Friday, December 12, 2014

From Injured to Ironman Cozumel by Jessica Elliott

My journey to Ironman has been an arduous, five-year adventure riddled with injury and discouragement. After my first triathlon in 2008, I was hooked. Sprints and Olympic races followed, as did a severe knee injury that knocked me out for a year — and later, a second year. Three tries at a half-Ironman distance resulted in disappointment — a stress fracture, shoulder impingement syndrome, knee issues — and multiple doctor visits and PT appointments. And numerous desperate attempts to find solutions, from PRP injections to acupuncture.
Not to mention a doctor telling me I should never run long distance, and a beloved coach who thought it best to discourage me from endurance racing because of these injuries.
Finally, in 2014, I’d gotten my recipe right. I needed an overly abundant amount of rest, a fruit- and veggie-filled diet, compression sleeves, and the ability to tell my body that it ISN’T injured when it is (which I don’t normally recommend). And, my new coach, Lorie Tucker.
After dealing with a serious bought of elbow tendonitis that came out of nowhere and hampered my swimming, I dealt with shin splints and posterior tibial tendonitis through ALL of my Ironman training.
But with Lorie’s help, my husband Adam’s encouragement, and my persistence, I made it all the way to Ironman Florida. That morning, my family gathered on the beach amidst freak weather — 38 mile-per-hour winds, 30-degree temps — only to hear the announcer say that the swim was cancelled due to riptides.
Tears and debate ensued. Given my injuries, I decided to back out of the race and shoot for Ironman Cozumel. Four weeks of tough interval workouts, rapidly planning an international trip, and loading up on advice from athletes on the amazing Ironman Cozumel Facebook forum —including a scheduled ride from the very cool Alison Fowler (a 10-time Ironman) — I was off.

Skipping ahead to the night before IM Coz

While my husband and I had rented a beautiful condo, I probably slept four hours the night before the race. A faux pirate ship party boat (yes, really) that floats alongside the northern end of the island at night woke me up multiple times with the thump-thump of club music and a ridiculously loud Spanish-speaking deejay. Each time I woke up, my stomach was in knots, and from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. I begged myself to sleep — to no avail.
At 4 a.m., I made breakfast. I managed to eat a banana, a hard-boiled egg and some oatmeal — barely. I was so nervous I could hardly eat! My husband, Adam, and I then hopped a taxi to Chakanaab Park, or T1 (IM Cozumel is a point-to-point race).
I gleefully ran into my amazing new friend from the Facebook forum, Gina, and after putting Infinit fuel in my Speedfill, getting my tires filled at the pump station, and thankfully discovering my brake was rubbing my rear wheel, I joined the mass of other athletes in the long shuttle bus line.

Swim — beautiful, pristine and magical

After piling in, we headed to Marina Fonatur, the start of the swim. I’d heard amazing things about this swim — turquoise waters, unscathed coral, abundant wildlife — and during a short practice swim the day prior, I tested the delightfully warm waters. I was nervous, though, about the age group wave start — only because the male waves were slated to start after the female waves, and I was paranoid about getting run over.
The pros took off, and my group, purple swim caps, shuffled down the boat doc and waded in. I moved far to the right of the buoys, hoping the impending faster guys could just breeze by me on the left.  
The fog-horn blew (no cannon), and right away, I was having a blast. It was a little crowded, but nothing like the washing machine I’d mentally prepped for.
The water was the perfect temperature — not too hot, but not wetsuit legal — and I immediately focused on counting my strokes (“one, two, breathe … one, two, breathe”). The clear water and seeing straight to the ocean floor was incredible and I loved seeing the mass of athletes in tri suits swimming around me. I remember thinking, “This is badass.”
Apparently, I was so focused on my bad-assness and breathing that I missed seeing the amazing coral and wildlife I’d heard about!! I noticed brown coral and a mass of small silvery fish at one point, but otherwise, nada. I just swam. Judging by the amazing pictures from the scuba-diving photographer team set throughout the course, I might as well have been swimming with my eyes closed!
I also felt the jab of jellyfish stings — seven times. I’d been warned about these, and had even invested in some anti-sting sunscreen lotion, and while I was told they didn’t hurt — um, they do. Like a rubber-band smacking your skin. Caught one on my cheek … ouch! I swam faster.
About 40 minutes in, I had painful chafing around my neck, and because I’d been swimming at my “forever” pace — quick without heavy breathing — I decided to kick it up a notch. (Though apparently, this is also when the current against us shifted in our favor.) I started forcing myself to count to 20 stroke sets before lifting my head, to hopefully avoid neck pain on the bike plus chafing, AND to keep me moving quick.

Swim: 1:14:36 or 1:55/100 -- my fastest swim to-date!

Transition 1

After running through the showers and drinking the full cup of water provided (this would come back to haunt me), I grabbed my bike bag and ran into the tent. It was hot, humid and I felt like I was moving like a turtle. I’m as naturally ghostly white as it gets, so I wore sun-sleeves, a jersey, bike shorts, calf sleeves, and full gloves. That is a LOT to put on while wet. I’d gone with this setup at a full aquabike in September (sans sun sleeves) but here, it felt like it was taking me FOREVER. Slow motion.
With all of this clothing on and stuffed pockets, I looked pretty funny. And I’m cool with that.
I drank water, slathered sunscreen on my face, and took a few pumps of my inhaler for exercise-induced asthma (which I have also never done mid-race, but wanted to proactively). Heart rate monitor on, fuel in pockets — go, let’s goooo. I ran to my bike, took a few sips of water in the bottle provided (why?! I think I felt like I couldn’t leave a bottle untouched, so figured I’d waste it with one sip?), and ran out.

T1: 13:59, and I didn’t mind.

Bike — crisis management while pedaling through a tornado

As I crossed the bike exit, Adam yelled, “Goooo Jess! You’re beautiful!” in the sweetest, proudest voice. I choked back a few tears and hopped on.
I felt great right when I got on the bike. I like starting with a high, easy cadence, then pushing into a tougher spin. The bike is my thing. Running is great, but I absolutely LOVE to hammer on the bike. I had completed a full aquabike in September in Oklahoma, which was hot, hilly, and windy, and I’d managed a 6.5-hour ride, or roughly 17 mph. I aimed to duplicate this.
About four miles in, I got a big side stitch on my right side. Was it horrible? No. Was it enough to freak me out? Yes. I’ve had side stitches once on the bike, and they lasted the whole ride — and juiced my legs.
After a few more miles, I started panicking. What if I deal with these for 112 miles? What if my stomach gets even worse for the run? Oh, geez. The run!! What am I going to do?! Was this caused by too much water after the swim? My inhaler? What does my body want right now?
Then I took a few deep breaths. I usually eat a Cliff Shot after the swim, and I hadn’t. I thought maybe a little shot of sodium from it would help. It didn’t. So then I tried backing off fuel for 30 minutes (drinking water instead of Infinit). Bad idea. Fuel is necessary!
I came up with a plan — stop at the first aid station to grab Gas-Ex from my bike bag — even though stopping was the last thing I wanted to do. Once the plan was in place, I felt better.
The Gas-Ex worked for about 15 minutes, which is about when I hit the backside of the island. We were all warned about this grueling 12-mile portion — it’s windy but manageable, people said. And having biked in higher winds during my practice ride, I had agreed. That was a mistake. On this particular day, the island gave us 35 mile-per-hour headwinds.
I allowed myself to topple into heart rate zone three for a bit in this stage, but, given my stomach, tried to stay in zone two. I knew it would be a long day, and I didn’t want to burn out.
On the first loop, the wind didn’t feel so bad, and I enjoyed this unscathed portion of the island, with palm fronds blowing in the wind, waves crashing and the smell of the salty ocean air.  
Once I hit the left turn to non-windy freedom, it felt like I was flying. I came into town and saw Adam, and throngs of amazing spectators jamming to music and cheering me on, yelling “Yeah go, Texas!” in a nod to my jersey — huge boost — and went back out.
The remaining two loops were all about survival. My stomach went back and forth from stitches to bloating. I could feel the energy being drawn from my legs to my stomach. I kept telling myself, “one pedal at a time, one step at a time. Get out of your head.” I reminded myself that I wasn’t vomiting, I didn’t have a flat tire — things were actually really good! I did a little bit of fuel miscalculating and got behind, so I worked to keep up.
When I didn’t see the special needs bags at mile 56, I remembered that volunteers said it would be at a designated KILOMETER spot … so in reality, around mile 62. Given that I normally re-stock on Infinit at this time, I resorted to eating the Cliff Shot in my jersey, which I never eat mid-ride. I ran out of water at mile 58  — which was actually a good thing because there was an aid station at mile 60 (where I kept asking “verde bolsas?? Green bags??”), but NO water at special needs. This meant I stopped at mile 60 AND special needs.
At special needs, I ate some honey stinger blocks and got more fuel. So many people were just sitting — it surprised me!
In all, I sadly can’t remember how many times I stopped. It might have been four or five. I gave a 70-plus-year-old some pepto as he was pulling out of the race. I actually even reapplied chamois cream at a stop. I was clearly loopy because I normally would never do that!
The winds picked up — I mean, really?! — and on the third loop, the windy stretch was 18 miles. 18! So, I consciously forced myself to slow down and refused to look at my Garmin to evade disappointment. I was bummed! I even started wondering, while fighting through the wind, if I’d missed a turn (there are no turns on that stretch).
As I came into transition at MILE 113 (I mean, really!?), I thought I felt OK — better than I had on other longer rides, with no neck pain, but I was already bummed with my time.

Bike: 7:17:31 or 15.36 mph … turtle power!

Transition 2

Right when I got off the bike, I knew the rest of the day would be rough. I felt good ON the bike — but when I hopped off, I was dizzy, loopy, and just plain out of it. I ambled toward my bag and into the tent. I ate a banana, used my inhaler again, swapped my shorts and jersey, and spent the time necessary to wrap my big toes with blister tape before getting them into my Injinji socks (I had blister issues throughout training, and this was the solution). I wrapped the tape too tightly around my right toe and it hurt, but oh well, I thought.
Since all of the volunteers speak Spanish, I talked to some other athletes to get their take on what I was dealing with. They said it was dehydration.
I walked out of the tent and to Adam, and chatted with him for a few minutes. This was factored into my T2 time, but I didn’t care. I felt so awful! I told him I was bummed and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through 26 miles like this. I had expected to feel good!
He encouraged me to toughen up and put one foot in front of the other. So I did.

T2 time:  18:52 (maybe record for slowest transition ever??)

Run — an agonizing and gratifying blur

Wow. I’m a week out from the race, and with time, I think I will forget how terrible I felt that first 13 miles. That’s a good thing — I’m already looking forward to toeing the line at an Ironman again — but it was a bad, bad scene, fraught with worry. I was in Mexico — how would I tell the medics what was wrong with me if I drove myself into the ground?
I started to walk, and while I knew I had time to walk the entire marathon if I wanted to, I didn’t want to. So I started my trot-jog.
Aid stations were situated by kilometer, so every .65-mile, and I took water in, took down a honey stinger gel, took some Pepto at the first stop. About 45 minutes in, I took a salt tab. I felt absolutely downright AWFUL for a bit after that — so nauseous. So I backed off the salt until a guy warned me about cramps. I think I averaged one salt tab/hour.
I chatted with some people while walking through aid stations, and ate some pretzels and Pepsi and Gatorade. At one point, I stopped fueling and just ate those because they tasted good. From miles six to 12, I ran a consistently slower (10 or 11-min) pace, walking at aid stations.
Adam THANKFULLY texted my coach, Lorie, despite cell costs and told her about my dizziness and nausea. She told him that I had to eat, no matter how badly I felt — and to aim for bananas and honey stingers. Once I started forcing down the food, I started feeling much better. I was sweating profusely — Cozumel had lived up to its rep for humidity — but I was OK.
At mile 20, I told my husband to head to the finish so I would have to get there. That’s about when met a girl named Lorena, and we would walk/run — mostly walk, because she was waiting for a friend. We chatted and walked. I only hit the port-a-potty ONCE, at mile 23, and only because she did, and I realized I should.
Looking back, I feel as though I might have run more if I hadn’t had someone to walk with. But in the moment, I was blissfully thankful to have her there, and I call her my run angel. When we got to mile 23 or so, I resigned myself to walking until mile 25.5. Could I run? Yes. But my legs were shaky and after five years of attempting this goal, I started to get paranoid that I would collapse and it wouldn’t happen.
So we walked. About a half-mile before the finish, Lorena said, “Girl, you need to run this in.” So I did.
As I came to the finish chute, I heard Adam yelling. I trotted — the blue-carpeted stage was all mine, with incoming athletes off in the distance — and I tried to soak it all in. I thought I would cry, but I really just let out tearful laughs. I raised my arms and pointed toward God in grateful thanks. I hardly remember my name being called — or even hearing, “Jessica Elliott, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” but I do remember thinking the medal was huge. They also handed me a sweet, handmade shell necklace that I love.

Total time: 14:43:13 — I finished, and now there’s room to improve.

The next morning, I woke up crying happy tears. I DID IT. It is done!! A five-year dream realized. Proof that persistence, determination and a little stubbornness goes a long way. Proof that I could do what others said I couldn’t.

Not only that, but all of this in a race that several high-number Ironman finishers told me was the hardest they had ever done. That the winds were even harder than the winds had been in Florida. I showed myself what I’m made of, and my true inner-mettle. And I’ll be back for more.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How To Burn Fat

No pain, no gain.  We've heard it all before right?  You must put in the time and the energy and all the huffing and puffing it takes in any workout to see results.  While this is true to a point, it's not completely accurate.

Before my first Ironman, I was directed by my coach, DeeAnn Smith of Gorilla Multisport, to have a VO2 Max test to establish my training zones.  I was new to the sport and had been wearing a heart rate monitor religiously.  However, the the only information I would gather from it was time, distance, and speed.  And instead of watching my own heart rate, I'd look at others wearing theirs and think to myself "Man, my heart rate is sure HIGH!"  Or, "It's higher than yours?" Or, "Why am I chugging along at 168 and he's at 142?"   

Things changed as DeeAnn gave me training zones from my test results that were dialed specifically to me.  Each zone was established for workouts geared for endurance or speed and the ability to finish my ultimate goal of an Ironman.  

It work.  Over and over, time and time again, for all the Ironman races I have completed, it worked.  I never fizzled out, or lost significant energy or speed as I raced.  I always finished strong.  So to this day, I preach the religion of getting a heart rate test to my own athletes at Sigma Human Performance.  A metabolic test is my first order of business with every new client.  

But questions have arisen from the doubters and skeptics.  Plenty of people finish an iron distance race without ever getting a test or knowing their zones or knowing much about carb/fat consumption.  Marathoners finish endurance races everyday and what's the percentage of them who have had a test?  And what about high intensity training that burns fat over several hours post workout?

So I turned to Ben Stone, founder of Sigma Human Performance and also, my boss.  Ben studied at Oxford for his graduate studies and has advanced degrees in Science and Medicine of Athletic Performance.  He knows his stuff.  

He agreed that the truth is, fat burning intensity occurs at a much lower intensity than many of us realize.  That brisk walk after dinner or working in the garden or recovery bike rides are supremely beneficial to our well being.  We don't need to go hard and red-faced for every workout if our goal is ultimately lose body fat (and whose isn't?).  We need to mix up our workouts with easy days and hard days, tapping into those fat burning zones that keep us lean and utilize our fat stores (endless) and allow our bodies to work efficiently. 

But what about calories?  Like in spin class where if you pedal faster the calorie count jumps up to 600 on your heart rate monitor.  Isn't it easy to assume the higher the intensity the more weight you can lose?   Sadly, not all calories are equal and if you're jumping into the anaerobic zones during your workout, you're actually burning sugars and carbs, not fats.  This in turn makes you want more carbs and sugars -- explaining why you are FAMISHED after a workout.  And never losing any weight. 

And lastly, what about high intensity training, quick bursts of intervals and short hard workouts?  "High intensity exercise does actually burn fat post exercise by increasing what's know as EPOC or Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption.  This additional burst of O2 for as much as five hours after exercise can burn lots of fast at rest, " says Ben.  "However, the exercise intensities at which this is conducted, will, over time, create a scenario for significant carb dependency, which makes it much more difficult to burn fat over time.  In short HIIT will work very well....for awhile.  Then the plateau sets in which is a product of the constant exposure to HIIT which changes internal metabolics (creates carb dependency) this making weight loss much more difficult.

To all those marathoners who are actually gaining weight during their training, or cyclists who want their body to work for them and not the other way around, or any struggling athletes who are looking to unravel the mysteries behind what makes their body tick, I say, get a heart rate test today.  Soccer players, in-line skaters, firemen and beginner triathletes have all been tested at the Sigma Human Performance Laboratories.  Sigma has testing facilities in Scottsdale and Vail, Colorado and are scheduling appointments daily.  If you'd like to take guesswork out of training and achieve the maximum results you can from your body make-up, give me a call today. I can help make all your dreams come true ;)!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today Is The Day

My last 72 hours have gone like this:

Friday afternoon I met a girlfriend and her husband for lunch to discuss the treatment she is receiving for breast cancer.   She is in her second round of chemotherapy.  She has lost her hair but not her spirit.  She is fighting an exhausting battle and continues to try and work between doctor's appointments and hospital stays.  Some days are great and some days she can't get out of bed due to fatigue and exhaustion.

Sunday morning I dropped my father-in-law who has Alzheimer's off at his assisted living facility after church.  I walked him into the dining hall and sat him down with the other patients who live at the center.  They were all eating quietly with bibs around their necks, slowly, methodically spooning their meals into their mouths.  It was so somber and heartbreaking to me.  

Then Sunday afternoon I took a meal into another friend's home who has just had a double mastectomy.  She is a carrier of the same breast cancer gene that took her mother's life.  She can't lift anything for the next six weeks, including her three children, ages 4, 2 and six months.  She is a single mother relying on the kindness of family to get her through this difficult time.  Bedridden, she just wanted to talk and so that's exactly what we did. 

As I left her house I had the overwhelming desire to yell from the rooftops, or the write from the blogtops:  Get outside!  Go and do!  Try something new and LIVE!

If you have a dream to run a marathon, start today.  If you thought cycling might be fun, go buy the best bike you can afford.  Schedule a time at a driving range.  Attend your first yoga class.  Join a tai chi group.  Because whether life is short, or life is long, today you can do it.  Tomorrow, who knows?  

Exercise induced endorphins are real.  There's a high from letting your skin feel the rush of wind as you crest a climb on a bike and start a downward descent.  Runner's high is real.  And if you've never seen a sunrise through your goggles while swimming backstroke with your face toward the sky, you're really missing something.   The thwack of hitting a golf ball accurately and watching it soar is fun.  Same with smacking a tennis ball right in the center of a racket.  And the view from the top of a mountain after a grueling hike is better than anything you can imagine.  

Choose your sport and go for it.  Get outside and see the sunset or the sunrise.  Smell the scents of fresh cut grass or orange blossoms that only linger during certain times of the day.  Run through a sprinkler when you're hot to cool your body.  Dive off a cliff and let that exhiliration make your heart beat faster.  

The days are long but years are short.  Make your dream a reality.  Time is a funny and precious thing.  We take it for granted while it is ahead of us.  And treasure it when it's behind us.  

It's time to _______________________. (YOU fill in the blank)  Let your heart decide what your next move is.  But don't wait too long.  You've really only got today.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

One Year No DIet Soda

One year ago this week I gave up diet soda.  No more Sonic runs for the happy hour extra large Diet Coke.  No more Polar Ice styrofoam with the "good" ice filled with my favorite fizzy beverage, Coke Zero.  I left my old habits behind and went cold turkey out into the world without a cold, sweet drink to keep me company.

I can't say I don't ever look at a tall glass of Coke and feel the crave.  Sometimes it seems that that opening snap and the fizz of a bubbling can of soda is practically whispering "Drink Me!" like Alice in Wonderland. But 52 weeks in, I have resisted the urge and can proudly call myself Diet Coke Free.

So how did I do it?  I have a few go-tos that I cannot live without:


Also lovingly referred to as my adult sippy cup, I filled this tall tumbler throughout the day with icy cold water and refilled whenever it was empty.  The glorious thing about this cup is it's insulation keeps the liquid cold and the mug doesn't sweat.  I could keep some ice water in it in my car in August and I would still find a chilled beverage way after I thought it would have melted.  There are generic versions of this cup and you can actually get them in bulk on Amazon.  But Starbucks cups are pretty and that seemed to add to my desire to carry water around with me.

This water isn't for everybody.  My kids and family don't love it.  Which is fine for me because I DO!  Hint is just as it's name suggests, pure water with a hint of natural flavors, like blackberry or watermelon.  I think they are tasty and give my water a little boost of flavor when I need it.  It keeps water interesting.

There's a new restaurant in town called Flower Child, which I love.  The food is light and healthy, the atmosphere is breezy and fun.  And the lineup of tasty beverages is great!  I love the lemonades with mint or pomegrante; the restaurant serves six or seven varieties of teas and lemonades each day.   Without that craving for carbonation, my new indulgence is these sweet mixed drinks with no caffeine or carbonation or chemicals.  They may have a few more calories that a diet soda, but I think I'm swapping something not-so-good for something better.  And I have not seen any weight gain this past year.  If anything, possible weight loss.


Yes, I still drink caffeine.  Maybe someday I will give that up too.  But for now,  I confess, I use Crystal Light with caffeine to boost my beverages with a little energy.  It's a little kick start in the mid- morning or afternoon that keeps me happy and alert.  I find that when I do add Crystal Light to my drinks I am much more aware of the caffeine dosage I am taking throughout the day, instead of just sipping on diet soda ALL DAY LONG.  Maybe I'm justifying,  who knows, but a little caffeine is better than a lot, right?

So that's how I did it.  And if I can do it, you can too.  Don't be a slave to a Sonic run.  Drink water.  Keep it by your bedside table.  Take a big swig in the morning and keep a tumbler near by with ice, cold pure agua.  It's good for you.  You'll never regret being a water drinker.  Your skin, your hair, and your waistline will thank you.  And then you can thank me...wink!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Donkey Label: Trusted Steed Without The Ego

The perks of working in a bike shop are many.  But one of my favorites is product testing.  I recently was given Donkey Label Women's Specific Chamois Cream.  And I have to say: two thumbs up.  The cream kept my under carriage quite comfortable and chafe-free while I rode.

I am a fan of chamois creams and use them faithfully.  I thought I'd never find anything better than Assos or DZ's Nuts.  But this balm blows all others out of the water.  It's just delightful.  And it is 100 percent organic so you can practically eat the stuff...if you wanted to.  Personally I  chose to use it on my most important lady parts.  I love the scent, the essential oils and the texture of this Donkey Label products.  It's a great find for all cyclists.  

So just when I was ready to actually buy my second tub of balm, I noticed something new on our shelves:  Recovery Oil.  Now that sounded fabulous! I bought a bottle and used it this weekend.

Can you say WINNER WINNER (chicken dinner)?  I loved this product even MORE than the balm.  The oils in this concoction were superb and helped cool and alleviate my sensitive skin issues post ride.  I'd buy this stuff in gallons if I could.

It just makes sense that you should take care of your important parts AFTER a ride as well as DURING a ride.  I am a believer, Donkey Label!  Your balms, your oils, your clothing -- all high quality, made in America, and excellent quality.  I can't get enough pairs of your socks, which outsell any other brand on our shelves 10 to one.

Donkey Label is where it's at.  Become a believer and bask in their superior products and down-to-earth vibe. Because we're all just trusted steeds trying to keep up with those racehorses, right?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Few Good Things

by Cameron Diaz
I hope these past weeks have been filled with things like sand between your toes, sunsets, mint lemonade, and ice cold watermelon.  Our family has been surviving the heat by leaving the hot oven known as Arizona, for cooler temps in California and the beautiful mountains of Park City, Utah.  

During my travels, I have discovered some treasures and tips I thought I'd pass along to you!

1.  The Body Book by Cameron Diaz
If you judge a book by a cover, you'd give this book a 10.  But there's so much more to this read than the model shot of the nearly naked Cameron Diaz on it's cover.  This book has so much great information on nutrition, health and how to take care of one's body.  What I like about this book, is that Diaz confesses that despite being thin her entire life, she was not always the model of healthy living.  She was a drive-thru junkie and ate fast-food daily.  When she did change her nutrition, her skin began to glow and her overall well-being improved.  She writes like she was talking to you as a friend.  It's important to be strong, to eat a variety and fruits and vegetables, to drink lots of water, and to get those endorphins that come from exercise and sweat!  Kudos, Cameron, your book is spot on!

2.  Knowledge: Nutritionist versus Licensed Dietician
As an associate coach at Sigma Human Performance, I am able provide coaching packages that include personalized training plans that can be paired with nutritional food plans.  Katie Rhodes is on staff at Sigma as the Licensed Dietician.  Katie recently explained to our staff that she IS NOT a nutritionist, and we should not confuse the two.  While Licensed Dieticians have a degree from a university, anyone who is interested or has looked into nutrition can call themselves a nutritionist.   If you want solid advice from a credentialed authority, you should consult the expertise from a LD, not someone who likes recipes and shares tips and
ideas which may or may not be accurate.  Good to know, Katie, and thanks for clearing that up.

3.  Small Town Races
Spudman fun, it's a tradition 

Over the past month, I've participated in three races that were set in small town locations.  First, the American Fork Half Marathon, which winds through AF Canyon and finishes at the local high school. This race was absolutely beautiful with the canyon as it's backdrop.  The weather was perfect and they offered Kneader's french toast at the finish line!  Delicious.  

Second, was the Deseret News Half Marathon.  While not quite so small town, this race followed a course down a canyon and through a parade route for the state's Pioneer Day festivities.  I love a parade!   It was nice to finish in a big tree-lined park with Utah Creamies (another state treasure) at the finish line.  Utah in the summer is devine.

And finally, the Spudman Triathlon in Burley, Idaho.  The thing about this race is it is all about family, friends and fun.  Those triathletes with TT bikes and aero helmets are out of place here.  This is a perfect race for first timers, or those with a fear of swimming.  A current in the river allows for non-swimmers to float on their back to T1 and still get out of the water in about 35 minutes.  

The local Lions Club has hosted this race for 28 years.  Everyone gets a Idaho spud in their swag bags as well as at the pre-race meal.  The course travels through bucolic farmlands with neighbors aiming their hose and sprinklers onto the streets for a little cool refreshment.  An occasional buzz from the crop dusters above is the only sound you'll hear on this quiet, happy course.  I'm sure most of the entrants would never stop in Burley, Idaho.  But this town should be proud of the event they host.  They do it right and I'm sure most entrants plan a yearly trek to this small town just for this race.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gliding Versus Extension

by Sheila Taormina

In freestyle swimming, gliding is holding your leading arm out in front of your body for too long. Gliding makes you slower (see this post The Swimming Equation). Some swimmers, particularly triathletes, glide simply because it feels easier, but when you glide, you are missing the opportunity to take more strokes that will propel you forward faster. Gliding feels easier because it’s slower, just like soft-pedaling your bike or walking up a hill instead of running. Both are easier, both are much slower than racing.

So “How long is too long to hold your arm out in front?” When does arm extension become gliding?

During her career as a Olympic swimmer and world cup triathlete, Sheila Taormina reviewed archival video of the world’s top swimmers to analyze their swimming technique, stroke counts, and stroke rates. What she found makes answering this reader simple:

Extension becomes gliding at 1.7 seconds or longer.

Many gliders have stroke rates of 2 to 3 seconds per arm cycle. Since they are taking fewer strokes to cross the pool, these swimmers have low stroke counts, but they are also taking a lot longer to do it. (In this post, Sheila explains The Swimming Equation, showing why gliding slows swimmers down.)

In Chapter 7 of Swim Speed Secrets, Sheila includes a table that shows the stroke rates of the world’s fastest swimmers. Top swimmers swim with a stroke rate between 1.15 and 1.6 seconds. Any longer is gliding instead of swimming fast. The most common stroke rate among top swimmers is 1.3-1.4 seconds per cycle.

This may sound like a quicker cadence than you’d expect. When watching the summer Olympics, for example, some of the big guys look like they are hardly moving their arms as they set new world records. Even the elites who extend the most, like Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe, simply appear as if they are moving their arms slowly. If you got a stopwatch and counted the time from one arm’s entry to its re-entry, you’d find that Phelps and Thorpe have stroke rates of 1.5-1.6 seconds per full arm cycle. Female elites swim on the faster end of the range. Sprinters in the 50m and 100m distances stroke even faster, between 1 and 1.2 seconds per cycle.

How to Time Your Freestyle Swimming Stroke Rate Swimming CadenceAre you a glider? Here’s a simple test to find your stroke rate:

Get a friend, a stopwatch, a clipboard, paper, pencil, and head to the pool.
Warm up.
Swim a series of 100s at your goal race pace.
During these, your friend should time one full arm cycle. That is, start the stopwatch as soon as your leading arm hits the water and then stop it when that same arm hits the water surface in front of you again. (It doesn’t matter which arm.)
Your friendly assistant should time your stroke several times during each 100. She should also occasionally time two full cycles (right arm then left arm) and divide that time by two to minimize error from reaction time.
Now you have some data! Review the stroke rates your friend wrote down. You should now know your current stroke rate. If your rate is over 1.6 seconds, then you are presented with a wonderful opportunity: speed up your cadence and you’ll instantly swim faster!

Turning TV Time into Tube Time

Reader Beth, who has been writing about her progress with the Swim Speed Workouts program through comments on the Test Team reports, makes an excellent suggestion for comparing your stroke rate to the pros: Watch them race on TV or via online video and move your arms along. If their stroke rate feels fast, you probably need to speed up your arm cycles. You can also turn tube time into Tube Time: get your swim tubing and do a tubing set that matches the cadence of the pros on screen.

Swim Speed Workouts includes drills and speed sets designed to improve your stroke rate. If you own the book already, take a look at the green toolkit cards for a discussion of stroke rate and the swimming equation. Workout 5-1 includes sets that help swimmers find that perfect middle ground of short, powerful strokes and proper arm extension.

For a complete discussion of freestyle stroke count and stroke rate, take a look at Swim Speed Secrets.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bike Haus MTB Night ride

Definitely miss this.  Cool place to work.  Cool people to be around.  Even though I broke my clavicle on this ride in April, I'll be back doing it again next year with flare!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

American Fork Canyon Half Marathon

This what where we were last weekend.  My daughter Abby ran her first half marathon and I was right behind her!  This was a beautiful course, a well-organized event and a spectacularly beautiful day to run 13.1 miles.  What a great job organizers did for this event -- with 100 percent of proceeds going to cancer research in Utah county.   Awesome!  Can't wait to do this one again next year.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ruby Red Slippers

These cycling shoes have captured my heart.  If you're going to spend over $400 on shoes, they might as well make a statement.  These shoes do just that.  Specialized S-Works Limited Edition Red Shoes. Selling out around the world -- with a few styles still available at Bicycle Haus in Scottsdale.  Absolutely dreamy.....

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The FIRST Running Retreat May 2014

Greenville, South Carolina  home of cyclist George Hincapie, BMW North America, and Furman University, where doctors Pierce, Moss and Muir teach and preach running for life.  These men have perfected the ideal way to be faster on your feet as explained in their book,  Run Less Run Faster.  The book has sold well over 100,000 copies and a second edition was printed in 2011.  It's been my running bible and go-to book the past five years.  I use the track workouts and marathon training plans religiously.  

There is a small blurb in the book about the Furman FIRST Running Retreat that the authors host annually.  When I heard about the retreat, I knew I needed to go.  So off to Greenville, I went.  With two friends in tow.  And let me tell you, Greenville is amazing.  It's the type of place you want to raise a family.  It's straight out of a movie where kids climb trees and play in the river and maybe even find a dead body.  You did see Stand By Me, right? 

Football is King, even 
Over the next three days we met at mingled and picked the brains of these three amazing men:  Bill Pierce, the writer,  Scott Muir, the triathlete, and Ray Moss, the practical scientist.  We had three packed days of lectures, flexibility and strength skills, track workouts, cross training, trail running, gait analysis, nutrition analyzation, lactate threshold testing, delicious FOOD and friendly conversation.  And along the way, I gained new friendships with the other 13 participants from around the world.

The view from Paris Mountain.  We had dinner up here on our last night.

The gang, minus me.  
And what I learned during this long weekend, was that each of us had a passion for running that brought us to the retreat.  But our individual stories were unique and interesting and all our own.  In this solitary sport called running, we came together as strangers, but left as friends.  We all left Furman stronger mentally, physically and emotionally.  Our quest to be better was accomplished.

Driving down the mall of Furman University

Stretching our calves outside Bill's office 

An amazingly green and lush campus
Thank you for your Southern Hospitality Ray, Bill and Scott.  You retreat was an amazing experience. But thank you also to James, Alan, Robert, Brian, Steve, Luis, Luis, Paulina, Rose, Traci, Katharine and Signe.  The common bond of running brought us together.  But your individual stories of grit, determination and the desire to better yourselves unite us as friends for a lifetime.

I can't wait to return, Greenville.  See you VERY soon.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Practicing Patience And A Mother's Day Gift Idea

Three weeks post injury and here I am.

THIS is me.  No significant bone growth and perhaps WORSE after three weeks in a sling.   Apparently I am "moving" too much.  What a surprise.  In three weeks I'll return to my orthopedic surgeon for another X-ray and another update.  

In the meantime -- no running, no cycling, no swimming,  no....walking!  (I guess my doctor saw me walking too briskly with the neighborhood ladies).  And so I wait.   And practice patience.  

Patience.  What an underrated virtue.  A virtue I need to acquire.  I'm waking up in the morning with time on my hands.  Coaching on deck at the pool and just dying to jump in.  I want to stretch my arms far above my head as I dive in and reach my hands in front of me to find the solid water and push my body past it in beautiful, effortless strokes.  

Instead I scroll through Instagram double tapping as my friends cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon and the Whiskey 50 mountain bike race.  I "like" it when my pals post artsy photos of them trail running in the canyon or hiking to some unbelievable summit.  

But in the grand scheme of things, this is a blip on the radar.  Sometimes setbacks give you the umph you need to reaffirm your passion.  I'm coming back, better and stronger and more determined to be my best self.  

Segway that into another book recommendation.  

You know I am a fan of reading and this break has done wonders to renew that love.   If you are a mother, are married to a mother, have a mother or want to be a mother, THIS book is worth purchasing for that special woman in your life.  With Mother's Day around the corner, I'd suggest buying in bulk for gifts for every mother you love.  It's a motivator, a guidance counselor and a hug to moms of all walks of life.  My dear friend Janeen Wright is a contributor to this excellent little book of wisdom.  I applaud her and all the moms who shared their stories.   It will sit on my bedside for years to come, so I can reach for it if I am ever feeling inadequate or overwhelmed.  

Patience, now, while I read another chapter.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Painful Post

I got a little boo boo two weeks ago.

While this is not MY xray, it does show you what a broken clavicle looks like, which is exactly what happened to me on the Bicycle Haus night mountain bike ride on April 2.

Without going into painful detail, let's just say I (nearly 50) should maybe not try and ride as fast as the balls-to-the-wall boys half my age.  Also, it is a great idea for me to ride BEHIND said boys, not in the middle of the pack.  The BH boys are nice and they WILL wait for me at the appointed no-drop stops.  Bringing up the rear is my new mantra.  Why have the pressure of trying to keep up with the front and not slow down the back of the pack?  With age comes wisdom.  Another good mantra.  

Anyway, ouch.  I am 2.5 weeks out from the trip to the ER and I'm still in constant  pain.  Surgery, at this point, is not required due to the clean "non-displaced" break.  What IS required is 12 weeks of healing.  No swim.  No bike.  No run.  So I have, temporarily, embraced.... walking!  

Part of being on the mend is the absolute necessity to slow down and let things heal.  Big jarring movements are not okay.  Walking with the neighborhood ladies has been refreshing therapy for me lately.  And I also have a little more time to embrace my first love:  books.  

Figuring that you read this blog to motivate yourself to dream big and plan goals outside your comfort level, I give you THIS manual of just how to steer yourself in that direction.  The Promise of a Pencil is a inspirational story of Adam Braun, who has now build over 250 schools in developing nations around the globe.  Braun's story is a remarkable journey of how he saw a need, made a goal, formulated a plan and achieved a dream.  I LOVED it.  

If you're looking for a jump-starter read to get you motivated to conquer your biggest challenge or goal in life, I suggest you read his book ASAP.  

And now, off for a walky.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My New Gig

It is with GREAT excitement that I announce I am joining the team at Sigma Human Performance Coaching Systems in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Sigma is a national coaching company with offices in Vail, Colorado as well as Scottsdale.  With this new partnership, I can provide great services to YOU, including on-site metabolic testing at our OWN lab in AZ, and the expert knowledge of a certified nutritionist on board our team.    New clients can choose from coaching systems that run from $199/month to $399/month.

Gorilla Multisport has been my baby for three years and I would not leave this behind unless I knew that this move would be better for everyone involved.  Now I am  surrounding my clients with the best in the business.  Sigma founder, Ben Stone, is recognized on a world-wide level as an expert in his field of Science and Medicine of Athletic Performance.  His degree is from Oxford, University and he is highly respected in the world of endurance cyclists, swimmers, runners and triathletes.  It will be great to get his feedback on YOUR training plans.  I feel very lucky to be a part of his team.

On another note, if you have not had a Metabolic Test to establish your heart rate training zones, I would suggest taking the time to head to Sigma Scottsdale for a $249 test.  This will give you a more concise look at where you should train to perform optimally, and where to train to burn the most fat.  Let me know if you want to arrange to have that done.  It is well worth the money if you want to improve your performance in any athletic endeavor.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Misadventures of Mrs. Magoo

Oceanside 70.3 was this weekend.  My race was a comedy of errors, but despite my excuses (blah, blah, blah) I was excited and ready to rock the day.  

The morning was perfect to run bike and swim and break all kinds of records -- a typical amazing Southern California day.  As the air gun signaled the swim start for participants in Wave 14, I dove my head into the Pacific.  It was cold, but...

 I felt strong. I was going to conquer this 1.2 miles.

Until that last half mile....

Out of the water in a decent time, I jumped on my bike and took off toward the cycling portion of the race.  Immediately, I could tell something was wrong with my bike.   I literally sat still as the next 300 or so cyclists passed me by. 


I felt just like Mr. Magoo.  I couldn't see what was wrong.  I was clogging up traffic.  Why was I barely moving?

It was at this moment I had to make a decision.  I was WAY behind my competitors.  Should I stop, DNF, call the SAG wagon and jump in?  Or do what my daughter and every gymnast does every time they fall -- get up and finish what they started.

I decided to be like Rach. 

 I got off my bike, saw the problem (a rubbing front brake), adjusted it and took off.  

Suddenly things changed....
And I made the most of the next 40 miles.  

T2 went fine except, you know...

But I was expecting that.  

I tried my regain some ground on the run.  Oceanside is deceptively hilly.  

It also meanders up and down the boardwalk of the beautiful beaches.  Just over 13 miles later, I crossed the finish line.  Whew. 

It was the racers, the spectators and those determined gymnasts that buoyed me up and helped me cross the finish line smiling and happy. 

After it was all over, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. 

Retiring seemed like an excellent option.

However, I have some

I'll see you again, Oceanside.  Ready to rumble and prepared with a tuned up bike and no lame excuses.  So glad I get to do this.

But first, I need a massage.  I feel a bit like

Friday, March 21, 2014

Three Good Finds

Race season is right around the corner, and with that comes the return to race food, aka, Gus, packaged drink mixes, nutrition bars and all that good stuff.

In recent weeks I have found a few things that are working for me.  Here are a few of my favorites:

1.   Salted Caramel Gu
Yum is all I have to say about this GU.  And when has anyone ever said that about GU?  This energy gel is sweet with a hint of salt, one of my favorite combinations.  I took this gel on mile six of my long run this weekend and I was happy to take another one at mile 11.  The flavor tastes too good to be true.  I am sold. Easy energy in a convenient 100 calorie package.  Time to start buying these in bulk.

2.  Skratch Labs Apple Cinnamon Energy Hydration Drink Mix

 Another great find is this drink mix by Skratch Labs!  I initially started using the apple-cinnamon mix this winter, when I wanted a warm drink to fuel with, instead of a cold.  The boys at Bicycle Haus recommended this drink, and I have been a fan ever since.  Now that it's hit 80 when I ride, I can still use this drink for my extended Saturday rides.  And a secret trick but sort of a no-no, is I gulped a swig of my apple-cinnamon drink and then downed a salted caramel GU and the result: carmeled apple taste sensation in my mouth!  Lucky me!

3.  The Feed Zone
This cookbook has recipes for both "portable food" (bite sized portions you can package and take with you on a ride) or table dining.  What do I mean?  The author, Allen Lim, spent a few years as chef for a Tour de France cycling team.  He began experimenting with using REAL food for his cyclists while they were riding-- think rice cakes and homemade energy bars.

An exert from his book:  When Dr. Allen Lim left the lab to work with professional cyclists, he found a peloton weary of eating. For years the sport's elite athletes had been underperforming on bland fare and processed bars and gels. Science held few easy answers for nutrition in the real world, where hungry athletes must buy ingredients; make meals; and enjoy eating before, during, and after each workout, day after day.

So Lim set out to make eating delicious and practical. His journey began with his mom, took him inside the kitchens of the Tour de France, and delivered him to a dinner party where he met celebrated chef Biju Thomas.

Chef Biju and Dr. Lim vetted countless meals with the world's best endurance athletes in the most demanding test kitchens. In The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes, Thomas and Lim share their energy-packed, wholesome recipes to make meals easy to prepare, delicious to eat, and better for performance.

The Feed Zone Cookbook provides 150 delicious recipes that even the busiest athletes can prepare in less time than it takes to warm up for a workout. With simple recipes requiring just a handful of ingredients, Biju and Lim show how easy it is for athletes to prepare their own food, whether at home or on the go.

I bought this book and have been trying the recipes daily.  I like that there are no exotic ingredients needed.  The recipes are easy and basic and, delicious.  Packaged foods are easy, but these recipes are more delicious than the alternative and keep me topped off when I am hungry or fatigued.  Way to go, Skratch Labs!

Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True