Friday, May 31, 2013

Team Q&A: Brain Matter

For this installment of Team Q&A, we asked everyone, "What goes through your head when you train?" Here's the first installment of answers:

Charlie: I think my thoughts vary a lot when I'm training. I usually just let my mind wander and do whatever it wants to do. I end up thinking about the events of the day or things I need to do soon. I also find it's a perfect time to think about life direction issues - things I want to do with my kids, things I want to support more, work and life goals, etc. So many problems get solved while I'm working out when I'm really not even trying to solve them, and I feel incredible stress relief after workouts. I also usually focus on how fortunate I am to be physically able to accomplish the workout I'm performing and what a beautiful community I live in.

Sarah: My thoughts tend to vary with the workout I'm doing. If I’m just out for a long run or doing long sets in the pool, my brain tends to work through my day and process all I've seen and done. I prioritize my to do lists, plan my day or week, and come up with basic formatting of emails I need to send. If I'm doing intervals or a really hard tempo, I turn on what I call my “drill sergeant” mode, where I basically yell at myself internally to go faster and push harder. Regardless of the workout I'm doing, I almost always tick through the fraction of the workout completed: ¼ of the way there, ⅓ of the way through, ½ way done. Minnesota in spring is just glorious, and I find myself giving thanks for my health, the droves of people out there with me who are celebrating their own health, and living in a community that respects living an active lifestyle enough to put money into great running trails, good biking paths, and dozens of local pools.

Sara: What is in my mind varies greatly depending on if I'm alone in my somewhat nasty basement on the trainer (boo) or outside with friends (yay). When I'm alone, I definitely need to mix things up with some challenging sets. In the pool I find that my mind wanders quite a bit so I try to really focus on keeping track of my laps and staying smooth. My old nickname, “Sara the Slapper” still applies since I slap at the water when I get really tired, so I try to really focus on keeping my stroke smooth. When I'm riding outside with friends, I think about how fun it is and how rare it is for me to get out on the bike with actual humans. I used to really take bike rides for granted, but now that I've got the two little ones, I've really come to appreciate a nice group ride in a way that I didn't before. Riding outside is my own version of “happy hour,” minus the beer, occasional hangover, and loud music. Any chance I get to combine friends with workouts just makes me ridiculously happy, since I honestly don't get to do that much during the school year. Running alone presents a good time for me to zone out and really push myself. I love playing little mental games with my Garmin and seeing what I can pull off. This past week I somehow beat my (very old) 5 mile PR on a tempo run. When I saw my Garmin click over to “5,” I thought about how far I've come. It sounds kind of cheesy but I think on those solo outings I really prove to myself what I'm made of and I get pretty excited to think about what I might be able to accomplish. 

JP: Quite honestly, random thinking is my enemy when I am training. I like to be in the moment, appreciating being outside, and performing constant system checks. The system is basically form and energy level. I tweak things based on those checks by eating, drinking, or adjusting little bits of my technique. Random thoughts don't help me as I don't like to be distracted. I think focus is one of the most overlooked aspects of racing. It’s a really important part of my personal puzzle. 

Matt: I am a very competitive person, and I am constantly thinking about the next race and what it will take to win. If I’m doing a bike workout, I'm envisioning myself out on the bike course putting in big power, pulling away from the field. If im running, im thinking about coming down the final stretch in the lead with my arms out like an airplane bringing home the W. If I'm in the water, I am constantly sizing up the other people in the pool and trying to drop them. I am a competitor and will do whatever it takes to improve and put forth my best performance on that day, ultimately bringing home the W!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Team Q&A: Ultimate Race Course (Part 2)

We're back again with another team question. This time, we asked everyone to build their ultimate race course/venue. The answers are split into two groups. Here's the second set responses. See the first batch.

Sara: My racing is pretty limited to driving distance from Cleveland, so I'm going to imagine a dream race here and maybe someone can tell me where this is. My favorite distance is the half-ironman, so I’m going to go with that. I'd like a calm lake swim that doesn't get cancelled and make me sad (I'm looking at you, Steelhead) followed by a nice rolling bike course. Of the 70.3s that I've done, I enjoyed Steelhead’s bike course as well as Musselman’s course in New York. For the run, I'd definitely like it to be relatively flat and not a million trillion degrees, and it should also have some good scenery and crowd support, too. I had a blast running the course at Ironman New Orleans 70.3 mostly because I’m a history nerd and it’s full of things to look at. Finally, it needs to have my two kids at the finish line running with me, so big ups to Rev3 for making that happen! 

JP: My dream Ironman course: I would take the Ironman Wisconsin 2 loop, lake swim course, combined with the Ironman Hawaii Bike course but I would put it in California so it would be cool, dry, and not so windy. I would cap it off with the flat and fast Florida run course just for good memory’s sake.

Matt: My dream course would be very similar to my hometown tri (The Clarkston Tri), but with a few major alterations. First off, the swim needs to have similar conditions to lake Michigan...freezing cold with extra chop, to separate the real swimmers from the ones who say “I swim.” The bike course would be similar to the current course, which has a lot of short and semi steep rollers, the kind that if you use your downhill speed right, you don't have to use too much energy to get to the top. Only change i would make here is that it would need to be longer than 16 miles...somewhere between 56 & 112 would do. Finally, the run course would be exactly the same as it is today. A beautiful 2 loop run with unlimited spectators, that takes you through the vintage old town & park of Clarkston.

Rob: My swim course would be the Ironman Wisconsin two-loop (old) course. There's nothing quite like breathing and looking at the shore to see the Monona Terrace covered with people. Plus doing two loops allowed you to see it twice. The swim out to transition (don't forget the awesome wetsuit peelers!) is like no other. You forget all about climbing up four levels of a parking ramp with all that noise. My favorite bike course is probably the Rev3 Dells Half course. It's rolling with plenty of ups and downs to keep the legs honest and the speeds fast. [Disclaimer: I designed it.] I'm not necessarily a runner, but one of my best runs was on the Ironman Racine 70.3 (nee Spirit of Racine) course. I stuck with another guy (without saying a word) and ran to my best half time ever.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Team Q&A: Ultimate Race Course

We're back again with another team question. This time, we asked everyone to build their ultimate race course/venue. The answers are split into two groups. The first set of responses are below and the next set will be posted in a couple of days.

Stu: The swim would most definitely be from Escape from Alcatraz. A point to point swim is hard to find, and what better one than Alcatraz to San Francisco. The bike would be Rev3 Quassy. The scenery, rolling hills, and outrageously amazing pro field to blaze the way makes this a great bike route. The run would be Wildflower. There is a bit of everything on this route. You name it, you will find it (for those that have done it, you know what I mean).

Michelle: My favorite race venue would be comprised of places that I have raced before. I absolutely love the IM World Championship swim at Kona. It is an out and back course in a bay. The water is temperate, wetsuits are not allowed, and the bay offers some natural protection from overly nasty swells/waves. The salt water provides some natural buoyancy. The ocean bottom can be seen throughout the whole race. What better way to pass the time than watching colorful fish and coral! For the bike ride, I would choose the IM Lake Placid course. The scenery is absolutely spectacular. If you are a lover of the outdoors, camping, fishing, mountains, great forests, and rivers, you will not be disappointed. The ride offers a double loop course with several long gradual climbs, descents, and flats. It’s got it all! The run course I would choose is at a race I've done many times in Wisconsin at High Cliff State Park. It has it all. A massive climb right out of transition, followed by terrains which are varied and fun. The run goes through the state park and goes over asphalt, gravel, limestone, and natural forest bottom. Truly great!

Chris: When I ran cross country in college I became really disillusioned with one after another of flat, fast, races held on groomed golf courses- it was too far from the roots of the sport. With a few notable outliers triathlon courses also tend towards fast and non-technical over slow and difficult. My swim would be a point to point river swim like the now-defunct New York City Ironman where the top swimmers went sub 40 minutes, but my course would be against the current. Since I have complete geographic freedom the ride would be the 115km bike leg of the Alpe d’Huez triathlon. For the run, I have to go with the Wildflower half marathon. This is a challenging run with a mix of trails and roads and really, really good support at the aid stations!

Charlie: I think my favorite swim for triathlon is an ocean swim, like Ironman Florida and Kona. I haven't done Kona, but I've swam the course. There's something very humbling about being in that volume of water. My favorite bike course was at Whirlpool's Steelhead 1/2 ironman in St Joe, Michigan. The scenery is beautiful and the gentle rolling hills fun to power through. The best run course was at The River Cities triathlon in Bossier City, LA because the course is almost fully shaded through a park around a reservoir. It also had an off-road cross-country section which kept it interesting.

Sarah: My favorite distance is the half-ironman. I think I've done nearly as many halfs as all of my other triathlons combined! My dream swim would be in a relatively small, clear, protected lake. I love a swim with little chop and great visibility. I know some people prefer not to be able to see the bottom of the lake they are swimming in, but I really enjoy it. Chisago half iron, Liberty when it was in Lake Independence (both in MN), and the Ironman Wisconsin swim all have decent visibility, but my ideal swim would have closer to 20 feet as opposed to 10. The bike would be on rolling hills in the countryside - think the Liberty half iron course in Minnesota or Steelhead. The run would definitely be around a lake with a breeze. I think I would prefer a two-loop course like the Minneapolis Tri (formerly Lifetime). I love a run that encourages a lot of spectators and has some shade to offer. In my ideal world, I’d be racing alongside as many of my family members as possible. Oh, and the aid stations would resemble that of an ultramarathon. If you can think it up, it’s there.