Friday, February 20, 2015

First SUP Race

I was hesitant to get into a SUP race at this point. So far I've viewed stand-up paddling as my little sacred activity in which I don't want to get wrapped up in data or feeling like I need to train for it and be on a schedule. It's not triathlon to me, it's not running. That said, I did buy a 12'6 race board so it's safe to say I wasn't totally just looking for a cruisey activity. Plus, when I go out I am, of course, trying to improve, get stronger and most the time, go fast.

In fact, one of the things I love about SUP is the way it challenges my mind and body in new ways. It's not like running where I can zone out. And not to diminish running -- it's complicated! -- but SUP is an activity that I think requires a special skill set and lots of cognitive training. It turns out I may be onto something here; take a look at the Sweat Science blog on brain plasticity in skill vs. endurance sport.  

Anyway, so when my sister proposed that we do a local SUP race a few weeks ago I initially said, "No way... Uh-uh... no thanks." But then this little SUP race -- just the 4.5-mile short course -- started sounding more and more intriguing; it would just be a cool experience. So then I said, "Sure what the hell." No expectations... Just like my first-ever running race (Lake Hodges 10k in 2007) where I had no idea what I was doing but somehow landed on the podium in 2nd.

Spoiler alert but I didn't have any such dominance in my first SUP race, haha! However, I did have just as much fun. I am so freaking glad I ended up changing my mind and doing it!

The race was in Back Bay, Newport Beach, which in itself was intersting because just across the small bay from where our SUP race started is where the Newport Beach Sprint Triathlon takes place, a race I've done and podiumed at a lot. It was weird to see that triathlon course and cyclists riding along the bike path while I was getting ready for an entirely new adventure. In all honesty, I was totally content with SUP on the agenda ;)

Let me back up.

Another reason I was hesitant to do the SUP race is because of this marathon training stuff, and I didn't want to sacrifice my long run quality for the weekend. But then I realized this marathon isn't everything. I want to have fun, and I want to keep a good balance and healthy perspective on things. So, as any crazy endurance athlete would do...

I got up super early the day of the race (a Saturday), ran 8 miles @ MAF averaging 8:30 pace, ate the largest sweet potato I've ever had in one sitting (with eggs and avo), hit up the farmers market, then hit the road for the SUP race, which had a convenient 11am start time. Not to mention the SUP race was only $25 to sign up! Man, I am liking this sup stuff even more ;)

It was also another perfect SoCal winter day -- in the high 70s/low 80s and blue sky+sunny by the time the SUP race started. In addition to my sister racing, my parents did it as well! Mom and dad... ah, my family. Too much lol!

The race was incredible. It was mixed watercraft so participants on everything from SUPs to canoes to outriggers and prone paddleboards. There were about 150 people racing the short course (there was also a long course that was 9 miles; I was tempted but it started early and I did want to do that run). We paddled 1 mile to the start line and I used that as a warmup and to practice some "race pace" speed and form. I could spot the legit SUP'ers as we headed out... damn they looked good and definitely most of them were younger than me, maybe some late teens/early 20s. Plus some dudes that were just build like rock.

It actually went by relatively fast, but don't get me wrong -- it was a nonstop grind of power, strength and intense focus for a full hour -- and, man, that was a new experience unlike any triathlon, running or cycling race I've done. It was like doing pullups for an hour. Oh ya, and I didn't fall!

Here's the play by play:

When the gun went off I had a brief moment of "that" feeling... the butterflies in the tummy and the surge of adrenaline to goooooo! But it honestly was not as intense as when doing a triathlon. From there it was 57 minutes of HARD paddling, out and back. My sister opened a gap of about 20-25yds on me until the 1/2 way turn around, at which point I caught her (my turning skills were better) and she never got me back. She's a better swimmer and really strong so it's no surprise to see her so good on the the SUP. But I couldn't let anyone in my family beat me ;)

Meanwhile the other SUP people were kicking my ass, for real. It didn't bother me... what I wanna know is how they paddle so damn well though, even the girls who are much smaller than me. Technique, I know, but I want to learn that!!

There was one chick who was sooo buff in the upper body and incredibly fit, but not disgusting buff. More like the kind of strong I dream to be. If I am guessing correctly, she and I were in the same division -- SUP 12'6 Open 20-39 Women -- and she won. I looked her up (duh) and turns out she's an Olympic medalist in sprint canoeing. She went ~43 minutes.... I went 57 minutes. In fact, the top few girls in that division all went sub 50, and sure enough they're all sponsored "elite/pro" racers.... Then there was my sister and I bringing up the rear in 6th (me) and 7th (karlee), literally the last two in our division hahahaha.

To be honest, where I finished in the rankings didn't bother me one iota. Hell, I've only ridden this new SUP board like 5 times, and when I first got it (December) I was still wobbly, slow and just trying not to fall. So to already be racing? Pretty cool indeed.

And I bet none of them ran 8 miles prior to the race ;)

And speaking of triathlon/running races vs. this SUP stuff. I really really liked how STRONG the SUP race made me feel during and after. In a triathlon normally I'm just depleted and dead by the end and falling over, but the SUP race made me feel like superwoman -- even after. Like that jacked up feeling you get when doing a gnarly strength training session.

Anyway... I don't foresee SUP racing to evolve into the way I've been about triathlon/running/cycling... but I will definitely still do these things for a fun kick in the butt and as a quest to hone in on the skill. It's a blast! Why not?!

In the meantime, I'm off to bed... I am signed up for an all-day kettlebell training course tomorrow, one of Pavel Tsatsouline's SFG classes (formerly RKC) down here in La Jolla. I'm really into Pavel and his philosophy of training right now. Brilliant.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The MAF Downhill "Test" & A Historical Lucho Blog

Somewhere between podcasting, coaching, SUPing, strength training I'm still finding the time to hit the run miles ;) And honestly loving it! It's weird to think I'm so geeked out on just running and not triathlon right now. How's it going? Well, I'm not marrying myself to the data, and half the time I still forget to put on my HRM, but if you must know I was proud of getting in a 40-mile run week a couple weeks ago. That kinda run volume is unheard of in my world (maybe a bit in 2011 and 2013 when I trained for Ironman and was getting in those long runs).

The 40-mile week also included my regular strength training, some other stuff, and, randomly, my first-ever SUP race (1 hour of paddling hard; ouch!), so needless to say I was kinda impressed that I got through all that in one piece feeling pretty darn good. Sorta... the following week I listened to my body and run mileage decreased to 28mi total (plus all my other sports; still a 12+ hr week). Generally I'm finding without trying I am getting in 10-13hr training weeks but keep in mind in that I include yoga, all strength training -- easy functional, heavy weights, or otherwise -- and SUP, which isn't always that intense. So it is light years different than a 13-hour week the way I was training back in ~2009ish (i.e. way too much intensity, way too often). Now I'm mostly MAF -- minus the occasional fartlek or apparently a SUP race (more on that soon... but for the record, I didn't break records entering this race and instead got it handed to me lol!!!).

Anyway let's get to the point of this blog: 
Downhill running MAF style and why it rocks.

If you think MAF is "boring" and slow, think again because there are plenty of ways to keep it interesting. In addition to the traditional MAF Test of 3-5 miles on a steady course (i.e. track) Maffetone is also a fan of having athletes do a MAF Downhill "Test" (or perhaps not really a test, and rather a workout with a specific downhill focus that's repeatable). It's not complicated... (although, anytime the word "test" is used all of a sudden it's this big thing lol. It's not).

MAF Downhill Test

How to do it? 
Locate your downhill section (a 1/2 to full mile is enough! Grade can be -1% to -7%). Run a few miles to warmup. Finish your warmup at the start of your downhill, reset watch or set new lap, and run downhill for a period of time at MAF. Stop watch when the section is over. Some folks will now find that it's hard to keep HR at MAF without it plummeting, and this is a great exercise as I'll lay out.

The keys to making it work:
1) it's on a repeatable section of road or trail.
2) It's an ALL-downhill grade.
3) You hold MAF HR (you gotta trust your legs and go fast!)
4) You calculate avg grade for reference. (For example your pace will be way different on -1% vs -6%)*
5) You do this relatively fresh but no need to be fully recovered.
6) After a while, repeat the workout and see how pace changes at the same HR. Easy.

*I've done a couple of these tests now; one was 1 mile of a -1.5% grade, and the other also a mile at a -6% average. My avg paces were in the 7's vs. 6's, respectively (at MAF).

Now the bigger question, why the heck do this?

WHY do this test???
(in a nutshell: to train smarter, not harder)

1) Get in "speedwork" without killing yourself. Not in the traditional sense because you're still maintaining your max aerobic heart rate, but downhill running at MAF HR can replace speedwork early in one's base building phase in terms of developing a fast leg turnover and basic speed; this pays off as the season progresses. If you are on a strict MAF plan and just run flat and slow you never have a chance to get those legs really moving fast; downhill running fixes that.

2) Develop neuromusclar fitness. This is similar to #1, but taking it a step deeper. Neuromusclar fitness is training the nerves and muscles -- the brain-to-muscle connection -- and it's one of the most powerful tools to developing specific fitness. In this case, the downhill running at MAF trains the movement pattern and skill of fast running and efficient turnover, without the cost of high intensity. The benefits are great for your races in which your body will now be familiar with this faster leg turnover and speed -- because the brain knows what it feels like to move fast and knows how to "turn on" those speedy legs!

3) Build eccentric strength. Downhill aerobic running is also GOOD stress that helps you get stronger. And it can tell us some interesting stuff about your body. For example, how sore did the initial downhill test leave an athlete? Then what about the 4th and 5th time? I bet not as sore...  Over time this downhill running at MAF can develop eccentric strength namely in the quads, and you reap the benefits in your racing! I remember several years ago getting back into trail running after some time off and the descents wrecked my legs with DOMS... but within a few workouts no residual soreness. Amazing how we can adapt.

4) Frequency. Again, since this is a low stress/good stress workout you can add downhill running at MAF often -- at least a couple times a week -- without blowing up. Heck, if you are like me and you live in a hilly area then downhill running is simply synonymous with running! That said, for the "test" portion I like to control the variables and bookmark those workouts as important data, not just a run that had descents.

5) Controlled motion. I find that fast downhill running is the BEST way for me to achieve total awareness and control of every moving part, and avoiding chaos. The proprioceptive benefits of this are endless. If truly running fast, you need a strong core, stable ankles, good footing, strong arm drive, chest up and looking ahead (not at your feet always), and the list goes on. Just great stuff. Especially on trail. Nothing like bombing down a steep trail on two feet.

6) More testable data. As long as you control the variables, you get another data point that we can re-test to evaluate aerobic fitness progression, strength, health and speed. In your re-tests you'll want to see improvements over time of course, but these could be subtle improvements, i.e. less soreness the next round even if pace stayed about the same. I love this for my athletes because there's a great conversation and analysis that comes from the progression of these specific downhill runs!


Furthermore, to quote Maffetone's Big Book of Endurance Training:

While building your aerobic base, you can help develop more leg speed without the need to train anaerobically by doing downhill workouts. I refer to them as such because I first employed them with athletes running downhill, but this workout can be used for many activities—running, biking, cross-country skiing, or skating. This workout allows you to go at a faster pace without the heart rate rising. The increased pace is accompanied by a quicker leg turnover, in the case of running.

For example, at a heart rate of 145, if you can run at a 7:45 pace on flat ground, then running down a hill at the same heart rate will force you to run much faster, perhaps at a 6:55 pace depending on the hill’s slope and distance. A cyclist may be cruising at 17 mph, and on a nice long, but moderate, downhill can average 28 mph at the same heart rate.

Using a long downhill that’s not too steep, you can train your brain to turn the legs over much more quickly than would ordinarily occur during a run on a flat course—all while staying aerobic. If you have a long steady downhill that takes you ten minutes or longer to complete, you can derive great neuromuscular benefits. It’s important to be sure the downhill is not too steep a grade, which may force a runner to overstride, putting too much mechanical stress on the feet, knees, hips, and spine. Even on the right grade, your stride length should be about the same as if you were on level ground.

If the downhill run is short, such as five minutes, you can do downhill repeats, walking or slowly running up the hill while staying aerobic to start your downhill interval again. Some treadmills can be adjusted to slant downhill, which is a nice alternative for runners.

I often suggest one or two downhill workouts per week, not on consecutive days, during the base period. Even though you’re aerobic, this workout does add more good stress to your body, and it’s best to assure recovery by not using the technique on consecutive days. When properly done, most athletes don’t feel much different from any other workout, but some may feel a slight or mild soreness in some muscles indicating the new activity. This workout need not be very long—runners can go forty-five minutes while cyclists up to an hour and a half, including warm-up and cool-down. These workouts will also help you further develop more aerobic speed.

There you have it!
 One more important thing to share:

I found this gem written by Lucho from 2011. Honestly Lucho gets MAF just as well as Maffetone himself. Trust me, I am a student of MAF Method, I've known Lucho since 2011 and Maffetone since 2013. I talk and collaborate with both these guys a lot (lucho weekly, maffetone at least 1-2x a month). You wouldn't believe their similarities, their approach/knowledge and their style -- just wow.

The weird thing is that Maffetone now has a beard, but Lucho shaved his off lol.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

MAF Test - I Did One.

I had a long chat with Dr. Phil Maffetone today on Skype (he has a beard!), and that motivated me to collect some of my own data by doing a legit MAF test. Well, talking to him motivated me, not his beard lol ;) I don't do a lot of testing for myself anymore because, to be honest, it's really the last thing I want to think about after doing all that for my clients very regularly. But I'll admit, it is fun to get in some useable data and to see where my aerobic fitness is at currently!

That said, I do a lot of MAF running already, and have an idea of my normal MAF pace on my regular routes, but they're not really tests in the sense that the variables aren't usually controlled for and most my routes are hilly and involve random stops or whatever. So by legit test, I did a proper warmup, and landed myself at the high school track for 5 nonstop miles on a controlled, flat loop, no hills, holding my target MAF HR, and if it spiked or dropped I got it back to MAF within seconds. Running 5 miles on the track really wasn't boring, and I actually really enjoyed it. I did have to dodge all the high schoolers at track practice and whatnot, but oddly we're not allowed to run on the track when school's in session so I had no choice but to do it at this time (or wait till weekend, but I didn't want to do that). Anywho...

Test Variables

Location: Laguna Beach High School Track

Time of Day: 2:53 pm start (not normally my ideal running time, but I felt great and decided to go for it. Normally I'm a morning runner)

Temp: 73 degrees F and overcast (perfect!)

Playlist: Girl Talk (All Day album)

Shoes: Pearl Izumi Em Road M3s, they're old but one of my fave pairs

Target HR: 151 (MAF = 180-age, thus 180-29)... that is close to being 180-30 = 150 ;)

Previous Test Data: n/a. Couldn't find, and it's been ages anyway, but right now normally on rolling hills I'm running 8:20ish avg.

Warmup: Non-run dynamic exercises at home followed by running to the track - 13:51, 1.48 miles, 9:22 avg pace, 139 avg HR, which included walking up a steep flight of stairs to get to the high school and trying not to spike HR. My HR was comfortably at MAF when I started.

MAF Test Results

Avg pace: 8:06

Avg HR: 151

Miles: 5.00

Time: 40:30

(lap, avg pace, avg hr):

1 - 7:51 // 151

2 - 8:02 // 152

3 - 7:56* // 152 

4 - 8:16 // 151

5 - 8:23 // 151

RPE: Very easy and relaxed.
~3-4 on scale of 1-10.

I'm pretty happy with those numbers. The pace dropped off more than I would have liked to see, but some dropoff is expected. In fact Maffeone wants the first mile the fastest and the last mile the slowest, otherwise, he says, you didn't warmup well enough.

I ended with another 1.7 miles of cooldown, running home, averaging 144 HR for that (didn't go too hard lol). Honestly, the whole thing went by very fast and I felt incredibly relaxed, loose and at ease during the test. Thanks to all my MAF practice, holding that effort was very comfortable and natural, nearly a conversational pace.

I think the next 16 weeks of marathon training are just going to get better...

For more on MAF HR and the MAF Test:

*During this lap I stopped for 20 seconds, literally, do grab a drink from the drinking fountain. I was kicking myself for not bringing water and was feeling thirsty, so I had some out of the public fountain and it tasted like butt, and it didn't settle well (I'm a water snob!). Wondering if it would have been smarter to skip it lol. But I think that contributed to slightly faster split due to the very quick rest. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Training Love, Detox Update

Sometimes I get turned off to blogging because I want and feel the need to add pictures, but pictures take forever to upload/format on blogger so I'm going to skip 'em when I feel like it, and instead you can get all the latest on my Instagram account if you wish (pretty much the same photos I would end up posting on here anyway lol)... Cool?

Ok, January update.

I'm kinda loving this running stuff. I love working toward a new goal in a new way with the run. And before I say what I'm about to say, just know that I'm still 100% dedicated on the marathon/run focus so far this season. But, just as I get in a groove of running, all of a sudden I'm loving my bike again, in moderation. I've been on just three outdoor rides this year (and a bunch of random trainer sessions), but even in that limited quantity each ride has given me a level of happiness that I haven't felt in a while. For a while when I was burnt out and still not back to ideal health, at times I was sorta kinda forcing it. All those years, you just get so used to the routine of training, the data, and all that being part of you and it's hard to think of doing anything but all that, ya know?

But if you've been following you know I wised up. Let go a bit, took time to heal, and man it did wonders. Now that my body/mind are thriving again, it's all just fun again. It helps that I'm not even concerning myself with "performance" on the bike nor is there a looming race. Although, for the record I felt dang strong these past two weekends -- whether the numbers showed that is another story, but I don't care. I don't want to "train" on the bike, I just want to ride it when I feel like it. Go hard when I want to. Cruise when I want.

It works well with my run schedule of 2 days on, 1 day off running; the bike can fit in nicely to add volume for my lower mileage run training (I have yet to run over 31 miles in a week). I actually did kinda cheat on "no the more more than 2 days in a row" of running, ah! Last week I fit in 2 miles easy on Thursday, 6 miles on Friday, 12 miles Saturday... that 2-miler was the unplanned one that got squeezed in around a gig I had down in SD. Oops.

So, ya, run training = love. I feel great most the time, and there's just one little hiccup, but that's my next post....

Switching gears.

The team 22-day clean-eating/detox challenge. It is still going on and almost done! In doing this with my clients, I've noticed some interesting things about myself. First off all, let me reiterate that I am not doing anything hardcore in terms of a limited restricted deprived diet, and I don't think I even pulled out the juicer until yesterday when I made a potent ginger/turmeric tonic concentrate. (However, I am using my new crockpot a lot -- how is it that it took my nearly 30 years of life to own one of these especially as a busy gal.) This challenge was flexible for each of us, and for me personally it was simply to get back on track after having "too much fun" over the holidays while also helping to provide support and be a good example for my coached athletes who are all working very hard with their own respective detoxes -- there's power in numbers. I'm helping some of my athletes make BIG changes and adopt new healthy habits -- I gotta give it to them, this can be hard to do -- and I'm proud to witness their progress. Especially those who have BIG goals for themselves this year, which is pretty much all of them :) I'll share some success stories once we're done (next week).

For now, what I observed personally on this "detox":

Mood/energy: Almost immediately I saw an improvement in my energy and mood when I got back to my healthy ways. You don't really understand this shift until you start living healthy and feeling vibrant, and then you ask yourself, "Why do I ever slip up and not live this way all the time?!" My energy stays high and stable through the day, no fatigue in the late afternoon, and into the evening I'd still have good energy up until I entered our dark bedroom and hit the sack, then out cold. I don't even recall craving a nap at any time (except the day I started my period and went for a long run, ouch; sorry if TMI). Meanwhile, I am working out/training 10-12hrs a week these days, so I am putting my body under some training stress -- but not trashing myself, #MAF. The takeaway? 1) I'm pleased I didn't go through that "withdrawal" phase you sometimes hear about when having to break a bunch of addictions to sugar, carbs, caffeine, alcohol. It was a fairly smooth transition for me. 2) With that extra energy, came more focus, and more work productivity, more quality... and that makes me happy knowing I'm giving it my best.

Sugar/Sweets: I'm not a sugar addict and I can easily say no to anything with sugar sources of which I don't approve. I just have no desire to partake in such things in excess or it all in most cases. But my body still likes something sweet-style every now and then, I am human, so I just make sure to include meals or snacks that satisfy those desires and this month stevia as my sweetener 9/10 times. Sometimes raw honey, like in these "cornbread" paleo muffins. With the things I include regularly I avoid crazy cravings for sugary sweets, ice cream or whatever. Instead, I regularly make a mean chocolate pudding with raw cacao (instant), plus breakfasts of sweet potato or kabocha squash mash, mmmmm. Drink wise, I have a great assortment of cold and hot teas that are killing it when I add a dash of almond or coconut milk and pack of stevia, soooo good, or sparkling water with a drop of liquid stevia. I try not to crack out on stevia...for the record.

Alcohol: It took me about 6-7 days to kick the habit/craving of an evening glass of wine. I didn't realize how much like clockwork that evening wine craving had become, and how easy it is to just give in and pour the glass when you have no reason to say no. I will admit, it was hard to give it up at first and overcome the urge to drink, but at the same time saying no felt empowering. And I got to give myself props because all the while John was enjoying his nightly beer, and we've been in situations where alcohol is somewhat synonymous: a concert, dinners out or with family/friends, Saturday night (need I say more lol)... all that takes willpower for a girl like me to say no! But I just ignored the urge, and pretty quickly the urge disappeared. It really did... one day I thought about it and was like, "Oh I didn't even think about wine the last couple days." Man, substances are scary. I don't even drink a lot, and in fact I wasn't drinking much of anything most of last summer and fall (not even in kona!), so it was just over the holidays that my brain got used to that habit... maybe that's also why it was rather easy to break it; short time frame?

Body comp: I noticed a bit of fat loss in the belly/love handle area. (Like my anatomical references?) No weight loss, and I think some muscle gained. Perfect. I never like being under 130 lbs. I can attribute these results to 1) training (um, ya, it works!), and 2) not having any poor habits -- food, drink or otherwise -- slowing down my metabolism and robbing my precious physiological adaptations to training. I also noticed better skin quality/complexion; however, there are other variables in that because I will admit this year I'm taking steps to take care of my skin above and beyond what I've done in the past and am crazy about sunscreen these days, as well as moisturizing and lots of nice things for my skin.

The Plateau: Now this is what I found most interesting. I felt like I was making progress and feeling better daily on every level for the initial ~12 days, then after that the progress stopped. Don't get me wrong, nothing bad happened, and I didn't feel worse nor regress, I just felt like that after ~12 days I got what I needed out of this cleanse: energetic (and steady energy), feeling clean, firing on all cylinders, mentally sharp, sleeping well,.... Normally you hear full detoxes taking ~21 days, and I'm sure I've still been making subtle progress, but the noticeable stuff seemed to be a quick process for me. I am not saying I'm "perfect" right now.... heeeeck no. But it seems like the "crap" is out of my system, and that's nice.

So, can I have that glass of wine now?

Lol... jk ;)

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 - Doing it (Slightly) Different

Hey, hey! Happy new year! Hope everyone survived the holiday season and is ready to crush it this year. I am! 2014 was a year of change and growth, 2015 is going to be a year of putting new ways into practice!

In a nutshell, here's a glimpse of what I'm up to lately, when I'm not in the office working:

SoCal winters! From beautiful crisp clear ocean days #sano #boobs... snowy winter wonderlands just a couple hours away! #bigbear #outback

Resolutions this year? nah. Some years I'm into it, some years not really. This year -- and perhaps this is a result of the success I found in 2014 -- I just want to improve overall, keep learning and do things better. Even the small things. For example, a few small changes I've made: This will be the first year since, well, ever that I did NOT buy a spiral-bound hand-written daily planner. I'm going all digital, which includes getting my sh*t together with finances, accounting and all that -- I have to. I own two businesses now, yes, two!

I also deleted facebook from my phone. God, that feels good and, no, I don't miss it. I still do FB, but solely from the computer -- nothing more is needed.

In its place I added the app, Duo Lingo, so I can get my Spanish back this year. I was never fluent in Spanish, but I was decent. Took it in high school and at SDSU and also made plenty of trips to mexico while in college ;).

Anyway, besides that randomness, I want to catch you up on where I'm at in health, business and training/sport. I have signed up for a race, in fact!


"Cleansing" (So To Speak)
House, body, life. But nothing too aggressive.

My new love! Or is it just more "stuff"? #SUP

1) House/life-wise John and I had this massive urge to do some major housekeeping -- out with the old, and in with the new. That said, the goal is to NOT bring in nor accumulate more sh*t. However, I have a couple new toys (SUP!), but generally I hate clutter, keep it to the minimum. He argues that the new SUP is essentially just more "stuff" but I argue that it's a tool to get away from modern stuff, find freedom, escape the chaos and experience nature and peace. Hm. Interesting debate, where do you stand?

This tiny cabin has inspired us. It's where we've stayed
in Big Bear, and it's small but has everything you'd
need. I. love. it.

One of those nights where I went out with my sister & had fun :)
2) I'm currently "cleaning up" my body too. Don't worry, I am still on track with my newfound health and wellness, as I talked about in my last tell-all post, but *gasp* over the holidays I, like many, enjoyed the indulgences. I didn't overdo it on things like sugar and I stayed away from beer, and even avoided those other mystery holiday-ish foods/drinks. OK, I take that back. I think there were 2 occasions where I had beer, and oddly both were trips to the mountains. For some reason beer just sounded really good! That alone didn't set me back though. However, I overdid in the areas of too much food in general, too much wine, and too many late nights/poor habits -- at least they way define "too much" which, I get it, I hold myself to some high standards so for others it may not appear that bad. It's all good though. I had fun! I enjoyed! But... I feel it. I hear some of my clients screaming the same thing!
Of course, plenty of good eats at our holiday parties
provided by me, including bacon + brussels!

So I decided to do create the inaugural Coach Tawnee Team Detox/Clean Eating Challenge. It's cool because I'm keeping it flexible -- 22 days duration, full support and a private forum for our group to interact, share recipes, experiences, and more. I'm not forcing any "one way" to cleanse/detox because I don't believe in just one way. Thus, in my cleanse, everyone can choose his or her unique program; I provided ideas and resources on which programs, formats I recommend. So far it's a hit. But we're 2 days in (no including the prep phase last week) sooo... I'll get back to you on day 20 lol ;) Who knows, I may grow this and open it up to more than just my personal coaching clients.

Food-wise, they're getting a lot from me because I love taking food pics. I knowww.... ;) For example, recipes on:
Crockpot chili, done clean and fresh.

Can you guess?

A classic Caesar salad dressing! Which, oh my, is so simple!
Why have I not been making this for years already?!


Business is Growing
Last year my friend and colleague Ben Greenfield and I decided that it was time to put the Endurance Planet podcast in my hands, meaning me becoming full owner not just host as I have been. Ben is an incredible guy and I don't know how he does all that he does, and when it came to EP I know he cares tremendously about it, and that's why I think he felt (as I did) that it made sense to make me owner -- the transfer has the podcast's best interest at heart.

It's been an incredible learning experience so far taking over a well-established business, keeping it grooving, and planning its future growth (we have BIG plans). The backend work combined with the regular content I am passionate about putting out -- and everything else I do for the show -- well, it's been busy! Thus, the takeover was actually another reason that I found it easier to lay low on training/racing last year, otherwise I might have dug myself into a hole of trying to do too much. But now that the EP transfer is handled and I have a grasp on what needs to be done, and what's being done, I feel a sense of relief that I can move forward and commit to a bit more training and even some racing. Which brings me to....


2015 Races & Training, So Far...
I've decided 2015 will be the year of the run for me. It's where I will focus my training, but in a bit of a non-conventional way with lots of other crosstraining. Honestly I want to start finding out my running potential, done healthfully on a more limited weekly volume training agenda. I also want to better understand the running culture and what it feels like to run as the main goal, with swim/bike secondary. I still am and always will be a triathlete, and in fact this kind fo focus should help tri in the long run (no pun intended).
SUP'ing on a choppy day! #cor

I've signed up for the Mountains 2 Beach marathon on May 24 (ish?), and it's a flat and fast course. I found out about it through one of my athletes I'm coaching who's looking to BQ there. It looked like fun, and timing was perfect. Man, signing up for running races is CHEAP compared to triathlon!!!

I'll keep you guys updated on my training and how it evolves, especially considering I'm not interesting in running mega mileage. So far it's been 20-35ish mile weeks at most, and generally 8-12hrs of exercise a week including the running, strength training, some biking, no swimming, yoga and/or SUP.

I'm not following a plan, but I am logging my workouts on TP, and also keeping a loose goal of never running more than 2 days in a row. For the marathon, I have some goals in mind and not afraid to share:

Running at 8k altitude in Mammoth, loving it! Had no idea this
road would just keep going steady uphill, cool adventure!
Big goals:
Sub 3:20, because based on my half-mary PR this might be doable. And definitely 3:29 to beat my friend Thorsten's PR ;)

Safe goals:
3:30 to get my "safe" BQ
3:35 to get BQ (but prob not get slot)

So far my MAF is getting pretty decent, I think on a flatter route (which I don't have often) I'm sub 8:30 at ~150 HR, after starting back at it at ~8:45-9:00-ish. But I still have slower days. I'm not overthinking it. What matters is that I can see myself getting more efficient already, and 6-8 miles goes by like a breeze, so if my MAF isn't always "adding up" to the tee, then whatever.

Other races: I also am doing the Ragnar SoCal in April, wanna join? We're forming an Endurance Planet TEAM! Email us at to get involved.

Beyond that, I have about 5 other events on my radar of interest but haven't pulled the trigger. I'm sure a triathlon will squeak its way in.... just gotta get my ass to the pool once or twice first.

But so far, I am loooooving the running and loving being a "runner."
And lots of snow running lately, for me at least! Bundled
up in my #BettyDesigns hat and other good stuff!
The last time I ran this trail it was the heat of summer
(August) and I was training for IM Tahoe 2013.

Thanks for reading!

Oh, one more for ya, this photo makes my heart melt. I love this doggie...

Border collie pic! Our Sydney! Lots of quality family time over
the holidays, and playtime with Syd!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Getting Back My Health, Getting Back to Being 'Me'

Well hello! It's been a while! Since July, in fact, just after finishing Vineman 70.3. This blog is mostly about my adventures in training and racing, and, well, there's been none of that since Vineman so it makes sense that the blog went silent, right?

However, I also like this blog to be a window into my life and everything that's going on even if I'm not racing like a beast. Actually, I've sat down several times to post on here with good intention -- for example, I thought I'd make a blog comeback with a rad post on the Laguna Beach Aquathon that we did in September -- a 9-mile ocean swim and hike down the coast -- or when I was at Interbike, or when I went to Kona for the Ironman World Championships (reporting via Endurance Planet, check it out in the archives!). But those never happened (well, the events happened and were epic but not the blogs ;))

Cool stuff IS going on in life that's blog-worthy despite no racing. But here's the thing. I'm busier than ever, and a large part of my life is attached to the computer screen these days so when it comes time to wrap up work I need to step away. It's been an important part of my journey this year to find more life balance, and it's definitely been different than every other year since 2007 when I became a triathlete. It's weird and exciting at the same time. You're about to find out.... oh my, what a year it's been!

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment, email me and/or inquire further about anything. I'm putting myself out there to help educate, increase awareness and hopefully help others find their path to optimal health!

Journey to Fixing My Health

Brief Background Of How It Went 'South'
Regaining complete health was priority numero uno of 2014. Last year I did a number on myself, and without a doubt the years prior played a role in my dwindling health too. Since 2007 when I started triathlon and graduated college (and even before that) it was just go go go, train train train, race race race, work work work, stress stress stress. I was averaging 10+ races a season and loving it, but neglecting proper rest, and not recognizing -- nor owning -- how high-strung I could get. It finally caught up. Plus, I'm not saying I'm old, but I am no longer a spring chicken and am getting older (30 in less than 6 months) -- that didn't help the matter either. I was no longer "invincible" and able to bounce back from smashing myself like I was at 22 (smashing carries many definitions, hehe).

So last year (2013) it started to get tough for me. I knew I wasn't right as early as June 2013, in fact, when I got bloodwork done and there were red flags. I kept going. It was especially apparent that I was totally blah by the end of the year at Vegas 70.3 Worlds and that stretch all the way until after our Kona trip. I look at Kona pics and I see me looking worn down and like I'd aged 10 years in just one year alone. (Oh and IM Tahoe sandwiched in there... In fact, I now see it as a blessing in disguise that Tahoe worked out the way it did.) After all that, last winter I finally gave myself the green light to rest extensively for a "true" offseason.

Without measuring and data and going off feel (I'll admit -- I was feeling rather good) I then made an attempt to get back to my old ways at the beginning of this year with the intentions of going back to racing as usual, starting with a few small races, mostly running events, and then Eagleman 70.3 on tap to really kick it off. Training and all that was going ok but it didn't last long. I held on for a gnarly training camp in April (and enjoyed it). But even before and after that camp, I felt deep down that any glimpse of health and being "Ms. Fit" was slipping away, and I could feel those same issues coming back. It's important to note: some of this was my fault, some was out of my control; I was trying to take care of myself (but still turning away to the pink elephant in the room).

It then crescendoed with giant blow up (in my opinion) on May 13, aka that silly fall off the mountain bike during a photo shoot that resulted in a wrist fracture -- a fall that shouldn't have happened, and clearly a sign that I was not completely recovered from that offseason alone, and not in a good place. (Thankfully dexa scans did confirm, however, that my bones were strong -- it was just the worst way to land in that fall). That was the last straw for me; I could see and feel myself on the path of destruction. It was time to freakin just stop and figure out my shit once and for all.

Ok, so I didn't quite stop just yet. I did Vineman as perhaps one last attempt to see if I could be "me" out there on the race course, and I even tried a different approach to training with the whole "minimalist" thing, but it just wasn't good racing and I wasn't feeling strong at all. Alright, time to let it go....

Road to Repair
It was actually a great feeling of relief to let go of the idea that I had to train and race -- as if I had let those things define who I was before, but not anymore. I am me for being me, regardless if I toe the line or wakeup early every Sunday to do the long ride. I refused to let my health status continue to spiral down in order to try and perform. Well, it was pretty clear I had hit that wall where I wasn't even able to perform even on pure adrenaline/cortisol anymore -- my body was shot and shutting down (hence Vineman).

Don't get me wrong, I was still very capable in other aspects of life -- work and whatnot -- but when you're an athlete you feel things in your body at another level. It's a crazy hyperawareness of little tiny things that make a big difference -- not so the case for the recreational exerciser/non-athlete in my opinion.

Recognizing Stress
Despite being capable and stoked on the work front, and feeling happy and perky when I needed to be, more and more I was suffering from stress overload and feeling not-as-happy -- things would trigger me and I'd irrationally stress out over dumb stuff. Often. Ok, so yea, I'm traditionally a Type A gal who tends to stress and want things "perfect," but that's no excuse -- the self-induced episodes of stressing out had to stop once and for all. It was just silly and literally ruining my body! And when I'm talking stress, I'm not talking about actual anxiety disorders or clinical issues, I'm simply talking about the same kind of stress many of you probably experience on a regular basis. But that is stress, folks, and it wreaks havoc. If you let it escalate, can manifest into this huge negative health outcome.

My Team & Health Testing
I knew that in order to really figure things out and change I had to get testing done and team up with the right specialists (not general primary care physicians who gave me stupid answers to the problems at hand) to help me. It was quite incredible how my little team of helpers came together. I found a great functional medicine doctor locally through a recommendation by Dr. Minkoff, who's on my podcast. Then also thanks to my podcast, Chris Kelly at Nourish Balance Thrive reached out to me. I swear, Chris was/is like my angel -- he contacted me just at the right time when I needed his help more than ever. Chris and Dr. Jamie Busch at NBT are the shiznit. I recommend everyone check them out. They're athletes who are functional health specialists -- a win-win combo for any athlete looking to optimize health.

The tests I got included:

-Blood work - everything you can imagine (see my list that you can use here)
-Saliva - 4 samples in one day to measure cortisol and hormones (better than blood alone)
-Organic acids urine test* - my new favorite test EVER; tests for metabolic functions inclduing gastrointestinal/gut health, cellular and mitochondrial health, neurotransmitters, amino acid balance, etc.
-Stool test* - to rule out any parasites, more on gut health, etc.

I know. A lot. but hey, if you're going to get tested you might as well do it all so there are NO question marks remaining. What if I had contracted a parasite? I didn't. But it was important to know because had I, it would be wreaking havoc and there would be a specific treatment for it. Folks, if you swim in open bodies of water or travel and eat random food, you just never know...

*See my actual test results and hear the analysis on this free webinar:

Results of Tests 
So anyway, what did I find out? In a nutshell:

The bad:

-My hormones were jacked up royally, but surprisingly better than when I tested in 2013 so at least I was doing something right and on the right track, sorta. But in my journey I was noticing female-specific issues that were not cool with me, so I knew hormonal stuff was at play. (In fact sex hormone, cycles, etc, are a big issue in female endurance athletes; just listen to my podcast with pro triathlete Angela Naeth on the matter. Many girls can ignore certain issues and you're not going to die, and you might even feel generally not that bad. But is it healthy? No.).

-Cortisol was good in morning but tanked by afternoon (confirmed via saliva) - hence why I was dying of fatigue every day by around 2-3pm.

-Speaking of hormones, pretty sure I was a picture-perfect example of the pregnenolone steal. (We talk about that in this podcast).

-My gut health was total crap - I had SIBO and candida (yeast overgrowth)! WHAT?! But actually, this made great sense and something I suspected even before testing.

-More issues came up in the Organic Acids tests (again, you can hear details on this webinar; pretty cool).

-Stool test was negative for parasites or other issues, but re-confirmed candida/yeast issue.

The good:

-It wasn't all bad. My bloodwork for other markers came back totally clear -- e.g. I was totally ok in areas of iron/ferritin levels, cholesterol, metabolic panel, liver enzymes, CBC, Vitamin D levels, hsCRP (no signs of high inflammation), and all that usual basic stuff.

Diagnosis & Why Those Results??
Honestly, it's complicated. There's a history there that must me taken into deep consideration, and in drawing conclusions you really have to paint a full picture of the person -- digging into a lot of nitty gritty stuff. Taking into account the full history is something the functional docs will do - not your typical physician who only spend a few seconds with you.

In my case, if I were to simplify and narrow it down, I think my team of docs and I all agree stress and certain aspects of lifestyle (years of mega endurance training especially) were huge factors in many of the issues plaguing me, including even the onset of yeast overgrowth! I'm talking all kinds of stress -- the stress of physical endurance training, mental stress, a life of constantly feeling the need to be on the go and as a result always in a "fight or flight" state, and so on...

Seriously, in your own journey to health and/or your own self-evals, don't discount the stress of training (and the usual psychological stress of "needing" to train that accompanies it). Even if you love your training and it makes you happy (like me!), it still is a stress on the body. Why do you think guys like Mark Sisson gave it up?

The Role of Diet, Food and Accidentally Too Low Carb
You can also argue that food and diet also led to certain issues with me like the candida and hormonal problems. I'll say, for the record, my bodyweight never got too low (i.e. never below 130lbs at 5'7) nor was I restrictive in overall calories in the least bit. In fact, the opposite is true. I was actually holding on to more body fat than normal for me and appearing as if I was losing lean muscle mass -- despite still working out, strength training, and all that...

Food-wise, I was eating the calories that's for sure and it goes without saying that I eat very healthfully, but I will admit: I was too low carb and perhaps did one to many training sessions on an empty stomach. I firmly believe that "training low" (i.e. empty stomach) must be used VERY carefully for women, and it most cases if done in excess is extremely dangerous.

In my case, my too low-carbness was partly an honest mistake of which I was not aware, and partly my fault. On one hand, I did want to be somewhat low carb for increased metabolic efficiency and, ironically, health reasons. But on the other hand I just wasn't paying close enough attention to my actual carb intake by the numbers, and in attempt to "eat clean" regularly I was inevitably cutting out quite a bit of carbs. The carbs I did have were mostly starchy root veggies/whole foods like sweet potatoes and whatnot but not really any grains, legumes, or things like that (like I once did eat regularly). I wasn't even eating oatmeal anymore. But again -- I want to make the point that I wasn't too low calorie (lots of high-fat in my diet), I was just too low carb, especially for the lifestyle I had with training. And, no, I wasn't counting grams/calories.

Trust me, please trust me, I am not anti-carb/anti-grain, I do not promote ketosis, and I don't condone restrictive diets. Personally I wasn't even restricting foods myself, except for avoiding gluten or glaringly "bad" foods like fast food/junkfood/excessive refined sugar/vegetable oils (but, hell, you'll even see me eat gelato or even gluten-filled pizza sometimes, just not regularly). Additionally, despite being "low carb" I was actually regularly eating things like Bonk Breakers, occasionally rice/Allen Lim rice cakes, gluten-free pizza, gluten-free crackers, those dessert indulgences with John, etc. Again -- I was never purposefully restricting myself, I just like to eat clean, and honestly I'm that girl who craaaaves things like veggies (brussels sprouts ftw!!!), avocados, hearty animal protein and whatnot. So that's what I end up eating a lot of!

After realizing, "Holy crap, I'm too low carb," (in fact I was even showing signs of being in ketosis as we pointed out on the webinar), I immediately made the change and introduced more carbs and grains more regularly into my diet. No big deal! I was fine with it. And in fact, it really helped quickly (but there were other variables that were helping me so I can't say carbs alone are the cure; it's complicated).

What About Alcohol & Sugar?
Anyway, I can't just vilify carbs or lack thereof. I know in 2013 (and maybe before), as well as early this year I was indulging much more in stuff with John than ever before in my life especially craft beer and (this may sound backwards) sugar-filled things -- but even "healthy" sugary things like raw vegan pies and things I baked or made for us. Just because I was low carb doesn't mean I denied sweets ;) Plus, that's what happens in a relationship, you eat and drink delicious things together, right? So I blame John ;) Kidding.

But, for real: All that yeasty glutinous beer and even the sugar (despite not being overly excessive) did not fare well with me nor my worsening issues. Not only did those things contribute to yeast overgrowth (the little yeast guys were just feeeeeding off the beer and multiplying in my gut!), but it surely was not helpful in maintaining a healthy body overall. Alcohol and sugar are drugs, and even in moderation if you're vulnerable it'll do more harm than good as I saw.

I suspected candida even before it was confirmed, and in fact had mostly given up beer slightly before my testing, but the damage was done. Since cutting it out, I do not miss it/its effects on me. Beer is fun, but the side effects -- yuck.

Candida Recovery
So then once I found out about the candida for sure, I was even more gung-ho on giving up not just beer but sugar and booze in general, so for me that meant wine (I don't drink hard alcohol ever) as well as my beloved dark chocolate and even "healthy" sugar like that from dates, fruit, etc. It honestly wasn't hard to let go of wine & treats knowing I needed to repair myself. I guess it's like when you get pregnant -- you just do what you have to do for good health.

I also followed somewhat of a anti-candida diet, but I loosely followed that, I'll admit. No crazy cleanse, no major restrictions. Mostly just giving up aforementioned alcohol and sugar (including most fruit), as well as trigger foods like beets, to which I've come to realize I am sensitive (see a list of candida trigger foods to avoid here). Instead of my dark chocolate and glass of wine at night, I replaced that with sparkling water mixed with Magnesium powder and a drop of stevia.... and occasionally when I wanted dessert I would (and still do) make a sugar-free "chocolate pudding" with cacao powder, cacao nibs, stevia, coconut, nut milk, sometimes avocado, and various other things.

Grains were totally IN during this process, as long as they were gluten free. In fact, I fell in love with buckwheat groats this year and eat them 24/7 -- heck, I am typing over a bowl of groats as we speak actually!

See a list of approved foods to prevent/kill candida here.

While I didn't "cleanse" per se, Chris at NBT had me take some antimicrobial supplements and oil of oregano to kill off the bad bacteria/yeast, as well as probiotics and a fermented foods to grow back the good bacteria. In fact, interesting I was taking a probiotic but had to switch because it turns out the one I was taking had a strain that was "bad" for me in terms of the overgrowth issue -- only found this out via the organic acids test.

If you suspect that you need to clean your gut do the test. But if don't want to do all the testing, I recommend the book "Clean Gut," which has a good protocol and supplement tips.

In addition to the items listed above to repair my gut, I had other stuff to repair too and Chris also put me on a better-quality CoQ10 (the one I was taking was not being absorbed), Basic B Complex, and Thorne AM/PM Multi. I was also taking other usuals like fish oil, Vitamins C & D, PharmaNAC, and natural herbal remedies unique to my needs that my other functional doc gave me (i.e. adaptogenic herbs). Additionally I was even doing things via nutrition and my sleep environment to promote hormonal balance and a smooth cycle -- crazy cool stuff! Feel free to inquire.

It was a lot of supplements for a while, but thankfully just temporary and then cutting back to just the standards that I'd take regularly anyway.

During that time, I was warned that for the sake of my liver it was even more important to lay off any excessive alcohol. Easy. In fact, I have ended that mega supplementing phase but have yet to go back to drinking much at all. Outside a couple "splurge" nights, I rarely have alcohol anymore.... I just love the way I feel without wine or beer. I do enjoy a good glass of wine, but keep it to a very minimum nowadays. Trust me, in my day I've had my share of booze so I can live without it now ;) However, if you ask me to go to a brewery or a winery or out with friends for happy hour -- I am IN! I still love doing all that!! I just don't drink like a sailor (or at all sometimes).

Did it Work? Am I Cleaned Up and Healthy? What's Next?
It took several dedicated months on this health plan to let the action take place within me. Along with the supplements and careful attention to a good diet, I was working on stress management -- recognizing my stress, dealing with what stresses me out, and/or preventing stress with more focus than I ever have in my entire life. I'm not gonna lie, this was tough at times, and much harder than simply taking supplements and cutting back on booze and sugar. When you are looking to reduce and manage stress, that requires a lot from one's self. Meanwhile, I was coping with "letting go" of my love for training and racing (knowing this was ultimately just temporary). But I was and still am exercising consistently just doing whatever, also focusing on balancing out many imbalances I've accumulated over the years (another long post that needs to be written).

But you know what? Once my gut and hormones started returning to a healthy state, my stress levels automatically started improving. (Totally a chicken and the egg situation on some level.) In addition, I could feel the benefits of a healthier gut and hormones getting better in the form of overall better moods, energy, work productivity, focus, happiness, complexion, etc, etc. Even little things like the acne I would get on my chin cleared up.

Speaking of my body -- I guess I never realized how bad my gut had gotten until I cleaned it up. All that bloating, gas, and occasional issues with going #2 that I used to have and thought was normal. It wasn't. Until I fixed my gut I had no idea how bad things were in me. I now see what I'm sensitive to in terms of food and drink, and what causes bloating.... I know I need to be careful still even with things like sugar. I think I'm still vulnerable and perhaps not totally 100% out of the woods yet.

Same goes for everything else... I am remarkably better, I can't even describe! But I know I'm not completely out of the woods yet, and still working on "me" all the time. But gosh where I'm at today vs. last year at this time? It's been an incredible journey and I've grown as a person/coach more than I can ever describe in words.

I'm not ready to get back to officially training for races yet -- well maybe that's not entirely true. It's complicated haha. Some days I am incredibly motivated to train for triathlon and go for it -- and shoot for that goal of a sub-5 half-Ironman that I've been so close to getting (on the other hand, I have zero desire currently to do a full Ironman lol). However, then other days all I want to do is strength train and/or yoga, but no s/b/r. Some days I just wanna ocean swim, surf, and SUP. Then other days I want to sign up for an open marathon and try that out (which is actually sounding like the most likely option right now if I were to pull the trigger on a race). I'm staying fit, so when I'm ready, the foundation is there.

But at the end of the day, my life is much more about my work and others rather than my own training/racing right now. I am love love loving my job(s) and my people in my network. Not to mention, I am on a quest to become a master at what I practice in my line of work -- I have some serious serious goals and am soooo motivated to do some BIG things. Meanwhile, personally sticking to a periodized training plan to train, meh. It's just not a personal priority right now, and there are so many hours in a day.... We'll see.

The conclusion of this saga (how did this post turn into a novel)?!?

All is good in the hood.

I've never been happier.

I've never been healthier.

And I want to help others be healthy & happy too!


Future posts to come:

Becoming A Multiple Business Owner - yup, that happened!

Still Exercising But Not "Training"

Building A Strong Resilient Body

.... and anything else in this crazy journey of life!

Thanks for visiting and reading!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Race Report: Unconventionally Tackling Vineman 70.3

If you've been following my blog you know I've taken a completely unconventional approach to training in the eight weeks before this half-Ironman, while also recovering from a wrist fracture. It's been a crazy year so far to say the least, but I always appreciate a good challenge and some experimenting. I am happy we're finally at that point where I can talk about an actual race...And not just any race, but half-Ironman #13 of my triathlon career, held on July 13, after breaking my wrist May 13 (2x). Was it "lucky" #13? Not really...

While I went into this race accepting that I could either fail or succeed given the training/situations leading up, of course I wanted to succeed because I care. Simple. But that didn't happen. Ok fine. Some of you may be thinking, "I told ya so." But for the record, I adopted a minimalist approach not as an attempt to cut corners naively, but rather to find some balance and more importantly to find some solutions to some personal sh*t going on. I don't think minimalist training alone failed me. I think there was a lot at play. Too many variables and thus not "scientific" enough to draw any definite conclusions. From an emotional perspective, I will admit, I want to get back to solid racing and to be that girl who's competitive, who gets on the podium, and who achieves her goals of racing sub-5s in a half Ironman -- or at least is in the ballpark of doing so. I'm not there right now at all. I have a pretty good idea why I'm in this rut, but how to remedy it is the complicated part. It'll take time. (Stay tuned for more on that to come.) Even if it wasn't a magical day at Vineman, I don't intend for this race report to be a downer....

Race week shows up and I took a very restful, rather traditional taper-week approach (mostly because I was also busy as heck with work and had to invest most my energy/time in that). We hit the road Thursday for a mellow trip up the coast opting to take the leisurely/pretty 101 instead of the faster but boring/ugly 5. We broke the drive into two days with a stop in Paso Robles Thursday evening. (Only one tiny weeny wine tasting in Paso, I promise). We drove the rest Friday, taking the scenic route again through SF and enjoying a mellow pace. The two-day approach wasn't rushed but it still was a lot of time in the car; yuck.

I was in great spirits and by no means a nervous wreck nor expressing any fear or worry of the unknown outcome. I knew what I was facing and the variables leading into the race, and I really truly was ready to embrace whatever was going to unfold. I was mentally tough. Ask John.... he saw it all. And he knows when I'm "good" or "bad" mentally because he's seen it both ways; he knows what it looks like when I'm vulnerable and emotional (Vegas 70.3 Worlds!). However, this year with Vineman I held on to my mental fortitude before, the day of, all the way through the damn race, and after -- not getting down on myself.

We settled into our little place in Santa Rosa and all was smooth sailing. No hiccups before Sunday. All the usual prep (after now doing 13 half-Ironmans I could probably do the final pre-race prep stuff with my eyes closed.) HRV wasn't that great, but I figured it was perhaps just some underlying nerves. I was sleeping really well Thursday and Friday especially (scored 100% quality on the Sleep Cycle app two nights in a row!), and even the night before the race I slept well, waking up before my alarm feeling refreshed and ready aka up before 4am and ready to go like a crackhead haha. Yes, I got a little nervous Saturday night/Sunday morning but nothing unreasonable or abnormal. Sunday morning I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of oven-roasted sweet potato mash with chia seeds, almond milk, cinnamon, and sea salt, along with 5 MAP and coffee/creamer. Nothing else before the race except water and another 5 MAP.

Wetsuits were legal, good for me. Still, what can I say, it was a slow swim! But that was expected and truthfully I was totally planning on going extra conservative in the water knowing my lack of swim training. I hadn't swam more than a mile since April, I had many weeks completely off from swimming due to the wrist, and the swim training I did do once capable was more like "time back in the water" testing the wrist strength vs. actual training. So I swam an appropriate intensity to make sure I didn't come out completely dead tired. Heck, I never swim fast in races anyways (it's a work in progress; one day!). All said and done, I swam 40 minutes.... and apparently 1.36 miles in distance covered! Haha! I only remember going semi off course near the end and misjudging the finish chute entrance, so I'm wondering if others had a long swim?

Even after ~9 months of not doing a triathlon, my transitions were super efficient. I didn't feel like my HR was blowing up either in T1, which was a good sign -- and proving I did in fact swim very slow haha. (Oh ya, I didn't wear an HRM this race.)

This was hands down the highlight of the day. I loooooved the Felt IA, and I loooooved ripping through the Vineman course. The bike handled nicely on a course that's always requiring you to be focused on the next turn, hill, downhill or crazy road condition. I love that though; never a dull moment. And it goes without saying that the scenery is beyond breathtaking. I could tell that I definitely was not my strongest ever, but having the IA and a good attitude, I still made it a really good ride for me. It showed, as I went from 30th AG out of the water to 8th AG on the bike! Many passes.My wrist felt good enough and wasn't a hindrance.

I was also riding a new wheelset by Conquer Bikes, and the wheels kicked ass. This is a great company that makes fully custom wheelsets -- you choose the size/depth, carbon style, colors, etc, and can also customize with your own logos and/or slogans. I was riding 50mm wheels, which are smaller than my old Zipp 808s (which I'm selling btw if anyone is interested let me know). Turns out 808s for a girl of my size and the speeds I race aren't really the best choice -- too much wheel in fact, and unless I'm consistently going 23+mph, they have little to no positive aero effect. So working with Conquer Bikes to get a shallower rim depth has been a very positive move. Check them out, and if you decide you need a new set use the code "coachtawnee" for a free carbon bottle cage worth $50 added to your order!

From the minimalist training perspective, my bike performance was actually quite awesome given the fact that I was riding dangerously low volume, and was exclusively on the trainer for 8 weeks minus just two short outdoor rides before the race simply to make sure I could ride a bike again. I rode nearly the same speed as last year (20.3 mph overall average this year vs. 20.4 mph average last year), and splits were thus only a couple minutes different (2:43 vs. 2:45 I think?). My watts were a bit lower than last year but not by much (avg in 170s this year). That said there was a price tag with that performance: The lack of long rides didn't necessarily hurt my ability to bike well; however, it did hurt the subsequent run as you'll see.

On that note, at Chalk Hill (mile ~43) I realized my split for the first half of the ride was a bit faster than the second half had been, so at that point so I laid down the hammer coming home to Windsor High School, which is easy to do; after the Chalk Hill grind, there's a legit downhill then mostly flat from there. Perhaps I rode those last ~12 miles too hard, but I don't care, I felt awesome and was loving it.

Fueling-wise I mostly had water, close to three Bonk Breakers and a little Skratch; I was drinking and eating ad libitum. It worked quite well as usual. It was a hot day and I drank 3.5 bottles (the XLab Torpedo aero bottle). I had the bars cut up and easily accessible in the IA's built-in bento box. I never felt under-fueled, nor over-fueled ;) How I am not yet sick of Bonk Breakers I do now know.... I look forward to every bite.

If there was any negative to the bike it was: 1) the course (not surprisingly) was too crowded/cramped with riders and that makes it impossible to get into a good rhythm for any long period, and 2) my position, which is not quite perfected yet. Quite frankly I haven't had enough experience on the new ride to really dial it in due to the randomness of this year. Plus I changed my aero bars to accommodate my wrist in the healing phase (ski bends so it's not pronated), and I think in doing so that messed up my fit a bit. I had periods of being uncomfortable and sore, which transferred into the run for sure. 

After finishing the bike with a little hammer session, I was perhaps a tad slower in T2 than I could have been, but I wanted to get situated properly and try to then hammer the run.

Oops!!! Up until this point I felt good and was optimistic in having an all-around solid race. In fact without looking at pace out of T2 I settled into a sub-8 pace, which was in my realistic range and felt comfortable.

But then that went out the door and I blew up. Big time.

This was up there with my slowest runs ever in a half-Ironman... it was a 1:56 ish. After running a 1:41 on this course last year?! Crap!!! I'm not saying a 1:56 is bad, but for me it's not a great performance knowing what I can do/have done. Yes, it was significantly hotter than past years and the course changed a bit (some said it was harder), but those things would not equate to my run being 15 minutes slower. As a triathlete you're supposed to deal with the conditions, not whine about them, and still race your best. I simply couldn't execute that kind of performance -- I don't think it was the heat that killed me. The hills, maybe ;)

Here's what I think happened:
1) Lack of run fitness and not rebounding from a period of detraining in May (that was a rough month). 
2) The bike. It took a toll and perhaps the fit was an issue, which just goes to show how a fit is a work-in-progress and I haven't had enough time/experience on this bike to find my bread-and-butter position.
3) Reality that something is "off" in me, and it has been for a while now. I'm not 100% and I'm trying to get that sh*t figured out. Health must be No.1.

I simply felt like crap-o-la on the run and after the first half mile every single step hurt like a bitch. There was nothing smooth and flowy about it at all. Thankfully what I experienced wasn't "injury pain" (body is strong/sturdy) nor was it a nutritional/bonking problem. In fact, nutritionally speaking, I really think I nailed calories/hydration; I had MAP, a 24oz bottle of water with about 100 calories of honey mixed in (just the right amount of sweetness), plus a lot of coke, bananas and more water on the course -- yup, I went for the coke (2 cups at a time) and it helped give me a little "oomph". I got one side stitch in La Crema around mile 7 -- which literally made me feel asthmatic and out of breath for a good minute or two -- but other than that gut held up, stomach not queasy and nutritionally I felt ok.

My hips and my legs, though. Oh myyyy. I'll admit, I briefly walked some of the aid stations and hills, but never more than 30-45 seconds. The reason I let myself walk was because every mini break at least allowed me to "get it together" for a mini recovery and pick up the pace again for a brief while. It's a really effective strategy that I sometimes use with clients and not a sign of weakness IMO. With the mini walks, I still think all my splits were the 8's and 9's, and overall like an 8:50+ average pace (I dunno for sure, haven't turned on Garmin since. While an 8:50ish avg doesn't suck, it's a little hard to swallow knowing last year I ran a 7:44 average pace. But you roll with it and on this day, I shifted my thoughts into the run becoming a mission of survival to the finish, and not really about performance.

I will say, this run was not as tough as Vegas 70.3 Worlds last year, but it was definitely up there; maybe top 3 hardest ever. However, as opposed to Vegas where I was also mentally breaking down, in Vineman I held my shit together and stayed mentally tough. It was a bad day and of course frustrating to feel "stuck" unable to break out of a bad run, but I wasn't about to let go of the one thing I could control -- my attitude.

The Finish/Thoughts
Repeating a 5:10 finish like I got last year was clearly not happening, nor was even beating my first-ever Vineman time of 5:20 (from 2009). It was a 5:27 this year, and a near-puking experience at the finish. Totally wrecked. It would seem that the minimalist training did not allow for a standout performance. But I can't say that the minimalist approach was a total bust. There's a lot more at play here, and it did work in terms of simply being able to get through the full 70.3 without "dying" or getting injured.

I am not going to throw in the towel on this minimalist thing just yet. I think the time frame I was dealing with and my health were two limiting factors.... hm.

Somehow, I still landed myself in the top-10 in my age group (7th) and 48th woman overall. That makes me think that perhaps it was a harder year for everyone? However, then you look at the rockstars of the race and they still crushed it so it couldn't have been that much harder ;)

That's all for now. Not much else to report; no crazy after parties and sadly not even much time spent wine tasting post race. It went like this:

Sunday rather uneventful... quick stop at Russian River Brewery where I didn't even drink a full beer. I was so dang tired and barely could pull it together like usual. However, my appetite did return in full force and Sunday I polished off a bag of chips and dip, most of a pizza, a gnarly quesadilla, and dessert. Mmmm. Then Monday we had to leave town but we were able to fit in a quick wine tasting before thanks to an awesome podcast fan who invited us to their family winery in the Alexander Valley right where we bike during Vineman.... visiting their property was a seriously awesome treat. The family's owned the land since the 1800s! We got a full education on farming, the wine business, etc. Good way to end the trip...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Matcha Smoothie Recipe: For Focus, Energy and Satiation

The color isn't the greatest, but taste/quality is amazing!
Sometimes recipes just come together based on what you have lying around. Granted, the items that I have just lying around in my house aren't necessarily "typical" (case in point: gelatin powder that comes from grassfed cattle parts). But it's all relative. Last weekend I was looking to make a killer smoothie that included my new love, Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder (after seeing Lindsay rave about this stuff, I quickly bought it too). I knew I wanted a good amount of greens in my smoothie, but still sweet, not bitter, and not too sugary. Below is what resulted and I loved it.

The best part? My energy was off the wall! I felt so focused and ready to just hammer out tasks. Not BS'ing here. In fact, I put this smoothie to the test again today to replace AM coffee/caffeine, which I've been off of for a bit (something I do every now and then). When I'm "off" the caff I eventually get to the point where I still have good energy, but I always miss that jolt coffee gives. Well I put the matcha to the test this morning for a jolt, and I can't say that it was exactly like coffee awesomeness, but it amp me up and really put me into focus/work mode.

Anyway, try it out. It's pretty easy to make and their are endless options on how this can go. When I formulated this my goals were to:
1) make sure there was FAT involved
2) include at least 3 green things
3) low on fruit
4) no added sugar (but still sweet!)
5) and have some "chunk"... you'll see ;)

Matcha Smoothie
Use organic ingredients when possible...

Ingredients in order of how I add:
1 1/4 cup of nondairy milk of choice; I used organic unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tbsp Great Lakes Gelatin powder (pure quality protein!!)
2 rounded tbsp ground flax meal
1/3 large cucumber
4-5 dino kale leaves
Stevia to taste; I used half powder/half liquid stevia
Sea salt, a pinch (the secret to make this drink awesome!)
Cinnamon, a few liberal shakes (this prevents spike in blood sugar and is always a delicious addition
4-5 cubes ice

-more fat such as small handful raw organic cashews, spoonful nut butter, hemp, or avocado
-extra water if you don't want it so thick
-few chunks watermelon (I did this in my drink over 4th of July weekend; it's good with or without)

Next up: Blend!
 The finished product yields slightly more than a pint (fit nicely in a mason jar, with a few extra sips out of the blender's pitcher).
Add coconut, then stir in the flakes right into the drink!


You're not done.... 

The best ingredient is still to come:  
Coconut flakes!

...After you've blended and added the drink to your glass, add thick coconut flakes (the unsweetened kind!) for some added texture and a little something to chew on! Great to add if you're having this for breakfast!

Bam. Enjoy and try not to consume too fast... savor it.

Last word: 
Normally I'm not big on using smoothies to replace meals. Especially your standard fruit/juice blend that's essentially just sugar and poor-quality gut-wrenching dairy. But here's why I think smoothies can be a great idea:

1) Hearty, filling, stabilizing. If there are good calories from fat, and not just pure fruit/sugar you can really develop a quality "meal in a glass" that hydrates and also keeps you full for a long time, and doesn't spike your blood sugar (thus leading to a crash).

2) And by drinking your meal you are giving your digestive system a break. We're constantly overwhelming our digestive system to do work with the meals we eat. That takes energy and is taxing. So why not give it a break with a smoothie every now and then and let that extra energy be used somewhere else positively in your body. (Granted, my smoothie has the coconut flakes that you chew but you get the idea ;))