About Danelle Kabush

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

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, 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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Athlete-Mom Interview: Emma Garrard

Let me introduce you to Emma Garrard from Park City, Utah, where she lives and enjoys the outdoors year round with her boyfriend, Ian, border collie, Kip, and son, Torin (born December, 2012) . I have had the pleasure of racing Xterra’s with Emma over the last seven years, and as Emma has improved every year from U.S. National amateur champion in 2007 and since turning Pro in 2008.  After giving birth to her son, Torin in December, Emma, 32 years young, got back to training and racing by the spring. She improved and got fitter every race and by the end of the season was 4th at the U.S. Xterra Championships and 5th at the Xterra World Championships at the end of October in Maui. Read on to learn about Emma’s athletic journey into motherhood….
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1. What was you life as an athletically (or otherwise) before having Torin?
Since 2009, when I lost my job as a newspaper photographer and moved to Park City it’s been focusing on XTERRA triathlon in the summer while also working at a bike shop and doing dryland coaching for a junior Nordic program. In the winter I also coach and work at a Nordic Center, White Pine Touring instructing, and teach Computrainer classes for Max Testa Training. I also competed in Nordic ski races and winter triathlons. In 2011, my last full season before becoming a mom, I traveled a lot, to Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Spain, Brazil and all over the US for races. I was trying to ‘make it’ as a triathlete but wasn’t really planning ahead too much.
2. I know your pregnancy with Torin was a surprise right at the start of  the 2012 race season – what was that like emotionally for you? 
I’m glad I waited until my 30s to have an unplanned pregnancy! It was a shock and really tough emotionally, I was coming off a good start to the season, placing 3rd at the XTERRA West Championships and felt like I was hitting my stride. I was really happy with my lifestyle and really excited for the season and the freedom to travel to races on a budget. I knew my life would not be the same again but knew racing could be an option as there are so many successful athlete-moms out there. I felt really stressed out financially because if I could not race I could not get a large portion of my annual income. Pregnancy in the US is incredibly expensive and my health insurance plan did not cover pregnancy. On top of that I was worrying about funding my racing when I returned from pregnancy. That being said I’ve always wanted to have kids and was planning on having them while being an athlete but I’d hoped to establish myself better as an athlete first to have a bit more stability. It was really stressful making the call to sponsors but they were all very understanding.
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3. What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing again after Torin was born?
I really love the process and getting out everyday and training, especially when it’s outdoors. But mostly I felt I still had something to prove and had not achieved my goals. It was also important for me to prove women can do whatever they were doing before they had kids whether it’s racing or any other kind of profession of passion. I shouldn’t have to, because there are so many moms who have proved it before me but I still hear doubt and I was still asked a lot if I was going to keep racing after having a child. Initially my goal was to finish an XTERRA and not be last in the pro women, and hopefully score some points for the overall series. Ten months later I was hoping to win worlds, it didn’t happen but I came a long way!
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4. Did you “train” during your pregnancy?
Yes. I kept racing until about 10 weeks. Most of the racing I did not know I was pregnant but some I did. I initially did a lot of research and talking to doctors to figure out if it was safe to keep competing and whether or not I could still be competitive and for how long. I made it a goal to finish the ITU World Championships in Pelham, Alabama. I’d slowed down already but it was a very fast decline after that even though most people couldn’t tell I was pregnant (besides the giant boobs!) I’m glad I competed in the race but wouldn’t do that again, I’d probably stop when I knew I was pregnant because I didn’t feel good in that last race. After calling my season quits I made it my goal to exercise during pregnancy, again after doing a lot of research, including reading all the athlete-mom interviews :) and believed it would help my pregnancy, labor and child. Not to mention make me stronger for when I returned to racing. I did not have a coach or training plan but generally exercised once a day for about an hour, a lot of jogging, hiking, swimming, mountain biking and some rollerskiing I was doing for coaching. But it was very unstructured and if I really didn’t want to I didn’t workout, that being said, I rarely felt like doing anything in the 1st trimester but always felt better and less tired and nauseous when I worked out. The heat also bothered me a lot more when I was pregnant and seemed to do a lot better once it cooled off. I tried to make sure it was a break from my training in the past and I stopped and turned around when I’d had enough rather than trying to make it to the top. I tried to do one longer ride a week anywhere from 2-4 hours. We had a late winter but I got out on skate skis a few times when I was pretty big and that was not fun because it felt like I was holding a medicine ball! Classic skiing was a lot better and the day before I went into labor I remember classic skiing and feeling pretty good and making it up all the hills, having poles took a lot of the weight off. I went into labor right after swimming.
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5. How has your training progressed post-childbirth?
It felt great to get out again after having Torin and didn’t worry much about times or pace before 4 months. I did a lactate test a couple of months after and I think I was about 20 watts off my threshold pace which wasn’t bad, I know it’s a lot higher now than it was before I had Torin. I certainly underestimated how much nursing would control my life and impact my training so I really had to remember to eat and drink a lot. My workouts are still scheduled around feeding but so much more so early on. When you are nursing every couple of hours that 2 hours goes by so fast. It takes 45 minutes to nurse you only have 1:15 and that doesn’t include getting things ready etc so making it to the pool is pretty challenging. After 4 months I started to feel a lot better and improved a lot between 4-6 months and continued to improve until the end of my season. Any major differences from pre-Torin days? I’ve trained a lot less now and my training is a lot more specific. The biggest thing was logistically finding time to train, for the first 7 months it was mostly Ian and I taking turns working and taking care of  Torin so I found ways to train with Torin whether it was with the Chariot, or riding the trainer inside while he napped or setting him on  the pool deck in his car seat while I swam. I was grateful if I could get out and do anything. After 7 months I had a lot more time to train but still had a lot less volume so I could do all the other mom stuff! It seemed like initially it took me so much longer to get out the door, whether it would be feeding the baby, pumping, bringing Torin over to his aunt’s house along with all his stuff and then getting my stuff ready and remembering to eat. But I rarely think, ‘it was so easy to train before I had a child’ because I always felt like I was juggling a lot and was never just a triathlete. I certainly feel stronger now but it could be because of a lot of things.
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5. How do you balance family/work with your training/competition schedule? Doing less of everything else besides being a mom; working, racing, training and spending time together. Taking turns working, riding, and watching Torin. Focusing on a few key races a year and having a low volume training plan. Having someone come to races with me whether it be Ian or my mom was essential. Investing in daycare helped a lot too, that way you can also have more quality time together rather than always trying to do other things while watching your child.
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6. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting  back in shape or even competing again after having children?
Be patient and enjoy being a new mom as the races will always be there. But having a race as a goal is great motivation and a break and alone time from being mom. If you don’t have that goal it’s hard to get out the door. A big realization for me was not stressing out about following a training plan exactly, you will have to skip some workouts, but instead being more concerned with how I felt, if I felt fit and fast despite how much training I’d done I believed I could do well in a race and usually I did.
Thanks for sharing Emma! Please check out Emma’s insightful and entertaining blog posts and photography on her website: www.emmagarrard.com. You can also follow her on twitter:@emma_garrard

Snot Rocketing through the Heat in Maui: Xterra Worlds Race Report

Though the Xterra season is long, being from a Northern Nation, I usually feel like I get into my best shape every year near the end of the season after lots of outdoor riding etc all summer. As per usual, Xterra Nationals went fairly well and I was continuing to build that fitness a little in the 5 weeks up to Worlds. Having moved the family out to Victoria, B.C. (back to my homeland :)) on Labour Day Weekend, I’ve also thoroughly been enjoying the new training grounds! I’m now looking forward to a snow free winter, apart from weekend excursions up to Mt Washington for our ski fixes!.

I was counting my lucky stars after having avoided the two rounds of colds my kids have gone through since school started. The day before I flew to Maui, I had a light head cold and was feeling tired but still had good energy in training. Wednesday was travel day and with a gong show of flight cancellations/changes and late arrival, sleep was less than ideal. Thursday I felt like crap and rode an hour on the course. I was a big grumpy pants but from past experience I knew I always feel terrible my first day in Maui with the jet lag and the heat. So it was hard to tell the difference between being ill and adjusting to hot Maui. With congestion and a scratchy throat I wasn’t sleeping well but thought maybe I had a real cold beat by Friday morning when I headed out for early run. But by that evening my sore throat was back in full force and by Saturday morning my cold was in my ears and voice. Fun times! I enjoyed a little swim practice that day and just tried to rest. It was World Champs and there was nothing to do but race!! Heck, nothing to recover for afterwards! Except maybe the post-race party….

Mid-swim beach run

Mid-swim beach run

I was more than happy that race morning started with relatively calm waters. After being full on “scorpioned” by the waves crashing at last year’s swim exit, the few 2 footer waves at this year’s start were nothing! I was excited to get going. The canon went off and into the washing machine I dove with the rest of the Pros in our 2 minute head start over the other 700 or so amateur men (wave start 2) and amateur women (wave start 3). I had some feet until close to the first buoy (500m out) but was sort of alone for the rest of the swim until many of the green capped age group men were going by me. I came out of the water unscathed, phew!

Transition with Helena hot on my heels

Transition with Helena hot on my heels

Onto the bike, the first 3 miles was likely the hardest part. Unlike last year, this time we rode the first 3 miles of the run course, which meant a lot of steep, sandy ups in the full sun. The bike course was rumoured to be almost two miles longer than last year so I knew pacing would be key. My teammate Shonny passed me in the first few miles and I tried to hang with her but failed. She went on to ride the fastest bike split of the day and finish 8th overall. I focused on racing within myself – whatever that meant for the day – and found myself around a lot of the same guys for the rest of the race. When I wasn’t shooting out snot rockets (sorry, gross), or coughing now and then, over the two hours on the bike I made a few catches and actually quite enjoyed the somewhat twisty sections of the last few miles of the course and was making bigger ground on peeps there.

The very top of the course!

The very top of the course!

Finally coming back to T2

Finally coming back to T2

At the start of the run, Melanie, Carina, Kathrin Mueller of Germany, were all within site. So was our amazing young (17 years old) Luna teammate, Hanna Rae Finchamp, who went on to win the overall amateur title. It was a sufferfest as always, but I felt I had at least got the hydration part right for the run. Apparently with the trade winds dying down for a few days it was hotter than usual. Although sick, I actually felt like I still had a little more spark in my legs than I did after last year’s severe leg cramping incident coming out of the swim. But not feeling 100% definitely put me out of contention for my goal of the day – a top 10 after last year’s disappointment.

Starting the run when we all look our finest ;)

Starting the run when we all look our finest ;)

In the end, I managed 16th in one of the toughest Pro fields ever. Every year, the competition gets stronger. We had a new women’s winner this year – Nicky Samuels of New Zealand, who won handily by 2.5 minutes over Lesley Paterson (2010 & 2011 World Champ). Lesley out sprinted Flora Duffy of Bermuda for 2nd. Barbara Riveros (runner-up last year) was fourth. AND….drum roll….Emma Garrard rounded out the podium in 5th to win the Pro Mom category :), on her first season back with a 10-month old son! Full results can be found here.

Post-race with Shonny (8th) and Suzie (10th)

Post-race with Shonny (8th) and Suzie (10th)

So I’m disappointed for sure!! Although I did manage a 5th place finish on this course the first year it moved from Makena beach in 2011, I still miss and prefer the old course. While full of lava rocks and the dreaded thorns on the side, the old course actually required some balancing skills, decent bike handling, and a serious amount of momentum to ride well. I think it is a little sad that this new course is getting dubbed the “ITU Vacation race”. I know our women’s winner is an amazing athlete but it doesn’t look good when the official Xterra race report, quotes this:

“Samuels, 30, who raced for New Zealand at the London Olympics and normally focuses on ITU road events, said she practiced her mountain biking for only three weeks prior to this race. Still, she was able to post the second-fastest bike split among the females at 1:49:36.”

Maybe one day Xterra will consider doing some proper trail building in Maui or even moving the Worlds venue around like many of us have suggested. If not, it is still the toughest race of the year, for length, climbing, and conditions – heat and surf – but not for technical riding – a triathlon that was originally meant for mountain bikers….hmmmm.

As always, a HUGE thanks to Luna Pro team manager (Waldek, also doubling as team photographer) and team mechanic (Chris), for all the amazing race support. Thanks to Chris V. and Brandi also for the amazing support during the race. Thanks to Katie, Debby, and Brandi for being such awesome housemates at Napili Point. I think my ribs and abs were more sore from laughing than from race exertion and coughing! Now time to get healthy enjoy the official off-season!

The Psychology of Self-Awareness for Peak Performance

In the world of triathlon, it’s a pretty big time of year, 70.3 Worlds have just passed, Ironman World Championship is next weekend and the Xterra World Championship is just three weeks away. When the big one is approaching, most of the work is done but there are definitely some key workouts left to do for some final fine tuning. A little time is left to get every last ounce out of yourself for race day. And how to do this right for YOU is such an art! An art that some athletes craft through much trial and error. Or perhaps an art learned through an accelerated learning curve due to a higher internal monitoring – physical, psychological, social, tactical, technical, emotional; a higher all around self-awareness.

In my work as a mental performance consultant a big part of my philosophy is helping guide an athlete to higher levels of self-awareness for all the factors that help them perform at their best in order to do so more consistently. Some athletes have developed and use their self-awareness to their advantage better than others. Here are a few key reasons, in my personal opinion, as to why high self-awareness connects so closely to peak performance:

1. Progress is monitored more against previous self than others. This seems like a no brainer but so many athletes in my observations get stuck on comparing themselves to others in their training group, with their closest competitors, or with the champions in their sport. While there are many positives to learning from others and striving to emulate the best in your sport, greater emphasis on what is needed to reach YOUR peak potential will be more productive for day-to-day training. This means using your strengths and tackling your weaknesses head on and learning what helps you improve the most, not copying someone else’s success formula. It also means listening to your coach, listening to yourself, going hard when its time to go hard, and truly resting when it is time to recover.

2. High trust in coach and high belief in training program. For some reason, highly self-aware athletes seem to communicate better with their coaches and have a greater trust in their training. (again only my personal opinion here!). While of course there is some solid physiological science behind a great training program and coach, an athlete’s relationship with that coach, and belief in them can be equally, if not even more important, to building that self-awareness as a coach-athlete team as to what works best for reaching peak performances. The great coach-athlete relationships that I have seen involve a constant dialogue between coach,(e.g “how did that feel?”) and athlete (e.g. “I think maybe we should try X or change Y because…what do you think?”). When an athlete has the freedom to have such an open relationship with a coach, self-awareness as to what works best can be achieved much sooner!

3. High awareness of personal signs of fatigue = smart recovery. As related to the above two points, highly self-aware athletes know what they can handle, recognize the first signs of dangerous fatigue levels, and get better and better at taking proper recovery as soon as needed, even when unplanned. Secondly, such athletes don’t waste much energy comparing themselves to what others are doing. They listen to their own bodies, and stay confident in their “path to the podium” :)

4. Respect for the influence of all other “life factors”. With awareness of all the life factors that can impact training and competition for good or for bad, highly self-aware athletes are quicker and more confident to adjust accordingly when needed. When work, family, school, or any other life stressors (positive or negative) become more demanding, smart or aware athletes scale back training or modify as needed to stay healthy and keep moving forward as much as possible.

5. Know how to keep thyself motivated! Finally highly self-aware athletes are truly in tune with what motivates them. They can clearly answer why they are pursuing their sport? Why they love it? What kind of changes they make when their motivation starts to slump? How they keep things fresh, creative and fun while also consistently working hard towards their goals? They understand the purpose of each training session and how it fits in to the long-term plan, with a perspective on how it all fits together with the rest of LIFE!

Okay, after falling off the blog wagon for a while, that’s my two cents on something other than a race report in a while. Hope you enjoyed if you made it this far!

Xterra USA Champs Race Story

The Xterra USA Championship race is the 5th and final race in the Pro Points series. In order to contend for the overall prize purse it is mandatory to do this race, and one race (your worst result) is dropped in the final tally. American amateurs from all around the country also need to qualify for the race in their respective age categories. However, the Pro category lets us International folks in the race.

Like every other year I’ve been in Odgen, Utah, during the third weekend in September, the sun was shining and the reddening fall leaves were beautiful. As painful as riding uphill at altitude can be, the amazing colors and beauty of the trail always make me smile and grateful to be out there!

Game Face! :)

Game Face! :)

Now, I love my main sport of Xterra for the relaxed, chilled out and friendly atmosphere. However, unfortunately the relaxed nature of it all in regards to actual distances was a rather large disappointment when the race started out with the longest swim I have ever done in a triathlon, period! And I have done several half-ironman triathlons. The reservoir we swim in was unusually low this year so some of us thought, that is why the first buoy looks so far out there! We headed out into the glaring sun and boy did it feel like a LONG time before I rounded that first buoy. I had some good drafts for a while, and eventually the surging fast age groupers flew by after starting one minute behind us. And eventually I was settled into a pace with a few blue caps, and Heather Jackson just in front of me and Renata Bucher behind me and that was how we left transition as well 34 minutes later!!! To give perspective, for a 1500m swim I am usually in the 24-25 minute range. After the race, most estimated the swim to be around 500m too long!

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That aside, I wasn’t really aware of how long the swim really was until the end! Off an on to the bike, I was feeling pretty awesome. I ditched gloves for this race and likely gained some serious time on the long road stretch for this smart move! Up into Wheeler Canyon, in the shady, and rockier section I was making some good time and quickly overtook Heather Jackson. Not long after that I felt like I was kind of in no man’s land for a while. I was surprised more male age groupers weren’t passing me – perhaps the extra long swim left those stronger mountain bike types farther behind than usual! I loved the short-lived descending and once up the steeper switch back climbing to the summit of Sardine peak I came upon Jackie Slack and Christine Jeffries. I had the last long descent all to myself with no one behind or in front and headed into and out of T2 in 8th place.

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Up the first and very steep climb up a ski hill I could see Carina Wasle of Austria just ahead but it would be a few miles before I actually caught her. I was feeling pretty good and before the end of the first, fun, up and down windy single track I came upon Suzie, and then Melanie once back out on the double track. And then I finally saw and caught Carina on one of last climbing sections. I had made it to 5th. But no slowing down yet! It was a lot of gravity running in the last mile plus to the finish and after missing 3rd by 13 seconds last year I wasn’t about to give up any free time this year!

In the end I crossed the line well over a minute behind 4th (Emma Garrard) and was definitely proud of my effort. Although it was one of my lonelier races (e.g. without many people around me much – weird!) I felt like I was always pushing and “racing” my hardest, gave it my best so to speak. Out in the front Leslie took the win, Barbara was 2nd, and Chantell Widney (mom of 5-year daughter, up and coming Xterra superstar, watch for her in Maui!) was 3rd. That equals three moms on the podium!

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At the end of the day, I had also jumped from 5th to 3rd overall in the Pro series – a nice surprise! After a slightly crazy couple of weeks prior to the race spend relocating our family to Victoria, B.C. from Calgary, AB and miraculously not getting sick as my kids came down with colds, I was happy to get through this training block and race healthy and fit. Even half of my housemates in Ogden were sick! And many thanks to the Kunz family for opening up their large “cabin” to Branden, Bri, Craig, Josiah, John, Steve, Brandi and I for several nights. It was a fun, relaxing place to hang out, and full of laughs right to the end, except when Branden almost died on the backyard zipline – but that’s another story!

Canadian Chicks! In 3rd, 5th, 8th, 10th and 14th!

Canadian Chicks! In 3rd, 5th, 8th, 10th and 14th!

Now its back to work before the big show off of some beach in the Pacific in exactly one month from today – Oct 27th. In the meantime, I will get back to adjusting to and enjoying life on my favourite island – Vancouver Island – and continuing our rather interesting, and way too time consuming house hunting!