Lessons Learned – Discomfort Zone Training Camp

I LOVE BOULDER!! It will be our home someday. I guarantee that. Imagine a place with endless opportunities for activity, motorists who are courteous to cyclists, and a pleasant, daily afternoon storm to prevent you from ever having to water your garden. A place where hundreds of people show up for a Tuesday morning open water swim and races are held on a weekly basis. We will live there (don’t worry, Mia is on board with this plan).

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Hipster shot

Our first few days were spent acclimating to altitude and just hanging out. We hit up a group run at Sanitas Brewery, some chic coffee shops, a free bluegrass concert downtown, enjoyed some bike rides through town, hikes up mountains, lunch in the park, a wine tasting, and a walk along the Boulder Creek Path. During this walk, we ran into 3x Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander!! So awesome; we also had some beer with him one evening at a Q&A with “Crowie” at Newton running.

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Beers with CROWIE!!!

Then it was down to business at the “Boulder Experience” training camp, hosted by coaches Mike Coughlin and Mike Mahoney from Discomfort Zone Performance Coaching. I’ll spare you individual details of each workout. Let’s just say this: each was beautiful, daunting, exhilarating, horrible, great, fun, brutal, and exhausting. We tended to swim/bike/run each day, with some strength and conditioning to boot. We climbed small mountains and we climbed big mountains. We rode up to 10,500 ft and decided a run would be fun. We descended said mountain. Instead of running through a recap of each day, I thought I’d touch on a few things I learned during camp.

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Climbing, climbing, climbing. 63 mile ride to the beautiful Carter Lake.

1. You CAN do it. The first day of camp was miserable; we were climbing a mountain unlike anything we’d even seen being from Ohio. I was actually quite terrified that I couldn’t make it through the camp. I struggled on this climb, and stopped on both repeats. At the same tree. My heart rate was at 97% of maximum and I just – couldn’t – do it. Until Coach Mike Coughlin crept up unexpectedly yelling “Ryan, get your butt back on that bike!!” Once I did, I made it. Sometimes we all need a little (sometimes big) push to “get back on the bike” and push through whatever is hard, hurting, uncomfortable, and the like. Even when you think you can’t, get back on that bike and push through.

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Some of the team riding through St. Vrain Canyon to the top at Brainard Lake

2. Don’t look too far ahead. This became my strategy on long climbs. Looking too far ahead becomes intimidating, wreaks havoc mentally, and is just plain demotivating. Aside from enjoying the scenery of course, I limited myself to a small window of how far ahead I allowed myself look. This kept my focus on the present and prevented getting overwhelmed by future challenges. Yes, they’d come eventually, but when I’d need to deal with them. Often times they are smaller than they appear. And sometimes, when your struggling, take a minute to look down the hill at what you’ve already accomplished. Seeing what you’ve done gives you confidence in what more you can achieve.

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3+ hours, 28 miles, 5000+ ft climbing, 10,525 ft… Pure bliss (or just lack of oxygen)

3. Enjoy your dessert. By dessert I mean victory, so to speak. I previously wrote that I struggle with this. I find pleasure in the challenge and not necessarily the reward. At camp, I actually had a different mindset. I relished in my accomplishments. I stood next to Brainard Lake at 10,500 ft basking in my glory of the trip up there on my own two legs. And then I relished even more pushing speeds of 50 mph on my bike on the way down. I still think the true reward is in attempting the challenge (think: what did climbing that mountain prove to me?), but also be sure to enjoy your dessert before thinking about your next meal.

4. All it takes is a couple words. Triathlon is hard. So is life. But sometimes all it takes is a quick word or two from a friend, old or new, to keep on pushing through. On one long climb, there were several times I was in a tough place mentally (see #2). But I was with my team and some words from them kept me going. So my “advice” for you is to offer those words to others. We’re stronger as a team; be that person for someone else. In your next race when you see someone struggling, give them a figurative “pat on the back” with words. In your workplace, give someone some encouragement on their effort on a stressful project. Anywhere you can, give encouragement and you just might help someone push through a challenging situation.

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The DZ group… Thanks for a great week team!

Coach Mike and Mike put on one hell of a camp. I had the time of my life training with them and the other athletes. I was pushed beyond what I thought was possible and enjoyed (almost) every minute of suffering. Truly, there is nothing like standing atop a mountain you’ve climbed under your own power. Scratch that: it was better to see my wife at the top of the world having done the same thing!! I can’t wait to return next year in preparation for (hopefully) the Age Group National Championship.

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Go. Do. Achieve. We ARE Team Elite.
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Mia and I after riding up to 10,500ft!
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Quarry Ridge Sprint Triathlon – Brief Race Report

Here we are again. On only 2 days of rest from the first Olympic triathlon of the season, Team ELITE competed in the Quarry Ridge Sprint Triathlon. Really a mini-sprint I guess with distances of 400y swim, 11-mile bike, and 3.1 mile run legs.

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EPIC stair climb out of the water… There are way more stairs than this picture shows!

Quarry ridge is a time trial start; I don’t like these, for reasons I’ll get into later, but I started 3rd knowing I’d get passed. I just wanted to know whom I was racing against and hoping to catch some draft as well. After about 20 meters or so, Grace Cappellini cruised by me. I tried to stay on her feet, but it was impossible. Several other athletes cruised by me as well and I couldn’t hold a draft for more than a few strokes. Including the EPIC stair climb to transition, I came in with a swim of 8:14, about 45 seconds faster than last year. For a 400, I’m happy with that improvement.

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Swim Start!!
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Heading into T2, scoping out my targets!

My T1 was blazing fast, only 21 seconds to get in and out. I passed several athletes in there and then a couple quickly on the bike. Several others passed me in the first couple miles and then I held steady position. My goal was to keep the strong cyclists in sight. I basically did that as I saw all but Shawn Jyawook in the distance. I was a bit disappointed with my bike of 29:17, 22.6 mph, because it really wasn’t much faster than my longer distance race on Sunday. But them I remember I just raced Sunday, hard and fast, and I guess I’ll settle for it.

Another blazing fast T2 of 29 seconds kept me in contention. I saw a few runners up in the distance and was feeling good, so I was hoping to run them down. After about half a mile, I did just that. I caught Ignacio Garnica, Phil Carroll, Nate Thompson, and Tassos Valtadoros and was only picking up speed. I could tell the leader, Shawn Jyawook, was moving too fast for me to catch him, but I had my sights set on Thomas Kuntzleman. I kept gaining and gaining, was negative splitting, and finally passed him with about ¾ of a mile to go. I put some more time into him and crossed the line in 2nd place!! Unfortunately, the time trial start meant that I didn’t actually take 2nd. Kuntzleman beat me by about 30 seconds or so; that was disappointing; had I known this and still been running him down, I may be found a bit more in me (although my heart rate was at 95% of maximum)!

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Final kick to the finish
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Celebrating what I thought was 2nd place…
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Team Leone dominates the 25-29 age groups

Anyway, happy to improve from last year by roughly 7 minutes and take 3rd overall (1st age group). I had a blast again racing with Team ELITE and Steve Detmer and Mia Leone both turned in stellar performances. Mia was 6th female overall, won her age group, and had the 2nd fastest female run split! Way to go wife!

I want to thank Elite Endeavors for an awesome event. You never fail to create a smooth, comfortable race environment and do everything possible to provide a good experience for new triathletes and veterans alike. Shirts are of the best quality and your unique medals/trophies are some of our favorite. Thanks Jim and Joyce Donaldson; keep up the great work!

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Recovery – Team ELITE style

Race Report – Maumee Bay Olympic Triathlon

Race weekend started watching the kid’s tri on Saturday. It was a BLAST! We got to see our Team ELITE teammate Steve Detmer’s two children race their first triathlon; one having only learned to ride a bike without training wheels a month ago! They did great and I hope they have developed a love for the sport.

kids tri

pre startWith the sun starting to peek from behind morning clouds, my wave of elite men and those 29 and under took off first. I felt good heading out, even threw in a dolphin dive for good measure and tried to stay with the pack. I knew this really wouldn’t happen, but I’ll take a draft as long as I can. After about 200m or so, another racer and I started jockeying for position. We kept bumping and running into each other, so I finally just gave in and backed onto his feet. I caught his draft for about another 200m until the turn buoy when I picked up some yardage with my impressive buoy turn technique. This left me all alone for a little while, but still felt like I was cruising pretty well. Starting the second lap I noticed I was getting a bit off course so I headed back in and found my draft buddy again. I knew it was the same guy from before from his outrageously strong kick. I stayed in his wake until about 400m left and then found myself alone again for the return trip home. Got out of the water with my best swim to date: 23:40 and 12th place (that includes the time to transition, fyi).

I have been practicing my “flying mounts” lately with success, however, I skipped that today because there was some congestion at the bike mount line and I wasn’t going to be the guy to cause a pile up. The bike was pretty uneventful. I got passed by about 3-4 people, and maybe passed 2 or 3 others myself. I got off the bike feeling OK; legs a little fatigued but I hydrated well and took a pomegranate BOOM and was anxious to get running. My bike split was 1:07:24, 21st place, 22.1 mph (it kills me that this is only good enough for 21st; got to put some muscle in these thighs! That’s your job Coach Alisha!!).

And now to the run: my favorite and best event. The sun was out in full force at this point. I took off blazing, as usual, and quickly slowed myself down because I knew my pace was not sustainable. I settled for about 6:45-6:50/mile and figured I’d reassess a coup20150621_101734le of miles in, which ultimately left me holding steady there. I saw a few guys up in the distance that I seemed to be gaining on and kept telling myself not to get ahead of myself and wait them out. The course was and out and back, so I kept waiting to see the leaders, but they just didn’t come! I kept getting closer to the turn around and finally started counting my competition. I realized I was 12th, including the elite racers. At every aid station I was taking water: a quick sip, then a splash on my chest. This was effective in keeping me cool. After 4 miles, I had passed 2 other racers (yay, top 10!), but about 4.2 miles Jason Zangmeister passed me; worst part was he was in my age group! I tried to up my pace a bit, but he was just too fast (turns out his run was 6:02/mile; too fast for me). Someone I had just passed (I think Eric Gibb) also caught up to me and we ran together for pretty much the rest of the race until I revved it up with about a half-mile left. My stand-alone runs have been going really well lately, so at first I was sad to see my run of 42:21, 6:49/mile, but it was enough for the 3rd fastest run split of the day. My best tri-run, but my goal for the year was to get below 42min in each Olympic. Oh well, still made big strides!

Overall, I’m extremely happy with my performance today, coming in at 2:14:57 (my goal was 2:15). I took 6th overall, but only 2nd in my age group because of Jason Zangmeister and his blazing fast run split which left me in the dust. Counting the elite division, I was 13th overall; I even beat 3 elites! If training keeps going this well, I may just enter as an elite next year.

I hope you’re still reading, because by far the best part of this day was seeing my awesome wife finish her first Olympic Triathlon!!! Both her swim and bike splits were faster than her sprint tri’s last year! She killed it at 2:46:24, which I think is faster than my first Olympic. It was great to represent Team Elite with Mia Leone and Steve Detmer. Definitely looking forward to more training and racing with them later this year!

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And now to get some quick recovery (next race TOMORROW!) via compression, cold water immersion (aka: ice bath), and smoothies bursting with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds!

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SWIM: 23:40, 1:35/100m

T1: 48.8

BIKE: 1:07:24, 22.1 mph

T2: 42.9

RUN: 42:21, 6:49/mile

TOTAL: 2:14:57

So you think you can’t…

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“You must do the thing you think you cannot do” (Eleanor Roosevelt). Read that again. Must. Not ‘should,’ ‘could,’ ‘try,’ etc. You must.

I saw this quote the other day and didn’t think too much of it. I’ve always been goal-oriented, so this is an adage I follow. Since I started this blog to chronicle my thoughts and experiences with Team ELITE Toledo Triathlon, I’ll keep this endurance sport specific. Following the training for and completion of an endurance event, there are conflicting feelings of joy, relief, pain, and disorientation that accompany the volunteer’s placing of the finisher medal around your neck as you’ve met your goal.

However, I am often underwhelmed shortly after reaching the finish line. This is quite paradoxical. You’d think (as I did) that I would be ecstatic. And I am; for a couple of hours.

This disappoints me. Who doesn’t love a feeling of ecstasy or the comfort in knowing you’ve succeeded? When I ran my first marathon I thought the feeling would last for a while; at least several weeks. Not quite. After my first triathlon? My first Ironman? Winning my age group? No, no, and still no. I consistently find myself planning my next challenge almost as soon as I finish with the post-race chips, bananas, and Gatorade.

Each year I dedicate many hours of my life to racing. These hours are filled with feelings of fatigue, pain, suffering, strength, happiness, awakening, connectedness, clarity, and countless other emotions. This is what I think Eleanor is getting at. It’s not doing the actual ‘thing;’ it’s the process of getting there. I don’t continue racing because another medal on my wall will make me a better person or make me feel better about myself, but because the journey just might. It offers daily opportunities for self-discovery, chances to grow, and for self-improvement. Not just physically (although that part is great!), but mentally and emotionally as well.

Taken from Jonny Baker's Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnybaker/128310305/)
Taken from Jonny Baker’s Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnybaker/128310305/)

So my question for you is: “Are you enjoying the journey?” Because I think this is what Eleanor was talking about. This is where we find ourselves. This is where we become better people. This is where we challenge our limits and realize they’re not.

Next time you’re on a long ride or staring down into the abyss during an open water swim. Relish it. Enjoy it. If you log your workouts, log a feeling/emotion/experience in addition to the usual heart rate, pace, and/or distance. Trust me, looking at that journal will elicit far more satisfaction than looking at your race medal.

Be Elite Toledo!!

Hi! This blog is intended to share my experiences as a triathlete. I’ll chat about all things triathlon to include training, racing, eating, and much more.

I began racing triathlons after encouragement from a fellow Army Reservist back in 2011. Almost immediately after I began training, I was hooked. Over the last few years I’ve raced all distances from Sprint to Iron and have fallen in love with the Olympic distance. Last year I became competitive at the age-group level and this year I hope to achieve the podium in the ‘overall’ category. I trust with help from my new coach and sponsor, Alisha Bruhl, PT, DPT, CSCS, I am in a good position to achieve that goal.

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Aside from racing, I am a Registered Dietitian and hold a Masters degree in Food & Nutrition as well as a Masters degree in Kinesiology. This fall I’ll begin my doctoral training in Exercise Science at the University of Toledo. I live and train with my unconditionally supportive and loving wife Mia and our two dogs Brady and Bella.

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