Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - Thank You!

As the year comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect back and be thankful for all of the support I had for this crazy and tough past season!  From pregnancy to the birth of Myles, and through all of the struggles and celebrations, I couldn’t have had a better husband, family, friends, and sponsors to help me through it all.
While one sponsor changed names, the face and brand stayed the same.  Kevin was offered a great position at Funkier and left Draft Cyclery behind.  Fortunately, he took me with him and I’ve been able to rest easy knowing that I’ll still have the same great quality apparel to train in and kit to compete in!  They have great new items that I’ve been able to try out  (some that aren’t even yet available on the website), and have been blown away by their awesomeness!  Check them out at
            The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board was a fantastic support again for this past year, and it’s been fun being a representative and spreading the message of chocolate milk as an ideal recovery beverage.  They also sponsored the Three Eagle Half Marathon & 5K again, and it’s so awesome to be able to furnish chocolate milk at the finish line of a race that I’m the Director of, as it would be sublime to have it at all finish lines!  For more information about the science behind it, check out
            Timber Land Chiropractic has been an immense blessing this past year!  I had a lot of different pains and restrictions that popped up over the year.  I had pelvic pain while pregnant, lower back pain multiple times, a pinched nerve, tightness, etc.  Dr. Wendy not only worked on my neck and back, but has also worked on my tight hip flexor, my feet, and advised on nutrition.  Don’t settle for living with ailments – make 2016 a better year and visit your local chiropractor.
            New to 2015 was also Mel’s Trading Post, who is a Sporting Goods Store and Trek retailer.  While bikes are just one aspect of what Mel’s Trading Post has to offer (along with skis, fishing gear, kayaks, canoes, etc), they have a knowledgeable and experienced staff that will work with you from a fitting to getting the bike gear you’re looking for.  They took great care of my new ride and me.  Their shop in downtown Rhinelander is worth visiting!
            Most importantly, the biggest thank you always goes to Andy!  Without his endless support, I may not have survived this past year (no thanks to Myles…).  As our family has grown, I have had to figure out new ways to fit training in, and he’s been willing to help make it happen.  He’s listened to my frustrations, cheered me on and been my paparazzi at races, and journeyed with me to my first World Championship!  The adventures are so much better when they are with you.  THANK YOU!

Monday, December 14, 2015


There are a lot of questions that someone new to triathlon has.  Common questions are, “What do I need to do to prepare for it?” “What do I wear?” and “Does everybody ride those really expensive bikes?”  I’ll first answer the last question – NO, not everybody uses a triathlon bike.  You will see a wide array of bikes being used, including triathlon, road, and mountain bikes.  I have also seen cruiser bikes used at some races, so have no fear, you do not need to make a grand purchase for your first triathlon!  You’ll fit in just fine, using whatever is available to you.  Of course, if you’d like to be a bit faster, I’d recommend forgoing the cruiser or mountain bike and instead borrow a road bike at least.  This is not a plan for everyone.  Your goals will shape what you do to prepare, whether you are just wanting to finish, or you want to be really competitive.
Totally wore this for an entire season - just added run shorts!
A beginner would want to work up to being able to cover more than the distance of each leg individually.  Because many “sprint” races can differ in length (the distance I recommend starting at), you’ll want to make sure you know what your race distance will be.  We’ll use the typical 1/4mi swim, 15 mile bike, and 5K run as an example though.  A good goal then, would be to be able to swim 1,500 yards, bike 20-25 miles, and run 5-6 miles.  Those would be the long distance days that you would work up to.  Otherwise, you can keep a lot of training days shorter, and include high intensity intervals.  Of course, your goal may be to simply finish, and in that case, you may be employing a run/walk strategy, but should still be able to individually complete more than each leg distance.  A couple months out from your race, include bricks (bike then run right after) to get the legs used to that feeling.  It will feel terrible the first time, but each time really does get better – stick with it!  Do a minimum of 2-3 days per sport per week. 
For a focus block, you will want to have 4 or more days of that sport.  For example, if you are nervous about the swim (the most common leg people are intimidated by), then you can spend a month or so focusing on the swim, learning technique and gaining confidence, to better prepare yourself physically and mentally.  If you are a true newbie to triathlons, and are nervous about attempting the swim of that first race, remember that it doesn’t have to be freestyle.  You can do whatever stroke you are most comfortable with.  I did a full season of side-stroke without goggles and had no problem with it!  You will want to make sure that you get in actual open water swims before your first race though, as it is much different than swimming in a pool!  You can stay to the back and outside of your wave, stay calm, and try to have fun!
            My prep for my first triathlon? I did 1-2 lake swims/week, bike 12-14 mi on my one-speed twice a week, and I ran 3-4 times/week for 2 months.  I was a college athlete though, so even though I wasn’t a swimmer, cyclist, or runner, I had a very athletic background, which helped a lot.  My friend only prepped for 2 weeks…and then beat me!  She was also a super athlete.
            Good goal distances that I like to work up to in order to prepare for the different race distances, are as follows:
  • Sprint: 1,500- 2,000 yards, 25 miles on the bike, 5-6 miles on the run
  • Olympic: 3,600 yards, 40 miles, and 9 miles
  • HIM: 4,000 yards, 65+ miles on the bike, and 11 miles
Within that, of course, you’ll want to have more than just distances beneath you in order to be competitive.  Key workouts will also include intervals for each of the disciplines to work on speed, endurance, threshold, etc.  Don’t just plug away at one pace all of the time – change it up!  Learn to go easy and learn to go hard.

Basic equipment needs for first triathlon season:
  • Swim:
    • Goggles
    • Cap (provided by race), but nice for training
  • Bike:
    • Bike (any kind will suffice)
    • Helmet
    • Cages & bottles
    • Pump for tires
    • Basic computer - nice, but optional for first race
  • Run:
    • Shoes
    • Race belt
  • Apparel:
    • Tri shorts (recommended)
    • Top to S, B, R in (tri tops are best, but you can be flexible when you’re first starting out!)
    • (can wear any kind of top for swimming, and then add a shirt w/ bib pinned on it after then you could wait on the race belt)

Extras that you can acquire later on over time:
  • Swim:
    • Wetsuit & body glide
    • Quick Spit anti-fog spray for goggles
  • Bike:
    • Spare tire kit
    • Indoor trainer
    • Bike upgrade (to road or triathlon bike)
    • Clipless pedals & shoes
    • Race wheels & tire
    • Aero helmet
    • Power meter
  • Run:
    • Lock laces
    • Race belt (if not already)
  • Apparel:
    • Tri suit (if not already)
  • Extras: Coach, watch

Happy Racing! Feel free to message me with questions!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Off-Season

"How many hours/day do you put in at this time in the off-season (including stretching, foam rolling, and workouts)?  Would it be different if you were preparing for a sprint?"
            GREAT question!  Throughout the year, the weekly hours vary greatly and look different depending on where I’m at in the training cycle.  For example, my triathlon season wrapped up September 19th, and for the next 6 or so weeks, I only put in about 4-5 hours/week.  Basically, I just stayed active, but was not in any focused training.  Some people don’t start anything structured for training until January, depending on what their race schedule looks like, their goals, and the distance of their A-race.  Some focus on a single-sport in the fall after the triathlon season ends (as I did in 2013 when I ran a marathon in October).
            The week before Thanksgiving was a peak weak in my swim block (it cycles in volume within the block) so I went over 14 hours for the week: 5 hours of swimming, 3 hours of biking, 3 hours of running, 3 hours of lifting, and about 12 minutes of foam rolling.  That was a LOT for being in the off-season.  I won’t hit that again until my 2nd peak (the week before Christmas), but then it’s followed by some easy/recovery days in order to absorb the training load and adapt.  Typical weeks may otherwise be anywhere from 8-10 hours of training.
            For a sprint, I would approach it differently.  An Olympic is essentially about double the distance, so a bigger base is important.  Once doing more race specific work (build period), it would also be different in that it’d still be a lot of high intensity/very easy recovery, and I’d keep the volume lower.  Anything before January, I’d keep below 8 hours per week.  Again, my focus would be primarily on intensity: becoming more efficient in the swim, increasing FTP and VO2 on the bike, and doing max intervals, repeats and intervals on the run.  While all of these things are important for Olympic as well, there is more endurance required for it, and a delicate balance is needed.
Still my favorite quote!
            The off-season is a great opportunity to work on technique.  Swimming is the most technique driven of the three, and you can work on things like: body balance, rhythmic breathing, body rotation, catch and pull, and the kick.  You can make the biggest gains in the pool by increasing frequency (4 or more times/week).  It gives you a better feel for the water.  A big week for any of the disciplines (super-compensation week) can give you a boost, but you have to follow up with recovery in order to not become injured.  On the bike, you can work to increase your cadence and smooth your stroke.  With the run, a quicker cadence can also be worked on, landing underneath your body, the arm swing, breathing patterns, and staying relaxed. 
            The off-season can also be a great time for other sports, hobbies, and cross training (because three sports aren’t enough!).  Some triathletes like to use the winter to cross-country ski to replace a chunk of their running.  It gets the pounding off the body but is great for the aerobic engine.  I’ve heard great things about yoga too.  As stated in my previous post, it’s also the PERFECT time to hit the weights!  Before you start anything after your season ends, just remember to first take time for recovery, evaluate your last season and set goals for your next.  Then when you are in need of some motivation to get out on your trainer, run in the cold, or get up to workout while it’s still dark out, remember that champions are made in the off-season.

Stay tuned, next week is for the triathlon newbies!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Finding Focus

            As I am in the midst of planning out the 2016 race season, I’m starting to feel a lot more focused.  The past 3 years I was training for the Half Ironman distance.  After the debacle that was this past season, where I ended up switching to a shorter distance instead of racing my half that I had trained for, I’m instead going into 2016 with the focus being on the Olympic distance.  To be more specific – my focus is on Nationals, which will be in Omaha, Nebraska for 2016.  With the age-up rule, I was ranked 12th in the 30-35 age group (yikes, I’m getting old!) for Team USA. 12th!  Top 10 make podium at Nationals and that’s my goal!  I can always return to the HIM distance when the kids are older and I can get better sleep… 
            While Nationals isn’t until August next year, I’m already training for it!  For 6 months, I’ll be rotating through doing single-sport focused training blocks. 
  •       November & December: Swim Block
  •        January & February: Bike Block
  •       March & April: Run Block
I’ll be doing some BIG (high-volume) swim weeks before Thanksgiving and Christmas when we’ll be traveling and I’ll have some down time to recover from it.  I’ll swim up to 6 days/week, and hit at least 16,000 yards or more.  I’ll have mostly structured workouts, focusing on muscular endurance, sprints, and drill/form work.  Some of the workouts come from a book, others I’m writing or I’ve used in the past (threshold swims with short breaks, short sprints with longer breaks, ladders, intervals, and even using a variety of strokes).  Some are short swims of only 2,000 yards, others will be around 3,600 or so, depending on my available time and what the purpose of the workout is. 
During this time, the bike and run are basically on maintenance mode: low mileage, with low to moderate intensity.  I took a lot of time off from the bike, so I’m basically just getting back into it.  I’m including some builds and short, high-intensity intervals with the aerobic level rides, and plan to ride 3x/week for around an hour or more (outdoors on the weekends if I can – guess that might be done now).  In December, I’ll starting adding more intervals and intensity once/week in preparation for the bike block that’ll start in January.
I’m keeping my runs mostly at an easy, conversational pace as base mileage.  I’ll include some strides in about half or so of the runs.  If I’m feeling antsy for some speed, then I’ll do a fartlek (speed play) run one day/week at most.  My goal is to run 6 days/week and have my mileage build from around 15 miles/week to about 24 or so during the swim block (keeping it easy).
I’m also really putting a lot of focus on strength training right now as well.  I’m lifting with the volleyball girls, track kids, or whoever else wants to show up, 3 days/week.  I do their program with them, and then I tack on some additional stuff after.  Each day we do 2 core lifts: squat, bench, clean, deadlift, snatch, or incline.  We also have a couple auxiliary lifts: lateral pull-downs, hamstring curls, glute/ham, box jumps, etc.  I also do the mule runs with them, as well as the core work.  If I have time, I’ll also do the dot drill and ladders with them.  After that, I run through a P90x workout, which throughout the week involves: pull-ups, push-ups, triceps, biceps, legs, etc.  It takes me an hour to get through the whole thing.  I’m feeling stronger, and I’m excited to be back at it!  I also know that it can pay back in big dividends, in strength, durability and injury prevention, improving all-around athleticism.  Let’s hit the weights!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Running the Red Light

            On the morning of the Three Eagle Half Marathon, I woke up with a bad cough.  I ran it, and after the first 4 miles, I was already beginning to fall apart.  Afterwards, my body felt terrible.  It was my worst half marathon time – 10 minutes slower than my best, and about 5 minutes slower than my worst.  Yikes.  I wondered, “What is wrong with me?” and began contemplating retirement from racing.  Yup, it’s been that kind of a season.
            A couple of days later, I had such terrible back pain that I had difficulty walking.  Thankfully, I had Timber Land Chiropractic to give me several much-needed adjustments.  I also was having shoulder pain from hitting at my volleyball girls so much in practices that I was on the verge of an overuse injury and had to rein it back.  The ever-informal Polish Square Run was the weekend after the Three Eagle, and Andy and I ran it together.  It was cold, I still wasn’t feeling well, but we ran it together and had fun running for a change.
Meanwhile, the cough continued to get worse, and 10 days after it started, I had such tremendous head pressure that I thought I had a sinus infection.  I finally saw a doctor the next day and found out I had pneumonia.  I was put on an antibiotic and told to rest.  I had already been napping the last few days (I don’t ever nap either), and so I continued to.  At the same time, we were dealing with more night frustrations with Myles, who was screaming for an hour at night before we could finally get him back to sleep, only to have an early morning with him.  REST?!
            I took one week completely off from workouts.  No swimming, no biking, and no running.  One of my biggest breaks ever.  I started lifting, and pinched a nerve in my lower back, so I restricted my lifting for a couple days.  Pain is your body’s way of saying “stop” or “slow down.”  We often ignore it for as long as possible until we are forced to deal with it.  This season I have had so many caution and red flags woven at me that it felt like they outnumbered any green ones.  Sometimes you need to push through, and other times it’s better to pull back.  Distinguishing between the two can be tough, especially when you are so emotionally invested.
Andy and I took a much-needed break and went to Florida for almost a week!  Upon return, I planned to start my swim-focused block, only to be at the same time met with another nasty head cold.  I’m forging ahead despite being miserable for the time being.  I got on the bike the first day after being back, and Baya wanted to keep me company out in the garage.  She played with her bike while I rode mine.  About two-thirds through my ride, Baya ran into the wheel of my trainer and I instantly smelled the rubber from her wheel.  I yelled at her to stay away from there and her response was to cry hysterically.  Thus ended my ride.  While all of these things are very little by themselves, I feel like it has been a reflection of my entire season.  I felt like I was constantly battling something and couldn’t catch a break.  Sleep deprived, struggling to come back from this 2nd pregnancy, tight hips, back pain, 2 rounds of mastitis (the 2nd made me miss one of my 2 long runs in prep for the half marathon), and being sick more times this year than the past 5 years combined.
            I only had one decent race this year, and fortunately it was at Nationals and I did well enough to qualify for Team USA for 2016.  The rest of the season was full of one frustration after another.  Somehow I still managed to earn All-American status for the 2015 season as well.  Not sure how that happened!  And after some much needed time off, I’m ready to get back into the swing of it.  2016 HAS to be better, right?!  If you have experienced struggles like this, in any area of life really, give yourself a break.  Then you’ll be ready to come back fresh and a whole lot stronger!