2 weeks out from Ironman Austria!

Whew. It was a HOT weekend of training.

This past week started off a little light with cycling and running but my swimming regime didn't change. I swam five times this week and it felt good to keep my feel of the water with a few moderate distance swims, a long swim and a few easy swims. I had an interval run on Wednesday that had me feeling so-so - not bad, not great but still a good run on legs that were still repairing from the damage that occurred from the last week/weekend of training. Thursday morning was a solid longer brick workout and Friday was a long, tough swim. I sprinkled in a few EZ rides on the road bike which was nice to loosen out the legs. I've been most pleased with my running fitness and being able to hold good form when tired but Karel keeps telling me that I am stronger, faster and fitter than ever before - which is boosting my confidence going into Ironman Austria. I've had a sign in my workout room since the winter reading "9:57 and 3:35" as my two stretch goals for Ironman Austria. 9:57 being my goal of breaking 10-hours and 3:35 being my marathon goal off the bike.

Physically, I do feel like I am in the best shape of my life and I am constantly reminding myself of how far I have come this season and the work I put in for this race. It's been a fun journey with no health-related setbacks which is always my main goal when training for an Ironman. No sickness, no injuries and no feelings of burnout. Every week was new and different for me and it was a neat experience to feel stronger with every week of training (some weeks were a bit plateau-ish but that's to be expected).

With only six days until we leave for Europe, it's time to get my mind into a good place as I not only have the stress of traveling to deal with but also the mental place I need to put myself in to embrace the hurt that comes with Ironman distance racing. I've done the physical work but now is to create an optimal level of mental readiness for race day, such as being processed-driven, being ok with weather changes, working my mind with my body and overcoming any setbacks that come my way, while remaining present and grateful. With this being my 13th Ironman (10th for Karel), I have several race day mantras that I often rely on to help me when I get to the dark, uncomfortable moments when racing for 140.6 miles. At this point, less is more and I am not over-thinking any part of my race day strategy (ex. gear, pacing, nutrition) for I have prepared to the best of my ability and matched several long training sessions to similar scenarios for race day. The unique part of my race day experience is my decision to race against the clock instead of against the competition for a Kona slot or podium placement. I won't get too stuck on times as I will need to stay in the moment and take care of the present instead of chasing an outcome but it's nice to have that carrot hanging in front of me when times get tough (which they will on race day). While I do want to get on the podium again at Ironman Austria (only top 3 AG makes the podium), I know the competition on race day will help me bring out the best in me. I've thought about this race for the past two years and I love, love, love this race venue and everything about Ironman Austria. I'm so excited to share the course with Karel and to have two of our athletes (Natalie and Justine) joining us for this incredible race day experience.

Here's the weekend recap:

Friday AM: 5300 yard swim

700 warm-up
400 with fins as (50 kick, 25 backstroke, 25 free)
6 x 200's w/ fins and snorkel (single arm drill)

100 w/ paddles, smooth
200 swim 80%
200 w/ paddles, smooth
400 swim 85%
200 w/ paddles, smooth
600 swim 90%
200 w/ paddles, smooth
400 swim 85%
200 w/ paddles, smooth
200 swim 80%
200 w/ paddles, smooth
All with 15 sec rest

Post Set:
600 buoy/snorkel
My speedy swimming partner Kristin was unable to join me so I had to do this one solo.

Friday PM: 
~80-minute EZ spin on the road bike w/ Karel, mostly on the Swamp Rabbit Trail

Saturday AM: 3 hour bike (59.9 miles) + 40-50 min run
We did our workout at Donaldson to help us focus on the execution of the main set)

WU: ~90 minutes on the "country loop" - rolling hills
Pre set: 2 x 6 minutes build to strong w/ 4 minutes EZ (on the perimeter loop, just over 7 miles)
MS: 2 x 20 minutes as (15 min sustainable strong, 5 min build to very strong) w/ 10 min steady effort still pushing (SESP) recovery
CD: EZ spin

Brick run: (50 minutes for Karel, 41 minutes for me)
WU: 4 minute build to IM effort, 2 min form focused running (we call this fatigue based running form, FBRF)
3 min moderate strong
2 min FBRF
3 min strong
2 min FBRF
3 min very strong
2 min FBRF
3 min strong
2 min FBRF
3 min moderate strong
2 min FBRF
10 min Ironman effort
(Karel finished with 10 min EZ running)

Sunday AM: Marni: 63 minute form focused running w/ a 30 second walk after each mile.
Karel: ~90 spin on his Ventum tri bike

Sunday PM: Swim

600 warm-up
Pre set:
12 x 50's kick with fins
MS: 4x's
200 steady w/ paddles and snorkel
100 build to strong
50 fast
All with 10 sec rest


The Ultimate Homemade Meatless Black Bean Burger

In our latest free weekly newsletter, we gave the spotlight to the underappreciated veggie burger. To read the newsletter click HERE. To subscribe, click HERE.

I have to give all credit to my assistant and friend Joey Mock RD, LD, CLT for giving so much energy to making this delicious veggie burger. It was certainly a labor of love but after one bite, it was well worth the time. If you are ready to make the most delicious homemade meatless burger you have ever tasted, here's the recipe.
The Ultimate Meatless Black Bean Burger

(a labor of love)

By Joey Mock, RD, LD, CLT
This restaurant quality meaty Meatless Black Bean Burger recipe is mouthwatering deliciousness. From the flavor to the texture, you may even find that the beef eaters in your life refrain from asking “where’s the beef?” when sinking their teeth into this burger. To give you a heads-up, this recipe is quite the labor of love to prepare however, with a little planning and batch preparation, it is well worth the effort. The recipe makes 6 meal sized burgers. To make your efforts worthwhile, I would suggest making a double (or even triple) batch and freezing the extra patties for later use. Other time saving tips: purchase pre-shredded/sliced/minced ingredients like mushrooms, cheese, and garlic (or shred, slice, chop, grate, or mince ingredients ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to use); roast your tofu, mushrooms, beans, and beets ahead of time (maybe even incorporate extras to have as a side for another meal and then use the leftovers in this recipe); and cook extra brown rice at another meal and refrigerate the leftovers to use in this recipe.


7 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh mushrooms (white or portobello), washed, trimmed and sliced
¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly grated black pepper, to taste
1 (~15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium to large sized beet, peeled and coarsely grated
¾ cup almonds
⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
⅓ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
2 green onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¾  teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup cooked brown rice

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice tofu into ¼-inch thick slabs and pat dry with paper towel. Brush both sides of tofu with olive oil and arrange on one half of a rimmed baking sheet. Spread mushrooms on the other half of the baking sheet and toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil and salt and pepper.
  3. On a second rimmed baking sheet, toss beans and grated beet with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread the mixture evenly on baking sheet.
  4. Transfer both baking sheets to the oven. Roast tofu and mushrooms until golden and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 22-25 minutes. Roast bean-beet mixture, tossing occasionally, until beans begin to split and beets are tender and golden, about 15 minutes. Let everything cool.
  5. Place nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add cooled tofu, mushrooms, bean-beet mixture, panko, cheese, eggs, mayonnaise, tamari or soy sauce, green onions, garlic, paprika, and salt. Pulse until ingredients are just combined. Pulse in rice to achieve a small chunky texture (do not overprocess to a smooth mixture). Scrape processed mixture into a bowl and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Divide the chilled mixture into 6 equal portions and form each portion into a patty about 1 inch thick. Return to the fridge until ready to grill or freeze the burger patties for later use.
  7. Heat a grill over medium heat. Cook burgers until they are seared on both sides and firm when you press on them, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Alternatively, you can cook these in a skillet over medium heat.


How to avoid a painful side-stitch

Over the past few weeks, I've had several athletes reach out regarding painful side-stitches while running and if they are nutrition related. Well, the answer is yes and no. I thought it would be helpful to go into the details behind the dreaded side-stitch and how to minimize the chances of one occurring while you are exercising (primarily running). 

What is a side-stitch? 
Also known as ETAP (Exercise-related transient abdominal pain), a side-stitch is a localized pain, typically sharp or stabbing, that occurs in any region of the abdomen but typically on the right quadrant of the abdomen. Most athletes experience side-stitches during running and the intense pain typically resides when at rest. Athletes of all fitness levels experience side-stitches, however, fitter (more trained) athletes may experience them less frequently. 

What causes a side-stitch? 
That's a good question! Research is unclear of the exact mechanism that causes a side-stitch, however, a few things may contribute to its occurrence: 
  • Diaphragm ischemia (decrease oxygen supply to diaphragm)
  • Pressure or stress on the visceral ligaments that attach abdominal organs to the diaphragm
  • Abdominal musculature cramping
  • Irritation of the parietal peritoneum (the portion that lines the abdominal and pelvic cavities)
  • Posture 
  • Jostled organs
  • Rapid or short breathing
  • Weak core
How to quickly reduce or eliminate the pain when experiencing a side-stitch? 
  • If the stitch is not severe, it's ok to keep running. Try to pair your gait with your breathing so that you exhale when your left foot hits the ground. If exhaling when the right foot strikes, the liver is dropping and the diaphragm is rising with exhalation, which may stress the ligaments, causing pain. This may prevent the stitch from getting worse. 
  • Slow down your pace, walk or stop completely. Take the time you need to massage the stitch, take deep inhales and exhales (balloon breathing) and try slightly bending over and tightening abdominal muscles.  
  • Pursed lip breathing may reduce the pain of the stitch. 
Tips to avoid or minimize a side-stitch from occurring: 

  1. Sport nutrition - Drinking large amounts of fluids (at once or per hour) or consuming high carbohydrate content (hypertonic) drinks (or food) may stress the visceral ligaments due to increased gastric mass. Drinking in small, frequent intervals (ex. 4-5 sips every 10 minutes) and using a sport drink with a lower (iso or hypotonic) carbohydrate content may increase gastric emptying, absorb faster and reduce weight in the gut.
  2. Pre-workout nutrition - Avoid eating a high fat/fiber meal in the 3 hours before exercise as it takes longer to empty from the gut. Avoid eating quickly or eating too much food too close to your workout (ex. 20 min before).
  3. Proper breathing - Respiration plays a huge role in reducing stitch pain. Instead of shallow upper chest breathing, inhale and exhale as if you are blowing up a balloon. This is very important when you start running (ex. off the bike in a triathlon or in the first few miles of a running race) as well as in the later miles of running when you try to pick up the intensity. It's also recommended to avoid straw-based hydration systems (ex. bike) which require "sucking" in fluid which can cause excessive air swallowing.
  4. Psychological factors - Stress, nerves and anxiety may increase the risk of abdominal pain and GI issues. To reduce sympathetic activity, focus on muscle relaxation and mental skill techniques.
  5. Stay well-hydrated (but not overhydrated) - During intense or long-duration activities, blood flow to the gut and diaphragm is reduced so that blood can go to the working muscles (especially in the heat). This can cause pain in the abdomen area. It's important to have a hydration protocol that's easy to apply and implement when training (ex. wearing a hydration belt/pack).Remember, staying hydrated doesn't simply mean drinking a sport drink when you feel thirsty but taking action to prevent dehydration during workouts and also doing a great job of proper hydration in the hours and days before and after your workouts.
  6. Warm-up - Take your time when you run. Get your breathing and form controlled before you try to increase the effort.
  7. Biomechanics - Running causes intestinal jarring so it would be wise to strengthen your diaphragm and abdominal muscles to help you run more efficiently and to reduce the jostling of organs. Focus on running light and fluid and when form falls apart, don't be afraid to stop, reset the body and mind (neuromuscular control) to help you keep running with good form. If you find that you experience side-stitches in the later miles of training/racing, this could be a result of fatigue and form falling apart (requiring more effort and heavier breathing to move yourself forward).
If you experience abdominal pain at rest, consult with your doctor as there may be an underlying issue going on that needs immediate attention.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4281377/