4/19/14

Embrace your competition on race day


In one day, all the training prep will be done for St. Croix 70.3  and in 15 days we will put months of training to the test. 

We are SO excited for our race-cation!


Here's a great recap on the race, if you are not aware of the beauty and the beast of this island. 

When it comes to racing, every athlete will have his/her own expectations for the day. Competition is likely the driving force as to why many athletes enjoy pushing their body to the limits, in hopes of placing on the podium, qualifying for a national or world event, having a PR or beating another competitor or two that has been on the radar.

For all athletes, I hope that there's enjoyment in racing, regardless of the competitive spirit. Crossing the finish line should always be the ultimate goal for you can never take for granted what the human body can do.

I encourage you to embrace a competitive mindset to help you take your fitness to the next level. As I mentioned above, I never want you to lose focus on having fun with your body but with the time, money and effort that you dedicate to training, it's important to me that you see progress with your fitness and you can show it off on race day. 

Many athletes let competition get the best of them on race day, the eve of race day, race week and even well before race day. Nerves, anxiety, fear, self-doubt.....the mind can be a wonderful asset to your moving body but many times, performance is negatively affected because of too much perceived stress. I'm sure you can think of the last time you were super duper nervous about a race and then as soon as you started, the nerves subsided and when you crossed the finish line you thought "why was I so nervous, that was so much fun!"

Tune-up races, test sets and group workouts are great ways to put a little pressure on yourself before the big race. Because you have an audience (both in person and your followers "on line") on race day, you don't only feel pressure from your own expectations but also the pressure you feel from others, that you put on yourself. 

Do you have fun doubting your own potential as an athlete as you look around on race day and instantly assume that she is fitter than you, he is faster than you, she will beat you out of the water, he will pass you on the bike, she will run you down, he will win the race? Maybe you don't do this exact type of self-talk but isn't is so much easier to say to yourself "I am going to rock this race because I have put in the work for this very special day!!"

The thoughts in your mind may play ping-pong between positive and negative and this nervous energy is totally normal and accepted. Whenever I chat with Gloria (my mental coach) before a race and talk about my pre-race worries as a competitive athlete, she always tells me that it's ok to be nervous, it means I am ready.  

I really love competition. In every triathlon, there has always been someone behind me or in front of me at some point in the race and I enjoy using another athlete (or more) to help me discover a new limit to my racing ability as well as to keep me in check so that I pace my own race.
  
It's very important that you always embrace the competition at your race and to avoid telling yourself that you are slow, out of shape or will never be that good. If you trained like you wanted to train, you are ready. If your training didn't go as plan, trust your current level of fitness and skills that you can use for the best race possible on that race day.

Remember that everyone who stands at the same start line as you, likely has similar thoughts of fear of failure, doubt, skills, fitness level or confidence. It's all a matter of how you visualize success and set your mind up for success.


Every athlete needs competition. 

If you arrived to every one of your races and knew that you would win the race every time, it's likely that you would never challenge yourself in training in order to make changes in order to become stronger, faster or more powerful. 

And don't fear being beat. It's inspiring to watch someone have a great race day and even better, her/his success can fuel your next few weeks of training!

But show up to every race and feel frustrated or upset with your current level of fitness and you will likely achieve burn-out rather quickly in your racing career. 

The key to maximizing your potential as an athlete is to always stay present in the moment when you are racing. 


Before I did IM Lake Placid in 2013, Gloria told me to not freak-out when someone in my age group would pass me. Since I was racing for a Kona slot, I was 100% dedicated to chasing the competition and not a time. She told me to acknowledge that at that moment, they were having a great moment. This doesn't mean that I was having a bad moment or that I wasn't as good as the other girl but just to focus on myself, in the present moment. Not only did this strategy work to help me qualify for Kona but I also achieved a personal best time of 10:43 on a very difficult course, after racing for 140.6 miles. 


Whereas in IM Lake Placid I embraced the competition that I was racing against in order to help me challenge myself within my upper limits of my comfort zone (stepping outside of your comfort zone, even for a short time, in an IM is not a wise strategy - pace your own race), I had a different mindset in Kona for the Ironman World Championship

Since I had already done the work to qualify for Kona and considering this was my third trip to the big island (thank you body!), I raced for only myself as I acknowledged that I was racing with the top endurance triathletes from all around the world. Although I knew my fitness coming off of IM Lake Placid, as well as my 12 weeks of training between both IM's, was a green light letting me know that if I raced smart I could possible achieve another best time (or performance), I went into this race without caring about the place outcome (which is unlike competing in an Ironman when you want to qualify for Kona) and instead, just stayed focused with my performance for every mile of the race. 10 hours and 37 minutes later, I cross the finish line with a PR and the most incredible feeling that I not only raced smart but really competed well with myself. 

As you gear-up for your upcoming race, embrace the competition. 

Recognize the pressure that you put on yourself and use it as you trust your abilities. You are not arrogant, you are confident. 
Trust your fitness, trust your plan, trust your nutrition and trust your mind and body. 

You have the opportunity to reach extrordinary performances in your racing season. 
Never lose sight on the things you love about race day, before, during and after. 
The pre-race jitters, the art of getting your bib number marked on your body (or pinning the number on your shirt), the flow of positive and negative thoughts throughout the race, the cheers from the spectators, the support from your fellow athletes and volunteers and of course, that feeling when you cross the finish line, feeling achieved and oh, that post-race ache that makes you walk funny (you know you love it) and sharing race stories with your competitors post race. 

I know you can race strong, so don't convince yourself otherwise. 
Regardless if you are racing this weekend or in the next few months or maybe even next year, confidence comes from within no matter who is around you. 
Because there will always be someone faster or slower than you on race day, fuel your competitive fire by those who are having a great day and be positive with your thoughts as you also have a great race day performance. 

4/16/14

Apple cinnamon, peanut butter granola - it's soooooo good!!!


I hope you enjoy my latest yummy Trimarni creation!!

Perfect on cottage cheese, topping yogurt, in milk or by the handful. 

Don't forget to yum!


Apple cinnamon, peanut butter granola

2 cups oats
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp nut butter
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp chia sheeds
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup almonds (chopped)
1 large apple (chopped - Gala)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Rub a little olive oil on a large baking sheet to lightly cover the sheet until shiny
3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. 
4. Mix with clean hands (this is the fun sticky part!)
5. Pour yummy contents on to baking sheet and spread all around dish.
6. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove sheet and toss granola. 
7. Bake for additional 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. 
8. Keep refrigerated in air-tight container for up to 3 days (if it lasts that long). 
This will not be a super clumpy granola but it is absolutely delicious, especially after it sits in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Feel free to use your creativity with additional ingredients or substitutions. 

Nutrition facts: 
Per 1/2 cup
Servings: 8 x 1/2 cup servings (or 4 cups total)

169 calories
5g fat
27g carbohydrates
11g sugar
4g fiber
4g protein
49g sodium


4/15/14

How to bounce back from a bad race


I don't really like the words fail or failure. 
Perhaps if you give up and never try again, you can consider yourself a failure but I know you would never ever give up without someday, trying again. 

I believe that when things do not go our way, we are presented with an opportunity to learn. And as the saying goes, if you don't change, don't expect things to change. 

In the beginning of my endurance racing career (triathlons/running) I found myself adapting quickly to training stress and seeing quick performance gains. I found every race to be a success because each race was a new experience for my body and mind. 
Overtime, I found it harder to chase times for I didn't understand why I couldn't perform the same speed (or faster) at every race in a season. 

Over the past few years, Karel and I adapted a training philosophy of training smarter to train harder and with that comes racing smart. In my last blog, I gave some of my tips on racing smart but what I didn't discuss was the aftermath. 

What if you do everything right in training, everything right in your race and still, the results that you want don't come?

Or, what if you haven't yet created the physical and mental skill set yet to understand how to insert your fitness from training into a great race day performance.

Here are a few tips on how to learn from a race that didn't meet your expectations:

1. Reflect: If you constantly dwell on what should have happened, you will never accept what you need to change. It's likely that if you didn't go into your race injured, overtrained or without proper fitness, you are seeing your past race as a failure because "something" didn't go right. Well, think back as to what you thought was going to help you have a great race to see if there's something that you can change for next time.
Many times athletes will talk about specific sections during the race, nutrition, pacing etc. that was spot-on to the plan during the race. Once you identify these variables that you thought were well-practiced or "per the plan" put pieces together to see if there's something that you can tweak to help you have a better race performance. Maybe it's nutrition, pacing, heat acclimatization or skills or perhaps it's simple mental strength or the timing of your race. Whatever it is, be open to change and be sure to practice, practice, practice for next time.
Be sure to use every training session as an opportunity to practice your "race day" nutrition, pacing, mental focus and gear/clothing use. 

2. Don't rush recovery - I see many athletes jump right back into training or sign-up quickly for another race in an effort to re-do what didn't go well in the previous race. There may be some good in this if you get a mechanical on the bike in a triathlon and are unable to finish a race or bad weather cancels a race. However, if you didn't get the results you wanted at your last race, be respectful to the body for there's likely a big red flag in front of your face letting you know that you need to rest or focus on your health.  It's very easy to see a race as a failure and convince yourself that you now need to train harder and longer but perhaps you just need to train and race smarter. 
Always remember how long it has taken your body to train for the race before you convince yourself that you only need a few days or a week to recovery fully from a race. 

3. Don't take it out on your body - It's very easy to get mad at your body during or after a race for it didn't perform how you expected it to perform. Rather than telling yourself that you need to lose (more) weight, be faster or be stronger, analyze your race after your emotions settle down. Be kind to your body for it didn't have to let you get to the starting line and if you got the finish line without having your ideal performance, consider yourself lucky that you could have easily accepted a DNF. If you do have to quit your race, do this with your health as top priority - not because you are weak or not tough enough. 
It's very hard to have the perfect race at every race. Some athletes will do great at the beginning of the season and then suffer with fatigue as the year continues. Some athletes can tolerate the heat in early Spring whereas other athletes need months of summer training to help the body learn how to better tolerate the heat. There are many physiological adaptations that take place with training and many times, the body just needs time to adapt and to peak properly. 
Pacing and nutrition are two very important components of your race to ensure that you stay hydrated, fueled and that you postpone fatigue. However, don't overlook what you did going into your race. Where you overtrained, did you taper properly, are you overcoming an injury, is this a stressful time in your life? Don't just crunch the numbers. Consider the big puzzle and all the pieces involved. 

4. Keep your eyes on your goals - Sometimes you have to change the plan but never change the goals. If you have a goal and it isn't met at one race, don't give up. Every athlete has a bad race but for most of us, we aren't racing for a paycheck. Sometimes a bad race can fire-up an athlete for his/her next race or give the athlete the motivation he/she needs to take training up a notch. Consider your season as a whole and not just one race. By carefully planning your season and considering your short and long term goals, you won't be so pressured to perform amazingly great at every race but instead, make every race count. 
Set small goals to reach along the way. Some athletes do great with tune-up races (B-race) whereas other athletes need more "testing" in workouts to assess current level of fitness. Never underestimate the beauty of breaking up your season so that you are following a periodized training plan that allows for proper adaptation and peaking and recovery as you move yourself closer to your goals. 

5. Enjoy the journey and manage expectations - There may be a race or two in your season that you are open to trying something new on race day. Perhaps you are willing to leave it all out on the course in order to see what will happen. Although this thinking may come with a success story at the end, it's also very risky to go into a race without a plan......a plan that allows you to race with your current level of fitness.
No matter what race you are training for, remember the journey that your amazing body is letting you go on. No matter what happens on race day, your race doesn't define who you are as a human being. Slow and fast are relative to who you consider faster or slower than you. A great day or bad day can be decided by the weather, competition or course and not necessarily by your current level of fitness which may be exactly where it needs to be.
Your sport is a lifestyle so remember that you have to take care of your body just as hard as you train. Rather than comparing yourself to others or always feeling as if you should do more, discover a plan that works for you so that you can discover greatness on race day with your body. 

Any sport psychologist will tell you (the athlete) that you must be process-focused instead of outcome-focused. You can't be so caught-up on the race day performance that you lose sight of your journey. 
Your finishing time does not define you as a person and there are going to be ups and downs in racing as well as in training. 
Just because you don't meet a time or placing goal, doesn't mean you are failure. Consider the race day experience and what you can learn from it for next time. If you did "well" at every race, you will never learn how to overcome obstacles when they come in the future. 
Training and racing doesn't have to be black or white, all or nothing. Be mindful of any signs in your training that may increase the risk for injury or burnout or may cause you to save your best performance for race day. Similarly, be respectful of your body in hot/very cold weather as well as on a challenging course. 
Never lose confidence as an athlete. If you were able to commit to months/weeks of training for a race, trust that you have the ability to execute in a race. Perhaps the last race wasn't the ideal race (or the right timing) for you to put your full mind, pacing, and fueling strategy to good use but you are still a hard working athlete.  

There's nothing more exciting than bouncing back from a disappointing race (or setback) and experiencing success at the next race. 
I can't wait to see what you can do at your next race!!!