Being awesomely competitive on a budget

Once upon a time in a land not so very far away, I had a full time job with a fat paycheck and 100% free health care (thank you, U.S. Navy).  Life now isn’t such a fairy tale… okay, well, it is if you consider that I found my Prince Charming.  Still, we aren’t residing in a Disney Castle and we don’t eat off of fine china.  My husband is enlisted in the Navy and I currently borrow money from the government to subsidize his income and pay for my education.  I work about 5-10 hours a week as a teaching assistant, which brings in a whopping $250 a month before taxes.  We certainly aren’t living the high life by any means.

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(Me with my Prince Charming, modeling our favorite racing flats on our wedding day)

Unfortunately for many of us, triathlon and even running aren’t inherently inexpensive sports.  When you’re just starting out or looking to become competitive, financial limitations can be discouraging but don’t give up hope just yet.  While I can’t help you make something out of nothing, I can offer you some tips that may help you get the most out of what you’ve got.

Tip 1:  Prioritize

Most of us can’t have it all.  That means that we have to make hard choices about what is most important to us.  Justin and I prioritize our training above quite a few things, including dining out, going to movies and new (non-athletic) clothing.  We’ve decided that paying for personal coaching is more important to us than frequenting movies.  Recently, we hired a housekeeper who cleans our home once every few weeks.  I used to consider this a luxury that we couldn’t afford but we re-prioritized things to make this more affordable.  We were so exhausted from school, work, and training that we were either neglecting to clean our home or we were spending our precious few hours of free-time scrubbing toilets and vacuuming stairs.  One of the reasons I took the TA position was so that we could afford this new expense.  Sure, I have to spend additional hours completing TA-related work each week but that will look good on a resume or curriculum vitae whereas future employers will probably be less impressed with “expert Dyson wielder”.  I’ve also found that I get substantially more physical rest when doing TA work than I would cleaning house.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was one that we were able to make with a clear head because we had prioritized.

How you establish priorities is up to YOU.  Everybody has different needs, wants and interests and if you would rather eat out ten times a month than pay for personal coaching, I wouldn’t fault you.  The point is that, regardless of what your priorities are, it’s important that you recognize and define them.

Tip 2:  Strategize

Now that you know what’s most important to you, you have to decide what purchases you need or want immediately and what can wait.  If there is a key piece of equipment that you simply MUST have to train or race, try to borrow it.  I finished the Sandman Triathlon with the 2nd fastest female time overall and the fastest female bike split on a borrowed bike.  I was lucky that the Dai Roberts Group had a bike available in the correct frame size and as a client the loan came at no additional cost.  It may not always be this easy but look around and see what you can find!  When I first began biking, I also borrowed bike pedals and clips from a friend.  I did have to bite the bullet and purchase my own bike shoes but borrowed a fair amount of gear.  I also got an excellent deal on a “last season” wet suit from Final Kick Sports.  Sure, it doesn’t have all of the coolest new buoyancy technology but it fits well and kept me open water training through chilly weather.

Image(Racing Beach to Battleship in my thrifty wet suit purchase from Final Kick Sports)

It can also help to think ahead.  Make a list, even if it’s just a mental one, of what you will need this season AND next.  You can often find out of season items on clearance both in local stores and with online vendors.  I frequently purchase winter running tights in July; you won’t get as much variety but you can find quality apparel at reduced prices as stores and online vendors try to clear out last season’s stock.

In some instances, you may actually save money in the long run by spending money in the short term.  For example, buying a pair of shoes on clearance with an online vendor may seem like a great bargain but if you’ve not been properly fitted and you purchase the wrong shoe for your gate/foot fall then you may end up spending more money replacing them.  I recommend that you visit a local running or triathlon store to be fit for the right shoe.  I also highly recommend that, if they help you find the right shoe, you make your purchase with that store.  Yes, you will pay more in the store than you will in purchasing from an online vendor BUT you’re paying for the professional service you received when the staff patiently and pleasantly helped you find the right shoe.  Once you have had a proper fitting and know what shoes work for you, I think it’s okay to make subsequent purchases of identical shoes online or anywhere else that you might have a discount.  No one will be the wiser and you will have shown a great deal of respect for the training and dedication of the local storeowner and staff.

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(Trained and attentive staff make for smarter purchases and happier customers)

There are also a number of clubs that provide discounts to their members.  Locally, there are at least a few of which I am aware.  Final Kick Sports offers a discount to members of their Running and Triathlon Club.  Members of the local Tidewater Striders running club receive a discount with Running, Etc. stores and there is an optional club membership that you can sign up for at Performance Bicycle.  All of these clubs do require some type of membership fee so you have to weigh the immediate costs against the future gains in order to determine what is right for you.

Tip 3:  Compromise

So, I’ve been eyeing this neon pink Brooks winter running jacket for a few weeks now and, though I think I would look fabulous in the Skittle-inspired color, I’ve decided that I can subsist for the time being by layering items underneath a brightly colored, long sleeve, reflective shirt that is already in my closet.  No, I won’t look nearly as fashionable as I would in the Brooks jacket but I’ll still be warm and highly visible in the wee hours of the morning and that’s what really counts when you’re pounding the pavement at 6 a.m.

Sometimes, my desire to compete has to battle with my desire to not spend a ridiculously high sum of money on a race entry fee, hotel stay and meals on the road.  *Sigh* Last year, I really wanted to run a March race and I wanted to run something longer than a 5k or a 10k.  Well, as all Hampton Roads running residents know, March is Shamrock Sportsfest season!  The Shamrock Half Marathon would have been perfect if the race entry fee weren’t so astronomically high. I still wanted to race so I searched and searched and found an 8 mile race in Yorktown the week after the Shamrock Sportsfest for 1/3 the price of the Shamrock Half Marathon.  Woot!  It didn’t have all of the flair that larger events like Shamrock offer but it was a beautiful course with solid competition.

I’m also a big fan of “local” races.  By local, I basically mean anything that I can drive do the morning of the race so as to avoid staying overnight in a hotel or purchasing meals on the road.  All of those things add up so if I can find a race that doesn’t require an overnight stay or substantial travel, I will choose that over some highly acclaimed race in another state.  If I do a destination race, it is planned way in advance so that I can save as much money as possible.

Tip 4: Compromise Continued

I want to emphasize the compromise because balance in life is very important.  It’s not easy to tell friends that you can’t go out to dinner because it doesn’t fit into your budget.  It can be even harder when you feel their critical eye looking at the training-related expenses for which you are shelling out the dough.  My recommendation for handling these difficult situations is to be honest.  Real friends will understand your priorities and respect your choices, but you also need to be flexible.  If you can’t join your friends for dinner because the posh restaurant they want to visit is way outside of your budget, suggest meeting for a drink afterward.  Invite people over to your home and split a bottle of wine for the same price it would cost one of you to order a glass at a restaurant or bar.  I would discourage you from making excuses or becoming entirely anti-social just to protect your training and racing budget.  In the end, good friends and a solid support system are just as important to your athletic performance as are the right pair of running shoes or regular long runs.

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(At the end of the day, success doesn’t mean much if you don’t have people with whom you can share it.)

Tip 5: ?

What kind of tips do you have for thrifty training and racing?  I’m always open to new ideas and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Being awesomely competitive on a budget

Creatively Fit!

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As many of you are aware, Hurricane Sandy paid a weekend visit to the greater Hampton Roads area.  My husband and I drove home from his marathon through a portion of the storm.  It didn’t seem too frightening other than the high water levels on the bridges we crossed and some of the high winds we experienced whipping our car around the highway.  We were happy to be home and my feelings weren’t too terribly hurt when my Monday classes were canceled due to high winds and flooding.

ImageWhile my marathon-crushing spouse was more than happy to spend the majority of the day with his feet up, I found myself going a bit stir crazy after a few hours of couch time.  Last week was my restful week of recovery.  I was bursting with energy and desperately longing for a quick run or, at the least, a thorough walk with the dog.  Sadly, the recreation centers that I use as my gymnasium were closed and my husband was pretty firm in asserting that I should not run outdoors in 33mph winds.  I tried to embrace the extra rest day but I just had too much excess energy… so, I broke out the Wii Fit Plus.  We almost NEVER use the Wii because we have very little recreational time after school, work, clinical hours, and (of course) training and we usually want to spend that small bit of free time resting our tired bodies!  After yesterday, I’m extremely pleased that we’ve decided to retain the Wii despite infrequent use. You can see from the smile on my face in the above picture that a bit of indoor exercise helped brighten my mood for the rest of the day!  As a bonus, my abs are sore today from hula hooping, push-ups and planks with a very strict Wii personal trainer.

I’m not sure how useful my Wii sessions will prove on race day (I think I’ll continue to stick to Dai Roberts Group training plans just in case) but it was certainly a great way to get in some calorie burn and ward off cabin fever when my options were few and far between.  Not everyone has the resources to acquire this type of video game/fitness gear but you can always find a way to get in some type of a fitness session if you’re creative and determined.  Maybe stair intervals if you have more than one story in your home?  What about weight lifting with hand weights or heavy objects in your home if you don’t already own weights?  And, of course, you can ALWAYS do some core work!  That being said, don’t be afraid to take an unscheduled rest day; even I slept in. 😉

My Husband is an Athletic Rockstar

ImageThis first picture is rather fuzzy but I love it so I’m sharing it, anyway!  There he is at the start line!  We weren’t planning on being able to see him at the start but I’m so glad that we were able to.  See that awesome smile?  He kept that going for 26.2 miles.  Attitude means so very very much!  I also appreciate his goofy corral neighbor, Matt Thomas, giving an… well, I don’t know what kind of a face to Justin’s right.  hehe

ImageAND HERE HE IS AT MILE 25!!  This is a nice picture, posted by a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook.  That’s the Pentagon to his left.  Doesn’t he look strong and fabulous?!

ImageJustin gives me a hug as he sips his recovery Endurox (the recovery drink of choice in our household).  I am so unbelievably proud of him!  We’re also holding on to individually bagged brownies, homemade by Matt Thomas’ wife, Kalee.  It was seriously the best brownie I have EVER tasted, hands down.  Just an FYI.

ImageThe Navy Marathon Team took 2nd place in the 2012 Armed Forces Championship!  Great job, gentlemen!  My husband was the only enlisted team member, another FYI.

ImageHere is the very cool award that my rockstar husband received for being the first Navy member to cross the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon.  His original time goal was a 2:32.  He kept his positive attitude despite the possibility of hurricane force winds destroying his race pace.  He smiled and gave us a thumbs up around mile 9.  His final finish time was 2:31:08 and he came in 10th, overall!  2016 Olympic Marathon Trials, watch out for Justin!

I am thrilled that I was able to spectate and celebrate with my husband.  I’m so lucky to have such an amazing teammate-for-life and I look forward to sharing many more victories with each other!  Did I mention that he is ALSO a Dai Roberts Group athlete?  (http://www.dairobertsgroup.com)

Recovering from Recovery

Hard work has taken on an entirely new meaning for me over the last few months.  I’ve learned how to push through set backs and train through fatigue.  I’ve worked hard to hone my nutrition – “eat to train” became our grocery-shopping mantra.  After months of pushing through, eating well, and turning down social invites so that I could get proper rest… I needed a break.

The 70.3 didn’t cripple me for a week the way a hard marathon may have so I was feeling great when I did an easy run only a few days afterward.  Though my body didn’t need much of a rest, my brain was still exhausted!  Honestly, I enjoy healthy eating so it’s not that I didn’t want to eat foods that were good for me this last week, rather, I really needed a break from THINKING about nutrition.  SO… I spent this week NOT thinking about nutrition and it was fantastic! 😀  I did a couple of easy runs and I ate whatever I happened to feel like eating whenever I felt like eating it.  When my dear friend Ruth offered me freshly baked pumpkin muffins, I had three.  When I felt like having chocolate, I found our left over Easter candy (yes… from Easter and it was still delicious thankyouverymuch).  When I didn’t particularly feel like having a salad, I didn’t, and when I went to the grocery store to pick up some more veggies for the week I also grabbed a pound of brie and a french baguette that I ate, alone, with two glasses of red wine.

Truthfully, a lot of my healthy eating has been a means of coping with gastrointestinal issues.  Despite my history of upset stomachs I was miraculously able to eat loads of junk food for the majority of the week with virtually no consequences.  Sadly, I doubt that even those with a stomach of steel can gorge on a half of a pound of brie cheese, wine and a massive serving of bread without some GI retribution.  Hours after my solo French fest, I clutched my stomach and thought “Okay, I think I’m ready for training and good nutrition, again.”  😀

Aaaaand of course, now that I’m ready to get out there and sweat, there’s a friggin’ hurricane! haha.  Thankfully, I had an active weekend to burn off some brie and feel refreshed.  I walked at least 8 miles during Justin’s marathon, yesterday, and you have to walk pretty darn fast to spectate when your athlete runs his marathon in 2 hours and 31 minutes!  GEESH!

I really do feel refreshed after a week of care-free eating and loosely structured recovery workouts.  I needed it!  Recovery is important, mentally as well as physically!  It is important, though, to know WHAT KIND of recovery you need and HOW MUCH is enough. 🙂  When I felt bloated and gross after a week of questionable dietary decisions, I knew I was ready to feel lean and energetic, again.  Also, watching my husband absolutely conquer his marathon and finish top ten overall was inspirational!  I was so thrilled for him and so proud of all of his hard work that I couldn’t help but long to sweat and compete, again.

I think that I earned every bite of pumpkin muffin and every once of brie that I ate this week, maybe not calorie-wise (haha) but definitely in overall effort.  I don’t even feel the slightest bit guilty for my indulgences and for me, THAT is a first.  There’s no way I’d be ready to get back to the business of training, again, if I hadn’t really taken a break.  Work hard and recover hard; be kind to yourself.  🙂  Now, it’s time to recover from all of that recovering!

Finally a finish line photo that doesn’t make me cringe…

Okay, so I promise, no more pictures of me at Beach to Battleship after this one!  I just love love LOVE this picture because that is one of the most genuine smiles that has ever crossed my face during an endurance event.  I was just thrilled when I saw the time on the clock! 🙂  I couldn’t help but smile and I don’t even look that awkward holding up my bib number.  Should I order an electronic copy of this photograph?  I usually don’t order race pictures because they are so overpriced but maybe this should be an exception?

 

 

 

 

Some Photos from Beach to Battleship – Ode to Suffering

After the race, I stumbled past the finish line, found the closest bit of shade visible and then proceeded to slide down this wall and strip off my blister-giving shoes.  Approximately 2 seconds before the photo was taken, I looked at my husband and said “That was the most miserable $*%&ing thirteen miles I’ve ever run.”  As you can imagine, I was thrilled to see this on Facebook when I logged in an hour later.  Thanks, babe.