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Preview: Elizabeth Waterstraat

Elizabeth Waterstraat

speaking elf-ish

Updated: 2018-03-22T07:00:02.699-05:00




This blog is moving to a new location!  Hope to see you there - I've recently posted my 2015 Ironman Texas race report:

The Chatter


The other day I was out for a long ride – 90 miles.  I’m training for an Ironman.  Actually, I’m just about done training for Ironman.  Taper is just around the corner for Ironman Texas.  I didn’t realize I was training for an Ironman until the last 4 weeks or so which is around the time I started to hate training.  Not surprisingly, as fatigue builds, so does my disdain for training!  Not so much that I get tired from the training (that’s actually the FUN part), I just get tired from fitting the training in around life.  (Life is fun too but when combined with training it can get, well, difficult) On this particular ride, I set out at 6:45 am.  It was cold, windy and I was (mostly) alone.  In 90 miles, I passed 3 cyclists.  I’ve endured some fairly long rides in preparation for this early season Ironman.  There have been countless 4 ½ rides on the trainer.  There was even one that lasted 6 ½ hours.  Those were easy – climate controlled, fuel at hand, headphones, internet to keep me busy for hours.  In contrast, the long rides (and runs) outside are perhaps the only time these days where I’m totally disconnected and alone with the voices in my head.  And, boy, do they talk loud.  The more tired I am, the louder they talk.  The first 45 miles of my ride were a constant chatter of hatred for everything – Ironman, my training, my bike shorts, myself.  What was I thinking – train for an early season Ironman, 8 months after a baby, with mostly indoor training and setting out today WITH NO CHAMMY BUTTER!?  What is WRONG with me?  It was around 2 hours into the ride when I found myself bare-assed in a ditch off of Grove Road taking a pee, actually peeing on my bike shoe.  The wind was whipping 20 mph from the east.  I was tired.  My legs hurt from a long run two days before.  Even worse, I had set out for the ride without coffee.  I couldn’t help but wonder: am I the only one? Your Twitter feed is full of pictures of perfectly executed workouts of nothing but awesome done with tailwind at your back and nothing but sunshine.  No one posts pictures of themselves shorts down, peeing on their bike shoe and one pedal stroke away from crying because the thought of going another hour into the wind is that overwhelming.  No one takes pictures of those meltdowns.  No one takes pictures of themselves with hands over ears at mile 38 saying trying to silence that voice in your head that says you’re slow, you should stop, what were you thinking.  I want to see that picture.  That’s real life training.  Someone humor me next weekend, please? The voices in my head run constantly.  If I’m not doubting myself about parenting, I’m doubting my ability to be a good wife, mother, coach, athlete.  Self-doubt is sometimes the backdrop of my mind.  In my moments of weakness, my self-doubt is a comforting friend.  See, I told you so.  Nearly 40 years old and I have yet to figure out how to silence those voices.  The older I get, the more that is thrown in my plate, the louder they get.   The only thing I have learned to do is let the voices run while I keep moving forward.  I can hear them but it doesn’t mean I have to listen.  If they choose to stick around for the ride, know that at some point one of us is going to give in.  And hell if it’s me.  I don’t give up easily.  So I challenge those voices to keep up.  My hope is that I will outlast them.  I might be 80 when that happens but at least I know I’ve given it a good fight.  Between the chatter, the winter, two kids, trying to regain fitness/race weight after pregnancy, training for this Ironman has been a challenge.  I’m not one of those people who nurses their way to race weight.  At times, I counted calories.  I’m not one of those people who ran all through pregnanc[...]

Time To Fly


Spring has sprung and that means it’s time for the masters state swim meet.My last trip to the state meet was two years ago.  I swam the 1650.  This year, the meet was special.We were defending champs.  Every point would matter.  The peer pressure was intense  – 140 other swimmers were swimming.  There were signs on deck calling out those who weren’t registered.  But most importantly, we were swimming in honor of two swimmers who we lost this year.  One who was especially important to me.Years ago, I let a brilliant young woman named Clari borrow my cyclocross bike to take it on the adventure of a lifetime.  She rode it across America for a charity group to support research for a condition that her brother had.  That same summer, she also babysat Max at the quarry while Chris and I went swimming.  When pregnant with Mackenzie, Clari and I swam in the same lane at the monster swim.  Over the years, Clari’s mother had been a frequent lanemate of mine.  In 2013, I advised her on how to train for her first Ironman – as a thank you, she bought my plane ticket to the 70.3 World Championship.  Clari and her mother were a part of our life in very unique and close ways. This past November, at the age of 19, Clari passed away.  Unsure of whether it was the personal connection or the fact that I now had my own daughter, I felt incredibly sad.  When the head coach announced that we would swim the state meet in memory of Clari, I felt compelled to swim.  I felt it was the best I could do to honor her life and spirit. Now, I’m a decent triathlon swimmer but pool swimming is a completely different story.  I can fake it in the fast lane but I’m guilty of lane line pulling, open turning and putting on toys when intervals get really tight.  When it comes to swim meets, I’m not exactly going to be a high points earner.  So when I asked the head coach what I could do to gain points for the team, she came back with an immediate answer: 200 fly I couldn’t believe I walked right into that bear trap. No swimmer in their right mind wants to do 200 fly.  It’s painful.  Most triathletes cannot even do fly.  But as the coach reminded me, you’re an Ironwoman, you can do this! Mostly I just wanted to stay on her good side for the next year.  Being on the head coach’s bad side could mean very, very painful things for a full year at masters.  If all it takes is less than 4 minutes of pain, get me registered!  Sure enough I looked at the results from last year and only 5 women did the 200 fly.  As long as I finished, I would get points. I had two weeks to panic train.  In that time, I tried to swim as much fly as possible.  Every workout I attended the coach suggested I do fly.  Sprint 25s?  Do them fly, Elizabeth.  Distance day?  You should do the “fast” as “fly”, Elizabeth.  One day, she put Andrew (another poor swimmer who asked what he could do to get points) and I in a lane and made us do 200 fly in its entirety.  The good news:  I didn’t die.  The bad news: that’s a lot of fly – 8 x 25 with NO REST!A few nights, I even researched my strategy.  I watched videos and searched forums how to race 200 butterfly.  The general consensus was: 1) don’t, 2) go very easy for the first 50.  All of this effort was impressive if, and I mean IF I actually knew how to swim proper fly.  And technically speaking, I have no idea what I am doing in the water.  Years ago, tired of watching other swimmers so effortlessly move through the water with both arms and hips undulating as I had to substitute free for every set of fly, I finally said f-it, I'm trying.  So I just started doing what I thought fly looked like.  For whatever reason, it worked.  I was moving forward and actually had some rhythm.  But I still [...]

Island Racing


Racing is always an adventure and this weekend’s race in San Juan provided plenty of it!Six months ago, after Mackenzie was born, I thought about racing.  I had “exercised” through pregnancy but emerged in typical post-partum shape: heavy, slow and wondering when I would wear my real clothes again.  Though race shape seemed very far away, I started to think about racing.  I knew I needed to have a big, scary race on the calendar early to keep the momentum going through the cold of winter and the fog of having a new baby.  San Juan, an early season island race getaway seemed like the perfect goal (and escape!).I traveled to the race with my long time friend, mentor, long ago coach and now one of my own athletes – Jen Harrison.  This year is unique – we both compete in the same age group, something that happens only once every 5 years.  When I told her I was signed up for San Juan, in typical Jennifer spirit she invited herself along.  And then in even more typical Jennifer competitive spirit she said train me to beat you. To get myself ready, I enlisted the help of a great coach, Matthew Rose, out of Atlanta.  I’ve worked with several incredible coaches and being a coach myself I set the bar high.  Matthew has far exceeded my expectations of what I thought a coach could deliver in terms of service, caring and my own performance.  To introduce yourself to a coach and say “you have four months to make me fit” is no small task yet one he has excelled at!  I couldn’t be more satisfied.Jen and I both worked hard in training this winter.  You don’t sign up for an early season, hot, hilly, competitive half Ironman without putting in the miles.  Albeit they were miles in the pool, on the basement trainer and runs in what had to be one of the coldest winters on record.  Every time I had a long run scheduled, it was about 16 degrees – where your Fuel Belt bottles freeze after 8 miles and the snot is frozen on your mittens.  Not only was I cold but slow.  Fitness after pregnancy never comes back quickly enough and it’s hard to keep sight of your goals in the midst of measuring yourself against where you used to be and where you want to go.  Many times I felt discouraged.And many days I was just plain tired.  The fatigue of caring for a newborn and a 4 ½ year old was (and still is!) unrelenting.  I nursed until nearly 5 months which meant the demand on my body and energy levels was draining.   Up until a few weeks ago, Mackenzie still wasn’t sleeping through the night.  My body and mind carried around a deep fatigue that not even coffee could help.  As I fit in training sessions at all hours of the day, routinely two times a day I questioned the choices I made – what am I doing here? And why?None of this was perfect preparation which was difficult for a hard-charging “perfectionist” to accept.  But something I read from Lauren Fleshmann resonated with me: there is no such thing as perfect preparation, only excellent adaptation.  Each day required many, many adaptations. Yet somehow I arrived at race day feeling ready.  That is, until the plane touched down in San Juan and I looked out the window at blue skies and palm trees thinking to myself WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE?  This was real.  This was really happening.  Here I was – not entirely fit, not entirely at race weight, not heat acclimated, race wheels haven’t touched pavement since September of 2013 but still I was here to compete at a hot, hilly 70.3 with a heck of a start list.  As I deplaned, I thought to myself – WHAT was I thinking? The day before the race was filled with the usual preparations.  I did my usual pre-race run which felt horrible.  Just as I expected.  We did a pre-race swim which felt amazing.  Then we prepared our gear for the race.  We stayed co[...]

Here We Go Again


One of my athletes recently attended a talk given by a local coach (certified, of course).  The gist of it covered why investing time into swimming was a bad investment in triathlon.  They went so far as to say it was a waste of time. Here we go again…. We’ve heard this argument before: it doesn’t make sense to put time into swimming when swimming is, on paper, such a small part of the triathlon.  Mathematically speaking, this is true.  At the half iron distance, let’s say the average participant takes roughly 6 hours to complete the race.  Assume a 40 minute swim and we’re looking at ~10 percent of the total time being spent swimming. Based on that, putting less time into swimming does make sense.  Yet if only performance was a neatly packaged always balanced out equation of on paper formulas.   In practice, I have rarely seen it work out that well.  Here’s why: As I’ve said it before, triathlon is a swim-bike-run.  Not a Swim. STOP. Bike. STOP. Run. The best athletes seamlessly weave together their skills, fitness and smarts to put together the fastest swim-bike-run.  Many times the fastest swimmer does not win the race – the fastest triathlete does.  Why?  Because they excel at triathlon, which again is a swim-bike-run.  One event. Yet there are coaches out there who don’t like to swim.  Or, they’re not good at swimming.  Or, in the name of saving you, the athlete, oodles of time/money/energy or in the spirit of clever marketing, they say you don’t need to swim.  Music to the ears of many triathletes. (I’ll suggest that many coaches out there do not know how to write swim workouts which is a big part of the triathlete swim problem.  But that is a topic for another day.) My reply to all of that above? Let me know how that works out for you.  Now, I get it – swimming is costly in many ways.  First you have to either belong to a gym or a masters team.  That costs money.  Then, you have to drive to the pool, walk into the pool, into the gym, put your stuff in a locker, get dressed, walk out on to the deck, sit on the side of the pool while chanting COLD COLD COLD and finally 20 to 40  minutes later you are actually in the pool --- swimming.  Reverse that at the end of the workout (but substitute “chanting” with “sitting in the hot tub commiserating about how cold the water was). Yet this inconvenience, time and discomfort – heck, let’s call it investment, goes a long way.  And it doesn’t have to last forever.  A few solid months in the winter of swimming consistently is worth it.  It’s a great way to build up workload without a lot of wear and tear on the body.  It also improves your feel, fitness and form which makes you more economical.  Improved swim economy is free speed in all 3 sports!  Yes, if you can improve your swim fitness and economy, even just a little bit, it will pay off in terms of faster biking and running.  In other words, faster triathloning. Read more here: Or here: There’s a nice summary of how swimming effort improves bike performance.  If your swim fitness and skill is so poor that you are struggling mentally and physically at 100 percent effort simply to finish or deal with rough water/contact from other competitors, then arguing that swimming less because the swim is such a small part of the event just doesn’t make sense.  Because the swim has just set up the rest of your event.  You are now out of the water exhausted in every sense – physically, mentally, emotionally.  Good luck with the bike-run.  Swimming is also a great way to facilitate active recovery which, in turn, improves performance in other sports.&[...]

Good Reads


I’m writing this for the three athletes/coaches who asked me one of my favorite questions, what should I read next or what are you reading?  It seemed like a good time for a post on what I’ve been reading, what I’ve learned and how I continually educate myself as a coach/athlete.  Social Media: In today’s digital world, the opportunities for reading/learning surround us constantly!  That said, there are opportunities for good reading and bad reading.  Social media has the power to connect you to brilliant thoughts that open up your mind to engaging questions, interesting research or provocative stories.  It can also connect you to a lot of garbage.  (and, yes, I’m shamelessly guilty of the kid picture overload and occasional pictures of a delicious beer!)  A lesson I took from following Gordo Byrn on Twitter was to be very selective in what you allow through your filter.  If your feed is full of sponsor plugs, pictures of food and weather complaints, you could probably use social media much more effectively!  You become what you surround yourself with.  And as one of my mentors and long time A.R.T. guy said to me (when I told him he was one of the best in the field): I just surround myself with people who are smarter than me, and then I listen.  Such truth! For me, I take another cue from Byrn and limited my “following” list to under 100 people.  Anything more than that becomes completely overwhelming which defeats the purpose of it in the first place.  You can take a look at my list of people I follow on Twitter – the majority provide content I find educational, engaging or just plain funny (also important, you need to laugh!). Three of my “must follows” on Twitter (a list more for coaches than athletes): -       Vern Gambetta -       John O’Sullivan -       Steve Magness Those last three have been instrumental in my current (and future) reading list.  In the past year, they’ve tweeted their own reading lists which have opened up my bookshelves to a variety of fantastic reads on coaching, communication, philosophy and human behavior.  Triathlon Specific: Early on as a coach, I did was probably most coaches do – I read tons of “triathlon specific” books hoping to find the formula to producing top performing athletes!  All that I did was assemble a book of mostly disappointing reads that came across as too formulaic.  It was then that I realized coaching was an art that I had to refine through open-minded and at times messy experimentation driven by some of my own experience, education and influences.  If I had to recommend one triathlon specific book that every coach should read it would be Matt Dixon’s The Well Built Athlete.  Dixon taps into what few books do – the peripheral factors (nutrition, recovery, etc) that encompass well-rounded and sustainable fitness.  If you can combine these factors in such a way that they resonate with the athlete, you are on their path to achieving top performance.   Mentors: Every coach/athlete should have an “inner circle” of mentors that they trust, respect and interact with casually enough that you can ask them any question or bounce ideas off of them.  For me, this circle consists of Jen Harrison and Kurt Perham, two former coaches who helped shape me as an athlete and coach – as well as a few other close friends/family/colleagues. As far as outside sources that I would consider mentors by way of me reading what they put out and incorporating their work into my own coaching/training, some names come to mind (and I highly recommend any book/material/social media content put forth by these individuals):  Brett Sutton, Arthur Lydiard, Matt Dixon, Phil Maffetone, Vern Gambetta.  When [...]



(written earlier this week) This week, I have two bike tests on my schedule.Schedule a test, heck, say the word test to adults and some find the nearest corner to hide.  Testing means we are being evaluated, means we open ourselves up to being shown what we’re doing right but more importantly shown what we’re doing wrong or what we’re lacking.  Scary stuff.At this time of year, testing is a starting point.  Guarantee that most of us are starting at points that we don’t necessarily like.  We’re a little slower, rustier and out of shape than we care to admit.  But you have to start somewhere.  We’ve all heard that what you measure you can improve.  Truth for an athlete.  Testing low is motivation to work harder.  Testing high is reassurance that you’re on the right path.  Progress, no matter how big or small, is proof that hard work pays off. Testing is the look in the mirror you need to make if you are going to improve.  Showing up and guessing at your paces, HR or power would be like showing up to class and telling the professor – I know the material, just give me a “A”.  Never happened for me.  Were any of you that lucky?  Tediously you had to sit through the lectures, learn the material class by class and then put it all together on test day. Yet many of us get scared by that look in the mirror.  We fear the test.  Some flat out refuse to do the test. The reason?  Insecurity.  Case in point: as I get older, I find I avoid mirrors more.  Especially ones lit by bright fluorescent lights.  Why?  The mirror reveals exactly what I feared was the case: pronounced lines and imperfections.  I am what I fear – getting older.  Easier not to look and accept.  No doubt many of us feel the same way about the scale. The truth hurts.  The same goes for what you learn from testing  Take it from someone who has faded in and out of various levels of fitness in the past 3 years.  Each time I’ve come back, the first test is that embarrassing look in the mirror that reveals the truth.   The first time I tested, 8 weeks after having Mackenzie, my threshold was my former half Ironman wattage.  In other words, the power I could hold for 20 minutes was once what I could hold for 2 ½ hours. Ouch.Starting points, or let’s call them check points, however, never scare me.  If anything, they motivate me.  They provide the fire to get up, day after day, and follow the plan.  I would rather know the ugly truth than live by some fantasy of strength and confidence in my head.  I would rather quantify and accept the distance between where I am now and where I want to go.  I would rather know that on race day I am prepared to do “x” rather than show up hoping I can do “x”, falling short and being disappointed. Insecurity can keep us from doing the things that will actually make us get better.  These things start with being honest with ourselves.  You can bullshit yourself in a lot of ways.  You can bullshit yourself into thinking you can hold xxx watts.  But until you do that, you can’t.  Imagine if I had said to my coach “my threshold is xxx” when I tested after having Mackenzie.  I would have been thrown in a world of hurt, failure and falling short in workouts by using numbers that weren’t appropriate for me.  Physically I would have felt pain.  Psychologically, I would have had more proof that I wasn’t good enough, fast enough or that I would ever win again.I can’t say that the tests ever get easier.  By I can say that I always look forward to them.  Because I want to know.  I want to look in the mirror and accept the reflection.  If I fall short on the test, I regroup and ask myself[...]

Happy New Year


Is there anybody out there? I’ve sat down over a dozen times to write my thoughts.  Blogs come to me at odd times – during the quiet of a long run, the darkness of a late night feeding or the frenzy of life as a parent of two young children.  The point is that these blogs, these thoughts which roll out so effortlessly in my head never seem to return when I sit down.  I need a ghost writer.  Who follows me around, records my thoughts as well as walks the dog, changes diapers, cleans showers, cooks dinner and since we’re making outlandish requests does any bike interval that involves the words V02max. Anyone out there?  Anyone? Another year is coming to an end.  What a year.  When I look back at where I was in January and where I am now, a huge smile comes across my face.  I did it.  Having my daughter was one of the most challenging events of emotional endurance and strength of character.  From start to finish it was like a double Ironman of uncertainty, pain and waiting.  After having a specialist tell me that “IVF would be a waste of your time, consider using donor eggs,” well, to finally cross the finish line and hold her every day is better than any medal, any PR, any “A” on a test, better than anything.      Also goes to show the value of a second opinion, or, in my case a fifth opinion.  Never, ever give up on your dreams. One day I will sit down and write about the process – it started in May 2013 and ended in August 2014.  In that time, I put my body through the rigors of over 200 injections, drove over 3,000 miles for appointments, ultrasounds and meetings, dished out even more in co-pays.  When I look at all of the obstacles I faced and then overcame, head on, to get her, I find it hard to put together any list of physical events that can top that feeling. To top that feeling – it’s the downfall of many athletes.  We constantly seek the top or beat the time before – whether we go longer, faster or do something more challenging – we keep chasing.  I realized, in the past 4 months of looking at Mackenzie, that nothing will top it.  Nothing needs to top it.  If anything this year, I’ve learned to just be.  Just be enough.  Let this moment be enough for now.  This is how you feel contentment – you accept and then you enjoy.  I read recently that chasing happiness is futile - it’s a passing feeling that you cannot sustain.  Contentment is long-lasting.  2015 is upon us.  It is in this year that I will turn 40.  40 means so many things – it’s so loaded in terms of how I view myself and how others view me that it’s going to take the next 7 months until July 28th for me to filter through to find the importance of what it actually means.  As I get older, I realize I am more accepting of myself; my flaws, my idiosycrancies. I’m quicker to acknowledge – heck, even announce them – and move on. I’m not perfect.  As a former chaser of perfection, I’ve learned that the chase is empty and tiring.  Life moves by without you as you keep running in a circle chasing the most perfect version of everything before you let yourself move forward.  I was telling a friend the other day that the joke of life is that as you get older, you get more comfortable in your skin.  But you keep looking in the mirror and saying – hey, that skin is getting older, that skin has wrinkles! By the time we fully love ourselves, we look in the mirror and barely recognize ourselves. If I could go back and talk to the younger version of myself I would tell her to love herself more openly, walk more proudly and never to stay home because of bad hair, bad skin or anything else you’re convinced will be the first thing people notice when y[...]



Life has been ticking along here now for a little over 8 weeks.Mackenzie is smiling, giggling and cooing.  She loves to cuddle and enjoys time on those mats with all of the bright, colorful dangly things that you think are a gimmick until you put your baby on it and realize they think it’s party.  She makes eyes with the zebra, swats at the giraffe, kicks her legs and laughs until she passes out into a nap.It’s hard work being a baby.Myself, I have been doing my own version of baby exercise mat as I stack on week after week of consistent “fitness building” activity.  Training to train.  For the first 6 to 7 weeks it was slow going.  Rather, I was slow going.  Like I tell my athletes, a little patience here goes a long way.  But it’s hard to trust and accept that when you’re shuffling along at a very slow pace.And that’s just for running!In the pool, I’ve gotten back into some challenging swims.  The swimming comes back quickly.  My top end is missing so I’ve included some all out 25's and lots of fly.  Anyone who says they can’t get their heart rate up during swimming needs to do more fly! I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to chase Amanda a few times in the pool with the swim workouts I write for her.  When I gave her 60 x 50, she said she would only do it if I did the swim with her.  Deal.  When we got 50 into it, she did some quick math and said hey, this adds up to 70.  It was no surprise but for the first time I got a taste of my own bad math.  As I told her, it could have been worse – could have been an extra 10 x 100!Last weekend, I made myself do a bike test.  I’ve been riding mostly easy with some short (as in 30 seconds) bursts of intensity.  As soon as I got really uncomfortable, the interval would be over.  But if you’re going to make progress you have to do the thing you don’t want to do and get reallyuncomfortable.  For me that was a bike test.  To improve you must be willing to look at yourself in the mirror (or look straight into the power meter/Garmin), accept what you see and then put forth the effort to work on it.  I know I’m not fast or strong right now but I felt it was important to quantify how much so I could measure (and be motivated by) progress.Before the test, I did my best magic trick yet: I got both children to nap simultaneously for 3 hours.  I deserve a wooden bowl for that.  I was so excited to test – so much so that my HR was running hot even before I got onto the bike.  A little anxiety!  It had been over 18 months since my last test!  And about 5 minutes into the test, I realized that those damn things never get any easier.  EVER.  They hurt for every single pedal stroke.  10 minutes.  15 minutes.  HURT.  At that point I told myself it was only 5 x 1 minute as hard as I could go.  In the end I finished just a few watts lower than I thought I would be.  I have a starting point but also a refresher in how to do the bike test.  Part of doing a test to your ability is mastering how to execute the test.  It takes some practice to learn how to pace and when to dig!   Next up, a 5K the following weekend.  Running is always the slowest to come back.  I ran until the end of pregnancy but I use the term running lightly.  Until about week 36, I was able to run nonstop for 30+ minutes.  Then, it became a “wait and see” variation of run some, walk some.  Sometimes run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds.  Sometimes run 30 seconds, walk 5 minutes!  My pace had slowed down to over 4 minutes per mile slower than my usual easy run pace.  It was more like fast walking.  In the past 8 weeks I’ve been (IM)patient[...]

Working On It


Off season, preseason, end of season break – call it what you want but for many of you it’s the time of the year to rest, recover and recharge for your 2015 season!It’s also the perfect time to insert a swim, bike or run focus.  Some athletes will even choose to work on body composition or overall strength.  This is an ideal time of the year to focus on one thing as you are no longer constrained by the volume or specificity of preparation that needs to take place going into your key races.  Right now, it’s ok to back off on the other two sports or make some other sacrifices without a significant cost to your overall performance or health.How to determine which area you need to focus on?  Take an honest look at what held you back in your 2014 season.  Was it fitness?  Strength?  Time?  Is there one sport where you lag far behind in your AG or overall placement?  Or, do you walk away from every race saying if only I could ____ faster.  Did you lose the podium spot in the transition?  With a little bit of work you can turn any weakness into more of a strength. Here are some ideas on how to assemble a focus to improve in different areas: Swim Focus *Schedule a session with a reputable swim coach to assess form, revisit every 4 weeks *Choose 1 to 3 form challenges, choose only 1 to focus on during each session *Gradually increase your swim frequency (ideally, getting to 5 sessions a week – or more during a focus) *Join a quality masters team for 1 to 2 swims a week or step up to a new lane with your current masters team *Once you’ve hit 5 sessions a week, consider adding in a double swim day once a week for 4 weeks *Remember: there is value in even 20 to 30 minute sessions *Aim for 1-2 form sessions, 1 strength session (core, paddles, vertical kicking), 1 threshold/speed session, 1 endurance session *Include a weekly longer swim (3000-5000+ yards) *Do repetitive pace sets (ie., 30 x 100 on a descending interval every 10, change the interval as you gain fitness) *Swim steady; yes, 30-60 minutes nonstop to build mental & physical endurance that you need in a race (which is nonstop!), see if you can rack up more & more yards *Include a day where you just swim with toys – buy some new toys to keep swimming fun/fresh (snorkel, band, different paddles) *If it’s not possible to get to the pool more often, insert a few 20 minute stretch cord session (half pull, full pull, tricep kickbacks) *Learn something new: flip turns, stroke, improve your kick, sign up for a swim meet, do the January 1 hour postal challenge *When all else fails: JFS (just fucking swim – it need not be complicated & you can improve through frequency/yards along if you swim enough) Bike Focus *Buy a power meter (there are many affordable options; used or new, start looking!) *Increase ride frequency to 5x a week *Consider bike commuting (with low effort/high cadence) *Include 1-2 shorter threshold sessions per week to raise your FTP *Improve your ability to generate power at all cadences by working at all cadences on varied terrain *Get outside with a mountain bike or cross bike; focus on skills, handling & cadence *Work on power output at different cadences (40 rpms, 60 rpms, 100 rpms) *Strength work: on/off the bike (big gears, hills, wind, lunges, squats) *Schedule strength work (big gear/low stress on HR) the day before an interval workout *Work up to a double bike day (strength work in the morning, TT/threshold effort in the evening) *Mix in some indoor time trials as check in points *Plan in a 3-7 day bike heavy training camp/vacation in late winter to early spring *Use Computrainer classes in a sensible, progressive manner (as long as they are taught by someone knowledgeable who tests you properly[...]

Back At It


I went aero for the first time in over a year.I cracked a 9:00 mile.I drank a glass a wine.  (or two)And if I squint hard enough I think I can see my abs.I AM (almost) “ME” AGAIN!We have nearly hit the 5 week point since Mackenzie’s birth.  In that time I have learned one thing: my masters degree is useless!  I should have gone to school for a masters in Food Service & Sanitation.  My life is a whir of meal prep/clean up, potty visits, baths, laundry and household chores.  I remind myself that I get to do this and realize that I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Chris spent two weeks at home after Mackenzie’s birth and somewhere in week two made the very keen observation: this is a hard job you do, Elizabeth. Yes, now, let's talk about the PAY! Mackenzie is an adorable 9+ pounds of snuggleworthy cuteness.  I am utterly in love with her and even find her cry adorable (her cry sounds like a little sheep and who doesn’t love a sheep?).  She is a good baby in that she sleeps for 3 hours at a time and only cries when she’s wet, poopy or hungry.  At times I find myself wondering why or how it’s so easy.  Don’t get me wrong – waking up every 3 to 4 hours is not easy but compared to what it could be with a newborn?  I’m lucky.  She gets up, eats and within 15 minutes is back in bed asleep.  DREAMY newborn behavior!  There was even one night where she slept for 5 hours.  Every new parent knows the feeling when the kid finally wakes up, you look at the clock and think to yourself – wait, what?  I feel too good.  I feel refreshed.  You mean it’s been FIVE HOURS since they last woke?  OMG ARE THEY STILL BREATHING? It happened once.  The day I felt refreshed. Yet managing each day can be a wild ride of managing the details of the house, business, two kids and the dog.  5 weeks of juggling all of this – and, not to mention myself and my own recovery – has taught me that just like endurance racing, it pays to stay in the moment and not look too far ahead.  At times I think to myself how am I going to do it all?  Then I tell myself that I don’t have to do it all.  I don't have to figure it out now.  I just have to make it through today.  And then tomorrow.  And soon enough I’ll have strung together weeks, months of doing things that lead to a feeling of accomplishment.  Just like when you run that marathon at the end of Ironman – it’s not 26.2 miles, it’s 1 mile you have to repeat 26 times.  The same but different.(yet still a very long way!)Max has been adjusting to life as the big brother.  At first he was intimidated by the job duties.  Now he proudly tells everyone I’m the big brother.  He likes to help – and the more I ask him to help the more I think it makes him feel important.  He’s in preschool two days a week which means I get to live the dream of one child for 4 ½ hours on those days (thank goodness for extended care preschool – and he loves it!).Most days I can manage my most amazing magic trick – getting both of the kids to nap in the afternoon at the same time.  Max still (THANKFULLY) naps for 3 to 4 hours every afternoon.  Even if he doesn’t nap, I insist he takes “quiet time” in his room for 60 to 90 minutes with puzzles or books or Legos.  Mackenzie (like it or not, kid!) will do the same!  One day I managed to squeeze in a 75 minute workout where they were both napping THE ENTIRE TIME!  Even the dog didn’t bark! At the 3 week mark, I got the green light from my doctor to return to all activity with the caution to “not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.”  With my[...]

She's Here


She’s finally here!On Tuesday, August 26th, Mackenzie Hope arrived at 9:10 pm, weighing in at 7 lbs 11 ounces and measuring 20 inches long.  She is beautiful, perfect and she is mine.  Words cannot express how much joy is in my heart – the same heart that absolutely melts every time I look at her face.   I left my 39 week appointment, 5 days before she was born, discouraged.  The doctor reported I had made no progress.  My amniotic fluid was on the high side which meant her head was floating, not descending and my contractions weren’t strong enough to encourage any more dilation.  I left upset, feeling the lack of progress would be a ticket straight to another c-section and if that was the case, why wait – why didn’t I just schedule it a week early and get on with it?  Every day longer I had to wait for her was another day she felt further from me.  I had waited so long, so very long to get to the end – now that it was just a few days away it felt further away than ever.  What if something happened to her?  What if I got this close and she didn’t make it here?  I wanted her out – safely – and wouldn’t relax until she was in my arms.In the days until her birth I tried everything.  Bouncing on a ball, walking walking walking.  The ultrasound technician suggested that since most normal women are told to walk their way into labor, someone like me should consider climbing a mountain.Peace out, people, I’m heading to Everest.I stayed as active as possible, did as much housework as possible and finally when my spice drawer was clean and alphabetically organized, I shouted in my head: WE ARE READY NOW, PLEASE ARRIVE!The day before she was born, I knew something was happening.  I felt off.  Tired.  My lower back ached.  I couldn’t make it through a bike ride.  I took a nap.  I had no appetite.  I had a few noticeable contractions in the middle of the night – the real ones that feel like a belt tightening around your back.  I wondered if I was close.  Three days, kid.  You’ve only got three days before my scheduled c-section.Tuesday morning, I woke up and felt normal again.  False alarm.  I went to masters, distance free day.  All of my friends were there – Taylor, Amanda, both Bobs and Marty.  They applauded me for being this far and still swimming.  I put myself into a slower lane with the older Bob.  We set out on a 4000 yard swim when I noticed something different – every 500 yards or so, my lower back would tighten up.  I chalked it up to weight gain, front loaded belly, pulling, side effect of pregnancy.  But when it continued, I stopped at the wall and said to Bob, I think I’m having contractions?  Bob suggested I consider stopping.  I was 1000 yards away from finishing it.  I’m not stopping yet!In the shower afterwards, I knew something was happening.  Consistent pain in my back and all of a sudden I had that feeling that this was it – it was really happening.  I never went into labor with Max so I relied a lot on other women’s experiences.  I’ve read reports that you will “just know” when labor is happening.  They’re right.  This was the real thing.  I announced to Taylor and Amanda that I was pretty sure I was in labor.  Taylor offered to drive me somewhere.  I said, I need to go home – I have a dishwasher to unload and laundry to put away.  I hightailed it out of the pool, grabbed Max and headed home.  A few household chores and a shower – I was not going into labor with a messy house and my hair would be done today. (by the way, when I saw the pi[...]

T Minus 9 Days


In less than 9 days we will have a new baby.   At this point, we are ready, we are waiting.  With the first baby, you feel this overwhelming sense of we’re not ready, we’ll NEVER be ready!  But looking at kid #1, I can’t help but think – we’ve kept him alive this long so bring on #2.  We’re ready for it! There’s a growing impatience at just getting started.  I know the work it will take to care for a newborn as well as rebuild my body.  I’m just ready to get on with it.  And like I told Chris yesterday, it’s not even that I’m entirely uncomfortable.  I can still swim, bike and run.  I can still function.  My belly is big but not in the same miserably uncomfortable way that it was with Max – which strikes me as odd since I’ve gained the same amount of weight.  But I’m just ready to be done with pregnancy.  This entire process started a year ago and it’s time to move forward already.  I know once she comes out and I’m faced with the sleepness nights, endless diapers (didn’t we JUST get out of diapers!?!) and painful chest I’ll be screaming: put her back in, PUT HER BACK IN!  But for right now, I am ready.Did you hear me, baby girl.  READY.  That is your cue to come out.  NOW.In the past 2 weeks, I’ve experienced a variety of feelings.  There was extreme fatigue which suddenly vanished upon arrival of tremendous surge of energy that didn’t stop for 5 days.  This was a welcome reprieve from what had been 36 weeks of nonstop heavy fatigue.  You know the fatigue you feel the Monday after a big weekend of Ironman training?  Where you’re still down 5 pounds of dehydration, nauseous, hungry, sore and after you wake up ready to go right back to bed? I felt that good for the past 9 months.  It was possibly the worst part of being pregnant – not feeling like me every single day.  Feeling so, so tired.   I was delighted when I finally felt like me for 5 days.  NONSTOP ENERGY.  Indefatigable!  I had an overwhelming urge to clean everything.  And I mean everything.  I scrubbed the floors. I powerwashed the inside garbage cans.  I vacuumed behind the stove.  I handwashed all of the gear in my swim bag.  And when I pulled the vacuum up next to the refrigerator, Max said Mommy, you can’t do that.  Do what?  Vacuum the fridge.WATCH ME.Then, as quickly as it came on 5 days ago, it came to a halting end.  I was hit with another wave of fatigue, backache and disdain.  12 days remaining in pregnancy felt about as comforting as knowing there’s a marathon at the end of Ironman.  I still had a long, VERY LONG way to go.My 37 week appointment gave me some reassurance that my body was preparing for the battle of labor and delivery.  The benefit of going to a practice with 5 doctors means that you have 5 different personalities giving you feedback about your pregnancy.  This particular week I met with my favorite doctor, the one who with Max told me my cervix was awesome and that I would have an awesome labor and delivery.  This particular visit she smiled when reporting I was 1.5 cm dilated and 50 percent effaced.  I was progressing!  A few days later, I lost the plug holding the baby in which had me convinced labor is imminent!  Some consistent Braxton-Hicks while running or walking, diarrhea, nausea, low backache, all FUN late pregnancy signs pointing towards freedom from this belly!I waited.  And waited.  And…Nothing.My 38 week appointment rolled around and I was STILL pregnant.  The novelty wore off.  For every person who sai[...]

The Final Push


Week 37. I can do anything for 28 more days but I wouldn’t mind cutting the course right about now. Still I find comfort in knowing that no woman can be pregnant forever.  The time will pass, it always does.  Yet I also have to wonder: has any one actually checked that no woman has been pregnant forever?  Is anyone actually sure of this? The final month of pregnancy is here.  I’d say it’s hard to believe only because it’s like when people come up to us, look at Max and say doesn’t it go by fast?  Are you kidding me?  Have you ever spent a day with a 4 year old?  It’s like time stands still only to make trips to the potty, eat snacks, clean up messes, wait out assorted meltdowns to finally look at the clock and think HOW IS IT ONLY 10 AM? To answer your question, it doesn’t go by fast.  In either case. But there’s only 4 weeks to go and ready it or not I will have a baby in my arms by August 28th. I keep waiting for a sign that the tide is turning and labor is imminent.  Thus far I’ve gotten nothing but some on and off nausea and vivid dreams.  No contractions, cramps, fatigue or backache.  And, believe it or not, I am not nearly grumpy enough to be anywhere near birth.  Last time my mood dipped so far south that I suspected an intervention from my family if I didn’t give birth by my due date.  Lucky for them, Max arrived 5 days early.  The other day I had my 36 week appointment.  Because those appointments aren’t fun enough, I had to bring my 4 year old along.  That was 2 hours of fun, thank you.  When he’s in kindergarten, his teacher can thank me and this experience for enriching his vocabulary with important words like cervix and ultrasound and amniotic fluid.  Best part, while getting dressed mommy, the baby’s food is sticking out.  What would I do without him?  Better yet, WHO taught him that?  And, as long as we’re on the topic, this might be the first time ever in my life that I’ve been able to say that this morning I lost a baby aspirin IN MY CLEAVAGE. Back to the 36 week appointment.  Like every other, this appointment started in the bathroom where Max grew envious of me getting to pee in a cup.  This only means that I will find him, at some point in the near future, in one of our bathrooms peeing in a cup.  Mommy, I’ve never seen pee that yellow before.  Prenatal vitamins, kid.  Next, I got weighed.  I’ve resumed my pound a week weight gain.  PHEW.  Then, a trip to ultrasound to measure the baby.  She’s currently 6 pounds 3 ounces and they predict she’ll be 7 pounds 11 ounces before she arrives.  Of course, they could be off – in either direction – by a pound.  That’s about assuring as the daily weather forecast.  Baby is happily kicking, drinking and breathing in there.  I saw her little face and feet.  She looks cramped but I assure you the lack of space has not slowed her down.  She’s kicking more than ever, harder than ever.  The technician walked us to the room with the big comfy chair.  For us elderly women, 36 weeks means the start of the weekly fetal nonstress test.  Two belts are secured around your belly, one to measure fetal heart rate, the other to measure contractions.  Max laments that he wants a belt around his belly.  There isn’t enough Caillou you can load on to an iPad to quiet a kid at an OB/GYN office.  Trust me, I tried.  My task for the next 30 minutes was to “relax” in the big comfy chair while the machine recorded what was going on with baby.  I settle[...]

Open Water Swimming


The swim portion of triathlon eludes many athletes.  Whether it’s poor form, inexperience or fear, the open water is a completely different beast to overcome when compared to the pool.  Other than the fact that you get wet doing both, I’d argue that pool swimming has very little to do with open water swimming.  They require different technique and mindset.  It would be like riding your trainer and expecting it to translate outdoors in all weather, all terrain.  Just doesn’t happen that way.  Or, not for most athletes.This year, I offered a weekly open water swim class at a local “open water” swim site.  It’s an old rock quarry that was turned into a giant swimming pool, equipped with a shallow section, water slide, 50 meter long course lap lanes, diving boards and a 14 foot deep end that’s about 300 meters around.  Add in the general public and it’s quite the obstacle ridden open water experience.And perfect for triathletes. Ask me how many triathletes signed up for the class.NOT NEARLY ENOUGH!  Why?  There are good reasons (cost, location, times, scared of Coach Liz) and not so good reasons:  It’s the shortest part of the race.  The pool requires driving time.  You have to get wet.  iI don't like to swim.  But, what most triathletes forget is that triathlon is swim-bike-run.  Not a HOLY SHIT I HAVE TO SWIM SO I HOPE THEY CANCEL THE SWIM followed by a bike-run.  It’s one event.  And if you want to get good at the entire event, you have to improve at all 3 (including THE SWIM!).  Remember: How you feel on the run is determined by what you do on the bike. How you feel on the bike is determined by what you do on the swim.  It’s all connected. Now, in full disclosure, I am a fake swimmer.  Like most of you, I did not come from a swim background and still have no business in the fast lane.  But I’ve learned a lot that has gone a long way.  From my own experience and from standing on a pool deck every week, sometimes 6 times a week to coach swimmers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, here are some thoughts on how to improve open water swimming.  Let’s first start with what makes open water unique: No walls (for stronger swimmers, no gain from push off; for weaker swimmers, no pause for breath)No lines (requires sighting, proper body alignment, core strength)The way of the water: chop, current, waves (disrupts rhythm, induces panic, changes stroke)Water temperature: cold or hot (creates a physiological response we might not have control over)Wearing a wetsuit or speedsuit (can change form, feel, body position)Other swimmers (crowding, contact, induces anxiety)Now think to yourself: when was the last time I actually prepared for any of those conditions during my typical swim workout?  Chances are you go into your little lane at your local pool, swam solo in your swim suit, did a swim/kick/drill/pull warm up, a little mainset with a nice little rest after each and then did a cool down.  Mix in some fins, pull buoy, paddle assistance and you had yourself a nice little tidy swim session.THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OPEN WATER!So here it is, the BIG secret on why your pool pace per 100 meters is not translating to your open water pace. The reason you’re not good at open water swimming is because you don’t practice open water swimming.Take a moment and let that sink in.   It’s as simple as that.  Sure, we can spend hours looking at your form, talking about it, thinking about it but bottom line is that if you don’t do it you’re not going [...]

Are We There Yet?


Week 34 is quickly approaching a close.  As much as I know the end is near, I want to sit in the backseat repeating ARE WE THERE  YET ARE WE THERE YET ARE WE THERE YET until someone answers me. (so, are we there yet?) I’m at the point where I don’t know if I’m really close or still have a long way to go.  I keep reminding myself that in a little over 6 weeks, I get to go back to being me again.  ME!  That is, after I lose a boatload of weight, survive the joys of nursing and see every hour of the day for what might just be 6 weeks straight. I forget how FUN the newborn stage is going to be!I had a doctor’s appointment last week.  Per usual the nurse started with can you give a sample?  Do you even need to ask?  Chances are I am providing a sample right now in my shorts because I am one track workout beyond the point where I can hold it as a little person trampolines on my bladder.  I can always provide a sample.  Always.  In fact, after I provide a sample, I will probably be able to sit back down and provide yet another sample.But wait – from there it gets better. Hop on the scale. THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART!What every gloriously large pregnant wants to do, put a number on her misery.But then something happened that might be the best thing that’s happened to me in 34 weeks.I DID NOT GAIN ANY WEIGHT.After a steady pattern of a pound a week, it feels good to walk out of that office feeling like I had a small victory.  To celebrate I went home and ate ice cream.  Hey, I need the calories.Next, I met with the doctor.  This time when she asked, “anything else you want to talk about?” I fessed up to the return of nausea.  After dealing with nausea for the first 16 – 18 weeks, I was not too happy to have it return!  When I asked her why I was getting nauseous, she said, in her highly educated I went to 20+ years of school for this, sometimes that just happens.At that moment, I looked back at her like that’s the best you could do.  And she looked back at me like you pregnant women are all crazy. I’m glad I brought it up.I also had a growth scan.  Right now, baby is 4 pounds and projected to be 7 pounds 5 ounces by 40 weeks.  Of course they told me Max would weigh over 8 pounds and he came out at 7 pounds 9 ounces.  My guess is she’ll be right around 7 pounds.  Yet one can never know.  Here's why: I walked into the coffee shop the other day, carrying a very upset Max Waterstraat who just had a painful run in with the car door, was wearing his froggy boots on the wrong feet and was miserably coughing with a cold.  Seeing this sad sight (obscenely pregnant woman trying to carry sick child), a man opened the door for me. How do you feel? BIG. You women all say that.  My wife felt big but didn’t look big.  Then she went on to deliver an 11 pound 5 ounce baby.  Largest one ever born at that hospital. Was that supposed to make me feel better?  BECAUSE NOW I AM VERY SCARED.  And let it be known that if I give birth to something bigger than my dog, my you know what will be closed PERMANENTLY.  Consider it early retirement.Though technically I still have 6 weeks to go, the doctor insisted I decide how I will give birth and then commit to some dates.  When people ask me if I have a birth plan, I tell them my plan is to give birth.  Quite honestly, after spending so much time to get to this point, it doesn’t matter how she comes out of me.  I just want her here. Since I’m a candidate for VBAC, I deci[...]

Now Approaching: Week 33


Week 33.I can’t believe I just said that.The weeks are flying by now.  And every week that passes, Chris tells me that I look more and more pregnant.  I cracked 140 lbs at the doctor’s office, an impressive milestone for myself.  I finished with Max at 145 and it looks like I will fly by that with no problem.  There’s a good chance I’ll crack 150.  If I end up over 160, I will officially be the heaviest mammal in our house.  As crazy as that sounds, I might be up for the challenge.  I feel like I really, really need to win something.As I enter the final 2 months of pregnancy, I realize that I am so close but still so far away.  I am not nearly grumpy, swollen or tired enough to declare myself anywhere near giving birth.  Shocking, to those close to me, but trust me, folks, we’ve got a loooooong way to go.  Until then, we’ve still got a lot to do. Diapers, pacifiers and someone’s gonna need to pull my breast pump out of storage.  Don’t all jump on that opportunity.  What I have done, though, is finally settled on some baby bedding (purple!) and bought some of the most adorable outfits (with bicycles on them!).  The furniture should arrive in the next 2 weeks and then I will feel like it’s all coming together.Lately, I’ve had that third trimester crazy rush of nesting energy that reminds me the end actually is near.  Soon enough I will be cleaning out grout with a toothbrush because how can we let a new baby into this house with such squalor!  Though all it takes is about 30 minutes outside when temperatures are over 75 to completely slow this baby train down.  I forgot how truly hot it feels when you are pregnant in summer.  It is beyond hot.  It is like suffocating in your own body heat.  I don’t sweat, I just stifle. I continue to work out every day and most of the time it feels good.  I’m starting to slow down on the swim.  I moved myself down a lane (sniff, sniff).  This means a lot of time standing on the wall negotiating about changing the set or who gets to be last.  I get to be last, ok?  I GET TO BE LAST DAMMIT.  The water always feels too hot and I’m nearly at the point where I need to wear something under my suit because my belly is pushing the entire suit down. I’m still riding my cross bike on the path and the other day had the pleasure of being buzzed by a woman not only in aero bars on the path but wearing compression sleeves on her calves, an iPod and no helmet.  There’s a first for everything. Running.  Last week I had a glorious run where I went really fast – for me, right now.  This week, with the heat, every run has felt like mile 18+ of the Ironman.  I’m just thrilled to be running still.  I did start to read about returning to running after birth.  Since I will be attempting a normal birth, I do not have a road map for how my body will respond after that experience.  It took only a few sentences about damage to the pelvic floor to realize I might spend the rest of my life in diapers. Speaking of diapers, he might be turning 4 in a few weeks but Max is finally potty trained.  This was definitely a “hot button” of parenting for a long time.  Everyone will give you advice, opinions and tips on how to raise your kid.  Often it will include things that make you feel like a terrible parent.  Even Max’s preschool had me convinced that I had the only 3 year old left who was in diapers and would need to spend the entire summer with him naked to [...]

Know Your Audience


One of the best things about my job during this part of the year is the opportunity to work with many different types of people; kids, beginners, age groupers, elites, swimmers, men, women.  I’ve been gathering observations and thoughts about these groups.  Because as any coach knows, working with kids is not the same as working with adults.  Coaching beginners is nothing like coaching age group elites.  Men are different than women.  What a 30-34 year old can do is very different than the training you give to a 45-49 year old female.  What a male 30-34 year old can do in training is different than what a woman of the same age can do.  (and, guys, sorry to say but most women can outwork, outtrain and outhurt you.  It’s truth and it’s often due to hormones) Kids You don’t “coach” kids.  You communicate with them in a way that connects and engages.  You guide them through activities that improve skills, drills and coordination.  As a result, they get a little fitter.  More importantly, they have fun.  Something that many coaches and parents forget is that children are not small adults.  They have different physiology and psychology.  Youth is the time to develop athletic skills and coordination through the best training of all – play.  Resist the urge to push or structure your child’s “training”.  Gentle encouragement is useful but let the child lead.  If they want to do something, you’ll know – they’ll show an interest and they’ll want to go back.  The biggest mistake I see parents making is taking their child’s sport too seriously.  Keep in mind that less than 1 percent of kids get scholarships to D1 schools.  Guide your child towards sports not to win or gain scholarships but to develop team/collaborative skills, an appreciation for the power of their bodies and self-confidence.  Research has shown that early specialization leads to injury and burnout.  Try a variety of sports for fun, general fitness and athletic skills. Get your child motivated to move – this will go a long way in adulthood.  One last thing: avoid going too far too soon.  Long course racing and training has no place in a child’s athletic (or physical) development.  Be a wise mentor for your child making decisions from a place of lifelong health and enjoyment of sports.  Beginners Spend enough time coaching advanced athletes and you can easily forget what it’s like to take those first steps – to simply be brave enough to act on the idea that maybe you can do this.  The best thing you can do for a beginner is to assure them that we were all beginners at one time, we all started somewhere.  Provide a coaching approach where no question is stupid, no knowledge is assumed and no experience is necessary.  Beginners bring a unique set of fears to the sport that can look trivial to the more advanced.  They fear being slow, looking silly or finishing last.  Along with building basic movement skills and fitness – you need to build their confidence.  Connect with them – listen, talk and educate.  Keep it simple.  Even something as simple as “swim a 50” will go over the head of most beginners.  Break it down to the basics – teach them how to breathe before you let the swim, teach them how to pedal, teach them how to run again.  Assemble in areas where you can connect to each athlete in the training session – in the pool, on a track, on trainers in a room for biking.&nb[...]

The Beginning of the End


As I write this, I am entering the end of pregnancy.  Otherwise known as the third trimester or THE SLOWEST 13 WEEKS OF YOUR LIFE.  And, if you’re really lucky, the slowest 15 weeks.  Yes, some very lucky women out there get to experience the joys of 42 weeks of pregnancy!Because this is an IVF pregnancy and I’m geriatric, I will not be permitted to go beyond 40 weeks.  And so, I will miss out on the joy of those bonus weeks in pregnancy. Each day, someone comments about my belly.  My husband: it’s getting bigger.  A preschool mom: I didn’t realize you were pregnant, you hid it so well until now.  A parent of a swimmer that I coach: when are you due, you look like you’re going to burst! My biggest fans – THANKS, everyone.What’s been happening the past few weeks?  Not much unusual.  I’ve been ticking away the days here with coaching my assorted groups, running my business and waiting for summer.  Finally, it’s here!  Which means many hours a week will be spent in my yard with all of my favorite power tools.  Sad reality of pregnancy: I had to slow the self-propelled mower down two notches just so I could keep up with it!On the weight gain front, I continue to gain one pound a week.  Baby is currently 2 pounds and 12 ounces.  Add to that the one pound of placenta and I have nearly 4 pounds of that weight gain covered!  Pregnancy weight gain seems well beyond my control but I also won’t lie – my “old” diet is about as appealing as…’s just not.  And it’s convinced me we should all stay away from beets, kale, chicken, broccoli and live on WAFFLES.  I call baby “baby” because we had a name then didn’t have a name then got tired of trying to pick out a name.  We’ve settled on the let’s wait and see what she looks like when she comes out approach.  Depending on how much pain medication I’ve had, this name might be very interesting.  The problem is I want a name that isn’t too trendy, will stand with her through life and doesn’t have a weird nickname.  That pretty much cancels out everything except for what my mother-in-law suggested: Esther.  I’d like you all to say Esther Waterstraat 10 times fast.  Needless to say, we are not  going with Esther.Exercising has been going well depending on where the baby is.  Just the other day, I felt something amazing:  the ability to not get out of breath while walking up the stairs!  This meant only one thing – the baby had changed positions.  If you’re keeping track, she’s gone from breech at 20 weeks, head down at 24 weeks and now…..sure enough, during my every 2 week cervix check (in which I brought Max along to which he said “mommy, what’s a cervix?”) – the ultrasound technician said:She’s crosswise.I KNEW IT!  And let me tell you, this transverse baby can stay there because it’s been an entire week of OXYGEN.  Which means I can swim/bike/run without feeling like someone is compressing 50 percent of my lung capacity.  Of course, she needs to shift by 36 weeks to head down so that I can, as I told Max, birth her out of my peepee.  This of course came after the “mommy, how does the baby get out of your belly?” question.  And yes, nearly 4 years old and we’ve already heard how did the baby get into your belly?  Well, mommy and daddy hugged and….Actually, mommy and daddy wrote a very large check to a very smart doctor – a few months later, daddy[...]

The Joys of Mid-Pregnancy


MAJOR MILESTONE ACHIEVED.  I now weigh more than all of my friends. I only have 5 friends but who’s counting? Weeks 22, 23 and 24.  Cruising right through my sixth month of pregnancy.  Wait – six months?  And I still have how many to go?  I’ve been pregnant nearly as long as we’ve had winter.  And in case you’re keeping track, it’s been 7 long months of winter.  Last week: heat was still on, fleece still worn. The past few weeks have flown by and as a very astute fellow mother asked me the other day: you planned it that way, didn’t you?  Indeed I did.  I stacked myself with 6 days a week of coaching out of the house.  For the past few years, through April and May, I’ve coached kids swim conditioning 3 nights a week.  Add to that my Ironman group in Chicago, on deck coaching masters at least once a week and new this year I started a kids triathlon group and a beginner women’s training program.  Busy?  I have seen more of the pool deck than my husband since April 1st. But the time is flying by – in a good way.  This little girl in my belly is growing and kicking like crazy.  She flips positions from breech to head down a few times a week.  Breech means I get a lot of tap dancing on my bladder.  Head down means I get a lot of head bopping on my bladder.  In either case, my bladder is taking a big hit.  I can’t sneeze, cough or laugh too hard without thinking I need to pick myself up some Depends. And don’t think that I haven’t considered Depends for my return to running after baby.   Did you know they come in peach color?In week 22 I remember feeling pretty good.  And every time I find myself thinking I feel pretty good it’s like when you find yourself thinking, as an athlete, I feel fit as shit.  You know you’re just one step away from major injury or illness because that’s how it works.  When we feel our best, we feel invincible.  And then life happens.  Or in my case, fire crotch.I apologize for the graphic nature of the next two paragraphs but any pregnant woman knows exactly what I’m talking about.  It can be 30 degrees, you’re outside in shorts, a t-shirt with a strong wind blowing at you but chances are you have fire crotch.  And that is how I acquired myself an itch that kept me up for THREE NIGHTS STRAIGHT.  I’ve been lucky.  I’ve ridden thousands of miles in saddles and never had a problem down there.  But pregnancy scoffed at me and said – you, lucky one, I give you fire crotch.  Good luck.  Itch itch.Which is how I pretty much spent all of week 23 with what my doctor called an angry ______.  You can fill in the blank.  Fairly sure that I’ve been called angry _____ by my husband secretly to his friends many times over the years.  What’s wrong with Liz?  Angry ______.  Don’t mess with the angry ____, you will never win against it.  This is true.  NEVER APPROACH AN ANGRY ______.  If you encounter it, do not make eye contact, slowly back away, quickly turn and then RUN LIKE HELL.  Once the doctor confirmed that it was angry (she actually used that very medical word), I texted my husband a fair warning: the doctor said I have an angry _____, steer clear of it AND me.Once that cleared up, I went back to feeling awesome again.  For at least the next 12 hours.Pregnancy is strange.  I know I’ve been down this road before b[...]

Adventures in Weeks 19 - 21


Some mornings, I lay in bed thinking: OH MY GOD THERE IS A LITTLE PERSON INSIDE OF ME RIGHT NOW. Welcome to week 22! I’m getting bigger.  There is no mistaking that I am pregnant and even strangers enjoy asking me questions about my belly, my due date and frequently remind me of this very obvious fact: You’re going to be pregnant through the summer.  You poor thing. THANKS.  I’m getting bigger in ways that I didn’t get bigger with Max.  Nothing accentuates this more than clothes shopping.  I’d blame the funhouse mirror that seemed to be in every fitting room but I know that it’s really me.  I just have to accept it.  And when the nice girl at Lululemon said you have a really cute figure for being pregnant I wanted to shake her, screaming BUT I JUST TRIED ON A SIZE 10 COAT AND IT DIDN’T FIT SO TELL ME HOW CUTE I AM AGAIN!? I’m coping very well with my maternity wardrobe. Let’s go back to week 19.  During that week, my mom, Max and I traveled to San Diego for “vacation” – in quotations because one cannot really vacation with their 3½ year old, can they?  Though I will say this turned into my child’s dream vacation.  Every day was an adventure from park to park in the greater San Diego area where every kid is named something kitschy like Asher, Ava or Sage.  Every park had a sand pit.  And every day was 68 and sunny.  Let’s talk.  If you train in San Diego and you are not fast then you are doing something wrong because you have perfect conditions every day.  EVERY DAY!  Except for the 30 minutes it rained on Tuesday morning.  I can only imagine how tough it was for Southern California athletes to muster up the courage to put on their rain gear for their ride’s warm up that morning. The first day on said “vacation” went very, very well.  We did a scenic drive through the mountains to Palm Desert to visit the Living Desert (well worth it) and then on to Palm Springs for Village Fest (not worth it unless you want to buy candles, carnival food or be the only one pushing a stroller with a child – around there, strollers are reserved for dogs apparently!).  That night, my throat felt itchy.  Desert air, I said to myself.  The next day I woke up feeling like I had run a half marathon.  I thought maybe I was dehydrated, maybe I walked too far the day before, maybe after the 50 minute run on the treadmill that morning I had proved I was really, REALLY out of shape.  Each day I got worse and worse until Sunday when I made a trip to urgent care because I could not handle the headache, cough or fatigue for one day longer.  Bronchitis and sinus infection.  I have not been that sick since I had the stomach flu in 2005.  Which incidentally was a fantastic way to get to race weight by March.  Week 20 I returned home and stayed sick for a few more days and continued to nurse the 10+ day headache that was resistant to sleep, hydration and even coffee.  Yes, gasp, I gave in and had some coffee.  Something had to give!  In this week, nausea also returned.  Remember that second trimester honeymoon – STILL WAITING!  Feeling so bad for so many weeks I have learned to really, REALLY appreciate how good I feel in my normal unpregnant Liz life.  Baby still doesn’t have a name and Chris and I still can’t agree.  The other day I threw out Sophie to which Chris immediately said – NO, ABS[...]

Getting Race Ready


Early season racing has arrived.  Most of you have spent a winter on the trainer, treadmill, sweating in the sauna to prepare for your early season races.  Generally, athletes have no problem knocking out the training sessions.  The day to day grind of workouts is a rhythm that is easy to sustain once started.  But on race day, we know that success is more than just the training sessions. If that was the case, the most consistent, fastest trainer would win every time!  Hardly the case.  Let's look at some of the other things it takes to put together a successful race.Start with why What drives you to train or compete?  What made you spend months preparing?  What goes through your mind when the alarm clock goes off at 4:55 am?  This is your “why” and it’s a very powerful motivator en route to your success.  In Start with Why, author Simon Sinek describes the starting with why as starting with clarity.  In his words, you have to know why you do what you do.  To inspire (yourself), you need to start with the clarity of why.  Think about what brings you to the race – personal enjoyment, competition, fitness, vanity – there are many reasons why people participate in triathlon.  Think through what your reason is and revisit it over and over again – this “why” should pick you up when motivation is down and give you that feeling of completion when you cross the line.  You gotta believe Top performance comes from a place of confidence and trust in yourself.  In Bounce, author Matthew Syed states it best:  to perform to your maximum, you have to teach yourself to believe with an intensity that goes way beyond logical justification.  No top performance has lacked this capacity; no sportsman has played to his potential without the ability to remove doubt from his mind.  The what if’s, the questions in your head will often speak louder and get harder to ignore the more you are under stress.  You must 100 percent believe in your ability to do what you are setting out to do.  Where does this belief come from?  Preparation and training.  Revisit your training – the good and bad sessions – for confidence in your abilities, whether to perform, hit certain paces or simply overcome adversity.  Train ugly Recently, I read a fantastic blog at Championship Basketball School about training ugly to get to greatness.  Training ugly means allowing yourself to make mistakes, training when conditions aren’t perfect, making things, well – difficult for yourself.  Racing isn’t easy, comfortable or flawless.  There’s no option to ride indoors if it’s too windy or too hot.  You can’t put on your favorite playlist to get through mile 18.  Training doesn’t need to be ugly every day but more often than not, be sure that you’re training ugly enough to feel the pain, get out of your comfort zone, sweat a little, suffer and risk failure.  One of my favorite sports books, Go Girl by Natalie Cook quotes Steve Anderson: The willingness to risk creates the opportunity for success.  Play it safe, comfortable and pretty and you’ll never taste the discomfort it takes to be a success. Understand the physiology of competition In Top Dog: The Science of Competition, the authors describe how testosterone allows you to take more risks and better respond to challenge with intensity.  When[...]

Now Approaching: Week 18


Just a few days until week 18 which means I’m one week closer to being halfway there!When I was pregnant with Max, I kept counting the weeks down, excited to get to the finish as quickly as possible.  This time around, I keep thinking OH MY GOSH I ONLY HAVE 22 WEEKS LEFT.   22 weeks to paint the room, buy a crib, choose a name and figure out everything else you need to remember about having a baby.  All of that leads me to the conclusion that 22 weeks is not nearly enough time so I’m going to need at least another year to be pregnant.Since my last update not much has changed except for my weight.  By week 16 I was up 16 pounds.  That’s right, I am WINNING this thing called pregnancy!  A pound a week.  If I play my cards right, I just might surpass my husband at his race weight.  The competitive athlete in me is thinking I’M GOING FOR IT! As far as fatigue and nausea go, there has been no relief.  I have approximately one day a week where I feel good and “normal” – as close to normal as you can feel when you feel nothing like yourself!  I keep waiting for the second trimester honeymoon to start like it did with Max. Still waiting.  ANY DAY NOW.Cravings: cheese and crackers (I could eat these for every meal, some days I do just that).  Aversions: the smell of chicken, the taste of kale, occasionally my husband (after further online forum investigation I’ve realized this is very common and is likely to come and go until week 29 – sorry, dear). During week 15, I had an appointment with the doctor for fetal heartbeat and measurement.  The doctor was tied up in a delivery so they told me to reschedule.  One of thing I’ve learned through this experience is how to become high maintenance.  This is NOT who I am.  But I realized early on that no one gets extra points (or a reduction in cost) by not calling the nurse to ask a “stupid” question or not requesting what they want – even if it’s “overboard”.  So when I told the nurse that we were waiting for this check up to formally announce the pregnancy, they gave me an ultrasound!  It was great to see baby wiggling around.  I asked the technician if she could guess on the gender and she politely said I don’t like to do that.  Instead, she showed me a shot between the legs and my nonmedical eyes saw absolutely nothing!  Hmm….it was looking like a girl to me.During week 16, I finished weaning off of progesterone.  In all, I took 15 weeks of nightly injections.  That’s well over 100 injections!  By the end, my poor glutes were so sore and I kept hitting veins – what a mess!  Bedtime has now become much less painful.   This week I also wore maternity pants for the first time.  I can still wear my old jeans but who can resist pants with an elastic band?In this week, I also scheduled an appointment at a local ultrasound place called Peek A Belly because I didn’t want to wait until week 20 to find out the gender.  That’s right – high maintenance AND impatient!  HMMPH!  The technician asked what I thought I was having – I said girl – and sure enough she confirmed: GIRL!  GIRL!? My mind exploded in dozens of pink puppies, unicorns and princess outfits.  GIRL!  Holy crap – GIRL!  MINI ME!  I’m not sure the world is ready.  I got to see some nice [...]

Lydiard Learning Weekend


This past weekend, I escaped to Florida for a little sun and learning at the Lydiard coaching certification program in Tallahassee.If you don’t know who Lydiard is, chances are at some point you’ve been following his approach with your training.  Originated in New Zealand, this legendary approach is built upon five principles; aerobic base development, response regulated training, feeling based training, sequential program and correct timing.  It's all about maximizing your aerobic capacity by building a “base” and then moving through a sequential progression of training to improve your fitness and speed just in time for race day.  Time and again, the presenter reiterated that while there are quickerways you make yourself faster – the Lydiard approach seems to be the most safely managed and predictable way to time your peak performance for when it matters most.   The certification program was put together by the Lydiard Foundation, clearly staffed by those who are passionate not just about Lydiard but about sharing their joy for running. Part basic physiology, part program design, part application – it was a quick and informative way for coaches and athletes to learn about a longstanding and logical way to train.  We were a group of 20 – some new coaches, some who coach beginners, some who coach high school teams, some were just recreational runners.  The information was presented by way of lecture, video, discussion as well as hands on learning in actual workouts.   While most of the program was information that I’ve heard before, it makes sense to revisit the basics of training.  Often it seems that coaches forget basic physiology and how it pertains to the demands of triathlon performance.  Lydiard’s principles seem especially relevant in today’s world of triathlon as many coaches have fallen prey to what I call the “McDonaldization” of training – faster for less (but it doesn’t always take you very far).  Let’s make one thing clear: even at the shortest distance, triathlon is an aerobic event.  Even an 800 meter race on the track is predominantly aerobic.  It's important to note that any speed of training (fast or slow) will indeed improve your aerobic fitness.  But what most athletes lack is not speed, its stamina (or strength).  Lacking stamina or strength is especially true of adult-onset athletes.  They simply do not have the endurance, strength or durability it takes to excel at triathlon.  The longer the distance, the more this holds true.  Coaches must remember that these adult-onset athletes were not athletes when younger (and let's face it - these athletes make up the bulk of our rosters).  And they, like most of us, lead otherwise sedentary lives (unfortunately, doing 1 to 2 hours of exercise a day while sitting another 8 to 12 hours a day does not make for an active lifestyle!)  For those reasons (and more), taking the time to properly develop your aerobic capacity, strength, some call it fatigue resistance, will go a lot further than rushing into working on your speed – and likely keep you much healthier and longer involved in the sport.  Keep in mind this doesn’t mean there is no place for speed in training.  This just means that before you get there, you need the basic fitness or foundation to benefit from it.  You also need the[...]

Catching Up


Folks, we've got some catching up to do.Because you just missed the ENTIRE first trimester. Pay attention and get out your fat pants because we only have 24 weeks left in this party.  And if you think I’m jumping the gun on that one, two weeks ago my husband said:Liz, I think we should go to your mom’s house and get your fat pants.13 weeks and I had to dig out my maternity clothes.How did this happen, you ask?  Let’s just say it did not involve a night of booze and limited inhibitions.  It did not even involve a tumble in the hay.  No, this was purely a calculated product of science, a lot of ultrasounds and over 200 injections (yes, I’ve been counting).  Three responsible letters:  IVF.  One day I’ll go back through the entire process (which took 3 months, start to finish).  Until then, I’ll recount some of the joys of the first trimester!  Week #1 and #2: For most women, weeks #1 and #2 of pregnancy are bonus weeks.  But for IVF women, weeks #1 and #2 are a frenzy of preparation.  After much waiting, some testing and preparing my body: on December 9th, I had the transfer.  Because of my age and history, we transferred both embryos: a boy and a girl.  On transfer day I learned two things: 1) I have a freakishly large bladder which means I got to keep emptying it ever so slightly (much harder than it sounds on paper) and 2) You can overfill a bedpan (but years of pissing myself during races prepared me for the hour I had to lay on my back in my own pee).Week #3:This is the week I got pregnant!  In fact it was just 24 hours after transfer when I was (slowly) walking to a store that I felt implantation.  Like someone running a zipper up and down on my right side.  I thought to myself – WOW!  It’s happening!  For the next few days, I felt assorted symptoms that I knew were probably more a result of being pumped full of estrogen and progesterone.  My first symptoms of pregnancy have always been odd and vivid dreams. Those started a few days later.  Indeed I tested positive a very early 3 days after transfer!  From that point on, I peed on probably over a hundred dollars worth of pregnancy tests to convince myself it was real.  Week #4: I AM PREGNANT!  But – yikes – it’s so early and I can’t tell anybody.  This is going to be a long haul of secrecy.  I also cannot workout, drink wine or coffee.  As long as no one talks to me or looks at me, everything will be ok.  To pass the time, I embraced all things holiday.  All of the time I used to fill working out or drinking coffee, I spent carting my family from one holiday outing to the next.  This year we even skated with Santa!  I really needed a Christmas intervention but think my husband knew better than to say anything.  This week I had one day of feeling “weird” – extreme nausea, fatigue.  Other than that I was symptom-free.  I went to the doctor who also confirmed that I was pregnant.  Week #5:  My progesterone keeps going up and down so the doctor raises my dosage; and did so every week until I was shooting 2 cc of progesterone into my rear end every night until week 16.  YOW.  This week, I kept symptom searching.  Any women who’s ever been through infertility just wants to feel pregnant – disgustingl[...]