TrainingPeaks Endurance Coach Summit Brings Coaches to Boulder

Photo by Raeleigh Harris
Simon Butterworth of D3 Multisport
Photo by Raeleigh Harris

By Will Murray

More than 208 coaches converged in Boulder during the first week of August to attend the 2017 TrainingPeaks Endurance Coach Summit.

Held at the University of Colorado and co-sponsored by USA Cycling and USA Triathlon, this 3-day event focused on the business and science of coaching endurance athletes. Keynote speakers included six-time Ironman champion Dave Scott, USAT running coach Bobby McGee and Dirk Friel from TrainingPeaks.

Participants had the opportunity to listen to talks in sports physiology and coaching business. In this year’s format (2016 was the inaugural summit) there were 20-minute business roundtables, where coaches could break into small groups to hear quick presentations on business law, running a multi-coach business, enhancing your social media presence and using TrainingPeaks’ coach referral program.

Dave Scott
photo by Raeleigh Harris

The University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center showed off its facility with small-group sessions on swimming, strength training, running and cycling biomechanics and nutrition.

Networking opportunities were built into the design throughout. Roka hosted a swim workout and Dave Scott a run workout, both on Friday morning before sessions began. Retul hosted a pre-conference networking session at their new facility on Airport Road in Boulder.

Coach Raeleigh Harris said, “The summit showcased the best coaching methodology, technology and leadership available to us today, all in one location. Total immersion into this setting was invaluable moving forward in development of Coaching services and supporting platforms.”

Emceed by Barry Siff, President of USA Triathlon, this even earned coaches 12 CEUs. Training Peaks plans to bring this event back to Boulder in 2018.

Raeleigh Harris and Mitchell Reiss
Photo by Raeleigh Harris

Kirsten Sass, Bill Jones Crowned Olympic-Distance Age Group National Champions

Nearly 2,000 amateur triathletes cross the finish line at Omaha’s Levi Carter Park

OMAHA, Neb. — Nearly 2,000 of the nation’s top amateur triathletes competed for national titles on Saturday at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, with Kirsten Sass and Bill Jones taking home their first-ever overall Olympic-distance national titles.

The race, which is USA Triathlon’s largest and longest-running National Championships event, featured a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run course centered around Omaha’s Levi Carter Park.

Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), the overall women’s champion, broke the tape in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 47 seconds. Sass owns several national and world titles in her age group and was last year’s overall champion in the sprint-distance race, but today earned her first-ever overall Olympic-distance national title.

“I’m really happy with my race,” Sass said. “The bike is always my strong suit — my problem is usually going too hard on the bike and killing myself on the run, but then to a certain extent, you just have to lay it all out there. I feel like I was able to balance the two pretty well today. I gave it all I had, so I’m happy with the result.”

Jacqueline Godbe (Chicago, Ill.) took second overall in 2:10:17, winning the women’s 25-29 age group in the process, and Danielle Dingman (Branson, Mo.) rounded out the overall podium in third in 2:11:47.

Jones (San Diego, Calif.) took home the overall men’s title, crossing the line with a time of 1:56:19. Racing at his first-ever Age Group Nationals, Jones also collected the men’s 30-34 crown.

Jones had to wait and see if he would hold onto his national title for about an hour and a half after he finished, as younger athletes starting in the later waves had yet to come through the finish. He would ultimately hold onto the top spot, with Ian Hoover-Grinde (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) taking second in 1:57:51 and 2016 overall champion Todd Buckingham (East Lansing, Mich.) taking third in 1:58:08.

“The bike went extremely well for me. All of my training came through, and I really felt great,” Jones said. “On the run, I had an idea of where I was overall. I had looked at previous years’ times, so I knew I was going to be in contention. But I also knew there was a lot of competition in the 29 and under age group.”

In addition to their overall podiums, Hoover-Grinde earned the men’s 17-19 age group national title and Buckingham earned the men’s 25-29 crown.

“You don’t always get to test yourself against the best in the nation,” Buckingham said. “You have to qualify for this race, so not everybody can show up like at your average local tri. Having all of these awesome athletes out here, it makes you push yourself. It brings out the best in me, and I hope that I bring out the best in them too.”

In total, 28 national champions were crowned in their respective age groups on Saturday, 10 of whom defended their titles from 2016. Defending champions included Hoover-Grinde (M17-19), Buckingham (M25-29), Sass (F35-39), Tim Hola (Highlands Ranch, Colo., M40-44), Adrienne Leblanc (Scottsdale, Ariz., F45-49), Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla., M55-59), Kathryn Wiberg (West Boylston, Mass., F70-74), Elizabeth Brackett (Chicago, Ill., F75-79), William Marshall (Santa Rosa, Calif., M75-79) and Madonna Buder (Spokane, Wash., F85+).

The top 18 finishers in each age group and gender (rolling down to 25th place) earned the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2018 ITU Age Group Triathlon World Championships in Gold Coast, Australia.

“You put in all that training, and you just want to be able to race to the potential that you have in you. I feel like I did that today,” said Ryan Bickerstaff, who took home the men’s 35-39 national title. “I’ve been doing triathlons since 1990 — my ninth birthday was my first triathlon — and I represented the U.S. at Junior Worlds a few times, so to be able to do that again at Age Group Worlds will be really awesome.”

For some athletes, like men’s 50-54 champion Robert Skaggs, just making it to the start line was the biggest accomplishment of the day.

“I’ve been trying to get here for 17 years,” Skaggs (Solana Beach, Calif.), said. “I signed up multiple times and never made it because of various injuries, so this is my first Age Group Nationals since 1998. I’ve had four Achilles tendon surgeries, so this was the first year I’ve gone through a training block with no injuries. I got no sleep last night thinking about the race, just thinking, ‘I can’t believe I made it here. I can’t believe I’m really going to start.’”

For Ellen Hart (Denver, Colo.), a longtime Age Group Nationals competitor, returning to this race is an annual celebration.

“The experience was amazing, just getting to see all my friends who I maybe only see once a year,” Hart, who placed fourth for women 55-59, said. “This is one of those days I look forward to every year. When somebody asks me, ‘Why do you do this when it’s so hard and takes so much time?” It’s like, ‘This is when we get to dance on our stage. This is when we get to play a symphony together. This is when we get to show what it is that’s inside of us and put it all out there.’”

 

Original article from USAT here

Complete results here

Weekend Preview: Have a Lovely Weekend

Triathlon Events

Saturday August 12th

 

USAT Age Group Olympic National Championships

Omaha, NE


Greeley Kids Triathlon

Greeley


Sunday August 13th

 

USAT Age Group Sprint National Championships

Omaha, NE


Chatfield Classic

Littleton


Steamboat Triathlon

Steamboat Springs



Cycling Events

Thursday August 10th

 

Velorama Colorado Classic

Colorado Springs stage

Denver Expo and party


DUST2: Shaeffer’s Track

Pagosa Springs


Dirt Jumps & Donuts

Castle Rock


BVV Track Night

Erie


REVO CX Strength & Conditioning

Boulder


Friday August 11th

 

Velorama Colorado Classic

Breckenridge – Men’s Race

Denver – Women’s Race


Saturday August 12th

 

2nd Annual Bite the Bullet Gran Fondo

Ft. Collins

 

Second Annual FoCo Fondo’s Bite the Bullet Gravel Fondo in Fort Collins, Colorado, hosted at New Belgium Brewing.  Fort Collins first Gravel Fondo!

Here’s the short and simple:

Remote gravel roads, open spaces, heavily stocked aid stations, rolling technical support, timed segments with cash prizes, New Belgium beer, food truck meals. The Start/Finish venue will be at New Belgium Brewing. Short and long routes.

Registration is LIVE, long route fee $55 for June, $60 for July, $70 for August, $10 cheaper for short route.


Velorama Colorado Classic

Denver


USAC Hill Climb National Championships

Colorado Springs


Pikes Peak Cycling Gran Fondo

Colorado Springs


BStrong Ride

Boulder


Colorado Trail Classic

Molas Pass, Silverton


Leadville Trail 100

Leadville


Steamboat Stinger MTB Race

Steamboat Springs


Bike MS Bighorn Country Classic

Sheridan, Wy


Velorama Mayor’s Ride & Kid Ciclova

Denver


Pioneers of the Peloton

Denver


Lee Likes Bikes Level 2 MTB Skills Clinic

Boulder


Sunday August 13th

 

Avista Women’s Weekly Ride

Louisville


Velorama Colorado Classic

Denver


Bike MS Bighorn Country Classic

Sheridan, Wy

 

USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships to Draw 4,000 Triathletes to Omaha This Weekend

Nation’s top amateur triathletes to compete for national titles in sprint and Olympic-distance events

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — More than 4,000 amateur triathletes are registered to compete at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, happening this Saturday, Aug. 12, and Sunday, Aug. 13, at Levi Carter Park in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Age Group Nationals weekend is USA Triathlon’s largest and longest-running National Championship event. Also held in Omaha in 2016, the event will feature two days of competition with national titles up for grabs on each day.

Races begin at 7 a.m. CT each day, with the Olympic-Distance National Championships on Saturday and the Sprint National Championships on Sunday. The Olympic-distance event, which has been held annually since 1983, features a 1,500-meter swim, non-drafting 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run course. Athletes in this race qualified to compete based on a top age-group finish at a previous USA Triathlon Sanctioned Event. The Sprint National Championships, which have no qualifying criteria, will feature a 750m swim, non-drafting 20k bike and 5k run.

On both Saturday and Sunday, athletes will be competing for national titles in their respective age groups. Top finishers in each age group will also earn the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2018 ITU Age Group Triathlon World Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, in their respective race distances.

The top 18 finishers (rolling down to 25th place) in each age group of Olympic-Distance Nationals will automatically earn a spot on Team USA.

Sprint-distance competitors must finish in the top six in their age groups to secure a spot for the Sprint World Championships, which will feature a draft-legal bike leg. Athletes can also qualify for the Sprint World Championships by finishing in the top-12 in their age groups at the Draft-Legal World Qualifier in Sarasota, Florida, on Oct. 7, 2017. More information about Team USA qualification for the sprint race is available at usatriathlon.org.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia are represented by the competitors in this weekend’s field. The youngest athlete on the start list is 14 years old, and the oldest is 88.

In total, 16 national champions from 2016 will be back to defend their Olympic-distance age-group titles.

Colorado Athletes Racing both the Sprint and Olympic distance events:

Lena Aldrich
Kathleen Allen
Tea Chand
Julia Gorham
Ellen Hart
Michele Hemming
Heidi Hoffman
Barbara Kostner
Melissa Langworthy
Kimberly Malinoski
Nancy Mallon
Stephanie Meisner
Tatiana Morrell
Karen Rice
Dorothy Waterhouse
Karen Weatherby
Sandi Wiebe
William Ankele Jr
Michael Boehmer
Simon Butterworth
Alan Carter
George Cespedes
Kirk Framke
Jim Fuller
Joseph Gregg
Daniel Haley
Jim Hallberg
Tom Hennessy
Tim Hola
Grant Johnson
Thomas Murray
David Pease
Erik Peterson
Kevin Sheen
Vincent Trinquesse
Nathan Turner
Gary Waterhouse
Andrew Weinstein
Lockett Wood

Mother/daughter racing Sprint
Christy & Hannah Croasdell

Average women’s age 54
Average men’s age 46

Colorado eNRG Juniors excel at USAT Draft Legal Nationals in Ohio

Congrats to the eNRG Performance Junior High Performance Team at USAT Draft Legal Nationals in Ohio. Based on their performances at Nationals and throughout the season, they are ranked 5th in the country among all USA Triathlon High Performance Triathlon Teams!

Becky Piper – Paralyzed on right side, completes Ironman 70.3 Boulder

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid to not try.”
That’s Becky Piper‘s motto.

Yesterday, Becky was able to check another monstrous goal off her list – the Boulder Ironman 70.3.

A tremendous achievement for any able-bodied soul, Becky had to work harder than most, both physically and mentally, because she is paralyzed on her right side.
Just four years ago she was an accomplished runner and XTERRA athlete, living in Guam with her husband Sam, stationed in the military there. During a home invasion, she was beaten, and according to doctors, was with an hour of dying. But she didn’t die. She survived, and learned to talk and eat and walk again.
She GOT BACK UP.
In June, 303 reported on Becky’s “comeback” off-road triathlon at XTERRA Lory:
Becky Piper: Xterra Nats qualifier, savagely attacked, comatose & paralyzed, and back to Xterra again – at local Lory race

We followed her closely yesterday as she tackled the next goal on her list, IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder.
303’s Para-Tri ambassador Sasha Underwood is a close friend of Becky’s, and frequent training partner and guide. She was at every turn of Saturday’s race, and was overwhelmed with pride and emotion as Becky hit each milestone.

Becky is everything I strive to be; sheer grit, tenacious, positive, gracious, kind, courageous, strong, an amazing sense of humor, and she’ll probably kill me for saying this but she is inspiring – but not because she has a disability .. it’s because she finds a way to do anything and everything whether it’s racing, or becoming a USAT coach, she doesn’t accept “no” or “can’t” and nothing can stop her.

Sasha captured these pivotal moments of Becky being carried out of the water by her husband, and the crowning moment of crossing the finish line, just behind the similarly-inspiring story of Team Agar.
Swim exit video:

Finish video

Read today’s Times-Call article for more on Becky Piper, including the special Allard Brace she uses, her husband’s tough love, and this observation:


Becky Piper said she hopes news of her first Ironman 70.3 reaches someone who is living with a mobility issue.

“I just want to get the word out that if you have foot drop, then your life and your quality of life isn’t over,” she said. “There’s tools out there and there is technology out there to improve your quality of life. And not to give up. Don’t give up.”

 

 

Women’s Wednesday: Six Years. Don’t Blink. Lisa Ingarfield’s Triathlon Journey

Six Years. Don’t Blink.

This week, Facebook popped up a picture of me crossing the finish line of my very first triathlon. The slightly blurred, yet triumphant photo brought a whole host of memories flooding back to me. Six years ago, I embarked on a journey that has ebbed and flowed, curved and carved in ways I could never have predicted. I distinctly remember saying to a friend that I would NEVER do a 70.3 distance triathlon, because why would anyone want to do that? Well, with a few of those now under my belt, I blush at my then rigid response to the prospect of trying the long course distance.

Crossing the finish line at the 2011 Denver Triathlon

In preparation for my first triathlon, I scoured the internet for how-to videos on transitions, swim nerves management, and race strategy. I had zero idea about wetsuits, and ordered an ill-fitting “shortie” online and cycled a few preparation miles on my trusty Rock Hopper mountain bike. I did practice swimming in open water (thankfully), but even with a few swim lessons under my belt, I still breaststroked most of the swim. Putting my face in the water for a solid fifteen minutes did not seem appealing to me at the time. I came out of the swim to T1, ecstatic that I had conquered a swim in Sloan’s Lake without a flotation device. I took off my shortie, dried off, put on bike shorts, bike gloves, ate and drank something, and then meandered out of T1 about 5 minutes later. I hopped on my mountain bike ready for the ride around Denver and down to Mile High Stadium, where T2 was located.

A short time later, I rolled into T2, racked my bike and headed out on the run – in my bike shorts. Yes, I forgot to take off my bike shorts and only realized this about a half mile into the run. The run – at that point my “strongest” discipline, largely because it is the one I had done the most – went fairly well despite the extra padding on my rear. The course was short and had me finishing the 5K in 23 minutes or something ridiculous like that, which is a time at that point, I had never run before. And there we have it. My first triathlon, six years ago this week.

In the years that followed, I discovered brick workouts, chamois cream, tri suits, stretchy laces, and the benefits of using a road bike over a mountain bike. I joined an all women’s triathlon team, hired a coach, took more swimming lessons, swam more in open water, got a better wetsuit, and saved my pennies for a road bike. I even made a few age group podiums. All in six years. One blink and it’s 2017. For those six years of learning, mistakes, hilarity, and achievement, the one thing I didn’t do nearly enough is reflect on my journey.

Looking at the picture of my first finish six years ago, reminds me that I haven’t really taken stock of how far I have come. I therefore recommend that we all take the time to reflect on what we have done more often than we probably do. Don’t wait for Facebook or some other social media platform to prompt you. We infrequently take the time to pause and review our journeys, whatever they may be. This means we never fully appreciate all the gains we have made, or challenges we have overcome. We just go, go, go without so much as a quick glance over our shoulder. We blink and everything changes. Wherever you are in your triathlon quest, don’t miss the actual journey to your goals because you are so busy focusing on what’s next. I blinked, and now, six years later, I am a triathlon coach myself and headed to my fifth 70.3 and I am not quite sure how that happened.

Boulder 70.3 2015 – Finishing a long course triathlon I said I would never do…

I remember the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line for the first time six years ago. My heart swelled with pride in my ability to race a triathlon. I felt so badass. Do you remember the feeling you had when crossed your first finish line? Dig down into your memories and pull the feeling back to the surface. That feeling fades the more races we do. Our increased level of comfort with triathlon shouldn’t decrease our feelings of awe and satisfaction on finishing every race or workout, but it does. Hang on to your first finish feeling tightly, because it will help you remember where you have been, as well as where you have the capability and power to go.

Lisa Ingarfield, PhD is a runner, triathlete, USAT and RRCA certified coach. She owns Tri to Defi Coaching and Consulting and provides organizational communication consulting services. She is a freelance writer specializing in issues affecting women in sport and in life. She is also a member of Vixxen Racing’s 2017 women’s triathlon team.

Lifetime Fitness no longer sanctioning races with USAT – USAT Responds

Early in July, Life Time Fitness announced

“Continuing its commitment to grow the sport of triathlon, the Life Time Tri Series, produced by Life Time®, Healthy Way of Life, introduces new athlete-friendly innovations and format changes to make the sport simpler, more accessible and more exciting for new and veteran athletes.”

The new innovations include some barbs against triathlon’s governing body, USAT:

A Simpler Experience

No Hidden Fees: Finally, all-inclusive race registration pricing, which includes insurance and race registration fees – and no requirement for a USA Triathlon membership.

Coach Support: Expert coaches provide free, online training programs upon registration, as well as face to face race insights at every event.

New Officiating: No more surprises. Life Time Tri will utilize IRONMAN® and ITU rules assessment, including implementing penalty tents. 

A week later, Slowtwitch published a story, “More on the Life Time Changes

“Life Time confirmed to Slowtwitch that USA Triathlon is out. Not only will USAT’s rules not be used, and pass-thru annual and one-day memberships not be charged to registrants, the races will not be sanctioned by triathlon’s U.S. governing body.“

Around the same time, Bob Babbit hosted Breakfast with Bob at the New York City Triathlon with an update from Scott Hutmacher on LifeTime Tri’s newly announced initiatives. Hutmacher says the breadth of the LifeTime company covers the insurance, which means USAT sanctioning is not necessary. He also states, “we have no animosity with USAT.”

 

USA Triathlon’s president, Barry Siff, responded to LifeTime’s decision with this letter to USAT members:

Dear USA Triathlon Key Stakeholder:

Greetings, I hope this finds you well and your season has so far proven to be both rewarding and enjoyable!

I am writing to address last week’s announcement by Life Time Tri that it will no longer sanction its eight races with USA Triathlon. This announcement resulted in the circulation of misinformation, as well as several questions being posed to us. None of these items are new, and we have addressed them many times over the years.

However, as we continually strive to communicate openly and proactively with our community, I wanted to once again clarify some specific points:

The benefits of sanctioning with USA Triathlon are many.

  • Experience – USA Triathlon has sanctioned more than 40,000 races over the last 35 years, delivering athlete peace-of-mind by ensuring, among other things, industry-wide safety standards and high-quality event criteria.
  • Event Services – USA Triathlon offers an experienced and expert team to support race directors and event production companies with questions and issues, as well as provide certification, best practices, educational opportunities, and other resources.
  • Risk Management – Sanctioning ensures unmatched insurance protection designed specifically for multisport events – not gym memberships – to cover the event, the athlete, and the venue at the most nominal cost possible. Athletes (and their families) and race directors who have unfortunately needed to utilize this general liability and excess medical coverage, including in the tragic circumstances of catastrophic incidents, can personally attest to its irreplaceable importance. The costs incurred by USA Triathlon and our policy providers to cover claims and defend against unwarranted lawsuits have saved race directors tens of millions of dollars over the years.

Other points of clarification:

  • The cost for a USA Triathlon one-day membership is not a “hidden fee” as alleged by Life Time. Race directors are strongly encouraged to always notify athletes in advance about the requirement for either USA Triathlon annual or one-day membership. 
  • Utilizing USA Triathlon Rules and Certified Officials does not result in “surprises” for athletes. In fact, just the opposite. Implementing penalties mid-race (i.e., penalty tents) actually does the following: 
    • Removes the ability for any due process or realistic appeals by athletes – The process of assessing USA Triathlon penalties does not interfere with the athlete during competition, but instead allows the athlete to address any concerns about the violation after completing the race, and may result in the penalty being rescinded should a mistake be determined. 
    • Threatens on-course safety – For sprint- and Olympic-distance age-group races, having officials on motorized vehicles directing athletes in real time to penalty tents can significantly decrease on-course safety, particularly on the bike leg. Short-course races for at-large age-group athletes differ considerably from long-course races, elite races, or age-group world championship races where penalty tents can all be more effectively integrated.
  • Regardless of claims to the contrary, customized event offerings such as the ability for athletes to choose their own wave/start time or have greater access to transition areas, are already being implemented at other sanctioned races and are not new concepts. There are many examples currently within USA Triathlon’s 4,000-plus sanctioned races where these approaches and other innovations have been successfully offered. Our goal as a sanctioning body is to be flexible and accommodate event-specific requests whenever possible, provided they do not compromise safety or the quality of experience for the athlete. 

For competitive athletes, sanctioned races provide coveted points for USA Triathlon Regional and National Rankings (comprised of more than 37,039 athletes in 2016), including USA Triathlon All-American status. And only sanctioned races provide the opportunity to qualify for USA Triathlon National Championships and the chance to represent your country at ITU Age Group World Championships as a member of Team USA.

As the official National Governing Body (NGB) for the sport of triathlon in the United States, we are responsible for selecting and training teams for international competition including the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are dedicated to supporting and growing youth and women’s participation in our sport. Our commitment to paratriathlon is perhaps the strongest and most successful in the world. We help educate first-time triathletes, as well as race directors, coaches and officials. And we have a very strong Safe Sport program, helping protect our members, including the most vulnerable.

The fees for one-day and annual memberships are recirculated back into the sport to accomplish all of this – and more – while fulfilling our mission to advance and promote the sport of triathlon. For example, this year we will award $60,000 in youth grants, directly assist high school programs and state championships in significant ways, and continue to support our NCAA Emerging Sport for Women initiative in order to reach full championship status.

Change for the sake of change is not a compelling strategy. Ultimately, the sport loses as a whole . . . a “strategy” that is not good for anyone.

As always, we welcome feedback, questions and concerns, so please feel free to contact me personally at barry.siff@usatriathlon.org. Our commitment to you and our great sport is unwavering, and we thank YOU for being such an important part of it.

Sincerely,

Barry Siff
USA Triathlon President
ITU Executive Board Member
CAMTRI Executive Board Member

Tri Coach Tuesday: Increase Your Open Water Comfort Level

By Will Murray

Originally posted on USA Triathlon

Open water swimming and the emotions swirling around it get plenty of attention these days. Many triathletes describe the “panic attacks” as feelings they experience in open water and not in their pool swims.

Maybe their attacks are not panic at all. Make no mistake, these sensations are awful and real. But they may have a physical origin. And, fortunately, there are simple, effective and fast techniques to quell open water swim issues and make swimming one of the most comfortable parts of triathlon.

First, let’s describe the feelings of discomfort that some triathletes call an attack. Then let’s look at the physiological causes of this feeling. Finally, let us practice a couple of specific, fast and easy techniques for relieving those sensations once and for all.

Maybe it’s not a panic attack.
Triathletes often describe the sensations that they interpret as an attack: shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, dizziness, light-headedness and strong self-talk. Symptoms of a panic attack, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), sound similar:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing, feeling as though you ‘can’t get enough air’
  • Terror that is almost paralyzing
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
  • Trembling, sweating, shaking
  • Choking, chest pains
  • Hot flashes or sudden chills
  • Tingling in fingers or toes (pins and needles)
  • Fear that you’re going to go crazy or are about to die

 

However, there are some important differences. Again, according to the APA: “A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason.”

The main difference here is “without any obvious reason.” In the case of open water swimming, there could be some very obvious reasons.

For starters, let’s see if perhaps there aren’t physiological rather than psychological causes.

Get off my neck.
One way to induce the symptoms some swimmers feel is a tight collar. On either side of your neck you have a carotid artery. Inside the carotid artery below your jawline is the carotid body, a small area that includes pressure sensors. Pressure on the carotid body increases blood pressure, which then signals your heart to slow down. Your carotid body sends this signal to your heart via the vagus nerve, which will become even more important later in the story.

This carotid sinus reflex is sufficiently dependable that doctors sometimes use mild pressure on the carotid sinus to reduce heart rate in patients whose hearts are beating too fast. According to Selvin and Howland (1961), males older than 50 years and with high blood pressure can be disproportionally susceptible to carotid sinus reflex.

The location of carotid body, high up on your neck under your jaw, is well out of the way of most collars on wetsuits specifically designed for swimming. However, neoprene swim caps with a chin strap may get close to this area of your neck.

Remedy
One of the easiest things to do to avoid all those icky feelings: make sure that nothing much is pressing on your neck.

Before you don your wetsuit, try putting a plastic grocery bag on your foot, then slip into the leg of your suit and when your suit is all the way on your leg and your foot protrudes, pull off the bag. Repeat with the other leg and both hands. The slippery plastic bag helps your limbs slide into your suit effortlessly and completely, to get your legs and arms well into the suit. Make sure you create a little gather of neoprene at the front of your shoulder to avoid having any tension on your collar. Once you are in your suit, pull the collar away from your throat.

It’s in your face.
A second physiological phenomenon that can cause similar symptoms is a result of you being a mammal. Maybe you have seen stories of children who fall through the ice and get rescued many minutes afterward being submerged, only to recover fully. All mammals have this natural ability, called the mammalian diving reflex (DR), to respond to submersion.

It works like this:
When you put your face in cold water and hold your breath, the trigeminal nerve in your face sends a signal to your vagus nerve (there’s the vagus again) to slow down your heartbeat. Your body also shunts blood flow from your extremities to your internal core and brain.

You could imagine this conversation:
“Hey, wait wait wait wait! I feel cold water and pressure on my face and I’ve stopped breathing!”
“What do you think this means?”
“What, are you dense? We are drowning!”
“What should we do?”
“OK, well first let’s slow down the heart rate and ship more blood to the brain, so we can keep that going at least and conserve as much as we can until we surface.” “Hey, good idea.”

This mammalian diving reflex is just fine for keeping you from dying too fast underwater, but it really feels inconvenient when you are trying to swim. You slip into the water, and it’s cold. For the purposes of your trigeminal nerve, anything in the 70s and below (F) qualifies as cold. As you start to swim, your mammalian diving reflex kicks in, your vagus nerve reduces your heart rate and your blood departs your extremities.

But also when you start your swim, another part of your system wants to elevate your heart rate and flush your swimming muscles with blood.

When you jump into cold water and swim away, if you feel as though you have a war going on in your chest, you are not far off. According to Rennie (2012) “A disadvantageous consequence, however, is that the muscles in the limbs must then rely more on anaerobic energy metabolism to keep working, so they build up lactic acid and tire more rapidly than they would from comparable exercise at the surface.” Maybe this feels true to you. And according to Panneton (2013),“The DR is the most powerful autonomic reflex known.” He goes on to say, in laboratory experiments, “100 percent of rats get it 100 percent of the time.”

You are dealing with very strong forces here.

Fortunately again, there is an easy solution to the mammalian diving reflex war in your chest.

 

Remedy
Recall your first swim lesson — blow bubbles.

Even before you start your swimming warm-up, you might consider doing your breathing warm-up. You do this by bobbing in the water. Yes, bobbing. As in, bobbing up and down. The easiest way to prevent that feeling is to warm up a little before you swim off.

 

 

Get in the water. Let the water trickle into your wetsuit. Float around for a few moments and feel the temperature of the water on your hands, feet, face and head. Adjust the collar of your wetsuit off your neck to make sure that your wetsuit is not pressing on your carotid arteries.
Bob. Take a breath. Put your face in the water and in a relaxed way exhale bubbles for 10 or 15 seconds. Lift your face into the air, take in a relaxed breath and then bob again. Repeat this for perhaps a minute or two.
Swim a little. Do some 25- or 50-meter easy swimming back and forth along the shoreline to get your muscles and your heart on the same page.

Go swim.
By gently bobbing for perhaps a whole entire minute before you start swimming, you settle down your trigeminal-vagus nerve cascade, get your inner mammalian diving reflex part to realize that indeed you are not drowning and you can just calm down. Then you can settle into your swim warm up and carry on.

Those two physiology issues, carotid sinus reflex and mammalian diving reflex, can explain a lot of that panicky feeling. Let’s get back to psychology for a moment.

One of the things about panic attacks: they can lead to altered behavior. Most important is to avoid developing panic attacks by attending to the physical causes and gaining the calmness in the water that makes open water swimming so rewarding.

 

 

References

APA. Panic attacks: the hallmark of panic disorder. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/panic-disorder.aspx
Panneton, W. Michael. (2013). The Mammalian Diving Response: an enigmatic reflex to preserve life? Physiology: 28(5) p. 284-297
Rennie, J. (2012). How the dive reflex extends breath-holding. Scientific American, March 22, 2012
Selvin, B and Howland, WS. M.D. (1961). New concepts of the physiology of the carotid sinus reflex. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1961;176(1):12-15. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040140014004.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
WILL MURRAY
Will Murray is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and is the mental skills coach for D3 Multisport. He is co-author, with Craig Howie, of “The Four Pillars of Triathlon: Vital Mental Conditioning for Endurance Athletes.”

Tri Boulder Race Preview

By Kirsten McCay

The 5th Annual Tri Boulder Sprint and Olympic Distance Triathlon is coming up and you don’t want to miss this race! This is a perfect tune-up race for the Boulder 70.3 which takes place in the same area 2 weeks later.

Compete in one of the fastest growing triathlons in Boulder. Swim in the beautiful Boulder Rez which is in the mid-70s right now, I swam in it with no wetsuit last weekend and it was perfect! Bike some of the smoothest (yay) and fastest (double yay) roads in Boulder. And run on the scenic dam trail which is a mostly flat and all packed dirt road. BBSC is a tri-friendly, professional race company that offers gender specific t-shirts, finisher medals, age group awards, Clydesdale and Athena categories, relays, race day child care, free entry into the reservoir, post-race food, and more.

This year I am doing the Olympic distance race and have already spent time on both courses and wanted to share with you what you are in for when you decide to do either of the races this year on July 23rd. I’m using the Olympic as a training race for USAT Age Group Nationals on August 12th. Either distance would be great for that or as mentioned above a tune-up race for Boulder 70.3 on August 6th.

SWIM: Currently the water in the reservoir is about 74 degrees. This is a great temperature that is warm enough for you to swim without a wetsuit if you don’t have one, but isn’t too warm to legally allow wetsuits if you are relying on that to help your swim time. The sprint course is a 750 meter clock-wise rectangle and the Olympic just doubles the distance out and back from the shore. There will be large buoys at each turn and small buoys for sighting. The swim is a wave start for safety and ease for beginner swimmers. Typically there are less than 100 people per wave.

BIKE: The bike course for the sprint is typically called the “Neva loop” and is basically a large loop around the NW part of Boulder. The sprint course is 17 miles, a little longer than the usual sprint distance, so if you are a cyclist, this race is for you! After leaving Reservoir Road, there is a very gradual climb for about 3 miles and then a fast rolling downhill for the next 10 miles. Once you are back on the Diagonal, it is another very slight incline for about 2 miles and then basically downhill (other than 2 short hills on the road back to the res) to the finish. The Olympic starts and ends the same way with a couple extra miles of slight incline rewarding us with several additional miles of declines! YAHOO!

RUN: The run for the sprint is primarily on dirt road and is a simple out and back around the res along the dam. There is a hill immediately when you leave transition, just remember it will be downhill on the way back when you need it the most. The Olympic is also an out and back, it just passes the sprint turn-around and goes an additional 1.55 miles slightly inclining to the 10K turn-around which will be fast for the return home to the finish line.

A great way to practice the swim and run is the Boulder Stroke & Stride which is a swim/run series held at the res every Thursday night. This will get you used to open water swimming, running up the beach, and that first hill on the run.

If you get to the Stroke & Stride, stop by and say “HI” to me at the “chip handout” table!!

And I hope to see you all out there on the 23rd.