breaking away....

Monday, June 27, 2011

Success - better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all

Triathlon for the newbie is about a big adventure into something foreign and completely overwhelming with experiences. Mostly people are afraid to do the first things, they worry about not being successful. Eventually they build their courage and commit to do a race. No matter how that race turns out, it is a success when they cross the finish line, they are hooked. Their fears were overwhelming at first, they had adrenaline pumping through their veins and the euphoria that met them at the finish line was something they wanted more of.

Triathlon is a great sport, it has a ladder of race distances, this is great for success, if you have finished one distance you can now challenge yourself to go further next time. What a great idea to keep putting bigger options, allow them to start small and build.

Long time racers look at success as a personal best. There is a point in a persons racing where getting a personal best is pretty tough. This is probably the time they leave the sport as they no longer feel successful.

I want to reflect on the success I see as a coach. I took a group for a swim bike run this weekend. They were there before me, helping the race director clean up the course. I was so proud of them to see them enjoying each others company in the frigid cold wind and temperatures, trying to help a great guy with a great race. That was success, they came together and enjoyed a really cold time towards a greater good.

Next we went into the water, already some of us frozen from standing in the cold on the beach. We did a warm up swim and then set out for a couple laps to swim the 2 kms. I had a swimmer doing his first time in a wetsuit and had a pretty normal experience of tight chest, hard time breathing, hard to relax. He slowed himself, he calmed himself down, he kept up even though his goggles were solid fog, we made it around the buoys and on the last leg in he calmed into a regular swim rhythm. Completely overwhelmed, he didn't see the success. I am amazed that he got a wetsuit on, got into a dark cold body of water with not pleasant surroundings and expected himself to adapt so quickly. He did an amazing job and just looked at the others thinking he was not like them. Only the week before one of those swimmers took her first dip and had a similar unsettling experience. She swim the 2 kms on her second open water swim with no issues. They both had success, it is all small steps. Soon we get to the point where the challenge is gone and we get bored. Do we need more challenged, more adversity to keep us going?

Next we headed out on the bike, I gave them some suggestions on what to do with cadence and gearing into the headwind and back with the tailwind. It was one persons first time in an aero helmet. It was a hard headwind and success for some was being able to stay aero at times, for some it was trying to hold the suggested cadence because everything in their mind said do something else. One person found her success by not being last and was very proud of her achievement and worked hard for it.

During our ride we had reports coming through the cell phones of people racing that day, their successes.

Onto the brick run, we went out easy and came back at a race pace (1/2 Ironman race pace). For some it was okay, for some it was an experience where they finally felt like this race is theirs, they are going to be okay, they could do it. They achieved success by simply coming out and facing their fears.

As a coach you should set up situations where there are condiitons that need to be met, controlling cadence or output, some learning experience where when they finish they have learned something about themselves as a racer, they have had a successful training day, they didn't do junk miles.

My reminder to those searching for success, do not leave the sport to look for new challenges. Look for things that improve your own experience. Sometimes you may find in other peoples success you will find your own. You learn so much from all your years of training, when you share that with the new people who join in the group, you will see them take that knowledge and build on it. I am seeing some of the group rise up to some high levels right now. There is always something we can work on to make ourselves, better in the sport, more knowledgable about ourselves as racers, and a better mentor to those coming in.

I see success in everyone I coach, but the universal truth is that for those of us who set the bar high, whenever we get close enough to meet our definition of success, we quickly raise the bar up higher. I have people write goals down when they begin. The first year you get things like survive, finish, try a race. The second year, the expectation of success becomes a burden. They worry about whether they can match their new definition of success. If their goal was to be a better swimmer, biker, runner, injury free and healthy, that goal would be easy to attain, they would be improving every year and looking after their health as they did so. This is how I view them, always improving, always taking on new challenges, hopefully finding balance.

Not all goals allow for success. Try to see the success in all you do, be happy we have the freedom to do a sport. Support the races you love to do so that they will be their in the future. Be gracious to the volunteers who make the races possible so that we can go challenge ourselves on our annual goals. Look for the success in all you have achieved so far, and allow future goals to inspire you to reach further.

Keep up the swimming, biking and running.

Breathing Issues and Training

Breathing is the one thing never to be taken for granted, not everyone gets that feeling of a full breath of air, and as oxygen is required to create the intended speed of our race, some of us go in to every race handi-capped due to breathing issues. Allergies, asthma, colds and flu's affect a large number of us on race day.

Allergies and sports asthma can go undetected, but an athlete who eats something and goes to train and finds themselves coughing or phleming up, should write that food down on a list of do not eat before training or racing. The main culprits for me were wheat and dairy. I started teaching spin class and realized if I was going to be able to talk without clearing my throat and still teach a spin class these were foods I would have to eliminate. It became more imparitive when I swam to avoid these foods. They were 2 on a list of things I don't eat if I can avoid it, and something I may treat myself with after a race season and avoid all the way through.

Other things that were difficult to tolerate were sports drinks, considering these were made for the sport I was disappointed to say the least. The sugar created mucous which then gave me a coughing issue and reduced airflow during a race, I now use coconut water, natural sugar and electrolyte. I still use electrolyte tablets with it.

Swimming in cold water, biking into a cold wind also cause breathing issues for me. I usually take my puffer before a cold swim and slowly get in and warm up, I need to swim slower in cold water as everything tenses and the lungs go on high alert. One race day I had perfect water temperature and I tried something new, I took electrolyte tablets before the race. I had a bad swim, the worst case of asthma in the water yet, I quickly looked up why, salt can trigger an asthma attack, again more race nutrition to save for after the swim.

I have had to try to go as natural as possible while racing. I try not to do gels on the bike, I save those for the run, I try to do natural food, no gluten or dairy, there was a great recipe on the tour de france that had sushi rice, eggs, bacon, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with a little brown sugar or maple syrup. This wrapped in a rice wrap or seaweed wrap made a great snack bar on the bike, portable easy to eat and neutral on the stomach, it didn't create acid unless you overdo the soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.

I take water of the course and keep coconut milk in my bottles, I mix the coconut milk in with the water for a little carbs, mostly the flavor and the bit of electrolytes, I still take my electrolyte tablets, but that is after the swim is done. I usually only need my puffer before the swim unless I get asthma in the swim.

The more I coach the more I realize that swimming in Chlorinated pools is not great for people with respiratory issues, yet that is where we train, I have skipped the pool for a year and minimized my exposure and just waited for outdoor swim. I had fewer sinus issues and better bike and run training throughout the winter doing this. I am not saying give up swim, but choose a salt water pool, less chlorine gas issues and easier on the lungs.

Where there is a will there is a way. Never stop what you are doing because of issues, try to establish what the issue is relating to and change the conditions. I have become healthier through training for triathlon. I learned the foods I was choosing were not good for me, before that I thought I just had breathing problems and would have to live with it. I manage it very well now. It isn't gone, but it is more manageable. My overall health is better.

My first suggestion to most people who start training is to get rid of Wheat, Dairy and sugar for 28 days or longer while training. It is a basic suggestion. The outcome is amazing. Most people are no longer bloated or uncomfortable after eating, most people also lose a quick 5 pounds without dieting. The longer they do it the better they feel, I had a few people who did it and got control of their breathing issues. They weren't the first to notice, but a family member commented on the "death rattle" being gone.

I am here to just put suggestions out, make note of things that have helped me or my athletes. I am not suggesting this is for everyone, it is just a simple to follow suggestion that can help, or won't hurt to try. Everyone worries about eliminating dairy, but if you are eating your healthy greens you will be getting calcium. By eliminating these 3 foods your ability to digest all of your foods will improve, so your absorption of your nutrients will also improve. If you are still concerned, take a balanced mineral supplement that has calcium citrate, magnesium citrate, and vitamin D. Consult your doctor before trying any diet suggestions that may affect a condition you have.

Keep on training.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Training for Triathlon is not just swim bike run

My program is set up to address the whole athlete, not just the parts that swim, bike and run. Most people strike out in this sport swimming, biking and running 2 to 3 times each per week and there you have it a training program. Add some variety, some hills for strength, some intervals for speed and some long slow for endurance, it all sounds wonderful, so why isn't that enough.

If we approach swim, as swim long, swim fast and swim with resistance that should make us a great swimmer, but as an athlete what does it do. We are working muscles that do one repetitive movement, we are lifting the arm up over the water reaching above our head, catching water and pulling it down along our bodies, that is internal rotation of the shoulder. We are dominant in the front, we are constantly working in front of our bodies at a desk and at home with regular chores of carrying and doing tasks with our hands where we can see them. As we continue to add more more swim we will start to shorten through the front through our pecs, into the pec minor. This tightness is going to pull our shoulder forward more. To have a proper functioning shoulder, you need a balance in your rotator cuff. If there is an imbalance in the muscles you will start to see tracking problems and impingement.

Knowing this is an eventual process, it is usually 3 years into the sport that people start talking about their IT issue, their arch or achilles problem, their running knee or their swimmers shoulder. Why is it so common, because in our busy day we do what we enjoy that gives us an immediate fix, we love to swim, bike and run.

In my program plan I drag individuals away from the sport they love to train and get them to do rotator strengthening exercises for the hips, and shoulders. We work on core and hips for proper posture. The weights with core and hips becomes as important as the training they want to do, this is the training that keeps their body healthy.

So before you start a training program in Triathlon look at the muscles you are using and look at their antagonist (opposite) muscle. If you shorten one, you lengthen the other. If one muscle is short and one is long, then work the long one and stretch the short one to try to get some balance in all of the muscles. Look at your form, is your posture perfect when you execute your exercises, are your shoulders back, chest out and core engaged? Can you remember to hold this posture when you do your daily chores as well?

Once you have decided what you plan to do for working out try to balance it with the same amount of work for the antagonist muscles. They may not be the ones doing the sport you choose, but they will be involved in supporting the joint doing the sport.

I love weights they give you so much control over your physique, it is important to use them wisely and for Triathlon it is important to include this in your daily workouts.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Hardest Things in Life are Usually the Ones Worth Doing!

Okay to say this winter has been hard is an understatement, if I look around people look burned out and don't just mean in my group of athletes, everywhere you go you hear people fighting with overloaded schedules, not enough time and too many commitments. How does a person prioritize when just having a life takes all of your time up. To add a race stress to that might tip the balance and you may lose quality of life in other areas. I think a healthy approach to always trying to balance your responsibilities and priorities comes in to play. Some things are wants and some are needs. Deal with the needs, prioritize the wants and then schedule time for each. You may settle for postponing certain jobs that can wait. When you do this don't carry the guilt with you write the job down on a calendar to be dealt with in a better time.

Time is the one thing that is precious, we have only so much time every day. Our jobs, the commute, the running around gives us very little time left over to fit in family, odd jobs and training. As with all deadlines there is an overwhelming feeling that comes with every event. The bigger the commitment the more overwhelmed we feel. What do we do when we get overwhelmed, procrastinate! We want to bury our heads in the sand and make that pressure go away. Why is there such pressure on an event, because we put it there, we have expectations of how we will do. It is easy to set those far away from the event, but as that event looms closer and closer our fight or flight response rears its wrath on our resolve.

At times like these you need to not think about whether you can do that time, that place, that race, you need to look back on your path to get there. If you have commited yourself to train consistently for months, why now are you stopping, why now do you ask yourself why? The only person we fear letting down is really ourselves. We have trained asking ourselves, is it possible to really get that time, that speed, that goal, now as we are about to find out we are looking for excuses on why we won't.

I went to University, postpone the studying and go to the movies, then pull an all nighter, that way if you fail it isn't because you weren't smart enough to pass, it was because you didn't do the correct prep. Theory holds true in this, however, you have done the training up until now, you have done the prep, now as the competition gets closer your doubts grow bigger, and as you taper, your nervous energy works to psyche you out. This is standard event practice, you need to channel your energy into positive things, as you have more time off in taper do those odd jobs that were stressing you out, connect with family and friends you have left out until now and get your world into some order before you get to your event. This taper will make you stronger, it will heal all the small injuries you have gathered on your journey so far.

Why quit because you are afraid, that fight or flight is your race pace on race day, choose to start and you will be rewarded with the knowledge you gave it your all. As you spend a few years at the sport you may decide if you can't get better why continue. This race we choose to do gets us out of the house, off the couch and into some situations that require us to reach further, it is the road less traveled. You will be healthier, you will spend time in line ups to the porta potties, not the walk in clinics. You will be a mentor to those around you that you can choose to do something with your time that rewards your life with positive, instead of staying current with what is on television.

I worried that my kids would resent me for taking the time to do this, that they might resent being at a race for an entire day waiting. This year my son told me he wants to be a coach. My daughter is awaiting her turn to go cheer on the team at the next race, she is practicing her "Go Ironwill" at my son's swim meets. I realize with all the time and energy we have put into training and racing and getting out there to support people our children were already following in our footsteps, they weren't bored, they were involved in something that they now look forward to. Sometimes parents guilt works against you, show your kids how to live, be a mentor to them that if you want something bad enough you can work for it and you will be stronger for that. They learn by watching how you work in the world, being goal oriented outside of a job will show kids that there are rewards out there that are not monetary, that sometimes doing something well, something you love will give back to you in ways a 9 - 5 can't.

Always remember that time...Today is non-refundable... make it unforgettable..don't forget how great life is, you are stressed because you are trying to have it all, live life, every moment.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Race Strategy

With races coming up soon, it is surprising how many people wing it in every race. They just throw themselves into the race without a plan and hope for the best. My favorite saying is fail to plan, plan to fail. I myself have had wardrobe malfunctions, trying to get a spandex bra top onto a wet body after the swim, not a good idea, when you are stuck in transition with both arms twisted and trapped in a top that has turned into a rope torniquet around your upper arms and head, it is funny to watch, but not so funny when it happens to you. A one piece tri suit when you need a bathroom stop and their are none on the bike course and no trees.....

Putting food on the bike you are happy to have because you are going to burn it off only to find out you can't digest it again, not tried, tested and true. I am in the middle of getting my athletes to ponder their race, many weeks out. This allows them to write a strategy, and test it over and over before their race. They can write their race report on the same page later as a reflection on whether it worked or whether it didn't. In this way they learn about themselves as a racer. All experiments need controls in order to test them.

We have heart rate tests to establish heart rate zones, this is helpful for setting a pace and using a heart rate during training and racing. It is a great control to use as it measures where you are at the time. Pace is less reliable as people try to hold the pace they want to average, this is hard as their is wind and terrain to consider, it is less likely to be successful as they may push too hard early on to hold their planned average pace, they should instead use perceived effort and plan to start easy and finish hard at the end, this allows them to reach that average speed without starting at it and trying to hold it all the way through.

I am going to write my race report for the upcoming Great White North 1/2 Triathlon, this is specific to myself as I have certain things that come up in my race others may not.

2 days out from the race, I will be attending the pre-carb meal and enjoying the surroundings and the people, I will limit my food to those I consider good pre-race choices, I don't do dairy and wheat, not a good time to start.

Make sure I get good night sleep on the Friday as chances of getting good sleep the day before the race is tough, so try to sleep more the couple days out, so leave the pre-carb early.

Day before the race, make sure I stay well hydrated and take in more liquid carbs, not as much fibre, it is not your friend on race day. Try to eat a normal meal I would the night before, no surprises. No alcohol.

Go do the swim bike run rehearsal day before race to test my T1 and T2 bags to make sure all my gear is there and everything I need is in them for the race. Put my bike into transition in its easiest gear, we start by going up a steep hill out of T1 so I don't want to fall over or bind my chain at the beginning of the race.

Try to get some sleep the night before, wake up for 4:00 a.m. eat 2 eggs, 1 tomatoe and 2 rice cakes with peanut butter and honey. Plan for 100 calories of easy to digest snacks every half hour before the race. Get to Stoney Plain early to get on shuttle.

I use a checklist to make sure I get everything I need I put my own stuff on their as well, for me I need my puffer so that I can treat asthma on the bike and before the swim. Those things should be in red so you don't forget them. Also your race chip, no chip, no time, no sense racing.

After I get to my bike on race day, load my water bottles, I will have a front load in front, my tool kit on the back with two water bottles. My gels will be taped to my top tube, I am packing 200 - 250 calories per hour on the bike, I will have 2 electrolyte tabs per hour for the race which is plenty as I am not a big sweater, but it allows me to offer some up on the course. My shoes for my bike will have no socks in them, I will have my number belt, sunglasses and helmet on top of my aerobars. My towel will be colorful to tip me off to my bike. Shoes with heels facing me to be easy to get on, I will have a waterbottle at the towel to spray my feet and drink as much as I can before mounting the bike.

My T2 will have runners and socks (injinji toe socks - no between the toe blisters, filled with foot powder to help dry my feet and get on easier), spare gels and electrolyte tabs in a pouch I will carry.

My outfit is my bike shorts (I am a suck and like the padding, my tri top with back pouch, I will have my wetsuit on, latex hat and goggles, probably have the strap under my swim hat to prevent losing them in the water. Googles will be recently washed with shampoo to prevent fogging during the swim, rinse well so no irritation to the eyes during the swim. I will put body glide on my neck to avoid chaffing and around ankles to help the wet suit pop off so I don't get a massive calf cramp from the tugging.

Time to race start 30 minutes drink some fluid, go for the warm up swim, come back and have a gel and take my inhaler. Head to the swim start and seed myself in the middle just 3 - 4 deep from the front. Plan to wait for open water to enter, and get into my stroke, focus on my form and making sure I draft off the hip and not the feet. PLan to cross the hips to get to open water if needed. Warm up is to the first bouy so keep it slower until this point, after that allow myself to get into a rhythm. I will try to keep slower to avoid asthma although it hasn't helped before, I will be going slow.

On the last turn towards the finish of the swim flex the feet a few times to avoid cramping, mentally go through the steps to the T1, unzip wetsuit, remove swim cap and goggles, get to the landmarks to locate bike, stuff goggles and hat in wetsuit sleeve, push into T1 bag get shoes on first, number belt, sunglasses, helmet, clip it and go to mount line.

Keep bike easy out to the hiway, there is no place to race at this point, so take in some nutrition at this point and get ready to settle in on the highway.

Once on the bike I will keep an easier pace out to the East West Road, if there is a tail wind to start I will go easier than I normally would as the headwind on the way back will take some work, so save it for then. I will always be changing gears to get optimal cadence, for me 82 - 85. Keep nutrition on every 20 minute intervals and water every 10 minutes. One bottle of water per hour and 2 salt tabs per hour.

At turn around on bike you have a fair idea where everyone is, now is the time to stay steady and get ready for the fast east west road. If there is a headwind, keep cadence high and steady, if there is a tailwind, get into the big ring and enjoy the ride. On the bike into town I will spin it up to a higher gear to get my legs rested, standing now and then to get circulation into the legs. Once into T2, rack bike, change shoes and head for the toilet, get something to drink as soon as I leave the washroom and head out at an easy trot waiting for the legs to adapt, once I am comfortable, I will find a zone 2 pace to hold to the turn around on the run, at that point if the IT, the feet, the stomach are all okay I will be letting out some more energy to pick up the pace, at 7 km pick up again, at 5 km pick up again and last 2 is an all out fight to the end. My nutrition on the run will be gels which usually make me sick, so I may substitute this year, but will need to test for a replacement.

I will make sure if it is hot that I keep an easier pace to avoid heat stress. When I am done, walk it down to make sure I am fully cooled down before I stretch and go to the finish line to cheer.

My specifics are food choice, I do not do sugared electrolyte drinks I prefer to separate these so that water is water, electrolytes are independent of sugar and the sugar is an entity on its own. I can still drink and do electrolytes even is my stomach is unhappy, so I have done this enough to know it works for me. I have tried a rice, potatoe and tuna mix on the bike at Ironman which was really great for me, I may use this on Great White North.

If it is a cold race, I will wear my fully fingered winter running gloves, this allows me to shift gears and keep my fingers working in case of a flat tire. In a 19 degree day cloudy windy rainy day you can get numb fingers which would really set you back on your race if you got a flat.

Pace. I go by perceived effort, I am not great with breathing so need to stay more in a somewhat hard zone, not a hard zone or my shoulders go up to my ears as I fight to draw air into my little closing hole to my lungs. If I keep an easier pace I can run longer and more comfortably, I do not need to slow down either, so this has been what helps me race.

Hills are hard due to air as well, so holding a harder gear up hill may work better so I am not breathing as hard, it is harder on the muscles and knees though, so somewhere in between.

Below is a checklist for Triathlon if you haven't got one you can copy and customize this one.

Checklist for Triathlon

Bike Maintenance
0 chain, if more than 2500 km you could use a new chain
0 Tires if more than 3500 km or visible splits, weaknesses, you should get new tires
0 Inspection and tune up at bike shop
0 Does your computer need new batteries?
0 Do you want a front load profile design water bottle
0 Do you have a bento box, a small carrier for the top tube of your bike for nutrition
0 Do you have a toolkit for tire change?
0 Head lamp for early morning bike set up (LED lights are not expensive.)

Pre-Race Checklist
0 Swimsuit or tri-suit this can be your bike shorts and race top
0 Wetsuit – check it for damage that may need to be fixed
0 Goggles 2 pair, if one breaks race morning you won’t need paxil
0 Paxil an anti anxiety medication, only if you don’t have 2 pair of goggles
0 Body Glide

0 Bike
0 Bike Shoes
0 Tire pump for before race
0 Helmet
0 Sunglasses
0 Bike Shorts and Jersey or tri-suit
0 Body Glide for your ……
0 Water bottles
0 Nutrition
0 Electrolyte Tabs
0 Spare tubes and air cartridges
0 Sun Screen
0 Towel to dry off after swim
0 Socks for the bike shoes
0 Number belt for the run with number on

0 Running shoes, make sure you have run in them a lot
0 For the runner who blisters have you thought of Injinji toe socks?
0 Hat
0 Run shorts and top if different from bike outfit
0 Sun Screen
0 Nutrition
0 Electrolyte tabs
0 Ibuprofen for the run, only if you have tried it before and know you need it