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Categorized as: Bree’s Blog

Hit the Reset Button

Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s Blog on Training, Racing and Life.

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We live in a “get better, always strive for better, never give up, never settle for less than your best” society. This is the (exhausting) mentality we are told to have if we are to be successful adults. And as athletes, we continue this mentality in our sport.  Personally, I’m guilty. In fact, most times it’s hard for me to race for fun. I have to FORCE myself to race for fun. Sometimes that’s harder than an aggressive race plan aiming for a PR. I’m competitive. It can be a blessing and a curse, but honestly, I think it’s more of a curse. Like, I won’t sign up for races if I know I’m not in the best of shape. But I cannot be in the best shape 24/7/365. It’s impossible. And you can’t either.

We cannot pursue athletics with a 100% effort all the time. Burnout will happen. And it does happen.

A first rule (or a rule high on the list) in endurance sports is consistency. There needs to be consistency of training but not “100% effort consistency”. In a pursuit to always better yourself, you risk injury or burnout, or worse, both.

Burnout is a word that floats around, but how many of us really acknowledge it?  It’s almost like an elephant in the room. If you look away maybe it won’t see you or your won’t see it. It’s obvious, awkward, and no one wants to address it. It’s really hard to admit you might be burned out. It’s almost like you’re admitting to being a failure. That somehow you’re not good enough.

That’s how I initially feel during times of burnout. Yes, I get burned out from time to time.  I am already going a mile a minute with my business, the demands of being a mom to a not so easy kiddo (what kid is really easy anyway?!), so to add one more high energy passion to the plate and it’s a hard effort to keep it all balanced. After a few races, I need a physical and mental break. But I don’t just sit on the couch and eat crap (well, sometimes I do!). I still exercise but at lighter intensity and I change it up. I spend more time at our studio lifting weights. I like the break and the change of pace. I also pick up new hobbies or interests and do things I ordinarily wouldn’t have time for. Recently I have become decent at roller skating (I call myself decent, others might say I suck, but whatever). On most Sundays our family hits up the skating rink, the day I would normally be on my bike for hours, and I get to practice and enjoy a new skill. For me, taking a break from racing is like hitting a reset button. And when the time is right, I’m always excited to start back up.

Building strength during the off-season

Building strength during the off-season

Here’s some free coaching advice. Take it or leave it. No hard feelings if you disagree.

You can’t go from race to race in a constant pursuit to get better. While the overall goal is to improve, you need to map out specific times during the season to achieve that goal. You can’t do it at every race, every time. There are seasons of racing with specific training and racing goals,  and seasons of low key, no pressure, fun training. The key is finding the perfect balance.

Pick new and different races. Don’t race the same events over and over hoping to get faster each time. While this is good to do for some races (tracks progression), don’t do this season after season. You’ll lose interest, get bored, and risk burnout. Pick new races. Set new goals. Keep the excitement going.

Spend some time just training and not having an immediate race on the schedule. Reconnect with yourself. Rediscover why you fell in love with the sport. Time away can be a wonderful reset button. You’ll come back with more passion and drive than ever before. Hellllooo new personal records!  (This happens to me every time I take a break from racing).

You can learn just as much about yourself in the off-season (non race season) as you can during the in-season (racing season). So don’t think you’re missing out on anything, you’re not. Stop those negative thoughts dead in their tracks.

So, if you’re in a funk or burned out from your 2015 season, change your mindset and spend some time reconnecting with yourself. Just train for the joy of it. Scale back on intensity and duration and enjoy yourself. Don’t feel pressured to put a race on the calendar just yet. And don’t put pace goals on your workouts either. Just train. Pop in on social runs and rides. Train solo if that’s your preference. Try out strength training if you haven’t already. Maybe hit up yoga. The key is to remain consistent and create opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

And if you’re feeling guilty, don’t. We are our own worst enemy. We can tell ourselves some ugly lies. Reflect on your season of racing, focus on the good aspects, don’t dwell on the negative, and spend some time rekindling the endurance romance.

Rediscovering what you love about your sport

Rediscovering what you love about your sport

The Struggle to Strength Train

Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s Blog on Training, Racing, and Life.

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The struggle is real. The struggle to strength train is what I’m talking about. There are so many other things, and not even fun things, that I would rather do than lift heavy weights. There. I said it.

Want to know what my favorite part of strength training is? It’s not my last rep in the set. Because in the moments leading up to it, I’m thinking of every excuse to cut it out so I can finish early. But rather when I (after giving the hubster a kiss) walk out the door. I’m done. I don’t have to visit the torturous pain cave for an IRON class until the next day, or two, depending on my training plan.

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Yes. I own this gym. The one I can’t wait to walk out of. The truth is that lifting heavy things over and over is not only boring, but it’s also very uncomfortable. It takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to do things I don’t like. I don’t like doing things I don’t like.

The only motivation I have to pump iron is knowing how it positively, without a doubt, impacts my athletic endeavors. I cannot be the athlete I want to be without it. Period. I’ve tried seasons of training and racing without strength work and it didn’t go so well. I either got injured or my efforts weren’t where I knew they could be. Comparing seasons of strength work to seasons without it, it’s beyond obvious that I need it.

What about you? Have you ever had this realization? The realization that lifting weights got you the results you were looking for? That you could actually cut out a bike ride and spend that time in the gym instead and get better at riding? Same applies for running and swimming. It’s true. And if you haven’t experienced it, I challenge you to try it out this off-season. I wrote more about it here

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So, with all my frustrations and dislikes aside, I walk through the doors ready to lift weights knowing I will climb better, run stronger and faster, and reach the athletic goals I have set for myself.

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Huuuuge PR at NOLA 70.3 and strength training was part of the reason.

If you’re anything like me – that you would rather swim, bike and run than lift weights – then let me encourage you to do what you need to do (but would rather not do). Hit the gym and pump some iron. Don’t think about how much you dislike it, but rather think about how much it will benefit you. If that becomes your primary perspective, you’ll get through each rep and you will reap the benefits the next time you hop on your bike, jump in the pool, or head out the door for a run. And you know what IS fun? Racing better, stronger and faster!

I challenge you to approach your off-season differently this year. Try something new and see what happens. It might be the answer you have been looking for!

Coming Back from an Injury

Sweat from the Heart. Coach Bree’s blog on training, racing and life.

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Did you just experience one of the most horrible things that could happen to an athlete? You know…an injury?

Nothing is more depressing than getting an injury and having to sit out for weeks or even months from the sport you love. Sometimes this injury happens because of an accident. Sometimes it’s an overuse injury. Whatever the reason, injuries suck and they can suck the joy out of everything you were trying to accomplish.

But don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. Sometimes injuries can be blessings in disguise. They force you to take a good look at what you’re doing and challenge you to reassess your approach. Do you need to change your run form? Do you need a new bike fit? Does your swim need some work? And sometimes you’re out so long from an injury that you have to slowly start back over. But this is a perfect opportunity to start right! Start with drills you have never done before. Start with the miles being shorter and more time spent working on good form. Injuries can be a reset button and you can come back stronger and better than ever.

But what do you do in the meantime while you rehab? What do you do when you’re cleared to get back at it? The most important thing you can do is to keep your mind focused on the positive.

First, you have every right to be pissed. Validate your thoughts, express your frustrations. but don’t let them control you once you get back into it. Let go of the negative and move on to the positive. A positive attitude will help you tremendously, but being negative will suck your energy and your workouts will suffer as a result. Re-frame your thinking when you get back at it. Tell yourself things like “I’m grateful I can run, I will make this the best run it can be” and “every day I can exercise is every day I’m getting stronger” and “I will make the most out of this swim and focus on what I can do – good form and as many laps as I can do in this workout”.

If we think negative thoughts, we begin to believe those thoughts, and they begin to control us. If you think things like you’re not going to get back to where you were (pre-injury), your thoughts will become reality. You won’t get quality out of your workouts, you will be stuck and focused on the past, and you risk going into every workout with thoughts of “what if” or “I wish”. It’s a dangerous path to take, so when you find yourself walking down that path, re-frame your thoughts and search for something positive to think about and keep you grounded. Just as much as racing is mental, so too is coming back from an injury. It’s all in the mind. It’s all in how you approach it mentally.

Celebrate all the victories, no matter how small, and over time you will get back to where you were pre-injury, and the likelihood is high that you’ll surpass your prior fitness and hit a whole new level of training and racing. Set your sights on the positive, and with time, patience and the right attitude, you’ll reach your goals.

Is the Ironman right for you, right now?

Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s Blog on training, racing and life. 

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With several of my triathletes considering the full Ironman, and several prospective athletes that have recently reached out to me inquiring about Full Ironman training, I decided to type this out in hopes it helps any of you with your decision. Outlined below is essentially what I tell my athletes as well as prospective athletes. If you’re looking to do a Full Ironman, your head, heart, body and finances need to be right.

Yes, the old adage is true, “if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll wait your whole life,” but what I’m trying to say here is that there is a degree of readiness you have to have – and that’s having your head on straight, your heart right, your body healthy and finances in order. If any of these are out, you should stay out until you get everything in order. It’s okay to put the Ironman dream on hold. Here are some things to contemplate when considering the Full Ironman.

Head: 
Let’s start with the head. If you’re thinking this is the “normal trajectory” of triathlon, where you start with Sprints and then work your way up to Full Ironman, you’re wrong.

IronMeg at Ironman Louisville

IronMeg at Ironman Louisville

You can stay with Sprints, or whatever your favorite distance is, for your whole triathlon journey. It’s a common trajectory, but not a “normal” one. What is normal is what works for you. Don’t do it because you feel pressured, do it because you *want* to. And if you don’t want to do a Full Ironman, then don’t do a Full Ironman. But, if you do want to do an Ironman, I do suggest you start with Sprints and Olympics and then slowly and patiently work your way up to the full distance. You will have better success on race day following this approach.

Continuing with the head, if you think things like, “I think I want to do one” or “I think this will be the year I do an Ironman” or “My friend is doing one so I think I will do it with her” – these are not convincing reasons. You have to be 100% in it. You have to have your mind dead set on doing the Ironman. When you can think things like, “I WANT to do one and WILL do one!” or “This is MY year to do the Ironman and I’m going to do it!” or “My friend is doing the Ironman and I’m going to do it with her!” – then you’re ready. You’re 100% in it mentally.

And still on the head, if you’re thinking you can’t do it, you’re right, you can’t. But if you have your doubts (which are completely normal) and don’t let them control you, you will finish the training and the race.

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Coach Crystal at Ironman Texas

When prospective athletes message me stating they are “thinking about the Ironman distance” I tell them to keep thinking and to reach out to me when they are ready. I want to make sure they are 100% in it mentally. It’s easy to sign up and register on emotion and excitement, but that emotion and excitement won’t last during those long hours of training. You need to be ready for all that comes with the Ironman – the hours, the money, and time away from a social life and your family. I have seen athletes, and even coached some athletes, that signed up for races on excitement and emotion, and when the going got tough during training, they got going. This is a disappointment all around. Don’t sign up for something you’re not 100% ready for.

Heart: 
Talking about the heart – Do you love triathlon? Do you love training? If you do, great, because there’s a lot to love about Ironman training and racing. And there’s a lot of hours of training with it, too. But if you don’t love long training hours, you won’t love Ironman. You might not be ready (yet). Make sure your heart is 100% in it. Think about your motives, your passion and see if you love it enough to sign up for an Ironman.

Continuing with the heart, is your family and relationship(s) in a good place? If not, don’t sign up for the Ironman. If you’re having relationship troubles, the time away from your loved one is a sure way to destroy the relationship. Please invest in your relationship(s) first before you invest in triathlon. If your kids are demanding a lot of you, maybe wait to a season when they aren’t as needy. You’re going to be busy training, and exhausted from training, that you won’t be able to meet your kid(s) every need. Make sure this is something your schedule and family will allow.

Body: 
Is your body healthy? Have you been injured often? If you answer “no” to the first one and “yes” to the second one – first get healthy and get to the bottom of your injury. You cannot successfully train for an Ironman with any sort of injury or compromised health. Did you know that risk of injury training for Ironman is 90+%? It is! And if you’re going into it with compromised health, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

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Liana at Ironman Arizona

Spend some time getting healthy, even if that means taking time off. Get to the gym and start strength training, and hire a coach to safely guide you to success. Setting your Ironman goal back one or two years is completely okay, and that time will fly by. Besides, you never know, during that time, you might learn that the Half distance may be better for you. It’s not about just doing an Ironman, it’s about a healthy lifestyle and this distance isn’t healthy for everyone. Take the time to assess yours goals and see how your body responds.

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Raul at Ironman Texas

Finances: 
Are you currently in debt and trying to get your finances in order? If so, don’t register for an Ironman. There are hidden expenses. Not only is the entry fee around $750, but there’s hotel (for several nights), travel (and this can be by plane if your race is far), bike transport (if your race requires you to transport your bike), the cost of hiring a coach, the cost of regular bike tune ups because of all the bike miles, multiple pairs of running shoes because of all the run miles, gym and/or pool memberships, sport nutrition drink mixes for all your long workouts, proactive health services such as chiropractor, massage therapy, and even rehabilitative services from physical therapist if you happen to get injured (and there’s always a risk with the mileage  associated with this distance – remember the 90% injury risk mentioned above?!). And with your increased training hours, your appetite grows and so does your grocery bill. There are costs you need to consider before signing up for an Ironman.

Make sure you’re truly ready to start the journey. There’s no rush. If you’re 100% ready, you will have an awesome experience. The Ironman is a journey unlike no other, but make sure you have everything in order to start the journey so you can finish it at the Ironman finish line.

Want to chat about it? Contact me at bree@alamo180.com

Sweat from the Heart: Bike Puzzle

Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s blog on training, racing, and life.

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Bike Puzzle: Why a Power Meter Paints the Whole Picture.

Just this week I was updating a data profile for an athlete and I reached out asking him to re-assess his strengths and weaknesses. One weakness that he mentioned was “losing focus on the bike during training and racing.” This is not the first time I have heard this from an athlete. In fact, it used to happen to me. So, being the very analytical person I am, I began to think about why this might be happening. Whenever there is a concern, I’m going to look for an answer.

I thought about him, I thought about myself as an athlete, and about cycling metrics. And then it all made sense. He’s missing an important piece of the “bike puzzle” – power.

Gorgeous countryside!

Before a power meter, scenery and racers kept me focused.

Using myself as an example: When I used to train and race without a power meter, I lost focus. My speed would slow down on ascents and pick up on descents, and I would always ask myself, “was I working hard enough?” And heart rate wasn’t always accurate. I could have altered values based on heat, nutrition, if it was on correctly, etc. Not truly knowing what effort I was putting out, and in the moment of pain surmounting, I couldn’t convince myself to stick with my plan and I would inevitably lose focus, and then slow down. Later, I would “wake up”, regain focus, and push hard again…only to repeat the process. And when you’re doing the Half or Full distance there are many opportunities to snap in and out focus. All of these moments are wasted time.

Here’s the deal: when you can’t see the whole picture, you lose focus. What is it you’re supposed to look at? What is the focal point? What’s the purpose? And if you can’t figure it out, you give up and move on. We do this in life, and we do it on the bike.

In cycling, when you have pieces of data, and not the whole picture, it’s easy to lose focus. If you can’t figure out what it is you’re doing, and why, and you can’t see the whole picture, you move on. You move on to things that will keep you entertained for the rest of your bike ride: thoughts, conversations, scenery, rest stops with junk food and sodas, group pictures, selfies, etc. But these don’t keep you true to your workout goals and you’re missing out on a quality ride (unless you’re on a recovery ride and by all means, goof off and have fun!)

I call it the “bike puzzle”. The more pieces you have (data), the clearer the picture. You know exactly what you’re doing. You know the effort you are to put out. You know where you’re to be in each given interval. You see the whole picture. 

It’s not fun putting together a puzzle with a missing piece. The whole picture is distorted. Same is true on high quality bike sessions without a power meter. Your heart rate says one thing, speed says another, so does cadence, but what energy are you putting out? Were you going too hard? Too easy? A mixture of both? What’s really going on? The whole picture is distorted. No wonder people lose focus on bike rides without a power meter.

powermeterpicDoes this mean you cannot race and train without a power meter? No. It can be done. I did it for years and still enjoyed riding. But once I got the last piece of my “bike puzzle” the whole picture became clear and everything came into focus. I knew what power zones to stay in for set intervals. No more guessing. In fact, I remember my first race with a power meter. I stayed true to my goals and stayed within my parameters. I never once lost focus. My power meter kept me honest and focused. Those 56 miles seemed to fly by. I had my best bike split ever. It was at that moment I realized I was riding in the “dark” without one….or playing with a puzzle that had a missing piece.

If cycling is going to be part of your life, invest in it. Stop playing with a puzzle that has a missing piece. Do yourself and your passion a favor, buy a power meter.

Our good friends at Bicycle Heaven have installed power meters on our athletes. They order it fast and install it quickly. You will be back on your bike, with a complete puzzle, in no time!

I write this from a coach and athlete standpoint. The coach in me loves it when my athletes have power meters. I can see if they worked hard enough in a workout. I can see if they were on target in a race. For most, they think they are pushing hard enough, but with a complete puzzle, they realize they are not. I can also gauge progression in an accurate manner. And the athlete in me finds the power meter keeps me honest in my workouts and races. If my speed is 8 mph up a steep hill, but my power numbers are above my threshold, I can back off and not feel so guilty for riding slow.
 

Want to read my other post about power? How to Work Smarter with Power. Click here 

Finding Balance

Sweat from the Heart. Coach Bree’s blog on training, racing and life.

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It’s been months since I have made a blog post. Today I’m going to force one out.

It never fails, I am driving in my car around town (being the best driver I can be since my company logo is all over my car) and the most brilliant blog topic pops into my head. Problem is, I can’t do anything with it. And then the thoughts flow, and it’s magical, and perfect. And then when I have a moment to jot it down – poof – gone. Like it never happened. This happens all too often.

Right now I have a quiet moment, so I am going to force this blog to come out. It’s nothing magical like I have in the car, but it’s still worth sharing.

Do you ever feel guilty, or even lazy, when you don’t have a race on the calendar? And then that awkward moment when you run into an athlete or even a friend, and they ask you what race you’re training for, and you respond, “not sure yet!?” Or maybe you give an honest “I’m not” answer, but then begin running wild with thoughts of how they are secretly judging you?

Well, I might be the only one, but I sometimes feel that way.

I feel guilty for not having several races on the yearly calendar. And then I feel lazy. Like I shouldn’t be enjoying the fact I get to sleep in on a Sunday morning.

Ain't this the truth during racing season. But does it have to be this way every weekend?

Ain’t this the truth during racing season!?! But does it have to be this way every weekend? Just a thought…

And I hate when people ask me what my next race is. I know it’s small talk, but I hate the question and when I respond with “I don’t have a race coming up”, I feel like I’m being judged and then feel like I owe them an explanation.

Then I got to thinking. What’s wrong with not always racing?

Seriously. Do we have to race all the time?

Not only is racing exhausting, but wow, it’s expensive, too. And for some, it’s not possible. Life, work, family, etc.

For me, I’m a mom, a wife, a business owner, a coach, and an athlete. That’s a FULL plate. When you add racing to that, something gives. And sadly, it’s usually my wife and mom duties.

If racing is a passion, I believe you should pursue it, but with balance. Be careful. Because the very people who support you in your pursuit, are usually the ones that can be destroyed by it.

My Iroman was rough on Jeff and Cora. I was gone hours on end training. My athlete (who was also training for the same Ironman) and I talked one day about how much fun it is training for a full, but that it’s also very selfish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing to be selfish. We all have needs and desires and we should pursue them, but not all the time. Not every season. Be selfish in specific seasons. That’s when she and I decided that every other year was a good idea for full Ironman training and racing. You’re welcome to adopt our “every other year” plan.

But it’s not just full Ironmans, it’s half Ironmans, too! Half and full marathons as well! It’s the constant pursuit to always better your last effort. It’s almost an addiction. It’s more of a healthy than an unhealthy addiction, but still, be careful. Be balanced.

With the extra time off, I have more energy for tea parties. During my Ironman training, I fell asleep during one.

With the extra time off, I have more energy for tea parties. During my Ironman training, I fell asleep during one. True story. Poor Cora.

I love it when my athletes tell me they’re going to take some time off to recharge, to spend more time with their spouse, or family, etc. While I miss them for the few weeks or months they take off, I appreciate how they are getting their priorities right and taking some time to rest and recharge.

You cannot ‘go, go, go’ without taking some time to rest and recharge.

You know what I notice every time – my athletes come back stronger. They miss it (missing it can teach you to appreciate it more), they are mentally stronger (they have had time to think about things and approach their training and racing from a smarter perspective), and they are more dedicated (they know the specific season they are training and racing for, so they make the most of it without slacking).

It makes sense. And the more I noticed that as a coach, the more I believed it’s importance. Plus, your body will thank you.

You’re not missing out on anything. Stop stressing over the pictures you see on Facebook of all the awesome workouts your friends are doing without you and race results from races you’re not doing. Just enjoy being in a race free season and focusing on things you can do to mentally and physically prepare yourself for when you jump back into your next race season — things like stretching (increased range of motion and decreased chance of injury), strength training (a stronger body is a faster body), eating cleaner (better fuel for improved athletic performance), upgrading bike components (with all the money saved from not racing – hellloo power meter!), getting an updated bike fit (more aero = free speed) working on swim, bike or run form (efficiency = speed), working on your weaknesses, and the list goes on!

I enjoyed IM 70.3 New Orleans. But now it's time to rest, recharge and soon pick another race.

I enjoyed IM 70.3 New Orleans. But now it’s time to rest, recharge and soon pick another race.

So next time someone asks you what your next race is, give a confident answer. Own your answer! Let the guilt and lazy feelings go! You have plans! Besides, who cares what people think? It’s your life, your plans – be proud of it and own it!

So what’s my next race? Great question! “I don’t know!” I say that confidently! 🙂

 

Ironman New Orleans 70.3 Race Report

Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s blog on training, racing and life.

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First triathlon of the 2015 season in the books. What a great season opener! I’m proud of every race that I do, regardless of my performance, but this race was extra special to me. While I wanted to podium – and I am so happy that I did – I really wanted to go sub 5 hours. I have had the sub 5 hour goal for years. I wanted to do it last year, but fell short at Ironman 70.3 Worlds due to an IT band injury. I was going into this season injury free and hoped I could accomplish my goal! I knew I could do it as my training proved I was ready, but It would come down to race day execution and nutrition. If I played my cards right, it was going to happen. It was the last 4 miles of the run that I realized I was going to PR. And I played my cards right, I did it. 4:49:19!

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My mantra for this race was “grateful.” This was decided before the weather ended up cooperating on race day. I have to have mantras going into every race. They help keep me grounded when I lose focus and become completely lost during the race. Yes, there are moments where you are just existing. You forget what you came to do, what you’re doing, and it’s like you’re floating along in pain. Then when you remember your mantra (whatever it may be) it wakes you up, brings you back to reality, and is the slap in the face you need to keep going. I had many of those “back to reality” moments on race day.

The wind is expected in New Orleans. I knew it going into the race. I purposely rode in windy conditions during training to be prepared for it. But in the moment, when you’re really hurting, all you want to do is complain about how bad the wind is. Bad thoughts don’t equate to a positive outcome. So when I wanted to complain about how bad the 20 mile per hour headwind the last 11 miles of the bike course, when your legs are already tired, I told myself to be grateful. To be grateful for my health, for my strong legs, for the fact the bike course could have been windy AND wet from rain, etc. It helped. I picked my watts back up and pushed to the end. And on the run, I have never run in 20 mile per hour headwinds for 6.55 miles. That sucked. A lot. And the heat, I felt the sun burning my skin. I started to complain, but then I remembered my mantra. I need to be grateful it wasn’t raining. That the day ended up being a triathlon, not the feared duathlon. It helped. I kept on running.

Not only did my mantra work, but living moment by moment helped as well. I lived in each discipline. I focused on just the swim. Not the bike and run that would soon follow. When I got onto the bike, I focused on being present in the moment, staying in my power zones. I focused on each 30 minute segment and focused on my nutrition. On the run, I lived in each mile. Anything beyond a mile and I lost focus. Living in each moment and my mantra of gratefulness worked! I suggest you pick one for your next race!

Before I get into specifics of my race report, I do want to make a shout-out to the man who man it happen – yes, God, but I’m talking about my husband – Jeff. He would pick up Cora from school most days so I could train, or get in a longer afternoon workout. He watched Cora on the weekends so I could train. Without a supportive husband who has let me pursue my triathlon passion, this would not be possible. Same with my mom, my dad and aunt Karen. They watched Cora on the weekends as well which allowed me the opportunity to coach my team and also get in a workout. And the night before the race when I had a mini panic attack in the hotel room, I messaged Lexa and Crystal and they talked some sense into me, gave me amazing advice and got me back on track. A million thank yous for your advice! It helped and I used it all on race day!!! I have a wonderful village. They rock! There are not enough thank yous in the world!

Okay, race report time!

This race was full of “firsts.” First half Ironman of the 2015 season, first race with a power meter, first race using a new nutrition plan, first race choosing to use a speedsuit over a wetsuit, first race where I had sips of coffee, not cups of coffee for breakfast, first race deciding to wear a hand-held water bottle. With all these firsts, there was a good chance something would fail. I was most nervous about my nutrition plan.

Swim:

The swim course is a zigzag shape in a small marina. Swim out straight, 45 degree right turn around a buoy, swim diagonal, 45 degree left turn around a buoy, swim straight, a 90 degree right turn and swim straight to the finish. Those were some tight buoy turns. I tried a new approach going around buoys and I was able to dart through swimmers and get out of the packs. On right turns, I kept my right arm out and swam with my left arm (think one arm drill) and was able to take the turn tight and my right arm also helped to protect my face from feet and arms. That was the most efficient I have ever taken buoys. I would highly recommend you try it!

Since January, I went from swimming 3 or 4 times per week, to 1, sometimes 2 swims per week. The plan was to spend more time cycling than swimming. My strength is swimming, my weakness has been the bike. With my decrease in pool hours per week, I could feel my rhythm was off and as a result, my swim times decreased by about 5 seconds per 100yd. It made swim workouts harder than they needed to be, but the tradeoff was worth it. I was getting faster and faster on the bike and my swim fitness wasn’t affected too much. In triathlon the swim is a fraction of what the other two disciplines are. And I was worried the swim on race day would suck, but it didn’t. The biggest thing I noticed was that I didn’t have “extra gears” to switch into. For example, I wasn’t able to hold onto the two blue cap girls that took off. I tried to draft off them, but they were too fast. I just told myself, swim your race and get on that bike!

I wore a speedsuit for the swim and was glad of the risky decision I made. I lost buoyancy, but I gained comfort. Last year I bought an Xterra speedsuit (for non-wetsuit legal swims) and immediately fell in love with it. I decided to wear it on race day at NOLA (even though it was a wetsuit legal swim), and I’m pretty sure I was the only one, but knowing that I overheat in a nanosecond, and I always feel suffocated in a wetsuits, I was confident I was making the right decision. Turns out, I made the right decision!

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Rocking my speedsuit! See, I’m the only one!

I sprinted the last 100 yards to wake up my legs to get ready to run into T1. I ran as fast as I could on a wet carpet, barefoot, trying to take off my swim cap and goggles, and unzip my speedsuit. All those swim/run bricks in training paid off!

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I sat down to pee while I put on my helmet and grabbed my nutrition. I tried to do it standing up, but it didn’t work. I envisioned my towel being my toilet. It worked. Ah! Relief!

Bike:

I couldn’t wait to get on my bike to see what I could do! I have to say this was my favorite part of the whole race! Normally, I just hold on as best I can on the bike leg. It’s never been my strength, but it’s quickly becoming a strength. When I was at Ironman 70.3 Worlds last year, I was getting passed left and right. I felt like an old lady driving a car 45 miles per hour on the highway while everyone one else was either doing the speed limit or speeding. I have always felt that way on the bike. But every race, I would remind myself that cycling wasn’t my strength *yet* and to keep doing the best I could. But NOLA was a different day! At NOLA, I was the driver speeding! 

My bike fitness changed for the better (better than I could have ever imagined) when I got a power meter. Thank you Bicycle Heaven for convincing me I needed one! Once I got the power meter, it told me what I had, and hadn’t, been doing on the bike. I wasn’t pushing hard enough on hard training days and wasn’t going easy enough on easy rides. It has truly been a game changer. When I raced with it, I loved it even more. Let me explain…

56 miles is a long distance when you’re trying to go fast. It’s hard to stay focused the entire distance. My coach gave me a “power ceiling” for the first 35 miles. I was not to go above that number. So for 35 miles I had something to focus on – to push steady watts and stay conservative. On hills, I noticed my watts increase above my ceiling, so I shifted into an easier gear and watched the numbers decrease. This saved precious energy. When I would think I needed to get around an athlete, but noticed my watts increase significantly above my ceiling, I backed off and didn’t make the pass. This also saved precious energy. And when I lost focus and almost forgot what I was doing, I would look down and see my power numbers were dropping, and it would be the slap in the face I needed to pick it back up again. And on the last 11 miles when my speed dropped significantly in the 20 mph headwind, and my first thought was that I sucked, but my power numbers were telling me otherwise, I knew then I was doing everything right and that I didn’t suck. My power meter kept me honest and accountable. I am completely in love with it. I don’t know how I raced without one for so long. I blogged about my power meter here

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On the drive home the perfect analogy came to me. I put the car on cruise control and drove steady. But an annoying truck next to me would speed up and pass me, to later slow down and I pass him. This went on for miles. And he wasn’t the only vehicle to do this. I got better gas mileage because I was driving steady, and the other vehicles were wasting gas with speeding up and slowing down. This is so true in racing. Speeding up and slowing down repeatedly wastes energy! And that wasted energy negatively affects your run. A power meter is like your cruise control. If you pay close attention to it, it forces you to stay within your own parameters, to ride steady, and sets you up for a solid run. If you don’t have a power meter, you really need to get one. Seriously.

The bike course was not easy. We had a tailwind in the beginning (in which you don’t want to kill it), but after that it was all cross-winds and headwinds. I felt strong. I was passing people left and right. I was passing dudes and that felt amazing. I felt like a badass. All those “hard, please kill me, I can’t pedal anymore, my legs will fall off” workouts paid off. I never once flinched or yelled “shit!” in the wind (a standard last season).

Nutrition on the bike: I had a bottle of UCAN protein (3 scoops) and I added some salt to it, a bottle of UCAN hydration (3 scoops) with salt in that as well, and water in my hydration bladder in the downtube of my Specialized Shiv bike (this triathlon bike is incredible!). I alternated sips between the two UCAN bottles about every 20 minutes. I got sucked into and stuck in a draft pack at the second aid station, so I missed a water hand-up (I was NOT happy!). At mile 40, I was out of water and praying there would be one more aid station. Thank God at mile 45 there was another aid station or I would have been screwed. I was so thirsty. I downed that entire bottle of water the last 11 miles. I felt I fueled as best I could on the bike. I am loving the UCAN. I never felt any peaks and valleys that I got from my other nutrition products.

T2:

As I was approaching the dismount line, I took my feet out of my cycling shoes, and ran off barefoot. I also took my helmet off as I was running in with my bike. I am working on speeding up my transitions, so I am all about time saving. I sat down, peed again while I was putting on my run shoes, popped up and took off running!

Run:

My goal for the run was to run a 7:40/mile pace. What I hoped to hit was 7:20/mile (my training proved I was capable). When I saw 8:30/mile on my Garmin and I was hurting, I knew it was going to be a looooooooooooooooong run. It was very hot. It was very windy. I was having my doubts. I told myself to wait after the first mile to assess. Mile 1 down and I was not feeling better. My hope for a sub 5 hour began to fade. I was giving up. Then I had to almost slap myself and say, “really Bree, you’re going give up on your goal on the run?! You’ve made it this far, RUN!!! Gut it OUT!!!” So I listened to my inner voice and ran. My feet began to cramp (who knew that you could cramp in your feet while running) so at that point I knew I needed to take in some salt. I brought Himalayan salt in a TicTac container, and chugged some of it. In minutes I felt better. My pace picked up a little bit. Minutes later, the cramps came back, so I chugged it again. That second time was a charm. The cramps went away and never came back. I took the salt every 20 or so minutes. I suggest you carry salt with you on your run – when you feel a cramp – take some.

I carried a hand-held hydration bottle with me. This proved to be a smart decision. I was able to bypass the clustered aid station out of T2 (saving precious time) and was able to sip on water between aid stations. I don’t think I could have run as well as I did in that heat and humidity if I was having to wait every mile for water. I had it on demand. I suggest you try this in your next Half or Full Ironman.

UCAN hydration in the smaller bottle

UCAN hydration in the smaller bottle

The first 6.55 miles of the run was into a 20 mph headwind. It was brutal. My original plan of breaking down the race as a “4 mile/3 mile/3 mile /2 mile/1 mile” run plan became a “survive every mile” run plan. At the turnaround point, I was 7 minutes ahead of my pre-calculated race plan to go sub 5 hours. But my run time was slower than what I projected, so I didn’t truly know if I would make it. My brain couldn’t do math and I was just trying to hold on. On the way back, the tailwind didn’t help much. The heat was cooking us and they were running out of ice at the aid stations. Coming back was harder in my opinion. But with 4 miles to go, I realized I had a chance at a sub 4:50 finish. It would require I pick up the pace and gut it out even more. I figured I should give it a chance, so I would run as fast as I could until I felt like I was going to pass out and then would have to let up on the pace. This speed up/slow down was on repeat until the last mile, in which I could see the finish line area up ahead, and to keep me focused, I kept my eyes glued to it. A quick peek at my watch and I saw 4:49:00 and with the finish line just meters away, I knew I was going to meet my goal! And I did! Tears would have flown down my face if I wasn’t so dehydrated!

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I didn’t know that I got 3rd AG. I was just happy that I met my time goal. When I went to the transition area to get my phone, I saw that my FB had blown up with messages of people tracking me and letting me know I got 3rd. Thank you ALL so much. I am so grateful for your love and support. Thanks for your words of encouragement and well wishes. I have wonderful friends and family! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And lastly, as many of you have been asking, yes I qualified for Ironman 70.3 Worlds (yay!!!), but no, I didn’t take the slot. We have some BIG and EXCITING things happening in our family soon, so I want to be ready and prepared for what God brings this year. But I can say that me declining the slot blessed the 4th place girl. She was so happy!!! Practically running up to get her slot. I know that feeling. I had it last year. She’s going to enjoy every moment! Ironman 70.3 Worlds is incredible!!!

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So back to training! I have more goals to accomplish!!! If you have a race coming up and want to run anything by me, feel free to shoot me a message! bree@alamo180.com.

Oh, I can add this, if your race is going to be hot and humid (like Ironman 70.3 Texas and IMTX) you need to be fueling up on electrolytes the days before the race. I highly recommend the Emergen-C packets. I took two packets a day for 4 days before the race. I believe it helped me. I drank too much water in the days leading up to IMAZ and I flushed out my electrolytes and paid for it with cramps on race day. I got wiser this time around and didn’t make that same mistake. If you’re racing this weekend at Galveston or in a month at IMTX, buy these! They work!!!

1509950_807409219127_4662422374476519246_nThanks for reading! Thanks for your support!

 

The Run That Hurt: Part 2

Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s Blog on Training, Racing and Life.

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Last week was my 35 minute max effort assessment run. The one where I stopped for 2 minutes and almost gave up. The one I toughed out and finished. If you didn’t read about it, you can here.

Well, guess what I saw in my training plan for this week?

Guess….

A 35 minute max effort assessment run.

Dammit!

My coach (yes, I hired a coach this season) assigned it to me AGAIN saying he needs a non-stop effort. He told me my first attempt didn’t count.

I was hoping I could get out of it, so I came up with some awesome rationales. I’m a coach, I’m good at coming up with rationales. I even suggested he have me do a 10k so I don’t have to suffer alone. He didn’t buy any of it.

He responds with, “Do today what the others will not, so tomorrow you can do what they cannot.”

Dammit! He’s good.

Fine. I’ll do it.

And today, I did it! And did better than I expected!

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I knew I HAD to do this assessment run. It was for my own good. If I want to get mentally stronger this season, THIS is how it’s going to get done. Doing (hard) things I don’t want to do.

Knowing my attempt went horribly wrong last time (went out too fast and wasn’t mentally in the game before I started) I had to prep myself for this run. I planned to start out conservative in the first mile and then pick it up. I also decided to ONLY look at my watch when it beeped for each mile split, not every 15 seconds. Last time I continually stared at it, this time, I didn’t. I ran by feel. I forced myself to relax, listen to my body, and focus on my form. My new approach worked.

I learned a valuable lesson in all of this:

1. To never, ever give up.

2. To do things I don’t want to do, but know I need to do.

3. To listen to my body, my footsteps, my breathing, and to stop staring at my Garmin every 15 seconds.

4. If I expect my athletes to toughen up and do what they don’t want to do (but need to do), then I need to follow my own advice.

What a painful, but beautiful lesson! Now I feel stronger and more confident than I did last week. I would say that second attempt was worth it 😉

The Run That Hurt

Sweat From the Heart: Coach Bree’s Blog on training, racing and life.

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You know those days where you just can’t seem to find the inspiration to get out and train? The day where you wish you could trade places with your pet? I wanted to trade with my cat.

The life

The life

But sleeping in the sun by the window doesn’t prepare you for race day. Training does.

So out of excuses, I laced up my shoes and headed out the door.

Knowing that I had a bad run yesterday (just felt sluggish and overwhelmed with life’s responsibilities) I was ready to have a good run to make up for it. My warm up felt pretty good. After a few accelerations to warm up the legs for speed, I was ready to start.

My workout was a 35 minute all out, as hard as I could go, assessment run. I love and hate assessments. I love seeing the improvement, no matter how small, and I hate how much they hurt. They hurt a lot.

Assessment run begins. After about 4 minutes, I looked down and saw my pace was 45 seconds faster per mile than two weeks ago on my tempo run! After about 10 minutes, my pace drops about 15 seconds per mile, but I was still moving along strong. Then at 15 minutes, my body was hurting. I realized I went out too fast (I actually realized this much sooner, but didn’t want to think or say it into existence). Then, everything began to bother me: my visor was “too tight”; my run skirt was “squishing my waist”; my SPI belt holding my phone was “too tight and heavy”. I began to mentally lose it. I couldn’t hold it together anymore, so I stopped. My intent was to give up and run home.

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As I stood there, I began to talk some sense into myself. I did the athlete/coach (similar to the angel/devil) talk to myself:

Coach Bree: “Really Bree?! You’re just going to quit!? Aren’t you stronger than this?

Athlete Bree: But I stopped, this assessment no longer counts. It’s wasted.

Coach Bree: “No it’s not. Finish what you started. Get it together. Finish this workout!!!”

So I did. After 2 minutes of playing the athlete/coach role with myself, I started my watch over and and did the best I could do. I ran as fast as I could and to my surprise, was just 15 seconds per mile slower than my first half. Not bad! And to think I almost didn’t do it.

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And despite it all, I was still faster than my last assessment! While I wouldn’t call this a true assessment, because I did stop, I am proud of myself for not completely giving up. I learned a lot about myself today.

If I want to get stronger, I have to work for it. I could have been like my cat and slept in the sun by the window, but I would have missed out on an amazing learning experience. I love these kinds of lessons.

So the next time you feel like throwing in the towel, I urge you to keep at it. There’s a lesson to be learned somewhere in the experience. And all these lessons make us stronger and faster athletes.

And isn’t this post just awesome? I found it on my newsfeed while I was stretching and FBing. It was the cherry on top of my “two layer” assessment cake! 😉

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Work Smarter With Power

Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s Blog on Training and Racing and Life. 

Work Smarter With Power.

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Said in the most superhero voice you can imagine, “I need more power!”

I recently got a Quarq power meter! I was so excited that I hardly slept the night I got it. I kept waking up with a smile on my face ready for my morning ride! I felt like a kid after Christmas! I didn’t care that it was raining outside and that I would be on an indoor trainer for 2 hours. It was going to be my first ride with power! On my ride that day, my eyes were opened to what I had, and hadn’t, been doing on the bike.

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When I began sharing the news of my new power meter, a few people said, “finally!”, and having been a triathlete for 15 years I had to laugh in agreement. But most people asked, “why?” Great question. Let me explain.

In the simplest of terms, a power meter measures your energy output in watts. The higher your energy output, the greater your speed. That’s why increasing cycling power is important! How do you measure that? By using a power meter!

When I first got into the sport (as an athlete) many years ago, I didn’t believe I needed one. Plus, no one could tell me why I truly needed to train and race with a power meter. Telling someone they need a power meter isn’t very convincing. I needed to know why. When I looked at the price, and without a valid reason to buy it, I declined. Besides, I was doing the sport for fun, so spending money on one didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t seem like a wise purchase. At the time, I believed a wise purchase was buying a nice bike.

Later, when I became a coach, most of my athletes were training and racing triathlons for the joy of it, not for performance. Why then would I encourage them to buy a power meter? But then over the years, things changed. My athletes were getting stronger and faster. Many were ready to go to the next level with hopes to podium. More than half the team started signing up for Half and Full Ironmans and wanted to do well on the bike portion setting themselves up for a strong run leg. Triathlon then became about fun and performance.

So here is where I thought long and hard about power, from an athlete and coaching standpoint:

Personally, as an athlete, I love this sport, so much so that I keep doing it year after year. I even started up my own business training clients. Triathlon is my lifestyle. If it’s my life, then shouldn’t I fully invest in it?

Also, if I am going to take the time to train day after day, year after year, shouldn’t I know with accuracy if I am doing it right? If I am doing it wrong, but thinking I am doing it right, I am literally wasting my time, but sadly, I’m not going to know the difference unless I have a power meter giving me feedback on what I am truly doing.

If I want to know how I am improving month after month, year after year, how else can I tell than using something that gives me accurate data? It’s a bad idea to compare races because that is not a very accurate measure. Every race is different (weather, terrain, etc) and comparing one to the next does not give me a clear comparison.

And how can I work on my weaknesses if I don’t truly know what they are? I want to be the best Bree I can be, but if I don’t know what my weakness is on the bike, then how can I work on improving it, and turning it into a strength? More than likely, I won’t.

Is this resonating with any of you?

There comes a point where you hit a wall and the only way around it is to get smarter. You can’t work harder, you have to work smarter. I have been stuck in the same speed on my bike. I have been wanting to go faster and I can’t seem to do it. I tried riding more often during the week, but it didn’t yield the results I was hoping for. All that time spent riding and hardly a dent in my performance. I was working harder, not smarter.

It was then that I knew what had to be done. I needed to train smarter. I needed to get a power meter. This was the next step to improving my bike performance. This was also necessary if I wanted to help my athletes improve their bike performance.  

So now, as I train with power, my eyes are opening up to what I have, and haven’t, been doing on the bike. For starters, I wasn’t pushing hard enough. I thought I was, but data was proving to me that I wasn’t. Now with data, I know how hard to push in workouts. And I have to hold specific numbers for specific time increments – ouch – but this is how I am going to get faster. No more training blind, I have clarity!

Click HERE to see a video of me doing my most recent bike intervals. 3×12 minute at a specific wattage (based on my bike assessment). This set hurt! But this is how you use data to get stronger and faster. 

And then as a coach, I can see what my athletes are doing. How am I to really know what my athletes are doing on their bike ride? I can’t be with every athlete on every mile of every bike ride. It’s impossible, but if they have a power meter, it’s as if I am there. I have the data to see what they are doing. I have data to see whether or not they are improving. It’s a win-win. The athlete gets the most out of their training and I am able to offer more coaching.

So why doesn’t everyone train with power? This is a question I asked myself. I had to really think about it. And here’s the answer I came up with:

It appears that training and racing with power has a stigma attached to it. That it’s something for the “competitive triathletes” the ones that are fast and talented. Read up on the forums and scroll through your Facebook newsfeed and at some point you will see a fast athlete talking about power. That’s our association with it – that competitive athletes have power. (Let me tell you a little secret, you know how they got fast? They bought a power meter). Disclaimer: you can’t get fast just by installing the power meter to your bike, you have to train with it and challenge yourself!

It doesn’t matter what race distance you are doing or what your time goals are – everyone has the same goal: to do the best they can do for themselves. So if your goal is to podium, or to simply finish, your goal is the same, it’s to have the best race you can have for yourself. This levels the playing field. We’re all the same. We’re all triathletes.

And, we are all competitive triathletes. We are competitive with ourselves. Sure it helps to have someone in front of you to chase, but in the end, it’s you and the clock. Don’t you want the fastest time possible for you on that clock?

So how do you accomplish being the best you can be? By having all the tools necessary to get the most of the workout or race. If you race Ironmans, don’t you want to set your bike portion up to be the best it can be? How are you going to accomplish this if you don’t know what energy you’re putting out? 112 miles is a long way to go on guesstimation. And guessing wrong can mean the longest 26.2 miles of your life (as if that distance wasn’t already long enough). And Half Ironmans aren’t much different. 56 miles of pushing a pace that may be too fast, but then it might not, but you’re not really sure isn’t the mindset you want on race day. And that half marathon run can quickly feel like a full marathon if you pushed too hard on the bike. That sprint triathlon bike leg you can’t seem to get faster in and it’s driving you nuts, having a power meter would give you the feedback you need to begin the steps towards improvement.

If you’re going to do triathlons, regardless of the race distance, do it right. If you’re going to take time out of your weekly schedule to train, do it right. Doing it wrong is wasting your time. How do you know if you’re doing it right? By having a power meter. What if you could ride 16mph instead of 14mph? What if you found a more efficient way to pedal that actually increased your energy output? What if you could set up your IM bike portion within your parameters and stay there? That you knew when you were pushing too hard and knew to back off all because of data from your power meter.

This is all possible with a power meter. You are worth it. It’s your lifestyle. The expense of it all? Not that much.

If it’s your life, multiply the purchase over the days of your life. Sound stupid? Okay, well then try this approach: how long have you had your bike? I know people that have said 5 years. So take the power meter price tag and divide by 5 years. Mine was $1,700 and dividing that by 5 years (1,825 days) and it comes to $0.93 per day. There are also more affordable Quarqs at around $1,400. Buy this one and it comes to $0.76 per day. View the purchase as an investment into your lifestyle.

And yes, I sound like a complete salesperson. But this post is more like begging you to not do what I did and wait years before finally getting a power meter. Having a power meter has added more joy to my triathlon passion. In one week of training with power I have learned more about myself as a cyclist than I have in years. I am learning how to push harder, how to stay in specific zones, and it’s increasing my confidence as an athlete. I missed out all those years, but better late than never, right?!

So if you want to become a wiser athlete, to work smarter and not harder, then make an investment into your triathlon lifestyle. Buy the power meter you thought you didn’t really need, but really do need. You can thank me later 😉

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Where can you buy a power meter? I had a great experience getting mine at Bicycle Heaven, so I would recommend heading there for yours. And they are experts in power, so their staff will answer any and all questions.  They also do the installation and calibration there! Awesome!

Greg installing the meter on my bike!

Greg installing the meter on my bike!