Hello from Chattanooga!

After an early morning bike/run workout (~90 minutes) and a massage, it was time to pack up the car and head off to Chatty!
We left on Tuesday morning to drive 4.5 hours up and over to Chattanooga (through Knoxville). For our first time to Chatty, the drive was scenic and we had little traffic. The only negative to our drive was the pouring rain that lasted the last 3 hours of our drive. Thankfully, we made it to our rental house safely, around 5pm. Campy is joining us for our trip because he does a great job of keeping us both calm and stress-free on race week.

To make it easy for us, I did some grocery shopping and a lot of meal prep on Monday before we left. Although we have a kitchen at our rental house, I wanted to avoid the hassle of grocery shopping when we arrived and then making food each day. Having a stocked fridge as soon as we arrived was a great thing and it made it easy to get to bed early for a good night of sleep on Tuesday evening. We won't be eating out during our time in Chatty before the race so all meals and snacks will be in our control and we will stick to our normal daily diet and pre-race diet as we both know what foods work best for us. We have lots of food for snacks (ex. fruit, yogurt, pita chips, raisins, chocolate) and meals (potatoes, eggs, chicken for Karel, tempeh for me, waffles, croissants, bread, soup, rice, cheese, OJ, milk, hardboiled eggs, eggs, pizza, Kefir, nut butter, syrup, etc.) so eating is familiar and easy to accomplish every day.

For our first official day in Chatty, we drove the 5.5 miles down to the race venue/village with our bike and swim gear for a longish morning workout. Our athlete Natalie met us at the swim. I really looked forward to getting in the water and experiencing the changing current. The water temperature felt great in my swimskin and I enjoyed the challenge of navigating the current, especially with it to my side or swimming against the current. After the swim, I was a little chilly (as the air temp was in the 60's) but I reminded myself that on race day, I would warm up fast. Plus, I wanted to practice in my same gear as race day (one piece tri suit and same sport bra) to feel comfortable swimming with sleeves and a swimskin, in the case that it is not wetsuit legal (which I am hoping for).
After the swim, we all got ready for a 2ish hour bike on the course. I was really looking forward to getting on the course and experiencing "the climb". Although I had a rough few weeks around the time I was racing Lake Logan half Ironman, my legs have really come around and I am itching to push hard and race. I took it rather easy on the climb to save my legs a bit for Saturday and wanted to soak in the view before I am laser focused on race day. After "the climb", there was another long section of rolling hills, with about 4 big kickers. I couldn't help but think "am I in Greenville?" as the terrain is very familiar to me and reminds me of our normal routes in Greenville (just with less farm animals but I did manage to say hi to a few horses and saved a baby turtle). We covered the first 18 miles of the course (and warmed up nicely) and then turned around to head back to the venue.
Natalie and I checked in and picked up our bag and we briefly checked out the expo as we were all ready for some food.
As for the rest of the day, it included eating, laying around and relaxing. Campy had a little playdate with Natalie's dog Kona which was fun to see Campy (who is 10) play with an 8-month puppy.
It was early to bed and we slept great (about 9 hours).

After previewing the swim venue and some of the bike, I was anxious to get out on the run course. Around 8am, we parked near the village and met Natalie for an early morning spin. It was rather cold out (in the upper 50's) but it warmed up nicely as the morning went on. Like the bike course, the run was marked with arrows so it was easy to find our way around (although we did get turned around a few times). Like I was told, the course is hilly but once again, it reminded me of my terrain in Greenville and the type of run course that I love to run on in my races. As we covered the course, I couldn't help but think "this is going to be a tough run" and then I followed that thought with "I am so excited to run two loops on this!" Karel keeps telling me that this course could not be better designed for me as it is very challenging and requires great strength, smart skills and resilience over speed so Karel's confidence in me is getting me very excited to race. And the weather couldn't be more perfect for race day.
After we biked the run course, we went for a shake out run. Karel ran by himself and Natalie and I did 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back on the run course, just nice and easy, all conversational pace. The course, although very challenging, is also very pretty. I imagine that the course will be lined with spectators in certain areas of the course, which will be great for an energy boost on race day.
After the morning workout, Natalie and I strolled through the expo and merchandise tent as Karel checked in for the race. Around 11:30am, we left the venue, headed to Wholefoods for a few items and then made it back to our rental house around 12:30pm. The rest of the day included eating, a little work on the computer and in a few hours, I will enjoy my pre-race pizza and then we will head downtown for the mandatory pre-race athlete meeting at 8pm.

I am getting super excited to race and I can't help but think back to my previous training and all the hard work that went into the preparation for this race. Years of experience and a season of athletic development to get to where I am right now. No matter the outcome, I feel excited, healthy, fit and confident and I am looking forward to the opportunity to race my competition in the 35-39 age group and give my best, with what I am given on race day.

Here are some pictures from the last few days:

Karel's new Wacaco nanopresso. Now he can enjoy an espresso when we travel. 

Road trip from one mountain view to another. 

Snack for the car. 

Room with a view. 

Recovery coach says it's time for a nap. 

My go-to pre-workout meal. 

We have arrived!

Time to preview some of the bike course. 

Riding to "the climb"

Up I go! 

What a view of Rock City Waterfall near the top of the climb. 

Turtle saved. 

Potty stop - well hydrated and fueled after 2.5 hours of riding on Wednesday. 

Campy loves his new race tee. Thank you Natalie! 

All checked in! 

Love the race theme - An adventure for your soul. 

Hand written drawing from a local school kid. 

Two lap dogs. One is 12 lbs and the other is 40.
Yummy dinner. 

Thank you Hot Shot for our goodies!

Exploring the run course. 

View from the run course. 

Over the bridge on the run course. 

Over another bridge on the run course. 

Must stop for a high five. 

More from the run course. 

Conversational pace run makes it OK to stop for pictures (coach approved). 

Back to athlete check-in for Karel. 

Race week tradition - love Mojo bars (all flavors)!

It's official! 

So much signage around the city. 

Someone couldn't wait to eat. 

Post workout meal - Icelandic yogurt, french brioch bread (cinnamon and cheese) and lots of fruit. 


Trail Angels podcast interview - talking all things nutrition

A few months ago, I received an email from Vanessa who produces a weekly podcast, Trail Angels for an organization called The Project Athena Foundation. Before emailing back, I went to the website and immediately I responded - YES, I would love to be on your podcast.

I just love connecting with athletes, especially female athletes. It's always a great honor to provide nutrition and training advice in an effort to be of help in the journey of another athlete. And ever since my dad passed away from cancer (May 2014), I have become even more passionate about inspiring other athletes and fitness enthusiasts to pursue athletic dreams and goals and to never ever waste a day of life.

For a little more information about this amazing foundation:

The Project Athena Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit foundation dedicated to helping women survivors of medical or other traumatic setbacks achieve their adventurous dreams.
At Project Athena, we provide travel expenses, coaching, equipment, and most importantly, the encouragement and inspiration needed to help these strong, amazing women make that life-affirming transition from Survivor to Athlete.

“It’s not about trying to get back to what you were,” explains Project Athena Founder and World Champion Adventure Racer, Robyn Benincasa. “It’s about trying to be the best of what you’re capable of today, this minute. The most gratifying thing is the moment when you see someone realize they’re going to make it, when you see the fear disappear and they realize how awesome they truly are!”

We currently offer six yearly adventures that provide mental and physical challenges in a non-competitive environment. The goal is to have something to look forward to, a goal set to accomplish, and surround yourself with like-minded people. At Project Athena, it’s all about teamwork and being a part of the family.

Apply to today to join us as an Athena, if you are a survivor of a medical setback, OR register for an event as a Fundraising God or Goddess to show your support for a great cause!

Trail Angels is a podcast that launched in November of 2016 on Apple  iTunes and Stitcher. This podcast is dedicated to those with an adventurous spirit and an undeniable attitude. No matter what setbacks you have had in your life, you can still be a world class adventurer and Trail Angels will be your guide. Hosts Robyn Benincasa, Amanda Webb and Vanessa Spiller will share with you a unique experience, adventurous story, training tips and so much more. 
For more on my podcast interview: 
On this episode, we are thrilled to interview Marni Sumbal, a board-certified sports dietitian who specializes in fueling endurance athletes. Marni shares her story of becoming a dietitian and a treasure trove of tips for hydration, nutrition, and workouts. You’ll also hear why it’s important to maintain your confidence, and practical ways to do so. Marni’s wisdom isn’t just for endurance athletes–it’s for everyone who wants to improve their performance and take their fitness to the next level.
In the podcast, I discuss the following: 
  • My story of becoming a dietitian.
  • Why it’s important to stick with the basics of nutrition in endurance sports.
  • Why I focus on changing a person’s daily diet first.
  • The importance of making quality nutrition choices.
  • My criteria for nutrition products that she recommends.
  • The biggest challenges for women involved in endurance sports.
  • Tips for staying hydrated both throughout the day and during a workout.
  • The performance fuels that I recommend.
  • Why there is no such thing as a bad training session or a bad workout.
  • My advice for someone preparing for an race or adventure.
I hope you enjoy the podcast. Thank you for listening. 

For the podcast interview: Click HERE


Hello race week!

Back in October, after we returned home from the Ironman World Championship, Karel and I sat down and talked about the 2017 season. With so many races to choose from, the first step on deciding our race schedule was to establish our 2017 season goals. Our races would be our road map and our big season goal would be the final destination.

Karel's big goal is still to qualify for the 2018 Ironman World Championship at Ironman Chattanooga. Although he received a slot to IM Kona for this year at Ironman Lake Placid, he let that slot roll down as that was not in his road map for this season. My goal was to qualify for the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship and to peak my fitness for my big race on September 9th, 2017. I planned on qualifying for the 70.3 WC at Ironman 70.3 St. George but I surprised myself when I won my age group (35-39) at Ironman 70.3 Florida back in April and earned my slot to the 70.3 WC. I was delighted to also win my age group at IM 70.3 St. George but even more excited to let my slot roll down to another deserving female athlete. 

Now that it's race week, I have an opportunity to reflect back on the season and what a season it has been. As I go into the Ironman 70.3 World Championship event, I couldn't be more grateful to have this opportunity to be a participant in this spectacle of an event.  My body is healthy and strong and I am excited to race with so many amazing females (age group and professional) on Saturday and then be a spectator for Karel and the age group male and professional athletes on Sunday. 

I am actually a little sad that this will end my 2017 triathlon season as I don't feel quite ready to stop the structured training and racing. 

The focus for this season was to become more comfortable and confident with the 70.3 distance. Even though I have raced many half distance triathlons over the past 11 years since I started endurance triathlon racing/training, they have always been included in a season of Ironman distance racing.  It's been incredible to see what my body has been able to accomplish in training and in racing this season but I know that my strength is in the Ironman distance. But this forced break from Ironman distance racing has allowed me to embrace and explore a different style of training for my body and to take different risks in half Ironman distance training. 

While I will go into this race with confidence and belief in my ability, I recognize that there will be a lot of very strong and fast girls out there in my age group. Fast has always been a word that I don't often use in my vocabulary as the Ironman distance is where I excel and I seem to be great at not slowing down (due to a combination of knowing how to pace the IM distance, understanding how to fuel/hydrate for the IM distance and good mental skills). I have never considered myself a "fast" athlete but on Saturday, I get the opportunity to race as "fast" as I can for 70.3 miles, on a very tough course, and that excites me. I love that I finally have this opportunity to leave it all out on the course, take some risks and challenge myself as faster athletes help me bring the best out of my body.

Race week, I'm so glad you are finally here!