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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
It’s 4:30am, and my alarm is going off for the third time. I set it for three different times in case I accidentally turn one of the alarms off. 4:03am. 4:20am (because it’s funny for this former high school teacher who’s students got a kick out of this particular number and begged to write the date on the board). 4:27am. I choose weird times so my brain doesn’t know when to expect the early wake up.
It doesn’t matter. I’m up at 3:50am.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to stay up way past midnight and get up no earlier than 8:00am. That’s all changed with trying to fit in triathlon training around family and work schedules. Getting up early ensures that I get at least one of my two to three workouts for the day completed.
So, how do I motivate myself? Lots of ways! Please add some comments below and tell me how you motivate yourself to workout early in the morning, after work, or even late at night:
I lie to myself. “It’s not that early.”
New gear helps: “I get to wear my new swimsuit today!” Woohoo! Or, “I get to test out my new shoes, watch, tights, shirt, hat…”
I joined US Masters Swimming, so my coach and teammates will wonder where I am if I miss a practice.
I organize a 5am Meet Up run, so I know my running buddy is waiting for me on the corner at 4:45am in order to run up to the meet up location. No kidding. I used to think 6am was early.
I get to show off my race gear. Yeah, I like to silently brag while wearing my Ironman Maryland cap.
Strava will show that I didn’t train today.
My friends on Garmin will rack up more miles than I did.
I can go to Starbucks later and get a mocha and not feel that bad about it.
I have a race or event to train for, and if I don’t workout, I won’t be ready.
I can watch the sun rise while I run.
I can run or bike through a new neighborhood or check out a new trail.
I overcome my fears and know that anything is possible, especially in the open water.
I meet the best people through triathlon and running.
I can post another swim, bike, or run post on Facebook because that’s what I do all the time besides writing, reading, gardening, doing crafts, drinking decaf coffee, eating chocolate, or driving the kiddo to gymnastics.
I am going to realize my dream of kicking butt into my 90s. Keep moving!
Darkness arrives unannounced just as I begin to make dinner. I didn’t ask darkness to come over or darkness’ friend, freezing cold weather, but they sat down at the table anyway so I set extra places because what could I do? Shortly after dinner I fall asleep on the sofa under a blanket because it seems like it’s been midnight since six o’clock this evening even though I know it’s not, yet I don’t want to go to bed before 7pm or do the strength workout I had planned. And, on top of all of this, my 5am morning swim seems to have happened yesterday because it seems so long ago.
All motivation disappears after dinner under that blanket. I want to eat mac and cheese and chocolate chip cookies all day with a mocha to drink.
If many of you are feeling like this, please give yourself a break and peek out from under your blanket, especially as New Year’s approaches with resolutions that seem to negate all the things you’ve done in 2018 in the hopes that you will be a better you in 2019. Remember, you are perfect as you are right now. Always. Even if you are like me on the sofa and not at the gym right now.
In fact, if you’re going to make any resolutions, I suggest changing the way you talk to yourself during training:
Instead of:I’m trying to survive the swim and not drown.
Say:I am learning how to swim more efficiently.
Instead of:I am terrified of riding my bike.
Say: I am practicing my bike handling skills often.
Instead of: I’m a slow runner. (one of my own that my coach told me to never say)
Say:I am working to improve my speed in running.
Besides changing the way you talk to yourself, start planning out your race year with family and work in mind. I cut way back on what I normally do because I’ve been feeling burnt out lately. I decided that this year is the year that I will do at least one distance swim of 2.8 miles (maybe a 5K swim), improve my times in the sprint and Olympic distance triathlon, and maybe do a 70.3 near the end of the season with the goal of a possible PR. The swim is my big goal, and if I don’t PR in the other distances, I’m OK with that. I train for one thing at a time. I’m committed to three races, but I might do five events, and I chose local races to save on travel costs (2018 was an expensive year with the Ironman, hotels, and travel).
*1. Fort Ritchie Swim Fest-2.8 mile swim or 4500 meters in a lake, May 2019, splitting an Air B and B with my BFF from high school who’s also swimming!
*2. Philly Women’s Tri-sprint distance, July 2019–near me, no hotel needed.
3. Tri AC-Olympic distance, August 2019??? I might do this with my swimming friend…
*4. Waterman’s Triathlon Festival 70.3, September 2019, staying at my triathlon friend’s house three hours away.
5. Richmond Marathon–not a definite…yet., November 2019–Phil and I LOVE this marathon and have run it three times.
All of this takes into account time to visit family and friends, our family’s work schedule, my daughter’s camps, and family time at home.
If you’re short on funds, organize a fun swim, bike, or run with your friends with a plan to meet at a restaurant so that it has the same feeling as a race without the cost or travel. Plan within your budget and look for off-brand races, choose one big goal, and change the way you talk to yourself. Now, when darkness comes over for dinner, you’ll be focused on where you are now and looking to the light of summer. You will see improvement. No resolutions necessary.