Sunday, March 30, 2014

Training with POWER

            This winter I got a PowerTap for my bike, a power meter that measures watt output.  This gives me feedback on how hard I’m ACTUALLY working.  I say it like that because I thought I was working hard before I got my PowerTap.  It’s tough though, when there isn’t consistency for comparison.  I had been using a much simpler bike computer before, that basically told me how far and how fast I was going.  When you ride outdoors, there are too many factors to be able to compare average mph for feedback though, such as wind, temperature, hills, etc.  Indoors, there is at least consistency from indoor ride to indoor ride, but there wasn’t any real connection to what I was doing outside.  That makes it difficult to be able to tell if I’m making any real progress on the bike at all.
            I picked up my PowerTap hub and Joule (bike computer display) on Black Friday last year, taking advantage of a discount day, but didn’t get it installed and back until around Christmas.  There were a couple glitches in getting everything working properly (PowerTap was awesome at replacing the faulty part promptly), and I was antsy because I started my bike block right away in January.  I also had an issue with my trainer (it was leaking fluid, but Cycleops was superb and replaced the whole part under warranty).  Too much unnecessary stress when I just wanted to focus on cranking out the watts! 
            I had set aside 8 weeks for my bike focused training block.  During that time I aimed to bike 5-6 days per week.  I did two hard days, followed by an easy day, then a day off (from biking).  Since it’s still the offseason, and my husband and I have a deal that I can only do one workout per day on the weekends during the offseason, then I dropped a run and biked on Sundays instead.  This is a sample week of my bike block:
Monday:         Bike 5x5’ (4’) intervals, worked my way up to 105%+ (zone 5)
Tuesday:         Bike 1-1.25hrs aerobic (zone 2)
Wednesday:    Off from biking
Thursday:       Bike 2x20’ (5’), worked my way up to 96% FTP (zone 4) for 20’ intervals
Friday:            Bike VO2Max 1’ intervals, worked my way up to 2 sets of 9x1’ (1’)
Saturday:         Off from biking
Sunday:           Bike 2x20’ (5’) again
            All rides were typically an hour in length with the warm-up and cool-down, except my aerobic ride which might go a little longer.  Fortunately, I knew my zones because I was able to borrow wheels with a PowerTap last summer, and I was able to find out my estimated FTP from a race I did.  (FTP is typically the pace/watts you can hold for an hour).  Along with my biking, I still ran 6 days a week, but kept my mileage lower for most of the training block.  I stayed around 20 miles per week for most of this, and kept them all easy pace in the beginning.  To prepare for the run block that would come next though, I did start to increase to 24 and then to 28 miles per week by the end, and I also had several weeks that had a run that included some 200-400 repeats (I’ll get into that more with my post about my run focus).  I also continued to swim about 4 days per week, averaging 9-10,000 yards per week.  Two of the swims I kept hard, one I dropped to moderate effort, and the other I would do a mix of easy swimming, kicking, some IM stuff, and pulling.
            Before my PowerTap, like I said, I thought I was working hard while biking on the trainer.  When I got the PowerTap though, I realized that I had to work a lot harder.  How hard, you say?  Well, I do my biking in the garage, and for the majority of this, we did not have a heater that worked out there.  In case you have either somehow forgotten, or shut it out of your memory, we have had a crazy cold winter around here.  While it at least stayed above zero in the garage, it was in the single digits some days, and otherwise common to be around 15 degrees or so.  I wore my amazing cycling microfleece tights (highly recommended for cold rides!) from Draft Cyclery, two pairs of socks, mittens, but would get down to a tank top after I got going.  While my water bottles would freeze up on me, I still managed to sweat pretty well.  Talk about intense.  I didn’t realize how hard I really needed to be working until I had real life numbers to be pushing for.  I also realized that our house had too many stairs to climb up and down after completing such workouts.  Here’s to a stronger bike leg this season!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Educating America: Shark Tank Edition

            On a recent episode of Shark Tank, my husband and I were appalled at the things that were said.  While this reaction may be common for the things that come out of Kevin O’Leary’s mouth, these comments actually came from Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks (and my favorite shark), and Steve Tisch, the co-owner of the New York Giants.  Check out the clip from Episode 16 of Season 5.

            Now I am not advocating for Cow Wow Cereal Milk, but I am wondering how these owners of these huge professional franchise teams do not know about the benefits of chocolate milk as a recovery drink?!  This isn’t just something that the dairy industry is pushing; it is backed by scientific research and studies!  The GotChocolateMilk? campaign is everywhere I look, so it makes me wonder how the owners of sports teams are somehow in the dark about this.  The latest edition of Inside Triathlon read, “Corroborating the hype surrounding chocolate milk as a recovery tool, [Dietitian Christina] Strudwick says it’s in fact a great recovery choice.  ‘It fits the ratio of three or four parts carbohydrate to one part protein pretty perfectly,’ she says.  Also, it contains leucine, which is one of the amino acids that’s been shown to best help muscles recover post-workout.”1 Along with leucine, chocolate milk naturally contains whey protein, another branched chain amino acid, which has been shown to build and maintain muscle as well.  Many sports bars/beverages that contain protein actually use milk solids and whey protein as a main ingredient! 
In the January 2014 issue of Triathlete magazine, registered dietitian and seven-time Ironman Marni Sumbal writes, “Amazingly, the same foods that boost the immune system and reduce risk for disease, such as fruits, veggies....and low-fat dairy, can also support a body that is seeking performance gains through structured training... if you energize your body with a  banana with peanut butter and honey before a workout, postpone fatigue with well-formulated sport drinks to provide water, electrolytes and carbohydrates during a workout and refuel with a glass of [chocolate] milk post-workout, you are well on your way to using ‘sports nutrition’ properly.”2 Then in the March 2014 issue, Sumbal says, “It’s best to have some protein and carbs within an hour of the race or ride – a glass of chocolate milk will work.  Try yogurt or cottage cheese and bread or cereal, white rice in an omelet, and some fruit for electrolytes and minerals.”3 That’s right, other dairy products like yogurt and cheese is also GREAT for you! 
Nutritionists Kim Mahoney and Kim Mueller, R.D., C.S.S.D., both identify low-fat chocolate milk as a good recovery tool.4 Professional Triathlete Linsey Corbin identifies her post-race reward as being chocolate milk.5 Got chocolate milk? is the official refuel beverage of IRONMAN® (and sponsors outstanding Ironman athletes such as the 2013 Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series®.  “Chocolate milk is an ideal post-workout recovery food. In addition to providing dairy protein for muscle repair, it offers carbohydrate to restock muscle glycogen and water for rehydration. Studies have shown that athletes perform better in their next workout when they drink chocolate milk following an initial workout than they do after drinking a sports drink.”6
            As far as the mention of chocolate milk being removed from schools, let me address that as well.  As obesity has skyrocketed in this country (and including kids), parents are looking to place the blame on something, and a parent chose chocolate milk to be the scapegoat.  The argument was that chocolate milk was making kids fat, and so some advocated for it to be removed from schools.  First, I’d like to say that chocolate milk provides the same nine nutrients as white milk and also tastes great.  For some reason, kids and adults may believe that when flavoring is added, the nutritional quality decreases.  Not true.  Second, obesity is a whole issue in itself, but let’s not overlook the important role of regular exercise and a balanced diet and just pick one item to consider as the root cause.  Choosing chocolate milk to be at fault and getting rid of it is not fixing the problem.  On the contrary!  The entrepreneur had it right when he said that kids were then drinking more soda and juice as a result, which only makes matters worse.  Check out side-by-side beverage  comparisons: Compare Your Drink.  There is also a ton of information on the site, and it provides the research behind chocolate milk as a recovery drink. 
            What about basketball and football players specifically though?  Let me tell you!  New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony, one of the best basketball players in the NBA, endorses Chocolate Milk as a recovery drink.  Did you catch that, Mark?  So does former NFL MVP Hines Ward, who played for Pittsburgh Steelers and is now a triathlete, and even completed Ironman Kona.  These are serious athletes, undergoing serious training.  They understand that recovery should be taken seriously too.  So let’s educate America on what is actually healthy and beneficial to our bodies, and to the recovering muscles of athletes!  And don’t worry Daymond John, teams won’t be pouring ‘Yoo-hoo’ on coaches, but Mark and Steve – I do hope chocolate milk IS in your locker rooms for after!

1. Mavis, Bethany L. "30-Minute Countdown: Refuel during the post-workout recovery window to supercharge your next session." Inside Triathlon Mar/Apr. 2014: 66. Print.
2. Sumbal, Marni. “Dear Coach: With Marni Sumbal.” Triathlete Jan 2014: 18. Print.
3. Beresini, Erin. “Train Like a Pro: Tips and tricks from the top minds and bodies in the business.” Triathlete Mar 2014: 73. Print.
4. Bethany, Mavis. (2013, Sept 18). "How To Eat Like A Nutritionist." Retrieved Feb 26, 2014 from
5. Bennett, Holly. (2012, Feb 8). “Fuel Like a Pro.” Retrieved Feb 27, 2014 from
6. Fitzgerald, Matt. (2010, Dec 13). “The 10 Best Protein Sources for Triathletes.” Retrieved Feb 27, 2014 from

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fast Moms

            I have been pleasantly surprised at the growing number of athlete moms out there.  And I don’t just mean active moms, I mean super competitive moms.  The winter edition of the USA Triathlon Magazine came in the mail a couple months back, with a picture of XTERRA pro Emma Garrard holding her son, with the title “My Mom is So Fast.”  It talked about how becoming a mom no longer means retirement from competition for many.  That’s right!  The article mentioned a long list of other elite triathletes that were also continuing to compete at top-level racing, some just mere months after giving birth.
            The winter Olympics recently wrapped up, and one of the athletes that I was pretty excited about was Noelle Pikus-Pace in the skeleton.  She had placed fourth in at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and announced her retirement after the last run so she could spend more time as a mom.  In the four years since then, however, she had a miscarriage (as well as a son), which motivated her to return to competition and aim for a medal at the 2014 Sochi Games.  The spotlight interview of her on NBC showed her doing sprints at the track as part of her training, with her kids on the sideline, bundled up and cheering her on.  Noelle’s bio on read, “I have to trust that although my workouts are oftentimes interrupted, as long as I give 100%, it will be enough… I hope that in seeing my dedication, they might learn, even if it’s just a glimpse, that they can have an incredible dream-and reach it.” And congratulations, Noelle, on a silver medal at Sochi!
Then the April 2014 issue of Triathlete Magazine came in the mail and Ironman champion Liz Lyles was featured in it, who is also a mom of a 5 and 3-year-old as well as a part-time spin instructor.  Lyles says, “Having children has taught me more about being disciplined, having responsibility and being persistent.”  These are all things that also make her (and us fellow mothers) better athletes.  She goes on to say, “You’re on their schedule, not your own, and that’s the biggest thing that has helped me become better.”  While it can be frustrating at times to be stuck on your child’s schedule, it also leaves zero room for procrastination.  I know that if I want to get a bike ride in during the week, it has to happen during her nap.  This means I can’t waste much time in getting out there because some days her naps just don’t last as long as they should!  “And anywhere we go, people say, ‘I can tell they’re your kids, because they never stop moving either!’”1 I hear that!  Baya was always moving in the womb, and she hasn’t ever stopped!
There are other women you should already have heard of as well, such as 5-Time Olympic swimmer Dara Torres.  She had her daughter in April of 2006.  Then in 2008, she was not only the oldest female swimmer to compete in the Olympics, but she was also a relatively new mom too!  At the time she was 41, and her daughter was two.  She won three silver medals that year.  Then there is Olympic beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh-Jennings, who already has three children and yet is aiming for a fourth-straight Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Games. 
A mom knows how to endure and push through pain like no one else.  We are tougher, more determined, and more disciplined.  We are moms, and we are so fast!

1. Bennett, Holly. “No Rest and No Regrets.” Triathlete. April 2014: 74-75. Print.