2014 Triathlon Reflection Part 2 by Nathan Rickman

Crunch Time – Real racing season!

The end of my season was going to be 3 races in five weeks with the last 2 being IronMan’s.  I knew I needed to get in some strong training to accomplish the goals that I had set for myself.  At the beginning of August, we had a family vacation out in the Midwest.  I took the opportunity to enjoy the heartland and packed in 336 miles of hard riding (Strava is very addicting), 76 miles of running and 1 swim session over an 8 day period.  I came back a little tired, but re-energized about my prospects.  I had two simulation days over the next 2 weeks including a big training weekend up at Deep Creek Lake, followed up by another 100 mile ride w/ brick and a 20 mile run the following weekend.   I was tired, but felt that I had put in all the preparation I could for my 5 week racing schedule. 

The two weeks leading up to Reston, I didn’t know if my body would be ready in time to have the performance I was looking for – still fatigued from the load I had put on it over the past few months.  I had a few very poor workouts, but Shelly kept me positive and on track.  I really wanted to win the Reston Triathlon and was looking forward to it.  All of my performances for the year had been ok, but nothing great. 

One of things that I began looking at a few weeks before Reston was cycling cadence of the top pros.  I had seen a few articles where the pros had cadences in the 80’s for their races and just assumed that was just one or two of them.  The more I looked at it, almost all of the pros were riding cadences in the high 80’s for their races – both 70.3’s and 140.6 distances.  I had made a very conscious effort over the past year to get my cadence right at 100 for my races.  Shelly had noted when she first started working with me, that she thought this was high.  I had thought that I was able to put out more power with a higher cadence, but hadn’t realized the cardiovascular impacts of riding that way and my HR being very elevated for long periods of time.  Although late in the season, I was now making a conscious effort to ride a slower cadence and higher gear.

Reston Olympic
Reston Tri1 NB
When I came out of the water, I was told that I was five minutes down on the leader.  I was initially in a little bit of funk, feeling that I swam fairly well, but upset that I had lost five minutes in a 1.5K swim.  As I came around the 1st lap of the bike, (3 lap bike course), Shelly told me that I was 3.5 minutes down and I thought to myself, let’s do this!  I picked up the pace and started flying.  A few miles down the road, I saw Eric Sorenson (Team FeXY & five time Reston Triathlon champion) and told myself that this was my race to win and I was going to do it right now.  I was making a statement to those around me and myself.   I caught the leader on the 3rd loop and ended with the fastest bike split by almost five minutes.  Since it was an out and back run, I knew I had a sizable lead in the race, however I saw Kevin Wright coming strong on the run and realized he started in the wave behind me (90 seconds back).  Having experience from Maritime earlier this year, I pushed the last 2 miles after seeing Kevin and ending up securing the victory with my kids, niece and nephew yelling for me over the loud speaker as I came around the final lap on the track.  Kevin ended up 2nd and FeXY took 1st and 2nd overall.   I was very pleased with my results and effort and buoyed by the fact that I did not have any back issues on the run.  I started getting excited for Maryland which was less than 2 weeks away.
Reston Olympic: 1st Overall, Fastest bike split by almost 5 minutes.
Reston Tri NB
With Maryland being my first IronMan event since Arizona the previous year where I had significant Nutrition / GI / Back issues, I was looking to greatly improve and thought if I could put everything together I would have a potential shot at an Age Group victory and even a high placing overall.  My preparation for the race went well, everything felt good going into the race and I was excited about my prospects. I felt much more knowledgeable about this race as opposed to my first one 10 months prior.  

IronMan Maryland Maryland Bike NB

It was a rolling start in water where everyone self-seeded themselves.  I wanted to be up closer to the front, right behind the 1 hour and under swimmers.  The Choptank River, was, as always, a little choppy, but I felt that I had a pretty good swim.  I looked down at my watch exiting the water and it read 1:09.  Five minutes slower than Arizona.  I wasn’t happy with that, especially given all of the swimming I have been doing this year, but I let it go very quickly and began focusing on my transition and getting on the bike.  Once on the bike, there were a series of turns before we got out to the main road that I had ridden a few times in preparation.  I navigated some of the turns that could potentially cause issues and was cautious of those in front of me, not wanting a repeat of the beginning of Raleigh.  Coming out of the swim 110th overall, I was passing a number of people on the bike in the beginning.  By the end of the 1st loop, I was in 4th place overall, and was feeling great on the bike.  My Normalized power for the 1st loop was 274 watts with an average cadence of 88 and Heart Rate of 156 bpm.  When I told Shelly the numbers as I passed I thought her head was going to explode and she was going to tackle me right there.  I then got a few not so subtle reminders to keep things in check and I dialed it back a little on 2nd loop.  I was closing on the leader who had a 19 minute lead coming out of the water and entered T2 in 2nd place and four minutes down.  My overall Normalized Power was 266 watts and average power of 264 watts (really backed off last 5 miles). 

I finished with a 4:29 bike split, 7:17 ahead of the 2nd fastest bike split in the race.  I might have been riding just a tad hot in the beginning, but I never felt like I was killing it.  Overall, my average cadence was 86 and HR was 155 bpm. My peak 30 sec wattage was 346 and peak 1:00 min was 323 watts.  Given that I held 280 watts for an hour and 277 watts for 90 min, means I was very consistent.  I do wish I would have trained more at a lower cadence – something to work on for next year.  Comparing this to my IMAZ race last year – 246 NP, 241 avg watts, 1.02 VI, 99 cadence, 157 avg. HR.  In addition to Cadence being 13 RPM less (that is a big deal), HR was 2 beats lower with 20 additional watts NP and 23 avg. watts higher.  I produced 8%+ more power at a lower cardiovascular cost!  

1979897_10204851866405712_4588728698664777523_nI came out of T2 with my own personal bike escort – top 3 male and female runners have bike escort during the run and began trying to reel in the leader.  I kept a consistent pace and was not trying to really push it.  My feet were really hurting – both the sides of my feet and my toes.  I was in a fairly significant amount of pain.  My lower back was also really tight, but that worked itself out about 5 to 6 miles in the run (although the feet continued to hurt throughout and were in bad shape after the race).  I passed the guy in 1st place around mile 10 and held onto 1st place through mile 16 when the eventual winner overtook me.  I never really thought about trying to stick with him when he passed me as I still had 10 miles to go and he was going a good bit faster than I was.  That would have been a different story had it been with 3 or 4 miles to go.  I would have definitely tried to stick with him at that point and really buried myself.  I couldn’t have done it for 10 miles, but it would have been interesting had it been on the last lap – specifically after the turn around on the last lap.  I would have had to have gone really deep, but I would have liked to have seen who was willing to go deeper at that point.  I almost feel bad to say it, but when he passed me with 10 miles to go, I didn’t want to let him go, but knew it was the right move for that race and for Kona.  It would have been a futile effort and could have ended IMMD differently (for the worse) and most assuredly would end Kona differently.
Maryland Finish NB

My run was almost 15 minutes faster at IMMD than IMAZ and a world of difference.  My lower back was hurting just like at IMAZ, but it didn’t get worse and I kept running with my butt up underneath me and it got better after 4 – 6 miles.  The outside arches of my feet were really hurting and never got better.  I felt like I had a very consistent pace – never pushing it hard – just going continuous.  Avg. Cadence of 90, Avg. HR of 158 and 7:24 avg on the Garmin with a short bathroom stop.  I stopped at every aid station and got water, perform and coke.  I took 3 strawberry gels and then 3 tangerine gels on the run as well.

I was about 2:30 slower for the 2nd ½ of the run vs. the 1st ½.  Ideally, I would like to negative split or be even in each ½, but 2.5 minutes difference isn’t bad.  I ran a 7:18 / mile avg. for the 1st ½ and 7:31 / mile avg. for the 2nd ½.  Interesting that my HR avg. was the same for both ½’s of the race.  

I saw Shelly at mile 22 and she said that I had had a chance to go sub 9 hours.  I hadn’t really thought about that during the run, although I knew I was close.  It was in my mind on the bike after the 1st lap, but I never looked at where I was at until after she told me.  I looked at my watch and saw that I needed to run around 8:00 / mile for the last 4 miles to be under 9 hours for the race.  I decided to start pushing it a little. I hadn’t really pushed the run up until that point.  I was trying to run a controlled, hard pace, but not digging deep.  I started to dig a little bit harder at that point and my laps went 7:30, 7:22, 7:21, 7:02 and then a 6:30 for the final lap.  I still wasn’t trying to kill myself as I knew I wasn’t catching the guy in front and 3rd place was way behind me.  I just wanted to finish solid and be comfortably under 9 hours.  

I finished 2nd overall with a time of 8:56:21 and the fastest bike split by 7 minutes and 17 seconds.  Breaking 9 hours was a significant accomplishment and one of the goals I had set for myself in my triathlon career.  Third place was 11 minutes and 30 seconds behind me.  I was ecstatic with my results and felt that I had put together a really good effort overall.  Additionally, I qualified for Kona in 2015.

I spent the next two weeks recovering and getting ready for the World Championships.  I was determined to figure out what was wrong with my feet.  I had assumed the pain was something that everyone had to go through in Endurance Events and was just part of racing.  After seeing a Podiatrist, I realized that both my biking shoes and running shoes were too small.  I know what you are thinking – how can someone who has ridden over 16,000 miles and run over 2,500 miles in the past 2 years not know that their shoes did not fit properly?  Some of it was just thinking I needed to toughen up.  Some of it was thinking that my form was just bad and part of it was that many of these problems didn’t really manifest until significant volume had been reached.  Additionally, swelling during race settings plays a significant impact.  I headed directly to PRR and tried out larger running shoes and ultimately selected a different brand as it turns out I have a very wide foot.  I also ordered larger / wider bike shoes which showed up a few days before I left for Kona.  Additionally, I started going to physical therapy where I realized that my hip flexors were “the tightest that they had ever seen”.  Turns out much of my back pain could be attributed to tight hip flexors and my hip alignment problem that I had earlier in the year.  Armed with bigger shoes, identification of the causes of many of my alignments, and a series of new stretches, I was ready to tackle the next challenge, Kona.

The next weekend, two of my good buddies and Team FeXY Teammates qualified for the 2015 World Championships in Kona as well. Kevin Wright by winning his Age Group by over 20 minutes, powered by the fastest Age Group Marathon time by over 3 minutes at Chattanooga; and Drew Gaibler by digging deep on the run and finishing 4th in a tough age group – overcoming multiple leg injuries and a poorly timed wedding / house move.  As I got ready to leave, my workouts were feeling good and I felt that I was going to be recovered well for the race.  

Next up Kona!

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2014 Triathlon Reflection Part 1 By Nathan Rickman

After qualifying for Kona in my first IronMan in what I knew was a race that had significant room for improvement in multiple areas, I was very excited about my prospects for 2014 and was determined to put in even more work than I had in 2013.  I was hungry and with the experiences gained over the past 18 months (see previous article – Backyard Triathlons to Kona Qualifier #1 & #2), I felt that I was in a great position for significant improvements. 

Early Season Training

My training started off well enough – doing a 165 mile ride on a unseasonably warm December day for the Hains Point 100 and starting full-time with FeXY Coaching Systems under Michelle (Shelly) McKenna Lake as of Jan 1st.  First things first, we needed to establish baselines for swimming, biking and running to accurately setup my training plans.  This was something new to me and being a numbers person, I was very excited.  Those first 2 weeks in January we completed the baselines and my biking FTP was 60 watts higher (22%) than it was at the same point last year.  I was very excited about that.  My initial VDOT test showed that I had not been training with any easy runs the previous year.  Essentially everything that I did was at Tempo Pace or faster which contributed to my overall fatigue levels the previous year.  Not only was I going to train harder this year, but I was going to train smarter – of course the later took a lot of trial and error as well.

I had the mindset that I needed to lay the groundwork with some serious volume and interval work in the beginning of the year.  Much to Shelly’s chagrin, I went off the reservation a number of times squeezing in extra workouts, turning 2.5 hour planned rides into 120 milers and running faster / longer than my VDOT paces called for.  I was also experimenting with new shoes as my feet and toes were always killing me after races.  With the new shoes, I developed some small stress fractures and a huge, infected blister that kept me from running for a while. 

With this terrific start to my training (sarcasm intended), the first thing on my schedule was a ½ marathon – Rock and Roll in DC.  I didn’t even know if I would be able to run in it the week prior as my infected blister was still healing and walking was still somewhat difficult.  I went out there with zero expectations and ended up placing 5th in my AG, significantly exceeding what I thought I was capable of.  Feeling good about my results, I went out the next day and did a 6 hour ride vs. the 3 hour ride that was on my schedule….

Multi-Sport Expo

Multi-sport expo NB

The next weekend was the Multi-sport expo where Team FeXY put together a team.  This is a fun event where triathlon clubs get to compete against other clubs in the three triathlon disciplines.  Our team was highlighted by having the reigning IronMan World Champion, Miranda Carefree run on our 5K team.  Kevin Wright beat out her husband, Tim O’Donnell, who almost broke 8 hours at an IronMan in Brazil the year prior and was the top placing American in Kona in 2013.  I participated in the biking event that was conducted on Computrainers.  Tim Kelley, John Schaller and Dina DelRaso made up our squad for the 10K effort against the clock.  In addition to our intra team rivalry, we were looking to have the #1 team at the event.  With 0.25 miles to go as I was starting to make my final push and holding a very small lead (albeit shrinking) over Tim, my chain became completely wrapped around my crank arm.  I ended up finishing on Tim’s bike after he completed.  In the confusion of what was going on and trying to figure out how someone completely screws up their chain while riding a trainer, we narrowly missed out on the top overall spot to Team Snapple and Tim getting knocked off the top overall spot by 2 seconds.    For the event, we lost out to a very strong Team Snapple, but will be looking to knock them off their perch next year.

Blue Ridge Bike Camp 2014

My focus then turned to the Blue Ridge Bike Camp which has become an annual event for me and the event that really got my cycle training going in Triathlon the year prior.  This year, John, Tim and I had big plans to not only ride to the camp, but to do 500+ miles for the four days of camp.  Our type ‘A’ personalities had us each trying to one up each other and squeezing in extra miles when the others were not looking.   I ended up with just less than 550 miles for the weekend and 42,000 feet of total elevation gain.  It was a great experience and a lot of fun, but I buried myself more than I realized in the process.   

BRBC 2014 500 Mile Club NB

 

We shipped an overnight bag and clothes for the 1st day of camp down to Front Royal the week prior to the ride.  Trey Leightley also agreed to drive the rest of our stuff down and be our Sherpa.

 

Day 0: We each started at our respective houses and met on the trail.  We ended Day 0 with 165 miles, 8,000 feet of elevation gain, two states, a Ferry crossing, a few unplanned gravel roads and quite possibly the best donuts ever at the Apple House about 2/3 of the way through the ride.  The day ended with us crossing a four lane highway in flip flops to eat as much as we possibly could at Cracker Barrel.

 

Day 1: Trey met us at the hotel in Front Royal in the morning to pick up our overnight bags and we got on our bikes and climbed up to the start of the camp at Dickey’s Ridge.  Even though I begged and questioned the manhood of both Tim and John, I couldn’t convince them to ride back down to the bottom to the gate for some “extra” miles.  When Shelly wasn’t looking, I sneaked down the mountain and decided to go at it alone and found this guy named Drew Gaibler on the way back up who seemed like a good rider.  I had no idea who he was and didn’t have a lot of time for small talk as I was intent on catching Xavier’s wheel up ahead and linking back up with John and Tim.  Xavier was fresh and a strong rider.  It was a beautiful day out and things were going well.  We were pushing the pace and soon caught up with John and Tim who weren’t having as good of a day, but still managing well.  Just before lunch and Big Meadow I thought I was going to be in trouble and struggled for the last 2 miles.  Turns out, I was just REALLY hungry.  After stuffing my face and drinking a coke, I felt like a new man.  At that moment, the weather changed on a dime and the temperature dropped a good 20 degrees.  It starting misting and then raining really hard.   I ended up linking up with a group that was out in front and eventually found the car that had my rain gear.  Having been through the coldest ride of my life last year on Day 3 of Blue Ridge, I was prepared this year with ice fishing gloves (they were a godsend).  With my warm, dry hands and rain gear, I started hooting and hollering and took off again.  I found myself alone as the thunder and lightning rolled in.  Most of people got pulled off the mountain, but I had the appropriate lights on my bike and was close enough to the gate that the Marshall let me continue on.  I was the first one to arrive at the hotel and thankfully they had food.  The sun came out and it was a different world at the bottom of the mountain.  I stuffed my face continuously for the next 2 – 3 hours.  As I was showering I heard that Tim went back out on his bike to make up miles that he lost when the Marshal told him he couldn’t ride.  John also slipped his grasp and got his miles in.  

Totals for the day: 126 miles, 13K+ feet of climbing and almost 400 TSS points.  This was my biggest effort of the weekend – I averaged 238 watts Normalized Power over 7 hours and 45 minutes of riding.  

Day 2:
BRBC Day 2 NB
We convinced our new buddy, Drew, to join us in our craziness and we set out on a different route from the rest of the group.  We had some beautiful scenery along the river and rode to Bueno Vista and picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway from there.  On the climb up Route 60, we had a nice steady pace going and Tim decided to fly past me.  I figured he was trying to race up the hill, so I put the hammer down and powered my way to the top.  When no one was in sight, I did 1 mile loops on the Parkway above until everyone else got up there, getting in “extra miles”.  We continued the day at an easier pace and I began to get antsy around the top of Mt. Vesuvius and begged and pleaded to ride up and down and catch up with everyone later.  Fortunately, rational heads prevailed and I continued on with everyone else.  We got back to the hotel and I decided I was going to get some more miles in.  I am not really sure what I was thinking, but for some reason the 100+ miles that we already did wasn’t enough.   I ended the day with 122 miles and 8500 feet of elevation gain.  When I finally got back to the hotel, I heard that Shelly was “looking” for me.  When she found me, I got a very stern lashing and she threatened to stop coaching me.  I tried to rationalize everything, but she had heard it all before and most certainly knew better.  I promised to fall in line after the weekend, but wanted to keep riding.  I assured her that I was feeling good and this was going to be a great base for later in the year.  

 

Day 3:
BRBC Day 3 NB
I convinced Drew to ride with me on the final day.  We decided to do some “extra” miles in the beginning and then tried to catch John and Xavier who were pushing hard ahead.  We rode hard that final day, but could not bridge the gap.  After getting to Dickey’s ridge, I rode back to pick up Tim and his group and then Tim and I continued onto Spelunkers at the bottom of the hill.  The last day I ended with 131 miles and 11.5K feet of elevation gain.  I was feeling good until the next day when I woke up and moving was very painful and difficult.  Needless to say, my workouts did not go as planned for quite some time. 

 

Major Lesson #1: You cannot continue to dig a hole and not let your body replenish itself

 

1st Part of Racing Season

With significant volume under my belt and my new bike finally arriving less than 2 weeks before my first scheduled triathlon race of the year, I was getting excited to race again, but concerned about my on-going residual fatigue.  I went to the Maritime Olympic Triathlon with high expectations.  I drove out with my brother-in-law, Thomas, who was doing his first triathlon since he got me into this sport in 2011 at the Nation’s Triathlon.  It was a two wave race and I exited the water with some ground to make up on the bike.  While trying to adjust to my new bike, I was able to pick off everyone in front of me except for 1 individual.  While I ended up with a slightly faster bike / run split than he did, he still finished over 6 minutes in front of me due to his much faster swim and transition times.  Even though I crossed the line in 2nd place, another FeXY team member, Stephen Eid started in the wave behind me and while discussing the race with him afterwards, we realized that he had beaten me by 25 seconds and he ended up 2nd overall.  Team FeXY ended up 2nd and 3rd on the podium, so it was a good day, but I was having issues with my lower back off the bike and attributed it to just needing to get used to my new bike.  
Maritime Tri NBTwo weeks after Maritime, I was signed up for the Raleigh 70.3 IronMan event.  This was scheduled to be my early season ‘A’ race and I was really looking forward to a good showing.  The day didn’t start off quite as I hoped as I was cut off going around a turn 2 miles into the bike and ended up crashing at 25+ mph.  After re-composing myself, picking up everything that I lost and re-adjusting my brakes so that they were not rubbing against the wheel, I was trying to make up lost time.  I ended up coming off the bike 2nd in my Age Group, behind Henry Tragle (another FeXY Teammate) and alongside the eventual winner of the AG.  I started off the run with a good pace, but knew very quickly that I wouldn’t be able to sustain it.  My lower back started absolutely killing me and I told myself multiple times during that race, that it was the last triathlon I was ever doing.  I have never felt so bad on a run in my life.  I ended up in the medical tent [again] with an assortment of issues ranging from my feet, shoulder, back and dehydration.  I slipped to 7th in my Age Group, while Henry had a solid performance and finished 2nd, qualifying for the 70.3 World Championships.  Drew Gaibler ended up qualifying for the 70.3 World Championships as well with a strong performance.  Raleigh Awards NBI ended up with a roll down spot, but declined as it was the same day as Reston triathlon and I couldn’t justify doing another trip away from home.  Not to mention 3 hours earlier I had sworn off ever racing again.

Back to the drawing board

After Raleigh, I realized I needed to do some serious reflection on what was not working for me.  In addition to getting various injuries throughout the beginning of the year, I had not performed as well I knew I was capable of doing or desired.   I needed to figure out what was going on with my back and had to give my body time to adapt to the training loads that I was putting on it.  My grandfather always used to tell me to work smarter and not harder, something that Shelly continued to echo to me as well, but I am a very stubborn person.
Total 200 NB

With nothing on my schedule until the Reston Triathlon in early September, I could focus on my training.  This started with doing the Total 200 event with Tim Kelley on what was a beautiful day outside.  Even though we ended up with 6 flat tires between us throughout the day, we managed over 20 mph for 200 miles and had a really good time.  I was finally starting to feel very comfortable on my new bike and was looking forward to my critical part of the season.  I began doing Chiropractor sessions and realized my hips were 2 inches out of alignment.  I also did a run analysis at UVA pointing out a number of things, most notably that I wasn’t using my glutes to run.  I began making these incremental changes and noticed improvements in my running efficiency.  

Earlier in the year, IronMan came out with a program to transfer between races under certain circumstances.  This was great for me as I was previously signed up for the inaugural Chattanooga IronMan as it was going to be team event and I signed up prior to qualifying for Kona.  Those races were only 2 weeks apart in 2014 and I knew I couldn’t do both.  Shortly after announcing the transfer program, IronMan announced a new race on the calendar – IronMan Maryland.  I was originally thinking about doing the SkipJack race again (modified ½ IronMan distance that I won in 2013) and this took the place of that on the schedule.  I had originally planned on this being my last simulation day and only doing a portion of the run.

During one of my longer training runs, an idea popped into my mind to race both Maryland as well as Kona.  I felt that I would be able to recover in the 3 weeks in between the races and do well in both.  This was a risky goal, and one that many people didn’t agree with, but I felt that the Maryland race played to my strengths and gave me a unique opportunity to potentially win my Age Group at an IronMan event.  My heart was telling me to do it and you need to follow your heart.  After multiple discussions with Shelly, John and many others, I determined that I would play it by ear and if my back was really bothering me, save myself for Kona.  Otherwise, I would throw my hat in the ring and see what happened.  

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Ironman Chattanooga 2014 Race Report – A Dream Fulfilled

Pre-race

I woke up on race morning at 4:30 am for the 7:30-8 am start.  Got dressed quickly and had my standard race morning breakfast: a bagel with peanut butter and OJ.  Felt like I could use a few more calories so brought a banana and granola bar in my bag to take to the swim start.  After getting dropped off near transition I set off to take care of the usual things.  Got body marked, put air in the tires, set up bottles and bike computer, etc.  However, I did make a point to revisit my bike and run bags so I could add my planned nutrition to each one and internalize their locations one last time.  Met up with Mom, Coach Shelly, and some of the team to take the shuttles over to the swim start.  Spent a lot of time waiting in the line to swim, but this was by design.  Shelly advised her athletes to start a little further back in the line to allow for some racers out in front to pass.  The wait was like an eternity.  Although I honestly did not feel that nervous, I seemed to pick up some of the collective anxiety that seemed to be floating in the air.  

Swim – 50:04

Once I hit the water, any nervousness I built up was released.  I had been really ready to get started.  

IMCHOO Swim Warmup

At the last minute I miraculously secured a swimskin that fit me just about perfectly while waiting in line for the start, courtesy of teammate Drew Smith who opted for his wetsuit.  This turned out to be a good move in the end, as I felt smooth and incredibly relaxed in the swim.  I had a little trouble staying straight with somewhat foggy goggles and bumped into a kayak or two.  Tried not to let this bother me and did my best to keep swimming steady and sighting to locate the next buoy.  I was able to relax enough to pee a couple times before making the turn out of the river and into transition.

T1 – 7:20

Was pretty pumped about my swim time (as I’m sure many racers were) when I entered T1.  Found my bike bag without any trouble and headed in to change.  I shimmied out of the swimskin and switched from the tri shorts I wore into dry bike shorts for more padding.  Also spent some time putting on my bike jersey over my tri top to increase my nutrition-carrying ability.  Threw on my socks, shoes, glasses, helmet, and ran out to mount the bike.  Although I figured it was worth it to make sure I had everything set for the long ride, in looking back I need to quicken this process up somehow.

Bike – 5:15:23

The plan that Coach and I came up with was to start off riding the first loop of the bike a little easier, aiming for 210 normalized power.  Then I was to work a bit harder in the second loop and finish with 220 NP.  Perhaps inevitably, I started out with lots of energy and had my NP into the high 200 teens within the first hour.  Recognizing I was riding a bit too hard and backing off may have saved my race.  I managed the watts down to 213 by the end of loop one and tried to start building back up gently.  I was reminded of how much harder it is to increase NP this way, and could only add four watts by the end to finish with 217.  Despite this result I was encouraged by the fact that I came close to the original plan and did not fade on power like many of my long training rides this summer.  Things also went fairly well nutritionally as I stuck very close to the planned schedule of ingesting solid calories every 30 minutes, a bottle of water/Gatorade mix every 40 minutes, and a couple of salt pills every 60 minutes.  This turned out to be a comfortable stream of solid and fluid calories that I had practiced with all season and did not upset my stomach.  The one exception to this came at special needs.  While the volunteer who grabbed my bag for me switched my bottles (she was awesome) I pounded a PB&J.  I’ve found that my stomach can handle this amount of food with no issue mid-race and this time was no exception.  Felt refreshed and rejuvenated coming out of special needs.  My biggest issue on the ride was probably the fact that no matter how hard I tried, I could not force myself to pee on the bike while moving.  I still have yet to do that in training but thought if I let it go long enough it would just happen… nope.  Heading out for loop two it was to the point where I felt like I was sacrificing power and drinking less fluid because I was thinking so much about it.  Finally I gave in and pulled over around mile 70, thinking I could make it the rest of the way and go once more in T2.  This will be something to work on for next race, as well as cutting down the minute or two I spent at special needs.  If I could get all extra nutrition that I can’t carry from the course I might be able to keep the bike moving for the entire time.  

T2 – 5:23

I felt an undeniable sense of relief as I rolled into T2, having put down what I thought was a more than acceptable bike split.  The relief was also there due to how I was feeling in my legs, mentally, and nutritionally.  This is not to say I was without fatigue, but otherwise it was all systems go.  After passing my bike to a volunteer, I took off for my run bag.  I probably got too focused on taking off my helmet, because I ended up with too much speed to be running in cleats when I reached my bag.  The combination of trying to stop and bend down for the pickup took me straight to the pavement.  In retrospect, this moment could have been a lot worse.  I broke my fall softly and the elbow that made contact luckily did not split open or bruise.  I bounced back up and tried to act like nothing happened, making my way into the changing tent.  Transition continued to go smoothly as the volunteer assisting me revealed a race belt with a broken snap on one side.  This volunteer guy spared me from miles and hours of aggravation as he quickly thought of tying up that side as the solution.  As he was figuring that out, I hurriedly tied up my trainers… only to realize I was still wearing my bike shorts.  Too much pinging around in an adrenalized brain.  I took a deep breath and got everything straight.  Stuffed the four gels and salt tube in my tri top pockets, thanked my volunteer profusely (found him after the race and did so again!) and made my bathroom stop.  Finally, I headed out.

Run – 3:04:28

Predictably, I was overly excited to be on my feet and running.  On my way out I made eye contact with Mom, who told me I was only 8 minutes out of first in the age group.  I was astounded at this news and this surely added fuel to the competitive fire that was now raging inside me.  I saw Coaches Shelly and Scott on the first hill who both told me to relax. 

IMCHOO Amicola Highway

A few minutes later I clicked off mile 1 at a 6:37.  I said some things out loud to myself that should not be repeated here, but a few miles later I had myself under control.  I began to hit consistent splits that were between 7 and 7:15.  For nutrition, I took one Roctane GU every 45-50 minutes and one lick from the salt tube every 60 minutes.  I took water at every aid station, drinking a variable amount based on how I was feeling and dumping the rest on my head and face.  I also had Perform whenever I thought I needed it, which was at least every other station.  The next time I saw the support crew, I was told the race was there for me if I continued at that pace.  Shelly urged me to keep it up but be conservative.  I let this information sink in a bit and for the first time began to consider the implications of the day I was having.  A fresh wave of adrenaline came washing over me as I made my way across the river to the hilly part of the course.  This was the part of the course I had been specifically visualizing in my preparation and could not wait to get back to after running it during camp.  I did my best to soak in the moments, smiling and reacting to those cheering for me.  After coming back across for the start of loop two I ran by Shelly and Scott again, who encouraged me and affirmed that I was building a lead.  Never having been in that kind of position before, I did not know how to react other than to keep doing what I was doing.  Nutrition was going well and my legs were holding up fine.  At the halfway point I checked in under 93 minutes, which was around what I was hoping for to have a shot at sub-3 hours.  It was not until mile 16 or so that I started yearning for the end.  My pace remained the same, but each mile required more effort than the last.  Stubbornly refusing to back off, I hit the hills again hard but was greeted with jelly in the legs.  All of a sudden I had run 7:40 and 8:05 miles- but fortunately did not have much race left to go. 

IMCHOO Pedestrian Bridge

I ran the rest of them all around 7:30 to complete a slight positive split.  Definitely glad I did not need to really bury myself for any reason as I would have suffered much more in the final 10K. 

Summary – 9:22:38 – 34thOA – 1stAG

Coming through that finishing chute was equivalent to the greatest natural high you might find on earth.  I now have a much better appreciation for what it takes to perform at the full-Iron distance.  This result was everything I could have hoped for and more.  Although I did know going into the race that qualifying for Kona was somewhat possible, it was still more of a dream or long-term goal in my mind.  It was a motivator for me to think about while training and during the race, but not to an overwhelming extent.  I felt very little pressure as I would have considered simply reaching the finish line a landmark achievement.  In my reflections of the past year of training and the race itself, I have come to the conclusion that there is no comparison to Ironman.  Everything about an Ironman is on a grander scale from the work it demands be put in to the rewards it gives out.  The conquest of life’s greatest challenges is what sets us apart as humans.  Completing any feat of such magnitude as an Ironman is a testament to what we can be capable of.  Being a part of this side of humanity is what excites me and drives me day in and day out.  And the best thing is, there is always another challenge ahead… 

IMCHOO Kona Slots

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Inaugural FCS Kids Tri Team Season Wraps-Up!


The FCS Kids Tri Team 2014 season was a huge success!!!  The team was coached by Kim Baumgartner, a USAT Level I and Youth and Junior certified coach and her husband Ben Baumgartner, a USA Cycling Level III coach.  The focus of the team was to introduce kids to triathlon and teach them the skills they needed to succeed in a fun and safe environment while pushing them to discover just how much they could accomplish when they put their minds to it!  The plan was to keep the first year small and controlled to ensure each of the athletes was given the attention they needed to succeed and have fun.  Our season kicked off in Mid-May meeting every Sunday night with a great group of kids USAT ages 7-14 (USAT age is the athlete’s age as of 31 Dec 2014).  With pool options limited for the early season and so many kids already participating on swim team, we decided to focus our weekly practices on Bike and Run, and offer a separate swim option for those kids needing additional help.  Each practice was something a little different and built in complexity as the season progressed.  Athletes learned bike handling skills, shifting, flying-mounts and dismounts, transitioning from swim to bike and bike to run, run form and improved their speed and power with track work, short bricks, and core strength work.  The kids worked really hard, but had a blast!!!  We promoted lots of friendly competitions, relays, and challenges and tried to end each practice with a game that the kids enjoyed.  Sharks and Minnows ended up being a favorite!

One of the favorite practices for the coaches and kids was our Tour De France tribute where each athlete competed in a sprint race to try and earn the “Green” jersey, and also the King of the Mountain competition involving a race to the top of a hill.  We even crowned our own “Yellow” jersey and “White” jersey by combining the results of the two races.  Another fun practice was our Father’s Day long-ride at Mason Neck State Park followed by a cookout.  We ended the season in August with a family relay race around the lake in Kingstowne, finishing up with a pizza party.

We designated 3 local races as “Team” races, supported by coaches and a team tent.  While racing was optional, we had a great turnout and saw team members on the podium at each event!  The first race was the Kids Tri Too event in June held at the Freedom and Aquatic Center.  This was several athlete’s first-ever triathlon and it was fantastic to see them all enjoying themselves and crossing the line as proud as could be. 10500303_808721095815188_1492362481065553105_n The next event was our biggest one.  We also went to the BRATS Sizzling Summer Youth event in Vint Hill, and the Charles County Youth Tri in Waldorf in July.  Several team members competed in additional events around the area as well!  It was such a blast seeing these kids grow both as triathletes and as a team throughout the season.  Next year we plan to start the season a bit earlier for those who want to get ready for some early season races in May, and also plan to organize a group to go to USAT Youth Nationals in August. We will also be adding a practice option in Reston and for those athletes ready to take their training to the next step we plan to offer a Performance Prep Team in Kingstown!





 

NEW for 2015:

FCS Kids Team (ages 6 – 15) practices in 2 locations: Kingstowne and Reston!!  Early Session practices begin in April, Main session June – Mid August.  Practices are once a week on Sunday evenings (1.5 hours between 5pm and 8pm depending on age)

Performance Prep Team (PPT) for ages (11-17) Pre-season Bike Program offered Jan – Mar, regular practices begin in April.  Performance Prep Team option is in Kingstowne only.

Uniforms! All team members will be able to purchase uniforms (tri suits, singlets, bike jerseys, and possibly swim suits).  ITU style tri suits will be mandatory for PPT members participating in draft legal events.

Check out the website for more information www.fexycoaching/kids or contact Coach Kim with questions or to be added to the distro list!

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IM Nooga Pre-Camp Recap

Last weekend we were lucky enough to pair a early season training camp preparing for IM TX (Lindsay), 70.3 Raleigh (Xavier and Slake) IMCDA (Coach Scott, Coach Shelly and Lindsay) and Challenge AC (Xavier) with a scouting of the Ironman Chattanooga course that many people we coach and are Teammates with will be racing. We will also be holding an Ironman Chattanooga Camp August 7-10 2014.

We had a few goals in our training/prep:
- Learn the Ironman Courses (bike, run mostly but also understand the swim setup)
- Get two long rides in - one on the Ironman course as well as a harder ride with mountain climbs (plenty of options for mountains in Nooga!)
- Swim most days including a long swim of 5k+ and 4k+
- Secure a locations for camp August 7-10
- Do a long run on the course – only goal not successful as it was hurricane weather on long run day


Swim Practice - Heading to the YMCA for another long swim set

Swim Practice – Heading to the YMCA for another long swim set

Our hotel – the Residence Inn downtown, was about .2 of a mile from transition and a 1/2 a mile walk to the YMCA where we did all of our swim training. The river was 52 degrees – no thank you ;). Day 1 we did a 5k swim and then followed it up with a semi-long run on the Ironman course (the Riverwalk portion) which was extremely scenic, especially with the sun setting over the river!

Day 2 – The goal for day 2 was to get in a shorter swim and then ride all or most of the Ironman course. It was a beautiful day – but turned quite windy. We learned quite a bit about the bike course (will save that for the next post) but in general it’s scenic with lots of farm animals, a fair number of railroad crossings (none are hazardous) and wind which from the south can be an issue as it’s relatively flat to rolling between two mountain ridges creating a funnel of wind.  :). Then some ran off the bike.

Bike Course - Left Turn onto Tennessee avenue

Bike Course – Left Turn onto Tennessee avenue

Bike Course - stretch on bike course along 193

Bike Course – stretch on bike course along 193

Day 3 – Day 3 was another longer swim, this time 4k, followed by a much more challenging bike ride up and over two mountains. The first climb was about 1400 feet over 6 miles and the second was 1700 feet again over 6 miles. Once on the second mountain we stayed up top for a long time and were lucky to have some amazing views of Chattanooga. The descent was pretty awesome with some really cool switchbacks. We hope to do a version of this ride at our camp.

Ride Day - Michelle and Lindsay at the top on Suck Creek Climb - 6 miles at 4%

Ride Day – Michelle and Lindsay at the top on Suck Creek Climb – 6 miles at 4%

Day 4 – Unfortunately this day was a really chilly washout but we did secure the location for our swim clinic/swim practice portion of camp the beautiful McCallie School in Chattanooga. We will also be doing a full simulation of the swim in the Tennessee river supported by kayaks another day.

Athletic Center at McCallie School

Athletic Center at McCallie School

Overall, the trip was a big success all around…Lots of training on and scouting of the IM Nooga course and surrounding areas. 
Next up our previews/pictures of the bike and run courses!

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How to qualify for the Boston Marathon

For the secret to qualifying for the Boston Marathon please wire $10,000USD to account number 123456.  Once funds have been confirmed a Nigerian prince will come to your door with an unmarked envelope containing a secret training plan… 

Seriously, the secret to qualifying for the Boston Marathon isn’t really secret at all.  Here is what you need to do: 

1)   Run a lot and I mean a lot of miles.  At least 700 or more over the course of 16 weeks.  Volume could potentially be the most important aspect to wringing every bit of running performance out of your body.  Without the miles, the rest will be difficult to accomplish.

2)   Run often.  Most serious runners are running six days a week and on many of those days running more than once a day.  The repetition of running every day is critical to developing the capillaries and the strength required to attain optimal marathon performance.  Cutting out a day here or there or doing cross-training sounds good in “Runner’s World” but there is no substitute for running.

3)   Prioritize your training over other things and by that I mean life.  Many times I hear people say things like “I am doing to do my long run Friday because I want to go out drinking Friday night.”  Bars are great but they won’t get you a strong marathon time.  Ideally you are doing your long run the exact same day you would do your race and at the same time conditioning your body to run long on that day and at that time.

4)   Which leads me to another point: make your training as specific as possible to your goal race.  Once you have picked your goal race (more on that later) study the course and try and figure out what you will need to do to be prepared.  I had to qualify for Boston at the Big Sur Marathon.  Consequently I went and ran up and down hills in the mountains prior to my race.  I know that I would not have qualified without this specific preparation. 

5)   Pick a goal race.  And only one.  Lately the trend in marathoning and running in general is to run many races and to “have a backup.”  If you look at the marathoning schedules of the pros they are generally running 2-3 marathons A YEAR, not a month.  You can’t peak for more than one marathon every 6 months.  You might be able to recover from a bad performance where you did not give 100% effort and then do another race shortly thereafter but you certainly won’t peak.

6)   Try and bring discipline to the other areas of your life that contribute to your performance i.e. eat right and “normally,” maintain some strength training so you don’t become unbalanced or have muscle atrophy in  non-running muscles, try and get as much sleep as you need to avoid over-training and severe fatigue.

7)   Do anything that will make you more able to accomplish the first 6 items.  That could be pick a plan to follow or hire a coach or wear pink compression socks.  Do whatever it takes to squeeze the maximum running performance and energy out of your body! 

Happy Running!

Coach Andrew

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It Takes a Village

It takes a village comes from an African proverb, and when it comes to triathlon, it may apply to us more than most other sports. As an athlete, and especially as a coach, I believe we need to explore a variety of perspectives, not only to find what might work best for each of us – and for my athletes -but also to learn more about ourselves and to help us function best in each of the disciplines. Chris “Macca” McCormack shares in his book “I Came to Win” that he’s made many of his major breakthroughs by learning from champions in other sports. He claims to have borrowed ideas from tennis, boxing, bodybuilding, and from sprinters to help address what were his weaknesses. His attitude is that if others have figured out how to solve similar problems or challenges you might have, you can learn from them to help you. I often see or hear the recommendation: “swim with swimmers, ride with cyclists, and run with runners to be the best triathlete. Learn from and train with the specialists.” As both athlete and coach, I’ve been trying to learn from anyone willing to share a gem of knowledge, including every coach I, or my kids work with and every athlete that I’ve trained with or raced against. I consider my training and racing all an experiment. And I continue to learn, as a result. Since my first attempt at the Ironman distance in 2010, I’ve been working with FeXY Coach Scott Baldwin as my triathlon coach, and he is fantastic. I’ve relied on him for race ideas and for making sure that I’m not doing too much, or too little, and to advise me with his more than 100 races’ experience. But in my continuing quest to learn, Scott isn’t my only coach. In my Masters program for swimming, I get to work with two long-time swimmers and coaches – one who was a sprinter, who emphasizes lots of yards to help get strong, and another who was a long distance swimmer, who emphasizes stroke mechanics and efficiency in the water. The combination of both of their perspectives helped me drop six minutes in my Ironman swim time. In cycling, I ride with two groups nearby. One group includes an Olympian cyclist, who offers not only tips (critique, actually) from time to time, but he can relied upon to offer a challenging pace. From these rides, I’ve gained strength in my cycling and have improved my bike handling skills. And conscious of what the aging process can do to a body, I work with a strength trainer, who is also well-versed in chemistry. From him, I work on functional strength and have learned a great deal about how nutrition can support my training. And, the most important learning may come from family and friends who support this time-consuming hobby. They help us keep both balance and perspective on all of this. The phrase “it takes a village…” is attributed to an African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child”, but when researched further, the phrase is an amalgam of several cultures across Africa that have conveyed this similar sentiment in different ways. For us as triathletes, the one that comes closest may be this one: ‘Omwana taba womoi,’ the translation being: ‘A child belongs not to one parent or home.’ Triathletes are part of many families, with many parents and many points of view.

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JFK 50 Race Report or what I think about when I run 50 miles

Ooops the gun went off.  Where’s the start.  Here we go start my GPS.  Yes it’s going.  How do my legs feel this morning?  Pretty good I think, loose it seems.  Man people are really taking off running fast!  Oh there’s Erik.  “How are you man?” Funny how people are running up this huge hill.  Time to walk.  Finally up the hill and onto the Appalacian Trail.  Wow that lady is wearing some really crazy compression socks/tights.  I wonder if they are supposed to be sexy?  They look like thigh highs.  I have to ask.  “Ohhh, they are so you can pee.” Ultra-runners are so crazy.  This stretch of road is steeper than the trail.  Time to walk again.  It is cold on top of this ridge.  The wind is cutting through me.  That’s OK I’m still warm enough.  Don’t forget to drink. Time to take first salt pill and eat something.   Now it’s time for the rocks.  I hate rocks.  I’m glad I ran on them all summerDSC_0016 though because this doesn’t feel so hard.  Ouch that hurt.  Damn rocks. Oh the first aid station.  There’s Miles.  Sweet hug!  Grab a pretzel, don’t forget to eat.  Too early for Coke, try and hold out.  Up the hill into the cold woods.  More rocks, more hills.  I can’t remember if this stretch is 15 or 16.  Ok well stop thinking about it just run and take it easy.  Don’t run up that hill just walk.  OK finally the downhill is starting, but its still rocky.  Arg.  I hate rocks.  Oh now we are going down down down.  This is good.  Can’t wait to run again.  Oh yes solid pavement.  There’s Miles again!!  Where’s the aid station.  Oh no aid yet, at the bottom near the towpath.  I’m hungry.  Need solids, I’m behind on solids.  Hungry hungry hungry.  Finally the aid station.  Yum uncrustables LOVE!  And Coke, time for some Coke.  Towpath?  Time to go.  Gotta’ make up time.  740?  Too fast?  No keep going keep running I don’t want to be on this towpath all day.  “RUNNER LEFT.” DSC_0077Damn 5am starters hogging the trail.  UGH.  Oh boy this is going to get old.  I’m moving though.  Keep drinking, keep eating.  “RUNNER LEFT.”  UGH.  Need   to   conserve energy.  Eat drink.  Salt tab.  Towpath, more towpath.  Fewer 5am starters.  This is good.  Picking up 7am starters. Suckers, went out too fast.  Why’d you go out so fast?  Miles ticking by.  This is good.  Don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about 50 miles being a long way to run.  Why do I do this stuff?  This hurts wow this hurts.  Why? Why? Why?  How could I do that?  What was I thinking? Why am I here oh yeah because I hate sitting, running better.  When do we get done with the towpath again?  Can’t remember 42?  43?  Think my GPS is off.  Think so, must be sign says Mile 38 and I have 39.  There’s Miles.  I need a hug.  Keep running keep running.  I can’t take this IMG_0626gotta’ get off this towpath.  Speed up push don’t let down.  Keep the pedal down.  Oh finally last aid station.  Coke, chips, coke.  Keep running.  Time to walk.  Up the hill.  Look at that funny dog sitting on his bed.  No soupthanks just want to get done.  This hill hurts keep moving.  Run to that pole don’t stop no stopping keep running no walking need to walk.  No cramps no cramps no cramps keep moving stretch calf on that hill keep moving.  Run run keep running Mile 2 OK just keep moving to the finish.  Last aid station can’t talk need coke and chips yes I’ll just point thanks.  What it’s downhill from here they always lie wait it is downhill OK pick up the pace one mile to go you liar oh it is close I remember that store.  That trooper is stopping traffic keep moving no cramp you stupid hamstring why keep running almost done.  I see the red lights oh yes that’s the finish homestretch home stretch oh yes across the line I’m done.  Don’t forget to stop GPS.

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Off Season Ideas by Coach Leslie

While the off-season allows your mind and body a break, one thing to watch out for is gaining weight. You might still be feeding the endurance athlete in you, but when you’re not working out as much or for as long or intense a session, the number of calories you are consuming may start to exceed the number of calories you’re burning, leading to more of you than you want to train with, come January. One thing I would recommend is to avoid any racing nutrition during the off-season. Don’t bring gels, blocks, or much of any packaged nutrition with you on your next ride or run, unless of course you’re riding or running longer than 90 minutes (and inserting some intervals in there). Now that we’re seeing lower temperatures outside, if you’re enjoying your off-season rides and runs outdoors, you won’t sweat as much, so you’ll have less to replace. And, as a general rule, if you’re fueling for your workouts (i.e. eating before your workouts) and keeping the workout steady state and not too long, your “recovery” food afterwards should be the next appropriate meal or a healthy snack. Another recommendation to keep the weight gain at a minimum is during the off-season you might want to increase your strength training. It’s a time when a hard session won’t ruin your next speed session or workout, as the strength session becomes the workout, instead. Ideally, begin with body weight exercises before you put weights in your hands. Once you can do some real (chest to the floor) push-ups (10 in a row?), and a few pull-ups (4-6 for women, 10 for men?), only then would I think about adding weights to the equation. We’re triathletes, not body builders – so go for functional strength movements. Add a few yoga movements to every session to open things up (namely hips and your back) and finish with a couple of planks and L-sits (hold for as long as you can) and your more muscular body will help burn some of those holiday calories.

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Run Free

Of late I have observed that runners these days carry a lot of equipment while they run. The popularity of running and the influx of new runners have spawned many new products to assist runners and make them feel more comfortable, run faster, or distract them in some way from the task at hand.

I just did Ragnar and was sitting by the side of the road in my van half asleep watching runner after runner plod by laden down with iphone and case, compression socks, hat, water bottle, belt for fuel and on and on and on. All of a sudden a lone runner flew by, a younger guy running fast and striding by the others. The thing that struck me the most was that he was wearing nothing but split shorts and his shoes and socks. Obviously he was in the zone, flowing down the road, striding out, completely immersed in the task at hand, nothing to distract him from the rhythm of his breathing and the sound of his shoes on the pavement.

Frequently when I run I set out with no watch and none of the recent accoutrements of running. Just the least amount of clothing and my light Nike Airs that give me comfort but keep my feet light and my cadence high. My recommendation to all runners is to Run Free. Pick a run during the week and ditch all the stuff. Pick a distance that you can run comfortably and know the distance and where you do not need to be concerned with time.

As you set out listen to your breathing, listen to your feet, ask yourself are you clomping? Are you running too hard? Too easy? Get in a rhythm and start to feel what it is like to flow along the road. Think of it as a moving meditation and let thoughts enter your brain, ponder them, and then let them go. Or don’t think about anything at all except the surface of the road and the noises around you, birds chirping, wind blowing through the leaves, whatever catches your attention. Practice stealth running. Quick feet, forward lean, light steps, keep your arms moving forward not side to side and look up and around and anticipate the next turn the next jump your next move. As you do this I know you will have a moment, even fleeting where you feel what it is like to really run and flow along the road and think that you could run forever.

It might not last that long, maybe to the next hill or the next light when you are interrupted but try and savor the moment and remember it and bring it back into your mind the next time you feel like you are slogging or need a lift on a long run. Fall is the best time of year to run free.

Go ahead, give it a run!

Coach Andrew

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