How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

Maintaining your fitness and wellness habits can be challenging, especially when life gets
busy. However, developing simple and effective strategies will help you stay on track and
keep your health a priority. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to
staying fit and healthy, complete with tips and techniques that you can implement in your
daily routine.

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6 Tips For Quality Run Training

6 Tips For Quality Run Training

Tips for Quality Run Training Train no faster than one pace quicker than the race you are training for. For example, 5k pace is good for an Olympic-distance race, while half-marathon pace suffices...

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The New York City Triathlon – Before the race

The New York City Triathlon – Before the race

Traveling for races is always exciting, but the opportunity to race in my favorite city in the world, caused an overwhelming explosion of emotions that may have actually hindered me.  I will explain that last part a bit later, but let me start from the beginning.

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In order to race in the NYC Triathlon from out-of-state, a lottery is performed and in February of this year I  was notified that I had been chosen to race.  At the time I was not quite sure about it, as my race schedule was already pretty full, but I had heard great things about the race, so I decided to go ahead and put it on the calendar.  How many times was I going to be chosen via a lottery…right?  I have entered the lottery for the NYC Marathon for the last 3 years and was never chosen, therefore I felt like this may be a one-time opportunity.  I made my arrangements immediately, and found some inexpensive accommodations at Hotel Belleclaire which ended up to be a very nice boutique hotel on the upper west side of Manhattan, beautifully positioned directly between transition and the finish line.

The challenge I had was, how do I transport my bike to NYC.  I had a few choices.
1) Tri-bike Transport which was $300 each way.
2) Take my bike completely apart and take it with me, then take it to a bike shop to be put back together for $75 and again when I returned, not to mention possible oversize luggage fees at anywhere from 75-150 bucks.
3) Use shipbikes.com and buy a reusable AirCaddy for $100 and then ship my bike via FedEx, directly to my hotel and back home for $100 each way with very minimal dis-assembly of my bike.

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I chose option 3, which turned out to be very convenient.  The Air Caddy came in a very flat box and was assembled in 10 minutes and my bike was then placed in the box within 5 minutes and ready to ship.  It comes with a fork plate that stabilizes the bike in the box and then a series of other corrugated cardboard is placed around the bike which secures and stabilizes it even more.  The only small adjustments that need to be made are to remove the saddle and seat post together, and fold down the aero bars.  Each is just the loosening of two allen screws.  I only had to bring my small bike tool with me in order to tighten them back up upon re-assembly.  I taped up the box, added the label which is purchased through shipbikes.com and then called for a FedEx delivery representative to come by and pick it up.  Easy breezy.  It all happened like clockwork.  Of course since this is the first time I was shipping my bike I was a little anxious, and I was going to be, until I re-assembled in NYC.

I left Friday Morning two days before the race and was so excited I could barely contain myself.  Not just for the fact I had the opportunity to race in my favorite city I have ever been to, but I was also going to spend some time with friends I hadn’t hung out with in what seemed like forever.

HbellAll of the pics online of Hotel Belleclaire were of course beautiful, but in New York City it is sometimes a crap shoot.  The marketing pics look great, but when you get there, sometimes you get a room that a little worse for wear.  Hotel Belleclaire was absolutely beautiful and the service was first-rate.   I was in my room for about 30 minutes when the front desk called just to ask if everything in the room was alright.  I was a little shocked because I never experienced that before.  It is such a simple concept to give a 30 second call to the guests and it made me feel kind of special.  Before I knew it, there was a knock at my door and there was a bellman with my bike.  Talk about service.  After I put my bike together I phoned the front desk and requested that they store the box since the room was small.  I didn’t really care about the size of the room since it was just me, but the box and my bike took up a little more room.  It turned out that they could not find anywhere to store the box, so instead of just saying “Sorry, we cannot do anything about it”, they upgraded me and put me in a larger room to accommodate the box.   That, was to me, an amazing touch.  On Sunday after the race, I boxed up the bike and the concierge told me to just leave it in my room.  Monday morning I received a text from FedEx notifying me my bike was picked up and that the estimated date she would be back home was Thursday.   If you are going to be in NYC on the upper west side, I highly recommend the Hotel Belleclaire.  I think you will enjoy it.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program(after my little endorsement).

After I checked in I planned on going to the expo at Hilton Midtown, so I started walking.  The hotel was onIMAG0189 77th St. and Broadway and the Hilton was on 55th and 6th so it was 22 blocks south and two blocks east.  No big deal, and it was nice outside so I decided to walk.  Here is where I started with a little hinderance.  I saw my favorite hot dog place in Manhattan.  Grays Papaya.  OMG!  Now remember that I am about 90% paleo and I haven’t digested a slice of bread in over a year, so you can imagine how my system was going to react to a couple of white flour, processed, buns with grilled hot dogs and all the trimmings.  They sure tasted good going down, however they left me in a lurch later that evening.  Grays Papaya is famous in the city for their hot dogs and papaya drink.  I had both and they were sooo good.  It was like a sin to eat something that tasted that good as processed as it was.  I always talk about balance right?  Well, I figured I hadn’t had one in so long,  it wouldn’t hurt.  WRONG!!!!  I will spare you the details of what happened a couple of hours later.

Inside the Host Hotel.  I just had to take a pic.

Inside the Host Hotel. I just had to take a pic.

I called a good friend of mine, Michael who moved to the city almost four years ago.  Michael and I used to to perform in plays and musicals together semi-professionally.  Michael was keeping the dream alive in New York while I turned to health and fitness.  To my surprise he was willing to go to the expo with me so I could check-in.  The New York Triathlon required the attendance of all the athletes at a mandatory meeting in order to verify everyone had the information in the Athlete Handbook.  In order to get your packet you had to attend a meeting and get your hand stamped.  Because I had been to so many races prior and never usually went to the meetings, that I would be a little annoyed but the person whom MC’ed the meeting was hilarious and had us all in stitches.  He also was great about getting the info out specifically and succinctly, so all of us whom attended could have our hand stamped and out of there in about 25 minutes.  The rest of check-in was a breeze.

expoentThe expo was, well…interesting.  Mainly because I was in a different part of the US, it had different vendors.   What I did notice was that Zicco Coconut Water was a huge sponsor.  They were giving out coconut water like it was, uh…water.  Even in our SWAG there was one of those huge liter bottles that usually sell for around $9.  I love Zicco so I was beyond freaking thrilled.   The only unfortunate thing was that they only were giving the original version and I know that the chocolate flavor is amazing, but I enjoy the natural flavor too.  The rest of the expo was what you would expect of a triathlon which is minimal compared to marathon’s and big road races, but it still had that great race aura and energy.

Michael and I hung out for a bit and caught up and then headed to Restaurant 44th&10th which is located, can you guess?  You are correct.  44th st and 10 Ave just about 20 more blocks from the hotel.  The place is a corner of a set of stores and is decked out in white with colors used as accents on the walls and cushions of the chairs.  The food was amazing.  I had the grilled tilapia with steamed spinach and a sweet potato, butternut squash mash.  Deliciouso!   For desert was a dark chocolate flour-less cake which tasted more like mouse, and an organic banana sundae.  WOW!  It was an outburst of flavors that stimulated my taste buds with the cool essence of banana, chocolate and toasted marshmallow.  O-M-G was it good!

Now all fat and happy, Michael and I headed off to my hotel, so I could drop off all the swag from the expo and that, ladies and gentlemen, is when Grays Papaya decided to fight for control of my digestive system away from my incredible food from 44th&10th.  That is all I have to say about that.  Needless to say after a couple of syndicated comedies, conversations about theatre in the city and dealing with my stomach I wasn’t going anywhere else that night.

I woke up Saturday feeling a lot better.  I took a shower, put together everything I needed for transition, johns-pizzeriawhich didn’t open until 2 pm, and headed out into the city.  Around 1 pm I stopped at my favorite pizza place.  The restaurant will remain, forever, a planned event whenever I am in NYC.  The place with the best pizza on the planet.  John’s Pizza on 44th St between 7th an 8th avenues.  This place has the absolute best pizza with all natural ingredients I have ever tasted.  The thinnest flakiest crust with a spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella that strings to ceiling if you let it and the best ingredients ever resting on top.  Personally, I am a minimalist so I prefer a nice pepperoni and fresh garlic, but my friend Jorge Acosta whom joined me for this amazing meal, was all about the pineapple and Canadian Bacon.  I never tried it, but I have to say it was pretty good too.

This part of 44th st is a kind of home to me.  It is where all the best theatres are located.  Across from John’s , Phantom was playing.  Directly next door, Let it Be.  A little further down and across the street was Lucky Guy with Tom Hanks and two doors down was the famous Sardis of which Jorge and I headed to afterward to continue catching up.  Jorge is one of those guys who has had such an amazing life that we can just talk forever.  If I wasn’t participating in the triathlon the next day, we would probably still be talking.  He is an amazing and talented guy and I am so excited he is making it in NYC as an actor.  Knock on wood, he hasn’t needed another job to get him by.  That is how talented this guy really is.

I left Jorge and headed back to the hotel to grab my bike and head to transition in Riverside Park.  There areIMAG0201
two transition setups for the NYC Tri.  Yellow and Red.  My wave was in the Yellow which was schedulted to start at 5:50 am on Sunday and included the pros and elites along with half the Age Group athletes, while red didn’t start until 7:20.  The transition setup was just like any other triathlon, no
frills with metal rods to hang the bike from the seat.   The only somewhat different protocol was the  transparent bags that were handed out and highlighted during the mandatory meeting.  This was new after the incident

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at the Boston Marathon.  Instead of bringing in a transition backpack like I usually do, now a plastic transparent bag is the only thing allowed to bring gear into the transition area.   I didn’t want to leave anything besides my bike, so I personally didn’t bring anything at this point but my bike.  I left my bike with a plastic bag covering the handlebars and seat and headed out to meet another friend of mine from high school, Kyle.

 

Kyle, a professional Opera singer, is just as interesting.  He had just opened a show, so we were able to meet  just outside of Lincoln Center for a bit before he needed to be at the theatre.  Kyle has an amazing wife, Laura and an eleven year-old prodigy daughter.  A prodigy in what?  It would probably be easier to tell you what she is NOT a prodigy in .  She is incredibly smart as well as an Olympic swimmer in the making.  Maybe I can get lessons from her?  Kyle and I talked for an hour about his shows, my races, Alana’s talent and Laura’s singing as well.  When it was time to head out Kyle said something to me that made me so proud.  He started with, “I know you will probably taught this but Laura and started doing this ‘Insanity’ workout and I feel better, taller and stronger than I have ever been.”  I praised him, because I use the Insanity workouts and I am a Beach Body coach.  I was so excited to hear about his and Laura’s results.  He went on to tell me about how everything was better.  He was singing even better, he felt taller, slept better and was craving the workouts.  It made me smile when I heard about it.  Right here was proof, that with a child that needed to be brought to school, activities, swim practice, his daytime rehearsals, night-time performances, and Laura’s full-time job,  they both still found time to workout six days a week.  Remember that living in New York City means taking even more time for transportation as well.  There are very few people that are as busy as Kyle and Laura and they still find time, six days a week.  No excuses.  I love it.

That finished my day.  I went back to the room, took a shower and fell into bed exhausted.  I know it would feel like no time at all, before the 3 am alarm would go off and my phone would remind me again at 3:10.  I would try, but I wouldn’t get as much sleep as I wanted.

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My room prior to the move.

 

How to Start Cycling

How to Start Cycling

One of the scariest things for a beginning triathlete, besides getting in the open water, is cycling.  The first image that wandered into my head upon deciding to start seriously bicycling was of a that scary peloton. Those tight formations of bikes moving at ridiculous speeds, during the Tour de France, so close together that one wrong move could cause serious damage to my body or someone else. Scary right? Luckily, triathlon doesn’t allow for huge groups like that, as a matter of fact it isn’t even allowed.  Whew!

Buying my first Bike

I didn’t have a lot of money when I first started in triathlon, and I also didn’t really know if I was going to like it.  I spent a lot of time in bike stores drooling over the expensive bikes, while studying cheaper entry level bikes.  Every bike store had a different angle they played.  One would say, purchase the more expensive bike, gain more speed so when I improved I didn’t have to buy another bike.  Another would tell me to buy the entry level but load it up with expensive components so I could ride faster, and when I wanted another bike, the components alone would warrant a good price, and of course that store would buy it back from me and give me a discount an another bike.  Decisions, decisions what to do, what to do?

I researched different road and tri bikes online and in magazines, and while I was pretty surecannondale_caad9 I would enjoy triathlon, I decided on an entry level Canondale CAAD 9 road bike.  I also included in my purchase, a pair of pedals, cleats, shoes and a helmet.  The helmet was very important especially since I hadn’t actually rode a bike in over 10 years.  Would I really not forget how to ride a bike?  The answer to that my friends is YES.  It is not a skill that is forgotten.  It maybe a little unsteady the first couple of times, but not forgotten.  Luckily I will have my trusty helmet, just in case.

I also read something that resonated with me.  The most important thing that is needed after the purchase of a bike, is the fitting.  At first I thought, “what?  Don’t I just have to find the most comfortable height of the seat and then get going?”  I had no idea that there are so many different adjustments on a bike, to a point that bike “fitters” actually have to be certified in order to properly fit you.  They have to take courses, pass tests and be mentored.  “Really?”, you ask?  Yes…really.

The fitting took about an hour where they put my bike on a trainer, and with my shoes and bike shorts I pedaled, then the fitter took measurements and made adjustments to my seat post raising it and lowering it to a perfect dimension.  Then he took angle measurements from the ground to my hip, knee and shoulder and from the pedal and a bunch of other places.  He moved my saddle not only up and down by forward and back.  He then took my handle bars and put different size spacers on the tube underneath my handlebars to find the perfect height and then was able to move them back and forth to find the right angle, height and most comfortable spot for me.  I had no clue there was this much to it.

Pre-First Ride

As I left the store after my fitting, Jo-el, the general manager and friend from my track club, gave me some good advice.  I had never rode in cleats and pedals before, where my feet were clipped into the pedals where they wouldn’t just simply lift up.  I had to turn my heel so the cleat would unclip from the pedals so I could put my foot down.  Jo-el said to take my bike in the house and put it between a doorway, and practice clipping and un-clipping from the pedals.  Also, I needed to find the most comfortable side to unclip first and then stick to that side no matter what.  I followed that advice in detail.  I clipped, unclipped, clipped and unclipped till I was sure I had mastered it.  Then I took a little ride around the block and practiced even more till I was confident I mastered at least that part.

I had a feeling of euphoria that first little trip in my neighborhood.  I felt fast, free traveling under my own power on this brand new, tuned Cannondale bike.  I was really excited for my first ride the next day in the hills of San Antonio.

The First Ride

I drove to San Antonio…Florida that is, with my brand new bike in the back, my new bike shorts on, bottles ready to put in their cages on the bike, coffee in my cup holder and classic rock playing on the radio.  I remember having mixed feelings about this initial ride.  I had never ridden in a group before, I had never ridden with these cleats and clips before, but I knew I was in good shape but was I fit enough?  After that I just thought to myself, “if you cannot go as far then just turn around and head back.  no big deal.”.

I met a friend at these ball fields and was mesmerized by the amount of bikers getting ready to take their morning ride.  The sea of colors from the different bikes and jerseys was extremely overwhelming.  That anxious feeling came back for a second until my friend mentioned we were riding with triathletes not pure cyclists.  They would understand I was on my first ride and would help me out.  After preparing for my first journey, we found our formation and began the trek.

I was surprised that I was staying in the middle of the pack and with minimal effort.  The wind was in my face,  I was pedaling under my own power and keeping up!  It was an incredibly euphoric feeling.  Unfortunately, when we hit the first long hill, euphoria turned to anxiety and then… embarrassment.

My pedaling slowed, and it became extremely hard to mash down on the pedals.  With very minimal spinning of my legs I tried to switch to higher gear, but I actually ended up in a lower gear which made it even harder. When I did finally gear up, it was too late.  I couldn’t move the pedals fast enough to switch gears, and my chain fell off , so I was at a dead stop. Of course I was so concerned about the gears I didn’t unclip out of my pedals, and I went down on my side.  The only thing that really hurt was my ego as I stood my bike up and examined the chain.  The group was passing me all asking if I was ok, and taking for granted that I was telling them I was fine and to keep going.  By the time I had my chain back on the group was completely out of site.  I pedaled like a bat out of hell hoping to catch up, but I missed a turn and ended up 10 miles out of my way, and lost.

To make a long story short ( I know, too late) one of the faster members of the group realized I was gone, backtracked, and finally found me asking directions at a convenience store.  He led me back to the group and I finished the ride without any other issues, but I learned a lot of lessons that day.

Hints to get started in cycling straight from the Goof:

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On my first bike after a couple of modifications

1. Buy an entry level road bike.  This is usually an aluminum alloy frame.  You don’t want a Wal-mart special, but you don’t need to start with the top of the line bike either.

2. Purchase a set of entry level pedals, cleats and shoes.  The pedals usually come with the cleats and the bike shop will install them for  you.

3. Purchase safety equipment.  Biking shorts, and a helmet to start.  I would also have a set of sunglasses as well.  Not just to keep the sun out of your eyes, but it helps with the wind too.  Make sure you also have at least one water bottle with a cage installed on your bike.

4. Get the bike fit for you.  Have a certified bike fitter make those adjustments specifically for you.

5. Practice getting in and out of your cleats .  Put your bike in a doorway, hold onto the frame and get in and get out of your cleats.  Find the most comfortable side of the bike and then practice getting out of the cleats and putting your foot on the ground.

6.  Take a short ride around your neighborhood and continue to practice getting in and out of your cleats.  When seeing a stop or even a potential stop ahead practice just moving your heel just to the point where you unclip before stopping so you have a quick option that you can pull out of your clip to stop or return your heel to clip back in to keep going.  Remember to always clip out and stand with the same foot first every time.

7.  Understand your gears.  While in that first ride, switch the gears on your right hand and find what lever takes you to a higher or easier gear, and which one brings you to a lower or harder gear.

8.  Take your first long ride with friends and have some fun.

One last thing, you are going to fall.  That is just the reality of it.  You will get stuck in your cleats at some point and you will fall over, but it will be minimal.  The trick is to accept it, get up brush yourself off, laugh at yourself, get back on your bike and have fun.  It’s worth it I promise.

This post was originally published for IR4C for their new media site, IR4C.TV on July 2, 2013.

The 1st week: Are my goals realistic?

I have come to the realization that even I, as the epitome of the positive mental attitude, still hear those negative voices in my head.  For all the conversations I have with clients, friends and other athletes about going out and just having fun, I still have grand notions of finishing races with a PR(personal record) and while working out this week those goals seem daunting.

I had three Lactic Threshold tests I had to complete this week; one each for swimming, biking and running.  While just doing these tests I felt like I was really out of shape, and truth be told, I did take an off season for the last couple of months, at least by triathlete standards.  I did complete at least 5 hour long workouts a week with a half-marathon and a 10k thrown in there, and, oh yeah Ragnar, but I wasn’t in “training” mode per say.  This week I started back “in training” and my goals seem so far off and this is only my third day.

Monday, I completed my Bike and Run LT tests which consisted both of a 10 minute warm up, followed by 40 minutes of the event at a pace that burned my legs and put me into a feeling of oxygen deprivation but not so much that I couldn’t complete the full 40 minute main set which was then followed by a 10 minute cool down.  My running LT is 173 and my biking LT is 165.  I looked into my future workouts they are noted with requirements that include the LT.  For instance:  Bike 12×1 minute climbs at LT+10, meaning I should be climbing and my heart rate should be 175.  Sounds like fun doesn’t it?  I know my body will acclimate, hopefully I won’t make a mess before it does.

Tuesday, I completed my first bike workout and strength workout.  The bike was 8-12×1 minute climbs in the saddle at a RPM of 50-60.  Now my normal riding RPM is 85-95, so you can imagine the resistance that had to be on the bike.  I ended up doing it on the spin bikes at LA Fitness, because, well, there are no hills in my general vicinity which is Tampa, Florida.  Nothing but flatland here.  I have to travel 45 miles north to San Antonio to get any resemblance of some hills, and during the week, that just is not happening.  Why?  I have a responsibility to this activity called “work”.  I wish I could sit here, blog and comment all day, but unfortunately I cannot.  I blog in between meetings, lunch and then edit when I can.  This workout while being fun, was what I would call, THE QUAD KILLER.  It was brutal.

Unfortunately, I was late getting to the gym so I was not able to get my strength workout in, so I showered, drove to work and then returned that evening.  Luckily, I always have an extra set of workout clothes in the car. (I think I got that from Ben Mena.  He is notorious for spontaneously telling his girlfriend to just drop him off 10-15 miles from home and after changing into a spare set of shorts and shoes he runs home.)

I haven’t worked out with weights in a while, and I know from my studies of the anatomical makeup of muscles and the neurological systems of the body that there is a “breaking in” period no matter how much experience you have lifting.  In order to activate the pleasure center of my brain instead of the pain center, I had to drop the weight down and do the exercises concentrating on good form.  It was a circuit of 5 supersets and it was not easy, no sir, not easy at all.  Deadlifts, pull-ups, squat to overhead thrusts, medicine ball wood choppers, side planks, cable twists and more.  I felt beat to death afterwards.  Of course, I understand my body enough that I had to stretch very well afterwards or my back would be yelling at me later.

I also learned why I really enjoy working out in the morning.  It was extremely busy at the new South Tampa LAF last night.  I barely got a parking space, and I ended up having to do most of the movements in a tiny little space, while other members were just waiting to pounce.  It was at that point I read myself the riot act and vowed that no matter how much I had to do during the week, I would just wake up early to finish all of my workouts in the mornings.

That vow started this morning as I was up at 4:30 and ready to leave at 5 even though my first workout was track at UT which didn’t start until 6.   That workout was brutal as well;  800-400×3-1mile-400×3, at least this week I didn’t falter until the last 400 and only by a couple of seconds.  As soon as I finished and cooled down I headed to LAF to do my swim T-test.  Basically this is 1000 meters swam as if I was in a race and then the average time of a 100 meters is considered my T-Pace for workouts.  Future workouts for example included “4×100 at T-pace – 10 seconds”.  I have been working really hard on my body position in the water, but I am still really slow. (Notice I am not mentioning what my T-Pace actually is.)  With a pull buoy or fins, I can go forever at 1:50 min per 100m, but without I am…well…a little slower.

After going through all of this, I guess I feel like I should.  There is a long journey ahead.  I might as well enjoy it.

Carpe Viam!!!

Tribute Tuesday #1 – Amy Bennett Eck

I mentioned yesterday I am planning on having a regular column called Tribute Tuesday where I will select someone in my life who has had a positive influence on me in some way or another.  Most of the time these people will have coached to increase my athletic prowess (which is actually pretty easy), challenge me intellectually (which isn’t really all that hard either), and/or  inspire me to be a better human being.  My first Tribute Tuesday subject has done all three.  With no further ado I would like to introduce my coach, and friend; Amy Eck.

This is a kind of crazy picture of her, but it does really give the best possible introduction to her personality.  She is a wild, and free spirit with the most positive outlook on life I have ever known in a human being.  She refuses to believe there are limits to anyone’s potential, including her own.  Just to give you an idea, this woman has competed in the Kona Ironman World Championships, the World Xterra World Championships, numerous ultra running and mountain biking events, and was a competitive wrestler in high school and college (yes I said wrestler).  I credit her incredible coaching to my 47 minute reduction in time for my PR at Ironman Augusta 70.3.  There is nothing Amy cannot do and her energy is uber-contagious.  She gets so excited when she is able to help and/or see someone succeeding that she turns bright red.  I cannot believe she doesn’t get muscle cramps in her cheeks.
Now she and her husband Erik are training for her biggest event ever, the birth of their first child.  As you can see her pregnancy hasn’t taken an ounce of her positive energy away.  She continues to enjoy life and even with all that drag she still beats both me and her husband in the pool.  Obviously she doesn’t let anything conquer her competitive side.  She was brought here to Florida due to Erik’s mobilization as a Reserve Navy Officer to CENTCOM, so the only negative thing I can possibly say about Amy is that she will be leaving to return to her home and coaching practice in Hawaii.  (It was impossible to find a photo of her where she looks “normal”.  In most of the pictures she is either in a superhero costume or in race clothes, but it’s…well…it’s Amy)
Now when I said that she has also inspired me to be a better person, she does this by example.  This is a woman whom rode a mountain bike for 10 days through Peru to do missionary work, and she did it for her honeymoon!  Talk about combining all her loves; Erik, mountain biking, helping others and God.  The stories she tells of that trip are absolutely amazing. 
I had a chance to ask my friend some questions that I thought might give some insight to one of my most favorite people in the world, and here is what she had to say;
Name: Amy Ruth Eck (Bennett)
DOB: 5 March 1978, Pisces
POB: Royal Oak, Michigan (Ford Baby)
Grew up in: Arlington, Texas
High School: Arlington High School
High School Activities: Cheerleading, Wrestling, Cross Country, Track, Soccer, FFA, JROTC
College: United States Merchant Marine Academy
College Sports: Cheerleading, Wrestling, Cross Country, Sailing
When and why did you start competing in triathlon?

(I) Started triathlon in Hawaii with the motivation of my knee surgeon Dr. Bottoni who thought it would be better than straight running and my crazy friend Marcy Fleming.  Went to watch the XTERRA World Championships and loved the LIVE MORE and family atmosphere of XTERRA.  Came home and bought a mountain bike!  Within a year I was racing the Hawaii 70.3 and the XTERRA World Championships.

What is one thing you love most about triathlon?

I love the people!  Triathlon is all about challenging your body with a group of friends around the beautiful playground of earth. 

I know that you run an Xterra Race in Hawaii – How did that start?

Erik and I had wanted to do something fun for the community that challenged people to get outside.  We also wanted to launch an event that would give us a way to raise money for charity.  In 2009 we started Freedom Fest as part of our wedding weekend.  10k run, 20k mountain bike, off-road triathlon and then get married…it was awesome! 

The race has now grown to become an XTERRA World Championship qualifier with 500 people from 8 countries and 24 states.  Come join us!  www.xterrafreedomfest.com

Do you enjoy Xterra more than road traithlon? Why?

XTERRA does a great job of making every race challenging and fun. Off-road racing works you anaerobically and provides an adrenal rush that I am addicted to.  I do enjoy mountain biking more than I enjoy road racing, but I am probably better at road racing. You have to spend a lot of time in the saddle on the road to get the proper base training for off-road.  I think the major attraction of the off-road is you get to explore!  You are away from cars, out in nature, and get a real chance to connect. It is also something my husband can do together!

What was your favorite race and why?

Favorite race…that is hard.  Favorite marathon would be Boston, favorite on-road triathlon would be Wildflower, favorite Ironman would be Kona, favorite trail run would be our XTERRA Freedom Fest race, favorite off-road triathlon would be the old XTERRA Worlds course in Makena, favorite 100-miler would be Leadville, and favorite stage race would be La Ruta.  A great race is determined by the terrain, the people it attracts, and the after party! 

Congrats on the baby!  I know you are waiting for the surprise of the sex but do you have any names for either that are in your head?

We have some names…possibly Bennett after my family or Hudson Taylor after my childhood hero. But we will have to see what the lil hero looks like when they come out!

Do you plan on continuing in Xterra or Triathlon after the baby?

Yes, I would love to get back to racing.  I am signed up for the Frogman 5k Swim in JAN and the Princess Half in FEB.  Will likely race Hawaii 70.3 and the XTERRA Mountain Man in hopes to travel to the World Championships.  As a mom I have a new career path but I think having my child seeing me (compete) in sports is important.  They need to know the importance of investing in yourself and in investing in others.  

Do you plan on bringing your child up around the sport?  

YES!  As a USAT, USATF, and Newton Coach I think sports are great for children.  They teach sportsmanship, discipline, commitment, failure, success, and they develop your mind, muscle, and soul.  Watch out for lil Eck in the 2032 Summer Olympics!

As your friend and client I always describe you as the most positive free spirit I have ever met willing to go out of her way to help people.  How did you end up with this wonderful way of life without falling to the negativity of the world? Thank you Brad, I love people!  I grew up in a wonderful Christian home where we were always helping people and it was contagious.  I feel I have been very blessed and there is nothing better than to pass those blessing on to others.  My favorite Proverb says, Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is within your power to act. Basically I have one life to live, one life to give.  I take the responsibility to heart and try to share JOY with others in everything!

What is your favorite motivational quote?

I have two J

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 
~ Mark Twain
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.” 
~ Abraham Lincoln


Is it possible to not love this woman?  I think not.

(Amy’s coaches virtually as well using email, telephone and Training Peaks software.  You can find more information at www.campbennett.com)
Carpe Viam!

Albeit Augusta Part 2

I made it to the front of the dock where handlers had signs up with our ages and waves on them.  I found my wave with ease and merged in the rest of the 40-44 males whom had last names that started with the letters I – Q.  Now is when the nerves started to build up in my stomach and all the insecurities started to show their pretty little selves.  “Did I train enough?”  “Why didn’t I do more swim workouts?”  “Why can’t I use a pull buoy?”  “Should I really use a wet suit?” and the most famous insecurity that comes up before a race; “What makes you think you belong here with all these athletes?”  I never can shake that one.  (Read my “About” page to find out why.)

Before I knew it, we were starting to move toward the dock.  I pulled on my wet suit and with the help of another athlete got it zipped up and secured.  One thing about triathletes, we always help each other out and the real special ones may even give up some time on their race to help as well, but I digress.  We slowly moved to the dock where we jumped into the water.  The temp wasn’t bad at all and my wet suit was buoyant enough that my insecurities started to fold the minute I got into the water.  Maybe subconsciously I thought there was a chance I could die while I was in the water, I am not sure, but I felt a lot better.  I moved toward the starting buoys and noticed one thing.  The current was not nearly as strong as the previous year.  Last year I spent more energy trying not to cross the start line before the gun, because of the strength of the current.  This year, that was not the case.
The announcer was counting down and my heart rate started to rise.  3, 2, 1.. and the gun went off..bang!  I started my 1.2 mile survival journey that would be the swim portion of the Augusta Ironman 70.3.  I could swear I heard the announcer from the horse races in my head.  “AAANNNND There OFF!”, and we were. I kept two things in my head as the swim went on; my stroke count and how many reps of my stroke count did I do.  In other words, “1, 2, 3 bubble, breathe.   2, 2, 3, bubble, breathe”, all the way up to five when I would site the boat house right by the finish.  I was able to maintain it for about six hundred meters until my A.D.D. took over and my mind drifted.  Of course, I got a quick dose of reality when I looked up and right in front of me was a diver yelling at me “To the right!  To the right!”  It seems I may have drifted a little over to the left and was about to cross the line.  I don’t think it was a dis-qualifier or anything, but it did take me a little off course.  For a good amount of the time, I just kept my legs together and stuck my head down and as long as I used my roll to turn into my armpit I found that I was moving rather smoothly.  Slowly, but smoothly.  Right at the point I met the diver was when I realized that I was at the back of my wave, which was a lot better than last year when I ended up falling to the back the wave behind the wave behind me.  This year I was in the rear of my wave with the stragglers but at least the bulk of the wave immediately behind me was still back there.  Sure, the faster swimmers from that wave passed me and I expected that, but what I didn’t expect was to stay in front of that wave.  Score…2 points for my ego.  
When I sighted the finish line, I was ecstatic.  I surely was going to hit my goal of thirty minutes.  My only issue now was, that the finish line looked so close but it was like the opposite of a mirror on the driver side door of a car.  They should put a sign up…”Swim Finish is Farther than Appears”, because when I was about to turn for the finish, I realized that the finish buoys were actually another 30 meters ahead of me.  You mean, I have to continue swimming?  Son of a……uh…donkey?  (I didn’t really think that either.)  
Feeling pretty good after the swim
I finally was able to get to the ramp and out of the swim and started heading towards transition.  I glanced down at my watch as I pressed the button to move it from Swim Mode to transition 1 mode, I noticed that, gosh darnit (see the last set of parentheses), my time was the exact same as last year.  I couldn’t believe it.  Last year, I was all over the place.  I zig zagged, I swam breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke, but this year I consistantly swam freestyle the full 1.2 miles and I still was just as slow.  Seriously?  All that work and I still came in at 37:17.  One thing was different this year though.  I was actually running toward transition and they made it farther this year to get to the wet suit strippers.  My legs felt good, my breathing came back almost instantaneously and I was running, almost sprinting.  There was the difference.  While last year the current was stronger I still used a ton of energy to finish it, which only allowed me to walk to my bike in transition.  I remember even walking my bike to the mount line.  This year, ran to the strippers, dropped to my butt, a young chick grabbed my suit and yanked it off and handed it to me as I jumped up.  I ran to  my bike, slipped on my shoes while clipping my race belt, grabbed my helmet, clipped the chin strap and ran my bike to the mount line.  Four minutes and twenty-two seconds after I stepped out of the river I was mounted and rolling onto the bike course.  It took me less than half the time it took me last year and that was without the third-of -a-mile distance they added from the river to transition.  Sure, I think I could have taken even more time off, but I was ok with it.  
Starting out on the  bike
I rolled out with the sound of the spectators becoming more and more distant as I quickly got my cadence up to 90 RPM, which is what I strive to keep no matter what the terrain.  My coach, Amy Bennett Eck, had suggested I not take any fluids or food for about 15 minutes to allow my body to calm a little and luckily I remembered because I noticed I was hungry.  In February, I purchased the Garmin 910XT and it has been an absolute dream to train with.  I mainly use it for number of swim strokes per 100m, time and distance, bike cadence, time, speed, power, distance and heart rate, and run cadence, pace, distance and time.  In this auto multi-sport mode, there is the functionality to program the events you will be either racing or training and with one touch of button it will transition from one event to the other giving you a transition time in-between.  For example, when I came out of the swim, I pushed one button as I came across the timing mats and it started to capture the amount of time I spent in T1, as soon as I mounted the bike I pushed the same button and it automatically started capturing the data for the bike portion.  Obviously, it did the same when I completed the bike event and on to the run.  There is also a simultaneous alarm function that I programmed to go off every 15 minutes.  This is how I track my nutrition.  Every fifteen minutes, when I hear, or feel, the alarm I know I need to have taken in a quarter of a bottle of hydration.  Every three times that alarm goes off it is time to eat something.  For this race I chose Honey Stinger gel packets.  To me they taste like Jello brand pudding so they can also be a treat.  Since Amy suggested I hold off I knew I just had to wait for the first alarm to go off and I could start drinking for the speed bottle that is bracketed to the vertical frame tube beneath my seat, where a straw then is strung up the through my aerobars so I can sip on the bottle whenever I want.  I love it.
The first five miles of the course was relatively flat which allowed me to slow down my heart rate while picking up my cadence and moving my speed to around 21 mph.  The air was clean, the sky was overcast and the temperature was perfect.  Everything just kept feeling like it was coming together.  I had no physical issues, I was keeping to my game plan and even though I was getting passed, I was also passing athletes.  Around mile ten the hills started to come into play and I started to move through the initial pack of age groupers whom I was suspecting were the good swimmers and runners but not so good cyclists.  Sometimes you can tell experience from the way people ride.  Amy always has me keeping my cadence and not coming out of the saddle unless I really feel like I need to.  I keep my cadence where I need to and I just move the gears to keep it in that range whether going up hills, coming down, or riding flat.  Sometimes a hill is steep and long therefore I do come out of the saddle, but it takes a lot of energy to do that, and while I do notice a lot of experienced riders taking that strategy, I do not care to.  I also notice while I am expending the same amount of energy on hills as I do cycling on flat roads, I pass those whom are pedaling out of the saddle.  Personally, that is always my favorite.  It is a little fun passing people and saying hello while I am comfortable in the saddle and they are standing, mashing down on the pedals and panting. But, just a little.  It still doesn’t take away from those athletes that are trained to average 23-25 mph and fly right by like a jet plane.  That is when I come back to earth and realize I am still that un-athletic guy who took two years to get this far, while others were able harness their genes and progress much faster.
Mucking for the camera
Before I knew it mile 16 flew by and I was passing the very first aid station where the volunteers where hooting and hollering, handing out water bottles and Ironman Perform sports drink.  Last year I strayed from my nutrition plan and ended up having stomach issues on the run which slowed me way down.  This year I was determined to learn from my mistakes so every aid station I just passed up.  Everything I needed was either in my bento box, in my bottles or in my tri-top.  I refused to stray this year and later, that paid off.  
The hills were coming a little more fast and furious in the middle of the bike course.  I had programmed another alert from my watch that helped a little.  I had my Garmin give me 5 mile splits, so I could tell how I was doing.  I was hoping to average 20 mph minimally, so when the split alert sounded I should see 15 minutes or less.  I was shocked when the middle of my bike I was consistently getting 14:19, 14:40, 14:52.  Of course there were two laps of 5 miles when I was way over.  After mile 30 we ended up with these rolling hills that while were nothing huge I got caught in the wrong gear and had to come out of the saddle and of course was shocked to see that I was moving all of 8 mph.  Wow!  From 21 mph to 8 within just a few seconds.  Somehow I screwed up somewhere, probably due to my ADD, and wasn’t paying attention and got caught on a hill and now I had to mash down on the pedals like the novices just to make it.  Sir Isaac Newton gave me all the luck I needed when he proclaimed “What goes up?”…wait for it…wait for it…”Must come down.”  Even though I was behind time, I could make it up by continuing to pedal on the downhills and scream at 35, and even once for a short stint, 42 mph.  That helped quite a bit.  While the last ten miles were pretty flat I still was kind of shocked when I looked at my watch at mile 55, when the split time came up at 12:49.  That was the highlight of my event.  Five flat miles in 12 minutes, 49 seconds.  It was definitely a first for me.  
I mentioned earlier that Coach Amy had me practicing transitions prior to this race, well, it paid off at T2(bike-ro-run transition).  I slipped off the bike, surprising myself by continuing to run, slipped off my helmet, took off my cletes, changed my race belt to a the one that stored salt tabs and stinger gels, slid on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and ran out of transition in two minutes and forty-four seconds.  Well, below half of my T2 time last year.  What made it even more motivating and exciting was the race clock stated 4:05:32 as I ran out.  Remember, that my wave was at 8:00a, exactly 30 minutes after the start of the race, so this wasn’t my race time.  My race time was 30 minutes less; 3:35:32.  As I was running passed the aid station they had about a quarter of mile out of transition, it hit me.  I could possibly be 5:40 something.  I was hoping to come under 6 hours, but if I could run around a two-hour marathon I could really crush my time from last year.  A two-hour marathon should be easy for me.  I ran a 1:38 in a race last year, I should be able to conquer this goal.  So that’s what I set out to do.  
Unlike road races, long course triathlons usually have aid stations around every mile, which is nice.  When your body has been taking a beating for more than 3 hours, it might need a little extra hydration and nutrition.  My nutrition goal was to walk through every other aid station grabbing water and coke and then every 4 miles taking a gel packet.  
Starting the run

Before I knew it I was at mile 3 wondering where the miles went, especially when my watch had me doing under 9 minute miles.  Of course I expected that to change as my body became a little more tired and I started to walk through the aid stations.  The run in Augusta is two loops around the center of town around Broad street.  It was loaded with spectators and I enjoy it.  Sometimes there is even some great signs that people make.  I have seen some funny ones, like “Toe Nails are for sissies” and “Chuck Norris never did an Ironman”, but my favorite to this day is still “If triathlon was easy they would call it football.”  That one always cracks me up.  Not that it is true.  Take it from someone who has attempted both American football the other football we call soccer, they both have there different definitions of tough.  Triathlon is just the endurance tough because it doesn’t stop for numerous hours, where in the other kinds of football they usually only last 2-3 hours and they have these things called “timeouts”.  In triathlon we don’t have timeouts, the clock doesn’t stop because you have a foul or a penalty.  It just keeps going.

The first loop went around Augusta went very fast.  Before I knew it I was in back a couple of blocks to the west passing the split where a sign was posted to keep left for the first loop or turn right if it was your second loop.  I remembered last year really disliking that sign, but this year not so much.  
The last mile
 (took off my hat and
sunglasses for the picture…LOL)

The crowds seemed to have grown on my second loop and I kept my eye out for Jessica who was sporting her bright yellow tank top and green hair.  It was supposed to be yellow as well, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.  I never did see her the whole run, but nevertheless the crowd cheered everyone on.  A couple of little kids were on the side holding their hands out and cheering hoping we would run by and give them a high five.  There were families out just hoping to get a glimpse of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers or fathers.  As I was running, my photographer’s eye kept seeing Norman Rockwell, paintings.  This really was a very clean, forthright city with an old soul.  I couldn’t help but smile a lot of the time, at least until mile nine.  I couldn’t believe it, the plan was working just fine but at that point, cramp, side stretch…ouch.  I forced myself to run until the mile 10 aid station where I walked and grabbed water and a cup of coke while breathing as deep as I could.  When the pain subsided a little, I started to run only to be struck down again by the pain.  I grabbed a gel packet and a salt tab hoping they would help and they did, for a short while until I arrived at the mile eleven aid station and ate an orange.  At this point, I didn’t care. I had 2.1 miles left and I wasn’t stopping.  If I had to leave my intestines on the sidewalk and pick them up later that’s what I was going to to.  I picked up my pace, blocked out everything and headed for the finish line.  I didn’t even see the mile twelve marker, but I felt the vibration of my watch which told me now I had just a little over a mile to go.  I kept looking down at my watch, 12.1, 12.24, 12.35.  I felt like this was the longest mile of my life, but I was wrong.  I finally made it to the split.  Left for the first lap and right to the finish and I was going right.  Here is what turned out to be the longest stretch of the run.  I had no idea that a quarter mile could feel like an eternity and when I finally did see the finish, I felt like I was in the movie; “The Shining”, when the little kid is looking down the hall and it keeps getting longer and longer?  That exactly what it felt like.  I looked down at my watch and noticed what it said 19:54.  Crud!  I wasn’t going to make it.  I lifted my legs and increased my cadence just hoping I could get one little ounce of speed and I got it, but just a little too late.  

I crossed the line with the race clock stating 6:06:54, so doing the math my race time ended up being 5:36:54.  While I didn’t hit my goal of a 2 hour half-marathon I still crushed my previous year’s time by over forty-two minutes.  I was on cloud nine.  I couldn’t help smiling.  This really was one of the greatest races I ever competed in.  I take that back.  It was the greatest performance I ever had in a race, period.  Unfortunately, being the oldest in my group I was the first person to cross the finish line, except for Russ who passed me at mile 5, so there was no one to share it with. 
Best race of my life!  

After receiving my medal, taking a couple of pictures and having my timing chipped removed from my ankle I  headed over to the refreshment tent a can of coke from this pool of ice and ran in to Russ.  He told me that he finished around 4:28.  This kid is a machine and that just proved it.  We congratulated each other and I went over and got a massage, but not before disposing of the first coke and grabbing a second.  While waiting I finished that can and by the time I finished up with Caroline, the LMT who took care of me, I felt like a million dollars.  With exception of a twinge in my back, which for me is normal due to my injury, I really felt good.  No pain, no soreness and due to the adrenaline still pumping from having such an awesome performance I felt like a rockstar, and I never really felt that way before.

Epilogue
I changed and called Amy and gabbed about the race.  She was proud of me.  The last two races she had trained me for didn’t turn out so well, so with this performance I felt like I validated myself in her eyes and in my own.  After hanging up I saw a text from Kim telling me how awesome I did and there was a voice mail from my Dad telling me congratulations as well.  I almost cried.  I felt the tears well up, but there was just too many guys around so I wasn’t about to let that happen.
Beth and I

As it turned out we all had a good race.  Celeste PR’d, Chris finished under 6 hours, Bruce beat me by one second, and as it turned out Russ actually took first place in his age group and was on his way to Las Vegas, but the story of the weekend was Beth.  Beth had gone through a lot just to get to the race.  Besides this being her first 70.3, she never biked really prior to this year, she had an injury that kept her from running for over 3 months, so she was very freaked coming into this.  Wouldn’t you know it, after having a goal of just finishing under 6:30:00, her official time was 5:47:16.  We were all really proud of her.  You can read all about her experiences on her blog Discom-BOB-ulated Running.

The rest is pretty boring.  We grabbed our bikes, and said our congratulations to the other athletes we knew as we walked out of transition  We packed up the cars, rode back to the hotel, cleaned ourselves up and headed out to Red Robin.  I don’t know if it was the race, or all the gel packets, electrolyte drinks, or just all the calories we burned, but I had a lettuce wrapped burger that I swear was the best I ever had.  Maybe I just felt like I actually earned it. 
What I can say is this; this had to be one of the best experiences of my life.  I cannot only attribute it to my performance in the race.  Every piece of the puzzle fit.  I couldn’t have done it without the training, my friends, my coaching, the group that I coach, my family and all of the positive people I choose to surround myself with.  With one piece out of sync, it would not have been the experience it was.