Tri Coach Tuesday: Failure Is Mandatory

by Coach AJ Johnson, D3Multisport


As a coach, I certainly don’t want my athletes to fail at their A priority race, but I do want them to fail in other races. While that may sound counter-productive, failure is where you learn the most. So when I talk about failure, I don’t mean it in the traditional sense, I mean it as a way to see what you are truly capable of.


I’ll use my own racing experience as an example. I was not particularly strong in any one discipline, rather, it was my calculated approach to racing that helped me reach the top 10 in my age group in Kona. I never hammered the bike, or took off on the early portion of the run and ended up blowing up and having to walk. I always had the finish line in mind and metered my effort accordingly. I liked to think that I was racing smart, and I was.


However, while pacing was my strong suit, it was also my weakness because it never allowed me to fully explore how fast I could go. To me, blowing up was a failure, and I wasn’t willing to risk failing in my own sense. In hindsight, I should have chosen some B priority races to find out where the edge of my fitness was and pushed the bike to the limit, or gone out of T2 like a rocket. I never did and if there is any regret in my career, it’s that I didn’t take that risk.


So, look at your own racing to identify what is holding you back. It may not be your fitness, it may be your own pacing strategy, your inattention to nutrition, your lack of mental toughness or something else. For example, many athletes I have coached have told me, “I have to push the bike because I’m not a runner.” My response has always been, “Have you ever held back on the bike and given yourself a chance to run well?”


This is a perfect example of how you can take a risk during a B priority race to see how you can reach your optimum performance. I have athletes choose a B priority event of the same distance as their A priority race and pace the bike a little more conservatively than normal. This allows them to potentially nail the run, which then opens their minds to other strategies of reaching their peak performance.


For some, it can be hard to get past the idea of not using their strength during a race. But it is by addressing your perceived weakness that you find your true limits. After following my advice about holding back on the bike, many athletes have said, “I never knew I could run that well.” This gives them new confidence and a whole new card to play during their A priority race.


Original post here

Tri Coach Tuesday: Erin & Alison’s IM Boulder Pre-Cap

303 Ambassadors and USAT Coaches Alison Freeman of D3 Multisport  and Erin Trail of Trail Endurance Coaching are racing IRONMAN Boulder on June 11, 2017. Here are their thoughts on the race and their top 3 tips for race day.

Alison Freeman


Cuz it’s the hometown race! Honestly, it’s nuts to do several Ironman races and never do the one in your own backyard. The race had been on my radar since my first Ironman, but the previous August date was tricky for me with three kids at home all summer and expecting me to be a parent (not an unrealistic expectation: I am actually their parent and none are old enough to drive yet). As soon as the switch to June was announced I knew it was my year!

I am, without question, most excited for the run course. Not the run itself, because that always hurts, but because I am really hoping to see familiar faces up and down the entire course. Nothing is more energizing than friends and family cheering you on!


  1. Don’t be a hero on the bike. Between the gradual climb on 36, the more obnoxious climb on Nelson, and umpteen little rollers on each loop, there are a lot of opportunities to blow out your legs. Be smart! Keep your effort level consistent – whether your metric is power or heart rate – and keep your legs spinning at 90rpm as best you can.
  2. This is not a great course to run by pace. You’re either running slightly uphill or slightly downhill at all times, and for long stretches, so maintaining a consistent effort level is a more realistic strategy than trying to maintain a consistent pace. If running by pace is your go-to strategy, then adjust your pace targets by course segment to account for the change in grade.
  3. Have a plan. FOR EVERYTHING. Know when you’re going to do packet pick up. Know which Athlete Briefing you’re attending. (Yes, you should attend an Athlete Briefing. I don’t care how many races you’ve done.) Know when you’re going to do gear drop off. Know when you’re going to wake up race morning and what time you’re going to park and what time you’re going to get on a shuttle. Know what time you’re going to get in line for the port-o-potty. Know where you’re going to line up for the swim. Know what nutrition you’re taking in, in what quantity, and at what minute or mile of the bike and the run. Know how you’re going to approach each leg of the race, and each portion of the course. Know what you’re going to say to yourself when it hurts. Know what you’re going to say to yourself so you don’t push past your limits when you’re feeling good. Know what you’re going to eat after you finish, because isn’t that the best part? (I’m eating donut holes. A LOT of donut holes. My husband is required to have them for me at the finish.)


Erin Trail


I took a 3 year hiatus after IM Boulder in 2014 and found myself being drawn back to the distance after spectating/volunteering in 2016. The location, being able to train with my club and friends on the course, and the change to June checked off all of my boxes. I’m also recovering from a major injury (torn rotator cuff) and training and racing for an Ironman while healing my shoulder has provided me with some great motivation to do my PT and heal smartly.

I love climbing so I’m actually excited to ride Nelson. I also love to ride FAST, so I’m excited to zoom down St Vrain. I’m excited to swim 2.4 miles without my shoulder hurting. And I’m MOST excited about being on that awesome run course, filled with friends (racers, volunteers, and spectators). My arm is going to be sore from all of the high fives I’ll be giving out! And finally, that finish line – MY HOME STATE FINISH LINE – is something truly special.


  1. HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE (even if you’re a local). Elevation + all of that mile high sunshine takes a toll, so have a solid hydration and nutrition plan to get you through the bike and onto the run.
  2. The bike course has a lot to offer in terms of varied terrain and changes in views (and wind direction). The course makes a series of 90-degree turns, which sounds somewhat annoying but it’s actually really fun to ride. My advice is to enjoy all of these changes and use them to your advantage. Don’t like climbing? You just have to make it up 4 miles of Nelson and then you’re rewarded with a really fun descent down St Vrain minutes afterwards. Don’t like false flats? Hang tight as you ride on Jay Road because a really fun set of rollers awaits you. Annoyed by that pesky headwind? Just know that in a few miles you’ll change direction and that headwind will turn into a crosswind – or even better – a magical tailwind! Use the terrain changes to give both your body and brain a break from the tedium of an Ironman bike course.
  3. The run course, at least for me in 2014, was harder than I expected. The course has small rollers as it goes under roads and has a net uphill to the finish. And it’s the marathon of an Ironman, so yeah, it’s going to be hard. Have a mental strategy in mind for the run, especially when it gets hard. What’s your “why”? Think about a power word or motto and write it on the inside of your arm. (for me, its “I am the storm” and “run the damn hills”). Visualize the finish. Think back on all those hours of hard work and how you want to honor them by running the best run that you can. Think about how amazing that FREE locally brewed beer will taste at the Finish Line Beer Garden (I won’t lie – this is my primary run course motivation, and if anyone would like to save an Avery Ellie’s Brown or Lilikoi for me, I will be your BFF [beer friend forever] for life!) And finally, use the crowd’s energy to get you through the tough spots. The IRONMAN Boulder run course is the BEST, especially as a local athlete, because of all of the friendly faces (racers, volunteers, and spectators) that are all there cheering you as you run towards that finish line.

303 Triathlon sends good luck wishes to all of the athletes who are racing IRONMAN Boulder – both local and from afar. We’ll see you out there on Sunday! Check out our Twitter and Facebook feeds on race day for coverage and updates all day long!

Tri Coach Tuesday: How Cold is Too Cold?

Living in Colorado, we’ve come to learn that spring weather is unpredictable at best.  This can make for less than optimal conditions for swimming and racing outdoors.  Many of us have been disappointed when our anticipated triathlon becomes a duathlon or an OWS gets postponed or cancelled all together.  Although it doesn’t always satisfy our disappointment, the race directors always have athlete safety and well being in mind when these decisions need to be made.


Some venues have strict guidelines they follow.  Often times it comes down to a combination of swim distance, water temp, air temp, wind speed, type of event, etc etc.  In the end, if an event goes on as planned, the decision to participate comes down to the athlete.  Some athletes  can handle 52 degree for 1/2 mile, while others should opt out at 57 degrees.


Without Limits Productions RD, Lance Panigutti, reminds everyone that “RD’s have to make a determination based on all the athletes safety and skill set.  While some elites may be able to handle more extreme circumstances everyone needs to understand that it’s about the collective whole when it comes to moving forward to cancelling/modifying a portion of the event.”  He adds, “Every athlete needs to know and practice what they can handle, prepare for everything and hope for sunny skies”.

Bottom line:  Be educated on the effects of the cold and how they effect you.  In the end, you are responsible for your safety and well being in any type of event.


Other things to considered:


Cold Shock

Cold water zaps your body heat 25 times quicker than cold air. Add to that the physically exhausting nature of swimming, and you’re losing body heat at a rapid pace. Extremely cold water — 50 degrees or below — can lead to cold shock. This occurs when the body is overwhelmed by extreme cold, and it can send your body into a heart attack or unconsciousness, the latter of which can lead to drowning. Your body responds to a sudden plunge into cold water by making you involuntarily gasp, and if you’re under water this can cause you to drown before you get to the surface.


You’re probably well aware of hypothermia, which occurs when the body loses heat at a rapid pace. This can also occur in cold temperatures of 50 or below. While hypothermia takes longer than cold shock, it can be just as serious. Exposure to cold water for long periods of time lower your core body temperature. The lower it gets, the less your body can function. Once your core temperature reaches 93 degrees, you’ll be unable to use your arms and legs, and your mental function begins to deteriorate. At 80 degrees, you can become unconscious and drown.


Excerpt from


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One can’t reasonably expect to go from pool swimming to doing an hour in 7C / 45 F without a wetsuit, based on desire to swim alone. Granted, this isn’t likely to occur, but I’m trying to illustrate a point.  Ability to handle COLD is again a matter of a few factors more important than others (all other things like alcohol, food, illness, sleep being equal): namely, experience and weight.

People with plenty of experience of cold can swim in very cold water. I can swim for 20 minutes in 5 C / 40 F water, because I’ve gotten used to it. But I certainly don’t recommend it and I won’t claim it’s fun. And the bigger and heavier you are the more you can handle with less training. Fat is an insulator. Just having plenty of fat alone makes cold easier to deal with. But fat does not lessen the pain of the initial shock for example.

I have done some reading on regular cold water immersion. It seems the evidence says regular immersion in water temperatures of less than 10 Celsius is very beneficial for health, in a few different areas; improved respiration and circulation, lessened chances of infection and heart attack. However once the time goes over 10 minutes some of those benefits tend to reverse, especially hypertension and cardiac arrhythmia.

Tri Coach Tuesday: Tips to Make Your Winter Running Less Miserable

1. Get Motivated

“Make a date to meet someone for a run,” says Jean M., a reader in Colorado. “There’s no wimping out when someone is waiting.” John Stanton, the founder of the Running Room in Edmonton, Alberta, says the club’s Wednesday and Sunday group runs are popular in winter, when the average high is 17°F. In January and February, the Running Room hosts the Hypothermic Half Marathon, which attracts 3,500 runners in 14 cities across Canada—even at temps as low as -40°F. “There’s a big, free brunch afterward,” Stanton says. “People will do anything for omelets and pancakes.” Solo? “Tell yourself that you can go back inside after five minutes if it’s really bad,” says Patti Finke, a coach in Portland, Oregon. “Usually you stay out there.” Of course, not everyone objects to winter weather. “A night run during a light snowfall is one of the most peaceful things you can experience,” says Justin Lord of Kenmore, New York.


2.  Arm Your Feet


To keep warmth in and slush out, run in shoes that have the least amount of mesh. If you have shoes with Gore-Tex uppers, all the better, says Mark Grandonico, president of the Maine Track Club in Portland. Wear socks that wick away wetness but keep your feet warm. Runner Joe McNulty of Philadelphia swears by nonitchy SmartWool socks.


3.  Get Dressed

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You want to be warm without sweating so much you get a chill. “The rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer,” says Maine Track Club president Mark Grandonico. “You should be slightly cool when you start.” Think layers of technical fabrics, to wick sweat, with zippers at the neck and underarm area to vent air as you heat up. You’ll learn your own preferences, but readers Darrell Arribas, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, and Eric Maniloff, of Stittsville, Ontario, both helped create these general guidelines. Assume you always wear gloves or mittens and a hat.
* 30 degrees: 2 tops, 1 bottom. Long-sleeve base layer and a vest keep your core warm. Tights (or shorts, for polar bears).

* 10 to 20 degrees: 2 tops, 2 bottoms. A jacket over your base layer, and wind pants over the tights.

* 0 to 10 degrees: 3 tops, 2 bottoms. Two tops (fleece for the cold-prone) and a jacket. Windbrief for the fellas.

* Minus 10 to 0 degrees: 3 tops, 2 bottoms, extra pair of mittens, 1 scarf wrapped around mouth or a balaclava.

* Minus 20 degrees: 3 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 extra pairs of mittens, 1 balaclava, sunglasses. Or, says Arribas, “Stay inside.”


4.  Be Seen


With limited daylight, chances are you’ll be running in the dark (Alaskans, sadly, get only a few hours of dim light per day). Tall snowbanks on plowed streets make you even harder to see. Wear reflective, fluorescent gear, and don’t be shy about lighting yourself up like a Christmas tree, says RW’s own Ed Eyestone, who runs in snowy Utah. Says Adam Feerst, a coach and trail-race director in Denver, “I use a headlamp or carry a flashlight, less so I can see where I’m going and more so people can see me.”


5. Warm Up Prerun


Move around inside enough to get the blood flowing without breaking a sweat. Run up and down your stairs, use a jump rope, or do a few yoga sun salutations. A speedy house-cleaning works, too, says D. A. Reng from Kentucky. “The cold doesn’t feel so cold when you’re warm,” says Laura Salmon of Akron, Ohio. If you’re meeting a group of running buddies, don’t stand around in the cold chatting before you run. “We sit in our cars,” says Denver’s Feerst, “waiting for one person to get out before we all get out.”


6. Deal with Wind


Start your run into the wind and finish with it at your back, so the breeze doesn’t blast you after you’ve broken a sweat. To avoid a long, biting slog, you can break this into segments, running into the wind for about 10 minutes, turning around to run with the wind at your back for five minutes, and repeating. You can also seek man-made wind protection. “When we get wind here, it can be like a hurricane,” says Chuck Bartlett, the team director of Seattle’s Club Northwest. “The buildings downtown block it.” Protect exposed skin. “I use BodyGlide on my nose and on my cheeks to prevent frostbite,” says the Canadian Stanton. Other options include Vaseline (a bit messy) and Kiehl’s All-Sport Non-Freeze Face Protector.


7.   Forget Speed

8.  Change Quickly Postrun

9.  Deal with Rain

10. Go Someplace Warm

Original article from Runner’s World here

Additional winter running tips can be found here on

Tri Coach Tuesday: It’s Time for Your Blood Test

by Will Murray, 303Triathlon ambassador and D3 Multisport Mental Skills Coach



Slowly but surely, performance enhancement technology becomes sufficiently available and affordable to amateur athletes, not just top professionals. Power meters for cycling, then power meters for running. Physiology tests such as lactic threshold and VO2max, then metabolic efficiency and sodium concentration of sweat. Blood tests for major elements, and now specific blood tests for everyday athletes, and not just the general medical population.

Athletes are not normal people. Yes, yes, I know, but I’m talking about physiologically, not so much in personality (that’s for another post). Blood tests are popping up like whack-a-mole, aimed at athletes, but not aimed for athletes. And blood tests that compare athletes to the general population are at best unhelpful and at worst misleading. Let me give you an example from another medical field—cardiology.



Once upon a time there was a professional basketball player who flunked his physical, rendering him unable to play for the team. It seems that the imagery that the cardiology team indicated that the basketball player had a low ejection fraction (the proportion of blood pumped out of the heart with each contraction of the ventricles) was low. Low, but compared to the general population. The team doctors flunked this player, and his career appeared to be over.

But wait. Further analysis showed that most members of the team also had low ejection fractions.

Now, these athletes are all tall, so maybe it was tall people who have low ejection fractions, so they then looked at runners and other types of athletes. Low ejection fractions again.

Aha. Athletes often have lower ejection fractions than people in the general population.
What’s that got to do with blood testing?

Well, athletes are different. Many commercial blood testing services, even those aimed at athletes, do their analyses of what’s within normal ranges compared to the general population. But athletes are not normal, so how relevant are those analyses?

The good news is that blood tests for athletes can be amazingly helpful. With the amount of training and racing stress athletes put their bodies through, they can experience imbalances in micronutrients, minerals and hormones. And those imbalances can impair conditioning, health, even moods.

Athletes who get sports-specific blood tests two or three times a year can identify and remedy deficiencies, often with solid results in training, racing, injury prevention and overall well being.

Josh Shadle, founder of Fuelary , a blood testing service specifically for athletes, says, “Athletes are more focused on their diet and supplement regimen, but how do you know if they’re working or how to improve it? Blood testing is like a look under the hood of your car and Fuelary is the garage to make it run better.”
When athletes do a blood test and find that their levels are indeed within normal ranges compared to other athletes, it gives them peace of mind, removes one more unknown and lets them focus on what they are doing right.

Mike Ricci, head coach at D3 Multisport has a relationship with Blueprint for Athletes. Ricci says, “”Get one baseline test now, then another one next quarter to see if we’ve fixed any trouble areas. The markers I would recommend are: Vitamin D, Iron, Ferritin, Hematocrit, and Testosterone (if male).”
Shadle of Fuelary sums it up: “You as an athlete need the ability to assess system health, not just one biomarker within or out of range is our biggest differentiator. We deliver an action plan that includes supplements and recipes to help you optimize your health and fitness goals.”

Shadle continues, “Athletes are all about tracking. They track weight, strength, speed, watts, time and more.  They really need to track their blood chemistry over time so that they can be educated and empowered enough to improve their own health and performance.”



It’s time for your blood test. It’s informative, useful, possibly the key to better performance and health, and now affordable and convenient. Just make sure that you get a sports-specific test by someone who can order the right test and interpret the results against an athlete pool. Because remember, you are not normal.