Finding Meaning through Connection

LaurenGiving back

I am entering my 9th season racing as a professional triathlete. I never knew what a triathlon was until 2009, so it’s safe to say I never dreamed of being a professional triathlete as a kid.

As the new year rolled in I found myself jaded when it came to triathlon. I am addicted to moving, so completing my training is not the issue. My personal life is the most stable and meaningful it has ever been. That wasn’t the issue either. My Blueprint Fit bloodwork came back and nothing is out of the ordinary. I considered that my Vitamin D was low with the dull weather, but everything else was fine. I have been examining my frustration with triathlon and have identified two possible sources of my apathy and I came up with two things.

Connection. What are we without it? I am learning that my breakdowns and semi- depressive/anxious episodes occur when there is a lack of connection with other people. When I start training hard the focus usually turns to being all about me. I tend to get the training done then go home and prepare for the next day. I fail to make time for friends, social interactions outside of the triathlon and for activities that do not involve sport. There seems to be this perceived notion that to be your best in this sport you have to have tunnel vision. I have to be completely selfish and make every decision based around my training and recovery.

This does not work for me anymore. I want more in life. I want to have an impact on others, have strong relationships, have conversations that go beyond swim, bike, and run.

 

The second realization I had was that triathlon has changed in the last decade. When I started the sport, hard work and talent were rewarded. That was it. Consistent and frequent results got you partnerships. I remember racing 17 times a season and consistently being on the podium. Hustling and entering every race to get my name on the board so I had a shot of making a career out of triathlon. I loved triathlon because it was a pure grind. I once raced in Minneapolis on Saturday and in Boulder on Sunday with podiums at both. The pure gritty nature of what was required drove me day in and day out.

Things are different now. If a pro athlete does not have a YouTube channel or a drone following their sessions with a professional photographer then that pro athlete does not have a shot at getting partnerships. There is little difference now between a brand influencer and a hard-working professional athlete. On social media right now, we see the edited beautiful and artistic photos/videos of athletes racing and training. That really is not what is going on behind the scenes.

I personally am intrigued by athletes with raw and unedited content. Isn’t that what people want to see? The good stuff, the unedited, unscripted and unmanicured content that is quickly captured between intervals or post workouts. The edited “plandids” and ad quality photography are basically staged and not reality. The sport is less genuine and more about “getting the shot”.

It is an unfortunate position to be in. To feel trapped between wanting to express myself as an athlete and feeling as though the portrayal of a ‘role’ is more important to sponsor. I feel pressure to have manicured content to maintain my position with sponsorships which ultimately decides my future in triathlon. This new era in triathlon has been heavily weighing on my mind. I catch myself anxious about how I can stage an Instagram post instead of figuring out how I can get teenage girls with eating disorders to discover sport as an outlet. Instead of worrying about how many “likes” I can get with a really sexy or artsy photo, I want to create a platform where I can make a difference in the next generation. And by that I mean being completely transparent and also being approachable so anyone feels like they can reach out with any issue they may need guidance with.

So what am I going to do to find joy in sport again? I am going to use my platform that I have built from triathlon to work with young girls struggling with body image, eating disorders, and social media. Here in Boulder this summer I am starting a youth girls group that meets twice a month to learn about cycling, social pressures, and healthy habits to implement. This is a massive area that needs to be addressed and I am going to spend my time figuring out a way to have an impact there instead of making a YouTube channel. By focusing less on myself and using the resources I have, my goal for 2019 is to teach young women how to be physically healthy, confident, and have connections with their peers.

 

How to do the Holidays right

LaurenNutrition, Workout

This time of year is always crazy. Historically, I personally push hard to stretch my season out through the end of November/early December. If I can stay 70% fit and avoid consuming too many pumpkin spice lattes then I can usually have 1 or 2 good races late in the year. It can be pretty tough to stay motivated and train indoors with the plummeting temperatures in Colorado. But racing is essentially my job, and thus my income, so I put my head down and train. It is only during this time of year where training feels like actual “work”.

I race late into the year so I can take my “off season” during Christmas. I usually take around 2 weeks off completely from any training followed by 2 weeks of doing whatever exercise I feel like. By racing so late, my prescribed down time overlaps with the holiday season, so I feel zero guilt being lazy and consuming my body weight in cookies, wine, and carbs.

My advice to you is to go ahead and indulge. It is no secret that endurance athletes are hyper focused on weight, training hours, and going to bed early. However, sometimes it is necessary to let loose so that when it is time to be focused we are ready to get back into the regimented routine we all typically feel comfortable with. During December, I say yes to everything- parties, drinks, late nights, desserts, 1 am pizza, and last-minute getaways. Anything and everything is a yes. However, once January 1st comes around, I settle back into a more strict and structured daily routine.

I suggest starting 2019 off right.

I always get blood work done with Blueprint Fit to start the year when my body is nourished, rested, and healthy. I think it is important to have a baseline to refer back to if any health issues arise later in the year when the body is fatigued. The Blueprint One and Nutrition panels are good ones to start with.

I also make sure to start off the year with a fresh new pair of cushy running shoes to avoid any injuries when ramping the miles back up.

During the winter months I try and keep the nutrient consumption up as well to avoid illness. My body typically struggles with the increase in training load and cold temperatures. My go-to morning drink is as follows: ½ c of Beet Performer, 1 scoop of Garden of Life Perfect Food Apple Fiber, a splash of apple cider vinegar, kale, spinach, half a banana, lemon, ginger, celery, cucumber, carrot, turmeric and ice. I get that down before any coffee is consumed so that my cells are filled with vitamins and minerals before the caffeine overload takes over.

In order to shed the pounds gained over December I try to stop eating after 7:30pm and I avoid alcohol, added sugars, and desserts. The introduction of training though usually gets me back to an acceptable winter weight fairly quickly.

Never skimp on the holiday season. Enjoy, indulge and be a yes to everything! 2019 is coming up quick and the following 11 months will be back to the grind. For now, the body needs to heal, gain some weight, and rest.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

A Peaceful Mind is Priceless

LaurenUncategorized

Full disclosure before you dive into this…it’s very candid, very personal, very real. If this was Instagram I would post the “it me” sticker all over this post.

I read an article in Outside magazine about being okay with being good and not great. It really hit home for me and pretty much summed up the past few years for me racing, in relationships, personally, and mentally.

I have talked at length in previous posts about how I have struggled with my weight and also with sleeping for my entire triathlon career – 8 years. For far too long have I told myself that I am doing great. I own real estate, I am actually making triathlon my career and not just a hobby, I have great friends, I am healthy, my family supports me 100% and they love me to death. I told myself I had everything I needed and could want. Yet I still couldn’t sleep. I constantly stressed about my weight and relationships. I ignored these things for years and validated it with the fact that on paper, and to others, I was successful.

At the beginning of this year everything came to a head and I felt like I hit rock bottom. The second half of last season (2017) I pretty much starved myself because the first half of the season I was racing so fast at about 6 lbs lighter than normal. I originally lost weight because I changed to a plant-based diet but then in typical LG fashion I went extreme and I wasn’t eating enough. My bloodwork was awful. I was depleted of nutrients needed to function normally, let alone race. At the Island House Triathlon in November last year I struggled to run the 5km portion of a sprint distance race. Compounding things, earlier this year, I had a really bad break up with a boyfriend. I was feeling depressed and per usual I felt like I lost everything that meant anything to me. To top it all off, I was not sleeping at all. I would go 4 or 5 days just lying in bed awake stressing about training and anxious that I would get sick.

Race season started in April and I flew to Brazil forIRONMAN 70.3 Florianopolis. I arrived and didn’t sleep for one minute the entire trip. I simply couldn’t sleep. I thought I was losing my mind. I DNF’ed the race, and flew back to Florida to prepare for my next race. I called my mom and broke down in tears and she drove 7 hours to be with me.

I knew I needed to do something, so I arranged an appointment with a psychiatrist. We spoke for 15 minutes, I paid her $200, and she prescribed me Ambien, Xanex (anti-anxiety) and Lexepro (anti-depressant). I took that cocktail for 6 weeks and I felt like my life changed. I was so happy, sleeping awesomely, and training consistently. I raced Escape from Alcatraz, got 3rd, and jumped back into training. Well, the meds ran out and I chose not to go back on them. In a blink of an eye I was back exactly where I was in April…on the phone with my mom breaking down.

SO what did I do next? I took action.

I was so close to quitting the sport as my only hope of sleeping again. I thought the pressure of performing was why I was not sleeping, and I decided sleeping was more important to me than racing. I did not want to just walk away though and let those who support me down. A few people suggested I attend The Landmark Forum. It is a 5-day personal development program that helped me to step outside of myself and uncover my repeating behavioral patterns and reasons for them. I realized that the things that happen to us are just that- things that happen. I also learned to be vulnerable and to be ok with failing sometimes, it causes growth.

I also began doing CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia). CBT-I is non-medicated sleep coaching that can help reset the body clock. I learned so much and identified areas for improvement. Together, these steps helped me get out of the downward spiral I was quickly drowning in.

I felt ready to race again and headed to IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines, the Asia-Pacific Championships in Cebu. This was the biggest 70.3 race and most competitive I had ever done. I slept amazingly, felt calm, and perfectly executed my plan placing 2nd. I was absolutely elated especially after the previous 7 months. One hour after the race I found out I was disqualified because I did not serve a 30” penalty that I had no idea I had. Woof, that was rough. Honesty though, I was more stoked that I finally slept, had zero anxiety going into the race, and executed my plan, than I was sad about losing out on a very good payday. I was all smiles at the after party and the long journey home. My friend, who I traveled to Cebu with, actually asked me last week how I was so happy after being DQ’ed in Cebu. I told him that sleeping and being able to have peaceful mind is priceless. This can easily be taken for granted.

So where am I now? Well, I am a healthy weight – in between what I was at the end of last year and I guess my historical weight. I still have a so-so relationship with food but I am not sure that will every go away. I get my bloodwork done with Blueprint Fit every 6 weeks to make sure that my nutrition is dialed. I am sleeping so deeply now. I go to bed every night with a quiet mind and wake up feeling actually rested without taking pills. I am single, but I have a really close group of friends that I hang out with every day and they mean the world to me. I am racing the best I ever have and just won my last two races since Cebu. I am traveling the world, with more racing to come this year, and appreciating this fortunate life I have. I am vulnerable. I am present. I finally feel alive after a very long time of being so sad deep down.

So what is next? Well! I am on a racing tour. I am currently traveling back from Chile where I won IRONMAN 70.3 Coquimbo.

In 8 days I will fly to Argentina for another crack at a Championship race at IRONMAN 70.3 Buenos Aires. From Argentina I will fly straight to NYC to do a photoshoot with TYR and then back to Boulder for 6 days before flying to China to race IRONMAN 70.3 Xiamen.

After China, my mom will come spend a week with me at my home in Boulder for Thanksgiving.

From there I will fly to Colombia to race  IRONMAN 70.3 Cartegena and then the next weekend Challenge Daytona.

And finally, the day after my final race in Daytona, I am taking my mom to Italy! She has been my rock this year and who knows what I would have done without her. As hard as the times were earlier this year I truly believe it was to help me see the cause of why I was having so much anxiety and also to bring my mom and I closer together. She has never been out of the USA, so it is going to be such a great experience.

The rest of the year is is a challenging schedule. However; win, lose, or DQ I am so happy to be sleeping, without injury, and at peace with myself.

I feel free!

Why I Juice

LaurenNutrition

Racing endurance sports is hard. It is demanding of time, mental strength, and of course the body. As athletes we are always looking for that extra edge to get us closer to the next level without having to invest more time and energy into training. As a professional especially, as this is my full-time job, I am constantly doing research on ways I can gain an edge or performance or more importantly recovery.

Research has shown that beet juice is converted to nitric acid which helps blood flow, muscle contraction and neurotransmission, which can help in athletic performance. Beet juice also contains high amounts of iron that regenerates and activates our blood cells to carry fresh oxygen to the body. After learning about the benefits of beets it was a no brainer for me. I typically have a can of Beet Performer 2 hours before a key session or race.

Tart cherry juice has been another one I have been learning about for a while. I have always had trouble recovering from training and then also sleeping at night after hard days of working out. Tart cherry juice has high levels of potassium and has been shown to decrease inflammation and reduce muscle damage. I like to start my day with tart cherry juice when I have hard training on tap and also after the training for muscle restoration and rebuilding and to prevent further damage to the muscles. Cherry juice also has been shown to help aid in sleep. I have always struggled with sleep while training at a high level. At night I will have some cherry juice and it seems to be promoting better sleep for me without waking up in the night.

So, overall, my daily routine is to have a can Beet Performer 2hr before hard training sessions. I have a can of Cherry Performer often mixed into a smoothie or just alone right after hard training sessions and at night before bed. Keep in mind, consuming these will not magically make you an Olympic athlete. However, they will give you a little extra boost of talent without training more. In the end isn’t that what we want? Also, both juices are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy day in and day out.

Save 20% on Juice Performer with code Lauren18 at the Juice Performer Amazon Store!

(reprinted from Juice Performer: 
http://juiceperformer.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Lauren-Goss-juicing-article.pdf

Balancing High Performance and Diet

LaurenNutrition

The balance between high performance and diet is a very touchy subject for most athletes. I hate to say this but I am pretty confident that a very high percentage of endurance athletes have an unhealthy relationship with food. Just in my training group alone we are constantly talking about losing weight, banning appetizers and desserts from group dinners, our power to weight ratios, etc. Even when I go back home to South Carolina and visit family and friends I am constantly complaining about how “fat” I am or how I cannot go out to dinner with anyone because I have to keep my weight down. It is absolutely absurd. Endurance sports, triathlon in particular, creates this unhealthy relationship with food. In the end, if you are someone putting the time in to train for triathlon then you are an over achiever/perfectionist and that will also transfer over to your diet choices.

I have talked about how I was vegan last year multiple times and how I ultimately broke down and depleted myself of so many nutrients that I needed to race well. Looking back now, 7 months later, I am questioning why I chose to be vegan. Was it for ethical reasons, health reasons, or to lose weight? Initially I cut out meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs for an entire year. I lived off of nuts, nut butter, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and grains. After months of inhaling tablespoons of nut butter every time I went into the kitchen, I decided that I would cut out all nuts and nut butters as well because it was too many calories. Next, I decided that I would limit my bread intake as well. Why? Well because the internet said that gluten causes weight gain so I decided to eliminate that too. My goal was achieved. I was at the weight I dreamed to race at, 115lbs, and I thought everything would just go so well. If you have followed me then you know that fairytale was quickly shut down and I did not even have enough energy to finish a race let alone be competitive.

The point I want to get across here is that we need to really accept ourselves for who we are. This year I made a promise to myself that I would let my body settle at the weight it needed to be at without forcing it. I am now around 121lbs. I have been monitoring my bloodwork with Blueprint Fit every 6 weeks making sure my iron levels, hormones, omegas, vitamins and cortisol are all within normal range. (See a sampling of my recent results below; they are extracted from the comprehensive 8-page report.)

Of course my brain cannot completely stop obsessing over food and weight. I had a severe eating disorder in high school and I know it is something that I will struggle with forever. Surrounding myself with athletes who also are crazy about being lean does not help my own personal struggles but that is reality and I have learned to deal with it (better).

Is it possible to eat normal, enjoy a glass of wine from time to time, be social with friends at restaurants while having an appropriate race weight? Of course. Is it going to be hard mentally at times to let go and not feel guilty? Yes for sure 100%. We all just need to be a little more conscious about what we say around other people concerning our OCD weight obsessions and be mindful that we may be triggering a negative experience for someone else.

Right now I try to avoid sugar, eat when I am hungry, avoid snacking after dinner and only drink alcohol when I am out with friends and never at home. I am not by any means the leanest person on the start line. I have always struggled with holding a little extra weight. I stopped comparing myself to others though and I now value my health and having my bloodwork come back within normal ranges.

Love yourself for who you are. Eat when you are hungry. Let the body be where it wants to be. The results will come and the injuries will stay away!


A sampling of my latest results from Blueprint Fit!

 

 

Life of the Solo Pro

LaurenTravel

A few days ago I had a tiny mental breakdown as I was sitting on the living room floor with my TT bike trying to get my power meter set up after numerous failed attempts. If you know me well, then you know this is not really out of the norm for me, haha.

Anyway, I had traveled from Florida to San Francisco to race Escape from Alcatraz, raced, got hit by a car after the race, and still had to pack up my bike and fly back to Boulder to unload my life from being on the road for 7 weeks. Then I stayed up until midnight unpacking and assembling my bike, packing my new bike with race and training gear, and building up a road bike that had been delivered while I was away.

I woke up and had a normal training day. Then I packed up again for another month on the road and flew back to Florida.

Woof, that was a quick 36 hours but I can happily say that I am now settled in Florida and doing just fine. I survived (well, I knew I would, but sometimes I seriously think I won’t).

The overall experience had me thinking about how much easier this “job” would be if I had a someone/significant other to work on my bike, clean my bike, pack my bike for races, cook for me, do the laundry, take care of travel logistics, calm me down when I am stressed, pace me during training sessions, give me time splits on course, and oh the most important of them all- to be my personal photographer so I could have an unlimited bank of photos for my sponsors.

Honestly, I would just take a bike mechanic. 

I can pretty much do everything else on my own after eight years of doing everything on my own. But it would sure be nice to not have to and have another person to pitch in.

Racing for a financial living is hard emotionally. The pressure I (and I am sure mostly all of us) put on myself is sometimes hard to handle alone. It would be nice to have someone at my side to talk sense into me when I start over-analyzing everything after a less than ideal race or training session.

I try really hard not to think about the ‘making money’ part of triathlon, but it is a part of it. This is all I do for a living (by choice), so for me this is it. It is a tough yet very self-satisfying way to live.

When everything goes to plan and I did it all alone it feels really really good. It’s a feeling I cannot replicate doing anything else. When things go bad though, I am alone, facing dark thoughts…and also facing the task of packing up my bike up, somehow lifting the giant awkward-shaped bike case into the rental car, and dragging myself on the airplane to get back to work.

It’s not easy being a solo pro triathlete.

So the next time you see a girl struggling through the airport with a bike case, two suitcases, and a backpack guys, please help her out!