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

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

 

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

Let’s address those first:

 

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

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

3. You swim off course and add yardage.

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

5. You panic or have open water anxiety.


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

 

So what is a triathlete to do?

 

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

 

And if you cannot get in open water…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


 

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

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.