Essential Sports Nutrition


What it takes

Do you have what it takes? 

What exactly am I talking about?


Some of the best feelings in life are when you feel like you improved. And not just any improvement like moving up a level at your job or learning a second language. While both meaningful and valuable, it's the moments in life when you overcome a challenge, typically with a bit of suffering, and you feel like you are really living life to the fullest, while doing something worthwhile with your body.

This is why it's commonly said that sports change people.
Being an athlete is a title that changes you forever.
I believe it's a great thing to be an athlete as it fosters great dedication, commitment, focus and passion to many other areas in life - not related to sports.

You can't deny that the satisfaction of proving something to yourself as an athlete, perhaps something that you didn't think was possible, is an invigorating feeling. Because the proving requires hard work, investments, patience and sacrifice, the journey of achieving something to improve yourself is often even better than the end result.

Believing in yourself is the first step of determining if you have what it takes.
Secondly, you have dream big.
While it can be fine to live a normal life of feeling content with average, dreaming big creates an exciting platform of growth, progress and change, so you can become something more than average.   
As you think about your upcoming season of training and racing, you have to believe that you have what it takes to make your athletic dreams a reality.

Don’t let other people discourage you from your dreams. Prove others wrong.

And don’t let the thought of hard work scare you from achieving something incredible.
Remember, nothing worthwhile will ever come easy. 

Every athlete has a great performance inside him/herself but it takes time and patience to get the best out of yourself. And even if you think you achieved your "best race ever", there's probably another better race in you that you will experience down the road - so long as you don't give up. 

Stay dedicated.
Keep developing yourself as an athlete. 

If you believe you have what it takes, chase your dreams, fall in love with the process and have a lot of fun along the way.

It's emotionally draining to become 
hyper focused on an end result. 
It's your journey, make the most of it. 

You got what it takes. 


Dodge a race day curveball

As a triathlete, I have to be prepared for any and all race day conditions and scenarios. My sport is not singular but instead, a dynamic mix of three sports - swim, bike, run. 

As a coach, I have to be prepared for any and all race day conditions and scenarios to help my athletes overcome race day curve balls. A cancelled swim, a modified bike course, a cancelled, then rescheduled race, non stop rain, freezing cold and windy, extremely hot, two flat tires, GI issues, cramps.....yep, we have dealt with it all by our Trimarni athletes. 

A few scenarios come to mind: 

2014 IMFL - cancelled swim, cold and windy bike

While at the venue, just a short time before the IM Swim start, the swim was cancelled due to swells in the ocean. Karel and I had to think fast and thankfully, our athletes had their cell phones on them as there was a period of time between the cancelled swim and TT bike start that we could re-establish a new game plan. As coaches, it is our job to keep our athletes motivated and focused. We believe our athletes have these qualities as it is but in unfavorable race day conditions, it can be really easy to second guess yourself and even throw in the towel, saying "it's not worth it."

For us, it didn't even cross our mind that our athletes wouldn't continue on with the race. They put in a lot of time, money and energy to train for this one day event so our focus was on helping our athletes (especially our first time IM athletes) get their emotions under control and to establish a new race day strategy. They were told not to overbike just because the swim was cancelled and to stay warmed up before the TT start. 

We had 9 out of 9 of our Trimarni IMFL athletes start the race and 8 Trimarni athletes finished (one suffered hypothermia on the bike). 

Racing is about overcoming obstacles and putting yourself into uncomfortable situations. Even with the cancelled swim, the 138.2 mile duathlon still required the same skills as racing for 140.6 miles. 

2015 IM Maryland

We always tell our athletes that even with a cancelled portion of the race or a modified course, there are still championship slots to be given, podium places to earn and personal bests to achieve. This couldn't be more true for Trimarni athlete Justine who went through a roller coaster of emotions before her second Ironman. It was actually me who broke the news to her of the cancelled event as she was driving the hour to the race (from her house) to pick-up her packet when I read about the race on the IM website while I was in Kona. I called Justine and told her "Don't worry, everything will be ok." She was of course, really confused but when we talked it all through, I told her I had other race options for her that would be ideal for her racing strengths. Since the IM was cancelled, I had Justine train (with a rested body) that weekend with a moderate amount of volume (similar as if she was 3-4 weeks out from a half IM) and then maintain her fitness until we had another IM option. When IM Maryland was back on, we didn't do much of a taper but instead, just sharpened her body and mind, asked her to mentally stay "in it" and gave her constant encouragement that this was all meant to be. 

With more obstacles on race day, like a shortened swim (without Justine even knowing the final distance of the swim as she was swimming), Justine did what she trained to do - race! 

As she stayed focused on completing her goal of starting and finishing IM Maryland, she also kept a close eye on her competition that showed up on race day. As I tracked Justine, I was giving updates to her husband and when it was time, I told her husband Eric to tell Justine that "now is the time to commit." Justine gave everything she had out on the course and finished 2nd in her AG (25-29) to earn a slot to 2016 IM Kona. She also ran a 3:47 "best time" marathon, with her longest (intentional) run as a 12- mile "long run". And just a few weeks ago, she became a 2016 IM World Championship finisher. 

2016 IMMT

At the athlete briefing two days before the race, there was discussion of what would happen on race day if the weather (storm and fog on the lake) would not permit the athletes from starting the swim. The race director did an excellent job preparing the athletes for the two plan options (delayed swim then shortened to 1.2 miles, cancelled swim and delayed TT bike, starting from the exit of the swim) for race day morning. Rather than our athletes (including our first time IM athlete) freaking out and getting upset and wasting energy on the uncontrollable, I prepared our athletes for how to adjust pacing and nutrition (especially pre-race in the case of a delayed swim start or cancelled swim start) to prepare for the possible race day morning scenario. Karel and I also discussed the tactics of racing an IM in pouring rain, which was a good thing because it poured the entire bike ride for all of our athletes (and on the run). I even had our athletes (and Karel) go through a 10-minute visualization where I had them visualize themselves biking through pouring rain (note, I did not have them visualize the small chance that it would be a nice day - I put them in the worst case scenario). 

All of our athletes started and finished the race and now they have extra bragging rights for finishing a tough course in very tough conditions. 

And those who embraced the conditions, excelled. We had strong minded athletes achieve the unthinkable, personal best times, a Kona qualifier and a first time IM finisher. 

It sure is a bummer when a race distance is modified, especially when it is your first time racing the distance, you dedicated yourself 100% to training for the full distance (for many many months) or you traveled very far to compete in the event.
When there is a course or distance change, it's easy to think that suddenly, it was all for nothing and perhaps, there is a better option at a future date.
Never assume that a future race will provide you with a better outcome. 

As a coach, I want athletes to finish what they started. Sure, there may be some rare situations where a cancelled race or a transferred entry may be a blessing in disguise but anytime you take a risk to move from the present to focusing on the future, your assumptions may not be any more in your favor than the current situations that you are dealing with.

If your race is altered, the weather doesn't make for an "easy" race or part of the race is cancelled, you can still earn your finisher medal. Your race still counts if there is a start line and finish line. The key is that you have to stay mentally committed. When you signed up for your race, you also signed up for the many obstacles and challenges that could come your race before or on race day.
If you are healthy, fit and tapered and you put in the work, get yourself excited to execute.

Regardless of the modifications made for race day, you have to consider that if you pass on your current race and focus on the next-best-thing option, you could 1) get sick 2) get injured 3) have to go through a major life event 4) not peak again 5) lose motivation to train 6) experience a similar situation at your next race.

Racing is always out of your control so it's in your best interest to stay focused and committed to the now.

By keeping the right mindset, you WILL excel on race day.
Don't be one of the many athletes who have excuses for what could have been or should have been on race day.
Racing is racing - it is unpredictable.
If you are in a curveball situation before race day, remind yourself that you still have to nail your nutrition, stay mentally strong all day, be proactive, dig deep and overcome low moments.
If your mind isn't in the right spot, you may likely underperform on your modified course simply because you were unsuccessful with dealing with the new race day situations (that everyone else has to deal with).

I encourage you to be one of the smart athletes who sees the capabilities on race day.
Plus, when you reach the finish line, you will have an extra reason to celebrate your accomplishment.
You didn't give up on yourself when the odds were against you.

For additional reading, Dr. G (clinical sport psychologist) and I put together an article on how to overcome race day curve ball situations. We hope you find our advice practical and useful so that you don't undesirable scenarios detour you from achieving something great on race day. 


At-home gym - a great investment!

In the spring, I read an article from Bethany Rutledge about the perfect pain cave for your budget and it made me so happy. I have always been a gym lover but over the years, I've learned that time management is extremely important as an adult age group triathlete.
We could not be more pleased with our at-home gym and how useful it is for our active lifestyle. 

A lot of time and money goes into a home-gym but in my opinion, it's a huge time-saver and it's cost effective. 

We can workout no matter the weather.
We can workout no matter the time of the day. 
We can workout when we don't want to commute to the gym.
We can workout even when we don't have the energy to workout.
We can workout without distractions. 
We can workout and suffer in privacy. 

I can imagine that there are some pretty nice at-home gyms with some pricey equipment but for us, we needed an at-home gym that was practical for our swim/bike/run lifestyle.

Although training outdoors is great and we can train outside year round in Greenville, SC (minus a few really cold days), we have found great value in having an indoor training environment that is conducive for specific workouts that require focus and consistency..... and for those times when working out just seems like less of a hassle when it is in the privacy of your own home (ex. it's cold outside, you finish an indoor bike trainer workout, you are drenched in sweat and hoping on the treadmill seems much more inviting than drying off, layering up and then running outside). 

In our at-home gym, you can find:
1) My trainer bike - We purchased a hardly used Trek tri bike and Karel fitted me to the bike. It's always set on the trainer - all year long. This way, I don't have to sweat all over my racing bike (my racing bike needs enough routine tune-ups as it is!) and I don't have to carry my bike through our house. In the winter, when I am primarily riding inside (except for the longer weekend rides or when it is too cold), my Stages power meter (crank based) goes from my racing bike to my trainer bike so that I can ride with power (we have a computrainer but I don't use all it's functions). I never use power outside when I train in the winter (or when I am on my road bike). We also have another trainer (with power) that is used for RETUL fits and for Karel (who trains indoors in the garage - where it stays cold in the winter).

2) ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill - We invested into a quality treadmill but one that didn't give us more functions than we needed. A used, cheap treadmill would not do us much good considering how much we run on the treadmill and the type of workouts that we do on the treadmill. This treadmill is great because it has a decline setting (3%) and an incline up to 15%. It doesn't turn off after an hour, the speakers are great for jamming music and it has a nice shock to reduce the impact. It also has two fans with two speeds. It's also easy to collapse (if needed). We LOVE our treadmill and it has been one of the best investments we have made for our at-home gym. 

3) Weights, bands, stability ball, weight bar - the typical stuff that we use for functional strength training. We don't need machines when it comes to "lifting" but instead, we can do every strength move at home with our own equipment. 

4) Plyo box - Karel built us two plyo boxes (he found a YouTube video how to make them - pretty simple) which are great for plyometrics but also for simple hip exercises. They also work great as tables  :)

5) Smart TV - Occasionally I'll watch something on TV but music (You Tube) is usually on when I have a specific bike trainer workout. Although movies and TV shows are nice when it's an EZ spin and the weather is not ideal outside. We don't have cable in the workout room but we have Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. As you can see, the TV sits low to the floor as it's not ideal to look "up" at a TV when you are riding aero on a tri bike (or any bike for that matter).

6) White board - The white board comes in handy to write out workouts ahead of time. All of our workouts include a warm-up, pre-set, main set and sometimes a post set so with so much going on in a workout, it's nice to see it in front of you. 

7) Mirror/towel container  - The mirror is used to address proper form and the towel container keeps a bunch of small towels (many of which, we have received from races) which are a necessity for indoor workouts when sweating is unavoidable. 

8) Medals and bib numbers - inspiration and motivation. We have 18 Ironman bib numbers and medals between us both. On the wall above the white board hangs our IM Kona medals (7 between us both) and bike frame numbers. 

9) Cooling off - floor fan, ceiling fan....and a window. 

10) Gym flooring - We installed heavy duty rubber flooring for our gym for easy cleaning up and to make it more functional. We debated about removing the carpet before putting on the floor but we ended up putting the flooring on top of the carpet and it's been just fine for us.

Today I took a mid-day break to perform some functional strength training. Although Furman University (where we swim and sometimes strength train) is just 1.5 miles (or 10 minutes) away, I saved 20 minutes of driving to perform 20 minutes of strength training, in the middle of the day, without any distractions.

Although the best place to workout is the one where you will actually workout, I highly suggest to invest in a few pieces of equipment to make your house a bit more training-friendly so you (and your family) can stay consistent with training/exercising. 


Post Ironman Kona "long" ride


It's crazy to think that it was just a week ago when we were swimming with fishes in the ocean, and sweating in the lava fields.
This past Saturday, we returned back to our mountains (with arm warmers) and explored a new route on two wheels (on road bikes).
I absolutely LOVE cycling this time of the year - the tree leaves are so pretty!

Our route was familiar to me as I had rode it at the Purple Patch Fitness (PPF) Greenville camp but it was new to Karel. It's crazy to think that we have lived here in Greenville for 2.5 years and have never done the  Green River Cove loop together!!

I am absolutely in love with this 20-mile loop! The beauty, the switchbacks, the descends, the climbing, the flat roads, the river views, the nice pavement, the quite roads, the has everything a cyclist should love when riding on two wheels!

Seeing that we will ride this loop at the end of the 80-mile Hincapie Gran Fondo next Saturday (following climbing Skyuka mountain and Howard's gap), it was nice to preview it for an "easy" ride. 

3 hours and 15 minutes, 51 miles and around 4000 feet of much fun!
Since Karel is always so kind to let me stay (suffer) on his wheel when he is training, I took some of the pulls to help out his tender, post IM Kona legs.

We hardly ever drive our bikes anywhere as we can ride safely from our doorstep to our favorite country roads, but to eliminate an extra 30+ miles of riding, we drove to Hotel Domestique and started our ride around 9:30am from the hotel (it's also a popular place where many cyclists start their group rides - also the home base for the Purple Patch Fitness Greenville camp). 

Here are some of the pictures I took from our ride.
I absolutely love riding here in Greenville - it's hard for me to not take more pictures! 

Karel is slowly recovering from IM Kona. He is slowly getting back to a normal sleep routine, his appetite is in full force and he has some deep fatigue in his quads. His training (exercise routine) is minimal as he is finally able to fully rest (and reset) his body after a long season of training and racing. 

This recovery is a bit different than the last two Ironman's this summer for a few reasons:
It's the off-season.
No more races until next season.
It's a true break from structured training.
Thinking about the recovery post Ironman, there are many factors that contribute to how quickly an athlete can recover from his/her 140.6 mile effort. Factors like racing intensity, nutrition (daily diet), fueling/hydrating (during the race), prior training/fitness, taper, execution, weather and race course terrain can all dictate how well an athlete can recover before he/she can slowly ease back into more structured training. 

But when your Ironman occurs at the end of the season, it can hit you hard - mentally and physically. Karel and I discussed this topic in great detail during our ride (despite 4000 feet of climbing, we kept the ride pretty conversational.....until Karel made me sprint up the last climb up to Hotel D!). There are a obvious and not-so-obvious strategies of how to transition from Ironman in training to Ironman finisher to finally, an athlete in the off-season.....where you instantly don't feel like an athlete anymore!

Don't over analyze your race. Reflect and then move on.
You are not lazy or out of shape. You are an athlete in his/her off-season.
Pick out the highlight moments in your race experience and keep reminding yourself of those successes.
Determine your weaknesses that were evident in your last race and decide your action plan on how you will continually work on them. 
Start planning your next season of racing.
Don't become sedentary - stay active with non-structured exercise that doesn't reflect triathlon "training".
Don't bash your body or diet/restrict calories. Thank your body and establish smart, realistic and sustainable healthy eating patterns that reflect your current exercise regime.
Plan more fun stuff - go for a hike, kayak/ski, travel, vacation, volunteer.
Select fun low stress, minimal impact events (5K, 10K, bike events, swim events, etc.) to keep yourself motivated.
Recruit your favorite (or new) exercise partners (ex. family or friends) to keep you motivated to work out for health benefits and stress relief.
When you recover, don't train for a running race. Start functional strength training.
Keep yourself "in the sport" - follow blogs, read articles, subscribe to magazines. Don't completely "check out" of the sport.
Give yourself a break - you deserve a break from structured training. Create a new normal and enjoy it. Don't wake up and live each day with guilt and a deep feeling that you should be doing more. There will be a time to train hard, set an alarm for an early wake-up, go to bed early and make sacrifices. Your off-season is not that time. 
Be ok with this temporary, but necessary, time to let your body fully recover and rejuvenate.