Thank You: From the Front of the Pack, To the Back

As I’m about to do the hardest endurance event of my life (Ironman Arizona 2014) I think this is the best blog I’ve ever read. THIS GUY GETS IT. From the back of the pack… THANK YOU.

Bad Angel Rules for Running

*Guest post*

The time has come for me to finally say thanks, to thank a lot of people I’ve been meaning to thank but haven’t had the courage. I want to say thanks for all the inspiration I got from the runners I’ve seen and talked with, but that I’ve never run with. Specifically, the people who doubted themselves in word, but inspired me through work.

This is my confession of thanks, from one runner in the front of the pack, to the runners in the back.

(Photo credit: Drew Reynolds (Photo credit: Drew Reynolds

This year was my second year training for the Chicago Marathon with Chicago Endurance Sports (“CES,” as we call it), an awesome group of people that run year-round training for all manner of races. And when I say all races, I mean it: they have groups for people just beginning running to complete their first 5K and for…

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A New Location for Athena Triathlete

I’ve moved my blog over to a new domain.  Please visit me at!

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Running… Remember When?

Remember when you needed the motivation to start?
Remember when you thought you couldn’t run a mile without stopping?
Remember when you thought you couldn’t make it one more step?
Remember when you wanted to quit?
Remember when you were nervous signing up for your first race?
Remember when you had a breakthrough?
Remember when you felt like everything was going to be okay?
Remember when you WANTED to go for that run?
Someone is looking at you… thinking YOU make it look easy.
Now’s the time to pass on your wisdom, love and encouragement.
Time to pay it forward.
Put on your shoes. Let’s go for a run.

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Swimming Technique

I’m always looking to get more efficient and FASTER at swimming.  Here is an interesting article about “deep catch” swimming vs. “sculling”.

Click here for the article in the New York Times.

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Good Stuff Happening Over at Team Luna Chix

If you’re wondering where this Athena Triathlete has been, I’ve been blogging weekly for Luna Bar since April.  Slide on over to the website and check out some of my posts!

Here is the latest:  A Little Slice of (Cycling) Heaven

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2012 – My “Tri” Season Has Begun!

I had the great pleasure of attending the Luna Chix Summit back at the end of March.  The Summit is a kick-off for the season where all the Luna Chix local team members are invited to Luna Bar / Clif Bar Headquarters for seminars, training, and a lot of fun!  I was thrilled to get to attend since I will be a Luna Chix Journalist for this year.

Luna Summit Run Workout

When I was at the Summit, I had a sense that some of the women I met from other parts of the country had already started training and doing workouts outdoors.  But up until the Summit, my workouts had been confined to the gym and had also been sporadic at best.  The Seattle winter – and even spring can leave a lot to be desired!  I’d prefer to stay dry and warm, so unless I have a specific event I’m training for, not much is going to push me outside on a 40 degree and raining day.

But that all changed this past weekend!  It was the kick-off event for the Seattle Luna Chix Triathlon workout season.  We had an awesome swim clinic at the Samena Swim Club.  This club has and indoor, as well as an outdoor pool.  It was a brilliant sunny day.  And although the temps we’re probably only in the 60’s at best, it felt great to be swimming outdoors!

The Luna Chix brought in Kiko Van Zandt.  Kiko has been a competitive swimmer all her life and is now assistant coach to U.S. Paralympic Swim Team (she’ll be coaching in London!) as well as coaching the “Shadow Seals”, a USA-swim club for swimmers with disabilities.

In the swim clinic, Kiko focused on swim drills and explaining what we should strive to “feel” with each drill.  A few of the drills were familiar to me… the fist drill, the catch-up drill – but she also through in a new one… the scrape drill.  The scrape drill is where you straighten your arms and try to “scrape” the sky and then the bottom of the pool.  This really helps you feel the rotation you should be making with your shoulders when you swim.

Why I love the Luna Chix

Each and every time I’m with this group, I learn something new.  The Luna Chix ladies pair up with individual swimmers and offer their insights and experience.  Any question is fair game!

Luna Chix share their tri experience!

Kiko then looked at our swimming strokes individually and offered her advice on how we could get more efficient.  I’ve always known I “crossed over” into the middle on my stroke reach.  Kiko gave me a great drill to help correct it.  She was having me swim as if my arms were at “10 and 2” in position to my body.  (I had never heard this before…see…  learn something new all the time!)  I swam a length of the pool that way, and although my shoulders really felt as though they were getting a much bigger workout – I certainly was coming into the wall much faster.  And faster means I was more efficient and moving more water on my “pull”.

Then she took it a step further.  She had me move my stroke out to what I thought was “9 and 3”.  (Totally reminded me of a penguin when she demonstrated it!)  But again – a wider stance to my swim stroke and I was moving faster.

Drills will be the key

You can make changes to your natural habits in anything.  You have to concentrate on what you’re trying to correct.  I know from experience that drills are a way to train/re-train your muscles to have a chance to work on new form.  Now I’ll be doing all my drills with a “wider is better” approach.

I love to swim.  I know many people dread the swim portion of a triathlon. (And I myself have been known to break apart on a swim and question “what the heck am I doing here?” during a tri.)  But swimming feels amazing to me.  Anything I can do to help my body move faster and more freely though the water contributes to the fun.

Happy in the pool!

(P.S., thanks to Marne… Luna Chix Seattle Tri team member for being my photographer!)

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How to RUN Away from Your Problems

You can run away from your problems — literally.  My brother, Robert, is living proof of that.  This past weekend he ran his first 1/2 marathon.  He ran it in an impressive 2:02!  He trained for the race, but only really has been running for the past 3 months.  By any normal standards, this would be an accomplishment to be very proud of.  Those of us who have taken on the challenge of getting off the couch and running a 10K or 1/2 marathon, or maybe participating in their first triathlon, know that it is a lot of work.  But what my brother has done is astonishing.

Look at the smiling man in this photograph with a finishers medal around his neck and know that before November 2011, he was homeless.  How did he become homeless?  Well, one circumstance after another — plus more than 6 years of severe alcohol addiction led my brother to living in shelters and on the streets of Houston.

This is a deeply personal story and certainly exposes what my brother may have been reluctant to admit for years.  Problems like alcoholism are hard to talk about. But I’ve asked his permission to tell his story briefly in this post.

After he finished his race I sent him an email:

“I’m so proud of you.  Congrats on your race today.  I want to write a post about you for my blog.  I want to tell people how far you’ve come from alcoholism and homelessness to running a half marathon.  But I want to respect your privacy, too.  So let me know how much or how little you want me to share.

His response?

“Tell everything, give my phone number, I don’t care….”

I loved that response.  It was a barrier broken.  It showed me that he felt the pride of this accomplishment on Saturday.  And he deserves that.

It would be difficult for me to tell you the ENTIRE story of what has happened over the years. That would be a novel.  The compressed version is that 6 years ago my brother was struggling. Drinking was consuming his life and affecting him and everyone around him. Honestly, it was putting his life and other lives at risk. The destructive path we could see… but perhaps he thought he had control of it. To make it much more difficult, our family had experienced this before.  Our father was also an alcoholic.  With each incident, when I thought that Robert had hit his “rock bottom”… there was more, including seeing him in-and-out of the hospital, in-and-out of treatment programs and living on the streets.

I am one of 4 siblings. Over the years we have gotten into cycling, running and triathlons.  I’ve enjoyed being able to go on bike trips or compete in races with my siblings.  I even coined the name “Team Svehla”.  But there was always one missing… Robert.  I told my sister that on my first 70.3 triathlon I was thinking of Robert.  In the midst of digging deep to get through such a long, challenging race I thought…  “why would you torture yourself with alcohol when you could torture yourself with triathlons!”  It seems like an outrageous statement, but I was thinking they both “hurt”… just one is destructive and one is productive.

In November of last year, Robert turned a corner. 
He took to the pavement and started running.  He downloaded his 1/2 marathon plan and followed it.  He texted me almost daily with excitement or questions….     “need some good running tunes….”  “got a slight foot strain, what do I do?”…  “tempo run today… getting faster…”  Each time we would talk or text, I could see that like the rest of us… he was being sucked into it!

My brother is a smart, funny, and gentle man.  Most importantly, my brother is a sober man.  I am so proud of him and I am hopeful for his future.  SO HOPEFUL.  So let’s keep running, Robert.  Let’s leave homelessness and alcoholism in the dust and keep moving forward.

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