Sunday, July 27, 2014


           Let’s face it, you can’t cram for a marathon.  You also can’t expect to be very successful with an on-again, off-again relationship with any training.  How can you increase the chances of being a successful athlete?  Consistency.  By being consistent in your training, your body is able to adapt.  If you go really hard for a couple days or weeks, and then take extended time off (with a continuous repeated cycle of this), you body has a hard time adapting to the stimulus, fully reaping the benefits of those hard workouts, and it will put you at a higher risk of injury. 
            Consistency helps you build up resistance to injury.  Some common running injuries can be avoided simply by becoming more consistent in training (while others are a result of poor form and need that remedied in order to avoid or get past it).  If you want to run 24 miles a week, it is much easier on your body to run 6-4 milers, than it would be to run 3-8 milers.  Again, it would also lower the risk of injury.  Irregular runners are typically those at a higher injury risk rather than those that run daily.  Other ways to avoid some injuries: wear proper footwear, run on softer surfaces for long runs, and run regularly and year-round.  Have someone knowledgeable check out your running form, cross-train, and build in easy or rest days into your training cycle.
            What about “runner’s knee”?  This is actually a myth that popped up at some point but many people still believe it to be true – that the pounding from running will damage and weaken the knees, and those runners will more likely get arthritis in their knees.  Runners are no more at risk for arthritis than non-runners.  In fact, because carrying extra body weight puts an excessive load on the joints, and runners tend to be slimmer than non-runners, runners are actually less at risk.  Exercising also causes the cartilage in the hips, knees, and ankles to compress and expand, drawing in oxygen and flushing out waste products, which nourish and keep the cartilage healthy.  The cartilage weakens without exercise, and running also makes the joints more stable.  Knee pain from running is usually cause by issues elsewhere actually, such as issues with the quads, hamstrings, calves, hips, arches, etc.
            There is also another great benefit to consistency.  When you are consistent in your training, it becomes a habit to run, bike, swim, or whatever it is you do, regularly, or daily.  It is easier to stick with it and be more committed to it.  It makes it hard to miss out on a session.  I like to run every day, and bike and swim 4 days/week.  It can drive me nuts to miss out on one of them.  However, IF I must, I know it is not the end of the world.  If I am consistent enough in my training (meaning I don’t frequently miss sessions), then it won’t really hurt me to miss one or two.  It won’t set me back in my training.  In fact, it could end up given me an extra boost as my body is able to have extra recovery that it does not normally get.
            In July, Baya and I stayed at my parent’s for two weeks.  I missed a scheduled run, and was a swim short both weeks.  While it bugged me at first, I did come to realize that it really would be okay.  I very rarely miss a scheduled workout, and so while I didn’t go all crazy after that and continuously keep missing workouts, I also knew that I had the huge benefit of being extremely consistent in my training over a very long stretch of time.
            Know what else is cool about consistency?  You not only thrive as an athlete with it, but your kids thrive under your consistency with them as well.  They know what to expect.  If you say “no,” then you better stick to it when they whine or throw a fit, or else they’ll come to expect you to give in every time if that is the response.  Baya still has her “fits” now and then (I will not claim to have a “perfect” child), but I hope that we can avoid a few of them by being consistent in what we teach her.  We also have been very consistent with Baya in her routine, and her and I both thrive the best when we stick to it (even when it’s not very convenient).  Being consistent in training and parent has some huge rewards. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Many Decisions - Many Choices

            There are countless decisions that we make every single day, from the moment we get up until we finally fall asleep again at the end of the day.  Many decisions we don’t even notice just because they are small and ordinary.  Some take more thought, such as what to wear or what to eat for meals.  Jobs require a ton of decisions, from small to big.  There are many questions to be answered.  Time is limited, and we must decide how we will choose to use every bit of it.
            As parents, we are almost overwhelmed with the many decisions that we must make.  I remember being almost overwhelmed with all the choices and decisions we had to make with just putting together our registry for a baby shower!  An active parent must figure out how to continue being active after children are around.  We have to figure out how we can fit it all into a day.  Is the weather nice enough to push them in a stroller with us?  What childcare options do I have if I want to go for a swim, or can’t take them with me on a run?  Will I bike today during her nap?  How much time will she give me?  What type of workout will I do today?  How will I structure my workouts for the week?  What are my key workouts?  Will the weather cooperate to go outside today?  When will I fit in an open water swim?  Do we need sunscreen today?  Will it rain?  Is it windy?  What route should I take?  Which shoes should I wear?
Then there is the “fourth disciple” of triathlon – nutrition: what should I eat before, during, and/or after a workout?  How much, and when?  I mainly rely on water before and during a workout, unless it is 1.5-2 hours or so, then I also have Gatorade during.  Since I am done with my half-iron training, I no longer use anything else.  Recovery drinks have become more popular, and there are more and more options out there to choose from.  Many commercial or specialized sports drinks though often contain only carbs and electrolytes, but are missing the added benefit of protein that is naturally found in low-fat chocolate milk.  The added sugar in chocolate milk is tiny in comparison to sports drinks as well.
You probably have seen or have heard of protein shakes/drinks that are all the rage.  While protein is essential for rebuilding and repairing muscles after an intense workout, are these drinks then the way to go?  Even looking at the aisle of all the different options in the store can be overwhelming.  While all those powders and drinks contain a high amount of protein for sure, they also fall short in comparison to low-fat chocolate milk in multiple ways.  First, chocolate milk naturally has the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein for rebuilding, repairing, and replenishing the body.  Protein drinks are heavy on protein, but lacking when it comes to carbs, meaning that you’ll also have to intake carbs in addition to the protein shake.  If you want to match the ideal ratio, then you’ll also have to do some math. On top of containing carbs and protein, chocolate milk is also the perfect balance of 9 essential nutrients needed for sports recovery, including calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium.  Drinking low fat chocolate milk within 30 minutes of a completed workout not only promotes loss of excess body fat, it also promotes muscle mass gains, and maximizes overall performance. 
There is a product called Muscle Milk®, but does it actually contain milk?  No!  It should be labeled as a nutritional shake or a supplemental beverage.  In fact, consumers are purchasing a water-based product that does not even contain milk.  Its carb to protein ratio is 7:12, versus chocolate milk’s ideal ratio of 3.5:1.  Looking online, it also costs $25 for a mere 15 servings, while chocolate milk is just a fraction of that cost.  On top of that, it tastes great.  A lot of protein powders and shakes taste chalky and can be hard to choke down.  After a hard workout, chocolate milk goes down smooth and tastes so good!  I also discovered this nice little warning on the container of Super Advanced Whey Protein: “Not intended for use by pregnant or nursing women. If you are taking any medications, consult your doctor before use. Avoid this product if you have kidney disease. Discontinue use and consult your doctor if any adverse reactions occur.”  Hmm.  I think I’ll pass.  That is one label you’ll never have to worry about seeing on a chocolate milk container!
We will encounter numerous choices throughout life, and endless decisions that we’ll have to make, in general, as a parent, and as an athlete.  So when it comes to recovery, let’s just keep it simple: choose chocolate milk.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Minneapolis Life Time Tri

            This past weekend I raced in the big Minneapolis Life Time Tri.  Up to this point in my racing career, it would be the biggest and most competitive race I’ve competed in.  How competitive?  This was the first race that there was a designated pro field for men and women.  Then there was an elite field, and then the Age Group competitors (aka the field for “normal” people – that was me).  I did have some big goals for this race though.  I was shooting for a total time of 2:20, which, based upon past year’s results, I felt could also make me the top Age Grouper overall (another goal), and I also wanted to make the top 10 overall (including the elite women).  Read on to see how it all shook out on race day.
            We had fairly perfect weather for competing.  It was pretty warm and muggy out, but the skies were overcast and there was only a slight breeze.  This made for calm waters, and I’m always in favor of not battling winds out on the bike either!  I FINALLY pulled off a fast swim split (my fastest pace ever for a longer swim portion).  It felt phenomenal to come out of the water ahead of my estimated goal time for the swim – and I felt good during it too!  A few things contributed to the drop in time.  One, in the past two weeks I’ve only been doing open water swims, so while I was missing out on some pool speed, I definitely got really comfortable swimming in the open water and I think that benefited me on race day.  Two, I used an anti-fog spray on my swim goggles for the first time in a race.  All these years I’ve been swimming with foggy goggles and felt like a blind swimmer out there.  Silly me.  I’m hooked on the stuff now!  Third, I worked with Coach Koch (a phenomenal swim coach) a few weeks ago and he made some big changes and improvements to my stroke.  I wish I made these changes earlier!  I feel like a much stronger swimmer as a result, and I credit my time drop mainly to Coach.  So the swim went well (except the minor incident when a guy threw his arm around my neck and nearly drowned me).
            Transition was super long, and I wasn’t the quickest in the first place either, so that would hurt my overall time, but so far I was sitting good and ready to hit it hard on the bike!  My bike goal time was a 1:05.  We were warned that since this was an urban race and it was a rough winter, that the roads were in rough condition and we were to be cautious.  They ended up being way worse than I could have imagined, and I was even knocked off my aero bars two or three times.  There were some sections that were smoother sailing, but for the most part, it was by far the roughest route I’ve ever biked.  We were also warned about the super sharp turns, and they were also worse than I was anticipating, and there were many turns, which meant more slowing down than what I would have liked.  There were also a ton of bikers out there that I had to get around, as the course was crowded with competitors.  I felt strong and aggressive, but I had to do too many surges in order to pass people.  I ended up coming in close to my bike goal (but came in almost 2 minutes behind), and if I wouldn’t have been FORCED to slow down or back off so much, I think I could have hit it.
            Nevertheless, I still felt fairly positive about how I could still do, despite knowing it would be tough to hit 2:20 at this point.  For some reason though when it came to the run, I just could not put it together.  I held steady at a slower pace for the first loop (it was a two-loop course).  I picked it up a little at the start of the second lap after a woman, who was in my Age Group, passed me.  I couldn’t hold the faster pace, but was able to pass another woman.  I finished the 10K portion a minute slower than what I was hoping (with one of my slowest triathlon 10K times), and finished in 2:21:56.  Even just one minute faster and I would have been the top Age Grouper, but instead I ended up as 3rd Age Grouper Overall, 2nd in my Age Group, and 11th Overall.  So close!  The Top Age Grouper was less than a minute ahead of me even. 
Sure, I can look back the race and think of all the ways I could have cut that minute too (first of all, I should have just ran a minute faster, or cut time off that awful transition time!), but when it comes down to it, I raced hard and that’s what matters.  I can definitely evaluate the race and think of things that I can try to do better (and faster) next time, but I can’t live with regrets about how I performed at the race.  It was tough, and while I fell short of most of my goals, I still had fun and I gave it my best on that day.  It just didn’t all come together for me as I hoped, but I have the next races to focus on, and I hope that it will come together when I really need it to.  Looking back at Minneapolis, I still feel pretty stoked about my swim split (and even my bike split in those conditions), and it leaves me feeling excited for the next BIG race – USAT Nationals in Milwaukee on August 9th!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

5K & Baya's First Race!

            We went to our hometown for the Clear Lake Days festivities at the end of June.  Since a 5K was being held, Andy wanted to take the opportunity to shoot for a 5K PR.  I was halfway through a 4-week break in racing, so I also took advantage of the opportunity to focus on run speed.  It has been raining a TON in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, and while the forecast showed for yet another day with chance of rain, we fortunately had a dry morning.  There was still wind and it was pretty hot and humid, but overall, not bad weather.
            There were quite a few younger kids lined up at the front, so I let them go out fast (as I suspected they would) and then passed them all.  We knew the route as we had run the race in the past, but assumed there would be mile markers to help us know our pace.  Andy was planning on wearing our GPS watch, but it quit working recently.  Much to our dismay, we got to the area where we thought the first mile should be, and never came upon a mile marker.  At that point, there were three men ahead of me, and Andy was in second.  I tried not to let him get too far ahead of me, as our PR’s are only about a minute apart.  I passed the man in third.
            I’ve said before that the 5K is a tough and painful race.  Every time I run it, it still holds true.  There were times during the second mile that I questioned myself, “Am I going hard enough?” If I can ask that, then I think I must not be.  Yet it is tough enough and tiring enough that you’d rather just stop running altogether.  But I can’t.  I’m in a race.  When you’re running in a race by yourself though, it’s hard to give it all you’ve got.  I had a solid lead position for females and would only be able to hold my spot for third overall.  I was running against the clock, but while I had my stopwatch going, I didn’t know my pace.
            It would have been nice to go sub-20 minute finally, but as I glanced at my watch and saw how far away the finish line was, I knew it would be tough to make it.  I finished in 20:14 – tying my 5K PR.  While it was a slight disappointment to not break 20, or even PR, I’m glad I could at least pull off the same time as last year, when I felt like I had a strong running season.  Andy finished in second, in a time of 19:19, only 3 seconds behind his PR that he set earlier this season.  While he would have liked to drop more time, he has been consistently quite a bit faster with the 5K this year and that’s impressive.
Baya getting passed in the final stretch by the late starter.
            A lot of my family also came to the race.  My sister and her husband pushed their three boys, and my mom and niece also ran together (her first 5K – as an 11 year old!).  Baya also ran her first kid’s fun run afterwards as well.  This wasn’t a short little race either – it was 400m!  She was by far the youngest, shortest, slowest, and most side-tracked, but she still managed to eventually make it all the way around the track.  Her 2-year-old cousin Tyler had a very late start (we were the only ones left still going on the track), ran the whole thing non-stop, and even passed Baya before she reached the finish line.  What a little speedster!  All the other kids were long gone, but that’s ok.  You can’t win every race!