Paris Mountain 20K road race recap

With Paris Mountain standing just a few miles away from our house, we have the opportunity to bike (or run) up the mountain anytime we want. Here's a picture (below) of my ride on Thursday, when I did 4 x 9 min heavy gear (45-50 rpm) intervals up Paris Mountain (and descended 3 minutes down between each interval). With no lookout point to stop at on the mountain, it's an added bonus to bike riding when we can enjoy the views and get in a great workout at the same time.

Once a year in Nov/Dec, the Greenville Track Club puts on the "toughest race in the south" with a 20K road race that goes up and over Paris Mountain and covers 2500 vertical feet of elevation gain, 89 curves and a few hills over 15% grade. For any athlete who likes a challenge, this is the race for you.

This year, the race was the host of the 2017 Road Runners Club of America South Carolina 20K championship. In 2015, Karel and I participated in the race and enjoyed using our triathlon resilience as we mixed it up with the road runners. Although I love a challenge, I found that the race really beat my legs up (as to be expected) and it took a while to recover from the extreme event. Karel wanted to race it this year but I decided to pass on it so that I didn't have to take any risks with my run training, as it's been going well and I've been very consistent. But, I could still get my racing fix by cheering on Karel (and our athlete Thomas) at the start/finish of the race and doing my scheduled run in between.

The race started at 7:30am at the Shi Center of Sustainability so after we parked at the Timmons arena, Karel did his warm-up to the start (about 3/4th mile away) and I started my workout (60-90 min endurance run). With about 10 minutes to spare before the start of the race, I made my way across Poinsett hwy so that I could cheer for everyone as they made their way to the base of Paris Mountain. After a few speedsters went by, I spotted Karel who looked like he was getting into his rhythm before the 2.5ish mile climb.


Karel went into the race with no expectations, except for the slight chance of winning overall masters, which would give him a $100 award. But seeing that this race brings out the real runners, it's tough to mix it up with those who are in the peak of their season. Karel (and myself) have done no speed work or intense run training for several months so for Karel, as a triathlete, his performance reflected his ongoing development as a triathlete.  He said maybe he would have slowed down a tiny bit in the first 1/2 mile but otherwise, he felt good with his execution and could not have gone any faster/harder. This course requires a lot of resilience and strength and great running form for both the uphill and downhill sections. Although the mountain climb comes in the first mile, there's a nasty stretch of a few miles at the base of Paris Mountain that will require your legs to be strong and durable for the back half of the 12.4 mile race. The community, police and volunteer support along with the race organizers do a fabulous job with this event. I just love our Greenville community that embraces active lifestyles.

After I finished my 80 minute run, I timed it perfectly to change into some warmer clothes (although great running weather in the mid 40's, it got cold once I stopped as there was no sun, just cloud cover) and then a few minutes later, the first finisher for the 20K was making his way to the finish line in 1:11. I had no idea how the race would go for Karel but seeing that he did the race in 2015 in 1:24 (on a slightly different course in the last few miles), I expected him to be a little faster since he has improved a lot with his overall resilience over the past few years.

A few more male finishers came back and finally, I spotted Karel making his way up the last hill on a cement path in Furman. I cheered him on to the finish and then got the details from him after the race.

Karel was happy with his performance but he said there was just no way for him to go any faster. He was pleased to have completed the race in 1:20 (12.4 miles and 2000 feet elevation gain) and to place 1st in his age group. Sadly, he was the 2nd masters finisher as a 45-year old beat Karel by 2 minutes - those runners are so fast! Well, we can say that Karel was the winner of the hydration belt category as I am pretty sure he was the only one wearing a hydration belt for the race - as we like to say "it's cool to fuel."

We waited for Thomas to finish and then went inside the building to wait for the awards.

Karel was pretty exhausted and sore for the rest of the day as the race took a lot out of him (stand along running races are so much more difficult than triathlon events!). At Trimarni, we encourage our athletes (triathletes) to be mindful that the sport of triathlon is different than the sport of running. Although it's perfectly fine (and sometimes encouraged) to jump into a local 5K, 10K or even half marathon event, we advise against training specifically for that event in an effort to achieve a personal best. Many triathletes are under the impression that training for a running race will better prepare the body for triathlon season. Although your running race may build confidence for your upcoming season, the adaptations of training and physiological makeup of a triathlete is much different than a runner because of how we train for the sport of triathlon. It's always fun to see our triathletes participate in a road race with little run specific speed work training and outperform expectations. In triathlon, we want to build a strong and resilient body. While this body may not be fast relative to what a stand alone swimmer, cyclist or runner can do, to succeed in the sport of triathlon, you must learn to train in a way that makes you great at not slowing down. Once again, Karel showed us all that you don't have to be fast to do well in a race, you just have to be great at delaying fatigue with a resilient body and strong mindset.

Congrats to everyone who "conquered the mountain!"


Vegan-friendly holiday dessert tips

The holidays can be overwhelming, especially if you have dietary restrictions. For all my vegan or dairy/egg allergy friends/followers, there's a good chance that you will feel deprived of the many delicious desserts offered to you, filled with ingredients that you can't (or should not) eat. While your reasons may be for ethical, religious, moral or health, the holidays are for everyone, regardless of your dietary needs. Everyone deserves to yum!

In my recent issue of Food and Nutrition (Nov/Dec 2017) on pg. 23, there was a great article titled "Mastering Vegan Baking."

I wanted to share a few ingredient swaps from the article, to help you make eight traditional desserts, vegan friendly.

  1. Whipped cream - Combine full-fat chilled coconut cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
  2. Tiramisu - Extra-firm tofu blended with raw cashews, sugar and lemon juice.
  3. Flan - Extra-firm silken tofu paired with high-fat non-dairy milk (ex. coconut milk). Combine with agar flakes (a thickener made from red seaweed), sugar and vanilla extract.
  4. Creme brulee - Silken tofu, full-fat coconut milk, sugar, vanilla extract and cornstarch. Sugar is key for the caramelized top. Ground turmeric can create a golden color in vegan creme brulee or flan.
  5. Panna cotta - Full-fat coconut milk, vanilla extract, sugar and a thickener such as agar powder and tapoica flour.
  6. Gelato or ice cream - High-fat non-dairy milk, such as coconut, combined with sugar and cornstarch.
  7. Pie crust - Chilled vegan butter, shortening substitute or coconut oil combined with all-purpose flour, salt and ice water.
  8. Tres leches - Plain unsweetened soy milk plus apple cider vinegar to create buttermilk. To make the soaking liquid, which creates the moist cake, combine vegan sweetened condensed milk and full-fat coconut milk. 

Other vegan-friendly food swap tips:
  • Eggs
    Powdered eggs (made with potato and tapoica starches)
    -Flax "egg" - 1 tbsp finely ground flaxseed + 3 tbsp water
    -Mashed banana (1/2 banana = ~1 egg)
    -Baking soda + vinegar (1 tsp baking soda + 1 tbsp white vinegar = 1 egg)
    -Aquafaba - the liquid from canned chickpeas and other legumes
  • Milk and Dairy-Plant-based full-fat or lower-fat replacement
    -For buttermilk - 1 cup soy milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
    -For traditional sweetened condensed milk - coconut milk + white sugar + vanilla extract
  • Butter
    Vegan spread (palm oil or vegetable oil)
    -Coconut oil or avocado
  • Honey
    Maple syrup
    -Agave nectar
    -Apple honey
  • Chocolate
    Cocoa powder
    -Frosting - bitter cocoa powder + vegan sweetener + powdered sugar + vegan-friendly butter, coconut oil or cashew cream. Add non-dairy milk and vanilla extract.


The underestimated celery plant

History has taught us that plants were commonly used for medicinal reasons, either to cure or reduce symptoms from an illness. Still today, there's no denying that food can be our medicine.

Back in the 1600's, in ancient Egypt, Rome and China, celery was medicinally used to treat health issues, like arthritis and indigestion. Rich in water and a good source of Vitamin K, Celery provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, thanks to it's many phytochemicals (ex. phenolic acids, flavones and flavonols). Although commonly recognized as a "diet" food, with every crunch, you are also providing your body with a great dose of nutrients, like vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6.

I love celery as each stalk provides a nice crunch. And despite containing only around 35 mg of sodium, somehow the slight bitterness tricks the taste buds to make you believe that you are eating something salty. Whether you enjoy your celery as "ants on a log" or chopped/diced in salads or in stews, celery can be steamed, blanched, braised or sauteed. 

In addition to the stalk, the leaves and seeds can be also used in cooking.

And you can also eat the root of celery!

While the look may not be appetizing, celery root (also called celeriac) has the taste of celery and parsley, combined into one.

I remember when Karel and I were engaged in 2007 and he wanted to prepare me a traditional Czech Christmas dinner. Although he did have to make some vegetarian modifications for me, as the typical meal that he was use to included fish soup, potato salad and fried carp or schnitzel, I could not get over the delicious taste of the potato salad. Karel had to go to several different grocery stores in the Jacksonville, FL area (where we were living at the time) because he had no luck finding the star ingredient, next to the potatoes - celery root!  Finally, he was able to find a celery root for his recipe.

I was inspired to write this blog post after reading an article on Celery in the latest Nov/Dec 2017 issue of Food and Nutrition magazine (from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

While I was excited to share some nutritional information about celery root, this article reminded me how important it is to see food for much more than calories, fat, protein or carbs. By shifting your view on food, you can eat with less/no guilt or anxiety and feel good about what you are putting into your body. Food shouldn't be tied to rules and it certainly should not be used a control mechanism.
For myself, food often connects me to Karel's upbringing and culture, since he did not grow up in the United States of America but instead, grew up in a communist country in Czech Republic (formally Czechoslovakia). 

Food plays an important role in our lives. With better eating comes better health and with that comes an enhanced quality of life. 


Don't be afraid to ask for help

When Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition LLC became an official business, I was given a lot of advice about starting a new business - some advice was helpful, a little was discouraging and a lot of it was overwhelming. But the best piece of advice that I was given was "don't try to do everything. Ask for help."

Many people do not like to ask for help as it can be seen as a sign of weakness, there could be fear of rejection or feelings of not being good enough. Some people just don't like to ask for help due to pride or ego. But this piece of advice encouraged me to focus on what I was good at (ex. coaching and nutrition) and to let others help me in the areas that I knew nothing about (ex. accounting). Still today, I don't mind asking for help as I like to collaborate with professionals who specialize in areas that I am not an expert in and I can learn from others. There's nothing foolish or inadequate about not knowing it all.

Asking for help, whether it's business/work related or life focused can boost productivity and can help you accomplish more tasks with greater ease. And this doesn't just apply to work. Sometimes I like to ask for a little help from the grocery store when I am time-crunched and I need to invest in pre-chopped veggies, a box of granola, a can of soup or ready-to-eat grains. I call these my semi-homemade meals as I know a little help from the store as it's not realistic for me to eat only real food every day of my life. 

I feel no shame in asking for help when I need a little assistance. I also like to ask for help when I feel overwhelmed with our back-end work at Trimarni. I don't find value in sacrificing sleep or time spent exercising for my mind/body/soul, when I know there is someone else who would love to help out so that I can focus on what I specialize in -which is coaching and nutrition.

Although asking for work or life related help may help you accomplish more tasks in a shorter amount of time (or may help with productivity), asking for help when it's related to your health can be very hard.

It's typical for people to avoid asking for help when before they need it and then when they really, really need it, the help is often found on the internet or forum due to embarrassment or frustration. Most people want to fix problems without the assistance of another person. And when a person is desperate for help because a problem occurred, there's often the tendency to think "I wish I would have gotten help weeks/months ago." Asking for and receiving health in a timely manner can positively impact your health and well-being. Prevention is cheaper than medicine.

If you are struggling with something in your life or with your health or you feel overwhelmed with everything on your to-do list, I encourage you to ask for help. Don't try to do it all. If you are a coach, create a team of other professionals so that you can better help your athletes with nutrition, mental skills, therapy/rehab and strength training. If you are a business owner, focus on your specialty and let others do what you are not good at. If you have an issue with your health, reach out to a professional for help. Asking for help shows strength, not weakness. You are not a burden for asking for help. When you need something done, ask for help so that you can get on with living your life.

Above all, asking for help shows that you respect the expertise of someone else (because you don't know it all) and it gives another person the opportunity to provide their assistance, knowledge or help so that everyone feels accomplished/satisfied.


Athlete expectations during the holidays

For athletes, there are many challenges to navigate around during the holidays. It can be difficult to stay consistent with training because you are off your normal regime and your healthy diet is sabotaged by so many oh-so-good family tradition eats and treats. While some athletes have no trouble skipping workouts and indulging in sweets during the holidays, it's common for athletes to feel anxious about the many changes in the normal routine. While your frustration is not understood (or supported) by your non-athlete family members, you still feel that it is important to meet your expectations during the holidays. 

So what's an athlete to do? 

Do you say good bye to all good habits and let loose until the New Year?

Do you refuse to change your routine because you need the control and stick to strict eating and structured training?

Because every person should dedicate time to exercise for health on a daily basis and should focus on eating for nourishment, it's not necessary to avoid your family in order to get in every minute/mile of your prescribed workout and to avoid the occasional indulgences that come with holiday eating. The holiday season offers a few great opportunities to enjoy a little downtown and change up your normal training and exercise routine without anxiety or guilt. 

Here are a few tips to make the most out of your Thanksgiving break. 


1. Create a better internal dialogue in your head when you are eating, especially as it relates to your body and food.
2. Trust your body. Tune into your true signals of hunger and satisfaction as a way to guide you through your holiday feast.
3. Treat yourself to family, don't make the holidays just about food. Enjoy your time around your loved ones or if you are alone, call up an old friend or volunteer and help out those in need.
4. Slow down and taste your food. Appreciate the aroma, presentation, flavor and texture of your food - real food and store bought. Share a story if a dish reminds you of something happy.
5. Love what you eat. The first few bites of anything should always taste amazing. If you don't love it, don't eat it. 


1. Get it done early, but not too early. Enjoy waking up without an alarm but if you can squeeze in a workout before your day gets busy, you'll find yourself energized and you won't have to deal with the guilt that comes with removing yourself from family time, just to train. 

2. Loosen up. It's ok if you have to modify a set or reduce the volume. Don't feel guilty if you have to miss a workout. Prioritize the workouts that give you the best return for your investment at this phase of training. A few modified workouts over the holidays will not affect your race performance in September.
3. Keep training fun. Participate in a Turkey Trot, exercise with your kids, go for a hike or set up a local group workout. Do something each day that is good for your mind and body.
4. Be efficient with your time. Indoor workouts are great for time management as you can get in a quality workout with minimal distractions.
5. Communicate. Now more than ever is the time to communicate with your family. You may be surprised that if you tell your family/kids that on Friday you will be gone from 8:30-10:30 for a workout, they won't care about your absence. But if you tell them last minute, they may be upset that you are suddenly leaving them, which then leaves you with guilt, if you even leave for your workout. 


1. Don't skip meals throughout the day. Excessively restricting calories or an entire food group (ex. carbohydrates) will likely lead to overeating at your upcoming feast. Instead, focus on small meals throughout the day, eating every few hours. Prioritize nutrient dense foods like fruits and veggies at your meals. Don't forget to stay hydrated - with water, of course.
2. Do not go into your big meal with a starving belly. Plan a healthy snack around 45-60 minutes before your meal. Options like apple slices and pistachios, deli meat and lettuce wraps, celery sticks with cheese or a few almonds with figs should take the edge off so you don't eat with your eyes when serving yourself.
3. Fuel your workout. Seeing that there is a good chance that you will workout in the morning, restricting calories around/during your workout is not a permissible strategy to indulge (or to eat more calories) at your upcoming feast. It can actually backfire on you as you will likely be so famished by meal time, that you may eat beyond a feeling of fullness - stuffed and very uncomfortable. Treat your workout like any other day. Fuel smart and hydrate well. And be sure to eat a healthy breakfast after your workout (or Turkey Trot).
4. Choose wisely. Create a healthy plate of a little of everything.
5. Indulge wisely. You are not forced to eat everything at your feast but you are allowed to indulge. Choose your favorites and say "no thank you" to the unappealing or familiar options. Share, split and limit yourself to just one. 

It's very easy for athletes to remain rigid around the holidays because a change in the normal routine (training or eating) can bring anxiety or feelings of loss of control. 

When you think about the big picture (your entire season ahead), a few days away from your normal routine may be a good thing. Don't stress about what doesn't get done. The holidays are a wonderful time to give thanks to your body, to your friends and to your family.


The 30% grade climb

Back in early August, on day one of the Purple Patch Greenville camp, Karel was shown a new cycling route by Greenville locals George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde, accompanied by  Cadel Evans and two other PPF campers (Duncan and Emily). Although a beautiful route, I aslo remember Karel telling me that this route was the "the hardest climb in our area....and he is so excited to show it to me." I guess it's more fun to suffer together than alone.

Well, a few months passed by and Karel kept telling me about the really "fun" cycling route that he really wanted to show me. I figured it couldn't have been that bad as Karel, Duncan and Emily covered the climb on their triathlon bikes and I do love to climb (especially on my road bike) so eventually, I told Karel that it was time for us to check out this climb.

On Friday morning, Karel and I drove to Hotel Domestique for the start of our ride. The weather was cool but the wind was strong. We dressed well for the ride and started our adventure on two wheels.

Within a few miles, we were already climbing as we needed to go into North Carolina for our climb. We went up the watershed and into Flat Rock and as we were riding, we were chatting here and there and I didn't think too much of the climb that Karel was so excited to show me. Our first 70 minute of riding covered around 1800 feet of elevation gain but I felt good and I was happy to be outside on my road bike.

The next 21 minutes were pretty mellow as we only covered around 470 feet of elevation gain. We were riding west on Crab Creek Road (toward Brevard) when Karel pointed to the left and said "that's where we are going."

We turned onto Walnut Cove Road, which turned into Bear Rock road and suddenly, the road became smaller as I felt us starting our climb.

I didn't say anything at the time but I wasn't too uncomfortable at the start of the climb. I kept thinking "this is it?" Karel did not say much to me during the climb but as I saw the road starting to get a bit pitchy in certain segments, I questioned his idea of this "fun" ride (this would not be the first time that I questioned Karel's definition of fun, easy, mellow or any other word he likes to use to describe a route or a ride).

Karel told me that there were some steep sections but the route was more like a step, where it would even out every now and then. I was relieved by this information and thought to myself "ok, this won't be too bad."

Not knowing how long the climb was or what was approaching, Karel stayed behind me for the ride so that he could get it all on camera. Although our Garmin VIRB 30 doesn't do the climb much justice, I approached a section of the road that looked like a wall and it just kept going. I was breathing heavy and in between breaths, I told Karel "I am not going to make it!" Karel reassured me that I could make it to the top of this climb and to just keep pedaling and to not look up. Thank you Karel for that great advice - yeah right.

After I completed the hardest climb of my life (about 1/4th mile at 30-31% grade), I was able to finally catch my breath and stop pedaling as I coasted on a slight decline, until I had to start climbing again. Karel rode ahead of me and finally, 1.5 miles later, we made it to the top.

Since this was a private road, I had to get off my bike to squeeze through the gate and at that point, I didn't want to get back on my bike. Karel asked "how was it?" and I had no words for him. After I finally got over what just happened, Karel said "Ok, let's keep climbing."

What?? Are you crazy!

I told Karel absolutely not, I am done. Karel would not let me quit and he told me that I have to embrace being uncomfortable, even when I am tired. I tried to get my way out of another climb but Karel wouldn't accept any of my excuses so I got back on my bike and up we went for more climbing (at least the road was two lanes and not a tiny little road). I was doing a lot of zig zagging on the 30% climb and a little on this next climb.

We finally reached the top before turning down for our descend. Oh I was so happy to descend and not have to climb any more.....but then again, there are no shortage of climbs where we ride but thankfully, no more over 12%! Of course I had to wait for Karel to do some exploring as whenever he sees a gravel road, for some crazy reason he wants to check it out.

In total, the climb was around 3 miles, 1500 feet elevation gain and averaged around 11% incline. There were several sections around 18-22% and of course, the 30-31% kicker that seemed to never end.

By the time we reached 2 hours of riding, our average speed was 12.7mph (the miles go by slow here) and we had accumulated around 4000 feet of elevation gain.

I do have to admit that once we started our ride back on Pinnacle Mountain road (we didn't head home the way we went up - if we had, my brakes would have overheated!), the beautiful scenery and freshly paved roads made all that climbing worth it - well, maybe.

Our ride home took us about an hour and thanks to a lot of descending, I had time to forget about the "fun" that I experienced on two wheels.

After the ride was finished, I was so happy that I experienced the climb and I hope that Karel doesn't take me there again (no doubt he will, however - lucky me.)

Total ride stats:
3 hours - ride time
5000 feet - elevation gain
14.8mph - average speed

For your entertainment - me suffering up the climb.
Video made by Karel with our Garmin VIRB 30.


Struggling to make a lifestyle change?

The other evening, I spoke to a group of recovering addicts on the topic of nutrition therapy and the role of proper eating habits assisting in long term sobriety. For my presentation, I had to dig out some of my food props from when I was working as a clinical dietitian at Baptist Medical Center Beaches in Jacksonville, FL. While I love specializing in nutrition for athletes, I learned a lot about the human body when I worked as an inpatient dietitian.

Speaking to the group of addicts was very rewarding and powerful. Although it was out of my comfort zone to speak to non-athletes, I always appreciate the opportunities where I can share my passion of healthy living with others. And as an athlete who embraces a healthy lifestyle, I can't stress it enough that athletes must establish great lifestyle habits in order to improve chances of athletic success. Without good health, you don't have a strong platform to support your fitness goals.

For individuals with a current or past substance abuse problem, drugs and alcohol are often used to cope, relax, escape or used as a reward. While we all need ways to cope, relax, escape and reward, it's important for addicts to develop daily habits that promote good physical and mental health and an improved sense of well-being. In other words, to replace bad habits with good habits, self care is critical. It's well researched that good restful sleep, stress management, healthy coping skills, a structured life routine, a healthy and balanced diet, surrounding yourself with positive individuals and daily exercise are powerful lifestyle habits that can improve mental and physical health for addicts in recovery but are essential healthy habits for every human being to embrace.

As a coach to an amazing team of Trimarni athletes and a sport dietitian to many runners and triathletes, every athlete that comes my way for help is reminded by me that overall good mental and physical health are key components to athletic success. Athletic success starts with great lifestyle habits. Although training for an event is rewarding and can fill your life with purpose, self-worth and well being, you can only get so far with your fitness if you live with unhealthy lifestyle habits that do not foster optimal health. Based on my philosophy, I don't believe that athletes should compromise their health while training for an athletic event. Therefore, I find it important to always encourage and remind my athletes that daily self-care is the foundation by which you can improve your athletic performance. Just like with addicts in recovery, for athletes, your body will function at its best when you have a healthy lifestyle and make your health a priority on a daily basis.

If you are an athlete struggling to make better choices in your life, like a better sleeping regime, consuming less alcohol, improved eating habits, better life/work balance or staying consistent with training, here are some tips for making a healthy change in your lifestyle:
  1. Good, better, best - When making a lifestyle change, it's normal to have big expectations for yourself and to make many radical changes all at once. Let's get rid of the all or nothing mentality. Unhealthy habits develop similar to healthy habits. When you repeat an action over and over, you form neural pathways that support the habit, without giving much thought to your actions. When the reward center in your brain is activated with the release of dopamine, the habit is reinforced, which causes you to crave more of it. Whereas the feeling of working out makes you feel good and it's good for you, some habits are not so good, like always craving ice cream in the evening or finding yourself wanting a glass of wine after a long day of work. It's important to train your brain to get comfortable with new habits. Change is a process. To help you make a change in your life, work on a good, better, best system. Set small goals for yourself and focus on accomplishing one goal at a time. For example, if you are always ordering/eating out for dinner, set your first goal of only ordering out 3 nights per week instead of 5. This is a good goal to force you to cook for yourself two nights per week. Once you meet that small "good" goal, move on to the next "better" goal, which could be only ordering out only once a week. Consistency is key when making changes so start slow and be realistic with your goals.
  2. Fix, don't overhaul - Athletes are known to be a little obsessive and extreme at times so it's no surprise when an athlete tries to completely overhaul his/her lifestyle with a black or white mentality. Change can be stressful to your body, mind and spirit. If you try to improve your sleep habits, your relationship, your work/life balance, your exercise routine and your diet all at once, you will feel overwhelmed and you will want to give up. You will feel more motivated by improving your habits if you focus on changing one bad habit at a time. Typically, habits have a way of snowballing so if you find yourself focusing first on improving your sleep regime, you may find yourself staying more consistent with exercising which also helps your cravings and appetite and your mood with your significant other.
  3. Get support - Lifestyle changes don't change in one day. It takes time to get out with the old and in with the new. And it's normal and expected that you will have some missteps along the way. To keep you on track, it's important to have a good support team to help you stay accountable to your changes but also to ensure that you are making changes in a healthy way (you don't want to create a new bad habit while fixing an old bad habit, like giving up candy in the afternoon but now addicted to diet sodas). Make sure that you never see your lifestyle change as punishing. Developing new good habits requires a lot of hard work but you must remind yourself that change is good when it improves your physical and mental health. Don't be afraid or ashamed to get help from a professional therapist or counselor. Asking for help shows strength. You are worthy of help and someone out there wants to be part of your team. 


Why you need a squad of professionals

Many professional athletes are supported by a "team" of professionals to help with athletic performance. Some are seen regularly and others are available as needed.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could expect a massage every time you finished a race or have a doctor or physical therapist on speed dial to squeeze you in anytime you experience a niggle?

While it may sound too good to be true, I do believe that every individual who is training for an athletic event, whether it be a long or short, should have a team of professionals to assist in the training journey. Although you may question the money that you would need to spend on these professionals and then claim that your sport is only your hobby, consider it an investment to your overall enjoyment in your sport as you also take care of your health. It's far too common that athletes will experience an issue, whether it's gear, health or training related and then frantically search for an expert to be of help or struggle to know who to reach out to for guidance. Without a trusted go-to professional, you may find yourself asking around and looking for a quick or cheap fix (which may cause more harm than good). Additionally, you may need to try out different professionals, like the right bike mechanic or massage therapist, to find someone who meets your expectations and needs. While it isn't necessary that you see your squad members every day, it is important to have trusted, qualified and experienced resources to assist in your athletic journey.

A professional is there to help you solve a problem or to prevent a problem from occurring. Instead of hoping that you can figure out what's going on or searching on the internet or online forums for answers, there's someone out there who has knowledge and experience in a specialty area and wants to help you solve or prevent your issue.

In your athletic journey, there will be problems, obstacles and setbacks - some preventable and some unavoidable. It's ok that you don't have all the answers as to why, what and how something happened so it's recommended to know someone who can help you with your questions.

For athletes, here are my top picks for your squad of professionals:
  • Coach
  • Mentor
  • Sport dietitian
  • Sport doctor
  • Physical therapist
  • Massage therapist
  • Sport psychologist
And a few go-to resources (depending on your sport):
  • Swim/bike/run skills expert
  • Bike fitter
  • Bike mechanic
  • Gait analysis expert
  • Tri/bike/run store
  • Cookbook
  • Trusted website/blog
  • Personal trainer/sport and conditioning coach
  • Travel agent 


Falling for Greenville cycling (and food)

It doesn't matter the time of the year as any ride in Greenville is a great ride. However, there's something extra special about the fall season as nature has a way of keeping us smiling. 

The other day I captured this beautiful rainbow during my easy spin on the trail. It was a magnificent sight as it was so clear and perfect in the sky. 

During our 2:45 hr ride on Saturday morning, we ended up on the Doodle trail in the middle of our ride, which made for a nice EZ spin for a few miles. 

Back on the country roads with no shortage of farm animals. I always make sure to say hi to all of the horses, cows, cow puppies, goats, sheep and chickens. 

So many beautiful sights on two wheels! No photo editing needed! 

I spent a little extra time this weekend in the kitchen as I was in the mood for some sweet treats. With some spotty bananas calling my name, I put them to good use and made a loaf of delicious banana bread. I followed this recipe but only used 1/4 cup sugar instead of 1 cup. And per the request of Karel, our banana bread has raisins, chocolate chips and walnuts instead. 

In honor of Shalane's kick-butt performance at the NYC marathon, I also made sweet potato cookies (from the Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook) but used Teff flour instead of Almond flour. I also added chocolate chips because, why not?

For the last few weeks we have been joining a group swim at Furman, lead by our friend and former pro triathlete and college swimmer Kristen. The swim has been great for us as it gives us a social outlet to workout with others and it also allows us to turn off our coaching brain and just follow the prescribed set from the coach on deck. The swim is from 5-6:15pm every Sunday so in order to avoid coming home with a hungry belly and no planned meal, I always try to make dinner before we go to swim so that it's ready when we get home. On Sunday, my dish included sauteed mushrooms and onions, along with a mix of veggies (cauliflower, carrots and broccoli) and seasoned it with salt, pepper and spicy mustard, along with nutritional yeast. I tossed in some peanuts and added cooked farro and yumed my way through the bowl. 

Waffles and pancakes make me so happy so one or the other is often consumed before my morning workout. Lately, I have been enjoying a Belgium waffle topped with PB, syrup, banana slices, granola and yogurt before my longer workouts on the weekend (which is similar to what I eat on race day morning).

For your viewing entertainment, Karel made a short video with our new Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 from our Saturday morning ride to show off our amazing cycling routes with little to no car traffic (and 99% patient and nice drivers). Enjoy! 


50 ways to be a better athlete

As a long-time endurance triathlete, I love the process of training for a race. I enjoy the journey that I get to take my body on within every racing season and at the start of every season, I look forward to stretching my limits in an effort to reach new personal accomplishments. 

It's not uncommon for endurance athletes to be very committed to training while constantly looking for what else is out there to help take fitness to that next level. With a relentless drive to improve, it's important that your training methods, dietary regime and lifestyle choices don't get you injured, burnout or with a serious health issue.

In a recent Ironman article, I selected my top 50 ways to be a better athlete so that you can unlock your potential and reach athletic excellence on race day without compromising your health and quality of life. 

Which qualities on my list are you doing a great job of and which qualities need improvement?

Read the article HERE.


2017 Season Recap - Marni and Karel

It's easy to confuse perfection with success.

For many athletes, there's a constant allure that the more perfect you are with your training and diet - if you do everything "right" - success will come your way.

If you ask any "successful" athlete about his/her road to success, there's a 99% chance that he/she will tell you that true success involves taking risks and it also involves failure. The best part about failing is that it gives you an opportunity to learn from the given situation and not being perfect means that you are always learning and there is room for improvement.

In looking back at our 2017 racing season, Karel and I both feel that it was a very successful season of racing. While there were some less than ideal situations that we faced before and on race day, we have learned all too well that you don't have to have a perfect race for it to be a successful race.

With the 2018 triathlon racing season awaiting us, I thought it would be a great time to reflect on our 2017 season.

Great Clermont Triathlon
Marni - 1st overall female - 2:21.47
Karel - 2nd overall male - 2:08.16


"Good things come when you least expect them."

After 3.5 rewarding and exhausting days of non-stop training, education and supporting our campers at our All-Levels Clermont camp, we concluded the camp with the Great Clermont Olympic distance triathlon. This was a no-stress race for our athletes (and for us) to dust off the rust and to be in the race environment. We had a blast racing with our athletes to conclude our training camp and the results were just an added bonus.

Marni - 1st AG (35-39), 3rd overall female - 4:48.08*
Karel - 3rd AG (40-44) - 4:19.46*
*IM 70.3 World Championship qualified

"No expectations. No disappointments."
For some reason, I was incredibly nervous for this race. A new age group for me and my first time racing on this course. It had been a long time since I had raced in an Ironman branded half ironman event so I knew the competition would be fierce for this early season race. Karel, on the other hand, had no nerves and he felt no pressure to perform. With a few Trimarnis out racing with us, we had a lot of fun out on this course and can't wait to head back in April of 2018. Since I was dedicated my entire season to half Ironman distance racing and hoping to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships at St. George, this was a nice surprise to kick-start my season. Karel ran a speedy 1:24 on the course (run time) and for the first time, he placed top three in an IM branded half IM event and also earned his spot to the 70.3 WC.

Ironman 70.3 St. George
Marni - 1st AG - 5:04.41*
Karel - 3rd AG - 4:32.23*

*IM 70.3 World Championship qualified

"Challenges are not set to destroy you but to challenge you."

St. George had been on our bucket list for a long time. We were so excited to finally experience this challenging course. As a key Trimarni race, we were equally excited to share the experience with eleven of our athletes. The course lived up to its hype and we will be returning back to St. George in 2018 for another chance to tackle the course and to experience all of the beauty that St. George (and the community) has to offer us triathletes. Karel and I were happy to land on the podium again (a repeat of IM 70.3 Florida 4 weeks prior) but the best part was winning the division 5 category for the Tri Club rankings!

Mountains to Mainstreet
Cancelled race due to weather

"You may not end up where you thought you were going, but you will always end up where you are meant to be."

Well that sucked. We selected Mountains to Mainstreet as a key Trimarni event as a way to bring our athletes to Greenville so that they could experience our amazing cycling routes. Sadly, Mother Nature had other plans for us with a nasty storm on race day morning. We couldn't let all that pre-race pizza go to waste so we all headed out to the Swamp Rabbit Trail for a wet and soggy run on part of the M2M run course. In looking back, maybe it was meant to be for me not to race as my legs needed a good 3.5 weeks to fully recover from St. George. We felt bad for all of our athletes who traveled to Greenville for the race but I'd like to think that this only made them hungrier for their next race.

Ironman Lake Placid 
Karel - 3rd AG - 9:41.35*
*Ironman World Championship qualified

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

Karel was ready for his return to Lake Placid after his planned DNF after the bike, in 2015, due to his torn plantar. Lake Placid holds a special place in our heart as it is where we raced our first Ironman together in 2013. The lead-up to Placid was going great until Karel found himself with a very bad sickness that knocked him out for several days during his taper (a week out from the race). With the help of some homemade potato and garlic soup (his mom's recipe for when he was sick as a child), Karel was able to improve his health by the time that we arrived to Placid. There was a lot of uncertainty for the day but Karel didn't overthink the race. It was a gusty performance and somehow, Karel managed to get to the finish line and land on the podium. He also managed to land inside the medical tent (no IV's needed, just lots of rest and broth) as he was completely depleted and exhausted from giving what he could, with what he had, on race day. It was great to share the race experience with our Trimarnis out on the course. Karel declined his IM Kona slot as we are planning to return to Kona in 2018 so the slot rolled down to Karel's friend Roman who traveled to Placid all the way from Czech! 

Lake Logan Half Ironman
Marni - 3rd overall female - 4:53.10

"Some days you just have to create your own sunshine."
As another key Trimarni race, I was super excited to return back to Lake Logan for another opportunity to race on this extremely challenging course. Although a beautiful bike course, there's nothing easy about the course as it beats up your legs before a 2 loop, up and down run. Knowing that there would be some competition out on the course (my good friend Katie Morales), I was excited for the opportunity to race to defend my overall win title (even though I knew that Katie would take that title from me). To summarize the day, I felt very flat on the bike and it was frustrating. Although I was able to put together a very strong run off the bike, I just didn't have it. Oh well. I was pleased to finish 3rd overall female and to have this race behind me as my next focus was my big race of the year - the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

Marni - DNS
Karel - 8th AG

"Never give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about."

With my entire season devoted to this one race, using the word disappointed would be an understatement. After smashing my face on the floor on race day morning due to blacking out quickly after getting out of bed, I not only felt sad about missing this race but I also was concerned about my health. Luckily, after lots of testing, I was cleared to return back to racing but without another race on my schedule. Karel had no pressure for worlds as his focus was on Ironman Chattanooga just two weeks later. Surprisingly, the course suited him very well and he shocked himself by placing 8th in his AG. It was a fantastic way to finish the weekend despite me not being able to race. Thanks to Karel's good thinking, I registered for Ironman Chattanooga (foundation entry) as my comeback race. While I didn't train specifically for Ironman Chattanooga, it felt so right to be racing an Ironman as my last race of the season.

Ironman Chattanooga
Marni - Female amateur champion, 1st AG - 10:28.50*
Karel - 2nd amateur male, 3rd overall, 1st AG - 9:20.55

   *Ironman World Championship qualified      

"Good vibes, positive energy and amazing souls are all I ever want around me."

Words can't describe how great it felt to start and finish Ironman Chattanooga. We had 14 other Trimarnis racing, including 2 first timers and I had some unfinished business in Chattanooga to take care of. I was super excited for Karel and that I could be on the same course as his first AG win and oh-so-close to finishing 1st overall male. I was shocked beyond belief to have won my first Ironman as an amateur as it's something that I have been dreaming of and was a big goal of mine for 2018. A big thank you to my body for allowing me to do amazing things with it on race day. The IM Chatty run course was so challenging, especially with the heat, but I had a reason to finish what I started despite all the pain and hurt that comes with Ironman racing. Karel accepted his slot to Kona (as that was his plan for the season) whereas I declined my spot so that another deserving female in my age group could experience racing on the big island of Kona. I'll be returning to Kona as a spectathlete!

Hincapie Gran FondoMarni - 3rd overall female
Karel - Finished 

"The mountains are calling and I must go."

Nothing makes me happier than riding my bike in the mountains, especially in and around Greenville. Although a fun event in Greenville, I was excited to "race" the Hincapie Gran Fondo with Karel as my domestique to pull me along. It was so much fun to suffer with Karel and I felt strong throughout the entire 80-mile (8,000 feet of elevation gain) route, all while tackling three of our difficult climbs (and everything else in between). What a great way to end the season!

Along with our races, we put on 4 training camps this summer. It was a lot of work but so rewarding and fun!

Clermont - March (all levels)

Greenville - May (skills camp)

Greenville - June (endurance camp)

Greenville - August (advanced camp)

Onward to 2018........
Karel and I like to set big goals in early season in an effort to keep the motivation high throughout the upcoming year. However, we never want to lose the fun and passion of this hobby so all goals come with no pressure or extreme changes in our lifestyle.

For next year, Karel's "big goals" are to get close to the 9-hour mark at Ironman Austria and to try to place top-10 at IM Kona. He realizes that the Kona goal is a big stretch goal but it's something that means a lot to him and hopes to one day achieve it.

For next year, my "big goals" are to break 10-hours at Ironman Austria and to place overall female amateur at Ironman Wisconsin. Although I can't control who shows up and what will happen on race day, these two goals are getting me super excited for my 12th consecutive season of triathlon training and racing.

Thanks for reading!


Body composition through the competitive year

Changing one's body composition will only offer a performance advantage, however, if we first establish the goals and methods uniquely suited to each athlete's individual needs. Numerous so-called "magic bullets" circulate in the health and fitness world for losing fat; triathletes should be cautious of "strategies" that promote quick results. These methods pose a great risk for losing lean tissue, bone mass, and gaining body fat, lingering fatigue, illness, injury, compromised recovery, and ultimately, performance decline. Perhaps even worse, a reckless weight reduction program can trigger disordered eating habits, paving the way to a dangerous eating disorder.

Although a certain perceived "leanness" may in fact be athletically advantageous, every athlete has an ideal body composition range where he or she will feel, function, and perform the best. It cannot be overstressed that the bathroom scale provides irrelevant information about your true body composition and should not be used as a method for measuring body composition for health and/or performance improvements. If you are still convinced that reduced body fat will offer you a distinct advantage, before your get started, it's very important to accurately measure the proportion of your body that is excess fat in relation to muscle, bone, and essential fat.

In an attempt to prevent the aforementioned evils of quick-fix weight loss and to ensure athletic longevity (a.k.a. continued enjoyment!) for cycling, running, and other endurance sports, planned body composition changes should be the direct outcome of a well-executed training plan, proper recovery, restful sleep, well-balanced eating, and effective fueling/hydration strategies.

In a past Ironman.com article, I outlined how you can use your entire season—however it looks for you—to build fitness while creating healthy eating behaviors and sustainable strategies to meet your unique nutritional demands.

To read my guide to making peace with your weight all season long, building your fitness, and creating healthy eating habits, read more HERE.


Real Food For Real Life - Podcast Interview

Thank you Real Food For Real Life for the podcast interview!

Scott reached out to me for a podcast interview in late August and a few days after Ironman Chattanooga, our schedules aligned for us to have our podcast interview. I really enjoyed this interview as we kept the focus mostly on nutrition, specific to how to eat and fuel to maximize performance for athletic events, while keeping the body in good health.

We discussed the following in the interview:
  • Details on my recovery post Ironman Chattanooga
  • What I eat after an Ironman to help with recovery
  • Keeping your immune system healthy after an extreme endurance event
  • Importance of fueling/hydrating properly during training/racing
  • How my education/knowledge as a sport dietitian has helped me create success as an endurance athlete
  • Why athletes need to create a healthy relationship with food and stop the off-limit food lists
  • Pre-race and race day nutrition issues and tips
  • Sport nutrition product suggestions
  • Snack suggestions to eat on the go 
Podcast link - Click HERE


A little about eMeals — as America’s largest online meal planning service, we’ve been creating plans for more than a decade by offering a wide range of food styles to meet users' budgets and health goals. In terms of user groups and content, our four key areas of strength are Healthy Eating (in general, particularly around heart health and fitness), Paleo (and its active lifestyle), Family (fostering that bond around the dinner table), and Entertaining.
Real Food for Real Life is for people who never stop searching for solutions and inspiration to improve their lives. While we focus primarily on the Paleo and Clean Eating lifestyles, our goal is to give you real food alternatives for your real life—whether that means eating healthier, managing your weight, simplifying your life or simply getting your family around the dinner table. We’ll do this each episode by bringing you a lively mix of informative interviews with some of the most notable names in food, health and fitness.


Do you have a sugar addiction?

When I was younger, I lived for Halloween! I loved candy - all kinds! If it was tangy, sweet, salty, sour or peanut buttery, I had to have it.

Growing up, I couldn't eat enough candy. I'm pretty sure I fueled my swim workouts off candy. I craved it, loved the taste of it and I always looked forward to my next candy fix. Oh so good!

Oddly enough, despite candy having a big place in my diet, I nixed my sugar addiction when I was in my 20's.

I don't have anything against candy but it's has no power over me. It's just candy.

But I know this isn't the case for many as it's normal for many people to struggle with some type of sugar addiction. Although I wouldn't call it a sugar addiction, my hubby Karel has a mouth full of sweet teeth and while he is not a big fan of candy made in the USA, he can't get enough of his Czech candies and chocolates when we travel to Europe.

With Halloween as the start of the "holiday" season (which means no shortage of sugary-rich foods for the next 3 months), I wanted to share my tips on how I broke my sugar addiction with mindful eating.

Mindful eating
Life is busy, stressful and exhausting. There's a good chance that most people eat mindlessly more than mindfully. As an example, do you listen to your body when you eat and eat until you are satisfied or do you eat past full? Do you eat with others at set times and places or do you eat alone, at random times and places? Do you eat foods that are emotionally comforting or nutritionally healthy? Do you eat and multitask or eat and just eat without distractions? Do you consider a meal as an end product or consider where the meal came from? Can you listen to your body to know what your body needs to eat or do emotions and cravings dictate your food choices? 

For any individual who has a food addiction (ex. sugar), there's a disconnect between the mind and body as it relates to eating. The addiction may come from the food itself or from lifestyle habits and patterns related to eating. I know that when I was younger, my diet was not very well balanced. I would often go long hours without eating, which would cause sugar cravings and I wasn't very attentive to what I ate. 

Do you find it normal to have a dialogue of thoughts in your head when it comes to eating, especially with sweet?  Do you have thoughts of your body image, fat, calories, sugar, carbs, etc. making you feel guilty, anxious or stressed around sweets?

Slowing down and listening to your body, along with eating slowly is one of the best ways to retrain your body to help you start eating more mindfully. It's important to give your body and brain time to communicate so that you get the right signals to understand when you are full (and hungry).

Once you start listening to your body and its signals, you can start making changes in your diet so that you can create sustainable and productive eating patterns. Many people ignore hunger and eat when they are not hungry. This needs to stop if you want to break a food addiction. Establish set times for eating so that you never eat when you are starving but you avoid eating out of stress, boredom, sadness, frustration or loneliness. Learn to recognize your biological hunger signals, such as when your blood sugar drops, when your energy is low, when you are feeling lightheaded and when your stomach feels empty or is growing. By listening to your body, you can establish a set schedule for when you will eat so that you can mostly eat for reasons of fueling and nourishing your body. Make your diet enhance your life, not control your life.

One of the best ways to eat mindfully and to stop a food addiction is to create a healthy eating environment, which will also help your mood, relationship with food and sleep patterns, not to mention your energy levels with your exercise/training regime. One of my favorite ways of eating mindfully is to take pictures of my food/meals. Instead of grazing (instead of eating a meal or snack) or eating wherever or whenever, I take pride in my meal by taking a picture of it. This also forces me to make a meal, eat with silverware and a plate. I also find that I maintain a great relationship with the food when I am proud of what I put into my body. And this includes indulging too! The holidays are tough because for so many people, there is a change in normal eating habits/routine, which brings new eating habits that are not supportive of mindful eating. Or maybe you have never had an eating routine, which results in indulging and overeating in the presence of food overload. 

Lastly, one of the best strategies for eating more mindfully and breaking a food addiction (like sugar) is to focus on eating a varied diet. With a varied diet, I never feel that any food is off-limit. I am allowed to eat whatever I want, anytime of the year. With no "bad" foods, my taste buds never feel overly excited around the holidays (or deprived), which helps me avoid overeating, especially when in the presence of an overwhelming amount of food. My diet is made up of mostly nutrient dense foods that support my active lifestyle but I also feel very satisfied (and not deprived), thanks to a wholesome and varied, real food diet that has no off-limit foods. My diet is not restrictive so I never feel deprived.

I feel there is something very special about considering where food comes from instead of just seeing food for calories, carbs, fat, sugar, etc. For most people, it's easy to feel disconnected from the food that you eat, especially if it is a food made in a factory and not from a farmer or if you eat according to calories or numbers. A big part of eating mindfully is to feel grateful and connected to the food that you put in your body. I never count calories or measure my food when it comes to meals/snacks as I see food for much more than a number. When someone else prepares food for you (ex. event, holiday party), consider the traditions, culture or love helped bring you the food that is in front of you.

Sadly, people are very distracted when it comes to eating, there is little appreciation for a home cooked meal and there is little effort or time dedicated to eating, which makes mindful eating an afterthought. I encourage you to start listening to your body, create a structured style of eating that works for you and your body and eat in an environment that allows you to taste, enjoy and savor your meals. 

While mindful eating may or may not directly help to cure your sugar addiction (it won't happen overnight!), I have a feeling that it will help you feel more control over your food choices and will help you create a better relationship with food and your body. 


2017 Trimarni Coaching: It's a wrap!

Throughout the year and particularly at the end of a season, Karel and I find it imperative to reflect - what's working and what's not working.  Reflection is a necessary part of learning, growing and enhancement. While it's easy to reflect (anyone can do it), the difficulty comes in knowing how to change what's not working and then acting on it.

Since Karel and I both come from different athletic and educational backgrounds and upbringings, we are able to combine our experience and knowledge in order to critique our coaching methods, workouts and relationship with our athletes so that we can explore the areas that can be improved.

For coaches, it's normal to spend so much time on training plans and workouts that it's easy to forget to change what needs to change. Every coach loves talking about his/her proud coaching moments and athlete success stories but if you don't reflect on what occurred over the past season and assess how specific athletes responded to their training, it's difficult to keep athletes on a successful path of athletic development. Growth comes from implementing changes based on what you have learned.

Through our online coaching, interactions with our athletes at group and private camps and seeing our athletes in action at key events, we have had many opportunities to identify strengths in our coaching methods and recognize areas that we need to improve on. Reflection is fun but it is also time consuming as you have to do something with the information that you gained throughout the reflection process.

In researching the reflection process, here are some important reflection areas that I feel are important for coaches (and athletes):
  • Celebrate success
  • Improve/build on success
  • Assess areas of improvement 
  • Address what failed/didn't work
  • Make a plan for improvements
  • Make changes
  • Track changes and continue to reflect
We are extremely excited to kick-off another season of coaching, starting today. Yep - the majority of our 2018 Trimarni athletes will be starting their training today, as they prepare for their upcoming season. The reason behind starting our athletes in November (for the upcoming season) is to ensure that we have plenty of time to get to know our new athletes and to allow adequate time to build a solid foundation in which to work from as the season progresses.

As we wrap-up the 2017 season, I am so proud to share some of the results by our Trimarni athletes (thank you Trimarni athlete Meredith with Narrative Strategic Communications for creating this infographic):