Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coach of the Year

I have always loved the game of water polo. I have always been a student of the game.  I was told even as a young player that I was always one play ahead. That I controlled the pace of the game. That I did a good job directing my teammates. These are all traits that I translated into coaching.

I never coached for the glory. In coaching the SDSU Club Water Polo team I did it for multiple reasons. Mostly I love the game and had really missed it. 
While coaching with the help of my sister Brooke we noticed right away a lack of female coaches.  I think in our division there is maybe one other team with a female coach. Well you all know that I am competitive so I will be honest Brooke and I wanted to do nothing more than show them up. It was obvious  some of these coaches thought playing us would be a walk in the park. They missed the memo of who was coaching. Always great fun to make adjustments during the game that they had no idea how to overcome. 
When we played at Nationals it was much the same. Very few female coaches. Maybe two other teams.  During the tournament I was asked by a few coaches for tips, scouting reports. One coach even asked me to explain different plays I had run because they had never seen it before. I took all of this as a compliment. But it also made me realize just how much many coaches have no clue about.
I told you this because I was extremely honored a few days ago when I was named by the College Water Polo Association and the Pacific Coast Division as Coach of the Year. I found out via facebook like all things- a girl I played with in high school Sharon Dyer who plays for UCI’s club team congratulated me. She was so sweet saying how I deserved it. I was proud to say I nominated her for 1st team and she was selected and receiving a great honor as well.
Receiving the coach of the year honor was a first for me. I have never received any type of honor like this before. It was also the first time in the club programs history to receive coach of the year, MVP of the league, a player on 1st team, and two players on 2nd team. Basically all of this was a program first. I was also honored to receive multiple nominations for Coach of the Year for the entire College Water Polo Association. 
I didn’t coach for the glory and it’s not like I got a ton for being named coach of the year. The school did not even recognize the team making it to nationals. But it sure feels good to get some recognition for the girls and myself. Honestly just feels damn good to beat out the boys. Water polo is no longer a man’s game- watch out the Vessey sisters are coming!!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

ITU Olympic Distance Race

After over 5 months of training I competed in my second Olympic Distance Triathlon.  Just like my first race I really enjoyed it!  Well I did not enjoy the extremely difficult hill that I had to climb twice or some of the early mornings I got in my training. But in general it kept me on track and gave me a goal.

I raced in the ITU World Triathlon San Diego.  The ITU series takes place all over the world.  Since San Diego is the birthplace of triathlon they also had an age group race- that is what I participated in.  Usually it is just a race series for professional triathletes only. This specific race in San Diego would decide who will be representing the United States of America in London. The first American female & male would be punching there ticket to the 2012 Olympics. This alone made being a spectator & participant of the event even more exciting. However I was disappointed as an age grouper because they marketed the event basically as being able to race like a pro for a day. However at the last minute they changed the course for the age groupers to be completely different than the professionals. Our race was swum in a different cove within Mission Bay. My bike course was a two loop course climbing Mt. Soledad twice-the pro’s had an 8 loop course that was extremely flat. Then my run was a two loop course the hugged the bay and bike bath. The professionals ran I believe 3 laps of a different course. The only thing the same was the distances and even that is up for debate.  The ITU race is draft legal and was one of the reasons the professional race was designed the way it was. I am sure it was also due to help engage the spectators. I have to say I did enjoy watching the professionals- it was awesome.
Back to my race: Since my company PEAR Sports was working the Expo for the race I had been around the event since set up. It made it a bit more real talking with potential customers about the race since I was also racing. I checked in Friday afternoon- got my bib and all the other stickers required. Over the course of the previous few days I had closely watched my diet (thanks to Brennan’s help) in order to make sure that I raced to the best of my ability. Once I checked in I was required to check my bike into transition. After doing that I was able to see the pro women’s race go off. I was most interested in the swim portion and then got to see a good amount of the bike race.  Then I relieved my co-worker at the booth. Once the race ended I headed home early and hopefully get some sleep before my big day.

Saturday would start early like all race mornings due. Brennan & I would be on our way around 4:15. On the way I eat my breakfast and started getting a little liquid in my body. Once arriving I headed to set up transition. Since I am still new to this triathlon thing I am constantly learning- mostly through trial & error. Let's be honest I mostly just ask Brennan. I at one point had to text him a question because I was to embarrassed to yell- since he was not allowed within the transition area.  I watched the look on his face when he received my text it was the look like you are kidding Jamie. I was dead serious- the answer was yes. Once I was all set up in transition it was all about waiting. I suck at waiting. I get nervous and I am the person that goes to the bathroom a lot in that time period.

Finally it was time to get into the wet suit. While I was climbing in our good friend Blair arrived. I was excited for Blair to come because she is a great athlete who I have done some training with and most importantly is an amazing photographer. Wth Blair at my race I was going to get awesome photos. All the photos in this blog are from her. A huge THANK YOU Blair. Once into my wet suit I decided to take a quick dip into the bay for a warm up swim and attempt to get comfortable in my wet suit. As a person that has swam my whole life a wet suit is kind of a pain in the butt. I realize it keeps me warm and helps you float- but it makes my shoulders so tight. My hope was warming up would loosen my shoulders. I did a quick swim and headed back in.
Getting ready
Getting into my annoying wet suit

As my wave started to form behind the start line I could see Blair and Brennan getting ready with all there camera’s. Also giving me the look like what the heck are you doing having women start in front of you. These women were just so pushy that I was over fighting. I was in the third row of woman. Once the gun went off I was a bit startled these women just took off. Once over my shock I headed for the water at a dead sprint- I learned very quickly these women should not be in front of me. Doing a bit of maneuvering I was soon out in the front of the group with only one female in front of me.  I was in wave 6 meaning there was 5 waves of racers who entered the water before me all 5 minutes apart. I knew this could cause some issue as I got farther into the 1,500 meters. I soon reached green caps, then white caps, then purple caps and then colored caps of waves I never saw leave the beach. I was ecstatic with how I sighted. I had awesome lines to every buoy never going off path. My shoulders were still a bit tight through it but I knew I was doing pretty well. As I rounded the last buoy I hit a great line straight to the finish. Getting out of the water second overall in my wave and with a time of 22 minutes 14 seconds.
 I just love my facial expression in these two
As I ran up toward the transition area I saw Brennan and Blair. I was a bit disoriented and attempting to get my wetsuit off while running through the sand. Once into transition I got out of my wet suit and was attempting to move as quickly as possible. Getting everything on it is difficult when your wet and feet are sandy. I do not enjoy dripping and hate having sandy feet. When your heart is racing it is really difficult to get undressed and re-dressed. I finally seemed all good to go & started running out of transition. It was a huge transition area and I seemed to run forever. Finally to the mount line I was able to get onto my bike. Transition time of 3 minutes 1 second.
I was clipped in and headed down the course as fast as I could go. It is very common to struggle the first few miles on the bike. I was no different- thinking this could be a long day. Once getting into the course I seemed to be moving quickly (well for me) then I was there.  Right at the base of the hill.  I attempted to remember all Brennan had told me.  I was moving uphill just slowly. I was not being passed by to many. With the hill being so step some people were walking their bikes. I debated it but knew that I would be to embarrassed. Also there was no way on this hill I would ever be able to get unclipped. I just kept pedaling. With about 1K to go in the hill there was a DJ who kept announcing you have 1K to go with an 18% grade welcome to La Jolla. I honestly was surprised no one ended up screaming at this DJ. Once at the top of the hill my only hope was then you get to go down. I am not much of a dare devil as am sure many of you already know. But I was racing so I let loose and bent down and at one point was going 39 miles on hour.  Yea that was on my bike. A few turns later and I was making the u-turn to go up again. Not the most exciting part of the day. Good news is I knew what was a head of me. I buckled down and got up the hill again. The second time I actually found it easier.  I then pushed it hard to get back to transition.  At one point cruising down the main drive in Pacific Beach (slight downhill) a car driving in the lane next to me- I asked the driver how fast he was going. He said 25 mph I replied wow I am going so fast and peddled some more and looked to get my speed up even more- leaving that car in the dust.  Coming over the second last bridge toward transition I saw Brennan and Blair waiting for me. I attempted to wave and yell hoping they would see me. No luck. I was quickly upon them and they were not ready for me. I gave a good laugh and worked hard to get off the bike.  Finished my 24 miles on the bike in 1 hour 37 minutes 54 seconds.
Once in transition my goal was to be quick.  Again easier said than done. Plus my feet were still sandy- this would cause some friction during the run. I got my bike racked, shoes off, running shoes on, helmet off, hat on and I was off.  Running toward transition I was on my way in just under 2 minutes. Just wanting to have a great run.The run would start and my first thought was wow my legs hurt- this is going to suck.  Then I reached the first mile and my watch beeped reading an 8:30 mile.  This was well below my goal time. I would keep a pace that was comfortable for me my second mile would be 8:33. I was shocked- seemed my run training was really paying off in this race. Mile 3 would be no different 8:31. I could hardly believe it- I was uncomfortable but not in pain. I decided I would attempt to negative split since I still felt so good and really go for it. I mean I only had three miles to go.  I tried to pick up my cadence and push it.  The last three miles were also not exceptionally uncomfortable though the bottom of my feet were burning. Remember that sand- heat and some friction. My feet were killing me. I would again run the second loop of the on the bike path toward the finish line. I was so excited when Mile 4-8:32 , Mile 5-8:20 and Mile 6-8:01 were faster than my first half. Showing that my running has really gotten better. Again I think my pace was quicker than expected because Brennan and Blair seemed surprised to see me. As I came around the last corner toward the finish line we would finish on the same blue carpet as the professionals. The moment I stepped on the carpet it started moving under me. When you’re legs are that tired and the ground gives you have some trouble. I did my best to stabilize myself and finished the race. With what I think was a smile.
Once through the finish shoot I headed to find Brennan and Blair. Not easy to do when the place is packed.  I finally found them.  I was excited because I had beaten my goal of going under 3 hours.  I went 2 hours 56 minutes and 45 seconds. Once finding Brennan and Blair we started talking about the race and I wanted to change shoes. Turns out Brennan lost my sandals. We have a tendency to lose things at races. So I was stuck in my racing shoes. After a few pictures we headed toward transition to collect my things. After collecting my things and I had changed into some dry clothes. We headed to the car to put it all away then eat. You would be shocked how much food you can consume after racing. After eating we headed back toward the expo to wait for the men’s professionals to race.
Check out my race from the video Brennan took
The men’s pro race was exciting to see. There were some big names racing. The swim was intense all athletes staying in a tight pack and there two swim course loop caused a ton of excitement when one man took an amazing line through the shallow water to cause a furry and everyone to follow. Then they were on the bike. Being draft legal made every lap so cool to see the leader was always changing and groups were working together. Once onto the run it got exciting especially for the American’s. The first American male would qualify as long as he was in the top 9. But if a second American got into the top 9 he would also get a spot at the Olympics. After the first loop no Americans were in the top 9. The second time around 1 American was in the top 9.  The second American was gaining rapidly. It would come down to the wire. It was amazing to see. The 2nd American would get 9th. They would then do a victory lap together with the American flag. I can only imagine the excitement they were feeling to have qualified on American soil.

The American's celebrating together
All in all it was a great few days at the ITU Race. I enjoyed watching the professionals and found that I still enjoy competing and racing. Plus I still have so much room for improvement that racing will only become more fun. Yes the training can be annoying but with the support of Brennan our families and great friends like Blair. It is something I look to continue. Because there is nothing like a little sea weed in your face, wind in your hair and sand in your shoes.
As always thanks Brennan for putting up with me, going, and being so supportive. I love you!
Another big thank you to Blair for taking all these great photos: More Pictures of me!!! Pictures of the Men's Professional Race.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I have done a ton of traveling in college due to athletics.  I added another state to my list- Florida.  I had the opportunity to coach San Diego State University Women’s Club Water Polo team at the Club National Championships two weeks ago.  The tournament was held in Tallahassee Florida by the Florida State. 
Before it all began

The trip had some very rough moments.  It started with a two hour delay out of San Diego.  This meant we were going to miss our connector in Houston.  Needing to be in Tallahassee by 8:00 for the coaches meeting was not going to happen.  So southwest re-routed us to Ft. Lauderdale- this would make so that we arrived as early as possible in Panama City.  The original itinerary had been leave SD arrives in Panama City Florida at 11:00 pm. Get our 15 passenger van and drive the 2 hours to Tallahassee.  This would allow for me to make it to the coaches meeting at 8:00 and the girls to sleep in since we were not playing till 5:20 that night. Well that was plan was scratched very quickly.  Instead we flew to Fort Lauderdale arriving at 2:30 in the morning and would have the 6:00 am flight to Panama City.  However since the delay was due to weather southwest could do nothing for us- and we were reminded we should be thankful they would even re-route us.  This was a bit much for me, we spent over $10,000 to fly 15 people across the country and should be grateful. The girls raised every dollar to make the trip and be able to compete for the National Championship. 

So we landed in Ft. Lauderdale where we were told we could spend the 4 hour layover they called it- sleeping in the empty airport.  Within five minutes of sitting down we were asked to leave the airport.  This did not sit well. We ended up being escorted out and having to sleep near baggage claim- the airport employee told us we were fortunate they were doing renovation or we would have been outside on the curb.  Needless to say the girls who at this point I was extremely worried about took it in stride.  Many finding a way to get some sleep on benches. At one point there was a wheel chair race and a crash.  Hopefully I can get some video for you all to see.  
Small glimpse into what happens at 3:00 am in airports

Making an attempt to sleep

I ended up staying up the entire night watching over them like a mother hen.  We then got up early to go back through security and hope for something to be open to sell us some food.  Catching the first flight of the day we stopped over in Orlando (we were not told about this stop) then on to Panama City.  Thankfully I slept the whole ride.  Upon landing we got the rental van and started the second portion of our journey by car.  After about two hours we arrived in Tallahassee and were able to check into our hotel.  The girls got about 2 hours of sleep there before we left for our first game.

The bracketing for this tournament was like nothing I had ever seen.  Basically if you lost a game you were screwed with no way to win your way in back door.  Playing ASU in the first game was not ideal- especially after traveling for over 20 hours and sleeping in baggage claim.  To say I was worried would be an understatement. Luckily the girls railed to win by 4 goals.  It was a good game for us and we fought hard against ASU.  By winning meant we could get back to the hotel and would play first thing in the morning against CAL Poly.  Who we had lost two only three weeks earlier in our conference championship.  Did I mention the bracket system sucked. 

Entrance to the pool

The game would start at 9:00 am.  The girls had the game secured at one point we were winning by three goals.  I regret not taking a time out when the momentum started to shift.  This is where my assistant coach would have been handy. Cal Poly just had more in the tank then we did and started to outplay us.  We would go behind and fight like hell but we unable to get the win.  With 19 seconds left and the chance to tie the game we were unable to score.  This was heart breaking.  It was the game of the tournament and we were playing it on the second day.  By losing we could no longer get better than 5th place.  That was what sucked the most, we would never get the opportunity to play the teams that got 3rd & 4th (Michigan & University of Florida). Both teams in which I believe we could have beaten.

We would then play later in the afternoon against a team St. Louis.  We would go on to win this game and every girl on the team would get to play.  This was not a fun game to watch as the other team played a style of water polo that is not well liked in the water polo community.  My girls would do a great job with composure and I think they learned something.  After the game I would receive a compliment from the ref for my ability to coach against a team with that style and the way my team handled that game. I found that to be a great confident booster. 

View of the pool

Since we had lost earlier in the day we would play for 5th and 6th Sunday morning against Cal State Santa Cruz who was in the same situation as us in losing to their conference rival Davis.  We would beat them to secure 5thplace.  It was a great game to watch and a ton of fun to coach. This would end our season with another win. Having only lost to Cal Poly was not too bad since they had won 5 National Championships.  Still hard to face when we could have been playing for the entire title. 

It was great to be a part of the weekend.  This was the first time in club history that we had qualified for nationals.  And we had a great tournament and represented San Diego State to the best of our ability.  Would have loved to been able to win back out but oh well.  To play so well in our first tournament on that stage was awesome as a coach.  Plus I learned a few things.  Before leaving the tournament I was complimented by many of the coaches on doing such a great job with the program and having a team that was a true joy to play and have on the deck.  The ref’s also congratulated me on a great season and what a pleasure it was to ref a team that worked together and played great water polo.  Many of the coaches also asked what I thought of the bracket system- we all agreed it sucked.  Basically it is set up so that California schools don’t dominate and go 1-5. This leads me to believe they are not crowning a national champion just a tournament winner this particular weekend.  No matter we had a great tournament I had players up for all tournament 1st and 2nd team. I even received a nomination or two for coach of the year.  I was excited about that due in part because I think I was one of the best coaches there, was by far the youngest and one of only 3 female coaches. 
5th at Nationals!!
The girls had voted that there was no need to stay and watch the championship game so we headed for a quick trip through the campus and then to the beautiful beaches of Florida.  Driving through Florida State was fun.  The girls were taking pictures and referencing how different it is from San Diego State. Always fun to see different colleges.       
Florida State University

Football Stadium

We would go to St. George Island.  It was where they had shot the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit addition this year.  We thought why not see it.  We decided to take the scenic route- going up the coast on our way back to Panama City. It was a beautiful drive along the coast through cute little beach towns.  The girls loved it.  Once on the island we headed straight for the water.  We spent about 3 hours out at the beach.  It was so great to swim in the water. Man if California’s water was that temperature I would do a lot more open water swimming! The girls had a great time and seemed to really enjoy the day even if we had no won the tournament.  Plus had we been playing for the title we would have never gotten to go to the beach. So you win some & lose some. The girls overall seemed to be winning. 

Headed to the beach
Absolutely Beautiful!!!!

Enjoying the great weather & beautiful beaches
I enjoyed the sun as well!!

We would then finish our drive to Panama City another 50 miles.  Getting to the hotel with the plan to get 15 girls showered and dressed to head to dinner.  Only getting into our rooms to find they had yet to be cleaned. Traveling for us this particular weekend was not ideal.  The girls had planned to go out and party after dinner. Well funny story by the time we finished dinner they were exhausted.  Their coach was thankful!!
Monday would start early- we had the first flight out at 6:00 am.  Hoping our return trip would be smooth was thinking the Pacific Ocean would be warm when I got home.  We would end up with a 6 hour delay due to plane issues.  Once again Southwest was not very helpful or accommodating.  The girls again would take it with a smile (thankfully).  Each girl ended up with a $100 voucher which does not help us in terms of staying out of debt for next year.  But guess it will benefit them to travel somewhere down the road.  Wonder where I will go with my $100?? Any suggestions?
All in all I would say it was the travel portion of the trip was hell! Spent so much time in the airport it was horrible. Wish we could have won the whole thing or at least had the chance to really play for a title but if you don’t lose you don’t have to worry. We learned our lesson.  Plus first the program had qualified; I also believe it is the first time in San Diego State University women’s club sports history a team qualified for the national championship tournament.   So losing one game to a great time was not enjoyable but we earned our respect that we can play with the best in the country. Plus we left a great impression and memories to last a lifetime which was also important to me as there coach.