10 Reasons to Love Heat Training

10 Reasons to Love Heat Training
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You don’t normally see heat-training articles pop up in September, but there you have it: while Starbucks is proudly serving Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the San Francisco Bay Area is a toasty 102 degrees.

A normal person would heed the heat advisory and stay in the air-conditioned comfort of their home, work out in the gym or get in that run, ride or swim before the sun rises in all its Indian Summer glory.

A runner or triathlete, however, would rejoice at the opportunity to get some beneficial heat training. That’s right: I said it’s good for you.

As long as you do it safely – hydrate, hydrate, listen to your body, know the signs of heat stroke or exhaustion, hydrate again! – training in hot weather can not only be fun, it could make you a better athlete in the long run. Here is why:

heat training

1. Heat adaptation improves performance

In some studies, by as much as 4% to 8%. If you’re the competitive type, that might mean the difference between placing in your age group or ending your race a few seconds off the podium.

2. It increases plasma volume

Plasma transports blood cells around your body. More plasma = more oxygen being carried around in your blood cells, to feed your hard-working muscles. Plasma volume decreases during prolonged exercise, so the more of it you have to begin with, the better. (Wow, I am way oversimplifying this… There is quite a bit of medical research on the topic if you prefer the legit explanation.)

3. Running on those cool race mornings will feel effortless

Get used to running in the heat, and those early-morning races will feel like a breeze. And if you end up racing on a hot day, as luck would have it — well, then, you’ll be well prepared for that, right?

4. You get your full of Vitamin D

A widely-cited clinical study published in the March 2010 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that 59% of test subjects — healthy young women living in Southern California, at that! — were vitamin D-deficient. Crazy, right? Vitamin D is essential for bone health; insufficiency is linked to increased body fat and decreased muscle strength. Get your daily dose on a sunny run; just don’t overdo it. Wear sunscreen.

5. You’ll be so ready for long-course triathlon and those mid-day Ragnar legs!

Has the thought of trying an Ironman or 70.3 entered your mind? Or are you more of a Ragnar Relay type of athlete? Nothing like mid-day runs in the heat to get your body ready for race day, when you will likely be starting your run leg smack in the middle of the day.

6. You can run sexy!


(image source)

OK, we’re entering the not-so-scientific portion of my list now. But how about those short-shorts you can wear without freezing your butt off, or a sexy short skirt?

7. You’ll work on your (sexy) tan


(image source)
Ever see a pair of legs like those walking down the street? Give their owner a high-five, chances are you both love running or biking in the heat.

8. Other runners will think you’re crazy — and badass

Among those who share your love or running, training in the middle of the day when it’s a gazillion degrees out elicits awe and respect. They probably think you’re crazy, too. But never mind that, they’ll realize how smartly you trained after you show ‘em who’s boss at that next super-hot race.

9. That post-run glass of [water] has never tasted better

Or Nuun. Or beer. Hey, someone has to admit it? Nothing – nothing – tastes better than a chilled glass of the amber brew (your favorite IPA?) after a super-hot, super-hard run or ride in the scorching sun. Don’t judge!

10. You may make like-minded (crazy) friends

Train regularly at the hottest time of day, and you’ll notice one of two things: you’re always the only person out running; or you run into the “regulars,” others who are just as crazy as you are to venture out in the heat. Who knows, maybe you’ll make new running friends that way. Wave hello if you see me!

[tweetthis]Heat wave? Bring it! Check out these 10 reasons why you should love training in the heat.[/tweetthis]

Do you ever train in the heat? What are your survival tips?

Tri Talk Tuesday: Recovery and Rest for Moms

Tri Talk Tuesday: Recovery and Rest for Moms
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Tri Talk Tuesday is a monthly linkup hosted by You Signed Up For WHAT?!, Blisters and Black Toenails, and The TriGirl Chronicles. I LOVE this month’s topic, Recovery and Rest for Moms. What a great month to join the conversation!

Triathlon Recovery

They say that nutrition is the fourth discipline in triathlon.

If that is the case, then recovery is the fifth. (Blowing snot rockets is the sixth, but let’s talk about that some other time…)

The thing is, though, many of us triathletes also happen to be Type A personalities who are always in go-go-go mode. You’ve got to be that way if you’re going to balance life, work and three sports, right?

Well, not really. I don’t need to tell you that pushing your body too hard, without allowing it to rebuild, will ultimately break it down. Everybody knows that.

[tweetthis]”Anyone can work hard. The best have the discipline to recover. @laurenfleshman [/tweetthis]

Knowing is one thing, however, doing is another. Add being a mom to the mix, and the chances of R&R falling by the wayside increase exponentially. Now that school is back in session, mornings are crazy and evenings are for catching up on housework, work, doing that evening session on the trainer or in the pool…

Nine hours of sleep? Whoever could do that??

Sleep is important, of course, but it isn’t everything. There are the other usual suspects in proper recovery: how you eat and drink, how you structure training – those things make all the difference.

I wanted to share a few things that I’ve been doing in the past two years that, I believe wholeheartedly, have made it possible for me to:

– train seven days a week (that’s right, every day!) for weeks and months at a time;
– train twice a day at least two or three times a week;
– schedule back-to-back races (like the Livermore Half Marathon and San Francisco Rock’n’Roll on the same weekend; and Ironman 70.3 Hawaii and Escape From Alcatraz on two consecutive weekends) and complete them all in good time and injury-free;
– and, not least, PR a whole bunch of run-distances this year (5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon) and do well in triathlon, too.

Of course, those are things that I have found work well for me. I am not a doctor. I am not a professional runner or triathlete. Take everything with a grain of salt.

Sleep early, sleep often

I feel like a hypocrite saying this because my son is now seven and sleeps through the night. This was not the case up until he was three and a half years old, though, and I remember chronic sleep-deprivation quite well. To all moms with babies, toddlers and, in general, bad sleepers… oh, I understand!

But without enough sleep, our bodies cannot properly repair the muscle fibers we tear up in training and racing.

These days, I try to be in bed by 10 p.m., even if I don’t have to wake up at 5 am or 5:30 the next morning. If I have an early-morning date with the pool or my triathlon training group, I go to bed even earlier. And believe me, if I had the opportunity to take mid-day naps, I absolutely would!

Structure training wisely

I alternate days of hard workouts – especially running – with days of swimming and/ or spinning out the legs on the bike. When training for a marathon and focusing on running exclusively, I alternate hard runs – intervals, tempo runs or hill repeats – with super-easy 30- to 40-minute runs at an aerobic pace.

On days when I train hardest, I go to bed earliest.

Recover actively

I am a firm believer in active recovery. I have found that it works better for me than taking a complete day off; but that may not be the case for everyone. If you feel like your legs are getting heavier and heavier after each run or ride, take a day off. Swimming is a great, super low-impact way to add some action into an otherwise low-key day.

This is especially true post race, when your body needs rest the most. I take at least a couple of days completely off after key races. This allows me to recover physically as much as it gives me a mental break from all things running and triathlon.

Eat the right foods, at the right time

This is obvious, but I can’t not mention it. First, I always have some carbohydrate within 30 minutes of training. This is to replenish the body’s glycogen stores. Then I have some protein, healthy fats, and more carbs. Carbs are a triathlete’s best friend!

Also, they are delicious:

(There’s protein in there, too! Picky Bars are 4:1 carb to protein ratio, which is just the perfect formula for recovery. It’s science, dude.)

I also eat a LOT of this:

The fats in avocado are anti-inflammatory. So is Sriracha sauce. They taste delicious together.

I might often be too busy to whip up a healthy nutritious smoothie (and have to clean the blender afterwards), but I always have time to cut a bagel in two, toast it, smush up an avocado – yes, a whole one – on top of it, and drizzle it with Sriracha sauce.

Don’t feel guilty about downtime!

Finally, something that I struggle with on a daily basis: Mommy guilt. I go on a three-hour bike ride in the wee hours of Saturday morning, back home by 10 a.m., and then it’s a full day of activities and family fun. You wish you could just take a nap, right?

Well, sometimes, you should give yourself permission to take that nap. Or come up with an activity that gives you a bit more down time: day by the pool? BBQ in the back yard? Go to the movies? You can’t be always in “ON” mode and train, work, run around and parent, brimming with energy. Those moms don’t really exist, do they?

[tweetthis]Triathlon recovery and rest for moms on #TriTalkTuesday! #triathlon #womenfortri #swimbikerun #realwomenMOVE #sweatpink [/tweetthis]

What do you do to rest and recover from training and racing?

Next month’s Tri Talk topic is OFF SEASON. Can’t wait!

Escaped from Alcatraz

Escaped from Alcatraz
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If loving triathlon is a crime, I plead guilty. So lock me up in Alcatraz and see if I can escape.

Oh wait, that already happened!

On June 7, 2015, I was one of nearly 2,000 triathlon-loving convicts sitting on the floors of the San Francisco Belle, on a one-way trip through the unwelcoming waters of the San Francisco Bay. Next stop: Alcatraz. We would not be dashing into the ocean from the beach, or swimming in and calmly treading water before the starting gun went off. Fittingly for this race – one like no other in triathlon – we would be jumping from a boat and beginning the swim immediately.

The infamous first leap is what I was dreading most in the months leading up to Escape from Alcatraz. Everyone jumps within seven minutes. How crowded will the water be? Will I get pushed? Hit? Swum over? Yes, as it happened, all of those things.

Escape from Alcatraz is known for its rough swim, hilly and technical ride, and hilly run featuring multiple stairs, running on the beach and up a 400-step sand-ladder. Truly an unforgettable race, from the first step on the boat to crossing the finish.

The Boat

“You have three minutes to board the boat. The boat leaves the pier in three minutes. You don’t want to miss the boat!”

The humor was not lost on us. A dark line of semi-sleepy, semi-nervous folks in wetsuits, we walked slowly (solemnly?) from the shuttle bus that just dropped us off at Pier 3, towards the unmistakable beeping sound of a timing mat. Only later did it occur to me that this was done to count the number of people getting on board. Two-thirds of us, it turned out, were men.

That men greatly outnumbered women became clear immediately upon entry, when we bumped into a long line curving its way to the men’s restrooms… and no line whatsoever to the women’s. A race-day miracle! As is my habit, I decided to go – even though I didn’t need to quite yet. You never know with these things, plus: I did get some smart advice from a gal in there. As we chatted about the water temperature and how it would feel upon jumping, she said: Oh, it’s cold. But if you pee in your wetsuit right before you jump, it won’t feel that bad.

Really? Pee while standing on the deck of a boat, before I’m in the water? Welcome to triathlon: a sport where you pee just about anywhere.

Anyway, the pee business taken care of, my next task was to find a space to sit. There were two levels (floors?) on the boat; anyone 40 years old and younger was on the first level. The interior was stripped of seats or any furniture besides the plush Persian-style carpet. By the time I boarded (three minutes to go, remember?), all of the wall space was taken up, as was most of the floor. After walking over protruding legs, arms and, occasionally, a horizontal body trying to nap, I finally found a spot. Not enough space to stretch my legs, so for a while I kept my knees up to my chin, closed my eyes and tried to ignore the noise.

This, of course, was impossible. Imagine a thousand people lined up like sardines in an enclosed space with remarkable acoustics, all talking at the same time. I gave up my short attempts at meditating and started eavesdropping the conversations around me. Most were about swimming, biking, running, or all of the above. What did you expect?

One conversation was particularly memorable, though. To my right sat a tall, tan, lean woman with long dark hair. Imagine a modern-day Goddess Nike clad in a black-and-gold wetsuit; that was her. The man next to her was tall, blond and very athletic-looking, also. He asked in a distinctively German accent:

So, what is your strongest discipline?
[FYI, guys: if you ever find yourself on a boat with a bunch of triathletes at the start of a race, this is not a bad opening line. Extra points for using the word “strongest” and not “favorite,” too.]


Oh, mine too! So you swam in college? Or high school?

I swam for Greece.

[So. She literally was Greek.]

That’s great, did you go to Athens?

[As in, the 2004 Olympics.]

Yes, I did.

Me, as well. I swam for Germany.

At which point I had to bury my face back in my knees, because a hysterical whelp would’ve otherwise escaped my lips.

I was on a freaking boat, about to jump and swim a mile and a half in the angry cold ocean, and next to me was the freaking Olympics.

It’s fine. Everything will be fine.

The minutes must have been ticking more quickly than I realized, because in a few more blinks the loud voice in the speakers informed us that we were about to listen to the national anthem. We all stood up.

Listening to the national anthem is one of my favorite parts of racing. There’s something stately, majestic even, about a large, noisy crowd that almost immediately hushes down, knowing that we’re a “home of the brave” away from beginning yet another challenge, journey, or whatever it is each of us came to pursue. Now multiply this feeling by a thousand, and you might get an idea of what it was like on the San Francisco Belle. Hundreds of us, huddled together, swimcaps on, goggles on, swaying gently back and forth with the rhythm of the boat — at the point of no return.

Then the pros walked by to the loudest cheers the crowd could master, and the gun went off.

The Swim

My little spot next to the Olympians turned out to be a mere three steps from the door we all walked out of to jump, so within seconds of the gun, I was staring at the water. I jumped without thinking. The part I had dreaded the most turned out to be easiest.

[video source]

I started swimming immediately, sighting to my left as instructed, in order to fight the current that was pulling us to the right. I didn’t feel any currents. All I felt were waves, bodies and limbs. I must have been one of the first jumpers, because in the next (who knows how many minutes), I got kicked, hit, swum over, kicked and hit again, and again. It truly felt like everyone else was moving, but me. I kept pulling, kicking, sighting, pulling again, sighting – all while feeling like I was not gaining a single yard.

The lack of buoys didn’t help, either. Unlike every single OWS I’ve done, the Escape route is not marked by buoys – or kayaks, for that matter. I knew there were kayaks somewhere out there, watching out for us, but the waves and the people made it pretty much impossible to see them. The crowd spread out so much that I questioned my swim direction constantly. Am I going the right way? Will I end up under the bridge by mistake?

When will this end?

When finally, finally, I saw people standing up and walking to shore, I looked at my watch and was floored: the swim had taken me less than 40 minutes. A good three minutes less to swim 1.5 miles than I had needed just a week before, to swim 1.2 miles at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.

A few rushed steps to get out of the beach and cross the swim-out mat, and I was on my way to T1.

Swim time: 40:50
(1:33/ 100yds; Pace: 27 AG, 1003 overall)

Transition 1

Like most anything Escape, the swim-to-bike transition is interesting. It features a brisk 0.6-mile run along the Marina Green to T1, so the organizers give participants the option to leave a small bag with a pair of running shoes (and a towel, if you’d like) for the short run.
Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 9.05.12 PM
Which I took advantage of, against my gut feeling and Coach D’s advice. (The Santa Cruz Triathlon and Tri Santa Cruz both have nearly a 0.5-mile run from the ocean to T1, and running that barefoot is perfectly fine.) I lost a good two minutes taking off my booties, drying my feet and putting on the stupid shoes. Rookie mistake. If I’m lucky to do this race again, I know better.

T1 time: 8:51

The Bike

Here’s the bike course in a nutshell: two miles flat, 14 miles hill repeats, two miles flat. The end.

Really. This was hilliest, most technical course I’ve ridden so far. I think the views were pretty? I was too busy watching the road and slamming on the brakes on the downhills, or pushing like mad to go uphill. As a result, I remember these little things about the bike:

1. Running out of T1, right before the Mount line, we saw Andy Potts and Eric Lagerstrom run towards the finish in a mad sprint. Eric Lagerstrom ended up winning by two seconds, which I watched later on video. Epic.

2. There are lots of out-and-back sections, so I saw Mirinda Carfrae fly by on her bike not once, but twice. Yeah!

3. As I was taking a sharp right turn before climbing yet another hill, I saw an ambulance, a fire engine and a stretcher with an athlete on it, wearing a neck brace. Yikes.

4. Potholes. Everywhere. Fix your roads, please, San Francisco?

5. It was very foggy.

I couldn’t help comparing the 56-mile ride of Ironman 70.3 Hawaii to this one. In Hawaii, I averaged 19.2 mph. At Escape, my average speed ended up 16.2 mph.

I did enjoy the ride, somewhat, but definitely enjoyed the sight of the Dismount line much, much better.

Time: 1:06:31
Age group: 11, Overall: 790


I remember absolutely nothing about T2. It took a bit of running on grass to get to my rack space, and like Coach D said… well, my transitions could use some work.

Time: 2:12

The Run

Now, this was fun! Hills, stairs, beach, a 400-step sand ladder: not your typical 8-miler. I loved it! For what it’s worth, this run changed Escape from Alcatraz from “once is enough” bucket list status to “must do again” for me.

There was never a boring moment. And we got to see the pros race again, twice!

The course started flat for two miles, which was great because I got to get my running legs back.

Hello, running legs! I missed you in Hawaii?!?? Where’d you been?

I settled into an 8-minute mile pretty quickly and it felt great.

Then, of course, we hit our first set of stairs, so that slowed us down. It got quite crowded, everyone was walking… time for a little break. My strategy was to try and run strong on the uphills, but really work the downhills; walk the stairs and definitely walk the sand ladder.

Speaking of sand… Right around Mile 3, that’s what we got! We literally ran down to the beach, then on the beach for a mile, and then we came to the Sand Ladder.

The Sand Ladder was something else. As in, literally, it had its own timing mats and everything, so all racers got their Sand Ladder time of the day. Mine was 3:37.

Three minutes and 37 seconds of trying to step as closely as possible to the wooden logs that supposedly make up the ladder — but, for the most part, my feet sinking ankle-deep in sand. Fire in the quads, fire in the butt, fire in the calf muscles, everywhere fire.

That climb was so slow, in fact, that my Garmin auto-paused. I guess it decided that the Sand Ladder ain’t even worth its time!

[Watch this video from a few years ago to get an idea of what it was like. source]

When we finally dragged ourselves up and hit the road (to continue climbing, mind you, but at least it was on solid ground this time), I was ready to run — but the space was crowded again and we pretty much walked/ shuffled for a bit.

After that we got the best downhill road ever and about two flat miles to the finish, which I managed to take in 7:30 and 7:20, respectively. I even had the energy to high-five the race announcer. I Escaped!

Run time: 1:03:34
AG place: 8; Overall: 551

Finish time: 3:01:57

(Like I said, must be back; those two minutes need to disappear and I would probably achieve that by not putting on shoes to run to T1.)
AG place: 12
Overall: 629

escape medal