BRITE COACHING

TRAIN SMART, CONQUER GOALS. Led by Christine Fletcher, Coach to Spirited Ultra-Endurance Athletes

Coach Britni Bakk's Story

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If ever there was an unsung hero, Britni Bakk would be one. Britni is our sports most humble legend banking well over 40 Ironman races, 12 of which in Kona, Hawaii. While she doesn't sing her praises on social media nor seek public attention, she thrives on sharing knowledge and coaching athletes to their own best self and tapping deep into their emotional, mental and physical potential. 

As one of Brite's Head Coaches, I asked Britni to share a bit of her own story and most specifically, the ebbs and flows of the past couple of years. While she makes it looks, it was anything but....

Two Years in Rearview

Coach Britni Bakk

What two years means in the life of a triathlete ? A lot can happen. In the grand scheme of life that isn't that long. But for a triathlete that has some stalls in their racing schedule it can seem an eternity.

I raced my 12th Kona this year. It was, what I would call, a gratitude race. Grateful to be semi healthy and grateful to be on the start line. 

Let's Begin...

2016 started with a dog taking me down on my bike. A month later a broken tibia from a fall on the stairs. (Don't try to work on a computer as you go down the stairs). Just as my tibia was healed I suffered a seizure. As I was being treated for that the doctors discovered an abnormality in my heart along with high blood pressure. That was a lot to have thrown at me in a 12 month period. The heart issue, known as SVT, warranted surgery. 

As I made forward progress with one injury and a new issue would arise. It was endless. For someone whose has trained and raced healthy for so many years I was in foreign space. I was forced to deal with a new set of obstacles.  Frustration, stress, the possibility of not ever racing again, the possibility of losing the lifestyle I cherish so much. 

With all of the adversity i learned to live, train and race vicariously through my friends and athletes. I learned to focus on what i could do to - to better my athlete body and mind. 

Slowing Down

I started with slowing down. I think this is the most important thing I learned over the 2 year period. We as athletes put so much pressure on ourselves. We maximize every hour of the day to try and balance family, work, training and all the curve balls life throws at us along the way. We have to find the time each and every day for a peaceful activity. Whatever that may be for you, a short walk with your spouse and kids, meditation, devices turned off and a chapter of a good book.  Make it easy and accessible. 

Figure out what activities you can safely do to keep connected to your fitness.  Work on your core- as I was on crutches for 6 weeks and unable to run for 6 months. Core work was key. 15 minutes a day is a difference maker. It sets our body up for all three sports. I swam every day with a pull buoy. I appreciated every single session. The strength that I accumulated in the water was both mental and physical. 

Do what you can when you can. Be patient and things will turn around. My injuries were like the darkest spot of an Ironman. I just had to wait them out until the next aid station and glass of coke.

Getting Back to the Start Line

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The tibia injury was the worse. There were 3 races booked and paid for that all had to be canceled at the last minute.  Santa Rosa 70.3, Ironman Canada and Ironman Cozumel.  I had expected to be healed for each of these races but my leg said no. Then winter came and I was back running. Finally.  Then Bang SVT. The worst part of this was not knowing what was happening. It took the cardiologist time to diagnose and even longer to explain what was, how common it is and most importantly it wasn't life threatening (unless it lead to A-fib). I was given the option for surgery right away. It sounded very invasive and carried the possibility that if something were to go wrong I could end up with a pace maker. I had a two month period where my heart would race to 130 bpm for no reason. The episodes would last from 20 min to 2 hours. As I slowed my life down the episodes were less frequent and shorter. I started to be able actions that would trigger the tachycardia. The plan was to test my heart is race and make a decision based on that.  

Before I go further I was amazed at the number of people I knew or friends of mine knew that had this condition. They were a great source of information and support through this difficult time. Thank you to all. 

I chose to race Honu 70.3 to see how my heart would do. What did I have to lose. If something serious were to happen I would sit up and pull myself out of the race. Within the first 10 meters of the swim my heart went into an arrhythmia. My body felt flush with lactic acid I slowed myself down, waited for my body to stabilize and off I went. How could I not keep going it's such a beautiful swim course. The rest of the swim was fine. It wasn't until 30 km in on the bike that I had another episode. 

Then Ironman Whistler. With fear i faced this race as Honu before but just acknowledging the moment where my heart wasn't happy. I dealt with the moments as they arose. As every athlete does in every race they do. The troubleshooting you go through in a race ! Admittedly it wasn't my greatest day but it got me to my end goal of each year: to get me to the start line at KONA and is a reminder to keep persevering no matter how bad you think you are doing. It is all about decision making in the moment , Staying present and moving forward.

I chose to wait and do my heart surgery two weeks after kona. And now i have a new lease on life. And am grateful to continue to be an athlete. To aim to race as strong as i can. That is all we want anyways in life right To continue to pursue what we love. So appreciate your health ! Take care of yourself ...

If adversity comes your way - embrace it and work on something new or what you can do in the moment.

Life never stops it just changes.



You Matter

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You Matter.


As the year comes to an end, high performing individuals are presented with the wonderful opportunity of reflecting back and mulling over what we achieved, what we learned and how our experiences will shape us going into the next year. 

Never a day goes by that, as a coach to high performers driven in sport, career, family and community, do I not find myself reflecting on the awesomeness of commitment and dream seeking passion sought by all the athletes Brite Coaching is so fortunate to partner and work with. So first I would like to express incredible gratitude for entrusting your athletic (and often times personal & emotional) journey with us. It's been nothing short of training breakthroughs, wild highs, epic lows, vast and diversity endurance racing literally around the Globe, in-field lessons and off course contemplation.  Not one journey is the same and not one athlete "gets it" the first time. Most importantly, everyone's story matters...especially to us.

During the first week of December, myself along with Coaches Britni Bakk and Liz Cullen ventured to Palm Desert to support a crew of over 20 Brite Athletes racing the new 70.3 event. With Britni and I running support on the side lines and Liz in the trenches (securing a spot to Nice 70.3 World Championships as 1st Female in her AG), we were each presented with a unique view into the strides taken by so many athletes and the amazing creation of a Brite community brought together by a lifestyle of endurance sport. 

As we head into the holidays, please find a small window of time to reflect on what you have accomplished and how, if any, changes you will make in 2019. Reflect on what keeps you going in this sport. Reflect on what you need as a dynamic individual to stay in the game, stay inspired, stay disciplined and remain connected to what matters to you, holistically. It's the outcome of these thoughts and values that come rushing into your mind at start lines or at the end of a long event or when the alarm goes off at 5a.m. Get laser focused on showing up for the process of building endurance, resilience, stamina and strength. Be specific when it matters and playful when it doesn't. Avoid random exercise in strong favour of progressive training. This mentality alone will reap dramatic and glaring results.

Let me conclude with two key points before we wrap 2018 and enter a fresh year.  The first is: if you have yet to pick up a pencil and scribble your 2019 intentions (aka: goals), please spend some time doing so. After your first stab at it, brainstorm with your coach or mentor for a little more direction. The exactness of what or how you want your year to play out is less relevant than starting the scribbling process. Shapes will form and desires will spill out. 

The second point is: refresh your commitment to using your training diary.  As trite as it may seem, the training log is invaluable to you firstly and to your coach secondly. Be reflective in your comments and leave out random distractions or, for some, convenient excuses. Be honest, be helpful, be insightful, be creative, be thoughtful and be constructive. Use your training log as intentionally as you might be any other time of the year to gain insights into what you are capable of and what you are noticing about your fitness, fatigue and progress. From beginners to Olympic level athletes, those who reflect daily in a log (or diary) create space to perform and clarity in their abilities. 

Lots on tap for 2019 from new partnerships namely with GarneauBlended for YouBike Tech & Dixie Devil, training camps unfolding, educational clinics, new racing opportunities and virtual platforms to keep you entertained indoors. Keep your communication coming along with best efforts day in day out. You matter.

Execution & Discipline

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Already we are into the thick of race season and thus brings more specific training as each of you prepare for your big 2018 goals. Even though the ground work has been laid in the winter, now is the time to bring it together, translate the training to racing, maintain self discipline (more on this below), maintain a high level of ‘desire to train’, and define execution for your key events. As race reports flow in or coaches meet one on one with athletes about upcoming races, the narrative evolves towards execution and best efforts. 

Sometimes when I ask an athlete “what’s your execute a plan?” they glare back like a deer in headlights. I too delivered a first-class glare before understanding what a) a successful day meant to me b) what the term execution even meant. 

So let’s talk about execution. 

Let me just say this, if an athlete decides to execute the plan, I mean really follow through, a good day almost always presents itself. Optimum execution can be a complex concept to play out effectively because so many factors can influence a long race (some controllable, some not) and for some a long day can be 14, 16, 24 hours+.  I don’t need to tell you guys that the margin of error grows with every passing hour.  Nonetheless, the formula to success is the combination of a million good decisions with as many executable factors as possible. The sum of these two factors almost always net out a great result. 

Make a lot of good decisions + set and execute upon achievable targets = successful execution.  

What about all these decisions to be made? What about external forces? How does one remember everything they set out to do in the plan? The best execution plans stem from a somewhat simple outline. Too many complex details packed into one plan can derail your ability to execute simply because you have too many things to think about.  Athletes use all kinds of tricks to remind themselves when to eat, when to drink, how to feel, who to thank (pictures of their kids on top tube!), what pace to ride/run, where their bike is racked, what direction to go, etc. As we tire, the more reminders we may need. Optimum execution takes planning and lots of it. It starts early in the process, it takes practice, it takes time away from your day to sit down and write it out, visualize it, create the framework then make sure it is possible. Create techniques that work for you and watch what others do. Over the years I have observed and learned from so many athletes - I adopt and adjust their ideas to work for me. On the rare occasion, I make up my own trick. Brite Coach Britni Bakk has taught me more tricks of the trade then she will ever know! 

The other aspect of embracing and owning race execution is to practice it and simulate it in training sessions. Practicing your execution in training allows you to process decisions, visualize the sequence and plot fuelling or gear or hydration or pacing. Come race day, it’s just a matter of doing what you already know how to do with a few other people around to bring out the best in you.

Consider this “execution” mindset for your next event: 

Focus on OUT-EXECUTING your competitors or peers around you. If you are the one athlete that remains focused, holds attention on the task at hand and sets out to do what you planned to do, you will guarantee yourself a great outcome. If you focus on out-executing everyone around you, you will rise to the surface simply by committing to execution. The trick is to apply your plan in action. Anyone can write out a plan, create lists and set intentions but the magic happens when the plan is applied in the field when critical decisions need to be made. So few actually do this. It is all too easy to go off plan. It’s much harder to stay the course, persevere and carry through with your execution plan especially when unforeseen forces are driving you to give up and give in. Those who do execute always have a great race. 

 

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Where Does Discipline Comes From?

On the heels of execution, I wanted to also touch on discipline since this too is a reoccurring theme in recent discussions and observations in training logs and athlete feedback. 

On occasion, I notice athletes seeking external discipline to help carry their training especially at this time of year when training gets specific, longer and more interruptive of life. If you signed up for a race or event, you experienced a moment of commitment to a goal. The goal was in the future and the consequences of your commitment did not seep in quite yet. As days, weeks, and months rolled on, you started to notice how this commitment had consequences to your usual schedule. That volleyball game you play on Sundays is now bumping up against a planned ride. How’s this going to work? 

If you are one of those athletes that easily flips the switch, gets onboard and structures your life to accommodate new training time with work, kids, family and many one hobby then you likely understand where discipline comes from. If you are someone that is bumping up against a new training load or how to “get it all in” or creating a new normal for yourself, then maybe discipline is a trait yet to be developed. Either way, everyone, including myself, can use a reminder about where discipline comes from. 

Discipline comes from within. Discipline is an internal force.  Sure, you can have discipline imposed on you by another person, a coach or a self help guru but the reality is none of them will give you real discipline.

External discipline is not strong. It will not survive. It will not stand on its own.  Self discipline, as the very term implies, comes from self…from within you. It comes from an internal decision to be better. If you don’t think you are disciplined it is because you haven’t yet decided to be. You haven’t created it yet. You haven’t become it yet. To become disciplined you have to make a decision and commitment. You must embrace it’s relentless power and become it. Discipline, in my experience, will make athletes better, stronger, faster, than anything else.  When an athletes doesn’t want to get up early on a weekend to ride, that’s discipline playing a hand. When an athlete would rather do other things but then later regret that decisions because they could have done it, that again is discipline playing them. 

And yes, if it were easy to have self discipline it wouldn’t be such a unique, practicable and improve-able trait. To get up early, to get it done and to get the training in is what you signed up for when you paid the money for that race. The process is not all unicorns and rainbows once you sign up for the event. Athletes don’t magically create themselves into the event: they have to do the work and put in the hours. No one, there is not one single except, is unique to this requirement.

The glory of finishing, completing and accomplishing something you signed up for is a direct result of the work you put in, the discipline you showed and the commitment towards that discipline. What’s not so shocking to anyone is that  discipline is a common thread through everything - if it shows up in our athletic life and training endeavours, it shows up in other aspects of our lives. We can use athletics and sport to practice a renewed commitment to being self disciplined. Every day we have a choice. Every day we get to renew our commitment. Every day we get to practice disciplined from within. 

 

Christine

Focus Constantly on Getting Better

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FOCUS CONSTANTLY ON GETTING BETTER

When athletes or "performers" focus on constantly getting better - be it through global health, relationships, nutrition, training, mindfulness or engaging both the internal an external worlds, one common thread is the journey has no end. The journey is constant, the goal is the path and the path is the goal. Below is an adapted list of 15 practices offered by author and expert in health and human performance, Brad Stulberg, on the path towards growth and development. 

STRESS
Stress is a stimulus for growth. Without stress living organisms don't adapt, don't change. So you need stress. But stress is only beneficial in the right dose and when you have the capacity, resources, and support to absorb it. And stress is only valuable when it's followed by rest.

REST
The space during which growth occurs. Without rest, we stand no chance at absorbing and growing from challenges we face. If you want to develop your body, mind, or soul you've got to understand that rest - that simply "being" - is every bit as important as doing.

WELLNESS
Health is multidimensional. It is physical and mental and emotional and spiritual. It is also integral to lasting progress. It is true that you can burn "brite" for a while without a foundation of health, but keep existing in this way and eventually you'll burnout. Sacrificing health is myopic. The long-game requires it.

COMMUNITY
Research shows that the people with whom you surround yourself influence your performance and wellbeing by up to 30 percent. When things are going well community pushes you and celebrates you and keeps you grounded. When things aren't going well a tribe of support is everything.

COACHING
A coach is there to see what you don't see and to point you in the direction of growth. The best coaching relationships are rooted in shared humility and caring. A good coach doesn't just show or tell. They walk with with you on your path - sometimes leading and sometimes following.

CONSISTENCY
Show up, even when you don't want to. Doing so makes you better not only at your craft - via compounding gains - but also at the skill of exerting effort itself. The path of mastery isn't about being consistently great. It's about being great at being consistent.

PRESENCE
In many ways, presence is synonymous with peak performance. When you are fully there - completely immersed in your pursuit with concentrated attention - you are almost always at your best. Practicing presence leads to a better body of work and a richer, more textured life.

CARING
If you really care about what you do you'll put your all into it. If you really care about the people with whom you interact you'll put your all into them. Caring serves as the cutting edge of personal and social evolution. Caring is quality. Caring is love. You've got to care.

HUMILITY
Once you think you know you cease to keep knowing. Once you think you're good you cease to keep getting better. But there is always more to know. Always room to get better. Without humility there can be no growth.
 

CONFIDENCE
It's knowing, based on a body of evidence, what you can and can't do, and then moving forward accordingly. Confidence isn't something that you have or you don't. It's not something you're born with. Confidence is something you build.

DRIVE
Drive means relentless pursuit. Often born out of insecurity, at its best it's fuelled by love. Drive must be channelled. It can be productive and beautiful and enlarging when pointed toward growth and development. It can be destructive and diminishing when pointed at external validation. The best drive comes from the inside.

PATIENCE
Patience is letting things happen instead of making them happen. Not to be confused with passivity, patience is about persistence. Gentle persistence. It's about surrendering to a process and being present as it unfolds. Staying on the path of mastery in any endeavour requires patience.

TOUGHNESS
Toughness is about doing the hard thing because it's the right thing. Sometimes this means putting your head down and grinding it out. Other times this means backing off and asking for help. Toughness lives on the inside. The people who don't act tough are generally the toughest of all.

ACCEPTANCE
You've got to be honest - and okay - with yourself. Acceptance does not mean doing nothing but rather acknowledging and starting where you are. Not where you think you should be. Not where you want to be. Where you are. Because if you don't start where you are, you'll never really get anywhere.
 

VULNERABILITY
Vulnerability starts with being honest with yourself. Why are you doing what you're doing? What are you seeking? What could you be doing better? Are you open to receiving help? Answering these questions - being vulnerable - is uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable leads to growth.

Brad's offers 10 Commandments to Peak Performance as well as 57 pages of key quotes from the book

 

Part III - Gut Health for the Endurance Athlete

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This is our final instalment of the 3-part series related to Nutrition, Hydration and Digestive Health in consideration of endurance athletes seeking peak performance. In Part I we discussed the role of Nutrition & Fuelling. In Part II we looked at Hydration Guidelines from Precision Hydration. We invite you to review and apply the guiding principles for this season's training and racing. 

Today, we take a shallow dive into the topic of Digestive Health.  Why a shallow dive? Well, because the topic of digestive health is deep, complex and rooted in one's unique micro-biome, cellular makeup and compounding life stressors.  While one athlete might experience bloating and gas, another athlete may experience irritable bowel syndrome and yet another athlete may experience overwhelming fatigue all of which we can trace back to some form of  gut dysbiosis.

What we hope to do here is underscore the importance of gut health and encourage athletes suffering from less than optimum digestion to seek solutions either through Brite Coaching's team of experts or your own network of specialists. 

The expression "I had a gut feeling" holds a lot of truth and worth tuning in to if you have an inkling that your inner garden needs some attention. 

PART III - HEALTHY DIGESTION & THE ENDURANCE ATHLETE

No matter how many kilometres you log as an endurance athlete, if you are passionate about going long and performing when it counts, you will do nearly anything to keep your streak going strong. Endurance athletes are often the ones that suffer from unidentified symptoms of gut distress be it seen in the lack of quality sleep, mental or emotional instability, unsettled tummy (aka: bloating or gas) in training and life, difficulty losing weight despite training load, suppressed immune system, re-occurring injuries and poor performance outcomes. 

Take a minute to think about a time (might be right now) when you felt a little off kilter, a little less "well" or a little out of sorts and what that felt like on global level. Chances are you can identify with some of the symptoms offered here or here. Healing from inner distress can be life changing as it relates to daily comfort and confidence and reaching new levels of athletic, personal, and professional performances. 

As a coach to the endurance community, the key markers I look for in declining global health likely related to digestion are chronic reports of poor sleep quality, frequent colds, constant stops during training runs due to loose stools, fluctuations in training consistency, irritability and moodiness, obsessive thoughts and behaviours, inability to hit targets in workouts, anxiety related to racing or performance, changes in appetite and most importantly, a dismal outlook on seeking optimal wellness. 

Our bodies and minds are very shifty. When they are not being served or nourished, they make a ruckus and throw everything off.  Recent research suggests that gut health and the connection between gut and brain is one of the most important aspects of wellness to address before anything else.  Ultra endurance athletes want to pay attention to this since their pursuit depends on assimilation and absorption of nutrients, fuel sources and hydration. If the digestive system is damaged, the body will be unable to support stress loads and thrive. Nutrients will go unabsorbed, the immune system will remain suppressed, the body will carry chronic inflammation in the gut lining and cognitive functions will be impaired. Current scientific interest in the athlete micro-biome  is discovering that many of our current ailments, from arthritis, psoriasis, Hashimoto's, depression, diabetes, asthma & even heart disease have some origins in the gut.

If you think you suffer from less than optimal digestion, experienced in a plethora of ways, we encourage you to look deeper into how to heal your gut. We love this resource for more in-depth information about healthy gut protocols, hormonal balancing, immunity support and gut-friendly recipes. Ultimately you want a diagnosis and protocol that addresses your specific issues as a result of testing and working with a team of specialists. 

Taking care of your digestive health and gut functions may be the single most important step you can take to support your endurance practice and help you live your happiest and healthiest days.