October’s blog

Hello All,

I have been thrilled with all  your races thus far in the season, and all your hard work is paying off!

You have been training hard at varying levels of intensity, but with quality time spent actually at race intensity, which helps you to be able to hit race efforts on the day, when it counts the most. One of the biggest mistakes an athlete can make is to train at intensities that don’t prepare you for the rigors of race day physically or mentally- often training above or below race specific intensities. Of course, the flip side of this is that the athlete trains at what they believe will be race day intensity, but then on the day of the race gets overexcited, overconfident, and falls prey to the greatest race day sin: racing way harder than s/he trained!  No matter how hard and long you trained for your event, if you race harder than your goal pace/ intensity then you are actually UNTRAINED for your race. The rigors of training prepare you mentally and physically for what you will encounter on race day, from how to eat and drink during the event, to how to mentally handle the tough parts, and of course, how to pace yourself for the duration. Each one of these elements is very specific, and if you change the intensity on race day then you seriously risk a DNF (did not finish) as your body and mind are not actually prepared for the event. So, whether you are currently working with a coach or not, be sure that you have spent time at specific race intensities and then follow the plan on race day!

And just a reminder that while racing always involves at least a little bit of discomfort and suffering (the more you care, the harder you try, the more pain is involved), this “unpleasantness” is simply your body letting you know you are achieving your goals. Your training taught you to handle it, to embrace it and to love it, and your racing will teach you it was worth it all.

Train smart, race hard, and have fun my friends.



For those of you getting ready for the New York City Marathon, one of my clients found this great race pacing link- thank you, Cicily and good luck at the race!



Heel or mid-foot strike- is there a right and wrong? An interesting article in the New York Times about whether we should try to change our foot-strike if we are heel strikers. This study at least says, “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” In other words, if you are running strong and pain free, then there is no need to change to a mid-foot strike. I can run with that.



Injury prevention checklist from USA Triathlon.

Some good ideas from Tri-Hard.com. However, the power workout in season, without ample training to prepare your body for that is not such a good idea as I feel it may set you up for injury and will be counter-productive for other, tri specific, workout that follow.  Power workouts in the off-season are a great idea, but not in season or near races.



For those trail-runners among us: http://www.buzzfeed.com/melaniepoloff/38-things-that-make-you-a-trailrunner-dhod

For those ultra runners amongst us: http://whatisultra.tumblr.com/

Are you mentally set up for success? a short piece from USA Cycling: http://www.usacycling.org/are-you-mentally-set-up-for-success.htm

Are you nutritionally set up for a yummy snack?

Homemade Vegan Energy Bar Recipe

The “dry” Ingredients: 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 2/3 cup oats 1 cup Grape Nuts cereal 3/4 cup raisins (I used golden) 1 cup shredded coconut (I could only find sweetened) 1/3 cup unsalted almonds, chopped 1/3 cup unsalted cashews, chopped 1 cinnamon stick, ground (or 2 tsp ground, but I totally recommend the taste of freshly ground!)

The “wet” ingredients: 2 tbs flax seed 1/4 cup warm water 1 1/2 cups cooked Great Northern Beans (or 1 15 oz can) 15 dates, seeds removed and chopped (about 1 cup or 1/2 a lb) 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 tbs honey 1 tbs canola oil 1/2 cup applesauce (I made mine on the stove by cooking two peeled and diced apples for about 30 minutes with 1/4 cup of water, 2 tbs pomegranate molasses, and 1 tbs maple syrup)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If starting with dry beans, soak a half pound over night, then simmer for about one hour or until soft.  If starting with canned, rinse well to remove saltiness.  Chop the beans roughly either by hand or in a food processor.  They don’t need to be processed into a puree, just tiny pieces.

Grind the flax seed and mix it with the water, set aside to thicken.

Combine the dry ingredients together first and mix well.  Add the wet ingredients and mix until uniformly incorporated.  Press into a greased 9×13 pan or casserole dish.  Bake for a total of 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan half way through.  (Mine were finished at about 23 minutes).  Cool completely, then cut into 24 bars.   I cut a line down the middle of the pan lengthwise then 12 cuts across.  Leave unwrapped for harder bars; put in airtight container for softer bars.  Toast cut bars in the toaster oven for a crispy outside.  If keeping longer than one week, wrap and freeze.

Nutrition facts for whole pan / one bar

calories from fat: 919 / 38.3 calories: 3779.3 / 157 fat: 105 / 4.4 sat fat: 30 / 1.25 protein: 109.2 / 4.6 sodium: 1584.3 / 66 total carbs: 713 / 29.7 sugar: 333 / 13.9 fiber: 178.2 / 7.4

– See more at: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/homemade-energy-bars/#sthash.65eaqMSN.dpuf


I know, I know, I may have already have shared this one with you: a little Ironman humor….http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=triathlon+cartoon&qs=n&form=QBVR&pq=triathlon+cartoon&sc=0-0&sp=-1&sk=#view=detail&mid=467DFBB05B9A2653926B467DFBB05B9A2653926B

Breathing rhythm and your stride rate.

I often ask my athletes to try to find the rhythm between their breathing and their cadence as there are many benefits to doing this. I recently came across an article that talks about this very thing. Written by Coach Jeff Gaudette on runnersconnect.net

For both beginners and advanced runners alike, improving   running form and technique is one of the most asked questions I get as a   coach.Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most complex and variable components of   training, both to adequately explain and for the runner to implement. Foot   strike, turnover, paw back, knee lift, these are just a few of the terms used   to describe the multitude of muscle movements, both conscious and   subconscious, that go into every step you take. Isolating and improving these   processes is difficult and can often distract a runner from the ultimate goal   – running faster, running longer and staying injury-free.

Consider a recent   study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina . When   researchers interviewed 35 runners who wore minimalist shoes and asked them   whether they were heel or forefoot strikers, all 35 responded that they were   forefoot strikers. However, after analyzing footstrike patterns with a   slow-motion camera, 33% of the runners were actually heel strikers.

First, this   study is a good demonstration of how difficult it can be to identify your   specific running form issues when your foot strikes the ground so quickly.   More importantly, it’s a good example of the risks associated with thinking   you’re doing something right, when you’re actually doing it wrong.

The   accepted theory is that running in minimalist footwear decreases the impact   forces on your legs because the lack of cushioning encourages you land on   your forefoot. This is definitely true, but if you wear minimalist shoes and   you don’t land on your forefoot when you think you are, vertical loading   rates can be up to 37% higher than heel striking in traditional shoes and 50%   higher than forefoot striking in minimalist shoes. It doesn’t take a PhD to   realize that increasing your ground impact with each step by 50% can lead to   some serious injuries.

So, how can   you determine if you’re running with the correct form during the middle of a   run when no one is around? I recommend counting your stride rate. Research   has shown that stride   rate helps runners land with their foot properly beneath them, which   promotes forefoot striking and reduces loading rates.

Luckily, to get started on improving your running form,   you can implement one simple trick that will help you develop a foundation   for optimal running form and provide a building block for future improvements.   So, what’s this “secret” building block? Improving your stride   rate.

What is   stride rate

Your stride   rate is the number of steps you take per minute. Stride rate could also be   called your running cadence or turnover. Calculating your stride rate is   easy, simply count how many times your right foot hits the ground while   running, and then multiply by two. This number is your stride rate.

Why is   stride rate important

Improves   your form

As   previously mentioned, your stride rate is a fundamental building-block to   establishing good form. By implementing the proper turnover rate, you   increase your chances of striking the ground at the correct angle and moving   through the proper range of motion when your leg moves back, up and forward.

Improves   your running economy

Running   economy is a measure of how efficiently you use energy when running. It’s   exactly like the way a car measures miles per gallon. The more efficient you   run, the longer you can go before getting tired, and the less effort you will   use to run fast. Running with the optimal stride length maximizes your force   on toe off (when your foot pushes you off the ground to move forward) and   minimizes the time you spend in the air by controlling your stride length.   These elements contribute to improving your efficiency.

Reduces   your chance of injury

One of the   main causes of running injuries is shock absorption, or lack thereof. If your   stride rate is too low, you will spend more time moving up in the air, moving   up and down as opposed to forward, and consequently land on the ground with   more force. With the proper stride rate, you take lighter, quicker steps and   reduce your chance of injury.

So what   is the optimal stride rate?

As the   subject of stride rate has become more main-stream, so too has the emergence   of the “magic” optimum stride-rate of 180spm. The reason for this   is as follows: at the 1984 Olympics, famous running coach Jack Daniels   counted the stride rates among elite distance runners. Of the 46 he studied,   only one took less than 180spm (176spm). Daniels also noted that in his 20   years of coaching college students, he never had a beginner runner with a   stride rate of over 180spm.

Unfortunately,   Daniels’ studies have been misquoted and as a result lead to all too frequent   claims that everybody should be running at 180spm. These claims ignore the   fact that Daniels noted stride rates of at least 180spm, not exactly   180spm. History clearly shows Haile Gebrselassie running 197spm en route to   his world record time of 2:03:59 at the 2008 Berlin Marathon, and Abebe   Bikila used a 217spm to become the first man to run a 2:12 marathon (2:12:13,   Tokyo 1964).

Differences   in our biological make-up means what works for one runner will not   necessarily work for all. If you do one day become an elite distance runner   (and we sincerely hope you do!) it is highly likely your race cadence will be   over 180spm. However, and this is the important part, your journey to 180spm   and beyond needs to be gradual.

The average   recreational runner has a cadence closer to 150-170 spm. How quickly you   progress and in what direction your running form develops will be affected by   factors unique to you – your height, hip mobility, level of general fitness,   to name a few.

The safest   and most appropriate way to increase your cadence is to try and improve by 5%   to 10% at a time.

How do I   increase my cadence gradually?

  1.   Using the counting your steps   method described above, determine your current cadence for a speed you would   use for a 5km+ race. Let’s imagine it is 160spm. Adding the 5% increase (10%   could well be too much of a jump), your new target is 168spm.
  2.   Start by adding short distances   into your runs in which you try to maintain your new target. This can be done   through use of a metronome (available from Amazon or downloadable as an app   for your phone). Be careful as many of these gadgets still regard 180spm as   the “magic” number and will only provide beats of 180spm+. Sites   like JogTunes   can be used to find music with beats per minute (bpm) to match your   desired spm. Otherwise, you can always just monitor your progress with a   30-second one foot count (then multiply it by 4).
  3.   Practicing your new stride rate on   a treadmill can sometimes be handy as you can set the speed to stay the same.
  4.   Once you have can comfortably run   your a 5km+ pace at your new spm (without thinking about it – remember we are   seeking unconscious competence), add another 5% and repeat the   process.

How to   improve your stride rate

If you want   to improve your stride rate, focus on developing a 180 steps per minute   turnover during your easy runs. On easy days, you have less to think about   than tempo workouts or speed days.


Imagine   you’re running on a road made of eggshells and you don’t want to break them.   Picture yourself floating over the ground quickly, with light, purposeful   steps. Focus on running over the ground, not into it.


If you run   with music or a smartphone, consider installing a metronome   app that you can set to a 180 bpm range. Focus on taking one step for   every click of the metronome. You’ll quickly fall into a natural 180 stride   per minute rhythm and can turn off the metronome.

Likewise,   music can throw off your stride rate. Many runners tend to naturally move to   the beat of the music. If you want to improve your form, consider running   sans music or with a metronome app instead.


If you’re   like me and do most of your runs technology free, you can simply count the   number of steps you take with your right foot. Count for a minute and see how   close to 90 steps per minute you get. Speed up or slow down your stride rate   accordingly and you’ll soon find yourself running in a natural rhythm.

Of course,   you don’t need to be exactly 180. A slight deviation like 175 or 185 is ok   too, as long as it feels comfortable for you. Stay close to the 180 range and   you’ll be on your way to improved running form before you know it.


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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