Thursday, January 29, 2015

Triple Threat Profile: Katie Foster - Nebraska

Katie Foster is a mother of three, an attorney, Ironman, and a recent addition to the Triple Threat Triathlon national team. We’re thrilled to have Nebraska on our team map and are looking forward to following her journey to Ironman Boulder this coming August.

What's your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I've been an athlete since I was a little kid. I ran my first 10k in elementary school and my first triathlon in 5th grade. I played soccer, basketball and softball until college. My exercise routine was hit and miss after that until I started my first adult job I began running daily and that was the beginning of a long, consistent love of running. I ran marathons through law school as a way of coping with the stress. In 2007 my husband completed his first 70.3. I was pregnant with our second baby and we made an agreement that one day it would be my turn. 

Then in 2011 a local group called Race Omaha introduced triathlon to the community and offered a women’s only sprint triathlon. With a month to train, I signed up, bought a bike and finished 5th in my age group. I signed up for four more triathlons in 2011 and took an all in approach to the sport. The following summer I completed my first 70.3. The energy in triathlons is positive, healthy and contagious. Triathletes have a natural tendency to cheer each other on, or help each other if needed and I enjoy that type of camaraderie.

You first learned about our team through the women's forum on Slowtwitch. Out of curiosity, what's the vibe like on there? Is the culture similar to the main forum or unique?

The traffic on the women's forum is not quite as high but occasionally I find some good links for nutrition, or women specific gear, and a lot of women asking questions about pregnancy and training.

How would you sum up your 2014 season, and what was the highlight & lowlight? 

My highlight was that I improved my time at the Boulder 70.3 and Olympic distance in Milwaukee. My lowlight was my asymptomatic bulging disc in my lower lumbar that continues to plague my running. 

Overall my 2014 season was really a taper of my 2013 season. In 2013 I finished Ironman Coeur d'Alene and Pigman 70.3. I knew I wanted to do another Ironman, but I needed to take a break from the longer training and spend less time away from my family. In 2014 my kids and husband made Boulder 70.3 a "racation." It was the first time my kids saw me race a long distance tri. I finished with a PR on a beautiful day in Boulder, with no issues on the swim or bike so I consider it a success. In August I had the opportunity to race USAT nationals in Milwaukee after qualifying at the Omaha triathlon. Competing with that caliber of athletes was such a privilege!

What's on tap for 2015 and what are your goals?

I'm signed up for the Legends 70.3, Omaha Triathlon, Ironman Boulder and USAT nationals again. I had to walk most of my marathon at CDA due to stomach pain from overestimating the salt tabs, so at Boulder my goal is to put in a solid effort on the run. My goals are pretty much the same for each race: I'm just happy to be there. I have young kids, a husband, career and household duties that could occupy all of my time. Since I have the luxury of having a lot of support, I am able to feed my love for triathlon, but my goals are realistic and I try to keep things in perspective. I am always happy to show up on race day. Training for me is a privilege, not a chore, so if I am able to show up at the start line having completed my training, then my goal is to finish having felt that I did the best I could, and if possible improve some aspect of my race. I love the sport and that's enough for me.

You've mentioned some "rookie mistakes" were made at Ironman Coeur d'Alene in 2013. What lessons did you learn that you'll directly apply to training for & racing Ironman Boulder this year? Will you have a different strategy this time around?

Oh yes. I'm very good at making mistakes. I learned in CDA that my nutrition leaves a lot to be desired. I learned that although salt tabs are needed on IM day, I should have trained regularly with them, and taking three or four at a time is NOT A GOOD IDEA (yes, I ended up walking the marathon and promptly puking at the finish line!). In a community where triathlon is just catching on, I tend to learn from mistakes! 

A disciplined approach to my nutrition this year would be a big accomplishment for me. In previous years I have not put the research and effort into learning what nutrition works for me because my life felt busy enough that any time I had to train went to swimming, biking and running. It’s that 4th discipline of race day that everyone talks about and that is easily my least favorite. I am a mom who likes to eat whatever she wants, but I am determined to race Boulder having a solid plan for nutrition, and I am exploring the Hammer Nutrition menu to put together daily recovery and race day nutrition options.

Comparing Racine 70.3 in 2012 to Boulder 70.3 in 2014, you moved up 25 spots in your AG and knocked off a whopping 33+ minutes to finish in 5:48. Looking at those two races in isolation, what were the biggest keys to your improvement?

Overall I think I got stronger. Exercise is my stress reliever, I workout all through the off season, just at a lower volume. I wasn't a dedicated college athlete and therefore did not have that muscle strength and fitness to build from after three pregnancies. My fitness and endurance has improved consistently, as has my equipment. I am also more comfortable in the water. For me swimming is very mental and sets the tone for my race. I try to swim comfortably and efficiently and if I can come out of the water relaxed, I have a better day. I look for races that are a good fit for me. The starting line and location of the swim are both considerations. 

Better equipment has helped my confidence on the bike. Moving from a road bike to a carbon tri bike helped cut my bike time quite a bit, and I have made upgrades to it. With support from my family I have added Zipp wheels and carbon clips to my bike. My run time is all over the place, mostly because of my bulging disc in my back. It has affected my running since 2012, but it was not diagnosed until 2014. I treat it regularly but controlling the symptoms means limiting my speed on the run. It is what it is, right now I'm grateful it doesn't keep me on the sidelines!

It appears that biking is your strength, but running off the bike has improved with time. Have you changed your approach to the bike segment of races (ie backing off a little), or are you simply becoming more proficient at running on tired legs?

The odd thing is that I swim and run much more often than I bike. I consider Omaha in limbo with embracing the cycling community, and as a result there are not a lot of places to ride safely here. If I'm cycling, it's because it's a training ride. I also have a great running friend who challenges me with distance running and holds me accountable. That training has increased my muscle endurance and I try to do more bike to run transitions during training, which helps limit the cooked spaghetti feeling on the run. However, I am still learning how to manage my endurance and I probably use more of my leg strength on the bike than I should, which means I give the run everything I have left. Managing efficiency and effort is a point I am still working on.

What was your experience like at USAT Nationals? How does the atmosphere compare to other races you've done, and is it worth the trip?

This was such an amazing opportunity!! First of all, I am in love with Wisconsin. There are so many opportunities for triathletes! I did my first 70.3 in Racine and have been to Madison twice to watch the IM, so it is a happy place for me. I was thrilled to have qualified for Nationals last year. In my first summer racing triathlons I qualified for Nationals but I didn't know what it was and didn't appreciate the privilege. All I knew was that Vermont was not an option for travel. When I qualified in 2014 I knew I did not want to pass up the opportunity. 

Everyone at nationals steps up their performance, and the fitness and equipment are impressive and intimidating. The venue, weather, and community support were fantastic. I finished having improved 11 minutes on my Olympic distance time and I felt as if I had left everything on the course. It was very satisfying to end the season on such a high. I am planning a trip back in 2015.

What are some of your secrets to pulling off the "trifecta," balancing family, work, and training?

In truth, it is a constant balancing act and I am always feeling guilty about wherever I am not, but I have been able to pursue and accomplish my personal goals because I have a husband who supports me. I always wanted to be a mom, so my kids are my priority and I realize how fortunate I am that I am able to be a mom, have a career and pursue my triathlon goals at the same time. I work hard to be available to my kids, participate in their activities, get my office time in and to get my mom duties done at home, which requires a pretty strict schedule for me. 

My kids are 10, 7 and 5, and are old enough to know that exercise is something that I do regularly. My husband does just about all the things I do when I'm home. He's a hands on Dad, and that allows me to train with peace of mind that things at home are okay. I am also blessed that I have a career and employment that have given me flexibility to accommodate my family demands. I was told years ago that nothing stays the same for very long, which is so true, so I try to enjoy each opportunity that comes my way, and appreciate that I was able to be a part of it.

What's triathlon like in Omaha, and what are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in your state?'s growing, maybe slower than in other areas, but it's growing. I think our Race Omaha organization has opened doors for athletes, especially women, who would not otherwise get the chance to try a triathlon. We don't have a lot of access to water and our city does not support open water swim requests, and our access to bike paths and cycling routes is also limited. I think most of us who are triathletes from Omaha just make the most of what we have to work with, and hope that the access for training improves with the growth of the sport. We have bills before the legislature this year to increase protection for cyclists, so we will see where that goes.

Triple Threat Triathlon - National Team interview archives:

Rob "The Law" Forshaw - Massachusetts

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tour of Sufferlandria 2015

The Sufferfest's annual "Tour of Sufferlandria" kicked off yesterday, with several Triple Threat Triathlon team members taking part. Here Chad Zeman (Rhode Island) gives a nice overview of an event that race director Grunter von Agony once described as being “carefully balanced between agony, misery and despair."

You may have recently read my review of Nine Hammers from The Sufferfest and may have even purchased a video or two since. Starting on January 24th, the Tour of Sufferlandria takes riders through 9 stages consisting of a total of 12 videos. Let’s check out the course, how it works, and how to participate in the social aspect of the tour.

Continue reading Chad's tour summary here!

It's technically not too late to participate, but whether or not you do, check out
The Sufferfest's training videos. Get off the couch and start your training!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Aim Higher, Dude!

The year was 1995. I was in the 10th grade at Batesville High School in southeastern Indiana, home of the mighty Bulldogs. Our cross country team was pretty solid, despite being largely made up of sophomores and freshmen. In addition to our team goals, a main individual goal that year was to earn all-conference honors (top 10) at the EIAC conference meet. Based on the competition, this seemed to be a challenging yet realistic goal. Thinking through each school in the conference, I counted 15 or so guys who would contend. As you may recall, there’s a big difference between sophomores and seniors in high school, and I’ll admit I was a bit intimidated by some of the competition. These were largely upperclassmen who drove, shaved, and stood above my 10th grade 5’6 stature, in addition to beating me in every race. I would be happy to out-lean a fellow sophomore for the 9th or 10th spot, just get me in the top 10!

cross country is a colorful sport

The day of the race arrived, held at Greensburg High School. I’d run a previous best (5k) of 17:45 on the same course earlier in the season, but this did little to calm my nerves. The gun went off and I got out quickly before settling in with the top 12 or so. More than once I counted the guys ahead of me, focused on my objective of a top 10 finish. At around the halfway point there were two guys out in front, followed by a big group of us strung out in a line. I counted once more and realized I was in 11th, with the 10th place guy a mere stride or two ahead of me. “Man, this is gonna suck” I thought. Despite having a good kick, I really didn’t want it to come down to that for the final spot. Then a light bulb went off… I looked at the line of colored jerseys strung out ahead of me and thought “aim higher, dude! You can take these guys!” I stopped focusing on 10th and decided to just go for it, picking colored jerseys off one by one. I ran the last mile like I’d stolen something, knowing the pack was in pursuit. I kicked it in with everything I had, holding off three guys by less than 10 seconds to finish 4th in 16:59, much higher and faster than I had previously allowed myself to believe.

Not every race has gone according to script since then, but the lesson I learned that day has always stuck with me...  aim high! You just may surprise yourself.

now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Originally posted Feb 2013.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Triple Threat Profile: Rob Forshaw - Massachusetts

Rob Forshaw is a former offensive lineman who has completely transformed his body to become a highly talented triathlete. As a recent addition to the Triple Threat Triathlon team, here he gets us up to speed on this transformation, his 2014 season, and some monster goals for the near future.

What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?

Growing up I was always into team sports such as baseball, basketball, and football. In high school I was all in for football, I was an offensive lineman so my primary goal was to get big and strong. I was pretty successful doing that but after my last season of playing I realized that I wasn’t going to play in college and really wanted to lose the extra weight. I started maintaining a healthy diet and eventually took up running which led to cycling. I learned about triathlon from cycling and the community around cycling. After hearing about a local triathlon in my hometown I decided to sign up. I was instantly hooked, I loved the training the technology and the community. I placed 3rd in my age group my first race which really boosted my confidence and love for the sport.

Offensive linemen can be great athletes, just in different ways. That said, do you feel like a completely different person now in what you can do? Was it a tough transition from fasttwitch, explosive training to triathlon?

Well it's funny you mention it because when I started focusing on losing weight I only ran to burn calories. Going into for my first year of college all I cared about was getting ripped. I got really strong and my beach muscles were pretty nice. Eventually though I got sick and tired of all the micromanaging I needed to do with my diet and time in the gym to continue getting results. I one day decided to stop lifting weights and strictly run. I never really cared about time or distance I would just plan a route in my head and do it. I think it was when I was home on spring break one day I went for a run and decided to figure out how far I went. Turns out it was 6 miles and I was shocked and also proud of myself. Looking back at old photos now, I can really see a difference in my build. When I played football I had a big upper body and was pretty stocky, it’s pretty much the other way for me now.I have more of a cyclist build with big legs and a scrawny upper body.

Rob in high school
How would you sum up your 2014 season, and what was the highlight & lowlight?

Overall 2014 was a great season for me. I started off completing my first 70.3. I am a very competitive person so I wanted to have at the very least a competitive time for my age group. That goal changed a few weeks out however as I realized I was under trained. I had just graduated college, started my full time job and went on vacation to Ireland the month prior. Needless to say my running volume dropped and my Guinness consumption went up. In the end I finished and still managed 4th in my AG which I was really excited about considering how undertrained I was. The rest of the season I focused on the sprint distance and was able to get on the podium a handful of times. I really was using 2014 as an opportunity to grow and learn what my strength and weaknesses are. I learned a lot and I think it has better prepared me as I begin my base for the 2015 season.

What’s on tap for 2015 and what are your goals?

2015 is the year of the 70.3 for me. I have signed up for 3 70.3’s throughout the summer, and a handful of sprints and road races in between. My number one goal is to pull off a sub 5hr 70.3. I think with some good early year base miles and a structured training block I can reach that goal. My other goal is to place top 5 in my AG in all of my races. This is another thing I believe with a good structure to my training I should be able to do. Finally to end 2015 I want to qualify for the one of the best races in the world, the Boston Marathon. If there is one thing you need to know about Boston, it's that Bostonians love tradition. The Boston Marathon is one of those traditions. On Patriots Day, every year everyone in Boston turns into running fans. The whole city buys into the race and throughout the 26.2 miles of course there are people cheering you on and just being loud. As a spectator I get chills seeing that energy get runners through the race. As a runner myself that is something I want to experience so before I can run Boston I have to qualify!

What’s been the key for you in progressing so quickly as a relative newcomer to the sport?

My general interest for how things work has played a big factor. I’ve read up on all three disciplines; what works, what doesn’t and have tried to adapt the practices of successful swimmers, cyclists and runners. When I took up cycling I remember reading about Greg Lemond, the first American to win the Tour de France. Lemond had a quote that has really stuck with me, “It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster”. I see that as what training for a triathlon or any endurance sport is. You will dedicate hours upon hours to get faster and fit, but in reality the pain in your legs and lungs will still be same as when you first got into triathlon. Learning to accept the pain plays a big role in an athlete’s progression into the sport. I was able to recognize that early and constantly am trying to remember that through training. I have never let the hardships from training bring me down, instead it keeps me motivated and coming back for more.

Rank the 3 disciplines from your personal strength to weakness. What is some gear you use for each?

I would have to put swimming as my weakest. I pretty much taught myself to freestyle swim about a month out from my first triathlon. I actually remember the first time I went to the pool to swim laps. There was a private swim lesson for two young kids. Here I am in the lane next to them barely making it 25 yards and they are just swimming laps around me. I had to claim defeat that day and hit the showers early. I have improved quite a bit since then and have gotten pretty confident with my swimming, but confidence does not correlate to speed. I feel with time I will be able to improve because when push comes to shove it’s all about staying consistent with my swim training. Cycling and running are a close 1 & 2. I have done a lot of cyclocross racing the past two years and am pretty confident with my handling skills and being able to drop the hammer when need be.

I’ve also done a number of running road races ranging from 5k’s to half marathons. By doing a lot of bike and running races, I have taught myself to keep pushing through and suffer, which I think has helped a lot with my triathlon racing. For all three I rock my Garmin 910XT, I love having some sort of data to look at after a workout or race and the 910XT is the perfect tool for that. For swimming, I don’t get to complicated with gear. I will generally pick up whatever goggles are on sale at the moment seeing as I continuously lose them. For biking I have my pride and joy, my Cannondale Slice. I picked it up last year with the desire of slowly upgrading components as a project for myself in the off season. I am wrapping the upgrades up now and cannot wait to race with it this year. For running all I need is a nice hat (generally in the backwards position) and whatever sneakers I am rocking at the moment. I beat my shoes up fairly easily so I will generally grab a new pair ever 3 or 4 months. I don’t have a specific pair I swear by, but just pick up what feels right from the local running store at the time.

At 23 you are officially the “young buck” of the team. Do you have aspirations of stepping up to Ironman soon, or will you wait a while to develop your MAN STRENGTH and as a triathlete?

I do have aspirations of stepping up to Ironman soon. Right now the plan is to learn as much as I can this year at the 70.3 level. Build my bike and run fitness while continuing to improve my confidence in the water. I started doing triathlon as a way to challenge myself physically and mentally and I want to continue challenging myself. In a short race like a sprint or Olympic triathlon you don’t have the time to think much... you’re just going all out. Once you get into longer distances there is a lot of exertion both physically and mentally. I think that is why a lot of guys my age stray away from longer distances like the Ironman because they don’t have the mental toughness needed to race for 10-17 hours with the pain your body is experiencing and your thoughts. I see that as an extra discipline of the sport that I am very strong at and really embrace. To summarize I cannot wait to do an Ironman in the near future!

Can you tell us a bit about your day job, and what hobbies do you have outside of work and triathlon?

I am a Power Hardware quality engineer. Essentially what I do is test the reliability of power supplies that are used in data centers. Most days I test new power supplies that my company is introducing. My testing pretty much entails causing the power supplies to fail and seeing what happens and determine if this is a critical failure that needs to be prevented or if it’s acceptable. Outside of work I like to read up on a variety of things from sports, entertainment, technology, you name it. I am a big Patriots fan; some might say a huge Patriots fan as I can be rather vocal when they are playing. I have also taken up golfing and have caught the golf bug rather hard. I have a killer drive that likes to slice to the left a 100 yards (I am working on it). Regardless of how bad I play I just enjoy getting out on the golf course with my friends and family.

What is your post-race food & beverage of choice?

Post-race food most definitely is something greasy. Even though I care about my fitness and health I still have a weak spot for french fries. I am notorious for taking on an entire large pizza after a long training bike ride. My friends often joke when I get something greasy that I am going “Big-Rob Status”. After a race though I will probably be stopping somewhere for a nice burger and for hydration I will probably be reaching for a nice cold pale ale. I love this brewery that’s up in Vermont called Switchback, the brewery is only about 12 guys but their beer is to die for. Currently they only sell it in Vermont and New Hampshire, but I have some family up in New Hampshire so whenever I see them I make sure to stock up. I cannot wait for the day they start distributing to Massachusetts!

What’s triathlon like in Boston, and what are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in your state?

The triathlon community in Boston is great. I am literally a quarter mile away from heart break hill, one of the most iconic parts of the Boston Marathon course. I can go out on the course on any given day and see runners, cyclists and triathletes alike training. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming. They are more than happy to give advice and help anyway they can. Whenever you go to a race in Massachusetts you really feel a strong sense of community when you’re in transition or waiting for the swim to start. Everyone just wants to know how your season and training has been going and what races are on tap... it really is awesome. I can’t really think of cons, maybe there are a lot of fast runners in Massachusetts. I remember reading a Runners World article that said Massachusetts has the fastest 5k time averages throughout the USA. It’s probably more of a con for myself, as I consider myself to be a back of the front of the pack runner.