10/20/17

Racing in unfavorable weather conditions


Every athlete is bound to experience at least one race per season that gives you unfavorable weather-related conditions.

I still remember my first Ironman (IMFL) in 2006 (picture above). It was around 38 degrees on race day morning and after the 2.4 mile wetsuit legal swim, I spent several extra minuets in the swim-to-bike changing tent in an effort to completely dry off my body (and stop my chills) before getting on to the bike. I ended up having a great first IM experience and although I was less than a minute away from breaking 11 hours in my first Ironman, I don't regret spending that extra time in the changing tent to warm-up my body.

I also remember racing IM 70.3 Branson in 2012, which happened to be Karel's very first half IM (the event got cancelled because of the difficulty of the bike course). Race morning was around 43 degrees and I remember the sand at the beach being so incredibly cold that I felt like my feet were standing on needles. Although the water was so warm compared to the air, I made the (smart) decision to only wear my sport bra and tri shorts under my wetsuit so that when I arrived to the transition area, I could put on a dry jersey and arm warmers. Although this required a little extra time in T1, I was comfortable at the start of the bike. Being comfortable allowed me to perform to my abilities on the tough bike course and I ended up running my fastest ever half marathon (1:36) off the bike, which helped me secure my first overall amateur female 70.3 win.

Knowing that there will be a race where the weather is not to your liking, it's important to equip yourself with the right clothing, gear, mental state and nutrition/pacing strategy for how you will handle the race day conditions.

A few things that I have learned over the years as it relates to racing a triathlon on a "cold" morning:
  • I get cold very easily and I am not comfortable when I am cold. Therefore, I will dress myself with a hat, gloves, pants, jacket and anything else to keep myself toasty warm before the race day.
  • I have learned that sand and cement can be very cold on race day morning. Wearing an old pair of socks to the swim start (to toss before getting in the water), while waiting for my wave, has helped to keep my feet warm before the swim start.
  • If I am shivering before a race, I have difficulty swimming to my potential and when I am cold, I don't feel strong but rather I feel weak. Therefore, if I find that a pre-race swim warm-up will not warm me up, I instead stick to the dry land to increase my body temperature and to loosen my muscles. However, I never ever skip a pre-race warm-up.
  • I don't mind spending a little extra time in transition to put on a dry jersey, arm warmers or gloves before I get on the bike, if needed. Also, if I am unsure about weather conditions, I at least have those extra gear items available in my transition area/bag, just in case. I make sure never to overdress as I know that after 20-30 minutes, I will warm-up so everything that I do put on in the transition area has the chance to be tossed at an aid station to avoid overheating.
  • I stay up on my nutrition. It's so easy to not fuel and hydrate on a schedule in cold weather races as your thirst mechanism doesn't kick in. Also, when it's cold, it can be difficult to grab bottles. I have recognized that sticking to my fueling/hydration strategy on the bike (and run) gives me the competitive edge over those who may be fitter than me, but nutritionally underfueled/hydrated.
  • I always respect my body. It's very easy to get caught-up in what other athletes are doing (regardless if that strategy works or not). Knowing how my body handles certain conditions (rain, wind, heat, etc.) brings me confidence as I can prepare myself with the necessary gear, equipment and strategies to ensure race day success, with the conditions I am given. 

If you are planning to participate in an upcoming cold, rainy or windy race, it's important to be equipped to manage any and all race day conditions. It's not about being mentally strong or feeling like you just need to "harden it up" before the race but instead, have a plan so that you don't give up on yourself, as this will allow you to reach athletic excellence at the finish line.

Here's an old Ironman article that I wrote with Gloria (Dr. G) to help you dodge those unfavorable race day curveballs.

10/19/17

The Hincapie Warehouse sale is tomorrow (Friday)!


When we moved to Greenville, SC in May of 2014 (from Jacksonville, FL), our winter riding wardrobe consisted mostly of arm warmers, leg warmers, gloves, shoe covers, ear coverings and a pair of riding tights for those "cold" days in Florida. Sure, we had the basic gear to keep our extremities warm during the cooler days but come December in Greenville, we quickly realized that we needed more gear for comfort, functionality and warmth. I certainly have my limit when it comes to outdoor riding (it needs to be above 40 degrees) but in order to keep my cycling skills sharp and fresh, I need to be outside on my bike over the winter. Thankfully, with the right gear, even those 40-degree rides are not too brutally cold.



In conjunction with packet pickup for the Hincapie Gran Fondo, the Hincapie Warehouse Sale (located at 45 Pete Hollis Blvd, Greenville, SC 29601) is an event not to be missed.

If you are in or near the Greenville area and you are in need of some high quality cycling gear (at extremely affordable prices!), I encourage you to get to the sale early in the morning so that you can stock up on lots of riding gear for your winter riding. Although Karel and I made sure to get a lot of gear in 2015, I always find something at the sale that I really "need" - plus, I can never have too many sporty pairs of socks. And in addition to cycling gear, you can also find stylish jeans and jackets, along with triathlon gear.

See you there!!




10/18/17

Nailing the off-season


There was a time in my triathlon season when I thought that the off-season meant that I deserved an extended amount of time (4-6 weeks) of no structured training - a complete break from all things swim/bike/run. This extended break from training provided me with a great physical and mental escape from the monotony of training but I came to realize that this break was too long for me - mentally and physically.

My next approach to managing the triathlon off-season was to put all of my energy, focus and time into running. Living in Florida made this easy as there were countless half and full marathon events to choose from in October until February. Although I enjoyed a run-focus block of training, I never found this strategy to be beneficial to my triathlon development. I also discovered that during this time of reduced swim and bike training, I was very prone to injuries and chronic niggles, which ultimately affected my triathlon training come March.

The next (and most recent) strategy that I applied to the off-season was to take a short break (2 weeks) from structured training after my last race of the season and then ease myself into my first structured block of training for the following season (Foundation phase). While this strategy proved to be extremely beneficial for my triathlon development, I didn't really have an opportunity to enjoy the off-season to its fullest. Two weeks was too short of a break.

Ironman Chattanooga was 3.5 weeks ago and I feel healthy, motivated and energized to get back into structured training yet I have refrained from sticking to any structured type of training. Although I have remained very active over the last few weeks, I am still respecting the fact that I am in the off-season and I mentally and physically need a break. I am having a lot of fun during this off-season and although I am still swimming, biking and running, there is little pressure to "have to" train. I have not been on my triathlon bike since IM Choo as I am having a blast on my road bike - no structure on two wheels and just riding for fun with Karel (and friends). Plus, our amazingly pleasant fall weather has made it easy to stay active (Karel is really enjoying his mountain bike). I took seven days off running after IM Choo and since then, my longest run has been about an hour but most of my runs are around 20-40 minutes (with no structure). I am even including some hiking and walking into my exercise regime in an effort to keep the overall stress on my body as low as possible. Lastly, I have been in the pool a lot because well, I love to swim! Not only are we having fun with a new coached group swim at Furman on Sunday evenings (5-6:15pm) but it's been fun to have "short"swim sets around 2000-3200 yards. And once the residual fatigue from the IM wore away, I found myself craving weight training again so we are back in the gym, having some "fun" with weights/machines for 15-20 minutes, a few times per week. Lastly, I am enjoying more time in my kitchen and with so many delicious fall ingredients, I am excited for new food creations.

There have been few alarms set over the past 3.5 weeks as I don't want to feel the pressure to have to get up and train. There's a lot of freedom in my exercise routine which has kept me motivated and excited for 2018 but also not exhausted from the previous season. To be honest, Karel and I both finished IM Choo and a few days later, we didn't feel like we wanted our season to end - we both felt like we had more energy to give to the sport this year. Oh well, I guess we will need to bottle up that energy for 2018.

The key to nailing my off season this year was keeping myself moving after IM Choo. I wanted to feel a nice flow from the 2017 season to the 2018 without a drastic change to my lifestyle. The ongoing exercise post Ironman really helped with my recovery but also helped with my mood and mental health. Although I feel like I am maintaining my fitness from 2017, I also feel like I have escaped from the regimented type of training that got me into great shape this past season.

Every athlete is different and it's important to recognize your own path of self-discovery. I don't feel that I did anything wrong in the past but instead, I learned from my past to figure out what works and what doesn't work. The most important thing that I have learned about the off-season is that athletic development occurs season after season. Consistency is key to athletic excellence. So while every athlete deserves and needs a physical and mental break from training, you don't want your break to be too long that you lose all the fitness that you worked so hard to gain in the previous season. Additionally, I find the off-season to be a great time to improve lifestyle habits (like sleep and diet) instead of seeing it as a time to completely let loose and let all good habits wash away.

Karel and I are super pumped about the Hincapie Gran Fondo on Saturday as it will be so much fun to ride our road bikes for 80 miles without having to worry about saving any energy to run off the bike. We live in a fantastic area for cycling and I can't wait to get out into nature and enjoy the mountain views. Although this is a group event, I can't help but go into this event with a "racing" mindset.

Immediately after IM Choo, I started setting bigger goals for myself in 2018. Because I am not making any extreme changes to my training or diet next season, I look forward to taking my accumulated 2017 fitness into next season. My motivation and excitement is high for next year and I can't wait to get back into structured training in a few weeks as I start building my foundation to ensure strength, resilience and great health for next year.