I started running in high school, and continued running on and off during my undergrad years at University of Pittsburgh. It was in 2003 that I signed up for my first endurance quest, the Pittsburgh Marathon. I decided to take on the challenge of triathlon in 2007 when some friends encouraged me to join them in signing up for the Philadelphia Triathlon in Fairmount Park. I was incredibly nervous at the start of the race, but my nerves dissipated as soon as the starting gun went off, and I was instantly hooked on triathlon!
For the first year or or so of my triathlon career, I enjoyed the variety of training and doing what I felt like, when I felt like it. If it was raining outside, I’d go to the indoor pool and swim. If friends were doing a group bike ride, I’d join them. In the fall of 2007, I went back to school part-time to get my MBA. Between working, going to classes and studying at night, and trying to juggle 3 sports, I was pretty overwhelmed. I managed to get my training time in, but didn’t see much improvement… and actually, I think my times were slower than in my first season of triathlon racing, which was disheartening.
The following season, I decided I wanted to work one-on-one with a coach to help me utilize my limited training time in an efficient manner. Coaching was a great investment for me because it took the guesswork out of planning workouts, it provided a structured approach to my specific goals, and it gave me a sense of external accountability to complete my workouts. Hiring a coach was one of the best decisions I made: I stayed injury-free and avoided burn-out, and my performance steadily improved, even beyond what I thought I was capable of, such as qualifying for USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships!
Fitness gains and successes in the shorter distances compelled me to take the biiiiiiig, scary step of signing up for an Ironman-distance triathlon (2.4 mile open water swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run), something I never dreamed possible only a few years earlier. Ironman training was challenging, but having a coach to guide me and encourage me was exactly what I needed. In August 2010, I crossed the finish line of Ironman Louisville in a net time of 13:23:21 with a huge smile on my face!
After a rough season in 2012 that involved several race withdrawals (or DNF’s – Did Not Finish), I took a deeper look at what I was eating and how it was affecting my performance. Up until this point, I ate what I thought was a healthy diet (low fat, high in carbs) to fuel my active lifestyle: oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, turkey sandwiches on whole-grain bread and low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt. Starting in 2013, I cut out gluten, processed grains, and refined sugars, and cut back on dairy, and started eating more animal protein, healthy fats, and vegetables. I was going against the grain (pun intended) of a stereotypical endurance athlete’s diet, but it paid off big time! Not only did my race times improve and my post-workout recovery times decrease, but I developed a leaner body composition, found that my concentration greatly improved at work, and I started sleeping better than ever before. This piqued a strong interest in nutrition and holistic wellness, and intrigued me to learn more about food and our health through podcasts, books, scientific articles, and seminars.
Since I loved racing and talking about triathlon and endurance sports so much, I decided to obtain my coaching certification so I could help others enjoy the same experiences racing brought to me. In 2013, I completed my ITCA triathlon coaching certification as well as the metabolic efficiency training specialist certification, which teaches strategies for protein and carbohydrate manipulation to increase utilization of stored body fat during exercise and racing. Since 2013, I have provided associate coaching services to Pittsburgh-based Steel City Endurance.
In 2014, I decided to try something different — really different — and competed as part of a 4-woman relay team in Race Across America, a bicycle race covering 3,000+ miles from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. Our team, Team PHenomenal Hope raced in honor of patients living with Pulmonary Hypertension and with the goal of raising disease awareness and research funds to find a cure. Crossing the country by bike in 7 days, 7 hours, and 15 minutes was amazing experience and provided a new perspective on “endurance sports”! If you want to learn more about our journey and see some footage (including me sitting in a kiddie turtle pool filled with ice water after a hot ride), check out this mini-documentary (~23 minutes) that follows us across the country!
Over the following year, I struggled with not feeling quite like myself in terms of energy levels. It was hard to describe, but things just felt “off”. At first I chalked it up just being worn down: I’d done a cross-country bike race, then jumped right back into my active lifestyle afterwards. I juggled work travel, travel for a family vacation, preparing for my brother’s wedding, and preparing for a a short-term move to Denmark for a work project. Living in Copenhagen was an incredible experience! When I returned from Denmark, I saw my doctor who ordered all kinds of blood work. Many of my vitamin and mineral serum levels were low, and my hormones were a complete mess! My doctor looked at the blood work and said “I’m surprised you even have the energy to keep your head up!” Not what I wanted to hear!
My interest in nutrition, holistic wellness, and functional medicine led me to the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition program. This is a certification that uses functional lab work (saliva, urine, stool or blood testing) to assess how the hormone, immune, detoxification, digestion, energy production, and nervous systems are functioning and identify healing opportunities to restore optimal function to deficient areas. As part of my certification requirements, I did a few tests on myself and found that my adrenal system was dysfunctional – “hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfuntion” as it is commonly known. With my doctor’s help and the things I learned in the FDN program, I’ve been working on rebuilding my health through nutrition and exercise choices and supplementation. I think health is is always a work in progress for most people, including me.
In 2015, I returned to the starting line in Oceanside, CA for the Race Across the West (RAW) with my RAAM teammate Patty to compete as a duo. This course follows the same route as the RAAM, but ends in Durango, Colorado (863 miles). Though the distance was shorter, since there were only two of us, it meant twice as much time in the saddle and half the rest as the previous year. RAW was by far the hardest event, both physically and mentally, that I’ve ever done in my life. With the support of an amazing crew, Patty and I overcame record-high temperatures, bouts of dehydration, and the subsequent fatigue and sleep deprivation that accompanies ultra-racing. Completing this race taught me many things about myself, training, racing, and teamwork… lessons I am eager to share with the athletes I work with, regardless of their level or sport.
So that’s my story. What is yours? I’d love to chat and discuss how we can work together! Contact me via email using the contact form at the right or click here.
Half Marathon 1:37:55
Olympic Distance: 2:28:28
Half-Iron Distance: 5:14:28
Ironman Triathlon Finisher, 2010
USAT Age Group National Championships Qualifier in 2010-2013, 2017
First Place Woman, Pittsburgh’s famous “Dirty Dozen” bike race, 2011
Race Across America 4-person Relay Finisher, 2014
Race Across the West 2-person Relay Finisher, 2015
USA Cycling Category 3 Racer