Friday, May 29, 2015

Things that matter. Things that don't.


When you do triathlon, you're going to run into a lot of well meaning advice, and some that just doesn't make sense. 

This post is about flip turns and doing "other strokes". 

1.) MYTH: If you're going to swim, you MUST do flip turns. It's the only way to move up a lane, and if you want to get faster, you have to move up. If you don't do flip turns, you're disrupting the flow of the lane. 

I've been a triathlete for 10 years now. I do flip turns. Trust me when I say this:

All of those reasons are bullshit. There is absolutely NO scientific evidence that doing a flip turn makes you ANY faster in the open water.

If you want to get faster in open water, do pulls, lot's of pulls and swim in open water once a week (when available). Practice your starts. Practice negative splits. Learn how to pace. A triathlon swim will always be longer than most swim events, learning to pace is one of the most important aspects. 

In swimming, there are TWO legal types of turns in swimming events. A flip turn is an appropriate and legal turn for free and for backstroke. HOWEVER, the most commonly used turn in breast stroke and fly are OPEN turns.
Anyone want to tell Ryan Lochte that he's doing it wrong?

If you swim with swimmers, you will see that they often use either turn and are very used to swimmers in the lane doing either open turns or flip turns. The only people who make a big deal about flip turns are triathletes who think they're hot shit because they do flip turns.

What's the benefit of a flip turn? Other than coming off the wall faster, nothing. When you think a flip turn takes about :03 seconds, the turn itself doesn't even offer a hypoxic training value. You can get better hypoxic training by breathing every 5-7-9 strokes.

However, if you are planning on competing at any swimming events (in a pool), you must learn both the open and the flip turn or you could be disqualified from an event. BUT, most triathletes don't do those events anyway.

2.) MYTH: Learn the other strokes. 

I do flip turns and open strokes. I know how to swim fly, back, breast and free. 

Do I care if YOU know how to swim them? No. 

I'm all for becoming a better swimmer. I fully support using different muscle groups. I encourage anyone who wants to learn the other strokes to learn them. 

No one will care if you only do freestyle. Keep in mind that freestyle is usually the fastest stroke. If you choose to do freestyle, you'll be asked to lead the lane in masters or asked to move to the free style only lane. If you're on your own, who cares?

Swimming takes a lot of time. It requires driving to the pool, getting into the pool, showering and driving back home.

If you feel you are a weaker freestyler, and you're a triathlete, you'd be better off spending any time you can, getting freestyle lessons or working on your stroke. 

Now that I got that off my chest, HAPPY SWIMMING. Remember: do what's right for YOU. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. Honestly when you're at the pool, no one is even paying attention to what you're doing, they're too busy doing their own training. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Being inspired: a race plan

This song has nothing to do with racing. It came on as I was typing up this post. Enjoy!


I am not easily inspired by people. In fact, since I started triathlon, only one person has inspired me to be something greater than I am. 10 years.

And, it was only recently.

You probably already know who it is.

It was her entire race report, from training to fueling to race day. Probably most importantly, race day.

I know tons of people who do Ironman. I know people who do sprints and olys.

I have NEVER been around someone who was willing to give SO MUCH to make her dream come true. It was a level of dedication, no excuses attitude that I was absolutely drawn to.

I fond myself wanting to be just like her.

Given the chaos that is her life right now, there is NO reason for me to EVER miss a workout or not give it everything I have, every day.

That's what great coaches do. They lead by example. Great coaches inspire athletes to BE better than athletes ever dreamed possible.

With this in mind, I started formulating my race plan with Liz.

A few months back, I read some research that demonstrated that we should keep our goals a secret, don't share them with anyone. The reason for this is that the "risk" of sharing goals is emotionally so big for us that simply sharing them gives us a false sense of accomplishment.

Interesting, huh? And 100% true for me. With that in mind, I won't be sharing my goals anymore. Of course, I'll tell you after the fact.

My race this coming weekend:

I have a plan in place. It's unlike any plan that I've done before. I feel great about my swim, especially after last week where I held a 1:22 pace for 12 minutes at the end of a 1.2 mile swim. I was thrilled. My swim coach was beyond happy, especially when I told him he was in my head the entire second half: STRETCH, Tea. What are you doing, Tea? Pull, Pull, REACH.

For the bike, my goals are pretty simple. Simple but never easy. Hold 95-100% threshold for 45-50 minutes.

On the run, I'm breaking away from old plans. I'm trying something new. A new approach to racing off the bike. I'm really excited to get out there.

As Liz told me today: You've met your inner BEAST. GET OUT THERE. BE AN ANIMAL.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

OWS Race Report

Normally, I wouldn't write a race report for an open water swim race. But I thought it was important because of the conditions we raced in. I thought if there are any new triathletes out there, I might have some advice for swimming in open water, especially in cold conditions.

I went into this 1.2 mile race expecting to win. I came in 2nd. The first place woman came in at 22 minutes and change. I am nowhere near that speed. My 1500m (.92 miles) is 22:00.  I ended up with a PR, and I'm thrilled since I had to change my race plan.

I finished 1.23 miles (including the run to the timing mat) in 32:00 which is a pace of 1:30 per 100, for those of you who are interested.

There were a number of new people. I saw them make a bunch of mistakes, especially for cold water.

First of all, the air temp was 40 degrees when I arrived on site. I had my swim parka with me and wore my tri kit under it.

Although we weren't give a specific water temp, the announcer said the water was "getting closer to 60". I took that to mean the shore. At the deeper water, it was probably 57.

A few things to note:

1.) To start with, I saw a BUNCH of people in the water ahead of time, as in anywhere from 20-30 minutes ahead of time. When the water temps are in the 50's, I STRONGLY urge you to stay out of the water until a few minutes before race start. The reason for this is that even when you get used to the water, your body is remaining cold. Swimmers were just standing there in the cold water.....getting cold. Their bodies will need to keep warm by shivering, shivering burns calories. This swim was anywhere from a half mile to 2.5 miles. GET OUT OF THE WATER and bundle up on shore.

Normally, I get into the water and start warming up, but I knew that the cold temps could wreck havoc on me. It could cause cramping, burning too many calories, dehydration, etc. I stayed on the shore, wetsuit halfway on wearing my parka. With 5 minutes to MY start I got into the water.

1.a. I also recommend two swim caps. You don't need to buy the fancy thermal ones, just two regular swim caps will do. You'll thank me later when you don't get the cold water brain freeze. Trust me. That's something you want to avoid at all costs.

2.) How to get into the water. Please please please don't jump immediately into the water. This sends your body into shock and your body starts sending out all the hormones to counteract the stress. You will see people do this at every damn race. In 57 degree water, it has a MUCH more significant impact on your swim. Instead of jumping in, walk in to waist high (or about where your zipper starts), allow the water to start to seep in. YES, it will be cold, but you'll survive and your body will warm up the water quickly. Every 30 seconds or so, go deeper into the water. Once your shoulders are submerged, start pulling out the neck of your wetsuit and allow the water to get into the front of your suit.

You can then put your face in the water, but you don't have to. Your body has already adjusted to the water, slowly and without stress. When you start swimming, you won't go into a panic attack or any type of stress related to the cold water.

3.) Regardless of distance, since you will not have done a normal swim warmup, take the first 200m or so as a warmup. I swim with a sleeveless wetsuit. It took about that long for my arms to feel "normal".

I saw so many people, jump right into the water and take off like a bat out of hell. I passed them all before the 200m mark. Many had panic attacks. Other were back stroking. In other words, they'd ruined their race. It's VERY VERY hard to recover from a bad swim start in cold water. Unlike going out too hard on a run, where you can walk. On a swim, you're bobbing around in frigid water. Your stress responses are going. It's tough. Very tough to recover.

So...that's that: how to swim in cold water. By the time you get to 200m, it feels like a regular swim.

My race plan was to go out hard and finish at a sprint. I had to adjust my plan because of the cold water and started slower. I was going stronger, but I wanted to save my energy for the last lap.

When I got to the last lap, my goal was to pick up the pace and finish with a sprint. I didn't think I had much left. There were no orange caps around me (my swim wave color). That's when I saw a guy on my right side. He had a great pace going. We collided at the last turn buoy, and I made it my goal to hang with him. I backed off just a couple of seconds, so I could draft off him. (Again, conserving energy. Let him take the brunt of the water).

I hung with him until about the last 50 m.....when he disappeared. Maybe he took off really fast, and I missed him. Maybe he dropped back. Maybe I just lost him in the crowd. At this point, we had caught most of the swimmers that were swimming longer and were in a group of those swimmers that were turning for their next loop.

I don't know what happened to him, but I got to shore. Two volunteers pulled me up out of the water, and I ran toward the timing mat.....on feet that felt like stubs.....I couldn't feel anything. I checked my garmin. My time was right around 32:00.

That's a PR for me. I was SO happy. I started slower than expected, and I PR'd.  I'm closing in on my ultimate goal of 30 minutes. (In warmer temps and non race day, I've hit 30:00. I have yet to do it in a race). More importantly, it sets me up for a very good 1500m race swim because I know that I had a lot more in the tank. I just chose to be conservative on a day that it was probably smart to do so.

Once I got home, it was time for a quick snack and one of those rides. Once again, it was ridiculous, and I was counting down the seconds of everything interval.

You know....the kind that goes 110%, 100%, 105%, 100%....and then finally a short rest before starting all over again.

and again.
and again.
and again.

My saving grace today.....was simply knowing that tomorrow is a rest day. Over and over and over, I kept saying, "knock this interval out of the ball park....tomorrow is a rest day." or "Let's go into the rest day knowing you gave everything you had."

Somehow it worked.

Now, I have the day off....from work AND training. rarely the two collide.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Being "edgy"

I was having a conversation with a woman at masters today. She is brand new to our group.

She's a triathlete who is training for IM Boulder.

Normally, I don't talk about my race season, but there were just 3 of us left. We are all triathletes. So, I told her that I do short course: sprints and olys.

She said, "I don't do short distances. There's an edginess you need to do short course. You have to want to beat people. I don't have that. Besides, I've gotten faster just doing long course."

There's nothing wrong with what she said.

But it did get my attention.

The first part was that short course people being "edgy". I thought about it for a second. Are we that much different from long course triathletes?

There are some key differences. Obviously, in a sprint and oly, seconds count. I lost a podium in Feb by seconds because I had a flat tire. I went from 1st place to 8th place, and the time difference was less than 2 minutes. In those distances, there's a lot less smiling, talking because it IS intense. We're racing at over threshold.

Another key difference at the sprint and oly: because the courses are shorter, we can see everyone in our age groups. We aren't separated by 10-20 miles on the bike. (For the most part, I'm talking about the top 3). WE constantly know where we stand in a race. So yeah. If I can see you, and you are ahead of me, I will hunt you down. Likewise, I constantly know how far behind me the next woman is. When I did the 70.3 last year, I had NO idea. Mr. Tea yelled at me that I was one of the first 10 out of the water, but that was ALL women over 40. I didn't find out until later that I was 2nd. It's harder at IM to really know where you stand. You have to trust your plan and race your race. In a sprint, if I see someone ahead of me, I can go balls out to catch her without affecting my performance on the run.

But are we THAT much different? I was thinking about Coach Liz's IMTX race report. She had no idea where she was. She followed her plan and went into an all out sprint the last mile. Is that edgy? She wanted to win. She didn't know where she was, but she held on and gave everything she had that last mile. She ended up winning by one second.

What's edgy? Is it the desire to win? Is it confidence to race your race regardless of distance? To be willing to do exactly what you need to do to win?

Are sprinters really different than long course athletes? I don't think we are. I think anyone who is vying for a podium; anyone who wants to win is edgy.

In fact, I think you have to have it if you want to win. You have to have that fight in you.

When I raced Marquee, I was joking around with the other women who were racked next to me. One of them pointed to two other women and said, "let's stay out of their way, they look like the fast people."  I know what they were talking about. Those two women didn't say anything to anyone, but maybe they were just focused on what they needed to do that day. Maybe it was their FIRST 70.3, and they were nervous. There are a lot of reasons why people act the way they do on the morning of a race. Most of the time, it has to do with them and the goals they've set for themselves.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there. Some athletes can be intimidated by the drive and determination of other athletes, but it doesn't have anything to do with how far we go.

Our differences come from our individual goals.

Edginess? Yeah. I think if you want to excel at any distance, edginess is a requirement.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


I had 8 x 400's on the plan today....the day after a really difficult bike, plyometrics and an easier run. (If you can call it an easy run after the bike and plyo's. It was more or less a trudge.)

My legs felt it right at the start. I started trying to convince myself that the physical pain was ok. It would be bearable when I got the to 400's.

Really. Trust me. You can do this.

I did the first 4 intervals. I was mentally losing it. I was thinking, "I can't do this today. I just can't."

It was frustrating. I was getting so mad at myself. I was having a hard time.

For the recovery after the 4th interval, I stood on the sides of the treadmill.

I was all like "What is WRONG with you today? You're not even at threshold"

Then, it become a barter session. "Let's do this. You can do a slower build for the first 200. BUT, if you do that, you really have to run that last 200. This is NOT about how fast you go. This is about NOT GIVING UP."

And, I passed 3 miles in what was my 5k PR. 3 miles in a 5k time that I haven't hit in 3.5 years. A time....that includes really slow 200m recoveries.

All of sudden, the workout that I thought sucked so much at the beginning became a breakthrough day.

Reality Check:

I realized that these sessions don't have to perfect. They are going to be ugly, really really ugly. But it's just me and the treadmill. No one will ever see me give up, but it matters to me. I don't want to be THAT person. Two weeks ago, I did this workout with 6 reps, and I had to walk the last recovery and most of the cooldown. Today, I ran 8, and I ran the cooldown and the last recovery. The last two intervals were faster than I ever thought I could run. A year ago, I wasn't even running 400's at a 9:15 pace.

Today's paces:

2 @ 7:53
2 @ 7:47
2 @ 7:41
1 @ 7:35
1 @ 7:30


Wednesday, May 20, 2015


A few years back, a friend and I were talking about long term goals. I told him that I didn't even know what I wanted to do. At the time, I was still struggling with "do I go back to IM or do I leave it alone for awhile?" He had this idea. He said, "Set a goal like this. When you hit X time at the Oly, do the 70.3. When you hit X time at the 70.3, do IM."

I thought the idea was brilliant. But I've accomplished my time goals since then. I realized that the Sprint and the Oly were far bigger than I had realized. There is a lot more that I want to accomplish at those distances.

After doing the 70.3 last year, I learned that I'm still not ready (or even want to) do the 70.3 and full IM again.

In training with Liz, we are just scratching the surface of what I can accomplish. I have really big goals for myself. In know....some time down the road....and I mean significantly down the road, I could see going back to the 70.3. Because I think I could do some amazing things at that distance. In order to accomplish THOSE, I have to reach my goals at the Oly and Sprint distances. At the moment, those goals are a moving target.

You could look at it as though I'm really patient. Part of it IS that, but the other part is that I really enjoy short and intermediate distances.

I may have said this already. Our workouts, recently, have gone to a whole new level.  I love it. I love it because I know what she did with me last year and how that corresponded to my faster times and stronger outputs everywhere.

I think about the training that we are doing. The enormity of what I'm trying to accomplish, hit me.

I'm competing at both the Oly and Sprint races at Nationals. Back to Back days of racing AT and OVER threshold.

That takes incredible strength.

Now, I've done this type of thing before. We used to have a race here in which you could do an oly and sat and the sprint on Sunday. The key words, once again, are "doing" the race.....not "racing" the race.

At Nationals, I'm planning on racing.

Besides the physical strength, I've been working on my focus. I know that I lose focus in races. So, I've been training in areas with lot's of distractions. I do my runs in areas of high traffic, kids screaming and chasing each other, horns I can learn to tune it all out. Tune out the cheering fans on the sidelines. Tune out the other people racing.....and race MY race. Pay attention to MY body and what it is doing and not be concerned about anyone else. I've also been learning a new level of suffering when it comes to running. In the past, I've been asked, "Did the intervals hurt?" I would always answer, "Yes. Of course they hurt."

I was wrong. They didn't in the way they were supposed to. They hurt now. It's all about learning how to handle extreme stresss. It's about learning how to tell yourself NO when your head is asking to stop.

It takes time getting there. It's not something that happens overnight. Pain tolerance is learned.

I have a dress rehearsal coming up. A swim race next weekend and sprint tri the following weekend.

Let's see how much I've learned.

Sprinkles are for Winners

I have found my people. In fact, they have this blog address. Here's a shout out to you Pathetic Sumbitches. You know who you are.

This group is not like any other group of triathletes. They are the most dedicated, hardworking group of people I have ever met. The group consists of everyone from beginners to the seasoned veteran. We have Boston runners and Kona qualifiers and everyone in between.

We are a group of +1200 strong on FB and even have our own Strava page.

Unlike Slowtwitch and other FB pages which are filled with ALL EGOs/No Confidence, this group is NO EGO/ALL confidence. They are amazing athletes who poke fun at themselves and laugh at all the stupid things that we all do. We cuss (well, I do), we eat foods that are bad for us, we miss training, we do too much, we are coming back from major injuries/illnesses, we have fallen over on our bikes, peed ourselves, we post our pathetic race photos, we've gained weight, we've slowed down when we should be getting faster.....and we laugh about it all.

Nothing is off limits except feeding your ego by insulting another person. That shit will get you banned. 

The group is refreshing to be around.

Finally, I've found people who take the sport seriously and work hard to accomplish their goals, but they never take themselves seriously.

Several months ago, I posted some self-deprecating thing about my race. It was funny. You were supposed to laugh at it. Yet, I received these warm fuzzies from people who were trying to build me up.....{{{{HUGS}}} to them for trying to make me feel good about myself.  But they completely missed the point.

I thought, "AW FUCK". I took the post down.

My Pathetic Group? They get it.

I ♥ them so hard because of it.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Temporarily Wrecked

I've been going along.

I knew what to expect with workouts.

I knew how I was going to feel.



It hit me like a freight train.

I had a workout yesterdayIt was deceptively hard. I did what I could, but I struggled. I struggled to keep my cadence up. I struggled to go from zone 4 intervals to zone 2 and back again and again and again.

I ran off the bike well. That was the day that I hit that 7:04 interval.

But the wrecked me.

After the workout, I was tired. No matter how much I ate. No matter what I did. I was tired.

I got up today to do another one. This was a run.

It was hard again. I hit every interval, but I was wrecked.....again.

In my Training Peaks log, I sent a note saying, "I did my best. These workouts are deceptively hard. I feel like overnight we took the workouts up a notch."

"Was it me?" I wondered. "Was I just tired? What happened to me?"

My phone beeped at me. It was Liz, "I can tell. You were challenged by the workouts. We're taking your training to a whole new level."

And I should mention, she ended it with a smiley face.

I remembered that she warned me this was coming. I just sort of ignored the warning.

Today, I thought a lot about the workouts. Rather than get beat down by the feeling of being beat down, I decided to embrace the feeling.

She has decided that I'm ready for the next level of training.

Mentally, I know that the next weeks of workouts are going push me like that. They are going to make me doubt myself. They are going to make think I'm not strong enough. They are going to make me think about quitting or taking it easy here and there.

But I'm not going to do that. I'm going rise to the challenges. I know they are going to open my eyes to a whole new world of suffering, but there's nothing that feels as good as getting through to the other side and realizing that you're stronger, and every drop of sweat, every tired muscle, every mental battle.....was worth it.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Tough, The Badass & The Beast


Mr. Tea: What's up.

Me: I just looked at these workouts. She just changed them. I was supposed to run these intervals at sub 8:00 pace tomorrow. Now, Liz wants me to run SUB 7:30 pace for my intervals. The 7:41 400's on Wed made me almost pass out.

Mr. Tea: I don't feel bad for you. It's your own fault. You should never tell her a workout is too easy. IT'S LIZ we're talking about.

Yes. There are times for a fleeting moment when I think, "can I really do this?"

I've talked about Liz's challenge workouts before. They are not normal workouts. They look normal though. You don't realize until you are into the workout that the workout might just be out of your current fitness. 

She does this on purpose. First, she wants to see how you handle real adversity. She wants to see what you will do when you have given everything you have, and she asks for more. Second, whether or not you actually hit the goals she prescribes, is irrelevant. 

Those workouts are about making you MENTALLY TOUGH. 

My run tomorrow....isn't a challenge workout. It's just a normal stupid hard Liz workout, but I couldn't do it if it weren't for those challenge workouts. So yes, for a fleeting moment, I question whether I can do them. Then, I remember what I have done.

Those of you who have known me for years have seen the changes. Even those of you who have known me just since I started working with Liz, have seen changes in me. I hope you do because I feel different than I did a year and a half ago.

It's because of Liz. It's because of the people I surround myself with. Don't ever underestimate the power that people (you hang out with) have over you.

People who have big HUGE goals believe YOU should have BIG HUGE GOALS also. These are the people that after coming in can say to them, "I want to podium".....and they won't bat an eye. They will say, "THIS is what is necessary. THIS is what you have to do."

If you are honored to have friends like that, hold on to them. They are the people that won't give you bullshit lines just to stroke your ego. These are the people that will give you honest feedback because they want you to succeed as much as YOU do. They will push you harder than you thought possible. They will push you past what you think your breaking point is.

The people that I hang out with (whether virtually or in training groups) are the toughest, most bad ass people I know. They have learned when to turn BEAST MODE on and when to relax.

No matter what life throws at them, you'll never once hear a "poor me" complaint. They just keep going. They don't dwell on the past. They only work to be the best they can be today. It's as if they see every day as their new starting point; and wherever that OK....because tomorrow, they will be better.

Those are the people I admire. They are who I want to be.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

So, this happened AGAIN

I opened my email this morning.

2 X Qualifier for AG Nationals 2015

Go ahead, I'll wait. I know you want to look up my time. Nevermind, here's the link.
I was really hoping this would rollover to 2016.

Still, I'm very happy. It's amazing. In just my first year of working with the MASTERMIND, I ended up with two qualifications for the same year.

I will be doing both distances. I'm doing the Olympic distance on Saturday and the sprint on Sunday.