Essential Sports Nutrition


Sauteed cabbage, onions and garlic w/ millet and arugula

I love to cook. I love making a meal out of food grown from the earth. I love having one idea when I start cooking and finishing with a totally different creation. I love sharing my creations with Karel and I love being proud of the food I put into my body.
So proud that I love taking pictures of my creations because after the meal is finished, I can still enjoy the beauty of my meal with a photo.
But I'll be honest. These creations are not made on a starving stomach. I believe that eating habits throughout the day, set us up for good behaviors in the evening hours. But most importantly, I want to feel better after I eat, than when I started. If we eat when we have low blood sugar or when starving, there is a large chance that we will overeat or choose quick, fast blood-sugar raising foods. Ultimately, the goal to feel great about the food we put into our body is replaced with an uncomfortable feeling that can not be undone.
I don't believe we can always be 100% perfect when it comes to controlling our blood sugar. There's no reason to have a "perfect" diet.  However, by listening to the body, it's easy to recognize when the body needs to eat in order to fuel the cells in the body and this allows for a consistent, quality life.
One helpful suggestion in enjoying a satisfying dinner meal, is to enjoy a small pre meal snack. It's up to you as to what you want to snack on but always keep in mind as to what you will be eating for dinner and how much. I firmly believe the every meal/snack should compliment the previous meal/snack or upcoming meal/snack. One should never be nervous about eating "calories" before a meal because you need calories to live, every day. It's up to you how you budget your calories and how you choose to nourish yourself.
If you are concerned about eating a snack before a meal consider this.....
A ~50-150 calorie snack may help you prepare a satisfying, nutritious dinner so that after dinner, you feel better than when you started. Thus, the 50-150 calorie snack + x- calorie dinner that you are enjoying in the evening should leave you very satisfied with little need to overindulge later in the evening. Imagine the simplicity of a less than 150 calorie snack having the ability to "save" you 200+ calories in the evening from overeating out of stress, boredom or exhaustion. This tip works very well before a pre race meal as well as eating out or at events. With a balanced diet and the ability to honor hunger with a healthy relationship with food, you should eventually find yourself enjoying the evening hours without any guilt, overwhelming feelings or negative body image.....thus allowing you to get a good night of sleep and feel rested for a fantastic tomorrow.
We have all heard the saying "if you aren't hungry enough to eat an apple, you aren't hungry enough." When it comes to meals, I see nothing wrong with an after meal small snack to finish off those little lingering cravings. But there is a big difference between a 300 calorie bowl of ice cream or cereal and a 40 calorie piece of dark chocolate, a tsp or two of peanut butter, 3 walnuts or a few grapes.
Always consider the composition of your meals for if you are focusing on a balanced, varied diet, you should not feel the need to eat  a large amount of food, 30-60 minutes after a meal. Sure, it may happen here or there but be mindful of your day and how you can "tweak" things for tomorrow. Ultimately, never be so hard on yourself that you feel you are uncapable of change. Stop the excuses and don't be afraid to try something new. A healthy lifestyle is created from consistent habits that make you feel great.
Here's a great tool for you to use when planning your meals (and snacks) in the diet. Source found HERE. For the Heart Wise program that I have been part of for the past few months, we teach a similar diagram, developed by the Baptist Medical Center Heart Wise team.

I hope you enjoy my latest creation! Be sure to tweak it to make sure it leaves you satisfied after you finish...and of course, yumming is encouraged as you enjoy your meals!

                Sauteed cabbage, onions and garlic w/ millet and arugula
Purple cabbage (chopped, remove outer shell)
Stewed tomatoes (no salt added) canned
White onion (chopped)
Garlic (thick slices)
Veggie meat (Boca crumbles)
Mozzarella cheese
Parsley, pepper
Olive oil
Tahini paste
Soy sauce
1. Preheat large skillet to medium heat.
2. Add a little oil to cover lightly the bottom of the pan and cook onions and garlic until golden brown.
3. Add a little water to lightly cover bottom of pan and add cabbage. Turn to low heat and cover.
4. Prepare Millet according to package (allow up to 30 minutes)
5. Add more water to help w/ stirring of cabbage and stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
6. When cabbage turns almost soft (take a bit, if it is super firm, continue cooking unless this meets your consistency needs), add veggie meat, a dash of soy sauce, tomatoes (I used 1/2 large can) and 1 tbsp tahini paste. Stir well.
7. After 2-3 minutes, turn off heat and add seasonings to your liking (parsley, pepper, etc.)
8. Prepare your plate w/ 1 serving millet in shallow dish and combine w/ large serving of cabbage mixture (plan for leftovers!). Toss in bowl and top w/ arugula and cheese.
Recommended pre meal snack: 1/4 -1/3 cup Daisy cottage cheese + small orange or pineapple chunks.



Branson 70.3 RR - 13.1 mile run

It takes time to build strength, speed and endurance. Months at the minimum but likely, years for the body to grow.
The beauty of sports is knowing that you have time. This active lifestyle that we all enjoy (or are learning to enjoy) does not require a finish line to feel accomplished. It is only with goal setting, the fruits of your labor are often most celebrated when you finally cross that "finish line", knowing that you did everything possible to prepare the body and mind for the adventure ahead. For athletes, ultimately, your longevity in a sport is increased by following a realistic, balanced and quality-structured training plan and reduced if you expect to progress too quickly and overlook the significant variables that contribute to successful performances. Goal setting can be useful but it can also be abused. Nothing great is ever accomplished quickly.
For the past three months, Branson 70.3 was always on my mind. During every hard workout, every sport nutrition fueling plan, every good night sleep, every Campy walk and every massage, I thought about my Branson 70.3 race day. A distance that I remember well back in May at the Rock n' Rollman. but long enough to forget the aches that come with racing the 70.3 mile distance. Above all, my training was enhanced knowing that for the first time ever, I would be able to share this exciting opportunity with Karel. 

I'm a firm believer in goal setting for it keeps me on track. Thankfully, my path was very straight in my training for this event and was filled with lots of fun, progress, learning and memories. Sure, a few bumps along the way but no u-turns or wrong turns.
The thoughts that filled my head during the past 3 months were years in the making. Funny thing is that the goals that I had set 3 months ago, were reached beyond my imagination on race day. In reflecting deeply about my race day performance on Sunday, I now realize that sometimes dreams can come true. Thoughts that had only occurred in deep sleep (thus far from reality) and were unimaginable "goals" back in 2006.....6 Half Ironman's ago and 2 weeks before I met Karel.
The mind is an amazing thing. It can play games with you if you feel you are "doing good" but someone puts thoughts inside your head to question whether or not you are "doing the right thing." I ignored the outside chatter as to anything "best, only or can't/shouldn't" in terms of diet, sport nutrition and/or training. It's hard to tune it all out but I realized that success is reached in many forms. What's the best form? The one that works for you and allows for consistency, good health and progress.
I've had my share of downs with racing, specifically in terms of racing with a undiagnosed hip injury (likely piriformis syndrome that I still have to monitor, hence the extra emphasis on hip strength, massage, tennis ball rolling on my butt and quality training) at Kona 2007. Without a single "injury" setback this year (although a few modifications for preventative measures), I quickly recognized that my successful race season was always plagued with one constant limiter.....MY MIND.
Nevertheless,  my amazing friend Gloria along with my "think outside the box" husband, have given me the strength to reach higher limits in my racing (and training) this year.
Recognizing that my only limiter for every race this year was my mind, I embraced the scary thought that I could actually race strong at Branson 70.3. Thankfully, the body and mind did not disappoint.
One of the several reasons why we picked this race, was for the 3-loop run course. I absolutely love loop courses and seem to run the best when I have opportunities to revisit the same parts of the course, receive energy from the crowds and see competition.

After leaving transition, we ran through a little of the Belk parking lot and up a ramp (over the grass) to the Landing. Talk about a fun, spectator-friendly race!
The cobblestones were not comfortable for running so with the course closed to athletes in the street, I opted to run on the outside of the cobblestones to avoid possibly landing on the wrong spot on a cobblestone.
As I was running, I stuck within my uncomfortable comfort level and reminded myself that I had trained hard for a 1:40 run. With a PR recently in May (on a much hillier run course) of 1:42, I realized that being more conservative on the bike would make for a stronger run. And I've realized that no matter how strong of a cyclist or runner you are, you can not bank time (or go for a mph time goal) on the bike and expect a strong run. There has to be some kind of compromise, perhaps to bike a few minutes slower in order to avoid a 10+ min slower run/jog/shuffle/walk.
I forgot to put on my HR monitor but with the cooler 60-70 degree temps for the run, I was confident that my fatigue would not be related to the heat. In training, I have used perceived exertion, heart rate and pace for my sets (track, long/group runs, brick runs) so despite only running between 20-25 average miles a week, I felt confident going into this run for a strong race.
I noticed that the first 2 miles came quickly. Likely because I had no idea where the route was going (aside from reviewing course maps) so this was a welcomed surprise to run a semi-technical course with several turns, one or two short punchy hills (super short), a loop around a park and an out and back in another park. It was a great, non boring run and I loved every mile of least for the first loop.
I was running strong and saw Karel as I was nearing mile 3. I gave him a big smile and he smiled back. Instant boost for the legs!
 found myself running with mostly guys in the 70.3 race and confusion as to my place with the other shorter races going on. I passed 2-3 women in the first 3 miles of the course, that I remembered on the bike. After making my way back to the town, I once again enjoyed the unknown as to where I was running to. On the way back from the first loop, we ran on the outside of the million dollar show fountain, close to the water. I loved this little bridge that gave a little spring with each step.
After passing the fountain, it was time to run into a small park for the final turn around before starting loop #2. At this point, I think I passed another female but still had not seen the girls who were leading my age group.
I remember seeing a girl in black and yellow on the bike and with her bike racked near me, I figured she was in my age group since we both exited the water close together.
There was another female, #20 that I kept spotting on the run course but I wasn't sure if she was an age grouper (with a low number) or pro because I was getting closer and closer to her within each loop.
When I started the second loop, the mind games began. Some people sing songs in their head, others think positive thoughts.....what do I do?
I do math.
It is the oddest thing but in every training session and every race, I find myself adding, subtracting, multiplying and doing equations. I am not a math guru but for some reason this helps me pass the time by and makes me forget about any fatigue in my body. I was trying to figure out how long each section was on the bike, what mile I would see Karel again, how long until x-spot on the course, what pace I would average if I slowed down to x-pace.....seriously, I do every type of math problem possible, even trying to figure out paces that I am not running. But it works and I free my brain to this tactic that seems to help me out.
Throughout the run I sipped on my 300 calorie huckleberry gel flask at every mile w/ water at aid station and sipped as needed between the miles. I felt alert and well fueled with absolutely no stomach discomfort, cramping or abnormal fatigue. I found myself getting warm on the run so I also used water to cool my body temperature. I walked as needed when I found myself not being able to keep good form, so I think at 3 or 4 aid stations, I moved through with a quick needed walk. Since I walk in almost every run training session, this was nothing new for me and very welcomed. Karel on the other hand told me he was really struggling with this new feeling of running 13 miles off the bike so he was scared to stop for the worry of not being able to run again.
With the mind games continuing, I told myself that after my 2nd lap, I had 1 to go. Such a novel thought to keep myself focused.
I noticed that the girl in black and yellow was slightly slowing down when I saw her on opposite parts of the course. Still running strong, she started the run (after looking at results), almost a mile (or 6ish minutes) ahead of me and I just couldn't seem to catch her.
The crowds were amazing and I heard lots of "go pink" which made me smile and give a big thumbs up. I also noticed my friend Jenny Fletcher, Oakley Women Pro triathlete, who ended up winning her first Pro race! After seeing Karel for the 2nd time and realizing that I was still running strong (according to perceived exertion for my pace was slowing), I decided that I was not going to give up until my body gave up.
Having an incredible race thus far, I was not going to let my body win over my mind. I really had to dig deep on the 3rd lap. Thinking about that 12 mile marker on the way other side of the course, I figured "hey, Campy can run 4 miles, so can I!"
I remembered the same feeling at the 2012 Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon when my body wanted Soooooo badly to stop but I was not going to surrender and risk not winning my first ever running race. I remember reading Bree Wee's blog at IMKY this year, nearly being caught by Jackie Arendt in one of the most exciting female races I have watched on
I also remembered the many athletes (including my own) who may not ever have the chance to win a race or an age group award but still push to their limits because they want "it." It was with this determination and refusal to come all this way to not see what I am capable of achieving, that I decided I would go for it.
Mile 10. I could see her.
Mile 10.5. She was getting closer. Either I was getting faster or she was slowing down but it  was happening.
Mile 11. I was running behind the girl in black and yellow. The girl that I assumed was winning the amateur/age group race. As my body was hurting beyond belief from the effort I was running, my body went numb with excitement.
Mile 11.2. Footsteps behind her, I was scared. "What if she had another gear?" I asked myself. For I had used mine all up. I was on cruise control with an exhausted tank. My mind was still strong and I felt fueled but as you can imagine, there comes a point when the body will scream and beg to stop.
Mile 11.3. I did it. To the left of her, I ran by her and didn't look back. OMG. "Did I just pass the first place female for age groupers?"
I kept on running and saw Karel for the last time. Neither of us had much of a smile on our face but I think we both felt each other's pain.
I have to share a funny story, real quick. I ran over the last timing mat after I passed the girl and I was SO excited for all our fans (thank you!) to see that I had passed her. Ughh, the tracking didn't work on the run (later did I find out) and that was the main thing that kept me running thank you Trimarni fans for keeping me going even though you had no idea what was going on.
On the way back from the loop in the park, I saw the girl who I passed but didn't allow that to slow me down. As I passed mile 12, I had no idea if I was really in first place for everything seem to hit me hard.
I walked through mile 12 aid station but didn't look back. It was a quick stop and I resumed running to great Karel at the finish line.
The longest mile of my life never ended........
Thankfully, the cheers became loud, the volunteers were fantastic and I was finally out of my gel flask. It was officially time to finish this race.
I ran to the far left to signify my finish of this race and I entered the finishing chute, all alone.
I ran across the line, only to hear the announcer say "I think this is the 2nd amateur female finisher, Marni Sumbal from Jacksonville, FL"
I fell to my knees and was asked by a volunteer if I needed medical. I politely said "no" and used his help to shuffle me to get my medal and hat. Karel was waiting for me and gave me the biggest hug. I told him that I thought I was first but we both said that 2nd was still a phenomenal finish.
Later did we find out (about 3 hours later at awards) that #20 (Joanna Anddler) was listed as an age grouper but was racing as a professional.

Results found HERE 
So, the most exciting news was finding out that not only did I place as the first female finisher across the line but I also had the fastest age group run (which was a 6 min PR for me), I set a course record for my age group (30-34) AND Karel was listed as 6th place (45 seconds away from 5th) only to also find out at awards that the 5th place guy was listed in the wrong age group! Talk about a bunch of fantastic surprises!! Karel said he gave everything he could in the race and felt extremely accomplished when it was over. He said it was the hardest thing ever and he has never been more excited about his 5th place award. Karel ended up running 1:33!

My splits for the run:
Mile 1: 7:12
Mile 2: 7:10
Mile 3: 7:12
Mile 4: 7:13
Mile 5: 7:16
Mile 6: 7:16
Mile 7: 7:25
Mile 8: 7:37
Mile 9: 7:28
Mile 10: 7:36
Mile 11: 7:33
Mile 12: 7:45
Mile 13: 7:38

Complete RESULTS:

We both ended up receiving slots to Vegas for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships but we had decided pre-Branson 70.3 that we would not take them. With Karel's first IM next year in Lake Placid and my 6th Ironman and an unknown of how the day will turn out next year, I am willing to take a chance on a possibility to qualify for Kona Also, the turn around from IM Lake Placid in July and the 70.3 WC in Sept, is not something that I want to put my body through. Realizing that if I were to qualify for Kona next year (always a goal), I will need to ensure a proper recovery to do two Ironman's within a 4 month window.

But it made me super happy to let the 3rd place girl in my age group know that I would not take the slot. I remember when I received a roll down at IMWI in 2010 and it was the coolest feeling in the world. It was a nice feeling to return the favor and to share the excitement with all the 70.3 WC qualifiers.
Words can not describe how much is means to me and Karel that we can inspire others to set goals and work hard for them. Fitness status (or weight) has nothing to do with goal setting. If you want something in life, go for it and never let excuses get in your way. A strong heart, mind and body is all you need to succeed in life. Enjoy life to the fullest.


Branson 70.3 RR - 56 mile bike

I'm really struggling to put a definition on this bike course. Karel says that a lot of hearts were broken on this course by athletes experiencing trashed legs on the run.
It's hard for me to properly describe this course because I am a 5 foot triathlete, from flat Florida, who loves to climb. Karel is a former (and very recent) Category 1 cyclist who spent much of his teenage years, climbing mountains in Europe.
Karel said this course was no joke and much harder than he imagined it would be from the course profile.
I decided I would let Google dictionary help me with a realistic definition...
(pictures from this race report in 2010)
The Branson 70.3 bike course is TOUGH - Physically hardy, rugged, severe, harsh, aggressive, demanding, troubling
One must be TOUGH - Able to withstand great strain without tearing or breaking; strong and resilient.
The Branson 70.3 bike course is DIFFICULT: hard to do or accomplish, demanding considerable effort or skill, arduous, hard to endure, hard to comprehend, hard to manage.

The Branson 70.3 bike course is CHALLENGING: Demanding, calling for full use of one's abilities or resources in a difficult but stimulating effort.

I'm still stuck on a definition but let's go with that the Branson 70.3 bike course is a challenging, difficult course that requires one to be tough.

After the 1.2 mile swim, the bike included a 6 mile section of rolling hills. Now that I think about this, I'm guessing less than 15 miles of this entirely non-flat course included the fun type of rollers where you can gain some speed on the downhill to help with the next uphill. Parts of the Branson course reminded me of San Antonio/Dade City (north of Tampa) or Clermont, Florida (well-known Sugarloaf mountain) with rollers that you could get some speed on the downhill to help with the next uphill. I love those!
But in Branson....there was very little of the course that you felt any "help" with the descends.
Many people have asked me how I train for hills. Karel is not a fan of bridge repeaters for he feels it is not a good simulation of climbs because the bridge is just not long enough to adapt. However, it is good for brief muscle memory adaptations so for many athletes living in flat areas, it can be beneficial to help with power production.

With our longest ride at 3:30 hours (majority of rides around 2:45-3 hours) and no idea as to how many miles I did within each bike session, the intervals we did were very specific and I became an efficient rider thanks to steady intervals (mostly Z3) focusing on power and cadence. I really enjoyed my entire 3- month training block (specific to Branson) but I felt as if I became a much stronger rider due to a few things....
1) riding with Karel (on his wheel, thus going much faster than I would do alone since most of my average mph for bike rides are around 17-18 mph due to warm-up/down and recovery between intervals)
2) doing more specific, longer intervals (primarily 12 - 30 min w/ 2-4 min EZ recovery focusing on power, not speed)
3)  focusing more on my nutrition around my bike workouts. In the past 3 months, I have not done a single workout on an empty stomach and aside from swims (where I use water most of the time), I have had Hammer Heed and/or Hammer gels for every single workout (bike and run). I have also been in-tune w/ my recovery needs post workout (typically a smoothie w/ whey protein, veggies, fruit, milk/yogurt) and I have perfected my pre training nutrition which generally (for endurance workouts) include at least 4-6 ounces of skim milk (for the leucine) w/ my favorite carbs. I also learned that non-cooked oats or cold cereal (shredded wheat) works great compared to my old favorites of toast/bagel w/ PB or oatmeal. I do not measure my food but when it came to pre training nutrition for each discipline (bike/run), I wanted to make sure I perfected my nutrition. I did not measure to "count" or fear calories but to make sure I had enough. I found myself perfecting my nutrition before every workout (aside from swim which is typically 1/2 banana or WASA cracker w/ smear of PB) so that by race day, I would not feel the need to blame anything on nutrition. If it works in training, it should work on race day. Never overlook the importance of nutrition before, during and after's not about calories but rather allowing the body to be consistent with training. I eat to body takes care of itself as I get stronger with every training session.
4) and lastly, what I feel is really helping me succeed in hilly courses such as Kona, IMKY, Rock n' Rollman in Macon, GA and IMWI since I live in pancake flat Jacksonville, is strength training. Not the kind w/ machines but rather, body assisted to mimic muscles I would use in climbing (and will use). I love step-ups on a block, anything for the core (for balance) and lunges and knee raises/leg lifts on the BOSU. I strength train year round but each block of training has a specific strength training routine. I kept up with hip strength until 2 weeks out and stopped my more aggressive strength about 4 weeks out from race day. I also love core exercises which I do daily. I keep things balanced so when it comes to strength, some days it is 10 min and max, 25-30 min on my swim days. I never do strength around a bike or run workout.
So with all that said, on to the race......
The bike course was beautiful. The scenery was amazing and I found myself loving it all. Karel spoke with Pro triathlete Nina Kraft at the airport and she mentioned she was really cold on the bike and it took her a while to warm-up. I was nervous about this for myself as I am not comfortable riding in cold weather (especially post swim) but I focused on my controllables and opted no arm warmers and gloves but instead, put on dry calf sleeves, socks and a jersey in transition. I was a little cold on the bike but the first few climbs warmed me up.

I'm not sure if this is exactly part of our course but a good idea as to the looooong climbs that made for a challenging, tough and difficult bike course. I felt a little cool on the first descend on the highroad (after the aid station that came after the turn around of the loop course) but it didn't bother me. If anything, it was a constant reminder to stay hydrated for the 90+ degrees in Florida make it easy to sip away. Karel use an aero bottle and 2 other bottles on his bike and I used 2 rear cages (which I can easily reach  - this is a common mistake for athletes. If you have something on your bike, make sure it is practical and useful) and my front frame cage, with three bottles filled with my Hammer Heed Strawberry mix (240 calories). I didn't grab anything from the aid stations although they were well - stocked w/ wonderful volunteers. I also had a gel flask filled with 3 Huckleberry gels (a good amount of BCAA's to keep my head focused and muscles energized) that I sipped on at each turn around point). I tried to sip my drink at appropriate places on the course, where the HR was controlled. I avoided sipping during or immediately before a climb or right after a climb so I took advantage of parts of the course where my power and HR was low to ensure proper digestion and absorption of calories. I had no troubles with nutrition on this course and felt alert strong and well-fueled.
I saw Karel as I was about to start my way-back of the first loop and that lifted me up. However, the section off the highroad to the turn around (at the high school) reminded me a lot of IMWI with some rough roads and steep, punchy climbs. As I mentioned before, there was little on this course that felt like you had some "help" along the way, except on the way back to start the 2nd loop (and to finish the 2nd loop) which seemed to have a little tailwind. The way out was rough as the wind seemed to get stronger and as the race went on, the climbs seemed to get longer.
Karel didn't end up passing me until somewhere around mile 40 (a few miles before the turn around on the 2nd loop...yep, they made us do 2.5 loops with the turn off at the top of a super long climb). I was so excited to hear someone say my name and as he slowed down just enough to quickly talk to me, he said "Guess what...I swam 35 minutes!!!" and then he was off.
I smiled and yelled great job babe!!! But he was conservatively "crushing" the hills. I figured I would see him again until the run so I allowed that little conversation to give me the motivation and inspiration I needed to ride steady to the finish.
Although I felt really good, without any stiff legs or aches, I did have a few low moments where it felt really hard. Specifically, on the out section of each loop, with the wind, I was struggling at 5 or 7 mph at times. It was exhausting but I kept with positive mantra's (advice from my friend Dr. G (Gloria) and stayed within my limits for my power. I had studied past race results so I expected a time of 3:10-3:20 to be realistic and I made sure to not overdo it on the climbs as I would gain very little to power up a climb only exceeding power that my body was not trained to do.
I kept reminding myself that no race is easy and it shouldn't be easy. The whole focus of racing is to finish knowing that you overcame obstacles and the odds. I also told myself that I didn't want it to be easy. I didn't train for an easy race but rather one that I could perform well, with the body that I had trained well. With these thoughts I was finding myself at the turn off and I nearly yelled out loud "YIPPEE" as I veered to the far right, just to make sure the volunteers knew I had tackled the highroads, it's time to run.
The last 6 or so miles were rollers. I was expecting more downhills but aside from the steepest downhill I have ever experienced (Karel maxed at 49mph), the course was a lot of fun for the rest of the course. I loved the rollers, the technical turns to keep things interesting, the bike path (no passing zone) that reminded me of trails near my parents and the last steep, short hill to give the legs something more to remember on the run.
With 3 other races (Relay, sprint, Olympic) going on, I wasn't exactly sure of my place in my age group but I counted about 6 or 7 age group girls ahead of me after the bike. Not going for a time goal, I was super excited to enter T2 (different location than T1) with a bike time of 3:07 (17.89 mph).
My splits were:
0 mi20 mi 1:07:381:41:0717.74 mi/h
38 mi18 mi 1:01:382:42:4517.52 mi/h
56 mi18 mi 58:313:41:1618.46 mi/h
Total56 mi3:07:473:41:1617.89 mi/h
Karel rode really smart, not riding as fast or hard as he could have. He said it was hard to hold back because he knew he could ride harder but we have learned from past race performances of athletes, that it always comes down to the run. To "bank" time on the bike, only to suffer, walk/jog or hurt on the run, is not worth the extra 2-5 minutes for a "faster" bike. This was a calculated risk that both Karel and I took on this course, to help us run strong off the bike. Also, with power zone tests specific to the longer distances, we were able to train with practical zones that allowed us to improve both on the bike and running strong off the bike.
Here's Karel's splits:
20 mi20 mi 58:481:36:3620.41 mi/h
38 mi18 mi 54:552:31:3119.67 mi/h
56 mi18 mi 51:423:23:1320.89 mi/h
Total56 mi2:45:253:23:1320.31 mi/h

When Karel finished the bike, he was unsure of his place. In looking at the results, he was 6th off the bike. With the questions as to how his legs would perform for his first time running a half marathon after a 56 mile bike ride, Karel said this was the hardest thing he has ever done....embrace the unknown and push through.
Off the bike, I noticed very few bikes in transition for females. I was keeping an eye on the age group females and decided I was 2nd or 3rd in my age group (or wave of 18-34) and 6th or 7th off the bike.
I racked my bike and quickly put on my Pink hammer visor and Brooks Launch running shoes. I didn't use my back-up race belt w/ number but exchanged my mostly finished gel flask for a new gel flask, filled with 3 huckleberry Hammer gels and water (same as on the bike) that I would use as my primary fuel source (w/ water at aid stations) for the 13.1 mile run (around 300 calories).
When I started the run, I hit the lap on my Garmin 910XT multisport function and to my surprise, my legs felt good. More than good, strong.
With the crowds awaiting me on this 3-loop run course, I had made up my mind within the first 1/2 mile of the last leg of this challenging, tough and difficult race.....
I will not give up until my body gives up......let's do this body!
Stay tuned for the 13.1 mile run RR.....


Branson 70.3 RR - Pre race + 1.2 mile swim

The normal 2 days before an endurance event dinner...
Pizza for me, pasta for Karel. We wanted local eats but the place we found was smoking inside (pub) so we decided on Chicago Pizza in the Landing.

Happy Birthday pre-birthday to KAREL on 9/22!!!

Pre race - 9/22
Saturday could have been a rushed day but I wrote out an itinerary for our to-do's and was careful to not overlook the importance of "rest" on the day before our race.

Source: here

We warmed up near the race venue (pictured above is race start) with a 10 min lake swim, followed by a 45 min bike (on the first 5ish miles of the course) and then a 10 min run to open the legs. While sipping on our Hammer Recoverite, we checked in for the event at the host hotel, Chateau on the Lake and scoped out the swim/T1 scene.

We stopped a sub place for a meal and then headed back to the hotel. We had packed up our stuff for the race on Fri evening so there was ample time to rest in the room. Although, it always seems like time just ticks on by.

Around 1:30 we headed back to the Chateau (5.6 miles away, 15 min drive) for the athlete briefing which I find is a mandatory to-do no matter the race. Afterward, we checked in our bikes at T1 and decided instead of setting up transition on Saturday (like some) we would do so on Sunday morning.

We made a stop at the local grocery store for stuff for dinner. We opted to eat in our room with familiar food and an environment that wouldn't require us to wait for our pre-race dinner or risk anything w/ food prep. Also, we saved some money by not eating out, which is always a nice bonus.

My yummy creation that I enjoyed after we checked in all our stuff. All I need is a grocery store and a microwave and my favorite, trusty pre-race meal (for the past 5+ years) is easy to find and easy to make. Karel got chicken and rice (we bought the 90 second microwave seasoned rice in a bag) and I gave him a little of my salad.

We made a stop at T2 near the landing (1 mile from our hotel) to set up transition w/ our run gear. Funny to see a lot of bike racks w/ no bikes but I enjoyed having two separate transitions. Something different and new for me but I thought it was neat to break up the race and to avoid the clutter with the same transition for swim to bike and bike to run.

We both had a bag for our run gear (shoes and visor) and for me, a gel flask filled w/ 3 huckleberry gels for the 13.1 mile run. They gave us two bib numbers so with the number being mandatory on the bike, I decided to make an extra race belt w/ number for the run (I do the same in the IM) just in case I lose my number on the bike.

After a delicious and satisfying dinner around 5:30pm, we rested in our room until a little before 9pm and then it was time for a good night of rest. I prepared my bottles w/ powder only this evening so that on race day morning all I had to do was fill w/ water.

Race day morning
I sent my phone alarm (more like 3 of them for back-up) for 4:15am. The time was actually very comfortable for waking considering that we have stayed on Eastern time, not Central in Branson. We each did our own thing for breakfast based on what works for each of us.

I had a bowl of frosted shredded wheat (around 200 calories) w/ skim milk and 1/2 large banana (sliced). I topped my cereal w/ some raisins and sunflower seeds and spread a little PB on my banana. I could tell I was a little nervous (although I didn't feel like I was) because my tummy was a little off but in thinking back to almost every race, it is the same pre race "off" tummy that has never hurt my race day performance. We also picked up brewed coffee at Starbucks on Sat to reheat on Sunday. Smart call by Mr. European (Karel) for a nice change to hotel coffee. I also had a 28 ounce bottle of water for the morning to sip on as well as around 16 ounces or so w/ breakfast to help w/ digestion.
We used some Balm Bag instead of body glide before we left, for we find this much better to prevent chaffing. I forgot to put some around my arms where my jersey rubbed during the run but no chaffing during the swim w/ my wetsuit which was nice.

We headed 1 mile down the road via car to the Belk Parking lot to pick up the shuttle. Surprised at the long wait and lack of enough shuttles, we waiting in the 43-46 degree weather for around 20 minutes. Finally, we got on a shuttle a little before 6am which was good considering that transition closed at 6:45am.

When we arrived to transition, it was cold. I didn't let it get to me but glad I had a jacket, long sleeves, ear cover and gloves to keep me warm. Some people had their wetsuits on on the bus to stay warm. The cold weather was a change from the low mid 50's on Fri,Sat and today, Monday.
My transition area included:
Aero helmet
Cycling shoes
3 bottles of Heed (240 calories) on bike + 1 gel flask w/ 3 huckleberry gels (300 calories)
Pink CEP compression socks
Arm warmers (didn't use)
Gloves (didn't use)
Jersey (I opted to put on a dry jersey post swim vs wearing a wet one on the bike)

I planned for a longer transition because it was important to me to be comfortable on the bike and not super cold with tight muscles for the first climbs out of transition.

After I set up my transition, I made a quick stop to the port-a-potty and thankfully, the line moved quickly. I guess I was well hydrated that morning. On the days leading up the race, we both took 1 Hammer Fizz daily for electrolytes to ensure proper cardiac and muscular functioning on race day. Also, 2 daily tissue rejuvinator is part of my normal routine so I don't have to consume Alleve, ibuprofen, etc. I do not take any anti-inflammatories on or near race day and it is more like 8-10 a year as needed for "serious" issues.

Karel had no trouble setting up his transition so we met at the lake for a warm-up swim. This was super important for Karel so he wouldn't hyperventilate on the swim or freak himself out. The water was toasty and just perfect at 74 degrees. I had my Xterra Female long sleeve Vector Pro wetsuit which I absolutely love (super comfy) and we warmed up with a little swimming before they closed the lake for the pro start at 7am. We shared a gel (Hammer huckleberry) around 10-15 min before the race start.

It was a little cold on the rocks on the beach but despite my knees shaking a bit, I was glad I did a warm-up swim to get the body going.

SWIM - 1.2 miles
A little after 7:10, it was time to give Karel a kiss for confidence in his first ever half ironman. He said he was nervous but wasn't sure why. I told him  I still get nervous but I think nerves can sometimes be confused w/ the unknown of the day ahead and a mix of excitement thrown in. I told him he will do great and that all he has to do is think about his form on the swim and to stay on the outside to avoid getting mixed up with everyone in his wave.  Once he got on the bike, I told him he will really feel at ease.

My wave started at 7:15 and was an in-the-water start. We swam just a little to the buoy and I positioned myself on the far left of the 18-34 wave (last female wave) even though we were to keep the buoy's to our right. After thinking about the mess that can come from trying to swim in a pack of people (especially wave start) I figured it would be more efficient for me to swim a little longer distance but to be able to actual swim vs. constantly spotting and navigating through the other 4 waves ahead of me.

After I started my Garmin 910XT, we were off!
I felt really smooth during the entire swim. Unable to properly pace myself on the swim, I decided to just stay smooth, draft whenever possible and to be efficient w/ my stroke.The last month or so of pushing my comfort zone w/ the fast guys, was really paying off. I found  myself feeling great throughout the entire swim and there was a good amount of buoys which helped for staying on track. When I was navigating around the last buoy on the way back (it was a clockwise swim, out to buoy, then semi diagonal to another buoy then straight shot to the swim exit) I looked at my watch in the water (the lake was considerably clear near the surface) and was excited to see my time.

I stayed behind another girl in a pink cap who was about 2 body lengths ahead of me. I tried to keep her in my sight and I didn't pass her until we ran up to transition. Later I realized she was a super strong cyclist but also a great swimmer to push me to not slow down.

I exited the water in 30.03. Super happy with this time as I felt I didn't go out too hard but just enough to stay in the mix. My garmin said 1.27 for the distance which is ok for me considering that my strategy to stay on the outside really helped.

I ran up to T1 on a steep ramp and took my time in T1, putting on all my gear that I have used effectively in training. The jersey took a little to put on but I feel it was worth wearing a warm (not wet) jersey on the bike.

I started my bike computer (Garmin 500) as I was running out of transition and hit my lap button on my Garmin 910XT since I had it on auto multi sport for triathlons.

Once I started the bike, I felt good. I was really excited for the bike to see what I was able to accomplish for this was something very new to me in triathlons. I have climbed before (IMKY and IMWI and KONA) and enjoy a challenging event but this was something completely different. More than 200-400 feet of climbing at a time, this was a serious, no-joke bike course. It required me to be smart, to take a few risks and to be consistent w/ power and nutrition.

I had an idea of a respectable time (3:10-3:20) on the bike based on past performances from girls in this age group from the past two years and to average around 17 mph was very respectable on this course. I figured I would still be able to compete with the other girls within this range and it wasn't worth it to me to kill myself for a sub 3 hour bike, only to suffer on the run. I took some risks being a little conservative on the bike but to monitor my power. More than anything, I love to climb and sometimes I push too hard so I didn't want to get caught up in any time goals for this race. I wanted to race strong and smart from start to finish so that meant holding back a bit and at the same time, pushing it when needed (like, on the run).

Girls were passing me on the first climb but I didn't let it get to me. I just told myself "what will you gain in the first 6 miles of this challenging bike course?" and after the first 6 miles, I started to question my strategy......

Bike Report coming soon......

A little report on Karel's first 1.2 experience in a a lake.
He felt really smooth and found that swimming slightly to the outside helped his nerves for this event. He was able to focus on his form and he even surprised himself when he was passing people. He said when he exited the water he was shocked to see 34/35 minutes on his watch. He said he was so excited, he couldn't wait to find me on the bike course to tell me :)
He said the transition area was a little packed for him but he didn't have any trouble getting his stuff for the bike. He also passed on the arm warmers and wore a SL3 tri suit for the race (which he practiced several times in training). Karel has Louis Garneau Vorttice aero helmet (I have a pink/black Giro aero helmet).


Branson 70.3 - Finisher report!

We DID IT!!!
Branson 70.3 finishers!
First off, thank you for your support, enthusiasm and excitement for our first race experience together. Secondly, I apologize for any typos or spelling body and brain are very tired (thanks for understanding).
I am so excited to write my race report but for now, I am going to enjoy doing nothing. My season is official complete and it's time to reflect and think about next year.
A day after his 36th birthday, I'm so happy that Karel enjoyed his first half ironman....and this course was no joke. Harder than we could have imagined while reviewing info about the course but once we arrived to Branson, we knew race day would be a challenge.
The day started at 4:15am when we woke up (central time) and after riding the shuttle bus to Moonshine Lake, we were greeted with 74 degrees in the lake. This was very welcoming considering the shivers with 43 degree air temps.
The swim was beautiful. The water was clear enough to see your hand entry and the course was wide enough that there was room to navigate around the wave starts. I started at 7:15am and Karel started at 7:23am.
After the 1.2 mile swim, it was a quick run up a steep ramp (from the beach) to T1. This was the only time we would be at this transition since T2 was near the Landing (finish line/run course). It was a little chilly but I was comfortable post swim. In my race report I will go into details as to my gear/nutrition for this race.
The bike started w/ 6 miles of very rolling hills out to the 2 loop hwy bike course. I took Karel's advice and didn't not power the hills to start the bike and it paid off. Once we entered the closed course on the hwy, the long 1-2 mile climbs quickly woke up my legs. The descends were very welcoming but were not long enough. That's ok, what goes up has to go down. Between each out section was a turn off with steeper climbs than the highway and our turn around was in the parking lot of a high school.
The wind was not in our favor heading to the high school but we could feel a little give in the wind on the way back. Still, the same climbing and descending but as the course went on, it seemed like everything got steeper and steeper, longer and longer.
A few pics from the Internet of the bike course...

According to Karel's bike computer, our 56 mile ride included 5085 feet of climbing.
After 2 complete loops (out and back), we made the turn around and headed back on the out loop (again) until the turn off. The last section of the bike included some steep and steady downhills, a bike path, technical turns (just a few, nothing too scary) and of course, more climbs and rollers. With less than 2 miles to go, one last super steep short climb just to give the legs one more memory of this bike course.
After entering T2, it was time for the run. Karel had passed me on the way back on the 2nd loop of the bike (guessing around 40 miles?) so I knew he was already out on the course.
I saw three bikes on the rack from my age group but I new that there was around 6-8 girls ahead of me when I started the run. Because of the Olympic and sprint races, it was hard to tell the competition but I do enjoy having other athletes from different races on the course. It was a challenge for everyone and a beautiful day for a safe, well-run race.
The run was fantastic! Crowds and loops. That's my kind of course. The course was 3 loops, with the finish on the way back of the 3rd loop. It was so great seeing Karel on the course and every time I saw him, it would give me a sudden boost. Of course, the boost didn't always last long but I did feel great on the run...that is, until I started to race it.
After passing a few girls on the run who were super strong cyclists, I had confirmed an age group award....but I wanted more.
I had decided in my training for this event that I would race this race. Not racing a time but rather competition. On race day, I expected highs and lows and didn't try to ignore the lows. I dealt with them with mantra's, positive thoughts and trust in myself.
I want to save some excitement for my race report so I won't fill in the details as to how the run unfolded. I thank everyone who tried to track us all day (and for the overwhelming support on facebook!) and its a bummer that the run splits didn't show up because every time Karel and I ran over a mat, we thought about everyone who was tracking us, so proud that we could put our training to the test for you all to enjoy.
We are sore and exhausted but it was an unbelievable event to have in our memory bank. If you like hills and a lot of beauty in scenery, I highly recommend this race. The organization and support of the IM team as well as the volunteers and spectators was amazing  I'll leave you with the final results as a little spoiler...

Karel's splits:
Swim: 35
Bike: 2:45
Run: 1:33
Total time: 4:57
5th age group, 18th  amateur male
 My splits:    
Race Name/DistanceHALF Ironman
Overall Place52
Division NameW30-34
Division Place1st (age group)
Gender Place1st (overall amateur female)

Swim Time30:30 (2nd age group)
Swim Pace1:35
Transition 12:59
Bike3:07:47 (3rd age group)
Bike Rate17.9
Transition 21:13
Run1:36:33 (fastest female AG run)
Run Pace7:23
Final Time: 5:19.02