Thursday, October 19, 2017

Finding your hidden athlete

This week, I had a FB friend message me and ask me how I've gotten so fast. She asked what the things were that I did that had the biggest impact.

When I got her message, I was so amazed that she picked me to ask. The reason for it is that it's not that I am super fast. What I am most excited about is the improvement I have made.  I think anyone else in my shoes would say the same thing. It's not that we see ourselves as fast. We've worked so hard to make the improvements that we have.

I think that's what speaks to people.

It's easy for a Coach to make a fast person faster.

It's very difficult to take a slow athlete and make them fast.

After one of my recent posts, I found out that there are people who still read my blog from WAY back in the day. For those of you, this is an old story. It's short, so hang in there.

I started triathlon 11 years ago. For the first few years, I followed a variety of training plans. We had just started our company. We had two sons living at home. I put into the sport what I could, which wasn't much. I had fun and did a race a year....maybe two. That was it.

When my sons got older, I decided to put more effort in triathlon to see if I could get faster. From 2012-2013, I hired my first coach.  Our business had grown to the point, where we had employees. Our sons were now and freshman in college and a junior in hs.

That means for the first 5 years of triathlon, I didn't put a lot of effort into my training. I didn't know what I was doing, but I had a lot of fun. That's what kept me going.

I say over and over to people (Mr. Tea.....and others), it doesn't matter what you do. Find something that you enjoy even when you are bad at it.

I hired a Coach. (Not Liz).

It didn't work out.

Then, I found Liz through friends.

In Jan of 2013, I started working with Liz. When you think about it, I have 11 years of triathlon experience......7 of which were spent at the back of the pack.   I only have 4 years of really seeing what I am capable of doing.

Back to my friend's question: What are the top things I did to get faster?

Because triathlon is so complex, dealing with 3 sports, this question should be broken down into: What have I done in each segment to get faster?

But, I know where she is coming from. I have that back of the pack perspective. IN GENERAL, what are the things an athlete can do?

First and foremost, find the right Coach. This is the time of year when athletes start thinking about changing coaches or hiring a coach.

A more expensive coach is not a better coach. A level 3 coach is not better than a level 2 coach. A level 2 coach is not better than a level 1 coach. Get recommendations from friends. Find out what the coach does to constantly improve. (Liz is a level 2 coach. My first coach was a level 3 coach. I get 10x more with Liz).  Liz is constantly educating herself. She attends many symposiums every year. She is always up to date on the latest research. This year, she became certified in nutrition counseling....or some such thing. I don't know exactly what it was because I work with an RD.

Something else that was important to me. I wanted a coach that had attained the goals I was reaching for. That makes sense, right? I don't know any GREAT coaches who have not also competed at the highest levels in the world. Whether that is the Ironman WC or ITU world championships.

If your goal is to race Kona, would you seriously hire a coach who has never raced Kona? Think about this.

That's what I mean about finding the right Coach. Find the coach who has accomplished what you want to accomplish and one that you can work with. Trust me. At that level, those coaches have worked with every type of personality out there.....as long as you take an active approach to your training, it will work out just fine.

I saved the best for last. When I started working with Liz, she didn't make me faster. She made me a better athlete and person. 

Second:

Again, this is hard. I want to say, "With swimming, I did this. For running, I did this".


I am not someone who tells athletes to go out and buy the latest and greatest equipment.

To me, it's about the machine (your body) not money. I have a friend who did his first IM on an old beater bike and went sub 12 hours. For years, I rode on a road bike with clip on aero bars.

With that in mind, there is one piece of equipment that I believe you really must purchase, even if you are a beginner (and if you know this sport is something you want to improve in).

That is a power meter.

In 2013, I bought a power meter.  I honestly thought it was a waste of money. I thought it was something for recording rides. I didn't understand how it could be use.

Liz had me do a bike test. AND EVERYTHING CHANGED.  All of a sudden, I had zones to train within....I saw my bike power explode. I saw my speeds get faster.

AND....I saw my running improve.   This is why I feel the power meter is a crucial piece to the puzzle.

It's more important the longer you go. I've said it before. At the sprint and oly, maybe it's not so important. (Although, those are my distances, and I would never train/race without it). At the HIM and IM, it's critical to race in your zones to give you the best run.

 If you are going to buy one piece of equipment, make it a power meter.

Third:
When I look back over my time in triathlon, I can see where I had the biggest jumps in speed. The first was in hiring Liz. The second is when I started using the power meter.

The third was when I started working with a Sports Dietitian.

This is often overlooked by athletes. I see athletes making the same mistakes over and over. Yet, they don't take the time to fix their nutrition issues.

You can't out train a bad diet.  

Dina is my RD. She changed my life. I am not being overly dramatic.

We worked on my daily nutrition and race nutrition. I can push harder than I have ever been able to, and I recover better than I ever have.

This year, I had a very aggressive race schedule. Six races in 8 weeks. Even Liz, mentioned that she was impressed with how well I was able to recover and be ready to go for the next hard session.

Granted, Liz covered the training/taper/recover schedule. I could not have done it without using the things Dina taught me.

I worked with Dina in 2015 for 2 or 3 months. Since that time, I will check in with her when I feel I need some advice or pointers about handling a particular type of race or distance.

I lost body fat. I recover better. I can race harder. I sleep better. All those things that I couldn't  do on my own.

You have no idea what you are capable of until you start working with a Sports Dietitian.

For me, it will always be an ongoing relationship. I feel so fortunate to have met Dina.



Keep in mind that this list is meant for someone who is more or less at the beginning of their triathlon career.

Becoming a better athlete is a process. The athletes that you see on the podium, didn't get there by accident. (Ok. My very first podium WAS an accident. There were only 3 women in my age group. But, I digress).

When you commit to the sport, you will see big jumps in fitness, and you'll see days where you actually go backwards. It is a process. Fitness gains are not linear. They're a bunch of rolling peaks and valleys.

Don't think you need to make all these changes at once. I certainly didn't. One year, I hired a coach. One year, I bought a power meter. One year, I worked with a sports dietitian.

Take your time. Enjoy the gains where you get them. I know it can be frustrating.

If it were easy, everyone would do it.










Monday, October 9, 2017

That bike, tho'

I recently read a post from a triathlete. In it the athlete mentioned that their bike speeds aren't where they should be. This person doesn't have a Coach, and we all know how I feel about that.

BUT that aside....

Since I started working with Liz, my bike speeds have exploded. In the past year, specifically, my watts/kg has improved significantly.  I consistently race at 100-103% of FTP.

THAT is really the thing. Right? It's racing in the appropriate zone for a race distance.

Maybe I have (from the perspective of an athlete who has improved), maybe I have advice that I can pass along to people who are either new to the sport OR have been racing a long time but haven't quite figured out how to race in the zones they need to race.

Along the way, I have run into a number of Myths of Cycling. Just like when you read my blog, take everything with a grain of salt. Just because a supposed "expert" says something, doesn't make it true. That's why having a coach is so important.

Before I go into the training aspects, let's talk about technology. If you are committing to the sport, you can really benefit from training with a power meter. The price has come down significantly over the years. If you simply plan on doing a race here and there, with no goals, don't worry about it. This post isn't aimed at the casual rider. This post is written for those of you who want to get faster. You can use HR, but HR fluctuates with dehydration, conditions, whether you are sick or healthy, depending on where you are in a training cycle. Power is consistent. That's why it is so important. Also, I'm not a fan of perceived effort. I think you have to be extremely experienced to use this. Even then, I suspect most people don't train in the appropriate zones.

And very very important: THE LONGER THE RACE, the more important it is to train with power. In a sprint, going all out is going all out. In an oly, most people don't get near FTP....so they could definitely benefit....but most people use the oly as a stepping stone to longer distances and aren't really interested in learning how to hold 95-100% of FTP.

When you get to the 70.3 and IM...oh dear god......PLEASE ride with power. Learn your zones and follow them.

1.) Ride inside or outside?
Don't listen to "experts" who tell you things in black and white. 

Who needs to ride outside? Typically, newer riders should get outside once a week. My advice is if you are a newer rider, join a riding group OR sign up for a cycling tour. Once you've done that and feel more comfortable on the bike, maybe do a TT. (That's not necessary, but it will teach you to ride in a pack).

You have to learn bike handling skills. The only way to do that is outside.

If you've been riding for any length of time, you don't have to ride outside. There is a HUGE benefit to this.
1.) You can do your workouts as written.
2.) No stopping or slowing down, means more time doing your focused workout.
3.) You can do drills focused on cadence work, single leg drills, sitting and standing, etc. Drills are very very tough to do outside.

If you want to ride outside, ride outside. If you want to ride inside, ride inside. Don't feel like you have to do one or another.

I almost exclusively ride inside. Are you surprised? My time is valuable. I want to get as much bang for the buck as I can. For me, that means setting up workouts and following them.

Remember. There's not a right or wrong way, but if you want to get faster, you need to spend time on the trainer. (I'll address trainer workouts below).

2.) Zone work:  When I first started working with Liz, one of the things she told me was "Work the full zone". When a workout says Z3, I would hang out at the bottom of zone 3. Now, I start at the bottom, and I finish at the top of whatever zone is listed in the workout.

Look. You need to feel the discomfort in training. The only way to learn how to deal with it is in training.

3.) Go above and beyond. How do I hold 100-103%FTP in a race? Liz has me do intervals at 120-150%FTP. Let me tell you, 100% sure does feel easy after I've done 150%.

Another good workout is over/unders. This means you hold a higher FTP like 95% then do a spurt from 100-120% and then back down to 95%.  This is very hard to do and (again) best done on a trainer.

4.) Leg strength: BIG WATTS/SLOW CADENCE. The workout that can actually make triathletes cry.  The reason this workout is so effective is because it keeps your heart rate down but really works your muscles. Your legs get stronger, but recovery time is much shorter.

5.) Using a trainer. Smart trainer or traditional trainer? 
If you are just getting started, you are going to having to decide on costs. Power meters cost money. Smart trainers cost a whole lot of money.

My first 10 years of triathlon, I trained on a traditional trainer. I still improved. I improved significantly. Getting faster is more about quality workouts than anything. If you are newer to triathlon or have budget constraints, a traditional trainer will absolutely help get you faster.

If you've been in the sport awhile OR have unlimited funds, a smart trainer is the way to go. I've had mine for almost a year now. Here's what I learned:

1.) The smart trainer is only as good as your training. If you're expecting magical improvements from just sitting there pedalling, riding around Zwift or BKool routes....it ain't gonna happen. You could have saved your money and gotten the same benefit from riding outside.

2.) The BIG thing with smart trainers is being able to ride in ERG mode. THAT's the kickr (pardon the pun).  TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT. Otherwise, why even bother with a smart trainer?

Here's how it works: There are a number of software programs out there. My personal favorite is Trainer Road. (Quick note: You can use any of these software programs with a traditional trainer. You don't even need a power meter, but your best option is using a PM).

You either create a workout (enter a workout from your coach) OR use the workouts in the software program.  In ERG mode, each interval will be held to a certain range of watts. On a traditional trainer, your watts will fluctuate with cadence. On a smart trainer, you are forced to hold a zone, regardless of cadence.

Even when you are tired....you will hold whatever zone the interval is. THAT's the benefit of a smart trainer.

Let's say you are training for a 70.3, your goal is to hold 81%FTP. When you use a workout in ERG mode, you will be forced to hold 81% or whatever range is set. Can you see how powerful that is? When you ride outside or ride in SIM mode, it is much much harder to actually hold 81% when you are going up and down hills or have to deal with traffic, etc.

When you are on a traditional trainer, it's very very easy to back off.

A smart trainer (in ERG mode using a workout), doesn't let you do that. THIS has had the biggest impact on my training this past year.

There are other ways to use a smart trainer. You can ride around virtual worlds and experience the hills or flats, etc. In my opinion, those don't give you any bigger benefit than riding around outside.

If you want to really improve, get a smart trainer, use ERG mode (not sim mode), enter a workout, and experience some serious discomfort. (Also there are workouts specifically for drills and cadence work. Power drops, so you can do high cadence work and single leg work. You don't get that benefit when riding in sim mode.

6.) Strength training. 
I cannot stress enough, the importance of strength training. Personally, I have found that the compound exercises work best for me. In other words, you won't see me doing bicep curls. I use heavy weights, to failure and do compound exercises. I do squats and lunges and single leg squats and tons of core work. One of my favorite exercises is start standing with dumbbells overhead (like when your arms are extended for a shoulder press), bring the weight down, squat all the way down to the floor then jump your feet out into a plank position. Jump back, stand up and press those dumbbells up overhead again. I love that type of workout.

In triathlon, we use many different muscle groups at once. To me, it makes sense to strengthen those muscles in the same manner.

Strength training is so so important regardless of distance. For a sprint, you want to be as strong as possible to be able to push big watts. In an IM, you want to have the endurance to be able to go seamlessly from from swim to bike to run. 

7.) Nutrition. If you know me, you know how important this is. PLEASE work with an RD. As you move up in distance, fueling becomes harder and harder. Daily nutrition becomes harder. Race day fueling becomes harder. I continue to work with Dina as I move from race distance to race distance. Your body will accept foods at a lower effort than it will accept at a higher effort. If you plan on doing longer races, you need to know what to put in to get the best output. Heat, humidity, lack of humidity, wind, cold, rain.....they all factor into a race day performance.

You can't out train a bad diet. What you put in on daily basis affects your ability to push hard when you need to push hard and recover when you need to recover.



There it is. That's my recipe for success. It doesn't mean it will work for everyone. I hope that someone will gain something from this.

The big thing is....remember that if you don't do something in training, it won't happen in a race. You can't expect to hold 80%of FTP in a 70.3 if you don't train above that threshold. You can't train above that threshold without strength training. (Let me tell you, it is a very different animal to go from swimming 1.2 miles to riding 56 miles than it is from swimming 750m to riding 20k).


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I'm still here


When a road trip starts with this song, you know it's going to be one helluva a trip.

It's been a while since I've written. I went through one of those "why do I write" phases. I used to write with a certain audience in mind. Do those people still read my blog? Have new people found it? I don't even know who my audience is anymore. 

Since my last real post, I've done two races; including one this past weekend. I came in 1st in age group and 5th overall, capping off another really incredible season. 

The most incredible part of the race over the weekend is that Mr. Tea was there. He hasn't been a a race of mine in years. His health has been so bad for so long that the physical stress of going to a race was too much for him. (The heat would make it even worse).

He was at my race. He hasn't seen me race since I was a back of the pack athlete. He's seen me train. He's been through all the tough stuff that goes along with training, but he'd never seen the finished product.

When I was racing, I'd never seen him so excited before. I could see the look on his face.

When I pulled into transition (off the bike) with a 6 minute lead, I could see his face. I saw two bikes on the rack, and I said, "I have no idea who those women are. I thought I caught all the women".

Mr Tea then said, "THOSE ARE MEN. You are in 1st place. You need to run"!

He was so excited. 

It's one thing to watch someone training. It's totally different to see them racing and stepping up on that podium.

Coach Liz asked me to list out all my podiums and PRs for the year. 

In 2017, I had 6 podiums out of 8 races and too many PRs to even count. 

This year, I got my first Olympic distance podium. Then I backed it up with another one.  This was something that had eluded me for my entire triathlon career.

Here we are in October. I'm taking time off from coaching.....which by the way....could mean that I don't blog very often. If I do, it won't really have anything to do with triathlon.

I want to take some time to think of my race schedule. 

For the past few weeks, Mr. Tea has broached the subject of doing an full Ironman next year. (YES. He was THAT excited). I know that it's rare to have a SUPER SHERPA who encourages something like that. He doesn't merely support it. He encourages it. He said he's going to invite everyone. (Did I mention how excited he is)?

However, I'm not there yet. I'm just not ready for it. BUT, I'm willing to take the entire month to think about it. 

On the other hand, I have 3 races (a half marathon, a 70.3 and Nationals) that I'm very excited about.

I also want to really think about what I did well and where I'd like to improve for next year. I'd been taking notes all year long. In a couple of weeks, I'll probably organize those thoughts. Maybe I'll even write about it?  

Would you like that Mystery Audience?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Thursday, August 31, 2017

About Strava

Public service announcement

Many people are not aware of this, but local and state governments buy the anonymous Strava data in order to make their streets safer for everyone and so they know how build a better infrastructure for the future. 

If you live in CO, PLEASE consider joining Strava. About 2 months ago, CDOT purchased the data from Strava. As you are probably aware, in the Denver metro area, including Boulder, the goal is to reduce the number of cars on the road by 35% by 2030.

My county in particular is doing an amazing job at adding paths and bike lanes. I want this to continue.

The only way this is possible is for them to know who is doing what on which roads, paths and trails.

Let's talk about privacy:

1.) The data sent to the government is anonymous. It is strictly numbers.

2.) You do not have to be an active member on Strava. Automatically upload your activities. Make your profile private. Make all your activities private. (This is done automatically in your settings). Don't accept any follower requests. Your generic data will still be sent to your local government.

BOOM. YOU never have to log into Strava again.

3.) You don't have to buy a fancy Garmin or Timex or anything. Strava has a phone app. When you start your walk or run or ride, simply turn it on. (Again, everything can upload privately if you turn on the settings).

4.) The best part is that Strava is FREE.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Quest



It's been awhile.

In the past month a lot has happened. I guess the biggest tri-challenge was that I did 4 races in 4 weeks.

It was one of the harder things I've done.

I'm coming up on my final tri of the year. I have fully recovered from the 4 weeks of racing.  I still have one race left. Of course, I'm being asked, "What's your schedule look like next year"?

Other than 2 races, which I'm pretty set on, I haven't decided. I told Liz about a month ago that I was planning on taking time off.

I want to use that time to think about goals for next year. I also want time away from triathlon where I can look back over 2017 and clearly look at what I accomplished.

I can tell you this. One of my goals for 2017 was to get athletes excited about short course. I wanted to change people's perspectives from short courses being stepping stones to the 70.3 and full IM to training for short/intermediate races as the end goal. 

This all happened because I was surprised to find out that many athletes are unaware that
1.) They can qualify for Nationals.
2.) At Nationals, they can qualify for the World Championship.
3.) When people find out you've qualified, they instantly refer to you as "the fast one".

All good stuff, right?

They didn't realize that short and intermediate distances had an entire population of people working toward becoming a part of Team USA. 

You want to feel the excitement? Join this FB Group.

As it happened, in July, I qualified for Nationals in 2018.

I'd been planning on making 2018 a year of 70.3 focus. Well....then.....*everyone* actually started getting excited about trying to qualify for Nationals.

All of a sudden, triathletes, who....for YEARS....tried to convince me there was NOTHING BETTER than doing Ironman.....wanted to qualify for 2018 Nationals.

Short course triathletes are a different breed. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

I realized that I can't get people excited about qualifying for Nationals, and then NOT SHOW UP MYSELF.

For those of you who have been asking me about Nationals in 2018. YES. I WILL BE THERE. My plan is to do the OLY. I've done the back to back a couple of times now. I'd rather stick around and cheer for people on Sunday than race again.

Along these lines, I told Liz that I was going to take some time off, starting right after my next race. We got into a very short conversation about next year. (Srsly, mentally...I just didn't want to go into 2018 goals in much detail).

She said a couple of things that struck me. I sort of tucked them away for when I was ready to deal with them.

This week, I was ready to think about the conversation that Liz and I had.

Based on recent training, I knew that I had to/wanted to change my approach to some goals. Based on recent training, meaning that training has been going exceptionally well, I am ready to change a few things around.

I scribbled out a bunch of notes:
--race time goals
--qualification goals
--training goals

I want to finish off 2017 strong.

Then, I'll have some downtime.

THEN, I'll see if those goals that I scribbled out, early one morning, still make sense.

After that is all said and done, I'll put together my race schedule for 2018.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nationals weekend: Chasing dreams

Last weekend was Nationals.

I have never had more fun over a weekend than I did last weekend.

Liz had 13 athletes at Nationals. I don't know how many other athletes were there from the other coaches.

MSM had a pretty big showing. I was the self-proclaimed Party Coordinator for race day.

Here are the highlights:

1.) Racing an oly and a sprint on back to back days is physically and mentally exhausting. Prior to the race I had a conversation with Dina about my week leading up to the race and how to fuel & recovery between races. It was the best thing I could have done. Because of the stress of threshold racing on back to back days (versus one really long day at Z2-Z3), she gave me pointers that I hadn't thought of.

2.)I have never been more prepared for a race of this level. For weeks, I had been exhausted. Then a day or two into taper, I started to feel like I could take over the world.

3.) Results:

Oly:
In 2015, I did the oly at Nationals. I came in 119. This year, I came in 46th. That's a huge jump. Although the courses really can't be compared, this was a non wetsuit swim. In 2015, the water temp was low 60's.

Oly swim: An unusally slow swim for me, even without a wetsuit.

Bike: Fastest oly bike. I averaged 92% FTP for the race.

Run: RUN PR!!! BY 2 MINUTES!!! I don't think I've ever been more excited about a 2 minute PR.

Sprint:

For the morning of the sprint, it was pouring rain. Sadly, that morning, in transition, I sliced open my foot and had to go to medical. They medic said that I could race, but that it would be painful. He was pretty sure the bandage would hold up, though.

The swim: Unusually slow.

My bandage came off.

I limped up to transition and sat there for awhile debating whether I should continue. I had brought socks with me. I thought, "I've trained too hard for this. If I can get my sock on, I need to get on my bike".

If you know me, the worse conditions are.....the better I will do. I slowly put my sock on and squeezed my foot into my shoe.

I hopped on the bike. Because there's no pressure on your foot (cycling comes from your legs not your feet), I felt really good on the bike. It was raining for my swim, and it was still raining when I got on the bike. Mud and rain is splashing up.

I avoided puddles. I avoided the paint.

I KILLED THE BIKE. I held 95%FTP the day after riding hard for the oly.

The run:

When I got to transition, I made the decision that I was going to finish the race.

Getting my running shoes on was brutal. I was soaking wet. My socks were wet.

Along the entire run, I cheered for everyone and anyone. If someone had a Team USA kit on I yelled for them. I cheered for my team mates. I cheer for local athletes that I knew.

At the halfway marked, I looked down at my shoe, it was covered in blood.

When I crossed the finish line, I knew I hadn't blown away any of my times (except on the bike). I limped over to get my gear bag. All I wanted to do was get my shoes off.



Later that morning, I ran into Chris (Liz's husband). He came in 4th in the 40-44. I also talked to Jen Harrison.....who completely dominated the women's 45-49 (both days). (Chris raced both days, also, but I can't remember where he finished).

It was so nice to talk to both of them. Even though, they were podium finishers, and I came in 46th on one day and (maybe) 30thish on the 2nd day....our bodies had felt the same. We all woke up with our backs screaming at us. We all thought, "How am I going to do this"?  We all thought, "Maybe once I get moving, I'll feel better"?

Once we got to the swim, we all felt pretty damn good.

I have another story. One of the MSM athletes name is Nick. He ran passed me on the oly. I yelled at him and he gave me a smile.

When he ran passed, I thought, "OMG. He's running a sub 6 mile. He doesn't even look like he hurts".

He ran a 5:30 pace for the 10k. I know he was hurting.

It doesn't matter if you run a 5:30 or an 11:30.....the pain is the same. That's what makes this sport so much fun and the athletes so supportive.



The week after Nationals, I have been doing hardcore recovering. I'm recovering this week and (basically) tapering next week because I have another race in 2 weeks.

Liz is giving me a whole new level of  "recovery workouts". I have been eating really well. Today, I woke up feeling pretty good.

My foot is healing up just fine.

Liz and I talked about my weekend. We talked briefly about my ongoing goals. Briefly. I was so wiped out after the weekend, I didn't even want to THINK about triathlon. I wanted to lay on the couch and never move again.

Anyway, Liz said something that stuck with me. She made a comment about the next time I go to Nationals. My first thought was, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME"?

A couple of days later, I was feeling better. I realized that she (only) stated my own personal super secret goal. It was a goal that I had never told anyone. I thought, "She knows me better than anyone". She knows my abilities better than anyone. By sharing her thoughts, she was showing me that she believes in me and my goals. I thanked her for her vote of confidence. Sometimes it's hard to see ourselves for who we actually are when we are going through training like that.

I sat down and drew up a plan. It was a general plan for next year.

If I have a goal and if my coach believes I can get there......isn't it worth working for?

My plan for next year was to focus on the 70.3.

On Tuesday, I found out that I qualified for Nationals next year.

It was almost like a sign to keep going, keep chasing that dream.

Monday, July 31, 2017

1.2 mile swim race

This picture was taken by SwimLabs at the open water swim race I did. This show the start of the 2.4 mile swim. A friend won the 2.4 mile swim and swam it in 50 minutes. So, I'll just let you ponder that for a minute. 


In other news, I did an open water swim race this weekend. You can't even see the turn around buoy in this picture because it's waaaayyyyy out there. 

The purpose of the race was to work on pacing. Liz wanted me to surge for 200-400m, swim moderately, then surge 200m to the finish.

There were over 100 people doing the 1.2 mile swim.  

It was a very congested swim start.   

As we were waiting to start, there was a woman in front of me. I know her from my old masters. She immediately started talking loudly about how she was going to be last.

I know her. She would be one of the top 3-4 finishers. 

I tried to hide my eyeroll.

I hate that shit. 

The one thing you know about me. I NEVER sandbag my time. I NEVER lie about my times.  You might disagree about my assessment of myself. (For example, I will say the run is my weakest event....which it is.) But I HAVE NEVER said, "My 10k time is 1:10" when my 10k time is :59.

I never refer to myself as "slow". There is ALWAYS someone faster. There is ALWAYS someone slower. 

SO....eye roll galore.

When we started, it was an absolute slugfest. I surged. I got stuck between more swimmers. I surged again.

I had a hard time separating from the swimmers. 

I decided to take a risk and go all out. I didn't have to go far. I needed just enough space to separate from the group I was stuck between. 

I surged, like I've never done it before. I put a gap of about 10m between me and some other swimmers. I realized I could do it. I could surge and regain composure. 

You see, for those of you who are not swimmers, surging and going fast is hard because unlike land sports, where you can catch your breath relatively easily; with swimming, it's harder because your FACE IS UNDER WATER.

I felt my triceps and back really working. My breathing was hard, but I immediately went into a moderate pace without missing a beat. I'd never done that before! I was so happy. I kept swimming and held a good pace throughout.

The only problem I had was that I didn't expect a cloudy/drizzly morning. I didn't even think about it, and I had dark goggles. My clear goggles were sitting in the car. 

 I was still able to see, but it was challenging. My second win of the day was that I trusted my internal gps this time. In my races this year, I kept stopping trying to get a good visual. 

I didn't stop today. If I couldn't get a good line of sight, I kept going, trusting myself. 

As I was approaching the turn around, I realized that I didn't remember turning on my garmin. I glanced at it and was shocked to see my time of 16:15. What?! That means I just swam a PR pace for 1.2 miles.

With that, I got super excited. I started picking up the pace. I was running into more 2.4 mile swimmers, some of whom were doing the backstroke, so there was some dodging on my part. There was a guy who was zigzagging all over the place. I took the time to surge again. Feeling more and more confident that I could surge at a 1:10 pace, hold it for awile, then settle back into a 1:30 pace. (Of course, at the time, I had no idea what my pace was. I was merely going by how I felt physically and how my breathing sounded).

There was a woman who was with me the entire time. She was a little faster than me. I decided to pull in behind her and use her draft. She started going faster with about 300m left. I stayed with her, swimming really hard to keep up. 

When she stood up, I saw that I was drafting off someone who swam without a wetsuit. She was one of those stupid fast swimmers.

I stood up, started heading out when I realized that I forgot to give the timer my number. (There were no timing chips).

I also forgot to turn off my garmin and went all the way back to my back pack before I remembered to turn it off.

I looked at it. 32:56.

Holy cow. If I subtract off the time from the water back to my stuff, which was easily a minute, that means I swam a 32:00 1.2 mile swim. 

That's a 2.5 minute PR for that distance. 


I was THRILLED.

I want to say something about swimming, specifically MY swimming. If you've been reading for awhile, you know that I have worked very hard on my swimming.

If you want to get faster, you have to train faster. I have done that. I have pushed my comfort zone and taken risks.

In open water swimming, there can be a lot of external factors that affect a swim time: bright sun, bad conditions, etc. 

Sometimes I will be first out of the water. Sometimes I will be 4th. It changes from race to race.

None of that matters. I have absolutely NO swimming background. I taught myself to swim when I started triathlon.

There are few things that I am as proud of as how much I have improved with swimming. 

When I finished, I stayed to cheer on the the last of the 2.4 mile swimmers. The last 2 swimmers, were escorted in by the SUP team. 

I remember my very first tri, when that was me. I was one of the last out of the water, and I had my own personal escort into shore, with the guy telling me that I was doing great! Just keep doing what you're doing! You're almost there!

I always stay for the last of the swimmers to cheer them in because I know what it's like.

It didn't happen overnight. There have been tears and mostly a lot of fun making the improvement that I have. 

It doesn't matter what distance you are working for, you have to get out of your comfort zone in order to get faster. 

Get out there. Go fast. Hit the wall breathless. Then do it again. 

That's the secret recipe.

 



 

Monday, July 24, 2017

I never said it would be easy....

I started with Liz in Jan 2014.

I set a goal of qualifying for Nationals in the next 5 years.

I qualified for Nationals in 2014 (for 2015).

In 2015, I raced Nationals and set a goal to make Team USA in 5 years.

In 2016, I focused on the Sprint distance. I made Team USA for the sprint distance that year. Yes, 2016....the year I set a 5 year goal to make Team USA.

In 2017, I started focusing on the Oly distance in an effort to make Team USA at the Oly distance.

In 2017, I forgot about my 5 year goal. Actually, I forgot that it was a 5 year goal. 

You see. I was getting frustrated with myself. I picked a very tough race schedule this year to get me ready for Nationals. Every now and then, I'd see glimpses of greatness. I'd do something incredible that I'd never done before. 

Mostly, though, I had a growing frustration with myself over some things. I'd look at my times and paces and realize that this probably won't be the year I make the team at the Oly distance.

Over the past 2 weeks, I realized that I let those small things take over my head. I let those little things take over the fun of the sport. For weeks, training had become an irritating chore, like doing the laundry.

I stepped back for a minute and had to remember that I set a 5 YEAR GOAL. I already achieved that goal at the sprint distance, FIVE YEARS EARLY. 

The Oly distance is excruciatingly difficult. Coach Liz says it's the hardest distance.  I have only done two Olympic distance races this year. AND I PRd both races. 

My times might not be where I want them to be, but Rome wasn't built in a day. 

It's a daily, constant reminder that great things take time....and certainly more than 2 races.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

4 Down, 4 to go. A race report



A few weeks back, Coach Liz had a heart to heart talk after she could sense my growing frustration with my swim.

Her advice to me was, "Stop killing yourself on the swim. Put your energy into the bike and run".

My initial response was....

What?!

The SWIM is my STRENGTH.

You want to take that away from me?

What will I do?

I'm sorry......

Of course, my emotional outbursts last about 30 seconds.

It takes 30 seconds for me to remember that she is the mastermind.

Saturday morning, I wake up to an email from her wishing me luck. I told her that I'm going to take her advice.

I'm not going to worry about the swim. I am going to put my energy into the bike and run.

Sunday morning rolls around. After a week and a half of dealing with personal issues, I didn't really know how the day was going to go. All I knew was that I was going to give it everything I have.

I racked my bike and ran back to my car. When I returned, the racks were full. Several women were talking about how this race was going to be a tune up race for Nationals.


I frantically sent off a text to J. 

"OMGOMGOMG. THEY'RE ALL RACING NATIONALS. THEY'RE ALL FAST. OMGOMGOMG"

You know your real friends when they answer your frantic text at 6am on Sunday

Of course, his response was, "They're all thinking the same things about you".



oh.


I decided to leave transition and go find my zen.

I was pretty sure I left it near the porta potty.



About the race itself.

I didn't worry about the swim. I got to transition and saw one bike already gone. At the time, I didn't know how far ahead of me she was. I found out later that she beat me on the swim by seconds. I beat her in transition by seconds. 

As soon as I saw that I was in 2nd, possibly 3rd, I had one goal in mind: 



 AND I WILL PASS YOU.

I DON'T CARE HOW FAST YOU ARE.

I WILL BE FASTER.


Within 2 miles, I passed a woman with 50-54 age group on her calf. 

What if she isn't the only one?

I kept going. 

I had my BBS segment watts. I knew what I goal wattage I needed to hit.

I kept riding as hard as I could.

I had another goal for this race. For YEARS, I have wanted to break 47 minutes on this ride. I have come painfully close multiple times.

I pulled into transition, not knowing what my time was but knowing that I gave it everything I had. 

I start running toward the racks. There are no bikes in yet. 

I'm in FIRST.

At this point, I have a 3 minute lead. I just didn't know it at the time. 

My plan was to use the HR monitor to keep me honest on the run. For some reason, my HRM didn't work; even though it worked perfectly fine yesterday. Without it, I started strong and faded a bit. That's on me. I know I shouldn't count on technology. 

I ran the first mile strong. The last 2.....I just kinda fell into a rhythm. 

I was passed on the run. She only beat me by 2 min. I didn't know she was only 2 min ahead. I didn't know I had a 3 min lead when I started running.  I am a really competitive person. Had I know all of this, I probably/definitely would have run harder. 

I'm learning that as long as I ride hard and give my best run, I can compete with these women. One of my goals is to learn how to use my competitive spirit to push me to be my best....with or without technology.

I finished in 2nd place and 11th overall female.

When I saw my bike time: 46:31 and a speed of 22.3mph. I held 95% FTP. I was nothing short of glowing. 

I grabbed my ticket with my finish time. In disbelief, I sent off a text to Liz, Mr. Tea & J. 

I remember my first podium. It was a fluke....one of those where I was 3rd out of 3. Then I got my first 1st place, beating second place by over 12 minutes. I thought it was a fluke. Then, I regularly started stepping up on the podium.

To this day, every time it happens, I am in shock. 

But today was bigger than any podium. Liz has given me the courage to take risks, to do things I've never done before. Today was a breakthrough like I've never had before. 

I sat at the picnic table at the awards ceremony. I thought about where I'd been and what I still want to accomplish. Some days those goals seem SO far away. Then, I have a day like this; where all the work starts to show.

All top 5 women in the 50-54 AG beat the podium finishers of the 45-49 AG by over 10 min. That's how strong this age group is. There were many of us in the 45-49 age group who aged up this year. I know these women. I have been racing with them for years. They are nothing short of amazing.

It means so much to me that I can hang with them. I'm learning something at each race. I'm getting stronger and smarter. That's a good place to be.


4 races. 4 podiums. 4 races left.

Up next Nationals. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Relationship Status: It's complicated (Episode #5)

Over the years, I've talked about my relationships with people, coaches (technically coaches are people; even though, I tend to see them as superhuman), training, races, daily nutrition, and the list goes on.

Recently, maybe it was a few weeks back now, on the MSM FB page, someone asked me about my race day fueling.


It's complicated.

A great starting point, and what I usually say to people, work with a sports dietitian. At least, you can knock out about half the trial and error.

I worked with a sports dietitian. I have done sweat tests and sodium tests. Before going through all that, race fueling was absolute hell.

What I've learned since then, is that it will always be a work in progress. There are no two races the same. Your body changes as well. Something might work well for years; then BOOM out of nowhere, you can't stomach it anymore. 

Things that affect my fueling decisions:

1.) Race distance: Races under 2:15, I don't need fuel other than electrolytes/water combination. 

Races from 2:15 to 4 hours, gets tricky, especially if that race is an olympic distance triathlon. I take in calories and electrolytes.  The calories tend to be liquid because of the high speeds I'm going on the bike; and running and chewing....just below threshold....really isn't easy or advisable.

Once I get to the 70.3, that's a different ball game altogether. Liquid calories, real food, on the race course I drink coke at every aid station (after the halfway mark of the half marathon).

2.) Whether or not my hormones are being assholes. The week of PMS, for all women, our blood plasma drops. Because of this, we are right on the verge of hyponatremia on a daily basis, which is ok if you are not an athlete. It has some dangerous outcomes if you are an athlete and don't address it. During this time, our bodies do not process fats for fuel as well as they do during the rest of the month. The good news is that all is not lost. We can add carbohydrates and electrolytes to offset these hormonal changes.

3.) Weather. Cold, heat, wind, humidity, altitude, rain, hail. Again fueling changes based on these external factors. Is there shade on the course? Are you running on pavement or trails? 

Believe it or not, you need to know all of this before a race.

(NB: This is why writing a race plan is so important. When I started with Liz, I'd never written a race plan. For my first race, she asked me for it. I had NO idea what she wanted. Now, I can't imagine heading into a race without a plan. Just another reason you should hire her if you are looking for a coach. She does things long before other coaches do). 

Another very important thing to keep in mind. Please don't take advice from coaches who are not trained sports dietitians. I cringe every time I see coaches giving out fueling advice. They aren't trained in the field. 

Would you go to an eye doctor for advice about putting in a sprinkler system?

With all that said, here are the products that I use. It'll seem complicated, but it's not. Now that I know what I need and when I need it, it's easy.

Tailwind Nutrition:  Created right here in Colorado, by ultra-marathoners, this drink tastes good hot or cold. It is meant to be an all in one fueling. The flavor is extremely mild, and they have an unflavored version as well. I use this for olympic distance races or any race where it's easier for me to drink than chew. For hot races, I will make tailwind ice cubes the day before. When the ice melts, I know I'm not just having straight water.

For 2017, with my focus on olympic distance races, this has been my go to fuel.

One other point: Tailwind is the only product I've ever used that dissolves within a matter of seconds. It completely dissolves. 

I use pre-load the night before a long or hot race, and I sip on it the morning of a race. The pre-load is a very high sodium drink. There is a women's version as well as a men's version (since we have different needs). 

(Note: The Right Stuff is very similar to Pre-load. Right stuff also works well. The main difference is that Pre-load is a powder. The Right Stuff is a liquid that comes in a pouch. I no longer use RS because: 1.) I noticed some of the salt was staying in the bottom of the pouch. No matter what I did, I couldn't get it out. 2.) MSM gets a discount from NBS Nutrition--which is why I tried it to begin with, but I am still giving you an honest opinion of the product). 

The hydration product is meant to be taken with real food, so this is a very good option for long course racing. It has all the electrolytes but not many calories. The calories would be taken in separately.

I use the hydration product for short races such as a sprint. It's an electrolyte/water mix that works well for me. The taste is also mild, so that's a bonus. I absolutely can't handle sweet stuff. 

Precision Hydration For those of you salty and/or heavy sweaters, REJOICE! Precision hydration might be a good one for you to try. 

I should point out that my sweat rate and sodium losses are very low. I'm on the very low end of the spectrum....like freak level.

Precision Hydration offers a sports drink, salt tablets and effervescent tablets. I have not used the sports drink. 

Why is this different? PH makes products with as little as 500mg of sodium (good for people like me) and up to 1500mg of sodium per serving, good for those of you with a high sodium loss.

I use the effervescent tablets. Again, this is mostly for short efforts, pre-race drinking. I also use it for things like masters swimming.  

Skratch Products: In an effort to completely transparent, I am not currently using Skratch labs because my distances aren't long enough. I use this product for 70.3 training and racing. (I do not use the hydration product because I have found it doesn't dissolve as easy as the other mixes I've mentioned here. In fact, I've had to use hot water to get it to dissolve. That's not good when you're trying to get ready for a hot race and have limited ice availability).

I use the Skratch labs chews for the run and the cookie mix for long workouts or races.

When I'm too tired to bake, I use Picky Bars

These items are the "real food" products that I mentioned above. These need to be taken with an electrolyte drink. (Keep in the mind, the chews have incremental sodium in them but not enough to sustain an athlete during long training/racing).



Although I had a starting point in regards to sodium and sweat loss because I worked with a sports dietitian, I've figured out most of this through trial an error. 

It's up to you to figure out what tastes you can handle. I know that I can't handle sweet tastes. Some products dissolve better than others. Different products have different calories, electrolytes, etc. Unfortunately, fueling is not a one size fits all. You'll have to try different things and see what works best for you.


On a related note, here are some warning signs that you should pay attention to when training.
This is not medical advice. I am not a trained sports dietitian. 

For those of you who are training for a 70.3 or a full Ironman, if you notice that you are getting angry or frustrated or feel like you hate a particular training session, you are not taking in enough fuel. If, during training, you are starting to question what you are doing. Those are signs of bonking. You need more calories. DON'T SKIMP ON CALORIES when training for long course. 

If your heart rate drifts upward, if you cannot hold the watts or pace you need to.....look at your hydration. You are likely dehydrated. (This is slightly more complicated. During a an ultra endurance race, you will likely see HR drift-especially when it is hot-but in training you need to learn what is an acceptable level. You can really only do this with the help of a knowledgeable coach. I have been training in very hot and humid conditions recently. Liz has been helping me figure out how much MORE water/electrolytes I need to add to my training).

If you feel sloshing in your stomach when you drink, you are dehydrated. I know. It might seem like you are taking in too much, but it's exactly the opposite. The general gist is that without the correct balance of electrolytes and water, your stomach shuts down (basic terms) and will not allow the absorption of the water. Water alone will not hydrate you. You need a mix of electrolytes and some carbohydrates (as found in hydration products). 


I know most of you, experienced athletes, know all of this. I mention it because I see comments on strava. I've been doing this for a very long time. I can see when people are new to endurance events based on their comments. From training volumes, I can tell if someone is training for a tri or a marathon or an ultra event. I can usually tell if someone is in a build period, taper or recovery.  It's like when I go to the pool, I can see when people are using bad form. I can see what needs to be changed. But, I don't know exactly what that particular person needs to do to fix the issue. 

That's because we are all unique individuals with unique needs. We can't train or fuel like our neighbors. We have to do what's right for each of us individually.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The up and coming

I have had insomnia for over a week. For the last two days, sleep has been better. Still, it takes a long time to recover from that.

Why am I telling you this? Because I get cranky, emotional, irrational, fill in the blanks, when I'm tired.

That's the reason I haven't written in a bit. I don't really want to sound sad or down, or super negative.

It is what it is, though.

Take my lack of enthusiasm with a grain of salt.

I have gone back and forth with how much I say about my upcoming race schedule.

I don't really want to hide it because it puts my training into perspective.

I am racing this weekend. This will be my 4th tri of the year. It's sprint with a long bike, which is shall I say....right in my wheelhouse.

(Oh, I just remembered. I'm also doing an open water swim race next weekend).

It's my last race before my A races.

I'm going back to Nationals and racing back to back days. Nationals consists of an Olympic distance race on Saturday and a sprint on Sunday.

You might remember that I qualified for Team USA at the sprint distance. I have a pipe dream to do it at the Olympic.

To make that happen, I pretty much have to run my absolute best race at paces and speeds that I've never done before.

I'm working my ass off to do exactly that, but I'm not holding my breath.

Still, anything can happen on race day.

A few months back, I started thinking about next year (2018). Part of this came out of the fact that USA-Triathlon announced that Nationals would be held in Cleveland, OH in 2018.

I have no desire to race in Cleveland. There's nothing wrong with Cleveland. (I've never even been there).

Still, I don't want to go.

If left me with this: it's unlikely that I will make Team USA.
OK, how about I say this. It's improbable but not impossible.

If I don't race the world championship AND I don't want to do Nationals next year....WHAT DO I DO?

Mr. Tea to the rescue.

Mr. Tea came up with the idea that we should go back to Coeur D'Alene and do the 70.3. In 2008, I DNF'd at the full IM.

This would be a celebration of how far I'd come.

BRILLIANT. I loved the idea, but CDA is in June.

WHAT IF>>>>>WHAT IF>>>>>I MAKE TEAM USA?

(Yes. See? I'm not giving up on the dream).

June is cutting it too close to race the world championship to my absolute BEST.

I liked the idea of the 70.3.  After IM Boulder 70.3 last year, I'd wanted another shot. I did Boulder 8 weeks after surgery. I lost my fuel on the bike. I had a monster PR, but I knew I wasn't at my best. I can only do so much after being unable to train for 3 weeks.

I definitely wanted another shot at the 70.3.

What about May? St. GEORGE. YES. I LOVED racing the olympic distance there this year.

And, I'm particularly good at climbing on the bike.

Something didn't quite feel right about the race. I found out that a large group of people from CO were going to be racing there. This will sound strange, but I prefer to race where I don't know people.

I put THAT race on the back burner.

I have time to figure it out.

Weeks go by.

I started thinking about Choo. Bleh. A good race for my strengths, but I didn't really want to go to Tennessee. (Again, nothing wrong with Tennessee).

I got an email (last week) from Ironman. Because Multisport Mastery is a club team, we get priority slots in registrations.

The email stated that I could register for IM Florida 70.3 (Haines City) between 7/13-7/17 before registration opens to the public.

Holy cow. Florida wasn't even on the radar.

The timing (April....after Easter....our busy season) was perfect.

IF that slim chance, of making Team USA, actually happens.....this gives me time to train appropriately for an olympic distance race.

Mr. Tea's brother now lives in FL (a short drive from Haines City).

I checked out the course. The description was moderately hilly. I looked it up on map my ride and Strava. I uploaded the course to Best Bike Split.

Moderately hill: 2-3 hills at 5%. The rest of the ride is a rolling course.

PERFECT.

It'll likely be a non-wetsuit swim. (Although, in 2016, it was wetsuit legal). Non-wetsuit? PERFECT.

The run? Other than a hill on 10th street......500feet of elevation gain over 13.1 miles? Hell, I do 500 feet in under 6 miles.



GAME ON.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

In the moment

I have a few (very) long time readers. People who have followed me from an old forum to my first blog to this one. If you are in that group, you might remember this story.

I have been running for a very long time. Many years ago, about 20, I started a light yoga program. I bought videos and did what I could at home.

At one point, I had a minor accident that resulted in a fractured heel. I went to a sports doctor, who I thought I could trust.....I mean really a sports doctor would do anything to help someone get back to running, right?

When I asked this doctor when I could run again, he said, "Run?! You'll never walk again without pain. You won't ever run again".

Running was everything for me. I had two sons, Mr. Tea, and a job that required a ton of travel (across the US and internationally). Running was the only real time I had for myself.

Believe it or not. I wasn't discouraged by what he said. In fact, what I thought to myself was, "That's bullshit".

There's more to that story about how I recovered. This post isn't about that.

I went home. Walking was incredibly painful. I was doing the light yoga. I decided to throw myself into a more significant yoga program.

I had read a lot about the healing ability of yoga. I believed that yoga was going to help me get through it. I did it daily. Some days, I only did 15 minutes. Some days I did 1.5 hours. Some days, I did two shorter routines, but I did it every day.

It took two years. Two years, and I did my first pain free run. During that time, through yoga, I'd learned how to be in the moment. We don't know what the future will hold. The past is done and can't be changed. The only thing we can change or be is the moment we are in.

The accident above is also what led me to triathlon.

As my interest in triathlon grew and the training hours increased, I slowly dropped out of my yoga routine.

For a couple of months, I have been struggling personally. In a way, I have felt lost, like I don't have a purpose.

Several months back, I started working with Jyoti, a sports massage therapist. He is absolutely fantastic. At one point, he asked me if I do yoga. I told him that I did many years ago. He said, "Good. Then, you'll be familiar with the homework I'm going to give you".

He then showed me a number of poses that he wanted me to do at home to help regain flexibility and improve my posture and mobility. He worked with me to show me how to adjust moves to my current ability.

All of the poses were yoga poses. Of course, I had to adjust many (and by many I mean all) of the poses because of my lack of flexibility.

He asked me to spend at least 15 minutes a day working on the poses.

15 minutes. That's a commitment I can make.

For months now, I have been doing these basic yoga movements. This past month, I started adding more moves.

I have been re-learning how to breathe and focus on relaxing the muscles (or as Jyoti says "image butter melting in a pan". Who doesn't love butter?)

In doing this, I have found what I lost: being in the moment. Taking a breath and focusing only on the breath.

This time is allowing my subconscious thoughts to come to the forefront without forcing the issue.

This morning I woke up at 4:30, wide awake.

I woke up, and I realized what had been missing from my life over the past months.

I knew what I had to do to change it.

I no longer felt lost.

I, once again, have a purpose.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Head games: Mental block

A few weeks back, I got tired of my own bullshit.

Around the same time, Coach Liz attended the GAIN Symposium.

For me, it was a perfect storm. She returned full of new ideas. She emailed me and said, "Wait until you see what I have planned for you".

And I was....tired of my own bullshit.

Throughout the month of June and (I guess) part of July, we had ongoing discussions.

I'm going to mix up the order of events. Please bear with me.

One day, she gave me some cadence drills. I'm so over cadence drills. I actually hate them because I cannot do them.

I told her this. She ask, "What's holding you back"? I said, "I don't know. I physically cannot do the drills. I mean. I can do them for a few seconds. That's it".

She explained to me that this isn't my fault. And that she suspects it is due to weakened muscles due to all that baby making I did.

You have no idea how good this made me feel. (I probably should have brought it up to her sooner). The fact was that I'd been told....I'd read articles....over the years...SO MANY PEOPLE/ATHLETES/COACHES have told me about how importance cadence was. They all just said, "Do these drills".

I was afraid she was going to say the same thing. You'd think I'd have known better since we've been together +3.5 years.

Sometimes, drills aren't the answer. Sometimes it takes having a coach willing to listen to you. We've been together long enough that she knows when I am giving it everything I have. She knows when I'm frustrated. This was one of those times.

She set me up with a routine that I do 2-3 times a week. The very first day I looked at the workout, and I thought, "This is weird. How can these possibly help me"? Sure enough, there were several exercises that I couldn't even do and even more that I could do, but I couldn't do the number of reps.

The exercises are still hard for me, but only 2 weeks into it, and we saw an improvement in my cadence (particularly on the uphills).

Now, you might be thinking, "How is this related to head games"?  This WHOLE cadence thing became a mental block. When I ran and had to do the drills, my entire body tightened up. I was no longer relaxed when I ran.  I was starting to think that I was different. (For those of you who have been long time readers, you might remember a few posts about how NONE of us are special. Very very few of us have actual issues. The rest of us fall under the bell curve).

It became a mental block. I couldn't get past it. I was mad at myself. I was mad at Liz for asking me to do it. It was Newton's 3rd law in action. There can be no acceleration when two forces are working against each other.

Then, an easy conversation with her, new exercises, and I'm already seeing progress. What used to weigh me down is now a work in progress.

Moral of the story: Mental blocks can and will slow or derail your training. You need to know when to ask for help. I didn't know there was something that could help me until I asked. Maybe you haven't been able to break the 2:00 per 100 pace in swimming. Sometimes it's more than just swimming harder. Maybe you can't seem to climb hills the way you want to on the bike. Sometimes it's more that just working harder. We all have physical limiters that we aren't aware of. Those physical limiters can actually become mental inhibitors if we allow them to. Don't let them. Ask for help. You can't always power through things. Sometimes, the devil is in the details; and a very simple, easy fix is all it takes.



Up Next
Head Games 3: Going to failure to reach your goals




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

IM Madison 70.3


Another great race report from Coach Liz: how do you approach a race when you don't feel like you are really ready to race?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Head Games



For the last two months, I've had a lot going on in MA HEAD.

Each race has brought out more feelings of frustration on one level or another.

I have an amazing team of coaches that I work with. I am so genuinely taken by how much they care about me and my performance.

I decided it was time for me to write about some of this.

I'm going to speak in general terms because in races there are tons of nuances and small things that take place that can affect pace or time. These are things we cannot control. I don't worry about them.

I have been swimming faster (in the pool) than I have ever swam before. This speed has not been translating to open water.

It's been making me a little crazy. I haven't been able to figure out why. In open water with wetsuit or with a swimskin, I should be swimming substantially faster.

After my first race of the year, I went back to Coach Liz. We talked through some issues. She felt that the cold water impacted my speed. (Especially since swim times across the board were very slow for an oly, and I got out of the water with a 5 minute lead).

She set up my training with with open water swims that would help me translate pool speed to open water.

I went to my swim coach. At masters, he started spending more and more time with me (which he tends to do in the Summer) correcting some minor things in my stroke.

In my most recent race, I had my best swim of the year (3 minute lead getting out of the water), but I STILL wasn't doing what I am capable of doing.

I went back to Coach Liz. She recommended that I stop killing myself on the swim since I'm getting out of the water with such a huge lead.....I should put my energy into my bike and run.

I chewed on that for a bit.

I relayed this conversation to my swim coach, "But I'm not killing myself. That's the problem. If I finished feeling completely wiped out, it would be one thing. But I'm finishing, and I'm like, "LET'S DO THAT AGAIN"!

I knew it was something about open water. Something was happening in open water that was causing me to slow down.

I had to figure it out.

I had another race coming up.

As I was racing, I remember thinking "I'm moving really quickly".

When I finished, I'd had my best swim so far, but I was far from "moving quickly".

After the race, I realized what was happening.

Then, I remembered something my swim coach had said months ago.

He had me do a long course meters 900m time trial. When I finished, he asked me, "How does swimming fast feel"?

Breathless.....I said, "Good".

He stared at me for a second and said, "Let me know when you figure it out".

For months, I thought about that conversation. I had no idea what he was talking about.

Then, a few weeks later he made the comment, "Swimming fast is different. It feels different. People swim differently when they are swimming fast".

I started putting two and two together.


Because I work by "feel", this can be hard to explain.

I realized that the difference was the controlled environment of the pool versus the very uncontrolled environment of open water.

When I swim in a pool, the water is nice and calm. When I am swimming fast, my breathing is labored and (this is the important part).....the water is moving over my head very fast. I know I am moving fast because of these external factors.

The water is moving fast AND my breathing is labored.

When I get to open water, I am dealing with other people, the current, wind, sun.....etc.

I start swimming in open water, and the water is already moving past me very very fast. That led me to believe that I was actually swimming fast. But the effort (on my part) was not there.

It was the external factor of how the water felt, that fooled me into thinking I was swimming fast.

Could that really be it?

I had to try it. I was looking forward to my next open water swim. My goal was to ignore how the water felt and pay attention to every aspect of my stroke (diversion technique) and most importantly constant do a system check, "How do you feel"?

For my first interval, I noticed right away that YES the water was moving FAST.

How do you feel?

I'm not struggling at all.

I paid attention to every part of my stroke: Hand entry, PULL, PUSH, LIFT. Entry, Pull, Push, Lift. I ignored the people I was passing. I ignored the water speeding over my head.

All of a sudden, I realized I was swimming very fast. My effort was much harder than normal but sustainable. I felt efficient. Which each stroke, I felt a power that I had never felt before.

When I finished my swim, I looked at my interval paces. For 3:00 intervals, I swam the following paces :59, 1:06, 1:13, 1:16, 1:13.

Considerably faster than my races.

I was so excited that I couldn't wait to talk to Liz and my swim Coach.

When I went to masters the other day, the first thing I did was call him over to tell him about my mental breakthrough.

He smiled and said, "You get it. Now you know what swimming fast feels like".


Now, I'm never fooled by ONE good workout. One good workout can happen for any reason: a great night of sleep, great fueling, proper recovery.

As I told Coach, this will take some work on my part. Now, I know what the issue is, and I know how to work through it.

The timing couldn't be better with my next triathlon coming up and an open water swim race coming up.



Get ready.....there's a Head Games parts 2 and 3 coming up that deal with the bike and the run.