Inspirations for 2016: What It Means to Be “Badass is Beautiful”

Happy 2016!

It’s hard to believe this will be my 5th year indulging in the sport of triathlons and my 3rd year learning ultra running. When I decided to race my first triathlon in 2011, my primary motivation was to force myself to get comfortable swimming in open waters. And so it began … I signed up for my first triathlon, but not the sprint distance nor the Olympic distance. I signed up for a half distance. Go big or go home as they say! If I was going to do an open water swim, I was going to swim more than a mile. By later 2011, I accomplished that goal. One year later, in 2012, I completed my first ultra distance triathlon, Ironman Canada, swimming 2.4 miles. Only a couple years earlier, I never would have imagined I would do such a thing!

I also could never have imagined all of the amazing experiences and people I would meet as a result of being involved in ultra endurance sports. One of these amazing experiences is being a member Team Betty 2016! This is my second year as an ambassador for Betty Designs, a pretty rad line of stylish, functional and high quality cycling, swimming, running and athletic wear for women designed by a pretty cool athlete, mom, graphic artist and entrepreneur named Kristin Mayer. I love our mottos: “Badass is Beautiful” and “Do Epic Shit”.   I was fortunate to be invited by Kristen to join this team of 200+ inspiring and badass female athletes (mostly triathletes and ultra runners) from all over the world and who do epic shit.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of these inspiring teammates, Katherine Biziarek English, last year when I traveled to Arizona. I first met Katherine at True Food Kitchen, a restaurant she recommended. The menu is based on Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet. Over one of the most delicious and healthiest brunches I’ve ever had, we enjoyed sharing stories of how we discovered and fell in love with triathlons. Since then, I’ve enjoyed following Katherine’s journey and think you’ll enjoy hearing about how a school teacher went from being bored with running to qualifying for USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals to be held in Omaha, Nebraska this year!

Katherine started training for her first triathlon in early 2008.   She had just completed a local half marathon and was bored with “just” running so she took swim lessons to figure out how to properly swim freestyle. I use to believe that most triathletes are long-time swimmers, who grew up swimming competitively. Like myself and many other triathletes, Katherine had to learn how “not to drown” and was intimidated with swimming in open waters. After beginning with a few duathlons she successfully completed her first open water triathlon in Flagstaff that summer! Although she felt she was slow, she was happy to have finished.

When I met Katherine for brunch, we chatted about our passion for food and commitment to healthy eating.

“Of course for years I thought I was in shape. I mean, I was a triathlete, right? I was by no means disciplined to a training schedule like I am now, never did two-a-day training, and my nutrition hadn’t changed one bit. I wasn’t fit, but in my mind, I was! I was probably 15-17 pounds heavier than I am now.”

In 2012, Katherine’s coach Frank Sole sat her down and talked to her about cleaning up her nutrition. They had already added strength training and Katherine was making gains. She focused on her diet, cut back on gluten, and started meal planning weekly. Within a year, Katherine was leaner and her overall energy had improved. Even her skin was clearer than ever. Katherine then connected with a local endurance dietitian, Brooke Schohl of Fuel to Finish. With the help of Brooke, they started looking at metabolic efficiency to tweak both training and racing nutrition, particularly since she began tackling 70.3’s (half distance triathlons). Katherine continued to lean out. With disciplined swim-bike-run and strength training and under the guidance of a new coach, Michellie Jones, who continues to support Katherine’s focus on good nutrition, Katherine started to increase speed and move up in her age group. And then it happened …

“I never EVER thought I would be on the podium and going to USAT Nationals. For years, I was satisfied with just finishing. I am a firm believer that nutrition is absolutely critical to athletic success. Of course, I still have my pizza or cupcake here and there, but overall, I am conscientious of what I eat daily, so I make smart choices. I know how certain foods impact my performance as well.”

Katherine’s husband Jon also benefitted from learning more about nutrition. Jon lost over 25 pounds mostly through nutritional changes. One of Katherine’s secrets to good nutrition is planning her meals weekly. As with any goal, whether it’s a race or overall health and fitness, you are more likely to achieve your goal with a good plan.

I was honored when Katherine reached out to me for suggestions on one of her weekly meal plans. This particular meal plan was special. Katherine was planning a healthy three course New Year’s Day brunch for her husband. To find out what I suggested, what Katherine made and recipes to a couple of the dishes, check out  “A Healthy Three Course New Year’s Breakfast” post.

Congratulations Katherine and Jon on your amazing journey and sharing your story!  Katherine, you are badass beautiful and I look forward to cheering you on at Nationals!   Maybe someday we can play Thelma & Louise and run a trail race together?

Katherine in 2015
Katherine in 2015
Katherine in 2011

 

Katherine and Jon 2015
Katherine and Jon 2015

One Year Ironman Anniversary: Celebration, Inspiration and Friendship

Yesterday was the anniversary of my first Ironman.  It was a day of celebration, inspiration and friendship.

I celebrated by biking 105 miles with over 6,100 ft of climbing.  I was suppose to ride the day before however was under the weather.  While I felt good enough  to tackle a big ride the following day, I was not feeling 100%.

Just before the start of the ride, I heard a familiar voice asking my friends if they were training for Ironman Lake Tahoe.  I turned around and it was my friend Jeff Schmidt getting ready to do his 100 mile ride too.  A big hug from Jeff perked me right up.  Jeff inspired me to sign up for my first Ironman after I watched him do a practice swim before he raced Ironman Canada two years ago.  Jeff is preparing to race the Ironman World Championships in Kona as a challenged, amputee athlete.  Thanks Jeff for popping into my life again at exactly the right moment to inspire me!

A surprise inspiration from Jeff Schmidt.

Here’s more about Jeff and why he inspires me:

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/30/15549270-amputees-18-hour-ordeal-in-ironman-triathlon-one-of-the-highlights-of-my-life?lite

I felt fatigued and had low energy, however made it through 105 miles with the support of two good friends, Ryan and Alex.  Ryan had just raced a 2 mile open water swim and finish 3rd on the podium.  Alex had already ridden over 100 miles the day before.  Both are very athletic.  Alex had qualified for and raced the Ironman World Champions in Kona a few times.  Needless to say, both guys are stronger riders but they rode with me, encouraged me, and made me laugh all the way.  I am very grateful for their friendship and support.

After the ride, I went home to watch 4 friends finish their Ironman, 3 at Ironman Canada Whistler, and 1 at Ironman Louisville, Kentucky.  Each of these friends have supported my journey:

  • Kelly, a cancer survivor, mom, friend and the woman who stood by my side to encourage me before the start of my first triathlon and my first Ironman.
  • Ron, Team in Training’s Iron Team coach and friend who has also encouraged me along the way giving me a push both physically and mentally.
  • Leah, the nutritionist consultant who I look forward to learning about endurance sports nutrition.
  • Rick, one of my training partners and one of the kindest and thoughtful people I know.  I wanted very much to travel to Whistler, Canada to watch Rick finish his first Ironman and to cheer on Kelly and Ron.  However, while we were running together at track, he says “Pim, I’ve been thinking.  You have a long bike ride scheduled on the weekend of my Ironman.  I think you should stay at home and focus on your own training.”  Thank you Rick for being so thoughtful and looking at my training schedule!

A big congratulations to all of you!  I cheered for and watched all of you cross the finish line from afar.

While watching the live video steam of all my friends crossing the finish line last night, I chatted with a friend who told me that “in thinking about which one I might do someday, one of the deciding factors will be the people I’m doing it with … in seeing all the folks train, encourage and enjoy the experience together makes it even more special for all you guys.  It’s all about the journey getting there!”  I cannot agree more.

My advice to Rick and others competing in their first Ironman is to enjoy the journey, every step of the way.  On race day, try to look up from your bike, take in all the scenery and smile back at all the people cheering for you.  It will be a long day, but the last few yards, as you run down the chute, will go by too quickly.  Take a mental snapshot so you can remember that you had one of the best times of your life.

Inspiration from Senior Ironman Athletes and Sister Madonna Buder

One of the highlights of competing in Ironman Canada 2012, was racing alongside 82 year old Sister Madonna Buder.  I passed her on the run and felt both guilty and relieved at the same time.  I witnessed up close what a fierce competitor she is.  Shortly after I gave her some words of encouragement and ran past her, she started running after me.  I could hear the determination in her breath.  She would go on to set another world record as the oldest Ironman finisher and complete her 46th and last Ironman distance, only 30 minutes behind me.

This famous “Iron Nun” began training at age 48 at the behest of Father John who told her it was a way of tweaking, “mind, body, and spirit” and for the relaxation and calmness it can bring an individual.  She completed her first triathlon at age 52 and first Ironman event at age 55.

On the way home from Penticton, I had the pleasure of meeting another inspiring senior athlete.  I was at the airport terminal looking at pictures from the race on my laptop.  A lovely lady sitting near me asked me if the pictures were from the Ironman.  I turned my laptop screen so she could see.  She complimented me on one of the photos.  She had traveled to support her grandson who had also competed.  “I told him not to do it.  He was not prepared to race” she said.  Unfortunately, her grandson had crashed badly on the bike course.  I would then learn that this grandmother had raced Ironman Canada 25 years ago.  She continues to participate in Gran Fondos, long distance organized cycling events.  Like Sister Madonna, she appeared quite fit.  My guess is that she was in her late 60’s.  A gold and diamond M-Dot pendant hung fashionably from her neck.  She spoke humbly however I could tell from the way her eyes lit up that she enjoyed sharing her story.  I introduced myself to her but am disappointed that I cannot recall her name.  I wondered if her grandson dismissed his grandmother’s advice not to race with the attitude, “how hard can it be after all, if grandama can do it, I can do it”.  If so, he probably should have listened to grandma.  I suspect she was and remains a well trained athlete.

While I always knew I’d remain active all my life, these ladies have inspired me to continue to pursue these types of endurance events for as long as I am able to.  Studies have shown that physical activity helps seniors to keep mentally and emotionally sharp.

Unfortunately, as we age, there is a tendency towards muscle loss.  Research tends to suggest older athletes may need to increase the amount of protein in their diet to support muscle development.  In addition, senior athletes should incorporate weight lifting into their training regime to build and maintain muscle strength.  At the suggestion of my coach, I had already started to incorporate some light weight lifting into my most recent ironman training.  We wondered if I had a possible muscle imbalance that may contribute to my cramping issues, so we focused on strengthening the weaker muscles.  I will continue to incorporate weight training and core exercises into my weekly workouts.

Lastly, I will need to make a conscious effort to ensure my diet supports my future athletic pursuits.  Not only do I need the right amount of carbohydrates, I need to ensure I am getting the right amount of protein.  See the “Protein” section of Recipes tab for some healthy protein rich recipes!

To read more about nutrition and the nutritional needs of aging athletes, check out this article:

http://www.powerbar.com/articles/178/sports-nutrition-for-older-athletes.aspx