Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Hot List - 2013 Chicago Tri

It has been a while since I have spent the entire day at Chicago Tri solely coaching and cheering (since I was pregnant in 2009 to be exact).  I had so much fun with friends and athletes, it almost makes me want to skip the race and do it again next year.  Here were some highlights from my day:

1.  When one of my athletes (whose name shall remain undisclosed) swam past me and said "Don't hate me" as she breaststroked by.  I have never had an athlete talk to me during the swim!

2.  When this same athlete's fiance declared that he was "definitely in" for participating in the race in 2014.  I love how inspiring triathlons are! 

3.  Seeing Hunter Kemper pass Alicia Kaye in the last seconds of the race for the win.  I had never seen a race with an equalizer before and it was exciting!

4.  Cooling off in the VIP tent with lunch and a 312 after several hours of serious spectating.

5.  Setting up the Spark tent for the first time (but definitely not the last!!) and having athletes I have met from over the years stop by to catch up.

6.  Seeing a few of my athletes who found the Olympic swim to be completely daunting just a few weeks earlier, nail it like they had been swimming their entire lives.  

7.  Cheering the pro that had been staying with us all week,  Matt Chrabot, to a 4th place finish in the men's race.  That is the top finish for pros hosted by the Park's.  Way to go, Matt!

8.  Cheering one of my athletes to a colossal PR, 3rd group age group finish and an age group nationals qualifying race.  And the teary hug that came after she crossed the finish line.  

9. Hanging out with the friends and family of Spark Multisport for 8 straight hours on a beautiful Sunday in the city.   And still being home by 2:30 pm.   So great!

I love my job.  Thanks to all you triathletes out there for making my career possible and congrats on a great race!
-Coach A

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chicago Tri- PLAN DON'T CRAM!

Hello Chicago- we are six days away from the annually anticipated Chicago Triathlon.  The one with thousands of racers and that insanely early start time.  This is the race that tons of Chicagoans register for in the dead of winter to secure their spot and then somehow forget to train until suddenly they realize, "OMG!  It's August!"

Of course, the race is not sneaking up on everyone.  There are plenty of people who have been training diligently to have a great race.   But being a Tri Coach and a swim instructor, every single year I get people looking me up these last few weeks before the race for swim lessons, a training plan, you name it.   Once you hit August it is too late to cram the training in, but not too late to plan.  Read on for my advice on how to have your best race this weekend, even if your training was not quite up to par.

1. Work your strength- Ok, you are a 20 minute 5K runner, but you suck at the swim.  And you never made it to those group lessons you registered for.  If you need to do breaststroke the whole way, do it.  Cruise through the bike, and nail the run.  If you are just wanting to finish this tri, use as little energy as possible on your weak stroke and go for it on your strength.    

2.  Practice your transition- Transitions are the fourth discipline and they are the only part of this race that it is not too late to prepare for.  Watch some YouTube videos, read some blog posts on transitions and practice.  You will feel much more confident going in if you have a plan for T1 and T2.  

3. Go to bed early on Friday- Ok, you are going to have to get up by 4 am on Sunday so Saturday night is basically a wash when it comes to sleep.  Don't think you can head out for a night on the town on Friday and be okay come race day.  You will be paying for it if you do.  Do yourself a favor on Friday and hit the sack by 10 pm.  Then wake at an earlyish time Saturday so you can crawl into bed before midnight on the eve of the race.  

4.  Ask for help- Chicago Tri is crawling with beginner triathletes, but is also chock full of experienced racers.  If you arrive there Sunday and are about to have a panic attack when you see the spandex clad, aero helmeted, IM tattooed racer next to you setting up his transition area, just take a deep breath.  He could be a wealth of information!  If you have questions about where to put your bike, or where the run out is, just ask him.  I have never met a triathlete who does not like to share his knowledge of the sport.

Good luck racers!  I cannot wait to cheer each and every one of you on this weekend!
-Coach A

Monday, August 12, 2013

Age Group Nationals- Is it 2014 Yet?

I spent this past weekend in Wisconsin doing all things triathlon.  The weekend went a little like this: train, eat, shower, eat, sleep, volunteer, eat, spectate, eat, sleep, eat, spectate, train, eat.  You get the picture.  Thankfully Wisconsin is a spectacular place for training, racing, eating and just having fun!  ( I am a Wisconsin girl so no one paid me to say that :)

From the venue, to the weather, to the sleepy little city, Milwaukee was a great place for USAT Age Group Nationals.  We stayed downtown and were able to walk everywhere except for the aid station where we volunteered, which was a few miles out on the run/bike course (pictured above).  That was just a short ride away and we found free street parking no problem.  The weather on Saturday for the Olympic distance was crisp and clear, until the clouds rolled in for the later waves, which made it even better racing weather.

I spent the morning handing out Gatorade to athletes aged 15-89.  There is something so inspiring about seeing all these athletes out there racing knowing all of them do it as a hobby.  These are the best age groupers in the nation and many of them are wicked fast.  But they are fast athletes who also likely work full time, raise a family and have to fit their training around an already packed schedule.  They do it for personal fulfillment, not a paycheck.

Sunday morning we walked down to the expo and watched the sprint for a bit.  I felt nervous for these athletes as they hustled out of the water and onto the bike.  Watching these adrenaline filled participants try to clip into their bikes within feet of each other is a nerve inducing experience.  We saw more than one near collision.

I know for myself the sprint nationals will be one of my top goal races for 2014, and I will have some athletes competing that weekend as well.  These past few days were a great opportunity to check out the scene and give me the motivation I need to not only get through the last few weeks of IM training, but help me to focus on what will be a very different, and very exciting 2014.   I ran into many old friends at the race, and made some new ones.   Bike course Captain Ryan- are you reading this?!  It is truly amazing to be part of this multisport lifestyle.   And as on of my clients jokingly stated this weekend "I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't do triathlons."  Although an exaggeration, I know where she's coming from.  The physical and mental fulfillment I get from this sport truly makes me complete!

Thank you triathlon!
-Coach A

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Whatever you do - DON'T BONK!

As I mentioned in an earlier post this week, I am right smack in the middle of the hardest two weeks of training for IM Wisconsin.  This morning I headed out on my 18 miler with a pouch full of gels, endurolytes and a good attitude.  I was ready to check this workout off.  

I have done an Ironman, a few marathons and have run 18 miles at least 15-20 times before.  Never during any of those have I bonked.  Until today.  For those of you who don't what bonking is, it is sudden exhaustion or loss of energy when the glycogen stores in the muscles is depleted.  It can cause people to act a little loopy, get lightheaded, cry or just sit down on the side of the road.  As an endurance athlete you definitely want to avoid this.  Avoidance can be achieved by properly fueling throughout the workout. 

Around mile 13 I took my last gel and it just tasted awful.  I could not choke it down.  What I did ingest sat in the top of my stomach for the next two miles and made me want to yak (sorry for bluntness but really best description).  I had been craving Gatorade for a couple miles already and by mile 16 I NEEDED it.  My training partner, Elisabeth, and I were approaching a food hut on the lake and had already established we had no cash on us. I wondered if I could just give the vendor my credit card number in exchange for an ice cold Gatorade.  I tried to recite my credit card number in my head and I could not get it straight.  Hold up.  I  KNOW my credit card number.  But I could not get the numbers right in my head.  Ummm, this was bad.  

I told Elisabeth and we cut off the path and headed straight for Seven Eleven, about a half mile away.   All I could think about was putting one foot in front of the other and not falling flat onto my face. I ran in and slammed a fruit punch Gatorade while she ran home to grab some cash.   My super hero in her Spark gear was back in 5 minutes with a twenty and by then my head was on straight.   I ran my last 1.3 miles with my tail between my legs and a spark in my step after that yummy, sugary drink.

The good news is that we train to avoid these situations on race day, so here is what I took away from today:

1) Two gels is my max per run.  After that I need to switch to a chomp or drink or something that is a different consistency.  I actually knew that already, but pushed my luck today.

2) Don't skip dinner. It has been a busy week here.  Gene is traveling and between work, training and mommyhood I did not have a lot of time for dinner last night.  A bowl of Cheerios at 7:30 pm is not gonna cut it the night before an 18 miler.

3) Always bring cash on a training run. I typically do but since I was running with Elisabeth today just did not think about it.  If I had gotten that Gatorade at mile 14 I could have completely avoided this situation.

4) Running with a partner is good.  No matter how much you plan, when you start to run long distances, it is really great to have someone there to have your back.  Thanks, E!

Hopefully that is it for setbacks for a while!  Happy training/racing weekend, it is going to be a good one in the Midwest!
-Coach A

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ironman Training Blues

"How's training going?"  When you are five weeks out from an Ironman and work in the fitness industry that is the first question anyone you have not seen in the past 24 hours will ask you.   Guaranteed.  Up until a couple weeks ago I would answer with a smile and say "Great, awesome, I am really enjoying it."  And I meant it.

Then I saw the light of the Racine taper.  And I raced Racine.  And didn't do quite as well as I would have liked.  And had to amp up my training again.   And just felt blah.  That has been me for the past two weeks, just feeling blah.

I am a triathlon coach- I am coaching athletes for Ironman races all the time and even right now for Ironman Wisconsin.  I work them through this time and now am living it myself.  Here are the steps I am going to take to turn from blah to beast mode in the next couple weeks.  If you are training for an upcoming IM race feel free to test them out.

1.  Stop moping around.   Okay, I doubt anyone would describe me as mopey, but when people ask how training is going, I plan to start fakin' it til I make it.   You know how they say smiling when you are feeling down will cheer you up?  Well, it can also change your perspective on your training.  Act like the badass that you are when people ask how your Ironman training is going.  

2. Embrace how my body feels.   I feel good right now.  Lean, strong, and ready.  It is a good feeling that comes after a summer of great training.

3. Start visualizing every day.  Just pulling up this finish line picture gave me butterflies.  If I can take a few minutes each day to picture myself on that course on September 8th, it will give me the extra boost I need to power through.

4. Be thankful and appreciate every mile left of training.  I knew training was going to be tough with my work schedule and family duties.  Each week since May has been a complicated series of logistics that leaves my poor husband's head spinning, but I have made it happen as much as I can.  Have I had as many rides out of the city as I would have liked?  No way.  But all the more reason to enjoy the last two or three I have remaining.  

5. Remember why I am doing this.  I love this sport and last year was taken up in the excitement of the day.  I wanted to be a part of IMWI in 2013 and have it recorded here.  Remembering the race last year and the time I felt the last time I crossed an Ironman finish line are more than enough to help me get my butt in gear.

So this is where my head is going for the next couple weeks.  By then I will be over the training hump and focusing on the big day.  Keep it up all you IM trainees who will be racing in the next month or so.  You can do it!

-Coach A