Tri The Parks – Blalock Lakes Sprint Race Report

Blalock Lakes Sprint

Written by Chris Abellana ~ TTP Scholarship winner


Time to wake up!  Its race day and in a few short hours I will be racing at Blalock Lakes in Newnan, GA.  I really have no expectations from the race other than I know the course will be hilly and I am not fond of hills.  I don’t know about y’all but when I hear hills, it strikes some uneasiness into my gut, my legs get weak, and I know that it’s going to be a long day.  I don’t know why but it just does.

My week of training has been decent but I have been training for longer distances so transitioning to sprint distances, is a very big shift not only in the mental but the physical endurance.  There is no more long and strong; it will be short and fast; real fast, if I am lucky.


Sitting out in front of the gate at Blalock Lakes and begin to mentally prepare for the race and going over the bike and run maps in my mind.  I know where the climbs are going to be but like I said earlier, this is a sprint and not a half or full Iron distance so I am going to need to push it pretty good but still saving something for the road.


Bike is in transition area now and I’m listening to Eminem’s “Till I Collapse”.  It reminds me that my mind can go further than my body so get that in the right state first and then my body will follow (hopefully).  All my shoes, helmet, sunglasses, socks are now in place for T1 so let’s get on a warm-up run.  Wow, this place is hilly.


Warm-up swim. Water feels good- not too warm, not too cool- concentrating on good, strong hip turn, and good cadence with my arms.

08:00am RACE Start…

Here we go. [Mind you, I am talk to myself a lot so you will hear what I see and say to myself during the entire race.] And we’re off! My goodness, this guy to my left couldn’t keep it straight if he had a blue line at the bottom of the lake! Whoa, those first 100 meters were kind of messy!  Making the 2nd turn and heading down the home stretch and I took it way too far left- gotta head back right.  Perfect, let’s add more distance to this race! J

T1 and Bike…

Thankfully this has one of the shortest distances from water to bike that I have ever experienced.  Socks, shoes, and helmet on and we’re off on the bike.  Going out, hills. Settling into race pace, and I feel good. Race officials come along side to make sure I am keeping my distance so I smile and say thanks for keeping us safe!  Middle part- hills. During this part of the race, I begin to not think about the race, but about how Blessed I am to be racing!  We have a gorgeous day, a dry road and a lot of great athletes to race against. Last bit – downhill. Gotta love this part.  Rounding the corner into the park and nothing but downhill.

T2 and Run…

Change shoes, bib # on, and I am off.  Man, my calves are a little tight.  I hope I don’t cramp up.  Did that Smith kid just pass me on his way in?!!! Wow he was fast!  Ok, focus now.  The first part of the run was not good.  I just didn’t feel good.  In the turnaround and half way home now.  I begin to pick up the pace knowing its only 1.55 miles from the finish.  My calves are ok now and I see my pace getting closer to where I need it to be.  I hit the finish and record a time of 1:22:47.5 (11:53 on the swim, 43:55 on the bike, and 25:00 on the run).  Not bad but I know I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Wednesday, June 5

I have a two mile critical velocity test, and I look at the schedule of my workouts and see a drastic difference b/w what I did on my own vs. what I am doing with Coach Mariska and Team EC.  On my own, I would go out on a swim, bike, or run and do it to get it done.  Now, I have specific drills that will test my endurance, work on technique, and reinforce good form vs. just mileage.  As a former coach myself, I can see how these drills are the building blocks to my improvement.  The drills are definitely more intense than my former workouts but then again, the focus was very different; nonetheless, these drills can begin to change not only the physicality but also the mentality at which I perceive and execute my workouts.  This will in turn get me faster and better as a triathlete.

My next race is July 20th at Mistletoe State Park, and knowing that I have 7 weeks of these kinds of workouts, I am very excited to see how much I will progress.

Goal-Oriented vs. Process-Oriented Training


As coaches, there are several methods we can use to get the most out of our athletes.  I have found that when an athlete begins they are only concerned about how fast they can get, not how to get fast.  Each athlete is motivated by different things and it’s our job to tease that out.

The first question that is inevitably asked of an athlete is, “What are you goals”.  The standard answers of to get faster, stronger, etc are too nebulous in nature to truly use.  It is the job of the coach to transform those into concrete targets.  There are two ways this can be done.  While they tend to be mutually exclusive, they can be used in conjunction with each other to provide a path for the athlete.

To start, you have to establish what motivates your athlete and devise whether a goal or process oriented approach will work best.  To help you determine which approach is best, I have defined each below.  Let’s start with Goal-Oriented.

Goal-oriented training is best for long range goals that can be expensive in nature and have many facets to it.  Multi-year plans culminating in qualifying for Kona is an example.  The athlete has a target goal and that guides the path.  This goal does not have to be a race.  It can be small goals that build upon each other and result in a larger goal.  The path is not set but the end result is.

Note that these goals are very individualized and concrete in nature.  Goals need to be time-limited. There has to be a deadline. You just can’t let the goal go on for years and years.  Having a deadline creates a sense of urgency for the goal and a sense of responsibility to get after it and get it done.  An example of a short term goal would be to go sub 40 in a 10K.  There are many paths there; it’s up to the coach to determine which path to take.

Process-oriented training reflects activities that occur in the process of achieving the long term goal.  With process oriented goals, the exact outcome is less controllable and may be affected by factors beyond your control.  These goals are more “squishy” like I want to improve my 10K speed.  The athlete’s focus is on what they are doing instead of what it will get them.  It requires trust on the athlete’s part that the process will get them there.

It’s important to get the athlete to enjoy the challenge of the training and the goal will take care of itself.  Organized goal setting with the use of short term process goals that lead to a few relatively large controllable long term outcome goals improves your performance and assists in creating optimism and motivation for the process.  Basically, you focus on the building blocks and motivate them through each one.

Unlike running or swimming, there are no set time standards that will qualify you for a World Championship or the Olympic Trials in Triathlon.  Mostly triathletes race against each other and the clock.  This varies greatly over differing terrain, temperature variances and the unpredictability of who shows up on race day.  While it’s nice to have fast times, a 5 hour time in St. Croix requires a different effort than the same time at Eagleman.

It’s vital for a coach to alter time goals to each specific race.  If the athlete is truly set on establishing a goal time, then pick a race that will allow them the best opportunity to accomplish that.  Most athletes have to enjoy the process in order to continue progressing and putting forth an appropriate effort.  While we all like to think of ourselves as 1%ers; the fact is that 99% of us are in the sport for the fun and health benefits of it.  Our achievement is to push our bodies and see what the clock reads when we are done.  In the meantime, it has to remain fun.  That does not mean that all workouts are going to be fun, but when you’re done training for the day and your athlete looks back over the week, it should still be fun.

Next time your athlete says, “I want to get on the podium”, ask them how they want to get there.  Make them be part of the process of training that will allow you to get them there.  Tell them the following: “We are in a sport with many variables.  The only variable you can control is yourself.  This is why process-oriented training is best for triathletes.  Focus on what you are doing and which you cannot control will take care of itself.”  Use both methods to get the most out of your athletes.  Start off with something as small as make one morning swim session this week.  Then use a goal of a specific T-pace.  Eventually you have them build up to an IM swim.

Power Cookie Bites

The fourth of July is great for a lot of things. Eating awesome foods is probably my favorite.  While relaxing with some of my best running buds they introduced me to one of their secret weapons to satisfying their sweet tooth.  Their food of choice?  Oatmeal based cookie dough bites.  Because their base is oats, walnuts, almonds, and agave nectar, you get plenty of protein and healthy fats.  It’s a great mid day snack or something to grab after a workout!

Here’s the recipe!  For additional nutrient value add Flax.  That’s an addition my runner friends made and they were just as delicious! I will credit their find to Pinterest and ultimately to  Original article link below.

Raw cookie dough bites


  • 2/3 cup raw almonds
  • 2/3 cup raw walnuts
  • 2/3 cup raw oat flakes (see note below)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup raw agave nectar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips


  1. In a food processor, process the almonds, walnuts, oats, cinnamon and salt to a fine meal.
  2. Add the agave nectar and vanilla and process to combine.
  3. Next, add the cocoa nibs (or chocolate chips) and pulse just to combine.
  4. Roll the cookie dough into balls (about 1 tbsp each) and place them on a cookie pan lined with parchment paper. Place the pan in the freezer for about an hour to firm up. Store balls in a tightly covered container in the freezer.


Raw oat flakes can be substituted for regular rolled oats (or certified gluten-free oats, if necessary), but if you want this treat to be truly raw, look for raw oat flakes, which haven’t been steamed or toasted during processing.

Credit recipe and photos to (Original article here)


Keys to Ironman Success

Written By: Tony Hammett, Endurance Coach
What does it take to successfully complete an Iron-distance race? It can be a long but very rewarding experience and I find that each time I prepare for one I learn something new about myself or the training… Continue Reading

What does it take to successfully complete an Iron-distance race? It can be a long but very rewarding experience and I find that each time I prepare for one I learn something new about myself or the training. There is quite a bit involved in the journey, but here are some tips that should assist you along the way.

Consistency and Planning

Prior to starting the specific preparation phase for your big day, you should begin training your body and mind months in advance. Consistent training is key to your success and creating and executing a plan that fits your lifestyle will assist you in reaching your specific goals. When considering a race, some over-looked items to keep in mind might include:
Time of year: Does this race occur during a peak period in your life where the training will be difficult to complete due to family, school or work responsibilities? If you will be overwhelmed or too stressed to “hit the mark” each week, it might be best to find a race that allows you to train with some consistency, especially during the phase leading up to the race. What weather conditions will you encounter in the months leading up to the race? Training in extreme conditions does not always allow us to maximize our training when preparing for longer races but with a little creativity it can be done.
The actual race: Are you targeting a race where you “just finish”, or one where you want a specific challenge? If hilly bike courses do not suit you well, consider a race with flatter or rolling terrain. Would you rather swim with a wetsuit, and in a lake, river or ocean? Make sure your race typically allows for wetsuit legal swims and you know the body of water for the race. If you live in a terrain that is flat and the key race you are targeting is hilly, you might reconsider if that is the best choice for you!
Specific Training
During your build for the 140.6 distance, there are a few key targets I believe an athlete should hit in preparation. In addition to swim, bike and run sessions, athletes should also incorporate race simulation workouts as they get closer to the race.
Swim: At least one big swim per week in the pool. This is a “broken” Ironman swim that covers 4,000-4,500 yards or meters. Open water swim sessions of at least 4,000 yards should occur regularly, ideally in a safe, group environment.
Bike: Most triathletes need to build up to a 6-hour bike ride with a transition run directly afterwards. This ride should be on terrain that is very similar to your race and paced appropriately so a nice steady effort can be held for the duration. I find it helpful to minimize stops and even do some of these rides solo. This requires careful planning of your route, including the location of water stops.
Run: Although this depends on the athlete, the key runs should be between 2.5 – 3 hours in length. Much more than this requires extra recovery time, which can set you back a little during the week. If possible, a Tuesday or Wednesday long run is the perfect placement for this session as it allows for recovery between the long bike and long run and helps the body and mind better absorb the training each week.
A big part of iron-distance training is nutrition, and this covers what you eat before, during, and after training and races, and everything in between. Finding what works for you is key and needs to be solidified and practiced so there is no guessing come race day. Directly after my long sessions, I consume a recovery drink such as chocolate milk or Mix1. I find that it is nutritionally on target for what the body needs during this critical time period after a long day of training.
Last but not least, one needs to consider how they plan to recover on a daily basis, but this is especially important after the longer sessions. Commonly used methods are elevating your feet in order to get the blood moving back towards your heart and the use of compression socks or tights. Ensure you are scheduling down time and rest into your week as well. If you are constantly on the go and moving, it leaves little time to absorb the training and recharge the body and mind.
Hopefully these tips are helpful, and best of luck on your journey!


Written By: Dan Arnett, Owner/Head Coach
As a coach, I have learned to anticipate several questions during the first weeks of a new athletes training. The first month of training is what I call the push-back phase. This is where the athlete is not comfortable with the training for several reasons. Usually about 2-3 weeks into the first month, I get the expected question… Continue Reading

As a coach, I have learned to anticipate several questions during the first weeks of a new athletes training. The first month of training is what I call the push-back phase. This is where the athlete is not comfortable with the training for several reasons. Usually about 2-3 weeks into the first month, I get the expected question. It always starts with the same phrase: “This isn’t what I normally do.”

My answer: “That’s right, it’s not. That is one of the reasons you hired me.” Too many people hire a coach and are unwilling to change their current habits or training methods. Let’s think about this for a moment. Did you not seek guidance because what you were currently doing was not working or you wanted to improve upon it? It’s this simple thought process that is sometimes lost in the forest.

We as people do not like change. We like to discuss change. We like to say how we are going to change. But when it comes down to the time to change, it’s the biggest hurdle to jump over. It takes faith and trust. There is nothing magical about what your designated coach is proposing. If they propose otherwise, then run! There is no magical secret to training. But I digress. There is simply one test that must be met when you decide to let this person guide your training. Can they explain why we are doing it? No results are guaranteed, but the method must be understood and accepted.

If you are not confident that your coach knows what they are doing, then why are you spending your hard earned money paying them? Also, if you do not believe in your coach and the change they are proposing why is the coach wasting their time on you?

Change takes time to accomplish. You are doing yourself and your coach a disservice if you continually change how you are doing something. Give the program time to work. I’ve seen several athletes come to me after bouncing from coach to coach or program to program and wondering why nothing has improved. Simple answer…time. Some methods take more time than others, but that should be discussed and accepted from the beginning.

Training is ever evolving and the methods used to accomplish adaptations are changing as well. A good coach evolves with the times. That does not mean follow fads. Proper evolution is evidence based, not Guru based. That does not mean that every ‘trend’ is a new coaching method. Evidence-based coaching means taking your observations in coaching and combining them with research in the field and coming to your own conclusion and using that. It does not mean regurgitating what everyone else says. That’s what I call lazy coaching and unfortunately all too common in today’s environment.

In the end, ask the question WHY and listen to the explanation. Coaching is a two-way street built on trust, feedback and competency. Listen with an open mind, not with the typical “well that’s not what this coach, that coach, Tri magazine, etc” says. If you don’t truly feel that the type of change that your coach is proposing is for you, then continue to interview coaches. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because it’s not what you were doing before it won’t work. Because what you were doing wasn’t working…remember?