The Urban Triathlete

By Debbie
September 8, 2014 on 3:34 pm | In Community, Life at TriSports.com, Random Musings, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Anthony Bagnetto. Pay attention all you city-folk! Check out Anthony’s blog or follow him on Twitter – anthonybagnetto.

Being a triathlete is difficult.  Let’s face it, it’s a huge reason we all do it. ‘Easy’ bores us, only one discipline bores us (what, no transitions!?). Early mornings, inclement weather, technical and nutritional failures are all par for our course. But there is yet another subset of us who face an additional challenge in preparing for races which, time wise, is 95% of being a triathlete.

I’m speaking of us inner city dwellers. No, not the townhouse owners on the city’s edge with driveways and parking but us brave-hearted souls who dream of a second bedroom so we can not have bikes hanging precariously from the wall over our beds as we sleep. The barriers we face on top of the difficulties inherent in our endeavors require a lot of creativity and close intimacy with repetition.

The concrete jungle

I live in the heart of New York City, and happily, there is a strong, thriving triathlete community here with no fewer than 8 solid Tri teams, organizations, and countless cycling and running teams. The community is strong, the will is there–the space isn’t. We are up against each other every morning, runners darting out into cyclists, cyclists swerving into running paths. And, of course, the tens of thousands of tourists that descend, making going fast dangerous and nearly impossible.

This all happens on a 6 mile circle between the hours of 5-7:30am every weekday morning in our training ground, THE ONLY training ground, Central Park. OK, that’s not totally true. There are several spacious parks in the other boroughs, but if you’re centrally located, the commuting time might take longer than your workout time.

Central Park - triathlete training grounds

I’ve broken down challenges and clever ways we city-folk create to overcome them by discipline.

Swimming:

Being in the northeast and surrounded by concrete, the idea of an outdoor 8-lane Olympic sized pool is a pipe dream. Access to a 25 yard or a 25 or 50 meter pool is supremely hard, or at least very expensive, as they come with mandatory gyms fees attached (by my count, there are 3 Olympic lane swimming pools in Manhattan, none of them easy to reach). One way triathletes get around this is through those tri teams that we belong to. They often have relationships with different facilities, so if you are going to do mostly group workouts, you are allowed to use the pool with the group as part of your membership. Some private triathlon coaches, like myself, have these relationships, as well, and can get you in for private lessons.

Some are lucky/rich enough to have a pool in their doorman building, and I’ve had clients in a lot of them. While this sounds awesome, it really isn’t. I haven’t found one yet that’s actually 25 yards long. So being good at both math and flip turns is essential.

As for open water practice, you can head way out to one of the Brooklyn beaches and brave the waves but as for anywhere else, as they say there, “fuggedaboutit”

Biking:

Here in Manhattan there are 3 options, and only 2 of them really useful for any kind of speed work. The West Side Highway has a very nice bike/running path but therein lies the problem. Runners, walkers and aerobar’d speedster triathletes competing for space within 5 feet of each other isn’t ideal for anything other than slow recovery rides. Which leaves that 6 mile loop of Central Park I mentioned and that’s only useful during non-tourist hours before 8:30am. If you are a long course triathlete, it’s off to Jersey, along the well-ridden 9W route. While this option is great (wide shoulders, frequent cyclist-friendly coffee shops and bathrooms) it can become mind-numbingly repetitive. Plus, depending on where you live in NYC, the commute to get out over the George Washington bridge (read: warmup) can be over a half hour each way.

Want to really bike? Then get out of town!

There are a handful of growing indoor cycling studios with computrainers and flatscreens that welcome both teams and individuals for different workouts, and they become very popular in the winter offseason. Even these are cramped, though, and few have shower or changing facilities.

Running:

This is really where my city (or really any other city) shines for triathletes as it is much easier to lace up some shoes and be running just outside your door in only minutes. On foot there is no need to stick to the boring 6 mile drive in Central Park since you can veer onto any number of the hundreds of trails that crisscross the many iconic acres. Running with traffic can be challenging, but it’s a skill easily learned and, unless you are doing speed work, you can generally work the traffic lights so that there is minimal stopping. The people-watching is unrivaled and, with each neighborhood sometimes seeming like a separate country, boredom is never an issue.

Endless possibilities for run training

No matter which leg of a triathlon you are training for, in a city it’s difficult to escape the glass, steel and concrete bearing down on you every day. So when you are at those races in the country and you see a few of us looking up at the clear wide open sky in astonishment, just remember, this is our escape both figuratively and literally. We won’t let it slow us down, though, we just take it in faster.

Life (and Training) on the Road

By Debbie
August 28, 2014 on 11:14 am | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Don Quinn. He’s the guy who rolls up to the race in the RV, and you’re jealous because he gets to sleep in later than you. Follow Don’s blog or on Twitter – donpquinn3.

“It must be tough to train while traveling all the time.” I hear that a lot. You see, this family of six just happens to live in an RV, and travel the country full-time. Going on four years now. I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty sweet way to live! It can be very challenging, however, to commit to a training plan while going from point A to point B. Finding places to swim is especially difficult, but we do get to run and bike in some amazing places.

So, how can you get an effective workout while juggling the different needs of your spouse and kids, whether you’re on the road or not? I’ll give you some examples of what works for us, and you may find they work for your family, or training group.

The Yo-Yo Run

After a warm-up together, we each run at our own pace. When the lead runners reach the next trail intersection (or sign, or really any predetermined distance or time) they “turn-n-burn,” high-tailing  it to the back of the pack, while exchanging fives and words of encouragement with fellow runners, naturally. Then, after a brief recovery, regular pace is resumed until the next turnaround point. This pattern continues until the end of the run. We start together and finish together, and in the middle we all do our own thing.

The Yo-Yo allows each runner to reach his or her own distance and speed goals, while simultaneously enjoying some of that vital “alone with my thoughts” time so many of us crave while running. As a husband and father, it provides some peace of mind knowing I will have regular check-ins with the family. The level of peace of mind is directly proportional to the number of man-eating predators roaming the woods. There are times when the predators are just too numerous, so we stick to the family hike and call it cross-training.

The Yo-Yo can also be applied to a family hike, with some members running ahead while the hikers (aka “mules” because they carry the extra supplies) keep a steady pace. And on a point-to-point hike, one of us will drop the others at the trailhead, drive to the other end and start running to meet up with the rest of the group, and then the Yo-Yo begins.

The Yo-Yo can also be done on the bike, but the turnarounds can be a bit more dangerous on busy roads, so be careful.

The Yo-Yo Run

The Playground (PG) Run

Some of our favorite workouts involve playgrounds. When there are multiple PGs within our running distance, we stop at each one for a variety of exercises, or hit the same one multiple times. Ever since our kids were in backpacks and strollers, I’ve scanned playground equipment for exercise possibilities; now I’m rewarded with seeing my kids do the same thing: “Hey Dad, that looks like a good spot for pullups.”

A fan favorite is the “Spartan Around.” We start at one end of the equipment and have to climb all the way around the absolute outside and back to the start without falling in the “lava” (touching the ground). It’s an excellent full-body workout for everyone, and you’ll never hear the kids ask if we’re done yet. Plus, you’ll be ready for your next obstacle race, or whatever life throws at you. Give it a try, whether you have kids or not, and you’ll be hooked.

Before or after your near-death lava experience, find a convenient pull-up spot and get ready for a fun challenge. This can be done individually, as a single team, or as teams going head-to-head. We’ll pick a goal, say, 100 pull-ups total for the six of us. Then, we each go to failure one at a time in quick succession until we reach our team goal. The one goal for the whole team enables each person to do what he or she feels comfortable with, without the pressure of direct competition with others.

And now, scan the equipment to discover what else is possible. Prove to your kids that you do actually have a creative bone in your body. Really, anything involving body weight and grip strength will serve you well. Think outside the box. Speaking of which, I’m sure you’ll find a spot for box jumps. How about split box runs? Start with one foot on top of the bench or box (the other on the ground) and quickly switch feet like you’re running up stairs, pumping your arms in time. It won’t take much to get your heart rate up.

Some other exercises to consider: dips; rows; push-ups (of course, but try a variety of hand placements); Bulgarian split-squats; and ab curl-ups. For the ab curl-ups, grab the set of rings and get inverted (throw in some upside-down pull-ups, while you’re at it), then curl back down with your knees tucked to your chest as slowly as you can. Feel that? Oh yeah! Now do five more.

Amazing what you can do with playground equipment!

Walmart (aka “Make Do With What You Have”)

That’s right. As full-time RVers we occasionally stay overnight in Walmart parking lots, and other odd spots. With the right attitude, it can be a fun adventure, and you can still get a workout. A recent stay at a Walmart in Minnesota had us doing burpees and then sprinting up and down a hill. A little friendly competition. A couple days later (at another Walmart), we chose a plyo workout that included: power skips, for height and then distance; two-footed hops, again, for height and then distance; and multi-directional “jops” (jump off two feet onto one, and back, in four directions).

And we have a full set of resistance bands that sees regular use; a great way to keep the swimming muscles in shape when you can’t get to a pool. When all else fails, we have our “Hundreds,” so called because they started as four sets of twenty-five repetitions of squats, push-ups, and ab work. Any number of exercises can be substituted, such as, step-back lunges, or one-legged squats and deadlifts. And rotating a variety of exercises will help keep it fresh. Most times, we work one side of the body at a time, forcing us to engage the core to balance.

Resistance bands, benches and RVs, oh my!

The bottom line: Whether you travel a lot, have kids or not, life tends to throw speed bumps and potholes at all of us along the way. Stay flexible in your training, and you will weather the bumps more easily. Do what you can, when you can, and don’t sweat the rest. And if your training includes a spouse, kids, or anyone else really, always try to stay positive, supportive, and considerate. It’s a fine line between motivating and discouraging. With a little creativity, you can get a decent workout anywhere and anytime.

The Best Advice I’ve Ever Received…

By Debbie
March 17, 2014 on 2:32 pm | In Athlete Profile, Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Scott Bradley, reminding all of us why we started our endurance sports habits in the first place. Check out Scott’s blog and follow him on Twitter – scottbradley11.

Trying to be a competitive triathlete is not easy. It requires a pretty large commitment to be putting your name towards the top of the results sheet race after race. There are countless hours spent training, sleeping, eating, reading about the newest training techniques and equipment, studying competitors and everything else we spend time on. If you let it, the whole thing can become one big grind.

I couldn’t say for sure, but it’s highly unlikely that when anyone started multisport they said, “I want to get involved in a sport that will take time away from my family and friends, cost me thousands of dollars in equipment and race fees (not to mention the larger than normal grocery bills), and beat the crap out of my body day after day so I’m exhausted almost all the time. That sounds fun.”  It’s much more likely that people said something like, “I want to challenge myself to be the healthiest, fittest person I can possibly be” or “that looks like it would be a lot of fun,” which leads me to the best advice I’ve ever received as a triathlete: Make sure it’s still fun.

When I started triathlon I had no clue what I was doing. My first season was nothing short of a disaster and if I hadn’t just purchased a really expensive bike toward the end of it, I would have thrown in the towel. I kept at it, however, and was fortunate enough to have a colleague who had been doing this stuff for years, and had been tearing up courses since way back when I was still wearing pull-ups, take me under his wing. He gave me training structure and taught me about how to prepare for races properly. We rode and ran together all the time, often with a bunch of his other friends who were also veterans of the sport.

Sharing the fun with family & friends

When it was time for a big ride, there were often interesting destinations. Usually it was some sort of annual trip for these guys, but to me these were all new experiences. One day we were riding to the Maple Tree Inn, which was about a 75 mile round trip ride with lots of climbing on an annual ride they called “The Easter Bunny Ride” because it always happened in late March or early April when the restaurant was open, which is only for about eight weeks a year (as a side note, this place has the best buckwheat pancakes and syrup anywhere and I highly recommend anyone in upstate New York going if you’ve never been). I was riding next to Carl and he said “Make sure this is always fun. If it stops being fun, don’t do it anymore.” That’s why they had all these destinations for rides and took so many crazy trips. It made it fun and every year they would go back to places together and enjoy each others’ company and share memories.

There are days when we have to rise early to train before work or winter months where we have to grind out hours on the trainer in order to maximize our potential (we don’t all live in sunny Tucson!). Every session isn’t going to be about fun, but if none of them are, what’s the point? I’ve found ways to make the 5am pool sessions fun by swimming with a great group of people (and I don’t even really like swimming to begin with). In the winter, a few friends will bring their bikes over and we will set up shop in my basement to watch movies while we grind away on the trainers.

Group Trainer Session

A little creativity and a few friends can make almost any session more enjoyable. It is a piece of advice I will never forget and hopefully I can continue to have fun with this sport until I’m old and gray so I can share it with some up and coming triathlete who’s just getting into it. If I do, it’ll probably be the best advice I ever give, too.

Exercise as Medicine – Fighting Arthritis with Triathlon

By Debbie
February 24, 2014 on 4:56 pm | In Athlete Profile, Charity, Community, Giving Back | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Helgi Spencer Olafson, Amateur Triathlete and Arthritis Warrior with Ankylosing Spondylitis. Check out Helgi’s website, join his Race For a Cure team, donate and follow him on Twitter – @HelgiOlafson.

I often ask myself… “why do I keep adding more and more to my plate?”…and then I think to myself, “if only there were more hours in a day… yeah, that would be awesome!”

But this is reality!!

The earth will always turn at a pace which conducts time.  We have no control over time.  What we DO have is control over how we spend that time.  YOU have the power of CHOICE.

Is it selfish to take the time to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Or is it something that can be used as an example for others to follow with the hopes of getting this world out of the rut that we are in where everyone is searching for the magic pill?

The "Magic Pill"

Here is the bottom line:  EVERYONE suffers from hardship and challenges at one point or another in their lives.  Some people have it easy and some don’t.  It is likely that each of us can’t know exactly how it feels to be in another person’s shoes.  We are genetically different from one another and it’s just not the way genealogy works.

What is important is that we continue to use the lessons from our personal experiences and education, as well as the history recorded by countless visionaries over the many centuries that humans have roamed this earth.  Believe it or not, “Visionaries” are people just like you and me.  I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, and I AM a visionary for many.  For them I carry a torch, which also stays lit in my heart.  I will lead the way, while learning, teaching, growing, and respecting the knowledge that history and experience has provided.

Harness the thoughts that you produce in your mind.  They can move mountains!

Triathlon as Medicine for #Arthritis

Since competing as a runner for a relay team in my first ever triathlon, which was the 2012 Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic distance triathlon, I was hooked.  I knew that this was the answer.  I was tired of living my days with a back, bones, and joints that hurt because I wasn’t taking the best possible care of myself.  “But I have autoimmune arthritis, and it makes it hard for me!”  No, Helgi!! THAT is even MORE the reason why you should be held accountable for your health.  No more giving the jet plane regular unleaded for fuel. It was time to figure out how to manage my arthritis, and help others by leading the way.

I found that if I maintain a good combination of swimming, biking and running, as well as functional strength, core work, and a proper stretching routine to maintain flexibility, I am currently almost invulnerable, aside from the common daily creaks and cracks, to the autoimmune disease that may eventually cause my spine, hips and other joints to fuse together.  This fusion, or ankylosis, is caused by severe inflammation and pain.  The autoimmune arthritis I have is called Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS.  40% of the world’s population will suffer from one or more of the over 200 types of arthritis at least once in their lifetime.

I Have Ankylosing Spondylitis

Triathlon is great for arthritis!  I am not a Rhuematologist, or even a doctor, but I am my own maker, and I know that triathlon training works for me.  It can also work for others, but those of us who have arthritis know that our bodies and bones don’t really react very well to sudden changes.  This is why it is important to ease into triathlon and be sure to use each discipline regularly to improve overall fitness and core strength, while maintaining a proper plan with the help of a coach that understands your personal limitations from arthritis.  A strong core helps maintain the integrity of my joints.

Of course it hurts!  I AM human…but I think I am on to something here.

I put my music on and run the trails of the lava fields, valley-laden coastline, or the rain forests of Hawai’i.  Give me a day cycling the hills in the Pacific Northwest, or the flats of Florida.  There is nothing like jumping into the water for a training swim at the pier in Kailua Kona, which also happens to be the start-line for the Ironman World Championship event that takes place each year to crown the best Ironman  triathletes in the world.

Talk about motivation all around me.  Here is the deal.  There is no “Magic Pill.”  There may never be a “Cure.”  What does exist is #Hope.  Raising awareness by word of mouth and through networking is a key element in reaching the extremely large number of arthritis patients, doctors and interested parties all over the world.

Spreading the word

If you support arthritis and exercise as medicine, and you would like to help this cause, please support our mission and consider a donation. Perhaps you would like to join our team and race with us in support of arthritis research and programs to help people with arthritis?  All levels welcome! You can learn more about our team here, and learn more about me here.

TriSports.com supports the Helgi Olafson Foundation…use coupon code HOF14 to donate 15% of your purchase directly to the Helgi Olafson Foundation. Code cannot be combined with any other offers. Sale items and items designated as non-discountable will not be included.

Who are YOU Tri-ing for?

By Debbie
January 21, 2014 on 4:03 pm | In CAF, Charity, Community, Giving Back, Random Musings | No Comments

Races use to be just that…races. But training for races is a lot of hard work, and quite some time back, some one (not sure when, not sure who) came up with the idea that as long as people are training, why not train for a cause? In my mind, Team-in-Training was the one that really put this kind of racing on the map and, since it was founded in 1988, they and untold other charities have benefited from people racing for dollars. What has been amazing are the people from all walks of life who are brought together for a cause, people who may never have even run a 5K, let alone a marathon; never done a sprint triathlon, let alone an Ironman, yet they are willing to toe the line to raise money for research to beat down the disease that took their brother, their mother, their daughter, their best friend. The causes are numerous, but the goal the same…raise as much as possible for the cause that speaks to you.

The popularity of racing for a cause has skyrocketed

I have done this before, raising money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an organization that does amazing things for people with disabilities – they give them the freedom to get out and participate in athletics by providing prosthetics, training, travel and more. I did my first event with them in 2003 and have participated most years since then (a fire in SD, a couple of pregnancies and our store grand opening had me miss a few), and I don’t even know at this point how much money we’ve raised for them doing their San Diego Triathlon Challenge, Million Dollar Challenge and Race For a Reason over the years. I’ve made great friends and memories to last a lifetime!  I’ll always continue to race for CAF because I truly believe in what they do, and the people who run it are amazing!

Top Corporate Challenge fundraisers for CAF back in 2004

We have become involved with another amazing organization, this one local to our Tucson community, called Tu Nidito (means “Your Little Nest”).  Over 19 years ago, some incredible people saw a hole in the support system for children who had been diagnosed with a serious medical condition (and the adults who care for them) or who had suffered the loss of a loved one, and so they created Tu Nidito to fill that hole. Today, Tu Nidito serves around 900 children and their families, providing ongoing support for grieving children, and helping families who have a seriously ill child all the way from diagnosis to either recovery or the bleak alternative. Just visiting and touring the facility brings tears to my eyes. The staff there is so strong to face these families and the losses they suffer on a daily basis. They do all of this at absolutely no cost to the families, and so fundraising is super important for them. They have had their “Ride for a Child” program for years, pairing a cyclist competing in El Tour de Tucson with a child. The cyclist rides for that child and raises funds for Tu Nidito.  This year, they are launching their “Tri for a Child” program, and have partnered with us to try to help get the word out. They have spots for sold out IRONMAN Boulder, as well as the challenging IRONMAN Lake Tahoe. Sure, you could go get an entry for Tahoe at regular price, but by racing for Tu Nidito, you’ll get so much more, and I’m not talking about the tangibles, though those are pretty cool (ever heard of Jimmy Riccitello? He’ll be your coach). You don’t need to be a local Tucsonan to believe in what they do, so check it out, and consider racing for them…there are many children who will be very glad that you did!

Projects at Tu Nidito

The Hardest Race Ever Run

By Debbie
December 13, 2013 on 12:06 pm | In Charity, Community | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Jake Greenwood. As we approach the anniversary of this very tragic event, we thought Jake’s blog (written earlier this year) was the perfect one to share. We all hope that the people of Sandy Hook are finding joy this holiday season in the memories of those lost to them. Follow Jake on Twitter – gwoodjcg.

This blog is not about Leadville or Kona.  This blog is about a 5K.  That’s right, 3.1 miles.  Most of you wouldn’t even enter a 5K race.  Recently I participated in a 5K that was far more grueling than any other endurance event I’ve encountered in my life.

I live a mere 12 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School and have seen my community and my schools changed forever.  The innocence my children once had hopping on the school bus each morning has been stripped from them.  In return we have been given fear, frustration, and a deep, deep hole in our souls.

On March 23rd I participated in the Sandy Hook Run for the Families in Hartford, Connecticut.  Along with 12,000 other participants, I ran the 3.1-mile loop through Bushnell Park to raise money for the families.

Sandy Hook Run for the Families

Again, most of you wouldn’t even enter a 5K race.  Your countless hours of training have fine-tuned your bodies to view a 5K as a warm up to the next 20 miles you’ll run.  But make no mistake; this was a grueling 3.1 miles.  Far more grueling than the hours you will spend on the road this weekend.

Prior to the run, 26 bells were rung one at a time to symbolize the lost lives of the students and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The sound of 12,000 silent people in the heart of one of the largest metropolitan cities in the U.S. was deafening.  As we wound through the course not a word was uttered.  All that could be heard was heavy breathing and the whimpers of adults fighting back tears.

With a heavy heart, I proudly pushed my 4 year old daughter and 1 year old daughter in the stroller while holding my 8 year old son’s hand through the course.  No course record was to be set.  No medals were given out.  No post race barbeques were held.  No tales of trials and triumph were shared.  The crowd simply ran the course and slowly, sadly made their way back to their cars and drove home.

Family run

When I wake up early and fill my water bottles for a long day of biking and running, I often think of that morning.  I can still see the pain in so many of the adult’s eyes and the lack of understanding in my children’s faces.  The pain I will feel as I embark on hour 4 in the tri-position is no match for the pain in all of our hearts over the recent tragic events of Sandy Hook and now Boston.

The Sandy Hook Run for the Families was not about running.  It was about life: honoring the memory of precious lives lost through tragedy and celebrating the gift of life.  It was about uniting in hope for the future.

Hope

Live.  That is what we must do.  Embrace new challenges.  Push your body beyond its limits. Spoil your family.  Because, in the end, life is finite and today will too soon be yesterday.

A Step at a Time

By Debbie
December 3, 2013 on 4:22 pm | In Charity, Community, Giving Back | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Polly Jansen. Although this took place earlier this year, we thought it a good one to share during this time of thanks and giving. Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter – pjansen!

As a member of an athletic community, I have learned from some amazingly gifted people, but the thing I appreciate most in my friends and fellow competitors is their eager willingness to give back to the sport.  One such example recently popped up when I attended a training class for my new job.  As participants, we were asked to introduce and tell something about ourselves.  One of my new colleagues, Awolu, shared how he had come from a war-torn area of Ghana and never owned a pair of sneakers until he graduated from high school because his village didn’t have access to them.  Awolu went on to explain that he has been in the United States for nine years and periodically purchases used sneakers to ship back to his village in Ghana.  He is taking a trip there to work with a middle school in July and plans to send a shipment of shoes at the end of June.

Students in Ghana

Intrigued, I had to meet him afterwards.  “Awolu,” I said, “do you really PURCHASE the used sneakers?”  He assured me that he did, but confirmed that he would also take donations.  I said, “Don’t purchase anymore shoes right now.  You will have your whole shipment by mid-June!”

That evening I messaged Dan Gordon, founder of the Wissahickon Wanderers, a trail running club in Philadelphia that I have been a part of since 2004, and pitched the idea of collecting shoe donations from club members.  We decided that since the Wanderers are holding informal trail races each Thursday in May and also helping to put on the Wissahickon Trail Classic 10k on June 8, that we would encourage the runners and volunteers to bring their used shoes to go to the students in Ghana.

This past Thursday we collected our first round of donations and will continue to do so through June 8.  I really appreciate the support so far from the athletes in my community and it’s refreshing to see everyone come together when there is a need and they have the capacity to help.  It seems like such a small thing because everyone has used running shoes laying around, and we are so happy to be able to share something of ourselves that we often take for granted.  I thank Awolu for this opportunity and hope the students feel renewed energy as they lace up these kicks and put their best feet forward!

First box of donations

Slow Down and Try Some Yoga!

By Debbie
October 7, 2013 on 10:57 am | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Monica Pagels, who wrote this much earlier this season and who has, now, completed that first Ironman she mentions. As the off-season begins for many, we thought this a fitting blog to get you strong during the winter months.

Ommmm….. yes, we’ve all heard it, the ever popular meditation sounds that so often accompany a just as stimulating yoga class. Runners and triathletes alike have heard it for years, “try yoga, it will help with your injuries.”  But most of us who thrive on the adrenaline rush of zipping through the trails in our newest and coolest trail shoes, or racing down a hill in our aerobars hoping to hit a new high speed, cringe at the thought of placing our feet (or our head or our hands, or all 3 at once) on the mat and inhaling and exhaling to a count of 8! While the benefits are well documented: stress relief, improved mood and well being, improved flexibility, improved digestion, improved sleep… the list goes on and on… for some reason, it is still tough to convince us cardio-junkies to forgo a one hour brick workout where our legs will feel like lead for an hour of gentle relaxation and meditation.  We are conditioned to believe that in order to set a new PR or achieve that highly sought after age group place, we must push harder, put in more hours, do more hill work or add speed work.  While there is no compromise for hard work (you get what you put in), it is time to re-condition our minds when it comes to how we think of yoga.  What if we had the mindset that the more yoga we practiced, the better we could bike, or the faster we could swim? Well, fellow tri-geeks, it’s true! Yoga really can make you into a “warrior.”  I was the first to stake my claim against it, I thought, “Who has time for one more activity?” And who wants to sit around with their legs twisted like a pretzel becoming one with the universe? That is, until I tried it!

Looks easy, but it's not!

Tired of the long winter full of indoor bike rides and treadmill runs, I headed to the group fitness studio for a Yoga Fusion class. This sounded at least a little more fitness based and not as meditative. To my surprise, I struggled through most of the class! I am an 8 time 70.3 veteran, run more marathons than I care to count, and I am training for my first full Ironman. I had been putting in about 7-8 hours a week of base training and thought the yoga class might be a nice stretching break for my sore, tired muscles. Instead, I found myself in plank, pigeon and half moon, shaking to hold the poses.  Shocked at my lack of apparent strength and balance, I began attending 2 yoga classes a week.  Within 2 weeks I noticed remarkable improvements and had to admit to its benefits. As my IM training progressed, I entered a 70.3. It was very early in the season when you come from Michigan and have only had a month of outdoor riding. To add to that, the bike course was the hilliest and toughest of any I have done.

St George bike elevation...ouch!

As I started on the course and climbed the hills, I felt very strong and quickly passed people. Hill after hill, the same result, I was strong and pushed with ease to the top of them. My bike split was faster than on most courses, despite its difficulty.  What’s more, my legs recovered quickly after the ride and my run (hills, again) split was consistent with my others. Yoga has not only improved my strength and balance, which no doubt helped me climb those hills, it has given me a sense of control over my body.  It has taught me how to breathe deep and remain calm amidst chaos.  Now, triathletes, hear me when I say: this is worth far more than it sounds! In mile 90 out of 112, when your neck and shoulders ache and your legs are burning, if you can put your mind into that place where you feel calm and in control, your focus shifts from the here and now (“I still have to run 26.2 miles..”) to a place where you have a greater awareness of just you moving through space, in a world much bigger than just you pedaling on a bike.  If that is what it takes to get you to T2, and ultimately, the finish line, isn’t it worth considering?

Yoga teaches you to become aware of your surroundings and to feel weightless as if you were part of those surroundings.  This is achieved by challenging yourself to complete the strength and balance poses, breathing through them, and accomplishing a little more with each session. Yoga practice can mean different things to different people. For me, it was at first the humbling experience of inadequacy that convinced me to continue, but eventually the benefits carried over into my first passion, triathlon. Once I began to feel the strength and control of my body, and my race times improved, I knew yoga was for me.  While I may never feel the meditative power many achieve from yoga practice, knowing I am stronger and more aware of my body I will continue to practice. I urge all of you cardio-junkies that can’t get enough of the wind whipping past your face and feel the need to be in your target heart rate zone for hours at a time, give yoga a try and see how it can improve all aspects of your life, not just your athletic performance.

Learn more about the benefits, and different types of yoga.

Beauty and balance

Triathlon Actually Began Where?

By Debbie
September 18, 2013 on 1:01 pm | In Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | 1 Comment

This fun blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Scott Perrine, who is about to compete at the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe.

All history ties the roots of Triathlon back to San Diego, CA in the early 1970s, but after spending the last two years in the San Francisco Bay, and on Alcatraz Island completing some concrete restoration work, I believe Triathlon may actually have its roots tied to Alcatraz.  There is even a Triathlon named Escape from Alcatraz which I competed in this year.

Escape from Alcatraz triathlon

Not possible you say?  A simple look at the history of Alcatraz and the attempted escape of John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, Frank Morris and Allen West shows many similarities to Triathlon and multi sport.  While a prison escape is obviously not a sport, there is a lot of preparation and dedication required for both, even some failed attempts along the way.

Start with the preparation.  John, Clarence, Frank and Allen began their planning and preparation in September of 1961, eight months before their attempted escape.  They spent every minute allowable planning and working towards their escape.  Many of us that race long course competition dedicate eight months or more to training.  We focus and plan for the event, training for the worst and hoping for the best.  We spend countless hours focused on that specific event, sacrificing time with friends and family, sleep, etc.

They created tools to chip away at the concrete in their cells; we continually develop new “aero” equipment to make us go faster.  They designed wetsuits utilizing raincoats to survive the swim through the San Francisco Bay; we continually develop wetsuits utilizing the latest technologies in neoprene to get us through the water faster.

The first leg of the escape "triathlon"?

The night of their escape they crawled through the openings they dug in their cells, climbed up through the service corridor to the roof and out to the Northeastern side of the Island and jumped into the water, that is a lot to go through just to go jump in the water.  At the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, you get up early in the morning and head to the race site, set up your transition, get onto a crowded bus and ride over to the ferry, crowd onto the ferry and head over to the Island, then everyone jumps off the ferry and off you go.  Adrenaline is racing as you jump off the boat, imagine what is was like for the guys that night in 1962.

They jumped into the water in the darkness of night during the incoming tide, fighting the currents and the cold.  Some of their belongings were found washed up on the Shore of Angel Island the next morning.  We jumped into the water during the early hours of the morning sunrise with an outgoing tide, had to cross three different current flows (as well as fight all the other competitors) and a majority of us swam (some washed up) onto the Shore in front of the St Francis Yacht Club.

The image of freedom

A few other similarities:

  1. Allen West was unable to fit through the hole he had dug into the wall of his cell and never made it out to meet up with the other three.  The first DNS (Did Not Start)?
  2. The other three were never found.  The first DNF… we will never know?
  3. The FBI closed their case against the three 17 years after they escaped.  In Ironman competition they close the finish line after 17 hours?

While the original Escape from Alcatraz was not a triathlon in any true sense of the meaning and I have taken some great liberties tying them together, it is fun to compare true history to activities we enjoy in our daily lives.  What triathlons have you done where you can intertwine history with the event in this type of manner?  Give it a try and see how creative you can be…. It will definitely help you get through some of those “dark holes” we sometimes go through during our training and racing!

Head Games

By Debbie
September 11, 2013 on 9:37 am | In Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | 3 Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Nicole Ramsbey. Check out her blog at www.nicoleramsbey.com and follow her on Twitter – nicoleramsbey.

I raced a sprint tri the other weekend and was not in peak form to say the least.  I managed to perform, and perform not too badly, which led me to thinking about a few things.  One of the things I started thinking about was how much of triathlon is physical fitness and how much is mental fitness? At this point in the season when you may be approaching your ‘A’ race, now’s the time to figure it out.

Finished, and Done

I guess my first thought was, how many people, when they reach a tough moment, give in to the negative Nancy talk?  I hit many negative points throughout racing, but rarely do I “give in” to those thoughts.  Say you are coming up on a big hill during a sprint tri, you’re maxing out your heart rate and you get halfway up…what’s the first thing that you typically hear in your head?   Is it, “I can’t do this anymore, I have to walk”?  If that’s a typical thought process for you, how do you respond to it?

If you respond by giving up the race in your mind and walking, then I’d have to say your mental toughness might need a swift kick in the @**.  I may get this thought once in a while, but I immediately counter it with a positive thought.  During the sprint tri, I had my own mental battle, but I won.  Every time a negative thought comes to mind, I always attempt to counter it with a positive.  Last weekend when I hit the hill, I had to remind myself that I can do anything for a mile.  My responses are almost automatic now, and if yours aren’t they will get to be that way if you continually work at it.

I’d say mental toughness is at least half of triathlon…if you can’t handle the mental stuff then the fitness won’t matter.  Even though you may not be physically fit, if you are mentally fit going into a race, you can still do well.   Imagine the day that you are physically AND mentally fit…you can OWN that day like no other.  Don’t short change yourself, and remember it’s not always about how many miles you’ve logged.

Race with a Smile

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