Wednesday, November 25, 2015


It's that time of year when the evenings are dark and cold, baking abounds and although we want to slow down and enjoy the holidays, they seem to make everything hectic. Somehow life got busy even though I wasn't training.

I had foot surgery. My foot healed a bit. My foot got infected. I was taken off all activity except walking to my car & put on antibiotics. Once the infection went away I did a lot of hiking. Then I was allowed to run for 15 minutes. I started swimming again and was super slow.

During all of this most of my time was spent focusing on work. In the midst of foot drama I launched a new microscope website -, and I'm proud of how it turned out.

I like Thanksgiving not so much for the food (although the pies are fantastic!), but because I like to pause and think back on the year and remind myself how grateful I am for my life. It is definitely not perfect, nor is it always easy, but in my eyes it is good.

In no particular order - my grateful list for this year:
  • Travel - from New Zealand to Mont Tremblant, Sweden, Croatia, and even San Francisco and Santa Cruz, I am incredibly grateful every time I am able to see more of the world.
  • Actually moving forward with a plan (surgery) and fixing my foot. I hope to have many more years of awesome activity with less foot pain than I had in the past.
  • Bicycles - I have what most would say is too many, but they bring me such joy!
  • Friends - for anyone who knows me well, I hope you know how much you mean to me. Thank you for laughing with me, crying with me and listening while I try to solve life's problems (mostly by talking about them a lot).
  • The great outdoors - I am most at peace and happy when I'm far from civilization and on my bike or hiking in the redwoods. I'm grateful to live in a place where nature continually amazes me with its beauty.
  • Coffee - on those days where life seems really shitty or overwhelming, coffee rocks. It's good on the other days as well.
  • Progress - I am a very action-oriented person. If you come to me with a problem I will want to help you fix it. I've seen progress over the past year in life, love, work, sport, - many areas of my own life and I'm grateful for this.
  • Coaches and mentors - I've had many of them and I am grateful for each of them and all they have taught me.
  • Running - I've recently done some of this pain free and it's a new thing for me.
  • Eric - thank you for sharing life with me and letting me be ME.
I hope each of you have a holiday filled with things that make your heart happy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lulea Sweden

It's been a while since I was on my Sweden / Euro adventure. Thanks to foot surgery resulting in additional free time, in the next few weeks I've decided to post my favorite photos from the trip.

After Ironman Sweden I flew up north to a town called Lulea in Sweden. When my Mom was 19 she spent a summer working in this town and living with a friend and her relatives. We spent a few days in the town and went to see the house she used to live in before we traveled further up north above the Arctic Circle.

There's a small town near Lulea called Gammelstaden that is basically a church town. Many years ago it was required for people to go to church, but many lived far away from the local church. So they would travel several days to get to the church, stay in this "church town" overnight, then travel home.

These fences were in Gammelstaden and were so simple, yet so complex.

This final shot is one I captured while running the last day I was in Lulea. It was the only foggy day on the entire trip.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


I mentioned in my Sweden report that I have a foot issue that has been around a long time. I've thought it might be Hagland's Deformity, but wasn't sure. Yesterday I saw a doc, who confirmed I do in fact have this wonderfully-named condition. He also confirmed what I have figured for a while, which is that if I quit running the extra bone on the back of my foot won't impinge on my Achilles and hurt it. But that bone won't magically disappear, so when I do run again, it will hurt, unless a doctor goes in there and removes that bone.

My left foot, with my extra pointy bone on the heal.

The bump on the back of my foot that hurts.

Sexy side foot profile.

Yesterday I was diagnosed and tomorrow I'm having surgery to say farewell to the extra bone on my foot. I figured it would be a month or so before they could schedule me, but when I was told my doctor had an opening tomorrow I jumped on that appointment, knowing very well that if I had a lot of time to sit around and contemplate surgery, I would literally RUN in the other direction. I know I want the surgery and I want to fix and rehab my foot, but the idea of someone cutting open my foot and shaving bone off completely freaks me out! I've never been in a hospital other than the one in Tobago when I super-manned off my bicycle and I have thankfully never had surgery.

I wasn't going to post any of this until after the surgery because to be honest, my surgery seems small compared to my childhood friend who is also having surgery tomorrow. Her surgery is for cancer and will take 6-8 hours. My surgery takes about an hour, and it's not a life-saving surgery. So for some reason it seems silly for me to be scared. But I am.

Supposedly after my heal is slimmed down I'll have more free time for several weeks when I'm unable to do any sort of training. If anyone has great tips to occupy my time and keep myself from going crazy I'd love to hear them. So far the only thing I have thought of is learning to knit...

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ironman Sweden Race Report

Ironman Sweden was my 20th Ironman. I've known for a while that it will also probably be my last full Ironman for a while. Everyone tells me it won't, so I guess time will tell... but I do know that for 10 years I've raced a full schedule every season, while working full time. I'm a master of time management, because I have to be in order to race pro and do my job well. It's a choice I made and for the most part I have loved and embraced it. It's also hard and I'm ready for a change - I want to have fun adventures that don't always revolve around the amount of training required to race at the top. I have also had an ankle injury that I have been managing / somewhat stubbornly ignoring for over four years. (Yes, pros are just like amateurs in this area). It's time for me to fix my ankle before I schedule anymore full Ironman races. I still plan to race next season, but most likely only shorter distances.

All of that being said - the dreamer, hard-worker and goal-chaser wanted Sweden to be an amazing final hurrah of racing Ironman distance. I wanted to race for a personal best and I trained and felt fit to do so. Things don't always work out the way we plan, but I'll tell you this - the sport of triathlon is like no other and the spectators in Sweden made this Ironman a massive party (even though it lasted much longer than I would have liked). Onto the race....

Saturday evening I slept very little - perhaps the time change, perhaps because my stomach was upset, maybe excited nerves. I probably slept 2 hours. And I awoke to a body that was semi-nauseous and didn't feel great. I hoped over time it would pass, as I had a similar experience at Ironman Wisconsin years ago and that race ended well.

This is the pro swim start. When I got in the water I knew it would be choppy (the winds were blowing about 20+ mph), but I didn't think it would be as choppy as it was once we exited the sea wall. Inside the protected harbor while waiting for the gun to go off there was already swell. By the time I had reached the outside buoy I was in a washing machine. I've swum a number of choppy swims over the years and this ranked right up there near the top. I did my best to find the buoys when on top of the waves and tried not to swallow water. The swim course is actually a really cool route that does a large loop out in the Baltic Sea (this part had large waves), and then we swam back inside the harbor, under a small bridge and up a river to finish right next to transition. I'm sure if I had grown up swimming I would have loved it all. I think my favorite part was the final 100 meters in the river, where I could see the swim exit. I swam 1:05.

Out onto the bike and I had no power from the start. As soon as I took in my first nutrition I was nauseous. I figured after an hour things would settle down and I might feel better. I rode over the 6k bridge (fun!) to the Oland Island while trying to ignore the tons of men now passing me. The winds were whipping and much of the time they were cross winds. The head wind sections were a slog. Time ticked on and I felt worse. It was mostly frustrating, but what can you do?! Unfortunately we can't always choose the days our bodies feel their best. I hit the mid-way point and wanted to lay down on the grass next to the lovely Swedish families yelling "Haja! Haja!" I continued to eat and drink on a schedule and turned my legs over. I came off the bike after 5:33.

I was actually very excited about the Sweden run course - it consists of running through the old town four times (while completing three loops). The old town is what comes to mind when I think of a very, very, very old European town - complete with a wall around it, cobblestones, and winding narrow streets, with a tunnel through the outer town wall thrown in. (Any European town that is older than my country is great in my book!)

I was still nauseous at the end of the bike, but pushed that aside and decided I would aim for a fast marathon and salvage a small part of my race, which at this point was looking quite dismal. I had nothing to lose. I love running and I love a spectator friendly course and I knew this could be fun if I could make it that way. I really really hoped the nausea would subside.

Out of transition I felt a bit better and as I ran more (and faster!) the nausea seemed to subside. I smiled and ran fast and for a while ran with a guy from Stockholm stride for stride. The spectators were so fun - yelling "Karisa!" and "Go USA!" (there was a little American flag on my bib number). Even once we left town and were out in the neighborhoods and along a bike path the crowds were everywhere. I took in gels and they seemed to be sitting well. I ran as fast as my legs would turn over and was happy to be clipping off kilometers. I made it through the half way point feeling fairly good and then around mile 14 I took a gel and immediately my nausea came back. A minute later I puked in the bushes (first time this has ever happened to me). The nice thing was, once I puked I could run fast again. Except I was worried because I still had 12 miles to run and without those calories in my stomach I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep running fast. At the next aid station I switched to Coke. And that didn't sit well at all. As my calorie intake disappeared, so did my fast running.

By the final lap I was willing the legs to turn over. Aid stations became a buffet of trying to get something, anything! into my stomach. I tried chips, pickles, and lemon slices (those were actually good, but provided little calories). I made some new Swedish friends and shuffled to the finish after a 3:46 marathon. I finished 6th in 10:33, very far off what I had planned.

Thanks Mom for all the cheering!
After the race I tried not to be overly sad about my race - I know I did the best I could on the given day - and really that is all we can ever ask of ourselves. The sport of triathlon and in particular Ironman has given me memories over the past 10 years that I never would have dreamed. I've seen the world through racing and made amazing friends. So rather than putting a final closure to my Ironman racing career, I will end by saying I hope that if I put as much focus into healing my ankle as I did over the years into Ironman training, that I can soon be healthy and perhaps give Norseman or some other crazy endurance adventure a go in the near future!

Post race my Mom and I went up north in Sweden where she lived for a summer when she was 19. And then I road tripped from Belgrade to the Croatian coast and back up to Italy. It was an amazing trip that I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced. I will post photos on the other adventures soon.

A huge thank you to my sponsors!
Zoot - fast TT shoes, flexible wetsuits, awesome training and racing apparel.  
Microscope World - my other great job.
Profile Design - fast TwentyFour wheels, aero bars and hydration. I love the Aero HC system.
Powerbar - gels, hydration and recovery for ultimate performance.
Nytro - my local (but they sell all over the world!) bike shop with all things racing/training.
Extreme Endurance - thanks for helping me recover and keeping me healthy!

Rudy Project - great helmets and sunglasses, awesome colors!
Bont - best cycling shoes around.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Challenge St. Andrews Race Report

Last year I raced in St. Andrews and loved it, so I decided to return as this race matched up well a few weeks after Mt. Tremblant 70.3. I have an amazing homestay (Thank you Peggy & Bob!) and settled right into the quaint waterfront town. If you've never visited the Maritimes I highly recommend this area of Canada.

Race morning dawned clear and calm - perfect weather for racing.

I swam solo around the lake (this seems to be usual for me when the field isn't huge) and came out of the water last pro female in 29:06. Time to get to work!

This is me heading out on the bike. I wasn't going to post this since it's blurry, but then I thought it actually was kind of artsy and figured why not - since it's the only photo I have of me on the bike. Immediately onto the bike and my legs felt awful, as if I was pedaling squares. They felt heavy, as if they had been filled with sludge the previous evening. I told myself to just keep pushing, and they would come around. Sometimes it can take an hour for my legs to feel better.

I passed one girl and hoped I might be gaining on the others. As I reached the hour mark I came to terms with the fact that my legs were NOT feeling better at all. At this point I think my mindset changed completely to "well just race faster so it will be over sooner and everything will stop hurting!!"  I rode a 2:37.

Onto the run and I still held out hope my legs would start to feel better. I got into a nice rhythm, but the legs did not improve. I ate, drank, tried to enjoy the scenery and mostly tried to HTFU and finish so my legs would stop killing me. Yeah, it was just one of those days. Some days you have it and others you don't. I ended up running 1:32 and finished 4th in 4:44. It would be easy to be sad about this, especially after finishing 2nd here last year and having a great race, but honestly I wasn't overly sad. I've raced in this sport long enough to know when I am fit and when I fought as hard as I could (I am and I did). There are just some days when the legs don't have fight in them, and there is no point beating myself up about it.

Great scenery!
A big thank you to Peggy, Bob, Vicky and David for being out on the course cheering me on - it was so nice to see friendly faces out there!

Next up is Ironman Sweden!

Zoot - fast TT shoes, flexible wetsuits, awesome training and racing apparel.  
Microscope World - my other great job.
Profile Design - fast TwentyFour wheels, aero bars and hydration. I love the Aero HC system.
Powerbar - gels, hydration and recovery for ultimate performance.
Nytro - my local (but they sell all over the world!) bike shop with all things racing/training.
Extreme Endurance - thanks for helping me recover quick to race again!

Rudy Project - great helmets and sunglasses, awesome colors!
Bont - best cycling shoes around.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mt. Tremblant Training

When I race far from home I typically try to race at least twice - better chance I'll make money, have an adventure and I also just like to race - so in my mind more racing = more fun. This strategy usually leaves about a week between places where I need to set up a home base for training. Before deciding on my Mt. Tremblant 70.3 / Challenge St. Andrews combo I did my research. I asked everyone I knew if Mt. Tremblant would be a good place to spend a week post-race training. I was confident when I came to Mt. Tremblant that I would get some solid training in - but to be honest, I've been blown away by how amazing it has been. If you're looking for a great training destination - I would highly recommend Mt. Tremblant, and here is why...

Miles of roads that are well paved, have good shoulders and aren't packed with cars. Oh yes, and the scenery isn't half bad either! Definitely do a ride into the Mont Tremblant National Park. And bring bug spray, especially if you plan to stop riding at any point.

Trails - a lot of trails - hilly ones, and a very very long flat one that goes all the way to Montreal. They are all beautiful. On runs this past week I have seen many deer, some fox, chipmunks and several groundhogs (which I originally thought were beavers, but I may have been confused).

Beautiful lakes - many of them. I've swum in 3 so far. My favorite is Lac Mercier, which has a rock exactly 1k from shore. Mont-Tremblant is in the process of building a brand new swim complex that will be completed in August. I didn't mind not having a pool, as open water swimming is perfect for my training.

We had just finished trying to photograph ourselves jumping off a (1-foot-high) rock here. It didn't quite turn out to be the amazing photo we were looking for. But it was funny.

Recovery - Kiet and I treated ourselves mid-week to a massage at the Scandanave Spa - the hot and cold tubs would be enough to get me to go back. Add to that the Eucalyptus steam room, the Sauna and the ability to dip into the river or relax in a hammock or in Adirondack chairs by a fire and it was fabulous.

The exchange rate - if you're from the states, Canada's exchange rate is nice!

Great food. We made meals at home most days, but the few times we ate out it was awesome. We had crepes (seems wrong to me to visit French Canada and not have crepes!!) and I really loved Ristorante Ital Delli in the old village (on the run course).

The people - French Quebec people are very nice. One day we went to the lake and Kiet forgot his goggles. Not only did a local lady let him borrow hers, but she also gave us info about the lake and informed us that the rock was 1k from the shore. Later in Montreal, we got semi-lost on a run through Mont Royal park. When we asked a local for directions she offered to drive us home. We had many experiences of friendly, helpful locals.

No crowds - coming from California I suppose I'm used to beautiful mountain areas being crowded. If you go to Lake Tahoe in the summer, it's crowded. Mt. Tremblant is not crowded. I felt like we were in a relaxing, beautiful location all to ourselves all week long. This is especially nice when riding bikes.

All in all - we will definitely be back Mt. Tremblant!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mt. Tremblant 70.3 Triathlon Race Report

Kiet and I arrived in Montreal Thursday evening and discovered my bike had not made it on the plane. We were assured it would be delivered to Mont Tremblant the next day and were told it had been re-routed through Houston. Friday evening after multiple calls (all of which Air Canada outsources to India and were frustrating) we were told the bike was in customs at the airport. Rather than sit and wait for it to clear customs, we drove back 1.5 hrs to the airport to retrieve my bike. It wasn't there. We drove 1.5 hours back to Mt. Tremblant at midnight. I almost cried, mostly because I was tired. Saturday I got on Facebook and Twitter asking for help in finding a loaner bike to race on, as Air Canada didn't know where mine was. I must say the triathlon community is amazing and I was completely overwhelmed by how many people reached out to help me find a bike so I could race. THANK YOU.

A big thank you to Eric Laurence for putting me in touch with Bicycles Quilicot, who fit me on a brand new Specialized Transition (it's for sale - $1500CAN with training wheels - if you live in Montreal go get it, it's a great deal!)

Borrowed bike test ride the afternoon before the race.

Needless to say, pre-race was stressful. To add to the craziness of the story, race morning at 5:30am my bike was delivered. I built the bike in record speed, tested it by riding it once up and down the driveway, and we rushed off to transition. My training for this race had been solid and I was excited to race, but once the bike debacle ensued, I figured my race was non-existent to sub-par. I knew I would do the best with what I had, but I am also realistic. Nothing like getting that confidence back on race morning!

Pro women - I'm second from right. (Photo: / Julien Heon)

I swam solo around the lake - 29:48, the water was nice, not much to talk about here...I came out of the water 8th (but thought I was 9th). I rather enjoyed the swim - until the end when I was just sick of swimming and excited to get on my bike.

Yay I'm on my bike! (Photo: Kiet)
And then I got on the bike - my bike - and I was just really happy to be riding hard on a bike that I have spent so many hours training on. I chased solo until I caught and passed several girls around mile 20. And then I rode the rest of the ride alone. It rained. The rolling hills were fun. The steeper hills at the end were not. My legs hurt, but the good hurt. I rode 2:35. I came off the bike in 5th.

Running along the lake. (Photo: Kiet)

Mt. Tremblant is gorgeous! (Photo: Kiet)

Chasing 4th... (Photo: Kiet)
The run was a mix of chasing 4th and making sure I didn't get caught by 6th. I really wanted 5th or better, and I did my best to fight for it.

Hills! I love hills. But I'm hurting here. (Photo: Kiet)

When I started the bike these two spectators were on the side of the road cheering for me with shorts on. As I got closer they dropped their shorts to reveal green sock / thongs. I laughed so hard. They made me laugh on the run as well. They are the type of spectators you find at Wildflower and I loved it.

I ran a 1:30 to finish 5th in 4:40. On a day that I didn't think would happen because of a lost bike, I was super stoked with this race.

Next up is some fun training in Mt. Tremblant followed by Challenge St. Andrews in two weeks.

Zoot - fast TT shoes, flexible wetsuits, awesome training and racing apparel.  
Microscope World - my other great job.
Profile Design - fast TwentyFour wheels, aero bars and hydration. I love the Aero HC system.
Powerbar - gels, hydration and recovery for ultimate performance.
Nytro - my local (but they sell all over the world!) bike shop with all things racing/training.
Extreme Endurance - thanks for helping me recover quick to race again in 2 weeks!
Rudy Project - great helmets and sunglasses, awesome colors!
Bont - best cycling shoes around. 

Kiet - best race sherpa ever - thank you for laughing with me at all the craziness!!