Triathlon racing - how to plan your season

You may be asking yourself why I am writing about planning your triathlon season now, instead of waiting until the off-season?

Back in November, I wrote a blog about our racing season as well as 10 tips on planning your season. 

Although this blog was written just before the New Year, Karel and I actually discussed our 2014 season back in the Spring 2013. 

For triathletes who are choosing to do an Ironman, it's likely that you have to sign up in a year in advance. So if the Ironman is your ultimate goal (or a half IM), it is important to consider how you are going to plan your season. And you may want to consider your season planning before you register for your endurance race. 

I realize that a lot can occur in a year, most of which is out of your control especially if you are unable to plan for it to happen (or not happen). 

Over the past three years, I have been able to peak appropriately for my races (despite overcoming some obstacles along the way) all because of how my season was laid out for my body, my racing goals and my life (that of which I could control). 

If you are interested in reading any of my race reports from the past few years, you can visit my website to read more about how the races went down. 

But there are a few considerations that I would like to discuss to help you better plan your season. 

-It's very easy to register for a race, especially if it is new, your friends are doing it or if it is in a cool location. However, consider the timing of the race, where the race occurs and any logistics that may impact your racing experience. 

-If you are considering a long distance triathlon in Feb - June as part of your season, consider how you will prep for the race as well as any other races that will occur after that early season race. I find for many athletes, it is too early to peak appropriately for an early season race that occurs before late Spring and even if you race it for fun or as a tune-up, it's very easy to skip over important parts of a periodized training plan that will help you properly peak for the more important races later on in the year. Now, this may be no big deal to race in an early season race just for fun but also consider the time and money that you are spending on a "fun" race so early in the year and the impact that it may have on your more important, later season races. As an athlete, you have to think long term and not just stay in the moment when it comes to planning races. 

-If you are training indoors throughout the cold winter months, how many outdoor workouts will you be able to perform before your key race? These outdoor workouts with "real" course situations are very important to help with acclimating to the heat, dialing in pacing, nutrition and mental focus.  

-As mentioned before, an early season race may force you to skimp on base training (ex. speed work, strength work, weaknesses) and you may find yourself with a 1 month off season and then right into heavy training again. You need to build a strong foundation if you want to prep appropriately for your key race and you may find yourself a bit burnt out if you start your season training in Dec/Jan and have another key race planned for March and then another in Sept, October or November. Consider putting your key races within a 14-16 week time frame so that you minimize the chance of burn out (or peaking too early). Tune-up races are encouraged to practice transitions, pacing, nutrition, etc but with this comes removing pressure of "what if I qualify" for another race, PR's or specific time goals. Consider tune-up races as part of the bigger picture. 

-You can't control life but if you have a stable life (ex. a routine with family/work, etc.), consider races that work with your "normal" life. If your job/family requires more from you at certain times of the year, that is a big sign that you should not be peaking for a race during that time. Sure, it can be done but it's a short line to balance on to ensure that you do not get injured, burn out or too fatigued. 

-Ever athlete wants to peak at the right time. Be sure not to put too much pressure on yourself that you have to PR at every race. Keep your focus on your season goal that means the most to you. If you are aiming to qualify for a World or National event or place on the podium or PR, all of your training and racing should be designed in a way that you have the opportunity to put that hard work to the test, when it counts. 

-I am constantly finding athletes racing on courses that are not best suited for their strengths. There's nothing wrong with stepping outside of the comfort zone but before you sign up for a race because it is local or a race because it is a destination, do your research to ensure that things like weather, terrain, altitude, travel logistics, competition, etc. will not negatively affect your performance. You deserve to do well in your races based on your prior dedication to training so be sure to pick a race that suits your strengths. Additionally, if you love the course that you get to race on and you know it's the "right" course for you, you will find yourself with less stress/anxiety going into the race. 

-As an age group athlete, it's unlikely that your life revolves just around you. You have responsibilities, bills to pay and it's hard to balance it all. Racing triathlons (and training) is expensive and cutting corners does not give better positive outcomes. Embrace the journey which requires time, patience and the ability to understand how your body adapts to training stress. 

-Avoid haphazard training. Your training plan should have a purpose, just like your workouts. If you want to be a runner, train like a runner. If you want to be a triathlete, dedicate your training to three sports so that by race day you are strong enough in each discipline to put everything together. 

-Be extremely careful when it comes to planned or unplanned races. Every time you "last minute" decide to do a race, it has the potential to impact your training and health. Furthermore, if you have a race on your schedule that you feel you are not prepared for (or in the best health), it's always better to play it smart than risk long term damage to your season or health.  
Before every season, Karel and I develop a ATP (Annual Training Plan) for every one of our athletes which maps out the entire season and along with the scheduling of races (and priorities), we have a tentative plan written out as to when the athletes will build, recover, peak and taper as well as any other potential conflicts such as vacations, travel/work events, family obligations, etc. This way, we are able to create a training plan that is specific to our athletes goals and to help our athletes peak appropriately. This ATP is never set in stone for when it comes to one-on-one coaching, we are constantly adjusting training when life happens. 

-Having raced triathlons competitively as an age group endurance athlete for the past 8 years, finished 8 IM's (with 3 recent PR performances) and won a few races (2012 Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon overall winner, Branson 70.3 overall female amateur, HITS Ocala half ironman overall female) I have also had my share of races where I have learned and grown from a race performance. I never put race expectations on myself that are so big that I am hard on myself for not being more prepared. If I have a plan, I know where I am going and even if training doesn't go as planned on the plan, I still focus on how I can keep myself moving forward. Ultimately, every race day plan is based on my current level of fitness ON race day. 
A successful performance can be defined in many ways and many times, it does not happen when an athlete chases a finishing time. I encourage you to plan a racing schedule that allows you to peak at the race that maters the most and if there are two key races on your schedule, be sure you understand how to structure your training so that you can excel when it really matters. Many times this means scheduling breaks in your season so that you avoid overtraining and burnout. I see far too many athletes put in so much work in training (along with spending lots of money) and they are unable to put the training to the test on race day. Now, there are many situations as to why an athlete may not perform to an optimal level on race day (and it's not always within your control) but your odds of reaching success are much greater if you have a plan so you know, not only where you are going but also when your hard work will eventually get to pay off. 

Happy Race Season Planning!


Just riding along... with George Hincapie!

Yep, that happened on Sunday (July 20th). 
Best bike ride EVER!
Riding with THE George Hincapie, 17 x Tour de France finisher. 

Ever since my dad passed away 59 days ago, there hasn't been a day that I haven't thought about my dad.

My dad had a great love of life, no matter where he was or what obstacle was in his way, he had a smile on his face, a great sense of humor and an ongoing love of being alive. 

My dad never appeared stressed out by life. I wish I could say the same for me for I find myself easily stressed out at times. 
I am sure we all wish we could be just like my dad and act in a way as if life was just easy. 

I know that there were times in my dad's life that were not easy and certainly, fighting stage IV cancer for the last 10 months of his life was no easy task. 

Stress affects us all differently but we all have stress in life. Stress is very subjective for it is hard to define and even more difficult to measure. 

How is it that we can experience the same experience twice and one time feel stressed and the other time feel relaxed or comfortable with something out of our control? 

Jobs, life, family, relationships, travel, diet, health....why can we not escape stress in life? 
Well, because life IS stressful!

If there is one thing that I have learned in life that I will never forget is that life will never be stress free. There will always be something and at the most in-opportune time, that is not desirable (insert "why now?"). 

But if there is one thing that my dad taught me, that I will never forget, is that life should be enjoyed and if stress levels get too high, the body can become unhealthy and unhappy and that is no way to live life. 

I've never been one to believe that the grass is greener on the other side for a beautifully landscaped lawn requires a lot of work, time and money. So to believe that your life is so extremely stressful and difficult but someone else has it easier, is not the way that you should be living life. 

When we decided to move to Greenville, SC, we knew this would be an extremely stressful time in our life as small business owners and competitive age group triathletes. Sure, it presented opportunities which helped us make our decision that Greenville was the place to call home after spending 6 years in Jacksonville, but this didn't mean that life instantly became less stressful. 

Karel and I may live an extreme lifestyle to some but we enjoy a very simple life. 
We take good care of ourselves through sleep, stress management and the diet, which paves a smooth(er) road for us to enjoy an active lifestyle. 

We could not be more happy about our new home in Greenville, SC. for when times are stressful (and they are and will always be), there is a wide open playground for us to live in a way that we can't help but smile and just love experiencing life. 

Karel and I are no strangers to busy schedules. If you know me well, I function best with a lot on my plate and feel very uncomfortable with my life if I have nothing to do. 

But a busy schedule without time to enjoy life is meaningless for the reason why we should work so hard is to do things that make us happy and feel so incredibly grateful to be alive. 
Triathlon training brings me great happiness because I love to swim, bike and run. But remove racing and structured training and get rid of all the gadgets and I just love moving my body. It's that simple. 

Happiness is moving my body as I create memories and I am so happy that on Sunday, July 20th, that I was able to make amazing memories with Karel, our friends from Jax and wow, George Hincapie. 

We all handle react, manage and deal with stress differently. It is not my job to tell you how you should live your life but I do feel the need to express my passion for making sure that you make the most out of your days. 

I know my dad would be so happy that I am continuing to love life, especially in between all of the stressful times. 

We had a few triathlete friends (Lane, Jennifer, Shawn B, Shawn F, Holt, Flint) from Jax nearby in Clemson for their training camp and Karel and I could not wait to show off our new bike friendly, beautiful country roads that include a lot of climbing and very little flatness. A BIG change from Florida. 

However, because of a rainy day on Saturday, our exciting ride plans changed. 
Karel planned a great ride for us on Saturday but sadly, we had to go with plan B which included a run on the treadmills for us followed by strength. Our friends ran on a trail and then headed out on their bikes in the afternoon for a few hours. 

Karel and I checked and checked and re-checked the weather all day on Saturday and we trusted the weatherman who told us that we would have no rain until 10am on Sunday. We hoped for the best. 

So, with a new plan, our friends met us at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe in Greenville at 8am and with overcast skies and mid 70's outside, we were off for our ride. 

Karel had two options (~64 or 90 miles) for the ride and because our friends had to drive home to Jax in the afternoon, we kinda played it by ear throughout the morning. 

Karel and I really enjoyed having some of our friends ride with us on our new home turf where a normal ride for us includes at least 2500-3000 feet of climbing. 
Did I mention that we love to climb? 

After we finished  part of a 9 mile climb, it started to rain a little so we turned around half way up the climb (after 5 miles) just to make sure that we didn't get stuck in a storm, especially on the way down (my descending skills have improved but I wouldn't put myself into Karel's bike racing category just yet). 

We ended up turning around after about 2.5 hours (or so) of riding and although the first part of our ride was beautiful (despite a little rain and cloudy skies), it was time to show off some of our favorite roads, especially the ones near George Hincapie's Hotel Domestique. 

As we were nearing his hotel, I mentioned to our friends that we have seen Hincapie out riding a few times with his hotel guests or other riders and it is just so great to see Hincapie on the bike in beautiful Greenville. 

As we were passing his hotel, we see a rider come down the hill and would you believe me when I said that it was George Hincapie? 
I do not think we could have timed this story any better for it was the coolest thing for our friends to see Hincapie on his bike as we were just riding along and talking about him.

George pulled into his hotel and started chatting with some of his hotel guests outside and our friend Shawn, who is a big George fan (who isn't?) went to say hi. 

George mentioned to Shawn that if he wanted to wait a few minutes, he would ride with our group. 
In Shawn's words "I would have waited hours!" We would agree!

So there you have it....George offering to ride with us, show us some back roads and talking to each of us, just socializing as if he is one of the gang. 

Of course, Karel has a lot more in common with George than the rest of us for Karel has raced bikes all his life and knows all things bike related. So I can't say how cool it was to see Karel and George talking as if they went waaayy back. Talking about bikes while riding bikes...total heaven for Karel. 

Despite 18 hilly miles after already riding almost 3 hours, my legs were alive! There was absolutely no way that I was not going to have the ride of my life, riding with George by his side or on his wheel.
It was as if the roads were flat and I was fresh off my off-season. 
The ride was not tough or intense but the roads are challenging so I wouldn't say it was "easy". 
But there was nothings stressful about this ride. 
All I can say was it was FUN and I felt so lucky to be healthy, happy and alive!

Shawn and Karel - good friends, going way back to when we moved to Jax.

Life is not perfect and it will never be. 
Life is stressful and it will never be stress-free. 
But you have the opportunity to make the most out of every situation and if you wait for the perfect time to do something, you may miss out on life's amazing opportunities. 
Go live!


Anytime Blueberry chia pancakes

Food Freedom. 
It's a beautiful thing. 
When you can eat what you want, when you want and feel better after you eat than before. 
Food freedom means not obsessing about the right time or the wrong time to eat something or having a permit as to the only time to eat something. 
Food freedom means removing the pressure to eat a certain way and not criticizing yourself for "messing up". It means not terming food or bashing the body but instead, enjoying the variety of foods that fuels your lifestyle and nourishes the body. 
I absolutely love pancakes and pizza and many other foods that perhaps, are on the off-limit food list for many people. Certainly I do not enjoy these foods on a daily basis for if I did, I would not yum over them when I occasionally have them. Also, there's a special way that I eat food - all kinds- in that I make sure that when I eat, I am accountable of what I put into my body and I always make sure I portion what I eat so that I feel better after I eat than before. 
There's no guilt, regret or uncomfortable feelings when I eat, regardless if it is a veggie filled salad or warm, fresh baguette.

Food freedom means enjoying pancakes on Monday morning just because it is Monday. Because pancakes taste great every day, why not eat them on a Monday? 

No long workout is needed to justify a pancake reward and by being in control of how my food is prepared, I have the opportunity to indulge and nourish my body, however I like, whenever I like.
It's a great feeling to have food freedom and to love food.  

I invite you to welcome food freedom into your life. To start loving cooking and meal time. 
Learn how to maintain a healthy relationship with food and the body so that you can let food enhance your life and not control your life. Create a diet so that the food you eat energizes your body so that you can work hard for your goals and dreams in life. 

Now, I can not promise you that my delicious "Anytime pancake" recipe will change your life but perhaps you can enjoy these scrumptious pancakes without worrying about calories, fat or carbs and just yum because well, they just taste good and make the tummy happy. 

For many people, accomplishing this may be a life changer. It is incredible special to be able to eat food and love the taste, smells and presentation. This doesn't happen overnight, especially in a very food and body image obsessed society.  But, this is something that is achievable but can be very difficult to achieve when numbers on on the mind (ex. weight, hours exercised, calories, fat, carbs, etc). I encourage you to work on this (or work with a professional who can help) because it is very necessary to develop peace with food and food freedom as you learn how to have a healthy relationship with food and the body. 

I hope you enjoy my latest creation which was fully enjoyed on Monday morning because well, anytime is a great time to enjoy pancakes. 

Anytime Blueberry Chia pancakes

1 cup gluten free all purpose flour (does not have to be GF)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp coconut (unsweetened, shredded)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
5 frozen strawberries (cooked in microwave for 20 seconds and then mashed to form a syrupy consistency)
1 egg
1/2 cup skim milk
Water to meet "pancake" consistency
Olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl.
2. Heat a non stick large frying pan to low/medium heat (in between). 
3. Drizzle a little olive oil to cover bottom of the pan (I typically use the cap of the olive oil)
4. Stir together all ingredients with a large fork. Add water in 1/4 cup amounts until you meet a pancake batter consistency (between slightly thick and not too runny)
5. Using 1/3rd measuring cup, slightly fill the cup until 3/4ths full. 
6. Pour batter on to pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Flip and cook for 60-90 seconds.
7. Drizzle with (real) maple syrup and a dollop of butter. 
(Makes 7-8 pancakes)