8/17/17

Avoid late-season training burnout



Since starting my 2017 back in November, my motivation for training is still high and I am itching to race my last race of the season, the IM 70.3 World Championship, in just 24 days! I'm actually getting a little sad that my 2017 season is coming to an end. Although I look forward to the fall, when I have the opportunity to exercise without structure and enjoy our amazing fall weather, I really do love training with a purpose and being in the race environment. But with a close to one season comes the start of another season and I can't wait to make my return back to Ironman distance racing after this 2-year intentional break from training for the 140.6 mile distance. Ironman Austria and Ironman Wisconsin will make Ironman #12 and #13 for me in 2018!

Although it's normal to experience motivational highs and lows throughout a season, there can be a great risk for burnout when you have been training hard for a long period of time, in preparation for an important event. Typically, the symptoms occur gradually as you can't seem to find the motivation that you once had to train and you notice a loss of enjoyment for training. Not to mention, you may also be struggling with injuries, health issues or a change in mood. You may even say to yourself "I can't wait to get this race over with".

The interesting thing about burnout is that it's not always predictable. Life, work and family stress can increase the risk for burnout. You can also feel burned out when you are injured, sick or feeling a plateau in fitness.

Although we all know that athletic success requires hard work and embracing "the grind" (there will be some workouts that brighten your day and others that suck the energy out of you) but if you don't love training, you won't experience the results that you are capable of achieving.

I've been lucky that I have never lost my enjoyment for the sport of triathlon and thankfully, for many years, my body has given me some incredible results without a health or injury-related setback. Since my first Ironman back in 2006, I still love the sport as much as I did when I was introduced to the swimbikerun, multisport lifestyle. But the joy and passion that I get from training and racing does not come from one of placement or time, but self-improvement. And over the years, I've always made the conscious effort to adjust my training so that I can safely integrate training into my life, without it compromising my health or well-being. Today, I've become smarter, wiser and more experienced as an endurance triathlete (and coach) and I've learned a few effective strategies that have helped me avoid late season burnout.

  1. Avoid just checking off your workouts and simply going through the motions. If you feel obligated to train but gain little enjoyment or satisfaction from completing your workouts, you need a specific purpose or focus for why you are training, which will help you get more out of every training session.
  2. If you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, training may not be to blame but it's likely the first thing that gets removed when life feels overwhelming. Exercise is a great way to improve your mood so don't scratch your workout just because life is stressful. Give yourself permission to move blood, participating in an exercise that makes you feel good, for 20-30 minutes. You will likely feel more calm and relaxed after the workout is finished.
  3. Change up your routine if your daily grind is becoming monotonous. Go somewhere new and exciting to train, join a group or invite a training partner to join you or take a few days off from structure. Sometimes a mind/body recharge is exactly what you need.
  4. Join a group or participate in a camp for motivation. There's nothing more inspiring that training with others, in a new environment, especially when they can keep you accountable to an effort and likely bring a bit more out of your body than what you can do alone.
  5. Eat enough! If your caloric intake is not adequate and you are skimping on your sport nutrition, there's a good chance that you are sabotaging your health and performance as your body can't keep up with the workouts. Take some time away from training so that you can kick-start your appetite (or organize the diet) so that you can meet your energy needs.
  6. Remind yourself of your goals. Sure, it may be a long season and you may be looking forward to a break but what got you excited to train for your upcoming race? Since you can't control the future, make sure your goals help you stay motivated with your training journey/process.
  7. Remove the pressure on yourself that you have to get faster. Far too many burnout stories stem from an athlete pushing through fatigue, restricting the diet in order to make race weight, being extreme with the lifestyle or working out at any cost in order to boost performance or to feel more physically prepared for race day. Added pressure brings stress and anxiety but it also induces a constant state of stress for your body when you push beyond your physical capabilities.
  8. Get your sleep! Sleep is an amazing recovery tool but when you fall short on sleep or try to function in life with restless sleep, it's easy to feel run down and to lose motivation when your body no longer works to your expectations. Try to get to bed earlier and allow yourself a few days to wake-up without an alarm so that your body can get the sleep it deserves.
  9. No structure workouts are in order! Sometimes you need a break from structure. Go out and just go for a run without a watch, ride your bike for fun (and stop at the local coffee shop) or do an open water swim and enjoy the freedom of not following a black line. Or, do nothing related to your sport without guilt.
  10. More is not better. Don't let your sport control your life. If you have found yourself in a training rut, grinding away the miles and feeling an intense amount of guilt if you miss a workout or don't hit your expected watts or paces, it's time to put things into perspective. Your sport is your hobby and training is a way to keep you in great health - physically and mentally. Take a step back and figure out a strategy of doing less so that you can get more out of your hobby. 
Your sport likely requires a lot of time and energy and when motivation is high, it's easy to be all-in. But when you feel like your sport is taking over your life, controlling how you live, the constant stress of your training demands may be giving you little time to physically and mentally rest and recover.

It is important to respect your body and keep your body and mind in great health. No matter what race is on your horizon, remember that training should be fun and it should make you a better person.

 If you are feeling overwhelmed, constantly fatigue and noticing a loss of enjoyment for your sport, it's time to change your relationship with your training regime/sport and adjust your perspective so that you can finish off your season with the same joy and excitement as when you started your season. 

8/16/17

Banana chocolate chip muffins


I don't know how it happened (since I am known to be a monkey when it comes to banana) but somehow we ended up with 4 extremely ripe bananas on our counter last week. Since the bananas were too ripe for my liking and I don't like to waste food, I decided to make banana muffins - with a chocolate twist.

This recipe was super easy and quick and you likely have all of the ingredients at home. So the next time you find yourself with 4 spotty brown bananas, be sure to refer back to this recipe so that you can yum over your delicious homemade chocolate chip muffins. Enjoy!



INGREDIENTS
  • 4 medium-sized ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (cooled)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Ghirardelli chocolate premium baking chips 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Grease your muffin tin
  3. Peel bananas and place them in a big mixing bowl with the melted butter and applesauce. Small together with a fork. 
  4. Add the egg, vanilla and carrots and blend/mix until the mixture is creamy and smooth and evenly combined. 
  5. Add salt and baking soda and stir. 
  6. Add flour, chocolate chips and walnuts and mix until combined. Don't overmix. 
  7. Pour until muffin tins until 1/2-3/4th full. 
  8. Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick pulls out clean. 
  9. Enjoy!



8/15/17

Why your sport nutrition product is not working for you.


As a sport dietitian, I receive a variety of sport nutrition products from companies to test out for taste, effectiveness and practicality. So guess who also gets to try out all types of sport nutrition products - Karel! Because Karel and I are firm believers in the effectiveness of sport nutrition products in training and racing, we have no trouble consuming safe, well-formulated, reputable engineered products to optimize our performance. Additionally, we don't just use sport nutrition for performance reasons but we also use sport nutrition products for health reasons, as fueling/hydrating your body properly during training and racing can protect your immune system and will keep your body functioning well during training/racing stress.

I remember not too long ago, having a conversation with Karel as he was reminiscing from his teenage cycling days, when he was racing at a national level in Europe.

Check out this stud...


Karel was telling me all about all of the sport nutrition products back in the day and well, he didn't have much of a choice. There was one product that he had access to and it was called Iso (Isotonic). And at that time, it tasted horrible. Karel had to choke it down because it tasted so nasty. But he had no other options and he was told that it would help his performance so he did what any other performance-minded athlete would do - he drank the powdered drink during training and racing because he believed it would make him a better cyclist. 

Today, sport nutrition has come very far. We have all types of sport nutrition products and most of them taste pleasantly good and many use real food ingredients. Despite plenty of research demonstrating the effectiveness of consuming carbohydrates, fluids and electrolytes, in the proper concentration, during training and racing to delay fatigue, improve perceived effort and minimize excessive dehydration, athletes continue to struggle with the usage of sport nutrition products and sadly, there are still many athletes who refuse to consume sport nutrition products in training and racing because they feel they don't need it. 

For the purpose of this blog post, I'm assuming that most athletes understand the importance of consuming sport nutrition products during training and racing but there's a common struggle when it comes to the application of sport nutrition. In other words, just because you are consuming a sport nutrition product, this doesn't mean it is actually working for you.

To assist in your sport nutrition journey, I have a few reasons why your sport nutrition products may not be working for you so that you can make the necessary changes in your diet/fueling regime to help your body achieve athletic excellence. 

Gastric emptying
Just because you are consuming a sport nutrition product, this doesn't mean that the ingested beverage/product is being emptied from the stomach and absorbed in the small intestines. If you struggle with rapid fatigue, dizziness, dehydration, nausea, bloating, gas, abdominal cramping or low blood sugar, there's a good chance that the product(s) you are consuming is not being emptied from the stomach efficiently. Here are some reasons that could be affecting gastric emptying: 
  • Relying on a straw-based hydration system (sucking fluids) versus a bottle (squeezing the liquid into your mouth). The later is highly encouraged to optimize gastric emptying. 
  • Not drinking on a schedule - increased volume in the gut increases the rate of gastric emptying. 
  • Consuming too much energy density (high osmolality or high calorie), either from overconcentrated drinks (ex. multi-hour calorie bottles), a variety of sport nutrition products (ex. solid food, sport drink powder, gummies/chews, real food, etc.) or taking in a bolus of nutrition all at once without adequate water/sodium. 
  • Trying to fuel for an intensity/duration that is greater than what the body can digest and absorb per minute/hour. Less is more when it comes to caloric consumption to optimize gastric emptying but this also means that pacing is critical. 
  • Not planning stops to refill bottles can cause sport nutrition rationing, and then overconsumption of calories/water when you stop. Plan your stop before you need to stop. 
  • Poor skills when consuming sport nutrition when exercising (ex. bike handling skills or drinking from a flask in a hydration belt).
  • What you eat in the hours before a workout as well as the day before can affect digestion and gastric emptying, which may also prevent you from keeping up with your sport nutrition intake, regularly and comfortably, during training/racing. 
Flavor and consistency
You don't have to love your sport nutrition products but you do have to like them enough to tolerate them during training and racing. Taste bud fatigue is a common issue for athletes as it's easy to get tired of consuming the same flavor of a sport drink, workout after workout, or hour after hour, in training and on race day. But this doesn't mean to ditch sport nutrition the moment you get burnt out from the taste. Here are some reasons that could be affecting the flavor and consistency of your sport drink: 
  • Environmental conditions (ex. hot and humid temps) can make it difficult to consume sport nutrition products as your body will crave cold and light-tasting beverages over a thick, warm, factory-concocted drink. However, this doesn't mean to forgo your sport nutrition beverage and choose water instead. Make sure to bring water along with you in addition to your sport drinks, to use for cooling the body and for rinsing out the mouth (give your mouth a swish of water after sipping sport nutrition). Get comfortable drinking warmish fluids, especially if you are training for a long distance event - don't be a picky athlete as warm nutrition is better than no nutrition and yes, your nutrition will get warm during long training/racing. Certainly, when you can plan for cool sport nutrition drinks, those will be easier to tolerate. 
  • Try out and vary your flavors/products. The more variety you bring to your sport nutrition products, the less likely you will get burnt out (and the more comfortable you will be with having a plan B product in training and on race day). 
  • Avoid adding protein, caffeine, aminos and other extra ingredients to your sport drink if you are sensitive to different tastes/consistencies. Aim for the most basic ingredients - carbohydrates, electrolytes, water. 
  • Add in the occasional a tummy satisfier that compliments the sweetness of your sport drink. Lemon, spearmint, chocolate or peanut butter flavored solid food can excite your taste buds, making it easier for you to stay up with your well-formulated sport drinks. 
  • Not every natural flavor will appeal to you. Whereas you may love the flavor orange in one product, you may dislike the type of natural flavoring in another product.
Mindset
If you are scared to consume sport nutrition products because you've been told to avoid all processed food or you you worry about the calories or sugar or you once had a bad experience with sport nutrition products in training or on race day in the past, there's a good chance that you have forbidden the usage of sport nutrition products in training and racing or you are trying to keep sport nutrition consumption to a minimum. Here are some reasons why your mind is keeping sport nutrition products from working for you: 
  • Your brain has a direct effect on the stomach. If you find yourself bloated, with an upset stomach or psyching yourself out when you consume sport nutrition, there's a good chance that intestinal distress is the cause or product of diet-based anxiety or stress. Work through your relationship with sport nutrition so that you can learn to appreciate and tolerate sport nutrition during training and racing. 
  • The reason why sport nutrition products are processed is because companies have come up with a way to make it easy for you to consume the nutrients/energy that you need, easily, regularly and safely during training and racing. If you are putting well-formulated sport nutrition products in the same category as a candy bar, you are overlooking the ingredient component of what makes sport nutrition products designed for athletes. 
  • Most athletes that I work with who express a constant struggle with sport nutrition, typically come from a place of not using sport nutrition products properly. Either the type of product, timing of product consumption or quantity was off, making the athlete believe that no type of sport nutrition product will work. Sport nutrition is a science and not all products are created equal. To optimize the efficacy of sport nutrition, the product must contain an appropriate amount of carbohydrates and electrolytes per amount of fluid (water) to empty from the gut and to support the needs of the body. You need to like the taste and consistency and you need to have the right mindset, knowing how to use the product and you have to use it regularly. This requires some trial and error and trust in the process but most athletes can learn to tolerate sport nutrition during training and racing but need some education and assistance from a sport dietitian who understands sport nutrition products. 
  • It's not just about sport nutrition. No amount of sport nutrition will help you optimize performance if your daily diet does not provide a solid foundation of calories, macro and micronutrients. Although it's common for many athletes to overconsume sport nutrition on race day and underconsume in training (thus never properly training the gut or building confidence with nutrition, not to mention sabotaging fitness in training from not using sport nutrition appropriately), many athletes struggle with sport nutrition during training because the daily diet is not well balanced or planned. This brings added confusion to sport nutrition because the daily diet is the culprit of training/racing related issues, not sport nutrition products. 
Other
I like this category because after you investigate all of the possible reasons why your sport nutrition product is not working for you and you just can't seem to identify the clear answer, this is when you can say "I can't blame everything on nutrition". Sometimes, your sport nutrition product won't work for you and there will be no clear answer why. But then again, it may not be the product causing the issue. Here are some other reasons why you can't blame everything on your sport nutrition product:
-Stress
-Poor diet/gut health
-Restless sleep
-Anxiety/nervousness
-Intensity/effort of the workout
-Overeating/undereating
-Fatigue/exhaustion
-Medications
-Antibiotics
-Excessive caffeine consumption
-Constipation
-Hormones
-Dehydration
-Weather
-Terrain
-Just an off-day

I hope that you found this information beneficial and hopefully you better understand why your sport nutrition product is not working for you and how to make some easy fixes. For additional help, I highly recommend to reach out to a board certified sport dietitian for personalized assistance, who advocates the use of sport nutrition products and specializes in your sport. 

8/14/17

Feeling flat post race - embrace the recovery


It felt so good to be back on my tri bike for a structured training session with Karel on Saturday. It took a full week for my legs to feel full again after the Lake Logan half Ironman as I was left with a "flat" feeling in my legs for several days post race.

Here's how my week of training went after the race:

Sunday - AM 90 min EZ road bike spin on the Swamp Rabbit Trail w/ my friend Meredith
Monday - PM 90 min EZ road bike spin on the Swamp Rabbit Trail w/ Karel
Tues - AM 3000 yard interval swim w/ Karel, PM 30 min outside EZ run with Karel
Wed - Day off (private camper in town)
Thurs - AM 90 min skill focused ride on tri bike (private camper in town)
Friday - AM 40 min treadmill run
Sat - AM 3.5 hour ride w/ a 20 min strong effort at 2 hours followed by a 30 min treadmill run w/ a 20 sec surge every 5 minutes.
Sun - AM 11 mile long run w/ a 6-mile interval run on the track. Late afternoon 2800 yard interval swim.

With my big season race approaching in just 4 weeks, it was critically important that I was respectful of my body during the recovery of this race. Although my muscles felt recovered by Wednesday, I was sleeping great, eating well and my motivation was high to get back into training, come Thursday, I could tell that my legs were still empty. They just didn't have that "pop" that I was hoping for.
Because the recovery from this half Ironman was a bit longer than what I have experienced in the past, I contributed it to my big training load at Lake Placid and then going into Lake Logan a bit fatigued. Although this was all planned, the unknown was how long it would take me to recover from the half Ironman. 



After a race, most athletes are eager to get back into training because the endorphins are flowing and the excitement of racing brings a lot of motivation to work on weaknesses and improve strengths. While this can be viewed as a positive, it is important to respect the recovery process as feeling "flat" is one of the worst scenarios to push through if you are seeking performance gains. Because most athletes will be able to tell when muscle soreness has subsided (you no longer feel the ache in certain body parts), it is important to be mindful of the "flat" feeling that is often ignored after you ease back into training. Because it's natural to have waves of high and low energy when you are progressing through your development, we must embrace that you will be low in energy following a race but the goal of recovery is to regain the energy that was used during your race so that you can continue to build fitness going into your next race. If you ask your body to push through the "flat" feeling soon after a race and it's likely that you will dig yourself a deep hole that will be tough to get out of - in other words, you may end up overtraining, getting injured or feeling stale and burnt-out for the rest of your season. 

Here are some of my tips to help you embrace the recovery phase and to be overcome the flat feeling post race:
  1. Don't rush back into training by being strict with your training. While it's important to exercise to help with blood flow, don't put too much pressure on yourself that you have to be diligent with checking off your workouts. Adjust workouts so that they assist with recovery.
  2. Don't worry about losing fitness by not rushing back into training. You'll gain fitness when you let your body properly recovery so that you can push hard again.
  3. Don't be hard on your body. Avoid the tendency to rush back into training because you worry about gaining weight or because you feel "fat". At the same time, don't restrict food just because you are not training as hard/long. Respect your body during recovery by focusing on a balanced diet to help with recovery.
  4. Prioritize sleep to help with recovery. While you may be use to sleeping 6-7 hours per night, your body may need 9-10 hours to help your body heal from the damage that occurred on race day. Don't sacrifice sleep for an early morning "recovery" workout.
  5. Resist the temptation to train in a group setting as this may cause you to push harder than you should during the recovery process.
  6. Continue to use sport nutrition during your workouts, as well as fueling before/after your workouts as this will help protect your immune system.
  7. Don't isolate yourself from things that make you happy, like friends, family, pets and your children. Get outside and surround yourself with people who make you feel happy, healthy, alive and energetic.
  8. Focus on a feeling, not a metric. While you can use power, speed and heart rate to give you some awareness of what your body can do in the moment, you will know when your body can or can't push through a given effort. Certainly, if form is compromised, don't push through fatigue.
  9. Address other contributing factors that may be affecting your post race "flat" feeling, like hormones, poor sleep, poor appetite, life/work stress or a difficult race experience.
Although pushing through fatigue can help boost performance, it's important to be strategic with the timing of when you train when tired. Understanding that a race will deplete your energy levels and will compromise your muscular and cardio system, not to mention the added stress on your hormones and bones as you are asking your body to give its best, the goal of training is to improve your fitness so that you can perform on race day. Embrace the recovery and respect your body so that you can stay healthy and well, as you train hard, throughout the season. 

8/11/17

3 pre-race nutrition mistakes


Many athletes blame a poor race day performance on nutrition, which doesn't surprise me since most athletes underfuel in training and guess their way through race day sport nutrition.

As it relates to long-distance racing, nutrition is a critical component to race day success. While what, when and how you consume sport nutrition during the race can optimize your ability to perform with your body from start to finish, equally, if not more important, is your nutrition going into a race.

From my personal experience as a Board Certified Sport Dietitian, who specializes in working with endurance athletes, here are some of the common pre-race nutrition mistakes that I see often, that keep athletes from reaching athletic excellence.
  1. Unhealthy relationship with carbs - A fear of carbohydrates can keep athletes from properly loading muscle and liver glycogen stores going into a race. On the other edge of the spectrum, eating every carbohydrate in sight can leave you feeling lethargic, heavy and tired. It's important to have a healthy relationship with low-fiber, easy-to-digest carbohydrates, that have been well-practiced in your training and to have a plan to keep you from under/overeating. To avoid feeling heavy going into a race, make your breakfast meal (post workout) your carb-rich meal, lunch can be satisfying and dinner should be light. While all three meals should include carbs, avoid loading yourself with carbs right before bed and instead, eat that carb rich meal in the morning (who doesn't love breakfast foods?) to give yourself plenty of time to digest the meal.
  2. Overhydrating before the race - Every athlete knows that proper hydration can boost performance but drinking large amounts of water in the 24-48 hours before a race, as well as on race day morning, can cause excessive urination, resulting in an electrolyte imbalance. Additionally, overdrinking can cause unwanted fullness, which can keep you from eating every few hours in the 48 hours before a race. Similar to your pre-race carbohydrate eating plan, it is also important to stay up on your fluid intake so that you don't under or overdrink. And to help with restful sleeping, make sure to not overdo it on fluids in the evening hours (which can cause you to wake up frequently throughout the night to run to the bathroom), but instead, spread out your fluid intake throughout the day, tapering off in the 2 hours before bed.
  3. A nervous belly on race morning - Although a nervous belly is to blame by athletes who struggle to eat on race day morning, I am shocked by how many athletes don't have confidence in their pre-race meal. While it can be tough to eat early in the morning, when nerves are high, you should have trust in your pre-race meal, knowing that it has worked for you as a pre-training meals, for most of your longer workout session. By practicing your pre-race meal (foods) in training, even if your belly is nervous, you will know that it's a non-negotiable to skip something that you have confidence in that will help you excel on race day.
While athletes are guilty of making a lot of mistakes going into a race, like resting too much and focusing too heavily on the outcome or things out of their control (ex. weather), nutrition appears to be a big limiter for athletes, simply because there's no well-practiced, thought-out plan going into a race.

Considering that most athletes spend several months training for an event, while bringing months if not years of experience into a race, it is important to recognize that every training session can prepare you for race day. Having confidence in your pre-race nutrition is a game changer. The athletes who have a nutrition plan going into a race typically experience less GI issues on race day, more energy during the race and more confidence, as it's one more thing within their control, assisting in performance excellence. 

8/10/17

Pass the rice, please!


Back in March, I wrote a blog post about rice. Although the topic was informative, it wasn't the most timely post as March is all about Spring and when I think of spring, I don't think of rice as my food of choice.

But now that we are in the middle of summer and the days are long, and packed with training and other activities, rice is the perfect "quick" and healthy food for anyone, but especially for athletes who are busy, exhausted and in need of fuel.

Here's the article for your viewing once more and if you missed it, happy reading!

---------------------------------------------

For almost half the world population, rice is a staple food.
But for much of the US population, rice is seen as a "bad" carbohydrate

There are many varieties of rice but what they all have in common is that they contain carbohydrates, protein, trace amounts of fat and sodium and are gluten free. 

Compared to white rice, brown rice is often viewed as the "healthy" rice. Whereas white rice appears to be nutritionally inferior to brown rice because it is a refined grain (bran and germ are removed during the milling process which removes B vitamins, iron and fiber), white rice is typically enriched with iron and B vitamins. Unlike brown rice, containing 3.5g of fiber per cup (cooked), white rice has less than 1 gram fiber. The noticeable difference between brown and white rice is that brown rice is a whole grain (the bran and germ are retained, which means it offers a good source of antioxidants, vitamin E and fiber). 

But having said this, athletes should recognize that fiber is often the culprit of many GI issues during training and racing. Thus GI-distress susceptible athletes are encouraged to reduce fiber (and fat) in the 24-72 hours before a race to minimize the residue in the gut. While 3.5g of fiber may not appear to be a lot of fiber, some athletes are more sensitive to fiber than others. Considering that white rice can be eaten alone or mixed with honey, syrup, eggs or even peanut butter to make for a great meal or snack - in training and or before a race - many athletes rely on rice as it is a cheap, easy to find, easy to prepare and easy to digest carbohydrate source. For me and Karel, we always have a bag of rice in our pantry and we often buy the 90-sec micorwave bag of Jasmine or Basmati rice for when we travel to a race. 

Although the lower fiber rice options are ideal before/after training/racing, let's not stop at white rice and brown rice. There are many varieties of rice that are great in the daily diet of athletes. Understanding that rice is often consumed with other nutrient dense foods, like fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, lean meats, poultry and seafood, I encourage you to include this low cost, versatile ingredient into your diet as it is easy to incorporate into any dish. I recommend to prep 2-3 rice varieties ahead of time (~2 cups cooked per person) and store in the fridge so that you have your go-to rice options available to you anytime of the week.

Tips on cooking rice
  • The shape and length of the rice kernel (short, medium or long grain) determines its texture when cooked, in addition to the type to use in dishes and cuisines. 
  • Long-grain, which cooks light and fluffy with the kernels separated, is often used for making pilafs, stuffing, rice salads and jambalaya. 
  • Medium grain is moist and tender, commonly used for making paella and risotto. 
  • Shorter grain rice is short with rounder kernels and becomes moist and "sticky", making it a great option for rice puddings, desserts and eating with chopsticks. 
Here are the suggested cooking times and water/rice ratio for rice varieties:

Types of rice varieties
  • Basmati - An aromatic long-grain rice grown in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Basmati comes in white or brown varieties. It has a distinct flavor and aroma and produces a tender, fluffy texture and grains do not stick together. It is often used in curries and stir-fries, but is also great for side dishes.
  • Brown - Available in short, medium and long grain varieties, a half-cup brown rice equals one whole-grain serving. It contains more magnesium, selenium and fiber than enriched white rice and can be eaten as a breakfast cereal, used in sushi and puddings.
  • Arborio - A medium or short grain rice with a high starch content used to make risotto. Arborio is also used for rice pudding and other desserts.
  • Red - This whole-grain rice is rich in nutrients and high in antioxidants due to its varying hues of red color. It is available as a long-grain variety from Thailand and a medium-grain from Bhutan. It's nutty, chewy texture lends well to rice bowls, pilafs, rice salads and stuffings.
  • Black - Also referred to as "purple" or "forbidden" rice, the dark hue of this grain is due to its high anthocyanin content. It is a whole-grain rice available in both short and long-grain varieties. The short-grain variety is often used to make sticky rice porridge and rice pudding.
  • White - Available in short, medium and long-grain varieties, most white rice in the U.S. is enriched with thiamin, niacin, folic acid and iron. Avoid rinsing white rice before and after cooking, in order to keep the nutrients from being washed away.
  • Jasmine - Originally from Thailand, this rice has a distinctive floral aroma and nutty flavor that pairs well with Mediterranean dishes. It cooks tender, light and fluffy and is available in both white and brown varieties. Steaming, rather than boiling, provides the best results.
  • Wild - Despite its name, wild rice is actually not rice at all, but a semi-aquatic grass species indigenous to North America. Its long, slender, dark kernels have a nutty flavor, chewy texture and contain more protein than white and brown rice. Wild rice is often mixed with brown rice or bulgur wheat, and it pairs well with fruits, nuts, meats, poultry and fish in salads, soups, stews and pilafs. 
Information from this blog was adapted from Food and Nutrition magazine. May/June 2013 issue. Pg 16 and 17, written by Rachel Begun, Ms, RDN, CDN. 

8/8/17

Lake Logan Half Ironman - Race Report



Although this is only my 2nd time racing the Lake Logan Half Ironman, it's one of my favorite half ironman events. With it being ~90 minutes from my house (outside of Asheville), I consider it a "home town" race. Plus, it's in the mountains so the weather is typically cool for August (50-60s on race day morning). Set Up Events puts on a great race, with a beautiful and calm wet-suit legal swim, challenging and well-marked/supported bike course and easy-to-navigate net incline/decline two-loop run. And because the race venue is tucked away in the mountains, the atmosphere is very calm, relaxed and nature-filled.

My mom joined me for this race as Karel was participating in the Purple Patch Greenville East Coast camp from Thurs - Sunday. We stayed at the Best Western Smokey Mountain Inn, about 20 minutes away from the race venue and the hotel was clean and the staff was friendly. We didn't take advantage of the complimentary breakfast due to our early morning check out but they did pack grab-and-go bags for all of the athletes, starting at 5am.

I woke-up to my alarm at 3:40am to give myself 20 minutes to get going in the morning. As I was sipping my warm cup of instant coffee (Nescafe instant espresso), made with milk, I got myself dressed in my race day outfit and reviewed the bike course map once more. As I was reviewing the map, I consumed my pre-race meal, which consisted of 2 Belgium waffles (each 210 calories) topped with nut butter (1 of them) and butter/jam (the other). Both drenched with maple syrup and topped with cinnamon. On the side, sliced bananas and a glass of OJ. I found this meal easy to consume and even though I eat a variety of different food combos before my training sessions, this meal seems to work the best for me. I finished my meal around 4:40am, packed up the car and headed to the race venue around 5:10am.

We arrived to the race venue around 5:40am and although there was a little traffic getting into the parking lot, I was able to get body marked and pick up my chip and enter the transition area by 6am, with plenty of time before my 7am wake start.

Since there was no bike check in on Sat, I pumped up my tires before leaving my car, put my 3 sport nutrition bottles on my bike and secured my Garmin between my aero bars.


It was so great to see so many familiar faces, along with my athletes Joe, Meredith, Lukas, Chris, Kim, Bryan, Leyla, Kim and Thomas. I also saw several other Greenville athletes and friends, like Stephanie Hoke and Katie and Chris Morales. Although I had a few nervous butterflies in my belly, I felt really calm and relaxed.

Of course, I also dealt with the thoughts of "how will I feel today?" but after laying out my transition area and giving it a triple check, I did my run warm-up on the run course (~5-8 min out and 5-8 min back of jogging with a few pick ups) and started to feel much better. I was excited to race! 


It was a little cool out so I kept myself warm with my Trimarni beanie and long sleeve jersey but after my warm-up, I was warm. I made sure to allow time to put on my Xterra Vengeance wetsuit and get in the water, for a little swim warm-up. Because it was wetsuit legal, I wore my short sleeve tri suit zipped up under my wetsuit, along with my Compress Sport calf sleeves. I also sipped on 80 calories of Clif Cran Razz hydration in a plastic throw away water bottle in the 90 minutes before the race. 



Around 6:55am, the open wave was instructed to get into the water again and we all lined up in front of the dock. I positioned myself to the far left of the buoys. When the gun went off, I took off hard to try to accelerate with a front pack and because the pack was fast (2 other guys and 1 girl), I wasn't able to settle into a rhythm until the 2nd buoy. It was a fast start but I didn't want to lose my pack! 

I could see two athletes far in the distance and I assumed one of them was my friend Katie, who races in the professional category and currently training for IM Whales. I was happy to be in the 2nd pack although I was side by side with another female, with pink goggles (I also wear pink goggles, TYR 2.0 special ops) and I couldn't help but think "Ahhh - all of this water and we are swimming right next to each other for the entire swim!" But instead of getting frustrated, I reframed the situation and told myself "at least you can stay with her."

The first part of the swim course went by really fast and I found a good rhythm. I made sure to stay on course by sighting a lot and taking the shortest distance possible around this circular course, always keeping the buoys to my right. After the two turn buoys, we started our swim back to the exit. The water felt a bit more choppy or maybe I was just tired. Either way, it felt long on the way back. Finally, we got closer to the bridge and suddenly, the water become so cold. I anticipated this as we swam into the spring water and the temp dropped to the low 60's - brrr. Good thing I warmed up in my wetsuit! I pressed myself onto the dock and as soon as I exited the water (it looked to be 6th place overall) I unzipped my wetsuit as I was running to the transition area. I could see Katie running out of T1 with her bike but I didn't see any other females ahead of me, except my pink goggle friend who swam next to me for all 1.2 miles of the swim- I passed her running to T1.


My transition was super quick - wetsuit off, cycling shoes on (no socks), helmet on (with shield) and I powered on my Garmin as I was heading out of transition and then I ran my bike on the grass to the mount line and started my ride up the hill.

I made sure to not put any power in my legs going up the hill and to wait until the down hill to settle into my rhythm. My legs felt just fine flying down the hill and I felt super fast for the first section of the bike course. There were a few rollers but I made sure not to push hard as I wanted to save my energy for the last 26 miles of the course.

I found myself being passed by a few guys in the early miles and I tried to use them for motivation to maintain a strong but steady tempo. But my legs felt kind empty. Although I didn't expect to stay draft legal behind these guys, I was a little annoyed that I didn't have that pop in my legs. I am usually very strong on the uphills, sitting up or out of my saddle, but my legs just didn't have it. I didn't let it get to me too much and just focused on riding what felt good, hoping that my legs would continue to open up.

During this time, I made sure to stay up on my liquid calories. I took 3-4 sips of my 250 calorie custom INFINIT bottle every 10-15 minutes. I adjusted my intake based on the terrain to make sure that I didn't sip down my nutrition when my heart rate was elevated. To keep my taste buds happy, I had watermelon flavor for my first bottle (yummy), grape for my second and caffeinated (50mg) pink lemonade for my 3rd bottle. I must have been well hydrated because I peed 3 times throughout the ride (while riding).

I never felt cold on the bike and kept thinking that the temperature was just perfect for riding. I would often look around and make note of the beautiful river flowing next to us, farm land in the distance, mountain views and farm animals. I even said hi to one of the cows who looked like he was really interested in the race.

Around mile 20-29, I started to feel a tiny bit better but I was still being passed by a lot of guys and I couldn't hang with anyone. I was hoping to at least stay draft legal behind someone but the ride ended up being pretty lonely out there for me. The only time that I found myself with others was from mile 30 to around mile 35-36. And thankfully, this was one of the more technical and harder sections of the course for me so I was happy to be with other athletes. But then those athletes rode away and I was once again alone.

I had waves of feeling good and then ok and then blah but I tried to just focus on riding well. I didn't feel good getting out of the saddle which was a sign that I had a little fatigue in my legs, likely from my previous training. But, I didn't let it get to me and just focused on one mile at a time and taking care of my attitude and nutrition.

When I got to the first steep climb on the course around mile 41, I was passed by my athlete Joe (assistant coach at Trimarni) and I was actually happy to see him. I was able to stay with him on the climb but then he rode away on the descend. I found myself very confident on the downhills so I was riding really happy, despite not feeling the best.

It was around mile 44 or so, on the big steep/long climb on the course, that I was passed by an open female. While I should not have let that pass get to me, I could not stay with her as she was riding super strong, in a heavy gear. Even though I wasn't riding slow, I just had nothing to give to stay with her. My legs felt empty.

With only about 10 miles left in the bike course, I thought about Karel at Lake Placid just two weeks ago and reminded myself that he felt empty on the bike and still put together a strong run. So at that point, I convinced myself that I was going to have a good run off the bike. Sure, it was hard for me to know how my legs would feel but I had two options - doubt my run or believe in my run. So, I decided to believe in my run, especially since I have been feeling really good with my run training/fitness over the past few weeks so I believe in myself that I could put together a good run off the bike. I also reminded myself that I have raced many half Ironmans where I caught ladies ahead of me in the later half/miles of the run. While I may not be a fast runner, I believe I am good at not slowing down when running off the bike, especially after a hard bike.

I ended up finishing almost all of my 3 bottles so I had trust in my body that at least I was nutritionally fueled and hydrated for the run. The 2nd place open female was long gone and assuming that Katie was a zip code ahead of me, I just focused on taking care of myself, hoping that it would get me closer to 2nd place.



When I got off my bike, I was happy to have my feet on the ground. While I was a little disappointed that I didn't have more of a spark on the bike, it was very windy and on this difficult course, I was found some satisfaction that I was 3rd open female. If anything, I need to remind myself how far I have come - there was a time when I hated riding my bike and now I love it (even when I am feeling blah). 

I dismounted my bike and ran on the grass toward the transition area. I quickly took off my cycling shoes, put on my Compress Sport socks and New Balance Zante Fresh Foam running shoes. I then put on my race belt along with my Nathan hydration belt (and 2 flasks). I had secured my Oakley sunglasses on my Trimarni trucker hat so that it would be easy to put on the hat (with the glasses) as I was leaving the transition area. I also put my Garmin watch inside my hydration belt pocket so that I could have one less thing to hold on to until I put on my hat. I then put on my watch as I was walking out of transition area and once I hit the timing mat, I started my watch and started running. 

With not a lot of athletes in transition area, it was nice to see so many spectators just outside of the transition area. When I started my run over the flat bridge and passed the parking lot, it was time to officially get into my rhythm. On this two loop course, with a net incline for 3 miles, I was looking forward to mentally breaking this course into sections. I just love loops as it works so well for my mind as I can focus on one segment at a time. I actually felt really light on my feet immediately and that feeling stayed with me until the turn around, around mile 3. I didn't focus on my watch, even though it was auto lapping but instead, I just focused on keeping good form and finding a good rhythm. To make sure that I had some energy left for the second loop, I made sure to not dig too deep on the first loop. While I wasn't running easy, it felt sustainable and good.

Before the turn around, I started to see more athletes, although there were not a lot of athletes on the course at that point. I saw Katie running back and she was way ahead so I had my eyes focused on 2nd place. Although she was a good 6 min ahead of me off the bike (I was told by my mom), I was on a mission. 

I knew I wasn't going to catch her in the first loop so my goal was to run well the first loop and then build my effort on the 2nd loop. While I didn't anticipate running any faster the 2nd loop, I felt like I had it in me to dig a little deeper - all while keeping good form.

I made sure to stay up with my nutrition, sipping my flasks every mile and then anytime I felt like I was getting a little low in energy. Each flask had 120 calories of EFS Pro cucumber (for a total of 240 calories for the run). I did not consume any other nutrition on the run and just had a few sips of water from the aid stations and used water for cooling my head as I got a little warmer as the run went on. 

Although one would think that running net decline for 3 miles would be "easy", you still have to work for it. And because we had some tailwind going "up", we had to battle the headwind running "down."

I was excited to be back near the transition area and the first loop went by super fast. I looked forward to changing up the terrain, onto the gravel and then the grass for a quick loop outside of transition area before heading back to the pavement for another loop. I received word from some spectators that my gap to 2nd place was now around 2 minutes so this gave me a little boost that I was gaining on her. I wasn't sure how close I would get but I decided that I would try my hardest and not give up until the finish line.



I just love this picture (taken by Beth Molzer) that captures my focus as I start loop two of the run. I am also super proud of my body for being able to keep such good form and not breaking down, despite not feeling energy in my legs on the bike. Oh how the body loves to keep you on your toes!

Not too long as I was starting my second loop, my athlete Thomas passed me - and didn't say anything to me! I laughed at myself that he passed his coach and didn't say anything so I decided to just use him as my rabbit and try my best to keep him in front of me. He must have hit a high moment because he started to pull away from me as if he was flying and he was looking good. I was super pumped for him, putting together a great run. I finally managed to get back behind Thomas and it was super motivating for me to stay right behind him as we both cheered for the other Trimarnis on the course, giving high fives to everyone that we saw.

After the turn around, I could see that my gap to 2nd place was about the same but I was not giving up until the finish line. I kept telling myself that it's not over until it's over! I had a few low moments between mile 7-9, where it just felt really long and never ending but I told myself just keep moving forward and you'll cover the miles. I had to play a lot of mental games to keep my effort going, like counting to 4 and just focusing on Thomas's feet ahead of me but it was working as the miles started to click by. For the last few miles, Thomas started to run away from me but I gave my best trying to keep him in my sights.


Surprisingly, after lacking energy on the bike, this was one of my best feeling runs in a very long time. Although I never caught 2nd place, I was thrilled with my 3rd place because I never gave up on myself and kept focusing on doing my best until I crossed the finish line. 

                                         

Every race provides a lesson, an experience and an opportunity. If we focus too much on the end result, we are unable to take away important lessons, experiences and opportunities which can only help us in future races. I had no time or placement goals for this race. I stayed in the moment and tried not to expend too much energy on those around me. I stayed confident in my abilities and trusted myself. I focused on things within my control and gave my best until I crossed the finish line. And the best part for me was finding out that I had the fastest open female run of the day and 2nd fastest female run split (missed first by less than 30 seconds). Yay for my running legs that had no energy on the bike - I guess they were wanting to run!

Thank you Lake Logan for the great race experience. I'm not sure if I will be back next year as we will be racing in Europe in June/July with Ironman Austria and then Challenge Prague half ironman, but this will continue to be one of my favorite race venues as it has shown me that a successful race isn't defined by what you can do easily but instead, what you can do when it's not easy. 

                                                                -----------------------------------

A BIG thank you to our 
2017 Trimarni sponsors and affiliates:

-Run In - for helping us with all of our running needs
-New Wave Swim Buoy - for keeping us safe and seen in the open water
-Mg12 - for helping our muscles stay relaxed
-Clif Bar - for quality ingredients in quality sport nutrition
-Cheribundi - for providing a safe, natural and delicious way to reduce inflammation
-Veronica's Health Crunch - for the most delicious hand made crunch - ever!
-Infinit - for customizable sport nutrition
-Levelen - for helping us optimize our hydration needs through sweat testing
-Hot Shot - for keeping Karel cramp-free!
-Solestar - for maximum stability, better power transmission
-Boco Gear - for helping us race in style
-Canari - for the most comfortable, functional and stylish gear
-Xterra - for the fastest wetsuit ever (so fast, Karel is now beating me in the swim!)
-Alto cycling - for enginnering the fastest race wheels
-Swamp Rabbit Inn and Lodge - for keeping our campers happy with perfect lodging options
-Salem Anesthesia - for your Trimarni support





8/7/17

Lake Logan half ironman - quick recap


I had a lot of confidence going into the Lake Logan half ironman. I felt physically prepared and my nerves were at an all-time low. I had trust in my nutrition, skills, terrain management and mental strength and I was excited for the opportunity to get out and race.

RESULTS:

Swim: 29:29
T1: 1:44
Bike: 2:43.53
T2: 1:10
Run: 1:36.55
Total: 4:53.10
(the bike and run were a bit short from the total 70.3 distance)

I placed 3rd overall/open female and had the fastest overall female run and 2nd fastest run of the day (by 15 seconds).
Knowing that there was going to be some tough competition out on the course, I made sure not to doubt my own strengths when comparing myself to others. I actually went into this race with more confidence in my running than swim and bike! But, I made sure to stay within myself and trust my preparation going into this race. Although I didn't fully taper for this race as I was coming off a big load of training in Lake Placid 2 weeks ago, I still felt like I could put together a strong performance on this very challenging race course.

This season has been all about growing my confidence as an endurance triathlete. Although I love the Ironman distance, I have used this season to build my confidence as a "racer". By taking a break from the IM distance, I have been able to train and race more consistently. With my big season goal happening in just 5 weeks (Ironman 70.3 World Championship), Lake Logan was a step in the right direction that the hard work is paying off. While my goals for the IM 70.3 WC are realistic (I am not seeking a podium finish but instead, focusing on putting together the best race possible from start to finish), I am so thrilled to be going into my last race of the season and my 4th half Ironman of 2017, with confidence.

Many athletes believe that there is a connection between confidence and expectations. I disagree.
Expectations bring nerves, anxieties and unnecessary pressure. Expectations prevent athletes from developing confidence because if you judge or demand an outcome before it happens, and you don't meet that expectation, you feel like a failure. This does you no good.  On the other hand, if you have confidence and a strong belief in your ability to perform, your result will be a product of putting together the race that meets your capabilities. 

At the Lake Logan half ironman, I didn't waste my energy on the outcome. I actually had confidence in my friend Katie (Thomas) Morales that she would win the race and I was confident that I could compete with the other open females on the course. I didn't get caught up in times, results or metrics but instead, I went into the race with a strong belief that I could execute well on this challenging course.

I love training but I really love racing. Sure, I have my share of low moments and I question "why in the heck am I doing this???" during a race but I love the process of racing. I love seeing familiar faces before the race, I love the rituals before the race start, I love the excitement and anticipation in the 1 minute countdown before the start and the specific tasks that need to be accomplished between the start and finish line. And I love crossing the finish line and feeling satisfied in the effort. Even though it's rewarding to reach your time goals, place on the podium or win a race or your age group, a successful race should not be determined by the outcome, nor should it be judged by how on track you are to meet your expectations (ex. time goal, podium placement, overall placement, etc.) during the race. I can't tell you how many times I have heard and seen athletes give up during a race because they can no longer meet their expectations.

With this being my 11th season of endurance racing, I am still improving but most of all, I am still learning and loving the sport of triathlon. I just love the journey of evolving my fitness and skills as an athlete, season after season, and I look forward to the opportunity to showcase my hard work on race day.

If you focus too much on the results, you will likely burn yourself out from the pressure of having expectations. You will find yourself becoming disinterested in racing and coming up with execuses as to why you can't race or put together a good enough race. This is not what training and racing is about.

The Lake Logan half ironman provided me with another racing opportunity to put myself into uncomfortable, unfamiliar and unknown situations and to deal with those scenarios as they came about for 70.3 miles. This is why I train - to be prepared for the demands on race day. The outcome is out of my control but I can control how I deal with situations as they come about. And certainly, no race is without it's oh-no, not now, why me, moments.

As the defending female overall winner, I didn't go into the Lake Logan half ironman event hoping to win the race for the 2nd year in a row. I also do not plan to go into the Ironman 70.3 World Championship with a goal of placing on the podium. This does not mean that I lack self confidence or I doubt my abilities but I don't want to set an outcome expectation that would define success. Would I be thrilled if I landed on the podium at 70.3 worlds - you bet (and very shocked/surprised) but I am not chasing an outcome but instead, training for the opportunity to perform at my best.

We all define success differently on race day. For me, I was reminded, once again, that racing requires you to focus on the present moment and to stay calm, brave and in control, in the face of an obstacle. And when a low moment comes or energy drops, you can't give up on yourself. Sometimes, the best results are the ones that you can't predict or plan for. Racing Lake Logan showed me that success comes when you stay in the "here and now" without focusing on the past, anticipating the future or worrying about anyone around you. 

8/4/17

Excel at the half ironman distance with these tips



On Saturday, I will be racing my 3rd half Ironman distance triathlon of 2017. And 5 weeks later, I'll be wrapping up my triathlon racing season with the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, TN.

Although the distance has remained unchanged, athletes are covering the half ironman distance much faster/quicker than ever before. While the distance is not as long as that of an Ironman, I still respect the distance as covering 70.3 miles with the human body is no easy feat.

The half Ironman distance requires a lot of preparation. You must be committed to the training for there is no fake it until you make it or wing-it on race day. The training prepares you physically, mentally, emotionally and nutritionally as race day requires great skill, self-management and confidence.

Seeing that many athletes define athletic success as 1) A finish 2) Improvement in time, the true success in a half Ironman event comes from being great at not slowing down. Understanding that every race will be different, it is important to not go into the race with expectations or outcome goals but instead, embrace the challenge of overcoming obstacles, staying present and doing things well for 70.3 miles. 

As it relates to the race itself, here are a few of our suggestions as to how you can respect the half Ironman distance and excel on race day.

RACE WEEK
  • Training - sharpen, don't rest. While too much intensity can keep you from saving your best effort for race day, doing too little will leave you flat, stale and lethargic come race day. 
  • Making the week about your race - minimize stressors as much as possible
  • Mental focus/visualization - rehearse all scenarios
  • Sleep - with reduced training, don't compromise your sleep
  • Travel - arrive early so you are not rushed
  • Review course – don’t just focus on the weather, or one section of the course, or your competition

RACE MORNING
  • Pre-race meal – must be well-practiced. Don't just focus on the calories consumed but your food choices must work (ex. control blood sugar, keep you satisfied, digest easily, give you energy, etc.)
  • Arrive early to the race venue so you aren't rushed (suggest 90 min - 2 hours prior to your race start)
  • Routine - reduce nerves and anxieties by having a routine for yourself at the race venue
  • Warm-up - never ever neglect/skip your warm-up (on land and in the water)
  • Confidence - don't compare yourself to other athletes or think back to what you should have done better/more of. Believe in yourself. 
  • Trust yourself - no matter how you felt on race week, trust that your body will know what to do once you start the race

SWIM
  • 80% - don't go out too hard. If you focus on swimming 75-80% effort for the entire swim, you will swim your "fastest" effort with good mechanics, without slowing down to fatigue
  • Sight often - don't trust the feet of another athlete to keep you on course. Sight every 5-7 strokes (practice this in training so that it is familiar on race day)
  • Stay on course - focus on the turn buoys to help you complete the shortest distance possible. 

TRANSITION 1
  • Rehearse  - have a routine as to how you will transition from swim to bike, prior to exiting the swim
  • Stay calm - your highest heart rate of the race will likely be in T1. Try to lower the HR in transition and during the first 5-10 minutes on your bike
  • Make it quick and efficient - this is free speed. You don't have to be an elite athlete to have a fast transition. 
  • Understand your transition area - to avoid the chaos, anxiety and stress that occurs in transition, understand all of the specifics of your transition area so you can get in and out as quick as possible. Nothing good happens in the transition area 😏

BIKE

While pacing is important throughout your entire race, pacing on the bike is more important than you may think. There is great cost from going anaerobic or pushing too hard for even just a few minutes. While it's easy to have the mindset of "going hard" on the bike in order to gain time after a slow swim or to produce a faster bike split (or faster overall time), going too hard on the bike will fatigue your legs and will not give you the strength that you need to run as fast/well as you are capable of. Seeing that you will feel super strong and fast when you start the bike (thanks to taper), don't crush your personal best 20-minute time in the first 20 miles of the bike. The most important thing to remember is that you need to pace and fuel/hydration on the bike, in an effort to deliver yourself to the run, where you can then run well.
  • Understand your course - proper execution comes down to terrain management and understanding the details of your course.
  • Ride your bike well - being aero, sitting up and getting out of the saddle, along with varying your cadence are effective strategies to efficiently strong biking, which will also help you run well off the bike. 
  • Ride sustainably strong - ride as fast as possible with the least amount of work. There's no prize to crushing the bike and then suffering on the run. 
  • Fueling and hydration – this is a non-negotiable. If you can't fuel/hydrate for a given effort on the bike, don't expect to run well off the bike. Practice your nutrition in training so you have confidence with an easy-to-execute plan that will work on race day.
  • Race your own race - don't get caught-up in the pacing/racing plan of another athlete. Focus on yourself.
  • Stay in the moment - you will have highs and lows. Focus on the present moment and take care of yourself. 
  • Don’t chase metrics - racing is dynamic. You will perform your best if you listen to your body and adjust as you go. 

TRANSITION 2
  • Make it quick and efficient - ease up in the last few minutes of the bike and rehearse your transition prior to dismounting the bike. 
  • Walk and move out of transition - your run time does not start until you hit the timing mat outside of the transition area. Walk as you put on your hat, sunglasses, race belt, hydration belt, etc. 

RUN

This is where most triathletes validate how well or not well the race went. This is also the most dreaded, fearful and unknown part of the triathlon for many triathletes. Break the habit of always fearing the run. You must be confident going into your upcoming half Ironman. Hopefully your training has prepared you for the mechanical fatigue that you will experience on the run and you are familiar with not feeling good for a few miles when running off the bike, but eventually, that feeling does go away and you should be able to find your rhythm.
  • Forget the metrics - When you run well, you will not only enjoy the run but you will be able to do more with your body throughout all 13.1 miles. Don't chase a pace! 
  • Good form under fatigue - when you start to get really mentally and physically tired (around miles 7-13), focus on keeping good form and running with ease. 
  • Understand the layout of your course - not only will this help with pacing/execution but it will help with recognizing where the high and low moments may occur. 
  • Always listen to your body - take care of problems immediately when they happen. The goal is always to be able to restart running again so when there is a problem, address it quickly in order to get back to running. 
  • Stay up on nutrition/hydration – this is a non-negotionable and why you MUST practice nutrition in training, over and over and over and over again. 
  • Dig deep at the end – there's no benefit of digging deep and being mentally tough in the first 3 miles, if you resort to walking the last 10. Pace your own race and when you get to mile 10-12, you can then start pulling out your mental skills to help you dig deep until the finish. 
  • Walking is ok! - walk with a purpose. Walking is not failing, it is designed to help you run better between walking. No need to have a walk/run plan but walk before you really need to walk in order to reset form and to control breathing or to take in nutrition. 
While there are many tips to help you excel in the half Ironman distance, make sure you trust your training, stay in the moment, believe in yourself and be sure to thank your body. 

8/3/17

One-skillet egg and potato breakfast meal


If you are a breakfast lover, you probably scratch your head when you hear that some people just don't care for breakfast. For me and Karel, we couldn't imagine functioning, let alone surviving, the day without a morning meal after our early morning workout.

Although there is great research explaining the benefits of the morning meal, breakfast can be difficult for many reasons. While lack of time or appetite rank among the top two reasons why it can be a struggle to eat first thing in the morning, I find that many individuals suffer from breakfast burnout.

Every morning it's the same thing for breakfast; eggs and toast, oatmeal, nuts and fruit or a smoothie.
While your breakfast option may be working for you, overtime you feel less inspired and motivated by breakfast and you begin to not look forward to your morning meal. But despite needing a change, every breakfast recipe that you find on the internet appears too complicated and unappealing and thus you are back to eating your same-old boring breakfast options.

If you are looking for something easy, healthy and delicious to eat for your breakfast meal, I have the perfect creation for you. While it does require the use of a microwave for heating and refrigeration if cooking in advance, your taste buds will enjoy love the combination of ingredients in this meal. And the best part, all you need is one-skillet when prepping!

Enjoy!

                               
    One-skillet egg and potato breakfast meal

Ingredients
  • 1 package frozen spinach (thawed until soft)
  • 1 small container pre-washed sliced mushrooms
  • 1 small white onion - chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic - chopped
  • 3-4 small yukon gold potatoes (washed, microwaved until soft and cut into chunks)
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt, pepper, paprika, cumin - to taste
  • Olive oil - 1-3 tbsp
  • Optional: Cheese, sour cream and salsa for more flavor

Directins
  1. In a large deep skillet, pre-heat to low/medium. 
  2. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and chopped onions. Toss and cook for 3-5 minutes, until slightly brown.
  3. Reduce heat to low and add mushrooms. Toss until mushrooms become soft. 
  4. Add spinach and stir to combine. Add more olive oil if/when needed. 
  5. Add potatoes and season to taste. Add more olive oil if/when needed
  6. Crack eggs into skillet (no need for a bowl) and scramble once all of the eggs are in the skillet. Continue to scramble for 2-3 minutes. (If you would like to make a frittata, you would scramble until the eggs become evenly distributed over the potatoes/veggies and then cover with a lid until eggs begin to rise).
  7. Turn off heat. Top with cheese, salsa and sour cream before serving. 
  8. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 



8/2/17

Overcoming exercise/training guilt


For many athletes, exercise guilt is a constant struggle. Exercising in order to improve your physical, mental and emotional health weighs heavy on your mind as you know it's something you should do on a daily basis, especially if you are training for an athletic event, but every day, you feel pulled in all different directions, with little time to devote to yourself.

Guilt is often a big barrier as it relates to making changes in your lifestyle. You either feel like you are doing the wrong thing(s) or you are failing at doing the right thing(s). No one likes to feel guilty as it can cause great physical and psychological pain, so why is it that so many athletes have such remorse when sticking to an exercise routine or when training for an athletic event?

I find that there are two reasons why athletes experience exercise guilt.

Athlete status - Many athletes struggle with the "athlete in training" status. Perhaps it's a new title that is not yet accepted by the spouse/family as your new training regime is unfamiliar and perhaps is more time consuming that your past exercise regime or you don't quite feel like you should be dedicating so much time, money and effort to a sport, especially when your sport is just a hobby or you are just getting started. If you found yourself saying "I'm too busy, I don't have enough time, I'm not disciplined, I don't have willpower, I don't look or eat like an athlete, I'm too slow" you will constantly feel like you are not meeting your own expectations of what you think an athlete should look like or how an athlete should perform/train. If you are in constantly feeling like a failure, because you can't meet your standard of "fitness", you will always feel guilty about the time that you dedicate to training as it won't feel worth it (especially if it comes at a cost, like not spending as much time with your family or at work, compared to what you think you should be spending). This is nonsense. Own up to your athlete status and enjoy your "me" time. You deserve time for yourself and you deserve to explore your boundaries of what you are capable of achieving with your body. Whether you are comparing yourself to someone else, a past version to yourself or thinking that you should be doing more/less, accept where you are right now and stop the negative self-talk. Your exercise routine doesn't have to be perfect. Integrating training into your busy life is not easy and it will never be easy but you deserve to dedicate time to improving yourself, as an athlete but most importantly, as a human being.

Exercise addict - Do you feel anxious when you miss a workout? Do you feel guilty if you take a day off or cut a workout short? On the opposite spectrum of exercise guilt, from the individual who feels like the training/exercise is not worth the time, money and energy and should be spending more time with family and work, there is the athlete out there who is addicted to exercise. When the mind experiences a constant conflict between what the body should look like and how it performs, you may find yourself preoccupied with the endorphin rush of exercise, as it is a vehicle to your food choices (what you can/can't eat) and it serves the purpose of assisting with body composition goals. This athlete is addicted to exercise and feels an extreme amount of guilt when fitness standards are not met.
When an athlete is dissatisfied with his/her body, a great amount of guilt can come from not working our or working out "enough" to meet exercising targets. This may lead into a food addiction, restrictive and radical eating and low self-esteem. If your goal is to achieve an image or a number on a scale, and you feel guilty every time you don't workout, it is important to make a shift in your workout routine so that you work toward health and performance goals, without exercise becoming an obsession.

Whereas one individual may not be comfortable with his/her "athlete status" and may feel guilty when time is spent exercising, there is another individual who is addicting to exercise and may be letting exercise/training run his/her life.

So what's an athlete to do?

There's no doubt that guilt can be complex. Sure, you have to put in the time to train for an event but you also have to spend your time, money and energy on other things in life. You will never live a guilt-free life as it relates to exercising/training and let's be honest, guilt can be a good thing when it keeps you grounded and keeps your priorities in place. But feeling guilty, every time you do or don't exercise, will not help you live a happy and healthy life. 

If guilt is leading to unproductive behavior, liked doing something you shouldn't do (ex. exercising on a rest day or going too hard on an easy day) or feeling guilty after the fact (like skipping a workout because you felt like you needed to spend more time at work or not be away from your child for 30 minutes), reframe the situation so that you can put things into perspective.

The rest or easy day is important in your training routine as it allows you to stay consistent and to recover from the harder sessions. 

You can still be a great parent and a great employee, even if you take time out of your day and schedule in a workout. If anything, you will feel more fresh, focused and relaxed after your workout is complete, thus being more productive with your job/family. 

Although it's easy to talk yourself into guilt, you can also talk yourself out of guilt. Most of the time, the guilty thoughts that we think, come from within but it's very easy for others to make you feel guilty for your choices. Take a moment and think about what has made you feel guilty over the past few days.

The next time you feel guilty about dedicating time to something that makes you feel healthy and happy or when you feel guilty for not doing more (or better), ask yourself if you are judging yourself too harshly and if what you are thinking is really as bad as you make it out to be.

Guilt from spending time on yourself and your own needs/goals is no way to live life. So if that means training for a marathon, an Ironman or partaking in some other adventure, go for it. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of others. Get in touch with your own needs and create an environment where you can become the person that you always wanted to be, as you help enrich the lives of those around you.