5/8/09

Cramping

It's hot here in Florida!! We've been in the 90's all week and I can't even walk outside without sweating. I've got a zillion tan lines on my back and my legs are beginning to look like a zebra from my socks, cycling shorts and running shorts. Although I am not doing IM FL 70.3 (my first time not doing it for the past 3 years!!) I will be sweating in Macon GA for the Rock n' Roll Half Ironman on May 30th (day before my b-day!!).

Cramping is a concern for a lot of athletes and unfortunately, there is no clear reason or answer for cramping. Although most athletes think that electrolytes, sodium and water are the trick to prevent cramps, I believe the daily diet has a lot to do with cramping. Most athletes complain of cramping from a hot race or during an intense workout/race. In the second case, anytime you push your body at a high intensity, you are relying on your muscles to relax after contracting. For this to happen, there must be a steady influx of electrolytes into the muscles in order to contract and relax and those electrolytes are more than sodium and potassium. There are many electrolytes needed in the body and those vitamins and minerals are found in the foods we eat. That is, if you consume wholesome and natural food rather than a diet high in processed food. When it comes to the diet of athletes, eating food is more than looking slim, toned or lean. Every food that you put in your body has a purpose. Donuts serve no purpose. Pizza, well it depends on how healthy or unhealthy you make the pizza. Fruits, veggies, complex carbs, healthy fats, low fat/lean protein, water...YES YES YES...GOOD for your body!!
Rather than waiting until a race to provide your body with healthy nutrients eat those healthy foods on a daily basis. And, if you are prone to cramping, make sure you aren't "water and sodium loading" on the days leading up to a race. Drink water all the time and take a sport product that provides all types of electrolytes.
Cramping is an individual issue and sometimes it comes down to reducing intensity to alleviate cramping. When it comes to racing and training in the heat, be sure you are consuming calories and fluids at a steady intake and make sure you aren't overhydrating or drinking concentrated drinks. 1000 calorie bottles...yikes! Give your body around 180-240 calories for the 3+ hour workouts and be sure to consume around 20-24 ounces per hour. If you are taking in too many calories at one time (or too many calories per hour) your stomach never allows the undigested calories to get to your blood stream to go to your working muscles.
A few more thoughts for the people who don't drink enough water...
As far as cramping goes, many athletes think that the diet is lacking in salt. First off, you need to see if you are drinking enough water. Dehydration (even if you don't feel thirsty) is a big cause of cramping. Researchers aren't sure if it is salt, electrolytes or not enough water that cause cramping but I'd first look at your water intake. I recommend 1 bottle of water (around 16-24 ounces) between meals and at least 1 cup (8-10 ounces) with your meals. Also a bottle of water for 60 min or less workouts and for workouts more than an hour, 1 scoop Heed w/ water in a sport bottle. Workouts over 90 min. in the heat, 1 scoop HEED w/ endurolyte powder, endurolyte capsules (1-2 per hour) or liquid endurance.

Remember, you can get your electrolyte level higher by including a wide range of fruits and veggies in the diet. Bananas are great, especially in a smoothie or oatmeal but also make sure you are adding veggies to your meals and snacks and eating plenty of fruit during the day. Bananas aren't the only food with potassium and potassium isn't the only electrolyte you need with sodium.
Healthy options of sodium-rich foods are canned food (give a rinse before using) such as fruit, beans, veggies, soup, etc. Also, cottage cheese, some lean meat and cheese are high in sodium. Find healthy ways to add salt to the diet and avoid adding salt from the salt shaker.
My last reminder is to make sure that you give yourself a good warm-up, especially for long or intense workouts. Pushing too hard, too fast can cause cramping and giving yourself ample recovery during intervals can help muscles relax.

For races, I recommend Hammer endurolytes: take 1 a day on the 3rd day before the race and take 2 a day on the two days before a race. On race day morning take 2 pills and drink water and your primary maltodextrin rich sport drink on race day morning before the race.

5/7/09

Are you ready?

I wrote this article with all of my newbies in mind. However, no matter if you are doing your first tri or 100th tri, I think we can all use a little reminder of how to prepare for a race. Enjoy!
*Subscribe to the FREE Iron Girl newsletter. This month has a lot of great articles!

Are you Ready?
By Marni Rakes, M.S., CISSN


One down, nine to go!

Over the next six months, the Aflac Iron Girl Women's Event Series will make its way all over the U.S. Perhaps you've already signed up for an event or maybe you even completed the Clearwater 10K/5K! Regardless of the event you choose, your preparation requires a balance of consistent training, good overall nutrition, adequate sleep and stress management.

After months of training, your Iron Girl race week will draw closer and you will feel the overflow of excitement and nervousness. Regardless of if this is your first or 20th event, it is likely that you will feel a little overwhelmed on the days leading in. Before you know it, you will be standing at the starting line surrounded by an enthusiastic group of women who all share one common goal, to get to the finish line and have fun!

Use the following guidelines to prepare for your upcoming Aflac Iron Girl event so you can fully enjoy your experience!

Race week

1) Check out the specific web site for the Aflac Iron Girl event for which you are registered. Read all event-related details at least four days prior to race day. Look at the starting times, course maps, pre-race nutrition guides, expo times and check-in details for your specific race.

2) Train in your racing gear at least two weeks before event day. Don't wait until race week to buy new shoes or a new outfit. Make sure you feel comfortable and confident in your gear!

3) Get a bike tune-up around three to four days before an Aflac Iron Girl Triathlon. Have a professional bike tech look for any necessary last minute changes to prevent technical difficulties during your race. The day before a race, warm-up on your bike and check your brakes so that they do not rub on your wheels. Check tires for deep slits or cracks to prevent a flat tire and practice changing your gears for efficient climbing, pacing and descending.

4) Don't try to lose weight during race week. Do not put all your hard training to waste by sabotaging your race day performance with a restricted diet. A daily diet of well-balanced meals and several snacks will ensure that food will be used as fuel come race day. If your race is 2-6 weeks away, stick to your good nutrition habits and decrease your caloric intake by 100-200 calories a day, and continue to exercise around 1-2 hours a day.

5) Practice your pre-race and race-day nutrition. Keep a journal of the foods consumed before your weekend workouts and what foods work well in the hours before a hard workout. Plan an easy-to-digest meal, around 100-250 calories (depending on the race distance), of complex carbohydrates, with a little protein and fat to stabilize the blood sugar.

6) Pack ahead. If you are traveling to a race venue, don't wait until the day before you leave to pack your bags. Make sure you plan for delays during your travel (especially if you check your bike) and be sure to refer to the Iron Girl checklist so you don't forget anything. If you are racing an Aflac Iron Girl Triathlon or Duathlon, don't forget to pack nutritional supplements you plan to use during the race.

7) Check the weather on the days leading up to the race. Be prepared for gusts of wind, extreme heat or a slight chance of showers. You can't control the weather but you can prepare for rain, wind or shine. Regardless if the weather forecast is ideal or dismal, understand that your body is trained and ready to race, and everyone will receive a finisher medal regardless of the weather conditions.

8) Encourage others to watch your race. Don't feel embarrassed if you are participating in your first race. The motivation and support of your friends and family will help you keep a smile on your face as you overcome obstacles and reach your event goals. Most of all, you never know who you will inspire during your Iron Girl experience.

5/5/09

1300 miles and lots of excitement

We're back! If you don't want to read this blog, you can skip to the pics.
What a great 3-day trip! I thought I would have time to update my blog when we were gone but if we weren't in the car driving, I was training or watching Karel race.

Friday:
I started the morning with 6.5 miles of intervals on a the treadmill, followed by a super hard 3900 swim. At 11am Karel, Campy and I headed off to Spartanburg, S.C. I haven't been to SC in a long time so I was excited for our 6 hour trip. Karel's race was at 8pm and thankfully they started on time. After Karel got warmed up, it was time for the race start. There were over 150 riders and the field was strong. The crowd was great and the town was super cute and those two factors always make for a great race.
Karel loved the course with 4 corners and a slight uphill after corner 3. What crit wouldn't be complete without crashes so of course, this race had a number of crashes. Once again, Karel was safe but he got stuck behind the crashes. Luckily, he was able to work hard to get back to the group. Karel finished around 50th place and was so happy with the finish. Campy didn't mind the 1 hour and 15 min. race because we walked around the course many many times.
After the race we headed to NC to stay with my good friend Christi. We were a bit tired when we arrived at 11pm but I couldn't wait to introduce Campy to Milo. Christi has a mutt which is part husky and about 10 times bigger and heavier than campy. We were a bit nervous having them meet but Campy and Milo were instantly BFF's. We laughed for about 10 minutes as Campy made Milo chase him around the couch inside the house. When I was ready for bed, Campy was not. Karel and I were both super tired but campy wanted to play. What a night.

Sat:
I woke up early at 6am to get ready for the swim/bike workout w/ Christi and her training buddies. We drove to the YMCA for a lake swim and I was amazed by the number of people who showed up. There had to be over 70 people there! Unfortunately, the water was too cold for me without a wetsuit (73 degrees..brrr) so I decided to run while Christi swam. I went for a 36 min. run and I was super excited to get on my bike for a 50 mile hill ride. Well, when I started riding up the hill from the Y my chain kept slipping on the chain. Bummer. I called my on-call bike tech (Karel) and he told me he thinks it could be the cassette that he just put on my bike. Karel fixed up my bike on thurs. to make it ready for the hills but because he was SO busy on thurs. at the Trek store, he didn't get a chance to ride my bike to test it out. It was only a quick fix to make the chain stay on the gear but I had to skip the bike. I wasn't upset and I decided to go for plan B. Christi and I had our running shoes so we headed out for a long run on the hills of NC. After 30 min. of running, Christi took me to the Davidson college 8K cross country course. This was no normal running course. There were hills which took the breath out of me and my quads were screaming. But I loved it! After an hour of running, we headed back to the car for a drink and gel and then out for another hour. We did a ton of hills (which I called mountains) and finished with 2:07 of running. With my 36 min. of running before my second run, I was dead tired from 2 hours and 42 min. of running. After a well-needed breakfast, I crashed on the couch for about an hour. What a morning.
Karel left for his race in Dilworth, NC at 2:30 and Christi, Pamela, Campy and I left around 3:30. The race was at 4:30 and luckily, there was no rain in the forecast.
Karel called me right before the race and told me he just witnessed a crash. I thought nothing of it because I am use to bike crashes but he said it was a car crash and he saw a person hit a tree at a four way stop. Luckily, Karel let the other car to his right go ahead of him or else Karel would have been hit. Karel was a little shook up from the crash but I knew he could pull it together to race.
The race started at 430 and I was ready to take some good pics. Karel had a fun club there because Christi called all her friends to come and watch the race. It was only a matter of time before the rain started coming down and then it was pouring. We tried to stay dry under the big tall trees at the park but we got a little wet. Unfortunantly, the rain caused a number of crashes on one of the scariest corners I have seen in a cycling race. The crit course is not very technical but in the rain, a downhill into a 90 degree turn is scary without rain! Once again, Karel got stuck behind a big crash and was not able to get back to the group. Because so many dropped out of the race in the first few laps, Karel and 4 other guys in his group kept on riding hard until they got lapped and had to stop racing. I was so proud of Karel for continuing to ride because you never know what will happen in a race where people are dropping out and crashes are happening all over the place. Karel and many other riders had no brakes because in the rain you want to let out tire pressure and when the ride started in beautiful sunny skis, the riders were not prepared for the rain. Usually Karel doesn't mind racing in the rain but he just wasn't prepared this time. Only 40 people finished out of 120 starters and Karel knew he had one more day to prove to himself that he can finish Speedweek with a good race.
After the race we had a great dinner at Christi's house. I made salad, rice and tofu and Pamela made fish. It was soooo yummy and Karel LOVED the fish.
It was an early night on sat night and I looked forward to sun.

Sun:
Christi and I made up for our lost ride on sat. by riding some rolling hills at 7am on sunday morning. This was great prep for IMKY because I really needed to practice with my gears and climbing. I enjoyed my 50K ride and I pushed a little harder than normal to battle the step climbs. I don't have a lot of practice with climbing with my tri bike but I really loved it. I'm even more excited for IMKY!
After our ride we got the dogs and Pamela, Christi and I took the dogs for a run. I had to head back after 10 min. because I need to pack and get cleaned up for our next trip so Campy and Milo ran together for a bit longer.
After breakfast we said our good-byes and Karel, Campy and I headed to Sandy Spring, GA. Last year we LOVED this town and Karel remembered the brutal climb to the start/finish. This year, he feared it once again. As Karel warmed up he noticed a lot of strong riders at this race and he was a bit nervous that the race would be too hard for him. I let Karel get in his zone so campy and I walked around the course and watched the 1 mile run before the Pro race. At 415 it was time for Karel's 50K race, where they circled the course 50 times. Even with the climb, these crazy cyclists can do a 50K in 1:15!! Crazy fast.
The race was great and Karel looked super strong. Although Karel was near the back he was still in the race as riders kept dropping off. I got a little nervous towards the end of the race cause I knew Karel was getting tired. I saw him stretching his back after the climb and I knew this race was taking it out of him. I got some great pictures and Campy and I watched the race from every spot around the course. It was at the last 6 laps when there was an ugly crash at the top of the climb, right at the start/finish. There was Karel, stuck behind the crash and he had to grab his bike, get himself together and try to catch back on without getting lapped. He pushed hard and he finished the race in 43rd place out of around 120-130 starters. Karel looked at his power after the race and all night long he felt the 50 x 1000 watt sprints up the climb. Ouch!
Well, that sums up the weekend. We made it up right at midnight on Sun night and it was nice to be home. However, we had a great time and I can't wait until next year to do it all again!
Enjoy the pics.

Spartanburg:



Dilworth:







Sandy Springs: