It’s easy to focus on the negatives. Not just after a disappointing race, but in day to day life as well.
Growing up, our family dinner conversations would begin each night with every family member noting their “highlights of the day.” It was a nightly ritual enforced by my mom and, many nights, felt like more of a begrudging chore. But let’s be honest, I was a spunky teenager and was more concerned about making it to the movies on time to meet my friends than trying to come up with my daily highlights when all I did was go to school.
While I undoubtedly did not appreciate conjuring up my highlights at the time, I am 100% sure that it made me a much more optimistic and positive person. Today I am so grateful that my mom continued to insist on “highlights of the day” participation each night.
My race at Xiamen 70.3 in China this past weekend was not the performance that I travelled halfway across the world for. Instead of explaining what went wrong (that has already been recounted in a book-long text message to coach Siri), let me list my “highlights of the day” instead:
1. I met and raced with a stellar group of women. I am so thankful to have met all of the inspiring women that I stood on the start line with. They were fierce competitors but even better people.
2. I had the opportunity to gain more race experience during what I chalked up to as a very hard “training” session (thank you to Haley Chura for the post-race chat and pointing these ones out!).
3. I experienced another country and culture. One of the best parts of the trip was handing out finisher medals to children in the Ironkids race with the other pro athletes. The kids were beaming from ear to ear from the joy of racing (or it could have been the sparkly medals they got for finishing, but who’s to say). It’s always quite amazing how gestures, like a high-five, transcend cultural and linguistic boundaries! We must have given out over 1,000 enthusiastic high fives.
Every day presents us with opportunities to learn and there are always things to be grateful for, even if they are as simple as your dog clamoring over furniture to greet you after a long day of work! Some days it is easy to focus only the negatives, but if we are willing to search for our “highlights of the day” it will enable us to grow and continue to improve ourselves. As Winston Churchill said,
"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm!"
September was quite the month! A few notable activities?
Let’s start from the top!
After my first two runs back following my injury, I hopped into a local XTERRA race in Fruita, CO, and gave it a go. Siri allowed me to race under one condition - I had to stop and walk every 5 minutes during the run.
The race was in a beautiful state park in the desert of western Colorado. I camped on my own the night before and got to watch a gorgeous sunset over the swim venue while munching on some Z-bars (dinner of champions? Probably not, I suppose I could have planned that better...).
The race was a blast! I had a good swim, tried super hard to keep up on the bike - though it was apparent that my technical skills leave much to be desired at the moment - and smiled during the entire run. The walking breaks on the run were incredibly frustrating, yet I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear running on the trails twisting in and out of the cliffs surrounding the lake. I ended up as the second elite female and drove four hours back home with some sunburn and a strong desire to race more XTERRA’s in 2018!
Racing is great and I loved every second of it. However, the most incredible part of this month...heck, of the year...actually of my life, was marrying my truest friend who stole my heart, Mr. Tony Baca.
Tony is one of the most optimistic people I have ever met, you almost can't help but smile when you're around him. He is able to make being sidelined by broken knee caps bearable, ordinary tasks magical, and he has the ability to bring out the best in me each and every day. Many people have asked me how "married life" is going. Do you want to know the truth? It gets better every single day. Even with challenges and uncertainty ahead, we remind ourselves that we are a team and we will confront obstacles and chase our dreams al cien juntos. To say that I am the "luckiest girl in the world," would be quite the understatement.
Every time that I imagined walking down the aisle before our wedding day I would tear up with happiness and excitement to marry Tony. Actually walking down the aisle on our wedding day was more wonderful than any imagination, any movie scene, and any of the million Pinterest photos I pinned to my "Wedding Ideas" board. I had the most perfect man standing there waiting for me. I probably would have run down the aisle had my dress not been so long (another face plant this year would not have suited me well!).
The wedding planning was one of the most stressful weeks of my life. The weeks before our wedding went something like this:
Week 1: We decided to get married. I found my dress!
Week 2: We didn’t know how a wedding worked, let alone how to plan a wedding. However, we did have a venue for the ceremony and lots of string lights to decorate with.
Week 3 (week of the wedding): 90% of the planning, 100% of decorating!
Thankfully, with the help of family and friends, it all came together perfectly and we had a gorgeous backyard wedding reception in Austin, TX. I am so grateful to be a part of, now two, truly incredible families who made our big day a very special one to remember.
How did we plan a wedding in a week within a tight budget? A post on that will be coming soon!
Until next time, hasta luego amigos!
Allison Baca ;)
Massive thank you to Preston Glace and Paulo Hernandez for the photos.
Current photos here are via Preston, check out the rest of the album and his other shots here: http://pgphotography.zenfolio.com/f169072920
I walked into the doctor’s office yesterday sure that I would convince him it was time for me to start easy jogging. I mean, I don’t need to bend my knee that much to trot along! I was shuffled off for x-rays while telling the nurse about how I knew it was time to start running again, my voice filled with the enthusiasm of a 10-year-old on their first day of middle school (mostly excited with an awkward tweak of nerves).
They snapped some glamour shots of the inside of my knee and I happily scurried back to my room without the hindrance of that stifling knee-immobilizer brace. I hopped up onto the exam table and patiently awaited the doctor while I watched the bustling of the office through the open door.
The doctor arrived and I greeted him with the widest, most enthusiastic smile while immediately telling him I was ready to start running. I’m pretty sure he thought I was insane. He told me that the bone was healing really well as he went through the physical exam again (I earned a solid A). I probably sounded like one of those stuffed animals with like three pre-recorded sayings because basically all I said was:
Once he was tired of me pestering him about riding and running he went to confer with the supervising doctor about my case. He closed the door this time so I couldn’t observe the conversation. It was probably best as I would have been yelling across the office adding in my two cents in the whole time, you know, with my professional medical background and all ;).
Finally I heard his footsteps pace back around the office and the door handle twist open as he stepped through the door.
I immediately saw his body language and my mind started racing:
“Why isn’t he looking at me?? He did this last time with bad news too. I have to be able to run at least. Maybe riding was too much of an ask right now? Can I hike? Can I at least kick in the pool? LOOK AT ME DAMNIT!”
He finally looked at me. The answer to all of my questions was a firm, “No, no, nope.” I struggled to hold the lump down that was quickly rising through my throat as my vision started blurring due to the tears welling up in the best puppy-dog eyes I could muster. I couldn’t see it (literally and figuratively) at the time but he did give me some good news:
I left the office sans brace, cried on my phone to my mom outside of Whole Foods, spent $20 in Whole Foods on like two granola bars (delicious ones I might add), and then went and bought some new running clothes (retail therapy?!) that I can look at in my closet for three more weeks until I can start running again!
Thankfully there are a lot of great things in my life right now and after a good night’s sleep in my new place here in Boulder, I’m ready for day 31 of my recovery, jam packed with swimming, PT, hiking, and decorating my new room!
P.S. - Thank you all for the blog suggestions you gave me on social media!! Please feel free to shoot more my way if you think of them, I really appreciate it!
“You need to make sure you tell them that you came in with an open patella fracture. We normally send these to the operating room but yours we used a [fancy suction machine] on to clean and stitch in the ER.”
That’s the info that the ER tech told me I needed to relay to the orthopedic doctor whilst getting my stitches out. I’ll spare you the gory photos and details, but basically my knee was wide open and the cut was so deep that my broken knee cap was exposed in addition to some internals of my knee leaking out. Gross.
Two weeks and 13 stitches later, I’m sitting here writing this blog post that I never intended to write, about how a stupid accident has sidelined me for, what the first doctor said would be 8 weeks. Obviously I don’t believe that doctor and am still convinced it will be 4, which my new doctor yesterday agreed with (victory!).
Injuries suck. Whether it is two weeks or two years of recovery, they are never a pleasant experience. They keep you from doing what you love, ruin your race plans at the most inopportune times, and currently have resulted in me wearing a bulky brace that chafes my leg in 100F heat in the middle of the summer. Yet, as my mom would say, “everything happens for a reason.”
What are my reasons?
First, a slap in the face, or knee I suppose, and a hard way to for me to realize that I am not invincible. Fun summer activities you have literally done thousands of times can still be dangerous. Don’t be stupid and take unnecessary risks six days before two big races. Just don’t. #BubbleWrapLife
Second, I’ve been given an opportunity to really improve my pull buoy-band swimming. I am THE WORST in our training group at pulling. I have no explanation as to why since I can keep up when I’m allowed to kick and swim like normal. But alas, kicking is out of the question for at least the next four weeks so I will become great friends with my pull buoy and band (hello arm and shoulder muscles).
As I briefly mentioned before, I don’t always believe the doctors. I listen to what they say and do what I am told because I want to heal as quickly as humanly possible, but I always take their recovery time estimates and spin them in my mind to be more optimistic. When the first doctor told me 8 weeks in a knee-immobilizer brace, I sent my X-ray photos to every doctor I knew asking for second, third, seventh opinions, just looking for any response that was less than that. In my head I told myself it would be 4 weeks (which was generally the average response I got from the other opinions). I mean my bones will heal faster than everyone else’s, right?! That’s what I believe at least!
Who knows if it is the power of positive thinking, an overestimate by the original doctor, or all of the Spirulina/hemp seeds/hydrolyzed collagen I shelled out money for at Whole Foods, but when I went to the doctor yesterday he told me I only had 2 more weeks in the brace (that will be 4 in total)! Every day I wake up focused on what I CAN do that day. Obviously I am concerned about getting back to racing ASAP but I am also looking at this time as an opportunity to pursue activities in other parts of my life, most notably studying for my license to sell insurance -- let me know if you need health or life insurance in CO in a few weeks ;).
As much as injuries suck, don’t let yourself fall down that dark hole, focusing your energy on the things you can’t do. Of course, I’m human and have cried every time I have gone to the doctor (“what do you mean I can’t run NOW?!”). But push that out of your mind and figure out what you are able to do now. What can you do now that will make you a better athlete in the future, even if it doesn’t involve physical training? There will be more races regardless of your attitude, but I promise you will come back stronger and faster with a positive one!
If you need some cheering up or general inspiration, just go check out my “Things for my Wall” board on Pinterest - it has most recently been filled with motivational quotes about comebacks :). Also, I will be posting on Instagram stories about my recovery process if you want to follow along!
Goal: Give you a rundown of my past three races in 100 words or less each.
Ironman 70.3 Monterrey - 7th Place
SO CLOSE! That’s how it felt at least. I came out of the swim in 13th and moved up to 3rd on the bike posting the fastest bike split of the day (I went DEEP but that’s how I like to race!). Then the run...well, it started off okay. I finished the first lap in 5th but felt my stomach turning against me, literally and figuratively. On lap two I had to...umm, make a pit stop?...and barely hung onto 7th place. I wasn’t happy with my finish but it did give me some confidence!
Driveway Series Crit Race - Austin, TX
Who doesn’t love a good crit race four days after they destroy themselves in a 70.3 and haven’t been on a road bike in like six months?! *Raises hand*
This race was a blast though! What an epic cycling scene in Austin - everyone was so welcoming. Plus, how could you not love a Thursday night crit followed by beers at a gas station? I raced the men’s P/1/2 race and only missed the podium by about 40 spots ;) then tried to double back in the women’s race (five minutes after the men’s finish) and won a coffee prime #priorities.
Ironman 70.3 Raleigh
It was just bad, like I was so sick I had to actually stop on the bike kind of bad. I’m still not sure why, though I have a list of potential reasons which include things such as “drinking too much murky lake water in the swim” or “running up a mountain on an ‘easy run’ the week of the race.” I’m definitely still learning from my mistakes, and boy did I learn a lot this weekend! But in the end I still made my way across that finish line and am already looking forward to the next one…
...What is the next one you ask??
XTERRA Beaver Creek!! Yes, I’m racing an off-road triathlon in a month. No, I have not been on a mountain bike in over a year. But, Chris Frederick helped to get me all set up on a BMC Teamelite 02 XT (photos will be on the ‘Gram soon), and I can’t wait to get out there and hit the trails.
My BIGGEST news lately is qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in September! This was one of my goals for the year and being able to knock that one out in the first round of the selection process is quite a relief. Now it’s time to put the head down and wind back up the training in preparation for September 9th!
Oh, and in case you were wondering...the word count goal was ACCOMPLISHED! You can word count yourself if you don’t believe me, hashtags don’t count :)
It’s official! I moved out to Boulder, CO and will be living in the “Bubble” indefinitely!
I had always imagined myself living here and felt an incredible urge to do so, but sometimes life is sticky. It’s hard to just get up and go with so many strings tying you to one place. I felt tied to Miami for many different reasons. There are so many things that I love about the city, most of all my friends and “family” there, but I had this strong urge to do something else. It is hard to imagine what happens when you leave “home” for a city where you may feel like you have nothing other than a bed to sleep.
One week ago, my mom and I finished our 31 hour drive from Miami to Boulder. We powered straight through only stopping for snacks and gas. Mentally driving 31 hours straight was a struggle, to say the least. I even thought to myself multiple times during the drive how I would rather be doing back-to-back Ironmans than sitting in a car driving for that long.
I wish I had some great insights on how driving through the open plains of Kansas revealed some deeper life meaning or how a wrong turn through Georgia (tacking an hour onto our journey) taught me about perseverance, but I have nothing for you in that respect.
What I can tell you is that 29 hours of my Chainsmokers Pandora station was clutch, as was the last two hours of my Hunter Hayes station. I can tell you that 31 hours is a long time, but worth every second if it moves you closer to your goals. And I can tell you that doing something for yourself, like moving to a place where you have always dreamed of living, is freeing and absolutely worth it no matter how intimidating it may seem.
This past week has been particularly devastating with the passing of one of the first friends I ever made in Miami and of 21-year-old Chad Young after a terrible crash in a cycling race last weekend. Life is fickle and fleeting, make sure you are making the most of the one that you have. Honestly ask yourself if you are happy with the life you’re living, if not, change something now, don’t get stuck. There is no time to waste so chase your dreams and wake up every day ready to live.
It is currently 4:30am the morning after Oceanside 70.3 and I am sitting in my hotel bed eating leftover pizza because I am SO HUNGRY! Who knows how this blog post will turn out but at least I will be properly fueled :).
I arrived to this race early for once. I met my mom at the airport (yay!!) and we rolled up to our hotel to find Jan Frodeno sitting outside. I was just like “act cool, don’t trip getting out of the Uber.” I didn’t trip and made it safely into the hotel on two feet #accomplishment
We spent a few days enjoying the delicious local fish, watching the surfers, and riding around beautiful Camp Pendleton. Then suddenly it was race day…
Swim: Brrrrrr! The swim took place in a little marina just as the sun was rising. I tried to stay on feet and made it until about the first buoy when everyone started to gradually swim away from me :(. I came out of the water in 16th I think? I know what I need to work on!
Bike: I’m sure the bike course was beautiful. I saw parts of it the day before the race and found the views just stunning. However, come race day there is never any sightseeing going on. I was focused on catching as many people as possible! I rode as hard as I could on that day and moved myself up to 9th place.
Run: Those little, steep hills hurt!! They were no match for my light and responsive On Cloudflow's. I was pretty happy with my run though. I felt fairly strong and was only passed by Malindi Elmore (former Olympic runner, woah!), leaving me with a top 10 finish in a super strong field!
While I always want to do better, I was pleased with the result. It is pretty crazy to look back at Miami 70.3, just over 5 months ago, and see my run at Oceanside 70.3 already 11 minutes faster! I am so grateful for all of Siri’s help these past months and I am looking forward to the next block of training in Boulder.
Thank you to all of my sponsors who make racing possible for me, to all of my friends and family for their support and well-wishes, and to my mom, Lauren, and Larry for coming out and cheering for me!!
First off, let me just say that Campeche, Mexico was a beautiful city, full of genuinely kind and helpful people and LOTS of fans who came out to support the race! This little fishing village is slowly transforming into a tourist destination yet still maintains its small town, everyone-knows-everyone feel. The race was so well run and the course was challenging. I recommend you add this one to your list for 2018!
Now onto the race!
My travel companions and I arrived two nights before the race. They all reserved rooms at the Holiday Inn and, of course due to my inability to plan travel far enough in advance, the hotel was fully booked and I was off to stay in my Airbnb (which was still good). We arrived a bit later than expected so I ate some slices of plain bread I had packed and headed straight to bed.
Apparently, no matter how many blogs I write about not being nervous and instead being excited to test myself before a race, I still get scared and start crying the day before. Seriously how do you walk into a pro meeting with the likes of Leanda Cave, Heather Wurtele, Tim Don, and many other big hitters, and not leave terrified?! I went back to my Airbnb after that meeting and called Gunter in tears (that poor guy dealing with my pre-race emotions!!). As usual he told me to calm down and relax, it was all going to be okay.
I went to bed, slept terribly (standard the night before a race), and woke up ready to rock and roll!
Swim: The struggle was real. I mean, I was one of the first into the water! But alas, that counts for naught. The ocean swells swallowed me up and spit me out....five minutes behind the leaders. But thankfully I had a companion in the water to follow and she was great at sighting buoys (thank you!!).
Bike: Everything hurt after the swim. But I wanted to go so hard on the bike. I could see people up the road and all I wanted to do was catch them. I rode as hard as I could with no consideration for the fact that I had a half marathon to run afterward. I was able to move myself up from 9th place to 2nd place going into T2.
Run: I came off of the bike with Cecilia Perez right behind me. I may have had a fast transition but she FLEW by me in the first kilometer of the run. I just kept trotting along running what I could. I had no idea if I would be able to hold off the crazy fast women runners behind me but just kept chugging at my pace and drinking water. Lap one went by and it appeared the gap behind me wasn’t closing too fast. I had a chance to make it into the top 3!!!!
There was nothing like the feeling of running down that blue carpet knowing that I was going to round out the podium in third place. I was so incredibly excited, especially to share the podium with two rock stars: Heather Wurtele (multiple Ironman and 70.3 champion, all around beast) and Cecilia Perez (2016 Olympian for Mexico). We even got to spray champagne (one life goal: complete)!
I still have plenty of work to do and some huge races coming up but I couldn’t ask for a better start to the 2017 season. Thank you all for your support!
Mistake #3: Allowing my mind to sabotage my race
For the final installment of this series, let’s give the mental aspect of training and racing a go.
I have had plenty of races where I get so worked up and nervous before the race that I burn all of my energy before even hitting the start line! My heart starts racing and I put more and more pressure on myself to perform. I end up feeling drained once the gun actually does go off and typically have a terrible race.
The best races I have had were ones where I felt little or no pressure. I just wanted to go out there and see what I could do on that day. I was confident in the work and training I had put in and knew that I would give it my best no matter what happened.
Looking back, it seems that in the races where I crumbled mentally I was expected to accomplish a task that perhaps I was not quite ready for, or I expected myself to finish in a time that would have been a superhuman effort for me on that day. I was so focused on hitting a certain time or making it up a climb with the best climbers in the world without necessarily having the training behind me to back it up.
This is not to say that you should lower your expectations for yourself. Reaching my goals is what gets me out the door every morning to train. Yet, when race day comes around I have found that if I focus less on the time or place I finish in, and more on giving the best effort I can in that moment on that day, then I tend to have better races. Having a solid foundation of training behind me gives me a platform to jump off of in a race. When I can stand on the starting line confident in the work I have put in to get there, then I know when the gun goes off all I need to do it give the race my best effort.
I still have the pre-race jitters and nervousness, but I now focus less on the outcome of the race. I no longer wear a watch or look at a bike computer while racing. Nothing that the devices could tell me about my pace or what mile I am at will change the effort I am exerting in that moment. In the end we have no control over our competitors, the course, or conditions, but what we can control are our minds and bodies. Whether I finish first or last, I will finish knowing that I gave everything I had on that day, and that is all that I can ask of myself!
Mistake #2: Nutrition
Boy, how do I even cover the whole topic in one post? To begin, here is a condensed list of just a few nutritional methods I have tried that didn’t work for me (maybe they work for some people):
I’ll cut myself off there!
Let’s start with an easy one: not eating during rides / runs.
What if I told you I ate an entire jar of cookie butter and a carton of carrot cake sandwich cookies in 15 minutes...multiple times?
In the past I wouldn’t eat anything during six hour rides. I wanted to lose weight to improve the whole “power to weight” ratio thing. I would usually start crying around hour four for some stupid reason, like the road was bumpy. But I kept pushing forward to hour six.
When I finally made it home and crawled through the door, I felt entitled to eat a jar of cookie butter, did so, and then proceeded to feel so guilty that I ate more. But I must have burned like 1500 calories! I deserved that jar of sugar and fat. Or so I thought.
Sadly for me, that is not how the body likes to take in its calories. Whether you are trying to lose weight or not, it is so important to actually eat during a ride. Not only will eating while riding help you to lose weight because you won’t want to eat the wood of your kitchen cabinet when you get home, but you will also have a BETTER RIDE (and probably not randomly start crying). You will get more out of your intervals because your body will have the fuel it needs to keep pushing. This will make you stronger and faster.
Here is my rule of thumb now:
<1.5 hour ride: Just water or a light sports drink
>1.5 hour ride, especially if it is hard: ~25-40 grams carbs per hour or 100-300 calories per hour depending on the intensity, plus a sports drink with electrolytes
*Please note this will vary for different body weights, genders, type of exercise*
Before workouts I will have some carbs (2 slices of bread) and some high-glycemic fruits (jam or honey on the toast). After workouts I go straight for the Aminorip Chocolate Fudge to get in a quick serving of proteins and amino acids, giving my body fuel to start recovering asap. After taking a shower I will eat high-glycemic carbs so my body can break them down quickly, some fruits, and maybe a Greek yogurt. I try to avoid fats before and directly after workouts as it slows the digestion of the foods your body needs for energy or recovery.
Nutrition the rest of the time
Finding a “diet” that worked for me outside of training took years to figure out. After trying all kinds of fads searching for the magic bullet, and personally experiencing large weight fluctuations, I hired a nutritionist who changed my relationship with food and with my weight. It has made a huge difference in my body composition and performance. The funny part is, it is so simple!
I hate when someone tells me I can’t do something. I equally hate being restricted from eating certain foods. I love gluten, meat, carbs, chocolate cake, etc. I eat everything in moderation and at the right times of the day based on my body’s energy requirements and training.
I have five to six meals per day consisting of carbs, protein, fats, vegetables, and fruits. The proportions of each vary with each meal but at no time during the day would I say I am “hungry.” I probably eat more calorically than I did in the past, but rather than massive spikes of food intake and energy a few times during the day, I keep my blood sugar levels fairly constant. It helps me avoid cravings, recover after and between workouts, and prevents my body from going into starvation mode.
However, it is not as simple as just taking what you eat in a day and dividing it by six. The proportions of the food groups vary from meal to meal which is an important aspect to consider (ex. I eat carbs at dinner but only 0.5-1 cup of rice versus 1.5-2 cups of rice at lunch)!
I could go on for days about nutrition and mistakes I have made in this aspect of my training. Again, I am not a certified nutritionist in any way and these are simply my personal struggles and successes with my own body. It is entirely possible that what worked for me won’t work for everyone. I encourage you to read, contact a sports nutritionist, and record what works for you and your training in a log. Feel free to post here or on Facebook with any questions or comments!
PS - I can still put down an entire chocolate cake. ON MY OWN!
Professional cyclist turned professional triathlete living in Boulder, CO.