around me. There weren’t many. Fine motor skills were a problem. I couldn’t get my bike shoes on, couldn’t get a hold of my sunglasses; I swear an hour passed while I was trying to buckle my helmet. I felt like a fish out of water – my mouth was opening and closing but no air was coming in. I stepped to the dismount line and climbed on. I was embarrassed being so far back, I felt like I belonged in the middle. I left the only girl who mounted with me.
Bike: The first lap was lonely. I saw a girl who stayed well in front of me, and I was hyperventilating the entire time. I wanted the pace car to lap me, so it could all end. I was riding on the fine line between hammering it and backing off admitting defeat. I couldn’t catch my breath throughout the first lap; I guess I decided to hammer it. Coming into the second lap I felt the need to make up for the lousy swim. I wanted to catch the girl in front of me. I also wanted to catch my breath and be lapped by the leader. Badly. I tried to near the girl who had been riding in front of me. On the turn around I realized I was second to last. I’ve never felt so terrible. I realized during the third lap that, if I could finish it, I’d be able to finish the race. Something clicked and I passed five girls within a couple of miles. Each girl I drafted off of, imagined I heard the pace car behind me, and told her to latch on so we can finish the race and rode to the next speeding dot on a bicycle. I stopped using any caution, no more breaks on turns, no more coasting, just pedaling. I ached in the pit of my stomach, fearful of what was behind me, angry about my swim and wanting to prove myself. At the turn around, I saw that the leader was coming. I’ve never ridden so hard. In the fourth lap I pedaled harder than ever before.
T2: I threw everything into the bucket and ran. I opted against wearing socks for the run, despite my original plan to wear them. No one has time for socks.
Run: I felt groggy, sluggish and winded. I couldn’t extend into my normal gait. I was shuffling. As I reached the two-loop section of the course, The leader was heading out into her second lap, I tucked in behind her and for about a third of a mile stayed within five feet of her, all the while cursing out everything. Water stop. Profanity. Seeing the swim course to my left scared me. More profanity. A lot of people were yelling for Indiana, which helped. But little do they know, they also received subconscious profanity. Sorry. That run hurt. I passed a few girls on the run; few passed me, if any. I forgot I was wearing a watch, so I had absolutely no idea what my pace was, I assumed 8-10 minutes per mile. Turns out it was a little faster than a 6:30 pace. Coming into the last 200 meters, I heard some people yelling at someone to catch Strong. They received a lot of internal profanity. I’m not sure where that last bit of energy came from, but she didn’t pass me, whoever she was. I finished. I was relieved to finally be done. That was the longest hour and eleven minutes I have endured. It was just as much a mental race as it was physical. I still have no idea why I didn’t swim to shore after the first loop. Seconds before making the turn into the second lap of the swim I was trying to figure out what I would say when I emerged from the water disheartened, shaky and broken. I guess I couldn’t figure out what to say, so I kept swimming.

I hate thinking that VCD is an excuse for a bad race. Because it was a bad race, a terrible race, complete with a traumatizing swim that left me horrified of entering the water ever again. I spent the entire afternoon convincing myself I was not cut out for this sport and that I should pursue running. Just running. For a little over an hour I waved my dreams goodbye. But I am proud that I finished. I am proud that I wasn’t lapped, that I gritted my teeth and got the job done. Having a VCD attack in the water has been my greatest nightmare, and it came to reality. I know what to do when it happens on the run and bike, but not when I’m in a body of water surrounded by thrashing bodies all trying to swim forward, sometimes on top of one another, clawing, scratching, kicking and pulling. I’m proud that I stuck it out. Watching my competition swim away from me was the most sickening, defeating and demoralizing feeling. I was overwhelmed with disappointment and knew my race was over, but it wasn’t. My first ever draft-legal race is in the books. Here’s to a better one, because, despite what I’ve been saying all weekend, I’ll probably be doing it again.

Olympic Distance nondrafting race 
Original Race plan: 
Swim: hard and fast
Bike: Get into position and stay there; don’t be comfortable
Run: Find my stride and put down the hammer
Pre-race/Swim warm-up: I was so incredibly nervous going into the swim. I just didn’t want a repeat of the day before. Anything but a repeat of the day before. I was in Wave 2 – the middle wave, and hopefully the less violent in the water wave. In the swim warm-up, I swam all out to get myself ready for the start. I changed my game plan: survive the swim. Just survive it. Your race will start after the swim.
Swim: I started toward the back and side of the group, out of the way so I wouldn’t get pummeled. I kept my distance and tried to find an empty spot where I wouldn’t be pushed under. I focused on my breathing and keeping it consistent. I didn’t spot much until I found a place in the pack. I followed this pack, and took the swim piece by piece. Make it to the shadow of the first bridge, good. Now get through the bridge, even better. Pass this girl and then make it to the next bridge. Great. Bit by bit I managed the swim. I was in a pack of girls, and the safety boat and kayaks led us to the wrong buoy. They started yelling at us to first go to the other buoy. I had to swim an additional 200 meters to get from the buoy they led us to, to the buoy on the right, and then back to the original buoy we first arrived at. It was frustrating. But I kept calm, maintained my stroke and remembered the time I swam an extra half-mile in a race because there were no buoys. I swam on and kept at pace. I was deep in my comfort zone, but after the previous day’s race that was okay. I just had to survive it. Just survive it. One bridge at a time I came to the final turn and finished in the second pack, behind the lead pack of my wave. I felt very comfortable and relieved I finished.
T1: The transition area was huge, and I wasn’t running as fast as I should have been. I didn’t have trouble finding my bike amidst the 1200 something bikes, but I did have trouble getting my bike shoes on again. I need to work on my mounts.
Bike: I passed a lot of girls on the bike and paying close attention to where I was in comparison to the other girls. I took the turns really slow, with the new bike I wasn’t sure what it could handle. The bike was WONDERFUL. HOLLAH FOR FELT BICYCLES. It rode so smoothly, was the perfect size, I was completely comfortable and felt like it was made just for me. I just wanted to keep riding. The ride went by fast, faster than I had anticipated (last season every ride took ages), but I wasn’t sure how hard to go with a run up next. I never know how hard to push on the bike. Should I push the envelope, put down the hammer, or consciously save some for the run. This time around I pushed it. I still don’t know where my limit is on the bike, but I know I wasn’t there. Being a runner, riding is a bit of a gray area. I need to learn to navigate my riding. (Mental note: this is a season goal). I didn’t drink any water, which was dumb on my part. I was afraid to reach for the bottle because I had never used a cage there on a TT bike before. That and I’m afraid of bikes. They just scare me.
T2: Again, forewent the socks, which may have been a mistake. But I’m pretty good at running through minor pains like blisters, so it wasn’t a huge issue and they’ve already healed pretty well (all seven of them…). The dismount was anything but graceful, and I was slipping and sliding around on my cleats. I must work on transitions (Another mental note: this is a goal).
Run: I couldn’t find my stride at all during the run. It was so close to clicking at the beginning, and throughout the first mile; I was on the verge of feeling that fantastic snap where it all falls into place, but it never came. It just deteriorated mile by mile. It didn’t help that I could not figure out for the life of me how on earth we got to the other side of the lake and to the finish. I had examined the course beforehand, but I still had trouble believing that it was a mere 6 miles away. The nearest bridge was a speckle on the horizon. And how was that water stop so far away on the opposite side of the lake. I was confused. After the first turn around I started to get into a decent clip and was passing quite a few girls. No one passed me on the run; I just passed them. But I knew I wasn’t going very fast. Around mile 4 or 4.5 my legs became lead, and the previous day’s work hit me. I was just running toward the finish, that’s all I wanted. To be done. I still could not figure out how I was supposed to reach the finish line within 1.5 miles, which created a hefty mental barrier. In the last mile I didn’t feel too well, and running became really laborious. In the last half mile I felt out of it mentally and physically and somewhat lightheaded. I should have drank water during the ride. As I neared the finish it took everything I had to get down the chute. I had no idea if someone was behind me or not, I just wanted to finish. Once I did I must have not looked too hot, because the volunteers made me hold onto them until I appeared steady. I was speechless for a while. But it was done.

The weekend: 
It was not what I expected. I’ve been humbled and realized I have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited and ready to do it. I’ve also realized that I am young (a lot of the competitors were 24-27 years old, some over 28), and have time on my side.  This weekend has left me with some better direction for the season and for my training. One weekend of racing down.

Dream Jobs, Pants and Buzzfeed

Dream Jobs, Pants and Buzzfeed

What a week.

Rather, what a few weeks. I do apologize for the brief hiatus, but midterms, training and BuzzFeed seem to have gotten in the way of things these last few weeks. I have, however, logged some of my perusing thoughts. Here’s a list of some of the random thoughts that have flowed through my mind these past few weeks:

That girl needs to put some pants on.

This is my dream job.

Whenever I talk about my legs I use the editorial “we.” For example: We’re having a great day today. We’re a little tired.

Having my brother in the same state for longer than a week makes me so happy.

Just one more BuzzFeed quiz. One more.

Do we ever really know why we’re crying?

I just need chocolate. Where is my chocolate?

All I really want to do is swim, bike and run, and then write about it.

I promise I’m wearing pants.

I think I ate too much bacon.

I just, I just can’t.

I love my friends.

Growing up is hard.

I’m feeling fat today.

Ration the granola. Ration it.

*Insert every piece of profanity in the book screaming out in my head* Audible: a deep sigh.

I’m not mentally prepared for spandex.

This is difficult.

Good job, Samantha!

Lentils and rice is the best combination to ever emerge from my microwave.

I’m never taking a science class again.

That was so hard… Okay, now let’s do it again.

I hope that smell is the chemistry building about to spontaneously combust.

I am in love with a bicycle.

Make it two. I am in love with two bicycles. And a pair of wheels.

I should have known reformatory road led to the Pendleton prison…

Okay, I should turn around now.

The best part about this long ride is that no one has to know I just had an entire conversation with a field of cows.

Don’t you people know it’s bedtime?

Just stop being successful, just stop.

That’s petty, Samantha, get that out of your mind.

Deep breath, fetal position, cry it out… Good. Now go run.

I am fit. I am athletic. I am attractive. (Repeated three times daily in front of the mirror).

They keep the Somali pirates at the Pendleton Prison?! I got lost on a ride and ended up there…

Holding a shaker bottle with Ultragen: am I fratty yet?

This is so exciting.

I secretly really enjoy the looks I get when I’m drenched in sweat at the gym.

My abs aren’t in enough pain; I need to do another set of planks.

This banana is absolute perfection.

Own it, Samantha. Own it.

I am where I need to be.

*High fives self*

If you can’t quite decipher what this stream of consciousness actually means, that’s perfectly okay. Nine times out of ten I don’t even know what’s going on in my mind. It’s a process.