Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Functional Realizations of a Triathlete

I've been participating in the sport of triathlon now long enough to come to a few realizations. When I   train for the longer distances (70.3 and beyond) a few things happen. And with each passing year, these deficiencies become more pronounced. As a orthopedic PT, I thought I would share some of my realizations and helpful tips! Enjoy!

1. I can no longer do a squat. My hip flexors and achilles become so tight and gritty that it's almost impossible to keep them supple with the long hours of swimming, biking, and running. I definitely could do a better job at preventing this. You want to laugh even harder? Watch Heidi try an overhead squat :)

2. I become skinny-fat. My muscle tone diminishes and although I get thinner overall- there is just this odd layer of skinny-fatness. Going along with that, my once perky glutes turn into a flat board which just adds protrusions. 

3. I end up with weird- itis's. Again poor job on my behalf. But once they start, I eventually start mobilizations after it's too late. Bring on the bandaid aka kinesio tape. 

4. I definitely can't do a push-up. Goodbye upper body strength and forget my core to stabilize the push-up. 

5. My core and glute strength are MIA. 

Yah so what? We all know these things. Amidst the heavy-long hours of training, common sense, solid core/glute strength, and general mobility are thrown out the window. As triathletes if it's not scheduled on Training Peaks or if it doesn't get your heart rate up- it doesn't happen.  Right????

So what is there to do about it?

1. Mobilize! Mobilize Mobilize! Take a few minutes before bed or while you are watching TV, and bust out a lacrosse ball, foam roller, or torture stick. Treat it like your own special little massage. (Ok maybe painful massage)-- but alll it takes is 10 quick minutes before bed time. Maybe focus on a different area every day. (Day 1 Shoulders Day 2 Quads/ITB Day 3 Thoracic Spine Mobility Day 4 Ankle Mobility) 

2. Equate mobility with speed. If your aren't achieving full and proper range of motion with your swim stroke, pedal stroke, or you stride-you are missing out on speed! Ready to get over that plateau?

3. Try incorporating an active warm up before your swim, bike, and run to focus on both strength deficiencies and mobility. This will help improve your form for the workouts to follow and again increase both speed and efficiency. 

4. Try doing core and glute work on your lunch break. Take that 1hr break in the day that just never seems long enough for a full blown workout to work on some small muscle groups like your core, glutes, or scapular stabilizers. Hey maybe even try some squats! This is especially crucial for you cubicle monkeys. Other quick and dirty exercises could include clam shells, bridges, planks, or maybe some pushups? Be creative! 

5. Stuck in the car or on a plane? Mobilize! There are lots of evil, evil things you can do with a lacrosse ball in the seated position. Sounds dirty right?

Good Luck! And you can thank me later :) More to come on specific triathlete mobility! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Biohacking a Triathlon: CrossFit Style

Although my husband and I met on the college track scene training for many of the same events in the early 2000s,  our styles of training have since diverged completely.

In early 2006 as CrossFit started to gain popularity with the military types, Scott immediately took the plunge into the CrossFit style of training that combined OLY lifting, gymnastics, and functional strength. Personally, I was so over competitive running and opted for another endurance sport: triathlon. Since then, we have had a continuous argument in our household. It usually goes something like this....

Who is a better athlete? A CrossFitter or a Triathlete? A Kona World Champ or a CrossFit Games winner?
What is harder..long course triathlon or CrossFit?
What makes a better balanced athlete?
Is endurance training and logging endless hours of swimming, biking, and running healthy?
Is it absolutely necessary to log endless of amounts of long, slow distance mileage swimming, biking, and running to make it to both the start and finish line of a triathlon?
Can an athlete utilize Tabata's or CrossFit or CrossFit endurance style training and successfully complete an Ironman? 

For anyone that knows me, you can easily guess how I normally would answer most if not all of these questions.

CrossFit vs Triathlon? 

After conducting a training biohack over the past few months, I would have to say my argument no longer stands strong. While I still hold the sport of triathlon very near and dear to my heart, I think being a fast and successful triathlete requires far more than just swimming, biking, and running. And yes we all know that as triathletes we need core strength, glute strength, and a generalized strengthening routine --- but are we really going about it the right way? Let's time travel a bit, to try and understand my epiphany.

After hiring my first coach for the NOLA 70.3 in 2010, I've was hooked on the Maffetone and Mark Allen style of training. As I became more serious with the longer course triathlon, this style of heart rate training worked wonders. With more and more speed gains, my coaches beefed up the intensity but most of their coaching styles were built on this framework. In fact, most weeks were the the typical 3 sessions of swim, bike, run. (interval day, moderate day, and long slow get in the mileage day). I'm sure most of you know exactly how this feels. I went from a barely there top-3 age grouper to winning several local circuit races and earning many top 10 140.6/70.3 finishes. I was totally happy with that.

But looking back, I won't lie and tell you that those 6-7 hour days on the bike or 3 hour runs in the south in the middle of summer were fun--Especially when that was my life EVERY single weekend for probably 60-70% of the year.  I also won't fool you in saying that I made it to race day injury or sickness free. In fact, during most serious 70.3/140.6 seasons I was sick mostly every other month. And despite being a Doctor of Physical Therapy, on most days I had some semblance of a nagging injury. Thank you foam roller :)

More recently, as the popularity of CrossFit has taken off, I have dabbled with the enemy occasionally during the off seasons. A little cross training can't be that bad? As race season approached however, I dumped the CrossFit and returned to my old school style of training. It worked for me. Or so it seemed that way... Since then I've tried to be more opened minded-mostly just to put this argument to rest! Eventually I did some research, read extensive articles, and have heard several stories from fellow athletes who have used less traditional styles of triathlon training (CrossFit endurance styles) to complete long course triathlons. Was I drinking the Koolaid? Still not completely sold.

Fast forward to today.....I failed to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships this year at the FL70.3 and concluded my long course season earlier than expected. I've decided to stick to some short stuff and try out a new style of training. In fact, I eventually decided to conduct a little short course sprint experiment or Biohack if you will.

I will go into this experiment fully disclosing any confounding factors. I went into both of these races with a solid 6-7 months of aerobic base training specifically for the 70.3 distance. The largest difference however is what happened in the month leading up to each of the races. These 2 races were done on the exact same course with identical weather conditions.

Race #1
Going into this race #1, I was training 2x a week for all three disciplines. I did a speed day and a longer day. My goals were to maintain my base and to keep the speed. Most of my training was heart rate based like my usual style of training. I won't bore you with HR, power, or training files. But the getting to the basics.... On race day, my legs felt flat and speed-i-less. In fact, I was hunted down hard core in the run and had no fight in me what-so-ever. The outcome looked something like this for a 400 m swim, 17 mile bike, and 5k run and I finished 2nd OA.

Swim 7:06
Bike 42:27ave speed 22.61mph
Run 21:45 ave speed 7:00min mile

Race #2 
Over the past month going into this race, I swam, biked, and ran 1-2x a week and did a full CrossFit workout 2x a week. I improved my deadlift to 170 lbs, my back squat to 185 lbs, and my thruster weight to 65 lbs. Yes- I know this is nothing for the CrossFit types out there but is a lot for an endurance girl who weighs a buck twenty. More importantly, I shed 2 minutes off my sprint course time on the exact same course. Not only did I vastly improve my time, instead of being hunted I did the hunting in this race. I picked off 2 girls in the final stretch of the 5k with speedy legs and took the "W".

Swim 7:25
Bike 41:22ave speed 23.2mph
Run 20:53 ave speed 6:43 mile

So big deal right? For somebody who has been brainwashed for so long into a certain style of thinking/training, I'm surprised I was brave enough to conduct this experiment.  Now what? Am I going to go into a 140.6 or even a 70.3 using CrossFit or CrossFit endurance? Probably not. And I still do not think you could win Kona or an IM using this style of training. BUT for you short course triathletes out there who are lacking speed and power, this might be the missing link. And for you injury prone long course athletes, despite the bad rap CrossFit Endurance may be a good training option for you.

While I'm no CrossFit athlete games contender anytime soon... for now I'm loving the new strength gains, seeing some semblance of abs, feeling my glutes activate, successfully executing pull-ups/squats/pushups, throwing heavy weights around,  and all while continuing to tear it up in the short course swim, bike, and run :)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

FL 70.3 Race Report

Pre-swim I caught up with Lisa Smelser and her husband Luke. I also was fortunate enough to catch up with my good friend Jocelyn Cornman. After that, Flex and Scott were there to see me off :)  Although relatively calm wind/waters the heat on top of heat created a cluster out there for sure. I knew I was close to the front of my pack but not too specific. As a exited the water in the longest transition ever, Scott informed me I was just over 30 minutes. (Later to find out he really had no idea but didn't want to mess with my psyche) I was excited to see none of the bikes from my AG rack had yet been touched.

I  hit the bike super positive thinking I just swam in 30 minutes and knowing I had to be in top few in my AG. The bike was rolling and a bit windy in spots. I went out hard and kept my HR in the low 160s. I definitely went over at times with some of the tougher climbs. I saw a few girls here in there but really no one in my AG that passed me. (Except for one girl who was right on the A$$ of some dude...who later I found out won our AG. Huh.) Nutrition on the bike was 3 PB gels, a 5hr energy, and 3 bottles of Ironman Perform. As I finished the bike in the 2:30s I knew it was going to be a good day. Hello 8 minute bike PR!

Despite a solid start to the day, things never really clicked for me on the run. After fumbling with my Garmin to switch from bike to run mode-- I ended up just doing the math in my head. The 3 loop course was hot, hilly, and overall a cluster--F as far as congestion. The first mile of the loop included a few tough rollers with a narrow side walk in loose grave sand that is barely big enough for one person let alone a race of this size to pass through. Despite a slower start to the run, I was super stoked to find out in the first lap that I was 4th in my AG! I was able to hold my position for the first 2 laps. After that, things went south as I was passed by two AG girls. In the end, I finished with a 5:09 and placed 6th in my AG. Unfortunately, in the last lap I not only gave away a podium spot but also a WC slot.

Tough day out there but I gave it my all, got a huge pike PR, and a 2 min 70.3 PR. You can't complain too much when you perform the best you ever have :) Thank you Coach Chad and to my super supportive husband for putting up with me!
And as for the World Championships, I will get there someday!

Gulf Coast 70.3 or 69.1: Sub 5 of Bust

As I checked out the Panama City beach Friday afternoon after my pre-race workouts, I wasn't too optimistic about the swim happening. I visit Panama City frequently. Minus a hurricane that I experienced from evacuating New Orleans, the waves were a little bigger than the usual calm, blue-green gulf that I'm used to. I opted to skip my pre-race swim.

Like I predicted, late the next day we all later learned the swim was cancelled. This being a smaller race and not a qualifier my only really big goal for the year was to break 5 hours in the 70.3 distance. With the cancelled swim and 20mph+ gusts, today was not going to be the day.

I tried to re-focus and just go out there with a positive attitude and enjoy the day. I went out hard on the bike averaging 24-26mph and knowing that I would be fighting a beast coming back. With being the 2nd wave to start, it was nice just having ladies to pass. At the start, I was picking off girls left and right. It was also very easy to see where I stood in my AG. The first half of the course was a breeze mostly because of the killer tail wind. The other half let's just say was demoralizing. After being passed by another Jax girl, I figured I was 2nd in my AG.  There were a few other ladies that I went back and forth with from other age groups and towards the end a few guys who passed me. Nutrition was my usual 3 gels, 3 bottle Perform, and 1 bottle water. The last half of the course going back down 79 and then back along the beach along the huge hotels was just plain brutal.

I went onto the run thinking I was top 2-3 peeps. Unlike Haines City, the I cranked out the first few miles in 7:30's with ease. I did pass one girl in my age group. Despite early success, the battle with the wind set in my legs and my pace slowed dramatically.  I continued to slow more and more and more. The last mile yet another girl came along that I passed earlier.  I had no fight mentally or physically left in me.

In the end, I was 2nd AG after one girl placed OA and the other landed some pretty heavy drafting penalties. Going into the race less than a month after Haines City was probably not the smartest thing either more mentally than physically.

Although no WC slot for me and no sub-5, I know that I'm not in the right place mentally to continue to push through with the long stuff. After Haines City, I came to the realization that I CAN qualify for Worlds. I am finally performing at THAT level. I know I can. I seriously tossed around the idea of giving it one more shot to make it to Canada. In the end, I'm listening to my heart and mind and giving myself a break from the longer stuff for now.

There will be a time to go to Worlds and crush 5 hours. The time is not now. But now more than ever, I believe in myself and know that I am closer than I ever have been before. As for now, bring on some short stuff, CrossFit, and bring back life into living!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

BFAS Race Report

Usually the normal recovery for me for a 70.3 is 1-2 weeks. After the swim was cancelled last weekend at Gulf Coast, I felt shorted! I checked the weather forecast, made sure my recovery was going well, and decided last minute to sign up for the 1st of 3 for the BFAS sprint series in Mayport, Florida. What's a sprint triathlon compared to the normal weekend hours logged for a 70.3? Walk in the park right? Racing 1 week post 70.3 was not the smartest idea I've ever had but in the end things worked out quite alright! With my long season coming to a close, what did I have to lose?

Without going into too many boring race report details, I went out hard and went to have fun! The day started with one of prettiest sunrises I've seen in awhile:

Despite the swim being washing machine-esque with chop/difficult sighting and some intense winds on the bike, the race was perfect! I exited the water with one pink cap or other woman in front of me who I later passed in T1. After that I was passing the boys! I wasn't sure how the legs would respond but there was definitely some gas left in the tank after 6 months of heavy 70.3 training. I felt some residual fatigue toward the end of the whopping 16 miles but otherwise was good to go. Going onto the run, I caught a glimpse of my friend Betsy who I figured was about a minute behind.

Just drop a quick 5k and you are done I told myself! Again-- I wasn't sure how the legs would respond. With logging lots of high mileage-slower stuff, I had no idea if the fast gear would work. Thankfully the legs responded nicely with 6:45s-7s. I caught of a glimpse of Betsy and another girl near the turn around who looked really strong. With less than a mile to go, I prayed I could hold on. Thankfully I did with a minute to spare.

Wattie Ink (Drew) and Betty Designs brought home the "W" and looks like Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute PTs representing!

Sigh.... Oh does it feel good to be back to the short stuff :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Adult Spring Break : Triathlon Style

Everybody needs a spring break right? Just because we aren't in college anymore doesn't mean we shouldn't get some beach, frosty beverages,  a tan, and some sunshine? I wish it still worked that way.  Getting old sucks! Either way I had my little piece of spring break in Panama City Beach. Amidst heavy half IM training, I definitely needed a change of training scenery and figured a little sunshine/beach time wouldn't hurt.

I headed to PCB to spend the weekend with one of my favorite spring breakers and girly triathletes

We spent Saturday rocking out a 63 mile ride at the Tour de Ranch with some solid rolling hills that included about 3000 feet of climbing. Not bad for Florida right? We were nice enough and even pulled some boys along for the ride :) It turned out to be a beautiful day and fun ride that included minimal mechanicals, bike short tan lines, and frosty electrolyte beverages. We thought we would be crazy add a little T-run too. So out of control right? 

Then the real spring break began! The day was topped off with some beach time and then official adult beverages. I'm not going to lie... I did feel pretty old amongst a bunch of 20-something year olds.  Either way both Chloe and I were rocking our bikinis way better than the college girls were rocking their freshman 15.  I'm thankful for that ;) 

Despite our attempt to hang, we were both done after one cup of frozen daiquiri and after a few free samples. Rookie mistake.

The next day Chloe and I woke up super early to rock out our long runs. Our long run was a very educational for sure. We learned a lot of spring break lessons. A few include:

-If you get super drunk and your friends can't find you and you have no idea where your hotel is.... the beach access makes for an AWESOME place to sleep:
-We later learned that running or "cardio" is the shizit..... (after being hit on by some college kids drinking natty light) at 6 am. At least we still look like we are in college right?

And that is a wrap of 2 days of solid training and spring break! Definitely not the spring break I used to have, but not bad for being a thirty-something weekend get away right? I'll take it :)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tropical Trails

Although my first "Florida winter" has been a little disappointing with lots of days below freezing-- over the past weekend I was lucky enough to head a few hours south to Melbourne, Florida. My husband had a work thing for the weekend and I figured I would tag along to get in some warmer training.

Like most places I go, I love to get in touch with whom Scott calls "my internet friends" before hand to set up some training. It's always way more fun that way! What better way to meet new triathlete friends and explore new places? Lucky for me I was able to set up a solid ride with Emily Nelson along the beautiful eastern Florida shores.

It was a fun 40 plus miles together with lots of girly chatting, sunshine, and palm trees. I was so thankful I had some fun company! Per coaches orders, I added another hour on and traveled along a gorgeous road called the Tropical Trail with a some speed intervals and lots of wind :) Luckily the breathtaking views kept me distracted through my power intervals and I nailed my wattage goals.
I don't think it gets much better than this! 

Post ride I napped some beachside and woke up to this! Hello best rainbow ever!
Sunday, I cranked out a slightly chillier 10 miler along the coastline solo.

And that my friends is a solid training weekend wrap! I'm so thankful for new friends, beautiful creation, and time away with my best friend. Cheers to many more tropical trails and travels in 2014 :)