Race Day Countdown

By Angela Lilly

Here we are! You’ve had months of planning, training, learning, nutrition consumption and hopefully, great race day experiences in your blood. As soon as I wake up one week from race day, it’s called “race day countdown”.  We have many challenges, juggling family, career and triathlon training. Here’s some tips for this week.

  1. Get your gear ready now; make sure everything is working as it needs to and do this when you have the time.
  2. Make paper lists; write down what needs to happen every day this week as well as lists for Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if needed) by the hour.
  3. Plan your nutrition liquid and food; whatever it is, stash it at home and make sure you, nor anyone else, consumes it. Nothing worse than packing Friday night and your gel isn’t where you left it.
  4. I like to take my “race gear” out for a test run; everything from the wet suit to the bike with race wheels and whatever you are going to carry for nutrition to even my race day shoes carrying whatever nutrition I am planning to use. It just helps for race day when you are dumping out your bag at T2 and need to get dressed in seconds.
  5. Take care of yourself; you should have more time daily so fill that with “to do items” that are off your feet. I like to use my TP massage roller more and just sit on the floor and stretch while chatting with the kids and paying attention to our dog after school.
  6. Sleep and rest; I’ve set myself a firm bed-time and let those around you know what time this is. Open communication with my husband and kids let’s them know when I’m “on” and “off” duty. They are wonderfully supportive when they know.
  7. Pack the extras in a separate bag; I know what I’m going to race in BUT if it’s cold on Sunday then I might need something to keep my toes or fingers warm prior to the start or during the race. I like to keep all that packed in a separate bag so I’m prepared if I need it, but right now in my planning, I’m not counting on it.
  8. Independent support crew; Team Lilly is ready and with their experience, will rock out their race day with their plan just like I will with mine. If your goal on Sunday is more competitive, let them do their own thing and you do yours. If it’s less competitive, experience every hour together. There is a lot to do between the athlete meeting on Saturday right through to the awards presentations Sunday afternoon. They want you to be your best so go do it.

How to be a Student Athlete

I recently finished 6 years of school completing my undergraduate degree and post-graduate degree.  Training for triathlon can be tough for anyone. School is a time for finding yourself and there are so many opportunities. I am going to lay out some tips on how to train for triathlon during the post-secondary school year.

  1. Always have your training gear with you. You can always squeeze a workout in for a study break or between classes. I found myself swimming between classes when I was not swimming for my varsity team.
  2. Join a varsity team. If you feel confident in one of the sports, joining a varsity team can help you improve that sport and also help you meet like minded people.
  3. Pack your meals!! I can’t say this enough. When training, you need to be prepared to have good food ready. This is especially true if you plan to swim in the morning, have a full day of class and then squeeze in another workout later.
  4. Studying on the trainer can kill two birds with one stone. I find myself looking over notes while doing easy spins. When you are time crunched it just makes sense.
  5. Try to become a morning person. University is tough in that respect because of classes all the time, but getting a workout done in the morning is one less thing to worry about.
  6. Sometimes you have to miss a workout and that’s okay. Sleep and school is important. If you have a big essay or mid-terms coming up just let it go and move on. Triathlon will always be there but school won’t.

Balancing triathlon and school is tough but very rewarding. I could not imagine not racing triathlon in university. I was able to train and race on the swim and cross country teams at my university, represent my school and country at the world university triathlon championships, and also keep myself healthy physically and mentally. Just remember, work hard but also realize it is okay to miss a few workouts!  Happy Training!

-Stevie Blankenship

Why Do We Do Hard Things?

By Emilie Whitson

Do your non-triathlon friends and family ever ask why you voluntarily put yourself through upwards of an hour of physical pain on a regular basis (aka racing triathlons)?

Do you ever wonder to yourself the same thing?

I’m here to give you some great answers, for when your boss asks you why you rode your bike for 5 hours on a weekend.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of experiences we have. If you weren’t looking for a science lesson, stay with me here. Just as our muscles regenerate and recover after a hard effort, ready to come back stronger in anticipation of the next interval, so does our brain.

During workouts, we are creating new neural pathways, allowing us to learn and acquire memories. As it turns out, even though our adult brains are fully developed, they are still mold-able (aka plastic).

How does the brain’s incredible ability to adapt help us in athletic training? The first time you try a skill, your brain’s neural pathways are not optimized. But, as you practice this skill by training or racing, you get a little bit better at it, as neurons and muscle fibers are coordinated more efficiently.

Although we don’t need studies to tell us this as triathletes, the more we practice a skill, the less we have to consciously think about it. (Remember how much thinking you did during your first swimming lesson?)

All this information probably seems straightforward for the motor control aspects of sport, such as timing your swimming kick, or dismounting your bike gracefully. But what about the mental aspects of sport?

You can recruit your brain’s neuroplasticity to help you to be not only a mentally tough athlete, but all around mentally resilient person. Sticking to it during a hard session and teaching yourself not to quit, is a skill that can be learned. Making decisions quickly under pressure is another skill that triathletes need to excel at, that can be transferred into real life application. Anecdotally, athletes who have completed Ironman distance triathlons report greater confidence in every day mentally tough situations.

So the next time someone asks you why you’d choose to suffer during a workout, just tell them- it makes the hard things in life seem not so hard!

Preparing for the Swim in the Pool

Race Simulation Pool Workouts to Prepare for the Swim
Created by: Stevie Blankenship

For many of us busy athletes it can be hard to get to the pool, but also, getting to swim open water safely can be a hassle as it is sometimes hard to sync up times to swim with other swimmers, throughout the summer it starts to get dark earlier, and sometimes a pool simulation workout can be a better choice overall compared to open water! I am going to give you 4 different workouts to get ready for different swim distances.

Sprint Triathlon:
Warm up:
200-800 choice
4×50 as fast/easy by 25

Main set:
2-4x(50 fast! On :10 sec rest, 3×100 on :15 seconds rest at race pace effort, 200 easy on 1:00 rest)

Cool down:
200-400 paddle pull
100 choice

Olympic Triathlon
Warm up:
200-800 choice
4×50 as fast/easy by 25

2-4x(100 fast! On :10 rest, 400 at race pace, 200 easy on 1:00 rest)

Cool down:
200-400 pull paddles
100 choice

Half Distance:
Warm up:
200 choice
Main set:
1000 at race pace, :30 rest, 500 pull paddles, :30 rest, 500 slightly faster

Cool down:
200-400 choice

Full Distance:
Warm up:
200 choice

Main set:
4x 1000 on 1:00 rest 2 and 3 as pull paddles all at race pace

Cool down:
200 choice

These are all great workouts to get ready for your specific distance. To add more to the simulation, try to find someone that is a similar speed and spend time taking turns drafting each other!

Happy Training!

The Mid Season Training Blahs

By Michael Telpner

Last week I woke up at 5:00 a.m., went down to the basement, got on my bike and said: “I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS TODAY”. There comes a point in everyone’s training when you go through the same pre-training rituals that you always follow, but your body just doesn’t want to listen.

I like to call it the “mid-season blahs.”  It’s the time of the year when you’ve been training hard for months, you want to enjoy the summer, but you are still in your training program. You know you should keep going, but your body isn’t listening anymore.

I have been racing triathlons for the past 10 years.  There always seems to be one or two weeks each year where my intrinsic motivation to train fades and I can’t put up the numbers I can.

To manage these times, I have found three things that have worked for me.

  • Take an extra rest day: Yes, I said it. TAKE-AN-EXTRA-REST-DAY.  Sometimes the hardest decision is to NOT train.  When you are dedicated to your sport and disciplined with your training, it is really (really really!) difficult to accept the big, red block on Training Peaks. Recovery from training is often more critical to your performance than anything else, yet we tend to push harder than we should when our bodies are telling us the opposite. If you feel tired, weak, etc. an extra rest day may what you need and restart your training the next day. Remember, taking an extra rest day doesn’t mean you should cram the training you missed into the next day…it means skip it entirely.
  • Change-it-up: Most of the cycling training I do is on a trainer. It can be very lonely. When workouts don’t go as planned, long trainer rides are the first to. This year, I joined the Morning Glory Cycling club. They meet almost every day of the week in Leaside, with a long ride on the weekend. I get a good ride in and focus on the challenge rather than hitting my metrics. Often, I end up riding harder than if I would have ridden alone.
  • Go Naked: Well, that will definitely encourage you to run faster. Train without all the extra gear we have become accustomed to. Sometimes the pressure to “hit” your numbers takes away the pleasure and the reason why we got into the sport in the first place. Separating yourself from all of you “gear” is a great way to rediscover your passion for the sport and separate. Even if your run isn’t recorded on Strava, it still happened.

For me, last week was that week.  It took some convincing from my Toronto Triathlon Club swim friends to take the extra day off. In fact, I took two full days off in a row. Something I haven’t done this season. I got back on my bike yesterday for my first trainer ride in a week. I nailed my workout. It left me feeling motivated for my next session and the feeling more positive about why I race.

What do you do to get over the training valleys during the season?

Happy training,


How does your thyroid affect your endurance training?

— By Raúl Andrés Pérez

Being a triathlete is demanding, and to meet your goals in races you need to ask a lot of your body in training. So what happens when we (triathletes) suffer from a condition that doesn’t allow us to complete our training as expected?

For me, by the end of summer in 2010, I had had several months of being unable to complete my training because I felt so lazy (not intentionally) but I was not doing anything except sitting on the couch, I also had muscle pain frequently, cramps, and feeling that all my body ached; I had never felt those symptoms before so I went to see my family doctor to understand what my problem was.

I always was a really “active” person, full of desire to discover life in different ways, practicing all kind of sports and being happy most of the time.  It was like in the movies when all happens in slow motion and it seems you are a spectator of yourself. The doctor said that word that I never heart before —“Hypothyroidism”, describing what I had after analyzing the routine blood exams I had done.

Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid or low thyroid, is a disorder of the endocrine system in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It can cause a number of symptoms, such as poor ability to tolerate cold, a feeling of fatigue, tiredness, constipation, depression, and weight gain among others.

This was not good news at all for me. My doctor gave me a prescription and said, “We’ll see how it develops from now on”. You will have to take this medication for life. ..  After a few seconds of silence, I still did not understand anything. The doctor handled me a few brochures with related information about the thyroid. That day, started my battle against this “athletic killer”– not literally a killer, but it is very easy to give up and let the symptoms step over you.

Once I got home and started to read all the info received, I called my mother and asked her if she had ever been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Unfortunately, it was in my DNA — my mother had when she was younger.

In time, after taking my medication for several months; I started to feel better, closer to the person I used to be, but never ever the same “me” again.  Since then, the battle continues every single day of my life, every morning I start the day taking medication (… and … do not forget it, it will be a bad day).

It’s a challenge to get through busy days of work with enough energy and then try and fit some good training in as well. Only in time, after so many years, I have been able to rethink my approach to life and continuing to be an Ironman triathlete. My advice for anyone with this condition — absolutely don’t give up training or racing! It’s probably better not to, probably it will be a reason to be excited about yourself having some clear objectives and goals to complete. Additionally, if we stop training, we tend to put on weight more easily and lose it more slowly than others despite the medication. Some people have knee problems to beat, we have thyroid problems. Don’t let the thyroid win 🙂

If you’re anything like me, you’ll wake up one day and have a bad training session and then realize, “hang on, I’ve been having bad training sessions for 6 weeks now”… and then it all clicks. If you get to a point where your training is not progressing, you’re falling asleep during the day for no apparent reason, feeling fatigue after a good night sleep, you’re putting on weight changes despite no alterations in training/diet or you have other factors that led you to look for diagnosis, go and see the doctor again and again, and insist until agrees to check your thyroid with the corresponding blood exams. A big number of people (women and men) are underdiagnosed since it is easy to get confused with other similar conditions. Unfortunately, it’s going to get worse over time (assuming you don’t want to have it surgically removed).

Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
  • Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
  • Coarse, dry hair
  • Dry, rough pale skin
  • Hair loss
  • Cold intolerance (you can’t tolerate cold temperatures like those around you)
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss

It’s been almost eight years now that I‘ve been battling hypothyroidism and despite all complications, I was able to complete my first full Ironman – 140.6 miles – at Mont Tremblant in 2016 (this is considered one of the most challenging races) and also six other Ironman 70.3 races and about 20 Olympic distance triathlons.  Currently I’m training to participate in Ironman Frankfurt this year. Hopefully I will be able to finish it. My thyroid does not control my life. It is me the one responsible for my own actions. I won’t quit. I won’t let my thyroid control me.

Hope this provides some guidance and help to any other fellow triathletes in a similar case like me eight years ago.


Training for the Time Crunched Athlete

By Tim Doris 2017 Multisport Canada Ambassador

An approach to training that works for me, sometimes!

We are all busy with work commitments, family commitments, and extra-curricular activities which in my family are competitive dance, rep. soccer, and baseball, and of course my own training.

The most important thing that I have learned this past year is to schedule my workouts and try to stick to them. This has allowed me to be more consistent with my training and to log a significant amount of running and riding during the winter months. Read more

How to Train for a Spring Training Camp

By Dr. Cindy Lewis, CLPerformance Training

For reasons of pride and practicality, nobody wants to show up at a training camp unprepared.

The prospect of getting outside again in the sunshine to train in warm weather draws a lot of athletes to early spring training camps. Who doesn’t want to take a break from the pre-dawn swim sessions and hours on the trainer to get a head start on your season – especially in a vacation destination like Arizona? But showing up unprepared, and hoping to launch your training for the season there can really backfire. The last thing you want is to be bailed out mid-workout and hold the rest of your group back, or sit out the last few days because of an injury that will take several more weeks to rehab.

Here are some tips to make sure you arrive prepared to make the most of the opportunity. Read more

How Watching The Pros Can Help You In Triathlons

By Anne Belanger

Are you a new triathlete looking to make improvements on technique but can’t afford a coach? Do you have a coach but still want to supplement your training free of cost? Watching professional triathletes tackle their hardest races can provide valuable insights into form and techniques that you can adapt into your own training.

As a young athlete, I always watched professional athletes competing in their respective sports.  While I was a hockey goaltender, I would watch the amazing saves section of Don Cherry’s Rock em’ Sock em’ movies or a 101 Epic Soccer Saves video before playing goalie in a soccer game. These segments allowed me to analyze the body movements used by professional athletes and I gained insight into their tendencies while they were performing at their best. During my own competitions and practices I would picture how the professionals reacted and try to mimic this form, in the hopes that it would improve my own performance. These same techniques can be used in the sport of triathlon. A new triathlete can watch how the professionals move during the swim, run, bike and transitions to look for insights into body form and performance. I’ve been using this training approach myself for triathlons. Read more

The Image of Success

You’re halfway through an early morning run. The sun is rising and you’re feeling alive. Then you feel the burn and your thoughts start racing. That inner voice urges you to pull back, and your pace slips.

If you’re serious about improving performance, training your body is only half the battle. Developing your mental power is just as important – and requires just as much practice. By harnessing your mental energy you can overcome the physical challenges that come with a strenuous run. Here are some “mind games” professional trainers recommend to help you pull out all the stops on race day.

Get the tips to harness your brainpower.