About Danelle Kabush

I am a mother of two, professional Xterra triathlete for the LUNA Pro team, and a mental performance consultant

Timeless Mental Tips for Mountain Bike Racing

While cleaning out my office the other day, I came across an excerpt of interview tips from my M.A. thesis. While studying at the University of Ottawa over the summer of 2000, I conducted interviews with ten of the best cross-country mountain bike racers in Canada at the time. The bikes may have evolved big time in the last 14 years, but I believe their advice and mental strategies are timeless. All of the athletes (men and women) were Canadian National Team Members at the time with several years of experience at the international level including World Cup and World Championship races. Four of the athletes are Olympians.Some have moved on from mountain biking, most are still enjoying the sport in one form or another, and one in particular is still racing strong at the top of the sport. Can you guess who? :) To read the full published article, entitled “Focusing for Excellence: Lessons from Elite Mountain Bike Racers” click here.

Plate #23 at the tender age of 23 - Geoff at the 2000 Sydney Olympics where he placed 9th Credit: Tom Hanson (www.olympic.ca)

Plate #23 at the tender age of 23 – Geoff at the 2000 Sydney Olympics where he placed 9th Credit: Tom Hanson (www.olympic.ca)

1. Focus in Mountain Biking

“Focusing to me would mean concentrating upon the race coming up in the immediate future and just picturing yourself having a good performance. For me, positive thinking helps quite a bit”

“Focus to me is pretty general. If you’re focusing on an upcoming mountain bike race, you try to get your rest, you try to eat well, try and check out the course, work on any difficulties you are having with the course”

2. Staying Positive in Races

“I find that to help focus it is good to have key words that you remember. By using them in training it helps you to remember them during the race so you can key on a word that helps you to spin, reminds you to attack, that you are strong, that you love to climb, these kinds of things”

“As the race goes on, in the technical I’m trying to just relax. I talk to myself all the time, ‘relax’, ‘look ahead’, and ‘let it go’. I say these things to myself all the time”

3. Using Mental Imagery

“I visualize whenever I am just sitting around. I think about all the different parts of the course and how I’m going to ride them, go through the feelings I’m going to have before the race and at the start. Like just picturing staying relaxed and not getting upset if things are not going the way I want them to. I try to see how I’m going to start knowing and that its going to be harder at the end of the race and so I get ready for that”

“I visualize the first lap if I know the course, if I know what it looks like, just to visualize myself (doing it) ahead of time so its not like an alien situation that I’m suddenly in and it becomes stressful”

4. Race Focus Plans

“When I’m pre-riding the course usually I decide what areas are good for attacking, standing up, sitting down, doing certain things with the bike, going smooth, all these things. And then it’s just a matter of reminding myself before the race starts and then remembering that during the race. And even different strategies per lap, how hard I’m going to push, deciding what the goal of the first lap is going to be, second, third, fourth, and following through on that”

5. Refocusing

Flat Tire: “What I’ve learned is that you have to start back slowly, not to go crazy right off the bat getting your legs huge and full of lactate. So you just start easy again and try to be relaxed about it. Okay, I’ve lost so many positions but hopefully I can come back. You have to try and look at it in a positive way like I just got a rest, I had something to drink, stretched out, I don’t know. No there’s really no positive way to look at getting a flat tire but you can try”

Crashes: “I think you expect to fall especially in some muddy races and that’s usually not a problem. Its only the unexpected crashes which just kind of catch you by surprise which can kind of knock the wind out of you. But normally I’m so focused on keeping going that you can just bounce back up and get right back into it. Its only if you knock the wind out of yourself, or hurt yourself really badly for the first couple of minutes it’s a little harder to keep pressing forward. You just kind of have to keep your rhythm going until you start feeling normal again. And then you can get back into pushing harder”

6. Post-Race Evaluation

“After the race I think it’s important to look back on your race. If you had a really good race it’s really important to look back and see what you did well. Even if you did do well (had a good result), maybe you performed poorly and everyone else performed even worse. Even if you won, you still may have been able to improve on things. And then if you didn’t do well in the race, (it’s important to think about) your perception that things went badly, why was it that you didn’t do well. Was it your focus? Was it what you ate? Was it the course? Maybe the course wasn’t right. Were you too excited? Things like that. Or maybe it was just that you did have a good ride but your placing was really bad. There are so many things involved. I think it’s important to go back and look at it. But I also think that has to be done quickly and then to move on. Get information from it and use it but move on”

7. Improving Mental Focus/Confidence

“I think you’re always trying to work on your confidence. There’s always a bit of doubt coming into races whether you feel like you’re going to do well or not. I’m not sure how you work on that all the time. Another part you can always work on is just maintaining focus throughout the middle of the race. There’s always a time in the middle of the race where’s there’s a little bit of a lull. You sometimes let down a little bit and start thinking about how much longer the race is and thinking I’m not feeling too well, and working on being able to just focus on pushing through that and being confident right until the end. I don’t think it (confidence) is something you can consciously work on during a race. I think you can work on just getting ready, visualizing, knowing that you’re going to have those kind of feelings during the race. Just recognizing that it is going to happen, and coming into a race with confidence is fairly….confidence can be a very fragile thing. Its just comes with experience, having confidence that you’ve been training well and have taken care of your preparation, and other things”

 

 

Athlete-Mom Interview: Rebecca Dussault

I met Rebecca Dussault a few years back when she got into racing Xterras as a Pro as she was coming off of her stellar, Olympian cross-country skiing career. Since I first met Rebecca, her family has doubled in size and we met up again recently at the Whiskey off-road race at the end of April. She is a down to earth, multisport mama who recently won the Go Pro Mountain Games in Vail and is ripping it up on her road bike as well. Rebecca lives in Gunnison, Colorado with her husband, Sharbel and four children: son Tabor (age 12), son Simeon (age 7), son Anselm (age 3), and daughter Emiliana (age 15 months). Read on for yet another refreshing perspective on raising a family while being real to one’s inner “default mode” to stay active!

Go Pro Mountain Games

Go Pro Mountain Games

1.  Describe your life athletically (and otherwise) and how has it evolved through having each of your four children?

My husband and I married at 19 years each and I continued to compete for another season in XC skiing. Traveling the world with various teams lead to my early retirement from racing due to the struggle to be myself and remain faithful to my morals. During my 2 years away from the sport we had our first son and then I returned to skiing. It felt much better to be traveling with others who share my Christian beliefs and support me unconditionally. As a family, we committed to trying for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, which I did compete in, and one of the real victories was that my husband and son had come to every race and training camp for three years straight.

Next up was son number two conceived right after the Olympics. Unfortunately, my husband became very ill with an auto immune disease 8 months later and I again had to step away from sport to care for him. I was in survival mode as an athlete at this time. He eventually regained his health after three surgeries and I regained my competitive edge. I narrowly missed qualifying for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (overlooked for being a mother of two who’d taken breaks from racing despite skiing to a National Championship right before they named the team), but instead won a World Championship in Winter Triathlon in Norway 2010.
Ski racing in January 2010

Ski racing in January 2010

Following this win, true to our commitment to be open to life and fruitful in our marriage, we conceived another son and took a summer to learn holistic farming techniques. I got a lot of exercise on the farm just chasing pigs, carrying water and milking cows. I was strong from life, not lifting.
Since then, we have had a mobile wood fired pizza business which operates heavily on the weekends throughout the summer and totally cut into my competition schedule. That and we decided to live in a camper traveling the country for a year of learning. During this hiatus our fourth child, a daughter, born to us on the road in Washington State.
I have had to be content to be primarily a winter athlete until this year.  After a full and successful season of XC skiing and ski mountaineering, I have transitioned onto the bikes for racing and am loving it.
2. What motivated and continues to inspire you to get training and racing again?

I think I’m hard-wired to compete. Each pregnancy or life event, like my husband’s illness (2007-2008) which have taken me away from competition have caused me to fall back on my “factory settings.” It is my default mode to stay active for my own health and to maintain an effective platform for reaching people who need motivated and encouraged. Plus, being a homeschooling mother, I need a break from the kids occasionally and I’m not going to spend it any other way than exercising and having that healthy interior conversation time. I think it’s the picture of being wholly healthy (physically, mentally and chiefly spiritually) that keeps me going.

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3. Did you “train” during your pregnancies? How has your training/racing evolved/changed since becoming a mother?

I never “trained” while pregnant, but allowed myself ample opportunities to get out and stay fit. I was able to remain very active almost the whole duration of all four pregnancies. I believe this helped me have four totally natural births and very healthy babies.

Since becoming a mother, my training and racing has looked more like a balancing act. It is of utmost importance for me to keep things in the proper perspective, getting my priorities right daily. I am wife first, them mother, then athlete/mentor/coach. I know I am happiest, and so are those around me, when I stick to that. I have a selfless husband who kicks me out the door to train while he holds down the fort. His support, willingness and flexibility are the only reasons I have risen to the level of athlete that I am.
We make it a priority to travel to races as a family so that it is not just about ME because a lot of the training can feel that way, but it’s about a healthy exposure for our while family. Our children are gifted athletes and already love to race, so they are less thrilled than ever to miss out on competitions. The fun budget is sure tight when everyone comes, but it’s actually priceless to be together.
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4. What are you current training/racing ambitions for 2014?

I am not a very scripted person and least of all a planner. My spontaneity has me doing workouts and entering races on the fly. I wait for my window of opportunity to open and I race out the door to train or drop everything and head to a race. With 4 kids and 4 small businesses there’s so much to continually juggle.

I have the ambition of becoming pro in another sport, which this time around is road biking. I have in the past and currently, race pro in XC skiing, Xterra triathlon, winter triathlon, mountain biking, ski mountaineering and adventure racing. I guess “multi-sport momma” is a fitting title. My goals are to inspire women (men and children too!) everywhere to seek to be wholly healthy and I do that through my outreach at www.massstart.org and through my motivational talks, coaching and clinics nationwide. My further ambitions are to grow my fitness business, be a student of sport myself, and to race awful fast while keeping everything in balance.
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5. How do you balance family/work etc with your athletic goals?

Drumroll please… A Great Husband of course! Actually, we both have always been entrepreneurs and have conducted business (e.g. www.globalshelters.com) from the home or the race course. I have been blessed to have flexibility to have my family in tow at most races. There is no more important work than I do as wife and mother, so my athletics are just the bonus round.

I do, however, have to confess a great struggle with feeling grounded enough to compete steadily and with my whole heart. For years we’ve wanted to move to the land and homestead, so I feel like I’m straddling the fence with my lifestyles. We are still in the process of hunting for the perfect community and land. I think I have a “best of both worlds” scenario in part, but we need to put down roots soon to stay true to our holistic and bigger life goals.
Also, I for the first time at 33, I feel my window of competitiveness closing. It has been a challenge to still be such a competitive mom while my children have begun to compete as well. We try to never head in different directions on the weekend, but rather stay as a tight-knit family which has me at lots of sacrifices. I feel a little guilty that they’re only really getting exposed to sports I love at this point, but that’s where we’re at. I will always compete until they shovel rocks over me!
7. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or competing again after having children?
Find inspiring faster people to get out with. Cause yourself to be challenged. Be creative with your schedule and look for that slot where you can get out by yourself too and remember how much you love to move your body as a female athlete. It is a “body battle” just to get your figure back, never mind getting the competitive juices flowing again. Be patient. You just gave life to another human being. Embrace this sacred and precious time in your life. You can smash a new athletic record tomorrow!
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DussaultFamily

The Race Within A Race Recap

Ever since I’ve been an Xterra racer, I’ve always been envious of the fast swimmers. They are up at the front on the race, in control, and know what’s going on and likely what position they are in. Fast swimmers get to head out onto the single track first without any traffic and simply have to charge forward on the wide open trail to hold off as many people as they can for the rest of the race. Racing from the front or chasing from behind? Which is more motivating? I suppose it depends on how you rise to the occasion of whichever race scenario you find yourself in….

Unfortunately for me my first two Xterra races of the season have been long, solo efforts of chasing from behind. While I’ve certainly tried my best to hang on, the ever-increasing swim speeds of the majority of the pack in Xterra are tough. Its my own fault when I lose the front pack and the challenge of catching back up begins. In the last race in Alabama on May 17th I chased all day and gave it my best effort with the 2nd fastest run split but unfortunately didn’t close any gaps so 6th again it was. It was an eventful race with colder than ever temps (14 degrees C!!) in the usually hot and humid south, along with a massive, dark rain storm that left my hands and feet numb and I bounced down blood rock on my bike and tried to get the circulation going again. After one really hard crash on my right knee, which I still can’t kneel on without pain, it was still overall a fun day. But I was missing the real racing battles that I love.

Xterra Bama Mountain Bike - thanks to Trey Garmin for the pic

Xterra Bama Mountain Bike – thanks to Trey Garmin for the pic

A few weeks before the Xterra SouthEast Champs I flew down to Prescott, AZ for the last weekend of April to have a go at the Whiskey 50 mountain bike race. (thanks to my brother for lending me some Aeroplan points for my birthday weekend, and for my Luna teammate Katerina for letting me crash in her hotel room). The event started out with a road criterium on the Friday night. After not racing a crit or a short track race in at least 5 years, and on the verge of turning 39 I was a little nervous about whether I have any fast twitch left in my legs. Feeling extra sluggish with a small head cold, I chugged a few shots of espresso before the race and hoped for the best. When I heard “first lap prime” on the start line, with all systems firing with caffeine, I just went for it up the first hill. Unfortunately after the descent I only came across the first lap line in 3rd, and then realized I had to go up the hill about 9 more times – ouch! I regrouped enough to hang it for 8th but it was a lung and leg busting, post-race cough attack inducing race!

Leading out the crit at Whiskey 50 with a "well this isn't too bad smile" before the pain hit the next lap.

Leading out the crit at Whiskey 50 with a “well this isn’t too bad smile” before the pain hit the next lap.

The Sunday 50-mile mountain bike race was great too, after snow (incredible freak weather) the day before for the poor amateurs, the single track was in mint condition for the Pro races. After hanging with Erica Tingey and Rebecca Dussault in the mom-pack for a bit, it was time to work up the massive long climb. I bridged up to 3-4 girls on the climb and went kamikaze on the last long descent before hitting the road home and pinning it as fast as I could with Heidi Rentz hot on my heels after the last single track to roll in for 9th place.

Last bit of single track for a 3h48 day in the saddle

Last bit of single track for a 3h48 day in the saddle

A week after Alabama, I enjoyed the luxury of a local race, the Oak Bay Half Marathon. Being Victoria, the land of many fast runners, I was hoping for some good company. Unfortunately once the race was underway, Marilyn Arsenault was off the front and my good training buddy, Clare was behind me, and so it stayed for the rest of the race, I was stuck in no (wo)man’s land with no guys either! But a fun test to keep charging and on a slightly hilly but scenic ocean side course I finished the day a few minutes off my best in 1:21:23 for 2nd female, and 5th overall – and then couldn’t walk for a few days.

And most recently was the Island Cup mountain bike finals in Campbell River, B.C., 45 minutes north of my hometown of Courtenay. When I saw super fast mom of two, Carey Mark, on the line I knew it would be tough day. I got to the first single track in front of her but by the end of 1 lap she was still on my tail. She went by and I was looking forward to following her for a bit but unfortunately she took a slight wrong turn and I was back in front. That’s where I stayed, putting as much power in to my pedals as I could to break away and trying to stay smooth over the rocky, baby head descents on my hard tail, rough stuff! And after approximately 1h45 of racing Carey sling shotted around me for the win! The last time we raced I beat her by 1 second! Now that was a race!

Island Cup Series Final Finish Line

Island Cup Series Final Finish Line

Chatting randomly after the race about cyclocross, Carey said, “You should do it, you’d be good with your aggressiveness.” Me? Aggressive? I had to chuckle. But it made me think, I have always raced my best, running on the track, short track, mountain bike, and triathlon, when in a head to head, even body contacting battle! And maybe that is why I will likely never do an Ironman. After dabbling in some 70.3’s the last few years, I returned my Tri bike this year. While some thrive on it, long solo efforts are not fun racing for me. As I head to Richmond, VA for the next Xterra next weekend I hope for the luck of a good battle, another female Pro or otherwise! Either way, it is the race with some of the best mountain bike trails in the series so it will be fun regardless!

Bottom line: No matter how big or small, A-race or not, if you find yourself in a great race within a race, seize the opportunity to bring out your best! And if you like those long solo efforts, all the better too – maybe something like an Ironman or Ultrarunning etc is your thing – knowing your racing personality helps a bit too!

 

Athlete-Mom Interview: Rose Hughes Grant

Meet Rose Hughes Grant, a Pro mountain bike racer and travel agent from Kalispell, Montana. I first met Rose at a 3-day mountain bike stage race in Fernie, B.C. in 2011. Fast forward almost 3 years and Rose and her husband, Nelson are now the proud parents of 14-month old Layla. I ran into Rose again recently at the Whiskey 50 mountain bike race in Prescott, AZ at the end of April. She ripped it up there with a 5th place podium finish in both the Friday night Crit and Sunday Pro mountain bike race! She is going full steam ahead with a many national mountain bike races to come and two World Cup races in the schedule for 2014. Read on to find out how Rose has continued to follow her riding and racing passion through pregnancy and the demanding baby days….

RoseFamily

1. What was you life as an athletically (or otherwise) before having your daughter?

I’ve always been involved with athletics, mostly running in the years leading up to finding my mountain bike again in 2010. I enjoyed endurance races, and got to run the Boston Marathon in 2007. In 2011  I purchased a USA Cycling Race License for the first time and did my first real travelling for mountain bike racing. I completed that season with 2 national championships as a category 1 rider. The following season, 2012, I upgraded to Pro, and at the very beginning of my scheduled race season unexpectedly found out that I was pregnant. I was on my way to Fernie, BC for the Furious Three, a 3 day stage race, when through a conversation with a friend, confirmed that I had better take a pregnancy test. I waited until after the race and the test was positive. The next weekend I had XC Nationals slated in Sun Valley and the Missoula Pro XCT race the weekend after. I was feeling pretty good, so I competed at nationals to finish in 13th and in 6th place the following weekend at 6 and 7 weeks prego. I continued to race locally until I was 15 weeks along.

Rose 3rd on the Podium at US Super D Nationals Race with Layla - 4 months old!

Rose 3rd on the Podium at US Super D Nationals Race with Layla – 4 months old!

2. What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing again since becoming a mom?

Even after becoming a mom, I am motivated to find where my potential lies. I love riding and racing my bike. I like structure and having goals. For me, training and racing is my outlet, it’s where I unwind and regroup to be the best wife and mother that I can be. Biking is my thing. It’s what I’m good at. It makes me happy, and as long as it continues to work… as long as I am able to fit in my training…. And as long as I continue to have support from my husband and family….I’m going to keep running with it. I believe that God gave me a talent, and I believe that my passion is my purpose.

All of us moms are truly thankful for supportive moms/grandmas!!

All of us moms are truly thankful for supportive moms/grandmas!!

3. Did you “train” during your pregnancy? How has your training/racing evolved/changed since becoming a mom?

I did all I could to stay in the best possible shape throughout my pregnancy. I made it my goal to do something active every day, knowing that I fully intended to put in a solid race season after having my baby in March. February came and the Montana weather started to warm. I switched from skate skiing to riding my bike (although very uncomfortable),and was doing mellow 40 mile rides on the road through my due date. I also made sure to incorporate some strength training at the gym throughout my pregnancy.

Since becoming a mother, I am not on my own time frame any longer. The biggest change is not actually a change in my workouts, but the strategy to accomplish them and in a timely manner. With the blessing of working from home, I am flexible to train during a portion of my day that my husband is available to watch Layla. Otherwise, I find a sitter or ride with her in her Chariot. I actually use the Chariot 3-4 days per week, or I would ride my trainer during her nap during the winter months.

4. What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2014?

Last season was an experiment really. Having an infant, nursing, getting back into peak fitness, losing the baby weight, etc. I didn’t place an unreasonable amount of pressure on myself. I trained hard and did have a solid season, but I wanted 2014 to be my year to have a consistent presence at the national races. My ambitions are to never miss a workout unless there is a very good reason. My biggest and hardest ambition is the East coast block of races that I am planning out the logistics for currently. There are a lot of details to coordinate when traveling/training/racing solo with a one year old. I’m planning to race XC Nationals and my first 2 world cups during the East coast block.

5. How do you balance family with your athletic goals?

I don’t over commit my time. I prioritize what is the most important to me…family, work,and training. Most days I don’t do anything else. My husband is really active too, and it can be so easy to do the “pass-off” at the door, which some days is just the way it is,but time together with the hubby is something that unfortunately has to be scheduled into our busy lives.

Husband Nelson with Layla cheering on Rose 2 months after baby Layla born!

Husband Nelson with Layla cheering on Rose 2 months after baby Layla born!

6. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or competing again after having children?

The biggest thing for me was to set goals that are reachable, but not without hard work and commitment. I think there is almost always a way if there is some creativity put into your planned workouts. If training gets too hard or is causing family tension, re-evaluate how you are completing your workouts. The Chariot is my lifesaver! It was a splurge but worth my mental and physical health ten fold!! In addition to pulling it behind my bike, I use it as a jogger and for skate skiing in the off-season as well! Sometimes splurges are necessary if they are possible!

Rose racing the Whiskey 50 one month ago (April, 2014)

Rose racing the Whiskey 50 one month ago (April, 2014)

Xterra West Champs Photo Story

The first race of the U.S. Xterra Pro series kicked off this past Sunday at Lake Las Vegas Resort about 30 minutes south of Las Vegas. As you can see the unique landscape is nothing like what I’ve been riding all winter at home in Victoria!

Xterra West Landscape

Xterra West Landscape

It was fun catching up with my coach, Cal, while pre-riding the climbs and surfing down the open, somewhat wide, rocky descents which really only had one good line! (Cal went on to win his age group by about 4 minutes – nice work coach!)

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Race morning started out comfortably warm. The water was cool but felt perfect once racing. The two lap swim started from the newly built beach just days before. It was a bit of mayhem heading straight into the sun at 8 am. For the second lap I found myself leading small group before bridging up to Kara LaPoint (a Luna Chix sponsored athlete who finished the day in 7th in her Xterra Pro debut race!)

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Am I the only one in the race? Ha

Am I the only one in the race? Ha

Out on the bike my goal was to hold off and then hold on to my teammate Shonny as she was creeping up on me on. Unfortunately that plan derailed pretty fast as my seat bag felt off and was bumping along my tire. I quickly tied it back on before it promptly fell off a second time, a real momentum killer! At that point I ripped it off and shoved in down my chest where it stayed for the rest of the race as you can see in the photo below. It actually didn’t bother me at all – a future way to carry tools, CO2 and tubes?? I do love my new tri-suit from Champion System for sure, especially when it can help hold the essentials over so many bumps, ha!

Gel on leg, seat back down front, fun riding!

Gel on leg, seat bag down front, fun riding!

Onto the run I had big ground to make up. I was feeling pretty good until about the point this photo below was taken, maybe a mile into the six miles. Once out on the moonscape again, my tank was feeling pretty empty, reminiscent of my first year of Xterra racing before I had figured out the training and racing of triathlon.The run followed the first 4-miles of the bike course again and the wind was really whipping up. It was sort of fun passing the many amateurs riding (who had started racing 30 min after us) but not so fun trying to stay out of their way and out of the rocks on the descents. Quite sketchy really. Especially as my friend Mike nearly clipped me while making a pass – the guy he was passing had blocked his view of me and he didn’t even see me until going by – yikes!

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Anyway, I ran on but wasn’t feeling too frisky. I could see Chantell up ahead at some points but I was still over a minute from catching her when I crossed the finish for 6th. Flora Duffy killed it for first with a huge margin win, but about 3 minutes separated 2-6th place.(Emma Garrard was second, Luna teammates Shonny and Suzie took 3rd and 4th and Chantell Widney from Edmonton took 5th). A post-race analysis with my coach revealed that after loosing a gel (down my leg) and by miscalculating my drink mix I only put in about half the calories I should have for the race! Rookie mistake – how long have I been racing?? Seriously! Looking forward to tackling the next Xterra in Alabama in about a month and seeing what if a little more sugar in the system will add to the late race fun factor!

Of course one of the biggest highlights of the weekend was catching up with my University of Washington track running teammate BFF, Amy after not seeing her for three whole years. She drove up from San Diego with her youngest son, Charlie (21 months) for Sat night and thanks to her for taking some of these pics and cheering us all on! Next up for me is the Whiskey-50 mountain bike race in Prescott, AZ in two weeks. Should be a good time!

Thanks for reading and Happy Easter weekend!! This means a 4-day long weekend up here in Canada, yahoooo! Bring on the chocolate egg hunting!

With Amy and Charlie post-race

With Amy and Charlie post-race

 

Motivate Me Coach!

I started working with my first memorable coach on a year round basis at the beginning of Grade Seven (yes, that was you Darren Skuja!). I joined our local track and field club, the Comox Valley Cougars – which is still going strong by the way! The year prior I had competed in some of my first track races through school. I remember one in particular, an 800m, how much it hurt and how much my lungs burned afterwards. A swimmer had won the race, and I finished around 3rd or 4th.  All I know is that race ignited a competitive fire inside and the desire to see what I could do if I actually trained for the race.And I wanted the guidance on how to get strong and fast over the off-season.

Over my twelve competitive years as a runner I was truly lucky to have some amazing coaches. They were positive, encouraging, and truly cared for the whole athlete. Most of my coaches have run alongside the team, and even continued to compete. They were passionate about their sport and willing to share their wealth of knowledge. As a mountain bike racer, my very knowledgeable brother (much in thanks to his longtime coach who imparted everything he knew to Geoff) was my coach. It got me thinking about how great coaches can pass on enough knowledge to help their athletes become more and more independent, self-aware, and self-motivated.

During my doctoral studies my lab studied all things motivation. One particular theory at the center of it all is called Self-Determination Theory. Through a plethora of studies in many areas, in sport this theory explains how the coaching relationship can foster self-determined motivation, or more internalized motivation and all of its positive consequences. Through meeting three basic psychological needs; our needs to feel 1) autonomous, 2) competent, and 3) cared for, coaches can truly impact motivation for better or for worse. Here is a great synopsis video on Self-Determination Theory and how coaches can apply it in practical terms:

As a mental performance consultant I have observed Self-Determination Theory in action. The best, motivational and inspiring coaches truly listen to their athletes, value athletes’ feedback, don’t show favoritism, and care about their athletes in and out of sport. On the contrary, I have worked with athletes frustrated because they crave knowledge and their coach gets defensive whenever questioned, provides more negative criticism than constructive feedback, and/or does not communicate clear expectations.

As I continue to train and balance it all with a family, I still value the incredible motivation my current coach, Calvin Zaryski provides me through constant new training challenges. I’ve been with my current coach for eight years now. He always incorporates my feedback and “scheduling stressors” into my training program. I believe a great coach respects the impact life in general can have on physical training and recovery! There should be room for flexibility and modifications on a daily and weekly basis, we are not pure physical robots! As athletes we need to trust the growing knowledge and self-awareness we have of our own bodies. And along the way the best coaches often wear the sport psychologist cap when needed as we figure out the athletic journey together! Having a coach I trust in helps take the thinking out of training. I do what is on the plan, albeit with modifications and changes as needed and communicated with my coach. I haven’t been injured in forever (knock on wood!) and I credit that to a highly educated and personally experienced coach who knows his stuff, knows when to push me beyond what I think I can do in a workout, and when to wisely hold me back, when I might have thought more would be better!

With summer race season around the corner, be motivated and confident by working with a coach you continually learn from, listens to you, and in whom you trust can help you better than you can help yourself prepare for race day!

Why Running will always Rock!

I finished my second race of 2014 today, another road running race. It was 5 km short ;) The last time I raced a 5 km was at the end of my racing days on the track, the last race of my senior year running as a Husky for the University of Washington. I was 1:12 slower today then back then, and although my legs wanted to party like it was 1998, my body that has since morphed into a cyclist and now a triathlete knew I would be well off the pace of my much younger self.

In a running race there isn’t always much of a story to tell, unlike the endless war stories of mountain bike and Xterra race days. Today, a few elbows were thrown around off the start line as myself and 632 other runners headed off for the out and back race along the gorgeous seaside in Sidney,  just outside of Victoria. Like most, I went out a little fast, then settled in, found my rhythm, and felt like I was rolling better on the way home. I picked off some people and had a little kick to come home across the finish line. Of course it hurt, like most running races in which you decide to push yourself.

But it did get me reflecting on what I’ve always loved about running, especially as I consider it through the eyes of other sports I’ve done and been involved with in my work as a mental performance consultant. Whether you are a full-time runner, do it as a duathlete/ triathlete, as cross training or to simply keep fit for any other sport, there are many reasons running rocks! While certainly applicable to other sports, here are my top reasons to continue putting one leg front of the other as a runner:

1. Time. Like my race today, running definitely takes less time out of your day. And probably gives you the most bang for your buck for building overall fitness.

2. Runner’s High. Need I say more. I can’t quite compare it to “cyclist’s high” or “triathletes high”

3. Anytime. Anywhere. Any season. Running can be done anywhere. Road. Trails. In a city. It is also the perfect pace to enjoy the scenery and take it all in. It can be done in most any weather or season, and doesn’t require any special facilities.

4. Social. Many of my best friends and more memorable conversations were through running together. There aren’t many sports where you can train side by side for long, and enjoy long conversations. One of my favourite memories growing up were family oriented breakfast runs with our local club.

5. No equipment advantage or maintenance. Unlike the sometimes snooty world of triathlon, no one stands around geeking out over what running shoes someone is wearing before the start of a race, or how much they must be worth, gasp! A good pair of running shoes is affordable to most anyone and a plus but they will never win you the race, you and your body alone must do all the work! You also don’t need to use your precious time maintaining, updating, or cleaning your running “equipment”. Just stick your stinky shoes back in the closet until tomorrow’s run.

6. Races en masse. Whether on the track, the road, or in the trails, running races always have plenty of participants. Big ones even have pace bunnies. There will be no shortage of people to run with and help push you to a personal best or simply keep you company. Because running is such an accessible sport, most can relate well or at least understand if you say, “I’m a runner”, unlike the more obscure sports.

7. Freedom. As related to point 3, you are free to run anywhere. Whether going to work for the day or travelling all you need to do is pack a pair of shoes and some running clothes to get a workout in while you’re away.

8. Life Balance. While this is certainly debatable, to reach your full potential as a runner it much easier to balance with other pursuits like school, family and/or working full-time. You don’t need to train hours per day or sacrifice another entire area of your life to give your running goals your best shot.

9. The Mom Factor. Of course I can’t forget that getting a run in was the easiest thing to do with me wee little ones (in the single and then double chariot carrier), and now I can run along with them while they ride their bikes. In a few more years I will be trying to keep up to them on our own family runs!

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Motivation and Momentum through Motherhood

Yesterday afternoon I was kitted up to ride. Then I dozed off on the couch while my kids played noisily around me. My legs were still hurting from the previous day’s running intervals on the track. It felt so good to just lie still for a while and close my eyes. I could have stayed there and skipped the day’s planned intervals on the bike and had a nice dinner with my family. No one would know or care, and my coach is afar in Calgary. But because I hate the feeling of quitting, I finally got up, had a little coffee to get me going and jumped in the saddle. The week’s intensity had added up and it was one of the toughest workouts I’ve done in a while, physically and mentally.

I believe I’ve been an athlete long enough to know when throwing a day of training out is a good idea, and a rather smart idea in the overall scheme of things. But I also know when I just need to suck it up, take it one step, or interval at a time, and just see if I can do it. And I did it! It feels good, and such days put mental toughness in the bank! Especially after those low moments now and then, when I say, “Why am I still doing this?!”

Seven years ago this month, I won the athlete lottery and was welcomed on the Luna Pro team at the annual team camp aka take a few photos and get spoiled rotten with racing gear. My daughter Zoé was six months old and it was the beginning of, “lets see how this training and racing things goes again after bringing a child into the world”. And here I still am, two children later, and a year away from 40! Really?! Since then I’ve always told myself I will race as long as I’m still motivated, still having fun, and it still works with my values of balancing it with my family. Thanks to the incredible support of the Luna team and my family, I can continue to say yes to all of the above.

March 2008

March 2008

Photo during first Luna team camp in March 2008

Photo during first Luna team camp in March 2008

I know I won’t race for Luna forever (well maybe, some of our team members have outstanding longevity – very inspiring!) or always race Pro, but I’ve learned I love training, pushing whatever my current limits are, and setting racing goals to motivate me. I know it is a lifestyle that I won’t easily give up. I’ll never be content to turn into a couch potato or just exercise 20 minutes a day in my athletic “retirement”.

I’ve also learned to appreciate all the advantages and positives of coming back to training and competition on the other side of childbirth. The first thing I learned was how much energy training gave me back! The demanding first blurry eyed months with a newborn left me feeling more like napping than getting out the door to train. But I was surprised often at how good I did feel once I got going. You are stronger than you think new moms!

Making Racing a Family Affair, July 2011

Making Racing a Family Affair, July 2011

Through ballooning up with twice with two very healthy sized babes in my belly, losing all my core strength and then starting all over again to get my fitness back I’ve learned a little more patience. And that getting back into race shape is most about how you feel, and the satisfaction of having strength, stamina, and speed come back through persistence, and plain hard work. I may never have a flat, six-pack again, such a goal is so passé anyways isn’t it?. It’s not about the numbers on the scale (best to throw that out!), or that go in your mouth – just eat often and well enough to nourish yourself and be reasonable with the treats is my motto. The only numbers I focus on are the training numbers my Coach Cal pushes me to shoot for, without him I would be deferring to my naturally lazy side, ha!

Many ask – how do you do it with kids? To be honest, I don’t know how I would still be doing it without kids at this stage of my life. My kids continually rejuvenate my motivation, put everything in perspective, and give more purpose to everything I do. They teach me to stay in the moment of everyday and focus on what is most important. They are what get me out of bed early in the morning to train so I have more time in the day to spend with them. While my body is stiffening up more with each passing year, Zoe and Nico have stretched me to grow in every way possible, and are my biggest cheering squad!

My fast growing kids, March 2014

My fast growing kids, March 2014

Handling Olympic Sized Pressure?

Every four years the World pays attention to who is who at the Olympic Games. It has been four years since Vancouver but how many of us in Canada have really followed our 2010 stars such as Alex Bilodeau, Charles Hamelin, Christine Nesbitt, Maëlle Ricker etc through the incredible ups and downs of their 2011, 2012, and 2013 seasons? We see them as defending champions like it was yesterday but a lot can happen in four years. Winning a Gold medal is tough. Winning after winning can be even tougher. We often hear it is those who can merely survive the pressure that will come out on top when it counts.

Most of us can’t even begin to imagine the pressure some athletes feel while competing at the Olympics, especially as we sit, screaming at the TV with a beer in hand on our comfortable couch at home. However, in my humble opinion the ones that thrive rather than merely surviving are mentally aware and prepared for the following three factors:

1. Respect for the Luck factor! The best athletes prepare their best and take care of everything that is in their control. But as we can observe everyday in Sochi right now, sometimes equipment fails, or another athlete crashes someone out, the conditions can deteriorate, a body just doesn’t respond physiologically…the list goes on. Just watch our Short Track athletes for a little while and you’ll understand that luck is part of the game AND the excitement of it. Those that get angry and frustrated at every unlucky moment won’t have much mental stamina and toughness over the long haul!

2. Focusing on the Process. This is easier said then done but despite all the hoopla and distractions, the athletes that can stay focused on the simple, and previously well practiced, step by step routines of their performance – all the things that are in their control –  will give themselves the best chance of doing their personal best. They race for themselves, they compete and fight to the end by staying in every moment. I’ve often asked athletes to answer two questions in relation to a big performance goal: What is the worst thing that can happen? What is the best thing that can happen? If you can answer both and be prepared to face and accept both then you can be freer to just perform and enjoy the opportunity.

3. A Lasting Love. This may sound cheesy but the best performances often exude a real love and joy for the sport that transcends extra pressure and high expectations. Think of figure skaters who draw us in to their performance through their passion and joy of skating versus those going more mechanically through the motions. The former athletes have developed a perspective that their life in sport is a long journey and every moment is another opportunity to challenge themselves and grow. They handle the Olympic sized moments with the same attitude as any others – I love my sport, I’m glad you’re watching, and I can’t wait to show you what I can do today!

Perhaps ironically, those athletes that decide to define success in sport only by their Olympic moments, by winning or “losing” an Olympic medal, will only add undue pressure to themselves.

Finally, consider the wise words of Commander Chris Hatfield as he was interviewed as asked about his advice for athletes by Peter Mansbridge on CBC on January 20, 2014:

There are very, very, very few people who win Gold at the Olympics. If you say, “If I don’t win Gold than I’m a failure, or I’m letting somebody down or whatever”, then what if you win Silver? What if you win Bronze? What if you’re binding comes apart? What if Lufthansa doesn’t bring you gear? What if one of all those millions of things that happen in life happen? And only a few of the people who go there are going to win Gold….It is a very rare, singular moment in time (an event) in the continuum of life. You need to honour the highs, and the peak moments, you need to prepare your life for them. But recognize the fact that the preparation for those moments is your life. And in fact that is the richness of your life. And anybody who goes to these Olympics, shouldn’t just say, “Hey, I was at the Sochi Olylmpics” I would much rather hear them say, I prepared for the Sochi Olympics for twenty years and these are the things that happened and these are the things that I learned. And when I got to Sochi it was great and I did my race. And I placed 8th or 1st or 92nd. The challenge that we set for each other and the way that we shape ourselves to rise to that challenge is life. 

Athlete-Mom Interview: Richelle Love

Meet Richelle Love! As her name suggests Richelle exudes a love for life, family, and fitness that is contagious. And she blends and balances these loves in her work as the General Manager/Part Owner of Tri-It Multisport, a store for all the latest and coolest swim-bike-run products located in Calgary, Alberta. Richelle and I have put on two women’s mountain bike clinics together in the last few years and it was mainly thanks to her amazing organizational skills! Richelle lives in Cochrane, Alberta with her husband, Jeff and 15-month old son, Rowan. Read on for a yet another unique perspective for my first athlete-mom interview of 2014! As you can also see from the photos below there is rarely a moment Richelle is not smiling when out enjoying her favourite activities!

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What was you life as an athlete (or otherwise) before having Rowan? I have always been athletic. Running, mountain biking and triathlon have been my main activities for the past 20 years. Right before getting pregnant I came off a great season of mountain bike racing and my second Ironman.

 What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing again after one child? Doing something for me that I love. My runs (and especially my long runs) are much needed “me” time. Being able to keep up with my little guy also pushes me to stay fit. I want to be that mom who is able to ride her bike with her son and play all day at the park.

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 Did you “train” during your pregnancy? What has your training been like post-childbirth? I was really active until around 6 months – teaching cycling classes, running, swimming, coaching a mountain bike camp for women, and I even did a sprint triathlon when I was 5 months pregnant. I then had a lot of fluid build up and got very uncomfortable which led to me not doing as much physically. I wish I had made the effort to walk more at that point as I know it would have helped my fitness and made me feel better.

I had a hard labor that ended up having an unplanned c-section, so I didn’t work out until 8 weeks after my son was born. That was hard, but I started easy on the bike and walking. I then slowly progressed to short runs and built from there. I took my time getting back to it to ensure I didn’t get injured. I built up and ran a marathon when Rowan was 10 months old and ran an off road ultra marathon where I raised money for MitoCanada just before Rowan’s first birthday. It was fun to have those goals.

I have noticed though fitting training in can be trickier as a mom – most moms can relate to this. You just have to be adaptable and flexible. Sometimes you can be all ready for a run and your little one can get sick or childcare is suddenly unavailable. Shorter, harder workouts become a necessity or doing workouts with your kids involved. My new one is “look at mommy make a funny face and do a squat. Oh, it makes you laugh…I am going to do that 25 more times!”

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 What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2014? My 2014 goals are the Calgary Marathon 50th Anniversary 50km run and the Lost Soul 50km Off Road Ultra. I also want to get back to Xterra racing with Xterra Canmore.

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How do you balance family/work with your athletic goals? I am so lucky to be part owner of Tri It Multisport where as a team we work to ensure we put emphasis on health and wellness. It flows into all aspects of my life. I am constantly juggling things to make sure I am giving my attention to each facet as it is very easy to focus on one or two of these things as the third one suffers.

The reality is you do need more hours in a day so you have to make it happen. Getting up early to get a workout in and staying up late so you can spend some time with your partner – as work and your little one often dominate the day. The extra effort goes a long way to your success. It is hard work and you have to choose to make it happen so no one looses out, including yourself.

 Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape or even competing again after having children? Make sure you don’t rush or push to hard as you get back at it. I have seen a lot of new moms try to get back at it too early and most commonly run into hip or pelvic floor issues. When you are ready get out there and do what you like – it has to be something you are excited to get back to.

Pick a goal. It can be hard to get started if you don’t have a goal. It will also help motivate you to get your workouts in. Moms can have a lot of guilt feeling like they need to spend 100% of their attention on their kids and not on themselves. I know I can fall into that thinking very easily. Let your spouse know your goals so you can work together to make sure you get out and are active.

Be flexible. Sometimes a workout is cut short due to the naps or a sick baby. These things happen. Don’t get frustrated and do what you can. Squats while holding you little one or push-ups while playing can be an excellent workout – you choose to make it work.

If you can, buy a Chariot. They can really help you stay active with your little one. Take them along on your adventures. My little guy loves riding in the Chariot. I will take a peek when I am running and can see him looking around at all of the sights. It is good for them to get out and get the fresh air too; the Chariot makes it possible to do that in all types of weather and conditions.

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