|Posted on December 3, 2020 at 11:20 AM||comments (96)|
I finally made the jump. By learning hard work made me a better athlete, I worked my way onto the varsity squad. While I made the connection between hard work and progress, I was still completely ignorant about how to properly rest and recover from all the hard work. I flipped a switch but had no idea how to, or when to, turn it off. By the middle of my sophomore season, I had lowered by 5K time down to the 17:50’s but a few weeks later I couldn’t walk without constant pain. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I remember my legs were in so much pain that I decided I better have someone take a look at me. I remember explaining to my coach, parents, and a few teammates about how much pain I was in. I even mentioned that my hips seemed to click every time I walked. They all pretty much had the same reaction and scolded me a bit for not having said anything sooner. But like I said, I was all hard work and no recovery.
It turned out that I had a pair of extremely tight IT bands. Your IT bands (short for iliotibial bands) are ligaments that run along the side of your leg from your hips down to your shin bone below the knee. This is a pretty common overuse injury for distance runners commonly referred to as “IT Band Syndrome.” However, I did not have just any old tight IT bands. It turns out I had the tightest IT bands that all of the school’s athletic trainers, various massage therapists, and even my pediatrician claimed to have ever seen. While I am not proud of injuring myself, you better believe part of me still holds a little bit of pride to the fact that I had worked myself into the ground. I spent the second half of that year in the training room, learning how to stretch and massage myself for better recovery, and slowly working my way back to running.
While I was disappointed to not be competing alongside my teammates for the rest of the season and to not find out just how much more I could improve, I was still elated I had improved my 5K time by almost 3 minutes in just under a year. Even in October/November, I was already dreaming about the next summer. If I could jump from 20:38 down to the 17:50’s from one summer and half a season, then what could I do with my new fitness, more cycling, better ability to recover, another summer, and a full season? In my head, the possibilities were endless.
Side Note: Some of you might be wondering if I ever ran Track in the winter/spring following cross country. I only ran one season of track in the spring of my sophomore year and I really did not enjoy it. For the remainder of high school, I would choose to not run track and solely focus on triathlon in the spring. This irritated my coaches at the time, but I knew I didn’t have a future in track and preferred to explore my abilities in triathlon.
At the start of the summer of 2014, I was giddy with the idea of just how much I could improve over the summer. I consistently ran 50+ miles a week, peaking at one three-week stretch where I ran 60, 65, and 70 miles per week. All of this while riding over 100 miles a week on the bike and still teaching myself how to swim. That summer I competed in three triathlons opposed to only the one the year before. The first two showed significant improvement over the previous year, while the second did not go so well and left a bitter taste in my mouth. At the beginning of the summer, I had also acquired a triathlon specific bike which allowed me to ride in a more aerodynamic position. This meant I was beginning to ride further and faster and taking triathlon much more seriously. My parents deserve endless praise and thanks for this part of my story (and for all of it to be quite honest) because even though they were learning about the sport alongside me, their support was always un-matched.
Once again, I made some big gains in the running department. On the river trip that summer, I ran a 16:45 5K and ran under 5-minutes for the mile for the first time ever. Unfortunately, this would be the quickest I would run all season. I don’t remember much about my times that season, but I do remember never running under 17-minutes again. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though. I gave my best efforts in practice every day and did everything I was told to and then some.
For whatever reason though, I just could not seem to align my stars and show the same fitness I had at the end of the summer. I was extremely frustrated all season long. This led to some pretty in-depth conversations with my coach and teammates about what the problem might have been. In hindsight, now I can confidently say I believe I had unknowingly peaked myself way too early. Combine this with the different training style of my coach while in season versus my high-volume approach in the summer, and it was most likely a perfect recipe to keep me from improving. Now as a Junior, I was voted as one of our team’s 3 captains. I was frustrated with how my training and racing was going, but I loved being a captain and I loved my team. All of the laughs, inside jokes, and adventures we had made up for my frustrations in some ways.
As for triathlon at this point, I never rode my bike during official cross-country season. This was due to my coach asking me to stop cycling during the season. He claimed it would interfere with the training we were going to be doing in season. I didn’t want to rock the boat too much as I knew triathlon already left a bad taste in my coach’s mouth, so I didn’t argue with him. However, I did continue to swim a few times a week after practice. This is because swimming boosts recovery and adds to aerobic fitness without adding a significant amount of fatigue in the legs. I also knew if I wanted to be anything significant in triathlon, I had to be like Dory and just keep swimming. Thank God I did keep on swimming because it so happened that one day at a post cross country practice swim, I would have a conversation that would shift the direction of my life once again.
That evening I ran into Tripp Davis. Tripp had been an assistant coach with the cross-country team when I was in middle school and was one of the first people to push me hard. As in, run directly behind me during a workout and tell me to suck it up kind of hard. Tripp is also a beast triathlete when he wants to be, and he had taken an interest into my recent triathlon endeavors. Tripp and I remain good friends to this day. He comes to me for coaching from time to time which has been one of the coolest full-circle moments of my life so far. He has even helped me on an occasional bike KOM hunt on Strava. We happened to be swimming side by side that evening when he struck up a conversation that went something like this:
Tripp: “So, have you started looking into where you might want to go to college?”
Miles (me): “Not too in-depth yet. I know I need to start being more serious about that process but I’m just not sure.”
Tripp: “Do you have any interest in attempting to run somewhere?”
Me: “Well I thought I would run better this season and maybe I’d have a shot at running D1 somewhere, but I don’t think I want to go and run at a smaller school. I’d rather go to a big school and continue with triathlon on my own.”
Tripp: “Hmm OK. Well, an old coach of mine named Sonni Dyer is starting a collegiate triathlon program at Queens University of Charlotte. I’m going to send him an email about you if that is alright with you.”
Me: “Yeah sure that sounds great! I’ve never heard of Queens before, but I guess it won’t hurt to see what Sonni has to say.”
At the time, circa 2014, the only collegiate program in the U.S. that offered scholarship for triathlon was Marymount University in Washington D.C. I knew of this program because one of the runners, that I wrote about in the previous blog who inspired me to try triathlon, Tony Morales, went there. Also, it so happened that Tony’s roommate at Marymount was a guy named Eric Kirouac. Small world. Anyways, I knew I was nowhere near Tony’s level at the time, but I figured checking out Marymount wouldn’t hurt. I figured the worst they could tell me was “no.” However, after that conversation with Tripp, I soon began to forget about Marymount and started investigating Queens University of Charlotte.
I’m guessing Tripp’s word still carried some weight with Sonni. In February of 2015 I found myself on an official recruitment visit to Queens. I fell in love with the university from the moment I arrived. I met with Sonni and for the first time I sat across from someone that could completely “nerd out” with me over triathlon. Sonni and I got along from the moment we started talking. While on my visit, I also had the privilege of watching an official practice for the Queens swim team. I watched the swim team practice because the triathlon team didn’t exist yet. It would begin the following school year. I had never seen anything like it before. This practice was special because it was their race day simulation practice. The swim team was only a week or two out from their national championships, which they would go onto win. They also won the next 4 national titles making it 5 in a row for them at the time I’m writing this. Safe to say, I witnessed some fast swimming on my visit.
It’s fair to say their sales pitch worked. I was now hooked on this small university that I didn’t even know existed a few months prior. I was also completely enticed by the idea of being on a triathlon team with other kids my age that were passionate about the sport. The triathlon journey had been pretty lonely for me up to that point. I was ready to finally be surrounded my like-minded people my age. Also, Sonni explained to me that the goal was to grow the program into a powerhouse and win a national title within 5 years. My visit kept getting better and better. While I was frustrated with how my running career was going, the sky seemed to be the limit when it came to triathlon.
It’s also important to note that while the men’s team at Queens is not NCAA affiliated, it is still treated as a varsity level sport with athletic scholarship. This little detail had my gears turning. I realized that without any NCAA association, we did not have to comply with the same set of rules, either. This meant Sonni could start coaching me through his private coaching business almost immediately. So, I left Queens that day in February having been completely sold. I wanted to make sure I took complete advantage of this opportunity.
My new path was now clearer than ever: With my first real triathlon coach, I would work my hardest and smartest all 2015. I would race as many triathlons as I could find that spring and summer. Then I’d have the best cross-country season of my life where I would achieve all I had imagined. After this, Sonni and Queens would be sold on my abilities and offer me a spot on the roster for Fall of 2016.
However, if my road to Queens was as simple and laid with golden bricks like that, it wouldn’t be much of a story worth telling now would it?
|Posted on November 9, 2020 at 11:55 AM||comments (104)|
My first 3 years running for the Lexington Wildcats were nothing special. For my first cross country race I clocked around a 25:30 for the 5K. However, this was the only race that year where I did not finish last on the team. I outsprinted another 7th grader in the final 100 yards, and for the rest of the season I would not have such luck. But hey, I was a 7th grader on a high school team so that made it all worth it to me. That season I improved from 25:30 down to 22:30 for 5K. Nothing crazy, but a 3-minute improvement over my first season was something I was proud of.
Next year, in 8th grade, I improved my 5K time down to around 20:30. In fact, I guess there was something about running 20:30 5K’s that spoke to me on a deeper level. I ran that time on five or six different occasions between my 8th and 9th grade seasons. This was the first plateau I had experienced as a runner; I was frustrated and wondered where I was going wrong. I never missed a practice and completed every workout. At the time, I didn’t have this hindsight, but that was just it, I was only doing what was asked of me. You see, as a freshman in high school, I was far more interested in my social life and friends than I was about putting in the extra work required to excel in running. I was enjoying life as a vibrant freshman far more than as a cross country runner, and for the first time in my life I began to question if I wanted to continue down this path.
Oh, and the team I was on? State Champions in XC and multiple distance track events for 4 years in a row - 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. To this day, watching that team in practice and in races are some of my most fond sporting memories. It was the first time in my life where I was in an environment where excellence was demanded and eventually, expected. I admired those guys more than they will ever know. They inspired me to aspire to achieve so much more than I could have ever expected. But like I said, that’s all hindsight. 9th grade Miles was not merely as aware of the environment he was in.
So, having reached a plateau I just couldn’t’ seem to break through, I was seriously contemplating walking away from the sport all together. But then what would I do? Running had been a part of who I was for so long and I wasn’t sure of any other sports I could easily get into. At the high school level, 9th grade is usually a little too late to pick up a new sport. And, going back to my social endeavors, I had the first real crush of my teenage years. Although we were never official, this crush and I “talked” for several months (if you’re not sure what “talking” means, ask your kids). We had class together every day and even hung out some on the weekends and after school. It’s safe to say that running was far from being the number one thing on my mind.
Although similar to my running career at the time, this little fling hit its own plateau and eventually came to an end. Not only did this little fling end, but after freshman year, all of my best friends were moving to the new high school that opened on the other side of town. It would now seem like my decision was being made for me. With my vibrant 9th grade social life exploding in my face, I was lost, and my heart was broken.
Filled with adolescent angst and heartbreak, I decided it was time to break through the one plateau I could control. My mind was made up. It was time to double down on running. Luckily, this change happened as my freshman year of high school was coming to an end. This meant that I had the whole summer to now focus on breaking through the plateau. For those that may not know, the summer is when cross country seasons are won and lost. It is the time for making big gains and carrying that fitness into the fall season.
So, it seemed like my plans for the summer of 2013 were pretty simple: run. For the prior three summers, I didn’t run more than 25 miles per week. This was because I wasn’t highly motivated and would have rather played Call of Duty or hangout with my friends. This summer was different though. I was motivated like never before. I needed to let out a lot of angst and heartbreak and 25 miles per week was not enough to ease my restless soul. I started out with 25 and quickly increased to 40+ miles a week and up to a peak of 50 for a few weeks. There was no structure to these runs however, I would just head out the door and run. My knowledge of training science was still very minimal, but I figured the more I ran, the better I would become.
However, running would not be my only endeavor that summer. It just so happened that a few of the best varsity runners on my XC team also competed in a sport called Triathlon. So, along with running, they were constantly cycling and swimming. I made the connection that if Triathlon had helped them become some of the best runners in the state then it would for sure help me as well. I was able to convince my parents to purchase a road bike and soon I was adding cycling to my training along with the increased running volume.
Unlike running, cycling came to me naturally. Where running was harsh on my body, I felt with cycling I could finally push myself as hard as I wanted to on a regular basis. Cycling is the one sport where I feel I have some innate talent and pretty quickly I was riding all over the South Carolina countryside. I was even joining group rides with much older cyclists and holding my own. This left one piece to the triathlon puzzle: swimming.
As it turned out, the gym I was a member of at the time had a pool with a handful of lanes for lap swimming. It’s safe for me to say that as much as I had a talent for and loved cycling, the exact opposite was true for swimming. Through Google searches, YouTube videos, a few books, and advice from other swimmers at the pool, I slowly taught myself to perform some sort of activity that resembled freestyle swimming. It would be over 5 years from that point until I learned to love swimming as I do running and cycling. However, at that point in time, it helped me improve at running, and that was good enough for me.
I can tell you from experience that when you’re a 15-year-old boy and explain to your parents that you would like to try this thing called Triathlon, you receive the same reaction as if you had spoken fluent Mandarin Chinese. Nonetheless, in late July of 2013 I completed my first triathlon and won my age group. It was a 350-yard swim, 13-mile bike, and a 5K run. Plenty more on Triathlon later…
So, this was all in the pursuit of becoming a better cross-country runner? You bet. How did that play out? Well I’m glad you asked. At cross-country “try outs” consisting of a 2-mile time trial, I won the time trial and ran around 12:00 for the 2-miles. A six-minute per mile pace. I still remember cruising to that finish alone and seeing the smile on my dad’s face and the jaw of my coach, which had hit the floor. My guess is that if you had asked him who was going to improve the most that summer, I would not have been in his top 5.
This performance not only surprised my coach, but in the span of 12 minutes, I gained the respect of my teammates for the first time. My sudden jump from JV to Varsity gained me respect and a new brotherhood that I didn’t have for the previous 3 years. Over those 12 minutes I also earned an exclusive invite to the River Trip. This was an annual retreat that the Varsity and top JV runners took the first weekend of August each year to kick off the new XC season. This trip is filled with adventure, games, team bonding, good food, and most importantly benchmark one mile and 5K time trials. I don’t remember my time for that mile, but for the 5K I clocked an 18:38. An almost 2-minute improvement from my streak of 20:30’s. Mission accomplished. Plateau shattered.
|Posted on November 1, 2020 at 3:10 PM||comments (0)|
Well everyone, WE DID IT! We successfully raised $2,855 for No Kid Hungry. This money equates to approximately 28,550 meals which will help hundreds, if not thousands, of children across the U.S. who need it most.
We have been overwhelmed by the support from our community from day 1 of this challenge. For that, each and every one of you has our sincerest Thank You. Whether you walked 1 mile, rode 1,000, or just donated, you helped change lives.
While our challenge may be over, the fight against ending child hunger in the US is not. We hope that this challenge has opened your eyes to an issue you may not have even realized was an issue. Please remember No Kid Hungry and their mission with any charitable donations you may continue to make over this holiday season and in the future.
We will announce the winner of either the running singlet or cycling Jersey within the next few days. Also, as you start to look toward your goals for 2021, remember Eric and I are here to help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And again, we cannot thank you all enough for your help! We hope to see you out there somewhere in the near future.
|Posted on September 19, 2020 at 8:20 PM||comments (120)|
If you’re reading this post, you might be wondering how in the world did Miles come to the realization he wanted to coach? Maybe you’re thinking what is his background or what are his qualifications? Or perhaps you’re simply wondering who is Coach Miles? Well, if you keep on reading, I am going to tell you.
I love storytelling and believe the first step to learning about someone should be hearing their story. So, I’ve decided to tell you a little bit of mine. I think I’ll split this up into multiple parts to keep you guys on your toes. So, here goes …
I didn’t grow up as a super athletic or competitive kid. My early sporting endeavors consisted of church sponsored soccer and basketball, but during most of my earlier years, I had very little interest in sports. I don’t know if you would call me a nerdy kid, but I loved school and had straight A’s across the board. I loved history and science and the only time I was ever competitive was with anything Nintendo GameCube or with Pokémon on my Gameboy. However, that all began to change around 2008 when I was in the 5th grade. I went to an elementary school where each 5th grader was required to choose a “major”. Having no interest in music or art, I decided to follow what most of my friends were doing and became a P.E. major. As part of the class, we filmed weekly exercise videos that were shown to the entire school each Wednesday morning.
We also kept monthly fitness logs that assured the P.E. teachers we were active outside of class, and we competed in weekly fitness challenges (If anyone is wondering, I’m the 2008 Lake Murray Elementary Jump Rope Champion). I was very blessed to have had a pair of amazing teachers who made exercise at a young age so exciting and engaging. This is where my love for health and fitness began.
Also, in late 2008, some of you may recall that the economy took quite a nosedive. This put a lot of work-related stress on my dad (thankfully, his job survived) and to combat this stress, he dusted off an old treadmill in the garage and started walking (it was winter) and slowly built to running. It probably wouldn’t have been most people’s first choice, but for some reason my dad soon decided his new hobby was going to be distance running.
Eventually, Dad left the treadmill behind and ventured out on to the neighborhood roads. I don’t remember my initial decision or the day or anything like that where I decided to join him, but I did. I can assume it was because anything your dad does when you’re 10 years old is the coolest thing on the planet. So, naturally, distance running became my new hobby, too.
My first memories of running are purely recreational. I simply just went out to run because I enjoyed running with Dad. There was no training or goal setting; it was simply for the joy of being outside and moving my body. However, in April 2009, Dad signed me up for my first 5K.
I don’t remember the name of the race or exactly where it was, but that day I ran a 27-minute 5K and won first place in my age group. At the time it was the hardest thing I had ever done, and I had to constantly fight the urge to walk or stop altogether. Walking into class on Monday morning with my shiny winner’s medal for show and tell made it all worth it.
I wasn’t the fastest kid around (I was second in the 5th grade mile to Bradford Smith who ran a 6:30 while I only clocked a measly 7:02) but not many other kids were into distance running at that time, so it made my new hobby very unique. I enjoyed standing out from the typical baseball, football, basketball, or soccer that my friends were involved in. Add to the fact that my name is Miles, and it seemed like I was meant for this whole running thing. I was hooked.
Fast forward a bit, and it so happened that one of my mom’s good friends and co-workers had two older sons who ran cross country for the local high school. I remember one day Mom came home and told me about cross country, and how in the state of South Carolina, 7th graders can try out and compete on their local high school teams. Maybe this could be a great opportunity for me, she thought. At the time I had no idea what cross country was or what it was about, but the idea of running with other kids close to my age seemed like a great idea. I never could have guessed the impact this conversation was going to have on the rest of my life…
|Posted on September 7, 2020 at 8:40 AM||comments (97)|
You might find yourself asking “what is TST Perform?” While that is a great question, and I could go on and on about our brand and what we do and what we are going to accomplish, the better question is “Who is TST Perform?”
The simple answer is that we are Eric Kirouac and Miles Fowler. We met in 2016 when Eric was a junior and I was a freshman at Queens University of Charlotte. While at Queens, we raced on the Varsity Men’s Triathlon Team where we both graduated as senior captains of a program decorated with many accomplishments, including multiple conference championships and even a national title, all as a team. Our relationship began as teammates and through countless gut-wrenching swims, quad-burning rides, and lung-blistering runs, we became brothers. Oh yeah… along with triathlon and our adventures at Queens, we did manage to study from time to time, both graduating with honors and degrees in Exercise Science.
So why choose TST Perform to help you accomplish your goals? At only 24 and 22 years old, together we bring over two decades of athletic experience in endurance sports to the table. Combine that along with over a decade of study and real-world application in the realm of exercise science, psychology, and coaching, and we believe the sky is the limit. We understand what it takes to reach your goals with the crazy schedule that life will throw at you. We understand the drive, motivation, and the commitment it takes day in and day out. We understand what it’s like to be in the trenches and experience all of the highs and lows that come with endurance training.
But most importantly, we understand how these athletic endeavors can be life changing. Here at TST Perform, we fully believe that endurance sports will bring out the best in you, not only as an athlete, but as a human being. Whether you’re lacing up your running shoes for the first time, wanting to drop the hammer on your mates during local group ride, or prepping for your 100th triathlon, no matter your ability or skill level, we are 100% committed to unlocking the Top Step Performer in You!
P.S. Over the coming weeks we will be bringing you plenty more content, covering anything and everything from our individual stories, how we are managing to stay focused and motivated during this global pandemic, and of course more insight into our beliefs and philosophies as coaches. Stay tuned!
Join TST Perform today by contacting Eric or Miles at: email@example.com