QC Triathlon Recap – Conquering Fear {GiveitaTRI}

Nausea overwhelmed me during my morning workout. The banana I had just consumed was fighting for space among the butterflies that had taken up residence over a week ago when I questioned whether I should even race this year. It was only Wednesday, my race was days way and still the anxiety and apprehension were holding me prisoner.


It’s no secret that this year’s training has been fraught with obstacles. Fear among the top contender, with lack of self-confidence a close second. My training had been inconsistent and at times non-existent. After a bout of self-doubt and battling a heaping dose of PTSD from last year’s training backlash on the family front, I was reluctant to push myself and compete.


When I voiced these fears on the internet and to my family I was met with reassurance and encouragement. However, the fear had already taken hold and it wasn’t letting go, which left me with a shaky heart, a butterfly-filled tummy and TRIbrain.


All I wanted was for it to be over, so I could do something other than swim, bike and run.


On the Friday before race-day my boss, sensing my lack of motivation and focus, allowed me to escape work and head to my race destination early.


I drove the hour south to pick up my packet and scope out the already familiar race course. I’ve been doing this race for five years, there were no surprises, nothing had changed and yet everything was different, my hands where still shaking as the race volunteer handed me my packet.


Eventually, once I started chatting with “my people” the race nerves began to subside {a bit}. I was even more relieved when I noticed my race number didn’t have a 13 and it wasn’t 666 – whew crisis averted. After I was tatted, I headed over to transition and scoped out my spot. Ironically, it’s in approximately the same place every single year. It must be fate. I took a couple of deep breaths hopped in my truck and headed to the Sherpa’s house {aka my mom’s}



Each year, since she moved to the Quad Cities my mom hosts me the evening before my race. She makes me pasta and a salad, we talk about mundane things to abate my nerves and then she wakes up with me at the crack of dawn to cheer me on.


It’s THE Best.


That evening I was more restless than usual, and after a fitful night’s sleep I woke up at 4 am on race day grumpy and groggy. Oh, and freaking cold.


It was the middle of June, but it was freezing {according to me}. A balmy 50-ish degrees outside. Luckily I had my Team Pink Betty sweatshirt, but I had to borrow my step-dad’s sweat pants. Not the most attractive, but they did keep my shivers from being too overwhelming.


Oh, yeah. Did I forget to mention that when I’m super nervous my entire body starts shaking and my teeth start chattering. I look like I’m suffering from hypothermia. Cold temps only exacerbate the issue, which made race morning pretty interesting.



With shaky hands I applied my race number stickers to my bike and helmet, swung my bag over my shoulder and told my mom I’d see her in the park.


Due to the fact that it’s a closed race course {meaning no cars allowed} we opt to park outside the park, otherwise it would be hours before I’d get my post-race pancakes and trust me you don’t want me to wait hours.


Biking into the park also gives me some time to warm up, focus and settle those rambunctious butterflies.


I arrived at transition and again with shaky hands, began the task of unpacking and setting up my area. Hydrating came next. I learned my lesson about hydrating early and often after last year’s cramping issues during the swim. Calf cramps suck, and they also make it impossible to swim.



This year instead of visiting with my mom, I stuck close to transition. Visiting with other triathletes and just chilling. I ran into a few fellow Bettys, and some other folks from SBM and triathlon FB groups. It was nice seeing some familiar faces in person.


About this time my shaking and chattering were driving me nuts so I opted to put my wetsuit on early in an effort to warm myself up. It worked well until I headed to the water. I have to tell you there is nothing worse than that first moment when your nice warm wetsuit fills to the brim with ice cold water. It makes you want to drop a few thousand f-bombs. Although it’s quickly alleviated by peeing in your wetsuit…oh wait was that TMI…just ignore that part.



When I lined myself up for the swim, I mistakenly placed myself in the 9 – 10 minute slot usually I place myself in the 13 – 15 slot. Oops. I ended up getting a bit battered, but it wasn’t too bad.


Prior to my race I was easily swimming 300 – 500 straight, which is a big deal for a girl who just re-learned how to swim only a year ago. However, the moment I was a quarter of the way in the water, old habits returned and I couldn’t put my face in the water. I spent half the swim doing the breaststroke and the other half doing the bear crawl. I was pissed! Obviously I need more OWS practice.


About three quarters of the way through the swim I started to get REALLY tired {remember restless night of sleep} and I almost said, “Screw it. I’m going to just climb in one of the boats and go for pancakes.” I quickly fought through that mind bender and plowed forward.


Usually the bike portion is where I’m footloose and fancy-free. However, as I mentioned this year was different.


After my should I or shouldn’t I race meltdown, I decided that if I’m going to race I’m going need a race bike. So, on a whim two weeks before race day over my lunch hour I bought a road bike. We had only two weeks to get to know each other and I wasn’t feeling confident about our new relationship. Hill climbs were tougher than I thought they should be and I was paranoid I’d throw my chain with each gear shift. {note to self watch a YouTube video on fixing a thrown chain}




I shouldn’t have worried for my girl and I got along just fine and even with a headwind we still made good time.


By the time I hit the running trail I was in full happy endorphin mode. Then I realized they changed the running course, and I had to run on gravel or what felt to my feet as large boulders. Paranoia struck and my pace slowed as I fretted about rolling an ankle. Thankful it didn’t last long and I was off running into the glorious day. Along the way I heard a few “Go Betty!” which is so funny because people probably thought my name was Betty. The moment I slapped the tire of the John Deere tractor I knew I was almost there, ready to cross the finish line.


There is a point in this race where I ALWAYS sprint. Even if I feel like my lungs are going to explode and my legs will fall off I sprint. It’s the best piece of advice I can give to anyone racing – ALWAYS SPRINT TO THE FINISH. Every time I pass at least two people, which considering my run is as slow as a snail, makes me feel pretty awesome, it makes for great photos and best of all you FINISH STRONG.



“It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” The best quote I’ve ever heard and I always remember it.


“And crossing the finish line is Brook Easton from Iowa City,” with that I was done.


Another triathlon was in the books. I had conquered my fear and won.


Then I remembered our race director, Eric Sarno’s email the day before….


“What stands between you and your race goals on Saturday?

For some it may be nothing, maybe for others it is fear, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, a nagging injury, lack of training, in-experience… Let\\’s just refer to all of it as “stuff”.

When your feet touch the ground for the first time on Saturday morning, I believe that this Stuff will say, “OH NO! THEY ARE-UP!” I believe that this stuff, will say, “They are up! Even though I did my best to get in their way… they are up! And they are coming to the starting line!” As you stand on the beach ready to start, that stuff will have been kicked in the face, and when you cross the finish line, that “stuff” will have been destroyed!




Thanks Eric I totally kicked all that “stuff” in the face and destroyed it!


I appreciate all the love, support, Facebook messages, voice messages and encouragement during my race and in the weeks prior. You – my friends, my husband and kiddos, the Sherpa {aka mom}, the GoTRIbal team, Team Pink Betty and the SBM family all crossed that finish line with me without all of you there wouldn’t have been a race day – THANK YOU.


My mom, who captured THE BEST photo ever {see above}, greeted me at the finish line with a hug and as always she read my race time, because I just can’t bear to do it.


The time 1:51


I was content.


As I headed to transition I listened to my messages. Tears welled in my eyes as I heard my husband and the boys wishing me luck on my race, and Little Red yelling “you’re going to win mama.”


Oh, buddy I already have.

Give it a TRI: Guest Post by GoTRIbal Founder Tanya

As a working mom, triathlete and everything in between Multi-Tasking has become second nature. However, there are some lessons to be learned when attempting to take on the world.


My super awesomesauce friend and fearless leader of GoTRIbal is sharing some of her insights and advice about women, multi-tasking and all the stuff in between.



Your mother was right.
Running with scissors isn’t good for anybody – unless you’re a woman.

Tanya from GoTRIbal

If there’s one thing you are probably really good at, it’s multi tasking. And let’s just call a spade a spade here shall we? If you are a woman, there’s a pretty darn good chance you’re good at it.


Test: Are you reading this while replying to work emails,  lacing up your running shoes, planning your friend’s 40th birthday invite list, and arranging your boyfriend’s (husband’s, sister’s, kid’s) next dentist appointment.


All this has caused the world’s advice and research on “work/life balance” to explode.


A friend of mine, Felena Hansen, CEO of a co-working space designed specifically for women, plainly and matter-of-factly says she’s not a fan of this ‘work/life balance’ phrase. “There’s no such thing,” she says.  It’s really just “work-life integration”.


But this post isn’t another deep dive into that topic. It’s more to notice the ease with which we, unconsciously almost, seamlessly accomplish this work-life integration through our multi-tasking activities.


And yes, I might even have a suggestion or two on how to excel at it.


Three Lessons to Excel at Mult-Tasking

1. Being athletes (and a huge number of other roles we all occupy) requires a base level skill in multi-tasking. I stretch my hamstrings while brushing my teeth.  Suffice it to say, my teeth probably don’t get the full treatment, nor do my hammies get the best stretch. But so far, neither have let me down.


Lesson: You have reached Super-woman status when you know & practice the difference between multi-tasking activities that are no-brainers & avoid the ones that have disastrous outcomes (texting while driving).  In other words, which are “just get’er done” and which are “I’m not liiiiiisssteeenninggg”.


2. My work is spent connecting people. Not just any people, but people with others who can help support them in living their healthiest, strongest life forever.  That means, my life is spent where healthy, active, Make-Awesome-Happen type of people are. (FYI: Brook is one of those people) In any 10 minute period, I’m listening, and then thinking “Who would this person love to know? Who would love to know THEM?”


Lesson: This is such tight work-life multi-tasking integration I should call it “Wo-ife”. This kind of multi-tasking is one everyone should aim for. The blurred line of what we’re Naturals at combined with what we can do for a living.


3. “Women are better at being able to stand back and reflect for a moment while they are juggling other things.” I didn’t say it, he did.  This really is magic when it happens. I like to think of it as self-awareness in the moment. Like when you’re talking with your husband (sister, kid, parent) for the 147th time about something, and you immediately think, “Wait, what if I worded this differently? Calling him a turd isn’t working.” Then you put the knife down.


Lesson:  I would argue that true reflection IS a practice not shared while doing other tasks. You just can’t do it WELL. But we can wield this multi-tasking power best in those moments where we catch ourselves in an action that’s not conducive to bettering our relationships, and do a quick presto-change-o so that we are.  

This is all to say, we can’t be masters of our domain all the time.


We try to be. But sometimes we blow it.


If we’re already good at something, we are supposed to work at getting better at it.  So, isn’t it right that we focus on getting better at multitasking multi-tasking?


Tanya from GoTRIbal

Tanya is the Founder of GOTRIbal, a premier active lifestyle network designed to make meaningful connections and bring relevant content to women who want to lead active, healthy lifestyles. She proudly multi-tasks while integrating her work-life every day.

I’m looking for more guest posters for my GiveitaTRI feature. If you are an athlete, wannabe athlete or have a message about body image you’d like to share email me at RedheadReverie{at}gmail{dot}com

Give it a TRI: Meet Coach Denise

Last year I really wanted to push myself in the world of competitive triathlon. I was tired of just winging it and was looking for more guidance in training and nutrition. It was time to call in the reinforcements, so I hired a coach.


Upon first meeting Denise {aka coach} I was a bit intimidated. Even though she’s 5’4″ and probably weighs 100 pounds, she’s a badass. However, once you sit down and talk with her, you soon realize she’s the most realistic down to earth person you will meet. She’s also a mom, which means she understands what it’s like balance family and racing.



Thanks to her training and patience I was able to beat my time by 15 minutes and had a new PR.


This year I’m more confident in my training {thanks to Denise} and I’m adopting a different attitude on racing and training this year {more on that later}. However, I know some of you may be curious about hiring a coach, and how a little guidance can help.


Introducing Denise Barnhouse {aka Coach}

Coach Denise Barnhouse #GiveitaTRI


Why do you TRI? 

Well actually I don’t anymore, so the real question would be why did I TRI?  I absolutely love the accomplishment of being able to complete three sports in one.  There is nothing like the feeling you have when you complete a triathlon when you are totally exhausted with quads throbbing and being able to reflect back on all the work I put into it.  God gave us the gift of movement and I love that he has blessed me with the ability to use that movement in the three disciplines.  Oh yeah, and I can’t forget about breakfast afterwards!!!!


Now why don’t I TRI anymore?  Well simply put – I’m a competitive athlete and part of the enjoyment for me is to be at that level and now that I am a mom, Tri-Coach, CrossFit Coach and business owner, I put myself aside to work on the success of my athletes and family through sport and faith. There is just not enough time to train as hard or be as competitive as I want to for three sports.


How did you get started in coaching?

I went to Colby-Sawyer College for Exercise Science with a minor in nutrition so basically I have always been a nerd about the body.  I love the science behind what happens to the body from the cellular level out when exercise and diet is put in place.  However, I found myself in an 8 year career in pharmaceutical sales and a full time sprint athlete. This left virtually no time for God and family.


So the natural thing to do was quit my job become a full time athlete and mom, right?


Wrong, God had other plans for me. I got injured and realized that we actually needed my paycheck. So, with lots of prayers and what I went to school for, I decided to use my knowledge to help others succeed at my favorite sport in the world!  My injury also ended up being a blessing in disguise because that’s how I got started in CrossFit.  A triathlete’s brain is typically focused on only the three disciplines, “If I want to be a better triathlete I need to swim, bike, and run more!”  I was included in that equation and got an overused hip injury with a partially torn hip labrum and ischial tuberitis.  If I had a strength component in there it could have been prevented.  CrossFit is the perfect sport for that void.  Not only does CrossFit use function movements to keep me strong for life, but its core to extremity strength which is imperative for any athlete that needs cardiorespiratory endurance, strength, stamina, flexibility, power, speed, balance, coordination, agility, and accuracy. However, again my injury was a blessing to me or I would still probably be selfish. Now I get to teach athletes all these awesome components so they can be their best, and that’s wonderful to witness….I love it!


What is your coaching style? 

Simply put….


“The athlete doesn’t chose the race, the race chooses the athlete!” 


What this means is there are many times in life when people try to fit themselves in a society that doesn’t work for them and then they find themselves failing at those margins because it doesn’t work.  This happens in the sport of triathlons all the time.  People think that if they are going to get into the sport the natural progression is to start with mini sprints and work your way up to the ironman, and if you don’t make it to the ironman distance or at least half ironman then you have failed at that margin.  But truly there is beauty at every distance and my job is to guide you to your success.  If an athlete ends up picking a goal that is virtually unattainable at cost of everything else, then that could result with a bad taste in your mouth for the sport.  Athletes need to take two sheets of paper.  The first sheet should list tri goals including all your dreams and aspirations.  Then the second sheet of paper should be reality and the actual time you have to put into the sport.  Once that is established look at the distances and how much time will be needed to reach that goal. Then do it with all your strength!  The last thing you want is for your training to become a job that you have to do. You want it to be the job you want to do!


Greatest moments as a coach? 

It was my first ironman client, I was nervous.  She only had 15 weeks and had only completed one Olympic distance race so far.  Initially, I told her I could guide her and give her advice for a shorter distance and then Ironman next year.  She respected my answer but called me the following week and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  So I strategically and stressfully put together the best plan I could for her.  She wanted to finish the race before the cut off period and wanted to make the run without walking.  As her training progressed she was doing great so her finish time goal kept decreasing, which was truly making me panic. So 15 weeks later, she was as ready as she could be.  That night they were airing the finishing line live and I was patiently waiting.  I still had not heard from her or saw her cross the finish line…I was sweating!  I opened up another browser page and I could see all her splits.  She did awesome in the swim and the bike and all her transition were perfect.  But where was she?  I figured she either got hurt or walked the run. For a moment I felt like I had failed her.  Within 10 minutes of that thought I got a text that said “I did it!”  She actually crossed the finish line 2.5 hours before her goal and ran the entire run portion of the race.  She was ecstatic, and I basically passed out from the stress!  I was so proud of her. She worked so hard.


What benefits do you see from coaching others? 

My goal is to see my clients see themselves as God perfectly made them.  There is a lot that goes into that, but I do see it.


Any pre-race traditions?

This is funny!  My only pre-race tradition is crying.  LOL!  I don’t know why I do it, but I do.  Every. Single. Time.


What’s your favorite sport in a Tri? 

Hands down the bike!


My races for 2014?

No triathlons, but one of my clients got me into Cyclocross this fall, which is basically CrossFit and cycling. I can do that!  I’m hooked.  So my race calendar for 2014 will consist of as many Cyclocross races as possible starting in September!

Coach Denise Barnhouse #GiveitaTRI


Have you ever DNF’ed?

Ummm, no but I have done two stupid things in a race.  The first one was when I was racing the Triamerica Series in Orlando. Long story short I was first on the bike and still being an amateur athlete I was sure I was going to see the person in front of me turn around. Well, I just so happened to look down at my odometer and then looked behind me only to see athletes in the far distance turning around. Yeah, so I biked the Olympic distance on the bike because there was no way in my mind that I would be first.

The second one was my last race in Wisconsin and I was crossing the finish line with some serious heat on my back.  I knew I was in placing position for my age group, however I was also injured at this time so was in some serious pain.  As I was crossing the finish line, I didn’t notice that there were two pads to cross. I stopped about three feet before the second pad and lost my third place spot. I cried before and after that race.


Who is your greatest inspiration?

My Savior is the only one who inspires me!


What to look for in a Coach?

Look for someone that doesn’t give you a cookie cutter program. Look for someone that is interested in you, and cares about your success.  Not everyone fits in the same program, that’s why we are all made different.  If we were all created the same then life would be boring, and there would only be one diet and nutrition book written.  This is what separates good coaches from great ones!


Introduction of the sport for kids?

LET THEM HAVE FUN!  Let them decide if they want to be competitive. If you’re a parent you know what that looks like.  Right now let them play.


Kids Triathlon / Coach Denise #GiveitaTRI


If you would like to hire Denise to take you to the next level of racing, you can find her at TriFitAgape or email her at Shakedown77 {at} hotmail {dot} com

Hiring a coach was one of the best moves I made in my triathlon journey. Hopefully it will help you too.