From the Coaches' Corner - Jumping in the Deep End with Coach Lenny

There’s a lot of awesome stuff happening these days at Evolve! And one of those things is that Coach Lenny is in the process of making the transition from AG to pro! Part of this transition includes working with a new coach so that she can have a peer group of other female and male pros to guide her through the process.  We are so excited for Lenny and love that she will be able to share her journey with the athletes at Evolve. 
The first step to of this journey came in August when Lenny had to opportunity to head to pro camp in Texas with QT2!

This was quite the summer. Taking the overall AG win at Chattanooga 70.3 took some time to settle in, but from that point, Coach Samantha and I looked towards racing Racine 70.3. Coach Nicole came with me to Wisconsin, and other than (of course) having a good race, I had one goal: qualify for 2017 70.3 World Championships. I felt ready going into the weekend, and having Nicole there was great for keeping my nerves in check. On race morning, she mentioned that there are storms on the horizon, but I decided to ignore that fact - it looked perfectly clear outside. As the incoming weather conditions worsened, the race director made the decision to postpone the start, so Nicole and I sat out the first bout of rain in the car. The next news we received? Swim cancelled, bike cut down to 31 miles, and the time trial start moved back to 10.30 am. We quickly set into action on a new plan which included phone calls to Coach Sam and help from Nicole. We altered my nutrition and pacing and did the best we could to roll with the new format.

The roads in Racine are rough, and the wind was intense. Thankfully, as an All World Athlete, I got to start towards the front. A 31-mile time trial was not something I had trained for (who has?), but I decided that I simply had to push harder than I was used to on the shorter bike course. I started out pushing hard, but feeling good that we finally got rolling. The wind gusts were rough, I felt myself swerve across the road as they hit me from the side. I got about 2/3 in feeling pretty good, but then the head wind and the bumps in the road got to me and I mentally hit a low point. I cursed a few times, got myself back together and pushed my way back to transition. I was somewhat relieved when I hit the run. The two loop course was great for the first loop, but very congested on the second one. Other than some stomach issues in the second half of the run, I felt good and had a good run. Coming in first in my age group (10th female overall including pros), qualified me for Worlds, and yet this didn’t feel like a real race. It did, however, cause us to re-visit the conversation of going pro. It proved to me again that I was worthy of giving a pro card a shot – and even more so, maybe I needed to do it learn more about my limits and abilities.

Whenever I have a big life decision to make, I consult those people around me who I know care about my well being and want me to do the best thing – even if it is not the easiest thing to do. My dad commented that maybe my continuing to race as an amateur was not really fair to other age groupers, and slowly I started to realize that I didn’t care as much about winning races as much as I wanted to become a better athlete and see how I could stack up against the pro’s. At Evolve we talk a lot about how we learn from the things that make us the most uncomfortable and challenge us the most – maybe I needed to follow my own coaching advice.  In my head, I had made going pro this big thing - going pro meant I had to quit my job, be on the road, not make money, right? No, not really. Finally, my partner Becca made the point: nothing really had to change. And she asked the right question: in 10 years, would I regret having not tried it?

This led to a bike ride with Coach Sam, during which I asked her what would have to change. Sam told me straight away that she felt the best move would be to make a switch to a new coach – a coach with more experience in transitioning AGers to Pro – and a coach who could offer other athletes to work with and learn from. It was that bike ride that ultimately set the wheels in motion -  Coach Sam sent off an email and within a few hours things were rolling - I was on the phone with Jesse Kropelnicki from QT2 systems the very next day and having phone conversations with three potential coaches in the days following that. I had great conversations with all three coaches, but I felt particularly well-aligned with Pat Wheeler. At Evolve we spend time telling our athletes about finding the coach that just clicks with you and I knew that Pat would be the best match for my personalty. We talked about going pro (he was once a pro, himself) and the ins-and-outs of switching from age-grouper to pro, but he also made it clear that we did not have to make that decision right now. I could race as a pro as soon as next season, or I could just race 2017 as an age grouper, improve my racing, and get to race the World Championships as an amateur in September.

During my initial conversation with Jesse, he suggested that I come to the fall pro training camp just outside of Houston that was coming up in three weeks. This was technically a pro camp, but they sometimes extend the invitation to amateurs that are considering making the switch to racing pro. Ok, that is the week before I started my new job, so yes, I could make the first of the two weeks – but WOW- here we go again. This was a lot to deal with in a short amount of time. I was still in the process of moving up to Wisconsin and about to start a new job, so why not completely jump into the deep end!

As camp started getting closer it became real and I started getting nervous. Regular phone calls with both Pat and Sam were made. I asked Pat “should I be worried?”.  One of the reasons I picked him was his directness, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when he said “Yes. Yes, you should be. But you will just do what they tell you, if they tell you to work harder, you go harder, if they tell you to get out of the pool, you get out. What you need to do is eat at every chance you get and take good care of yourself”. Ok, do what they say, and eat, sleep, foam roll in between. Got it.

I flew out on a Friday afternoon for the Saturday morning start of camp. With multiple hours of delays I get in late at night, but Jesse was nice enough to pick me up from the airport and drive me to where it will all take place: Sam Houston University. There were four pro’s at camp - all females, three more would be coming in later. While I am really nervous, I realize right away that this is a very supportive environment and I am right where I need to be. I am to share a room with Angela Naeth, she’s great and I will learn a ton from her. Tim Snow and Jesse will be running the camp. We won’t know what training we are doing till pretty much right before. Key: take good care of yourself. Ok, got it.

Early Saturday morning I meet the other girls as we head to the swim: Angela, Jodie, Jeanni and Heather (we were later joined by Amy, Carrie and Jocelyn). After the swim we have breakfast and go over the week. We won’t know what workouts we are doing and when (Coach Sam had warned me of this), they will text us what time to meet and what to bring. Everyone will be doing their own thing, so no racing each other, you stick with your OWN heart rate and power zones. We have access to the Sam Houston cafeteria for food and we will be participating (voluntary) in experiments on core temperature and we are asked to fill out questionnaires for a psychologist.

Our first workout is a group easy ride to check out the 56 mile loop that we will be using. I get the chance to chat with pretty much all of the women and start to feel a bit more comfortable. They are NORMAL people, each very different, but all of them super nice. Rooming with Angela is great, she answers all of my random questions and likes to chat and have fun – plus she likes licorice.

Throughout the rest of the week I am regularly in touch with Pat, who mostly just tells me to eat more. But I am starting to realize, more than I ever have, that this is key, it’s hard to eat enough to replenish from all the workouts that we do. I am on point when it comes to nutrition during workouts, can’t skip any of it. Carbs before workouts, recovery drinks after. I ate veggies at every chance I get. It’s hard, but I need to get it in to have the energy for the next day. We swim every morning and I eat breakfast before, then breakfast after, and then whatever is thrown our way. The swims become harder and harder as the days progress, my shoulders are not used to this load and I definitely struggle my way through. Pat says I should just give myself a few extra seconds of rest, which ended up happening as Jesse told me to do the same the next day. Camp pretty much consists of double runs, double swims and crazy hard bike rides; long work, speed work, low cadence intervals on the bike, endless kick sets, we did it all. I did some of the hardest workouts of my life and would then get back up and move on to the next one. Having the group atmosphere was an amazing boost. It was a humbling experience, as these women were handing me my a$$, but their support made this the most inspiring experience I had to date in triathlon.  The bike rides were awesome; I found my match in Heather, we stuck within range when not drafting, and when we were told we could draft we would switch back and forth and pull each other back to the hotel. For the runs we would get heart rate zones or paces to work with, and I was usually on my own as my pace was in between that of the others, but Coach Tim was a sport and would keep me company for parts. When someone hit the wall they were pulled off the bike or out of the pool (often caused by heat or dehydration), they would recover and join back up for the next session. We all laughed, cursed, pushed, and sweated our butts off.

The biggest thing I learned is that it really came down to taking care of myself and doing my own work to better myself as an athlete. What was really amazing was to have the coaches to make adjustments on the fly – to change the workouts or to pull us from the work so that we could get the most out of ourselves. I think that many people think that pro athletes just punish themselves all day every day. While they work really freaking hard, they also recover as hard if not harder and also train in a smart way. Angela was always positive about everything and she pushed me to stay on top of my pre and post nutrition. The staff at the cafeteria was amazing and even prepared seafood just for us to offer me protein options (as I don’t any other meat). And, not to forget, we also had a lot of fun, socialized at breakfast/lunch/dinner, checked out the prison museum, and went to see a movie.

I pulled through this week with the support of all of the pro women, Jesse, Tim and Pat and back home from Samantha. I ate, ate, ate, and stayed hydrated, rolled/stretched and slept. And maybe even more importantly, I got to know a crew of awesome women, each inspiring in her own way. And we all had one thing in common: we loved the training, the pain, the push, the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment of getting through a hard workout. I heard stories of having good races, but also of bad ones, but just as we all do after a bad day or a bad training session: we get back at it the next day.

Camp proved to me and my coaches that going pro was in my reach, and as Angela said: “just do it! What do you have to lose?” And that became the theme for the week when talking to any of the other athletes. That, and the fact that I managed to pull through that week and felt good about it lead to a conversation with Pat in which we decided that I would finish this season with 70.3 in Austin as an AGer  and I will get my pro card after that and race as a pro next season. I am excited and nervous. The first races are not going to be pretty, they are going to be hard, and I am going to be bottom of the pack. But I am going to work my butt off to improve and we will see where that leads!


I would be remiss without thanking all of those in my life who have supported me – my family, Nicole, and Coach Samantha for helping me get to where I am today and then setting the next path in motion. And of course a huge shout out to my partner Becca who really helped me to see that this “dream” could be a reality. 

Special thanks to all the ladies from camp who took me in and showed me the ropes and to Coach Tim, Jesse and Pat and of course to Sam Houston University for hosting the camp.