Friday, October 14, 2011

My Most Memorable Marathon Moments

Now that I am not so sore and the memory of pain is fading from Sunday's race, I wanted to share a few moments that stood out for me during the 26.2.  What were your best memories?

1.  The buzzing at the start line.  The nervous energy throughout the crowd as the National Anthem was sung, the elite runners were announced and the countdown to the start.

2.  Seeing my best friend cheering me on at mile 4.  She came down all the way from Wisconsin to surprise me!

3.  In Chinatown, I witnessed a 30-something male leaning against a utility pole clutching his quad.   A Chinese grandmother ran over and started pounding rapidly on his leg.   I am not certain that she knew him, but I am certain that she was trying to help!

4.  The deja vu I felt at my low point- the frontage road near White Sox field.  As soon as I was chugging along in the sun all my memories from 2010 came flooding back.  This is where I was mentally exhausted, my legs felt like concrete slabs, and I still had about 3.5 miles to go.    This was when I said in 2010 "this is my last marathon" and I know I uttered those words again this year.

5.  The Nike Cheerzone on S. Michigan Ave- thank you for being there.  You were a light near the end of the tunnel.

6.  The "trail of tears" after the Nike Cheerzone.  People were honestly dropping like flies.  It went like this: Lean over, clutch aching muscle, limp to the side of the street, crumple to the ground.  I saw this happen at least 10 times in the last two miles and just prayed it would not happen to me.

6.  Crossing that finish line- does it really get any better than that?!?!?!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chicago Marathon Race Recap

As I type these words I am not sure if I am quite ready to write the race recap.  My body is aching, my mind is sluggish and I have blisters the size of quarters on my toes.  Right now I hate the marathon.  I am sure many of you who ran yesterday can empathize with me- it is a tough event.

The day turned out to be warm, but not nearly as hot as I expected.  There was a cool breeze blowing most of the race.  The first 13 miles flew by- through the loop, boystown, old town and out to the west loop.  A good portion of that half is in the shade and the miles flew by.   I was doing well the entire first half.  Miles 14 and 15 felt pretty good.  And then it started- a dull ache in my hip.  I have been in PT the last several weeks for my hip and thought it was back to normal.  After 15 miles, my body begged to differ.

I plowed through those last 10 miles at the most painful, harrowing 10 minute mile pace you could imagine.  It was a mind game to not just start walking.  Thanks so much to friends who were cheering and supporting me along the way.  Between Chinatown and the last stretch of Michigan Ave is where you get to have a personal struggle between your body and mind..  There is an ugly stretch of frontage road where the crowd is sparse, the sun is beating and you just want. to. be. done.  But you still have 5 miles to go.  

Once I made that last left turn I could start to see the light.  The Nike Cheer Zone was awesome and I am pretty sure many of the spectators were drunk, which makes for loud cheering.  I dug deep and could not even feel my legs on the last little hill towards the finish line.   As much as I hated myself during those last 10 miles and despite the pain, crossing that finish line is a glorious feeling.

There is a reason I call myself a  "triathlete" and "triathlon coach."  Racing in a triathlon is what I love to do.  Yesterday's event was a true challenge for my mind and body but I am not convinced that it made me feel good, like a triathlon would.   Like many others, I said "not next year" about running the marathon again.  I think I will come back and try to get my revenge, but I am going to take a few years off.  This bod needs some cross training and year of dedicated tri training.

Congrats to ALL of you out there yesterday, especially those I have coached throughout the years!  You are a marathoner and you should be so proud!

-Coach A

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Get Marathon Ready: Visualization 101

Alright runners, we are in the final hours.  It is time for you to chill out, take a minute, and visualize how you are going to dominate this race on Sunday!  Here is what you need to do.

Find 20 minutes, a quiet room and a comfortable space.   It can even be the time right before you are going to drift off to sleep tonight.  Close your eyes and start to imagine the alarm going off Sunday morning.  Go through your morning routine; eating, getting dressed, making your way to Grant Park.  Imagine the masses of runners heading toward the start and the active warm-up you will do before you make your way into the corrals.   Picture how you want to feel Sunday morning- light on your feet, fit, exhilarated, fast.  Spend several minutes going through the miles in the race; the different neighborhoods, the spectators, the mile markers.  Go to mile 20 where you will have tired legs and mind and use your mental plan to power through.  Place your mind at the last mile where the crowd will get you through to the finish.  Take a few moments and think about how awesome you will feel when you cross that finish line.  Linger here for a bit.  

Once you have made it through your entire race morning you should feel empowered, pumped and completely prepared for your race.  Visualization may seem corny, but it will help calm your mind and body and prepare you for what to expect on race day.  

You are all ready!  See you at the race!
-Coach A

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marathon Mania: Mental Mistakes to Avoid

We are 4 days away!  Woot!  The city is buzzing with excitement, Tom Skilling is getting detailed with the (warm!) forecast, and the athletes are getting nervous.  What a great week!  It's time to get your mental game intact.  Below are a few things you need to avoid:

1.  Phantom Injuries Over the past couple of weeks I have had hip pain, calf pain and IT band pain.  Not to mention signs of a cold and an upset stomach.  The thing about all these symptoms is that they have been fleeting and  random.  But with the occurrence of each one my mind has jumped immediately to the marathon and how this new symptom was going to effect my race.  My guess is that each of these small things happen often, but I typically would not even pay attention to them.  Try not to linger on the small things.   Your body is ready- you will be fine.

2.  Negative Talk/Giving Yourself an Out.  Has someone ever asked you how you plan to do during a race and you reply "I want to break 4 hours, but I have not been sleeping well, been in PT and my stomach hurts today."  Not only is that response mostly negative, but you are giving yourself an out in case you don't have a great race.   Instead with your response, you should just own it. "I plan on breaking 4 hours".  Say it, believe it, do it.

3. Not Having a Mental Plan.  The first half of the marathon is cake.  It's cool, tons of fans and you feel great.  Mile 20-25 are a completely different story.  When your legs feel like lead and negative thoughts are clouding your mind, you need to have a plan.   I remember the exact minute I "gave up" on my Boston dream last year.  It was hot and I was hurting.  I told myself that I did not care if I qualified because I never wanted to do another marathon.   And that was it, I could not trump that thought.  This year I have a few different places to go when I want to give up- those early training mornings, thoughts of my friend Ellen who passed away a couple months ago, and the way I felt looking back at last year's race.  Have a few thoughts in your back pocket that you can pull out when you need a kick in the rear.

Work on getting these things in shape and you are on the right track.  Stay tuned tomorrow for a visualization exercise that will be sure to get you pumped for the big day!
-Coach A

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Top 5 Mistakes Beginner Marathoners Make

I know many of you out there reading this are first timers so I want to share a few pieces of advice with you before the big day.  Here are a few mistakes I have learned from over the years:

1- Going out TOO fast!  You don't have to be a beginner to make this mistake, but you will learn from it.  The first several miles of the marathon are amazing.  Your adrenaline is pumping, the crowd is thick and you feel great.  It is hard NOT to go fast.  The real race starts at mile 18 when the crowd thins, your body is tired and you still have 8 miles to go.  Make sure you reserve some energy for that.

2. Being stingy with the bodyglide. There is nothing worse than having legs that feel great- except for the raw skin that has chafed on your upper thigh.  Yuck.  Make sure you are over enthusiastic with that body glide on your arms, legs and anywhere else you might get rubbed.

3. Having spectators look for them.  Find out where your spectators are going to be (including which side of the street) and you keep your eye out for them.  It is really hard for a spectator to spot you in the moving sea of 35,000 runners, but there is a good chance you can find them.

4. Not having a bathroom plan!  If you have not started talking about it yet, you will after October 9th.  Poop.   Experienced runners know that if you don't get it out before the race, there is a real possibility it will come out during the race, and that is bad.   Remember that when you arrive at the race Sunday morning you are going to be sharing the port-a-potties with 35,000 others which can lead to some killer lines.  Plan to arrive early or get it out of the way at home before you go.

5. Trying new shoes/clothes/food day of race.  I have said it before and I will say it again- please don't try anything new on race day.  Go with what you know and you will be fine.  New shoes (even the same brand, make, etc) may have a stitch that gives you a blister the size of a quarter.  The new flavor of gel could make you want to hurl.  Best to be safe and go with the old stuff.

I hope I have saved a few catastrophes!
-Coach A

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hello Marathoners- What you need to know RIGHT NOW for race day!

It has been a while since I have posted- life has gotten a little crazy!  Despite that, I am have gotten all my marathon training runs in and am getting super pumped for the big day!   Since I am going to be living, breathing and thinking marathon nonstop for the next two weeks, my blog posts will follow that trend.  Stay tuned here for everything you need to know about running, spectating or possibly even entering the event some day!

The Chicago Marathon is exactly two weeks away.  If you are racing, you should have received your above confirmation packet.  There is no turning back now!  At this point in your training, there are some things that you need to have figured out.


1) Be able to run 13 miles easily.  Most of you probably ran 13 miles this weekend.  It should have felt short.  You have to run twice that in two weeks. Enough said.

2) Have your nutrition plan down. Know what you are going to eat, and when you are going to eat it.  Will you drink Gatorade or just stick to water?  Are you taking any salt tablets?  Have you practiced eating the exact foods you plan to eat on race day?  The long runs are over so your chances to practice this are behind you!

3) Have a warm weather and cold weather outfit picked out.  Thankfully this year in Chicago we had very hot days, cool days, rainy days and sunny days to get our long runs in.  This means we should be prepared for anything on race day.  You should know what you are going to wear if it is 40 degrees or 90 degrees on October 9th.  Wearing a new shirt or shorts for a 26 mile run is never a good idea.  Can you say chafe?

4) Have an idea of what your race pace will be.  Provided you were doing your long runs at an easy, sustainable pace, you should be able to knock 30-40 seconds off per mile on race day.   How do you know if that is the case for you?   If you could walk around town, take care of your house/kids, etc after your long runs, you should be good.  If you have ever done a marathon and gone your fastest, think of how you felt afterwards.  Chores and chasing kids is not likely after running at your peak speed for 26.2.

5) Have race weekend logistics down.   Do you have to travel? Where are you staying?  When are you picking up your packet?  Figure out all the logistics now so marathon weekend can be as stress free as possible.

If you haven't got some of these figured out, get on it today!  Questions about any of it?  You know where to find me!
-Coach A

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin- No Race Envy Here!

Over the past couple years I have been asked the question time and time again.  "Will you do another Ironman?"  My response has always been,  "Maybe in a decade.  When my kids are old enough to not care if I spend a whole Saturday away training.   And they are teenagers so I don't mind being away from them either ;)"

The last time I watched an Ironman I was 6 months pregnant and dripping with jealousy.  I had done my Ironman less than a year earlier and in a matter of months had gone from the best shape of my life to handing over my body to the growing child inside.  As excited as I was about having a baby,  I missed being fit.  Surrounding yourself with 2,000 athletes who are at their prime and seeing them accomplish one of the ultimate fitness goals can make a pregnant girl sad.  On that day I tried to make myself feel better by plotting when I could register for my next Ironman.  I had race envy.

For those of you have experienced race envy, you know what it is.  For those of who have not, here is my best explanation:  It is kind of like running into an old boyfriend (or girlfriend).  You get kind of uneasy feeling like you know something is wrong, but you are not quite sure what it is.  You may feel the need to tell everyone that you are a triathlete and not just a mere spectator.  Just like when you run into an ex and you only think about the good times, you just think about how great it would be to be racing.  You forget about all the annoying parts (like the training, the stress, the hard work!).   And then you do something crazy like call your ex (or register the next day for the 2012 Ironman- which I did NOT do).

Well,  things have changed since I was pregnant.  Obviously, I have gotten back into tris and I love racing.  I also have continued coaching and enjoy getting new people involved with and hooked on the sport. However, as much passion as I have for triathlon, my time is limited.  I get about an hour a day to workout and focus on quality instead of quantity.  I have chosen to compete in sprint tris as I have no time to get out on long bike rides.   My one long run per week is my "me" day to workout for 2-3 hours.  And I do not want to work out a minute more.

Nowadays I rather be at the park with Alex or reading her a book.  Likewise, I rather be cheering on the sidelines of the Ironman with my toddler than looking for her in the crowd while competing in a day-long race.  And I feel totally good about that.   I still have the utmost respect for those racers who commit themselves to the training and racing and I am happy to be there to cheer them on.  I guess I can just say that I am in a different stage in my life.

So, if you ask me today if I will do another Ironman, my answer would be no.  But I am not naive enough to think that race envy won't come creeping back one of these years when I my kids are a little older and I am volunteering at IMWI.  Only time will tell!

-Coach A

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin- Race Report #2

We spent a few hours last night watching the run at miles 9/22 of the race.  It was pretty quiet out there as far as spectators, as it was the farthest point out on the course.  This is where the runners have to dig deep to keep going- there is no crowd, the finish line is far away and you have to do it TWICE.

In the beginning the runners were sparse but as the mid packers starting coming it was really fun to cheer people along.  If you have been to an Ironman, you know that the race bibs have the participant's first name on it.  As a result, you can cheer people on by name and it makes it a little more personal.

We cheered for strangers for a couple hours and spent a mere few minutes with the friends we actually knew. The range of speed at this point was huge.  The pros running past us were booking and it was painful to watch some of the age groupers walk so slowly, knowing they had 13 miles to go.

Spectating with a toddler was challenging, but I am glad we did it.  She even got into it at some points, clapping and cheering for the "runners".  Congrats to all the finishers and I hope you are feeling great about your accomplishments today!

-Coach A

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin- Race Report #1

One of my favorite weekends of the year is when my hubby and I come up to Ironman Wisconsin and spend a couple days in Madison.  For a few years we volunteered and had a great day helping out the athletes.  Last year, with an 8 month old, we decided to skip it.  This year, however, we packed up the toddler (now 20 mths) and headed up for the weekend.  Volunteering with her around is not an option, but we know a few people racing so we thought it would be fun to cheer them on.

It is a beautiful day here in Madison- clear blue sky and hitting just over 80 degrees.  The racers will probably be warm on the bike, but it was amazing outside this morning and Lake Monona was smooth and calm.    We looked out onto the lake for a while as the swimmers did their two loops.  By 7:45 am we saw people running towards their bikes and others just beginning the second lap of the swim.  The span of abilities at this race is staggering- professionals going for the win all the way to age groupers just trying to make the cutoff times.

After trying to fight the crowd, we settled in to spectate where athletes run out of T2 (in this race they have indoor changing areas before they run out to the terrace where their bikes are racked).  We got there just as masses of people were exiting the building.   It is fun to watch the range of emotions- some athletes are serious and have their game face on, others are interacting with the crowd, while others look just plain freaked out.  We managed to catch a couple of our friends as they ran out and cheered them to start the bike.

For those of you who are not familiar with the bike route in Wisconsin, it is hilly and challenging.  It is amazing what you can done while they are out there on that course- eat, nap, watch football, etc.  We will be heading back for the run shortly and I will try to post some pics of the awesome athletes.  It is exciting to think about how many people will be accomplishing a dream today!!  Go Ironmen!

-Coach A

Friday, September 2, 2011

Top Reasons to Sit Out the Chicago Tri

Okay, I said I had love/hate relationship with this race so here are my top gripes.   I still think it is better to go for it than sit it out ;)

1)  The entry fee is over $170 with all the fees.  Uggh.

2)  The goody bag was a stretch.  Mine had an oversized t-shirt, some bandaids, and lots of ads?  I have gotten better goody bags at local 5ks.

3)  It will be one of the longest days of your life.  You need to be out of transition by 5:30 and may not even start your race til 10 am.  That is rough.

4) There were no mile markers on the run!  What?

5) The age group and overall awards were medals identical to the ones you got for crossing the finish line.  Except for the inaccurate printing on the back (mine claims I was 2nd in the 30-34 age group for the Sprint AND International distances).

6) The food at the end is a little lacking and is the same every year.   Let's spice it up a little ans surprise the athletes with something new!

7)  Don't expect a fast time here- the transitions take forever and the course can get crowded!

8)  You can host a professional triathlete they may eat you out of house and home.  Just kidding!  Sort of!

I don't like to be negative so I am going to leave it at that.  I came up with ten reasons to race, and only 7.5 not too!  That means you should do it! 

Looking towards 2012?  Let's get in touch and make it happen! - Coach A

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Race the Chicago Tri

Inspired by what you saw this past weekend?  Here are the reasons you should go for it in 2012!!!

1)  If you live in Chicago, you don't have to get a hotel! 

2) If you are not from Chicago, you get to come spend a weekend in our amazing city.

3)  You can host a professional triathlete at your house and show them a good time.  Especially if they are not American!

4) It is one of most wonderful ways to experience the city- swim in the lake, bike on Lakeshore Dr and run on the path.  The views are awesome and the crowd is a blast!

5) There is free beer at the end.

6) Truly one of the best tri expos you will ever attend- but I guess you can go even if you aren't racing.

7) Stick around to watch the pros- it is worth it.  They are a sight to behold!

8) It is the world's largest triathlon, and though it may be a long day, it is very well organized.  Do it just to say you have.

9) You can order Chicago style pizza after and not feel guilty?

10)  The date is perfect to train all summer, finish it off with a bang and still have Labor Day weekend to get crazy.

-Coach A

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chicago Triathlon Recap

If you have never witnessed the Chicago Triathlon, it is quite an experience.  This year, almost 10,000 (!!) athletes participated in the event.   Beginning at 6 am, every 4 minutes until 10 am, over 100 athletes embark on their triathlon adventure.   What this equals is a constant flow of swimmers, bikers, runners and exuberant spectators throughout the morning.  It is one of my favorite days of the year.

My day began with the alarm going off at 4 am.  By 4:20 I was on my bike headed to transition.  A quick transition setup and then off to get myself together before my 6:20 am start.  I would have preferred a little later start but at least I did not have much time to let my nerves get the best of me.   After waiting in line for the port-a-potties (twice!) it was time to get my wetsuit on and go.

The forecast for the day was stellar- clear with a high of about 78 degrees.  What I was not prepared for was the wind.  Even with the swim taking place in a protected harbor, it was VERY choppy.  Sighting and breathing was difficult because of the waves and I ran into dozens of people over the course of the half mile swim.  I have never seen so many people treading and holding on to the wall, but these conditions were rough.  Finishing the swim was a huge relief, until I had to get out and run the quarter mile to transition and then UP a hill to my bike.  I had to catch my breath as I got my bike gear on, but I was feeling good.

The wind was coming from the North so our ride towards Foster on Lakeshore Drive was hard work.  I think everyone was thinking the same thing- "I can't wait to turn around!"   And turning around was glorious!  Everyone was flying back towards the city and the second half of the bike and the time zoomed by.  Before I knew it I was heading down the ramp and into T2.

As I was heading out for the run I knew I was doing pretty well and was hoping to break 23:00 for the 5K.  I heard my name lots of times (thanks spectators!) during that first mile and was eagerly awaiting the first mile marker to check my time.  However, I never saw it!  What?  I paid $172 for this race and there are no mile markers!?!  Not fair!  So, I just kept on going as fast as I could and finished with a final time of 1:22.05 ( and a 5K time just over 23).

A plus of starting in one of the first waves- no line for massage!  Yippee!  I got a little massage and chatted with an old friend and there was hardly anyone in the finishers area. By 8 am I had raced, had a massage and was headed back to the starting area to cheer on some other racers.  I spent some time cheering, got some snacks, went back to the finish for awards (2nd in age group, 5th overall!), got my bike out of transition, ate some more snacks, and before I knew it, it was 1:30 pm and I was cheering the male pro athletes across the finish line.  What a day!

Surprisingly, this year's race seemed to be significantly slower than last year's.  In 2010 it was a lot warmer, but I think the wind had a pretty profund effect on yesterday's times, especially the sprint times which were not effected so much by the heat last year.  In general, winning times were about 4 minutes slower in the sprint, and 7 minute in the olympic distance. 

I have a love/hate relationship with this race.  I go back and forth between thinking it is the best thing ever and a huge cluster that I should avoid.  Stay tuned this week for my Top 10 pros/cons of Chicago Tri.  Maybe it will help you decide if you should race next year!

Congrats to all of yesterday's finishers!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Insider tips for the Chicago Tri.....

It is a big week here in Chicago with the city's triathlon (one of the world's largest!) coming up on Sunday.  I know dozens of athletes who are gearing up for the big day.  Here are my last minute words of wisdom for all those participating.

1)  Do not cram for the race.  Less is more this week!  You want to go into Sunday with fresh legs and lots of energy.

2)  The forecast is looking AMAZING, even chilly in the morning.  Be sure to wear a sweatshirt and dress accordingly.  Also, it will be pitch black when you get to the race.  There are lights in transition but not along the swim.  A flashlight can be very helpful.

3)  Remember, Friday night is your important night of sleep.   Your alarm is going to go off at 4 am on Sunday and there is a good chance you will have tossed and turned all night.  Don't let that get to you.  If you get a decent night sleep on Friday, adrenaline will fuel you through the race.

5)  Know your wave time.  You could be waiting 3-4 hours after transition closes before you begin.  Bring a blanket, some snacks and drinks and be prepared to chill before the race.  The logistics of going home and coming back will likely stress you out.

6)  Check the course map.  I know people who have exited on the sprint course (when registered for Olympic!), been shocked by the quarter mile run after the swim and who have spent 30 minutes trying to figure out where to rack their bike on race morning.  Don't be that person!

7)  Plan a meeting point with your fans.  With thousands of racers and the finish line being at least a half mile away from the start, there is a lot of ground to cover to find your loved ones.  Plan ahead.

8) Set your three goals.  Happy goal, thrilled goal and ecstatic goal.  Memorize them and keep them in mind throughout the race.

9)  Enjoy!  Find your fans along the wall while you are swimming, check out the skyline and beaches while you are riding on LSD, and enjoy how awesome Chicago is while you are running.  This is what it is all about!

Race fast!
-Coach A

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Running Form Pointers

I have somehow managed to coerce, er I mean, encourage many of my friends to pick up running in the past couple months.  It is wonderful!  They are coming to me with their questions, their stories and letting me know how good it feels to get out there and move.  A few of them have had concerns about their form.  Since I live away from them and don't get to see them while they are running, I thought I would summarize some of the important points of running form.

1)  Body Position- You want to have nice tall posture with your shoulder blades pulled back and your shoulders relaxed.  Your body should be slightly leaning forward with your chest out, but the bend is not at your hips.  Stand up right now and lean forward with your chest.  What happened?  You probably fell forward.  If you lean like that, sort of from your ankles, you body will naturally want to move forward.  Now you just have to get your feet to follow.

2)  Foot Strike-  Now that you have the mean lean down, everything should fall into place.  You never want to kick your foot out in front of your body.  If I were watching you run from the side, your chest would be winning.  You should be taking steps and landing on the middle to front of your foot.  If you do kick your foot out in front of your body, you would be likely to strike with your heel first.  This is a lot of jarring on your body and can lead to injuries.  So, try to keep those feet under you and land on the middle of your sole.

3) Cadence-You are not going to become a faster runner by leaping and bounding your way through the miles.  You will become a faster runner by consistently running and keeping a good cadence.  A good cadence is about 180 steps per minute.  You can test yours by running for 10 seconds and counting how many times your right foot hits the ground.  The right answer is about 15 times.  When you first start running or getting into higher mileage, it can be hard to keep this cadence for the entire run.   Work on it and maintain it for as long as you can and you will your speed increase.

4) Arm Position-  You will see people doing all sorts of crazy things with their arms but try to keep them fairly relaxed and don't let them cross your midline.  If you swing them across your body you will end up wasting a lot of energy twisting all over the place.  Think about driving your elbows straight back with each arm swing but keeping your hands and shoulders relaxed.

That is it!  Take this info with you on your next run and try some of these things out.  Stay tuned for a few run specific drills that will help you with this!

-Coach A

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Race Recap

After the events of this past week this race was an afterthought.  I had told myself earlier in the season that I would only run it if the forecast was decent (ie- under 90 degrees).   As of Thursday, I had completely forgotten about it until an old friend emailed reminding me that she and her husband were coming to town for the race.  At that point I was entertaining the idea again, and when the forecast for today had 74 as a high, I decided to go for it.   That was, until I endured the most painful, heart wrenching 24 hours of my life.

I cannot talk about this race until I summarize the events that led up to it.  Friday was the wake for my friend Ellen.  It was jam-packed (I waited 3.5 hours to see her and her family) and surreal.  There were so many people that I felt like I could not have my moment of closure with her.  Following the wake I went to a local bar with my friends for a night out that was paralleled with laughter and tears.  Jump to the funeral on Saturday.  A beautiful mass/tribute to her life took place at a Kenosha high school.  As her family and my friends shared memories and honored her life I could not help but sob- for almost four hours straight.  It was exhausting and painful.    Seeing her family and best friends mourn their loss and realizing that I will never see Ellen again sucked out every last ounce of my energy.  

After the funeral and reception I took the train back to Chicago.  My friends and family could not even believe that I would attempt to run today, and I almost surrendered to that feeling.  However, on the train ride home I knew that running this race would make me feel better.  I arrived home late, got fewer than six hours of sleep, and woke up with eyes still burning.  But I knew I would do the race.

This was not a typical day for me- I was not going for a PR, despite the amazing conditions.  In fact, I did not even wear a timing chip.  Instead I just went with it, keeping a comfortable stride and powering through the 13.1 miles.  And with every mile marker I hit,  I thought about one of my amazing friends who was effected by the loss of Ellen.   The first and last miles were dedicated to Ellen herself- I started and ended with her on my mind.  It gave me a purpose and kept me moving in a race where I did not feel particularly great.

So, this race review is not going to talk in detail about conditions, splits, course, etc.  Instead, it is about stepping back and taking it all in.  I ended up finishing in a respectable time- exactly the pace I need to go for the marathon.  But more importantly, I feel like I had my moment with Ellen, while I was running along the streets of Chicago.  And I realized, if there is anything positive I can take from all this sorrow, it is that my group of friends (who have been together for almost 20 years now) is going to be drawn closer by this past week's events.   We have had our share of rocky times, but always manage to pull out with our heads held high and an even stronger bond.   I know when I see the girls that I am in for laughter, honesty and a great time.  It may take a while to get back there, but it will come.   And for that, I am thankful.

Ellen, we miss you already and hope that all the vending machines in heaven are free! ; )
-Coach A

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Keeping it together when life knocks you down....

It has been a while since I posted but it has been a CRAZY week.  I look back at my post from last week and truly wish I could zip back there and have things turn out differently than they had.  I also wish life stayed as complicated as a crying toddler and a bad day at work.

While Spark embodies being physically strong and fit, this post is going to hit the emotional side.  This post is not going to be about exercising (much of it at least), triathlons, or losing weight.  It's not going to be about being an amazing athlete and heading outside and running 16 miles.  It's not going to be about a crazy, hurried life that makes you feel frustrated and crabby.  It's going to be about surviving when things really, really suck.

As many my friends know, we lost an amazing person yesterday.  I met Ellen when I was in 9th grade and she is someone I can truly say was one of a kind.  Ellen's attitude, spirit and energy over the years always made our adventures a little more exciting (chug-a-lug), my life a little more daring (green Polo sweatshirt), and events a little more entertaining (fall festival kegstands).  Ellen embodied many attributes that I will never have- a fearlessness and friendliness that was to be admired.

Which makes it all the harder to say goodbye.  I got the phone call early yesterday morning in Chicago and proceeded to make it through the day like a zombie- wandering from here to there with a muddled head and no direction.  Away from Kenosha where people are facing this head on, I am trying to make my way through   a normal day and process it in my own way.  Here is what I have figured out will help me, and maybe it will help some of my friends out there who are dealing as well.

- Take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep, don't use this is as an excuse to eat awful food that you wouldn't normally eat, and exercise.  Imagine how you feel on a normal day when you are overtired, eat crap and don't move.  Then pair it with a major trauma like this.   Don't let it happen.
- Forget about the little things for a while.  Life is people bitching and moaning about trivial things.  My post last week proves it.  If you need to take some time off work, not call your exhausting relative, and let the lawn grow weeds, just do it.  Sometimes we need to sit and think about the more important things and letting go of the details for a week can help.  Inevitably we will return back to our frazzled, fast paced lives soon enough.  Slow down and try to take it all in for a bit.
- Lean on your friends.  If you need to talk to someone, do it.  Call them, stop by, text them.  Whatever it takes to keep you going.  A conversation with friends or family will be a good reminder that you are going to get through it.
- Cry. There is something to be said for a good, long cry.  Pity yourself and your friends and everyone affected by this loss.  It is okay and it is healing.

My heart hurts for Ellen's family and for all my friends who are mourning her loss.  I love you all!
-Coach A

Monday, August 1, 2011

When you are having a bad day...

We all know that life can get crazy, hectic and at times, frustrating.  How we deal with those times can set us up for success or destine us for failure.  It is easy to do things right when everything is going your way.  Likewise, when things go poorly, you need to be ready to tackle them head on and deal!  Here is a true story about my day:

Monday morning- yuck.  I ran 16 miles yesterday in the blistering heat and could hardly get down the stairs when I woke up this morning.   And that was after a night of tossing and turning because our A/C was not working. My first client was 30 minutes late.  I coached a swim workout in a 100 degree pool area.  My daughter was screaming her head off when I brought her to her toddler music class.  By the time I sat down to tackle work I had 18 unanswered emails from this morning alone, 5 voicemails and a stack of paperwork at my desk.   It was hot in my office and the second I answered an email, two more showed up in my inbox.  After I dug myself out of my first pile of work I decided to treat myself to a cookie.  So, I walked to Starbucks and bought a huge cookie and iced coffee.  I am not one to shy away from sugar, but I was about to learn my lesson that turning to it during desperate times is not a good idea.

Once I scarfed down that cookie and my coffee I did not feel good.  At all.  I was jittery, my stomach ached and I was even crabbier than before.  You might think my body is not used to sugar, but I like my desserts.  A bowl of ice cream after dinner or a cupcake to celebrate a birthday- you will definitely find me partaking.  However, I think because I was using this cookie to try to make myself feel better,  it totally backfired.  It wasn't a special treat, it was a cry for help.  And what body really wants caffeine and sugar when it is under stress?

So, what did I do to finally feel better?  This is pretty predictable coming from a trainer, but I worked out.  I didn't have much time, my day was jammed.  But I got in a 30 minute sweatfest that made my heart beat and more importantly, cleared my head.  And when that was over I realized my life is pretty darn great, even if I did just get sick off a monster cookie.    So, if I had one awful Monday, its totally okay.  Because when I stick to my plan of staying active and treating my body right, I can deal with those bad days.

What is in your arsenal to ward off the blues?  Do you need to reevaluate what you can do to make yourself feel good?  Do whatever takes and treat that body right!
-Coach A

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Coach A's Favorite Training Tool Right Now....

Why I love the TRX right now.

-  It is the most simple and most portable piece of equipment I have ever used.  Using gravity and your body weight there are endless exercise options!

- It will challenge you.  Step closer to the attachment point to kick it up a notch.  Make it single leg.  Add a jump.  Whatever you need to do to work hard.  Even the best athletes can get a killer workout with the TRX.

-  You don't have to be a great athlete to use it.  It can help you balance, stabilize and improve your flexibility.  Hello weight training newbies!

-This evening I brought it to the park with my daughter, hooked it up on her swingset and pushed her between squats, chops and presses.  Does it get any easier than that?

Want to learn how to use the TRX?  You know where to find me!
Coach A

Monday, July 18, 2011

Spark to offer Official Training Plan for Kenosha's All for a Cure Run!

The All for a Cure Run will take place Saturday, September 3rd in Kenosha, WI to raise money for the Leukemia and Lympoma Society.  This race began last year to raise money and awareness for my friend, Ellen Santarelli, who is battling leukemia.  Many runners (and non-runners) participated and it was a great day!  I am looking forward to another great race this year and am proud to announce that Spark will be contributing to the fundraising efforts by providing training plans for interested participants.  See the flyer below for details and contact me if you would like to purchase a plan.

Registration for the race can be done here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fleet Feet Women's 5K/10K Recap

It wasn't a prerequisite to love pink to participate in this female only race, but it was beautiful sight if you did!  Over 2500 women came out to run in this morning's race, despite the 90+ degree temperatures.

The race started at 7:30 am when the weather was still bearable- if you stood in the shade it was possible that you would not break a sweat.  Teams of sisters, mother/daughters and friends milled around chatting and stretching before lining up in the start corral.  Many of the women donned the race t's that came in pink or black, while others (such as myself) had on their own signature pink running attire.

When racing in temps as high as today's, it is imperative that you readjust your goals.  I had originally hoped to break 45 minutes but knew that would be impossible in these conditions.   Just yesterday I read this great article in Runners World about surviving hot runs.  The experts agree that your time increases 10 to 15 percent when running in extreme heat.   That being said, I had adjusted my goal to just keeping under an 8 minute mile pace. 

The race was very well run- it began promptly at 7:30, the course was well marked and aid stations were stocked and run by awesome volunteers.  Kudos to anyone (especially teenagers!) who gets up at 6 am on a 90 degree Sunday to hand water out at a race.  We literally could not do it without you!  I managed to pace with a couple of other girls and come in at 47:46 (7:42 min/mile).  I figure with my knowledge from the article that I would have shattered 45 if it had been a cool fall day.  But it wasn't, so.....

Thank you Fleet Feet for providing me with the most glorious popsicle I have ever tasted upon my completion of the race.  I took my sweaty body and my grape popsicle and sat my butt under a shade tree when I was done.   Five minutes later I was cool as a cucumber.  Runner's World was definitely on to something when they suggest taking in a sweet, icy treat before/after to cool your body temp.

It was great to see all you ladies out there today participating, especially the ones I convinced to register.  Our time may have been way off our goals, but subtract 15% and I am sure you are right there ;).  All you other Midwesterners, do yourself a favor and read that RW article.  This week looks like its going to be a scorcher!!!

-Coach A

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why Interval Training makes you FAST!

The number one training technique I introduce beginner athletes to is interval training.  The number one thing beginner athletes complain about is interval training. It's laborious, it's sweaty, it's HARD- but it works.  Growing up a swimmer that is really all we ever did during workouts.  I cannot remember one practice where we just got in and swam.  But how often do you do that with your workouts?   Just get on your bike and go?  Just lace up your shoes and run?  Below is why you must incorporate interval training into your workouts if you want to get faster. 

Research has shown that interval training with 2 - 10 minute intervals has been shown to cause a 4-6% improvement in speed.   Even shorter, 30 second intervals can lead to improvements of 2-4%.   And this is research with seasoned athletes.  If you are a beginner or new to interval training, you are likely to see even greater improvements.  This is hands down the best way to get fit and get fast.

If you want to run a 10k in 45 minutes, you need to train at that speed.  However, because our bodies need to recover, you cannot run 6.2 miles at that speed everytime you train.   This is where intervals come in- you break it up into shorter distances at your race pace, with rest in between.   Quarter mile, half mile, and mile repeats all allow you to track your time and run the necessary pace, and you allow recovery in between.  

Why does interval trainig work?  It recruits fast twitch muscle fibers, improves respiratory function and blood flow to the lungs, which all with boil down to one thing- YOU WILL RUN (bike or swim) FASTER!  If you are not doing interval training and are hoping to drop your times, now is the time to start.  Interval training is meant to be tough and you should be working very hard on these workouts.

Check back later next week for a couple of my favorite run interval workouts.   Now go run some half mile repeats.  You will feel great when you are done!
-Coach A

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When you don't have your dream race....

If you have ever completed a triathlon before, you can probably sense the anticipation the swimmers are feeling in the picture above.  Triathletes have a strong Type A personality, and typically set pretty high expectations for themselves.  What happens when those expectations are not met?  Read on for some tips (that apply to any sport) to pick yourself up and get on with it.

1)  Go over what went wrong.  Was it a technical issue?  Lack of training? Problem with nutrition? Pinpoint exactly what went wrong and figure out how to fix it.  If you are not sure what went wrong, this is where a professional can help out.  Talk to a coach to see how you can be better prepared for your next race.

2) Have a backup plan.  Every year I meet athletes who tell me they are training for the Chicago Triathlon. I ask them if they plan to do any other tris over the summer and they usually answer no.  This is when I try to convince them to register for another race earlier in the season to work the kinks out.  Putting all your eggs in one basket can be a big mistake, especially with outdoor sports.  Lots of things can go wrong- weather, illnesses, flat tires, etc.  It is good to have more than a one-race season.

3)  Put it into perspective.   As hard as it is to focus on the positive after a terrible race, we should all be thankful that we are alive and healthy and out running/swimming/biking or whatever sport we like to do. Even if you didn't take that medal or get your goal time,  try to remember why you love competing and just enjoy being fit!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trek Triathlon Recap

If the Pleasant Prairie race I did two weeks ago was perfect conditions, this race was the complete opposite. The temp today reached at least 90 degrees (was almost 80 before we even began!) and there was a strong wind from the southwest.  The sun was shining and it was muggy.  Not ideal conditions for a triathlon.   Nonetheless, over 1000 women showed up for today's race, which also took place in Pleasant Prairie, WI.  

I love this race because it truly embodies what I love about the sport of triathlon- attracting new people to the sport, getting them trained and seeing them experience the joy of crossing a finish line.   There are always lots of newbies at this Trek race and it is fun to see their range of emotions (anxiety, exhaustion, relief!, excitement) as the day progresses.

I trained several women for the race this year,  some experienced and some beginners.   Everyone was nervous before the race and a lot of time was spent waiting in line for the port-a-potties.  I had them all set their 3 goals and share them with me before the race.  They were anxious, giddy and all properly trained for the race.  As a coach, I could not have been any prouder.

Pretty much everyone had a solid swim- it is literally straight across Lake Andrea, and times were fast.  The water felt awesome compared to the muggy air.  The bike was a little long for a sprint- 14.3 miles- and was into the wind for the first half.   Coming back, however, was fast and furious and everyone remarked how awesome it was.  The run?  Not much to say about it except HOT.  Times were slow and feet were dragging.  It was not so pretty.

I waited for all "my ladies" at the finish line and cheered them in.  Most of them were happy.  First time finishers were all smiles with their proud spectators.  One of my veterans came in 4th in her age group and was psyched!  One of the newbies was so excited because she did not have to walk at all!   We were sweaty and tired, but feeling good.  

Coming off my great race a couple weeks ago, today was not a good performance for me.  I actually had to stop and get off my bike to fix my water bottle holder and had terrible stomach pains on the run.  One of the women in my group was disappointed that she wasn't getting any faster from season to season.  That being said, not every race can be your greatest.  Stay tuned tomorrow for how to pick up the pieces after a disappointing can be done!

Congrats Trek Finishers!
-Coach A


Friday, July 8, 2011

My Favorite Swim Workout

One of my favorite things about the summer is the luxury of swimming outside.  Above is a pic of the Chicago Park District pool that I frequent June through August.  The pool itself is not that amazing, but pair it with a crystal blue sky, a few other lap swimmers and an 80 degree day and it brings me pure joy.  

As I often swim by myself during these warmer months I have a few go-to workouts that I do on my own.   They are fun, interesting and make the time go by quickly.  Below is my all time fave.

Warmup- 300 swim, 200 pull, 100 kick
1 x 200 build
2 x 150 mid 50 is fast
3 x 100 build set
4 x 50 IM order
Repeat from bottom up (if you are a strong swimmer or feeling awesome)

Give this workout a try and let me know how you like it!
-Coach A  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Coach A in the news!

Coach A is quoted here on her biggest wish for Chicago pools!  Let's make it happen, Rahm!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Transition Tips Part 1

Transitions are the easiest, most non-athletic way for beginners to shave time off of their races.  Here are some of my very basic tips to get you through T1 and T2 quickly during your first season.

1)  Get bike shoes with velcro and run shoes with quick tie laces.  The easiest thing to do with run shoes (in my opininon Yankz are overly complicated and a ripoff!) is get a couple cord stops, put them on your laces, tie laces in a knot and cut the extra off.  It is cheap and works extremely well. 

2) Go with just the necessities- Wear a waterproof watch that you put on prerace.  Go without the bike gloves for any race that is less than a Half Ironman and only use them if you have a road bike.  Forget the deodorant (I have really seen that!), put heavy duty sunscreen on beforehand and get tri specific clothes so you are not taking clothing on/off.  If you are a badass and the race is short, scrap the socks.  They just take up precious seconds and who cares if you have blisters when the race is done?!?!?

3) Set transition up as seen above- T1- Bike shoes closest so you can put them on right away.   Glasses and helmet on top of your run shoes facing the right way so you can throw them on as you are leaning over.  Grab your bike and go!
T2- Under the helmet are running shoes and to the side are race belt, hat and snacks.  Take bike shoes off and exchange for run shoes.  Take off helmet, grab race belt and snack and get organized as you are running out of transition. 

 Those are the basics and should get you in/out in under 2:00.  Later this week I have Transition Tips Part 2- this is for you experienced racers who want to shave off a few extra seconds and get those transitions closer to a minute.  It can be done!

Cheers to speed!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pleasant Prairie Triathlon Recap

Yesterday I competed in my first triathlon of the season.   It was a picture perfect day- a chilly 55 degrees at 5 am when I pulled into the race site, sun just coming up and the lake as smooth as glass.  As the race began the wind was literally one mile per hour and the temp never got over 70 degrees.  I could not have asked for better conditions.

I took my usual approach and set three goals for the race.  They were:
Happy Goal)  Finish under 1:15:00
Really Happy Goal) Finish Top 3 in my age group
Ecstatic Goal) Finish Top 3 Overall

Well, I managed to pull out at 1:11:40!! and get second in my age group and sixth overall.  While that was not my ecstatic goal, I was pretty darn happy with that time.

I also had the pleasure of seeing one of my clients start and finish his very first triathlon, and he rocked it!  We have been working hard to get him ready for this race and he went straight for the Olympic distance.  He set a few goals and managed to come close to his ecstatic goal, finishing in an impressive 2:48.  And that is with over seven minutes of transitions.  I already know where he can cut four minutes from his next race. (PS- Transition tips coming later this week- stay tuned!) 

The post race feeling I have had with me for the past 36 hours is the absolute reason that compete in this sport.  Finishing a great race can leave you feeling energized and focused for days.  It makes you eager to train and "sparks" your motivation.  I am already thinking about my next race...

It is, however, important to do a post race analysis.  Yes, I had a great race, but what can I do next time to improve?  My first transition was the pits (I could NOT get my wetsuit off - need to practice!) and I was struggling big time to keep up on the bike.  These are the two areas I will focus on before my next race.  Likewise, my client can easily speed up his transitions, but felt that he was overly conservative on the beginning of the run, as he was not sure how much energy he would have at the end.  Those are the things you learn from racing experiences.

For those of you that raced this past weekend, run through it in your head- where could you chop off a few seconds or minutes?  Where would you like to feel stronger?  Use your newfound motivation and fix those things- it will payoff in your next race!

-Coach A

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Coach A's Essential Workout Tunes

I am training for the Chicago Marathon this year with the ultimate goal of qualifying for Boston. Their new qualification standards are tough and I may not even get into the race if I qualify, but at least I will have my pride and my playlist.  I have created a 3 hr mashup of fabulous songs on my Ipod for those long runs that I am facing this summer.  Below are my favorite tunes from that list, which is titled "Boston Bound 2011."  Grab the ones you like, name your playlist after your ultimate goal, and get busy!

"Hot-N-Fun" - N.E.R.D and Nelly Furtado
"What You Waiting For"- Gwen Stefani
"Le Disko"- Shiny Toy Guns
"Beautiful People"- Chris Brown featuring Benny Benassi
"Isaac"- Madonna
"Till the World Ends"- Britney Spears
"Heads Will Roll"- Yeah Yeah Yeahs Tommy Sunshine Mix
"Stereo Love"- Edward Maya & Viko Jigulina
"Imma Be"- Black Eyed Peas
"Just Dance"- Lady Gaga and Colby O'Donis
"On the Floor"- Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull
"The Way Life Used to Be" - Snoop Dogg
"Bright Lights Bigger City"- Cee Lo Green
"Don't Turn Out the Lights" NKOTBSB (don't judge me!)
"Maneater"- Nelly Furtado
"U Should Know Better"- Robyn featuring Snoop Dogg
"Speakerphone"- Kylie Minogue
"Beat Goes on"- Madonna featuring Kanye West

I hope this helps YOU get moving!
-Coach A

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

You: A Runner- Part 3 of 3

So, you read my blog last week and were so inspired that you went out and ran a mile.  Three times.  And you still hate running.  Read on to figure out how you can start to love it.

Be Consistent- As I mentioned in Part 2, you definitely need to get past that first month of running and over the 3 mile mark.  Are you going to love running when you get there?  Probably not.  But if you stay consistent for a few months and can do at least 3-5 miles consistently, it is going to get easier and more enjoyable.

Have a Goal- It is much easier to be consistent if you have a goal.  Sign up for a local 5k or 10k a few months out and work towards that.   Crossing a finish line can be a big motivator to keep you running.  And remember, the more you run, the more enjoyable it gets. 

Mix it up-  As a beginner runner, you may not realize that there are different ways of running besides leaving your house and just going.  There are speed workouts, tempo runs, fartleks and lots of other fun stuff to add variety to your workout.  After you get bored of "just running", consult a coach or experienced runner for advice on how you can spice up your workouts.

Make it Fun- If you prefer running on the treadmill, do it.  If you like to run outside when it is 10 degrees, go for it!  If you like to gossip with a friend while you run, recruit someone or join a running group.  Do whatever it takes to keep it interesting for you.   For many, some good tunes can make the workout - invest in an Ipod shuffle and load it with some fast beats.  And, on that note, tune in tomorrow for my list of "must have" workout songs for your ultimate playlist!

I hope I have inspired you to tie up those laces!
-Coach A

Friday, June 17, 2011

You: A Runner- Part 2 of 3

Yesterday I told you how I came from the "I'm not a runner" mindset and morphed into a serious and somewhat decent runner.  Today is when I tell you how.

Why-Figure out why you want to be a runner.  Do you need a stress reliever?  Need to torch some calories?  For me the reason was I needed a portable workout.   When I was in college all I had ever done for fitness was swim.  As I started traveling more and even on my visits home to my parents', finding a place to swim proved difficult.  And when I did find a pool, nothing was more aggravating than showing up and finding a hard core water aerobics class taking up the pool (is there such a thing?!?!?).  I needed a workout that I could do anywhere, and running was it. 

Get the Right Gear- At the very least, you need a pair of running shoes that fit well.  Running in your retro Pumas is not going to make it enjoyable-  especially when you wake up the next morning with the worl's worst case of shin splints.    If you have some extra cash buy a good pair of shorts and a good sports bra (for the ladies).  You are set.

Start Small-  I will never forget my first run.  I got on the treadmill and told myself I was going to get to 1 mile.  And I did.  I have no recollection of how long it took but I remember that it sucked.  I went back to the gym and did it twice more that week. I ran 3x per week, adding a half mile each week until I was at 3 miles.   Adding mileage like that is manageable and a good way to stay injury free.  No need to make your first run a 5 miler and then sit out for the next 6 months.  Start small and you are more likely to get it done.   

Get Past the Threshold-  The first month or so of running is not all roses and butterflies.  It is a new challenge for your body and it is hard work.   If you give up during that first month, or are not consistently running a few times per week, it will never become enjoyable.  Those first 4 weeks are crucial in the process of becoming a runner.  Likewise, the first mile or two of every workout is never when you feel amazing.  It takes your body a while to get warmed up and for those endorphins to kick in.  Do yourself a favor and get your runs at least 3 miles (once you are ready).  That is when the runners high kicks in and it gets fun.

Which brings me to the final portion of You: A Runner- the last part will tell you how to LOVE running.  I am serious!  It can be done.  Check in after the weekend to find out how-
-Coach A

Thursday, June 16, 2011

You: A Runner- Part 1 of 3

I had am amazing day today.  It was a gorgeous 80 degrees and sunny with a cool breeze off the lake.  One of the few days in Chicago when it is neither too hot nor too cold.  I started my day this morning running a set of wicked fast mile repeats with one of my clients.  I have been working with him for some time now and he is getting so fast I can barely keep up with him anymore.  It was one of those workouts you just want to be over, and you feel awesome when it is.  This evening I had the pleasure of running a 5K with another one of my clients.  She is on the other end of the spectrum trying to establish a healthier lifestyle and this was her first race.  I gave her support along the course, kept her motivated and we crossed the finish line together.  I had a blast.

On days like these I cannot believe I get paid to do what I do.  Sharing my passion with others and transforming them into who they want to be is truly wonderful.  However, if you had known me a little over a decade ago, you would be astonished that one of my passions would be running.  I used to loathe running.  I hated being hot and sweaty and always touted that that is why I chose swimming as my sport.  When my swim coach used to make us run, I would bitch and moan like no other.  I sucked at running, I was not "a runner."

Everyday I try to talk people into doing triathlons.  The number one negative response I get is "I am not a runner."  I hear it all- I have bad knees, I hate running,  running hurts, etc.  Well, friends, I am proof positive that you can go from that statement to becoming a runner.  Over the next few days I am not only going to share with you how to become a runner, but also how to love running.   It can be done.

Before I share with you my steps to becoming a runner, think about why you want to start.  Weight loss?  Alone time?  To finish a 5k?   That is going to be your driving force and motivation to get your rear in gear.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2!
-Coach A

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why You NEED Someone to Kick Your A**!

Hi, my name is Angela Park.  I am a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach.  I swam competitively for 12 years and have been competing in triathlons for well over a decade.   I love working out and am one of the most competitive peple you will ever meet.  I will run until I puke if it means I come out on top- and there is nothing better than the feeling after that kind of race.  I won a triathlon when my baby was 6 months old and broke 4 hrs in the marathon when she was 9 mths.  I am not lazy.  But when I get into the pool to do a workout by myself, I am a downright sloth.

When I swim by myself I can think of every excuse in the book; this is my second workout for the day, I am already a faster swimmer than most other triathletes, swimming doesn't count for that much of the race, etc.  It is ugly.  Most of my swim is me thinking of why I don't need to be swimming.   Totally lame.  So yesterday I head to the pool for one of my half-ass swims and am greeted by a friend of mine who is lifeguarding.  She offers to write me a workout and I accept.  And then she is there watching me for the entire workout.  The entire workout where I bust my butt to make the intervals and act like I always work that hard.  It sucked, but I felt awesome when I was done.

There is NO doubt that I would not have worked that hard if I did not have an onlooker.   If you find that most of your workouts are you just going through the motions and not really putting in a great effort, it may be time to enlist some help.  It can be a friend or a trainer, but make sure it is someone who pushes you, and doesn't enable your lazy ways.  If you are a triathlete, it means you are probably a pretty hard worker.  However, we all have our workouts where we know we could be doing better.  Those are the ones where you want to join a group or hire a coach to help you out.

We are all busy and working out is tough to fit in- why waste the time you are spending on your training?  Make it count and make every workout worthwhile!

-Coach A

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stay Safe, Baby!!

Once you get into the swing of training, it is easy to pick up some bad, and even dangerous habits.  Read on for some of the easiest ways to keep your training safe.

Swim- Once a few years ago I was visiting my parents who live on a man made lake.  We were at the beach and I decided it would be fun to swim home instead of walk.  I swam straight to the middle of the lake where, lo and behold, I had a bit of a panic attack.  Now, I have been swimming competitively for over 20 years and can swim for what seems like forever with no effort.   However, there is something about being in the middle of the lake all alone that is frightening, especially when you acknowledge your surroundings.  I made it to their house but will NEVER do that again.  No matter how great of a swimmer you are, you should never swim in open water by yourself.  

Bike-  Even the little girl above knows that you should always wear a helmet.  In addition you should always wear brightly colored clothing and obey traffic laws.  We all know someone who has been hit by a car and slightly or seriously injured.  As a result, when riding in congested areas (like downtown Chicago) ride defensively and assume that none of the drivers see you.   Biking can be dangerous and when I see cyclists blatantly blowing off rules of the road, I fear for what they have coming.   When riding on the glorious country roads bike with traffic and be weary when going over hills- some cars are used to having the road to themselves out there .

Run-  One of the most important things with running is to listen to your body.  Running is tough on the old bod, and if you are feeling pain that is severe or unusual, it is probably best to slow down or stop altogether.  To prevent unnecessary injuries, have someone who can give you tips look at your run form and let you know where you can improve.  As the temps heat up this summer, run early morning or in the evening.  Be smart about running in secluded areas or when it is starting to get dark, be aware of your surroundings, turn down the music, and fellow Chicagoans, look out for Flash Mobs (not of the dancing variety!!)

To a fast and SAFE summer!
-Coach A

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First Race Tips!

Here in the Midwest, Tri season is about to get seriously underway.  I know lots of people heading off to do their first races in the next couple of weeks.  Here are my top tips to help you have a fun and successful first race!

1.  Pack early!  I have been to races with newbies who have forgotten helmets, sunglasses, shorts, and even their running shoes!  Triathlons take a lot of gear, have your bag packed and thoroughly checked the night before.  Use a checklist (such as and double check!

2. Bring backup!  This has two meanings to me:

  •       Things that could break- goggles, bikes tubes, swim caps, etc- bring extras.
  •       Bring someone along with you that will not let you turn around and go home when you see all the people and your nerves get the best of you.  You know you are ready and you have trained hard, but  your first race will still be very scary.  Bring along a supporter and remember there are lots of other newbies out there.
3.  Have goals.   Yes, the goal of your first race should be to just finish, but I like to set 3-tiered goals for each race.    The first goal is one that you will be happy with (ie-to finish).  The second one you would be thrilled with (ie-to finish and get my 5K under 25 minutes.  The third one you would be ecstatic, over the moon super excited (ie- to finish and get an award in my age group).  This three tiered system almost never lets me down and gives me more than one thing to focus on should things not go perfectly.

4.  Have a blast!  Only a very small percentage of the population even attempts a triathlon, so you are doing something pretty awesome. Enjoy the day and embrace that feeling of crossing the finish line.  Remember how great you feel so when you find yourself training for you next one you aren't wondering "What the heck am I doing this again for?!?!?!"

Race fast! -Coach A

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Favorite Run

When I travel I love to go for a run to see the sights and get in a good workout.  Over the years I have done some pretty cool routes- the Las Vegas Strip, the San Diego shoreline, and Cancun hotel zone to name a few.  However, to me, there is nothing like walking out my front door and running down to Lake Michigan.

My favorite run is about an 8 mile out and back that takes me three miles down Chicago Avenue.  In those three miles, I go through my Hispanic influenced neighborhood, past one of the hottest restaurants in the US (Japonais), along the remnants of Cabrini Green, across the heart of Michigan Avenue and end up on the lakefront path.   Once I hit the path I have a short jaunt south before I am on Navy Pier.  At 8 am on a Sunday morning, Navy Pier is absent of tourists and usually only a few fisherman and scattered runners are present.  After running the half mile out to the end of the pier I always like to take a minute and look around.  From here I can see endless miles of lake and an amazing view of downtown.   Usually in that minute I fall in love with Chicago all over again. 

I feel lucky to be alive and healthy and able to run this 8 mile route whenever I please.  What is your favorite run?   Have you run it lately?  If not, it is a beautiful day- what are you waiting for?
-Coach A