Essential Sports Nutrition


2011-2012 season recap: no easy way to success

Around the beginning of October, 2007, I came to the conclusion that my body had enough of triathlons. All because I raced the Ironman World Championships w/ an undiagnosed muscular injury in my right hip that left me on crutches after the race and the inability to bear weight on my leg for almost 2 months. I've had many MRI's, x-rays and doctor visits over the past 5 years and thankfully no stress fractures in my lifetime (or broken bones) but a lot of wasted time and money that came from a poor decision that showed that I did not respect my body.

The pain I went through to finish the race is something that I never want to relive again. It was a hard decision to compete in the race and a big part of me wishes that I could have a do-over moment to approach the situation differently. With a flawless season leading up to my first Ironman (IMFL 2006), I figured if it worked the first time around, I don't need to change anything but instead, do more to be more competitive.

A lesson learned the hard way.

I guess at the age of 24, when you win your age group at your first Ironman by 50 minutes and nearly break 11 hours, life seems perfect.

Over the past 5 years I have had a chronic lingering injury that constantly reminds me of my inability to address my weaknesses and to learn from my mistakes. To make matters worse, despite finishing 2 more Ironman's and several running races and triathlons since then, my body gave me one more wake up call in Feb 2011, just 8 months before I was to head on a plane for Hawaii, for my 5th Ironman, the Ironman World Championships. Three months of absolutely no running, thanks to a body that could not manage training, a dietetic internship and lots of stress.

I am reflecting on all of this because I have learned a lot in my racing career as a triathlete. At the young age of 30, I have put my body through a lot and I want to ensure 50+ more years of crossing finishing line. I love having goals and having my only limiter in a race, be my mind. I hate being in pain and wasting my days on earth when I am injured, thinking to myself "if only I would have....."

This year there was not one "would have".

There were also no: I shouldn't, this is bad/not good, oops or this sucks.

This was the year of training smarter to train harder. I picked my races very carefully so that I could taper and recover properly in order to race strong and keep my body healthy for consistent training. I did not take chances with my training, if it didn't feel right, I didn't do it. And because of all this, I trained super hard but knew that with the right structure and emphasis on recovery, I could handle it.

This was the year to show Karel that I can race stronger, smarter and faster than the athlete who was neive at 24, who thought that training for endurance races meant lots of weekly miles and that triathlons was my life, the only reason why I was put on this earth.

This was the year to show others that quality training works when you dedicate your energy to other areas in your life (daily diet, sleep, sport nutrition, stretching, massage, strength training, recovery methods, positive attitude, mental strength) besides just focusing on the miles.

This was the year to give my body a break from the Ironman distance and to focus on my weaknesses and build off my strengths. Above all, I wanted to prove to myself that I can balance triathlons with life and find success, positivity and life lessons after every training session and after every race.

This was a great year. Thanks Body. It wasn't easy and it required a lot of patience, time and trust but I really enjoyed the journey.

2013 Ironman Lake Placid.

I can't wait until next year.

Personal Best Times and accomplishments:
5K: Spa Me 5K, St. Johns County, FL 19:52 (2012) - Overall female winner
10K: Rotary 10K, Trinity, FL 40.09 (2011), Overall female winner
15K: Gate River Run, Jacksonville, FL 1:05.2 (2010)
Half marathon: Subaru Half, Jacksonville, FL 1:31.51 (2011)
Half marathon: Iron Girl Clearwater 1:33.25 (2012) - Overall winner
Marathon: Miami Marathon, Miami, FL 3:38.28 (2005)*, first marathon
Olympic Distance: Jacksonville Tri Series #3, Fernandina Beach, FL 2:15.21 (2012)
Half Ironman: Rock n' Rollman Macon, GA 5:04.56 (2010)
Half Ironman: Branson 70.3: 5:19.02 (2012)***, Overall amateur female winner, age group course record.
Ironman #1 (IMFL): 11:00.47 (2006) **, 1st age group, first Ironman
Ironman #2 (Ironman World Championships): 12.26.58 (2007)
Ironman #3 (IMKY): 10:54.45 (2009), 7th age group
Ironman #4 (Wisconsin): 10:57.53 (2010)**, 4th age group
Ironman #5 (Ironman World Championships): 11:02.14 (2011)

2011-2012 Race Results10/11 Ironman World Championships, Kona Hawaii – 11:02.14
Race Report

Lessons learned: Do not swallow ocean water, keep your mouth closed. Get to the outside of a mass swim start. Prepare your mind for the "what if" moments, don't go out too hard on the bike, IM medals aren't just given away, you earn it.


11/11 Rotary 10K, Trinity, Florida – 40.09, overall female winner PR
Race Report
Lessons learned: 10Ks hurt really, especially around mile 4, you can use your fitness from recovering from a long distance race and not worry about training in the 3 weeks after an IM, a 10K race is a great accomplishment, especially if at one time you would give anything to run 1 mile.

11/11: Subaru Half Marathon – 1:31.51 – 4th 25-29 age group PRRace Report
Lessons learned: hold back the first 3 miles and don't go out too fast, don't overlook the importance of consistent fuel in a long distance running race,  race warm-ups are essential, local races are a lot of fun, Karel is not normal

2/12: Donna 26.2 Half Marathon – 1:35.22 – 5th 25-29 age group
Race Report
Lessons learned: make sure your gel flask is closed at all times, be grateful for every finish and run for those who can't, to avoid making excuses or complaining about race day conditions, race alone, your worst day may be someone's best day

3/12: Clermont Triathlon – 2:24.56 – 1st 30-34 age group, 8th female overall
Race Report
Lessonds learned: it's good to step outside the comfort zone, don't race an olympic tri w/ the same power as an Ironman, always warm upbefore a triathlon, no matter how many times you set up a transition area, it takes so long and you always feel like you forget something

4/12: Iron Girl Half Marathon – 1:33.25 – Overall finisher
Race Report
Lessons learned: the mind can be stronger than the body, running behind the lead vehicle doesn't make the effort any easier, being chased is scary, crossing the line in first doesn't hit you until the pain goes away, running races take the body a while to recover from compared to triathlons
5/12 Spa Me 5K - 19:52, 1st overall female, 4th overall
Lessons learned: 5Ks hurt, you don't need to "train" after a race, for short distance races be sure to stretch more, speed work pays off with endurance training, do a long warm-up for a running race

5/12: Coliseum Rock n’ Rollman – 5:08, 5th overall female, 4thElite female
Race Report

Lessons learned: no matter how many times you do a course it never gets easier, it's not about the race times but what happens within a race, never stop working on your mental strength, speed work helps w/ endurance training, cold water on your head while running is the best feeling in the world, it's so much fun to have friends cheering for you on  a course

8/12: Jax Tri Series #3: 2:15.21- 1st 30-34 age group, 4th overall female PR
Lessons learned: Training w/ someone faster than you makes you push harder,running strong off the bike is a great feeling but it still hurts around mile 4, don't be afraid to take risks when racing, Karel is not normal
8/12: Hammerhead 2.5 mile Open water swim - 1:13 - 1st age group 30-34
Lessons learned: put a lot of bag blam on your neck or you will hurt BAD after a race w/ a speed suit/wetsuit, 2.5 miles in the ocean is a long way to go, every experience gives you confidence

9/12: Branson 70.3: 5:19.02- 1st overall amateur female, 1st 30-34 age group, course record

Lessons learned: the mind and body can be trained to be strong, racing a half ironman comes down to the run, hold back on the bike, stay positive, mantra's work, fuel consistently, recovering two weeks before a race makes the body feel "off" but it works, massage on the Tues before a race is a blessing, don't be afraid to step outside the comfort zone, hard work pays off, Annie Anne's Pretzels taste great after a half ironman, dreams do come true

Off-season training tip

"Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success."
Napoleon Hill

I can't believe one year ago I was packing for the 2011 Ironman World Championships. I will be blogging soon about my recap of my 2011-2012 season, reflected by my decision to not do an Ironman this year. But in the mean time, just a few pictures from last year to remind me of the amazing opportunity I had to be an Ironman World Championship qualifier and finisher, two times earned.

Quick pic before Karel discovers the mountains of Kona on his bike

Thankful for Ironman Finish #5. Successfully starting and finishing every Ironman I have signed-up for.

Pre race warm-up

Karel making sure I have proper hydration n my bike

Can't ask for a better place to warm-up for a race

Karel fully enjoyed his vacation. Sometime, hopefully we will both be racing in Kona.

The calm before the storm. 140.6 miles awaits us all.

No race is complete without a "love my life" thumbs-up photo.


Nearing the off-season for many seasoned triathletes, it's easy to jump into early or late season races with an untrained or unmotivated body and mind, respectively. Participating in an endurance event requires an efficiently trained aerobic system as well as exceptional muscular, mental, respiratory and cardiovascular strength. To perform optimally on race day and reduce risk for injury throughout the season (ex. muscular injuries, chronic inflammation and stress fractures, etc), skills/technique, flexibility, strength training and muscular imbalances/weakness are often overlooked as the most critical components of off-season "training". My advice is to avoid taking a 3+ month break from training and then jump into hard training. Give your body a needed break to become a little "unfit" (aka rested, not "fat and lazy" like many athletes say during a 2-3 month break from all activity) before you get back into things. At minimum, allow at least 1-3 months to build a base prior to training "hard", after a needed "off season" 3-4 week break from structured training. Allow your body to adapt gradually for a few months in order to have the best season thus far. What physiological adaptations can you expect?
-lowered heart rate, increased stroke volume, increased cardiac output, increased heat dissipation (increased surface area of capillaries), increased glycogen storing and use of fat stores, increased myoglobin and increased mitochondria size and number

Questions about training or nutrition in the off-season or worried about staying motivated with exercise in the winter? Send me an email and we can chat about your fitness/body composition/racing goals


Fueled by plants

At the young age of  10ish years old and I made a life-changing decision. I told my parents that I didn't want to kill or eat animals. Since then, I've been a woman of my word.

Of course, leave it to the vegetarian to forget about World Vegetarian Day on Monday October 1st!!!
I guess my lifestyle of being fueled by plants for almost 20 years (April will officially be 20 years since I had my last chicken nugget) makes it easy for me to overlook a day that pays tribute to humans, animals and the planet.

I am a supporter of a plant strong diet but as a clinical dietitian AND endurance triathlete, I keep a very open mind when it comes to the individual diet. You do not have to be a vegetarian to be healthy and a meat-free diet doesn't mean your body will become healthy. Health is something that you feel - it is a way of life and I hope everyone is enjoying a diet that emphasizes real food.

In my early days, my vegetarian diet consisted of a lot of cheese, pasta, pizza, cheeze-it's and pretzels and emphasized little "color" unless you count bagel bites, air head candy and skittles.

Over the last 8-10 years, I've probably made the most nutritional changes in my vegetarian diet in terms of having a "healthy" diet. In the last 6 years, I have learned how to eat for fuel and for health.. Learning more about variety, balance and the nutritional value of certain food sources, I've become more appreciative of what I put into my body on a daily basis. Despite being an endurance athlete, my quality of life is my first priority.

Performance gains, consistent training, optimal health and PR's....well those are just positive side effects of my yummy choices of "fuel".

Based on this year.....I think things are working out just fine.
Branson  Triathlon Magazine RESULTS
Coliseum Rock n' Rollman Half RESULTS
Iron Girl Clearwater Half marathon RESULTS

But let's be honest....this isn't my first year of triathlons......every year is requires hard work, learning and a few mistakes along the way.

As a health professional, I try to remove my own personal biases when it comes to what works for me and how I choose to live my life. I have an extreme soft spot in my heart for animals (if you couldn't tell already) and I am comfortable with my choices to not eat any animals besides dairy, whey and eggs.

I don't feel there is a perfect diet but rather diets that are well supportive of research as to what should be included for optimal health. I do not advocate for anyone to be meat-free in order to be healthy but I strongly advise and recommend others to incorporate more variety and wholesome foods in the diet.

Of course, I find that the best role I have is to inspire others and not to preach. This is why you will not find me discussing "bad" food in my blog or in articles and I hold back wasting my time on diet fads that appeal to the masses. It isn't worth my time or energy to tell you what not to eat so I'd rather focus on all the amazingly nutritious foods out there by overwhelming your eyes with my new yummy creations.

And above all.....I practice what I preach so you won't find me (or Karel) with an off-food list or restricting food because some nutrition guru tells me I'll get fat if I eat it. We don't "diet" to make weight for races, we train hard and let our bodies take care of themselves by becoming strong. You won't see me posting pics of food at work and then eating ice cream for dinner. I own my style of eating and I'm proud to show everyone what I am eating. Most of all, it makes me happy and my role in life is to help others (as a licensed dietitian) find what works for them.

And for all the athletes out there questioning about where I get my protein and why I haven't been sick for 4+ years (despite working in a hospital, working out at a gym, completing 3 Ironman's in the past 4 years), I don't have a medicine cabinet full of supplements, I take no prescription pills and I don't drink protein powder all day. My food is my medicine and with 25g (tops) of whey protein a day, I receive all my protein from food.

I hope you enjoy my latest creation...enjoyed by me and Karel last night in honor of World Vegetarian Day ......which is every day for me :)

Leasa tofu - spicy
Olive oil
Nectarine (or peaches)
Kale, spinach, arugula
Veronica's Health CrunchYellow bell pepper
White onion
Salsa - dressing (not pictured)
To prepare tofu, slice into cubes and cook in olive oil until slightly brown on sides. Toss occasionally, keep pan on medium heat. This is a great brand if you are trying to add tofu in your diet. It has a great texture and taste.


Fall into Seasonal Nutrition


I may live in Florida but I LOVE the change of seasons throughout the year. Although we (Floridians) may not rake the leaves or shovel the snow, the hot humid temps will eventually go away and the cooler temps will grace our bodies as we bundle up for "winter" bike rides and runs.
Just like I love the change in temps (which reminds me that it is officially my off-season), I also love the change of produce. Enjoying seasonal produce keeps my creativity going throughout the year to avoid eating/cooking-boredom and I always look forward to the dark colors in my meals and robust flavors that fill my house. My crock pot, oven and panini maker get a lot of action in the fall/winter but before I know it, it'll be spring again.
My latest article from my Iron Girl column comes at a perfect time. With my best triathlon season ever ending on a high note, the next 3-4 weeks of unstructured activity allow for lots of (extra) time in my kitchen. Although we all need some downtime from structured training (for both body and mind), we must never forget the importance of nourishing the body with wholesome food.
I hope you enjoy my latest article.....happy cooking!
Fall into Seasonal Nutrition
-Marni Sumbal MS, RD, LD/N
Fall is around the corner but not to rush it, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is already in season. At 370 calories and 49g sugar (12 tsp sugar), make the Grande, 16-ounce Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks an occasional indulgence and save money (and time) by making your own.

Combine ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp ground allspice (or cloves) and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg to make 1 tsp pumpkin spice. Sprinkle a little of this mixture on coffee grinds before brewing and instantly, comforting pumpkin spice coffee to sooth your system on a cool fall morning.
From the smells of the crockpot filling your house to spiced ginger tea after a chilly morning run, the bold flavors and strong scents of the fall are not to be ignored. What more could you ask for when it comes to fall nutrition?
A few of my fall favorites

1) String Beans - an excellent source of vitamin C to keep the sickness away, as well as a good source of vitamin A and folate. Beans should be bright in color and should snap easily when you bend them. Use within 5 days of purchasing, stored in the refrigerator. For easy cooking, boil ½ lb beans in 1.5 quarts water for 10-12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. When ready, stir in a little sunflower oil until golden brown and after cooking, toss in a little feta and sundried tomatoes for a sweet, salty side dish.
2) Broccoli Rabe - a good source of vitamin C and iron to keep you energized throughout the day. Choose bright, crisp and tender leaves with beautiful broccoli-like florets. To maintain moisture, wrap unwashed greens in paper towel and place inside a plastic bag (or vegetable fresh bag). Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days and rinse before using. For a satisfying dish, combine with whole wheat orzo or quinoa and season with oregano and crushed garlic.
3) Celery root - an excellent source of vitamin C and to keep your body strong, a good source of calcium and iron. Celery root should be smaller than a softball, without bruised skin. Keep in a cool, dry place for up to a week. When ready, wash and peel before using. Add celery root to your favorite vegetarian stew or try it raw in your best potato salad recipe.
4) Winter squash - an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fiber and a good source of folate and thiamine. Squash should feel heavy and skin should be without bruises. Keep for a few weeks, in a cool, dry place. Slice squash in half and remove seeds. Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt and drizzle w/ olive oil. Roast for 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until lightly golden on top and tender inside. Add to Add cooked or chilled to any stir fry, pilaf or salad.
5) Apples - an excellent source of fiber to help control blood sugar and to ensure a healthy digestive system and a good source of vitamin C. Apples should be firm without blemishes. Store at room temperature for up to 7 days or for a few weeks in the refrigerator. Raw apples make for a great afternoon snack (especially with nut butter) or toss in a recovery smoothie or oatmeal for a dessert-like, filling meal.

To reduce inflammation and improve overall health, consider adding anti-oxidant-rich herbs and spices to your current diet:
-All spice
More information about fall fruits and veggies can be found here:
Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N

Marni works as a Clinical Dietitian at Baptist Medical Center Beaches, is the owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, LLC and provides one-on-one consulting in the Jacksonville, FL area. Marni is a Registered Dietitian, holding a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN). As an elite endurance athlete, she is also a Level-1 USAT Coach and a 5x Ironman finisher. Marni is a 110% play harder, Hammer Nutrition and Oakley Women brand ambassador. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Runner's World Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Bicycling Magazine, The Florida Times-Union Shorelines, Lava Magazine, Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes to, USAT multisport zone and Lava online.