Week #6: New Challenge

Big Ringers:

All is going very well on the training front and having a blast. I am finding a good rhythm each day with getting my sessions in. Coffee is set to automatically start at 4:00am, the alarm clock is set for 4:05, I am up by 4:10, working out by 4:45-5am. I am very much a morning person, as you can tell. If I could be in bed by 8pm, I would!

It is only October and I am obsessing over what races I am doing next year. I have been waffling over my first triathlon, Elkhart Lake or Madison 70.3? Both because they are back to back weekends?

THEN, a new challenge was presented to me…

American Triple T

https://americantriple-t.com/american-triple-t/

It is 4 triathlons within 3 days… all totaling an Ironman Distance. There is also shorter version that totals a 70.3 Triathlon.

Friday: Super Sprint Triathlon

Saturday AM: Olympic Distance

Saturday Afternoon: Olympic Distance (Bike/Swim/Run)

Sunday: Half Ironman

Why the change? I’ve done Elkhart Lake and used it as a fitness gauge. Madison 70.3 is local and competitive, but it doesn’t draw much interest to me outside of the competition that would be there.

What’s also nice about TTT? I have inside knowledge into how to prepare and race it. How? My superstar wife has WON this event. Yea, I married up. Cindi has always encouraged me to race TTT and having that type of knowledge from a previous champion is second to none.

Importantly, Triple T provides me a lot of motivation. Its going to be very challenging. It’s also different than what i’ve previously done, which is good because i’ve found myself getting bored. My interest has been leaning towards adventure races, long trail runs, Canada Extreme, Swissman, Norseman type of events.

My theme for 2019 Ironman Wisconsin and all of the preparation leading into will be “Conditioning, Conditioning, Conditioning.” I have done many Ironmans so I don’t need more triathlon experience. My limiter for most of my Ironmans have been simple: Conditioning. Endurance. Fitness. GET FIT! Triple T keeps me in this mindset over the winter months leading into both races. To accomplish 140.6 miles, broken into 4 triathlons will require a lot of conditioning but not the same as a stand alone Ironman.

Add in that Triple T is under 300 dollars for the entry fee. 4 Triathlons, Race Kit, Finishers Jacket, and much more what what a single 70.3 event costs. The lodging offered is also very affordable. Plus, I love racing smaller races. The feel and environment of these grassroots events is always nice. Door County Half Ironman is also like this.

Until next week!

Steve

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Week #5: What I'm Working On

This week our family took a vacation to Door County. It’s been around 2 years since we’ve taken a formal vacation and with the triathlon season winding down, we packed our bags and headed to the quiet town of Bailey’s Harbor.

Talking with Coach Kevin before I left, I was fired up to get back into hard training after the prior light week. We settled on making this week also pretty easy and he was right. When I go on vacation, my mind does the same. Every morning I am up at 4:30 to work, train or coach. However. when vacation came I slept till the rooster crowed aka Lucy woke up. My training goal was to get in 30’ of running a day, mission accomplished. I was also on vacation and the last thing I wanted to do was be away from my family.

I grew up running from middle school and high school and the first year at college. While I was never a talented runner, I loved putting in the hard miles. I was a coaches worst nightmare. Every run was hard. 6 mile aerobic run turned into 6 miles as hard as possible. 10 mile long run the day after a race turned into a hammer session. Like I said… a true nightmare. I look back on myself and understand why i never saw the improvement other runners saw, I never let my body rest, recover, and grow. I wanted to do more, faster, and more frequent. That’s the path to becoming amazingly mediocre.

Since we’re on the honest bus, Ive never shown much promise in swim, bike, or running. I had to work very hard for the results I’ve achieved. For most talented people, it takes them 3 years from nothing to something (Short Course Nationals, 70.3 Worlds, Kona Qualifier)… for me it took double the time. My parents taught me hard work, but didn’t give me the great genetics. I still love them very much.

So here I am today plugging away at the small details.

When I evaluated my running form. (How do I do this? I put my phone next to me on my treadmill) I notice that my left leg doesn’t recover as high as my right. The effect of this is that my left leg over striders causing me to look like I am cross country skiing instead of running, which causes me to over stride, which causes a lot of injuries on my left leg, which is REALLY limiting my speed potential. If you want to go faster you need to put more force straight down into the ground. When you over stride, you don’t do that.

Some people can get away with bad technique, but I’m not talented or genetically powerful so I need to fix these issues. Running technique is important, if you don’t think so you’re oblivious to the obvious.

If you are talented, more power to you! You have been given great genes and if you combine that with hard work… you’re going places. Talented athletes make many coaches look really good!

Here is what I am doing to fix my left leg, it’s pretty simple. There are so many fancy drills but keeping it simple and knowing the focus is key to learning. Thats what Drills do, they teach you something. How it should feel and how to do it correctly. Drills won’t automatically make you faster, in fact I see many athletes doing drills aimlessly. However, when they are done right they’re the foundation to your improvement.

If I am feeling fatigued I will do these before the run as a muscle activation set. I will always do them after my runs, especially a hard run.

3 Rounds:

20 Butt Kicks (Focus on tightening up my recovery phase to get my foot higher to push down)

20 High Knees (Same Focus on Butt Kicks, just different position)

20 A-Skips (Pull the leg up, FIRE the leg down. Putting it all together)

20 High Elbow Band Pulls (For swimming)

R:1 Minute, repeat.


Week #4: Cravings vs Hunger

How do you deal with emotional eating?

Posted by Luke Briggs on Wednesday, July 25, 2018

This post from Expert Luke Briggs has really stuck with me. It has to do with emotional eating and the part that stuck with me the most is when he talks about Cravings vs Hunger. At first it resonated the most with eating (obviously) because I would go into a coffee shop and get a craving for something specific, I would then convince myself that it would be ok to eat it all the while it not supporting my goals. Luke talks about if you feel its a craving, wait a couple minutes without reacting to find out. If you are still “hungry” after 20 minutes… you are actually hungry.

It’s worked. In 4 months I have lost 8 pounds. Most of it by reducing so many unnecessary things from my diet.

I also have a tendency for buying unnecessary items because i’ve convinced myself it will make me faster. That sounds ridiculous as I type it, but I do it. This nutrition product. This helmet. This whatever. But it’s all bullshit. Total bullshit. Whats going to make you better is the hunger deep inside you, not a distraction that weakens you internally. This goes back to dependency and if you place too much dependency outside of yourself, you are weakening your confidence.

My swimming has gotten a lot better, in fact; I am swimming the best I have in years. I am only swimming twice a week with each session around 3,500 yards. Remember when I called myself weak minded in the pool? I feel like my commitment to eliminating all dependency of my buoy and paddles has paid off. I am now able to swim 1,500 to 2,000 yards on a 1:30 send off. All freestyle, no buoy. I go into my swim workouts with paces to hit. I am constantly challenging myself wanting to get better. This past swim session I was finishing up some strong 100s and cranked out a 1:09! I was full gas, giving it everything. 1:09 is not a personal best but being able to swim that fast under fatigue is a good sign for me.

Two things I have wanted to improve upon are happening. Body weight is reducing and swim paces are increasing.

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Week 3: Improvements


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Week #3: 

Ironman Wisconsin happened this past weekend and it reminded me of why I want to do this race over any other one. We had athletes racing and two of my athletes finished 4th in their Age Group, 1 missed Kona by a single place. I was also able to watch a friend have the race of his life and earn his Kona Spot hes been wanting for so long. It was motivating to watch so many athletes I know and coach accomplish what they’ve trained for. I find so much encouragement and belief that if others are able to, I can accomplish my goals of faster than 9:40 at Ironman Wisconsin.

When I first started thinking of doing an Ironman in 2019, IMWI wasn’t my top choice even though it is in the same city I live in. All eyes were focused on Ironman Arizona. Why? I am not very strong on hills. Cycling or running I get toasted by pretty much everyone. When I look at my results from previous races, I am much more competitive in the flatter races than hilly ones. The percentages of how close I am to the front shows I am much better at flat races. 

This makes me self analysis why this is the case and how do I improve as an athlete. When I look at the power profile chart, my 1’ power is much lower than my FTP power. I think that if they are not even in the same category, this will lead to more muscular fatigue on race day that you should encounter. 

Why did I decide on IMWI? It’s the crowds. The support is unparalleled to any other course I’ve seen. IMWI has over 6,000 feet of elevation gain on the bike and 1,000 feet on the run. The run course also had over 20 turns which makes it a pretty close course. To re illustrate why, I want to have an incredible experience over chasing a fast time. 

How am I fixing my weakness?

Kevin and I talk about this alot and what the primary focus will be and its nothing fancy. All of the sessions we do is to getting me as fit as I possibly can be. This may seem basic, but over the past 5-6 years this basic concept is what I lacked. Its why I continued to fall apart late into races. Its why i experience GI stress in ever marathon. 

Develop the Bow before the Arrow

We are currently in the grind of muscular strength. We are in a phase of training where it consists of alot of 90-95% efforts in a big gear (65-70rpms). On the run it is also pretty similar, Tempo running and striders. We are building the biggest platform possible. While I am only training 8-10hrs a week, the intensity is high and I am loving it. Knowing Kevin, we will probably sit in this phase for 3-4 months. More and more Sweet Spot in a bigger gear. The intensity isnt so hard it fries me the next day, it allows me to put in alot of good work. 

The over gear work is for my weakness. Strength Strength Strength. 

It’s Happening, Already.

I am getting better. I like improvement. 

Swim: Last week I was able to swim 15x100 on 1:30 base. My avg 100s were 1:18-22 and I was cruising with minimal effort. Today I was 3x600 avg 1:20-25, 5x100 avg 1:16, 8x50 avg 34. Totally 3600y and it was the best i’ve felt swimming this distance in over 6 years. I have never swum 1500-1800 yards on a 1:30 base. EVER.


Bike: No improvements yet. It’s only been 3 weeks. Yet, I am feeling very strong. I love over gear work. If you want to get better, put that puppy in the big ring!


Run: The volume of running has been quite low. We do 1x Tempo Run a week where i’m targeting 6:15-25 pace (Half Marathon Pace) for 30-40’ of total work broken up in 10-12’ segments. The purpose of this is building a strong base. I have the Madison Half Marathon in early November where I would like to Run in the 1:20-1:23 range.


Thanks all for reading!

Week 2: Confessions from a Weak Minded Swimmer

I have a confession to make. I am a mentally weak swimmer who’s addicted to their pull buoy. For years I convinced myself that all I needed to do was pull as it replicated the wetsuit. Here is what it really did, it made me mentally weak and unprepared for the hardships triathlon swimming presents. Anytime I would swim without my pull buoy it instantly became harder than I liked. I would grab my pull buoy faster than I do my Oreo Ice Cream. There were times I would forget my pull buoy at home and not even swim! Repeat this process over and over and I developed a dependency that was hurting my swim training as well as my confidence on race day. Sure, after some big swims my arms would be smashed and confidence would be restored (short term) but I never saw the returns on all of the pulling. 

Practice what I preach? Nope, didn’t do that. Ive been coaching swimmers from the pool deck for 10 years which means I have coached hundreds of swimmers. In 10 years of on deck coaching, I became very good at connecting body position errors and whats truly effecting it. The more I think of it with the coaching I prescribe in our classes, it rarely has any buoy work. 

For years I never USED the rotational aspect of my stroke to improve my distance per stroke. I knew it but couldn’t fix it because I believe that too much pull buoy, or the wrong pull buoy inhibits your ability to use your hips and core in the swim stroke. To improve usable rotation in your swim stroke, you can't use a pull buoy and I wasn't willing to give it up. So what was the result of all my pulling? Better pulling but not better overall conditioning.

Step 1: Cue Rocky Theme Song

Step 2: “Cindi HIDE MY SWIM BUOY"

Step 3: Harden Up

Step 4: Enter Cave Man Swim Training

Cave Man Swim Training (CMST) is literally something I made up. When I think of what the definition is, it resembles going back to the bare bones of swimming with no toys and simply getting the work done. I’ve removed my pull buoy from my bag so it not within reach. All of the my swims are purely freestyle, no toys. The 1st couple swims were exhausting. More open turns because I was so low on oxygen. More internal profanity. The bike and run sessions that followed would suffer because how much energy it took out of me. I didn’t care, I was motivated to break this habit. 

Guess what? I started to see improvement. I started to really connect my hips and core into my catch phase. My swim times for a set of threshold 100s went from 1:25s to 1:18s. I like improvement.

Sometimes it is cool to be the swimmer with all the gear on. Snorkel, paddles, buoy, band, fins. It may be helping you or it may not be. Do paddles, band, and snorkels have a place in swimming? Well, duh. Each toy has a specific place within swim training and fixing certain aspects of a stroke. In my case, these toys made me weaker because I started to depend on them too much. To become excellent at whatever it is you’re attempting, you have to have 100% belief in yourself. If you don’t because you rely on something or someone to do it for you, your chances of failure go up. You have to fix you before you can truly accomplish what you want.

Happy Training!

Steve

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Week #1: Whats Your Commitment Level?

 One of my longest swims in years (outside of Ironman)

One of my longest swims in years (outside of Ironman)

Week 1

Previous Week Training Hours: 11.5

Commitment Level: 6/10

Current Weight: 159

Current FTP: 3.9 w/kg

What is commitment level? I think of this as my marker so I dont burn out too early. One question that was asked was, “Can you really hold this level of intensity for over a year?”

Of course I can’t and I wont even try. 

While I am against people taking weeks and months off of training. I am also against people getting 100% focused for a goal before the new years if there event is in the late summer. I have seen friends and fellow athletes finish a season disappointed and get reengaged too early only to be burned out in March. It happens so often! 

I am 100% committed to the program. I am 100% committed to my coaches plan. But my lifestyle around training is a 6/10. I am still eating ice cream before bed. I am still drinking beer. I am still eating somewhat unhealthy. Kevin and I discussed this and after my previous weigh in and body fat test, I am in a good position for the fall. No need to lose too much right now. 

This past weeks training was awesome, I am so pumped to be working hard and doing structured sessions. While the sessions aren’t that hard, the grind of a schedule is exciting to me. I did a run session of 3x10’ at a Tempo effort and finished the last two repeats around 6:00 or 315-320 watts. It was cold, windy, and rainy and it felt effortless. This could be because I was still fresh from the week off but the paces still happened. 

In typical Kevin fashion, this week looks pretty similar to last week with some increases in swim volume and bike intensity volumes with the workout. 

Happy Training!

Steve

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Door County Half Distance

 

Every race has it’s positives and negatives and it’s highs and lows. My ultimate goal is Ironman Wisconsin 2019 and trying to achieve my best Ironman. Cindi and I have discussed the best path for me to achieve this performance. With all of this planning happening, I’ve found myself wanting to shut this season down, take a break and start the preparation into 2019. However, every time I start to think this way, I question the reasoning and I continue to come to the realization that i am in the process of self sabotage. I’m desperately trying to find the easy way out of this season. Maybe the stress of being a new father has taken more out of me than I expected. I know this because the drive to get in each session isn’t there and I’d rather get more rest than do the important sessions needed. Hard sessions turn into recovery. Simply put, this season hasn’t gone to plan and I haven’t seen the improvements I would have liked. Each races is a reminder of how much fitness i’ve lost. As I do find positives from each race, they seem to be stripping my motivation rather than increasing it. I still have 3 races on my schedule but plan on doing only 1, Steelhead 70.3. 

 

The Days Before:

I felt good going into this race because I was able to put in the bigger, high quality sessions. Everything seemed to be on track. Robin has been building for Ironman Wisconsin and its been nice to ride with her. I’ve also made chances to my bike position that continue to be a positive in regards to having a better second half to my races. The drive to Door County was pleasant. Justin was very helpful with meeting us at the race site to help us put up the tent. We settled back to our place, ate dinner, and relaxed at the pool. 

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Lucy slept pretty well Friday night. She had a not normal wake up at 4am on Saturday and I was able to get her back to sleep. I decided to just stay up and do work. Being up at 4am is not an ideal thing to do the day before the race but work needed to be done. Saturday was the Sprint Distance and Cindi went down with the team and I stayed back till Lucy woke up. We made it to the race and was able to watch our athletes compete, one of whom won the entire thing! Way to go Bobby! Watching his race certainly motivated me. Lucy started to get tired so I brought her back to the condo for her first nap. My plan was to ride the trainer while she napped. Well, her nap only latest 30’ which meant no ride. I started to get in this panic where I know I needed to get my pre race workout in. It sounds incredibly selfish when I think of it. So I focused on the fact that I was able to stay inside, rest my legs, and relax while it was blazing hot outside. I was also able to have the ITU WTS Hamburg race play in the background. Cindi made it back to Condo and we switched roles. Bike done on the trainer, felt great. Drove to the race site to do easy run and stride, felt good but WOWZA it was hot. Then I went in an swam, felt awesome. Ready to go! Lucy slept awesome Saturday night which meant Cindi and I got great sleep. 

The Swim: D+

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I sucked and have no clue why. Well, I know why… I dont swim much and still believe I can fake my way to a 30’ swim. NOT THIS TIME. 500 into the swim my arms were completely shot. “Ah your arms aren’t warmed up, they will come good”… They didn’t come good. I also was constantly drifting left. I literally couldn’t swim straight. I was convinced I was going to see 40’. The beauty of endurance sport is you get what you earn. I wasn’t trained for this and I got exactly what I deserved. 

 

The Bike: B+

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When you aren’t swim fit you suffer the first part of the bike because you are trying to recover from the swim. I was uncomfortable. Heavy legs. Low power. Alone with no one in sight. Unmotivated. Making excuses. Convinced my brakes were rubbing.

Then… I saw people in-front of me so I made it my goal to catch them. From a distance it appeared these people were drafting which set me off into a hissy, it was exactly what I needed… some motivation. I rode past them pushing well into my threshold trying to create a gap so they wouldn't jump on my wheel. Looking back on this, it was quite stupid but it helped me mentally. Slowly I started to catch more people which changed my mentality. My goal coming into this ride was to execute a better 2nd half of the ride. Be more focused, consume more calories. I commonly see 8-10% of a drop off in the 2nd half which is unacceptable. Poor nutrition and bike fit caused me to slow down. This time it was only 5%. This was my best ride at DC by almost 2 minutes!

 

 

 

The Run: B

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I got into transition ready to get after it. Earlier someone told me i was top 10, so after passing people I would thought I was 6th or 7th. When I ran past Cindi, she asked “Are you feeling ok? Jason Landretti is 7 minutes up” (Jason is a good friend and someone I like to race because of the banter back and forth)… However, these are not the words you want to hear. These words mean, you’re farther back then we discussed! Apparently I was in 13th place… note to self, don’t believe some random person’s place count. I went from being fired to running on auto pilot. When I looked at the results afterwards, it appears the front of the race was a draft fest as 4-5 guys were rewarded drafting penalties. One athlete was given 12 minutes!

The only turnaround is at 5 miles and up to this point I didn’t see a single runner. It was the perfect place for someone cruising, no pressure. THEN, I saw two guys coming up on me and one in-front of me. They were coming fast and I didn’t want to get passed. I started to push very hard and at times I had to slow down because I had crossed that lactate level line. “Dont look back, don’t look back, don’t let him see you looking back, it’s a sign of weakness, he’ll know you’re hurting” With 3 miles to go we are essentially on two long roads till the finish. I felt with every step I was losing time but I kept pushing. There is an acronym that sticks with me and its TUF, Toughness Under Fatigue. When you're at your limit, it is no longer up to your legs but your mind. How you mentally handle pressure, fatigue, and lactate determines your race results. I was literally at my limit. 1% harder and my legs would completely flood with lactate, 1% easier and Matt would have caught me. Weak mind? I would have been walking. It always funny because 5 miles earlier i was having a pitty part and now i’m at my maximal effort. The ups and downs. Here we are, 1 Mile to go and Matt was within 30 seconds. With the finish being downhill, I felt I was at a disadvantage because i’m short and Matt is tall. With the short rise before the downhill I had to push hard to get some extra time. I was able to hold him off, but holy moly I don’t think I’ve ever pushed that hard. Competition brings the best out of you. 

I joke with people that "every time I cross a finish line is a victory" and the feeling after maxing out is the reminder of why I love to race. Even if it's slower, I'm always chasing that feeling. 

Lake Mills and Elkhart Lake Triathlon Recap

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Lake Mills and Elkhart Lake Triathlon Recap

Have you ever been stuck in a frame of mind that doesn’t parallel your current physical state? This is my current situation and it’s a very hard place to be because it tugs at the motivational heart strings. 

In 2010, I was 24 and training like a professional. My weekly training hours were between 15-25. I didn’t have a girlfriend, a real job, any responsibilities… it was fantastic! I am now 32 with a wife and a beautiful 10 month daughter who isn’t a fan of sleeping at night. The priority levels have shifted. But the problem is that I still want to train 15 hours a week. 

The past 4 weeks I have averaged 8 hours of training. I only swam 9,000 yards the past month. That’s not a lot of training. But, that is how my life goes. 

Lake Mills Sprint Triathlon

This is the first time i’ve raced Lake Mills and was very excited to see where I stacked up. The funny part is I had no reason to be excited. I spent the last 4 weeks with a calf injury limiting my running. I took a hiatus from the pool because when life gets busy the pool is the first thing that goes. The week before Lake Mills, I took a complete 7 days off of running so I could treat my calf with rest and self massage in hopes I could run pain free at Lake Mills… it worked. 

Lake Mills was one of the most mentally challenging races as I was excited to race, but I was incredibly unprepared. The whole week I fought the mental battle of not racing so I wouldn’t embarrass myself in-front of some of the best Wisconsin triathletes I used to race alongside. I continued to tell myself, “You quit once, quitting becomes a lot easier the next time.” 

Plus, I am not a professional triathlete. I used to put alot of pressure on myself before races to perform. There were years where I wouldn’t communicate with people before the start because I thought it would enhance my performance to remain “focused”. But the reality of this type of thinking is that it’s a complete waste of energy. In fact, it made my performances worse. I was losing the excitement of triathlon by creating so much unnecessary pressure. If you find me before a triathlon now, chances are I won’t shut up.

If you were to ask me what my goals were before Lake Mills, my reply would have been: “I don’t have any goals”… People look at me funny when I said that. They would then ask, “well what kind of paces are you going to try and do? “I have no clue, I’m just going to go as hard as I can and focus on what I can control”

It’s 100% true that during a triathlon I never start my watch for the swim. I rarely look at my power meter, and I NEVER look at my running watch. The races are done almost 100% off of feel. Why? It keeps me mentally positive. Countless times I have seen people get so wrapped up in their numbers that the second they are not riding or running to their numbers, they mentally quit. They start to blame some factor for quitting when in doubt, they were not flexible enough to adapt on race day. It’s an ego thing, I get it. However, do a race and don’t look at your pacing device. 

Lake Mills did go ok for me. I was able to place 19th overall. Not bad.

Elkhart Lake Olympic Triathlon

I love racing Elkhart Lake. It may be my favorite triathlon. It’s a family run event on a challenging course. Flat courses don’t interest me, their boring. Again, what was I thinking? I only swam 1500 yards twice the past month and it was done race week out of complete panic that I needed to swim 1500 at Elkhart. Let alone the fact that I havent run 6 miles straight in more than 3 weeks. But hey, lets have some fun!

Elkhart Lake is an event where you can see ahead of time who is racing. You get to size up your competition! What’s funny about this concept is that it doesnt help your performance. The worst thing IRONMAN does is release who racing ahead of time. Why? For the people looking to be competitive, they spend hours scanning through their age group to see how competitive they will be. Isn’t that ridiculous? You can’t change how you race off this information. Its the easiest way to come into a race with a deflated, fixed mindset of how they will do. It just adds more pressure that will sink their potential on race day. Literally, all of the hard work and fun you were looking to have is now gone. A poor mindset will haunt you. This year, I didn’t even bother checking the list. 

2016 was the last time I raced at Elkhart and I got demolished. Literally demolished by everyone and the course. There was a-lot of walking involved. I was also still trying to impress my now wife at the time. What do they call these moments, character building? Yea, sure. Also it’s a good thing she didn’t marry me for my athletic ability.

2018 was about redemption and it turned out that I had one of my best races in the past couple years. I was pumped! I was able to swim 1500, I biked one of my best power outputs, and I ran very strong on a challenging run course. No quitting, no walking, only fist pumps. 

I finished with a time of 2:26. In 2016 when I got obliterated my time was 2:23. In 2010, when I was 24 my time was 2:13. 

In 8 years I’ve managed to get 13 minutes slower over the same course. How could I possibly take confidence from this? Here we are full circle to where this post started. I had an amazing day of racing. Pushed myself very hard only to be reminded that i’m 10lb heavier than I was 8 years ago (too many IPAs) and 13 minutes slower. 13 minutes is over 2 miles! 

To conclude, it is ok to race when you aren't fully prepared. In fact, not many people show up to a starting line 100% ready. I love this sport. I love feeling healthy and I enjoy being around like minded people. Taking a step back and being able to remove unnecessary pressure is the reason I still do this sport. It’s not about times or placement, its about enjoyment.

A Year Without an Ironman

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A Year Without an Ironman

Everyone has been in these cross roads and the decision is very tough. As a coach I have seen people enter this sport because of IRONMAN and when an athlete enters a season without one, their motivation drops. I am currently at this situation and its been challenging to motivate myself to train like i would when i’m signed up for an IRONMAN. 

Training at such a high level becomes addicting. When you are in your final IRONMAN build, you start to develop a “healthy” habit of training so much. Repeat that for 4 months and when you are forced to lower your training volume you have withdraws, The IRONMAN Hang Over.  

When you add in the fact that you won’t be doing an IRONMAN this upcoming calendar year, you start to create excuses that justifies missing a session is OKAY because you won’t be enduring such a large event. One missed session becomes another, and another, and before you know it you haven't trained for a week. Once you’ve missed a week of training you start to question you’re entire triathlon career. I have seen people quit the sport from this, it’s depressing. Every year you see people selling all of their equipment. These are the people who entered the sport because of IRONMAN, NOT because they were investing into their-self. These people probably needed better guidance. 

How do you combat this? You develop goals that motivate you. You create goals that make sense on a long term scale. You create goals that make sense financially. You DON’T create goals off of peer pressure. You create goals that again, make sense. 

I've written before that since since 2012/2013, I have actually gotten SLOWER every single year. During these years I have transitioned into a full time endurance coach which means that my athletes come first, not my training. I don’t coach athletes to fund my habit, I coach athletes because I care about their goals and passion. As you become a better coach you spend more time investing into your athletes instead of your training. This means that my 20+ available training hours diminished to 10-14 hours. When you add in that Cindi and I are proud parents of a beautiful 5 month old… that takes up even more time. For everyone who has a family and still does IRONMAN, there is a huge level of respect for being able to balance it all. You don’t understand it until you are in it!

What are my goals for 2018? Here, I’m going to fill you in because sharing your goals are important to sticking with them.

Swim: Swim a 10’ TT averaging 1:15 per 100 yards.

Bike: Increase my FTP to 4.4 watts per kilo

Run: Run a 5k at 16:45 and a 1 mile on the track under 5:00. 

How am I going to accomplish all of those? I have no idea and thats the fun part. These goals are challenging to me because I’ve never accomplished any of them (I’ve run sub 5’ mile in high school). These goals will require something different because if i go into this season with the same expectation as before with less available time, I will experience a burnout.

When you don't do an IRONMAN for a year or two, the financial strain is reduced tremendously. The pressure of racing is also reduced! The fact that I will be able to race over 10 times this year and i will still be spending LESS on entry fees, training, and nutrition feels incredible. I do triathlon because I love the sport, not just IRONMAN. 

Don't take this as me hating on IRONMAN, I will be doing one in 2019. But when you are developing yourself into a life long athlete, you have to learn to balance your life. If you can balance an IRONMAN every year, that's awesome! However, in my experience it would be in most peoples interest to do an IRONMAN every 2nd to 3rd year. 

Let's have a great 2018!

How I’m Tackling This Off Season

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How I’m Tackling This Off Season

This off season will be different than others because I am going to do everything different. That’s right, I am going to throw out the old play book and work on all of my weaknesses this off season. The thought of this scares me but also motivates me. After competing in triathlon for 11 years, I need a new physical and mental stimulus in order for me to have a great 2018 season. However, this means I have to look at myself critically and determine what my weakness are which isn't easy!

  1. Work on my physical strength: I have seen my strength levels decline every year and have seen it effect me in training. I was once a strong climbers and am now getting beat on almost every climb when training with others. Since October I have been in the gym, lifting weights working on developing my muscular strength. The past 2 months have been focused on general lifting at a moderate intensity. I am now getting into lifting at full capacity. This means I am only doing 3-4 rounds of 3-5 repetitions where I am forced to rest 3 minutes before i can start again. This is where the gains will be made to making me overall stronger.
  2. Work on my explosive power: This compliments my lifting in the gym, but puts a different spin on it. I haven’t improved my 5k running time, 400 yard swim, of my biking threshold is over 4 years. If your critical speed isn't improving, you won’t get faster over longer events. It’s not as if i haven't tried to improve the above, for whatever reason I haven't worked on the supporting elements that will improve my “thresholds”. So far I have been doing plyometrics and up hill bounding, lifting heavier weights in the gym, doing a tremendous amount of sprinting in the pool w/ parachutes and ankle bands, and short intense sessions on the bike. These sessions are very hard. At first I hated them because my session volumes have reduced almost 50% but i am seeing the benefits already. My personal best in a 50 free was 34 and I am now at 30 seconds! You can’t change technical inefficiencies under a high training load, so if you are swimming 4,000 yards with a bad swim stroke, you will remain a bad swimmer. 
  3. Reduce my body fat: I didn’t say I wanted to lose weight, i said body fat percentage. I have noticed that as i’ve gotten older, my body fat has increased. With the added weights and explosive work, that will naturally add more muscle which will keep my weight the same and there is a good chance I will start to lose weight as well. Either way, when I went to CXC Skiing facility to get my Resting Metabolic Rate tested to determined how many calories my body demands each day, I also had my body fat tested… i wasn't happy with it. Having these numbers, i am able to set up my daily eating to know how much i should be eating to either lose weight or maintain my current weight.
  4. Race more frequent: I used to only race when I felt prepared and I feel like this is a weakness that always gets exploited on race day. I feel like I hide in my training until I feel race ready and then when i did race I had too many expectations to do well. This is a good thing and a bad thing because you should always have expectations, but I also feel like my performances suffered because I was afraid to fully commit myself in races, almost like i was racing at 90% of my best instead of 100%. So far i have raced twice this off season and before both I almost convinced myself to not race but glad i did. Its a hard thing to put yourself in a situation when you know you wont be at your best, it takes courage, but i am using these races as a stepping stone to manage my overall preparation. My plan this off season is to race 1-2xs a month, from the Pinnacle Indoor Triathlons to local running races, i will be out there learning to suffer!

Coach Steven Brandes