It's crazy to think that this is my 11th year of endurance triathlon racing and for the last five years, I have been sharing it with Karel as my training partner. We have had highs and we have had lows but that's all to be expected when you are a competitive athlete, always wanting to give your best, stretch your comfort zone and push your limits.
Over the past few years, I have learned that it requires a lot of work and time to see performance improvements, so I am never quick to assume that my training is or isn't working. I continue to focus on the process and with so much gratitude to my strong and healthy body, no workout is taken for granted. Some workouts are so-so, some I want to quickly forget and others go into my memory bank to be remembered on race day.
I've also learned that time goals, paces and watts are not worth chasing nor is a specific body image, but instead, I must continuously focus on something more subjective and meaningful to keep me motivated to train and race.
Since I am not racing an Ironman distance triathlon this season (I've raced 6 Ironmans since 2013 and 2012 was the last time I took a season off from IM racing), but instead focusing on half IM distance racing, I've been creating a list of triathlon goals for myself that will keep me focused on the process of training rather than the outcome of race day.
With so many years in the sport of endurance triathlon, I can admit to spending many of workouts criticizing my weaknesses and not focusing on my strengths. Sure, we all need to be honest, and somewhat critical about needed areas of improvements but I believe that many athletes doubt their own potential for success during the times of training weakness, bad workouts, a plateau in fitness gains, inconsistency or injury/sickness. But every athlete has room for improvement and the harder you work, the more consistently you train and the more processed driven goals you set for yourself, the bigger the chance that you will improve.
If you find yourself crushing a workout, noticing your fitness improving or experiencing something new about yourself, like an improvement in your mental game, better execution of pacing or better application of sport nutrition, don't be shy about it.
Since race day only comes but just a few times a year, give yourself permission to indulge in your own athletic triumphs every now and then.
Let's get real - you train early in the morning before the world gets up, you squeeze in workouts whenever you have the chance, you organize your diet to support your training and you give your best, even when no one is watching. Don't wait until race day to "hope" it all comes together. You deserve to celebrate your personal victories NOW, in training.
Athletic improvements will happen but they won't happen with a quick fix, magic potion or one or two epic workouts every now and then. Consistent training and hard work will pay off but improvements take time.
The next time that you find yourself "wowing" at yourself, be proud of your accomplishment and share it with people who care about you and who have helped you along the way.
No matter how big or small, take note of these special moments in your training journey as those are the moments that you work so hard for and that you will remember the most on race day.
My weekend to remember actually started on Friday. I have been feeling very frustrated with my swimming lately, struggling to consistently swim under 1:20 per 100 yards. While I can knock it out every now and then, I have felt like the effort I am putting forth to swim those sub 1:20's is just too much. In other words, every time I try to swim fast, I feel like I should be going much faster than what I am seeing on the pace clock. Let's just say, my swimming has been frustrating to me over the past few weeks.
Sometimes I find myself in these swimming ruts where finding 2-3 extra seconds to knock off my swim times seems near to impossible. And then I see Karel, swimming next to me, improving in what seems to be, every single swim workout! I suppose I know better as I have been swimming for 25 years and Karel has been swimming for all of five so his gains appear to be much bigger than mine.
Well, finally the day came when it finally happened.
On Friday morning, I swam by myself at Furman and the main set was as followed:
3 x 100's strong w/ 10 sec rest
30 sec rest before repeating
My times hoovered around 1:14-1:17 with the last 3 x 100's all at 1:14.
Then to finish the 3500 yard swim, I had to do 1 x 100 all out (from a wall push off)
I was so excited that I couldn't wait to call Karel after my swim and tell him that I finally had a good swim workout. Although I love being in the water, no matter how slow or fast I swim, I was really excited about that workout.
Later on Friday, I had a very tough bike workout. Like so tough, my legs felt shredded at the end.
The main sets were as follows:
5 x (4 min all under 50 rpm, build effort from Z3 to absolutely max
3 min EZ spin between)
8 min Z2 endurance
3 x (6 min at Z3+ all under 45 rpm) w/ 3 min EZ, fast rpm between)
Holy moly that was tough!
Karel did his bike workout first thing in the morning and swam in the evening. We both finished with a quality day of training but wow, we were exhausted come bedtime.
On Saturday morning, I joined Karel, Thomas and Al for a ride up to Caesar's head before the guys would carry on for a 5 hour ride. Karel did not want me riding that long two weekends in a row so I was ok with riding back home by myself and doing my own thing.
Well, sadly, Thomas's bike was having some trouble and even after a few fixes by Karel (always ride with your bike mechanic!), the bike was still having issues. It wasn't too long after Karel adjusted the derailleur as much as he could, that Thomas's bike chain eventually broke from getting stuck between gears (it was one of those mechanical issues that couldn't have been fixed on this day). What a bummer. Thomas handled himself really well as the situation put a damper on his morning training but our friend Brian picked him up and Thomas ended up getting in a quality brick on the trainer (on his road bike), later that day.
Since Thomas was not longer with us, Karel decided that him and Al would continue to ride with me for the rest of the ride. Of course, Karel lead the way so we just followed.
It was a beautiful route and like usual, the cars were friendly to us cyclists on the road. I feel so safe on our roads and it is always so much fun to be on our bikes in and around Greenville.
The big money maker was going strong for almost 6.5 miles up to the top of Caesar's head. Karel wanted me to pace myself for the first 3 miles and then when the road leveled out before it kicks up again, he wanted me to go strong to the top.
While Al and Karel kept it conversational pace behind me, I found my rhythm and rode it very steady until Karel took the lead and pulled me to the top. I couldn't believe how "fast" I rode to the top, in my personal best time for that climb. I was also shocked to see that I could stay on Karel's wheel all the way to about 1000 meters to go when Karel kicked it up a notch and I didn't have that punch in my legs. I was huffing and puffing to the top and I was so excited to tell Karel about my time.
Yep - celebrating 10mph for almost 6.5 miles!
Al was riding really strong and a few minutes later he arrived to the top to join us. It's always fun training with our athletes.
After the ride, we went for a 21 minute, 2.7 mile run around the rolling hills of our 'hood and the focus of the run was to build throughout. I wasn't sure how my legs would perform after 3:58 miles, 7078 feet of climbing (after elevation correction on TP) and 66.5 miles but once again, I was shocked that my form was good and I could find my rhythm. I was not able to hang with Al or Karel but I still had a great run off the bike. Karel ran super speedy and he looked good for his entire run.
It was certainly a brick to remember.
I was super exhausted from one of my hardest bricks but that's too be expected, especially since my body is doing things that it has never ever done before. These fitness gains, especially on the bike, have been a loooong time coming but even Karel is so excited about how strong I have been getting on the bike.
Even though I am not a napper, Campy convinced me to lay down for a little bit and I took him up on his napping suggestion. Thank goodness for Campy, who is a professional recovery coach.
(Karel took this pic while I was resting my eyes and tired body).
As for Sunday, my "long" run was on the treadmill and it was a nasty workout!
3 x 12 minutes as:
2 min Z3, 4% incline
2 min Z4, 4% incline
1 min Z4, 5% incline
30 sec Z5, 5% incline
30 sec max at 6% incline
2 min EZ walk/jog
4 min Z2 endurance
That was tough!
I ended up with 7 miles and 1:15 total running time for this "long" run and my legs were toasted. I could not have been more proud of my body and I am incredibly thankful for my good health and what I can do with my body after 11 years of endurance training and racing.
I couldn't be more excited to support and promote our local half ironman distance triathlon, here in Greenville, SC. Mountains to Mainstreet (M2M) is not just a triathlon event but a full festival weekend of events, with a 1K, 5K and half marathon on Saturday, followed by the half ironman distance triathlon (and relay/aquabike) on Sunday.
For a limited time, you can use the discount code tri35 to receive a $35 off discount code for the event. We hope to see you there and we can't wait for you to enjoy our gem of a triathlon playground, here in beautiful Greenville, SC.
For more info about the event:
Mountains to Mainstreet
In conjunction with the event, the M2M team is bringing together the triathlon community with a series of educational talks on all things triathlon - nutrition, swim, bike, run, injuries, race preparation, etc. I just love our triathlon/cycling/running community here in Greenville and I could not be more proud and excited to be a triathlete, living here in Greenville, SC.
Earlier this week, I spoke alongside two other experts in the community for the first community expert night. I was joined by Dr. Kyle Cassas, Orthopedic Sports Medicine Doctor with the Steadman Hawkins group and Scott Kaylor, Physical Therapist at ATI sports therapy. It was an honor to speak alongside these experienced and knowledgeable experts and I feel we each brought something beneficial to the triathlon community as it relates to helping endurance triathletes safely and effectively prepare for an upcoming triathlon event.
My talk focused on the importance of sport nutrition and daily nutrition planning for athletes but specifically, I educated the group on the role of sport nutrition in a healthy athlete diet. I thought it would be beneficial to share some of the nuggets of information that I provided the group, to ensure that you don't miss out on the health and performance benefits of proper fueling and eating in your endurance sport lifestyle.
- It doesn’t matter what type of
education that you have or your fitness level, proper nutrition is critical for optimizing performance and for keeping the
body functioning well.
- For almost every athlete, there’s going to be a point your athletic development when your daily diet will
no longer give you all the energy that you need to prepare for your
upcoming athletic event. You may even get sick,
injured or burnout if you don't adjust your current style of eating. In order to help your body safely continue to adapt to training stress, you will eventually have to take in some
type of supplemental form of energy during your workout in order to meet the training demands that you place on your body.
- Nutrition advice is very conflicting and confusing but it's critical that you understand and accept that sport nutrition products can fit in with a healthy diet.
- Sport nutrition products are often
linked together with sugar loaded foods, like processed foods, candy bars and
junk food. Although sport nutrition products do contain sugar, these engineered
products are formulated in a way to provide your body with a specific amount of
carbohydrates, electrolytes and fluids to be properly digested and absorbed
during exercise. In
other words, these products are just as convenient as they are functional.
- The reason why
there are so many sport nutrition products on the market is because these
products are designed to be used by athletes, dependent on sport, during intense and long workouts in order to
help you properly adapt to training stress and to keep your body systems functioning well.
- Sport nutrition has a specific application, in
which these products are designed to be used during intense and long workouts.
In other words, if you are eating raisins, a banana and almonds during a long bike training session but eating a sport bar and sipping on an energy drink at work at 3pm in the afternoon, you are missing the application focus of sport nutrition and where it fits in with a healthy diet.
- Athletes should
prioritize a real food diet throughout the day so that sport nutrition can be
well tolerated during training.
- As it relates to the daily diet, your eating should always be well organized and planned. You will constantly feel like you can't "eat right" if your food choices just randomly happen.
- As a sport dietitian, I always
consider an athlete’s unique situation when developing a solid foundation of
eating and fueling. Every athlete comes from a different athletic
background, with different dietary needs, a learned relationship with
food and the body, training regime and body composition needs, that will all impact what type
of nutrition guidance will work best in your individual situation.
- Every athlete can agree that triathlon training and recovery are
enhanced by paying close attention to the daily diet. As an endurance
triathlete, you need to meet specific daily nutritional needs to support your training. This nutrition planning should not start a few weeks out from your big race but instead, when you start your training after the off-season. As training demands shift during the year, you
will need to adjust your eating style, caloric intake and macronutrient
distribution, while still maintaining a high nutrient dense diet to support your
health and athletic needs.
- As for finding the best sport nutrition product, I am a big proponent of
powder sport drinks because they are easy to adjust to your unique needs and they make fueling and hydration incredibly easy as you can monitor your intake and
also meet your fluid, electrolyte, calorie and carbohydrate needs all in one
bottle. Because most sport nutrition powders tell you how to mix your
drink into water, this is helping you
create the perfect osmolality of the drink to be suitable for gastric emptying.
To avoid those awful and annoying GI issues on race day, not to mention how scary and unhealthy it is for the body to experience dehydration and bonking, it’s important that whatever you consume on the bike
and run for “fuel” that those products are easily digested from the stomach and absorbed from the
small intestines. There's not point taking in nutrition/fuel if those products are just sitting in your gut as you are training/racing.
- The sport of triathlon is fun, challenging, confidence and skill building and above all, it can enrich the life to make a person a better human being. But sadly, there are far too many athletes who are abusing this three-sport lifestyle in an effort
to simply lose weight. If you feel like you are using triathlon training as a punishment for eating "too" much, for being “too" fat or for earning something to
eat that is “off limit” in the diet, consider if your unhealthy thoughts about food and the body are helping you become a better triathlete, and above all, keeping your body in good health. Since I specialize in working with
athletes who suffer from disordered eating and body image issues, I’m sensitive
to the fact that many triathletes do justify their extreme triathlon lifestyle with excessive exercise and restricting energy and sport nutrition in the diet, due to body image issues. Far too many age groupers are manipulating training and the diet for “weight
control” versus learning how to eat well and use sport nutrition properly in
order to adapt well to training and to properly prepare for race day.
- As a triathlete, it is important to always ask yourself if you are eating "enough", organizing the diet to support your training and timing your nutrition well with your workouts. I am extremely passionate about helping athletes improve nutrition and
fueling habits, but I am also dedicated to helping athletes improve healthy living
strategies to create athletic excellence while keeping the body in good health.
- For most athletes, working with a sport dietitian to help you structure the daily diet to meet your unique needs and to learn how to use sport nutrition properly, will be extremely advantageous to your performance and health. Having a trained professional will take the guessing away from what, how much and when to eat, so that you can put your energy into your training, meal planning, work and family life.
A few months ago, I was interviewed by Brad Brown with The Kona Edge podcast. Over the past 11 years, I have had a lot of successes in the sport of triathlon and well, many great learning lessons. Brad gave me the opportunity to share some of the mistakes I've made over the years and to profile some of the highlights in my endurance triathlon journey.
If you missed the first podcast, you can listen HERE.
But we didn't stop there!
You can now listen to four more podcasts where I talk more specifically about nutrition, swimming, biking and running. Enjoy!