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Friday, December 19, 2014

A forgotten post...

XTerra West Championships was a crazy race. I'm not 100% certain of what was happening out there, but I'll do my utmost best to write a race report!

I chose this early-season race because I need to do four XTerra series races to qualify for Nationals in Ogden, Utah, which is my goal. Even though I have done a lot of Compu-Trainer riding and even had a few outdoor rides, very few have been mountain biking. Weather, snow and mud make mountain biking difficult this time of year.

AND, I just began Mountain Biking last summer. So, I checked the course out ahead of time on Strava. I certainly didn't underestimate the difficulty, but at the same time, I certainly didn't understand the difficulty.There was about 1500 ft of climbing over 18.6 miles. I do THAT every time I ride out my door....

As a family, we spent the week mountain biking and swimming about 2 hours from the race. This helped me acclimate. I went from 50 degree weather to 90 degrees. At the end of the week, my kids went back home and the Computer Guy and I drove to the race.

At the pre-race meeting, Josiah Middaugh and Shonny VanLandingham described sections of the bike course to watch out for. Since I hadn't pre-ridden, it was a little foreign but I tried to keep some things in mind: watch out for the off-camber sections, gear way down for the sandy washes. Ride with really low tire pressure so you don't pinch flat on the sharp rocks. Got it.

Fast forward: I met Luke McKenzie, 6X Ironman Champ. He stopped by my car and asked for sunblock. I am sure this was a pathetic excuse to come over and meet me...

That night I slept better and more than I have in months. With a band playing very, very loudly down on the hotel plaza, I was thankful. I awoke ready to GO!

I love open water swimming so it was hard to wait until my Wave was sent off. And we were the last Wave. This was going to be the first swim where I had to run on the beach, past the flags and do another swim lap. For some reason, this was something I couldn't WAIT to try. It was FANTASTIC!

The Mountain Biking was unexpected. Lots of sand and climbing. The climbing was straight up. No switch backs, trees, and roots like I am used to. It was a ride of all guts and very little glory! Every couple of minutes I was riding in something new and eventually, the frustration of not knowing what to prepare for subsided and I just began wondering what would come up next, enjoying the variety.

Transition 2 was smooth. I grabbed a gel, some water, changed shoes and headed out. For the first 1/2 mile or so, it was along the lake side. Smooth, grass and fun. All too soon, we turned onto the bike course of dirt, sand, and rocks. Again, the same climbs I pushed my bike up found me walking up one more time. For the last time, thankfully. As I rose to the top, I looked behind and noticed a couple of people falling further behind. I kept my eyes on one man in front that I could see.

As I approached, we decided to walk/run the rest of the course together. I was tired in a different way than I was used to. The last mile, I left my new friend and cruised down to the finish line. A welcome site.

Off Season Resolve

It's the off season and this triathlete is close to thumping her head against the wall. So, this morning I resolved to break out of the dull-drums (do people USE that word anymore?) and do something unique, different, out of the ordinary. Something that is a stretch for me. Something I wouldn't normally do.

For some, they might sign up for the new Ironman Silverman in NV. No, that's something I WOULD do. I need something really challenging and completely off the grid. My mind instantly thought of something, but can I do it? Is it even possible?

Drum roll ---I thought the CRAZIEST thought! Go to a movie and eat movie popcorn!!!

For you movie goers out there, I am not dis'ing on you. Not at all. You are my heroes. This is a feat rarely attempted in my life. I've done more Ironmans and half Ironmans than times I've attended the movie theater. I've ran more marathons. When I remarked to the Computer Guy what I'm actually considering,  maybe overcoming huge obstacles and attempting such a thing, his brow furrowed. "I've think you've actually done that once, a few years ago." I was shocked, "I have?! Did I eat the popcorn?!"

"I think so," was his very unsure response.

This is why hoping on a mountain bike and hurling myself downhill for the first time was easier than going to a movie. This is why deciding to swim 2.4 miles when I didn't know my local pool was actually 50m and not 100m. (I was SURE one time down was as long as 100m! HEHEHE. It still makes me laugh when I think of this guy's face when I asked if it was a 100m length pool.....)

Anyway, back on track. First, I don't actually know of any movies that are playing. I only watch skiing races - if I'm training indoors. Go Ted Ligety!

Next, theaters are so uncomfortable. Granted, I haven't been in quite a few years, so maybe they've changed. However, my kids still remember the last time I went with them, I fell asleep, curled up like a cat in the seat. It wasn't comfortable, but that's what happened. They were super, duper impressed that their mom is probably the only mom that can curl up in a movie theater seat. Yes, Multiple Ironman's and a few XTerra's later and THIS is what impresses them!

There is a separate issue from movie theater comfort, but sort of goes along with it: I am always so COLD in the theater. I don't want to carry a quilt in just so stay warm. I'm old, but not that old! When it is 46 outside, I jump up, grab my shorts and a long sleeve shirt and head out for a run. That's the best temperature for running! And yes, I hate swimming in cold lake water, but if it is around 54-56 I'm EXCITED because I KNOW I'll be leading my Age Group out of the swim. However, 70 in a movie theater? Really? Not happening.

Another problem getting me to a movie is they always show it in the dark. I, know, right? For some reason I hate watching things in the dark. The lights have to be on. I can't explain it, it's weird. I had a easier time in the Boise 70.3 rainstorm doing 40 mph downhill from the Lucky Peak Dam, rain streaming down my glasses and not being able to see anything, than watching a movie in the dark.

Another difficulty I can't overcome is how LOUD the sound is. I stood next to the cannon at XTerra World's in Maui. It was a rookie mistake. I was so nervous, I didn't see the cannon. Right there. Until they fired it off. Movies are louder than that.

But it is the off season, and I am going nuts. I need to do something different and out of the ordinary to keep me sane. Will setting a new goal and rising to a new challenge help? Eating the movie popcorn would be the ultimate "Out there" thing to do. If I go, I have to eat the movie popcorn and I'm not sure I can actually do that....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Come live 18 hours in 2 minutes!

Hey!  For this week I thought I'd do something COMPLETELY different and do a video blog of what my 'workout' week is like.  Lucky for you I sped it up so it won't take as long to watch as it did to do the actual workouts! Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I've Got a Gut Feeling

Today I took an online quiz to find out what career I should have. Guess what!? It came up as ATHLETE. Sigh. After all these years I'm on the path that was meant for me.

I am an athlete and I am truly happy being one. Therefore, empirical  evidence shows this quiz is 100% correct.

Please don't get confused with "career athlete" as being the same as "professional athlete". Surveys, under "occupation", have "homemaker" listed as a career. This is usually the box I check. However, now I'm going to select "other" and write in athlete. Obviously, Occupation/Career have nothing to do with getting paid. I've never collected a dime as a mom... oops. That's a lie. Coins I get in the washer and dryer are mine. Always mine; and members of my household know that. But you get what I mean, right? My career and arbitrary success isn't limited by the amount of money I make doing it.

I love my sponsors which help out and support me. (Shameless plug for 2014 Team SOAS) But it has been a long road to reach this point.

Am I the only one with Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder, or more appropriately, in my gut? Gut feelings lead me through this world. They are invaluable.

When I insisted on trying to start a business, there was a gut feeling. No matter what hurdles I jumped or how many friends insisted on helping me, supporting and making me feel good about it, that gut feeling wouldn't subside. The one that makes you insist, over and over again, "I can DO this. I can MAKE it work!" If you find yourself saying this a lot, this article is for YOU.

Years ago a friend told me I should be a real estate agent. Oooooh, that gut feeling started, but hey, "I can make it work! I can do this!" I thought if I had more information the feeling would go away. Nope. Maybe I just need to pay my money and take the classes. Friends and family thought it was a fabulous idea. Refueled, I recommitted, doubled my resolve and took the classes. The feeling got stronger. Well, that's just because I need to take the test and then I'll feel better. Remember, everyone thought it was a fantastic idea.

Totally confident that I had made a commitment and fighting all gut feelings, I kept insisting, "But I can make this work". I continued down the path and refused to listen to Jiminey Cricket squeaking in my gut. I took that test. I paid for the license. I found a broker. I bought business cards. No backing out now!!! The ball was rollin', man! With tons of "likes" on FB, I was gonna be a real estate agent! But after spending one day with my first client from Las Vegas, I realized nothing was calming my gut.

But, you say, what about Michael Jordan? He didn't make his high school basketball team. He must have had a conversation with himself that might have had, "But I can Do this! I can make it work!" And he forged on and look how that turned out! What about the snowboarder I just heard about who lost her legs at 19 and is still snowboarding 15 years later? She sat down and said, "Well, I can do this, I just need to figure out how". Well, I say, we don't know what their gut was saying. Maybe it was calm as they faced the odds.

I've had those conversations with myself, too. Like when I decided to do my first triathlon and couldn't even swim. AT ALL!! I watched Ironman and thought, "I can DO that. And I'll have to figure out how to make it work!" All outward indications were screaming otherwise, but my gut was calm and quiet.

When I barely finished my first sprint triathlon and told myself I wanted to be sponsored, some people supported, some people doubted, but I didn't need their "likes" on FB to make me feel good about my decision. Because Jiminy was quiet as a mouse.

When I crashed three weeks before Ironman and had to find a new bike, and not having the chance to ride it before the race, my gut was also calm. I couldn't walk, run, swim, or bike for those final three weeks because of the stitches, the road rash, the stiffness, and my knee was the size of a cantaloupe, but I went ahead and competed. Why? Because my gut was calm. (Nerves were shot, but my gut was calm).

Now I am an athlete. I am on the path I was meant to be on. Was it always easy? Absolutely not. Was it obvious to everyone else? Probably not. Do I care? Did Michael Jordan care? Probably not. Because when you are on the path, you should feel calm. You feel sure. When you are all by yourself, alone in those quiet moments, you just KNOW. You don't rush to others wanting them to calm Jiminy Cricket, or that feeling in your gut. Others don't know what's right for you. Find your better path.

Race like there's no tomorrow. Train with confidence in yourself. Listen to your Jiminy Cricket and become the athlete you are supposed to be, not the one you are insisting you WANT to be. What you may think you want might not be what you need. Your gut knows what no one else does. Listen.

Happy Day! It's almost race season!! Race CALM!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Off Season, Part III: Technical Preparation for Triathlon

Part I and Part II of the "Off Season" focused on the mental and physical aspect of training. Now for Part III: preparing TECHNICALLY during the "Off Season".

If you are at a point in life where you feel the need to "simplify", becoming a triathlete is probably not a good idea. Triathletes tend to accumulate things.

Coming from a running background, becoming a triathlete was extremely complicated for me. Runners throw on appropriate clothes for the weather, a pair of shoes, and go out the door. It's easy. Triathlons are overwhelming. This blog is meant help beginners in the sport, or those who need to re-evaluate "needs" for the upcoming race season.

For each workout I pack a bag to grab so I can head quickly out the door. It simplified my life. Prepacked bags save time and help me remember important equipment. Once I was so busy trying to put my bag together for a bike ride that I got to the gym without my bike! That doesn't happen anymore with the new system!

Let's talk about SWIMMING equipment first.

A swimming suit is a must. (At least for most places!)

After that, goggles and a cap are helpful. To do the drills and workouts, a lot of triathletes buy kick boards, paddles, pull buoys, and ankle bands.

To race, triathletes typically invest in wet suits, skin suits, and sometimes booties for extremely cold water conditions. And a neoprene cap. To make matters even more complicated, there are different types of goggles, depending on the race. Clear, tinted, or something in between. Where you race dictates the need.

Next, the BIKE is the biggest investment; both in time and money. During the, "Off Season", I invested in a Guru Bike Fit at Noble Sports. It was the best thing I have done in years for my bike. I've had multiple static fits and a Retul fit and now the Guru system. Bike fits are an important investment. With the changes you make to your fitness, bike saddles and equipment, re-investing in this area is important. It is something you can do in the "Off Season" to prepare for racing. It's difficult to do DURING your season and maybe not so helpful.
Love my Trek Speed Concept!
The bike itself has multiple moving parts (obviously) so you can check out changing and upgrading a slew of things. I couldn't even begin to tell you where to put your money, but your local bike shop is helpful in suggesting things to buy. They love that! It would make their day if you wanted a power meter, new cranks, to change the crank length, get new sprockets,  new pedals, different areo bars, a new hydration system, bento box, race wheels, a new chain, and derailer hanger. Just to name a few.
Tri bikes don't work on single track!
If I lost you on some of those item, that's the point. I didn't even scratch the surface of the possibilities of bike equipment..

Besides the bike itself, a triathlete needs ACCESSORIES in order to ride. Let's start with helmets. (I have two and I am considering a third). Each helmet has a specific purpose. Areo, better cooling, etc.

Another accessory is a bike saddle. After years I found the one and only saddle that works for me is a Koobi Saddle. After many trys (and tris) it is the only saddle I am truly completely comfortable on.

A triathlete needs to consider bike footwear, also. Bike shoes are varied and can be expensive. But that is not enough. Pedals and clips need to be attached and riders have their favorite. Computer Guy uses different pedals and clips than I do because of his knees. I use Speed Play because with one of my legs, I need extra "float" so my knee and hip aren't locked in place. Every athlete is different.

Eye wear. Wow. What a challenge this one is! Lenses with the right color, size, fit and comfort. I found a great pair last year, but the minute I got into the aero position, the top rim was directly in the center of my view! It was crazy!! I buy the cheapest eye wear possible that still meets the need. Why? Because I lose or break my glasses on a regular basis. Literally, spending money on expensive gear that will be lost or broken after one ride is not fun. I know my weaknesses and have to plan accordingly!

Now for a triathlete's RUN GEAR. Shoes. Not necessary, according to the "barefoot" running craze, but most triathlete's still run in shoes (!) I've seen marathoner's try doing it barefoot but so far, I've never met a happy one. To each his own. If you want shoes for your triathlon, you aren't alone.

In addition to shoes, triathletes use some type of hydration system they can carry for races and for training runs. Many include a place to hold keys, a cell phone or gels. Races require a race number to be displayed on the athlete. The best way to accomplish this is to purchase a race belt. And finally, triathletes often buy specific laces so they save time tying shoes in transition and ensuring they won't have to re-tie them during the run. Coming from someone who has had to stop too many times to tie shoes, I recommend these laces...
Race belts, laces, arm warmers, watches, heart rate monitor and compression socks.
The CLOTHING list needed for workouts and races is exhausting! Bike jackets, shirts, shorts; running shorts, shirts, hats; triathlon "kits"; sweats to wear to races or after workouts...

Oh, the list of things a triathlete can buy is endless!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thankful 13 Race Report

Two months ago my phone rang. "Hey, will you do the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon with me?" It was The Gymnast. Without hesitation, I agreed, and the trash talking began... Not really because The Gymnast doesn't trash talk.

Other family members signed up for the 5K.

Fast Forward to Thanksgiving Day. I want to insert here that "excusers" drive me CRAZY. You know the "excuser". You stand next to them at the start line. Everyone's THERE. You all have some story as to what condition you are in at that moment. Then the "excuser" starts talking. "I didn't even train for this." "I ran a 20 miler yesterday". "I'm using this just as a training day." "My Achilles is acting up."

The excuse list is endless. Sometimes I am an "excuser"!

Race Day morning it was about 30 degrees. Perfect weather for a half marathon. We rushed to get the turkey in the oven and everyone out the door. It didn't even feel like a race. I was EXCITED! Energy was in the air, but no focus.

The Gymnast and I decided a strategy. Do whatever you feel and don't worry about the other racers. It was her first half marathon. The gun went off and so did over 700 runners. The 5k people clapped and cheered. The support crew took pictures.

At mile one, I realized we were running a very steady pace and I felt extremely comfortable. I certainly didn't go out too fast. I looked at The Gymnast and knew she was feeling good, too, so I decided the "race strategy" had been implemented. Work steady into a comfortable "race pace" up to mile 3. At mile 6, move into the "comfortably hard race zone," hold that until mile 9 or 10 and then kick it up to the next gear. Smile for pictures at the finish banner.

However, this is how my legs decided the race would unfold...

At mile three I tried to move into another "gear". The legs did not respond, but the heart, lungs and head were ready to go. At mile 5, The Gymnast was in "the zone". I had never ran with one person for so long in a race. It was comfortable, and felt easy. I was enjoying myself as we clipped along. The mile markers seemed to come and go so quickly. At mile 6, I figured it was time to move into "race mode". Legs did not respond. Maybe it was the huge bulk of biking and running over the last eight weeks. But, no matter. I knew I had a ton in the tank and decided I'd kick it in at mile 7.

 Miles 5-7 I felt The Gymnast was struggling mentally. She stayed right on my shoulder and I wasn't really going too much faster, so I stayed right there, checking to make sure she was in still contact. This was GREAT. (Later, she told me she was feeling tired and had done "crazy math". You know, the math that makes you think mile 8 is half way. At mile 7 she realized her mistake, knew it was more than half over, so she got an adrenaline rush---things were going great!) 

At mile 7, I looked at my watch and thought, "Okay, now is the time! Lets go!" Feeling fantastic, and strong, I couldn't believe my legs thought otherwise. It was the weirdest thing. There was absolutely no speed. No other gear. Now, with the race more than half over, I was becoming concerned. However, on the bright side, I wasn't slowing down and felt I could run that pace FOREVER!

At mile 8, same thing. My brain said go, but my legs just stayed at the same exact pace. The Gymnast and I were still together. How absolutely cool is that? I've never ran 8 miles straight, in a race, with anyone, even a training partner. The Gymnast had trained at sea level and flown in for this day and she was doing terrific! I was proud!

Then, disaster struck. My music player stopped playing music. What was I going to do?! I actually run quite a bit without music because in Ironmans and most races, music is illegal. So this little annoyance didn't phase me too much. I looked down and slowed down for a second to check my device. I pushed a few buttons and by the time I looked up, The Gymnast was about 10-15 seconds ahead of me. No problem, really. I took out the head phones and picked up the speed a little. Then suddenly, disaster struck AGAIN! Luckily, the solution was right there in front of me.
The solution to my problem...

After a two minute rest (yes, I checked the time so I had the excuse ready) I began running. Mile 9 shows up and doing the math in my head, I realized I would have to run 30 seconds per mile faster than The Gymnast just to catch up to her by the finish banner. I looked at my strong, ready, willing, and able legs once again and said, "We are running out of miles here! Get into that other gear." Still, no response.

Mile 10. "It's a 5K, now! Go! You've done lots of 5Ks faster than this!" Still, my legs moved at the same steady pace. What?! Is it the bulk of training? The speed and strength training I've done on the bike and run, for the last 8 weeks? Could it be that my legs actually need a week off which is NEXT week? Yep. After all these years, I finally get it. You can't do a boat load of training, take 1 day lightly and expect to run a PR. And I didn't take the day before lightly, either!

I crossed the Finish line at almost the same speed I started.
I only lost time in the Honey Bucket. Not on the hills, even. Even though there was no speed in my legs, I was ecstatic. I stayed with the race plan, never slowed down even the last hilly miles, and felt strong the whole way.

Saddest part of the day was crossing the finish and hearing that Hoopster took 2nd OVERALL Women and won a turkey, a gift card, and a trophy. In her second ever 5K. And I wasn't there to see the look of surprise and shock on her face when they called her name.
Hoopster wins a turkey!

The gymnast did awesome and held the same pace to the end. Everyone who did the 5K had a great time and now I have children that will run races with me. Success!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Oh, the "Off Season" Part II

Part I of The "Off Season" was about the type of workouts that are done this time of year. Now, I'll talk about the Mental Game of actually doing the workouts! Planning races, reviewing the last season, and hanging out with family keeps motivation up. It really does. But staying motivated to complete the arduous task of long workouts with no discernible race in sight, cold weather, and lack of sunlight hours, requires a strong mind.

Someone once said to me, "Yeah, well it's easy for YOU." I was shocked. Really. In fact, I still gasp when I hear those words in my head. As if there is some special brand of person that WANTS to get up at 5:00 a.m., put on a swimming suit in freezing weather, only to be yelled at from the deck; "OK, go. OK, go," every time you hit the wall. And then, put sweats on over the wet swim suit (because I still haven't learned that this is not a good way to leave the Rec center in 20 degree temps). Literally freezing, I walk out to the car and SCRAPE THE SNOW OFF THE WINDOWS WITH MY KICK BOARD! I take it personally every time. The injustice of it all when everyone else is sleeping!
This is my trusty snow scraper
Then, I drive to the next gym, stick my bike on the indoor trainer, stare at a wall for hours and hours until it finally comes to an end and I go home to eat real food. Are you kidding me?

Note: I do enjoy the lifestyle, even during the winter. Honest. But, it isn't always easy. This is to let you know triathletes are human and we like warmth, donuts, and hot chocolate as much as the next person. But we also like to train.

This is the wall I stare at for hours on my indoor bike trainer
By turning my head slightly, I can stare at a different wall, as seen above

Well, news flash here. I don't think I'm alone when I say this is a difficult time for even the most hardened, soul-less triathlete out there. A) It's hard to convince yourself to do this and B) It's hard to convince yourself that it will make a difference in the long run!

Talk yourself into walking out the door:
This is a frequent conversation in my head--

Self 1: Go do your workout.
Self 2: It's cold/wet/freezing, snowing, raining/hailing, icy...
Self 1: Go do your workout.
Self 2: No.
Self 1: Do it.
Self 2: Nope.
Self 1: I'll let you have a cookie.
Self 2: Hmmmmm.
Self 1: You don't have to do all of the workout. I know it's long...
Self 2: OK

Self 2 falls for this every time even though I've never been rewarded with a cookie and I can't remember the last time Self 1 let the workout be cut short. Well, maybe once or twice in the last "I can't remember how many years". But anyway, Self 2 is gullible and doesn't learn from experience.

Talk yourself into doing the whole workout or the actual assigned workout:

Since I love math and logic, I'll insert a scientific fact here.

*1 hour in the pool feels like ---1 hour in the pool
*2 hours on the bike outside feels like--- 1 hour on the bike.
*2 hours on the indoor bike trainer feels like ---2 hours on the bike.
*2 hours running outside feels like ---2 hours of running.
*2 hours on the treadmill feels like ---FOREVER!

This is the treadmill I spend FOREVER running on.
There are times when I want to do 3 sets instead of 4. Sometimes I want to do 8 reps instead of 10. Does it really matter? Really? So Coach is totally crazy. She's actually not. Not completely, anyway. It just helps when I think of her like that. (Once she sent my workouts with the statement, "Insert maniacal laugh here.") Coach gives me workouts of 93 minutes. Or 99 minutes. Who does that? Whether she knows it or not, this is good for me. It makes me accountable for every minute. I figure that if she extends a workout from a "normal" time like 1:30 to 1:33(!) those 3 minutes MUST be important. Or they wouldn't be there. I'm kind of "Monk-ish" about things like that. So I don't cut any workouts short. Those 3 or 9 minutes dangle out there in a very unfinished fashion. They wouldn't be there if they weren't important.

After a year of swimming by myself, I swam with some friends. They were amazed at how strong I had become. One friend tried to do my workout which was timed 20x100m's. After 8, she declared, "I've got to do this workout with you every week. That's got to be what made you stronger." I thought about it for approximately 2 seconds. Nope. Pretty sure that workout isn't the "magical" workout. So which one was it? Could it be all the push-ups? Maybe it was all the rhomboid flies? The sit-ups? The miles of swimming in the pool over the year? Do you get it? There isn't a magical workout. I think it truly is about consistency. So, rather than chance it, I talk myself into the additional odd 3 minutes.

However, I have to admit that I don't stop at 99 minutes. I CAN'T. So I just do an extra 1 minute, hit 1:40 on the clock, and let my Monk-ish tendency rule. And hope I don't over-train.

Finally, the most important mental hint I can give. I tend to over-think things. Shocker, I know. This is not news to Coach, who says I ask too many questions (sorry) or my closest associates inside and outside of triathlon. So, I attended a clinic by a fantastic, local Sports Psychologist. (I probably should see him one-on-one weekly for about a year, but that's beside the point!) Anyway, out of the many fabulous, wonderful things I have learned, I've only retained one. And it has served me well through many off-seasons and many races. It's actually my "Mantra". It's lame during the middle of a race, but the brain thinks what it wants when the body is over-loaded with caffeine, quick sugar and too many miles....

Ok. Here it is: Focus on the Process. Not the Results. Brilliant, right? During this cold, icy, bleh time of year, when faced with countless hours staring at the walls on your bike or treadmill, just focus on the process.

The Process is a beautiful thing. It just is. Nothing to judge or evaluate. I go into a rote-like state. I stop over-thinking and just swim, bike, run.

The Technical part of the "Off Season" is the best, but more about that soon!