Step Up and Tri – December 2011

Hello all,

The end of the season is nigh.  And a long season it was! So many of you have been working hard towards your goals since November of last year, and I think you all hit most of them! Well done to you! I am so very lucky to work with you all and I am SILLY amounts of proud of each one of you.

What a journey it has been; in training for endurance sports, there is so much more than simply getting the workouts done and logged into training peaks. I feel like training for this stuff makes us stronger in so many ways and really teaches us what we are made of. We learn more about ourselves every time we challenge ourselves with some crazy long workout, or hard bridge intervals at the end of a long week. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but this kind of training makes us feel like heroes and yet it can humble us too. We have a greater appreciation for our friends and those who support us in our dreams, and to see those faces as you race and cross the finish line fills you with emotion that is hard to access in the rest of our lives.

I want to congratulate all of you on all the hard work you have done this year, and on sticking with it even when life, the weather, and a sundry other things make it hard. For all the mornings you got out to run at 4:30 and rode your bike through 25 mph winds and ridiculous downpours, for the days you ran off the bike even though it was already 95 degrees, for all the times you peed (or more) in the bushes, for all the times you got to workout with your best friend or had to slog it alone, you achieved your goals and it feels damn good.

So now it is time to rest, recover, and take some time off from the hard training so that you will have the energy you need for next season. It is during this transition phase that your body and mind can refresh and you don’t become stale or over-trained. Many athletes find this time challenging as they fear losing fitness and they feel they can get stronger without any time off. It is true, you might lose a bit of fitness from this time off from purposeful training, but what you gain in rest, freshness, physiological and psychological rest are priceless. You will come back stronger and ready for next season.

This time off is not time spent on the sofa eating bonbons, of course. Take the time to do the activities you don’t normally have time for- try kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, climbing (there is a climbing wall in Lauderdale and Boca- FAU), or if you do swim, bike or run, do it for the hell of it and because you love it; not because you are trying to hit a certain power or HR zone to get a jump on next year’s training.

Enjoy the holidays, celebrate your successes from this year, think about your goals for next year, and get ready for another great season!

Monthly Recipe:
Baked Polenta with Provolone, Roasted Peppers and Mushrooms
8 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups polenta
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, well dried and diced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups (8 to 10 ounces) sliced fresh mushrooms, e.g. mixture of portobello, cremini, shitake
1 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parsley, minced
Salt and pepper
10 to 12 thin slices (8 ounces) Provolone cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. For Polenta: In deep saucepan, bring water, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme to rolling boil. Add polenta in slow, steady stream, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue stirring 5 minutes. Add diced red pepper. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Parmesan, 2 tablespoons butter and red pepper flakes. Stir well; set aside.
  3. For Mushrooms: Melt butter in skillet. Add mushrooms and garlic. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add heavy cream, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook at gentle boil until cream reduces and thickens, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Butter 9 x 13-inch baking dish and spread half the polenta over bottom. Cover with half the slices of provolone, tearing slices to fit when necessary. Spread mushrooms over. Spread remaining polenta over and top with remaining provolone slices.
  5. Bake about 15 minutes or until cheese melts, browns slightly and casserole is hot.
  6. Let sit until the polenta sets and can be cut in servings (it will still be quite soft).

Delicious served as is, or with a marinara sauce or other complimentary-flavored sauce. Serves 24 as an appetizer, 8 to10 as an entrée.

Event Recap:
The Sandoway House Nature Center’s  first annual 5k and 1k Doggie Dash on November 12th went well and feedback was good! Only about 140 runners, but more to come next year!

Athlete Race Updates:
*Bonnie, Franny and Orlando raced IM Florida (11/5) and they were AWESOME! Bonnie: 12:18:42 and Franny: 14:17: 33. This was their first Ironman and they did SO great and I think they even want to do it again! It was SO fabulous to be there to see them (and the rest of the BRT-ers) race! Orlando (in his second Ironman and second this year!) got a huge PR. He did IM Utah in May which is a ridiculously hard race anyway, but he had food poisoning and STILL finished. He came back to IM Florida and busted out an 11:38:55.

*David, Jeff and Melissa raced IM Arizona (11/20) and they were AWESOME as well! They endured CRAZY cold water and BIG wind this day! David, completing his fourth IM, got a PR and had a very strong race! 13:44:28. Jeff got a marathon PR during Ironman Arizona (his first IM)! His previous marathon best time (not in an Ironman) was 4:42 and he did the IM marathon in 3:59:44! He had wanted to do a road race to get sub 4, and he never thought he would pull it out in an Ironman. His total time: 11:18:54. Melissa, on her second IM, had a very strong race despite enduring some bad cramps. She finished in 12:07:27. You have no idea what a feat of mental toughness it was for Melissa and her husband Scott to even make it to the start line this year! (Scott also did his first IM this day, and despite having to hit the med tent to stop severe total body cramps, he still pulled out 12:17!).

Adam did the Horrible Hundred with Dara (11/20) and of course he handed her her butt on the hills! Way to go, Champ! We had a great day!

Carol did the Outerbanks Half Mary (11/7) and finished strong! You are amazing, Carol!!

Upcoming Races:
A bunch of crazies are doing the Tough Mudder on December 3rd, Bonnie, Franny, Kevin, Nate, and Dara among them….

Featured Athlete:  
David Droste, who just did Ironman Arizona for his fourth Ironman and scored a 25 minute PR (in his own words)!
Dara has walked me (I mean swam, biked and run me) through each of my four Ironman races. Some have asked me why I need coaching after all of the training I have had. I say that I love the accountability that she provides, and the expert advice that she gives, but even though those are true, I just enjoy working with Dara…she is a truly an excellent coach and encouragement!

Past history of sports participation:
While I have been active my entire life; playing baseball as a youth, excelling at skateboarding since age 13, and hiking, etc. it has been primarily since turning 40 that I have taken sports more seriously. I really enjoy running marathons and have run 35 (I think), with many other half’s and 10k’s, and one Ultra (50 miler). I have also completed 4 Ironman races, and more than 50 other triathlons.
What was your first tri & what made you do it:  
I remember hearing about the first Ironman in 1978 and often wondered if I could ever complete one. After adding some cross training to my running in my early 40’s, I began to entertain the idea of completing a triathlon. After completing my first one, I was hooked and have been triathloning ever since!
Favorite training or racing experiences:  
I think that the ultra I did was an amazing experience. The race is called, Man against horse, and you literally run against the horses…although I was mostly running in what they left behind;) The race was incredible, mostly because of how it unfolded. I found myself cramping and truly unable to move on the side of a mountain (about 7000 feet) at mile 31. The cramping was so bad that I couldn’t release the cramps to get relief! I would try and stretch one muscle and another would seize up…this happened for almost an hour. I was lying in the middle of the path, on the side of a mountain, being assured by the few runners behind me that they would pass along my plight to the people at the next station. While I lay there, I heard a still small voice inside say, “you are going to finish this race.” I said, “all I want to do is get to the next station.” My attitude was solid, I realized I was in over my head, but thought, “I gave it my best shot today.” I sent out a couple of pleas for prayer on facebook and to family. At just about an hour, I got up and was no longer cramping. I continued to climb the rest of the mountain and arriving at the next aid station, I asked, “how far to the next station?” One mile, then another six after that…you get the picture. I thought, “I am not cramping, so just keep drinking and moving forward and see what happens.” At one point I found out that I needed to run 3 miles at an 8 minute mile pace to be allowed to continue the race. In that moment, the lag vehicle was passing with the only runners left on the mountain. Trusting in the small voice inside, and praying and giving thanks for the ability to still move, I began to run the trail. I made the final cut off point by seconds and then had an hour and a half to make the final 7 miles, which I did with 10 minutes to spare. I chose this race as the most fascinating experience because I came completely to the end of myself, and in the moment of greatest need, I felt like God gave me the gift of completing it!
Races/events completed this season:
I ran the Whiskey Row Marathon in Prescott, Arizona in May, a half-iron distance race in Show Low, Arizona called Deuceman in June, a trail 10k in July, and then Ironman Arizona in November. Don’t tell my coach that I have one more marathon coming up soon, because I am supposed to be recovering from Ironman Arizona!
Favorite race/s (all-time):  
I think that I would say that my first Iron distance race was the highlight. The people in Idaho put on the most amazing race, and the venue was so beautiful…or maybe it’s just that it was my first. A close second was my only Boston Marathon opportunity on my 50th birthday that I qualified for on my 30th marathon.
Athletic achievement/s you are most proud of:  
The events that I am most proud of are those that I competed in to raise money for worthwhile causes, i.e. an orphanage in India, a missionary in Hungary, MS, Cancer Research, etc. I love running for causes that are bigger than me.
Goals for next season:  
Well, if I get chosen in the Kona Ironman lottery, than I would love to do that. Otherwise, I will seek to do three marathons, a couple of tri’s, including the half-iron distance in Show Low, and continue to enjoy the training.
Favorite running trail and/or bike route:
I love the Peavine Trail in Prescott. It is a 7.25 mile (one-way) long course through the incredibly beautiful Dells (rock formations), hosting mountain lions and rattlesnakes.
Favorite racing and/or training tip (what would you tell a newbie, and not necessarily something Dara told you!):
Plan your race, and race your plan! Don’t get caught up in keeping up with others, either in your training or your races, and enjoy becoming healthier while reaching your goals
A favorite “Dara-ism”:
Dara has such unique and fun ways to motivate me. I think one of my favorites is “use your best training memories to get you through the tough bits.”

David, it is ALWAYS a pleasure working with you! I have been in awe of all that you have accomplished and the Man against Horse race was truly impressive. Amazing what the mind can do and then the body will follow.

Now, when is that marathon…?

Mental Skills Training
This month we’re going to focus on the second method of training mental skills that the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), has found to be important for consistent, optimal performance: Goal setting.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is an effective way to enhance motivation and process-oriented behavior. And it is the best way to actually achieve your goals! We establish the major goals for the year, then develop stepping stone goals to incremental achieve those major goals.

Goal setting ranges from the micro to the macro in scope.
Micro examples:

  • The goal of a specific workout- what are we trying to accomplish today?
  • The race plan: how will the athlete stay on track on race day? This will cover every aspect of the race, from what the athlete eats for breakfast and the logistics of race morning, to HR, RPE, cadence and power targets during the race, to mental skills employed, and hydration and nutrition plans for the race.

Macro examples:

  • What are the overarching goals for the season? For example to race a 40k TT in under an hour, to qualify for the Boston Marathon or Hawaii for example.
  • What are the goals for each race? Some races we train through (no taper and no peak) just for the experience. Some races are the target races where we have pace goals or finish time goals.
  • Based on the athletes strengths and weaknesses (specific to the target races), what are the performance areas that need improvement?  I might be weak on hills, but if I am doing a flat race, then hill climbing is not actually a race specific weakness. However, if I am racing a windy course, then I do need to develop more power on the bike.

Research and reports from elite athletes prove that setting goals improves performance as this enhances motivation, self-confidence, commitment, effort, and mental readiness. Pursuing and attaining specific short-term (micro) goals on the way to achieving longer-term (macro) goals conveys reliable information to the athlete about their capabilities and their progress. Setting goals provides the road map for a long journey; you have to map out the route before a trip if you want to arrive at the destination! Of course, without clear goals you don’t even know the destination!

Some goal setting guidelines: SMART: specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, timely.

  • Specific: Goals should be stated in the positive and well defined. “I want to get faster,” is not a good goal. “I want to do the Bigsville Turkey Trot in 24:38” gives the athlete a specific goal to work towards.
  • Measureable: Again, “faster” is not measureable. But my finishing time for the Bigsville Turkey trot is. Or one could have a power goal, a pace per 100m, a running pace, or a body fat target, etc.
  • Attainable and realistic: goals should be under your control like times to shoot for, nutritional habits to adapt, mental skills training to incorporate. Realistic: goals should be based on reasonable expectations. Goals should be a stretch, but not impossible. If I currently run a 10 minute mile, then it is not realistic to think that I can qualify for Boston this year. But if I want to run a 9:30 at a half marathon in 6 months, that might be doable. It is a stretch, but realistic.
  • Relevant: if my overarching goal is to qualify for Ironman World Championships, then the goal needs to put me on that road. Learning to mountain climb is not a stepping stone to qualifying for Kona.
  • Timely: set target dates for accomplishment of progressive, short term goals based on the long term goals. For example, “ I will swim 1000m in 18:46 by February 6th”.  You can adapt as you go along and have small victories more often and gradually attain your goals!

Goals must be reinforced with appropriate training and testing. It is no good setting goals and then not checking in to see how you are progressing.

Some samples:

  • Annual (overarching/macro) goals.
  • Qualify for Kona at IM St. G , May 7th.
  • Qualify for Boston at Humboldt marathon (10/4)
  • Break 60 mins for 40k cycle TT by (11/4)

All the other goals listed are the stepping stones to annual goals.

  • Training goals/objectives (tasks) physical and mental (based on what the athlete needs to do to reach the annual goals.
  • Increase biking FTP to 250 watts by April 20th.
  • Increase running lactate threshold by 5% by March 9.
  • Test monthly/6 weeks.
  • Do hill/group ride workout once/week.
  • Implement mental training skills (MST) in every workout.
  • Break 25 mins on 1500m swim TT by Feb 20th.
  • Racing skills:
    • Decide on the appropriate gear
    • Figure out how to fuel during races
    • Practice transitions
  • Racing knowledge:
    • Drive/ride/run the course, or at least download the profile
    • Come up with a pre-race routine
    • Have a back up plan. “A” race, “B” race, “C” race.
  • Racing risks:
    • How do you minimize the risks during a road race?
    • Bike in good order, body in good order!
    • Know your strengths and weaknesses: (cornering, downhills, etc).


Happy Holidays to you all!   Dara.


About TriCoachDara

I have been a multi-sport coach since 2001 and during that time I have trained hundreds of athletes for whom triathlon, running, biking, fitness and health must fit into very busy lives. My clientele includes lawyers, doctors, full time mothers, office workers, school teachers, nurses, and entrepreneurs – and every one of them has a jam packed schedule. My goal is to help each athlete strike a balance between training to their maximum potential and balancing the various other aspects of their lives, as well as to provide all the information they need to perform at their best and stay healthy and injury free.
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