5/25/17

The 2017 Trimarni Triathlon Skills Camp is finally here!



When I started the sport of triathlon back in 2006, I was extremely dedicated to training my body to prepare for the sports of swimming, biking and running. I was obsessed with accomplishing specific workouts, at a certain pace/speed, while tracking my progress through completed distance/time. If I was swimming, biking or running faster than before, I thought I was improving. If I could cover more distance than a previous workout, I thought I was improving. With improvements, I thought I was becoming a "better" triathlete.

Eventually, I realized that this was a false sense of security of my athletic worthiness. While I did improve my fitness, it was only a matter of time before I found myself injured. My body was struggling. But like many athletes, when I was able to train again, I kept doing the same things over and over, hoping for a different result.

Although triathlon success continued to come my way through hard work and determination, I felt like I was always working so much harder than I should be working. While my work ethic and motivation was high, I never felt like I was making those big performance improvements to match my big dedication to training.

Something was missing. 


When we moved from Jacksonville, FL to Greenville, SC in May 2014, I found myself training on a very  new terrain. The terrain was challenging. Very challenging. At times, it scared me. I would often tell Karel "there's no way I can train here!"

With Ironman Austria and Ironman Wisconsin on my race schedule during the summer of 2014, I knew I had to face my fears and get outside and train. It was noticeable to me that my body was getting stronger and more resilient due to the new training stressors (hills), but I had no idea that with every workout, I was forced to improve my skills - whether I liked it or not. For the first time ever, I was focusing more on form, skills and perceived effort (and safety) than miles, pace, heart rate and power. I wasn't able to "zone out" and just bike or run but instead, I had to constantly stay present in what I was doing with my body. With every hill, turn and bump in the road, I finally understood the importance of having great biking and running skills to help me perform to my true athletic capabilities. 

Needless to say, when I went to Ironman Austria, I shocked myself with a huge Ironman PR - without changing my training, I was riding stronger than ever. Twelve weeks later, I went on to qualify for Kona (with Karel) at Ironman Wisconsin. With it being my second time racing on the IMWI course, I felt SO much more prepared for the challenging bike terrain, not to mention feeling more resilient on the run.

It was evident that improving my skills was the key to unlocking some untapped fitness in my body!

Without a doubt, moving near the mountains has been the missing link to my training. It's also made training SO much more fun. As you probably know, I absolutely love training in Greenville, SC. Although I am racing faster, stronger and smarter than ever before, I contribute so much of my physical improvements to improving my swim/bike/run skills.

I have the skills to swim better in open water thanks to lake swimming.
I have the skills to bike better thanks to our rolling hills, steep mountains, punchy climbs, bumpy roads, sharp turns and fast descends.
I have the skills to run better thanks to lots of hills to climb and to descend on.

Although I was forced to improve my skills so that I could train safe, happy and effectively in my new training environment, I knew that if Karel and I could bring other triathletes to our triathlon playground, they could also have the chance to embrace fears and to build confidence in order to perform better in training and on race day. Above all, improved skills brings more enjoyment for the sport of triathlon.

This was a long time coming but we are so excited that finally, we have our first skills camp here in Greenville, SC. Starting tomorrow, for 2.5 days, we will provide our campers with a lot of information, education and hands-on work to make triathlon training/racing more productive, effective, safe and fun.

5/24/17

Rice - An ideal carbohydrate for athletes



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. 

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. 

5/23/17

It's time to overcome your fear of "bad" foods



We live in a very carb-phobic society. Despite their role in a healthy diet, alongside providing a great source of energy for athletes, many people feel guilty, anxious and uncomfortable around carbohydrate containing foods.

When I work with an athlete who fears carbohydrates, I often explore the dialogue that goes on in the head when carbohydrates are (about to be) consumed. Not surprising, many athletes experience similar internal dialogue such as "carbs are bad" or "carbs will make me fat" or "I feel so bloated/heavy when I eat carbs." Although the psychology of eating is quite complex, it's interesting how many athletes have a similar list of foods that are either good/allowed or bad/off-limits.

For example, in the past 12 months, have you found yourself recently consuming the following foods?
  • Kombucha
  • Kale
  • Avocado
  • Coconut oil
  • Turmeric
  • Bone Broth
  • Bacon
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Almond milk
  • Almond butter
  • Coconut milk
While there is nothing wrong with the above foods, these food options are very "in" right now compared to the following foods which appear on the off-limit list for many athletes: 
  • Bread - any kind
  • Grains - any kind
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Yogurt
  • Cow's milk
  • Fruit - the high sugar kind
  • Corn
  • Beans and legumes
There are many risks to restrictive eating as an extreme fixation on "perfect" eating can often deprive you of key nutrients. There are also psychological issues that can result from always needing to stay in control of exactly what goes inside your body and when. It takes a lot of work, energy and time to live a lifestyle where you have an off-limit food list. While some athletes need to take extra precautions to avoid certain foods for medical reasons, most athletes voluntarily restrict food that is termed "bad" because there is a strong belief that eating certain foods will make you lose control over your diet (causing overeating) or you anticipate weight gain or the inability to stop eating the food once you start.

When you fear food (ex. bad food list), eating can be an uncomfortable time as you may feel intense feelings of guilt, anxiety or shame around food (especially when eating in social settings). Whether you fear a food group like carbohydrates, a food category like desserts or certain foods like cookies or peanut butter, fear foods have become part of your life and you may find yourself struggling to meet your personal nutrition and energy needs.

Fear foods develop from many reasons but with the rise of social media interactions, blogs, tweets, websites and instagram posts, there are a lot of mixed messages about food. And an overload of information causes confusion. The more times you avoid certain foods, the longer and longer your fear food list may become - leaving you with little appetite to eat.

Understanding that there are many consequences to living a life with fear foods, such as social isolation, limited nutritional variety, lack of enjoyment in eating, obsessive thoughts and anxiety about food, risk for an eating disorder and an unhealthy relationship with food and the body, remind yourself that food should not have power over you.

The focus of overcoming your fear of bad foods is to step outside of your comfort zone. Because fear foods bring guilt, anxiety and fear into your life, it's necessary to incorporate foods into your diet that were previously off-limit until the anxiety response to a food significantly decreases. This process requires time and help so don't hesitate to reach out to a Registered Dietitian for help.

5/21/17

M2M Race Report - my first cancelled race


I just love writing my post race race report. It gives me an opportunity to immediately collect my post race thoughts, walk myself through the race experience and express my thoughts/feelings about my performance, so that I can look back and learn from the race.

Well, sadly there is no race report to write about M2M. 

Let me take you back a few days.

On Friday evening, we had our typical pre-race team pizza party after packet pick-up at Carolina Triathlon. For all of our Trimarni key races, we provide pizza and a course discussion/execution talk to our athletes. We sat outside and stayed relatively comfortable since the sun was setting around 6:30pm.


Although we knew there was a great chance for rain on Sunday, we provided our athletes with practical course execution information to ensure a great performance by everyone who was racing.

Earlier that day (Friday), Julie, Justine and I (a few of our out-of-towners) did a tune-up swim (~2200) followed by a 20 mile EZ spin covering the run course (13 miles + extra miles to get back home).


Happy smiles post swim workout.


About to ride the run course. 

Both days were absolutely beautiful and very, very warm. PERFECT summer training. 


On Saturday morning, Justine and I went for a 90 minute spin and covered a lot of hills while opening up our legs with a few intervals and testing out our race bike set-ups. I followed the bike with a 10 min run on the treadmill.

After a typical pre-race day of fueling, resting and getting mentally ready for our race, it was early to bed around 8:45pm for a 4:30am wake-up call.

I first woke up around 3am to pouring rain and some thunder and lightening. Then, when the alarm went off, it was raining lightly. By 5:15am, it was pouring rain again.

After loading up the car in the pouring rain, it was time to head off to the race start.

At 5:30am, we headed out to Seneca with our race gear (swim and bike - our run gear was at T2 in Traveler's Rest) and hoped for the rain to stop. While we all wanted to race, I knew that the difficulty of the bike course would make it an easy call to cancel the race in the case of bad weather. The radar did not give us hope that we would have a rain free morning but we hoped it would clear up enough to proceed with the race.

After we racked our bikes and set up our transition area (with plastic bags holding our gear), we huddled under the pavilion to stay dry as the rain slowly let up. Although any break in the rain was quickly followed by another opening of the clouds in the sky.

By 7:15am, after the final radar was checked, the race director cancelled the race due to the unsafe riding conditions. While this was a smart call at the time, due to the weather, it kinda felt like we all were trapped inside a cage, ready to explode with energy.  As the triathlon community came together to keep everyone in good spirits, Karel and I huddled with our athletes and discussed plan B.

No race, no problem. We will still train!

Since all of our run gear was at T2 (in a large plastic bag), we all drove to T2 (after a quick stop at our house to drop off bikes) for a run workout. We had our athletes run the first 6 miles of the run course. After the 1.5 mile loop around Furman, we ran back to T2 for a total of about 10 miles. We didn't give our athletes a cap on intensity and I'd say that everyone ran a bit harder than they would for a conversational run. But still, everyone was talking and laughing.  It was a great way to burn off some unused, built-up energy and to allow our athletes an opportunity to work on mental strength, as a group. While we were all so bummed to not race this weekend, running together was a great way to remind us that we all do this for fun and sometimes, things don't go as planned. Racing is unpredictable. 

Lesson learned: When you can't change a situation, change how you react to the situation. 

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

As the saying goes, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. For athletes, this is oh-so-true.

For the athlete who loves to plan out details, a cancelled race is something that you just can't plan for. With so many frustrations and mixed feelings, it's easy to complain about what could have been or what you would have done differently.

Hearing the news of a cancelled race can be difficult and some athletes handle it better than others. Shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger, bargaining. Yes, these are all things that happen when you are grieving but dealing with a cancelled race can bring on the same emotions. While the initial period of feeling letdown is completely normal (and you can justify your feelings of not getting to do what you trained to do with your body), you eventually have to deal with the situation and move on. Accept what happened, regardless of how emotionally attached you were to the race and take action to change your feelings. Be proud of the work that you put in and see the achievement of getting yourself to the start line as the real success.

While we all know that life isn't fair, consider all of the races that you have had a great performance when the weather was perfect or when you had a great performance and the weather was horrible. In the moment, it's easy to assume that you would have raced a certain way or the results would have been a certain way but that is what could have been. 

Would of, should have, could have......you can never predict the future. If you were able to get yourself ready for the race that was cancelled, there is a great chance that you will be able to get yourself ready for another race. There's always something to learn from these "bummer" situations. 

Perhaps a cancelled race allowed you to go through the nerves and emotions of racing without having to actually race. Or, perhaps you had a chance to work on your pre-race rituals, like eating, sleeping and warming up. Or, maybe you had the opportunity to work on patience and the what-if scenarios that may happen on race day. Or, we hope you can use the cancelled race scenario to help another athlete, friend or child overcome his/her own personal setback.

The neat thing about racing is that there is always something to learn - cancelled race or a race that you started and finished. Whenever something unfortunate happens in life, think back to the lessons that you learned from your race experiences and apply to your life events to help you cope and move on.

For example, when I was training for my first marathon, I waited to register and the race closed. So, I selected a race 4 weeks later. I ended up qualifying for the Boston Marathon at my first marathon. Maybe that 4 extra weeks helped me accumulate a few more workouts to prepare for the race. Another story features my athlete Justine (who traveled here from Delaware to race M2M) and she was suppose to do IM Maryland in 2015. The race was cancelled and postponed for 2 weeks later. She maintained a positive attitude and stayed healthy during those 2 weeks and went on to qualify for Kona. Sometimes, a cancelled race puts life into perspective. I mean, at the end of the day, it was only a race and there will always be another race. The current situation may not always be as horrible as it appears to be in the moment or right after the fact.

Regardless of how you feel immediately after the race, it's important to not get distracted from where you want to be in x-months or what you want to accomplish with your body. Sure, you may have been super attached to your race or you were looking forward to the experience of racing but a setback, like a cancelled race, should not destroy your short and long term goals. Hang in there. Life will keep moving forward and you should keep moving with it. 

Here are a few of my tips to help you move on from a bad race: Let it Go: Moving on from a bad race