Monday, April 28, 2014

WikiWiki Man Triathlon Race Report

UGH! Yes, in capital letters too!

Raced at Lake Tawakoni yesterday at the WikiWiki Man Triathlon.  There was a Sprint distance race that was a SMW Regional Championship (more points for the participants) and an Olympic distance race.  I did the Olympic race. It fell about midway through the year before Worlds and we wanted to see where the holes were in my training.

I don't know if it is going to be a good assessment or not though. The weather forecast for Sunday didn't look good. As a matter of fact last night tornadoes ripped through the south injuring and killing people and caused extensive damage. We just had some strong winds 15-25 mph with gusts to 30 mph and a little rain during the run. I pretty much had a crappy race.

There were really good parts to the weekend though!! It was a fun girls weekend! I shared a room with Cheryl Webb from Shreveport - we ride together and it was nice to get to know her better. And Leigh Laney, a long time friend from Jackson, MS came over to race too. The two of them and Luann Ainsworth (a friend of Leigh's) all did the sprint race! Leigh got 2nd in her age group, and Cheryl placed 4th in her age group. We all went to dinner the night before and the only bad part was that we couldn't enjoy a margarita with our girl talk! I also got to see a bunch of my Team Cambridge triathletes and the manager Scott Eder whom I've know for I think a hundred years! Got to visit with people I knew when I raced in Texas - Sabra Hanson is on Team Cambridge too, she and I raced each other back in 1999! Sabra won her age group in the sprint race. And fellow COSST Coach, Rachel Olsen was there too, she is also on the Cobb Mobb team with me - Rachel won her age group and was 7th overall female in the sprint race. I hang around with some fast company!

The swim was brutal. Probably one of the worst that I've ever experienced. The only two that I can think of that were worse was one at a Crawfishman in south Louisiana in Lake Ponchatrain and another at the Gulf Coast Half in Florida. The water was extremely choppy making it really difficult to get into a swim groove, and the chop was coming from the south so I had to breath right into the oncoming waves. My neck is sore this morning because you had to really turn your neck as well as rotate to get your mouth into the air. Pathetically slow swim even with a wetsuit. I think two girls beat me out of the water. One was so far ahead that I never saw her until the run and the other I must have beat out of transition, or passed her right at the beginning of the bike not realizing she was in the Oly race.

The first 5 miles of the bike were into a really strong headwind, then a turn and we had a cross/tailwind for the next section to the turn around. I thought it was going to be a straight cross wind but with some of the speeds I saw on my computer I realized we had some help. I also realized that after the turn around we were going to battle the wind for the 8 or so miles until the next turn. Was really, really happy to make the right hand turn back towards transition - on that last 5 mile section I was rolling at 26-27 mph and hit 35 at one time. Shows that we had some major wind.

Since the Sprint race started first I had no idea where I was as far as place with the other girls in my race. I was pretty sure there was one girl in front of me because I watched her cap in the distance during the swim. Our run was an out and back (with a little trail run at the beginning) then a U-Turn and out and back again skipping the initial trail section. It wasn't until I was headed back out on the second loop that I saw another girl who looked really strong coming back in and was pretty sure she was the leader. I'd also finally realized that we had black bib numbers and the Sprint racers were red.

No results sheets were posted like most races so we had to hang around listening for our names to see if we placed or how we did. (I'll get to that part later). I ended up 2nd Overall Female - the first place girl wasn't there to get her award so I didn't know if she was the same on that I thought I saw on the course.

Here is the cool t-shirt I didn't get :(
Would I go back there again? Probably not. The roads were typical Texas chip seal. I haven't had to race on that surface since I left in 2008 - and I don't miss it one bit. That combined with the wind made a pretty horrible ride. The awards took FOREVER! And no times were announced with the people so until this morning when results were FINALLY posted online I had no idea how I did. No results taped to the side of a building - I do know that people like to see how they did, if they didn't you wouldn't see hoards of us standing around the posted results at races. Barely little post race food - I didn't have anything by the time I finished, I think there were a few orange slices left by that time. And while I'm not a soda drinker, I like to have a little caffeine and sugar after a race - a coke would have been nice. There was water in the big orange gatorade coolers but no bottles (I think they are doing a green initiative - had I known this I would have brought my own). Oh but wait, it wouldn't have really helped because we had to park about 3/4 of a mile from the transition area - good thing I had my recovery drink in my transition bag. My friends, Leigh and Luann were so wiped out after the ace

And also the cool tech-t that I didn't get. 
And lastly, I registered early for this race and when I picked up my packet the day before there was only 1 of the two shirts promised in the bag and it was the wrong size..... I was told that they ran out and I could send an email to get my shirts. In the morning I asked if after the race I could possibly get my shirts from other packets that had not been picked up.... nope... they were going to be put away. I sent the email... hope I get my shirts, I really like them!!

Do I sound like I'm complaining a lot? I am.

Next up is Crawfishman this coming Sunday!!!  A race I absolutely love and KNOW won't disappoint!! Denise and Brinn will be there! I get to see my friends from Hattiesburg!! And Donna Ford is going for her first race of the season and first Crawfishman ever! Looking forward to next weekend!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Swimming: Reducing Drag and Increasing Power

Michelle Simmons is a fantastic triathlete, and awesome coach, and a great swimmer. I was on Team Recovery e21 with her a few years back. This is a post that she wrote and posted earlier this week. One of the best that I have read on swimming. I asked her if I could shared it with my readers and she graciously obliged!

Read on people! Some really good stuff here! I added the large text on some of the points for you to concentrate on the next time you swim.

I am a Wife, a Mom, a Coach, and a Triathlete... Living and Training in Paradise... 

Swimming: Reducing Drag and Increasing Power
by Michelle Simmons

Seems like another post on swimming has been brewing in my head recently so I'll take a stab at it and we'll see how this goes!

I think I mentioned in a recent post that my swim sessions have been taken to the next level recently. Not surprised given that Marilyn is an Endurance Corner coach and the swim sessions that come from their website (when they post them) are always some of the most awesome sessions I see posted anywhere... I'm in love with the sets that Gordo's wife "Monsey" comes up with. Every time I see a session written by her I think NICE that's awesome. Awesome in a hard way of course, but awesome nonetheless.

Most of those sets require athletes to think and do math while swimming. I love this. Send-offs that vary so you have to swim faster to make them or can swim easier to recover before having to go faster again... This morning we did a set of 30x100's that were descend 1-5 (x6) and the send-off got 5" shorter through each rounds of 5. So we'd start at 1:50, then 1:45, 1:40, 1:35, 1:30... then straight back into 1:50, which was our recovery since the 1:30's don't allow much rest. Trying to do the math to figure out the send-off for each one was a challenge for sure but I love doing math while I'm swimming so this was no problem. And it makes the set fly by so fast because you're forced to think the whole time. I *much* prefer this type of set over 30x100's @1:40. Or worse, 60x50's @:50. Blah. Ok so I will admit that 60x50's @:50 has it's place and can be a valuable session but it still makes me want to scratch my eyes out when I see it on my schedule.

Anyway, it's been interesting to watch one of my newer local athletes, Sergio, develop as a swimmer. He was a decent swimmer to start with... as far as technique goes, his was good enough to get him across the longcourse pool in <45". So of course there are a few little things about his stroke that we can tweak but fact is, if you're capable of swimming a 50 in 40"(yards) or 45"(meters) then your stroke is going to be decent enough that technique is probably not your biggest limiting factor. If you can't repeat that pace for more than a few 50's then endurance is your issue and this is what I see very commonly! In Sergio's case, this is what we saw. He could swim a very fast 50! But that left him very winded and he couldn't repeat it without a ton of rest. So what we look to develop there is a better sense of pace (ie what is a sustainable effort?) and much deeper endurance. Essentially, he's been joining us for morning swims ~3x/week for the last few months and in the beginning we modified most sets so he could do part of it then get some rest then do more then get some rest, etc. He kept coming back consistently though and this morning I was so impressed- he knocked out ~4K swimming solidly the whole time and had this big AH-HA moment where he said The key is to take the easy ones super easy and save energy for the fast ones. YES. I love it that he got that this morning! Some athletes swim for YEARS and don't ever truly get that concept. Anyway, it's been really fun for me to watch Sergio's improvement these last few months. And it reinforces a lot for me too as far as how we go about improving one's swim. (I.e. suck it up and work your ass off consistently for several months. Or years. In most cases, years.)

I'm also back to teaching 1:1 swim sessions a couple times/week with some other local athletes. I'll tell you here a bit about what I commonly teach during those: Right off the bat, understand that swimming faster is either about 1) Reducing drag or 2) Increasing power.

~Reduce drag by: keeping head neutral; being more streamline off the wall; reduce excess body movement/fishtailing; avoid sinking legs by keeping head neutral and chest down; avoid crossing over with your hands upon entry; avoid a wide scissor kick, etc. Several of these issues (fishtailing through the water, scissor kick) are really a secondary compensation/result based on improper head position or crossing over with arms upon entry. So fix the root of the problem (head position, entry position) and that wide scissor kick that you're using for balance may just fix itself.

~Create more power by positioning your arms/hands upon entry in a way that will allow your lats to get involved and do the work. This one can be a bit more complicated for some but essentially this means pressing the water down and back with strong wrists while keeping an 'open armpit'. I find the open armpit analogy works better for many than 'high elbow' cue b/c you can keep a high elbow while simultaneously shutting off your lat if you're leading your pull with that elbow first. This is probably the most common thing I see when working with a new athlete. Very few swimmers generate the power they could because they are missing opportunity to create power/propulsion because the elbow leads the pull. Instead, focus power through the wrist and you'll find that's how you can get your lats engaged. One last tip I give all the time: the water should feel heavy because you're pulling so much of it. If it feels easy, like your arms are just slipping through the water, it's because your arms are just slipping through the water! Don't do that! PULL the water, every stroke, feeling tension and resistance from your wrist up your forearm and into your armpit. This will probably make you more tired at first, but that's the feeling you want.

Anyway, so there you go. Focus on form for sure, especially if it takes you >2' to swim 100M. But once you're down in the 1:30/100 range, then you're going to get a lot more gain from doing real sets off real send-offs. Sometimes those send-offs should be roomy and allow plenty of rest so you can practice going FAST. Other times those send-offs should be tight so you can practice repeating efforts on very little rest and just holding pace. And finally, KNOW your pace in the pool. I'm constantly astounded by how many swimmers don't pay attention to their pace in the pool.

OK that wasn't really my final point... I still have more to say, and I'm BatShit Serious! Learn to flip turn! And swim more than 2000 at a time! And get in the water at least 3x/week! There. I said it. Now I'm done. :)

Posted by Michelle Simmons

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Front Body – Back Body – Balanced Body

The idea for this blog post has been rattling around in my head for years. I think about it while I'm running and riding but for some reason it's never made it's way onto "paper".

Our bodies, while very complex, can be described for the purpose of this article as two planes. Imagine taking a guillotine and slicing your body in half, dividing it into two parts - The Front Body and The Back Body.

I spent 16 years as a Sports Massage Therapist and a Medical Massage Practitioner when I lived in Texas. I studied a lot of postural analysis, something that I still do to this day. It's pretty much impossible for me to ride or run with others and not analyze their movements, figure out what they're doing right, and what they're doing wrong. I have a hard time biting my tongue when I see someone that I think I can help.

I want you to think about little old men, the ones that you see walking slightly bent forward at the waist with their pants hitched way up in front. Why do you think they stand like this? It's because their "Front Body" muscles are short and strong. What does that mean? Think about most people's daily lives - they sleep typically curled on their sides in somewhat of a fetal position, they get up and sit at the kitchen table and have breakfast, they drive to work sitting down, they get to work and sit at a desk all day, they come home and sit some more for dinner, and maybe later watch some tv. Their bodies stay in a seated position most of the day. The hip flexors - the illiopsoas and the illiacus are the two muscles largely responsible for keeping people in an upright seated position, the rectus femorus (a quad muscle) and the tensor facia latae are also involved. When you keep these muscles in contraction they become strong - and shortened. Daily activity for most of us works these muscles constantly.

The body is made up of opposing muscle groups. Antagonist muscles. Think about the upper arm, your biceps and triceps. When one is in contraction it is impossible for the antagonist muscle to fire. When one is firing the other is stretched. When you get a cramp in your calf what do you do? I see people trying to "walk it out", the best thing to do is fire or contract the opposing muscle group - the anterior tibialis. The calf is made up of the gastrocnemius and the soleus, they are both responsible for plantar flexion of the foot; the gastrocnemius is also responsible for flexion of the leg at the knee. The anterior tibialis muscle on the front of your lower leg is responsible for dorsi flexion of your foot (bringing your toes toward your knee). The best thing to do when you get a calf cramp? Fire your anterior tibialis, either by just pulling your toes toward your knee or better yet have someone add slight resistance against the top of your foot. The calf can't fire/contract if it's antagonist is being used, and this will help your cramp dissipate. Same thing applies with your hamstring/quad - cramping in the hamstring? Leg extension from a bent leg position, with gentle resistance if possible.

So back to the little old man - what do you think happens to the opposing muscle group, the one that is not short and strong? The opposing muscle group becomes overstretched and weak. So how do we remedy this situation? Strengthen the Back Body and stretch the Front Body.

I practiced massage therapy for 16 years, I started all of my clients face up. Most therapists start their clients face down and work on the back first. The logical thing is to open up the front body, the pectorals and shoulders before turning them over and working on their backs. Why would you work on an overstretched muscle before loosening up the tight ones so their shoulders could move backwards naturally? It doesn't. The same thing applies to the neck, loosen up the scalenes, the sternocleidoimastoid (muscles on the front of your neck) and their attachments at the clavicle before moving on to the back of the neck.

I had a lot of clients who worked at a desk, and were on a computer all day long. They were hunched over at the shoulders and neck looking at the screen. I advised these people to get the screen up at eye level, so they would be sitting up straight, at the front of their chairs with the screen at eye level (think stack of books if necessary). I had so many come back and let me know how much this helped their neck pain. Pain resulting from forward neck position, which overstretched the back of their neck and the attachments at the occipital ridge on the back of their head.

What does this all have to do with a post for triathletes? We swim, we run, we ride, all mostly utilizing so much of our front bodies. See the runner with the rounded shoulders? I want to tell him to stand up straight and pull his shoulders back, open up the chest cavity - but maybe he can't because he's so tight from hunkering over the handlebars in the areo position (All actions using more front body). Same with swimming, mostly front body - what stroke do you think we swimmers use in between sets to loosen up and recover - Backstroke. Makes sense doesn't it? Utilize the back body and allow the front body to stretch and recover.

Add caption

So here is what I suggest you try. Spend some time lying backwards on a Swiss ball - lay your head back, lay your arms open wide to the sides, open up the hip flexors. I used to tell my massage clients this: when you wake up in the morning roll onto your stomach and press up on your elbows gently, lift you face slowly toward the ceiling, if you are flexible enough move up to upward facing dog position, do it slowly because most likely you've been in a curled up position for 6-8 hours. Open up your front body.

Now think about strengthening your back body. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, do slight hyper-extensions when lying in a prone (face down) position. If you are a gym rat you know the machines and exercises to work the back body. (Reverse Fly, Bent-over row, Hyper-extension, etc.) Get to work and BALANCE your Front and Back Body. Stretch the front and strengthen the back. It will improve your posture and you will feel better, trust me.

Oh... one more thing - ever been driving for a long time and your back starts to hurt, we usually think we need to stretch our back, right? Try this - do some isometric contractions of you low and upper back. You'll feel some immediate relief.

Strong and Short - Overstretched and Weak.

I'm borrowing this expression from a friend, I like it: "Do The Work!" Take care of your body!

See you at the races!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

How To Get Faster

You want to get faster? I know the secret. You can read tons of material and follow all kinds of programs, but one of the easiest and less mentally consuming ways to get faster is to train with fast people. That's it, simple right? Mmm hmmm.

Be prepared to hurt like all get out though. My Dad used to say that you need to work your "jaw muscles", in other words - grit your teeth.

I started swimming once a week with the COSST Varsity kids, I'm in the second to slowest lane. The coach wanted me to move into the next lane up, but I think I'll stay here for awhile, it's not the speed that's killing me but the distance. The only day I can swim with them is Friday because I'm coaching my swimmers the other 4 days a week (if I could I'd be there 3x a week). 5,000 yards - in less than 2 hours, lots of different stroke work - not all freestyle. Both days we've pretty much finished in 1:40 - but that is when Butch decided to play what I am calling "Sprint Trivia". In other words he asks a question, usually History or Geography based and if we get the answer wrong we sprint a 50. Last week press outs and some dryland were incorporated in between the questions and sprints. I am so sore, not quite a bad as week one - that week we did one set of 16x100 with fins and paddles, arms were like noodles after that one!

Now that the weather is warming up the weekly brick workouts with the Sunrise Tri Club have started up again out at Cypress Lake. I've ridden with these guys a couple times. Last Saturday we rode to a place called Plain Dealing.... I wondered what this town was named for, so I looked it up:

"Tradition states Plain Dealing was named for the Virginia plantation with the golden rule name. Plain Dealing, both the town and the plantation’s namesake, stood for honesty and integrity as their name implies." I like that!

The guy in front of my was really squirrely so I had
to back off his wheel - he made me nervous,
had to go around him.
He wore a tri kit on a road ride.... ????
Back to the ride - it's not really too bad, I can hang with them... EXCEPT for on the hills. And the hills are not really that bad but the other riders are much stronger on them than me - talk about a sufferfest. But I did hang, got dropped once along with a couple other guys and one bridged us up going 28+ mph. We did a little over 54 miles and averaged 20.1 (it was 20.6 at the turn but the wind was with us going out). Plus, something that I've been meaning to blog about - they pretty much ALL ride their race wheels, we're talking 880's and even disc wheels. I don't get it. So I did some searching online about race vs. training wheels and of course I found people advocating both sides. On one it said you should get used to how your race wheels handle on turns, bumps, etc. And the other front which said, why would you chance of damaging your $$$$ wheels.

I ride my training wheels except for race day. They are heavier and make me work much harder, and I can't afford to replace them if I crash and damage them - and I want to feel that speed on race day. I will admit that I have ridden them twice with this group, once the day before a race and I'd already put them on my bike in preparation for the next day. And one other time when I had been too busy/lazy to take them off after a race. And guess what.... both times it was MUCH EASIER to hang with the group - big news flash there!

I'd be interested to know what you ride for your weekly training. Do you train on your race wheels?

See my jersey in the photo? And the little round yellow sensor on my helmet? You should check out ICEdot!

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