IM Kona - 12 days out

Always a great feeling when the hard work is done after a hard (4.5 hour) workout.

There are many methods and thoughts regarding how much “rest” is needed by athletes, before going into a major competition. Some athletes will train high volume until 7-10 days from an Ironman whereas other athletes will experience a massive drop in volume 21 days out from an Ironman.

Ultimately, when done correctly (and only a few times per year), tapering sharpens your body and mind so that you are prepared physically and mentally for your upcoming competition.

Tapering is defined as a short-term reduction in a training load before an important athletic event.

When you train consistently, you are placing a lot of intentional stress on your body. You know this feeling well as you are carrying around a lot of residual fatigue, which makes it difficult to feel fresh and energetic for all of your workouts.

However, you need to train through fatigue so that your body can adapt in order to gain the necessary physiological adaptations to help meet the physical demands of your upcoming event.

During your peak training, you never have time to fully recover between your workouts. You are always bringing fatigue to the next workout. 

Even with the occasional rest day and EZ workouts inserted into your training plan, your body is never completely repaired from the previous hard workout(s).

While you can use sleep, mobility, recovery gear, diet and massage to encourage quick recovery, taper finally gives your body the chance to heal from the destructive process that we call training.

Whereas you spend many months making physiological investments to gain fitness, it's only on race day (for your key race) when you finally “cash out” with your accumulated fitness gains.

Tapering also provides a necessary mental relief from the emotional toll that training has on the body. Through taper, you can improve your mental energy to prepare psychologically for your race (insert: train your mind to be willing to suffer on race day).
It is important that you limit the validation of fitness/readiness-type workouts (ex. race simulations, obsessive race pacing with heart rate, speed or power, etc.) during taper as it may physically make it hard for your body to perform well on race day but it is emotionally exhausting to do a "race effort" more than once.
You only need to dig deep and prove you can do it once....on race day.
Don't race your workouts!

Aside from the obvious benefits that you feel when tapering before a major competition, your decrease in training load will boost muscle glycogen levels, increase aerobic enzymes, repair micro-tears in muscle and connective tissue (which can help improve power, speed and endurance), increase blood volume, improve neuromuscular coordination and boost mental focus.

Be mindful that tapering does not result in detraining but improves your ability to race as it helps reduce the accumulated effects of fatigue and muscle/tissue breakdown, induced by heavy training.

Tapering will not set you up for a great race day performance if you do not put in the necessary work to physiologically prepare for your upcoming event.
Following a haphazard training plan or only doing only a handful of workouts in the 8 weeks before an Ironman (because life got into the way or you are overcoming an injury) does not warrant a long extended taper (it can actually do more harm than good).

Because too long and too much of a taper can make you feel out-of-shape and off your normal routine, sharpening with just the right amount of a drop in volume, with adequate intensity and recovery, as you stay committed to your mental strength skills, will help you gain an athletic advantage as you will be training just enough, at the right intensity and volume, in order to perform at the highest level possible on race day.


Drafting behind Karel on my road bike (double hard work fro me not being aero!) during his ride on Saturday.

Karel's week started out easy with 3 days of frequent, low intensity workouts to help with recovery after the past 3 weeks of intense and long training.
Karel felt "off", which was to be expected, as his body was doing some massive recovering and repairing.

The intensity increased on Thursday with a healthy amount of IM training volume over the weekend.

Here's how the weekend looked just 2 weeks out from IM Kona (Karel's 3rd IM since June).
(Karel is coached by Matt Dixon of Purple Patch Fitness)

4 hour ride + 30 min run
Main set:
60 min, 45 minutes, 30 minute at IM effort w/ 15 min Z1/2 effort in between each IM effort.

Run off the bike:
10 min below, 10 min at, 10 min above IM effort

80 minute run
Main set:
2 x 20 min Z3+ w/ 10 min Z2 in between


Happy 40th Birthday Karel!

It was an interesting summer in 2006 as I was very much into my routine of working and training and I didn't want anything to get into my way of training for my first Ironman. I was living with my parents but I was only there to sleep as my life revolved around training, working and training.
I resisted the invitation to meet a "talented cyclist, from Europe with a sexy accent" as a training partner of mine described, as she wanted to set me up with a nice single guy. A few weeks went by and I finally accepted the opportunity to meet him. 

It was 10.5 years ago when Karel and I were set-up on a blind date on a group ride.
We met on my birthday, May 31st, 2006.

The next few months were rocky because as I mentioned, all of my energy went into training. The thought of balancing a boyfriend while training for a 140.6 mile event was overwhelming so I entertained the idea of getting to know Karel as a training partner and possibly we would become good friends.

At the age of 24, it was very hard for me to see my relationship "future" as my life revolved around triathlon. I was afraid to let Karel get to know the real me and more than anything, I didn't want to change how I was living my life.

I continued to get to know Karel throughout the summer, through email, AOL messenger, the occasional date (when I choose to make the time) and by training together.
I would go to his cycling races but only if I could train before hand and he came to my triathlon races, when he didn't have a cycling race.
We were two young athletes who were sport focused but I knew I wasn't giving as much to Karel in our "relationship" as he was giving to me.

Over the next few months, I found myself slowly falling for Karel but a relationship still scared me. In all honesty, I could feel that Karel was the right one for me to spend my life with as he had every quality I wanted in a husband (despite never getting that far in a relationship before to even think about those deep questions) but I didn't want to give up my routine just to be with him.

I was only a matter of time when I came to terms with my silly thoughts and that a relationship doesn't have to change you for the worst but it can actually make you a better person.

Here we are, 10 years later and I'm a better person because of Karel. I've changed a lot in 10 years, not because Karel told me to, but every relationship has give and take.

Our situation is unique because we now (as of 2014) live together, train together, work together, travel together and well, spend about every hour of every day together, almost 365 days per year.

You'd think that I would save this post for our anniversary as it is more about our relationship together, than his birthday, but I'm extremely lucky that Karel was brought into this world and I imagine that anyone who knows Karel, feels the same way.
He is an incredible human being.

Just a few months after meeting, I wanted to do something special for Karel's birthday. His 30th birthday was approaching on September 22nd and I came up with the idea to give him a surprise birthday party with his close cycling friends (of which, a few were our match makers).

I coordinated the meal (pasta party - I think the State Championships were that weekend), the guest list and the secret plan to surprise him.

All went as planned and after the SURPRISE, Karel was shocked.
He had never been to or had a surprise birthday before and he was speechless.

It was a special way to celebrate his 30th birthday so I figured, why not repeat that surprise again, 10 years later.

A lot has changed with us in 10 years but all for the better.
I'm glad I gave up my stubborn mindset of how I wanted to live my life to make sure my life included Karel.
Although we are both competitive athletes, much of our life happiness s made from experiences. Although sports (triathlon) make for great memories, it's more about doing things we both love, together, as our life is triathlon....and so much more.

Lucky for us, we live in a place that has a great triathlon community and we feel connected to so many kind, funny, nice and giving athletes. Although we don't have a designated triathlon racing or club team here in Greenville, I'd say that every Greenville triathlete feels welcomed, accepted and supported.
Well that is until a thread on the Greenville Area Triathlon Training Facebook page gets hijacked by....well, I won't name names :)

We have formed close friendships with several triathletes and I knew Karel's birthday celebration wouldn't be complete without these important people in our lives. 
(Including my mom, grandpa - who is in town and Karel's very close long-time friend from Jacksonville, James Sweeney). 

It's hard to believe at one time in my life, I was worried about letting Karel into my life.
Now, I couldn't imagine my life without him.

Happy Birthday Karel!

Cheers to getting one year older, moving into a new triathlon age group, getting faster and being fitter than ever before.
And continue your healthy diet of IPA beer, croissants, frozen recovery bars, coffee and chocolate.
It's working for you! 


Making peace with your body

Today is International Day of Peace, which is "devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples."

The theme for this year is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace."

In honor of making peace, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about making peace with your body. Ultimately, when you are at peace with your body, you are a better human.
When you hate your body, you may find that you also hate life.
This is not the way that you should be living.

Accepting and appreciating your body will improve your quality of life as you are not spending your days trying to fix yourself, but instead, you are focusing on doing things that really matter in life - like your career, your hobbies (ex. sports), your close friendships, your family and personal life experiences (ex. traveling).  

Here are a few tips to help you make peace with your amazing body.

1. Figure out your internal dialogue - Every day, we have thoughts. Often, thoughts lead to actions. When you are feeling upset about something related to your body, verbalize it - don't just think about it and assume that immediate action will make you feel better.
Consider how many body-related thoughts you experience each day and after you say those thoughts out loud, get to the root of why you feel that way about your body. Many times, thoughts about your body have nothing to do with your body but instead, the rest of life.
You had a bad workout, you are stressed, you didn't sleep well last night, you feel overwhelmed, etc. yet you blame all of this on your body???
Don't believe everything that you think and most of all, don't act on every thought (ex. That's it - I'm starving myself tomorrow because I'm too heavy!")
When your mind tells you something negative, don't let your thoughts control your behaviors. Instead, create a better dialogue in your head that is more proactive to healthy living and eating habits and above all, lets you think more positive about your body.
2. Stop the comparison game - Just because someone else weighs less than you, this doesn't make you fat. Don't let the weight of someone else make you feel bad about your own body. It's dangerous to constantly compare yourself to other people because you will never feel good enough or happy enough. It's so easy to compare the worst about yourself to the best (assumption) of someone else. The more positives you assume are in another person, the more negatives you will make up about yourself. This includes a past version of yourself as well.
Sometimes the best strategy for stopping comparison is to change your surroundings. You should be surrounding yourself with people who make you feel great about your body and your life. Are there people who you need to remove from your social media channels or stay away from at the gym or at a race? You are unique and an important person in this world, just the way you are.
You never need to be compared to anyone else because you are YOU and just fine the way that you are.
3. Understand your feelings - When you have a negative thought about your body, ask yourself what else is bothering you. Body hatred is an easy way to dismiss other issues in life that may be bothering you. Instead of obsessing about your body and using diet and exercise to numb emotions and to gain control over a situation, explore the deeper reasons of your stress. It's important to experience happiness and joy in your life but using food and exercise to cope with deep feelings to make you feel less stressed are not healthy coping strategies.
Choose self-love not self-hatred. 
4. Positive affirmations -  Life will often give you many opportunities to either love your body (you nailed your workout) or hate your body (ex. looking in the mirror, feeling bloated). It seems appropriate to suggest that you should simply minimize the occasions when you experience the most body-hate in life but in reality, there will be times in your life when you can not escape an experience where you will immediately put blame on your body.
It is important to remain body positive as much as possible....especially if you are a parent. If you find yourself constantly talking about your body as fat, ugly, chubby, disgusting, etc., you are not describing a positive reflection of yourself.
What are you thankful for that your body allows you to do?
Constantly remind yourself that your body is more than just a number or a look.
5. Do things that make you feel great about your body - If running is hard on your body, you are not going to find joy in running when you are looking for a way to feel happy with your body.
Regardless if you are an athlete training for a sport or a fitness enthusiast, you should choose activities that make you feel connected to your body and grateful for your body.
When you feel connected to your body, you will be more likely to acknowledge your strengths as an individual but more so, you will feel happy as you use and move your body.
Don't let other people persuade you to do something that truly doesn't make you excited to workout or train.

Did you thank your body today?