Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Am I Gaining Weight While Training for an Ironman/Marathon?

I get asked this question a lot.  And have asked it myself from time to time.

Though I'm not a nutritionist, I HAVE read and studied from some of the best nutritionists around.  Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSCS is a practicing Sports Dietician who specializes in working with endurance athletes.  Bob knows his stuff.  His books Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes and Metabolic Efficiency Training go into great deal about how and why you should incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle.  Though the book is technical and scientific, the meat of its chapters pack a punch in the nutrition questions for multisport athletes.

Let me boil it down for you.  As we exercise, our bodies burn fat.  As exercise intensity increases, the body stops using fats and starts using carbs for energy. We have a huge amounts of fat stores in our systems that will keep our body fueled for days.  But our carb supplies are limited and must be refueled by ingesting more carbs, i.e. gels, bars, drinks.

So how do we burn fat?  Simply put, we exercise aerobically, staying below our VO2 Max.  That mean, longer bike rides without sprinting and getting the heart beating too quickly, and watching our heart rates with a HR Monitor as we train.

Then how do we get faster you ask?  The answer: by going slower during certain times of the year. Tri coaches will always outline BASE training for their athletes.  But following BASE training comes the BUILD phase, where you add in sprints and hill climbs as you push your heart rate limits. "An athlete who is more aerobically conditioned can use more fat as energy at higher intensities", says Bob.

The most common culprits for inefficient fat burning include consuming too high of a carbohydrate diet or doing too much high intensity training at inappropriate times of the year.

So today, remember Baloo when he said,  "Man, you're working too hard."  There's a time and a place for strategic high intensity training.  But for now, ease up, enjoy your ride, and turn your body into a fat burning powerhouse.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

The first time I went mountain biking, my experienced cyclist friend who threw out riding tips like gossip from a desperate housewife tossed out a doozie I've never forgotten.  "Momentum is your friend," he said.  At the crest of the cactus covered mountain, I was to descend the tricky trail with reckless abandon, only to use that speed to help climb the next roller - instead of slowly grinding my gears uphill.  Using speed, he said, was the key to improving my climbing and staying on the bike.

I still repeat this advice whenever I attempt a treacherous mountain trail.  "Momentum is your friend.  Momentum is your friend."  Believe me, I do quite a bit of self talk on my bike.  I psyche myself up to race down the dusty, dry, Arizona single-track paths.  There are hazards on either side of me,  barrel cactus on my left, Saguaro on my right, and dead ahead, the completely unstable sand of a dry river bed.

But my friend was right: pedaling faster and moving quicker through the hard stuff helps make the entire ride better.  Just keep moving and the hills seem to flatten, the sand stays a little more level, and the up and down rollers become more like a carnival ride.

Not to get philosophical, but I've found this rule also applies to life.  As long as you are moving forward, not remaining stagnant, problems seem to ease just a bit.  Often the mountains of stuff that gets piled in our lives seem insurmountable.  Problems keep us in bed, feeling depressed, struggling alone with no hope of solving or accomplishing anything.

Rather than feeling hopeless, make a move.  Try climbing out of that rut.  Start today to set or meet the goals you have for yourself.  One day in a row is the only way to begin something great - whatever that goal may be.  Chillaxin' is sweet and can be well deserved.  But if the uphill seems beyond your limits, remember, momentum is your friend.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My First 50 Miler by Jeff Rush

Mesa runners Jeff Rush and Ben LeSueur recently completed the Running From An Angel 50 Mile Race outside of Las Vegas.  Here is Jeff's take on the day....

I've never run a race where blisters form, they pop, and new ones appear before race end.

The scene at the start line was pretty casual.  When Joyce, race owner/director, asked if we could start 5 minutes late to accommodate stragglers no one made a peep.  At 37 degrees though, I was cold and wanted
to get going.  It seemed that most of the 38 runners knew each other.

Throughout the course of the day that this was one of the most unusually hearty and unique groups ever.  We met a five-time Badwater gal, "just out for a stroll to break 8 hours today".  The only time we saw her was mid-race and she had her Badwater face protector on and looked like a desert fighter going to battle -- tough!!  She beat us by a sizable margin.  There was the gal that ran 57 fifty milers at age 50.   And then there was the eventual
race winner, a 52-year-old man with fast crazy legs.  The first time we saw him after the start line he was coming down a hill at mile 27 (our mile 23).  The faster and crazier his legs got, the crazier his upper body had to adjust in the other direction just to maintain balance.

There was also Scott, newly married out of South Jordan.  Scott had done 95 marathon+
distance races in 7 years.  He's only 28 yrs old.  Who does that?? He was like the new pet you almost smothered if you're not careful.  We hit him with one open ended question after another, mostly because we had more than used up all our own stories on training runs.   Before we knew it we had 20 miles behind us and still in decent spirits.

We started the day by pacing ourselves toward at 4:05 first half.  We figured that if we survived the front side hills and still felt good at the turn, we could go negative on the return and somehow challenge 8 hours. Miles 15-20  were all uphill -- although not steep.  Miles 20-25 were a series of nasty one-mile rollers.  When we got to mile 20 we decided to focus on our competition just to take our minds off the hills.  After Crazy Legs came by, there were 4-5 more runners that looked pretty fresh.  The next 4-5 behind them were only 10+/- minutes ahead, and we felt like they were catch able, this gave us something to work for as we hit the
turn-around.  There was one guy in purple who wasn't too friendly and actually left us hangin' on some high fives as we passed.  He instantly became our target.  We arrived at the turn at about 3:56, still feeling pretty good but also having just come through some difficult hills, which we had to turn around and immediately battle again for the next five.

This course was an out/back through the desert so we could see the runners ahead pretty well.  We were in 12th, 13th positions (as I recall) at the turn-around and one of our goals was to finish Top 10.  As the race wore on and time slipped, finishing top 10 became our main focus.  As we moved back in the hills through miles 25-30 and before the continuous five mile
streak downhill, it became apparent that the blasted hills were starting to take a toll.  You all have experienced trying to run steady late in a 
race while on fumes.  Miles 30-40 brought this challenge, with the added bonus of running 'extra' hills on mega tired legs. 

To make the situation worse, Scott's stories had dried up by now, and I had already heard Ben's stories 4-5 times. This was really the hardest portion of race as we still had 20 miles to go and our splits were starting to fall as were our spirits.  Where we'd been averaging 8:30-9:00 minute miles going out, we were now struggling to maintain 9:00-9:30 coming back through this dog section. As it turned out we ended up averaging 9:42/miles when you factor
refueling, my slow pace, the power walks up the hills, and Ben's 13 potty stops.

Between miles 25-40 we only managed to catch/pass one or two runners and we were passed by one,  But now as mile 40 approached we had two more runners in our sights, one of them being Purple Shirt Guy.  Along with him ran a guy in Red who had been in #2 position at the turn, but was now in position to be passed.  They weren't actually running together but it looked like they were jockeying for race position as we sneaked up behind them.

We decided we'd better make a solid attempt at passing and then we'd try to put some quick distance between us or we'd have to race these guys for a Top 10 finish all the way to the bitter end.  We attacked/passed them midway up a 1/2 mile hill.  We made the pass running and then pushed going up and over the top of the hill and down the backside and Purple Shirt Guy started to fade, but Red Shirt hung tough only 200+/- yards off our heels for several miles.  By this time we started to get reports by our support team (Emily, Charlotte, and Savanna) that the runners in 6th and 7th positions were starting to come back to us, although we still couldn't
see them as we maneuvered through the hills.

This game of cat/mouse became a welcomed distraction to the pain of the day, and help motivate us to keep on pressing.  At about mile 47 we finally caught number six and seven, but they were spent and put up very little fight.  We were able to push to the end and finished in spots six and seven, with Scott at number eight.  Tough, but worthwhile experience.

I will run another 50+ mile race.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Victory Down Shelly Lane by Janeen Wright

Helping a child cope with failure provides them with an invaluable advantage in the world.  Failure is part of life, a natural obstacle on the road to success.  But one must put failure into perspective in order to use it best.

When I was in 9th grade, I went out for the track team.  I was a decent runner;  but my best friend, Shelly Lane was not.  Our coach placed her in the event that no one wanted to enter:  the big two-miler.  Yep, eight laps around the track at race pace.  Fortunately, my father was not only an incredible cheerleader, he was a great spectator.  He never missed a track meet and was ever the fan of the underdog. While I enjoyed a fair amount of success, Shelly's experience was miserable.  She was always dead LAST.  Both of Shelly's parents worked full-time and I never saw them attend a meet.  But Dad was always there--for both of us.  That freshman year, Dad taught me more about life than I learned in all my years of psychology training in college.

The two miler was the final event of every track meet. The first time the announcer called for the participants to gather at the starting line,  Shelly winced.  She knew what was coming and it would likely be embarrassing, not to mention exhausting.  For 14 long minutes I watched as everyone began to trickle across the finish line.  First was a gal from Kino.  Next, our star from Carson, then a little squirt from Poston.  Then came all the others.  That is, all except, one:  Shelly.   Sixteen minutes, 17 minutes.  And counting!  Shelly was the  only runner left on the track and she had a whole lap to go.  Suddenly, she stopped running and started crying.

And that's when I heard it.  A familiar, low-toned voice shouted, "COME ON, SHELLY!   DIG DOWN DEEP!"  Instantly, I recognized the inflection.  The "oh no you don't!" command.  I looked to find Dad, whose call was nearly stifled by the hands he had cupped tightly forming a megaphone around his mouth.  

What happened next still brings tears to my eyes.  Dad darted from the stands and headed toward the track.  He took his place on the field next to Shelly, who was walking slowly on the track, choking on her sobs.  He said something to her, and then he began to jog.  He was clapping his hands and cheering.  He believed in her.  The entire crowd began to applaud for Shelly.

Although he could not finish for her, Dad provided Shelly with the support she needed to win her own race.  He trotted back into the stands before I could hug him, but  I'll never forget what he said as we drove Shelly home from the meet.   He glanced in the rear view mirror at  her as she sat in the back seat gazing out the window.  Then he taught us the lesson of a lifetime:  "The secret of life," he said softly, "is to get up each time you fall down, Shel.  Stay down, and you lose...."

Shelly finished a perfect season, and yes, she was last in every race.  But finish each, she did.   I've whispered dad's words to to myself over the years as I trained for seven marathons.  Every time the going gets tough, I realize his wisdom transcends the track.  So I have relayed it to my own children.

I am forever grateful to a parent who taught me that failure was nothing to be ashamed of and for the lesson titled,  "The Victory Down Shelly Lane."

Janeen is the President of the American Mother's Association, an accomplished marathoner and a Boston finisher.  She is my runner partner and I am proud to call her a friend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's Your Vision?

July 4, 1952.  Florence Chadwick, who had previously swam the English Channel, now attempted the twenty-one-mile swim from the southern California mainland to Catalina Island.  The water was a freezing 48 degrees.  The fog was thick and visibility almost nil.  

Finally, only a half mile from her destination, she became discouraged and quit.  The next day reporters clamored around her asking her why she had quit - had it been the cold water or the distance?  It proved to be neither.  She responded, "I was licked by the fog."  

She then recalled a similar experience while swimming the English Channel.  Evidently the fog was likewise engulfing.  She was exhausted.  As she was about to reach out for her father's hand in the nearby boat, he pointed to the shore.  She raised her head out of the water just long enough to see the land ahead.  With that new vision, she pressed on and became the first woman to conquer the English Channel.  

 Are you doing the same things day after day without any purpose to your workouts?  Are you following the same generic training program as your workout buddy?  When was the last time you challenged yourself to try/do something new or different in your training?  Are you locked in your aero bars looking down at the road and missing the scenery around you?

With increased vision comes increased motivation.  Today try looking at things a little differently.  Run a new course.  Change your cycling schedule.  Swim as the sun rises from the East.  Just for today, go off auto-pilot and enjoy yourself.  

I think you'll like it. 
Story Credit

Sunday, January 16, 2011

PF Chang's Marathon Checklist

Cowbell.  Check. 
Kenyans. Check.

Fast guys.  Check.

Fast chicks.  Check.

The bell curve.  Check.
 And, check.

Funny costume / headpieces.     


Runners carrying unusually large/bulky items.  Check.

Cover bands playing stuff like Mustang Sally.  Check.

Twinner outfits.  Check.
Drumsticks from the start line.  Check.

Awesome looking spectators!  Check.

A lot of this hand signal.  Check.

And sweet finish line medals!
Thank you for coming.  Good night! 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

But Wait! Tomorrow's PF Chang's!

M's running the half marathon tomorrow.  As a first timer, she wanted to know WHAT she should be eating and drinking before her race tomorrow.

I'm a big fan of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook and here is what Ms. Clark has to say about that.

*  On the day before the event, you might want to eat your biggest meal at lunchtime so that the food will have more time to digest and pass through your system.  Later, enjoy a normal-sized dinner and a bed-time snack.

*  Drink about four to eight extra glasses of water and juices during the two days before the event.  You should have to urinate frequently.

*  Limit dehydrating fluids such as alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.

*  On race morning, drink at least three glasses of water up to two hours before the event, one to two cups 5-10 minutes before race time.

*  On the morning of the event, eat a breakfast that you know will settle well.  Food you're familiar with will prevent hunger and help maintain a normal blood sugar level.  Don't try anything new.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

See How They Run

Picture this:  arms bent at the elbow as if beginning to run.  Legs in running stance with one knee bent to 85 degrees, then slightly lifted to 87 degrees, then 88, 89 and finally 90.

When Jessi Stensland explained how she moved from slow (well, slower) to fast, she simply lifted her knee to those angles as she discussed the mechanics of running.  These slight movements she executed while stationary gave me a visual that is ingrained in my mind.

She explained it like this, "Here's an eight minute mile, a seven minute mile, a six minute mile," all while raising her knee to a higher degree.

If you want to go faster, use that image of higher knees to get you there.  Sprinting at the end a marathon or passing another runner during a race involves higher knees and more spring in your step - even if you are a shuffler.  To "kick it up a notch," channel your mind to lift your leg a bit higher, quicker, and lighter.  Become the runner you are in your mind.   Let your mind tell your legs what to do.   Channel your inner Jessi.  And let your competition watch you run away with the victory.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Solid Advice From The Incredible Shrinking Woman

My aunt has been slimming down and getting fit over the past year.  Her story is simple yet profound.
I asked her to share what has worked for her in her weight loss journey.  She'll share her story, but NOT her before and after photos.  Take it away, Val!

I found myself in my mid-fifties with high blood pressure, kidney stones, and about 60 extra pounds.  I had always been able to say before “Oh, I’m overweight but my blood pressure and cholesterol are ok”—then suddenly they weren’t!  Arthritis was also becoming a problem.  Who wants to live that way?  Not me!  So I went back to Weight Watchers and got on track with healthy eating, and started to get active.

Every day I walk, do Wii-Fit, and/or go to the gym—I’m addicted!  I try to exercise for about 40-50 minutes a day.  I have signed up for several 3-5k walk/runs—and find myself running part of them!  I hate running—I thought! In less than a year, I have lost and kept off 60 pounds, and significantly increased my fitness level.  I feel great, and people tell me I look great.  My doctor wants to use me as a poster child for following doctor’s orders (you know, eat right, exercise, yadda yadda yadda).  So if you think it’s impossible to get fit and feel better, just ask me.  Being healthy is what it’s all about!  I may not be an Ironwoman, but it feels pretty good to know that I can enjoy life and accomplish my goals.

One thing I have discovered is that it’s all about habits.  If I give in to fast food/junk food, I start craving it again.  The longer I avoid those bad boys, the easier it is to enjoy the sweet taste of fresh veggies and lean protein.  Additionally, if I start missing a day here or there of activity, suddenly it becomes a burden instead of fun.  And it’s all about fun!  Good luck to all of you out there who are struggling to change to a healthy  lifestyle, and congrats to all you marathoners/ironpeople/milers/swimmers—you guys are awesome!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Three Discoveries And One Hard Fact

Ahhhmerica's Finest City, San Diego.  I spent the weekend in this delightful Southern California town with good friends, partaking in good food and good times.  I'll spare the details about the reunion with college buddies and all the laughter THAT entails.  This is, after all, a blog about triathlon training.  But here are a few of my favorite finds a la San Diego.

Torrey Pines State Reserve - A gorgeous state park that is bustling with cyclists, walkers, hikers and runners, mark this spot as a definite must next time you are in town.  The reserve is a beautiful location to enjoy a steep road bike climb or a challenging hill workout.  At the top of the cliff's peaks, you can turn west and make your way down the sandy trails to the ocean's edge.  Dip your toes in the Pacific and watch the surfers catch a frothy wave.  How excellent is that?

Lululemon - I was dead set against this pricey athletic apparel.  The sticker shock for yoga pants was, well, sticker shock!  But San Diegans have embraced this clothing line as I repeatedly noticed the little Lululemon logo on all the really cute sporty clothing I passed throughout the day.

You want to know what sold me on this brand?  TALL!  Yes, Lulu pants come in tall sizes with an inseam of 35 inches.  That gives breathing room to even an Amazon like me.  Plus the fabrics are deliciously soft, lightweight, breatheable and plenty long to cover mid-life muffin tops.  I'm sold, Lulu.

Second Sister Jewelry - I know, I know.  Tri training.  But I'm still a GIRL!  My friend April has the most unique jewerly for sale on Etsy.  She let us invade her home and see her creations and --- we did partake.  Beautiful stuff here.  And her mind is moving in a different direction which means more styles, more pretty stuff on its way.  Even if you are in spandex and cotton all day, you might like a little bauble with your ensemble.

I love a girl's trip.  Plenty of late night chit chats and fabulous memories.  It makes that one HARD FACT all the more easy to deal with -- weekend laundry.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bike For Sale

*Cannondale Synapse (carbon)
*Size 50
*Shimano 105 throughout
*Selle Italia Trans Am Seat
*Mavic Aksium Race Wheels
*Armadillo elite Tires
*Specilized S-Works shallow bend carbon 143mm Handle Bar
Contact seller at

Price: $1,200.00

Monday, January 3, 2011

Training Tips from Elite Coach Luis Vargas

Luis Vargas is the partnering coach with Mark Allen.  I have contacted him MANY times when I had a question about triathlons or coaching.  Within minutes he responds with a helpful answer.  I really admire this guy.  Here is one of his recent articles at MarkAllen Online.

Here are my top tips-

1. Many beginners have a sport that they come from and this is their strength. Do not train your strong sport the same way you did before triathlon. You can cut volume and still do very well and sometimes even better due to all the additional fitness gains in the other two sports. Train your weakness not your strength.

2. When training for the swim and the bike it is important to learn to go long and steady. On the swim this means a set of 1000's or 1500's to learn how to pace these. Remember that on race day it is unwise to give 100% on the swim. You still have to bike and run! On the bike do not always ride with a group and draft the whole training ride. The bike in a triathlon is a long steady time trial. Learn to deal mentally with this steady unassisted grind, and experiment with different effort levels that will give you the best overall time at the end of the day. Going super hard to the top of a hill like cyclists might do to drop everyone will just drop you from your pace on race day.

3. Do short bricks. Long bricks can be very tough and require huge amounts of recovery. But if you even run around the block after most of your rides you will learn two valuable lessons. One is dealing with the special feeling of running on tired cycling muscles. But perhaps more important will be that the workout does not end at the end of the ride. You still have to run. This will make you think twice about sprinting your guts out to win the day's ride with your cycling buddies when you know you will be doing a run right after as they put their legs up and watch some TV.

4. The bike is the sport that you can use to develop mental and metabolic endurance to handle many hours of triathlon racing. For example, if your goal is to do your first Olympic distance race and you think it will take you three hours, it would be wise to do some steady training sessions that last three hours at the very least. Doing them on the swim or the run would be pretty tough and may get you hurt. But you can easily do these on the bike and still recover with minimal risk of any injury.

Triathlon is a single sport with three disciplines. Keep this in mind as you train and race. Remember, the best swimmer, biker and runner does not always win. The best triathlete does!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

How To Train In Utah

I'm in Park City, Utah today and it's 10 below.  The ski lift outside is fairly empty for New Year's Day.  If those skiers are anything like me, swooshing downhill in such frigid temperatures does not spell F-U-N.

On Tuesday, I made the mistake while downhill skiing of wearing rings under my gloves.  The metal around my fingers froze up like icy bands of pain. Who knew?

As a contemplate these frightful days, I try and imagine how the athletes from the great state of Utah train for triathlons. How does one run when the air burns the lungs while trudging uphill?  How does one get in hours on the bike while on a trainer looking at a blank wall?  And swimming!  Let's not even go there.

I come from this:
Endless sunshine and warm temperatures.  Conditions are not always ideal, but they are nothing like this:

What I HAVE discovered is that Utahns and cold-weather athletes have made the most of the snow that abounds.  They slip and slide and hike and walk over the snowdrifts surrounding their neighborhoods.  And I went along for the ride this week.

Yesterday I tried CROSS COUNTRY SKIING.  Finally a sport I could do in negative 11 degrees.  It didn't even matter.  I was huffing and puffing within the first 5 minutes.  My frozen fingers quickly warmed up to hot, clammy hands inside my gloves.

Cross country skis are long and lightweight.  You set your skis inside tracks that meander up and down the hills of the course.  The movement is linear and beautiful.  And according to some reports, you can burn up to 1100 calories per hour.  Cha ching!

Still to conquer: Skate skiing and snow shoeing.  But one thing at a time.  Today was great.  Tomorrow might be better.  I'm loving it here and my tri training will survive, after all.
Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True