Why I Quit Avoiding Swim Camp and So Should You! -athlete insight with Scott Kolbe.

I remember going to pick up my packet and dropping off my bike at my first 70.3, the wind was brutal, there were large white caps on the water,  and the bikes were sliding all over the place in the transition racks from the wind. The next morning they tested the water temperatures and the temperature was 55 degrees. I remember being relieved that there was no wind, but had never swam in water that cold. I was scared shitless.

That morning I remember meeting Coach Sam for the first time in transition (She was not my coach at that time). She gave me a pep talk and I remember thinking I needed this, again I didn’t know her – but she probably saw the fear in my eyes and body language. Let’s just say I survived this swim, it was brutally hard and I cramped up terribly swimming. Despite being miserable that day on the swim, I still had that feeling taking it all in and realizing I was doing this race no matter how hard it was.

Prior to Evolve I HATED every F&*^ing swim at every race. I absolutely hated swimming and fought it every step of the way. The conversation to myself would often be why am I doing this? This is supposed to be fun. I would have massive anxiety weeks prior to races. I said to myself I have to learn to swim better. But I wasn’t sure how to get there.

I remember Sam talking about swim camps and I KNEW the camp was what I needed. But the fear in me, said there is no F^*%ing way that I will ever go to one of those swim camps. The excuses I made up where pretty good. I just made sure they never worked with my schedule. The reality and the fear of going into an environment where I thought everyone would be swimming like Katie Ledecky and I would be the one holding up the camp sounded miserable.

So at some point, Sam said I really want to see you come to swim camp. I reluctantly agreed and I signed up for my first swim camp. I quickly was teamed up with two other athletes that were of similar ability and we shared a lane. I remember listening to every word trying to learn. The reality was that weekend I swam more than I had ever swam in a weekend. I knew I would be sore for a few days. But I survived!

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So this is where things got interesting, I remember going back to swim and suddenly I would look at my lap average pace and I realized I was swimming faster. Those magic thresholds you place on yourself and pace. I suddenly realized I was swimming at an average pace that I dreamed of before. This same year, I went back and repeated a 70.3 from the year before. This time I shaved 7 minutes off my swim time and my previous swim time at this race was really good for me.

So something happened after this race. I continued swimming by myself. But I found myself starting to enjoy swimming. I was racing better and my swim was setting me up to have some pretty great races. I was also craving swimming in a group of focused athletes, Evolve has Friday workouts, but it does not work with my schedule, so after a discussion with Sam I decided to join a masters swim group closer to my home. This was so outside my comfort zone. Masters along with swim camp have raised my confidence level in triathlon so much higher; I almost forget how hard it used to be for me.

The ironic part is today people come up to me and say, well you don’t understand because you are a really good swimmer. I laugh and say, I probably understand more than you think. They ask how do you get better. I said two things, went to swim camp and joined a Masters swim group.

Ultimately I realized swimming is all about consistency, being pushed and good advice. So my advice is face your fear and eventually it becomes a distant memory.

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70.3 Xiamen Race Report - Athlete Insight with JP Palmer!

Believe it or not, this will be the first race report I’ve ever written!  Not sure why; I do enjoy talking about races after the fact, so I’ll just blame it on the fact that a large percentage of my life is spent writing research papers and textbooks and it feels like work to write.

So, the backstory to this race is important (to me anyway); in 2014 after I did Ironman Brazil and came back home, Pete (my late husband, who couldn’t go at the last minute because of his cancer protocol) said I should do Ironman South Africa next because they speak English there (I had a few difficulties along the way since I don’t know Portuguese) and he also always wanted to do a safari.  So, our plans were for me to do South Africa while I was on sabbatical and he would come along and we’d do a safari afterwards.

Obviously that didn’t happen, but after delaying my sabbatical a year (should have had it right after he passed away which I thought was a bad idea) I decided to do South Africa in 2016 because I was intrigued by it, and a bit of it was that it was honoring his memory in some weird way.  And I fell in love with the people there……I absolutely loved them.  So when Ironman announced that World’s 70.3 2018 would be in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the same town as where the Ironman was, I decided I would try and qualify for a spot.  I had read where the Wanda Company (who bought Ironman) had put together four new races, all 70.3’s, all in China and all offering both Kona slots and World’s 70.3 slots.  So my sneaky little mind thought hey!  I could try and get into great shape in the summer/fall, go do a late season race, and try for a World’s slot to go back to South Africa, figuring that the fastest people in my age group would be vying for Kona, and that perhaps World’s slots would roll down to me, also figuring that people might decline them (as they typically do it when it is in a completely different country….remember what happened at Florida 70.3 when slots rolled down to 28th place).  So, that was my thinking behind picking the race.

I almost settled on 70.3 Heifei, which was in October at the end of fall break, so the timing was perfect.  But when I talked to Wei Wei about the race, she suggested that Xiamen 70.3 would be “better” as it is a larger city/much better destination place/etc and oh, by the way, she can’t do the October race. So Xiamen it was!  And all this happened a year before the race, but it gives a little context to the why this race…….

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The planning piece isn’t all that pertinent here and would take way too long; however, a couple of things are funny/ironic enough to mention.  One of Wei Wei’s good friends from Lifetime Fitness, an awesome athlete herself, Beth Sanborn, decided to try and qualify for Kona and was to be my roommate, and Wei Wei had a friend from England that she talked into the race and was to be Wei Wei’s roommate, so we’d be a fearsome foursome.  First, thank the LORD for Wei Wei and her ability to speak the language.  Not only did race registration not even open until August (and hello, who is going to buy a ticket to Asia unless they are actually signed up and paid for the race) but since we were doing the “travel package” (race entry and hotel rooms and transportation from the airport/etc), that link wasn’t live……and we waited……and emailed…..and called….and emailed…..for weeks.  Kept being promised “tomorrow”…..and “next week”……meanwhile I’m super nervous that they now only want Chinese to do the race.  Why else would this be happening?  Finally we were sent a form to fill out, and were instructed to email my credit card info and security code.  That was crazy….but whatever.  Then the wait to have them indicate that they received the form and charged my card began.  And by now it is the second week of September.  Finally heard back that they won’t accept a credit card and want a wire transfer.  Whatever.  Did it on September 18.  Got the link to register on September 29th (after a mess on their end saying they didn’t receive the money; well, Bank of America said differently) and BAM!  We were in!!  Whew!  

Next…..tickets to Xiamen, not straightforward as we had decided to fly in and out of Beijing using American Airlines/Orbitz, and the three legs within China (Beijing to Xiamen, Xiamen to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to Beijing) using a Chinese version of orbitz, as the Hong Kong and Beijing part at the end were part of the sightseeing we were planning for after the race.

A page written and nothing about the race….maybe this is why I don’t write race reports!  So let’s get to the race.  We leave at 6 am on November 7th and get to Beijing at 11:30 pm on November 8th.  Wei Wei won’t be there till Friday night so Beth and I are on our own for 2 days.  No race stuff till Friday so we decide to go walk to the “beach” to see where the swim is.  Unbeknownst to us, it is one of the lowest tide days in months, so we see 150 meters of mud, no water coming up to the beach (hard to call it a beach, seemed like all just mud).  Hmmmmm.  Then we walked to the Bank of China so she could exchange $100 for yuan and it took over an hour and four forms.  This isn’t going to be easy………

A couple of things about the days leading up to the race.  I’d worked to drop 14 lbs and also operate best on a plain, vanilla-bland diet (this means simple simple carbs, low fat, nothing fancy, and I do better with non-restaurant food, to be honest) so for a couple of meals, I ate sandwiches I brought.  Yes I was in China, but no I didn’t want to eat stuff and have my system out of wack.  And Samantha suggested doing this for all the pre-race meals.  So I spent a couple of meals watching others eat and going back to the room and eating turkey and cheese sandwiches or bagels and peanut butter and a protein drink; I also carried a ton of fruit with me (just ask the girls how heavy my backpack was) as I knew getting to a normal store wasn’t in the cards before the race (no car, etc).  

The night before the race I did a dinner with Wei Wei and Beth, but ate plain noodles.  And a bagel and peanut butter before bed (again, all normal).

Finally, we are at race morning.  Up at 3:45, felt like a happy machine in that I wasn’t worried nervous, just excited nervous.  Machine in the sense that I was in the best shape I’ve been in in years and was pretty excited to see what I could do.  Walked to transition; this was the longest transition I’ve ever experienced in a race.  Ever.  The sign proudly said “Transition = 520 meters” which bragged how long it was.  Two bikes racks wide.  Added a hat to the run bag just in case; Wei Wei forgot all her Gu in the hotel and I talked her into going back for it.  What they had on the course was CPT and it’s not the same sugar as Powergel/Gu or Gatorade Endurance.  Waited for her to come back and watched the pros get announced one by one, and the Wanda Sports group CMO gave a little talk (the holding company that bought ironman).  Still felt pretty calm and excited.

Started in the 35-38 minute wave, which was a stretch goal, but I could tell the wind was going to be in our favor, and by 7 am it was up to over 20 mph.  Enough that the buoys kept floating out of place as we watched the pros swim…….so I figured I’d swim faster than “normal”.  It was tough getting out to the first turn buoy, as we were swimming diagonal to the wind/waves, but after 300 meters it was game on……you could feel yourself being pushed along like crazy.  Swimming 30 minutes is not in my wheelhouse but that is what I did…..wetsuit helped, of course, as does the salt water, but I was thanking the wind. I looked at my watch when I got out and felt like a real swimmer!!  Rode that high for about 30 seconds until I saw how crazy the palm trees were swaying and thought Damn!  It’s going to be a hard bike…….

So onto the bike.  Packed Gatorade endurance in baggies as I sweat 46 ounces an hour and couldn’t carry enough to drink, so I planned on mixing on the fly, which worked.  A little messy but whatever.  First 7 miles was straight into the wind and my heart rate was 160; promised Sam to keep it in the 135-145 zone, so I thought once I settle in I’ll back off a little, my heart rate is always high to start.  And I was committed to racing by the numbers for once in my life.  Then we turned back and had a sweet tailwind, and on the little add-on it was a head-wind again so I really worked on backing off a bit and only watching heart rate and not speed (because watching speed on a windy day can be depressing!).  

So, the amazing things about the bike course……besides passing a lot of guys (the race was approximately 12-1 men to woman, lol) were the “guards” or whatever you call them (Chinese military) standing along the fenced off bike course every 20 feet.  I kid you not.  And 8 million video cameras…..well, ok, not that many.  But I’d guess 800.  It is just the way it is in China.  On the beach boardwalk at any given place, look up.  You’ll see two video cameras.  Or more…..the comforting thing is that you know if something happens to you, someone will be there.  Course you won’t know where they are taking you if you are doing something that they don’t like……☺

Saw Wei Wei on my second loop; unfortunately, when I saw her there was a motorcycle riding beside her.  Couldn’t hear her arguing with the guy but it looked like she was; they were all over the course.  Easy to pick out a cute thing in bright green and blue; seemed like everyone was red and black.

The last 6 miles on the second loop were straight back into the wind; course was short by .5 (thanks Xiamen!)  Running into transition meant running though the football-length transition area, then you get to the bag area, and of course, porta-lou (they aren’t porta potties here) stop…..and if you’ve seen my facebook posts, their kind of porta-lous are in ground, so a stop requires a good workout on the quads….they felt ok, not as fatigued as I thought they would be.  Honestly, the bike time just flew by……water on the femoral artery and head at all four aid stations, tried to drink at least 40 ounces an hour.  Seemed to work as I had to pee like a racehorse after the bike.

So the plan was to run fairly conservatively the first 6 miles.  I had 500 calories of Gu on the bike and another 200 calories of Gu on the first 5 miles of the run, and carried a water bottle with concentrated Gatorade Endurance…….drank half, then filled it up so the next go-around wouldn’t be so concentrated.  So yes, a lot of calories early on, but I wanted to push it the second half and the last three miles, well, I was planning on running fast and so my gut wouldn’t be absorbing anything, typically your gut doesn’t when  your heart rate is so high.  Got up to 81 degrees that day, so I don’t know what the temperature was when I finished, but the second loop was brutal.  Stopped for ice in my sports bra 6 or 7 times and since it was a 3 loop course (actually out and backs) you see the same volunteers a bunch of times, and apparently I was an anomaly as the volunteers kind of freaked out when I put it there.  And after a while they had it ready when I got close, which made me laugh but I was too out of breath for that.  ☺

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Started slowing down a little at mile 9-10; felt my heart rate creeping up so I started using water on my head (even grabbed a couple bottles sitting on top of trash cans and just prayed no one would tackle me and yell “outside assistance, she goes to jail!”)….mile 11 had a little downhill and I thought hey!  I still have a lot left in these legs and I’m going to try and really run hard these last two miles (I can honestly say it has been FOREVER since I’ve been able to do this) and I was so excited just by that.  Didn’t care what my time was, didn’t care who was in front of me, just was happy. I’m racing in Xiamen, I’m racing healthy, I’m racing fast, I get to DO THIS!!!  I was feeling super lucky, and super happy……and knowing my peeps were tracking me online kept me pretty honest too…..and I kept imagining Sam checking the tracker again…..and again…..and that made me smile inside.   

Had a fleeting moment of thinking “I wonder what Pete would think about this?” and immediately put it out of my mind; I was not going to get emotional and have my throat close and slow down because I couldn’t breathe.  Figured I could think about that later; like Coach Teresa (and my BFF) always says, and I believe also…..he is up there as proud of me now as he always was, and smiling his big smile, just wished I could see him at the finish line again like I always used to.

So here’s the best part of the race.  When you are on your last “loop” you have both the yellow and red armbands.  I had spent some time during the race looking at calves (for my age group numbers) and armbands to see if I could figure out where people in my age group were.  Easy to pick out women, obviously, because we were so outnumbered, and I was patting myself on the back once for running down two in my age group, however, when I passed them I saw one armband.  So good job, JP, they are an hour behind you so that wasn’t helpful.  

So I’m pushing the pace here, running above what I thought I could hold, but I kept thinking about the intervals Sam had me do, and some workouts my pace just kept getting faster the longer I ran.  And I thought I could do this for two miles and just thought about how hard some of those training runs were, and they were for this.  Then at mile 12ish, we began the lonely part…..off the boardwalk and no one at all along the way until the finish line.  One guy I picked it up a bit to catch was a guy from the hotel going for a Kona slot (much older than me, lol) and in front of him was someone with 51 on her calf.  Shit!!!  So I figured she started way behind me on the swim and was coming in at a faster time, which makes no sense now because I was not passed by a single women on the bike.  But whatever.  Race mode thinking.  I figured what the hell, my ego would like to just cross the finish line ahead of her.  So I hung onto her heels for a minute and then passed her.  Keep in mind I’m running about an 8:30 pace here, which is a stretch to think about holding at the end of a race.  And then she freaking passed me back.  And as any good self-centered competitive triathlete knows, you gotta try and pass ‘em back.  And I did, thinking “Oh no, this isn’t happening with 100 yards to go without me giving it my all”.  So I’m not sure where that 7:50 pace came from but for 100 yards, my legs held up.  ☺  Thanks legs.  And lungs.  And all those Damn Sam intervals.

That’s not even the best part.  She comes over to me in a few minutes and wants to know if I’m there for a Kona slot.  I said no, I’m there for a slot for South Africa, but that I don’t know if I was even close.  Then she wants to know my time.  Showed her, and asked what hers was.  Holy shit!  I beat her by over 2 minutes….so I guess I didn’t have to give myself a heart attack trying to run her down, huh!  She asks again about Kona, and I’m starting to get annoyed, and want to go find Beth and see how she did.  Was a bit worried about her, as I was gaining on her on the run and she is a faster running than me.  

So we found each other, went in for food and it was a freaking spam sandwich.  Smelled like a dead rat.  Right behind the finish line they had our morning clothes bags, so I grabbed it and yup, you’d be proud of me, mixed up my recovery drink (no choice, eh, between that and a delightful spam sandwich).  We grabbed a seat on the bleachers and waited for Wei Wei; so my fuzzy recollection is seeing a bunch of texts on my phone from Samantha that she had written during the race that went something like “I’m holding my breath” and “Just keep doing what you are doing” and “Mother fucking fuck!!”  I knew she would be tracking me and because of the time difference (14 hours) it would make for a late night for her…… so shortly she said she thought the tracker indicated second, freaking second, but it was not official as the tracker had paused!  That’s a podium, baby!!  She said I’d get a slot almost certainly to South Africa, and that the first place girl in my age group was from Turkey and the first place gal in Beth’s age group was from Thailand (the China 70.3’s are the only ones that have both Kona and World’s 70.3 slots) so we had people from all over the world.  

We saw Wei Wei finish, and then we all three waited for Laura, (she did a relay and we had to wait quite a while).  My legs do better moving afterwards so I paced the finish line chute for about 90 minutes……still couldn’t see results on the tracker, no timing tent, so I figured we’d find out when we got back to the room.  Which wasn’t until 430; by then my phone had died…..when I plugged it in I saw this:   “You did it….Kona…..I’m in tears……Fuuuuuuck……Text me when you get this” and “Holy Fuck Holy Fuck” from Samantha. Yup, just what I could hear her saying if she had been there ☺

I stared at the phone, felt like I was going into shock and then called her.  It was only 2:30 am Saint Louis time, lol.  She had texted that she was wide awake and I figured what the hell.   I had some tears on the phone with Samantha so that was awesome, it didn’t sink in then and it’s has not sunk in yet either.  But there will be time enough for that stuff when I get back and go give Samantha the biggest hug ever and see my Evolve friends.  The only downer of the day was that Beth didn’t win her age group and so she didn’t get a Kona slot, which I feel horrible about. So the next couple hours were surreal; going to the awards banquet (with crazy food like ox brisket, duck, fish balls---I was dying for a piece of pizza or a sub sandwich but whatever.  And then the awards ceremony, I usually just watch them, not be in them!

So probably the best non-race story happened on the podium.  The girl I ran down at the end….the same girl that asked me my finishing time and was I going for a Kona slot, that I told I was aiming for South Africa, .turns out she is an All-World Athlete from Turkey.  And so we get up there on the podium and she is next to me and says “Are you taking the Kona slot?” and I say I say what Samantha would have probably said.  “Fuck yes!!”  And she looks at me funny and said “But you said you were going for South Africa” and I just look at her and shrug.  Then she points to her shirt (she is proudly wearing her Kona Finisher 2016 shirt) and says “Do you have any idea what Kona is all about?” at which point I am not even sure what I said.  WTF!  She kept talking and it was like she was moving her mouth and I couldn’t hear anything, I was just trying to process what she just said to me.  Now I can think of better retorts, but at the time, I just finally said ‘You know, I did ok there in 2013” and turned away.  Who says that to someone, but whatever.  

She tried one more time, after we got off the stage, and asked if I was taking the slot. What did I just say? Felt like slugging her.  But with all the video cameras everywhere it would be my luck to end up in jail over something like that.  So I just smiled and said yes.

So, a little wordy, but it is what it is.  Would have to say that I credit trusting Samantha in 99% of the training plan (I still balk at the two hour ride the week out but that’s just me).  You guys know how it feels when someone has your back, and I always feel like she has mine, and only wants the best for me.  Sometimes I would look at a week’s workouts ahead of time; sometimes I could only do it one day at a time, especially on the harder run days.  But this year I logged everything and swam every interval and if for nothing else, it taught me even more about structure and consistency and following a plan instead of winging it. I can also say that focusing on nutrition both while training and while just living has made a huge difference.  I tightened up my eating habits and made some changes along the edges starting back in July/August (like putting food in smaller bowls, never eating standing up, buying baby bagels instead of the monster ones, and eating even more fruits and veggies than before) which helped a ton, as did simply being more mindful of the equation calories in < calories out.  Pretty simple.  I also know how my weight hinders my running pace, and wanted to give it a go to see if I could finish a race that I traveled half-way around the world in a manner like I have in the past (NOT dying at the end and shuffling, lol) with a combination of solid training, high fitness and solid race weight.  

So now I’m looking forward to 2018!  Love ya guys and gal, I just love my Evolve family.  I may not see all of you all the time, but I keep up with your training/etc. on Facebook and via Sam, and carried your energy with me. Love you Teresa, you would have loved this trip and thanks for all you do for me.  And Samantha, I’m out of words.  You know how I feel about you.  I couldn’t have done this without you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart

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2018:Time to Fail - with Coach Samantha

This past weekend was the first really cold weekend in Saint Louis, some of our athletes ran through snow in Chicago and New York and suddenly it really felt like winter. The onset of winter, the shorter days, and the feeling that holidays are fast approaching have many of us thinking about our goals for 2018 and beyond!

Season planning for many athletes is in full swing and race schedules are rapidly filling up - which has naturally made me begin to think about my plans for 2018.

For me 2017 was a year that marked a turning point in my athletic career, after several years of of working to get back to running and triathlon following intensive knee surgery and even more intensive rehab, I proved that long course triathlon was something that my body would still allow me to do.

2017 was about me making sure my body could handle the training, and thus I have decided that 2018 will be all about working on my mind.

When you text your best friend a selfie while laying on the floor after an FTP test where you nearly died and your FTP was a whole 2 watts higher than the previous test!

When you text your best friend a selfie while laying on the floor after an FTP test where you nearly died and your FTP was a whole 2 watts higher than the previous test!

When we discuss season goals with our athletes we always try to focus them on goals they can control and not outcomes  - we want to focus on the process of their training and not dwell on where they hope their training will end up. The goal is to be present!

Working with athletes to formulate their plans for 2018 led me to do a very deep introspection of what I wanted for my athlete-self in 2018. And after much thought - I  have one goal - to see how much I can suffer. I know that sounds really vague, but I was in a good groove of pushing this many years ago and my body just would not allow me to reach those limits. With a healthy(ish) knee again, I am ready to jump back into it.

The truth is that I have crossed many a finish line and the pattern usually goes something like this - I feel like I’m going to die .... walk for a few minutes … regroup… and then inevitably think I could have done better at x, y and z. And I doubt this will ever change as I think it is the driving force to race, but I would like to think I could creep closer to eeking out a little more suffering.

In 2017 my coach and I were really cautious about my training and she was super smart to limit the number of races that I did until we knew what I could handle. This meant that I raced one Half distance Aqua Bike and a 70.3 - this was just enough to test the waters with my knee, but simply not enough to test the limits of my mental toughness. I made a lot of mistakes at Muncie and while I was happy to be racing again, the end result left me with a feeling of disappointment and a desire to achieve more.

And if I am being totally honest, I put up a lot of barriers which would guarantee that no matter what happened at that race, I had a reason why and an out if racing was not for me any longer.

So what’s the plan to achieve this big goal? I have to accomplish a few things to make it happen.

The first is that I need to race more - nothing insane. I plan to race four times in 2018. At this point I am thinking three 70.3s and a sprint. Racing more will give me more chances to work on the suffering in a race environment. Race anxiety is something that I really battle with - like it fucks me up in the head. I love and hate to race, and since I love, love, love to train, and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to coach, I have avoided racing a ton as of late with the excuse that my knee could not handle it - the truth is that my knee can probably take it, but I was not sure that my mind could - and for the first time in a long time, I am ready to slay those race anxiety demons.

I need to fail. A lot. This is a huge part of this puzzle. I know for sure that I have to be able to come head to head in training and racing with failure. In fact my hope is that I can fail - this is not something that I have ever really wanted before - who wants to fail? But, one thing that really has been amazing for me as an athlete is the opportunity that I have as a coach. I actually do not think that there is anything you can do in your athletic career that will make you a better athlete than to coach as it allows you to  intimately see the journey that so many others take and provides you with a first hand glimpse of the inner workings of great athletes during their highs and lows. It makes me realize that failure is not something that only I experience. And it also has shown me that those who achieve the most view failure as an opportunity. My 20 year old self would have said fuck that shit and gone the other way - but 20 years later and I realize that this is what is most needed to take me to where I would like to go as an athlete and a human. And honestly what I have needed all along.

I need to take chances. This is probably my biggest barrier that I need to get over. As a coach and in many aspects of my life, I am confident, but when it comes to how I see myself on a daily basis, I see a person who is not fast enough, does not work hard enough, and could always do more , which prevents me from taking chances and truly getting really uncomfortable. This makes for a lot of noise in my head - noise that needs to be silenced if I want to be able to get out of my comfort zone.

No kids, no husbands - time to swim, bike and run until you don't know if you should laugh or cry from the feeling of exhaustion. 

No kids, no husbands - time to swim, bike and run until you don't know if you should laugh or cry from the feeling of exhaustion. 

I am really lucky to have two really amazing friends in my life, who have helped me to get to a better version of myself and they are often the ones helping me to see my true potential. This was crystallized this past summer when I went home to New York and went for a run with my best friend.  I had warned my coach about my New York vacation and as I had just raced, I was not in a specific training block so I went into full rogue athlete status. Colleen is a total badass runner and I know that running with her means that I better be ready to suffer. She is a machine and has the ability to get to some deep place and hurt in a way that I can only hope to one day. On this particular run we set out on one of old routes (back in the day we logged a million miles before the sun was up each day) and so while I have not lived on the East Coast in almost 10 years, I know each twist and turn, up and down, and shaded stretch of the route ---- or so I thought. I guess, after 10 years, Colleen had decided to change the route a little and this threw me for a mental loop as I had already mentally planned and decided how the run was going to unfold. I knew when I would hurt the most and where I would get relief - I had a total mental plan and had decided the outcome before the run started. I was sure that we were headed to the right at the end of the street, which meant one push up the hill, followed by a flat and then one big hill before we turned to the last mile stretch home - but nope, she signaled that we would be heading left. Instantly, in my head I was like, what in the actual fuck, left, I have never run this way, I have no clue what lies ahead, and that just meant that I got so mentally bogged down that I let the run control me, rather than control the run. LEFT did not fit my plan! A plan that I was so beholden to that I would no longer just run and enjoy.

I know for sure that what I need is to let go of my need to control every step of the way - the next step in this journey must include letting go of control in order to gain a new sense of control and a freedom to fail, learn, grow, fail again and reach beyond my current limits.

 

The Time is Now!

For many athletes and fitness enthusiasts January 1st seems like the perfect time to get started on fitness goals. Which naturally leads to the New Year being a very popular time to start with a coach or a training program. However, in many cases, waiting until then might be too late - and here are few reasons why -

One of the best times to work on the aspects of your sport that need fine tuning are the months of the “off-season” (we should probably note here that the term off-season is the time post A race and approximately  20 week prior to your A race of the next season). This is usually something that many athletes avoid as it can be less than fun to come face to face with your weaknesses, but the truth is that those who see the biggest gains, are those who are willing to take a hard look at their limiters and go about working to fix them before the season heats up. Ideally, this is something that should be evaluated throughout the season and worked on continuously, but is usually easier to deal with during the months with less training load. One mistake that we often encounter is the run limited athlete who thinks that the best way to cure their running issues is to go right from tri season to a stacked road running season. While we certainly learn a ton when we race, we also expend a ton of energy that we want to conserve for the season ahead and many can feel stale once it is time to get the ball rolling again. A coach or proper training plan in the off-season will help to work on weaknesses and not lead to burnout in training and racing or even worse injury.

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At Evolve we believe that the training plan is secondary to the coach/athlete relationship that we work very hard to establish. We all want our athletes to realize their best self and that is only possible if we are invested in learning how best to motivate and assist our athletes - and this takes time. It can take several months to solidify how best to work with a particular athlete and likewise it can be the same for the athlete to understand what they need to do to help their coach help them. We have many athletes who we have been coaching for years and who have grown with their coach to get more out of of their training year after year. Getting this right takes time and if you wait until January 1st, this can easily spill into the larger training months.

Testing! Everyone’s favorite. The off-season is a great time to run some baseline tests, work on establishing and cross checking zones, and building a huge foundation heading into the season ahead. We use several metrics at Evolve, but heart rate is one of our most frequently used and for a new athlete to transition to HR based training it can take time to learn how to use the metric appropriately. This process and learning curve is best ironed out prior to the start of the season. Additionally, as coaches we look at the year differently than the athlete - the athlete sees a race as months away and the coach sees the race as only 10 months away - or 10 training blocks. Time is the most valuable commodity we have in the sport and the more time a coach has with an athlete to sharpen them, the better.

Many athletes crave the change that comes with the off-season and any well crafted training plan takes into account the need for different forms of movement along with the need to prescribe the correct training load. We often encounter athletes who pack their off-season full of “fun” races, and while we love a to mix things up with some unique racing experiences that keep things fresh, we see athletes who have run so many "off-season” fun runs that they are burned out by the time their season rolls around. A coach can help navigate how to best balance fun without going overboard.

If you find that you are fall into one of these categories, then now is the best time to jump at getting a solid off-season plan in place to catapult you to an amazing 2018!


 

“YOU ARE F&%KING KIDDING ME...YOU ARE SUCH A DUMBASS DAVE!” - Naptown Race Report with Coach Dave

 

My Naptown 70.3 buffoonery

Yeah, the title is a little long but those are the exact words that started a long and ugly conversation with myself around 6 PM the night before the 70.3.  I called myself some pretty harsh names and it’s going to take a while to get over what I said…. Now the back story:

Like most triathletes, I am way OCD.  I’ve been racing a long time, I have a list printed out that I use to pack/prepare for every race.  I collect EVERYTHING I need into a 44 gallon tote and then go back through the list as I pack everything into bags for travel. I have this down to a science, or so I thought.  This weekend I found the weak link in all my planning: DO NOT GET INTERRUPTED AT ANY COST until you have completed the entire task!

I had an injury early in the season and had to DNS the Gulf Coast IM70.3 (yes, I lost the money) so I added a late season 70.3 to the schedule.  I needed an opportunity to get back under the 5 hour mark and I knew 70.3 Madison with the heat and hills was not going to give me that. So I signed up for the inaugural NapTown 70.3 in Indianapolis. It was close to home, I could leave the day before and drive home right after the race.  My friend Lee is the RD and it sounded like the course and cool weather of October where the ingredients needed to make a Sub 5, possibly a Sub 4:50 happen.

I work 48 hour shifts and had to work the Wednesday and Thursday before the race.  Came home Friday morning and started going through the list and dumping the gear into the tote.  By 10:00  that morning I was packed.  I headed to the pool and off to a meeting with my Coach/Boss.  I had to get back to the house by 3 to get the kids off the bus.  Done.. this is going to be smooth.

If you have been previously married and have an ex-spouse, life is easier if they are cool.  Mine is and we co-parent really well.  She needs a free day, I give...I need a race weekend she helps out.  So on this weekend I decided to keep the kids on Friday night and exchange in the morning before I left.  I was up at 6 and the amazing, beautiful Lynne Marsala (aka: THE BEST ATHLETE IN OUR HOUSE!) was making me the go to Evolve breakfast.  Pancakes, eggs, bacon.  This is why we can be successful, we know the deal, understand the sacrifice and help out when and as much as we can.  I digress, back to the crap storm that is beginning to unfold.

While breakfast is cooking, I grab the bike, pump, transition bag, computer...BING BING! My phone goes off with the familiar “here” text that my ex and I share when we arrive to get the kids.  Everything stops and it becomes a mad house.  Do you have your shoes?  Do you have your skateboard?  Do you have your meds? Do you have your school bag? Do you have your saxophone? Do you have your drum pad and sticks? Etc.  Yes, they are young boys and never prepared to leave.  So I get in the mix and help out. A hug and “good luck” from my youngest and a fist bump and a “go ride them down” from my oldest.  Poof! The kids are gone and I am ready to get on the road.  Kiss to the wife and I’m driving.  4 hrs later and 5 podcasts I pull into Eagle Creek Beach for packet pick up.

I’m starting to get excited, the venue looks great, the water temp is 72 at 2:30 pm and will surely be wet suit legal.  I sticker the bike, tape gels to the top tube and put the bike into transition. I drive the course and get an idea that this may not be a PR set up.  Lots of turns and a half mile of gravel road on a downhill uphill “S” turn.  This isn’t sweepable gravel, the whole road IS gravel.  So I thought to myself “well it’s a crappy surface for everyone not just you, move on”  So I head over to  T2 (this is a split race with two separate transitions) and take a look at the in and out .  I now move to drive the run course.  Again I realize that this is not my kind of race.  Hilly double out and back with some decent ascents.  “Maybe 5:05?”  But it is what it is.    With set up and recon complete I head off to my hotel 10 minutes away.  This is where the buffoonery begins!

I park and check in without a problem.  I head back to the car to gather my stuff.  Pop open the hatch and pull out the transition bag.  Open the back door and pull out the computer.  Think to myself that I have another bag so I go to the other side of the car and open the door.  NO BAG!  Now I open all the doors, NO BAG!  Open the hatch again, NO BAG!  I do this 20 or so times until I realized what has happened.  I GOT INTERRUPTED BEFORE THE TASK WAS COMPLETED!  In the hussle and bussle of getting the kids out of the house, I had only placed 2 bags in the car and the 3rd was sitting on the floor of my bedroom.  My transition bag carries everything to race.  And my clothing bag carries everything I need to put on before the race starts.   It also has clothes for after the race, tooth brush, hair product etc.  “Are you fucking kidding me!..’You are such a Dumbass Dave!  UGH!!!!! “I can not believe that you have done this….100s of races and you can’t get your shit together!  How do you expect to coach/mentor when you can’t even get it right yourself’….on and on and on.  I was pretty hard on Coach Dave for a bit.

I’ll be honest, I get out of the game when things go wrong.  Once in NOLA 70.3 I was killing it and on pace to run 4:48 but at mile 30 or so got nailed with a drafting penalty (should have been a take over penalty but that is for another post) and it derailed my whole day.  If I would have kept my shit together and went after it as if it didn’t happen I would have run a 4:53 and a new PR.  But I didn’t, I couldn’t let it go and ran pissed and without focus to a 4:59.  I regret that day and my wife reminds me of it often.  This was no different.  I had already made up my mind and decided to try and get a refund on my room and just go home.  I called Lynne and told her what had happened and what I intended to do.  She had some great advice, but I didn’t give 2 shits...I was pissed and leaving.  We hung up and I said I would call her back.  I started going through my gear and realized that the only thing I was missing was a kit (I was wrong).  My phone started going off and it was my wife sending me links to bike shops in the area (thanks Love!).  It was 6ish on a Saturday.  I called one, closed! 2 closed! Then I remembered a FB post about one of the race sponsors, The Endurance House.  Looked up the shop and saw that they were closed but I called anyhow.  They answered and informed me that they had just closed.  I told the nice lady about my problem and she kindly said “What size are you?  I’ll have Justin bring it in the morning”  She asked if I had a color preference and if I wanted a one or two piece kit.  Black of course and medium one piece.  I forgot to mention that this problem (or so I thought) was solved after I ordered my dinner and a bottle of wine…. Luckily I was only a glass or so into the bottle.  The race was back on!  Went to the store and got some water and breakfast and was back in the hotel by 7:30 catching up on Blacklist on Netflix.  Set the alarm and went to bed still angry at the position I have put myself in.  “What is this kit rides funny….blah blah”.  Didn’t sleep well and the alarm went off at 4.

Breakfast in and off to the race site.  I got to T2 and set up.  I had my shoes, race belt with nutrition and a towel. This is when I realized what else I didn’t have.  No socks and no heart rate monitor.  I can live without the HRM, but I haven’t ran sockless in a year, and have never run sockless in the shoes that I had with me!  “This is going to be painful!”  Done and ready to find Justin.  I found the RD and asked where they were set up.  “T1 across the lake”  UGH!!!!.  So I get on the bus that takes athletes to the start.  Once there, still wearing the same clothes from yesterday, I didn’t have much to do.  I couldn’t get in my wetsuit because I didn’t have a kit.  I pumped the tires and checked the bike for gearing, made sure bottles were good and snug, made sure gels were still there.  Now it was time to find Justin.  It was 5:45 when I asked where the Endurance House was set up.  I don’t know was the answer and they were supposed to be here already. 6:00...6:15….6:45…..finally at 6:50 I see a big white panel truck pull into the lot.  I run over to the truck and ask “Justin?”  Yes, and you must be Dave he replied.  He handed me a Tyr one piece black kit and told me to try it on.  The line to the bathroom was way long.  2 toilets for the entire field.  Off to a dark tree at the edge of the park.  Kit fit great and I went back to the truck ready to throw down the $250 for my mistake.  Justin pulled the tag and showed it to me.  $100?   Damn that’s cheap!  Justin said to just call the shop with a card when I got home….THANK YOU ENDURANCE HOUSE ZIONSVILLE!

So I got in the wet suit and was getting excited again.  The sun was up and damn it was bright.  I had a pair of non-tinted goggles in my swim bag in the car.  These are gonna have to do.  The swim was a 2 loop square.  The gun went off and everything was going well.  Hung with the speedsters to the second turn and BAM! The sun was brutal.  I couldn’t see anything or anyone.  Very few buoys to spot so I just swam towards the sun and hoped for the best.  The buoy was supposed to stay to the right and at one point it was 100 meters to the left.  Yeah, I was little off course.  So finally to the 3rd turn and it got good again but I had been spit out the back.  2nd lap same thing…. Came out of the water at 34 minutes in 13th OA.  Wetsuit stripper had a hard time getting my legs off and that time was added to swim.  T1 was less than one minute even though you had to pack your bags.  They were giving out 4 minute penalties if your stuff was laying around.

Out on the bike and settled in.  Had a plan to ride NP 209-221.  No heart rate monitor so power was the metric of the day.  The bike consisted of 4 loops of 11.5 miles after a ride out to the loop.  The loop was a square and on 2 sides the wind was up.  At one point I was pushing over 350W and going 19 mph.  Then we turned to the gravel road and the pace dropped just to keep the front wheel straight.  I felt good and really comfortable on the day.  I’ve had some fit and seat issues due to a saddle sore from hell.  But all was good on the day.  Started picking off some people on the bike despite the traffic from the Olympic that was running on the same course.  Nailed the nutrition on the bike which is my key to success.  NEED LOTS OF SALT!  4 loops and into T2.  Off the bike in 6th OA with an average of 22 mph, NP 239.  T2 was 37 seconds.  Shoes on (No socks), race belt on and off on my way.

Sam (my coach) and I have come to realize that in order to run well over the 13.1 I need to come out slow.  I have the tendency to come out sub 7 or 7ish all the time and never be able to recover.  I usually pay the price.  So I came out slow and on plan. First mile not as slow as I would like but kept it to 7:52.  Legs felt great through 2 miles until I got a cramp in the left hamstring.  Base salts to the rescue.  Once I start on it, I hit it regularly every half mile or so.  So I stayed with it and the cramp never returned.  The course felt hillier than I thought it would.  2 loops of an out and back and very little time spent flat.  You are going up long or down long the whole way.  My right foot started to feel “wet” at about mile 4 and started to hurt inside and out.  At this time, I was  caught by a smooth runner, beautiful form, 45 y/o.  We stayed together at 7:55 pace for the next 4 miles or so and the foot was getting worse.  Finally I couldn’t stand the pain.  I have been in the “pain cave” many times, but this was new.  It wasn’t fatigue, it was like a razor blade in my shoe.  I got to an aid station and had to let my AG buddy go.  I grabbed some water and pulled my shoe off to find that the wet was a foot covered in blood.  Dumped the water on the foot and the blood returned.  Asked the aid worker if they had vaseline and they did not.  I grabbed two hammer gels and opened one.  I emptied the packet all over my toes in hopes that it would act as a lube.  Shoe back on and tried to get up to pace.  The pain in the foot was bad with the higher turnover of 7:55, but felt bearable at 8:15ish.  I ran another couple of miles cussing myself out about forgetting my damn bag. The gel didn’t work, it was sticky and not lubricating at all.  The wetness returned so I took the shoe off and did it again.  It may have not lubed, but it damned the hemorrhage.  I dropped to 9th during this debacle but kept my head in it.  I knew I was in 2nd AG so I just kept at the 8:15ish to reserve something in case I had to fight to stay there.  I didn’t need to and crossed the line at 4:57 with a 1:48 half marathon.  Had my shoes off before I crossed the 2nd timing mat. 9th Overall and 2nd Age Group.  I wanted so much more, but put the best down that I could on the day. The count is 11 blood blisters and 4 open sores.  I love rest weeks.

Here is the short that follows the long story above.  Even veterans of this sport make stupid mistakes.  Once the gun goes off, you need to roll with the punches and make the best of what you have.  Keep your head in the game, run your race and good things can happen.

Big Thanks to my wife!  Thanks for trying to help me with my mess even though I was being an angry ass and not receptive.  Also, my Coach Sam Murphy for trying to keep my shit together and getting me ready to race…..

Thanks for reading and see you on the other side.  

Pitty

Group Training Evolve Style!

Training for endurance sports can be lonely. While this is arguably a draw for some, and there is much to learn as an athlete when training solo, it can grow old after awhile. And it usually grows very old by the last weekend of the final build block heading into a Marathon, Ironman or 70.3. This is where having a team behind you, can make all the difference!

Last weekend was our training weekend for IM Louisville and like every year prior it was an amazing effort by all from the athletes to the volunteers!

It is always fun to know where you are going!

It is always fun to know where you are going!

Each year we put together a weekend for our athletes headed to race an Ironman in their last build before they taper. And along with our Ironman athletes, many of our late season 70.3, 13.1 & 26.2 athletes come along for part of the ride and run, making it a great weekend of training and cheering. This has proven year and again to be an invaluable experience for the athletes and even for the coaches.

Here is how this past weekend went down!

We use a course that will give us a similar elevation profile for race day. Which means that we rode out in Wildwood, MO to prepare our athletes for the hills of Louisville. We break the 112 miles into a four loop course which allows us to SAG and monitor the athletes with ease and is also a great way to collect data which the coaches use later when writing race plans for race day. Unlike many group rides, we do not promote riding in a huge cluster of riders with athletes of all abilities. Rather, we prefer to link up each athlete who is racing with a volunteer athlete who is similar in ability. What we are trying to avoid is having an athlete ride too fast or too slow for their ability, which in either scenario leads to a low quality training day. We are lucky to have a super supportive group of team members along with five coaches so we can divide up the work at hand! The Ironman athlete will ride the entire 112 and the support athletes rotate in and out as needed.

This past weekend we had three groups of athletes, and therefore we also had three support vehicles stocked with water, ice, sports nutrition and back up bike tubes and tools. These vehicles monitor and assist each group out on the course. This was super important this weekend due to unseasonably high temps and we needed to have ice at the ready for the athletes as the temps and humidity skyrocketed throughout the day.

Once the athletes complete the course on the bike, they head out for a transition run and coaches either support via bike or by running along. This year we supported on the bike so we could hand off ice and ice water to keep the athletes cool.

Saturday was an incredible day of watching and cheering as our athletes faced very tough conditions and were able to overcome and nail their training. It was also a perfect day for each one of them to learn to test their limits and troubleshoot any gear, pacing, mental toughness or nutrition issues.

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Quickly, and I am sure far too fast for many, Saturday gave way to Sunday am, and it was another hot and humid day, but the athletes were at it once again for their final long run leading into the race.

Because we coach athletes who run at a variety of paces, we also chose to run in loops so that coaches can support and monitor athletes, and on a day at hot as Sunday, it allowed athletes to replenish fuel and get ice. Another benefit is that many Ironman and Half Ironman courses are looped and this enables an athlete to work through the mental pacing of a multi-loop course.

Once again the team showed up to offer support by biking alongside athletes to hand out ice and water and to cheer. While only a few of the athletes were able to run with one another due to pacing, it was awesome to watch athletes support each other as the made loops around Forest Park.

In the end the athletes put in a ton of high quality miles which will pay dividends on race day!

Thanks again to all of you who volunteered and made this weekend possible.  

 

P.S - If you want to read a WAY funnier and more detailed account of this weekend, check out this blog by Sarah. 

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It's that time again ... IRONMAN freak out - with Coach Samantha

This one was initially written three years ago, but it still holds true. While I think we can all agree that this can apply to any endurance event, but I would argue that there is a special kind of freak out that happens when training for an Ironman. 


Ironman training WILL make you crazy. It is not a question of if it will, more when and how will it affect you --- and the only part that matters is how you take it all in stride.

If you signed up for an Ironman, whether it is your first or 20th, you need to know that at one point you will lose your mind. What we care about as coaches is not that you will lose your mind –we think that is totally normal, but how you will deal with it, and what you learn from it when it happens.

We have the opportunity to train all types of athletes – I am not really talking about speed here – more, about what their life out of sport looks like. We have some who travel on a weekly basis for work, some who have children, some who have jobs that demand 50 plus hours a week without including the commute, and some who have it all: children, demanding job, and weekly travel.  Many of these athletes are long course and they are the masters of balancing it all. We work closely together to get it all in and create an equilibrium, but let’s face it – balance and 140.6 is an oxymoron. It is not a balanced lifestyle – that’s what makes it what it is, and that’s why in the end when that medal gets put around your neck, it is so very sweet. When our lives, which for most A type people get to a place where we cannot control every last thing, then we tend to lose it a little bit. There are so many factors in Ironman that are out of your control on race day and adapting to that starts with your training. The way you learn to adapt and overcome in  training, is a very important tool to have in your tool kit come race day.

Back to the mind losing part. What do I mean by that? Well, it depends on who the athlete is and what life demands from them. What I want everyone to know is that it will happen, no matter how well you think you deal with stress, or how easy the rest of your life is, the training will at one point make you crack. Case in point – last year I had an athlete who was very lucky to set up his life in a way that many of us can only dream off – he cut way back at work, he had weekly massages, he did everything in his power to make it an easy process, but even with all of the cards seemingly in place, he still had his mind losing episode. It was a short freak-out, but it came. No one is immune to the stress of long course racing.

Now, the real questions from my stand-point are how we can do our best to mitigate the freak out, and what we do when that stress hits?

Let’s start with the mitigation part:

 

1.       Hyper organization is key. In my mind the things that become overwhelming are the daily things – the laundry, cooking, cleaning. Do what you can to make those tasks easier. Set aside a day for meal prep, get bins to store your workout clothes in so you can cut down on folding times, space out the cleaning in the house so that you do one small task a day.  If you start your week with all of the little things taken care of, the workouts will be less stressful and more likely to get done without excuses.

2.       Avoiding procrastination. Do not put off the workout. The more you do this the harder it is get to get it done. Make a plan each week with a timeline that includes when you will work out and stick to that. If you can keep it the same each week it will become a habit. If your work schedule changes each week, then make plans around that.  When we put off workouts and skip them then the guilt is compounded – it is ALWAYS easier to get it done on the day that it is scheduled rather than trying to make it up.

3.       Find a dedicated tri training partner or a great group to workout with. This will help to keep you motivated and stay on task. Ironman can be really lonely and just having one other person to share the long hours with is helpful. Evolve coaches work to facilitate training partners and run group sessions to ease the training pain.

4.       Remember why we do it and when the pressure gets to be too much think about how even if you are getting paid to race, you are doing it because it is a passion. You asked for this right?

 

The stress will come and so will the freak out even if you have done your best to try to prevent it. It’s all part of the process, so what to do?

1.       Remember that is natural to freak out and that you are not the only one who feels overwhelmed. I think that sometimes athletes think that the freak out is a sign of weakness, or that they are the only one who goes through it. If you are using Facebook or Instagram posts as a judge, it can seem like the rest of your tri buddies are out there hammering, never missing a workout and holding it all together. Don’t be fooled. Embrace the freak out, work through it, learn from it,  and then move on.

2.       Assess why the freak out happen and address what you can do to prevent it getting out of control.  When it happens, take time to address the major stressors and see what it is that is causing you to be pushed over the edge. Is it relationship pressures, house work, work, family? Take some time to look at the hours you have each week and where you are wasting time. Are you watching more than an hour of TV a night, are you drinking too much caffeine and not getting to sleep early enough and therefore missing the am workouts, do you need to find a group to get out with to get you through? Can you set aside one night to prep all meals, can you pack all of your workouts clothes, nutrition, and write down all of your swim, bike and run workouts for the week on index cards, so that you don’t have to think about. How can you incorporate your family in the workouts? I did all of my recovery workouts with my daughter in tow, either in the stroller or behind the bike. Was this ideal – maybe not, but it helped keep my husband happy! Can your partner join you for these too? Maybe the vegetable garden needs to get put off until next year.

3.       Finally, know that the freak out and how you handle it is a perfect analogy for race day. Just like the training, Ironman is a long day and a lot can happen. How you deal with the stress in training can translate to how you deal with the stress in racing. Ironman is sure to throw you a few wrenches, learning how you deal with stress can help you to figure out how to deal with it on your big day. This to me is the biggest reason why the freak out needs to happen. Training is the way we get our body ready, but it is also the perfect medium for how we learn to deal with issues and solve them on the fly. If all of your training went off stress free and without a hitch, what would you do come race day if you hit a bump in the road?

And know this – the training is the tough part, when race day rolls around, it will be a breeze in comparison and when you hear your name calling for you at the finish line it will all be worth it!

 

 

On Any Given Week

Over the course of the next few blogs we will reveal a more detailed look at what makes Evolve unique giving you a glimpse from the inside.

I wanted to call this blog On Any Given Sunday --- but then I realized that many of our weekend races take place on Saturday and to be honest the workings of race week start long before race day. The goal is to take you through the paces of what coaching is like during pre-race weeks and on most weekends as it is something that we are really proud of at Evolve.

We do not travel to all of our athletes races, but try to make it to the local races, the big team events and as many Ironman events as possible. We are fortunate that we have 5 coaches to fill the gaps and therefore we can be at as many places as we can at once.

This past weekend was a big weekend of racing for the team, it was also a big training weekend for our fall A races, and for some who have started to focus on 2018 they are in testing mode.  Needless to say we had a lot going on with the team with athletes at WTC 70.3 Worlds, Lake Placid 70.3, the Litchfield Triathlon, a local 10K, and Ironman Wisconsin.

So how do we manage all of this? Here is what it looks like from an inside view.


Early in the week, the coaches send out detailed race plans. These plans are focused on the physical, mental and nutritional needs of each individual athlete. They include metrics, holistic guidance, and mental cues for each athlete to focus on. These plans range from 4 to 6 pages and become a great guiding point for the athlete. By the end of the week, it is time for athlete calls. While some athletes prefer to just rely on the written race plan, others enjoy a phone call. These phone calls usually review last minute concerns, course questions, or just a fun little conversation. For this week,  the things  we needed to tackle included how to deal with cold weather at race start, where to stand at the start of the swim, what kind of clothing to wear - you get the idea. And since we had an Ironman on tap, and the athlete was local, the coach met with the athlete in person instead of the call.  

And before you know it, it's race day!

Here's how this weekend unfolded. Saturday am was 70.3 Worlds, and JP was racing. She was up bright and early along with coach Teresa who was right away sending pics and updates to the team. JP was off the bike by the time I had to hop in the car to make my way to Wisconsin to be with Lynne and Coach Dave. All along the way my watch was buzzing with updates from both the new tracker (yay Ironman) and Teresa.  Teresa was keeping me up to speed and the whole team was chiming in cheering her from afar!

Then it was time to check in with JP post race and hear all about just how awesome it was! It was the best to hear JP's recap and the excitement that was oozing from her post race glow!

Run out for JP at Worlds!

Run out for JP at Worlds!

And then my phone buzzed and it was an awesome pic of some of our athletes who were training in Louisville for their first full!

Saturday's racing and training was in the books and it was time to prep for a busy Sunday.


We often send out a group text for all of our athletes who will be racing the same venue. This allows them to have a chain of communication to help one another if an issue arises or to make plans to meet up post race. We love watching how relationships are fostered or even germinated on race day.  Group texts sent! Check! Final round of checking in on our athletes the day before the race and then just one last thing to do.

One last stop before heading to the hotel for the night. A quick check in on Lynne to make sure that she was ready for the am! And of course she was!

Sunday started at 4:30 am with Coach Dave and me at transition with Lynne. Since Dave plays the role of an Evolve Coach and Lynne's husband, he helped her to transition and I met her by the water. But before being able to locate Lynne in the chaos of all of the athletes, I spotted Dave. Who was on the phone with one of his athletes who was racing that am and had a last minute question. Even though Dave’s wife was racing he did not shy away from his coaching role and was ready to help his athlete with his needs.

All was good with his athlete and it was time to help Lynne with her final preparations. Which meant Dave locating a sharpie as she forgot to get marked and me holding her place at the porta  potty line:). Then it was time for one last pep talk, a good luck hug and off to stake out a spot to watch the swim. Dave and I hung and watched the swim for a while and then once we knew she would be coming we split up so we could cover the swim in and also the bike out!

ALWAYS PACK A SHARPIE IN YOUR TRANSITION BAG!

ALWAYS PACK A SHARPIE IN YOUR TRANSITION BAG!

And while we were waiting on the swim we made sure to check on the athletes in Lake Placid. We had boots on the ground there who were keeping us updated and sending pics in addition to the tracker.

Back to Wisconsin - Dave caught Lynne on the way in and I saw her come out.

It was then time to walk back to the car. I should mention that I hate waiting for things so rather than parking and riding the shuttle I had run 2 miles through the foggy darkness to get to the swim start. The walk went by much faster than the moderately freaked out solo run! And as we walked we could cheer on bikers!

Then it was off to the bike course with a quick stop for some water.

We made it to mile 53 of the bike course just in time for the male pros to go flying by, set up our chairs and check in again on Lake Placid. At this point Greg had suffered a mechanical on the bike and had decided to pull out of the race. A quick check in with Greg’s crew to tell them to assure him that he had done the right thing! DNFs happen and it is important for the athlete to be supported and also given space if needed. Luckily Greg was excited to go right to work cheering Joe on!

Before long the sprint was over  in Litchfield and we were able to check in on our athlete there! Tony has rocked it and won his AG! Woo hoo!! And we also learned that Tori and Scott had placed at their 10k. And Scott had pulled out another PR!

Scott and Coach Tori take 2nd in AG!

Scott and Coach Tori take 2nd in AG!

Then boom, Lynne was coming and it was time to cheer and check in on how she was feeling. All good! She is moving well through the field and looks strong!

By now Joe was on the run in Placid and was looking really strong with a 5th place off the bike. Let the obsessive tracking begin!!!!

In an ideal world I could teleport myself to Placid, but clearly that can't happen, so what's a coach to do, call the team on the ground in Lake Placid and have them spread out to cheer Joe on. It's fun and awesome to hang in town to cheer, but let's face it athletes need you most where the crowds are sparse. The middle of a hill is a great place to cheer!! Dave F was out on course in no time. I however, was in my car charging my phone and watching the little map of Joe move along on the run. I had also entered all other athletes in his AG into my phone and knew he had moved into 3rd and was in a good place to hold it - but first a text to Dave to tell him to relay that he cannot slow down! Dave called back as soon as he saw him and told me that Joe looked great, felt great and was 3 miles out! He continued to rock it and before you know it he's had his first ever podium finish in and IM! And I was fist bumping in the car! Joe had nailed the race!!!

Two miles to go! Thanks to Dave F, Greg and Regina for all of their help!

Two miles to go! Thanks to Dave F, Greg and Regina for all of their help!

Phew--- just in time to hear from Betsy who had killed the aqua bike and PRed her swim! And sure enough as I jumped out of the car to tell Coach Dave about Joe and Betsy, he was on the phone with his athlete Joseph who had podiumed in his division at his first Olympic.

Coach high five!

Not long after Kelly checked in on her first ever Olympic finish and sent over some great pics of the crew -- some of whom had just met :)

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And did we mention backup chargers are a must!!

Then it was back to focusing on Lynne as we would see her again at mile 91!!!!!!

Another awesome Lynne spotting. She was getting stronger as the day went on. This is what you want to see in Ironman. Far too many burn up and fade.

Once Lynne came by, we hopped back in the car and hauled back to town. By this point all of our  athletes aside from Lynne were in and we had chatted with them all. Text messages and Facebook posts were coming in from the team as they all turned their support to Lynne.

Onto the run course. Dave and I found a spot before the .5 mile mark on the course and waited as the first women started to come off the bike.

We quickly established the order of women coming off in Lynne's AG and got a look of how they were starting the marathon. Then around the corner came Lynne and she was all smiles. We cheered and made sure she was good and then it was on to our next spot! The beauty of Wisconsin is that the course has a few out and backs and it sort of doubles back on itself so we could easily get to mile 6 and wolf down some food on the way! I drank my 50th green tea of the day and Dave grabbed another Rockstar Energy drink at some point - you forget to eat and drink when you coach and you need as much energy as you can get out there.

The first girls in her AG were coming by. Lynne was off the bike in 7th, moved up to 6th but was passed before we saw her and was in 7th again. Although by the time we saw her it was clear that she would move back onto 6th as 7th has made a hard attempt and already faded at mile 6.2. Two more Lynne sightings and then off to our next spot which was about mile 12. However, we decided to divide and conquer, and Dave went closer to 10 and I stayed put at the top of an incline. Our goal here was to cover the gaps where the crowds were thinner. Most people stand and cheer near transition and we knew our efforts to motivate her were not needed there, so we hung outside the main cheering sections. 

TRACKING!!!!

TRACKING!!!!

Up the hill she came and off she went still looking strong. Dave and I reunited and waited for her to come back around to mile 14. Another sighting and some more cheers and then back to mile 19 where we saw her two more times before she was in her final 10k. This is the pain cave and so we crafted a plan! We made the call to both stay out on the course (as a coach I rarely see my athletes finish as they beat me back to the line) and part ways again so we could cheer during the tough miles 22 and 23. Husband Dave of course wanted to see her finish, but Coach Daveknew just where he was needed.

Off to the finish line!

Off to the finish line!

As soon as Lynne passed Dave, he texted she was running strong still! This is no easy task to push through the late miles and run solid when so many others are walking! And before I knew it she was right there at mile 24. By this point there was zero smile and zero talking, but she pressed on! Lynne was onto a 6th AG, 20th OA and her third IM! She had raced her heart out!


While this is just one weekend of what it looks like, this is pretty status quo for Evolve. In  just a few weeks we will be at IM LV with 6 athletes racing and nearly twice as many athletes cheering. I can't wait to report back to you all about how that day unfolds, but no matter who is racing, where the race is, the Evolve coaches and teammates are tracking, cheering, and encouraging even if it is from afar!

A Warm Welcome to Lindsey Ehret!

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We are very excited to announce that we will be adding a swim coach to our team of coaches. Lindsey Ehret is joining the other Evolve coaches in an effort to offer more opportunity to current and potential athletes. Her primary focus will be private swim instruction. 

At Evolve we recognize that no matter your experience level, swimming is something that can always be tweaked and improved. Lindsay's experience as a swim coach and as a triathlete herself lends itself beautifully to the Evolve coaching team. We are honored and excited to have her on board. 

Read more about Lindsey here:

Lindsey is a St. Louis native, who describes herself as a life-long swimmer.  From her early days participating in summer league, USA club swimming, high school and college, to present as a Masters swimmer, Lindsey has always been passionate about the sport. 

After a successful Missouri state high school swimming career, the mid-distance freestyle specialist knew she wasn’t ready to stop swimming.  While majoring in History at Truman State University, Lindsey was a four-year team member on the NCAA Division II squad, which won four consecutive National Championship titles. Following graduation, she tacked on another year to earn her Masters in Secondary Social Studies Education. 

Lindsey’s swim coaching experience spans over ten years – working with all ages and ability levels.  She’s coached summer leagues, club teams, high school teams, and worked with adults.  Currently, she coaches a Masters team and can be seen working with the St. Louis University High School boys swim team during the Fall, when she isn’t teaching Social Studies.  She also enjoys open water swimming and recently won a 2.4 mile OWS on Donner Lake in California this summer.      

Lindsey focuses on getting her athletes to be as efficient as possible in the water through identifying and correcting weaknesses in stroke technique.   She uses multiple approaches and drills to ensure her athletes are able to reach their full potential and power in the water.   She hopes to instill confidence and a better feel for the water in her athletes.   

 

If you are interested in lessons with Lindsey or any other services that Evolve has to offer, please email us here! We 

Athlete Insight with Scott Kolbe: Race Report: USAT Age Group National Championship 2017 Omaha, NE

Talking with your coach about what your next season is going to look like is always the best conversation. At the end of 2016, I told Coach Sam that one of my goals was to qualify for AG Nationals and race it to the best of my ability. I know people who had raced AGN before and they said it was a great experience. I told her I was going to go to a regional qualifier and try and make it. She then told me you would totally qualify at a local race, you don’t need to go to a regional qualifier. I was a bit skeptical at the time she said that, but said okay. The trust between an athlete and coach is key to a successful racing season. I pretty much follow what any of the Evolve coaches suggest.  So I put my trust in the process and went after each workout.

Sure enough after my first local race,  I got an email from USAT, “Congratulations you have qualified for USAT Age Group National Championship”. I didn’t really understand how you qualify. I learned that you have to be in the top 10% of your age group at any USAT race, unless you race at a regional championship where they take the top third. I registered immediately and luckily my teammate JP qualified the same week. So we both signed up.

JP and I traveled on Thursday for the Saturday race. JP drove and we headed out to Omaha. About 2 hours in, we get a flat tire on her car and we are on the interstate. JP said she would call AAA, I said it will be faster if I change the tire and she finds a tire place while I do that. We unload all the gear from the vehicle: club tent, chairs, gear for two triathletes and get to work. As we load the tire over the two bikes, we both cut our hands and are bleeding, but JP in her usual way has already made friends with the guy at the tire store (via the phone) and now we need to get to Ozzy, so we can get a new tire put on.  JP had negotiated with Ozzy and he had promised to get us in and out of Marshall, MO quickly. We get to the tire place and a guy who is smoking a cigarette approaches, of course it is Ozzy, and he complements JP’s muscles and says I bet you're fast. JP says he is faster (she is pointing to me) and I don’t think Ozzy could see past JP’s muscles, nor cared to. But he gave JP a great deal on three new tires, I think cheaper than 3 new Continental GP4000s. In the meantime the crew pulls out a huge first aid kit and tends to JP’s wounds. Mine… Walk it off. I don’t think Ozzy noticed me the entire time. It made for a really fun way to start what would be an epic weekend full of fun and adventure.

Sometimes you just need to kick the wheel!

Sometimes you just need to kick the wheel!

 

So let’s get to the race, the rest of the commute was uneventful. The weather in Omaha had been cooler and I am a boater, so I know how to find the water temps of many bodies of water. I was watching that week as the water temps dropped to 78.6 degrees. I was thinking kick ass. This race should be wetsuit legal if the weather holds. Well the temps warmed up and when we get to the race site and ask Coach Tori,  who had already been to packet pickup what the water temps were – 80.6 was the answer. Well this is not a wetsuit race. At this race there is no wetsuit optional choice. So I realized it is what it is. That day I went out and did a practice swim. We were the first ones there in a line of athletes that all looked like they should be on the cover of Triathlete Magazine. I just sat there and thought damn – do I even belong at this race?  Well I am here, so I did my warm-up swim and it went fine once I got settled in. But as can happen I started getting doubt in my mind. I didn’t say anything to the Evolve crew, but decided to log it in my training log. Sam responded in 4.3 milliseconds.  

 

You can totally swim! Think of your nerves on the first day of masters - these are the same. You are in uncharted waters so you are nervous. But logically you can swim super well now. I like the idea of strong as your mantra - because that's what you are!!

 

So that evening I worked on my mantra, which was “Strong and Belong” and went to bed, slept great and the next morning went to the race site. Coach Tori drove JP, Terri and myself to the site, of course she figured out the way to circumnavigate traffic and we got into the race site while everyone else sat in traffic.

 

Transition:

We get to transition, which had the best transition racks for a tall person; my bike never sits right on the typical racks you see at races. My seat is high. I start talking to the two guys in transition on my rack. Making small talk  is how I relax. What race did you qualify at for this? The guy responds “All of them, I am going to Kona this year”. The guy on other side says I am going to Kona again. I laughed and realize okay these guys are all freaking fast. Said my mantra smiled and went to the club tent.

 Announcement one – 15 minute delay due to traffic, announcement 2 – 20 minute delay due to traffic, announcement 3 – 30 minute delay due to traffic. I was scheduled to start at 8:04 and the race starts at 7:00 AM. I am thinking 8:34 isn’t the worst but I had hoped we would start sooner.

Plenty of times for pre-race pics!

Plenty of times for pre-race pics!

 

Swim:

 At about 8:20 the 130, 45 to 49 year old males walk out on the dock and the thing is moving side to side like crazy. We get to swim on the other side of the dock for a practice swim. I swim the full area and take advantage of every minute for the warm-up and feel pretty good. I get back on the dock and there are no spots to stand. So negotiate a spot in the middle of the dock. The guy next to me is from Chesterfield the other guy is from Tallahassee. Like I said small talk relaxes me. The whistle blows, I decide to wait 3 seconds and let these guys take off. Everyone is spread out. But I could tell it was going to be war on the swim. Coach Sam wanted me to hold back until buoy 1. So that is what I did. I am thinking buoy one was a couple hundred yards out. By the time I got there, I saw guys treading water, stopping and suddenly I realized I just passed multiple swimmers. That is all I needed to realize I had this swim. After that I just kept swimming, and found a guy I could pace off of. I did that until the turn buoys where war broke out. After I got around the last turn buoy I was heading in. Coach Tori had suggested going inside the sighting buoys, because at the athlete rules meeting they said you could go on either side. Well that move was genius. I was swimming by myself and everyone else was swimming long. I quickly made my way back in. I thought to myself this was my best non-wetsuit non-sprint race swim ever. The swim was a PR for me for this distance and my other Olympic race this season was a wetsuit race.

 

T1:

Went running up the ramp through the grass and Tori yells run faster. She knew what I was thinking. I got into transition, put my helmet and shoes on and was out. I hit my Garmin lap button and realized whatever the transition and swim were, they were both great – because that is a great time for me just for the swim. I was smiling and thinking time to HIT the bike hard!

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Bike:

Get out on the bike and I am feeling solid. I recently bought a Garmin Edge 820 and had that on my aerobars. I am cooking along when I hit the big hill around mile 7 – I look down and my average speed is 22.8 mph, I try and keep my average speed up without blowing my legs out. Sam said I could stand if I wanted to and was feeling strong and hitting my metrics. I do, and I passed a bunch up the long hill, including people walking their bikes and a guy who dropped his chain. I get to the top and the average speed says 21.3 mph. By the time I got to the turnaround I was averaging 22.9 mph. Then I turned around and realized that I was going to fight a headwind back. All in all it was good. Only had one group that I had to worry about getting around that seemed to not like being passed. After I passed a guy on a Specialized, he immediately sped up after I broke the plane, I hammered for a second to get around and then 2 minutes later he was passing me. Then a few minutes later he couldn’t hold his pace, so I did what Charlie Crawford, head of USAT officiating suggested at the athlete meeting which was just come up fast and tight to their rear tire and they won’t even know you are there and won’t have time to speed up as you pass. He was right, I never saw him the rest of the day.

 

They hand out a ton of penalties at this race, they estimated 200 to 300 penalties would be issued. So, I knew the rules were really important, and I was glad to have a clean race. I finished the bike and was pretty happy with my time. Just under 22 mph fighting a headwind back. I did my flying dismount with success, this was something I did at every race this year and have actually gotten to the point where I enjoy it after a few challenges earlier in the season.

 

T2 – This transition went great as well. Every triathlon this year I probably lost 10 seconds wrestling with a shoe or something. This one went off flawlessly. Again the transition area was nice with the tall racks. My bike easily slid under the rack!

 

Run:

 I get out on the run; I am feeling real good. I am running much faster than my earlier season Olympic; my stride feels solid. The Coach Andy advice is helping from the spring clinic. The great thing at AG Nationals is almost everyone is running and you can feed off of the energy. I am running solid. The run out had a bit of a headwind I could feel, so on the way back the run felt really great. This was a 2 loop run. I saw other Evolve athletes Terri and JP on the 2 trips out and back. That always lifts your determination when you see the blue and green!  As I approached the finish, Coach Tori is yelling at my to pick it up and has Coach Sam on the phone. I said I am good! Somehow while I had a great run, I felt I should have had even more, but we need goals for 2018 - right?

 

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This was a great time with great people. Qualifying was something I never expected until this year and ironically I qualified at my first race of the season. If you get a chance to race AG Nationals, definitely give it a shot. It has a lot of amazing athletes. I want to thank all of my Evolve teammates for a great season with many memories and also Coach Sam. This season was the most fun I have had in triathlon.

In the end just believe you belong and you will end up making your dreams become goals that happen.