10 Lessons Dogs Teach You About Triathlon

Our two babies...Basil on the left and Mya on the right
Our two babies…Basil on the left and Mya on the right

The Iron Hippie and I have two black labs…Mya is 4 years old and Basil is 15 months old.  I have strep throat and have been home sick, hoping to get better before winter break.  Being sick, I am unable to workout, clean house, etc.  So what does one do when they are sick??? Well…write a blog post. 🙂  I’ve spent some time studying the girls these last two days and it got me thinking about how their actions translate to triathlon.  These are the 10 lessons that I have learned from Mya and Basil and what these lessons can teach you about triathlon:

  1. Have fun…Basil LOVES to play ball, go for a run, swim, tug on Mya and just have fun.  It is important for triathletes to ALWAYS remember to have fun.  If it ever becomes unenjoyable, it may be time to reevaluate why you are doing what you do.  Fun should be a #1 priority for triathletes!!
  2. Get lots of rest…Both Basil and Mya get lots of sleep.  They typically nap multiple hours a day.  Sleep is an integral component for proper recovery both for dogs and triathletes!!
  3. Stay hydrated…The girls drink plenty of water throughout the day.  Water enhances athlete performance by increasing blood volume and lowering body temperature during exercise.  As triathletes, we need to remember to stay properly hydrated, not just during a workout, but leading up to the workout and post workout to improve training and racing performance.
  4. Proper nutrition is key…Mya and Basil LOVE to eat!!  We feed our girls a highly recommended dog food.  Nutrition is what I refer to as the 5th discipline of triathlon and it is very important for us to remember to eat clean and healthy foods.  Proper nutrition will help us achieve our goals and dreams!!
  5. Salt is a necessity…After the girls exercise (often times with us), they always lick us for salt replacement.  As triathletes, we need to remember to not only stay properly hydrated, but also make sure we have proper amounts of electrolytes in our systems.  After having experienced hyponatremia first hand during my first IRONMAN race, I can definitely speak to the importance of electrolytes during training and racing.
  6. Massages are AWESOME…what dog doesn’t love a good massage???  Most professional triathletes know the benefits of massages and frequently incorporate them into their training for proper recovery.  If massages are good enough for professional triathletes and dogs, why shouldn’t we get them too???
  7. Learn from your mistakes…When Basil is scolded for something she shouldn’t do (such as chewing up a puzzle piece, moving a slipper, etc.), she often learns not to do it again.  As triathletes, we need to learn from our mistakes and not make them again.  Failure is success if we learn from it and make changes so the same mistakes don’t happen over and over again.
  8. Don’t Quit…Mya and Basil would swim and/or play ball ALL DAY LONG if we let them.  They don’t know when to quit!!  As triathletes, it is important for us to focus on our goals and dreams and work hard to achieve them.  We can’t get the results we want by making excuses for the work we don’t do 🙂
  9. Determination goes a long way…When Basil wants something, she is VERY DETERMINED to get it.  For example, she will continuously ring the decorative bell on the door knob when she wants outside (something we trained her to do as a young puppy).  Mental training is what I refer to as the 4th discipline of triathlon.  According to Veronica Roth (Divergent), “What good is a prepared body if you have a scattered mind?”  There is so much truth in that question.  Remember…Just Believe 🙂
  10. Listen to your body…When dogs need a nap, they sleep…When dogs are thirsty, they drink…When they have a full bladder, they relieve themselves.  If we listen to our bodies, we can help prevent injuries, help prevent overtraining, remain properly hydrated and stay happy and healthy.

Moral of this story…as triathletes, we can learn a lot from a dog!! dog

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“F” words no athlete should be afraid of…

I just crossed the finish line of a VERY FULL and BUSY week…teaching 8th grader science all day followed by parent teacher conferences until 7 pm Monday-Wednesday, followed by another round of parent teacher conferences Thursday morning until noon (54 conferences in all…less than half of my students).  My conversations with parents and students, sparked my thoughts about “failure.”  I shared my view of failure with some parents and students…

You have only failed if you didn’t learn something along the way and you stopped trying to get better.

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My view of failure doesn’t just apply to 8th grade science, but to life and sport.  As an athlete, there are some very prominent “F” words that show up from time to time.  I do my best to change my thinking from the negative connotation that these “F” words can have to a much more positive outlook when they appear.  How can these “F” words help me be a better athlete?!?!?

Fear…Many people have anxiety when they allow fear to enter their domain.  However, fear doesn’t seem to cause me anxiety.  I view fear as a challenge for me to become better.  When I stop and look fear head on, I become strong, courageous, confident, powerful and in control of my domain.

Failure…For me, fear and failure can go hand-in-hand.  On race day, I sometimes experience the “fear of failure,” so I have to keep reminding myself of the following:  as long as I learn something and keep trying to become better, I am not failing.

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Frustration…I only become frustrated when I don’t meet the expectations I have set for myself.  I am learning to adjust these expectations to help reduce the amount of frustration that I feel, but for a very goal-oriented person with high standards, adjusting expectations can be a challenge.  Luckily I have never been one to shy away from a challenge 🙂

What negative “F” words do you encounter that you are trying to twist into a positive???

Customized Coaching

While writing a recent post thanking my coach, it got me thinking about customized coaching and why I highly recommend it for any athlete.

There are a variety of training plans available for people to use or refer to while training for races of many different distances.  When I first started training, I used a variety of these training plans, pulling bits and pieces from each, to help me reach my goals.  After doing this for about 6 years, I felt like my training and racing had plateaued.  I decided it was time to take my training and racing to the next level…so I hired Coach Julie with Zoom Performance Endurance Coaching to help me.

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I have found many advantages to have a customized coach:

  1. My customized training plan is designed for my physiology, my goals, my schedule and where I am at mentally.  If changes need to be made due to schedule conflicts or injuries (on those rare occasions), it happens seamlessly.
  2. My workouts are designed with a purpose in mind…I’m not just doing a workout for the sake of completing it.  Instead, I am trying to achieve a certain goal/purpose to help better prepare me for my race day.
  3. I am held accountable to someone instead of to a training plan that has been designed for the average athlete.  Without someone holding me accountable, it is much easier to skip a workout with little guilt.
  4. I am paying Coach Julie.  Some people would see this as a disadvantage, but for me it is a definite advantage…by paying for her coaching services and knowledge, I am often reminded of the need to complete my workouts to the best of my abilities so that I truly get what I am paying for.
  5. It requires me to be dedicated and complete my workouts as prescribed.
  6. My training zones have been established for me to use during my training workouts.  Power output can also easily be established (now if I just had some extra money laying around for a power meter on my bike…hmmm).
  7. Coach Julie has helped me develop my strengths…swimming and running
  8. She has also helped me improve my weaknesses…cycling and mental toughness
  9. She has helped me find my limits and push past them to become a stronger, faster athlete.  As a result, I have passed through that plateau and I am seeing improvements in my training and racing 🙂
  10. Having a customized coach is the right thing to do.  When it comes to race day execution, the customized coaching has never let me down.

There are probably many other reasons that I have forgotten to mention, but the most important point…EVERY ATHLETE should hire a knowledgable and reputable coach to customize their training plan and help them meet their goals!!

Another One Bites the Dust…Ironman Kansas 70.3 Race Report

This last Sunday I raced Ironman Kansas 70.3 making this event my 5th 70.3 mile triathlon race finish.  Ironman Kansas 70.3 was my first Half Ironman distance event on June 7, 2010, which I finished with a time of 6:46:24…It was time to go back and see just how far I’ve come in my training over the last 3 years.

Ironman Kansas 70.3 - 2010 Race Results
Ironman Kansas 70.3 – 2010 Race Results

Since then, I have completed Ironman Branson 70.3 in September of 2010 and Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Distance in July of 2011 and 2012.  I have gotten slightly faster in each discipline of the 70.3 mile distance (although it doesn’t look like it on the run below…bad run day).  I set a new PR for the 70.3 mile distance on July 22, 2012 at Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Distance with at time of 6:32:44.

Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Iron Distance - 2012 Race Results
Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Iron Distance – 2012 Race Results

Going into Ironman Kansas 70.3 this year, I knew I was feeling really good (both physically and mentally), but I had no idea that I was about to SHATTER my previous PR!!

We saw this safety mascot that I named "Safety Sally" on the side of the interstate in Kansas City as we were passing through.  It was fun to see that people still have fun on the job...even when serious work is being done!!
We saw this safety mascot that I named “Safety Sally” on the side of the interstate in Kansas City as we were passing through. It was fun to see that people still have fun on the job…even when serious work is being done!!

We arrived in Lawrence, Kansas on Friday evening and went straight to athlete check-in before they closed for the day.  We then went back to the hotel and checked in, unloaded our car and went to find some dinner, before calling it an early night to get some “good sleep” as Coach Julie calls it 🙂

Athlete Check-in complete!!  I'm ready to race :)
Athlete Check-in complete!! I’m ready to race!!
YUMMY gluten free pizza at Wheat State Pizza in Lawrence, Kansas
YUMMY gluten free pizza at Wheat State Pizza in Lawrence, Kansas

I had every intention of sleeping in on Saturday morning, but I woke up at 5:45 am.  Adam would be so disappointed, but he would also know that this was sleeping in for me!!  🙂 After some breakfast and lounging in the hotel room, I packed up my swim gear (for a pre-race swim), run gear (for a short pre-race run), and Mojo (to leave in T1) to head to the race site.

We left the hotel at about 10 am and drove the bike course before heading to the race site.  Having completed this race in 2010, I had plenty of time to forget just how hilly this bike course was and wanted to get every hill and turn fresh in my mind for Sunday…Oh yes…my nemesis was at mile 50…

There were only a couple of flat miles on this bike course.
There were only a couple of flat miles on this bike course.

After driving the bike course, we ended up at the race site by 11:30 am.  First things first…I needed to get Mojo checked into T1 and scout out my spot in both T1 and T2.  As we were waiting in line to enter T1, I found out we didn’t have to put our bikes in transition on Saturday due to the 60% chance of severe storms over night (with the potential for hail and straight line winds).  I was very pleased with this since the winds were already well over 20 mph and many bikes were being blown over.  Some people decided to leave their bikes in T1 anyway, but I wasn’t one of them…Mojo would be spending the night with me in the hotel room…YAY!!

At Bike Check-in with Mojo on Saturday at T1
At Bike Check-in with Mojo on Saturday…T1

We encountered many athletes from our Zoom Performance team at the race site Saturday and thus talked to many people over the next 2 hours.  By 1:30 pm, we hadn’t really gotten anything accomplished…except my race number tattoos in place…

801...Like 801 Grand, I plan to tower over my competition!!
801…Like 801 Grand, I plan to tower over my competition!!

…no pre-race swim, no pre-race run, no bike check-in (although I did see my spot for T1), no T2 scouting, lots of talking to people…and I was HUNGRY and drained of energy.  I convinced my husband to leave and go find something to eat.  As we were leaving the race site, who should we stumble upon, but Craig Alexander (AKA…Crowie)…

A little pre-race mojo with Crowie...professional triathlete who has won Ironman Kona 3 times
A little pre-race mojo with Crowie…professional triathlete who has won Ironman Kona 3 times 🙂

We left the race site, grabbed a late lunch (3 pm) and headed back to the hotel where I showered, got all of my race gear organized for morning, revisited my race goals, did some race visualization, went downtown for a couple of gourmet cupcakes and then went to bed (at 6:30 pm)…that 3 am alarm clock would be early…

Getting Race Ready!!
Getting Race Ready!!
Gear
Let’s do this!!

In typical pre-race fashion, I didn’t sleep well…every 20-30 minutes I would wake up and look at the clock.  At 2:55 am I woke to look at the clock one last time and decided it was time to get up and do this!!  I had 3 servings of my “superfood” breakfast with almond milk and fresh strawberries and a glass of Trop50 Orange juice, got into my race gear, revisited my race goals, loaded the car (we were checking out before going to the race site) and off we went to the race site.

My Pre-race "superfood"!!
My Pre-race “superfood”!!

There had been storms overnight, but they did not affect the race start.  Arriving at the race site by 4:15 am gave me plenty of time to really get organized and get all of my gear into each transition…yes you read that correctly, the bike to run transition (T2) is in a different location than the swim to bike transition (T1), so I really had to think through what I needed at each transition location.

Everyone had to be out of both transition areas by 6:15 am.  Because I had gotten to the race site so early, this was not a problem for me at all!!  At 6:30 am, the professional men started their race, at 6:35 the professional women started their race and then the age groupers went in waves.  I was in wave 12 and was allowed to enter the water at 7:02 am.  Because this is a floating swim start, we had to swim out to the start buoys and float until 7:04 when the air horn went off.  I love the floating swim start…it gives me plenty of time to acclimate to the water temperatures (and increase the temperature in my wetsuit a little 🙂 ) before starting the swim.

7:04…we were off!!  “OH MY…This water is rather choppy!!”  I was trying to do my bilateral breathing, but it wasn’t working.  I took water in with nearly every breath.  “Flip over on your back and kick…get your heart rate back down.  Ok…let’s try this again, but breathing every stroke with 3 strokes on the right and then 3 strokes on the left…3…2…1…go.”  That wasn’t working either…these waves were getting in my way and I was still taking in water instead of oxygen…not to mention all of the other athletes kicking and hitting around me in the same dilema all floundering for a little air.  “Flip over on your back and kick…get your heart rate down.  Ok…let’s try this again, but breathe only on your right side with every stroke.  This is where you are most comfortable anyway, so give it a try…3…2…1…go.”  Finally something that works…well occasionally!!  “Nice and steady, straight swimming, breathe…Nice groove you are in!!  Keep this up!!”  I continued to stay mentally focused throughout the swim.  As I approached the swim exit, the swim traffic really picked up as athletes of many different waves were all trying to exit the swim at once.  I stood up, ran up the ramp, looked at my watch…”HOLY COW!!  39:05 with those waves…AWESOME.”  I yelled to my husband…”39 minute swim…Wahoo!!” and continued on my way to T2.

39:05 swim for 1.2 miles in rough water...YAY!!  PR number one for the day...
39:05 swim for 1.2 miles in rough water…YAY!! PR number one for the day…

At T2, I inhaled my Oreos, stripped my wetsuit, drank some water, geared up for the bike and was off…4:38 in T1…What was I doing?!?!?!?

Onto the bike…I knew this was a challenging bike course and decided to take it easy out of the park and up the first big climb.  “Keep your heart rate low, stay focused, believe in yourself and your training.”  I was staying focused and really excited about how I was performing on the bike…about mile 18 I dropped my chain on a hill climb, so I quickly put the chain back on and continued to climb…”Remember, focus on what you can control…yes your chain dropped, but it is back on and you have the ability to let it bother you or throw your frustrations in the ditch and leave them on the side of the road…” I chose to leave my frustrations in the ditch and move forward 🙂  I continued to feel strong and in control!!  At the first turn around, I was excited to get around the cone and have the wind at my back…oh yeah…it was predicted to have winds at about 10 mph winds from the WNW, but they were closer to 17 mph with gusts over 20.  “Wind…Kiss Me Harder!! Push me back to the next turn around cone…”  I continued to feel strong and in control of my race.  I was alternating Oreo cookies and Carbo Pro for nutrition every 30 minutes and drinking lots of water, so I felt really good.  “Finally, the 2nd turn around and I can head back to Clinton Lake Campground…YEEHAW!!”  At about mile 50, my nemesis appeared, but this time I was going to conquer it!!  In 2010 I remember struggling to stay around 5 mph while climbing this hill…NOT TODAY!!  I was able to maintain between 9 and 10 mph as I climbed…YAY!!  I have gotten stronger on the bike!!  Time to push into T2…

Coming into T2 from the 56 mile bike ride through the hilly Lawrence country side...
Coming into T2 from the 56 mile bike ride through the hilly Lawrence country side…

At T2, I quickly changed out of my bike gear and into my running gear (or so I thought)…2:57 for T2…WHAT AM I DOING IN MY TRANSITIONS?!?!?!?!?

Oh well…put it behind you, focus and get out on the run!!  I usually struggle to keep my heart rate low when I start the run since I usually start out too fast, but I was able to keep my HR low and maintain a nice, even pace around a 9 minute mile for the first couple of miles.  I was feeling really full off the bike, so I decided to just drink water and suck on orange slices for the first few aid stations, see how I felt by mile 6-7 of the run and reevaluate whether I would consume the Honey Stinger Chews I was carrying.  This plan worked quite well for me and I ended up not consuming anything other than water and orange slices for the entire 13.1 mile run.

Feeling strong on the run!!
Feeling strong on the run!!

While running a race, I typically spend the first 1/2 of the race finding my groove (depending on the distance of the race)…both physically and mentally.  During the second 1/2 of the race, I start to look for people to “pick off” while I’m running.  As I pass people, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” chorus plays in my head…it has been known to escape from my lips on accident a time or two…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNQRfBAzSzo

This experience held true on Sunday during the run portion of my race.  After completing the first loop of the run (only walking through the water stops), I made a pack with myself that I would continue to push forward, finish strong and only walk through the water stops.  This strategy allowed me to pass MANY people on the run and “Another One Bites the Dust” continued to play in my head.  Remember that wind on the bike…well, it made for some good air conditioning on the run.  Adam was in my head…”Kiss me harder wind.”  With only 2 miles to go, I picked up the pace a bit and finished strong…1:59:18…YAY!!

Finishers medal around my neck!!  70.3 miles in 6:05:53...that is nearly a 27 minute PR!!
Finishers medal around my neck!! 70.3 miles in 6:05:53…that is nearly a 27 minute PR!!
Finisher Certificate
2013 Finisher Certificate

I was overjoyed with my finish!!  While I didn’t quite reach my sub 6 hour time goal for this race, I did meet every performance goal that I set out to accomplish and I still had a 27 minute PR on a VERY challenging course…What could make this day better?!?!?!  How about a finisher photo with Hines Ward (professional football player for the Pittsburg Steelers)…

Zoom Performance Athletes and Hines Ward...Congratulations to all!!
Zoom Performance Athletes and Hines Ward…Congratulations to all!!

When my husband asked Hines which hurts worse, getting hit by a linebacker or completing a 70.3 distance event, Hines immediately responded with, “Definitely this!!”

Numbers DON’T Lie!!

Yesterday I had my VO2 Max Test done for 2013.  Unfortunately, numbers don’t lie.  Last year wasn’t my most successful year in terms of training and racing.  I definitely had a lull in completing my workouts and racing after crossing the finish line at Ironman Wisconsin in 2011.

What is a VO2 Max test???  From an athlete’s perspective it is complete torture!!  As the athlete, you are put on either the treadmill or the bicycle trainer and pushed beyond your limit.  You wear a mask that is hooked up to a sensor which measures the amount of oxygen you inhale compared to the carbon dioxide you exhale.  Yesterday I was on the bicycle.  Every minute, the watts (power output) was increased by 20 watts and I was to maintain the same speed/rpms as close as possible for the entire test.  I got to the point where my mind was saying, “I CAN do 2 more minutes!!”  Unfortunately my body was not able to tap into what my mind was saying.  My legs physically shut down.  They just quit turning over 😦

Another Zoom Performance Athlete completing his VO2 Max test.
Another Zoom Performance Athlete completing his VO2 Max test.

From a coach’s perspective, there is some very useful information that can be used for the athlete to get stronger, faster and more efficient in both training and racing.  The VO2 Max test gives an athlete and their coach the following pieces of information:  Aerobic Threshold (AT), Lactate Threshold (LT), VO2 Max and heart rate (HR) zones.  At aerobic threshold (AT), the athlete is competing at an intensity where the muscles are recruiting the slow-twitch muscle fibers.  This is the optimal intensity for endurance training.  Athletes who train and race at their aerobic threshold will be much more efficient, enabling increased training volume as well as greater frequency and better quality speed workouts.

Lactate threshold (LT) is when the athlete is working at their highest intensity where the body can recycle lactic acid as quickly as it is produced.  If the athlete speeds up just above LT, the athlete can no longer recycle the lactic acid as quickly as it is produced.  This is when lactic acid accumulates and starts to cause muscle fatigue and damage.

VO2 Max is the volume of oxygen that an athlete uses during one minute of maximal exercise.

While all of the above information is very useful and important, the heart rate (HR) zones and power zones on the bicycle will help the athlete train and race at an intensity that allows the athlete to become more efficient.  In other words, “when it is time to ramp up the training and when to back off.”

Here are my heart rate (HR) zone numbers for the bicycle:

HR Zone

Lower HR Number

Upper HR Number

Zone 1 106 bpm 134 bpm
Zone 2 134 bpm 146 bpm
Zone 3 146 bpm 154 bpm
Zone 4 154 bpm 164 bpm
Zone 5 164 bpm 178 bpm

My HR numbers have not changed much from last year, but there were definite changes in my max power output, power output at LT and VO2 at AT from years past to this year.

Year

Power Output at LT (Watts)

Max Power Output (Watts)

VO2 at AT (L/min)

2010

180

220

2.29

2011

220

260

2.7

2012

240

280

2.82

2013

200

240

2.59

My 2013 numbers were directly related to my run focus lately and not as much on my cycling.  This test is proof that I have some work to do on the bike before Ironman Wisconsin 2014!!