Archive for the ‘Race Information’ Category

Many triathletes are all really hard on themselves.  This is endemic to our somewhat OCD / Type-A sport.  It is a demanding and unforgiving sport when you boil things down, with lots of techniques, disciplines, and gear, and you are surrounded by equally motivated and self-demanding/achieving types.  There is nothing wrong with this.  However, your self-criticism must be balanced with a recognition of what you have done & continue to do well in, and what you excel in.

Not every race (or workout) is going to go perfectly, especially if it is not your big “A” race of the season.  You will probably be under-rested and a little beat up in most circumstances.  Take a moment to view your race day performances in terms of what went well first as well as what could be improved second.  Some of you view this in reverse – what went poorly with a negative self-assessment, followed by an after-thought of what went well, sometimes with prompting from outside.

Of course, as coaches want to know where you feel you could improve.  That is part of the racing and training process.

A positive attitude really makes a difference in how you view racing and training, and in my biased view it should be holistic – applicable across all aspects of sport. It is OK to be critical but it has to be balanced by a realistic view of your successful achievements in any given endeavor.

Bri and I have both raced at reasonably competitive levels, and personally nothing annoys me more than to have a person who finished ahead of me (or improved a lot, or won their division) start droning on about how they felt lousy or didn’t run well or missed a turn or whatever.  Give me and you a break.  Save it and revel in your victory or personal success.  Relax and enjoy the moment for Pete’s sake.  It is OK to enjoy personal success!

No matter where you are in your personal quest for fitness and competitive success, there is someone who is working very hard to get to where you are right now.  You can always look up and work to go up, but don’t forget to look down and back sometimes.  Some of you couldn’t swim a lick a year or two ago, or never rode a bike.  Now where are you?

Sometimes races will not go well, period, no matter your attitude or training. The great philosopher Forrest Gump sums it up well. (Warning: mild-bad language)

As coaches we work to create realistic training plans, adjusting things as situations change, as well as help you develop mental toughness and positive attitudes, which are big parts of race & workout performance.  Negative feedback loops quickly detract from performance, as quickly as dehydration or poor pacing can.

What I am trying to write is to stop and smell the roses once in a while.

Just not during the race. 🙂

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon and USA Track and Field certified coach and owner of OSB Multisport Coaching

One Step Beyond and FS Series present a mid-week summer swim-run series to the Triangle area.

Each Aquathon will take place on the first Wednesday of each month in June, July, and August at 6:30 PM.

Dates and locations:

Season pass sign up by May 29!

June 1 – Harris Lake County Park: 800m swim – 3 mile run

July 6 – Vista Point @ Jordan Lake – 300m swim – 1mile run done 3 times (5 transitions).

August 3 – Harris Lake County Park: 400m swim  – 3 mile run – 400m swim.

These events are low-cost and a great way to check your fitness against your local training partners!  Bring some grub and hang out after.

Entry into all 3 races is $50, or $20 per event.
2-person relays are welcome for $60 for the series or $25 per event.

Read all the details at

This high school season I had my athletes practice visualization techniques both as a group and individually.  Visualization is a powerful mental training tool that  enhances an athlete’s ability to overcome obstacles and perform at their highest potential.

Visualization – as far as athletics go – is the practice of imagining your competitive scenario and ‘seeing’ the outcome in the most positive manner for yourself.  It can help improve confidence, improve reactions to adverse conditions, and reduce performance anxiety.

Like every other technique you work on, it takes practice to calm the mind and see this vision from start to finish.  The best time to do this varies.  The key is to approach the visualization process with a quiet, calm mind.

A few quick steps:

  • Find a quiet spot, comfortable position, and focus on your breathing.  Empty your mind.
  • Imagine yourself at the start of your race.  Try to feel your muscles and hear the sounds of the race.  Imagine that you feel fully rested and powerful/strong.
  • Start the race.  You may want to imagine different scenarios, or focus strictly on the best scenario.  Personally I like to run through a best scenario, and in later sessions see a few where I overcome various obstacles (flat tire, slow start, and so on).
  • Feel the effort level during the event.  Imagine everything is working perfectly, smoothly, ‘effortlessly’.
  • Watch your competitors unable to maintain your pace.  You accelerate alone or with only 1-2 still with you.
  • Cross the finish line with a surge and a win.

Savor your mental performance and make it part of your experiences going forward.  The mind is a powerful tool, and the memory of a visualized performance can feel just as real to the mind as the memory of a real physical performance.

Confidence in your own abilities is a huge part of peak performance.  By huge, I mean, gigantic.  It can help to have a coach guide this process.  But after a few sessions you should be able to do it on your own.

You can read more at the following links:

Effect of Mental Imagery on Sports Performance  – A Plessinger
Visualization for Sport Performance  – E. Quinn
Mental Imagery – B. Mac

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon and USA Track and Field certified coach and co-owner of OSB Multisport Coaching

If you want to become a better triathlete or runner, you have to have a willingness to suffer. The word suffer does not need to have a negative connotation. Although the official definition is to undergo or feel pain or distress,  it can also mean allowing yourself to push beyond your comfort level. Our comfort level is just that – comfortable. It’s working hard, but not hurting too much. It’s breathing hard, but not uneasily so. Willing to suffer can help you break through those barriers.

But how do you do it?

Train yourself to suffer

You have to suffer in training. There is no way around it. We all have goals for the season (at least, I hope we all have goals for the season), and these goals need to be at the forefront of your mind when you need to make it hurt. Training with others can also help push you past places you haven’t been, or don’t usually go by yourself – the hurt locker.

Every training session should not be a suffer-fest. Key training sessions, breakthrough workouts, and workouts that your coach marks “Do not miss this one!” are the ones where you need to focus and be willing to suffer.

Growing up, there was a very well known high school running coach in my area. I remember reading an article about one of his best athletes who had just had an amazing race. When asked how she had such a breakthrough performance she said, “Coach told me I needed to run with PAT today. Pain, Agony and Torture.” Now that seems a bit extreme, but the idea of it has never left me. Be open and embrace the discomfort – yeah, okay PAT, I’m ready to run with you today.

Suffering takes experience

Experience is needed to know how and how much to suffer. Everyone’s perceived pain tolerance is different. I was once told that if something hurt, that was your body’s way of telling you to slow down. I was completely baffled by this idea – how will you ever make any athletic gains if you don’t ever allow your body to hurt? But my hurt and your hurt may be completely different. Training at different effort levels, at different paces and heart rate zones can all help us develop our own internal guide. All of this will help when you get to your races, but pure racing experience is tough to simulate. So get out there and sign up for some races!

Suffering in races

Suffering in racing can be easier for some folks, but here’s the thing – you can’t expect to show up to a race and put up with racing discomfort when you have never put yourself in that type of discomfort in your training. Magic doesn’t just ‘happen’ on race day. You wouldn’t show up to a race and expect to swim fast if you haven’t swum fast in training, right? Aha – caught some of you. It’s time to go throw in some really hard intervals on short rest in the pool! 😉

As mentioned above, every race does not need to be a suffer-fest. This can lead to burnout very quickly. That’s why it’s good to have ‘B’ and ‘C’ races where you may be dialing down the effort, working on something specific, or just not worrying about your finish and simply having fun. When you toe the line for your ‘A’ race, though, you’ll be ready to go to that proverbial well.

Check your ego

This is an interesting quote:  “Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily…” I can relate this quote to many aspects of training, but it also resonates with racing. Have you ever gotten close to the end of the race and seen another competitor up ahead? You can dig really deep and try and beat them to the line. It’s going to hurt and, and – gasp – what if you fail?! It would be so much easier to just sit back here in this comfortable position and finish. But, so what if you don’t catch them? You have shown yourself that you’re not done racing until you cross that line, no matter what the outcome may be.  And of all the outcomes that could happen…failing to try your best is definitely NOT going to be one of them.

Mental Tricks

There are many different ways to handle suffering other than just telling yourself to suck it up. If fact, telling yourself, “suck it up,” is so intangible it may not help at all.
Remove yourself from the situation. I don’t mean in a way that causes you to lose focus on the task at hand, but in a way that you can put some of the discomfort your feeling toward the back of your mind.

I remember reading that when Shalane Flanagan won the bronze medal in the 10K at the Beijing Olympics, she imagined she was doing one of her hard runs on the Tobacco Trail. There she was, vying for a medal in arguably one of the most important races of her life and she’s mentally putting herself on a trail where she knows she’s had fantastic runs and can stay relaxed, rather than getting wrapped up in the high pressure moment.

Focus on specific form cues. Having short mantras you can repeat can get your mind focused on something that will enhance your race, while also alleviating negative self talk. Here are couple of examples I will use. During the swim: “Reach…and pull” During the run: “Quick feet, elbows in.”

Develop some of your own form cues to concentrate on

Come up with small goals. Sometimes you may need to resort to bargaining with yourself: you can walk at the next aid station, or, run 3 more light poles, walk 1, run 3 more. These little goals can help break the race and/or training down into doable parts when you’re having a particularly rough time.

Draw confidence from some of your hard training sessions. “I got through that horrible bike workout where coach had me do multiple 20min rounds at Z4…I can get through this!” or “Remember those mile repeats you nailed? You were strong then and you can be strong now.”
Run with PAT.

Finally, I need to stress that when I’m talking about suffering and pain, I’m referring to workout discomfort, NOT injury pain. There is a big difference between pushing your body to make physical gains and knowing when to stop because you’re going to hurt yourself. As an endurance athlete it is extremely important to understand when to say when…and when to not say when. Sometimes this only comes through experience, but often times it comes from listening to your body and responding appropriately.

Coach Bri Gaal of One Step Beyond is certified with USA Triathlon and USA Track and Field.  She has suffered a lot over her athletic career, in a good way.

It’s time to start planning your 2011 season.  What are your goals?  What is your next big adventure?  Here are a few resources to help you:

The DELTA Triathlon Multisport Calendar is a mash up of nearly all events which will be important to you.  Presented by Inside-Out Sports, the hard work has been done for you so that you can view the event opportunities in one place.

Winter Triathlon Clinic

Running Seminar with RunningB Coaching

Know Thyself by Marty Gaal (Article)

Prioritization by Marty Gaal (Article)

Planning A Season by Marty Gaal (Article)

Join The IOSDT Triathlon Team (website)

Wisely Selecting Your First Ironman by Todd Spain (Article)



Sophie EvansI have been reluctant to write a “race report” … always struggled to believe anyone would actually want to read it  However, for those who know me and my horrific memory, I figure it would be something I may regret not doing.  So, I am writing it down so that I can always remember what it was like to complete my first Ironman….

My Ironman experience started several days before the actual gun went off at 7am July 25th … packing alone was stressful enough to get my heart rate up.  I did my best to create a list of everything I needed, but also benefited from the wisdom of those more experienced than me by checking out what I could find online.  I came across one particularly detailed list that included over 200 items … crap, I need a bigger car!  I was sure to pack a couple of days early, but the benefit of my advance planning was canceled out by the sleep I lost when one of those damn lists would pop in to my head and I needed to confirm I actually had packed everything I needed.

The car was packed up with three bikes (Blake’s, Nas’, and mine) in tow. Blake and I began our long 14+ hour drive up to Lake Placid Wednesday at 6am.  An uneventful trip with the exception of the lunch stop at Friendly’s (first time I had ever eaten at this fine establishment)…It came back to haunt me within 30 min of consuming it – nuff said!  We’re sticking to Subway next time Blake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday morning started with a quick walk over to Mirror Lake for a test-drive around the swim course with Blake and Nas.  I am not a fan of open water swimming to start with but this water FREAKED me out!  I panicked the first outing (30min) because the water was this deep black abyss.  The buoy line, a supposed “highlight” of the Placid course as it allowed swimmers to keep a straight course without regular sighting, actually made things worse because it skewed my depth perception … mid-swim hyperventilation was not in my race plan?!  The only way I made it through was to keep my eyes closed when my head was in the water and open to sight only!  This was not good and I was beginning to get a bit worried … at least I would get to share the experience with 3000 of my closest friends – not very reassuring!

Friday morning I went out for a short bike ride.  I didn’t get very far because my front derailleur wouldn’t shift out of the big ring and i was heading up hill from the start of the course.  I was pretty sure I was going to need all my gears for the hilly course.  So back I went down the hill to the house…so far this was not going well!   Bike went to the shop for a couple of hours while I did the athlete check in.  I managed to skip a station at check in and leave without my transition bags (of course I did!).  So back I went!  Stephanie, this is where I think your business model would work perfectly…for idiots like me!!!!!!  Later that day I went for a short run and I couldn’t help notice the way my fellow triathletes had suddenly taken over this sleepy town.  I also became very self conscious when every guy I saw had smoother legs than me! argh, I had a date with my razor later!  Friday night was the mandatory race meeting.  I don’t think I heard a thing because of the not-so-little voice in my head that kept repeating – “holy crap, all these people are starting at the same time in that small area at the start!”

Saturday morning started with a quick test of the bike… all good!  Then back to the water for one last pre-race swim, gulp!  Not quite as much hyper ventilating but still not comfortable!  Things were moving in the right direction!  Then back to the house to fill up my transition bags/special needs bags, which is more difficult and stressful than one would think!  Next it was time to drop off my transition bags and bike at transition area … bye bye bike!  I walked back past the pro section and gawked at the bikes … who knew you could fit that many gels on a single bike!  The rest of the day was spent eating, walking around town and relaxing.  Saturday night meant final preparations for the morning, including special needs bags then off to bed ….sleep was minimal!


My alarm went off at 4:45am, wow I did get a bit of sleep!  I forced myself to eat breakfast (porridge, 1/2 banana, and some coffee).  With some calories in my belly, I shifted focus to dressing and working on my race-day hair.  Yes that’s right I said hair!  I had just cut it significantly shorter a few days prior so the usual ponytail wasn’t going to happen and it was long enough that I couldn’t keep it down.  Elastics and hair clips is torture under a helmet for 6+ hours!  So some creative braiding was in order….not so cute but functional!  Blake and I left the house at 5:30 to walk the 1mi to the transition area to check our bikes and transition bags again.  Then it was another mile to drop off our special needs bags.  Yes, we were complaining about that 1 mile before heading out on our 140.6 mile adventure!  But before that adventure started, we had a challenge to find a port-a-potty without a 30 min wait (so we walked again)!  A few minutes before the start I put on my wetsuit, handed my bag to my mum and kissed her goodbye.  I was then walking into the starting shoot and there was no turning back!  We found Kerry Troester and we all swam across to far side away from the buoy line and closer to the front.  Coach Marty said this would be the best place for me to start even though every part of my body wanted to stand on shore until everyone else went in first.   It’s 2 minutes before the start and I am floating in the water, no treading water needed in the wet suit!  I am having some terrible thoughts at this point because I cannot figure out how I am going to swim when there are so many people around me that I cannot even stretch my arms out.  Then I notice I don’t see another woman other  than Kerry, just big muscular men….oh jeez this is gonna hurt!  Then it’s the national anthem and whoa was that the gun?!  I guess so because EVERYONE is going!  I dog paddle a few strokes and swim with my head above water for a while until I have enough room to stretch out.  It was rough and I was kicked in the chest, gut, and shoulders quite often.  I kicked much more than I normally would only to keep people from pulling at my feet!  But to be honest, it wasn’t nearly as horrific an experience as I thought it would be.  The good thing was i didn’t even think twice about the deep black abyss!  I came out of the first loop of the swim with the clock at 44 min.  Slower than I was hoping for but at least I was on track to make the cut off!  Then back in I went.  The first few meters I was excited because I noticed that i was swimming side by side with Kerry!  But it wasn’t long before I lost her while trying to dodge all the other swimmers.  The second loop was much more pleasant and significantly less stressful!  Getting out at the finish of the swim I looked up at the clock, 1:10 … whoa how did that happen?!  Big smile on my face as I head up to the famous wet suit strippers!  Side note:  I had bought a sports bikini bottom that ties up to wear under the wetsuit so that it would not be pulled off with the wetsuit.  However, when I saw the lengthy run from swim to transition area, I ditched the bikini and pulled on a pair of shorts!  Heard a funny story after the race about a Japanese man several years ago who clearly didn’t think through the process and wasn’t wearing anything under his wetsuit!!!!!

OK, back to the race…  I was running to transition with wetsuit in hand and belly nice and distended, I must have swallowed 1/2 of Mirror lake and a whole lot of air while I was hyperventilating!   I located my transition bag, ran into the change tent and found a chair in the dark to observe how everyone else transitioned!  And get this, they had ladies there to help you undress and dress!  Before I left I made sure to pop a couple Maalox to deflate my swollen belly.  Over 10 minutes later I went to find my bike.   Shortly after I mounted my bike I noticed Blake zoom by me down the hill!  Don’t think I’ll be catching him.  A quick wave to my amazing family and I was outta there!

I settled in on the bike and notice right away that I have to pee. Mirror lake has made it down to my bladder all ready, ugh?!  Oh well, let’s see how long I can hold it!  So, a bit of climbing out of town and it starts to rain, oh s*@#%!  I say that because I know what is coming …. the LONG and very fast descent (7 miles of it?!).  I have never been so scared and out of control in all my life.  I think I got a couple of looks because I was screaming the entire 7 miles!!!!  By the time I reached Keene (the bottom) my inner thighs, shoulders, and triceps were screaming from clenching so tight!  And to think I would have to do that again.  After Keene I tried to take in some calories but it was a struggle…maybe because I was bloated?!?!?!?!?!  Oh well, I forced it down.  I settled into my steady zone 2 pace and enjoyed the scenery immensely.  I was however having an inner conflict as I watched rider after rider pass me.   I kept referring to my mantra “zone 2 zone 2 zone 2″…. that’s what Marty says!  Good thing I had my heart rate monitor on because I would never have stayed in zone 2 without it!  By the time I got to Jay I was desperate for a port-a-potty.  I had seen a couple but not until I had passed them and it seemed dangerous to stop and turn around.  Luckily I did see one at the beginning of the out and back and decided to stop on my way back out.  That out and back took forever!!!!!  After dangerous weaving through several other riders I stopped and got off.  There was a sweet little old lady there to hold my bike and we exchanged pleasantries.  Back on my bike and I felt sooooo much better and ready to eat and drink!  I have had quite a bit of difficulty transitioning to long distance training after years of short explosive fast twitch training.  This is why I turned to a coach (Marty Gaal) in January to help me transition over.  I have also discovered that I am not mentally made for distance training.  I find it quite boring and I lose focus very easily.  During the race I found myself slowing down at times and sight seeing:  “ooh, that would be a great place to eat; those trees are beautiful; oh, i like her bike; Oli would love North Pole we should check it out; I cannot believe people ski off that jump!”…perhaps I have a bit of ADD?!  In any case, it’s a beautiful course with lots to see.  On the way back into town I noticed the wind really picking up.  This is also where the most climbing comes in.  The biggest of the climbs, Papa Bear, was fantastic because you could get a small sense of what the Tour riders must feel as it was lined with spectators cheering the entire way up.  Then it was back into town to find my special needs bag containing my own drink mixes and snacks.  It was a bit hairy to find the guy who had my bag.   I could have had a cocktail at this point with amount of time I spent setting myself up…I think the guy holding my special needs bag was beginning to get impatient with me!  Ok, downed a couple of Cosmo’s and off I went to start another loop!  This meant 2 things:  the good was that i was able to see my wonderful family again but the very very very bad was that I had to do the descents again!  This time it was dry BUT the wind had really picked up….I feared for my life and again I screamed the entire way down!  The second loop was fun because I found myself passing a few people especially on the flat out and backs.  I was experiencing some significant discomfort in both knees by mile 70 … not good!  I tried to recruit more hamstring through the pedal stroke to help reduce the pain.  However, I worried a bit that this might come to bite me in the you know what later during the run.  About 15-20 miles away from town I hit a small hole and heard a strange noise from the rear of my bike, oh no!  The biggest fear for me on the bike (besides the crazy descents!) was getting a flat on my tubulars.  So I stopped to check the tire…a bit soft but not flat.  Got back on and hoped for the best, which turned out to be good enough as I made it to transition with just enough air in the tire to keep me off the rim.

This part is a bit fuzzy but I think I remember giving my bike to someone and then went to get my transition bag.  I was out of there quickly with some help from a fantastic lady, thank you!  Stopped at the port-a-potty on the way out and walked a bit to stretch out my achilles, and don my watch and belt.  After a few minutes I was on my way.  Stopped half a mile out to kiss and hug my family.  The 10 mile section out of town was a bit lonely because there were few spectators.  On the way back into town I finally caught up to Blake and walked up the first big hill back into town.  I had met my goal on the run and that was to run the first 8 miles without stopping, yippee!  The run section in town was fantastic!  The spectators made it the most fun I have ever had running!  I love that our names are on our bibs so spectators can call out your name and make it more personal.  Reading my name, some of the French Canadians assumed I was French and would encourage me in french, awesome!!!  I skipped my special needs bag for the run and went back out for the second loop.  I stopped to hug and kiss my family and get in a little stretch!   I wasn’t looking forward to heading back out for another lonely loop; however, I was excited with the thought that I was almost done (in the grand scheme of things).  The second loop I planned to stop at all or every other aid station to hydrate.  At one of the first aid stations going out I decided I would try the cola.  I normally do not like the taste but at this point I was sick of sports drinks!  I have to say that it was yummy but it did not sit well in by belly.  Hmmm, I think I’ll wait for the last few miles to try that again!  Back to water, sports drink and Gu, blah!  I was surprised at how well my injured achilles was holding up.  What worried me was that the one on the other side was starting to get a bit angry. I shifted the timing chip and guess what…relief!  In the later miles my muscles were getting incredibly sore and tender (even to the touch) with my hips really fatiguing.  I was indeed doing the marathon shuffle!  I was amazed that this run was feeling soooooo much better than the marathon I had completed earlier in the year.  The entire way back I was trying to calculate what i needed to run to finish before the 12 hour mark…I felt confident I could make it assuming I could keep up the pace.  Coming back into town was incredible…I had a smile plastered to my face despite the enormous amount of pain I was feeling.  I had underestimated how the hills would feel the second time around and I was forced to walk them all, which set me off my goal for under 12 hours!  At mile 23-24 there was a young guy, maybe a coach, running along side a racer up ahead of me, cheering him on to pick up the pace slightly to make that 12 hour mark.  So, I decided to go with him!  Boy did that hurt but I managed to pick it up slightly until I reached the entrance to the speed skating oval at which point i ran as fast as my legs could go to get there before 12 hours….my time was 11:59:10!  Only 2 or 3 competitors behind me made it in under the 12 hour mark

I’m an Ironman and it hurts!  When I stopped running I could barely stand and every single muscle and those I didn’t know I had hurt!  I have to say that I seriously doubted I could complete this race while I was training for it.  My physical make-up is not made for distance racing (parts of which are paying for it now) and I lack the attention span for some of those long workouts (perhaps  a small case of ADD???).  Before July 25th, I was quite certain that I would never attempt another Ironman again. However, I will eat my words and say that I would love to do another when the timing is right and when my body is healthy going into it!

One of the main reasons for writing this is to give a very special thank you for everyone who help make a dream come true!  Thank you to my wonderful boys, Scott and Oliver, who have been so patient and supportive during the long hours spent training, I could never have done it without you!  Thank you to my wonderful family who came to support me during the race.  Thank you to a fantastic coach, Marty Gaal.  And of course a special thanks to the best training buddies: Blake, Nas, Mike, John, Sarah and Stephanie

Many of us are nearing the end of our season and with that comes ‘A’ races and the taper. Tapering can be a funny thing – sometimes you feel great when tapering and sometimes you feel horrible. Neither of these scenarios  predict the outcome of your race – it’s important to let the taper do what the taper wants and not become all mental during the time. Here are a couple of different ways the taper may affect you:

You feel extremely tired and sluggish. You require more sleep and can’t believe you did the training you were able to do because doing a 30 minute run right now causes you to take a nap. You might not be able to get your heartrate very high, or conversely, you may not be able to keep your heartrate down.  This phenomenon is due primarily to your body’s inherent drive to repair & rebuild itself (on the cellular level) from the extended training period.

This period can last 5 days to 2 weeks. Some people do not really notice any major differences, while others may find themselves in a ‘fog’ for a few days. If you experience this recovery fog, take note:

•    Don’t go harder or longer to ‘push through’ it. Your body is getting you ready for the one day you really care about. Keep your effort levels appropriate.
•    Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.
•    Eat well, but don’t use this period as an excuse to over-eat.
This is only a temporary period, and you will feel great after being rebuilt stronger…faster…and ready to go on race day.

Because of underlying genetic factors related to your lifestyle, recovery habits or years of prior experience, you may feel absolutely wonderful on the taper. Don’t be fooled into doing harder/longer efforts than your coach has scheduled for you. Save it for race day! It is still important to sleep and eat well, and most importantly, tighten the reigns and hold yourself back.

Some people fall somewhere in between the above two scenarios. Don’t be surprised if you have some emotional swings during the taper (or should I say, tell your significant other not to be surprised if you have some emotional swings!)

Another common occurrence is catching a cold or mild sickness. Sometimes during these rest periods your immune system goes into rest mode, too.

Sleep and eat well.

Do you see a common thread here throughout the taper? Sleep well. Eat well. Don’t freak out. Get to that start line and GO.

Bri Gaal is a multiple USAT All-American and USA Triathlon coach.

Instory LabToo often, athletes show up late to a group workout and just jump in on the fast swimming, running or riding with no warm-up. Others are pinched for time, trying to squeeze a workout into a busy schedule, so they skip the warm-up figuring the main set of the workout is more important anyway.

Is a warm-up really necessary? What constitutes a “good” warm-up?

Enhanced Performance

A warm-up activity serves two major purposes—to enhance performance and prevent injury. Consequently, a warm-up is both physical and mental.

Relaxed, sitting in your chair and reading this column produces a relatively low 15- to 20-percent of blood flow to your skeletal muscles. Most of the small blood vessels (capillaries) within those muscles are closed. After 10 to 12 minutes of total body exercise, blood flow to the skeletal muscles increases to some 70 to 75 percent and the capillaries open.

Along with more blood flow comes an increase in muscle temperature. This is good because the hemoglobin in your blood releases oxygen more readily at a higher temperature. More blood going to the muscles, along with more oxygen available to the working muscles, means better performance.

An increase in temperature also contributes to faster muscle contraction and relaxation. Nerve transmission and muscle metabolism is increased, so the muscles work more efficiently.

Injury Prevention

Scientific studies on linking warming up with injury prevention are difficult to administer. Few athletes want to go through a muscle stress test to see what it takes to tear a muscle.

Old studies on animal subjects determined that injuring a muscle that has gone through a warm-up process required more force and more muscle length than a muscle with no warm-up. This study is in line with the anecdotal data that acute muscle tears occur more often when the muscles are cold or not warmed up.

There have been human studies on sudden, high-intensity exercise and the effects on the heart. One particular study had 44 men (free of overt symptoms of coronary artery disease) run on a treadmill at high intensity for 10 to 15 seconds without any warm-up. Electrocardiogram (ECG) data showed that 70 percent of the subjects displayed abnormal ECG changes that were attributed to low blood supply to the heart muscle. Yikes!

The abnormal changes were not related to age or fitness level.

To examine the benefit of a warm-up, 22 of the men with abnormal results did a jog-in-place at a moderate intensity for two minutes before getting on the treadmill for another test of high-intensity running. With that small two-minute warm-up, 10 of the men now showed normal ECG tracings and 10 showed improved tracings. Only two of the subjects still showed significant abnormalities.

It is not known if a more thorough warm-up of 10 to 20 minutes would have made more improvements. It would have been interesting to see the results if the scientists would have taken the experiment that additional step.

Mental Preparation

Part of a warm-up process includes getting your head ready for the upcoming activity. Mentally preparing for the upcoming workout, or event, is thought to improve technique, skill and coordination.

This mental warm-up also prepares athletes for the discomfort of tough intervals or a race. If the mind is ready to endure discomfort, the body can produce higher speeds. If the mind is unwilling to endure discomfort, physical performance will certainly be limited.

How Much Should I Warm Up?

There is no hard evidence as to how much warm-up is needed before a workout or a race. Most recommendations are in the 10- to 20-minute range, though some athletes have found they need more warm-up time.

Athletes with high levels of fitness typically need longer warm-up periods before doing high-intensity workouts or short races. Athletes with lower levels of fitness usually use a shorter warm-up time. However, athletes with low fitness levels also tend to produce lower speeds during workouts and races.

Athletes with dormant speed and currently low fitness levels need to be particularly cautious with workout and race intensities in order to minimize injury risk. This means if you were once fast, but you’re now out of shape, be patient with building your speed and fitness.

A general recommendation for warming up is to begin with low-intensity swimming, cycling or running. Keep it mostly aerobic or Zone 1 intensity at the beginning of the warm-up. Gradually increase intensity as you progress through the warm-up period. You can include short segments of gradually increasing intensity in the 30- to 60-second range, with long rest intervals as you get closer to the high-intensity segment of your workout.

In order to perform at your best and minimize the risk of hurting yourself, take time for an adequate warm-up.

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men’s and women’s teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale’s pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

This article originally appeared on — your source for event information, training plans, expert advice, and everything you need to connect with the sport you love.


  1. Noakes, Lore of Running, Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 773-774.
  2. McArdle, Katch, Katch, Exercise Physiology, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001, pp. 574-575.
  3. Safran, et al, “Warm-up and muscular injury prevention. An update.”, Sports Med. 1989 Oct;8(4):239-49.
  4. Safran, et al, “The role of warmup in muscular injury prevention”, Am J Sports Med, 1988 Mar-Apr;16(2):123-9.
  5. Shephard & Astrand, Endurance in Sport, Blackwell Science Ltd, 2000, International Olympic Committee, pp. 474-475.

There is no suspense here – I really like the Zipp 303 tubular wheels.

If you try these you will have to have them.  The cool factor is very high, but comes at a fairly hefty price of $2,300 for the pair. However, these are perhaps the most versatile combination in Zipp’s arsenal.  They are light, responsive, climb well, accelerate rapidly, and are very durable.  You can ride them as the perfect training wheel on your road bike, race them on your time trial bike in any conditions, and outclass your competitors at cyclocross in the winter.  If I had the chance to buy just one super nice tubular wheelset, for all the types of riding, this would be my top choice.

The 303’s are similar to the rest of Zipp’s portfolio. They are laced with 18 radial front and 24 radial/1-cross rear SAPIM CX-Ray bladed spokes. External nipples make truing easy. The hubset is Zipp’s 88/188 combo, featuring fat, 17mm aluminum axles and threaded endcaps for easy bearing interface adjustment. These guys weigh in at only 1171 grams per pair.  This is light.

In total, I have ridden approximately 300 miles on these wheels over the spring and summer with Vittoria Corsa Evo KS tubulars. I used the 21mm, 290tpi with the puncture resistant belt.

The 303’s were installed on my road bike for the Paris Mountain Triathlon in the spring.  This course featured a 2.7 mile climb that is quite steep, while the rest of the course is hilly.  The Zipp 303’s are an ideal choice here as they climb very well and are far more aerodynamic than an ordinary lightweight climbing wheel.  They also made their way onto my time trial bike for several of the fast group rides.

Here is what I like:

They feel light and are fun to ride, especially when climbing and sprinting.

Acceleration is tremendous as the rear does not “load up”.  With many lightweight wheels, the applied rotational torque rotates the hub faster than the rim and you can actually feel this load as a softness or sluggishness in the rear until the rim catches up.

Zipp does not compromise on aerodynamics.  The 303’s have much less side/crosswind deflection to the point where there is no reason to consider potential crosswind when choosing wheels for the day.

These guys are solid.  It feels like they could handle the worst spring pothole riddled roadway.  The 303’s have stayed exceptionally true and require very little maintenance.

Since campy record hubs in the 70’s and 80’s, I have not been impressed with any hub for smoothness.  However, Zipp has built a seriously good hub.   They are  s a m o o o o t h.

They look sexy and fast.  The cool factor is seriously high.

Not as crazy about:

The price – they ain’t cheap, nor is there any compromise on quality.

The rear wheel is not as stiff as several other wheels I have ridden.  This would translate well, I believe, to comfort on long rides, but will zap a bit of efficiency along the way.

Switching back and forth with other wheels requires a bit of a rear brake adjustment, unless you are willing to run your rear brake just a tad loose.


I seriously like the Zipp 303’s.  They are light, snappy, and super comfortable. They’d make an outstanding one-wheelset solution for someone doing road racing, triathlons and cyclocross.  They are a bit pricey, but have fantastic all-around characteristics and are impressively versatile.

Related Videos:

How to install a tubular tire Part I

How to install a tubular tire Part II


Scottsdale – Tempe, AZ   –   November 7, 2010
Why Run the Women’s Half Marathon…
Red Rock fans get $10 off half marathon registration with coupon code REDROCKSAVE (all caps) when you register online. Offer expires August 31, 2010 – register today and save! This will be a fun race for the ladies. Sorry guys-but you can share the code with a special lady in your life and come out to cheer her on!

Check out the reasons why this race is unique:

1. 2-in-1 Medal & Charm
All half marathon finishers will receive a one-of-a-kind patent-pending medal with removable charm center. Show off your accomplishment every day by adding the center charm to any necklace or bracelet as a constant reminder of your achievement!

2. Ultimate Goodie Bag

All half marathon participants will receive the ultimate goodie bag-a reusable, recycled, designer tote bag!

3. Personalized Bibs
At the Women’s Half Marathon you are more than just a number. Register early to guarantee your personalized bib.

•    Post Race Party
•    Live Music     •    Cookie Cafe
•    Fashion Show     •    Walker Friendly Course
•    Women Specific Expo