5/15/15

Never give up


In two days, I will be racing my 9th half ironman distance triathlon. 
In 5 months, I will be racing my 10th Ironman distance triathlon and 4th Ironman World Championship. 

In 9 years, I have covered 1827.8 miles with my body. 
That's like swimming, biking and running from Miami, FL to Maine!!!
INCREDIBLE!!

One thing I have learned throughout the past 7 years since starting endurance racing, is that patience, hard work and commitment help me accomplish a lot with my athletic goals but life isn't fair or simple when you are an athlete. 

Throughout every training and racing season, I found myself experiencing great highs and lows. With the highs, I have won races, qualified for Kona, set PR's and have traveled to really cool places in order to race. Most notable with the lows, I always found myself with yearly chronic hip/glute/back injuries (that would keep my from running for several months at a time), regardless if I felt I was taking risks to push my body to get to that next fitness level or being smart with my approach to training. 

But the past two years have been very different than the previous 6. After my first season of endurance training without an injury, I had nearly 6 years of chronic injuries But there is a happy ending to my struggles -  I have remained injury free for over 730 days! 

After years of visiting doctors, having multiple exams and expensive tests performed and visiting many PT's and massage therapists, I no longer have to work hard just to come back from an injury. Instead, I am able to train consistently without setbacks. And it feels amazing!!

My point is not to brag about where I am now because let me tell you, it has not been an easy 9 years. There have been many tears, painful days and worries for much of my triathlon career as an age grouper.  Out of 9 years of racing, only 3 of them have been injury free. I spent 6 years emotionally frustrated with my body, unable to understand why I couldn't stay injury free. 

For so many years, I always wondered what it would be like to just train and let my mind be my only limiter. To be able to just push on race day and not have to think about the training that I missed because of an injury.  
I envied those who could go to bed and wake up excited to train whereas I was going to be hoping to be in less pain the next day, hoping to be a day closer to a possible unknown date of returning to running and training injury free. 

But through all the frustration, time lost from training and money spent on healing, I never wanted an injury to stop me from reaching my full potential. Giving up was just not an option for me.....even though I did mention the words to Karel and Gloria several times about "quitting" triathlons. 

I battled between wanting to continue something that I love because it teaches me so many life lessons, let's me connect with other like-minded individuals, that makes me feel so healthy and happy versus when I was injured, understanding why I should continue something that often does not make me happy or feel healthy and instead, makes me feel like I am not living my life to the fullest because I can not move and use my body and explore nature.  

But year after year, I focused on what I could do....instead of putting energy into what I could not do. 

Life requires hard work, patience and commitment. If you have a goal, you just can't give up on it because of the time it will take to achieve it or because it will be a hard, difficult and tough journey.
Or because a setback comes into your smooth-sailing path. 

Through all the highs and lows that we encounter in life and in training, there is absolutely no reason to dwell on the past because well, that can not be changed. Every day, you have to wake up excited to give your best and be willing to work for the best possible outcome. When it's time to use your body for something amazing, you do not want to look back and wish you would have done things differently. Sometimes we can't predict the outcome and sometimes we feel we do things right and well, things don't go as planned but as long as you never ever give up, you will get to where you want to be. 

You can give yourself a thousand reasons why something won't work but if you can think of the one reason why it will work, you will find yourself doing what the mind believes...and the body will follow. 

Sunday will be a special day because at Challenge Knoxville, I get to officially start my 2nd consecutive season of racing injury free. 

I'm incredibly grateful to my body for staying healthy, strong and resilient for the past two years but more so, for being strong enough over 9 years to let me discover how strong I can be - through all the highs and lows of training and racing in endurance sports. 

If you are currently struggling with an injury, health issue or perhaps dealing with a life change in your personal life, please never give up. 


Take it from me and all that my body has not allowed me to do over 6 years and now what is allowing me to do for the past two years. 
Life will continue on and I want you to choose to be an active member in your amazing life journey. 


5/12/15

Taper do's and don'ts



"This is so hard!"
"I don't feel like myself!"
"I don't know if I can survive this!"
For many athletes, the taper period before a race can feel harder than any interval workout. You've reached a point in your season when you put in countless hours of training, more miles than you would ever consider driving at one time and have accomplished so many workouts that you termed "impossible" when you started and now, the only thing between you and putting all that training to good use is a week or two of a drop in training volume, less total workouts and more rest. 

Yes, now you can clearly see why athletes dread taper. 

Your "normal" routine changes.......
And we all know that most athletes do not do well with change.  

Some athletes feel they may lose fitness during taper whereas other athletes feel "off". It's important to understand that every athlete handles their taper differently - and depending on the athlete and race distance/intensity, there are many different types of tapers. 

For me personally, I don't mind tapering at all. I love the drop in volume and more downtime in my life. I totally trust the process of tapering and know it works to go into a race fresh, rested, sharp and hungry to race. Overtime, I have learned the best taper for me and my body to ensure that I don't feel flat too close to the race but recovered and rested from many periodized months of training. 

To help you out before your next race, here are a few of my taper do's and don'ts.

TAPER DO and DON'TS

Do not rest too much. A drastic drop in mileage and intensity can leave you feeling sluggish and mentally "off". A proper taper helps you recharge. It is not a period of complete rest from removing multiple days of training from your plan (especially on race week).

Do lower the volume (ex. for a half or full Ironman, 2 weeks out from race day) and accept that at first, your body will experience a drastic change in the demands of the body. It's much better to feel a bit flat 2 weeks out from race day than on race week. Nearing 6-7 days out from race day, add a little intensity to your routine (with double to triple recovery time in between short intervals) to wake-up the body and to help you feel sharp. Remember that you are using your taper to fully (for the first time in a long time) fully absorb and recover from all your previous training so you need to find the right balance between rest and just enough time working out to keep your feel for your sport. 

Do not get obsessed with your weight during your taper. Do not weigh yourself, talk about race weight or bash your body.

Do thank your body for getting you to your start line healthy and injury free. Remember, that same body that you may call names because it doesn't look/weigh what you feel is "ideal", is the same body that is going to get you to your finish line.

Do not worry about your diet during taper.

Do eat healthy. Consider the foods that will best prepare your body for your race. Foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and electrolytes will not only help to energize your body but will also keep your immune system healthy and well. The closer you get to race day, the more you will need to focus on the energy-giving foods that will digest the easiest (low residue/fiber). No need to carbo-load your body for two weeks but instead, maintain a healthy relationship with food so that you honor your biological hunger but also do not overindulge just because you are racing. To avoid feeling "heavy" from a slight increase in carbohydrates, make your morning meal your carb-rich meal and then add an extra snack during your day like fruit, raisins or a handful of granola.

Do not do fear based workouts. 

Do trust your current fitness. Feeling undertrained is 100% better than being overtrained. Most athletes who feel underprepared are many times, very prepared. There is no good you can do by squeezing in one or two more key workouts just to prove you can do a certain distance or pace before your race. You will race with your current level of fitness on race day (regardless of what work you didn't/did do) and that is the day when you can prove to yourself that you can do the distance at the pace that you trained yourself to do.

Do not give your best performance in training, when no one is watching.

Do save your best performance for race day. Avoid "testing" your speed during your taper, joining group workouts (that have nothing to do with your taper) or abiding by haphazard training just because you are feeling good. Bottle up that energy and use it when you get a medal at the finish line. 

Do not change your daily routine too much. 

Do get a bit more sleep, practice your mental skills and lower your volume but remember, your body likes a routine. If you feel lost with your life because your taper plan includes a day off on Friday and you never miss a Friday workout, fill in the gap with something that is productive and makes you feel good but will not affect your taper. Go to the gym and instead of your normal Friday interval run, sleep in and then casually walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes and listen to a podcast. If you no longer workout twice a day and instead only work out once, take an evening (or morning) walk with your dog or neighbor or enjoy your extra free time and do nothing. Rather than doing your normal long run, drive to a new location for your shorter run and enjoy the new scenery. Instead of your weekly masters swim, invite a friend/training partner to join you for your taper swim and then enjoy a cup of coffee/tea after your workout and enjoy your "free" time. 
It's important that you follow your taper plan that will likely have a drop in workout volume and frequency but you can still feel like you have a routine. 

Do not change what has worked in training. 

Do trust what has worked in training. With months of training behind you, you have had many opportunities to dial in your pre and during sport nutrition, gear, race outfit bike set-up (ex. race wheels, helmet, hydration system), run gear (fuel belt, shoes, etc.), practice pacing and build confidence. Avoid energy suckers on social media or forums that persuade you to change what you know works well for you, your body and race goals. On your last weekend of working out, immediately after the workout(s), write down what gear you plan to use on race day and also include nutrition before and during the race. If you never tried the nutrition strategy you plan to use on race day, never rode your race wheels in a long training ride (especially in similar race day conditions), never worn your fuel belt with your race kit on or....you get the idea.....rethink why all of a sudden you are changing what you know works well in training. The fastest athletes on race day are those who are confident in their well-practiced nutrition and pacing plans and feel comfortable in their race day gear and equipment. Karel answers a lot of questions about race wheels and he says that the fastest race wheels are the wheels that that you can ride the fastest in a straight line on your race day terrain/conditions. 
(You've never seen me ride in a disc or deep dish wheel on race day because I've tried in training and Karel knows it would take a lot of extra energy for me to race and control my bike in hilly or windy terrain with that type of wheel set.)

Do not become a different person during your taper. Do not voluntarily become a carpenter and start a house project, make a life change, put extra work projects on your plate or overwhelm yourself with to do's.

Do wrap yourself in bubble wrap, lock yourself inside your house and do not step close to anyone who is breathing. Only kidding - well, kinda. With all your extra time, it's very easy to take on responsibilities around the house or work that could cause injury or sickness. Or you may be seeking ways to fill in your free time and find yourself becoming extra social, in settings that your body is not use to. Be smart with your available time and seriously, just be ok with doing nothing. Your race is coming and you will have many hours to do something with your body in a week or two.

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The most important thing to remember is that your taper is the culmination of many months of training. It is a very special time in your training plan when you get to intentionally rest your body. For months, you likely only had an intentional rest day (or active recovery day) once a week. That's only 4 days a month or 24 days of rest in a 6 month time frame!!
Whereas your training helped you gain fitness, your taper will allow you to best use that fitness on race day.
Above all, a taper is only as good as your trust in your previous training. Athletes who nail their taper have a great ability to stay focused, confident and determined to succeed. No matter how you feel your training went or how good/bad you feel during taper, never ever stop believing in yourself.

You are capable of so much more than what you think you can achieve. 
Get excited for your upcoming race so you can prove to yourself that you now a stronger, faster, healthier, smarter and better athlete than when you started training for your event.

5/10/15

Happy Mother's Day!




"You never know how strong you are until strong is your only choice" - Bob Marley

This is one of my favorite quotes. I often think of this saying before I race for I always feel like I find myself in uncomfortable situations on race day and in order to find success, I have to stay physically and mentally strong. It's amazing how strong you can be when your only choices are to find a way or to simply give up. 

This past year has been incredibly tough for my family. 

Almost one year ago, my dad lost his 10 month fight with cancer. For anyone who has lost a close friend, family member or loved one, it's very easy to feel depressed, lonely, sad and angry
People will often say "stay strong" but it's just not that easy. 

Everyone grieves differently but eventually, the survivor of the loved one is destined to continue on with life. It never gets easy and the loved one is never forgotten but life does go on and we should try to not waste any precious days of living. 

My mom has been incredibly strong over the past year. She took such good care of dad when he was diagnosed with cancer and she was constantly with him through  multiple doctor's appointments, treatments and surgeries. Eventually when the day came to take my dad off life support, we were all by my mom's side in the hospital, keeping her strong. 

When my dad passed away, my mom was forced to take on almost all the house chores and life responsibilities that my dad did on a daily basis. My mom eventually moved to Greenville and joined several social groups, including a cancer survivor group, a widow's group and a mahjong group. She stays incredibly busy with all her friends and has never stopped living her life.

It hasn't been easy for any of us but my mom has stayed so strong for us all because well, you never know how strong you are until it's your only choice. 

Happy Mother's Day to all the strong, selfless, determined, hard-working, compassionate, loving, caring and amazing human and furry mom's in this world! 

I LOVE YOU MOM! 


Since my mom spent the night at our place last night, I made my mom breakfast this morning. French toast (cinnamon raisin bread) with scrambled eggs and fresh fruit. 

While Karel and I worked out, my mom took Campy for a long walk at our place.
We then took a trip across the street to Furman University to walk around. 
Here are a few pics from our afternoon, enjoying the beautiful outdoors!