Learning from Sophomore Fall Stress at UT!

This is a post from YoungTri Contributor Patrick LaBrode

“The only thing holding you back is what’s between your ears.”

This quote defines my sophomore fall 2013 semester.  I had the hardest class schedule so far during my time at the University of Texas, and on top of that, the swim practices grew tougher as well. This semester was full of highs, and many lows, but finally finishing and looking back, it was an amazing learning experience.

I was nervous for this semester in the beginning because I was taking a tough courseload that had me in class on Mondays from 8am to 1pm, no breaks. And Tuesday nights I had a lab from 6pm to 10pm. I wasn’t sure how I was going to balance my swim/school schedule at first.

However, having an entire year’s worth of college swimming under my belt definitely made a difference this fall. This season I can finally push myself harder than what is expected, instead of being in “survival mode,” like I was during my freshman year! I was also swimming faster times in meets than I was a year ago, so I was stoked about that.

My fall semester was still enjoyable - despite the highs and lows!

My fall semester was still enjoyable – despite the highs and lows!

But, like with any years — lows came with some of the highs that accompanied my settling into the swim team. With the stress from class and my grades, (which were lower than what I hold myself to) I had a couple of break down points. Including our mid-season taper meet, the Texas Invitational.

This meet (early December) was supposed to be a really fast meet for all of us — and I was hoping to go best times early on in the season. I was feeling great going into it, but that week I ended up having 4 exams. So I spent the majority of the week stressing, studying, and not sleeping. It was a bad combo, and my body felt the effects from it. I began having really bad acid reflux and trouble breathing and my stroke broke down. Needless to say, it was probably one of the worst swim meets I’ve ever had.

Although it was disappointing, I am (thankfully) pretty good at putting bad swims behind me. And I had finals the next week, so I had to focus on those — and didn’t have time to dwell on the past. I studied all week for finals and my grades came out a lot better than I had expected. And my swimming continued to improve as the semester went on from my newfound balance and focus.

Great to be back with my family over break!

Great to be back with my family over break!

Looking back on my semester, I realized I was always just a couple steps behind in my classes, always struggling to catch up. If I had put in the work early on (like I did at the end of the semester) my GPA, swimming, and self would have been much better! Through this experience, I realized that it’s important when you find yourself struggling with school and training to sit down, breathe, and write down a plan for yourself. You may be holding yourself back and be further along than you think 🙂

Here’s to a relaxing break and great spring semester!

-Patrick LaBrode

Easing Back Into It After Injuries.

Yesterday, I was officially cleared to bike for 40 or so minutes after almost a month in a walking cast. Although my foot isn’t completely pain-free, it’s definitely improving.

As exciting as it is to finally be able to work out again, I’ve found that the hardest part about this is being careful. Aka easing back into it. It’s easy to slip back into old athletic habits — for just three months ago I was able to bike for eight or so hours at a steady pace — and now I have to start at forty minutes.

There are better things ahead after any injury :)

There are better things ahead after any injury 🙂

This morning while my team was lifting weights, Sophia and I had to bike because of our foot injuries. It was tempting after the slight rush after being able to really work out again to push it some more and so another workout after — but I resisted. I’ve found that too many times after long races I’ve rushed and pushed too hard — resulting in injury.

As tempting as it is to rush back into things, take it slow. Your body will appreciate it later!

I’m hoping to be back in the boat soon. Although for now I’ll have to settle for short bikes and ab sets. But hey, it’s better than nothing!

Here are some resources for those of you trying to successfully ease back into activity after an injury 🙂

8 Tips to Make a Strong Comeback to Running After an Injury | Adjusting Your Triathlon Season and Training Plan for Injuries | Staying Positive After an Injury 

How do you deal with having to ease back into activity after an injury?

Tri Hard,


Reflections – “Where to Go From Here?”

Lately, I’ve been very reflective. Pausing a lot to think — think about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’d like to be (both in racing and in life). This summer was a big step for me — I completed my first Ironman at age 18, which had always been a goal of mine. It was an incredible feeling to cross the finish line with my dad; a rush of emotions and adrenaline that can only be experienced race-day.

This fall has been a transition period for me; moving from summer triathlon training to intense schoolwork, rowing, and otherwise here at Harvard. It took some adjusting to last year, but this year I absolutely love Cambridge. I have amazing roommates, other closer friends who make my experience here enjoyable and fulfilling. But besides all the exciting parts of being back at college — football games, social events, regattas, triathlons, meals out with friends, trips to Boston, and more — other things can become a bit overwhelming.

When I get overwhelmed, I tend to deal with it in a number of ways. One of them is reflection. I’ve found that this approach — both internal and external — can help manage the “Where do I go from here?” feeling that can eat away at not just me, but myriad other college students, athletes, adults, and more at various times in life.

Sometimes, especially at Harvard, I feel like everyone has everything figured out. Like people are rushing from moment to moment, place to place, class to class, without even thinking. Like people already have their entire lives planned out in their minds — graduate. Work in finance or consulting. And so on and so forth. Which makes me feel a little bit out of place, especially because I’m still debating what I want to concentrate in (Harvard’s word for majors, we have to decide by mid-November)! And I don’t have set concrete plan for the rest of my life.

This applies not only to my situation at college, but also with training. Sometimes, after finishing a big race or attempting a new milestone, we can come to a point where we need to decide where we want to go. Pick a direction. Pick a spot; a niche.


Sometimes it’s okay to not know. To sit back, reflect, appreciate, and think.

I think that sometimes, that’s the problem with our way of thinking. We don’t take enough time to reflect. To get lost. To understand that sometimes, it’s okay to not know where exactly you’re going from your current location.

This was best brought to my attention by Kaitlin — after she wrote a piece for YoungTri that included how she liked to get “lost” on runs (as in, run wherever the road takes her), but that she made sure to take her phone with her when she did so. So that she made sure to couple adventure with security.

And it kind of hit me that that would be a wonderful way to approach training all the time — and even life in general.

And as such, as of right now, I’ve been taking some time to let myself reflect. To know that wherever the road takes me will be the beautiful, right road where I’ve always meant to end up. Training, school, work, and social life are all a part of our puzzles — and they all have a way of working themselves out as long as we’ve pointed ourself in the general right direction.

It’s okay to not know exactly “Where to Go from Here?”. It’s okay to reflect. That’s what life is for. For figuring things out.

What have you been reflecting upon recently? Do you ever feel as if you’re at a stepping stone in life (but you don’t know where it’s taking you)?

Tri Hard,


De-Stress: Stargazing (& Sunsets)

Sometimes, I have a difficult time clearing my mind. Erasing the “tapes” from my head — whether it’s thoughts about school, training, or otherwise. My best friend Kerry is a little bit (read: a lot) better at being easygoing. Lately, I’ve been taking part in one of her favorite activities to clear the mind & unwind (especially in the summer): stargazing.

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”

Okay, it may sound corny. After a rough day of training or work, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is going outside and pondering life while gazing up at the sky. But there’s something about stargazing — something about putting your phone away, disconnecting, clearing your mind and looking up at the bright night sky; allowing thoughts to roam to wherever they choose, that is quite amazing.

If you’re looking to make the stargazing experience that much more awesome — try to watch the sunset beforehand. There’s something inherently calming about it. About the vibrant pinks and reds and blues in the sky melting into one and signaling the end of a long day.

The next time you have one of those days — in which you’re crying, stressed, or angry for no reason; when your training seems to be going poorly and you feel like you’ve reached a dead end, try stargazing. Seriously. Take a blanket outside, or lay out in the grass in your backyard — alone or with a friend — and clear your mind. Breathe.

Let your thoughts roam.
From thoughts about today.
To thoughts about tomorrow.
To your next race.
To the crisp, cool feeling when you first jump in the water for a swim.
To faded memories. To him. (Or her)
To friends.
To sunsets.

to blankness.

Stargazing is so calming. Try it once in awhile to clear your head.

(thanks Kerry)



sunsets & stargazing are great de-stressers.

Tri Hard,