Brian Finley, Dai Endurance athlete’s Carson Epic Odyssey

Coaches note…In my experience it’s the mental grit that drives the physical. It’s a rarity we toe the start line and feel physically invincible the entire race. Endurance events are mental gymnastics, with highs and lows. We fight mentally to pull ourselves up from the low points. I think the races where we mentally have to fight for it, are empowering and provide invaluable confidence. To me they are the most gratifying!

Enjoy the recount and read from Brian…

Wow what a day and race.  Overall I really feel good about the race.  I found a way to hang in there and put my head down and just keep the pedals turning that last lap which was brutal in the heat.  I am super satisfied about being able to grind it out that last lap.

I approached the race just like you recommended by breaking down each segment, and moving on to the next segment.  It was easy the first lap.  The first lap obviously felt great, it was fun, flowy, fast single track.

The 2nd lap is where I needed to really break it down like you recommended.  I know the area and trail system well and broke down the climb into a couple of sections with my eye on the tree line, because that was the mark of the decent.  I held back on the intensity and stayed within myself.  I felt great!

The start of the 3rd lap, I felt like i was quickly slapped in the face! The heat and sun were tough at this point.  I felt strong on most of the first section of the climb through the switchbacks.  I was able to  gap the group I was with, and they never caught me the rest of the day!  I was passing a lot of people at this point – it was carnage everywhere.  Any spot of shade there were people lying down, collecting themselves.

I have to admit, it was hard to keep grinding when you are at this point and you see so many people in the shade lying down.  I made it to the aid station and was really feeling pretty rough.  My heart rate was through the roof and I took in a lot of fluids.  I forced myself to sit on my bike in the shade for five minutes to get my heart rate down.  During this break I mentally went through the remaining climb, my heart rate came down and I knew I could just keep turning the pedals, repeating, “Don’t stop, I will get to the trees shortly.”  Once I got on my bike, I broke down  the remaining climb in to sections –  1) Get to the single track, 2) Get to the next ridge 3) Then the next ridge 4) Then one more ridge to the tree line!  Mentally it was great for me to do this and I did not have to stop.

I finished strong and had legs to push to the end.

During a race like this, you end up riding with a lot of the same people, they pass you here, you pass them there, you see each other at the aid stations. Well the start of the third lap, I have to tell you I felt great gapping the group with I was riding.  I only saw them again in the finish while sharing stories over a beer! I looked at my lap times and my third lap was only 18 minutes slower than my second, which surprised me, I thought I was much slower.

It was gratifying for me to mentally stick with it, and keep grinding.  Looking back I am really happy with how I did!

Thanks again Julie,  This is fun and I love seeing and feeling the progress, Talk soon

Brian

Being ready

Many athletes I know need to be told to take an off season, do some different things, not feel the need to ‘train’ every day, and let the body and mind get fresh and excited for the next season. Not me, and definitely not this year – I was more than ready for winter. I wasn’t physically tired, or injured or sore – my body was holding up just fine, but the spark to train and race had gone. It wasn’t rest I needed so much as change. I’d spent a whole season focused just on cycling and, although I realized it too late into my season to prevent burnout,  I had desperately missed the variety of being a multisport athlete. Those who know me are aware that I’m really not a swimmer – it has always been a ‘must do’ part of triathlon training for me rather than something I truly enjoyed. But by the time fall came around, I even was excited to swim! Yes, a brand new pool 5 minutes from my door and formation of a swim training group (thanks Boost Swimming!) really helped with that, but still, me, excited to swim – I never thought I would see the day! It had been a long season, with cyclocross running all the way through until the snow started to fall in mid-December and while I discovered how much I loved cx racing, learned an incredible amount about this new (for me) discipline, and even won a race, I was ready to hang up my bikes for the winter. Luckily winter delivered all the snow we could possibly want (far too much for some!) and I could cross country ski all I wanted, with the added bonus of built in strength workouts with what felt like days on end of shoveling snow just to be able to get out of the house.

 

Luna enjoyed ski season too!
Luna enjoyed ski season too!

 

Digging out the front door
Digging out the front door

 

Winter adventures
Winter adventures

 

I really didn’t think of my activities over the winter as training – it was just part of daily life, which living where I do means there is no lack of options available! If the weather didn’t cooperate with plans, I switched to a different activity – some days there was too much snow for anywhere to open to ski, and some storms were just too plain dangerous to be outside in, with roads often impassable even for the best of vehicles and driver. I swam pretty consistently with the swim group all winter, did a bit of running of no particular distance or intensity (this resulted in some happy dogs!), a good amount of skate and classic skiing (a couple of times I skied right out of my front door!), some telemark skiing (one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to even become vaguely proficient at!), snowboarding, snowshoeing, and along with snow shoveling and firewood hauling strength workouts I hit the gym on a pretty regular basis.  There was some structure expertly built into my weeks without me really realizing it by Julie of Dai Endurance, but it didn’t feel like it most of the time, and I felt free to enjoy winter without worrying too much about being ‘fit’ for the season ahead.

When many friends were driving to ride their bikes out of the snow, I didn’t even want to think about it. Despite having a new bike (thanks Roseville Cyclery!) sitting in the garage, I had no motivation to ride (I probably rode the trainer twice or three times all winter when I literally couldn’t get out of the house to do anything else due to snow), and even coming in to March, with bike racing in these parts starting up, I was still firmly in winter mode. I knew at some point I would be excited to ride again, and I would know when I was ready to race so I wasn’t worried (even though I know Dennis was getting a little concerned that my new bike was going to go un-ridden and he was preparing to take ownership of it himself!).

 

Testing with Julie of Dai Endurance at the Kaiser Endurance Lab in Sacramento
Testing with Julie of Dai Endurance at the Kaiser Endurance Lab in Sacramento

 

The change was sudden – whether it was the one week near the start of March where the sun finally came out (it honestly felt like we had been under a blanket of grey stormy skies since December!), or the early clock change giving us more evening daylight, or just being patient enough to give myself enough time, I don’t know, but all of a sudden I couldn’t wait to get on my bike. I was ready for structured training and I really wanted to race the early season Xterra that was a couple of weeks away. The ski’s got put away (mostly), and I finally drove down the hill to hit the trails on my new bike – it felt familiar, yet like I was just experiencing the trails again for the first time. The trainer seemed fun, I had purpose, and I got motivated to do some testing with Julie at the new Kaiser Endurance Lab to see where my fitness was from a science perspective. Yes, I lost some pure watts over the winter, but I felt strong in other ways, and most of all I was excited – which for me, usually goes further on a race course than science.

 

Xterra Real - thanks TBF racing! Photo credit: Craig Dvta
Xterra Real – thanks TBF racing! Photo credit: Craig Dvta

 

So this weekend, I raced Xterra for the first time in quite a while (I took last year off from triathlon) – I was even willing to drive through a spring storm to get over the pass at dark o’clock in the morning. I could count the number of times I had ridden my bike since December on one hand, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to race and see where my fitness was at to build on for the rest of the season – something I am now fully ready to focus on with structured training.

The water was freezing and filled with all manner of floating debris from the crazy California winter (the race organizers, TBF Racing, had done as best a job as they could possibly to do to remove the large objects so it was safe but it was a losing battle for the smaller tree limbs!), and the bike course was heavily modified with long road sections so we didn’t damage the water saturated trails beyond repair but I loved every minute of it. It didn’t feel (as many early season races do) like blowing out the cobwebs – I felt surprisingly strong (that excitement to race I’m sure has a lot to do with that!), and was able to push my body to close to those race intensities; I felt fresh – a feeling I’d struggled to find in a lot of races last year. I wasn’t that focused on the result today but I turned in a third overall female and an age group win, with two strong pro’s taking the top two spots.

 

Running in to the finish for the age group win and 3rd female overall. Thanks Craig Dvta for the pic!
Running in to the finish for the age group win and 3rd female overall. Thanks Craig Dvta for the pic!

 

Overall female podium - Julie Baker, Jessie Koltz, and me. Good job I'd been working on some stability as the podium step sure was wobbly!
Overall female podium – Julie Baker, Jessie Koltz, and me. Good job I’d been working on some stability as the podium step sure was wobbly!

 

So, to anyone who worries about losing fitness in the winter, not being able to train in poor weather conditions, or when the thought of ‘training’ everyday just sounds awful, I say give yourself a break. Try a new activity, do what sounds fun and if some days that is nothing then do nothing. Figure out what ‘normal’ people do each day and do some of that. Find a coach who embraces this type of off-season with you and can build you a flexible plan over the winter with the right mix of variety and fun movement, coupled with a strength and mobility plan that will build you a strong foundation and an injury-proof body for the upcoming season. You will know when you are ready and excited to hit the structured and focused training for your chosen sport again – there is plenty of time in the season to do that, you don’t need to do it all winter long as well.

Engadin XC Ski race by Dai! Athlete Michael Cohen

Yes indeed 42.5 km! I am only going to tell you part of the long story which is not particularly interesting but worth telling.

I will omit the question of logistics for 8,000 Skiers and the controlled chaos that the Swiss have mastered, getting everyone to the race, through the race, and home on time.

It was not terribly cold, but cold enough for me to wear a fair amount of clothes, namely medium long johns under my racing suit: so I carried nothing. There were plenty of drinks stops and they were well organized.

They let people run out of paddocks. I think there were about six or seven of them, just like the paddocks that people put cows in. That would be nearly a thousand people in each paddock. While waiting in this crowd I discussed the experience of the race with a Dutch woman who had married a Swiss made man. She had done the race approximately 30 times: she thought this would be the last time, because of the crowds and chaos. I would say she was 50 years old. But the paddock system worked smoothly for me. After you are let out of the paddock you can put on your skis and ski away. Timing is by chips, after all.

So they let you out of the paddock and suddenly you are skiing across this wonderful lake with mountains in front of you and behind. It is truly the most scenic ski race I have ever seen. You continue to ski across lakes for a good long time: no incidents among the skiers probably because I was in a relatively fast wave and the tracks are very wide. Most of the racers in my group were faster than me, because I was being careful. I had an injury and some swelling to my elbow in the World Masters 30 K, not from a fall, but from wrenching it while getting out of the way of a train of 30-year-old-men who were going to run me over. I didn’t want to test it. In fact, I skied the Engadin course using poles as little as possible.

While we were beginning to traverse both Lake Sils and Lake Silvaplana, the sun came out.

After about 10K-plus on the lakes, one arrives at gently rolling country. The snow, by the way, was excellent on the lakes, the general course, and fair on some curves. It did not deteriorate as we went down the hills. My skis were fast but having fast skis doesn’t get you up the hills and I will tell you why.

When you come to hill you also come upon a very large crowd of people standing around and waiting for the ones in front to go up the slope: they tend to go in approximately three separate lines next to each other so it’s just like being at a bus station or in the cafeteria. At the first hill I waited nearly 10 minutes and the only problem I had with my elbow was holding myself on the slope until I could start skiing.

There is a famous dance down a hill called the Stazerwald Downhill, adorned with mattresses on the trees, where all the people get congested and the local citizens laugh and point and the TV cameras focus on Woopsies. I discovered that it is possible and legal to simply run down a walking trail and miss the whole mess and I did so which saved me time and from snow plowing through the trees, avoiding downed skiers, in loose snow covering ice.

There were other minor incidents on hill climbs where you had to wait, but none of them were a serious problem.

Because of my elbow, I considered doing the half marathon, but when I got half way, I thought otherwise. The whole blue hullabaloo at the end of the half marathon was so horrifying and circus-like, with loud music and booths selling products, and such, that I decided to avoid it by continuing the marathon and this was a good choice because the skiing continued to be fast, enjoyable, and scenic.

Toward the end many people surrounding me became tired and therefore sloppy but there weren’t so many of us and it was possible to get around them or to give them room. Our bibs had our names on them, so you could say, “Helga, I am going to pass on the right now.”

I would say that I had my poles stepped on maybe six or eight times, but never badly. and nobody cut me off and I didn’t cut off anybody. Occasionally I would double pole in the classic track just for variety and that seemed to work.

Like everyone else I got tired but I never really put out a maximum effort. I just skied along on the flat and only slight down hills and looked around.

If you are interested, sometime later I will tell you about the scene at the end of the race with thousands of racers waiting for a train and the three connections that I made by stepping from one train to another with no wait at all. The Swiss trains run on time!

 

My life’s perspective and racing

From Dai! athlete Trixie Bradley:

I participated in the Chico Stage Race for the first time this year. I was very excited and looking forward to this race for months. It wasn’t until I was on my way to Chico that the nerves started to set in. On my way, my coach, Julie Young texted. I told her how nervous I was and she told me we all get nervous, but take this opportunity to take control. She reminded me that I am in control of my thoughts and they do not control me. Deep down I know that but how easily I forget it under pressure. It reminded me of all life’s lessons I hold dear: Think before you act….Don’t react but respond…Don’t let your emotions get the best of you! Getting her insight helped my nerves go away and to not lose sight of the woman I strive to be and how I tackle this thing called life and racing.
You see, I am a woman of faith. I believe that God created me and that this life here on earth is just a moment of time. Life is full of ups and downs and we get ourselves into situations where we have to make decisions. We are full of emotions and how we choose to deal with them is up to US! Racing for me intertwines my life on earth and my faith. I am very competitive and can easily get wrapped up into my self. The amount of time I spend training, my attitude at races and preparing. I put these expectations on myself and if I am not careful I get all consumed with racing and winning.


You see my weekend racing in Chico did not go as well as planned. I just did not have what I needed to finish strong! It was on the last stage during the TT where I got to make those life choices. I was already feeling disappointed from my performance in the Criterium and could have easily carried that over onto the TT. Instead, while getting passed during the race I choose to encourage those ladies. I truly was amazed at there ability and so happy they were doing as well as they were!


On my drive back home I got a call from my coach. She reminded me that everyone has off races and it just helps us fuel our training. It keeps us motivated and moving forward. If everything came easy it would not mean as much. It’s funny how life works out because not doing well at Chico reinforced the importance of the choices we make in life and how our choices can affect others. It reminded me to keep the true importance in life my top priority and to always keep a smile on my face and to love others even in my own adversity. It was through my coaches words of advise that I was able to process and set forth the right path. To me…my coach is not only someone who develops my exercise plan but also helps me to keep perspective in my life. So, thank you coach Julie for always being there to speak truth into my life and for encouraging me to always race with abandon! You’re truly are very special!

Embracing Winter

Contributed by Dai! Endurance athlete, Kim Larson

I once read an article about 10 health benefits of cross country skiing. I never thought twice about it after flipping through it, until this year. With 23 feet of snow in January (more then we have seen in the Truckee-Tahoe area for over 5 years) I needed to find something for myself and my yellow lab Kuta to do so we could both get exercise and not have to stay on the roads walking with a leash.

I decided to buy myself a pair of cross country skis and with the help of a good friend I got a few

pointers and started taking Kuta up to Tahoe Donner XC, where they have 5 miles of dog friendly trails. I quickly learned this was going to be a great workout for the both of us!

Getting used to skinny skis with no edges is a little awkward at first, especially when you spend your weekends teaching downhill skiing. But with practice we are now making it a little further out on the trails each time and with less falls. I remember the article saying that XC skiing gives you a full body work out, and I couldn’t agree more. After the first time out, and a few hard falls going downhill, my body was so sore! I could barely lift my arms and my glutes hurt, worse than after a long break in running.

Another thing I remembered the article talking about was how social xc skiing can be. That is 
spot on, it could be because we are on the dog trails, and most dog owners are super friendly, but every time we go out we meet someone new who asks how things are going. There are not a lot of social sports – but this really is one! I also find it is a great way to unwind after a long day of working and just like mountain biking and trail running, it is just you and nature (at least where I live). It’s great exercise, tough on the muscles – easy on the joints and all you have to do is slide one ski in front of the other.

Embracing winter this year is important, and I think I found a way to do it! Here’s to a winter of cross training, getting outdoors and learning a new sport!

Sometimes it takes more than just listening to your body

 

Photography by Daphne Houghard

Sian Turner Crespo grew up immersed in sports, from figure skating and field hockey to golf, tennis and cricket.

As a young adult, she discovered competitive cycling and jumped into XTERRA races, qualifying for both the U.S. and World Championships in her first season in 2011. She quickly progressed in the XTERRA ranks, and in 2014 (and 2015) achieved national championship titles and 4th places at Worlds.

You could say she knows a thing or two about how her body works and what she has to do to stay competitive.

And one of the things she does is train with Julie Young of Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab. “It’s definitely about having someone to be accountable to and to be able to give feedback and bounce ideas off of,” she says. “But Julie also brings the experience and expertise of being a world-class athlete herself. She plans my training workout-by-workout, but also looks at the big picture with an annual plan.”

Crespo has been training with Young for the past four years, pretty much year-round. “We might take a month off every now and then for a mental break, but then we’re back at it,” she says.

Crespo started as an endurance cyclist, but she recently switched to cyclocross, a very short, yet intense cycling discipline. “It’s a totally different deal and my training had to be adjusted accordingly,” she says. “I realized I didn’t have the top-end strength I needed to be competitive so my training plan changed with a specific focus on that kind of racing.”

“Sian is committed — to her sport, her training and herself,” Young shares. “And that was evidenced in her continual improvement in her new sport, resulting in a win of her last race of the year.”

In addition to her regular training, Crespo goes through testing once or twice a year so that Young can measure her lactate levels, bike power and other elements. Then Young tweaks the plan to accommodate any changes the testing reveals.

“Julie knows me and what I’m capable of. She combines that with the science and data she has accumulated to put together a training plan specifically for me,” Crespo says.

 

Now in her off-season, Crespo is focused on strength-building. “I’m getting in the gym and getting stronger,” she says. “This way my body will be ready to train at a higher intensity when the season starts.”

Young also listens to Crespo’s goals. “She knows what I want to achieve and then helps me get there,” Crespo says. “And she has so much experience herself that she can pass on the tactical aspects of being in the race.”

“Everybody is different and so everybody needs a plan specific to their own abilities and goals,” Young shares. “We look at their current lifestyle, work and family demands and their goals to create a plan that will get them there.”

Young says that communication is key to the training process. “It’s essential that I understand what they’re going through, where they’re struggling and where they’re excelling. I also need to know what in their personal life might be holding them back. This allows me to provide proper motivation that works.”

Crespo echoes that: “She can tell where I’m at and if I’m telling the truth about my workouts. She picks up on signs and will let me know when I need to push harder or back off and rest.”

Young stresses that fitness and improved performance should be a lifestyle not something to tick off a bucket list. “Training is a process that takes consistent commitment and patience,” she shares. “You have to love it for what it does for you on a daily basis which, ultimately, leads to a healthier overall life.”

For more information on Silver Sage’s endurance coaching and training plans, click here. And then contact us at 530-448-0498 for a free coaching consultation.

Embracing My Strength

 

I don’t know about you, but for me embracing my strengths has been a battle.  I take for granted my God given talents and insanely continue to look at the things that are most difficult for me.  I have justified in my head that it is good to look at things I am not good at so I can strive to get better.  That is a tricky statement!  As an athlete, I want to continue to push myself and get stronger and faster.  I want to learn new things and continue grow and blossom into the athlete I strive to be.  The problem I am realizing is that the majority of us cannot and will not be good at everything we try to do.  Continually looking at the things I struggle with deflate me emotionally and physically.  It puts me in a state of comparing myself to the athletes that are great at the things I am not.  WHY continue to beat myself up when I could be filling myself with positive more uplifting things.  I am NOT saying I should stop trying to get stronger and faster.  I am just saying I need to look at the things that come naturally for me and build on that.

It took me a year of battling myself and convincing myself that if I trained hard enough I could be great at anything I set before me only to find myself falling short.  Again, I was feeling deflated and torn.  I don’t know what switched in my thinking but I became O.K. with the fact that I was never going to be a fast hill climber.  I became O.K with not being able to keep a hummingbird pace with my legs while trying to get up that long steep hill.  I became O.K with ME!  I finally started to believe what my coach Julie had been telling me all along.  I am strong and powerful.  I can use my strengths and set myself up for success in my races.  It’s O.K to set my cadence that works for my body, my strengths.

As I approach my 2nd year of racing, I am excited to have a renewed mind and heart.  I feel blessed to have the strengths I do and I look forward to a year of building on the foundation I was blessed with.  It will be a year of embracing all my strengths God gave me and being happy right where I am!

Thanks Coach Julie for always believing in me and encouraging me,

Trixie Bradley