Strengths vs. Weaknesses

My main focus for 2014 is Ironman Wisconsin.  I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses when it comes to triathlon training and racing.

Strengths:  Swimming and Running

Swimming…Growing up on Lake Okoboji, I have been swimming since I was VERY young.  I am not the fastest swimmer, but I am consistent…I can swim at a steady, comfortable pace for hours.  I know swimming is a strength of mine, but I still have plenty of room for growth and I definitely want to get faster in the water.

Running…In 2004 I ran my first race.  I definitely wasn’t fast, I had no idea what to expect and I had no idea where my running would take me.  But, over the course of nearly 10 years, I have gotten stronger and faster.  I want to continue to get stronger, more powerful and faster on the run so that I will have a strong finish at Ironman Wisconsin 2014!!

Weaknesses:  Biking and Mental Focus

Biking…I am definitely not a strong cyclist, but I work hard on every ride to push myself to be faster, stronger, more powerful and more confident on the bike.  In 2014, I will get out and ride more in all kinds of conditions and with people who will push me to become a stronger and more confident cyclist.  The more I ride, the stronger and more confident I will become.

Mental Focus…When I first started training and racing, mental focus was not even on my radar.  I really haven’t spent much time on mental training until this last year.  In 2013, I spent quite a bit of time on mental preparation and it really paid off.  I felt stronger, I had multiple PRs and I had fun in the process.  In 2014, I will spend time everyday mentally preparing and building confidence in myself to be the best I can be!!

I am determined to work hard and spend more time in 2014 making my weaknesses morph into strengths 🙂

weakness morph to strength

As an athlete, what weaknesses would you like to see morph into strengths???

How to Prepare for Your First Triathlon

The inspiration for this post came from watching the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.  Since I was home most of last week with strep throat, a severe sinus infection and the beginning stages of pneumonia, I had plenty of time to lay around and watch movies and reminisce about my first triathlon.

I decided to write a “How to” guide…How to Prepare for Your First Triathlon:

  1. If you really want to complete your first triathlon, you must make training a priority.  This will help you remain injury free and properly prepare you to toe the start line.
  2. Set aside time for your training…make an appointment with yourself.  You should spend a minimum of 30 minutes a week on swimming, cycling and running…that is only 1.5 hours a week.  (Training each discipline twice a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each is ideal.)  If you don’t think you have that much time to commit to training, take a look at how much time you spend watching television, surfing the internet, reading a book, etc.  I bet you can find more time to train for a triathlon than you thought.
  3. Determine your goals for your first triathlon.  Pick a distance that is realistic for the amount of time you plan to spend training on a weekly basis and how many weeks you have until race day.  I would not recommend picking an IRONMAN as your first triathlon 😉
  4. Build a solid base…if you have not been active or have little to no experience with one (or more) of the disciplines of triathlon, you may find it REALLY challenging (and risk injury) if you go out and swim a 1/2 mile, cycle 12 miles and run 3 miles (these are the rough distances for a sprint triathlon).  To help you successfully toe the start line of your first triathlon, you should research training plans, find a triathlon community, and/or hire a knowledgable coach to write a training plan for you.
  5. Incorporate strength training into your workout routine.  Strength training helps prevent injury, builds bone density, strengthens the joints, tones the body, and allows you to be strong and healthy on race day.
  6. Proper recovery is important…make sure to have days and weeks built into your training plan that are not as taxing on your body.  Recovery days and weeks will allow your body to repair itself stronger than it was before you broke it down with the tough training sessions.
  7. Practice, practice, practice…open water is different than pool swimming, swimming in a pack of people is different than swimming in open water, swimming in a wetsuit is different than swimming without one, transitioning from the bike to run often gives people jello legs, consuming fluids and nutrition on the bike and run are different than consuming nothing…anything that is new and different from what you have ever experienced should be practiced, so you have an idea of what to expect on race day.
  8. Find a triathlon community…it is great to have a community of people who will help hold you accountable to complete your workouts, people you can train with (especially for open water swimming and riding on the roads), people you can ask questions of, people you can talk to about what you are experiencing in training and racing, people you can talk with about gear, nutrition, safe riding and running routes, etc.
  9. Remember to have fun…your journey to the start line may be challenging at times, but it should almost always be fun and rewarding!!

TriathletesNow…who’s ready to do their first triathlon??????

“Why Ironman?”

Simone asked the question “Why Ironman?” and it got me thinking about why I want to do another Ironman…and then I experience race day (whether as a volunteer, spectator or athlete) and see videos like this and I know why I will do Ironman Wisconsin in 2014…

“Ironman is a metaphor for life.  As with everything else, work comes before success.  It pays to set goals, be disciplined, work on one’s weaknesses, overcome setbacks, and avoid being diverted from one’s charted course.”                                                                                      ~Mathias Muller

My top 10 reasons for why I want to do another Ironman…

10. I want to experience the extreme highs and lows…both while training and racing.

9.  I want to experience the constant mental battle during training and racing that helps make me a stronger, much more well-rounded individual…the little negative Nelly sitting on my left shoulder vs. the much larger positive Patty sitting on my right shoulder.

8.  I want to improve my weaknesses…cycling and mental fortitude.

7.  I want to develop my strengths…swimming and running.

6.  I love the feeling of overcoming challenges…both during training and racing.  I enjoy challenging myself and pushing myself to find new limits.

5.  I enjoy the feeling of overcoming the pain that comes with racing long and hard.

4.  I LOVE the triathlon community!!  Even though I have not met many of the people involved, I feel like many of the athletes, volunteers and spectators are like family…the triathlon community makes the race day experience TOP NOTCH at Ironman Wisconsin!!

3.  I want to finish my next Ironman in a time faster than 16:15:00.

2.  I want to have fun, doing what I LOVE…swimming, biking and running 🙂

1.  I want to actually remember crossing the finish line this time and hearing Mike Reilly say, “You are an Ironman!!”

Ironman Wisconsin Weekend 2013
Ironman Wisconsin Weekend 2013
Ironman Wisconsin Weekend 2013
Ironman Wisconsin Weekend 2013
Registration morning for Ironman Wisconsin 2014.  We got in line at 4:15 am and waited until the line opened at 7:33 am (the line wasn't suppose to open until 9 am).  We were pleasantly surprised when the doors opened early!!
Registration morning for Ironman Wisconsin 2014. We got in line at 4:15 am and waited until the line opened at 7:33 am (the line wasn’t suppose to open until 9 am). We were pleasantly surprised when the doors opened early!!

What’s Your Mantra????

With USA Triathlon Olympic Distance National Championships only a few days away, it got me thinking about mantras.  I have a few phrases that run through my mind during the different disciplines of a triathlon while I’m racing…

swim strong, cycle fast, run to win

While swimming:  “Just keep swimming” and “Breathe, focus, swim straight”

While biking:  “I am focused, I am relaxed” and “I am strong, I am tough”

While running:  “Think strong, be strong, finish strong” and “I am tougher than the rest” I also play the song “Another one bites the dust” in my head as I pass people on the run and I always remember Chrissie Wellington’s mantra… “Smile”

So…what’s your mantra?????

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.

Zoom Orb

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!!

Why Triathlon???

Recently I got to thinking about why I do triathlon…it’s simple really…I want to reconnect with the fun I had as a kid.

As a kid, I swam nearly every day during the summer months in Lake Okoboji…splashing around, making new friends and swimming with our dog.  There was no competition…just playing in the water.

Family swim time...one of the few times we were in the ocean instead of Lake Okoboji.
Family swim time…one of the few times we were in the ocean instead of Lake Okoboji.

I also rode my bike almost daily.  There were times I rode my bike just to have fun and times I rode my bike to get somewhere.  Regardless of the reason for riding my bike, there was always one thing that was consistent…I was never riding to compete with anyone.

Riding my bike...when I was a kid, we didn't wear helmets, but this is not something I condone now!!  I never ride my bike without a helmet now!!
Riding my bike…when I was a kid, we didn’t wear helmets, but this is not something I condone now…I never ride my bike without a helmet now!!

I ran around with people I didn’t know, acquaintances and friends of many years.  Growing up with a resort in my backyard provided me with many opportunities to have fun and meet new people…sometimes we were running to the water’s edge to swim and other times we were running in relay events at the resort with the other kids who where visiting for the week…regardless of the reason for running, it was always for fun!!

Running in a relay race with a glass of Kool-Aid...I'm the one in the yellow shirt on the left.
Running in a relay race with a glass of Kool-Aid…I’m the one in the yellow shirt on the left.

As a kid, it wasn’t about being the fastest, being the best,  or pushing myself to my limits while “training” or “racing.”  Instead, it was about the simple pleasures of having fun while swimming, biking and running.

Sometimes these simple pleasures are briefly forgotten as I try to push myself to new limits during training and racing, but it is important for me to always remember how much fun I had with each of these disciplines as a kid.  It has been fun to reminisce and remember all the fun I had while swimming, biking and running as a kid.  I’m hoping to keep these memories at the forefront while training and racing.  After all…for me, triathlon is about LOVE…those things I used to love to do as a kid and still love as an adult…swim, bike, run!!

The Taper Demon has Reared its UGLY Head

Monday, May 27th was my last big workout before the taper for Ironman Kansas 70.3.  Tuesday I was ready for the taper and was excited to have minimal workouts for the day.  I knew I my gratitude for having made it to the taper would be short lived and the taper demon would show up, but I didn’t expect it to show up on day #2 of the taper.

Wednesday, May 29th I was scheduled to do an open water swim (that was my only workout for the day).  When the ridiculous Central Iowa weather continued to pound on us, I knew I wouldn’t be swimming outdoors and that taper demon didn’t just show up, but it reared its ugly head!!

Taper Demon
Taper Demon

My husband even made the comment, “I can tell you are tapering and you weren’t very happy about not being able to complete your open water swim.”

Thursday evening (May 30th) we had a lot of the local runners who have been training for the Dam to Dam race (mostly for the 20K distance) over to our house for a pasta feed, so I didn’t get a workout in on Thursday…the Taper Demon became a little bit uglier.

Saturday morning (June 1) we went down to the Dam to Dam race and I finally got some workouts in throughout the day…My Reverse Triathlon Post

This helped calm the Taper Demon a bit 🙂

This week the Taper Demon has reared its ugly head even higher…not only am I tapering, but today was my last day of school for the summer.  As a middle school science teacher, this means lately I’ve been focusing on finalizing grades and getting my classroom ready for summer, which means putting everything away…including all wall coverings and bulletin board decorations…since there are different summer school classes in my classroom throughout the next couple of months.  I look forward to the summer months when I can relax, train for events, recharge my batteries and spend quality time with family and friends…although the current June weather feels more like April in Central Iowa.

I can definitely tell that I am tapering and the lack of physical exercise is affecting my attitude…I feel sluggish, lazy, weak, etc…typical taper feelings.  I know that proper tapering will allow me to be physically ready for race day, so I am trying to focus even more on the mental training during these taper weeks.

I am definitely looking forward to my race this weekend…and getting the opportunity to Push My Limits!!