Essential Sports Nutrition


It's not your body's fault

Frustration, stress, fear, anger, disappointment, insecurity.

Food restriction, in an effort to change your body, will not fix emotional issues.

Do not make your body a target when you are having a bad day, an off moment or things just don't seem to be going well.

Do not take your emotions out on your body.

The only way you can get through life is WITH your body.

Give it a thank you every now and then. Starting now.


3 workouts, 3 recovery meals.

As I mentioned in my last blog, recovery nutrition is important in the foundation phase, as it will help to kick-start the recovery process soon after your workout is complete. But you do not have to be super scientific and strict with what, how much and when you eat.

Remember -  recovery is everything and anything that happens between two workouts and right now in your season, you want to create eating habits that make your body feel good all day long, so that you can maintain a consistent training regime (balanced with your busy lifestyle).
By working on your  daily diet right now, you will set yourself up for great eating habits later on in your season when your training volume and intensity increase.

Here are three recovery meals that kept me training consistently last week.
(I had a pre-workout carbohydrate snack before all workouts and water during the workouts)

Swim Workout: 

400 swim
400 buoy

Pre set:
8 x 50's kick w/ fins (on back). 10 sec rest
800 band/buoy/paddles - build from 75% to 85% throghout

MS 2x's:
8 x 50's band and paddles, 85-90%, 15 sec rest
6 x 75's (build by 2 from 80-90%), 20 sec rest.

50 EZ cool down

Post workout eats: 
Scrambled eggs with bell peppers, mushrooms and chives and a slice of rye bread with melted cheese.

Run workout: (outside on rolling hill course)Dynamic stretching
5 min walk
25 min run warm-up (nice and EZ, form focused)
Stop - let HR lower
5 x 1 mile - steady effort, conversational pace w/ 30 sec walk in between
~1 mile cool down jog

Post workout eats: 2 slices fresh challah raisin bread w/ honey, cinnamon and peanut butter
Smoothie (shared the following with Karel): 1.5 scoop Whey protein + 2 celery sticks + handful spinach/kale mix + 1/2 large banana + handful frozen berry cherry mix + 1% Organic milk (about 6 ounces) + water/ice as needed

Bike workout: 
10 min warm-up
Pre set: 
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 minute - increase cadence within each interval from cadence 75-100+rpm (no rest in between)
2-3 min EZ spin

MS: 10x's:
1 min Z2, choice cadence rpm
2 min at cadence 45-50 rpm (heavy gear work), Z2-Z3 effort (legs do the work, heart stays comfortable)
1 min Z3 effort, increase cadence from 50-95 rpm throughout
1 min EZ spin, choice cadence

5 min cool down

Post workout eats: 
1/2 cup Oats + 1/2 cup cherry berry mix + 1/2 large banana sliced + Veronica's Health Crunch mix (chopped) + raisins + milk + cinnamon + drizzle of maple syrup


Foundation phase - recovery nutrition

I found this slide on the internet and I find it to be so true for athletes.
We all want to maximize our performance and we can do so through training, rest and recovery and nutrition. 

Athletes know the importance of good recovery nutrition after a workout as what we eat can help reduce muscle soreness, replenish muscle glycogen, reduce oxidative stress and support the immune system.

Four to six weeks out from a key event and we certainly do not want to go into a workout with lingering fatigue and a tired, dehydrated and glycogen depleted body from poor recovery from a preceding workout. 

Nutrient timing is an important topic as it is a strategy to help athletes consume a combination of macronutrients (typically protein and carbs) to help rebuild muscle tissue and to restock energy stores after a workout to ensure quick recovery and to keep the body in good health.

Perhaps you know this time as the "window of opportunity" to optimize training-induced adaptations and to experience possible body composition changes.

Although the post-workout period is an important part of eating, don't be fooled that it is the only opportunity to keep your body in good health, to maintain good energy levels and to assist in recovery.

Your recovery "window" is actually open all day!
 Let this be a reminder to triathletes and runners who go out for a long workout on the weekend and then recover with a large meal which leaves you stuffed for 6+ hours later (or the opposite - athlete has no appetite post workout and 3-4 hours go by without eating and then the appetite hits hard and the athlete eats everything and anything in sight).

Of course, it is a good idea to kick-start the recovery process soon after your workout is complete with a recovery snack or meal and to properly rehydrate but don't forget to continue to focus on the diet as recovery is everything and anything that happens between two workouts.

Whereas much of the research on post-workout nutrient timing is dedicated to describing a scientific ideal ratio of carbohydrates and protein for glycogen repletion and for muscle protein synthesis, (respectively), it's important that athletes have different "recovery nutrition" protocols for each phase of training.

Foundation phase
Right now in the triathlon season, (hopefully) athletes are working on building a solid foundation. We call this our transition phase.  The intensity and volume is low and the focus is on skills, form, mobility and strength. After the off-season, athletes should be focused on creating good life and training habits to promote consistency with training throughout the upcoming season. Athletes should also prioritize good eating habits to keep the body in good health (injuries and/or sickness are very common in athletes who do too much too soon after the off-season or neglect a healthy diet and lifestyle habits as training becomes more structured).

Even though there is a heavy strength component to training in the foundation phase (swim, bike, run included alongside general strength work in the gym/home), athletes should not experience great muscle tension or damage with each workout.

Although athletes may experience some muscle soreness as the body slowly adapts to training, the nutritional goal post-workout is simply to optimize an adaptation to training. Laterin the season, the overall training load (intensity and volume) will be much greater and quick recovery methods are critical to ensure consistency in training with significant performance gains (and to keep the body in good health). But early in the season, recovery nutrition is heavily focused on keeping the body in good health so that the body can remain consistent with training.

To apply this science to real world, it is important that you focus on good recovery nutrition in the form of a real meal post workout. It is important to understand how your hunger and food choices are affected by your workouts and how your lifestyle schedule impacts your eating choices.

Although exceptions may apply (ex. a recovery drink or small snack before a meal), the foundation phase (or "base training" as many athletes say) should not induce a great amount of overall or lingering training stress in the form of inflammation, muscle/tissue damage and glycogen depletion so the macronutrients in the diet can be rather flexible.

Perhaps after a swim you may find that you need a little more protein and fat with moderate carbs to help a starving belly, whereas after a run in the cold, you may desire comforting carbohydrates with a little protein and fat to warm-up your belly. After an indoor, sweaty workout, you may find that you want something light and refreshing.

When it comes to what to eat post-workout during this phase of training, put your focus into creating healthy eating habits that will help you stay consistent with training, while keeping your body in good health.
Don't worry so much about the ratios of grams carbohydrates to protein.
Create a balanced meal that works for you.

To help get you started:
Aim for around 25-30g protein, 50-80g carbs and 10-15g fat in a recovery meal and work from there. Decide when/if you need more or less of protein, carbs and fat based on your appetite post workout (Again - recovery from workouts at this phase in training should not induce a large amount of fatigue/inflammation so you should be able to focus on your biological hunger versus training-induced hunger/depletion).

The ultimate goal is that by your next phase of training, you will have created a solid foundation of training with a great understanding of your daily diet needs. And when you start your next phase of training, you will feel more comfortable incorporating more nutrition before, during (sport nutrition products) and after your workouts to support your metabolic needs from the added training stress that will help advance performance gains.

In my next blog, I will share three recovery meals and workouts that kept me training consistently last week. 


20K Paris Mountain Road Race - race recap


Before getting into my race report from the 20K Paris Mountain Road race that happened on Saturday, I wanted to make sure that everyone understands that I am triathlete. I am not a runner.
I absolutely love calling myself a triathlete.
For almost 10 years, my passion for swim, bike, run training grows stronger every year, as well as my education of the sport.

As mentioned in my last blog post, Karel and I are triathletes, not runners. We train for the sport of triathlons. Our entire season is devoted to triathlon training and every year builds on the previous year.

When there is the opportunity to train in a running race environment, we consider the pros and cons and whether it not the race/event "makes sense."

Karel and I wanted to do this epic race last year but it didn't make sense to do it. We were just getting back into structured training after a 6-week off-season break and neither of us had worked our way up to longer distance running miles come early December. We were also working on a new foundation/transition plan and wanted to make sure we worked through the entire plan before disrupting our consistent training. Also, it was rainy and cold that day so with everything considered, the race just didn't have a clear purpose for us to race it.

However, this year we talked about participating in the race as a fun training session. We didn't register for the race until race week as we were not sure how our recovery/training would go post IM Kona.
Our recovery went smoothly and we have been enjoying our foundation training, focusing on form, strength and skills. We do not do any speed work this early in the season so in all honesty, the Paris Mountain road race actually makes a lot of sense in our training plan this time of the year.
With an added emphasis of form, strength and skills, our training over the last 4 weeks has helped us improve our endurance and strength.
And as endurance triathletes, we know how important it is to have strength, good form, good mental strength and good endurance so why not put those triathlete qualities to good use climbing a mountain!

Karel and I woke up around 5:45am and had a pre race/training snack, water and coffee and then headed off to Furman around 7:10am. We arrived at 7:15am (nice to be close to a race venue!) and picked up our t-shirt and bib number. There was a category for fastest husband and wife so we had a special smiley face sticker on our bib numbers to notify that we were in the running for the fastest couple award.

We parked at the registration site but the race start was around 1 mile down the road. Karel and I jogged to the race start for our warm-up and then performed some dynamic stretches before the race started at 8am. Our friend Thomas was there with us at the starting line. It was a chilly morning (around 35 degrees) but I was dressed well in my Trimarni tri shorts (for compression) and CEP socks with Brooks running tights on top. I wore my Trimarni jacket, Brooks gloves and ear band over my hat. I also had my Oakley commit sunglasses.
Although I always run with my Nathan fuel belt, I decided to not wear it for this race (Karel wore his belt) as there were aid stations on the course and I brought along some energy options: 2 Clif Espresso gels and a pack of Clif Blocks (strawberry) for added energy to go along with water.
I sipped on 1 throw-away bottle of 1 scoop Clif Hydration in the 1 hour before the start (around 16 ounce fluid + 80 calories).

Although a small race, Karel and I were really excited to run. Of course we love to compete but we did not have any expectations going into this race. The unknown excited us!

We both wore our Garmin's (I also wore my HR monitor) for data to look at post race but I strategically covered up my Garmin with my jacket so that I would not look at my watch for the entire race. I hit start when we started and then hit stop after the finish line.
I was racing entirely by feel which is exactly what was needed on this type of course (~1500 elevation gain in 12.4 miles).

We started the race by running up a hill in the Furman campus and then a quick descend before starting a steady 2.5+ mile climb to the top of Paris Mountain (we crossed Poinsett hwy before turning left onto Old Buncombe, then a right to start the official climb to Paris Mountain).

Because the race started on an incline, the race start was not super fast. It was a little uncomfortable to start as my heart was working super hard so early to climb but I managed to find a rhythm early in the race.
It was only a matter of a few minutes and Karel was out of my sight, near the front of the race.

When we started the climb toward Paris Mountain, I was happy. Not only do I know this entire course from cycling (and once running it all in a workout with Karel last year) but there's something about climbing mountains that makes me feel so comfortable. I love the uncomfortable feeling of climbing as I can feel every muscle in my body working. But seeing that my body loves to climb, it just felt natural for me to run up the mountain. 

Certainly, in climbing a mountain for over 20 minutes, the body will get tired. But due to our prior strength training over the past few months and added strength component with swimming, running and biking, Karel and I both felt really good on the course and managed to maintain great form. 

For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a rhythm with my running. I felt light on my feet and I felt powerful. 

Because this was a training race, we ignored our gadget and just went by feel. The goal was....there was no goal. Just run and have fun! 

Karel found himself near the front of the race in a matter of a few miles. 

I wasn't sure how many girls were ahead of me but I saw two in the distance and then one right in front of me, who was getting closer with each stride. 

I was all smiles for this race. Yay - I love mountains!
And thank you body for being so healthy and strong!!
(especially my quads, glutes and calves!)

As for the rest of the race, there was a water stop at the top of Paris Mountain so I stopped for 10 seconds to drink a cup of water. I grabbed my Clif gel in my pocket and took a swig of the gel (about 1/3rd) as I started to descend down the mountain.

Paris Mountain is an interesting mountain as it is only a little over 2 miles to the top and around 2000 feet but once you get to the top, you don't go straight down. There are a series of downhills and rolling  hills as you go over the mountain and then you finally make your official descend on the other side (right of the above picture) of the mountain.

I was a little concerned how my body would do on the downhills but surprisingly, my quads were responding really well to each foot strike. I did find myself moving to the gravel side of the road whenever possible to reduce some of the impact and I also found myself running up the inclines as if I was on a bike, to take the least steep incline option depending on how the road turned.

I managed to pass one lady going up the mountain but a few miles later, she passed me on a flatter segment of the mountain. I know that running "fast" is not a strength of mine as a triathlete so I didn't get frustrated but I had confidence that I would be able to maintain good strength for the hilly back-half of this race.

When I got to the 2nd water stop (around 6.5 miles), I took a quick walk (around 12 seconds) to consume another cup of water, followed by another swig of my Clif gel. I was SO happy that I had my gel because it really gave me the energy I needed in the later miles of the race. I started the gel early, when I didn't feel I needed it, so that it would kick in later on...and it did!

I was feeling a low point around mile 7-8 but I was excited for what was coming in miles 8-11.

There are lots of turns, ups and downs on the back half of this course and I noticed that many athletes were slowing down. I was passing a few people here or there and managed to pass two ladies in the next few miles. I didn't adjust my effort, I just stayed steady and strong. I got through my low point around mile 8 and found myself feeling stronger and stronger as the miles ticked away.

Not focusing on my gadget was a huge relief as I was running entirely by feel and it all felt good! There were mile markers so I knew where I was in the race but no knowledge of my overall time or pace per mile.

The volunteers were AMAZING and even though it was cold, there was support throughout the race. 

In miles 8-11, there were a few really punchy climbs were I running straight down and then tip-toeing my way up another hill. There were also a few steady inclines here and there. The course went by super fast - another reason why I love hilly courses!

There was one more water stop around mile 10 so I took advantage of one more swig of gel, chased my water and a stop to give myself a few exhales and inhales before giving it a good effort to the finish line. 

The hardest part of the course (for Karel and myself) was a long flat section around mile 10.5. Out of every section of the race, we both had a hard time at this part of the race, mentally and physically.

But thankfully, it didn't last long.
The last mile of the race included one last climb before we turned right onto the hwy (side of the road) and then we made our way to Furman University from the off-ramp on Poinsett hwy.

Karel looking strong at the finish!
Karel finished his two flasks (with Clif hydration in each flask) and consumed 1 gel. 

In case you can't read Karel's shirt (from Run In), it reads "Will Run For Beer."

(Thank you GTC, Pace Running Magazine and Run In for the great pics!)

I was so proud of my body for staying so strong for the last few miles and when I saw Karel just by the finish, I was so relieved to be finished. Even though I passed two ladies in the last few miles, I wasn't able to catch the ladies ahead of me and 3rd place was just 90 seconds in front of me. Oh well, the placing didn't matter as I was really happy with how I performed and felt throughout the entire race.

Karel was shocked that he placed so well and he also said he felt really strong and was able to keep good form throughout the entire race. He was a bit more beat-up in his calves/shins than I was but then again, he does have a super strong push-off when he runs. 

Karel, me and Thomas. 

What a fun race!!
(I had to take of my pants after the finish line as I got hot in the last mile....but then got chilly again in just a few minutes). 

We received a lot of fun goodies from the race: 

A magnet sticker. 

Glasses (or beer glasses for Karel) for our awards. 

A medal, shirt and horns for conquering the mountain!!

The recovery after the race was a bit longer than we expected as our legs were a tad beat-up on Sunday and Monday.  We did an endurance spin on Sun (I did two hours on the trainer and Karel did 90 minutes outside) and on Monday morning we swam (around 3900 yards).
But we both felt accomplished post race as we did exactly what we wanted to do going into this race: Have fun during a training run! 

Results: HERE
Marni stats: 19th overall, 6th female, 2nd AG, 1:36:38:2
Karel stats: 3rd overall, 1:24: 28
Fastest couple award

Marni stats:
Average pace, 7:50
Average HR: 157
Pace per mile (including my three walk breaks at each aid station)
8:01 min/mile, HR 180 (this is probably gadget error as my HR never gets this high)
9:15 min/mile, HR 156
9:47 min/mile (last 1/2 mile up the mountain was 10:23 min/mile pace), HR 156
7:46 min/mile, HR 148
7:46 min/mile, HR 152
7:06 min/mile, HR 148
6:59 min/mile, HR 145
7:31 min/mile, HR 152
7:30 min/mile, HR 157
7:17 min/mile, HR 158
7:52 min/mile, HR 162
7:15 min/mile, HR 161
(For the record, I have not run faster than 8:15 min/mile in a training run since way before Kona so this is proof that even if you run slow, it takes good strength to run fast).

Karel stats:
Average pace: 6:51 (And for the record, most, if not all, of Karel's training runs over the past few months, since he was injured in May, were no faster than 7:30-7:45 min/mile. Always nice to be surprised with faster paces in a race than in training after weeks and weeks of strength-focused work).
7:17 Min/mile
8:32 min/mile
8:30 min/mile
6:35 min/mile
6:28 min/mile
6:00 min/mile
6:00 min/mile
6:31 min/mile
6:50 min/mile
6:33 min/mile
6:47  min/mile
6:20  min/mile


I'm a triathlete, not a runner.

It seems odd to say it, right?
I'm a triathlete, not a runner. 
I mean, running IS the third discipline of triathlon so why is it that triathletes should not call themselves runners?

If you are a triathlete....
When was the last time you had the urge to register for a swim meet?
How about participating in a cycling road race?
When was your last running race?

Perhaps some triathletes enjoy racing in other events aside from triathlons and with the training for one sport, comes an improvement in sport specific skills and overall fitness. But it is not that common for a triathlete to dedicate 2-3 months, specifically trying to get faster in swimming or cycling, with the intention of racing in a swim meet or cycling event to show off their accumulated fitness. 

However, on the contrary, it is extremely common for triathletes to dedicate 2-3 months, typically in the "off-season" to run specific training and racing. Many times, triathletes will even train for a marathon to improve endurance or focus on short distance races with the hope of making gains in speed.

The last two running races that I trained for were in 2011 and 2012. 
In 2011, I ran the Subaru Half Marathon in a time of 1:31:51. This was also Karel's first half marathon (he ran it in 1:29:44).
In 2012, Karel and I ran the Native Sun 10K (41:11 for me and 36:40 for Karel) and Karel ran the Donna Half Marathon in 1:21:37.

Since 2007, I continued to call myself a triathlete and train for triathlon races but every year, come October until April, I found myself thinking like a runner and wanting to train for running races. Sometimes I would continue to cycle and swim as if I was training for a triathlon but other times, cycling and swimming was viewed as cross training and took a back-seat to running. I pretty much divided my season into triathlon season and then running season. 

Big mistake. 

Since then, Karel and I have shifted our focus to 100% triathlon training and racing. We instantly noticed an improvement in our overall fitness as we were able to go through many phases of training, starting from the off-season.

It wasn't until last year, that I broke my no-running races streak and participated in my first running road races (a 5-mile turkey trot and a 5-mile road race) in 2 years.
BUT - my focus and intention for racing was much different than ever before.

The running races were simply training sessions.
I was simply training with a lot of people, great volunteers, a t-shirt at registration and I choose to pay money for the workout.
Oh, and I didn't care what the overall time or placing was when I crossed the finish line. 

Karel and I have learned that although running is part of our 3-sport event, it is not necessary to dedicate a chunk of time in the winter, in order to train for a running race. Although for some athletes, it may help improve run fitness and confidence, many times, a specific running block of training increases the risk for injury and does not result in a massive improvement in run performance off the bike.

At Trimarni, we do not let our triathlon athletes train for running races. Sure, exceptions are made at times but we stress the importance of having a purpose for every race and the race has to make sense in the annual season layout plan.

I know it sounds so mean of us to not allow our triathletes to train for running races but that doesn't mean that they can not do a running race or two.

In order for us to focus on their overall, season development in all three sports, it is important that every triathlete that we coach (regardless of running fitness, speed or endurance)  thinks and trains like a triathlete.
Running is the last sport of a triathlon so it is obvious that running is what makes or breaks a great race. It is also what triathletes remember the most (whereas your swimming performance is easily forgotten and trumped by two other sports, by the time you cross the finish line). And for many triathletes, running is fun, it is freeing, it's inexpensive, it's easy to do anywhere, at anytime, and it is the sport that releases the most endorphins and assists in weight loss/body composition changes. So, as you can imagine, it is easy for some athletes to feel more passionate (or addicted) to running, than to swimming or cycling.

If you are a triathlete who wants to become a better, stronger, faster or fitter runner, it's not necessary that you train for a running race.
But, if you feel inclined to participate in a running race in your off-season (or at the beginning of your season), here are some of my suggestions:

-Do not register for a marathon. Triathletes will not gain triathlon run fitness while training for a marathon. Perhaps you will improve endurance or speed or you will prove to yourself that you can do the distance (again or for the first time) but when it comes to running off the bike (especially in an Ironman triathlon), running 26.2 miles in the afternoon, after you have swam 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles has nothing to do with running a marathon. You are running 26.2  miles to finish an IM and any Ironman athlete can tell you that that experience is not like a stand-alone marathon. Also, it can actually cause more damage to your season development and overall health. Very few triathletes will ever benefit from training for a marathon (when was the last time you saw a handful of professional triathletes participating in a marathon in the off-season?).

-Running races less than 15K can actually be beneficial to some athletes who want to get more comfortable in race situations (working on pacing, digging deep, mental strength, nutrition) as well as for athletes who need a social outlet due to a lot of alone-time training. Triathletes often view running races as a way to get faster or to go longer. But really, the goal is to have fun.

-Be mindful that if using a running race for establishing pace or HR training zones, you will always run faster with others, in a race environment, than alone (of course, the course terrain matters on this statement). Using running race efforts/paces for your solo training can actually set you back as you may be training in unrealistic zones for day-to-day training.
It's best to perform your running test alone, for a true indication of what you are capable of running.

-A half marathon (or 20K) can be incorporated into a training plan, as a training race, so long as you are ready. Any time you register for a running race in your triathlon season (including off-season), it should make sense with your season development.  Always discuss running races with your coach ahead of time, before registering. If you are seeking a running race in November or December, you need to consider you past injuries or health issues, when the off-season started for you and the upcoming season plan/goals. Maybe the race falls at a good time if it is a 5K or 10K but if it's a half marathon, it may be too early in the season to be running that far (or that fast). Remember, in order to peak appropriately, you must build your foundation. Do not skip steps.

-If you have the tendency to be extremely competitive on race day, it may not be ideal for you  to race a "fun" local run race when you know all of your local competition. Perhaps choose a running race in a different location and enjoy exploring new sights and roads with hundreds of other runners that you don't know. Think of it as a big group workout.

-Find a race that suits your strengths. Do you do better on trails, gravel or road? How about hills versus flat terrain? What about rolling hills? What about crowd support, the weather or the location of the race?
Triathlon racing and training is not cheap and running races are not free. If you are going to participate in a running race in your off-season, pick a race that, no matter what, you will absolutely enjoy. Go ahead and wear your gadget for some data after the race but do not let your gadget run, control or ruin your race experience.

-It's ok to compete at a running race even if it's just for training or for fun. You are a triathlete, thus you are an athlete. And athletes love to compete!
Whenever you race, you should always understand your purpose for racing and the outcome you want to achieve. Unlike runners who may seek PR's, your focus shouldn't be on pace, total time or pacing as you will likely be going into the race not tapered and with a bike or swim workout preceding or following the race. Find a way to be competitive so that you can improve your race tactics and mental strength skills but not at the expense of you being hard on yourself if you don't like your overall finish time or placing. And of course, no running race should come with the risk for injuries or a delay in your triathlon development. If you register for a running race and you find yourself injured before the race, don't race (it's not worth it!!). And if you race hard, allow time to recover so you don't experience any further setbacks in your triathlon training. 

Remember, you are a triathlete.
Being a great runner is important but only if you can do it off the bike.