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      New World, New Goals: The CAF 2020 Community Challenge

      New World, New Goals: The CAF 2020 Community Challenge

      There’s no question about it: the pandemic has not only upturned our race seasons, it’s also taken away the very purpose for many of us to train. Goal Setting is a human condition, and for many, that drive to work hard has been replaced with trying to find that self-motivation to put in work.

      But does our drive to train hard need to be “self” motivating? What if it were “selfless-motivating”? What if the thing that motivates us were greater than ourselves? The Challenged Athletes Foundation has provided us just the carrot we need, the thing to give us drive: the 2020 Community Challenge presented by Vega.

      The Challenged Athletes Foundation has become a well-known bastion of goodwill for differently-abled athletes looking to compete—full stop. With the cost of adaptive sports equipment (think prosthetic running legs, race wheelchairs, handcycles, etc.) running high in cost, it’s been the CAF’s mission to help raise funds to get those athletes the tools they need to perform, as well as provide training opportunities to allow these athletes to reach their potential. And once they can perform, look out; the CAF has helped everyday disabled athletes realize their potential in sport—right up to the Paralympics podium. It’s simply a transformative organization, helping the disabled become fully abled in sport.

      One of the CAF’s biggest annual fundraisers has been the San Diego Triathlon Challenge. It’s a relay event with big-name celebrity attendance from both Hollywood (comedian Will Ferrell made a memorable appearance one year) and the world of pro sports, a massive fundraising dinner, and of course a relay half-Ironman distance triathlon. It’s an event that’s less of a race, and more of a rolling party.

      Of course, like all other events in the era of social distancing, the CAF had to put the SDTC event on the shelf for 2020. Still, the party will continue with the Community Challenge. Now, instead of a regional event, the Community Challenge is able to expand into a global virtual summit.

      Having kicked off August 8th and running through October 18th, the Community Challenge is an event like no other, in a time like no other. Registrants are now encouraged to run, bike, roll, swim or walk, logging the mileage along the way while fundraising. As the miles pile up, registrants can earn special incentive prizes. And it’s all for the greater good.

      “We’re really excited about the potential of this event,” says Jason Karavidas, senior business development manager at the CAF. “While the SDTC was amazing, this has the potential for even greater reach, at a time when we are all looking for a motivation, a direction for our energy. The Community Challenge is definitely the place for athletes to goal set, and have it rewarded in an amazing way.

      To further sweeten the pot for participants, the CAF has pulled in several key partners to contribute special deals for athletes. Rudy Project is proud to have been given the nod to participate in the Community Challenge, and with the CAF, we’ve come up with a special design on our Volantis aero road helmet, with a custom design that matches the CAF’s team kit. “It ties in perfectly with the existing CAF team kit our athletes wear, so it ties the entire outfit together very nicely,” Karavidas said.

      A few select CAF athletes will be hand-picked to receive a helmet to showcase for their own use during the event. But participants like you can be a part of this special release as well; with each special edition helmet purchased, Rudy Project will donate 35 percent of the sale to the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

      “We’re so proud to have Rudy Project along with us for the Community Challenge,” Karavidas said. “Their presence will add immensely to a unique event that we think is going to be just amazing.”

      35% of each sale donated to challenged athletes foundation

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      Lauren Stephens — For the Love of the Ride

      Lauren Stephens — For the Love of the Ride

      Lauren Stephens has always been competitive and driven, something that was evident from her debut in the sport when she balanced teaching full-time, training, and racing. So, it should come as no surprise that when she transitioned to training and competing full-time, she found success. Lauren’s cycling career began with commuting to college and work. From there, she started joining group rides. That’s when she found community and love. But she also started racing — and winning.

      In 2013 she was asked to join Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank, the longest running professional women’s cycling team in North America. And she never looked back. “I love to ride bikes. I love to race. I want to exercise. I love to compete.” Her love for this sport is indelible. She races at the top-level year after year with global renown, and she still joins those same small grassroots races where she started her career. She does it because she loves bikes and racing, pure and simple. That uncomplicated, unbridled passion is not only contagious, it’s also a major component of her success.

      For most of us, this year’s canceled races have impacted our motivation, but for professional athletes it’s impacted their careers. Without a race season to plan around, 2020 has become one big training block for elites. Lauren started her season in Europe, but was soon thwarted by cancelation after cancelation. She returned home to Texas just a day before travel from Europe was restricted, but she is not one to be defeated easily. From there she drove to Oklahoma and competed in what would be perhaps one of only a few race opportunities for the year: Mid South Gravel.

      Unlike many of us who are just discovering the joys of gravel, she’s been racing gravel since 2011. Mid South Gravel was not ordinary this year. “It was a mud pit...the longest day of my life.” Despite the hours and hours of mud and the stress of travel, Lauren was still “so happy” to race, to do the thing she loves. Lauren finished fourth, right behind fellow teammate Kristen Faulkner. It was a good result, but this day of mud-crusted wheels and grind was what she needed to reconnect with the competitive passion that drives her, especially after the weeks of canceled races in Europe.

      Recently, Lauren has been focusing on the Virtual Tour de France with her teammates. With new team members and the lost opportunities to bond during training camps or races, this unique time has given the team a new way to bond — online. Virtual racing on platforms like Zwift have also been a game changer for the way people spectate the sport. Traditionally, stage races are several hours long, which, as a spectator, is hard to participate in day after day to watch a team’s strategy unfold. As Lauren shared, “Now people get to see the race from start to finish. Races on Zwift have created a platform for a greater audience to see the team dynamics and strategy unfold.”

      Riding on a trainer is a little different than riding outside. For example, you don’t use your core to stabilize like you would outside. Lauren and her husband have spent almost all of their training time the past few months indoors. Not only is that a responsible decision, but it’s also smart: they don’t have to worry about the potential for crashing, injury, etc. Instead, they can get a lot of quality hours in the saddle training. “You do the work whether on the roads or in your house and those hours translate to fitness.” Long hours on the bike trainer is certainly a testament to mental fortitude, which Lauren has tackled with ease, but it’s also an indication of her deep love for the sport. When she’s not training, Lauren spends her time in the kitchen, baking, taking care of her sourdough starter and hanging out with family. This has been a great way to pass the time and ease the stress of constant training and the general stress/anxiety we are all feeling during this strange time.  

      One thing is for sure, Team TIBCO-SVB and Lauren are poised to have a great year, all things considered. Lauren won the yellow jersey in the inaugural Virtual Tour de France with the help of her teammates, earning two stage victories along the way. The team also secured the green jersey and the team classification as well. Year after year, TIBCO has proven the value of a strong, cohesive team.

      The team thrives because of the willingness of each member to sacrifice, so that as a team, they can consistently have a spot on the podium. Sacrifice in cycling means setting a grueling pace, gutting out a breakaway, leading the charge up a mountain pass—all bold feats— to propel the best rider on that day to success and usually with a spot on the podium. The team excels because it is composed of exceptional women on and off the race course, and Lauren has been a part of that team for the better part of the past seven years now. The strength, passion, and consistency she brings to the team is invaluable.

      Riding bikes has brought Lauren community and purpose; it's her life. If she’s not racing in a stage race she is probably jumping into a local crit, or grinding on the trails with her husband. She loves to ride and that is all she needs to keep putting in the work, even in uncertain times like 2020. It is what drives her, and her success.

      Team Tibco-silicon valley bank gear

      A Dream Deferred: Gwen Jorgensen’s Olympic Revival

      A Dream Deferred: Gwen Jorgensen’s Olympic Revival

      A season-ending injury isn’t what she wanted, but it’s what she got. And in retrospect, it may well be the thing that brings professional runner Gwen Jorgensen to the thing she wants most: Olympic glory, for the second time—in a new sport.

      Gwen Jorgensen was ultimately not to be spared the ignominy of pain. She was indeed familiar with the exquisite, rewarding pain—the good pain—that hard training brought. But this? This was different. Injury is the bane of an athlete’s existence, and for all her success, this sharp, nagging pain was about to upend a four-year plan.

      Enter Coronavirus, the pandemic that turned the world upside down and put a halt to everything, not the least of which were races. While it put the pro runner’s season on pause, the self-quarantine was what Gwen Jorgensen needed—body and soul.

      “I’m itching to race, but we don’t know if and when that’s going to happen. You just can’t control the uncontrollable,” Jorgensen says. “So I just need to take advantage of what I can control, and that’s being healthy and getting in the workouts.”

      A Wisconsinite by birth, Jorgensen’s name is revered among the multisport space. After swimming and running at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she spent a few years in the corporate world as a tax accountant. That was before USA Triathlon scouted her and groomed her to represent the United States in its quest for national glory on the International Triathlon Union circuit, and ultimately, on the Olympic dais.

      Not only did she establish herself as a dominant force in triathlon, she netted two Olympic appearances (2012 in London and 2016 in Rio). It was her focused decision in 2012 to create a four-year mission—all in for a gold medal in Rio— that was rewarded with the top prize that year. After battling with Swiss powerhouse Nicola Spirig all race, Jorgensen launched an explosive run kick, instantly breaking away from the Swiss triathlete. With 40 seconds in her pocket, she reached out, grabbed the finish banner, and raised it over head with a smile. Rio gold was hers.

      She won ITU Olympic-distance events at will. She had transformed from a run specialist to an all-around threat, earning two ITU World Champion titles as a result. She now had the biggest prize in the sport, an Olympic gold medal. Her dominance in the sport was so thorough, she decided it was time to have a child (she and husband Pat Lemieux welcomed son Stanley Jorgensen in late 2017), and retire from triathlon. She instead pivoted to a new challenge: running.

      “With triathlon, I felt I’d reached my potential,” Jorgensen says, adding with a laugh when pressed, “No, nope… not coming back to triathlon. No desire to come back! I’m honestly happy I made the switch.”

      Photo @talbotcox

      As a professional runner and triathlon in the rear view mirror, she could focus on outright run speed missions across all distances and dispense with the fatigue that triathlon swimming and biking caused her. She also set a running goal akin to her 2012 pledge: win an Olympic gold medal in the marathon at the 2020 Olympic Games, as well as a World Marathon Major, which includes Boston, Chicago, New York, Tokyo, London and Berlin.

      But for the woman who has literally achieved all she has set out to in her career, last year presented a daunting roadblock. For the first time in her pro career, Jorgensen was facing a huge derailment to her four-year Olympic Gold, Volume 2 program; the first chronic injury. Haglund’s deformity, a bony enlargement at the back of her heel, resulted in painful bursitis. “It actually started when I was pregnant, and it didn’t get bad until I did the Chicago Marathon.”

      Rest and platelet-rich plasma treatment wasn’t resolving the pain, leaving just one option: surgery. In retrospect, it was the right call. “Coming back from it was slow, but It was so worth it to be able to run without pain,” she said.

      Photo @talbotcox

      Still, the surgery put her on the proverbial back foot. She was unable to make even a qualifying event start, let alone perform at her peak. Her season was done, and so too it seemed was her quest to win an Olympic medal in another sport…at least for 2020.

      Then, COVID-19 spread around the globe. Sports became an afterthought, taking a backseat to community health threats. First went spring running events. Then Olympic qualifiers. Then, ultimately, officials had to make the call: suspend the Olympics until 2021, the first such suspension due to a global pandemic.

      And if there was a gold lining in it all, it provided Jorgensen a fresh lease; her Olympic running dream could continue.

      Photo @talbotcox

      Like the rest of us, Jorgensen’s quarantine at home in Portland, Oregon was a case of making do. She didn’t have weights at home, but had a treadmill and bike trainer so she could still train, plugging into Zwift to keep it interesting.

      But she did have one extra edge: an opportunity to turn off the full-time athlete mode and just be mom.

      “It’s funny; with COVID-19 going on, I’ve had so much more family time,” she says. “I obviously haven’t been to the gym—and I don’t miss the pool at all, she says with a laugh— but I’ve had all this great time at home with my husband and son. Really, the hardest part, as a mom, is not being able to take my son to a park. That’ll come with time. But we’ve made the best of the situation, and having this family time with Stanley as he’s growing up, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

      Photo @talbotcox

      With the Olympics now slated for 2021, she has also reset her goals. She’s pivoted from marathon to shorter distance events. Fully healed from her heel injury, she’s joined a small bubble of 14 other self-quarantining Bowerman Track Club teammates for a short altitude camp in Park City, Utah as they get back to small group running. Her Olympic dream was deferred, but it’s still very much alive. “I was still training hard at home in Portland, but It was hard to remain focused,” she says. “I had to teach myself to push harder without others around, which has been different. Now, we can run together as a team and to be honest, I’m just happy now to be able to run healthy.”

      Her Olympic dream was deferred, but it’s still very much alive. While she is afforded another chance at chasing Olympic glory next summer in Tokyo, starting with Olympic Trials for the 10,000 meter and 5,000 meter events in mid-June, Jorgensen has a greater sense of her place in the grand scheme….and it’s perhaps because of her setback last year that she recognizes it.

      “Things haven’t gone as smoothly as I wanted with being injured, and it hasn’t been that great performance-wise to this point,” Jorgensen admits. “But now, I’m in a great place. I love the training, I see the improvement, I know that what I’m doing is making me a better athlete and of course I really want to race. But there are way more important things going on in the world right now.”

      Photo @talbotcox

      Provided the Olympics do go forward next summer and Jorgensen makes the team, don’t bet against her. With a gazelle-like physique, long legs grabbing meters in huge strides, married with Tokyo summer temperatures typically running from 80 to 90 degrees F, her morphology should be well suited. “If it’s hot, being leaner and taller means my body should be able to dissipate the heat quickly,” she says. “I’ll be prepared for any situation— but I need to get through trials first.”

      And if the stars align and she qualifies for the Tokyo Games? Having been in the Olympics twice already, she certainly has an advantage in navigating the chaos. “It would be a dream come true,” she says with a lilt in her voice. “My first Olympics in London, I learned so much. I needed that first one to succeed in the second. It’s not just any other race.”

      Gwen's sunglasses

      Enjoy Every Moment

      Enjoy Every Moment

      Eric Lagerstrom qualified for his professional card in 2011 at 22 years old. By 2014, he was placing in the top five in ITU Continental Cup races. In 2018, he switched to long distance, non-draft triathlon with immediate success. Last year, he was second place at Ironman Indian Wells. He continued to place in the top ten at several other half Ironmans and grabbed 19th overall at Ironman 70.3 World Championships. And really, he’s just getting started.

      When talking with Eric, you get an immediate sense of his passion – for the sport, for community, for creative endeavors – and refreshingly, his humble attitude and genuine approach to life. Besides training several hours a day, Eric also owns a video production company, and together with his girlfriend, Paula Findlay, he is building a brand to promote their love for the sport. He’s busy, but you don’t get that sense when you talk with him. For Eric, it’s about keeping a sense of relaxed intention in every little thing.

      “When I was first turning pro and going through the Olympics, it felt pretty easy to be intensely myopic. I slept on an air mattress and lived in a house with several other guys. We're all trying to go to the Olympics and just four years of your life, just boom, disappears, the day-to-day training and fatigue blur together.”

      In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell explains his theory of the 10,000-Hour Rule: practicing a specific task for 20 hours a week for 10 years. Now, multiply that by three to be the best at triathlon. No doubt to be a professional there is definitely natural talent involved; however, it also takes an incredible capacity for immense mental and physical endurance, and a lot of time.

      Perhaps it was the balance he had as a teen that gave Eric the ability to train with balance as a professional. He didn’t do twice a day swim practice as a teen or even Saturday morning practice. He spent Saturdays doing everything fast: skateboarding, snowboarding, longboarding, etc. And now training as a professional he stays balanced. For years his training has looked like: a bit more swimming than most pro triathletes, a bit less biking, and about the same amount of running. It’s even.

      Eric Lagerstrom winning Escape from Alcatraz triathlon

      At the 2013 Escape From Alcatraz, Eric had a career defining win. The race was amazing, but it was his ability to enter that race without expectation, and still give his all that provided him the biggest lesson.

      "I was in the shape of my life - running better than I've ever run maybe even to this day, and I honestly didn't think I had a chanceSo, you kind of relieve yourself from expectation. On race day, there was this unfolding magical thing. I swam well. My only goal was being in the mix. Halfway through the bike I thought maybe I'd have a chance of getting top 10. And just as the race went on I realized I'm still here, wow, I'm still here… And then it was only a few miles to go, we caught up to Josh Amberger. I was just behind Andy Potts. I realized, I can't not see this through to the end. I caught back up on the downhill. The whole time it was just, Wow, I can't believe it, I can't believe it."

      The balance of removing expectation, yet still being fully dedicated to the moment is easier said than done. For Eric though, it was a lesson his parents emphasized. A key phrase they reiterated to him was to ‘do what you love and do your very best at it,’ so whatever he does or for however long, it is 100%. Eric has a close relationship with both parents; his dad is a mentor and a best friend. Much of his approach to training and life he gained from his dad, “My dad's very methodical; very hyper-logical, everything's pretty even keel, stoic even. And that’s my philosophy: control what you can control, do what you can do. Adapt. Go with the flow.”

      As a professional athlete, Eric practices this constant balance of training hard and stepping back to rest. He actually takes a true offseason, usually a month to recalibrate. During that time, he dives deep into other passions: videography, building out his van, enjoying daily life with those closest to him.

      Throughout peak training, he stays aware of where he’s at physically, emotionally or mentally. For most of us and especially for the pros, it’s really easy to become obsessive, myopic even, with training and racing. We love it right? But in our minds, a bad swim will result in a disappointing race, a workout tanked, or something feeling off becomes a harbinger of injury. Or it’s the opposite. Things are great, confidence builds, and as a result so do expectations.

      Refreshingly, Eric’s perspective and approach to the sport is based on his humble, yet unbridled love for each moment he gives to it. “If I haven't been out on my bike and had this moment of looking around and going, ‘Wow, this is so cool.’ It’s a Wednesday, and I’m on my bike. It's beautiful. And if I haven't had one of those moments in a week or two, I can kind of pick up on it and I step back and go, dude, don't be like that, this is pretty amazing. This is what little 15-year-old you always wanted.”

      His approach is working. He continues to improve year after year. With 2020 on hold for racing, we’ll have to wait till 2021 to see what’s next. Regardless, he’s using this time wisely. Eric launched “That Triathlon Life” via his YouTube channel and social media to share his passion. He aims to show how accessible the sport is, that racing doesn’t have to be the end result, and that triathlon can be enjoyed in tandem with a full life beyond the sport as well.

      For sure, he’s still using this time to train well and find ways to improve. But, he’s taking it a bit more relaxed than usual. If he needs an easier day or a day more focused on his videography, he can do that. And he’s keeping it fun and lighthearted—because really, sport is meant to be fun. So, he may swim in a lake, or drive to a trailhead instead of the track for his tempo run, or take out the mountain bike for a ride or two. Races and outcomes don’t have to define what we do. Now more than ever, we can step back, enjoy the process, and the joy of the day to day.


      Meredith Kessler Mother's Day

      Meredith Kessler Mother's Day

      We Get to Be

      Over the course of an incredibly storied athletic career, Meredith Kessler has earned 11 Ironman titles and 21 Ironman 70.3 titles. She started competing in the sport in 2000 and has dominated year after year. But more than all of those accomplishments, for Meredith it is more important “..to be known as Meredith, the person, rather than Meredith, the athlete.”

      Letters to Mak

      Meredith and husband Aaron, welcomed their son Mak into the world in late 2017 and she began writing letters to him, letters that she shared with the world. In a recent interview with Meredith I asked her why: “Writing letters to Mak is my cathartic outlet to something that I invest so much time and effort to achieve...A significant portion of time is spent planning and training for a single event. When that moment finally comes, there are a lot of things that go right and also, wrong over the day. We learn from these specific instances, and they make us stronger.

      “After the shine goes away and it is Monday morning, back in the office, there is a sort of emptiness that sets in because what we worked so hard for is over, and the moment has passed. We need a way to express the lessons learned and the emotions of the day, so my creative juices latched onto synthesizing a journal for Mak of rawness that he can learn from when he is older. Hopefully? HA! We'll see! Mak, this is your mom in her most vulnerable state, reflecting on what just transpired in her life.”

      That’s life though isn’t it? Constant effort and build up to something and then it’s over. Maybe it’s a life goal, career achievement, or our own athletic pursuits, but we are all constantly striving towards that next thing. Plan, practice, do. But once we get there, accomplish it or fail, it is so much easier to rinse and repeat. To learn and grow however, is work. To share that with a child so they can learn from you, that is exemplary.

      The training required for this consistent level of success means Meredith will spend about 30 hours a week in training, usually spending time in all three sports on a given day. Then there is the strength training, PT, recovery, hydration, and eating to stay healthy and strong year after year. It would be easy to complain or use this level of day in and day out effort as an excuse not to be entirely present. Yet, Meredith doesn’t.


      “One of my consistent mindsets is to always recognize the privilege of GETTING to do what we GET to do. There is no HAVE to in this equation. Whenever life is challenging, it is important to continually remind myself that ‘I get to spend time with my son’ or ‘I get to bike on the trainer for a couple of hours.’ This is a stark contradiction to when I hear someone say, ‘I HAVE to get this morning workout in’ or ‘I have to read to my child every night.’”

      It is because of this mindset Meredith can be an incredibly present mom, wife, and friend. Remembering that our lives are filled with choices, shifts the attention away from “me” to joy and gratitude. It also allows for balance.

      “People talk about that coveted ‘balance,’ yet it takes a lot of effort to attempt to balance your life and somewhat achieve the true nature of the word. Balance, to me, is not having something consume my life to the detriment of the essential things such as family and friends. I will never miss that important girl's dinner date or being there for a friend at the expense of training, business, or frivolous activities. I would never sacrifice those precious life luxuries to win. It's more important for me to win at life, than on the race courses.” Though she does win often, it’s clear Meredith places just as much regard and effort on her personal life as her professional life.


      Yet even in those early days with a newborn and a drive to come back to her sport just as successfully, Meredith maintained a positive mindset that can help guide us today. “I distinctly remember Ironman Mount Tremblant in 2019, and Mak decided not to sleep from 2 am to 5 am the nights before the race, the most important nights of sleep for a triathlete. With blurry eyes, my husband and I took turns in the cramped hotel room to try to get Mak asleep to no avail...We realized that all lead-ins to race day would never be perfect, so we have to be good at taking the curveballs that life and raising a child throw out to you daily.” By the way she took 6th at that race.

      This Mother’s Day, let’s breathe in a little deeper and remember so much of what we get to be and do in life is right now, and it is good. Take that breath, recharge, and let’s tackle it all by remembering we get to do it. As Meredith shared, “There will always be challenges, and you are the captain of your own ship, so take a deep breath and try to hit that curveball that life threw at you, out of the park; or at least get a single!”

      See more Meredith.


      On May 9th, 2020, at 10:30am EST, IRONMAN champions Mirinda Carfrae and Meredith Kessler are going to swim, bike, and run in a unique virtual event to encourage the triathlon community.


      This amazing broadcast event will feature live interviews, giveaways, and chance to support the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

      Register here.