The Switch

For my birthday last weekend, Jerome got me an IPod Nano.  This is the first time I’ve had a device that played music that was not my phone or car.  Since the day I received it (the 12th of January) I have listened to it A LOT.  I have realized that this one piece of equipment has made me soft within the last 10 days & even has changed my training.  Never before have I needed music to hammer out a workout.  Sure, don’t get me wrong,  I ENJOY stimulation when I am training, hard and long indoors…but I realized this music while running or cycling allowed me to turn my brain off.  Furthermore, I found myself thinking about WHEN I could go to a Kid Rock concert instead of how my breathing was on my run.

Then, I ran indoors on the Treadmill.  It was -2F degrees outside yesterday morning and while I pride myself on being tough, I surely am not stupid.  So, I had an easy run that I did on the treadmill – WITH the TV on the TODAY SHOW and then listening to my music.  Really?  It was too much.  I hated that moment and I realized, this is a SLIPPERY slope.  I can either hide behind all this external stimuli OR I can start to plug into my workouts and do what I am supposed to do.  Even in January.

This weekend was an insanely busy weekend for us.  It was basketball games (that I coached – absolutely the highlight of my week) for Graham, the twins’ 11th birthday, dinner out, Epic Air with their cousins, a Professional Soccer game and kid’s game on Friday night….ending with Jerome heading off to China on Sunday AM & me racing in a bike TT.  OH, and then in the ER with Graham into wee hours of the night on Sunday into Monday. (he is fine, a bad infection)

I really was at my limit.  Life was moving faster than I could keep up and this doesn’t even count work!  I had to stop falling down that slippery slope and get a grip of the situation. And, as busy people and busy parents, this is NOT easy.

I realized a few key things this past weekend.  As I drove to my bike TT on Sunday…visualizing my race and getting ready for the pain that a short indoor bike TT could create, I had to compartmentalize my life. I had to take myself OUT of the day to day busy-ness of my life and be PRESENT at my race.

I will not lie –  I went to this TT to win.  That is an aggressive goal when it is January and I am racing Cat 1/2 girls who are coming out of Cross season and tip top shape.  I don’t care.  I knew what kind of shape I was in and regardless of it being January or May – I still am super competitive.  I am realistic too; however, but still I was hungry and motivated by the effort it would take to do this.

As I am driving to the TT I went over the race in my head.  The warm up, the suffering, the watts I was aiming to hit, the cadence I needed to sustain and the competition.  Then, as I walked into the TT – a little later than I would like (the sitter was late – again, out of my control) – I ran into friends & athletes I have not seen in awhile.  I found myself socializing for a long time.  AND honestly, I was OK with it and excited to see everyone.  It is almost like a little reunion of sorts.  But, that is why I went over my race plan of attack on the car ride to the race… I knew I would not be able to control the hectic environment of a school gym with 100s of riders.

As I was warming up, I had my I POD on and was listening to my music – (AGAIN, WHAT?) but I was just trying to drown out the white noise going on around me, I found myself talking to everyone, asking athletes about their races – catching up and before I knew it, it was almost time to race!  Again, thankful that I felt confident and prepared for my race so that I could make the SWITCH and go.

Speaking of that SWITCH….some athletes have this natural ability to be present for every race, every workout.  They can easily switch from FOCUS to not-focused.  I have worked on this over the years of racing and it one of the most important tools I have in my pocket.

I can go from a hard, intense run and walk in the door and be ON – be MOM or coach in a matter of seconds.  This is definitely something that took me awhile to learn/master.

For a race that lasts 16 minutes, I have to be able to REALLY dial it in and be ready to suffer from the gun.  IF I allow any outside noise into my head OR even any negative chatter, the focus and race is gone and off.  Short TTs – like short run races are decided by seconds..and I knew this.

I got my bike set up on the Computrainer – calibrated and ready to go.  One of my athletes, Todd, was announcing this race and trash talking me before I knew it.  I finally realized that THIS was the best time for my I Pod – to drown out the talk, the expectations & stress and JUST race me, myself and I.  I knew what the fastest time of the day was up to this point –>  so my goal was to beat that time.  Period.

I blared my music so loud so I could NOT hear myself panting for air.  In fact, I even closed my eyes for 90% of the ride so I could just focus on managing the pain that comes from 16 minutes of sheer suffering.  AND, I turned the SWITCH ON.  I was there – and only there.  I was not thinking about my kids, my athletes, my dirty house OR even that I had to run after the bike test in temps sub 10F degrees.  I was PRESENT.  And, when the race was over, I held the fastest women’s bike time of the day. (My time would fall to 3rd OA by the time the day ended).  And, as soon as the 16 minutes or so were up, I turned the SWITCH off and was socializing and trash talking shortly thereafter (and almost vomiting).  It is almost a Dr. Jekyll and Hyde performance.

Moreso, I can see the athletes that have the ability to do this.  They are able to transcend the outside noises, the stressors, the pressure and the junk and PERFORM.  And, perform at a high level.

I think this really hit me this past fall when we were at Graham’s XC meet.  Graham is a very scattered and typical 10 year old boy ….you know…when you have to remind them to change their clothes and EAT type of kid?  Well, we go to his XC race and Jerome and I really do not put any pressure on the poor kid….We just talk about the race, how it will hurt and how to race others, etc.  Well, I sh*t you not, the gun went off and I saw it in Graham’s eyes.  THAT switch.  He couldn’t hear Jerome or myself screaming for him, he was so focused it was so intense and downright scary.  AND that is when it dawned on me…..he has that natural “SWITCH”….you see it with high end athletes too – when they are racing they can TURN IT on and then TURN it OFF just as quickly. IT is innate but I think some of it can definitely be learned and practiced.

Ask yourself — Are you plugged into each of your workouts?

Are you laser focused on what you need to accomplish with each workout?

Are you SO focused when you race that you cannot and are not thinking of anything else but the race and managing it as it unfolds?

AND, if you have a hard time focusing on your workouts – take one step at a time to improve that.  Remove ALL outside stimuli for your workout – get rid of the TV, the Iphone, the IPod and plug yourself in.  Allow yourself to be present in the workout and then, finish and move on.

On the same lines of mental preparation, Elizabeth and I finished a PODCAST yesterday.  IT is all things our listeners asked us.  Topics include:  Topics include: ideas for daily nutrition, conquering fears, body composition, training camps, age-related differences in training/recovery, MAF approach, setting goals, climbing out of mental and physical holes, handling pre-race stress and balancing triathlon with other life demands.

Happy listening!  Please send any additional questions you want answers to as well – and make them risky!



  1. Great post, Jen!

  2. My life boils down to one thing. Early Morning. I am plugged into nothing but me, and what I am thinking.

    The rest is just cake.

    I know we want to think what we do is sooooo important, and yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Jenny Parker Harrison. I know you want the perfect life, and it really isn’t attainable is it??

    In the early morning I am Superman. I will run in arctic temps to get to work, and I will work with a good amount of enthusiasm, and ability. (most days)

    I trust me, and how I am, and who you have gotten to know over the last whatever time.

    Trust me, and trust what I say.

    Love you tons as always. :) xoxo

  3. exactly why I teach yoga for a living….and I teach it WITHOUT music. We need to learn how to transcend the limitations of our minds on a regular basis.
    thanks for this great read Jen!

  4. You definitely have the switch Jen!! Haha!! I’ve seen it in you eyes. Also, I have no idea how people train with music. It’s so distracting to me!!

  5. I used to listen to music every time I ran about 12 years ago. Couldn’t run almost without it. Now I almost never workout with music on. It is too distracting. And there is something so serene and special about the quiet. To just listen to ourselves, our own breath, the little voice in our head saying go faster or easier, or sometimes that voice is YOU Jen telling me to use my arms when running or whatever. Ha!
    Good post!! Way to kick butt on your TT!

  6. good post. i dont miss training tho. :)

  7. Booooooo =(( This post makes me sad because I miss you! I have been reading a bit about being PRESENT (as you suggested I do) and I get it – I GET IT!

    I look forward to the chance to try it out – but a next race is not in my near-near future. Ah well, working towards my other goals right now but reading this makes me hungry to get back out there and apply these skills!

    Congrats on the TT and as always, the good post and your hard work. =))

    P.S. I became “unplugged” last year when I did my bike test and have pretty much been unplugged since.

  8. Jen, I stopped using music during runs over a year ago. It was because the workouts my new coach was giving me required me to focus and work hard, and the music was distracting me. So you were training “turn on the switch” even then. I still use music at the gym for strength training to discourage people from interrupting me, good for keeping on task then.

  9. Awesome awesome awesome post Jen. I can really relate to this! Love it

  10. Great post… So good and so true:)! Congrats on your race!!!

  11. Yes mam I am. I used to wear my ipod to run but I would become so focused and go into my mind that I would not even hear the music so I just stopped wearing one…well, I do still wear one when I’m running on the tready, for some reason, I can always hear the music on the tready and it always pumps me up. I seriously don’t know how you do it all.

  12. I have never run with music for this reason…and it is always the quietest hour of my day!!!! Great post Jen!

  13. Great post Jennifer! Congratulations on your TT!

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Podcasts & Webinars!


Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!  And, I’m alive!  I survived the nasty flu bug.  Yes, it was THAT bad.  I don’t ever remember being that sick.  In bed for days & really miserable.  I was just grateful Jerome was home (Happy New Year to us) to help with the kids & help me try to work because I don’t get sick days.

And, now I ring in my 42nd year from Tucson healthy & refreshed now to get 2o13 started off right …a little late.

Speaking of the new year, I have been doing some Podcasts & Webinars.

Elizabeth & I did a Podcast recently covering:  All Things Pregnancy!

Here it is:

For our next Podcast we are going to do a Q&A with no topics off limit.  So please put any of your questions in the comment section here or send me an email at

Also, I was happy to do a Webinar with Training Peaks titled:  How to Beat the Winter Training Doldrums.  I have to tell you, I was actually a little nervous.  Talking into a phone while staring at your outline-notes in dead silence is a little nerve-wracking!  But, I never stopped talking (!) and had fun with it.

Here it is:

Enjoy!!!  And please send in your questions!  Looking forward to them.


  1. When are you guys doing the next podcast? I need a deadline for all the Qs I want to ask 😉

  2. Happy New Year! Glad you are alive:)

    Here are two questions for now that I would love to hear you discussing:
    1, Weight/body composition in short-course vs long-couse. Both you and Elizabeth have raced Oly distance and Ironmans, right? Thus I am wondering what your experience is, do you race at different race weights for different distances? Are long-course athletes leaner, or are short course athletes leaner, or there is really no difference?
    2, Training camps. Does it make sense for an athlete to go to warmer climate over winter and spend a week just training?
    I guess one question is whether a 5-6 day training camp is enough to boost fitness. Maybe it is just a waste of money to fly somewhere warm for just a few days. Maybe you would have to go for 2-3 weeks to really see some results?
    And the other question is whether it makes sense to do a training camp in January/February when the triathlon season does not start until June. Let’s say the first race is at the end of June, when would it make sense to do the camp?


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