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  • 20 Nov 2016 2:35 PM | Lori Groat

    After a long hot Summer on the road, we were itching to get back on the trails. So we found a few events and signed up.  Brewtallaty was a 3-10.5-2 duathlon. Easy right?  The course was not provided beforehand. We've ridden Tom Brown and it's a great place to ride. We figured they'd choose the really easy trails due to the fact that some riders may not have a lot of experience. 

    The first run started on Magnolia trail. It's constantly up and down with lots of twisty turns and roots. Running that trail alone is a challenge.  Here's the map of the run with elevation. People were fairly close together on this first run. I found that it was helpful to drop back 10-15 feet so that I could see the trail. I ran very conservatively as my legs were pretty tired from my week's boot camp workout and chatted with a fellow triathlete from Tally. None the less, I was pretty darn pooped when I got to the bike. 

    Next we rode East and West Cadillac trails. Riding a good fun trail has a way of reviving me, so I got my mojo back and felt pretty good.  We'd ridden the blue trail on Callilac one way. It had a few descents that were a little scary but fun. We decided not to ride it in the opposite direction as we were tired and it would be really really difficult. Chris and I both though that they'd never have us ride it in that direction in the race.  Oh yes they did! I rode up the first 2 small rocky climbs, but hit the Mother Lode and decided to hoof it up. Looking at the race photos, I think most folks did. I'd still like to go back and try riding it with fresh legs.  After Cadillac, we rode Magnolia which was also the first run course. It was good that we'd run it and they let us know we'd be riding it later. It gave us a chance to preview the course and pick out some good lines as it has a lot of tight turns, roots and dipsy doodles.

    One part of the race that worried me was passing other riders on single track.  That was actually not so bad. Everyone was very obliging.  If they were passing me, they'd let me know and we'd keep a dialog going..waiting to find a safe area where I could slow down and slide to the right. Likewise, I'd come up behind folks and let them know I was there. The first person actually stopped and jumped off the trail. I felt awful as there's no need for them to stop and loose valuable momentum. So the next time, I let them know I was there and quickly mentioned that they shouldn't stop. I explained that I'd go around when it was safe.  That worked really well. I was happy with the fact that I managed to do that as it scared me a few years ago. I also rode up on a few obstacles that I was tempted to dismount for, but managed to get over them. 

    Here's a pic of Chris finishing Cadillac and heading for Magnolia. 

    And a photo of yours truly hoofing it up 1 of 2 harder climbs. I needed to lift my front wheel over a log right at the start of it and I'm just not there yet, but I'll get there!

    The bike course. That squiggly part on the left was the last part we rode. I really had to focus on riding properly as I was tired and kept wanting to lean on my handle bars. That works on the tri bike but is a big no no on an mtb.

    And finally the last run! This one was considerably less technically but still had some roots and turns.  Our legs were toast!  We both finally manged to run more in the last mile. Man was I glad to see that finish line.  After we cleaned up we enjoyed a great post race party with home brewed beer and some great giveaways.  All in all a ton of fun and a great deal for a $40.00 entry.!

    So, if you want an off road challenge that's not too long, this race is a great goal. Due to the terrain being so up and down, you really don't get much of a break and you'll be putting out a lot of watts even if you're taking it pretty easy. So make sure those muscles are strong and practice riding and running trails like Carbo here at home.  A few ride/run bricks on Carbo would have gone a long way for us.  It made me realize that I have a lot of work to do if I want to do the Xterra race at Oak Mountain in May!

  • 02 Nov 2015 8:15 AM | Anonymous

    Two of the most common questions that I am asked as a running coach are: “ What days should I do my strength training on?” and  “What is a great exercise to strengthen my glutes and hips to help prevent injury?”.

    It depends on what your training week looks like.  If you are new to running, and most of your runs are easy or recovery type runs, then it doesn't matter so long as you give yourself at least a day, and maybe two, depending on your recovery rate, between strength workouts.  If you are a more experienced runner, and have quality sessions on your schedule, then it’s better to put the strength workout on the same day as your quality session so you can truly recover on your easy running days.  By quality, I mean interval, tempo or race pace running.  Basically anything that isn’t easy running.  Since one of the goals of a recovery run is provide healing blood flow to the muscles that were worked the previous day while increasing your base miles, it makes sense to keep the easy days, well, easy.

    The other consideration is how many sets or repetitions of an exercise should I do?  As a certified personal trainer, I usually suggest 1-3 sets of each exercise and 8-12 repetitions where the last few reps are fairly difficult.  However, I train many time crunched athletes.  Due to those time constraints, I encourage them to do 1-2 sets of each exercise to fatigue, not failure.  As they become stronger, they can increase the weight or resistance.  


    When the gluteus muscles get weak, other supporting structures such as hamstrings or lower back are recruited to help with the load and can get overused and tight. Weak glutes can also cause knee problems.  All of this can negatively impact an athlete’s running mechanics causing increased forces on joints in their knees, feet, or hips, which, over time, leads to overuse injuries.

    One of the simplest and least expensive (no gym required) exercises to strengthen the gluten and hips is the monster walk.  

    How to do it:

    • Get a resistance band and tie it in a big loop. Bands are sold at Target and Walmart as well as online and are often referred to as therabands by many physical therapists.  
    • Place the loop around your ankle or above your knees.
    • Bend your knees while keeping your back neutral and your gaze forward and start walking sideways in one direction
    • Maintain a good tension on the band with an open stance.  Step to one side with one foot then step in with the other all while maintaining tension on the band.  
    • Make sure that your knees are always aligned in one line from the hips over the feet and the feet are pointing forward.  After a few steps, more if you are stronger, you will begin to feel your hips working; continue stepping to fatigue.  Then step the opposite direction.  
    • Do one set at first and work up to 2-3 sets.  

    Happy healthy running!

    Coach Karen is a USAT and USA Track and Field certified coach living in Panama City Beach, Florida.  She can be reached at Coach Karen Email.  Her website is

  • 23 Oct 2015 1:40 PM | Lori Groat

    Back in December of 2014, I decided that I would do “just one more HIM distance race”.  I’d heard good things about Augusta and decided that it would be a good choice.  I announced this decision to my husband while making dinner one night and was surprised when he said “I will end up doing the training anyway, so I might as well sign up too”.  Cool!  Maybe?  Now I have an added responsibility of figuring out how to help him train for his first HIM.  I am no coach and I am not even very organized with my training.  While I to tend to train consistently when preparing for a long race, I have to admit that my “plan” is non-existent. I have nothing against them, but the idea of being constrained by a plan is just not appealing to me. However, I knew that we needed to use one. This was Chris’s first and possibly only HIM, and I wanted him to have a good experience. I’d also crossed that 50 something barrier. My muscle mass is down, my BMI is up,  and I just don’t recover as quickly anymore.  I was concerned.  In the end, we chose Don Fink’s book, “Secrets for Half Iron-Distance Triathlon Success” and decided that we would follow the intermediate plan.  Our weekly regime (ideally) looked like this. Sat – long ride, Sun – OW swim, Mon – long run, Tues – Masters and EZ recovery ride, Wed – REST!!, Thurs – Masters and tempo ride/run, Fri – run(slog).

    >>Fast Forward>> August was scary. None of our runs felt good during the hot hot Summer, my rides up the hills were a struggle for me as I am still far heavier than I should be, we were stiff and sore most of the time, our once green yard had dead spots, and our vehicles smelled like locker rooms. We learned to put our pride aside and run at a truly EZ pace on our long runs adding walk breaks. Even more importantly (and harder for us to do), we started doing true RECOVERY rides.  Once we did that, our Tuesday rides became wonderful therapy for our sore legs, leaving us well prepared for our more aggressive workout on Thursday.  So all that stuff I have read about going slow at appropriate times to get faster is actually true. Huh. Some of us are late learners.  Finally it was taper time and we were not complaining.  I have to admit that we did a long taper, we really started to back off 3 weeks out.  This was a good thing as our sore legs never really felt great until the final 5 days before the race.

    Finally, that last week was here! We felt amazing on our bikes in that last week. Running? I wasn’t sore, but I was still not confident that I’d be able to run most of the course.  We drove to Augusta on Thursday. It is a neat town with lots of postindustrial brick building and Southern charm. We picked up our packets, and visited the expo on Friday, then went back to prep our bikes.  Later in the day we swam the course. On Saturday we checked in our bikes and drove the course. I was still nervous about the hills. Chris kept commenting that they looked pretty easy.  I agreed as I was glad he felt confident. Inwardly I was still nervous about the ride.

    Race day!  We thought the wait for our swim would be long, but the time passed quickly. We hung with Kaitlin, Gretchen and Dr. E for a while.  Gretchen and Dr. E went off first, then Chris went out and I had a moment of panicky worry. I’d gotten him into this and I really wanted him to have a good day. Soon it was time for me to go! The water was pretty cool and the current was definitely moving. I started out easy and immediately felt a stinging in my left eye. My left side goggle fogged badly. I took it off and cleared it, but my eye was on fire.  I don’t know what happened, but I decided that I had better pull up my big girl pants and soldier on.  I got out of the water in a little under 30 minutes feeling pretty good. As per my plan, this would be the first and last time that I would check time or pace today. My philosophy was that I would do what my body allowed and be happy that I became far more fit training for this race.

    Off to the bike!  I headed over to the wetsuit strippers and was just moving into a spot with 2 helpers when a man jumped in front of me. I looked up and there was a single helper to my left. She pulled that puppy off very efficiently. She and I giggled a little as the 2 helpers were still struggling with “important guy in a hurry” as I took off for my bike. Karma dude!  

    I got to my bike, tried to rinse out my eye, but it was still stinging and blurry. I headed out and started taking some deep breaths.  I had a plan and it was very comforting. There’s something to this “plan” thing! Just stick to it.  My Garmin was not displaying time or pace,  I rode by feel and tried to be conservative for the first half checking my heart rate occasionally.  The hills were rolling. I had a 12-28 cassette on back and managed to spin up them on the big ring in front. Waaay less steep than Knox Hill.  The road conditions were nice and the weather was super. I’d carried 3 bottles of Skratch and ended up using those taking an additional bottle of water at the 3rd station. I’ve never used the aid stations on a bike course and was really glad we had practiced the handoffs at home.  At mile 28, I decided that my body felt good and I kicked it up a notch.  My vision had also improved, but I could tell that my eye was swollen.  I rolled into T2 feeling the best I ever have coming off of a HIM ride despite the eye.  I assumed that it probably meant that my ride was slower than it felt. So be it! You can only do what your body allows and I felt that I had a good handle on those allowances.

    I racked the bike, put on my trusty Hokas and headed off for the run.  This is the first time I let my mind wander to Chris. I hoped his run was going well. Wtih his asthma, it is his most difficult discipline.  I wondered when I would see him and how he would look when I did.  I started running and checked my heart rate. I know my threshold for endurance and wanted to make sure I stayed under that for the first 8 miles.  At 2 miles, I saw Chris moving along ahead and his stride looked good!  I came by and was pleased to find that he was feeling good. I “wifed” him (he calls being “chicked” by your wife being “wifed”) and kept moving along feeling much more relaxed knowing he was in good shape. The first few miles are a little boring, but the downtown area is super fun with lots of crowds. It is a two loop course, so we hit the downtown area twice. I made my way along chatting with folks a bit and walking the water stops. I held pace but started to get loopy in the last 2 miles.  We ran around the longest block EVER and came around a corner leading to the finish. I was done. Boy was I done.  I stopped my watch and finally took a look.  To my surprise I had finished in 5:46!   I’d ridden faster than I had expected. 18.3 for the first half and 18.9 for the second. Woo hoo.  My run pace was also better than I had expected at 9:40.   I recovered a little and headed back down to the corner wondering how Chris was doing.  Amazingly I  saw a man that we’d met prior to the race. His wife was doing her first HIM.  He offered to look up Chris’s progress and said he would be coming around the corner shortly. Boom! There he was.  He had his first HIM experience and it was a good one. Sometimes things just fall into place.  Embrace those days and give thanks!

    PS: guessing I got some sort of irritant in my goggle. The eye cleared up after a few days although we ran into some folks that said they saw me on the run and wondered if I was okay. I guess it looked pretty awful. I will keep some eye rinse in my bag from now on.

  • 18 Oct 2015 12:14 PM | Stephanie Woodard

    B2B race recap for those that might be interested in future years.

    Checkin - quick grab and go with plenty of swag.  Long sleeve shirt was pretty nice (see the pictures) there are a lot of bags involved.  You get 3 as half and 5 for full.  If your organized the process is fairly easy.  You leave your T1, post race, and special needs bags (x2 for that full) at the convention center.  T1 and after had to be turned in Friday night.  I had all my stuff in giant ziplock a so I just dropped needed ziplock into bag and went with it.  Then you drive down to the T1 (about 20 minutes away) and drop your bike and T2 gear.  You don't have to leave all the gear- I left everything but nutrition so I had less to carry. 

    Pre race - I stayed at one of the host hotels the Hilton downtown.  Really nice place and even better the shuttle leaves there at 6am to T1 so no need to find a cab.  Did a quick check in T1 added nutrition and was on the trolley to the beach.  I didn't pre scout the beach.  I thought it would be a real beach - it wasn't.  We were corralled in a parking lot.  Luckily I was one of the first people there so Karen suggested we lay in the grass on the side.  Perfect!!  It was chilly but in my extra clothes I was comfortable.  They have a drop to goodwill at the start so having an old sweater, pants and shoes makes a big difference. 

    Swim - the half goes in waves.  You go down a dock and wade into the water to start.  I was in the last wave so plenty of energy and excitement going down.  When we got in we had to swim backwards to stay in place (yep that's a good sigh!). The first half mile currents were comparable to Augusta.  Water was dark and salty with a few reeds.  I struggle to sight in my wetsuit and even more so in the chop.  I swallowed a lot of water trying.  The second half was noticeably slower moving, but not an against the current feel.  Ended up swimming 1.41 miles so I did have sighting issues.  Still finished in under 40 which was my goal.  There is a ladder to exit - kinda challenging to me, but others looked fine. 

    T1 - fairly standard transition except you have to run .25 miles from the swim exit to your entrance.  There are wetsuit strippers and a warm shower to go through.  Tons of space on my rack.  I could have set up a full picnic.  Even the racks with all bikes on had plenty of room.  You shove your wetsuit and other things in the bag provided, tie and leave it.  Run out with your bike. 

    Bike - the bike course is not pancake flat as advertised.  There are plenty of false flats and alight declines and a few bridge/overpass type hills.  Nothing major.  I preferred it honestly. There are two bridges with grates over them.  A little scary, but looking forward and pedaling slowly they weren't too bad.  Part of the course was on an open interstate.  We had the left lane.  I thought that would be hell, it was one of my favorite parts.  Plenty of space and low traffic that day.  We rode on 421 for a long time.  Kind of like a 20 ride, not much to look at and straight forward.  The loop at the top took you down some pretty farm fields, houses and even horses so that was nice.  Unfortunately we had major headwind for 40 miles of the ride.  Nothing that can be helped and everyone was in it so it's fair.  Nice conversation as you passed people at least.  The good news is the stretch of 421 back that could have been boring was a blast with tailwind.  Road quality overall was very good.  Bad spots were well marked.  I wanted to average no higher than 16 to save my legs and I got 15.3.  I worked a little harder for that than I want to admit, but couldn't fathom going under 15 if I had legs left to give.  Did take two pottie breaks on the bike and one stretch break to fix my bottles.  Even with rubber bands I managed to lose two.  Aide stations were ok.  You had to really get off the bike to get everything - water with sports tops were passed going by. 

    T2 - this is awesome.  You pass your bike off after dismount and they put it away for you.  It's a run around the convention center floor to get to your stuff.  More of a shuffle in bike shoes.  The volunteers pass you your t2 bag and you proceed to your changing tent.  Real bathrooms and chairs to sit down! I took advantage, changed my shirt, put on more sunscreen and hit the potties. 

    Run - the first mile is a tiny loop backwards and then on the water along docks.  Mile 2 and 3 were my last favorite.  Several real hills on that bit, some cobblestone street in downtown and then a commercial district.  From mile 3-10 you were running on running paths around greenlake park.  Absolutely stunning and plenty of shade.  Loved this section.  Miles 11-13.1 were repeats of the commercial district, downtown and dock followed by the finisher shoot.  The shoot was really cool.  It was about 100yards long and lined with people cheering.  Music and announcer was in full effect.  It's technically my first real finish so I felt like a rockstar coming through high fiving and running.  Aide stations were underwhelming.  Don't get me wrong there were volunteers everywhere on the course.  More than I have ever seen and they were all pretty excited to be there.  The stations were fully stocked with tons of stuff at their buffets.  I was expecting more themes and louder music.  About mile 4 of the run I felt a migraine coming on.  I chugged water, took a salt tab and Advil.  About a mile of slower walking and I was ok again.  I felt really strong on the run with most miles falling between 14 and 15:30 from aside from the one big break for my head up to mile 11.  My goal was 15 minute miles.  I took my time at aide stations and stopped a bit to get more stuff as I passed.  Most stations were a heed, banana and water.  Some I took coke as well.  Ice in the hat.  I was actually really hungry by the run.  As I was approaching the turn around I realized I could actually make the under 8 hours if I kept pace.  Ready to jump for joy over that thought.  Then at mile 11 my legs and heart were still willing, the blisters on my feet protested strongly.  I was forced to walk.  I pushed myself to walk fast at least.  I don't think I have ever walked as fast as I did those miles.  I dug in deep and started repeating one of my favorite SBM quotes "the pain stops when you stop, but you can't stop yet!) I did run though the finish with the thought of well if they pop here oh well.  Got my medal and finisher pajamas and was on to enjoy a quick recap with Anita. 

    Finished in 8:08 which I am incredibly proud of.  Morning after and other than my feet I feel fantastic and hungry very very hungry! Stopping in to pick up my bike on the way out of town.  Really nice not to have to lug it back yesterday. 

    Highly recommend this course for beginners and those that just want to enjoy a fast fun place.  Volunteers were incredible and they were really well organized.

  • 12 May 2015 12:39 PM | Anonymous

    XTERRA Blackwater Course Preview

    From a Novice Perspective

    By:  Diane Courchene Mitchell

    Having recently purchased a mountain bike, I was excited to hear about a XTERRA race in our local area  and the fact that our club’s seasoned trail riders attested that it was a perfect course for a XTERRA first timer, like me.  Last Saturday, I joined some members of the EC Tri Club at Bear Lake in Blackwater State Forest near Milton, FL for a preview run and ride on the two trails that the XTERRA Blackwater race will be held on August 2, 2015.  I certainly was well advised!

    I arrived  before 7am to see the mist gently rising on Bear Lake while the sun was just peaking above the trees.  It was beautiful! That alone was worth the trip, but there was more beauty to come.  We started with running the 3.5 mile trail that loops around Bear Lake.  The elevation is fairly level throughout the run course. Wooden bridges cross over several wet areas with gravel before and after each bridge.  For the most part, the balance of the trails are hard pack sand. As the trail wound around the lake, I was pleasantly surprised  with seeing different ecosystems and the many views of the lake. Having run the trails at RCR, I found this trail to be easier to navigate due to being more wide open and less tree roots.  

    We then met up with Ben Dillon, XTERRA Blackwater Race Director, and some local cyclists. Ben reviewed where the 600 yard swim would enter and exit the lake, where transition would be located and then led us on the 6.5 mile loop of the 2 loop bike course. It was fairly level with gentle inclines with more downhills than up, it seemed! The course is a single track and fire roads with portions wide open.  It was very manageable to ride.  I look forward to riding it again.

    After previewing the XTERRA Blackwater Course, I am definitely in! It IS a perfect course for a beginner and can certainly challenge the experienced XTERRA racer.  I would recommend running and biking these trails for the beauty of it, any time and for what is likely to be a FUN and well organized race on August 2, 2015.

  • 05 May 2015 12:24 PM | Anonymous

    Thanks to member Lynn Horrigan for this report on Hammerdown Multisport's Tour de Ranch. Sounds like they put on a great event.

    Tour De Ranch 2015- Metric Century

    62 mile bike -Vernon, Florida

    First of all, like most of my "virgin" ventures in triathlon, I went into this a little worried about what exactly I was getting myself into.  But yes, let's pay 45 bucks, drive an hour + to a little town that even the GPS seemed confused about and then let's ride some REAL hills and go further than we have ever gone before... (Because let's be honest, the most I had ever ridden before was 56 miles).

    What an absolute blast! Would I do it again? YES, PLEASE!

    It turned out to be a super laid back event with several different distance options going off minutes apart. “G” and I had planned to stay together and pretty quickly found ourselves grouping up with 2 other ladies and eventually adding a third new friend who kept passing us on the downhills. We blew by the first aid station but G and I knew we needed the second one and stopped for cookies and the porta potty when it came up. Two of our group rode on but thank goodness we did stop! The hills are mainly AFTER the notorious Orange Hill which was pretty late in the ride (somewhere in the late 40's range?). Those smaller hills were quite evil and numerous, but super fun! I personally have never gone downhill that fast before and never even thought about the possibility of having to get off my bike to walk up a hill...hello Orange Hill. We did not have to walk it but that sucker is steeeeeeep.

    We were only slightly disappointed that the roads were not marked a teeny bit better. Due to rain they couldn't paint arrows and the signs were few and far between.  Twice we were really concerned about having gone the wrong way but just kept going and were fine. Also, no beer at the end, no cookies at the end (they were so good at that 2nd stop) and we sorta thought there was going to be BBQ for some reason? But there was Popeyes red beans and rice, soda, chips and water.  *Do keep in mind you have to obey all traffic lights and signs, even if they are 5 feet after the start of the race. I don't know why I thought there would be someone there holding traffic or something…

    BTW I would totally get a couple of 50 milers in prior to this so you can really enjoy it. Hopefully this will pay off as part of our training for Gulfcoast 70.3 J

    All in all, a well-organized ride with a super laid back vibe. A great place to try something new or to go and get some hill training in! I will for sure do this one again in the future.


  • 05 May 2015 9:48 AM | Anonymous

    Great video on drafting in open water.  We'll practice some of this at our OW swims.

    Link to Video

  • 29 Apr 2015 8:07 AM | Anonymous

    A clean drive chain accomplishes several goals. The two most worthy? 

    1.  It makes your bike faster and will improve shifting.  

    2. It reduces wear on your components. Worn components are expensive to replace and will affect your shifting.

    It will also help to avoid those "chain tattoos" which are annoying when applied to skin. They are downright maddening when you get them on your good work clothes as you load your bike before work in the morning. 

    So, it's really really dirty because you haven't cleaned it in forever or maybe never.

    Here's a great link showing how to use a chain cleaner tool. You can pick one up at Dragon Sports ...we've also seen some cheap models at Walmart that get the job done.

    Chain Cleaner Link

    If it has had a good cleaning or didn't get that dirty in the first place, you can maintain it to avoid getting black sludgy slow gunk all over your chain, cassette, crank set and derailleurs. Just spray some lube on it after most of your rides and then wipe the chain down with a lint free rag.  Wipe the crank set and the derailleur pulleys at least once a month as well.

    While you are at it, you can wipe down your shifters and brake levers with a damp rag to remove sweat.  The finish will tend to become very unattractive from sweat long before they actually wear out. 

    We'll see you and your clean speedy steed on the road.

  • 16 Apr 2015 12:02 PM | Anonymous

    This article on Bicycling Magazine offers some short but helpful tips for road cyclists who want to try going offroad.

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