Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chipping Away

So just a little Sunday update here...

I've been asked a couple times how the Nutrition Challenge is going and my reply has been Unfortunately it's going really well... See, if I'm honest I'd admit that I was sort of hoping this one would fail, or at least not show any measurable benefit, because then I could go back to eating my sugar and grains guilt free and stop wondering if I was missing out on something.

11 days in to this Challenge and I'd say that the biggest negative I feel about eating pretty much only meat, plants, nuts, and some dairy is that there's a lot of planning and prep work involved all the time. There aren't too many 'convenience foods' you can consume when following this type of diet, which is probably what makes it less sustainable for the long term because most people do not want to allocate so much time in their lives spent in the kitchen (me included!)

That said, the food I've been prepping/eating has been nothing short of fantastic. I've been scouring foodie blogs and making a bunch of the recipes out of the Well Fed 2 cookbook and it's all been really really tasty. So much so that I don't think I've actually lost any weight? I can see how I could/should/might lose weight because my actual hunger is significantly diminished, but I am still consuming plenty of food b/c I'm simply enjoying it all so much. I can see though that once the novelty of these meals wears off I might be able to eat with less reckless abandon and that would theoretically help me shrink a bit. Turns out, even if you're eating all the 'right' foods, you still have to eat LESS if you want to lose weight. File that under #Duh.

I will say though, I feel healthy. My energy levels are really steady, I don't crave anything, and I really have had no raging HANGRY feelings like I have had in the past. So is that worth the trade off of all that time spent prepping meals/food? It might be, yes. Time will tell, but I'll guess that keeping this up through the month of February will be manageable for sure. After that, we'll see. I can see myself adopting a 90/10 policy on this type of eating. Or maybe 80/20. ;)

Training is also coming along steadily. I feel like I am chipping away at attaining a decent level of fitness. I still use HR on most of my runs and power on most of my rides and each time I go out I see those numbers inching in the right direction. There have been no major breakthroughs or anything, but every week I've been gaining a few watts and/or seconds/mile at the same HR so that is motivating to see and if I stay on the same improvement curve I'll be right where I want to be in another 6-8 weeks or so. :) #justkeepchippingaway

Interestingly, Dr Maffetone would say that if you want to see improvement at MAF, you have to avoid any/all anaerobic training, because time spent anaerobically will erode your aerobic base. Knowing that, I've had some reservations about some of the training I'm doing- primarily the Crossfit sessions 2x/week where I spent 8-20' with my HR pretty much through the roof... plus I've been incorporating some short/hard intervals on both bike and run that last 30-90"... and swimming is almost always a hard effort... I've paid attention to my MAF pace though and it doesn't seem to be negatively affected by those harder efforts? Maybe if I spent more time (ie longer intervals) at threshold I'd see the negative affect he talks about but so far it's been fine. My plan is to continue a similar type of weekly training plan at least through February and then we'll see.

I have to say, I know people who don't Crossfit love to bash Crossfit and say that all Crossfitters will end up injured, but I swear I pretty much never feel better than I do after a solid session in the CF box! I'm in love with squats, pistol squats, dead lifts, wall balls, med ball sit-ups, kettle bells, box jumps, jump rope, clean-n-jerk... all of it! Ok, I hate burpees, but that's pretty much the only thing that makes me cringe when I see it as part of the WOD. I also think that these strength exercises have served to keep me injury-free and that just furthers my motivation to keep up that work! Plus, they have started a 'Ninja In Training' class for kiddos, so Crossfit has become something Moana and I can do "together" after school a couple times/week. She loves it!

OK so my mission today is to find a banana tree to plant in my backyard. I'm off to obtain one!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


So I'm kind of totally into experimenting with different things... keeping an open mind, trying new things, paying attention, and evaluating what works and doesn't work. I find the process fun and fascinating, even when what I try doesn't work. :)

That's sort of what all last year was about... I found myself intensely curious about 'The TBB Way'... so I tried it, and not just for a month because I don't think that's really a fair trial when it comes to something like that. I tried it for long enough to really see if it would work for me or not, and once I was 100% convinced it wasn't for me, I switched gears. I don't feel that curiosity anymore and that is good for my brain.

The thing I still find myself curious about is all this nutrition talk... HFLC (high fat low carb), NSNG (no sugar no grains), Paleo, Whole 30, etc. I don't have a desire to label myself as any of these things- honestly the label and the association with any of these groups might just be the biggest deterrent I feel to even trying out this type of eating! The other big deterrent is my belief that carbs are necessary to fuel long endurance training and I've never really understood how to completely eliminate sugar when training 20+ hours/week. I have always preferred to preserve the quality of my training sessions, which I can do when I am taking in sugar, and tend to not be able to do when I am not.

But then a few weeks ago I was at my Crossfit gym and they introduced a "Nutrition Challenge". It's an interesting take on the food choice thing b/c it has different 'levels' and you pick which level you want to commit to... So the first level is eliminate sugar, level 2 eliminate grains, level 3 eliminate beans/legumes, etc all the way up to level 10 which basically requires you eat meats and veggies but no salt, no dairy, no nuts, no starchy veggies like potatoes, max 2 pieces fruit/day, etc. So it gets harder and harder as the levels go up because level 10 is super restrictive. I couldn't for a second wrap my head around eliminating all of that stuff from my diet while also trying to swim bike and run!?!

Anyway, I looked at the poster explaining the challenge and, in front of the CF coach, stated out loud that I couldn't even get to level 3 because I could not eliminate beans from my diet... His response: Well you could, if you decided to. Damn! He got me! So then I argued that it's not as easy for me because I have a husband and a daughter to feed... and he got me again... Well YOU are in charge of how you feed your family. Damn again! What got me about that exchange was how he called me out on my excuses in the same way I have called out the athletes I coach when I hear them making excuses... He was right! The reason I "can't" eliminate sugar and grains and beans from my diet is because I choose not to.

So I contemplated the challenge for a few days and eventually decided to go for it, but only to level 6, which basically means I eliminate sugar, grains, beans, alcohol, and non-fat dairy. I decided to keep butter and full fat dairy, potatoes, nuts, and fruit. I just felt like I would need to be able to fuel my training somehow so potatoes and fruit had to stay. I'm training a moderate amount right now but NOT 20 hours/week, and my longest weekly session is just a 3 hour bike, so I feel like this is a good time for me to do this kind of experiment.

It's a 45 day thing and we are on Day 5 now. My goal with this challenge is mostly just curiosity to see what all the hype is about (true story as an aside: I ended up giving birth without pain killers because I wanted to experience what all the labor pain hype was about... How bad could it really be?? Lol. I should remember that Curiosity killed the cat.) and also just to see if it is indeed possible to train for triathlon while also eliminating sugar and grains?? Of course I'd also like to lean out a bit though I don't know if that will happen with all the cheese and nuts I find myself snacking on now... But that ridiculous month of glutenous eating in December is still showing itself on my ass so shrinking that down a bit would be a good thing if that is indeed a side effect of eating this way.

Surprisingly, eliminating grains has not really been hard at all. I didn't eat a ton of grains before so this was really just finding something other than oatmeal to eat for breakfast, something other than packaged energy bars for training, and skipping rice at dinner. Ok, I admit I used to make quinoa salad a couple times/week because it is so easy... so I am finding different types of meals for dinner. Eliminating sugar has been harder, but mostly b/c it means I pretty much can't eat anything that has a label or comes in a package. It's true- some form sugar or artificial sweetener is in everything. This challenge also means that, since I'm eliminating all soy and legumes, I have gone back to eating meat. My main gripe with meat this past year was never really about health- it was more about voting with my dollar against the factory farming industry... but then I heard a viewpoint that totally made sense to me- that a more impactful vote against factory farming is to give your money to the family farms who sell grassfed beef. So if in that industry they start to see a shift in market share toward grass fed vs conventional then maybe more farms will opt to go that route if they see the demand?  Anyway, that's where I'm at with that.

So far I'd say that it has been less challenging than I thought it would be. It has required quite a bit more planning ahead, and it requires a change in habits. But it hasn't been that hard to overcome. I have felt low energy toward the end of some of my training sessions and pretty sure a coke would have solved those problems in about 10 seconds but I didn't give in, just went with the bonk and slowed down. (Though I will admit that yesterday when I was bonking at the end of my ride, I was cursing the fact that I live at the top of a hill!) I'll continue to go that route for the next 40 days and see if there is a change one way or the other. I don't have any races coming up soon so if the quality of my sessions is diminished a bit right now I don't feel like it would be the end of the world. :)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On Coaching Myself...

Wow this has been a quite a busy and exciting week. Between working on the development of our new website and details of Scottsdale Camp (2 spots left!), Krista and Kelly and I have been in constant communication! It's been a little crazy, but in a really good way... I've also been working on getting a few more local athletes going and teaching several 1:1 swim lessons each week... It hardly leaves me time to get my own training in these days. It's all so good though and I feel super happy/satisfied with this path I've chosen. :)

So yesterday I managed to get out on my bike in the morning... Longest ride since Cozumel at 57 miles! Go me! Funny how looooong that can feel. It's all relative of course, but since I've ridden 30-40 miles like twice in the last 6 weeks, that was long! Anyway, thought I'd write out a bit of how my brain is working right now when it comes to my own training and how I am managing it myself at the moment...

It can be tough to go from an obedient non-thinking coached athlete to being your own coach. All last year I didn't spend much time or energy contemplating about my own training (which honestly can be really nice!). I just did what was on my schedule! I'm totally compliant when it comes to following a training schedule that someone else has written for me- I don't modify or adjust workouts (well except for maybe some of the swim sessions- I have a habit of adjusting those so they are more to my liking, which almost universally means longer/harder, but at the very least means more varied and interesting). Interestingly though, when I am the one writing the training schedule for myself, I tend to modify or adjust nearly every session on the fly. Go figure!

Last time I tried to coach myself I think my biggest downfall was lack of consistency and volume on the bike, as well as not making myself work hard enough on the bike. I would write a specific session for myself but then I would get out there and think I don't really feel that strong today so I'll just cruise this one easier... OR I'd have a ride scheduled but there would be a light rain coming down so I'd think I'll just do that one tomorrow... So avoiding mindsets like those will be my biggest challenge this year!

I sat down and wrote out a very loose training plan for Honu. More like I wrote down the key training sessions I wanted to get in and about when I wanted to get them in... then worked backwards from there and wrote out some sets that would build me toward the key sessions, etc. I hypothesized that I would need a good chunk of time to train by HR- holding myself back and reclaiming that aerobic efficiency that I think eluded me in 2013. On paper, I wouldn't have that efficiency until March.

So in an effort to be more objective about my fitness this year, I've been wearing my HR monitor on every run, and I brought my power meter back out on the bike. Actually, on the bike I set my garmin so I can see HR but not power... but then afterward I have the power data to look at to see what's happening. My thinking was that for now, I want to ride at the right effort level and power can be whatever it is... then as the race season gets closer I'll get more specific about pushing for specific wattage. The thing I want to watch most right now is HR/power ratio because seems to me this is the first element of fitness that needs to be in place.

My first ride back (a few weeks ago) I tried to keep my HR in the 140's... I had to hold back a bit to keep it from floating up and at the end when I looked at the data I had to laugh b/c my power was lower than my avg HR! Yikes mama had some work to do! But then the second ride back, HR and power were almost equal, and by ride #3 I had a HR/power scenario that was more to my liking. So the next step was to watch the decoupling factor... With this goal in mind, yesterday I went out and rode long intervals (2x55') at HR ~145- on the way out and the way back (I have long flat sections of road where nothing interrupts me which is perfect for a session like this). I was capturing power data but not watching it while I was riding (only watching HR)... My expectation was that power at the same HR would fall off in the back half of the ride, but interestingly it did not! Power was exactly the same, to the watt, for both intervals at the same HR. This information leads me to feel like I probably need to adjust that loose plan I'd set out for achieving bike fitness! Turns out those 9000+ miles I rode last year are still right there in my legs and long moderate aerobic riding is NOT what I need to be doing right now after all. I love having that data to guide me in making these decisions!

So where do I go from here? Well, my key race isn't for like 20 more weeks... so doing race specific 20-30' threshold/TT efforts right now would likely leave me peaking too early and flat by the time race day rolls around. I'm trying to avoid that scenario this year (!!) so since I have so much time, my gut says to go the opposite way and do super short HARD efforts looking to max out top end power. That's what I suck at so now would be the time to try to develop that side of fitness... So I'm talking 20-60" at a time just rippin' it! I'll also (of course) do a bunch of big gear strength work and hill reps. In good news, the last little hill up to my house yesterday required 280+ watts just to get up (not even trying to go hard- just to not fall over) so I'll have that to finish up on every time I ride. :)

On the run I don't know if I have the same scenario? It's harder to 'test' because all my runs start with a long downhill and finish with a long uphill... and obviously that has a huge impact on pace at a specific HR! I will have to go to the track and do a long MAF run if I want to gather the same type of decoupling data that I got on the bike yesterday. I can see though that with every run I do, my HR stays a little more stable and pace gets a hair faster, so I think I'll keep doing those MAF type runs on the hills around my house until I see pace stagnate, and then I'll change things up. I did however run a set of short/steep hill reps on Friday. It had been a long time since I had done those so I started with 8 reps and will build from there. I have the PERFECT hill for those right down the street! My old coach had me doing 30 of those short hill reps nearly every week last year. By late summer/fall I'd built up and adapted to that set so it did not hurt me anymore, but I don't think I'll do that again this year. I think the risk outweighs the reward with that and that 10-20 reps is beneficial enough. Just my gut talking there.

Anyway, that's how I'm managing my bike/run training at the moment. I'm finding the process to be genuinely interesting and enjoyable! Let me know if you have any questions... I'd be happy to answer! :)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

TeamBSC Triathlon

Hey guess what you guys!? (BIG News!) TeamBSC is expanding!
So here's the deal... In the last couple of years I've had a good bit of success with my coaching business. As a whole, the athletes I work with are happy, they're doing well, and enjoying the process of it all. I think there are several reasons for that, not the least of which is my own desire to work with these folks. Seems to me that when a person loves their job, they're better at it. They pay more attention to the little things and the results then speak for themselves. I went back and checked some stats from 2013 and this is what I found:

~TeamBSC had 21 athletes finish 24 Ironman races… for the second year in a row had a 100% finisher rate!
~16 of the 21 athletes achieved lifetime PRs at the distance (76% PR rate).
~2 Kona qualifiers and 7 Vegas qualifiers. 

Boom! How fun was that!?! The challenge for me comes when I end up with too many athletes. I've found I really do have to limit myself because if I have too many I lose track of the little things, and that is not ok. I get flustered, and then I'm not doing as good of a job as I want to be doing. And yet, new inquiries keep coming in, especially now in the new year!

But don't fret my friends! We have solved the problem! :) As of now, I am officially changing the Simmons Endurance Coaching name to TeamBSC Triathlon. And it is most fitting that the gals I'm bringing on as additional coaches are Kelly and Krista... two gals who have basically spear-headed the whole TeamBSC concept. They will each now have their own stable of athletes, which I will oversee and guide as necessary!

See, I didn't come up with the whole BSC thing. Pretty sure it was Krista who did that... I would love to figure out the actual origins now- what I remember is that at some point several years ago Krista posted something on Facebook about a workout she had on her schedule and called (either it or me, probably me) BatShitCrazy. It was funny. We had a good laugh. Then she nailed the workout. I don't even remember what the workout was (likely it was a swim) but I would BET that if Krista looked at it now she would laugh at the thought that she thought it was that crazy. It's all relative, you know.

ANYWAY, moving on. Krista and Kelly are going to make *awesome* coaches. I believe 100% in these ladies. They get it. Beyond the knowledge they have gained and the experience/success they have had, they are in the same situation I was in a few years ago. They want to help athletes achieve what they have achieved. And they believe it is possible! You see, between the three of us, we don't actually have a ton of genetic talent. None of this Ironman thing has come easily or overnight to us. There are some athletes (and we might be a tiny bit jealous of them!) who seem born athletes. They put on a pair running shoes and they're jogging 7' miles off the bike while chatting. Ya. Notsomuch over here! I think all three of us spent a year (or six) stuck around the 12-hour mark at Ironman! And yet, we've figured out that if we train the right way and eat (mostly) the right food and get enough rest, that we, just normal everyday BatShitCrazy women, can end up on a podium the day after an Ironman. It's not a given, but it's a possibility, and we believe it!
So there you go! Check out our new website! I am super proud of this whole thing and am seriously looking forward to this next year. Also note that Krista and Kelly are going to be running a very reasonably priced Triathlon Training Camp the last weekend of March in Scottsdale, which will include a day trip down to Tucson to climb Mt Lemmon! All the info is up there on the website now so let us know if you want to play!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Will You Teach Me To Swim?!?

I'm finding myself feeling quite happy at the moment! I feel like I'm back to my old self- chatty and peppy and more cheery. :) It appears that I'm finally really coming out of that little hole I was in... Hindsight is 20/20 and if I'm honest with myself, I'd admit that through most of last fall I was so tired that my emotions were stunted or something? I was just going through the motions... like an auto-pilot robot... not truly excited about much and little things really pissed me off... Going forward I will pay closer attention to that type of mood and use it an an indicator that I should take a few easy days! Then through the month of Dec I was maybe a bit on the depressed side. Disappointment from a crap race + eating a whole ton of crap food + no exercise = NOT a good combo for me (who am I kidding- it's not a good combo for anyone!!)

BUT in good news, I seem to have found my way back to a nice little balance of work and exercise and healthy food and sleep and family/friends that has allowed me to reclaim some energy! My outlook is more positive and I'm able to let go of little things that might have otherwise been irritating.

It's also JANUARY and a New Year means new motivation not just for me but for most athletes. It seems like a time when many are taking stock of their weaknesses and trying to find solutions to fix them.. and this year more than ever before I'm getting phone calls and emails from athletes who are tired of being inhibited by their swim! It's pretty cool to see and I enjoy being a go-to person who athletes will ask for help.

I'm finding myself spending several hours each week at the pool now 1:1 with athletes (on deck) teaching swimming principles... how to generate more power and how to reduce drag, etc. The more I do that the better I get at it and it makes me feel good to know I'm making a difference in someone's season! :)

I am not grabbing Kelly's boob here- I'm trying to show her how to activate her LATS!

I got an email from another local athlete who I am excited about as well. He's a guy with a ton of motivation and potential- just needs some direction and I am happy to provide that! I met him last week at the pool and saw that he's a decent swimmer, but like many, he doesn't swim enough and doesn't really know how to swim TRAIN, so I told him to show up Monday morning at 7 and join our little group. I knew he wouldn't have the endurance to swim our whole workout BUT he needs to start somewhere and I figured seeing swimmers TRAIN would show him what it takes... and sure enough, he showed up this morning right on time, didn't say a word but hopped in the water and just did what he was told. I came up with a main set that we could modify so he did the bulk of it but got a little extra rest here and there... It went like this:
MS: 3x (2x200's@3:20, 6x50's@1:00 1st 4 bands only, last 2 fast swim) We rested an extra 20" between rounds. My new guy did an easy 100 instead of the 2nd fast 200 and went without bands on the 50's, so it ended up working perfectly for everyone. It was actually a lot harder than I anticipated it would be but mostly b/c Mark and Lectie are swimming so damn fast right now that the 200's were blazing (for me!) as I was trying to keep up. My December break caught up with me though and showed itself during round 3 when I felt like I was falling right off the cliff! But at the end everyone was happy for the awesome swim session and even though Sergio said he thought he was going to puke, he agreed to come back on Wednesday. I can see that he will get faster very quickly and he's going to be an athlete to reckon with this year! So fun. :)

Anyway, time to go to the pool again for the next swim lesson... Aloha!