11/13/15

The preparation starts now


The triathlon bug hit me hard when I finished graduate school in Dec 2005. Over the next 11 months I became a first-time Boston Marathon finisher, a Half Ironman finisher and an Ironman finisher.

People would tell me "Marni, you are a natural for endurance sports!"

My first year of endurance sports was perfect. No injuries, no sickness,  no setbacks. It was smooth sailing for all of 2006 and I had many great accomplishments to celebrate by 2007.

Nobody likes setbacks when they happen but I often wonder how my life would have been different if I demonstrated weaknesses during my first Ironman journey?

When we are aware of weaknesses, we can strengthen them. But when we have strengths, this brings an element of confidence to our training. Confidence is great but for a type-A athlete, confidence is like adding fuel to a fire that is burning too quickly.

As a beginner, I wasn't aware of my weaknesses. But now, looking back, I had a lot of them. From the outside, I wasn't making any mistakes so I defined my training as "perfect" but in being a newbie endurance triathlete, I never gave myself a chance to get worse before getting better.

Despite qualifying for Kona in my first Ironman, maybe I should have taken more time to improve my skills instead of assuming I was a natural because everything came so easy to me when I started.

Although my first season as a competitive endurance triathlete was perfect in my eyes, it wasn't too long after I qualified for my first Kona, at my first Ironman, that I found myself struggling with injuries. 

The reason why I share this is because I often see triathletes progressing too quickly with their endurance. With so many endurance triathlons to choose from, becoming a participant for an endurance race is so easy.....you are just a registration fee away from a race entry on the computer.

Athletes love to compensate for weaknesses (ex. dislike of swimming and strength training) by making up with a strength (love for long bike rides or the feeling of running fast). And because we like the feeling of being successful at a strength, we often push aside the weak areas that are a struggle (or are less enjoyable).

Although sometimes athletes can get away with this in short distance triathlon training/racing, when it comes to longer distances, you can't expect to stay healthy, injury free and improve by having a weakness and ignoring it. 

And this is so true for anyone who is or is considering training for an Ironman.

The Ironman distance is a big deal and it is a dream for many. Not just Kona qualifying but simply crossing an Ironman finish line. 

I love when athletes tell me that they have a dream of doing an Ironman or qualifying for Kona because I get it.
And I am honored when an athlete chooses Trimarni coaching to get to an Ironman start line. 

Triathletes who strive for a challenge see the Ironman distance as the pinnacle of all things swim, bike, run. Even though any other distance triathlon still counts as a big deal to train for, there is a certain hype, allure and mystery that is the 140.6 mile distance triathlon.

As you watch the NBC broadcast of the 2015 Ironman World Championship on Saturday at 1:30pm EST, I can assure you that you will cry, laugh, smile and find yourself itching to register for an Ironman. Even if you are just getting into the sport of triathlons or running, inspiring stories from age-groupers alongside motivating performances from professional athletes can make the everyday fitness enthusiast say "Could I do that?"
And not too long, you may find yourself saying "I will do that!"
And then not too long after that "I'm going to be an Ironman!"

Karel and I were honored to be part of the NBC premier of the Ironman Kona broadcast last night in NYC as Clif bar athletes and I can promise you that you will not be disappointed when you watch the broadcast this weekend (be sure to record it as you will want to watch it over and over for inspiration).

So as you watch the Ironman World Championship broadcast on TV and toss around the idea of signing up for an Ironman next year, I'd like for you to think back to my story and consider the word

PREPARATION

When I trained for my first Ironman, I had a strong swim background but I lacked a strong overall foundation. A strong foundation is the key to long lasting success in a sport.
Just like most Ironman-in-training athletes, I focused on the miles and volume in an effort to be prepared for the long-haul ahead of me on race day. I thought that the only way to be prepared for the distance is to do a lot of training and a lot of long workouts.
But I was wrong. And I learned the hard way.

If you don't fully commit yourself to preparing for an endurance triathlon by building a solid fondation, you develop bad habits. You get very comfortable training long but with poor skills, form and little emphasis on the important things (like diet, mental strength, sport nutrition)

Following a training plan that emphasizes miles or volume is not the smartest way to initiate preparation for an endurance triathlon.

The reason why I bring this up is because most triathletes do not want to do the work that they need to do, when they need to do it. To a determined athlete, strength training, dialing in the daily diet, mobility work, working on weaknesses and getting in the pool a bit more are things are boring, time-consuming and maybe even a little uncomfortable.
For many athletes, going long is easier than focusing on skills.
Regardless if you are new to the sport or a veteran, it is so important to return to the basics in an effort to build a strong foundation. 
As exciting as it sounds to say you are training for an Ironman or to participate in an Ironman, don't rush your journey. 

In my journey, I improved rapidly.
But by my next season, I needed skills that I never developed in my first season. My lack of skills and sport-specific strength proved to be a major weakness in my development.
When I tried going longer or faster in round #2 of training for an Ironman, I discovered that my insufficient prep in round #1 of Ironman training resulted in a very weak foundation.
A weak foundation equaled a body that could not tolerate training stress which resulted in injury. 

For athletes who seek immediate results, rather than carefully and slowly working on strength, skills, stamina, speed and fundamentals, there is a tendency to do too much out of fear.

If you are questioning if next year is the right time to do an Ironman, ask yourself if you have taken the time to work on the basics and you have adequate foundation and skills to start an Ironman journey?  

If you are considering another Ironman next year (or already registered for one), be willing to fully prepare like you have never prepared before. No shortcuts. Be willing to learn, willing to change, willing to address weaknesses and be willing go back to the basics. 

As you watch the Ironman, remember that every athlete has a weakness.
And as an athlete yourself, be aware of your weakness and be willing to properly prepare. 

Chains break at their weakest link.
In 2007, I broke when I added too much volume and intensity without a solid foundation.
I had the time to train but my body couldn't tolerate the training stress. 

My advice to you, as a future Ironman athlete, a potential Ironman athlete or a past Ironman athlete, is to improve your foundation and improve your skills and improve your confidence.
You can do this year after year after year.

But now is always the BEST time to start your preparation. 


11/12/15

Hello from the Big Apple!


New York City is everything we are not.
(And I'm talking about the touristy segments of NYC.)

NYC is big, there are a lot of people and there is a lot of traffic.
We like quiet, small and being able to get to places quickly. 

NYC is stimulation overload with bright lights, non stop entertainment and media overload.
We like nature, wild-life and mountains. 

NYC is expensive.
We like affordable living, eating and traveling.
NYC is not triathlete friendly.
We like being able to bike or run out of our front door. 

NYC is busy. Everyone seems to be in a rush.
We like slow-paced, enjoying the moment. 


But....
We are loving NYC!! 

One of the best parts about traveling is experiencing a way of life that is not your own. Learning, exploring and immersing yourself into a different lifestyle.

Sometimes traveling makes you miss home and what is familiar but many times, traveling opens your eyes to a different way of life that you never considered would work for you or would be better for you.

Aside from a few touristy things in NYC that do not match how we live our life, the food options in NYC are endless and we love walking around everywhere! I wish we had more time in NY than 1.5 days but we knew it would be a quick trip.
The sights are amazing here and we could use a few more days just to eat!

This trip was not expected but when Clif Bar invited us to NYC to watch the NBC premier broadcast of the 2015 Ironman World Championship at NYIT auditorium, we could not pass up this opportunity. After returning home from PCB to watch our athletes in action at IMFL, we worked 2 long days on Monday and Tues to get a lot of work done for our business before flying out to NYC on Wednesday morning.
We will return home on Friday and then Karel is off to Jacksonville, FL for 4 days of RETUL fits.

Hmmmm.....maybe we do have the lifestyle of a New Yorker as we are always busy and on the go!

I will post more pics of our exciting day (Thursday) on the Trimarni Facebook page but for now, here are some pics from our 1/2 day in NYC on Wed. 


Veterans day parade. Thank you past and present Veterans!


We took a cab from the airport to our hotel on W 55th street. However, when we looked at our maps on our phone and saw that we had 35 minutes in the taxi to go 1.5 miles.

Well, that was just silly.
We asked the cab driver to stop when he could and then we walked to our hotel with our baggage. 



Walking is so much better than sitting in a car as we got to start our sight-seeing early. 


We checked in to the WestHouse hotel (thank you Clif Bar for the amazing lodging experience) and enjoyed afternoon tea, snacks and pastries before our room was ready at 3pm. 



We then walked up to the terrace (23rd floor) after checking into our room and then we were off to explore the city by foot for the next 5 hours. 















So many great food places!! I wish we had more time to eat!





After making our way 36 blocks to 19th street, and seeing so much of Manhattan, we finally hit our final destination. 




Karel was so excited to enjoy a meal (almost) as good as his mom's home-cooking. 



I ordered a delicious salad, packed with veggies, apples and goat cheese and saved some room for dessert. 


My favorite Czech dessert is poppy seed Streusel and they just happened to have it in the restaurant. 


After dinner, we walked back to our hotel for a total of ~6.3 miles of walking since we arrived in NYC.






Inside Macy's. 


Times Square at night. 




Yay - one of our amazing Trimarni sponsors, Oakley!




Yum! 


I love anything chocolate and peanut butter!



Our first official day in NYC was fun but I have a feeling that day 2 will be even more memorable. 

11/10/15

Hypoglycemia in athletes




As athletes, sometimes we joke about low blood sugar. We associate it with being HANGRY (Hungry  + Angry) where we get very moody and upset until food gets inside our belly.
I'm sure you (or someone you know) have joked about a bonk that occurred while swimming, biking or running and how horrible it was when it happened but you had a funny story about how it was relieved with a massive amount of sugar/carbohydrates. 

Perhaps you have felt this experience before as the symptoms are very uncomfortable (and can be dangerous), while working out or racing. 

Hypoglycemia is an abnormally low level of glucose in your blood 
When your glucose (sugar) level is too low, your body is too low on energy to make your body function normally. 

Low blood sugar is serious and it is not a joking matter if it is occurring regularly. The occasional "bonk" is accepted when you are a high-performing athlete (and then you learn from it so you try to prevent it from happening again in a similar workout) but low blood sugar should not be something that you are trying to get comfortable with while training or racing (or in your every-day life).  

Know your warning signs when blood sugar is dropping so that you can immediately correct the issue with fast-acting sugar to raise your blood sugar. Do not reach for fat or protein as this will not raise your blood sugar once it has dropped. We use fat and protein, combined with carbohydrates, to help slow down digestion and control blood sugar levels at meals and snacks.


As an athlete, experiencing low blood sugar symptoms is not cool. It doesn't mean that you are becoming metabolically efficient, burning fat for fuel, losing weight or improving performance. It doesn't mean that you are hardcore or tough.
You are actually increasing the risk for serious health issues.

Athletes who improperly fuel/hydrate before and during workouts (and races), work out on an empty stomach, workout after going too long without eating or work out too long or intensely without adequate nutrition to support the effort are more likely to experience low blood sugar symptoms. 

As if this wasn't enough.....why should you really be concerned? 

Aside from these symptoms negatively affecting your physical performance and emotional state, hypoglycemia can affect the autonomic nervous system, which can increase the risk for overtraining syndrome. 

And even more concerning for athletes who intentionally or unintentionally struggle with fueling/hydrating properly around/during/before workouts, hypoglycemia induces a major stress on the endocrine system. When blood sugar drops (as a result of caloric restriction/inadequate fueling) before, during and after workouts, major hormones can be impaired. 

Prevention of hypoglycemia, through a healthy diet and proper sport nutrition/hydration timing, will not only help you perform better during workouts but will save the health of your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, GI tract and other major endocrine glands. 

If you find yourself spending more than a few weeks intentionally restricting calories before and during workouts (for whatever reason), it is time to consult with a sport RD who can assist in your nutrition journey to ensure that you are meeting your metabolic needs while training. 

It's not cool to underfuel!  

11/9/15

2015 IMFL (spectator) race report


Spectating is not easy but we absolutely love watching our athletes in action.

My alarm woke us up at 5:30am on race day morning and Karel started the water in our electric kettle (that we brought) to fill the French Press (that Karel brought). Campy stayed snuggled in bed (with one eye opened to make sure we didn’t leave him) as we had a snack before heading out the hotel door to watch our athletes start the bike. The race started at 6:15am so we watched the live feed on Ironman.com until the athletes started their second loop of the swim. 

From experience, it was always hard to spot our athletes coming out of the water with so many people so we decided to spectate on the corner of Front Beach and Thomas, less than ½ mile from where the athletes started the bike. 


We were able to spot all our athletes and many of our friends racing so it was the perfect location for cheering. Plus, it’s always nice to surprise athletes when they don’t expect us to be there on the course. 


After we saw all of the Trimarni athletes start the bike (Colleen, Rita, Stefanie and Maggie) we went back to our hotel for breakfast (we had a microwave and fridge in our room at the Executive Inn – it’s not as fancy as it sounds but pet-friendly, free Wi-Fi, no carpet for the floors, close to the race venue and cheap!). 

We tracked our athletes via the Ironman Live tracker online as well as the free Ironmobile app. With a new out and back section on the course, we planned when we would head out to see our athletes. Around 10am, Karel biked to the out and back section (a little over 22 miles away) on his road bike and I drove (with Campy). 

For the next few hours, we cheered on all of the athletes who came by for the out and back (around mile 70-85ish). With a non-wetsuit swim to start the day, we knew it would be a warm day in PCB. There was some cloud cover with a rain shower while spectating the bike from 11am – 1pm to help cool us off. 




After we saw all of our athletes on the bike (who all looked great – lots of smiles!), Karel, Campy and I drove back to the hotel for a quick lunch. We rested for just about an hour and then made our way to the run course. Since we were just a mile away from the race venue, it was very quick to get to where we needed to be on and before race day. 



Karel biked to the run course so he could see the athletes as they made their way out of T2 and on to the run course. It’s always nice to see familiar faces when you start the run but we knew it would be good for our athletes to see Karel a few miles down the road for a little coach pick-me-up. Campy and I drove (well, I drove, Campy navigated) to Mellow Mushroom and parked in the lot behind the building and I spotted two of our friends and Trimarni campers Alex and Angie and their dogs. We all walked to the run course to cheer on the athletes.


The struggle is real people - Ironman is no joke when you are a 12-lb Chihuahua/Italian Greyhound. 


One of the best parts about spectating is that Karel and I can see our friends on and off the course. We bumped into a few other friends from Jacksonville which was great to catch up.
And coach Katie Malone from Greenville too. 



Lots of cheering. Yay Colleen - you are doing an IRONMAN for the first time!!!


We stayed out on the course all afternoon and evening from 3pm until 10pm, until our last athlete had finished.
In between waiting for our athletes to finish, we ate dinner at Mellow Mushroom. It was quite exciting watching all of the athletes finishing the race and we even had to stop mid-bite while we were eating to sprint to the road to run-in with our athletes. 



Campy was exhausted from all the spectating so he spent most of the time in our arms….except for when we caught-up with our athletes in the last 1 mile of the race to run with them for a few minutes. 

Campy really enjoyed finishing the Ironman 3x’s on Saturday and we enjoyed the “Iron puppy” cheers. 


Colleen finishing.


Stefanie finishing.


Maggie finishing. 



From the statistics, it was a very challenging day for many. We are so proud of our 4 Trimarni athletes who all finished (especially first-timer Ironman Colleen) but we just loved how everyone was working hard to get to the finish. 


The Ironman is not an easy event.
An Ironman finisher medal is not given away for free or just because you paid a registration fee.
Sometimes you earn the medal on the first try but sometimes it takes years to understand how to "race" in an Ironman event.

It doesn't matter how slow or fast you go but the important thing is that you always give your best effort.
At Trimarni, we focus on racing to our best ability all while keeping the body in optimal health.

And no matter how your Ironman race goes, it is important that you do not overlook your biggest accomplishment which is simply getting to the start line.

Congrats to the 2193 finishers but most of all, the 2980 starters who had the determination, courage, strength, fitness and skills to start a 140.6 mile journey. 

Don't stop dreaming big and always be willing to work hard for your goals.
And no matter how your race goes, don't forget to thank your body for what it allows you to do.