3/6/15

Don't skip steps and don't rush the process.




Are you counting down the days until your first race of the season? Can you believe that April is next month!?!

Karel and I will be racing our first race of the season in 2 weeks at the Clermont Olympic Distance triathlon on day 4 of our training camp alongside 20 of our campers and several other Trimarni coaching athletes.

Three weeks later, Karel will be racing Haines City 70.3 (which is a key Trimarni race) and then we will both race Challenge Knoxville (half IM) in mid May with Challenge Williamsburg (half IM) 4 weeks later in June.

 When an athlete gets to the 8-week or less countdown until a race, this is often the time when an athlete can feel as if she/he isn’t prepared enough and can start deviating from the training plan.

For whatever reason, if workouts have been missed, skipped or modified and you may find yourself wanting to devote more energy and time into your training than ever before, in order to feel emotionally, physically and mentally “ready.” You may even find yourself making sacrifices with the diet, sleep and in life (ex. work, family, relationships) just to stay fully committed to your training plan to ensure that you are "ready."

Although consistency in a training plan can help you develop the necessary fitness needed to perform well at a race, feeling “ready” is more than just checking off workouts as they come in your training plan or making up missed workouts to get it all done.

A well designed training plan needs a specific progression and structure for all workouts to elicit beneficial physical performance gains. If workouts have been modified or skipped for any reason, there’s no need to dwell on the past and want to “fix” what you couldn’t make happen, when it was designed to happen. A smart athlete knows how to let it go.

If you want to feel “race ready” you must be OK with following your individual development as an athlete….and that means not skipping steps, even when it feels like time is running out.

One of my biggest mistakes as a developing athlete was feeling underprepared and wanting to make-up missed/modified workouts.

In the past, in my stubborn head, if I could prove to myself that I could do specific workouts in training, then I would be more prepared (physically and mentally) for race day. This often meant making significant jumps in volume/distance and speed/intensity.

However, year after year, this would often backfire because not only was I never able to reach my full potential come race day, I was never allowing myself to be honest with myself and race with my current level of fitness.

Thankfully, I finally became a smarter athlete.

 I have learned through many mistakes that I cannot make fitness gains happen in one or two weeks and one epic workout doesn't “prepare” me for a race. I now understand how to be patient with my fitness and I can enjoy each season with the mindset of seeing the bigger picture of my development.
There were many occasions in the past few years where “time ran out” before a race and with 4, 6 or even 8 weeks left, I had to be smart with my current level of fitness and that meant being honest with myself (ego), my training and race strategy. For the new me, I always want to be able to stand at a start line, healthy, strong and in a good place mentally and physically. If I really want to perform well at a race and reach my full potential in a season, there's no benefit of squeezing-in accomplishing (or struggling to get done) any one, two or three “key” long workouts to feel "ready" …. especially when no one is watching and no finisher line or medal is involved.

Between St. Croix 70.3 and Ironman Austria last year (May and June 2014), we moved to Greenville, SC (first week of May), I traveled to California for a RD summit at Clif Bar Headquarters (2 days after we moved to Greenville), my dad passed away (3 days before my birthday, the end of May) and Karel and I had 5 weeks to become “race ready” for our first international race (end of June).

My longest run in 8 months was 13 miles and it also happened to be my longest run before Ironman Austria. This wasn’t because I was lazy or because I was injured but instead, life happened and to be honest, time just ran out with my available time to progress with my training. There were many missed/modified/skipped workouts all due to life.  I couldn't change the past and didn’t want to skip steps, so between St. Croix and IM Austria, I kept gradually increasing my run fitness training until I reached my longest run which happened to be only 13 miles.  A week later, we went to Europe and it was time to taper for Ironman Austria (my 8th IM and 10 weeks before IMWI).
 Karel’s longest run was 16 miles.


The old Marni would have tried to squeeze in one more long run of at least 16 miles just to feel “ready”, even if my last longest run was only 11 or 12 miles.  The old me probably would have felt like I was going to have a bad race because I didn't train enough.  Despite feeling underprepared, I knew I wasn't out of shape. This time around, I was smart enough to recognize that I can’t skip steps when it comes to my development. No matter what happens in life, I always have to accept the necessary steps of development and I cannot skip steps, even if that means going into a race “underprepared.”

Well - not only did I have a huge PR at Ironman Austria of 10:17 with only 5 weeks of key Ironman training but I ran my fastest marathon off the bike in an Ironman in 3:39.09 (and I felt amazing too!).

Karel ran his fastest ever marathon of 3:11 (9th fastest in his AG of 439 starters).
The biggest take away of this blog is to never feel like you need to overload the body just to feel ready. It is just not smart to skip steps.
 Your body is no different than anything else that needs time to develop.

And thanks to being smart and not skipping steps, I kept the process going all through the summer. My body accepted the training stress for IMWI very nicely and Karel and I both qualified for the 2015 Ironman World Championship by us both placing 3rd in our age group. 

No matter how well you abide by your training plan, every athlete, within a season, will have feelings of doubt. Feeling like you could have/should have done more prep work before race day.

To ensure a positive racing experience and more so, have good health with a strong body in your last block of training before your taper, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

-You can only race only with your current level of fitness on race day – check your ego at the door and race smart.

-Minimize the risks that you take on race day so that you can finish the race with minimal setbacks.

-Consider your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to executing your race day plan.

-Be sure you have a race day plan that is flexible.

-Trust the training that you have done and trust your past training/racing experience.

-Don't confuse your concerns/worries about not feeling prepared with not wanting to race. Even if you don't feel prepared, you need to figure out a way to get the most out of your racing experience.

-Never stop loving what you choose to do with your body and with your free time. Your ability to train and race is a gift.

-Fitness is just one part of the “race ready” equation. Many times, an athlete that races smart with good skills, good pacing and good nutrition will win over the fit and “prepared” athlete who takes too many risks and races with too large of an ego.

-A lot can happen in one race. Even if the race has a low moment or starts out “bad” just keep plugging along and learn how to bounce back from any setback. You may surprise yourself.

-Always appreciate the good moments in a race. If you see someone else having a great day/moment, be happy for him/her rather than convincing yourself that you are having a bad day.

-Never stop believing in yourself. Don't let one race define you and don't let one season keep you from discovering your full potential as an athlete. 

3/4/15

Trimarni 2.5 day Greenville training camp - Day 3 recap



Day 3 of a 3-day training camp is always the hardest. Physically, the body is not as sharp as it was on day one and two and mentally, it is challenging to convince yourself that you still have more energy in your sore/tired body to train hard for one more day.

When we write training camps into our training plans (for half and full Ironman distances), the workouts are designed to overload the body respective to the upcoming race distance but to also strengthen the mind to boost confidence. Additionally, there is a heavy emphasis on using the camp to work on race day pacing as well as to practice nutrition. Regardless if it is an Ironman-focused training plan or a Half Ironman training plan, a training camp is designed to prepare you for race day, both mentally and physically. 

Although there are many benefits of attending a training camp, our favorite part of a training camp is having our campers motivate each other. It's really special to see campers support each other to the point that if one camper is tired or having an off day, everyone is there to lift-up one another. 

Under normal circumstances, when an athlete is sore and tired from multiple days of training, it is so easy to skip a workout. But having a group to meet your tired body to train can make a huge difference to you actually showing up! Also, motivation is increased to push harder when you see someone else having a great workout. Considering the residual fatigue in a training camp, the camaraderie of campers in day 3 of a training camp can really boost performance because the chances of you pushing hard and not cutting the workout short are much greater when you have 6, 15 or 20 other athletes there to keep you going. 

Karel and I like to challenge our campers on day 3 of our training camps because we know our campers can get so much more out of the workout in a group environment, than alone. 
We also like to give our campers a better understanding of how we train and how we train our athletes in that we go through all the motions of setting ourselves up for a great workout and this means helping our campers understand how to train smart when the body is tired and the mind is not 100% committed to the workout. I am very strict on fueling because it can be a major setback (and letdown) when an athlete goes into a workout underfueled or neglects fueling during a training camp. Lastly, we like to push our campers. We want them to know they can still train smart and stay within their own fitness capabilities but push hard to reach new limits. 

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On Day 3 of our training camp we woke up to wet roads but thankfully, no falling rain. We dodged a possible ice storm and despite the temperature in the low 30's, it was an absolutely perfect morning to run.

We wanted our campers to sleep in so we set our start time at the host hotel for 9am. Our planned workout was a long run with intervals on a rolling course and a special surprise at the end of our run. We wanted to give our athletes a scenic run so after our hip/glute warm-up at the hotel, we all ran easy through downtown Greenville and Falls Park and then through Cleveland Park to the Caine Halter YMCA. 

One of the biggest reminders for our athletes during our long run was to be ok with running slow - with good form. Although each camper has his/her own running fitness ability, everyone grouped up to run easy w/ walk breaks every 10-15 minutes to stretch out (we are also big proponents of walking while running - even in races). Running slow can be as slow as you want but because this can be hard to learn how to do for some runners, we aim for at least 90-120 seconds slower than a 10K or half marathon effort. Not only is this easier on the body to resist fatigue by running slower than normal with good form but this allows the body to be more fresh for a higher intensity effort near the end of the workout (and prevents the body from quickly tapping into glycogen stores early in the workout). It's also much easier to fuel/hydrate during the slower effort during the beginning part of the workout. 

After ~4.5 miles of our "warm-up", we stopped at the field of the YMCA and did a true dynamic warm-up where Karel led the exercises. 

Then we gave our campers the main set.

2 x 3 loops strong effort (good pacing) w/ 3-5 minutes rest in between
(We switched up the direction of the loop on the 2nd round)

What we didn't tell our athletes was how long each loop was OR the total of each interval.
Each loop was actually 0.63 miles so each interval was 1.89 miles! 

Our biggest focus was making sure our athletes didn't check-out mentally before the workout began so we asked our athletes to not worry about their pace. It's so easy to compare to a past you or to feel you should be going faster but we reminded our athletes that today is a new day - new course, new weather, new training environment, new training camp - all new so no expectations are needed!

 We absolutely LOVE main sets that are grouped in three (mentally, it's easy to break them down) so we wanted to have a main set that was mentally "easy" to handle, even if the effort was not "easy." It was important for our athletes to learn how to pace themselves within each loop because the course was rolling with one section of each loop with a steady climb and another section with a steep downhill. We addressed good running form up hills and down hills and the appropriate opportunities to pick up the pace and to recover/fuel.

I ran with three of the female campers and we all pushed each other. It's so great to push one another in a group environment and we all needed the extra motivation on day 3 of our training camp. 

After our main set was complete, we all re-grouped and ran back to the hotel through the park for a total of 11.5 miles for our last day of training camp. 

Oh - I almost forgot! We didn't let our campers mentally check-out after the main set. We told them that we had one more set for them around 1.5 miles from their hotel. 

We did 1 last hill sprint (1 minute long) by Falls Park just to show our athletes that they do have that final push in the body, they just need to make sure they keep the easy parts easy (it's all about pacing) in workouts so that they can train the body to push hard when it needs to go hard (like in the last few miles of a race).

After our athletes checked out of the hotel and had a filling breakfast, we all met at Run In (our fav run store) for a little retail therapy after 3 days of training. All of our campers received a free coupon to Planet Smoothie (next door) so that none of our campers would have to travel home hungry. 

After we sad good bye to most of our campers, our athlete Izzy came over to our place for a RETUL fit by Karel to get a bit more dialed in on his bike. 

What a great 2.5 days of training by our campers. We are so proud of our campers for staying strong throughout our entire camp and we can't wait until our Clermont, FL camp in 2 weeks! 4 days of camp with the last day being an Olympic Distance Triathlon race (USAT sanctioned)! 

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Running intervals within a long run. Being paced by some strong ladies!





What a great group! 



Last sprint up the hill!



Just keep running...just keeping running. 



Almost there!



Look at those strong legs! Go Leigh-Ann!




Go Laura go!



Finally...we survived! 






3/2/15

Trimarni 2.5 day Greenville training camp - Day 2 recap



Back in 2011, I did my very first training camp. I didn't pay any money for the camp and I didn't have to travel very far because the camp was just for me. 

 Karel designed a strategically placed "overload" training block in my training plan, around 9 weeks out from the Ironman World Championship. Since we, at Trimarni, are not proponents of high volume training within our training plans (specific to endurance training), this new concept of a 3-4 day "training camp" was such a smart and appropriate way to put adequate stress on my healthy body and gain fitness without compromising health. Plus, it was so cool to just mentally and physically dedicate 3-4 days to training and to minimize outside stressors (something that is hard to accomplish on a week to week basis).

We still continue to implement "training camps" into our training plans and for our one-on-one athletes. 

There are many different types of training camps, from camps that pack a lot of volume, to camps that jump-start a training block/phase or to escape from normal life/weather to camps that are more informative to focus on skills. 

For Karel and me, camps are a prime opportunity to see our athletes in action but to also educate. Sure, the extra push that each camper gives to one another is an added bonus and something that you can never get at home when training alone but being in the elements, one on one with athletes is invaluable.

With our big training day on Saturday for our camp, we weren't sure how our campers would "survive" but they all did outstanding, with no complaints, no excuses and no bad attitudes. We had six well-fueled, strong and focused athletes ready to learn, push and support one another. 

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At 7:45am we met as a group at the Caine Halter YMCA and due to a broken water pump, we had to move our swim to the indoor pool. With the temperatures in the low 30's on Saturday morning, our campers were not complaining that they didn't have to walk outside to the bubble pool.

After a series of swim dynamic warm-ups, our campers got into the pool for a warm-up and then they began their pre-set before their main set. 

I took video's of every athlete so that they could see what they looked like in the pool since the Fri swim was more technique focused before the main set. We really like the opportunity to have our first day of camp be dedicated to skills and technique so that our athletes can apply new tips to their training the next day. 

After an hour of swimming (around 2000 yards), our athletes changed and headed to a restaurant to feed their bellies before their long brick. I advised our athletes to have a snack before their swim and a carb-rich with moderate protein, low fiber/fat meal after the swim since we allowed about 2 hours after the swim and before the bike for digestion. 

At 11am we all met at the host hotel on our bikes and although the sun was popping out (at times) it was a bit chilly in the mid 30's. However, everyone dressed appropriately and I made sure our campers stayed consistent on their fuel intake (liquid calories) in order to avoid bonking or dehydration with the cold weather. 

Karel planned a challenging yet beautiful route through Dacusville and Pumpkintown and to Table Rock. With 4000 feet of climbing and one long climb that went from 11% to 14% to 17% to 20%, the route was not easy! But we reminded our  athletes that the riding in Greenville is not easy because the routes are not steady - there is little opportunity to develop a rhythm and this is why we feel so strongly that when our athletes come to train with us in Greenville they can get very comfortable changing gears and learning how to anticipate climbs. Aside from the rolling hills, climbs and descends, we also have a lot of turns, bumpy roads and windy sections so our  athletes were able to learn how to efficiently ride their bike (and fuel) in non-"perfect" conditions. 

Our campers were strong and they never complained. I remember the first few rides with Karel in Greenville and feeling totally exhausted from this challenging terrain. But our campers knew that the focus of the camp was to learn and improve skills but to also experience added training stress that they just can't get alone or in their normal training environment.   Needless to say, Karel and I gave everyone the push they secretly craved. The group was of different riding styles and that was just fine because we had meet-up sections on the course at stop signs/turns.

After an almost 4 hour ride, we made our way back to the host hotel and gave our athletes a 10-minute transition before our run. I made sure everyone had a sport drink or gel+water for the run because the worst thing is having athletes underfuel/underhydrate in a brick workout. Karel and I never leave the house without fluids (at minimum) when we run - even for a 10 minute brick run.

It was nearing 3:45pm and our athletes had been moving since 8am but the fun wasn't over yet. 

Karel and I ran from our home to the host hotel and met the group and we all jogged easily to the Greenville HS track (which is free to the public, anytime).

We all did a dynamic warm-up and Karel and I discussed briefly about the importance of learning how to run smart when running off the bike in a triathlon as well as how to get the mind and body ready for a strong run off the bike. 

Our brick run was ~15 minutes or 2 miles (whichever came first) on the track, semi-conversational pace. Most of us found a buddy to run with which made the laps go by rather quickly. Despite 5 hours of training in the bank on Saturday, everyone looked really smooth and light on their feet for the run. We made sure that all our campers took some extra fuel around 30 minutes before we finished the bike (gels, blocks, bars, sport drinks - sugar!) to ensure that no one would bonk or get injured. Furthermore, we all had happy feet running on the track surface compared to the asphalt.

After a 3.5 mile run, our campers had around 90 minutes to shower, rest and refuel with a recovery drink and snack and then we all met downtown for dinner at Pomegranate on Main. I absolutely LOVE this restaurant and it has something for every type of diet.

Throughout our dinner, Karel and I talked about our upcoming relationship with First Bourn and our growing excitement to hold camps at the various First Bourn locations and we also heard from each of our campers to better understand what they were taking away from the camp as well as areas of continued improvement. Lucky for me and Karel, we had two of our own one-on-one Trimarni athletes at our camp and one of our athletes is a coach herself (Leigh-Ann) so the group dynamic was really powerful to hear from all of our campers, which come from all different backgrounds and fitness levels. 

By 9pm, we were all exhausted and ready for bed so we called it a night and told everyone to sleep-in to wake up super rested for our last day of training - the long run!

Day 3 recap coming soon....here are some pictures from day 2. 

"
Reserved lanes at the YMCA



Trimarni swim workout


Happy swimmers!



Karel refueling at the French Bakery.


YUM!!



We LOVE fresh bread!!!



Time to chase the mountains!




Learn to embrace the climbs. 



What goes up must go down!




Regrouping before our "big" climb!



Riding strong!



Happy on two wheels!



Everyone made it up the big climb!




Top of the big climb!



Strong ladies!!




Karel and Izzy finishing strong!



Snow on the top!



In the valley!



The closest we can get to flat roads - rollers. 


Just riding along...



We love to climb!



Cory riding strong!



Leigh-Ann riding strong



Leigh-Ann and Meryl riding strong!



Go Leigh-Ann!



Meryl riding strong!




Doreene riding strong!




Go Doreene!



In my happy place



Yay climbs!




Laura riding strong!



Go Laura!




Go Izzy!



Izzy riding strong!




Everyone made it to the top! That was just the warm-up! 2 more hours to go!



Helping our athletes learn how to draft for training purposes



Super windy and still riding strong!



Cory takes a pull!



Pacing these strong ladies behind my wheel



Super windy out - we worked on where to draft in different wind conditions




Pushing strong!


A perfect place for a brick run!


Karel instructing on run pacing off the bike



Let's EAT!!!



Veggie kabobs with basmati rice, lentils and raisins. - HAPPY TUMMY!