Sunday, September 20, 2015

Can You Handle The Truth?

Todd, Eric and Owen at the start of their 206 mile journey 

Last week my husband competed in his second LOTOJA bike classic.  The event, touted as the longest one-day stage race in America, is a scenic 206-mile journey that travels from Logan, Utah, through the tip of Idaho, and finishes in the breathtakingly beautiful Teton Village outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Logistics for the race are not easy.  Riders and their support vehicles take different routes to each aid stations and precise timing and organization is required to assist and cheer on your participant.   My daughter Abby and I shared the responsibility of Todd, and enjoyed our 12-hour day in and out of the car, driving through amazing countryside and laughing and documenting the day via Snapchat to our friends and family.  It was a joyful and happy day.

Since I am new to this "sag" (support) duty, I learned a lot simply by watching other families support their riders.  Some cyclists rode up to their counterpart and exchanged musette bags, hardly slowing down their pedal stroke to grab their nutrition.  Others had a full-on family NASCAR pit crew, that wiped down the bike, oiled the chain, shoved Clif bars down their rider's gullet and replaced water bottles with fresh beverages.

Abby and I both agreed that we could improve our "sag"game -- like the wife who stood at the aid station with a tray in front  like an old fashioned cigarette girl.  The tray was loaded down with everything from 5 Hour Energy, Bel Vita cookies, Clif Shots, bananas, energy gels -- you name it, she had it on the ready.  She won our hearts and our prize for Best Support Staff that day.

Each stop we were there for Todd.  Our timing was impeccable.  We replaced his bottles.  We were prepared with food.  We encouraged him at each aid station.  But at mile 123 we saw him start to look...not so good.  His bottles were still full when we switched them out.  He was not drinking.  He started to look gaunt and his eyes seemed kind of foggy.  We had timed his finish, calculating miles per hour/distance/pace and when he did not cross the finish line at our projected time, we began the waiting game.

Ten, twenty, thirty minutes passed.  His friend and fellow rider, Whitey, had crossed the line smiling and happy.  He wasn't that far behind Eric, was he?  But the dehydration was real.  As the sun started setting behind the mountain, Todd came rolling through the finish - not hitting his ideal goal, but severely dehydrated and exhausted.   With help of EMTs and friendly spectators who lent us warm blankets to get Todd's core temperature up -- LOTOJA ended with a whisper instead of a bang.

Aaaand, he finished. 

But here's the truth that riders can't handle.  It doesn't matter.  Todd completed the race.  He accomplished his goal.  The finish time is irrelevant to any spectator/family member/friend who has an athlete involved in a major endurance event like this one.  As athletes we stress over our race times.  We want to set a PR.  We want to beat our friends.  We want to make ourselves proud.   We want to qualify for Boston.  But to our friends and family members the finishing time is less important than crossing the line safe and uninjured.  Sure we want you to get to Kona or win your race category.  But that is not the most important aspect of the day.

I try and comprehend my friend who stood at the finish line waiting for her husband to cross this same race three years ago and then receiving a call that he had crashed less than 20 miles from the finish line and died.  I remember my father, who set our for the short distance in Tour de Mesa and ended up living only 15 days later, having suffered injuries from a crash in the race.  I have lived this nightmare and seen it happen to others.

So friends, first and foremost --  enjoy the day.  Do your best, for sure.  Set high and lofty goals.  But remember you GET TO do this race.  You have made the choice to compete, because you can.  And don't let that crazy PR goal take the fun out of what you are doing.  Finish with a smile. High five those cheering you on.  Remember to hydrate.  Be safe.

Because the only thing that really matters, is that you get to go out again and do it again tomorrow.  

The reward for the effort, a stay at home in Park City, UT 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Eliminating Caffeine By Way of the Hydroflask

I've been caffeine free for 90 days now.  Ninety days.  It hasn't been easy, I can tell you that.  There are days when a cool Coke Zero in a styrofoam cup with pebble ice can really get me salivating.  It's been over 100 degrees daily here in Arizona for the entire summer.  And it gets to the point where all I want is that dark icy cold beverage in my hand -- something I can nurse all day and refill as needed.

But I have stuck to my goals.  And happily, I can say, life without caffeine is good.  Even great.  I have eliminated the drive-thru stops for soda.  I don't have to stock Crystal Light packets like they were an essential lifeline for survival.  And those afternoon slumps where I used to ache for a little buzz of caffeine are gone.

Let's face it.  As good as it is to be off caffeine, water is boring.  I've upped my intake of fresh lemonades when I stumble upon them in a restaurant.  I consider that a treat to myself.  However, the best thing I've done is buy one of these babies:

Let me introduce you to Hydroflask.  This water bottle goes above and beyond what traditional water bottles (even insulated) do.  I can fill my Hydroflask in the morning with ice and filtered water from my home -- leave the bottle IN MY CAR all day -- and still come out to an ice filled bottle in the afternoon.  It's crazy!  The Hydroflask keep my water cold when I set it on deck for my hour-long Masters swim at noon.  It stays ice cold through hot yoga.  And best of all, it doesn't sweat!  Believe it when I say I have a boss who is a stickler for condensation rings on his countertops.  But I don't even need a coaster with the Hydroflask.  It practically magic.

I tried to find out what was behind this nifty bottle.  Here a graphic that helps explain it's ingenuity:

I can't comprehend the physics behind this wonderful invention.  But I'm happy it's around.  And I urge you to get one simply because you'll drink MORE WATER.  Why?  Because your water is cold, icy, delicious.  The secret to drinking more water is drinking that water ICE COLD!  Say goodbye to lukewarm water and say hello to refreshment around the clock.

You can get Hydroflasks at Amazon.  I got the 32 ounce with the Hydroflip lid.  But my friend Jacque has the wide mouth straw lid and really enjoys that.  (** Full disclosure:  Jacque introduced me to Hydroflask.  And while I'd love to be the official spokeswoman for this product, sadly, I am just a fan.)

Don't buy anything smaller than a 32 ounce flask.  You'll just be bummed that you didn't go bigger. Then watch how fast you down the H2O once you get one.

Happy hydrating!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Why I "Heart" Tim

This is Tim, crossing the finish line of his first Ironman in Boulder, Colorado on Sunday, August 2, 2015.

Tim and I have been working together as coach/athlete for almost a year in preparation for his race last weekend.  We have had only one face-to-face encounter, in Kona, where we were both competing in Ironman Hawaii 70.3 this summer.  Other than that, we have had weekly phone visits religiously for the past year discussing everything from race-day nutrition, power on the bike, racing strategy and weekly build and recovery weeks with an annual training plan.

As with every athlete I coach, I had Tim give me his race goals for Boulder, and Tim's A #1 best-case-scenario goal was 11 hours and 15 minutes.  As you can see in the picture above, Tim exceeded that goal with a time of 11 hours, 12 minutes.  And he finished waving a banner to his wife, daughter and family, honoring them with his I "heart" Susanna, Adair and Family sign.  A magical ending to a spectacular day.

When I think of Tim and his perfect day, two words come to mind:  CONSISTENT and CONSERVATIVE.  Let me explain.

First CONSISTENT.  Tim managed to fit in training in during the craziest time of his life.  He was finishing school, he and his wife welcomed a new daughter,  they relocated to a new state with a new profession.  But Tim carved out time by cycling indoors while his daughter was sleeping, or swimming when he was going to be on campus.  He made time to get things done and prioritized his time to even talk to his coach once a week.

Second, CONSERVATIVE.  While Tim is an excellent athlete, he didn't overestimate his goals on race day or training days.  His training did not overtake his life, but each workout was essential to his overall calendar.  He also did not expect qualify for Kona on his first attempt at the Ironman.  His goals were realistic, and pretty close to his estimated finishing time.  Also, Tim erred on the side of caution when it came time to do a "C" race sprint triathlon one weekend.  When the race turned rainy and muddy and cold, Tim opted out to stay safe and injury free with his eye on his number one goal.

I see all kinds of athletes doing all kinds of crazy training regimes for the Ironman.  But the most successful athletes follow this simple recipe for success:

* They formulate a realistic training plan with a coach (preferably Me!)
* Their training calendar includes base, build, taper and recovery weeks.
* They don't jump around and do whatever anyone else is doing in their biking group or running group.  They stick to their own plan.
* They avoid indulgent restaurants, and their diet is clean with colorful plates of healthy food.
* They avoid extended vacations away from training.
* Their training goals and race goals are realistic and not out of their range.
* They train within their own Heart Rate Zones.

There are lots of sacrifices one makes when training for an Ironman.   But every sacrifices makes race day a little more bearable.  And in the end, after paying a $700 entry fee, traveling to a destination race and paying for hotels, food, plane tickets and rental cars, a successful training regime makes crossing the finish line 100 percent worth it.

What tips do you have for a successful race?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ironman Hawaii 70.3 Race Report

Kapoha, Hawaii

T1, Hapuna Beach

If you're going to do a 70.3, Kona, Hawaii might as well be the place to do it.  

The fam and I planned a vacation adventure around this trip this year for lots of reasons:  1. It's the perfect time of year - end of school/beginning of Summer  2. The course is challenging yet not outrageously hilly  3.  It's, well, it's HAWAII?  

My race recap is short and sweet:  go do this race.  It's not easy, but really, what Half Ironman IS easy?  There is a long (mile 19-23) climb up hill called Hawi, on the exact route of the REAL Ironman (full), which takes place in October.  You'd think that would make up for the climb with plenty of downhill as your reward.  But there are crosswinds coming down the climb that prevent any real serious speed gain here but plenty of amazing views of the Pacific.  

I digress.  Let's cover the Swim.  Beautiful, warm, clear, tropical fish, coral reefs, a bit of an undulating swell but no serious barrels to swim against.  This was my all-time favorite swim course of my career.  I loved everything about it from the white-sand beaches down to the crystal-clear water.  The race is a wave start so you're not clogging the sea with 2500 swimmers who take off at the same time. It's also warm, too warm for wetsuits.  There is lots of room to move around, yet one could enjoy the line and suck of the draft.  

Bike (again): No Alpe D' Huez here, just an uphill out-and-back course on the lava fields of the most famous road in triathlon history.  No shade, no relief, but nice, wide shoulders that were passable if you could navigate through the rumble strips that line the entire bike course.  Man oh man it felt good to turn around and head back to the Transition 2 (did I mention that there are two transition areas? ).

And the Run.   Well, let's just say it's not super fun to start a half marathon with 80 degree temps and 70 percent humidity.  This course is HARD but quite beautiful and kept me interested due to it's twists and turns and out-and-backs and ups and downs.  Aid stations were set up every mile providing plenty of relief for runners with endless buckets of ice and handy chilled sponges to squeeze over your head or push down into your tri top.  Thank you, Ironman Hawaii, for being so cognizant of those runners' needs out there.  Hot, no shade, and lots of running on grass -- even the pros add five minutes to their expected run times here due to the squishiness of the golf course conditions.

The race course ends on the grounds of the Fairmont Orchid Hotel, a spectacular locale for a finish line.  The emerald green grass of the golf course butts up to the pristene waters and white sand beaches that surround the Fairmont.  Polynesian dancers are entertaining the waiting crowds and there is plenty to eat for athletes and spectators there.  Nothing was as delicious as the shaved ice for sale by the food vendors.  I loved the tropical flower finish line -- so Hawaiian and perfect.  

If you decide to do this race, I'd recommend Tri Bike Transport to ship and haul your bike for you. Post race, I just wheeled my bike up to the nearby tennis courts and dropped it off to the waiting wrenches for home delivery.  They require your bike to be at their partner shops about two weeks before your race, so it's most handy if you have a secondary bike to train with before and after the event.  (My bike is still not back home three weeks after the race.) 

Another recommendation is lodging at the following hotels:  Fairmont Orchid, $$$ but so convenient  since that is where the finish line and expo is located.  Marriott Waikoloa $$, a beautiful spot less than five miles from the expo and finish line.  Hilton Waikoloa $$, same exit as the Marriott so just as handy for all the event.  

I had no clue Kona was as desolate as it was going to be.  I figured all of Hawaii was tropical and jungly.  But Kona sits on the lava field on the east side of the island.  While the resorts are quite wonderful here, the scenery on the course was similar to the Bush country of Africa (or so my daughter who has been to the Bush country says), very little vegitation, dry and hot.  We loved spending time after the race on the opposite side of the Island, near Hilo.  Our daily outings and adventures were truly breathtaking views of this dreamy place.  

Two thumbs up for Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.  I'd love to return here, if I can afford it.  Aloha and Mahalo to this wonderful place.  The race was great, and the memories will remain forever in my heart, and in my Shutterfly scrapbook. 

This rainbow bid us aloha on our final day in Kona. 

Below photos are all of Hilo's side of the Island.  
So many waterfalls and swimming holes

Rainbow Falls 

Shangri La, Pahono

Black sand beaches of Hilo

Sunset on the Red Road

The Red Road - a hidden gem near Pahono 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Evolution Of An Age Group Athlete

Athlete 1.0   
It all started with kids.  I gained weight, and my husband did too.  Those endless sleep-deprived nights,  drive-thru Happy Meals, sitting in the car for hours, all resulted in not enough mommy time and limited work-on-ourselves-time.  At the mercy of hectic schedules and too much indulgence on the weekends -- I'm talking full leaded soda with Junior Mints and a large popcorn at the movies -- we became soft around the middle and rounder in the cheeks. ;)

Then one day fitness sounded fun.  With a desire to "get back in shape" and compete in the local Turkey Trot, running and step aerobics became the exercise de jour.   My husband instantly slimmed down and could hold his own in the marathon pack.  But I never quite put together that after an hour at the gym with my kids in the daycare, that Pink Cookie and Dr. Pepper reward did nothing for weight loss.

Athlete 2.0  
Big changes came along once the kids were in school and we bought our first road bikes.  Instantly the weight dropped and we started having staggering fitness improvement.  We entered races and almost always finished in the top percentages of the field.  We finished century rides and charity rides and tour de whatevers!  It was fun.  We were thin again.  We were doing it!

I started competing in triathlons and drank the Kool-aid.  Before one Ironman was done, I had signed up for another, times four.  Over and over and over again - marathons, 200-mile rides, and open water swims -- if it sounded like a challenge, we were up for it.  Interestingly, after those initial huge gains, though, things leveled off.  It was like our bodies said "Ha! A four hour bike ride, no big deal!   You got this. Why dip into those fat stores?"  Some might call it a plateau.  But speed/pace/weight loss all came to a crashing halt.

So what now?  With a little more money to spend and more time on my hands with kids on their own, how would we make the best use of our new situation?  Well, how about a lighter bike, a more expensive pair of shoes, a professional coach? All good choices.  But gadgetry and those pricey bikes only get one as far as the engine that is propelling it forward: aka, me.  I'm a sucker for the latest, greatest nutrition supplement, wetsuit and electronic shifters, you name it!   But I was not improving leaps and bounds like I thought I would.

Athlete 3.0  
Recently, I have found the secret to a new, better Me.  And it all has to do with nutrition.  It seems like all those years, hubby and I  were working very hard to reward ourselves with a pint of Haagen Dazs on the daily, or homemade cookies after dinner, and then half the bowl of cookie dough in the fridge ready to snack on throughout the day.  We went heavy on food for the weekend date nights because, hey, we deserved it!  We rode 75 miles today!

I'm not saying rewards should be abolished.   I still LOVE my Vanilla Swiss Almond.  But I started working with Katie, my Licensed Dietician with Sigma Human Performance, and she has given me a new perspective on portion size and what my body really needed before, during and after a workout.  She trained my body to be more efficient at burning fat by (crazy enough) incorporating more healthy fats into my diet.  I now buy the bulk of my food from the outer edges of the grocery store:  tons of veggies,  fresh meats, high quality cheese, less bread and dairy.  I stock up on natural almond butter and avocados.  My cutting board is on the kitchen counter every evening chopping and dicing fresh veggies.  I feel less bloated and more lean.   My fitness is improving and I am running faster than I have in years.

This fitness evolution took me awhile to figure out.  But if you've ever seen the photo of the iceberg that shows 30 percent of it above the water and 70 percent below -- my new perspective is that diet is that hidden 70 percent.  If we can put premium fuel into our tanks, our bodies will thank us by becoming fat burning machines.  It's not about a high protein/low fat diet.  It's about a healthy balance, using fat to satiate the hunger and allowing us to use that fat to become a fuel source when we exercise.

The test comes at the end of the month.  Ironman 70.3 in Kona, Hawaii awaits.  I'm working against age and a "challenging" race course.  But if I can see any gains in my times and how I feel while racing,  I will credit diet for those results.  Stay tuned, blogger world.  I'll be baaack.... hopefully with great new and results!  And if you've gone down a similar path, leave a comment.  I'd love to hear about your fitness journey, too!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Meb For Mortals

Just finished Meb's book on how to run, think, and eat like a champion marathoner.  Impressive, is all I have to say.  He values goals, commitment and hard work, not only in his marathon training, but also in life.

If you don't know Meb, he's the American runner who most recently won the 2014 Boston Marathon (first American since 1985 to do so). and the best spokesman I know for advocating the importance of running for a better YOU.  His book succinctly explains how to train better, run stronger and eat healthier in a way that will improve your overall health and your running capabilities.

In honor of Boston 2015, I salute you Meb, and also all the runners who will take to the streets tomorrow morning in the most exciting marathon in our country.  Run like the wind, everyone!  You're amazing.  And hopefully one day, I'll be back to run with you again.

Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.