Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Race to the Clouds + 2018 Snowshoe Nationals: Mindset is Powerful

"Athletic endurance began to seem like a question of plumbing - whose heart could deliver the most O2 rich blood through the widest vessels to the largest muscles.  There was one big problem with this approach - it couldn't predict who would win an endurance contest..."  

Last week I was gifted the opportunity to Race to the Clouds on the new fat bike AND race the 2018 Dion National Snowshoe Championship.  My present fitness is low right now which is understandable considering the amount of time I took off and how slowly I have been adding volume.  I am presently hovering around 10-11 hours per week which breaks down into the following:


swim ( 3.5 hours/~11k yards/week)

bike ( 5 hours/week)

run ( 1.5 hours/ ~15 miles/week)

strength ( 2 x 30 min sessions)

The old me would have scoffed at the idea of anything less than 20 hours of training/week but I feel proud for giving my body the giant rest it so desperately needed.

The goal of these 2 events was to push hard and maybe get a little fitness boost from the intense efforts as well practice staying mentally tough. Because, lets face it, I was going to suffer. 

First up on the race agenda was RACE TO THE CLOUDS.


Of course the decision to race UP MOUNT WASHINGTON was made about 3 days before the actually race was set to take place.  And this was exactly 4 days after I bought my FAT BIKE.  Isn't there a saying along the lines of, "All good decisions are made in haste?"  No?  Okay, moving on.

I am obviously not THAT smart but smart enough to realize I needed some proper off road training before I race to extremes of elevation on slippery slide-y conditions.  I took the new Fat Felt out for a romp on the roads with Ry Guy. He patiently taught me some skills on little mounds of dirt in the park.  We  then road across one sad patch of snow and then I road confidently home. Hey, this off road thing isn't too hard!



Here is my over-confident-I-got-this face


I then demanded that Ry guy put my road bike pedals and cleats on the fat bike because now that I was an expert fat biker/off roader I meant business.

We arrived at the race site early so I could, of course, do some last minute practice and test the bike on ACTUAL snow.  I immediately regretted the pedals and cleat decision.

 A.) the pedals and cleats were so tight I had to muster all of my energy just to unclip a foot

AND

 B.) As soon as I put a foot down snow would stick to the cleat and turn to ice making it impossible for me to get my foot back in the pedals.

Also, biking on mash potato snow is actually very difficult.  It's nothing like riding on dirt. Gulp.

The race was 3 waves.  First skiers ( GO RY!!!), second snowshoe runners, and finally the fat bikers.

The race starts at the base of the auto road and completes a loop out on the rolling cross country ski trails before the real climbing starts. I started in the middle of the pack thinking I would begin conservatively and 'feel out' the conditions. The gun went off and I was immediately in dead last. I looked behind me. No one.



Here is where I had to muster up all sorts of positive talk and tell my mind to just keep pushing.  Some of the mantras I use when things get tough are BE BRAVE and YOU ARE A FIGHTER.

I also reminded myself that you can't be afraid to fail.  Instead, you have to accept that sometimes you will fail and that is how we find our limitations and then ultimately that is how we improve.

Over and over again I told myself to BE BRAVE and KEEP FIGHTING.  I arrived at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road ready to climb to the clouds (pictured here in 2nd to last place ).



Be Brave.

You are a fighter.

Turn over the pedals.


 As the race climbed I started to get in the zone.  The snow was packed on the auto road so there was less skill involved and more head-down-grinding.  My strength is climbing on the bike so I was confident I would pass a few people on grueling climb.

As we climbed, I was passing more and more racers started to get in a groove.  I slowly worked my way to the front of the race.  I took a glance at my heart rate. Wow, those are some high numbers!

Be Brave.

You are a fighter.

Turn over the pedals.

I hadn't raced this hard in so long my laborious breathing was welcomed. I wanted to make myself hurt in the best way.  At mile 3 of the climb a spectator shouted that I was the first female and in 12th place overall.  I smiled and got a little adrenaline boost.

I also made a point to be grateful that my body was allowing me to push again. I stole a glance at the views and it was spectacular!

I managed to cross the line as 1st female and gave Ry a hug as he had placed 2nd overall in the ski.  We both agreed this was one of the coolest races and we will definitely come back next year.

"Athletic endurance began to seem like a question of plumbing - whose heart could deliver the most O2 rich blood through the widest vessels to the largest muscles.  There was one big problem with this approach - it couldn't predict who would win an endurance contest..." :)



2018 Dion National Snowshoe Championships.

I told Ry before Nationals that I was so thankful that my body was healthy enough to race.  I just wanted to hear the gun go off and BE TOUGH.  My run volume is extremely low and slow but I didn't want that to stop me from being aggressive.  I knew I had some swim and bike fitness and perhaps that would carry over to snowshoe racing ( which favors a strength-based athlete).

And, I am a huge believer in racing with all of my heart no matter what.

It was a MAGICAL snow year at Nationals. Literally the best snowshoe race conditions I have ever raced: waist deep powder, single track, cold, windy, snowy NARNIA!



I found Sarah Canney before the race and we did a 2 mile warm up together.  I knew Sarah was going to have a great race as I have been following her run training and she has been putting in some serious work.  It's been fun to track her progress and I know there are big things in store for her this year!

I was feeling a little nervous but also psyched on the epic conditions. I told Sarah that when I was suffering out there I was going to remember to smile because these conditions were EPIC.

And suffer I did! As predicted, the race started fast as the defending World Champion and 2x National Champion were in the pack.  I immediately found myself in 3rd place and kept my eye on the leader.  I wasn't wearing my heart rate monitor but I am sure it was maxed out from the gun.  The snow was so deep it made for a race of taking one step forward and 2 steps back.  It was the ultimate strength race and what all snowshoe races should be like! In addition, the ladies raced before the men so we had FIRST tracks on this course. EPIC!!

I fought for as long as I could in 2nd before the 2016 National Champion and Sarah passed me in the waist high snow single track portion.

Here is where I had to stay positive mentally because physically I was failing.  My lungs were on fire, my quads were on fire, and my face was frozen. If I haven't convinced you to try snowshoe racing yet I don't know what will :)

Racing in 2nd place up Prospect Mountain ( a.k.a Narnia)


I found myself running in 4th for the last 35 minutes of the race and boy did I have to dig deep to even make forward progress at times.

YOU ARE A FIGHTER.

After 90 of the most exhausting minutes I crossed the line in 4th and made my 4th National Snowshoe Team (Top 5 make the team).  Hands down of one of the hardest races of this duration I have ever completed.

Racing in 2nd around mile 3.7  - Ry Guy cheering! Me suffering.

Even when it gets hard, never quit the things that are important to you. Throughout the years of racing I have learned that NEVER QUITTING, DIGGING DEEP and BEING BRAVE are really good for your SOUL.  If you practice mentally staying in the game it's amazing what you can accomplish.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Recovering from Adrenal Fatigue and How to Be Brave Podcast

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Kelsey Abbott who is a confidence and performance coach, triathlete and in general awesome person.

Here are some nuggets of the podcast and the full listen can be accessed at the link below.



Amber Ferreira: “Sport is so heartbreaking”

Amber Ferreira is a professional triathlete, a physical therapist and a multisport coach. She’s the 2014 Ironman Lake Placid Champion and the two-time US National Snowshoe champion. She’s also a heart-driven, spunky human who loves to dream big and loves to laugh.
Amber’s laugh is contagious. There’s a lot of it in this episode. Prepare to smile while you listen.
In this episode, we talk about Amber’s pro career to date, her love of racing up mountains, her mindset, resiliency and heart. We dig into her current project—recovering from stage 3 adrenal fatigue. She shares her big goals for this winter: to sleep and gain weight. And we discuss the mental shift required to go from constant movement to a whole lot of stillness. Amber is fun, grounded, brave, real and totally inspiring in this conversation. Listen and laugh along with us.

Nuggets:

“Just because your thighs touch or your butt’s a little bigger doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up. This time in your life, this is what you should be doing right now.”

“It’s actually really empowering to gain weight, get out of shape and still be okay with it and know that you’re going to be stronger because of it.”

“The endurance community sticks together because everybody has had a good race and everybody has had a race where they look like a little monster running along.”

“We train hard so we can get used to the pain and then accept it on race day.”

“I’d like people to remember me for, ‘when the race got tough, Amber didn’t give up,’ or ‘when life got tough, Amber didn’t give up.’”

“I get a little nervous about accepting pain because racing is painful. But I get more nervous about putting myself out there and racing as hard as I can and then coming up short.”




https://www.kelseyabbott.com/podcasts/find-your-awesome-with-amber-ferreira

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Hardest Part

The hardest part about endurance sport is when you train and race your heart out, make sacrifices, put everything on the line and come up short in meeting your goal.

There is no lying I love the most brutal workouts. Bring on the workouts that make you grimace and find that inner strong.  And this is why it  stings to work so hard only to fail. After Ironman Louisville I immediately called Ry and cried and cried and cried because I felt like I had let so many people down.

I also felt like my body let me down. I always thought I could do everything. And why not try to do everything, right? Life is short. I chose to race on the pro Ironman circuit, trying to be the best physical therapist and coach and trainer and rebuild a home.  As it turns out, training hard is really only beneficial if you can ABSORB it and ADAPT.

Sounds obvious as I type it but it is so easy for the type A triathlete crazy girl to fall into a bad habit.  Subpar result? I can fix that with extra training.  It's easy to fall into the mindset that endurance sports rewards the athlete that goes the extra mile and pushes a little bit deeper. But that is not always true.

I am definitely not giving up.  I have too much passion and love and respect for the sport.  So I am going to do the hardest thing right now and take an extended break.  A break to let my body and mind fully heal.

My plan is to get a little out of shape ( yikes ), focus on yoga and daily walks and let the body that has raced 20 Full Ironman, 33 Half Ironman , 3 Marathons and countless bike, run, uphill races in the past 6 years REST.  I don't know how long I will have to rest but I am going to put all of my energy into this scary endeavor.  I am motivated to make 2018 my strongest season!


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Finish FAST

I raced DOUBLE this weekend!  (Talk about a little pig in shit.)

First up was a SUPER trail race in Gilford NH to benefit the local conservation and recreation land. My soon to be brother in law race directed and did a fantastic job!!

The course was delightful (even for someone like me who is a disaster on trails). Ry guy took first overall, I took 1st female overall, Deidre snagged 2nd female overall (!!!) and Kanoa took first overall in the 3 miler. Kanoa is coming off a dominating performance at Vermont 50 miler so I won't give him any crap for choosing to race the shorter event. I'll save the sh!t talking for next blog.

After weeks of high volume and intense training for Ironman Louisville I was gifted a mini taper for the upcoming weekend of racing. I chose to participate in the trail race because I had a hunch it would lend optimal Muscle Tension for the half marathon I was racing the next day.  Tapering properly for a race is probably the hardest aspect of training.  The goal of taper is to drop fatigue and sharpen up for race day.  But if you drop too much volume and forgo intensity you risk feeling "flat" on race day.

What works for me is a drop in volume with the right amount of intensity to keep me sharp and keep muscle tension optimal.  I would say I am predominately a slow twitch athlete (duh) so I do well with this set up. A good coach will know their athlete and what is optimal for the athlete and the event they are racing.

My plan for the trail race was to race smooth on the flats and push it on the short, steep uphills in hopes I'd feel "snappy" the next day.
 
It worked. On half marathon race morning I was super BOUNCY and ready to roll. However, this brings me to the point of this blog which is the importance of the NEGATIVE SPLIT (or how NOT to start a race like a crazy lady.)

I was so excited on race morning and feeling so rested and amped up that I literally started my 1 mile warm up jog at 5:40 pace. Talk about little spaz. Reign it in AMBER.  This got me thinking how important and beneficial it is to start a bit slower and build into longer races to PR YOUR NEXT HALF MARATHON:
I get to race 2x this weekend?! Is it my birthday?



(Just so we are all on the same page a negative split run means the second half of your race is FASTER)

A few keys to a Negative Split and a Race PR:

1.) Start the first 1/4 of the race as what feels like painfully slow.  I promise it will probably only be slightly slower than goal pace. Remember, on race day there are all sorts of stimulants working to make you perceive the race start is easier than it is: adrenaline, coffee (!), a loud starting gun/race music, recent taper.

Personally, I was also born with the Hyperactive Crazy Gene so I have that to deal with as well.

It may be nerve wracking to be slightly behind in pace the first few miles but trust the training and trust the fact that you are setting yourself up for a strong second half which is where the majority of your competition will lose the most time.

At the 5K mark I was paying close attention to Heart Rate


2.) Starting out a bit slower than goal pace helps tolerate taking in a bit more fuel (Infinit Nutrition - super sugar) earlier in the race which can help glycogen stores in the later stages. If you have enough glycogen stores in the later portion of the race finishing faster won't be as difficult and will help you avoid hitting the dreaded wall. 

Furthermore, if you slowly build heart rate to race pace you won't burn through as much glycogen as compared to sprinting out of the gates and spiking your heart rate. Trust me, let the guy wearing the American Flag Tutu sprint up ahead. When you eventually catch and pass him you can tell him how much you love his tutu.
Just chugged 4oz of Infinit. If you look closely you can see me licking my chops



3.) Overtaking people in the latter stages feels great.  No matter how fit you are the last 1/4 of a race hurts! To be passing athletes in the later stages can give a huge mental boost and can inspire you to finish even faster.
Finish FAST

 4.) Focus on crossing the line feeling strong and perhaps it will allow you to recover and adapt a bit quicker for the next race. A race is hard but finishing fast can lead to a feeling of: ‘I can do anything,' rather than feeling like someone just bull-dozered over your legs.

HAPPY RUNNING and RACING!




Wednesday, September 20, 2017

THE SECRET....

“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret..." 




..."And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had NOT so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks ( or fancy equipment ) as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of her training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

If you haven't read Once a Runner, you should. The quote aptly refers to doing the WORK. Swim, bike and run hard enough that you remove, molecule by molecule the very tough rubber of your training shoes.  

I ran a double run session today which looked like 12 aerobic miles in the morning followed by a light spin and then 10 miles in the evening with specific pace/tempo work.   This double run workout is great for glycogen sparing and the ability to do faster pace running with less chance of muscle breakdown/fatigue as compared to doing one continuous 22 mile run.

I started the run on fatigued legs and it took some effort to finish that first morning session  It took even more effort to get my butt out the door for the second round.  As I neared the 20 mile mark today it occurred to me that if I wasn't 'training' for these crazy endurance events I wouldn't have done that second run.  I would be living in the gray instead of mustering the fierceness to take big chances and dig in real deep and cry and hurt and laugh and win and lose.

I am deeply thankful for endurance racing and training for the daily lessons learned: Life is tough darling, but so are you. #DoWork it pays off.

Monday, August 14, 2017

STEELHEAD 70.3

Sport and competition most definitely satisfies my deep desire to push until exhaustion.  I can't recall exactly when it started - maybe it was always there: the thrill and adrenaline rush from pushing as hard as I can, experiencing lactic acid in my legs and gasping for air. I know, I know.... it's not for everyone but I love it!

In 2015 I was suffering from over- racing and deep adrenal fatigue.  I lost the ability to dig as deep as I wanted in training and in racing. And that made me deeply sad.  Not to mention the recovery was beyond frusterating. I wasn't sure when I would crawl myself out of this hole and all I could do was rest a bit more and wait.


Let's face it: I am a workhorse and I love to suffer so it was extra hard to take a bit more rest, err easy on my workouts and put the BIG races on hold. In 2016 I got my groove back. And then I crashed.  I was talking about the crash to someone the other day when they had mentioned how disappointing it must have been. I explained to them that the crash was actually the opposite of disappointing. When I crashed at Ironman Lake Placid I new in my hearts of hearts that I was back. My desire to make a comeback at Ironman Mont Tremblant 2 weeks later was STRONG. My mental game was back.  ON top of that the way my body responded and healed in 2 weeks showed me that it was just a matter of time before I was my best self yet.  Setbacks can move you forward.


I have been racing a lot but apparently not blogging! During the month of May and June I raced a few 5Ks and 5 milers to work on my run skills as well as some Mountain Races.  I raced to 5th place at Mount Washington Road Race and 5th place at Ironman Mont Tremblant 70.3.  I was pleased with the efforts and how I recovered from each of those races.  I plan to race Ironman Louisville and Ironman Arizona with a few potential 70.3's depending on how the longer races go.


And most recently I raced STEELHEAD 70.3!
Laughing because I missed the front swim pack and had my work cut out for me. When I say "laughing" I mean CRYYYYYING.

I had a character building day on the bike. A day my legs did NOT want to push WATTS
Me: Come on legs, GO!
Legs: No.
Me: PLEASE!? I'll feed you pizza and icecream after the race.
Legs: No.
Me: You know, I AM THE BOSS HERE.
Legs: zzzzzz, good night.
Me: :(

I got off the bike in 12th and left transition n 15th. Oops.

I have been racing long enough and I trust my run. I started the run in 15th and went ON THE HUNT.

I went from 15th to 9th. The sad part of the story was that I was convinced I was in 8th. (They paid 8 deep). Doh.

But when you give EVERYTHING YOU have...there is nothing to be upset about.

As always a HUGE thank you and hug to my sponsors. I am beyond grateful to be racing around the world and making lasting memories and frienships.
TOM RAFFIO of Delta Dental
Velocio Apparal 
Runner's Alley of Concord NH
Infinit Nutrition
Rudy Project
MC Cycle and Sport
Juice Performer

Friday, May 19, 2017

SO HOT: 4 Tips to Stay Cool and Race Faster in the Heat

"Running, one might say, is basically an absurd past-time upon which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you will find meaning in another absurd past-time: LIFE"

Mile 2.5 #SOHOT

TOP 3 ladies battling it out


I raced the first of 5 races I will compete in over the next 6 weeks this past Thursday. One of my FAVORITE local races which attracts over 6000 runners to benefit the Payson Cancer Center: THE ROCK 'N RACE.  I have won the race 3 times with a best time of 17:31 over the hilly 5K course and had some epic battles with some super fast ladies.  This year we were all in for a battle as Mother Nature delivered us a 95 degrees day. A huge swing in temperatures as it snowed just 3 days earlier...(!)  There was absolutely no chance to acclimate with a swing that large.

My Thursdays ALWAYS start with a swim at 6:15am, strength work to activate the core and hips and then anywhere between a 2 -5 hour bike ride. This particular Thursday I had my HR up since 6 in the morning and then was outside on my bike in 95 degree weather. Needless to say I was extremely warmed up for the 6pm race. NOT ideal for fast racing.

Here are some self cooling tips from the latest research I used to get to the start line as cool as a cucumber.

1.) COLD SHOWER/ICE BATH. After my swim, strength and bike training I immediately took a cold shower and drank a COLD smoothie in an effort to drop my core temperature a bit.

2.) After the shower, I stretched and then rested with my feet up with ice packs on my stomach and neck.

3.) I sipped on ICE cold Infinit hydration + water

4.) I decided on a short 1/2 mile run to the start line. NO need for a long, extended warm up in hot weather as it takes less to get the HR up and blood pumping.  The warm up goal in 95 degree weather is to get loose and not overheat.   I jogged 1/2 mile with a frozen towel around my neck, holding onto ice cubes and had ice down my bra and shorts and was munching on some ice cubes.  I looked like a special superwomen with a frozen cape but I was cool cold and didn't give one fig.

 A special shout out to 2 of my friends and HUGE sources of inspiration:  The dream team and racing machines Tom Raffio of Delta Dental and Ellen Raffio.  Together the 2 will literally race HUNDREDS of times this year. #BeLikeTom+Ellen