Essential Sports Nutrition


Kona Edge Podcast interview - successfully failing

In mid October, I dedicated a blog post to recapping our 2016 season of triathlon racing. 
If you missed it, you can read about it here: 2016 season recap. 

Looking back, 2016 was a very successful season for me and Karel. 

I fulfilled a long time goal of placing on the podium at an international Ironman, where I finished 2nd AG and 4th female amateur (10th overall female) at Ironman Austria. It was also my highest ever overall placing in an Ironman since winning the 18-24 AG at IMFL in 2006 (my first Ironman). Only this time, 11 Ironmans later, I finished 54 minutes faster than at my first Ironman (10:06 at IM Austria vs. 11:00 at IMFL). 

I placed overall female at the Lake James 50 triathlon. 

Eight days later, I was leading the race by several minutes with 1 mile to go, at Rev3 Knox, until a pink arrow lead me and several others off the bike portion of the race course. Due to a 6+ mile detour, I tried to make up the 15+ minutes that I lost on the bike and missed the win by less than a minute. Bright side - I had the fastest female run split of the day (running frustrated and on a mission!).

And to conclude the season, a win at Lake Logan Half which was the result of a very strong performance on a very tough race course, and one of my best executed bike performance. 

And, let's not forget Karel's 3 very successful Ironman finishes (IM Austria, IMMT, IMKona), 3 overall race wins, an IM podium (and Kona qualification) at IMMT and the fastest male amateur run split at IMMT. 

While successes are worth highlighting (it's good to acknowledge when you are doing something right), it would be wrong for me to not mention the many, MANY lessons, mistakes and failures that have occurred since I started racing in endurance events back in 2006. 

  • I'd like to bring up my horrible decision in 2007 when I decided to race my first Kona with an injury. No running for 30 days due to hip issues and a quick-fix, please heal me, approach to every doctor that I saw, only to try to get myself uninjured before race day, results in extreme damage to my body during and after the race. With a stubborn head, I finished (and made it onto the NBC Kona broadcast coverage - yep, I was one of those athletes falling across the finish line) and it negatively affected me for several years (like 6!). 

  • I'd like to bring up 2011, where I didn't race a single triathlon for the entire year, except IM Kona in October, due to another 3 months of no running (hip/back issues) and a time-consuming dietetic internship that took up every hour of my day (10+ hours a day of interning and school work) for 10 months. 

  • I'd like to bring up the 3 months that I didn't run before IM Placid in 2013 and managed to get myself into as good of shape as I could, to feel prepared for that race, with only 8 weeks of consistent running. This also occurred during the time when my dad was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic cancer. Somehow, I managed to get to the start line and qualify for Kona with a roll down slot. 

  • I'd like to bring up the 6 years that I suffered from chronic hip/back issues, which caused many days of frustration, tears and anger toward my body. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to quit the sport of triathlon throughout those 6 years and how much time was spent on PT, doc appointments and anything and everything to try to get myself healed. 
  • And let's not forget Karel's recent issues, with a tear in his plantar fascia just 5 months before his first Kona in 2015 and then a diagnosis of a labral hip tear this past May and painful back issues leading up to IM Austria.
  • I should also mention the passing of my dad, three days before my birthday in 2014. This is something that I deal with on an ongoing basis. I don't think you ever get over the loss of a loved one, especially a parent. 

You see, failure is a step to success. Actually, it is the road to success. 
Perhaps you have followed us for many years or you are a new Trimarni follower. Regardless, it is important that you understand that our successes are not without failures. 

I don't know that I will ever be able to document my 10 years of learning into one blog post but I will continue to document my journey on this blog, with the intention of inspiring you and motivating you to never ever give up on your dreams.  If you don't give up, you never fail. You just keep on learning. 

Sure, we can call it a failure when we get injured, race poorly or make some kind of bad decision in training but failing is an opportunity to learn....that is, if you see it as a valuable opportunity to learn. 

The way I see it, I have successfully failed to get to where I am today.

As a sport dietitian, coach and still developing triathlete, I have 10 years of formal education with 10 years of endurance training and racing behind me. I have learned a lot in 10 years and I don't believe I'm even close to reaching my peak performances by my boy. I think Karel, even at 40 years of age, still hasn't reached his best. He's getting faster, stronger, more efficient and smarter as an endurance triathlete with every season. And next season will only be his 6 season of endurance triathlon racing. 

Thanks to Brad Brown with The Kona Edge, I was recently given a special opportunity to share some of my lessons learned along my successful (and not so successful) journey. 

We had such a great conversation talking about all things triathlon, Kona and coaching, as well as discussing my thoughts on race weight. I hope you enjoy hearing about some of the mistakes that I've made over the past 10 years as an endurance triathlete.
Although this podcast may be about me, Brad wanted to make sure that this podcast interview was also educational, so that I could discuss practical advice to help athletes move closer to reaching personal athletic goals, without compromising health.
Thanks for listening.

If you enjoy The Kona Edge podcast, you can leave a rating and review for The Kona Edge podcast on iTunes.


Quinoa pasta with sauteed veggies and tomato sauce

Before I share with you my latest creation, made with Supergrain Pasta Spaghetti (corn and quinoa flour), I'd like to tell you the reason why I don't label my creations as "gluten free" "Metabolically efficient" "Paleo" "Whole 30" or by any other name than what's in the recipe.

I'm on a mission to help athletes learn how to have a better relationship with food. Far too many athletes have a dysfunctional relationship with food and this can create resistance to eat enough of the right foods, at the right times to meet training demands.

Labeling, worrying or feeling guilty about food makes it quite difficult to eat according to your personal dietary needs. Combine that with issues with your body image and you will constantly struggle to meet your health and energy needs.

Of course, I find great value when a recipe is labeled gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian or vegan, as I work with many athletes who need to follow a restricted diet (ex. personal, ethical, religious, medical, etc.) and this makes ingredient deciphering much easier. And let's be honest, 99.9% of the recipes on this blog are vegetarian because I am a vegetarian, so maybe you come to this blog to see vegetarian recipes (even if I don't label them as vegetarian).

It's unfortunate, but true, that many people need permission to eat something by a diet name.
Don't believe me...... 

How considerate. ✓ - Paleo approved foods
Whole Foods gives you permission to eat anything on this salad bar if you follow a Paleo diet. Since I don't follow a Paleo diet, am I allowed to eat from this salad bar? Is this salad bar healthier than the other salad bar? I see carrots but am I allowed to eat paleo carrots?
What makes carrot paleo? 

Outside of the context of eating a restrictive diet, for the reasons I mentioned above, giving yourself permission to eat something simply because it doesn't fit into your "bad food" or "off limit" category is no way to foster a healthy relationship with food.

Take this quinoa pasta as an example. 

If I titled my recipe "Gluten free pasta with sauteed veggies and tomato sauce" would you suddenly assume that I am endorsing this pasta as a more healthy option than the regular alternative?
What's makes it healthier if the calories, carbohydrates and protein content is relatively similar?
Because it's made from quinoa?

What about this pancake mix? Is it healthier because it's gluten free?

If Quinoa is on your good food list and gluten is on your bad food list, and you have no allergies or intolerance's to gluten, you are have created a list of bad foods, which limits your ability to eat a varied diet.

So does this strategy of eating according to a good food vs. bad food list work when it comes to improving your health or performance as an athletes?

In your quest to improving your relationship with food, unfortunately no, it doesn't help.

When you select foods simply based on a diet trend, you are learning to eat per food rules and not according to your own needs. A diet doesn't understand your physical needs and many times, a diet leaves a void in your life as it pertains to eating for pleasure. And with constant restriction comes the risk for overindulging.

With rules comes guilt if you break those rules.
With a diet, you create a style of eating that can not be broken, or else it causes frustration, anxiety, fear and failure.

It's time to stop the diet mentality.
I give your permission to eat without food rules.

So why did I select this quinoa pasta over regular pasta?
Well, why not? Isn't it fun to try new foods, made with different ingredients, to excite the taste buds and to make your tummy happy? 

Quinoa pasta with sauteed veggies and tomato sauce

1 box quinoa pasta (or pasta of your choice)
Water, salt, oil for cooking pasta
1 small can tomato paste w/ garlic, oregano and basil (or add your own herbs)
1 medium yellow bell pepper (chopped)
1 small white onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
Olive oil

1. Cook pasta according to the package directions. 
2. While pasta is cooking, sautee chopped pepper and sliced onion and chopped garlic in skillet with olive oil on medium heat.
3. When veggies soften after a few minutes (toss frequently to evenly coat), add 1 can tomato pasta + 1 can water. Cover the veggies in the tomato paste.
You can also use tomato/marinara sauce.
.4. When pasta is finished cooking, drain and rinse under cold water. Reheat in microwave if necessary to bring pasta to your preferred temperature.
5. Dress your plate with pasta along with veggie filled sauce and top with shredded cheese.
Enjoy and don't forget to yum!


Life skills learned from sport

Tonight I will be speaking at Furman University to a small group of exercise science students for career night.
I will share my 11-year extensive educational journey and how it got me to where I am today. I will also share some of my real world experiences and tips of owning your own business (and lessons learned along the way). 

It wasn’t too long ago when I was listening to experts discuss various professions in the fields of nutrition, exercise, health and fitness.

I always found career night to be a valuable opportunity to learn about interesting and sometimes not so interesting careers. 

My hope is to inspire the students to continue their education and to explore the many job opportunities out there. It's a great feeling to make a living from doing something that you love. 

My best advice to the students is not to stress about finding the perfect career. Let it find you. There is no right or wrong path to finding your dream job. Whatever you eventually end up doing in life for work, always stay true to yourself and do what you love.
If you pursue your passion, you will always be motivated to work.

On the topic of careers, I realize how important education/schooling is when searching for a job but to be honest, I developed many life/job skills from being a lifelong athlete.

Although my education has always been a high priority in my life, sport has given me many useful skills that I constantly apply to my work life. 

Skills gained from sport:

-Self-discipline and dedication
-No short cuts
-Hard work ethic
-Learn from mistakes
-Healthy and active lifestyle
-Team work 

-Time management
-Setting goals
-Being a leader and teammate 
-Learning from others
-Sacrifices and priorities 
-Dealing with pressure and stress
-Constructive criticism 
-Focus and concentration 
-It’s not always about being the best


Heavy gear, heavy legs

It seems like an oxymoron to put cardio and strength training in the same sentence but that is one of the training outcomes in the foundation phase: Get stronger through cardio training to strengthen your muscles to prepare for heavier loads.

There are many ways to do this, like swimming with an ankle strap and paddles in the pool or walking at an incline on the treadmill with a weight vest, but cycling heavy gear drills are a perfect for over recruiting muscle fibers while improving pedaling mechanics.

On Saturday, we had a small group of Trimarnis join me and Karel for some heavy gear hill repeaters. We made sure to pick a gradual long hill (one of our many hills/climbs) that had a beautiful view at the top, which offered a little reward for each hill repeater.

It's very apparent that I have made huge gains in my cycling fitness over the past two years, since moving to Greenville, SC. I have dropped by Ironman bike time from ~5:40-5:50 to 5:18.00 over the past two years. Although Greenville has given us the perfect training playground for bike riding (and by default, you are forced to improve your skills and resilience on the bike), this was around the time that Karel and I started to train with Matt Dixon as our mentor/coach.

We have learned so much from Matt and relating to the bike, we learned the value of stressing the cardio and muscular systems separately in the foundation phase. In other words, it is important to train the muscles (legs) so that they work independently from the cardio system (heart/lungs). This was no struggle for Karel, who comes from a cycling background, but for me, this new physiological adaptation really helped me improved my cycling terrain management on hilly races courses, which resulted in faster bike times and fresher legs off the bike.

It would be a shame if you spend all of your base phase (or foundation phase as we call it) riding long without any specificity in your training. Or, the opposite - riding too hard and never working on your pedaling mechanics or improving the muscle/brain connection.

By incorporating drills, like heavy gear, single leg and high cadence, into your early phase training, you will realize that as you progress with training, you will find it easier (less taxing) to shift the load from your cardio system to your muscular system. While it is not necessary to ride 45 rpm or 125 rpm on race day, it is important that you have a range of higher/lower cadences from your normal preferred riding cadence (ex. 78-85rpm) so that when you ride in tail wind, head/cross wind or on hilly terrain, your legs can efficiently manage the course terrain.

Perhaps by reading this blog, you are realizing that improving your cycling fitness is much more than improving your FTP or trying to ride with x-watts and x-mph for x-miles. You can be very strong and fit on the bike in training but fail to meet your cycling (and run) expectations on race day if you do not master your cycling drills and skills and manage your terrain efficiently.

By having a range of available cadences with great cycling skills, you will ride more efficiently, resist fatigue, conserve glycogen and “save your legs” for the run portion of your triathlon.

Through our Greenville private and group training camps and our 8-week foundation plan, we have helped many athletes improve their cycling skills and mechanics for better riding on race day. And who doesn't want to become a better cyclist to perform better on race day?? Remember, better execution on the bike means better running off the bike. And let's get real - most race day hopes and dreams are crushed on the run and not on the bike.

Karel, the "cyclist" running his way to the fastest male amateur run split at IMMT. 

Here is an example of how you can take your heavy gear work in training and transfer it to race day, for better cycling execution.

Climbing hills – Don’t default and shift into the lightest/easiest gear to "save" your legs. This will cause your heart rate and breathing to increase, thus taxing your cardio system and exhausting yourself before you start the run. When you start climbing your hill, slightly lower your cadence (perhaps with a slightly heavier gear) and switch the load to the legs to reduce cardio stress. You may be able to ride in the aero bars but to open the hip angle for a smoother pedal stroke, you will likely find yourself needing to sit up and rotate your pelvis toward the back of the saddle. Knowing how to anticipate a climb is very important so that you can efficiently change your gears and not be stuck in the big ring (or drop your chain from switching quickly from the big to small ring when you suddenly run out of gears). This process of climbing a hill should not feel scary or uncomfortable as you have trained to transfer the load from your cardio system to your muscular system. Focus on a smooth pedal stroke (which you can improve through single leg drills) and maintain a relaxed upper body.