Blog posts of '2016' 'August'

Top 5 Defining Characteristics of our Kona Team

2016 has been a record-setting year for the athletes that we coach at TeamHPB. As of my writing this, we have ten age group athletes qualified for the Hawaii Ironman, with a couple more who have a chance to do so next weekend. I was thinking about how I could disseminate some of what I've observed in them in a way that might help others with this or other big triathlon goals in mind.

I came up with the top five defining characteristics of our Kona Team:

They are self-motivated. My job with these athletes is not to convince them of the value of getting out the door to get the work done but instead , on occasion, to hold them back from over-doing.

They hold themselves accountable. These are not people who make excuses. If and when they fail or fall down, these athletes look inward and assess what they will do to succeed the next time--and then they implement these changes rather than just talking about them.

They are time-management experts. Our Kona crew includes CEOs, business owners, parents, grandparents, people who work two jobs, and people whose jobs on occasion have them sleeping under their desks at the office. Yet the level of training that gets one qualified for Kona happens, thanks to a whole lot of planning and prioritizing.

They are comfortable being uncomfortable. While they may experience no less trepidation in the face of what they know will be an extremely uncomfortable training or racing assignment, these athletes recognize and thrive on such instances as the ones that define their athletic success.

They have long-term vision and perspective. My "Kona kids" are almost always the ones who come to me with long-term plans and goals in the range of a few years. These are not the athletes coming to me looking for a magic bullet or for me to work a miracle in a matter of months. They recognize that big accomplishments in our sport are years in the making and they embrace the process.

- Hillary Biscay

The Dreaded ā€˜Iā€™ Word ā€“ Injury

In retrospect, it would have been best to have done something two years ago when my hamstring began to hurt. However, triathletes, on a whole, usually try to fight through the pain in order to compete in the sport they love; I am no exception. Hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes, and treating a pain flare up right away is a prudent course of action. However, if you tried to treat every niggle, you would never compete. There is a grey area or blurred lines between pushing through the pain and stopping training all together to receive treatment. As an athlete, you usually flip the coin as to whether you continue and sometimes these flips do not go in your favor. I had been flipping this imaginary coin for a couple of years before my luck ran out in May of this year.

A lot of what I write about is so others do not necessarily emulate but maybe learn from my trials and tribulations. This is why we are releasing our first manual, Life of a Triathlete: Race, and why I enjoy writing for partners like Recovery Pump. If I can help individuals by relaying my experiences then it makes the process worthwhile. The reason I am prefacing this is because everyone is different, especially in regard to their bodies and injuries. Showing the process that I went down and the rabbit hole that it became should be an eye opener for others in a similar predicament.


My right high hamstring/glute had been bothering me for the better part of two years yet it got to a point where racing became a chore after Ironman New Zealand 2016. My right leg was just a passenger on the bike and run as my left side carried it around. Obviously this is not a good recipe for speed and a tremendous recipe for further injury. Your mind drifts to a point where, at one time you could fight through the pain, all thoughts are on just finishing the workout or race. This isn’t something you can mentally block out; once that niggle gravitates towards injury, training and racing does not become fun or rewarding. After Ironman St. George 70.3, I performed multitudes of therapy; everything but complete rest. You always have a glimmer of hope that something will miraculously heal. However, after Ironman Mt. Tremblant 70.3, I knew for sure it was time to batten down the hatches and take care of the injury.

I was able to get in with a well respected doctor in the Bay Area after Ironman Mt. Tremblant 70.3. He examined my MRI and some of his words seemed alarming yet they made so much sense. He stated there is no such thing as a perfect MRI for an athlete, especially a professional. For example, all Major League Baseball pitchers have micro tears and damage; the question is when that damaged area will become a problem for the athlete where it affects their performance. He said that both of my hamstrings and gluteal muscles had tears. However, my problematic area, for one reason or another, was creating unbearable pain to the point where it is impossible to run at top speed. Easy tasks like bending over to tie your shoe were now tedious and painful. My good leg, for one reason or another, had little pain even though there was the same damage on both of them. My doctor said you can’t explain these types of things, so you try to treat it and rehab accordingly. It could be a case where the damaged area was swelling into some nerves or certain fibers had been severed that created an unusually high pain point. Whatever the reason, it needed to be fixed to be able to compete at the ever increasing level of professional female triathletes in this day and age. 

The old adage goes it takes courage and discipline to recover. Treating an injury is a battle of patience. To stop what you have been doing all your life, working out and training, is no easy task as athletes can attest to. However, if you do not do it right, you are destined to repeat the same mistakes and it becomes an endless hole that is tough to crawl out of. The day is still filled with many activities; there are always things to do with your business, sponsors, giving back to the triathlon community, rehab, yoga, the exercises that you CAN do, physical therapy, maintenance, family, friends, life etc…However, the enormous chunk of the day that training takes up has been altered. The best advice is to keep your mind occupied, improve other areas of your life that may have been neglected (the spring cleaning that has been on hold for four years has finally happened!), and rest.


As my rehab enters its third week, I have been concentrating on heat, ice, compression and repeat. My Recovery Boots have been working overtime as I work diligently to heal and massage the tender hamstring. I am thankful to be able to swim, bumped up strength sessions and have incorporated stretching, Bikram Yoga and continued physical therapy into my routine to keep from scar tissue building up and to make the affected area stronger. Hopefully, as the saying goes, we will take one step backwards to take two steps forward and the body will eventually thank me for it!


My last thought is to always forge ahead. It can be easy to sit back, rely on others, or think "why did this happen to me." Triathlon racing is a roller coaster ride and all you can do is weather the storm and keep your eyes on the prize for that elusive perfect race. As with anything in life, there is no knight in shining armor or magic formula that is going to swoop in and miraculously save the day. If you are smart, prudent, and calculated with your actions following an injury, you can be back better than ever before you know it. Patience is a virtue!


- Meredith Kessler



My phone started ringing and it was an “unknown number.” Usually I don’t pick those up, but it was a good thing I did! The owner of Leader bikes was calling to invite me to race for their team in Seoul, South Korea. I had never been over to Asia to race so it was an experience I didn’t want to pass up. It was time to start packing.

The event I would be racing in is called The King of Track. It is a two-day race with the first day of racing at the velodrome and the second day is a fixed gear criterium. Track racing is my profession so I was excited and ready for that, but I had only done one other fixed gear crit before so I knew that would be an adventure!


Sometimes the world and who we know in it comes full circle. I would be traveling to Seoul to race with Ronnie Toth. Ronnie and I have been friends since about 10 years old and ran cross country and track and field together growing up. After high school we split ways. I went off to be a division 1 decathlete and he explored the world of Ironman racing. 11 years later our paths would cross again as we had both gotten into cycling and then fixed gear racing. CRAZY! Plus, in high school Ronnie was voted most unforgettable because of some of his crazy antics and for some reason I was voted class clown… It was going to be a fun trip!

When we arrived in Seoul. Our sponsor Park of Leader Bikes Korea picked us up and took us to his bike shop. We started unpacking and building up our bikes. As things were being pulled out of my bike box one of the employees pulled out a pair of GIANT size pants and said, “What the heck are these?” My reply, “Oh, those are God’s gift to recovery!” Within a few minutes I had my RP system hooked up and Park inside the pants. His face was priceless. He liked what he was feeling, but wasn’t sure if he should… Kind of like being in the lead car on a roller coaster. After about 10 minutes he enjoyed his experience, but had enough.


Day 1 of racing was at the track and we had the keirin and the elimination race. I was excited for the keirin because that was one of my better races and knew that Ronnie and I could get a good result in the elimination if we worked together. Things were going well and I won my first heat of the keirin to move onto the semi. The program was a bit off with some long breaks so it was a few hours delay till the semi. The semi final started and I was being patient as the race unfolded and went to make a big move with a little more than half a lap to go, but my legs didn’t have the pop I needed. Top 3 moved on and I got caught behind the 3rd rider and couldn’t get over the top… I made a pretty amateur mistake and just like that I was out of the final. Not the way I envisioned things, but still had the elimination race to go for a result. The elimination race had 20 riders and they pulled the last place rider every other lap. For the first while Ronnie and I stayed in a safe place as to not get eliminated, but as the field thins down the only good place to be is in the front. Ronnie has great endurance and tempo so he took the lead setting a good pace. I sat just on the outside of his right hip looking over my right shoulder making sure nobody came over the top. Riders are pulled out every 2 laps until there are 4 riders left then it is 2 laps till the finish. With 2 laps to go I pushed the other 2 riders up track showing them they were going to have to fight to pass me. I stayed right to the side of Ronnie and with half a lap to go made big move as another rider was trying to come over the top. I kept him right on my hip making him ride further and got to the finish line about half a wheel before him. VICTORY WAS OURS!!!

Post racing we went and got some Korean BBQ… naturally! Then back to our room to hop in the RP pants for some solid recovery.

Day 2 was the fixed gear crit. I had only done one other fixie crit prior to this so wasn’t too sure how it would end up. There were 3 strong Italian riders with lots of experience and some big results, so again Ronnie and I would have to work together to try and get a good result for our sponsor Leader Bikes Korea. The course was about 1.5 miles and the shape of your left hand if you were holding up your index finger and the race was 40 minutes long. Things got rolling and there were lots of small attacks. I am a sprinter so my job was to do as little as possible so I am fresh for the sprint. Ronnie is the Ironman so his job is to bring back any attacks and try to keep it together. The race started with 50 riders and within the first 20 minutes the group was blown up and down to about 20 riders. The Italians were working well together and keeping the tempo high with lots of attacks. Ronnie and I were working together as best we could and there were a few times I was hanging on by a string… With 3 laps to got one of the Italians got off the front and there was no brining him back. We could have worked to bring him back, but as soon as we did another Italian would have attacked. With just before 1 lap to go another Italian attacked hard just before the U-turn. It was impressive to see him take a turn like that on a fixed gear bike at over 20mph! So 2 Italians were off the front and there was no brining them back. With only 1 spot left on the podium we couldn’t let anyone else get away. The pace sped up and slowed down as we were trying to test each other’s legs. We took the final U-turn and it was a straight 1000 meter shot to the finish. A Korean went hard, the Italian followed, and then I hopped on the Italians wheel. With 30 meters to go we passed the Korean and it was just the Italian and I. I let him pull a bit longer then with 200 meters to go made my move around the outside! With a small gap I was able to sit up across the finish line in 3rd place and give the crowd a wave. It was one of the hardest 40 minutes I had every done and could not have done it without Ronnie’s crazy strength and endurance. We worked together and got a great result for the team!

We had an amazing time in Korea and got some great results. Leaders Bikes treated us like kings and the people couldn’t get enough pictures and autographs of us. And as always, it was great to be able to travel with my RP system by my side!


- Nate Koch


Life as a Road Map

I’ve coached athletes for about 10 years. Many of whom I coach are busy individuals balancing full time jobs with family life, and often times training for their own events; running, triathlon, or even Ironman races. It is a lot for them to balance, yet I respect (and can relate to) the desire to have personal goals outside of their daily lives. I’m often amazed at the parallels that I see between my own life, which entails being able to devote most hours of my day to training, recovery, and competing; with those of the athletes that I coach. Meaning...I am not juggling a full time job outside of racing, nor am I balancing spending time with kids and their activities. The similarities I see is that both those I coach (often professional businessmen but amateur athletes), and myself, along with other professional athletes; we all deal with various life setbacks that require some re-routing along the way.

One of the first steps I take as a coach when speaking with an athlete is their ‘long term plan’. We discuss where their fitness currently is, what they have been doing recently, and what their goals are. In short, “Where are we right now, and where do we want to be?” We will sketch out a route that will take into account daily commitments, work travels, and family vacations; aiming to plan out the best approach and set them up to accomplish their goals. 

Yet as we all know, life rarely goes according to plan. And the ability to stay focused on goals often lies in one’s ability to evaluate, adapt, and adjust.

As I too navigate some unplanned road blocks this season, I relate this to a giant road map. I know the best way to get from January to December for my season. The perfect plan for me will entail some winter running races, a few early season half ironman races, which build often to an early season Ironman as well as a race later season to peak for as well. We toss in a mid-season break or rest, and bam. The prefect equation for success! Alas, the 2016 season has looked more like ‘remove, adjust, replace.’ I coach a few people who have had similar scenarios. What I find ironic is, when I speak to them, I’m calm, relaxed and confident in the plan we have in place. I can hear the worry and fear in their voices that they won’t be ready come November, or the stress that things haven’t gone according to plan so far; but I truly feel confident that we have the time to still have them adequately prepared. Yet when I think of my own scenario, I find myself going back and forth between feeling relaxed and confident yet also concerned I’m losing time, fitness and opportunity. It’s funny how sometimes we need to listen to our own advice; step away a bit, and see things from the outside looking in.

So when you find a niggle becomes a dreaded ‘injury’, or that family vacation falls at an awful time for your ‘A’ race, take a step back and remember, there is still a way to get to the end goal. Who doesn’t like a good road trip? Just readjust your plan, stay positive, and re-route your approach. 

-Kelly J. Williamson

Twitter: @khwilliamson

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