Leon’s Triathlon: Mindful vs. Mindless Training

Last update I was talking about how “relaxed” I was this year and how I was going to just lay low.

That lasted one race.

After my sprint triathlon last month, I was not happy.  I had a great time at the race and won the AG, but it was not a race I was proud of – I did not race super well.  I thought I would just go with the flow – OR worse yet, that I could just race on my experience and guts.  Well, friends, that doesn’t work anymore.  Triathlon is a whole different ball game now – and there is always someone faster and stronger and well, everything, than you and I.  I had 2 choices:  either stick with my initial plan of “fun” or scrap it and get to work.  Truth be told, I had done all the work, I was fit and in shape…but, mentally I was giving myself an “out.”  WHICH is OK if you can handle the consequences of that; I could not.

So, I went back to the drawing board, told the team of people I keep close to me that I was changing directions and going to RACE and GAME is on.  And you know what that means?  I had to go from mindless training to MINDFUL training.

One of the things that athletes – especially new athletes – tend to make the biggest mistakes on is just going with the flow.  Following a group plan or following a group activity without any specifications to their individual needs.  These athletes just train to the point of just being obsessive about the sport – NOT what is the right workout to do in order to meet their goals.  I was doing what I wanted each day.  Sure, there was track and hard workouts – but if I did not want to push on the bike, I did not.  And that is not mindful training.  That is “working out”.  There is a huge difference.  I wanted to ride with my friends who had different agendas than I did and it just allowed me to socialize and talk too much.  That is not specific training, that is “working out” …AND when the goals and outcomes of races make me upset or disappointed, then it is time to re-assess.

It was my turn to either change my training OR change my attitude on my race results.  And, my attitude was not budging.

I changed my training.  I got a little more specific.  And, I started to rest and get rid of the junk in the plan.   AND I TAPERED for this race.  Yep, no excuses.

Fast forward to this weekend when I went to Hammond, Indiana (no need to go there, fyi), to race an Olympic Distance race: Leon’s.  There is a ton of history with this race.  In fact, I did one of the original races in the mid-90s.  Then, the race went away and now, thankfully, it is back.  And, this year held a super, super competitive field.  And, an AG Elite wave.  And, since I am not racing Eagleman next weekend (boo sniff) this was a great year for me to race.

There is a TON of media with this event.  Comcast covers the entire event and interviews all the past champions and some of the new competitors.  It is awesome!  One of the athletes I work with, Chris Wickard is the 2x Champion there, so not only was she interviewed, but I was too.  And, as a coach and competitor, that was awesome.

Leon’s is fast and flat:  Perfect for me.  Nothing suits me better – well except rain and hail and 100 mph winds, but that is not necessarily safe.  The Elite women went off with the Elite men and that always worries me, so I focused on staying outside of the mayhem and swam to the LEFT of the pack.  I got clean water immediately and grabbed some feet and sailed in.  I FELT awesome.  I do love my TYR Hurricane and the water was 66F degrees, so nice and cold!  Came out of the water in 20:34 and was 3rd or 4th out of the water….

As a side note…I knew how competitive this race was going to be. Not only with Chris and all the past athletes but some young fresh faces – like Jenn Howland who is the AG National champion of some young age..she is 17.  By the way, she beat me out of the water by 2 minutes!!!  DAMN!!!  I knew this was her first Olympic and if I was going to stay upfront, I would have to out bike her.

Chris was off on the bike and I knew Jenn H was up in the lead – I could see the TV cameras.  And, a new fresh face, Darcy was out there too, I finally realized once I passed her.  Anyway, we rode and rode hard and we were moving.  I finally had Jenn H in sight and passed her and said to her, “DO NOT give up …keep a short leash on us during this ride – because you can out –run all of us!”  And, that is the truth.  I have known  Jenn for a very long time – since she was probably about 12…and I knew she was not used to getting passed by her young competitors.  And, I knew that mentally us passing her would freak her out, so I didn’t want her to give up.  MANY give up when they are passed…why? IT IS A LONG race…anything can happen.

Anyway, I hammered on the bike and Robbie Ventura was on the course and Chris rode in 1st and I rode in 2nd for the 2nd half of the bike and he kept screaming, “It is Harrison Harrison” because Chris had on the JHC shorts.  FUN!

I was NOT gaining on Chris at all.  We came into T 2 and she had a minute on me.  That is A LOT of time to make up on a 10k.  I had the camera on me still and ran for 3 miles with them attached at my hip.  It is an odd feeling.  I felt good and was running sub 7 pretty easily, but I was working. I KNEW what was coming behind me.

Side note:  Work with me on this one, girls….so the camera is on me for the first 3 miles of the run AND I was working and it did not bother me, but darn if they show my ASS running that whole time on TV when this race airs — I will be eating lettuce for the rest of my life.

But, I will confess I was SO HAPPY.  Do you ever start a triathlon and during the race think, “WHAT AM I DOING?”  I used to think that in the water….NOT this year or even today.  I was like, “I am in 2nd at mile 3 of this thing!”  My goal was TOP 10 Elite!  YIPPEEEEE!  (where is the nearest Dairy Queen? – kidding, I was Not thinking about this as I was racing!)

Anyway, I could hear the girls and we had a turn around and everyone seemed to be hauling ass.  And, I felt like I was just holding it together.

And, then along came Adrienne, who ended up winning Overall..she was running so fast, there was NO way I could go…she ended up running a 37:00 for the 10k and then another gal went by and she ended up running a 37:12 or something..so at least I was in good company.  I was still in the 6:45 range give or take AND getting passed hard.

But, I was not slowing that much and just kept the course…Amanda and I came down the chute together and after going back and forth all day together in parts, it was a great way to end the race – for her and I.  She is getting faster and faster every race!!

So, for the Elites, I came in 5th.  I was super happy.  A few of the AG women were up in that time mix too and I really wish they would have raced Elite, because it is a different game up front solo…but they did not.

And, afterwards it was a huge social party.  Talking to everyone…seeing old, familiar faces….great to see Lindsay Zucco, who we have raced together since the beginning of time – she raced Elite too and had a great race as well….and that young Jenn Howland?  She finished right behind me with a 39:xx minute 10k.  So, she’s going to be tough to beat once she gets some muscle on her (cycling strength).  I was just happy to be in the game, happy to be feeling good and just – well, we had a great time!

I have to tell you who the real trooper of the weekend was:  MIA…a friend and athlete from here who went with me to Leon’s.  I was NOT nervous about this race, but I was a little crazed about the hotel room and HAMMOND…see, you can still smoke in Indiana in public..and the hotel, restaurant and everything smelled like a big gross ash tray.  I was stressed that the hotel was having a wedding..and that I would not sleep.  Mia was so nice and so accommodating…really, a trooper.  I did sleep 8 hours that night and everything turned out super.  Thanks Mia!

AND Congrats to all the athletes out there…I will forget many, but the athletes that I coach that were there and ALL had PRs or great races – CONGRATS:  Mia, Chris, Alison, Brad, Cristie, Dave B, Mark Evenson – Congrats!!!


  1. Congrats Jen!! Funny…you really just don’t do “relaxed” well…do you? 😉 Leon’s sounds like an awesome race. Would like to do it some day!

  2. Good times out there yesterday! It was challenging and fun. I loved that several people yelled, “Go Jenny!” while I was racing since I had the JHC shorts on. Great to see you!

  3. Great race Jen, and report! Sounds like you had fun and a great result on top of that. And I love how you encourage the young up and coming girls. Great role model!

  4. Congrats, Jen! You always sound happiest when you get to go out there and go hard!

  5. Ooooh, I made your blog! Hooray! Great race, Jen. It was so great seeing you so many times on the course yesterday (and after) and your encouragement was much appreciated. Hope you enjoyed some Dairy Queen– you earned it for sure!

  6. Hi! Great race report! Sounds like a fun race. Even though I currently live in NW IN, I’m not from this state. Does it really have such a bad reputation for people form IL?!! Pretty funny. I grew up in PA and we used to make fun of West Virginia. Have a great week. :)

  7. that’s more like it!!! LOVE IT!!!!!

  8. This makes me want to move back to Chicago and race triathlons. Sigh.

    Great job! Welcome back!

  9. Nice work Coach! I LOVE SALAD, but I hope you don’t have to eat lettuce for the rest of your life. I don’t condone that sort of thing for any living creature, from rabbits to Alicia Silverstone to us crazy multi-sport athletes.

  10. Awesome race Jen, it was so fun seeing you, my gosh we have been racing a long time and I’m still glad to be toeing the line in those elite wave against the young children (LOL) I haven’t done Oly distance that competitive in so long, it hurt, but was a blast Cheers to fast at 40 :)

  11. Ha I love it. I know i know! I told Rich its hard to not compete when you are a competitor. Follow your heart my friend, it wont lead you astray. Glad you are having fun!
    Ick lettuce. i mean in moderation its ok!

  12. NIce Job! Glad you are having fun!

  13. That’s more like it! Glad you’re happy with your race and getting back into your groove!

  14. That „mindless working out“ is exactly what I am doing right now and I know that I will be super disappointed once I do a race this year. I need to get real and stop thinking that I can bike like I could last year or run as if I did not take several months off running. But I hope I can at least swim better this year! I do not want to train like I do and it is making me super stressed but I do not have a choice right now. Yes, people say that you ALWAYS have a choice but sometimes you just don’t. I hope that my life settles down in October and then I can start training like I want to!

  15. Cant wait for this to air on TV so that I can watch it! :) AWESOME JOB!


  16. Ha! You are one of the few who don’t need to worry about eating just lettuce! Great job out there and glad you had fun!

  17. Great race Jen!! This sounds more like your kind of training and racing than the “relaxed racing” you tried earlier this season. Welcome back to your happy place!

  18. Love your excitement Jen! And I for one have definately been guilty of “going w/ the flow” and just “working out”…but I’ll say this…should the day ever come that I’m lucky enough to have cameras following ME as I race…hell, they can show any part of me they want as long as people know it’s me…LOL Congrats on a good race!

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