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Blog posts of '2015' 'November'

Maintaining Balance through the Holidays

 

Another season has come and gone, which means the holidays are just around the corner. Some of you may be putting the final touches on your race season with one last event, others may be well into the “off season” and enjoying less routine and more flexibility with your days. But no matter where you are in terms of your race year, most all of us will be enjoying holiday festivities, a few more social events, and travel to see family and friends the next few weeks. That may instill fear in some; fear of losing fitness, gaining a few pounds, or a bit of both. While both of these things are not necessarily a bad thing at this time of year, if you’re seeking to maintain both fitness and a social schedule, it is possible with a little bit of planning ahead. I wanted to offer up a few tips for enjoying the season without worrying about ‘guilt’ while indulging a bit.

1-      Plan a few short fun races. Anyone who knows me well knows, I love my off-season 5k races! There is rarely a shortage of finding these with Turkey Trots and Jingle Bell 5k events, no matter what city you may be visiting. Put a few of these on your schedule as a fun way to keep you motivated to stay fit but also have a fun time out being active with family and friends. Maybe you can coerce a family member or friend who doesn’t run regularly to join in; even for a 5k walk. I know my niece and nephews have recently gotten into running; find siblings or kids to come along. The beauty of these events is they’re short, quick, and only consume a few hours on a weekend morning. They let you get out and move but spend the rest of your day being social, which is how this time of year should be.

2-      Maintain some routine with your eating. They key word here is “some”. For me this is just a few small things, such as enjoying lemon water in the morning, and dark greens most days, in some capacity. So I can plan to travel with a few lemons, and offer to throw together a salad at dinner one night. Don’t let this consume you, but if there are a few small things you do regularly that make you “feel good” try to maintain these. You don’t have to cause a scene or make meal requests, rather think ahead and choose to keep them incorporated into your holiday and travels. I find usually your body thanks you for doing this.

3-      Plan ahead for holiday visits. If you are heading to the in-laws house for a week, and you know you want to get in a few swims, look up to see if are any YMCA’s nearby; check the hours (I often call to double check) and see if you can squeeze in a few quick swims in the early mornings to avoid conflicting with daytime events. Check the weather forecast where you’re going and if you hope to run or walk a few times, be sure you plan ahead if it looks to be very cold (or hot). It’s pretty easy to get in some exercise if you think about it ahead of time, do your research on what is available in the area.

 

4-      Something is better than nothing. You may have wanted to do a 1 hr run but you sleep in (or stay up too late) and it becomes 20-30 minutes. That is ok. I am guessing most of us don’t have a goal event right after the New Year; and even if you do, missing a little bit here or there probably won’t make or break you. Enjoy this time of year when routine and structure are a little less strict. 

5-      Improvise & Enjoy It! My parents live in a very hilly area. After I run down their driveway, I come upon a very large hill. I love doing hill intervals at their place and the beauty is, the entire run can be 30-40 min but with 4-6 x hard hill intervals. If you are heading to the mountains, take advantage of it and get out to play in the snow! Cross country skiing or snowshoeing is phenomenal exercise. The key is if you want to get in some activity, try to do it in the early morning or perhaps afternoon when there is a lull in social activity. But if your ‘intended’ becomes a bit less, roll with it and enjoy what you can get in.

 

6-      Everything in moderation – even moderation itself. One of my favorites! Life is short. While I am a creature of habit and I like my routine, the times we get to visit with family and enjoy holiday festivities are a gift and something we should fully enjoy. If one glass of wine becomes a few, or an evening night campfire goes late into the night, roll with it. It is OK to have a bit more dessert or an extra beer. Most of us maintain structure and regimen the majority of the year. Let yourself relax and go with the flow over the holidays. Soon enough, January will be here and we’ll be ‘back on the grind’. Savor the celebrations and take the time to let your hair down a bit. There is a reason I enjoy a beer most evenings regularly; because that is all I really usually want and I don’t like how I’ll feel the next day if I have more! However if and when I go beyond that during a family visit or a holiday get together, just make sure the story is well worth the headache.

- Kelly Williamson, Ironman Champion

@khwilliamson

 

Kona Tips from the Other Side

I've raced the Hawaii Ironman five times (twice as an amateur and three as a pro), and have been there to watch and support athletes on another seven occasions. I've been fortunate to coach many age group athletes to Kona-qualifying and through their first, second, and third outings on the island. There are a few things that make this race unique, relative to other races of this distance, and that lead to some of the most common errors I see in race execution and prep. 

Save your energy.

It seems that with every passing year in Kona, there are more pre-race hype and activities and more opportunities to spend pre-race energy. Race week also means taper week-- it is time to store up energy. Beyond being on one's feet all day "taking it all in," remember that in Kona this also means being in the heat--which is a double whammy. 

Use discipline and spend non-training time out of the heat, ideally with feet up--you will be able to enjoy the experience of the race itself so much more having not spent your tokens on "the experience" before race day.

(Nearly) everyone is fast.

This seems like an obvious statement, but what I think so many athletes fail to realize before their first outing in Kona is what this looks like in practice. The vast majority of the athletes in Kona have qualified to be there. This means that even the majority of the age group field is comprised of the caliber of athlete who is accustomed to being at the pointy end of most every other race. Having people "up in your business" from start to finish all day in Kona can be incredibly disconcerting for these athletes even if they think they understand what this will feel like. 

Have confidence in yourself, your training , and your race plan, and don't let energy escape to the outside. 

Be willing to ignore the clock.

Despite its reputation, the course itself in Kona is relatively fast. So why are Kona times typically a good bit slower than other ironmans? Well, for one, because of the head trip people like to do on themselves (described above), and second, because the conditions in Kona will almost always throw a curveball our way. Be it a crazy current or swells on the swim, extreme, blow-you-off-the-bike wind, or relentless heat on the run, you simply cannot predict how much the times on each discipline will be affected by the conditions on the day. It is only in hindsight when evaluating everyone's splits that we can evaluate what the times mean. 

Never look at your swim split until after the race. Having target power on the bike and paces on the run is okay as long are you are willing to adapt to whatever the day brings and focus in on your desired effort/ perceived exertion.

 

-Hillary Biscay, Ironman Champion and Coach

@hillarybiscay

@smashfestqueen

What I have Learned about Recovery as I Grow Older

 

 

As we grow older, we need to train smarter. Aging is a process we all have to deal with, unfortunately, and you wake up one day and realize you don’t have twenty year old legs anymore. As a professional triathlete who has completed fifty-five Ironman distance races, there comes a point where you have to be smart about your training and recovery or you will not be able to perform consistently in endurance sports. I have really concentrated on recovery the past few years in order to hopefully stay at the top of my game and continue to compete with women who are only going faster. I have outlined some tips to help you recover as you grow older and those once young legs need extra encouragement to move!

 

After most every hard workout, training session, and race, it is marquee to religiously use my Recovery Pump boots which expedites the waste from your muscles and cells so they recover faster. When I was an age grouper working long hours at my day job in my 20’s, the toughest thing to do after a race was recover. I was back in the office and sitting for ample hours a day which pro longed the fatigue. After discovering Recovery Pump, it was so convenient and helpful to be able to use the boots after a race before going into the office and at home after a long day. As I have grown older, this commitment to Recovery Pump has only increased. I use the system at least once a day and a lot more in the days leading up to a race. This includes in the car traveling to a race, when I wake up the morning before the event, and always after. Why wouldn’t you use a system that has proven to help you recover faster? We all want to be consistent in our training and racing and this helps the cause.

 

There are a lot of athletes that define a race as the culmination of all their hard work which leads to excessive binging in the days after. Of course it is ideal to have that pizza and beer after a race yet the sooner you start eating correctly, the faster you will recover. I define a race as a blip in your overall triathlon journey to eventually reach your goals in the sport. The faster you can get back on the horse as far as training goes, the quicker you can get ready for your next challenge. This is magnified as you grow older and the niggles from a race can last a lot longer than if you were in your 20’s. It is such an imperative value add to start eating healthy, hydrating, and getting as much rest as much as possible after a large volume of training or a race.

 

It is very tough to receive all your nutrients from food so I have been taking supplements for years to prolong my career and help with recovery. Please consult your doctor before taking any supplements yet it can be a great way to absorb additional beneficial nutrients into your body that may be lacking from your diet. Some of the ones I ingest are calcium, magnesium, Omega 3 fish oil, and Vitamin D yet there are a lot of good things on the market, if you do your research, to aid in recovery. I take them every night with food and, even if some of it is a placebo, it makes me feel that I am doing all that I can to help the body.

 

These tips may seem obvious to some athletes. However, it is good to continue to be reminded that what you do to your body before and after races can mean the difference between running through that finishing chute completing a great race or trudging through in a march of agony. Hopefully recovery becomes a part of your routine just like brushing your teeth; it is a part of your routine and not a chore. There is really no substitute to sleep, hydration, and nutrition yet performing the tasks above will aid in your overall recovery and vibrancy. Your body will thank you!

 

MBK: www.meredithkessler.com 

www.lifeoftriathlete.com

Road to Recovery

 

My last post for Recovery Pump left off following a track sprint camp in Colorado Springs in late April. I had plans to race overseas with the US National Team, I had set new PRs in the flying 200m at the LA Velodrome, I was working with a new coach, and I was excited about the summer leading into the last round of qualifying for Rio 2016. Everything seemed to be falling right into place, following my incredible world cup season. 

I celebrated my 25th birthday on May 9th, which was also my three-year track sprint anniversary. I was taking off for Germany two days later. I woke up the morning of May 10th, (also Mother’s Day), grabbed all my race gear, and headed to my final training session. Not long after, I left on a body board in the back of an ambulance.

 

When I look back at it now, I had no idea how hard this was going to hit me. I was riding at my absolute best. I’d just hit some HUGE PRs, and I was riding faster and better than I ever had in my entire life. And in a split second, that was all taken away. Fracturing my L5 in my back was a challenge in itself, but I had no way of preparing myself for the months that were lying ahead of me. 

I broke my collarbone in three places. When I arrived in the Emergency Room, they scheduled a surgery immediately to repair it. While lying there, they also discovered I had fractured and dislocated my wrist. There was also evidence of meniscus and ligament damage, but I didn’t receive surgery on that until two weeks post-crash. And lastly, I sustained a concussion, one that left me with a chronic pounding headache five months later, into October.

As an athlete, I’ve experienced physical pain, and mental stress. But like I said before, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. Just as racing season was getting started, I was a swollen beat up marshmallow sitting on the couch. The house emptied out, as my boyfriend took his athletes for two weeks of racing in t-town in June. I was home alone, less than two weeks after surgery, with our three large dogs, a nest on the couch, and my own thoughts to battle with. I fell into a state of depression those around me weren’t prepared for.  I saw my lost training time, medical expenses, and not to mention that my bike frame was cracked, my rear racing wheel had a hole punched through it, my front racing wheel literally exploded, and my helmet was cracked. But as soon as I could, I climbed on my Wattbike, got a fork mount stand for my rollers, and got in the leg press in the gym.

Two months later, I was driving up to Seattle for the Marymoor Grand Prix. After months of sifting through UCI points, selection criteria, and calculating what I had to do to make the Pan Am Championships team. Only one keirin spot was open for Team USA, and I was determined to have it. This was my only chance, with less than a week left before the point cut off deadline. I pinned on a number, wrapped a splint around my arm, pushed myself a little too hard, but I won. I accumulated 90 points, became world cup eligible, and retained the #1 ranking for a US sprint female in the keirin and match sprint. I was then qualified, after only two races.

I continued through physical therapy, and as the US National Championships approached on my home track in LA, I took a hard blow realizing I couldn’t financially afford the entry fee to participate and defend my national titles. But, with my ultimate goal on Rio 2016, and nationals having no part in team selection, I wasn’t worried. As we left for Chile in September for the Pan Am Championships, I was excited. Racing in South America is dirty, rough, and full of contact. I was nervous, but I was excited to show that I was back. Here’s an exert from my blog about my keirin,

“I felt like a pinball. Getting bounced around, getting thrown to the back. What just happened? But it’s ok. There is a rep ride. This was my first real keirin back from crashing at 66kph straight onto my face. I got the first one out of the way. And this is South America. You aren’t going to get this much contact anywhere else. It was time to line up again. I was ready to get bumped this time. I was ready for all the illegal moves that are somehow legal in these countries. And I went through, by the skin of my teeth. You could feel the lack of belief in the air. But that just made me more pissed off than hurt. And I was going to prove everyone wrong, because of it.

I was ready for the second round. My hip was still in its place. I wrapped my wrist tight, pushing the pain aside. I had two more rides. And I was going to make it happen. The motor pulled off and I went straight to the front. 500m to go. I pushed the speed higher, and higher, and higher, and at one lap to go, we were going. I stood up, but there was nothing left, we went into corner one, and I held that black line as hard as I could. Still in the front going down the back straight, I told myself, “Just keep pushing. This is just like training,” I pushed. Coming around corners three and four I could feel them breathing down my throat. But I led through the finish, and won my semi-final, putting me into the 1-6 final for gold. Just like the world cup in Colombia. That was the first time I felt like my old self again. I wasn’t timid, I wasn’t scared. I didn’t feel the pain. I was just, me. And I was proving them wrong, one pedal stroke at a time.

One more ride. I’ve been sitting on the floor of our hotel room applying for jobs, grants, and setting up interviews. I’ve been fighting with insurance companies and hospitals. I didn’t go through all this to give the doubters what they were looking for. But, I fell one place short. A 4th place finish burns worse than finishing 6th. One step from adding to the medal count. One step from a Pan Am Championships.”

I did it.

Back from Pan Ams, I took on three new jobs: Teacher at a tutoring center, coaching with Big Picture Cycling, and working at ERO as a fit specialist. Since then, finding the balance between training and working became harder and harder, as my goals became centered around becoming financially stable, and paying the bills related to my crash in May. Making this transition was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make, after reaching out to my NGB and other resources, it became a reality that I just didn’t have the means to continue living the life of a professional track sprint athlete. But…I’m absolutely in love with what I’m doing. I’ve taken some time away from the bike, but now I’m back riding, and pursuing a few new goals. Without being able to attend the 2015/2016 World cups, my Rio 2016 Olympic dream is a little derailed, but I do believe everything happens for a reason.

Over the past five months, I have experienced an unbelievable amount of support from my sponsors and supporters. The rollercoaster of winning national titles, fracturing my L5, winning a world cup medal, and having my world turned upside down shortly afterward, again, has brought me back to the roots of why I loved this sport.

We might think we have our lives planned out, but in a split second, everything can change. It is how well we adapt to those changes, and become stronger and better because of it. I’m proud of everything I have accomplished, I’m proud to represent Recovery Pump in those efforts. I can’t wait to see what the future unfolds for me, and I welcome it with open arms!   

-Missy Erickson, US Track Sprint Cyclist & #RPInspiration