8 Reasons to Hire a Running Coach

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Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always been an advocate for running. But it wasn’t until recently that I also became a believer in the wonders of a running coach.

I’d soured to the idea after a negative experience back in high school, but fast forward to post-baby, and I needed help busting though a plateau of irregular workouts, fits and spurts of mileage and an overall lack of direction.

Who knew that after 20+ years in the sport, sometimes the answer is as simple as getting out of your own way? So I happily handed the reins over to my coach, who ultimately helped me find my mojo again.

Now I’ve change my tune: Hiring a running coach is totally worth it. And here’s why:

  1. Accountability – No more lame excuses for skipping workouts; you’ve got someone to answer to now, plus they can provide valuable motivation and feedback to help keep you on track.
  2. Health – Not only will a coach keep you in check to help avoid injury, but s/he can also provide tips for better nutrition and fueling (or at least keep you honest about it).
  3. Performance – Instead of relying on trial and error with your training, why not go with a tried-and-true methodology for results? A coach can help you decrease race times, train more efficiently, define realistic goals and keep expectations in check.
  4. Training – Learning the correct cadence of a good training plan (here’s a hint: more ≠ more) is invaluable, plus a coach can help you achieve consistency and push you safely within your limits.
  5. Support – Whether you’re coming back from an injury or just processing a poor workout, it’s always good to have an outside perspective. A coach can offer encouragement, boost confidence and be a sounding board.
  6. Personalization – Because they know where you need to grow, a coach can purposefully schedule in ways to help strengthen your weaknesses.
  7. Restraint – One of a coach’s jobs is protect clients from their worst enemies: themselves. If you have a tendency to get overzealous, caught up in numbers or take on too much too fast, this is critical.
  8. FUN – One of the best parts of having a coach? They do the hard part (thinking), while you get to do the “easy” part (running)! Turn your brain off, focus on the task at hand, and you just might find that elusive runner’s high as you nail that next workout.

Do you work with a running coach? If so, why do you think it’s worth the investment?

 

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Race Report: Vernonia Half Marathon

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After a year and a half hiatus from racing, it feels SO good to be back in the saddle!

When my plans to race 26.2 last fall got put on hold (because sleep > running), I set my sights on what felt like a more manageable challenge: the half marathon (my 15th!).

My PR was 1:47 and change from a few years ago, so when I signed on with a coach to help me with my postpartum comeback and restrain keep me from over-training, I told him I was eyeing not only a PR, but also an even bolder post-baby goal of 1:45.

We started working together in early January with a mission to get me safely to the start line of the Vernonia Half Marathon on April 9. Training went smoothly; after figuring out my paces, we exchanged emails each week as I eagerly tackled my nap-time workouts on the treadmill.

It felt good to be on a schedule. It felt great to be running regularly. And it felt awesome to finally start pushing myself again.

Although I was nailing workouts, my coach was frank about setting expectations when it came to race day: Based on my tempo runs, overall paces and our conservative build-up of mileage (I started at square one, so my long runs maxed out at 10 miles by the time we got to race day), he warned me that a PR may not be in the cards this training cycle.

By that point, however, I was just happy to be toeing the start line well-trained and healthy, so I figured it’d be a good opportunity to set a baseline from which I could work for my next race. It also meant that I’d leave my watch at home and just run by feel.

Fast forward to race day, and I was battling a serious case of self-doubt. Would treadmill mileage translate to the roads? How would I handle the last few miles (which I’d likely be running on fumes)? Could I even get in the head-space to go hard? Hell, I wasn’t even sure if my race kit from 2016 would fit.

We arrived about an hour and a half before the 9 a.m. start because the course was point-to-point and there was a 20-minute bus ride to the start. Luckily, it’s a super low-key event (~150 marathoners & fewer than 400 half marathoners), so everything went smoothly and we soon found ourselves inside Stub Stewart State Park at Hilltop with a little more than an hour until the gun went off.

To say it was cold for Oregon in April would be putting it mildly; there were more than a few “penguin” jokes circulating as several hundred of us huddled in a shelter, hopping from foot to foot, in an attempt to share body warmth.

Several cups of water and trips to the HoneyBuckets later, Ben, Matt and I lined up at the start barely able to feel our feet. The race started without much pomp and circumstance; no National Anthem or so much as a countdown or warning before we were off.

The course took us uphill for the first mile or so before joining the Banks-Vernonia State Trail at mile two, so my plan was to A) warm up for the first mile, B) go out conservatively so I didn’t expend too much energy, and C) try to run separately from Ben and Matt because they were anticipating slightly slower and faster finish times, respectively.

When we hit the first mile marker and I was still next to Matt, I figured he was having an “off” day because I just assumed my first mile would be around a 9:00 pace due to the hill. But when he said we were at 8:20, I decided to double-down and go for it.

The next six miles or so took us along a paved trail, through scenic woods on an abandoned railroad bed. And since we had a gradual downhill until mile seven, everyone was taking full advantage of it.

Things were going well until somewhere after mile eight when we hit an open section of the course and the wind picked up; even though the final stretch was flat, the previous downhill had taken a toll on my quads. That, combined with a lack of mile markers at this point made for a total mental battle as I fought fatigue and wondered where I was on the course.

Not wanting to tempt the GI gods, I had also avoided any kind of fuel for the first hour or so. But after mile seven I paused at each water station to take a few sips of Gatorade. Somewhere around mile nine, I felt the first gut flutter and around what I think was mile 12, I pulled over to take a quick nip of Gu to help get me to the finish.

For those final few miles my brain was squarely at the intersection of “I-just-wanna-walk,” “the-faster-I-run-the-faster-I-am-done” and “uh-oh-my-gut.” But words of encouragement from my coach and fellow mama runner friends kept me pushing along.

When we turned off the trail and into town I knew we had to be close to the finish. In a matter of minutes, we turned in to the Banks High School parking lot and made our way to the track where we had one lap to complete the race.

Per usual, that last lap felt like the longest portion of the race. I didn’t allow myself to look at the finish line until we rounded the first curve, then silently cursed because it was, indeed, a full lap.

As I rounded the last curve, I saw the clock read 1:46:XX. With one final kick, I crossed the finish line, found Matt, then headed straight to the bathroom; thank goodness for ample facilities at this race!

Matt had finished in 1:42, an impressive PR. Ben ran a 1:49, which was fantastic for the amount of training he didn’t do did for this race. And my official time was 1:46:06, which was good enough for a new PR, a 4th place finish in my age group and a top 20 finish among women.

Immediately my mind went to what I did well (in order to replicate it) and what I can improve upon (i.e. remove a negative variable) next training cycle: Having a coach was beneficial in so many ways, as was the consistency of my training and speed-work. But I definitely need to focus on improving my nutrition going forward — not only fueling during the race, but also the days/weeks leading up to it.

And although I’m still in shock about the outcome, the wheels have started turning about what’s next. My coach assured me that 1:45 is doable with more mileage under my belt, which is tempting. But I’m also mulling over going shorter and faster; I’d love to finally beat my 5K PR from my high school track days.

But just as life evolves, so does a runner’s relationship with the sport. And as good as it feels to nail a new PR and chase after the next one, I’m also realizing that there’s much more to it now than just the numbers.

I run because it makes me feel alive. Running makes me feel like I’m unstoppable. It makes me feel as though I’m capable of anything.

But now I also run because I’ve got an example to set for Wyatt. I want him to see his mom setting goals and working hard to achieve them. I want him to learn that it takes dedication to reach our goals and that we can do hard things.

And my ultimate goal is that he’ll be inspired to chase after his own dreams, running or otherwise.

How I Run: Team LUNA Chix PDX’s Ashly Robinson

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In honor of our second Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season, I’ll be introducing our new team members via this interview series throughout the next few months…get to know these impressive ladies, and come join us for a run Monday nights from 6:30-7:30 pm in Portland! 

Last, but certainly not least, is Ashly Robinson! As one of our most loyal community members last year, it made perfect sense that she’d be joining the ranks of the team leaders this year.

Although Ashly freely admits she’s “not the fastest or the strongest runner out there” (I’d beg to differ; she’s an avid racer who has since taken to the trails and has also been dropping her pace-per-mile like nobody’s business, thanks to interval training), she said what attracted her to our group what that she never once felt like she didn’t belong. And now she wants to share that same welcoming spirit with our new community members as the team continues to grow.

Ashly’s also particularly passionate about raising money for our charity, Breast Cancer Fund, because it’s a cause that has taken too many lives of those she’s known and loved. In fact, she’s spearheading one of our main events for the season, a fundraiser with Orange Theory Fitness — check out our Facebook page for details!

So, without further ado, we’re rounding out this interview series by finding out what makes this all-around fabulous lady tick…

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1. What’s your favorite route? My favorite route really depends on the season. In the warmer months I’m a sucker for the trails, mostly Forest Park, but I don’t discriminate! In the cooler months, I love making a loop on the waterfront paths and enjoying all the city views.

2. What shoes do you wear? I’m currently wearing Nike’s LunarGlide 7.

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? My FlipBelt! I don’t always wear tights that have a zippered pocket, so this helps me carry my iPod/phone and keys without having to carry everything.

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4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” I would have to say getting things ready the day before. Whether it’s a run after work or an early morning race, getting my gear ready just eliminates the “do I have everything?” stress.

5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? I wouldn’t say I’m really better at anything running-related than anyone else, but I do a pretty good job of keeping a good attitude. I’m not the fastest girl on the block, I’ve even finished dead last in a race before, but I don’t let that stop me from getting out there and doing something I enjoy.

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6. What do you listen to while running? If I’m going out for a long run I like to listen to slower paced music to help me not run too fast too soon. This is usually something like Phantogram or Glass Animals, mixed in with some Eminem for motivation. For shorter runs I’m all about upbeat, “top hits” and some more Eminem.

7. What are you currently training for? Right now? Nothing. But I do have my sights set on a half marathon in December, so I guess I better get planning that!

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? Recovery isn’t my strong suit. That usually consists of some calf stretching and water/electrolyte intake. Definitely room for improvement there! Sleep, on the other hand, I’ve got that down. I’m an eight hours per night kinda gal.

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9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, it just matters that you’re out there trying.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? This has to be from my first half marathon. A good friend of mine talked me into running this with her for her birthday, but I was never a runner. At the last minute, my dad decided to do it with me. Not only did I get to complete my first half with my dad by my side, but I also had great friends at the finish to cheer me on! Not to mention this was in Moab, Utah so the scenery itself was incredible.

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. There are so many people that I would love to run with. For right now, I’d have to say my husband, Sean. He’s done so much to help me achieve my goals and running with him (at his pace) would mean I’ve improved more than I ever thought possible.

12. Anything else you want to add? My dad always told me “we’re burnin’ daylight” when I would lolly-gag in the mornings. So in his wise words, get out there and quit burnin’ the daylight!

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Thanks, Ashly! Thank you for pitching in as a team leader this year; you continue to inspire those around you, and we’re excited to watch you crush yet another 13.1 come December! 

Friends, if you’re interested in being featured here (all levels & abilities welcome), please drop me a line at info(at)kineticfix(dot)com. 

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Ultra(wo)man Ailie Coulter

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Meet Ailie Coulter, an endurance athlete whose self-described likes include running, swimming, surfing, riding, reading, socializing and red wine.

But if we’re being totally honest, that list is a bit misleading — or, rather, it’s correct in that Ailie strives to live a balanced life…but it just doesn’t do justice to her focus, work ethic and the all-out guts she’s got that have allowed her to accomplish great things.

How? Well, first you’ve gotta familiarize yourself with Ultraman, which is basically an Ironman triathlon (140.6 miles: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bikes ride and 26.2-mile run) DOUBLED. And then tack on another, oh, 40 miles or so for good measure.

That’s right; we’re talking 320 miles total, including a 6.2-mile swim and a 261.4-mile bike ride followed by a 52.4-mile double-marathon run. Put simply, it’s a race that’s “challenged and defeated the world’s fittest athletes for nearly three decades,” as aptly described by Triathlete magazine.

And second, all you need to know is that Ailie placed second at Ultraman Australia last year (watch the video about it here), which means she’s been invited to compete at Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii this year.

The prospect of undertaking (and crushing!) this kind of endurance feat — one that takes stamina, heart and determination to a whole new level — blows my mind. So, needless to say, it was an honor to take a few minutes with Ailie (a fellow Coeur Sports ambassador) to find out what makes this incredible woman tick!

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? Think that would have to be long-distance trail running. Nothing better than getting out of the city early morning, alone, in nature and experiencing all the different seasons. Normally start in fog and can’t see a meter in front of you and by the end of a 4-5 hour run session you have wolfed down all the food in your pack and replaced it with the layers of clothing you have taken off as the day has heated up!

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? Running: Used to wear Asics but then they changed them and made the toe box really small and I started losing toe nails and getting horrid blisters. Then Pearl Izumi introduced their run collection a few years ago, and they made the toes wider than the heel and it is the best thing to happen to the world of running!!

No more foot problems; I went and bought four pair in case they never made them again. Doesn’t have to be Pearl Izumi (although they are my favorite, support, cushioning, colors, etc.) as long as it has a large toe box, meaning it doesn’t taper off small and pointy and your toes can be free to spread out in the shoe each foot strike.

Bike: I wear Specialized S-Works road shoe, as they look the goods and make me feel pro. Also super comfy and can buy a pair new and feel like I have had them for years. Would happily knock out a 200k ride in a brand new pair with no issues. Before these I used to get hot feet, pins and needles, etc.

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? SOCKS!!! I have a bit of a sock obsession and love to sock dope on the bike. Bright, kit-matching, etc. on the bike, and I’m loving the MAAP range at the moment. Sometimes you gotta look good doing what you do!

4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” Hill sprints, running or riding and swim sprints. You can get an awesome work out in half an hour!

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5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: Rough water, everybody else complains when the swell picks up and there is white wash, I fist pump the weather gods.

Ride: Um… my socks look the best.

Run: I’m a diesel engine. A lot of people use this as an excuse to go slow; I can just maintain my consistent pace for a really really long time.

Overall, I’m not really better than others at any of these things; I think I just know how to hurt more than others and love it.

6. What do you listen to while training? I often don’t listen to anything. I have a hugely hectic life with lots of responsibility and training is my switch-off time. I like to take in the world around me, it’s almost meditative and leads my mind in so many cool places that I don’t want to take that away with music. For gym sessions, love a bit of Presets or something with a heavy beat that makes me feel like I can dominate the world.

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7. What are you currently training for? Ultraman Wold Champs in Hawaii in November. Will try to save some $$ and probably not enter any events in the lead up but will throw in a few big 3-4 day training camps where I completely punish myself in the hills. That way I can include a bit of time away with the man and friends and training partners, too, as its not all-consuming like racing can be.

8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? They are more crucial than any training I could do! I ensure I get 8 hours sleep; the moment I cut this, I start to have issues with hormones and cortisol levels, which leads to getting sick, sinus infections, fatigue or injury, which leads to less training. So if I have had to work longer hours or have an important social function, I tell the coach in advance so we can plan around it.

For females, especially, this is absolutely crucial in being able to train consistently. In terms of recovery, in high-volume weeks my coach and I schedule in an afternoon power-nap between work and my arvo session; if my long ride goes for 8 hours, I tack on another two when making social plans so I have time to got home, make real food and have an hour of couch time before doing anything. Nutrition is a big part of all of this.

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So many female athletes can’t figure out why they are constantly sick or injured, and it is all because of hormone imbalances in the body. If you want to train consistently, we need to remember that we have three sources of stress in our lives as athletes: mental (work, relationships, finances, etc.) physical (training or other work-related physical strain) and nutritional (what we put in that our body needs to deal with).

If I have a family issue, I will dial down my training and eat perfectly. If I am eating horrible and for some reason including alcohol, I can’t be stressed at work and high-volume training. Given we can’t often control the mental stress, it is the nutritional and training stress that we need to modify when we can not control the mental.

9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? Consistency is key!!

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10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Would have to be Ultraman Australia in 2015. I finally did what I went out to achieve. We spend so many years in this sport and put so much pressure on ourselves to perform, but the hard fact is that so many external factors out of our control can impact the result. At this race, I finally got it right and it was the best feeling in the world.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with ______. My friends!!!

12. Anything else you’d like to add? Life can sometimes be challenging; find out what makes you happy, and make that your priority. No matter what it is, find it and own it and smile your way through life.

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Thanks, Ailie! Not only do you exemplify #heartandcourage, but you’re a true inspiration for everyone to get up, get out and get moving. We’ll be rooting for you at this year’s Ultraman World Championships!

Friends, if you’re interested in being featured here (all levels & abilities welcome), please drop me a line at info(at)kineticfix(dot)com.

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Fit, Fierce Feminist Caitlin Constantine

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Meet Caitlin Constantine, digital media producer for a TV news station in the Tampa Bay area, voracious reader, wife, lover of the outdoors, experimenter in the kitchen, and mom to a greyhound and three cats. Oh, and in her “spare time,” she’s also a competitive endurance athlete (who most recently qualified for the Boston Marathon).

But that wasn’t always the case, which is why Caitlin’s achievements are all the more impressive.

You see, after playing on varsity teams in high school, she gave up on sports and most physical activity upon entering the “real world.” She likes to joke that by the time she was in her mid-20s, the most exercise she got was walking to the corner store to buy cigarettes or around the block to get a beer at the local bar.

That all changed, however, when Caitlin turned 27 and met her husband, a former smoker and drinker who reinvented himself as a marathon runner and salad-eater. After watching him finish a marathon, she decided to take up running herself, which eventually led to her completion of two ultramarathons, five marathons, a few dozen half-marathons and too many shorter distance road races to count.

A few years ago, she broadened her athletic horizons to triathlon and has since completed two half-Ironmans, along with several sprint triathlons. And since she’s got big plans for 2016 with the Boston Marathon, her first full Ironman race and a bunch of smaller races in between, I thought it’d be fun to pick her brain about some of her favorite things, as well as where her athletic endeavors will take her next.

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? Right now my favorite workouts are tempo runs, which I usually do on a multi-use trail through a park near my house. The trail runs through a wooded area around a small lake, and it’s so beautiful, especially in the mornings. I also see lots of wildlife — alligators, tortoises, roseate spoonbills — which keeps things interesting. One of the reasons my husband and I bought our house where we did was so we could be close to this park, and I’ve yet to regret that decision.
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As for the run itself, I always love doing tempo runs. I like running hard, but not puke-my-guts-out-hard like you get with a speed workout, and so I find tempo runs really scratch that itch without leaving me utterly depleted.

2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? When I’m on the bike I wear Specialized Trivents, which I like because they keep my feet cool and well-ventilated (extra important when cycling in Florida heat!). They were recommended to me as a great bike shoe for triathletes, and so far I’ve found they live up to the hype.

I switch between two kinds of shoes when I run. When I do anything that’s half-marathon or shorter, I wear Brooks Pureflow. I had been wearing Newtons Distances for a couple of years and really liked them, but then something changed in the recent model and suddenly I couldn’t wear them without feeling like I’d shredded my calves. A friend recommended the Pureflow to me and my life has never been the same since. Usually with running shoes it takes me a bit to get used to them, but I was running beautifully the very first time I put the Pureflows on. Sorry, Newtons. It was great while it lasted, but my heart belongs to Brooks now.

All my long-distance runs are done in Hoka Conquests. I started wearing them in 2014, when I trained for the Keys 50 (an ultramarathon run entirely on roads and sidewalks) and I found they really minimized the impact of lots and lots of running on my joints. That’s particularly important for me as a tall, solidly-built woman, as there’s more of me to create that downward force on my feet with each footfall. I can still run pretty fast in them, too. I qualified for Boston while wearing them.

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3. What other training gear can’t you live without? My Garmin 920XT. I mean, I suppose I could live without it, but why would I want to? It’s so fun!

4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” I love to do my binge TV-watching while riding on the indoor trainer. I’m sure some triathlete purists would scoff, saying that a real athlete would do her trainer rides while in a garage without air conditioning while doing nothing but staring at a poster of Kona, but whatever.

I still do workouts and ride fairly hard; I just have something else to think about aside from how much I hate riding on the trainer. And this is how I see it: if watching TV helps me be consistent about riding on the indoor trainer, then so be it. Anyway, this has helped me go from having a weak bike leg to being decent on the bike. I posted my best bike splits at the end of last year, so it seems like it’s working!

5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? This is a relatively new development for me, dating back to about the summer of 2014, when I did the Keys 50. During the whole training cycle leading up to the race and then the race itself, I learned a lot about how to be mentally tough. Before that I was a total wuss who would quit whenever things got even the tiniest bit painful or scary, but that race was like a baptism by fire and I came out of it much, much tougher than I was before.

And as any endurance athlete knows, mental toughness is literally like 90 percent of success at these sports. Obviously you have to train your body to be able to withstand the stresses, but all the training in the world is worthless if your mind folds like a cheap card table when faced with adversity.

Now, I don’t know if I’d say I’m mentally tougher than anyone else, but I do think it’s a quality I have that has allowed me to have a lot of success with racing and training in the past 18 months or so, and it’s a quality I recognize not everyone has. The good thing, though, is that if I can develop mental toughness, ANYONE can.

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6. What do you listen to while training? Just about everything, as long as it has a good beat. I actually just wrote a post on my blog about this with some of the songs I’ve been listening to lately.  It includes everything from 80’s pop like “Maniac” to classic rock like Van Halen to Janelle Monae and Britney Spears.

7. What are you currently training for? Right now I’m about two months out from the Boston Marathon, which marks the first time I’ll be running the race. I worked pretty hard and consistently for a few years to get myself to this point, and so while I have a time goal for Boston, I’m mostly just looking at the opportunity to run that race as my present to myself for all the hard work I put in over the past few years.

By the way, I’m also using the Boston Marathon as a way to raise money for Free to Run, which is a non-profit organization that uses running and outdoor sports to empower women and girls in Afghanistan.  If you’re interested in learning more and possibly contributing, you can do so by clicking this link.

After that I’m training for the Hurricane Man Roughwater 2.4-mile swim, Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, and then Ironman Louisville, which will be my very first full iron-distance triathlon. I’ll also do a bunch of smaller local races in between, but my eyes are on those big goals right now.

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8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? If I’m being honest – they could be better. I’m old enough that I really feel the effects of a lack of sleep or inadequate recovery, plus I demand so much more of my body than I ever did before. I’m getting better, though. I try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night, and if my job (which, as I work for a 24/7 TV news station, often has wonky hours) means I don’t get enough sleep, then I skip training and prioritize sleep. I just don’t see the point in training when I am also exhausted.

I do make an effort to eat shortly after a workout, because I’ve noticed if I go for a run and then don’t eat anything for a while afterwards, I’ll end up headache-y and tired all day and then my legs will hurt the next day. It makes sense that this would happen, though, as doing so is basically like asking a construction crew to build a house without any tools or materials. Except worse, because then the construction crew riots inside my head and I’m miserable all day long. So I definitely make sure to eat plenty of good food.

I also like Epsom salt baths and having my husband use The Stick on my legs. I try to foam roll regularly and to strength train to keep my muscles strong and healthy. And lately I have been SUPER into yoga. I practice at home and I also go to a hot yoga studio once a week. I like it not only for the restorative aspects, but also for the way it helps me be more chill and centered.  It’s good for my mind as well as my body.

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9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? To enjoy the process and not be so focused on outcomes! My super-wise husband gave me that advice, and I’ve really taken it to heart. A friend was talking with me the other day about the path I took from being a middle-of-the-pack runner to a Boston qualifier, and he said he really appreciated seeing someone put in hard work to become faster and stronger.

I was like, “But I don’t think I’ve been working that hard?” But then I thought about it for a while afterwards, and I realized that I actually have been working quite hard. Because I’ve coupled workouts with a mindset that appreciates each run/swim/bike/race/yoga session/strength session (well, if I’m being honest, about 80 percent of them) as I’m doing it, it hasn’t really seemed like hard work because I’ve just been so immersed in the process.  Achieving my athletic goals has just been a side bonus to the overall experience of living this lifestyle.

10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Goodness, that’s a hard one to choose.  Part of me wants to say the very first finish line I ever crossed  — a 5K way back in 2007 — or the first marathon I finished, where I sobbed as I ran the last 0.2 miles or the first triathlon I finished, where I realized I could survive swimming in open water.

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But really it’s a tie between crossing the finish line of the Keys 50, where I was just totally blown away by the enormous difficulty of what I had just accomplished, and crossing the finish line of the Albany Marathon, where I BQed, and getting to savor the experience of realizing I was on my way to accomplishing a long-held goal that I had worked so hard to achieve.

The one thing all of these things have in common, though, is that I was forced to change the way I thought about myself afterwards. Like, I had no real choice but to accept that certain things I thought I knew about myself were no longer true, and that I had to come up with new ways to think of myself.

And the awesome thing is that all of those new qualities I’ve now assigned myself — based on real proof in the forms of things I had *actually done* — are all qualities that I believe have made me a better human being.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. Another hard question!  If I were to think of professional athletes, probably Chrissie Wellington, because she is not only an amazing athlete but also a smart, funny person, or Hillary Biscay, just so I could experience one of her infamous smashfests.

But the truth is, there are a lot of women I’ve met over the internet — both as a blogger and a member of the Coeur Sports team — with whom I’d love to go for a run or a bike ride or hit the weights alongside, and I would likely choose them before anyone famous. I couldn’t even start to name them because I’d forget some and feel like a jackwagon.

This has been one of the greatest things about blogging, by the way — meeting so many incredible people. It’s the best!

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Thanks, Caitlin! Can’t wait to cheer you along this year as you check some pretty awesome items off of your running and triathlon Bucket Lists. 

Friends, if you’re interested in being featured here (all levels & abilities welcome!), please drop me a line at info(at)kineticfix(dot)com.

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Living the Sweet Life with Ruth Rickey

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When I initially set out to do this interview series, I thought it’d be interesting to see what kind of gear people prefer, what their training routines were like and that it’d be fun to hear about racing from all different kinds of perspectives. What I didn’t expect was to get absolutely blown away by the incredible back stories in these athletes’ lives.

Case in point: Ruth Rickey, a former attorney and administrative law judge who, put simply, fell in love with cakes. Ruth worked her way up as Bakery Manager for IGA’s 3200 stores in 31 countries before opening her own shop, Ruth’s Sweete Justice Bakery, and operating it for more than a decade.

Since then, she’s been teaching all over the world as a ICES Certified Master Sugar Artist. Ruth has also been seen on WE TV’s Wedding Cake Wars (her team won), twice on TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off (assistant to Pat Jacoby on two wins) and on three specials on The Food Network about The Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show.

In the midst of all this success, however, Ruth was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, which was incurable and untreatable at the time, and she was given 2-5 years to live. Miraculously, six weeks after her diagnosis the FDA approved Gleevec, a drug that revolutionized cancer treatment and saved Ruth’s life.

After switching medicines a few times, Ruth is happy to report that she’s now back in genetic remission. And to pay her miracle forward, she spends her free time doing marathons, half marathons, century rides, triathlons and various charity events to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Go Mitch Go Foundation.

I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for Ruth as she wages a fight for her life all while balancing a successful career, endurance events and philanthropy. But I can imagine that every one of her victories — whether in the kitchen, at her doctor’s office or out on the race course — probably tastes pretty sweet.

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? I love riding our new River Trails route. It starts in downtown Oklahoma City in our Boathouse District. It is a cool new area where the Olympic rowers train. The route winds past the boathouses on both sides of the river. There are some gentle inclines/descents and turns to keep the ride interesting. It then connects into the West River Trails, which take me by two different lakes. The route doesn’t have a lot of pedestrian traffic and is closed to vehicles. It is newly paved and simply makes me happy to ride! Besides the normal geese, ducks and other birds, I can even see a buffalo on this route. Only in Oklahoma!

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? I run in Brooks Ravenna and I cycle in Pearl Izumi tri shoes.

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? I love my Garmin 920! I like being able to use the bluetooth to get the data onto my phone immediately. I love the live tracking part of it for my hubby…due to my medical issues, he worries if I’m out training without him. Now he can see where I am whether I’m training or racing!

My Coeur tri shorts turned out to be a game changer! After my 70.3 in September, I was in so much pain from chafing. I never realized how much the seams could rub. Since changing to Coeur, I’ve been so much more comfortable! I’m not sure why all chamois aren’t done this way. My hubby wants guys’ shorts to be made like them.

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I also love my Bontrager Windshell Pants. Oklahoma has crazy wind. It is normal to ride in 15-25 mph winds with 40 mph gusts. These shell pants keep me warm through everything and because they don’t have the chamois in them, I wear them when I run in the cold, too. They were pricey, but I think they were worth every penny!

I know it isn’t really gear, but I cannot live without Base Salt. I’ve always needed salt, but once I started using Base, I found that my active recovery during races and training improved dramatically. It seems like such a minor thing, but a hit of Base salt every hour or so keeps me going.

My other recent find is Infinit Nutrition. When I did Redman 70.3, I struggled on the bike, which was supposed to be my strongest area. I had no energy and could not make myself eat enough while riding in the heat. I knew I needed to make a change. Once of my coaches highly recommended Infinit, so I went to their site and created my own custom formula. So far, I’ve used it on several three-hour rides and have maintained my energy the entire time and have not been hungry at all. I know that the nutrition issue is going to be big for my upcoming races, so I’m truly happy that it looks like I have a workable solution now!

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4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” I used to lose so much time every day packing the bag for the next workout. I finally went and bought three Nike bags in three colors: Red for run; Black for bike; and Blue for swim. The bags are ready for me to grab at a moment’s notice and have everything I need in each one of them.

5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Actually, I came into triathlon without excelling in any of the disciplines. I had done more than 20 endurance events with Team in Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, but I was a walker, a slow biker and a non-swimmer.

I actually think my strength is my mental game and my heart. I figure that if I’m out there training or racing while taking chemo twice a day, there isn’t much I’m going to encounter that will stop me. I’m not athletically gifted, but I enjoy doing what I can and seeing my body get stronger. I am the girl who can finish a race 10 hours later and still be smiling.

6. What do you listen to while training? My water iPod has classic rock on it. I’ve changed the music I use while swimming. Originally, I had very relaxing music as I was getting past my panic attacks. Now, it is time to work on speed, so I need my 70’s rock to get me going! On my bike trainer or while running, I have a playlist of all of the “Now That’s What I Call Music” cds. They are generally high-cadence, fun pop hits that keep me going.

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7. What are you currently training for? I may have overshot this year, but I’m registered to do Galveston 70.3 in April, the Legends 100 Tri in June, The World Championship Long Course Triathlon at Redman in September (97 miles) and Arizona 70.3 in October. I really want to do a full Ironman, but know that I’m not physically ready for it. I figure if I can do Legends and World’s, it will show me if I’m ready for IMAZ 2017. If so, I will be volunteering at IMAZ this November to grab an early spot.

8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? On top of my leukemia issues, I also have Addison’s disease. My adrenal glands don’t function properly, so I can end up nearly bed ridden when my levels get low. I hurt to the bone when this happens. I have to take steroids twice a day to make my body function like normal.

I’ve learned a lot over the last year or so to look for the signs of when I need to increase my dose. My coach schedules a day off weekly for me, and I try to honor it and respect his plan. I used to be an insomniac, but I sleep really well these days! I think all the activity is good for me in that respect.

9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? Stop saying “I can’t.” I at least make myself try everything. Even if I know that I don’t have the physical capability, I have to try. Because most of the time, I discover that I CAN.

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10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? I attempted New Orleans 70.3 and ended up with an asthma attack in the water and a DNF. It haunted me…I was so disappointed. So a few weeks later, I stepped up for a local sprint tri. It was the first time my husband wasn’t racing at my side as my “protector.”

The day before the race, I did a practice swim at the site and felt like I was ready…the water was calm and the weather was perfect. But that is never how races go! On race day, a front blew in. Temperatures plummeted, and the winds picked up. The race director later said it was the roughest he had seen it at that lake and that he nearly called the swim.

I was a nervous wreck, but got into the water and started in the last wave. I was still mostly using side stroke to swim. I got to the first buoy and was about to call for a kayak to go in, but I looked around and saw numerous people hanging onto all the kayaks. I realized I was actually ahead of all those people. It kicked something into gear for me, and I was determined to finish that swim.

I did the entire 750-meter swim using side kick drills…I didn’t even use my arms. I got out of the water and was actually not the last person. I headed out on the bike, almost in disbelief that I had survived that cold, choppy swim. And my bike time actually matched my normal speed when I was just doing a bike training.

I started the run just happy to be out on the course. I set a 5k PR that day. It wouldn’t be fast to anyone else, but it was EVERYTHING to me! When I ran across the finish line and they put that medal around my neck, I knew that it would only be a matter of time until I became an Ironman. I found a strength that day that I never realized I had. I found a joy in the experience.

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. I’m sure everyone picks someone famous for this, but I just want to work out with my husband and my brothers, Verne and Robb. The four of us have started racing together and it makes my heart smile. How lucky am I to get to share the love of this sport with my family?!!

12. Anything else you’d like to add? A lot of my friends think you have to be super fit to do triathlons. They think only elite folks attempt this. I think I’m proof that there is a place for the person at the “back of the pack.”

Since I started on this journey, so many of my cake decorator friends have become more active. My industry is full of overweight people…it can be really hard not to taste the amazing things we create. I love that so many of them have messaged me that they are starting to move, to walk, to run, to do ANYTHING because of my posts.

I share the ups and downs of my training. I share my fears. I share my victories. If you’ve ever thought about trying triathlons, I can genuinely say that this is the best group of people. They have never made me feel bad for being slow. They celebrate the “final finisher” with as much joy as the winner. What a great group to be a part of!

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Thanks, Ruth! I’m honored to be able to share your story, and I’m excited to watch you crush your goals this year as you prepare for all the adventures ahead. 

Friends, if you’re interested in being featured here (all levels & abilities welcome!), please drop me a line at info(at)kineticfix(dot)com.

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Aussie “Ironmum” Rachel Gorrie

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Rachel Gorrie is no stranger to persevering through adversity, so it should come as no surprise that this Aussie “Ironmum” tackles the physical challenge of 70.3-distance triathlons with the same kind of determination she’s used to overcome the other curve-balls life has thrown at her.

Rachel’s first victory was delivering her son safely despite myriad complications for both her and baby, but it’s been a marathon of a journey ever since. Her son, Lachlan, was born at 31 weeks weighing 1300 grams, and the family has since discovered he has left Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy and permanent brain damage to the right frontal lobe.

So when Rachel decided to do the Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney last year, she had a lot on the line — but not only did she finish the race, she also managed to raise awareness for children who have Cerebral Palsy. And in the process, she was able to collect more than $5000 in donations towards the cause, which will help provide funding to support their needs with things like access to yearly checkups, regular Physio, Speech and OT assessments, as well as social worker support.

Once again, I’m honored to share the story of another incredible Coeur Sports ambassador. It just goes to show you that heart, courage and all-around baddassery know no geographical bounds!

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? I actually like them all. I love a cruising ride, a long run and also a relaxing swim. But then I love a great tough strength session. I do enjoy riding with friends on the M7 and on the path around Lake Illawarra. I just need to do something to keep active and my mind clear.

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? I just updated my bike shoes. I switched to a men’s pair of Shimano as they are a wider fit. So far so good, as the numbness has gone. Also love that they are black.

For running I wear Nike Luna Glide. I over-pronate, and these have been a great shoe for me with enough support yet light, too.

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? Can’t live without my Coeur tri shorts, bike jersey and visor! The jerseys are not as heavy as other jerseys I have had previously. The fabric is lighter and keeps you so much cooler. Feels great against your skin. And I have also found that the Coeur visors fit perfectly. Not too tight around your head and full elastic for a quick transition.

4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” As a mum, I am very time-poor and need to be very organized with my training. I have found that switching from distance training to time is working best for me. Allowing that one hour or two hours instead of how many kilometers I need to do is a great approach and easier to commit to.

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5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: I am natural at breaststroke! You know that one person who is doing breaststroke during the race overtaking you? Yep, that’s me!

Bike: I am awesome on downhill and on the flat. I can hold a good speed for a long time but as soon as a hill hits you are guaranteed to overtake me.

Run: I am great at pacing myself, I do like a good chat along the way when racing especially if there is a no headphone rule. It’s amazing the inspiring stories you hear during a race if you have the time to talk and encourage others.

6. What do you listen to while training? I have a 70.3 mix at the moment. Good old Aussie music in there like INXS and Divinyls, as well as Fleetwood Mac and Guns n Roses. I like all music, but it has to have a good tempo to keep me moving.

7. What are you currently training for? Training has started for IM70.3 Cairns. I got the 70.3 bug after I completed my first one last November. I can’t wait to get there and tie in a family holiday, too. My son Lachlan loves Ironman and is eager to watch it again.

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8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? I love naps!! Really, really love naps! I nap as much as I can. I seriously could sleep now if you told me to, LOL! If sleep is the 5th discipline I can’t say I’m not great at that.

9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? Would be from my girlfriend before my first 70.3: “You know these entry fees are expensive, you really need to take your time and get your money’s worth!”

Enjoy it, take your time, soak up the atmosphere and eat all the snacks provided, enjoy the recovery area and thank the volunteers. After all it’s a hobby for the majority of us, it’s not the Olympics.

10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Hands-down has to be my first 70.3 last November in Western Sydney. The reasons why I did it (see links below for details) and my son presenting my medal.

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke from The Bold and the Beautiful), I met both her and Dom at Western Sydney. She was so supportive and really took the time to have a chat before the race to settle my nerves. I think she does fabulous work for Breakaway from Cancer and is also doing wonderful things for Women For Tri. I would love to meet her again and train with her.

12. Anything else you’d like to add? If you want to know “why I tri,” you can read more here, here and here.

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Thanks, Rachel! I can’t wait to see you cross another finish line at IM70.3 Cairns and am thrilled for what that will mean for both you and Lachlan this year. 

Friends, if you’re interested in being featured here (all levels & abilities welcome!), please drop me a line at info(at)kineticfix(dot)com.