Essential Sports Nutrition


IM Kona '19 race recap: Pre-race

On Thursday evening, we went to bed a little later than normal due to the athlete briefing which ran from 8-9pm.

We managed to get into bed a little after 9:30pm and I was quick to fall asleep. I made sure to stay in bed as long as possible on Friday morning to ensure I woke up as rested as possible - especially knowing that the sleep before any race is usually a bit interrupted and restless due to pre-race thoughts.

After my normal pre-workout snack (2 waffles + nut butter + syrup) which I eat before every workout, all year long, I walked to the pier for a short and easy swim in the ocean. It felt good to be out of the condo and exercising. The nerves seemed to build when I was inactive so anytime I was moving around, I felt more at ease. Karel had his normal pre-workout oatmeal mixture before his workout.

For my swim, I practiced in my race day one-piece kit (I brought two of them, one for race day and one for training) as I had never worn a one-piece rolled down under my Roka sleeveless swim skin. I feel more comfortable swimming without anything over my shoulders in a non-wetsuit swim. I also practiced in my pre-race goggles (TYR 2.0 Special ops, tinted lens) once more (I also wore them for the practice swim). After a very choppy swim to the coffee boat and back (no stopping for coffee), I did a quick clean-up in the condo and went out for a short and easy jog on the start of the run course. My right leg felt a little wobbly but I didn't let it get to me. After my workout, I had a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and some of a giant cinnamon roll from Lava Java. Karel did a bike/run starting from the energy lab. We both had 1 scoop of the NBS pre-load in the morning with our breakfast meal.

Laying around all day until the afternoon bike/bag check-in was tough as my mind was wanting to think about the race – causing some nerves and anxiety. To take my mind off the race, I watched a few episodes of season 5 of Schitt's Creek. This was just what I needed as I could laugh the day away and barely thought about the race. I also looked at lost of pics of Ella on my phone - our sweet and wild little kitten. Throughout the day, I snacked on yogurt and fruit, had pizza and fruit and then had an early dinner meal (around 5:00pm) of rice and cottage cheese. I didn't restrict myself with food - I pretty much ate every few hours and made sure to eat a bit more of calorie-rich foods than normal to fuel my energy tank.

Around 3pm, we gathered our race day stuff and walked our bikes and bike and run gear bags to the King K hotel. I was actually looking forward to this experience as it’s always a sight to see all the athletes, spectators and business professionals checking out each athlete’s gear for the official “Kona bike count.” Some of the companies were giving out free gear if you had something from their company (ex. Enve wheels, Cervelo bikes, etc.).

After waiting in line for a volunteer to escort us to our bike rack, I had a nice male volunteer walking me through the transition area to my bike rack. After putting my bike in the floor rack in the very far end of the transition area, my volunteer walked me to the gear bag section. After hanging my bike gear bag and run gear bag, I made a mental note of the flow of the transition area and then met Karel outside of the transition area. Even though this was my 5th time doing IM Kona, I still made sure to ask questions and soaked it all in like I was a beginner. 

Inside my gear bags:

Bike: Helmet, CEP compression socks, cycling shoes, heart rate monitor strap.
Run: Headband, cooling towel (damp in its container), Naked hydration belt, two flasks filled only with NBS carbo-hydration powder, extra nutrition for the race in small baggies (in my belt), race number (on my Naked belt), Nike knit vapor fly shoes, extra pair of compression socks, spray sunscreen, Roka sunglasses.

I packed my race day nutrition in baggies prior to leaving for Kona so it was easy for me to get my nutrition together on the day before the race. I filled my bike bottles in the late afternoon with powder/water and froze my special need bike bottles.

After returning back to the condo around 4:30pm, it started to rain. It rained for a while and my first thought was our electronic shifting. But Karel assured me all was ok as his incident last year with his Di2 was his error of snipping the wire while packing the bike for the race and then not repairing it before the race. It then rained the night before the race and caused the wire to fail. It rained for most of the evening.

After eating an early dinner and then an evening snack of granola and another glass of NBS pre-load, I laid in bed and watched more Schitts Creek until I fell asleep around 7:30pm. I went to bed feeling fueled, hydrated and excitedly nervous.

It was somewhat of a restless night of sleep as I felt like I woke up every 3 hours. But I still felt rested when I got up in the morning. The sleep two nights before a race matters much more than what happens on the night before a race. My mood was positive and I felt somewhat calm and at ease that the race was finally here. We set the alarm for 3:40am and planned to leave the condo around 4:40am.

I made a slight change to my normal pre-race meal and had a cinnamon raisin bagel instead of 2 waffles, just for a bit more calories. I topped the bagel with butter on one side and PB on the other. I also had a large banana. I was able to eat my entire meal without any issues. I also had another glass of NBS pre-load. After a few bathrooms trips, we were out the door around 4:45am.

The morning check-in procedure went somewhat smooth. We were only allowed to bring in our clear race bags. We walked behind the King K hotel, dropped off special needs bags (I only used the bike special needs bag whereas Karel used both bags), received our tattoo bib numbers from a volulnteer and had a volunteer put them on our arms. It was sticky hot in the morning so the cold water from applying our tattoos was very refreshing. Afterward, we were weighed in and then walked to the transition area. I’d say this entire process took about 20 minutes. It was very organized and overwhelming at the same time. It was fun to see several familiar faces throughout the process. 

I wasn't sure how the wave start process would work so I made sure to give myself plenty of time to get into the corral. We were instructed to be in the corral at least 25 minutes before our wave start or else we could be DQ'd if we didn't start with our assigned wave.

After putting our bottles and bike computer on our bike and pumping our tires (there were plenty of pumps in the transition area), we walked to the outside (or entrance) of transition area and applied sunscreen, body glide and did some relaxing until around 6am. At this point, Karel and I went our own ways after a pre-race kiss and hug. I went to the potty one last time and then made my way into the finish line area for the swim start corrals. The great thing about this new start was being able to watch start of the male and female pro race on the big screen by the finish line.

Although I was in line a good hour before my swim start, the time went by fast. I chatted with my friend Emily, spotted Karel one last time and then put on my cap and goggles around 7am. I actually liked the wave start as it was organized and smooth. While I had a few nervous butterflies in my belly I knew once I got into the water, I would feel at ease. Literally, my butterflies flew away when my feet touched the sand and the cool ocean water.

After making my way to the swim start (which felt like it took forever to swim there), I positioned myself to the far left of the buoys as my plan was to swim toward the buoys but not directly next to them. Although the 18-39 female wave was not huge, I still wanted to set myself up for clear water as I was swimming. The volunteers on their paddleboards were keeping us all in line but the chop of the water made it difficult to stay in one place. I knew this would be a tough swim from the view of the chop in the water. It was rather wavy as we were going up and down while treading water for the start.

I heard someone say 30 more seconds and at that time, I found myself calm, ready and prepared for whatever the day had in store for me.


IM Kona '19: Quick recap

The Ironman distance is a beast of a race. Swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles is no easy feat for the body. There is no right, best or perfect way to prepare as every journey to the start line is different. Every athlete has his/her own path, which is either straight forward and smooth or filled with bumps, detours and maybe even a few road closed signs.

Some athletes make extreme sacrifices and investments to get to the starting line. Some athletes have a team of supporters and professionals to assist in the journey. Regardless of who helps you get to the start line, it is ultimately up to you - the athlete - to get yourself to the finish line.

For the majority of athletes participating in the Ironman World Championship, they represent the best of the best from around the world. Qualifying is not easy as it requires great fitness, preparation and a whole lot of luck. Interestingly, when the best of the best all arrive to the Ironman World Championship, it's easy to compare yourself to others and feel a tremendous amount of pressure to give a best ever performance. With great expectations to perform better than ever before, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of a World Championship event and to confuse best effort with best ever. You see, to feel satisfied, accomplished and joyful at the Ironman World Championship, you have to race smart. With this comes gratitude, respect and having a sensible or practical idea of what can be achieved. Although competing on the world stage can bring out world class performances, many athletes experience great disappointment and sadness that something special didn't happen on race day or that the race didn't showcase a current level of fitness. When this happens, a once passionate, excited and fit athlete can question ambitions, self-worth and future capabilities.

On Saturday October 12th, 2019, I completed my 17th Ironman. Going into this event, I didn't see myself getting to the start line due to 10 weeks of no running and another 2 weeks of only indoor treadmill running. It wasn't until I set foot on the island that I did my first outdoor run - appropriately in the energy lab. While I was confident in my swim and bike fitness, I was unsure of how the day would go as I covered 26.2 miles. With a hodgepodge of emotions - ranging from excited, confident and worried - I focused on facts, not assumptions. The reality was that I removed outside pressure, focused what was within my control, relied on past experience (and muscle memory) and I never lost sight of the gratitude I had to compete at my 5th Ironman World Championship.

As for the race itself, I had a 7-minute swim course PR and my first time breaking an hour in a non-wetsuit Ironman swim (not counting Ironman Chattanooga). I also had a 3-minute bike PR. I found myself strong and resilient as I raced the swim and the bike. This allowed me to finish the bike in 5th place in my age group. Never in my wildest dreams would have imagined I would have been in a podium position off the bike! As for the run, I am in no way disappointed. If anything, I am extremely satisfied. You see, I didn't need a PR/strong/fast run to feel accomplished with my IM Kona performance. Knowing that my run fitness was not where it needed to be to compete with the many fast ladies in my age group, I set mini goals to achieve throughout the run. I only walked the aid stations, I kept my mind positive, I worked through mental demons that tried to get me to stop and walk more than I did, I nailed my nutrition (on the bike and run), I didn't experience any GI issues throughout the entire race and I felt like I put together my best effort on the day from start to finish. I had a smile on my face for all 140.6 miles and I crossed the finish line feeling extremely proud of my body.

I believe experience, failure, overcoming setbacks and keeping a level-head allowed me to put together an incredible race performance - in my own standards - at the Ironman World Championship. Far too many race with extreme pressure. They race for glory or an end result (time/place). While there are those who want you to succeed, there are those who want you to fail. When racing for 140.6 miles, you can't be worried about what other people will think of you. Training for and racing an Ironman is a journey that only you and your mind share. Despite dealing with many obstacles this summer, I am happy that I could end on a high note - feeling thankful, satisfied and accomplished with my race day performance.

As for Karel, he had a PR swim but struggled with hip/leg/back/glute pain for most of the ride. This is nothing new for him as it's always a limiter when he trains and races. Because it's easy to let ego get in the way all in an effort to protect self-worth and self-image, Karel powered through the pain and accepted that it would take him much longer than he ever had anticipated to cover 112 miles. With wobbly legs through T2, Karel ignored the "shitty committee" in his head (thanks coach Cait for that saying!) and powered through the marathon. Although slower than what he trained for, he found the strength to get to the finish line. It's certainly hard to finish a race knowing that your body was a limiter but that's Ironman for you. And in Kona, every little weakness on the day is magnified due to the competition, coure and outside elements of mother nature.

Thank you for your support, cheers and encouragement. More to come with the rest of my Ironman Kona race recap.

Marni Sumbal 
2.4 mile swim: 59.36
T1: 4:13
112 mile bike: 5:27.49
T2: 3:48
26.2 mile run: 4:12.38
Total: 10:48.02

Karel Sumbal
2.4 mile swim: 1:03.14
T1: 2:41
112 mile bike: 5:23.11
T2: 5:03
26.2 mile run: 3:15.05
Total: 9:49.12

A big thank you to our coach Cait Snow for guiding us through this season. Despite many obstacles over the summer, she never gave up on us. Also a big thank you to the Trimarni team affiliates and supporters. We are grateful for your continued support! 

Congrats to everyone who raced at the Ironman World Championship. Be proud of yourself and don't forget to thank your body. 


IM Kona - one more sleep

First off, thank you for your continued support and encouragement. Karel and I are incredibly grateful for this incredible opportunity to participate together in the 2019 IM World Championship. We will also be sharing the course with three of our coached athletes. Your virtual high fives and kind words will help us get to the finish line so keep the cheers coming. If you are planning to watch the race, here's a link on how to watch the Ironman World Championship. There will be 20 hours of coverage on Facebook (Ironman Now), beginning at 10:30am EST (4:30am Hawaii Time). You can also track via the Ironman Tracker App or online. 

Thursday was a low key day of training. We have been trying to sleep as long as we need (~9 hours) so we are never rushed to get up and train in the morning. We started off with a quick 20 minute swim in the ocean around the time of the end of the underpants run. The pier/swim start was packed with athletes so it was a bit chaotic swimming out into the ocean. There were also some swells and the current was strong. After the swim, we were planning a bike ride but then it started to rain. We sat around in our cycling gear for a good hour until we decided to postpone our ride until the afternoon. Since it was cloudy out, we went down to the expo to chat with our friends at Ventum. Although the sun wasn't out, it was extremely humid and hot. Once the roads dried, we went out on our bikes for a 45 minute spin. We headed up Kuakini and then took a side street to Ali'i drive and then biked the old and new run course in town. After the ride, we picked up pizza from Lava Java (my typical pre-race ritual) and yummed while watching Breakfast with Bob interviews. Around 3pm, our athlete Roman came over so that Karel could give him a course talk in Czech before our other athletes arrived at 4pm for the English version. With a combined 9 times of racing IM Kona, Karel and I have learned a lot over the years. 

Around 6pm we made our way to the King K hotel for the athlete opening banquet. The athlete briefing didn't start until 830pm (which has been our bedtime) so it was a bit of a late evening for us. 

We made sure to sleep in as late as possible on Friday so it was nice to get up just before 7am. We took our time in the morning and eventually started our workouts. I did a quick swim and run and Karel went to the energy lab for a bike/run. 

I was super excited to finish my workout as a giant cinnamon roll from Lava Java was calling my name. Yum yum!!

As for the rest of today, we packed up our gear bags and we will be heading down to the excitement of checking in our bikes and gear bags - which is quite the spectacle. 

We are both feeling healthy, fit and strong. We are thankful for our coach Cait Snow for her continued support, encouragement and coaching wisdom and experience. Also a big thanks to the Trimarni affiliates and supporters.

With the weather looking to be hot and very windy, we will utilize our "race smarts" and try to put together the best performance possible on the day. Thanks again for following us along to the start line.....see ya at the finish line!