IRONMAN Certified Coach

Since I began competing in triathlon, the IRONMAN distance was a goal that seemed too lofty after completing my first sprint triathlon at Breezy Point on Naval Station Norfolk. The swim started from a boat launch in the Willoughby Bay, which averages 7-12 feet in depth, and sometimes it was no more than 4 feet deep. I had no idea. All I knew was that it was choppy and windy enough to blow the swim buoys off course, and I knew I was terrified.

The brackish water made it impossible to see farther than my submerged hand on the catch. I made the mistake of starting in the middle of the mass swim start for my first ever triathlon. I was kicked and swum over. It was also only the third open water swim I have ever done and the first OWS in a race. I didn’t have a coach. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I was going to drown out there and sink to the bottom. I worried about marine life, especially jellyfish. I swam panicked for 800 meters, or more because I swam so wide and off course, and was still in shock for the first three miles on the bike after T1.

So, to think of even completing an IRONMAN race seemed out of the realm of possibility after that swim where I thought I was going to die, after the unrelenting headwinds on the bike, and the sun burning my back on the run. Would I run another marathon? Sure. No problem. But running a marathon AFTER swimming 2.4 miles in open water and cycling 112 miles on my road bike, well that seemed impossible. But, impossible is what I like to do. After all, I ran a marathon a few short years after my first 5K road race.

Three years after that first triathlon in Breezy Point, I finished IRONMAN Maryland, standing up, healthy, and happy. Mike Reilly called my name and said what I had waited to hear all day long, “You are an IRONMAN!” I somehow ran through the finish chute to my family waiting for me on the other side. I was transformed during that race because I not only realized that the impossible is possible, but I also know that anything takes consistency and commitment, the support of family and friends, my daughter riding her bike alongside with me for 20 mile runs at age 10, and the help of a good coach. Mary Kelley coached me through my 70.3 and IMMD, and I couldn’t have done it without her.

Now, I can help other athletes know that the impossible is within reach. I’m looking forward to what we can all accomplish together.

Swimming is BACK! And in a BIG Way

Indoor pools may still be closed in our area, most races are postponed, or simply won’t happen, BUT open water swimming season is BACK (as well as some outdoor pool swimming)! Here are some places you can go right now in the Philadelphia area:

ETA Coaching in Medford Lake, NJ has five or ten swim passes that you can purchase here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2020-eta-coach-ows-passes-tickets-107366255360

Once you buy your passes, an email is sent out every Monday at noon for you to select the days and times you want to swim. This way, social distancing can be maintained on the small beach at Camp O. ETA offers swims on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

For open water racing, check out French Creek Racing’s series here: https://www.facebook.com/FrenchCreekTriathlon/?__tn__=kC-R&eid=ARA3OQfJMv_M3EVswNSBxrdm9ab_y6LNSVBwX32NLps9EsUxprJS6h2ON9wQmZ5boxmM6cEGlyCe59Qi&hc_ref=ARR1gxg2Zp3wmNc1xULb71ld6L6g2XJSVx4g5pCv5r3P0wuhwVUOLLOumv3TrZAVxm8&fref=nf

This is a link to French Creek Racing’s Facebook page where you’ll find information on open water training swims, open water racing, and pool swims. For pool swimming, French Creek Racing has practices on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at the Upper Merion Township Pool, which is an awesome 50 meter LCM pool. It’s outside, and you can watch the sunset while you swim. That’s a perfect evening to me! Preregistration is required and will be limited to six swimmers per lane.

Mid Atlantic Multisport has a waiting list for a season pass. You must have a season pass to swim at Marsh Creek Lake; swims are on Wednesdays 5-7pm (no Saturdays this year):
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mid-atlantic-multisport-open-water-swim-series-2020-training-swims-registration-83554739475

All of the open water venues have a marked course with lifeguards. Swim on, people!

Hey, White Triathletes…

Why isn’t more being said about how the sport of triathlon is so incredibly silent when it comes to addressing the inequities and lack of diversity? Worldwide, BIPOC make up almost 1% of the sport of triathlon. The burden is not on BIPOC to join the sport, but the burden is on the sport of triathlon itself to figure out how it can adapt and attract more diverse athletes.

The sport of triathlon is uniquely American, getting its start in Mission Bay in San Diego in 1974. John and Judy Collins, who moved from California to Hawai’i, wanted to create a competition for endurance athletes. In 1978, the Around the Island Triathlon took place, and the race was 140.6 miles of swimming, cycling, and running with the winner called the Iron Man. IRONMAN gained even more popularity in 1980 when the Wide World of Sports filmed the event. Since that time, the sport of triathlon has grown, but it is still mostly wealthy, older, white men.

I am in a minority in this sport and as a coach since I’m female. Some of my athletes are too, but we’re all still white and participate in much greater numbers than BIPOC. Female participation is at 30% for triathlon and 37% for cycling.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are organizations for Black athletes, but there are only a few of them. For most women, one of the largest groups is Women for Tri, sponsored by IRONMAN, and it’s the one I’m having the most issues with right now because the moderators are actively silencing posts about Black Lives Matter and other political posts, citing the rules that it’s not “triathlon related”.

Excuse me? How is being a black athlete NOT triathlon related? Black athletes face a whole bunch of issues I don’t even have to think about when I go for a solo run or ride. Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while on a run. Black athletes who train solo are not first assumed to be training, but to be up to no good or running away from something. Really. I know athletes who won’t run alone because they have been stopped on their run and asked what they are doing with the white person who stopped them threatening to call the cops. For real. So, to say that being black is NOT triathlon related is racist, and Women for Tri can do so much better than that. But, no. They aren’t. I recently checked in on the group’s page to see a post about “what is the best way to carry a firearm while cycling” (seriously, wtf?). Another post about “how do I look in my swimsuit” (again, how does this advance women’s rights?). Whatever.

The admin just updated to clarify that political posts are not acceptable (or hashing out political discussion will be deleted), which is subtext for: don’t post anything about race or Black Lives Matter. But, carry on about complaining about “Runners’ World” articles and how women are treated in them (how is this not political?). Carry on about which tri kit to purchase (how does this not promote a business?). Carry on about how beautiful your open water swim was (bragging when some of us are still on stay at home orders). But, when you carry on like that you’re leaving behind so many people. You are leaving behind BIPOC athletes, and I’m done with that.

That being said, “Triathlete” Magazine did post an article about how you can help: https://www.triathlete.com/culture/heres-how-you-and-we-can-help-right-now/

That’s a start. I’ve got work to do as a white female athlete and coach. And so do you because if you’re reading this, you’re probably a white person. Let’s change this sport from the inside out.

If you feel the need to get moving as I do because I can’t sit still when there is so much work to do, here’s another way you can support Black Lives Matter by donating $1 for every mile you run, ride, or walk to the NAACP here: https://runsignup.com/Race/AL/Anniston/1MillionMilesforJustice?fbclid=IwAR08SLairNfX_4SUrtjyWyPf_NUbi5NBn9ruX130XckYuQY5NgSXHmOfV8A&remMeAttempt=

I put my money where my mouth is and will be donating miles to the NAACP through the Civil Rights Race Series posted above. I am also running a virtual 5K to support LGBTQ+ youth. We need more diversity in triathlon with BIPOC athletes and more LGBTQ+ athletes too. Because only together, we are strong. That’s what the V Formation means. And that’s what I stand for. Always.

On Justice

I’ve been struggling to find the words to express my outrage of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police, but words fail me. For so long, the black community has been ignored and treated as second class citizens. For those who are shocked or surprised at the recent protests, you haven’t been listening. I hope you can hear their voices now.

Listen up. Advocate. Take action. Use your privilege to affect change. Because if you’re in the sport of triathlon, you are privileged indeed. Include more people in your endeavors and make them feel like they are part of the community. Black athletes only make up .5% of triathletes (women make up 30% for reference). Why? Because of a legacy of racial injustice from the historical lack of access to swimming pools to institutionalized racism and the poverty that comes with it.

So, will there ever be justice for George Floyd? For Ahmaud Arbery? For Breonna Taylor? Can we all do enough to affect change? What can we do to make things better when it all seems hopeless? You are responsible for your actions and how you interact and treat other people. Do the right thing, even when it’s hard. Injustice stops with you. It stops with me too.

You can start by supporting black athlete organizations and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s something small you can do to make a difference:
https://www.blacktriathlete.org/about/

For Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB):
https://www.blackgirlsdobike.com/
–I personally know some of the Sheroes who are leaders in this group. And they will get you riding in no time.

If you know of more organizations, please list them in the comments. Let’s bring more people together because no one does anything alone.

#Go By Bike

We went by bike to explore new hiking trails and safe routes in our neighborhood.

If you want to do something to make the world a better place right now. Like NOW. Then, it’s as easy as riding a bike.

Think of all the little trips to local spots near your home and in your neighborhood and how you get there. Sometimes, you might walk, but oftentimes, you may hop in your car to shorten the distance between your home and your destination. With a little bit of planning though, you could be going more places by bike instead.

Here’s what you’ll get when you choose to go by bike.

  1. You’ll see your neighborhood in a whole new way.
  2. You’ll see your neighbors from a distance and wave.
  3. You’ll notice the flowers along your route and shade from the trees.
  4. You might hear someone’s wind chimes in the breeze.
  5. You’ll pass small businesses in between the big box stores.
  6. You’ll ride on streets you’ve never driven down.
  7. You might find some neat artwork or a mural.
  8. You will certainly get some exercise and reduce your carbon footprint.

Going by bike is an adventure, powered by you. For more information about the #GoByBike movement, safe places to ride, how to ride with your kids, and all about bike safety, visit: https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/gobybike/

To join the Go By Bike Movement is simple:

  1. Choose your bike over your car at least once a week.
  2. Take a picture with a caption and #GoByBike
  3. Invite others to join by tagging them.

For those of you local to Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia is a fantastic resource for safe routes in our area and so much more. Consider joining the Coalition or making a donation to them so that they can advocate for more bike lanes, bike paths, and bike infrastructure in the Greater Philadelphia Area to make riding a bike safer for all. Check out their website here: https://bicyclecoalition.org/

If you live near Montgomery County, PA, here is yet another great resource: https://www.montcopa.org/BikeMontco

For news and more information for Lower Merion, check out: https://www.facebook.com/LMSafeCycling/

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

I know, I know, starting off a blog post with a reference to a David Bowie song is kind of lame because using a lyric from well know songs was a trick I used to begin one of my many college essays for British Literature or for Crime and Punishment in U.S. History when I couldn’t think of anything better to write for the first sentence of my introductory paragraph. It was a place holder of sorts to allow my brain to begin the writing process. I always intended to go back and change the opening lines of those many essays so many years ago, but I never did.

In this case, the title is appropriate and requires no editing. Change can be tricky even if you’re like me and are used to the uncertainty that comes with it. Because with change, there is a choice: the choice to maintain the status quo and stay comfortable with what is known, or there’s the other option of the unknown that could bring total failure with lessons learned or prove more beneficial while falling flat a few times. One thing is certain when making these choices: if the choice is to not change, then nothing will change.

I like change. When given the option, I do it.

These past few weeks have brought about many changes. The first of which is the overhaul of my website, aided by my awesome friend, Emma, who moved the whole thing from WordPress hosting to Go Daddy in a matter of days. Google threw up some road blocks, which took a few days to correct, a few hours or more on Google support, causing the site to go down and having me wonder if I should have just kept everything as it was. But, like I said: change is good. The site is now fully functional and better.

The second huge change was switching software platforms for my athletes, which made me feel as if I was pulling the rug out from under them during the switch combined with race cancellations, even though switching platforms was only a brief blip for many of them and more of an adjustment for me. Instead of using Training Peaks for athletes’ plans, I’m using TriDot, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the change. TriDot uses predictive analytics to pave the road ahead for my athletes so that the plan is totally optimized for each one of them. It’s the only program out there that uses artificial intelligence to tweak an athlete’s plan based on their performance from one workout to another. As a coach, I can still make changes and monitor the plan to best suit my athlete’s needs, certainly making it the right choice for the best gains for my athletes come race day.

Because of the switch to TriDot, I have more opportunities to actually coach my athletes one-on-one, follow up with all of them more often, do more frequent swim form analyses, more bike-handling skills sessions on hills and flats and roads, and more time to plan for race day with a more detailed nutrition plan and pacing strategy. Basically, I can do more of everything and offer more services to my athletes. And, that makes for one happy coach. If you would like me to coach you for your next triathlon, send me a message, and I’ll get you all set up.

Ch-ch-ch-ch changes may sputter about at first, but change is worth it. Face the strange (yes, I went there, quoting more lyrics from that song). So jump off that dock and into the murky depths and swim because you can, even if you can’t see anything ahead or below you, and seaweed wraps around your goggles, invisible jellyfish bubble up from the depths, popping off your fingertips, and the deep water swells toss your stomach to and fro. Because when you come out of that water, you’ll know what you are capable of.

Me and YouTube

With COVID-19 keeping everyone at home, I am not able to ride or run with my athletes or coach them one-on-one, and, like many other coaches, I’ve turned to the online world of Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Live, and, yes, YouTube.

I love YouTube for clips of all of my favorite shows, and I hate YouTube for all of the crap videos out there with no useful information and no entertainment value. That comes with the territory though, so I still tune in just about everyday. And, now I’m contributing to the plethora of videos online, plus one.

Like anyone posting videos, the vision of how the video will unfold is vastly different from reality. I’m no John Oliver, but more like Mr. Bean when it comes to being in front of a camera. All of my awkwardness comes out: I look at my face and wonder how it could make that smirk and does my voice really sound like that? Why did I just flip my hands like I’m turning over a pancake? Maybe I should sit on my hands next time to prevent them from flying in front of the camera?

Self-consciousness aside, I managed to post a video about beginner triathlete questions. It has content, and I figured out how to add text so viewers can read the questions that I’m answering. Ooh… there’s some nifty intro music too that fades. I have video editing skills, basic ones. Thanks, video tutorials. Here it is:

https://youtu.be/SJhhuM1Jq2k

The video has had five views as of this morning. Woo! Check it out because it does have some useful information. Seriously, if you have any other questions or topics that you would like to see covered, write a comment below or send me a message, you know, like regular people because if you drop a comment, I won’t see where it fell. Yeah, I’m only funny in my head.

Training in the Time of Corona

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of my favorite authors, and if you haven’t read “Love in the Time of Cholera”, you should. This is where I borrowed my blog post title from. Many athletes have a lifetime love affair with the sport in much the same way Florentino loves Fermina in the novel, so here goes.

Athletes without access to a pool will while away their time with dry land and strength exercises before returning to their love of the pool and open water. So, be patient, and while you wait for the pools to reopen, here is a dry land workout you can do:

Warm up for 5 min on the bike, walk, or run briefly and then:

10x double arm freestyle pull
5x single arm right
5x single arm left
REPEAT

Dead bug
https://youtu.be/I5xbsA71v1A
3-5 min plank–rotate between all of the plank exercises

10x Chest Fly
10x Reverse Fly
REPEAT

Bridge
Monster Walk

10x double arm freestyle pull
5x single arm right
5x single arm left
REPEAT

Don’t worry, pools will reopen, and you will get stronger in the interim. For the bike, most of us can still ride outside. Use this time to explore new routes in your neighborhood, practice on hills, and ride with your family, if possible. The other great thing about the bike is indoor training if you have a bike trainer and a subscription to Zwift, Trainer Road, etc. You can decrease your time and focus on intensity, which will make you even faster when you do get back to riding outside. Also, you can virtually ride with friends on Zwift and other platforms to help stop the spread of the virus. Ride on!

Last of all, for the run, embrace running solo and without music. If you’re in an area where you do not have to shelter in place, go it alone and easy to maintain your aerobic base. Conversely, you can also take your workout to the track or treadmill to increase your speed and strength.

Here’s one of my favorite run workouts for the treadmill from my running journal from Runner’s World. The treadmill keeps you honest and your pace steady, so use it if you have one and are stuck inside (this workout can also be done outside):

3, 2, 1 Repeat Workout

Warm up for 10 min at zone 1 pace

Run 3 min at 30s faster than 5K race pace with 3 min recovery

Run 2 min at 1 min faster than 5K race pace with 2 min recovery

Run 1 min FAST with 1 min recovery.

Repeat 2-3x

Cool down for 10 min at an easy pace.

There you go! Stay true to the sport, but please rest and recover, check in with friends, family, and your neighbors, find time to read non-triathlon related books, catch up on home improvement projects, and sleep in! We got this! Practice social distancing and take care of yourself and others.

#Goals

This isn’t the post I planned on writing. I wanted to write about the #goals for this year and how 2020 was going to be THE year for all things triathlon where old records would be smashed with the backing of solid nutrition, hard-earned weight loss, and a good training plan. Funny. But that’s not what this post is going to be about. I’m not in a goal-crushing mood right now.

Anyway, a week flew by like they often do. The nagging pain in the side of my right leg disappeared on the 10 mile run last Tuesday, only to wake me up in the middle of the night with a burning sensation that kept me up and made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. I did stay up, but I didn’t cry. Foam rolling, rest, sports massage, and a sports chiro appointment did nothing to alleviate the pain: it was time to call in the big guns.

I contemplated going to urgent care, but if I had tendinitis or a stress fracture, there would be nothing for them to do. A stress fracture usually doesn’t show up on X-Rays anyway, and I would be guaranteed an X-Ray at urgent care. Yay? I messaged my doctor instead who immediately referred me to orthopedics, and I scheduled an appointment for the following day.

Of course they did an X-Ray at the orthopedic appointment and nothing showed up, but after all of the prodding and tests, all signs pointed to a stress fracture in the fibula/tibia of my right leg. The doctor wrote a prescription for an MRI and wanted to put me in a boot on my way out of the office to immobilize my leg. I stood in the door frame and refused the boot. No way was I going to wear that. However, after getting home, the pain came back. I called the office and got the boot. MRI or not, it’s best to let the healing begin because a boot is going to follow the MRI anyway, and I would only be delaying the inevitable. I should have listened to the doctor the first time, but I’m stubborn.

In the mean time, I withdrew from the bike team to open up a spot for someone else, canceled my cycling class at the Y for the next two months, inquired about deferring my Love Run entry to next year, and cut back my hours at work. I’m also averting my eyes from my Garmin that has informed me that I am “detraining” with all of the rest I’ve gotten in the past few days. That leaves me with lots of time on the couch to think about the next two months and the rest of the season. Should I scale back on running, the likely cause of the stress fracture? Should I focus more on swimming and cycling when I can? What to do?

Well, I plan to take things week by week, rest, and do what I can. When the boot comes off, I’ll reevaluate my #goals for 2020. In the mean time, I’ll be on my couch with the kitties to keep me company.

Latte O’Clock

I understand, for a coaching blog, that discussing coffee, lattes, and mochas can seem counterproductive from a nutrition standpoint, but I’m here to tell you it’s not a distraction: some version of latte o’clock can be a boost to your well-being.

I’ve noticed patterns in my mood throughout the day, and by far the most difficult time is in the afternoon before the kid gets home from school, before the dinner-making frenzy, and before after school homework or activities. This was true when the kiddo was a baby and Phil was out to sea somewhere in the Pacific, and it’s still true now that we’re all together under the same roof with no deployments in sight, whether I’m at work or at home. This was the time I would call my friend, Becky, just to talk, or we would go and do something together when the kids were little–like make dinner or go out to Ayase Town Hills for a mocha at Tully’s and to take the kids to the giant ball pit for 300 Yen. That’s really specific, I know, but it doesn’t have to be (it certainly doesn’t apply today since neither of us live in Japan anymore near Ayase-shi).

What does help is something to look forward to, and that is: latte o’clock. Instead of throwing all of my money at Starbucks, which I do anyway and need no help in doing so, I make my own whole milk latte when I get home with either caffeinated coffee or decaf, depending on how late I plan to stay awake. I save a few bucks and sip my latte in the peace and quiet of my home. If I do go out to actually purchase a latte, I take my own travel mug and include the latte in my daily macro count, so it works.

A latte might not make you feel better, but it is something to do that’s not working or being productive, and that is something to look forward to indeed because all of us do not have to be so efficient all the time. Maybe you carve out some time to read, meditate, or binge on social media for a five to ten minute break. I know that around the same time in another city and state, Becky is also making a latte for herself. And, even if I don’t call her every afternoon, we still have latte o’clock together.