How to bounce back from a bad race

I don't really like the words fail or failure. 
Perhaps if you give up and never try again, you can consider yourself a failure but I know you would never ever give up without someday, trying again. 

I believe that when things do not go our way, we are presented with an opportunity to learn. And as the saying goes, if you don't change, don't expect things to change. 

In the beginning of my endurance racing career (triathlons/running) I found myself adapting quickly to training stress and seeing quick performance gains. I found every race to be a success because each race was a new experience for my body and mind. 
Overtime, I found it harder to chase times for I didn't understand why I couldn't perform the same speed (or faster) at every race in a season. 

Over the past few years, Karel and I adapted a training philosophy of training smarter to train harder and with that comes racing smart. In my last blog, I gave some of my tips on racing smart but what I didn't discuss was the aftermath. 

What if you do everything right in training, everything right in your race and still, the results that you want don't come?

Or, what if you haven't yet created the physical and mental skill set yet to understand how to insert your fitness from training into a great race day performance.

Here are a few tips on how to learn from a race that didn't meet your expectations:

1. Reflect: If you constantly dwell on what should have happened, you will never accept what you need to change. It's likely that if you didn't go into your race injured, overtrained or without proper fitness, you are seeing your past race as a failure because "something" didn't go right. Well, think back as to what you thought was going to help you have a great race to see if there's something that you can change for next time.
Many times athletes will talk about specific sections during the race, nutrition, pacing etc. that was spot-on to the plan during the race. Once you identify these variables that you thought were well-practiced or "per the plan" put pieces together to see if there's something that you can tweak to help you have a better race performance. Maybe it's nutrition, pacing, heat acclimatization or skills or perhaps it's simple mental strength or the timing of your race. Whatever it is, be open to change and be sure to practice, practice, practice for next time.
Be sure to use every training session as an opportunity to practice your "race day" nutrition, pacing, mental focus and gear/clothing use. 

2. Don't rush recovery - I see many athletes jump right back into training or sign-up quickly for another race in an effort to re-do what didn't go well in the previous race. There may be some good in this if you get a mechanical on the bike in a triathlon and are unable to finish a race or bad weather cancels a race. However, if you didn't get the results you wanted at your last race, be respectful to the body for there's likely a big red flag in front of your face letting you know that you need to rest or focus on your health.  It's very easy to see a race as a failure and convince yourself that you now need to train harder and longer but perhaps you just need to train and race smarter. 
Always remember how long it has taken your body to train for the race before you convince yourself that you only need a few days or a week to recovery fully from a race. 

3. Don't take it out on your body - It's very easy to get mad at your body during or after a race for it didn't perform how you expected it to perform. Rather than telling yourself that you need to lose (more) weight, be faster or be stronger, analyze your race after your emotions settle down. Be kind to your body for it didn't have to let you get to the starting line and if you got the finish line without having your ideal performance, consider yourself lucky that you could have easily accepted a DNF. If you do have to quit your race, do this with your health as top priority - not because you are weak or not tough enough. 
It's very hard to have the perfect race at every race. Some athletes will do great at the beginning of the season and then suffer with fatigue as the year continues. Some athletes can tolerate the heat in early Spring whereas other athletes need months of summer training to help the body learn how to better tolerate the heat. There are many physiological adaptations that take place with training and many times, the body just needs time to adapt and to peak properly. 
Pacing and nutrition are two very important components of your race to ensure that you stay hydrated, fueled and that you postpone fatigue. However, don't overlook what you did going into your race. Where you overtrained, did you taper properly, are you overcoming an injury, is this a stressful time in your life? Don't just crunch the numbers. Consider the big puzzle and all the pieces involved. 

4. Keep your eyes on your goals - Sometimes you have to change the plan but never change the goals. If you have a goal and it isn't met at one race, don't give up. Every athlete has a bad race but for most of us, we aren't racing for a paycheck. Sometimes a bad race can fire-up an athlete for his/her next race or give the athlete the motivation he/she needs to take training up a notch. Consider your season as a whole and not just one race. By carefully planning your season and considering your short and long term goals, you won't be so pressured to perform amazingly great at every race but instead, make every race count. 
Set small goals to reach along the way. Some athletes do great with tune-up races (B-race) whereas other athletes need more "testing" in workouts to assess current level of fitness. Never underestimate the beauty of breaking up your season so that you are following a periodized training plan that allows for proper adaptation and peaking and recovery as you move yourself closer to your goals. 

5. Enjoy the journey and manage expectations - There may be a race or two in your season that you are open to trying something new on race day. Perhaps you are willing to leave it all out on the course in order to see what will happen. Although this thinking may come with a success story at the end, it's also very risky to go into a race without a plan......a plan that allows you to race with your current level of fitness.
No matter what race you are training for, remember the journey that your amazing body is letting you go on. No matter what happens on race day, your race doesn't define who you are as a human being. Slow and fast are relative to who you consider faster or slower than you. A great day or bad day can be decided by the weather, competition or course and not necessarily by your current level of fitness which may be exactly where it needs to be.
Your sport is a lifestyle so remember that you have to take care of your body just as hard as you train. Rather than comparing yourself to others or always feeling as if you should do more, discover a plan that works for you so that you can discover greatness on race day with your body. 

Any sport psychologist will tell you (the athlete) that you must be process-focused instead of outcome-focused. You can't be so caught-up on the race day performance that you lose sight of your journey. 
Your finishing time does not define you as a person and there are going to be ups and downs in racing as well as in training. 
Just because you don't meet a time or placing goal, doesn't mean you are failure. Consider the race day experience and what you can learn from it for next time. If you did "well" at every race, you will never learn how to overcome obstacles when they come in the future. 
Training and racing doesn't have to be black or white, all or nothing. Be mindful of any signs in your training that may increase the risk for injury or burnout or may cause you to save your best performance for race day. Similarly, be respectful of your body in hot/very cold weather as well as on a challenging course. 
Never lose confidence as an athlete. If you were able to commit to months/weeks of training for a race, trust that you have the ability to execute in a race. Perhaps the last race wasn't the ideal race (or the right timing) for you to put your full mind, pacing, and fueling strategy to good use but you are still a hard working athlete.  

There's nothing more exciting than bouncing back from a disappointing race (or setback) and experiencing success at the next race. 
I can't wait to see what you can do at your next race!!!



Successful triathletes race smart with these tips

Over the past few weeks we have had the opportunity to watch a few of our local Trimarni athletes race in Florida at the Clermont Olympic Distance Triathlon and the Haines City 70.3

This is, by far, my absolute FAVORITE thing about being a coach. It's so motivating and inspiring to see our athletes use their bodies on race day and to put weeks/months of training to the ultimate test. 

(Thanks Taylor B for the pic!)

(Thanks Taylor B for the pic!)

Because there are many ways to define a successful race day performance, it's important that athletes always consider having a race day plan and thinking about anything and everything within their control before and during a race. Because it feels great to finish a race knowing that you gave your best effort possible, it's very important that you consider a few very important tips to ensure that you set yourself up for success at every race you participate in on your schedule. 

-Be sure to test your race day gear prior to race day. Wear your helmet, race clothes and gadgets as well as any other equipment/gear like race wheels, new bottle cages (especially on a bumpy road to test how they hold a bottle), bike cassette, wetsuit/speedsuit, sunglasses, shoes, etc. 

-Get a bike-tune up at least 10 days out from your race day and be sure to keep your bike in top condition within the 10 days before the race. Karel can easily spend over 2 hours tuning-up a bike as he removes almost every part and bolt to ensure every moving part will work smoothly (just like brand new). 

-Be sure to do a few "race pace" sessions in the last 4 weeks before your race day to master your race day fueling plan. Don't underestimate the importance of liquid calories on your bike. Be sure to finish 1 bottle PER HOUR (20-28 ounces) of your electrolyte-rich, carbohydrate beverage. To make this easier - be sure to take 3-4 gulps EACH time you grab your bottle (every 12-18 min or so). 

-Be sure to eat similar foods on the night before and morning of race day, in training in the 8-10 weeks leading up to your race. Consider your logistics of traveling when planning your "perfect" pre race meals. Make it simple to find, easy to prepare and easy to digest. 

-Review ALL course maps, athlete guide and attend the athlete briefing. 

-Be prepared for the course that you are training for, specifically any terrain/elevation changes and weather. Review weather the days before and night before the race as weather may not be within your control but how you dress and how you pace yourself (ex. effort on the bike) is within your control. Be sure to get the appropriate cassette for your bike on a hilly course vs a flat course. 

-Do not waste your energy on what other athletes are doing, complaining about or stressing about. Focus only on yourself and everything that is within your control. Stick to your own schedule and surround yourself with people who give you energy and don't steal it away from you. 

-Review athlete guide and plan extra time on race day morning so you are not rushed. Allow time transition set-up, body marking, getting your chip, warming up and endless potty stops (and long lines). Be aware of when transition closes and your wave start. 

-Be prepared for wetsuit legal OR not legal by having the appropriate swim attire. 

-Bring two pairs of goggles and depending on your preference, you may want one with darker lens and one with a clear lens. 

-Do not start out to fast. Consider that your perceived effort will be much lower in the start of the race when you are fresh and it's a lot easier to swim "fast" but it will feel easy. To reduce any anxiety in the swim, it's recommended to warm-up in the water if allowed OR do a short jog (with another good pair of shoes) for 10-15 minutes around 20-30 min before the race start. 

-Focus on a smooth but quick transition. This is time that you can deduct from your race time without having to train harder - just practice!

Respect your bike distance and the entire distance of your race. 

-Be sure you have your bike set-up for easy fueling (can you reach your bottles, are you comfortable with your hydration system) so that you do not have to rely on the aid stations. However, USE the aid stations if you have to fuel and can tolerate on-the-course nutrition. 

-Be sure you can change a flat tire and you have tested out your  race wheels (if using them) a few rides before race day. 

-Use your gears, pace your own race and do not start out too fast. Remember that your race is all about how you pace yourself. Reduce risk for fatigue, cramping and dehydration by holding back on the bike in order to set yourself up for a stronger run. This doesn't mean you have to go slow but a triathlon is not about having the most epic bike possible if you can't run strong off the bike. 

-Pay attention on the road especially if you are removing clothing or unwrapping food.   Liquid hydration is the most effective, easy to digest and safest way to consume nutrition on the bike. The more time you have your eyes off the road and hand off your bars, the easier it is to have an accident on your bike. Be safe!

-Ride (or drive) key parts of your bike course or at least, the first/last 5-10 miles so you know what to expect. Don't freak out, do this to be prepared. 

-Review weather the day before the race to help your mind accept the windy sections of the course and to help with pacing throughout the race. A power meter will ensure the most steady effort on the bike (reflective of key workouts in training) but RPE is also an effective tool on the bike. 

-You do not have to be in aero position during your entire bike ride in a race. Stand up, sit up or adjust your position as needed based on the terrain. Break down your course into sections for easier pacing. 

-If you experience  bloating, heart burn or burping on the bike, be sure you are sitting up (which I recommend for everyone) when you drink from your bottles. 

-Focus on a steady cadence throughout your race - you can't beat the wind or attack the climbs and run fresh off the bike so don't try. 

-Drink early and drink often. Use cold water at aid stations (be careful/slow down when grabbing a bottle) to cool your body to reduce core temperature.

If you are experiencing GI distress on the run and can not tolerate any more carbs or fluids, just slow down or stop. Give your body a moment when it happens to settle down before you try to push through and then experience the point of no return. Research shows that swishing (and spitting) a carb-rich drink in your mouth, without swallowing, an be a positive tactic to help maintain performance but be aware that this doesn't always relate to postponing fatigue at the end of the race. 

-Pace your run. Use walk breaks at aid stations as "intervals" for the body and mind. Keep your breaks short so that you do not increase GI distress as walking for too long in between running can return blood from the muscles to the intestines (along with water) which can contribute to the urgency to defectate (this is also important in the transition area of an IM if you find yourself taking a long time in transition area - more than 10 minutes and then experiencing GI distress in the first 1-2 miles of the run). Also, practice walk breaks in training (10-15 sec) and always hold back in the first few miles (depending on distance) of your race for the goal in racing is to postpone fatigue and to stay hydrated and to avoid glycogen depletion. 

-Use cold water and ice to cool the body. Hold ice in your hands in hot races and pour a few cubes down your shorts and on your neck. Just be careful to not drench your shoes while you are cooling your body (if possible). 

-It's recommended to practice with nutrition that boosts your performance and is easy to digest/be absorbed (after biking at "race pace") and to have a strategy with you on the run, especially in longer races, on how you will fuel on race day. Practice this in training!! Always be aware of where the aid stations are planned on your course and what is being served if you need additional fuel. Use aid stations for water stops to cool your body and rinse your mouth. Be sure you focus on electrolytes AND carbohydrates as primary fuel requirements. 

-Accept the race day conditions and terrain. Don't get into a hot and challenging race telling yourself that you suck in hot weather and on hilly courses. Although it is encouraged to register for races that are planned well in advance and that will help you meet your race day goals and execute on race day, don't be afraid to adjust your plan to ensure a steady and strong performance ON THAT DAY, ON THAT COURSE. 

-Always race with a plan - throughout the entire race. Consider your race day goals, your focus on chasing competition (if qualifying for a future race) or racing with your current level of fitness, your race schedule/upcoming races, the weather (which can affect your performance, regardless of your current level of fitness) and current life stressors. Always have a plan B...C, D and E and remember that YOUR race is not over until you cross that finish line. The only pressure you have on race day is the pressure you put on yourself so don't worry about things that you can not control and direct your positive energy to things within your control.

Training and racing for triathlons is not a requirement to "be healthy." 
Training for and participating in a race is a gift that your body has given you and arriving to a race, hungry and healthy to race, is one of the best presents you can give yourself by training smart.  

To ensure the best performance possible, be smart with your race day plan. 
Remember that even if things do not go as planned on race day, you did not fail. 
Every race has a learning lesson so be sure that you do not let one race keep you from reaching your fullest potential. Every expert was once an amateur....and one that made many, many mistakes in order to master his/her skills. 


Fueling for St. Croix 70.3!

5:30am Wed track workout

4pm Wed swim workout

It's no shocker that my busy life is filled with activity and I love challenging my body and mind with a swim-bike-run lifestyle. 
If you are a regular reader of this blog, it's likely you feel the same way about your life (perhaps maybe a different activity/sport)
But my amazing body allows me to do so much, both in life and with triathlons and I constantly remind myself that the food I eat has the opportunity to enhance my life, fuel my workouts and reduce risk for disease. 

Food is so powerful!

In October of 2011, I had the great opportunity to write an article for Ironman called "Fueling Kona: Your Daily Plate" This article was special to me not only because I was able to share my passion for seeing food for fuel and for health but also because I was participating in the 2011 Ironman World Championship and my article was featured during Ironman Kona race week. 

Here are two recent creations that I have used to fuel our active lifestyle. 
24 more days until St. Croix 70.3!!!

A beautiful spring performance boosting salad. Hydrating cucumbers, antioxidant rich sweet peppers, fermented soy protein (tempeh), heart happy avocado, gut healthy quinoa and beans and nitrate-rich arugula.

Roasted red potatoes (400-degree oven, toss raw sliced red potatoes into wedges and toss in a little olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and cracked pepper). Bake for 40-50 min or until golden brown and soft. 

Roasted veggies and toasted quinoa (cooked quinoa added to sliced onions and sweet bell peppers, cooked in 400 degree oven in casserole dish for 25-35 minutes) on a bed of arugula with roasted red potatoes (above) and a side of Daisy brand cottage cheese.

And let's not forget the yummy snacks!



A late afternoon/pre-meal plant strong snack that will make you feel great inside and only takes 5 minutes to make, is exactly what you want to crave after a long, busy day of work. 
Pre-washed mixed greens
1/4 avocado
Baby tomatoes 
Baby carrots 
Fruit slices (ex apple)
Cottage cheese (or 10g protein of your choice)
Small handful muesli for a crunch

And with your well-fueled body, how about 10-stability ball push-ups to start your day each morning?

And 10-stability ball tricep dips.