Essential Sports Nutrition


Off-Season and time to exercise

I've been waiting for the off-season for a while. I had a slight dose of my off-season lifestyle when I was injured prior to kona but now I am fully enjoying my time off from training. Although I haven't made my decision if I will participate in the 70.3 World Championships in a couple weeks, I am taking it easy to completely heal my right leg. Still have a limp but I after only 2 weeks since the Ironman I am healing quicker than I expected. My post-kona "can't walk, stand, sit or crawl without pain" has turned into a slight sorenss in my quad. I'm sure I pulled a muscle since I ran the marathon of an Ironman after no running for 35 days, but taking some time off from training has really hurried the healing process. I guess I should have taken some time off before Kona to completely rest my leg, but as a competitive (and stubborn) athlete I had a hard time thinking I would go to a world championship race after not training for weeks. Well, even though I finished the race I have learned that 1-2 weeks of no training is far better than 5-6 weeks of trying to heal an injury while the swim and bike training hasn't stopped.
As a sports nutritionist and USAT coach I come across a lot of the same questions during the racing season. But in the off-season, two questions come to mind. The first question is off-season nutrition and what to eat to not gain weight. Since I am about to write an article on that topic for Beginner Triathlete I will wait to talk about that question in a future post.The second question concerns getting the motivation to train in the off-season with the fear of gaining weight. Once you have your last race the off-season has officially started. Most triathletes treat themselves to treats which were restricted during the last few weeks of the peak training season. For me, I enjoy pancakes for at least two meals a day at least once during the week after an Ironman. YUMM!!!! Whether it is pizza, alcoholic drinks (within reason), a burger (vegetarian for my non-carnivore friends), something fried and salty or something sweet, everyone should indulge in something during the first week in the off-season. But to fully enjoy your off-season, you have to learn to eat like a sedentary/low-frequency exerciser. You can't eat like an athlete anymore! You must cut back your daily calories and eat plenty of snacks and small meals. You shouldn't have to cut back on too many calories because you will cut out the pre, during and post training calories which allowed you to get through weekly workouts with high energy and a quick recovery time. Sadly, you can't use the excuse "I burned it off in training" when grabbing a handful of Halloween candy, indulging in a thanksgiving feast (sorry- a turkey trot 5K doesn't work in your favor!) or eating your families holiday cookies. Even if you plan on increasing the frequency of your workouts in a couple weeks, the duration of your workouts will stay low (there's nothing wrong with 1-2 long workouts to work on fat-burning and to enjoy the outdoors). Furthermore, the intensity in the off-season is low and there is no need to worry about bonking or working beyond a threshold. Therefore, not having enough fuel for your workouts shouldn't be a concern when planning your meals and snacks. If you are thinking of training for a marathon (or half) or winter event, your training should help to maintain your weight. As for those who enjoy the off-season for a time to catch up with friends and family (who seem to get neglected during the racing season but love us because they are so supportive!), catch up on work or just a time to clear the mind (which I am doing for the next couple of weeks!). I'd like to talk about exercise. I love to exercise! Now don't get me wrong, I love to train during the season but I love having no structure, plan or time commitments to my workouts. I start when I want and I stop when I feel like it. I have no method to my training and I just exercise. An easy way to maintain your weight (or lose weight) during the off-season is to exercise in order to increase your caloric expenditure while cutting back on daily calories. Believe me-it is a lot easier to lose weight in the off-season because you don't experience the cravings and extreme daily hunger for exercise. I have swam 5 times since Kona and I rode my bike for the first time this morning. Of course I have been smart by resting and letting my body heal but I feel no guilt with doing almost nothing in the past two weeks because I am eating within reason. I can lay on the couch in the evening, I can sleep in until 7am and I can feel great about my choice (or no choice) of exercise for the day. Remember that the off-season is a time to exercise and to enjoy swimming, biking, running or whatever it is you choose to do to stay healthy. Working out in the mornings is an easy way to get your workout in so that your day doesn't get too busy that you feel too tired to train. Be sure you watch what you eat so that your blood sugar doesn't fluctuate during the day. Whole grains, fruits and veggies and lots of complete've read the articles so it's up to you to be accountable of what you put in your mouth. Remember, the off-season is a time to be off of what you normally do and enjoy something that you wouldn't normally do. Even if you choose to "exercise" for triathlons, take off the heart rate monitor, ride a road bike, swim for time and not yards and start increasing your strength training. If you could see how happy I am right now (not talking about my Kona finish) I am totally enjoying just doing whatever I want. I'm so over the Ironman training..Can you imagine that I, Marni the Ironman lover, would say that! My pace on my road bike this morning didn't even reach 15 mph but I felt so young and free just riding my bike around Clearwater. Of course I was loving my cute pink Hammer cycling jersey and shorts...gotta look good out when I see all my cycling/triathlon buddies..who are still training! Forget the planned workouts, workout with a friend who has never done a triathlon (I'm still working on Karel!) and have some fun as a pseudo-triathlete! Enjoy your I contemplate if I should make some pancakes????


Tips for Triathletes

One thing I love to do is volunteer for triathlons. I think I worked registration at almost every sprint race I did this summer. I love meeting new athletes and I love seeing my friends in the tri-community. I love it when newbies are scared to death for the next day's race and I love when newbies are super excited for their first triathlon experience. I just love it all from registration to the finish line. Enough was enough for feeling lazy so I contacted the Longleaf Triathlon Race Director on saturday morning and asked if I could work the USAT table at registration that afternoon. I didn't hear from the RD until later that evening so I jumped on the opportunity to work registration on race day morning. After a nice pizza dinner with Karel (pasta for him, yummy pizza for me) we watched a movie and called it a night. Early sunday morning we both got up to get the coffee going cause we both had places to be super early. I was working registration at 6am for the triathlon and Karel was participating in the Hilly 100 cycling event in San Antonio, Florida. In order for us to spend a little time together, he dropped me off at the triathlon on his way to the cycling event. What teamwork! I worked the USAT booth at the triathlon from 6 until 7:45am and headed over to the swim start. As I slowly limped my way to the swim start I was happy that I was on the other side of the transition area in order to watch the race. I ran into a bunch of people I knew and I totally enjoyed just watching the race. My parents live no more than 4 miles away from the triathlon venue so my dad picked me up and I spent the day with my parents until Karel returned from the cycling event to pick me up.
Seeing that I compete more than I spectate I rarely have the opportunity to see what other athletes are doing during the race. I thought I would take some time and offer some tips for common triathlon newbie mistakes.
1) Nutrition - Be sure you don't over do it for nutrition for a sprint distance triathlon. 1 water bottle of sport drink on the bike will do the trick and rely on one or two aid stations for water to be used for cooling. No gels, bars or fuel belts are needed.
2) Transitions - This isn't an Ironman! You only need a few things for a sprint triathlon. Aside from the obvious (running shoes, bike, helmet and goggles) don't forget shoes for cycling, sunglasses for the bike and run and your cap which is usually provided in your race packet. I use to wear a visor for the run but I found I was losing a bit of time to put on the visor and with the sunglasses I really didn't need a visor for such a short run. The visor/hat is up to you, but i do think it makes a cute accessory to your race outfit. Don't forget lace locks for the shoes and a race belt for your number. Most of all-be sure your bar ends have plugs in them!
3) Gearing - More importantly than knowing how to shift your gears is knowing when to shift your gears. Be sure that you always keep a steady cadence regardless if you are going up or downhill or on a flat. The big Chain ring works best on flat courses but be sure you aren't in the heaviest gear. Small chain ring for big climbs. Your left gear shifter will change you from the big to small chain ring. YOu will find that you will spend most of your time changing the right gear shifter. Just be sure you aren't pedaling your legs off. Find a gear which you can apply some power to those pedals.
4) Clothing - I can't say it enough "if you look good you race fast". But please don't take this to mean a skimpy bikini to wear during the entire triathlon. Wear something which you feel comfortable in during the entire triathlon. Many people prefer bathing suits/sport tops and bottoms. I like one-piece trisuits from zoot. When searching for racing clothes, look for "triathlon" clothing and not cycling clothes. You want to avoid the padded cycling shorts for a sprint triathlon as well as loose cycling jersey's. Find a good triathlon clothing company (such as zoot) and spend a little money on several racing outfits.
5) Enjoying the post-race activities - I find that the competitive athletes who don't get awards seem to bail out before the awards ceremony. You don't have to stay for the entire ceremony but spend some time at the post-race function and meet some other athletes. Not only will you have an opportunity to eat lots of yummy food but you can enjoy the accomplishment of your race with hundreds of other athletes. And even if you don't do well, find a newbie and congratulate him/her on becoming a member of the triathlon world. The best thing about racing a lot is running into the same people at races. Knowing people at races is one of the best relaxers and mood-lifters for a triathlon.
6) Courses - Know the course map. The first couple triathlons were scary for me because I had no idea where I was going for the swim, bike and run. I just followed the many people ahead of me. Once I started racing Elite and participating in endurance events I realized that I can't always rely on the person ahead of me cause their may be times when there is no one ahead of you. While cops and volunteers usually do an excellent job of keeping you on the course, you can tremendously improve your racing time if you know where you are going. In addition to viewing the course map, check out the terrain of the course. Will you be climbing on the bike, should you anticipate a trail run, how many buoys are in the water before you finish the swim? Not only will you ensure yourself a safer race but less accidents will occur if everyone was aware of their surrounding. Oh-and you can be like me and check the weather ahead of time. Gotta know which way the winds are going!

I hope this blog was useful. For triathlon veteran's this information is nothing new. But when more and more people are getting into triathlons, it is never to early to educate a friend who could be a future triathlete.

*I want to give my condolences to the friends and family of Joshua Kuck (USF Cycling team) who lost his life on sunday at the Hilly 100 ride. Karel was not far behind Josh before a truck hit Josh's rear bike wheel. While cyclists and triathletes are always risking their lives by doing something that they love, please be careful and safe when training.


Feeling Lazy

Lately I have been feeling lazy. I watch TV, read blogs, look at Ironman-related websites, I work on the couch (Thank goodness for my fabulous work with, I have no idea the temperature outside because I can't get off the couch and I am incredibly tired all the time (a 6 hour time change is no fun!). OH-and when I can limp my way to the kitchen, I eat. In order to convince myself that completing the Ironman World Championships validates that I can't use the "lazy" excuse for not wanting to get off the couch the week after the race, I thought I would recap my race. I am feeling much better and still carrying around a bad limp but at least I can still write and I can think clearly (well-sort of) here it goes.
5 weeks before the race I tried to finish a workout and suffered a horrible injury (hip bursitis and groin pain) which prevented me from running until the day of the race. Not just any race, the IRONMAN! I wouldn't advise a 5 week taper of no running, minimal cycling and lots of swimming. After 2 anti-inflammatory shots, 1 cortisone shot, a handful of meds and lots of stressful days and sleepless nights, I decided to go to Kona 24 hours before my plane left on Oct 6th! I'm sure my Blog readers were in suspense the week leading up to the race! I totally enjoyed the week before the race and I was honored to be among the best in the world. While my dream of going 10:30 was out of the question (I went 11:00.47 at IMFL and won the 18-24 age group) I was just hoping to finish the race. I was excited to start the race and wasn't very nervous. I just wanted to see what was going to happen. I had a PR in the swim (1:06) by 1 minute from IMFL (my first IM) and I had a decent bike considering I had 112 miles to convince myself I could run for the first time in 35 days. I was just proud I stayed on my bike on the decent from Havi! After the bike I just started running out of T2 and didn't stop. When I saw my mom on Ali (and for the first time she was running faster than me) I told her I was going to finish this race running but I will be slow. I stuck to 10-10:30 min miles for most of the race because that pace felt comfortable. I never bonked, felt tired or ran out of steam but my quads blew up at mile 16...probably cause I didn't run for so long! It was the steep climb on Palani (which seemed like my knees would hit the ground due to the incline) to the Queen K which really brought on the severe pain. The groin/hip hurt me the entire run but I tried not to think about it. I have no idea what I think about during the 26 miles of an Ironman run but for some reason I just do it. One foot in front of the other and the goal is to finish. I dumped ice down my zoot shorts at every aid station to try to take away some throbbing pain. With only 2 ibuprofen and 1 pain pain I had nothing but amazement as I rounded the corner for the last mile on alii drive. Tears came because I couldn't believe i was doing this and I almost didn't come due to my injury. A quarter of those tears were pain tears because the only point I thought about quitting was at mile 24 when I was about to head back into town. Oh I was hurting so bad and the last two declines before Ali were just awful. I remember a guy running past me on the Queen K around mile 22 or 23 and as he ran past me he tapped my shoulder and said "good job. We are almost there." I just thought "Please don't touch me. I WILL fall over if I don't keep one foot in front of the other" Yes-i was in that much pain and I because it was so dark on the Queen K I just hoped one foot would land in front of the other on even pavement. OK, back to the finish. Sadly, I didn't really enjoy the finish line because I was so concerned about someone catching me.Because well over 1200 athletes had come in before me I had the finish line all to myself!! How selfish of me! Everyone was cheering me on and after Mike announced my name I couldn't even pick up the pace to a 12 minute mile! Because I ran the entire run, I had no gait left when I reached the finish line. You can see on my finish line video that I am signaling to the volunteers to come and catch me. The last 2 miles I just wondered if someone would be there to catch me. That was my number 1 concern when I finished the race! But after 12 hours and 26 minutes I finished the Ironman World Championships. MY finish line video doesn't do me justice! It's not what you think..I was actually in a lot more pain that I look!!!! :) Although I spent a lot of time in the medical tent icing my pains away I was bothered that I didn't have a medal to wear around my neck. Because the amazing volunteers rushed me (well-carried me as I tried to walk) to the medical tent to get me off my legs, I never received my medal. So as I am laying on a bench, with ice all over my quads and kept asking everyone for my medal. "Where's my medal..I want my medal!!" I was nice about it and everyone was laughing "don't worry-we will get you your medal. You deserve it!" "You bet I deserve it!" I said. Finally, I was super proud to wear my medal and I can't wait to do it all again. Yes-I still love the Ironman and I hope to get back for 2008 through a 70.3 event. For now, I am resting myself to hopefully get better before the 70.3 World Championships to at least swim, bike and walk if I have to. If I can only swim and bike, no worries. Home turf so I have to do the Clearwater race! I am super satisfied to live out my dream of competing in Kona but hopefully next time I will be smiling with a little more excitement when I cross the kona finish line. A big thank you to zoot for making my race so comfortable. I felt great in my clothes! Also-Hammer nutrition (gels) saved me during my bike and run and I never felt a cramp or any sign of fatigue. A big thank you to everyone who emailed me, followed my blog and thought about me during my race. I also want to thank my webmaster-ray lake- who did an amazing job with my website! He is currently working on the 2008 updated site so stayed tuned! Also, thanks to BeginnerTriathlete and Ron who has offered me lots of projects to help me pay my way to Kona.
For those who know me and for those who don't, it is obvious i love triathlons. I can't tell you what it is like to do an Ironman but if you are someone who enjoys running or triathlons just think of your most memorable race (maybe your first race, your best finish or your hardest race) and multiply that thought by a million. Then you will know half of what it is like to finish the Ironman in Kona. Thank you again.