Off the Grid!

I feel like it’s the understatement of the century to say that people are going a little stir crazy lately! I am no exception. We’ve been super lucky that Matt’s job has maintained minimal impacts throughout the crisis, but one of the smaller impacts was being required to burn a week of vacation time at some point in May. Honestly, I perked up at this even though we didn’t have anything planned. It is a great time of year to get out and do a backpacking trip that we have wanted to do. Even better, we’d be able to go during the week to help keep off the trails in the popular times.

We are definitely experimenting with “how light can we travel,” though I will say that we are both scared of sacrificing too much food so we have PLENTY of that. The forecast also looks favorable as have the last few weeks for us to have plenty of water access. I’m also experimenting with my clothing options so we’ll see how that ends up and if I choose correctly!!

Next week I’ll update you on where we travelled and how it was — keeping that off the public space for now just for safety! (that’s for you, Mom!)

In the meantime, we have a great IronWomen Podcast episode on tap for tomorrow – so please keep your eye out for that to drop and have a listen. Haley often challenges me with topics that she proposes for the show, and this was no exception. I learned SO MUCH in this episode and I hope you will too!

Altitude Shifts Attitude

As I was driving out to my hike this morning, I looked ahead at the stretch of road, always quiet mid-day, but even quieter in these COVID times. Today, the mountains weren’t there. Or so it seemed, at least. But having driven towards them many times before, I knew they were in fact there, buried beneath the thick fog that was moving in, bringing with it heavy rain. I might beat the rain today, but I knew I couldn’t beat the fog. 

Normally I would be pretty “meh” about a hike in this unseasonably cold, wet weather. But I think since my training has been light and my fatigue level pretty low for the last few days, I was in a better mood than expected. But the thought still popped into my head that I’d be doing all this climbing today and I wouldn’t get one darn view out of it!

But of course, sometimes you start a climb knowing there will be no view. And, view or not, I knew it would be worth it. Climbing a mountain always makes me feel strong. No matter how busy my life has been. How blah I feel about my body and fitness. How tired my legs are. There is no way I can climb a mountain and not feel…better. Better mentally and stronger physically. 

It’s a little bit of a stretch (but when I’m trying to blog every week, stretching to hit some points is totally fine in my world!) but it reminds me of what Hillary used to remind me of in my first years of working with her, when as a twenty-something life was much more dynamic, dramatic and emotional than I’d like to admit. (Hopefully she’d agree that the pendulum has shifted in my wise years of the thirties!!) But when all those emotions and drama would boil to the surface and the last thing I ever wanted to do was the exercise on my plan for the day, she’d remind me of something tried and true for many endurance sports athletes: mood follows action. Just start. It might not be perfect, but it’s something. And you’ll probably feel better after doing it. And she was right. 

As I’ve matured, and evolved, and spent more time in the mountains and on trails, I’d like to take that adage and change it with an Alyssa-twist: Altitude shifts Attitude. I believe a wise man once said something similar.

In this time when some days are good and some days are bad, my call to action? Climb a mountain. If you don’t have a mountain, hike up a big hill for awhile. Don’t have a hill? Set the treadmill to 15%. Can’t access a treadmill? Put heavy stuff in a backpack and walk around town for an hour. Altitude is relative. But I find this to remain: Altitude shifts attitude. 

The Data Side of the 5 Days of Jarmans

Last week I wrote about how I was inspired to create a self-challenge, which I called “The Five Days of Jarmans” — starting on Monday I would run 1 lap of Jarmans Gap Road, ~6 miles and 1,500 feet of vertical gain and 1,500 feet of descent. Each day thereafter, I’d add a lap until Friday, when I’d do 5 laps. I’m writing a blog for the Smashfest Queen Diaries this week with some more elaboration on my “why” for this, as well as what my takeaways have been. But before it got too far away from me, I wanted to sit down and write out the more data-oriented side of things in case people were interested.

I dialed in my fueling and hydrating plan through this pretty well. Day 1, only being 6 miles, I made sure I was well hydrated and fueled going into it and afterwards, but I didn’t fuel during that hour.

Day 2, I started to add in some calories. I drank ~16oz of NUUN Endurance (60 calories) and on the first descent I had a Spring Energy Speednut gel (250 calories). Honestly I would have liked to have had some more NUUN Endurance but I wasn’t feeling too crisp this day and minimized the extra weight of carrying a handheld for too long. But I made sure to hit the rehydrating right after, and had a shake right afterwards with ~300 calories as well (I had this shake each day afterwards in addition to the nutrition below). 

From there, things stayed pretty consistent, and I essentially just added a bottle and a gel each lap. So Day 3 was 2 Speednut gels (500 calories), 60 calories of NUUN Endurance, and 160 calories of Red Bull for bottle #2. (Total of 720 calories and 32oz of liquid while running)

Day 4: Two Speednut + 1 Koffee gel (710 calories), 120 calories of NUUN Endurance, and 160 calories of Red Bull. (Total of 990 calories and 48 oz of liquid while running)

Day 5: Two Speednut gels + 1 Koffee gel (710 calories), 1 pack of Clif Blocks (200 calories), 180 calories of NUUN Endurance and 160 calories of Red Bull. (Total of 1250 calories and 60oz of liquid while running)

As you can see, for days 3-5 I really focused on getting in 250 calories an hour and ~12oz of hydration with NUUN Endurance and a Red Bull/Water mix. Most of the time I was also using the caffeinated NUUN Endurance. Yes, caffeine is my friend 🙂 So are calories!!

I think the consistency with which I fueled lent itself well to the diesel engine approach I had with my pacing. Admittedly, I’m not a huge data person. I also didn’t want the data and time aspect of this challenge to derail me from having a good time out there. I did my best to remember to split laps up/down, but by the end of the week I was over that a bit and didn’t lap out interloopal times, so those kind of blended together. I also warmed up a little bit on the first couple days which threw off my times/elevation, but I did some rough estimations to give you a ballpark, and all links are to Strava data if you want to double check me! Here is what I have:

  • 15 laps over 5 days
  • Total time for the 5 days including interloopal times: 14 hours, 37 minutes
  • Approximately 88 miles total
  • ~23,500 feet gain total
  • ~22,750 feet descent total
  • Fastest descent was the last one!! 18:58 
  • Fastest climb was the first one!! 31:15

Below, I segmented out any times I did easily have. The “total” is the total elapsed time for the day — so that includes any time I had faffing at the top of Jarmans, and interloopal times.

Day 1

54:30 (climb 31:15 / descent 22:20)

Total: 54:30

Day 2

56:05 (31:47/23:26 – this includes the interloopal time at the bottom)

56:11 (32:52/23:31)

Total: 1:52:16

Day 3

55:15 (33:09/22:06)

54:45 (32:37/22:08)

55:49 (32:32/24:13)

Total: 2:49:42

Day 4

55:03 (32:42/22:21)

55:08 (33:41/22:27)

58:45 (33:57/24:47 – this includes interloopal time)

57:44 (34:15/23:52 – this includes 1:56 of stoppage for a train)

Total: 3:52:55

Day 5

I was lazy and not doing much lapping here, but the climbs appear to be 35-37 minutes and the descents 24-25ish (until the last one!). I also went live on the Smashfest Queen instagram at the top of loop 3 to show what the “view” is at the top since people had asked, and after loop two there was a train, so I waited at my car until that had passed rather than waiting in the open with the train roaring by me. So plenty of places for time to be eliminated with just those!

1:03:55 

1:02:39

1:04:35

1:00:51

54:38

Total: 5:06:43

And last: gear! It might not seem like it’s too variable for this type of adventure, but there are actually plenty of options I considered. First: shoe choice. I ran all but 4 of the 15 laps in Nike Next%. The ones I didn’t were the two on day 2, and the first two on Day 5. I’d say that those were some of my slower laps— I noticed a very big difference for me on my ability to descent in the Next%. I also think they absorbed the pounding a lot more allowing me to rack up all the climb/descent of the week with the least amount of wear possible. 

I actually did consider taking out trekking poles for the last part of the week (controversial, I know!) to have them for the second mile, stash them and bring them down a mile on the descent to have again for the next loop. I never ended up doing that, but I would bet if you are good with the sticks, this would help your times on the climbing!

I also wanted to minimize what I was carrying, so I always stopped back at my car for a new bottle and a gel rather than carry everything the whole time. I created a system which worked really well for the second half of the week where I would bring a bottle all the way up to the top on the first lap, and leave it at the top. Then on further loops, I’d carried a bottle to the second mile, and would grab it again on the way down. On the last lap I may or may not carry a bottle the first couple miles, because I would have to carry the bottle from the top on the last rep. Again, carrying a bottle all the time wouldn’t have been the end of the world and while it seems quite small, these are the small things that add up! I think paying attention to these little things ultimately helped to lighten my load and keep me consistent through the whole week.

Hope some of you found this interesting! More thoughts to come so watch the Smashfest Queen social for that link on Thursday!

The Five Days of Jarmans

This week on IronWomen we are interviewing Lael Wilcox, an endurance sport athlete I have loved following since I came across her documentary I Just Want to Ride. Back in the winter, I noted one of her adventures and loved the concept: She was doing the 15 Lemmons of Christmas by riding Mt. Lemmon for 5 days, with 1x up and down on the first day, 2x up and down on the second day, and so on. To fully understand the scope of this, you might have to head out to Tucson to ride up Mt. Lemmon, but essentially its a 21-25 mile climb (depends on what you call the “top”) which climbs from under 3,000 ft to 8,000 ft. Whether you do it fast or slow, there is no easy way to climb Mt Lemmon.

I don’t know how it popped into my head exactly, but I felt like a great way for me to use this inspiration was to take it to a local running route here outside of Charlottesville: Jarmans Gap. I’ve been doing a lot more running than riding these days, and climbing mountains has been keeping me happy and fit. So, why not climb Jarmans a few times? And thus, the Five Days of Jarmans was born.

One of the things I love about living in Charlottesville is the history. Recent years have made some aspects of history here controversial….the history is not alway a happy history. But it has been so interesting to discover more about the land that I run and ride through every single day. Historical markers here can be as frequent as road signs in some places it seems, and it’s nice to stop and read them every once in awhile. 

Jarmans Gap most definitely has a history. You can read some of it here or here, but the short version is that it was a major early crossing through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Before even the earliest European settlers, Native Americans were using it as a path to travel. It’s pretty cool when you spend time in a place like that to think about all the footprints that have come before. 

But even the coolest amount of history doesn’t take away from the fact that these days, running Jarmans Gap is hard! It has become a right of passage for the local runners, and the “go-to” spot to send folks who are visiting and looking for a run. “Oh! You should run Jarmans!” we’ll say, with a smile of encouragement, knowing what they are in for. 

Until COVID19 changed the world, running Jarmans usually didn’t fit in well to my training plan. A ~3 mile incline with 1,500 feet of elevation gain doesn’t usually fit in too well as a brick run, or prep for the IM marathon. So now with the renewed focus on staying motivated and maintaining fitness, I’ve been able to spend more time on Jarmans. So I figured – why not spend *a lot* of time on Jarmans one week? And, here we are.

One part of Lael’s blog about her Mt. Lemmon Challenge really resonated with me, and I wanted to copy it here:

I love the scenes in movies and the chapters in books when the hero is training and developing and working to become great; when you see that drive and ambition to face sacrifices and to improve. You see cold early mornings and sweat and pain become results. I want to live that story. I want to climb that mountain.

The beauty of climbing is that you won’t just have one experience. There will be fierce moments of riding into a driving wind, of your lungs flaming and your quads disintegrating to cinders, and then there will be absolute calm. The longer you stay out there, the more you’ll experience.

I’m excited for the simplicity of the days and miles ahead. I’m excited for the dewy humid mornings, honing in on my drive and ambition, experiencing life this week on Jarmans. I’m excited to climb that mountain. 

“Race report”

Wow. It’s been about 6 weeks of the “new normal,” and I can’t believe it has been that long. I guess time flies when you’re having fun, or in the midst of a global pandemic. I have been entertaining myself as much as possible and staying active, while close to home. Most notably this week that included a one-two punch with a “race” up a local mountain gravel road, followed by the 5/4/24 challenge by Yeti Runners (5 miles, every 4 hours for 24 hours). Given that I was supposed to be racing IM Texas this weekend, why not make the legs feel like they had endured an ironman?

I really enjoyed the solo effort, just me against the mountain on Jarman’s Gap (2.8 miles up with 1,500 ft of elevation gain). A local “favorite”, this hallowed training ground will make you tough. With the renewed focus on some local running, we have now improved the number of women in the sub-30 minute club from one to three – that tripling is pretty impressive BUT I can count several others who could join us and keep chipping away to get that time faster and faster! It was also fun to have a “race” that made me nervous on the calendar. I went through the motions of a pre-race evening and morning – complete with restless nerves while sleeping and dealing with a weather delay at the start! But honestly, since it could be a while before we are out on the official race courses again, I really think having the opportunity to make myself deal with that nervousness is great. Remembering how to race, and race hard, is not something I want to sacrifice to COVID19! 

Now onto the Yeti Challenge. Since my legs were pretty tired after the Jarman’s escapade and a hike on Friday, I was’t going into the Yeti with the goal of being able to hold super fast times. Instead, I wanted to capitalize on 6 runs around my neighborhood….meaning 6 opportunities to capture some of the Strava segments out my doorstep, ha! Yes, I was shamelessly strava hunting on these runs and I loved it 🙂 It was the perfect distance to warm up, hit a hard segment and then cool down each time. Definitely something I don’t do in my “normal” training life, so that was a fun competitive outlet for me in this time. It was also amazing because TeamHPB had 17 athletes and 3 coaches running this challenge! We coordinated most of our start times to be running “together” through the day and it was really, really fun to check in with each other. It was wild to see the different conditions people were facing with weather all over the US, and our different approaches to the challenge. We are already brainstorming for the next one! 

And finally, a quick hit of things that are keeping me going right now – 

I’m watching: Survivor Season 17 (started back at season 13 because On Demand has all the seasons after that. Endless entertainment!) I also watched “Wonder” on prime and enjoyed that movie.

I’m listening to

I’m baking: Lemon Bars, surprisingly easy and minimal ingredients! The baking challenge I’m participating in now has a website. Join us!!

I’m cooking: this broccoli pesto which was scrum!

I’m drinking: – wine from Wisdom Oak Winery. My fave local winery, and they currently have free shipping! The North Garden Red and Viognier are my faves! Also: NUUN REST! Great for calming the nerves – because, pandemic – but also recovery from all the miles!

Quarantine Status Update

Short version: I’m now washing my hair with vinegar (raging success) and wearing blue-blocking glasses to work (verdict is still out). Quarantine life is crazy!

Longer version:

Here in Virginia, I’ve now been under the “shelter in place” restrictions for two weeks. We had another couple weeks prior to that where things were also quite restricted. It’s been 4 weeks since I stepped off the plane and back onto US soil from New Zealand as well. I’ll never take the post-30 hours of travel after a race exhaustion feeling for-granted ever again. I miss the freedom to have an opportunity for that kind of exhaustion.

While I do miss normal life, I’m actually doing alright with all the restrictions in place here. Since we are still allowed to go out and exercise, one of the first internal debates I was having was: how far is TOO far to travel for my exercise? Despite many parks and areas closing, many are still open. I understand the burden that travel causes each time you choose to leave your home. And wrestling with that internal debate was tough! I finally saw it put this way – I think one of the Adirondack publications posted it: if you are measuring the trip in hours, not minutes, then it’s too far and not “local”. There we had it….. my rule would be “is the travel for that over an hour? Too far for right now.”

Once I decided that, it got easier. I’m *extremely* lucky to still have boundless options of people-free, woodsy areas to run in, ride in, hike in and just exist in, within that amount of time. I’m also being careful to make those “almost an hour” trips once a week, or less. Everything else is from the house, and again, I count my lucky stars to have plenty of other options I can reach from my doorstep. 

As I have been reflecting so far on life since quarantine, two main themes have come to mind. 

First, one of the bright sides is that I’m spending less money and resources, and using more of what is in front of me. I’m now well aware that I have plenty in my drawers, my pantry, and my apartment in general to keep me happy, fed, and stimulated for the time ahead. It’s also made me thankful for where I live, and cemented that I’m in the right place. I’m happy here in Charlottesville, even in arguably “the worst of times” that we are in. That’s a great thing to discover.

The second theme was interesting. I’m not even sure if it’s a theme persay but has been a reoccurring feeling or thought: that I’m frustrated at times, and that I’ve had this frustration before. When was that? Yep. I finally narrowed it down to my time at the US Naval Academy. Oh, those two fateful years! One of the things that always drove me bonkers about military life there was that you can follow all the rules, do exactly what you are supposed to even if it seems ridiculous….and without fail, some jackass would decide he/she was above the rules, and your entire squad/company/batallion/etc would have to pay the price. Frustration also hit me hard there because each squad/company etc was run just a little differently. Each person in a leadership position had a slightly different interpretation of rules and regulations and that was clear in the different ways things were run. What was acceptable in one place might get you loss of privileges just one hallway over. 

We are all in midst of experiencing these same frustrations, only now on a level that’s much bigger than my 12 person squad. And now, I can’t just transfer to the University of Virginia where I’d have freedom to do the right things and not always have to be punished for one jackass 😉 I’m literally stuck this time! My initial reaction to that? UGH! I’m not made for this type of environment. I’ll never make it!

But then I reminded myself that I did make it – for two whole years! And it’s become clear to me that surviving in that environment for those two years did a lot for me as a person. I went into the academy a person much more prone to anxiety when things were out of my control, and very much a text book “type-A”. I think in many ways I am still that person, but those two years there did allow me to grow beyond that in many ways. I now recognize the power of “controlling the controllables” and of doing the best I can with what circumstances I am given. Both of these have served me very well in endurance sports since that time as well. I now also see the value in hunkering down, keeping your mouth shut, and following the rules when it’s for the greater good. When you have to work for the *whole* rather than the individual, sacrifice has to be made. I get it. 

In the beginning at Navy, it was so easy to get caught up in the grass is always greener side of things — that company was allowed to have boys in their rooms! That squad didn’t have to eat only with movements of right angles (that was the worst, by the way)! Eventually….and I’m not really sure when this happened…. I learned to let it go and just work with what was in front of me. Because I did finally figure out that these things were in place for the greater good – and that was much more important than just my individual instant gratification.

This pandemic has been a reminder of just that: The restrictions we face are for the greater good, so we must endure. Work with what’s in front of you. Have fun with what’s in front of you. Enjoy what is in front of you. Take care of those around you, and do your part. You might be a very small piece of the puzzle, but it’s important. Take it seriously and be proud of it. Do your best, and know that even the jackasses are probably just doing their best too. 

I hope you all are getting by in this crazy time!

Whoa

That is pretty much the word that comes to mind since my last blog, which was a month ago. I’m guessing we can all agree that It. Has. Been. A. Month.

Since my last blog post about Atlanta I:

-Traveled to New Zealand

-Raced Ironman New Zealand (yay!)

-Traveled home

Thank you Stef @ WITSUP for this pic & the header pic!

….and then the CoVID19 pandemic hit the United States (yes, I realize the science is showing that it was here long before, only was ignored, but my flight landed on March 10th and that seems to be right around when things pivoted, at least for the public here!)

I have actually blogged during this time. You can check out my thoughts on how to stay motivated and still find challenges and adventures during this time over at the Smashfest Queen Smashfest Diaries. 

And even since that blog, more races have been cancelled, more public spaces made off limits, and more people are facing this terrible virus in so many different ways. There’s no use in sugar coating it – it’s a tough time out there!

As an athlete, it’s a time where you have to constantly evolve. Things will be open and things may close. You might have a run in mind only to show up to a spot way too popular for safely running and keeping physical distancing. You might have to adjust to doing all the training solo, when you’re used to having company. It’s a process, and it’s going to change and keep changing. One workout never makes or breaks an athlete, so stay positive and stay flexible. It’s okay if things have to change. 

It’s a time where you should consistently do self checks on mental health. I read about how dog owners during this time need to be sure they are keeping their dogs on the same routines as always, or as close to it. I chuckled to myself because people are no different! Now is not the time to blow caution to the wind and be “winging it” each day with your schedule. Keeping yourself accountable to some kind of a schedule really helps your mental health because it keeps you focused and doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to spiral down that endless black hole of twitter bad news. I just learned that I can say “corona virus” into my TV remote and it will bombard me with updates on things. What the heck! Staying up to date is good — losing your sh*t because you can’t get away from it is not! So….Be in open communication with your “team” and make sure they know how you are feeling. As a coach, it’s super important to me to maintain daily communication with athletes so I can make adjustments based on the stress that life is imposing right now, if needed — or, make sure their plan is providing an ample physical outlet for that stress!

It’s a time where a little effort for the greater good goes a long way. Whether the little bit you can contribute right now is keeping yourself mentally strong and doing exercise close to home, or you are one of the super heroes sewing masks and getting them to health care workers who need it – embrace what you are doing as making a difference. Because you are. This part of the crisis – the be the best you can be, and do what you can, in the moments you have – is not a competition. That self check mechanism we do during hard workouts – am I giving 100% right now? Apply that, and be proud of giving your best, no matter what that is.

Since Virginia got Shelter in Place orders this week lasting until June 10th, we are in it for the long haul. Let’s make the most of it, together. Let’s stay fit (stay accountable!), stay feisty (make sure you download the IronWomen podcast each week and rate and review us if you haven’t already) and be kind!

But First, Atlanta

When we first began to discuss the possibility of an IronWomen Podcast event in Atlanta during the Marathon Olympic Trials week, I wasn’t sure how to swing it…I’d be racing IM New Zealand the following weekend, which, in case you struggle with geography, isn’t really close to Atlanta. After further review though, I realized this would actually work out quite well — flying out of Charlottesville is always my preference, but it never really works out for international travel. The CHO —> ATL flight though is a regular one through the day, and that would put me in a major hub for getting to New Zealand. The Wednesday night timing of the event would also allows for an arrival in New Zealand to put me there a week early — excellent! In prior races, I have done the NZ travel arriving ~3 days prior to the race, and adjusted fine. However, after the Copenhagen travel last year, it’s come to my attention that my ability to absorb the jetlag with the gracefulness of a 30 year old probably left me as I have departed further and further from that age.  I’m an old bird now! (I kid, I kid). But seriously, this is a race I feel quite fit for and there’s no use in spending the resources to travel around the world to race only to put yourself in a bind because you cut some corners and didn’t create for the best possible pre-race week for yourself. So I’ll just embrace it because spending an extra few days in New Zealand hardly seems like something to complain about!

So now, the IronWomen podcast LIVE episode! It was awesome. I had been listening to live podcasts all week to hype myself up for this and while our crowd wasn’t quite big enough for me to run onto a stage in a huge auditorium yelling “WHAT’S UP HOTLANTAAAAAAA” to the roaring cheers…..we did pretty well!! It was beyond humbling to have had people flying and driving in for JUST US. Not for the race!! People made a trip of it to come in on a Wednesday to see us and listen to the event in real life. That means SO MUCH: Thank You from the bottom of my heart!!! I did miss having Haley on the mic with me during this, but I’ll allow her absence since she was on the OTHER side of the mic. Getting to see her in her hometown crowd, neon colors flashing from her nails, her excitement was palpable…that was cool. It was also really nice to catch up with Ruth Brennan Morrey – our paths rarely crossed while racing but getting to know her more through IronWomen has been great. Her story is genuine and inspiring on so many levels, and I’m proud to be a part of a platform that is sharing it! And to finally meet the great Sarah Bishop in person was a treat! If you listen to the episode you will figure out what I mean when I say, it was nice to know she isn’t actually a machine and somehow managed to make all of her amazing feats seem like something any of us could accomplish! 

You can listen to the episode on your app of choice as usual, or find it here. It will also be on the Live Feisty YouTube channel here. Let us know what you think! And, if you like what you see and you think we should continue our traveling roadshow, know that we would *love* to be making this sort of thing more regular. One way you can help us make that happen is to join our Patreon community. For as little as $2 a month you be a part of the movement and will be first in the loop for some exciting things that are in the works. 

Despite a brief delay getting out of Atlanta, travel seems to be going smoothly now and I’ll update from New Zealand. Taper ramblings will most likely consist of the gummies I am stock piling for after the race (the best kinds are from down under) and where I’m getting the best Flat White from, but those updates are the best kind. See you in Taupo!

Blogging While Training

Is always dangerous, so hopefully this is coherent!

In trying to maintain some regular blogging, I was brainstorming what to write about this week. My brain is so full of training and coaching and podcasting these days I was like “did I even do anything remotely interesting to write about this week?!” — so, I scrolled through my phone pics to see what I have been doing. I came up with: several pictures of dogs, a picture of a hot dog and candy bars from a long bike ride, a few pictures of me saying farewell as I left on said bike ride, and a couple pictures of a new baby gate I installed in my apartment to keep the beasts dogs at bay so I can get UPS packages or food delivery without scaring the bejesus out of other humans. Hence the photo at the top of this post.

This is #lifeofatriathlete people. Isn’t it fun?!

HA!

So, since I haven’t been doing much fun stuff, I got to thinking more about my training and what people might want to hear about. Training for an ironman is tricky — training for an early season race can be a little bit trickier because you are managing things like daylight hours, bearable temps, precipitation (I won’t even write the “s” word because I don’t want to jinx myself!)…..the summer absolutely lends itself to be a bit nicer to ironman training when you don’t need to worry about lack of sunlight at 7am OR 7pm. And you know that whenever you roll out your door you’ll be warm, even if it rains!

So then I got to thinking about how important execution is in training. Early season or not, actually, the way you execute your training is SO IMPORTANT. And I’m not talking about execution in the sense of hitting the prescribed paces or the number. I’m talking about not taking any liberties to “do what you’d prefer to do” rather than what is written on a plan. 

Let me tell you, from a coaching perspective, the workouts that get put onto your plans *are not* suggestions! You want to carry out these plans as best you can. And if you can’t? Ask questions…..Ask those questions in advance! 

I am annoyingly Type-A about the execution of my workout session. So much so that if I am training with other people I am *very* clear about what I will be doing. There is a time and place in my season to be flexible and go with the flow…..4 weeks out from an Ironman is not that time. If I have a run off the bike, I look at the pace expectations (if there are any) and make sure that I’ll then end my ride in a place where I can run those paces of the bike. That may or may not be my home sometimes. Is it a little bit annoying to drive to ride somewhere so you have a more favorable place to run off the bike? Sure. But, the workout is the workout. You make it happen. One time, I entrusted my boyfriend Matt to plan the route for our 4 mile build run off the bike. He proceeded to take me on a run that involved climbing Mt. Everest during mile 3. Needless to say, his route planning privileges have been revoked until further notice. 

Executing the day to day successfully when you are in a race build can be what separates the good from the great. And I truly believe that learning to execute things properly goes hand in hand with skills like time management and advanced planning. SKILLS! Yes, that means you can work at this and get better at it. Great news, right? 

Here’s a few tips for sharpening up your execution game:

-Take in your upcoming training when it’s posted so you can start planning. You don’t want to be looking at Saturday’s training on Friday night, when your day has already been set and you’re committed to other things so you won’t be able to drive to ride for the best place to do the workout. Had you checked a day earlier you might have been able to adjust some things to make it happen.  

-When in doubt: don’t try anything new on [important] training days. Just like a race!! Sometimes with a training day you can try a new ride or a route. But if you don’t know, don’t go! This means don’t assume a road will be flat for intervals. Or don’t assume a hill will be long enough for 6 minute repeats. We are now lucky enough that with computer tools (mapmyrun or ride, strava, gmap, etc) we can investigate a lot about terrain ahead of time, but if you haven’t done that work, assumptions can get you in a sticky spot. They always told me in the Navy:

What happens when you assume, Godesky?

You make an ass out of “u” and “me”, sir!

Needless to say, I learned that lesson plenty of times in my day, the hard way 🙂 

-Keep it simple. Good training isn’t sexy. I follow up the point about assumptions with this one because it means that often the best training grounds are the ones you know…the boring ones. I have done 4-5 hour rides with most of the mileage being done on a 10 mile stretch of road, that I knew was flat and appropriate for intervals. It wasn’t the most epic or engaging thing to do, but to execute the workout – and more importantly – to give myself a fair shot at a successful session, that was what was required. Some training can be fun and/or epic and all of that goodness, but rest assured that the pros you know are probably doing the BORING stuff, and that’s how we’ve gotten to be good. 

-Keeping a fun factor IS important. Make sure you are in open communication with your coach about this and plan that in. For everyone this is different, but it’s important. Your coach might have you make a call sometimes too — hopefully they’d give you a little tough love if you are asking for some liberties that aren’t the best to get you to your goals that you’re working towards with them, because it won’t always align. 

-Make a meal plan and fueling plan around training! When I take a step back to look forward at my training ahead – often my first thought is about eating. For the big weeks, you need to be proactive about meal planning and fueling. By the time you’re in a fueling hole, it’s too late and your workouts will suffer while you dig out of it. From making sure my pantry is stocked with training fuel (NUUN, Spring Energy Gels, Clif Blocks are my faves), to making sure its also packed with the basic snacks (AND emergency snacks! I always have a pack of Oreos and a box of poptarts in the cabinet during times of high volume training!!), to sitting down and making sure you have at least a rough plan for lunch/dinner through the week. I’m also the first person to encourage you to make this as easy as you can for yourself! We live in a time where you can get groceries delivered, and meal planning done for you. If these things cause you extra stress or you just don’t know where you’ll find the time – outsource it! You are investing so much already in your training for this goal race, don’t cut yourself short now over a few extra dollars to help yourself out (and seriously, it’s only a few extra dollars – I’ve done the math many times!). 

-Communication. I have touched on this through a lot of the above posts, but communication about how you’re executing things is just as important as the execution itself. As I said at the start – this is a SKILL that you will work on during your time as an athlete. Your coach is there to help you fine tune this, and guide you through the processes to do this well. But coaches are not mind readers, so make sure you are communicating! 

Happy training everyone!!

The Beat Goes On

It’s funny how plans change, huh? Or, more like I guess it’s funny how intentions change. What we think we feel and we know can all change in the matter of months, weeks and even days! 

Just a brief 8ish months ago, I was beginning to think that my plans to continue to race Ironman season after season were dwindling. There is just so much adventure to be had in the world…..I had the bug to do my two favorite races (Copenhagen and Wisconsin) but, I just wasn’t sure beyond that. A big part of that is because I have some big hopes of what I can do on the ultra running circuit (UTMB!!), along with some other FKT-type adventures on the bucket list. 

But then, I didn’t get into UTMB this year. [UTMB is the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc, a ~104 mile running race that happens in late August each year.] Of course, I had a contingency plan in the back of my mind, and to be honest, even I was a bit surprised about what it was! 

I had been planing to race IM New Zealand in March regardless, to be able to get in a bit of triathlon fun before transitioning to UTMB as I hoped. I really do feel that triathlon has been a huge asset to my other endurance adventures. The endurance base you can build without a ton of miles and pounding on your body is really valuable when it’s time to transition to the other stuff. 

So, since I didn’t get into UTMB, I had a bit more time this year to play with some options. And what rose to the top of things? Well, after 2016 when I swore that I would never do it again, I will be racing, once again, the dirty double of Ironman races on back-to-back weekends! With IM Texas and IM St George just a week apart this year……and never having done either of them….I couldn’t quite pick where to go. So, why not do both?! I historically race well doing this, even though the thought of returning to the training for it has me scared! The last time I did this I was 31, and a lot happens to the body — a lot has happened to my body — in these 4 years!! So I’m excited to see how I handle the training, how the strength of the Long Trail and my other adventures might help me with this now, and to see what I can do where I’ll no doubt be racing some of the best women at these North American races. 

So, how is it looking? Well, after a whirlwind couple weeks in California where I managed to get sick not once, but twice, I am back home, and settling back into my routine. With New Zealand coming up fast, it is most definitely crunch time, so I’m happy to be feeling better, and I’m happy to have the base fitness of camp under me to be able to build on that in these next few weeks.

Speaking of: CAMP! Hillary and Maik Twelsiek moved their early season camp to Encinitas, California this year since they are now SoCal based, and it was SO MUCH FUN! It was a blast to ride some new routes and experience new adventures in the sun in January. The second spring camp is postposed this year as they are expecting kidlet #4, but stay tuned as we are assessing plans for a late season camp as well! 

So, moral of my story today? Plans change. You might not want to do something one season, and the next, that’s all you want to do. That’s great. Embrace it! Do what excites you and gets you out of bed to train each day, because the early morning alarms and the fatigue will try to test your resolve! If you don’t have the excitement factor, it’s a much tougher battle. But, be careful, because you might end up signing up for 3 ironman in 8 weeks 🙂 

And? If you’ll be at any of my three races this spring – New Zealand, Texas, and St. George, please let me know!