Monday, May 13, 2013

Sunny with a Chance of Open Water - Race Day Tips for Cold Water Swims

Photo from
Spring has finally arrived to the upper midwest.  That's good news for those of us signed up for outdoor triathlons this week.

Blaine Triathlon has decided to not convert to a duathlon.  Land Between the Lakes has the advantage of being WAAAAAY down in Albert Lea so I'm sure that water will be quite comfortable.

For both of those races and even New Bri Tri and other early June races there's a good chance the water is going to be COLD.  Here are some simple tips to help you on race day:

1. Properly fit full sleeved wetsuit designed for swimming.  At early races you see a number of people in either ill fitting swim wetsuit (too big) or a barefoot/waterski suit.  The barefoot/waterski suits are made with less flexibility in the shoulder and torso and can make swimming virtually impossible.  Don't have a full-sleeved wetsuit?  You can get one here at a great discount:  Use the code CO-TRIFORIT.

2. Earplugs - wax earplugs will keep the cold water out of your ears.  Exposure to the cold water in your ear can be disorienting and drop your core temperature.

3. Wear two swim caps or a neoprene hood.  Wear a nice silicone cap underneath the race cap or if you really don't like the cold, a neoprene hood can help keep you warm.

4. GET IN THE WATER - that's right - your first exposure to the water on race morning should not be when the horn blasts. This is true for every race, but especially a cold water race.  Warm up on shore with some jogging and muscle activation exercises.  This will get your core temperature up a bit.  Then get in the water and get moving.  Don't get in the water too early - try to finish your warmup as close to your wave start as you can.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Asking for Help is the Opposite of Giving Up

That's right.  Asking for help is NOT giving up - but it can sure feel like it.

As many of you know, in October of last year I was diagnosed with a DVT (blood clot in my calf/hamstring) that cascaded clots to my lungs (PEs).  It meant a lot of things - possibly a lifetime of taking blood thinners, tissue damage to leg muscles and lungs, difficulty exercising and depression.

The bottom line was I put on quite a bit of weight.  Overall I eat healthy with a couple of weak spots.  I have had sports nutrition training and know what I SHOULD do.  But I just wasn't able to rein in the weak spots and make a real commitment to weight loss (better health).  After several failed attempts at doing it myself, I called in reinforcements from the HealthEast Ways to Wellness team.

Wow, did I feel sheepish in doing that.  I'm a USA Triathlon certified coach after all.  I know what to do.  

After meeting with a Registered Dietician and getting an initial fitness assessment we've made just a couple of tweaks to my daily eating and BAM! I am hitting my calorie goals with little trouble.  The added accountability of knowing someone is looking over my shoulder makes it easier to stick to the plan.

It finally struck me that sometimes that's what I do for my athletes.  Some of them know a lot about training for triathlons.  The added accountability of knowing I'm reviewing their progress helps them stick to the plan - which has been especially difficult thanks to the Spring that won't begin.

Not asking for help and continuing on the wrong path - that's giving up.  Don't give up - ask for help.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rocks are hard, and other lessons I learned while in Arizona over Spring Break. This Coach/Triathlete is Learning to Mountain Bike (and you should too)

(as originally published on

  Over the past year I’ve learned the many benefits of mountain biking as they apply to triathlon.  Here are just a few:
1.       Bike Handling.   Triathletes are notoriously BAD bike handlers.  We ride low slung aero machines designed to go fast in a straight line which doesn’t help.   We seek smooth low traffic roads for training hearts and legs.  An unfortunately positioned pothole, an inattentive pedestrian or, heaven forbid, a little sand on the road and down we go a sliding heap of lycra, carbon fiber, aluminum and skin on asphalt.

Mountain biking requires constant adjustments to the terrain, picking a line, staying straight in the sand.  These constant adjustments will improve your balance and confidence in your ability to maneuver your bike.    Sure there are drills we COULD all do to improve our bike handling – riding a line while looking back (preferably in the safety of an empty parking lot), navigating cones, picking up a bottle off the ground.  How many of us do?  Those sound boring don’t they

Think of the hilliest tri you’ve ever done. Now imagine you are on the longest climb in that race.  What do you hear?  Usually I hear the grinding clanks of drive trains shifting under incredible duress.   These shifts cause unnecessary chain wear, risk breaking your chain, dropping your chain off the rings, or potentially damaging the more expensive components of your drivetrain.

A hilly rocky trail will require you to anticipate your gearing prior to hitting that uphill.  If you wait to shift until the “oh crap” moment when you realize the big ring is not where you want to be, you’re likely to meet the trail up close and personal.  Fall avoidance is a strong motivator.  Once you start to anticipate your gearing on the trail, this will carry over to the road as well.

2.       The View.  Roads and bike paths take triathletes to some pretty spectacular places with some great views.   Break free from the asphalt chains and you’re in for even more spectacular views without car exhaust.  At the beginning of the descent on the 401 trail outside of Crested Butte, CO you truly feel like you are on top of the world.   Closer to home, you can lose yourself riding the river bottoms out of Shakopee in the Minnesota Valley Recreational Area.  Now doesn’t that sound better than riding paint lines and circling cones in an empty parking lot?

3.       Intervals/Strength.  A great way to get stronger on the bike is to ride harder for short intervals.  Riding the trails can force you to ride VERY hard for a short time.     On the short steep hills you’ll be standing, powering up the climb (now in the right gear due to your newly developed ability to anticipate the right gear).  These repeated bursts of power sprinkled throughout your ride will strengthen your legs.  Besides developing powerful legs and lungs, these climbs are almost always followed by smile inducing descents.
4.       The Equipment.  We tri-geeks love our gear.  With mountain biking there’s almost as many gear opportunities as in triathlon.  Let’s start with the perfect excuse to have another bike hanging in the garage.  Nuff said.  But, in addition, you get shoes you can actually walk in and still ride clipless and baggy shorts with chamois (although I’m not sure why you would EVER not want to wear form fitting spandex).

Be forewarned though – developing a love for the trials can lead to (gasp) giving cyclo-cross a go.  The next thing you know you will be purchasing yet another bike (a cross bike) and racing, carrying your bike up steps and over barricades, through mud, with a huge smile on your face.

Friday, March 1, 2013

It's March 1 - Time to Turn Lambs into Lions!

It's time to turn the old saying on it's ear.  Supposedly March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.  If your winter training has been more lamb than lion, you need to channel your inner Mufasa/Simba/Nala - you pick your favorite lion as long as it's not the Cowardly Lion for the Wizard of Oz.  There's still time to make significant improvements in TECHNIQUE and fitness before race season starts.  That's right, there's still time to make you a tri lion.

Often I get approached by athletes who have their big race 8 weeks away.  Yes, I can help them get ready for it.  We can make some strides in fitness, technique and strategy.  With 16 weeks we can REALLY make improvements.  Making you fitter and more efficient.

So don't wait - ewe won't regret it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Get Over It! and Get After It!

It's time we get over whatever is holding us back and get after it. Props to Olympian Carrie Tollefson for the Get After It! - she uses that mantra on the track and in life

A couple weeks ago, our pastor was talking about how he used to work out, how his scale was loudly announcing that he needed to work out, and how the guilt over not working out was preventing him from starting back up.  He then related this to his faith, but for our purposes we'll stick with the working out portion of the message.

Guilt over past failures often prevents us from achieving future success.  Eat more than you wanted over the holidays, or at a Super Bowl party?  Already abandon those New Year's resolutions?  Is your bike and trainer collecting dust rather than sweat?  Get over it!  Your bike and trainer already have.  They are ready to take you back.  (You may need to brush off the dust and put a little lube on the chain - but then they'll be ready.)

At Tri For It! we take each athlete as they come - that is to say, we don't judge you for your past failings. 

One of the ways to get on the road to success is to have someone to whom you are accountable.  For some the fear of having to tell their coach or workout partner that they just didn't feel like training isn't worth the guilt.  It's just easier to do the workout.

And if you didn't do the workout (or several workouts) your coach isn't going to judge you.  He's going to work with you, remind you of your goals, examine why the workouts were missed, and adjust future training sessions to help you Get Over It! and Get After It!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Take Motivation Wherever You Find It

As many of you know, this offseason has been a trying on for me (Coach Rich).  In October I was experiencing some shortness of breath on runs and some calf tightness.  After a car trip my left calf was swollen with pain in the calf and left hamstring.

A visit to the doctor led to an ultrasound at the hospital, which led to a CT scan of my lungs, which led to me being admitted to the hospital with a DVT and multiple diffuse pulmonary embolli (PEs).  In english, that means I had a clot in my leg (starting in the calf and progressing above the knee).  Parts of the clot had broken free and lodged in/around my lungs.  I was lucky.  A significant proportion of  PEs are found at autopsy.

I'm on medication (blood thinners) to prevent additional clotting while my body reabsorbs the existing clots.  I've been cleared for "whatever exercise I can tolerate."  Initially I could only run about 1/2 mile before the leg would swell and I would have to walk.  Finally I was able to work up to 1, 2 and then 3 miles.  At 3 miles I felt like I was actually working out again.  Then I caught a cold - 2 weeks of no workouts. (wow this is coming off as a poor me entry - and I assure you - it's not)

I traveled to Duluth for my son's hockey tournament.  Duluth and I have a running history.  I ran Grandma's Marathon 14 months after my first 5k.  I've run the 1/2 there multiple times.  It's always a great weekend and I highly recommend it.  Despite the cold forecast and the fact that I hadn't run in weeks, I packed the shoes and cold weather gear.  The first morning I awoke to this:

The Lake path was clear of snow/ice.  It was gorgeous!  No excuses!  I threw on my gear and headed out the door.  Yes, I only ran 2 miles - but I was back out there and that was the import thing.  Here's the lift bridge as seen from my turnaround.

 Whether it's a chilly sunrise over Lake Superior, a warm ocean breeze, or the quiet of running in the woods as snow falls - accept your motivation where you find it. AND GET OUT THERE!