Your Guide to Navigating the 2016 Team Application Process

It’s 2016 team application time! This is the time of year when teams and brands select the athletes they will partner with for 2016. With that in mind, I thought I would prepare a little guide explaining the types of teams that are out there and how to select the right team if you are thinking of going the team/ambassador route in 2016.

Just a few short years ago, it was relatively uncommon for an amateur to be “sponsored” by a brand and this privilege was usually reserved for the few and fast “elite amateurs.” Times have changed.

Before you leap in with an application, it’s worth your time to do a little research into what’s out there and what the membership entails. Does the team have a selective application process or can anyone who pays the fee be part of the team? Is there a fee to join? What’s expected from you – the athlete? What can you expect in return for your agreement to be a human billboard/marketing machine?

Some of the following info was a little hard to come by and, despite being really good at Google, I had to, in some cases, do a fair amount of digging to find the 2016 application. If you are having trouble, check the company’s Facebook and Twitter feeds which may have more current info than their website. If after doing your due diligence you are still unsure about the application process, reach out to the team and ask!

Performance-Oriented Teams

Many teams accept athletes of all abilities and don’t necessarily look for a roster of podium winners, but for a few teams, results matter, and questions about your recent results are right on the application. Examples of these teams include the Timex Multisport Team (not to be confused with the Timex Factory Team), Trisports.com Elite Team, Team Zoot, and, for the guys, Team Every Man Jack (who were everywhere this year).

Timex application open now. The oldest and original tri team. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t figure out if there was a fee or when the application closes.

Zoot this longtime tri apparel company currently sponsors a pro and an age group team. Historically this was a more front-of-the-pack team with a smaller roster, but it was expanded last year to include over 100 athletes around the country. Application for 2016 should open soon, but spots might be limited.

Trisports.com this is a national team of faster athletes who rep the Tuscon-based (and large on-line) store. Application is open until 11/20.

Team Every Man Jack I thought this was open until 10/30, but the app link from Facebook says they are no longer accepting responses. Annual fee of $125 (I think this includes the kit, but I couldn’t tell for sure). Again, this is a guys-only team.

Maverick Multisport this team has a pro division and a small, selective age group team, which is currently open to 12 athletes for 2016. They are looking for strong results and a social media presence. No fee if accepted to the AG team. Application open until 11/15.

Company Ambassadorships

This category of team is near and dear to me because I am currently on Team Coeur, the ambassador team for Coeur Sports. An apparel company ambassadorship might be the best route for you if you really like a certain brand, are active on social media, and want to be part of a national group.

How do you pick a brand to apply for? If a certain style, messaging or attitude speaks to you, that is probably your best bet. You should already own some of the brand’s gear so you can speak authentically about what you like about their stuff, Many of these types of teams have created partnerships with other companies who offer product discounts to team members. For example, Team Coeur is partnered with Argon 18 bikes, Smith Optics, ENVE wheels, ROKA wetsuits, and Osmo hydration.

Some of these applications have already closed (Coeur, Betty DesignsSOAS ), but some – Wattie Ink and Smashfest Queen – are still open or are coming soon. Check your favorite brand’s website and social media for more info on their team. Note that most of these applications ask about your social media activity because they count on members to support the brand and its partners on social media.

Friends With Benefits

I call this next category of team “Friends with Benefits” because these teams likely do not care how many Twitter followers you have or how you placed in your most recent Ironman, but are geared towards putting together a like-minded group of athletes who want the camaraderie of a team and access to brand discounts, but may not want the responsibilities of reping a certain brand.

Team TRS Racing application open now until 11/15 (or sooner?) There is a $250 fee to join, which includes a sweet Coeur kit for female members! Even if you aren’t interested, I think Ben’s Donald Trump spoof on “Making Triathlon Great Again” was pretty funny. I think this was more of a guy’s team in 2015, but the Coeur kit shows they are actively trying to recruit some women.

Timex Factory Team application always open. Their site says this can be a possible stepping stone to the 50-member, performance-oriented Timex Multisport Team. Looks like you get some free stuff, along with access to partner discounts. I thought there was a fee to join this 250+ person team, but I can’t tell from the website or application.

Rev3 racing is back for 2016! They used to have an active and passionate group of ambassadors and will probably put together another great team. There’s no fee for this team, and it includes a kit, free race entries and sponsor discounts. Their app closes tomorrow (10/24).

Big Sexy Racing $240 fee if selected to the team, which includes kit, sponsor goodies, and access to team-only site. This is another big, national team that looks like they have some fun.

You Are Nuts for a Product or Service

Sometimes a single, non-apparel brand has its own ambassador team. If you are always trying to get your friends to try a certain product because you love it so much, this type of ambassadorship might be for you. If you’re not sure if a company sponsors ambassadors, it never hurts to reach out and ask. Examples of these types of teams include TriBike Transport (closed for 2016), Cobb Mobb (Cobb cycling’s tri team), and Hammer Nutrition.

I’ve been a Nuun ambassador since 2012 and they have a well-organized, sizable, multi-discipline ambassador team. There’s no fee to be part of their program and it entitles you to some product discounts and occasional Nuun swag. They have a very active member Facebook group with people from all over the county in all different sports. This is also my sole opportunity to be a teammate of Kara Goucher.

Charitable Teams

A lot of athletes combine their love of sport with fundraising for a charity and joining a charitable team is a great way to accomplish that goal. Eleonore Rocks is a fundraising team created around the mission of donating rocking chairs to hospitals and providing support to families with sick or terminally ill children. Their application for team members is open until 12/25.

The largest and best known of the endurance sports charitable teams is Team in Training, a fundraiser for the leukemia and lymphoma society. Team in Training usually focuses its fundraising around certain events and is a welcoming group for athletes who are newer to endurance sports.

Your Local Tri Shop

Your local tri shop may sponsor a roster of athletes or have a paid ambassador team (or both). Examples of Denver-area shops with teams include TriBella Women’s Multisport and KompetitiveEdge. The advantages of being affiliated with a shop are that it can be a one-stop-shop for all of your tri needs, including – if you’re lucky – bike services! A downside might be that the shop doesn’t carry your preferred brands.

These types of teams may require volunteer hours to support races the shop sponsors, and if that is the case, make sure the requirements are all stated upfront, and you enter the arrangement with your eyes wide open.

Like a company ambassadorship, you shouldn’t be a stranger to the shop when you apply for the team, and the shop will likely expect you to do most of your tri shopping with them, as well as send potential customers their way.

If you weren’t selected to the team of your dreams this time around, start working now to create a relationship with a brand or team for next year. Buy their gear, get to know their members, and start participating in the community, because after all, creating a sense of community is the reason most of us joined these teams to begin with.

Up next, my Dos and Don’ts of Being a Brand Ambassador

Some introspection and a look ahead to 2015

After stringing together five triathlon racing seasons without much break in between, I decided to take a BIG break after Kona. The kind of break I had been dreaming about for a while. I took such a long break (I am actually still taking it), that I wasn’t sure I would ever do another workout again. It felt so good to do what I wanted, when I wanted and let go of the things that had become a mental drain – like riding the trainer or swimming. Instead, I’ve been running (or walking) around the neighborhood with the dog sans watch or heart rate monitor. That’s about it. Part of me feels like I have gotten accustomed to being “lazy,” but part of me also realizes that this break was necessary if I want to push myself hard again next season.

I sometimes joke that I don’t know why I do triathlon because I don’t really like to swim or bike. The truth is, while I don’t like some aspects of the individual sports, I love racing Ironman and trying to put together all of the pieces of the puzzle of swim/bike/run on race day. But once you have raced 140.6 once, twice, nine times, you have to ask yourself, “what keeps me coming back to this?” Something keeps me signing up for race after race after race, but what is it? Why do I feel like I have to keep doing it?

I thought about that question a lot this fall. It didn’t take an advanced degree in psychology for me to figure out part of the reason I kept training for Ironman after Ironman. Ironman training takes quite a bit of mental and physical energy. So much energy that I didn’t have time to think about many other things in my life. And that was the point. When I was exhausted from training or planning the next season, I didn’t have time to focus on the things I preferred not to focus on. These were smallish things (“my storeroom and closet are a mess”) and big things (“I’m worried about my kids”). I knew after my big race was over that I would have time to think about the other, non-triathlon things in my life, and I wasn’t looking forward to that. But this time around, it felt like it was time to face some of these things. It was, literally and figuratively, time to get my house in order. While I was out training for nine Ironmans, a few things fell by the wayside and slipped through the cracks. It was time to address them, or at least let them into my head and try to process some of those thoughts.

In that way, this off-season has been hard not just from the standpoint of the “post race blues,” but the letting of things back into my head that I have shoved deep down for several years. It was time to face issues about whether I should be doing more with my career (yes), and think long and hard about whether I am doing the best job I can parenting my kids (probably not). I tried to expand my shrunken circle a bit and make time to see friends and do some non-training related activities with Mark (still working on that one as Mark doesn’t believe in an off-season). I cleaned out the closet, the storeroom, the kids’ rooms, and most of the drawers and cabinets in the house. I got rid of all of the junk.

I thought about whether there are more dreams to achieve in triathlon and whether I should l find something new to do with my time. I decided the answers to those questions were “yes” and “maybe.”

So, I head into 2015 with a slightly different perspective on things. Without the Kona qualifying goal, I can focus on what I really want from the sport and what fits into my life and our family. The old pressure has been lifted (I think), but new goals have been set, both inside and outside of sport.

Another development for 2015 that I’m excited to announce is that I will be racing on Team Coeur as an ambassador for Coeur Sports! I couldn’t be more excited to join this talented and inspiring group of women. When I thought about what I was missing in my tri life, I decided it was the camaraderie and support of other active women. In my day-to-day life, I don’t have too many friends who are involved in triathlon, although more are giving it a go, which is fun to see. I also train by myself about 90% of the time. Those factors make life kind of lonely sometimes, and I decided that this year, I wanted to be part of a community. I had a pretty good idea I would find this family as a member of Team Coeur, a company that seems to be much more interested in growing the sport and encouraging women’s participation in sport than just making stylish clothes. When I read Coeur’s blog, I found myself agreeing with a lot of what they had to say about the hot issues in the tri world right now, and I loved the way the team members all supported each other’s racing. I’m also impressed by the quality of the clothes, which are all designed and made in the USA.

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I am also back for another season as a Nuun Ambassador, which is lucky because I drink so.much.Nuun.

Many thanks to Kompetitive Edge for seeing me through three seasons and helping me develop from a newbie to a more seasoned racer. I’ll always be grateful for the support I received from Jared, Ryan, Brandon, Drew and Rich. Always support your local tri shop, folks!

I hope everyone who is taking an off-season enjoys it as much as I have and arrives in 2015 fully recharged and ready to rock. That is what I am hoping for myself. Have a great holiday season!

Why I don’t monkey around with food

Ah, January. The time of year when my Twitter feed and blog roll are filled with stories of cleanses, fasts and all types of eating experiments. There’s Paleo, Whole30, “metabolic efficiency”, low carb, no carb, no sugar, vegan, and, last but certainly not least, gluten-free.

I’ve gotten caught up in all of this before. I’ve Vitamixed, juiced, cut carbs, sugar, alcohol and eaten lots of foods only obtainable for high prices at Whole Foods. I told myself I was doing it to feel healthy. Have more energy. Train better. Sleep better. But the truth is, I never felt right about making “food rules” for myself and here’s the reason:

I used to be anorexic.

It feels like a long time ago now, but it was something I lived with daily from the ages of 19 to 24 or so. It was sort of a living hell. Honestly, I wouldn’t wish an eating disorder on my worst enemy because it truly sucks. Those horrors have been documented many times in different places, and I think people have a good understanding of what an eating disorder entails so I won’t get into that here, except to tell you that it is extremely isolating and lonely.

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Looking overly svelte in Greece, age 24

When I think back to that period in my life, I think about the loneliness and how I wish I could have back all of the time I spent worried and anxious about food and my weight and compulsively exercising because I think it kept me from enjoying what is supposed to be an exciting time in life – graduating from college, transitioning to adulthood, getting married and building a life with my husband. We had a lot of good times, but many things were marred by my inability to enjoy normal things and activities. There were a lot of sad times that I don’t think too much about anymore because life is so different now.

There were really two things that changed for me and finally helped me overcome the eating disorder. The first was graduating from law school and accepting a position with one of the best firms in the city (the City of Detroit, not Denver). This firm was a prestigious, old-school firm with an interest in building collegiality between the newer and more senior attorneys. As part of that, the firm had a unique program that I have not encountered anywhere since. If an attorney went out to lunch with a first-year associate, the firm picked up the tab. At any restaurant we chose. There weren’t really any rules or limits.

When I learned about this lunch program through the hiring process, I was immediately nervous about it. I didn’t really eat a normal lunch at that point and the thought of going out to eat multiple times per week was seriously scary for me. But I really wanted to fit in at the new firm and be “normal.” I got myself back into therapy with some great doctors, therapists and a nutritionist just to prepare myself for this new life before the eating disorder derailed the career I had worked so hard for.

As it turned out, a lot of days people at the firm were too busy to go out to eat much, but we still ate out a fair amount on the firm’s nickel, and I went along and began to behave more like a normal person without food issues.

The second thing that happened around the same time is that I decided to start running marathons. I’m sure I started distance running because I learned it was a great way to burn a lot of calories. I can remember going for longer and longer runs and then feeling like it was finally o.k. to eat and what a relief that was. Even though it probably started as a behavior with less-than-healthy motives, at some point things changed and I began to want to fuel my body to run and race well. I wanted to work with my body, not hurt it. Food became fuel and that made it o.k. to eat. All of these factors helped me become largely free of anorexia by my mid-20s.

Today, I have a mostly normal relationship with food. Sure, I still begin and end most days by stepping on the scale and checking my weight and meals occassionally get missed. Aside from the occasional lapses, it is mostly a healthy life.

Triathlon is now a big part of my life and it is a sport that is consumed by talk of nutrition. There is endless discussion in the triathlon media about fueling, losing weight, race weight, and what we should eat to perform our best. A lot of the information is conflicting. Much of it is confusing. It feels like a person needs a chemistry degree to figure out how to fuel for Ironman.

Sometimes I get caught up in obsessing about food and I start to make some food rules for myself and I follow those for a while. Then, at some point, it all starts to feel too familiar, in a bad way, to what I went through with my eating disorder, so I go back to eating what I want, which can mostly be summarized as anything I want to eat, mostly healthy, in moderation. I don’t stuff myself with tons of unhealthy foods, mostly because I just don’t like them. I eat all foods and I really don’t think I am suffering much athletically because of that.

There is one last thing. I have an 8-year old daughter. I want more than anything for her to grow up having a healthy relationship with her body and food. I don’t want her to be like me (the old me). I’ve decided that the most important thing I can do to try to ensure she will grow up with healthy views about herself and food is to model normal, healthy eating habits. So I don’t skip meals in front of my kids. Ever. Even if I have eaten lunch at 4:00, I still sit down when them at 6:00 and eat something. I never talk about “bad” foods or make food rules that might send the wrong message (“mommy doesn’t eat bread”). I never talk about my body or weight in a negative way around my kids. I never tell them that if they eat too much of something, they might become fat. As much as the former anorexic in me would like to delve into a green juice fast, I wouldn’t do it because I worry it sends the wrong message to my kids, that eating is “bad.” I care too much about passing along a legacy of acceptance and health to act in ways that undermine the message.

If you are a person with food issues, it is never too late to get help. The time and energy spent worrying about what you are eating and how much you weigh can surely be spent in better ways. Trust me, I know. If you don’t have food issues but enjoy tinkering with your diet to try to lose weight, have more energy, race better, I wish you luck and success. But if you have young people in your life, know that they learn by watching what you do and you may be teaching them different lessons than you planned.

I wish all of us a healthy relationship with food and our bodies this year and beyond.

Why We Love Andy Potts

I don’t know many pros and don’t know much about their individual reputations, but from what I have read, it seems like people generally think Andy Potts is a good guy and they like seeing him succeed in triathlon.  We like Andy Potts, too, and here’s why:

First of all, Andy went to the University of Michigan, which is where Mark and I also went to school. We always support UM athletes (go Tom Brady!), so we were automatic fans of Andy’s for that reason alone. Andy was a swimmer at UM and a darn good one. At most triathlons in which he competes, Andy can be counted on to exit the water in the lead.

We also like Andy because he makes Colorado his home. Many triathletes call Colorado home, and we feel a connection to these athletes because we ride the same roads and train in the same conditions. Andy lives in Colorado Springs rather than Boulder, but we don’t hold that against him.

We like Andy because we have seen him win two Ironman races. Yes, ironically, our family had a chance to cheer him on in both IMCdA and IM Cozumel in 2010. We also saw him finish as the top American in Kona this year.

Kendall took this picture of Andy on the bike at Kona, leading the race:

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Finally, we like Andy because he took the time recently to send each of my kids a signed poster with some encouraging words.

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I’ll explain.  A few days after the race, we were having dinner in Waikoloa and Mark spotted Andy’s parents having dinner nearby. Mark and Andy’s dad are both emergency physicians in Colorado, so they had met before through work. After dinner, we went over to say hello. The kids were impressed to meet Andy Potts’ parents. They had just cheered for him several days before and knew that he had been first out of the water. We told them to tell Andy congratulations from our family. Andy’s dad later took the time to track down the kids’ names and our address to have Andy send the posters. We were very touched that he took the time to do that, and it meant a lot to the kids.

Kendall immediately wanted to write Andy back. She got to work last night writing him a thank you note.  Here is what she wrote:

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Here’s the back:

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So, Andy, whenever you are racing, know that the Schaffner-Kozlowski family is always in your corner. Thanks for taking the time to inspire the kids and their late-in-life-swimmer mom and dad.

Update: We got to meet Andy! He gave a talk at Kompetitive Edge in May a week after winning St. Croix 70.3.  In his talk, Andy was gracious and funny and he shared so much great information. He started by saying that the didn’t have any “secrets” and he was willing to share everything about his training and racing. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, don’t miss it.

No off-season for the weary

Lately, I have been getting a lot of “what are you training for?” when people see me swimbikerunning.

The answer is – next season. I am training to become a better athlete next season. And to achieve my goals, I have decided that there will be no “off season” or extended period of rest.

When pros or top age groupers describe the “secret” to their success in triathlon, a common theme recurs. Consistency. They are not taking a few months off after an event and then re-building their base and starting from scratch. Nope. They’re at it 12 months a year, usually day in and day out.

We used to do this differently. I watched my husband race one Ironman per year, usually in the summer, followed by a winter of taking it easy. Each spring, he would struggle to lose the winter weight and re-develop his base fitness. Then, a couple of years ago, he decided to start training year round, and not coincidentally in my mind, a lot of PRs have been set in the meantime.

Some people claim it is hard for them to keep the focus when their goal event is months away. I don’t feel that way. I always have the clock and my Garmin to tell me how things are going. The numbers never lie, and they are there every day to let me know how I am doing, if I am coming closer to those goals for 2012.

So, for me at least, there will be no true “off season” this year. Here are my off season S/B/R goals:

• get my 100 time into the 1:30s
• find 10 more watts on the bike at MAF HR
• break 1:30 for the half marathon in California in Feb

See you on the roads or at the pool!

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Triathlon is Not Like an Episode of MTV’s “Made”

I’m not sure if the MTV show Made is still on the air anymore, but here is the premise: a high-schooler wants to accomplish something, like making the cheerleading squad, or losing weight for graduation. MTV swoops in to make this kid’s dream come true by giving them a “professional” to guide them through the steps to achieving the dream. They work at it for a few months. The kid usually gets frustrated by the challenge a few times, threatens to give up, the professional encourages them, and they get back to it. By the end of the 30 minutes, the kid has generally accomplished the goal, and everyone learns the value of hard work and is happy and fulfilled.

I assumed triathlon would be like this. I assumed that if I dedicated myself to the sport – three sports – I would get good fairly quickly. Sure, I could only swim breast stroke and didn’t really ride my bike, but I assumed I was fit enough to get good if I just put the time in. It’s been an interesting lesson in patience because, as it turns out, it can actually take quite a long while to become a good triathlete. It turns out that it can take years.

I was naive about this. I sincerely believed that I could put in the training for a couple of seasons – heck, even year-round – and I would be mixing it up with the best of them. What I didn’t realize is that running and cycling are actually two very different sports that require two different skill sets. It is easier to pick up cycling if you have been a runner and have a good aerobic engine, but that is just a piece of the puzzle. The past two years have taught me that there is much more to being a good cyclist than being fit. Things like power-to-weight ratio, strength, bike handling, and flexibility all come into play. And, as it turns out, some of these things can take years to develop and improve. Just as I did not transform myself from a 3:37 marathoner to a 3:05 marathoner in one season, I realize now that I cannot logically expect to become a great cyclist in a matter of months. While I have made huge progress in my biking, I know that I am still not in the same league as the top age groupers.

Patience is not something I am good at. I am an instant-gratification kind of girl. I’m not necessarily proud of this character trait, but it’s the truth. So, in addition to giving me new skills and fitness that I have never known before, triathlon is also teaching me patience.

Unlike a tidy, 30-minute episode of Made, my triathlon skills will have to be honed over the course of years. There’s no instant gratification.

I have a feeling the ultimate rewards will feel much more satisfying.