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.

Philadelphia Half Marathon

This post is long overdue just like the PR I got in this slightly hilly half marathon. My last half marathon PR was at the Dismal Swamp Stomp in 2016 on a pancake flat course, so even though I didn’t train to get a PR in the Philly Half, I did! And on hills no less.

How did this happen? Since finishing Ironman Maryland, my run times, quite frankly, sucked. There is no better word to describe how slow I was, and I’m surprised my running buddies stuck with me for the months of slow running that followed. No kidding. Most days, I would tell them to run ahead and take a short cut to meet them at a later point in the run. Months went by like this: I would show up for the group run and then watch everyone run ahead of me at my pre-Ironman pace five minutes into the run. It was early. It was dark. And, I was alone. A lot. I thought my days of running PRs or records of any kind were behind me.

Frustrated with my sucky run times and stagnant bike and swim times, I decided to take a different approach in 2019. 2019 was going to be about finding my ideal body weight, having no pressure workouts, and seeing how many people I can take along for the swim, ride, or run. And you know what? This worked. Hello to new records in the sprint, Olympic, and half marathon! Let’s see what 2020 holds. Until then, there is always time for coffee after a workout.

Relax, Don’t Do It

Because I deal with anxiety, telling me to “relax” pretty much makes my head explode, but that’s just the thing to help with training, particularly in the off-season.

I’ll put it another way: stop caring so much about your performance on every single workout or for every single race. The moment I stopped caring and changing my perspective is precisely when things got better: the quality of sleep, what I ate, and my overall performance did improve as well.

I stopped caring what my run pace was during group runs, I stopped worrying about keeping up in the fast women’s lane in masters’ practice, and I stopped thinking about people passing me on the bike trail. And, I stopped caring if I broke personal records from previous races. Because: shhhhh… no one cares (but you).

You know what? Some days I keep up with the fast ladies in my running group and surprise myself on 100 repeats in the pool. I’ve even been on the bike trail a few times: no one has passed me yet. For upcoming races, I plan to have a conversation with my running buddy, Marianne, and take photos of the places we’re going to pass during the Philly Half Marathon. I will race side by side with my daughter in the Philly Women’s Triathlon this July because a new PR in that race is meaningless compared to showing her how awesome triathlon is. And, my friend, Lori, will hold my hand as I jump off the back of the ferry for Escape the Cape this June because I will need it or someone is going to have to push me off! I even plan to do a Fork to Fondo of 82 miles with Marianne. She has a new bike, so why not ride it through Amish Country and eat really good food?

Slow down. Enjoy the ride. Do it because you can, and take a few people with you on your journey. I bet your overall performance will improve as a side bonus.

Trek Women’s Advocate

I almost don’t even know where to begin. I applied to the Trek Women’s Advocate Program because I love to get more women on bikes and more women in triathlon and simply outside. If I applied, I would have the opportunity to connect with other like-minded women to grow the sport, get more kids and families on bikes, and maybe even snag a few women into the sport of triathlon, which also has low female participation like cycling–stuck at 30%, for now, but that’s not what the future holds. The future is female, and with more women on bikes, more kids and families will enjoy a lifetime of cycling for sport, leisure, commuting, and quality time. Plus, on a bike, the world looks fresh because you are out in it instead of behind the windshield of a car.

I am truly humbled and grateful to be part of this Dream Team of women, and oftentimes feel like I don’t belong, or I got into the program by mistake. Many of the advocates have been with the program for two or more years, yet there was about 1/3 of us who were brand new. Not to worry because those women and the wonderful people at Trek Headquarters in Waterloo, WI are full of ideas, share them, and support all of us newbies.

During the summit, we learned all about how to host fantastic rides, had social events where I rode a mountain bike for the first time (and I rode a bike off road on a CX course). I can’t wait to see what the year holds! I’m busy planning events at Trek Ardmore because cycling is for everyone. Stop by the shop to pick up a Halloween Scavenger Hunt or come to the Definitely Donuts Ride this Sunday at 7:15am at Betzwood. There are more fun events coming up! So get out from behind the windshield and ride!

AC 70.3

This post is so long overdue with the triathlon season wrap up! I mean, where did August go with warm water temperatures and long hot days? Here we are in October, almost the off-season, and I’m looking ahead to prepping some athletes for fall half marathons or full Ironmans for 2020.

For the Atlantic City 70.3, a few were first-time 70.3ers, and one, Dan the Ironman, capped off his finish by ranking first place in the world for men, ages 75-79. Go Dan! He’s #1!!!

All I can say is that I am incredibly proud of all of my athletes. I know that sounds trite, but I really am. One athlete went from zero to a 70.3 in six months and finished the race strong, despite persistent lower back pain that forced her to walk/run on the half marathon. She’s a powerhouse who will be a force to reckon with at next year’s 70.3 judging by her performance in this one. I know she’s going to smoke the competition on the bike for sure!

Another is new to the sport after hanging up his professional jersey. He researched bikes, got one built just for him, battled nagging injuries, and still managed to light up Training Peaks with “green” workouts almost every week. That takes dedication. For this race, he shattered his goal of finishing in under 6 hours with a 5:29:10 finish time running in his signature basketball shorts.

Last of all, is Dan the Ironman, #1 in the world for the 70.3 distance. In addition to that, he qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona held last weekend. Although he didn’t meet the time cut-off for the bike and officially got a DNF, his dream was to qualify and race there, which is exactly what he did. Dan, you are a world champion, and I love your competitive spirit. Keep living your dream while holding your loved ones close. All of them are with you on every swim, bike, and run.

Tri AC

Atlantic City’s neon skyline lights up the predawn sky across the back bay. The buoys are out for the swim course on the black water. There was no need for headlamps with the the huge spotlights flooding Bader Field. I easily found my racked bike and started setting up transition, keeping an eye on the time so I could check on my athletes racing today as well. Phil’s bike was next to mine on the rack as he set up for his first Olympic distance event.

At 6am, I met up with my athletes at the bike out for a quick picture, but one of them wasn’t there after waiting for a bit. I hoped he would make it in time for the race (he did, I checked his bike before leaving transition). Even though I’ve done many of these events, I’m always nervous before the swim start: I want to see what’s below, and I don’t want to see what’s in the water, all at the same time, so I tend to focus on eating my pre-race bagel with jelly and chatting with my athletes to see how they’re doing.

I timed the line for the port-o-potty to fill up the last thirty minutes prior to swimming. John Kenny of French Creek Racing was there with Christina, whom I met for the first time. We discussed the swim and the incoming tide, the water temp, the usual swim stuff. Soon, I went back to where Phil was waiting, gave Kathy a big hug before her swim start for the sprint race, and went to find Jamie and Margaret again so we can start swimming at the same time. Megan spotted me, and we talked for a bit before she went to find the rest of her Philadelphia Triathlon Club teammates. It was then that Geoff stopped by to stretch and warm up for the swim. The triathlon community is one big family, which is why I love the sport so much.

It was time to line up for the swim; Phil went to his swim wave and put on his cap and goggles. Jamie and Margaret were there as we made the slow walk to the swim start. Five athletes went into the water at a time off the boat launch to spread out the swim and bike course. Our turn came quickly, but we let the other two athletes in our group of five go ahead, and the three of us entered the water and started the swim. With a temperature at 81.5 degrees F, no wetsuit was needed. The saltwater instantly pickled my mouth, but it was smooth and calm. I passed lots of swimmers, and a few passed me, but I found my rhythm and had space to settle in.

Out of the water, I ran to my bike, quickly donning my gear. The wind was strong on the way out of Bader Field and on the Atlantic City Expressway to exit 5, but I hunkered down in aero and kept going. I got off at exit 5 and flew down the Expressway back to Atlantic City with the tailwind pushing me along. I kept up the pace for the second loop, trading places with Anne Marie from time to time. Christina passed by me and cheered me on. I kept waiting for Phil to pass me on the bike, but he didn’t catch me, and I didn’t see him until the run.

Into T2, I flew off the bike, racked it, and was on my way on the run. Police held back traffic for athletes on the way to the Boardwalk for the 10K. The boards were soft and springy on the run, until I hit the sand. Then, my legs felt like lead. There is always sand on the run at a DelMo Event. I ran with a few other athletes on course, one who was doing his first Olympic distance race.

I enjoyed every moment of the race, and I know my athletes did too. One got 2nd place in his division, another conquered fears of the swim, and others did their first tri ever. Phil isn’t new to the sport, but he did his first Olympic distance race! All of them finished strong, and I couldn’t be happier. I was on my way to getting a PR at that race, but with the shortened swim, it doesn’t count as a PR even though my pace per 100 was seven seconds faster than the last time I swam it. My bike time was three minutes faster too. I would love to do this race again, maybe next year?

Then and Now and Onward

I’m not one to do weight loss posts or befores and afters because I think those posts promote a sense that your past self is somehow bad, while your new self is better, and that’s just not true. Posts like that promote self-loathing and the idea that your body is never good enough when its capable of doing amazing things.

In light of that, during Ironman training in 2018, I found myself at the proverbial crossroads. My periods were getting to the point that I couldn’t do anything for about three days during each cycle. I won’t bore you with the details or gross you out, but I basically found myself on the sofa doubled over in pain for those days each month. I made an appointment with my OBGYN who recommended a number of options for relief: one of which was surgery. Obviously, I couldn’t possibly do anything about that while training for Ironman Maryland, so I sucked it up on the bad days and took way too many aspirin for relief, scheduling surgery for late 2019.

Ironman Maryland training gave me time to think. A lot. Especially with the long rides on Thursdays and long runs that followed. One thing that my doctor mentioned that stuck with me was cutting back on sugar for relief. When she mentioned it, I laughed and said, “I’m not here to experiment for months in order to find relief.” No way. I did nothing about my diet other than cutting back on chocolate chips for snacks and hot cocoa (see, even coaches have bad habits).

I did the Ironman and fell back into routine training of 8-11 hours per week, all while keeping the changes I made to my diet. Still, the scale kept going up for my weight. What the hell? How can someone like me who eats a salad with tons of protein for one meal and exercises up to 11 hours a week keep on gaining weight? Is it because I’m in my early 40s, smack dab in the middle of middle age? Is it perimenopause? Is it still the occasional Starbucks or those damn chocolate chips in the house? And for the love of God, is it cereal?

During training for Maryland, my weight dropped to 145 lbs at 5’4″. Not bad. Now, in February of 2019, I’m back up to 152 lbs? Seriously? Something has to be done.

I found myself frustrated and scrolling through the Women for Tri Facebook group instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing, and I stumbled upon a thread about weight loss. Whatever. No, I read through it, and some of the members recommended Stronger U.

I checked it out online and consulted Dr. Google, you know, the usual suspects, and figured out that Stronger U is a macro counting system customized for your current activity level, age, etc., etc. I’m a sucker and signed up for a weight loss program for the first time in my life, downloaded My Fitness Pal, and got started with a nutrition coach. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try out the program for three months, so I did.

But it turned out to be more than neurotically counting macros on the app, over time, I realized that my snacks made up half of my daily food intake. HALF. I like to eat like a baby: small portions throughout the day or every 2-3 hours. I am always snacking, but what I was snacking on totally sucked. Those chocolate chips? Yeah, I had three small 1/4 cup servings per day for ONE SNACK. Hot cocoa? Two to three cups (after lunch, afternoon, after dinner). Starbucks runs? Almost daily. Yikes! My main meals were healthy with vegetables, protein, and all of that goodness, but clearly the two bowls of hot cereal I was eating before bedtime wasn’t helping my body in any way.

So, did I lose weight with Stronger U? Inches? Of course I did. But I learned so much more about how to properly eat to avoid my hypoglycemic highs and lows that left me so shaky or jittery that I had to eat something slowly until the cold sweat and heart palpitations subsided. Yeah, my body used to spike and crash. It doesn’t anymore. Even if I feel hungry before I eat, I have yet to experience that sugar low. I’m also following up with my doctor because I think surgery is no longer necessary, and I would like her opinion. You see, I cut sugar down to under 60 g per day by counting macros.

Because of all of this, my past self wasn’t bad at all, and my present self is still learning. I’m not going to post the macros I use because everyone is different, and this is not my area of expertise. Nor will I post a “before” and “after” picture because those are lame, and there never really is an “after”. But, I will post data of my progress that took well over a year that is still “in progress” now. What this data does not show is my resting heart rate went down from 63 bpm to 57 bpm, my zone 2 pace for running is down a minute per mile from last summer, and I recover faster from racing that I previously did. There are no perfect numbers that I’m aiming for, but these numbers represent work over time: just like training for any event.

And, yes, it was the cereal. And the chocolate. And the hot cocoa. But mostly it was cereal’s fault.