Members Chat with Professional Triathlete Hillary Biscay

author : hillarybiscay
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Our members chat with Hillary Biscay on Ironman racing and training, fluid and nutrition setup, Ironman post race rest, massages, mental training, becoming faster on the bike and swimming.

[ Hillary Biscay ] Hi everyone!

[Birkierunner] Thanks for joining us!!

[ Hillary Biscay ] Thanks so much! I am happy to be here!

[rstocks3] How can you train for so many Ironman races in 1 year? Do you ever have any down time?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Well I don't specifically train FOR each race,  I am always training and pretty much always ready to do one. No time for resting much before or after.

[rstocks3] What a great feeling.

[ Hillary Biscay ] Well it isn't always pretty!

[tbatt] What is your recovery time after an Ironman?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Well, it really varies depending on the race. I can never assume that I'm all good after a week, or 2, or 3.  Sometimes I feel ready for another good one in 2 wks. But like after Ironman Wisconsin '06, we raced in the rain all day. I got sick afterwards and wasn't right for a month!  So I just take it as it comes.

[Marlborough Man] Hillary, do you train with a powermeter?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Funny you should ask: literally JUST rec'd an SRM in the mail. It will be my first adventure into the realm of power.

[Marlborough Man] Is that your decision or coach on having no powermeter to date?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Mine...he isn't opposed to them but hasn't made me get one. And actually I've been sort of opposed to it. I don't like HRM or any of that stuff. I like to keep it simple.

[Marlborough Man] What do you think it will change in your training?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Well I would just like to have a little self-check for when I'm doing TT's (Time Trials) alone.  Also too make sure I don't slack off without knowing it! I would also like to look @ how my cadence affects my power and whether I am riding at the most efficient cadence for me.

[CubeFarmGopher] For the week after a race, what is your normal recovery structure (e.g, massages, ice, light recovery runs, etc)?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Recovery structure: a little of everything every day!  That means running the morning after the race!  Short workouts of all 3 sports every day. If I recover well I can do some decent training by the next weekend.

[Birkierunner] I realize that developing race day IM nutrition planning is a lot of trial and error. But, could you please give some detail on what specific protocols you used to develop your specific IM nutrition strategy for race day?

[ Hillary Biscay ] To be honest I never did the "try Ironman nutrition in training " thing.  But I have been lucky to not have major nutritional issues.  Through trial and error, I now have a pretty set formula.  On the bike it is simple: 2100 cals of Infinit drink. Very easy.  Double Caffe Latte Powergel. Coke during the second half.


[burnside] Hillary you said Coke during second half is that all?


[ Hillary Biscay ] I add Coke to my Powergel caffeine extravaganza!

[CubeFarmGopher] What about ice and massage?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Yes, massage--ideally the day or 2 days after race.  Ice is a great idea but it usually doesn't happen.

[ScotinSeattle] Hi Hilary. I'm Lynne, nice to meet you. I was wondering...recently I've felt very discouraged and disappointed in some recent runs I've done and I'm almost at a point of throwing away my shoes. Have you ever felt miserable like this? And how did you cope?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Well yes, of course I have had disappointing training and racing days, but I am a glass-half-full kind of girl, sometimes to the point of being totally delusional.

[ScotinSeattle] I came last in a 10K and they were dismantling the finish line. Urgh. I wanted to BAWL my eyes out.

[ Hillary Biscay ] Ok....well here is the way I evaluate a day like that. This is what I think: SOMETHING positive happened today. I did something right. Sometimes, it is just FINISHING. As long as I finish, I did something well.  If I kept RUNNING to that finish, I did 2 things well.  So first you must focus on what you did right and GIVE YOURSELF SOME CREDIT.  Then, you think, okay, what can I improve?  What did I LEARN today about how I can improve?  Learning=another positive thing for the day!  If we didn't have much to work on after each race, this sport would be boring!  So I think, get excited about all the ways you can improve, and focus on those, not the obstacles/setbacks.

[marmadaddy] Hillary, you just did the JFK 50K a few weeks ago. How did that compare mentally to an Ironman?

[ Hillary Biscay ] For me it was very different mentally because this was a no-pressure fun run! But similar because I had to keep myself going, RUNNING, for 8 hrs 14 minutes.

[rstocks3]  50 miles of fun?!!

[ Hillary Biscay ] Yeah, the longer the more fun!  So I did use some of the same mental strategies, like, one step at a time, mini-milestones, etc.


[burnside] Do you use Coke on a training run?


[ Hillary Biscay ] I use Coke on training runs-only if I'm desperate.  In most of my training I am trying to get by on as few cals. as possible so I'm not taking in too much sugar during training.

[rstocks3] Have you done any long distance swimming?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Long dist swimming--not really. I was a 200-breaststroker.  Running long is just my favorite thing.

[TriAya] Hi Hilary, it's Yanti, we were actually WP instrux @SC together--also a program leader--so exciting to follow your career! What are your thoughts on base training, and how it differs say from 1/2 IM to IM distance?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Well I think, obviously, the mileage must go up--especially for your first IM builds...when you may not have years of miles in your for me when I was first starting out at Ironman, I had done a 7:03 bike split @ IMF for my first IM!  Then I qualified for Kona and someone I trusted said, "ok, you want to take your bike to the next level, ride 300 miles every week."  So that is what I did--not fast ---just did the miles for like 3 months before Kona. But literally I was that strict about doing 300 miles per week come hell or high water...and I took an hour off my bike time.

[parrj] How do you put in 300 miles a week, what are your rides like?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Now they are different, but then, when I was looking to go from 7:03 @ IMF to a respectable AG finish @ Kona, I did do them however I could.  On the last ride I'd be doing circles around the block to get the exact mileage.  Now I do more quality and focused training! But at that time just getting in the miles was good enough.  Now I need the 5:00 bike split so it is a bit more specific!

[betsy] Being from Florida and having no hills other than bridges, any tips on training for IMMOO?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Funny you should ask! Heather Gollnick is here with me in Tucson, training--to get in some hills since she is in FL and has the same problem!  So honestly Betsy, I would say if you have the luxury of taking a 2-week training camp somewhere, go for it.  Or even a long weekend on the course.  I think for IMMOO having a couple of go-arounds the course helps HEAPS.

[Marlborough Man] Hillary, how often do you train with the squad and what is it like?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Squads: it is like the world champs every day.

[Birkierunner] For a marathoner turned Ironman with a crappy 1:12 swim split (3x week training), what weekly frequency and weekly yardage would you recommend to someone with a 60 minute goal?

[ Hillary Biscay ] I am a swimmer and I CANNOT maintain my swim level on 3x per week. So I think to try to progress on 3x per wk is hard. I would aim for 4x/wk, and 5 is better. If you were my athlete, I would have you doing at least 4 swims with weekly total yardage of at least 14000.

[rstocks3] During the bike leg of an Ironman, do you back off the effort or change your cadence at the end of the ride?

[ Hillary Biscay ] No I don't back off--if I can dig in deeper. If I am blown I lower the cadence.

[betsy] How much of it is physically versus mental for you when you are racing?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Well, I think in a way I make it mentally easier for myself by practicing the places I will have to go in training. So, for example, when I make myself run a marathon on the treadmill in training, I am in a place similar to the one I am in during an Ironman on that run. But I think that's a LOT of why I have been able to do what I have done in races--not saying it is brilliant, but just to get the results I have. It is because I will just suck it up no matter how bad I am feeling. Just keep running regardless and at this distance it can get you pretty far.

[burnside] How do you deal with the peaks and valleys of a IM?  Do you have a trick to stay metal sharp when hitting a wall to push on?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Yes, what I think about when I am in a low is just to focus on what I need to be doing AT THAT MOMENT, technically because those lows are usually brought on in some way by thoughts about how much is ahead of me. So I have to push those out straightaway and instead focus on the task at hand. And also remember that if the person passing me isn't racing that same low, they will be in a few miles! So it isn't just me!

[coredump] What has been your favorite race that you've done over the years?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Favorite race is hard...hmm. I think I still have to say Kona.  But I LOVE IMMOO.

[tbatt] Do you have an idea what your 2008 race schedule might be already ??

[ Hillary Biscay ] Next month I will race in probably my favorite country, NZ. I cannot wait to go back. I am doing Challenge Wanaka Jan 19-Iron-distance race, sister race of Challenge Roth.  Because it is the championship and I must have had every word of the 2001 broadcast memorized. So it was a big deal when I first got to be there myself. So as for '08 schedule, it isn't' done yet. 

[coredump] Any chance you'll be doing Coeur d'Alene?

[ Hillary Biscay ] I would love to do CDA but I will likely be in Europe at that time and I am racing Challenge Roth mid-July.

[CubeFarmGopher] You mentioned memorizing the 2001 broadcast. What do you normally watch while on the trainer? Spinervals, Movies, TV?

[ Hillary Biscay ] OH YEAH! I love the inspirational videos while trainer-ing.  No Spinervals. Cyling-dork dvd's like "pro," "the hard road," and "overcoming."  And then old-school tri videos.

[marmadaddy] Ok, controversial question time: music while training for the run...yes or no?

[ Hillary Biscay ] You know I used to think music was cheating, but then I joined my coach and he encouraged it--sort of anything to help us go harder. So now I am all about it. I still try to do some sessions without. But I even bike with it in one ear-not all the time but like tonight Heather and I did a TT and I was loving my music.

[marmadaddy] What do you listen to?

[ Hillary Biscay ] My latest favorite entertainment is the tri podcast Ironmantalk.  So good. Great info, plus the guys doing it are Kiwis. Music: I love an Aussie chick called Missy Higgins, but I also love some Jay Z, Amy Winehouse, and of course SNOOP.

[Birkierunner] Can you describe your on-bike fluid setup i.e. aero-bottle, behind seat, etc?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Aerobottle.  My bike-handling skills are terrible, so if I didn't have this, I am pretty sure I would never drink enough.   Now with the P3C, I also need the hydrotail. So basically I carry 2 bottles plus the aerobottle.

[dodgersmom] What do you eat on the bike?

[ Hillary Biscay ] On the bike I am all-Infinit, all the time.

[Marlborough Man] Hillary, so what is life gonna be like after your pro racing career? Given any thought to that yet?

[ Hillary Biscay ] Wow! Deep questions. Before I went full-time I was in a PhD program for English literature.  Now I use words like "reckon." So I would first have to go and recover some of the brain cells I have lost on these various race courses. And once I did that, I would have probably 3 more years of study to finish this degree. With that, my plan was always to be an English professor at a university.  But I am so in love with triathlon, that right now I think that if I were fortunate enough to make a career out of this sport beyond my pro racing career, I would.

[Marlborough Man] Interesting you don't want to coach full time?

[ Hillary Biscay ] It might involve some coaching- I quite enjoy it. But I also have a project I've been involved with for over a year now, which is a women's multisport apparel company.  We are opening our first store in Brentwood next week.  I've been involved in the development of this line from day one. So I can promise you, it is cute. I have been wearing some of the developing pieces all year.

[tbatt]  Great chatting with you Hillary! Hope to chat again soon!!!

[marmadaddy] Hillary, thank you so much. This has been great.

[ Hillary Biscay ]
Happy training!


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date: January 16, 2008