How to Transition like a Pro

By Laurel Wassner, Pro Triathlete

Most people know of triathlon as a combination of swimming, biking and running.  Knowing how to switch from one sport to the next is a crucial part of the race.  These transitions may be a small percentage of the overall time, but they can be the difference between winning or losing, or getting that Kona slot or missing out by a few seconds.  So, how do you go from swimming to biking and from biking to running as fast as possible?  Try these pro tips:

Transition 1:  Transition from swim to bike

-Scout out the transition area and know where your bike is racked.  Have you ever parked in a garage and then come back from shopping and lost your car and taking forever to find it?  Well, you don’t want that to happen in a race!  When you go to rack your bike the day before the race, pick out some landmarks and visual cues to help you navigate the fastest way to your bike.  For example, trees or signs.  Also, make note of how many rows of bikes you have to pass before getting to yours.  It can help to put a bright colored towel or shirt in your area or even on your handle bars. Make sure to do a practice walk through transition so you have this route in your head.

-Just like you practice swimming, biking and running, rehearse your transitions.  Organize and lay out your gear in practice and then do the same thing when you get to the race. Keep in mind that you may have less room when you get to the race site, so be flexible and adapt.

-While you are walking down to the swim start the morning of the race, make sure to take a moment to check out the swim exit and where you will be running to your bike. Keep an eye out for curbs you might have to run over or potholes / places you could trip.  And once again, visualize where you need to be when you are running out of the water.

-Some races offer volunteers to help you strip off your wetsuit. If they offer you help, take it!  Those things can be hard to get off.  One tip is to put sportslick or body glide directly on the wetsuit on the lower leg openings.  Also putting a little on the back of your hands helps getting the sleeves off.

-Rubber band your bike shoes to the bike frame like a pro.  The fastest way to get on your bike and start riding right away is to have your shoes already clipped into your pedals before you jump on the bike. Most triathlon shoes have a loop in the back that can be used to loop a rubber band from there to somewhere (a bolt or screw) on the frame.  You place your feet on top of the shoes and start pedaling and within the first few minutes slide your feet into your shoes and fasten them.  The rubber band will break. If you try this, practice it first!

Transition training can also be fun for everyone from the athlete to their support team…have fun training!

Transition 2:  Transition from biking to running

-Scout out exactly where the dismount line is.  You want to be ready to hop off the bike at the appropriate place and not get a penalty for going over the line.  Just like I mentioned above, do a walk through to navigate the best route to your bike stand.  For example, pass 7 rows and make a left.  If you used a bright colored towel or shirt – look out for it.

-Put elastic laces in your running shoes.  Huge time saver.  Also, roll your socks in to a donut shape so you can easily unroll them and slide them on.

-Have a bottle of XRCEL ready to drink.  Unscrew the cap and then lightly close it, so it will be quicker to drink.  Drink it as you are running through the transition area.

-Also, have a bottle of water with your things. You never know if you’ll come off the bike thirsty, or if it’s hot it can be handy to have it there to cool you down.

The most important thing about transitions is to stay calm. When you get out of the water, take a deep breath and think about your mental map to your bike.  If you get back to your bike and your things have been knocked around, stay focused and make sure you collect everything you need.  The more focused and calm you are, the more efficient the transition will be.

And, don’t forget to practice the details before the race!

5 Real life signs of overtraining or a need for a rest day

By Carrie Lester, Pro Triathlete and Coach

I am not a doctor, an exercise scientist, or any other scholar when it comes to identifying signs of overtraining or when we as athletes are simply in need of a few easy days. I am, however a coach and an athlete, and have years of experience racing as a professional athlete in my body and mind. It has taken a long time to recognize the clear signs that I am on the edge, and I see similar signs in athletes I coach as they are Age Group athletes managing work, kids, training, social commitments and basic life chores. These are my top 5 signs:

1. Mood.

This one for me is the screaming sign I am in need of some easier days.

Feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, low self esteem, low everything…it starts to become consuming. Why? Without getting into the science = HORMONES.  What we do places an awful amount of stress on our body and mind and eventually our hormones start flipping out. They control everything. When I find myself in tears for no apparent reason, its time for a rest.

2. Food choices.

Where’s the sugar?? I want it ALL the time. Hormones are out of whack, mood is down, what is going to make me feel better…SUGAR! Most of the time I eat a balanced, healthy diet. But when I am at a low point, I make bad choices. Then feel worse because I made the bad choice. And turns out it didn’t make me feel better.

3. Strength & Power.

I have none. Just deep fatigue. In any discipline I am fighting myself in whatever I do. My legs, arms, everything is heavy, and no matter how much time I give myself to “clear the pipes” in sessions it just doesn’t happen and usually ends in tears (a little over exaggerated but known to happen). 80% efforts are capped at 60% if I am lucky because I can’t go any faster, my heart won’t let me. Hills become mountains and I scramble up them.  The list goes on.

4. Sleep.

It’s restless. And not enough to recover and feel rejuvenated. I always wake feeling I want more and am usually in a pretty deep brain fog. Don’t talk to me until I have had a cold shower and coffee (which at these times you should try and avoid!)

5. The scientific signs.

As I said, I’m no scientist, but it doesn’t take one to know that what we do creates inflammation within us. At times, this will create inflammatory conditions that will show as red flags should you have blood tests or ASI tests done. THIS DOESN’T MEAN A DOCTOR PUTS YOU ON MEDICATION. I REPEAT, YOU DO NOT NEED MEDICATION. Most of these conditions WILL stabilize with the correct diet, rest and lifestyle. If they don’t, then you should seek professional help and consider other options.

If you start noticing any or all of these signs communicate with your coach (if you have one) and plan a few easy days until your signs start to turn around.  Note, I said easier days. NOT days OFF.  Sometimes taking full days off is not what we type A people need, but in extreme cases may be ok with doing so. Consider it a time of adaptation to come back stronger.

It’s important to recognize the signs and not take it out on others or ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up, but instead treat your body and mind to a few days of R&R. Eat well, sleep as much as you can, back the training off, take a mini break, go out with friends and have a good laugh. Your body & mind will thank you!

9 Ways to Stay Injury-Free this Triathlon Season

By Patrick Evoe

     If you’re a triathlete, you’re now moving from winter off season towards racing season. Your fitness is probably coming around and you’re really starting to turn the screws in training. Nothing will derail your progress faster than an injury. If you want to have a successful racing season, staying injury-free should be a top priority. Here, I want to give you some tips and ideas to keep you off the injured reserve and training and racing strong.

1) Keep up the gym work: It’s an old school mentality that strength work in the gym is only for the winter or “off season.” Most professional triathletes stay working in the gym year round now. Maintaining gym work as part of your training regime throughout your racing season will not only help your overall strength and muscle recruitment, but it will also help keep your stabilizing muscles strong, thus helping to prevent injury during your larger volume training.

2) Soft surface running: Elite runners know that the pavement is your enemy when it comes to injury prevention. You can help reduce your risk of stress fractures and other injuries from repetitive impacts by staying off of hard surfaces when you lace up your shoes. The more miles you can run on softer surfaces rather than concrete and asphalt the better. Dirt trails or roads are ideal for putting in the bigger miles, but there are other options to minimize your pavement time. Treadmills, grass soccer fields, and tracks are all other excellent options for running depending on the specific training session. If you’re faced with an area where pavement is your only option, always choose asphalt over concrete. Asphalt actually gives a little with each stride where concrete does not, so the asphalt road will provide better shock absorption than concrete, and thus less pounding. If you want to know how much “harder” concrete is than asphalt, one source I found had the measure for how much an object resists deforming (modulus of elasticity) for asphalt at 380 kpsi and concrete at 4500kpsi. The moral of this story is stick to the softer surfaces for your running miles to help prevent those repetitive stress injuries.

3) Maintain your body work: Body work is to training what flossing is to dentistry. We all know we should be doing it all of the time, but as soon as we get tired, it’s the first thing we drop. Then when you’re injured and go into a physical therapist, the first thing they ask is how much foam rolling and stretching you do. When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is hop on the foam roll, but the reality is that keeping up with a body work regiment will help keep your body happy and healthy. Massages, stretching, and foam rolling are very effective at helping with injury prevention.

4) When in doubt, don’t – My uncle, who is a lifetime runner gave me some advice when I was a new runner. He said an old coach of his used to say that during a taper “when in doubt, don’t!” If you’re not sure if your should do something in training, you’re probably better off if you don’t do it. I like to extend that advice to injury prevention. I learned the hard way (time and time again), that if you feel tightness or a little pain coming on, stop the workout. It’s not worth risking a pull or strain just to soldier through a session and check the box on your training program. It’s better to bag that workout, take it easy for a day and come back to hammer through the rest of the training plan, than to be out for a couple weeks with a calf or hamstring pull. Trust me on this one, I was the worst offender of this during the first two thirds of my racing career. It took a lot of pulls and strains before I gained the wisdom to stop a workout as a precaution rather than let my motivation and ego keep me going during a workout.

5) Keep your warm-ups slow – Moving into your racing season, your fitness will naturally improve as you try to reach your peak. As you get fitter, you may feel urge to start out faster on your swim, bike and run workouts because your winter paces feel easier. Keep in mind that your body still needs a nice, long, and slow warm-up to get your muscles supple and malleable before you start hammering away. Always remember the common analogy that your muscles at the start of a workout are like a rubber band pulled out of the freezer. Stretch it too fast before it’s warmed up and it will snap. The same is true for your muscles. Keep your warm-ups nice and slow, even if the pace feels too easy.

6) You still need recovery blocks – You’re now counting down your final months and weeks to your key races. You’re fit, strong, and better yet, motivated. This is a great position to be in, but it can also be dangerous if you overreach. Some athletes want to build and build; add in more and more intensity. True, you need to add volume and/or intensity to create a training response, but if you don’t give yourself recovery blocks, or back off for a week here and there, you will increase your risk for burn out and injury. Remember, you never get stronger in a workout, only during the recovery!

7) Substitute a long bike for a long run – A great tip I learned from a former coach was to substitute an extra long ride for a long run periodically. We all get in the mentality of Saturday long ride, Sunday long run. It’s the triathlon way. While long runs are an essential piece to your training plan, they are also the single workout that most increases your injury risk. Now and then, my old coach would have a weekend where I didn’t have a long run. Instead, Saturday would be a medium-long to long ride (3-5 hours) with hard intensity. Then Sunday would be a long endurance ride of 5-6 hours. Just relaxed endurance pace riding. You still get a great cardiovascular boost from the double long ride but without the pounding of the long run. It’s also a great way to boost your cycling fitness. For the type-A triathletes who mentally can’t miss a long run, don’t worry, you won’t lose your run fitness by missing one long run. Of course you need to have a solid cycling base before you try this because you don’t want to end up with a cycling injury.

8) Stay on top of your hydration – As the weather warms up and your training load increases, you will be in a constant battle to stay hydrated. If you become chronically dehydrated, you increase your risk for several types of injuries; more specifically pulls and strains. Calf and lower leg pulls or strains can sometimes be attributed to chronic dehydration because the muscles are not as supple when they’re in a dehydrated state. Make hydration a priority throughout your season. It should be something you stay on top of before, during, and after all of your training.

9) Proper Fueling – A tired body and mind resulting from inadequate fueling can contribute to injury risk from fatigue due to mechanical failure or poor decision making from sub-optimal brain fueling. Athletes talk anecdotally about the dreaded bonk, but in reality, if you reach the point in a race or training where you’ve sufficiently depleted your stores to put you in that state, you’re putting yourself at risk of harming yourself. Help mitigate that risk by ensuring you keep your mind and body fueled using XRCEL’s extended release micro-gel technology as your fueling source throughout your training and racing.

After reading this, you probably recognize that injury prevention is primarily about risk reduction. As you think through your training, racing, and recovery, try to get into the mindset to mitigate as many of the injury risks inherent to our sport as you can. Setting yourself up to have your best race is as much about getting you to the starting line healthy as it is getting you there fit!

about getting you to the starting line healthy as it is getting you there fit!

How to Prepare For Hot Races

By Scott Defillipis, Pro Triathlete & Coach

Racing a triathlon in extreme heat (90 degrees Fahrenheit or above) is something that some human beings can handle naturally. These are generally smaller athletes with low sweat rates, athletes that live in warm climates and never have to go through a winter, or very efficient athletes (Miranda Carfrae is a great example). But for the rest of us that don’t go so well in the heat, we must prepare weeks before the event or risk having a melt down on the run…(trust me I’ve been there).

Here are some quick tips to help you get ready for a hot race:

-Get in a sauna! Most local gyms have one. If you don’t belong to a gym that has one, see if you can get a trial membership, even if just for a week.  You don’t have to camp out in the sauna, but spending 15-30 mins max, 2-3 times a week will expose you to extreme heat which will help you come race day. You can include this as a part of your weekly training routine if time and facilities allow or simply get in a sauna a few times 7-10 days leading into you race.

-Take a sweat test. Precision Hydration offers a free one on their webpage

Most athletes think they are taking on enough sodium but chances are they aren’t getting nearly enough as their body requires. For a heavy sweater like myself, even though I am small and efficient like Miranda, I loose so much fluid I have to consume 1000 mg of sodium an hour in hot races or its lights out by the time I get to the run

-To train in heavy clothes or not?  I have seen lots of athletes who live in cooler places, and who are preparing for Kona, overdress for training sessions during the lead up to the big race. Personally, I have never tried this nor do I plan to or instruct the athletes I train to do so…I prefer athletes to maximize their training in comfortable conditions rather than unnecessarily overheat, which could negatively affect your training program.  Having said this, if you have access to a warmer pool (82-86 degrees) to swim in before a hot race, this can be very beneficial for heat adaptation. Be sure to dial back your intensity a good 10-15%.

-Have you tried XRCEL?  XRCEL’s Patented micro-gels increase the release rate of glucose when body temperature levels rise during strenuous activity, which in return keeps the core body temperature down… When I first started using XRCEL, the man behind the science, Fred Sexton, had me try it while I was home in NJ during the Christmas Holidays. I was swimming at a local indoor pool which was quiet, warm, 84 degrees. I had a 2 hour swim scheduled, the same 2 hour swim I had done a week before, barely completing.  This time with 2 XRCELs, it was a breeze, and I even swam Lifetime Best Times.

-Preload on Sodium the day before. Take in an extra 1000-1500mg of sodium the day before in the form of added salt to meals, or simply take a few salt pills throughout the day

Come race day in the heat of the moment:

-Dial your effort level back 10-15%, forget your expectations.

-Don’t pay too much attention to watts on the bike (unless you are using it to hold you back).

-If you train with Heart Rate, then use it to keep your level of effort towards the low end of your aerobic zone.

-Forget pace on the run…Simply run your best effort in the given conditions.

-Use ice and sponges to keep your mid-section and lower back cool. If ice is not available then keep pouring water on yourself at each aid station. And don’t be afraid to walk through the aid stations to get the fluid in.

-Lastly, don’t forget your XRCEL- it helps to regulate your body temperature.  “Never Leave Transition Without It”.   

Happy Training and Racing!

Top 8 Marathons for your Bucket List

With 2018 in full swing, there’s never been a better time to dip into your marathon bucket list and pull out a winner or two. Marathons are growing in participation and popularity all around the country, but there are a handful of races that stand out for good reason.  From running through a magical kingdom to running to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain, our “Eight Great Marathons” need to be on any new or seasoned runner’s list of “must-runs!” Pick one of our bucket list marathons, grab your XRCEL, and start training for what will only be an epic marathoning experience!

Big Sur International Marathon

Imagine yourself running in the most beautiful painting of nature you have ever seen. Now, sign up for the Big Sur International Marathon and you can actually run in the marathon that boasts the most gorgeous views your running shoes have ever encountered. This is an unforgettable point-to-point course run along California Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel. With canopies of redwood trees, the rushing of ocean waves, and the magnificent coastal mountains, your body might forget you are running 26.2 miles. At the halfway point, you will run across the iconic Bixby Bridge where you will be greeted by a tuxedo-wearing musician playing a Yamaha Baby Grand Piano. You will also be treated to some refreshing strawberries from local farmers around mile 23 as you head towards the finish line. The sights along this race course are unlike anything you’ll ever see!

Boston Marathon

With its 122nd birthday coming up this April, the Boston Marathon is one of the oldest and most memorable marathons around. With qualifying times set by the Boston Athletic Association, runners have to push their running limits to earn a spot on the starting line, which is what makes Boston extremely special. This point-to-point course starts in the quaint town of Hopkinton and ends on the busy downtown Boston street, Boylston Street. For 26.2 miles, you are never alone thanks to the Patriot’s Day celebration in Boston where  the whole city is off of work and ready to cheer for all of the runners. Hear the roaring students from Boston University as you crest the top of the treacherous Heartbreak Hill around mile 20. You will feel the rush of energy from the emcee and spectators as you finish strong through the downtown streets and make your final turn to the gigantic finish line, painted in bright blue and yellow. You have to be fast to race Boston, but we know you can do it!

Disney Marathon

It’s the most magical marathon of them all! Not only is Disney World an amazing place to make memories with your family, but it’s also become a delightful place to test your marathon legs. With your favorite Disney characters hosting this weekend-long event, runners get to experience an enchanting run through the wonderful world of Disney for all 26.2 miles. This is a marathon that welcomes all skill levels and is known as a relatively flat and easy course. Time will fly by as runners are fully-entertained on the course by music, loud cheers, and appearances by the world’s most famous mouse! Runners also receive a one-of-a-kind finisher medal for their time in the Magic Kingdom. If you really want to challenge your marathon legs, you can sign up for the other races taking place that weekend including a 5k, 10k, and half marathon. There are special medals if you choose to take on more than just the marathon and some fun kids races, making it a weekend the whole family can enjoy!

Honolulu Marathon

Get into the holiday and aloha spirit in early December when you run the scenic Honolulu Marathon. With no time limits on race day, runners can fully enjoy and take in all of the sights and sounds on the festive course. Even better, the race does not set a cap on participants, making it a great race for all of your family and friends to enjoy together.  The runners will get the full Honolulu experience as they run through the downtown streets, which are drenched in holiday lights and decor before heading through the famous Waikiki Village and scenic climbs around Diamond Head, where the ocean can be seen and heard for miles. You will feel like a rock star at the boisterous finish line as you can see yourself finish, thanks to a 20-minute delay, on the big screen in the finisher village. Let the Hawaiian spirit engulf you as you enjoy a marathon lined with palm trees and an ocean breeze as you run 26.2 miles in paradise.

Marine Corps Marathon

Known as the “People’s Marathon,” the Marine Corps Marathon is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money and, instead, celebrates the honor, courage, and commitment of all the finishers. This October race was created in 2004 to raise money for wounded service members and has taken on an extraordinary life of its own.The race strives to promote physical fitness, generate community, and showcase the skill of the United States Marine Corps, many who are participating in full gear. Runners from all 50 states and more than 60 countries take their marathon journey through both Arlington, Virginia and Washington, D.C., with the streets lined with members of the military and citizens cheering for miles. The flat and fast course is designed for everyone who aspires to conquer a marathon and will leave you with a true feeling of pride when you hit the finish line.

Miami Marathon

What better way to ring in the new year than with the marathon that never sleeps? The Miami Marathon is the party-of-parties when it comes to 26.2 miles because the people of Miami know how to cheer and celebrate a race like no other! Get ready for the course to be lined with excited crowds, mile after mile as you put your marathon legs to the test. The course is a great course for novices and experts alike as it is a flat and forgiving course. Whether you want to compete for fun or qualify for the Boston Marathon, this course is for you! Don’t be surprised if you recognize many of the spots on course from a movie or T.V. show and you may even see a famous face or two. Although the speedy course is definitely the “star of the show,” this January gem is sure to keep you entertained and inspired through every mile.

New York City Marathon

It’s not only one of the most popular marathons, but it’s also the world’s biggest marathon! With over 50,000 finishers, the New York City Marathon is a true bucket list race for anyone wanting to accomplish 26.2 miles. Even with the often-cold November weather upon the race, it doesn’t stop the millions of spectators from lining the streets to cheer on all of the racers every step of the way. You’ll feel the warmth and love of this patriotic race as it is regarded as a symbol of hope and unity since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Runners get a true tour of the city as they run through the five boroughs of New York City before the epic finish line that awaits in the iconic Central Park. The New York Marathon is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime marathon experience!

Pikes Peak Marathon

There is no actual way to measure or describe the difficulty of the Pikes Peak Marathon. Held in Manitou Springs, Colorado, runners start up a mountain trail with over 7,815 feet of climbing for the first 13.1 miles, hitting the halfway mark at the top of a 14,115  foot peak. However, what goes up, must come down and runners are then left with another 13.1 miles, carefully descending down the mountain to the finish line. Qualifying times are put in place to both challenge runners and to keep them safe. Despite being a tough race, it is also one of beauty and nature. Runners will get to experience running through the soft trails and mountainous terrain, overlooking the majestic surrounding mountains. For runners who want an even tougher challenge than the marathon, you race the Pikes Peak Ascent, straight up the mountain, the day before the marathon. The Ascent also has qualifying times, but we’ll never say no to a challenge!