Sleep Does the Body Good! with coach Samantha

Yesterday on my morning run, my running partner and I had a conversation about the trouble she was having falling asleep, then a few hours later I had a weekly call with one of my athletes and she wanted to discuss her issues with sleeping and how it was affecting her performance. And while we were chatting, another athlete started a Facebook discussion about how he has rethought his outlook on the importance of sleep and it has been a game changer. I would say that when a topic comes up three times a day, it must be one that we should tackle for others as well.

Here is the deal - there is no greater (legal) recovery tool than sleep. You sacrifice sleep - you will sacrifice your performance and you run the risk of getting ill or injured.

Here is the other deal - we live in a world where people attach value to the more you do the more you get done (I am guilty of this for sure). We pack our lives and kid’s lives and on top of that we see images on social media of people constantly on the go, swimming, biking and running all the miles.


 

You cannot hack sleep. Lack of sleep will catch up with you.

 


I can tell you, all high level endurance athletes are amazing sleepers and guard their sleep furiously. For professionals it is part of their job to sleep, just as much as it is to train. And yes, I know what you are thinking, well I can’t get all my training in and work and be a parent or a partner and also sleep for 8 hours a night.

I am here to tell you, that if you want to perform to the best of your ability you need to be a sleep miser, and if there is a will, there is a way.


First things first, let’s examine where in life you are wasting time or setting yourself up to stay up too late.

 

Ask yourself the following:

  1. How many hours of TV are you watching at night?

  2. Do you have a consistent evening routine which will get you to bed on time?

  3. Are  you consistent about the time that you go to bed each night?

  4. Are there any extraneous commitments that you can cut out?

  5. Are you working out too close to your bedtime?


 

Of course we have athletes who’s jobs dictate that they have a less than desirable sleep schedule and our coaches work to create workout weeks that optimize rest when at all possible. And we would always advise that if an athlete is simply exhausted that they skip or modify a workout for the sake of rest over depleting an already taxed system.


 

Sleep is essential!

 

But ...

 

What if you are getting in bed on time and yet you are unable to fall asleep - here are some suggestions that we offer to our athletes:

 

  1. Be consistent with when you go to sleep and wake up each day (even on the weekends)

  2. Remove your phone and other electronics  from your room.

  3. Read before bed

  4. Drink a warm cup of tea

  5. Meditate

  6. If you have a lot on your mind, try writing down and organizing those thoughts (this is a huge one for me)

  7. Finish your last workout at least 4 hours prior to your bedtime

 

If you find yourself waking up in the night (I have this issue) make sure that you do not reach for your phone, instead I work on meditation techniques. If I wake up with a lot on my mind, I will write those thoughts down to get them off my mind and if I really cannot sleep, then a cup of tea and a book are my solution. 

 

If you do find yourself sacrificing sleep on occasion we suggest that you can get away with this for one day, but after one night of poor sleep, you will either need to modify your workout - think recovery ride or run, or you should rest instead.

Of course we will all have restless nights, but our goal with our athletes is to help them to be the best “recover-ers” that they can be and sleep is an essential tool to accomplish that goal.  

 

Flipping the Switch - Athlete Insight with Trish Martin

I’m in the middle of what I have designated my summer of no-excuses.  I’m 14 weeks out from my bucket list race, a full Ironman.   Last Saturday I had a sprint triathlon.   On Sunday, Samantha had me scheduled for a 2 hour long run.  Despite having a rather bruised booty from a comical fall off my bike while attempting to clip in with new bike shoes during Saturday’s race, I did my long run as prescribed by Sam.   And on Tuesday, I actually did a tempo-run workout on the track as instructed by Sam.  This probably says a great deal about how good I have historically been at following Sam’s instructions, but after Training Peaks turned green, Sam wrote in my comments: “Well there was a time in Trish land that this would not have happened – I think you should write a blog for Evolve about why the change…”  Sam’s not kidding, there was a time in Trish land where I totally would have used a bruised behind as an excuse not to run.  So how did I get here, to my summer of no-excuses?

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This is my fifth season in the sport of triathlon and my third season being coached by Samantha and being a part of Evolve.  I am passionate about the sport of triathlon, but am not a gifted athlete [coach Sam who is in charge of posting this vehemently disagrees].  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE witnessing first-timers (especially women) complete their first triathlon and seeing how empowering it is for them.  For me, triathlon restores my faith in the kindness of humanity, is a stress-reliever, and is just plain fun.  My life is more joyful because of the sport of triathlon and the friendships that have grown through the sport.

 

Last season, I completed two 70.3 races – Wisconsin in June and North Carolina in October.  Wisconsin was a bit of a debacle.  I exceeded my expectations at North Carolina, finishing in 7 hours 59 minutes and 15 seconds and beating my goal time by 45 seconds.  I was exceptionally proud of myself after North Carolina.  I had gotten in a majority of my work outs pre-race, and worked with a nutritionist from July through October to dial in my training nutrition.  And then came the off season and self-sabotage.  I’ve been aware for at least a couple of years of my tendency to self-sabotage.  When life is going too good, I subconsciously do something to mess it up.  (If you want to read more about self-sabotage, I highly recommend the book, “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks).   Over the winter I managed to gain 20 pounds over a period of four months – all while still working out and working with a trainer.   Trust me, my 5’5” frame did not need another 20 pounds.  Self-sabotage at its finest.

 

By February, I started to get back on the program with respect to nutrition – working with a new nutrition coach and logging my macros faithfully in My Fitness Pal.  Over the winter, I toyed with the idea of signing up for a Full Ironman in 2019.  Sam advised that IM Florida is the race tailored to my strengths.   I thought a lot about it.   I talked about it a lot.  But I could not get myself to register.    This spring, a series of events convinced me to take the leap.   My good friend, Nikki Huss, registered.  Ironman Florida ads kept appearing in my Facebook feed announcing that the race was getting closer and closer to being sold out.  At work in April, a client decided to leave his in-house job and go to work directly for a competitor, moving a couple of cases with him.  I sent my husband a text message about it and told him I was “trying not to freak out.”  His response, “Nothing brings in new business like signing up for an Ironman.   Just saying.”   On one of our weekly bike rides, I chatted with good friend and Ironman, Carrie Tillott, and the pros and the cons of training for an Ironman.   She gave me just the advice I needed.   Essentially, life is short.   You don’t know when you are going to have another season where you have the ability to do this.  And she was right.   I had plenty of excuses (namely, I’m pretty sure an Ironman would be way easier if I weighed 125 pounds).  But I have a window this year.  My auto-immune disease continues to be under control.  Why not take advantage?   And so I leaped.  I registered for the race and spent an insane amount of money renting a condo at the finish line so I wouldn’t back out.

 

Here I am in the middle of my summer of no-excuses.  Right after I registered, Sam told me to make an inspiration board to remind myself of my goal.  I did, and it sits in my office at work so I see it all the time.  Carrie helped me come up with the idea of having a white board calendar at home where I write out my workouts for the week with my kids, and they mark them off when I complete them.   It gets them involved and keeps me accountable.  I get a lot of help from my friends.  I regularly ride with teammates so that I’m not tempted to skip workouts.  And my husband provides endless encouragement.  I didn’t want to do my tempo-run workout this week.  The head of my law firm had been in town for two days visiting the office I run.   I had to pick him up at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday for a breakfast meeting with a client.  I wanted to go home and take a nap after work.  Instead, my husband went to the track with me.   And the tempo-run workout was accomplished.

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Coach Sam is a huge part of my summer of no excuses.  She has had gentle and not so gentle chats and texts with me.  Two weeks ago we both did Muncie 70.3.  Long after she finished, Sam met me on the last mile of the run and we chatted.  We chatted about how the race had gone and how I was feeling about Florida.  She reminded me that Florida is not that far away, and in training for an Ironman, there is not room for skipping workouts, regardless of whether you are chasing a time goal, or just trying to finish.  And so the summer of no-excuses continues. 

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I’ve discovered in all areas of my life, the best way for me to overcome my tendency to self-sabotage is to set ENORMOUS, but quantifiable and obtainable goals.   Ironman is a dream that scares me.   But with more than a little help from my friends (and coach and family), I’m not letting any excuses get in my way.

 

Ironman - Are You Ready for the Journey - with Coach Samantha

People often wonder what it takes to train for an Ironman. We get a lot of inquires about coaching for Ironman and the number one question that most people ask is - Do you think I can do it? For most people, they are inquiring about the physical aspect of the training, and the answer to that is yes - given the desire to train, we are all physically capable of getting to the finish line of an Ironman given enough time to develop enough durability.  Yet, as someone who had raced a few and has been coaching athletes to Ironman for years, getting to the start of an Ironman is not just about the workouts - in fact it’s arguable that is the easiest part of the process.

To be fair you cannot totally brush aside the physical needs to complete the race which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 run which all need to be completed in 17 hours (although there are some courses where the cutoff is 16 for an official time). Obviously training to complete this at any level, takes many hours in the pool, and on the road, but what most people fail to consider are the less obvious things needed for the journey.

Before you consider signing up for an Ironman, here are some of the things that might be less apparent, but need to be thoroughly addressed if you want to get to the starting line since any solid training plan is going to get you to the finish line.

The most important consideration is time. You need time to train - most of your time will be spent training. In the weeks leading up to an Ironman you should expect that there are going to be some very long days in the pool, on the bike and running. Most of your weekends (if you have a normal 9-5 job) will be consumed with a long bike and long run. What you need to consider as well is the toll that it can take on your body to be out on your bike all day and then snap right into your “regular” life - such as being a parent or a partner. I have found that if there is a will there is a way - so as long as you are willing to make sacrifices then you can make just about anything happen - you just need to plan ahead and know that you will be spending a lot of time training. You will also need to consider the amount of time that you will need for things like laundry, meal prep, and the most important thing of all - RECOVERY. This is an essential part of training for an Ironman or Half Ironman, and needs to also be provided for - sleep is the best way to recover, so sacrificing your sleep in an effort to get in a workout can happen once in a while, but it will catch up with your training and leave you in a hole too deep to dig out of.

Purpose is also right up there in terms of things you should be thinking about before you sign up - because the journey to Ironman takes so much time and sacrifice. Athletes who have a strong purpose are far more likely to wake up each day and embrace the challenge of getting their workouts completed day in and day out. The tricky part is that you will have to arrive at your purpose on your own - this is not something that you can be told by your coach or another - this has to be something that you have thought long and hard about and that will make you hungry to be consistent in your training. It will also be an important reminder when doubt, fear or exhaustion set in - you can always go back to your why and ground yourself in your desire to accomplish your goal.

Finally, I would say that you need to make sure that you have a strong support system. The best way to assure that is to be very upfront and clear with those who are close to you - you will need from time to time to make tough choices about getting to bed early, or missing an event. These things can take a toll on those whom you love, so allowing your “people” to be part of the journey and being very clear with when you will be working out is essential. You also must not lose sight on the fact that you can and should take time to take care of your family - find ways to involve them, from family recovery runs and bikes, to making sure that you thank them for the sacrifices that they have made in order for you to get to the starting line. In my experience as a coach, the things that lead to the most domestic conflict are when the partner feels like they are not a valued part of the journey - sure they may not be able to join you on your rides and runs, but there are plenty of creative ways to have them participate - maybe you would prefer to ride your bike outside, but it might make more sense to use your bike on a trainer so you can cut out wasted travel time and also use your warm-up at a time to carry on a conversation or catch-up.

Ironman is not easy - it’s why so many are drawn to the challenge. The thing that an athlete must remember when they are in the thick of training is the process needs to be the focus - not the finish line. The journey to the starting line is where you will learn your most valuable lessons, reach your highest highs and your lowest lows and in the end make crossing that line so much sweeter - so when the days are long and tiring, ground yourself with the knowledge that the grind is where we grow.

Getting Real with Ironmind .... by Coach Samantha

Everyday at Evolve our athletes spend hours engaged in movement. The physical benefits are obvious, but the greater value of these workouts reaches far beyond the cardiovascular one. Each athlete is motivated by their own personal factors, but I do think that there are some commonalities in each of us.

If I reflect back on why I started on this whole crazy endurance journey 20 years ago - initially it was because I wanted the benefits that working out gave me on a physical level, that quickly changed to a desire to challenge myself and accomplish a goal and once I ran my first marathon, I was hooked.


That is what got me started - but that is not what has sustained me.

Sure, competing in a race is still a driving force, but for me personally, it is only a small part of the puzzle of why I get up every day and do what I do. And to be totally transparent, it is probably pretty low on the list of why I love moving each and every day.

I’m sustained and driven by:

The feeling of tired legs and burning lungs

A hot shower and post workout nap

Knowing that I have done more than most before the sun rises

The satisfaction of making the most of each and every day

Overcoming internal mental battles

The neverending lessons that come on long workouts

The promise of another chance to do it all again tomorrow


And perhaps I would go so far as to say that I am addicted to all of the above ...


I love all that the endurance community has offered me over nearly two decades. It has connected me and allowed me to forge relationships that would never be possible without the avenue of training and competing.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to work on a project that has lead me to think about all of the reasons why we compete - in a race and against ourselves each day. And more amazing is how my community has grown due to this adventure.

Late last year I started to coach an athlete who has been competing in triathlon for a long time, but had never been coached. His passion and drive are intoxicating and his dynamic personality made it a fun challenge as his lifestyle is not a typical one as he is the frontman of a band and spends time on the road. Right away it was obvious that we were a good coaching/athlete match - coaching is not about the workouts really - that’s a training plan - coaching is about the ability of a coach to know what the athlete needs to be successful - and each athlete offers a unique challenge that a coach needs to solve. John was no different than any of my other athletes - his past and job might be a little unusual, but like all of our athletes at Evolve he is driven to make each day count and to learn and grow through endurance sports.

After only a few months of working together - John mentioned that he had been pitching this crazy idea to Brian Rose the host and creator of London Real (John was on his show previously) and they had really hit is off and he wanted to challenge Brian to train and race a 70.3 on a vegan diet. John really said very little to me about who Brian was but a quick google search led to me to a better understanding of Brian and what I was up against as a coach. I love a challenge and could not wait to get started on getting Brian to the finish line in his first half Ironman which would double as his first triathlon ever. This was a huge undertaking as Brian was truly starting from scratch - sure he was super fit, but not an endurance athlete and we would need to help him buy all the equipment needed to train and race along with getting him physically and mentally ready for the race.

I spoke to very few people about this potential athlete - for a few reasons. One is that when I started Evolve I made a commitment that I would want all of my athletes to feel like they were my only athlete and I was worried and still worry that as Evolve grows and evolves quite frankly that something will be lost - I desperately did not want to draw attention to one athlete and certainly not in a way that would make others feel uncomfortable, or him for that matter. And the second reason is that the project would not go public for a while and I needed to keep it quiet until we got going and I met Brian and he commited.  

Each athlete offers me something new - it is what I so love about my job. They think I am helping them to achieve, but what they give me in return is far greater than anything I do for them. I love the human interaction and the problem solving. It is why I loved teaching as well. The novels I taught were the catalyst for a much larger purpose - just like the workouts I write. To be honest, some of Brian’s struggles are things that I have worked through with many of my athletes - and I was confident that I would be able to help him achieve and support him as a whole athlete.

So in February I flew to New York City to meet Brian Rose and put him through a 2 x 8 minute threshold bike test and get him started on the journey to Chattanooga 70.3 on a plant based diet. John and I had put in place a plan for me to coach him to this challenge if Brian decided to commit. I was excited and scared. I will level with you and say that I HATE BEING ON CAMERA. I hate the sound of my voice, I hate the way I look, I hate everything about it, but I knew that none of that mattered and this project had the opportunity for making an amazing impact on the lives of so many, so I needed to put all of my self-esteem BS aside and just do what I do best - coach. It was amazing how natural it was - I quickly forgot about the cameras and just was me. I had warned Brian of that - that what he would get would be authentically me and that I hoped it would not be too much.

 

That threshold test set the tone for what would be the start of a life changing opportunity. These tests are brutal and right away it conjured up intense emotions in Brian and I knew that he was eager to wrestle with himself in a way that only the powerful mix of sweat and tears can allow one to do.

 

Since working with Brian on the Ironmind project, I have loved the chance to watch Brian reveal to the world his struggles with addiction, and the struggles that he faces in training as well. Of course Brian has an amazing story, and a powerful platform to tell it, but what is most potent about this project is that he is raw in his telling and while his story is all his own, parts of it resonate with so many.

 

And well, working on anything with John is pretty amazing too. John and Brian are each intense in their own ways - each balance that intensity with a side that maybe most do not see, but a gentle side that has its own quiet power. Plus John rivals me in his use of the F-word  - so what’s not to love.

 

While the initial intention of this project was for Brian to challenge and grow - perhaps the most outstanding path this journey has taken all of us on is the exposure to so many athletes around the world. Almost every day I wake up to messages from people around the world who have been inspired.

I often think of what I do as a job as a luxury - who really needs triathlon and a triathlon coach, and yet as I continue on this journey, I have begun to see more and more that we ALL need movement - maybe not in the form of swimming, biking and running, but the medicinal benefits for mind, body and soul and the human connections are truly a necessity for a life worth living.  

This seems like the perfect place to stop ... the future is unwritten, but we all have the tools to write our own story. More amazing things to come. 

A Story I Have Never Been Brave Enough to Tell - with Coach Samantha

The truth is that I have been trying to write this damn race report for weeks and every time I sit down to do so, I just get stuck.

And the reason is that I am struggling with being brave enough to write it.

But I know that I need to - for a million different reasons.

And if nothing else, perhaps it will strike a chord with just one reader and that is reason enough for me to be fearless and honest.

So - this really has nothing to do with racing, or maybe it has everything to do with racing - you can decide that for yourself…


On March 7th I was diagnosed with Influenza B. I had been feeling like shit for weeks - and I mean weeks, and I finally caved and got tested for the flu. The good news was that I had most likely had it for weeks and it would be over sooner- the bad news, I have never been that sick in my life. The flu is no fucking joke and every inch of my body ached and it was impossible for me to be comfortable - I was exhausted and yet could not sleep, and more than anything I am really bad at sitting still, but I had no choice other than to do so. I hardly ever watch TV - the last time I had turned the TV on was for the Superbowl, but I was sustained by watching the last season of Turn. I binge watched it to the point that I was sure that when I recovered from the flu the obvious next step was to sew myself a period piece costume to wear around the house while making kale chips all while pining for the love of a Connecticut Dragoon. For three days I COULD NOT MOVE - I drank tons of fluids and would have to coax myself off the couch to pee. It was rough. But my lungs were clear and I happen to have a personal physician who makes house calls, so he cleared me and just said - well you can race, it will hurt, but you can do it. And who knows, maybe you will get out there and you will feel super rested and it will all be okay.

At this point I had been coughing for weeks - I mean weeks and had been blowing my nose for what seemed like a decade, but my bike was already on its way to the race, I had a flight and I had committed to racing.

I knew this - I was not going to walk 13.1 miles. So I would go as far as I could run and then I would DNF if needed. I also had the option of changing to the aqua bike and doing that instead, but would not make a call until closer to race day.

I survived the weekend and was very, very slowly getting better. So I said fuck it, and boarded the plane with the intention of racing - I had my mind set on it and I was sure if I made it to the finish line then I would be able to face any struggle that came my way. I told myself get through this Samantha and you’ll emerge far grittier on the other side. Plus, I know I can handle physical pain, not to bore you with details, but 21 hours of unmedicated childbirth teaches you that you can handle some serious fucking pain. So I threw all of my tri shit in a bag, and set out to see what would happen.

The day before the race, I was still coughing and blowing my nose, but at this point it was not painful, and Dr. Moy had told me that it could take weeks for me to stop coughing and blowing my nose. Before picking up our packets, Coach Nick and I suited up for a little shakeout swim and hopped into the lake. The water was FUCKING cold and I struggled with the 10 minute swim, but of course we all feel like shit the day before a race and overthink every fucking thing we do. I had also done a shakeout run that am, where I started off really slow and then did a 5 min interval at race HR - I had not died, so I thought I would give the 70.3 a go.

I hate the day before a race - like FUCKING HATE THE SHIT OUT OF IT - but like all things this too shall pass and there was one amazing thing that happened - the final thing I did before I tucked  in for the night was to ride my bike up and down the street where I was staying just to run through the gears. I rode to the end of the block and when I got to the corner a pack of kids on their bmx bikes were rolling down the block. They looked at me and my bike and one was like whoa - that’s a cool bike and for some odd reason - or actually pretty much inline with who I am, I looked at them and yelled - let’s race. And so race we did - they rode as hard as they could down the block and for a moment I was not coughing, and the sun was warm, and I felt like I was ten and free on my bike. And I thought - this is the essence of it all - tomorrow find the joy.

And so before I knew it, it was time to head to bed and try to sleep. As had been the norm for the past month or so, as soon as my head hit the pillow, cue the cough fit. But somehow I managed to sleep so well that at 4 am I woke up in a total panic thinking I had missed the race. I guess I did want to race it after all. I went through the usual am stuff, got to the race site and got set up, did my practice swim and before I knew it, it was go time.

 


I got to the front of the all female wave - it was one big wave of 85 or so women and I was right in the front. I am not the world’s best swimmer, but I can hold my own and the last thing I want to do is fight the crowd - plus I have zero fear in the water - perhaps naively so, but I have no issues with getting a little beat-up and swimming hard to start. And as always, off went the front pack and I was in limbo to swim the majority of the swim solo. I knew I was fucked with a capital F from the start. I was coughing and swimming, NOT A GOOD COMBO! But I was determined to go until I dropped dead, so I kept swimming as hard as I could. I can honestly say that I gave that swim all that I had on that day. I was gasping for air the entire time. And while it is one of my slower swims I have to be happy with the outcome.

 

I think I came out of the water about 8th or so, which is fine, but the issue was that I was EXHAUSTED - and for the first time in my entire racing career I was really worried that I was not going to even get off the bike. I was in and out of transition and took of on the bike like a total mess - there is a really amazing picture of me where I cannot see and my glasses are over my mouth, and I have a gel in my mouth to add to the amazingness of it all.

 

I quickly passed a few women and settled in to what would prove to be a very lonely ride for the next 40 or so miles. This is something that I have faced before on the bike in smaller races. My metrics on the bike were fine, my HR was where it was supposed to be and my power was perfect, but the ride went something like this, pedal, sip, cough. Not ideal, but also not the end of the world - that would come later on the run.

 

Now if you are reading this and I coach you, you might want to rethink that decision, as I made about a thousand rookie mistakes on race day - one of which was that I rode off course. There were two races going on at once, and so I made the error of turning onto the sprint course - I had to double back and get back on course. While this cost me less than 5 minutes, its mental cost was far greater as I spent a lot of wasted time rehashing the mistake. KNOW THY COURSE. The ride went on with no hitches after that - with a continued pattern of pedal, fuel, cough. It was a very lonely bike ride as there were a few women in front of me that I would not see until the run, and it took until mile 25 for the faster men who had gone off after me to pass me, and until 45 to get passed by the eventual second place woman. I was kind of feeling blah until that point and once she rode up I was able to maintain legal contact with her until we hit transition and she took off like a graceful antelope and I started the run - or slog - or death march - you choose your term for it.

 

To be clear - the first few miles were not awful. I knew however, that it had been over a month since I had run more than 8 miles and that the battle and struggle would be real. I set out on the run and had one focus - run until you literally cannot run any more. I told myself just keep your cadence up and your posture good and see what happens. This was all fine and good for the first 4 miles and then I remember thinking OH FUCK - here we go. The turn around at mile 5ish came and that’s when the first woman passed me. Ok, so rationally no big deal, I did not come here to win it - I had the flu, I came here with a revised goal of just getting it done and learning from it - right? Well sure, but at that moment it became crystal clear that the experience of getting passed was playing games with me. I will cut to the chase and tell you that I came off the bike 5th and ended up 13th overall. Getting passed by 8 women was not fun. Also not fun was the way that my body felt. I did not walk one step - for me I knew that if I took one step of walking that I was done, but I just slowed and slowed and slowed. I could not will myself to move any faster. I would tell myself, Yo! Bitch (that’s how my inner dialogue sounds, don’t ask) pick up your fucking feet. Get your head together and your body will follow. I would say things like the fastest way to the finish line is to run. Or just RUN YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE. But nothing seemed to matter and the passes just kept coming and the legs just felt awful and the sun was getting hotter and I swear they moved the stupid turn around and the cadence was just getting slower and the finish line kept getting moved and a girl passed me at the 12 mile marker and said to me - let’s do this, go with me and I said in a very loud voice in my head, you fucking bitch, do you think I am trying to suck this badly at this shit right now, you have been hunting me this entire run, I CLEARLY AM OUT OF GO - I am just in get this stupid ass race over.

 

At mile 13 I passed Nick and his mom and yelled to him - WHY THE FUCK DID I NOT DO THE AQUA BIKE? And then I finally made the turn to the chute and I will tell you that it was one of the most pathetic finishes ever. I WAS DONE - SO very done. I had no business doing that race. I made it out of the chute, laid in the grass and cried and laughed all at once - and realized just what a terrible idea that was. And WAY WAY WAY WAY harder than I ever imagined that it would be - I had thought it would be bad, but I had no clue of  just how brutal it really was going to be - I would never had started it, had I known.

 

Okay - so let’s chat for a moment about how I SHOULD feel about this race.

 

I overcame a huge obstacle and went on to finish what I started.

I will be grittier for it - I grew from the experience.

I was 13th OA and 2nd in my AG.

I know that there are many people who would be thrilled to have my time.

It was an important experience in that I did not shy away from a challenge.

I gave it my absolute all from start to finish.

 

And I’m not trying to say that I’m not grateful for all of the above. I am. My rational mind is.

 


But here is what I really felt - and in a very strong way that put me in a cloud of funk for days after:

 

IT WAS MY SLOWEST HALF MARATHON TO DATE
IT WAS MY SECOND SLOWEST 70.3

I SUCK AT RUNNING

I HAVE NO BUSINESS RACING LET ALONE COACHING

I SUCK AT RUNNING BECAUSE I AM FAT

 

And yes, all of this might seem hyperbolic and even a little unhinged or harsh, but these are my emotions and they are very visceral for me and they are things that I have had to deal with for many years.

 

And here is where we veer from the race report…

 

We need to take a step back to what started this whole endurance sport thing when I was 18.

 

Here goes nothing-

 

You should envision me jumping off a cliff at this point - as this is what writing this feels like.

 

Stepping off cliff…

 

I started this whole thing because I have a terrible self esteem and cannot stand my physical appearance and so rather than engaging in unhealthy habits around eating (which I did throughout most of high school and still sometimes do) I got hooked on running. It gave me a huge emotional release and allowed me to feel in control. It made me happy and gave me confidence. Well I think it sort of gave me confidence. I guess the more I think about it, I am at my most confident when I am working out, so it gave me temporary confidence in the moment.

 

Once I really got into it and started to race triathlon, I think that something entirely different happened - I actually started down a whole new path where I was struggling in new and different ways with my lack of confidence.

 

As long as I can remember I have woken up each day and as soon as I open my eyes, I start to think about food. It sounds like what I mean is that I think about eating, but more what I mean is that I think about not eating, or eating the right things, or what I will eat that will be okay to eat. Or if I ate too much the day before or will I be good about my eating today. Or will I ever get to eat cake guilt free. I also look at myself in the mirror and think about all the things that are wrong with the way that I look and then I do this thing where I try to imagine myself as my ideal of what I think I should look like and then I think about how I look nothing like that and then I put together a plan to work harder to reach that ideal. Or I think about how I don’t work hard enough and I shouldn’t call myself a triathlete as I look nothing like one.

 

I have done this since I started racing and I wish I could say I no longer do this… but that’s a lie. And since the race - it’s pretty bad.

 

I’m embarrassed by this. I’m ashamed of it.

 

And I’m really, really, really good at pretending that I’m confident. So I never really have to talk about this nor do like to do so.

 

I know how to help my athletes with these things.

 

But I’m helpless in it myself.

 

I also know that when I started triathlon I would swim and bike at the front and then get run the fuck down. And this became a pattern that I actually started to manifest. I would joke as I passed people on the bike - oh, you’ll see me on the run. These quads can bike, but they sure as shit can’t run.

 

And naturally I would dread the run and naturally it was a self fulfilling prophecy and I would fall apart on the run.

 

This doesn’t  mean I didn’t do well in the race or even podium, but what it meant was that while I did well on paper I was constantly letting myself down and feeling shitty about my races and myself honestly. I would stand on the podium and think - well not bad for the fat chick. But I hated and still hate that fat chick. And I soooo badly want to love her.

 

Then in 2011 I had my daughter and I raced myself back into shape - in hindsight that was a dumb idea, but at the time it was magical. And part of what made this great was every week I would drop weight and I had an excuse as to why I was not skinny and in shape - and I would cross the line and pick her up and people would be in awe that I had such a tiny kiddo and was racing.

 

Yes I know that’s silly and insane - but it’s also real.

 

And I would like to say that at one of those races I really turned the corner due to the bike escort. Brynja was sixth months and I was racing my first open water sprint - I got out of the water third, biked myself into 1st and oddly enough they had a lead car and a lead biker. When I hopped off the bike and was picked up by the biker, I looked at him and said, well you won’t be with me long, I suck at running and I’ll get run down. I’ll never forget - he yelled up to me - stop that!!! You will win this if you have confidence and run. You’ll lose it if you think like that - so just run! And run I did and I held my lead. The important part is not that I won, but that I didn’t lose to my mind.

 

And that was the start of two really amazing years of racing where I would get off the bike and run motherfuckers down.

 

But here’s the issue - it was also the start of two of the skinniest years of my life. And I know that and I have a record of that and I can’t help but wrestle with the notion that skinny = fast and happy.

 

Then in 2013 I was injured in a big way and after surgery I gained weight and I have never been able to get back to my old fighting weight.

 

And so here we are …

 

And those same feelings came on like getting hit by a freight train during that race.

 

Let’s be for reals here - I was still hard on myself and was not totally confident in those years before surgery, but I was buoyed by the fucking number on the scale — and sadly that’s the damn truth.

 

So while I finished the race and placed, I spiraled into a very dark place. A place of self loathing and real sadness about the fact that I’m nearly fucking 40 and still can’t seem to figure this shit out. A sadness that I can’t just have a day in my life that I don’t think about this. And a sadness that I once again another year has gone by and I have not worked hard enough or reached my goal.

 

And also a real fear that I have a daughter and I’m going to fuck her up about this shit too.

 

But then coach Samantha pops into my head and I think to myself - maybe you need to be thankful for this battle. Maybe this is why you are who you are - maybe since you are never satisfied it makes you work harder year in and year out.

 

And then I think - I’m tired of this. Why can’t I love myself or see myself in another way? Why can’t I ever eat food without judgement or guilt?

 

I don’t know the answer - and that’s the super hard part.

 

But the optimist in me thinks that it’s out there and that if I keep plugging away at this that I’ll one day reach a place of peace.

 

And here’s where the English teacher in me knows that I need my concluding paragraph- but the problem is that there is no conclusion at this point. Hell we haven’t even got to the climax (yes, that’s an actual literary term). I think we are still working on the exposition … which at this point is rivaling Anna Karenina - but that’s where I’m at and that’s something that I have never wanted to admit to most before I was a coach, and even less so as a coach, so if nothing else - I guess that airing this publicly might just be the driving force to get me one step closer to the conclusion. So thank you for that chance ...

Race Recap - with Teresa Johnson

I have developed quite the love hate relationship with racing. When I started running and racing in 2009, I would love the feeling of completing something I had never done before and really testing myself to see how far I could go. That feeling carried me through my first half marathon, full marathon, sprint triathlon and eventually a 70.3.

But then racing got to be a little less fun. I already knew I could complete the distance, so now what did I have to focus on? A PR of course! I had the mentality that I was only getting better if my race was a PR, and if it wasn’t, I shouldn’t consider it a successful race.

What would really get to me is when I would get to the point in the race when I thought a PR wasn’t possible. I would look down at my time, see that I wasn’t on track for a PR and immediately mentally get down on myself. I would mentally talk myself into fatigue. I mean, I wasn’t going to PR, so it’s ok to walk now right?

As I look at my race medals and go through past memories, I can tell you this line of thinking literally happened during at least a dozen races, but it wasn’t a part of myself that I wanted to admit.

Coach Sam sensed this weakness and did what any good coach does. They call you out on it and tell you to stop ignoring it.  It wasn’t quite that blunt or that quick of a conversation, but a culmination of a few different conversations.

The conversation that really hit home was the week before my Go! Half Marathon. Mentally I was in a really rough place. My Dad was battling Cancer and was at the point that treatments were not going to help anymore, he was just at the point that he needed to kept on drugs to manage his pain. Because of this, I was flexing my schedule at work, working 10 hours days (many of them starting before 5am)  to be able to stay with him a couple days during the week in my hometown which is roughly an hour away. I was also traveling down on weekends as much as I could while still squeezing in my long runs. Additionally, I had developed a hip pain on my left side that would go from annoyance to very painful at any given time. I ignored it for a long time as running didn’t seem to worsen it, and I really didn’t feel like I had the time to go to a bunch of doctor’s appointments to get it taken care of.

Sam had cut down on my volume a bit and running wasn’t necessarily making my hip pain worse so we decided that I could run the half. I told Sam that even with the hip pain, I had really never felt more physically prepared for a half. My long runs I had been running plenty of double digit numbers and had really been able to pick up my pace a bit at the end.

Sam told me to focus on being calm before the race and to not go into it already setting myself up for failure. She had seen a pattern in me of freaking out a bit before a race and that would lead to me mentally falling apart.

When the morning of the race arrived, I tried my best to stay calm but as I started to feel a little rushed which caused me to be a little stressed. As I was about 5 minutes into my warm up, I spotted an Evolve jacket in the distance. It was my teammate Chris, who I qualify as a pro at racing. He was calmly walking towards the start, not rushed, and with a smile on his face. I stopped him and gave him a giant hug that lasted 5 seconds longer than it should have for someone who is not a close friend or family member. But, man that hug helped.

I finished my warm up and headed back towards the start so I could not be late getting into my corral. Of course, my concern with time was dumb, because Go (and most races) never start on time. Luckily, I had my husband next to me to keep me company and it was in this long delay that I started to have a conversation with myself.

As crazy as it sounds, you have to develop the own voice in your head for a race. Normally, mine isn’t overly confident. But today something clicked. My voice sounded something like this:

“Here’s the deal, Teresa. You are one of the strongest people mentally that you know. You know you really freaking are. Life has thrown you a lot, and the last few months have been the most stressful of your life, and you are here. You have only missed a handful of workouts despite your stress eating, crazy schedule, and living a good part of your life in the car. This race is absolutely nothing compared to what you mentally have been dealing with and you know despite your recent pain, you have never been stronger for a race. You may not PR today, and that’s ok. Your PR is on a flat as fuck course, and this one is going to be hilly and hard. So all you can do is give your best and don’t back down when it gets tough.”

Some calm hit me and I was good. My corral was released. I high five’d Jackie Joyner Kersee for some extra good juju and I was off. My first few miles felt good, and I was actually at my PR mile time for the first 5 miles. I did start noticing my pace was slowing a bit after that, but my heart rate was staying on the high end of the tempo zone, so I didn’t let that get me down like I normally would. If my heart rate was where it was supposed to be, then I was doing exactly as I should. Every so often I would check my posture and remind myself I was strong.

The next few miles were tough and I came to the realization that my PR would not be happening today. I gave myself 10 seconds to mourn the loss, then snapped back into what my goal was for the day- to run my best and not mentally let myself go.

Mile 10 came and I knew this is where my race was really beginning. I pushed myself into my threshold zone and didn’t let myself back down. I reminded myself I only had a small fraction of time left and I didn’t need to walk. I had run at this heart rate plenty of times and my body was capable.

After the nearly 1mile long finish chute, I crossed the finish line 5 minutes slower than my PR and I didn’t care. I knew without even looking at my stats that I done my best racing regardless of the time.

With everything happening with my Dad, I have been really trying to appreciate the gifts in life that we are given. It is a gift that I can race and train in the capacity that I can. I am certainly not the fastest athlete which is always a hard pill to swallow when you are surrounding by other amazing athletes. It’s one struggle that I have yet to overcome. But if I focus on that, what did I do with my gift? Did I great fully accept it and cherish it like I should have? I’d say no, and I don’t what to live my life like that. If I’ve given a gift, I should love the hell out of it.

Time Management - with Coach Tori

As an athlete, we wear many hats.  Partner,  spouse, parent, caretaker, employee, etc. Regardless of the demands of our lives, we still need to figure out how to get in a workout and spend time with family and friends - and this balance can be very tricky. 

Spring is close and many of us are ready to get outside and enjoy the nice weather. Some are gearing up for their early A race while others are increasing their training for a Fall A race. This is a great time to think about what practices you can put in place to make your training easier on you and those who support you. 

In addition to being a triathlon coach, I am also an office manager and I tend to work a lot of hours. I do have the opportunity to work from home so this does save time not driving. My job can be stressful, so making sure I get a workout completed helps alleviate some of the work day issues. However, it is easy to have the opposite experience as well - where you get so bogged at work that you miss workouts which in turn leaves you feeling more stressed out. 

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How do we do this and still maintain a happy, healthy lifestyle?  It's not easy even for me and I have an amazing support system.  Being able to manage my time has been a difficult adjustment. I'm still working on it but it is getting better - here are some practices that I have put in place over the years. 

When I get my weekly workouts from my coach I immediately start planning how my days will go. There are many days that I have to wake up at 4am to get in a workout. If this has to be done several days in a row, then I also need to make sure that I get enough sleep.  I am not a morning person!  It is imperative that I get into bed at a timely hour and unplug from the world. Setting strong and consistent sleep habits are key to waking up early.

Making sure we have the proper nutrition is also key.  This also forces me to get my meals ready for the next day and make better food decisions.  If I try to get my lunch and/or workout food done in a hurry, I am more likely to just grab something easy.  This doesn't necessarily end up being a good choice to help prep for an after work workout.  I set aside a few hours to plan my meals and then prep them in advance - I also always have a lara bar on hand, in case I find that I am starving and in a pinch.

Last year Evolve hosted athlete and author Terri Schneider. Something that resonated with me is what she wrote in one of her books: do not to "try", but commit to what we do.  We can all try to do something then have an excuse why we didn't do it. If I don't want to do a workout, I ask myself if it is a reason or excuse. There is a difference and it should be a reason.  I am the queen of justification. If I do not have a reason then an excuse is just an easy way out.  When I make my weekly plan I am making the commitment to achieve a happy, healthy lifestyle.

I also will make a backup plan because, as we all know, some days do not go according to our plans. I have a dry eraser calendar in our kitchen. This shows my spouse what days I'm working and what workouts I am doing.  This also helps me to be accountable and not make excuses.  Since it's in writing it also make it harder to not complete. That and of course turning all the boxes in Training Peaks GREEN!

I will add to a previous blog that consistency is the main foundation. I practice swimming, biking and running so I can become a better athlete. I also practice the commitment to my lifestyle.  We are continuously changing so we need to be able to adapt to multiple situations and consistency combined with adaptaion is what will make us all better athletes in the end. 

Race Report - with Coach Nick Gregory

(Not your typical) Race Report

 

It has been a little over a week - but on March 17th, it was finally that time of the year for me - time to open up the 2018 triathlon season.

Originally I was supposed to of opened my season in the first week of January at HITS Naples, however due to a mechanical issue found the night before the race that I was unable to resolve before the race, I had to withdraw. To say I was let down is an understatement, however I spoke with Coach Lenny and we decided I would get back to work immediately and refocus for the Intimidator 70.3.

Over the next 8 weeks I had some ups and downs with the training cycle as the volume increased, but was really excited with where I was at in my training. As I rolled into race week I took a look back at the previous season and was honestly not sure how this year would pan out. I think any athlete is nervous heading into a new season - it means we care, but I also knew that I had put in a lot of work and I really wanted the race to showcase that work. While I have had a few good races in the past,  I had not really had a great race where I felt like I raced to my full potential. There was a whole other side of me that I knew was untapped. Compared to years past however, my mental fitness and focus on race fueling were a huge part of my training and I was hopeful that I could show that in my racing as well. But looming in the back of my head were my previous experiences at races - even in years when I was super fit I would under-perform. Over the course of 3-4 consecutive seasons, I have collected my fair share of races in which I under-performed or just did not execute properly. I was making steps in the right direction in 2017 and was really hoping that the trend would continue into the 2018 season, but like any athlete on race week, I was left with the anticipation of what the outcome would be on race day.

Leading into the race was much like other races, however I really didn’t taper too much. I had a great weekend of training the weekend before to stay focused on my ultimate ‘A’ race, Ironman Texas.

Day Before Race:

Did my pre-race bike and run first thing in the AM so I could get my biggest meal of the day (MMMMM….Pancakes) in my body and give myself plenty of time to digest. Since I didn’t know the area where I was staying and didn’t really want to drive to the race site, I opted to do my spin on the trainer, but ran outside. I felt decent during this workout, not great or amazing, but I knew another 24 hours or so of rest/recovery I would be feeling much better. Packet pick-up was uneventful and got in a quick swim at the race site.

After wrapping up at the race site I headed back to my AirBnB and got my bike and run gear ready. Of course since it was the first time of the year it took me a while to remember what the hell I was even doing. Dinner was eaten around 5:30p (I had the usual bland pre-race meal)  and washed it down with a bottle of Gatorade Endurance.

During the day I also consumed two bottles of Pedialyte as it typically settles better with me than other sports drinks, even if every person assumes I am severely hungover.

 

Race Day

I slept pretty decent considering it was a race night and was up pretty quick when the alarm went off. As soon as I got up I put my headphones in to start blasting some music, grabbed my coffee, protein shake, 3 cups of applesauce, and a banana for breakfast and got it down as soon as I could (4:30 am). I prep all of my food the night before so this is as easy as a process as it can be on race day. I started sipping on Gatorade Endurance and finished it an hour out from gun time - at the same time I ate 1/2 a Clif Bar.

When I got my bike set-up in transition I noticed that Murphy’s law had taken place, and my powermeter battery was dead. Unfortunately I did not have the specific tool nor the battery to fix the situation, but just shrugged it off and told myself I would go off of HR and RPE. I have done all of my workouts observing multiple metrics as this is a cornerstone of Evolve - we never want too get to caught up on one metric or we would be screwed on race day if something like this happens. Instead I assured myself that I knew intrinsically what my watts felt like and I had HR to back that up - I knew my zones to race in and would use those as a guiding principle.

I got through my pre-race warm-up and sipped on water through the hour leading into the time I went off. 15’ out I downed my Powerbar Gel with water.  Off I headed into the water to get a quick warm-up swim to get the arms and lungs working, and make sure the wetsuit was properly situated.

Swim - 31:42 - PR

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For the wetsuit legal swim, I lined myself up on the far left of the crowd right on the buoy line. A minute or so before the gun went off, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a second, and just gave myself the opportunity to loosen up (mentally). The gun went off, and it was the typical melee for position where everyone thinks that they can swim the 1.2 miles like they are Michael Phelps. I swam pretty hard, and thought I found some pretty quick feet to sit on, and hopefully would be able to bridge up to the lead pack. Unfortunately the guy I decided to follow was gassed by the first buoy and ended up passing him and tried to find the pack. Since we were the last wave to go, there were plenty of people already in the water which made it difficult to pick out the athletes from my wave. I ended up swimming most of the distance by myself with two guys right behind me. I was hoping one of them would bridge up and do some work, but alas they did not. When I made the final turn towards shore with about a 1/3 of the way left, I was feeling comfortable and thought I was making a decent pace. I had a bit of a hard time sighting coming in due to the sun even with the tinted goggles and ended up swimming a bit wide which would be about an extra 150-200 yards (doh!).

T1 - 2:25

There is a decent run from the beach to T1, but I was relaxed and made sure to not gas myself by sprinting through transition. I came out of the water right behind a fellow Jacksonville triathlete and buddy of mine, and knew it would be a good bike ride since we are similar on the bike on most days. I put my socks on, grabbed my helmet, and Charlize (my Cervelo P5) and went on out.

Bike - 2:32:01

I headed out and initially had some issues with getting my shoes on due to velcro sticking to my socks, and just all in a all it was a total cluster fuck. I was able to fix the situation on the fly, and get my feet in, but it was not fun for the mile or so with a few little hills to go over straight out of transition.

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I immediately started my nutrition plan (which I have practiced over and over). I knew I wanted to really lay a solid foundation for a good run by pushing fluid and calories in that first hour. This has been a huge change for me since working with Evolve and something that Coach Lenny has really pushed me to work on - and I think ultimately was a very important part of how the day played out. In the past I never really dialed in my nutrition in the way that is demanded on you as an Evolve athlete and have had issues in the past which would haunt me later on the run.

Here is a breakdown:

Started with 3 Bottles of Gatorade endurance on the bike, and drank two of them in the first hour over 30’ intervals. Third bottle was finished by 1:45 of the bike, 4th bottle finished a little before 2:30 and had another swig of a 5th bottle (picked up from the aid station) right before T2.

Gel wise - I took in gels at 15’, 1:00, 1:40. 2:15 (this is all part of the plan that was tailored to me and my needs).

In terms of the actual ride, it was a decent and honest course. I worked my way through both previous wave athletes, and a few guys from my wave as well. It was pretty quiet and lonely for a lot of the ride without too many others to push you. My HR was about where I expected it to be once I get to the mile 10 mark. The first 40 miles or so is pretty rolling with only a few little punchy hills, but then comes the beast of Florida - Sugarloaf Mountain. I carried a lot of speed into Sugarloaf, and honestly it wasn’t that bad. My fellow Jacksonville triathlete, Eric, was near me a lot of the ride, and we kept passing each other back and forth as a typical ebb and flow of a race. While we rode most of the ride near one another - I kept Coach Lenny's voice in the back of my head - race your own race - stick to your plan. This can be a huge challenge - it's a race after all, but this is long course triathlon, and the race really begins much later. I know as both an athlete and a coach what makes for a strong bike-run and riding smooth and steady within my zones is what would ultimately set me up for the run. I knew that Eric wasn’t much for descending, and the back half of Sugarloaf and leading into T2 would hold a few technical sections. Once I got to the top I punched it (this is also part of the way we train at Evolve - lot’s of rides and run with harder tempo efforts which really helped me here) and was pretty aggressive through the downhill and rolling sections with some fun turns (especially one with a good amount of sand in the middle of the road which almost caused me to go off roading - YIKES!). I knew if I had any chance of holding him off that I had to put space between he and I as much as I could and push the pace leading into transition since he is a very strong runner.

Another good friend of mine, Thomas from Greenville, South Carolina was just ahead of me much of the back half of the race and I finally caught up to him after his 29:xx swim with only a few miles to go. The dude can swim and bike!

T2 - 0:57

I got into T2 with Thomas right in front of me, and quickly racked my bike, grabbed my fuel belt and hat, and got on the move. I try to get as much done moving as possible, so typically put my hat/glasses and fuel belt on while running.

Run - 1:34:07 - 70.3 PR Run

Nutrition - 24 oz Gatorade Endurance w/ added base salt.

Powerbar Gel at 40’, 1:20. Coke starting at mile 10 through the finish.

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I set out and just wanted to try and find my legs and be confident. Lenny had given me paces and HRs and I knew that I needed to settle in first and then start to dial it in. I have had a lot of great run training, and honesty have never run this strong (in training) in my life. I knew that Eric and Thomas would be behind me and breathing down my neck, but I stay focused on MY RACE, and didn’t try and race with my ego like I used to do all too frequently. The course is a two loop, double out and back so you can see your competition at the turn arounds twice every lap. When I made the first u-turn Eric was about 20-25 seconds behind me at most. Thomas was also hot on his heels - it was going to be a race for sure. I knew I could only do what I have in my body and held strong. I made it through the next turn around and had lengthened the gap. I figured something was up since Eric typically runs a 1:28:xx half marathon off the bike, but shrugged the thought away and kept focused. I have been working hard to race in a bubble - focused only on what I can do to be my best at each moment. This is way easier said than done, but I was determined to do my best at it. 

In situations like this previously I would self sabotage along the way, or simply just mentally give up because I lacked confidence in my own ability in comparison to others. When things would get tough, I would relax in my effort as I did not have the confidence to work through the discomfort. This time was different. My posture was good and I stood tall and was running proud (shoulders back, head held high). I was towards the front of the race and finally was seeing myself as the athlete that I actually am in my training, but have never been able to showcase in a race.

While some may infer from previous conversations or my blog post earlier this year, I used to have a larger body composition. At my heaviest I was 255 pounds (for reference I am in the low 160’s during race season). Even though I lost the weight I still would see myself and think like my former larger self, and self impose limits in various ways, always citing my body size and being overweight as being the inhibitor. Body image is something I will struggle with for the rest of my life in some capacity, but I can tell you that pre-race I no longer fucking care how ‘fit’ someone looks (in general or comparison to me). I put in the work everyday, apply myself every day in all capacities. This year I have worked harder than ever on giving zero fucks and with the support of my amazing coach, I have made some huge strides. I have also grown in this capacity due to coaching - it is amazing what you learn about yourself when you work on helping others . 

I continued on with the run, and even though had a few rough miles towards the end and held on to 4th OA for a majority of the run, at the final u-turn I could see I had plenty of space between me and the rest of the group - except for one guy who legitimately came out of nowhere and was hot on my heels. As it turns out I was run down by an amazing runner from Virginia in the last 200 to 400 meters. I joked with him after the race saying I tried to hold strong to hold him off as long as I could go, but he was relentless. He was a humble and great fellow competitor ( I later saw that he ran a 1:24:xx to break down my 10’ lead on him off the bike).

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As I crossed the line and stopped my watch I saw some great news, 4:41:11, a PR by 8 minutes. My previous PR was from Miami 70.3 in 2013, and while I was extremely close on far tougher courses (compared to Miami) last year, I never broke the magical 4:49 number.

I ended up with a 5th Overall placing, and took the win in the Male 30-34 Age Group. The long days of training were somewhat validated, and gave me an extra boost going into the last block of training for Ironman Texas.

 

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I don’t know what the cards will hold at Ironman Texas, but I do know that I will race fearlessly and view myself as a confident and well trained athlete following the direction of Coach Lenny Ramsey, who has continued to challenge me in the 6 months that we have been working together. I am excited where we will go!



 

Athlete Insight - Race Report with Leslie Marion-Lowe

My journey with Evolve began in March 2017 and has changed my life incredibly, for the better of course!  I give credit to Sam for allowing me to let go of some of my mommy guilt to pursue what I love to do...

A few of you may know me, but I’d thought I’d share how I’ve come to the sport, along with my most recent marathon experience.

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I’ve always been interested in physical fitness; I was a physical education major until I decided to leave college after my junior year to go to the police academy.  As an officer, my fitness was still important, but I didn’t run much after the academy.  Until one day one of my coworkers asked if I’d run a marathon with her, which my response was of course!  I hadn’t raced as much as a 5k at that point.  Neither of us knew what we were doing really.  So we read the book, “The Nonrunners guide to running a marathon.”  Sounded easy enough, right?  Only run 4 days/week? Ok!

Come race day, I was ready -  or so I thought.  I had a plan to have a family member or friend run with me the entire way so I wouldn’t be alone.  So every few miles I’d pick up a new fresh face to run with me.  My crucial rookie mistake was coming out of the gate WAY too hard.  I got whisked away with the excitement and idea of a particular finish time that it caused me to hit the wall very early.  It was so horribly painful that I was calling and begging people to please come pick me up.  Luckily they didn’t listen to me.  I plugged along and felt like I was the very last finisher at 6:25:42.  But hey I finished and I was now a marathoner!

As Lindsay Scheinerman (my Evolve teammate and good friend) will tell you, I ghosted my college friends by not returning in 2003 and not telling anyone and lost contact with them all.  Luckily, Facebook brought us back together in 2009.  I’d always wanted to do the Flying Pig marathon because of the fun medal.  So Lindsay and I both sign up for Flying Pig AND Go Stl half marathons that spring.  I like to take the credit for her running addiction ;)  This was the beginning of our racing relationship.  At the end of the Flying Pig half marathon, “someone” didn't follow our plan to go to the family reunion area, so we probably walked another 13.1 miles trying to find each other.  Lindsay tells the story differently.

Our next big plan was, hey let’s do the 2010 Chicago Marathon.  It’s my “treat” to myself for passing my nursing boards.  Unfortunately, this was the year Lindsay got hit by a car at Forest Park during a training run.  Being the awesome friend she is, Lindsay still traveled to Chicago to see me race, but only under the stipulation that I signed up for 2011 Chicago Marathon.  It’s the least I could do right?

I used my experience from my first marathon and went out steady throughout the race and knocked off 1 hr 13 min off my first marathon time.  Not bad.  I held my promise and raced 2011 Chicago, but only half assed trained. I only gained 12 min from previous year, not bad either for half ass training.  Oh and I got to meet the greatest soccer player of all time, Abby Wambach!  Bonus!  Thanks for breaking your ass and forcing me to go back Lindsay! ;)

I went onto to try my first triathlon at the 2011 Newtown Triathlon.  I love to swim, bike and run, so it only made sense right?  Again, another huge rookie mistake.  I only had practiced in a pool, so yep totally freaked the fuck out in the open water.  Went onto finish the race, but had no interest in triathlons after that.  Except the Triathlon at Castlewood that involved a canoe and I wanted to toss Lindsay overboard due to her canoeing skills.  Again, another story she will tell differently.

I went on to run other races, plenty of half’s, 10ks and 5ks.  Always training just enough or offering to stay back to help a slower friend through a race.  My running got derailed once I start to try to get pregnant and have to go on meds.  I felt sick all the time and zapped of energy. I get pregnant, and it gets worse.  I ended up with an emergency C Section, struggled with breast feeding, stress hives,and a baby who doesn’t want to sleep, etc.  I had zero energy for anything.  After Wyatt turned 1, I did my first race in 2 years.  But I quickly lost motivation after that.  I felt like I’d lost myself and I was desperate for help.  I sent smoke signals to Lindsay, and asked for her coaches' number.  I watched her performance dramatically improve over the years and hoped I could achieve similar results with a coach.

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Now that I’m doing more than just half ass training, I’m starting to make great improvements.  Over the past year with Sam, I gained the confidence to try Newtown again and kicked it’s ass by 26 min!  I’ve PR’ed my 5k, had a podium finish at Riverland's Rush, passed over 2000 people during the heat at the Chicago half marathon as people were going down all around me.  And now we embark on marathon #4, The Mesa-Phoenix Marathon 2018...  

My training was pretty solid, despite getting pneumonia for the second time this year.  The longer my runs got, the more I start to feel guilty about not being home on long run Sundays.  Wyatt always asks my wife when she goes to get him in the morning, “Mommy go go go?” And it breaks my heart.  I struggled with great guilt about booking this trip, it will be the longest I’ve been away from Wyatt.  I want to be more than just Wyatt’s mom though and I need this.

The morning of my departure, Wyatt and I played together.  I got teary eyed as we snuggle, but he doesn’t really get it that I’ll be gone.  My mom takes me to the airport and as I get out to go around to the other side to give Wyatt a kiss, she opens he tailgate via remote.  I don’t see the gate going up and I ran smack right into it so hard that it leaves me with a 1 inch gash and blood running down my face.  Now I’m full fledged bawling because it hurt like a motherfucker!  I check to make sure I don’t need stitches and kiss them all goodbye.  Lindsay and I happen to be on the same flight by accident, so at least I have someone to show my war wound to.  I think it can only get better from here, right?

The morning before the race, my wife informs me that our 14 year old Beagle, Ping, seems to not be feeling well.  She had recently been diagnosed with an abdominal tumor and Cushings disease, but had been improving.  She tells me all her symptoms and actions and has me watch her on video.  I know this isn’t good.  The vet checks her out and ultimately it’s up to us to decide if it’s Pings time or not.  My wife takes her home, takes Ping for a walk (which Ping didn’t enjoy), made Ping bacon (didn’t eat it) and by late morning her tail isn’t wagging anymore so we know it’s time.  I have to say good bye via FaceTime and I’m absolutely crushed.  I force myself through the pre-race motions all day.  I’d been looking forward to my big breakfast, but sat there adding extra sodium via tears.  I do my 30 min run and of course everyone is out walking their dogs so tears streamed down my face the entire time.  Needless to say I was a complete fucking mess.  I felt so helpless and guilty for not being there with Ping during her final moments.

I maybe get 4 hours of sleep race night and wake up all puffy faced with my eyelids being giant puffy pillows.  At least it will be dark at the start.  It’s a 30 min bus ride and I happen to sit next to a Triathlon coach from Salt Lake City.  She has 5 boys ages 1.5  to 11 and is using this race as a training run for an upcoming full iron she’s doing.  Fuck and I’m overwhelmed with the one kid!  Anyways it’s a nice distraction.  

I like to pick people out that resemble people from home and pretend they are cheering for me.  The bus chick was my Sam.  Lady in the portapotty line was a coworker.  Saw a family resembling mine.  It keeps my mind off things.  I fly through the first 10 miles without much effort and it’s a piece of cake.  I see my friends at mile 11 and it gives me a boost.  The next 10 miles go ok, but I can’t seem to get my pace to pick up at all so I try to maintain until mile 20.  At 20 I’m still feeling pretty good, and decide this is where I need to give it all I have in the tank.  But my fucking legs just won’t move.  Like hello, body please listen to what the mind is telling you to do!  My friends are around mile 23, so I know I have to make it there and that will help.  I get a surprise sighting of Lindsay’s husband at mile 22, so that helps.  I see my friends at 23.5 and know that I’m so close to the finish.  I happened to touch my face and it’s covered in salt.  I’d been drinking my Gatorade, wtf!  At 24, I happen to see a huge bottle of salt tabs, so I snag one.  It’s only 2.2 miles, seriously get your shit together.  The faster you go, the faster this will be over.  I start to pick up the pace.  At 25, I’m locked in and tell myself every .10 I need to move faster.  There’s a nice downhill at 25.5 and a runner comes up next to me and tells me that I’m looking smooth and steady.  I turned and asked if she wanted to try and go balls to the wall into the finish with me.  She says her knee is locked up, but she will try.  I keep pushing it as hard as I can, she keeps falling back but I yell to her to get up there with me.  As well get closer, she starts to pull ahead so I use that to pull up there with her and we cross the line together.  She gives me a big hug at the end and tells me thank you.

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I managed to keep my shit together during the race.  I couldn’t allow any thoughts of Ping because it would cause me to not be able to breathe.  Really I went to work and focused on getting to the finish so it could be over with.  Usually races are more of a celebration of all the work I’ve put into getting to that point.  I didn’t feel like celebrating and wasn’t excited.  I forced myself to smile on the course because I knew it would help tell my body that it wasn’t experiencing any pain.  Which it didn’t hurt like past marathons.  They gave me my medal and a towel.  And I lost it into the towel.  I crossed the line at 4:34:16, should be excited with that but I’m not.  It’s my new PR by 38:20, that’s nearly 1.5 min/mile faster!  Nope still not excited and feel like I should have done better.  Despite feeling like I could have done better, this was by far my best race.  I stayed moving nearly the entire time!  I stopped at mile 3 to pee and at mile 11 to shed layers and be sprayed down with sunblock.  I had only two mini walking sessions that maybe lasted 15 seconds each in order to collect myself.  I know all these great thing I accomplished and should be proud of, it’s been hard to allow those feelings in with the dagger currently placed in my heart.

I’ve known Ping 9 of her 14 years.  She came to be a permenant family member for her final 3 years.  In her prime, she was one hell of a runner and could easily run a 7-8 min/mile with her previous owner.  I could only hope to be half the runner she was.  This one was for Ping.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have considered this to be a hurdle I would encounter during a race.  I made it.  With pain, comes strength.

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Never Stop Learning - Athlete Insight with Colleen McGarry

I met Colleen was I was 22 and a brand new teacher. I had just completed my student teaching and was offered to fill a maternity leave - I am not exactly sure of the first time that we met, but I am keenly aware of a conversation that must have taken place early in the semester over the usual super rushed lunch that is the norm for a teacher -  it was the usual, do you have any plans for this weekend? I was new to the department and I am sure that this was a polite way of breaking the ice, so I just answered with, well kind of, I am flying to Dublin, Ireland to run a marathon. The look on her face was priceless, she still gives me that look - the you are bat shit crazy, but somehow this works! That was October and in November Colleen approached me to tell me that she had just started running and had run her first 5k - when she told me her time, I bit my tongue and thought, well fuck - this chick can run. But I pretended that I could keep up and we decided to meet for a 5 mile run after school - a loop that we just revisited this past December - she left me in the dust, but more importantly we started to forge what would become the strongest friendship that I have ever had. From that day on, we have spent countless hours swimming, biking, running, lifting, laughing and talking each day.  

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There is something that makes Colleen a unique creature - she has some kind of special race mojo that she can call upon when she hits the starting line that most of us can only dream about. Colleen is the epitome of the line from Midsummer's Night Dream - "... though she be but little, she is fierce." But this fierce side of her is often shrouded initially in fear - however, zip up that wetsuit or lace up those sneakers and she goes next level into a full blown suffer mode.  Another amazing thing which I believe is linked to her ability to take racing to the next level is her desire to never stop learning and to take on new challenges at any age. Colleen inspires me as an athlete every day. She never stops learning, growing, and challenging herself.


Last year, after my father died and I turned 40, I decided I would try things that were outside of my comfort zone. Things that would make me feel alive and keep the world from moving too fast away from me. Learning new things brings freshness to life, but it is also scary as shit.  Especially as an adult. I’ve embarked on new athletic adventures before.  I became a runner at 25, ran my first marathon at 29, qualified and ran Boston at 31, and have been racing triathlon for a decade. But skiing felt different. Skiing felt unreasonable, untouchable, undoable; that is exactly why I decided it was the perfect thing to begin with.

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Saturday was my second week back at ski lessons and my husband suggested that I go to the mountain with the family to show what I had learned the previous week.  Since I had already had one week of lessons and it wasn’t steller, I was hesitant to show anyone anything. In fact, I wasn’t sure I really knew anything. My twelve year old is hesitant to ski even after a previous year of lessons, so I decided I would swallow my fear and head up to bunny hill to set an example for my son.  

 

Keep in mind that this was the second time in my life I had ever had skis on. My 9 year old took off french frying like a maniac down the mountain and my husband stood by while my older son and I hesitated at the top. I pushed off and immediately lost control and fell.  Since I’ve never fallen before, I had no idea how to get up and I had no poles to get out of the skis.  I looked to my husband for help and he seemed frustrated that I had no idea how to get my body upright again.  As in, how could you not be able to get up? Just get up! He helped me and I tried again, only to fall.  Again.  Since the 9 year old was eager to be out there, my husband just couldn’t deal with me (and the four kids we had with us) and sent me off to wait for what would be my second ski lesson.  So, I stood alone waiting for the instructor and the other beginners to arrive.  For 30 minutes.  That’s a long time to stand feeling defeated, frustrated, and humiliated.  That’s a long time to choke back the tears of self doubt.  As the others arrived, I decided that the day’s new goal would be: just don’t cry.  Just don’t cry.  Just. Don’t. Cry.

 

We headed back to the mountain where my self doubt ruled supreme and we started the lesson.  The instructor didn’t remember me at first, but as soon as he saw my hesitation and anxiety, he remembered. I was so nervous for each new skill that every time we came to a rest for instruction, my legs were shaking.  I had clenched feet in my boots and my whole body was tight while I concentrated on being afraid.  I was digging deep to get through this.  I reached back to remember the day I showed up for swim lessons at 27 years old.  I didn’t fear swimming in the same way I am afraid to speed down the slopes, but I was afraid of failing. I safeguarded myself from failing in the pool by practicing and practicing and more practicing.  Now, it’s hard for me to remember a time when I couldn’t swim.  I often get asked for advice from novices at the YMCA and have frequently exited the water at the top of my age group in open water.  I called on that success to calm me on the mountain.  And then, I hit one of the skills right on.  The instructor celebrated me for a brief moment and my legs began to settle.  

 

Conquering the chair lift without the help of the instructor was the next hurdle for the day.  I paired up with a sweet 7th grader and he gave me some advice.  At one point he leaned over to me during the lesson and said, “the first step to success is a positive attitude.” There is nothing like the advice of an honest child to set you straight. Near the end of the hour he left me with this, “What you should do is, after the lesson, ski until you just can’t ski anymore.” He was my cheerleader everytime we rode the lift during the lesson and for hours after.  

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After the lesson, I was left with my 9 year old and his friends on the bunny hill.  I had no choice but to be on the hill with the kids. I could have chosen to stand around and take photos, but I stood at the top knowing exactly what I had to do. Practice.  And fail.  On my own terms. And then, do it again and again and again.  I just had to make it from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill once. I pushed off and in few minutes I was at the bottom and it was glorious.  Not graceful, but glorious. And then I did it over and over again, each time with more confidence that skiing is a new skill that I am capable of learning. Although I had trouble executing the skills in the lessons on demand, I felt my intuition lead me around obstacles.  I felt my body sort of lean when it was supposed to. I felt my fear turn into drive. I am certain that nothing looked pretty and I am sure anyone watching knew I was green, but at the end of the day I wanted to keep skiing and I had crushed my goal of not crying.

 

Even when I spun out and found myself backward on the hill I wasn’t deterred. I turned my body and my skis so I could get up without sliding. I thought about my bike crash at The Big George 70.3 in Lake George, NY.  I was crushing the race, killing my previous 70.3 PR when I got careless and my wheel slipped on loose dirt while I was in aero with one hand in my jersey pocket reaching for nutrition. I crashed hard, body over handlebars, helmet smashed into pavement, with my bike landing on top of me.  I got up, collected myself, assessed my bike and without much more consideration continued the race.  Because really, the fastest, easiest, and maybe only way back to transition was to ride.  I had a great run fueled by adrenaline and finished the race strong despite the bike crash, but the most important lesson of the race was that I got right back on.  I didn’t let fear take that day. So, I turned those skis down the mountain and finished that run and went back for several more because I wasn’t going to let this day go either.

 

The day was mine, but it also belonged to my family.  My 9 year old smiled with friends on the lift and raced down the mountain until he was dead tired and frozen. My 12 year old conquered his hesitation and practiced skills on the bunny hill with friends for an hour. My husband had time to hit the real slopes and we had spent an entire afternoon and evening together. The reward is big for embarking on new adventures like this, but I am certain I would never have had the courage to be here in this moment if not for all of the challenges that I’ve encountered through years of training for and racing in endurance events. Before triathlon I wasn’t able to harness the fear that is inherent in new experiences, but triathlon has taught me that failure isn’t really failure. Failure is giving in to that weakness in your shaky legs that tells your brain you can’t do this.  Moving past that, even if it’s tiny baby steps on the bunny hill, that’s a victory.  

 

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