7/24/17

Ironman Lake Placid - quick recap


Karel is a "make no excuses, make things happen" kind of guy. He has carried this motto through his life and this mindset has helped him overcome so much in sport.
Karel is not one to make excuses, complain or blame others when things don't go his way. Regardless of the situation or circumstances, he doesn't spend much energy on things out of his control, he always keeps an open mind and he will be the first to tell you that he will take responsibility for his choices and owns-up to his decisions. He also admits that he is not perfect and he does make mistakes.

As it relates to sport, he competes for himself because he loves competition. He's not afraid to fail and he doesn't worry about what other people think of him.

Excuses are a way to avoid failure. Karel doesn't dwell on the past or think "what if" but instead, he looks for the opportunity, the possibility or the chance that things go well, even when he's not destined to succeed.

Karel is a no drama, no excuses, make things happen kind of guy and his Ironman Lake Placid performance demonstrated just that. 

On July 10th, just 10 days out from race day, Karel came home from an easy spin and within an hour, he felt sick. The feeling turned into chills and sweating and suddenly he was in bed, with a fever. Although he did not have any above the neck issues (sore throat, coughing, runny nose), his body completely shut down for 48+ hours. Karel spent all of Tues and Wednesday in bed, struggling to eat, move or expend any amount of energy. Ironman Lake Placid was not longer a focus but instead, Karel was trying to beat the flu. He didn't complain but instead, he admitted that his immune system was down after his last load of training and he must have caught something. After 6 years of not getting sick, Karel was suffering.

But, he didn't expend energy on what was out of his control and instead, he just focused on letting his body take care of the healing process. Since we are not "quick-fix" type of athletes, we let his body naturally take care of things without rushing to the doctor (or store) for medication. Karel made his mom's garlic and potato soup that is known to help with healing, I kept Karel well hydrated and nourished with fruit, water, orange juice, applesauce and anything else that he could tolerate that would provide him with nutrients and he just slept until he felt 80%. On Thursday, he was feeling about 80% (he could think and move a bit more normal) but he knew his body was still struggling. For the next 2 days, Karel managed to exercise for about 30 minutes each day by spinning easy on his bike. On Saturday and Sunday, Karel was able to do a modified workout each day but at a very low intensity to not stress his cardiac system. With his muscles fatigued from the final training load, he never recovered from his peak training and the flu completely destroyed his immune system.

But still, Karel didn't complain.

Since Karel competed in Lake Placid for his first Ironman in 2013, he has always wanted to come back and race with his improved swim/bike/run fitness. As you know, in 2015, he tore his plantar two months before the race so he was not able to finish the race after the bike. With this being Karel's comeback race to prove to himself that he could race strong on this very tough course, under these new circumstances of going into his 8th IM with compromised health, he knew that he would need to be very careful with his pre-race training to not sabotage his health but at the same time, the priority to protect his health also left him with a lot of uncertainties of race day.

Before the race, I told Karel that he could only do his best and that's all that we could ask for. I also told him that even on a not-so-good day, it could still be good enough to be on the podium. You never know what will happen on race day and that's what we love about the Ironman distance. You simply never know what will happen until you cross that finish line and look back on all that you were able to accomplish and overcome.

Karel suffered on race day. Even with a huge PR in the swim, he was not able to produce any power in his legs and that empty-leg feeling left him with a bike time that he was far from proud of for the day. He didn't let his ego get the best of him as his competition was riding by him on the bike course as if he was pedaling backwards. Nonetheless, he still focused on being in the moment, taking care of what he could control (his attitude, his terrain management, his nutrition) and just taking the race mile by mile. He didn't think negative thoughts or throw in the towel but he just kept moving forward. When he got to the run (typically his favorite part of an Ironman), he didn't race with his usual running confidence but instead, he raced not knowing how his body would be able to run a marathon on empty legs.

I don't know how he did it but Karel was able to run with empty legs, a numb body, screaming quads and a body that wanted to lay down in the grass and not move for hours. He moved one leg in front of the other, walked at times to try to collect himself and with each mile clicking away on this extremely tough run course, he was never sure when his next step would be his last step.

The Ironman brings highs and lows and for Karel, his day started out with a high in the swim but for the next 8+ hours, he was able to conquer the demons in his head (telling him to quit) and managed to get to the finish line. While it wasn't the race that Karel trained and hoped for, it was more than he thought he could accomplish, under the circumstances that he was given going into the race.



Karel's no excuses, make things happen attitude clearly works for him. I don't know many people (including myself) who can face defeat, setbacks and failures, like Karel, and can still think that anything is possible.

Although Karel's race performance landed him in the medical tent (for the first time in an Ironman) for a good 60+ minutes due to complete exhaustion and being a bit delirious at the finish (no dehydration or IV's needed), shortly followed by Karel telling me that this was the hardest race that he has ever fought for and he doesn't think he can do another Ironman ever again (we all know how long that thought stays for), he was still able to put together the best race that he could, on the day, which landed him on the podium, with a slot to Kona.



Karel declined his slot to Kona for this year as he will be racing Ironman Chattanooga in late September and hopes to qualify for the 2018 Ironman World Championship.

There was no pita-party for Karel after the race. No excuses. No what-if's. No complaints.

Although this wasn't the race that Karel trained for, he reframed every obstacle in his way with a positive mind and conquered much more than he thought was possible by his body. Clearly, his mind was stronger than his body on race day and this helped him prevail on a very challenging course, on a very physically tough day.

Karel's Ironman race day was truly about digging deep. Digging deeper than he has ever dug before.
In a few days, Karel will forget how bad this race hurt his body and once he recovers from this Ironman (which will take a bit longer than in the past), I have no doubt that he will be mentally and physically ready to do it all over again in 8 weeks.

When it comes to being an athlete and performing with your body, the most important indicator of how well (or not well) your day will go is how well (or not well) you mentally respond to the difficulties that come your way.

Although it's normal to be disappointed in a race that didn't go as planned, remember that every race is a learning experience. With a "no excuses, make things happen" mindset, you may not only accomplish more than you thought was possible but you will likely learn far more from the bad races, than from the great ones, when everything seemed to easily go well. And it is from those very tough, how in the heck did I finish races that you will gain the necessary tools and confidence to one day, conquer your athletic dreams and make great use of all that you have learned in your many years of training and racing.

7/22/17

The only day that matters is race day


Over the past few days, I have been surrounded by many inspiring Ironman athletes who are counting down the days until it is time to put all that hard work to good use (one more sleep left!). Although I am out there swimming, biking and running alongside hundreds of other athletes, my intentions with each workout are very different than the athletes who sport a blue wrist band.

As Karel sharpens up his body to race 140.6 miles on Sunday, I have been training my body to adapt to intentional training stressors. Karel has done the work for his race day and I am (still) putting in the work for my upcoming races. We each wake up with a workout on our training plan but with different mindset as to how the day will go and what we need to accomplish. Whereas I have great flexibility in my training and I don't have to read too much into my body signals, Karel, on the other hand, has to be very in-tune with his body signals so that he can perform his best on race day.

The Ironman athletes who will be racing on Sunday can now think back to all the training sessions that helped to physically and mentally prepare the body and mind for race day. The preparation is done and now the only day that really matters, is finally here. All the hard work is in the past and the only day that matters is the present moment.

I think most athletes can agree that training is fun. Although the early alarms and busy schedules can make training exhausting, preparing for a race is not as nerve-wracking as race day. Nobody is watching you, it's easy to give-in when it hurts and it's fun to push boundaries when there's no finish line to chase and you can always modify the workout/course when you want to change things up.

But not on race day.
Race day is the day that really matters. 

Race day requires you to believe in your abilities. To trust your training/preparation and to know that you can handle anything that comes your way.

Self-awareness and being in the moment will allow you to avoid and to overcome obstacles that will occur on race day.

Just like in training, race day requires a high level of motivation. You must never stop caring about your performance, from start to finish. Keep your focus on yourself and don't be disrupted by distractions, like the race pace of another athlete. There's no need to compare yourself to anyone else or say "I'm too slow" or "I'm having such a bad race." Hopefully you learned in training that you can never ever judge an outcome from a current moment situation.

Understand that your race will likely not go as planned so be prepared for the unexpected and the unfamiliar.

Race day is going to hurt and you probably won't feel great throughout the entire race. There will be high moments and there will be lots of low moments. Understand that you don't have to feel great all day to have a great race performance. Thoughts are not actions.


Stick to what worked in training and don't overthink race day pacing or nutrition. Your training prepared you for race day so please don't try anything new on race day. Go into the race with confidence by doing what worked in training.

Bring a positive attitude to your race and keep it high all day long. Your mind will wander, it will bring in negative thoughts like "you can't do this, walking would be so much easier than running, this hurts too much to continue" but you must catch and quiet these thoughts before they become so strong that you can't ignore them. Let your mind work with your body.

The work is done and it's now time to race!
Don't give up until you reach that finish line!


7/20/17

Staying busy in Lake Placid


Now that we are all settled in and we have made Lake Placid our home away from home until Tuesday, it's time to look back on the past 48 hours as we have been very busy! 


My train-cation started on Wednesday morning with a 1.2 mile swim in beautiful Mirror Lake. Oh do I love swimming in this lake. With an underwater cable to keep me on course, floating small buoys to break up the swim and lots to look at in the lake, I am reminded of how much I love open water swimming when I swim in this lake. After my swim, I walked back to our house (1/2 mile away) and got myself ready for my second workout of the day - a 75- minute interval run. 



Although I got a little warm during my run, it was nothing compared to the heat that I have been training in in Greenville. Plus, the dry air was so welcoming. I was running happy, despite working hard with my body.

WU: 20 minutes on the start of the IM run course
MS: 6 x 6 minutes as (#1-2 build by 2 min to strong. #3-4 2 min EZ, 4 min strong. #5-6 strong) w/ 30 sec rest in between. 
Steady effort back home



I just love this part of the IM run course (River road) as you are running by farms, which eventually turn into a flowing river and plenty of mountain views. 



The roads were semi quiet, with only a few Ironman athletes out training, so it was nice to enjoy nature while working hard during my main set. 



As I was finishing my run, Karel headed off for a 3- hour ride (joined by his friend from Czech for 1/2 of the ride) so that he could get out on the course and wake up his legs. While Karel was gone, I got some work done on the computer, while hanging out with still-exhausted Campy. 



Later in the afternoon, as Karel was resting and watching the Tour de France on the NBC Sport Gold app, I headed out for an endurance 2 hour ride. It was nice to spin my legs and to not have to focus on structure in a workout. 



So happy riding here in Lake Placid! 



I rode out to the new out and back section on the bike course and although it is a short section, it is so historic! I rode by the Olympic biathlon and bobsleeding courses - so cool! The athletes are in for a treat! 



You can see the Olympic ski jumps in the far distance. 



After my ride, I grabbed a recovery drink (Clif protein) and Campy and I walked with Karel to Mirror Lake so that Karel could swim a loop of the course. We bumped into Trimarni athletes Adam and Ariel (Adam is the host of the Intelligent Racer Podcast - check it out!) and it was nice to see the town becoming more crowded with triathletes. 


With so much fueling/refueling and snacking between workouts, I was looking forward to a refreshing dinner so I made lettuce wraps stuffed with rice, crumbled cooked tempeh and provolone cheese. Around 9pm, it was time for bed and it was a great night of sleep to conclude our first official day in Lake Placid. 


Thursday morning started with another swim at the Lake - not complaining, I love open water swimming at Mirror Lake! But this time, I was joined by Karel and we both swam together for 1 loop of the swim course (1.2 miles). We started out smooth and comfortable on the way out, swimming side by side and then after passing the two turn buoys (~25 yards apart), we picked it up - swimming from one buoy to the next as strong and then smooth. It was nice to have the big buoys on the course as we used those as our markers for when we would pick up the effort. Karel has improved his swimming so much over the years and it was nice to be able to clock 29 minutes with him by my side for a semi-comfortable 1.2 mile swim. 



Karel has been a great guide and translator for his friend Roman who is from Prague. This is Roman's first time to the US (and first time racing in the US) and Karel is enjoying speaking so much Czech (his native language) here in Placid. Although, I think his brain is a little tired because he often forgets to switch from Czech to English when he talks to me right after having a conversation with Roman. 



After the swim, we walked back to our house and I got ready for my ride. I snacked on a Clif Mojo PB bar as I started my ride as the first 20 minutes or so was very easy before settling into a rhythm down to Wilmington. I reversed the IM bike course and ended up in the town of Jay, where I started my main set of intervals. It was fun to be on the IM Lake Placid course and to reflect on my first time racing here in 2013 with Karel (our first IM together). We were living in FL and I thought the Placid hills were so hard! Although our Greenville training has strengthened our legs, the wind was a bit exhausting today on my ride - and you can never beat the wind, no matter how hard you try. At least the views were pretty! 



I didn't have much time (or energy) to take a lot of pictures so I took a lot of mental pictures as I was enjoying my time on two wheels.

MS:
6 x 8 minutes build to strong w/ 2 min EZ spin in between (In Jay, toward Keen and back)
20 min recovery/smooth
30 min strong (starting from Wilmington)


The wind was straight in my face for my first 3 intervals but I managed to stay focused and to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to do what I can do with my body. 



It's been good for me to have my own training to focus on so that Karel can spend the time that he needs to focus on himself, without me being in his way. I know there are times when he just wants to be alone so it's been nice to have our own time to do what we both need to do here in Placid.

When I returned back from my ride, I was exhausted and just crashed on the couch with my recovery partner Campy. Karel was getting ready for a 20 minute shake out run so it was nice to have a quick chat with him before he headed out for his run. 


Around 2:30pm, we walked up to the lake and met up with our small group of Trimarnis who are racing at Lake Placid (Chris, Adam and Heidi. Also Chris's fiance Michaela is racing her first IM here in Placid) and we gave them a course talk and last minute tips for race execution. Our athletes are very prepared and we are excited to cheer for them on race day.

After our talk, Karel headed over to registration to make his Ironman Lake Placid athlete status official (with a wrist band) and I walked through the expo to say hi to a few familiar faces at the HOT SHOT and Ventum booth. It was also great to see Clif Bar in the expo.

When Karel returned home, I was prepping some food for dinner (roasted potatoes with garlic, salt and olive oil) and he got ready for an EZ 1 hour spin with Roman. As you can tell, Karel has been keeping himself moving with a good amount of resting, just to make sure he doesn't get too stale for race day.

The past two days have been great and we are just loving our time in Lake Placid. The weather has been amazing but it's expected to cool off over the next few days, which should be a great thing for all the athletes who are training/racing here in Lake Placid.