Essential Sports Nutrition


Kona ready: reflecting on the journey

It was October 2005 when I heard about the Ironman World Championships taking place online. I was in the Nova medical library studying for my exit exams for graduate school and I was a few months away from running my very first marathon in Miami. I couldn't help but get on the computer to watch whatever was online at that time and although only having completed about 4-5 triathlons, I just felt like I needed to sign up for the Ironman. Not knowing what the training would be like or what's needed to complete an Ironman, November came and I registered myself for Ironman Florida (with my friend Carlos also joining me in this crazy adventure).

I remember calling my parents and they thought I was crazy. Covering 140.6 miles in one day seems impossible for the human body and I knew that...and that's why I wanted the challenge.

After running my first marathon, I qualified for the Boston Marathon. After learning about my accomplishment, I was addicted. I loved the journey of seeing where my body could take me both physically but also mentally and I couldn't wait to train for my very first Ironman.

After completing the 2006 Boston Marathon in April, I went on to finish my first half ironman in Disney in May. After I recovered, I was 100% focused on training for my first Ironman. I found a pre built plan for free on the internet and I followed every part of it. 

I went into IMFL with a goal. 
To qualify for the Ironman World Championship.

 I told my friends and Karel (who I was dating starting May 2006) and my parents and many people thought I was crazy...not only for running a marathon after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 112 miles but also for setting such an ambitious goal for myself. 

I never once thought the goal was crazy. I was motivated by my goal every day and the challenge made me excited. I never felt confident that it would be a breeze to win my age group and receive the 1 slot in the 20-24 age group for Kona but I also didn't let my worries keep me from dreaming big.

I never got the chance to write a race report from my first Ironman because I started my blog in 2007. But I remember IMFL like it was yesterday. I remember the fears, the mixed emotions and uncertainties of what the day would be like during this well-known endurance event. 

I also remember that with all the thoughts going on in my head as to the unknowns, I was so happy that I could finally experience what an Ironman was all about. And, if all went well, I was going to be an Ironman finisher!

Nearing the 1 week countdown until I participate in my 3rd Ironman World Championship, I still have the same emotions as I did with my first Ironman. I smile because I love what I get to do with my body and I enjoy the day that I prepared myself for. Although a bit more confidence and experience in my Ironman brain and body, I still respect the distance just like I did for my very first Ironman. #1 goal is always to finish, #2 goal - execute. 

No matter what type of athlete or fitness enthusiast you are, you must pursue a goal that makes you excited to wake up every day to see what the day will bring. Do not fear how long it will take you to reach that goal for the day will come anyways, you may as well make the most of your days on earth. Do not let others tell you what is not possible and don't be afraid to show yourself what is possible. Do not give up when things get hard and don't let yourself think that every day will be easy. 

Doing something for the first time is scary and the first step is always the hardest. You will make mistakes along the way and you will have setbacks. Many people get excited for a goal but never start the journey because of the uncertainty ahead. 

If you are driven by goals, you will find yourself always making progress. But you have to start in order to see what you are capable of achieving and you can never give up if you want to feel success. 

As I reflect on my very first Ironman, I am reminded of some things that still make me smile and I'd like to use this blog to remember some highlights of my very first Ironman. 

-It was around 40 degrees at the race start and super windy. I told Karel (my boyfriend of 6 months) that "the IM is hard enough, why does it have to be windy!" Still today, I have yet to beat the wind so I don't try. 

-I saw chicken broth was on the run course from the athlete guide. I was worried that what if I craved soup on the run....but I'm a vegetarian!?! I put a can of vegetable soup in my special needs run bag. However, I didn't use it and good thing - I didn't put a can opener in my bag!

-I was at a low moment on the bike course around mile 70 - 80. I finally warmed up but the bike was feeling long. Wouldn't you know...there was Karel and my parents waiting for me in the middle of nowhere. Thumbs up for being at the right place at the right time!!

-My tummy wasn't feeling so good at the start of the marathon. I made 2-3 stops at the potty in the first 3 miles of the race. I finished the marathon on pretzels and water. I'm ever-so-grateful for port-a-potty's on race courses. 

-After riding 112 miles, I couldn't believe that I just rode 112 miles. I never rode that far before and less than a year before that, I was scared to clip-in my pedals and not comfortable on my aerobars. I felt like I had already accomplished so much before I even started the run. 

Around mile 20 or so, I was getting closer to the end of the race. I had secured my Kona spot and 1st place age group win by 50 minutes. I felt absolutely amazing on this run course and I got by with the help of spectators, my family and the other athletes. I saw Karel with a few miles less to go and he yelled to me as he was running on the sidewalk "Babe - you are going to Kona!" and I yelled back "I can't believe it...I LOVE YOU!!"

That was the very first time I told Karel that I loved him. 

-After a massage and a few slices of pizza, we walked back to our condo and I was sore as can be. I could barely walk and I had never felt such soreness in my life. But I insisted on going back to watch the final finishers. Karel joined me. I hobbled my way back as I felt the need to watch those final finishers finish the race. The race that we all started together and with everyone having their own reason for finishing and refusing to give up when the mind and body say enough is enough. It is now my goal to watch every finish line in an Ironman that I finish. I've only missed one (Kona 2007) but I don't plan on ever missing another IM finish line. 

The feeling was surreal. A dream in the making. A goal that others told me was not possible for a swimmer, turned runner turned triathlete. I had this vision in my head as to what it would feel like to earn a Kona slot but never could I comprehend what it would feel like to cross the finish line as a first time Ironman finisher. 

Seven years later and six ironman finishes behind my name, I still get excited, happy and curious as to what body can do on race day. 

With Ironman #7 happening in 8 days, I hope that you are also counting down the days to watching the most inspiring event that you will ever witness and getting yourself excited to set a new goal for yourself. As you watch athletes from the world discover their limits and overcome obstacles on race day, remind yourself that the drive to succeed is from within and finishing a race is the culmination of weeks and months, if not years, of hard work. 
With your goals, you do not have to prove anything others so instead, set your goals for yourself. As you watch the IM world championship online (all day), dare to dream big for yourself and never waste a day working hard for what you want in life. 


YSC and Oakley Women - Strength not Surrender

As you know, it is breast cancer awareness month. As a clinical inpatient RD, I see cancer patients every time I work in the hospital, so.... it's cancer awareness/ prevention month every day.. I am constantly researching and exploring ways to reduce risk for disease for there are so many areas in your life that you can reduce your risk for disease beyond just diet and exercise that will keep your body in optimal health.

As an Oakley Women ambassador, I get the opportunity to test products that are used in my active lifestyle. It's a tough gig but I love it.

(Kona specific Radar shades from 2012)

Oakley is more than a brand that sells glasses and surf shorts.

"Oakley was created for world-class athletes, those who see the limits of possibility as just another challenge. Their dedication drives us to look beyond the conventional ideas of industry standards. It’s in our DNA to identify problems, create inventions, and wrap those inventions in art. And simply to make things better than anyone thought possible. 
Decades of Oakley innovation have been awarded more than 600 patents that elevate physics to the level of art. Technologies transcend sports to enhance the lives of consumers, and more than 110 countries now enjoy a full array of market-leading products including premium sunglasses, goggles, prescription eyewear, apparel, footwear and accessories. These products represent our commitment to excellence — a passion that redefines what is possible for those who defy their own limits."

Oakley is a proud supporter of breast cancer awareness and has a solid relationship with the Young Survival Coalition. 

From 10/1 - 10/15, Oakley Women wants to know if you (ladies-only) have a friend that shows "STRENGTH NOT SURRENDER". 

In support of breast cancer awareness month, post a picture of you and your friend on instagram that shows how strong you are and that you refuse to surrender. 

For your chance to win a YSC prize pack for you and your friend, be sure to tag @oakleywomen @YoungSurvivalCoalition and #strengthnotsurrender and hash tag #strengthnotsurrender

Winner will be chosen October 15, 2013. For official rules stay in touch with Oakley Women Collective

To follow me on Instagram - search TRIMARNI
Can't wait to follow you on Instagram as well!

Stay week I will have a special Kona contest from Oakley Women!


Kona ready: active recovery week

On Monday morning I finished my last long run in prep for Kona. The body and mind felt amazing and I can't wait to put it all together on the big island.

It's pretty cool to see how the body can adapt to training stress over a period of time but it's even cooler to feel it all come together. At one time the body feels slow and the end point seems so far away and with so much work for the body to handle, it's hard to even grasp what it would feel like to be stronger and faster "one day". But when the hard work is done and the day finally comes, you know that it was all worth it. Patience as an athlete can be challenging. Patience for anyone can be tough. We live in a world of wanting everything yesterday and if it takes too long to achieve, there's a quicker way somewhere, somehow. 

I like the journey. I love my lifestyle and I never take a day for granted. I really love what my body allows me to do and every day I wake up excited to see what the day will bring. Not every day does my body give me what my mind can handle and vice versa but I always try to make some type of progress. Or as Karel likes to say "you want to make investments with your fitness and minimize the withdrawals as much as possible. As athletes we are always teetering on the edge - avoid falling off."

Monday morning run -12 mile "long" run
1 mile warm-up
Main set:
3 rounds of 3 x 1 miles descending w/ 30 sec walk in between. 1 minute walk after each 3 mile round. 
Then 1 mile descend to fast. Walk 1 minute. 
Then 1 mile cool down

The body responded amazingly well and I could not slow myself down as my normal 8:15-8:30 min/mile pace for my IM prep just felt like a jog on Monday morning. I just couldn't hold back as sub 8 min/miles was what my IM body wanted to give me on this day and I allowed myself to give in just enough to enjoy the moment but not too much that I wouldn't be saving my best performance for race day. 

 What a beautiful way to end 10 weeks of IM Kona specific training. 

As for Tues: 3000 active recovery swim (no watch so I probably didn't count my yardage correctly but that's OK - I enjoyed the swim and didn't want to get out). Hip and core work followed the swim. 

Wednesday - 1:50-2 hour bike (only my wrist watch - no Garmin) w/ 5 x 6 min hard efforts w/ 3 min EZ in between. 1 loop run off the bike (not sure of time - probably around 7-8 minutes). 

I absolutely love the active period that follows my last long training load for it also leads into taper...which means that race day is near. 

A chance for the body and mind to rejuvinate and recover means extra time to reflect on the past journey. What doesn't change during this tapering period is my lifestyle. There is balance just like there was with training. Plenty of time for Campy, real-food Trimarni creations and sleep as well as my career of speaking, writing and coaching/nutrition with Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, LLC.....which pays the bills. I also maintain physical activity with just enough structure and purpose to keep me sharp but plenty of gadget free workouts to keep me in-tune with my body. 

 Not once during Kona training (or 22 weeks of training for two Ironmans) did I let training affect my love for a balanced lifestyle and not once did training affect my quality of life. Knowing that good sleep, a fantastic real-food diet, good stress management and quality rest make for great training sessions, I never overlooked the many important areas in my life, that alongside putting in the hours of swim-bike-run, that will also contribute to a great race....not to mention a great experience during my prep for Ironman #7. 

This past week (although it's only Wednesday) has been a busy one but I wanted to reflect on a few highlights of the past three days. 

The best part of my day is enjoying the outdoors with Campy. We love our mini walks but we also love the short runs together that make our hearts pump even faster. I'm so lucky to have such a great dog who loves an active and healthy lifestyle just as much as his parents. 

I love lunch n' learns and really enjoyed my talk to a group of employees at Brown & Brown of Florida INC. They are starting a wellness challenge which is fantastic. I love to see people taking an initiative to take care of their health, especially in a group setting. Since I don't prefer to speak about the specifics of nutrition like calories, carbs, proteins and fats but instead the "lifestyle" approach of healthy living, I feel the group walked away with a better appreciation of how to live a more balanced active and healthy lifestyle. 

One of us is taking this tapering thing to the extreme. I guess with Campy turning 6 soon, he has a good reason for feeling tired after helping me train for my past 5 Ironman events. 

Mother nature prescribes the most delicious creations!!
Mixed greens, toasted red quinoa, apple slices, carrots, cucumbers, edamame, corn, leeks, tomatoes, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, pecans, avocado, goat cheese and strawberries.

I believe that your meals should be too pretty to eat and worthy of a photo. 
Red quinoa toasted with olive oil, strawberries, raisins, avocado, cucumbers and sunflower seeds on a bed of mixed greens.

I've been working on a few articles and quotes lately for magazines (Women's Health, Triathlete, Runner's World) for the winter months as well as on and but I wanted to share one of my favorite run workouts, featured at Triathlete magazine online.

Over/under interval run workout

This picture doesn't have to do with the article but I love any excuse to post another pic of Campy. 

And lastly - a huge thank you to Susan Wallis (president and finisher of 39 IM's and 8 IM world championships) and the members of the Hammerhead Tri club who came out out to Corner Bistro this evening for a get-together/Kona send off party. I love my Kona towel and can't wait to use it at the pier (aka "dig me beach") next week!!

Wow - it's been 7 years since I did my first Ironman at the age of 24 and I still have the same love, passion, excitement and respect for the distance and what my body allows me to do to prepare and race in an Ironman -140.6 mile distance - triathlon. 

5 more days til Kona prepped and ready turns into Kona bound!


Travel nutrition tips for athletes

I'm very luck to have married someone who loves to travel as much as I do. I love the comfort of my own home and familiar surroundings but I love the experience of traveling somewhere new and creating memories. What makes life even more exciting as I age, is the opportunity to combine two of my passions: racing and traveling. In other words, we love our race-cations.
Not sure if I love to travel to race or race to travel but either way you view it, I love meeting new people, exploring the world and capturing moments to be remembered forever. 

I loved traveling with Campy to cheer Karel on at his Cat 1 cycling events. 

Now, I love our new journey of racing triathlons together.

But I will never forget the many years that Karel was by my side as my number one fan....

Coach and best friend. 

With two athletes in the house - thank goodness for Campy who can always keep us smiling when nerves are at an all time high and the normal traveling uncontrollables (like traffic) cause us to be a bit stressed out. Campy never ever complains and that is comforting. He also always treats us as if we are winners. 

No matter what race we are at, Campy is always eager to explore his new surroundings and cheer us on. 

And although Campy gets the most attention when we travel...

He's usually the first to bed. 

Campy, did you do that?

In my recent Iron Girl column article, I wrote about one of my favorite topics for traveling: Traveling nutrition. I also recently contribute to on a similar topic of eating in a hotel room before a race.

I know for many, eating away from home can be challenging, overwhelming or perhaps something that is looked forward to.

For anyone who is expecting an upcoming travel for a race, here are two of my recent articles to help you put your worries aside. With a little practice, planning and creativity, you will find yourself enjoying your race day experience with a well-fueled body. 

Traveling Nutrition TipsBy Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N
Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, LLC

It’s exciting to race on a new course but the downside is limited access to familiar foods. If you’ve ever eaten oatmeal with a fork, heated with water from a hotel coffee maker, you know that destination races require a bit of flexibility and creativity and come with challenges.
Be prepared to race at your best no matter the location. Although there’s no place like home, racing nutrition involves eating a reasonable amount of energy-dense, clean (and safe) food to meet the demands of your upcoming race.

Traveling nutrition tips:
  • Stay hydrated: Bring an empty 20-28 ounce water bottle when flying and fill after security. If driving, bring plenty of water for traveling and racing. 
  • Snack frequently: to control blood sugar and to ensure adequate fuel for race day, stock-up on energy dense foods like trail mix, cereal (ex. granola), bars and raisins along with washed fruits and veggies (chopped/sliced).
  • Do your research: Google it! Check out what’s on the road or around your hotel and review online menus for needed dietary needs (Ex. vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.). Consider food options that can be found at gas stations (ex. milk, bananas), CVS (cereal, oatmeal, nuts) and grocery stores (hard boiled eggs, nut butter, bread, yogurt, produce) to help make your stay a little more like home.
  • Plan ahead: Bring as much as you can that is familiar to you. If you aren't able to travel with silverware/plates/bowls, the hotel my have options to help with meal prep and eating.
  • Amenities: Does your hotel room come with a refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave or a continental breakfast (which may not be open before your race start)? These will help make your stay a little easier as oppose to dining out every meal.
Eating out? No worries! Check out these options for your favorite pre race meals:
- Oatmeal: McDonald's, Starbucks, Au Bon Pain, Jamba Juice, Panera Bread.
- Egg white sandwich: Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Einstein Bagels, Panera Bread
- Baked potato - Wendy's
- Grilled chicken sandwich: Chick-fil-A (comes with a fruit cup), Carl’s Jr., Wendy’s (hold the BBQ sauce) and McDonald’s (hold the mayo).
- Veggie burger and garden salad - Burger King
- Veggie sandwich and soup – Subway, Panera Bread
- Burrito or burrito salad bowl (vegetarian options available) - Moe's Southwestern Grill



Reheat, repeat: Smart Meals for traveling triathletes

Including two hotel friendly creations - yum!


A first for Karel (literally): HOT race report

I love to dream big. It is exciting when the hard work pays off and dreaming big can be life-changing. For the 7th time in my life, I get to dream big as I take my body on a 140.6 mile journey to cross the most talked about finishing lines on the Ironman race calendar.

For many, dreaming big means accepting disappointment. It may even mean facing failure. A goal typically has an end point but a dream doesn't always come with a specific time-line. And that can be frustrating.

But if dream smart, you will find yourself discovering amazing things about yourself. Perhaps things that you never thought were possible because you stopped expecting failure and disappointment and instead, welcomed change, hard work and commitment to reach goals that you never once thought were possible.

Like many athletes, the body doesn't always respond when you want it to.  The mind is overloaded, the body feels tired and the goal that has driven you to wake up every morning wanting to work hard for your dreams, is now second-guessed based on life happenings. 

Karel decided last minute (about a week ago), to race in the HOT - Hammerhead Olympic. Karel was itching to race before Miami 70.3 at the end of October and with the race being local (about 45 minutes away at Camp Blanding), Karel was looking forward to changing up his weekend routine. 

As for his race day goals, he told me early last week that he wanted to win it. Of course, not knowing the competition that would be at the race, I still supported his goal 100%. As a coach, I never stop my athletes from dreaming big and as you know from my previous blogs, I am very open with my goals and I am not afraid to work hard for them. I always say - dream big and work hard for what you want and then on race day, race with your current level of fitness with a race strategy that allows you to execute for a strong performance. 

For Karel and myself, we don't chase PR's. Sure, they are great when they come but we don't worry about a time on paper but instead, what happens within the race. The harder the race and more challenging of conditions, bring it! We love training our bodies to prepare for race day and then being able to execute with our current level of fitness with a smart race day strategy. 

As age group triathletes, we have a lot on our plates with life and training is our lifestyle. Like many age group athletes, Karel was feeling off the day before the race with a lot on his mind and a body that was not feeling race ready on Saturday. 

Rather than scratching the race or forgetting about his race day goals, I did my best to continue to support Karel's goal of "go big or go home". 

I'm a firm believer that you have no idea what you are capable of until you try. Don't ever give up before you give things a try. 

I can't tell you how many times I have prepped myself for a workout and doubted myself until the workout happened. So much negativity in my mind that I didn't have "it" for the day but there's no way to know if "it" can happen unless I try. Thankfully, I never once let my fear of failure over-ride my ability to succeed with my Kona training and I felt in my heart that Karel was going to have a great race. 

With a 4am wake-up call, we were out the door at 4:45am and Campy was sad he couldn't come to the pet-unfriendly Camp Blanding. But with a long early morning walk, I told Campy we wouldn't be gone long. 

After picking up Karel's packet and doing the normal pre-race routine (set up transition, bathroom stops, putting on the wetsuit for the first-time wet-suit legal swim at this race, swim warm-up), Karel was standing knee high in the water waiting for the first wave of the race to start at 7:30am. 

When it comes to working on athletic weaknesses, Karel knows that doing more doesn't make you a better, stronger or faster athlete. For Karel, he has been working with Coach Mel at UNF on his swimming and instead of swimming more, he is working really hard with his swim drills and form in the water. With less than 1500 yards for a main set each practice three days per week, Karel has found himself swimming faster thanks to working on the little things. A reminder for us all that to be better,you can not rush the journey. 

I couldn't believe that the first swimmer in the 40 and under male age group exited the water in less than 20 minutes! With not a single other swimmer in sight, the first male was out on the bike before any other swimmer even exited the water. Karel finished the swim in 4th place, nearly 8 minutes behind the leader but I was confident that Karel swam strong so that he could also bike strong. 

Karel didn't lose anytime wearing a wetsuit and made a quick transition before getting on his bike. 

Although I know that Karel's legs can bike around 56-57 min for a 40K bike, today's conditions were on the windy side and this two loop course would present obstacles for the athletes who were not racing smart. 

Karel didn't focus on his power on the bike but instead, he only focused on his cadence and went by RPE. He had one opportunity to see the other athletes on the course and by the time he was nearing the end of the first loop, Karel was within 4 minutes of the leader and sitting in 2nd place. 

Guessing the time of the first place male in his wave, I tried to communicate with Karel the best I could to give him the heads up on his competition at the moment. 

Karel was calm and in his zone and I could tell he was really enjoying is day. 

I walked about 1/2 mile or so down the road to catch Karel and before I knew it, Karel was sitting just about a minute behind the leader as they entered transition. 

I wasn't sure if Karel was first or second because I missed the first place male but Karel quickly told me that he was second....although less than 1 minute behind the leader as they started the run. 

Karel made up mega time on the bike which is a good reminder that if you are an athlete in a race - never ever count yourself out. Even if you are not shooting for a podium spot, every athlete is going to have  a low or an off moment in the race. Sometimes it happens at the beginning of a race, sometimes in the middle. But the great part about  racing is knowing that if you keep going, a high will happen. You just have to keep moving forward to experience the highs for if you count yourself out at a low, you will find yourself stuck in a low place. Move forward and you never know what will happen. 

I really had the best time at this race because not only did I receive a major boost of endorphins from watching Karel race but I also got to cheer for a bunch of local triathletes who are inspiring in their own special way. Mom's and dad's, kids, newbies and the experienced....I just love watching people put hard work to the test. I know there were a lot of dreamers out there and I was inspired by so many people and I can't wait to take that positive energy with me to Kona in 7 days. 

Nearing 35 minutes, I guesstimated that Karel would be coming soon. Despite the wind on this semi-comfortable weather day (relative to Florida weather in the summer), this run course had it's challenges with a few hills. Turns out, Karel's Garmin 910XT got turned off in the swim  so he was just running off RPE, not even knowing his time.

Getting close to 36 minutes for the run, I spotted the awesome-looking Trimarni Tri kit on Karel and with no other male in his race in sight, I knew this would be a first for Karel.....

I can't tell you how incredibly happy and proud I am for Karel. He said he felt great the entire race and never red-lined it.

 Just learning how to swim last May (2012) and doing his first triathlon last summer, don't you love it when hard work pays off? No excuses but instead, enjoyment for what the body is capable of doing and not being afraid to test the limits. The desire was always there to be fast, strong and good at triathlons but Karel new it would take a lot of hard work to get to where he wanted to be. Still with dreams on the horizon (like racing in Kona together), I can't wait to share this journey of life together and enjoying it with so many amazing people who also love using their bodies and crossing finishing lines. 

(Karel and our friend, 2nd place finisher Eric)

1st overall
2:09:15 finishing time
1.5K Swim: 27:57 (12th place male)
T1: 53 seconds
40K Bike: 1:02:13 (23.9 mph average, 1st place male)
T2: 38 seconds
10K Run: 38:10 (6:09 min/mile average, 1st place male)