Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Laws of Garmin

1. The time needed to "Locate Satellites" increases exponentially in relation to how cold and miserable the weather is as you stand there waiting. (Tip: found this AutoLocate fix that needs to be done on some Garmins like mine.)

2. Your very best lap/interval will occur after you have mistakenly pressed "stop" rather than "lap."

3. Despite wearing a giant "watch," you will have no idea what time it is. But you will know pace, timing, cadence, heart rate, power, elevation, and multiple derivations of each.

4. The level of frantic-ness to get out the door to run or bike is directly proportional to the likelihood the Garmin is not charged.

5. The more important the training data, the more likely you are to forget the watch at home.

6. If it's a time-based interval workout, the screen will be set to lap distances. Conversely, if it's a distance-based interval workout, the fields will be set to lap times. Neither will be noticed until the workout starts.

7. The watch will enter sleep/standby mode just as the race begins.

8. Delusional athlete brains can overrule/ignore what the Garmin data is clearly telling them especially in relation to a race plan (often to their detriment).

9. If the Garmin is to freeze and need a "Master Reset," it will be race morning, and you will have no idea what the button combination is. (This actually happened to me with my old Forerunner)

10. Garmin can't measure courage and determination. Don't let numbers tell you what you cannot do!

Friday, February 27, 2015

2014 USA Triathlon Ranking

It appears the 2014 USAT rankings are finally final - long after the year is just a memory and the slate is wiped clean for 2015. It always feels a bit anticlimactic at this point. But it's still nice to see the fruits of a shortened tri season - a season I wasn't sure I'd even have at all.

So for the F45-49 age group, I finished 52nd out of 1906 ranked women in my age group - top 2.7% - good enough for All American, fifth year in a row! I see it as 51 reasons to train smart and work hard this year!

My highest ranking came in 2012 when I finished 28th and had a great race at the Age Group World Championship. Rankings are determined not only by your race finish, but also by the races you do. Longer races, championship races, and larger/more competitive races count for more. From that, your top three performances are averaged. My longest race (B2B half iron) and two national races were my top three points-getters. Just kind of interesting to see what earns what.

It's cool, numbers are fun, but the rewards that matter most to me and keep me coming back for more are intrinsic, non-quantifiable, and un-spreadsheet-able!

New year, new adventures!! We all just start from where we are...and frankly I'm feeling pretty good about where I am at the moment. Can't beat that.

Triathlon Pie Charts

I laughed pretty hard at this post I saw the other day on the 60 funniest pie charts. It got me thinking about how we'd represent triathlon in pie charts, which wouldn't be hard to do considering how numbers-oriented many of us are. I fired up Excel and put a few together.

What would you add?

Time on the run

Race Photos Suitable for Public Display 

Frequency of Maintenance

Contents of My Closet

Time Racing

Stop Garmin at End of Race

Training Time

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mental Skills Training

Lately I have noticed an increasing number of posts and articles related to the mental skills aspects of triathlon. Maybe you've skimmed a few and caught yourself nodding in agreement, but did they result in any changes? Probably not. Nothing was put into action. Maybe we didn't know how to change, maybe we didn't think it possible. And no one knows what goes on in our heads but us!

We understand that through training and physiological adaptation we can gain strength and speed. But do we even believe that we can change our mental approach to the sport? Or do we just figure we are set (stuck with) the way we are - our confidence, self-talk, focus, etc?

Top athletes and sports psychologists will tell you that mental skills most certainly can and must be developed and optimized to achieve our personal bests and/or for healthy long-term enjoyment of the sport. Mental Skills are often called the fifth discipline of triathlon.  (or fourth discipline, nutrition is one too, and recovery...who is counting).

So where am I going with this? Well, I have had the opportunity to work with Coach Amanda Leibovitz of Team MPI on MY mental skills for the past 6 weeks. She is an experienced USAT Level 1 Coach and completing her master’s degree in counseling with a specialization in sport and health psychology at the Adler University in Chicago. She's great to talk to - energizing and positive!

I really had no idea what to expect, but it's been very beneficial (way more so than I anticipated), so I wanted to share my experience. 

I've had all of my sessions with Coach Amanda over Skype, with her in Chicago and me in Virginia. If you've never used Skype, I'll just say it is so easy even my dad uses it (love you dad) and it's nice not to have to drive anywhere, or change clothes. At the last session I was still dripping from the bike trainer!

The first session began by reviewing some paperwork, getting acquainted, and talking about my athletic past, future goals, and approach. Then she administered a mental skills inventory that scored me on a number of elements like motivation, goals, self-talk, imagery, anxiety, etc. From that we were able to identify some areas for development, and chief among them were self-talk and imagery. That did not come as a big surprise to me.

Even though I am a pretty positive person, I can be pretty hard on myself in training. Oddly enough, I battle this negative self-talk primarily on my easy runs and rides, and have a VERY hard time allowing myself to really go easy. Logically, I understand why these sessions and warmups are important and need to be easy, but I get out there and think that "easy" should be faster than what it is. Long story short, I get into a very unproductive cycle of thought. But try as I might, I just haven't been able to will myself to think or act differently in all these years.

Enter Coach Amanda and her toolbox......

What we have been working on is replacing the negative thoughts with positive, productive thoughts. This has involved discussion, homework, and follow-up. I've had to jot down when negative thoughts hit, what resulted, and what replacement thoughts I could come up with. From that I've established a few go-to mantras that have been effective in stopping the negative thought cycle. For the first time maybe ever last week, I did a truly easy run with the heart rate evidence to prove it!

One of my new mantras is "Save it." By running easy in a warmup, or as a recovery run, I recognize I'm saving the good stuff for when I need it - for the hard intervals and hard runs. And saving is a good thing!


I was able to put my positive self-talk to the test at the Blacksburg Classic 10-miler race just over a week ago. I used the "Save It" mantra to stick to Coach Jim's race plan for some conservative early miles then switched over to "Strong and Controlled" to push through the final tough miles.

We are continuing with check-ins to refine the new thought processes and to be sure they stick. I am feeling confident that this will result in long-term change because:
  • I am not just getting "rid" of negativity, leaving a void for negativity to seep back in. I am replacing it with productive thought.
  • I am developing mantras to quickly stop the patterns (no need to overanalyze myself now)
  • I have done the homework and really dug into where my thoughts go
  • These negative thoughts have been diffused by writing them out and talking about them.
  • There is accountability in place with regular sessions with Coach Amanda

So if you are looking for a way to invest in a better race season, I would really suggest looking into Mental Skills coaching. Here are some of the questions Coach Amanda poses:
  • Are you looking for a competitive edge?
  • Do you perform better in training than on race day?
  • Do you lack confidence during training, during a particular event, or on race day?
  • Do you have trouble staying focused during long training sessions or a race?
  • Do you struggle to begin or continue a training program?
  • Have you lost confidence or motivation after an injury?
  • Are you looking for a way to improve your triathlon experience?

Before you pay out big bucks to save a few grams on the bike, or to get the latest and greatest wetsuit, you might consider investing some time in Mental Skills Coaching. It could be just the change needed to perform better and enjoy the sport with less anxiety and more confidence!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Race Report: Blacksburg Classic 10 Miler

This was my fourth time running the Blacksburg Classic (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015), which this year fell on Valentine's Day!!

I love/hate this race. 

I love it because it's a hometown race with friends, it's a good pre-season race, and it's tough. 
I hate it because it's the middle of February, it's not till 1 pm (e.g. morning of thumb-twiddling), and it's tough! 

Did I mention it's tough?

The first two miles I sought to stick to Coach Jim's plan of no faster than 7:40 miles. They felt surprisingly easy and relaxed with a low-for-me heart rate which gave me a boost of confidence. I let people pass me by (and I passed by three Solar Connexion yard signs! Go solar energy!) figuring I'd patiently reel them in later and I kept telling myself "easy speed." That mantra went along with what we worked on at Thursday's swim session - achieving speed with more relaxation and not always thinking that speed has to mean a redline heart rate!

Coincidentally, race morning I had received some reading material from Coach Amanda Leibovitz of Team MPI about achieving "flow" in sport. It gave me lots to think about, and came in handy since I stopped using an iPod in road races last year and now have to provide my own "on-board entertainment." Some of the thoughts and mantras that filled my head for nearly 75 minutes included:
  • Strong and controlled
  • Autopilot
  • Skills to match the challenge
  • Charge the top half of hills
  • Strong legs from the gym
There's a turnaround at mile 7 and I was grateful for the shouts of encouragement from runners going the other way (I really am!) despite my typical inability to respond in any verbal manner. I heard Linda Vick say "loosen up" and tried to follow her good advice and I got a nice high-five from Marion Childress who leads C & C Runners. 

The last three hilly and windy miles were a gut-check. You want to be done, but you aren't. Ten miles is just a weird distance. 

I worked hard to try to sprint past this guy in the final 200m, but didn't have quite enough time even with his hair-o-dynamic handicap. And to set the record straight, despite what his shirt might indicate, he is not "with" me. Nor am I cupid. Lol. 

I gave it all I had, I ran a mentally strong and positive race despite rough winds, and I got to spend time with friends. Plus I got to wear a fun hat and socks. WIN!!

This marked my third Blacksburg Classic master's victory. Results aren't up but Carla looked and said I ran a 1:14:29. My PR at this race was a 1:12:42 in 2013. So this was not my speediest, but it wasn't my slowest either. It's in the ballpark!

I've missed two races due to injuries, but aside from that you can be sure I'll be at that start line. I may still love/hate it, but I'll be there!!

Congrats to all the runners who braved a cold windy day to run (Sally aren't you glad you ran?!)