How to Come Down from Caffeine


by Chris Bagg

It’s 2:34 PM, thirteen days before my last Ironman of the year, and I’m breaking my commitment to stick to only two cups of coffee a day. Great way to establish credibility, right? And you thought you were here to learn about how to kick the habit, huh? Well, we’ll get there (I hope). First of all, though, why am I even trying to get off of caffeine in the first place? And why so far out from the race, too? Wasn’t there a study, like, just last year, that established you only needed three days to get clean from caffeine?

It’s a well-established fact that caffeine is a performance enhancer. WADA (the World Anti-Doping Association) toyed with the possibility of putting caffeine on the banned list a few years ago, before basically the entire cycling industry lost their collective shit. So we do know that it improves performance, but—as with anything—it’s important to know how caffeine improves performance, and under what circumstances. Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system, and one of its effects is to block a chemical reception that triggers the onset of drowsiness. So, first of all, you get less tired/sleepy. Not too many athletes get sleepy during their events, but a little more alertness never hurt anyone. The next helpful effect of caffeine is that it helps us utilize fat as a fuel source, especially as we run low on glycogen. For any athlete doing an event longer than 90 minutes, this is hugely helpful. Thirdly—and probably the most pertinent—caffeine changes our perception of effort. Think about that again. Most of what drives our performances out on course is our perception of how things are going, rather than how they are actually going (this is a whole other blog post). If we can change our perception of effort, it is possible we can rewrite our entire experience of the endurance event at hand, perhaps turning in a performance we never even thought possible.

Before you head to the store, though, to stock up on beans, a very important caveat. As with any drug, we build up tolerances. And, like many Americans, we tend to already drink two to three cups of coffee a day, numbing our response to the popular drug. And if you’ve ever had to go until noon without your fix (or if a clever spouse switched the decaf on you), you know that the withdrawal symptoms of caffeine addiction are no joke: lethargy, terrible headaches, irritability. That aforementioned study on coming down from caffeine breezily posited that only three days are necessary for the body to be rid of its addiction to this particular drug. I’ll bet that those freaking study authors drink tea, and herbal tea, at that. Try to kick your habit three days before a race, and you will be so miserable in the days leading up to the event you may decide to DNS.

But it IS important to get off the drug. If you don’t, you’ll need caffeine simply to bring yourself up to your normal level of ability. For some, that may be fine, but if you are looking for that extra zip on race day to nab that Kona qualification, then getting off of caffeine may really help. If you’ve ever managed to get away from it for a stretch of time, you know what that first cup back is like: speed in a mug. How is this legal? you may think to yourself, and I’m not sure if I should drive right now…caffeine to the virgin (or, at least, scoured out) system is fairly amazing, and it can really power great performances on the race course.

OK, I hope I’ve convinced you. So how do we get there? Here’s the system I usually put into play while getting down from caffeine:

13 days out: 1.5 cups of coffee in the AM, with the freedom to have half a cup around 2-3 PM
12-9 days out: repeat the above process
8-6 days out: 1 cup of coffee in the AM, with the freedom to have half a cup around 2-3 PM
5-3 days out: 1 cup of coffee in the AM, nothing else
2-1 days out: 1 cup of green tea with only 35mg of caffeine in it (one tea bag, steeped for three minutes)
Race Day: nothing with breakfast, 100mg caffeine pill 45’ before race start

Why no coffee itself on race day? Well, the tannins in coffee can mess with your stomach on race morning, moreso than the caffeine, so I avoid the drink entirely, take my 100mg of caffeine pre-race, and am usually absolutely flying by race start.

Why Camps?

This article originally appeared on the Fuse Lenses blog. We’re reposting because it’s camp season, and that means our Tucson and Bend Camps are open for registration. Regardless of whether or not you’re coming to one of our camps, you can follow the below structure to give yourself a boost of fitness if you can set up your work schedule to allow for it.

Why training camps? Each spring (or whichever season describes the early part of your competitive year), athletes of all stripes head to different locales to train in groups, in better weather, or to spend some valuable time with his or her coach. But how much really changes? My old training partner, Olympic-probable Eric Lagerstrom, often points out that when other athletes talk about camp, they’re really just describing their normal training in a new setting. This is quite true. I’m in Carlsbad, California right now, with Amy and my training partner Heather Jackson, posted up in a beautiful house in the San Diego County hills. We’ll be here for twenty days, and training doesn’t look too different from normal: big days Wednesday and Saturday on the bike. Big runs Sunday. Long hard swims Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Short but hard runs sprinkled throughout. Easier rides wherever they fit. So why pull up stakes, go somewhere else for three weeks, spend a bunch of money on renting a house, driving the entire length of I-5, find coverage for our jobs and businesses?

That might seem like a stupid question. Sure, the weather is nicer in Southern California than it is in Portland during the winter, but training effectively in Portland isn’t hard at all. It’s wet, yes, but the temperature is fine, the running is always top-drawer, and you can swim anywhere, really. The real value of a camp is not in the amount of training you can get in, or the convenience of nice weather, or the company of strong athletes—the value of a camp is the efficiency it provides: you can do more than you normally can, not by freeing up more time to train (there’s always more time to train, it just depends on how you feel about running/riding/swimming before light or after dark, or when you’re exhausted from work), but by freeing up more time to recover and rest.

When Amy and I are back in Portland, chaos basically reigns. We both run our own small businesses: my coaching company has five coaches and 55 athletes, and Amy counsels high school students through the byzantine, competitive world of college admissions. Like most long course triathletes, amateur and professional alike, we fit our training in and around our work commitments. I think most small business owners will sympathize that you can always work—if you’re not careful you find yourself logging 80-100 hour weeks. Training camp gives me, for a wonderful three weeks, the chance to fit my work around my training, and fit my training around my rest. Long course triathlon also requires a bunch of hours (Heather and I put in 25-30 hour weeks; Amy is in the 21-25 range), but all that training requires a ton of recovery. Stepping away from Portland and getting out of my business bubble allows me to really focus on the work hard/rest hard equation. Here’s what a week looks like, coupled with appropriate recovery blocks.

And that’s basically it! Wash, rinse, repeat for however long you’re at camp, and then schedule some time to really rest the week after camp. We’ll be here for three total weeks, putting ourselves in a pretty deep hole by the end of March. That kind of heavy training requires heavy resting afterward, cutting training volume by 50-70%, depending on how exhausted you feel. Many athletes train hard enough, but don’t rest hard enough, and they find themselves getting tired and slow by mid-summer. Camps are great for training stimulus, but you don’t get faster until you let that stimulus soak into your body. As my first cycling mentor, Captain Dondo, once said: “Riding your bike isn’t training. Lying on the couch afterward—that’s where everything actually starts to change.”

Want to experience the highs and lows of camp yourself? Come to our legendary Bend camp in May, or our Heather Jackson/Wattie Ink. Camp in Tucson, where YOU get to train with Heather Jackson for five remarkable days.

How to Race in a Radically Different Time Zone from Your Own

by Amy VanTassel

Someone once said (was it Confucius?) that to properly adapt to a new time zone, you need one restful day in your new location per every hour difference. Ergo, if you’re heading for the Gold Coast of Australia, with a nine hour difference, you should arrive nine days in advance to get a shot at adaptation. For athletes attempting to actually compete abroad, it should probably be even more.

  CBCG friends Rachel McBride and Steph Corker traveling to compete in Ironman World Championships, 2018

CBCG friends Rachel McBride and Steph Corker traveling to compete in Ironman World Championships, 2018

Not every athlete, however, has the luxury of showing up on site several weeks in advance. So, as CBCG athlete and five-time participant at CBCG Camps Don Geddes discovered, there are strategic ways to prep for races abroad. The strategies begin at home, well in advance to flying overseas.

“Before I left for Worlds in Australia, I read an article from University of a Sydney professor, Steve Simpson. Since the time difference to Portland was seven hours behind, I had already started staying up a bit later every night, but after I read this research I committed to practicing the following:

  CBCG athlete Don Geddes at the 2018 ITU Age Group Standard Distance Worlds in Australia

CBCG athlete Don Geddes at the 2018 ITU Age Group Standard Distance Worlds in Australia

1. I began going to bed 90 minutes later every day until I was staying up until 3-4 AM, ultimately getting up around 11 AM - 12 PM in Portland.  

2. My drastically later wake up time put me in sync for a 4 AM wake up in Australia, which was pretty much in line with my wake up time on race day. 

3. I started doing my workouts close to when my actual race times would be - real time in Australia. Since I had a late wave start of 8:23 AM, that meant shifting my workouts to 3-4 PM. 

4. In turn, I needed to adjust meal times by having lunch around 4 or 5 PM, and dinner around 8:30.

5. To shake out the stiffness and cobwebs for sitting so long on the 14-hour flight I opted for the formal Aquathon offered to all competitors, which was a 750 meter swim and 5k run the day after arriving. I felt this was really helpful as it let test the water and shake out the legs. Doubtful that a similar event is available for other races, at least I recommend discussing your shakeout routine upon arrival with your coach. 

Don ended up 3rd American in his age group that Sunday, in the triathlon!  He has clinched multiple PR’s and impressive podia positions in his time working under CBCG head coach Chris Bagg, which is principally due to his diligence and perseverance as a world-class triathlete.

  Geddes on his way to 3rd American and 15th in his Age Group in Australia

Geddes on his way to 3rd American and 15th in his Age Group in Australia

We at CBCG recognize that such adjustments may be relatively easier for Don, or any athlete who doesn’t hold-down a 9-5 career, but there should be some universal takeaways from his experience. So, in addition to Don’s above sage list of tactics, we offer some general rules-of-thumb for anyone planning to race in a significantly different time zone:

1. Talk to your coach. Whether or not you can get ready in terms of training and fitness, it’s half the battle to ensure you can realistically thwart for the ramifications of jet lag. The best-trained athletes in the world are no good if they’re not acclimatized, so ensure you can meet the afncdd requirements to set yourself up for success for your dream race on the other side of the planet. Your coach can help.

2. Talk to your family. If you’re combining racing with a family adventure, which is a fantastic idea, let’s make sure you’re not throwing them under the bus. If you’re phasing into a new time zone, so should they, at least a little. If they cannot phase-in at least some degree of sleep change, you’ve got to consider the impact on both your racing, and/or their vacation.

3. At least do something. Again, if you’re all, like, “Yeah, must be nice to get to go travel a few weeks in advance, but I gotta work!” at least practice some behaviors while still holding-down your day job. Going to bed just a littler earlier or later, depending on the location, will do wonders. And then controlling your sleep on the flight and upon your arrival will be key, which many people don’t realize is largely controlled by other daily practices...

Eating and training closer and closer to your global race time will be increasingly valuable, so check out Don’s advice and the article he engendered. Talk to you coach and fam, an consider if traveling to Nice, France for 70.3 World Champs or something similar is right for you!

  CBCG head coach Chris Bagg waiting for a train in Strasborg

CBCG head coach Chris Bagg waiting for a train in Strasborg

Service Spotlight: How to Do a Swim Analysis

Here at CBCG, every new athlete gets a free swim analysis included with their coaching subscription, and we update that swim analysis each year at our CBCG Bonanza, held each December in Portland (with other locations around the country coming soon!). Why is getting a swim analysis so important that we make that the first thing we do with a new athlete? Well, swimming is more like golf in terms of technical requirements than cycling or running. So many things need to happen at the same time for you to move in an alien orientation (horizontal) through an alien medium (water). Our swim analyses look at you from each pertinent angle, letting you know where you’re doing things correctly and where you could make some improvements. We’ll roll through our six angles in order below, and you can watch, above, as I go through an analysis of one of our athletes.

Angle One: Side View Above Water

This is usually the most flattering angle, so we tend to start here. When we look at a swimmer from the side, we’re watching the following aspects:

  1. If the swimmer lifts the head to breathe

  2. How the breath is timed to the stroke (early breath/late breath)

  3. How the arm is recovered over the water and how it enters the water (want to read an entire POST about this subject? You can do that here)

  4. We also watch for the rhythm of the stroke. Some athletes look like they’re trying to attack the water, flailing down the lane. Others are very “polite” and probably take too few strokes, thinking that fast swimming is about trying to disturb as little water as possible.

Angle Two: Side View Below Water

This is usually the least flattering angle to swimmers, since it reveals what odd things their bodies are doing underwater. When we look at a swimmer from the side below the surface, we’re tracking these qualities:

  1. If their legs sink behind them

  2. How much/how little they kick

  3. The quality of their catch (from hand entry until the arm is directly below the shoulder) and pull-through (from end of catch to hand exit)

  4. Where they look in the water

We tend to really focus on the quality of the catch, here, since that is going to have the biggest impact on other aspects of the stroke, in particular if the swimmer has sinky legs. Usually those sinky legs are a result of a so-so catch and pull-through, so if we can fix that issue of propulsion, then the legs tend to correct as well.

Angle Three: Top View

The top-down angle reveals many other crucial aspects of the swimmer’s stroke. Here, we are looking for the following qualities of the stroke:

  1. Do the swimmer’s hands cross an imaginary centerline, drawn through the spine, out in front of his or her body? If so, this is going to ramify down through the body, usually leading to a swimmer snaking down the pool (or swimming off course in open water). A crossover in front often leads to our next issue…

  2. A scissor kick. Created when the swimmer rotates too much or creates instability at the front of the stroke by crossing over. You can see this happening when a swimmer’s legs spread apart behind them in a wide “V.” A scissor kick is essentially deploying a parachute behind you, so fixing this issue is crucial.

  3. Breath timing. Top down gives us another chance to watch the swimmer’s timing of the breath vis-a-vis the stroke. We want the swimmer to finish her breath before her hand passes her face above the water (on its way towards re-entry). If the swimmer isn’t doing this, it’s a clue that they’re not getting enough air out while their face is under water.

  4. General lack of movement. You’re supposed to rotate along a long axis while doing freestyle, which means your spine, hips, and shoulders should be aligned, and there should be a relative lack of movement as they rotate.

Angle Four/five: 3/4 view front

When we watch from the 3/4 front angle, above water and below, we’re watching to see the swimmer’s breathing patterns. From above the water, we’re looking for the mystical bow wave. What’s a bow wave? Well, OK, some nautical terminology, here. If you’ve ever seen a boat move through the ocean or a lake, it makes a little pile of water right at its prow. That pile of water has to go somewhere, so it flows “downhill,” creating a small trough right behind the boat’s nose. Here’s a good example:


You can see that depression, right behind the bulge of water out in front of the boat, right? Well, we make that, too, as long as we keep our heads still as we swim forward. That trough is a really nice place for us to breathe into, as there’s air there that we don’t have to lift our head for. So when looking at the swimmer above the surface, we look to see if they are making that bow wave AND making use of the trough behind it. When we go underwater, we look to see if the swimmer is holding his/her breath. In the video above, you can see our swimmer isn’t creating a bow wave (or is making a very small one), and therefore having to lift her head to breathe. And when we go underwater, you can see that she’s not exhaling regularly—we should see a steady stream of bubbles coming out of her mouth while underwater. Instead, you can see that her mouth is slightly open, with no bubbles. This swimmer is holding her breath, and making it much more difficult on herself! As yourself this: would you ever hold your breath while running?

Angle Six: Front

And our final angle: directly in front of the athlete. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  1. Is the angle of the swimmer’s arm, measured from the elbow, between 100-120 degrees? This should result in the swimmer’s hand being about 2-2.5 feet below their body and directly under the shoulder.

  2. The hand should not sweep under the body (the dreaded “s-curve,” taught in the 1980s and 1990s to swimmers such as Yours Truly.

  3. The swimmer should rotate in a 90 degree arc, from 45-50 degrees to the horizontal of the pool floor, to 45-50 degrees on the other side. Anything more than that is over-rotation and will cause breathing and stroke timing issues. Anything less than that is under-rotation, and will cause issues of not being able to recover the arm properly over the surface of the water.


So that’s “it.” We get it—there’s a lot there to think about! Swimming really is very technical, and you shouldn’t be daunted by the amount of information above. Improving at swimming takes a long time, and is more akin to improving at golf than cycling or running—you simply must put in the practice time AND the fitness time. If you just get in the water and do drills, you’ll never build your fitness to a place where you can actually get through a practice without falling apart and watching your form suffer. If you never work on your technique, you won’t progress much in terms of speed. You’ll become more enduring, which is good, too, but speed gains will elude you.

We offer 1-2-1 video analysis here at CBCG, and if it’s something you think might benefit you, you can contact us about it here!

How to Choose the Right Triathlon Coach for You

 Head Coach Chris Bagg working with CBCG athlete Devin Salinas at our 2017 Bend Training camp

Head Coach Chris Bagg working with CBCG athlete Devin Salinas at our 2017 Bend Training camp

by CBCG Partner Coach Molly Balfe

So you’re ready for a coach. You’re committed to taking your triathlon training to the next level, and you’re cognizant that expert guidance and accountability is the best way to get there. Hiring a coach provides you with an ally and guide who can help you achieve your goals, manage your time, and take the guesswork out of your training, but the complex worlds of triathlon training, racing, gear, and nutrition can be overwhelming for new (and seasoned) athletes. For the self-motivated athlete, there is no shortage of info available online and in print, but you will quickly find that not only are there are several different schools of thought, but many of those theories directly contradict each other!

How should you proceed? If navigating the online options for coaching can be overwhelming, then how could you even begin to search specifically for the right person with whom you will forge a meaningful relationship? How do you find a good match? What is a good match?A cheerleader or a drill sergeant? Someone who pushes you or reins you in, or both? Whether you’re looking for someone to help you out for a few months as you find your bearings or are set on finding a long-term coach to help you continually improve, it can be tough to begin this process.

 #CBCGcoach Molly Balfe working with camper Sarah Barkley at our 2017 Bend Training Camp

#CBCGcoach Molly Balfe working with camper Sarah Barkley at our 2017 Bend Training Camp

We at the Chris Bagg Coaching Group are passionate about the coach-athlete relationship. We love this sport, and we want you to find an ideal coach who doesn’t just have that love in common, but whose style and approach creates the best rapport to empower you to be the fastest, happiest, and healthiest you want to be. To help you along your way, we compiled a list of suggestions that we think will help you identify a qualified coach who is the right match for you.

Dive in. The first thing we recommend is to stop second-guessing your desire to hire a coach. We are inundated with disclaimers from athletes about not being fast enough, young enough, fit enough, strong enough, or whatever enough to take their training seriously. In all honesty, very few coaches make their living working with elite athletes. Most coaches were drawn to this profession because they are passionate about the sport and want to support athletes as they work towards their goals. Athletes participate in triathletes for a myriad of great reasons; they want to stay fit, get healthy, challenge themselves, and create a healthy lifestyle. These are all serious reasons, and we take your commitment seriously whether you are looking for podia or finish lines.

When you have made the decision to hire a coach, begin with a self-assessment. Define your reasons for seeking assistance so you can articulate them to the coaches you meet with. Here are a few recommendations to help you clarify what you are hoping to get from your coach: 

Know your limiters. Where do you struggle the most? If you aren’t sure, take a look at your recent race results and where you ranked in the swim, bike, and run (and while you’re at it, check out those transitions!). If you had the fastest bike split in your age group, but you ranked 30th in the swim, your coach may well want to focus on what is happening in the water. If there are big improvements to be made, it may help to spend a few weeks or months focusing on one sport, as it is extremely difficult to make considerable gains in all three sports at the same time. Many coaches use the “off” season to spend targeted time on the sport that holds an athlete back. This way, as the race season approaches, the plan can focus more on intensity and volume across all of your training.

Identify your short- and long-term goals. How will you know that your season was a success? Where do you want your training to be in five years? You and your coach need to be on the same page about where your training is headed, so tell them what your goals are and ask for their feedback about whether they think your goals are achievable. If your goal is to complete a race, you may only need a season of training to get there. However, improvements take time (and the faster you become, the harder those minutes and seconds will come by). Most coaches are looking for athletes who are in it for the long haul and hoping to get stronger and faster each year. The longer we work with you, the more we know about your specific needs and how you respond to training. Short-term goals can be extremely motivating, but should ultimately move you toward where you hope to be in the long-term.

 The Author, Molly Balfe, in her Element, Working with Athletes on Swim Technique

The Author, Molly Balfe, in her Element, Working with Athletes on Swim Technique

Consider your capacity. Think about how much time you have to devote to training. We all know that life gets in the way of training sometimes, but it is helpful to be aware of whether an athlete’s job requires frequent travel or if they have other obligations (family, other hobbies, getting the band back together) that will determine their available time for training. Especially for longer races, the weekend time commitment can be significant, so make sure that you have the support of the people in your life. If you do travel frequently, you should expect to integrate your workouts into your travel schedule so your training isn’t derailed. If your schedule is typically flexible, but you know you have a few busy weeks each year, make sure you communicate that in advance so your coach can design your plan with these periods in mind. Every coach-athlete dynamic is different, so after you have determined your needs, we recommend embarking upon your search by taking into account the following: 

1.  Strengths – Make sure that the coach you choose has the sport-specific knowledge to help you improve on your limiters. If you are one of the many triathletes who struggles with their swim, make sure you choose a coach who has a history of helping swimmers become more competent in the water. If you know nutrition is holding you back, make sure the coach you select can provide you with the information and feedback you require to help you manage your diet and race needs. Most coaches can provide some level of guidance in each of the three sports, but if you are hoping for specific improvement, make sure you find someone with specific expertise. Likewise, if you already have a long history in one of the three sports, make sure you find someone who is able to provide you with workouts and training that will match your ability and experience.

2.  Availability – How often do you need/want/expect feedback? Are you looking for a static plan with little or no direction or do you want to be able to communicate directly with your coach about a schedule that is tailored specifically for you? Regular email and/or phone communication allows coaches to make real time decisions based on how their athletes are responding to training. In person meetings are rare, and are typically more expensive (especially if they involve evaluating your technique, which is generally a consultation and comes with an additional fee). How frequently you hear from your coach should be explicitly agreed upon by the coach and athlete. The amount of access you have to your coach varies considerably - be clear about what you expect and what your coach is offering.

3.  Style – Are you looking for a cheerleader? Someone to tell you to get off your butt and stop making excuses? Some combination of the two? Know what keeps you motivated and look for someone who can work with you in a way that you find motivating and productive. If possible, talk to some of their former or current athletes to find out more about their experience. If a coach has a reputation for being hard on athletes and you know you need a little fear to keep you motivated, this could be a great match! However, if you know you tend avoid conflict, you may well end up hiding from this coach so you don’t get in trouble. This is not an effective form of training, and does not benefit you. Find someone who works with you in a way that will best ensure your success.

4.  Experience/Education – Make sure your goals align with your coach’s interests and expertise. If you are new to the sport, ask whether a coach has worked with beginners. If you are hoping to qualify for Kona or get your pro card, make sure your coach has a specific plan to help get you there. If you are hoping to balance a busy schedule while getting fit and having fun, choose someone who knows how to be flexible and supportive. Great coaches never stop learning about the sport – they want to be aware of the best new techniques and any worrying trends that are emerging in triathlon. Ask your coach how they stay sharp and increase their sport-specific knowledge. Many coaches hold certifications in the sport; these do not mean that they are more skilled than other coaches who do not, but it does guarantee a baseline level of knowledge.

5.  Cost – There is a lot of variation in coaching fees. In general, coaches who are the most experienced and accessible (meaning how often you can contact them) are also the most expensive. These are typically career coaches who give a good percentage of their time and energy to their coaching business. They work with several athletes and tend to have a great deal of experience. The most economical choice is typically buying a static training plan, but you lose the benefit of a coach’s guidance. When making decisions about cost, be honest with yourself about how much you can afford and how your investment aligns with your goals.

6.  Location – If you want to be part of a triathlon team or are hoping for one-on-one evaluations, it can be helpful to look for a coach that is nearby. However, with the constant evolution of new internet-based evaluation tools and techniques, this may less critical. Many coaches are using video analysis to determine where their athletes can make improvements. Phone and Skype communication can also help bridge the geographical gap between you and your coach. If there is someone who you really want to work with, location can often be overcome.

Finally, we maintain that the absolute best way to know whether a coach is right for you is to talk to them. Much like finding the best house, car, bike, or trainers, sometimes if you simply feel like you click, and you like what they have to say about their style, that should indicate that you will work well together. Remember that you are accountable for at least 50% of the relationship between you and your coach. If something is missing, or if you feel like you need additional help in a specific area, make sure you ask for it clearly. Coaches are highly invested in their athletes’ success, and we want to see you happily and healthily participating in this sport for years to come.

The athletes at the Chris Bagg Coaching Group are all bound by the same goal: to become faster, happier, healthier people. It's an ethos shared by all the coaches at CBCG, and nicely wrapped up in our motto: Go Fast, Have Fun, Be Nice. We think that keeping these three principles in sight at all time lead to strong performances and happier lives.

We are taking new athletes! Our roster of experienced coaches is ready to form a relationship with you, and help you get better, faster, happier, and healthier for your next training and racing season, so meet the coaches , learn how it works, and become a member of the CBCG family, if, and only if, we’re right for you

What To Expect When You're DNFing

by Amy VanTassel

I came all this way and spent all this money! All my training was leading up to this race. This was my last chance to qualify, and now it’s gone! My family even traveled to support me...all for nothing.

There’s arguably no worse feeling than DNF-ing a major race. Perhaps it was the classic issue of not being able to run, thereby facing the awful decision of whether to walk it in or step off the course, or an uncontrollable like major mechanicals on the bike. Or maybe it was a “biomechanical,” like a wrecked knee/ankle/glute, heat stroke, or hypothermia. It can be dreadful to bear a DNF on race day and beyond, so what can we do to cope with the awful feeling? As someone who’s grappled with the sitch more than once, I’ve given it a ton of thought and rendered the following humble advice.


 CBCG Head Coach Chris Bagg down for the count

CBCG Head Coach Chris Bagg down for the count

1. Don’t even think about it for a nanosecond!

Distraction is paramount for the rest of the day, so every time that demon named Regret rears its head, think. “Squirrel!”  You basically have two options to distract you from going to the Dark Side: staying at or returning to the race scene, or partying with family and friends,

If you change out of your chamois and return to the scene, your new job is to become the best spectator evah.  If friends are competing, holler to them that you’re fine, and then go bananas spectating them. Maybe there’s still time to see what’s happening at the front of the race and assure your favorite pro that there’s no one behind her or him. Personally, my jam has always been cheerleading for the back of the pack, high fives and encouragement all-around. The last finishers are remarkably inspiring, especially midnight at a full, proving convenient since you should distract yourself right up ‘til bedtime (and even then you should read a Dostoyevsky novel or play Angry Birds until lights-out). 

There is a potential risk with spectating, though: seeing your own gender athletes whom you perceive to have been your close competitors. Sour grapes can be fierce, so in the spirit of distraction, I say turn around three times, and then look at the shoes of the next racer and decide if you like that color. 

If you’d rather flee the scene, you should bond with your friends or family. Are there go-kart around?  How about the beach?  Wine tasting? Or perhaps there’s a fascinating nautical museum in town. My preferred pastime would be watching a game at a brewery, which leads me to my next point...

 Go Karts are available just a few minutes walk from the famed race course in Penticton, B.C. Photo courtesy Penticton Herald News

Go Karts are available just a few minutes walk from the famed race course in Penticton, B.C. Photo courtesy Penticton Herald News

2. Go directly to #carbtown

You might be tempted to wallow in self-loathing restriction, especially if you dropped out early and didn’t get to burn all those pancakes, but you should treat yourself - think of it as coddling yourself - all day.

If it’s safe and not too heathenish for you, I recommend finding beer immediately if you don’t need to drive. If you don’t drink or don’t have a driver, I’m sure french fries are less than a block away, and ice cream is even closer. If you’re in Canada, now’s the time for poutine.

 In addition to hitting a brewery, avail yourself of local #carbtown delicacies, such as Canada’s poutine

In addition to hitting a brewery, avail yourself of local #carbtown delicacies, such as Canada’s poutine

3. Make zero decisions. 

I recognize my cardinal rule of distraction is easier said than done. I bet the moment you knew you were going to DNF you considered your racing future. What now? Register for another race ASAP? Never race this stupid sport again?  I’ll tell you “what now?”...nuthin’. Put a moratorium on any judgments, decisions, or plans, and see below for how long. 

4. Ugh! The money I spent!

Regarding the inevitability of negative thoughts creeping in, it will likely occur to you sooner than later that you spent a shit-ton of coin on race entry, travel, and, well, everything leading up to your race. Allow that sucky thought to surface, but remember how much you lived and learned a lot during all your training. And you still got to hang out in a cool place and maybe can tomorrow. More esoterically speaking, consider the cost of the race is more like an entry fee for being a triathlete in general. OK, that last idea was weaksauce, but seriously you got to go to Couer d’Alene, or wherever. 

5. social media, fool

If you need to tell the world you’re OK, I urge you to just text a few key people. Even if you think you can handle checking your accounts, risking seeing race-related garbage, I promise you you’d glimpse some little post that will make you feel regretful or envious. And for the love of God, please no “Not my day...” race reports, IMHO. 

 CBCG Athlete Doris Steere spectating Heather Jackson like crazy at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

CBCG Athlete Doris Steere spectating Heather Jackson like crazy at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii


1. Disappointment is mythical 

Nobody, I repeat, nobody is disappointed in you! I have personally cried, worrying my brother would see it as a waste to have traveled to Mexico for nothing. I’ve been anxious my coach would feel let down, or my husband would feel like we tossed all that coin down the toilet. (Imagine if your coach and husband were the same person.) 

Simple solution: envision yourself in their shoes...would you be disappointed?  True, you might feel disappointed in yourself depending on the race circumstances, in which case you should check out #4 below. 

2. Modify your social media. 

I know it’s radical, but I personally suggest not engaging in any race-related content after your DNF. The worst thing to do would be to check out results in an effort to guess where you would’ve finished. Um...point in that?  The two exceptions are congratulating friends who raced or giving shout-outs to your sponsors, but you know that feeling when you check out Instagram and you feel a little nauseated? I guarantee you get that pang if you travel down the rabbit hole of content specific to your race. And I know I covered this above, but it bears repeating: please spare the world from the “Not my day...” post?  Please?

3. No decisions for a week

When you catch up with your coach, I bet you a million bucks she or he will point to what actually went well that day. CBCG coaches certainly will postmortem everything you nailed leading up to the gun, and depending on how long you made it until you dropped out, your successes and takeaways from the first legs. 

I also bet you a million bucks your coach won’t be frantic with plans for your next race, especially if you’re thinking “replacement race.”  VT’s rule: no new decisions for a week. The only exception would be if race registration is time-sensitive alá and early race reg invite, or a race being at risk of selling out - but don’t do anything without your coach’s blessing. 

4. On to the next!

That being stated, when you get the next race on your calendar, or perhaps there already is another, try to transfer your regretful emotions from your DNF to motivation for your next. This rule might seem the most obvious, but I also find it to be the most effective coping mechanism of all.

 CBCG Athlete (and your author) Amy VT crashing out of a cyclocross race. Photo courtesy of Jenny Greeve

CBCG Athlete (and your author) Amy VT crashing out of a cyclocross race. Photo courtesy of Jenny Greeve

For a lighter take on DNF’s, check out my article about dropping out of a ‘cross race published on the Cyclocross Magazine site. Back to sparing the world from a “Not my day...” post, think about that pic of you in your go-kart race or demolishing some poutine. 

Your 12-Week Sprint Triathlon Training Plan

by Molly Balfe

Ed. Note—CBCG Coach Molly Balfe checks in with thoughts as to how to prepare for your first sprint-distance triathlon. The former president of Tri Team PDX, coach for Team in Training, and current globe-trotting triathlon expert joins us today with both a complete 12-week plan for your first triathlon, AND a complete, free guide to the process, which you can download from our website here.

So you’ve just signed up for your first triathlon!

Whether you were reluctantly roped-in by a spandex-clad friend, or the feat has always been on your bucket list, we, the CBCG coaches, would like to congratulate you on deciding to try your first tri. Unlike stepping into a simple running race, triathlons take an exceptional deal of courage, likely testing your comfort zones in at least one of the disciplines, and this plan will help you along your way. So here is some expert guidance that our CBCG athletes have valued while preparing for their first races.

 CBCG Athlete Don Geddes on his way to winning his age group at the 2018 Rolf Prima Tri at the Grove

CBCG Athlete Don Geddes on his way to winning his age group at the 2018 Rolf Prima Tri at the Grove

Necessary Gear

If you’ve begun to gather information for your first tri, you’ve encountered a seemingly endless array of toys and tools you can spend your money on. The fastest and lightest gear may help you at certain points in your triathlon career, but we recommend starting out with the basics. That way, if you conclude that triathletes are nuts, you didn’t waste your comic; but conversely, if you find you‘re up for more triathlon adventures, you can slowly fill your gear closet as needed, with smart gear appropriate for you.  That stated, a few pieces of equipment are necessary to train for and complete your first race:

  • Bike – Repeat after us: “I do not need to buy a race bike for my first triathlon.”  Pretty much any bike with working gears and brakes will get you through your first sprint. If you already own a mountain bike, hybrid, or entry-level road bike, that will work! True, a heavier bike may slow you down a bit, but you’ll have the chance to experience your first race and see if you want to invest something more sport-specific. 
  • Helmet – This one’s a non-negotiable. All bicycle training and racing should be done wearing a CPSC approved helmet. Same thing as above applies, though: it would be total overkill to invest in a race-specific “aero helmet” for your first one.
  • Running shoes – Want to know which running shoes are the best?  Guess what: it totally depends.  CBCG coaches  highly recommend you visit your local running store to have someone help you select a shoe that works for your specific stride and biomechanics. Fashionable fitness shoes may look rad, and deals on online warehouses can be a steal, but they might not protect you from injuries. You’ve likely been running already, so you shouldn’t make any major changes in terms of going minimal or more structured.  In fact, the only major change you should make is considering quick-draw laces.  Invest in a pair of running shoes, and break them in a bit before your race.
  • Swimsuit, cap, and goggles – Think about where you’ll be racing when you pick your goggles. If you’ll be in a pool, or a foggy or cloudy lake, get clear lenses. If you’ll be staring down the sun at dawn, go for something tinted. Try them on for at least the distance of your first race, and when in doubt, get something pretty.
  • Watch – While this one isn’t entirely necessary, a cheap running watch can make a big difference in your triathlon training. You don’t need bells and whistles, but a watch that can show total time elapsed (and ideally lap splits) comes in very handy. Many people use their smartphones for this function, but we believe it’s best to keep your smartphone technology far away from sweat.

Following the Plan

CBCG coaches have created a plan that contains two workouts per week in each discipline (swim, bike, and run) as well as one strength session. See to treasure yourself to the plan, empowering yourself to perform your fastest, happiest, and healthiest first triathlon possible! Ideally, you will complete each workout as written. However, CBCG coaches are hugely understanding of life getting in the way, so if you’re time-limited, focus on completing the two workouts for the sport you struggle with the most (do it!), and at least one workout each for the other two sports. 

We also included a few “brick” workouts in this plan, instructing you to run right after you ride. “Bricks” should be considering key workouts: they’re a perfect time to practice your bike-to-run transition, and grow accustomed to how your legs feel right off the bike. These workouts are also great opportunities to practice your race day nutrition (more info on nutrition below).

If you need a day off, or you’re just feeling blasted, take a day off! If you’re unsure, we suggest at least attempting the workout to see if you just needed a warm up to blow out the cobwebs. If you start the main part of the workout and it’s just not happening, then call it quits.

The majority of these workouts will be at an easy effort, especially during the first 6 weeks of training. In order to safely build up your endurance, you need to gradually increase your training volume. Even if you feel good, keep the effort level low unless otherwise indicated.

 CBCGer Devin Salinas putting in some miles

CBCGer Devin Salinas putting in some miles

Nutrition for Training and Racing

Your diet makes a huge difference in how you feel during (and after) your workouts. It is important to pay attention to what you eat while training and what you eat during your regular life. A lot of newer triathletes make the mistake of training to eat, instead of eating to train. While a workout in this plan may feel difficult, it probably hasn’t created a caloric deficit that only an entire pizza can fill. Conversely, if you have been restricting your caloric intake, you may need to eat more to ensure that you are meeting the needs of an increased training load. 

Perhaps most importantly, if you find yourself feeling depleted throughout the day, take a look at your total caloric intake to ensure that you are eating enough. Fueling with training and recovery in mind can help ensure that you enjoy your workouts and feel strong throughout your day. When in doubt, maintain a healthy diet focused on vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. 

While training and racing, you’ll probably need to explore the sugary world of sports nutrition. For any workout over an hour, you should plan to take a bottle of sports drink to help replace calories and replenish sodium. You should also plan to practice using gels, chomps, or beans during a few of your longer runs, since they are what athletes typically use during races. 

Your nutrition needs for the race itself should be relatively low (provided you aren’t dehydrated or under-fed at the start line). Plan to use a bottle of sports drink during the bike, and take sports drink at each aid station on the run. You can also take a gel or other 100-calorie snack towards the beginning of the run – many CBCG athletes including coach Molly prefer the type with added caffeine.

  CBCG coach, and author of this blog and the training plan, Molly Balfe practicing good nutrition

CBCG coach, and author of this blog and the training plan, Molly Balfe practicing good nutrition

Preparing for Race Day

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with USA Triathlon’s rules and regulations prior to your race, especially their most common violations.

On race day, plan to arrive early enough to set up your transition area. Transition is where you will rack your bike and transition from swim to bike and bike to run. You do not have much room for your equipment, so pack only what you will need during the race. For reference, here is a picture of a well-organized transition area:

  An exceptionally, if not obsessively well-organized transition area

An exceptionally, if not obsessively well-organized transition area

While it may seem obvious, make sure you know the layout of your race, including where you will enter and exit the water and where you will enter and leave the transition area for the bike and run legs. Knowing where you are headed will save you valuable time during your race.

A Final Word of Advice

Have fun! We love this sport, and we hope that you will love it too. Triathlon is an individualized sport, with a lot of potential hyperactivity and focus on expensive gear, so it can be easy to allow yourself to get caught up in the pressure, anxiety, and competition of training and racing, so remember that we do this for fun. Be generous with your gratitude and give copious high-fives. The more fun you allow yourself to have, the more likely it is that you will continue to come back to this sport for years to come. In fact, it’s been empirically determined that if you smile during a race, you will go faster. Happy training!

How to Adjust (and Not Adjust!) your Triathlon Training: the CBCG Coaches' Best Practices

by Amy VanTassel

Pop quiz: can you spot the workout adjustment below that was a good idea?

  1. “I missed a run earlier in the week, so I ran twice the distance today.”
  2. “I didn’t know if I could hit those watts, so I mashed my intervals as uphill repeats.”
  3. “I felt so thrashed after work and felt a sore throat coming on, so I skipped my run and went straight home to dinner with my family.”
  4. “I wasn’t making my sendoff in the pool, so I just got out early.”

Adjustments to training schedules are inevitable. As coaches and athletes develop their relationships and communication, ideally an athlete should feel increasingly empowered to make judgment calls as life’s inevitabilities happen. Still, even the most experienced athlete questions how to adapt when a workout isn’t going as planned, or can’t happen at all, so we asked our CBCG coaches for their sage insight on what makes for both wise and obtuse decisions on the fly. Here’s what they had to say:

 CBCG Coach Donna Phelan

CBCG Coach Donna Phelan

What is your worst example of an athlete making an adjustment to a workout that was a horrible idea?

“Changing an easy taper run of 30 minutes into an hour long run with intervals! Yes, one of my athletes did this not too long ago; doubting your fitness race week and trying to cram at the last minute is never a good thing!”

What is your best example of an athlete making an adjustment to a workout that exhibited smart adaptation based on conditions?

“The best example is an athlete stopping a workout early because they feel a niggle coming on. Better to cut one workout short rather than to be on the sidelines for the next couple of weeks with an injury.”

What’s your worst example of a weekly adjustment in schedule?

“That would have to be an athlete doing a run interval workout one day, and then moving their long run from two days later to the next day—just not enough time for the running system to recover and be ready for a hard stimulus again."

How about your best example of a weekly adjustment in schedule?

“Feeling a cold coming on and taking a rest day to let their immune system recover."

 CBCG Coach Ivan Dominguez

CBCG Coach Ivan Dominguez

What is your worst example of an athlete making an adjustment to a workout that was a horrible idea?

“I haven’t get any of those yet, but I’m sure few of my athletes would love to add some crazy stuff to their training plans.”

What’s your worst example of a weekly adjustment in schedule?

“Not training for few days for whatever reason, then attempting to make up for it all over the weekend, trying to do what they were supposed to do few days ago. Basically cramming in a week of training, or close to it, in just two days.”

 CBCG Coach Molly Balfe

CBCG Coach Molly Balfe

What is your worst example of an athlete making an adjustment to a workout that was a horrible idea?

“An athlete saying ‘I felt good, so I pushed harder than I was supposed to.’ This is especially troublesome with long runs, which are often used to build volume. When unintended intensity is added on top of that, athletes are significantly more fatigued, which can get in the way of upcoming workouts (or even contribute to injury).”

What is your best example of an athlete making an adjustment to a workout that exhibited smart adaptation based on conditions?

“The best adjustments I’ve seen happen when athletes let go of their pace expectations and work with their current conditions. This is already a really hot summer, so I’ve seen athletes make smart calls like slowing down their repeat paces for longer intervals on a hot track. Your run pace is really impacted by heat and your body takes some time to acclimate to it. Cut yourself a little slack when conditions are extreme (and HYDRATE).”

 CBCG Coach Chris Boudreaux

CBCG Coach Chris Boudreaux

What do you never want your athletes to do when adjusting workouts?

“Big thing for me: putting back-to-back hard same-sport workouts right next to each other. Like missing a Wednesday or Thursday tempo run, then going Friday tempo run/Saturday brick session/Sunday long hard run...just never do that.”

How about the worst bike workout adjustments you’ve seen?

 “Going way above the watts ‘because you could.’ Not every workout is a test of your max ability for that session. Ironman and half-iron races are a lot about that uncomfortable pace - neither all out nor easy - and you need to feel that in training. Additionally, there may be other reasons a workout keeps you from going all-out, like other key sessions coming up. I usually give a range, so you can have freedom to be on the higher or lower end, but ideally not much more. So if an athlete feels a workout is too easy, I’d way prefer she or he should send me a message and ask the purpose, and never just blast it ‘because you could.’”

 CBCG Coach Chris Bagg with CBCG athlete Matt Feldmar

CBCG Coach Chris Bagg with CBCG athlete Matt Feldmar

And finally CBCG Coach Chris Bagg chimes in with some universal words of wisdom on how to adapt when a workout isn’t going as planned, or can’t happen at all:

"What we're after, at CBCG, is that you develop mastery of your sport. Mastery doesn't mean performance—it means understanding the sport, and how to alter your behavior when things don't go as planned. Being able to make sensible adjustments on the fly results in more consistent training over time, which leads to more consistent race results. As consistency improves, you'll see your results improve, too, as you build a pyramid of strong performances. So how do you get there? Well, the secret is understanding that your training plan is not the Ten Commandments (or Code of Hammurabi, or whichever literally carved-in-stone set of precepts is your particular jam). Slavishly sticking to a training plan, despite being sick/injured/depressed, is the mark of an athlete who wants his/her race to be a paint by the numbers experience: if I do everything, then I can't fail! This is, sadly, not true. It's actually the athlete who can adjust who will have better results over time. The athlete who just does everything, or plays catchup, usually can't deal with it during a race when the plan goes out the window, since there isn't any catching up available during competition." 


So, we should all remember that every athlete has to make judgment calls as workouts aren’t going as planned, or if life gets in the way of a perfect weekly schedule. Perhaps the above sage advice from our expert coaches will prep you better for your next adjustment, and if you recognize yourself in one of the above examples, give your coach a virtual hug today. 

Better Swimming for Those with Tight Shoulders (Hint: Probably You)

Since triathlon became a thing, and well-intentioned triathletes have been showing up at Masters swim groups all over, we've all gotten used to hearing a whole bunch of swimming orthodoxy: try to limit the number of strokes you take per length, make that elbow point at the ceiling, glide, do fingertip drag drill to open up your shoulders. Happily, Paul Newsome and Adam Young at Swim Smooth have been hard at work debunking the "fewer strokes is better" myth for years, and have also done good work with tossing Fingertip Drag out the window. I'm going to hitch my rhetorical wagon, today, to their argument against Fingertip Drag, but extend it to what I've seen in my swimmers at Nike and at the triathlon camps we run every year. 

As Paul and Adam point out in the Fingertip Drag post, it's a bad drill because it forces the whole population of swimmers into a position they can't achieve. People who have been swimming their whole lives (as kids, in high school/college, and then later as Masters swimmers) tend to have hyper-mobile shoulders. They can do fingertip drag in their sleep, as well as maintain perfect streamline position off the wall. They've just done it for a million years, and when you can't do it, they'll look at you the way a native English speaker looks at a confused tourist. "You can't do this? Sheesh." It's not their fault—their bodies have changed over a long period of time, and they simply assume that all humans can hit that position. We all do things like this (how did you treat that new hire at your company last week when they didn't know how to run the coffee machine? OK, so cool it on the outrage), but the answer is never just slamming the new swimmer into a position they can't achieve: it's like speaking English louder at the person who doesn't speak it—there's only one person who looks foolish in that situation.

Just so we know what we're talking about, here, here's a picture of a swimmer deploying the classic high-elbow, fingertip-draggy recovery:

Brian Side View.png

When doing swim analyses, this is what we look for: when the upper arm is vertical vis-a-vis the camera (i.e. the biceps is pointing at the sky; it's not really pointing at the sky, but due to the miracle of perspective it's a useful landmark) we like to see the lower arm in line with the upper arm. If that's confusing, here's what we DON'T like to see:

Screenshot 2018-07-17 16.48.56.png

In this case, the upper arm IS vertical (pointing at the top of the picture frame), but the lower arm is WAY out in front. We see this most often with people who have come to swimming later in life (90% or so of triathletes), and it's usually due to a very understandable misconception: triathletes think swimmers swim with their hands, when really swimming comes from the hips. More on that later, but since they think it's all about the hands they try—desperately—to get those hands forward as soon as possible, leading them to lead with the hand. They're also probably trying to get into that high elbow recovery, but since their shoulders are too tight they have no choice but to bring the lower arm forward, low over the water. Here's what happens:

Screenshot 2018-07-17 16.46.55.png

This is a swimmer who is headed for a crossover in the next few moments of her stroke. She probably doesn't mean to, but with an elbow angle that acute, she's got no choice. The crossover in front (when a swimmer's hands cross the centerline of his/her body) is an agreed-upon issue in the swimming community, so we don't have to do too much debunking there. So that's not great. But there's another issue. Since the swimmer's shoulder's are tight, as she tries to bring that hand forward, angling the elbow, her shoulder is effectively in her way, and to alleviate the tension she has to move away from that tension, shifting her body to the right. Here's where she was only a few moments earlier:

Screenshot 2018-07-17 16.46.35.png

This is just before the picture taken two above. This swimmer is about to finish the pull with the left hand and start bringing it forward. Her body is straight, here, but then let's go back to where she ends up:

Screenshot 2018-07-17 16.46.55.png

Her body is kinked, right, where it was straight only a few moments ago? That's because she's had to move her torso away from the source of the tightness in order to actually bring the arm forward over the water. Her torso moves to the right, and that yaw translates down to her legs, which wash back and forth behind her. Watch some swimmers in the pool: when you see people's legs fishtailing back and forth behind them, it's usually because they've got this going on behind them.

OK, great, you big jerk, how do I fix it? Two ways, both of which are simple but not easy.

1: Straighten the arm a bit

Before you freak out, swim coaches, go and read Paul and Adam's comments in their posts above. Just straighten that arm out during recovery and flop it out over the water, landing it in front of you in line with your shoulder. Doing so will alleviate tension in your shoulders AND make you a better open water swimmer.

2: Open up those hips!

If you look at the picture above, where our swimmer is trying to bring the arm forward, you can see her hips are pretty flat in the water—she's not tipped up on her side at all. In swimming the hips and shoulders need to move together, and in this case the shoulders are trying to roll while the hips are staying behind. Swimming is more like golf than like running or cycling, and never more so than at this moment. If you rotate your hips a little more (without over-rotating), opening them up to the side of the pool, you'll suddenly find you have more room to swing that arm forward over the surface of the water, and you don't need hyper-mobile shoulders any more!

3: Loosen up your shoulders!

What? I thought this whole post was about swimming even though I have tight shoulders! Well, sorry, Buttercup, but you still need to do your homework and eat your veggies. Having more flexible shoulders will help you be a better swimmer long term (and a healthier human being, which is really a big part of what we're after with this whole exercising as competition thing, right?). But I'll return to this subject in a subsequent post. For now, stop trying to bring that arm forward! Just open up the elbow angle a bit, rotate your hips more, and stiffen up through the core!

CBCG Professional Triathlete Andrew Langfield Gets IT ALL Done

 Andrew flying into 9th place among a world-class field of pro triathletes at Wildflower Long Course 2018 photo:

Andrew flying into 9th place among a world-class field of pro triathletes at Wildflower Long Course 2018 photo:

A few things you should never say to a professional triathlete:

“Well, it must be easy for you since you don’t have kids.”

“Well, it must be easy for you since you’re so skinny.”

"Well, it must be easy for you since you don't have a normal 9-5 job."

Not only are those futile questions in a chicken-and-egg capacity, but they involve personal situations that most likely entail sacrifice. Moreover, there are extreme exceptions among the roster of successful pros.  Body type runs the gamut, nearly half the field has children, and multiple professional triathletes concurrently hold-down full time jobs. 

CBCG professional triathlete Andrew Langfield, does even more. Like, way more.

 Andrew in perfect aero form at Wildflower Long Course 2018 photo:

Andrew in perfect aero form at Wildflower Long Course 2018 photo:

"I actually just finished up the first year of my internal medicine residency here in Oak-town, like... two days ago! Super exciting, and pretty hard to believe. But the quick summary is I moved to Portland back in 2011, to become an Oregon resident for the purposes of applying to med school at OHSU. School then became a 5-year ordeal from 2012-2017, culminating at graduation just over a year ago and relocation to Oakland last June. Both my wife Elena and I matched at county hospital programs (think Cook County from the TV show ER), which provide care to an incredibly diverse patient population here in the East Bay. One year down, two to go for both of us! Then we actually get to start working as independent physicians. We both have 3-year commitments with the National Health Service Corps as part of a loan-repayment program, so post-residency will go work as primary care docs in a medically-underserved area somewhere. That is basically the long-term life/career goal anyway, so it's a great deal for us. But yeah, embarrassed to admit that when I first moved to Portland 7 years ago, I didn't fully appreciated I was signing up for the 11-year plan, haha."

 Coach Chris and Andrew chillin' w/ their medals aprés Wildflower Long Course 2016 photo:

Coach Chris and Andrew chillin' w/ their medals aprés Wildflower Long Course 2016 photo:

Amidst his wildly demanding daily, weekly, monthly, and annual schedule, he also manages to train for triathlon, but not just any triathlons, and not just to compete in the middle of the pack.  He’s a successful pro triathlete who just keeps getting better. 

 Wifey!  Elena Phoutrides and Andrew traversed medical school together and just got hitched

Wifey!  Elena Phoutrides and Andrew traversed medical school together and just got hitched


So how does Andrew fit in not just triathlon training, but professional-level training and racing?  Moreover, he’s a devout husband to the wonderful Elena Phoutrides, another amazing budding MD whom he met at OHSU, as well as dedicated member of his totally wonderful family in Boise, serving as an exemplar of many things many people would like to be. Welp, here’s a typical day in the life:

"Oh man, so many days to choose from for this! I seriously love my job, and never a dull day goes by at Highland Hospital. The backbone of any internal medicine residency is the experience on inpatient wards, which is the majority of what I did this past year. These are the patients that were too unwell to make it to their clinic appointments or be sent home from the ED, and had to be admitted to the hospital. I'm actually working on a little write-up for my own blog, about one of my most memorable days on service. So if you are interested in a little more insight on the inner workings of a busy county hospital, stay tuned! But a general summary of one of those days might go something like this:

5:10 - alarm goes off, snooze too many times, finally out the door on the commuter bike by 5:25

5:35 - be late to the pool for masters, miss most of warm-up

6:20 - out of the pool 10 minutes early (45' is better than nothing!), finish the commute in to work

6:40 - hit the door of the hospital, put on scrubs, first cup of coffee

6:50 - get sign-out from the night team on my patients (any overnight events, new admissions, etc.)

7:00 - pre-rounding on the computer (vital signs, morning labs, imaging studies, specialist recs, etc.)

8:00 - start seeing patients

8:30 - BREAKFAST! best part of the morning, usually an omelette +/- a big ol' pancake, second cup of coffee, banana for later

8:50 - finish seeing patients

9:30 - formal rounds begin (meet with rest of team, go see the entire census starting with the sickest)

12:15 - LUNCH! and noon conference, chow on a sandwich + yogurt + fruit + cookie + milk while getting some knowledge, third cup of coffee

1:00 - finish rounds with team if needed, then start working on all the to-do's (phone calls, orders, consult questions, discharges, procedures, etc.)

5:00 - SNACK! usually bowl of cereal + granola bar

6:30 - ride home, 6:30 is always the goal but of course some days this doesn't happen, other days done earlier but stay to catch up/work ahead

6:50 - home, decompress

7:15 - evening session, usually 45-60' run, or trainer session, or strengthening (kettlebells and plyos)

8:30 - DINNER! I'm lucky that my wife loves to cook, but she's arguably busier than I am, so we usually try to cook a big meal for the week

9:30 - DESSERT!, or beer, or both

10:00 - bedtime

 Andrew exiting the swim at Wildflower Long Course 2018 photo:

Andrew exiting the swim at Wildflower Long Course 2018 photo:

And how does Andrew manage to travel to compete?  Most of his competitors have the luxury of arriving a week or more early to any location, with no rush to get home aprés race, putting them at a clear advantage to acclimate to a scene, thwart mechanical issues, and rest. Welp, here’s a typical race weekend sched for Andrew:

Wildflower weekend was a whirlwind, as always. Love that race, the campground scene, the woodstock vibes, the hospitality, everything about it. I was stoked to get Friday completely off, so had the car packed up Thursday night, waited out the morning rush hour here in the Bay, and was on the road by mid-morning.


8:30 - hit the road!

9:00 - obligatory Denny's pre-race breakfast

12:00 - arrive at campground, eat all the pretzels, set up camp

1:00 - shake-out ride and run, get things dialed, jump in lake

4:00 - pro meeting

5:30 - dinner, hang at campsite with wife, friends

9:30 - bedtime


RACE MORNING! - went fast, had fun, tried to be nice

12:15ish - cross finish line, lounge, chit-chat

1:30 - post-race lunch, more chit-chat, shoot breeze with Bagg, VT

3:00 - break camp, hit the road

7:00 - dinner with Elena's family in Palo Alto

10:00 - return rental car

11:00 - finally home, unpack

Midnight - bed time


6:00 - wake up, bike commute/recovery ride

6:45 - start work, woof"

 More bike course scenery at Wildflower Long Course 2018 photo:

More bike course scenery at Wildflower Long Course 2018 photo:


The example of Andrew’s exceptional lifestyle and triathletic success is not to urge anyone to “suck it up, buttercup” (phrase courtesy CBCG coach Ivan Dominguez). It’s more of a marvel at what’s possible - an inspiration for us all when we’re feeling overwhelmed. His coach looks to him as a paragon of execution and devotion, and sincerely hopes Andrew never burns out of his drive to compete, since his talent and execution are truly an inspiration to us all.  

 Family!  Andrew's top priority among three major life commitments

Family!  Andrew's top priority among three major life commitments

CBCG Athlete Salvatore Lo Leggio's PR at Ironman 70.3® Coeur d'Alene

 Salvo on his way to a PR at Coeur d'Alene

Salvo on his way to a PR at Coeur d'Alene

Twenty-six CBCG athletes showed up to the races last weekend, and at least six (!) set personal records. 2018 was already proving to be a banner year of successful racing for CBCG, and with Ironman 70.3® Coeur d'Alene and Mont-Tremblant, and Why Racing's Pacific Crest Endurance Sports Festival®, among others, last weekend was no exception. We're still aggregating all the amazing results and race reports, so we might be missing someone, but special PR-Shout-Out's go to: Devin Salinas, Roman Gratteri, Nathan Gaither, Annarose Pandey, Sebastian Pastore, Marc Nester, Julie Kowal (CBCG Emeritus), and our very own Salvatore Lo Leggio, who slayed the CDA 70.3 course Eddie Merckx style.

 Another PR: CBCG Athlete Roman Gratteri at CDA 70.3

Another PR: CBCG Athlete Roman Gratteri at CDA 70.3

How did Salvo get there?  Hard work and expert coaching, of course! CBCG Coach Donna Phelan channels her own lifetime of success as a professional athlete, as well as her vast experience coaching cyclists and triathletes to do their best, and Salvo assiduously followed her guidance. 

Coach Donna raved, “Salvo has been working diligently to prep for CDA 70.3, en route to his first Ironman® in Whistler next month. Coming from a long distance running background, we've been working hard on his swim and bike these last several months, in addition to a big emphasis on nailing his nutrition strategy. He nailed his prescription of 300-350 calories plus a bottle of fluids per hour on the bike, and 220-240 calories per hour on the run. Salvo's swim was over five minutes faster than his inaugural half-iron swim a year ago; he put up a blazing three hour bike split on a very hilly course, and finished with a 1:35 half marathon, besting last year’s split by ten minutes. Congrats on a great race, Salvo! Also a big thank you to Coach Chris Bagg who coaches Salvo at the Nike Masters swim sessions.”

 Hangin' loose, but following the nutrition plan on the bike at CDA 70.3

Hangin' loose, but following the nutrition plan on the bike at CDA 70.3

Hailing from northern Italy outside of Bologna, Salvo works at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. As Donna mentioned, he takes advantage of CBCG Coach Masters program at Nike, in addition to his invaluable CBCG swim video analysis (offered to any athlete, anywhere!). 

Felicitazioni to our Italian stallion, who has clearly taken advantage of all CBCG his to offer. Salvo says, “Donna not only helped me prepare physically for this race, but most importantly she made sure I was in control of my race, which regardless of one’s goal is a great accomplishment itself. Now onto the next one!”  Up next for Salvo: Subaru® Ironman® Canada in Whistler, and, um, getting married to his bella fiancata. This guy’s livin’ large. 

Race Highlight: Mike Brown, Promoter Extraordinaire

 The winning finish of the 2016 Great White North Triathlon, Ken Anderson Photography

The winning finish of the 2016 Great White North Triathlon, Ken Anderson Photography

Being a Race Director must be comparable to spearheading FEMA: a full-year, full-time job entailing pre-planning, contingency planning, coordination, and orchestration that peeps won’t generally recognize unless something goes wrong. Our hands-down favorite, Mike Brown of Edmonton, Alberta, puts on the most highly-produced and flawless races, but unlike FEMA, he and his team add a je ne sais quoi, making them the most exciting, enjoyable, and family-like events in the world. Check out these two...

 Mike in his element as Race Director for 2017 ITU Multisport World Championships in Penticton, B.C

Mike in his element as Race Director for 2017 ITU Multisport World Championships in Penticton, B.C

The Great White North Triathlon

Arguably the funnest, best-produced, and most adventurous half iron-distance race in North America, the Great White North Triathlon in Stony Plain, Alberta is still open! There’s plenty of time to register and book an easy flight into Edmonton, or Calgary if you want a spectacular drive with the possibility of an aprés race diversion through Banff.

Race day is July 8th, but Mike and his crew put on two days of events that give the weekend a family feeling alá Tri California Events@ Wildflower Triathlon Festival. In fact, the primes and giveaways at the familial carbo load dinner (everyone goes) are so upper shelf that a fat bike is given away to any lucky duck who wins the oh-so high-tech heads-or-butts competition.

 Mike on stage the night before the race giving away a fat bike, Ken Anderson Photography

Mike on stage the night before the race giving away a fat bike, Ken Anderson Photography

“The race has a long history, taking place every year since 1991...with approximately 800 athletes hitting the water at Hubble Lake each...and an enthusiastic 550+ volunteers. The female record [was] set by the legendary Heather Fuhr in 1993...4:14:18. Choose form a variety of race distances – Half Distance, Team Half Distance, Olympic Distance and Duathlon.”

Join CBCG-ers! Coach Chris, who took the tape in 2016, is competing again, along with Amy VT and Matthew Feldmar. Not enough incentive? How about a significant discount? Just contact anyone at CBCG and we’ll hook you up.

 Amy VT at GWN 2017, Ken Anderson Photography

Amy VT at GWN 2017, Ken Anderson Photography

Super League Canada

Holy Moly you’d be honored to tick off this bucket list race! Professional and age group triathletes, alike, will revel in this thrilling format, a departure from typical races that synthesizes the components of stage races, short-course ITU, and long-course racing.

The inaugural Super League Canada takes place August 17-19 in our favorite racing town, Penticton, B.C., and serves as a qualifier for pro athletes looking to grab a lucrative contract for the Championship series, and age group athletes seeking a totally awesome weekend with three days of racing.

“The first event is the Equalizer, a two-stage event. Stage 1 is a stand-alone time trial (think Tour de France) that will be approx. 20km on Friday. The second part of the Equalizer, Stage 2, is a Swim (500m), Run (2.5km), Swim (500m), Bike (20km), Run (2.5km) on Saturday morning. Your two times

[are calculated for you standings. On Sunday is} the Standard Enduro: Swim (750m), Bike (20km), Run

(5km), Swim (750m) Bike (20km), Run (5km).”

Mike is no stranger to directing a powerhouse international triathlon over the course of several days in Penticton. He was at the helm of last year’s ITU Multisport World Championships, which attracted record numbers of participants and the top names in professional athletes and sponsors.

 Bagg at 2017 ITU Multisport World Championships in Penticton, B.C., directed by Mike

Bagg at 2017 ITU Multisport World Championships in Penticton, B.C., directed by Mike

Mike Brown, Friend Extraordinaire

“Mike Brown is the only celebrity I talked to at Kona this year.” Someone in the CBCG community uttered this phrase last fall, making it official: Mike is a legend. Directly intertwined with his success is the fact that he’s also a tremendous, steadfast, and hilarious friend. When Mike visits us here in Portland he marvels at the hour-long lines at overpriced ice cream shops, birds swirling into chimneys as hipsters spectate, and, well, hipsters in general.

As with any good leader, friends and family are central to Mike’s endeavors, and at any race you can see his alarmingly beautiful wife working like mad, his close friends Jenny Ayers and Stan Anderson making everything work behind the scenes, and Darren Hailes and the legendary Steve King announcing dawn-to- dusk. They’re all running around on foot, and golf cart, and four-wheeler with walkie-talkies, addressing everything from road closure misdemeanors to athletes exposing themselves inappropriately pre-swim.

 Mike, Bagg, VT, Rachel McBride, Nathan Killam, and Jenny Ayers aprés race

Mike, Bagg, VT, Rachel McBride, Nathan Killam, and Jenny Ayers aprés race

In an era of big-name triathlon series, and profit-oriented race monopolies, Mike Brown maintains a vestige of high-quality experiences. Where else could you race a world-class tri where the Race Director plants a beer in your water bottle cage the night before?

 VT’s bike compromised by Mike the night before Great White North 2017

VT’s bike compromised by Mike the night before Great White North 2017

Smoothies: An Endurance Manifesto

“Why do chicks dig smoothies?”

“They’re not just for chicks, dude, and pretty much every endurance athlete I know digs smoothies.”

“Yeah, but why not just eat your food and spare yourself cleaning up a blender?”

My brother actually had a good point, and our exchange incited me to consider specifically why most of we endurance athletes are smoothie obsessed. I’m personally a devout consumer of Fieldwork Nutrition Company®, so I asked CEO and founder Casey Weaver why he created and espouses his stuff. “With our product, it’s important to blend due to the whole food ingredients, as well as fats and fibers, which require a bit more than just ‘shaking.’ We look at Primo Smoothie not as just a nutritious food in itself, but moreover as a vehicle for delivering daily nutrition. I compare how many fewer fruits and veggies I eat on days I don’t have a smoothie and it’s shocking and sad!” 


Inspired by his words, my own experience, and polling Campers from our recent CBCG Camp in Bend, Oregon, I’ve concluded these chief benefits to practicing recovery fueling via the wonder that is smoothies:

  • Palatability - Have you ever crossed the line at an iron-distance race and walked the pizza gauntlet about to barf? We don’t always feel like putting down Real People Food aprés racing or training, so smoothies can thwart the risk of blowing off eating and drinking. I have come home from several five+ hour runs, revoltingly disinterested in chewing anything. Powders and bananas are hella better cloaked as a peanut butter-chocolate drinkable cocktail you can take into the shower. Just like hiding vegetables from toddlers in the sauce of Spaghetti Oh’s®, we can trick our stomachs into imbibing key nutrients and protein while we feel like we’re relishing an In-and-Out® milkshake.  
  • Digestibility - Packing in said amalgamation of nutrients in a fluid beverage accelerates absorption and, ergo, the recovery process.
  • Convenience - While some argue that it’s less convenient to assemble your ingredients, bust out the blender, and clean it later, there’s no arguing with the reliability of ingredients you can control, the concentrated power of powders (see next bullet), and the ability to grab your drink and go to the car/shower/floor/Timbers game. One athlete pre-makes a cauldron for the rest of the week (see below). 
  • Powders - Premium product like Fieldwork pack-in invaluable sources of proteins, combinations of viteys, and types of nutrients relevant for athletes that only a mad scientist (see: Casey Weaver) could amalgamate. You’re hard-pressed to get all these beneficial ingredients by grazing from your cabinets aprés workout.  Fieldwork, in particular, packs-in clean protein from grass fed whey, healthy fats and omega-3s, vitamins D, E, C, magnesium and iron, curcumin from turmeric and probiotics. 

At our recent annual CBCG Camp in Bend, Oregon, 25 athletes endured five days of long and intense swimming, cycling, and running, enjoying the tremendous boon of Fieldwork Nutrition Company® as an official Camp sponsor. A horrifying amount of blending and Fieldwork consumption ensued, rendering our kitchen a massacre site for all things blendable, with five (!) blenders blazing at a time. 

Our personal Camp Chef Aaron Vinten of The Athletes Table® procured an array of gourmet ingredients to add to our Fieldwork, including pumpkin seeds, dates (pitted by CBCG coach Molly Balfe), organic berries, flax and pumpkins seeds, spices, natural sweeteners, alternative milks, and much more. Aggregating my data for my pressing question about why we love smoothies, I asked for testimonials from a few Campers:

  • “I’m always coming up short on time to make and eat nutrition, particularly after training. I can pack all the protein, carbohydrates and nutrients I need after a workout into six smoothies on a Sunday, and then drink them in the car between locations throughout the week. Plus, I get some extra hydration as a bonus.” - CBCG athlete Sebastian Pastore, coached by Donna Phelan
  • “For me, smoothies minimize my recovery time to maximize my next training session. It’s a matter of both time and ease. My coach plans my workouts to just barely squeeze into my busy schedule, so I don’t have time to plan ahead for a meal of ideal nutrients. Way more convenient.” - CBCG athlete Roman Gratteri, coached by Chris Boudreaux  
  • “I drink smoothies for the quick recovery intake of all the essential nutrients after a long or hard workout. Plus it's a great way to get my two-year-old, Cooper, all the fruits and veggies he needs!” - CBCG athlete Greg Dufour, coached by Chris Bagg
  • “I always have a smoothie immediately following any workout over two hours. My coach taught me, and I trust and follow.” - CBCG athlete Doris Steere, coached by Chris Bagg
  • “When I first started drinking smoothies for breakfast it was because I could put a good dent in my daily allowance of fruits and veggies, stay satiated through my morning workout, and sustain plenty of energy well into the day. I’m a huge fan!” - Maureen Callahan, coached by CBCG coach Donna Phelan

Camper Bridget Freudenberger of New Hampshire was utterly converted at Camp, seen below assembling her potion with Fieldwork Primo Smoothie, dates, greens, banana, blueberries, strawberries, peanut butter, flax, almonds, and milk.  She raves, “Generally, I didn’t care for smoothies because I really love food, but this one was so good!  It didn’t taste like artificial sweeteners and it was filling. I placed an order on my way back from Camp, and am currently using Fieldwork as my recovery meal after my morning training.”  

Sing it, Bridget.  ‘Nuff said.


CBCG/Wattie Ink. Spring Training Camp is a Wrap!

Photo May 28, 11 35 56 AM (1).jpg

Ed. Note—this article originally appeared on the Wattie Ink. blog. Reproduced here with permission.

What makes a training camp great? It's 2:42 in the morning, on the final day of the Wattie Ink./CBCG Spring Training Camp, and I can't sleep, thinking of the final things that have to happen to wrap the 2018 edition of Bend Camp, our 8th (how in the world did that happen?). I don't think it's the food, the bike routes, the swim workouts, the video analyses, or the massages, although all of those things help. As with most things in this world we love and value, it's the people. This year's camp set a new bar in terms of our campers and our staff, one that will be tough to clear in 2019. From the moment that Amy and I left Portland last Thursday morning, our staff and our participants have made this the calmest and happiest camp to date, resulting in higher quality training for everybody, and better results down the road. But I am, as usual, getting ahead of myself. Here's what we did this year!

Friday, Day One

Friday Dinner.jpg

OK, I know I said it wasn't all about the food, but something that took Bend 2018 to the next level was the presence of Aaron Vinten, who is The Athletes Table and an all-around great guy. Aaron came to our Tucson Dream Camp and made himself indispensable, so I asked if he could come up to Bend to help out with our second camp of the year. To say that he hit it out of the park would be an understatement (and a cliché, too). Aaron is a real cook, and he took the menu that I use—with some tweaks—year in and year out and made it brand new. We've been eating sesame peanut noodles most years at camp, but I can tell you it never looked (or tasted) as good as it did this year. The training? Right. Friday camp we like to get the travel out of our athletes' legs with a short hill session on the run, and also hit them with the highest intensity swim on the schedule, knowing that they'll probably be too tired later in the weekend to go fast in the pool. CBCG co-owner Molly Balfe wrote a challenging and mysterious set, asking swimmers to perform an unspecified number of fast repeat 100s, challenging them to keep going without knowing when they'd hit the stop line. This mystery was a theme of camp; we purposefully withheld the schedule from campers, forcing them to steadily confront the unknown, as they would have to do in races. It's a format I stole from QT2 Systems head coach Jesse Kropelnicki, as it's what he puts his professionals through each year at his own camp in Florida.

Saturday, Day Two

Prineville Crooked River Outlook.jpg

We've written about the magical Prineville Ride before, but the cycling gods gave us an extra level of stoke on Saturday. Cool temps and favorable winds made the 100 miles roll by in record time for many of our riders, and when the scenery looks as it does above, the living, as they say, is easy. 

Josh Top Of Dam.jpg

Saturday evening is always a fun night, as the biggest ride of the weekend is behind us, and that's when one of the local heroes of Bend comes to visit. We had the incomparable Linsey Corbin join us this year, and she got right down to business, answering a question right out of the gate and not letting up for an hour straight. 

Corbs and Bagg Interview.jpg

Sunday, Day Three

By the third day of camp, people were beginning to get tired, so we backed off on the volume a bit. We headed to Sisemore Road, on the eastern edge of Bend, for Sunday Runday. Depending on upcoming races and historic volume, campers ran between 60 and 120 minutes. Sisemore Road is a long gravel ribbon that connects Bend and its smaller satellite, Sisters, and the road is perfect long run territory: undulating, windy, and beautiful. 

That afternoon we returned to the pool for another tough session that Molly cooked up, putting campers through a descending pace set of 2x400, 2x300, 2x200, 4x100, 200, then 800 for a grueling 3200 meters at Juniper Swim and Fitness Center, Bend's outdoor Olympic-sized pool.

Photo May 29, 1 43 58 PM.jpg

After swimming we held a smoothie party back at Base Camp, using Fieldwork Nutrition Company's Primo Smoothie Mix as the base for our creations. Campers drew upon a huge array of ingredients to compete for top honors: spinach, maca powder, peanut butter, strawberry jam, almond milk, yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, honey, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds...the list goes on. 

Fieldwork Closeup.jpg

Monday, Day Four (Memorial Day)

By the penultimate day of camp, legs were close to toast and fatigue was on the rise. Regardless we headed west, towards Sisters, and another epic ride: Mackenzie Pass. It's less dramatic name is simply Oregon Route 242, and it snakes over the Cascades from Central Oregon towards Eugene. It's chief attraction, though, is the month or so from when the snow clears until early June, when a 22-mile stretch is closed to car traffic. For once, we cyclists are kings and queens of the road, able to ride carefree along some of the most beautiful scenery North America can provide.

Speaking of America (well, the United States of America), it was Memorial Day. We're incredibly proud of our Made in the USA status here at Wattie Ink., and we all stopped for a moment before the ride began to think about the servicemen and women who keep our way of life protected throughout the world. We're super grateful for your service, and to all those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Vince Mackenzie Pass.jpg

Tuesday, Day Five

Well, that brings us to right now. It's 3:39, now, almost an hour after I started writing this, and it's time to go and start shuttling some campers to the airport. Regardless that a few people have had to return to work, we're going to run and swim again today, before sending the campers away tired, faster, and happier. We couldn't be prouder or more grateful. Thanks to our participants who were awesome and positive, my staff who killed themselves to make every detail amazing, and to our sponsors who made the whole thing possible: Wattie Ink. (of course), Picky BarsFieldwork Nutrition CompanySkratch LabsSellwood Cycle and RepairWorthy Brewing, and Stoked Roasters!

Interested in coming to the 2019 edition of the CBCG/Wattie Ink. Bend Training Camp? Head here and you can learn more and get signed up.

Group Photo 2018.jpg

A Power Meter for your Swimming


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.


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
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.”


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: 

ven diagram.png

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:

list list.png

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.


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!


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.


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.


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!


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


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!


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


  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.


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.