Essential Sports Nutrition


Ironman Austria '18 Race Report: Pre-race

Picture taken during our Thurs practice swim.

Surprisingly, I fell asleep rather quickly on Saturday evening around 8pm. Even though we arrived to Europe on Monday morning, flying from the West to East coast is always tough on us and we still weren’t 100% on the new time zone come race morning. Although I tossed and turned throughout the night, I felt mostly rested when the alarm went off at 3:15am. After all that had occurred during the week, I was so relieved that it was finally race day and the day that we had been training for was finally here. Just to briefly rewind our stressful week:

-Lost bikes for 24 hours after we arrived.
-Delay in our travel on Tues due to our lost bikes (10+ hours driving)
-Cool/rainy conditions on Tues-Friday
-Karel got a really bad calf cramp while swimming on Thurs morning and it lingered until Saturday morning which affected his ability to get in his normal pre-race workouts.
-Karel’s tubular tire got sliced (flat tire) in the first 2 minutes of our ride on Friday morning. He had to buy a new tire at a local bike shop (same place where we bought new Di2 in 2016 when mine suddenly stopped working after we arrive). He then needed to get his tire ready before he headed out again in the afternoon to finish his ride. Instead of going with Karel, I rode my bike back up the mountain to our rental home to finish my “easy” ride.
-On Saturday morning during our bike warm-up, Karel heard a rattle on his bike and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. After our run off the bike, he noticed that his aero bar had a big crack in it. He didn't want to risk it breaking during the race so he went on a mission to try to find a new set of aerobars (and tools to install them so he didn't have to drive the 20 minutes back to our rental home). I went back to the rental house with Justine and Natalie after checking in my gear bags and bike and Karel spent the next few hours finding a new set of aero bars in the expo and then installing the bars (with Di2) on his bike (thanks to his friend Roman who was staying in the motorhome park by the lake) before finally checking in his bags and bike. Let's just say that Fri and Sat was very stressful for Karel.

Come Sunday morning, it was a huge relief that it was finally race day. Could anything else go wrong? I sure hope not! Although the week was exhausting, we really tried hard not to let it get to us. These things can really suck the energy out of you and we both tried to stay calm even though we could not help but think "now this!" Karel is typically very calm in these pressure-cooker situations and despite all that happened to him before the race, he didn’t let it get to him, make excuses or complain – which really helped me stay calm as well. With both of us being competitive athletes, it can be tough when the other person is dealing with a setback or obstacle and we are still learning how to read and manage each others emotions before a race.

On race morning,  Karel had his normal oatmeal and coffee as his pre-race meal.I found it rather easy to eat my pre-race meal of a scrambled egg, 2 large gold boiled potatoes and a banana. Along with 1 scoop OSMO pre-load and 5 MAP - Map Amino Acids (I choose this route for aminos instead of Klean BCAAs as I was drinking enough fluids with coffee and the pre load and I didn't want to keep peeing all morning from overdrinking. Plus I had my bottle made of my pre-race drink of Osmo hydration  that I would sip on in the 60 min before the race. Thus, I didn’t want to overdo it with more water to mix my powdered BCAAs). Since I was expecting menstrual cycle in the next 48 hours, the BCAAs are helpful for my elevated hormones before a hard training session or race.

We left the house around 4:45am to arrive to the Minimundus parking lot around 5:20am. The parking lot was not too busy so it was easy to find parking. With this being our 3rd time doing this race, it was nice to know the area really well. We made our walk to the transition area to put our bottles and Garmin computer on our bikes, pump up the tires (Karel brought a pump and pumped up my tires) and then put nutrition in the gear bags. On my bike I had 3 bottles INFINIT (my custom formula) – flavors grape, fruit punch and pink lemonade (pink lemonade with 50mg caffeine and 1 gram BCAAs. I saved this caffeine bottle for my 3rd bottle). I also had a broken-up Clif MOJO bar (peanut butter pretzel) to nibble on the bike in my bento box. I opened the package and broke it up ahead of time so it was easy to access. I always carry TUMS with me on the bike and run in a tiny baggy for those “just in case” situations (although I didn't need them this race).

This time around, the gear bags were on the other side of the transition area so I tried to reorient myself from what I was use to the last two times we did this race. I put my two hydration flasks in my run bag (1 flask with 3 scoops OSMO and 1 flask with 1 scoop Carborocket hydration), along with my Garmin watch (which I only use for the run). I then double checked my bike bag to make sure everything was in there that I needed. I handed off my special needs bag in the respective bike/run bag trucks and walked to the swim start with Karel. For my bike special needs I had 3 bottles – 2 each with 2 scoops of my custom INFINIT formula (fruit punch and watermelon - different flavors for each bottle/hour to prevent taste bud fatigue) and the other bottle with 2 scoops Carborocket black cherry (a little formula for the last portion of the bike). In my run special needs bag I had two flasks (10 ounce each) with 3 scoops OSMO hydration (each flask was a different flavor). All my special needs bottles were mixed with water and I didn’t freeze them. Although there is only one transition area, there is still a lot of walking to be done to get to/from the swim start, transition area and parking lot so we made sure to allow plenty of time on race morning.

Karel set up his bike with 3 bottles each with 2 scoops INFINIT (custom formula) in his hydration set-up on his Ventum and also had a bar (Base) in his bento box. He really likes the Enervitine (on course nutrition) so he decided to use that drink instead of using special needs for this race (usually he uses special needs). Karel also had a flask of HOT Shot for the bike but it ended up falling out of his kit pocket somewhere in the first few miles of the bike.

Karel and I walked to the motorhome park across from the swim start to visit with his friend Roman who was camping there for the weekend. This was also where Karel’s mom would hang out during the race so she didn’t get too tired walking/standing around. It was special to have her there as this was the first time she saw Karel participate in a triathlon. Karel and I did a little jog warm-up before putting on our wetsuit. The weather was on the cooler side (in the upper 50’s) but once I got the blood flowing from our jog and put on the wetsuit, I was rather comfortable. We dropped off our “streetwear” morning clothes bags in the bins across from the Irondome and then walked to the water. I made sure to pack clothes for after the race as well as shower stuff for the anticipated warm shower after the race (what a treat to have indoor showers for after the race!).

Karel and I went to the water at 6:10am and did a warm-up to adjust the wetsuit and get the heart rate up. I swam for only a few minutes as I was starting to get a little cold  (I don’t know the exact water temp but it was wetsuit legal for the pros as well as for the age groupers – I’m thinking the water was around 70 degrees but it was a little cool standing around in my wet wetsuit). Karel spent a bit longer in the water as he likes to give himself plenty of time to feel loose in the water.

Around 6:20am, I had my last few sips of my throw-away drink and slurped down a pre-race Enervitine pre sport and felt rather calm – not nervous or stressed. Karel had similar fuel for his pre-race nutrition (sport drink and gel were both Enervitine) along with a Muesli bar while walking to the motorhome park around 5:40am. 

It was a really weird feeling that I felt inside of me. I kept telling Karel that I am not sure how I feel about the race – it was almost like I was worried about how my body would act on race day…would it even know what to do? Certainly, these pre-race worries are not uncommon before an Ironman. Karel was rather calm which made me feel calm. I wished Natalie good luck and around 6:30am Justine, Karel and I stood in the in the sub-1 hour corral for the swim. The energy was building and I was ready to get the day started. After the pro men and women went off, it was nearing time for the age groupers. Since I don’t wear a watch for the swim and bike, I had no idea what time it was until the gun went off and the line started moving forward for us to get into the water. I really like rolling self-seeded swim starts as I swim my fastest times with this type of start and it makes for a smoother entry to the water. For this start, they had us line up in rows of 8 and each set of 8 athletes went off around every 5-6 seconds (by a whistle). Karel was just ahead of me in line so he entered the water first and then Justine and I were next. 

Once I entered the water, I felt relieved that my Ironman day was finally on its way.