On Mom-ing and Tri-ing and Trying to Mom - with Evolve Athlete Anita

When I think about my roles in life, the list is wife, mother, physician, athlete.  I have lots of other roles, like daughter, sister, friend, boss, chicken farmer, but these four fill my days most consistently.  I usually think of them in that order, as well. It is a challenge to balance them. Work-life balance is a whole separate issue—this focuses on family-tri balance.

I have an amazing husband who supports me in my crazy schemes and helps out with whatever needs to be done.  As a mom, a caregiver and a type A overachiever, though, it is my first instinct to figure out how I can take care of everything on my own.  When my workouts consisted of 45 minutes on the elliptical and could be done at any point in the day, changes to my schedule didn’t interfere with getting exercise.  I just pushed my workout to later in the evening. About 4 years ago, I did my first triathlon with my son. I loved it and triathlon became part of my life. Workouts were longer, with swim times dictated by pool hours and bike rides better done in daylight. My challenge wasn’t just physical or mental, it also became time management, learning to say no, learning to ask for help and learning that sometimes, putting myself higher on the priority list made me a better mom.  

Fortunately, when I started tri, my kids were old enough to get dinner started while I was doing a run.  They took their own showers and did their own laundry. But they still needed me. There were meals to plan and groceries to buy.  There were days of injury and illness, phone calls from school (fortunately not many) and times when they just needed some Mom-time.  There was also a lot of driving to be done. And so began creative time management.

My daughter Sophie rides horses.  Some days, I take my bike to the barn and we ride at the same time.  Horse shows are all weekend long with a LOT of downtime. I run with one of the other moms during downtime.  One rainy day, I took my bike and trainer to Grace’s volleyball tournament. I set up in a corner of the venue for a 3 hour ride.  I missed her first game, but watched the other four. I made sure to discuss it with her first as I truly didn’t want to embarrass her.  She at first was a little reluctant, but realized that I was going to spend the whole day there and that I needed to get this ride in. Her teammates and the other parents actually thought it was pretty cool.  When we returned to that tournament a year later, she told her new teammates about that ride.

I am delegating more.  My older 2 children have more responsibility to get the younger 2 to their activities, especially if the timing is right in the middle of when I need to work out.  I ask my husband for more help stopping at the store or picking Lucy up from dance class. I am learning that instead of getting annoyed if he forgets and saying, “Never mind, I will do it,” it is better to send him a reminder text 30 minutes before I need him.  I am also learning to sometimes tell my kids no, I can’t take you there at that time. They might walk home from a sleepover on Saturday morning because I am on my long ride and Paul is at work. They ask friends to pick them up. They call their grandma, who is generally happy to help.  Putting some of the responsibility on them makes them appreciate that these things don’t happen magically.  

Does this make me a selfish mom?  Not at all. I am teaching my children the importance of physical fitness.  I am showing them that it feels awesome to set a very high goal and reach it.  I am teaching them creative problem solving and time management skills. I am setting an example for my daughters that you can be a good Mom and still take care of yourself.  I am also teaching them to respect me as a person, not just to view me as a mom. I know that on the days I get my workouts in, I am more calm and patient with my kids. I certainly don’t have this perfected.  There are days when I log in Training Peaks that I scored Mom-points, but didn’t get a work out in. There are days when I do my workout but the mom-guilt gets me. The kids like these days as they sometimes result in a trip for ice cream to assuage that guilt!

As training for my first 140.6 kicks in, there will be more hours spent as a triathlete.  I told the kids that this may mean I have more days when athlete edges out mom and wife on my job descriptions.  So far, the response is positive. That may change as reality kicks in. Ultimately, this mom-ing and tri-ing balance will likely be a struggle until the last one is off to college.  But just like triathlon, I will keep doing my best. So to other moms struggling with this, hang in there. They get bigger and more independent. They might even start racing with you.  But no matter what else, know that activities that make you a happier person tend to make you a better mom.  


Off the Course Nutrition – How to Maintain A Healthy Balance 

When I was a kid I ran cross country and track. As a middle schooler and high schooler I was pretty fast. I also raced BMX and was a typical scrawny teenage boy who at that time just wanted to gain weight. My motivations were outside of running or biking at that point – more typical of a teenage boy, my goal was to gain weight and turn into a stud by my senior year. No matter what I did, I could not gain weight. It was something that I thought about all the time and I worked hard to try to get my ideal body. Fast forward many years, and if I am being honest, even as an adult, my weight and body image have been something that I have been preoccupied with  - although for different reasons. 

As a teenager, the reality was that I was self-conscious of my weight and being too thin, but truthfully nobody else really cared. And guess what? This is still true today, but the problem is that the habits I picked up as a teen caught up with me, and lead to the opposite issue - as an adult, I needed to lose weight. My weight gain didn’t happen overnight. It was year after year of  just another pound or two. I was not really aware of it happening, but at some point, I realized I needed to lose weight and change my eating habits. Just as it was true when I was a teen, I was still thinking about my body image, but now as an adult, I had to grapple with the need to lose weight to regain my health. 

My favorite meal before I started to pay attention to my health: a fried chicken sandwich

My favorite meal before I started to pay attention to my health: a fried chicken sandwich

In my experience, nobody really told me that I needed to lose weight. But once I started losing weight, I heard comments like: you look great, how much weight have you lost? When I would say around 50 lbs, the next comment was usually – oh I thought it was more than that. To me this was clearly a backhanded compliment - and it motivated me to return to a healthy BMI. 

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The process took time and patience and was not easy. At the end of the day nutrition is quite simple, most athletes know what they should and should not eat, but simple is not always easy. At Evolve we are great about working with our athletes on how to properly fuel life in and out of training. However, it is hard work to change bad habits. The ability to modify your entire approach to eating is hard to do all at once. I started with just getting my calories in check, but quickly learned that doesn’t work unless you get your macronutrients in check too. If you can’t get your macros right, you are starving all the time or you feel terrible. The biggest game changer for me - and what I attribute my success to - is that I log my food day in and day out. I do this on days where I feel like my eating is fueling me and on days where I feel like my eating is indulgent. Tracking has kept me on track for many years. 

A typical meal now that I treat food as fuel

A typical meal now that I treat food as fuel

To keep it simple - here are my top 5 favorite things that have worked for me and I think will work for you as well. 

  1. Track my food daily on a tracking app - no matter what I eat or if I know the exact nutritional info. This was the biggest game changer for me. 

  2. Treat my food as fuel. Opt to eat foods that will help me be a better athlete and feel better all around. Recently, I have phased out alcohol. In the past I would cut it out  for races, but lately I have stopped all together and for me it is amazing how great I feel.

  3. Understand that it is important to fuel my workouts and not skimp in training  in order to eat fries and cake. When we are training we get our fair share of sugars from gels, sports drinks and recovery drinks. It is important to minimize processed sugars from your day to day food intake. However, in-season sports nutrition plays a vital role in performance. 

  4. Know that I am human and that there is a time for splurges, but make sure to enjoy them versus punish myself with guilt.  I will be honest, that there are many that think that food as a reward is not a healthy habit, but I do love a yummy post race treat. I am human and this is a lifelong process. 

  5. Understand that the goal is to better my health and not go on a diet. This is a lifetime of changes, not just a one time thing. 

At the end of the day, you need to fuel your body like it is a sports car. Would you put low-grade gas in your sports car? NO! It might not be easy, but it has been worth it - I feel better than I did when I was in my thirties and I am improving in my athletic pursuits even as I age! Those two things alone have been worth the time it takes to log my food!

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Summer Running - time to adjust your expectations! - with Coach Samantha

Every summer, as if I have just received a frontal lobotomy and can no longer remember the previous 21 summers, I head out for a run in the Midwestern heat and humidity and think - wow that was slow and hard and awful. And as if I almost have forgotten any exercise science, I feel like I have lost all of my speed and running suddenly feels like I am a brand new athlete, but with a long history of paces and perceived exertions that make me all crazy and think the end is near. I know that I am not alone in this, as I read a lot of athlete logs with similar sentiment. This week we thought we would take a little closer look at what happens when you run in the heat. 

First let’s chat about heat acclimation. It is important to understand that you can make serious adaptations to the heat, but it takes time and a proper protocol (which we can talk about in another blog at a later time).

What is Heat Acclimation?

Heat acclimation is the process by which your body adapts to the heat and begins to work more efficiently to shed heat. Specifically, over time the body becomes better at sweating which is how we decrease our body temperature when it is hot outside. The more efficient we are at sweating, the faster we can cool our body. Sweat cools the skin’s surface by the process of evaporative cooling, which means that blood flow to your skin reduces heat stress. This is also why running in the heat is hard - we only have so much blood. It either has to go to the muscles or to the skin to cool the body. For an in depth discussion of the process, here is a great study from 2014. The essence is that heat exposure makes your body a better sweater which in turn prevents you from overheating and rocketing your heart rate through the roof. The physiological process of heat acclimation takes about 2 weeks, but the psychological adaptation can take 6 weeks. Which means if you live some place where the weather is a roller coaster, it can be hard to acclimate as quickly. 

Therefore, when you head out and have that awful slogfest of a run, it is important to understand if you are in fact acclimated to the heat. 

What if you are Heat Acclimated? 

Will the heat still affect your performance. The answer is yes … but not as badly if you are not!

Check out this really great article from Runner’s World that takes a look at performances in 10 degree bands. The effects of heat on performance starts at 59 degrees - so just remember that when you hit the pavement. 59 - freaking - degrees. Dare I say, we would all dream to be running in that today!

Clearly,  temperature is an issue, but the best way to determine how you will be affected is to look at the dew point. This makes your body feel even worse than just a high temperature alone. The dew point is the temperature at which water condenses, so the closer the dew point is to the temperature of the air, the harder it will be for your sweat to evaporate and for the body to cool itself. Once the dew point gets above 60, you will feel it on your run. A dew point of 70 is gonna put you in the pain cave and above 75 - well, time to think about maybe hitting the treadmill or really dialing back your run effort. 

Now that we understand how the weather plays a role in run times and how you feel about those times - because let’s face it, that is the essence of endurance sports - the constant loop of how you feel and how you think you feel and how you want to feel - what can you do to make those hot AF runs not crush your soul? Here are three simple tips. 

  1. LET GO OF PACES. While our athletes use other metrics to guide their runs, it is hard to not equate pace with performance. YOU HAVE TO LET THAT SHIT GO in the heat. It is not only better for your mental health, it is also plain old science. Check out this fun little calculator that you can play with to see how your run is affected at various temps. 

  2. STOP BEING MENTAL. A few weeks ago, I was working at a private tri camp in Clermont, Florida with an athlete, which meant that I had to start my long run in the afternoon. It was 104 or something crazy, but I just could not handle being on the treadmill, so I made a plan to run out and backs so I could bail on the run if needed. And also so that I would be able to be close to my fuel and cold water. Once I wrapped my mind around the feeling of running in a sauna, I really had a fabulous run. I totally let go of any pace metrics, kept an eye on my HR, fueled well, and just repeated my mantras over and over. 

  3. NUTRITION IS KEY. Make sure you run with proper nutrition; you should do this all the time, but it is even more important in hot weather. Plan a route so that you can get more fuel if needed. Listen to your body and do not try to David Goggins your runs - be smart and safe in the heat.

Finally, remember that there are performance gains made when you adapt to the heat. There is some evidence that they are similar to those gained at altitude - so when that run starts to suck the life out of you, one sweat molecule at a time, lean into it, and know that it will make you stronger!

How to Get the Most Out of Your Swim on Race Day

We are re-posting this blog because a lot of athletes could use some tips and a little confidence boost with open water swimming! Read on to get some ideas about how to succeed in the first leg of your race.

How come my open water swim times are slower than my pool times? Have you ever asked yourself this question, or suffered this on race day after practicing  ton in the pool?

 There are a few things that can cause your pool times to be faster than your open water swim times.

Let’s address those first:

 1. The walls - most of us swim in a 25 yard or meter pool, which means that in the course of swimming a 2000 (around the distance of a half ironman swim) we push off the wall 40 times. That push allows us to streamline and glide and more importantly reset body position and form. This alone can account for the discrepancy.

2. You need to sight when you swim in open water - picking up your head (if you lift too high) can change your body position and cause you to slow down.

3. You swim off course and add yardage.

4. You get disoriented in the water which causes you to pick up your head and sight too much.

5. You panic or have open water anxiety.


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These are the most common issues we encounter as coaches. And in some cases athletes can suffer from more than one.

 So what is a triathlete to do?

 a. The obvious cure is to swim in open water as much as you can. But that alone will not do it - you will need to vary your swim pace and include some race pace intervals. You should also practice swim starts and if possible passing and drafting others.

 And if you cannot get in open water…

 b. One trick you can use in the pool if you can get into a lane solo, is to swim around the T at the top of the lane without pushing off the wall. This will force you to create momentum without the push from the legs.

 c. You should include sighting in the pool during some of your sets. This will allow you to work on breathing and body position while moving at race pace.

 d. Again if you are alone in the lane, you can take a few strokes with your eyes closed and see how you tend to drift in the lane. This will bring consciousness to how you tend to swim when you think you are swimming straight. Please just be careful of hitting your head or arms on the lane lines.

 e. There are several causes of disorientation - it can be due to poor goggle choice, worrying that you need to get a picture perfect view of the buoy,  or not having a clear idea of the course prior to starting the race. Make sure you have a few goggles with you on race day. We would advise that you do not worry about having a clear sight - you just need to see a glimpse of the buoy - better yet you can use large landmarks to sight off of instead if the venue has them. You should stake these out on the days prior to the race. We would also suggest that you take time prior to the race to count the buoys and study the course (Ironman does a great job of numbering their buoys and using different colors to designate the course - yellow on the first half, red at the turns, and orange on the back half).

 f. This one is a tough one to cure and is very individual, but we have some tactics that we like to use with our athletes. Make sure that you get in as much open water practice as you can leading into the race in similar gear and conditions if at all possible. Arrive with plenty of time to the race site - this is a big one. If you are rushed, you will be anxious which can heighten your unease about the swim. If the race allows, you should get in and do a swim warm-up. This is essential to prevent the initial panic that can set in when people first enter the water. If you cannot get in a swim warm-up due to the venue, then a light jog or swim bands are an excellent warm-up. Just make sure that you have used the swim bands prior as a warm-up. Once in the water there are several tactics that you can put in place, one of our favorites that we often advise is counting your strokes, this can distract the mind and allows you to focus on the work. It is also helpful to break the swim up from buoy to buoy - your only goal is to get to the first buoy. Once you are there you can move to the next. Small goals can ease the overwhelming feeling of being in the open water. Also, remember that you are able to hold onto a boat or race support if needed as long as you do not make forward progress. In some cases, pausing and collecting yourself might be the best tactic to put in place.

Whether this is your first season of racing triathlon or you are a veteran, any of the above suggestions can help you to improve your swimming come race day.

Fit it in: 5 strategies to implement to (almost) never miss a workout – with Coach Katie

1. Be honest about your availability

Almost all of us love our training so much that we want to devote as much time as humanly possible to it. But one of the worst  things you can do is overestimate the time you have available train during the week. If you’re working an 8-hour shift with a 1-hour commute and also have a family or social life, it’s not realistic to tell your coach that you can fit in 3 hours of training on a work day. While you might be able to make it happen for a week or two, you will not be able to handle it in the long run and consistency is what counts in endurance sports. Remember that you still have to prepare food, sleep, do laundry- you get the idea. My advice is to be conservative at first when budgeting time for training- then you and your coach can adjust if you find that you have more hours. If you find that you’re losing sleep, getting emotionally drained, are sore 24/7, or your relationships are suffering, it’s time to re-evaluate your schedule.  

2. Wake up when your alarm goes off – no snoozing

This is a tough one for some people. The siren call of a warm bed in a dark room is hard to ignore, but research shows that hitting snooze reduces the quality of your sleep and makes it harder to wake up fresh and alert. When the alarm beeps/rings/buzzes, open your eyes, sit up, and put your feet on the floor. It’s time to get moving. If you want to take this a step further, try to wake up at the same time each day. This will allow your body to get accustomed to a schedule (our bodies and brains love consistency) and will help you feel ready to wake up, rather than groggy and wishing for 10 more minutes in bed.

3. Make a date with a training partner

Sometimes it’s easy to make excuses about why we can’t make it to the trail or the gym or the pool. If we don’t get our workout in as planned, who cares? Well, I’ll tell you who cares: your training buddy (and your coach)! People are more likely to show up to a workout, and will work out harder and longer, when they have a partner or a group to train with. Plan to meet up with someone who will support your training. Make sure you both understand beforehand that you might have different goals, and therefore might not stay together for the whole ride (for example). Having this piece of accountability in place could be just what you need to get your butt out the door on an  early morning.

4. Schedule your workouts

This is pretty straightforward. When you have a meeting, you block off a portion of time on your calendar where you won’t be interrupted. You (and others, if applicable) understand that this time is already spoken for, and other needs will have to wait. Why wouldn’t you do the same for your training? It’s an important part of your life, and having sessions already scheduled in your calendar will alleviate decision fatigue.

5. Eliminate obstacles by preparing in advance

Speaking of decision fatigue, let’s acknowledge that most of us don’t want to be fumbling around deciding which shorts to wear at 4:30am, then deciding what to eat before your run, then deciding which route to take, then deciding what to eat for breakfast, then deciding what to wear for work… you see where this is going. Make the most of your precious time by preparing in advance as much as you can. Lay out all the workout gear you’ll need the night before. Program your intervals into your watch. Know where, when, and what you’ll be doing for your workout. Have all your fuel ready to go. If you’re going to be crunched for time after your workout, have your work clothes and food for the day ready, too. Just this preparation could save you a ton of time in the morning, and makes it that much more likely that you will have a great session.

Reality Check

Even us type-A triathletes are going to miss workouts. Besides occasional illness or, running gods forbid -  injury, life will get in the way of our neatly planned training schedule. We can mitigate interference by planning in advance around travel, work and family commitments, appointments, etc.- but we aren’t fortune tellers. Things are going to come up. That’s when flexibility becomes a valuable skill. At Evolve, our coaches customize our athletes’ training specifically for their goals and lifestyle, so it’s not a progress-killer to have to adjust or eliminate a workout here and there.

Which leads me to my final point: don’t try to make up workouts. Just don’t. Unless you discuss with your coach a way to intelligently restructure the rest of your week, it’s counterproductive to try to cram in that long run you missed because your kid was in the ER. Look forward, not backward. If you missed a session, it’s in the past. Proceed as planned to keep your body and mind healthy.

Leave a comment below telling us your favorite strategy for fitting in workouts- is it something we listed here, or a different tactic that works like a charm?


Ironman Boulder Race Report - with Coach Scott

I have been racing triathlon for a long time now, and never really felt the urge to race a full distance. For many years, I loved the challenge of the 70.3 and the fact that you still have time to lead a normal life. However, once I started to coach at Evolve, I realized that I wanted to experience the joy and pain of a full Ironman. And so I decided to take the leap and sign up!

Step one was choosing a location. As I started the search for a race, my first inclination was to sign up for Ironman Texas – not a location that calls to my heart or a course that fits my strong points. I thought the timing of IM Texas was perfect, but that was before I realized we would have a wet/snowy winter and spring. Even Coach Sam told me that Texas didn’t play to my strengths, so the search continued. My schedule was going to require an early season race; Ironman gear with the Colorado logo brings an instant smile to my face; and my heart was in agreement. I chose Ironman Boulder.

As was the case for many, this past winter and spring were not ideal for training and I spent many hours on a bike trainer or riding in the rain, or worse starting in the rain, and finishing on the trainer. These days made me stronger in the end, it was just a little hard to see that at times when I was freezing or on my fourth hour on the trainer.

 This spring, I felt like multiple things were “off” and hadn’t gone right. But no matter what, I kept charging though the training. It was incredibly lonely at times, riding 2 to 3 hours with teammates and then still having another 3 hours of riding. The hard part was controlling the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) in my head. This lingered in my head up until about 2 weeks before my race. That weekend I had 115-mile ride. Teammates, coaches and friends stuck with me for the day. At that point, I began to realize I was ready. I then spent a week in Boulder to wrap up training and knew I was totally prepared.

 I approached this race unlike any other race. I have plenty of experience at altitude and understood how to counter the effects as best I can. I texted Sam to tell her I was going out early and sleeping in a tent prior. Her response: “Perfect – Love it – you are Rich Roll.” (Rich Roll sleeps in a tent on his roof.) Needless to say, packing for a camping trip on top of an Ironman pretty much fills your vehicle…

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 I camped at 8500 feet for 5 days and then went into Boulder for 4 days to acclimate. While being at altitude was a great perk, the best part was that I got to train during the day on the race course. I was able to swim at Boulder Reservoir 3 times and biked 120 miles on the bike course on multiple days. It was a great advantage to know the course really well going into the race, but also, I wasn’t stressed out trying to get things prepped pre-race. I basically was living the life of a Boulder triathlon pro. The only thing on my plate was my workout each day. I absolutely loved each day leading up to the race.

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 And just like that it was race day!

On race day, the swim in the Reservoir was amazing. I took the swim conservatively and I think it went as I would have expected. A few times breathing/sighting, I would get a glimpse of the mountains and think how amazing this is. I found this to be a nice, calm swim. I brought an extra set of goggles for the swim that I had on my leg as a just-in-case backup (this is a staple at Evolve for Ironman). I was surprised with how many comments were made about them. In fact, another athlete signaled to his family and did the same thing. It was a small preventative measure (I wear contacts and cannot swim without goggles) that cost me nothing in terms of time or hassle, but would have been invaluable if I had needed the goggles. I got out of the swim and thought that it went slower than I expected, but in the grand scheme of the race, the extra minutes on the swim didn’t matter.

 Transition at an Ironman is significantly different than a 70.3. You have volunteers helping you put on your gear. I had made arm warmers out of some long argyle socks where I cut off the toes. I figured that if I got too warm, I would rather toss those at an aid station than my $50 arm warmers. Colorado is cold in the morning and I needed these throughout most of the day. The guy helping me in transition said that that was the most ingenious thing he has ever seen. I wish it was my idea… Thanks, Coach Sam.

 The bike is where I knew I had the ability to really shine. Just as with the swim, I took the bike conservatively. The goal was to have a solid ride but not cook the legs. In retrospect, I could have hit the bike harder as my HR was low. But I knew that success at an Ironman is just consistently moving forward and slowing down the least. I moved up around 500 people on the bike course. With only 1009 people finishing, that is a lot of the field to pass.

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 My second transition was pretty uneventful. Again, the volunteers in the tent were amazing. Ironman does a really great job. This is where my Naked belt really was helpful. I was able to load it up with everything for the run, but it feels like it is not even there.

 As I entered the run, I approached a hill that Sam had remarked on the day before: “Oh, shit you have to run up that.” My attitude was that hill was nothing and I just kept charging. Keep in mind that prior to this race training, the longest I had run was 15 miles. Ever. Did I mention I love the 70.3 distance and short course? I just have never embraced long course (140.6) or marathons. So, going into this marathon I really had no idea what to expect. I just knew after Florida 70.3 in April that I had suffered a lot and would need to focus on running and moving forward.

 I approached the run 1 mile at a time, which was the perfect way to attack it. Trying to break it into larger chunks can be too much mentally. I just remembered, “1 mile at a time,” and suddenly I was at mile 18 taking my last salted caramel gel for the day… Hallelujah! No more gels! At about mile 18 is when I could tell I was slowing down, but still running. I just kept moving forward despite a long climb. The thing that kept me going is that Coach Sam, Lauren (My Wife) and my sister, brother-in-law and nephew were on the course. Seeing their faces would just keep me pushing until the next time that I knew I would see them.

 Around mile 25.5 I could suddenly hear music and the voice of Mike Reilly, and it is amazing how the run just seemed to pick up. This is the point when I realized I was that close to finishing my first Ironman! As I was running down the chute, I realized it is still solid daylight out and could see my cheering squad. The hugs and tears all came out. I finished and thought – wow that was hard… But felt amazing. I felt totally prepared for the race. I think it surprised people, but I know that is what differentiates Evolve from so many other training options. You will be prepared for your race. I know I was.

 As I look back on my triathlon journey, I had always avoided the Ironman distance race. I had a number of reasons why, but ultimately, I am glad I did the distance and specifically Boulder. When I finished I thought to myself that I am ready for the next one, and can build off of what I learned at this one. I really didn’t care what my time was; I just wanted a solid day that I could learn from. I also knew racing in Boulder would be different than many other courses. Clearly, others felt the same way, because this was the last year for this race due to low numbers.

 For those that have avoided the distance, but are considering jumping in to a full Ironman, I would encourage you to sign up with a trusty training partner. “Misery loves company” is one of my training partner’s mantras. As I look back on my journey, the things that went wrong this spring were just small blips along the way. I have to agree with the sentiment that there is nothing like finishing your first Ironman. If you are doing an early season Ironman distance, your training partner will be the key when you are stuck indoors on the bike for 3 to 4 hours on the trainer. My wife and family were amazing support during the training and race day, and the support of Coach Sam and the amazing work of Dr. Lauren Hendrix is what made it possible. So what are you waiting for? Go sign up for an Ironman!

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Are You Ready for An (other) Ironman? - with Coach Samantha

Today the WTC announced the new Ironman race for North America in 2020 - Ironman Tulsa-  and many Evolve athletes will be in attendance as it is one of our two Team events for next year (Augusta 70.3 being the other). There will surely be a good amount of social media buzz, peer pressure and even some FOMO that will drive people to hit the register button and start their journey to the finish line.

But should you?

Here are some considerations that we chat with our athletes about before signing up for their first or 40th 140.6.


Ironman takes time

Logically, you will spend a lot of time training, with the greatest amount of time being spent on your bike. This is something that we all need to consider when we register for an Ironman. Do you have enough time to get in your long bike rides and runs? Our coaches are wonderful about working with their athletes to create a schedule that works with their life - but there are some general time requirements that are necessary to ensure that the athlete gets across the line in a safe manner. While an over trained athlete is never good, a seriously under trained one is also problematic. You need to remember that a solid training plan builds gradually, so while you might only have one weekend where you put in a 6.5 hour ride, all of the weekends leading up to that will also take time.


Ironman takes support

If you want to get to the finish line with the least amount of stress possible, it is important to make sure that you have a strong support team. I would never recommend the surprise Ironman sign-up if you have a partner or family. Instead, sit down with your family and figure out what race makes the most sense for all. I personally have never brought my daughter to a race longer than a sprint. But if you would like your family to attend, do a little course recon to make sure that the course is easy to navigate and that there are some activities for them to attend while you are in race prep mode.


There is never a perfect time

I kinda feel the same way about Ironman as I do about having a kid. Sure, there are times when it is more ideal than others; but any way you slice it, it will upset your life in some way or other - so carpe diem. All you really need to consider is whether or not you are willing to put in the work and do what it takes to get it done. I did my last full Ironman a few weeks after my daughter turned two. It meant a lot of early mornings and taking a lot of naps when she was napping. I put everything in my life in place to be able to get it done even with a toddler. At that point in my life I was really willing to go to the lengths needed to get it all in. The only question you must ask yourself before you sign up is - how bad do I want this? Once you answer that, then get to work on putting in place all the things that will make crossing the finish line a reality.

Training can be lonely - or not

Ask yourself if you are a person who likes to go solo or who needs others to motivate you to train with. For my last full Ironman, I trained exclusively with one other athlete. This worked because we were very close on the bike and had an understanding that we would not wait or hold one another back in our workouts. We worked really well together and it was wonderful to know that I had an accountability partner. While we did not do all of our workouts together, we did have another person to lean on and motivate us when it got hard to get up for one more workout. If you are not wanting to go at it all solo, then it makes the most sense to find your tribe and sign up for a race that they are also doing.

Ironman is hard. If it wasn’t, why would we want to do it? But let’s face it - once you cross an Ironman finish line, all your blood, sweat and tears will be forgotten!

So! Ironman 2020 - who’s in?



A Calm Approach to Your First 70.3 - with Coach Tori

Now that you have registered for your 70.3 and logged all the training hours, it's time to get ready for race day.  Having a plan for race day is essential to keep you calm and get you to the finish line as fast as possible given what the day brings. At Evolve all of our coaches send our athletes a fueling plan and race plan that is specific to them and includes a few backup plans just in case. Whether you are coached or not, it is best to write down your A, B and C plan to assure that you are ready to arrive at the race with confidence. 

Pre-Race:

But before we even make it to race week - let’s get some essentials covered. Make an appointment with your local bike shop to have your bike checked out within 2 weeks prior to the race.  The week before you leave, start getting your stuff ready.  Begin by making a list of all the things that you must have on race day, from gear to nutrition.  Next, make a list of the items that you plan on taking in addition to race day.  If you are flying, sometimes it is easier to buy some personal items when you arrive.  If you are driving, then load up your car knowing that can still buy what you forget or might need when you arrive.

 Once you have your travel bags and triathlon bag set out, review your list and start laying out everything you will need on race day.  USAT has a checklist of items for race day.  Start with your swim gear, then your bike gear, and finish with the run.  This will include your race day kit and nutrition.  You will still need some of these items for training, but when you start to pack you have a visual of what all you need along with your checklist.  You can start to pack up your non-race day items on your checklist.  For those of you with special dietary restrictions, make sure your grocery shopping is completed, or you know where you can find food once you arrive at the race site. Many of our athletes will pre-cook and travel with food if possible.

 Race Week:

You have gone over your checklist 100 times, packed, and arrived at your destination - race day is almost here! Whatever you plan to do -add in additional time. For some odd reason, everything on the days leading up to a race seems to take longer than usual. Allow for extra time to drive the bike course.  If you spent many hours driving, the last thing you want to do is drive more to preview the bike course.  Depending on when you arrive, wait until the next day to drive the course.  If you like to shop at the expo, allow extra time for this. Don't try to check-in, shop, drop off your bike, and drive the bike course all in the same day.  It adds additional stress that is not necessary.  There are sometimes circumstances where you can’t arrive as early as you’d like due to work/family, but try to give yourself two days before the race.  Remember that you will still have short workouts to do and we always stress that if the race allows that you will also want to get in an open water swim in - as you can see - the tasks quickly add up.  

The day before the race, plan for the day.  Know if you are going to be at the race site for the athlete briefing. Try to get in a swim. Complete a quick bike ride to go through your gears. Drop off your bike. Make sure to bring your water bottle to sip on all day.  If it is hot and sunny out, add electrolytes (i.e., Nuun).  Pack a cooler with your sandwich/lunch, snacks, and extra water. Stay out of the sun and off your feet as much as possible - we suggest you get in and get out - so rather than heading to swim at 10 am and drop the bike at 3pm - schedule it to make it one trip.  Once you have all of the business done, head back to where you are staying and set aside time to work on visualization and re-visit your race plan. Many of our athletes also love to do a pre-race chat or text with their coach. Do what makes you calm and happy, avoid all stressors.

 The morning of the race, make sure to follow your planned morning routine.  This will help alleviate any potential issues that may arise during the race.  Arrive at the race site early.  Walk through transition and know where swim in, bike in/out, and run out are located.  Some transition areas are set up where you can only go through one direction; you need to know this - do not rely on the volunteers.  Walk through transition to know how it will go and know where your bike rack is located.  Find a landmark or count the racks.  I like to have a bright towel that may stand out because by the time I'm out of the water, I do not remember how many racks I have to count.  Know that your bike is racked by your saddle showing your race number. If the bike next to you is racked wrong, DO NOT MOVE IT.  Get an official if the bike’s athlete is not around, as they will move the bikes.  Make sure you have applied plenty of sunscreen.  Lay out your transition items by your front wheel.  The fewer items you have in your transition area, the better.  Don't put stuff that you might want, only what you will need.  The aid stations have water, ice, nutrition, and food.  Allow enough time to get to transition and be calm during your set-up. There are a lot of steps here and also usually a million trips to the bathroom!

When you have gone over your transition one last time, head to get in a swim warm-up or a light jog if there is no swim allowed. This is crucial! We never want an athlete starting a race without raising the heart rate before the gun goes off.

Then it is time to make your way to the beach- this can also be a good time to check the swim course one last time and know the buoy count. It is also a time to do what makes you calm and focused. This could be joking with the people around you, a quick moment or two to yourself or listening to music. Whatever it is, make sure that it what works for you!

And just like that - you will be at the start waiting for the countdown to get the day going.

Finally, no matter what happens on race day,  remember that for the majority of us, this is a hobby. Regardless of how competitive you are, we want to have fun.  The better prepared you are going into the race, the less you have to think about, and your body will do what it has been training to do for many months.  Swim. Bike. Run and maybe even crack a smile or two!

 

5 Takeaways from My First Oly - with Evolve Athlete Chris

We love to hear from our Evolve Athletes, especially when they don’t mind sharing insights with the rest of the Team. Chris A is kicking a$$ this season, so read on for his summary of learning experiences from his first Olympic triathlon.


This last weekend was full of firsts for me: my first open water race, my first wetsuit race, the first race on my first road bike, my first season with a coach, but most notably it was my first Olympic distance triathlon.  I signed up for the St. Louis Triathlon the day registration opened, and I knew that I wanted to be able to do the Olympic distance in preparation for my ultimate goal of completing my first Ironman 70.3 later this year.  I honestly didn’t really think about the challenge of that distance until about 2 weeks out when I started reading my race day strategy and fueling plan.  At that time it started to set in that this is actually a pretty good haul for a first year triathlete.  After setting out all of my gear the night before, and reading over my plan for the 300th time, I was confident that I was as prepared as I could be. I went to bed around 8pm and finally fell asleep around 12:30am.  It was a 4:00am wakeup call to be there when transition opened to get set up, so I dragged myself out of bed and started fueling and packing up to go.  When the race was over, I was confident that I had left it all on the course, and I was very happy with the result.  As with anything in life, there should be lessons learned in order to improve upon your successes and failures.  The following are some of my takeaways from my first Olympic Distance Triathlon.

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1 - Conditions Will NOT Be Ideal

For several days leading up to the event, I was checking the weather every 5 minutes.  I kept telling myself it wouldn’t rain and it wouldn’t be hot.  The night before the race a friend texted me something along the lines of, “I was just kayaking on Creve Coeur lake, and I was fighting the wind and white caps, I hope it dies down for you tomorrow morning.”  So here I am standing in my wetsuit at the swim out ramp trying to see the turnaround buoy FAR in the distance, and trying to figure out how I am going to swim into a 20ish MPH headwind and deal with whitecaps and waves.  I was used to swimming in a pool, where it’s 100% visibility, and no turbulent water what-so-ever.  After fighting through the asses and elbows of the first 300m, and finally settling into my stroke, it wasn’t so bad (other than slow going).  I chugged my way through the swim and got through transition relatively fast, only to turn the corner south on my bike and hit THE SAME 20MPH headwinds.  Great, now I have to do two laps of this basically in slow motion.  I just remember thinking, “I’m not the only one dealing with this suck right now,” and powering through the wind.  Again through T2, I set out on the run.  It was much more humid than I was ready for (and I had forgotten my salt tabs, see takeaway 2).  I now know that practicing in less than ideal conditions is key, and assuming the water will be flat, the bike will be smooth, and the run will be cool will make for disappointment on race morning.

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2 - You WILL forget something

I had just gotten a brand new carry bottle for the run, and was looking forward to giving it a try (I know, don’t try anything new on race day).  I had it all packed up in my duffel ready to go with Gatorade Endurance.  When I came around off of the bike at T2, I got ready for the run in exactly the order I had practiced.  Helmet off, gloves off in helmet.  Hang the helmet on the handlebars.  Slip out of my bike shoes and grab my race belt.  Slip into my running shoes and grab my…water bottle that isn’t there…crap.  I’m supposed to drink 20oz of Gatorade during my run, now what do I do?  I remembered something that Coach Samantha said during our transition clinic the night before.  Part of a triathlon is troubleshooting on the fly.  Either you get a flat tire, your goggles fly off during the swim, or whatever else could possibly go wrong.  Part of the challenge is figuring out how to deal with the issues on the fly.  So, I grabbed what was left of one of my bike bottles and took off on the run.

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3 - You Probably Aren’t Going to Win, so Manage Your Expectations

I set out several goals for myself, ranging from totally doable down to really difficult.  The ones I completed were things like:  finish the race, don’t drown, don’t crash, don’t trip.  The ones I didn’t complete were things like:  place in your age group, beat 30 minutes in the swim, beat an hour on the bike.  There were a couple of goals that I was pleasantly surprised to have completed.  I PRed the run distance, and technically I PRed the swim and bike also (first oly, I’ll take it).  I didn’t even look at my swim time when I got out of the water I was so focused on takeaway 4.

4 - Practice Everything

The most important thing I did was practice.  I practiced my fueling plan, I practiced getting in and out of transitions, everything.  I knew that I would get too hung up on progress during the race, so I even had my Garmin set to displace only HR, since that is how I have trained for months.  I didn’t care what my speed was, what my pace was or how far I had gone.  I knew that if I trusted in my heart rate training, and followed the plan, I would have a successful race.  I ended up finding out about my run PR after the fact when checking the unofficial results!

5 - Take Mental Notes

During your race, make sure to take mental notes of things that you have learned, or things that you can improve on in the future.  For instance, I know I need to do some small things in transition to make it easier.  When I got off the bike, I tried to slip out of my lace up bike shoes by putting my toe on the heel and pulling my foot out.  Big mistake, instant cramp in my calf.  Now I know that is probably a good idea to loosen them up prior to trying to get out of them.  Having a mental inventory of everything that went wrong, and things you can change prior to future races, will only serve to improve your experience and times in the future. 

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Expect Mistakes at Your Triathlon - with Coach Scott

At my first 70.3 race this year, I made a major blunder and it became a wakeup call. I was racing Florida 70.3 and was 27 miles into the bike, riding at a good clip. Beside me all of the sudden was a Honda Goldwing and an official. As I looked over, I realized I was getting my first penalty in my triathlon career. It was really windy that day, and about that same time, my front tire caught the edge of the road and I went sliding down the pavement at 21 mph. Upon reflection, I realized I was caught in a pack and was about 4 bike lengths back. But this really messed up my day. Blood, bruises and some scraped up bike parts…

Post crash helmet - time for an upgrade!

Post crash helmet - time for an upgrade!

It would have been easy to quit that day. I could have made a million excuses why I quit. But I realized I could make a choice: the mistake could define me, or I could move on. I decided that finishing and struggling through a painful run would mean more to me than getting hung up on a slow-for-me 70.3, my second slowest to date.

While this mistake was major, there will be some degree of a mistake in every race. These are the things that define us, good or bad, and mentally can become our mantra or nemesis. The key is moving on not dwelling on it.

The perfectly executed race in long-course triathlon is primarily a myth, but if you do execute perfection that is great. Some athletes can let a little thing ruin their day, but the greatest races are those where you recover from something that didn’t go your way. It is much like Daniela Ryf’s experience at Kona last year. She was stung by a jellyfish, and many predicted that was the end of her race. But through mental toughness, she just kept charging and pushed a bike that may have been on the edge for her, but she had a plan and it worked that day. This all comes from experience, support and mental toughness. She also knew that she had nothing to lose.

At Evolve we prepare our athletes to perform at their best ability, but we also help them get past the things that inevitably can go wrong at your race. At the end of the day, many of the situations are out of our control. All we can do is prepare to minimize the problems, and when they do happen we move on. We don’t want the issue to define our race. Otherwise the energy those legs will need on the run are lost on unnecessary stress that drains your glycogen levels. 

We could write a book on all of the things that could go wrong at a long-course triathlon. The thing we can’t stress enough is that whatever is happening in that moment can often be overcome. In triathlon, your body and mind can go from defeat to triumph in as quickly as 10 minutes. Visualization is a critical practice that can get you out of a defeated mindset. This is a simple technique where you envision a positive outcome and then start breaking the courses into pieces. For the swim it can be each buoy, which is essentially 4 laps in the typical pool. On the bike it could be breaking it into 5-mile increments. On the run it can be ignoring your data for a while and just eyeing landmarks ahead. If I am having a tough training run, I have found this is a great way to get another few miles knocked out. I will tune out my data for a while and suddenly I am back on track.

While we discuss the mental aspect, you also need to be ready for the equipment failures. Goggles break and get kicked off, so tuck an extra pair in your wetsuit or around your leg. Flats and thrown chains are always a possibility at a race. Make sure you have the equipment to fix a flat and practice changing your tire if that is new to you. We have witnessed some crafty engineering by Evolve athletes at Ironman races, and the athletes have preserved a great race with a quick fix. On the run, shoe laces and zippers can break. Just think through how you might address this. It can be dealt with. An extra minute in transition beats walking halfway through your run due to an issue.

Invariably, the best thing you can do is smile, get mentally tough, and be prepared for things to pop up. At Evolve, we are always impressed with the way athletes bounce back from adversity. Often times when athletes think it is over, they realize the race has just begun. Block it from your mind and share the story at the finish.

As much as I think I have mastered triathlon and visualizing the day, things will still go wrong. But aside from your first long-course race or your PR race, the most memorable race is the one where you keep charging forward after a mishap or hardship. Because as I have learned, when things are easy, everyone can be successful. The real challenge is to grind it out when things get hard. Florida 70.3 was a tough day for me and I wouldn’t change a thing- well, other than the scars…