[caption id="attachment_9021" align="alignright" width="275"]early spring races - holidays - tips - training The Dessert Buffet Can Be A Training Killer But Only If You Let It.
Source: Z Cater[/caption] For the past two years I have been registered for early spring races in 70.3 Puerto Rico and Ironman Texas.  70.3 Puerto Rico takes place in March while Ironman Texas takes place in May.  What these early spring races means is that I am training through the holidays which also means that watching my diet during those times is key to having successful training sessions and eventually successful races. With October being one week old the Halloween candy has already been out for a few weeks and the topics of Thanksgiving (already overshadowed) and Christmas are on the tips of everybody's tongues.  As we all know that with the holidays come baked hams, sweet potato pie, desserts until your eyeballs are completely glazed over and if that isn't enough these feasts seem to last for days.  These 'meals' can cause people, especially athletes not paying attention, to add-on a pound or 10.  If you are training for an early spring race then these are 10 completely unwanted pounds but it doesn't have to be that way and here are some tips to help you navigate the upcoming holidays and the unwanted weight gain.

Early Spring Races And Holiday Navigation Tips

  1. Be social but be cognizant.  The holidays are not just family get together but also bring office parties that we all feel that we are required to attend.  What we are not required to do though is eaten as if this is our last meal.  When you approach the buffet table or are ordering your meal focus on what you have been doing up to that point.  Lean proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.  Order your meal, or serve yourself, to match your endurance diet.  You are going to be eating with your company but that doesn't mean that you need to eat an overabundance of unhealthy foods.
  2. Alcohol can be the biggest culprit of weight gain since they are purely empty calories.  It is more than ok to enjoy a drink but follow-up one drink with a glass or two of water.  You will still be a part of the party  but you will be managing your calorie intake while also keeping yourself hydrated.
  3. Do not feel obligated to close down the party.  If you have a key training session the next day after the holiday party then excuse yourself and get to bed.  Your family/friends/co-worker may never remember that you left at 9:00pm instead of 11:00pm but you will if you wake up the next day and do not feel like working out  because you did not get enough rest.  Remember that this is your race and something that you want to do so do not let others thwart your dream.
  4. Adjust your training schedule in advance.  If you know that you have to travel then begin to make adjustments with your coach, or on your own, to your schedule so you do not feel guilty about either missing family time or missing training time.  By not having a box to check-off you can wake up late and enjoy a breakfast with your loved ones.
  5. If attending a family event bring your own food.  By now, most people know that you are racing a particular race and that you have been working toward that goal for some time so it will not come as a shock to them when you show up with your protein packed quinoa salad or jalapeno cornmeal muffins for that brunch get together.
The keys to staying on target for that early spring race are no different during the holidays then at any other time of the year.  The biggest difference is the opportunity to get off track and your ability to navigate the mine field of sugary desserts and over plating of food.  If you keep your eye on the prize, which is a successful training cycle and chance to give your best at the race then nothing will get in your way. If by chance, you have an extra slice of cake or one additional martini do not wake up the next morning and feel guilty.  It is the holidays after all and you should celebrate with family, friends and co-workers but do not try to starve yourself for the next few days to lose weight.  Doing this will cause your training sessions to be lackadaisical and you will generate nothing from them and only exacerbate the problem.

How Do You Navigate The Holidays For An Early Spring Race?

Published in Train
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 13:44

The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Ignore

[caption id="attachment_8914" align="alignright" width="300"]mind - training - triathlon - ironman Training Your Mind Is Not Just About Pushing It
Source: Triple Threat Triathlon[/caption] As endurance athletes we are extremely in tune with our bodies.  We know when we have the slightest hitch in our step.  We know the moment that our hunger strikes.  We can tell you what our pace and our heart rate is while out on a ride or run without looking at our watch.  What we fail to do a lot of times is connected to our mind.  Our brain has a way of getting pushed to the side so we can go one more mile, one more lap, one more step or lift one more weight. During a training session and especially in a race we tell our mind to shut up.  We ignore it because that is what we are trained to do but there are instances when ignoring your mind can be detrimental to your progression in your chosen sport.  When you are tired because you were up all night watching football or Sons Of Anarchy and the alarm goes off at 4am, do you jump out of bed or hit the snooze and then finally get out of bed to go run 5 miles?  Would that time be better spent getting more rest so that when you do go for that 5 mile run you feel good as opposed to just getting it in? That scenario happened to me and instead of getting out of bed at 4am to put on running shorts and put in 5 miles I slept another hour.  After waking up I made coffee and enjoyed the time before I took my step-son to school.  After dropping him off I went for my 5 mile run and it was during the run that I thought to myself: such a better idea to have waited than to have gone out there half-asleep and not enjoyed the run.  I know that there are days that we have to get that run in at that time because it is a packed day and there is no other time to do it.  Those things happen but they probably happen less often than you think.  Not everyday is packed to the gills with things to do.  You can shuffle training sessions around and still be prepared for your next race.  There is no reason to put yourself in a box and not allow yourself a chance to get out. Our mind can be our own worst enemy during training because we are going to push ourselves but there are moments when we need to pull back on the reins.  Today I know for sure that I do not want to jump into any structured training and so I am pushing off Oilman (as of today.)  The reason is that my mind is not ready to be wrapped around a set training schedule.  Last night as I was planning out the rest of this week to make sure I got in somewhere between 125 and 150 miles of cycling I almost stopped short and pulled the plans out of training peaks because they suddenly felt like a huge albatross around my neck.  I am not specifically training for anything and if I fall short of 650 miles who really cares?  This is my point about how the mind can be one of our worst enemies.  I set out a goal and now I am trying to figure out everything I can to get myself there, but for what reason? During Ironman training there are certain workouts that cannot be missed, but if you treat every workout that way by the time you hit those essential sessions you could be burnt out and your mind could prevent you from executing the plan the way it was designed.  By understanding what the end goal is and what it takes to get there you can set yourself up for success without burning out.  Talk to your coach, or other triathletes if you are self-coached, about how you feel on a daily basis.  You don't have to call them, but put it into your log.  Track how you felt before, during and after each workout.  If you start noticing trends with workouts then make adjustments or your coach will make them for you. Last week I spoke to Maria about the upcoming season and what is left of 2014 and I came to the realization that I was tired mentally toward the end of IMTX training.  I had been pushing and pushing and pushing and didn't allow my mind a moment to sit back and relax.  I enjoyed my training because I feel free when I am out there but my body was telling my mind something and my mind was ignoring it instead of synching them together.  My passion has been getting reignited with registration of Ironman Chattanooga and I know when I am ready to enter into structured training it will be with a relaxed mind and body.  I also know that I will allow myself the opportunity to not be strangled by the training plan.  If Maria wants 3 hours on the bike and I get in 2:51 and my loop is done then I am going to be done as well.  There will be no reason to continue to ride for 9 minutes as I will not be building any fitness in those 9 minutes. Experience is going to play a large part in this next go round with training.  I know what my body is capable of and hopefully my past experiences will teach my mind what it is also capable of.  This experience coupled with the time off should lead to a successful training cycle and one in which I will be able to join club members on rides and runs and piece together sessions that maximize my time while allowing my body and mind to recover properly.

Do Not Underestimate The Power That Rest Has On Your Mind.

Published in Train
Cycle September is something I came up with after my buddy Jeff Irvin decided to ride approximate 440 miles in one week.  Was that the smartest thing he could have done?  Not a chance but it taught him a valuable lesson and that is that it is possible to do.  As endurance athletes we are always chasing the question:  What if?  What if I went this way?  What if I ate this?  What if I drank that?  What if my bike wasn't as heavy?  What if, what if, what if?  In asking that question Jeff pushed himself and came out the other side a stronger cyclist for Ironman Florida coming up in November. Right now I am still in the no training plan, training plan so I am coming up with challenges to keep me engaged.  I am a self-motivated person but when you are chasing that carrot that ride on a Wednesday evening in the 100* weather takes on more meaning and you are less likely to skip it.  With Jeff's feat in mind I set my goals out for September, in this blog post, one of which was to cycle 650 miles in the month.  The miles had to all be outdoors as no trainer rides or spin classes would count.  This was going to be a big test for me because if I don't want to do it what do I lose? Nothing.  This would be a game of mental strength to see if I could hit those goals. There are a couple of things that would prevent me from hitting 20+ miles per day (on average) and so I have to plan accordingly.  First off, we will have my step-son for two of the four weekends and Karen runs on Saturday mornings.  This means I can start my ride at 11am in the sweltering heat or just go for a one hour run as a recovery run and skip the bike.  If I do that then I am only putting in 65-80 miles on a weekend when we have Chico.  The other factor is that it is HOT  here in Texas in September.  I mean sweltering hot so if I don't get out early I will not get out for a 'long' ride.  Since I take Chico to school at 7am then the morning ride it out.  Factoring these items into my, so-called, plan I would have to get 200+ miles during two of the four weeks and then another 100-200 during the other two weeks. The first week resulted in 216.5 miles or approximately 1/3 of the goal miles and that is a great way to start but more importantly a few things have happened along the way and I am thrilled about those lessons more than the miles.

Cycle September Lessons

  1. My bike handling has gotten tremendously better in one week.  I am now cornering in the aero position rather than sitting up and applying a gentle squeeze to the brakes.  I am taking more risks on the turns than I have before and I have come away better for it.
  2. Instead of getting weaker in terms of being tired I am noticing that I am stronger today than I was one week ago.  I have undergone a regiment of 10 to 15 minutes each night of either foam rolling or using the stick and that seems to aid tremendously in my recovery.
  3. I am also on a No Sugar Added challenge this month and I have been drinking nothing but water on my long rides and this has helped me to use fat for fuel.  My Body Fat % has gone from 10.5%-11.0% down to 9.6% as of today.  My weight is also down 2.4 pounds.
  4. I am a liquid nutrition rider.  I have taken nuts and dates on my two long rides this past weekend and consumed a total of one date while riding.  This obviously is not a great way to get through a long ride but I forget about the food in my jersey and thus have to come up with a way to get calories into my system without added sugar while riding.
  5. Soccer Moms in mini-vans are worse drivers than 18-year-old boys in Mustangs.  For whatever reason the soccer moms like to get really close to me and yet the Mustangs/Muscle Cars give me plenty of room.  By the way, if I can spit and hit your car while I am riding you are driving too close.
  6. I can spit to my left while riding with no problems, but spitting to my right and I am covered in saliva.
  7. My tan lines are ridiculous.  There are three shades of tan on my arms and now on my legs too.  I started this challenge with the typical bike short tan line but have now added the compression sock tan line and my knee caps are brown, my calves are tan and my quads are white.
  8. Riding around the airport makes me happy.  It is 4 miles on open road with planes flying directly overhead.  In the past two days I have seen 1 British Airways, 2 American Airlines and 1 UPS plane touch down and it was more amazing each time.
  9. 18 wheelers on the airport road love when I race them.  They let me keep the lead for about .25 to .5 of a mile then smoke me and blow their horn when they pass and it is a great way to get interval work in.
  10. My base when I start training for the 2014 Triathlon Season, which will most likely include 70.3 Galveston, 70.3 Buffalo Springs and Ironman Chattanooga, is going to be sky-high.  That makes me happier than a pig in mud.
Here are some of the maps from the Cycle September Challenge from the past few days. [caption id="attachment_8900" align="aligncenter" width="280"]cycle september - challenge - triathlon You Could Say This Has Been A Bike Intensive Week[/caption] [caption id="attachment_8901" align="aligncenter" width="300"]cycle september - challenge - triathlon Sunday Morning Takes Me Out Into The Country That Is Texas[/caption] [caption id="attachment_8902" align="aligncenter" width="300"]cycle september - challenge - triathlon Riding The Airport Brings A Huge Smile To My Face[/caption]   What Are You Challenging Yourself To Do This Month?  
Published in Train
[caption id="attachment_8794" align="alignright" width="300"]triathlon - road map - no meat athlete No Meat Athlete Triathlon Roadmap is available today by clicking this link and making a purchase NMA Tri Roadmap[/caption] Triathlon can be an intimidating sport with all of these fit people walking around the expo and transition as if they have been swimming, biking and running since they were in the womb.  Lucky for me I never noticed these people, nor did I have a clue about what I was really getting myself into.  Fortunately for me, being naive about the sport of triathlon played into my favor as I had no expectations and immersed myself into the sport I have grown to love. I consider myself lucky to have been able to get into the sport the way I did but maybe you have been reading my blog for a while and wondering if this sport is for you.  I mean stories of riding my bike for 6 hours and then running for 2 hours doesn't sound like a lot of fun to most.  Maybe that person is you, but I have something for you.  Yesterday, Susan Lacke released her first book and the title alone should set your mind at ease.  Susan's book is called No Meat Athlete Triathlon Road Map.  That is correct this is a book that will take you from sitting on your couch to racing in your first sprint triathlon and showing you all the fun along the way in your training and racing. Yours truly had the honor to be contacted by Susan about helping out with the book.  I don't know if I ever responded to an email faster but if Susan asks you if you want to help you don't care what it is you just say yes.  Reality is that it is going to involve only a few things and none of them are bad.  The topics are going to be triathlon/endurance sports, cupcakes or embarrassing stories about yourself.  You can see how easy it was for me to say yes because I am up for all three of those topics. Before I tell you a little about the book, let me tell you about how I came across Susan and Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete. It was when I first started my original blog and was reading a blog post from Mandy Farrar of Caratunk Girl that had a link to an interview that Susan was involved in.  I clicked on it and at first I couldn't really tell what I was watching but I was intrigued. Here was a person talking about triathlon and endurance sports.  She didn't look like the athletes you see everywhere at a race.  She discussed her foray into IMWI and how it went and I was hooked.  This sport was no longer intimidating but instead it was fun. I was hooked and started reading everything that she wrote because there was a lot of humor and reality to the sport. We all have great days but we all have horrible days too.  Every swim, ride and run isn't going to get 5 gold starts and more often than not it is going to suck. It is going to be hard and you are going to question what you are doing and why you are doing it.  Reading an article from Susan and the feelings you were experiencing were not unique to you.  There was an entire world going through what you were going through.  This made the whole concept of training and racing triathlon a bit easier to do. It was at that point that I decided to run the Cupcake Marathon.  The idea behind this was nothing big.  Just a simple challenge to run a half or full marathon distance over a number of days.  As I was putting this together I got correspondence from Susan regarding a logo and t-shirts and all the sudden this was a real thing.  Susan even said that she would see if Matt would offer up a prize, in the form of two free e-books, for winners.  This was my first introduction to Matt and No Meat Athlete. From that day forward I have relied on Matt and his blog posts to help guide me through the decision to become a plant-based athlete.  To this day I rely on Matt and his insight into being a plant-based endurance athlete.  He has written two blog posts recently that have really stuck out to me.  The most recent one was titled Why Vegans And Paleos Should Stop Hating Each Other and the other was That's WHAT's in my rice? How To Kick Arsenic's Ass.  These two stood out to me for different reasons but they still left a mark.  In the Vegans and Paleos blog post Matt takes a realistic view to eating in these lifestyles and how they are more similar than different but when you read through the comments some people just don't agree with him.  The article about arsenic was a real eye opener and to this day when I think about buying rice I think twice.  Do I really want to buy the rice and do the work that is required to lessen the amount of arsenic in it.  Read this articles and all the others on the No Meat Athlete site and get a world of lessons to being a plant-based athlete.

No Meat Athlete Triathlon Road Map

As I said earlier I am honored to be a contributor to this book and when Susan sent me an advanced copy I was ready to fall asleep as I had a later stint in the pool and swimming just wipes you out. I clicked on the PDF (no shipping involved so when you buy it you get it. How awesome is that?) I could not stop reading.  From the introduction to the training plan to the recipes to the meal plan.  It is all here for you to be successful and have fun doing it.  You can tell immediately that Susan wrote it as there is a respect for the sport in terms of safety and preparation but simultaneously a humorous crack along the way as well. I cannot guarantee that you will be qualifying for Kona after reading this book but what I can tell you is that the sport of triathlon and the idea of a plant-based lifestyle will no longer be intimidating. If you are interested in the sport I highly encourage you to purchase the roadmap now (pssst.....they are offering $10 off between August 12th and August 16th so don't wait) and get yourself started down the road to crossing the finish line of your first triathlon. Thank you Susan and Matt for allowing me to contribute. I truly appreciate it.
Published in Train
[caption id="attachment_8756" align="alignright" width="211"]triathlon diet - lifestyle - training - ironman These 4 Items Belong In Each Endurance Athletes Lifestyle But Not All Are Going To Be The Same.
Source: Nutrition Translator[/caption] Triathlon diet and/or lifestyle there are those that are seeking the magic bullet and turning to sites and blogs, like mine, for answers.  I get questions and comments on all of the social media platforms that I am on seeking advice.  The problem with this advice seeking is that sometimes you can read the emotion and what they are really seeking is the one size fits all answer.  Unfortunately that does not exist because we are all different and as a matter of fact each day for each individual is going to be different. Let me provide you with an example.  That example would be me and here is how the last week of my triathlon, diet and lifestyle unfolded.
  • Monday: Tired from the weekend of training I pushed my run to the evening to go with Karen.  The moment we started running I could feel my legs weight 1,000 pounds each.  That morning I had a 3 egg omelette with mushrooms for breakfast, toast with salsa verde and poached eggs for lunch and post run I had chocolate waffles with banana and almond ice cream.  I pushed my carbs to the evening because that is when I was going to be running.
  • Tuesday: Decided to not workout in the morning as I was tired and would do a recovery spin and some strength/core at lunch.  The ride and lifting went well and I felt good throughout the workout.  So good that I asked a Facebook group I belong to if anybody wanted to swim and run on Wednesday morning.  That day I ate for breakfast: toast with almonds, raisins, banana and honey.  Lunch consisted of an Asian slaw salad and dinner was a falafel waffle with a greek salad.  All was going well to date.
  • Wednesday: Nervous about the feeling in my legs I was contemplating skipping the run.  I jumped in the water and swam 1.2 miles in 44 minutes. It was slow and sluggish but felt good enough to run.  I put in 6.3 miles at a pace of 9:30/mi.  Just about right and my legs didn't hurt too bad.  I ate a well-balanced diet that day that was based on carbs early in the morning to take care of my workouts.
  • Thursday: Wanted this to be a recovery day so I planned on riding for an hour and running for 15 minutes off the bike.  I felt better than I thought and put in a 20 mph bike ride and then ran an 8:21/mi pace off the bike.  Where did this speed come from?  I was on top of the world that in the afternoon I went and did 40 minutes of core/strength.  Look out world.  I also started tracking my meals via My Fitness Pal again and that really helped.  That day I had my carbs in the morning to again help in the recovery from the workout as well as burning off those carbs throughout the day.
  • Friday(today): I woke up with muscle soreness in my back.  The reason was that this was the first time I had done a focused core/strength workout since prior to Ironman Texas......a long time!  The always scheduled 6:30am OWS was happening and I had decided I would run 6 miles out of the water with Drum.  As I drove to the lake I could feel my back and I thought that I would wait until I got out of the water to decide on the run.  Jumped in the lake and lo and behold I was (my version of) Michael Phelps.  That 44 minutes swim was now finished in 39:10.  A 5 minute improvement which is otherworldly in my book.  I decided not to run because tomorrow I am riding for 5 hours and on Sunday running for two hours.  My breakfast this morning was French Toast and my plan for the rest of the day is to focus on protein and less on carbs.
If the people who asked me what I eat, how, why, or when were to follow this routine they may either find it too easy or too hard and the reason is that they are at a different spot in their endurance lifestyle than I.  More than that though they have different stresses in their life that can also affect their decisions on what to eat and how to get their triathlon and diet lifestyle to coincide. So when I get these types of questions I do my best to provide a response that includes some sort of disclaimer that this is how I do it or that I am not a registered dietian or a sports nutritionist.  That the answers I am providing are from my own research as well as trial and error.  Yes, there are certain 'rules of thumb' when it comes to eating for the endurance lifestyle but how one person's body reacts to a specific diet is not indicative of how another's will react.  The way I provide examples for this triathlon diet lifestyle is as follows:

How The Triathlon Diet Lifestyle Can Be Interpreted In 'Real' Life:

  • My results are not indicative of the results that you will have.  Similar to past performance does not predict future performance in the stock market.
  • There are guidelines that apply to everybody but not everybody will do it the same way.  This is similar to a golf stroke. There are certain mechanics but look at Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods and try to tell me that one is right and one is wrong and I will tell you both have won Major championships.
As you can see there is no one size fits all when it comes to training or nutrition for endurance sports especially an Ironman. I don't eat solids in an Ironman race but you may need to or have to.  I don't eat meat, but that may be something that you enjoy.  I choose not to race 5Ks and would rather train for and race for a 140.6 mile race.  Neither is right or wrong or better than the other except in that this is what works for me.  Figure out what you like and enjoy and instead of keeping up with the Joneses set the path for yourself.

Triathlon Diet Lifestyle Guidelines That I Believe Apply To All:

  • Cut out processed foods and eat real foods as much as possible.
  • Surround your workouts with carb based meals.
  • Listen to your body and if it needs to rest then rest and don't push it.
  • Recovering from your workouts is just as important as your workouts so get the proper nutrition into your system post workout.

Do You Believe There Are Universal Rules For Triathlon or Diet?

Published in Train
  [caption id="attachment_8789" align="alignright" width="225"]hard knocks - triathlon - lessons - lifestyle Enjoying The Sport Means Sharing Those Moments With Family And Friends[/caption] Hard Knocks is a show on HBO that covers the training camp of a National Football League (NFL) team every year.  I haven't had HBO in a very long time but with the new house and lowered bills we were able to fit it into our budget (partly because we chose Verizon over DirecTV and thus no NFL package.)  The show Hard Knocks started last week and I had set the DVR to record it.  While eating my lunch I decided to put it on and I watched it for the hour that it was on and I noticed a handful of instances in which the show paralleled the triathlon, and really endurance sport, lifestyle. When you decide to open your eyes it is amazing what you can see.  Yesterday I wrote about the sounds of triathlon and the harmonious music it makes.  I may be in my off-season and that may be why I am noticing all these things around me as opposed to falling asleep on the couch at 7:30pm after a long brick workout.  Either way these examples of life that I am noticing are helping to recharge my batteries for the 2014 season.  I spent an hour yesterday in a Google+ Hangout with Maria discussing which Ironman race I would be registering for and while a decision has yet to be made it has been narrowed down from four to three. So let's get back to how Hard Knocks made its way into my triathlon lifestyle:

Hard Knocks: Lesson #1

This year the program is covering the Cincinnati Bengals.  If you follow the NFL you know that this has been an organization that has been run poorly and when you expect them to be good they disappoint their fans and their owners.  When I thought about how this related to my endurance lifestyle I thought about the work that I put in during training cycles to set myself up for success.  Through training I expect a certain result and when it doesn't happen there is a piece of me that is disappointed.  Yes, you cannot compare yourself to others and I don't but I do compare myself to myself.  I look at my training and previous results and expect to get better with each race.  The problem is in defining better.  We live and die by numbers in triathlon.  140.6, 70.3, 1.2, 2.4, 56, 112, 13,1, 26.2 are all numbers you recognize.  You will also be able to spit out your personal bests at any distance without thinking so the definition of better is typically going faster.  It is also something that I look at from race to race instead of season to season and building on the previous efforts.  This mindset is changing though. I am looking at Ironman races for next year for a few different reasons.  Do I want a new experience or do I want to go back to a race I've already done and challenge myself to go faster than before?  The Cincinnati Bengals can do the same thing and think about building a team that wins year in and year out and not one that wins today and has no clue about tomorrow.

Hard Knocks: Lesson #2

The Bengals signed James Harrison who had formerly played for their rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  What did I learn while watching the segment regarding Mr Harrison?  Here is how I paralleled that story to my triathlon lifestyle.  James Harrison is an intense player who practices like he plays in the game.  When it comes to training I put in the effort but when I look back at my efforts in the race they weren't as strong as the training efforts.  At Ironman Texas I had a horrible swim, which I have discussed previously, and what I am doing to get better at it so that isn't where I am focusing.  What I am looking at is the bike.  I rode the 112 miles in just under 6 hours but I know that I can get down to 5:45 just by pushing a little bit harder.  As with anybody the idea that the run is still to comes causes us to potentially take it a bit easer than we had been training and so this coming training cycle I will focus on riding hard (when training calls for it) and repeating a mantra to myself that I can then repeat when the race comes.  Getting my cycling to be faster means that I will have to look to James Harrison and focus and train like I plan on playing on game day.

Hard Knocks: Lesson #3

[caption id="attachment_8792" align="alignright" width="225"]hard knocks - friends - ironman - triathlon Friends You Can Laugh With While Racing And Training For Ironman Are Invaluable[/caption] In the episode that I watched there was the intense life of football and even a drill called the Oklahoma drill where the intensity is sky-high and fights are bound to break out.  How does this play into triathlon for me?  With that intensity came good-hearted laughter.  Guys making fun of each other and laughing with each other. They put in the work but when the work was over they did not carry that with them to the dining room or to their hotel room and family life.  When I saw that I thought about how the previous 18 months unfolded for me and how I would tend to take one bad workout into the next instead of letting it go and laughing.  We all have bad workouts but not allowing them to ruin the next one is key to getting better.  Focusing on that workout and then letting it go and having fun with your family and friends.  Laughing about how horrible the session went instead of pouting about it.  This off-season I have been doing what I want when I want but still getting in 3-4 workouts of each sport and having a great time. I have laughed with friends via text, while riding, while swimming and while running.  I have goofed off with Karen and this is something that I am going to carry forward.  Not being so rigid in my chosen lifestyle that I forget to laugh and enjoy everything else around me. As you can see we can learn a lot from the things and people around us but we have to be open to them.  We cannot be so closed-minded and thinking that only we know best that we ignore the lessons that are around us.  Find inspiration and motivation in everything around you.
Published in Race
Mental fitness or physical fitness was a conversation I had with myself as I ran the trails on Sunday morning.  It was cold and windy out.  I was facing the last long run of the weekend and the end of week one of taper for Lake Martin 100.  I began by going through the routine of whether or not I was ready for this race.  As the first mile ticked off I began to lose myself in the race strategy as well as what the pain would be like at mile 78 of the race.  Why mile 78?  No clue, it is just what popped into my head. [caption id="attachment_9525" align="alignright" width="300"]mental fitness - trail running - endurance sports Ego was bruised but mentally I got stronger after the fall.[/caption] Not long after that I was making a right turn on the trail and planted my foot.  Before I knew it I was falling to the ground with a thud and a gasp.  I got up gingerly and looked at my right leg now coated in mud and bleeding.  My right arm was covered in dirt as were my gloves.  I took inventory and other than the small cut on my right knee everything seemed to be in working order.  I walked for a few steps and then started to run again.  Every step became more and more focused and that is when my left ITB, reacting to the fall, began to ache.  I was going to run 10 miles but after 2.5 miles I knew I would just turn around and make it back to my car for a total of 5.  I was not going to take any chances on this muddy trail with the race two weeks away. As I progressed back toward the car I realized how important these 2.5 miles were.  2.5 miles over the course of the training to date which has totaled near 1000 miles would seem to be nothing.  A small percentage of the overall total but they might have been the most important to this point.  My left ITB was tender.  My right hip was sore and my right knee was achy from the cut.  I was not running fast but I was running.  I put myself onto the race course and realized that if push came to shove I would finish that 100 mile race even if it took me the full 30 hours.  There is no way that I will not get to the finish line and it was then that I started doing the math. Dave, Jeff and I will represent 3 out of 39 competitors at Lake Martin.  Statistics tell us that 50% will not finish that race for a myriad of reasons.  With those numbers there will be approximately 19 finishers.  Of those 19 we WILL represent 3 or approximately 15%.  That is an amazing feat.  I will not let either of them quit unless there is an injury so traumatic that it will not allow them to continue.  This is where the mental fitness means more than the physical fitness to me.  Being able to survive a race that does not unfold as we envision is how one displays the courage and the mental stamina to keep on moving. If I were blessed with the ability to complete a 100 mile race in 18 hours or an Ironman in 10 but did not because I just did not have the ability to coax my mind to push my body to that level I would consider it a failure.  There are plenty of great athletes out there that cannot endure because they do not have the ability to push through the pain and hurt.  I do not consider myself a great athlete, but rather average at best, but I do know that nobody will work harder and get the most out of their ability.  Each and every morning I wake up and put my Hoka's on and head out the door.  It is not a blazing fast workout or impossibly hard but I am getting out the door day in and day out.  The body has its limits but the mind does not and when the mind says we can do this the body keeps going. I have a goal for Lake Martin 100 and I have shared it with Dave and Jeff.  I would consider us fortunate if we hit that goal, but I also know that regardless of achieving our set out times we will finish.  We will find away when others take to the 'crying chairs' and decide to throw in the towel because they cannot go another step.  We will dig deep and push each other along the way.  We will tell jokes and stories and make the other person forget about the pain that is ravaging their feet, ankle, knees and hips.  We will keep each other in line when it comes to hydration and eating so that when night falls there is little chance of delirium setting in because we were not prepared.  We will cross the finish line with arms raised high knowing that we got the most out of our physical ability but relishing the fact that our minds would not allow us to quit despite the many obstacles we will come across. Endurance sports are by definition the ability to endure while performing an athletic feat.  During Ironman Arizona in 2012 I crashed around mile 10 of the 112 mile bike course, but unless there was something wrong with my bike I was going to finish that race.  As a matter of fact that race was my fastest Ironman finish.  During Ironman Texas 2013 I had a panic attack during the swim and had the worst swim of any Ironman race to date.  I got out of the water with a determination to finish as best I could.  That determination and mental strength led me to the 15th fastest marathon time of my age group despite temperatures reaching 110* that day.  These events will be ready to be pulled on when the going gets tough, and it will, at the Lake Martin 100 but I have zero doubt that this daunting and unbelievable race will be finished and finished with a smile.

Is Mental Or Physical Strength More Important To You?

Published in Train
[caption id="attachment_8610" align="alignright" width="283"]flexibility - ironman - training - triathlon Staying Flexible During Ironman Training Will Help Mentally And Physically.
Source: Work Place Flexibility[/caption] Flexibility is not a word that many, if any, would use to describe me.  I got to yoga and it has helped with my swimming, but that isn't what I am talking about.  When it comes to flexibility I am talking about training overall.  I am OCD and Type A (surprise, surprise!) and when there is a box to check on training I want to check that box and I want to check it off now.  I try to set up my day to be as efficient as possible.  The less time I spend on traveling and the more time I spend training the better it is for me. These days with no boxes to check I have been on the Matt Oravec No Training Plan, Training Plan and I have learned flexibility along the way.  Throw in the fact that we have moved and now my routine is starting all over again, especially at the pool.  I have joined the local YMCA and they have open swim starting at 5am, but the problem is getting there.  If I don't wake up and jump out of bed I am never getting to the pool in time to get in a solid workout because I have drive Chico to daycare which means being home by 7am.  That just isn't happening.  So, I am showcasing my flexibility by going to swim at lunch when there is open swim again. Part of this flexibility has been born out of the changes in my life but also out of a conversation I had with a mentor a month or so ago.  During the conversation we discussed the fact that I was finished with the 3 Ironman races and how great my body was feeling again.  While we were talking she used the word obsessed and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was/am obsessed with getting the workouts in because part of me was scared about getting to the finish line, another part of me was concerned with getting their faster and faster and the last part of me said that if I don't check that box off at that time then I would never get the workout in.  In the past two months that mindset has changed and I think that will bring a better training cycle when I begin to train for Ironman #4 in 2014.

Flexibility And The Benefits To Changing On The Fly

As I mentioned above I like having my day set and having that consistency in place.  A simple look would be: wake-up, workout, day care, breakfast, work, lunch, work, dinner, family snack, TV, bed.  I could drill it down even further than that but that is now changing.  Here is what I have learned over the last two days with a more flexible schedule when it comes to training:
  1. Shocking The Body: I have learned in the past couple of months that my body got accustomed to the early workouts and it got comfortable.  Unfortunately, if you want to set PRs or go faster you have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  I notice that when I swim in the afternoon that I am exhausted immediately after and have to work hard to be productive.  This will happen in an Ironman race as well.  You will get tired and it will be then that you must focus even more to have a successful day.
  2. Keeping Balance With Family/Friends: Learning to work with a spouse who is an ultra-marathoner seemed to be easy, until she broker her ankle and working out was out of the question along with needed my help to do everyday things.  By pushing my workouts around I am able to help Karen with items around the house and still get my workout.  The box is still getting checked and that satisfies my needs, but I am more of a husband and so I am satisfying family needs.
  3. Staying Within Yourself: By this I mean that you are not doing more than you can and should be doing.  Typically if the schedule showed a 2 hour run well then I would get that 2 hour run in.  If it said 3 hour bike I would pedal for three hours and nothing shorter than that.  Now, there are times when that 3 hour ride that I want to do has to be cut short to 2h30m and that is fine.  My body appreciates the shortened time but it does not mean that I am in less shape.  I feel that I could get out there and compete at a 70.3 even though my training has not been at an intensity level it had been in the past.  This is not to say that if you have 5 and 6 hour bike rides scheduled that you cut them short to 3 hours.  You need those hours in the saddle to be ready for an Ironman but simultaneously be flexible and you will still get to the starting line in great shape to compete.
These three benefits of staying flexible are items to keep in mind when you hit that register button.  If you can remain flexible during your training then you will get to the starting line in great shape while also maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  I know that when I, finally, decide what my 2014 race schedule looks like that I will work with Maria and John of No Limits Endurance on setting up a training plan that fits into my lifestyle which will include flexibility.

Is Flexibility A Part Of Your Training Plan?

Published in Train
Wednesday, 10 July 2013 17:50

A Race Is Over And Done With. Now What?

[caption id="attachment_8530" align="alignright" width="276"]a race - triathlon - training - ironman The Now What Face?!?!
Source: The Frigault Team[/caption] 'A' race is what we train days and weeks and months for.  We sweat and bleed for this A race.  We pour over data from our power meter and Garmin watch.  We watch every last calorie until that late night head in the pantry binge that you discount because you rode the trainer for 2 hours that morning and have a 1 hour run the next day so those calories don't count.  Our whole sense of being is focused on that A race and once we toe the line (do you really toe a line in triathlon?) and the cannon goes off we swim, bike and run as hard as we can.  All of those hours of training are being put to good use right at that moment.  After you cross the finish line you race to the food tent and eat everything in sight.  Three chocolate chip cookies, 2 slices of pizza, a gallon of water, maybe some beer and then you sit around going over war stories with your buddies. You may race to your blog to type your blog post about the race.  You don't want to leave out any detail, like your pinkie toe rubbing against a rock in the 17th mile of the race and having to stop to remove that pesky little rock.  People need to know this stuff don't they?  Your race recap covers a week's worth of posts because you keep thinking of things and keep adding to it.  Finally Race Recap: The War And Peace version is done and the high-fives no longer are coming your way.  You longingly stare at your medal and you can't wait for the race photos to show up.  When they do you pour over them and remember every last moment of the race.  You decide to not spend money on the race pics because none of them makes you look like Chrissie Wellington or Pete Jacobs.  Fortunately for you there will be PLENTY of more opportunities to purchase these photos because you will be reminded monthly for the next two years that it is the last chance you have to buy said photos. When the pomp and circumstance dies down and your training becomes nothing what do you do then?  This is the situation I find myself in right now.  It has been nearly 2 months since I finished my 3rd Ironman and while I have been getting in regular swims, bikes and runs in there is something missing.  That competitive drive to be better today than I was yesterday isn't there because what am I training for?  For example, this week I jumped in the pool with the idea of swimming 1,500 yards with a structured set that included 2x400 negative split swims.  I barely got through the warm-up when I cut the 1,500 to 1,000 and instead of 2x400 it became 300 and 200 negative splits with a 100 yard cool down. I know that there is another Ironman in my future and most likely will be Ironman Texas 2014 but because that is close to a year away the fire that burns is more of a smolder than it is an inferno.  In order to keep that spark going I am literally inventing competitions with myself.  I am talking about stupid things.  Things that nobody in their right mind would think of and all because my A race took place in May and that leaves me the entire Spring, Summer and Fall to think about training in the winter for an early spring race.  Heaven forbid I decide not to race Ironman Texas and instead want to travel to Boulder in August or Florida in November.  My goodness may the world have mercy on Karen if that happens. Anyway, back to these ridiculous contests that I have created over the past month or so.  They are to the point that I am making them up on the fly and creating rules along the way.  Want to see what some of them are?  Here you go:

A Race Substitutions

  1. Run for 30 minutes with heart rate between 127 and 140.  Anytime out of that zone gets added onto the end in the form of walking. GASP! Walking.
  2. Riding my normal route on the weekend and having to get to the typically 30 minute mark in less than 30 minutes or have to plank for the amount of time difference when the ride is done.
  3. This week because we are moving has formed an almost necessary contest:  Breakfast for every meal for the week.  Really?  WTF?
  4. Seeing how many straight hours HGTV can be on the television with the sound on before I lose my mind. I call this mental strength training.
As you can see it is only going to be a matter of time before Karen loses her mind with me and these ridiculous contests but this is what happens when the A race comes and goes and there is an open void on your schedule.  I have plans to race 70.3 Redman and 70.3 Oilman later in the year but I haven't registered for either.  I do have the Hotter N' Hell 100 in late August that I will be riding with Jeff and Bob.  That right now is the fuel for my fire but truth be told it is a 100 mile supported ride that if I get tired or bored I can just stop and refuel with all the chocolate and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I can stuff in my face.  Now, there is a contest I should start!

Have You Had Your A Race Early In The Season? What Are You Doing To Combat The Open Void Left Behind?

Published in Train
[caption id="attachment_8563" align="alignright" width="322"]talent - tools - triathlon - training - performance Talent Comes From Other Items And Improves Your Tools Efficiency
Source: Amidzic Consulting[/caption] Talent is something that you cannot buy.  Talent is something that you work at.  Talent can never be taken away.  Talent shows up when stuff fails and stuff will fail.  In the past twenty-four hours I have had two Twitter conversations and one talk with my step-son about stuff being less than talent.  The conversations started with a contest I posted on the CTER Facebook page about Triathlete Magazine giving away a Trek Speed Concept. The idea that the world's fastest bike is what is needed to take you to the next level struck me in a way that prompted this post.  I have seen and passed a number of athletes on the course that have disc wheels, aero helmets, even Trek Speed Concepts or Specialized Shivs.  You see they had all the tools but they didn't have the talent to use those tools in the most efficient manner.  As a matter of fact at Rev3 Maine I was passed on the bike by a guy wearing flip-flops.  Yes, flip-flops.  He had clips bolted onto the bottoms of them but you know that flip-flops are not as aero as the shoes I spent hundreds on.  My point is that he had the talent and didn't need to wear all the fancy gizmos and gadgets. That day was an awakening of sorts.  I have a tri bike, an aero helmet, race wheels and all of that didn't help me to avoid being passed by flip-flop guy.  I knew then that I had to work harder than I had to that point to get faster.  When I started working with Maria and John we focused on the swim and bike.  These disciplines were my weak link and getting stronger at those would lead me to be better at the run.  As each day in the training cycle went by I noticed that my talent to swim and bike faster and more efficient started showing up.  It was no longer a need for swim buoys and paddles to swim 100y in less than 1:40.  My talent was getting me there. Riding a bike at speeds of 20 mph for a long time was starting to show up.  My talent was pushing those pedals and no aero helmet or race wheels were involved.  I was going faster at a more efficient way.  The light bulb started going off about my talent at the sport of triathlon was getting better and better.  This translated to better and more efficient runs.  I stopped worrying about buying this or that to help improve my performance.  I focused on talent and nutrition.  Getting in the calories, carbs and protein would further improve my talent and so the focus was less on things and more on talent. In the past two months I have not done any organized training.  I have been going out for swims, bikes and runs as time dictates.  With no races on the schedule the freedom to do what I want has been a blessing, but also a curse.  I need the organization of a training schedule to help me keep my days organized but along the way what I have noticed is that I am getting faster even though the weather is getting hotter.  Last year in the summer I would run a 9:30-10:00/mi pace and ride at a 16-17mph pace.  Those paces transferred to 8:30-9:00/mi and 17-18mph in the cooler weather.  Today I am running sub 9:00/mi paces and riding at nearly 19mph and none of these involve any special tools but instead pure talent.  Oh, and for swimming?  I have been going on open water swims with friends on Friday mornings and the paces per 100 yards compare to those that are in the pool.  The confidence in my talent is starting to sky-rocket and making me itch to get back to structured training for a race. I am not saying that you shouldn't get certain tools like a tri bike or an aero helmet or race wheels as I have those items and those were some of the first I purchased. They do provide you with a level of confidence that can take you places.  At the same time don't be jealous because the athlete in transition next to you is racking a Slice, P5, Shiv or Speed Concept because a pretty bike does not mean faster it just means they spent more money.  When talking with new triathletes I always profess to them that they need to fall in love with the sport and find their talent before spending thousands of dollars on the latest bike, sneakers or wetsuit.

Do You Spend More Time Working On Your Talent Or Spending On Tools?

Published in Train
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