Essential Sports Nutrition


3-week countdown - final Ironman prep

On Saturday, after my big day of Ironman-specific training, I reflected on my season journey and couldn't help but think how far I have come over the past 12 years. I never thought I'd be so fit, healthy, strong and resilient at the age of 36. It's kinda funny because at the young age of 24 (when I started endurance triathlon racing), I thought I was in such great shape. Ha! While some years have left me feeling frustrated with my body, over the past five years, I continue to feeling stronger, healthier and fitter. In 2017, I dedicated the year to half IM distance racing and never really felt "it." Something was missing and it was the focus on Ironman training and racing. While an extreme distance that requires a lot of time, energy and focus, it's a distance that suits me physically and mentally. Thankfully, I have a great support system and my friends and family "get me". Luckily (or unluckily), my fainting incident on race day morning at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship led me to register for Ironman Chattanooga two weeks later, despite not training specifically for the Ironman. But come race day, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be - racing a 140.6 mile event, sharing the course with my athletes and Karel. And here I am, just three weeks out from the race that I registered for a year ago, counting down the days until I get to race another Ironman.

I still remember the days when I was afraid to clip in to my pedals, nervous about riding in my aerobars (and around other athletes) and unaware of how to properly change my gears. I didn't truly understand how to train for an Ironman or what it takes to "race" an Ironman but ever since my first Ironman, my joy for the sport has remained the same. Because the sport of triathlon is almost my method of staying healthy (physically and mentally), I recognize how extreme (and crazy) my lifestyle is compared to others. However, Ironman or no Ironman, I have a responsibility to my body to keep it in good health.

Around this time in each of my Ironman journey's, I find myself feeling incredibly grateful to my body for what it allows me to do. Over this past weekend, I challenged my body through fatigue and discomfort - both mentally and physically. I have trained consistently well over the past eight months and the time finally came to put myself into race-mode. I practiced my nutrition/fueling similar to race day, I wore similar clothing and every decision I made was similar to what I expect to feel/experience on race day. It was neat to finally be in that zone where all my weekend focus was on Ironman training. This is one of the reason why we limit big Ironman training weekends to just once, maybe twice, in the 6-8 weeks before an Ironman - it takes a lot of physically and mentally energy to put together quality training sessions and the more you give to training, the less energy you have to give on race day. 

It was an incredible experience to feel so in control over my body and how my mind was able to work with my body, despite feeling fatigued near the end of each workout. My nutrition was on point, my body was working well and I was able to work through the negative thoughts and excuses, similar to what I will experience on race day. Late last summer, I made a huge goal to break 10 hours at Ironman Austria this year and to hopefully run the run that I feel I am capable of running off the bike.  I didn't forget that goal during the many times I wanted to stop, lay down in the grass under a tree and call it a day.

I've learned a lot of lessons over the years, made a lot of mistakes and had to overcome a lot of obstacles. I started the sport as a stubborn and inexperienced athlete who was obsessed with triathlon and transformed into a wiser, smarter and more appreciative athlete who uses triathlon to help live life to the fullest. I've learned that hard work works, day in and day out and success doesn't happen overnight. I've learned to enjoy the journey and to see race day as a celebration of the work that was put forth in training. Rather than looking for quick fixes, extreme methods or wanting to rush the process, I've once again learned that every small gain eventually turns into something big. And even when I didn't feel like I was gaining anything (like two weeks ago when I found myself in a training rut), something inside was happening and because I didn't give up, I now feel incredibly prepared for race day. The training isn't over but with this final Ironman prep weekend behind us, I can't help but thank my body for letting me stay in great health (mind and body) over the past 8 months. I will continue to fuel you, nourish you, rest you and respect you for you are giving me the best gift of being able to do amazing things with you on a daily basis.

Weekend "final Ironman prep" recap:
AM Swim (4200 yards)
Main set:
1200 build by 400 w/ paddles
3 x 400's at 90%
10 x 50's strong
(Thanks to my speedy swimmer friend Kristen for doing this with me since Karel was taking it easy today)

PM Bike (1:22)
Easy solo outside spin on the road bike

AM Brick
4:20 bike (77.8 miles, 4580 feet of elevation gain)
Main set:
20 min IM effort
8 min EZ
6 x 10 min strong w/ 8 min EZ
30 min IM effort

60 min brick run (7.48 miles, 8:02 min/mile average) as:
20 min smooth (8:16 min/mile), 20 min steady/strong (7:58), 20 min strong (7:37) w/ 30 sec walk between

PM Run (45 min, 4.76 miles, 9:26 min/mile average)
EZ form focused run w/ walk breaks every mile

AM run (1:56, 13.5 miles, 8:35 min/mile average) as:
~30 min warm-up
30 min Ironman effort (8:07 min/mile average), 2 min rest
20 min half IM effort (7:36), 2 min rest
10 min Oly effort (7:15), 2 min rest
12 min EZ, 2 min rest
10 min IM effort (7:47)

PM Swim (3000 yards, 52 minutes)
WU: 800 EZ
Pre-set: 400 kick w/ fins
MS (with fins):
2 x 150's swim w/ paddles
2 x 75 kick
3 x 100's swim w/ paddles
3 x 50 kick
4 x 50's swim w/ paddles
4 x 25 kick
Post set:
12 x 25s in sets of 4 as:
-10 strokes fast, then EZ to the wall
-10 strokes EZ, then fast to the wall
Then 300 pull w/ snorkel and buoy

Karel ran a little longer than me for the Saturday PM run (7.57 miles) and of course, covered more miles than me for our 1 hour run off the bike (8.96). For Karel's build effort run off the bike on Saturday, he ran the following splits:
7:55, 7:38, 7:03, 6:48, 6:08, 6:08, 6:26 (hill), 6:39 (another hill), 6:37

For Karel's Sunday long run, his set was:
30 min very EZ (~7:57 min/mile)
MS: 3 x 25 min as 20 min IM effort, 5 min just above IM effort
30 sec rest between each interval
30 min steady (7:14 min/mile average)
Total: 2:15, 18.8 miles, 7:11 min/mile average
Round 1: 20 min at 6:58 min/mile, 5 min at 6:35 min/mile
Round 2: 20 min at 6:53 min/mile, 5 min at 6:39 min/mile
Round 3: 20 min at 6:46 min/mile, 5 min at 6:22 min/mile

Karel also swam a 3000 but made up his own set as he went along (we didn't swim together).