Sunday, January 25, 2015

Generali Mercuryman Triathlon - Grand Cayman Islands

The week before I left for the Grand Caymans, it was 8 degrees for a day or two.  Yes, you heard that correctly, 8 degrees.  One morning when I awoke, it actually said the words "feels like -3" on my weather app.  I looked at it, did a double take, and got my swim gear on to trek out to the car (which would barely start) to fire it up and head to the pool.  Winter in PA isn't for the faint of heart.  It hurts your face, cracks your skin and generally, is somewhat miserable.  When I heard about a chance to get a break from the cold and do a race which contributes to a great cause in January, I was on it like white on rice.  

Fellow pro triathlete, Lisa Roberts, was kind enough to reach out the end of 2014 to provide all the details.  She was a wonderful ambassador last year for Mercuryman, and soon after, the race director, Trevor Murphy, also reached out. The best part was that the proceeds of this event go directly to the Estella Scott-Roberts Foundation which advocates equality for women and young girls, along with many other areas.  What I found surrounding this event, was a very tight knit group of individuals who love the sport of triathlon and enjoy empowering each other to do great things.  It was fairly small, so everyone was cheering for each other and obviously, many of them knew Estella.  This was a perfect way to honor her legacy and raise money and awareness for the charity. Please take a moment to click on the link and learn a bit more about the cause.

This scenic half would take place on the Grand Caymans touring around the East side of the Island for the bike course and then transition to a three loop run course that was very spectator friendly. 

 My good friend, Alyssa, was also pretty excited about getting out of the cold so we packed our bags and made a run for it!  A short plane ride to Miami and then a final leg with a little over an hour to Grand Cayman and we were there!
 The two loop swim was absolutely gorgeous!  We were blessed with calm waters so it was perfect to get out there and just do some open water after being in the pool for months this early season.  The water clarity was fantastic and very similar to Hawaii and St. Croix.  Luckily, somehow I found Charisa and like a true friend, she pulled me around most of the course!  I tried to lend a hand a couple of times and do some of the swimming, but I always seemed to pick the wrong times and she and another fellow were doing just fine so I sat back and enjoyed it. 

Photo Credit: Jason Lentzke

 You know it's a low key race when you and your "fellow competitors" are chatting in transition!  After the swim, Charisa and I talked about how amazing the water was and then headed out on our bikes virtually together.  There was almost no wind so this flat course was set up to be fast!  I enjoyed just riding outside again for the first time in months.  It was really just a chance to go hard and practice the getting the execution right again.  I didn't worry much about my watts or heart rate.  I just focused on how I felt and having fun on this long training day! 
 Heading into T2, it was all smiles, but I could already tell it was going to be a VERY hot run!

 What I found out very shortly after starting is that 8 degrees in PA doesn't prepare your body well for 80+ degrees and humidity!  I'm especially heat sensitive so this was a long hard run.  I wanted to walk many a time, but I knew with every step I would gain more fitness and I wanted to honor the race and my fellow pros by giving it my all!  It wasn't pretty, but it got done!
 After the race, we all got right in the cool water and laughed and visited!  It was a wonderful low-key celebration of empowering women and athletes all out there doing their best! 
 Posing for a few shots!  Many people asked me about the results, and the honest truth is that it didn't much matter to be where we all came across the line.  This race wasn't about prize money or a place, it was about supporting each other and being thankful experience this event.  We were so Blessed to have this opportunity to get to know the people of the Grand Caymans.  Everything about the event was just top notch from the welcome dinner, the race itself, to the post race food and awards.

 I hung out with Flat Stanley a bit since Alyssa brought him along in her bag (he travels well being flat and all). 
 On Monday, it was off to Stingray City on a glass bottom boat! The water was just breathtaking! Photo Credit: Rafael Goncalves
 When we finally arrived and saw the stingrays, everyone was at the edge of their seat!  I couldn't wait to get in and meet these creatures (ok, I was a little scared at first, but they are 100% fine to swim with under supervision from the guides). 
 If you're ever in the Grand Caymans, this is a must do trip!  You are literally up close and person with these amazing creatures.  They are not scared of you at all.  After years of being conditioned that squid is coming when the boats arrive, they are very excited to hang out and get their breakfast.

  Our guide was fine with giving them a smooch.  Me, not so much!
On Tuesday, we headed to Seven Mile Beach, which is labeled as being one of the top ten beaches in the world.  The sand is so incredibly soft and the water was fantastic.  With a final meal with our group, we ended a simply perfect trip.  I didn't even get sunburned which is a miracle of sorts considering my pale white skin at this time of year.

The Reef Resort was a spectacular host to this event and our group.  They had every amenity we needed and our room was clean, comfortable and the staff went above and beyond.  I highly recommend this resort if you are traveling to this part of the world.  I also liked that this side of the Island was a bit more quiet and not at all crowded.  It made the whole experience more relaxing.

I can't thank Trevor, his girlfriend Claire, the Reef Staff and Volunteers enough for being the hosts for this race and treating us like family.  It was truly one of my best race experiences thus far!  If you are looking for a race early season to do next year, this is a great choice for so many reasons.  It reminded me of all the things I love about triathlon and why I first got into the sport.  In just three weeks, I'll be off to QT2 Pro camp so this was a perfect way to get the ball rolling! 

As always, I couldn't do this without the support of my sponsors

And a couple more will be added to this list shortly for 2015! 

Saturday, January 10, 2015


On my college cross-country team, I was known by two possible titles, "DeNo" and "Rudy" both of which I was very proud of donning.  "DeNo" was short for my full last name, DeNovellis, and happen to be the same nickname my Father had during his collegiate football years.  "Rudy" was because of an article that was written in my final season which chronicled my transition from a timid walk-on my sophomore year to a team captain and contributing scorer as a 5th year senior.  I credit that transition to a combination of exceptional coaching and team support, willingness to do whatever was asked of me and a whole darn lot of heart.  

 I wanted to write a blog at the end of year assessing the triathlon season as people often do, but I still wasn’t quite far enough away from it to give it the perspective it deserved.  My emotions were beyond mixed.  If you looked at my "on paper goals" I devised with my coach at the beginning of the season, it matched the execution almost exactly through Ironman Lake Placid.  Yet the foundation started eroding somewhere toward the middle of the season, and at the time, I couldn’t quite figure out why.  One of the things so great about early last season at Ironman Melbourne was the mental state I had going into that race and having my focus on the right things – doing my best and executing the plan.  I raced without a care in the world and not an expectation of the outcome.  It all came together in such a beautiful journey from the people I met to the experience as a whole that I couldn't have scripted it any better if I wrote it out in advance for myself.  
After Melbourne, I started realizing what was possible and that maybe an Ironman win was somewhere in my future if it was meant to be.  I started pushing myself harder and harder toward that as a possibility.  Somewhere in there, I lost a little bit of sight of the girl who set out to do this pro thing and was just happy being out there.  It became about a place, points and a time more than about giving it everything and seeing where the chips fell.  The difficult part is that you have to believe that it’s possible to win before it every can become a reality.  HOWEVER, you can’t let that be the reason you line up or the overriding theme of any longer term training.  It’s a difficult balance to master for any athlete, and in my third year at this level, I am the first to say that last year I didn’t master that critical balance.  The pressure we put on ourselves can cause us to crumble under the weight and no one, and I mean no one, functions well in that type of environment.  My body gave me a fairly clear sign of that when one week out from Lake Placid I was at the ER with what I was HOPING was poison ivy, but what I knew in my heart was probably shingles. I thought shingles were just for people over 60 – not so much!  Who knew!  The good news was that as long as I could stand the pain, I could compete.  The bad news was the pain was pretty awful at times that final week and my immune system was finally crying uncle.  Thank heavens for the support of my husband, family, friends and partners, or I would have never even made it to the starting line in one piece.  

I don’t regret anything about 2014.  I learned so much about what it takes to compete at this level and how I want to function as a pro.  After my third year, I’m not even remotely the same athlete I was when I started in 2005, nor when I got my card in 2012.  I also truly believe this is only one chapter in my life and not even remotely the only thing I want to excel in long term.  My husband and I have some other areas of life we would like to explore and those wants and hopes weigh heavily on my mind.  For now, what I know is that I am getting back to where I first started.  That’s the place I am happiest and most in love with this sport and the people in it.  I needed to get back to basics, step away so I could come back with a “full cup” (as Mary E. so eloquently put it) and be able to give of myself again to see where the next steps take me.  The girl who wrote so many blogs about the exciting, wonderful, parts of this sport and how much she loved it got lost somewhere along there as she started pushing herself way too hard toward an outcome that really doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things.  

 Our vision of our lives and who we want to be is one of the main determent's in our future path.  It lights our step and helps guide us to the next area of our development as people.  At this time in my life, I am 100% open.  I’m no longer forcing the door that seems like it has to be the one or all will be lost.  I’m looking forward with faith in my heart and the belief that the very best is yet to come, whatever that may be.  I’m getting back to the basics of putting in the work day in and day out to be a stronger, healthier athlete and worrying less about what that will mean at the end of the race.  That’s my happy place.  That’s the best place to find our inner strength and be able to step back and love our bodies and lives just the way they are at this very moment.  It's got to be about heart.  Heart is what keeps us going and keeps us alive when things aren't going the way we expected.  When I hang up my hat on this triathlon career, more than a result or paycheck, I want people to talk about me as one of the athletes that kept things in the right perspective and raced with her heart in the right place throughout my career.  THAT's what's important to me.  That's where I needed to get back to so I could find my way home again.   

 Looking ahead to the upcoming year, I would encourage you to be patient and willing to accept the curve balls that life throws at you with grace and understanding that this too is part of your develeopment.  The path may not be straight, but you’ll eventually find your way if your vision is one of positivity and belief that there is a greater plan for all of us.  Take the time to be thankful for what you are experiencing right now, for it’s a gift too even if it’s a painful lesson or a character revealing one. 

Instead of talking about long term goals or points, I’ll instead talk about how thankful I am just to have had these experiences and the journey does continue as I get to race this upcoming weekend at Mercury Man half in the Grand Cayman Islands on January 18th.  There will be some other exceptional women professionals joining me and others to support the Estella Scott-RobertsFoundation which was created to provide funds to organizations advocating the equality of women and girls, empowering men, women and children, support gender equality and live violence free.   I’m very honored to have the opportunity to participate in this event and I’m thankful to be able to help raise awareness of this amazing foundation.  It will be a fun weekend of doing what I love and helping others at the same time.  

I’m excited to be working with many of the same partners from last year including 

Coeur Sports - Women's Specific Clothing where fashion and performance intersect.

Ultragrain - All Purpose and 100% White Whole Wheat Flours providing whole grain nutrition with the taste and texture of white flour.

QT2 Systems- Customized coaching through my coach, Jesse Kropelnicki, and his team of exceptional coaches.

Powerbar - Sports Nutrition products to give athletes the Power to Push!

RudyProject - Technically cool eyeware and helmets outfitting athletes in the gear they need to perform at their peak!

NormaTec Recovery -Massaging air compression boots to assist in recovery so you can get back in the game feeling great!

Biotta -Non GMO. Vegan. 100% pure juice from fruits and vegetables.  Great for healthy and to maximize endurance potential through nitrate consumption!

Top Gear Bicycle - Pittsburgh's premier bicycle shop located in the North Hills.

FuelBelt -Hydration systems for a world on the move! 

These companies support me in multiple ways and I am proud to be continuing forward with with them in 2015!  More on all of that to come!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday and New Year!