Sunday, January 26, 2014

Common Mistakes

For the past few years, I've coached the Iowa State University triathlon team.  Last week, I had the opportunity to present at their triathlon weekend via Skype.  One of the presentations was about common mistakes collegiate triathletes make in triathlon.  Though it focused on youth, this list can apply to all ages.  Enjoy! 

#1:  Training Non-Specific to Triathlon

If you’re going to set big goals in triathlon and train as a triathlete you must do things that make you better at triathlon; swimming, biking, running, transitioning and strength training.  Things like boot camp, Cross Fit – these are all fun fitness activities with low relevance and high risk for triathlon.  Doing them comes at a cost – usually injury or burnout or fatigue when it comes to doing your key triathlon workouts.  If you’re going to seek top performance, you need to make choices.  Often that means giving up some things you want to do to make room and energy for the things you actually need to do to be a better triathlete.  Save the outside stuff for the off season when you’re not asking as much of your body with the triathlon training. 

#2:  Random vs Specific Training 

The best training is the most specific to you and your goals.  By doing random, non-specific training, you get random, non-specific results (and risk injury).  Beware of just training to train with no focus and structure.  Following a logical training plan will keep you focused and on track with purposeful structure designed to develop your fitness towards your goals. 

#3:  Violating Basic Principles 

Fitness is built through two principles: consistency in training and recovery from that training.  Most athletes are willing to put more time into training or go harder in training without accepting that the real gains are made by recovering more to promote better health and consistency (meaning: no workouts missed, injuries, low energy days).  The difference between pros and age groupers?  Not talent or training 30 hours a week.  It’s making the time for the little things that add up to big gains; ample sleep, quality nutrition, massage, stretching, injury prevention, icing, etc.  This allows them to be consistent with their training day to day, week to week, year to year – this consistency adds up to progress. 

#4:  Bad Form Is Bad For You

Swimming, biking and running each have proper form that allows for economical and efficient movement.  Economy and efficiency are not only key to performing movements fast but also staying injury-free.  Throughout the season, take the time to incorporate drills and exercises specific to your weaknesses and flaws in form.  Ask a friend to take video of your swim stroke, pedaling technique or run gait so you can address what needs work.  While technique work is boring, having the patience and taking the time to do what others won’t tolerate doing leads to your advantage and performance improvement.

#5:  Garbage In = Garbage Out

Proper nutrition is the cornerstone for health and performance.  Health is consistency and – consistency is the key to progress in your fitness and training.  When you have missed days from illness, injury or low energy, you create inconsistencies.  Inconsistency creates holes in the foundation of your fitness making it harder to not just build fitness but build to the next level of performance.  Proper nutrition is, therefore, free fitness and speed.  Get an understanding of what it takes to fuel an athletic lifestyle; the proper ratio of carbohydrate, fat and protein will keep you healthy, lean and strong. 

#6: Missing the Recovery Window

The 30 minutes post-workout are critical for glycogen replenishment and rehydration.  Glycogen is a fancy term for your energy stores.  You have enough glycogen on board to support about a 90 minute effort.  This is why any workout or race lasting longer than 90 minutes (which is a sprint triathlon for most athletes!) requires a fuel and hydration plan.  When you deplete your glycogen stores through hard/long training or improper fueling or missing the recovery window, you put yourself a little further into a hole of low energy.  This negatively influences your workout for the next day and done often enough, increases your chances of getting sick or injured.  30 minutes after every workout, consume a source of carbohydrate, protein and rehydrate. 

#7:  Alcohol Is The Enemy

Not only does alcohol put you are risk for embarrassing and dangerous situations, it also is an athlete’s poison.  Your sleep quality and quantity suffers.  You’re also prone to making poor food choices when consuming alcohol.  You wake up dehydrated, queasy and with a higher heart rate – making your body work harder even for an easier effort.  Any athlete serious about their goals knows that abstaining from alcohol is critical 

#8:  Ignoring Triathlon As 5 Sports 

Most athletes train the swim, bike and run but on race day completely forget about the other, often more important factors, for success in racing.  Pacing – having a sound pace plan that you practice in training and then have the maturity, control and patience to execute on race day will go a long way.  Fueling/Hydrating – following a well-practiced and specific plan for what, how much and when to eat and drink during races is critical for ANY race lasting over 90 minutes.  Transitioning – a fast swim is nothing if you spend 2 minutes getting out of your wetsuit!  You can practice transitions before and after every workout on every training day. 

#9:  Racing Without a Plan 

Racing without a plan is like traveling without a map.  If you point your car in the general direction of California you might end up there or might end up in --- Canada?  Have a plan.  A week before your race, sit down and think through your timeline, pacing, mental strategies and supply lists.  Literally write out what you will do and when.  Read through it several times before race day, spending time visualize it in your mind’s eye.  You’d be surprised at how automatic your race will feel on race day – like you’re pressing the “play” button in your head and your “script” unfolds. 

#10:  Racing Without Research 

 Not only should you go into a race with a plan but a basic understanding of the demands of the race.  What’s the terrain like?  Temperature?  What time does the sun rise?  Will you be swimming into the sun?  Is there current?  What’s the weather forecast?  Wind direction and speed?  Road quality?  Look for blogs and race reports from athletes who have done the course before.  The day before the race, preview the course by car.  Doing your research on the course and knowing what to expect is free speed.  You start to control the controllables; goggle choice, tire inflation, gear, heat management supplies, pacing.  Triathlon great Paula Newby-Fraser once said: Expect anything, prepare for everything. 

#11:  Overracing 

 As we get into race season, it’s common for athletes to want to race every weekend.  After all, racing is the reward for all of your training!  But beware of racing too frequently.  It leads to a pattern of race – recover – race – recover and in that time, you don’t actually build fitness, you lose it – ending the summer less fit than you started and also risking injury.  Space out your races appropriately.  Choose 1 to 2 peak races per season, spacing them out by 8 weeks or more.  Mix in other races throughout.  The longer the race, the more time you need to prepare and recover from it.  Use shorter races (sprints, run races) as training experiences to build your fitness for peak races – but still respect the need for rest after any type of race or breakthrough training experience. 

#12:  Going Long

The worst thing a young athlete can do is train or race the “speed” out of their system.  In youth, you have the unique privilege of elasticity and freshness in your body.  Your hormones are more robust.  All of these things lend to faster performances and higher potential.  When athletes go too long too soon, they deplete their hormones, they drain their energy and lose precious ‘pop’ that we all naturally lose as we ago.  While you’re under 30, go short, fast and have fun.  Avoid half and full Ironman distances.  Build up your durability through triathlon-specific strength training and take an annual rest cycle to decompress from the work and damage you’ve done.  These things will allow you to stay healthy, motivated and fresh for long-term performance well into your 50s in endurance sports.  Remember, you can still be fast at going long well into your 40s and 50s.  You start to lose your ability to go fast at shorter distances in your late 30s.  

#13:  Short-Sightedness

Training is not just a day to day endeavor – it’s a series of purposeful workouts that tie into a big picture.  That big picture should be your ultimate or “A” season goal.  This goal is top priority; your training structure, timing and details are geared towards making this goal happen.  Often athletes scoff at the drills, the technique work, the boring “base building” workouts that lay the foundation for the harder, race specific work ahead. This view is short-sighted, with short-term gratification or boredom overruling long-term planning for your goal.  Widen the lens.  Look at everything you do – no matter how simple, boring, or slow as an integral part to your long term development as an athlete looking to achieve peak performance at your top season goal. 

#14:  Learn to Take the Funnel Approach 

Imagine your “A” race as sitting at the bottom of a funnel.  As you get closer to the bottom, the space you have for error, extras and anything other than laser-like focus for your goal – becomes less.  Approach your races the same way.  As you get closer to your race, start to decline social outings, take the little time you do have to really take care of your body, zero in on your diet and wrap yourself in bubble wrap!  Saying no might be a small sacrifice for achieving your big goal.  After the race, take the time to kick back, recover and fall off the wagon a bit.  This will help your body to recover from the stress of preparing for an A race and give you the sense that all of your work was worth it. 

#15:  You Can’t Do It All 

You cannot peak for a sprint, Olympic, marathon and Ironman in a single season – no matter how good you are.  Choose one thing and do it well.  Focus your training and racing on a specific distance, giving yourself the time and training experiences that will lend to peak performance at that distance.  Though a sprint and an Ironman are both triathlons – the training is completely different.  Focus to get the most out of your performance. 

#16:  Information Overload

Today’s youth are privileged to have an abundance of information at their fingertips from multiple sources.   Everyone is an expert on the internet and social media.  The challenge of youth is to learn to filter out what is meaningful, reasonable and relevant.  Find a few reputable sources and mentors and follow what they say.  Learn how to compartmentalize the information out there into categories of scientific proof/theory and opinion.  Follow theories that have stood the test of time.  Experiment carefully and minimally with anything else.  Don’t believe most of what you read on forums.  Above all, have someone you can bounce information and ideas off of to help you make sense of everything out there.   

#17:  Avoiding An Ounce of Prevention

With youth comes an invincibility that time will never catch up to you or it will never happen to you.  The five most dangerous words you can say to yourself maybe it will go away.  It might – for a short time but chances are it will catch up to you and become a bigger problem later.  Now, when you have the time as your life really isn’t busy and it really is just all about you – take care of yourself.   Do body maintenance – improve your mobility through stretching and yoga.  Increase your strength through sensible, multi-planar functional strength training.  Look for the cause of any injuries or recurring niggles – whether through the help of a physical therapist or sports doctor.  Invest in the best equipment (ie., shoes, bike fit) to keep your body injury free. 

#18:  Not Listening to Your Body

The best athletes are finely in tune with what their body is saying.  If you think your body isn’t giving you messages, you’re not listening!  Feelings of fatigue, hunger and stress are all powerful messages from your body.  Taking a day off, eating more or relaxing will go a long way to fight off illness or injury.  Taking your resting heart rate each morning is another way to listen to your body’s messages.  A few days of an elevated heart rate suggest it’s time to back off the stress and take it easy.  A pain in your foot might mean it’s time to reduce run volume, stretch or get a massage.  Listen to your body! 

#19:  Worrying About What Others Are Doing 

Training with groups or friends can be a great way to push yourself, stay motivated and make the time fly.  But be careful of turning every session into a competitive hammer fest.  Stay your own path.  This is your journey, your process.  On your easy days – train solo or exhibit the maturity and patience to go easy when your schedule calls for going easy.  Do what’s right for your body and goals – not your friends.  Race in races only – don’t leave your best performances in training. 

#20:  Distractability 

Distractability is a dilemma for today’s youth. Your ability to focus is constantly challenged by so many sources of incoming stimuli, options and media.  Learning to focus through meditation, quiet time or visualization is critical for being an athlete.  Practicing the ability to be in the moment, here and now, will help you to reign in your doubts, mind and self-talk during a race.  When you are racing – it’s all about finding the quiet in your head so you can focus on the task at hand.  Once a week, practice the art of focus in training – no watching tv, no listening to music, no talking to friends, no checking email/Twitter/Facebook.  Learn how to direct your mind and manage the chatter in your head. 

#21:  Ignoring the Stress Bucket

How full is your bucket?  Are you taking 20 hours of classes, working a part-time job and pulling all nighters?  If so, your stress bucket is full.  Training is also stress.  Even though you may enjoy training and feel a stress release from it, anything that taxes the body is stress.  And the body does not differentiate between life stress, work stress and training stress.  To stay healthy and make gains in your training, you need to be sure your bucket doesn’t overflow.  “Balance” is the word often used to find that point where you can manage the demands of life, work, relationships, training and school without overflowing the bucket. 

#22:  Going At It Alone 

Everyone needs someone they can depend on when they’re confused, feeling low or need direction.  Find a mentor, role model or coach you can look up to, ask questions and seek guidance.  This might be an old coach, an old teammate, a professional athlete.  Find an objective source that you can bring your questions and concerns about training and performance.  Look up to them; value their opinion, experience and perspective.  Ask questions and filter what you find most useful for you and your situation. 


Thanks to Jennifer Harrison (who coaches University of Illinois triathlon team) and Nick Rizzo (one of my athletes who is a collegiate women's soccer coach) for brainstorming some ideas with me about this topic!  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Test Sets

Last week, I had my masters group do a timed 1000.  If you want to learn a lot about the psychology of an athlete, hit them with a “surprise” 1000 time trial!

Understanding that some swim for fitness, others for triathlon preparation and still others just for social reasons, a test set at masters can be a very tricky thing.  Many fear the test.  Others opt out.  Some ask questions:  Do I go all out for a 1000?  What if I need to pass someone?  How many laps is it?  Then there’s a quiet few who plot their pacing and strategy through the warm up, eagerly awaiting the chance to push themselves.  Which category would you fall into?  Changing how you think about the test and how you approach the test can definitely change the result.    

No matter how fast, experienced or unfit an athlete is, they will benefit from a test.  Especially prior to race season.  You see, testing is very much like a race.  For many athletes, testing brings out the nervous, tentative, doubtful side of themselves.  The very sight of the word “test” on a schedule can bring butterflies to the stomach.  How that athlete prepares for the test, executes it and performs is very useful information for the athlete and the coach.  It gives us a sneak peak of the obstacles we’ll have to manage on race day – whether it’s nerves, overconfidence, pacing or doubts.

Over the years, I’ve seen athletes react a lot of different ways to tests; fear, avoidance, excuses, tears.  Simply put, a lot of athletes unnecessarily psyche themselves out and worry about tests.  They fear the pain of the test or what it will reveal about them.  But if you’re going to reach your best, you have to get past this.  You have to change how you view tests.

A test is a checkpoint.  It reveals where you’re at and what we need to work on.  It points out the holes in your fitness, cadence, turnover and pacing.  A test is also great opportunity to surprise yourself.  To see what you’re made of.  To put yourself into a race-like setting to learn to manage, guide and push yourself so that it becomes second nature on race day.  A test, like a race, teaches you to face yourself and get over yourself; your fears, your doubts.  And, no, you can’t expect to do this on race day if you haven’t done it in training!   

Not surprisingly, the athletes who test best exhibit certain qualities.  These are not necessarily my fastest athletes or only the podium finishers.  These are the athletes with an unrelenting work ethic, exceptional emotional control and killer self-confidence.  If a test scares them, they don’t let you in on it.  They face the test with the same fearlessness they do any other challenge.  I’m not afraid.  I can’t wait to see what I’m made ofI can’t wait to see the result.    

They embrace the test as a checkpoint of where they are at, not a judgment of who they are.  They don’t see tests as pass/fail, instead it’s a measure of their fitness that provides us with useful information on strengths and weaknesses.  They don’t avoid tests – they know that to train sensibly and set goals they need honest, accurate and frequent assessments of where they're at.  Anything else is a pipe dream or bullshit.  They accept that time, life, age, injury, off season can and will influence tests results.  Sometimes they can do something about this – commit more, work harder, follow the plan.  Other times you just have to accept that you need to be your best right here, right now – not 10 years ago, not 20 pounds ago. 

These athletes are unafraid of tests. Which really means they are unafraid of themselves.  They seem to thrive on that me versus me moment that you reach about 10 minutes into a test when your body and mind are screaming two different things – STOP!  Press on!  THIS HURTS!  You can do this!  At that moment, they realize that this is the good stuff – what they’ve been waiting for – and then they do what it takes to ignore the negative voice.  They realize that negative voice will never go away.  It will always try to get to you.  The more pain you are in, the more tired you get, the harder that negative voice will try.  So they ignore it, work with it or throw reason at it.  It’s only 20 minutes.  No one has ever been stuck in a test forever.  They’ve become experts at this conversation, a useful skill in racing when the fatigue or pain or pressure to quit can feel overwhelming. 

When the result comes back different than they hoped for (or worked for), they see it as a challenge not a discouragement.  They use it as fuel to work harder.  Or, they ask their coach what do I need to do to get there?  They focus on action.  Above all, they never settle.  They are always hungry.  They want one more watt and one more second.  Notice I said hungry, not greedy.  They realize there is a typical rate of progress which you cannot accelerate.  They accept one thing for sure: they will never progress as fast as they want to.  So in the mean time, they are patient.  They plot their course.  They look for ways to recover harder, train smarter and use as much “free speed” as possible to outsmart the test: pacing, hydrating, fueling, attitude, etc.

They approach tests with the same attention to detail, enthusiasm and confidence that they do a race.  They realize that every test prepares them to be a better racer.  They think through their fueling and often the night before – they will eat their pre-race dinner or the morning of will prepare their pre-race breakfast.  They set aside uninterrupted time.  They think through their pacing.  They have mantras.  They set goals for the test – some are process goals, some are outcome-based.  They caffeinate, they crank up the music, they give it 100 percent of their focus and energy.  They motivate themselves with a post-test reward.  They get competitive – with themselves.  They keep themselves honest; can you give it a little more, what if I went one minute sooner, what if I took a risk? 

And if it’s not going their way?  They press forward.  They never give up.  They don’t judge the outcome before the end of the test.  They process it later.  They realize this chatter during the test is a drain of energy that could be put into cranking the pedals or turning their arms over.  No matter what, they accept the results and move forward.  They don’t dwell.  It’s just one checkpoint along the way.

Back to the timed 1000 test.  When it was all said and done, you wouldn’t believe who had the fastest time in the pool.  Not the former collegiate swimmer, not the athlete who qualified for 70.3 worlds, not the Ironman, not the youngest swimmer.  It was a woman in her 50s.  Not the fastest swimmer in the pool.  But in that test, not only did she swim fastest time but she was minutes ahead of everyone else.  Minutes.  When she was done, I went up to her and said, you knocked it out of the park today

Turns out she had just done the same test a few days earlier with the other group in town that she swims with.  She knew how it would feel and knew how to pace it.  She told me that she wasn’t scared of the test.  Before she started, she told herself that if she’s going to swim the 1000 at the state meet, she better get used to swimming it.  She was pleased with her effort- she swam it faster than she thought she would and had a new benchmark.  


After the test, I saw that something switched in her.  She’s typically a swimmer who doesn’t give herself enough credit.  She went through a series of health problems and surgeries a few years ago and you can see that it took away a bit of her self-confidence.  Standing at the wall after the 1000, I could see that the switch flipped.  At some point, maybe when she signed up for state, she realized the switch had to flip.  You don’t get the results you want by playing scared or giving it anything but your best.  You need to believe you can do it but then you actually have to try.  Trying is scary.  It’s painful.  But that feeling afterwards when you nail the test, when you finish knowing you couldn’t give it anything more – that feeling of no regrets – well, that’s the feeling that I think most of us athletes want from racing.  You actually have to put yourself on the line to get it – take risks, face yourself and be unafraid.  You’ve got to not just embrace but look forward to the test.  

After practice, I got asked a question: are you going to make us do this again?  Another timed 1000?  No, don't be silly.  I've got something better planned.  

A timed mile*

*and if I hear any sass, I'm pretty sure I can find a way for 200 fly to follow that. I'm looking at you, Lane 2!

Monday, January 13, 2014

2013 In Review

Another year has wrapped up.  It’s time to review 2013!

Professionally:

In 2007, I left a dream full-time job to start my own coaching business.  Since then, I haven’t looked back.  In 2013, I continued to coach full-time with a great roster of athletes – all different ages, abilities and from all over the place.  Some are podium finishers.  Some are total beginners.  When I’m asked what’s your approach, my answer is athlete-driven.  It depends on who the athlete is and what they need.  Some thrive on high volume.  Others high intensity.  I try to keep it challenging, engaging but above all, based on the basics of what you need to do well at triathlon.  You can read more about what we accomplished last year at my business website:  www.multisportmastery.com

Last year was also my fifth year of coaching the Ironman Wisconsin training program through Well-Fit in Chicago.  We’ve branched out to accommodate many Ironman races in that program.  In 2013, we guided 36 athletes to Ironman finishes.  This continues to be one of my favorite coaching experiences each year and I’m proud to be a part of what feels like one of the best Ironman training programs in the country.  Our secret?  Education!  We empower each athlete with the knowledge and skills to become a better athlete, not just do workouts to finish a race.  We still have a few spots remaining for 2014 – you can find more information here:  www.wellfitinc.com

I also continued with coaching masters each week through the Naperville Park District.  I coach a weekly distance free workout as well as some weekend workouts.  I’ve gained the reputation of the coach who can and will sneak fly into any workout.  It’s double-arm freestyle, friends!  It makes you stronger!  This group consists of all levels of swimmers.  If you want a crash course in how to coach, stand on deck with everyone from 1:10 per 100 swimmers to 3:00 per 100 swimmers.  You will learn to communicate, motivate, adapt and teach in all different ways.  If you’re ever in the Naperville area, contact me so you can drop into one of our swims. 

This past spring I went on my second year of coaching a kids swim conditioning program.  Three times a week, I taught a fantastic group of children, ages 7 to 13, to develop the skills and fitness for competitive swimming.  We do plenty of drills, games and little bit of swimming.  I’m a big proponent of long term athlete development believing that fun should come before fitness with kids.  Noodle races, drills with water polo balls, Fin Friday – these were some of our favorite activities!  This experience gave me the confidence to interview with one of the big age group swim teams in the area and get on board as a coach for 2014.

As far as developing myself as a coach, I’ve participated in some certifications – though have to admit that many certifications feel like a waste of time and money as you simply go through the motions of watching videos and clicking off boxes.  Most of the time those experiences are great for recertification credits – and that’s it.  Beyond that, I turned to books, TedX and mentors to broaden my knowledge base.  Four of my favorite books that I read in 2013: Superbodies, The Alchemist, The Power of Habit and Switch.  This year I limited Twitter to 100 followers which has been a great way to filter it for the ideas of key coaches, thinkers and social scientists.  And then I just try to get in front of as many people as possible, get my hands dirty and coach for experience.  My husband asked why I do the classes and swim coaching – economically, it’s much less of a return than for me to take on another private athlete.  However, the return on investment when I do hands-on coaching is far more valuable than the time or income I give up.  Remember you cannot “learn” the art of coaching in a classroom, lecture or sitting behind a computer screen.  You have to experience it hands-on, head-on in real time to learn how to coach.

Athletically:

2013 started with a slow start.  I came off 9 weeks of inactivity after failed IVF (as in: I DID NOTHING).  Each time I go through an experience that requires time off, I always prove to myself that you can come back hungrier, fitter and stronger.  Deep rest is very powerful!  After only 8 weeks back at training, I was setting new PRs on the bike and in the pool.  Kurt helped me to rebuild my fitness, setting me up for a strong day at Eagleman.  After that, I completely switched gears to take on a new approach en route to Vegas.  Adam showed me how to integrate a higher volume of quality training to get a little more out of my performance.  It worked!

Thank you to Training Peaks for making it easy to find the following stats!  I trained roughly 600 hours in 2013 (or 11 ½ hours consistently per week).  My biggest month was July, coming in at 82 hours of training or 20+ hours a week (I remember that, and remember it was very painful).  By sport:  

Swimming:  463,074 yards 
(biggest month was 58,800 or 14,700 per week in January)
Consistent volume of 9600 yards per week

Biking:  4,950 miles 
(biggest month was 900+ miles or 225+ miles a week in July)
Consistent volume of 103 miles per week

Running:  1,112 miles 
(biggest month was 136 miles or 34 miles a week in August)
Consistent volume of 23 miles per week           

Compared to 2012, I trained a lot more throughout the year.  Mostly this was me trying to “catch up” from the time I missed from the 9 weeks off.  Was it sustainable?  Would I do it again?  Not really.  At the end of the day, I’m not one of those athletes that thrives on big training.  There are so many other things I want to and need to do; spending time with Max, cleaning my house, working, drinking red wine, reading, daydreaming.  Now, I don’t think you can shortcut the work you need to do to achieve big things – for example, I don’t think 99 percent of the athletes out there can do a sub 10 hour Ironman on 10 hours a week of training.  But I do think that everyone needs to find their personal formula for what gives them a level of success they are satisfied with along with life balance, enjoyment and health.

Want to get really into the numbers?  Me neither but for those that do…..On my performance management chart, my biggest ATL was 163 and CTL peaked at 126.  Both happened in August. TSB dropped to -42.8 in March when I did a cycling focused trip to San Diego where I trained at a level that my body was not fit enough to handle due to the extended time off in December (but rested hard out of that trip and saw nice fitness gains).  I hit -30 to -40 a few times in July and August and highly recommend NOT doing that to yourself for any extended period of time if you want to maintain a will to survive.  I raced best with my TSB between 15 and 25 for long course and found I raced short course fairly well even with a negative TSB (these are patterns I’ve noticed over the years, as well).  Side note: I don’t put too much into the performance management chart but find it interesting for tracking patterns over time for peaking and recovering (but to use it you must be exceptionally diligent at entering TSS for every single workout).

Forget all of those numbers, this year I had a lot of fun with my training.  There are three people who made that happen: my mom who watched Max periodically when I needed to get out during the day.  My lanemates at masters who are all men, all 20+ years older than me and make me feel slow when I need a push and fast when I need the confidence.  And, Amanda.  Rare is the friend you can find who not only is on the “same page” but the “same speed” as you.  I have so many fun memories of our adventures in San Diego, Plainfield, traveling to races and who can forget Amanda's last supper (apparently not a certain bartender at Front Street who offers me Patron every time I go in there).   

Personally:

My biggest accomplishment every year is and always will be my son.  Day to day life with him is an absolute blessing and joy, even on the most trying days.  Parenting has taught me patience, resilience, love and maturity beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.  Most importantly, parenting has taught me that it’s not all about me.  A very valuable lesson that keeps everything in perspective!  At times I just look at him and my heart melts out of love, joy and the amazement of how did I get this lucky!?

Max turned 3 this year and shows an interest in electrical engineering (ie., plugs), machinery, construction and as of right now – he wants to be a fireman.  He will be my pack rat – his crib is jammed full of monkeys and “budgies” (his special blankets).  He loves to work with his tools or help daddy with household projects.  He loves cheese, fruit and beets.  Yes, beets, he eats them like apples (ew!).  He loves his daddy so much that he has no problem saying “Mommy, I don’t love you” when daddy is around.  I’m ok with that.  I think.   

What comes out of his mouth (and mind) continues to impress me every day.  He’s hilarious!  At 2 years, the doctor suggested I have him evaluated for a speech delay.  I did and they rated him as 29 percent delayed, meaning he missed the “needs a state intervention” cut off by 1 percent.  I would like for all of those evaluators and doctors to eat his words.  This kid doesn’t shut up!  He has so much to say about the world.  I’ll credit this to Chris who reads him about a dozen books each night (and can recite every Bizzy Bear book from memory at this point). 

Oh, and yes, I still have a husband and a dog.  Both are house trained and obedient. :)

Around the house, I poured a lot of time, passion and money into my landscaping.  I am that crazy woman on the corner who will shout out her window:  GET OFF MY LAWN!  There are days in the spring and summer where I’d rather work in my yard than work out.  And some days, my yard work ruined my workouts!  I’m meticulous about mowing my lawn, and according to my neighbor, I mow it really, really fast.  It’s over a 2 mile walk!  I have my “vision” for my yard and each year it gets a little closer to my master plan.  My goals for 2014 are to create beautiful containers of annuals and keep the junior high kids off my lawn.  

I also got ‘into’ beer – no kidding!  I’m a die hard red wine fan but when the training picked up and the days got hotter – I needed two things: carbs and refreshment.  There’s only so many carbs you can eat when you’re training over 20 hours a week so I went the next best route: DRINKING them!  Nearly every evening this summer involved a beer with no regrets.  (some of my favorites: Tyranena Rocky’s Revenge, Oskar Blues Deviant Dales, Deschutes Obsidian, Three Floyds Zombie Dust, Solemn Oath Butterfly Flashmob).  And I also picked up a nasty frozen yogurt habit thanks to a certain athlete.  Like I need high end yogurt in my life.  I don’t but it tastes really, really good. 

So that’s 2013 in summary.  The point of this post was – I have no idea.  It’s fun to reflect on where I’ve been and all that I’ve done.  But while I look back on 2013 with a lot of success personally, professionally and athletically, I am always looking ahead to the next big thing.  2014 will be exciting for sure!  More coaching opportunities, Max will be 4, we’re redoing our laundry room (hey, I spend A LOT of time in there!) and it’s only 10 weeks until spring which means lawn mowing season is right around the corner! 

Oh, yes, and there might be some training.

Happy new year!