Anatomy of a NEW Personal Best at Madison Half Marathon

I was so fed up with never seeing improvement. After years of all talk and no action, it was time to act. I was getting tired of myself. Time to change things up and commit. It paid off again at the Madison Half Marathon. 

 Sub 1:23 is possible!

Sub 1:23 is possible!


I cannot tell you the last time I set a Personal Best in running. I think the last time was in 2010 at a 4th of July road 5k when I was training for Ironman Wisconsin. That would mean I went 8 years without any improvement. For 8 years I blamed everyone and everything but myself for my poor results. When you don’t see improvement you start to second guess what you’re doing. I would estimate that my drive to improve really tanked around 2012. In 2012, I moved from Arizona back to Wisconsin. I was starting up a new business. I wasn’t improving in athletics. I lost all life balance. However, I continued to do an Ironman each year only to get slower and that was my biggest mistake. The need to just DO an Ironman because its routine won’t make you a better athlete, it made me worse. It killed my motivation.  

Since my recent declaration to stop being all talk I have set two personal bests. One in swimming and one in running. I’ve made myself accountable to coaches, friends, and the internet… and it’s working. Instead of hiding my goals and fears, i’m letting everyone in on them.

 In the final 3 miles, a low point for me.

In the final 3 miles, a low point for me.


Coming into the Madison Half Marathon I was training really well and times were showing a PR was possible. The days before the race I started to get nervous and my body got weird tightness and aches which is common pre race stress. When your body knows you are about to punish it, it wants to protect itself. 

In 2017, I ran 1:24:15 with an average of 6:26 pace

In 2018, my goal was to break 1:24


Race Morning 

5:00: Wake up, 2 cups of coffee, 4 pancakes, lots of syrup, 1 fruit smoothie

5:50: 20’ Easy Bike on indoor trainer at 60-70% of FTP

6:30: Arrive at race site having consumed a 400c bottle of carbohydrates

6:40: 10’ Easy run, visualize, breathing, relax, don’t freak out

6:50: Last Portopotty visit

6:55: Check in gear bar

7:00: Try and get near the front, only to start near the 2:00 Half Marathon Starters 

7:10: Race starts. I am no where close to the front “Dont panic, this could be a good thing”

———

Mile 1: “This isnt a good thing, i’m upset, i’m weaving through everyone, i’m wasting energy. My race is over.”

Mile 2: “Ok, i’m done pouting. Focus on your execution goals”

Mile 3: “Ok, this is the long false flat section. Why is my HR so high? Crap, i’m running 6:05s. Slow down its too fast”

Mile 5: “I’m still running 6:05s, this isnt going to end well”

Mile 6: 36:55 (6:10avg)… I’m going to PR today. Holy crap!

Mile 8: “I’m dying. This hill is huge”

Mile 8.5: “This bluff is so stupid. I should just walk. I feel terrible. Everyone is passing me”

Mle 9: “You need to do this for Cindi and Lucy. They have supported you through this”

Mile 10: “My legs feel like bricks”

Mile 10.5: “Dude, stop whining. You’re whining. You can PR today. Toughen up and get it done”

Mile 11: “Oh, there’s Cindi and Lucy. Hey Lucy! She sees me. She smiling and waving, yay!”

Mile 11.1: “I’ve got new energy, bring it on”

Mile 11.2: “Shit another hill, where’d my energy go. This wind sucks”

Mile 12: “Come on! Relax, stay smooth. relax. Keep your rhythm. 1 Mile to go”

Mile: 12.5: “Another hill! Are you flipping kidding me. I’m barely running up this thing”

Mile 12.8: “There’s no way I can PR, i’m dying. There’s nothing left”

Mile: 13: “Holy crap, I can break 1:23. I can still to PR. Effing Push it!”

Mile 13.1: New Personal Best Half Marathon 1:22:58…Boom!

———

I’ve been wondering what has been the secret sauce to my new streak of Personal Bests and i’ve come to a conclusion. 1) Get Married 2) Have a kid 3) start a blog and tell the world your shortcomings and goals. 4) Work with a coach who provides accountability

 In Maple Bluff. The hilliest part of the race!

In Maple Bluff. The hilliest part of the race!


But seriously, before Cindi and Lucy I was a free bird with no direction or hurry. I got lazy because I had too much flexibility on my hands to train. In fact, it was so much flexibility I never trained. Now that I am the busiest i’ve ever been I’m the most productive. Now, I make everything count and there is no messing around with training. Every session and race that I do I am grateful for. The pressure to deliver is higher and I like that. This is why I respect Jackie Hering so much, she is a mother of 2, Professional Triathlete, Race Director, Ironman freaking Champion, and she is piecing it together like the rest of us. 

 Seeing Cindi and Lucy!

Seeing Cindi and Lucy!


I am beyond happy with how everything is going. On my original goal sheet I needed to get my Half Marathon to 1:22 and ive done it. My swim speed is ALMOST to my original goals. GOAL SHEETS WORK! 

A New Race Challenge: American Triple T

All is going very well on the training front and having a blast. I am finding a good rhythm each day with getting my sessions in. Coffee is set to automatically start at 4:00am, the alarm clock is set for 4:05, I am up by 4:10, working out by 4:45-5am. I am very much a morning person, as you can tell. If I could be in bed by 8pm, I would!

It is only October and I am obsessing over what races I am doing next year. I have been waffling over my first triathlon, Elkhart Lake or Madison 70.3? Both because they are back to back weekends?

THEN, a new challenge was presented to me…

American Triple T

https://americantriple-t.com/american-triple-t/

It is 4 triathlons within 3 days… all totaling an Ironman Distance. There is also shorter version that totals a 70.3 Triathlon.

Friday: Super Sprint Triathlon

Saturday AM: Olympic Distance

Saturday Afternoon: Olympic Distance (Bike/Swim/Run)

Sunday: Half Ironman

Why the change? I’ve done Elkhart Lake and used it as a fitness gauge. Madison 70.3 is local and competitive, but it doesn’t draw much interest to me outside of the competition that would be there.

What’s also nice about TTT? I have inside knowledge into how to prepare and race it. How? Cindi has WON this event. Cindi has always encouraged me to race TTT and having that type of knowledge from a previous champion is second to none.

Importantly, Triple T provides me a lot of motivation. Its going to be very challenging. It’s also different than what i’ve previously done. My interest has been leaning towards adventure races, long trail runs, Canada Extreme, Swissman, Norseman type of events.

My theme for 2019 Ironman Wisconsin and all of the preparation leading into will be “Conditioning, Conditioning, Conditioning.” I have done many Ironmans so I don’t need more triathlon experience. My limiter for most of my Ironmans have been simple: Conditioning. Endurance. Fitness. GET FIT! Triple T keeps me in this mindset over the winter months leading into both races. To accomplish 140.6 miles, broken into 4 triathlons will require a lot of conditioning but not the same as a stand alone Ironman.

Add in that Triple T is under 300 dollars for the entry fee. 4 Triathlons, Race Kit, Finishers Jacket, and much more what what a single 70.3 event costs. The lodging offered is also very affordable. Plus, I love racing smaller races. The feel and environment of these grassroots events is always nice. Door County Half Ironman is also like this.

Until next week!

Coach Steve

DSC_6425.jpg

Coach Steve: Working On Run Technique

This week our family took a vacation to Door County. It’s been around 2 years since we’ve taken a formal vacation and with the triathlon season winding down, we packed our bags and headed to the quiet town of Bailey’s Harbor.

Talking with Coach Kevin before I left, I was fired up to get back into hard training after the prior light week. We settled on making this week also pretty easy and he was right. When I go on vacation, my mind does the same. Every morning I am up at 4:30 to work, train or coach. However. when vacation came I slept till the rooster crowed aka Lucy woke up. My training goal was to get in 30’ of running a day, mission accomplished. I was also on vacation and the last thing I wanted to do was be away from my family.

I grew up running from middle school and high school and the first year at college. While I was never a talented runner, I loved putting in the hard miles. I was a coaches worst nightmare. Every run was hard. 6 mile aerobic run turned into 6 miles as hard as possible. 10 mile long run the day after a race turned into a hammer session. Like I said… a true nightmare. I look back on myself and understand why i never saw the improvement other runners saw, I never let my body rest, recover, and grow. I wanted to do more, faster, and more frequent. That’s the path to becoming amazingly mediocre.

Since we’re on the honest bus, Ive never shown much promise in swim, bike, or running. I had to work very hard for the results I’ve achieved. For most talented people, it takes them 3 years from nothing to something (Short Course Nationals, 70.3 Worlds, Kona Qualifier)… for me it took double the time. My parents taught me hard work, but didn’t give me the great genetics. I still love them very much.

So here I am today plugging away at the small details.

When I evaluated my running form. (How do I do this? I put my phone next to me on my treadmill) I notice that my left leg doesn’t recover as high as my right. The effect of this is that my left leg over striders causing me to look like I am cross country skiing instead of running, which causes me to over stride, which causes a lot of injuries on my left leg, which is REALLY limiting my speed potential. If you want to go faster you need to put more force straight down into the ground. When you over stride, you don’t do that.

Some people can get away with bad technique, but I’m not talented or genetically powerful so I need to fix these issues. Running technique is important, if you don’t think so you’re oblivious to the obvious.

If you are talented, more power to you! You have been given great genes and if you combine that with hard work… you’re going places. Talented athletes make many coaches look really good!

Here is what I am doing to fix my left leg, it’s pretty simple. There are so many fancy drills but keeping it simple and knowing the focus is key to learning. Thats what Drills do, they teach you something. How it should feel and how to do it correctly. Drills won’t automatically make you faster, in fact I see many athletes doing drills aimlessly. However, when they are done right they’re the foundation to your improvement.

If I am feeling fatigued I will do these before the run as a muscle activation set. I will always do them after my runs, especially a hard run.

3 Rounds:

20 Butt Kicks (Focus on tightening up my recovery phase to get my foot higher to push down)

20 High Knees (Same Focus on Butt Kicks, just different position)

20 A-Skips (Pull the leg up, FIRE the leg down. Putting it all together)

20 High Elbow Band Pulls (For swimming)

R:1 Minute, repeat.

Achieving A Personal Best at Steelhead 70.3 w/ Lauren Taylor

The weeks leading up to Steelhead were not an ideal build, and I had no idea what to expect on race day. The last time I felt really “good” in the build up was early July, where I had a great race at Pardeeville Sprint Triathlon.  But as the season moved deeper into July, I just didn’t feel quite as strong heading into Door County Sprint. I was happy with my Door County result, but still didn’t feel like I had pushed as hard as usual. Fatigue was building, but I didn’t necessarily recognize it and powered on.

I had signed up for a relay race with Carly and my dad at Door County, and I ran a hot ½ marathon the day after the Door County Sprint.  I finished and gave it my all, but it was a huge effort. In hindsight, it was probably too much. From there on, it was all downhill. I found myself getting more and more tired in my training and wasn’t able to complete workouts. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do the work, it was that I felt like I physically couldn’t.

Of course this physical fatigue fed my mental paranoia, and soon I was dreading an impending 70.3. I hit a low point at the end of July-- just 2 weeks before the race. At that point, Cindi reached out to see what was going on and how we could adjust my training.  We knew we needed to just get me to the start of Steelhead ready to race. Cindi assured me that I had done the work, so I ended up taking two weeks with a lot of rest days and just a few shorter, lower intensity workouts.

When I made my race plan for Steelhead, I tempered my expectations a lot and made it my main goal to have fun. I threw previous time goals out the window because they were causing me stress, and if I was stressed about workouts and races, why was I doing triathlon?

Race morning rolled around and we got the dreaded announcement that the water was 76 degrees and would not be wetsuit legal. Swimming is my weakest discipline and despite trying to mentally prepare myself all week for this possibility, I was anxious. I had already made up my mind that I would not go in the wetsuit wave at the end. I didn’t want to stand around waiting to start for any longer than I had to. As I left my wetsuit in my transition bag, I was already seriously doubting that choice. By the time I got to the beach and really looked at the waves, there were tears welling up in my eyes. I knew in my head that it was silly to be crying over a triathlon and that I would be fine, but I couldn’t help it. There was not going to be anything fun about this.

39124618_1827119337357126_2353224620271730688_o.jpg

 

 

Before I knew it, I was diving into the water and quickly taking on water. I stopped a few times in the first 200 yards to cough up lake water as I got used to breathing with the waves. The water was rough and I put the “big arm recovery” from open water swim to good use. I knew I wasn’t going fast, but I was making good progress and keeping my head in a good place. Each time I thought something negative like, “If I stop swimming right now I’m just going to get swallowed up by a wave and end up at the bottom of Lake Michigan,” I would try to shut that out and find a mantra or song to repeat in my head for a few minutes. Eventually, I made it out of the water. I have never been so grateful to be done with a swim.

38122123_1803806443021749_8154870837460074496_o.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Getting on my bike, I knew that my ultimate goal was to ride 2:45. In the first 10 miles, I was disappointed because my power numbers were lower than I had targeted.  The course was flat enough that it was hard for me to put out big power, but I focused on riding really steady and staying in a good aero position.

My normalized power was hovering around 160 watts. When I had run the numbers in Best Bike Split (accounting for a bit more wind than we ended up having), I thought I needed to ride closer to 180 watts to meet my time goal. But I kept moving and passed a lot of people who swam faster than me, and my speed was faster than I expected.


My watch is set to autolap every five miles and I was seeing numbers that were at or under 15 minutes per split, meaning I was still on goal pace. This motivated me not to let up for the second half. Coming into transition I didn’t get a good look at my watch so I had no idea if I officially met my goal or not of 2:45, but I knew it was close enough to happy with.

39075602_1827119720690421_767774173513646080_o.jpg

Starting the run, I couldn’t believe I still had a half marathon ahead of me. I had just done my hardest swim and riden my fastest bike ever.  As I got out on the course, I saw Bobby, who let me know I biked 2:41, and it was a big mental boost knowing I had smashed my goal time. For the first couple of miles, my legs felt good and my heart rate was under control running right around 9 minute pace. Not quite where I wanted to be, but I knew it was a hot day. It was now almost noon and there was no hiding from the sun or heat.  It wasn’t going to be my fastest run ever, but I was still in a good place physically and mentally.

I stayed in my positive mindset and tried to say something to each person I passed--”good work”, “looking strong”, “way to go”. This is my favorite way to distract myself from thinking, “you’re tired and slow, you should walk”. I steadily clicked off the miles and fed off of the positivity of the other runners and the fantastic volunteers.  But by the last mile of the run, my legs were in rough shape and I couldn’t wait to be done. As I approached the arch, the announcer asked, “Lauren Taylor, are you ready to cross that finish line?!?” I yelled as loudly as I could with a huge smile on my face.

I had done it!  I finished with a new PR on a tough day.  Not only did I meet my goals, but I had fun and pushed outside of my comfort zone. Safe to say, I was enjoying triathlon again.

Winning Door County Sprint w/ Bobby Taylor

About 400 yards up the road, the brake lights from the lead vehicle snapped me back into the moment. He went straight, I would go left, and I now knew I was close and going to make it.  The road was smooth and I picked my line, doing my best to keep turning the legs over as I put in one last dig. I was closing quickly and now heard for the first time the muffled din of music from transition, punctuated occasionally by the PA announcer calling out the last of the swim waves.

 

Approaching transition, I quickly inventoried all the fancy metrics I had been ignoring-- normalized power, heart rate, average speed and distance.   Today, they simply didn't matter.  I was riding as hard as I possibly could, all out, and I didn't internalize them, didn't process my data.  What mattered was that I was at my limit and just chasing for that little bit of extra effort and speed.  This is what makes sprint racing awesome-- the fact you get to chase competitors on the road, not a power number, and those times when you "blow up"  are just part of the deal.  And today, things were looking up.
 

JTH_4684.jpg

Roughly 9 miles earlier in the ride, I had made a big tactical decision at the turnaround.  I knew that same tailwind that pushed us out had set us up for a return leg of 9 miles into a headwind and would make for a tough closing stretch for everyone.  I had worked my way steadily through the field on the outbound leg, sensing that no one on the road had the bike legs to come with me.  I also knew that because it was hot and humid, the run would be a wildcard .  Someone from the field might be sitting on blistering 5k-- but I definitely wasn't setting on any 5k PRs today.

So my best play was to put as much time into the field as possible before T2, and I needed to make something happen. I have done a lot of Zwift racing in my training in my buildup this year, and I've launched some pretty big (and definitely some pretty dumb) attacks from the safety of my trainer.  I've also learned a lot of lessons along the way about tactics and my own psychology.

 

Some moves stick, some don't, but that is racing, and that is what makes it fun. Each time, there comes a moment where I inevitably say myself… "screw it, let's do it!" and I commit.  That moment came just after the turnaround, where I pulled into first, put in a big dig, and went all-in on the attack.  I decided that if anyone was going to catch me, they were going to have to do it on the run. It was going to be a painful 20 minutes of riding if I was going to hold on to T2.

 

Fast forward then back to the entrance to Frank Murphy park.   A small crowd of spectators had formed and in a moment I was on them, hanging a hard left, and rounding back towards bike in.  I looked back briefly down the road to see if anyone had stuck around.   No one was in sight.  The attack had worked. I had averaged just under 26 mph for the ride-- an all-time best ride for me-- and the fastest bike split of the day. 


It was a short stretch of pavement from the turn to the dismount line so I had to move quickly. I unvelcroed, removed my right foot, then my left, and I swung my right leg over and behind my seat to set up my dismount. As I have visualized and practiced hundreds of times (I literally do this after EVERY ride, even on the trainer in the dead of winter), I dismounted cleanly and in-stride.

37231709_1777523362316724_5463815746226225152_o.jpg

 

I racked my bike, slid my shoes on, grabbed my cap and belt and was away.  I heard the PA announcer as I passed through run out say that "we just heard that the first athlete is in transition and heading out onto the run course," and I grinned ear to ear heading out onto the empty 5k course.
 

It was a lonely out-and-back run on an exposed and hot country road.  I ran scared, not knowing how strong the runners in the field behind me would prove to be.  I pushed it as hard as I could, but could feel that I was paying for my bike effort and the heat was taking no prisoners.  I focused on a quick cadence and allowed myself to look backwards to see if anyone was behind  as I clicked off my first mile in 6:20.  Still no one in sight.

JCR_6781.jpg

 

I got to the turn-around, and then almost to mile 2 before seeing the next runner on the road.  A little mental math told me I was up a couple of minutes, but I knew someone could still come out of the age group waves.  My watch beeped 6:22 and I allowed myself passing through mile 2 to finally imagine myself winning the race.

 

The countdown and mental negotiation began in earnest with just a mile remaining. Just six more minutes! I thought about all of the track sessions, winter runs, and late night treadmill runs while travelling and at hotel gyms that had lead me here.  Just 4 more minutes.  You love running, I reminded myself.  Just half a mile. That's not even a loop of the bike path around the park at home.  Just to the arch.  So close.  Just down the hill.

 

Finally, I stole one more look back to make sure I wasn't going to get out-sprinted and saw the finishing tape in front of me.  I've never broken the tape before, so it was a special experience. Definitely unreal. I grabbed it, slammed it, and took a bit of time to soak in what I had just accomplished.  I had just won the freaking race!

 

I still tempered my expectations a bit, knowing that a winner might still come out of the AG waves, as I had started elite. I didn't let myself get too high until the final results were posted.  My time held up, though second place came from a later wave. In the end, I got my crystal lighthouse, capping off a nearly perfect race for me.

JCR_6789.jpg

 

Coming in, I knew I wanted to finish under 1:10, and finished in 1:09 high.  Based on past results, most years, 1:08-1:09 is good enough to win.  Had it turned into a footrace, could I have gone faster?  Maybe, but I didn't have to. Ultimately, in that heat, the race was won on the bike.  I minimized my losses in the water,  raced to my strengths, and held it together on the run.

 

What a day! What a race! What a weekend! 

 

So what are the takeaways?
 

  • Racing is awesome.  Mixing it up, pushing your limits, failing and succeeding are all part of the game.  I've learned to embrace each part of it, the ups and the downs, and learn from each time I toe the line.
     
  • Swimming matters:  You can't win a race in the swim, but you can lose it.  I've been swimming a lot more this year and a lot harder, trying to minimize my losses out of the water.  I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm definitely improving and my swim has kept me in the hunt.

 

  • Zwift (trainer) riding and gravel riding translates well to TT'ing: I choose to ride indoors or off of the roads whenever possible.  It's a personal choice, due to both schedule and safety. This means that 3 hour weekend and late night Zwift rides are a staple of my training.  We're also blessed with great trails in Madison (Military Ridge/ Badger State) and I'm trying to ride more gravel as a way to get outside.
     
  • The run remains a work in progress and is the next area for improvement:  I've been running well, but not to potential.  I know this will come with more experience and training.

 

Next up for me, Tri'ing for Children Triathlon (sprint) and then Steelhead 70.3 in August.  Thanks for reading and until next time,


~Bobby

37124626_1777524442316616_4118072505204211712_o.jpg

Door County Half Ironman- Coach Steve

Every race has it’s positives and negatives and it’s highs and lows. My ultimate goal is Ironman Wisconsin 2019 and trying to achieve my best Ironman. Cindi and I have discussed the best path for me to achieve this performance. With all of this planning happening, I’ve found myself wanting to shut this season down, take a break and start the preparation into 2019. However, every time I start to think this way, I question the reasoning and I continue to come to the realization that i am in the process of self sabotage. I’m desperately trying to find the easy way out of this season. Maybe the stress of being a new father has taken more out of me than I expected. I know this because the drive to get in each session isn’t there and I’d rather get more rest than do the important sessions needed. Hard sessions turn into recovery. Simply put, this season hasn’t gone to plan and I haven’t seen the improvements I would have liked. Each races is a reminder of how much fitness i’ve lost. As I do find positives from each race, they seem to be stripping my motivation rather than increasing it. I still have 3 races on my schedule but plan on doing only 1, Steelhead 70.3. 

 

The Days Before:

I felt good going into this race because I was able to put in the bigger, high quality sessions. Everything seemed to be on track. Robin has been building for Ironman Wisconsin and its been nice to ride with her. I’ve also made chances to my bike position that continue to be a positive in regards to having a better second half to my races. The drive to Door County was pleasant. Justin was very helpful with meeting us at the race site to help us put up the tent. We settled back to our place, ate dinner, and relaxed at the pool. 

Lucy slept pretty well Friday night. She had a not normal wake up at 4am on Saturday and I was able to get her back to sleep. I decided to just stay up and do work. Being up at 4am is not an ideal thing to do the day before the race but work needed to be done. Saturday was the Sprint Distance and Cindi went down with the team and I stayed back till Lucy woke up. We made it to the race and was able to watch our athletes compete, one of whom won the entire thing! Way to go Bobby! Watching his race certainly motivated me. Lucy started to get tired so I brought her back to the condo for her first nap. My plan was to ride the trainer while she napped. Well, her nap only latest 30’ which meant no ride. I started to get in this panic where I know I needed to get my pre race workout in. It sounds incredibly selfish when I think of it. So I focused on the fact that I was able to stay inside, rest my legs, and relax while it was blazing hot outside. I was also able to have the ITU WTS Hamburg race play in the background. Cindi made it back to Condo and we switched roles. Bike done on the trainer, felt great. Drove to the race site to do easy run and stride, felt good but WOWZA it was hot. Then I went in an swam, felt awesome. Ready to go! Lucy slept awesome Saturday night which meant Cindi and I got great sleep. 

The Swim: D+

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 9.56.11 AM.png

 

I sucked and have no clue why. Well, I know why… I dont swim much and still believe I can fake my way to a 30’ swim. NOT THIS TIME. 500 into the swim my arms were completely shot. “Ah your arms aren’t warmed up, they will come good”… They didn’t come good. I also was constantly drifting left. I literally couldn’t swim straight. I was convinced I was going to see 40’. The beauty of endurance sport is you get what you earn. I wasn’t trained for this and I got exactly what I deserved. 

 

The Bike: B+

IMG_9321 2.JPG

 

When you aren’t swim fit you suffer the first part of the bike because you are trying to recover from the swim. I was uncomfortable. Heavy legs. Low power. Alone with no one in sight. Unmotivated. Making excuses. Convinced my brakes were rubbing.

Then… I saw people in-front of me so I made it my goal to catch them. From a distance it appeared these people were drafting which set me off into a hissy, it was exactly what I needed… some motivation. I rode past them pushing well into my threshold trying to create a gap so they wouldn't jump on my wheel. Looking back on this, it was quite stupid but it helped me mentally. Slowly I started to catch more people which changed my mentality. My goal coming into this ride was to execute a better 2nd half of the ride. Be more focused, consume more calories. I commonly see 8-10% of a drop off in the 2nd half which is unacceptable. Poor nutrition and bike fit caused me to slow down. This time it was only 5%. This was my best ride at DC by almost 2 minutes!

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 10.00.56 AM.png

 

 

The Run: B

37273148_1780766795325714_8098487632079618048_o.jpg

I got into transition ready to get after it. Earlier someone told me i was top 10, so after passing people I would thought I was 6th or 7th. When I ran past Cindi, she asked “Are you feeling ok? Jason Landretti is 7 minutes up” (Jason is a good friend and someone I like to race because of the banter back and forth)… However, these are not the words you want to hear. These words mean, you’re farther back then we discussed! Apparently I was in 13th place… note to self, don’t believe some random person’s place count. I went from being fired to running on auto pilot. When I looked at the results afterwards, it appears the front of the race was a draft fest as 4-5 guys were rewarded drafting penalties. One athlete was given 12 minutes!

The only turnaround is at 5 miles and up to this point I didn’t see a single runner. It was the perfect place for someone cruising, no pressure. THEN, I saw two guys coming up on me and one in-front of me. They were coming fast and I didn’t want to get passed. I started to push very hard and at times I had to slow down because I had crossed that lactate level line. “Dont look back, don’t look back, don’t let him see you looking back, it’s a sign of weakness, he’ll know you’re hurting” With 3 miles to go we are essentially on two long roads till the finish. I felt with every step I was losing time but I kept pushing. There is an acronym that sticks with me and its TUF, Toughness Under Fatigue. When you're at your limit, it is no longer up to your legs but your mind. How you mentally handle pressure, fatigue, and lactate determines your race results. I was literally at my limit. 1% harder and my legs would completely flood with lactate, 1% easier and Matt would have caught me. Weak mind? I would have been walking. It always funny because 5 miles earlier i was having a pitty part and now i’m at my maximal effort. The ups and downs. Here we are, 1 Mile to go and Matt was within 30 seconds. With the finish being downhill, I felt I was at a disadvantage because i’m short and Matt is tall. With the short rise before the downhill I had to push hard to get some extra time. I was able to hold him off, but holy moly I don’t think I’ve ever pushed that hard. Competition brings the best out of you. 

I joke with people that "every time I cross a finish line is a victory" and the feeling after maxing out is the reminder of why I love to race. Even if it's slower, I'm always chasing that feeling. 

Coach Steve: Lake Mills and Elkhart Lake Recap

Lake Mills and Elkhart Lake Triathlon Recap

JCR_5860.jpg

 

Have you ever been stuck in a frame of mind that doesn’t parallel your current physical state? This is my current situation and it’s a very hard place to be because it tugs at the motivational heart strings. 

In 2010, I was 24 and training like a professional. My weekly training hours were between 15-25. I didn’t have a girlfriend, a real job, any responsibilities… it was fantastic! I am now 32 with a wife and a beautiful 10 month daughter who isn’t a fan of sleeping at night. The priority levels have shifted. But the problem is that I still want to train 15 hours a week. 

The past 4 weeks I have averaged 8 hours of training. I only swam 9,000 yards the past month. That’s not a lot of training. But, that is how my life goes. 

Lake Mills Sprint Triathlon

This is the first time i’ve raced Lake Mills and was very excited to see where I stacked up. The funny part is I had no reason to be excited. I spent the last 4 weeks with a calf injury limiting my running. I took a hiatus from the pool because when life gets busy the pool is the first thing that goes. The week before Lake Mills, I took a complete 7 days off of running so I could treat my calf with rest and self massage in hopes I could run pain free at Lake Mills… it worked. 

Lake Mills was one of the most mentally challenging races as I was excited to race, but I was incredibly unprepared. The whole week I fought the mental battle of not racing so I wouldn’t embarrass myself in-front of some of the best Wisconsin triathletes I used to race alongside. I continued to tell myself, “You quit once, quitting becomes a lot easier the next time.” 

Plus, I am not a professional triathlete. I used to put alot of pressure on myself before races to perform. There were years where I wouldn’t communicate with people before the start because I thought it would enhance my performance to remain “focused”. But the reality of this type of thinking is that it’s a complete waste of energy. In fact, it made my performances worse. I was losing the excitement of triathlon by creating so much unnecessary pressure. If you find me before a triathlon now, chances are I won’t shut up.

If you were to ask me what my goals were before Lake Mills, my reply would have been: “I don’t have any goals”… People look at me funny when I said that. They would then ask, “well what kind of paces are you going to try and do? “I have no clue, I’m just going to go as hard as I can and focus on what I can control”

It’s 100% true that during a triathlon I never start my watch for the swim. I rarely look at my power meter, and I NEVER look at my running watch. The races are done almost 100% off of feel. Why? It keeps me mentally positive. Countless times I have seen people get so wrapped up in their numbers that the second they are not riding or running to their numbers, they mentally quit. They start to blame some factor for quitting when in doubt, they were not flexible enough to adapt on race day. It’s an ego thing, I get it. However, do a race and don’t look at your pacing device. 

Lake Mills did go ok for me. I was able to place 19th overall. Not bad.

Elkhart Lake Olympic Triathlon

I love racing Elkhart Lake. It may be my favorite triathlon. It’s a family run event on a challenging course. Flat courses don’t interest me, their boring. Again, what was I thinking? I only swam 1500 yards twice the past month and it was done race week out of complete panic that I needed to swim 1500 at Elkhart. Let alone the fact that I havent run 6 miles straight in more than 3 weeks. But hey, lets have some fun!

Elkhart Lake is an event where you can see ahead of time who is racing. You get to size up your competition! What’s funny about this concept is that it doesnt help your performance. The worst thing IRONMAN does is release who racing ahead of time. Why? For the people looking to be competitive, they spend hours scanning through their age group to see how competitive they will be. Isn’t that ridiculous? You can’t change how you race off this information. Its the easiest way to come into a race with a deflated, fixed mindset of how they will do. It just adds more pressure that will sink their potential on race day. Literally, all of the hard work and fun you were looking to have is now gone. A poor mindset will haunt you. This year, I didn’t even bother checking the list. 

2016 was the last time I raced at Elkhart and I got demolished. Literally demolished by everyone and the course. There was a-lot of walking involved. I was also still trying to impress my now wife at the time. What do they call these moments, character building? Yea, sure. Also it’s a good thing she didn’t marry me for my athletic ability.

2018 was about redemption and it turned out that I had one of my best races in the past couple years. I was pumped! I was able to swim 1500, I biked one of my best power outputs, and I ran very strong on a challenging run course. No quitting, no walking, only fist pumps. 

I finished with a time of 2:26. In 2016 when I got obliterated my time was 2:23. In 2010, when I was 24 my time was 2:13. 

In 8 years I’ve managed to get 13 minutes slower over the same course. How could I possibly take confidence from this? Here we are full circle to where this post started. I had an amazing day of racing. Pushed myself very hard only to be reminded that i’m 10lb heavier than I was 8 years ago (too many IPAs) and 13 minutes slower. 13 minutes is over 2 miles! 

To conclude, it is ok to race when you aren't fully prepared. In fact, not many people show up to a starting line 100% ready. I love this sport. I love feeling healthy and I enjoy being around like minded people. Taking a step back and being able to remove unnecessary pressure is the reason I still do this sport. It’s not about times or placement, its about enjoyment.

A Year Without an IRONMAN

A Year Without an Ironman

 

Everyone has been in these cross roads and the decision is very tough. As a coach I have seen people enter this sport because of IRONMAN and when an athlete enters a season without one, their motivation drops. I am currently at this situation and its been challenging to motivate myself to train like i would when i’m signed up for an IRONMAN. 

 

Training at such a high level becomes addicting. When you are in your final IRONMAN build, you start to develop a “healthy” habit of training so much. Repeat that for 4 months and when you are forced to lower your training volume you have withdraws, The IRONMAN Hang Over.  

21752729_1453929504676113_2370551703579416629_o 2.JPG

 

When you add in the fact that you won’t be doing an IRONMAN this upcoming calendar year, you start to create excuses that justifies missing a session is OKAY because you won’t be enduring such a large event. One missed session becomes another, and another, and before you know it you haven't trained for a week. Once you’ve missed a week of training you start to question you’re entire triathlon career. I have seen people quit the sport from this, it’s depressing. Every year you see people selling all of their equipment. These are the people who entered the sport because of IRONMAN, NOT because they were investing into their-self. These people probably needed better guidance. 

 

How do you combat this? You develop goals that motivate you. You create goals that make sense on a long term scale. You create goals that make sense financially. You DON’T create goals off of peer pressure. You create goals that again, make sense. 

IMG_4264.JPG

 

I've written before that since since 2012/2013, I have actually gotten SLOWER every single year. During these years I have transitioned into a full time endurance coach which means that my athletes come first, not my training. I don’t coach athletes to fund my habit, I coach athletes because I care about their goals and passion. As you become a better coach you spend more time investing into your athletes instead of your training. This means that my 20+ available training hours diminished to 10-14 hours. When you add in that Cindi and I are proud parents of a beautiful 5 month old… that takes up even more time. For everyone who has a family and still does IRONMAN, there is a huge level of respect for being able to balance it all. You don’t understand it until you are in it!

 

What are my goals for 2018? Here, I’m going to fill you in because sharing your goals are important to sticking with them.

 

Swim: Swim a 10’ TT averaging 1:15 per 100 yards.

Bike: Increase my FTP to 4.4 watts per kilo

Run: Run a 5k at 16:45 and a 1 mile on the track under 5:00. 

 

How am I going to accomplish all of those? I have no idea and thats the fun part. These goals are challenging to me because I’ve never accomplished any of them (I’ve run sub 5’ mile in high school). These goals will require something different because if i go into this season with the same expectation as before with less available time, I will experience a burnout.

When you don't do an IRONMAN for a year or two, the financial strain is reduced tremendously. The pressure of racing is also reduced! The fact that I will be able to race over 10 times this year and i will still be spending LESS on entry fees, training, and nutrition feels incredible. I do triathlon because I love the sport, not just IRONMAN. 

Don't take this as me hating on IRONMAN, I will be doing one in 2019. But when you are developing yourself into a life long athlete, you have to learn to balance your life. If you can balance an IRONMAN every year, that's awesome! However, in my experience it would be in most peoples interest to do an IRONMAN every 2nd to 3rd year. 

Let's have a great 2018!

 

Am I An Ironman?

I crossed the finish line at Ironman Wisconsin and Mike Reilly told me I was an Ironman. I thought that would mean something to me when it finally happened. It didn’t. It still doesn’t three weeks later. I trained for over a year to complete something people tell me “is quite an accomplishment.” So, why don’t I feel different?

21427336_1450887494980314_7255206325957794932_o.jpg

 

I honestly thought crossing that finish line would change me in some kind of meaningful way. I thought it would answer some questions I had never had the courage to ask out loud. I thought I would be overcome with emotion.

 

None of that happened. I crossed the finish line. I got a medal. And then... Then my life went on, but with a gaping hole in it. I had completed something I didn’t know I could complete. I was an Ironman. People wear that label around like a badge of honor for the rest of their lives. They get a tattoo so other people can show it off.

 

I wish it was that simple for me, but it’s not. Becoming an Ironman was a point-in-time event for me. It started and ended in the same moment. The moment I crossed the finish line. The moment I realized that nothing had changed and nothing would change because I finished. I was not a different person that than I was the moment before I crossed the finish line.

21743450_1453952808007116_8132905517544141677_o.jpg

 

That’s not totally true. I am a different person since I finished Ironman. I am lost. I am drifting through life without any answers to the questions I set out to find the answers to at that finish line. At the moment I feel more like a victim of Ironman, than a victor.


 

As I struggle to get out of bed each morning and search for the motivation to do my workout each day, I’ve realized something, my goal was never to cross that finish line. I don’t care about being an Ironman. I don’t care if anyone knows that I finished that race.

 

I don’t care because for me, Ironman wasn’t a race. It was a 14 month journey of training, camaraderie, teammates, solitude, fatigue, fear, loneliness, friendship, pain and for the first time in my life, a sense of calm in my mind. A calm that comes from a daily fatigue that forces me to focus only on what matters in my life. A calm that comes from feeling like I’ve really lived each day.

 

I’ve lost that calm and that glorious fatigue over the past few weeks as I’ve “recovered” from the race. Now, it’s time to find it again. It’s time to begin the journey all over again. Training for Ironman WI 2018 starts now.

 

I didn’t change when I crossed the finish line, I changed when I took the first step in a very long journey to get there.

Couch To IRONMAN w/ Lauren Taylor

Some time ago in the not so distant past, my husband asked me if I would ever do a triathlon. “No way!”, I answered. “Swimming is gross, and you know I don’t like to get in the water. Biking might be okay, but I don’t even own a bike.” Yet... I didn’t shut the door all the way.  “I should just do a half marathon or something.”

 

In 2015, he joined MM and by the end of the season, I was warming up to the idea of becoming active. As I spent more time around the team, I was certain this was a group I wanted to be a part of. I still wasn’t sold on the whole triathlon thing, but I decided to do a sprint tri in 2016 and my goal was “just to finish”.

 

Starting in the new year, the consistency (or maybe unrelenting frequency) of my new plan was a complete lifestyle change. This was my first week of what I came to call the “couch to Cindi” program:

pasted image 0.png

 

 

I had bouts of fitness in the past where I would run or have a dedicated yoga practice, but there was no consistency and there certainly wasn’t much intensity. When I started, I struggled to run a single 10 minute mile without walking. But it didn’t really matter where I started, because as long as I showed up for practice and did my best to try to keep up with anyone on the team, I was improving. Having a coach and and a supportive group to train with was a game changer for me.   

 

The rapid improvement I experienced was exciting. Not only did I complete several sprints, I crushed my goals as well as my perception of what my body was capable of every time. My dreams and my goals got bigger as the year went on.

JTH_7494.jpg

 

By the end of that summer, I was thinking really big and it was time to decide if I could take on Ironman in 2017. Even the thought of it would have been crazy seven months earlier.  


But everything in my life felt like it was settled enough that I would be able to dedicate the time and energy required to training. Conveniently, my “carpool” and near constant companion, Carly, was also ready to take the leap. A group of us exchanged excited texts as we registered on September 12th.

 

In November, I told Cindi I wanted to run a marathon. I knew I would feel more secure in my Ironman decision if I had at least done each portion of the race by itself. She said it wasn’t really “required,” but I knew I needed to be confident in my ability to cover the distance. Plus, a marathon seemed like a good way to keep motivated over the winter.

 

The Mesa-Phoenix Marathon was my first race of the year. My goal was to run under 4 hours, but I wanted to push myself see how close I could get to 3:30. Lofty for someone who could barely make it a mile just the year before. The course was pretty flat, the weather was mild, and I even had amazing teammates show up to surprise me in Phoenix and catch me every few miles.

JCR_5138.jpg

 

In the end, I ran 3:41:40. I was very happy with my result and loved the experience, despite it being more painful than I possibly could have anticipated. There were many moments where I thought, “Why did I sign up to do this after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike? What was I thinking?!?” Good thing my teammates assure me that “the Ironman marathon is just different”.

 

After the marathon, I decided to race less frequently in the year ahead. I had just two 70.3s on the calendar. The first, Ironman Madison 70.3, was a grueling introduction to the distance. After a beautiful swim and bike, I was destroyed by the heat on the run. Like many others, my pace suffered as I slogged around Lake Monona. I didn’t meet my goal of breaking 2 hours on the run, but I was happy to have covered this distance without any mechanical or nutrition issues.

 

Luckily, I had another shot at a sub-2 run at the Door County half in July. After a shortened swim and relatively flat bike, I was ready to go.  I watched my average pace on my watch knowing that it had to be under 9:09 to break 2 hours and that I would need to bank some time for hills in later miles. I executed according to plan and my run time was 1:57:11.  All that was left now was the full distance in September.

MKY_8657.jpg

 

 

Now, in the days leading up to Ironman I am unusually calm. As I see others on facebook worrying about the swim start change, bike course, or other things ultimately outside of my control, I am not fazed. The hard work is done, now it is just time to execute and enjoy the day.

 

In writing this and reflecting on my journey,  I think about where I started and how far I have come. From my first sprint, to my first marathon, to my first 70.3, I have had great races so far and I simply trust the process. My training and race planning I have done with MM has never failed me in the past. Thinking about race day, about that first swim stroke until I cross the finish line, ultimately completing my journey from couch-to-226k, I am excited and ready to take on Ironman.  

How I Got Back In The Saddle w/ Carly Hasse

“Oh man, this is not good.”  That was my thought as I was trying to gain control of my bike.  Turns out, hitting a pothole on your bike while going downhill at 30 mph isn’t too great.  After a few swerves to the wrong side of the road and trying not to go head first over my handlebars, I ended up laying my bike on its side in the ditch.  Too bad my left shoulder took the brunt of the force, as I was kind of hoping the bike would and I could get a new one!  As I sat in the ditch with 2 teammates and my coach, I had the same thought “oh man, this is not good for Ironman training.”  I was banged up pretty badly & I knew I was hurt.  An afternoon in the ER and a few x-rays later, the orthopedic surgeon confirmed that I had 3 fractures in my scapula and said the dreaded words I didn’t want to hear.  “You’re for sure not going to do any races for the next 8 weeks, and maybe not Ironman Wisconsin either.”  The tears came fast and hard, and I was devastated.  

JTH_7577.jpg

 

I wallowed in those sorrows for a good 48 hours.  Maybe it was the pain meds, maybe it was the awful concussion I got that let me have these “poor me” thoughts.  Then I had a realization.  Why just give up on a goal you have and worked so hard on for nearly a year?  That’s not you, Carly.  Get back in the saddle and finish what you started.  So I talked with my coach and came up with a game plan.  Speed walk. Do yoga.  Kick in the pool.  Do whatever you can.  Just don’t quit on your goal.  

 

Over the course of the next 8 weeks, I slowly but surely progressed back to being on a normal Ironman training schedule.  Was it easy? No.  Were there days I wanted to quit?  Yes.  Did I have doubts that I could actually get to the start line at Ironman Wisconsin?  Absolutely.  But I knew I needed to persevere and push on.  That first time back riding my bike on the open road was by far the most nervous I’ve been in my adult life.  Pretty sure the first hill I went down there was smoke coming from my brake pads and I was certain I had wore them out!  Lots of positive self-talk and just getting back in the saddle helped ease the fears that come with crashing.  I got more and more confident during every ride I did, and before I knew it, I was doing 100+ mile rides without fear. With a visual scar reminder on my leg (from my handlebars digging into my thigh when I crashed), I reminded myself how fortunate I am that I am a healthy, strong woman who has goals to be met, and nothing can stop me, not even a bike crash.

JCR_5060.jpg

 

Having a positive mindset, having coaches that work with you on a daily basis to set small & manageable goals, having teammates that support you (and who are willing to speed walk with you or drive you everywhere!), and remembering that broken bones heal but broken dreams do not are all things that got me to where I am now----less than 2 weeks away from achieving my goal of racing happy and having fun during Ironman Wisconsin!