Monday, June 30, 2014


Wow this past weekend was full of racing! Busy for me both personally and professionally but of course was all a ton of fun and TeamBSC had some great results. Here's a bit of the breakdown (and some insight into how weekends go for Triathlon Coaches)...

Saturday a bunch of us locally did the 2nd of 5 ocean swim races up on the North Shore. This one was at Waimea Bay. It wasn't quite as pretty of a morning as we had a few weeks ago... It rained all night which left the water a bit murkier than normal but it was all good.
I've encouraged a lot of my local athletes to do these swim races because they are great opportunities to practice getting comfortable swimming hard in open water. We are so lucky to have these opportunities to race! Here's a cool video I found online recapping the race in less than 3'. Funny I was watching this morning and right around the 60" point of the video I saw a gal in a bikini and thought to myself Hey I was swimming with that gal! Then sure enough there I was right behind her in the video (in the blue suit). I also recognized the stroke of my training partner Mark (~35" into the video) he's wearing the white cap. His stroke is easy to spot b/c of his high turnover rate and how much his elbows bend as he pulls...

Not much to say about this race... I felt like I was swimming pretty well but they started the women 5' behind the men so we spent pretty much the whole swim navigating around them trying to not get kicked in the face as they would stop to do breaststroke. I let the frustration of that get to me more than I should have and by the end of this swim was in a mindset of whatever this moderate effort is good enough. I've pretty much conceded to getting 2nd in my age group at these swims b/c Miki is just a ton faster than I am and I never get to the beach before her. That's kind of a defeatist attitude I suppose but I also see it as realism... Though maybe it's so realistic because it's what I believe to be true before the race even starts? Something to work on I suppose! In good news though our little Kaneohe morning swim crew all ended up with wooden bowls for top 3 on our age groups! Mark is not a triathlete therefore he does not know how to properly hold a bowl above his head.
Anyway, ~10 TeamBSC folks were out there racing and everyone swam better/faster than they did last year so that was cool. Afterward we hung out at the beach for a bit with the BBQ and that's when the text came in from my Ultra-Runner athlete, Sam... results from his brutal 50 miler in South Dakota... 4thOA in what he described as the hardest run of his life. He's fairly new to distance running in general but already this year has run 2x50 milers and 1x100 miler... and it's not like these events take place on normal terrain. He's truly BatShitCrazy but he enjoys that stuff and it's been cool to have an opportunity to help guide him along his journey!
The Ironman racing for the weekend was kicked off on Saturday night... 12 hour time change between Hawaii and Austria meant I got to see Heidi's swim split before heading to bed.
In all honesty I was a bit worried for Heidi because she'd had such a stressful last few weeks going into this Ironman... she retired after 21 years in the Marine Corp which one would think might lighten up her load but the retirement process in the military is kind of a big deal and it happened just 2 weeks before the race so the stress of that was tough on her... Then of course international travel + that law about how if anything can go wrong it will was in full effect for her during race week... So I was nervous b/c I knew her training had been good (she is a very hard worker!!) and I really wanted her to reap the benefit of that at this race. Heidi is not new to the Ironman game- she's been doing this sport about as long as I have and she's got about the same number of Ironman finishes to her name... so seeing this picture that her husband posted on Facebook pretty much brought me to tears. This is Heidi's reaction when she finally realized- that at age 44- she had just set a new Ironman PR. Honestly, this is why I coach.
While Heidi was finishing that race on the other side of the world, I was out on the other side of our island with 4 of my local athletes doing a little sprint triathlon. I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that since I have no big fish to fry for the rest of this year, I'm going to fry a whole bunch of little fish... Marilyn is also encouraging me to learn how to suffer while racing and short little races like this are good opportunities for that type of practice.
So my goal for this race was simply to GUN IT the whole time, and when it started to feel hard I wanted to not back away from it. Goal accomplished! The competition was not too deep at this little race, but I have a little rant about how triathletes need to learn how to swim dammit (the juxtaposition of this race vs the swim race the day before was not lost on me... where on Saturday 23 girls beat me out of the water but at this race only 3 men did) Really though, the first buoy was ~200M off shore... we started 3' behind the men and I'd caught a few before we got to it. Then at the first buoy there were several hanging onto it and resting. Sorry to whoever the guy was but I totally grabbed his back and used him to yank myself around the buoy... but really, if you can't swim 500M without stopping and resting that just means that you have not trained swimming at all... The problem is so easily fixable with just a bit of work. Anyway.

My plan was to ride fast/hard and I did that. My plan was to run as fast/hard as I could and I did that too. It was very uncomfortable and I had to do a bunch of negotiating with my brain about not backing off the effort. It helped seeing that Sergio was leading the men's race (he is unbeaten in sprint distance triathlon on Oahu this year- 3 for 3 OA wins for him!) and since I was leading the women's race I just thought it would be pretty cool to have a TeamBSC sweep of the OA. So while the women behind me were closing the gap on me during that run, the lead I'd built off he bike was substantial enough for me to drag myself across the finish line first and that made the suffering pretty worthwhile.
My other 3 athletes there also came away with age group awards (Vicki 1st 40-44, Beate 1st 55-59, Steve 3rd 55-59). They are all new to me/TeamBSC and I have to say, I'm enjoying teaching in sort of a back to the basics type of way that these athletes need.

Before and after that race I was texting back and forth with significant others of my athletes who were in Idaho racing Ironman Coeur d' Alene. They were facing some pretty challenging swim/bike conditions there with the wind... So once I got home I spent the rest of the afternoon on the Ironman Live Leaderboard tracking splits and placings... Several of them were racing pretty close to each other all day long so that would have definitely been more fun to watch in person! Lots of individual successes there along the way yesterday- No finish time PRs for them but that's standard if you've raced a very 'fast' course in the past then go race a course like CdA with conditions like they had... That said, congrats to all on their strong finishes (once again we've kept our 100% finisher rate streak alive!) and especially to Krista for her rock solid IM Marathon PR (3:52!). I'm sure she'll write a great blog at some point detailing her day. Krista also coached her first Ironman athlete through this one (and she did get a 20' PR GO SIPPY!) and at the end of the day everyone was happy. :)
So how was that for a weekend of racing?!? Phew. #teambsc

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Turning The Screws

Sunday night and I'm sitting here for the first time in quite a while feeling pretty satisfied by a good solid legit week of training! It's funny b/c it wasn't really that big or hard of a week (last year it wouldn't have even made me blink!) but given how I've been training the last ~6 months it felt hard and more than once I used the word 'tired' in my post workout notes. And in some weird sick way I feel more content than I have in a while. I know 14-16 hours/week feels like good solid training for a lot of athletes, but I am a WORKHORSE and I am happier at closer to 20 and when my Garmin elevation profiles look something like this... 

I don't know if you want to know all the details of what the involved or not, but I pretty much got to it all this past week... 5K hard swim, hard ocean swim, sprint swim, easy swim, heavy squats in the gym, hill reps on bike and run, long/easy bike and run, fartlek run, big gear work on the bike, tempo on the bike, 30' hard TT on bike (those last 3 were actually all one session yesterday YIKES), brick run OTB, double run day... I actually wrote in my notes earlier this week that I felt like maybe I should repent for any time I felt worried or concerned that maybe I just wasn't going to be working very hard this year... :) Clearly I am going to get to work hard but in good news I think it will work better for me this time around because I'm not going to repeat that week after week after week until I'm a complete zombie... but rather insert those weeks sometimes as appropriate then back off when it's time and allow for some recovery. My gut says this method is going to be good for me! AND, since I don't get to put together weeks like that every week, when they pop up on my schedule I get excited about tackling them vs feeling a pit in my stomach like shit can I really do all that??

Anyway, with that extra time to train came extra time to think and I spent most of that thinking about some of the athletes I'm working with right now. I have some athletes that I've worked with for years... many are workhorses and I can give them big training weeks and they thrive on those and come through them really well. They know that during those weeks they need to plan their eating and sleeping and manage their time really well to fit everything in... That might be one of the biggest differences between more experienced athletes vs the newbies. When the screws start to turn, they know how to buckle down and arrange everything to get the most benefit.

That said, I've taken on some less experienced athletes this year as well. I think this is actually really good for my development as a coach because I can watch and look for patterns and see how the newbies think and operate differently and then (hopefully!) guide them to start thinking and taking pro-active steps to avoid some pitfalls that are common to less durable athletes. Because that's the thing- fewer miles in an athletes legs means less durability and there's not really a way around that other than to be accumulating miles! And those miles for a newbie can feel killer unless they are done with an effort that is HIGHLY sustainable. And if an athlete hasn't done a lot of relaxed aerobic volume (and by 'a lot' I mean A LOT), they're probably more dependent on carbs to fuel their sessions which means they're going to bonk more often and earlier (unless they are just pounding down the carbs). I also find that some of my athletes who are new to the sport are GUNG-HO EXCITED and want to train A TON... and maybe they came to me thinking surely Queen BSC would give them A TON of work to do! And then they're disappointed when it seems I'm giving them less than they think they want and lots of it with a HR leash making them hold back... But here's the thing and I've seen this over and over... too much work breaks a newbie. It's a conundrum, isn't it?  Because in order to become durable you have to do a lot of work- but a lot of work tends to makes an athlete sick, tired and/or injured.

The key, of course, is finding the right balance and that's tricky because it's different for everyone (which is why plans out of the back of a training book don't work!) I find myself more and more spending time trying to figure out what is a sustainable repeatable week for an athlete... one that they can get through repeatedly week after week while feeling good and achieving the goals of each session without feeling completely wiped. Once we get this, then we start pushing the envelope a bit and we see how the athlete reacts/responds. Do they crack mentally? Physically? Do their knees or hips or feet start complaining? Do they neglect to eat or sleep enough to support the new level of training? 

It's the time of year where I have started turning the screws on some of my newer athletes and we've seen some blow-ups that present good lessons for us to learn. On Saturday one gal had a ride where the goal was to accumulate a significant amount of moderate effort climbing... I didn't give her any HR numbers to go by which in hindsight was probably a mistake, but in the end she was presented with a good lesson because essentially the effort of the ride beat her. Looking at the files I could see exactly why (HR max up to 191 on a climb in the first 1/2 of the ride!!). When I pointed this out she asked a good question- what HR should she be climbing at to avoid repeating that mistake again? Here was my response:

Well I didn't put a cap on there but I did write that each climb shouldn't be that hard but that the 'hard' would come simply because of the total amount of accumulated climbing. Part of your growth in the sport will be to start making the connections for yourself so you can choose accordingly how to pace yourself without necessarily being tied to the leash that is the HR monitor... we just use the HR monitor as a tool to teach us these things until we don't need it anymore! SO, you learned that when you ride the first 2x climbs of the day at HR 170+, you end up laying under a tree instead of being able to ride the last hill strongly. Given that info, if you were to ride that route again you'd want to climb the first 2x at closer to 160HR and see how that lands you at the end. I'd bet some money you'd feel 100x stronger at the end if you paced the ride that way. IF those climbs are such that you cannot get up them at HR 160, then until you can, choose alternate routes that involve climbing where you can keep HR in that range. As you get more and more fit you should eventually be able to get up those hills with less effort and that is what allows you to be stronger not just at the end of that particular ride, but the next day as well. :) Good lessons!

Not everyone has these same problems of course... some newer athletes don't have the strength or the knowledge of how to push hard enough on the bike to get their HRs up in the first place so obviously our focus there is (sometimes!) the complete opposite of the above!

Damn I feel like I could go on and on (and on!) here with all the potential limiters newer athletes face... injury risk on the run b/c they want to run too fast too hard too soon... endurance limiters in the pool that can ONLY be fixed by swimming MORE volume MORE often and learning to get uncomfortable and stay there... Those are going to have to be posts saved for another time though. Right now Mama has to get some sleep. :)

Monday, June 16, 2014


Nothing strikingly important here today but I find myself with a bit of extra time so why not write up a little life update?

It's summer! (Duh. I told you this wasn't going to be very exciting.) As always, we are racing in the ocean pretty often now- more than ever actually b/c the North Shore Series added a 5th swim (!) and there's another new one up there in September which is a 5K and that just pretty much makes me drool. So every other Saturday for most of the summer we'll probably be posting pics of beautiful blue ocean and us hanging out up there. :) This is Pipeline in the summer.

This past Saturday was the first one and the conditions were awesome for a point to point race. The first one is only about a mile (maybe slightly longer?) and it's a total crap shoot as far as what line to take to get to the finish line fastest.
Nalani and I got in for a longish warm up and specifically tested out the currents. (This is a very complicated process involving treading water and looking at the bottom to see if you move.) We actually didn't find evidence of any current at all- we tested it near the shore then swam out and checked again and found nothing... so our conclusion was that the line wouldn't matter much... Maybe would be  better to swim deeper to avoid the surf breaks? But Mark was insistent that it would be fastest to swim right along the beach in shallow water- he promised we'd be sucked right along to the finish. I believed him and half way through the race ended up caught up in a spot where the water was too shallow to take a stroke and white water was crashing on my head. Excellent. I had to laugh though and I reminded myself Michelle you took the risk and picked this line now you live with your choice! Eventually I managed to get back to where it was deep enough to swim again and while I was still diving under breaking surf, I had the thought that I was glad I'm comfortable in those conditions because honestly, it was pretty fun. After the race I didn't talk to anyone who said I nailed it and totally chose the fastest line! The story from everyone who went wide was that they were swimming endless pool style against a strong current... and everyone who went inside had the same story as me. I don't know. Maybe we all should have just swam up the middle?

This is a garmin file from one of my athletes who apparently took the outside line! My green line, had I worn a garmin, would have been next to the sand and might have even touched that little point 1/2 way through. ;)

Other than swim racing, I'm actually going to do a whole bunch of little local triathlons this summer. In years past I've avoided all these races because I'd always had a bigger fish to fry, but this year I have no big fish to fry so I'm going to just fry a whole bunch of little fish. :) Who knows? Maybe I'll find out that I like little fish? There is a part of me that is actually pretty excited about it b/c it's so different than what I have focused on in the past. I get to race often and none of them matter for anything so I can feel free to maybe take some risks and try some different strategies with no pressure to do anything but try to learn and grow. So that sounds pretty fun to me!

Training is back to good as of today. Last week I picked up a virus/bug of some sort- probably at the ice skating rink I took Moana to- then spent a couple days last week in bed feeling like crap. Even Saturday when I headed up to that swim race I'd admit that I felt like garbage but I think the ocean is healing. I felt better after the race than I did when I got in to warm up. So there's your magic cure! Feeling sick? Go swim in the ocean! In good news I can say that I am maturing because for once I did not drag my sorry ass through any training when I wasn't up for it... I did go for one swim on Friday morning but got out when it was clear that I wasn't doing myself any favors. I came home and laid around and ate greens like it was my job and the virus was gone after 3-4 days. Phew!

What else? Moana is having a fun summer so far... lots of play time and she is still loving swim team. We go almost every day and she's been a huge fan so far. What's not to like about this?? Auntie Lectie makes a fun playmate in the pool. :)

I think there was more I was going to say but can't think of it now so I'll wrap it up. Until next time...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Honu 2014... What Would Peepers Do?

Trying to figure out where to start. This might be a long one so grab a cup of coffee. :)

Honu weekend felt different to me this year. It was my 8th trip over there and I think possibly my favorite one. When I found out- back in March- that my registration had gotten screwed up, I spent ~2 weeks thinking maybe I wasn't going to get to race this year. That was an interesting turning point for me because it made me realize how much I LOVE this race and how much I REALLY wanted to do it. And while part of that desire has to do with the race itself, most of what I thought about missing was the social aspect of the weekend. Having lived in Hawaii for 9+ years now, I feel like I have some deep connections and friendships within this triathlon community and Honu is our weekend. So while I went into the race with some questions about my fitness- specifically my run fitness- It was all fine because hey, I get to race!!

The social fun started early- like in the airport- as a ton of friends happened to all be on the same flight over to Kona. The coolest part was that we probably could have gotten on any given flight all day and found friends all around. Fun for Moana too because everywhere she looked there was another Auntie waving and smiling at her. :) This was Moana's 6th trip to Honu!

Anyway, I'll cut to the chase. It was a beautiful day to race. It was hot, and windy, but not hotter (nor windier) than it's been in the past. I'd call it standard Hawaii conditions.

I would challenge anyone to find a swim venue better than Hapuna Beach. Water was perfect temperature with perfect visibility and hardly any chop. I have been swimming pretty well recently so I put myself right on the front line and sprinted hard when I heard the cannon. Karlyn Pipes took this great picture...

Once again the women started 7' behind the men. We started catching them before the first buoy. Last year I allowed myself to get flustered and frustrated by that but this year I was better mentally prepped and just accepted it for what it was. I stayed pretty much on the inside of the loop all the way around... hit every turn buoy right on my shoulder (dove under/around them!) and always had a few other pink caps in my sights. I felt like I was moving well through the water and as I was approaching the finish of the swim I had the thought that I was bummed the swim was over. I really would have enjoyed doing that all day!

But instead we ran through some deep sand and up a hill that seemed longer and steeper than I remember... Got to my bike and without wasting too much time, I got on it and started pedaling uphill.

The beginning of the bike is more mayhem now that we start 7' back from the men... because while we pass a ton of them in the water, there are also a ton already up the road and it just seems/feels really crowded. And it's crazy because there are all levels of athletes too- so I'm passing some but some men who I passed in the water were then passing me back... so it just forced me to stay really ALERT... riding enough left to pass but not so far left that I'm blocking the men who wanted to pass me... Eventually it sort of settled. I held back a bit to start the bike- more than other years I think- but hard to tell exactly because I'm race by feel not watching power or HR or even splits. (I took my watch off before the race started.)

And as always, a little note about drafting! BUT in great news, I can say I hardly saw any drafting. The race appeared to be exceptionally clean to me this year. There were times where the road was crowded and riders were jostling for position or whatever but there were not packs forming and I saw very few of what looked like blatant efforts at cheating. Yay!

Anyway, I rode steady all the way up Hawi, noted that my legs felt pretty good, and just generally felt pretty happy. One of my goals for this race was to ride bravely on the downhills, so when I got to Hawi, I made the u-turn then told myself this is it stay aero and pedal pedal pedal!! I was ripping it and it was FUN! 

My friend Leigh and I have recently had thing this where when we want/need to be brave, we channel Peepers, my little chicken who finally decided that- even though she was not as big as the other chickens- she belonged in the coop with the big girls... At first they pecked at her, but she was brave! And interestingly, once she decided that she belonged in there, she started acting like she belonged in there... the other chickens accepted that she was there to stay and the pecking ended. So our little joke became What Would Peepers Do?? And riding down Hawi I was thinking to myself, Peepers would stay aero and pedal right through these crosswinds!! And that's what I did. :)

I was ripping it down that mountain and looking over at the beautiful blue ocean down below and singing the most appropriate song in my head... I couldn't have been a whole lot happier.

Eventually, just like the swim, the bike ended earlier than I wish it would have. I got to T2 all smiles and racked my bike on a mostly empty rack. One of my goals for the day had been to actively NOT count women around me... just do my thing best I could at each moment and let it play out however it played out. That said, I had a good feeling that I was doing well because I felt like I'd been moving along pretty well on both swim and bike so if I could just hold my shit together on the run then this was going to be a dream day. The thing was, holding my shit together on this run was going to be a big ask. I cannot remember the last time I'd run 13 miles (November maybe??)... And while I whole heartedly credit Dr Zen for getting me to this start line uninjured, I found him a little too late to be able to fit in all the run training I would have preferred... So I was pretty much just crossing my fingers that my very long history of endurance training would get me through this run.

And interestingly, I started and did not feel as bad as I have in years past. It's at this point that I have to say, Osmo is the bomb. I've been training almost exclusively with Osmo and Bonk Breaker bars this year but I will be honest- I'm an old dog in this game and old habits are hard to break... I've always raced with Infinit and supplemented with gels/water and I was afraid to change that up. Seriously- up until the night before the race I'd gone back and forth about which route I was going to go... It was like The Great Osmo/Bonk Breaker vs Infinit/gel debate in my head. My biggest fear was chewing on the bike... I can chew while I am training but the idea of chewing a bar while racing did NOT seem like something I wanted to do... But I believed what Stacy Sims has been preaching about Hydration is Power and I've heard many other gals saying that it's been a game changer for them so I figured I'd give it a shot and see how it went. I am not an athlete who struggles with stomach upset or GI issues while I'm training or racing so that was not my issue. I do, however, struggle with cramping- severely at times- so I have been drinking the Osmo Pre-load and thought maybe the Active formula would keep me hydrated in a way that might allow my muscles to function better? That was my goal anyway. And you know what? It worked. I did not even have a twinge of a cramp all day on Saturday! And I just felt like wow- my legs are working better than I feel like they should be?!? You know, given how little I ran leading up to this race, my legs should have been a disastrous mess after ~6 miles but they kept functioning for me which was quite a welcome surprise. I drank Pre-load Friday night, Active for Women on the bike (plus BB bars), and had another bottle of Active waiting for me in T2. I downed it in the first mile (that's what's in my hand in this picture) and then for the rest of the run drank water, ice, and Coke. I would not change a thing about the way I hydrated/fueled that race and am now a complete Osmo convert/believer.
Anyway, somewhere around mile 6 I was plugging away and came upon a young gal who had passed me earlier but was now walking... I felt her pain because damn I've been there before (many times!!) so I encouraged her to hang in there. She rallied then and asked me if we could work together. I was happy enough to do that. I found out that she was leading 25-29 age group so it sort of became my mission to help her hang onto that. I had been passed already by a couple gals in my age group so I knew I was not leading mine but I was still trying to hang onto what I had. It was weird though- for some reason I went fully into MamaSimmons Coach mode with this gal... cueing her to relax her breathing, arms up, chin down... we walked up the short/steep hills but ran again right at the top... walked through aid stations just enough to get plenty of water/ice/coke then immediately started running again together... I knew I was helping her but also felt like by doing that I was helping myself. We stayed together for the rest of the race and finished just a few seconds apart. This morning she found me on Facebook and sent me this message, which is apparently what she sent out to her tri team (Ignite Endurance) in DC:

"Hawaii 70.3 - 1st AG, 24th F OA in 5:15. Appreciate this win. At the same time, this was the hardest race I've ever done. Felt strong and relaxed until, I think it was that hot Hawaii sun, I went into total shutdown at mile 5 or 6 of the run. I was walking--walking!--across the golf course until a woman passed me and said, Hang in there, I know how you feel. I asked if she would let pace next to her. This 40 year old mom from Honolulu, Michelle Simmons, talked me up every hill, told me when to walk and when to start running again. I am so grateful to have been able to share this week in Hawaii with my dad. When I said to him, I've never wanted to quit something so bad as I did on that run and Michelle gave me my race--he simply said, But you didn't quit. I keep picking up my 1st place bowl, and just marveling that I did that.

So ya, you can imagine I was pretty much all tearing up after reading that... But that kind of summarizes this whole weekend for me. In the end, I feel like I got the most out of the fitness I had going into that race. I worked as hard as I could have, I kept a positive mind-set, and I showed heart and courage. :) Kebby over at Coeur Sports has been saying all year that her goal is to encourage women in sport and somehow wearing my Coeur kit at that race I felt very strongly that I wanted to represent her mission. 
Coeur is French for heart and the root of the word courage. And that’s what we put into our women's endurance apparel and our sport. As an athlete, you know that athletic performance is about so much more than genetic talent. Its also about heart. Heart is about digging deep and being mentally tough. Heart is what gets you to the finish line when all the body wants to do is lay down.  Heart is at the center of the community and the friendships you find in endurance sports. Heart is what makes you give back to the community that has given you so much. the  Everything we do at Coeur - from our designs to how we play a role in our community - should reflect our values and how we aim to conduct ourselves.

The only thing that  could have made this weekend better would have been if I would have been able to hang onto my third place... Kona rolled to 3rd in my age group this year, so I missed it by 45" and of course that stung. But I have to look back and say that I can't really say here's where I could have found 45"... no excuses here I just didn't have the run fitness I needed to achieve that goal on Saturday. In the end though, I feel really proud of just about every part of this past weekend. I came home with my 4th bowl in as many years and now I'll keep trying to learn how to run. :) Major congrats to my long time friend, Robin, who put together an amazing day taking home the WIN in our age group. I wish it could have been me but if it wasn't me, I'm glad it was her. Also a little shout-out to my friend and training partner, Lectie, who won the OA amateur race. Stoked to see her work pay off like that with such a big win!

So I find myself sitting here on Monday morning, happy and motivated, and feeling like I'm in a good place. I look forward to continuing to work with Marilyn because I know she's got my back and at some point, I'm going to learn how to run! In the meantime, this picture pretty much summarizes the whole weekend.