8/30/15

Less is more...42 days 'til Kona!


In 30 days, Karel and I will be boarding a plane to Kona, Hawaii.
Holy Moly.....we will be racing in the 2015 Ironman World Championship in 41 days!!

This upcoming Ironman is very special for three reasons.
1) I absolutely LOVE racing in Kona. The island, the competition, the energy, the elements, the race vibe...it all makes me so excited to race for 140.6 miles!
2) This will be my 10th Ironman and 4th Ironman World Championship! I can't believe I have been racing endurance triathlons for 9 years and my body has allowed me to qualify for Kona at 4 of my 6 Kona qualifier Ironman races. 
3) I will be sharing the race course with my best friend and hubby, Karel. This is his first Ironman World Championship and 4th Ironman that he will finish. We love racing together and sharing our personal race stories to one another, after the race. 

Around this time of the Ironman journey, I find that Ironman athletes can make a few mistakes as it relates to training. There is a lot of self-doubt, worry, anxiety and fear that the body and mind is not and will not be ready for race day. This uncertainty and lack of trust in the training process often leads to doing more than needed in preparation for the upcoming Ironman event. 

You know what's funny...I don't believe you you need to feel in the best shape of your life, to race  for 140.6 miles. There's no magic number of hours you need to train or miles to cover for each sport to feel "prepared". And certainly, there is no "look" as to what your body composition needs to look like to race well for 140.6 miles. 

 As athletes, we are constantly developing, learning, gaining skills and improving. Year after year, we get stronger, faster, more efficient or smarter. 
Therefore, I do believe that you can feel ready, confident and prepared for your upcoming race. And that readiness comes from trusting the plan that keeps you healthy, injury free and hungry to race. 

Around 3-6 weeks out from an Ironman race, I often see and hear of athletes doing way too much volume and/or intensity. Perhaps it's inappropriately scheduled in the training plan or at fault of the athlete who feels she/he needs to do more as a result of fear-based training. 

This is my favorite time of my Ironman journey because every workout completed is one day closer to the race. Rather than chasing certain watts, times or paces, I chase improvements. 
Just improvements. 
Some days it's perfecting my fueling whereas other days I feel stronger or faster. Some days I feel like I am more resilient whereas other days I feel better with my endurance.

But this is not the time for me get greedy - wanting every workout to be perfect or better than the previous day. 

For Ironman athletes, the 3-6 weeks out from race day bring a lot of baggage. There is the emotional stress where your mind wants to be "all in" but as an age-grouper, we still have to balance work, family and other to-do's. Then there is the residual fatigue that we bring to every workout simply because we have been training for at least 3 months....if not way longer. 

With this baggage, we have to be extremely careful as to listen to the body. We must be ok to do less, adjust the intensity/duration, modify the week or take an extra recovery day. 
Certainly, work needs to get done to prepare the body for race day. There should be great dedication to every workout, workouts shouldn't be skipped because "it doesn't matter" and motivation should be at an all time high as this is the time when we execute to the best of our ability to feel as prepared as possible come taper. 

Sure, I have a few big time/placing goals for race day that keep me excited to train but above all, my focus is on arriving to the start line in Kona with a very healthy and strong body.

For the next 6 weeks - all I need my body to do is to stay healthy and I will be ready to race! 

More is not better. 

I trust my plan. I trust my previous fitness and I trust what I have learned in this Ironman journey. 
For the next 6 weeks, my main focus is on being smart so that I can be as consistent as possible with every week of training.
And most of all, I want to keep having fun. 

If you are currently training for an Ironman, it is important that you have the strength to adjust.
There's no good in taking risks 3-6 weeks out from race day because many times, these risks don't pay off. The fear-based training doesn't make for better race day performances. Being "in the moment" to get a workout checked-off for self validation may give you confidence but it isn't necessary in the big picture.
Remember that you are bringing months of fitness to your upcoming Ironman race...not one or two epic completed, haphazard workouts. 

Save your BEST performance for race day. 

Trust me - your body and mind will know what to do on race day.
Stay focused, stay smart and keep having fun. 

8/28/15

Thoughts on training at elevation - Boulder train-cation



The stats are in from our 8-day train-cation in Boulder, CO!

Swimming: 8800 yards
Cycling: ~231 miles, ~24,000 elevation gain (Marni) 
Cyling: ~310 miles, ~30,000 elevation gain (Karel)
Running: 42 miles (Marni and Karel)

Wow - that's A LOT of training at elevation!
There are many benefits of training at altitude. 
Acclimating to altitude produces more red blood cells which means more oxygen to deliver to the muscles. Altitude also creates more capillaries which gives the blood more pathways for delivery to the muscles. Lastly, there is an increase in mitochondria (powerhouse of cells) as they convert oxygen to energy.

As you can see, there are many performance benefits to training at altitude that can bring on better endurance, power and speed....and they are all natural and legal!!!

However, it's not all as "magical" as it seems. 

Exercising in "thinner" air means less oxygen per volume of air. Less oxygen molecules means the muscles have a harder time to work efficiently. The lungs also take a beating too (talk about coughing after the workouts). Although the body will compensate for the decrease in oxygen by producing more red blood cells (with the help of EPO - again, this is natural!) to deliver oxygen to the muscles, there is a great struggle that occurs when the body begins to train at altitude. 

Some athletes will notice the struggle at ~5200 feet whereas some athletes have to go to more than 8,000 feet above sea level. 


Both Karel and I had an amazing time in Boulder, CO but it was rather difficult for both of us to feel like we could train "smart" during our train-cation. The dry air was tough too.

With less than 8 weeks until the 2015 IM World Championship, our bodies were in a great place physically to absorb a mega-load of training stress but the reduced atmospheric pressure really made it challenging to stay aerobic. We have spent much of our training this year learning how to listen to our body and when we need to go EZ, we go EZ so that when we need to go hard, we have the energy to do so. Athletes often train in between this area - all the time and this makes it hard to boost performance.

In Boulder, it almost felt as if every workout was anaerobic - no matter how "easy" we were trying to go (which as you can imagine, made "recovering" after a climb or during a workout, quite impossible).
Even though we don't chase numbers when we train, it was much harder to go a certain effort in all three sports at altitude. 

Our Boulder train-cation was extremely beneficial in that it took us away from our normal training environment, which mentally, is always a great thing when training for a 140.6 mile event.
And although we both don't feel as if we lost fitness because of the altitude, it's hard to say as if we "gained" anything at altitude. 

Whereas a mega-load (train-cation/training camp) is designed to put a lot of stress on the body, the altitude was a stressor....on top of the intentional training stress. 

Thankfully, neither of us experienced "altitude sickness" so our immune system stayed in good health at altitude and with all of our training. Neither of us had headaches, nausea or extreme fatigue. 

The first thing we noticed was difficulty sleeping - this is often called "altitude insomnia". Karel and I would have difficulty falling asleep (we probably missed our sleeping partner Campy too) and we would both wake up at least 2 times during the night. We also both had to go to the bathroom to pee at least twice during the night. This got better by the 6th day at elevation and by the 7th day, we finally were able to sleep through the night. The sleepless nights were exhausting come morning time. 

We stayed in Boulder (~5400 elevation) for the first 3.5 days of our trip and then went to 8,000 feet when we linked-up with our friends in the cabin for the next 6 days. Then back to 5400 feet for our last night in Boulder. Our training ranged from 5400 elevation to 10,000+ elevation. 

Karel and I had no trouble consuming our typical sport nutrition during all our workouts (we never once trained with just water - always a sport drink + additional food for our bike rides) so we managed to meet hydration and calorie needs but we both experienced a slight drop in appetite. I don't consider this an advantage at all to not have an appetite. We need to eat!!
This mostly occurred in the 2-3 hours post workout so for Karel, he opted for more liquid calories and for me, I ate more frequently (every hour) and had small meals instead of a larger recovery meal. By dinner, we both had our "normal" appetites back and had no trouble enjoying our normal carb-rich diet.
We always had an appetite to eat before our workouts as well. 

In Greenville, SC, we live at ~1,000 feet. Most of our mountains go up to around 2,000-3500 feet. We just LOVE training in Greenville. 
As for racing at elevation, neither one of us will race at altitude simply because of the adjustment that is needed to perform well and stay healthy, at altitude, is risky. Sure, it can be done but we much prefer hilly courses that include mountains as oppose to starting a race at high elevation. 

Once again, our Boulder trip was awesome - we loved the active community, the many running trails, the delicious eats and the variety of terrain. However, the trip was exhausting. Physically, it was so challenging to train, recover and train and recover and by the last two days of the trip - I was beat. The load was intense but the altitude made it even more difficult. There were so many times when I couldn't catch my breath as I was training and I found myself "anaerobic" no matter the effort.....then again, my fitness has improved a lot this summer so I managed to train "with" Karel for most of our Boulder train-cation - and he pushes me!
 Sure, I had some great workouts but from a "smart" training perspective, our train-cation was long enough and I am happy to be back in Greenville. Karel managed to bounce back quickly after we returned home, whereas I have taken this entire week (since Tues when we traveled home) incredibly easy with light workouts, to fully recover my body. 

It's always fun to train up the training environment but always remember that your #1 goal is to train in the environment that gives you the best training stress. If you can't adapt to the training stress, then you are likely compromising your health at the expensive of trying to improve performance. 





8/26/15

Inspired salad


It's nice to be back in Greenville, SC after our 9 day, Boulder train-cation and it's even better to have a few days of low volume/low intensity training to recover from all that training stress. 

We did a lot of eating out while we were in Boulder. So you know what that means, right?

Diet? 
Not us!

Cleanse/Fast?
Never!

Go low carb?
Absolutely not. We love bread!

Be inspired?YEP!!!

In Boulder, there was no shortage of restaurants that offered a variety of vegetarian options for me but also kept us well-fueled with all of our training. 

With all that eating out, there were many opportunities to be inspired. I firmly believe that we should always feel great when we eat - no matter where we eat or what we eat. It is your choice as to what you choose to put inside your body that you may as well choose food that makes you yum (yumming out loud is totally acceptable). 

For our last dinner in Boulder, we went to Pizzeria Locale with our friend/athlete Trent (his wife Kristen was traveling for work). 

We all enjoyed pizza (of course) but started with a salad. 
I ordered the Antica Arugula salad with parmigiano reggiano and balsamic and Karel ordered the Vesuvius heirloom tomato salad with basil, mozzarella di bufala.  

Inspired by Karel's salad, I made a delicious arugula salad with mozzarella and tomato to start our dinner this evening. 

Next time you go out to eat, be sure to enjoy your meal outside of the home.....

and always leave the restaurant inspired to re-create the meal at home.