The Excitement of the Race Start Never Gets Old

    Posted on 23 November 2014 | No Comments »

    Over the last 27 years and hundreds of endurance race starting lines, I still get a nervous feeling at the start of every event no matter how big or small. There are so many different reasons individuals keep coming back to attempt new challenges but one thing we all share in common is the anticipation and anxiousness that comes when we arrive at the starting line.


    Is there anything better than the feeling of a dark, humid early morning as you walk through the damp, dew soaked grass to the start of a triathlon? The normal pre-race ritual that all triathletes have done so many times to attempt to calm down include:  bike check-in, pumping tires, continuously moving every single item a inch to the left or right to ensure the quickest transition time, body marking, lubing up and struggling into the wetsuit, reviewing everything in the mind again and again that’s what makes us keep coming back.

    The music surrounding the venue, listening to the race director over the loud speaker again and again counting down time constraints just adds to the anxiety for so many athletes. Of course those final words, “time to start working your way down to the water for the start, please head to the beach now”. At this point the checking and re-checking of the transition area finally leaves the mind and on to the “last walk” to the water for the start of the race.

    After a ceremonial national anthem of the host country, the Goosebumps and nerves are usually at an all time high. This is the best time for your last mental visualization while slowing down the mind to the present with a series of deep breathing exercises. There is nothing better and it will offer a calming feeling and keep the mind focused toward the task at hand.

    We all enter the water and the next thing is to have a “final pee” when we enter, yes we all do it!    Next thing up during this incredible buildup to the race start is the positioning of where to line up for the swim. Of course everyone has their own opinions of where to lineup, from the outside and sprint like crazy or start on the inside and hope for the best, etc. A few final words, a cheer from the athletes and the countdown begins, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and it’s show time.

    There are so many methodologies on how to handle the stress and nervousness of the beginning of a race, one thing that always works for me – Smile. Yes, no matter what happens, the easiest way to eliminate just a bit of the race morning nervousness is to just smile and I occasionally will laugh during the swim section. Keep it simple: few deep breaths clear your mind to the present and Smile – it works! If you need ideas to create a mental training plan for your upcoming season to ensure your can handle the pre-race nerves, email me at  Happy Racing!

    Go Against the Norm In Your Training

    Posted on 04 November 2014 | No Comments »

    Square Peg in a Round HoleIt seems every day, week and year there is a new guaranteed success training program for your fastest marathon, Ironman training program, ulramarathon, etc. Books come out continuously with the newest technology tools and programs with tag lines such as “Finish your Ironman on training of only 7 hours a week”.

    Evaluate all the various programs and tools and be your own judge as there is not a “best” training program for everyone.   I have seen athletes from the Cross Fit world finish 100 mile running races on no more than 10 miles as their long run.  This might be the exception as there are so many factors with regards to mental strength and overall fitness levels but the all the old rules should be reviewed and customized.

    Another interesting one is the training regime for athletes competing in RAAM (Race Across America bike race).   The old school mentality is that you have to bike 10,000 miles leading up to the race.   Sure, getting on the bike is imperative with long rides but a balance and even against the norm has worked for many athletes not set in doing it the same way.

    As you evaluate this past season racing consider writing out what went right and what went wrong and most important what will you change in the upcoming year. Common themes I always here include:

    1. I need to get faster.
    2. Maybe I raced too much and never targeted a few key events.
    3. Work, family, travel stress impacted my year.
    4. My training program is not fitting my goals.
    5. Should I consider more long slow workouts or completely switch to this new world of HIT, (High intensity training).
    6. I need to improve on my weaknesses.
    7. I wish I had more time to train
    8. I must get stronger in the offseason, what programs are best for my specific sport.
    9. I need a new challenge for the upcoming year.

    Now is the time to start writing down your goals for the upcoming season and evaluating what tweaks you will add or eliminate from your schedule.    If you need assistance with your goals and a guaranteed way to ensure you’re accountable check out the tools on

    A Different Approach to the Long Distance Race Taper

    Posted on 30 September 2014 | No Comments »

    Over the last 28 years, I have experimented with many race taper suggestions and programs. What I have learned is that there is definitely no 100% guaranteed way to ensure your legs are not flat come race day with the taper.

    The normal theories center around significant reduction in mileage and incorporating some shorter sprints or “pick ups” to keep the legs from getting the sluggish feeling from just slow short very easy running or biking.   Everyone is different to his or her own approach but the following is a tapering strategy to consider for your racing that I have used year after year.   I advise practicing this taper strategy for a less important race just to see if it works for you.

    race taper

    This tapering approach is specific to ultra distance triathlons, running or cycling races (not short races).    The key is not to drop the overall volume more than 25-30% than your normal high volume weeks (So a 25 hour training week will drop in the 18 range).  Also, the speed or hill workouts will be reduced to very short but harder efforts (ex:  hill repeats drop 50-60% in volume but increase intensity 10%).   Also, train right up to the day before the event – no day off just to stay fresh and remove the nervous energy.   Consider a 30-minute swim, 20-30 minute run and/or 45-minute bike for an ultra distance triathlon.

    I have found for ultra distance events the long tape has a detrimental effect early on in a multi day event.  My legs feel ok but a bit flat for the first day but then just don’t have the same snap on the following couple days until they get back in the groove.    Taking into account long travel, time changes, stress, etc. will have an effect as well in addition to abnormally long taper.

    The challenge is with a long taper, the body has the risk of going into a recovery state and that “flat” feeling.   For those of you who have done events lasting many days, the middle days you will get into your groove and if your race strategy is dialed in, your legs will be in full gear when it counts most – the last 25% of total time in the event.     Your race success is determined by how you perform when it’s the worst, the last 25% of the event.

    Normally, my taper is just one week, event for a 10-day event.   Weeks of tapering just don’t work for many athletes competing in multi day events.   Sleep is the most important but watch dropping your training volume too much the last week.   Also, incorporate daily mindfulness into your last week of taper to calm the mind a bit.

    Tapering is not an exact science for any athlete, but get into a routine that works based upon your event importance and length.


    Over-Pack for Your Final Key Race of the Year – No DNF

    Posted on 16 September 2014 | No Comments »

    Fall has arrived and for most athletes this is the time for the final big race of the season.  All of the training and focus will be dialed in for these events. One thing that can change during the cooler months is unpredictable weather that can cause unforeseen circumstances and DNF’s when un-prepared for these ultra endurance events.


    Personally, I have seen weather temperatures that were not even close to normal in many events for the months of September and October:

    1. Normal hot days and warm nights in Mexico plummet – shocking temperatures dipping into the low 40’s at night and rain.
    2. Pouring rain, driving wind and temperatures 20-30 degrees below normal in Southern Europe
    3. Freezing temperatures and rain – 32F at night for races in the eastern part of the US.
    4. Multi – Day events – temperatures dropping significantly as the seasons are changing from summer to fall.
    5. Way to many DNF’s from athletes capable of finishing but unprepared to deal with the extreme rain and cold for hours and hours.

    For you key event of the year, I always recommend over packing your race gear.  Weather may become a factor, but with some simple preparation with your packing, you will have a greater chance to get to the finish line. For example, last year many ultra triathletes were competing in Italy from 10-30 days, and several of the DNF’s were based upon not having the right clothing, and swim gear for the changing conditions. When the race started, the temperatures were sunny and warm and by the 3rd week we all faced 10 hours of rain and cold per day and dropping water temperatures each morning for the swim.  We all watched as the athletes continued to drop out of the race, as they were un-prepared for the weather.

    Cold, wet weather will crush your energy if your core temperature drops, and will get worse as you slow down while creating less energy. Staying warm is imperative during those hours when your pace is significantly reduced as the result of fatigue.


    Mandatory items to take even though you don’t think they will be needed:

    1. Booties to wear over cycling shoes – make sure you test them and they are easy to get on with wet conditions
    2. Winter riding jacket and pants
    3. Cold weather gloves
    4. Waterproof jacket
    5. A neoprene swim cap and booties
    6. Cycling cap (could include a winter weather cap)
    7. Multiple running Jackets for cold weather and rain
    8. Running gloves and warm hat
    9. Wool anything is good
    10.  Warm Compression sleeves, legs, arms and several vests

    Over-prepare when packing for your final big event of the season and no DNF because of the weather!

    Do the Math For Your Race

    Posted on 19 August 2014 | No Comments »

    Recently, I met Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s – famous for the movie Moneyball, staring Brad Pitt. I highly recommend reading the book or seeing the movie as it illustrates how math and statistics can change an entire sport.    Evaluating players and competing in the high salaries space of baseball within a small market to remain competitive by the use of mathematics is the premise of the movie. So what does this have to do with your next race?

    do the math in your race

    As endurance athletes we all love looking at the numbers. Split times, transition times, elevation gains, temperature, power ratio, average speed, RPM’s, turnover on the run, etc. It’s science and driven a lot by the math. What numbers will be the most impactful to overall race performance.

    I am not suggesting that you over-analyze every potential mathematical equation and statistic for you pre-race preparation; however it’s important to look at the numbers with respect to your race plan.

    Have you looked at the numbers of what average pace you need at all the various disciplines including factors that will increase time such as sleep, walking, time off your bike, etc? Over the years, I have used the numbers from a broad level to assist with long races lasting multiple days.

    Top 8 Ideas’

    1. Use a GPS watch to make sure you hold you pace whenever your tired running, what’s the impact if you have to walk at a slower pace or your cycling average pace.
    2. Determine a plan with sleep included for a long event then determine what average pace you need to maintain either biking or running.
    3. Add in a “hedge factor” – things not always go according to plan.  Add time to the equation.
    4. What pace do you need to maintain if you’re struggling to meet the cut-off times and more important if your behind how much faster do you need to go to make the cutoff.   Plan it in advance so it’s not a panic situation and especially if you are using a crew.
    5. Plan you calories with the “hedge factor” – what and the exact amount will you eat/drink during times when you are way down
    6. Create 3 Race Plans for a long event – A, B, C.  Each one broken in detail of paces, times, etc. based on various performance targets.
    7. Use the free tools online for pace calculations for all the various distances if you not an excel/math wiz.
    8. Always have a plan to get to the finish line and the worst-case scenario of pacing times, splits and laminate it to ensure you and your crew know the exact numbers.

    We can never plan for every potential hurdle during a long race; however by outlining in writing with the numbers you will have a guide to keep you on pace especially when the focus is just to get to the finish line. Use a simple 8X11 sheet and laminate the various race plans.

    Remember:  “Not finishing is not an option.” Happy calculating.