Maximize your workout: Intervals made easy

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If there’s one cardio “must” I’m always preaching, it’s interval training–basically, varying the pace of your workouts as a proven method for boosting fitness and maximizing benefits.  I’ve already gone on and on about the benefits in previous posts, and yet…

…as I find myself doing most of my rides these past few months on the spin bike while watching TV–partly because I’m new to the area and don’t know the outdoor routes well enough yet, partly because of ark-worthy torrential downpours–I’ve more often than not found myself lulled into the mortal sin of doing all my workouts at the exact same middling pace.  And while one moderately paced workout a week isn’t a bad idea–especially if you’re training for endurance and it’s your long ride/run–doing every ride at the same mediocre pace results in the same mediocre performance.

While there are workout videos like Spinervals that you can watch while on a spin bike or trainer, I need to be a bit more entertained to stay engaged. Some swear by gimmicks like sprinting during commercial breaks or, say, every time someone takes a drink on Mad Men–but those just don’t work for me.

Alas, a free app has come to my rescue–Interval Timer.

This simple app allows you to program intervals, alerting you when to kick it into high gear and when to back off.  Simply set a warmup time, cool down time, and then program the time of your rest (low interval) and work (high interval) intervals and the number of repeats you desire.

A sample hour-long workout on the spin bike went as follows:

10 minute warmup

5 minutes @ 70-75% max heart rate

20x :30 hard (80-90% MHR), :60 recovery

5 minutes @ 70-75% max heart rate

10 minute cool down

And yes, it’s super easy to program the Tabata Protocol as well for HIIT intervals.  But your intervals don’t have to be short and anaerobic–you can also program intervals that last ten minutes or even hours if you desire, for long aerobic-style efforts.

For just $2.99, the upgraded version will let you add multiple interval cycles–so you can increase or decrease the work/rest ratio over the course of your workout ( five reps at 30 seconds work, 60 seconds rest; five reps at 45 seconds work, 45 seconds rest; 5 reps at 60 seconds work, 30 seconds rest, etc).  Both allow you to name and save your favorite routines.

If you’re on a bike just about anything that gets your heart rate up will do for the

photo 2“high interval”–hill repeats, sprints, surges, out of the saddle climbs, etc–or you can mix it up from rep to rep.  The app also allows you to select different sound effects–chimes, boings, boxing bells–to indicate when you’re supposed to switch, so you don’t have to constantly watch the screen–which means you can use it while running, on the Stairmaster, elliptical, etc.  Want to use it on a run while playing tunes on your iPhone?  No problem: you can even select playlists and control them within the app.

Spending all my time riding indoors isn’t ideal, and I’m determined to get out and enjoy the many organized training rides in the area.  But if I have to be inside, the interval trainer makes it easy and fun to program challenging cardio routines and stick to them–ultimately helping maximize workouts and workout time.

Check it out, let me know what you think–and share your routines!





career-transition-300x200If one word summarizes the last year and a half for me, it’s transition.  In that time I’ve left a job where I’d worked for nearly 14 years, launched my own business, moved in with my man, and–in the past two months alone–sold my condo and moved 500 miles from Washington, DC (my home of over 15 years) to Knoxville, TN.

Needless to say, it’s been a busy 18 months.

We all experience periods of major change and they inevitably disrupt our normal patterns–sometimes for the better, sometimes not.  In the past 18 months my eating habits have gone south (the downside of living with a man who’s a foot taller and can eat anything and everything without gaining a pound.  Gals, who can relate?).  At the same time, I’ve dropped key elements of my regular exercise routine–mainly long bike rides and any kind of regular swimming–and have never quite gotten back into regular long runs for more than a few months at a time since tearing a tendon in my ankle three years ago.  I’ve managed to keep teaching Spinning classes and added Pilates and Body Pump to my routine while still in DC, but I just haven’t been as active as I had been in previous years. To make matters worse, I’ve learned that  the fabled slower metabolism that  reportedly clicks in once a woman hits 40 is no myth.

The results:  a not-so-welcome extra 8-10 lbs that seem to have settled primarily on my butt and gut.  Basically, I’m in the worst shape I’ve been in in ten years, and it’s depressing.

But our new life in Tennessee promises the perfect conditions for getting back on track.  We’ve a kitchen you can actually cook in, and my man’s all about eating and cooking healthy meals.  The Smoky Mountains are close by for hikes, there are lakes in town where you can swim, an active triathlon club, and biking/running shops with regular rides.  Our sprawling rental home has the space for a home gym that’s at least twice the size of my bedroom in DC as well as a sloping driveway 1/10th of a mile long that’s decent for hill sprints.  Our new neighborhood is also fantastic for running and forces me to integrate hills into my runs–something I’ve always hated and avoided.

So I’m re-dedicating myself to improving my fitness here in Tennessee.  I haven’t put any races on the calendar just yet, but I’m excited about the healthy new patterns we’re already establishing down here–eating better, eating out less, getting outside more, sleeping more, and getting more regular exercise.

I’m baptizing the home gym with these new sources of inspiration: full-body strength and conditioning workouts that are hitting me in all the places I need work the most:

1.  Short full-body workouts with Zuzana the hardbodied Czech.  Sure, she’s a bit weekly-workout-plan-31controversial, but the workouts are tough, she’s a stickler for form, and she breaks down the moves to ensure you’re doing them correctly (you can also do them with her in real time.  It’s nice to see that she gets winded and has to take a break too!).  The free website has an array of short training videos to choose from–some just 3 minutes, many 12 minutes.

2.  BodyRock and  its Daily Hiit are also fantastic sources of free full-body workouts you can do in 12 minutes or less, and the instructor is solid at pointing out proper form and modifications if the moves are initially too difficult.  They also have a free iPhone app with videos of the various moves so you can remind yourself of proper form wherever you may be working out (they seem to be doing them in a living room, so if you don’t have a home gym, it’s no excuse!).

These challenging workouts are great complements to a swim-bike-run routine, working the body in multiple planes to make you more injury-proof (swimming, biking, and running work the body primarily in only one plane, the front-and-back or sagittal plane).  They’re also mainly body-weight exercises, so no special equipment is required.

To keep me accountable I’ll post updates on my progress throughout the summer.  Another incentive:  when I drop that extra 8-10 lbs, I get to upgrade the smallish monitor in the home gym to a bigger screen TV.  So stay tuned, see how I do, try out some of those 12 minutes routines and tell me what you think!

The home gym.  Come visit!!

The home gym. Come visit!!








How to Run a 3:10 Marathon


Okay, so maybe we all can’t run a 3:10 marathon.  I’m 99.999% sure I never will, in this life or even my next one.

But 26-year-old Mollie Zapata, a dear friend and my “running inspiration,” did just that at DC’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, finishing 8th overall among women and second in her age group. And get this:  it was her first marathon.  Ever.  And due to injury she was only really able to train for seven weeks.  That’s right, seven weeks. With no speed work (well tempo runs but no track speed work).  

Read on to find out how she did it, the benefit of running groups, how to find one that’s right for you, why it pays to have running parents, and where you can find her fantastic blog about books, baking, and running.  

Thanks so much to Mollie for sharing your story!


Before you decided to run the marathon, what was your running background? 
256505_10151038179458647_637976850_oI started running in Junior High track, and then continued to run (not particularly seriously or well) through high school cross country and track. I didn’t want to do “distance” in track and instead ran the 800m and the 300 hurdles. (At the time I was much more focused on downhill ski racing, which I did pretty seriously until college.)

Going into college, as I wasn’t going to be skiing as seriously anymore (though I did club ski team all 4 years), I decided that I wanted focus more on running. I walked onto the cross country team and ran XC, indoor, and outdoor track all four years with a few seasons off due to study abroad and injuries. Boston University is Division 1, so it was really competitive and I wasn’t particularly good, but it was overall a great experience. By my senior year I was the team captain, had some reasonably respectable XC races, and then did pretty well at the 3K indoor and steeplechase outdoor. Though throughout I was definitely mid-pack at best.

How have your parents influenced your running?
Both my parents are runners. My dad has run something like 25 marathons, 13 under 2:30 (his PR is 2:19). He coached an adult running team in San Francisco before I was born and when I was really young, and then high school track and cross country for years. My mom was a very good track and marathon runner and ran in the 1980 Olympic Marathon Trials (her marathon PR is 2:46). So I’ve grown up around runners – as a child, all my parents’ friends were runners, and I spent many weekends at track meets, cross country races, and marathons, and a lot of time at various tracks and trails, hanging out while they ran. I was always encouraged but definitely never forced to run. It’s really just an example that was set for me – getting in that daily run has always been a part of their lives, so it only seemed natural to me to do the same.

bybWakefieldSince you moved to DC you’ve won more than a few races, no?  Brag a little!
I have! This past fall I entered the Backyard Burn 10 Mile Trail Race Series. I ran the first three (of 5 races) and won them all (top female finisher)! I wasn’t able to make the final two races in the series (travel and injury), so I ended up getting second place for the series. And then the Rock ‘N’ Roll USA Marathon on March 16 – I placed 8th overall and second in my age group.

You’re part of a track/running group, right?  How does it work?  Who runs it?
I moved to DC right after college and immediately looked for a team to join, since I love doing workouts and running with people. Through some random googling I found Capital Area Runners (CAR), coached by George Buckheit. CAR is more serious than your casual running meet-up, in that we have a coach and multiple organized interval workouts, tempo runs, and long runs every week. But the “seriousness” definitely doesn’t apply to speed – people on the team run any distance from the mile to ultra races, and at any range of paces. Coach George is so accommodating to anyone’s plan/schedule/goals – this sounds cheesy but he really is there to help and support his athletes to accomplish whatever they want.

Would you recommend a running/track group for the average runner–or is it only for speedy folks like you?  What are the benefits, and how would you recommend people find one that’s right for them?
I always recommend people join running groups! Running with other people is fun, and joining a running group is a great way to make friends. Running can be really isolating – you go out by yourself every day and often that’s nice, but sometimes it’s just lonely and hard. Personally, I have a really really really hard time getting out of bed to run before work unless I’m meeting someone. And workouts or tempo runs? Forget it, I need company for that. There’s also some sort of magical group mentality that makes everyone run better when you’re running together. Plus, a group of runners is a collection of running wisdom (get 10 runners together and odds are someone has done the race/recovered from the injury/explored the trail you’re wondering about).

I say just try a bunch of groups and see which one you like the best. I know there are a lot of once-or-twice-a-week casual runs at various running stores and parks around DC (check running store websites or Timing and location are key, but then also think about how the pace of the group compares to how you want to run. If you have specific goals, I recommend a group with a coach (come out and run with CAR!).

photo (43)You’re a versatile runner–road and cross country, kicking butt at both 5K’s and the marathon.  That’s unusual, isn’t it?  What distance/terrain do you prefer most?
I don’t know how unusual it is…I think many people fixate on a “favorite” distance, but I like the mental and physical variation of doing a mix of distance and paces. Thanks to high school and college racing, I’ve done A LOT of 5Ks, and due to post-college injuries I’ve actually done very few longer races (just those three 10-milers in the fall and the marathon). I’ve somehow never done a 10K, and I think that would be a really good distance for me because I prefer to keep my weekly mileage relative low, and I’m not super-super-fast but I can maintain a decent pace over a longer distance. And I’ve always loved trail running – there will definitely be more trail races in my future.

After excelling at the 5K and 10 mile distances, what made you decide to run a marathon?
It was kind of on a whim. I was running well in the fall, uninjured and feeling good. I’ve always known I would run a marathon eventually, so when my running friend suggested we do Rock ‘N’ Roll I said ok!

How did you determine your goal time for the marathon?
I kind of had a goal time, but really it was pretty arbitrary. I wanted to do as well as possible on whatever training I was able to fit in. In the lead-up to the race, people kept asking me what kind of shape I was in (i.e. “Do you feel like you can run a 3:30? A 3:15?), but having never done anything even close to a marathon, how was I to know? They’re just numbers that, without experience, do not correlate to a feeling!

How many months did you train, and how did you create your training program?
Well I registered for the marathon in November (4 months out), then immediately got injured. While I was injured, I did yoga and some pool running. There was major skepticism all around about this race actually happening for me, considering that I didn’t run at all until mid-January (2 months out). Then Coach George wrote me a 7-week training plan, based on relatively low mileage, cross training, and tempos but no track workouts.

Before I started my coach’s 7-week training plan, I was doing a mix of aqua jogging and running.

So here’ s how my January training looked mileage-wise:

5.5 miles (+5 hours in the pool)

17 miles (+3 hours in the pool)

42 miles

46 miles (+1 hour in the pool)

I’m not saying that increasing this quickly is the SMARTEST thing ever…but it worked for me. And I will note that I kept up with about 1 hour a week in the pool through my marathon training.

How many miles were you running a week at your peak?  During your recovery weeks?
My highest mileage week was 52. Since I only trained for 7 weeks, here’s how it went: 46, 47, 40, 52, 42, 37, 11 (plus the marathon of course!).

Describe for us how you varied your paces of your runs throughout the week and why it matters.
Twice a week I did tempo workouts, meaning that I ran at faster-than-race-pace for short periods of time in the middle of my runs. For example: in the middle of a 8-mile run, I would do two 2-mile intervals. Very simply, speed-work like this trains your body to handle a faster pace, and process oxygen and recover more efficiently.

What was your pace on your long training runs versus your goal pace for the marathon?
I did my long runs as progression runs – i.e. start slow, finish fast. The goal was to divide the distance into thirds and run the first third at 1:30 over race pace, the second at 45 seconds over race pace, then the last third at race pace. Clearly I overdid it, starting at just over 8-minute pace, and ending around 6:45 pace. Overall my average long run pace was about 7:20ish, which is almost exactly what I ran for the marathon.

Did you do any cross-training?
Yes! I did pool running (aka aquajogging) about once a week, and I did yoga a few times.  I also have my own little strength/abs routine that I do a few times a week to supplement my running.

You’ve struggled with some injuries.  How have you dealt with them, and how would you recommend others handle such setbacks (if the responses aren’t the same to those two questions!)?
Oh jeez, injuries are the worst. These are my words of wisdom: if something hurts, take time off immediately. And I mean complete time off – do not cross train! – I promise you will not get out of shape in a few days or even a week. Runners always try to run through pain, and I can say from experience, that NEVER works.

If it’s not better after a week, look into whatever treatment options you have. Athletic Trainers should be your first stop, and ask them about what you should be doing cross-training-wise. Also, when in doubt, foam roll! And I have personally had a lot of success seeing a chiropractor, since my injuries are all hip-related.

You qualified for Boston your first time ever running a marathon, which makes many, many people want to kill you.  AND you have a history with that city, being a Boston University grad and all.  Are you going to run it?
Haha maybe! Marathon Monday is one of my favorite holidays, but the Boston Marathon is notoriously iffy weather-wise and also quite expensive to enter. But you never know, anything could happen! Running through BU would be pretty exciting…

Tell me about your race nutrition/hydration strategy.  Were you able to practice this during long training runs?
I am ten thousand kinds of terrible at race nutrition/hydration. Until this whole marathon thing, I’d never eaten or drank anything while running, so it was all new to me. On my long runs, I did eat gus and drink water, but I always stopped to do so – i.e. fatal flaw on my part, because it turns out consuming anything while running is very difficult for me.

For the marathon, my plan was to eat a gu at mile 8, then sports beans at 11, 16, and possibly around 20, and drink frequently along the way. What actually happened was gu at 8, sports beans at 11 and 17, and then that was it. Miles 17-20 were pretty rough for me, and it seriously took me 2 miles to get 100 calories of sports beans down. I did have sips of water along the way, but definitely not enough to drink. I was INCREDIBLY dehydrated after the race.

Anyone who’s read your blog knows how important food is to you.  What did you eat race week, and the days leading up to the race?  Last supper?  Morning of breakfast?
Food is important to me, but I’m really not obsessive about it. I didn’t do anything special the week before the race – I just ate normally. I’m a huge proponent of not changing things just because you’re racing. If it worked during training then odds are it’ll be ok for the race!

For my “last supper” some friends came over for pasta (whole wheat penne, tomato sauce, broccoli, spinach, and turkey meatballs), bread, lots of water, and my roommate got us cupcakes. Then my pre-race breakfast was a Nature Valley granola bar with some extra peanut butter and a handful or raisins (odd, I know…but this is how I eat), a half a cup of coffee, and a sample-sized Luna bar from the race expo.

marathon4Describe what was going through your mind the last .2 miles of the marathon–that seemingly endless stretch between the 26 mile marker and the finish.
I actually felt awesome in the last .2! The course goes up a hill and around the stadium, and I’d imagined that part of the race a lot beforehand (pre-race visualization is a thing that has stuck with me from my ski racing days), and anticipated feeling sooooo terrible, but really it was exciting! The uphill wasn’t that bad, and I just focused on my stride and pushing with my arms and GETTING IT DONE!

Looking back at your training and the race itself, is there anything you would have done differently?
Well ideally I wouldn’t have gotten injured in November (of course), but other than that I think I did pretty well training-wise with what I was working with. Though as I said before, next time I’ll practice eating and drinking while running! During the race itself, I think I could have pushed it more – possibly throughout but maybe just in the last 6 miles. It’s always tricky at a new distance to know what is hard enough and what is too hard – it’s a very fine line between the perfect race and collapsing before crossing the line…

What surprised you about the marathon, if anything?
How good I felt and how not terrible it was! This sounds weird to say, because of course it was HARD, but it was nowhere near as hard as I expected, both mentally and physically. I was prepared for this whole experience to be the WORST and most PAINFUL thing ever ever ever, so short of death and dismemberment, I think I would have said it wasn’t as bad as expected to anything. The hills? Not as bad as expected. My legs hurting? Not as bad as expected. Mentally? Not as bad as expected. Afterwards? Not as bad as expected.

cupcake2Your blog,, is amazing and inspiring!  How does it help your running?  By putting your workouts out there does it make you more accountable as a runner?  As a baker (haha)?
Thank you!

I’m not sure actually. I try to keep my running posts interesting or amusing or educational/useful to other runners, so I mostly post workouts, running routes, and injury treatment/prevention. I do put my running log on there, but more for my own keeping track than anything else. I rarely blog about my goals or the details of my personal everyday training, just because I don’t think it’s that important. Plus I’ve had goals derailed by injury so many times that I don’t like the idea of having to report back to the interwebs that I failed to make it to yet another start line. Obviously there are exceptions though, and the one time I poured my heart out injury-wise I got the nicest responses EVER and really it helped. And after the marathon I was SO happy with how many nice comments I got on my blog and on Facebook. The best thing about blogging is that it connects me to this great community of runners out there (some I know in real life, some only online) to provide each other with support.

And as a baker, well yes! Thinking of fun and creative recipes to share with the world is always a great challenge, and I definitely look forward to posting new things! And I say this often in my own defense – despite appearances on my blog, I do not only eat cake and I’m actually a very healthy eater!

You can’t do that well and not run another marathon.  What marathons are you eyeing for the future?  What running goals remain?
Hmmmmm. Well I definitely won’t be doing a fall marathon this year (high mileage in August sounds like the worst thing every to me), but if running is going well then I could do a spring one. I guess you could say I have my eye on Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville next April, since I love country music and have a friend I want to visit there. And I’d like to do Marine Corps someday. But I’m flexible and open to anything! I feel like I’ve barely started racing, so the possibilities are endless. I’d like to try out the 10K and half marathon distances. And yes, get better at the marathon. My secret-but-not-secret life goal is to beat my mom’s marathon time…though she was pretty speedy so we’ll see!

Last question:  Any plans to do a triathlon?  : )
Not really. Running is challenge enough for me and I imagine that in a tri, I would just be really looking forward to the running parts, and then dealing with the other things. I do enjoy biking as cross training, but I’m a terrible swimmer – we’re talking “drowning elephant” kind of terrible swimmer, haha. So I’ll stick to what I know for now!


Thanks again Mollie!  I’m not sure we’ll be out there running 3:10 marathons as a result of your great tips, but I personally feel inspired.   You can check out Mollie’s wonderful, informative, and entertaining blog and drop her a line at 



Heart Rate Training made simple

indexMy spin class regulars have heard me speak about the dangers of going all out, all the time–how it can lead to  injury, illness, and over training.

On the other hand you don’t want to be that guy I saw at the gym this weekend, scarcely churning the pedals while reading the paper for half an hour, somehow convincing himself he was getting a workout.  So how do you know when you’re training too hard–or not hard enough?

Heart rate training is the natural answer–but heart rate monitors can be expensive and confusing.

Now a new product has come along from a company called Heart Zones that simplifies heart rate training.  Their monitor is called the Blink, because it does just that–blinks to indicate your effort level.

Once your monitor is programmed, a blinking light on the monitor tells you if you’re working in the right zone.  The light blinks:

BLUE to indicate an easy warmup/moderate aerobic pace

YELLOW (that’s YELLOW) to indicate a more aggressive aerobic pace–like our 80% of  your max/ 30 min race-pace effort level.

RED to indicate when you’re hitting an anaerobic pace–that intensity you can’t sustain for more than 30 seconds to three minutes, which you want to use sparingly in training (like when hitting hard surges and sprints).

There are two models of Blinks–the Blink1, which is a basic, easy-to-use heart rate monitor ($74.99) and the Blink2, which offers far more functions like average heart rate and time spent in each zone ($84.95).  And get this:  right now, if you order more than one Blink1, you can get them for half off–just $37.50 each.   (NOTE–if you’re using it for indoor cycling or the gym, be sure to ask about the 1D or 2D models, which are interference free to avoid “cross talk”).  So grab a friend and take charge of your fitness!

Poke around the website and you’ll find a wealth of free resources to take your training to the next level, including simple tests to establish your heart rate training zones, workouts, brief articles that tell you what those numbers on your heart rate monitor mean, and more.   It’s also part of the larger Zoning Fitness program–perhaps the easiest-to-follow heart rate training program I’ve seen for getting fit and losing weight responsibly (more details here).

While I’ve never used one (this isn’t paid advertising), I love the idea of these heart rate monitors–both for spin class and for those days when you’re working out on your own.  How many of us have hopped on a cardio machine or gone out for a ride and found that it’s harder to push yourself when you’re working out alone?  With the Blink, you’ll be able to easily keep yourself from pushing too hard during your warm up (and paying the price later) by starting in the blue for 5-10 minutes.  Then, you have the incentive to push harder by striving to get and keep that yellow light blinking–and can even perform easily measurable anaerobic intervals on your own by pushing your Blink to red and keeping it there for a set duration.

The takeaway is this:  heart rate training isn’t just for elite athletes–it’s a great tool for anyone looking to build, maintain, or improve fitness.  With tools like the Blink heart rate monitor, heart rate training can be an easy means of getting healthy–and getting faster–while avoiding the pitfalls of push too hard, overtraining, or not pushing quite hard enough in that next spin class or while working out on your own.

If you try the Blink let me know what you think!  And if you’re interested in going in on a bulk order, let me know and we’ll get one in right away.





How to Not Get Hit by Cars


With spring around the corner outdoor cyclists are getting excited about the prospect of long rides without the risk of frostbite.

Whether you’re a hard core cyclist, commute by bike, or just hop on a Bike Share bike every now and then to run errands, chances are you’re sharing the road with multi-ton machines.  Let’s face it:  cycling in the city can be dangerous.

If you ride outside (or heck, even drive around cyclists), check out this wonderful guide from titled, quite simply, How to Not Get Hit by Cars.  It shows the ten most common ways you can get clocked and how to avoid them, with handy diagrams for reference.

For example, when you come up to a red light at the same time as a car, do you know the best place to stop?  Is it to the right of the car?  In front of it so it can see you?  Behind it?   See #5, “Red Light of Death.”

I’ve ridden in the city for the past 15 years and still learned a lot from this site, especially about driver blind spots and how to avoid riding in them.

There are also helpful safety tips at the bottom of the page.  So check out the guide and be safe out there!




Inspiring Athletes Part II: Kacie Darden and the Race Across America

“We are all capable of so much more than we think we are. When we put ourselves out there and we risk failure, and we do things that other people call “crazy,” that is when we find true joy and a sense of accomplishment.”

Those powerful words come to us from 29 year-old elite endurance athlete Kacie Darden, half of a two-woman cycling team that will attempt to set the two-woman team record at the famed 3,000-mile Race Across America (RAAM) this June (you can read partner Dani Grabol’s interview here).

Kacie took time away from her hectic training schedule (read on to get a taste), husband, and full-time job to share more about her journey from first-time duathlete to double Ironman (4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, and 52.4 mile run, which she did in UNDER 29 hours!)–in just four short years!

Read on and I know you’ll be inspired–and if so, please make a donation to the charity they’re racing for.  It’s Camp Twin Lakes, a network of camps for kids with disabilities, illnesses, and other challenges–here.  And check THIS out–donate $25 to sponsor one of their RAAM time stations and you’ll get a personal text from the team telling you how they’re doing when they hit it!  Check out details here.

Many thanks to Kacie for sharing your story!

You took on your first endurance event–a duathlon–just five years ago at the age of 24. What made you decide to enter that very first race? Were you that fitness-oriented beforehand?
I entered my first race the year my husband, George, and I got married. I could tell after we got married that he felt like something was missing from his life. He was working full time and in the middle of his PhD program, and seemed a little lost. I asked him what was missing, and after thinking about it, he said, “racing.” He was a collegiate runner, and time had gotten the better of him. So, I started looking around on the internet, and found a duathlon.

I came home and said, I’ll do it if you do it! He looked at me like I was crazy! I have always loved adventures, but I had never raced before. I bought a flat handlebar commuter bike and a pair of running shoes. I LOVED it. At the finish, I decided that I would start swimming and do triathlon, and he went into bike racing. Since then, we have switched, and he focuses on triathlon and me on bike racing! The most important part of it for me is that he and I are a team. We support each others’ goals. We cheer for each other at races. There’s a lot of compromise and give and take. Right now is my time to really train for RAAM, and he does everything he can to help me achieve that. Before that, the real focus was his racing at the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

Since 2008 you’ve completed four Ironman races, a DOUBLE Ironman in under 29 hours and even won a 50K trail running race. Did you ever imagine, when you entered that first race, that it would develop into such a passion and that you’d go on to accomplish so much?
When you say it that way, it feels like a really big deal! No, I never imagined that…..BUT I have never been one to do anything halfway. Ever. I always jump into things head first. I am not much of a “dabbler.” I think that it is really my mind that is made for endurance sports. I don’t think you would pick me out of a lineup as the ultra endurance athlete. I really do not see it when I look at myself. My my mind is very strong, and I am an incredibly determined person. I struggle with moderation! This is a healthy way for me to channel that kind of intense focus that I tend towards.

Were you athletic growing up? What sports did you enjoy? 
Funny enough,  I was also a high school cheerleader [like cycling partner Dani]. To be honest though, school was my sport! I did debate, mock trial, math team, academic bowl, and volunteering. I loved school, and I was very succesful, and I worked incredibly hard (refer to that lack of moderation thing above!).

I have always loved being outside. My BS and MS are in Ecology, so I spent a lot of time hiking and camping in beautiful places.

When did you start cycling?
I certainly used my bike as a way to get around as a kid, but never raced it. I did love going down steep hills in my neighborhood, and I love decending down mountains today! I started cycling right before that 2008 duathlon.

You’re not only an accomplished endurance athlete with a busy training schedule but also have a “day job” as a middle school science teacher and a husband who no doubt likes to see you every once in a while. How do you find time to fit it all in?
It’s true, I do have a day job. I am lucky enough to teach at a very supportive school. I coach cross country in the fall, and all of my kids know about my adventures and they cheer for me. In the double Iron, they sent me a video that I watched in one of the 10 minute breaks that I took. It was incredibly uplifting!

If you are getting into these sports, it’s all about balance and efficiency. Finish your work at work, use every minute, and set your alarm early. My alarm goes off between 4:30-5 AM every day. I try to be very careful about how I use my time. By the time you get to the level that Dani and I are racing, it is no longer about balance, it is about total commitment to your goal. Other things do have to take a backseat, and that is ok. My friends know what I am doing, and they know that they will spend more time with me in July.

I do love spending time with my husband though. We make sure that some of the things we have to do anyway, we do together, like weekly grocery shopping. I see my husband on the bike. We talk on the phone as we are driving to work in the morning after my workout and his masters swim. He joins the last 1.5 hours of my Tuesday and Thursday rides. Some of my rides are in the night so that I can do what I need to do during the day. There are no shortcuts, but there is good planning and preparation.

You’re less than five months from the start of Race Across America, a 3,000-mile bike race where you’ll attempt to be part of the youngest 2-person female team ever to finish the race–and only the third 2-person female team to ever do so. What made you decide to tackle this famous race–and to do it as part of a two-woman team?
Less than five months! Holy cow, I need to get back to pedaling!

I did this race last year as an 8 person team. I joined it in the last month of planning, so I wasn’t a part of the entire process. It was certainly an adventure, but it wasn’t the best experience. The riding was incredible, but there was a great deal of friction inside of the team. When I got to Annapolis, I knew I wanted to do it again on two conditions: 1. I wanted to ride more. 2. I wanted to be at the foundation of the team and not thrown in at the end.

What’s your typical training day like these days? Training week? At your peak, how many miles will you ride in a single week?  
Well….it’s tough!

Monday: Morning strength training. I am working with a fantastic trainer who is very focused on endurance athletes and the issues that I need to focus on, such as my back and my neck (areas that can fail on very long rides). Monday afternoon is my day to get my allergy shots (I am asthmatic), get massage if I can get in, or see my chiropractor. I think of it as a therapy afternoon!
Tuesday: Morning I get on the trainer for an hour. Right now, I get to do whatever I want to do on it, and watch some TV.
PM is tough. Before the time changes, and I have light, I am on the trainer. It ranges from 3.5 hours up to 5 hours. The last hour and a half is an intense and very structured workout.
Wednesday: Morning I meet Dani at an indoor cycling studio in Atlanta called Energy Lab, and I ride for 1.5 hours in a semi-structured workout.
PM is cross training–yoga, running, or swimming.
Thursday: Just like Tuesday. Morming hour on the trainer, and a hard PM 3.5-5 hours with the last 1.5 hours being very structured.
Friday: Morning Strength Training PM fall into bed as soon as possible
Saturday: This is where it gets tricky! For the next few weekends, I have 6 hour rides, with three hours in the dark (with my husband in the car behind me). Occasionally, I will do a very long ride (like 12 hours). Other times, I will do on/off workouts (1.5 hours on with 1 hour off all day long).
Sunday: This is becoming my climbing day. I drive to our nearest mountains and ride up as many as I can fit in in about 6 hours.

How did you create a training program that works for you and your schedule?
I have a coach (Will Dillard) who has coached me through all of my events. We are very collaborative, and we communicate a great deal about my training and my progress. There is no guidebook for two person RAAM though!

I have to ask: how many calories do you eat a day? How many calories will you eat a day during RAAM, and what will you eat?
Good question! I am not really sure! I do not eat meat except for fish, and I eat about every 2-3 hours. I actually struggle counting calories (I can become a little obsessive and unhealthy), so I work with a sports nutritionist who does not have me counting any. I am still working on my nutrition plan for RAAM. It’s tough, becuase you have to start learning how to eat real food, and then ride. In a 9 day event, you cannot rely entirely on sports nutrition to get you through it. That being said, I take in about 200-300 calories an hour on the bike.

There must be days when you just don’t feel like working out, or want to sleep in when you have an early workout on the schedule. Where do you find the motivation to push past the negative thoughts, get out there and get it done?
It really is all about that first step. Yes, there have been days, and there will be days, when doing the work is the hardest thing to do. I always have early workouts, so it becomes my normal and it is just my reality. For me, sometimes getting on the bike in the afternoon after a day of working and a morning workout is the hardest. I do find though that once you get going, it’s always ok! I also think that you have to be prepared to have one bad workout a week. Sometimes it just doesn’t click, or your head’s not in it, or you just don’t feel good. It doesn’t matter though. Your body doesn’t know you weren’t “feeling it,” your body still got the workout in, and you are one step closer to your goal.

I imagine that some of the biggest challenges–both in training and RAAM itself–are riding in bad weather, saddle sores, and the struggle to maintain focus during the race when you’re so exhausted. How do you deal with the first two and how do you prepare for the third in training?
Bad weather: my coach says that you can’t control anything except your attitude. You certainly can’t control the weather! I think that so much of our training is preparing us for the weather. We will train in hot and cold. I just finished 5 hours in demoralizing wind. Honestly, when you train as much as we do, you end up riding in all kids of weather. What you ultimately have to work on is your mindset and your ability to relax and stay calm when mother nature turns against you.

Saddle sores:  I have been working diligently with a bike fitter leading into RAAM. We have changed saddles and position as I spend more time on the bike and develop issues. That being said, you don’t know how bad it will get until you are actually on RAAM. We will do our best to prevent saddles sores before they arrive by changing our shorts frequently, and then dealing with them once they come.

photo-1Exhaustion is a major issue in RAAM. First and foremost we want to reach Annapolis in one piece and for our crew to be safe as well. There is no way to truly simulate the kind of fatigue that you will feel on RAAM without being on RAAM. We will both do some overnight riding to prepare. We will go to the edge of our fatigue level during training, but we will have to face those issues when they arise in the race, and hopefully, our crew will help us pull through them safely.

A bit on race logistics: What kind of bike will you be riding? What kind of support will you have on the course?
I will have my time trial bike and my road bike. I will have three sets of wheels per bike of varying types (disc, 808’s, 404’s, training). We will have 10 crew members and 3 vehicles.

You’ve tackled RAAM before as part of an 8-person team. What do you anticipate will be the most difficult part of the race as part of a two-person team? What are you looking forward to the most?
I think that the lack of sleep is going to be the hardest part. On the 8 person team, we were done in 6 days, but this race will be two more days and a lot more miles. I think those extra days without much sleep will be very difficult. I look forward to feeling like we have really done it as a team. Finishing with our crew satisfied with the accomplishment is important to me too. Without proper teamwork, crews can hit the pier in Annapolis and no longer want to be friends. I want my crew jumping for joy and toasting with champagne at what an amazing job we all did. Then, I want a fluffy bed.

Many casual gym-goers adhere to that “no pain, no gain” philosophy of going all out every workout. What can they learn about recovery and rest from a competitive endurance athlete like yourself?
A great deal of my training is at a moderate intensity level. When I increase intensity, I have to increase my recovery time. I think it is important to remember that what you do between workouts can matter even more that what you do during the workout. Eating right, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep are the keys to recovery. Granted, these are not the most exciting parts of training for a goal, but they can be the most important. I also think that if something starts to hurt, athletes like us go see a professional quickly. We both work with chiropractors, massage therapists, doctors, physical therapists and more. I think that the average athlete could benefit from this too. Professionals can tell you when you are about to be injured, you are injured, or if you just need a little rest. We are not afraid to ask for help.

Let’s talk about your RAAM racing partner, Dani Grabol. Her story is incredibly inspiring: once overweight, she’s told by her doctor that if she doesn’t lose weight she might not see her 40th birthday. She gets into triathlons to lose weight only to be injured in a serious car accident. She perseveres, eventually finishing second among women and fourth overall in a double Ironman, and becomes the fastest woman ever to cross Florida on a bike. Finding a training partner for something as big as RAAM can be a huge decision and commitment. How did you and Dani meet and how did you know that she was the right partner for this undertaking?
Dani is incredibly, and I am so lucky that she agreed to pair with me for this journey. Dani and I met when we were both training for the double Ironman. We got the chance to train together some, and I knew quickly that we were kindred spirits. During the race, we were on a 0.85 mile out and back run for 54 miles. I got to see her over and over again. I was so impressed by her focus and determination. Even though she was beating me, I really was cheering for her! I was incredibly proud of her effort, and we stayed in touch. When I did 8-person RAAM, Dani followed my efforts and sent me lots of cheers through texts, emails, calls, and Facebook. Standing on the pier at the finish line in Annapolis, I was sure I wanted to do it again, but this time, with my own team, and fewer people. It only took a couple of emails with Dani in the week after RAAM last year, and our team was born!

You’re doing this race to raise money for a wonderful organization: Camp Twin Lakes, a network of camps in Georgia for children with disabilities, serious illnesses and other challenges. How did you select this organization in particular? How can people sponsor you with a donation?
I have been involved with Camp Twin Lakes through their cycling fundraiser, Spin for Kids. One of my best friends and one of our sponsors, Laura Barnard, is on the board of CTL. In spending time at CTL, I fell in love with the place. As a teacher, I have a very soft spot in my heart for kids–teaching them is truly my calling. Camp Twin Lakes provides and experience for kids with disabilities, illness, and other challenges that they would not otherwise experience. I spent a day at camp this summer when they were having camp for kids with kidney disease. The kids were alternating between dialysis and a zip line–and I love that. People can donate to our website for Camp Twin Lakes at

To err is human. Over the years training for and racing in endurance events, what mistakes have you made and what lessons have you learned from them?
Stay calm–it will get worked out. For me, sometimes I just need to stop for a minute, think about the best solution to the problem, solve it, and move on. I think that preparing yourself mentally is as important if not more important than preparing yourself physically. Figure out your fears and your weaknesses, and work on them. Turn them around and use them to your advantage.

How has participating in endurance sports contributed to other parts of your life?
I love working towards a goal. Having something to aim towards and focus on every day gives me focus and determination. An unexpected part of endurance racing for me has been the friends that I have made. When you train together, you spend hours side by side talking. It is amazing what you can learn about a person after 100 miles on a bike together. It has also made my marriage stronger. We both race, and because of that we literally both get to cheer for each other at races. Having the opportunity to tell my husband that I am proud of him and he is proud of me makes us stronger and our relationship is deeper.

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of training for their very first endurance event–be it a sprint triathlon or century ride?
Don’t be afraid of failing. When you work towards a goal that seems just out of reach, your accomplishment feels even better. Take the leap of faith and do it. I also think it helps to build a support system of friends and family around you. Remember that the race itself is just the cherry on top of training.

After all you’ve done–and after RAAM–what’s left on your to-do list of endurance events?
It’s hard to imagine anything after RAAM. I mean, even the next day. I feel like my whole life is so focused on this one goal, that it’s tough to imagine moving on. Alas, time always passes, and I’ll find myself in Annapolis thinking about what’s next. There are so many things I would love to do! 24 hour bike racing sounds exciting to me. I would love to do a little more ultra-running. I have a plan to swim the English Channel one day, but I don’t really like the cold, so I am in no rush on that one! I like races that capture my imagination, so once I am done, I will start thinking about the next one. I also want to have children, and I hear that is an endurace race in and of itself!

What the heck does the last hour of a DOUBLE Ironman feel like? The final mile? Are you emotional, elated or just too exhausted to feel anything?
photo-5I had a great race at the double. My pacing plans were impeccable, and I never slowed down. Each of my laps was so close in time to the others that my crew started calling me “the metradome.” I had quite a few friends who accompanied me during the run portion. It was great to have friends telling me stories, and reading emails/texts/Facebook posts from friends and family at home who were cheering me on.

One of my last friends to join me was Scott Rigsby, who was the first double amputee to finish the Ironman World Championship in Kona. He is an inspirational speaker and author for a living now. First, he talked to me about anything, music, friends, family. Then, he started giving me my very own inspirational speech. He told me that I would always have this accomplishment once I got through it. He reminded me to share and feel gratitude in this accomplishment with my husband and my friends who gave so much for me to finish. He was running next to me, with no legs mind you, telling ME what an inspiration that I am.

photo-4I was in tears by the end, and switched out running with my husband for my last lap. I told George that I was crying happy tears, not sad ones, and that I was just so excited to be finishing and how much I appreciated him. We had a great last 1.6 miles together, and when I was done, I collapsed into happy tears with some of my closest friends around me. It was a really wonderful day. We are all capable of so much more than we think we are. When we put ourselves out there and we risk failure, and we do things that other people call “crazy,” that is when we find true joy and a sense of accomplishment. I am just lucky that I have the support and ability to have found this part of my life.

Do you two have compatible strengths on the bike for RAAM? For example, is one of you stronger on flats and the other stronger on the hills?
It’s funny that we just finished really talking this out together. I think that ultimately, Dani is faster than I am. I am more durable than Dani is. Together, we are going to make an incredible team. We are going for the overall female two person record, and I think that we are just the right combination of speed and endurance to do it.

How much are you two able to train together?
We train together as much as we can. We always train together on Wednesday mornings at cycling studio. We often have a meeting together each week with a sponsor or our crew. We also try to do weekend rides together when we can and when our schedules work out.

Last but not least: how can people both follow your training and follow along and cheer for you and Dani while you’re racing RAAM?
Like our Facebook page, Power, Pedals, and Ponytails. Follow us on Twitter! @powerponytails.  Our team blog is and my personal blog is



Inspiring Athletes: Dani Grabol and the Race Across America

198181_10150119322448105_644188104_6666476_1714812_nDani Grabol once weighed 225 pounds and was a pack-a-day smoker.

Then,  in 2005, her doctor told her that if she didn’t change her ways she’d be dead before she turned 40.  So she hit the gym.

A year later she’d lost 70 pounds and competed in her first triathlon.  Instantly hooked, she made plans to do more.  But  while on a training ride in November 2006, she was struck by a drunk driver.  Her injuries were severe, including a crushed tibia and fibula, which required a titanium rod and several screws in her leg.  Doctors didn’t know if she’d ever be able to run or bike competitively again….but they didn’t know Dani.

It was six months before she could walk on that leg again.  And yet, within a year of the accident, a determined Dani ran her first half marathon.  Since then, she’s completed two Ironman races (a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run) and even a double Ironman (that’s right–a 4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, and a 52.4 mile run).

And she’s fast.  For the double Ironman, she finished second among women and fourth overall.  In 2011 she set a record for the fastest cycle across the state of Florida, completing the 422-mile distance in 27 hours 58 minutes.  Last year she crushed the women’s course record–and beat all her male competitors–in a 12-hour time trial bike race in Texas despite torrential riding conditions (read on for details).

Now, she and racing partner Kacie Darden are training to be the fastest–and youngest– two-woman team to complete the Race Across America, or RAAM, a 3,000 mile bike race that they must finish in under 9 days. To put it in perspective, that’s about 30% longer than the Tour de France, in less than half the number of days (for a taste of how difficult RAAM is, check out this film trailer).   As if these gals weren’t incredible enough, they’re doing it to raise money for Camp Twin Lakes, a network of camps for kids with disabilities and serious illnesses.

This is the first of a two-part post about this amazing duo, with Kacie Darden’s own incredible story to soon follow.  Enjoy–and if you’re as inspired as I am, please donate a little something to their cause here!

Dani, how did you get into endurance sports?  What was your first race?
My first event was a duathlon, at the age of 24, in 2006. I had lost 70 pounds prior to getting into cycling and running. I met a wonderful group of triathletes who encouraged me to take my fitness to another level and wanted me to try out competitive racing. I was hooked! In high school I played softball and was a cheerleader. I wasn’t gifted athletically, but was always driven to do well. In college I gained a lot of weight, and wasn’t fitness oriented at all. I also had a pack-a-day smoking habit from age 17 to 21.

How’d you start losing the weight and getting back on track?
I didn’t have a nutritionist or follow any type of fad diet. I cut one bad thing out a month (I had HORRIBLE eating habits) and next thing you know I was eating really healthy. Being young helped a lot because my metabolism was still fairly active. For sure one of the most effective workouts for me then was a spin class….it was one of the only ways I could get in an hour of cardio without getting bored!

You’ve done two Ironmans and even a double Ironman since.  That’s incredible!  So how did you turn into this endurance machine?   
I entered my first Ironman while I was still recovering from being hit by a drunk driver and crushing my left tibia/fibula. When I started racing I was surrounded by people who were training for an Ironman, and I knew after I did my first race that I wanted to do one too. Crossing that finish line was such a triumph for me, because I had overcome so much to get there. Doctors didn’t  have faith in the fact that I would ever run again, let alone compete. I wanted it so badly, and it was so joyous to be done. I knew that I wanted to continue racing, but never imagined I would be getting into the 24 hour+ format.

What sports did you enjoy growing up–and when did you start cycling?
I played softball and was a cheerleader. I never had any particular athletic talent or gift. I was motivated to do well and had a lot of energy, I wanted to play every sport that was available to me! I took up cycling in 2006.
Dani & her boyfriend Jason

Dani & boyfriend Jason


You’re not only an accomplished endurance athlete with a busy training schedule but also have a “day job.”  How do you fit it all in?
I work as a wellness director at a retirement home, a health and nutrition coach, and teach bike classes twice a week. Honestly, it’s tough, but I just get up really early, go to bed late, and don’t watch tv! Having a supportive partner who also races makes a huge difference as well. I couldn’t do this without him.

You’re less than five months from the start of Race Across America, a 3,000-mile bike race where you’ll attempt to be part of the youngest 2-person female team ever to finish the race in the allotted 9 days–and only the third 2-person female team to ever do so. What made you decide to tackle this famous race–and to do it as part of a two-woman team? 
Last year I was asked to be part of an 8-person team. I declined because I felt like I would want to ride more if I was going to take all that time off from work and ride across the country. Kacie was also asked to be a part of the 8 person team and she accepted. The entire time they were racing, I was wondering what was going on. How fast are they riding? How are they sleeping? I was fascinated by the logistics of the whole thing. It’s really amazing when you think about crossing the entire country via bike, and even more amazing when you add in your crew and support vehicles. When Kacie got back it pretty much only took a couple of email exchanges before I knew what she wanted to do. I was the perfect target for her– I love to ride my bike, and happened to be looking for my next adventure when she asked. Easy prey! :-)

What’s your typical training day like these days?  Training week?  At your peak, how many miles will you ride in a single week?
I typically train 7 days a week:
* Monday is SUPPOSED to be a masters swim (I am kinda slack on that these days!) then a strength workout and Pilates or run in the PM
* Tuesday:  1 hour 45 min evening ride (I teach cycling class and add on before class),
* Wednesday: 2 hour morning ride, evening strength and run
* Thursday: Pilates/yoga, 1 hour 45 min ride
*  Friday:  AM swim, PM Pilates
* Saturday and Sunday are about riding! My weeks vary in length, this week I have about 23 hours scheduled. Honestly, I have no idea how many I will ride at my peak! Maybe 450-500?

How did you create a training program that works for you and your schedule?
I didn’t create my plan…I have a wonderful coach who keeps me from killing myself and forces me to take a break every few weeks! She is in charge of the hard part, I just ride!

I have to ask:  how many calories do you eat a day?  How many calories will you eat a day during RAAM, and what will you eat?
I am a creature of habit, and actually don’t eat as many calories as people think I do. I typically eat around 1900 calories a day during the week, and closer to 2500 on the weekends. During RAAM I will plan on eating as close to the way I eat at home as possible. Fresh fruits and simple healthy foods will be ideal. I will also need to rely heavily on carbohydrates, so pasta, and foods that are low in fiber to avoid GI upset. Bananas, almonds, peanut butter sandwiches, coconut water, Arden’s Garden juices, those are all some of my favorites.

There must be days when you just don’t feel like working out, or want to sleep in when you have an early workout on the schedule. Where do you find the motivation to push past the negative thoughts, get out there and get it done?

The hardest part for me right now is getting up in the morning to swim, when I know that I don’t have to swim because I don’t have anything triathlon related for a while! It’s great cross training though, and really strengthens the neck muscles. There are certainly days when I would rather sleep than get up early, but I am constantly reminding myself what a gift this is….to have a body that is able to take this type of training. I am constantly reminded how precious life is in my line of work. I see marathon runners who are 65 with Parkinson’s disease and in wheelchairs. You just don’t realize how fragile life can really be. When I was recovering from my accident I was hoping and praying every day I would be able to ride a bike or run again. I promised myself I would never take it for granted, and I would never complain. Sometimes a complaint slips in every now and again! :)

I imagine that some of the biggest challenges–both in training and RAAM itself–are riding in bad weather, saddle sores, and the struggle of maintaining focus during the race when you’re so exhausted.  How do you deal with the first two and how do you prepare for the third in training?
Mother Nature isn’t really a huge fan of me. I did a 12 hour bike race in Texas in September where it poured rain and hailed the entire 12 hours. The wind was terrible, and the roads even flooded. I kept thinking they wouldn’t make us ride through standing water, but they did! Short of a tornado, I’ve ridden in all sorts of inclement weather, it’s just about keeping it safe and having a good attitude. I have a secret saddle sore cream (details to come!) and many tips on how to avoid them.

(To prepare for riding when exhausted,) you just practice riding while tired. I once rode for 12 hours overnight. I got up at 5am that morning, went swimming, went to work, came home and ate dinner. Then around 8 I went out to Columns Drive (in Atlanta, GA) and stayed up all night riding. It was a great opportunity to know what will happen to your body when you are tired. I love riding at night. Will I love it 4 days into RAAM? Probably not! There is no good way for us to simulate that level of fatigue in training without risking injury or getting sick.

A bit on race logistics:  What kind of bike will you be riding?  What kind of support will you have on the course? 
I will bring both my triathlon bike and road bike. We will have a 10 person support crew. We will each have our own minivan, plus a larger van to sleep in at night. We will turn our lives over to our crew once the race starts, and basically, our job is to eat and ride!
(In terms of shifts,) we are planning on doing short pulls back and forth for 16 hours of the day–anywhere from 10 minutes in the mountains to 30 minutes. At night we will both do two 4 hour pulls while the other person sleeps. I think the logistics are the most fascinating part as well!

What do you anticipate will be the most difficult part of the race doing it as a two-person team?  What are you looking forward to the most?
I think the hardest part is going to be no sleep. I am most looking forward to Annapolis, Maryland, which will probably look like the Holy Land by the time we reach it!

Many casual gym-goers adhere to that “no pain, no gain” philosophy of going all out every workout.  What can they learn about recovery and rest from a competitive endurance athlete like yourself.
Pain is a sign your body is giving you that something isn’t right. There is a big difference in pain and discomfort. Most people have a hard time differentiating between the two. It’s uncomfortable because you aren’t used to it.  Relax, and take your time building up your fitness. It doesn’t happen over night! The first time I went to the gym when I was trying to lose weight, I could only do 15 minutes of cardio. Be patient, and you will get there!

To err is human.  Over the years training for and racing in endurance events, what mistakes have you made and what lessons have you learned from them?
Dairy and running don’t mix! Never try anything on race day you haven’t tried out in training. Don’t wear new shoes on race day! Just because your friends are swimming/riding/running a program, doesn’t mean it is the best training for you.

You’re doing this race to raise money for a wonderful organization: Camp Twin Lakes, a network of camps in Georgia for children with disabilities, serious illnesses and other challenges.  How did you select this organization in particular?  How can people sponsor you with a donation?
I volunteered for Camp Sunshine, a CTL camp, when I was 18, so I’ve known about them for a long time! I am a strong believer that no one should be bound by disease or disability, and Camp Twin Lakes provides an outlet and place where kids can be treated the same despite having life-altering conditions. It’s really cool to take kids with diabetes and say “look, you CAN do this, you are different, but you aren’t wrong!” Children need more places that remove limitations from their brains. People can donate to our website for Camp Twin Lakes at

How has participating in endurance sports contributed to other parts of your life?
Accomplishing great things physically has made me more confident in my abilities in all aspects of life. I don’t shy away from any type of challenge, and like continuing to strive to better myself daily. It’s made me appreciate my body more, my health, and the incredible people around me that support me and love me no matter what nutty things I want to do. It’s an amazing thing to tell someone you want to ride your bike across the country and they look at you and say “That’s awesome. You can totally do that. How can I support you?” I don’t take people like this for granted, they are the my foundation!

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of training for their very first endurance event–be it a sprint triathlon or century ride?
Have FUN! Smile! Take it all in and savor the moment. You will never cross your first ever finish line again. Attitude is everything, keep a positive one if something goes wrong and you will have a wonderful experience.

After all you’ve done–and after RAAM–what’s left on your to-do list of endurance events?
How much room do you have left? :) My more immediate plans are a 100 mile run, Furnace Creek 508-mile bike race, Rim to Rim Double Crossing of the Grand Canyon, and I would like to develop and race-direct an ultra bike race in Georgia!

Finally, how can people both follow your training and follow along and cheer you on while you’re racing RAAM?

A huge thanks to Dani for sharing her inspirational story!  Once again, you can contribute to their chosen charity here.  Stay tuned for an inspiring Part Two where we’ll talk to Dani’s racing partner Kacie Darden!

High Intensity Interval and Time Trial Classes

archivesGreat job to the Thursday Spinning class on hitting those High Intensity Intervals today!

Remember–in Tuesday’s class we’re doing our monthly 30 Minute Time Trial–a great opportunity to calibrate your heart rate monitor to your specific training zones.

Read all about the benefits of these two classes in our archives!  For a refresher on why high intensity intervals and the Tabata protocol are so effective, check out this link.

And find out how to prep for Tuesday’s Time Trial–particularly if you’re using it to calibrate your heart rate monitor–here.

More new content coming soon–including interviews with some inspiring endurance athletes–so stay tuned!


A Healthier You in 2013

It’s that time of year again.  No matter what your fitness achievements were in 2012, you’re undoubtably looking back and thinking, “I could have done better.”

But what better time than the New Year to recommit to new fitness goals and carve out a plan for the coming year?

Follow these ten tips for a happier, healthier you in 2013.

1. Have a realistic, obtainable goal

Give yourself something to work toward, whether it’s a 10K race in June,  marathon in the fall, or doing yoga at least twice a week.  You’ll be more likely to stick to a schedule if you have a plan–just make sure the goal is realistic so that you’re not setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.  If you haven’t been to the doctor in a while and have health issues or a family history of heart disease, it’s a good idea to get in for a physical and your doc’s sign-off.

If weight loss is on your list, pairing your fitness goal with a program like Weight Watchers can yield big results.  Just ask my mamma, who’s lost over 60 lbs through Weight Watchers over the past two years.  Go mom!

2.  Have a written plan to help you reach your goal

A written plan will get rid of the guesswork, prescribing daily and weekly workouts to keep you honest, make sure you’re on track to reach your goal, and also ensure that you’re getting adequate rest so you don’t burn out or get injured.  You can find training programs and apps with training plans at sites like Runner’s World, Bicycling Magazine, and  A coach can also help you put together a program that’s tailored to your individual needs.

3.  Tell people about your goal

Go ahead and be bold.  The more people who know that you want to qualify for Boston this year or complete your first triathlon this summer, the more support you’ll have and more people checking in on you along the way (and the more people you’ll be ashamed to face if you give up).  Turn your goal into a fundraiser for your favorite charity through sites like Active Giving and it’ll give you even more incentive to get up and go.

4. Enlist a friend or join a group

Committing to that Tuesday night yoga class or weekly Sunday 10 miler is a lot easier if you have a friend who’s going to call you and make sure you’ll show up.  Planning a destination event with a friend–a bike tour or running race/triathlon in another city or country–can be even better, giving you both an adventure to work toward together.  Just make sure you have a backup plan in case your friend bags it so that you don’t give up as well.

Don’t have a friend willing to take the plunge?  Join a local group like the DC Tri ClubFleet Feet’s Running Club , or Team in Training DC where you’ll find others training for the same event and group workouts that will get you to your goal.

5. Splurge on resources

Go ahead, you deserve it!  If you know you need an extra push to get you on your way, invest in a personal trainer, coach, nutritionist or small group exercise class.  If you’re spending money on someone who will keep you accountable, you’ll be far less likely to stray.

 6. Prepare ahead of time

Committing to early morning workouts?  Set your workout clothes out the night before.  After work yoga class? Pack your workout clothes and set an alarm to remind you to leave work on time.

7. Falling off the wagon does not equal failure

We all hit roadblocks:  we get sick, injured, end up working around the clock on a deadline for days on end, or have friends come in from out of town who want to wine-and-dine rather than swim-bike-run.  If you hit a bad stretch where you’ve missed a string of workouts, don’t despair:  just get back on the horse and start again.  You’ll lose some fitness after a couple down weeks, but you’ll get that fitness back faster now than you would a month or year from now. So eases back into it and readjust goals if necessary.

8. Keep a fitness log

I’m a firm believer in logging workouts–both in a notebook and at free online at sites like My Fitness Pal (they have a great app) or Beginner Triathlete (they have a mediocre app).  It’s another great way to chart your progress, see those training miles add up, and keep you honest.  Months from now you’ll look back on your early days amazed at how far you’ve come.

My Fitness Pal also has a nutrition log–a great way to keep your calories in check; make sure you’re getting the right amount of protein, carbs, and fat in your diet; and even compare your daily accomplishments with those of your friends.

9.  Plan rewards

Is there a trip you’ve dreamed of taking?  Do you have your heart set on a hot new piece of technology?  Allow yourself to splurge on it only after you hit your goal.

10.  Remember:  small steps will get you there

Your transformation won’t happen overnight, but small changes will add up to a lot by 2014.  Here’s a great list of easy little changes you can make starting today–from eating breakfast to packing lunch–that can add up to a much healthier you in 2013.



Fix your aches & pains while helping a child in need!

Winter is a great time to address muscle imbalances and the aches and pains they cause–before they turn into bigger problems that leave you hobbled for the spring and summer.

Get a full body assessment with Dr. John Dandelski at his DC office next Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday and score a great deal while helping a child in need.  See details below–and get on the road to wellness so you’re ready to rock this spring!

Just click on the box below to schedule your appointment–and don’t forget to bring your unwrapped toy for a child in need to get the discount rate.  Act quickly!  Appointments are filling up fast!