Whew! We had a blast at our first ever Randonee race at the Loup Loup Skibowl. When we came up with the idea to have a race at the Loup, we hoped to have a low-key event with fun vendors and participants, and we got exactly that. The folks at the Loup were really helpful and seemed as invested in a successful event as we were, offering their help leading up to and on race day, and also giving us some good ideas for the future. Our friends at Pinnacle Sales NW, Goat's Beard Mountain Supplies, and Black Diamond, all were there to share their enthusiasm, offer demos, and provide support and prizes. Finally, all the racers were friendly and got after it. A few guys warmed up with the three-lap race, then went on to do five more, giving us some good ideas for next year...
Thanks to everyone for making it better than we could have hoped. We'll see you next year! Results are here.
The time has come...strength classes in Mazama! We're working with the Mazama Country Inn to bring you mountain strength classes at the Mazama Athletic Club, behind the Inn. Starting February 1st, we'll have specifically designed classes to make you stronger for your days outside, and mix things up so you're not bored from your current routine. Plus, sweating is always more fun with others!
Mondays and Wednesdays: 6:30-7:30pm
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10-11am
Mondays and Fridays: 7:30-8:30am
More info here. See you soon!
Winter is my least favorite season of the year. Curiously I chose partners in both the human and canine variety who live for snow. Having Sam and Nikki help, but after six years of running through sub-zero temps, moving back to Seattle meant excitement for snow-free trails and capris (my favorite running attire) all season long. But after we moved, a strange thing happened: I missed winter almost more than anything else. There I was smugly minding my own business in the days leading up to the typical snow time, looking forward to week after week of trail runs, when Mazama got the winter's first dump. I couldn't believe how much not having to shovel snow, wear a million layers, and be perpetually cold, affected my sense of time and overall enjoyment of the season; my snow-loving family rubbed off on me more than I knew. I can compartmentalize with the best of them, so the next year was better, but now that we're back, can't wait for the white stuff: just like the rest of my family.
There's a small loop that some wonderful people are keeping prepped for Nordic skiing, but there are only so many times I can ski the same one kilometer lollipop loop (never mind the fact that I am VASTLY out of ski shape), so after a quick skate today, Nikki and I took off to check out the adjacent meadow. Despite no views, we got a good taste of the winter ahead.
I first met Perri virtually through the wonderful community of women runners, the High Heel Running Group when we both lived in Seattle. I later heard that she was the artist in residence for the Confluence Gallery, and was secretly a little envious that she was able to be in Twisp. I then saw her art, and was blown away. Now here we are at least a year later, and we both are living in the Methow. I couldn't wait to connect with her to see how we could combine our interests of art and running. Lately running has been a creative outlet for me, and while I used to take art lessens growing up, I haven't picked up a sketchbook in over a decade. After returning to the Methow, I've been eager to use the medium of art to connect movement and place, and Perri is the perfect teacher for that.
Join us for an exploration of movement and creativity, combining trail running and drawing. We'll meet at Velocity Made Good (VMG), Perri Howard's art studio at Twisp Works, then head outside to move our bodies through the landscape where Alison will share her favorite trail running tips.. This will be followed by journaling and landscape drawing, inspired by our local terrain. The run is a mix of running and hiking (think movement-this is not about seeing how far or fast you can go). Moving helps creative juices flow and adds a different perspective than stillness. A healthy, delicious lunch is included, and will be provided after the run back at the studio. All supplies are included. Sketch kits to take home with you will be available to purchase for an additional $30.
Fall Field Day
Who: Anyone wanting a new perspective on how they see the world and the beautiful landscape we inhabit. Limited to 12, so sign up to save your spot!
What: Fall Field Day: Running and Art with Alison Naney and Perri Howard
When: Saturday November 19, 2016 9-4 (coffee and goodies available at 8:30 and lunch provided from 12-1)
Where: Velocity Made Good (VMG) at the Tree Cooler at Twisp Works
How: Register here. Then, pay with a card using the link below, or save $5 by sending a check to Cascade Endurance, PO Box 196, Winthrop, WA, 98862.
Includes running and drawing instruction, lunch, and all sketching materials.
More info here.
We are thrilled to introduce you to our newest partner Bree Dillon, of Bree Dillon Yoga. She will be our yoga instructor for our retreats and clinics, as well as a collaborator here. As winter draws near, she talks about how yoga can play a part in your overall routine. She took some time out of her busy life to help us get to know her better. You can find Bree at her studio in Fremont where she does private and small group yoga instruction, or on the web at breedillon.com.
I'm always interested in how people get into the activities they love; how did you come to yoga?
I was a three-sport athlete in high school and recruited to go to college on an athletic scholarship. After I declined, I fell off the wagon. For so long my identity had been wrapped up in sports that I didn’t know what to do without a team. I found yoga while searching for a new sense of self and it proved to be just that: my “team” became my body and mind working together. It was really the only place I’d been encouraged to use the two in collaboration. In fact, I’d become quite skilled at learning to ignore my pain and push harder to force my way toward goals, which took a toll on my body and mentally stressed me out. I became an “over-competer” – the kind of person that competes even when completely unnecessary—but as I continued to practice yoga I noticed these things shift. My ability to perform as an athlete vastly improved as I learned to listen to what my body was signaling and I became so much less tense from all the stress I’d created with my need to win. Rather than strong-arming my way towards an objective I eased my way there with discernment about how to stay balanced while building strength and skill.
That sounds really powerful. Has your yoga practice changed over the years?
After I discovered yoga 14 years ago, my relationship with it has ebbed and flowed. There have been times my commitment to yoga may have appeared non-existent but the practice of yoga is more than what we do on our mats. Underneath all the down dogs there’s a discipline of mindfulness that can be applied to anything we do and that's what has remained consistent for me.
That sounds so similar to how running has evolved for me--as more a practice than a goal, which I think can be really freeing for people in our goal-driven society. As an athlete yourself and someone who works with athletes, what is the most helpful aspect of yoga?
I find the most powerful benefit of yoga is that it trains us to listen. When we listen to what our bodies are signaling and what they need, we find that health and high performance are more readily available to us. When we listen to the constant stream of thoughts playing in our heads we can sift helpful from harmful and gain clarity and focus. When we listen, we discover that we are constantly evolving and what may have worked for us at one point isn’t relevant anymore and we can adjust to make the very best use of our faculties for our goals today!
I love that. I’ve been working on that myself and it can be unsettling to re-frame our routines and try to figure out what is relevant. Taking time to listen is a great way to think of it, especially this time of year that spurs reflection and setting intentions for the coming year. As we get into the colder months, how can yoga help?
If you’re like me and you spend a lot of time outdoors, you take your cues from nature. In the winter, things slow down and our kinetic energy follows suit. Rather than fighting against this pattern yoga can help us through this season with a practice that compliments this cycle. Two things I do during this time of year: challenge myself to deliberately move slower and hold poses longer; (I am always amazed at how potent my practice becomes when I do!); and discipline myself to meditate regularly. Did you know that meditation has been proven to:
reduce pain and inflammation
improve focus and memory
decrease heart rate and blood pressure.
stimulate immune system function.
instill a sense of peaceful calm.
lower stress hormones.
lessen depression and anxiety.
support the feeling of connectedness.
Who doesn’t need ALL of that in the winter months!?!
Those are great reasons to take advantage of the shorter days and cozy up next to a fire and sit! Speaking of meditation, you have a free meditation class, correct?
Yes! Every Wednesday from 7:30-8am I offer a free guided meditation in my Fremont studio. Details are on my website!
Thanks, Bree, for taking some time out of your day to reflect.
Bree is a yogi, athlete, anatomy geek and an unapologetic problem-solver motivated by creating a world full healthy, mindful people. After 14 years of combined practice and teaching Bree Dillon Yoga LLC became a brick and mortar business with her private Seattle-based studio in 2016. BDYoga focuses on providing accessible and targeted yoga to people of all levels. Outside of her studio Bree runs local and international yoga-based programs that integrate education and recreation.
Need some motivation to get out the door this winter? We're gearing up for another great trail running group, training for a half-marathon in February: NW Trail Run's Ft. Ebey Half. The wonderful Jaime Clark will lead weekly trail runs to accompany your 14-week training plan. New this go round, we have the training plan on our online training platform, Training Peaks. The software has a desktop and mobile app, with features like email notifications for the workouts, to hold you accountable, and let you track your progress. We're excited to share this format with you and for you to see your improvements in a different way.
Starting November 6
Learn how to transition to running on trails, or simply hone your skills with this four-week training group. You'll focus on a different aspect of trail running each week to build confidence and launch your trail running career. We have a hunch you might never go back.
What's included? A coached weekly trail run and a booklet with information on recovery, foam rolling, running form tips, and very basic nutrition and training concepts. Sign up below!
Week 1-Overall Technique
Week 3-Technical Trails
Week 4-Put it all together
Thanks largely to the Euros, we've inherited a lot of cool ways to challenge ourselves on mountains, in all seasons of the year. My personal preferences (obviously) have steered toward winter sports and I spent the majority of my life to this point totally immersed in Nordic ski competition. But running somewhat parallel to that sport is another one which has really captured my interest of late: ski-mountaineering. Ski-mo, or randonee racing is a form of skiing which involves using climbing skins to ascend a steep run or mountain bowl, then taking them off to enjoy the descent. Repeat as needed.
And of course as soon as a means of travel is invented, someone has to try and do it faster, thus the ski-mo race scene was born. The Europeans and more recently North Americans have been inventing new and increasingly epic courses for these events in all sorts of mountain ranges, from the Alps to the Pyrenees to the Rockies. The "mountaineering" component will vary; sometimes the ascent requires competitors to remove the skis and hand-over-hand it using a rope, even ice axes and crampons!
The core component though, and the one which draws so many different athletes, is the challenge: how fast can you climb up a steep slope before quickly turning around and speeding down an alpine run, sometimes multiple times?
We decided to bring this great tradition to the Methow Valley, and are proud to introduce the Cascade Endurance "______" Ski Mountaineering Race (we're still searching out that perfect name), hosted at the Loup Loup Ski Bowl. On January 28, 2017 athletes of all ages and abilities will line up for a chance to tackle 2000'+ of vertical terrain for the inaugural titles. Food, rock music, costumes and equipment demos will round out what is sure to be a stellar day on the mountain.
Yesterday I got up to the Loup with area manager CP Grosenick and scouted our courses, and I'm totally psyched. While we might not share some of the more rugged terrain offerings (at least in our permit area) which Colorado races boast, the ample gain (~1300' per lap) at the Loup will give even the strongest athletes a run for their money.
Over the next several weeks we'll be launching more publicity about this awesome event, and get you all fired up for what is sure to be a fantastically-fresh and lively way to spend some snowtime!
Some teaser shots of our course (sans snow, but you can use your imagination...):
I simply can’t put into words how excited I am to be back in the Methow for the upcoming winter. Some people anxiously await the first songbird of spring, a harbinger of warmer and longer days, blooming flowers and short sleeves. Me? I do backflips when Mt. Gardner gets its first dusting of snow in October, and obsessively begin waxing my skis well before tracks are cut into the season’s first snowfall on the Valley floor. And I’m not alone – you know who you are!
While getting back on skis for the first team each season may feel as familiar as riding a bike, sometimes it’s, well, not. Nordic skiing is a technique-based sport and stepping away from it for 6-8 months each year means those ski-specific muscles and movement patterns go into hibernation. But fear not! There is a cure to the early-season awkwardness, and it comes in two parts:
1. (Re)develop your Core Strength: For anyone who has ever lamented the lower back pain that comes after the first several classic ski sessions each season, this is for you. Skiing, like other upright open-chain movements, requires a hefty amount of core strength to stabilize your trunk while the extremities dance and play on skis and poles. Without that core strength, your back takes the load and boy, those muscles do not appreciate that additional burden.
Take a gander at the following article I wrote earlier this year for Outdoor Research, and work to incorporate some of the exercises into a routine preceding the winter. Your back will thank you, and ski technique will come quicker and easier than ever before!
2. Take a Ski Lesson: Unless you’ve been on rollerskis all summer (and even if you have), chances are your muscle memory is a bit fuzzy on how to V2 efficiently. Spending an hour to re-hone your abilities and even learn a few new skills will make the season a winner from start to finish. We all develop quirky movement patterns that can be tweaked and improved with an expert eye; the resulting energy savings can be re-distributed right into that 30km ski you were determined to do on your second day out at Silver Star or West Yellowstone!
This season, we’re offering regular ski lessons from the Mazama Corral for individuals and small groups. You can read more about them on our website, where you can also schedule a lesson in advance to be sure you get your chosen date.
A little bit of preparation, and you’ll be set to make the most of what is sure to be another fantastic winter on the snow! Now go wax your skis – it’s never too early.
Before fall completely ends, I want to share some pics of a great day we had a few weeks back, up in an area I'd been only once before. It's not right on the main highway, so it's not as well known as some other spots, and in the spirit of keeping some magic in finding new places, pouring over maps, and creating adventure, I won't say exactly where we went. I will say, however, that we were in the headwaters of the Methow river: a large swath of land that provides the Methow drainage, including our little towns, clean water for wildlife and fish habitat, agriculture, recreation, and living, that is threatened by a proposed copper mine.
Sam and I first heard of the Canadian company's desires before our move in 2014. I studied the Mining Act of 1872 in college and knew the ability to file for a permit, but naively thoughtthat it would never be allowed in our modern climate, and didn't think much of it. Over the next year, plans continued and Methow Headwaters was born to protect our watershed from exploratory mining, "the first step to developing a large-scale, likely open-pit mine in Mazama (Methow Headwaters, 2016)." If you've ever driven through Butte, Montana, you've seen what an open-pit mine looks like. Worse than looks, of course, is the environmental devastation left in its wake: the Berkeley Pit remains a huge superfund site that threatens area ground water.
My environmental activist self laid dormant for many years post college, but imagining a similar fate here is just too much. I don't pretend to believe that I have the impact to stop this, but I do want to do everything I can to get the word out, and help Methow Headwaters in their fantastic efforts. Their proposal "secure(s) a “mineral withdrawal” for the federal lands that compose the headwaters of the Methow watershed, approximately 340,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land (Methow Headwaters, 2016)". In May, US Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray introduced legislation, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, to do just that. Since then, the Forest Serviced announced, around the same time as our little adventure (coincidence?) that they plan to protect the area from mining. While this is promising news, there is still work to ensure that the Forest Service follows through, especially as administrations change. What can we do? First of all, write a letter. The more the agency hears that action needs to be taken, the sooner the two-year planning period begins. Secondly, spread the love of the Methow. If you're on Instagram, use the following tags: @methowheadwaters, #nomazamamine, #worthprotecting, #ourmethow. Finally, support our friends at Methow Headwaters by signing their petition, join their mailing list, and if you feel inclined, donate to the cause.
This matters to us because we live here, but ultimately, we are all affected. If it's not here, it's somewhere else, and these areas are necessary: for a clean watershed for wildlife, salmon and other fish, and us, but also for our mental health. We might be training for a race, or excited to see a new, beautiful place, but these wild places change us. As society becomes more connected and bound by technology (which I'm a fan of, don't get me wrong), having places to go where we can truly unplug-places where the only sounds are of the birds above, and our lungs' effort become increasingly important.
We hear a lot about strength training, but what exactly are the best things to do? More importantly, how can you do strength training in a way that won't cause injury? If you're new to strength training, form is incredibly important. Even if you've done strength training in the past, having someone mix things up and design a thoughtful program specific to your needs and goals can be helpful and motivating. Fall is the perfect time to get strong for ski season!
I'm partnering with Winthrop Fitness and offering personal training through their awesome gym. You can always grab a friend and get a discount: win-win! Email me directly at alison (at) cascadeendurance (dot) com to schedule.
Starting in November I'll be teaching a strength class at 6:30am. It will be limited to 12, so call the gym to register: 509-996-8234.
It doesn't take much time from the sight of the first yellow tree to start dreaming of waist deep powdery snow. I love skiing, but with my fall excitement comes a healthy dose of apprehension because, well, skiing is hard. When I first tried Nordic skiing, I thought I could jump right in with my running fitness and float down the trail. In reality, that couldn't be further from the truth. Since I backcountry skied in college, I thought I would do that instead. Unfortunately, that was also hard. College included backpacking nearly every weekend, so while I moved slower than running, I was used to carrying extra weight. Later focusing all my efforts onto running made me a better runner, but a worse skier.
After that taste of cross country skiing my first winter here, I decided to stick with running. Sometime during the years of dating and marrying a professional skier, I decided I should learn to ski. Finally, I took the time one winter to stick with it enough to improve so that by the end of the season, I could skate or classic ski for at least an hour without feeling like my arms would fall off. The following winters included one being pregnant, and then moving back to Seattle where I could run all winter again, which did not include much skiing.
All of that is to say that as I start seeing snow in the mountains, I know what's coming: tired arms and burning legs. To mitigate the damage, I'm back to weight training in our garage, but honestly, strength workouts bore me and I don't like being inside.
I do however, like a certain specific strength workout held outside: hiking with Fiona. Truth be told, I don't do it often. Sam happily takes her when we go as a family, which slows him down enough to only be a few minutes ahead of me at any given point. But when a friend wanted to find larches and was heading to Maple Pass, I took the opportunity to get some vert with some weight (i.e. Fiona) while catching up. Carrying ten to twenty percent of one's body weight is a good general rule of thumb for this workout, but since she weighs about 35 pounds, I was over. Oh well-ha! Maple pass is a great seven mile loop in which you either go up a gradual trail and down a steep one, or vice versa. We opted for going up the steep way, which I much prefer. HELLO GLUTES!
It was fantastic, if tiring, training, on par with doing box steps-ups for an hour and a half. Whew-a ski pack will be nothing in comparison (which I guess is the point)! And until Fiona stops growing (yeah, right), I'll get more benefit each time I taker her! Once again, the larches were out in full force, contrasting against red leaves and evergreens. If you haven't gotten out to see some larches yet, GO!
Join us at the Goat's Beard on October 10th for a free shoe demo from La Sportiva and a run and mini technique clinic. We'll have the Akasha and the Helios available from 9-11am, and do a group run at 9:30. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Where: Goat's Beard Mountain Supplies
When: October 10, 9-11am
Updates will be on the Facebook event page.
Since my first hike to one in high school, I've been drawn to fire lookouts. As an introvert, it's easy to imagine a parallel universe in which I live by myself each summer, scoping fires. I see Goat Peak looming above Mazama daily, but rarely head up the road, favoring more exotic locations. A friend was in town Friday evening, so we took the chance to make a quick trip. Nikki decided to take an extended trip and made her way home in the middle of the night, giving me a sleepless taste of what a certain teenager may do in a dozen years, but that's another blog post. The larches were incredible and I hope you're able to get out to see some.
We all know (or maybe have heard) that core strength is important. But what is the core and how does one gain said strength? Sam wrote his latest blog post for Outdoor Research on the very topic. Check it out to learn how you can get strong for the mountains and thereby decrease your chance of injury and increase your performance and fun. If you missed his other one, it's on the importance of aerobic training.
Here I am again, trying to write a blog, for about the millionth time since May, when my racing season didn’t go as planned. “They” say that if you’re having trouble with a writing block, chances are good that you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to say. What do you do, though, when months go by and no, you’re not sure what you want to say, but also need to somehow make sense of those months and get back to an even keel? I’ve framed it in many different ways: the role of stress on training and racing (and more broadly, health); changing priorities with a growing family; and growing a business that I’m really passionate about but still putting it in front of other parts of life. But basically it comes down to the fact that life happens, and sometimes life isn’t fun. I often relate things that happen in an ultra to larger themes in life, but last spring and summer have been a practice in the opposite: take things one day (or hour or minute) at a time, things don’t always get worse (but sometimes they do), focus on the good, and keep moving forward.
Right before my first race of the season, Sam decided not to renew his contract with the ski team that he ran, which was the reason we moved to Seattle. Cascade Endurance was growing to the point that I couldn’t handle it on my own, and we decided to take the leap to devote his efforts to it. In response to that, I decided I should work as much as possible, which I did, and then got sick. Just when I thought I was getting better, I got sick again. And so it went, through three separate races, giving me a DNS and two DNFs. Well, I thought, my main goal is still a 100 miler in September, so I didn’t care too much other than a little blow to my ego.
We also knew that we wanted to move back to the Methow within the year, but weren’t quite sure how that would happen given the difficulty in finding housing. Being self-employed, I’d only heard horror stories on how hard it is to buy a house, so was floored when we were approved for an amount that could actually buy a home. June came around and while I was getting back into the swing of things with training, we made a quick trip over to the valley, fell in love with a house, made an offer, and waited with baited breath.
Sam and I ran up to Kendall’s Katwalk on Father’s day, discussing all the things that would have to line up for us to be able to move back, and it seemed impossible. We got back to the car to hear a voicemail from our realtor that our offer was accepted.-one hurdle overcome. I excitedly called my dad, to tell him all about the house that reminded me so much of the one I grew up in. True to form as a retired insurance adjuster, he wanted all the info so he could make a more educated opinion on our choice. He also mentioned he’d been having stomach problems that had been bugging him for a while, but that he would finally see a doctor next week. I pushed yogurt and probiotics, and wished him a Happy Father’s Day.
I excitedly went through the following day, dreaming about being back in Mazama, in our own house. I didn’t want to get too excited, given all the things that still needed to fall into place, but I couldn’t quite believe my life. I have a career (two actually) I love, to the point that I have to remind myself (or Sam does) to not work every waking hour of the day; a great husband; and a happy, healthy, daughter who is up for pretty much anything. How can one person be so lucky? How can things work out so well? My best friend from college agreed that it almost seemed two good to be true, but that both of our lives were that way. “Someday one of us will get a shit sandwich, but until then, we just need to be grateful.”
The shit sandwich arrived the next day, when I received an email from my dad’s wife that he vomited all night after his Father’s day dinner. After a battery of tests at the ER, they found a tumor on his pancreas and a lesion on his liver. Fuck.
I know enough about cancer to know that pancreatic is the least desirable. I also knew my dad well enough to know that, at 82, he wouldn’t want treatment (nor would I). Finally, I knew that we would get the house, and moving would all work out: there is now universal balance in my life. But how can you be simultaneously ecstatic about one thing while devastated about another?
I remember wondering when we came home from the hospital after having Fiona how life could go on as normal when something so monumental in our lives just happened. I get the same feeling after an epic run or race, and I got the same feeling when my dad passed away. How does the world still goes on as if nothing has happened? I’m not writing this post for sympathy, though losing a loved one of course is terrible. Honestly, I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this, other than when I write something, it’s real and becomes true, and it’s time for this part of my life to become true. As always, having something difficult in life makes you appreciate the good, and for that I’m grateful. My dad taught me so much in life, and also in death. He was patient, had an awesome, dry wit, and even at the end of his life, or perhaps because of it, was the essence of calm, cool, and collected. He was able to live his life exactly as he wished, then gradually faded from this world, much like we enter: sleeping often, communicating through simple gestures, being with loved ones, and finally, becoming otherworldly.
This summer was the worst and best of my life. It has not been about running in the slightest, as I’ve never been one to delve into running when things go awry, which I suppose is another reason for this post - to acknowledge the void of my dad in my life, which took running too, for a time. Gradually the running is coming back, and now is a time I can remember him in my favorite place in the world that we again call home-something I can’t help but think he pulled strings to make happen.
To omit any human element from your training approach is to treat yourself as a robot which can absorb and adapt to any stimulus you give it. But since most of us aren’t robots (when not on the dance floor), we need a little more subjective analysis coming in. That’s where coaching comes into play. The majority of the benefits you can get from a coach are the understanding, rapport, and regular communication to see that the training you do matches your life, ability, motivation, schedule, goals, etc.
At Cascade Endurance we have five different coaches on call to work with clients of all different needs. Over the next few blog posts we’ll introduce these coaches to you and offer a look at what makes the tick and how they can turn their skills and general awesomeness toward helping you with your fitness and racing goals.
In this first installment of our Meet the Coaches series, we introduce Laura Nelson, a former competitive junior and collegiate swimmer whose lifelong expertise in the water has helped countless individuals hone their swimming skills or develop them for the first time. Laura’s enthusiasm and infectious joy for the water is clear the moment you meet her, and she has happily shared that passion with swimmers of all ages in the Northwest.
CE: What drew you to swimming?
Laura: I've been swimming since I was a little kid and I always just loved being in the water. As I got older, I stuck with the sport because I really enjoyed it. I liked the mix of being part of a team but really having to push yourself individually.
CE: How have you struck a balance between being a competitor and a lifelong enthusiast of the sport?
Laura: It can be a hard transition to go from the thrill of competition and associated goals to just swimming for the sake of swimming. After a little time off I found that I really appreciated swimming for how it helps me clear my head and how good I feel after a workout. Besides, I love being in the water and swimming for exercise means that lake playtime is that much more fun.
CE: What is the primary missing link most people present in their swimming?
Laura: Efficiency and feel. I think most competitive swimmers would describe having a feel for the water, for how to pull and really work with the water instead of fight against it. It takes a long time to develop that feel and efficiency, and without it people expend a lot of energy in movement that ultimately does not propel them forward.
CE: What is your greatest asset as a coach?
Laura: I've spent a lot of time in the water myself, but probably my best asset as a coach is that I am an educator.I worked in experiential education for years with kids of all ages which means I have patience and practice in coming up with alternate explanations if my initial answer doesn't get the job done.
CE: For a developing swimmer looking to compete in triathlons, what's the first thing you look for in their abilities/training?
Laura: Helping them to improve their technique. It will become easier to swim longer distances and get the swimming strength base if you're doing it with the right form. Swimming can also be a tough mental game for triathletes who struggle with that leg, I'd like to help people change it from a leg they are just trying to get through to one that they are excited for in the competition.
I think as endurance athletes we’re hardwired to quantify, ad infinitum, our training and results and symptoms and improvements and deficits until we perceive some higher understanding of self. It’s ironic, given how individual these pursuits ultimately are that we subscribe to many different “standards” of measuring the status of our fitness on any given day, instead of relying solely on symptoms and perceptions. These two contrasting philosophies are in fact hotly debated in the coaching worl, but I remain of the mind that using different metrics and understanding how they relate to what's happening in your body continues to thrive over simple guesswork. Nothing will replace your own sense of self and awareness of fatigue and exertion, but having quantitative validations and other data can supplement and reinforce.
I used heart rate monitors all through my training as a ski racer and continue to now as a mountain runner. Because of the demands of terrain, pace is largely erroneous when trying to ascertain or measure your output in training; heart rate is a good alternative. Another form I'm experimenting with right now is measuring power. A few weeks back I got a Stryd power meter - the device works like a heart rate monitor in that it attaches to a chest strap and synchs with your existing wristwatch interface (I use a Suunto Ambit 3). The readout will then present actual power and average power, along with other standard variables such as heart rate, etc. There's a tremendous amount to be determined from this application but I'm just scratching the surface right now. I heard about running power meters from my old coach Scott Johnston, who himself is coaching several ultrarunners with the help of power meters and found them to be really successful.
How beneficial is measuring power? I'm still answering that question for myself. Since I've always been on the heart rate train, I'm approaching it with the same mindset, i.e. can i pinpoint power zones which identify appropriate effort ranges for me to work in? Experts in the running power field such as Jim Vance and Allen Lim say yes, and what's more, the analysis portion can be really robust. TrainingPeaks, the software we use for our coaching clients, is based around taking your workout metrics and plotting them on a long-term chart which then calculates (using robust algorithms) your overall state of fitness and fatigue. This chart, known as the PMC (performance management chart) is best derived via power measures. The program was developed largely by and for cyclists who in the last decade have benefited from power meters so this makes sense; now runners can start to draw the same benefits themselves.
For the last two weeks I've just been gathering data during my workouts and not trying much to analyze it. I've done a couple hard sessions with the power meter; one 5km twisty-turning road race, and several interval/threshold workouts. I'm starting to get a picture of what my sustainable "threshold" or maximal steady-state power is like, and hope that in time I can use that to guide future training.
As an example, here's a display showing the power output from my workout yesterday, a 3x10min uphill tempo run on Tiger Mountain:
In reading the graph above, I can see that I was averaging a little under 500 watts for each 10min effort. However by the third one that average was dropping a bit, down into the 470s. When we talk about hard training we often refer indirectly to "maintaining power", but until now that's been an approximation. Calculating it (power = force x velocity) requires that you can actual determine WHAT your force is; Stryd apparently does this and completes the power calculation by using several accelerometers and a complex algorithm. And here's where I see the benefits occurring.
Power offers some great advantages which heart rate doesn't; namely, you can use power output to measure technique efficiency in your running form. The way to do this is to hold velocity constant. I've been using hill sprints for this purpose; find a section of terrain which is steep enough and lasts for about 10 seconds of hard uphill running. Do one repeat, time the effort for a given distance and see what your power reaches at the end. Now go back down (rest for 2-3 minutes) and do the effort again, this time focusing on relaxing or improving some part of your stride. See if you can hit the same time with a lower peak power. If you can, this means you created efficiency in your stride by reducing force at the same velocity, resulting in a lower metabolic cost.
There's obviously a lot more to be gained from the power measurement arena and I'm only scratching the surface, but I think the salient point to take away is that there is no one approach to monitoring training, no dogmatic way of determining effort or performance. Gather data, determine how useful it is, make an interpretation and then balance it with your own (and your coach's) subjective observations.
And sometimes, just tear the watch off and run like hell up a mountain.