Step Up and Tri – Feb 2012

Welcome to (late) February’s Blog.

I know how my athletes feel – I am trying not to panic that it is already the end of February and I am only 10 weeks away from race day in Utah! I am working harder than I have ever worked for a race and starting to feel like I will deserve to toe the start line on May 5th. Yes, even the coach gets nervous 🙂

I have been focusing more on mental training for athletes this year as I believe it is a vital, and often overlooked, component of training and racing. Never being one who likes to put my clients through something that I don’t practice, I have been working harder on that aspect of my training also and as a result my workouts have been more consistent and of a higher quality with more positive and directed mental training as a dedicated part of each session.  Every hard session I am talking to myself (of course, as an only child that is not that unusual) and coaxing myself through all the tough bits- reminding myself that all this hard work will  pay off on race day and make me capable of finishing with a smile on my face. I am tough enough, I am strong enough and I am fit enough for this race. While there is some pain involved in many of my workouts, I am not suffering through them- I am loving each one and feeling stronger week by week. And even better than that, my athletes are saying the same things. We work hard at this game, on so many levels, and though we are not getting paid to do this we often work just as hard as some of the pros, all the while balancing family, careers, and all the other things that life throws at us. The training itself so often is therapy to help us deal with stress, but the mental training enriches more than just the physical training: it also helps us deal with other life stresses and to stay positive and dedicated and strong.  So, my friends, train hard, train smart, and live and race happy.

Mental Skills Training:
Part four of the series in six techniques for better mental power –This month we’re going to focus on the element of mental skills training that the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) has found to be important for consistent, optimal performance: Concentration Training.

Attentional focus is the athlete’s ability to pay attention to the most relevant information during training and racing, and quite a few athletes struggle to keep their attention focused on the important performance cues. The athlete must be able to switch attentional focus as needed to an internal or external perspective and a broad or narrow perspective, depending on the situation. As endurance athletes we need to be able to pay attention to form, HR, RPE, power, hydration and nutrition, road hazards, other athletes, pacing, and tactics and it is not as automatic as you would think. It is easy to get distracted (especially in very fast, short races or long, grueling ones) and this can lead to poor performance, or worse –accidents, injury or illness.

The following strategies are fundamental ways that athletes can implement attentional and concentration training:

  • Learn to pay attention to specific performance cues.  For example: monitoring and recognizing RPE, HR, cadence and power.
  • Learn how to address performance problems by focusing on particular technical or tactical cues (e.g., “listen to your pedal stroke” or “Lean forward from the ankles as you run”).
  • Focus on form points during practice so that it is second nature during competition which will free up mental resources for something else. (this will also make you more efficient!)
  • Focus on specific aspects of performance in training to make it rote behavior on race day so it takes less mental energy and will be easier to focus on as it is so familiar: for example hydration and nutrition, or form points, or optimal cadence.
  • Review workouts after the fact to figure out what went right or wrong in order to highlight specific performance elements and then purposefully focus on those in the next training session.
  • Simulate race conditions by competing with friends so you are used to the pressure and can stay focused. If race day is the first time you actually compete, nerves can have a negative effect and really through you off your game. You must “emotionally inoculate” yourself against the stresses of race day by training in race like conditions. You can also use “throw-away” races for this purpose.
  • Apply these four phases to your workouts: assess, analyze, rehearse, and execute. Assess each workout, figure out what you did right and what needs work, practice that in your training sessions, and then execute as you have practiced on race day.

Athletes can improve their awareness of what they are focusing on, but these skills need continuous practice. Make mental training a part of every session!

Training and racing are all about what we do with our minds.  Train your mind to work with you, not against you, and to help you deal with the things you have control over…the rest is just dust and garbage. 🙂

Barefoot Running – the debate continues.

Do you truly love it (of course you do)?

Ultra-marathons – who actually does these?
Do you ever wonder what makes a person actually do an ultra-marathon? C’mon, that’s anywhere from a 50k to 135 mile run people! Who in their right mind would even attempt that, right? Well, a new study from Martin D. Hoffman & Kevin Fogard (2012), actually reveals the type of person who runs these and the stats might surprise you.

Their findings indicate that 161-km ultra-marathon participants are largely well-educated, middle-aged, married men who rarely miss work due to illness or injury, generally use vitamins and/or supplements, and maintain appropriate body mass with aging.

Let’s break it down some more: Around 80% of the participants in 161-km ultra-marathons are men and the average age is in the mid-forties. They tend to have had 5+ years of education beyond high school. They’ve only lost around 2 days of work or school in the previous year due to illness or injury. Over 75% of these runners reported using vitamins and/or supplements. And their Body Mass Index values were around 23% for women and 20% for men.

The full study can be found here,

Athlete Race Update:
Miami ING half marathon results — Everyone did awesome especially considering it was a hot & humid morning and there were bridges! (Bonnie: 1:48, Franny: 1:55, Nathan: 1:49, Sue: 2:11 and Dara: 2:12)
Fort Lauderdale full and half marathon results — Another hot and humid morning! Sue (half): 2:07, Catherine (full): 4:22, Nathan (full): 4:38

Upcoming Races:
New Orleans Marathon: Go Bonnie!

Progressive Muscle Relaxation – reduces stress & a whole lot more.
This is a great technique to help you sleep and relax and deal with stress. Don’t use it before a race though as it will make you too relaxed!

Featured Athlete:  Kristy Breslaw
Past history of sports participation:
Prior to triathlons, I did Boot Camp for 4 years when I 1st moved to Florida. That is where I met my husband Ralph.  Other than that I was not athletic at all and never worked out until I turned 25.
What was your first tri & what made you do it
: Ralph and I did a Duathlon in 2002 on mountain bikes.  We weren’t so crazy about it and certainly didn’t like getting creamed riding mountain bikes so we bought road bikes and started riding for about a year.  We had some friends we rode with that did triathlons so in 2003 we did our 1st Triathlon Publix Family Fitness sprint in Deerfield and we were hooked 🙂 The rest is history!
What do you love about training and racing? I love the discipline, the challenge and the focus that is required to both race and train.  I love that I can do it all with Ralph and my friends.  The social aspect, the people, the friends is just as great at the physical aspect of it.  I love the exercise and to see what my body is capable of doing. 
Favorite training or racing experiences:
We started traveling to races a few years ago so I have a few favorites for races.  Hawaii 70.3, Timberman 70.3, Vegas 70.3  World Championship’s and Ironman Florida are my favorite race experiences so far.  Training, we are lucky to have A1A but I love going up to Clermont to train in the hills too.
Races/events completed last season: Nautica, FAU, Hawaii 70.3, Vegas 70.3 and Ironman Florida
Favorite race/s (all-time): Tie between Hawaii 70.3 and Vegas 70.3 for course and experience but nothing beats IRONMAN 🙂
Athletic achievement/s you are most proud of: PR at Ironman Florida last year by 45 minutes and making it to VEGAS 🙂
Goals for the 2012 season:
Get FASTER and stronger to be more competitive at 70.3’s and one day hopefully get back to Vegas
Favorite running trail and/or bike route: Local I guess favorite bike ride is Clermont.  I don’t run too many trails but I like running on the Levee
Favorite racing and/or training tip (what would you tell a newbie, and not necessarily something Dara told you!):
Be patient and positive.  Triathlon has a steep learning curve and it takes many years to really see results.  Have fun and enjoy the journey! It’s the hard/bad days that help you learn and grow as an athlete!
A favorite “Dara-ism”:
hmmm tough one as I haven’t had the honor of hearing many of them yet 🙂  Stay positive, focus on the process not the outcome (I think that is it lol). That’s right, Kristy!

Monthly Recipe:
Mushroom Veggie Burger
Makes 4 large or 6 larger mushroom veggie burgers
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2lb mushrooms, roughly chopped (combo of crimini, shiitake & portobello)
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan or an equal quantity  of nutritional yeast
  • ¾ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten or No Egg (vegan egg substitute)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Heat 1 tbsp oil in large pan. Saute the mushrooms, onions, garlic  over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid boils off, and the mushrooms begin to sauté. In a large bowl, add mushroom mixture to oats, parmesan, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. Allow to sit for 15 minutes to develop the flavors. Shape into patties. Heat 2 tbsp oil in large non-stick skillet, over medium heat. Fry patties, cooking about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Serve with your favorite burger toppings.

Are your legs dead? Try these poses to get some life back into your pins.
Post-Run Yoga Routine to Restore Your Legs from

Always time for a quick laugh:

Lance is back! Here’s a pretty cool video of his debut:

Poll :


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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