A Power Meter for your Swimming

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Ed. Note—This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of RaceCenterNW, and you can find it here.

I’ve become a curmudgeonly swim coach late in my triathlon career, so bear with me as I air a grievance. Say I’ve given my swimmers something simple but hard, the classic 20x100 on 1:30, aiming to hold 1:25 per repeat, for example. Wanting to ensure that they make the interval, they set off with abandon, swimming the first 50 in :40 (1:20 pace) and the second one in :45 (1:30). At the end of the set they are satisfied, reporting that they “nailed every interval exactly.” It takes a lot of restraint on my part to point out that, actually, they swam exactly zero yards at the goal pace of 1:25/100, starting too hard and then fading in the second half. This “fly and die” attitude is pervasive in endurance sports, born out of a well-meaning (but ill-fated) desire to “put some time in the bank.” Apply this approach to anything longer than, say, a 200, and you’ll quickly discover that you give back that time in the bank quickly, along with interest. The sad reality about athletes like this is that they are actually training to slow down in races, which is probably the opposite of what they’re trying to do in the first place.

So how to fix the problem? Any triathlete, faced with my criticism above, usually counters with a foreseeable argument: “But all triathlon swims start out fast, right? You’re supposed to race to that first buoy, so I’m just training specifically for my event.” Here’s the thing: those swimmers that race to the first buoy and then settle into a group, once they’ve made a gap? They didn’t have to slow down; they chose to slow down. A group established with a gap behind them, they know that they’ve done the necessary work to whittle down the group to a more manageable size, and they can afford to back it off and save some energy. If you’re utilizing the fly and die method, you might make that group for a few meters before getting unceremoniously dumped out of the group, having exceeded your sustainable pace for that distance to the first buoy. As a triathlete or open-water swimmer, you have three main areas on which you need to focus on, ranked in order of importance:

1.     Aerobic endurance—basically your swim fitness. Your ability to hold long, steady intervals at a pace that is not easy, but isn’t gaspingly hard. This is a crucial area that I find too many athletes avoid, preferring the sexier shorter and faster intervals that look good but do little for a triathlete/open-water specialist.

2.     Pace change—your ability to deal with and weather accelerations and decelerations, once you’ve found the group you can finish the event with.

3.     Starts/lactate tolerance—yes, it is important to be able to deal with the red-line that occurs at the beginning of a triathlon or OWS race. However, you will actually improve your lactate tolerance the most by focusing on aerobic endurance, above. So this third focus is actually a distant third.

So what do these subjective descriptions actually mean in a pool setting? It’s all well and good for me to tell you to focus on something, but I need to tell you how to get there, too. First of all, you need to establish your threshold pace, which is similar to your Functional Threshold Power on the bike or your threshold pace on the run. We could get into the weeds on what all those “thresholds” mean, but basically it’s your highest sustainable pace for a relatively extended period of time. For swimming, coaches have coalesced around your best 1500 pace as a good compromise for threshold. How to establish that number? Here are a few options.

1.     Go swim a 1500 time trial! Sounds like fun, right? Well, although you may think it’s fun, a lot of problems persist with this. Just as on the bike it’s hard to get an athlete to pace a 60-minute time trial well, it’s hard to get someone new to swimming 1500s in the pool to pace correctly. That said, if you’re Bruce Lee where pacing is concerned, then this is a good option (of course, if that’s true, this article isn’t really for you…)

2.     Use the Critical Swimming Speed formula. This formula (CSS for short) has been around for a long time, and has been popularized by Swim Smooth. After a solid warmup, complete a 400 time trial followed by a 200 time trial. Take the difference between the two and divide in half. This will spit out a pace per 100 that you can probably hold for 1500. You’ve found your threshold pace.

3.     Perform the following “broken 1500” test, taking the exact rest specified: 2x250 with :25 rest; 2x200 with :20 rest; 2x150 with :15 rest; 2x100 with :10 rest; 2x50 with :05 rest. Take your time for THE WHOLE SET, rest included, and then subtract 2:25. This gives you an estimated 1500 time, which you can divide by 15 to get your pace per 100.

OK, you’ve got your threshold pace for swimming! Good work. Now how to use it? Well, let’s return to our types of workouts, above. A tool that will be REALLY HELPFUL, here, is the Finis Tempo Trainer Pro. You can set it to paces based off your threshold, and it will pace you through sessions. They sit up in your cap and you can see me using one below. Apparently I also have a redundant one on deck.

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1.     Aerobic Endurance: complete longer intervals (300s to 1000s) at anywhere from threshold pace + 3 seconds per 100 to threshold pace + 6 seconds per 100 with short rest. A classic is the Swim Smooth “Red Mist” workout, which is 10x400 with :20 rest in between each interval, swum as follows: 4x400 @ TP + 6 seconds/100, 3x400 @ TP + 5 seconds/100, 2x400 @ TP + 4 seconds/100, 400 @ TP + 3 seconds/100. This workout looks easy at first, but I promise you it is not.

2.     Pace Change: get in a good warmup, then do the following:

a.     4x100 at threshold pace with :15 rest, 100 easy after the four 100s
b.     4x100 at threshold pace + 3 seconds per 100 with only :05 rest, 100 easy after the four 100s
c.     4x100 2 seconds faster than threshold pace with :20 rest, 100 easy after the four 100s
d.     4x100 at threshold pace + 2 seconds per 100 with only :05 rest, 100 easy after the four 100s
e.     4x100 4 seconds faster than threshold pace with :25 rest, 100 easy after the four 100s

3.     Lactate tolerance/starts: after you’ve gotten your aerobic endurance in place (a good test is that you can make it through the 10x400 workout above without slowing down or having to extend the rest), here’s a simple session for improving your body’s ability to deal with the start speed of triathlon. Get in a solid warmup, and then go through this following set twice:

a.     2x100 SPRINT with :20 rest (you may feel inclined to extend this rest—don’t; there’s a scientific reason not to; you can email me about it at chrisbagg@gmail.com)
b.     2x400 @ threshold pace + 2 seconds per 100 with :15 rest in between 400s
c.     100 easy and :30 rest before repeating the main set

OK, I’m over my word count, so I’ve gotta call it there, but I hope you found this useful/helpful! Remember, triathlon is a pacing game; it’s not really a racing game.

Amy VT's Ultimate Packing List

“Did you print out our European Federation receipts?” “D’oh! We totally forgot them.”

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I’ve been traveling to races for over a decade, and it’s still seems chronically inevitable that I forget something every time. But!  I’ve gotten hella better, and I do believe I just designed my best system ever.  The key features of my new suite of packing lists: 

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SORTING INTERFACE. This feature is my fave development of our new system. You’ll see the classic Sheets filtering feature at the top of each column, evidenced by the tiny triangle. There are a gajillion to-do apps that could also hosts all my lists, which I might migrate to one of these days, but the key for me is being able to sort by category, so I can only focus on BIKE, for instance, and to sort by YES or NO, to reveal what’s left to pack, which I’ve also separated by HERS and HIS, which could obvi be extrapolated to HERS and HERS, HIS and HIS, traveling buddies, or racer-spectator duos. I’m sure families with kiddos would warrant a whole ‘nother spectrum of list items like nappies, plane games, and legal narcotics. Here’s our Flying to a Race Abroad Packing List: 

REDUNDANCIES. I found it impossible to segregate each item into only one category, such as shades and trucker hats. Duh, I need those for traveling, hanging, training, and racing. Since the point of a compressive list is to not forget anything, I err on the side of listing things twice. Here’s our Driving Across the Border Packing List: 

MULTIPLE LISTS. You don’t need your foreign docs when you’re driving to a state-side race, but you can pack all the CO2 cartridges you fancy. There are tons of items to remember (or forget) for different types of events, so I maintain several.  Flying versus driving is obvi the biggest departure between lists, especially when flying with bikes. I also created a to-list before, one for just going to Camps, bike races, and so on.  Here are all the lists we maintain:

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I will offer an editorial note that we pretty exclusively travel with the phenomenal Rüster Sports Bags, enabling us to transport our bikes for a mega discount, or even for free on Southwest. The soft bags do necessitate, however, complete disassembly and reassembly, which makes our lists all the more important, because if you ain’t got your pedal wrench or crank tool upon destination, you’re SOL.

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A final note is that these lists should be highly individualized. I don’t pack compression, but I do pack a mallet. I don’t pack body glide, but I do pack crafts. I don’t pack multiple helmets, but I do pack multiple books. As races season enters full-swing, I totes suggest you make your own and pick out your Sheets colors or find the perfect app. Amy VT’s special packing extra: bring thank-you cards and maybe even little gifts from your homeland with you to give to homestay families, race directors, or new buddies you meet along the way. And don’t forget the sandwiches you packed in the fridge for the plane (precedent).

Athlete Profile: CBCG Athlete Devin Salinas Raises $14,830 for Charity Water

Ed. Note—our athletes do amazing things all the time, both on and off the race course. Today we bring you CBCG athlete Devin Salinas' story about raising $14830 for Charity Water, an organization dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to the 663 million people who have to go without clean water for most of their lives. CBCG is proud to have contributed $1000 to that effort, and we're happy to have helped almost 500 people get access to clean water through Devin's work. CBCG Coach Chris Boudreaux coaches Devin, and helped him get ready for his birthday ordeal.

On April 21st, 2018 I turned 30 years old! If you would have asked me five years ago how I would be celebrating this "milestone" birthday my answer would have most assuredly involved something about international travel, a boat, or maybe a chartered plane. My how times and priorities change...Instead, I ran 30 Miles in an effort to raise $30,000 for Charity Water!

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I think at times endurance sports can feel a bit isolating. We commit so much of ourselves to the lifestyle, and sacrifice so much to training, that it might seem absurd to an outsider. If we are impelled by the right reasons, however, what we can get back from our sport is so extraordinary. Not only do we discover unprecedented revelations about ourselves throughout our processes, but we forge amazing relationships with others, and optimally, find avenues for giving back to our communities.

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The CBCG family is the perfect example of this phenomenon. It's not just a group of athletes training for events; it's a group of likeminded people who come together to support one another on the journey. Not only has CBCG helped take my training and racing to another level, but they've helped me remember why I love the endurance community so much. The people, the experiences, and the shared memories.

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I first heard about Charity Water on an episode of the Rich Roll podcast with founder Scott Harrison. I was finishing a long ride through Malibu and Latigo Canyon and on my way back to Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway. I was literally moved to tears as Scott Harrison shared the story about Rachel, a little girl from Seattle who donated her 9th birthday as her last wish before she tragically passed away in an auto accident.

The combination of the beautiful scenery, the incredible story of Charity Water, and the cycling induced endorphins coursing through my body inspired me to try to do something BIG, and at that moment, the idea for 30 on 30 for $30,000 was born! I could combine my love for endurance sports and my desire to do something significant for others in celebration of my 30th birthday!

Overall, the run was a great experience! I had friends and family to support me before, during, and after the run which was awesome. Physically I felt great! My coach, Chris Boudreaux, had a great training program put together and a very clear approach to the run itself. “THIS IS NOT A RACE!” Keep my pacing in check so I can protect my legs and go throw down at Ironman Saint George 70.3 coming up on May 5th. 

I went out super conservatively for the first 10; between miles 15-18, I started getting a little too excited, and my pace started dropping into the low 7’s, which was red flag zone, so I pulled it back and stayed committed to my “mid 8’s,” as dictated by my coach. That all being said, 30 miles is still 30 miles, and by the last 3 or so my legs started to lock up on me. I got some salt and hydration and finished the run in 4:15 right at 8:29’s. “Present, Patient, Persistent,” was and is my mantra, which kept me focused through the entire run.

My first thought when I finished was, “less painful than a 70.3,” which was ironically the complete opposite of what I was expecting. In a race, even a race as long as 70.3, you’re constantly flirting with that line of maximum effort which means a much stronger pace than what I did in the run. It was a great learning experience and gave me more confidence as I head into my 2018 race season!

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My hope was not only to raise $30,000 and bring clean water to over 1,000 people in need, but to simultaneously raise awareness of the great work that Charity Water does. It's so easy to lose sight of how fortunate we are just to live where we do. To have access to something as simple as clean water is not a thought for most of us. But for over 650 Million people around the world, access to clean water is a daily struggle. It is THE daily struggle.

Want to do more? Miss your chance to contribute to Devin's work? Head over to Charity Water and help others gain access to clean water.

Athlete Profile: Erin Ray Goes 3rd Overall Amateur at Texas 70.3

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Ed. Note—CBCG athlete Erin Ray, who is coached by Ivan Dominguez, went to Texas two weekends ago and came away 3rd Amateur overall, qualifying for her pro card in the process. Read on to hear how Ivan works with Erin to optimize her abilities, and what their plans are for the future!

Ivan gives me all the tools I need to succeed. He makes my training tough, but manageable. It goes beyond just giving me a training plan. Anyone can do that! If I need to learn something (technique in the pool, what equipment to use, what bag to ship your bike in, how to take my bike apart & put it back together, what to do with obstacles in a race situation and the list goes on and on) he teaches it to me. He is there to answer my questions whenever (even when he is on vacation) & he often checks on me to make sure I am ok with training or race preparation. Also, he calls me after my races to see how it went & talks me through what we can do better the next time.

My goal has always been to get my professional license. Ivan never doubted me, which when I came to him with the swim I had he probably should have! Since he is an experienced athlete himself he knew how to help get me in the right races to give me the best chance possible—that’s really what is about. I was lucky enough to be in the right race and had a better day than enough girls out there to qualify me for the license. It’s really a dream come true for me, and Ivan helped make it possible! He told me I should do this race and pushed me to go (even when I almost cancelled it a week before). I am thankful for him believing in me, even when I doubt myself.  Yes, I want to race as a Professional. I mean those fast pro ladies are intimidating but as Ivan said, “If not now, then when?" The only way to get better is to level up!  I also am interested in getting my professional license in Xterra & want to do Worlds in Maui!

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The race was an awesome experience! Honestly because it taught me I am capable. I really had no idea I got put all three sports together and to give them a good push. I actually held back on the bike and am excited to race this distance again to try push the bike. The swim was my best time yet and Ivan has been working with me on my technique, which definitely paid off. I did get back-kicked by a dude in the swim, but other than that it felt great. Actually in my race pics you can see I came out of the water smiling due to my time. I bypassed the wetsuit strippers because it was jammed up and I didn’t want that to slow me down. T1 went well and same with the first 25 miles of the bike. Guys kept telling me nice pace as I past them which made me nervous, “should I slow it down more”? Ivan taught me just to focus on my race so that’s what I did.  Then the hurricane hit!  Ok, it was a small storm, but it was rainy, windy, and cold as hell! This is where the mental strength set in and I could hear Ivan telling me, “all the athletes are dealing with the same thing." As I approached the turn-a-round, I knew I needed water but my hands were frozen, so as Ivan has taught me, I figured it would be best to stop and make sure I get the water rather than not in a failed hand off. Even stopped the first water bottle slipped out of my hands, but I got the second one in.  I planned on doing the three loops at a negative split effort. As I headed out I felt great but I did as I was taught and went out at a steady pace and not full-on.  At about mile two my feet thawed and it was kind of nice to feel they were still down there. Then I settled into a steady pace I felt I could sustain through the finish line. My run has been coming along well, but the last mile and half were a real struggle to hold pace. I am excited because I know if we keep run training headed in the same direction I will be able to push the run even more and finish even stronger.

While I wasn’t sure I was ready (being able to do this distance with a good effort) I am thankful Ivan pushed me to go. I was nervous before I left, but the second I left for the race I actually felt really calm. I don’t know if it was because Ivan is right every time and he was confident about it or if it was because I was so busy working and race prepping that I didn’t have time to worry.  Whatever the case: I loved this race! This distance needs some work still because I want to give it an even bigger push, but I am excited about working towards that goal. Thankful for all the help and support to make this a fun experience! Can’t wait to put in the work and do better in the future!

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We asked Ivan some questions about how he works with Erin, and here is what he had to say. 

How have you adjusted your approach to fit Erin as an athlete?

Well, she loves sports and specifically triathlon, so that makes things a lot easier for me. When a person is athletic, then approaching and explaining things to them is easy; they understand quickly everything that I’m trying to teach them. Athletically they "get it," you know?

What do you see as Erin's biggest strength as an athlete? What's the area in which she had to develop the most?

The bike and running are the biggest strengths for her but the dedication and time that she puts on every day training are the main factors in her successes. Definitely we have to work a lot on her swimming, but I believe that she can be a super great long-course triathlete with the way she bikes and runs. 

How do you prepare athletes for a big race mentally? What do you say to them in the final days before the race?

Mental training is something that worked a lot for me while I raced as a professional cyclist, so I try to transfer the same principals to my athletes or to anyone in need. One thing that I always say is “Don’t think about the race too much.” Just relax and do your normal life things—the less you think about the race the better. And don’t forget your bike at the hotel on race day 😁.

Sound like something you're interested in? Head on over to our sign-up page to inquire about Ivan's availability.

Campeche 70.3—An Athlete's Report

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Lying on the massage table just past the finish line at this year’s Campeche 70.3, I felt two things after a race that I haven’t felt in a while: pride and peace. We spend a lot of time in life aiming for those two things, and it’s no surprise that many avenues exist in trying to equip us with those feelings (meditation programs, affirmation work, overcoming artificial adversity). For me, it had been a long time since I’d felt either of those things (and even longer to feel them both at the same time), and the source was simple, obvious even: I believed that I’d done everything I could do on that particular day.

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Was the result mind-blowing? No. I’d managed a respectable 12th pace out of 19 professional starters, in 4:14:17, a full nine minutes behind 10th place, but I believe I swam, biked, and ran to my current potential, and that belief allowed me to lie there on that table, give a small thumbs up to my dad, who was excitedly standing outside the athlete finisher’s area, and almost fall asleep a few times as two generous masseurs worked on my legs. Here’s how it all went down.

Pre-race

Campeche is a marvelous medium-small city on the western coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. You can fly into Campeche itself, or into Mérida, a larger city about two hours north by car. We flew into Campeche and caught a taxi to our airport. You don’t need a rental car for this race, although one would b helpful. Campeche sprawls out from a central walled city, which was constructed after the city decided enough was enough following 150 years of pirate assaults. They are a patient people, apparently. Pirate culture is everywhere in Campeche—it clearly is an important part of their history: living with the pirates, overcoming them, and then memorializing the struggle (kinda like race reports…hmm, metaphor?). There are many small hotels within the walled part of the city, where you will pay standard US rates for lodging (think $80-120/night). A few larger and less expensive hotels sit outside the walls, on the main coastal avenue (The Malécon), and we posted up in one of these: Hotel Baluartes. It was cheap, clean, and looked out directly onto the ocean. One of the nicest features of the hotel is that a small pod of food carts perches just outside the entrance, and we ate many of our meals there, often paying less than $12 a meal. It never gets old, paying 1955 prices for things. Another brief plug for Baluartes

Another 1950s thing about Campeche (most of Mexico, really) is how friendly and family-focused people are. Go to a park in the evening and entire families are hanging out on park benches, the kids scrambling around on skateboards and the abuelos holding court. Everyone we met was genuinely happy to meet us, we felt, even when taking into account we represented A) money and B) colonialism, either historic or present-day. Add to the fact that we clearly made the attempt to speak in Spanish, and people were very grateful. You will, however, need some Spanish to get around Campeche—many people speak no English. So prepare some basics.

OK, race logistics. Campeche is a two-transition zone race, so the usual hither-and-yonning in the days before the race is required. You swim at the Campeche Country Club, about eight miles south of the town proper, so you’ll have to get yourself down there the day before to drop off bikes, and then to T2/finish (at the convention center) to drop off your run bags. This all sounds simple, but by midday the temperature is well into the 90s, and doing anything both requires extra effort and has the potential to deplete your physical resources. The swim at Campeche is pretty straightforward, so you can probably skip the practice swim on Saturday and simply hit one of the pools around town (the municipal pool is 50m and free—natch). Skipping the practice swim will save you from making two trips out to the Country Club the day before the race.

Personally, I was worried headed into the race. Campeche lay at the end of a pretty difficult month, logistically, athletically, professionally, and emotionally. I left Portland on February 19th, headed to the QT2 Systems Pro Camp in Clermont, Florida, for two weeks of training with my coach, Tim Snow, and head coach of that company, Jesse Kropelnicki. I’ve been to a lot of pro camps over the years, and the QT2 camps are, undoubtedly, the hardest. You don’t know what you’ll be doing from day to day, so you can show up to a bike workout and learn that you’re facing a two-hour ride with big gear efforts, or a six-hour ride with two-hours of effort. Physically the effort is similar to other pro camps (high), but mentally it’s more challenging. You have to absorb new (and potentially unwelcome) information and do your best anyway. Kinda like racing. That’s probably intentional…

After camp, I traveled to Tucson to run my own camp for CBCG, the coaching company I run with several other coaches in Portland and other states in the west. While attending camp is tiring, running a camp is exhausting. You have to juggle organization, logistical requests, safety, food, transportation, lectures, bike maintenance, sagging and support, workout building, and the emotional management of your participants. I didn’t get much sleep each night, and definitely picked up some stress and strain throughout the week. By the time Amy and I headed to Campeche, I was tired, grouchy, sore, and not really looking forward to racing. I got some good talkings-to from Tim, my coach, who suggested we go totally data-blind for the race, and from Linsey Corbin, my housemate from Pro Camp (“You’re racing in Mexico: safety first, fun second, results third,” she told me the day before the race). The night before the race I’d resolved to aim for fun, and to simply do what I felt I could. Mentally, I wasn’t in a good spot. I felt heavy and tired, and was having trouble with headaches and caffeine management. I would go for runs and feel blown out. I hadn’t gotten in much training the week of the race.

Race morning, though, I felt good. I always know that things tend to go well if I’m feeling jokey and unconcerned on the start line, and after a solid warmup in the water (Campeche DOES allow you to warmup before the race, which is a very nice perk—there’s a little area to the north of the start line where they set up a buoy line that’s about 100m long)I jogged to the start line. I found Trevor Wurtele, who is always a good swim mark for me, and we chatted and joked a bit before the start. Most races give you a start countdown, but no such luck at Campeche! Trevor and I were talking, and suddenly the horn blew! We both started poorly, even getting hung up in the caution tape they used to hold us back from the water, and flopped into the water well into the third row of swimmers. “Oh well,” I though. “Not a great start. Let’s just jump on some feet and do what we can.” Oddly, I latched onto the pack of guys right in front of me and just swam at around 80-90%, I’d say, which is what Tim had suggested I do. Usually, I’m a mental midget in the swim, going out too fast and then getting dropped by swimmers I “should” out-swim. Instead of focusing on them this time, though, I focused on my effort, and by the first buoy I could see the lead pack going away, but felt confident I could hang out in the group I was in. Sure enough, I came into T1 in a group of 5-6 swimmers, including eventual runner-up Michael Weiss, about two minutes behind the lead group of Terenzo Bozzone and the other super swimmers.

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On the bike, I also tried to avoid my usual impulse, which is to ride like a maniac and hold on to the group I exited the water with. I tend to need plenty of time to warm up, regardless of sport, and so I just kinda did my own thing, riding hard but not forcing it. I had my bike computer taped over, so I had no idea what was happening from a power perspective, and I really enjoyed that. Losing focus on the numbers allowed me to listen to myself and try to figure out what I could do. By the end of the first 16 miles or so (the end of the first out-and-back, of which there are two) I calculated I was about three minutes behind Terenzo, which put me in a pretty solid place. Trevor Wurtele caught me right around this point, and while I didn’t try to ride with him, I did resolve to keep him in sight for as long as possible. One cautionary note about the bike leg at Campeche: the bottles of water come in standard bike bottles, but the sports drink (Gatorade regular formula, so get ready to add salt) comes in those stupid bottles with the tapered waists. They don’t fit in normal bottle cages, and when I picked one up at the second aid station, it rattled around so much I found myself paying more attention to keeping the bottle on board than on riding. I shifted to only taking in water, and grabbing a bottle of sports drink at each aid station, drinking 1/3 going through the station, and then tossing the bottle before exiting. Not ideal, and I could definitely see salt building up on my kit as the bike progressed, but there wasn’t anything else I could do, I felt. I knew I had three salt tabs in my run bag in T2, so I planned to simply down two of those as soon as I got to transition. 

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In terms of the actual course, I would describe it as rolling, with the real challenges coming from wind (it’s head/cross for the first half of each out-and-back, then tail/cross, then head/cross again, and finally tail/cross as you get to to the turnaround), heat (you’ll get really hot during the tailwind sections), and traffic. As much as I love racing in Mexico, it’s still Mexico, which means some odd rules, and then a lot of people not following the rules. We were instructed to ride North American style (ride right, pass left) for the first 7k of the bike, then switch to Aussie rules (ride left, pass right) during the out-and-back section for the next 65k or so, and then switch back to North American rules for the run in to transition. About half the age-groupers followed that prescription which led to…chaos. Knowing the Spanish words for right (derecha) and left (izquierda) is a good idea. In any case, I just kept plugging along at my “moderate-hard” effort, and guessed that I was riding in around 10-12th place, which was a good spot for me. I came off the bike thinking “Huh, my legs aren’t shot,” and figured that I would be able to put up a solid run.

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The run course at Campeche is a double out-and-back that proceeds south along the town’s main drag for 3.25 miles. There is little shade, and just like the bike, the wind is changeable. I stuck with standard hot windy running rules (don’t run fast with a tailwind, as you’ll blow up as your system overheats, and lift your effort into the headwinds, where you’re kept a little cooler by evaporative processes), and just kinda got out and started cruising. My run has been a huge question mark over the past three years, so I didn’t want to push early and blow up. Patrick McKeon passed me fairly early, and then another runner around mile five. No matter, I just focused on building my heart rate over the course of the run. Since it was a hot race, I knew I’d be seeing high heart rates for a given effort, and just resolved to build that number as I rolled along. I was looking at 155-157 BPM for 6:45-6:55 pace, which is definitely high, so I just pegged the effort there and hoped I wouldn’t see many miles over 7:00/mile. The heat built from darn warm to downright sweltering, and I focused on heat regulation as best I could: every aid station I took handfuls of ice to hold in my palms and chew (chewing ice has been shown to be the best way to drop your core temperature), swallowed half a cup of Gatorade, and downed a bag of water (yes, a bag of water! When you race in Mexico water comes in little 2 oz baggies; terrible for the ocean, good for racing). I also backed off as I went through the aid stations, pretty much sticking to Ironman strategies. I knew I wouldn’t be catching many runners, but that wasn’t my goal—I only wanted to put up a respectable run, where I built my heart rate over the course of the run leg. Around mile nine I saw Patrick McKeon struggling up ahead and thought “Yes! My one pass for the day, probably.” He was struggling with the heat, and I made the pass around mile ten, just after the final turnaround. Unfortunately, I could see there was another pro not far behind, so simply cruising in wasn’t an option. I resolved to make the final three miles my highest effort miles, and was able to do so, even though a few times I got that terrible, dizzy, “the engine is on fire” feeling. At the turn to the finish I risked a look back, and didn’t see anyone behind me. I could finally kinda shut it down and just jog the finish chute to the line, which I did, gratefully.

Mistakes:

  1. Leaving my shoes tied when I dropped them off in transition the day before! Double-knotted, even. I must have looked like a total idiot, untying shoes before getting after the run. The fact that I did this makes me think I really didn’t believe I was going to be able to run well. Resolve: get some damn quick-laces back in my sneaks!
  2. Winging my hydration system. I usually simply zip tie a bottle cage in between my bars and call it good. With the tapered Gatorade bottles at Mexican races, this meant it wasn’t possible to take sports drink. Since I’ve got one of those fancy new Aeria Profile Design Aerobars, I can easily install their hydration system that goes with it. Problem solved.

What I ate:

  • 4 am: 2 cups white rice, Banana, 20 oz water with two scoops Skratch. 100mg caffeine in pill form.
  • 6 am: Powerbar, 100mg caffeine.
  • On bike: five bottles water, two bottles Gatorade normal formula, five chocolate PowerGels (25mg caffeine each)
  • On run: one package Honey Stinger energy chews with caffeine, two double latte PowerGels (50mg caffeine each), three SaltStick tablets, 1/2 cup of Gatorade at each aid station, 1/2 cup of water at each aid station, 1/2 cup of Coke (“Coca” in Español) at two aid stations in the final three miles, so much ice.

What I’m taking away:

  • You don’t have to feel good to be good (well, let’s be honest, fair; I was still 24 minutes behind Terenzo when he won, or about 3.5 miles!)
  • Just do your own thing
  • Have fun! I haven’t enjoyed a triathlon in ages—they’ve been exercises in frustration and self-hatred for the past few years. Tuning out the numbers and just swimming, riding, and running to what I felt like I could do was a huge boost. It kept me present, rather than inside a device (and in my own head, telling myself stories about what I “should” be able to do).

OK, that’s it! Hope you found SOME of this useful.

Chris

Faster and Happier in 2018: Planning Your Year With Your Coach

by Molly Balfe, CBCG Coach, USAT Level II

“So, what's your big race this year?” Have you fielded this question yet? Well, it’s already 2018, so your race calendar should be taking form, making it the perfect time to focus on goal-setting for the season. Your coaches know that you are looking to see improvements year upon year, but it is crucial to have a conversation about what you are specifically hoping to accomplish, and how you’ll know you have achieved those goals. Here are a few tips to help you work with your coach to make 2018 your best year yet:

Get Specific

Be clear with yourself and your coach about what you want to achieve. Improving your swim is a commendable goal, but what are the specific indicators that will help you measure that improvement? Are you hoping to drop time off your threshold pace? Swim under an hour for your Ironman? Complete a sprint distance race without stopping? The more specifically you define your desired outcome, the better your coach can help you get there.

 CBCG Coach Molly Balfe works with one of our Bend Campers, Sarah Barkley

CBCG Coach Molly Balfe works with one of our Bend Campers, Sarah Barkley

Think Short and Long Term

Remember the bigger picture when you decide what you want to accomplish this year, ensuring your short-term goals are compatible with your overarching goals for yourself as an athlete. How does this season move you towards being the athlete (and person!) you want to be? If you are hoping to one day get to Kona, stand on a podium at Pacific Crest, or compete in an ITU race, your coach needs to know that. Even if that is not this year’s goal, every step you take should move you in that direction. What are the small to medium-sized accomplishments that you can achieve this year that would help Future You reach that bigger goal? Pro Tip - don’t neglect the psychological aspects of the sport. If you feel you are consistently falling short of your potential, take a good look at your mental game and consider if working on that should be part of your annual planning. 

Resist Goal Envy

There is always someone whose goal seems bigger, badder, or more audacious. Example: that athlete who is trying to win the race you’re merely hoping you can complete. Stay away from this type of comparison. We spend large portions of our time, energy, and income training and racing in this sport. Your goal may not land you on the cover of a magazine, but it may add quality years to your life or quality moments to your year. Take your goals seriously, train hard, and be grateful for the times when you feel strong. Also, remember that your goal is bigger, badder, and more audacious than someone else’s. Cheer on your fellow athletes. Go fast. Have fun. Be nice.

Matt Feldmar's Dream Year Culminates in a Dream Day at Ironman Arizona

Being approached to write a blog post involving my year of PR’s made it real. To think that I could serve as an exemplar of my coach’s business, pointing to multiple staggering PR’s is still bewildering to me, even though when I was originally approached, the year was far from over and I had yet to cross the finish line of my race of a lifetime: Ironman Arizona. 

I was thrilled but apprehensive to tackle the task, especially since somewhere deep inside I knew that in order to truly talk about triathlon PRs, I had to talk about my personal life in front of the entire inter-webs. Eeeek!  Nonetheless, here it is: what I did to prepare and execute my year of PR’s. 

I was Brutally Honest with Myself

This one is a tough one, personally, but believe it or not it does have to do with PR’s. To put it lightly, I was going through a rough patch when I realized I hadn’t been honest with myself for quite a long time. In 2016, I repeatedly took a good long look in the mirror over the course of six months, which finally worked – by that I mean the rose-colored story about myself eventually faded away to the raw bare bones truth.  

Inventory of things I wasn’t pleased about: 

  • I was not happy as an entrepreneur: all about the money, no passion. 
  • I claimed to be searching for balance in my life, but my actions were more consistent with disrupting balance and fostering chaos. 
  • I had severe body image issues. 
  • I didn’t like taking risks, mainly driven by a fear of failure.
  • I isolated myself from my closest friends and family members. They always got the rosey version of my story. 

Inventory of things I was pleased with:

  • I love food – I’d bring ice cream, french fries, and ice cream to my deserted island. 
  • I’m a passionate person that loves to be all in. And when I’m all in – look out world! 
  • I’m persistent – I don’t give up easily. 
  • When I’m present, I’m good at relating to others. 
  • I love triathlon – specifically long course –and specifically the journey that is the training. 
  • I love riding bikes – all kinds – and I want to ride my mountain bike more.
  • I enjoy the crap out of gadgets. If it’s shiny and does something, I’m probably into it. 
  • I’ll like doing what people would consider “epic shit.” It makes me feel good about myself. 
 Ironman Coeur d’Alene was to be my first “A Race” Chris and I selected for 2017

Ironman Coeur d’Alene was to be my first “A Race” Chris and I selected for 2017

I Hired Chris and became a CBCG athlete 

In December of 2015, my buddy Steve invited me to a CBCG clinic about mental skills. I was blown away. So I finally cracked, raised the white flag, and asked for help - enter Chris Bagg stage left. In doing so, he helped me sort through the hodge podge above, and repurposed it into very clear goals that I was both passionate and excited about (none of which was a PR at that point). Everything was centered around getting faster, enjoying training, and completing my workouts to the detail in which they are prescribed. Then things naturally happened that I didn’t expect – I PR’d. First it was by 10 minutes at a half marathon followed by another big PR at St. George 70.3. Needless to say, I proceeded to get excited about my future and, with Chris’ sanctioning, set a new goal... to PR my full Ironman distance in 2017. 

I Elected to Commit to the Details

This concept is where art meets science. In triathlon, every workout matters. Chris supported my new lofty goals, but we both knew I couldn’t just show up to training anymore, but rather, I had to commit to prepping for each workout, being in the moment throughout, and following the script to the best of my ability. Prior to working with Chris, I approached Ironman training in concert with my chaotic life, frequently sick, distracted, unmotivated, or underperforming in training. Chris architected a plan that played to the things that I loved, while committing to my overall health and well-being (i.e. balance). In doing so, I was better positioned to commit to the details. 

For one thing, Chris increased my swim volume by a gajillion yards in comparison with past years. He also gave me specific drills and individualize gadgets to play with, which kept me engaged, but were also designed to and improve my specific swim ability in the process. I also added a ton more events; the concept of “A Races” was a bit novel to me, so Chris introduced how more events simply lead to more chances to practice those race day skills. I tackled a half marathon for the first time since 2012, and I also signed up to do the legendary Seattle To Portland ride in one day - both events designed to rehearse components of that looking Ironman PR ahead of me. 

 The CBCG Wattie Ink. CBCG Dream Camp in Tucson, Arizona  kickstarted my intense Ironman training in March

The CBCG Wattie Ink. CBCG Dream Camp in Tucson, Arizona  kickstarted my intense Ironman training in March

PRs are Personal

Amidst all the drama of my prior years, I lacked perspective, inciting a pretty serious attitude problem. Unsurprisingly, I scoffed at the concept of PR’s. I got dejected that what felt monumental for me was seemingly easy for other athletes. Most significantly, I didn’t think even my PR times could ever appear as impressive as, for instance, someone minutes away from qualifying for Boston, but still putting up an amazing time. How could my half marathon PR of 2:09 even compete? That line of thinking is total bullshit. The only person PR’s should matter to is you! I re-discovered that when you are truly honest with yourself, you have a clearer path to truly meaningful goals. If being on the podium is one of them – more power to ya. One of the best parts about this sport is that both pros and age groupers can revel in each other’s accomplishments because no matter the goal, we all have likely attacked it with vigor and passion, while navigating obstacles under pressure; last Sunday, I closed out the season with potentially my best race ever. 

IMAZ Race Report

We were packed into the chute for the rolling swim start like sardines. Although I was surprisingly relaxed leading up until the gun went off, it was getting real, and I suddenly bristled as I realized we cross the timing before we enter the staircase, so you really needed to move since the clock had started. When I dove in, the cold water was utterly shocking, despite being reported at 67, sending me into a fit of shock.  I struggled breathing, remiss to even put my face under water. 

But I knew what to do. Escape from Alcatraz normalized frigid waters with no warm up for me, so I did breast stroke for maybe a minute or two just to settle down, and then proceeded on my way. Still, the sun was in my face the entire way out, the murky water lent zero visibility, and I got clocked in the head pretty good at least three times. Once I made the turn, however, it was game-on. In T1, I glanced at my watch, stoked to see a triumphant 1:19 smashing my goal to get out as much before 1:30 as possible. Normally I'm a bit of a princess, with two wardrobe changes and frequent porta-potty use on the bike. Not this year. T-1 success ️. 

The bike was all about managing my watts and nutrition. Coach Chris had prepared me to adapt tot the dynamics of variable headwinds, and to aim to increase intensity throughout the three loops. After the first loop I knew a sub-6 hour bike split could be possible, but I tried not to get way with that potentially futile goal, the voice of Coach Chris resonating. Still nailed it with a bike PR to boot. What's even more cool is that we dialed back my average watts from CDA to ensure I had enough in the tank for the run. In T-2, I used the porta potty like a gentleman, and was in great spirits ️. 

I jubilantly saw my parents at the onset of the run, so I scooted over to give them a hug, and unceremoniously face-planted in the dirt on the side of the course. My handsome chewed up, and my sports drink now fueled the sidewalk. No one saw that right? I'm historically bad at the initial run off but we spent nearly every bike workout with a run off, so outside of my acrobatics everything else felt physically normal. Mile 3...The Wattie Tunnel. All the good-looking people dancing and high-fiving you, with Wattie and Heather giving me hugs and high fives at the end DOES NOT GET OLD. The encore entailed Jake and Jen McCall a quarter mile later with the most pro signs ever. Mom and dad were ten steps after that. It was a tremendously great start, face-plant notwithstanding, but I knew the hard part was going to be everything else in between. Took the average heart rate off the bike and was was aiming to gradually increase my intensity to end about ten beats higher. Mile 5: the stomach gurgle hit, so I opted to evacuate the system at mile 6. Mile 7: I saw the Dan-The-Man-Weinsoft smile for another boost. Mile 9: I steadily tackled the big hill, but entered a dark place, mentally, on the way back to town. Feeling tired and hot. Mile 12 - ran into Michelle and Johan Reitz and noticed the sun was beginning to set, and thus began a four-mile stretch of awesome - special needs refill, The Wattie Tunnel Redeux, the parental units, and the coolness of sunset. 

Mile 16: no longer able to stomach my Cliff Blocks, I forced myself to stick with the Gu schedule until Mile 19. Finally, my stomach put up the white flag. He did good until now, though, so I thought I could just float it in from here, but by Mile 23 I was back on Gatorade like my PR depended on it. The fear of failure was so present. I was afraid something could wrong like a cramp, a bonk, or another gastrointestinal incident that it motivated me to keep pushing. By mile 24 I was speaking in tongues and had the full blown Stevie Wonder head shake. I cleaned up my act right before the finish when I ran into the Reitz family again and then I looked at my watch...BOOYAH BIRTHDAY DANCE. All I could think of was "Bagg we did it!!!!" I'm pretty sure I said this out loud. Yes I did the work, but Coach Bagg and his Mr. Miagi magic allowed me to believe it was possible. It was much more than that - I knew it was possible. I just had to execute to my potential and I certainly feel as though I did just that.️

And with that, I can confidently say I'm sooooo stoked on my season. I worked my ass off and saw the hard work pay off in both triathlon and my personal life. I'm even more excited to plan out 2018, which is sure to include a couple more IM’s with new goals. Thankfully, Coach Chris and all the CBCG Coaches encourage balancing pursuits, so let's not forget mountain biking- Moab Round II is also in the works. 

 I opted for the Wattie Ink. Speedsuit from the “Mixed Tape collection for IMAZ, which turned out to be my lucky charm

I opted for the Wattie Ink. Speedsuit from the “Mixed Tape collection for IMAZ, which turned out to be my lucky charm

CBCG Athlete Andrew Nelson Recaps his Black Shirt at Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

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The minuscule town Eidfjord is more-or-less the poster town for tourism, describing an optimal viewing point for the Norwegian fjords. My girlfriend Alana and I picked up our rental car in Oslo and drove the five+ hours from Oslo to Eidfjord, and to say it was amazing is an understatement. If you ever get to Norway, especially for this race, skip the tour boats, forget flying to cities, get yourself a car, and drive from Oslo to Eidfjord so you can explore the ethereal and enchanting sights along the way.

I’m not a big “race report” guy, so I’m going to go a little Rick Steves on you, before boring you with tales of average watts, normalized power, run pacing, and the miracle of making it through yet another event without pooping myself. Twenty minutes outside of Oslo it looks like you’re driving through a larger, more rugged version of the Columbia river gorge in Oregon. As you start to climb up to into the protected tundra, the Hardangervidda, the landscape turns into an eerie desolate moonscape. Little cabins with living earth roofs are sprinkled all around in the absolute middle of nowhere. If I ever get back dialing up one of those little cabins in the winter for a week and unplugging is going to be on the itinerary. Every turn exposed a new breathtaking view - an omnipresent phenomenon for our entire trip.

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It’s easy to say that the countryside is the gem of Norway, but the metropolis of Oslo before and after the race was equally thrilling. We capitalized upon the “Oslo City Bike” share bikes and killed the urban scene, replete with weekend pop up markets, bars, restaurants, and ceaseless people-watching. About half way through our post race stint in Oslo we hopped a flight to Bergen on the far west coast for a couple days. Perhaps it was because we unknowingly blew the doors off the trip from the moment we touched down, but Bergen was kind of like drinking a warm flat beer on a summer day. It wasn’t bad, I mean it’s beer right? If you’re into touristy things, shopping, guided tours etc., this is your place. Ain’t nothing wrong with any of that, unfortunately the magic was was on us. But you never know till you go right? Bergen, it’s not you it’s me.

Ok, I don’t want to get all “Grandpa’s slideshow of his trip across the U.S. on route 66” on you all, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we booked our flights to Norway through Iceland Air® to take advantage of a special perk they have. Any round trip you book that goes through Reykjavik can include a stopover in Iceland for up to a week without any extra charge! So the last week of our racecation was spent in a camper van driving the whole of the Icelandic ring road. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. You should go to Iceland; it is unbelievable.

So to rewind to the start of our trip and the race. Prep for this race was a lot like racing for the first time for me. I had hip surgery two years ago to repair some soft tissue damage, and save for a few small tune up events, this race was my first since surgery. The training looked a lot different that I was used to, and I was objectively the most fit I’ve ever been for a race, but I was pretty nervous about things holding together.

One of the big marketing features of this race is that if you’re one of the first 160 athletes to make it to 32k on the run, you get to finish by climbing the final 10k to the top of Mt. Gaustatoppen. A true reward for the inner masochist but a reward nonetheless. Ergo: my one and only goal for this race.

 The fast athlete's "reward"

The fast athlete's "reward"

The swim course is as primitive as the landscape. You ride a ferry out into the fjords, jump off, and swim towards the bonfire on the shore. The water wasn’t as cold as the hype suggested, but enough that throughout the whole swim I felt like I was Charlie Brown with that rain cloud following him around. I stayed pretty positive despite feeling like I was going backward and getting hammered by the progressively choppier water that was being stirred up by the actual Charlie Brown rain clouds rolling in.

Getting out of the water was rough. It was dumping rain at this point. I could move my fingers or toes, and I was having a hard time forming words. Alana magnificently kept asking what she could do to help in transition, though I’m pretty sure I was just uttering strings of teeth chattering nonsense. I pulled myself together for the first monster climb out of town, but...I was about 15 minutes into the bike when I reached back to take my first swig of nutrition and realized it wasn’t there.

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Quick sidebar, all the support for this race comes from your “crew,” which in my case was Alana. I usually cram all the calories in the form of maltodextrin into two bottles for long course races, and to keep the logistics as simple as possible I only prepared two bottles, no extras. So half my race nutrition was sitting on the side of the road 15 minutes into the bike and I started to panic a little. The first place your crew can stop and give you aid is about 30k into the ride at the top of this hour plus long climb. I started thinking about what we had in the car that I could eat. Some power bars, gels, and other random things were enough to get me through the ride, but the tank was pretty empty by the time I eventually got to T2.

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After putting the bottle incident behind me, things didn’t get much better for the rest of the ride, it was mostly a survival exercise for me. I’m a bigger guy so climbing is not my strong suit. Between going backwards on the remaining three big climbs, and the relentless rain, I had a slow seven-hour conversation with myself about not quitting on the bike. If you’re a CBCG athlete, I'm sure you've discussed self-talk in the darkest of hours with your coach.

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I don’t really remember much on the run. Alana came by me about 1k in and told me I was in 94th place. I realized that if I could hunker down and not walk there was almost no way I wouldn’t get to go up the mountain. I felt the weight of nine months lift off me right then. This race is the first race ever of any kind where I set a primary goal and achieved it, and this was the moment where I let myself think that if I didn’t make any big mistakes, I could cruise in.

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I was feeling pretty desperate for calories, and was so brain fogged that I thought nothing of stuffing my face, which promptly made me want to throw-up. I struggled over the next 20k to keep my feet moving and keeping food down. As I rounded the corner to start up the switchbacks that lead up to the mountain gate entrance referred to as “Zombie Hill” I had two thoughts. The first was, “I’ve got this.” I could crawl this 5k and still make the cut off. The second was, “Oh man, I now have eight-ish miles and six-thousand vertical feet before I’m done.”

I pushed a moderate pace, Alana met me at the cutoff, and I made my way to the mountain trailhead. The race rules stipulate that you have to summit with at least one of your crew members, so after 13 stressful hours of hauling ass all over Norway, almost running out of gas, and generally making this crazy thing possible for me, Alana pulled on a coat and spent the next two hours hiking with me to the finish line.

In my mind at this point, I was done racing. The trail is open to the public during the race, and Gausta is a popular hiking spot. I stopped and scratched the ears of every tail wagging dog, and paused at most every switch back to enjoy the view.

We hit the top, cell phone batteries were dead, no pictures, no ceremony, we were just done. We got a cup of soup, went inside to the cafeteria and ate a waffle with jam, and we were done. It felt weird but right, there were no cheering crowds or announcers or finish line theatrics, we were just done, and I think it was the most satisfying finish line experience I’ve had in any race to date.

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I cannot thank my coach, Chris Boudreaux, enough for working with what he had- me and my life roadblocks - and getting me in stupid good shape. The plan he put together was the most consistently intense training I’ve ever done, and it was doled-out expertly.

As I’ve said before, race support is crucial, not to mention required, and Alana did the job that most athletes had two+ people to cover. She endured countless hours of frigid and uncertain waiting, and even hiked the last 5k at the end of the day. Thank you, Alana, so very much for helping me achieve this bizarre triath-lo-nerd goal and for pulling together nearly every logistical detail of the trip together. Buy a entry lottery ticket (they’re like $10) and do this race! You won’t ever forget it.

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Coach Molly Checks In: Casco Bay SwimRun Round Two, or "This is not a Triathlon"

After a humbling experience at our first attempt at SwimRun last year, my race partner Ed and I returned to Maine for redemption at the 2017 Casco Bay Long Course. SwimRun, an increasingly popular genre of multisport, is inspired by the Ötillö series, born of the crazy athletes of Sweden. The races consist of multiple alternating swim and overland running legs - “swimming” introducing the bemusing challenge of being tethered to your partner, and “running” proving to be an altogether categoric departure from the sport as we know it.

The Casco course traverses nine islands off the coast of Portland, Maine, including over five miles of ocean swimming and 14 miles of running. SwimRun being the ultimate duet sport, you complete the entire race with your partner, thus the tethering imperative during the swim legs. There are no transition areas and you are forbidden to drop gear, so you must carry everything you need for swimming and running, resulting in what Ed refers to as The Garage Sale Look:

 Clowns, 2017 Version

Clowns, 2017 Version

Ed and I rolled into the race meeting feeling like real veterans of the sport. We had our compression bandages, compass, whistle, and tether prepared for the mandatory gear check, and even knew the basics of how to use all our equipment (a big improvement from last year). We took our seats near the front and settled in for over an hour of critical guidelines for navigating the islands we would be crossing, including sighting tips for finding our landings, and navigation coordinates in case the bay was fogged in.

“This is not a triathlon.”  More than once the race director stressed this point with a foreboding tone of admonition. Unsurprisingly, many athletes in the crowd were triathletes, and a few of them prickled (one of them vocally) at the suggestion that triathlons are in any way easy. I knew, however, his warning was apt, and that he was doing all of us a favor. The run courses in SwimRuns have minimal marking, there are no buoys to help you find your way through the ocean swims, and there is no feasible way to have swim safety crafts throughout the nearly 5.5 miles of that athletes cover in the water. Triathlons are certainly not easy, but they are highly supported, and it would be a dangerous mistake to go into an event like this without an accurate grasp of the amount of autonomy, skill, and preparedness you must bring to endure, rather survive the race.

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Race day dawned warm and clear, and Ed and I downed our morning applesauce before making the short walk to the ferry. On the vessel crossing to Cliff Island, we joined our 150 fellow long course teams in gaping out the windows as our course passed by. My breakfast felt a little unsteady at that point, but I reminded myself that I’d done this once before, so I was basically an expert at it.

After very little fanfare, the race started with a quick run, which came to an abrupt stop at our first swim entry. The path down to the beach was steep and narrow, and the teams in form were holding us up. We all know there's not much more agitating than race traffic when you can't pass, but the wait afforded me my first and only celebrity sighting when Joan Benoit Samuelson came running by and wished us all luck! Thanks, Joan! When we finally made it down to the water, I cast an unsubtle look of spite at the other teams who were so reluctant to make their first jump, but I was duly served as I began to understand their hesitation.  Last year’s water had been atypically comfortable, but this year lived up to its Maine reputation of utter frigidity and dangerously variable currents.

Ed and I jumped in, and the next several minutes were filled with my underwater gurgling screams as my body learned for the first time what the low 50’s feels like. I very much longed for the rest of my wetsuit, as I had scissored-off the neoprene of the arms and legs in favor of the runs. Ed and I are both strong swimmers, and we still struggled to navigate the changing tides and variable currents in the channels around the islands. As for the run legs, we did a better job this year of finding our footing in some of the more difficult overland terrain, but our pace still slowed dramatically in those sections.

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SwimRun is the ultimate adventure – we got lost in the woods, turned blue during the longest swim leg, and slipped on rocks as we climbed over uninhabited islands. It was an incredibly challenging day that pushed us and tested our limits as athletes - certainly the toughest event I have ever experienced.  Of course, the desire to improve and show that we are up to the challenge is what draws many of us to these types of events. Despite being proud of our redemption in an arguably even tougher year, I still have much to improve on, so I am looking forward to many years of SwimRun to come. And many post-race meals like this one:

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CBCG athlete Andrew Nelson heads off to the Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

My road to Norway, by CBCG athlete Andrew Nelson

You're not the only athlete here at Jeff Davis

On November 13th, 2016 I scanned my inbox and nearly missed the most monumental message I've ever received: “Andrew Nelson, Welcome to The Iskbar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon.”  I had entered the lottery for Norseman every year since 2011. Six years ago, however, I held a naive concept of what the race would entail, let alone what it took to train for and compete in long distance triathlon. Today, now that I miraculously got an entry, I'm a completely different athlete. I'm infinitely more prepared, and correspondingly more terrified.

To contextualize my original naïveté, in 2010 I spectated my first Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, and was captivated. The following day I registered for next year’s race.  I was that guy: training on a fixed gear city bomber bike for my first race, which happened to be a full distance event. Not only was IM CDA my first triathlon, it was also my first real open water swim, and first time going the distance on a road bike (not even a tri bike), borrowed from a friend. In hindsight, I was comically unprepared.

In a way, I feel similarly three weeks before toeing the line at Norseman. In the years between that first race and today I’ve acquired a fancy bike, lots of spandex, and worked with exceptional coaches who've empowered me to advance from a novice participant to a bona-fide competitor. But the legendary extremity and epic nature of Norseman bring me back to those original days in the sport, questioning want I've gotten myself into.  

After my ill-advised, but relatively successful debut at CDA, I thought “Eh, I did one, I can do any of them.” Since I started big, I sought out another potentially absurd goal: the legendary Norseman. I annually tossed my hat in the ring, and in the meantime, I found myself developing as an seasoned triathlete. I spent four years completely burning myself out physically, trying to go faster. I went two more years hating endurance sports and not racing a single multi-sport event, barely excited to ride my bike unless it was to get drinks. But I made huge strides and kept entering that damn lottery.  

Then on that pivotal day in November, I got said email message.  Here's how it looks:

So nonchalant; so matter of fact.  Here you are now, with a major life event on the horizon. With the invaluable support of my CBCG coach Chris Boudreaux, I dove back into the most intensive training of my life over the past eight months. My personal life has been chaos, my work life has been a roller coaster, and most of my training was in the trainer dungeon or on a treadmill thanks to the worst Portland winter in 24 years. Looking back, though, I’ve reveled in every minute of it.  It’s been fly by the seat of my pants, hanging on for dear life fun.  

Despite being terrified of the race, living in a new house that barely has running water with my girlfriend Alana and new one-year-old terrier puppy, navigating the logistics of flying across the globe for a race,and myriad other First World problems I won't bother to document, I’m more amped up for this race than any adventure I’ve done to date.  

For once, time goals are on the back burner. My principal goals are to not poop myself; to enjoy the wild new country, landscape, and culture; and to revel in the support of my amazing girlfriend Alana. She's sacrificing an estimable amount of time and energy to travel with me. Despite having an allergy to waking up before 9am, she’s on board to wake up at an insane hour, act as Sherpa, drive the support car all day, and deal with, well, the unknown.

Lastly and most importantly, this race wouldn’t have happened without Chris Boudreaux. Bagg connected us shortly after I received the aforementioned email about Norseman, and his approach and coaching style turned out to be the PERFECT fit. I’m really so confused by coaching and training plans, and am honestly confounded why certain workouts show up on on my plan (despite reading/listening A LOT about it). But I completely trust Boudreaux, and everything has worked like mercury - the variable paces, the intensity, the volume, and of course, the surprising but appreciated recovery. I’m a bit of a set-it-and-forget-it athlete, but I had feedback about damn near every workout, and always the right feedback. He doles out a tiny bit of snark when needed, and then is a stalwart during the pity party moments. I can’t thank him enough for working with me for the last eight months.

The next few weeks are going to be packing, obsessing over not forgetting anything, bike tuneups, and all the madness that comes with a destination race (and follow-on vacation).  I’ll check back in after my day of competitively exercising with some photos, stories, and recommendations if anyone else is nuts enough to go do this race.

The Battler: Meet Donna Phelan

by Jay Prasuhn

Ed. Note—Donna Phelan is the newest CBCG coach, and we couldn't be happier to have her. Donna has worked with every big name coach in triathlon, and has raced all over the world, competing in disparate formats and distances. She brings a wealth of knowledge to the company, and we can't wait to start matching her with athletes. Read on to learn more about her journey over the years—she's faced a lot of adversity in her career, and that struggle can be your benefit, as you learn from one of the best—and toughest—coaches out there. This article originally appeared on the Wattie Ink. website.

There are probably few athletes that have worked under Barrie Shepley as a first triathlon coach (Canadian head coach), then Bill Davoren (Australian head coach), Brett Sutton, Paula Newby-Fraser, Siri Lindley, Dave Scott and Julie Dibens. There are also likely few athletes that have raced an Ironman three weeks after breaking an elbow. Or finished on the podium at Wildflower after having a rib broken at an ITU World Cup the weekend before. Fewer still with a career laundry list of injuries that include bilateral hip labral surgeries, bilateral illiotibial band surgeries, foot surgery and chronic hamstring injuries. And there’s just one that has gone through that hell for one reason: to race against the best.

There’s just one Donna Phelan.

If you’ve followed the pro scene, you may or may not have heard the name of this Canadian. But she’s done it all. She trained with the legendary TeamTBB under Sutton for five years. She swam in the famed Fishbowl in remote Borrego Springs, California under Siri Lindley. She’s called Chrissie Wellington, Hillary Biscay, Mirinda Carfrae, and Leanda Cave teammates. Not bad for a girl from Canada’s island province of Newfoundland, with a doggedness that has earned her the nickname “Diesel.” 

Phelan began her competitive streak quite early. She began swimming at age 8, and competed in the Canadian Olympic Trials at age 16. She continued to swim through college at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University while earning a physical therapy degree. Upon graduation, she sought out something that would feed her competitive drive, and found triathlon. “I worked in Corner Brook, which is a big triathlon city in Canada, and did a swim relay for the Corner Brook Triathlon and loved it. I’d run cross country in high school, and it dawned on me it that triathlon would be the next way to keep being a competitive athlete.”

Success came quickly; she did her first tri in Corner Brook in 1996 and qualified to race her age group at ITU Worlds. She finished 30th there. The next year, 17th. Then fourth, third, and second. In 2000, it was time; she turned pro. And her successes continued at that level, as she finished second elite at Canadian National Championships that same year. From 2000 to 2003 she competed internationally, representing Canada on the ITU World Cup circuit. Those were deep years for the Canadian national team, which comprised Jill Savege, Tereza Macel and Samantha McGlone, and Phelan's shot at an Olympic start was a long one. Her coach at that moment, Brett Sutton, presented her with a moment of reckoning.

“He told me he would stop coaching me unless I raced long distance,” Phelan recalls. “He entered me in Wildflower in 2002, and I fought him on it, because I’d never biked 56 miles in my life." The then-unknown Phelan beat Lori Bowden and Heather Fuhr to take third at the iconic California race in her first half ironman. It represented an awakening: long-course would be her path.

From there, she moved to Ironman, finishing fourth in her debut at Japan in 200, and qualifying for Kona. But it would also be her first dealings with the taxing effects distance racing had on her. Pain in her right knee that year led to iliotibial band surgery in 2004, and then rehab and stop-and-start attempts kept her on the sidelines for nearly two years. She made it back to racing in 2008 and saw results instantly, posting a second-place finish in 2008 at Ironman China. Later that year she raced Ironman Switzerland with a broken elbow sustained when wet train tracks took her down three weeks before, and then raced the Hawaii Ironman World Championships to wrap her year.

In the summer of 2009, Phelan raced Ironman Switzerland, and then the famed Alpe d’Huez Triathlon the following weekend. The kicker? After racing to a 5th-place finish in Zurich, her coach had her ride with her team from her base camp in the tiny ski village of Leysin, Switzerland to the town of Huez. Two days, 80 miles a day, over French Alps passes made famous by the Tour de France.

 Phelan at Oceanside 70.3 earlier this year (photo Jay Prasuhn)

Phelan at Oceanside 70.3 earlier this year (photo Jay Prasuhn)

The next day, back in Leysin, her coach prescribed a track workout. “I attempted it, but knew my left IT band was in trouble.” Off to race again a few weeks later at Eireman in Ireland, she was leading the race halfway through the marathon, and the knee forced her to pull out. “I couldn’t bend my knee anymore and running with a straight leg wasn’t going to get me to the finish.” Another surgery. Another rehab. Another comeback.

The 2010 season showed promise. She did three Ironman races but another injury popped up: her hip this time. A cortisone injection in her hip flexor got her through the race in Kona, but the pain persisted. In 2012, an MRI revealed a labral tear. Soliciting medical advice, she was sent reeling. “Doctors and physiotherapists told me I would never run or do triathlon again, not even at a recreational level,” she says. One doctor, however, believed he could fix it. She had surgery in June, rehabbed and was told two months later that the right hip needed surgery as well. It meant ten tedious weeks on crutches, a year gone, and a career in question. 

Eight months later, however, Phelan was racing, taking third at Leadman Tempe. She did a handful of 70.3s with mixed results, but by the end of the year had a new problem: her foot. “I felt like I was running with a marble in my shoe at the end of 2013 and early into 2014,” she says. Another MRI, and this time it revealed a partially torn plantar plate ligament that needed repair, and a neuroma (inflamed nerve) that had to be carved out. “Doctors said it’s usually the size of a piece of wet spaghetti, but that mine was the largest he’d ever seen, that it was diameter of a quarter.”

One more comeback. She won Rev 3 Venice, Florida half in the fall of 2014. It was the one bright star prior to rather middling 2015 and 2016 campaigns where she battled chronic hamstring pain. She was near her breaking point. “I questioned whether I should continue racing, whether my hamstring would let me run competitively again, whether I should retire or if I should switch and race age group. It had been 12 years of ongoing injuries, and I felt like it was finally the last straw.”

Last fall, Phelan learned that former ProTour cyclist Tom Danielson had begun coaching. It was a risk. She’d worked with every top tri coach in the game. Why a name new to the sport? “I thought perhaps a change of coaches, to someone with a different background other than triathlon would be worth taking a chance on,” she says. “I’d had every top coach in the world coach me the last 15 years, and felt I had nothing to lose by trying something different.”

The change began to pay off. Within six weeks of working under Danielson, her biking was lifted to a new level. She placed second at the RAAM Six-Hour Time Trial World Championships, covering 212 kilometers (131.5 miles) in six hours.

 Photo Jay Prasuhn

Photo Jay Prasuhn

“The biggest difference, without a doubt, in Tom’s coaching was his belief and confidence in me,” Phelan says. “I didn’t feel like I was just another triathlete on a team where there were numerous triathlon superstars. Finally, I felt like someone else had more belief in me than I had in myself. That made more of a difference to me than any coaching program in the world could ever make.” 

2017 has been off to a great start so far, despite one setback. Triathlon Canada requires minimum time standards annually to maintain professional status, and Phelan's barren 2016 meant she didn't qualify. Despite her long pro resume, she was relegated to racing age group this season, as she tries to regain her pro card. It’s not what Phelan wanted or expected, but she’s rolling with the punches because she's finally able to race. She competed at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside to open her season, finishing second age grouper and winning her age group by six minutes, which, as a top-three overall, earned her pro license per USAT rules. The result, though, was short lived. She discovered after the race she'd been disqualified, cracking the speed limit on a short section of the Oceanside course. She would have to try again. In early May she raced St. George 70.3, winning her age group by a huge 11 minutes, but missing the overall podium by a scant two spots.

This summer, Phelan rides a wave of confidence, believing her roughest patches are behind her and the best in a long time is yet to come. She heads from her San Diego home to Boulder to train with Danielson and her teammates, aiming for a big result at that Colorado town's 70.3 in August. “It’s a frustrating process after racing pro for 17 years, and beating pros in my last few races by as much as 20 minutes” she says. “Qualifying to race pro is harder than maintaining pro status; there are a lot of age group women that would be competitive in the pro field. I want to race against the best women in the world. I think it’s more ambitious to challenge myself rather than be in a field with an easy win. I want to know I have a race on my hands with the women on my left and right. It brings out the best in me. My old teammate Erica Csomor from Hungary once told me that if you want something bad enough, you have to knock on a door three times to prove you really want to enter and go down that path,” Phelan says. I’m hoping that my third attempt this year will be that open door.”

Athlete Report: A Big Kid Playdate at the Ultimate Playground

 Kirk at the top of Madera Pass, somewhere near Nogales

Kirk at the top of Madera Pass, somewhere near Nogales

by Kirk Lacko, CBCG Athlete

"Hey Kirk...you looking forward Camp?" "Umm...I’m so friggin stoked I can’t keep the lid on my jar of #campawesomesauce from last camp!” Remember Summer Camp as a little kid? Well CBCG Camps are really no different as a big kid, save for the, you know, hours of grueling training. As a three-time CBCG camper about to embark upon my sixth, I continue to prioritize the economic and time commitment, since each one keeps getting better in terms of social, emotional, and training benefits. Invariably, the first day has defined one of the most special times at Camp. It’s a super-charged atmosphere, with peeps with whom you will laugh, sweat, cry (yes, cry), and envision dreams turn into reality. I liken it to the first day of school, only coaches= teachers, and campers = classmates. It’s thrilling!

Infinity X Infinity (training benefits)

The benefits of camp are 10 to the power of 10, 100, 1000 or maybe even infinity (remember infinity x infinity as a kid?). It’s impossible to gauge just how insanely beneficial camp can be...that is, until you need it most. Strategically placed as an early season jump-start, or at critical juncture of your season, 100- mile days in the saddle, painful 800-meter interval runs, or 400 time trials in the pool pay huge dividends later, especially as stacked-up workouts.

Case and Point (confidence on race day)

It’s incredible just how much confidence camp can deliver on race day. Case and point: I participated in the Inaugural Wattie Ink. CBCG Dream Camp in Tucson, training alongside pro's Heather Jackson and Rachel McBride. Three weeks later I competed in my first race of the season at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. In the past, during tough moments in an early race, I'd slide down the slippery slope of negative questioning, wondering if I had ridden long enough, or run hard enough. Fortunately, not only did Camp mega-boost my early season conditioning, building endurance and increasing run-off speed, but it totally reinforced my mental advantage and competitive edge. Check! Check! Check!

Nice Rack!

Only at CBCG Camp can you meet great people, make lasting friendships and walk away with the highly coveted “Nice Rack Award,” or make the “Game Night” podium. Every day at CBCG Camp you learn through informative coach and guest pro talks on everything from race nutrition, to recovery, to mental prep, in addition to having a TON of fun. Speaking of nutrition, CBCG Camp meals are prepared by head chef, doubling as head coach, which is to say an awesome coach that can seriously cook: Chris Bagg. His high-quality and lovingly cooked meals are equally pleasing to the palette and MyFitnessPal. I’m sure you’re still wondering how one receives the "Nice Rack Award," so I'll divulge that it was partly because I purchased a sweet new Thule bike rack using a killer discount during our exclusive shopping spree at the Trisports.com retail store. The other part is Amy VT’s (pro-triathlete and Bagg’s wife) sparkling imagination regarding too many indie jokes that occurred during Camp to cover sufficiently.

Little Kids Become Big Kids at Camp

By now you should recognize a resounding theme regarding why I keep investing in Camp. Kids who grow up to be triathletes simply become big kids at Camp. During my most recent experience at Tucson Camp, I got to swim, bike, and run with Heather Jackson, the 3rd place woman at Ironman Championships in Kona last year, solidifying Camp as a big kid playdate at the ultimate playground. It's not always easy to schedule the time off or make note economic investment, but it's' so invaluable to my trading in and solicsl life that I'm heading to my fourth Camp in Bend, OR this month, and I'll keep coming back, which will keep this big kid a Happy Camper for years to come. See you at #CampCampCamp.

 8000 feet! Top of the Mt Lemmon climb

8000 feet! Top of the Mt Lemmon climb

How Camp?

 Clay Trails run workout at the QT2 Pro Camp

Clay Trails run workout at the QT2 Pro Camp

I'm sitting on a plane from Orlando to Denver, where I'll grab a flight to Tucson later today. The QT2 Systems Pro Camp just finished up yesterday, and I'm traveling camp-to-camp, getting ready to run the first CBCG Tucson Dream Camp later this week with eight lucky and motivated athletes. As one camp ends and another one hurtles towards opening, I thought a brief of review of how camps work for an athlete would be in order.

I've been attending big professional spring training camps for five or six years, now—at least half of my racing career. They've become an essential part of my preparation for each season. Camps have also surged in popularity for age groupers, as coaches and athletes have realized their benefits. Camps provide a ton of benefits, such as (but not limited to!):

  • Time spent with someone looking at your swim/bike/run form and being able to make adjustments to it (preferably, this person is your coach, but it doesn't have to be)
  • A monastery-like environment, where you can focus only on training, eating to support that training, recovering, and learning
  • A burst of enthusiasm for your sport, as you brush up against people you haven't trained with, some of whom are faster than you (motivation) and some of whom you can outpace (satisfaction/confidence)
  • A big dose of stimulus (training) that, given time and recovery, provides a transformation of your athletic abilities

Well, that's great, Chris, you're saying. That all sounds wonderful, but how about some more guidance? How should these be set up? That's a very sound question. Camps should push you beyond your current abilities (in any or all of the areas of endurance, speed, or technique) without putting you in so deep a hole that you are A) injured or B) burnt out. Figuring out where that line is, though, can be quite challenging. Many triathletes—type A personalities that love making lists, tracking data, and "knowing" stuff—want to know exactly where that line is. Unfortunately, I can't give you the complete answer. If the answer were in a dark room, I would love to be able to throw a giant switch and turn on the lights, a theatrical pop and electrical buzz accompanying the illumination. I can, perhaps, give you a flashlight with which to explore.

Over the course of the 17 days at QT2 Camp (February 17th through March 5th) I:

  • Swam 69,942 yards/28,800y per week (about 1600y short of what was planned for me)
  • Rode 785 miles/323 miles per week (managed not to miss any riding)
  • Ran 85.33 miles/35 miles per week (about 30-35 miles short of what was planned for me)

Just so you don't think I'm getting all humble-braggy (or, come to think of it, actual braggy), I'm putting these numbers up there for a reason. Towards the end of camp (the Thursday of last week) my right calf twinged and flared while running up a small hill. It's one of those come-and-go injuries that recedes for about a month, and seemingly returns out of nowhere. I know better than that, especially given my past year's struggle with the various muscles and nerves of my lower body, and I'd ascribe the injury's reappearance as part negligence on my behalf, and part training stress beyond what I've been used to. Over the six weeks coming into camp, I've averaged:

  • 17500 yards per week in the pool
  • 156 miles per week on the bike
  • 23.7 miles per week of running

Those probably seem like relatively modest numbers, but those six weeks were the beginnings of my real training for the year, and include the various zeros that afflict problems with averaging data in the first place. But you can see some general forms taking shape. Camp basically meant multiplying my swim volume by 1.65, doubling my cycling, and should have seen a similar doubling in my run volume (if I'd completed all the prescribed runs, I would have ended up at 120 miles of running over 17 days, or 48 miles per week). I'd say that camp revealed the fact that my swimming and cycling durability is good right now, but my running durability still needs work. 

Gosh, you're saying now. He just keeps talking about himself! When is this going to get pertinent to me? I get it, you're absolutely correct. Here's how I would think about this data, taking into account the fact that every athlete is different and can absorb different kinds of training loads.

  • During a camp or period of higher training load, you can probably absorb up to twice the volume you've put in on your two stronger sports over the previous six weeks. This is such a vague estimate that I'm hesitant to even write it, but the additional rest and recovery and focus that camps provide allow you to get away with this.
  • Your weaker sport, or whichever sport has some injury history in it, should only experience a 1.5 multiple during camps or periods of higher training.
  • Swimming is the safest sport to add volume, as long as your shoulders are healthy
  • Cycling is the next safest sport to add volume, as long as you've had a bike fit or a fit update within the last year
  • Running is the sport most likely to damage you all the time, so be cautious with it.

So, if you're showing up to a camp this week (hint, hint) or have one in the near future, do a little number crunching and come to camp armed with some data for the coaches running camp. It's their job to watch you and get a sense of how you're doing and to pull on the reins a bit, if necessary, but why not make their jobs easier? If you let them know what you've been up to over the past six weeks, they can even better tailor camp to your needs. Remember that camp is not a race, not a competitive event; the person who "wins" camp often ends up injured not too far down the road. Camp is supposed to push you and you alone up to the "stimulus edge," where we're getting maximum benefit without injury. If you get caught up in trying to "tick the box" of every session, you're not training by your needs, you're training by someone's guess as to what your body can handle. As with any coaching relationship, it's up to you and your coach together to locate that stimulus edge, so why not give them a hand?

 

Tucson Dream Camp: Two Days Left!

 This Could Be You This March, Training Alongside Heather Jackson...

This Could Be You This March, Training Alongside Heather Jackson...

Camp is closing! Yes, we need to get started making the custom kits you'll be wearing alongside Heather Jackson in Tucson, Arizona this March. This camp is going to be incredible; not only do you get HJ, who finished 3rd at Kona this past fall, you get Rachel McBride, Sean "Wattie" Watkins, Amy VanTassel, and a few other special guests. But it's not just about who you'll meet, it's more about what you'll do. Camp will provide a big boost in your spring fitness, basically getting you an extra week or two of fitness while removing any other stressors in your life. For five days, live like a pro!

 

Speaking of which, you might be wondering how you'll get your bike to the 2017 Inaugural Wattie Ink. Tucson Dream Camp.

You're in luck! Our key sponsor, TriSports.com is offering campers an awesome deal on renting a high-end tri bike for camp. Or, if you'd rather ship or travel with your own ride, TriSports.com is also offering bike assembly at a special price.  

Don't forget the other killer events we have lined up with TriSports.com during camp: a tour of their home base, gear talk by the legendary Seton Clagett, swim analysis session in their endless pool area, various hand-ups and swag, and a special wetsuit try-on and shopping time just for us!

So register here with only two days left for the 2017 Inaugural Wattie Ink. Tucson Dream Camp. In addition to your own custom Wattie Ink. kit featured below, you'll get to enjoy nightly beer pairings from Tucson's finest craft brewery and our camp closing party!  Make your dreams come true in sunny and warm Tucson with CBCG, Wattie Ink., and TriSports.com

Camp Files: Rachel McBride Joins Tucson Dream Camp

 McBride at Oceanside 70.3 2015

McBride at Oceanside 70.3 2015

Guess who else will be at the Inaugural 2017 Wattie Ink. Dream Camp in Tucson!  Yup, the "Purple Tiger" herself, pro triathlete Rachel McBride, will be training alongside us in the Arizona sunshine. Rachel recently added to her impressive resume with a 5th place in her debut Iron-distance event at Cozumel this past November.

Registration is closing in nine days, so don't miss out on your opportunity to train alongside Heather Jackson and Rachel McBride, no matter what your level. Just because they are world-class competitors doesn't mean you have to be. Check out our previous participants' testimonials:

"I heard so much about CBCG Camps, but I was more than slightly apprehensive. Not only was I really worried about keeping up with people, but I was most afraid of looking like a total loser. I was so relieved to meet the other campers, who were not only supportive but also encouraging - including the pros!" - Jennifer F.

"Before my first CBCG Camp, I was nervous because I was new to the sport and I didn't know anyone who would be there. The minute I walked through the door, though, I felt immediately welcomed. Thereafter, the time flew by! It is so well organized, and the accommodations and food are above expectations. I'm so glad I took the leap!" - Jake M. 

"Camp is my favorite weekend of the year! The videoed and coached swim sessions provided feedback I used the rest of the year on every swim, and the rides and runs totally gave me confidence when I lined up for my next Ironman!" - Jenny G. 

Only ten days left to register, so don't miss out on your dreams for 2017. Join us for the Inaugural 2017 Wattie Ink. Dream Camp in sunny Tucson, Arizona

Coach Molly Presents: The 2016 Casco Bay SwimRun

 Molly and Ed (Team Shitshow), Prepared for...Battle?

Molly and Ed (Team Shitshow), Prepared for...Battle?

by Molly Balfe

On a foggy morning in August, my friend Ed and I stepped off the Chebeague Island Ferry, somewhat prepared for the inaugural Casco Bay SwimRun USA. Ed had been accepted to the event through his success in the dubious sport of winter open water racing, and I had been tapped as his replacement teammate, his original partner sidelined due to the birth of twin girls. Let me back up a moment. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, SwimRun (somewhat unsurprisingly) pairs open water swimming with overland running. Teams of two navigate from island to island while following a predetermined and often unmarked course, all the while tethered to each other by a ten-meter cord. That’s right: you race this event through unfriendly, unclear terrain literally tied to another human. This is one of the odd elements of SwimRun, but by no means the only one. Ahead are my reflections on my first of what I hope to be many SwimRun races. I hope you can benefit from a few of my mistakes. There are many to choose from, but I’ll start with what I did right:

Partner Selection

As I mentioned above, SwimRun is truly a team event. You cannot ignore someone fastened to the end of a rope that is, in turn, fastened to you, and your most critical decision will be choosing that person. I was lucky enough to be racing with an old training and racing buddy, and I suggest you do the same. For your first SwimRun, picking someone who you know, like, and can frequently forgive is of paramount importance. We made a lot of mistakes; we slowed each other down; we got lost; we got frustrated; through it all we had a pretty great time. Ed and I went into this race ready to have fun and learn something about the sport, and I think that attitude served us better than any of our training (this fact is partially because we did a very poor job of training for this event, but I will cover that in a later section). It becomes obvious early on in this kind of racing that you can only go as fast as your weakest team member, so I would urge choosing someone who runs and swims at around the same speed as you. Even with similarly-able athletes, however, a significant potential looms for one person to slow down due to fatigue, gear malfunction, or moment of unparalleled grumpiness. Race with someone whom you trust to watch you fall apart, and with whom you can laugh when things get tough. You will spend a long time with this person (and did I mention the tether?), so you better get along with them. Ed is a significantly faster swimmer than me, and I am a slightly faster runner. This ended up mattering very little, in the end. Ed and I being able to laugh our asses off while ensnared by deadly sea grass ended up mattering quite a bit. 

Gear Selection

My background is in triathlon, so I am no stranger to the endless possibilities of racing gear. That being said, I had no idea what I was in for when I signed up for this event. There are no transition areas in SwimRun, so you carry everything you need for the duration of the race. The water is frequently cold (SwimRun traces its birthplace to Scandanavia), so you need a wetsuit. Running in a wetsuit feels like being inside the hotdog machine at a 7/11, so you cut the wetsuit off at the knees and elbows. You run on trails (I use both “run” and “trails” as a kind of poor translation to what you end up actually doing, and the surfaces you end up doing it on), so you have to wear shoes. Shoes are difficult to swim with, so you bring a pull buoy to help keep your hips up and buy shoes that drain well. Paddles SHOULD make you go faster, so you strap them to your wrists with rubber bands to keep them attached to your body while you’re running. The course is covered with poison ivy in Maine, and probably other stinging foliage in other parts of the world, so compression socks come in real handy. Also, you need a cap, goggles, compass, whistle, waterproof map, tracking beacon, tether, and nutrition. By the time you round up everything you need, you look like a damn fool (see picture, above).

We spent a fair amount of time talking about (notice I didn’t say “training with”) what we should use and figuring out how to securely attach it so it didn’t float away to sea. We ended up tying buoys to our thighs with bungee cord, which worked out really well. Thankfully, Ed had actually tried this in water and found that the cord expands when wet. Tie those ropes up tight! In general, we were incredibly and undeservedly lucky with the gear we chose. My brand new IceBug Acceleritas had about 9 miles on them, and they got through the swim and run portions like gang busters. Ed was smart enough to recommend using Injinji toe socks, and we were both surprised that we were blister-free at the end of our day. Blue Seventy generously sent us fantastic wetsuits, which we defiled with scissors and super glue. The only real mistakes that we made were:

1) The tether – swimming with a tether sucks. We didn’t anticipate that, so we went ahead and never practiced. Not practicing was a mistake. You want the tether to be long enough so that the slower swimmer can draft (or so the crabbier swimmer who threw away his paddles can draft… more on that in a second). You don’t want it to be so long, however, that it gets stuck in the aforementioned sea grass or traps other swimmers as they try to navigate around you. We cut our tether too short, so the drafting/crabby swimmer had to swim right on top of it in order to complete a full arm stroke. It also meant that drafting/crabby swimmer got constantly kicked by the leader’s brand new SwimRun shoes.

2) The paddles – I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Ed is a significantly faster swimmer than I am. I now know, however, that if you want to slow a faster swimmer give him dinner-plate size paddles that he hasn’t trained with and ask him to swim 4 miles in choppy ocean water. Smaller paddles are a much better option: they cause less fatigue and don’t interfere as much with your stroke when swimming in open water. These reasons make it significantly less likely that you will rip them off and throw them away two-thirds of the way through the course (ahem; see above).

Training

I did not train enough for this race. Also, I did not do the right kind of training. My training plan was geared towards the longest swim (which was just over a mile), and it should have been at least a 5K plan. I didn’t train enough with my paddles, so my arms fatigued quickly. This became a major problem as the current in the channels started to pick up. I spent far too little time running on trails and the trails I ran on weren’t comparable to the boulder scrambles where we lost much of our time. Most importantly, I didn’t train enough in race-like conditions with the equipment I would be using on event day. This is a classic mistake of overconfident athletes, and I am appropriately shamed.

 Trail "Running"

Trail "Running"

Nutrition

We knew that there would be water and sports drink out on the course, so nutrition wasn’t a huge focus of our race plan. Ed and I both shoved a few gels in our wetsuits in case we needed them, mostly as an insurance plan. We ended up out on the course for several hours longer than we intended, so we did need them and we should have brought more. A few hundred calories would have made a big difference in our day, and would have commuted the number of nasty things we said to each other. Enough said. Moving on. Be prepared, scouts!

Expectations

This sport is new to the United States (Ötillö races have been popular in Scandinavia for years), and there isn’t a lot of information available about it online. I say this to help explain the absolutely unreasonable expectations I had for the race itself and my performance in it. The main thing I should have realized is that the requirement of carrying a map and a compass means you should probably learn how to use them. We were extremely lucky that we raced on a day when the bay wasn’t socked in by fog, so we were able to see points of land to aim for while swimming. We could easily have had to rely on our nonexistent navigation skills, and I have no doubt that poor conditions could have ended our day early. I wasted time worrying about trivial details, like water temperature and the etymology behind Shark Island, and didn’t take advantage of readily accessible information about tides and terrain. We raced on a perfect day, and this was still a challenging course with difficult conditions. It is a mistake to underestimate this event, and the next time I compete I will be better prepared.

This reflection is meant to pass on some of the knowledge that I gained in training for and participating in this event and to remind me of what I learned. Under no circumstances should it dissuade capable athletes from participating. The Casco Bay SwimRun is absolutely one of the most incredible racing experiences of my life. We had the chance to explore islands that few people have ever set foot on and see ruins of WWII artillery fortifications. We were supported by locals who fed us, directed us, and helped us out of the water when we lost our footing. We swam and ran in some of the most beautiful terrain that I have ever been privileged enough to experience. We were given fresh lobsters and canned beer after a challenging and exhausting day. This sport is a little odd, but I can’t wait to suit up again. Luckily, I won’t have to wait long: The 2017 team selections were just announced, and Ed and I are going back for the long course!

 Your Author's Reward

Your Author's Reward

Mid-Season Hill Sessions

 CBCG athletes attacking hills at our Bend Spring Training Camp

CBCG athletes attacking hills at our Bend Spring Training Camp

by Chris Boudreaux

Hill Repeats constitute a part of almost every training plan I’ve seen.  There are many benefits of hill training: run specific strength, good form (running uphill naturally puts your body in “proper” run form), high intensity quality efforts, so there’s not much reason to write an article touting the benefits of hill running.  But when (and how!) to incorporate hill training into your run is what I’d like to discuss today.

Coaches often prescribe hill work early in the season. Typically short in duration (one to three minutes per interval), usually at a fairly high intensity, they are a great way to start introducing harder work into the initial months of an athlete’s new year. Once April or May rolls around, however, it seems that hill sessions make way for tempo work, speed work, race pace specificity, and hills often get set aside until the following year. This is a mistake. Around 6-8 weeks out from our key races, I will typically bring back the “hill repeat” workout, as a way of sharpening athletes’ race pace work.  Tempo work (steady, longer efforts at or around various race distances do constitute the majority of “in season” work, as it’s the biggest indicator of success at a given race distance, and I set up these intervals to reflect that intensity. The hill adds a degree of difficulty, and doesn’t let the athlete back off the way he or she might be able to do on a track or out on the road.

These hill repeats are typically done as five-minute intervals, on a moderate hill (a 4-5% grade—similar to what you would see on a highway offramp).  We have a great soft surface hill in Portland (Saltzman Road), and I have a designated starting point, arrived at through multiple iterations of this workout.  It was something I found with Terenzo Bozzone (mulitple triathlon world champion), when he used to train here in Portland during the summers.  The five minutes are long enough that sprinting isn’t possible, but short enough to give a very honest effort (right around your 70.3 goal run pace, or open 10k pace). Recoveries are relaxed downhill back to the starting line. 

The total distance and efforts of these runs make up for a solid tempo run—not a true speed or total aerobic efforts. Remember that you will probably have close to a similar time going downhill, so these runs are fairly long (typically 75-100 minutes). As far as a progression week to week (assuming the athlete is absorbing the workouts well and recovering), we don’t increase the time of the interval.  For some reason, to me, 5 is the magic number.  It is a great distance for that uphill effort, allowing you to have a repeatable distance to compare each effort, and efforts from past sessions.  Instead, we increase the number of repeats we do, as well as adding some complimentary work, such as very short pickups to improve leg speed, or some downhill tempo work to make sure we’re not running with the brakes on.

I really love these workouts as one of our key sessions leading into key races.  They are difficult workouts, so I would caution against doing too much.  I wouldn’t prescribe these sessions all season, but at the correct time they can provide a huge boost in performance, just as you’re coming to your “A” priority race.

Sample workouts:

#1

20 min warmup with 6x:30 pickups
4x5 min Hill effort (70.3 race effort) with downhill recovery back to start
Last downhill at tempo effort
10-15 min cool down

#2

20 min warmup w/4x:100 pickups
4x5 min hill efforts (70.3)
After final interval, find a flat section of road or trail
4x2:00 fast (sprint distance effort) w/ 1:00 recovery
10-15 min c/d

#3

20 min warmup w/ 4x1:00 pickups
3x5 min hill effort (Olympic dis effort)
1x10 min flat tempo (70.3 pace)
1x downhill interval with great form
10 min c/d

#4

20 min warmup w/ 4x1:30 building efforts
7x5 min Hill repeats at Ironman effort
w/ last 2 intervals downhill tempo
10-15 min c/

Chris Boudreaux is CBCG's high-performance coach, with more than a decade of racing at the professional level. Check him out here.

What's Your Logistics Plan?

 CBCG Pro Andrew Langfield takes the start at Ironman Canada. He's right behind Trevor Wurtele, in the Orca Sonar wetsuit. Andrew finished 10th place in 9:07, bettering his previous Iron-distance PR by about ten minutes.

CBCG Pro Andrew Langfield takes the start at Ironman Canada. He's right behind Trevor Wurtele, in the Orca Sonar wetsuit. Andrew finished 10th place in 9:07, bettering his previous Iron-distance PR by about ten minutes.

Triathletes (well, most athletes, actually) like to talk about plans: pacing plans, nutrition plans, mental plans. There are excellent reasons to do so. Planning structures the future, and allows you to rehearse ahead of time what you want to occur. Even though planning may seem like a pedestrian activity, it's actually a sophisticated mental skill, a close cousin of visualization.

But something I often see athletes leaving out is a logistics plan. They say "Eh, I'll just do what I always do on race weekend," forgetting that the schedule is somewhat out of their hands. These athletes are putting their races at risk by not taking the time to write down the logistics of their particular weekend. One CBCG athlete, recently, showed up at his race only to discover that he hadn't checked when registration closed—it turns out he was an entire day late, and spent the whole day before the race running around, trying to convince the organizers to let him race. He got in, but how easy would it have been to simply read the race schedule for the weekend and have a plan in place ahead of time?

One of our pros, Andrew Langfield, had a breakthrough race a few weekends ago at Ironman Canada, posting the most consistent performance of his career: aiming to swim 59 minutes, he swam 55; aiming to ride 4:50, he rode 5:00 (but built his heart rate perfectly over the ride); aiming for 3:05 in the marathon, he ran an impressive 3:04:51. In the final week before the race, I asked him for a logistics plan for race morning. Andrew is a laid-back guy, and has often rolled into race weekend casually. That's great for being relaxed on race day, but, as pointed out above, you can leave some things to chance. Whistler is a logistically challenging course: there are two transition zones; there is a shuttle you have to get on before the start; the race starts early. Here's the plan Andrew came up with:

3:45 - wake up, eat applesauce/banana, load up
4:00 - in the car
4:45 - arrive in Whistler village, drop off special needs bag, go put banana in run gear bag
5:00 - in line for the shuttle
5:30 - hopefully at T1 by now, drop off bike gear bag, go put shoes and gels on bike, top off tire pressure
5:45 - quick run
6:00 - porta-potty, start getting into wetsuit, caffeine pill
6:15 - in the water
6:30 - out for a gel, kiss Elena
6:45 - race starts! (I'll be a 2.5 out of 5)

I love this, especially the fact that he put his energy level goal (2.5 out of 5, which is the arousal level we aimed for). On race day, he simply walked through this schedule, never worried or freaked out, and arrived at the start line ready to perform. 9:07 later, he'd put up the race of his life.

Garmin Best Practices

Garmin Best Practices

Someone a lot smarter than I am told me, once: "If you don't ask for what you want, you'll never get what you're looking for." As race season builds into a flurry of race plans, race reports, and weekly workout updates, your CBCG coach is swimming in data. Now, we don't mean to be picky, but there are ways you can set up your Garmin devices (well, any devices, but Garmin is the big player in this field and—full disclosure—a sponsor of mine, so they get top billing today) that make it easier for your coach to interpret your data and get you the best feedback possible.

Sharpen, Don't Taper

 The author, fit and sharp, at Challenge Atlantic city in 2014, where he finished 3rd

The author, fit and sharp, at Challenge Atlantic city in 2014, where he finished 3rd

By Chris Boudreaux

“Taper time!  Time to put the legs up and relax till race day!”
“The hay is in the barn!”
“Last long run done! Time to chill…#tapertime”

How often do you see (or say) something along those lines in the last few weeks before a big race, like an Ironman or a marathon?  Pretty much all the time, especially if you’re on twitter and follow a bunch of other distance athletes.  And it’s not that they are completely wrong.  Of course, if you’ve been doing a big training block leading into a major event, you will reduce the training load.  And there will be a focus on rest and recovery and making sure you’re 100% on race day.  But there’s a key word there many of us miss- FOCUS. 

There are a ton of articles and opinions on an ideal taper leading into events, but I’m sorry, over the years I’ve seen tons of different ways to approach a race as far as the % of workout reduction, specific workouts, etc…that have all worked.  I’m not saying that there isn’t good, bad, great ways to taper, but I think the mental focus during that time is the most important.

When you think of a “taper," we think of down time, less work, more rest, basically a little off-season.  But what happens when you take your off-season break?  You won’t lose a ton of fitness over a few weeks, but try to go run a great track workout in the middle of November or December a month after your last race…Not fun, right?  There’s some physical sluggishness, but it’s overwhelmingly mental.  Your body and your mind are just not ready to work like that.  You’ve told your body that we’re resting, and guess what? That’s exactly what it wants to do.  So when we do the same thing in the last 2 to 3 weeks before our most important race of the year, why are we surprised when we feel flat and sluggish and “off” on race day?

It’s not that exact of a science to be already to go for a 8-17 hour event.  You just don’t need to be that perfect.  You need sharpness, but not as much physical sharpness as if you were running the 100meters (or even the 5-10k).  You need to be healthy, engaged, and be ready to work.  Think Sharpening VS Tapering.

When you think about sharpening over the last few weeks, you think of more focus, more attention to detail, more time spent preparing for the event.  So while that includes a workload reduction, that doesn’t include less preparation and attention to detail then what you’ve done over this 8-12 week block to prepare you.  You should get dressed the same, warmup the same, eat properly, everything you’d do for that huge ride or run a few weeks back.  Total focus and concentration on the task at hand.  Sharp. Focused. Ready to give 100%.  So even your 20 minute run w/ 30 second pickups has the same level of focus and attention that the 2 hour run with Ironman intervals did.

When you sharpen, everything you do over those last few days or weeks is preparing your mind and body for the task at hand.  When you feel like you’re resting and relaxing for 2 weeks, then asking your mind and body to be “on” for a huge event, it’s a recipe for disaster.  Use that time to be fully prepared, and then “taper” into your off season, the real time to relax and check out.