Essential Sports Nutrition


Kona training - long workouts

I can't believe it.
We are just two weeks away from the 2015 Ironman World Championship.
Over the past week, every now and then, it hits me and I have to take a long exhale to calm my nerves and to bottle up my excitement.

In 14 days, Karel and I, and 1500+ age group and professional triathletes from around the world, will start our  140.6 mile journey on the hot and windy island of Kona, Hawaii.

With every Ironman journey, I learn a lot about myself.
This journey has been unique and special in that I had so much fun training my races this season and I had three great performances to help me re-discover my love for racing.
I also really enjoyed how my body responded to all of the workouts.
And many of those workouts were not easy!!
I've never swam so much before, I've never ran so much before and I've never climbed on my bike so much before.
And despite the training load that I accomplished week after week for the past 11 weeks, I've never felt so strong, durable, resilient and healthy before.....And I remained injury and sickness-free.
Thank you body!

This time around, the biggest change for me was that I had a different mindset with my 10th Ironman journey.
Whereas I put in more time training for this Ironman than ever before, I never had "speed" on my mind.
For the first time in my Ironman journey, I stopped trying to get faster.

If there is one thing that I have learned in training for 9 Ironman's (including 3 Ironman World Championships) from 2006-2014 is that Ironman racing requires a lot more than being fast. Actually, for most of us, you don't really have to be "fast" to do well in (or finish) an Ironman.

A successful Ironman race is the one where fatigue is postponed as much as possible.
A great Ironman performance is when you can keep your body from slowing down as much as possible.
If your body is strong, durable, resilient and healthy when you stand at the start line of your Ironman, you can assure yourself that you are ready for the 140.6 miles that you need to cover to reach the finish line.

Speed can help you cross a finish line quickly in a short distance race but in Ironman racing, a lot more is needed from your body than being "fast" in order to cross the finish line.

For this entire season, I never once trained in order to "be faster." I removed all pressure to train in order to see a drop in time in my swimming and running paces or to see an increase in speed with my cycling.

With a huge weight lifted off my back with every workout, I felt so much more freedom this season because I choose to think differently as to what I wanted to accomplish with every workout.

Week after week, month after month, I found myself recovering faster and faster from workouts. I never carried around lingering fatigue and I found myself always excited to train (sure, some days were a bit tougher than others). I constantly felt my endurance improving with a better ability to pace myself (and even push hard in the end of long workouts). I also felt great form throughout my workouts.
And most of all, I constantly found myself enjoying my workouts because I was carrying a new definition of "successful" to describe a great workout.

And you know what?
I got faster this season while training for the Ironman.

Funny how that mind-stuff works (thanks Dr. G!).

Karel and I sweated it out on the trainers this morning due to rainy and cool conditions in Greenville this morning.
After the ride, it was time for a brick run.

Our last "long" brick is behind us after a great (and needed) recovery week and our next ride on our tri bikes will be in Kona Hawaii on Wednesday!!!

As promised in my last blog post, here are my long workouts for the past 11 weeks of training
(Karel and I didn't do the same miles/time for all of our workouts so this is just my training).
Now if only I can control all these emotions!
I'm trying to keep myself calm with all this excitement and control my pre-race nerves.
No regrets - I feel prepared and ready to go.

Ironman Kona Training
(weekend workouts)

9/26-9/27 - 2 weeks out Saturday: 3:15 hour trainer ride + 4.5 mile run (36:31)
Sunday (planned workout): AM: 30 min spin + 90 minute run + PM: 3500 yard swim (all swims below are in the PM).

9/19-9/20 - 3 weeks out
Saturday: 5:20 ride (92 miles) + 4 mile run (32:40)

Sunday: 2:03 (14.8 miles)

9/12-9/13 - 4 weeks out

Saturday: 5:05 ride (85 miles) + 5.9 mile run (47:28)

Sunday: 1:50 run (13.1 miles)

9/5-9/6 - 5 weeks out

Saturday: 3:07 ride (52 miles) + 4 mile run (31:42)

Sunday: 2:09 bike (37.5 miles) + 15.5 miles (2:08) - Longest run focused brick and longest run

8/29-8/30 - 6 weeks out

Saturday: 3:15 ride (56 miles) + 4 mile run (35:02)

Sunday: 1:45 run (12.3 miles) + 3800 yard swim

8/22-8/23 - 7 weeks out

Boulder train-cation - Biggest weekly training load

8/15- 8/16  - 8 weeks out

Saturday: 3:13 (58 miles) + 6.9 mile run (59:58)

Sunday: travel day

8/8-8/9 - 9 weeks out

Saturday: 100 mile ride (6:06) + 5.5 mile run (45:36) - Longest bike-focused brick and longest ride

Sunday: 1:27 run (10.3 miles) + 3800 yard swim

8/1-8/2 - 10 weeks out

Saturday: 4:50 ride (92 miles) + 2 mile run (17:48)

Sunday: 1:55 (13.1 mile run)

7/25 - 11 weeks out

Lake Placid train cation - Kick-off Kona training

A few notes:
-All of my bike/run workouts were outside except for today's ride on the trainer. I only train on hilly roads.
-All of my runs were by myself and I did about 50% of my long rides alone (otherwise I rode with Karel but not always "with" him).
-Our typical elevation profile when we ride is around 1000-1500 feet of climbing per one-hour of cycling and around 50-150 feet elevation gain per one-mile of running.
-We swim ~3-5 times per week with a few of those being evening swims and on the weekends.
-I typically ran between 8-11 miles once during the week and Wednesday's were typically a longer mid-week brick this summer.
-We did strength training year round with our periodized strength training plan.
-Every workout had a main set/focus.
-Only once on the bike (100 miles) and once on the run (15 miles) did I train just for a total mileage. Everything else was by time.
-I use sport nutrition products for ALL of my workouts. It doesn't matter how short, I have some type of sport nutrition powder in my bottles.
-I spend about 5-10 minutes warming up my body before solo run workouts with dynamic stretching/mobility. Aside from rolling my back once or twice this year, I never use the foam roller or trigger point set.
-My first massage in over a year was in September this year. Karel and I had only 3 massages this year(one being this Monday), all in September. 

-I haven't been sick since 2007, haven't missed a menstrual cycle each month (naturally) since 2007 and haven't had an injury since May 2013 (since then completed 4 Ironman's). Thank you body! 


Ironman training: How long is long enough?

I've always been an athlete/coach who favors quality over quantity. Well, maybe not in my first few years of endurance training but through leaning the hard way with many lows in my Ironman journey's, I have learned to appreciate a smarter way to physically preparing my body to race for 140.6 miles. 

As it relates to training the human body for an endurance race (ex. Ironman distance triathlon), there are so many different approaches that I could spend hours and hours discussing all of the different methods that coaches and athletes follow in order to physically prepare the body for race day and dissecting how I prepare my athletes, of all different fitness levels and abilities, for endurance races.

Now I will say that there is a big difference between actually changing the physiology of the body to physically be ready to handle the demands of the upcoming race versus feeling ready as it relates to the mental component of handling the demands of the upcoming race. 

Fear-based training affects many athletes and even coaches too.

While there is a difference of opinion between coaches and their athletes, coaches and coaches and athletes and athletes as to the number and length of key long workouts that are necessary for proper peaking before an Ironman taper, many athletes suffer from fear-based training in that they need to complete (or check-off) a certain number or length (typically in miles) of a long bike, long run or long brick workout in order to feel ready.

Although sometimes this can be appropriate and useful, I often find that the fear-based training or "standard" 2-3 x 100 mile rides, 16, 18 and 20 mile runs and 112 mile ride + 2 mile run that occurs far too often on an athletes Ironman training plan is not actually inducing a physiological adaptation that truly prepares an athlete for race day.

Now don't get me wrong. There are absolutely some major training adaptations happening through accomplishing a long workout and it can be exciting to see your body do something for the first time. But when these long workouts occur, weekend after weekend, I often see far too many endurance athletes put way too much physical and mental energy into the length of completing these long workouts rather than understanding that it is the accumulation of repeated stress that allows for great performance gains.

What happens to the body of these athletes between workouts? Can an athlete actually recover from these long workouts in just 5 days even while training Monday - Friday?
Does an athlete have a life that is stable enough that he/she has consistency in training, week after week to follow this plan?
Does an athlete have good enough daily nutrition to recover and stay well between workouts?
Is an athlete able to recover from these long workouts and still function well in life?
Does an athlete have to make extreme sacrifices in his/her relationship, work, life with family/friends/kids, sleep or diet in order to do these long workouts?
Does this athlete consistently fuel and hydrate well before during and after these long workouts in order to properly absorb this training stress?
Is this athlete strong enough to absorb this training stress without risking injury or burn out?
Does this athlete have the proper skills to translate training in his/her own environment to his/her race course?
Can this athlete put just as much time, energy and focus into his/her weekly workouts as his/her weekend "long" workouts?
How often is an athlete improving in training versus just checking off workouts in order to get them done?
Is there a smarter way to training an endurance athlete instead of putting x-miles on Saturday and Sunday, on an athletes training plan, weekend after weekend for the 2-3 months before a race?

As it relates to the volume that is needed to be race ready, this is an area of conflict for many coaches. There are advocates of massively high volume training throughout the year, high volume in only the 6-8 weeks out from race day, a mix of high volume with short intense sessions and frequency over volume with very low volume all together and just a little intensity. 

If you are reading this blog right now and you are or known an endurance athlete, I think you could easily name an athlete (maybe it's yourself) that has succeeded with high volume training.

Certainly, high volume training is defined differently between athletes (and coaches) but we all know of an athlete who has done very well on Ironman race day by completing many long rides over 100 miles (often up to 120 miles), many long runs (between 18-20 miles) and long bricks (between 7-8 hours of combined cycling/running).

Although I don't consider my training to be super high volume, I could not imagine my body training any more hours over the course of the week, as I did in my Kona prep this year.......without risking injury, health issues or burnt out.

And just like the drug commercials we see on TV, where the happy background is making you ignore the scary list of side effects that may occur when you take this medication, we can not forget that endurance training has it's risks.
But endurance athletes often shove those aside just to check off long workouts.

Sure, endurance training is sexy. It's hard core and it's extreme. This lifestyle appeals to many type-A athletes who have a tendency to get obsessed with a routine and crave physical activity. 

But just like you can name a few athletes who have succeeded very well on race day through high volume training, I'm pretty sure that you could find it much easier to make a list of athletes who have not succeeded with a high volume approach to training.

Now I'm not just talking about having a bad or off day on race day and that defining a "non-successful race". I feel that if an athlete arrives to the race with a healthy body and she/he can finish the race and feel as if they executed well, they have succeeded better than many with their training plan.

But what about these athletes........
The athlete who gets a stress fracture.
The athlete who breaks a bone.
The athlete who gets burnt out.
The athlete who is always sick. 
The athlete who always feel "flat" when they train.
The athlete who has unintentionally lost a lot of weight.
The athlete who has unintentionally gained a lot of weight.
The athlete who has developed an eating disorder.
The athlete who obsesses about his/her body image. 
The athlete who is obsessed with training to the point that it controls his/her life.
The athlete who has had relationships ruined because of training.
The athlete who has made extreme sacrifices with work, family and friends in order to train. 
The athlete who is always training but is always unable to perform on race day. 

What about these athletes?
What about the many, many athletes who are registered for a long distance event, are handed a training plan and the basic understanding by the athlete is "as long as I do these long workouts, I will be prepared for race day."

I often question some of the methods by coaches and training plans as it relates to longer workouts (typically occurring on the weekend) and how those workouts "fit-in" with an athletes overall training progression, individual development and weekly training load. 

This isn't to say that I am not open to different training approaches but as it relates to my philosophy as to how I train and how I train my athletes, I focus on least amount of training stress that will offer the most physiological benefits. In other words, what is the best systematic yet often flexible and modifiable approach to physically prepar the human body to cover 140.6 miles?

As it relates to each one of my athletes and to myself, what volume of training is too much for each  athlete that he/she will no longer adapt to training without a great risk for injury, illness or burnout?

Have you ever considered what is too much for your body or do you just keep adding on more miles and hope that your body will survive til taper?

There are many roads that an endurance athlete can take to reach the same final destination.
As it relates to endurance training, here are a few roads that I choose to take with my athletes and myself as it relates to training a body to be and feel prepared for 140.6 miles:

-Developing a strong foundation
-Getting stronger before getting faster.
-Get faster before going longer. 
-Understand how to nourish, hydrate and fuel the body at different phases of training.
-Prescribe different, periodized phases of training.  
-Don't over-race.
-Race enough.
-Get good restful sleep.
-Focus on key workouts.
-Train frequently.
-Train smarter in the beginning of your season
-Avoid a long off-season (more than 6-8 weeks)
-Focus on development. Don't rush the process.
-Don't let gadgets control a workout.
-Use gadgets wisely.
-Warm-up well before all workouts.
-Strength train, year-round.
-Hill work - lots of it!
-More key workouts during the week (of longer duration or frequency). 
-Double workouts, if time-permitted
-Double run days, especially on longer run days
-Frequent running
-Learning to keep easy sessions easy
-Having a limit as to how much is too much training load/volume/intensity
-Don't mix volume and intensity in the same workout. It's either long or intense.
-Execute well for the challenging workouts
-Fit training into your life, don't make training your life.
-Make your training hours count.
-Develop strength on the bike, in the pool and on the run with different specific sets
-Learn how to pace yourself better
-Don't compare your training with another athletes training plan
-Don't train for miles
-Every workout should have a focus, a purpose and a main set.
-There is no standard approach to training an athlete because every athlete has a different lifestyle and goals.
-Consistent training outweighs any one or two weekly epic long workouts. 
-Avoid group workouts for several key longer workouts to ensure proper pacing, fueling/hydrating and mental strength
-Run often off the bike.
-Learn how to run easy
-Don't count weekly miles.
-Every athlete is bringing past fitness to a training plan. The more consistently you train, the more fitness you can bring to your future training load.
-Train smarter to train harder.
-Change up the weekly routine to avoid getting burnt out, injured or stale.  
-There is no set standard as to how many hours or miles you need to train to be prepared.
-Strength and form over speed is the way to feel prepared for endurance events. 

-And above all - accept where you are when you start your training plan and focus only on making progress. It's all about development. Come race day, you should be able to look back and feel you are stronger, fitter, smarter and healthier than where you were when you started.

In my next blog I will share my longest training workouts (Saturday/Sunday) for the past 12 weeks of my Ironman World Championship training.


Staying motivated for Kona

In the last 48 hours, we have gone from feeling exhausted, tired and slow to feeling fresh, strong and excited. 

We had a lot to recover from on Monday and Tuesday this week as we could mentally and physically feel the effects of our last big block of Kona training that happened last week. 

Yesterday, I checked the Ironman World Championship event page and saw that bib numbers were released:

Karel: 1739 (35-39 AG)
Marni: 2129 (30-34 AG)

Talk about the perfect timing for a little dose of motivation before a key workout on Wednesday (today) morning. 

We were both looking forward to a little higher intensity workout on the bike this morning (6 x 4 min strong efforts w/ 5 min EZ in between) but because we don't have many options for a "flat" segment of road to put our head down and push, Karel set up our trainers in the garage (aka Karel's fit studio) and we sweated for 90 minutes while watching the 1995 Ironman World Championship for a little motivation (we love watching the older footage of Kona).

After the ride, we each went for a form focused 3-mile run to shake out the legs.

It was a lot of fun for us to suffer together - there was little talking going on between Karel and I for 90 minutes but internally, I think we were both cheering each other on to "make it" just for one last interval. 

You'd think that just because you are training for an important race, that motivation would always stay high in the final prep. And although we aren't experiencing any chance of burnout, we are normal human beings and our bodies are tired.
And when you are tired, it's hard to get the body going. Motivation or not, the body just doesn't feel as fresh as it did many, many months ago.

But - it's all part of the process and we accept the process. There's a time to feel fresh and a time to give our best effort.
And that's in 17 days, on October 10th, 2015.

As athletes, we are constantly pushing our bodies and talking our way through low moments, fatigue and the thought of quitting when the going gets tough. Sure, we have our great moments when a workout feels effortless but the only way to discover personal growth and improvement is to not give up when the going gets tough.

I remember once Gloria telling me "Marni, be excited by low moments - it means a high is coming." She also once told me that breakthroughs often come after really bad workouts.
It's like climbing a mountain that never seems to end and then seeing the view from the top and saying "it was all worth it!"

It's funny how motivation comes and goes. One day motivation is high and then the next, it's a struggle to get started. Some mornings, you wake up excited to train and then 3 minutes later, it's a struggle to get yourself out the door.

As athletes, it's hard to "find" motivation. You can't order it from the internet or borrow it from a training partner.
Motivation is deep inside all of us but sometimes it is hard to find.
 There has to be something deep inside you that says "I want to do this!" and no one can say that for you.

If you struggle with motivation in the final weeks before a key race, continue to embrace your journey. Hopefully the low moments don't happen as much as the high moments but above all, keep yourself focused and excited as YOUR day to perform is coming soon. 

And when all else fails, remind yourself how lucky you are that your body is letting you do what you have been doing for the past x-months or years. 


Happy Birthday Karel!!!

Happy 39th Birthday to Karel!!

I remember celebrating Karel's 30th birthday with him 9 years ago. We were newly dating and I threw him a surprise party with our Gearlink friends. He was shocked and speechless.

It seems like every year since then, we have been super busy with life, celebrating our birthdays between or at races. We don't do anything extravagant on our birthdays or give each other fancy gifts but it does give us a great excuse to get dressed up in "normal" clothes and to go out to a nice restaurant for dinner and dessert.

No matter how busy we are in life, I find it important to take a little time to remember the past and to get excited for the future.

With day is boring in my life. 

Cheers to many more races (spectating and racing) together.  

Cheers to many more trips to Europe together and visiting your family. 

Cheers to many more years of loving and spoiling Campy.
(lots of years - like at least 50 more years)

Cheers to many more years of making decisions together. Like moving to Greenville, SC in May 2014!

Cheers to many more years of enjoying nature together. 

Cheers to  many more years of staying active together. 

Cheers to many more years of grocery shopping and eating yummy food together. 

Cheers to many more years of loving life and never wasting a day. 


Weekend wrap-up: 19 days out from Kona

What a great feeling to be starting my less than 20-day countdown until the 2015 Ironman World Championship with a healthy and strong body and mind. 

On paper, this past week of Kona training was tough and not to mention, our hilly terrain makes everything tougher when we train.
But I'm not complaining - training for my 10th Ironman in my new city/state of Greenville, SC has been so much fun! There is never a shortage of bike routes to keep me entertained and I just love all my running hill courses for running (in addition to being 2 miles from Furman University).
 Monday was a needed day off from cardio (a little PM mobility strength) and Tuesday was a 8.7 mile AM form focused run and 4100 yard PM swim. On Wednesday, Karel and I did a higher intensity bike with 2 x 20 minute best effort intervals w/ 10 min EZ spin in between and we followed our 2:42 bike with a form focused 3.5 mile run.
Thursday was a speedy 4400 yard AM swim with 3 rounds of 8 x 100's strong effort and then in the evening, I did a very super duper EZ 4 mile run before my massage.
On Thurs evening, our athlete Joe came in town to train with Karel for 3 days and they did a 2 hour PM ride on Thursday evening (followed by Sidewall Pizza in downtown Traveler's Rest).
We all went for a 2 hour ride (which was rather technical - but still beautiful and fun) on Friday morning and then Karel and Joe went for a 13 mile interval run. I passed on the run to rest my body for the weekend and in the evening, we all had a delicious dinner from made on our grill while watching the ITU race on TV from Chicago. 

The guys made burgers and I had a delicious grilled portobello mushroom (cooked on the vegetarian-friendly side of the grill) topped with rosemary hummus and pepper jack cheese on top dark leafy greens, steamed veggies with butter and salt, mixed beans and grilled peppers and onion.

On Saturday morning, we set out for what was planned to be a 4 hour ride that Karel planned for us......but because Karel had never done part of the route before, he didn't realize that part of the route was on a gravel road. Opps! We realized this when the road ended as we were cycling. Karel discovers new routes all the time with Mapmyride but sometimes, a fun road turns into no road and I was not entertained by the thought of riding on gravel, 3 weeks out from Kona. Karel said he will explore that gravel road by himself on another ride - post Kona.

Anyways, we started our ride from our house and we headed up Ceaser's Head. Karel rode steady while Joe and I sat on Karel's wheel. Thanks to me having fresher legs than the guys, I managed to hang-on for the ride. Karel pulled me up Ceaser's Head and I clocked my fastest ever time up that mountain - 39 minutes for 6.3 miles!
After a quick stop to refill bottles, we headed down the other side of Ceaser's Head and entered North Carolina. Although we had to adjust Karel's planned route, the ride was still so beautiful. I just love riding in North Carolina - the pavement is so smooth!

Because of our little detour, the ride ended up being a bit longer than planned but we all had enough fuel and hydration and with 2 stops to refill bottles along our route, we finished strong with 5 hours and 20 minutes of riding, 92 miles and 11,000-ish feet of climbing.

After the ride, Karel and Joe ran an EZ 15 minute run off the bike and I finished off my brick with 4 strong miles.

On Sunday morning, we were all feeling a bit beat-up but thank goodness for having others for accountability and motivation. The temperature really warmed up on Saturday and Sunday so it was great for Karel and I do not have to layer-up for our long run.

We all started the run together for the first 4 miles with a 30-second walk break each mile to help wake-up the body and postpone fatigue.
After the first 4 miles, Karel and Joe continued on with a form-focused run (they picked it up the last few miles for their 1:40 run) and I started my set on a very rolling hill course: 

4 mile EZ warmup (with Joe and Karel)

MS 3xs: 
20 min at Ironman effort
5 min strong 
2 min walk recovery, then repeat MS

EZ jog cool down
Total: 14.82 miles, 2:03, 1100 feet of climbing

Splits from the run:
MS: (first 3 splits/paces are from the 20 minutes at IM effort and the last split is the pace for the 5 minutes strong)
7:31, 8:05, 7:40, 7:07 min/mile
2 min walk
7:44, 8:04, 8:14, 7:22 min/mile
2 min walk
7:48, 7:28, 8:28, 7:13
Last .7 miles - 8:57

I couldn't be more pleased with how my body is performing right now but also, how it has handled the training throughout this entire season. It's hard to believe that I started my training for the season with our foundation plan back in November 2014 and now Karel and I are less than 3 weeks until our last race of the season!

By far, this has been my most favorite Ironman journey. I have really enjoyed the challenging workouts and the specific progression of training phases but also, sharing this entire journey with Karel.

I am so thankful for what my body has allowed me to do this season and I am so excited to board our plane to Kona next Tuesday and to race at the 2015 Ironman World Championship in 19 days!!!!