Racing With Turtles

Touching down in Kona in our wee puddle jumper was a bit of a relief. I must admit, I had to do a little quiet breathing the first 15 minutes to avoid pulling out the white bag and upsetting all 6 other passengers on the plane. A packed flight it was.

But it was in Maui, our stop over to Kona, that I was reminded why this race was going to be a special one:  the winds.  Trailing a 60 lb bike case, with another 45 lbs of duffle bag on top of it, I thought for sure that thing wasn’t going anywhere. But as Bob and I shuffled off to the Commuter terminal, the wind cleared the bike case of its own baggage …. and we didn’t even notice for 20 ft. The winds were angry that day my friends.  And they stayed that way for four days.

We met my parents in Kona and the week was spent relaxing, and relaxing some more. Outside a few swims, bike rides and runs, life pretty much was at a stand still leading up to the race. Fortunately for all of us, there were plenty of delicious places to do our relaxing; and the beaches and inifinity pool saw plenty of my dad.

After a few white knuckling trips out on the Queen K, I was ready to be tossed around on race day. Wind? What wind? It’s not like i’d be the only one of the course feeling 30 mph cross winds.

A few great swims at Hapuna Beach, more lazying around on the sugar white sands with the fam, and then the goggles are tucked away for race morning.

My trusty steed was as ready as she was ever going to be for a serious trip up to Hawi. I felt good. I’d done the best training I could do, inside of a warped work schedule and hectic last 2 months of family stuff, and so it was just about smiling and leaning into the beauty of it all.  I was, in fact, very lucky to be out there doing what I was about to do, and i promised myself, I would pay more attention to my own strength, power and energy as I felt less more like being out on the course the next day. 😉

So I tucked in my trusty steed, and bid her adieu until race morning.

3:45 am.  Normally I don’t need an alarm for race morning.  Maybe I was too relaxed? How did i sleep right up to 3:45?  yep.  i was already killing myself with drama. I had to stop.

4:15 am breakfast getting in me and I’m feeling good. I get chilly when I’m anxious and i start to feel like I need a jacket. which, of course, i don’t have. I’m in Honu. Who brings a jacket to the islands?

5:00 am arrive at T1.  some last minute issues with the bike/water bottles but I get squared away. I have a major e-gel blowout in the pants pocket I’m wearing so I have to relinquish my iPod to hubby for clean-up. he’s not happy about it, as it is spendy electronics after all, but he’s a love and let’s it go. he knows I know he’s not pleased…but now is not the time.

 SWIM:

200 ft of visibility in 60 ft of water. Deelish.

Mano a mano with 100 aggro top men for 1.2 miles, not so delish.

I never got out of the pack. No clean water. I swam centimeters within 2 or 3 men’s shoulders for the entire 1.2. At one point I was just timing my breaths to make sure I didn’t get clobbered again by the guy to my right (his elbow had knocked my nose and goggles on 3 separate occasions). I tried getting out of the tight pack, but found myself to far off course, and veered back in. Even swimming wide at the start did me little good. Lesson #1… still working on clean swimming for better times.

Third out of the water in my [new!] age group — so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that after the race.

BIKE:

“Remember, treat it like a ride with your buddies. Focus on your nutrition and just don’t hammer it. Remember, you have a great run waiting for you at the end.” – Coach Lesley Paterson to me before the race.

That’s exactly what I did.  I spun on the hills. I nailed my nutrition. I kept taking in the necessary food and electrolytes to keep me from cramping (like i had on every other half im i’d ever done). And i giggled. Yep. I was laughing. I laughed when the headwinds picked up the last 5 miles to Hawi. I smiled when I heard Kristin Mayer pass me and yell my name. I was going to watch her…learn from her. Follow her lead. She wasn’t hammering either.

I held back when my instinct was to push harder, ever harder, to go faster. As the day heated up, I remembered my hard work in my training runs and was just waiting to put in a great run. I enjoyed every last minute of that bike ride. When I saw the sign for 50 miles, I saw I was on a PR time for that bike course. I could push it a bit harder and knock 15 minutes of my previous bike time here from 4 years ago. So, i did.

15th off the bike in my age group. woo-hoo.  I was ready for the run.

RUN:

T2 – and I can’t find my run bag. After a few feeble attempt to find it, and ask for help from a volunteer, another woman already strapping on her shoes tells me to yell – ‘take the bull by the horns girl’ she says. feeling like i had permission now, I scream for help to find my bag….which arrives in the form of an incredibly kind older woman who tells us both what an inspiration we are to other women, and wishes us both good luck on the run course. I apologize immediately for being an a** and smile at her with eyes that were imploring for forgiveness.

Immediately out of transition I get a taste of how hard the run was going to be.  The heat and humidity on the grass (of the golf course) was sweltering and my cadence slowed right away. Then the hills. Up. Down. Up, up, up. Down. Sure, these are fun when you’re in a golf cart – it’s like a little roller coaster. After a 1.2 mile swim, and a 56 mile bike on the Queen K?
It was time to get my head in the game. This was mile 1. Heck, it was mile .10.

It was a slow go for the first 5k. I stopped looking at my watch. The wheels were coming off the bus…things were not going as planned no matter how much “hay in the barn” Bob told me I had put prior to race day.

I opted for optimism instead of self-criticism. I had a list of positive things that I’d counter my negative-self-talk with, and I was going to start using em.

No cramping. Check!  Eating good. Check! Still moving forward. Rock on! And then the 10K is down.  After passing the 7 mile mark, I am cheered on by a fellow female racer who says “Just 6 little ones left!!”.  Which perks me up and gets me going a bit faster.

I’m smiling now thinking that i “only” have 6 miles to go and that I even THINK that. I marvel at my strength, speed and sheer willpower. If I can do this, if other women can do this — why the heck can’t we do all the other things we think are so hard to do? I was thinking of all the women who told me their life-transforming stories about how GOTRIbal had changed their lives, how they were sharing their endurance sports journeys and accomplishments with other women, and I just started smiling again.

I thought of my sister, fighting cancer with fortitude I’d never seen in a person, and my family’s strength to help her in her fight.

I was smiling in and through my physical misery.  It was electrifying.

During the 3 mile “death march” (miles 9-11.5) I picked up my speed and cadence. I was tired, but I had this weird second gear. It felt like a fast tempo run. I was getting my rhythm….at mile 9.

At the onset of the hills and grass, that cadence and rhythm stopped. I was back to slogging through the run. But as I saw the ocean start to unveil itself beyond the last slope, and hear the announcer at the finish, I just told my legs it was almost over – I spoke to my off-the-charts-beating-heart and asked for 5 more minutes of oxygenated blood … just get me across the line.

It was at mile 12 when I started to see I might do this thing in under 6 hours. Four years ago that wasn’t even a possibility. Was I going to set a PR for this Honu course? Is it possible?

Crossing the line at 5:55 was a deeply emotional experience. I hugged Bob and cried a bit. I had done it. Working for the first time without a goal time.  Working, instead, on goals other than time; to focus on the little elements of each part of my race, to race for my sister, father, uncle and mother (those who can’t race), to be happy and ENJOY what I’m capable of, and to feel the strength and power of my body even as I get faster in my ‘old’ age! Who said we get slower as we get older!!!

My family was a major contributor to both my enjoyment during the whole week and my love of sport my entire life.  I give them, and my hubby, thanks and love for all their support and unconditional love as I continue on my endurance sports journey.

Choosing Your Swim Clinic

The weather is starting to chill in some part of the country and the world.  Here on the south coast of Massachusetts, it is starting to chill.  We are being teased with warmer sunny days, and chilly evenings…. even COLD!

As the temperature starts to drop, we may not desire to get wet.  But now is the time to improve your swimming techniques and develop endurance foundations for the coming season.  Not all of us, have the luxury of swimming with a Master’s team, or a coach.  Not all of us are able to receive coaching and/or direction during each swim.  Instead, we swim alone and hope for the best.

Swim instruction is one of the single most influential investments that can change your perspective on racing and training for a triathlon.  The swim should be the easy leg; yet for many, it is the most difficult.  I am part-fish, so sometimes I don’t understand the challenge….. but I work with many runners who desire to learn to swim to be competitive.  In this, I have learned that tackling and improving your swim skills will change your entire race.

Get in the pool.  Regardless of the temperature outside, get in the pool.  The link below will send you to clinics that may be in your area.  If you are unable to swim with a coach regularly, these clinics are an opportunity to receive instruction.   And if you happen to be on the south coast of MA, give me a shout.  I would love to swim with you!

Top 5 Smoothies To Fuel Your Body

If it’s a novel you want on nutrition, you may want to look to Amazon or another site for a good book on it.. There’s plenty out there on this stuff, but what we want is to drill down to some of the absolute best, so you can feel good go get outside and play!  The list below is not compiled by a sports nutritionist, so that’s our disclaimer. What it is though is a list of the most yummy, delicious, healthy treats that fuel the bodies of busy, active women who are training at the top of their class — Olympic marathoners, elite long-distance triathletes, and moms trying to juggle raising a healthy family with negotiating Mcdonald’s trips between workouts, work and kid pick-ups or drop-offs.

You be the judge of when to blend up one of these favorites. Some pack quite a punch (calorie and protein), so consider if it’s a morning breakfast, post-workout refuel you need or just a week pick-me-upper.

Go on — Enjoy the journey!

Orange Tropical Dreamsicle: There really are two (and probably more) scrumptious versions to this all-time fav.  (1) 1 scoop of Whey Protein Vanilla, ½ c of orange juice, 3 ice cubes, a few frozen mango chunks, and water (to fill a 24 oz water bottle. Shake hard. Drink!  (2) Add a ½ cup of yogurt (Kefir, Greek or other vanilla favorite)

 

Choco Monster:  Like the cookie monster of Sesame-age, this one will awake your inner kid. No boring protein smoothie here. Mix soy, almond or 1% low fat chocolate milk with a frozen banana (in pieces), tblspoon of nut butter(s), unsweetened coconut shavings, ½ c of vanilla or plain yogurt (kefir, greek or other fav). Blend with a few ice cubes, then add a scoop of high quality chocolate or vanilla protein powder. * Want an extra bit of love? Add sunflower seed butter, almond butter or berries.

 

I-like-it-spiceh:  Say what?  Yep, a smoothie that’s a bit spicy. Why not? A pinch or shaving of ginger, ½ c of pumpkin (in the can), a bit of papaya, a few dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg, some yogurt (kefir, greek, or your fav), and Cake Batter (Cytomax) protein powder or other favorite protein powder in vanilla. *For extra boost of calories and good carbs, add  a bit of rolled oats in the blender. Hit Mix and blend it up baby!

 

Get My Breakfast On!: This is a biggie. Make enough and you’ve got some for a mid-morning snackie break.  Almost a cup of low fat vanilla yogurt (kefir, greek, your fav), wee bit of rolled oats, frozen banana (in pieces), handful of blueberries, and another handful of strawberries. Scrumpitousss.

 

Scoobie Snack-Smoothie.  Ripe banana, almost a cup of your favorite yogurt (low fat), a cup of peaches (in water) or mix pear and peaches. Gulp it down in a flash – delish.

Hormones, Muscles, And T Cells: Why Recovery Nutrition Is Important

Most of you know that you need some kind of recovery drink or snack after a hard workout. However, you may not know why it’s necessary and/or what to eat or drink.

To better understand the need for recovery nutrition, let’s take a look at three things that occur inside your body during vigorous exercise:

Hormones gone wild– During high intensity exercise, levels of cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and glucagon surge in a grand effort to supply energy to the working muscle. As blood glucose levels drop, these hormones work together to stimulate glucose production by the liver. Cortisol levels, in particular, stay elevated for 30 to 60 minutes after we stop exercising and continue to catabolize protein and carbs even though we no longer need them for energy. Consuming a recovery drink or snack during this period of time will lessen the degree of protein degradation and depletion of glycogen stores.

Fire in the muscle – During a hard run or ride, our muscles utilize three “branched-chain amino acids” (BCAA’s) to off-set the protein degradation and damage that naturally occurs with hard exercise. These BCAA’s are broken down in the muscle cell and used to generate ATP, which unbeknownst to most people, continues after exercise stops. To keep your body from having to breakdown more protein to get BCAA’s, you need to take in some “exogenous” protein in the form of food or beverage (aka recovery snack).

T-Cell Turmoil – Ever run a marathon and then gotten sick afterwards?  That’s because all that running (or any kind of hard exercise) temporarily lowers immune function which increases your susceptibility to infections. This occurs because cortisol and epinephrine suppress type 1 T-cell cytokine production which is vital for a strong immune system. Lowered immune function has been reported in exercise that lasts longer than 1.5 hours that is performed without nutritional intake during and after the exercise bout.

So, what is a good recovery snack or beverage?  Anything with a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. The carbs will replace the glycogen you just used up and the protein will lessen the need for BCAA’s and help promote muscle synthesis.

Examples include:

  • Cereal, milk, and fruit
  • Bagel sandwich with lean meat or peanut butter
  • Eggs and toast
  • Chocolate milk
  • Yogurt and fruit

Keep in mind that recovery nutrition is important only after hard workouts; not an easy run or casual bike ride. The excess calories coupled with lower intensity exercise can potentially lead to weight gain.

Eat up and recover well!

Making The Most Of Your Off Season

When I develop an annual training plan – measuring out the duration of periods, base, build, taper, peak, off, transition, and preparation periods – I start with the off season. The fall and winter is a time most athletes wrap up their race season, take some time off, and let their body recuperate from the rigors of high-intensity training and racing. Some take as much as four weeks off, and their off season includes their transition season.

For me, off means off. No swim, bike, run, weights – nothing that will stress my heart, lungs, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The duration of my “off” season is typically a week or two. It may be shorter or longer, depending on my current and future fitness goals. I typically take time off after the last event of the season. During this time, I reflect on what I accomplished. I try to get more sleep, rest and relaxation. While some struggle taking time off, I have learned to take seasonal rest seriously, as it allows me to race much better the next season. Trying to maintain peak fitness will not be beneficial to your results next year. I tried to maintain my fitness 12 months a year back in the 90s when I started training for triathlon. It did not enhance my performance, it only led to injury, illness and overtraining.

After I take time off, then I’m ready to start moving again, and my transition season consists of two to eight weeks transitioning into activity. I don’t do sprints, speed work, climbing, hill repeats or other intense training, so my body continues to get a good rest and can repair itself fully. When I am ready to start moving again, I follow these guidelines:

1.    I don’t plan workouts. I do what I feel like when I feel like doing it, and I don’t train, I exercise.

2.    I don’t have restrictions on what I do, just guidelines.

3.    My weekend to-do list includes taking naps instead training.

4.    I do reduce training and intensity while maintaining a level of fitness.

5.    I don’t indulge (eat whatever, whenever “forbidden foods”) or try diet when it comes to nutrition. I like to keep my nutrition under control 365 days a year.

6.    I do think about goals and events for next year.

7.    I don’t get post-training race blues because I prepare for this time of year to happen: (I will link this to my plan article).

8.    I do plan my preparation and base period:

9.    I don’t gain more then eight pounds.

1. I do enjoy my transition period.

When it is time to start training again, and focus on building my base fitness not just exercising, I go through a preparation period of 8 weeks.  During this time, I do some general strength training, preparing tendons, bones, ligaments and my mind to start base training and getting into a training routine.

Building your Base

I describe the base phase as the time you start to train. Most athletes start building their base sometime during the months of January to March. The base phase should last between 12 weeks, depending on how much time you have to train. I increase the volume of my training, but keep the intensity low and aerobic. My base period starts about 16-20 weeks before my A race for next season. The first four weeks of base training I simply perform low-level aerobic work.

The second four-week block I begin to work on technique, skill, and efficiency, with primary workouts to perfect my spin, stride, and stroke so that I do not reinforce bad habits. Efficiency is a huge component of becoming a faster athlete. I have a library with a variety of drills to increase cadence, efficiency, leg speed, and coordination.

During the third and forth block I start to increase overall volume while adding some higher aerobic end intensity. I perform the majority of my weight work in the base period.

Your base training builds the foundation for higher intensity and sport specificity, a phase that often comes in the spring or summer. It may last 8-12 weeks, depending on the race date.

Competitive Season -Building your Sport Specific Intensity

Once you build your foundation give yourself about 8 weeks to add sport specific intensity. This is the phase you add more tempo and threshold workouts and slightly decrease your training volume while adding Intensity. Examples of workouts would be to train on a course that simulates your race, train at an intensity higher or at least that same as your race pace. Practice bricks, swim to bike, and bike to run workouts. I will go into more details on competitive, taper and peak seasons in my next article

Conclusion

The details when it comes to frequency, intensity and duration during your off, transition, preparation and base training phases depend on your goals, experience, and, to a certain extent, trial and error. Learn from what works and what does not for yourself, not what works for someone else. Seek advice from coaches and other experienced athletes and then find what works for you.

Pregnancy And Training

It’s come to my attention on more than one occasion, from elite athletes to women considering getting into running or triathlon, that there are few resources dedicated exclusively to women who want to lead active lifestyles while pregnant (or considering getting pregnant).

With the significant growth of women’s involvement in endurance sports over the last five years, and no signs of slowing in the future (well duh! once you feel the endorphins of such a healthy lifestyle, you’re hooked), it is not surprising to see a fragmented, if not dearth, resources addressing this important topic of women’s health and training concerns during pregnancy.

As I continue to explore the options available, speak with doctors, and investigate the possibilities for GOTRIbal, I promise to keep sharing information, like this article / interview with Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliffe, with you. In your travels and sports journeys, please share what you find with the rest of us – here or on our FB page – so that other women can benefit from your learning.

“How have you tweaked your training during pregnancy?”

Kara Goucher: It’s funny, because originally I thought I’d keep up the same workouts, just with slower times. But I soon realized that this was just not going to happen. I really had to lessen the intensity of my workouts. So instead of doing eight times one mile on the track, we’ll do 200-meter repeats. Or I’ll do mile repeats on an Alter-G treadmill [which minimizes gravitational forces by suspending the runner in a harness]. Everything is scaled back.

Paula Radcliffe: Mileage-wise, I’ve cut back by about 50 percent, and I’m still doing basic core workouts and lifting weights. It’s just about getting out there and doing something, about staying fit and staying sane. I’m not trying to hit times.

Onward and upward always!

Heart Rate

Heart Rate Training…. is it necessary???  I would dare say no.  Now, before the community stops breathing because I have broken a cardinal rule of training, I want you to understand and know a couple things.

1.  I am old school.  I graduated high school in 1985… long before heart rate monitors were common place in training.  I was a sprinter (400m) who became a distance runner, and later a triathlete in grad school.  I ran cross-country in high school for something to do.

We measured intensity by our times.  You either were running fast or slow that day.  We knew practice ended at 5pm, and we needed to be back at the school from our long runs No Later Than 4.45pm.  We knew we were in trouble when we saw our coach on the road with his truck, coming to pick us up…. or when he was chasing us up a hill with a stick.

I ran fast without ever knowing what my heart rate was doing.  It went up when I ran and down when I wasn’t running.   In fact the first time I wore a monitor, I thought the beeping was because I wasn’t working hard enough, so I increased my tempo and effort, which I maintained for a 7-mile run.  Later, when I read the manual, I realized the truth.  *note to self:  read the manual before playing with the toy.*

BTW, I was fast.  And to this day, I can do a complete workout with a stop watch or timer and my sneakers.

2.  I completely respect the work of all the researchers who have developed and instructed and shared the zones for training.  It might important to know your zones.  It is not important to be dependent on them.

Sometimes, I observe newbies and oldies, so focused on all the technology and gadgets that they forget to just go RUN.  I mean by the time the programming and fixing and hooking and setting, I could have run already.  JUST GO RUN!  

A great book to learn the basics of heart rate training is Total Heart Rate Training, by Joe Friel.

3.  I have seen heart rate paralyze someone.  Heart rate should be empowering.  It should be used to monitor progress;  not to dictate it (unless you are overtraining).

I had an athlete so obsessed with the number on the screen that he missed out on a podium.  His heart rate paralyzed him.

Someone mentioned she didn’t like using it, because she didn’t like the bad results.

We associate a number with performance.

*did you know your competition heart rate is higher than your training heart rate?*

4.  The brain controls the body.  In Brain Training For Runners, Matt Fitzgerald, discusses science that is missed by many who rely soley on heart rate to manage their training.

5.  I firmly believe that endurance sports are supposed to be done fast.  We need to train to go fast.  We need to learn to step out of our comfort zone.  We need to practice this.  This means your heart rate may be higher than said training zone.

AND

6.  Use the other tools available to you.  Percieved exertion, Cadence, your stop watch.  Learn how to put these in your training.  Ask your coach to teach you how to utilize these appropriately.  And when you are recording your training details include these.

Heart rate is a single tool in the tool box.  Heart rate is influenced by SO many things, the reliability can be questioned.  It is something to use for observation.  It is not something that should dictate what you are doing!

The most important part of training, is the training.

This post was inspired by the FB chatter today.  Thank you again for your candor and your questions.  I truly appreciate these and your insights.  Please, please, please feel free to reach out for clarification and/or questions you may have.

Who’s Coaching You?

Who is your coach?  Who do you reach out to when you have questions regarding running, training, setting goals, new shoes, or anything else related to our sport?  Who writes your programs?  All in all…. who is coaching you?

I ask this question because I recently ran into a former client who has now started a running group — awesome! share the love of the sport– and he is serving as their coach, (and charging for it).  Again… awesome!  Share the love.

But….. I am not certain he has the ability to coach, yet.  He only recently stopped training with me, and still has a lot to learn about the sport and racing.  (I know I still have much to learn, and I have been competing since middle school).  This interaction caused me to reflect on the sources that we retrieve our information, our go to peoples for our coaching questions.

Who is your coach?

Who is your source of information when you have questions or concerns about your training?  These people and things are influences on us and tend to ‘coach us’.  Is it the magazine? Is it someone in your running group?  Is it the article posted on line?  All of these sources influence our decisions regarding our training.

While we can train independent of a coach, all of us do need a coach at some point in our training career/journey.  All of us need someone we can trust to sort through the mish-mosh of information and help decifer the details.  Someone who can guide us, remind us to rest, encourage us when we fall on our face…. Someone who can help us create or create for us the strategies necessary to compete.  We need a coach and a support group.

There are several governing bodies that oversee coaching and training and competing.  These include (domestically) USA track and field, USA swimming, USA cycling, USA triathlon, Road Runners Club of America, as well as a plethora of organizations that oversee personal training and strength coaches.  These bodies dictate how things should happen, which helps protect the coach and the coached.

In seeking out a coach, there are things you need to consider?  Is your coach about your goals, or their goals imposed on you?  Do you feel comfortable with your coach?  Does he/she understand the demands of training and a job?  Does she understand your personal needs?  How much contact do you have with your coach?  Does your coach have a support group/network to whom she can reach out to?  Is your coach currently training?

It is perfectly acceptable to rely on articles or friends or your local training group to assist you in achieving your fitness and racing goals.  Acknowledge that these are serving in some capacity as a coach.   This group of people is important.  If you need more, you need a different coach.  You may need different motivation.  You may need someone who is more available than the weekly interaction on Thursday evening and Saturday morning.  Consider who is your coach, and what a coach means to you.  That will help you decide who is your coach?  or who your coach should be?

Optimal Arousal

Athletes who do not effectively cope with stress may not perform at their best and suffer mental or physical distress. Your optimal arousal level is where you have the most advantageous levels of physical and psychological activation (arousal). In addition to being aware of the location of your optimal level, you also need to be skilled at regulating your arousal up or down toward your best level.  The most common problem in sport is over-arousal and is often described as feeling ‘too amped up’, hyper, jacked, excited, or nervous. As a direct or indirect result of our over-arousal, we make performance errors (like starting a race too fast or forgetting equipment) that impede our progress.  Less frequently, we are under-aroused and have difficulty being up for practice, training, or a competition.

The first step in regulating arousal is becoming aware of where your current arousal level is. How do you feel right now physically? Emotionally? Psychologically? Write these descriptions down in a training journal (you do have a training journal don’t you?).  Describe and record your arousal level before and after each workout for 1-2 weeks alongside your training activities. At the end of that time look back at your journal and compare your better performance days with the noted arousal levels. Try making a mash-up of these experiences and write down a description of what appears as your optimal arousal level.

Continue recording your arousal level and re-writing your description every two weeks for a couple of months and watch how your description begins to zoom in on your own optimal arousal level. After 3-4 months of steady monitoring you should begin to have a pretty good idea of where you want your arousal level at just prior to training and performance.  Write this refined description of your optimal arousal level down and post it where you can see it regularly (locker, above a desk, back of office door). This activity will help you become more familiar with assessing arousal and how it relates to your optimal level. Once you understand where your current arousal, you can perform mental exercises to align it with your optimal level.

Next time… Regulating Arousal

Death Before DNF

Pain is temporary.  Quitting lasts forever.‘ — Lance Armstrong

And the racing season is upon us.  The mantra among endurance athletes is, death before DNF.  None of us want that mark on our record.  We will do anything to avoid the DNF.  But our goals and our realities are sometimes very different things, in very different places.  At what point do  we choose to protect ourselves, so we can come back to compete another day.  I once listened to a coach chattering about mile 20-21 in a marathon.  That is the point where decisions need to be made.  Are you able to finish, or do you need to call it a day and tackle that race another time?  I scratched my head at the time, curious as to why this coach would encourage a DNF, but he was being realistic in his coaching.  There are times that we need for our own health and safety to end the race.  

In my endurance racing, I have two DNF’s.  In one race, I managed to fracture a metatarsal in my foot (bone leading to the phalanges or toes), and there was no way I was going to finish the run leg of the triathlon.  And the other, two miles into the marathon my hamstring cramped.  After doing everything I could do, the hammie would not quit, and there was no way I could comfortably finish the race and go out another day.

The reality:  none of us wants to train hard and put in those hours for the event and NOT FINISH IT.  To not go out and be competitive and give this our best is just INSANE.

The truth:  we need to be sensitive to the needs of our bodies.  Sometimes the body is saying something completely different than what the mind wants to hear.

But at what point do we need to choose our safety and our health to be able to come back and race another day?  We need to change our attitudes toward the race and the potentiality of anything that can happen out there.  We need to remember what we love to do, and that we would like to continue to do this again.  We need to understand our bodies, our limitations and the difference between going hard and going dumb.  

Take a moment and think of your racing schedule.  Those of you who are not beginners, have several training races on your calendar.  Those are the races that test your training, your fitness, and teach you new skill sets.  Those are NOT your A races.  Beginners:  this is what you get to look forward to.  Those races your are doing now, are laying down the foundation for future races in future seasons.   An A race is what we consider the most important races.  The A race is where we expect to qualify, to PR, to achieve the ambitious goal we have set before us.  The B and the C races– the training races, so to speak– are the races where we might do amazing things, but are designed in training to teach us, to test us, to define our needs, our strengths and perhaps our limitations, those things in which we need to spend more time working on.

At any time, anything can go incredibly right or terribly wrong in the race plan.  When is it appropriate to keep pushing through or to call it a day, so you can return to complete another?

Only you, the competitor can decide what is best for you, as you are competing.  You need to learn how you respond to the challenges.  You need to understand you.  There may come a time that you need to make that hard choice of DNF or racing again tomorrow.  It isn’t easy.  In fact it is downright disappointing.  Ultimately though, I believe we all want to be safe out there.

Have a great season everyone!!