Things I Found Out Being a First Time Mom

By Debbie
December 16, 2014 on 4:28 pm | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team Athlete Hayley Benson. Think you have to give up your triathlon lifestyle because you are starting a family? Think again! Follow Hayley’s blog.

Pregnancy:

No matter what kind of shape you are in, or what kind of athlete you are, or how strong willed you, are your body and pregnancy will have its own ideas.  I was quite convinced that I would run throughout my pregnancy. We lived so close to the hospital that I was even convinced that I would jog the 1.5 miles to the delivery room when labor arrived.  How naïve was I!  I am one of those annoying people who actually likes running and could run a sub-6 minute mile even after months of not running, so I thought for sure I would be running through my pregnancy.  This just wasn’t the case. I managed a little bit in the early stages, but due to the Arizona heat, the bowling ball in my stomach and the nausea, I just couldn’t do it at all after 28 weeks.

Doing flip turns in the pool during pregnancy will not harm your baby.

No amount of activity, swimming, hiking, running, whatever you are able to do during pregnancy, will induce labor. When it’s time, it’s time, there’s no changing it. I was taking long hikes, swimming 1000s of yards and my baby was still late.

Pregnant and active!

After delivery:

I’m sorry to say, but you will pee yourself while running the first few times after delivery. Things are a little stretched out and traumatized down there, but this is a TRANSIENT thing and it does go away.

You will get your fitness back far quicker than you ever expected. You will not believe this, but I’m writing it anyway because it is true.  I understand why you don’t believe it, you are bloated, beyond tired, still on the heavy side even after dumping out the actual baby, but you do get your fitness back fast. The body is remarkable at recovery.

Getting out with baby...the new training methods!

The first few months of babyhood:

Every new Mom athlete needs to have an espresso machine and a treadmill.  You will be sleeping A LOT less and you will need caffeine.  You will need to take advantage of when baby sleeps to get some training done, so buy a decent treadmill…you are going to use it a lot. You don’t have to get a new one, there are some great deals on Craigslist.

Get back on the bandwagon with racing, that first race is always going to be nerve-wracking, but when it comes down to it, it’s an accomplishment in itself just to be on the starting line when you are trying to care for a young baby.  I can attest that even if you can’t breast feed your baby right before the start of a 10km race, your baby will not starve during the time it takes you to complete the race, no matter how slow you are.  I remember being quite convinced that my baby would starve while I did my first 10km post delivery. Hey, I was sleep deprived and rational thought was non-existent.  Triathlons generally take longer than running races, so I would advise either breast feeding or pumping before the race, especially if your Tri top is very tight fitting because you will not be able to get it on without pumping first!

Still getting medals post-pregnancy!

You will have to train tired…if you waited to train until you weren’t tired you would never get any training done.  You can tolerate more sleep deprivation than you think you can, and don’t listen to the “babies sleep through the night at x weeks/months old, at x weight, at x developmental stage,” your baby will sleep through the night whenever he or she feels like it. In my case I had to wait 9 months!

The times when you could ride your bike from sunrise to sunset, when you could just take off on an adventure trail run and come back when you feel like it are gone, you have to think about who is going to watch the baby.  If you are lucky enough to get out for an epic training session, it can’t be too epic as you have to be able to function when you get home. There are no days off from motherhood (yes, you will have a bit of nostalgia for those old times…it’s OK to feel like that).

Hire a coach if at all possible. If you are like most mere mortals, you are also working a steady job, as well as being an athlete and a parent, and you don’t have the time to put in crazy amounts of hours training. A coach will help streamline what you do.  I am actually faster post-baby and with less hours training all thanks to a good coach.

Being an athlete and a Mom isn’t easy, but then again, if it were easy it wouldn’t be worth doing. My daughter, Sierra, is worth the challenges I have had to overcome with my athletics and she enriches my life.  I’m looking forward to teaching her to swim, bike and run, just like mom!

Fast mama

Becoming Friends with the Bike

By Debbie
November 4, 2014 on 11:42 am | In Life at TriSports.com, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports member Pam Winders. She’s living proof that you simply can’t fake the bike. Follow Pam on Twitter – pamye6.

It’s interesting how things always come full circle. This past summer I have had friends come up to me after races, devastated with their bike performance. They proceed to pick my brain as to why I believe their bike didn’t go as planned and what training they could have done prior to the race in order to succeed and see where they went wrong. It amazed me how many of those people had only gone on a ride or two prior to the race. So with that, I basically told them what they didn’t want to hear, which was the obvious; if you want to do well and meet your goals, then you have to do the work and actually train for your desired results.

When I first started triathlon four years ago I was always amazed with the bike portion of the race…there are some really fast riders out there! I wanted to be the fastest, so my first goal in triathlon was to “master,” or at least get better on, the bike. I quickly learned two things; 1) Bikes are REALLY expensive and 2) There are no shortcuts to success – aka: you have to do the work in order to see the results you’re seeking.

With my overachieving goal of always being on the podium, I went out and bought Betty, an awesome women’s specific Felt DA, and a bike trainer. When I started triathlon I was living in Alaska, so getting out on the road and accumulating what I call “real life” miles was nonexistent; therefore the trainer was a necessity. In addition, I purchased my first pair of heavy duty diaper biking shorts. I wasn’t winning any fashion awards in them, and I definitely wasn’t picking up any hot guys, but I knew that in order for me to put the time in the saddle, comfort was vital.

Hardcore cycling in Alaska

From that point on I spent many days, especially Sundays, in my living room watching NFL while riding Betty instead of snuggled up on the couch. As I began to educate myself more on biking, I learned to incorporate more specific workouts for racing and that’s when the real fun began. I would include hill repeats, speed and distance intervals and soon enough I was seeing dramatic changes in my riding; I could ride longer and was stronger and faster!!

My real love for biking didn’t come until after that initially painful boring living room period from which I went out and did my first “real life” ride of the season racing St. George 70.3. Not the smartest move on my part after training in dark, cold Alaska on a trainer and a treadmill all winter, but all the hard work and time I put in by becoming friends with my bike made it so worth it and I was actually able to enjoy the ride instead of suffer through it.

After St. George I’ve continued to embrace my bike; I’ve put on a power meter, which I’d highly recommend to anyone wanting to race competitively or who has a thing for numbers. By incorporating power into my riding, it has taken my training to a whole different excruciating level of pain and sweat, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A strong bike = good chances for a podium position!

In the end, the only way to get better and have fun while riding is to put in the time and become friends with your bike!!

After the Finish Line

By Debbie
October 28, 2014 on 9:30 am | In Athlete Profile, Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Martin Soole. We all know what we do leading up to a race…train, train, train! But what about after? Check out Martin’s blog or follow him on Twitter – martin.soole.

There are many points in life when one must reevaluate and refocus.  I’ve recently found myself at one of those points. I spent all of last year training and racing toward an Ironman finish. It was a rather simple, lovely existence.  I woke up every morning and knew I had to train.  I put in hours and hours of work.  I bought the best gear available from TriSports.com, I learned from the best; I was the best physical version of myself capable of the world’s most challenging one day endurance race.

Before Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013

If you followed my blogs last year, you know that my Ironman debut in Lake Tahoe in 2013 did not go as planned. Read that article here.

The hundreds of training hours couldn’t prepare me for a bike mechanical failure that ended my day prematurely.  I mourned that defeat for a long time. I had so many questions.  I drove myself crazy trying to make sense of it all and come to terms with an event that was ultimately out of my hands. I had done everything in my power to be prepared for that race.  I even trained with my coach on the course the previous month. But the Universe had other plans.  It turns out that I gained more from that defeat than I would have if I had finished.

When I was training on a daily basis I didn’t make room in my life for anything else.  I felt like a monk at times.  I stopped socializing with friends, I only ate a strict diet, I let my business dealings lag, and fell out of touch with the artistic reasons for my move to LA in the first place.  Many athletes can find balance during their Ironman journey.  I was obsessed and I could not.

I moved to LA to work in film and TV. Here I am (far right) on the Showtime show “Shameless”.

It turns out that I needed a big let down to allow me the breathing room to refocus my energy and begin anew. If I had finished the race, I would have probably gone right into the next and the next and the next and been swept up in the sport and only the sport. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but I would not have been able to walk down that path in a healthy way. I could have further alienated my friends and family and lost sight of my career goals. I can’t stress enough how obsessed and out of balance I was. But there were lessons to be learned here if I was willing to take note.

All that time spent training and racing was not lost. Ultimately, I learned what I was capable of, I found my limits, and learned how to push past them. This could not have been learned in any other way. Triathlon has many transferable life skills. Self reliance, resilience in the face of challenges, and mental toughness are just a few that come to mind. These skills have come into play in my professional life, as I am now producing a feature film called “#Speedball.”  It’s an action sports drama, think; “Fast and the Furious” meets the sport of paintball. If you think triathlon is hard, try producing a multi-million dollar movie franchise.

Despite the Heartbreak at Ironman Lake Tahoe, I knew I needed some redemption and wanted to release the pain of that event from my life.  I fulfilled that at Ironman California 70.3.  It wasn’t the full Ironman finish I had striven for, but this victory was in some ways better. I looked back at the previous year and decided to do things differently as I prepared this time. While training, I started dating a wonderful girl, I kept my relationships strong, and moved forward with all areas of my life. I was able to balance my entertainment career, my personal life, and my training.  I had learned the lesson I was meant to and found closure with the event in Lake Tahoe.

A victory kiss from my girlfriend

I still swim, bike, and run. I moved to the beach with that wonderful girl I started dating and I’ve picked up surfing. My life is more full and vibrant than it has ever been.  From my greatest disappointment came the opportunity to live the balanced life I was meant to live.

Surfing Soole

So, in the midst of heartbreak and setbacks, take a moment to stop and reevaluate. One area of your life may be out of balance.  That situation is there for a very specific purpose.  Once you’re able to release the hurt, look for the gift in the ashes. There is a lesson to be learned. Don’t mourn the failure; it might be just what you needed. Most of all, don’t forget to keep moving forward.

The Off-Season

By Debbie
October 21, 2014 on 1:51 pm | In Life at TriSports.com, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Liz Miller. The off-season is coming, so what are you going to do about it? Check out Liz’s blog or follow her on Twitter – FeWmnLiz (can you tell she’s a geologist?).

Some people dread the off-season, and other people love it. I usually feel a little bit of both excitement and anxiety when it’s time to transition to the off-season. Excitement because the off-season typically means sleeping in, weekends away without my swim, bike, and run gear, and maybe more than just an occasional glass of wine. Dread because the off-season also means shorter days, potential lack of motivation, and the occasional unwanted weight gain (especially around the holidays!).

In preparation for my off-season, I started looking around for some fun activities that didn’t necessarily involve swimming, biking, or running, or least not all 3 activities in the same race! Here are a few ideas for those of you who are getting ready to start your off-season, or maybe just looking for a few ideas to refresh your off-season routine.

Find a new type of race

I recently participated in my very first ultra-marathon. I have always been intrigued by ultra-marathons, but I typically need to save my quads and knees for quality long runs during Ironman training. This means that running 50K on trails is out of the question! But once your triathlon season is done, an ultra-marathon is a great way to put your fitness into something new and different.

I had a blast in my first ultra-marathon, not to mention the fact that since I wasn’t running with the goal of winning, I had more than enough time to stop and take pictures! Who can complain about running 50K when you have beautiful scenery like this?

The view during the Mt. Taylor 50K on 9/27/2014 (mttaylor50k.com)

Also, if you live somewhere with snow, look for some winter racing options. Snowshoe and cross country ski races are a great way to have some fun and challenge yourself without the pressure or stress that can sometimes be involved with a triathlon.

The ski to snowshoe transition during the Mt. Taylor Quad a few years ago (mttaylorquad.org)

Lastly, the winter can be a great time to try a swim meet or two! I participated in my first swim meet two years ago, and while I got DQ’ed from one event and certainly didn’t win any of the other events that I entered, I had a good time and enjoyed the challenge. Check out the U.S. Masters website for a list of local Masters groups that might be sponsoring an upcoming meet.

Try something new (or go back to something old!)

A few years ago, I took an “Introduction to Kettlebells” class that was required before participating in the local YMCA’s kettlebell course. I was hooked! It was a great mix of strength training and cardio work, and the 6 AM class was a great way to kick off the workday. The off-season is the perfect time to work on strength training (which is often overlooked during triathlon training), and kettlebells is a great way to do that.

Other strength training classes include TRX, Cross Fit, and other local YMCA or gym classes. I have found that TRX is another butt-kicker of a workout, relying mostly on body weight rather than weights, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s easy!

Yoga and Pilates are additional options for new and different workouts that offer a nice variety to your typical swim, bike, and run schedule. Power and Bikram yoga can both be very challenging if you feel that you need a harder workout, and Pilates can really help with core strength, which can translate into better cycling form and faster running.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself!

The off-season shouldn’t be about constantly watching your food intake, weeks of difficult workouts, and a lack of social life. The off-season should be about kicking back, enjoying a treat now and then, and maybe sitting on the couch to watch a little more football than what is reasonable. Even more importantly, the off-season is about giving your mind and body a break from the rigors of triathlon training, to have some fun and not be too worried about missing a workout here and there.

Kicking back during a week-long canoe trip on Lake Mead during my winter off-season, 2012

The off-season also gives all of us triathletes time to step back, reflect on our performances over the season, and set new goals for the next year. And it’s important to remember that while we might lose a bit of fitness during the off-season, we’ll quickly gain it back at the start of the season, along with a renewed excitement for the sport and exciting goals to keep us motivated for the season.

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.

My Secret Weapon (shhhh!)

By Debbie
October 22, 2013 on 2:58 pm | In Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion and former TriSports.com employee Kris Armstrong. Hope you are enjoying that MI winter, Kris (you know you regret leaving Tucson when this time of year hits)!

One of the most common reasons for becoming a triathlete is to cross train. Swimming, biking and running provides a variety  in training that is very attractive to those bored with doing one or the other solo. The problem is that after 13 years of tri training, I am a triathlete and no long benefit like I did a few years ago. I have adapted to swimming, biking and running and even transitioning from one to the other. So what can a triathlete do to again experience cross training benefits like injury prevention/rehabilitation, improved performance and greater enjoyment of our sport? The answer for me, my secret weapon, is Triad Health and Fitness in Farmington Hills, Michigan, owned and operated by Kirk Vickers, a former trainer of the Detroit Red Wings professional hockey team. Kirk has a variety of clients, ranging from high school to professional athletes, as well as amateur athletes of all ages and those recovering from injuries. I had the privilege of working with Kirk during one of my internships for my degree in exercise science. Working with Kirk Vickers at Triad has helped me recover from injury, improved my performance and made training and competing a whole lot more fun!

Injury Prevention and Rehab

I have one injury that has been recurring since I was hiking in Arches National Park in Utah in February of 2010. It was a simple rolling of the ankle, pretty common, but whenever I pushed off the wall too hard swimming, biked a lot of hills or ran long distances or trails, my ankle would swell and be in such pain I had to take days off to recover. I found myself doing fewer activities to protect the ankle instead of solving the cause of the problem. Working with Kirk I learned that it might not be the ankle that’s the problem but could be instability in the hip allowing the ankle to roll. He also suggested lateral exercises to help stabilize the ankle, knee and hip – conditioning triathletes don’t get from swimming, biking and running. Kirk started me with some simple side steps that progressed to hula hoop jumps, two feet in two feet out. Currently I am doing 6 inch lateral hurdle jumps that have a cone at each end to touch and then return in the opposite direction. Kirk’s favorite remedy for pain is ice, which I use whenever the ankle acts up on occasion. The best thing about my ankle, knee and hip stability is my return to trail running which is one of the few things we can do outside during the long Michigan winter.

Lateral hurdles...great for ankle, knee & hip stabilization

Improved Performance

One of my favorite bike rides is Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona. If you climb all the way to the top, it’s at 9000 feet, an elevation gain of over 6000 feet from the base of the mountain. As difficult as this is on a bike, my most memorable performance improvement was realized during the Mt. Lemmon Marathon. My training not only helped me finish this, as advertised “Toughest Marathon in the World,” but actually do a pretty respectable time. The exercises that prepared me for this event were simple but very effective. The two exercises that I thought of while running were walking lunges and hip drives. For hip drives I used a weight lifting bench with one foot on the bench and the other on the floor. The arm on the side of the benched foot starts behind and the arm of the floored foot starts in front like a running stance. As the benched leg drives up the arm swings forward then returns to starting position. After 15 reps change sides. I also used a slide with hand weights. Place the hand weights in an upside down STEP, used for step aerobics, using the weights as handles push the slide ten yards. Immediately change direction and push back to start. Five reps of this drill are usually plenty depending on how much weight you choose.

Greater Enjoyment

Working-out in a gym is usually very boring to me. I like to be outside as much as possible which is why I like triathlon so much. But working out at Triad is fun and I look forward to each visit because I always learn something new and Kirk makes it challenging. If someone else is working out at the same time he will put us together to push each other. A little friendly competition is always fun. I usually do a warm-up then 5 drills and then a cool down. My 5 drills include something to improve stride, lateral stability, explosive power, core rotation strength and stability, and upper body strength. Normally these are done one at a time with breaks in between to recover, but sometimes it’s fun to run these drills as a circuit. Add a friend or two and time each station and switch every 30 seconds or every minute.

Cross training is very important when preventing and recovering from injury and improving our performance, but I must admit that it’s the fun factor that keeps me coming back for more time and again. Have fun!

Running off the Bike…Master it in the Off-Season

By Debbie
October 15, 2013 on 1:35 am | In Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Ed Ten Eyck, who is a kick-ass duathlete and coach. Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter – ed_teneyck.

Not too long ago I was invited to an event at one of my local bike shops as an information night for Irongirl. I was to present information about running off the bike and how to avoid the feeling of heavy, or dead, legs. Being a standard distance duathlete and exercise physiologist I thought nothing of the matter as I could talk about running on or off the bike for hours. Since I only had 15 minutes I compiled a very well manicured list that can keep most people out of trouble! I will outline the different sections and then get into more detail later about each one.

  • Bricks
  • Bike efficiency
    • Pacing
    • Cadence
  • Better running form

Bricks are the most common and possibly the most feared workout that new multisport athletes encounter. What is a brick? A brick is when you combine 2 workouts into 1. Whether it is a swim/bike, bike/run, whatever the combination you come up with you have a brick. So how can this help your run off the bike?

The dreaded "brick"

Specificity of training states that training should be relative and pertinent to the sport in which you are training. If you are going to bike and then run in competition, you should train that way so your body is used to the stress demands placed on it. By incorporating brick workouts into your training you are stressing the muscles in the same way that you will during a race. This allows your body to adapt to the stress more efficiently. This alone will not prevent you from having the feeling of heavy legs, but it is one of the tools used to help.

Bike efficiency is a very broad category but we will focus on pacing and cadence.

Pacing is the hardest thing for most, if not all, athletes who compete. The reason? We are all competitive and we all want to win. That being said, pacing on the swim or run followed by pacing on the bike can help you set yourself up for a successful run off the bike. Pacing can be done using a variety of tools; HRM, power meter, RPE, speed, and cadence. Personally I feel a power meter can be the best tool when planning your pacing strategy for the bike portion of a race. It is the only true direct measurement of effort you can monitor. So what is proper pacing? Pacing depends on a number of factors but if we just look at the bike portion of a race we would have to look at the distance that the bike portion is, the terrain, and what your goals are coming off the bike into the run. For shorter distance bike courses you will be able to ride at a higher pace than if you were riding a full IM course. The same can be said about flats versus hills. When it comes to the run off the bike, if you are looking for a solid overall performance and want to negative split the run, then pacing on the bike is key.

Cadence is the other side of bike efficiency. The faster you turn over the pedals the less stress per pedal stroke is placed on the muscle; however, more stress is placed on the cardiovascular system. What is the optimal cycling cadence? That is the never-ending question. A lot of research has come out supporting a cadence between 86-96 RPM. Is this perfect for everyone, no, but it is a general range that the majority of people will fall into. The more experience you have the easier it tends to be to maintain a cadence in this range. Some studies have shown that slightly higher cadence can benefit riders; however, there is a good deal of training that would be needed to adapt to the demands. Winter is a great time to practice this on an indoor trainer.

For the focus of multisport I feel the range of 86-96 RPM is ideal because when you get off the bike and you run at about the same RPM, your body is used to moving at that pace. When it comes to running, you are more efficient when running at a higher cadence because at lower cadence, the stored energy in the muscles is not used as effectively. Also, when you spin a higher cadence on the bike you are giving your muscles a break because you aren’t generating as much force per stroke. So the take home from this section is that your bike and run cadences should match, which will decrease the likelihood of feeling the onset of “heavy legs.”

I believe better run form is one of the best off-season training tools you can use to your advantage if you are new to the multisport or endurance world. Having inefficient running form forces you to work harder and can increase the likelihood of injury. It takes time and patience to become a more efficient runner, but usually after 6 months of dedication and focus on form you will begin to see the results. So what is better running form and why is it more efficient? A natural running position is when your kinetic chain is in alignment and you are landing more over the center of your body. This is typically the result of landing more mid-foot versus having a heel to toe gait pattern. When landing heel to toe, the majority of people are landing behind their center of mass enough that they have to overcome the compression and gravity pushing them backwards to continue the running motion. This results in a decrease in efficiency. When you land more mid-foot or with a landing closer to the center of mass, then you are propelling yourself forwards. Correcting your running form is something that takes time and energy to do. It is something that can be done during the off-season and help you prepare for the upcoming season, but I wouldn’t ever recommend attempting to overhaul your running form during the race season.

Proper vs. Improper Running Form

In closing, these are just a few of the ways that you can feel more fresh coming off the bike going into your run. By working diligently on this during the off-season and pre-season, you will go into your races knowing you have new tools to help you PR the run portion of any multisport event.

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!

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