8/22/12

Life made easier

I've really learned to enjoy a new way of approaching life as an athlete. No surprise, athletes like to work hard. They have no problem putting "only" in front of any distance workout, thinking that the ony easy day was yesterday. Athletes are always teetering on the edge of being overtrained and injured but isn't that what sport is all about? Pushing your limits and finding what you are made capable of achieving.

Because I love to push hard and train consistently, I've learned through trial and error (and mistakes along the way) how to live an easier life.

Life isn't easy when an athlete is injured. Life continues on and the athlete is often too miserable to enjoy it because the one thing they love more than anything, is gone - training/sport.

Life isn't easy when an athlete is overtrained/overreached. Performance gains are at a standstill and motivation is at an all time low. Fatigue is heavy in the legs and the mind is tired.

Life isn't easy when an athlete questions "why I am I doing this?" A question that rarely comes during the fun, awesome, ground-breaking, epic and exciting workouts but rather during the days when life just doesn't go as planned. Maybe life gets in the way of training too much for the athletes who question the "why" in being an age-group athlete but then again, maybe training is getting in the way of life.

After 2 incredibly challenging and consistent weeks of training, Karel and I sat down to TrainingPeaks.com to write out our next week of training a(we write our workouts and I write my athletes workouts for 1 week at a time, not in 3 or 4 week blocks) on Saturday (18th - after we did the 2.5 mile ocean swim event) and I told him I would like to take Mon (my normal "off" day) AND Tues off from structured training. Sunday was a hard brick for me (group run for Karel) so that was a nice finish to the weekend, especially after I had made my decision to not "train" Mon and Tues, on Saturday afternoon.

Why?

It just felt right. Motivation has been high, training has been consistent, no signs of fatigue, sickness (Oddly, I never get sick so I don't worry about that very much) or injury and life seems to be in balance.

What was great about this timing of 2 unstructured day of activity (I exercised for fun after I slept in w/o an alarm both day - until 6:30am!!! 9 hours of sleep both Sun and Mon night) was that it just felt right. I didn't need to stress about making any pains go away in less than 48 hours, worrying about my diet or "needing" to burn calories, stressing out about squeezing in workouts because of a race coming up or thinking about what I should be doing.

Life instantly became easier because with 5 weeks until Branson 70.3, I made a decision that would only enhance my life and my training.

As athletes, it's hard to know when to back down, when to push hard and how to forecast the future. Even with a coach guiding you along the way, no one knows your body better than yourself.

You will always gain more as an athlete by focusing on what you can do to be consistent with your training, rather than trying to be overly hardcore, impressing yourself that you don't need rest or don't need to slow down.

Be confident in your actions (in all areas in life) and find ways to make your life easier as an athlete.


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Speaking of Life Made Easier.

I just received my September issue of REAL SIMPLE magazine.
On pg 50 was an article "6 Fixes for kitchen spills and slip-ups"

This article has made my life SOOO much easier.

Here are a few tips:

Splatters in the microwave:Combine 2 TBSP lemon juice + 1 up water in a small microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave to a boil; let it boil for  min. and stand for 5 minutes to alow the steam to loosen the debris (Marie Stegner). Wipe down th walls with a damp microfiber cloth and the mess should disappear. To remove any lingering smells, heat  small bowl filled with 1/2 cup water + 1 tsp vanilla extract just until it comes to a boil. Leave the door closed with the bowl inside, overnight.

Shards of glass in the dishwasher:
Turn off the lights and shine a flashlight into the dishwasher Any shards will sparkle. Have a raw potato, and put on heavy duty gloves. Dab the cut face of the potato over any specks (Marie Stegner). The shards will become embeddedin the potato, which you can then discard. Run an empty cycle to flush out any minute pieces.

Burned food in the oven:Allow the oven to cool. Dislodge large chunks with a plastic spatula, then sprinkle aking soda over whatever bits remains. Spritz with water and let it sit overnight, then scrub with a dampy microfiber cloth (Raina Raflo). Wipe away any remaining residue with a wet Mr. Clean Magic Erase Kitchen Scrubber ($4, pgestore.com).


Also on pg 46.  - check out the clip-on cupholder by DCI
 
Attach this to the edge of any piece of furniture and you'll have a dedicated place for your drink. A lifesaver when your desk is cluttered - or when you don't want to leave a coffee-cup ring on the coffee table.

8/21/12

Traveling to a race: avoid the FREAK OUT

2006 Boston Marathon

Over the past 6 years, I have had the privilege of traveling to races (or racing to travel) to many exciting venues. Of course, even though I did the training, it wasn't without the help of my travel agent (aka "MOM") to help me stay stress free as I prepared my body and mind for my races. My parents have supported me since I started my journey of endurance racing and I suppose they understand that this is a hobby.....so be it, a very, very, very expensive one.
Luckily, I met Karel on a group ride - so, I guess he "gets it" as well. However, as a cyclist turned triathlete, he is now realizing that cycling races are super cheap. Sure, no t-shirt or medal when you finish but with prize money and an inexpensive race fee, but the logistics of signing up and participating in a cycling race is nothing compared to a triathlete.
I suppose any sport that has  a bag specific to "transitions" is a sport that requires more than just a few accessories.

Speaking of hobby, for most of us, training and racing is a passion, a form of exercise and a way to use your body and mind. Whether you want to collect stamps, watch old movies, read novels or do Suduko, a hobby is something that interests you, is something you are passionate about, keeps you entertained and most of all, makes you happy. It should not disrupt normal daily activities of living and it should simply enhance your life because it is something that can be shared with others (in some way or another).

Having said that, racing triathlons or running events can be pricey. Not mentioning the cost it takes to properly train for a race (clothing, coach/team, massage, gear, nutrition, equipment, etc.), race fees, traveling, logistics, food, etc. every athlete must understand that although you can cut corners to save some money here or there, your race day experience should be even better than all the months (or years) you dedicated to training in order to prepare for that one special day. Knowing that we have just one body and that quality ranks much higher than quantity, I believe there are many areas in training for tri's or running races that are "worth the cost" to make sure you do it right the first time or accomplish your goals without taking too many risks.


When I speak about traveling to a race, I could suggest.....

traveling w/ your bike mechanic (aka my hubby)

making sure your family is entertained - underpants run Kona 2011

and doing the tourist thing - IMKY 2009

to give yourself a better race day experience.

But I'd rather make a few suggestions to athletes who are traveling to a race and want to avoid the freak out.

Here's what to expect:

1) Plan ahead:
Expect delays, bring empty bottles to fill with water in the airport, pack your own food and be sure to have plenty of your own foods with you as you are traveling (or in your room). Consider what helped you out in your training and plan to have those things with you on race week.

2) Stay relaxed:
Wear compression (don't worry - everyone does it, you will fit in just fine), don't be rushed with travel, feel comfortable in your housing arrangements, rest/sleep when you can (or shut your eyes for a power nap) and focus on yourself. Consider any time spent in lines, traveling or waiting for somehing - as something that may stress you out.

3) Do your race research:
Review course maps, race day itinerary/schedule, packet pick-up, transition area, read forums to better understand logistics/timing of race week to-do's, parking, things for your family to do on race day or where they can see you. Consider travels on race day morning (from your hotel) as well as leaving the race.

4) Do your travel research:
Plan early (but accept cancellation fees), consider on or off-sight depending on your comfort/travel, consider rooming/hotel, rental cars, flying/traveling w/ your bike, parking food and time of the year, read forums to bettter understand logistics/timing of traveling to your location. Be sure to review the event website so you don't miss any important check-in's or meetings.

5) Check, re-check and double check:
Review all travel arrangements in the months and weeks leading up the race, review race website, review forums related to the race, pack early and always have a second option.



Over the past few years, my mom has helped me out tremendously in terms of making exceptional travel arrangements for me, Karel and my family. Although my credit card gets a little hot at times, it is sure nice to have someone like my mom, to help me out when it comes to researching everything that goes into a race. With a budget in mind, we have managed to luck-out when it comes to traveling to and staying in places like IMFL, IMKY, KONA, IMWI and Boston (as my "big" races). Certainly, with the time, effort and money that it takes to train for an endurance event, my #1 goal on race week  is to remain focused on my race day performance and to enjoy the entire racing experience - and not freak out about travel arragements.

With two big races on our horizon, I have taken the responsibility from my mom and I have become my own travel agent. As a coach, I help my athletes think about these "traveling" tips well before their race, but I think we all desire different things when it comes to remaining stress-free (as much as possible) while traveling to a race. I have always enjoyed traveling w/ Karel because he keeps me calm and he ensures my bike is race ready. He gives me confidence when I have low points and he makes me laugh when I need it. Pehaps I should bookmark this page for our first season of racing endurance event together - but I have a feeling, we will be just fine racing together. We both need each other in different ways and although we have similar personalities, I know we do better when we are together.

In 5 weeks, Karel and I will be traveling to the midwest to race Branson 70.3.
We are flying out of Orlando because we can save $400 round trip for both of us. We will be flying with our bikes, but traveling on an airline that only asks $75 per bike, each way. We will be taking a rental care from the Branson airport to our hotel (discount code on the Ironman Branson website for Enterprise) and we will be staying about a mile from downtown Branson/finish line (instead of the host hotel at swim start) because there are two seperate transition areas and we would like to be closer to downtown since we are using this as a race-cation.

Next year we will be doing our first IM together - Ironman Lake Placid. Certainly, I wish I could say we will spare no expense to have the best possible experience, but I still must consider the cost of two Ironman athletes training and racing for the same event. Right now, with the price of lodging (booked our cottage ~3 miles from downtown - on the run course), bike travel and flights (considering Tri-bike transport depending on airline prices + what airline we fly, will check in early winter) and race fees (paid), we are at ~$4000.  
Yep - a very costly hobby but I wouldn't want it any other way.


Life is all about making memories. Train smart and the journey will be worth "it".

8/19/12

2.5 mile Open Water Swim - Race report



As athletes, it is easy to always want more. I was reminded of this at the 2012 Olympic Games when hearing reports (and pics) of athletes who appeared disappointed for 2nd place (silver medal). I'm sure for us "normal" people, we would be elated for a medal at the olympics - heck, even just the chance to watch would be a winning moment for myself

But oddly enough, I think we can all identify with the feeling of putting it the work with only one goal in mind. For that goal is the driving factor for every training session - the great ones where you wish the race was tomorrow and the ones when the mind and body were arguing like a bad relationship.

But for us, we aren't going for a gold medal but rather a personal best, a finish line or overcoming the odds. Although we may not be as athletically gifted as an Olympian, if it wasn't for "wanting more" perhaps we would just settle and call it quits.

I think we can all learn something from athletes who can express their feelings in a way that it is both inspiring and motivating. For the athlete who is "dissapointed" with second place is thinking to her/himself - "How can I get better, stronger and faster for the next time?"

Knowing that many athletes are grateful for the opportunity to be able to do what they do (whether it is a 5K, Ironman or an Olympic performance), we must remember that with ever great performance and with every not-so-great performance comes the ability to reflect, move on and do it all over again....but even better.

How many times have you finished a race and have been disappointed in the results? Whether you hoped to be faster, place better or if you are comparing it to old times/results, athletes can put so much pressure on themselves to forget about where they once where but also, where they can be in the future. Knowing that many athletes will put in the work, it is with this thinking that no matter the place, result or experience, you can reflect on more positives than negatives in order to learn and move on to something greater than you ever thought was possible.



After work at the hospital on Friday, I headed a  mile down the road to the Lifeguard Building to pick up my packet for the Hammer Head Ocean Marathon. Karel told me he wanted to do the 2.5 mile distance (as opposed to the 1.25 mile) for a confidence builder so I signed us both up.

We woke up around 5:15am on Saturday morning and left for the beach around 6:20am.
My only "training" for Saturday was the open water swim since this has been a challenging week and on Friday at swim practice, I could feel my body getting tired. Although I don't believe in "training races", there are very few opportunities for us here in Jacksonville to have a lifeguard supported open water swim so this was a "race" I couldn't miss. No need to taper before the race, however I considered the toll the 2.5 miles in the open water would take on my already-tired body and considered it a perfect way to change up my normal bike+run Saturday workout. I also realized I had nothing to prove to anyone after the race that I could still bike afterwards. Knowing that evey training session comes down to "what can I get out of this?", the swim was all that Karel and I needed that morning. And what a swim it was!

We kept our pre-training/swim sncks simple (oats, PB, milk, banana slices) but made sure to stay hydrated leading up to the start - considering that swimming continuously for over an hour means no hydration and no calories. That's quite a toll on the body.
I took 2 Hammer amino's before the race and 2 hammer endurolytes. I sipped on 1 scoop HEED before we boarded the buses at 7:30 for the point-to-point swim.
I had a FIZZ for post race from Hammer.

After we arrived, we picked up our chips and got ready for the open water swim (Karel's longest distance since the Olympic distance tri of .9 miles and his third ever open water swim).


Not quite a transition area and certainly a lot less stuff -my TYR speed suit, COOLA sunscreen, body glide, vanquisher speedo goggles and swim cap (provided from race packet).


We boarde the buses and Karel seemed cool and collected. I tried to forget the not-so-hot swim from Fri and reminded myself that it's all about what you can give for that day. I finished the workout on Fri w/ a smile and felt like I gave a good effort and certainly, finishing that swim feeling tired (as expected considering the past 2 weeks) was the perfect moment to let Karel know that I will be taking 3 active recovery days next week (Mon - Wed) to allow my body to recover with 5 more week left for Branson 70.3. I believe for my body, I do best with a 2 week "on",1/2 week "off", 1/2 week higher volume training plan rather than the typical 1 week recovery after 3 weeks of building. My body recovers quickly but I also train really hard so I need to make sure that even with my normal Mon of rest, I still need additional recovery after I go hard for 12 out of 14 days.

We traveled 2.5 miles down the road to the swim start. The water was refreshing but a bit on the cooler side for August in Florida. There was a large group doing the 2.5 mile swim and I saw a lot of familiar faces so it was a really relaxed and laid back environment. I suppose that's the style of the true swimmers - a bit too relaxed and comfortable at times.

In picking out those true swimmers, they were ready to show off their swim skills. As I powered up my garmin 910XT and set it to the open water swim option, the announcer was starting the 3 minute countdown. After the airhorn alarm went off, I made a straight shot to the first of only three buoys, made a left turn around the buoy and starting the loooooong straight swim to the pier.

With only 1 buoy on the course, I can only laugh at my garmin file. Nothing close to a straight line.....more like the look of mountain tops from a distance.

There was a mix of being around people to being alone and a lot of mental talk to keep myself distracted from looking at my watch. To make sure I didn't get overwhelmed with the distance, I didn't look at my watch until we reached 1.25 miles and then I hit the lap button: 34 minutes.

I felt good for the first 1.25 miles and decided to pick it up a little bit. I hoped for more of a push with the ocean (wishful thinking) but it seemed like the closer I got to the last buoy, the harder the ocean was to catch the water.

With lots of sighting, I felt like I was getting no where.....I kept thinking to myself "where is that stinkin last buoy!"

I tried to think about my stroke but when I looked at my watch and saw 1 hour, I became concerned as to how much longer I needed to swim until I got to the finish. I wasn't tired but with no 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run ....and no shiny Finisher medal, t-shirt and massage post-race, this was only a swim w/ no Ironman Finisher to boast about. Surely another accomplishment but 2.5 miles is a long way to go and from my Garmin, this was longer than was predicted.

Finally,  I could see the crowd at the beach. YES!!!
Errrr, that stinkin buoy was not in line with where I was swimming so I had to swim against the current to make the left turn around the buoy and then to swim home.

I enjoyed the little push of the waves to bring me to shore and I sprinted in the water to finish the swim and to run up to the mat to stop my chip.

1:13.

Ok - I'll take it. Not a PR but a great swim w/ no Ironman specific training. Plus, like most races - the low moments always seem to pass when I finish and I am always happy that my body let me finish.

After rinsing off my body w/ cold water, discovering many places around my neck where I did not put enough body glide (OUCH!) and re-hydrating, I spotted my friend Susan and her sister and Susan's 3-week newborn to come and cheer me on.

We walked and chatted for about 10 minutes and after they left, I grabbed a banana, Chobani blueberry Greek yogurt with self-serve granola and strawberries from the food tent and waited for Karel.

Worried that he would be exhausted and would not enjoy the long-distance swim experience, I saw Karel sprint up to the finish line (passing 3 guys on the sand - always competitive :) ) and in a finishing time 1:32, Karel said "I felt great!"

With no pressure, Karel just did his own thing and was smooth in the water. He didn't race it and he just focused on what he has been practicing in Master Swim practice for the past 4 months. I was so proud of Karel not only for his effort and great time but also for his attitude and really enjoying the moment and acknowleding where he was and how far he has come with swimming.

As Karel refueled and rehydrated, they started the awards and I received the cutest award for winning the 30-34 age group.  



After downloading our data onto Garmin and TP, Karel ended up swimming 2.75 miles and I swam 2.8 miles.

In thinking back to the beginning part of this post, I have little reason to be frustrated, disappointed or critical of my swim. I had a challenging 3 hour bike + 53 min run (both w/ intervals) today (Sun) and I realized why my season is going so well.

I make every training session count and I keep it focused and balanced. I have my race schedule in mind and with the quality training, I can have great race day performances.

Great athletes know how to train smart but they also know how to race smart. There are no second chances when it comes to making a good impression at a race but with every training sesssion, there is tomorrow.

Every athlete has the ability to be great. You mut know how to hold back or say no when it is necessary and you must know how to be smart and give a great effort when it counts. Don't ever think that you don't have the capability to be great and most importantly, to inspire others with your consistent actions.