Friday, September 26, 2014

Recipe for a Better Looking, Stronger, Healthier Body

As an athlete and trainer I take my health pretty seriously. A big part of health is diet. Of course as with anything there has to be balance. If you are one of the few people that has perfected the art of never cheating on your diet then congratulations - you can move on from reading this article. I can't help you if you're perfect because I am not perfect. I am a person who loves to eat that strives to balance the demands of time: family, training, work and social activities all while trying to make good decisions along the way.

This article is for athletes and health conscious people that care more about just looking good. If you want to look good and that's your only motivation there are a number of "get skinny quick" diets out there, which include the ever popular juice and shake only cleanses. I can't help you with a quick fix. The fact of the matter is that being skinny alone does not have any indication of your health. There are skinny people that are very unhealthy and/or malnourished. My personal opinion is that being lean and strong is more much healthy and important to having a long, quality life.

Much like Google's search algorithm, good health is not one component alone but rather a blend of components that add up to make the best possible result. You can think of it as a recipe of sorts for a stronger, healthier body that is also better looking. Below is a list of suggestions to get your health and your body to where you want to be. The balance and importance of all these things is up to you. Don't expect huge changes overnight and don't allow temporary setbacks to derail you. Health and fitness is a lifelong commitment.

The Recipe:

On eating:
  • Decrease your caloric intake: If you're trying to lose weight an overall decrease in calories is needed or else you will NOT lose weight. For athletes this can be tricky. You can't really lose weight training for and competing in endurance sports for example. If you've ever tried to go for a long run on a day where you skipped or had very few carbs to sustain your workout you'll likely recall that feeling of fatigue and yuckyness often described as "hitting the wall". So lose weight in the "off" season in part by cutting calories.
  • Drink more water and non-caffeinated healthy drinks such as herbal tea
  • Cut out the sugar and not only that but the fake stuff. Splenda is not as healthy for you as the makers of Splenda want you to believe. If you must use sugar consider using the organic cane sugar in small amounts. I've recently switched to organic coconut palm sugar. You can also use Stevia and Agave or pure honey.
  • Read labels - Never believe what the packaging says. They lie. Be educated on what you put into your body. Sugar has over 50 names. And know if it's GMO-free. What are GMO's you ask? Google it. 
  • Less Meat - Vegetarian diets are not for everyone. Eating meat is fine if the quality is there. Do not just eat "junk" meat. Eat organic, hormone-free, free range, lean high quality meats like poultry and lean beef. Limit meats with less nutritional value and saturated fats such as pork. Even if you are a meat eater you can cut back your intake. Experts recommend eating meatless at least one or two days a week now. 
  • More Fruits and Veggies - That old saying "an apple day keeps the doctor away" had to come from somewhere. Eat fresh, organic or cleaned, raw fruits and veggies. Try to eat at least a few servings of each  day mixing colors and varieties. Beets for example are excellent for your health and have been shown to increase your aerobic endurance and stamina. Greens and berries help fight off cancer and lots of illnesses.
  • Good fats - your body DOES need fats to run properly but not the fats you get in a fried cheeseburger and fries. I'm not saying you can't indulge when the mood strikes you just make it a treat. The good fats come from wild fish like salmon and tuna, olive oil, avocado, raw nuts like almonds and cashews, peanuts and seeds.
  • Cut out the junk - if it comes in a box in the middle of the grocery store it is not a whole food. Limit your intake of these convenience snack foods and meals.
  • Less Dairy - as delicious as it is limit your dairy intake. It is processed. There are many good alternatives these days like almond milk, coconut milk, organic soymilk. I'll never give up cheese entirely but I know I can't eat it all the time. It's nutritional value is overrated and it is a fatty food and not in a good way.
  • Ditch the crappy wheat - the only wheat bread you should EVER eat is sprouted, whole grain. Otherwise look for gluten free options. But remember while gluten free is better than wheat gluten free does not equal guilt free. Watch the carbs!
  • Alcohol - this is a tricky one for craft beer lovers like me. Lately I've been trying to drink the lighter, fractional IPAs during the week, having a glass of red wine or abstaining. Alcohol of any form does add on the calories so if you're watching calories you either have to cut back here or somewhere. I've been known to forego the bread and have a beer but that's just me.
On exercise:

  • Do it daily: Exercise at least five days each week. Don't make excuses just do it. 
  • Cardio + Strength: Alternate cardio and weight training. For runners and triathletes I know it's easy to let the weight training go but it is essential to injury prevention and also to looking and feeling stronger and better. All the cardio in the world won't work for the majority of people. Mix in some yoga, pilates, free weights - whatever you like just get the core work in at least 2-3 x week in the off season and 1-2 during the season.
  • Try new things for better results: repetition does not necessarily lead to the result you might think it does. Try new things. Confuse your muscles and see the results. 
  • Fueling for workouts: Fuel any workouts over an hour. For anything under use your discretion. For hard and long workouts be sure to fuel after with a blend of carbs and protein for cardio and protein for strength work.
On wellness:
  • Listen to your body: rest when you need rest, are extra tired, fighting a cold, etc. Don't push through to your detriment. 
  • Quiet your mind: take some quiet time each week to decompress, meditate if you're into that or else just relax and enjoy something like a good book or whatever helps you feel peaceful and relaxed. Our daily lives are hectic and we deserve and need this time to rejuvinate.
  • Take high-quality supplements: just as with your food read the label for your vitamins and supplements. You should at minimum take a whole foods multi-vitamin, fish or flaxseed oil and vitamin D if you live in a region like Ohio where the sunlight is limited especially in the winter months.
As you can see a large part of how you look and feel is related to your diet but exercise and wellness are also important to your overall health. Commit to continuous improvement. You may never be perfect but you can improve little by little.

Friday, September 12, 2014

2014 Rev3 Cedar Point 140.6 Race Report - Part 2 - A Lesson in Humility

I knew it was going to be difficult to complete my first 140.6 race but never in a million years did I expect it to be as difficult as it was. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Physically and mentally. Even though almost everyone I talked to said to "just finish" this one, I had higher hopes for my finish time. I can't help it. As a competitive person I want to always do my best. I know I shouldn't care what other people think about my performance but I do care. So when things started out so rough for me Sunday I battled my mind for hours and hours. Sure I might not have the time I had imagined but I would under no circumstances not finish this race! It meant too much for me. And it meant something to the people that love me and all of the people that supported me along the way including my Rev3 teammates, friends and family members. I didn't want to let them down.

Prerace setup in Transition

Steve and I got to transition around 6am with plenty of time to setup our bike fuel and our gear bags. It was dark and we were both more quiet than usual - probably the fear of the unknown stirring in both of us.  Transition buzzed with activity but all I could hear were my thoughts...We did the training, we practiced open water swimming at Mentor Headlands, we put in the long rides and the long runs. We should be ready for this. We have to be ready for this. We said hi to a few of my teammates and friends and got ready for the stroll down the beach to the swim start.

As daylight neared it was clear that the water was not as calm as I had hoped it would be. It sounded more like Ocean Erie than Lake Erie. I drowned out the worrisome thoughts and focused on my breathe. When we arrived to the start we had a little time for a warm up. The waves weren't too bad in the warm up and I felt good. The water felt pretty warm to me and I was ready to get it started. The waiting is always the part I dislike the most. They called us back out of the water and my teammate Rachel snapped a quick shot of us before the start. We saw some teammates and CTC friends and we all prepared for the start.
Almost go time! 

The Swim: 2.4 Miles of FML

I entered towards the back left of the pack with Steve and as we started to enter the water it seemed like the water grew more wild. Waves were smacking against our bodies and I tried to make it fun like when you're at the beach and you wave jump. After a minute of running in and a couple dolphin dives the swim was on. I could tell that it would be challenging swimming against the current with the waves and chop but I felt ready to take on the day so I kept calm and freestyled for what seemed like forever to get to the turn around bouy. I looked at my watch, which read 52 minutes. I was 10-12 minutes behind my goal pace so not great but not terrible in a rough swim such as this.

The second loop was definitely worse. The water was rougher and after seeing my teammate Susan backstroke I decided to do the same. It was a nice break from having the waves blast me in the face. The only obvious problem with this is the lack of sighting. Occasionally I'd flip back onto my tummy and freestyle or breaststroke to position myself. Even moving straight ahead it was very difficult to see the buoys and even other swimmers. There were a couple points in the race where I was just
The Swim start
treading water in the middle of the lake trying to decipher which way to go. I'd wait for a swimmer or kayaker to point me and I'd be off again. I looked at my watch and was shocked to see that I had been in the water for an hour and 50 minutes as I saw the last set of candy corn looking buoys I knew I didn't have much time so I did my best to push through despite being tired and feeling seasick. It felt like it took me forever to get to the shore and I looked at my watch in disbelief as it read 2 hours and 10 minutes. Most of my practice swims of 3500-4000 meters at headlands had taken me no more than an hour and 15 or 20 minutes so I of course was pretty fatigued not to mention sick to my stomach from taking in numerous gulps of tasty Lake Erie water. I have never been so thankful to finish a swim. I never thought I would drown or anything but I wanted to quit so many times on the second loop that I just had to keep my mind on the task at hand.


I had a long T1 at 12+ minutes and at the point after the long, disappointing swim I really didn't care how long I took in transition. I was frustrated and sick to my stomach. Fortunately my Rev3 teammate Laura was in the women's changing tent to help comfort me and get me ready for the long ride ahead. She helped me get my head into a better place. I'm thankful to have teammates/friends who genuinely care about me and my well being.

The Bike: 112 Miles of Blah

I love the bike. Some days I even love it more than the run. This day however was not one of those days! It was a long, sufferous ride for me. For the first hour I was seasick and throwing up so I was not able to get in any nutrition. Once I started to eat I felt better but I definitely felt fatigued from swimming a lot longer than I had anticipated. And there were some funky winds as usual that I just
Beautiful, sunny day for the ride albeit windy!
didn't have much energy to fight. My plan had been to average at least 18, which I did only for the first split. My second split quite frankly sucked but I was able to get back on track somewhat on the second half. The special needs bag at mile 50 was a godsend. I chugged an iced coffee and ate some chocolate and that was a real pick-me-up! The last 30-40 miles of the ride my neck and back were killing me and I could not wait to get off of the bike and start the run. It seemed to take forever. Finally after 6 hours and 57 minutes I got off the bike. Not the time I was shooting for or capable of but I was elated to be onto the run. The run is my thing. I was actually looking forward to ending the day in my best event.


Again I had a long T2 at 10+ minutes. If you just add up my transition times alone I could have had a better race. I was exhausted and disappointed in how the day had went so far. In the women't tent this time I had my teammate Jaime and some others helping. I was again happy to have some friendly faces around this late in the day.

The Run: 26.2 Miles of Happiness

I was so happy to be on the run that I went out too fast the first few miles and then it caught up to me with a little walk break. I did not want to walk the marathon. I take the most pride of all in my run and I was determined to at least put in a decent run split to end the long day. I got to see Steve a few times including at mile 14 for me where he just had a mile to go until his finish so that was exciting and gave me a much needed boost. The run was by far my favorite. I had so many teammates and rev3 staff and friends cheering me on that it kept my mind off of the pain. I had been worried about my foot but it held up pretty well and really didn't even begin to hurt until later in the marathon. I kept to my plan to run and only walk the aid stations. Probably my favorite parts of the run were later on when they were handing out hot chicken broth, which was indescribably delightful for someone that's been working out already for 13 hours and then later when it got dark and I was running along the road to Cedar Point I could see the park lit up and all the cars driving by would beep at me and yell motivational things at me. I'll never forget that image. It gave me abundant energy. At a time when many were walking I just kept running. I finished the run in 4:51. Not bad for the end of a 14 hour and 21 minute day. I was at least happy with one of my three sports.

The Finish: Finally

Crossing the street to the finish a number of my Rev3 teammates were there running with me. I took everything in. The sights, the sounds, the smells. I was tired but awake. I had accomplished my goal of completing my first iron distance race. Not as fast as I wanted but I had perservered. I didn't let the sucky swim stop me or the lackluster bike. I went for it on the run and took back my race.

At the finish my friend and Rev3 announcer Sean English played a special song called "Rose Tattoo" by the Dropkick Murphys to honor my late cousin Danielle who loved the band. I was able to raise more than $2100 for the American Brain Tumor Association and hope it will make a small bit of difference for someone else that is fighting cancer. My battle for the day was hard but certainly nothing in comparison to those who must fight cancer.

Post Race:

After the race Steve and I hung out for a while with our Cleveland Triathlon Club friends. I devoured some Pizza and had a special post race IPA from my friend Phil and then we headed over to the Rev3 team tent for a while. On the way back to our hotel we found a 24-hour diner and both devoured a couple of hard-earned cheeseburgers!

My fast husband and me at the finishers brunch
The next morning Rev3 had a nice Finishers brunch and gave out awards for the Full athletes that placed overall and in their age groups including my husband! Steve ended up finishing in 12:09 and placing third in his age group out of 26 people. I'm so proud of him and glad that at least one of us made it to the podium.

Closing Thoughts:

An iron distance race is more mental than physical. You have to dig deep and ignore the aches, pains and negative thoughts. In my mind I wanted to quit a number of times but I knew that I couldn't succumb to those moments of weakness. I had to be strong. I worked too hard to let it slip away. Pain is temporary, pride is forever.

We are all capable of so much more than we think. We just have to decide that we want something and go after it. Such is the case with the 140.6 training. Just pick a race, commit to the training and do it. Don't overthink it or you'll always find a reason to get out of it. Sure there will be sacrifices along the way but in the end you'll be glad you did it.

Let your time be what it will be. If you show up on race day and go home a finisher then you succeeded. It's more about the journey than the destination anyways. I know I'll go back at it again for a faster time when I am ready but I now have the confidence to know that I have already done it. I took on the 140.6 distance and I survived it. Perhaps the adversity of the day made that finish just a little sweeter.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 Rev3 Cedar Point 140.6 Race Report - Part 1 Getting to the Starting Line

I dreamed of the day that I would complete my first 140.6 iron-distance triathlon race. In my dreams it went a little smoother than it did on Sunday. It was a roller coaster of a race for me and I am proud of my ability to dig deep and finish my first full on a tough day and tough week emotionally.

Race Week had been going well. I was staying calm throughout the taper and all was well in the universe until Thursday night at 8:45PM when my phone rang. My dad had called and left me a message that I needed to call him back right away. I called him and was completely shocked when he told me that my baby brother Justin had fallen at work and was lifeflighted to Metro Health in Cleveland. I had no idea if he was going to live or die at that point so I was terrified. Steve and my daughter Marley and I rushed to the hospital and got there around 9:45 just as my parents and Aunt were arriving. We were not able to see Justin right away so we all nervously sat around and paced in the ICU waiting room waiting for news. Finally around 11:30 we were able to see him. I went in with my Mom and Dad. The poor thing was not conscious and it didn't really even look like him as his whole face was swollen, eyes black and blue, face bloody with a breathing tube. It was a sight I will not soon forget. We left the hospital to get some sleep but needless to say sleep did not come easy. 

Friday I had a couple of morning meetings at work that I somehow managed to get through but left early to pickup my daughter and head to the hospital to see Justin again. As of that morning he had still not gained consciousness and we were not sure the extent of the damage. Fortunately he did regain his consciousness that afternoon and the doctors confirmed that his brain seemed to be okay as were his neck and spine. He had suffered several facial fractures, arm and hand fractures, broken ribs and one broken vertebrae in the neck. Once the doctors confirmed that he would be okay I decided to move forward with the race. I rushed home to pack, get something to eat and try to get some sleep.

Saturday I awoke feeling a little better but still tired. Steve and I had a big breakfast, did a quick 20 minute trainer ride, loaded up the bikes and gear and headed to the hospital for another visit with Justin. I was relieved to see that he was doing better and was awake and talking. He even asked me for a hug and kiss. Knowing he was improving put my mind at ease. We headed out to Sandusky, stopping on the way at Panera to pick up food for the team lunch.

My crazy awesome Rev3 Family!
We arrived at Cedar Point around noon and picked up our race packets, timing chips and goodies. We met up with the Rev3 teammates at the Rev3 tent for lunch and there was a great group of people there. I was so excited to see everyone as some I have not seen since earlier in the summer or even March at the team summit. Our team manager Carole (mama bear) was there with us too!

Bikes racked in transition!
After lunch we got our bikes ready for check in and set them up in transition. With this being my first full and Steve's first full we had a lot of questions about the swim to bike and bike to run bags, special needs bags, etc so my teammate Stephanie who was working the race explained all of that to us and showed us where to put everything and where the changing tents were. Once we had all that figured out it was time to head over to the Breakers Express to check into our hotel room and get ready for dinner.

For dinner we met the Cleveland Triathlon Club folks at Sorrentino's Little Italy for a big dinner of bread, pasta and of course an IPA. It was great to be around so many friends many of which were doing their first 70.3 and another who like Steve and I was doing his first full. Once we were so full that we could not walk it was time to head back to the hotel to pack up our swim to bike, bike to run and special needs bags. The process went pretty smooth. Since we had two beds in the room I used one bed to organize all my stuff and Steve used the other to organize his stuff. After about an hour it was done and we decided to read for a little while and get ready for bed. Even with the melatonin I took I could not sleep. I was way too excited. I tossed and turned looking over at the clock anxiously as it read 10PM, 11PM and then 12AM. I think I finally fell asleep around 12:30 and the alarm was set for 4:45. Needless to say I have had weeks with better sleep leading into a race.
CTC dinner at Sorrentions with our friend James and many others!

Race morning the wakeup call came at 4:45 and it was almost a surreal feeling. Was I dreaming or was it actually thee day that I would toe the line for my first 140.6?! Steve and I were both excited and nervous. I chugged a Starbucks iced coffee and took a quick shower to mentally prepare myself for the long day ahead. After getting dressed and affixing all the race tattoos including a special one honoring my cousin Danielle "Smoxy" who lost her battle with cancer last year and hand drawing a heart with my brother's name on it, I was ready for breakfast. I was able to eat a couple of gluten free blueberry waffles with maple syrup and some watermelon and I downed a cocount water. We were out the door at 5:45 and headed over to the transition area. Once we arrived there it would be just a matter of minutes before our first 140.6 triathlon would begin. Wow!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Five days til my first 140.6 & five things I've learned along the way

The countdown until Rev3 Cedar Point 140.6 is on! In 5 days I will run, jog, or hobble across that finish line as fast as humanly possible for me on that day. Whatever the day brings I'll be ready. I feel like so much of the journey has just been leading up to the race, which will be a part of that journey also. I'm excited to share this special day with my husband, who is also completing his first 140.6 race as well as my Rev3 teammates and Cleveland Tri Club friends. It's been a long summer of training and I am so ready. 

So to honor these last five days leading up to the race I wanted to share five things that I've learned as a result of training for my first 140.6 iron-distance triathlon:

  1. Training is easier when you have family and friends that support you. In my case having a husband to train with and friends to train with as well as my Rev3 teammates has really been so valuable. My work has also been supportive too. On days when I felt low they were there to lift me up. On days when I felt high they were there to share in those moments too. I am blessed to have the support of so many people, which has helped me get to where I am today.
  2. Planning is key but plan to have some fun too. You must have a plan to get in the needed hours to train for such a big event. You have to get up early and workout, fit things in on your lunch and workout at night before dinner. Weekends during the build period can be consumed with key workouts but you can still have fun. Plan some workouts and races with friends and make some memories as you train. I look back on all the good times we've had with friends this summer and the training went by so fast!
  3. Embrace every part of the training. I've been guilty of ignoring the swim in past years but that was not an option this season training for a 140.6. I started the work on cold, snowy days and it continues a few times each week. In particular I have fallen in love with open water swimming. I've spent many days swimming at Mentor Headlands this season and each time I am out there I feel so alive. It is challenging and fun and I look forward to it. Not to mention that swimming gives my tired legs a break! I hear other triathletes complain about the bike or run. Whatever your weakest of the three is make sure you put in the work in that area especially!
  4. Recovery is part of the training also. I have had knee pains, foot pains, back pains, total exhaustion and days where I feel like a million bucks. There will be aches and pains. Make sure to rest and recover. Stretch frequently. Use a foam roller. Get a massage. Eat well. Sleep well. Hydrate. Take vitamin supplements. Take days off when you need to. My foot has been bothering me for the last month or so with tendonitis or my arthritis flaring up. I've taken up to a week off and been in for treatments on it. Don't wait too long if something hurts. Fix it! 
  5. Keep calm and carry on. This phrase is used often now but I had to use it. This is so important to successful training. There will be ups and downs in your training. And as I just mentioned there will be aches and pains. There will be days when you just want to throw in the towel. Accept those days. It will pass. Just stay as calm as possible and carry on with your plan or as close to your plan as possible. You will get to where you need to be. For me, I can remember being so nervous before my first 70.3 also at Rev3 Cedar Point. I don't feel as nervous for this. I feel more calm than I expected to the week of the race. Sure I am excited and a bit nervous but I know that I have done the training and I know that I will give it my all Sunday. I can see my goal. The finish line awaits