Race Report: PHUNT 25k

Saturday was a day of many firsts for me. I ran my first race of 2016, my first 25k, and my first trail race. It was also the first of several races Taryn and I will race together in 2016.

Taryn convinced me to register for the TrailDawgs PHUNT 25k sometime during IM training last year. She ran the race in 2015 and we thought it would be a fun adventure. Alyssa’s roots are in ultrarunning and she has won the 50k version of the PHUNT (at least once, maybe twice?), so she was 100% on board with me giving it a try, even with the race falling just one month before the L.A. Marathon.

A few ladies from the running group Taryn and I belong to, “MRTT,” registered, too, as did another of Alyssa’s athletes, Beth. I was so excited to get to see Beth, who I haven’t seen since July.

The race was in Elkton, MD, which is almost in Pennsylvania, so we had a long drive on race morning. I drove thirty minutes to meet Taryn at her house at 6:00 a.m. We then had an additional two hour drive from her house to Elkton. Patty from MRTT carpooled with us as well.

The Race Site in Elkton, MD

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As soon as we arrived at the race site, I knew this was going to be a very different experience than running a road race. The first thing I learned was that the trail racing uniform is shorts, a long sleeve top, compression socks, hydration vest, and beard. The male grooming products industry is really missing out by not sponsoring these races!

It was much chillier than I had anticipated and I went back and forth about what to wear a zillion times. I made a last minute decision to switch out my tee shirt for a long sleeve (this turned out to be a mistake), we picked up our bibs (there were no timing chips – whaaaatt?!), adjusted our gear, and got ready to race.

I spotted Beth (and her awesome dad, who also ran the race) and we took a few minutes to catch up.

Reppin’ for TeamHPB at PHUNT

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We proceeded to the athlete briefing (which was indoors, thank goodness!), where the race director provided a brief overview of the course markings and then everyone started walking outside. I started noticing people running and realized the race was starting! This was just one example of how informal and un-type A this race was, especially as compared with triathlon.

Beth, Taryn, and I started running together. Right off the bat, it was very clear that the mud was going to be a factor. We were slipping and sliding even on some of the flatter sections at the start of the course. When we hit the trails, we had to run single file and there were definitely some back-ups where we were stuck behind other runners and had to wait to pass. Again, this was a new experience for me, so I just tried to soak it all in.

We ran into another MRTT runner, Anna, at the first aid station (around mile four) and it was great to see another familiar face on the course.

I really enjoyed running with Beth and Taryn, but it became obvious pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with them (and was going to blow-up if I tried), so right after we ran through the first aid station, I backed off a bit and they ran ahead.

I tried to settle into a more comfortable pace for me. There were definitely some sections of the course that I had to walk, either due to mud, a steep incline or decline, or a combination of the two. There were also some water crossings that required caution. I’m not very coordinated (understatement of the century) and I really didn’t want to fall and hurt myself with a marathon less than one month away!

Have I mentioned it was muddy?

(photo credit Sean Toohey, top, and Patty Thompson, bottom)

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The scenery was beautiful, but I was trying to focus on foot placement and surely missed out on some of the views along the course. There were switchbacks in a couple of spots and I tried to see if I could spot Taryn and Beth running ahead of me, but never did.

There were some noticeable wind gusts, but generally, the weather was perfect. I definitely could have worn a tee shirt and shouldn’t have switched into my long sleeve before the race. We really lucked out, since it snowed during this race last year!

Even after I slowed down a bit, I still felt like I was struggling. I distinctly remember at mile 19 of my first marathon (in 2009) thinking I was in over my head and shouldn’t have registered for such a difficult race. I felt the same way about half way through the PHUNT. It was a much tougher course than I expected and everything from my waist down was hurting.

Alyssa didn’t want me worrying about my speed, so I did not wear a Garmin. There were no mile markers on the course, so I wasn’t sure about my mileage throughout the race, other than knowing the third aid station was around mile 10. We had been warned that the 5 (ish) miles after that last aid station were the toughest, so I tried to really stay on top of my fueling. As I thought I might be getting close to the finish, I asked someone running next to me if he knew how much longer we had to go. He replied: “For the first loop?” I can’t even imagine running the 50k on this course. My hat is off to those runners for sure!

On the Run (photo credit Ryan Goverts)

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The last little bit of the course is uphill and when you cross the line, the race volunteers hand record your number. They haven’t posted results yet, but I believe I finished in about 3:19.

I ran into Taryn as I crossed the line. She had a HUGE PR over her time from the prior year (over 20 minutes!). I was elated for her, especially since she had a tough end to her season last year and couldn’t run for many weeks. I’m so proud of you, Taryn!

I was definitely hurting as we headed back inside for the post-race food. (They had vegan soup, which I was thrilled about! So many races only offer post-race pizza, which I can’t enjoy. Thank you so much to the race organizers for accommodating vegetarians and vegans!) We met up with Beth and the other MRTT-ers there and everyone agreed it was a really challenging day. I was exhausted. I texted Alyssa to let her know I was near death and of course she was responding with words like “fun” and using exclamation points. I told her I would need a few minutes before I could even think about whether I enjoyed myself out there!

Since this was my first trail race, I don’t have much to compare it to, but the course seemed to be quite hilly (supposedly over 1800 feet elevation gain) and I was definitely hurting more than I would be running 15 miles on the roads. I honestly think this 25k was as difficult as any road marathon I’ve done.

Post-Race with Taryn, who had an awesome day!

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Yup, it was muddy! I didn’t even bring my shoes home!

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By the time we ate, collected everyone, and headed home, it was 5:00 p.m. before I got back to my house. I took a shower, ate dinner, and fell asleep at 6:30. Trail running is no joke!

It’s now Monday and even though I am still sore I can honestly say that I do want to try trail racing again. It was a huge test for me – physically and mentally – and a great change of pace from road races and triathlon. I may even do PHUNT again next year!

I would definitely recommend this race to anyone thinking about giving trails a try. It was a fun, friendly event; very affordable; and the post-race food was great. I also loved the medals, even though I’m not a huge hardware person. If you drive to and from Northern Virginia on race day, it is an all-day affair, but doable. The weather is always going to be a big question mark in January, but that’s just part of what makes trail running such an adventure! Just get out on some trails and hills beforehand because it isn’t an easy course.

Thanks to Taryn, Beth, Patty, and all of the other ladies who made the day so much fun! And, of course, thanks to the “TrailDawgs” for a great event!

 

My Favorite Recipes of 2015

For some reason it hit me a couple of days ago that I have officially stuck with cooking healthy, vegan meals for an entire year now! In honor of this anniversary, I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite recipes from 2015.

Best Recipe

Minimalist Baker Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls 

I made these on Thanksgiving morning and I am still thinking about them. They were a huge hit at our house – even with my non-vegan husband. This was one of the most complicated recipes I tried all year (I had to work with yeast for the first time ever), but it was well-worth the effort.

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Best Sandwich

Minimalist Baker Chickpea Sunflower Sandwich 

Make it. Now. It’s that good. And make sure you make the garlic hummus sauce, even though the recipe says it’s optional. It’s really the best part of the entire sandwich!

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Honorable Mention: Tiny Lemon Tree Cannellini Bean Sandwich

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Best Salad

Tasty Yummies Autumn Harvest Salad 

This hearty and flavorful roasted vegetable salad is meant to be served at room temperature. I highly recommend adding butternut squash to this one.

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Best Entree

Vegan Yumminess Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Tofu 

I’ve made a zillion versions of this now, using different combinations of vegetables and variations of the sauce, and they are all amazing. Tofu “stir fry” is a great way for me to pump up my vegetable intake when I feel like I’ve been lacking in that area.

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Best Knock-Off of a Meat Dish

One Green Planet Tempeh Gyros with Tzatiki 

I actually hate most meat knock-off dishes. I just don’t find them appealing at all. And I’m actually not a huge tempeh fan, if I’m being completely honest. But this recipe is a winner. I think marinating the tempeh for several hours really makes the difference here, so make sure you don’t cut any corners with marinating. It will be worth it! I also suggest you make extra tzatiki because it’s awesome for dipping (veggies, pita chips, etc.) and as a salad dressing, too. 

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Best Chili

Taste of Home (aka “Julianna’s”) Chili

There are LOTS of veggie chili options and I like several of them, but this is my standout. It’s easy to make (the hardest part is chopping up all of the vegetables), super healthy, and has great flavor. I call it “Julianna’s” chili, since my friend Julianna (who is a meat-eater) introduced me to the recipe last winter and I have been hooked on it ever since.

The only photo I have of this one is pre-cooking, but you get the idea. It’s loaded with veggies!

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Please let me know what you think if you try any of these! Happy cooking!!

Off-Season Fun: Trying Masters (again!)

If you’ve visited any triathlon or running websites lately, you’ve probably read at least a few (dozen) articles about the “off-season” being a great time to focus on projects or goals you’re too busy or exhausted to tackle during the season.

Last winter, I made a concerted effort to improve my nutrition and strength and, while I certainly have plenty of room for improvement in both areas, I was successful in making noticeable gains on both fronts. 

This winter, one of my focuses is to improve my attitude toward swimming. 

First, a little background. As a kid, I loved playing in my grandma’s pool. Mostly doing handstands, or playing Marco Polo (great Netflix series, btw), or picking up objects from the deep end, or jumping off the diving board. I was very comfortable “playing” in the water, but I wasn’t lap swimming. 

Fast forward to November of 2010, when, after completing my second marathon, I decided I wanted to try a triathlon and signed up for an adult beginner swim class at the local rec center. I loved the teacher and class, but it was a rude awakening. I was exhausted after just trying to swim 25 yards, even though I was in marathon shape. I also realized I had no clue how to do a proper stroke. I didn’t know my arm wasn’t supposed to go straight out in a giant circle like a windmill. I had a lot of work to do. 

Of course, I did learn to swim well-enough to get through that portion of a sprint, Olympic, 70.3, and finally an IM distance race, but it’s always something I dread. As my husband says, I only swim so that I can bike and run. 

Leading into Ironman Chattanooga, I thought I was going to be a “one and done” for IMs. There were a few reasons for this – the cost of triathlon, the amount of time it takes, etc. – but one of the biggest considerations was the fact that I couldn’t imagine making myself swim for another year! 

Of course, after Chattanooga (a dream come true day for me, despite some mechanical difficulties on the bike), I immediately signed up for Ironman Mont Tremblant. I knew this meant another winter of forcing myself to get to the pool. 

The word “forcing” tells you everything you need to know about my relationship with swimming. 

I decided that I needed to change my mindset toward swimming and I asked Alyssa to help me brainstorm on this. We decided to try adding masters back into my training schedule.

I’ve tried two other masters programs before and I didn’t find it super helpful for where I was in my training at that time.

I was nervous about starting again because I remember the humiliation that comes from not being able to keep up with the rest of your lane and  – worse yet – getting lapped.

After we decided to try masters again, I had put it off a couple of weeks in a row. I was just afraid to try it again, even though part of me wanted to. Fear is a powerful emotion. I was supposed to go on a particular Thursday morning, but I didn’t. The same thing happened the following Thursday, and then the next. I was just sort of hoping Alyssa would forget I ever raised the topic. Then, one Wednesday night, Alyssa sent me a text: “All good for masters tomorrow??”

UGH! ALYSSA! Totally a guilt trip she knew would work on me.

So, up I got at 4:00 a.m. and stumbled out the door to the pool, probably looking like I had been roughed up by a mugger in the parking lot.

Much to my surprise, it actually went well! So well, in fact, that I even asked Alyssa if I could add masters to my schedule on Thanksgiving morning. 

I’ve now gone five times and I’m really enjoying it. The hardest part – BY FAR – is the 4:00 a.m. alarm and I am still adjusting to that. One of the things that has helped in that regard is having coffee made and ready to go when I get up and having a Bobo’s Oat Bar waiting for me as a quick and delicious pre-workout snack. The coffee and food definitely help to wake me up. 

I’ve also totally lucked out that my masters coach and my lane mates have been AWESOME and so understanding when I have had questions. I think this is really key to the experience being enjoyable for me. I also love having one of the day’s workouts out of the way by 6:30 a.m.! 

Coach always knows best and I’m glad she sent me that text to give me the push I needed to give masters a try.

Speaking of awesome lane mates, since we are talking about swimming, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my birthday swim last month. I was fortunate enough to start my birthday by swimming 35 x 100 with two of my besties – Taryn and Leslie – followed by a coffee date! Taryn also made me the most delicious vegan cupcakes ever! I hope we’ll get to meet-up for regular swim dates in the coming months as well. Company always makes time in the pool more fun (notice that I didn’t say “less miserable” – moving in the right direction!)

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I’m so happy to be enjoying myself in the pool again and I can’t wait to see how this will translate to improved swimming during my races in 2016!

Vegan Thanksgiving 2015: Part II

I’m happy to report that my first homemade vegan Thanksgiving was a success! Generally, everything went well in the kitchen and the food was tasty (check out my previous post for links to all of the recipes I used).

So, how did we like each recipe? On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “spit out first bite and threw the rest in the trash” and 5 being “loved it and will definitely make again,” here are the scores:

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Pecans: 5

This was the most difficult of the day’s seven recipes and definitely gave me the most anxiety leading into Thanksgiving Day. I’ve never worked with yeast before and I was concerned that my dough may not rise properly. However, I didn’t have any issues with the yeast or any other aspects of the recipe. The whole process took about 2:30, including letting the dough rise, assembly, baking, and cooling, but for special occasions, I definitely think the effort was worth it and I will make these again.

After rolling out the dough, you add the yummy filling ingredients, including pumpkin butter, cinnamon, sugar, and chopped pecans.

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The final product, including icing and more chopped pecans!

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Pumpkin Chia Pudding Parfait with Ginger Snaps: 4.5

This pudding was super easy to make. It’s healthy (canned pumpkin, chia seeds, and spices are sweetened with just a bit of maple syrup) and delicious, and even won rave reviews from my meat and potatoes loving husband! I definitely plan to make this again. The only reason this didn’t get a 5 was because the cinnamon rolls were just too delicious for anything else to get the same score.

I was definitely glad I made the pudding the day before because it was one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving Day.

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I assembled the parfaits on Thanksgiving Day so the (store-bought) ginger snaps would retain their snappiness.

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Mashed Potatoes: 4

This was my husband’s favorite dish of the day. Although the potatoes looked a little dry (there is no milk in the recipe), they didn’t taste dry at all. This recipe is a keeper for sure. The best part was that I didn’t have to peel the potatoes.

Roasted Carrots with Fresh Parsley: 4

This was the most simple recipe of the day, but it was really delicious. I don’t make carrots very often, but I will now that I have this recipe.

Meatless Loaf: 3.5

One of the main reasons this recipe appealed to me was because the author was clear that this loaf wasn’t trying to be meat. Personally, I don’t care for the taste of fake meats (yes, I’ve tried a bunch of brands), but I did want something that was a real, satisfying main course. I may be a vegan, but a salad won’t ever be enough to really fill me up, especially on a holiday.

This recipe really delivered what I was looking for. It was filling and hearty (and healthy!), with ingredients like tofu, beans, walnuts, and chopped vegetables. Although the recipe called for a lot of ingredients, it was not hard to make. Basically, everything goes in the food processor and you’re done.

The recipe makes quite a large loaf, so I’m thinking about trying to freeze some for future use. I will be honest that it isn’t the most attractive dish, so I added the carrots to the platter for some color.

The baked meatless loaf with roasted carrots.

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Whole Wheat Stuffing with Green Lentils: 3

I loved the addition of the lentils in this stuffing recipe because it made the stuffing more substantial than any other stuffing I have tried. That being said, this is only getting a three for two reasons. First, I wish I had added some additional vegetables, as my ratio of bread to vegetables seemed a bit off. Second, I wish I had used a different bread. I bought an organic whole wheat sourdough and, unfortunately, the sourdough flavor was a bit too overpowering. I will definitely try this recipe again because I think it has the potential to be a standout.

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Mushroom Gravy: 3

I will start by saying I’m not a huge mushroom person (I picked the recipe because my husband is), so I wasn’t expecting to love this. I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it, but I definitely didn’t love it. My husband liked it, but thought it was a bit heavy on the mushrooms.

 

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Things I would do differently

  • To the extent possible, I would grocery shop the week before the holiday, not the week of the holiday. Only a handful items really wouldn’t have been fresh if I bought them last Friday (e.g., the fresh baked bread) and I could have made one last minute trip for those few items.
  • I would either make my own pumpkin butter for the cinnamon rolls or purchase a few flavors to sample beforehand. I had a hard time finding already prepared pumpkin butter in the store and I did not love the flavor of the brand I ended up using.
  • I would use a different flavor whole wheat bread for the stuffing and might experiment with adding more celery and perhaps squash, mushrooms, and/or another vegetable to make the dish a bit less bread-heavy.
  • I would add a bit of sugar to the pudding (note: I like things sweeter than most and my husband said he liked it as is).
  • I would add some kind of green salad to the menu.

All in all, this Thanksgiving was a success! It was definitely a lot of work. Plus, we think it cost more to purchase all of the ingredients for this meal than we have spent in the past ordering our meal from Whole Foods. There are definitely pros and cons to each approach and I guess I’ll have to weigh those between now and Christmas. I think I’ll probably be doing dishes until then…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

Vegan Thanksgiving 2015: Part I

This year, my husband and I are celebrating our ninth Thanksgiving together as a couple. Over the years, we’ve visited family on Thanksgiving, ordered our dinner from Whole Foods, cooked our own meal relying heavily on packaged foods (like stuffing mix, gravy in a jar, etc.), or done some combination of the above.

This year, however, I really wanted to cook a complete vegan meal from scratch that BOTH of us would enjoy (Jon is making a small turkey breast for himself, but we are sharing breakfast, sides, and dessert). It’s kind of scary, but exciting, too, to take on such a massive project as a “new” cook. Because this is momentous – my first homemade vegan Thanksgiving – I decided to blog it, although I may end up regretting that decision.

Recipe Selection

When I started looking for recipes on Pinterest several weeks ago, I knew that I was going to want to pick SIMPLE recipes, since I will be preparing several different dishes at once and all within a few hours. I didn’t want to have to purchase a lot of odd ingredients I will never use again or have to try any new techniques. I wanted to set myself up for success. 

To that end, my first stop was the Minimalist Baker website. As you know if you have followed my blog in the past, I love Minimalist Baker recipes because they are easy to follow and usually require only a few, basic ingredients. After perusing the website, I did, in fact, select several Minimalist Baker recipes (it was hard to narrow down from all of the fabulous options!) along with a couple of additional recipes from other sites. 

I also tried to be smart about ingredients. I needed one single carrot for my “meatless loaf,” so I decided to make carrots for our vegetable, too, so that I could purchase a bunch and not have any go to waste (even though we would both have preferred Brussels sprouts).

Menu

Here is what I picked:

Minimalist Baker Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls http://minimalistbaker.com/vegan-pumpkin-cinnamon-rolls/

Fat Free Vegan Thanksgiving Meatless Loaf http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2010/11/thanksgiving-meatless-loaf.html

Minimalist Baker Simple Vegan Stuffing http://minimalistbaker.com/simple-vegan-stuffing/

Minimalist Baker Best Damn Mashed Potatoes http://minimalistbaker.com/the-best-damn-vegan-mashed-potatoes/

Minimalist Baker Mushroom Gravy http://minimalistbaker.com/cauliflower-mashed-potatoes-with-mushroom-gravy/

Kitchme Roasted Carrots http://www.kitchme.com/recipes/roasted-carrots

Oh She Glows Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding Parfait http://ohsheglows.com/2011/10/14/pumpkin-pie-chia-pudding-parfait/

I realize writing this now that I probably should have added something green in there – like a kale salad – but it’s too late to go back to the store now!

Shopping

Speaking of the store, I made two trips to grocery stores to purchase ingredients this week – Monday to Wegman’s and Tuesday to Whole Foods – and Jon also went to our local chain grocery store, Giant, not once, but TWICE, on his own to get three additional items. We went to Wegman’s together on Monday and barely made it out (1) alive and (2) still married. In the future, I’m going to buy my groceries the week before Thanksgiving!

Day Before

I knew attempting seven (yes, SEVEN) completely new recipes on Thanksgiving Day would be too much for me, so I decided to start a few things on Wednesday (today) to get ahead of the game. My “day before” to do list was as follows:

  • Prepare and bake meatless loaf,
  • Prepare and refrigerate chia pudding (it’s going to thicken in the fridge overnight),
  • Wash, peel, and trim carrots for roasting,
  • Cook green lentils for stuffing, and
  • Cube bread for stuffing and set out in a large bowl to dry overnight (I’m using Whole Foods organic whole wheat sourdough).

I’m happy to report I finished every item on my list without any major incidents (defined as: calls to the fire department and trips to the E.R. to reattach fingers and/or treat burns). The pudding smells amazing and I’m really excited to dig into that tomorrow!

Stay tuned for Part II!

Happy Thanksgiving

Ignite Endurance

In my last post, where I talked about joining the coaching staff at Machine M3 Triathlon, I teased that other exciting things were happening that I couldn’t quite talk about yet.

I can finally let the cat out of the bag – I was invited to join Ignite Endurance!

If you aren’t familiar with Ignite, I’d invite you to check out the club’s website and to like the team’s Facebook page!

I am absolutely thrilled about this opportunity and can‘t wait to represent the team at races in 2016! 

Coaching

It’s been over one month since the Ironman and my life still hasn’t returned to “normal.” I don’t mean that in a bad way, or even a good way, but in the BEST way! Lots of exciting things are happening and I’m looking forward to sharing them on the blog over the coming weeks and months.

One of the biggest pieces of news I have to share is that I’m joining the fabulous, talented team of coaches at Machine M3 to help out with their Youth Triathlon Team!

LOGO

As you may remember, last winter, I decided one of my big goals leading into the 2015 season was to work on my strength. A few people had recommended TRX to me and I was intrigued, but a little intimidated. My friend Cassie teaches TRX at Machine M3 in Vienna, VA and she encouraged me to try a class there. I’m so glad she did because I tried my first TRX class at Machine M3 in February and haven’t looked back! TRX is now a regular part of my training routine. Not only has it helped me improve my swim, bike, and run, but it’s something I look forward to each week because the classes are fun and social, too. M3 recently added yoga to their scheduled as well, and I’m looking forward to mixing some yoga into my routine in the coming months.

While up until now, I’ve been a “student” a M3, that is all about to change. Starting next week, I will be helping Andrew, the head triathlon and masters swim coach at M3, with their elite group of youth triathletes. I’m so thrilled about this opportunity. I have a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm to share with the athletes and a lot to learn from Andrew and the other coaches. I can’t wait to get started!

The great thing about the youth team at M3 is that the athletes have the opportunity to come together for in-person, coached, group workouts several times a week. So, even though triathlon is an individual sport, M3 athletes get all the benefits of being on a team – the camaraderie and support of teammates during training and racing, and the motivation that comes from pushing each other to improve and succeed. I wish I could have joined a team like this when I was growing up!

I’m so excited to start working with the athletes and to follow their progress throughout the 2016 season. If you live in the area and want to learn more about any of the M3 programs I’ve mentioned, visit the M3 website at www.machinem3.com or like M3 on Facebook.