Interviewing Coaches

Despite my disappointment in the recent elections, I’m confident 2017 is going to be a great year! I turn 40 and I want to chase my dreams! So, I’ve decided to hire a coach to help me get closer to achieving my dreams! This means I’ve been interviewing coaches and I’ve learned a LOT in the process!

Before I share what I’ve learned, let’s back up this train just a bit…I had a coach from January of 2010 – May of 2014. I am forever grateful to her for getting me across the finish line of many races, including my first 70.3 and first Ironman, and for all of the knowledge and encouragement she bestowed on me in that time.

I decided to cut ties with her when I realized I was often injured and overtrained. Having to make the decision to pull out of a 70.3 race in June of 2014 due to injury about killed me was very hard on me mentally, but I knew this was the right decision if I was going to set myself up for success and get to the start line of my Ironman race in September.

I decided to self coach and see where I could take myself. I took myself from a 16:15:00 at Ironman Wisconsin 2011 to a 15:15:56 at Ironman Wisconsin 2014. In 2015 I put up a 14:04:37 at Ironman Boulder and this year I had a 14:34:11 at Ironman Wisconsin. I have seen improvements in my training and racing because of my passion, hard work, dedication, determination, and commitment to the sport. I feel like I have plateaued a bit, and have decided to seek the expertise, guidance, and support from a coach.

I had no idea I’d learn so much in the process of hiring a coach! Some of the best advise that I received via social media was to listen to the questions that the coaches ask me and make sure our communication styles match. If they have no questions, they probably aren’t super invested in their athletes and might not be the right coach for me. If they have questions, what kind of questions are they asking? What is their focus?

I am seeking a coach who is hands-on and minds-on. Someone who is passionate about coaching, but even more passionate about helping ME become a better athlete. Someone who has the education AND experience to help me train smart. Someone who is knowledgable, motivating, supportive, and not committed to so many athletes that they can’t provide me with the attention I am paying them for. Someone who will push me and isn’t afraid to use tough love when training me. Someone who communicates effectively, who is honest and trustworthy, but also listens to me and makes adjustments to my plan if life happens or problems arise. Someone who is not all business, but also likes to have fun. Someone who cares about and is invested in ME!

I wrote out a list of questions that each of the prospective coaches answered via email. This did help me narrow down my prospects. Some answers to these questions I received felt very formal and impersonal; I felt like the answers were what they thought I wanted to hear. Because of this, I decided to give some of them a call to get a better idea of how we would fit together as we develop an athlete/coach relationship. After all, that is what I’m seeking…a relationship.

So…what did I ask each of the prospective coaches? Via email, I asked the following questions:

  1. What is your coaching philosophy?
  2. What is your coaching resume/experience?
  3. Since you are not a local coach, how will you help me improve form and make recommendations for improvement?
  4. I am looking to maintain balance between life (work, family, social) and training. How will you help me achieve this?
  5. How will you help me get stronger & faster without risking injury/overtraining?
  6. How will you help me physically reach my goals/dreams? Mentally?
  7. How many athletes have you coached to a Kona qualification? What experience do you have in coaching athletes to Kona qualification or 70.3 Worlds qualification?
  8. I have struggled with hyponatremia/nutrition in some of my previous Ironman races. How will you help me overcome this for future races?
  9. Will you customize my workouts based on “feel,” data (power/heart rate), or both?
  10. What are your coaching packages and prices? What do your coaching packages provide me with?

Over the phone, we socialized a bit more (getting to know each other personally is also important to me) and I asked a few additional questions while trying to get to know each of my prospective coaches:

  1. After Ironman Boulder, I ended up in the med tent and the doctor who met with me suggested that I have a sweat test done because of how salty I was and because I was experiencing early signs of blacking out again (this happened at IMWI 2011). I haven’t been able to find a place that does a sweat test in the Midwest (including the University of Iowa, which is a medical university). How will you help me overcome this problem?
  2. My husband is looking to hire a coach as well (he is talking with a coach who is more local). We are two very different people. I am VERY much an introvert, he is an extrovert. I am very goal-oriented and typically race with a time goal in mind. He races to have fun. If we were both on the Biggest Loser, I would be motivated by Jillian, while he would be motivated by Bob. Our relationship probably works so well because we are so different. We have been training together and competing in the same races for nearly 7 years now. Are you willing to work with me so that we can have a couple of workouts each week that are the same type of workout (maybe a trainer ride on Monday that we could both do, knowing that the workout would be very different; doing our long ride together for safety; doing a run together each week) so we can still train together on occasion and spend time together?
  3. For safety and convenience, we try to do our long rides and maybe a 2nd longer ride outside each week (even in the summer). Are you willing to work with me to make this happen? I really do prefer riding the trainer for anything under 2 hours for safety and convenience.

It was so nice to get to talk with each of my prospective coaches to get to know them a bit better and place a voice with their face!! If you are thinking of hiring a coach to help you get closer to achieving your dreams, spend time to find the right coach for you!! What kind of coach do you want…someone who is “high touch” or someone who is more “hands off”? What kind of relationship do you want with your coach? What do you want from your coach? What do you want to pay for? Do you want a coach who is local that you can see in person, or is an online coach able to meet your needs?

I’m hoping to have my final decision made by the end of this week. Stay tuned to see who I go with for a coach in 2017! 😉

Have you interviewed coaches? If so, how did you go about hiring him/her? What would you recommend for people looking to hire a coach?

11 weeks ’til #IMWI: recovery week

After racing the Wisconsin Milkman 70.3 Triathlon last Sunday (you can find my race report here), this week was all about recovery!


Most of Monday was spent traveling home from Madison and eating all the food! I don’t know what it is about a race that makes me crave potato skins (not the chips in a bag, but real potato skins that are found on the appetizer menu in some restaurants), but it happened again today! On our way home from Madison, we stopped in Cedar Falls for some potato skins to satisfy my craving. We got home at about 2 pm, unloaded the car, and took an hour nap before gearing up for our Ladies only bike ride. I was so grateful to Coeur Sports and Kyle’s Bikes for their support to make this event so successful!! Yay for encouraging more women in cycling, helping them gain confidence on their bike and on the roads, and helping them learn basic bike maintenance!!



Tuesday was a complete day of rest (in terms of workouts), but full of lots of errands, house chores, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc.


Wednesday was another complete day of rest. After working with a personal training client in the morning, I went for a walk with a friend and the dogs, and then spent the afternoon updating Training Peaks for the next build period of our training and blogging. It was a great day and finally felt like I was on summer break 😉


After meeting with two personal training clients in the morning, I spent most of my afternoon on the Team Vardo training calendar for the coming year. I did take a break to walk the dogs and clear my mind. When the Iron Hippie came home from work, we had an easy hour ride before going to TRX.



I taught two group fitness classes and met a personal training client in the morning and then spent my afternoon finishing the Team Vardo training calendar for the coming year. When the Iron Hippie came home from work, we got ready for Saturday’s brick workout and went to bed early so we could get up early to hit the roads before the heat of the day on Saturday.


We woke at 4:30 am to start riding at 5:30. Our plan was to ride a 30+ mile loop and end up back home to feed and potty the dogs, and have our friend Allen join us for the last 50 miles. As we came back into Ames after the first 30 miles, the sky looked a bit ominous, so we checked the radar. Lucky for us, it appeared to be going north of us and would miss us, so we rolled out for our second loop. 83 miles of #bikelove done before noon was awesome, especially since it was a hot and humid day. After eating lots of food, showering, and napping, we relaxed in the air condition. We went to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants for dinner, and spent the evening relaxing in the a/c.



After an amazing night of sleep, we took the dogs for a walk and then relaxed most of the day. It was a VERY hot and humid day, so staying in the a/c was a necessity for most of the day. We made homemade pizza for lunch, I tracked friends racing at different Ironman races, caught up on some blogs, and went to hot yoga at 4 pm. It felt SO AMAZING to reconnect with my long lost boyfriend…mat!!


Weekly Totals: 10 hours & 16 minutes

Swim: Nothing, Zilch, Nada
Bike: 113 miles
Run: Nothing, Zilch, Nada
Strength Training: 1:30:00
Hot Yoga: 1:30:00

Quote of the Week:

“I think recovery from anything is honestly the most badass thing a person can do.” ~Anonymous

Wisconsin Milkman Triathlon: Race Report

Last Sunday was the inaugural Wisconsin Milkman 70.3 Triathlon in Madison. This was my “B” race for the year, where I was hoping to PR and get a good feel for where my training has taken me so far this year. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans…


Saturday morning we had a great swim practice!! We chatted it up with friends and I was lucky to meet one of my Coeur Sports Teammates, Jenn, in person!! She is so inspiring and on an amazing journey!!


After swimming, the Iron Hippie and I grabbed breakfast at one of our favorite spots in Madison, Marigold’s Kitchen, before driving the bike course for our event to check out the road surfaces and terrain.


Goat cheese and zucchini omelette…YUMMY!!

After driving the course, we showered at our host home (HUGE shout out to my wonderful friend Chris for hosting us!!), got our bikes and gear ready for Sunday, and then it was time to put Mojo in transition for the evening.


We grilled food at Chris’s house and watched movies with our feet up all afternoon and early evening. An early morning wake-up call means lights out by 7:30 pm.


We woke at 3:30 am, showered (yes, I know I’m going to get into a lake and then get all sweaty, but it’s my thang…wash away the negative and be ready for a great day!), inhaled breakfast (cream of rice with blueberries and Pure Clean beet powder, and Osmo hydration), gathered our gear, drove to the Alliant Energy Center, and took the shuttle bus to the race start. After getting my transition area set up, I found Jenn and another Coeur Sports teammate, Mandy. We chatted, wished each other a great day, and made our way down to the swim start.

Jenn, myself, and Mandy representing Coeur Sports and ready to race!
Jenn, myself, and Mandy representing Coeur Sports and ready to race!


The first swim wave started at 7:00 am, but my wave didn’t start until 7:32 am. With only 4 waves after me, I was toward the back of the pack. When the horn sounded, I walked quite a ways out (the water was REALLY shallow in this area) before starting to swim). Once I started swimming, I only hit the bottom with my hand a few times before finding my groove. It was a pretty uneventful swim for me…I was relaxed and kept a pretty straight swim line for the duration of my swim. I definitely felt like I could have easily doubled this pace…maybe that means I should have swam a bit harder!



Swim Gear: Coeur Sports tri kit, Coeur Sports arm coolers, Roka Maverick Pro wetsuit, Roka X1 Goggles in light vermillion

Nutrition: Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey granola bar and 2 packets of Mott’s Medley’s fruit flavored snacks about 30 minutes before my swim

Swim Time: 41:00 for 1.2 miles (1:56/100 yards)


Yay for wetsuit peelers!! Hello LONG run to transition…when I got to my spot, I quickly put on my cycling jersey, helmet, shoes, grabbed my bike, and was off.

T1 Time: 5:29


The first few miles were on a trail and were rather crowded, but opened up more by mile 5 when we got to the roads. I was lucky to get to see the Iron Hippie and good friend Kathy during those first few miles!! Yay for biking with friends…even if it was short lived!! Most of the road surfaces were rough, but there were lots of terrain changes to make up for it…I LOVE hills!! After going through Oregon and Paoli (south of Madison), we climbed a big hill with spectacular views from the top…Observatory Hill Road. The temps were definitely climbing, so I decided to slow my pace just a bit to make this race about survival instead of putting myself in the medical tent (which I’ve been known to do more often than one should). This course was very rolling in nature and simulated the Ironman Wisconsin bike course beautifully!



Bike Gear: Coeur Sports tri kit, Coeur Sports cycling jersey, Coeur Sports arm coolers, Mojo (Specialized Transition Bike), Specialized Ember road shoes, Specialized Evade helmet, Tifosi sunglasses, Garmin 920xt

Nutrition: Chex Mix (2 single serve packages), 2 bottles of Osmo hydration, and water

Bike Time: 3:25:14 for 56 miles (16.4 mph)


As I rolled into transition, it was HOT! I quickly transitioned into my run shoes, drank more liquids, and headed out on the run.

T2 Time: 4:06


HOLY HOTNESS!! Within the first mile, I decided this would be a run/walk adventure. It was a suffer fest for most of the athletes around me…some even decided they would walk the entire 13.1 miles. Thankfully there was some shade on the run course (although there were long stretches of sun as well) and lots of people who lived on the course were out with garden hoses, squirt guns, and sprinklers. At every aid station, I drank two glasses of water, licked my Base Salt, and dumped a 1/2 cup of ice in my bra top, and 1/2 cup of ice in the front of my shorts as I continued to slog my way to the finish line. I chatted with people when I could, ran when I could, walked when I couldn’t. Thankfully with about 3 miles to go, I saw one of my former students on the run course cheering me on. He randomly appeared throughout the last 3 miles encouraging me. Thanks Zach for the shout outs on such a hot day!!



Run Gear: Coeur Sports tri kit, Coeur Sports race belt, Brooks Pure Flow running shoes, Tifosi sunglasses, Garmin 920xt

Nutrition: 6 packets of Mott’s Medley’s fruit flavored snacks, Base Salt, and water

Run Time: 2:45:36 for 13.1 miles (12:38/mile)


It was an uphill run to the finish shoot, where I finished with a time of 7:01:23…an hour slower than I had hoped, but on a day when the temperature was in the mid 90s with no cloud cover, I’m happy to say that I finished what I started and didn’t end up in the med tent.




This was a great inaugural race!! There isn’t much that could be done about the weather, but the race organizers were prepared for it. They had plenty of water, ice, volunteers, and medical support. The swim was shallow at the start and there were a lot of weeds in the water, but the water was relatively clear farther out from the shore. The road surfaces were a bit rough on the bike course, but there wasn’t much traffic on them and the intersections were controlled well. The run was a relatively shady route (as shady as you can get in that area), with plenty of aid stations. Definitely a race I will be doing again sometime in the future; hopefully on a much cooler day!


**Thanks to Focal Flame Photography and Race Day Events, LLC for free race photos!! SO AWESOME!!

12 weeks ’til #IMWI: race week + travel

The focus for this week…Milkman 70.3 Triathlon + more travel!!


After finally getting caught up on sleep from my DC trip, I woke up, cleaned the house, ran a couple of errands, packed, and loaded the car to head to Mom and Dad’s for a couple of days. Thankfully the Iron Hippie had some comp time to burn before the end of June and was able to go with me on this short trip. We encountered some pretty severe storms on the trip northwest. After getting to Mom and Dad’s we grabbed some dinner, chatted with Mom (Dad was on a work trip) and hit the hay.


We woke up with intentions of running, but it was POURING rain with thunder and lightening, so we waited it out and ran later than we originally planned. Thankfully there was a break in the rain so we could run and swim with our twin nieces before the next round of storms came through. This time Mother Nature wasn’t so forgiving. We had tornadoes go through the area shortly after we arrived at the public library with the twins. Thankfully one of their 1st grade teachers and her dog were at the library promoting Puppy Tales (a reading program in the schools where the children read to dogs), so the twins cuddled in for some reading and puppy snuggles during the storms. When we returned back to Mom and Dad’s we found the only damage was a lot of debris everywhere and a tree that was uprooted and fell away from the house. Mother Nature helped them save money, because they were going to have this Ash tree taken down later this year anyway because of the ash borer.

Running with the Iron Hippie around lake Okoboji...being on the water makes my heart happy!!
Running with the Iron Hippie around lake Okoboji…being on the water makes my heart happy!!
Swimming with the nieces between storms.
Swimming with the nieces between storms.
Sitting in the shelter at the public library with the nieces, Isabella's teacher, and her classroom dog, A
Sitting in the shelter at the public library with the nieces, Isabella’s teacher, and her classroom dog, Anders
Uprooted ash tree in my parent's backyard.
Uprooted ash tree in my parent’s backyard.


We woke up, packed the car and traveled home. We arrived home just in time for our pre-race massages and dinner with our neighbors.

Prerace massage
Prerace massage


This was the only full day this week that I’d be home, so I did some house chores, went for a ride with my sole sister, packed for race weekend, went for our first open water swim of the season, and taught TRX.





After taking the dogs to the farm for a long weekend, I went to Kyle’s Bikes to get a blessing of the bikes before our race! Kyle takes such good care of us! I am forever grateful to have the best bike mechanic ever in my corner!! 🙂 When I got home, I loaded the car just in time for the Iron Hippie to come home from work so we could hit the road for Madison. It is about a 4 hour drive to Madison and the car knows the way 😉 When we arrived, we went straight to packet pick up and the athlete meeting for the Milkman 70.3 Triathlon before heading to our host home (thanks to my dear friend Chris for hosting us this weekend) and getting dinner at the Great Dane in Fitchburg.





We went to Olin Park for a morning swim in Lake Monona, where I met one of my Coeur Sports teammates, Jenn!! She is so inspiring and her weight loss journey is AMAZING!! After our swim, the Iron Hippie and I grabbed breakfast at Marigold Kitchen (one of the best places on the square in Madison) before driving the bike course for the race. We then returned to our host home to shower and get our bike and gear ready for the race. After we dropped off our bikes in transition, we hit the grocery store so we could make some home cooking for our evening meal. We spent the afternoon/evening eating food and watching movies with our feet up. It was the perfect pre-race afternoon/evening!!







Today was race day!! I was a bit nervous going into this race since I had a very unconventional taper and it was supposed to be a hot summer day. I typically don’t do well with heat, but I knew if I altered my race plans and raced more conservatively, I would finish. I was so blessed to get to meet up with Jenn and Mandy (both Coeur Sports teammates) before the start of our day. They are both such amazing, fun, and inspiring women!! To give you a taste of our day, it was HOT…92F hot by the end of my “run.” I’ll have a complete post on my race experience later this week 😉 After the race, we relaxed with friends in the shade for a bit before heading back to our host home for a shower, air conditioning, pizza for dinner, and more movie watching with the feet up.


Thanks for the free race photos Milkman Triathlon!! 🙂

Weekly Totals: 9:23 (these totals include my race distances and times)

Swim: 3168 yards
Bike: 75.1 miles
Run: 17.1 miles
Strength Training: none

Quote of the Week:

“Courage over comfort”…my mantra

How do you alter your race plans due to an unconventional taper or weather?

Unconventional Taper


This weekend, I will be racing the Wisconsin Milkman 70.3 Triathlon in Madison, Wisconsin. I am super excited, but am also a bit nervous. Why?! I’ve had a very unconventional taper leading into this race and here is why:

  1. After completing my last long ride on Tuesday of last week (June 7), I boarded a plane early Wednesday morning to chaperone 26 eighth grade students to Washington DC. You can read more about everything we saw in the short (yet very long) 4 days we were in DC here. We walked over 37 miles, which was the only exercise I had in those 4 days, and I was exhausted.
  2. I slept for 22 of 30 hours after returning home from my DC trip and didn’t do any exercising (other than walking in DC) for an entire week!!
  3. On Monday we loaded the car and went to my parents to visit them for a couple of days. During that time, we did run 4 easy miles and swim (entirely for fun) with my twin nieces on Tuesday. We also had to take shelter during severe storms thanks to tornadoes in the area. Thankfully, the only damage to my parent’s land/house was an ash tree that got uprooted. Since they were planning on having the tree taken down due to the potential for the ash borer later this year, Mother Nature actually saved them a bit of money by dropping the tree (away from the house) for free!!
    Running with the Iron Hippie around lake Okoboji...being on the water makes my heart happy!!
    Running with the Iron Hippie around lake Okoboji…being on the water makes my heart happy!!
    Swimming with the nieces between storms.
    Swimming with our nieces between storms.
    Sitting in the shelter at the public library with the nieces, Isabella's teacher, and her classroom dog, A
    We were at the library when the storms came up, so we took shelter there. Sitting in the shelter at the public library during the tornadoes with our nieces, Isabella’s teacher, and her classroom dog, Anders.

    Uprooted ash tree in my parent's backyard.
    Uprooted ash tree in my parent’s backyard.
  4. We returned home yesterday, just in time to get our bikes race ready, a prerace massage, and dinner with our neighbors.

    Prerace massage
    Prerace massage
  5. Today’s focus…swim in our wetsuits in open water (we haven’t been in open water yet in 2016), make sure the bike is in working order, pack for our race weekend, and teach TRX before leaving at noon tomorrow for Madison.

How will this unconventional taper treat me on Sunday? Only time will tell!! I am confident in my training and abilities and am looking forward to pushing my limits on Sunday!!

Have you had an unconventional taper for a race? If so, how did it treat you on race day? Have you participated in a race where your first outdoor swim happened during the race? If so, how did it go?

Training in Fear

When I signed up for IRONMAN Wisconsin 2011, I was motivated to train and complete my workouts because I was afraid of the 140.6 mile distance.  The furthest race I had completed prior to IRONMAN Wisconsin was 70.3 miles…How on earth would I be able to complete double the distance?!?!?!?!  Thanks to a little fear of the distance, I put my best foot forward every day and completed most of my scheduled workouts.

I know that fear can be unhealthy, but I believe it can also be motivating and empowering.  It all depends on how you allow it to impact you.  I don’t allow fear to intimidate me; instead, I allow it to motivate and empower me to be the best version of myself that I can be.  I allow it to help me get my feet to the floor…I allow it to motivate me to complete my workouts…I allow it to push me to be my best while training and in my everyday life…I allow it to help me “keep moving forward.”

MLK Move Forward

When I signed up for IRONMAN Wisconsin 2014, I knew I was no longer afraid of the distance…I had already crossed the finish line at IRONMAN Wisconsin in 2011, so I knew I could do the distance.  Why then was I signing up again???  To have a “better” race…to push myself out of my comfort zone…to continue to find that better version of myself…to experience a different journey on my way to the IRONMAN finish line.

So what motivates me now to complete my workouts as I race for IMWI???  Why FEAR of course…fear of getting too lackadaisical with my training and therefore not being adequately prepared to put my best foot forward on race day.

What motivates you to complete your workouts?


Week #3 (Base Training) Totals:

Swim:  6200 yards

Bike:  15.9 miles (I only had one bike ride this week 😦 )

Run:  20.05 miles

Strength Training:  2 hours & 45 minutes

Hot Yoga:  1 hour & 30 minutes (I only made it to one class this week 😦 )

Week #3 in the green 😉