Essential Sports Nutrition


2016 Purple Patch Fitness Greenville camp

I have a Master Degree in Exercise Physiology....but I don't know everything about exercise physiology.
I am a Board Certified Sport Dietitian....but I don't know everything about sport nutrition.
I am a 11x Ironman finisher, including 4 Ironman World Championship finishes, but I'm really not that great of a triathlete.

I don't lack self confidence but I have self awareness that to be an expert in anything, you have to focus on personal development, continuous education and the understanding that there is always someone smarter/better than you.

As a coach and sport dietitian, I learn every day. Whether it's from an athlete, a research article or another expert, I am constantly learning. I hope that I never stop learning.

Regardless of my educational background and professional experiences, it's simply not possible to know everything about what I do.
And I'm cool with that.

The reality is that sports are constantly changing, especially endurance sports when there are so many variables and factors that make for a "great" race day performance.
Research changes and the training, diet and lifestyle habits by athletes are constantly changing.

In my field, endurance sports (specifically triathlon and running), can be complicated and rarely is there a "best" approach to be applied by the masses. It's only when an athlete figures out what works best for him/her that he/she knows exactly what will work.

I believe that every expert needs another expert as a mentor. I feel the same way about athletes who are coaches - every coach needs a coach.

Having a mentor, or another expert, who you trust, who you believe in his/her philosophy, who is passionate, educated and committed to his/her practice and shares a similar vision as you, is important. But what's more important is that this mentor/expert has more experience than you, a slightly different set of skills and can say/do things that are new to you.
While you don't have to agree with everything that your mentor says, suggests or does, your expert/mentor should challenge you to think, in a good way.

When you are a professional/expert, there is great benefit of having an expert like this in your life because it keeps you having fun - you are constantly challenged to think, learn and devote yourself to your practice.

And with this extra dose of devotion, you become more successful.

I have been a long time fan of coach Matt Dixon of Purple Patch Fitness because I believe we share a similar philosophy in how we coach our athletes. Certainly, with him having an extensive record of successful age group, professional and even Olympic/Elite athletes that he has coached, his methods also work.

Even though Karel and I are coaches, and we take our coaching business very seriously (it's our full-time, 24/7, 365-day a year job), learning is extremely important to us. We are constantly reading, listening to podcasts and studying the training methods and approaches by other coaches (and athletes) but Matt Dixon has been a continued resource and mentor for us at Trimarni.

Although Karel is technically the athlete who is coached by Matt, by default, since I train with Karel and Karel oversees my training, I feel that I am also coached by Matt.
For the 4 days, not only do I get to learn from coach Matt Dixon in Greenville, SC but I get hands-on experiences with coach Matt (and Paul - the "bike whisper") and I get to see how he interacts with other athletes. With many other PPF athletes in attendance, there is constant education but also a nice push to make me work hard.

Learning, working hard, having fun.
This is my recipe to being successful.

Always keep yourself learning.
Always be willing to work hard. 
And above all, have fun. Lots and lots of fun. 


Lake Logan Half - Race Report

Karel and I arrived to the race venue around 5:30am. My pre-race meal of a waffle sandwich with peanut butter, maple syrup and a banana digested great and I was only dealing with a few pre-race jitters.  I still get pre-race nerves but I feel like everything starts to feel more at ease when I arrive to the race venue on race day morning. And of course, once I get into the water for my pre-race warm-up, I feel relaxed, the butterflies subside and I become super excited to get going.

After body marking and getting my chip, I racked my bike on the OPEN division rack in the front of the transition area. I spotted several Trimarni athletes and other Greenville triathletes which was fantastic to see so many familiar faces. I'm the type of athlete who enjoys being around other athletes and having others make me laugh before a race whereas Karel likes to do his own thing without anyone else around.

Around 6am I walked back to the car with Karel and started my warm-up with dynamic stretching and a light jog with a few pick-ups. Around 6:30am, I walked to the lake with my wetsuit, cap and goggles to start my pre-race swim.

I stayed in the open until it was time for the open wave to start at 7am.

1.2 mile swim Time: 26.06

Give me a mountain view, calm lake water, a group of fast swimmers, my (new) favorite 
goggles for open water and the fastest wetsuit that I've ever swam in and you know I will be swimming happy.

The clockwise swim (keeping buoys on the right) made for an easy to navigate swim course. I was able to sight far in the distance on the tree line to also keep me on course.
The water temp was comfortable, semi-clear and calm.

At 7am, we were off!
There was a strong group of around 15 swimmers who started off fast for our in-the-water start. It almost felt like Kona to have so many strong swimmers so close together until the first buoy (well, minus the colorful fish, sea turtles and crystal blue waters).  We all stayed close together until the first buoy and as I found myself with a few swimmers until the second buoy, I kept my eye on one girl next to me who was swimming really strong. We swam close together until the last buoy before the turn buoy and I found myself swimming away from her and closer to the group of guys in front of me.

I wasn't sure if any females were ahead of time so I just focused on the guys in front of me.
The group of guys in front of me were swimming strong and I tried my best to catch them but it seemed like every time I was about to get them they picked up the pace. It was on the way back to the finish when I started to inch my way closer to the guys and finally was able to get some draft from the other swimmers.
Still keeping the buoys on our right, I kept a straight line directly to the bridge so that I didn't swim any more distance than necessary. This provided a straight shot to the bridge where I was greeted with ice cold water just under the bridge. It was refreshing to feel the cold water and nice to see the spectators above me but I was also ready to finish up this swim and get on my bike.

I felt really good throughout the entire swim and really tried to not resort to my comfortable Ironman effort but instead, I tried to go for a slightly harder, uncomfortable, yet sustainable effort.

I was able to catch a few guys in the final few minutes of the swim before getting out of the water, up a ladder and on to the dock.

I ran into the transition with a few guys and quickly grabbed took off my wetsuit and put on my socks, bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses. I felt like it was a quick transition (free speed!) and I was in and out. I started up my Garmin 810 as I was running out of the transition.

56 mile bikeTime: 2:40.05

I spotted Karel as I was running my bike to the mount line and he gave me a look of confidence and told me that I was first female out of the water. I'm not sure if he said anything else because I was so excited to get on my bike and tackle this difficult course with over 3500 feet of climbing in 56 miles (the Training Peaks elevation correction told me I did 6040 feet of climbing - which sounds super epic - but I think it was closer to 4000 feet).

I had planned to drive the entire course the day before the race with my athlete Jim but due to a hard downfall of rain, which made it impossible to see the arrows on the course and street names, we had to turn around after 15 miles. Ever since my bike detour at Rev3 Knoxville, I've been a overly nervous about staying on course at my races so I wanted to do everything possible to make sure I knew this challenging course, which included a lot of technical sections and lots of turns.

I reviewed as much as I could online, over and over again, and felt confident going into this race.
Despite never seeing an average speed over 17.5 miles per hour on my rides here in Greenville, I felt like this was going to be a good bike course for me to go hard (fast is all relative on challenging courses). 
I did not wear my heart rate monitor and I did not use my metrics to help me pace my race. Instead, I kept my focus on the road ahead and hitting my lap button every 25 minutes so that I only focused on pacing 25 minutes at a time.

The first few miles were fast after climbing a steady climb out of transition. Being the leader of the women's race made me ride scared but that's also how I have been racing over the past few years. In the past, I was typically passed on the bike within the first 20-30 minutes by other fast ladies but thanks to a lot of cycling work, I'm riding stronger (and happier) than ever before.

I found myself with a group of 5-6 guys in the first 10 miles of the bike and staying draft legal helped me ride strong and steady. I had an official by me several times and I never received a look that I was doing something that I shouldn't be doing. Karel has helped me understand exactly how far I need to be to stay draft legal in a race which has helped when I am in-the-moment, racing hard.

But it was only a matter of time before the guys would ride away. Even with a 54-39 front and 11-28 rear cassette, I was loosing ground on the downhills and was unable to make up the ground I needed on the uphills to keep these guys within my reach.

After around 5 miles, we had a good 5 miles of extremely twisty turny, up and down roads, which was a lot of fun but it made it difficult to manage a steady effort. I found myself trying to chase the guys and after about 45 minutes, I had to remind myself that this is not a bike race but instead a triathlon. But as much fun as I was having, I needed to settle into my own rhythm and race my own race.
For the next 25 miles, the course continued to meet all my expectations - it was absolutely beautiful and what an amazing location to suffer on two wheels. Creeks, trees, farms, animals and a nice fog making it perfect weather for riding. The course was well-marked with arrows before every turn and plenty of police officers to help with traffic control. The course was open to traffic and there were some sections with gravel on the road but I never felt unsafe on the road.

For the rest of the race, I lead the women's race and had no other cyclists in sight. Similar to Lake James 50 and Ironman Austria, I found myself in a race by myself. I was riding as hard and strong as I could for 56 miles but this over 2.5 hour time trial effort was not easy. I love the idea of having competition around me as it brings out the best in me. I always feel like I can go harder with other people around so I rode as if the other girls were right behind me so that I would keep myself going.

After a long steady and steep climb around mile 40, I found myself a little tired but on the downhill from the climb, I felt a reboot and I was back to my riding business.

The course was filled with lots of punchy climbs and it was never boring. I was riding so happy despite giving a sustainable strong effort throughout the entire ride.

Never looking at my Garmin to tell me how well (or not well) I was riding, I went all by feel for 56 miles. 

I fueled well throughout the entire ride and (almost) finished 3 full bottles, each with around 230-240 calories per bottle, each with a pinch of salt. 

As I was finishing the bike course, with less than 1.5 miles to go, I made my way up the long climb (about 1/2 mile) before a slight descend into the finish.

I made sure to never think about the run when I was biking because the way I was riding as if I was not running off the bike. But after 10 years of endurance racing, I've learned that if you want to win, you have to be willing to fail. I was taking risks for 56 miles and I wanted to give it my all to finish as the overall female winner.

For the number guru's, here are my 25 minute splits from my Garmin (I went all by feel):

-166 NP (Normalized Power), 87 cadence, 23.8 mph
-189 NP, 88 cadence, 22.3 mph
-164 NP, 88 cadence, 21.6 mph
-170 NP, 88 cadence, 19.9 mph
-181 NP, 83 cadence, 18.3 mph
-159 NP, 87 cadence, 21.5 mph
-Last 1.5 miles - 172 NP, 80 cadence, 15 mph

13.1 mile run
Time: 1:43.15

Photo credit: Nicole R.
When I approached the dismount line, I spotted Karel. He snapped a few pics and told me great job as I ran my bike to the transition.
It took me an extra second to put on my Garmin 235 (for the run) but I tried to make transition as quick as possible as I put on my visor, run shoes and race belt. I did walk through the transition area as I put on my Nathan hydration belt and once I stepped over the timing mat, I started running.
The first few minutes did not feel good on my legs but I'm all too familiar with this feeling so I just ran with it.

I didn't see Karel for a while so I figured he was waiting until the next few girls came into transition area to let me know of my lead. Karel was on his mountain bike to cheer for me and all the other Trimarni and Greenville athletes (and everyone else) out  on the course.

I was really excited for this course because it suits my strength of running on hills. Seeing that my running style is more of a glider versus than a gazelle, I do best on terrain that let's me power my way up hills with my quads than to push off the ground with my feet (not sure if that makes sense but that's how I feel when I run hills).

I felt really strong running the first 3 miles, which were all uphill. It was a gradual incline, nothing too steep, but it certainly required a bit of work to get to the turn around. I had one quick stop to shake out some kinks in my running form but other than that, I ran to the turn around without any additional walk breaks. Karel rode up and gave me a cheer and told me that I had a good lead, about five minutes. But he told me to not give up and to keep my effort going.

I sipped on my Clif hydration flasks (about 100 calories) every mile and a few times in between the aid stations and grabbed a little water at the aid stations for sipping. Although the course was a little shaded, I was getting a little warm so I used the water to cool myself. The volunteers were great and everyone on the course was giving me a lot of motivation - seeing my athletes, Bryan, Thomas, Al, Leigh-Ann (and eventually Jim - who had a mechanical) was a great energy booster.

When I approached the turn around, I took a quick breather, shook out my legs and a few deep breaths and exhales and made my way down the hill. 
Mentally, I looked forward to the 3 miles downhill but it wasn't easy. I was still having to work on the downhill and I had to focus hard on my stride to keep good form. I did feel strong throughout and told myself that all I needed to do was to get up the hill again and it would be all "downhill" to the finish.
I found myself constantly playing mind games and talking my way  to the next destination on the course as I was experiencing far more low moments as I was running than highs. Never did I let my Garmin tell me how good/bad I was running so I didn't look at my Garmin for the entire run.

When I made my way back to the transition area, it was a great energy booster to hear my name from the spectators and to run on the gravel (which I loved) and the grass (which I loved) as the first female. I took one quick walk near the transition area to shake out my legs and to stretch my back before heading back out  on the run course and back to climbing for the next 3 miles.

At this point, I saw the ladies behind me once again and they looked strong....they also looked very close to me. It was a mile or so later when I saw Karel and he told me that I was in a good position to win the race but to not give up because the girls behind me were looking good and running strong. Hearing this from Karel was a great push as it made me not hold back. Although I wasn't able to run any faster, I was not giving up even though I was feeling more and more fatigued as the race went on. I kept telling myself that I am healthy and this is exactly what I train for and I can rest when the race is over. As much as I was hurting, I was loving every step as this is exactly what I love to feel when I am healthy - a body that can endure the pain that comes with racing hard.

I had told myself that the last 3 miles would be all downhill but the miles did not come quick. The last 3 miles were actually my hardest as it seemed like it was taking forever to get to the next mile marker. As I passed mile 10, I just told myself, ok 3 more miles - that's nothing.
Then as I passed mile 11, I told myself that all I had to do was to get to mile 12 and then I would be able to enjoy the last mile as I ran to the finish as the overall female winner. But in order to keep my spot, I had to push hard.
Thankfully, a guy was running the same pace as me (on his first loop) and he was really helping me out. Actually, his pace was faster than mine so I tried to stay with him. He was exactly what I needed. 
He asked me what lap I was on and I told him that I was on my 2nd lap. He then asked what my goal time was for this race. I responded "No goal time, I just want to win."
He was fired up by my response and really pushed me to the finish. He was an awesome running partner and I told him to keep up his pace for the rest of the race and I would see him at the finish.

As I made my way to the gravel section, I was so relieved to see the finish line and as I ran to the finish chute, I heard my name as the first overall female winner.

Karel was already at the finish to see Trimarni athletes Drew and Al finish ahead of me and when I crossed the finish line, I felt equally accomplished as I did exhausted.

It didn't take long for me to hobble my way to Karel and before I knew it, I was finally resting my legs as I collapsed on the ground.

Oh ground, you feel so good.

I've had a lot of ups and downs over the past 10 years. I've had many successful races and I've had a lot of setbacks. I've accomplished many things with my body and my body has encountered a lot of obstacles.

This year has been extremely special because I've worked really hard and my hard work is paying off. But above all, I'm having so much fun training and racing.

I've called myself a triathlete for 10 years and I find myself loving this sport as much as I did when I started. 

A big thank you to Karel, the Trimarni athletes, the spectators and the Greenville community for the cheers and support at the Lake Logan Half.

You all reminded me why I love to push my body as race day gives me the opportunity to put my training to the test and to raise my limits and challenge myself. 


Lake Logan Half - quick recap

My body is in a good place right now.
I feel healthy, resilient and strong.

Well, in all honesty, right now I am exhausted, tired and sore and I've gathered just enough energy to ride my road bike for an hour (Sunday) and swim 1500 yards (today) in the last 48 hours.

On Saturday, I checked off another race in my 10th year of endurance racing and I couldn't be more grateful to my body as it did not let me down when I asked it to go hard (like really, really hard) for 70.3 miles at the Lake Logan Half

For the past ten years, I have been developing my fitness and skills as an endurance triathlete. 

Over the past three years, I've remained injury free.
Over the past nine years, I've remained illness and sickness free.
Over the past three years, I have raced better than I've ever raced before since starting endurance sports at the age of 23.
This was not by chance but through hard work, education and focus to make sure that my love for endurance sports was never greater than my passion for keeping my body in good health as an endurance triathlete.

When you are healthy, your body can perform amazingly well.

And now, it seems as if it's all coming together as I have never been happier training and racing as a endurance triathlete.

You may wish that there was a simple answer, a perfect training plan, a few must-do workouts or a list of magic foods that have helped me achieve race day success over the past few years but I believe that making mistakes, being open to change, developing and learning has given me many opportunities to find a better way of training and racing.

The more I fail, the smarter I become as an athlete.
I have failed a lot.
I have learned a lot.

After every race, I find myself reflecting more on the journey to get to the race start line rather than picking apart and over-analyzing the race itself.
Like many athletes, I could easily critique my entire race day effort and think about all the things that didn't go well or what I could have done better but instead, I like to first put my energy into what I did in training which helped me excel on race day.

Give me a mountain view, calm lake water, a group of fast swimmers, my (new) favorite goggles for open water and the fastest wetsuit that I've ever swam in and I'm at peace in the water.  But in order to swim fast on race day, I have to be super diligent with my swim training. Even as a life long swimmer, I still need to train a lot. I am in the water a lot (4-5 times per week) and all of my training is alone (with Karel occasionally in the lane next to me doing his own workout). I do believe I could swim faster if I sawm with others. My swim workouts are never boring as there is a lot going on with every workout, lots of toys to use and a nice balance of intensity, volume and recovery with an extra emphasis on race specific sets in the few weeks leading up to a race. What's helped me the most on race day is feeling like I am doing a better job taking my pool fitness to the open water and not being afraid to go hard from the start.

The evolution of me as a cyclist has been a long time in the making. Karel has tweaked my fit year after year and I'm in the most efficient, yet powerful, position on my bike than I've ever been before. Plus, this is the first year that I am sitting on my saddle correctly (thus putting my hips in the right position so I engage my glutes and don't overwork my quads) and I just love my Adamo saddle that has helped me ride so happy (so comfortable!). But, I'm sure this is not the last of Karel dialing me on my bike.
I have super speedy Alto Cycling race wheels (56 front, 86 rear), a great bike mechanic who keeps my bike clean, safe and in great working condition all the time, I race with a a 54-39 cassette in the front and  a 11-28 rear cassette which helps me climb and descend with constant chain tension, I love my S-Works Women's Evade tri helmet and I love my Di2 shifting.
But take away the fancy gear (but keep Karel) and you have a girl who knows how to finally ride her bike. Not only do I love riding my bike but I feel at one with my bike. I am constantly working on my skills to make sure I am always safe on the road but I've done a lot of specific trainer and outside work to help me ride stronger and more efficient outside. I've trained smarter on the bike than ever before with a lot more specificity in every workout. I ride on the trainer about 75% of the time (long rides I ride outside) and that has helped me tremendously to improve my steady efforts and to improve my variable cadence. Oh, and I love hilly terrain so nothing makes me happier than selecting races that are very challenging. A flat bike course would take me way outside my comfort zone and would actually make me more nervous than a hilly bike course.

Run: I use to feel the constant need to be a better runner but Karel has always reminded me that if I want success in triathlons, I need to be a great triathlete. As I have discussed before, trying to make myself become a faster runner is risky and I will likely lose more than I can gain as there is a great risk for injury with my body if I try to train long and fast. I am taking a year off from Ironman training/racing next year to safely add a little more intensity into my training but I can't be upset with my running this year because in all honesty, I don't do a lot (if any) specific "speed" work to give me a competitive edge on the run on race day. I am ok with this as this has been our strategy in helping me become a faster triathlete. My run training includes hill work, strength training, frequency running and brick runs which has improved my resilience in the later miles of an endurance triathlon. Whereas before, I may have been a faster runner off the bike, I have always slowed down. Now, I am running more steady throughout the entire run and this is after biking a lot harder than I've ever biked before on race day. I know I will never be a gazelle-style runner so I have created a running style that works for me which also keeps me injury free. I'm not trying to run like anyone else but instead, myself. Also, an improved position on the bike keeps me legs working hard when I ride but I can still run well off the bike, without feeling like my quads are exhausted. In my mind, I may not be running faster off the bike but I am running stronger than ever before (I can also tell this from my running form which stays the same throughout the entire race vs in the past, my form would get ugly in the later miles).

Gadgets - They are there when I train and race but I don't use them on race day. I go entirely by feel. This gives me so much more freedom, less pressure and more engagement with my body and mind. I don't chase time goals, a finish time, watts or paces but instead, I just race. I do use my gadgets in training as it helps me stay accountable to efforts but I am always adjusting the effort based on how I feel.

Mindset - I love training and racing. I don't do it for anyone else but myself. I love the process of training and developing and I am fired-up that I am still improving. I also love competition - it brings out the best in me when I can race against strong, fast athletes. I am constantly working on my mental skills but luckily I have a great sport psychologist who I can also call my best friend. 

I love working on the race week eats as I feel it's something that must be mastered in training, well before race day. I feel super confident in my pre-race low fiber/low residue nutrition plan in the 48 hours before the race. I am learning that I need to keep myself calm by staying relaxed with visualization to reduce any chance of any pre-race nerves upsetting my tummy. Also, I need to be careful with time zones - in looking back at the 3 Ironman races when I had tummy issues (never in a half), I've also had a 6-hour time difference.

Sport Nutrition:
Despite racing at a higher intensity in a half vs in an Ironman (and a much shorter race), I need to be careful with the concentration of my sport drinks on the bike and the run. While this may increase a chance for bonking, I consider myself a very efficient athlete (10 years of endurance sports has helped!) - I have never suffered from dehydration or a bonk in a race. For this race, I did dial back my hourly caloric intake by about 60 calories compared to what I did in Austria and it worked really well on the bike - I took in ~240 calories per hour with 26 ounce fluid (3 bottles) and I stayed on a strict schedule with drinking every 15 minutes (and the occasional as needed drink). On the run, I took in 100 calories per flask (sipping every 5-8 minutes) to finish a flask every ~45 minutes instead of 130 calories. While it may seem like small changes, sport nutrition is all about the little tweaks that make a big difference on race day. Practice, tweak and keep on dialing it in. Even sport dietitians need to keep tweaking their sport nutrition!

Thank you Lake Logan for the beautiful views, the challenging terrain and the great community/crowd support. Plus, you gave me so many animals to look at throughout the race and nothing makes me happier than furry friends out on a race course (Shhh, don't tell Karel - he tells me to focus when I race and to not say hi to animals.)

I lead from the start of the race and felt empowered by the ladies behind me to give it my all. While it can be fun to be in the front of the race, it's not an easy position to be in when you have no idea what's going on behind you in the race.
They raced as hard as I could as I couldn't give up until I crossed the finish line.

With a lot of energy expended at Lake Logan, I crossed the line as first overall female and with a new 1-minute half Ironman PR.

Above all, thank you to my body - I'm having so much fun with you in training and on race day.

Swim: 26.06
Bike: 2:40.05
Run: 1:43.15
Total: 4:53.47

Race Results

Stay tuned for the full race recap.

Thank you 2016 Trimarni sponsors.