Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gift ideas for the multisporter

If only it were that easy! Unfortunately, there's a little bit of work involved if you want to cross the finish line. Maybe you can put some of these gift ideas on your wish list this holiday season. 

For those cold winter rides, your cyclist will probably appreciate a warm pair of gloves. Louis Garneau’s Shield gloves will keep their fingers toasty because they are waterproof, insulated, and fitted with a neoprene cuff to keep cold air out.

Help protect your loved one’s noggin while giving them an edge on their competition by giving them Rudy Project’s newest time trial helmet, the Wing57. Features include a removable visor, a dorsal ridge to help with head and side winds, a new ventilation system that helps air flow and reduces drag, and an array of colors.
Super Sweet, huh? 

A shell offers protection from the elements, but is lightweight and rolls up to easily fit in a jersey pocket when the temperatures start to rise. Mizuno’s Imperalite Performance Shell comes in reflective green, perfect for those dimly light early morning rides.

Does your runner or triathlete go from the trails to car pool to the grocery store? Give her something she can wear all morning long. Oiselle’s Stripey Long Sleeve Scoop Neck Top comes in several colors and can be worn while you’re running, literally or figuratively.

For the triathlete hoping to make improvements in 2014, consider giving them an account on Training Peaks. Especially good for those data-junkies, Training Peaks is an online tool that allows you to monitor, analyze, and plan your nutrition and training. You can use it to track your own workouts or sign up for training programs through one of the Training Peaks Personal Coaches.

If they prefer to keep an old school, handwritten training log, check out Believe I Am by professional runners Lauren Fleshman and Ro McGettigan. It is chock full of goal setting exercises and inspirational messages, and has plenty of room for writing about key workouts and races. 

For most triathletes, the greatest source of stress on race day is the swim. Those looking to gain confidence on the swim and lower their times may want to utilize a snorkel, like the Freestyle Snorkel by Finis, in some of their workouts. The snorkel allows the swimmer to concentrate on their technique, as they are not distracted by having to breathe. It can also help develop their lungs, as they have to breathe through a small tube, which is a challenge on hard sets.
I love my snorkel!

Looking for stocking stuffer ideas? Gift cards to local bike and run shops are always appreciated, as are those for massages and yoga classes. I don’t know a triathlete who doesn’t like to eat, so maybe a copy of Feed Zone Cookbook, full of healthy and quick recipes, might be a nice surprise. There are also few triathletes out there who don’t use an MP3 device for some of their training. Maybe they’d like a new set of earbuds?

Hopefully these suggestions will help you whittle down your shopping list. Let me know if you have any other ideas for the multisporter in your life. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The "Take it Easy" Season

Off season, out season, transition period, dream season. Whatever you want to call it, this is the time when most multisporters should be taking it easy. If you follow the traditional Florida triathlon race calendar, you probably began racing in late March and finished sometime in the fall. There were over ten races on the Gulf Winds Triathlon Club’s Grand Prix schedule for this year. Some members participated in close to all races; that is a lot of training, traveling, and racing.

It can be hard for those of us who are accustomed to days structured around workouts, training goals, early bedtimes and alarm clocks, to not have a race on the near horizon. When we are so used to going after the carrot at the end of the stick, once we’ve reached it, what do we do?

I’m a big believer in taking a moment to enjoy the carrot and think about the journey that led me to it. And this is best done a couple of weeks after my last race of the season, when the transition bag is in the closet for good, the race kit has been washed and put away, and the racing flats are in the donation pile.

This mental and physical break is important for me to take after my last race of the year. While I still enjoy exercising for the stress relief and physical well-being, I’m not concerned with splits, paces, or times. It’s more exercise than training.

I use this down time to look back on my training and racing from the past year. And not just what went well and what didn’t, but the specifics of the year. In racing: what were my strengths and weaknesses compared to my competitors, how was my mental game, what races did I enjoy or would rather not go back to? I take stock of my equipment. Is it time to get a new bike or maybe this is the year to get race wheels? Workouts and training sessions are also evaluated: did I find a good balance of tempo sessions and speed work, how was my strength on the bike? Hopefully, you have a coach or trusted training partner you can go through these questions with, someone objective who can be honest with you.

Once the yearly evaluation is complete, planning for the next year begins. While it may seem early to start planning for races months away, coming up with a rough race schedule helps to nail down key dates in your training year, such as when to start building up your base again, when important training blocks will take place, and when to stop eating spoonfuls of cookie butter. Obligations such as personal and professional commitments are important to consider when looking at your proposed schedule. Think about what you want to get out of the next year. Is it to build up miles for an upcoming Ironman, regain some lost speed, win your age group in the Grand Prix? Again, it helps to have someone to discuss these ideas with you, to help you narrow down your options or encourage you to set the bar higher.

Remember, it is only November. Most likely, your first triathlon is not until March. That is four months away. Enjoy this down time while you have it. Enjoy sleeping in, going out with friends, and spending money on non-triathlon items. You do not want to be thinking “I wish I had done…” a few weeks before your first race of the year.

Oh how I love thee....
Come talk about how your season went and what you have planned for next year at Monday’s Gulf Winds Triathlon Club meeting. It starts at 6:30 at the Momo’s on Market Street. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

From the Coach's Perspective

Triathletes may not have a stage as big as the World Series, but we do have a World Championships that takes place in Hawaii every October. Two Tallahassee triathletes competed there this year, Colin Abbey and Kate Harrison. They both share a coach, Chuck Kemeny, who travelled to Hawaii to watch them compete. Kemeny himself raced Hawaii a few years ago, so he is familiar with the course, logistics, and excitement associated with an event as competitive as the World Championships. Here is a little of what he had to say about his experience on the coaching side of the sport, rather than the athlete side.
R-L: Shannon Coates, Colin Abbey, Kate Harrison
SG:  How do you think your experience racing Kona helped you as a coach to your athletes racing there? 
CK: Having raced Kona before allowed me to prepare them for the environment. Kona provides the perfect storm as far as race conditions go. You have very hot temperatures and humidity is always high. Knowing this, I was able to instruct them what parts of the course to ride/run and what time prior to race day. The time of day is important as you want them to get a feel for the heat and winds during certain sections of the course. 
Most importantly, I was able to prepare them for the energy of Kona during race week. During race week you get not only the athletes competing, but hundreds more elite athletes coming to watch. Collectively this adds up to a few thousand very elite athletes working out at all times of the day at varying intensities. Going there for the first time it is very intimidating as you start to question what you are doing and why people are working out so hard leading into the race. Reality is that the vast majority of the people putting in major miles at high intensities are not racing. I believe I was able to prepare them for this and keep their head in the game.

All Done! R-L: Shannon Coates, Chuck Kemeny, Colin Abbey

SG: What assistance were you able to provide on race day?
CK: I met up with my athletes in the morning prior to the race to make sure they were all set for the race. Coaches are not supposed to be on the course other than as a spectator so I was not able to advise them once the race started. My role race day was to track my athletes and support their families.
SG: What did you notice as a spectator that you missed out on as an athlete?
CK: As an athlete, you do not truly appreciate the sacrifices your family makes for you to be there racing. I was able to witness the highs and lows of both Colin's and Kate's families throughout the race. I was there to give them good and bad news throughout the race as we watched splits get updated on the athlete tracker. I know as a coach I was much more vested and worried throughout the race than I was when I raced it. Even though I knew that I had given my athletes the proper training and advice, it is what you cannot prepare them for that worries you.
SG: What was it like not competing?
CK: Not competing was wonderful. I was able to take in the race and the days prior to. I did not have to worry about my sleep schedule, what I was eating, or what I was wearing. I could not have asked for anything more from the race or my athletes. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the role of coach and supporter to my athletes and their families.
SG: How does it feel as a coach to have three people who competed in Kona (Kemeny also coaches former Tallahassee resident Shannon Coates, who also competed in Kona this year)?
CK: How does it feel? To put this in perspective, there are thousands of triathlon coaches. Hundreds of new coaches are certified each year. Most of these coaches will never have an athlete qualify for the Ironman World Championships. Statistically, less than one percent of athletes who compete in an Ironman get a chance to compete in the Ironman World Championships. Having three athletes qualify and complete the race in the same year is surreal to me.

Proud Coach! R-L: Chuck Kemeny, Kate Harrison, Colin Abbey

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Who is up for the Challenge?

First it was marathons, then triathlons. Some endurance junkies leapt over to ultra running, while others gave obstacle course racing a try. Obstacle course races, like Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Spartan Race have become increasingly popular for competitors seeking the newest way to get their adrenaline rush. Unlike running and triathlon races, however, which almost always have shorter races for kids, most obstacle races do not offer anything for the little tykes. Christ Classical Academy (CCA), a private school in Tallahassee, is changing that by holding their first Gladiator Challenge on November 9 at Trinity Community Church.

The race is open to the general public and  features two events: the shorter Mini Gladiator Obstacle Course, for ages 2-6 and the longer Gladiator Challenge, for ages 6-14. The Mini has already reached capacity, but there is still room in the Gladiator challenge.

What can participants expect on race day? This is no simple one mile fun run. There are ten obstacles dispersed over the 1.2 mile course. Inspiration for the obstacles came from parents who have participated in adult obstacle course races. The race begins with a mud pit and goes on to include a low crawl on rope netting, hay bale pyramid, log walk, and a “goo” pit, made of cornstarch and Elmer’s glue. Racers will receive wristbands at two checkpoints on the course, which they must have in order to be deemed a “Gladiator” at the finish. Participants compete as individuals, but helping others along the way is highly encouraged.

According to Head of School Amy Hines, at $4700, CCA has the lowest tuition of any private school in Tallahassee. The Gladiator event is a way to raise funds for the school’s general operating budget. Hines states the entire school is preparing for the event. Each grade level has taken charge of an obstacle, both building the structure and staffing the obstacle with student and parent volunteers.

Students have been physically preparing themselves for the challenge as well. They have Gladiator training days one day a week, complete with Gladiator meals at lunch. Throughout the fall, students have also learned about real-life Gladiators who played important parts in history.

The event is relying heavily on sponsors. Trinity Community Church on Bannerman Road is graciously hosting the race, Nelson and Affiliates is setting up the obstacles, and Capital City Runners has donated gift cards for overall winners. Other sponsors include Radiology Associates, Boyd & Durant Law Firm, Second Street Photography, Juice Plus, Parker Services, Harvest Investment Advisors and Chick Fil A. Sponsors and volunteers are still needed. If you’d like to do either or both, please contact the school.

There are only forty spots left in the Gladiator Challenge. To sign up, go to the school's website,  The race will start at 9am and participants should wear clothes they don’t mind getting dirty.

 Amy Hines leads CCA Gladiators in their physical training

Saturday, October 5, 2013

This was my second year racing the Hy Vee Triathlon. Last year’s race was a bit anti-climactic. A strong bike and run could not make up for a poor swim. While I finished in the top ten, feeling that I was capable of a better race, left me feeling a bit disappointed in myself.

I was determined that this year’s race would be different. At a minimum, I was determined to have an aggressive and confident swim, a swim I knew I was capable of having. The race started about an hour late due to a bad thunderstorm that came through about 3am. This extra time allowed for a relaxed warm up and plenty of time to get in the water before my wave went off. The 84 degree water meant I’d be able to use my Xterra swim skin. This swim skin makes me feel sleek and smooth in the water and is super comfortable. The swim started out very fast, with lots of feet and arms kicking about. I ended up swimming most of the course with a couple of other girls. I came out of the water in 9th, much better than last year’s 17th! Goal number one achieved! While I think I am capable of swimming a bit better, seeing my swim time back in 23 minutes was validation for all the time I’ve spent in the pool over the past year. I know a 23 minute swim doesn’t exactly say “super-fast” but compared to times from previous years, I am happy with it.

As I made my way to the main part of the bike course, I saw the pros coming back, looking like they were barely moving. The storm had brought some strong winds with it, along with wet roads, which claimed a few of them; several of the pro women crashed badly on a corner. Keeping all this in mind, I pushed as hard as possible going out, knowing that the headwind would slow things down quite a bit on the way back in. I was able to make up some ground on the bike, starting the run in 6th place.

The wind did not ease up for the run. While the bike course was the same as last year, the run was quite different. Instead of winding through downtown Des Moines and finishing straight up a hill in front of the Capital, the course was flat and finished at Gray’s Lake, not too far from the start. We had a strong tailwind the first two or so miles, which meant a strong headwind on the way back in. I was able to pass a few girls on the run, but wasn’t sure of what place I was in when I crossed the finish. After talking to the first and second place finishers, and not seeing a third place finisher around, I realized I must’ve gotten third.
When I look back at a race, I always ask myself if I would still be satisfied with it, even if I had placed last in my division. With this race, I can say yes, that no matter where I ended up on the results page, I am pleased with my performance. It was probably one of the more all-around solid races I’ve put together in a while. It was also encouraging to see that the hard work I put in over the summer paid off. I do most of my training by myself and haven’t raced since July, so it was good to see that the work was quality work and prepared me for race day.

Getting to the finish line is truly a collaborative effort. I wouldn’t be there without the support of my husband and parents, friends and training partners, as well as PowerBar, Xterra, Rudy Project, Mizuno, Nuun, and Louis Garneau.  Thank you for all your help!

Link to results is here.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Butternut Squash, Pomegranate, and Millet Salad

A new year means New Year's resolutions, many of which revolve around health and fitness. I think most of us are so disgusted with ourselves after overindulging since, well, probably Halloween, that a good cleanse of the system is definitely needed.

Below is a recipe for salad with butternut squash, pomegranate seeds, millet, grapes, broccoli, and greens. I've never used pomegranate seeds before in a salad until I tried them here. What a lovely addition! The seeds just burst with tart flavor and offer a nice contrast to the nuttiness of the millet and hazelnuts.

You know how Seinfield had the pantry full of cereal boxes? Well, mine looked very similar growing up. As I've been cooking more at home, I've discovered the deliciousness of butternut squash and arugula. How have I never had these wonderfully favorful veggies before? Yum, yum!

(this is gluten free and vegan, for those who are keeping track)

1 cup raw millet (quinoa may work as well, but the salad won't have the same rich, nutty flavor)
1 butternut squash, small-medium size
About 3/4 cup raw hazelnuts
2 avocados, diced
1 small head of broccoli, broken up into bite size florets
2 handfuls red or purple grapes, cut in half
2 handfuls greens, like arugula or watercress
Seeds from one pomegranate
1 handful basil, finely chopped
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and dice the butternut squash, making about 1 inch cubes. Put squash on baking tray, drizzle with EVOO and sea salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 mins, until the edges are slightly brown and the squash is soft. Let it cool completely.

Butternut favorite

During the last 10 minutes of baking time for the squash, put the hazelnuts (sprinkle with salt if you want) in the oven, on a separate tray. Toast them until they brown and the skin cracks. Let them cool a little. Then rub them with a kitchen towel or cloth so their skin comes off. This will be messy. Chop them up once most of the skin is removed.

Rinse the millet in a sieve, then place in a small saucepan with 2 cups of water. Boil the water, lower the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the water is gone and the millet is soft.

Prepare the avocados, broccoli, grapes, greens, and pomegranate seeds.

 Put dressing ingredients in food processor until desired thickness is reached. The dressing should be really light; not really a dressing as much as a light mix of herbs and olive oil.

dressing is ready to go

Place the cooked millet in a large bowl, add the dressing and mix, making sure the millet is coated with dressing. Add the rest of the ingredients to the millet and dressing and gently combine.

the finished product. i love how the pomegranate seeds add a burst of color.

This recipe makes about 4 larger servings, or more if using it as a side.
I hope you like this salad. I ate it for days and was really sad to finish it.