Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cycling Indoors...What's it good for?

Coach Mari's Tri Bike, Jena, is ready to rock the trainer ride!

It's that time of year.  The days are getting shorter, the temperatures getting cooler and the additional clothing layers are coming out of the back of the closet.  I hate to say it, but our triathlon race season is winding down.

We definitely need some downtime from the rigors of training, racing and living our lives.  However, let's not hibernate on the couch for the entire winter. There are ways can work on some skills to get us ready for the spring racing season.

One skill we can work on over the winter is our cycling.  More specifically, we can use our bike and indoor stationary trainer for a huge benefit this winter. 

There are huge gains to be had by using an indoor trainer.  Its efficiency due to time savings and not having to haul the bike anywhere can lead to effective gains without spending so much of your valuable time.  Furthermore, there is less hassle to deal with on the trainer.  For example, you will never have to stop for a street light, stop sign, deer, car or other crazy cyclist!  There are no concerns about weather conditions, the time of day, or poor road conditions. 

Here are a few tips for Indoor Cycling:

#1 Fluid Trainers are the best!  My personal recommendation is the Road Machine by Kinetic

#2 Follow a workout! Don't just sit and spin in front of the tube or computer.  Have a purpose for each and every workout.  NOTE: Keep following my blog for a future post about how to read and follow a workout.  I'll also provide a few samples.

#3 Start off with a base training workout that includes some technique.  

#4 Train in a well ventilated area or get a big fan.

#5 Use a couple of towels to catch sweat: One on the floor and one near your handlebars.    

#6 Fluid bottles should be filled and ready to use.

#7 Music doesn't hurt!  My favorite Pandora channel for Indoor Cycling is Pop and Hip Hop Workouts, which was a suggestion by my blog friend, Frayed Laces, who is a fantastic triathlete who just won Rev3 Cedar Point Full Iron Distance Triathlon.  Woo Hoo!    

#8 Gather your training buddies to join you!  I am a firm believer that workouts that are difficult to do on your own are much easier when you have the motivation of your friends or arch nemesis! <smile> 

Now, get out there and gather all the tools you need to get your cycling skills ON.  Then, be ready to see how fit you are when spring rolls around!

Happy Winter Training!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Master of Experience!

Over the years, I've been to bunches of triathlon races at Lake Lanier.  The funny thing is, it's usually been to support, cheer or volunteer.  This time, I headed up to race Georgia Multisport's Lake Lanier Islands Sprint Triathlon, 400 yard swim, 13 mile bike and 5K run.

I was feeling very nervous because it has been a long time since I've done a Sprint distance triathlon.  Also, I decided to try a TRX class at Abby Schonier Fitness two days before the race and I was a bit sore from the one leg squats.  <sigh>

My goal?  Simply to go as fast as I could for the entire race.  Easy, right?

I lined up at the front of my wave which is a new strategy for me this year.  When the buzzer sounded, I booked to the water and started swimming...hard.  I wanted to get out of the crowd and to the first (of only three) buoys as soon as possible.

Right off the bat, I felt a girl swimming on my back.  No sweat!  I just lifted up slightly and she slid right off like a slick of oil.

I decided to move a bit to the right side of the crowd, which gave me a direct line to the buoy.  Great!  Perfect!

I kept my breathing pattern to every three strokes.  I kept telling myself to go as hard as I can, but not to the point where I'm losing my form.  This is what I teach my athletes.  A lot of racing and training is about control.  It is also about knowing yourself, your limits and when it is time to push past those limits to see what you are made of.

I rounded the next two buoys without any problems and popped out of the water in 7 minutes and 31 seconds.  (NOTE: This is the time my Garmin clocked, however the results page says differently.)

Since I practiced the run from the swim finish to transition earlier in the morning, I knew I was in for my first test of Zone 5.  I told myself to run as much as I could, but slow down over the metal covers along the bridge.  There was no need to risk slipping and falling.  The route was long and daunting over the bridge and up the hill to transition, but I made it.

As I entered transition, I thought I counted six racks to my spot, but alas, I turned down the wrong aisle.  Ugh.  No worries!  Since most of the bikes were gone, I just ducked under the rack and made it to my spot.  I was out of there in 3 minutes and 6 seconds, including the bridge and long, daunting hill.

I dashed out of transition and hopped on my bike.  Away we go!

Big S and I drove the course the day before so I knew exactly what I was in for: A few hills for the first four miles, Peachtree Industrial Blvd for a couple of miles, back toward Lake Lanier Islands with one minor hill and a couple more hills just for fun back to the park.

Within the first two miles, I got passed by a girl in my age group.  She was flying so I wasn't worried about trying to catch her.

This course was rather crowded.  I was ready for this because I was in the 10th wave.  I knew there would be a bunch of athletes on the course with me.  I just played it smart, passing at every opportunity and making sure I wasn't getting too close to other racers.  I made myself known when athletes were riding in the middle of the road with my favorite phrase "heads up" and my second favorite phrase "passing on your left".  <smile>

As I turned off of Peachtree Industrial Blvd, another girl from my age group passed  me riding like a wild woman!  Seriously!  She was using more upper body than lower body.  Wow!  She was on a mission.  We played *leapfrog* a couple of times, but she finally left me in her wild dust.

Coming back in the park was annoying because several cars were lined up to go through the main gate.  I hated this because we were forced to ride up the right side of the cars.  Once we got through the gate, it was smooth sailing through the park and back to transition.  I finished the bike in just under 40 minutes.  Nice!

T2 was much better than T1.  I ran right to my rack, put up my bike, slipped off my helmet and shoes.  I put on my new Newton Energy running shoes, grabbed my race belt and number and I was off like a dirty shirt and out of transition in under one minute!  (ANOTHER NOTE: Yep!  I tried something new on race day...running sockless!)

The week before the race, I was at Lake Lanier Islands for the Eric Shanteau Swim for Your Life Open Water Swim race.  After the event, I decided to run the course.  This was a big help because I knew what to expect.  The start of the run was no biggie.  Just a nice, flat stretch for a half mile or so.  Once we made a slight turn to the right, the gradual uphill began.  I pushed it.  Yeah baby!  I was not going to slow down my pace for all the homemade granola bars in the world!  <wink...for those of you who know me, you know I LOVE these homemade granola bars>

It was fun seeing several smiling faces along the course like Kelvin D and Marion W.  It reminded me to SMILE, even though I was hurting.  The fact that I was not smiling reminded me of this true fact: SPRINTS HURT!  Hello!

At the run turn-around, I knew it was mostly downhill and the finish line was becoming a reality.  I stayed strong and was feeling great about my race.  Then, duh-oh, I got passed by another girl in my age group!  She looked strong in her Fit Nation tri kit and cute, blonde pony tail swaying back and forth.  As much as I wanted to dislike her, I admired her strength that late in the race.

I turned at the pennant flags that shepherded us to the finish chute.  It was so nice hearing the cheers from fellow Peachtree Tri Club members as I made may way around the last little hairpin turn.  It was SO FABULOUS seeing Big S, Keith and Bill at the Blue Iron Coaching tent!  The finish line was within reach.  I crossed it with a big smile across my face...I think!  My Garmin clocked my run at 26:12 and my finish time was 1:14:21...good enough for 3rd Place Overall Master Female!

I feel strange being categorized as a Master, which are athletes 40 years old and older, but my driver's license confirms my status.  I was told by my good friend, Tony Hammett, that it also means I have experience.  Well, that is true.  I've been participating in this sport for eleven seasons.  I've definitely learned a lot over the years.  But...I continue learning and that is what I love about the sport!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who came out to support, cheer and volunteer!  It makes a big difference to have you out there!  Please know ALL OF YOU have banked a TON of GOOD KARMA POINTS!

I'm totally stoked about my 2013 triathlon season!  I was able to do four races: Great Clermont Olympic (PR), Turtle Crawl Olympic (2nd Overall Female), Chattahoochee Challenge and Lake Lanier Islands Sprint (3rd Overall Master Female).

For 2014, I've got these races on my calendar: January - HITS Naples Olympic, April - West Point Lake Olympic, May - Turtle Crawl Olympic and September - Tugaloo Olympic.

Happy Training & Racing!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Blue Iron Coaching Kicks Off Beginner Triathlon Program!

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta, Ga - Mari Fridenmaker, of Blue Iron Coaching, just launched a program which will take 10 new athletes on a six month journey to completing their first ever triathlon. The program, Irons in the Fire, kicked off on September 15, 2013 with the hopes of leading beginner triathletes through a training schedule which will culminate in the team participating in the HITS race series in Ocala, Florida in March. 

The team is made up of all types of people coming from various athletic backgrounds with the goal of learning to swim, bike, and run. The event in Ocala is an Olympic distance race featuring a 1500 meter swim, 24.8 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run. 

Mari started coaching 6 years ago and was able to take her business full-time just a little over two years ago. With a strong swimming background, Mari has found great success through helping her athletes master the ever daunting open water swim at the beginning of most races. After coaching several athletes through their first Ironman, Mari noticed a definite lack in support being given to first time athletes. "I've met so many dedicated athletes who want to try the sport," Mari says.  "I finally realized there is a need for a program that will take these folks through the process, step-by-step." And that's exactly what she is planning to do. 

The team is being given a training schedule for the next six months and with team workouts scheduled for Sunday mornings. The athletes will cover topics related to swimming more efficiently, navigating the roads of Atlanta safely, and how to have proper run form. 

"Sharing the sport of triathlon is such a joy for me. I'm thrilled to be working alongside this group of athletes with Assistant Coach, Jonathan Watson," says Mari. 

To find out more, visit blueironcoaching.com

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In Case of Emergency, Read This!

How many times have you skipped a workout because you forgot a vital piece of equipment?  If you answered "1, 2, 3, 4 or more"...I have an idea for you: A Workout Emergency Kit!

I keep a "Workout Emergency Kit" in a small sling-back bag in my car in case I ever forget something OR in case I want to do an impromptu workout.  

Here is what is in my kit:

* Running Shoes - Not my latest and greatest running shoes, but an old pair that will work in a pinch.

* Running Shorts

* Socks

* Swimsuit - Again, not my favorite suit, but one that at least doesn't have any *thin spots* if you know what I mean.

* Small Towel

* Flip Flops - I got these free at last year's 13.1 Atlanta race for turning in a pair of old running shoes.

* Goggles

* Swim Cap

NOTE: I already keep most of my bike equipment (ex. helmet, shoes, extra sunglasses, etc) in my car.

Need more motivation to put together your kit?   I used a few items from my kit after last Saturday's Swim For Your Life event, organized by Olympian, Eric Shanteau.  After the swim, there was a clinic.  I stayed for the clinic and planned to run afterward.  After a rain-soaked run, I was all out of dry clothes.  I dove in my kit, pulled out the flip flops, towel and running shorts.  Since I received a shirt at the event, I was all set with dry clothes to get me home from Lake Lanier, comfortably.  Ahhh...there is nothing like dry clothes after being wet for approximately 4 hours.

Now, get your kit together!  No more excuses for missed workouts!

Happy Training and Racing!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Meet Atlanta's Own Pro Triathlete, Haley Chura!

I've had the pleasure of knowing Atlanta's own Pro Triathlete, Haley Chura since 2009, which was early her triathlon career.  Last Wednesday, I sat down with her to ask her a few questions.  Here is a recap of my interview.

How did you get started in triathlon?
I always knew I would be a triathlete.  I grew up with active parents.  In fact, they did triathlons back in the 80s with the Bud Light series.  I figured that is what you do when you grew up was triathlons. 

I grew up swimming.  That was my focus.  After college, I thought I was done. 

In 2008, my boss challenged me to do a Half Iron distance triathlon.  I did not train at all for the bike and run.  I trained for the swim.  I went down to Macon.  It was a billion degrees.   I finished the race.  

I had the best time!  I loved the atmosphere.  I loved the community.

My friend, Betty Janelle from Dynamo Masters, was training for the Hawaii 70.3 in 2009.  She told me to pick a Half around the same time.  She said we should find a coach and really train right.  We knew Matthew Rose from Dynamo Masters and decided to hire him.  Matthew had just started Dynamo Multisport.  Betty was his 2nd client and I was his 3rd.

What does triathlon mean to you?
It’s evolved over the years.  At first it was something fun to do.  Now, it is my lifestyle and my career.  I never thought it would turn out that way.  I’ve met some really, really good people.  It’s changed my life in so many ways, for the better.  I’ve learned to take risks and dream big.  It is an important part of my life now.

Where is your favorite place to train?
For indoor workouts, I love training at Dynamo for swimming and cycling.  For outdoor workouts, I love going to the Gaps.  That is my all time favorite place to train outdoors.  For outdoor running, I like Kennesaw Mountain, Chattahoochee River Trails, Columns Drive for intervals and Piedmont Park.

What is your favorite workout?
Hill Repeats at the Gaps, specifically at Neels Gap

Start at Turners Corner
4 x (Ride up to the top of Neels, down the same side of Neels, then run off the bike for 12.5 minutes out and 12.5 minutes back)

This workout takes approximately six hours.  Try it!

What are your mental toughness strategies?
For me, I have to work hard to keep my thoughts positive.  Matthew has helped me work with mantras.  Some of my favorite mantras are, “Find a Way”, “Believe” and “Be Kind” (from her friend Kathryn Honderd).

Another thing I keep in mind is something fellow pro triathlete Hillary Biscay told me: “Even when you think you are not doing well, many times you are doing better than you think.  You won’t know until you finish.  Just stick with it.”

I always try to think of happy things.  For example, if my parents are at the race, that makes me happy.

Also, having supportive people around who are positive helps a lot.

What was your most memorable race?
My most memorable race was definitely my first time in Hawaii for the Ironman in 2009.  I was 24 years old.  I had a great swim and a pretty good bike.  I had major issues on the run.  I ended up walking on the Queen K.  It was so lonely out there.  Even though I thought I might be dying, I knew I was going to finish.  Matthew walked with me for a little bit and it was so nice.  My parents found me at the finish.  Having them there was so nice too.

I knew I was going to do another Ironman.  It gave me strength and a hunger to do it again.

What was it like leaving your job to fulfill your career as a pro triathlete?
It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I had a great job in Public Accounting.  It was comfortable.  It was safe.  It is what society says it is what I should be doing. 

Leaving my job was premeditated.  I planned by taking money out of my paycheck to save for four years. 

I knew I wasn’t being fair to myself by working and trying to be a triathlete.  I knew I wouldn’t be as good of a pro triathlete if I was still working.

It was a lot harder than I expected.        

Do you ever miss a workout?
Yeah, sometimes I do, but it is usually something that is out of my control.  I structure my day so I do my key workouts in the morning.

I don’t ever miss a workout just because I don’t feel like doing it.  I want to know that when I line up for a race, I gave my training everything I possibly could.

I also trust my coach, Matthew.  I know if he puts something on my schedule, he feels it’s important.  

What are you doing differently now that you are a pro?
I sleep a lot more.  I cook more.  I take more time to prepare healthy food.  I put more effort and time in to this. 

I haven’t increased my workouts that much, but I’m more focused.  I used not worry too much about missing my times or numbers because I could blame it on some client or something like that.  Now, it is totally my fault if I don’t make my numbers.

What advice would you give another triathlete who wants to take it to the next level?
Make sure you have a really good support system around you. Have one person you can talk to because things get hard.  This is a 100% performance based career.  If I don’t race well, I don’t get paid.

What do you want to share about your experience working with your coach, 
Matthew Rose?
I am so thankful for Matthew.  When we started working together, I didn’t know what I was doing.  He saw so much more in me than I did.  After that first Half Iron race in Macon, he told me I was going to Hawaii and I would go pro.  I don’t think other coaches would have looked at me and seen what he did.

I grew up in the sport with him coaching me.   He’s been a huge part of helping me realize that I could take risks and have something different than what society says.   

Coaches and teachers can do so much good.  I don’t think those people (coaches and teachers) realize it.

How do you choose your races?
I decide on my “A” goal race, then work backwards.  Going pro has been different.  #1 I have more flexibility. #2 There is a points system.

I also have to think about the finances of doing a race.  I have to think about if it is a fairly inexpensive race to go to.  And, will I make money. 

I knew I wanted to go to Hawaii this year, but I knew it was going to be a struggle. I ended up getting in to Hawaii, but at the last minute.  The top 35 female pros with the most points get in.  I was the 36th female pro.  One of the 35 females got injured and it rolled down to me. 

What is your next race and what are your goals?
Hawaii is my next race.  Since I didn’t think I was going to get in, I’m using this as an opportunity for me to collect data on what it is like to race with the pros.  I want to be proud of my race.  I also want to influence the race, especially on the swim.

Do you have any plans to move to a more desirable training location (ex. Colorado Springs, San Diego, Clermont, etc.)?
To be honest, I thought about it a lot because my family isn’t here.  I don’t have any plans to move.  Atlanta is a great tri community.

There are great places to train here.  There is different terrain.  You have the Gaps.  You have great pools.  You have great places to run. 

There is great airport access which is important since I travel a lot now.

There is a lot of value in the Dynamo team.  I have really good training partners.  I have support of the community, like with all3sports.

Atlanta has been good for me.  I want to stay in Atlanta as long as I possibly can.

I really appreciated the time Haley spent with me.  When you see her around town or at a race, definitely say "hi" and introduce yourself.  You might even have a question or two to ask her.  Don't hesitate!  She is totally cool and approachable!

You can keep up with Haley by checking out her blog (http://www.haleychura.com/) and following her on Twitter @HaleyChura.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adventures in Racing!

You wouldn't know it by my smile, but a bit of uneasiness was taking over a piece of my brain as the Chattahoochee Challenge *Olympic* Distance Triathlon began this past Saturday in Columbus, GA.  For safety reasons, the Race Director decided to change the swim from a 1,500-meter swim to a 500-meter swim, 500ish meter run back to the swim start, followed by another 500-meter swim.  Since I had never done this type of swim/run/swim, I was a bit nervous.  But, I had to just go with the flow and take what was given to me in a situation like this.

My wave started from a wobbly boat dock.  Since it was still a little dark and I couldn't see the bottom of the lake, I decided not to dive, but to scoot in and start the swim.  As the cannon went off, I got in and immediately felt another swimmer dive extremely close to me and I was a bit surprised.  The dock was large enough for us to spread out, however she decided to get as close as she possibly could to me.  Whatever.  Onward.

During my warm-up swim, I could feel the strength of the downstream water.  I decided to not ride the water, but to push and go as fast as I could for the 1st 500 meter point-to-point swim.  I was at the last buoy before I knew it.  Sweet!

I swam until I could touch the boat ramp with my hands.  I popped out of the water and started running back to the swim start.  I must admit, it was so much fun running in my bare feet along the green carpet!  I was even able to pass a few athletes.

As I approached the concrete steps that led down to the 2nd 500 meter swim, they announced there were volunteers to help us down the steps.  NO NEED!  I just bypassed those folks by quickly working my way down the steps.  Before I knew it, I was back in the water and feeling great!

The buoy came quickly again and I booked it out of the water, along the green carpet and back to transition.

Swim/Run/Swim Time: 20:01 (2nd Fastest in my Age Group.  This broke down to be approx 8 min swim/4 min run/8 min swim.  This is unofficial because the race timing folks did not to officially keep these splits so I decided not to either.)      

Transition went quickly.  I was out of there and ready to mount my bike when I heard encouraging words from Tony Hammett of Peak Racing.  Woo Hoo!  That boosted my spirits!  I typically sneak away to do races that my athletes are not doing.  Sometimes it is nice to just worry about my own tri needs.  And, my athletes don't need to see my race-day neurosis.  Oh no!  So, when I am on the receiving end of cheering, I'm thrilled!

T1 Time: 2:01 (Fastest in my Age Group.)

The bike was an interesting adventure.  To start, we rolled around a semi-circle and had to be extremely careful not to crash in to the athletes coming in from the swim.  Then, we made our way on to the narrow paved path.  I was glad to be alone during this part of the ride because if I had to pass another racer, it would have been difficult.  I finished up the portion of the ride on the path and got on the road.  There were tons of police at every intersection which was fantastic!  I decided to play a drinking game: Take a drink every time I passed a cop!  Woo Hoo!  Okay, after feeling bloated after about 12 drinks, I decided to name myself the "loser" of my own game.

The road led us to yet another path.  Again, no athletes were around so I didn't have to negotiate a pass.  A volunteer then directed me to ride from the path, off the path, on the grass and finally on the road.  Then, I got on another portion of the path.  Okay.  Frustrated, because I was losing speed each time I made these switches.  I had to immediately lose the negativity and again "go with the flow".

I was excited to enter Fort Benning.  The course took us all the way to the back of the base where the airfield was located.  The base was quiet so all I could think about was that the guys and gals were holed up somewhere strategizing on a top-secret mission.

I continued my mission of having a strong bike leg!  After passing the halfway point, I exited Fort Benning, continued back along the grass and on and off the path.

When I approached the 20-mile mark, it happened.  I got passed by two females in my age group.  Shucks!  I didn't know it at the time, but until that moment I had been the leader on the bike course in my age group.  Dang it!  My thoughts went from "well, crap, it won't be smart for me to increase my pace at this point because I'm going pretty darn hard and I don't want to sacrifice having a strong run" moved to "there are still 6.2-miles of run that needs to be covered, right?"  I came in to transition to finish up the bike.

NOTE: Don't let anyone tell you this bike course is "pancake flat" unless your pancakes are lumpy and bumpy.

Bike Time: 1:14:23 (5th in my Age Group.)

Again, transition was quick and smooth.

T2 Time: 00:43 (Fastest in my Age Group.  Anyone interested in a transition clinic?)

On to the run!  It was wonderful seeing Big S on the course taking pictures with his new Snappy Cam app on his iPhone.  He was having fun and so was I!  <smile>  For those of you who don't know, my hubby who is affectionately known as Big S is a Physical Therapist at Grady Hospital.  I'm so proud of him for going back to school and changing his career in his 40s.  Because he chose to work at a hospital, he works a decent amount of weekends and doesn't always make it to my races.  At the last minute, his schedule was free and he decided to come down to Columbus to cheer me on!  YAY!

I made my way over the bridge to Phenix City, AL.  The next two miles were an out-and-back route along the Chattahoochee River.  It was shaded and really pretty!  I was smiling from ear-to-ear until I got passed by a girl in my age group.  Son (or daughter) of a nutcracker!  She looked super-strong and I wasn't under any delusion of running her down.  I only had one goal for the race and that was to keep a 9 minute mile pace on the run.  I was already keeping this pace and it was still early in the run.

On the way back to the bridge that took me back to Columbus, I was definitely feeling the fatigue from the swim, run, swim, bike and first part of the run.  I must have zoned out for a second because I caught the lip of the bridge with my foot and I fell to the ground, dropping my hand-held water bottle.  Oh shizz!  Luckily, there was no damage done!  I jumped up, grabbed my water bottle and kept going.  

I am so glad I took my hand-held water bottle for the run because the aid stations were few, far between and not well positioned.  For example, around mile 3, as I grabbed a cup of water to dump on my head, an athlete coming toward me also chest-bumped me as he grabbed his cup of water.  For some reason they had athletes who were coming and going reaching on the same side of the table for the cups.  <sigh>  Now that I knew this fact, I was very strategic as I approached the tables for more cups of water to dump on my head.

Unfortunately, the second half of the run did not have as much shade.  About the time I was feeling really tired and hot, I finally made the last turn on Broadway.  I could see the finish line in the distance.  I had to stay strong because I still had about a half mile left.  I could see Big S's bright blue shirt along the side of the course near the finish line so I decided to kick it in and finish up the race!  Yee Haw!  I was glad to be done!

SAME NOTE AS THE BIKE: This is not a flat run course.  There are inclines going up and down the bridge from GA to AL and back.  There are a few small rollers along the path in AL and there is a small climb around mile 3.

Run Time: 54:54 (7th in my Age Group, however I made my goal by averaging a 8:52 pace.)  

Total Time: 2:32:08 (4th out of 22 in my Age Group and 14th out of 81 Overall Females)

I am extremely pleased with my results.  This is the most difficult distance race for me because I go hard (ex. Heart Rate Zone: High 4) for the entire time.  Nutrition is very important for this distance.  I find it is difficult to take in nutrition while going hard.  For me, it must be achieved with liquid-only and must not be neglected over the course of the race.  If neglected, my run will certainly suffer.  Since I am not as strong as my competitors on the run, I need every advantage possible.  I felt good about my nutrition by finishing one entire 24 oz. bottle and half of another bottle on the bike.  I finished my 20 oz. bottle on the run.  I took a couple of cups of cold water to drink which was nice.

Regarding the race, I wish I would have familiarized myself more with the course.  I was unclear with the swim exit.  I was surprised with riding on the grass.  I was not prepared to get on and off the path.  I was not expecting the long stretch on Broadway to the finish line.  That was the price I paid by rolling in to Columbus late in the day and feeling too tired to scope things out ahead of time.

The race itself needs a few tweaks.  First and foremost, I was a little troubled by the fact that there was drafting along the bike course, however I never saw a USA Triathlon official.  I usually see at least one during the race.  When I reviewed the results, I didn't see any penalties listed.  I will be extremely disappointed if this ends up not being a USA Triathlon sanctioned race.  As USAT members, we only receive a ranking when we do (3) races per year.  I haven't had a ranking in the past two years.  One of my goals for this year was to do 3 - 4 races so I can get my ranking.  A bigger issue for me is the safety of the athletes.  When races are sanctioned by USAT, there are several steps Race Directors take in order to keep the race safe by USAT standards for the athletes.  I will follow up with the RD to confirm the details.    

All in all, I had fun.  I raced hard.  I loved having Big S at the race.  I enjoyed visiting Columbus, GA.

Next up: Lake Lanier Islands Sprint Triathlon on Sunday, September 29th!

Happy Training and Racing!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tips for Training and Racing in the Heat - #5 Strategies for Post-Race!

You've successfully crossed the finish line!  Congratulations!  Now what?  Be sure to rehydrate and refuel as soon as possible.  Here's how:

Tip#1 - Grab a big bottle of water to drink at the finish.

If there isn't any water available, have a big bottle chilling in  your cooler, which you can quickly access by stashing in your car, strategically placing behind a tree or held by your significant other.

Tip #2 - Don't rely on post-race food.

I've been offered everything from nothing at the Six Gap/Three Gap Ride in Dahlonega, GA to BBQ Pork Sandwiches at the Kansas 70.3 in Lawrence, KS to gourmet salads at the Tri The Mountains Sprint in Blue Ridge, GA.  Since we are not able to place an order for a nutritious post-race meal, my suggestion is to pack one for yourself!  It can be as simple as a chocolate milk and peanut butter and jelly sandwich, packed in a cooler.

Tip #3 - Continue to rehydrate and nourish yourself throughout the day.

Keeping yourself hydrated and nourished right after your big race will make a big difference in how quickly you are able to recover.  

You are now armed with everything you need to know about training and racing in the heat!  There is no time like the present to get out there and embrace it!

Check out my past posts:

Happy Training and Racing...in the Heat!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tips for Training and Racing in the Heat - #4 Strategies for Race Day!

You've done all the right things leading up to race day.  Now, you are up and at 'em first thing in the morning...don't blow it!

Tip #1 - Bring an extra fluid* bottle to the race venue!

*Fluid means water mixed with electrolytes and carbohydrates.

If you like to be early to the race site on race day, you still might have two hours until the gun goes off to start your wave.  Bring an extra fluid bottle to sip while you set up transition and while you wait for the start.

Tip #2 - Wear a hat, not a visor!

A hat is perfect for holding ice.  What?!?!  For a lot of us, when we start the run, the sun is bright, the temps are higher and we are hot and tired.  Most aid stations will have ice.  When you approach the station, pull off your hat, ask the volunteers to help you fill your hat about halfway with ice, then place the ice-filled hat on your head.  The ice will melt and run down your head keeping you cool.  Another benefit if you have enough ice, your brain freezes and you forget what crazy feat you are trying to accomplish!  You can also dump your hat in cold water to get a similar affect.  One last benefit of a hat is the shade the bill provides.

Tip #3 - Use the rags and sponges provided at the race!

Again, many aid stations will have rags and/or sponges soaking in a tub of cold water.  Don't pass them up!  These icy rags can be tied around your neck to keep you cool.  Sponges can be placed near the neck and chest to cool your core.  You can also stuff one in your hat.  Then, these can be exchanged at the next aid station for a cool replacement!

Tip #4 - Keep shoes dry!

Wet shoes and socks cause blisters.  Also, no one likes sloshing through the run leg of a triathlon.  If you decide to dump water on your head, try bending forward so you don't soak your shoes.  Avoid running through sprinklers and/or hoses.  As much as I would love to have the kid in the neighborhood drench me with his Super-Soaker, I say "No, thank you".  Also, keep those rags and sponges toward the top of your body.

You now have four tips to help you have a fantastic race!

Happy Training and Racing...in the Heat!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tips for Training and Racing in the Heat - #3 Prepare for Your Race 24 - 48 Hours in Advance!

It gets hectic the week leading up to a big race.  Athletes are wrapping up loose ends at work, buying last minute supplies and getting packed to go to the venue.  After all the training you just put in over the past several months, your race result could be sub-par if you show up at the start line tired, dehydrated and low on energy.  What a shame!

For your next triathlon this summer, prepare for the race at least 24 - 48 hours ahead by following these easy steps:

#1 Be sure to get extra sleep throughout the week.

#2 Eat nutritious meals at well timed intervals (ex. consume more calories before, during and after workouts, consume less calories during the times you are not exercising, etc.).

#3 Pay attention to your hydration and be sure your are drinking water and/or fluid with electrolytes and carbohydrates throughout the 24 - 48 hours leading up to your race.

If you can stick to these easy steps, you will be poised for the race result you deserve!

Happy Training and Racing...in the Heat!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tips for Training and Racing in the Heat - #2 Stay Hydrated!

Unfortunately, The Most Interesting Man in the World has it all wrong!  He should be telling athletes to "Stay Hydrated"!

Getting acclimated to the heat and staying hydrated is more important now more than ever!  The temperatures are starting to rise and we'll be in the thick of summer before we know it.

If you are an athlete who will be training and racing over the summer, it's best to think of hydrating as a continuous cycle.

First thing in the morning, grab a glass of water and start drinking.  If you brew coffee at home, take the time to drink a glass of water while you prepare your morning pot of coffee.  If you stop by a local coffee shop for your morning caffeine fix, take a bottle of water and drink it on the way! Then, re-fill that bottle and drink from it throughout the day.

Water is totally fine to use for daily hydration.  If you are not thrilled with the taste of plain water, just add some juice from a lemon, lime, orange or your other favorite fruit.  You can also add a little bit of salt and sugar to your water for some calories and electrolytes.  Or, try a vitamin powder like Emergen-C.

During the summer months, limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol.  Both will negatively affect your ability to stay hydrated.

For workouts, plan to actually start the workout hydrated!  Then, stay hydrated by consuming at least one 20 - 24 ounce bottle of fluid per hour of exercise.  For long workouts, plan to do loops where you can circle back around to your car or secret bottle hiding place to re-load your bottle.  You might also want to carry a hand-held water bottle or a waist-belt hydration system.

Be sure to hydrate post-workout!  It can take 24 - 48 hours to rehydrate after a long, hard workout.  If you are driving to your workout location, pack a cooler with a snack and fluid with electrolytes and carbohydrates to consume immediately after your workout.  Keep up with the cycle of continuous hydration!

Follow these suggestions and you will be feeling strong all summer long!

Happy Training and Racing...in the heat!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wait a Second!

The sun starts to rise in Jekyll Island, GA!

Going in to the Turtle Crawl Olympic Distance Triathlon, my only goal was to have a good, solid race.  I wasn't thinking about a PR or even winning my age group.  I simply wanted to go hard and finish strong.

As I gathered with the other women in the start corral, I definitely took note of almost all the women wearing a wetsuit.  I decided against wearing mine.  I swam the day before without my wetsuit and was happy as a Loggerhead being released back to the ocean!  I knew I might be a bit slower overall for the swim and might use more energy than my co-racers, but I would definitely save time in transition.

The buzzer went off I swam as fast as I could to the first buoy.  Once I made the turn, I settled down and swam at a pace well outside my comfort zone.  I knew we were swimming with the current, however I also knew swimmers were getting pushed toward the shore a bit.  I decided to sight as little as possible.  Yep, I got off course a bit a couple of times as I was pushed toward the shore, but I felt good about keeping my head down and keeping a good rhythm.

As I exited the water, I took a glance at my Garmin and was quite happy with my time.  I felt like I kept a good pace and didn't let up.

Swim: 25:30

I ran up the beach across the firmly packed sand.  Then, I hit the loose sand and everything shifted to slooowww mooootion.  Ugh.  I ran up the steps, across the boardwalk, down the steps, down the sidewalk, along the outside of transition, around transition, into transition and finally to my bike. 1st goes the sunglasses, 2nd the helmet, 3rd the shoes, 4th grab my bike and I head out to the bike course.

Okay, it was only .25 miles, but it seemed like a 10K!

T1: 2:16

Did I mention the bike course was 29 miles?  Did I mention I felt like I ate a big bag of Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips when I exited the water?  Did I mention I only decided to bring one bottle of my fluid?  Well, not that I've mentioned these things, I'll get on with the bike leg.

Jena* and I started crankin' out of the gate!  Whoa Jena!  Let's settle in and not get too excited.  The 22 mph I saw during the first 3 miles didn't last long.  I needed to make sure I was staying strong on the bike all the while ensuring strength for the run.

*For those of you who haven't met Jena, she is my Kestrel Airfoil Tri Bike.  We've been together for 8 years!

The two-loop bike course is extremely picturesque!  We could see the ocean, Spanish moss and historic landmarks along the way.  We rode by my favorite attraction at Jekyll Island, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which I visited the day before.  Oh, we also went by the lame-o water park.  Do kids still like water parks?  I'm not really sure why this area needs a water park when there is a fabulous ocean and beach just steps away.

As I approached the end of the island to turn back toward the race site, I noticed a woman ahead of me with a "41" on her calf.  Okay, time to make my move.  I passed her.  Woo Hoo!  My "woo hoo" is also because she was the first woman I spotted in my Age Group (40 - 44) on the bike course.  She and I played leapfrog for the next 8 miles or so before I decided enough was enough.  I accelerated around her and never saw her again.

Because I was feeling like a salty dog and because the bike course was 29 miles, I took a water bottle from the aid station and drank it down for a total of 1 bottle of Ironman Perform and 1 bottle of H2O.  I normally I would only use one fluid bottle for a race like this, but I needed that extra hydration.

Coming into transition was fun.  For the first time, I felt great!  When I say "great" I mean strong!  My legs were ready to start the run!

Bike: 1:28:16 (Did I mention the bike course was 29 miles?) <smile>

T2 was easy: 1st put on shoes and socks, 2nd clip on race belt, 3rd grab water bottle and hat and head out to the run course.

T2: 1:03

The run starts on a path next to the ocean so it was beautiful.  This is an out-and-back course which I love because you can see fellow racers coming and going.  It wasn't long before I saw Dennis R. a strong triathlete I've known for several years who lives in Canton, GA.  He looked strong and I knew he would be on the podium later that day.  It was super-cool to see all the fast guys coming back from their run on the way to the finish.

After I passed the Sprint turn-around at mile 1.5ish, I realized it was time to start checking out my competitors.  So far, I hadn't seen any women.  Hmmmm...this was a very strange feeling.  One in which I've never had before.  At around mile 1.75ish, I heard one volunteer say to another, "I haven't seen very many women come through yet."  Wait a second!  WHAT did she say?  I decided to chalk it up to the 80 degree temps, sun beating down on my head and fatigue setting in.  Regardless, I started keeping my eyes peeled for a woman.  Then, there she was!  Looking strong in her yellow Team FCA Endurance kit!  Okay, then.  Who's next?  I made the turn-around and realized I was next.  Wait a second!  Either I'm in 2nd place or there are some mighty fast women who have already finished.  This is unbelievable!

I was keeping a steady 9 minute mile pace which is really good for me on a race of this distance.  I thought if I could keep it up, I would be super-pumped with my finish time.  <smile>

Okay, back to looking for women!  The next woman I saw was about .5 - .75 miles behind me.  I needed to keep my pace and hope I didn't get run down, which has happened to me before.  The run is my weakest of the three and I typically drop several places among my peers because of my slower run times.  All good today, though!  I turned on my "game face" and stayed *looking* strong as I made my way back down the course and through the finish chute.  

Run: 54:40

Total Time: 2:51:14

When the results were posted, I was pleased to see that I placed 2nd Overall among the Females.  I was thrilled to stand on the podium for the first time in my 10-year triathlon career!

Another highlight of this short trip to Jekyll Island included a Loggerhead Sea Turtle named Sandy Hook.  Sandy Hook was found stranded on Fernandina Beach, Florida on March 11, 2013.  She was rehabilitated at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and released back to the sea on the same day as the race.  It was very moving to experience this with the rest of the folks on the beach.  It was a fantastic way to end my stay at Jekyll Island!

Sandy Hook goes home!

Happy Training and Racing!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tips for Training and Racing in the Heat - #1 Get Acclimated!

We seem to on a bit of a delay with the heat moving in to Atlanta, however it is coming and you can bet on the fact that it will hang around for several months!  Are you ready to train and race in the heat?  If not, that's okay because I have some tips for you to deal with the high temps in Atlanta.

One of the best things you can do is get acclimated to the heat!  This can best be done by...you guessed it...actually training in the heat!  It takes anywhere from 10 to thirty days to acclimate to the heat, depending on how many consecutive days you are willing to expose yourself to training in the warm weather.  Read this article for more information and tips on how to acclimate: PowerBar Training Tip: Dealing with Heat and Humidity

Be smart by building the time you spend in the heat and the intensity in which you are exercising.  Gradually build from a conservative level to your regular duration and pace.

Hydrate during these workouts by following this guideline: Consume 20 - 24 ounces of fluid* for every hour of exercise.  Plan to consume fluid* even if your workout will last less than 60 minutes, especially as it warms up.

*Fluid should consist of water mixed with electrolytes and carbohydrates.      

Quick tip for a homemade fluid mixture: In your water bottle, combine 20 - 24 oz of water with 1 tsp of salt, 1 Tbsp of sugar and juice from your favorite citrus fruit.

Happy Training and Racing in the Heat!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

30 Years...Then and Now!

I'm still on a bit of a high after completing my first triathlon of the year on Sunday, March 24th and I wanted to share my experience with you!

Signing up for this year's Great Clermont Triathlon Olympic Distance Triathlon last year was a no brainer.  I love having an early season race on the calendar to keep me motivated over the winter.  I love racing in Clermont, Florida for three reasons: #1 - The area is beautiful, #2 - The bike course is hilly and #3 - Sommer Sports offers low-cost registration fees and Clermont is an inexpensive place to stay.  The fact that it was the race's 30th year made it that much more sweet!

Enjoying our visit to the National Training Center

30 years ago I was 12.  The chances are good you could have caught me in front of the TV watching People's Court, eating a package of Soft Batch Cookies and drinking a bottle of Pepsi.  You would NOT have seen me running, unless it was from the police when my friend Kar-Dog and I were caught tying toilet paper across the street around a street sign and stop sign.  My Middle School and High School friends think it is fascinating that I'm involved in the sport of triathlon based on the cookie-eating, pop-drinking pre-teen and teenager they once knew.

Okay, enough reminiscing...on with my race report!

On the beach, I lined up in front with the first buoy directly in front of me.  My plan was to get to the first buoy as soon as possible, then settle in to a hard, slightly uncomfortable pace.  I was also not planning on doing a lot of sighting.  It was quite cloudy in the morning and during my warm-up swim, I could tell I wouldn't easily see the yellow buoys.

The gun fired and we were off!  I'm not sure how many women were in my wave, but it didn't seem like more than 80.  I was definitely in with several fast women who quickly left me behind.  It was *all good* because before I knew it, I already passed a guy in the wave before mine.  I kept on trucking through the swim, seeing the buoys when I needed to and keeping my head down for the majority of the time.

At the first turn, the water started getting choppy due to the increasing wind speed.  I was struggling to get a breath because water was washing over my face just about every time I turned my head to breathe.  Luckily, I love hypoxic breathing swim workouts so I knew I was in good shape.  A few times, I flipped on my back to get  a breath, but immediately got back in my rhythm.

As I exited the water, I started to unzip my wetsuit and immediately realized my zipper was stuck.  I ran right up to the burly, red-headed, male wetsuit stripper, (who, by the way, told me his name was Cinnamon and he was only stripping to earn money for college!  <wink>  LOL!) told him my zipper was stuck and I turned around so he could help me.  He told me it was down and I started working my arms out of the wetsuit.  I had some trouble getting out of that thing, so I started jumping up and down.  It was actually pretty funny!  I finally got my arms out.  I pulled it down as far as I could, laid on the ground and "Cinnamon" did the rest.  He handed me my wetsuit and away I went in to transition!  

Swim Split: 25:27 (Fastest 1.5K swim ever!)

NOTE: After unpacking my gear, I noticed my wetsuit zipper was indeed stuck because it was still stuck when I pulled it out of my bag.  

TI was smooth sailing.  I guess this is where my experience comes in to play.  I got to the race early and snagged an end spot on the rack.  Also, I try to keep my items in transition to a minimum: Bike, Bottle to Rinse Feet, Helmet, Bike Shoes, Sunglasses, Running Shoes, Socks, Fluid Bottle, Race Belt w/ Number and Hat.  One of these days, I'll go sockless on the run.  <sigh>

T1 Split: 3:02

My race buddies, Kristi, Angela, race supporter Vanessa and I drove the bike course the day before so we knew what was ahead.  Hills.  Some short.  Some long.  Some steep.  All good!  Bring 'em!  That was what I thought until the wind became a factor.  It wasn't terrible, but enough to slightly change my bike strategy.  I kept my head down, cadence high and I didn't let my heart rate go above the top of Zone 4.  I wanted to have the best bike split I possibly could while setting myself up for a good run.

The hills came and went.  The lake was ahead so I knew we were done with the hills.  However, when biking around a lake, the wind tends to be stronger, especially in the areas where there are very few trees.  I crossed over a bridge and felt my bike wobble a bit as the wind picked up.  There may have been a slight heart rate spike at that point, but nothing serious.  <smile>

As I came in to transition, I was happy because I felt like I was smart on the bike, even if I was a bit slower than my goal.

Bike Split: 1:23:14

T2 was a bit of a comedy.  I have this lightning-fast strategy of racking my bike, taking off my helmet and shoes, grabbing my hat, race belt and putting them on as I run out of transition.  Ooops...I forgot I also was planning to carry my fluid bottle.  Since I don't have a third arm and hand, I realized my lightning-fast strategy was going to be more like a slow-drizzle.  I grabbed all three items, started to run out of transition, stopped at the end of transition, dropped my fluid bottle, but on my hat and race belt, grabbed my fluid bottle and the run was underway!

NOTE: As I mentioned earlier, I have a lot of experience.  With that, I'll admit...the Olympic Distance is the distance that is the HARDEST distance for me to nail.  Why?  You go hard for 3 hours!  The truth is that I haven't done an Oly Distance race since August 2010.  Clearly, I could have used a little bit more practice in a few areas (ex. T2).

T2 Split: 1:12 (I'llllllll take it!)

My goal was to have a strong run with 9 minute per mile average splits.  I knew this would be tough, but I wanted to push more than I ever had in this distance race.  As I started the run, I realized how much humidity was in the air (89%).  I also realized the temperature was warm (75 degrees).  I knew I must stay on top of my hydration.  I stayed on top of my hydration SO MUCH, that I finished my 20 oz bottle before I hit the 4 mile mark.  Luckily the aid stations were in the right places and I continued to drink and dump water on my head at every opportunity.

During the run, I practiced the form tips Kyle O'Day gave me during our Run Videotaping Clinic last month:   "Lift your knees a bit and bring your foot down like you are crushing a can."  As I began to fatigue, I was still able to "crush the can", but "lifting the knees" became challenging.  I continued on and crossed the finish line with a big ol' grin on my face!

Run Split: 57:32 (9:16 minutes per mile average pace)

Overall Time: 2:50:25^, 5th Place in my AG (Women 40 - 44) out of 14, 38th Place Overall Women out of 106

^Technically this is not a true PR because I did 2:40 at Turtle Crawl in 2009 when the swim with SO FAST with the current.  With an 18 minute swim at that race, I put an "*" by that finish time.  Bottom Line = This is my fastest non-"*" Olympic Distance race!

Angela and Kristi finished strong and Vanessa was an excellent race supporter!  A big "THANKS" goes out to these ladies for coming down to one my favorite race venues and putting up with all my quarkiness!  We had a really fun weekend and I'm looking forward to racing in Clermont again, possibly in 2014!  Maybe in another 30 years and I can look back on all the funny things that happened 30 years ago!

Next up: Turtle Crawl Olympic Distance on Saturday, May 18th!

What is your next race and what are your goals?

Happy Training and Racing!