Follow Your Bliss

Like many people, I’ve been watching the Olympics this week.
As always, I find myself enthralled by the swimming and cycling events.

Is it because I am a triathlete and these are “my” sports?
I think not.
Although, I will watch the marathon, but no other running sports.

I have watched cycling and swimming events for as long as I can remember.

As I cheered for Taylor Phinney this week, I thought about how I had watched his parents, especially, his Mom, compete in 1984.

 

 

 

 

I never told anyone, but I wanted to be Connie Carpenter.
I followed her races, bought Bicycle Magazine, and browsed what today we call “Bike Porn”

Funny thing is, I didn’t even own a bike!
But you gotta admit this one is “pretty”

Today, a mere 28 years later, I find myself happier than I have been in “I don’t know how long.”

I even own 2, count em’ 2 bikes.

Swimming, biking, and yes….running!

Becoming….
NO…
not Connie Carpenter competing in the Olympics

Of course not…

But, the person I always knew I was supposed to be.

Why I <3 Exercise

So many people don’t get the appeal of a good, hard workout. They don’t understand the endorphin rush, the sense of accomplishment in looking in the mirror post-workout to see the “hot mess” that you are, or the satisfaction of utter physical exhaustion. I get it. It takes time. Takes putting your mind and body through all of the above quite a few times before you truly understand that these are gut wrenchingly beautiful moments. And maybe the sheer fact that not everyone “gets it” makes it all the more beautiful. It makes it something that is “yours” that no one else can duplicate.

And that my friend is why I love exercise. Because no matter who you are or what type of exercise you do, you get something almost magical out of it. Ok, maybe magical is a stretch – I know there is nothing magical about tight IT bands, black toenails and green chlorinated hair …………. Or is there? They do tend to show up completely out of nowhere!

Take my last week, for example. If you read last week’s blog  you would see that I was feeling completely stressed out. Not knowing which way to turn or what my next move was. Here I sit 10 days later with a body that is completely exhausted. Last week I taught 4 spin classes, trained with clients (I like to do the workouts alongside them. If I expect them to do it, I had better be able to, too) and did my own workouts, too. My body is completely exhausted, but my mind and emotions are completely revitalized and rejuvenated.

Body wants a nap … Mind says “Hello World! What ya got for me this week? Bring it on!!”

And that is all thanks to exercise! I dare ya, go kick your own ass on some workouts and feel the magic!

8,424 Hours

Recently, I won a free entry into the Leadman125K.

That 125K breaks down to  a 1.6 mile swim, 68 mile bike, and an 8 mile run.
It has me thinking…
How did I get here?

When I step into the water on March 31st, it will be 8,424 hours after the day when I dipped my toes into Lake Mead for my first ever
Sprint Triathlon.

8,424 Hours
or…
351 days
or…
11.5 months
or…
Just 14 days short of One Year.
better yet…
Just 2 years (or 16,848 hours) after I stepped into a gym as an overweight, out of shape 50 year old woman.

Did I step into that gym thinking about doing something like this?
You’ve got to be kidding…
I stepped into that gym almost anticipating defeat.
But I made a deal with myself.
Twice a week. Just 2 hours a week.
Surely I could do that.
For 4 months that was about the extent of it.
Then I added a spin class once a week.
Then I decided to run a 10K.
Then…another one.
Then..I bought a bike.
Then..Leadman 125.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, I’m looking at an event that could take me the entire 9 hours allowed.
Working out and being healthy has gone from…
Cuz’ I need to lose weight.
to…
Cuz’ this journey is just too much fun

Super Sunday

Two years ago, Super Bowl Sunday. I spent the day with my family, watching hours and hours of pre-game and the “Big Game” itself.
We had plenty of chips, dip and beer to last the entire event. I was seriously overweight and the best exercise I got most days was walking up a flight of stairs to my office.

Today…I’m still “under tall’. There’s still beer and and chips available, thou I won’t partake in as much of either. I still started the morning watching a little Mike and Mike pre-game.

The bigger difference?
I grabbed my bike and running shoes and headed to the lake.3 hours of Biking and 20 minutes of Running later, I jumped into the icy waters of Lake Mead for a quick cooling dip.

How did this happen?

I’m not quite sure, but I do know everyone has to find their own reasons, their own passions..but when you begin to believe….

Anything is possible

Post Race Plan

Two weeks ago I discussed key components for a race plan. So what happens afteryour race? Do you have a plan? As you build racing experience, your plan will become more apparent. This article will focus on a plan after you finish your first event.

You train for months – maybe years – for your peak event. Is it your first 5k, first marathon, first sprint or first Ironman distance triathlon? You followed your race plan outline, achieved your goal, celebrated. NOW WHAT?  If you don’t have a plan, eventually that “now what” feeling can break you mentally: lack of motivation to continue training.

If you are a newbie, what I have learned from my coaching experience, when you finish your first running or triathlon event, you will either love it or hate it. You will go home and sign up for your next event immediately or decide “been there, done that, what else can I do?” Either way, learn from your first experience, reflect on your training and decide what worked and what did not. Devise a training plan for your next event. Set some goals, will you train to go longer or faster?  I suggest you spend 1-3 years gaining experience with training and racing before you decide to go longer. If you finished your first race, celebrate your finish, and cross it off your bucket list.

If you are a first year IronDistance triathlon finisher, celebrate all you have accomplished and more, appreciate your ability to go the exteme distance and let your body and mind heal so you can enjoy your next event.  I think people get all caught up in finishing that Ironman, essentially putting all their physical and emotional eggs in that basket instead of being a triathlete. As a triathlete there is a rich diversity of  triathlon races to do, of varying distances and formats.  For too many I think, their whole world seems to revolve around the longer events like  ironman. The training takes so much of my time, you may feel at a loss of what to do when you  no longer put in the huge hours towards that goal therefore the lack of motivation

If you engage in common practices such as nutrition and hydration,  ice baths, massage, compression and sleep, you will speed up your recovery which leads to greater motivation to continue training and racing. With proper sleep and nutrition, the human body is truly amazing at repairing itself. If you can take a few days to help move the recovery process along after your event, you will get your body ready to train again sooner.

What you do with your training post event will depend on your race distance and your next goal. Sometimes I continue with my rigorous training schedule, while other times I schedule a period of time “off,” depending on the distance of my event or the time of year. Your plan depends on YOUR goals.

For many of us, it is good to have a period of unstructured training to use as a transition before beginning to prepare for the next event. Often my plan is active recovery. I like to keep moving by getting in the water, spinning on my bike on the flats in the easiest gear, and going for some walk/jogs with my dogs. No training devices like a heart rate monitor or GPS. I just go and enjoy the outdoors and moving my body.

Reflect and revise. Your results determine where you have been. Your goal will determine where you are going. After you re-establish your benchmarks and fitness assessments, you will know where you now stand. There always comes a point in our competitive lives when we wonder, “Will I ever achieve…?” For you that may be have been to complete a 5k or triathlon. Now that you’ve achieved your goal, maybe your want to get fitter, stronger, faster or go longer.

Fitness and sport should be a lifetime commitment. You have many options to continue building on your fitness each year. Stay focused. Set long-range goals with weekly and daily mini steps. Achieving your goal is about setting a long-range goal and then getting a coach or reading how to get there via the small steps.

It is totally normal after the event to have the blues and not know what to do without a new goal ahead. I have been racing for 20 years. I just stay focused on being an athlete. I have a passion to be active and fit, so my drive is fitness and doing what I enjoy. If training for another event is not something you enjoy, find out what is.

I would love to hear how you are doing and what your plans are. Please send me a message.

A Day In The Life

Sat:  Alarm goes off….(you slept in today)

Here’s a bit about one weekend day in the life of me…

I work a little bit.  Then by 6:30 I’ve got my lycra on (matching, of course), my hair pulled back, my heart rate monitor firmly pressed against my breast bone, and I’m eating as I put my cycling sox on.

6:55 am: I’m cycling to the pit stop where I’ll meet friends who i’ll be with for the next four hours.

7:45 am: We’re rolling.  It’s gorgeous outside, and the group is superb. I ride 1 hour longer than scheduled because of these conditions.

11:55: Off bike, into running shoes and grab a half frozen water bottle. (which thaws in 5 minutes). Like running in a pea-soup-95 degree-vacuum, with occasional blow-dryer gusts of 10 mph.

1:00: finish run – into cold shower. My face is on fire.

1:10: protein shake with copious amounts of blueberries and chia seeds.

1:15-2:30 – Drink ridiculous amounts of water while working.

3:00 – Interval swim workout. Shower at pool and get ready for Ben Harper summer concert at the Track.

4:30 – Grab burritos/tacos (all fresh ingredients!) en route to concert.

4:45 – eat one taco to stave off hunger pains.

Fall asleep standing up at Ben Harper concert (8:50 pm). Abort abort abort…

You don’t have to have a ridonkulous day like this to feel TOTALLY alive and awesome.

What does your weekend look like?

Learn From Pro Triathlete Meredith Kessler

Professional triathlete, Meredith Kessler, is someone who strives to acquire proficiency in more than just one field while living her philosophy of BALANCE in life. She enjoys coaching several athletes under the purplepatch umbrella while maintaining a rigorous daily training schedule as an elite Ironman triathlete.

Meredith grew up in Columbus, Ohio where she was a 4-sport athlete and was inducted into her high school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Meredith went on to receive a Division I athletic scholarship at Syracuse University where she participated in field hockey and track. After graduation in 2000, she used her graduation money to purchase her first triathlon bike and entered in a full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) 2 weeks later.

She sat down with GOTRIbal and offered up some poignant advice for women wanting to live the active, endurance sports lifestyle.

GOTRIbal: You were a 4-sport athlete growing up, even winning a scholarship to Syracuse where you participated in track and field hockey.  How did you make the transition to multisport?

Meredith: I was fortunate to find triathlon shortly after graduating from college in 2000. In addition to playing team sports the majority of my youth, I also grew up running and swimming and I thought I would give riding a bike a whirl. I decided to use my college graduation money to buy my first TT bike and I entered my first triathlon, an ironman distance, 2 weeks later!  It’s been over a decade later and I am still enjoying the ironman journey.

 

How do you encourage others who don’t have your athletic background to consider enjoying the lifestyle of a multisport athlete?

Meredith: This is a fantastic question! I did not have the goal of ‘going pro’ when I initially started triathlons as I didn’t think it was a possibility at the time due to life, work, time etc. I think since I have been active and enjoyed playing sports my entire life, I wanted to embrace another outlet after college and to continue this way of life seemed optimal.

You start out this sport just wanting to finish the race which is a huge accomplishment in itself. You then graduate to trying to podium in your age group and then win the entire amateur level. Once you plateau at each stage, you understandably strive for more. You don’t have to compete at an elite level to enjoy all of the positive aspects of triathlon. The benefits of getting involved will help any individual their entire life. These include friendships with like-minded individuals, discipline, work ethic, learning how to get in shape, proper nutrition and hydration, etc…The list goes on and on; in San Francisco, it is the ‘new golf’ meaning it is the way people socialize, do business, get some exercise, and enjoy their day. The triathlon races are growing immensely in popularity and you see all different kinds of abilities, body types, and ages so there is a tremendous push into the sport. It has been amazing to watch the growth even in the short 3 years I have been a professional and it will only continue to grow. The short answer is to have someone who is on the fence (about racing triathlon) go to a race so they can witness firsthand people just like them involved in the sport. This is all the motivation they will need. Specifically, watch the finish line of an Ironman from 10pm-midnight. Those moments provide the most profound and rewarding memories of the sport.

 

What specific challenges might a non-multisport (or person with little formal athletic background) have in taking up the sport, and what 2 or 3 things can you offer that will help them get started?

Meredith: As with any sport, you need to get the proper training which will help you achieve your goals. The mistake most individuals make, athletic or non athletic, is that they do not learn the proper mechanics when taking up a new sport. In reality, a good athlete has more trouble with this because, since they have succeeded in the past, they feel that they can master any sport they try. It took me 8 years of mediocre performance to break down and   hire my current coach, Matt Dixon, which made a world of difference. If you go back to the golf analogy, individuals who do not start out with the proper mechanics, equipment, technique, and knowledge will have a miserable time on the course and will not improve.

During my childhood, there weren’t any youth triathlon programs so individuals may not have grown up knowing the sport like baseball or basketball. Everyone is in the same boat when they pick up triathlon so they need to bite the bullet and hire a coach, join a triathlon community where you can train with others for that extra motivation, read books, learn from mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to achieve their goals.

The idea of “balance” is a constant in the life of any multisport athlete; for students, career professionals and mothers who work in and out of the home. What’s one way we can think of this differently and throw out the “balance”-idea and still feel fulfilled (without feeling guilty!)?

Meredith (on right) with friend on a bike ride.

Meredith:  Balance is an interesting word that is often used too freely in today’s society. In reality, we all understandably say that we strive to be balanced as that is the ultimate goal for every busy person in life. An individual starting a new company has to put in the time and effort or it may not succeed. If they try to find true ‘balance’ with all of the directions that life pulls you in, the business may fail. The same thing is true with being a multisport athlete. If you do not put in the work, you may not succeed so you have to be conscience of what you can and cannot do. I believe that people need to take a bird’s eye view of their lives and make the decision in that moment of what they can handle and what they may need to omit in order to semi emulate that goal of balance in order to also achieve and keep HAPPINESS.

I have seen amateurs & pros overly consumed with the sport to the point where relationships and families are affected and this is not healthy in any capacity. If you are starting a new business and you have no time for your kids and family, something has to give or change. There are enough hours in the day to succeed in this sport, have a job, and have time for friends and family. I feel like I have a little more color on this topic since I experienced it first hand when I worked 55+ hour weeks at RBC Capital Markets along with training for triathlon while making it a priority to maintain my relationships and social obligations with friends and family which ultimately comes before triathlon. You will be surprised the amount you can get done during the course of a day without disrupting your life.

 

What nutritional strategies have evolved for you as you’ve gotten older in the sport?

Meredith: I would say the most difficult thing about my training is pairing it with nutrition and hydration. We often forget that triathlon actually has 4+ major components: Swim, Bike, Run + Nutrition/Hydration. In triathlon, if you do not have what you put in your body in conjunction with your training, you will be underachieving. Life is fast paced and you have to be conscience to set aside time to properly eat and drink or you will suffer in your training and race performance. I majored in nutrition in college and I truly

believe in variety and moderation when it comes to nutrition. However, it takes enormous effort to remember to drink and eat properly when you are on the go in our hectic society. One of my mottos is to keep things simple the week before the race and race day. That said, with nutrition and hydration, I have learned to take meticulous notes as to what I have consumed and what I need to consume on race day. I learned the hard way at Ironman St. George in 2011 that not being properly prepared with your nutrition can end your day prematurely – I passed out cold on mile 22 because of lack of electrolytes. I can safely say that I really had no nutritional strategies during races in my amateur years. Now, through trial and error, I have developed a system that provides me with the nutrition I need while allowing me to achieve peak output.

One instrumental tip I have learned that everyone should thing about: Practice your nutrition and hydration in training WELL before race day and NEVER try something new race week or during a race. Research what works for your body, how much liquid you need to intake, and what to eat the night and week before the race. Follow the weather to determine the heat and adjust your hydration and electrolyte needs based on this information. There is a way to do this without being too anal or overanalyzing! Keep it simple but remember that these little things make the big things happen. Do not learn the hard way that your nutrition/hydration was not up to par because you don’t want all of your hard work to end up with a DNF during the race.

 

How do you and your husband share this lifestyle?

Meredith: I am so fortunate that my husband, Aaron, is my #1 supporter at races in addition to being CFO of Meredith Kessler Inc. so we are quite intertwined with the lifestyle which I am so thankful for every day. It helps for multisport athletes to have support at their races because there is a lot to prepare and you might not be coherent at the end of the event. We have developed an efficient system together leading up to the race to hopefully put me in a position to perform at my best. Once again, it has been a lot of trial and error but we now know how to prepare for a race in a comfortable environment. On regular weeknights, we can prepare healthy meals, drink a little wine, and watch our favorite shows after he gets home from work and I have finished teaching my cycling classes or whatnot.

GOTRIbal Interviews Janelle Hansberger

On September 25, 2011, a group of five ladies crossed the finish line of the Ramblin’ Rose Sprint Triathlon in Charlotte, North Carolina. The mini-team looked like a weekend girls’ trip, a gaggle of good-looking ladies leaping into a 250 yard swim, 9 mile bike, and 2 mile run.

In the middle of the group was a svelte blonde woman with a prosthetic running leg. The woman is Janelle Hansberger. And Janelle is ridiculous.

By ridiculous, I mean that Janelle is ridiculously smart, talented, and inspiring. The first time I met her, I wanted to pinch her and see if she was made of magic fairy dust. I have never met anyone like her.

Only a year ago, Janelle lost her leg below the knee. A typically deadly bacteria infection called necrotizing fasciitis had taken root in Janelle, and she began to suffer extreme complications, including sepsis and organ failure. Within a few days, her left leg was amputated below the knee.

The limb loss was a tragedy. But the tragedy saved her life.

At the time of her illness, Janelle’s marriage was on the rocks and divorce was inevitable.  A month later, she found herself juggling single motherhood on one leg. The limb loss – an obviously poignant symbol of the failed marriage.

Janelle was a runner prior to her amputation, but decided that swim and cycling might also be fun. After her recovery, an amputee friend introduced her to the founder of The Getting2Tri Foundation, Mike Lenhart.  The Getting2Tri Foundation is an organization that focuses on providing coaching and support to disabled, including amputee, athletes in the sport of triathlon.  Janelle attended one the G2T camps only six months after her amputation.  Only a year after losing her leg, Janelle crossed the finish of the Ramblin’ Rose triathlon with her friends.

I asked Janelle when she began mourning her limb loss. When did she first get angry, yell and use the “F word” in inappropriate places like elevators and parking lots?

She laughed, “I never had time to be angry. I have two young boys. They needed me. I had parents and a sister who scooped me up and supported me at every turn. I am alive. I am well. I am blessed.”  She paused and said again, “Alive. I am one of the few people I have known to survive this illness. Why would I be angry?”

This is Janelle.  A single mother of two boys, a survivor and now, a triathlete.  A woman who finds immeasurable gain from a tragic loss. Way to go, girl.