6.04.2015

teachable moments in barbados

When I was a kid and did something stupid, or made a mistake, or something bad happened to me that I thought was the end of the world, my mom would either comfort me or lecture me (depending on the scenario) and then would say, “It’s just a teachable moment.”


Somehow, the knowledge that the “teachable moment” would somehow benefit me in the future was usually not that comforting, because at the time all I could see was how it did not benefit me in the present.


As I grew older and such occasions continued to arise, I remember starting to predict the verdict before my mom said it, rolling my eyes (either literally or within) and saying, “Yeah, yeah, it’s a ‘teachable moment’. I know.”


I especially remember the “I know” comments. Because that was biggest frustration with “teachable moments”--usually I did know it was going to be bad before it happened, or that I probably shouldn’t make the decision I was about to. But sometimes that’s how it goes, doesn’t it? In fact, I think for me, personally, most of my teachable moments come from things I really did know about beforehand, but either forgot in the moment or disregarded because, well, you know… It was more fun to disregard. Or too difficult not to. Or I forgot.


Last month, I went to Bridgetown, Barbados, for my second ITU race of the season. As I’m sure you know by now if you have been following my results, I ended with a big fat DSQ* beside my name, hiding the fact that I raced my way into second place with the fastest bike and run splits of the day.


It was one of those terrible moments that is made so much worse by how happy I felt immediately beforehand: I crossed the line, super excited to stand on my first ITU podium and spray champagne on someone, then heard the announcer say, “Incredibly, Schlabach had the fastest run of the day, even with a ten-second penalty.”


Of course, my first thought was, “@#$%!!!!”


That might have been my second and third thoughts as well.


Once the obscenity subsided, next came, “Dammit, a teachable moment.”


Teachable moments from Barbados, in no particular order:

  1. When you get a penalty and don’t serve it, you get disqualified from the race. Furthermore, you don’t make any money from it; thus you don’t make up the money you spent to get to the race, and perhaps put into jeopardy your ability to race as much that season. You also don’t get any ITU points.
  2. Don’t get so caught up in what you are doing next that you forget what you are doing now. (My penalty came because, when I got into T1, I saw a girl up the road and was so focused on getting to her that I grabbed my bike before I put my helmet on. Big no-no.
  3. When you are at threshold effort, you go deaf, dumb, and mute. Even though I knew I got the penalty in T1, by the time I got to the run, I had completely forgotten about it. Apparently, the announcers talked about my penalty, but I didn’t hear a thing about that (though, somehow, I did hear the comments about how awesome I was running…) Literally, I didn’t even think of my penalty until I crossed the line and heard the aforementioned announcement. Frustratingly, after the race people kept asking me why I hadn’t served my penalty, as though I had chosen not to.
  4. It’s really helpful to have support at a race, if for no other reason than that they can shout at you till you snap out of your deaf/dumb state and thus avoid doing something idiotic like forgetting to serve your penalty.
  5. Even getting disqualified from a race doesn’t take away the fact that you did what you did in said race. Even though I didn’t get to stand on the podium this time, I know that I have the potential to do so.


All in all, I suppose I would rather have had a good performance and gotten DQed than to have had a terrible one and not gotten DQed. And I supposed I would rather get DQed at a relatively small race like Barbados than at a more important one later on. And, as with all teachable moments, despite my eye rolling and internal cursing and “I knows,” I did learn something important. And I’m betting that--even though I’m sure I will do tons of other stupid things, both in racing and in life--I won’t do that particular thing ever again.

I actually have pictures for you this time (thanks to Mark Harris and Andre Williams):






Bummer to not get to stand up here, but I had it from the men's winner that the champagne wasn't real anyways, so that numbed the blow a little... 
Lots of people to thank for this race: Anita Henry for covering my lodging; Grandpa Schlabach for his generous Christmas check that bought me my plane ticket; Tri360 for having my bike race-ready; and my coach, Zane, for having me race-ready.


Speaking of support, please help me to continue to race this season (see my last post for details)--and I will do my best to stop getting disqualified from races.

*A Note for Those Unfamiliar with ITU Racing: If you do something wrong in ITU racing, you receive a penalty which you have to serve during the race (usually during the run leg. This is different than in amateur racing, in which the officials just add some time onto your finishing time at the end of the race. In the ITU, the officials post the penalized athlete’s number on a board by the penalty box and it the the athlete’s responsibility to check the board and stop for her penalty. The officials are not allowed to flag the athlete down or verbally inform her of her penalty--although coaches/friends/fans may do so.

5.29.2015

booster campaign

As those of you who follow triathlon news probably know, there were some last minute changes to the pro race fields this spring that put a wrench in the prospect of making ends meet as a pro triathlete this year--especially as a new pro.
What with the lack of non-draft Olympic races, I decided to just take the dive into racing mostly ITU this year, but it's going to be a little tough as I had counted on some domestic non-draft racing prize money to take the edge off.
All that being said, I could use a little boost (haha, pun intended) to be able to race as much as I need to (or at all) this season to gain experience in ITU racing.
Please consider supporting me by buying a t-shirt from my booster campaign. You can read more about the meaning behind the shirt on the campaign website, here
If you want to support me but don't want another shirt, you can also contribute to me directly via PayPal @ calah.schlabach.tri@gmail.com or email me for mailing info.
Thanks SO MUCH to those who have already purchased shirts and/or committed to selling extra shirts! And thanks to everyone who has supported me, whether financially or otherwise--thank you for helping to make me the person and athlete I am today. 

4.12.2015

sarasota


Almost a month ago now, I, rather spontaneously, did my first race of the season. I had almost decided it wasn't worth writing a race report at this late date; however, just this morning, I was inspired by the blog of Dan Wilson. This Australian triathlete is now perhaps my favorite triathlete based entirely on the hilarity of his race reports. (See particularly his report re: whether or not to wear socks in a 70.3.)

I doubt that I can make you laugh as many times as Dan made me laugh this morning, but I’ll try to keep it on the short side and minimize the snores.

At the beginning of March I went to Florida to spend Spring Break coaching and training with Marymount’s triathlon team, but was not intending to race at all. However, after having a few weeks of pretty spectacular workouts and coming to life in the Florida sun, I decided to see if I could still sneak my way into the ITU race in Sarasota.

I arrived on the line--or the pontoon, rather--shockingly calm and ready to go, not to mention free of sunburn, having spent the week obsessively drenching myself in sunscreen before every single exposure. I think I was actually paler after that week in the sun, much to my chagrin, and was ready to make the sacrifice worth it in this race.

As it’s my area of least experience, the swim always provides plenty of room for learning. This supposed-to-be-750-meter-but-actually-850-meter swim provided 100 meters more experience than expected. I actually swam okay, but made a couple tactical errors that left me leading a chase pack and exiting the water about 20 seconds behind the second pack.

So I jumped on my bike in chase mode and hammered solo into a decent headwind after the group. Just about when I’d had enough of that, I was joined by my new Canadian friend, and, half-way through the bike leg, we managed to latch onto the second pack.

We entered T2 still about a minute down from the leaders. My bike refused to steer properly so I managed a rather impressive (in my opinion) cyclocross carry through transition and took off on the run, ready to take down as many girls as possible. The run was hot! But I managed to put that from my mind because running people down has to be among the best feelings in the world.

I crossed the line in fifth, happily sun burnt and just in the money, wishing I had 400 or so more meters to run….but pleased.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a single picture to show you for my efforts. Apparently, the only time college students get off their phones and stop instagramming is when they watch their coach race--and as I appreciated their cheer support, I guess I can’t complain too much.

They did capture our happy post-race beach trip, in which all the childhood swimmers sat on the beach while the rest of us frolicked in the glorious waves (and I regretted my sunburn as I was pummeled by sand and salt).



1.29.2015

don't give up on the year 'till it's over

2015 is the year I have been the most excited for. Ever.

And it’s not because I am doing new things or am making big life changes. It’s just because I am So. Very. Ecstatic. That 2014 is over.

Looking back, I wanted 2014 to be over a long time ago--seven months ago, to be more specific.

To be less specific, there are a number of reasons I was ready to be shot of the year, and I won’t go into them all here. A big one, though, was that I had an exceptionally disappointing first season as a pro triathlete. I’ve been told it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and it’s not that I don’t believe that, rationally, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. And I’m not here to lie to you.


It’s not that I couldn’t find things to learn from in each race, and it certainly was not that I was going backwards in swimming, biking, and running. There was some “bad luck” at the wrong times (dropped chains and a bruised rib), but, more so, it was self-inflicted pressure, and mental stress, and emotional stress, and just straight up STRESS--and other aggravating intangibles that can get in the way of even the most talented and fit athletes.


The result of the buildup of all the blockages--both tangible and intangible--was such discouragement and self-doubt that I wanted to give up. Not on the sport, per sé, but on the year for sure. At the end of July I was ready to throw in the towel, shut down for the season, and wait for 2015--which couldn’t come quickly enough.


I didn’t, though, or couldn’t. As a pro, I knew I couldn’t make decisions based entirely on feelings of disappointment. I had to get some manner of progress from the season, even if it wasn’t the progress I had hoped for. So I changed gears.


I went to Luray, a local race where I knew I could make some money but that was low pressure. I stretched myself in a way I had never done before and raced on back-to-back days--the Olympic-distance race on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. I won both, but, more importantly and regardless of the win, had the best races I had all season--compared to myself. I also had fun. I enjoyed racing and socializing. I regained a huge ounce of confidence and re-considered getting ready for a fall race.


Then, as I was planning for my little comeback, I got sick for the first time since I had dengue fever while I was in ‘Nam (though thankfully no hospital stays or hair loss this time). Not a big deal, but enough to make a fall triathlon questionable. Once again, I contemplated just being done.  Maybe this was my body telling me that the year had been full of too much stress--tangible and intangible alike--and that it was throwing in the towel on 2014.


But I pressed on, once again changing my approach (with the help of my coach). Instead of gearing up for a fall tri, I picked a late-fall 10k road race and started into a run-focused block of training. Our rationale was that I could still achieve one of the goals I had set for the year--to improve some of my run times.


The run block was fun. It gave me a little break from swimming and biking and took me back to my roots, so to speak. I think I got above 50 miles/week for the first time since college, which felt like a big deal (even though it wouldn’t have back then!).


It totally paid off. I broke my 10k PR by a minute and improved my 5k PR from my sophomore year of college--within the 10k. I won’t say I was satisfied, but I was appeased. The 10k time didn’t make up for my season, but it was proof that, frustrating season or not, I was still making progress--something I desperately needed to know.


Moral of the story? Sometimes it is tempting to want a “new start.” And sometimes, a new start is in order. (Thank God for 2015!) But sometimes opting out for a new start is a lot more like giving up. You never know what you might gain from persevering through a tough time.


That being said, perseverance might take a different form than what you had expected. Sometimes it’s not so much about a new start as it is about forging a new trail--thinking outside the box to try an unexpected approach or looking at the situation from an unfamiliar perspective.


Join me in welcoming 2015 (yeah, I’m a little behind) and committing to not giving up on it for at least eleven more months!


Thanks to my sponsors @Tri360, my coach @MZaneCastro, my parents, and all my friends who supported me through a rough year. You know who you are.

11.07.2013

London 2013

 
Here is a little glimpse of my race at the ITU Age Group World Championship in London:
 
 
Pre-race swim on Saturday at the Lido in the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

 
Suiting up! (It is very cold.)

 
Pre-race staging with my age group.
 
 
Running from the Serpentine to transition. Please don't zoom in on this photo too closely, as it is rather frightening.

 
After the race, my mom asked me, "How was riding by Buckingham palace?" I responded, "I don't know. I don't remember it." But here's proof that I did, in fact, pass it.

My feet started to warm up about half-way through the run.
 
 
Age 25-29 World Champs!
 
 
For a more detailed glimpse, see the post I wrote on the Post Calvin, here.
 
 
Huge thanks to my mom for raising money for me to go to London with her "London Series" of gourd art. Thanks to everyone who purchased London Series gourds and/or supported me in other ways!


 

10.05.2013

the post calvin

So, based on this site, one might think that I have not blogged in a very long time. However, one would be wrong. I have committed to a year of once-a-month blogs at a Calvin College alumni blog site. You can find my posts (3 so far) here:

http://calvinwritersonline.org/author/calah-schlabach/

My post is published the 20th of each month. I recommend checking out other peoples' posts as well!

Also, coming soon, an update featuring my recent trip to London!

 

3.10.2013

London Series

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What with the whirlwind of moving to DC right afterwards, I may have neglected to mention that I competed at USAT Age Group Nationals at the end of August. It wasn't my best race, but was a good learning and humbling experience. And even without the best race, I still qualified for Age Group Worlds, which will take place in London in September (on the Olympic course!).

Competing at Worlds would be great racing experience, but I really can't afford to go. So my mom generously offered to create a series of gourd art that she will sell as a fundraiser for my trip!

You can buy a gourd or make a donation here on my parents' website. Even if you're not looking to buy, you should still go check out my mom's gourds--they're pretty cool. :)

Here is the story (short version) of how I got into triathlon:

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In May of 2011, I did my first triathlon. My mom convinced me to do it. We were practically the only two participants who didn’t wear wetsuits in the 68-degree lake—not because we were extra-tough—because we didn’t have them. I rode a borrowed bike and I was in terrible running shape, but the first thing I thought when I was finished was, “that was so fun.” The second thought? “I bet I could be pretty good at this!”

That’s where the wondering started. How good could I be at this crazy sport? After all, I have a strong running back ground, I was quite a fish as a child, and how could I not love to ride a bike?! Could I be a professional triathlete someday? Could I make a living as a pro? The difficult thing about the pondering was that, like with most things, you don’t know ‘till you try. So I decided to try.

The first thing I learned about trying to be a professional triathlete is that you have to “go pro” in action and mentality even before you actually get your elite license and have a shot at making money. Translation: In order to become a professional triathlete, I first have to live like I am one already. Part of the “pro mentality” was my recent move to Arlington, Virginia to work more closely with my coach. I would love to be able to support myself doing this sport that I love doing, and I think it is a realistic goal. However, I need some help during this in-between time.

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Last year, I raced at the Age Group National Championship in Burlington, Vermont. There I qualified for the World Championship in London. I would like to once again get a chance to compete against the best amateur triathletes in the nation (this year in Milwaukee) and the world (in London)—a step towards someday getting the chance to compete against the best pro triathletes in the nation and world! However, in order to take advantage of these opportunities and gain valuable racing experience and credentials, I need some financial help.

My mom has been kind enough to offer her artwork up as a fundraiser to support me in my dream. She has used some artwork I created as a high schooler as an inspiration for her “London Series” of gourd art, the proceeds of which will go to support my racing this summer. You can also make a direct donation if you wish. Thanks for supporting me as I pursue this dream!