Thursday, June 30, 2011

Heather Hits Idaho.

A valuable skill for any triathlete is to have the ability to stay positive and focused despite things not going as you had intended. Heather Myers demonstrated her ability to do just that, at Ironman Coeur D'Alene last weekend. Despite feeling off her game at the start of June, she attempted to race the Oliver half, and was unable to make it to the finish line. A trip to the doctor revealed she'd been fighting a pretty bad infection that had been kicking around for awhile from a root canal, and she was prescribed a variety of things, including complete rest for the weeks leading into the race. That alone would discourage many from toeing the start-line. Despite having to substitute some of her biggest training weeks with rest, Heather committed to starting and finishing the race, and held on to those goals, crossing the finish line just 2 minutes after midnight. And she was still smiling when she crossed the finish line! Congratulations, Heather!

“Looking back now I am amazed had how strong I was thru out the day. I could have pulled the plugged at anytime, but I choose to see it thru no matter what the end result would be. At the end of the day I knew that I was a Ironman no matter what the time would reflect. I did my best for the conditions and the health I was in….I still covered the distance ……and I still am a 3 time ironman. I earned every minute of this race.” - Heather Myers

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fast Racing in Ontario!

This past weekend, MRT athlete Carlos Vilchez earned himself a PB and sub-5h finish at the Welland Half Iron Distance Triathlon in Ontario. Over the winter, Carlos has taken his training to a new level, has been increasingly consistent and learned to push harder than ever on the bike and running. It was great to see this commitment and hard work pay off with a fast finishing time of 4h54. Well done Carlos!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

WINNING!! Chinook Triathlon Festival Report

Lorraine Churchill, Alberta Provincial Women's Long Course Champion, sure has a nice ring to it. In one year, the girl has transformed herself from age-group athlete to race winner. Not only is she 110% committed physically to making the most of every second of every session, she could offer seminars in the importance of the mental aspect of training. She is focused on her goals, and utterly devoted to the mental process of achieving them. She turns every challenge into an opportunity to better herself as an athlete, and has been willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish her goals. This has clearly paid off for her. Its been quite a journey for me as a coach, to see first hand what a powerful impact the psychological aspect of the sport can have on an athlete's performance. This race was no exception. Lorraine took over the lead during the second loop of the swim, and raced through the start of the run with the nearest competitor literally breathing down her neck. By the halfway point of the run, her mental strength carried her away from the competition, taking a more than 5 minute lead with her to the finish line.

Lorraine on the podium, with the 2nd and 3rd place women's finishers.

The race brought a day of mixed emotions for the Mercury Rising team. While Lorraine was celebrating a victory, her good friend and training buddy Leanne Sherman was one of the many competitors plagued by a flat tire. While she struggled to get the new rubber off, the cold weather took its toll in the form of hypothermia. After a trip home to get warmed up, Leanne made her way back to the finish line to support her friends and teammates. A tough day. A few lessons learned, and a great opportunity for Leanne to show her mental strength by focusing on the positives of the day and on moving forward with that experience under her belt. The race wasn't even over before she was asking me if this meant she could train hard the next day!! Its just a matter of time, before her next opportunity to unleash the hard work she's been putting in!

Here's a few nice shots of Leanne throughout the day:

All smiles. That's Marija Susnjar! Here she is at the start of the race - nervous, but ready - and at the end of the race...still smiling, despite the day not going how she had hoped! Way to go, Marija!

While Lorraine, Leanne and Marija were battling the Half Ironman race, there were three equally cheerful & hard-working ladies out on the Olympic course. Below is Jackie Morettin just steps from the finish line:
Lisa Isley digs deep coming out of T2:

Tessa P. finishes strong, and looking usual!

Lisa and Tessa enjoy the finish line.

Proud coach, Carrie Matsumoto, and Lorraine with her first place trophy.

Congratulations, to all the Mercury Rising athletes that raced! Thanks to the Mercury athletes who weren't racing, but came out to cheer! And special thanks to Kaz Matsumoto for all the awesome pictures. More race photos can be found on his website under the "events" tab.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Week 1; Bob's Building Blocks

So I had my first session with Bob on Wednesday. As I mentioned, Bob is not a trained sports psychologist, just a guy with an idea, a system, that helps athletes, teams and coaches achieve their potential. In our first session we discussed how that system works, and how it will help me achieve my goals in the triathlon world and in life in general. After that, we talked about how i can identify when i am in the right place for optimum performance and when i am not. I am told that over the course of the next 6 weeks i will be learning strategies that will help me be my best self at all times. (These are my words not his!)

Bob likes to talk about The Zone. This is a phrase used in sports psychology to describe the mental state of being completely in the moment. It is also sometimes referred to as Flow. It is a single-minded immersion in the moment that can help us harness our very best performance. Bob's goal is to help athletes achieve The Zone not just once or twice in their careers, but all the time, every day.

I personally prefer to apply different language to Bob's "Zone," to talk about a sense of centeredness, or of just being being. A place where swimming, biking and running flow out of me and my best performance just is. The concept is the same (i think!), but the semantics are different. Imagine a kid playing a video game, he is the game and the game is him. Like the Buddhists and their non-duality.

Traditional sports psychology starts with goals, makes plans and works towards achieving The Zone, maybe, someday, eventually. Bob wants me to start with The Zone first and let everything else take care of itself. The challenge is to stop thinking and to live from that place. To live as if my goals have already been achieved. So my decisions on a day to day level become unconscious. I no longer have to fight the urge to eat the chocolate cake, i simply don't eat it because i want to be lean and fast. The idea is to take the thinking out and live unconsciously at my best. Yoda comes to mind "Do or do not. There is no try."

So, over the next few weeks, Bob and I are going to build a series of strategies to help me get into this state of centeredness and also to help me get back there when i fall out. We identified some of my "blocks" and are going to explore strategies to clean them up. They are as follows:

  • I have lots of tired, overtrained bike rides to "clean up"
  • I am still bothered by my SI injury and feel tight in the back
  • I have a problem with sleeping before races
  • I never have enough time in my life and always feel behind on my work

  • We discussed my goals of racing well in Hawaii and of racing consistently over the next few years. If Bob can help me with all this then truly he will have rebuilt my mind.
    For now, my homework is to learn what cues, feelings and sensations let me know that i am in The Zone. I am also supposed to take note of what takes me out of The Zone. Here's what i have learned so far:

    1. When I am in The Zone i feel relaxed in my shoulders and core.
    2. When i am not in The Zone i carry tension across my shoulder and if i am training or racing, my limbs feel tight and sore.
    3. I have some skills that help me get into the Zone during training, like focusing on technical cues and controlling pain with my mind.

    4. I have more of these skills for swimming and running that for biking.

    5. Thinking too much is the first thing that takes me out of the Zone. In training and racing this is often related to what others are doing, for example, if someone overtakes me and i start thinking about them instead of myself.
    6. If the pain in training is too intense, my mind starts to wander and pulls me out of The Zone. Usually i start thinking about my athletes, planning programs etc... This way, my mind can convince me that i am doing something "useful" when i should be focused on myself. My mind can be very crafty when it wants to be.
    7. I am much better at getting into The Zone swimming, biking or running than i am in everyday life.

    Thats my summary for this week. We have a big job before us, me and Bob. OHM!

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    One more Wasa shout out...

    Kari Strutt is two for two for age-group podium finishes this season. After bouncing back from a rough day at the Shawnigan Half, she sped her way to 2nd place at the Wasa Lake Sprint last weekend. Big congratulations, Kari!

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Upcoming Blog Series by Coach Sara

    In the course of my triathlon career I have done bits and pieces of mental training. Starting with the work i did with Russell Martindale, a graduate student who was working on his PhD in Sports Psychology while i was pursuing my own PhD at the University of Edinburgh. This was followed by a bunch of book-reading and note-taking over the course of the next couple years. In 2006-07, i would plan specific visualization sessions into my schedule. Now, as i begin my post-baby comeback to triathlon, I am pleased to say that i will be working with a new mentor on the mental side of things, Bob Palmer from Barrie, Ontario.

    Bob was a teacher and martial artist who stumbled upon a technique for optimizing performance in his own athletic career and life and is very keen to share than technique with other athletes and coaches. Bob is not a trained sports psychologist, just a guy with an idea that he feels passionately about and wants to share with as many people as possible. In my experience, people with great ideas and the drive to make change are often the best people to have in your corner.

    Bob and I will be doing a 6-week program together called The Ignition Series. Each week I will be blogging about my experiences with Bob, what am i learning and how it is changing my perceptions and my performances. I feel that my first meeting with Bob is what helped me stay so calm when i punctured in St. Croix 70.3 and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together over the 6 weeks.

    To learn more about Bob, check out his website here:

    Watch this space for the six-part series "Adventures with Bob"


    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Winning Weekends

    Its been a pretty amazing couple weeks for me as a coach. It started last Saturday with Kendall running a PB in a local 10k race in Calgary and winning the whole race in the process! Next up was Carlos taking on a Sprint race in Ontario on Sunday morning. After a couple months of struggle with a knee issue, Carlos managed 9th in his age group and went faster than last year at the same race! And topping off this successful weekend Julie Anderson won a Sprint race in Elkford BC, proving that her consistency is paying off. Julie's efforts were good enough to beat all but 3 of the men as well! Yay team!

    Moving on to this weekend and the success continued. Once again Julie was up to bat, this time at Wasa Olympic Distance. And true to form, Julie managed a PB for the distance and landed 2nd in her age group and 10th overall. At the same time, Megan Jones was racing to one of her best finishes winning her age group and finishing 8th overall! Well done to all of you! What a great start to the season!

    And lastly, HUGE congratulations to Mercury Rising Coach Michelle Milot who married fellow triathlete Gary Barnes on Saturday afternoon in a beautiful outdoor ceremony in Vernon. We wish them both the very best for their new life together.

    Michelle and Gary post-nuptials.

    Mercury Rising athlete Lana Spreeman was a bridesmaid.

    Michelle and I wishing we had our swimsuits and goggles!

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    A nice start to June...

    Patty Infusino was up against an old demon at this past weekend's Oliver Half Ironman. Despite her day not going exactly as planned, she's using it as a learning opportunity, and STILL managed to take 6th place in her age group. Good job, Patty!

    Three of MRT's athletes made the trek to Kona for the Hawaii 70.3. Despite having some delays on the bike (ie, a questionable drafting penalty, a blowing the tire off his wheel, riding the rim into a ditch), "Mr. Positivity" (aka Todd Graham) kept his head in the game, battled the heat and went on to have a solid race, finishing in 5:20. His wife, Shana Graham, took her new ride to a pb, crossing the line just after 6:00. Way to go, Shana!! Next up for the Grahams is Ironman Switzerland. And finally, in her first big race back from a maternity/medical hiatus, AND after enduring a week-long training camp in the heat and winds of Hawaii, Tanya Kingwell took home a personal best time, crossing the line at 6:13. Watch for more great things to come from this girl this year!!

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Luke Gillmer

    Luke pre race with mate Andrew Wilkinson

    This past weekend our favorite son, Luke Gillmer jumped in with the elite men to once again test his metal against some of the best at the 70.3 distance. He had a great race.
    His swim started it all off proper - exiting the water in 24:27 - more than a 2' improvement over his last effort at Port Mac!
    Luke reported he was really hit hard by the heat - but held it together for the entire race - save the last kilometer where the wheels finally started to come off. When the race was finished he ended up 6th over all with a fast charging Justin Granger just nipping by him in the final 800 meters of the race.
    And while the heat hit him hard - an official hit him harder with a 5' drafting bonk - that Luke owned - "I got too close. That's racing." He's a class act, our Luke and everyone at MRT is very proud of him.
    On to the Philippines!

    Some more race results

    At the Shawnigan Lake Triathlon weekend four MRT athletes did the team honor!
    Rachel Kiers (who has won the event outright twice in the past) faced some strong competition but pulled off a strong 3rd placing.
    Miranda Aldritt coming off 2 Ironmans in the past 3 weeks still went 5 hours and came 6th overall - so impressive!
    Kari Strutt another one of Carrie Meakin's (or is it Matsumoto now?) amazing gals came 3rd in her age group! She said afterwards it was the hardest thing she'd ever done - but she was smiling at the time so it couldn't have been that bad.
    On the mens side - Jeremy Hopwood, still on the comeback trail after entering the world of fatherhood, pulled of a 3rd overall in the Olympic.

    And then yesterday at the Oliver 1/2 Ironman Jennifer Mansell secured her place in Ironman Canada by placing 4th overall!

    Proud of them all!