Love Potion 140.6 - Triathlon's Secret Discipline with Coach Scott

“Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation, and conversation must have a common basis, and between two people of widely different culture the only common basis possible is the lowest level.” - Oscar Wilde

Pre-Chattanooga 70.3!

Pre-Chattanooga 70.3!



As the intensity of your triathlon season builds, and training hours ramp up, the most important ingredient for success is having a strong support system. Without strong relationships and clear communication with those whom you love, you can really derail your triathlon season. Let’s face it, triathlon can sometimes seem cult like,  and unless you are one of the rare triathlon power couples, then you have to really work on your relationships. But even the power couples face challenges. So, no matter how long you have been in this sport and if your partner is a triathlete - the reality is that communication is essential to get the most out of your training and not leave anyone feeling like they are not part of the process.

Triathlon is something that really raises your endorphins and self-confidence, but at times can zap your energy so the people around you are wondering what you are so excited about. This is what we see to be the biggest relationship stressor - as the season and your training builds so does your excitement. And sometimes that excitement can spill into every aspect of your life. Triathlon brings a ton of positive change from physical to how you handle stress, and in general you might find yourself feeling slightly obsessed with the sport. The positive changes are great, but imagine being the spouse on the other side of that equation. Where suddenly you are coming back from your workout discussing FTP, cadence, power numbers, sweat tests, drills, swim tests, Strava KOMs… You get the point… Consider sharing your excitement, but try not to discuss your watts and FTP for the next 6 hours. Balance the conversation with their day and give them a chance to talk about what made their day. We would suggest capping tri talk at 15 minutes - that allows you to get your excitement off your chest, but gives room for your partner to feel that your day is not the only thing that matters.

What are some things you can do to keep your relationship strong and support EACH other?  Below are 10 things that we see athletes at Evolve do really well in regards to relationships:

 

  1. Take time to have  conversations with your partner and not speak in triathlon geek speak 24-7.

  2. Agree on a triathlon budget.

  3. After your 4 hour workout, do a surprise thing that your spouse will appreciate. It can be a simple thing around the house. Hint, hint .... laundry is the secret to all relationship success.

  4. Share with them WHY you are on this triathlon journey.

  5. Explain the role of your coach.Your coach is there to help you be the best version of yourself in triathlon. Share the conversations with your partner that you and your coach have. Chances are it will mean more than your new FTP to them; your partner will appreciate that you are improving.

  6. When you get back from that long workout (maybe take a shower first), give your partner a hug and thank them for the support and acknowledge it is not always easy, but it means the world to you.

  7. Include your spouse in your workouts when possible - ride the trainer so you can be in the same room, have him or her ride a bike next to you while you run.

  8. Surprise them with a gift and no it is not an Ironman spouse t-shirt…

  9. Understand your partner's love language and try and support it.

  10. Schedule a regular date night and let your coach know when it is, the last thing you need is to have a long bike ride during date time. Your coach wants you to succeed and knows that this is part of the process.

Okay - and maybe just one more tip - when you get back from a workout, let’s be honest, we all want to look at our garmin data, and watch Training Peaks turn green, but take the time to put away all devices and just have a few minutes of real human connection! It really is that simple.



In the end sharing the experience can actually have a positive impact on your relationship, just remember your partner’s interest are just as important as yours. Having separate interests can be a great chance to connect as a couple, all that is needed is the time and communication that can be so hard to have these days!




How to Get to the Top of a Mountain by Training for a Half-Ironman - Athlete Spotlight with Amanda Phraner


“Wow, Kilimanjaro. How are you training for that?” That was pretty much the question I heard from everyone leading up to what was a trip of a lifetime. See I live in Chicago which is not exactly known for its mountains, altitude or well any sort of non-flat terrain. Of course my answer was simple – “Easy, I’m training for Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells which is a few weeks before.” It seemed to appease most people, though a few did point out that maybe some altitude training would be good. And I’m sure it would have been if I had figured out how to add more time in the day and days in the week. But in the end, the training for the race actually prepared me more than any climb could have.

Packing

There is nothing more critical for a race than packing – to the race and for the race. The art of it is making sure you have exactly what you need and nothing more or nothing less. I’ve become a master of using gallon size Ziplock bags to make sure everything is together, organized and water proof (nothing worse than soggy socks because your transition bag sat overnight).

As I tried to figure out exactly what I would need for a 6 day climb, 3 day safari and 6 days at the beach I used all of those race day skills. Lay everything out. Organize it by event. Go through and make sure you have what you need but don’t take anything more than that. I should probably note here that I was also attempting to take everything I needed in my backpack and carry-on, because with 4 different flights there I wasn’t willing to have lost luggage.

Looking back I must say this was maybe the best idea I had. First, if you take all the air out the bags double as compression sacks. Second, when you go through security over and over and over again it is much easier to repack a few Ziplocks into a backpack than every piece of clothing. Third, I knew where everything was over the hike and could quick grab that extra layer.

Nutrition

There is always that line in coach Sam’s race plan – if you can’t eat at least keep taking in fluids. While I packed all the bars, gels, electrolytes and salt tabs a girl could want, when the altitude hit I couldn’t stomach any of it. On summit day I managed half a bar before calling it quits and focusing on how many Pepto tabs I could chew. But I never stopped drinking water/electrolytes because I knew if I couldn’t eat I at the very least needed to drink. So somehow I managed to hike for 11 ½ hours on a half a bar and 4 liters of water. Which brings me to…..

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Moving on Tired Legs

I’m pretty sure learning to move on tired legs is the epitome of triathlon training. Spin for 4 hours and then go run for 30 minutes. Two –a-days, brick work, speed then distance – all of it teaching us how to move on tired legs. This was the second most important application of training for the hike (I’ll get to the first next).

Since we were on the 6-day hike, it meant that within the 48 hours of the summit we ended up hiking for about 24 hours. I’m completely disregarding the 3 days of hiking to even get to this point, but those 48-hours were brutal. It started with a 3 ½ hour hike up (more like a rock climb) over a wall to lunch, then a 3 hour hike to base camp. We had a few hours to “sleep” before dinner, eat dinner and then a few hours to “sleep” before waking up at 11 pm to start the summit climb at midnight. Needless to say sleeping didn’t happen.

From midnight to dawn you pretty much question your sanity a few hundred times. It’s dark, cold, windy and you are moving at a snail’s pace (at least I was). You’re tired. Your legs are tired. But you keep moving until you reach that peak. I can’t begin to describe how amazing that point was – the mental, physical and emotional challenge to get there overwhelms you. The views and the beauty cannot be captured in a photo. Of course once you take this all in, the realization that you have to get down the mountain sets in.

Down to base camp was almost as hard as up to the summit. By now the sun has been up and the ground is no longer frozen so you end up skiing down sand. As you’ve spent the better part of 8 hours climbing up, you become unsure of your legs going down. Hitting a gravel spot every so often doesn’t help with confidence. But this was my sweet spot. I was tired but I knew this place. You just need to keep focused and keep moving.

I’d like to say that was the end of moving on tired legs, but after an hour to rest we had to keep going to lower camp. This meant 6 more hours of hiking. But I was prepared for this. It was like a two-a-day or a long weekend brick. I had just gotten off the bike and it was time to run. Though in this case the runs was more of a slow 6 hour walk.

Mindset

This was the most important aspect of triathlon training that came into play when climbing. Determination and focus was just as important for the climb as it is in every race - part of getting to the top was wanting to get there. Of course there was also the ability to come out of a dark place and reset to keep going. I was well-versed here after Indian Wells – a freezing swim, three issues with my rear tire, and a small crash will teach you how to feel the pain and then put it aside to keep moving forward. There were many dark places along the hike, not just on the summit day. I can’t count the times that I had to let myself feel weak, tired, and sick and then push those aside, re-frame to a positive mindset and move forward. Luckily the friend I hiked with and I took turns falling apart, as it always helps to have someone else pull you back to reality.

Bonus Training: Run Your Own Race

Okay so one more bonus aspect of training for a triathlon that really helped – run your own race. It can be so easy to get caught up in how fast (or slow) you’re moving compared to everyone else. Early on the summit day you see people coming down the mountain – those who couldn’t reach the top for any number of reasons – and people passing you by as if you were standing still. It becomes hard to stay focused on your climb, your pace and what is best for you when you are faced with the question of “can I make it?” as others seem to be doing it easily and some clearly had their day called early.

Pole pole (Swahili for slow) was our plan – and you always follow the plan. It was hard at times to know that if we moved a tiny bit faster we would get there sooner because even though on the way up I didn’t quite know how long the day would be, I still knew it would be a long day. But keeping to the plan would get us to the top, so at all costs I had to block out what everyone else was doing and just focus on the my race (errr climb) plan.

Looking back, would I have trained the same way if I could do it all over again? Probably. Maybe I would have found time to visit the high altitude training room I learned about only after returning. Maybe I would have taken the difficulty of the climb more seriously. Maybe I would have signed up for a 7 day trek. But the truth is, that every bit of the Ironman 70.3 training that got me to the finish on race day, got me to the top of Kilimanjaro and I couldn’t have asked for better training than that.




Welcome Back to Reality - with Coach Nick

New Year, New Me?

It is that time of the year - yes, when our stomachs are full of holiday treats, sugar levels are at an all-time high, and if you are like me motivation, as much as I am telling myself it’s a New Year, is still pretty damn low. You have come down from your post race high from your 2018 ‘A’ race and lost some fitness (which is the sole purpose of an off season). I feel recovered and ready to roll - at least I think I am the latter.

The first few weeks back to your “on-season” are always a struggle and offer a swift kick to the face by the reality of early AM workouts and far more conscious eating. While I am a coach, I am also an athlete and one who succumbs to the same tendencies that others do.  I know that many of us struggle with the same issues, even if we do not always like to admit it.

There are 3 issues I typically face at this point in my early season training, and here is how I have learned to combat them.


  1. Lack of focus on eating (ie overeating, not eating consciously for fueling)

This is one that I REALLY struggle with around the holidays. In a time where you are spending time with friends, family, and co-workers it is tough to not get sucked into the holiday libations, baked goods (mmmmm cookies), and other yummy stuff. For months I was able to indulge far more often (within reason) due to a pretty high volume training.

Yes - you will gain weight this time of year. That is fine, and quite honestly a great sign that you took your off-season seriously. This is the time of year we rebuild our foundation and ensure there are not any cracks in said foundation. One way to ensure that we are ready to built the house anew is through fueling the body and gaining some healthy weight

“Gain weight” says coach - I say, game on. But then I hit a point of “what the hell happened?” It gets to a point with me where I am struggling all day with my eating and the emotions that can be attached to eating and hunger. I catch myself overeating because I am so “hungry” and my mind/body is craving that sugar buzz we get from those aforementioned holiday treats and baked goods (mmmm cookies).

I have tried a few different techniques over my years of racing, but one has really seemed to work for me and helped me to kick off my healthy eating/fueling efforts - food tracking. With the advent of smartphones and apps for seemingly every task possible, there are countless options. The one that I go to is MyFitnessPal (and also perhaps the one that most of you are familiar with). Yes - it is time consuming to find the calories, log it properly (ie weigh the food like the neurotic person I am), and not get so fed up and just eat a pre-packaged meal when you can scan the info and it is loaded into the app. The key aspect of food tracking for me personally, and from what I’ve seen with my peers is that it provide two aspects to you as an athlete and person in general. First off, it holds you accountable for what you are putting in your body. When you have that mind - body connection to the food you are consuming, and seeing the nutrient makeup of say something like a COOKIE, you tend to make the better choice. Being a type-A and goal driven athlete, I love to ensure that I am staying within my caloric goals, and also meeting marco nutrient requirements. Suddenly I am not too focused on how hungry I am, I’m eating less crap (for instance, cookies), the timing of my meals if far more consistent, and the weight starts to come off at a healthy rate. The second reason and simply put, I feel empowered to eat nutrient dense, healthy foods and know that I am treating my body as a tool for performance and my vehicle to become the best version of myself of an athlete - and even beyond that as a person who wants to be physically healthy.


2) Lack of motivation to wake up/getting back into the routine.

Don’t get me wrong - I love to workout. But we all know there are days that no matter how much we enjoy it, motivation can wane. This is amplified by such factors as weather (read: cold, rain, windy, etc), and daylight savings time making us want to just go to sleep at 6 pm and sleep until 8 am.


The first week back is what I refer to as boot camp - it is a swift kick in the pants to bring you back to your structured athletic endeavors. Fact: I am not a morning person, and have to set 5 alarms to get my ass out of bed on time for an am workout. I wish I was kidding, but what can I say, I love my bed (and my mama). You know you are singing that song in your head now...

The way I personally work around this is by setting a goal of waking up to make JUST one workout. Once I get one or two early AM workouts out of the way I am reminded of the mental boost I get throughout the day, albeit if it comes with an additional cup or two of coffee on those first few days. My motivation for the next workout starts to build and gain momentum, and before I know it I am almost excited for my next training opportunity.

Another way to approach this is to reward yourself the first few days, this can be in the form of a smoothie (or healthy-ish ;) snack of choice) on the way home from your workout or on the way to work. Or maybe after you make two weeks in a row of getting up, you buy yourself some new gear. Celebrate the wins regardless of how big or small they are.

3) Not being able to find time to workout

Even outside of the holiday season, it is tough to balance everything on our plates between work, family, and still trying to have a social life that may require you stay out past 6 pm. This gets amplified to new levels of difficulty when the workout load starts to pick up. So how do you combat this other than adding 2 more hours to the day.

First, be open with your coach about what your obligations are. The new year at work can also be stressful, or getting your kids back into a routine. Consistency  is key, so setting up realistic weekly training volumes where you are not running yourself ragged is a key focal point for success. We often want to go head first back into training in the New Year - but that does not always work and can set us back - a slow ramp up is usually the way to go. One great session a week or month does not make an athlete great, but multiple quality, well executed sessions make an athlete.

Second, like previously talked about  - set incremental goals. The downfall I face is switching my workouts around within the week. As a coach it is frustrating to see an athlete do this as I take a good deal of time to schedule all of the various sessions to ensure maximum benefits. The first week back my main goal is no missed workouts. Second week back, no missed workouts AND no moved workouts. After those two weeks have lapsed I am in a decent groove in both a mental and physical space averting any lack of motivation or the attempt of ‘catching up’ on workouts after moving your week around on your own accord.


So what does all this mean?

We are all human, and not robots. The ebb and flow of motivation is natural and normal.

I offer these as what works for me, but if these do not work for you, ask your friends and training partners how they get through it. Do not be afraid that you are showing weakness by expressing your lack of motivation or discipline at the moment. It happens to most everyone. Dare I say all of us - just some are more willing to be open about it.

Make a plan, set a goal, and celebrate any and all victories that come your way!

Here’s to crushing 2019.

Be sure to follow Coach Nick @ncgregory8878 on the gram.



Top 11 Things I Learned During Cowbell 26.2 Training

11.  The chafing is REAL.  And it happens in unexpected places.  I was not surprised to get a little chafing on the inside of my upper thighs.  From previous training, I even knew to expect a little at the insides of my arms where they rubbed my chest wall.  The chafing where my heart rate monitor sits is understandable. But the one that I just don’t get is on my back where my hydration belt sits, not really moving, over my clothes.  And that is always that one that, as soon as I step into the shower or sit down in the bathtub, screams out, “GOTCHA!!!!!”



10.  Wear the sports bra!  (Warning—personal information coming up).  I am no Dolly Parton, not by a LONG shot. I have never really seen the need for sports bras.  They can be more difficult to take off if you are sweaty and seem like they make you hotter. However, even for those of us that are bust-challenged, more support is definitely more comfortable after about mile 5.  And did you read #11 above? Regular bras definitely add to that one as well.



9.  Your children, regardless of age, are probably capable of more than you think around the house.  So if you have a long run and will be gone when your tweens wake up for breakfast I guarantee they will find something to eat.  And mine are old enough that I sometimes just left a recipe on the counter and let them figure it out. No one starved. Except me, as I was out running (see also #4).  



8.   Do not underestimate the importance of sleep or the power of heat.  Invariably, when it was really hot out, and I had a bad run, I would try to figure out why.  Then, later in the day, the posts would start—EVERYONE had a run that was not what they wanted.  Someone actually posted a chart about the effects of temperature on workout by degrees. With my job, sleep can be as unpredictable as St. Louis weather.  And I often noticed the same crummy effect on my workouts if I was up all night working. But once again, during this process, Sam posted something about sleep!



7.   Vegetables are not always your friend.  Sure, they are healthy, full of vitamins and minerals and great for clean eating.  You can have them raw, steamed, grilled, seasoned any way you like them. And many of them are a great source of fiber, which is very important to good functioning of your digestive system.  And therein lies the problem. Enough said.

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6.  Variety is the spice of life.  This is true with respect to your nutrition, as you can only eat so many black cherry Bloks before you hate them.  It is true with respect to your hydration (can you say Watermelon?!?! Just like a jolly rancher!). And it is certainly true of running routes.  When I was struggling at one point with whether I could actually do this, a very wise runner told me to go different places for my long run. I thought knowing what was coming was a great idea.  Boy, was I off base on that one. New routes made it more interesting and therefore easier.



5.   Use the power of being on a team (or at least of having friends in “the lifestyle”)!  With a month to go I was struggling a LOT. I posted on the Evolve Facebook page and within hours had several responses that helped me out.  People shared their stories and suggestions. And, after that I had several others checking in on me to see how training was going and wishing me luck.  The day before the marathon I had texts and Facebook messages from a lot of Evolve folks as well as others I have met on this journey. It made a huge difference.



4.   Grocery shopping after a long run is a crapshoot.  Even after eating something, there is still a weakening of the defenses.  Delicious salty chips? Absolutely! That wonderful carbonated drink? It is like something from Alice in Wonderland with a “Drink Me” sign.  Your children will pick up on this quickly and want to accompany you. They know that now is the chance to put ice cream and cookies and who knows what else in the cart, as you will either not notice, not care, or say, “That looks really good.  Go get another pack of that.”



3.  Don’t panic when the unexpected happens.  And in the long process of training, it will.  Kids get sick, work projects pop up, you get injured.  Adapt, adjust and keep a positive attitude. I told my family in the 2 weeks before the race I was going to be selfish, and that there would be food in the house, and I would get them to scheduled activities, but nothing extra.  Then there was a homecoming dress crisis, a student started a rotation in my office (yes, I knew about that one but kind of forgot), a car that completely died 6 days before the race requiring trips to car dealers and purchasing a vehicle, and a baby to deliver at 1 in the morning the day of the race.  When the car broke down, I almost lost it, but that would not have fixed anything. And so you adjust and move on.



2.   Have a partner in crime!  Finding someone else with my same brand of crazy made all the difference. We didn’t always run together, but we always checked in with each other, gave support on our bad days (which luckily rarely coincided), and sure as heck pushed each other along on race day.  I was fortunate to find someone I enjoy running with who happens to be well paced to me. This may not work for everyone, but it was a huge benefit to me!



1.   Never say never.  I said I would never do a marathon.  I said there was no way I was going to finish.  I said there was no way I could keep up with the training.  Of course, after I finished, I did say I was never doing another one…hmmmmmm.



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The Power of Denial - with Coach Tori

As endurance athletes we take pride in pushing hard and not backing down at any challenge, and while these qualities have their place, they can also be dangerous if taken too far. Paying attention to your body when it is in pain and ignoring warning signs can have serious consequences.

Recently one of my best friends had a heart attack at the age of 42. Two years ago she had a hip problem after an endurance race. The lingering pain and denying anything was wrong for a year led to a labrum tear and hip surgery.  Her PT released her this past spring to start working out. It was a gradual process and she felt like she would never do a long endurance race again. So she decided to race shorter races like 5ks, but as you know, short races do not mean easy. While she wasn’t running ultras any more, she was still pushing her body pretty hard.

After a triathlon this summer, she had chest pains. Her doctor, PT and I all came to the same conclusion that it was most likely exercise related. She went hard and fast and her HR was above what she had been doing and also longer than what she has done in the past two years. A week later and three more episodes, she decided, reluctantly, to go to the ER. She was still in denial, and struggled to skip her morning run, but knew that she needed to go to the ER. She wanted to turn around at every exit she passed. She went into the ER with her swim bag with the attitude the doctors would tell her she’s fine and then off to swim she would go. After an abnormal blood test and EKG, she was moved to an inpatient and a cardiac catheter was performed. 

She had 3 blocked arteries with one that had a section that was 95% blocked. If she would have gone running that morning as planned, the outcome would most likely been different. The final diagnosis is spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). This is a common diagnosis in seemingly healthy, young women and the cause is still unknown.  While this is not a typical scenario, it does illustrate the dangers of ignoring the warning signals the body is trying to send.

While less extreme, I have had a lingering foot issue. And like any good endurance athlete, I self-diagnosed it as plantar fasciitis. But I had a feeling that it might be something worse, so after my last race (of course I waited until after I raced) I went to the podiatrist and found out I have a stress fracture in my heel. I am now in a boot and not sure when I will be able to race long again.

Do you see the pattern?  Denying that anything is wrong when your body is telling you something, can set you back for long periods of time. We all do this. We all tend to think that the little thing is just an ache, it will go away, it’s not a big deal and I will get it looked at after my A race. This can be true in many cases, but it is best to be proactive in your approach rather than having to react to something larger. If you don’t get it looked at before the A race you may not be able to make it to the start line. 

One really easy way to avoid this scenario is to work with a coach. The trick is that the athlete needs to be upfront about pain. I see this a lot in coaching, an athlete who is unwilling to share their pains with me in fear of me changing the plan. However, it is my job as a coach to pick the best way to get to the starting line as healthy as possible. There are many roads that lead there, and a coach is there to help to identify which road makes the most sense at any particular time. It is very easy to over do it if you are solo in your athletic pursuits. A coach offers an objective set of eyes. She or he will recognize patterns of behaviors and see warning signs even when an athlete is not always forthcoming with being in pain.

An occasional ache and pain is part of sports, but chronic pain or any pain that affects your joints needs to be dealt with right away.

We spend countless hours training, a lot of time away from family. We invest in our health with exercise and eating well, and we need to do the same when it comes to seeing a doctor if we are in pain. Take care of your body it’s the only one you have. 

Ironman Lake Placid and Wisconsin Race Reports with Coach Lenny

My season started in February, when I headed to the QT2 pro training camp in Clermont, Florida. While, I train throughout the year, this is where I really ramp up my volume and also am faced with reality: I have a long way to go. The people I’m with there are my friends, but in the end also my competition.

I love training, but I absolutely love racing. So once we started this season my coach and I decided I could race a 70.3 every 3-4 weeks. This plan would keep me focused and give me more experiences as a pro in my second season. This meant that I signed up for 5 races between April and June and I was excited for it. We would use the races to build through the season, peak at 70.3 Mont Tremblant, take a couple weeks off and then hit it for a second round of racing. And maybe, just maybe, try my first full at the end of the season – Wisconsin.

When I started training with Sam, after our first power test, she y told me how aerobic I am and that Ironman would be my sweet spot, and Tim was no different. But he was also clear in that I should not do a full until I felt ready and really wanted it. Then in April/May, in the midst of training and racing it hit. I was ready. Lake placid was a race on my bucket list, I had been there for training the year before and I loved the area. So I texted Tim: “what would you think about Lake Placid?”. It didn’t take long for him to reply with: “I think that would be a great race for you”. So the decision was made.

With all the racing it was hard to get the long runs in safely, so in my peak weeks I sometimes did 3 or 4 shorter runs in a day. And through some of the hottest and most humid weeks in Wisconsin I got my 6 or 7 hour rides in and absolutely loved it ALL. Of course there were days I struggled. During a weekend of training in Lake Placid I got on my bike the day after a long ride in the blistering heat, a week after having raced, and I just had nothing left. I called my coach, crying out of fatigue and disappointment and ended the workout. Frustrated, I felt like I should have pushed through and not complained – but Tim reassured me, that I don’t complain, so when I do, it’s probably time to pull the plug. So I gathered myself, flew home early the next morning to go straight into a split run with a bike ride in between. I felt rough, very rough, but pulling through days like these builds confidence. It was my choice to do this and it was and is hard, but it wasn’t supposed to be easy. And thankfully, I have a crazy supportive wife at home who made me dinner night after night as I lay on the couch, exhausted.

The week of the race I was nervous. Very nervous. I had no idea what to expect. But I trust Tim blindly, and physically I felt ready. On race morning the nerves were overwhelming and I walked towards the start line with tears rolling down my face. But once that gun went off, it was game time. Time to stick on people’s feet on the swim. Time to crush that rainy bike ride, keeping it steady but solid. And finally, time to nail that run. I had never run a marathon before that day, so I followed Tim’s instructions – easy, real easy for the first 4-5 miles, walk every other aid station, and after mile 14 – just let my body do the work. And it did, yes – it hurt - but I enjoyed every moment of that race.

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After the race I wanted to try it again! So it was on to Wisconsin!

As Wisconsin started getting close, I felt confident. Too confident? Lake placid – was that a fluke? Ignorance is bliss – it was nice to not know what I was getting into that first race, but this race would be different – was I making it prettier in my head than it really was? And now people knew who I was, there were expectations. I had expectations. Were those realistic? Would I be able to do this again?

Not my best swim, I knew that as soon as we got to the 2nd buoy. But I was determined to finish this race strong. And during an Ironman anything can happen. The bike – I had ridden the course, I could do this well. I felt good, was consistent, and pushing hard – but not too hard. As I went down a steep downhill, I tucked in aero – I knew this turn, had taken it in training many times – then came out at the last minute to brake and go into the turn. As I squeezed my brakes on my race wheels I knew I was too late, and I was going too fast. I made the split second decision to ride into the grass shoulder. As soon as my front wheel left the asphalt, it caught and my bike and I made a flip, I landed on my back with my bike a few feet further down. A bit surprised, I stood up – many things flashing though my head. But first things first, I was ok - no pain? No pain. Second – the bike, it looked ok, my wheels spun like normal. So far so good – so I grabbed my nutrition, stuffed my bottles and gels back on my bike and got back on. I refocused on the race; I was determined to finish this race strong. I lost a few minutes, but anything can happen during an Ironman. Before Lake Placid Tim had said: Anything can happen during an Ironman, anything can happen to anyone. Unexpected things will happen during an Ironman. So you take the hits as they come and manage them to the best of your ability. So that I did. And I briefly cursed when I then had to stop for a train – but again refocused. The supporters along the run course were awesome, and it was a blast to run through town, the stadium, and the campus. The run started hurting around mile 15, but I was determined to run it out strong. There are many what ifs and I am disappointed in myself for falling, which maybe cost me a spot on the podium. But then again, who knows, maybe this is exactly what I needed? Anything can happen during an Ironman.

As I am recovering I can’t wait to get back to training, can’t wait for my next long ride or run, can’t wait for my next race.

This stuff is hard - very hard - but it’s supposed to be hard. Consistency is key, the day in, day out of training, of pushing the body, strengthening it slowly and steadily. But maybe more important is the mind, the focus, the determination, to maintain the day in-day out of training and keep going when it hurts, to refocus when the unexpected happens. In the end, what it comes down to for me is that I love it, I love all of it and wouldn’t give it up for the world. 

What Would Janie Do? Coaches Corner with Nick Gregory

As many of us work towards the final race(s) of the 2018 season, balance the multiple hats that we wear, and also try to have some semblance of a social life, it can get increasingly more difficult to match the level of intensity and drive found in the beginning of the triathlon season.

As an athlete, I tend to see my drive ebb and flow throughout the year. I like to work hard; I love the feeling of approaching a session where I just don’t feel I can quite possibly push myself any further, and smash it. But there are days when getting going can seem an insurmountable task.

Motivation comes in many different forms, and sometimes in the most unsuspecting of places.

A few weeks ago I went to my gym to knock out my tempo run on the treadmill due to the lovely summer afternoon showers we get daily here in the ‘Sunshine State’. It was my second session of the day, and quite honestly I had zero motivation for the workout. It was a feat in and of itself that I got into the car to head to the gym, especially after another mentally exhausting day at work. I arrived at the gym in a pissed off mood; to put it bluntly the monster within me came out. I had thoughts of “why do I HAVE to do this?”. I didn’t want to do it, but …

Rewind back to my previous blog post a few months ago where I talked about changing the ‘have to’ verbiage to a reinforcing statement of “I get to”. I had to use my own advice and make the mindset shift.

It worked for about 3 seconds.

I started my workout and my legs pretty much just told me, ‘Hey asshole – we aren’t going to cooperate’. I pressed on in a fairly negative state struggling to take my own advice. Then towards the end of the warm-up I happened to look over to the right and in the corner of my eye I saw a woman doing an interesting movement on the rowing machine. A combo rowing motion and overhead press. I didn’t really think too much of it, but then I took a second glance. The woman doing the workout was an individual I had seen many times before either at the gym or out running. The second glance was caused not by me recognizing her, but by the fact that she was newly an amputee from the knee down on one of her legs. About this time my first interval started and I focused as best as I could, but in the back of my head I was thinking of how terrible I felt for the woman. I put myself in her shoes and the thought of me having to undergo something similar and how that would devastate me. Suddenly the ‘I get to’ verbiage really hit me in the face hard. Here I am pissed off because I had to go to the gym to do a tempo run – not wanting to do any movement, and this woman is adapting her workout routine(s) to allow for her to get any type of movement she possibly can.

The next 6 miles I was fully engaged in feelings of wonder and awe. What happened to her? What was going through her mind? The miles were also motivated by her willpower to say fuck it and keep going despite what life had thrown at her. She was working harder than the ‘bros’ in the free weight area that were chatting more than they were actually doing any true work.

To put it quite simply, she was busting her ass and giving zero fucks.

After I got done with my workout I walked over to tell her that she was a badass. She had inspired me to shut up and get to work.  I had the opportunity to chat with her a bit further, and learned her name - Janie. Janie was a marathon runner and told me how she recently had tried a few different prosthetics with the hope of being able to return to some semblance of running. She had not had much luck, but you could tell that she was not giving up and that her drive was present throughout most of how she approached life. I didn’t ask what happened to her leg, and honestly it wasn’t my business to ask. What we talked about was how she was constantly overcoming challenges, and she laughed off the many follies that she had gone through in her new situation.

Janie did not have to go workout that day, or any other day for that matter after her procedure. She chose to, and adopted the mindset of “I get to”. She truly loves working hard for her own personal satisfaction. Not for Instagram likes, or Strava Kudos, or posting  workout stats. Janie puts in the work silently and diligently, and when she faces a challenge she adapts and overcomes.

The last few weeks I have thought about Janie quite a bit as I am in the final blocks for Ironman Louisville. Janie was front and center in my mind this past weekend while racing the Litchfield Half Ironman. The race did not go as planned right from the beginning of the bike when my electronic shifter malfunctioned and automatically shifted to the extreme lowest gear on the cassette. I sat on the side of the road, and for a split second I thought about pulling out of the race. It was windy, overcast, cold, and my bike wasn’t working. I took a deep breath and tried to figure out how to get the bike to work so I could at least finish the race. While I stood there cold and frustrated,  Janie’s smile as she was busting her ass in the gym popped in my mind. I got on my bike, and went right to executing the race (in perhaps some of the windiest conditions I’ve ever raced in), full of the typical ebb and flow of racing including a bottle cage with my last bottle of nutrition coming off due to the rough roads. I didn’t get upset when any of this happened, instead I laughed and smiled. I thought about Janie and tried to embody her way of adapting to and overcoming anything that life throws at us.

That chance encounter in the gym was one of the most powerful lessons I have had in a long time and reminded me once again, that there is always a positive outcome to a negative situation; some are just more difficult to find.


Don't Stress! with Coach Samantha

Fall racing is upon us! I was originally going to write about how to handle the last long build weeks as you approach your late season A race - but instead I have been reading and thinking a lot about the effects of daily stress on exercise and wanted to share a few ideas about how to handle it as we near the remainder of the 2018 season.

 

It’s a double-edged sword.

 

While we are all excited as a big race draws near, we are also human and subject to a certain level of anxiety about the race. At times the excitement can get clouded by the stress of the race approaching.

 

We know that stress is not a good thing for racing and training.

 

And yet, many of us (myself included) can get caught up in stressing over the work that needs to get done in the weeks leading into the race and the outcome of the race.

 

Why is stress bad? I know you know many of the reasons, as there are a host that are bad for both mental and physical, but I want to address one very specific outcome that stress has on the endurance athlete. In a study done by the amazing Samuel Macora (if you do not know who he is, you should check out his research, he’s amazing) he found, what I believe to be the most important reason to try to mitigate as much stress as you can leading into and of course on race day - stress raises your rate of perceived exertion. Rate of perceived exertion, simply put, is the way that you feel about a given workload on a specific day. If you use metrics in your training such as heart rate, power, or pace, than you should have a solid idea about how a specific  heart rate, power effort or pace usually feels. And you should also know that there are many days, especially in the heat of summer where your zone 1 pace, might feel like your zone 3 pace. This means that your RPE is higher than it would normally be, which will alter how you feel about the work you put in and more importantly how you feel while you are doing the work. 

 

Why is RPE important as an endurance athlete, and in fact it might be the only thing that really matters in some ways, it is important because when you workout you are in a constant loop of feedback between your brain and your body. Think about your last workout, the loop of thinking is usually something like this, “Ok, I feel pretty good” quick glance at your watch, “Heart rate looks good too.” The feedback it then positive. One mile later on your normal hill in your neighborhood you start to feel the HR rise and by now the heat is getting to you, your RPE is up and your mind then checks in with the body. “Okay, I’m feeling it, but not as bad as x run a few weeks ago.” You know the pattern or the loop that runs in your head when you workout.

 

This conversation that we have about how we feel on a given day can be what makes or breaks the workout. If you run with mile splits on your watch, think about when the alert pops up with a number that somehow means it’s a good run - the feedback loop is positive. This usually results in the remaining miles being better (or perceived to be better) due simply to the positive outlook you had for the first mile. There is a host of research that would suggest that the way you felt about that first mile is why those other miles felt so effortless. 

 

How you feel about any given moment of any given workout matters more than your biological response to the work load in many ways.

 

And stress greatly affects how you feel about how you feel!

 

What can you do?

 

Obviously you can’t get rid of all of the stress in your life, but here are a few simple tips for dealing with stresses associated with racing.

 

The week of the race do the following:

 

  1. Make a checklist of all of the stuff you need. There are several good ones online. Lay out all of your stuff and place it in your bag. You can even put it all on to make sure you have it all.

  2. Make sure you have all the nutrition you need for the week of the race and for race day.

  3. Journal - most people get stressed on race week because they are thinking about all the what-ifs of race day. However, many of those what-ifs when examined can be solved if you spend some time thinking through the solutions.

  4. Write down your worst race fears and then find a solution for each one. We like our athletes to have a plan A and B.

  5. Trust in your training - the work is done. Remind yourself of that when you are stressed about the race. The hay is in the barn.

 

Race morning:

  1. Make sure that you lay all of your pre-race nutrition out the night before.

  2. Make sure you have a full tank of gas in your car and you know the way to the race.

  3. Allow yourself way more time than you think you will need. This is probably the most important one - rushing to the race on the morning of the race is going to set you up for a stressful race start.

  4. Do what works for you to relieve stress and keep it fun. For some this is being around others. It might also be finding a quiet space alone.

  5. If you travel with others to the race, know that you DO NOT have to follow their routine. As my daughter says - you do you. 

  6. Get in the water to warm-up if it’s a triathlon and the race allows. Water has a way of easing stress.

  7. Take a few moments to visualize your best race.

  8. Finally, remember your WHY!

 

I will leave you with this final thought - nerves on race day mean you care. They mean you want to perform well. We tend to attach negatives to being nervous. Work to shift that mindset - it is worth the time and effort it takes. When you feel a sense of nervousness, know that you can channel that energy for your race. I have been racing for a long time and I have never stood on a starting line where I did not feel a sense of nervousness, but I also know that as soon as I hit the water or the first few steps of my run, that the nerves evaporate and the fun of racing takes over.  

ROBOT! Calm Down - with Coach Samantha

I need to start by saying that I wrote this yesterday, but life made it impossible to post until now!


I started a whole other blog this morning, but now it is almost 2 pm where I live and I think that there might be a better blog unfolding. I think this blog might be more for me than anyone else, but I am sure that there are a few gems for all here.

 

Last night my daughter came down with a virus. Out of nowhere she was sneezing, her nose was running, and she was coughing. This was alternated with bouts of whimpers and tears. I work from home, and while this provides me a ton of flexibility and freedom, I also am a very rigid person, some might say robotic, and set myself a schedule each week that I adhere to, from workout times to copious lists of tasks to complete. I derive a huge amount of pleasure accomplishing and ticking off these tasks with a big check mark. I actually still handwrite said lists, as it is so much fun to write that check mark!

 

When my daughter started to get sick and I knew she would be home from school, I went to work on how I would deal with my lists and my workouts. If I woke up before 5 am then I would knock it all out with ease. And providing she was mostly couch bound, I could work from the computer without issue.

 

Alas - I did not wake up and get on my bike at 5 due to a terrible nights sleep dealing with the kiddo.

This is how I feel when I am at an Ironman and athletes are crushing it and also how I feel when I am not able to crush it. 

This is how I feel when I am at an Ironman and athletes are crushing it and also how I feel when I am not able to crush it. 

 

I did get up and start my blog and get some work done, but that was interrupted by a kid who was in need of snuggles. Snuggles are amazing, but snuggles were NOT ON MY LIST! (Clearly, I need to add them, even a robot needs some snuggles.)

 

NO MORE SELFIE SNUGGLES!

NO MORE SELFIE SNUGGLES!

A few hours later and I had basically made breakfast i.e thrown a bunch of stuff in a vitamix and scarfed it down, and started a whole bunch of tasks and completed NOT ONE. My list was mocking me. And I was feeling in a funk.

 

RELAX ROBOT! That was my newly adopted motto.

 

The problem is that I can tell myself to relax, but that is hard to actually make happen. Have you ever met a robot that was just about going with the flow?

 

At some point in time I also checked social media and it was like every human on earth was exercising and accomplishing. I on the other hand, had done nothing …

 

Noon came and I was finally in a place where I knew I had to jump on my bike or I was going to meltdown like a toddler. So we dragged out all of the American Girl dolls and I said a silent mantra about letting go of organization and being a normal less robotic human. My house does not have to be ready to show at all times - right? On the bike I jumped and 15 minutes in I heard a little voice, “Mom, I’m hungry”. Okay - be calm, pause the watch, head up and make a quick PB and J - no big deal. It’s like a pit stop to refuel - right. So up we go, only to turn around to see blood squirting everywhere and a tooth dangling from my daughter's mouth which needed one last yank to be freed from its current residence. Whelp, the PB and J was out and so a new plan of soup was forged. I grabbed the broth to heat up and a pot, and when I went to the stove the burner would not light. Long story short, the gas company came over yesterday to change the meter and forgot to turn the gas back on - this however stole all the enthusiasm from the workout and I had to accept the fact that the bike was not happening. Or should I say was not happening at that moment.

This is an old pic of her first tooth, but she was not willing to let me take a new one. 

This is an old pic of her first tooth, but she was not willing to let me take a new one. 

 

It’s 2:20 pm and here I am. I still have my bike clothes on and my bottles ready, but the bike needs to be put off for a few hours so I can work and focus on my daughter. The  window for me to get it in at that point has closed. And the question that I have is will that window re-open later today? Should I re-open the window?

 

Here are my thoughts as a coach:

 

When you are in danger of missing a workout you need to assess the reason why. While there are more than listed here - this was my run down:

 

  1. Risk of injury

  2. Illness risk

  3. Ill

  4. Childcare issues

  5. Work obligations

  6. Social of family obligations

  7. Feeling super stressed from life

  8. Poor planning

  9. Don’t feel like it

 

When I ran down this list in my mind - 1-3 were not my issue. If they were, obviously I needed to not workout. 4-7 were there, but I would be able to work around them if I made sure not to fall into the trap of number 8. And so that left 9. But 9 wasn’t really the issue. I did want to workout, but I really was struggling with the fact that my workout plans were not as I wanted.

 

Which brings me to 10. I was being inflexible.

 

The robot mind was set on a specific time and the little monkey aka my kid and life were doing their all to test my ability to adapt.

 

I sat my robot self down on the couch with a kiddo curled up in my arms and read to her until she fell asleep and then as much as I wanted to doze off bedside her, I popped up and hopped on my bike. Before I knew it, I was done on the bike and Brynja was awake, but deep into playing and I was able to get both of my planned sessions in for the day.

 

Flexibility and being adaptive are essential as a mom and a long course athlete. I know this. And I’m pretty good about this on race day.

 

But man do I struggle with this on every day of my life. And at times to my own detriment.

 

Today was a poignant reminder that I do this for fun. I need to be reminded of that at times. I’m lucky to be able to move my body and workout. I am lucky to have a tiny, sweet daughter who still wants to snuggle. Both things that can get overlooked or taken for granted. When I get hyper focused on the checking of boxes and let that rule my world view than I risk stealing the joy from the movement.  And worse yet, in some cases I run the risk of missing a workout and all the growth it offers to me as a mom, coach, business owner and athlete. Oh and seriously - snuggles are never worth missing.

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Athlete Spotlight - with Molly Koch

To be an Ironman is to be the ultimate badass.

Ever since I can remember, this is the story I’ve told myself.  Growing up as a competitive swimmer and runner, I admired those that could put it all together for 140.6 miles and wanted to join their company someday.

 

Think about it.  What other event in sports tests the body like the Ironman?  Swimming 2.4, biking 112 and running 26.2 miles over an eleven to seventeen hour span for most mortals.

 

I never quite envisioned I would be gnawing on this enormous elephant at the age of 36 with four little ones, their ridiculous sports schedules, and a full time job of my own.  But hey - I figured I wouldn’t be getting any younger.

So I decided to make it happen.

Maybe it’s the fact that when you are an athlete, it never leaves your blood and you miss the competition.  Or maybe it’s the fact that as moms, everything we do is about someone else.  It might even be that you thrive on setting an enormous goal and achieving it.  I think it’s safe to say that all played a part in my decision to troll the Ironman website in the fall of 2017.  

 

I asked my husband (Bryan) if I could pay the $700 and do it.  His immediately said, “I don’t give a shit as long as you promise me you’ll be committed.”  From that moment, he had my commitment and I had his.  If you have dreams of Ironman… take some advice here. It’s critical for your partner/spouse/family to understand the demands of training and be fully on board with the decision.   

 

Fast forward to early 2018 when I broke some toes when I tripped over a damn toy in the dark.  I wasn’t able to run, but tried my best to get in the pool five days a week.  I hopped on the bike here and there for 10 miles, but I was clueless as to what it really would take to train and race an Ironman.  As my toes healed, I felt like I needed some help.  If I was serious about this and really wanted to do my best, I needed a coach.  In the sport of triathlon, there is a tremendous amount of learning that happens.  Not only is your swim, bike, and run important but the gear, heart rate, training plan and nutrition needed are equally critical.  

 

By this time I was swimming with the Master’s Swim Team out of O’Fallon, MO two mornings before work.  I’d developed a bond with a Tori Hamill.  She had competed in a number of triathlons, knew her stuff and happened to be a Tri coach.  So that was it… I connected with Evolve, felt confident in their program, and became a study.

 

On June 1, 2018 shit got real.  I checked Training Peaks for the first time to see the workout plan for the week and about died.  Thank goodness for Tori and the Evolve staff because I wasn’t doing nearly enough.  I thought my 10 mile bike ride was cutting it, and then I did 50, and 100 miles.

 

With four kids and a full time job, I’m sometimes up at 3 am to get on the trainer in an effort to fit it all in.  I’m lucky to have the most amazing husband that steps up to help get the kids where they need to be on longer training days (I told you you’d need that support).  

 

Here’s the thing… we all have the same 24 hours in a day.  It’s a choice about how you wish to spend it.   I laugh when people say they don’t have time.  That’s a bullshit excuse they’ve told themselves over and over until they believe it.  Whatever your goal in life, it’s important to maintain focus to see it through.  If that means you wake up earlier or skip that happy hour after work – so be it.

 

I’ve trained more hours than I can count.  While it’s personally rewarding getting physically and mentally stronger – I’m most proud of what it’s doing for my kids.  They saw me struggle on the bike in my first race, and they’ve seen me work my ass off to get faster.  They understand what it means to establish a goal and work each and every day to make sure you achieve it.    The oldest girls competed in two triathlons this summer as they develop active lifestyles of their own.  

 

My family tends to be a bit competitive, so it’s normal for my kids to ask “did you win” after a race.  Though I won’t be crossing the finish line first this October, I will absolutely be able to say, “yes I did win!  Your mommy is an Ironman!”

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