Christine Kachinsky

Christine Kachinsky – KPMG Tax Partner, All World/American Triathlete, and Mom

With the primary goal of staying active, Chris began competing in triathlon in 2000 after a shoulder injury curtailed her beach volleyball career.  Having no background in swimming, biking or distance running (including the fact that before the year 2000 she was not capable of swimming even 50 yards), it took a several years of trial and error, but eventually Chris became a regular on the USA Triathlon’s All American list and just this past September competed as a member of Team USA at a World Championship event in Chicago.  She’s participated in IRONMAN World Championship events over the last five years, competing in Kona in 2011-2014 and in Austria (Half-Ironman) in 2015.  She trains with her husband John, also a world class triathlete, and is self-coached in the sport of triathlon, largely because she needs to maintain flexibility in her training schedule to maintain the balance needed in her full time role as a leader of several practices within KPMG, a wife, and a mom to her 7 year old son.

 

Chris is a member of MAPSO, a 200 person triathlon club based in Maplewood-South Orange, NJ, of which her husband, John Bye, also an avid triathlete, co-founded in 2011.   MAPSO’s Relentless Forward Motion Initiative works with Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) through partnerships with businesses and other triathlon clubs in the Northeast region to raise funds to get parathletes back to the start line.  Also as a club representative and top female triathlete in the state of NJ, Chris has shared her triathlon story to inspire members of Lifetime Fitness and local women’s sports teams, and on a local cable network “Dustin’s Kaleidoscope”.  (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv_fkhSnXqQ.) 

Performance Highlights:

USA Triathlon - Ranked # 2 in her age group nationally in 2013, 15th in 2014 and 10th in 2015
USA Triathlon - Ranked # 1 or # 2 in her age group in MidAtlantic 2013 - 2015
USA Triathlon - Member of Team USA for International Distance World Championships in 2015 (4th place finish)
Ironman All World Athlete - Top 5 ranking globally in Half Ironman in 2013-2015
Ironman All World Athlete - 2014 Amateur Female Winner at IRONMAN 70.3 Princeton (6th overall woman including pros)
IRONMAN World Championship participant 2011 – 2014 and Top 5 Podium Age Group Finish in 2013
Frequent IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship qualifier and participant. Best performance - 4th Place Podium Finish in 70.3 World Championships in 2013.
Top 3 Age Group Podium Finish in Ironman Wisconsin, Ironman Lake Placid (1st place), Ironman Mt. Tremblant and Ironman Canada (2010 - 2015)

Upcoming Events

August 2017

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Athlete Slideshow

Core is Key

 

Core is Key

I am writing this article following a two week training block in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado intending to share some learnings about both the importance of core activation and engagement in cycling. Over 14 days, my husband John Bye and I swam, biked and ran close to 400 miles, training generally at a mile or two above sea level, and gaining over 25,000 feet in elevation in our various running and biking workouts. These workouts were hard – admittedly some much harder than others and not just because of the climbing involved. A lot had to do with how “well prepared” we were for each workout. You might be thinking “what do you mean prepared, it’s a workout, so don’t you just jump out of bed and go?” I certainly used to – that was possible until a few years ago when I both began to demand more performance out of my body and made my way into the masters category of racing. If you’ve found yourself struggling to execute on some of your training sessions at times with no logical explanation, or if you simply want to enjoy our sport for the long haul, keep reading.

Over the last couple of triathlon racing seasons, I recall shaking my head in frustration after failing various “functional movement screening” tests during a physical therapy session, especially during those training blocks where my lower back, hamstrings and IT bands seemed to be in a constant state of discomfort. I could never accept the diagnosis that “your core is weak”, but what I have finally learned is that regardless of how strong your core is, if you cannot engage it, you are simply out of luck when you need to dig deep to power your bike or your body forward in challenging situations and/or at top speed.

If you are in the early stages of your triathlon career, this may not resonate just yet – but trust me, the sooner you raise your awareness to this issue the more effective your workouts will be. The inability to engage the correct muscle groups wasn’t a problem for me (or some of my other MAPSO Kona buddies) several years ago, because as a high performing athlete, our bodies got extremely good at compensating, so if one muscle wasn’t firing the way it was supposed to, something else took over and while we might be uncomfortable, we could still perform fairly well. Now though, after racing for well over a decade, when things don’t work, sometimes the body just shuts down.

To illustrate how this played out during my training block in Colorado, let me tell you about a couple of the rides we did and what happened on these rides. The first ride of our training camp the day after we arrived in the Denver area took us up to the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden Colorado – one of Colorado’s beautiful and iconic climbs, a 46 mile round trip from John’s sister’s house, with 3,600 feet of elevation gain. The snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the distance, the foothills and Tabletop Mountain in our sights during ride were breathtaking. After making our way through the historic downtown Golden and upon making our right hand turn to start our ascent up the mountain, I spent much of the main climb a few meters back off the wheel of one of the local pro women. She was not very chatty, especially when John passed her and said hello, so we assumed she was taking care of business and was not out simply to enjoy herself. I was pleased to stay with her to the top, feeling great for the majority of the climb and optimistic that my body could handle the high altitude and tough training I was about to put it through for the next two weeks.

Well, two days later, things changed a bit. For our second ride of the trip, we rode from Idaho Springs (7.5K feet of elevation) to the top of Mount Evans (14K feet of elevation) over a mere 28 miles. This ride is one of the most challenging road rides in all of Colorado, based on not just the gradient but the logistics. Granted, it’s Mt. Evans, not Mt. Everest, but similarly, it’s one of those mountains that you don’t want to be stuck on above treeline after about noon when the storms roll in. We’ve been in situations on Mt. Evans before where we’ve gotten rained, snowed, and hailed on in the same ride where the sun was shining just moments prior. We now know better than to start too late in the day, and generally plan to be sagged at the top due to dangerous traffic, road and weather conditions.

We drove 45 minutes to Idaho Springs, jumped out of the car, onto our bikes and began to ascend. During the first seven miles out of Idaho Springs and up the mountain before the increased gradient and switchbacks started, I found the long, slow grind to be excruciating. My legs felt like bricks as I watched John Bye ride away early on in the climb, with no ability whatsoever to stick to his wheel, then after about 10 miles and now into the switchbacks, I watched Jenn Docherty do the same. My lower back was screaming and every time I tried to increase my wattage and/or cadence my adductors wanted to seize up. I was using all quads and little core. My power output was well below what I should have been capable of, yet I couldn’t do anything to change the numbers. Despite several breaks to rest, each time thinking that when I restarted things would feel better, I could not get the right muscles to fire. I could barely turn my legs over and if I went any slower I’d be going backwards. How is this possible? I just did a strong ride two days prior and now it seemed as though I’d never ridden a bike before. This continued on for several miles, and after the final rest stop before the most difficult half of the climb, I acknowledged to John and Jenn that “my legs are just not working” and they would need to go ahead without me while I slowly made my way up the mountain at a significantly reduced pace.

A couple hours into the ride at one particularly exposed switchback above treeline with the wind threatening to blow me off the mountain and a big storm cloud above my head, I called my sister-in-law, whose husband was sagging us. I told her to let Bob know to look out for me as he drove up, and plan to pick me up, as I would not be able to make the full ascent on this particular day. This mountain was like a tough race – unforgiving – and being at less than 100% trying to ride Mt. Evans is like showing up for the Ironman World Championship without bothering to train. Riding up the steep switchbacks into gusts of wind so strong they stopped your progress when you hit them head on, and they moved you as much as 3 feet across the road when gusting from the side, above 12K feet, on a narrow, winding road with no shoulder and sheer drops on each side leaves little room for error, let alone the delirious weaving back and forth across the road that I found myself doing.

The bad news for me coming from the call I made was that Bob had gotten delayed by an errand earlier in the day, so my choices were to continue another 10 miles or so up the mountain or turn around and descend (dangerously) as the wind continued to gust. I decided to continue, since it would be even more risky (and cold) to try to descend, and at worst, even if I was moving slowly, eventually Bob and the Suburban would come along and I could throw my bike in the rear and my broken body into the back seat to take a nap. Further, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy having lunch and a slice of homemade pie at Echo Lake Lodge because I’d be there all by myself, waiting for the others to finish the ride, and the thought of sitting there eating pie and feeling sorry for myself was more horrible than trying to fight through the pain.

So, I continued on, switchback after switchback, getting a push by the wind from behind at some, then facing a wall of wind on others, and despite my snails pace above treeline, I made it to the top before Bob did with the Suburban. It was sheer and utter agony most of the time – I could not remember a ride where I ever felt so bad, worse even than I felt after throwing up all over myself on the Queen K Highway at mile 90 of the Ironman World Championships one year. One of the mountain sheep that was munching on the side of the road looked at me, laughed and said, “you call that climbing???”

By the time I made it to the top of the mountain, passing one guy who had walked with his bike the last three miles, I found myself 35 minutes slower than the last time I’d done the same ride. Poor John and Jenn just about froze to death at the top waiting for me, and it was a good thing Bob and the Suburban showed up quickly because by the time we loaded the truck with all the bikes and people, they were in as bad as shape I was simply from standing around in the cold wind waiting for me and Bob to appear.

Reflecting back on the Lookout Mountain ride (albeit that ride was much easier than Mt. Evans), the main difference was in both my preparation that day, as well as the fact that I was likely a bit fatigued from the prior climb when I attempted the Mt. Evans ride. What I’d like to share is some insight with respect to core activation that might help you avoid a bad race or training day due to a lack of responsiveness, or worse, a shutting down of the key muscles that need to fire in order to perform.

Working with All-Pro Health, some of us have developed a series of exercises to do prior to training or racing in order to get the proper muscles to engage and to activate our core before attempting a workout. A contributing factor to the lack of performance on the Mt. Evans ride I just described was one of core activation and a failure to fire my glutes all day. I had nothing more to give on that ride and there was nothing I could do to change that – but by focusing on recovery, foam rolling, stretching and corrective/preparatory exercises for subsequent workouts got things back on track for the remaining 10 days of training.

 

 

 

What were keys to success?

 

  1. Massage – deep tissue massage at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Spa to aid in (both physical and mental!) recovery from my poor performance on Mt. Evans

  2. Yoga – 3 sessions of Vinyasa/Flow Yoga throughout the trip at our favorite Yoga studio in Winter Park – Mountain Moon Yoga - aided in stretching tight hips, hamstrings, glutes, calves and adductors

  3. Corrective/preparatory exercises – here is my routine that was developed with the assistance of All-Pro Health that I skipped on the Mt. Evans day but followed routinely after that:

    1. Foam rolling – focusing especially on upper quads, IT bands, adductors

      1. http://all-prohealth.com/node/92

    2. Lacrosse ball – focusing on hips, glutes, calves and adductors

    3. My top 10 corrective/preparatory exercises to fire the appropriate muscles, including:

      1. Cat/Cow

      2. Child’s pose, with hip circles

      3. Opposite arm/leg extensions on all fours

      4. Bridges

      5. Planks, lowering to “cobra” then “up dog”

      6. Toe touch/”yogi toe lock” to awaken hamstrings

      7. Forward lunges/lizard pose/Warrior 1

      8. Side lunges

      9. Forward lunge with torso twist (adding a resistance band)

      10. Pigeon to open up hips (although I will admit I hate doing this…)

Time permitting many of these can be tied together via a short practice of vinyasa flow yoga with sun salutations, warrior 1,2,3 and standing splits. Also, check out the exercise video library at:

http://all-prohealth.com/video-library

Activating the muscle groups critical to executing either a race or training session, especially those of us who are racing in the masters categories - is key. My training got back on track with a focus on these 10 exercises/stretches to activate my core muscles – and despite the fact that I could not get to All-Pro Health for the soft tissue work I have come to rely upon to keep myself moving well, I was able to self-correct some of the compensation related problems that were detracting from my performance. Diligently following a routine involving adequate foam rolling, stretching and muscle activation exercises before each training session makes a big difference. Try it—and see how you do! Hope this is useful – good luck in your training!

 

 

 

Benefits of Early Season Racing

Coming off an age group win at Ironman 70.3 Florida last Sunday, I am excited for the opportunity to write my first article for All-Pro Health!  I've been working with Todd and Tejal for a few months now, rehabilitating my body from several years of intense racing and training, largely focused on Ironman and 1/2 Ironman distances.  The integrated treatment plan I have benefitted from over the last few months includes a significant amount of soft tissue work, but also an extensive array of exercises intended to strengthen and correct for the compensation my body has gotten to be so good at, especially over the last couple of years.  Why is this important?  As I have "aged up" (notice I do NOT refer to this as "getting older!"), I have observed that my body does not recover as quickly and when the correct muscles do not fire, racing/training through that has at times been quite painful.  So perhaps the first takeaway to consider is:

Take a comprehensive approach to rehabbing your injuries.  Ensure you are not only focusing on the problem areas, but get to the root cause of the problem and develop a long term strategy to correct it.  This will require patience, something I do not have an abundance of, but I will do my best and will keep you posted!

Now onto the main topic for discussion....

After a fairly lengthy off season and my rather "relaxed" approach to early season training, why jump into a 1/2 IM in April to kick things off in 2016?  I've found this to be not only a great way to kick off spring break, my husband John Bye's birthday, and a family vacation, but also:

An early season race is a great way to test baseline fitness, challenge your ability to focus mentally, and identify areas of strength/weakness in order to tweak (or build) your training plan for the remainder of the year.  

Baseline fitness - what is this and how do you access this?  

For those who have been racing/training for several years, you will agree that when starting a new season it is generally not normal to just "pick up where you left off" and perform as you would in peak season, but certainly you can count on a level of base fitness that has built up over the years.   As you ease into your training program, make sure you've got some workouts scheduled that can help you find this pace, even if only for short intervals.  This actually works - I did not have the benefit of many long rides/runs before IM FL 70.3, but I did have a couple key workouts that helped me settle into my race pace.  

For example, on the bike - one of my interval sets on the Computrainer within two weeks prior included (after an adequate warm up and some drills) a 4x5 minute interval set holding my goal 1/2 IM watts, followed by 4x2 minute interval set "faster than 1/2 IM race pace".  The purpose of this was to remind my body what it felt like to hit certain power numbers, especially since I wasn't as dialed in to my training as I would have liked leading up to this point, and it actually worked, in fact, so much so that I looked down at my bike computer several times wondering out loud, “how could I possibly be riding this fast?”  (For those who do not train with power, this same idea could be effectively duplicated targeting heart rate or level of perceived exertion.) I biked the rolling course at 21.7 mph in 2:34, and while it was certainly challenging (especially with the wind, I don't like wind!) it was a manageable pace made possible by triggering some muscle memory in just a couple of specific workouts.

Mental focus - how important is this?

As important as it is to swim, bike, run and execute transitions well to win or even to complete a race, bringing your "A game" mentally is probably even more critical.   Yet this is where we tend to spend the least amount of time preparing and where an early season "practice race" can help.  Think about it, when you enter a race early in the season, generally you will not be as prepared physically as you would like to be, especially if you are like me and take your time "easing in" to the season!  So that means it's going to hurt when you are out on course.  (And if you are still rehabbing an injury, it will hurt even more!)  This is where you get some great practice in the discipline of mental focus that will benefit your entire season.  

By the time I got to the run last Sunday at IM FL 70.3, the temperature was rising in proportion to the rise in my heart rate. Dave Ragsdale announced the first few women heading out of transition onto the run course, then I was the fourth women out, so I was in a good place heading into the run. But I also knew this run would be tough - it was a three loop course around Lake Eva, with a few big hills on each lap - and at the start of the first loop, it was all I could do to get my legs to turn over, especially on the steep climbs.  In fact, I don’t think I could call it running up my first climb, it was more like doing some tip-toe speedwalk thing…Rather than let this bother me, instead I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and would reassess in a couple miles after my legs had a chance to adjust to running off the bike.

My left calf, which has been causing me problems for awhile, tightened up and my quads were on the verge of seizing up.  I “ran tall”, engaged my core, and shortened my stride up the hills, took some salt at the next aid station, then noticed I was starting to find my stride again. But it didn’t get any easier, as I needed to keep pushing my pace, and I became focused on "one loop at a time."

Breaking the course into segments - 3 x 4+ mile loops - instead of thinking about needing to run 13.1 miles was key. Then within the segments, focusing on the terrain (especially the downhills where I could look forward to some recovery), the location of aid stations, and being very conscious of where I was vs. my competitors when the course looped around the various out and backs were the things I was thinking about (and good distractions from focusing on the pain in my legs!)

The other element needed to retain mental focus, especially as fatigue sets in, is confidence. Having run E Murray Todd as an early season half marathon a month or so ago (feeling similarly unprepared at that race too!), gave me the confidence to know I could execute a decent half marathon. While I’d done few long runs since, I knew I could draw on those “miles in the bank” as Bill Haskins would say. In terms of pacing strategy, I clearly did not have it in me to run a peak season ½ IM run. I focused on a couple of key track workouts that I had done over the past couple of weeks that were quite similar to the Computrainer workout I described above, with the focus on simply “dialing in” a goal pace that, on the track, felt easy, but on the last loop of IM FL 70.3, felt like it was the best I could do. By the last loop, I needed to resist the urge to walk the aid stations with everything I had.  I wanted to pull over and stretch, but knew I would likely not be able to get moving again if I did.  So I dug deep, focused on my form and needed to rely on my mind - after doing a quick assessment to ensure I wasn't doing any damage to my recovering injuries - then ignored those inner voices telling me to slow down or stop and instead thought of the competitors that were likely gaining time.  FOCUS, do what you have trained yourself to do, perhaps the season before, but no matter.  And then, finally, THE FINISH LINE, and the age group win, following a 1:38 ½ Marathon run (7:31 pace).  

After studying my race data and allowing my body to recover, I will consult with Todd and Tejal and get another functional assessment.  This will help me refine my training for the rest of the year.  Stay tuned for the next article and I will share more findings!