An Ode of Appreciation to Our Athletes...

I've got two athletes tapering for Ironman Chattanooga right now, their first full distance. I just watched a handful of my beginners complete their first triathlon, ever.

Elite Coach, Lora Popolizio with iTRI365 athlete, Emi Beaudoin

Elite Coach, Lora Popolizio with iTRI365 athlete, Emi Beaudoin

Our elite coach, Lora Popolizio, has been watching her coaching pay off with podiums through our elite and pro athlete arena. 

There's not much that can compare to the joy and sense of fulfillment of watching and experiencing your athletes succeed through training and racing. The same rush of pride happens when an athlete learns how to clip in as the moment one earns placement. It's directly related to their progress. The closest I can compare this feeling to is how I feel as a parent, watching my children learn.

Athletes look to coaches for direction, guidance, assurance and accountability. We work hard to provide that. We are emotionally invested in these amazing people! We're human, we make mistakes and we still learn as we go - still navigating through motivational, mental tactics as well as sharpening and honing into set structure. 

Just as an athlete with a ton of talent and no work ethic will not succeed; neither will a brilliant coach with no connection to her athletes. iTRI365 has been consistently working to build our team around a philosophy of inclusion, education, enthusiasm and patience. We have the heavy hitters - the athletes who are here to win. We also have the relaxed, non-competitive personalities who are here for the community, and everything in between. Either way, our mission is the same: to bring a plan that fits into the life and goals of our athletes. 

Coach Ryan encouraging iTRI365 athlete Robin Salars

Coach Ryan encouraging iTRI365 athlete Robin Salars

Our team is growing and we're excited about that. Our athletes are progressing - in both life and sport. We're a lucky and blessed group of coaches. It's an honor to be a part of a journey that touches more deeply than just a training plan.

A thank you to all of our athletes who have trusted us with their goals! You are appreciated and loved!

"A goal without a plan... is just a wish."

Cori Moore
iTRI365 Coach
www.itri365.com
itri365@gmail.com

 

Easiest Ever Lemon Ice Cream With Fresh Berries

Happy Memorial Day weekend!  Last week we hosted a birthday bash for a friend of ours who has an affinity for lemon desserts.  This lemon ice cream - with big shortcut - did the trick.  Once you add fresh blueberries and raspberries (or strawberries, or cherries...) it automatically becomes a dessert suitable for Memorial Day cookouts.  

The cheat is lemon extract!  You can find it in the baking aisle at most grocery stores, I got mine at HEB.  If lemon extract isn't available, you can swap in just under a half cup of fresh lemon juice.

A total of 3-5 minutes is all the hands-on time you need for a fresh, colorful and bright dessert suitable for company.

 

Easiest Lemon Ice Cream with Fresh Berries

Makes 1.5 quarts ice cream (about 10-12 servings)

1.5 quarts slow churned or light vanilla bean ice cream (I had great results with Edy's and with Trader Joes)

4 tsp lemon extract

1/4 c crystallized/candied ginger, finely chopped *optional

for presentation: fresh blue and red berries, spring of fresh mint, whipped cream, even gingersnap cookies

  1. Let ice cream soften on the countertop for about 10 minutes.
  2. Mix in the lemon extract and crystallized ginger until well combined.  Test, add more lemon if desired.
  3. Cover and freeze until firm.
  4. Before serving, allow ice cream to soften slightly, then add berries, mint, and whipped cream if desired.

A day in the life of nutrition coach Katie: meal prep Monday

I originally intended to share this recipe a couple of weeks ago, alongside this photo of the the groceries I buy in a typical week.  But, life and racing and training and business building and family obligations got in the way, as they do for many of us! 

If loving food shopping is wrong, I don't want to be right. You may never be ecstatic about getting groceries, but with a few tricks you don’t have to hate it either! 

The best meal prep day for me is Monday.  Sundays, my legs and brain are trashed from the bike, and the last thing I want to do is spend quality time in front of a hot stove or oven (true story - we were in a Sunday frozen pizza habit for a while until I started making freezer meals a thing).  

How I approach meal prep:  I start with a look at our schedules for the week, and determine how many meals I need to make.  This is based off of 1 - how often we'll be home, and 2- what I have left in the freezer, fridge, and pantry.  I build a shopping list based off of those meals, and when I cook I double or triple each recipe and freeze half.  

Another tool to make weeknight meals easier: cook batches of basics (potatoes or a grain, veggies, a protein), and combine them with whatever is left in the fridge throughout the week.  The photo below shows one of those creations, which was inspired by local legend/vegetarian restaurant Bouldin Creek. I baked extra potatoes, broccoli, portobellos, and tofu to give us options to build meals later in the week, and made a creamy DIY cilantro dressing (recipe below) to make it a meal.  

Quick Creamy Cilantro-Tahini Dressing*
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (4 limes or so)
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, to taste
  • 1 small jalapeño, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • cayenne, sea salt, and black pepper to taste

*inspired by Cookie and Kate’s Anything Goes Green Salad with Green Tahini Dressing

Instructions: add all ingredients to a blender and whip to creamy perfection.  Adjust to taste by adding more heat (cayenne or the seeds from the jalapeño), more creaminess (Greek yogurt or tahini), more tart (lime or Greek yogurt).  Salt will bring out any of the flavors, but add it in pinches so you don't overdo it.

Other recipes I made with the groceries from that week (less than $100!):

  • Red lentil bolognese pasta
  • Slow cooker overnight cherry almond steel cut oats
  • simple bean and quinoa burrito bowls with roasted broccoli (leftover from the Bouldin recipe)

I actually ended up having enough food cooked to where I didn’t even need one of the recipes I'd planned.   If you'd like the full recipe for the Bouldin Creek bowl, or need ideas on how to eat well while maintaining your sanity - reach out to me at itri365katie@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you. Happy training!

 

5 Healthy Valentine's Day Meals for Procrastinators

So, hi.  Valentines Day is tomorrow.  Gah!! Between work, errands, and training, you may find yourself a little under-prepared for a holiday that, ideally, is about relaxing and spending time with your better half.

I’ve been there, so I wanted to share a few ideas for healthy Valentine's Day meal ideas that can be created quickly and easily. 

Here are my rules for these last minute Valentines Day meal ideas:

Convenient - you probably have most ingredients in your pantry or fridge.  If not, they can easily be found at your grocery store.

Light but satisfying - each recipe leaves room for a little vino vino, and won’t find you too stuffed to enjoy the rest of your evening (ahem!).  

Easy - none of these recipes involve multiple steps or hours of labor.  They are simply fun to cook for or with your partner (or yourself!).  

1. Chicken with Cherry Wine Pan Sauce:  Feels fancy but stays within a realistic budget.  Also, literally- one pan.  Note that you have to pop some red wine open in order to make this recipe.  Look at you, multi-tasking!

2. Bistro Steak with Roasted Potatoes - MyRecipes/Cooking Light has long been one of my standard go-to recipe sites.  I rely on them for healthier spins on classics, like this traditional meat and potatoes meal.  Pair it with a side of roasted veggies and you’re set. 

3. Breakfast for dinner, Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes:  One of the first dinner dates Paul and I had was a lesson in cooking pancakes.  He’s brilliant at his job of fixing Volvos, but had yet to master pancake batter.   It was a fun change of pace for us both!  Personal notes on this recipe - add more almond butter on top! OMG!  And, if you don’t have flax meal, just sub a real egg. Add some strawberries or other fresh fruit to round out the meal.

4. Easy Beer Batter Crepes - Beer crepes!  Another spin on breakfast for dinner, but you can fill these babies with anything you like.  Feeling sweet? Try nutella and bananas, strawberries and peanut butter, or fresh blueberries and marscapone cheese or ricotta.  More savory - ham and asparagus, egg omelettes, or fresh ricotta and herbs.  The omelette option would give you a nice base to play with herbs and veggies that you have in your fridge, plus a good dose of protein.  Serve with a mixed greens salad on the side.  If you’re not feeling the beer - try these simple healthy crepes instead.

5. Crockpot Bolognense: Honey, I literally spent 7 hours slaving over this dinner.  You didn’t, but your crockpot did.  Thank God for technology.  If you’d like to make this dish vegetarian, substitute veggie meat crumbles.

What makes each of these recipes healthy for athletes?

Each incorporates fruit and veggies paired with healthy, satiating fats such as almond butter.  They include modest portions of lean protein, such as the steak, or the eggs and Greek yogurt in the crepes.  Portion sizes can easily be scaled to meet the calories you need to support your training goals.  And finally- they are all delicious!! Food should taste good and leave you satisfied.  If you have questions or would like to learn how to incorporate meals like these into your training plan, reach out to me. 

Happy Valentines Day!

Katie Kantzes
iTRI365 Nutrition Coach
www.itri365.com
itri365katie@gmail.com

Hacks to Get Back into the Training Groove

While New Year's resolutions and new beginnings seem so cliché, there's something to be said about getting out of the rut that holidays can put us in. This goes for inconsistent training to inconsistent eating habits. There's just something that happens with that first piece of Halloween candy that doesn't seem to go away until we eat the last plate of Christmas leftovers. Or is just me?

And I can't just leap right back into my old routine. It's like I need some sort of reboot or catalyst to jumpstart my mojo again. I personally decided to spend a few days cleaning up my diet and cleansing out my 'innards' (man, that sounds so country). I wrote down my personal fitness goals for the year and set my sights on the people and places that would keep me accountable.

As I headed out for a run, I started thinking about some of the hacks and tricks I've come up with over the years to snap out of it and get my ass back in gear. Here are a few of those hacks and how I'm getting it down now:

The Jams

I'm talking about when you're sitting at home KNOWING that you should head to the gym, hop on the bike or pop the swimcap and you're still in your pjs... at 2:00pm. Or maybe you just got home from a long, tiring day and you made the mistake of sitting on the couch and you're certain you can get back up. Crank up a station that would normally get you pumped up. Just let it play. 9 times out of 10, I start getting into the music and it makes me want to do something. Sometimes I end up cleaning, but most times, I end up throwing on my gear and finishing a set.

My fave Pandora stations: DJ Snake, Cycling Radio, Pop & HipHop Power Workout, Linkin Park

Make a Date

I've actually gone to run with one of my athletes because I knew it'd make me get my own workout in. I've also made deals in my head that if I called my husband and asked him to go run with me and he said 'no', that I'd go home. But if he said 'yes', I knew I'd be in for a workout. Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to let myself down than it is to let others down. But, it can work to your advantage until you can get back into a routine.

Have Someone Abandon You – Far From Home

Whether it's a bike ride or a run, have a friend or your other half drive you somewhere and leave you. You'll either sit and sulk, walk yourself or your bike, or actually decide to get your exercise in and get back home. Just keep telling yourself, “There's no place like home, there's no place like home.”

FB/IG Stalk a Fo' Real Badass – but totally normal person

There's nothing that makes me feel like I need to get my shit together more than seeing another regular human being, with kids, a job, a life... getting it done anyway. When I follow these people on Instagram or Facebook, I get to see them CHOOSE to accomplish goals and this is motivating for me. I like to find moms who still compete in some type of sport, especially the real ones. I just can't deal with the chicks who are on there for followers. Am I the only on who looks a hot mess after riding my bike for 4 hours??? Who runs a half marathon and has completely perfect makeup?? Those are not my people... and I sure as heck don't get motivated by following them on IG. So, do some diligence and follow the people who resonate with you.

Sign up for a Race – Any race

Even if it's a local 5k, knowing that you have to show up somewhere and perform can help get you out of a rut. With so many choices in fitness races around the world, your choices are endless. Commit yourself to one of them and the sense of urgency kicks in on its own.

 

Try Something New

It doesn't mean you have to stick with it. Just get out of your comfort zone, mix it up a bit. Often you'll find that you just needed a change of scenery before getting back to your grind. We all have that 'thing' we gravitate towards. And we all get burned out sometimes. Shake it up by trying a new sport, challenging yourself in a new group or signing up for something crazy - like pole dancing. 

Crossfit Chief Owner & Coach Scott Blankenship

Crossfit Chief Owner & Coach Scott Blankenship

Turn on Netflix or YouTube – with caution

There are 3 different things I'll go to if I'm just not there mentally and still want to crash on the couch.

Netflix: Fittest on Earth 2015 (this is about Crossfit, but it's the hard bodies and the ridiculous work they put in that makes me look down at my chicken legs and decide to shed my pjs)

Of course, I have to give a shout-out to my peeps at Crossfit Chief who are helping me with my strength work while I take the year off from racing.

YouTube: The Best Motivational Speeches compilations (you'll feel like conquering the world listening to these)

YouTube: Ironman World Championships (does this need any explanation??)

Beware the urge to settle in and watch something else that catches your eye... like The Notebook or some other binge-eating, lose-the-will-to-live movies. Fight the good fight.

While these are no substitute for your own intrinsic motivation, they can be little hacks to reignite that fire. If you just can't seem to find that mojo, give us a ring. Our coaches have no shortage of ass-kicking abilities and we're happy to share the love!

#getoffyourass #makeithappen #whateverittakes

Cori Moore
iTRI365 Coach
www.itri365.com
cori@itri365.com

Cycling: Winter Gear Basics

There are some basics when it comes to dressing for the weather. If you ask 10 different people, you will get 10 different answers, mostly because every one suffers cold in different ways. One person may not mind being a little cold to have the freedom to move more while another may not be able to set foot outside when it is below 60 without looking like the Michelin Man. Rather than claim that this is the only way to approach the cold, I am going to catalog the layering methods and particular items that have worked well for me. The biggest thing to remember is that we don't live in Canada... we live in Texas. Proofing for wind and minding breath-ability is so important. You will do better having a bunch of lighter pieces and adding layers as it gets colder. Heavy pieces will see very little use in our limited winters.

Base layer

Any decent base layer will do but you get what you pay for in this department. You won't need more than two (one to wear and one to wash... or one if you are willing to toss it in the dryer daily). I am fond of this one from Craft as it is not itchy and breathes really well if it warms up. I will wear one of these for pretty much every ride all season long. Nate and I have an entire drawer dedicated to this item. http://shop.craftsports.us/190983-active-extreme-cn-m.html

Arm/leg/knee warmers

Most clothing companies make these. The higher quality ones will not slip and will offer good, breathable warmth. I have some from both Panache and Castelli that work for me. I have stubby little legs so I can get my knee warmers and my socks to meet in the middle but can definitely tell a difference in warmth with more coverage on this. If you can swing both knee and leg warmers, you'll be happy. If you opt out of leg warmers, get a good pair of tights.

Wind vest/jacket

This is ESSENTIAL. I live and die by my wind vest. Wind is your enemy on the bike and once you get a little sweaty, being able to keep the wind from causing a chill is the difference between functional and miserable. I have a good one from Panache and an amazing one from Castelli that has a mesh back for breath-ability. It is lightweight and windproof. While that one is no longer made, there are a variety of similar offerings. This is a very light piece that adds a huge volume of warmth without overheating you.

Helmet beanie

Windproof and breathable is key here. Better if it covers your ears. You can also use a winter weight cycling cap with ear flaps from Rothera or Walz.

Ear warmers

If your beanie or cap covers your ears, you're off the hook for this step. Otherwise, look for an ear warmer that doesn't take up a lot of space under your helmet. I don't recommend any with an internal structure (headphone style) as they are designed to be worn over the top of the head will not perform well when used with a helmet.

Turtle fur/balaclava

If you have a good beanie or ear warmer and want some protection for your neck and face, a neck warmer or balaclava can offer a lot of warmth and will warm the air you breathe, big if you have a sensitive airway. Which is right for you somewhat depends on what else you have. My preference is to have a lighter weight system and a balaclava that could be layered further. I steal my balaclava from Nate so I can't make a recommendation on brands. There have only been a handful of times in the last couple of years that I have gone full balaclava, but those days would not have been possible without it.

Gloves

Okay, so don't skimp on gloves. You don't have much of an ability to layer so this is one time that you have to have multiple weights of an item. I have three types of gloves: a castelli long-fingered cross glove, a lightweight wind stopping glove by Gore, and a heavy weight winter glove from Craft. Each picks up where the other leaves off and the heavy glove is a beast. I don't wear them often but I never regret buying them. A glove liner can be added to a heavy glove as well for more warmth.

Jacket

Living in TX, I have never found a heavy jacket necessary. Nate has an all-weather jersey from Castelli that covers his needs more than his jacket. I have an mid-weight LG jacket that I rarely use because it is usually too heavy and restrictive. Layers of of wind resistant fabric are so much more effective. If your other layers are on point, it's unlikely that you'll need a heavy jacket. But if you do, look for one that has good ventilation, wind and water proofing, and is nice and flexible. If you have a good wind vest, then a light windbreaker style jacket is also pretty redundant. If we had more consistent winter weather with less fluctuation, then this item would become much more essential.

Shoe covers

THESE ARE A MUST! Cycling shoes don't offer a lot of space for thick winter socks but a non-permeable shoe cover offers a shocking amount of protection. Toe covers are a poor substitute but since my shoe covers are too big, my toe covers fit underneath for that ultra-whimp level of toe warmth.

Socks

Merino socks, wind proof socks, fleece socks... all great but make sure they are thin enough. You will eliminate their ability to warm you if they are compressed. If you need an extra bit of oompf, a thick plastic bag slid on between two layers of socks will lock in even more body heat. I don't do that unless temps drop below freezing as it will make your feet sweat like mad if it is too warm.

Tights

Windproof and fleece lined. I prefer the kind without the chamois as I tend to wear them with normal bib shorts.

Windproof Jersey

I have a great short sleeve goretex jersey that when added to the arsenal makes for a versatile layer without being too much. It's great over a base layer or even by itself on those days where the wind is cold and the sun is warm. This is one of the power pieces in my collection and makes a jacket essentially redundant.

The biggest thing to remember when you are choosing your gear is that you want to be cold when you start otherwise, you are wearing too much and will overheat when you are warmed up. You want your gear to be comfortable when you are going hard, not when you first walk out the door. I usually will take a lap around the block. If I am a little cold, I roll. If I am really cold, I go back and add layers. If I am nice and comfy, I take layers off. Also consider the weather you are facing: wind out of the north on a sunny day will make wind-proofing more important than insulation. If the day is cold, overcast, and still, then you will want more warmth overall. Wind and moisture are as important as the actual temps when determining how you will feel. 38 and sunny will often feel better than 50 with rain and wind. Remember, this is all a matter of the right gear and adaptation. If you don't let yourself off the hook, the winter can be a great time to lay down a foundation for next year that will make your competition shed bitter tears.  

Lora Popolizio
iTRI365 Head Coach
www.itri365.com
itri365lora@gmail.com

When the Wheels Fall Off - Part 1

"A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish" 

That is one of our company mottos. When it comes to triathlon, I am fond of telling my athletes that it is about “controlling the controllables” (and occasionally making up a word for effect). In other words, control as much as you can because this sport can always throw you a curve ball. Be fit: follow a good plan or work with a coach. There is no reason to toe the line unfit. Doing so without considerable experience and body awareness is just a recipe for disaster. Have the right gear: That means have what you need (This does not mean a $10K carbon space ship. It means well fitting wicking clothes, the right shoes, a well-tuned bike, the right tires, a tire change kit, good goggles with new seals, and so on) and have tested all of it in training. Have the right nutrition: know how many calories you need to finish well and have used that in training many times so that you know your gut will tolerate it. Know how much fluid you need and whether it's appropriate to be drinking water or sports drink.

Have a plan for transition. Have a pacing plan. Have a nutrition plan for the day before and the morning of the race. Know the course. Know the rules. Yeah, it's a lot. That is why so many people seek a coach or a tri group for help.

BUT....... what about when things don't go as planned. When you've got a check in all the above boxes, plus a few extras, and things still go wrong. What about when you've done your homework and the wheels still fall off the bus? What do you do? How do you save your race?

In a single phrase:

You stay calm.

It's never over until you are 6' under and pushing up daisies. So, the best advice is always going to be “stay calm and think rationally”. I have seen this single bit of advice save races and save people's health. If things are going awry, the first thing to do is remember that you have enough time to address the problem so there is no reason to panic. Take a deep breath, relax, and bring your heart rate down a tick. Now that you are calm and can think clearly, trouble shoot the problem like you would in a training setting with no one to solve it for you. I'll go over a few common scenarios over the next few days and offer some specific suggestions, but every situation is a little different and the real answer is to approach the problem rationally.

Scenario One:

Your pace/nutrition is off and you're dizzy or cramping or you've hit the wall!

You've prepped. You know what you were supposed to eat/drink. You had a pacing strategy. But suddenly your body and mind rebel. Maybe you dropped a bottle, forgot to fuel, or maybe you went out a tiny bit too fast. What now? This is the one where it is the easiest to panic. Why? Because part of the emotions that flood your brain are symptoms of being behind on fluids or fuel. In fact, a sudden shift towards negative thinking is often the first sign that you've gotten behind. Your brain is sending you all kinds of negative feedback right now because there is a real problem. It is trying to shut this show down before it gets any worse, even if that means making you feel like the sky is falling. The key is, when you feel that way, realize that this is a physiological response to a solvable problem. Is it going to affect your race time? Probably. Is it hopeless? Maybe not. Even if it is signaling the end of your race day, calm and rational thinking here could save you a trip to the medical tent or even the emergency room, so it's probably more important at this moment than at any other. If your race can be saved, you have precious little time or energy to spend panicking or wallowing in the negative emotions.

First, walk or slow down and SWITCH OFF THE NEGATIVE THINKING. This is not the time to lose your mind. It's the time to think rationally and follow the following advice.

Take a physical inventory. If you are used to doing this in training, you should be able to check in with your body. Not injured? Good. Move on to the next step.

Next step, eat and drink. Unless the problem is an upset stomach from too many gels or the wrong food, this is going to bump your energy. This is not the time for complex solids. You want a gel or block. They are practically pre-digested and will hit your blood stream sooner than anything else. Take them with a generous amount of straight water. In the event that you have taken gels with sports drink, plain water is the answer. If you have been taking only liquids for hours and have an upset stomach, now might be the time for some solids, which of course you will have because you prepared. If the problem is a dropped bottle in long distance races, then grab a hand-up. In shorter races, either be very proficient with your bottles, use a BTA mount, or carry a spare. Also, leave a spare in T2.... just in case. If you've dropped a bottle in a short race, take a second to take a big drink, and consider starting the run off with a bottle in hand. Jogging a bit more slowly while you catch up could make all the difference.

Now, chill and let your body relax. SO many races have been saved by a period of lower intensity to allow for recovery and some fuel/fluids. If you are cramping, walk it off and see if it subsides. Most cramping is actually a neuromuscular response to going too far past the limits of your fitness and benefit from a period of recovery. In some cases it is due to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance. If you correct for all three, you're putting yourself ahead of the game. If you are bonking from a lack of fuel, let your body recover while the nutrients absorb, speeding their effects and reducing the likelihood of a sloshy stomach. If the problem was pacing, a period of recovery can allow you to carry on as well, just be more conservative the second time. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes to recollect (even seconds in a shorter race), and you get a second wind and are on your way. Even if it takes longer (and believe me it feel like years when this happens), rushing or getting upset is unproductive.

Once you have let your body recover, and set off at the correct pace. Simply slowing down can work wonders by itself, all other solutions aside. Resist the urge to make up lost time. This could prove disastrous, especially if you are cramping. If your problem was nutrition and your stomach does not punish you too much, you may find you get a big second wind and can finish quite strong anyhow.

If you have symptoms of serious dehydration, hyponatremia, sharp pain, or any symptom that could make you unsafe such as dizziness, be honest with yourself and stop. There is no glory in permanently harming your body. Some people think it makes you tough, impressive, or a bada**.... it doesn't. It makes you stubborn and stupid. Especially in longer races, situations can arise that could permanently damage your health or even kill you. You can make a smart decision and race for many years in the future, or you can push it and risk becoming a statistic and a warning for future generations of racers. Be familiar with the symptoms of more serious conditions, including the ones listed above and make sure you aren't deceiving yourself into pressing on when you should be stopping.

In summary, every situation that you run into will be solved or, at the very least, improved by taking a moment to calm yourself down, handling the problem as matter-of-factly as if it were a routine training day, and setting off at an appropriate pace. So take a deep breath..... think things through..... and remember that this is fun.

Lora Popolizio
iTRI365 Head Coach
www.itri365.com
itri365lora@gmail.com

Follow our Blog for Scenario Two: 

Your goggles break/get kicked off/leak/fog. How do you cope?

IM Boulder: A Coach's Race Report

The iTri365 team car: the Batwagon

The iTri365 team car: the Batwagon

A bit of time has gone by since IM Boulder and I have read each of my athletes' race reports. It was a challenging race for me personally and professionally and, after some consideration, I realized that it was worth writing a race report from a coach's perspective. I've never actually read one so I'm kind of winging it here. I hope you gain some insight from this telling of the tale. Please apply the appropriate amount of tongue-in-cheek tone when reading this.

When three of my athletes decided to do IM Boulder, Nate and I decided that it would be a good opportunity for a work related vacation. I like to make it to at least a few races every year because it keeps me connected to the emotions of the day that my athletes feel and, without fail, my athletes are always grateful when I can be there. So we rented a little house, loaded the dogs, 5 bikes, and an astonishing amount of luggage into my VW and headed for Colorado at the beginning of August. When we got there on Monday night, I researched ALL THE PLACES!! I would ride and ride and hike and hike and do some coaching too. It was going to be GREAT!

Tuesday I rode part of the course. I was short on time as storms had taken out part of the day and I didn't make it as far as I would like but I definitely got a feel for a portion of it. That proved to be helpful in planning race strategy and let me bolster the athletes confidence about the nature of the bike course. My plan was to ride the entire course over the course of the week.

Rainbow over the Boulder bike course: GOOD OMEN!

Rainbow over the Boulder bike course: GOOD OMEN!

Wednesday. Oh, Wednesday. Nate and I found a sweet, non-technical 15 mile mountain bike loop. We headed out after he was done at work and there were 11 fantastic miles before I misread a bit of trail and faceplanted on a couple of big rocks. The result was a badly broken nose, a shattered elbow, and a large abdominal hematoma (seriously the most painful of the injuries). They put on a temporary cast and I had to wait until I returned to Austin for surgery. Nothing about this was in my plans for the week.

It was an amazing ride... until it wasn't!

We can pretty much fast forward from the ER room to the race... it was bed and drugs and not much else. I walked the dogs with Nate for a few blocks once.

The night before I went over to the house that they had rented and had a private conference with each athlete. For each of them, I had concerns and areas of confidence. We discussed the race strategy, the course, and I tried to plant ideas in their heads that may help them if they got into trouble on race day. The theme of all of it was “problem solve”. Most things that go wrong in a race can be solved or improved with calm, clear headed thinking... the very thing that often seems so out of reach when your brain is a soup of adrenaline and cortisol, and your legs and gut are running the show. I believe in the power of planting suggestions though, and did just that. I focused on choosing words that were simple and catchy enough that they might resonate through all the confusion on race day and actually come to mind in the moment that they are needed. I was a bit tickled to read that each athlete felt like she was going to the principal's office though. That was not my intent. My main interest was to not clutter their heads with other people's instructions and since they each had a different race plan, I didn't want them to start in the ego game of comparing themselves to anyone else. In all, the conferences were a success as they each mentioned remembering my words in the heat of the moment. As a coach, those are the little victories that drive you forward.

The mountains made for a beautiful backdrop on race morning!

The mountains made for a beautiful backdrop on race morning!

Race day. I'm not going to say this day was easy. I was not very comfortable walking because everything was raw and intensely painful. I still wasn't eating well and my energy was is short supply. But you know, a major race holds as much adrenaline at the start for me as it ever did, even though I am no longer racing. That adrenaline helpfully gave me the energy to make it to the swim start without falling over. This was a victory in itself. I looked in vain for my three athletes and though I found their waves in the corrals, I never did pick them out from the sea of neoprene clad athletes who all looked the same in their color coded caps. Chances are I looked right at them and didn't realize it.

Kat partied from one end of the course to the other!

I did connect with our group of supporters and stayed with them to watch the swim exit. It was the first time I had gotten any day of info. Keith told me that Gina was not wearing a wetsuit (what??!!! why didn't I know this?) and was freezing cold at the start of the swim. She had been doing the breast stroke to cope and unable to fall into a good swimming rhythm. The next hour felt like 100 years. Ryan was down at the swim exit and the rest of us were further up the chute. Suddenly Ryan was yelling and running... our first athlete was out of the water. It was Kat. She was rocking and dancing out of the water. She looked relaxed and fantastic. Check. One discipline down and she was one swim closer to being an Ironman!

Cori was next even though she went off in a later wave. Cori! Cori who worked SO HARD on her swim... who had so little confidence... who was so worried... had overtaken parts of the wave in front of her. Gina and Kat are both accomplished swimmers who teach swimming on a regular basis so to see Cori right up there trading punches really made me proud. As Cori running up the ramp, I got a look at her face and she looked good at that point. 

I did a little happy dance but was still deeply concerned about Gina. Last up the ramp was Gina. She looked cold and stiff. My worry didn't abate much when I saw her. Even though she clearly had her game face on, it looked like that swim took a lot out of her. I really wished I could get inside her head right then but of course, that can't happen. We screamed and cheered and made sure she knew she was not alone out there. Really, that is all you can do. Once she passed us, we circled to the backside of T1 to see her off on the bike. Heading out on the bike, she looked better. She had her game face on. Her husband and I agreed that she looked solidly determined. She was also moving better. She no longer looked totally frozen. I relaxed a bit. I got to breathe a sigh of relief as all three athletes had successfully departed on their bikes and there was nothing more to do but wait. We had made it through the first set of challenges. I say we because when you coach an athlete through a race like this with months and months of preparation, you are also very invested in the race by the end.

At this point, the pain and nausea caught up to me. The bus ride back from the swim start to downtown felt like a form of torture. After conferring with the crew as to where they would be and how we would regroup, I went back to the house to pass out for a while.

A couple of hours later, after a nap, I mustered some resolve (took more drugs) and headed back out to find my three intrepid souls on the bike course. But before we would do that, we would find all the traffic in Boulder. We turned down a road headed for the “flux capacitor” (a central spot on the course) where the Cobb Mobb tent and a chair was waiting.... and turn right into a parking lot.... no, actually it was a bit of road construction on the road that all the race traffic was shunted onto. It was full stop. After debating the best way to sit in traffic with Nate for about 15 minutes, my phone rang. I looked at my phone.  Ryan. Uh-oh.

“Gina is on her way to the medical tent”

No, No.  No P-o-J pics. Look at these nice windmills.

No, No.  No P-o-J pics.
Look at these nice windmills.

What?! CRAP!! Honey! Turn the car around. We have to get to the med tent now. It's at the finish like. Nate is Batman when it comes to impromptu U-turns and in moments we were speeding off in that direction. The Batwagon whined a diesel-toned objection as we headed back to the same parking garage we had used that morning in a big hurry. There was no way I was going to let her pull out of that race through the med tent and not have me there. I needed to know what was wrong but I needed more for her to not be alone right then.

It was a few blocks of walking and my hematoma (nicknamed the edema baby because a more accurate description was too disgusting to be funny) whined with every step. I felt like a hot mess. Right then, my front zip sports bra, the only thing I could get on over the cast, decided to let fly. By the time I arrived at the Med tent, I had redefined “hot mess”. The security guard had mercy and gave me permission to use the oversized port-o-john so that Nate could help me get... reorganized. Right before heading into the P-o-J, I found Gina coming out of the Med tent. She looked disappointed but largely okay. If nothing else, my predicament provided her with a much needed laugh. We whisked off to the P-o-J, got me sorted, and I stepped out, trying to regain a little dignity and put my coach's hat on before addressing my athlete.

 

We chatted for a few minutes. She had ultimately succumbed to the effects of the cold water a little more than halfway through the bike. I felt so badly for her. Something as simple as a wetsuit, one detail out of place, had robbed her of her day. Her head was in as good a place as I could have asked for.... she wanted another shot. (Fast Forward a few weeks... Gina is a renewed athlete with a focus and single mindedness that I had not seen in her previously. She will get her second chance and I really believe she will nail that race to the wall.) She headed home to change and eat and would meet us at the Cobb tent later.

We knew that the traffic was likely just as bad now as it had been earlier and we decided to walk. The edema baby eventually stopped whining with each step and the walk, while exhausting, felt good. About halfway there, we saw Kat towards the end of the bike leg. I screamed and yelled to get her attention. It worked but I had no idea if she registered that it was me. It was all I could hope for from an athlete at that point. She looked good, strong, and relaxed. She was smiling and was nicely down in aero (YES!). I put another check in the box and kept walking. Kat was doing great.

When we finally got to the tent, I was wrung out but the excitement was overwhelming. Many of the Cobb Mobb crew, friends and acquaintances, were already out on the run course. So was Cori. It wasn't long before she came through the first time. She looked tired but not unexpectedly so. I sat and relaxed waiting for her to pass by again. I don't remember which pass it was that she came through clearly unhappy. The next pass she was in tears. I have never wished I could run so badly in my life. I wanted to pace her for a bit and talk her through this. I call these moments course demons. They lie in wait for everyone. Sooner or later they catch you. Maybe not this race, maybe not the next, but sooner or later, IM tests everyone. They had caught Cori today.

I gave her a quick hug and told her to put one foot in front of the other. I knew she would get through it if she leveled her considerable determination at it. Ryan took off after her and I could do nothing but wait. I chatted with Clay (the race winner) a bit about the challenges of the course and speculated about what went wrong. But of course speculation is useless. It's just a thing you can do when you really can't do anything to help. The next time she came through, eyes were dry and she had her game face back on. She looked grim but she was going to finish... and finish with a huge PR. I knew we had some issues to address and was mentally taking notes for the conversation I knew needed to happen later on.

Gina and her husband enjoying the perks of the location.

Gina and her husband enjoying the perks of the location.

We watched her pass by the final times. Gina showed back up and proved her quality as an athlete and a team player. She set her own disappointment aside and cheered for her friends. We talked a bit about future plans and that resolve I mentioned was already showing. It was clear to me that she was still in the game.

Kat was out on the run course and from appearances, making sure that everyone within a mile radius was having as much fun as she was. She wasn't setting any land speed records but she was putting in respectable, even splits. As much as you can ever make this assumption, I was pretty sure she had this in the bag. It was time to head back to the finish and wait for Cori.

I had not been able to eat all day and once we arrived at the finish, I was nearly passing out. Nate ran to a nearby store and returned with a smoothie and some juice. He started to force feed me so that I didn't fall victim to a course demon. In what was literally the longest group of minutes I have ever endured, I stood near the finish and waited for Cori. Finally after what felt like 200 years, Ryan came running up and said Cori was 5K out, holding steady, and gaining on some other athletes that we knew were out ahead of her. Course demons or not, she was making this race her B***h! When she did run down that chute, I was beyond proud of her.

Cori was dehydrated. The problems had been hydration and nutrition. Her gut had rebelled and she had been unable to take in the necessary nutrition. That was why she had fallen apart on the run. It's common for athletes to struggle with this at altitude and she was no exception. She went to the medical tent for an IV and after waiting a bit, Nate and I gave in to hunger and headed to find food.

We found a quiet Japanese restaurant where I was served rice with chopsticks. With my right arm in a cast, that was a cruel joke. I did secure a fork and managed to get some rice and miso soup into my angry belly. Revived we headed back to the finish and hooked back up with the crew. Kat should be bringing it home any minute.

Kat, YOU are an IRONMAN!

Kat, YOU are an IRONMAN!

When Kat finally came across the line, it was a celebration. She rocked her way across that line and found us shortly. The emotions that came flooding out of her son, Carson, were incredible to see. She had worked so hard. She had struggled against the idea that this goal was beyond her. She had gotten up early, stayed up late, fought back insecurities, beaten back her tendency to stay injured through correct work and consistency... and she had set an amazing example for her son to see. I remembered when my father ran the Western States 100 in 1980 and how that show of fortitude shaped my adult life.  I think Carson has been given a great gift.

Hugs were given and the day was done. I was overdue for some self care (drugs!) and sleep.

This day, this week, was an exercise in managing unexpected disappointments. It was also a chance to be there for people I care about and see my work with my athletes through to race day. It represented, for me, my coaching career. Not every race will be perfect but you make the best of the bad times and go as hard as you can when it's good. With my own racing once again shunted to the back burner, it reaffirmed that I am in the right line of work. I learned, I grew, and I saw my athletes do the same.

Kat, Cori, Gina... iTri365 could not be more proud!

Kat, Cori, Gina... iTri365 could not be more proud!

People often ask me why they need a coach. Personally, I am inclined to rattle on about training principles, numbers, science, etc. All that is so true but when someone spends all day thinking about how to make you better and then conveys those thoughts to you in the form of a training plan, you are going to reap the benefits. But it also matters when someone else cares about your success and works towards that end. Objectivity is probably the most powerful thing a coach has to offer. I know, since my athletes all mentioned remembering some piece of advice I gave them out on course, that being there helped them to succeed. Even Gina, who did not finish, made a wise choice and pulled out before endangering her health because she was thinking clearly... because she was recalling the advice I had given her about what to do if the wheels fall off. Gina will race again...  Smarter, stronger, and even more ready than she was in Boulder. Cori PR'd by an hour. She's hungry for the podium. Then info I took away from that race will get digested and end up as ideas to conquer her nutrition issues and make her even faster. She will build on this performance rather than starting back at ground zero the next time she decides to do a race because she has focus and direction rather than just being burned out. Kat had never been able to string together a reasonable amount of time without an injury. We micromanaged her rest, recovery, stress, nutrition, and workload every day and she did it. She came across that line and owned that race. She went to the start pain free. She trained pain free. She succeeded and learned what she has to do to get the consistency necessary to take herself to the next level. All of that? Its the product of objectivity and accountability.  ALL OF THIS... this was my finish line.

Boulder, CO... until next time.

Lora Popolizio
iTRI365 Head Coach
www.itri365.com
itri365lora@gmail.com

2016 Ironman Boulder Race Report

My last post centered on the question, “Is It Worth It?” Now, having completed my second Ironman, I've looked over the results and effects of having raced.

This race was tough and it didn't turn out like I had wanted.

I had a game plan going in and was determined to follow it.

 

The Swim

We had a self-seeded swim start and I positioned myself in front of the group I thought I'd finish with but it turns out I probably should have been one group up. It was a washing machine. My only IM swim comparison is Kentucky, in which I couldn't wear a wetsuit but it was 85% downstream and I really didn't have to do much work. This swim was different. I was in a wetsuit and I had to put in work the whole time. It seemed like the swim took forever. There were tons of 'seaweed' or 'lake grass' (not sure what to call it) and I know I'm not the only one who got it hung up in my arms and neck. Since I placed myself in a slower group, I think there were probably more inexperienced swimmers in it, which resulted in being crossed, swam over and pushed around by racers who couldn't sight (noteworthy when choosing a slower seeded group). That's never fun but it is part of open water swimming in such a big group of athletes.

About half way through the swim, I started singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall to keep my stroke consistent. But, I ran out of bottles about 600 yards from the finish... I had to start over.

Overall, I'm pleased with my swim. It's really the first time I've truly pushed myself and didn't question whether I would have energy when I got out.

Swim Split: 1:26:29

T1

Getting into the changing tent was a smooth transition. I didn't rush but I also didn't waste any time. I think it was a half decent transition time (06:54) for as far as we had to run and push our bikes to the mount line.

Bike

The course was absolutely gorgeous. GORGEOUS! It was also hilly, but not in an East Texas hilly kind of way. More like long, energy sucking 1-2% grades and false flats that, if not careful, could burn you out.

I had very specific power instructions on the bike. I tried my best to execute those but seemed to struggle with actually reaching some of those numbers, which was extremely frustrating. I ended up deciding it was better to err on the side of conservation than to push myself – I knew I had to save my legs. I adjusted my power ranges down about 5 watts and stayed within those limits well.

The way power works and affects my riding leaves me flying down the hills and many straight aways, and then slowly taking my time spinning up the hills. This allowed me to make a few friends on the course. One, named Beth, was in a great Betty Designs kit and being able to talk to her every 10-15 minutes or so was super helpful for keeping my mind distracted. I had/have plenty of fitness for 112 mile bike, but no matter, you are still ready to get off the bike by mile 90. There were some really awesome and fast segments on this course. I'd say it was equally difficult as it was fast. I can see how it would be easy to blow up your legs on this bike course.

Expect unknowns to happen. Expect them so that when they occur, you're mentally prepared to handle them. I was dealing with some back pain on the bike and ended up starting my menstrual cycle while I was on the bike. I correlate the back pain with this event. I thought I'd be lucky and wouldn't have this problem – but what can you do? I don't really know if this had any effect on my performance (debatable) but I can say that you need to be prepared for everything. That was a mentally rough experience and as much as I'd like to say I took it with a grain of salt – it did bother me.

I was probably looking forward to getting off the bike a little more than most.

Bike split: 5:54:17

T2

I stayed on top of my nutrition on the bike and feel as though I drank as needed and ate as needed. However, coming into T2 I started feeling my stomach become unsettled. This was the longest T2 I've ever been in, or it just felt like it. We had to dismount and run (or walk) our bike a decent way before the volunteers took our bikes and then grab our bag and run into the changing tent, run the straight away on a track and up stairs. (07:07)

Run

This was brutal. As per the usual, I went out too fast even though I thought I had slowed my pace. I knew it would be a long run and I didn't want to kill my legs in the first half. Honestly, it wouldn't have mattered.

This was a hilly run course. Because of a history of ITBS, I have avoided training on hills and I think this was a big problem. Add that to fact that I couldn't eat on the run, I put myself in a bind.

I was able to drink water and a little coke but couldn't tolerate any solid nutrition. By the time I started in on Mile 10, I was a wreck. I was dizzy, nauseous and emotional. Ryan, my husband, found me on the course and asked me about everything and I just started crying. Nothing was going to plan and I was completely disappointed and exhausted.

He pushed me to try and eat a pretzel and I managed to start grabbing one or two pretzels every couple of aid stations, when I thought I could handle it. I was weak and just not able to focus well.

Because of the hills and my lack of preparation for them, it led to an incredible amount of pain in my ankles/achilles. As with any Ironman, you expect a certain degree of pain and suckage, but this was a whole new level for me. I walked the face of every hill and sllllooowwwlllyyyy jogged the rest.

The run was a complete disaster. To know what you're capable of and for things to not go as you expected makes those dark times even darker. The back side of the course was already lonely and quiet which makes it difficult to distract yourself from those thoughts of disappointment and dismay.

It was a comfort every time I passed someone I knew from our group. I knew I wasn't suffering alone and I could tell that the course was a struggle for them too.

Kat (my best friend who had talked me into this race) and I found each other in the middle of my physical and mental breakdown – around mile 13 or 14 and I think we hugged each other for a solid 30 seconds. I bawled like a baby – and I think she did too. It was an incredibly emotional moment. I was so proud of her and I was so sick and in such pain that it was just overwhelming to see her.

I'm so grateful for everyone who came to support us in this race. I was so out of it for most of the run that I probably didn't get to show any true appreciation on the course. I'm sorry for any time I didn't respond or say thank you or high five. I feel really bad about that. Please know you being there did my heart good. Knowing I would eventually see those Cobb Mobb flags was one of the things I looked forward to most on the run. That and my husband running beside me to check on me and encourage me. He's always been there at my very worst. I love you, Ryan.

To the Finish Line

The last few miles in an Ironman are both the hardest and the most anticipated. When you know there's just a 5k left and you can hear the crowd and announcer, it gives you a boost of energy. I knew there wasn't much I could do for myself by way of being sick so I tried to just focus in on being steady in my run. The last mile I picked up my pace and probably pushed myself too hard.

I remember going through the finish line and a volunteer coming to my side, but everything after that was a blur. I ended up in the medical tent for about an hour as they tried to restore my electrolytes and getting me back to normal. The only way I can describe how I felt is how you feel when you come out of anesthesia. Completely disoriented, unable to focus, weak, nauseous and loopy.

I tried to explain to them that I had messed up badly on my run by not being able to eat and apparently losing your appetite is common in races at altitude. I don't know if that was my issue or not. I was upset that I couldn't think or focus, but after an hour of forcing chicken broth down my throat, I woke up a little and was able to get back to my family and get ready to see Kat come in. 

Run Split: 05:04:25

Overall Finishing Time: 12:39:12
 

Post-Race Report

Almost a month has passed since Ironman Boulder. I feel like I've grown leaps and bounds as both an athlete and coach since completing my second Ironman.

It was an emotional race and while, in the heat of the moment, I swore I'd never do another Ironman, the competitor in me had decided that it wasn't worth it because I didn't get the results I wanted. This meant, another Ironman is a must. For others, the experience alone made it worth it. And for many more, having made the journey to that starting line answered this question before the gun ever went off.

This brings me to have this monologue aloud with you all. Was Ironman Boulder worth it? What makes an Ironman experience everything it should, could and can be? How did I fail and what did I learn from that failure? What went right and how do I duplicate it?

I'm being coached by a former badass triathlete turned State Champion Time Trialist who comes from a swimming background. I brought to the table my own background of 20+ years of running. I truly feel like this combination sets me up for higher than average success. I'm a competitive spirit and I'm willing to put in the work. My goals don't encompass beating anyone else and I don't define myself by triathlon. However, I'm well aware that there is untapped potential within myself and when I don't achieve all that I can become, that's when I find myself asking, “What could I have done differently?”

As I reflect on the many areas I could have improved, I become increasingly appreciative of having a coach. As with any coach, you can only do so much – it comes to a point where it's left up to athlete to dig a little deeper, to follow the game plan, to mentally push through. But, the fact that I PR'd my Ironman distance well over an hour, gained incredible improvement in my swim and executed one the most solid bike splits to date, speaks volumes. I run a company, I'm a mom of two young children. I'm a wife and coach. My life is full. I have a coach who made that PR happen despite my many limiters.

I've spent hours in thought and conversation with my coach about where I went wrong, where I went right, how I could improve and the shared lessons we both learned through my experience alone.

So, was it worth it?

Yes, it was worth it.

Because I've become a better athlete, a better coach and I know things now that I would never have known had I not stepped into those dark hours. Certain aspects of my life suffered from my lack of attention, but nothing that can't be redeemed. My children watched me cross that finish line and I know, without a doubt, that seeds of determination, will and drive have been planted within them both.

It was worth it... but I'm not done.

#liveandlearn #betteryourself #workhardplayhard

Cori Moore
iTRI365 Coach
www.itri365.com
cori@itri365.com

Is Ironman Worth It?

When you bite off something like training for a full Ironman, you tend to have this fantasy in your head about how hard you're going to train and how strong and fast you'll be. You picture hearing the words, “You Are An IRONMAN!!” as you cross through the finish with this magical feeling of euphoria passing over you.

The reality, however, is much less glamorous and fantastical. I can't even remember hearing those words at my first Ironman; I was in such state of exhaustion.

You'll often hear that Ironman is about the journey, not the race. Being a triathlete is challenging in and of itself, but to push yourself to an extreme amount of conditioning can bring out the truth in your desires and commitments.

Most of us can't hop into an Ironman event without training for months, if not a year before. I have yet to meet an age grouper who hasn't been dealt his/her hand of setbacks along the way. In just the last 4 months, I've personally crashed my bike, broke my pinky, dealt with two sick kids which brought training to a halt, pulled my hamstring, experienced my own show-stopping sickness and battled that necessary element called fatigue.

So many triathletes watch in awe at Ironman competitors, viewing the full distance as the mecca of triathlon. It's held on a shiny, heroic pedestal. They see others training and posting pictures of 100+ miles rides, 15+ mile runs and 3+ mile swims, and while it's a feat to be proud of, most don't see the other side of the curtain.

The sport of triathlon is not a sport of comfort zones, ease or beauty. It's challenging. It's more tear-stained, sweat-filled, blistered and sore than any other sport I've encountered. Having trained now for my second Ironman, I have thought that maybe it hasn't been worth the sacrifice at times. I will have earned my badge passing that finish line, and proud of the work I've poured in, but I will also reflect more on those effects before signing up again.

It's so easy to get wrapped up in the hype of Ironman. The environment is addicting, the buzz in the air, the adrenaline... it's all so very enchanting. There's a huge sense of pride and accomplishment when you cross the finish line, whether sprint triathlon or full.

As a coach and competitor, I often have to work to help athletes see between the lines of reality and expectation. My own coach said it best:

“....not every challenge is right for everybody. I have had to, after a long conversation, encourage some people to stay with shorter distances. [Full] Ironman is life changing, and you MUST love the process because it is so long and arduous. There is a desire and a drive necessary for an athlete that cannot be coming from an outside source. Many people make the choice because so many others made it, but the test of character is less in the race and more in the training. Someone has to love volume... I mean LOVE IT.... or they won't make it. They need a support network that won't let them down. They need a certain financial solvency. Ironman is not cheap... and they need a certain ballsiness. Ironman is not for people who are afraid to push themselves or scared to go to that dark place in their minds. It's for the person who knows how to put their head down and keep moving forward when things get dark and nasty inside their own head. This is a thing that some people thrive on, the demon conquering self, so to speak.
I hate reading/hearing 'rah rah rah, you can do it' being chanted at someone who maybe should not. There is no shortfall of character in realizing that you enjoy a different distance, or that a shorter race fits into your life better, or that your talents lend you to be competitive at shorter distances over longer ones and that is what you prefer. To the contrary, making choices purely because they are right for you is the embodiment of character. Listening to that inner voice is a big step on the road to happiness.”

While I wish I could say Ironman training is wonderful and should be on the bucket list of every triathlete, this is what I'd rather say:

Take time to really look at how an Ironman athlete trains. Ask them about their schedule. Are they up at 4:00 AM getting in one of the two workouts they need to do that day, and still sacrificing dinner at the table with their family? Is their work suffering because they're tired from heavy weeks of training? Have they been able to stay healthy? Intense training stresses the immune system, and injuries happen. Did they have to give up certain financial luxuries to pay for nutrition, coaching or race fees? How much did they spend on one Ironman alone? (The entrance fees alone average in the $700 range). Are they wanting to do well or just wanting to finish at the midnight hour? (Do you want to spend 12 hours or 16 hours on the course?)

It's not that hard to click a few buttons and pay a race fee. It's not all that hard to travel and find accommodations and show up on race day.

The training is the test. Your 'why', your motivation, has to be there, day in and day out, when you want to give up – because trust me, you will want to skip that ride, sleep in late and miss the pool set. You'll want to go to that party or skip a few days to spend vacation with your family. And yes, sometimes there are legitimate reasons. But, if you're going to bite off that commitment, realize that it's far from butterflies and rainbows. It's tumultuous and stormy.

The victory comes when you finally see what you're made of. That can happen two months into training or the moment you cross that finish line. The victory comes when your children see what it truly means to push yourself to accomplish a dream. They see delayed gratification in real time. The win is seeing the strength in your determination, finding the grit and drive to go further than you ever have before.

Success becomes more about what you overcome then what you accomplish. You find out that rearranging your priorities is easier than you thought.

You realize that you are redefining yourself by redefining your limits.

These are not lessons learned in the safety and warmth of a comfort zone. These lessons can only be learned when you take a chance and take on the challenge of doing something you've never done before. It's hard to put a price tag on self-actualization.

Not many of us will sit on a podium at an Ironman event. It's not about winning on that platform; it's about finishing what you started, no matter what gets thrown at you.

Am I saying it's not worth it?

No.

I'm saying it HAS to be worth it.

Food for thought, 12 days out from my 2nd Ironman...

#howbaddoyouwant #redefineyourself

Cori Moore
iTRI365 Coach
www.itri365.com
cori@itri365.com

 

Breathing Battles Part 2 - Struggling to Swim

In case you missed it: Breathing Battles Part 1 - When Swimmers Struggle to Breathe

"Take a deep breath. Push off the wall. Take as many strokes as you can. Come up for a big gulp of air. Hold it. Take as many strokes as you can. Come back up for another gulp of air. Hold it. Take as many strokes as you can. Continue cycle until you eventually make it to the other wall. Gasp for air like you have been water-boarded for the last 25 yards. Repeat."

Sound familiar?

This is a subject I completely empathize with, primarily because, as a newbie I did every possible thing wrong. Not only did I not know how to breathe when swimming, I had a deeply ingrained fear of drowning. When I was 7 years old, I had blacked out and nearly drowned in a wave pool. Since then, I had always struggled with deep water. The combination of fear and lack of knowledge led to a very scary and frustrating entrance into triathlon.

Years ago, in my first triathlon, with no professional coaching, I was second to last out of the water. Sadly, I accepted my perceived inability to swim and just made up my mind to 'survive' the swim and work harder on the bike and run. Then one day, I found the value of coaching and learned that it just didn't have to be that hard.

Now, as a coach, I spend much of my time helping others overcome the same issues I battled. So, how exactly are you supposed to breathe in the water? Here are two simple observations and solutions I personally experienced and continue to address with new swimmers.

Holding Your Breath and Taking in Too Much Oxygen

Running and cycling are so completely different from swimming in that you don't need huge, continuous gulps of air. Yet, still I watch athletes bring their heads completely out of the water, taking in as much precious air as possible before holding it tightly in as they wrestle back into their stroke.

This will completely gas you out. This often feels like you're working your ass off and getting absolutely nowhere but close to death after 25 yards.

Holding in oxygen creates buoyancy in the upper body. Add that to craning your head out of the water and you'll find your back end sinking. When you go to take your strokes again, you're having to work that much harder to bring yourself back to a hydrodynamic position to propel yourself forward. This requires more oxygen, which forces the cycle to continue.

Instead of taking in as much air as you can, take small bites of air. Seriously.

This is where athletes struggle mentally. I know this because it was the hardest lesson for me to grasp. I like oxygen. Oxygen likes me. Why in the world would I deny myself this beautiful relationship in the one place I was certain I would die? Trust me. I fought it.

And trust me. You don't need that much air. You only need a sip and you don't need to hold it.

Once you turn your head for that small bite of air and return to neutral you should begin exhaling. Yup, exhaling. That was something I never really thought about either. I would try to hold my breath until it was time to come up, then attempt to exhale and inhale all in the same small window.

*A helpful tip: Avoid lifting your head towards the other end of the pool and instead remember to roll, as though looking to the side wall.

Not only does holding your breath make you feel like you need to breathe, but you actually build up CO2 in the lungs and bloodstream. Allow yourself to inhale and exhale and you'll find less tension and more efficiency in your form. It gets easier, I promise.

By continuing to practice this rhythm, you are training your brain and your body to trust that it will get oxygen and you're not trying to kill yourself. As your body begins to trust this process, your panic for oxygen will subside.

Holding Your Breath for Too Many Strokes

Another common issue I see new swimmers dealing with coexists with the holding of the breath.

“Hold breath, take as many strokes as possible.”

I have yet to run across a new swimmer who has the conditioning to make it 4 or 5 strokes in, keep good form and successfully make it to the other end of the pool.

However, new swimmers, including my former self, will try to get as far as possible before breathing again. This is counterproductive and not necessary. Allow yourself the natural process of conditioning. It will come faster if you do it the right way, guaranteed.

It's recommended to try and breathe every 3rd stroke. This helps balance out your rhythm and surprisingly, it often balances out form issues. However, not all athletes can do this and that's okay.

Most of us have a 'preferred' side of breathing. For me, it's my right side. When I get tired, instead of every 3 strokes, I revert back to right sided breathing.

*Helpful tip: training for every 3rd stroke and learning to 'roll' instead of 'lift' can be complimented by rolling to your back once you tire out. Proceed to backstroke until you have recovered, then roll back into your freestyle stroke and breathing pattern. This will help you continue to move forward by encouraging good swim form.

If you feel you get too gassed attempting every 3rd stroke, then try to breathe every right or left stroke. As your conditioning increases, you may find that you can tolerate 25y or 50y of bilateral breathing before you need to return to single sided.

These are just two simple suggestions on breathing that I suggest new swimmers keep in mind. If you know you struggle with form or you still can't seem to figure out why you aren't making gains in the water, hiring a swim coach is one of the best investments you can make.

If you're looking for help with your swim, I recommend Jenny Brown. She is an iTRI365 Coach, Certified Masters Swim instructor, additionally certified in adult learn to swim instruction. She will be offering open water swim clinics this summer in addition to personal swim lessons. She can be reached at itri365jenny@gmail.com for questions!

She will also be teaching beginners' swim in preparation for triathlon at our Beginner's Triathlon Training Clinic from July 20-23, 2016. You can find more information and register HERE.

#justkeepswimming #breathe

Cori Moore
iTRI365 Coach
www.itri365.com
cori@itri365.com

*Helpful tips courtesy of Coach Jenny Brown.

**As a triathlon coach, it's my job to condition athletes to compete in all three disciplines, however, swim instructors are specially educated to address swimming and I will always recommend to my athletes to attend clinics, get lessons or stoke analysis by our swim coaches for in depth training needs.

Breathing Battles Part 1 - When Swimmers Struggle to Run

Having been a runner since I was 12, averaging anywhere from 3 to 9 miles a day, I never thought about breathing as an adult. I think learning techniques at an early age, specifically during adolescence, when my hormones were helping shape my 'operating systems', breathing during my runs was a normal, rhythmic occurrence.

Now, as a triathlon coach, I have found myself not only reading through research on breathing techniques but also reflecting on my own practice and experience in order to help my athletes.

Something that has happened three times in this past year alone is working with swimmers who struggle to breathe on the run. Three separate athletes, all swimmers, ranging from childhood swim team to collegiate swimmer; none having been runners in the past.

What I found to be common with each of them was struggling to get their breathing under control on the run. If this had been a one time occurrence, I wouldn't be writing about it. But, having had 3 different athletes present with the same problem, I thought it might be helpful for other athletes and coaches who might run into the same issue.

What I Found

Each athlete had difficulty with (1) 'controlling' their breathing, (2) regulating heart rate on base runs, (3) holding run form.

What I recognized immediately was either erratic breathing, overly controlled breathing or an attempt to maintain a specific rhythm (2/2, 4/4). When speaking with them I'd find that they were given a whole host of 'advice' on how they 'should' be breathing or they had read a ton of articles and had been trying different things, but to no avail.

There are almost as many opinions on breathing rhythm as there are on politics. In this specific situation, similar to situations with brand new runners, I found that giving them the space to just breathe made all the difference in the world. However, this had to be explained.

Unlike running, swimming only requires small bites or nips of air. Too much inhalation can work against the swimmer. Swimmers have massive lung capacity and can hold their breath exceptionally well and therefore, tend to get frustrated when it feels they can't catch their breath while running.

Questions to ask:

Am I holding my breath? Am I trying to purposely slow my breathing down and then gasping for air on my next inhalation? Am I taking in enough air when I do inhale?

Many coaches will build a runner's foundational mileage based on heart rate training. This can be deceiving when an athlete is attempting to 'regulate' their breathing on a run but actually achieving the opposite. I have observed an increase in heart rate while the athlete seemingly maintained a very low RPE (rate of perceived exertion).

What Athletes Would Tell Me

“I don't understand why I can't keep my heart rate down. I'm running so slow, I'm almost walking. It doesn't make sense.”

The coach gets feedback but often, without running alongside the athlete, will not realize the problem is in the breath.

When you can't breathe, you can't train proper adaptation and you also cannot hold run form. We see this in swimming as well. Without mastering breathing techniques, the rest fall apart.

The Good News

Swimmers just need to breathe.

In my practice as a coach,  I would tell my swimmers to BREATHE. And be dramatic about it! I wanted to hear the loud exhales, embarrassing heaving, ugly, smelly breathing. I wanted them to FEEL what it was like to actually get the oxygen their muscles needed.

Unfortunately, for some, the mere thought of sounding like a freight train, was enough to derail it. (haha, that was a good one). Seriously though, feeling self-conscious was a reason they kept breathing 'soft, quiet and controlled.' Don't let that be a factor.

Once the freight train was let loose, it was like night and day.

They had permission to breathe. The long, ingrained 'sips' of air they had been taught throughout their swimming career required a bit more conscious thought, but utilizing the incredible amount of lung capacity in this way opened up a brand new world.

As they became more conditioned (since they could now breathe and get miles in without dying), they also began to develop a natural pattern. Oftentimes, these natural patterns don't have to be modified.

There may be a school of thought that argues a technique should be taught from the get-go, but most of us, as age-groupers, will not go on to be Elite or pro-athletes. As the athlete develops, the coach can introduce more specific run sets, working on finding breathing patterns that fit with the runner's level.

There are so many factors and variables with each individual. Call me old school, but I just don't think one size fits all.

If you're a swimmer and you struggle with your run, evaluate your breathing.

The problem crosses over for runners getting into the water and trying to take HUGE gulps of air, for fear of not getting enough...

...and we'll save that article for next time.

#breathe #youcanrun

Continue reading: Breathing Battles Part 2 - Struggling to Swim

Cori Moore
iTRI365 Coach
www.itri365.com
cori@itri365.com

You WILL Get Knocked Down

“Are you more concerned with the extreme loss, or will you embrace the extreme work?”

I met with who I believe to be one the most amazing couples I’ve ever met. I came to them to get mentored on parenting. I had so much doubt about whether I was truly getting across the values I wanted my children to learn. Why was I always repeating myself? Were my methods not working? Maybe I’m doing this all wrong.

And they hit on a point that only an experienced parent can: lessons are cyclical. Maybe they didn’t get it the first time, or the second, or third or tenth. This was part of the process. Staying consistent, giving them space to test the boundaries and to run into that lesson again. If I stayed consistent, they would ultimately ‘get it.’ Revisiting these lessons was part of the parenting paradigm.

I thought it was a talk about me parenting my children.

Then it hit me.

Lessons are still cyclical for me.

Six weeks ago I wrecked my tri bike and broke my finger. It wouldn’t seem to be a big deal but it took away any upper body exercise, including my swim practice. Swimming has always been my struggle. My confidence has never been there.

Even without the wreck, I struggled with bouts of frustration and anger with my swim. Not many things in life or training affect me the way the swim does. I would hit a depressing moment, get down and anxious, work my way through the emotions and try again. This happened over and over.

Then I got in the water 6 weeks after my wreck and felt defeated, again.

I’m less than 3 months out from Ironman Boulder. I had high hopes for this race. I had been serious about my training and then I got knocked down.

“You can write everything down if you want to. Be brave enough to write every one of your goals down, but I’m going to tell you something. Life is gonna hit you in your mouth and you gotta do me a huge favor, your ‘why’ has to be greater than that knockdown…. And I am telling you if you don’t know what your 'why' is and your 'why' isn’t strong, you gonna get knocked out every single day!”

Yesterday I analyzed the time I had until race day. I looked at all the factors in my life. I came to the conclusion that this setback took more time away than the time I had to make it up. I called myself a ‘realist.’ I was looking at ‘facts.’ There are only so many hours in a day. My muscles can only take so much of a training load. I only have so many hours of rest.

These ‘facts’ were my excuses. My ‘realism’ was my crutch.

If you were blind – Ask yourself how badly you would want to see? If pushing yourself to your limits could give you sight, would you do it? What if you had to learn hurt, trust pain, and embrace struggle? Would you still be concerned with being realistic?

Would you still figure your odds and calculate your chances? If a few extra hours and few more drops of sweat and a little more blood was all it took, would you claim your sight?
Do you really want to succeed?
Then choose to be blind and do whatever it takes to see…
because if you don't, then you will be blind anyway..."

 I got up this morning listening to motivational speakers remind me, again, that I have the power. I suited up and got in the pool again. There’s a lesson for me to learn. And it’ll come back around until I get it.

Training is full of lessons. Training amplifies your weakness. It knocks you down to your knees and every set, every rep, has the ability to remind you that you’re not strong enough, you aren’t ‘there’ yet… life will tell you you can't, you don't have time... but you have the power to dig deeper than that doubt.

Find your 'why'. Set yourself up for success. Find the mentors, find the book, watch the video, listen to the speech, turn up the music.

The lessons are cyclical, even now.

Embrace the lesson, embrace the challenge. If you're willing to do the work, you can have anything.

If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way.

A special thank you to everyone who made me think yesterday.

Because of you, I’m a better athlete and a better coach.

#nevergiveup #embracethework

Cori Moore
iTRI365 Coach
www.itri365.com
cori@itri365.com