Miss Emma’s XTERRA Southeast Championship Race Report

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It took about five minute in the South before being called “Miss Emma.”

After a plane flight solo with my son on my lap, which is almost always synonymous with starving and having to pee (or worse getting peed on), I was happy to be greeted with a slice Southern Hospitality. It started as I was waiting to deplane when the woman sitting next to me offered to hold Torin while I searched for runaway cars and baby bottles. This was followed by a much needed restroom with changing table and some airport food.

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My experiences in the south have always been pleasurable and the reason I keep coming back, and now bring my family. One thing I love about racing triathlons is it takes you places you might not necessarily go to otherwise and discover they are not what you expect…in a good way.

To start with, I never thought of Alabama as a mountain bike destination but they’ve certainly built some world-class singletrack making Oak Mountain State Park one of the best XTERRA venues in the country.

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What makes the venue great is the abundance of trails are technically challenging and fun to ride, lots of trees for shade and a lake to cool off in. That being said the course does not suit my strengths or experience. I have never placed higher than 5th and I’ve done the race since 2009. Although racing when I was 10 weeks pregnant and 5 months postpartum didn’t help matters.

This year I’d come off a productive and healthy block of training in cold weather and was excited to go to the hot and humid South, only to find I packed the conditions and brought them with me! The weather race week certainly through us for a loop, we had not packed for the cooler temperatures.

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I was lucky to have my parents meet me at Atlanta Airport, as it coincided with their trip to visit friends. They helped me navigate to car rentals in the world’s busiest airport – literally.

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We stayed in Midtown Altanta one night and enjoyed checking out Piedmont Park. The next day my mum and I drove to Pelham, Alabama, about a three-hour drive.

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Race Day

Temperatures had cooled the water off enough it was a wetsuit swim for everyone. For me it meant I was swimming in my brand new Blue Seventy Helix.

DSC_0155Not long after the gun went off the first thought I had was “Swimming at low elevation is SOOO AWESOME!” What wasn’t awesome was my ability to swim in a straight line. At the end of the 1st lap I found the feet of a pro male, which is usually a good thing only he was kicking like a jet ski so I couldn’t seem to breathe or sight. Managed to break away and swim solo to the finish coming out of the water in 4th but close to Suzie in 3rd.

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Nutrition

The cooler temperatures made nutrition easier for this race. Rather than wearing a hydration pack, I stuck with one bottle with GU Brew along with three GUs for the bike. I planned on drinking whenever there was an open section of dirt road, which wasn’t too often.

The Bike

I cut an 1.5 inches off my bars to avoid clipping a handlebar on a tree and after flatting in Vegas I was slightly neurotic about it happening here. I ran a thicker tire on the back; Fast Trak Control instead of S-Works and carried 3 CO2s. The course also had a lot more roots and rocks than I remembered and I was riding my Fate; a hard tail. The bonus rain had made parts of the trail, and especially the roots, slick necessitating a low tire pressure, but going too low would increase my chances of flatting.

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Riding fast on the road coming out of T1 made me think my rear tire was too low (again being slightly neurotic.) but when I got on singletrack I realized things were ok. The first 5.5 miles were twisty, relatively flat and DARK! Imagine riding at dusk with dark glasses on (mine were clear but it still looked that way.) Turns out there was a huge black cloud overhead I couldn’t see because of the trees, making it double-dark.

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There was no one around so I wondered if I’d taken a wrong turn and searched for familiarities on the trail (I should know this trail by now.) I reminded myself I was racing and to go hard. What’s great about this trail is you have to focus on your riding, especially when it’s wet. I had some close calls hitting roots at the wrong angle.

At 5.5 miles I started the one long climb in the race, the one place I could shine. I could now see Suzie and was gaining on her. What wasn’t shining was the sun, in fact the skies opened up and it was pouring! I passed three riders (not racers) who were sheltering under a trailhead markers. Once I passed Suzie she hung on my wheel and we caught Christine Jeffrey before the top of the climb. I was now in 2nd. After some fire road we descended through the feared yet fun Blood Rock and then my favorite section of descending before another much shorter climb, Johnson’s Mountain, where I managed to put a gap on Suzie.

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The final 4 miles were flat and twisty again where I tried my best to maintain speed through the turns and accelerate on anything that was straight. Gwenyth has been all about the ‘conscious uncoupling,’ for me, 2014 is all about the conscious breaking. I still, on occasion scolded myself for comfort breaking.

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The Run

As I came into T2 I got a split I was just over 5 minutes down from 1st. Undoubtedly a comfortable lead for Flora but anything can happen in a race so I was optimistic. Plus, I still had to hold onto 2nd place with some fast runners behind me so I was going to run as fast as I could. I felt all the accelerating on the bike in my legs for the 1st half-mile on the road but then got into a good turnover and hoped to lessen my deficit. My feet were a bit numb from the cold but soon warmed up.

P1000773The rest of run rolls through the woods singletrack through the trees with a few mud pits to navigate. As I came through the 1st lap I didn’t get any splits, which was mildly discouraging but I tried to stay positive as I felt strong.

DSC_0902I was happy to give a few high fives to kids as I went around the last turn before the finish chute where I saw Torin dangling over the barrier Michael Jackson style (although with much lower consequences) so of course I had to carry him across the finish. It was great to have him back in my arms although the kid was a bit confused, it turned out he had been woken up from his nap for the occasion.

DSC_0041-001I’d run the fastest run split and was 4 something minutes down from Flora, as opposed to the 10 something minutes in Vegas. It felt good to know my training block had paid off! More importantly I felt 100x better during this race than in Vegas. I was also 10 minutes faster than last year on the same course in similar conditions so I was more than happy with being Miss 2nd again…for now.

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Women's podium + Torin

Women’s podium + Torin

We may have had to leave the post-race party a bit early because of Torin’s bedtime but he certainly allowed us to have a lot of fun on the trip. I am forever grateful for my own mother coming to the race with me and making it possible for me to race and for Torin to travel with us.

Torin also got his 1st haircut at the Paul Mitchell Cut-a-thon!

Torin getting his 1st haircut at the Paul Mitchell Cut-a-thon!

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We got to check out the petting zoo in Oak Mountain State Park, I’ve been to this race so many times and never knew it existed before but certainly is worth it if you have children.

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We also got some beach time at the park, I got another ride in on Jeckyll and Hyde, and we got to go the Birmingham Zoo before making the drive back to Altanta and flight back home.

2014-05-18 15.57.56Southern hospitality and singletrack as sweet as the tea made this trip a treat. Miss Emma is a name I could get used to, Miss 2nd on the other hand, I hope doesn’t stick around.

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Racing Smarter

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Finishing 2nd at the XTERRA West Championships is my best finish ever in a US Pro Series race. I should feel happier about my result but the race felt like one long argument with my body. It’s funny, sometimes you feel great but the results don’t match and other times you feel like crap but get good results. My experience was certainly the latter.

I was lucky to have this result and believe it was due to being smarter in my preparation and execution when the circumstances were not ideal (not to be confused with being smart, if that were the case I would be doing something else for a career.) If I’ve learned anything from being a parent it are that the situations you face at races, and in life, are rarely ideal but almost always manageable.

Early season races are almost always painful when you come from winterland and The XTERRA West Championships especially painful because it’s hot, exposed and windy. That being said I’ve always felt decent at this race, even last year when I was competing in the Double D Division. This should really be a division, I bet it would be most watched. Hey, whatever it takes to get people to pay more attention to women’s athletics.

This year I was coming off two weeks of being super sick, hanging out of the couch with only the strength to drink chicken broth and Google stuff like giardia, strep throat, swine flu and pink eye (this is too random to be made up.) Who knows what concoction of infectious diseases I really had but THANK YOU daycare. Yes Torin was sick also but it didn’t slow him down as much – making me the baby.

I had to force myself to rest, even though I wanted to be on my bike or in the pool, doing a warm up race just to give me a bit more confidence going into my 1st race. Mid –March through mid-April is usually a cram session for me coming off of winter but being healthy trumped any fitness or preparation I could gain during this time. It was also smart to not do too much pre-riding or trying to keep up with healthy people the days leading up to the race.

Saying bye to dad and Park City

Saying bye to dad and Park City (Torin looks sad but he just has pink eye)

I had to keep reminding myself, even though my preparation wasn’t ideal, I was leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year, and being 3 cup sizes smaller certainly helped. The trip in general was much easier after a lot of practice last year, it only took two trolley loads to schlep our stuff to our apartment for instance. When I set our departure time at 8am, we actually left by 9am, unlike last year when I said we’d leave at 9 and left at noon. Getting to the race would not have been possible without the amazing support of  ‘Aunty Ness.’ To make things easier for everyone I splurged on….drum roll…. a hotel room (not a word in most pro triathlete’s vocabulary) walking distance from the venue.

Can't forget this valuable piece of luggage!

Can’t forget this valuable piece of luggage!

Swimming with Aunty Ness

Swimming with Aunty Ness

I woke up race morning, after a good night’s sleep, and Torin sleeping through the night, with a few cries here and there. Hard to believe I’m still nursing but nothing that slows me down and no pump to deal with anymore. I was nervous, but my nerves turned to excitement when I got a good luck wave from the little guy.

Race morning breakfast for Torin too.

Race morning breakfast for Torin too.

I was optimistic, when that gun goes off; I’m going to feel awesome and rested. I had my fair share of good races post-illness so I convinced myself I had a shot at winning.

My Fate and gear set up in transition

My Fate and gear set up in transition

The pro start

The pro start

Well, I felt far from awesome when I started the swim I was gasping for air and trying to sight the 1st buoy without burning my retinas, as it was right in front of the morning sun.

I tried to convince myself the reason my body like crap because I  hadn’t raced in forever, and to suck it up. Move it body.

I kept going. I soon found some feet and stayed on them even when I wanted to see if I could swim a bit faster. I felt comfortable in my Blue Seventy Helix despite very few swims in it before the race. I came out of the swim with a pack of swimmers in 4th place but close behind 2nd and 3rd.

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One place to make up time without a lot more effort is transitions. Because I wasn’t feeling 100 percent I had to pick my battles. I came out of T2 in 2nd but got passed by Suzie and Chantell as I put my shoes and gloves on. It was great having those girls around to keep me focused on the bike despite feeling a lack of power and rusty technical skills. I’d only rode my mountain bike a few times during the off-season and none of which was fast but it certainly was fun to be back on my Specialized Fate.

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I managed to move my way back to 2nd during the 1st wash, a loose, dry river bed-like section. I stayed in 2nd until the 2nd lap I was riding smoother now but I noticed my back tire was dangerously low. I weighed the odds; stopping and putting air in could cost me the podium, but destroying my tire, or worse, rim, could cost me any prize money or series points, and I had a hotel room to pay for and a baby to get back to, so I stopped on a climb before a rocky descent and put air in my tire. Me from two years ago totally would have kept riding til my tire exploded, I’m so old and mature now :).  I got passed by Suzie and Chantell, but got back on and kept going, surviving the rocky downhill. At that point I just wanted the bike to be over with because I didn’t know if I had a slow leak. The wind picked up a lot 2nd lap and so did the temperature.

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I came into T2 right behind Suzie, and managed to have another quick transition as I came out running in 2nd. The first run-off-the-bike is always painful and my body was not happy to still be racing. Seeing Suzie and now Shonny behind me kept me on my toes. I wasn’t overly confident I’d stay in front so had to give myself some positive mantras, you know mom power and stuff like that.

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I’ve been happy about progressions made in my running during the winter but certainly wasn’t noticing it today. Running and running off the bike are two different things. I had to remind myself I was in 2nd. Hills are often my strength, but I opted to focus more on the downhills and technical sections to make up time as they take less energy. As always I loved running in my Salomon Sense Ultras, they worked great on the rocky and loose terrain and often allowed me to take a rockier but shorter line. It certainly felt hot and windy out there and I made the most of each aid station to hydrate and cool off. The course was so open it made it too easy to look behind, and ahead, but there was no one in site in front.

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The only patches of shade were a quarter mile from the finish and it was such a relief. I was so far of off first and couldn’t see Shonny behind me so I was able to carry Torin across the finish line – always a highlight for me but it is getting more and more challenging! I think I heard the announcer Kalei say something along the lines of ‘He’s as big as you! Soon he’ll have to carry you across the line!’- That would be nice.

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It certainly felt like the 1st race of the season and like my body was still in the aftermath of illness but it was a good lesson in not giving in to my excuses and persevering when I was not 100 percent. After all, I’m not going to feel awesome at every race but hopefully can continue to pull off a good results in those situations by racing smarter. And at some point I’ll  figure out how to race smarter when I’m feeling awesome.

Sure I have some reasons for not racing faster, but they certainly don’t add up to the 11+ minutes Flora Duffy dominated the women’s race by, which is another reason for not being happier about 2nd place. I’d got lucky winning the close battle for 2nd against a talent group of women, and it gives me great points for the Pro Series, I’d just wanted the battle to be for 1st. Smart preparation in not-ideal circumstances can only get you far, good results also require consistent specific training.

Finding some shade at the finish

Finding some shade at the finish

It was great to see my XTERRA friends again and welcome some new women to the pro field. I am certainly looking forward to a good block of training before the next XTERRA Regional Championship in Pelham, Alabama.

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Big thanks again to Vanessa for being my ‘race sherpa’ and for the companies that support my efforts, please support them!

Salomon, Backcountry.com, Specialized, Blue Seventy, Champion System, Probar, GU Energy Labs, Crank Brothers and Suunto.

Mahalo!

Emma

 

Motherhood and the Bank

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It’s early and I’m sitting in a crowded Galena Lodge in Sun Valley Idaho, it’s minus something and I’m waiting before the start of the Boulder Mountain Tour, a 35k Cross Country Ski race. I haven’t had my coffee yet so I don’t feel like making small talk.

I question why I’m there. I could be spending time with my family, I could be training for triathlons, I could be working, I could have done this with the Chariot, it would give me an excuse to ski slow.

Motherhood and racing has been a challenge and remaining positive can be exhausting. I certainly get down on myself a lot, especially this time of year when other athletes living the full-time athlete lifestyle year round and racking up the miles during winter when I certainly feel far from professional.

Our 1st magazine cover!

Our 1st magazine cover!

I’m grateful for the increased exposure being a mom gave me this past year, a few decent results helped too, but I’m still working on getting my sponsorship, as a whole, back to what it was before I became a mom – and that is frustrating. When I eventually get paid the prize money I won in 2013, I believe it was equal to what I earned in 2011, my last full season before becoming a mom, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. The downside is my overall my income is ‘two-thirds full’ what it was before I became a mom and that is before all the additional expenses. Some of it is my choice to work fewer hours, but a lot of it isn’t and for someone who has always valued independence it bums me out.

The upside is I get to slide around on snow a lot this time of year. It’s hard to remember the last time I didn’t put on skis or hang out in windproof clothing all day and before you don’t feel sorry for me, it can be tiring work chasing kids around on cross country skis, ringing cowbells, and teaching adults how to put on cross country skis for their first time, and my 10,000th time.

My rest days sometimes include activities like five hours of back-to-back ski of lessons on cross-country skis just begging for 5 minutes of downtime in between so I don’t eat my hand. By late February I am just longing to put on jeans and keep them on all day. Although I seem to gravitate toward low paying professions, it is some steady pay and it’s still a way for me to stay afloat during the winter when I’m not racing triathlons. I’m grateful for the jobs I have in winter and generally enjoy them an it forces me not to do too much too soon, although a training camp in Tuscon or Kona does sound pretty nice right about now. When spring rolls around and I can train, and more importantly recover more, it seems a lot easier than my schedule right now. And hey, at least I don’t have to worry about overtraining…ever again.

But each winter I tend to get confused, am I a triathlete who skis or a skier who does triathlons? My upper body strength would have the needle pointing toward two wheels. But it’s hard to not add skiing into the mix come winter when I live in a ski town and I’m watching the biggest snowflakes I’ve ever seen fall outside. After all, cycling indoors and trying not to get hit by a snowplow on a run can get old. I still enjoy cross-country skiing and find it a nice change in the winter.

Swings are fun

Swings are fun

Despite work and being a mom, I’m still finding the time to ride indoors, swim, and incorporate some strength training into my routine in an effort to produce more power and prevent injuries. I’ve even started running on the treadmill, which really takes a lot of the fun out of running but seems to be beneficial and convenient. It feels really good to build on the fitness I gained in 2013, and know how much further I am ahead of ‘this time last year.’ I can’t always go to all the races I want, which is a bums me out, but getting consistent training, even if it’s only 12 hours a week,  feels like money in the bank this time of year.

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Torin also sees the importance of indoor riding

This winter I got back into cross-country ski racing and coaching after not doing either in 2013. Besides enjoying racing I believe it counts as some good training, if not a good kick in the pants.  I also believe I can still improve my skills which keeps me motivated. I raced one Wasatch Citizen Series race before jumping into the US Cross Country Ski Championships, that are cruelly scheduled during the holidays. Fine if cross-country skiing is the only thing in your life, but not if it’s you’re off-season and there is chocolate and wine to be consumed. I raced my first US Cross Country Ski Championships in 2000 at Soldier Hollow and I remember it being an incredibly humbling experience that made me feel incredibly slow during and after.

In my mind I’d come a long way since then and the hills at SoHo would feel like speed bumps. I could ride my bike uphill effortlessly for hours and if I’d endured childbirth I could endure anything…except maybe a 10k at Soldier Hollow.

After my first race, a 10k Individual start Classic race it was just as hard and Hermod’s Hill was just as big as I’d remembered and I’d wondered if I’d come anywhere as an athlete in the past 14 years. The 20k Skate Mass Start was much better, despite starting at the back of the pack I managed to pull off 19th place, 2nd master,  and was perhaps my best finish at a US Championships. I will note that it was a pretty international field as it was an NCAA race, and yes I was at least 10 years older than most of the competitors.  It was a hard, hard race, 4 laps of the Olympic 5k, and I came to the conclusion that skiing and racing at Soldier Hollow will get you in shape for pretty much anything.

Going up one of the many hills at SoHo

Going up one of the many hills at SoHo

Although I felt good about my experience and it was awesome having people out there cheering mid week, financially it was not a smart idea to do these races. USSA Charges way too much for annual memberships and was the reason there were only a few other master skiers competing, which is too bad because there are a lot of master skiers in the US and  Cross country skiing is a fast growing sport and being more inclusive at events like this could certainly help the sport in so many ways. I was certainly made to feel like I did not belong there on several occasions. Hearing, “You’re racing?” multiple times was not encouraging.

It really made me realize the importance of specific training when trying to compete at an elite level. I went on to win a few more local races, and is maybe where I belong as long as I am a multisport athlete and don’t have time to wax 10 pairs of skis for one race.

Which brings me back to the Galena Lodge, sitting on the carpet under a bar that cold morning not in the mood to initiate a conversation when I hear,

‘You’re Emma right? I’m pregnant and I really like reading your blog so I just wanted to say thanks.

My first thought when I hear something like this is ‘Oh, people actually read my blog.’

We chatted for maybe a minute and I offered a congrats and have fun out there.

But really the thank you needed to be returned because it really made my day and made me feel better about being there. Even more awesome was the fact she was participating. It gave me a reason to go hard, but more importantly finish. I did just that, a hard battle for 8th after missing the lead pack as soon as the gun went off, but enough for a top 10 finish and some prize money.

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I like supporting the Boulder Mountain Tour because they do a great job of being inclusive, whether you’re a pregnant mom, or elite cross-country skier hoping to make the Olympic team someday…or both.

Which brings me back to the question of skier or triathlete. Which is perhaps the beauty of multisport, jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none means you can have so much variety in your training, and maybe even some skiing…if winter is your thing.

And, if stars align I will cash out late October.

 

2013 XTERRA World Championships

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The XTERRA World Championships took place October 27th in Kapalua, Maui. There were 750 competitors with more than 60 professionals including the best off-road triathletes in the business along with a lot of top road triathletes, Olympians and mountain bikers who were in it for some big bucks, the race offered a $105,000 prize purse, and some end of season fun.

The field gets stronger each year. It’s great to see so many road triathletes try XTERRA, and the ones who are strong cyclists and climbers seem to do well. It’s also nice to hear them say XTERRA is more fun and laid back. Although the laid back part I find funny because I see a lot of serious people before Worlds that makes me think, how serious are road races?!

The truth is, although we may seem relaxed, this is a big deal for the XTERRA athletes. We are passionate about this sport and to do well in this race is something we shed tears and lose sleep over. It’s the reason I work 3 jobs in the off-season to support my tri preference. It is much, much more than and end of season ‘racecation.’

Especially for someone who was ecstatic to qualify for the race as an age grouper in 2006 and gradually improve each year after that. My results since then are: 31st in 2006, 21st in 2007, 13th in 2008, 11th in 2009, 10th in 2010 and 8th in 2011. No giant breakthroughs just keeping at it and making improvements each year.

Preparation

What happens at XTERRA World Championships is generally determined months if not years in advance. I was more confident than I ever have been and was happy with my prep for this race mostly because I was feeling fit and rested. I’d had two good performances back-to-back at USA Champs and the Epic Mountain Challenge in the past month. My fitness had improved steadily over the season and had no feeling of burn out from a super long season that’s so familiar to triathletes these days.

I arrived in Maui 10 days early. Originally my thought was adjusting to the heat, getting some hard sessions in at sea level and previewing the course. What I didn’t realize was how much a four hour time change would impact my son 10 month old Torin but it didn’t help that we were on east coast time a week ago.

I made it a goal to be top 5 at the XTERRA World Championships. I thought it was a realistic but challenging goal, but honestly I’d hoped for even better. There was a lot of depth to the women’s field but it was also really open as far as who would win. Lesley was definitely the favorite, having a near-flawless season, although she was beatable as Helena Erbenova proved at the ITU Cross Tri World Championships this year. There were about 30 pro women, and hardly anyone I could confidently say I could beat. It would take a very good race to even be in the top 10 this year.

I was grateful to have the Specialized mechanics Eric and Dylan on Maui to get my S-Works Fate race ready. My tires of choice were S-Works Fast Traks at about 18 psi. It made a huge difference knowing my bike was in good hands and something I did not have to waste energy worry about before the race. I also made several trips to massage therapist Todd Plymale-Mallory to get my body race ready.

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Race Day

I woke up from the best night’s sleep all week, only up once! There was a lot of ‘vog’ (volcanic fog – a new word I learned this trip) in the air and hot, humid temperatures, even more humid than it had been the past week. As the race neared the air had cleared but it felt airless and muggy zapping my motivation to warm up.

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The swim was approximately 1500 meters at D.T. Flemings Beach. We would first swim 500 meters out to one buoy, back to shore for a quick beach run and then 250 meters out to another buoy. The beach is a popular surf spot on the island with a pretty mean beach break at times. Last year the waves were huge! This year although swells were initially predicted race day it ended up being as calm as it could have been.

The pro wave started and it seemed pretty civilized, easy to find feet going out to the 1st buoy and I could look down and see clear down to the ocean floor complete with fish, coral and the occasional camera guy. I felt pretty good and had ‘Get Lucky’ in my head, which I hoped it would be the soundtrack to my day. As we rounded the 1st buoy I managed to close the gap on a group of pro women. I found the feet of Heather Jackson, I knew because of her neon yellow goggles that matched her kit. I was in a good position until a pro guy bumped me to the side and took her draft only to not be able to keep up and lose the pack, argh!!

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I could see the pack as I ran across the beach. The race was now spread out and although I tried to close the gap again on the way to the 2nd buoy I was unable to do so. I came out of the water in 14th place, but about what I expected.

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The long run uphill to transition was a good way to see who was in front before starting the mountain bike. I opted to wear my Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Hydration Pack to make sure I drank during the ride; it had about 40 ounces of GU20 sport drink. I also carried four Gus taped to my top tube which almost got ripped off and dropped when I mounted my bike, that would have been bad!

The Bike

The venue moved from the south end of the island in 2011 from a very lava rocky Jeep road course to a very smooth, less dangerous course with equal if not more climbing. The course still has some growing pains as it has changed (primarily the bike course) every year since 2011.

The XTERRA crew worked hard to try to make the bike course more technical, primarily adding trail at end of the bike loop on the old abandoned Village Golf Course. Like a lot of new trails there was loose dirt and sand (from the sand traps.) unpredictable sharp turns, bumpy and a ton of vegetation. This section has potential to be great singletrack with the right kind of trail building and design. On top of that it would be an awesome contribution to the Maui cycling community.

The start of the bike course follow the 1st 3 miles of the run course, which is 95 percent climbing and continue to climb up to Razor Ridge, the views from this spot are pretty spectacular.

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I gradually picked off places as I made my way up the long climb.  I felt good but was tried to be patient. There was also a lot of going back and forth with some pro men and top age group men, which added a challenge. Letting them pass on descents and now rather than trying to pass one woman it was a pack of four. Luckily there were a lot of opportunities to do so. By the time I made it to the ridge I was in 6th place with the some of the top competitors in my sight, mainly Jacqui and Lesley.

There were a few descents and another long climb on a dirt road. I made my way past Jacquie and I was now in 5th place. I was trying to figure out who else was still in front. I’d already passed a lot of key contenders so I had to work hard to hold my spot. I figured Flora was up there, I knew Lesley and Barbara were but who else?

After a long bumpy descent I was back in 6th place. Jacqui’s dedication to XTERRA has really improved her mountain biking skills: I was dropped! I remember it was so dusty the dirt stinging my eyes.  After that the course would see much more undulation, a lot more dirt road and wide open descending which is pretty uninspiring but still some healthy climbs. There would be about 5000 feet of climbing on the bike course alone.I was starting to feel the heat but needed to maintain my focus and effort on the climbs to keep gaining spots in the women’s field. I was about 3-4 minutes out of the lead now. I rode and ran almost the entire race with pro Chris Ganter, who probably won the men’s Speedo division and I will have that image burned in my head for months to come.

I really appreciate getting splits and seeing so many spectators on course including Ian and Torin ringing not one but two cow bells.  It’s not the easiest place to be a spectator you have to be super motivated and have a strong tolerance to heat, dust and men in spandex. There were so many more, including my parents who have watched me race every year in Maui, the Specialized support crew, Mari’on Lorblancet who has a much bigger challenge in her life right now, Julie Dibens, Cody Waite, August Teague, Jens, Wattie, Brandi Heisterman and Simon Marshall who told me to ‘fight!” love it!

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There was one long, approximately 4 minute climb before entering the new, more technical trails that I assumed would be the hardest part of the bike leg. My main concern on this section was to stay on my bike, push the short climbs and not break a chain. This part went quicker than I anticipated although I was probably overly concerned with the traffic around me. This part went by a lot quicker than anticipated although it had zero flow. Looking back what surprised me about the bike course was it felt like I used very little power but still had a decent bike split. Was this me or the course?

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The Run

As always it was a relief to get to T2 and switch to running. Although I was concerned with hydration and dealing with the heat so had a cooler in transition that I packed with ice, a frozen bottle of Coke that would now be thawed and a Trigger Point cooler. Along with my visor and number belt it was a lot to juggle coming out of transition. I put on my Salomon S-Lab Senses, that would be light on the uphills, control on the descents and give me great traction on the grass, mud and sand. I also liked the fact they drained well as I’d be dumping a lot of water on my head to help cool myself down. Too bad I forgot to tighten them and had to stop again!

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The run course has been the same the past two year, close to lots of elevation gain in the first 3 miles and and off-camber running on sand and grass. This year and last they took out the big hill at the end, which was a huge game changer for a lot of athletes, we would finish after the beach run. I was feeling better than I thought, it’s always a balance figuring out how hard to go on the bike and how much to save for the run. On this course I am more conservative on the bike as it’s easy to blow up on the run. The fact the run followed the start of the bike course actually made running it seem easier than biking.  I started to gain some ground on Jacqui Slack as the course headed uphill and made the pass before the 1st mile. I hoped I would catch a few more women as I was getting splits there were more a few minutes up. I was in the midday sun now and I must have been working hard because I tried to remember the tune of ‘Get Lucky’ and could barely do so. I dumped water at the aid stations that were every mile. I ran everything this year including the steep grade going up to the lake.

I was getting filmed by XTERRA TV and felt pretty good about myself for running that section until I realized the camera guy was keeping up with me walking! I knew after mile 3 there would be a lot more descending so I tried to stay focused and push hard to the top of the climb. I thought a lot about my running form and opening up my stride on the downhills.

We were in thick vegetation, often sugarcane and it was hard to see ahead. I was getting splits there were more women in front, and not far, only 30 seconds. I had a pretty bad trip climbing over some stacked logs, this was new from two years ago and I hadn’t run over it yet. I managed to lodge my leg in between the logs and fall pretty badly as the logs were high off the ground. Right in the shin! Ouch! And then my opposite hamstring cramped. It turns out you could run underneath the logs! I shook it off and kept running. There were only a few more shorter uphills, and a rock scramble before a long descent and beach run to the finish. I could now see Barbara Riveros who was in 4th place and tried to close the gap.

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By the time we got to the beach I was just seconds behind Barbara but running in soft sand is hard to cover ground. Should I run down closer to the water? I’d be longer but possibly faster. A male competitor I passed earlier was running past me on the wetter sand so I ran down there, maybe gaining a second. When we got off the sand we were 100 meters from the finish, I tried to pick up the pace but it wasn’t enough. I crossed the line, 6 seconds behind Barbara. It’s tough being that close and it’s hard not to think of all the places I could have made up 6 seconds but it’s ok because she’s a pretty cool girl and also sponsored by Specialized. If I’d been told me six months ago I’d be trying to run down Barbara Riveros at the World Championships I would not have believed it.

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I finished in 5th place, about 4 minutes from 1st, 1:35 out of second and the top American. I had the 2nd fastest run split, only 20 seconds behind Lesley, who six month ago beat me by more than 10 minutes in the run alone. Out of the top 5 only Lesley and I did not compete in the London Olympics. Heck, I certainly wasn’t training for the Olympics last summer.

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Nicky Samuels of New Zealand won the women’s race, Lesley was 2nd, Flora Duffy of Bermuda was 3rd and Barbara 4th. I also have to mention my dad set the bar high by placing 3rd in the 60-65 age group in the 10k trail run.

Long story short, I felt good out there and had a performance I am happy to end the season with. It’s been challenging but really enjoyable and rewarding getting back into triathlon this season and I certainly look forward to next year with higher expectations.

I can’t say how thankful I am for the support I’ve received this season. To my family and friends, especially Ian, my mom, and Vanessa who helped out so much with Torin so I could pursue my passion, Josiah for coaching me with the understanding what it’s like to be a new parent and to Torin for choosing me as his mom. And of course the sponsors, Specialized, Salomon, Champion System, GU Energy, Blue Seventy and Probar for making me race faster and giving me fewer excuses!

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As for the off season, I enjoyed a few days in Maui decompressing, relaxing, reflecting on the year and getting another song stuck in my head, Lets Be Still. I’ve been to Maui so many times but I always find new things to do, this year we went mountain biking in the Makawao forests and to the Olivine pools where we swam with tropical fish were serenaded by ukaleles.

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But I could only be still for a moment. I’m back in Park City figuring out my race schedule and sponsors for 2014 and my jobs for the off-season. I plan on coaching for Park City Nordic this winter, working at White Pine Nordic, and teaching Computrainer classes for Max Testa Training, do my own training and more importantly make being a mom a priority. Ian and I are moving around the puzzle pieces to figure out how we both can work, spend time with our son, occasionally each other and occasionally do something for fun, but then again being new parents is pretty fun.

Mahalo!

Emma

 

73 Weeks

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XTERRA Nationals has taken place at Snowbasin since 2009, the year I moved to Utah. I have competed in the race every year since then, except 2012 when I was pregnant. My best finish was 5th in 2011.

The start list for the women’s race was intimidating and challenged my self-confidence the week before the race. With the pro women’s field twice as big as year’s past it would be much, much harder to be in the top 5. I considered the top 3 pretty untouchable; it was going to be Lesley Paterson, Heather Jackson then Barbara Riveros.

I told myself I could compete with the list of talented and well-tuned women racing but was also hearing I wasn’t a contender. It can take the pressure off not being in the spotlight before a race but it also made me doubt my ability and my training. It was certainly a lesson in believing in myself when perhaps others don’t. I thought about the workouts I’d done the past month and how I’d stuck to my plan especially when others around me were doing more.

As a new mom I’ve certainly had less opportunities to travel to XTERRA races in the past two seasons for obvious reasons. As a result I have to make the races I do get to compete in count. What it has allowed me to do is really focus on a few races creating more motivation to do well, and less room for error. It is also a reason not to underestimate any mom competing.

Adding to the prerace pressure was it seemed like myself and everyone around me, was either recovering from getting sick, about to get sick or really sick.

On a more positive note, A few things that have helped immensely since my last XTERRA race at Beaver Creek. First was daycare, second was hiring Josiah Middaugh as a coach, third was having one of my favorite training partners, Renata Bucher, come to Park City to train. Lastly, the race was in my backyard, I live at 6900ft and ride and run on trails similar to Snowbasin all the time. I’d also had a lot of productive training sessions on the course.

My bike, a Specialized S-Works Fate was in good form thanks to the wrenching of Jesse Hoffman at White Pine Touring and the Specialized mechanic Eric Saletel who came out to the race.

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I was also super excited to race in my custom designed tri suit from Champion System. I wanted a kit that was unique, different, colorful, and more style. When I made this sketch I really wasn’t expecting it to become a reality. Kudos for making it happen Champion System!

Race Morning

Two transitions make this race tricky race morning. Add a baby and it gets more complicated. We stayed as close to both transitions as we could to make things as simple as possible race morning. Torin has been teething for a long time now so restful nights are few and far between, luckily the night before was above average, the night after? Worst ever, but I consider myself lucky. I walked downstairs to Dan and Brad tag teaming breakfast and thought, ‘that’s so cute!’ Renata and I ate quickly and then headed up to T2 to drop off our run gear. I thought we’d be the first ones there but it wasn’t the case. We went back to the condo after so I could pump before heading to the swim start. Ian (AKA baby daddy) would be in charge of Torin today and would have an equally challenging time logistically getting to the key cheering spots.

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The Swim

I had the least confidence in my swim and prepared myself mentally to come out of the water pretty far back but knowing I could make up ground on the bike and the run. The swim certainly looked long from the start and according to a few different accounts it was 2k rather than 1.5k, that’s a pretty big difference that impacted the overall results, especially in the pro men’s race.

I found myself swimming pretty far to the right when I was swimming to the 1st buoy and felt slow from the start but soon found a good rhythm and appreciated the pro athletes having their own wave so it wasn’t too crowded. I haven’t been swimming in my wetsuit very much but I felt so comfortable today. I was able to stay on the feet of Rachel Challis that worked out perfectly. There were times when I questioned our line and went my own way but it put me in a pretty good position when I came out of the water. I was in 10th place but only 30 seconds out of 5th. Did anyone else struggle with those timing chips? mine snapped right off and I had to shove it in my suit.

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Photo Courtesy of Trey Garman/XTERRA

The Bike

The ride started with a short section of singletrack where I was paranoid about goat heads after stepping on one walking down to the swim start. Then we rode about a mile on the gravel shoulder of a road where I was paranoid about slicing my tire on broken glass, Utah roads are notorious for broken glass.

I survived and made it to Wheeler Canyon, a rocky fireroad and the steepest section of the course. At this point I was side by side with Carina Wasle of Austria and could see a few women ahead including Suzie Snyder and Lesley Paterson. It was hard to believe I was gaining on Lesley and figured there must be something wrong. I made the pass but Lesley countered a couple of times. By the time I made it to the Art Nord Trailhead, before getting on the East Fork trail, Cody Waite rode by saying ‘Lesley can’t stay on your wheel,” I’ve certainly never heard that before. At this point it seemed like there was an opportunity for else was to win the race. I was feeling good and I wanted to take advantage of the situation. This could be my day.

I could now see a few more women ahead, Jacqui Slack, Chantell Widney and Melanie McQuaid. Melanie was certainly my carrot for a long time and I made the pass around her Chantell and also Christine Jeffrey before the 1st descent down Wheeler Creek. I was motivated to make up as much time as I could on the ascent, as I knew I would lose some time to Mel on the descent.

I loved riding over the top of this climb as there were lots of spectators cheering and I got to see Ian and Torin. I was getting splits I was gaining on Barbara who was in the lead and I was now in 2nd place. Melanie passed back on the descent and I tried not to lose too much ground. Then I had a mishap. My saddlebag started coming off and rubbing against my wheel. This is a pretty high-speed descent so I was hesitant to stop and lose even more time but at the same time I risked the bag jamming in my wheel and causing a mechanical or a crash. Instead I tried to spin it around so it was sitting on top of my top tube but instead it swung to the side and I was knocking it with every pedal stroke, argh, luckily I didn’t have to pedal too much.

Photo courtesy of Nils Nilsen
Photo courtesy of Nils Nilsen

I don’t think I lost too much time but it was a pity not to enjoy one of the few descents. Once we started going back uphill again I pulled over and ripped the bag off. Unfortunately this isn’t the 1st time this has happened but this time I would shove it in my tri suit rather than throw it to the side and fear flatting. Chantell passed again and then Lesley. It was really nice of Lesley to ask if I was ok.

Now we were heading up to Sardine, a few rollers and then a long steady climb. I kept my cool and caught back up to Chantell and Mel. Once we hit the Sardine switchbacks I started pushing my pace and made the pass, I was now back in 3rd. We were gaining on Barbara Riveros who always seemed to be around the next switchback. As I came to the first summit, a mountain biker with a helmet cam jumped in behind me saying ‘don’t worry I’m just filming.’ It was hard to ride relaxed and I somehow came a millimeter away from a disastrous crash going around a turn. I’d love to see the footage sometime.

I rode cautiously over the top of Sardine Peak, it’s rocky in sections and I feared slicing my sidewall. It’s also the most scenic part of the course with Mt. Odgen on one side, a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake and Pineview Reservoir on the other so sneak a peek if you can. The descent was a lot smoother and I anticipated getting passed by both pro women and age group guys but it didn’t happen. About a mile from T2 I passed Ian who was standing next to ‘the loudest cheerer ever,’ always nice when people you don’t know cheer for you enthusiastically.

I was so happy with my bike split, despite my saddlebag mishap and the fact I really should have taken in more fluids (I only drank half a bottle) but did manage to eat four GUs. I was lucky to get away with this in this race; the weather was perfect, not too hot or cold. In Maui it would be a different story.

It was probably the strongest effort I have put out on the bike in an XTERRA race, I road with a sense of urgency and determination which earned me the 2nd fastest split time behind Lesley. My split was also 3 minutes faster than when I last competed in 2011. Lesley has made huge improvements in her riding this year and to see her win pro mountain bike races is very motivating. XTERRA has so many strong cyclists I am proud of finally being able to compete with them on the bike. For years I’ve got passed on the bike by better riders and I’ve just blamed it on their experience but it takes a lot more than that compete at their level. This was a pretty big breakthrough that I hope will remain consistent so I can say mountain biking is my strength as I want it to be.

photo courtesy of Meghan Hicks
photo courtesy of Meghan Hicks

I came into T2 with Chantell not far behind. I must have gone hard on the bike because I’ve never had quad cramps before. Salomon Senses on, a bit of Coke and off on the run.

Going into this race I had the most confidence in my run. This would be where I assumed I would make up time, but the only people in front were pretty speedy runners, Lesley and Barbara. It would take a lot to pass either of them. Chantell passed me on the 1st long climb straight up the ski hill I kept her in sight and figured I just needed the first climb to get into run mode and I’d reconnect once we hit singletrack.

I never saw her again. I was in no man’s land, well sort of, more like no woman’s land, there were a few other guys around to keep me company. I was trying to push the pace and not giving up hope that a podium spot was possible, plus there were some fast runners behind me keeping me on my toes. Anyone else have that undiluted Gatorade at the 2nd aid station?

The 1st three miles of the run feel pretty long on the Green Pond Loop, then there’s another mile with some climbing and then the last two miles are pretty smooth flowly singletrack through the trees and perfect dirt. This was another highlight of the race. I really enjoyed opening up my stride on the descent. I had a comfortable amount of space behind me but also unfortunately in front too. I let my mind wander too much, body get too comfortable as I took in the views. I thought about the other moms I wanted to make proud, and what I’d overcome in the past 73 weeks. Pregnancy is tough, and unplanned one even tougher, much more challenging than any race I’ve done. I thought about how grateful I was to have the support I did through it all and still at this moment. I thought about my son and how excited I was to see him, more so than my place in the race.

Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks
Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks

Coming into the finish I had enough time to grab Torin and carry him across the line.

Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks
Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks

Out of the five women who I would walk on stage with later, three of them would be moms. Although 4th place can be bittersweet it was fitting considering I have finished 7th, 6th, 5th respectively in XTERRA races this year which gives me great hope for Maui October 27th.

Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks
Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks

I was really overcome with emotion, I was so happy but also had a huge sense of relief. I was back where I wanted to be, where I felt I had left off, 73 weeks ago, before seeing that terrifying red plus sign that changed my life.

For the better.

 

9 Months in 9 Months Out

On September 18th, 2013 three days before XTERRA Nationals, Torin will be ‘nine months in, nine months out’ which is pretty crazy to think about.

This time last year,  I was passed by a woman, potentially three-times my age, on a the promenade in Nice, France. Ian, who was usually incredibly supportive and tolerant of my pregnancy induced slow riding yelled,

“You sooo deserved that! You’re riding so slow I’m having a hard time keeping my bike upright!”

A low point in my athletic capability and self-esteem but if anything is a big slice of humble pie for female athletes it’s getting knocked up.

I still feel slow at times but I’ve certainly come a long way since that day.

To start with I’m a lot lighter, perhaps the lightest I’ve been since I was a college runner. Breastfeeding combined with nursing combined with moderately healthy eating combined with competing with a 8 month old for meal times (don’t even bother) does wonders to lose any weight gained during pregnancy and then some.

I’ve heard people say, ‘You’ve got right back into it.’ Which is nice to hear but harder to agree with. The past nine months, although they’ve gone by quickly, have certainly been a learning experience both physically and socially.  It’s only been a few weeks things have felt back on track training wise. It’s taken a lot of races, fatigued training, flat tires, questioning whether it’s worth it, arguments, sleepless nights, tears and a lot of help from family and friends.

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It took my body time to recover from having a baby but even longer to figure out a routine that worked for our new family. I spent months of training primarily on Ian’s days off or before he goes to work and the kind help of family and friends. No routine sitters, no daycare. It worked – I was able to get back in shape but it grew tiring. I was self-coached, which basically meant figuring out training day-by-day based on who I could convince to watch Torin. It’s funny because I had to plan ahead but also be really flexible and willing to change plans around other peoples’ schedule. It got to the point where any minute I wasn’t with Torin I thought I should be out training. If I didn’t have help, I would bring Torin with me, his car seat would sit on the pool deck or next to my bike trainer or he’d come along in the  in the Chariot on snow and wheels.

That lasted until Torin was about 8 months and we settled with sending him to daycare three days a week, which, despite the expense – has been AWESOME for all of us. There weren’t a ton of options in Park City so we feel lucky to have Torin where we do at the moment. That gives me five days to training and only two days a week where I have to be creative. Next I hired a coach and everything seems a bit smoother now and Ian and I have one day a week where we can mountain bike together if we’d like.

Overall the good times far outweigh the bad. Torin and I haven’t spent a night apart and that feels totally normal. Our new family has been on lots of adventures and family trips including camping, hikes, bike rides, planes, boats, weddings (not ours) together. Even the simple things like all hanging out in bed together as a family in the morning, sleep or no sleep, are pretty spectacular.

The biggest improvements in athletic performance I saw were from months 4-6 postpartum, which was right after my last blog post. I went from just trying to figure out how I could get out and train and trying to simply finish a race to ‘thinking’ I could win races. I emphasize the ‘thinking’ part because really getting my confidence back was a big deal after it got obliterated on the South Coast of France.

Running at the BEast of the Southeast

I started to get better results despite feeling super tired most of the time. This was partly because I struggled to remember to eat enough to train and nurse. There were some workouts where I’d spend so much time getting stuff ready, so someone else could watch Torin, more time than the workout itself, that I’d forget to eat. The result was not getting what I wanted out of the workout and feeling even more frustrated. It’s interesting to think that there really isn’t much I’ve done more of in the past 9 months than breastfeed, and that includes sleeping.  It certainly became a huge part of my life, more than I ever realized it would, and a constant juggling and timing act with training and racing and worthy of a blog itself.

Breastaurant with a view

Torin had nothing but breast milk for the 1st 6 months when we started introducing solid food. It took another month before the solid food really provided any substance. On an energy level I feel 10x better now than at 6 months but he still seems to be nursing as much! The key to feel was drinking enough fluids and getting enough protein. During that time I would drink a lot of recovery drinks with protein (it seemed like all day) and now I still regularly snack on Greek yogurt, they take about 10 seconds to eat and require no prep or cleanup and also has calcium which I also need.

I’ve also been asked something along the lines of how I’m able to nurse and train at the same time.  I feel fortunate that I’m not sure what this implies, whether it’s about being able to produce milk and train hard or whether it’s about not having enough energy to train while nursing. Either way training and nursing certainly hasn’t hurt Torin’s growth. He has been in the 95 percentile for weight since he started drinking liquid gold.

For the most part it’s been great getting to travel with Torin and flying, despite some dirty looks, dirtier exploding diapers mid flight with no changing tables in the bathrooms type stuff, no extra time down the runway for people with babies (WHEN did this happen United?!?) was much easier than expected – also another topic worthy of it’s own blog.

People were so quick to ask whether I feel stronger now but it’s so hard to tell because every season feels different and there are so many different pieces to the triathlon puzzle regardless of having a child. It always comes to question whether it is a social or physiological advantage too. I feel less injured which is in part due to less training. Not being injured or being able to travel as much to races has allowed me to do a lot more local running races like the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase which was a blast!

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I feel lighter, due to a hungry baby, and that helps running and climbing on the bike for sure. I feel my endurance is pretty good but not the best ever, my breathing more controlled most of the time, and pain slightly more manageable.  I don’t seem to notice the heat as much but whether or not this has anything to do with having a baby I don’t know. I certainly happy with my fitness level at the moment feel I am capable of my best results in regards to times at both XTERRA Nationals and Worlds. Places will be harder as there will be arguably the most competitive women’s field in XTERRA’s history at those races.

And if the 90-year-old from the bike path in Nice shows up?

She’ll be going down.

Emma 2.0

 

 

Embarking on Motherhood and Racing

The Race: XTERRA West Championships

Distances: 1500-meter swim, 18-mile mountain bike, 6.5 mile run

Products used: Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit, Specialized Fate, S-Works Prevail Helmet, Terra mountain bike shoes, Fast Trak and Renegade tires, Champion System 2-piece tri suit, Moving Comfort Endurance Racer sports bra, Salomon S-Lab Sense trail shoes, Trigger Point Cool Point.

A lot can change in a year.

XTERRA West Championships at Lake Las Vegas April 13th, 2013 was my return to racing triathlon after a year sabbatical to become a mother.

It was be the 1st out of town trip for Torin, and the 1st trip for me as a mother. Everything takes a bit more planning now – and a lot more stuff! Having a baby sure didn’t help me with my over-packing problem.

After figuring out how many diapers, baby blankets and onesies (not the trisuit types) I would need for five days on top of bike shorts, GUs, tubes, sports bras, running shoes, socks, etc. We loaded up the car for the 500-mile journey to Lake Las Vegas. My car, plus a jumbo rocket box  was filled with just enough room for two and a quarter people. Vanessa, Torin’s aunt, was driving down with me. Without her help, and Marlene’s, Torin’s ‘Nain’ who would be meeting us in Vegas, I would not have been able to go to the race.

We broke up the drive with a stop at the Fillmore Hot Springs, that didn’t disappoint. Torin slept most of the 7 hour drive.

Did I feel ready for the race? No, but I usually never do this time of year. I try not to give too many excuses but I think mine are worthy.

My expectations had changed, and certainly lowered from when I competed in the race last year, before I knew I was pregnant. A top 10 would be great, if I walked away with any points for the series (meaning a top 15 finish) I would be happy.

But really my goals for my 1st race back were:

  1. Start
  2. Finish
  3. Be happy

Which I think are good goals for anyone racing.

I felt very fortunate to get to stay at a hotel before the race, something I don’t do very often, if at all. It was super convenient to be so close to the venue for both myself and my support crew.

I was able to pre ride on the course on my Specialized Fate, along with a Fast Trak and Renegade tire at around 21 psi. Later that day I would test out my new Blue Seventy Helix both in Lake Las Vegas and Lake Mead.

Who says mom's have no style?

Running? I was still recovering from a lets-try-to-remember-what-racing-feels-like 5k I did the week prior so wasn’t doing too much of that. Plus I felt it was much better to just rest than to pre run the brutal run course.

We did make time to take Torin for his 1st swim at the Westin pool.

 

Race Day

Race day Torin would be just 5 days shy of his 4-month birthday so he’s still eating about every 3-4 hours around the clock. Vanessa was very kind to feed Torin from a bottle when he woke up in the night so I could get a good night’s sleep before the race. I woke up feeling pretty darn good, the later start helped too.

Race day breakfast in the hotel room

Pre-race priorities have changed now, my biggest concern before the race was making sure I wasn’t carrying as little milk as possible during the race. This would mean pumping as close to race start as possible.

I was also concerned with how hot it would be and how I would stay hydrated as I seem to need a lot more fluids these days. The later start, 10:30am, which allowed all the sport course athletes to get off the course before our start, something that benefited everyone, but would mean a warmer race.

I would take time in transition to make sure I had the right amount of fuel to just get me through the race. I regretted not packing a hydration pack and hoped bottles alone would get me to the finish line.

Getting my gear ready

fuel for the race

After setting up transition getting in a quick warmup in I headed back to the room, to fill my bottles, which I had forgot and to fill Torin’s bottles (no photo needed!)

Torin wishing me luck before the start!

The Swim

The water temperature was super refreshing compared to last year. Pros had our own wave and I was sandwiched between Conrad and Branden with Shonny right behind me at the start. I felt somewhat intimidated, oh well.

About halfway through the 1-lap 1500-meter swim I made the wise decision to drop onto the feet of another swimmer rather than trying to swim faster than them and staying beside them. We weren’t swimming the best line and I was in a familiar place, leading the second pack of swimmers. I came out of the water higher than I anticipated and well in the top 10.

The Bike

During the bike leg I would try to just race my own race go hard but not take any risks. It wasn’t worth it because I wasn’t really in shape yet or used to riding a mountain bike. It had been a while for sure.

I did ride while I was pregnant but certainly took it easy, especially on the descents and walked most technical sections where there was any risk whatsoever. I had to remember to not sit completely upright on my bike as I was able to pedal without hitting my belly now. It would help me get up the steep rocky climbs and help with riding into a headwind.

I guess it was super windy out there. It’s funny, I vaguely remember it being windy, but more so, I remember my ties getting blown off my bike number, so I guess it was windy.

Although the course was the same as last year, it was a lot dryer and looser particularly on the corners and therefore less safe. It certainly wasn’t the race to skip taking two seconds to put on the full-fingered gloves.

Like the swim I felt better than anticipated. I got passed by some faster riders, but honestly I didn’t expect to be in front of them after the swim anyway. I was also able to pass a few other girls which kept me in the top 10. Brandi Heisterman was my ‘carrot’ as I was able to keep her insight on the very open course. I was able to catch her by the end of the second loop, she wasn’t having a great day out there.

I was already starting to miss my little guy and couldn’t wait to see him at the finish line, which was great motivation to keep going.

I thought ahead to the run with some trepidation, hence the reason I was wearing a ‘high impact’ sports bra, something I didn’t have to worry about before. I was concerned I would feel like this:

 

Luckilly it wasn’t THAT bad.

The Run

I packed a cooler for T2, who knew how long I was going to be out there for!

Actually before the race I thought about how nice it would be if they had the swim and bike in the morning and saved the run for the afternoon. Not the case, but it was nice to have a cold water bottle and Trigger Point Cool Point waiting for me. This was my 1st time racing with one and it is certainly nice for hot races. I guess it was pretty hot, but again it didn’t bother me too much. I held my own on the run, there didn’t seem to be any other women in site and no one behind me for a ways. I knew I should try to push the pace as there are some fast age group women these days who could easily out split me if I slacked off too much, which was a great motivator when it was too easy to take it easy.

Babies on the sidelines

I felt better than expected on the run and tried to be smooth. I loved running in my Salomon S-Lab Senses, the were a great shoe for the loose and rocky terrain. My run split would later show I had work to do. I usually consider downhill running a strength but I’m just not used to it yet.

I tried to push myself further by reminding me how much more painful labor was than the rock jamming into my big toe, but it still hurt. I cheered for almost everyone I crossed paths with on the run and really tried to enjoy being there despite being in the pain cave.

More than anything I tried to appreciate being there and recognizing it was something I choose to do because I enjoy it.

I came across the line in 7th place good enough for some prize money and in the top half of the pro field. I was about 30 seconds behind Kelley Cullen, who also had a baby in 2012. She wasn’t the only new mom either, Laura Harrison also had a baby boy who Torin got to hang out with on the sidelines. Other pro moms who raced included Danelle Kabush (5th) Brandi Heisterman (8th) Caroline Colonna (9th) and Rachel Challis (10th) That’s almost half of the women’s pro field, so I hope that’s inspirational to other moms.

But credit it due to all the women who raced, and particularly to Lesley Paterson who took a sledge hammer to the gender gap by placing 4th overall and out-splitting all but one guy on the run and I’m sure had all of them running scared. She was closer to the men’s winner, Josiah, than the 2nd place woman, Suzie, was to her.

My race was certainly different from last year in so many ways. I placed lower but it was certainly more rewarding to have my little guy waiting for me at the finish line than any podium or prize purse could offer.

Did I feel incredibly different? Not really. I would say my ability to manage suffering seemed better but I also don’t think I was fit enough to put myself deep into the pain cave.  I also seemed  recovered fairly well and to be a lot less sore than previous years. In fact, I was more sore from paddle boarding the day after!

Recovery

Although a lot of the athlete moms out there make getting back to racing ‘look’ easy, it is certainly just that.  What is too easy is to write off a pregnant athlete and then if she does have good results when she returns credit it to ‘mommy hormones,’ like you basically can sit around and then show up at a race and be fast after having a kid.  It’d be nice if there was a happy medium between those with the opinion that having a kid is the female equivalent to EPO and people you have to convince a gazillion times that you are going to continue racing competitively.

Things will continue to change as I figure out the balance of motherhood and racing, but it’s certainly a challenge I am forever grateful for.

Thanks for reading,

Mama Emma

 

Park City Staycation

Living in Park City, I don’t always take advantage of what the town has to offer, especially since winter is my time to work and I had a baby in December (excuses, excuses!) That’s why it’s always great to have family come and visit so I get to pretend to be a tourist here which is pretty fun to do.

The second week in March both my parents came to visit, so I got to do a few things I haven’t all winter. Here’s a description of my week-long staycation combined with my usual schedule of work, training and mothering (some overlap.)

Saturday

I started the day with a morning run around Park Meadows. Usually I run on packed snow in the winter but it snowed in the morning and trails were a little soft. Plus if I want to be competitive in the stroller division need to toughen up my legs for asphalt.

View from my run

After a late breakfast I went over to White Pine Touring to demo tele skis. I then headed up to Deer Valley with Vanessa Hartley (Ian’s sister.) who instructs there so knows the mountain a bit better than I do. This would be my first time tele skiing for the season and I could tell, it was hard work! It was a better-late-than-never attempt to get my legs ready for the Ski Utah interconnect, skiing six ski resorts and Wasatch backcountry in one day, on Friday.

Skiing later in the day does have its bonuses, we got front row parking and the mountain was less crowded. There was significantly more snow on the mountain than outside my door but most of it had been skied out – the disadvantage of skiing later. We stopped at Empire Lodge for an afternoon snack of potato chips (they make their own and they are amazing) and a $5 soda – guess skiing is kinda like going to the movies but with much more expensive tickets.

After dropping off my demo skis I headed to Main Street to shop with Mum. Checked out the boutiques, two-for-less scarves at Olive and Tweed followed by a browse of Dolly’s where I walked away with a copy of The Feed Zone, a cook book dedicated to athletes, I’m excited to make the savory bars to bring on long rides. Of course we couldn’t leave without a dark chocolate haystack from Rocky Mountain Chocolates.

Booked a table at Lespri Prime Steak and Sushi Sunday night, I always feel a bit guilty when I end my phone call with, ‘Oh and we’ll be bringing a 3 month old baby sorry.’ Lespri was one of the last restaurants in close proximity to my house (besides Pizza Hut) I hadn’t tried. We ended up sitting in the bar area as we figured we didn’t want to disturb date nights although we were perfectly welcomed in the dining room. Our server was super accommodating and recommended the Prospector Roll which was our favorite although everything we got was good. We will be back.

Sunday

We are family

Apparently it was ‘English Mother’s Day’ on Sunday so after some homemade blueberry pancakes we headed out to White Pine Nordic to skate ski with the family. This meant bringing Torin and the Chariot along. Luckily because of the new snow and cold temps over night so the 5k track was in good shape and pretty fast making pulling the Chariot much easier.

After lunch we headed to Park City Aquatic Center for some laps, tri season is just weeks away and I’ve got homework to do.  The staff at Ecker has been super supportive of me since I’ve become a mom so I love going there.

Every Park City visitor LOVES the Tanger Outlets so we swung by the Carter’s store for some on sale terrycloth onsies for Torin (Can’t have too many.)  A quick run with Kip my Border Collie up the rail trail and onto Lost Prospector before another trip to the airport to pick up Dad.

Monday

Was a workday for me. 9-3pm at the White Pine Nordic Center instructing followed by teaching a CompuTrainer class for Max Testa Training in the evening. Time in between jobs today was all baby duty. Getting to teach for Max is awesome I’ve seen huge improvements in my riding since working for him, it’s way better than trying to ride a trainer at home and technically it’s a job which equals diapers and babysitters.

Tuesday

After a morning swim at Ecker I taught the women’s skate ski clinic at White Pine Nordic, making Grandad babysit (the baby survived!) After finishing up the clinic I grabbed some Fish Scale Classic ski rentals on my way out for both myself and my dad. We grabbed some lunch at home, packed up the car with the baby, dog, chariot, skis and poles for a trip out to the Uintas. These days preparing for outings often takes as long as the trip itself, but always worth it.

All aboard the Avocado Express!

It was a bit of an adventure in search of more snow than what we have in Park City. We drove out Mirror Lake Highway to where the road is blocked off for winter. Honestly, we didn’t really know where we were going. Even though it’s higher elevation there, it was still too warm and the Beaver Creek trail looked sloppy and muddy in spots. There were only two other vehicles in the parking lot which is a bonus for going up to the Uintas mid week. I hear on the weekends there are cars parked all down the road, but there’s enough terrain you can still find solitude.

Heading uphill

We went to the left, which turned out to be the Soapstone Trail, apparently it’s about 22 miles long. I’m guessing we went about 2-3 miles up and climbed about 900 feet. It was the perfect grade for just hiking up the hill on the fish scales. We stopped a lot to take photos and shed layers.

Going down was great too, not too steep to go out of control but fast enough we could just cruise. This is a popular snowmobile trail but we didn’t see any while we were out, just a few guys once we returned who were pretty friendly.

We figured we’d earned our dinners and headed out to Grub Steak, it’s walking distance from my house and we’ve had good luck eating there with Torin as we can just roll the stroller inside. Must have been Spring Break somewhere as it was busy! Can’t beat the salad bar there and steaks are pretty good too.

26 oz prime rib - yes he ate all of that and still weighs 140lbs

Wednesday

A repeat of Monday + a St. Paddy’s day costume. Kudos to Jenny for the festive spirit!

Thursday

Subbed for the 6:30am CompuTrainer class which meant getting up around 5 to feed the baby. Torin sometimes sleeps through the night but I never know if he will, good thing he did Wednesday night as I needed all the sleep I could before the early morning class. It was the exact same workout as Wednesday night but actually seemed easier, I credited caffeine. More of that stuff at PC Coffee Roasters then off to the pool. Spent the afternoon getting ready for the Interconnect on Friday followed by our first family bike ride (Thanks to the Chariot) down the Rail Trail and back through Park Meadows.

I got an email late Thursday night saying our Interconnect tour had been cancelled, no explanation, but we assumed it was because of how warm and how little snow there was on the south-facing slopes. We couldn’t help but feel a disappointed, we’d been looking forward and planning for the trip for months now but we also know no one can control the snow conditions. It was time to think about plan B as we already had Torin set up with a babysitter for the day (Thanks Lindsay!)

Friday

We decided to head over to Big Cottonwood Canyon and ski at Solitude. It was also a good excuse to have breakfast at the Silver Fork Café, a first for me and it certainly lived up to the hype.

 

never the healthiest thing on the menu but I often order eggs benedict when I go out for breakfast as I can't make it at home.

It was also my first time tele skiing at Solitude and it certainly lived up to its name. There wasn’t a ton of people there, granted it was a Friday but still. It seemed like most people there had a good attitude of ‘I know what I’m doing but I don’t have to prove I’m an awesome skier’ which I appreciate. Also good to note that day passes are about $30 less than Park City resorts.

We all loved the resort for it’s terrain and scenery. I certainly love the bigger trees in Big Cottonwood, it gives it much more of a ‘Tahoe’ feel.  It was certainly spring conditions out there as a lot of the resort was closing early due to warm temps.

Torin had a good day too!

Making friends!

We returned to Park City in the evening and headed downtown. We got there pretty late and a lot of restaurants had stopped serving or were too busy. Vintos, although it’s a great restaurant, was a little out of control and we didn’t want to compete for a table so we headed to Flying Sumo for some Sushi. Service was awesome and we loved the Chuck Norris, Tropic Thunder and Mars Attack rolls. We very much surprised and appreciative of getting a ‘locals discount’ when we got our check. We figured it was because we hadn’t got a haircut in 6+ months or because our coats were due for a trip to the dry cleaners. Unlike people on vacation, I never ask for a ‘locals’ discount as I know it’s hard enough as it is for most local businesses to make it through a below-average winter. That being said it was the icing on the cake for our staycation.

Thanks for reading and I hope this encourages you to visit Park City sometime, just don’t ask for a locals discount!

Cheers!

Emma

 

 

Introducing Torin Eric!

Day 1 as parents at the hospital

Our son Torin Eric was born Dec 18th, 2012 at Park City Medical Center. He weighed in at 7lbs 8oz and 21 inches long at birth and is growing quickly, he’s now 12lbs six weeks later! My labor progressed really well and relatively quickly for a first timer, about 6 hours of ‘real’ labor, 4 at the hospital. I plan on writing more gorey details about my delivery but until then here’s a few photos from our experiences so far.

Back at home

We are adjusting to life as parents with lots of help from family and friends and figuring out how to get back to our jobs and expensive hobbies. Ian is back at work at White Pine Touring and I’m planning for the triathlon season (will take a lot more organizing now) and started instructing at the Nordic Center and teaching Computrainer classes for Max Testa Training. I’ve been training again, skiing, running, swimming and biking, which feels great even if I’m not that fast!

I get a lot of questions about how well he’s sleeping like it’s the worst thing ever about being parents. Torin still needs to be fed every 3 hours around the clock (which is normal) and although time consuming and tiring at times is totally manageable at the moment. I still think getting medical bills in the mail is worse :) But I think we’ve been lucky in a lot of ways.

Skiing with Torin in the Baby Bjorn when he was one week old

My 1st days back on skis at Round Valley with Kip a week after delivery

Testing out the Chariot at White Pine, can't wait to get my own! man this will get me in shape!

And the name…

Agreeing on names is tough and is part of the reason we chose to find out the gender. I was having a hard time coming up with boys’ names so if I was having one I needed to start thinking of one sooner than later.  That and the fact ‘gender neutral’ anything rarely exists here. Ian and I chose the name as soon as we got in the car post ultrasound-determining-gender. It was the 1st name we agreed on so we stuck with it. I liked the name and always assumed it was Scandinavian (I’m a fan of Scando names) but turns out it’s Gaelic name which is more fitting for our ancestry anyway. It’s also the name of a tool company.

It probably is the Gaelic version of Tor/Thor meaning chief of thunder I like this meaning the best:

Torin, Gaelic for Chief, is a likeable character who breathes calm, tranquility and harmony. He will be particularly attracted to the artistic and literary professions, or those connected with the land, nature and animals.

Turns out it’s also a lot less common than I imagined which is nice but also makes it as weird in the Nordic ski community as if I was to name my kid Conrad in the XTERRA community, actually weirder as Conrad is a more common name. Yes I do know Torin Koos and think it’s pretty cool that he’s also the ‘celebrity with this name’ on what-to-name-your-baby-websites. 

Eric is Ian’s dad’s name and someone worthy of being named after. It’s a good strong, traditional name and we thought it worked well with Torin. I thought it was pretty manly name but every time I go to the pediatrician’s office they think he’s a girl!

Thanks for reading,

Mama Emma

 

Questions to Expect when Expecting

Lots of people talk to you when you’re pregnant. Most are super friendly and excited which is nice. I do hear a lot of the same questions which is to be expected and generally I’m happy to answer. So as I sit here a days out from giving birth, here are the top 10 questions I’ve been asked.

1. When are you due?

Dec 24th

2. Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?

Boy

3. Have you chosen a name?

Yes. Then there’s a silence where I’m supposed to say what the name is but I continue by saying we are not telling people until it’s on the birth certificate and too late for opinions. Jesus (pronounced Hey-seus) would be appropriate (See due date question.) but that’s not it.

4. Have you had any cravings?

Not really, far less than when I was training a lot and racing and none I can really use pregnancy as an excuse for. Most of the time it’s thinking of anything that is palatable. I’ve eaten a lot of fruit, toast and cheese and crackers and drank a lot of fluids. Food aversions are far more common. Coffee and fish, in particular salmon, which used to be my favorite and a lot of sweet things besides fruit and juice. For most of my pregnancy I could eat far less than when I was racing, .)  It just didn’t seem like there was enough room. But it didn’t stop me from packing on the lbs even with exercise (you don’t have to try that hard The feeling of being stuffed was a lot more uncomfortable and something I tried to avoid. After 6-7 months I felt I could eat a more normal-for-me amount of food.

5. Have you been sick?

I felt pretty sick during the latter part of the 1st trimester but was only sick once and was probably due to a virus. I drank a lot of ginger ale and ate a lot of crackers. What I didn’t realize, or had heard nothing about was getting motion sick more easily. This happened in the 2nd/3rd trimester. I have had a bad past with motion sickness but have kept it pretty controlled for a good 20 years. I think with the stomach being pushed up higher food can make it back out that much more easily.

6. How are you feeling?

It’s very nice of people to ask this question and I generally feel a sincere concern but a harder one to answer in a quick sentence. An easy or expected answer would be feeling tired, heavy, ready to get this baby out of me, which is often true but not too much of a concern..

Generally, 10 percent of my mind is thinking about being pregnant and the other 90 about other things some related to pregnancy others not so much. Primarily losing employment and opportunities due to pregnancy/birth combined with the added cost of maternity and therefore losing as sense of independence. Then there’s the other things we’ve taken on; moving, landlords, buying a house, fixing a house, medical bills and health insurance missing dogs on top of that. Most people, employers, sponsors, friends, family have been incredibly supportive which has been incredibly generous and helpful at minimizing stress.

I’ve been made well aware of how great being a parent is and how much I will gain which apparently justifies whatever costs/lack of healthcare coverage and missed paychecks opportunities worthwhile for some families. For me it doesn’t justify some people’s and organizations complete lack of sensitivity and/or support when it comes to maternity.

7.  Do you have a birth plan?

Very realistic live nativity scene. (see answer to due date question) We are looking for costumes, livestock, three kings, hay, etc.

8. Are you going to keep racing?

Please ask expecting athlete-fathers this same question. Granted I’m sure statistically women are less likely to return to competitive sports post-baby which is too bad,  but lets make an effort to give them a benefit-of-the-doubt, and the same opportunities and expectations a father would.

9. Was it planned?

Absolutely not, do you know how much it costs to have a kid? But I was ‘planning on having kids at some point.

I heard this question a lot from people I didn’t know that well and generally in relation to question #10. Although people do plan pregnancies out of wedlock ours was not planned.

I’m also surprised people aren’t more open about unplanned pregnancies, perhaps because there’s the assumption that an unplanned pregnancy is an unwanted pregnancy, which can be true for a few weeks but generally, but we get over it and are just as excited to have a kid as those who plan.

10. Are you getting married?

I’m surprised how much this was asked and how much it is an issue in the US in 2012.

But I would like to say kudos to those who do manage to get engaged and married before the baby comes out, that’s a lot more bills, buying and organizing on your plate. Granted we opted for a down payment on a house for additional stress but I feel a wise decision due to interest rates and other things.

I don’t think anyone should have to answer and explain this one anymore than it shouldn’t have been asked in the first place. To all those who haven’t asked this question, thanks.

It’s ok coming from my immediate family, but everyone else, not so much. What I hear is ‘You should get married.’ So I’m likely to get defense and pretend I don’t believe in marriage, which isn’t really true although I do think about what could be done with all the money pumped into to wedding industry every year.  I’m a firm believer that people can have a happy committed lasting relationship and start a family without getting married like a lot of other modernish countries. I love one family member’s answer; ‘Mary and Joseph weren’t married,’ especially with the appropriate timing of the birth. But then there’s still the awkwardness of what you call the other person, and my favorite correction when Ian was referred to as my husband was,

“We prefer the socially-acceptable ‘baby-daddy’

-Emma Garrard