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Fitness

Life Stuff with Mike Shaffer

By | Fitness, Life Stuff, Swimming, Triathlon, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

If you’ve enjoyed reading about how fellow athletes have overcome adversity in this Life Stuff series, you are in for another treat! Mike Shaffer is a lifelong high-performing athlete with an impressive competitive resume in swimming, triathlon, and aquabike. His journey has not been without its share of valleys, though.

In 1994, Mike was nearly killed when he was struck head-on by a drunk driver during a training ride. After hitting the hood and going through the windshield of the Ford Escort, his injuries included a severed left quad, broken right foot, and knees that required reconstruction. In a 2006 interview with USMS Swimmer, Mike recalls that he returned to the pool 3 months after the accident using a one-legged turn and buoy to keep his legs afloat.

From there, he used small, realistic goals in the pool to keep himself motivated and incrementally improving.

“I was determined. I kept setting goals: 40-second 50s today…It refreshed me. I think it helped to light a fire again. Every week I was trying a new challenge.”

The following month, he completed his annual One Hour USMS swim relying almost entirely on his upper body. Another 6 months later (10 months post-accident), Mike completed Ironman Canada, setting a personal best time and a race swim course record of 43 minutes and 54 seconds. During the same season, he was awarded the USA Triathlon Comeback Award as well as gold and silver medals in the FINA Masters World Swimming Championships.

Mike claims a positive outlook and refusal to give up were the key ingredients in his return to competition. “It may take time, but stick with it” he says.

About a decade after his “comeback” into triathlon, Mike was all but forced out of the sport again. In 2004, his doctor told him to ‘stop running now or we can go ahead and schedule your knee replacement surgeries.’ Mike’s triathlon career ended soon after that discussion. However, just a few months later USAT would announce an aquabike pilot program starting in 2005. “It was a perfect transition for me” he recalls.

Mike claims 1st Overall at Aquabike Age Group Nationals in Miami, 2016

Since aquabike’s official launch, “Aquabike Mike” has earned national and world titles in the sport. At the same time, he has remained competitive in the pool where he regularly wins national titles and sets national standards on the way. As someone who has witnessed many of Mike’s training sessions and competitions first-hand, I can say that to observe him in the pool (and ocean) or on a bike is to see a masterpiece being painted. His chosen canvas is the water and the road.

Life Stuff with Mariel David

By | Coaching, Fitness, Life Stuff, Triathlon | No Comments

I dig real stories of real people doing real things (hard things). Thanks to my friend Mariel for sharing one of those stories– her “life stuff”– with us. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Mariel since 2013 when she took on Ironman at Arizona (and gave all of her everything, and crossed that finish line!). I could go on, but she tells her story better than I could…

“The Imperfect Athlete” by Mariel David

If you asked me 10 years ago if I would ever find myself being endurance athlete, I would say that you (1) are joking, (2) are crazy, or (3) have lost your marbles. I was a single mom of three – two of which had medical challenges (one being a leukemia patient and another being a special needs child), a working professional putting at least 50 hours per week in the office and traveling around the globe up to 60% of the time, and a student trying to finish her master’s degree. When I received a postcard in the mail advertising a fundraising event for leukemia research, I had no idea how much this event would change my life–it sparked my journey as an endurance athlete.

For years, I found myself busy, slow, emotionally drained, and not looking like the typical triathlete. It’s difficult but it is also through this sport that I found the ‘true’ me – an athlete who will perform with her heart no matter what. I held on to this identity as my children became my inspiration and sources of strength through the years. During a particularly memorable triathlon season, I incorporated one of my daughters – “Rochelle”- my special child who had been terminally ill with multiple needs. It’s amazing what you can do when you run with your heart; I found myself realizing this as we crossed our first finish line together at Rock n Roll Marathon LA in 2014. It was my vision that one day we would be the next “Hoyts”. Unfortunately, that dream will never be realized as she passed in March 2017.

Rochelle’s memory will continue as I race in her memory and in honor of my children. As imperfect as my training schedule is, I will always find my strength through the heart that connects me to them. This is “my why”. I hope inspires those who think that they are too busy, too slow, too fat/skinny, etc. that your someday can be today.

Meet the Athlete: Greg

By | Fitness, Fuel, Meet the Athlete | No Comments

Remember when Rebecca graced your screen on the blog back in February? Well, today you get to read about her soon-to-be husband, Greg! Greg is a talented athlete and recent nursing school graduate who landed a job right out of school. Impressed yet? Read on…

Current place of residence: Ventura, CA
Hometown/place of birth: Oxnard, CA
Day job: Nurse
Dream job: Le Mans Prototype driver
Favorite sports or hobbies (besides triathlon): Outrigger paddling, surfing, and cooking.
Best triathlon race leg (swim, bike, run, T1, T2, beer garden): From best to worst… Swim, Bike, beer garden, T1, T2, then the run.
Dream race: Kona 70.3 or Molokai to Maui outrigger race.

Current triathlon goal: To survive and hopefully enjoy my first 70.3 in Tempe, Arizona later this year.
Why do you want to accomplish this? To challenge myself in a way that I never have.

When/how/why did you start triathlon/endurance sports? I’ve never been much of a runner. I’ve always preferred water sports over anything on land but when I moved to Riverside for college I tried to make the best of it. I met my now-fiancee Rebecca and followed her on the bike while she trained for multiple marathons and in doing so I grew to at least tolerate running. In 2014 one of my friends couldn’t attend her half marathon so she offered to transfer her entry to me. After barely finishing that race with 3 days notice, I signed up for my first triathlon in Ventura and got 2nd place! I was surprised to find that I loved the challenge of triathlon and stuck with it.
Favorite accomplishment in sport: Finishing my first Olympic distance triathlon in Malibu


Hardest race and/or workout you’ve ever completed: Paddling from Catalina to Newport Beach.
Most memorable training moment: Feeling like flying while in aero on a training ride along the Santa Ana River trail.

If you had to remove one leg of the triathlon and swap in a new sport, what would you subtract, and what would you add, and why? Probably outrigger paddling in place of running. Except the order would be swim, paddle, bike because I’ve always wanted to finish on the bike.

Best athletic encouragement you’ve ever been given? “I didn’t wake up this early for 2nd place” – My dad
Words of wisdom to someone considering training for their first triathlon: Don’t take it too seriously your first time out. I did, and contemplated selling my wetsuit and bike, until I realized I had gotten 2nd place in my first one.
Something you’ve learned about yourself through triathlon: I was raised with outrigger paddling, which is a very team-oriented sport, so through triathlon I’ve learned that I can rely on myself.
Who inspires you and why? Sebastian Kienle and Jan Frodeno because they’re absolute beasts on the bike and I hope to come close someday.

Race mantra: “I didn’t come this far to only come this far”
Pre-race ritual: Pretend like the race doesn’t bother me… then panic the morning of.
Pre-race pump up jams: I typically don’t listen to anything before a race, not even my gut telling me to go home.

What is the first thing and last thing you do each day? First: breakfast; Last: shower
Favorite type of running shoes:  I don’t think I’ve had anything other than Nike
Dream training camp location: Hawaii
Training tips: Bring extra tubes, because they may explode on you.
Racing pet peeve: Either punching/grabbing at the swim start or cutting me off on the bike.

What motivates you to keep training and competing? Getting fitter and faster. Plus the race atmosphere is really enjoyable.
What motivates you when it’s tough to start/complete a workout/race? Remembering that not everyone gets to do this.

What does “Fuel” mean to you? It’s what allows me to move forward. It powers my body, so I try to put in the best quality ‘Fuel’ that I can, with a couple of cheat days here and there.
Any favorite recipes to share? One of my favorite dips: Goat cheese, pesto, sundried tomato, and pecans. Goes great with pita bread.
What does being “Fit” mean to you? Not feeling winded after climbing three flights of stairs

Pick one:
Long swim, long ride or long run? Long ride
Open water or pool? Open water
Trail or track? Trail
Snot rocket, sleeve, or tissue? Depends on where. If on the bike, snot rocket. Just make sure no one is around you! That’s also one of my pet peeves…
Solo or group training? Everything is better in a group. I’m less likely to turn early.
Chocolate or cheese? Chocolate
Watch on your left wrist or right? Left
Morning or evening workout? Morning
Hat or visor? Hat
Swim cap or no cap? None
Cheerios or Wheaties? Wheaties
Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate? Tea
Crocs or Birkenstocks? Bare feet

Meet the Athlete: Emma

By | Fitness, Fuel, Meet the Athlete | No Comments

About 3 years ago, I was introduced to Emma Huebner through her mother and sister. Little did I know that we would become such close friends and training partners. I enjoyed reviewing her interview responses (below), as there are always little tidbits that don’t come out in everyday conversation–even with the close friends that you seem to talk about everything with–like the little thoughts that go through our heads when things get tough, or the pet peeves we have on the race course. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you this go-getter medical student-athlete-writer; yet another local “super woman”.

Current place of residence: Splitting time between Ventura, CA (home) and Omaha, NE (school)
Hometown/place of birth: I was born in Boulder, CO, but my family moved to Ventura when I was a baby.
Day job/occupation: Second year medical student at UNMC College of Medicine
Dream job: ER doc volunteering at Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic
Favorite sports or hobbies: Running, skiing, surfing, hiking, writing

Best event: Marathon
Favorite type of running shoes: Brooks Pure Cadence
Dream training camp location: Tahoe
Dream race: Any race with awesome views and some dirt

When/how/why did you start endurance sports? After being sidelined for multiple seasons of track and cross country due to stress fractures, I decided to try a different distance. Longer and slower turned out to be a much better fit for me.
Favorite accomplishment in sport: Beating my dad’s old “record” time running up Mount Sanitas in Boulder, CO [disclaimer: neither of us hold any actual records] Most memorable race moment: Finishing my first marathon and seeing my parents and sister waiting with open arms at the end. It takes a lot of love to hug someone who is that sweaty.
Hardest workout you’ve ever completed: A trail run I did in Aspen, CO last month. I inflicted the pain entirely on myself. The views were worth it though.

Current goals: Finish medical school in one piece and run some more marathons
Why do you want to accomplish these goals? As much as the nerd in me loves school, running is a much needed stress outlet. It is easier to squeeze miles into my daily schedule when I have a training goal, so my plan for next year is to sign up for a few races. Hopefully those goals will make my daily jaunts more motivating, especially during the cold winter months. As far as finishing medical school – I have wanted to be a doctor since age five, so it has been a long-time dream of mine, and I am finally making it happen! It isn’t easy, but blood and guts are fun. Patients are pretty fun too; it is humbling to learn how much each patient I encounter – whether they are 5 or 95 – can teach me about life in general. People are so smart.

Emma (far right) at the 2017 Clif Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, on her way to a 3:18 Marathon PR

Best athletic encouragement you’ve ever been given: 90% of your performance is psychological.
Words of wisdom to someone considering training for their first marathon: Long runs are the most important element of training for a marathon. No matter how “fit” you are, you have to train your body to withstand running for hours on end. Don’t run your long runs too fast! Save the speed for shorter runs and for race day itself.
Something you’ve learned about yourself through endurance sport: I can always go a little bit farther than I think I can.
Who inspires you and why? My friend Brittany. She is one of the most generous people I have ever met. She gives her all in racing, in training, and in day-to-day life with her friends and loved ones. She’s definitely a keeper.

Pre-race ritual or superstition: I haven’t nailed down the perfect routine yet. What I learned from my last race: don’t eat pesto the night before.
Pre-race pump up jams: I usually don’t like listening to music right before I race – I have enough adrenaline going as it is. I do remember Uptown Funk playing at the start of the San Francisco marathon last year though, and that was pretty fun.
Post-race treat: ICE CREAM

What is the first thing and last thing you do each day? First: drink a glass of water, then a cup of coffee. Last: get through a few pages of whatever book I am reading. Currently it is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.

Training/racing “secrets”/tips: Don’t rely on your watch too much. I try to do the majority of my runs watch-less. It is so much more enjoyable, and I find that it is easier to go the pace my body wants me to go that day.
Racing pet peeve: “Keep it up” is one of the worst things you can yell at a runner while they are racing. What, does it look like I’m just about to fall over and give up? I must say, though, I do appreciate the sentiment.
What motivates you to keep training and competing? That feeling when you are in peak shape and it feels like you are floating instead of running.
What motivates you when it’s tough to start/complete a workout/race? Usually I remind myself that no matter how painful it is, it is better than studying histology.
What does “Fuel” mean to you? Delicious food that powers my muscles to perform the way that I want them to. As a poor medical student, fuel also takes the form of any and all free food. I love free food.
Any favorite recipes to share? I just posted my favorite vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe on my blog – <https://emmahuebner.wixsite.com/emmaretigan/single-post/2017/06/20/Storied-Lives>
What does being “Fit” mean to you? Venturing outside and getting your blood pumping at least once a day, whether it is for 20 minutes or 2 hours.

Pick one:
Long swim or long run? Long run
Open water or pool? If the water is at least above 65°, open water. If not, pool. I am a wimp.
Trail or track? Trail
Snot rocket, sleeve, or tissue? Rocket
Solo or group training? Small group
Chocolate or cheese? Chocolate
Watch on your left wrist or right? Left
Morning or evening workout? Morning
Hat or visor? Hat
Swim cap or no cap? Cap
Cheerios or Wheaties? Cheerios
Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate? Coffee
Crocs or Birkenstocks? Birks for days

Any other fun facts about you? I have broken a total of 10 bones (not including toes). Klutz much?