Blog posts tagged with 'swim'

Offseason Improvements - Triathlon Training

The North America triathlon offseason starts with the last Ironman of the year, Ironman Arizona, and ends with the kickoff of Oceanside 70.3 at the beginning of April. Of course, there are races you can go to around the world such as in Australia and New Zealand yet most athletes in North America are trying to recover after a long racing season. There are some athletes who take this offseason and relish in the time away from training. Others keep the motor running to come into the season without losing too much fitness; each method is up to the individual as far as how they want to spend their time and how their body reacts to inactivity versus continuous motion. One thing that we should all agree upon is if you want to keep improving on your Ironman journey to reach your goals, the offseason should be used to improve on inefficiencies in your training and racing.

At the end of the racing season, you need to evaluate your performance, coaches, consultants, nutrition, hydration, gear, technology, organizational skills, balance and determine where you could improve to shave precious time off your racing. This is what any athlete in any sport does when they have a little time off so that they can get themselves into a better position the next year. Lionel Messi does not sit on his couch when the soccer season is over; the free time that he has is spent improving on his already dominant game. In order to keep improving, you cannot rest on your laurels, even if you are one of the best in the world. Serena Williams, as she gets older, knows she has to train and compete smarter, not harder, so her offseason is spent working on new ways to get better which usually involves boosting her weaknesses.

In my ‘offseason’, I do like to keep the motor running. Exercise and training have always been a part of my life and it rolls on after Ironman Arizona is complete. Yes, it does not make sense to go for long tedious rides a week or two after the last race of the season yet I do continue to move the blood and swim, bike, run and strength train when the season comes to a close. It also is a habit to use my recovery tools like my Recovery Pump boots; when I go home to Ohio for the holidays, I always pack them and use at night when hanging with the family. I go to the local pool and run on the treadmill to keep the blood pumping.

For the offseason of 2016-2017, my goal was to keep strengthening my hamstring, which was a nagging problem in the 2016 racing year, and improve my running off the bike. As women racers continue to improve, you have to be that much stronger in all three disciplines. If the race directors will continue to launch the women so close to the pro and age group men, you have to become that much better to overcome all of these obstacles that these types of situations organically create; the reality is, this practice doesn’t look like it is changing anytime soon so you just can’t worry about interference from these conditions and you have to rise above it.

My offseason consisted of more rehab by utilizing muscle activation technique (MAT) to keep strengthening the hamstring region as well as a more intense running program, compliments of Sean Jefferson, to reaching for that elusive three hour marathon in a full Ironman race. It was important to work with Sean in effort to help me design training programs to focus my attention on this deficiency. I have never focused this much on the running aspect of the triathlon and my comfort was growing in this capacity; preparation and training breeds just that, comfort!  

My first race of the year was Ironman New Zealand in early March and I was ready to see if my offseason preparation could translate into race success. As everyone who has raced triathlon knows, nothing ever goes according to plan. My legs were ready and the muscle memory of the run preparation was there but my body just couldn’t deliver that fast run that I was prepared to do. For some reason, I didn’t have that 2nd gear yet these are the highs and lows of racing; not every time out you will have that magical race. The good thing is that the offseason work will not go away; it has been banked and I look forward to using this knowledge and training in future events. Until that time, all you can do is keep working hard, recovering, repeating and ride the waves!


- Meredith Brooks Kessler, @mbkessler

The Off-Season: Be A Spontaneous Exerciser


My husband Derick was talking a good friend in Texas recently. Our friend Lance asked if I was taking some time off from training right now (having finished my season in Arizona on November 20). I’m admittedly rather terrible at doing “no” exercise at all, as it makes me cranky, moody and antsy. I always prefer to be doing something active even when no races are around the corner. I guess you could say I just enjoy it! That said, I don’t always enjoy it feeling like ‘grind’ and ‘having’ to do such specifics most the year. Derick responded to Lance that I was indeed chilling out, not doing a lot but that I was being a “spontaneous exerciser”. And this phrase just stuck with me. It got me thinking, when it comes to advising athletes about “how much should I be doing right now”, I think this is the time of year to make it a goal to be a Spontaneous Exerciser.

Now what does this exactly mean? If indeed you’re one of those who train consistently most of the year and compete with goals in mind, it’s very healthy to loosen the reins a bit and take a different approach for a few weeks of the year. This time often coincides well with the holidays, as many of us are fitting social engagements and travel into our regular schedule. I rarely recommend doing nothing, unless you feel your body and mind really need this; then go for it. But you may find it’s even more refreshing for you to seek out new and different challenges and ways to stay active during the month of December (give or take; late November, early January). Now I’d be contradicting my Spontaneous Exerciser recommendation if I gave you too many guidelines, but I can at least explain a bit more what I mean by this.

Do what sounds fun on the given day. Try not to plan too much and too far ahead. Aim to stay away from ‘scheduling’ your exercise sessions weeks in advance. This can be tough for us Type A personalities who thrive on schedule and planning. I recently got hit with a nasty flu that left me in bed most of one day, and resigned to walking our dog the next few days as my only “activity”. When the weekend rolled around, I had the urge to go and do The Incline. This is an infamous hiking trail in town which is made up of an old railroad cog, starting at 6500 feet, rising less than 1 mile and topping out at 8590 feet. It sustains an average of 45% grade. Suffice to say, even doing The Incline easy is a lot of work. It was probably a bit lofty given what my body had been through the days prior, but the sun was shining, I was craving moving and being back in the mountains, and it just sounded like fun. So, Saturday morning I did The Incline. It was challenging and I was a little tired that evening, but then I got up again Sunday I did The Incline again. My legs paid for it the next week but it just sounded fun to do it two days in a row! So, I did. Then two days later, Derick and I took off to the mountains for 3 days of cross-country skiing. By the time my legs were un-sore from The Incline, I was waking up new muscles (glutes, triceps!) from the skiing. It was awesome! It is amazing what a lack of structure and variety in exercise modalities can do for your motivation; and simply opening your mind to new things.   

Spontaneous exercising can also prove to be therapeutic; and depending upon what you’re doing, meditative. Let yourself get lost in an activity just for the sake of moving; not the sake of tracking and recording. I often find when the weather turns colder, my body craves yoga classes. Another advantage of spontaneously finding new things to do is you realize muscles you may not regularly use! Being sore in different ways from other challenges is a nice change. You may also discover things you enjoy that you never realized. Perhaps you take a hike with friends, or someone invites you out on a mountain bike ride. I guess my advice for your “off-season” is, say yes to more options. Try things you’ve never done. See what sounds appealing on the day. And by no means does it have to be ‘epic’. One of my favorite go to’s is a simple easy 2-3k swim. Swimming is what I grew up doing and it is always the one thing that, no matter what, makes me feel better. Just do what moves you each day; with less planning, less pace-checking, more spontaneity. I’m willing to bet you’ll discover something new; something fun you never knew you enjoyed. I guarantee your head, your heart and your body will thank you for the change of routine. 

- Kelly H Williamson


12 Races + 8 1st Place wins in 2015 = Quite the Year


Training is easy; recovery takes discipline. I always have to tell myself this as the year comes to a close, the races add up, and the body is not as fresh. This is also true as you get older and you don’t have twenty year old legs anymore. For this piece for Recovery Pump, I wanted to diagram the lead in to Ironman Taupo 70.3, our 12th race of 2015 on December 12th. This race was a bit of a challenge because of the extensive event schedule throughout the year, travel to multiple destinations through multiple time zones, and Ironman Arizona being a few weeks prior on November 15th. The competition and the course were not the focus yet getting the body into racing shape was the priority in effort to try to compete at a high level.

Before Ironman Arizona, my body was feeling the effects of the beginning stages of pneumonia. After the event in the rain and cold, that all came to fruition. This required much Vector 450,, leading into the event to aid in being able to compete and to help afterwards. This also required using the Recovery Pump boots for an hour plus a day to help get the legs back into training shape. After the race-filled year, the fitness was there so the ability to maintain was key and not to overdue it. It was important to keep up on the workouts yet scale back the intensity. Complicating the matters was the sickness which, in a way, helped keep the vigorous workouts in check. This was not a time to gain fitness yet instead, a vital time to recover hence reminding myself of the phrase ‘recovery takes discipline’ over and over again.

Travel is always difficult for all endurance athletes, especially a twelve hour flight to Auckland and three and a half hour drive to Taupo. The ability to minimize damage on these legs of the journey is something my husband, Aaron, and I have worked on and tweaked for years. Compression clothing is worn on the plane, if possible Recovery Boots are carried on and used, fruit plates are requested for meals and packing proper food is a must (regular meals are usually too unpredictable and sodium packed), and a natural sleeping aid, such as melatonin, is used to help with the proper rest in an uncomfortable position. Aaron enjoys driving multiple hours (which is so appreciated) and Recovery Pump Boots are used in the car. Once we arrived in Taupo, a relaxing swim is a must to flush out the body and loosen up after the long travel.

Through the week, I kept telling myself I just needed to maintain and not reach for more fitness. At this point, only bad things can happen with too much conditioning so you want to keep the engine purring, not humming. Hydration and healthy nutrition is the focus along with proper supplements to aid in repairing and moderating the body. Paying attention to your tiredness level and keeping up with any time zone changes also is a priority to start the race as close to 100% as possible. The body is resilient, even after a jam-packed season, so if you concentrate on repair and recovery, your body will hopefully thank and reward you.

The competition was strong, the race course spectacular, and the body held up one more time in 2015! As another year comes and goes, recovery becomes more and more important. Life and recovery habits that I had ten years ago would not fly today. The time and effort spent on resting and recovery has been multiplied by three and will continue to sky rocket in order to be able to compete at a level that will help to try to reach athletic goals. If you don’t adapt and continue to try to improve in this capacity, it is easy to get left behind!  

Happy Holiday season to you and yours!  Think about snagging a pair of Recovery Pump boots for your family - it will make a world of difference in sport and in life!

-Meredith B Kessler 

@mbkessler - 

Use code: KESSLER when ordering @

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



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



My Mess Ups from the Last 20 Years

Just because I'm a pro doesn't mean I always execute races perfectly. As most of you know, I've been racing a long time and I've certainly made my share of mistakes in triathlon. I thought it would fun to do a run down of the more ridiculous mistakes I've made in races. 

20 years ago in my very first pro race back in the Gold Coast in Australia, I did a sprint format race. I had been training with my coach Cole Stewart who at the time had probably the best group of professional triathletes in the world with the likes of Miles Stewart, Matt Reed, Chris McCormack, and Shane Snuffy Reed, just to name a few. I had big shoes to fill in my first race with these guys either watching or racing. Back then I was a pretty terrible swimmer. As I got on the bike to start chasing, I realized I had put my left shoe on my right pedal and vice versa. At first I tried to put my feet in and ride like that, but after a couple of miles it got too painful, so I decided to try and switch them over. Instead of stopping, I thought I'd be smart and reach down and unclip one and put that shoe in my mouth while I switched the other shoe over. Although it worked, I lost a lot of time and a lot of dignity as most of my friends saw me doing it. I became the butt of everyone's jokes for a few weeks.

A few years later, I was racing in Phuket, Thailand. Me and Miles Stewart were putting our bikes together and I'd realized that I left my front skewer at home. I knew there was a bike mechanic down at the expo, so I thought it would be a great idea to just put the front wheel in and ride a few miles down to transition. As I was getting to transition, I was quite pleased with myself for making it without crashing and for some stupid reason, I sat up and took my hands off the handlebar. As I did that, I hit a pothole and my front wheel popped out. As my forks dug into the ground, I went over the handlebars and landed on the head stem and broke two ribs. Of course I tried to race. I made it a couple of miles into the run and then had to pull out.


After battling a few years of Cole Stewart's training, I managed to get a start at the Grand Prix sprint series in Australia, which was doubling up as the Commonwealth Games Selection Trials and also the Australian Sprint Championships. I was having probably one of the best races of my career at that point. I came out in the lead group in the swim and broke away on the bike with a group of legends including Hamish Carter, Miles Stewart, and Matt Reed. Towards the end of the bike, I managed to break away from them and put about a minute into them leading into transition. However it was a multi-lap bike course and when other athletes were lapped, they had to pull out. Riding on my own, I came up behind a large group on the bike and I got really excited to pass them all, but I was on my final lap and should have gone into transition. I ended up riding down to the turnaround and back which was an extra couple of K's that I wasn't supposed to do. By the time I got into transition, the group I had broken away from was just leaving on the run. That day I probably missed getting an Australian title and a spot at the Commonwealth Games.  

In the early days when I was in racing in Germany, I quite often raced double Saturday and Sunday races. This particular time I raced in Darmstadt on a Saturday. I borrowed my friend's hatchback car and drove to the Netherlands that night. Unlike America, small hotels in Europe close their doors around 10pm. I arrived closer to midnight and couldn't get into the hotel. I had to put the seats down in the car and just sleep in the back of that. I used my wetsuit as a blanket. All I had for breakfast was leftover pizza and a banana and then I went and raced.

Another race I did in the Netherlands was a ETU cup race. This race had two transitions. I had a great swim-bike and got off the bike with 2 or 3 guys in the lead. However when I went to get my shoes out of the transition box, they weren't there. I forgot to check them in at transition in the morning. Without thinking too much, I took off on the run in bare feet. This race was a 3 lap course. Luckily back then I was only doing Olympic distance and my friend was also racing. For some reason he had pulled out so he gave me his shoes going into the second lap. He's 6'2" and size 11 feet and I'm 8.5, however it was way better than running on bare feet. I still managed to hold on for a top 3 finish.


In 2009 at the 70.3 World Championships, I was probably in the best shape of my career. I had start number 2 and for some reason Ironman started using the plastic transition bags in 70.3 races. This was new for me and for some reason the pros just had to lay our bags out on the ground. I had a fantastic swim coming out of the water in the top 10. As I ran through transition, I grabbed the second bag and what I thought was my bike bag. I ran into the change tent where I dumped out the contents on the ground. As I put the helmet on, I realized it wasn't mine. At the time, I picked up the sunglasses and decided to race anyway, but as I exited the transition tent, my conscience got the better of me, so I ran back to grab the correct bag. By the time I got everything sorted out, I'd lost close to 2 minutes. This particular year, there was a 50 man front group on the bike and I got stuck riding alone behind them. I ended up with one of the fastest run splits running from 50th place into 11th, but it didn't do me much good. This led me to my next stupid decision, which was doing Ironman Arizona the next weekend. I had a great race in Ironman Arizona until the last 6 miles, where I completely imploded. I still managed to finish fourth but it scarred me for nearly 5 years.

The last time I raced at 70.3 Austin, I woke up early and had all my nutrition packed and ready in the fridge from the night before. Once I got up, I put my race kit on. I was still feeling a little sleepy and laid back on the bed. I still to this day don't know what happened. I thought I only laid there for one or two minutes, but apparently I'd fallen asleep for an hour. Once I got up, I went into the kitchen to make breakfast and then saw the time on the clock and it was only one hour before the start of the race. Luckily I had checked the bikes in the day before. I had a major panic attack and just ran out of the house and got in the car and started driving to the race, which was half an hour away. Once I got close to the race, I got caught up in the age group traffic trying to get into the parking lot, which took another 20 minutes. While I was sitting in the car, I realized that I had left all my nutrition in the fridge. I made an emergency call to BigSexy McDonald, who was living in Austin at the time. He managed to call his wife who brought a water bottle from home. As I ran into transition, she passed me the bottle with a couple of gels. I dumped the gels in the bottle and ran down to the swim start. As I got there, everyone was lined up and ready to go. Luckily the race was delayed 5 minutes, which allowed me to get my wetsuit on and start with everybody. I still managed to finish 2nd on just one water bottle.

Another dumbass mistake was when I raced down in Costa Rica. I thought I would be smart and charge my DI2 battery before I left so I wouldn't have to take the charger with me. Once I got there, I realized I had left my DI2 battery at home. This was back in the early days when I was one of the only people riding electronic shifters.  Back then, nobody had spare anything for electronic gears. Luckily a friend got delayed in Chicago coming to the race and they went to a bike shop and borrowed a battery and it ended up working out fine. You'd think I would have learned from this mistake, but it's happened a few more times since. 

Sadly this isn't all my stupid mistakes and I'm sure I'll make plenty more. I hope this makes all of your feel better anytime you make a dumb mistake. Don't stress or panic about the little mistakes - things always work out in the end. And if they don't, at least you'll have a good story and a laugh.


Richie Cunningham

It's the Off-season, and This is Why You Should be Swimming

I'm putting on my coach's hat to share a few thoughts about the most overlooked of our three disciplines.

• If you aren't a natural swimmer, you need the work.

If you are serious about improving as a triathlete, "off-season" is not necessarily synonymous with "fun." But, the two aren't necessarily mutually-exclusive, either--see below.

• If you are a natural swimmer, you can afford the work.

The body does need some "downtime" of sorts at this time of year, but for those of us who grew gills during our childhoods, swimming lots through the winter is a low-impact way we can maintain some aerobic fitness. Even if you are using your off-season to do a bike or run focus, for us swimmers, we can still do plenty of swimming without it detracting from that.

• It's not just about the swim.

True, even over an ironman distance, the time gains one can make in the swim itself are relatively small. What is important to know is that the real time gains that come from improving your swim fitness happen after the swim. If you can emerge from a strong, fast swim feeling fresh and able to hit the bike hard, that's where your whole race can change.

• The more you swim, the more you will want to swim.

I promise :) The more competent you become in the water, the less often you will need that list of excuses about why you should be spending your time somewhere besides the pool. In other words, more swimming does eventually = more fun.

Hillary Biscay