Essential Sports Nutrition


IM 70.3 FL - one more sleep

Oddly, I'm very calm with one sleep to go before race day. With no expectations or pressures for this race, I'm most excited to kick off the 2018 triathlon racing season and go through the motions and emotions of swimbikerun in a competitive setting. I am also so pumped to race with over 30 of our coaching athletes as part of the regional Tri Club Championship. There's something about seeing familiar faces out on the race course (and the sidelines) that makes for a fun, energy filled day of racing. Here's a list of all of our athletes who are participating:

Ironman 70.3 Florida
Alvaro Velez
Chris Anuszkiewicz
Christine Feiherr
Curt Kloc
Erica Nagy
Fiona Martin
Greg Marshall
Heather Anderson
Heidi Hogan
Jane Green
Jim Nitz
Julie Huyett
Justine Waters
Kathy Petri
Kevin Drury
Kim Crist
Lisa Comer
Lisa McCartney
Lisa Heath
Melanie Ziarko
Meredith Rigdon
Mitch Przybelski
Natalie Ramello
Tricia Rado
Rebekah Miller
Reid Thomas
Stephanie Gibson
Stephanie Lefkowitz
Wesley Cook
Don Oswalt
Dave Barrie 
Tony Madore
Marni Sumbal
Karel Sumbal

You can track on the Ironman Tracker App. 

On Friday morning, we started the day with an outdoor swim at the Lake Eva community pool at the race venue. It's very unique to have a race venue with a free venue for pool swimming in the days leading up to the race. The water was perfect for swimming and I was able to test out my short sleeve swim skin over my one piece tri suit. We only swam about a 1500 but it was a good building effort set.

After the swim we headed back to the rental house and I made a quick grocery shop for a few items for our team pizza party. Karel has been staying busy here in Haines City with last minute bike mechanic work for our athletes as well as a RETUL fit for one of our athletes (he brought his RETUL fit system).

In the afternoon, I headed to athlete check-in just before 3pm and then attended the athlete briefing at 3pm with several of our Trimarni athletes. Since there was a slight change in run course for this year, I decided to bike 1-loop of the 3-loop run course after the athlete briefing to check out the entire run course. I find it helpful to review the start/finish of the bike course and as much as I can of the run course for visualization purposes going into the race.

In the evening, it was time for our tradition of holding a team pizza party for our athletes at our key races. We had over 30 athletes attend our pizza party (with a few unable to attend because of travel) and it was so fun to have so many of our athletes together in one room. Karel and I also gave a team talk to go over some last minute tips/suggestions relative to this race course.

Pizza from Pizzanospizza

After a great night of sleep (9 hours!), it was time to wake-up the body with a pre-race workout of bike/run, swim.

Karel and his friend Roman (from Czech) did their own thing in the morning so I was off on my own for my pre-race warm-up. It was rather windy this morning but it was good practice to include some wind with my pre-race warm-up on the bike.

My 9-12 am morning workout on Sat (day before the race) included:
-90 minute bike (Same course I rode on Thurs with Karel), ~26 miles
Included a pre-set of: 3, 2, 1 hard efforts w/ 3 min EZ in between. Then a MS of 2 x 6 min build efforts with 8 min EZ between.
-Off the bike ~8 minute run with some stops/walks
-~15 min open water swim

It was great to see so many of our athletes out and about warming up before the race.

It was a packed morning of training but it all felt good to wake-up the body with one night of sleep to go before race day.

During our talk last night at our team pizza party (during our pep talk portion of the race), I told our athletes to think of the race as being a carpenter who is building a masterpiece. All of us athletes are carpenters with our own tools, experience and knowledge. The masterpiece that we each decide to build on race day is created by our performance. The goal is for each of us to create a race (or masterpiece) that we are proud of. On race day, we each experience our own obstacles to overcome and we each bring our own tool set and experience to cover the race distance. There's no point to compare yourself to anyone else, not even a past version of yourself. Remind yourself that YOU are in control all day. Don't focus on the end result, stay present tense and be an active participant in the process....and don't forget to thank your body!


Hello from Haines City!

After a busy morning packing up the car, squeezing in a short outdoor ride and getting our furry crew ready for "grandma", it was time to hit the road down south. We headed out around noon (but didn't make it far until Karel realized he forgot our Di2 charger) and then we officially hit the road.

I had prepped a lot of meals before we left to make it easy for us to eat when we arrived to our rental home in Florida, as well as lots of snacks to minimize the need for grocery shopping. We stopped a few times to stretch our legs, go to the bathroom and pick-up dinner at Moe's but other than that, it was a smooth day of traveling without any major traffic delays. We arrived around 7:30pm and made it to bed just before 10pm. To help break up the drive, we stopped at our friend's house (Joe and Erica) in Jacksonville, FL for a good night of sleep before the rest of our trip on Thursday morning. 

To shake out the stiffness from our long day in the car on Wednesday, we went to the Winston YMCA for a nice 2000 yard swim with a 1000 main set. This main set is one of our favorites (courtesy of our friend/swim coach Kristen J):

MS: 5 x 200's broken as
#1: 200
#2: 2 x 100s
#3: 100, 2 x 50's
#4: 4 x 50's
#5: 8 x 25's
There are many different variations to this as for the rest and intensity but we like to build the effort as we go along but keep the rest to 10 seconds. It's a great tune-up set before a race and a quick way to get in 1000 yards.

After our swim, we enjoyed one of my prepped meals (arugula, lentil and quinoa "Salad" with an egg, potato and veg casserole). We then packed up the car, made a quick stop at the Amar European grocery store in Jacksonville and then finished our long drive to Haines City. In total it took us about 10 hours of driving but thankfully, no major delays for a stress free 1 1/2 days of traveling. 

After arriving to Lake Eva (race venue), we changed into our cycling gear for a spin on the race course.

We rode 26-miles of the race course by starting the course from the transition area and then getting off the course after mile 10 to get back on the course after mile 45. It felt great to spin the legs and move some blood. After the ride we went for a quick run (~10 minutes). We included a few "efforts" on the bike to open up the engine.

Around 4:30pm, we checked into our rental home, unpacked, settled in, had dinner and got to bed around 9:30pm. It feels great to be at the race venue and (finally) be just a few days away from kicking off our 2018 triathlon racing season!!



Common race day nutrition mistakes

Don't you love it when everything comes together on race day and you feel incredible at the finish line? Ha - as someone who has raced 12 Ironman events, 4 Ironman World championship events and countless half IM events, I wish I could say that everything always comes together on race day. Some of my "best" performances have included race day mishaps and obstacles to overcome in order to reach the finish line.

For endurance athletes, it's rare to hear of an athlete who never experiences nutrition problems on race day. While not every nutrition issue is a limiter to performance, it seems as if athletes are quick to blame nutrition when a race performance goes wrong.

Recognizing that endurance events place extreme stress on the human body, the athlete who develops, fine-tunes and perfects a fueling and hydration plan in training and practices in key long workouts and low priority races will naturally be at a competitive advantage come race day for nutrition is a critical component of race day success. Keeping in mind that your "fastest" performance in an endurance event is when you can slow down the least, the importance of proper fueling and hydration before and during an endurance event can not be overemphasized. 

Here are some common race day nutrition mistakes that I see athletes making over and over again, but specifically in early season races: 
  1. Overfueling - Knowing that others are watching and you have placed a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself, there's the sudden need to fuel - a lot. Athletes will eat every carb in sight leaving the belly full and the body heavy and lethargic. The athlete fears running out of energy during the race and takes every preventive measure to load up on sport nutrition before and during the race, which causes massive GI distress and nausea. This is the classic case of the athlete who underfuels in training but overfuels on race day. Remember that the gut needs to be trained to tolerate sport and daily nutrition in large amounts (ex. carbohydrates). Trust what worked in training. If your training nutrition fails you on race day, consult with a sport RD for help.
  2. Excessive sodium intake - Worried about the hot race day conditions, you worry about your high sweat rate and being unacclimated to the heat. For preventative measures, you load up on sodium before the race, drink copious amounts of water before and during the race and pound down the salt pills during the race. Although active muscles will generate more heat than at rest and your body has to produce more sweat in order to assist with the evaporative cooling processes, your body has to adapt to these demands to control core body temperature. Simply focusing on sodium and water will not keep your body "cool" and functioning well. While both are important, don't assume that just because you are taking salt pills during a race that you can push hard in hot conditions. You should have an effective plan for fueling and hydrating on race day (before and during all parts of the race) to ensure optimal gastric emptying and fluid/electrolyte delivery. Additionally, if you know your body doesn't do well in the heat, dial back the effort to prevent overheating.
  3. Misreading body signals - Athletes love to have a race plan. While a plan is great going into a race, any successful athlete knows that racing is dynamic and you need to be an active participant during the race. You can't turn into a robot to match your detailed pacing and nutrition plan for racing is a process that requires a lot of decision making. In early season races, it's likely to misread your body signals for it's been a long time since you have been in such a stressful environment. As an example, thinking that a normal low moment on the bike is bonking or feeling low in energy in the first mile of a run means you need more fluids. It's normal to have waves of emotions, moods and energy levels throughout an endurance event. Use your previous training sessions to remind yourself of similar feelings and how you navigated those symptoms without giving up on yourself. Because many conditions have similar symptoms (ex. dehydration and low blood sugar) and without experience, it can be difficult to read your body signals, it's recommended to consult with a sport RD to analyze your race day nutrition plan before and after a race to help you perform to your abilities on race day.
  4. Anti-inflammatory usage - Racing hurts. Don't rely on anti-inflammatories to try to minimize the soreness, niggles, aches and pains that occur on race day. Whether you think you need them or use for preventive measures, you need to break this habit immediately. NSAIDs (ex. ibuprofen) work to suppress inflammation but attempting to dull the pain/aches of endurance racing, there are serious side effects such as kidney injury (elevated creatinine), blood pressure changes, stomach isssues and reduced ability to recover post race. So no to anti-inflammatory pills and while you are at it, pass on the energy boosters (caffeine pills, energy drinks) as well before the race.
  5. Upper GI issues - GI issues are very common in athletes on race day. Upper GI issues include belching, vomiting, bloating and heartburn and cramping. Address the possible culprits to these uncomfortable race day issues to see if you are susceptible to upper GI problems on race day. It's very typical for athletes who experience upper GI issues to suffer from aerophagia (excessive air swallowing), which result when swimming from rapid/ineffective breathing, tense or short breaths (especially while running), eating too fast, drinking carbonated beverages (or chewing gum/sucking on candies), using a straw-based hydration system on the bike and gulping fluids.
  6. Lower GI issues - Most athletes have experienced lower GI issues on race day or in training, typically while running. Passing gas, diarrhea, loose stools, abdominal cramping and side stiches. Although not necessary lower GI related, nausea, dizziness and headache are also common as they can result from poor gastric emptying of sport nutrition, increasing the risk for dehydration and low blood sugar. Typically, athletes who consume overconcentrated sport nutrition products, lack a solid sport nutrition plan to consume well-formulated drinks to optimize gastric emptying, wait too long to fuel/hydrate (instead of fueling/drinking on a schedule) and don't train to drink while running (ex. utilizing a hydration belt/pack) are most likely to suffer from lower GI issues. Nerves, stress and poor pacing may also be to blame.
  7. Nutrition blame game - Let's get real. A lot of things can impact your race day performance. Consider the training that you did and didn't do and assess your current level of fitness, the environmental conditions, the course/terrain and where you are in your season of athletic development. As simple as it may be to blame your performance on nutrition, sometimes nutrition is not the reason for a race performance that didn't meet your expectations. Endurance racing is unpredictable and requires a lot of training, trial and error and a process-driven mindset. Accept that not every race is going to be great, a PR or a showcase of previous training. Remind yourself that racing is a test of your current fitness but it's also a day (or a few hours) of self-exploration, body appreciation and the ability to work through situations and overcome obstacles. Sadly, you can't blame everything on nutrition. 


Effective taper tips (and what not to do)

We all have our own ways of tapering so it would be a mistake to say that there is one "right"  way to taper for an upcoming event. As we develop our fitness and skills, our ideal taper methods may change. However, it's a common mistake to assume that tapering = resting. 

Tapering is defined as a short-term reduction in a training load before an important athletic event. 

While you may not be accumulating as many weekly training hours during your taper, a short-term reduction in load can occur in many ways. As an example, your typical long ride of 2-2.5 hours can still be done 6-8 days before your upcoming event so load as you reduce the overall "stress" of the workout. By fueling smart, allowing ample recover between any intense intervals and not chasing any paces/watts, you can still ride "long" and feel rested without a massive drop in training volume. Certainly, your taper is dependent on the training that you did and didn't do in the months leading up to your upcoming event.

When you train consistently for months/weeks at a time, you place a lot of intentional stress on your body. You may know this feeling well because as your training ramps up, it becomes more difficult to feel fresh, light and energetic for all of your workouts. You never have time to fully recover between workouts and even with the occasional rest day, bridge session and easy workouts inserted into your training plan, your body is never completely repaired from the previous hard workout(s). While you can use sleep, mobility, recovery gear, diet and massage to stimulate recovery, taper finally gives your body the chance to recover from the destructive training process. Because you need your healthy body to train through fatigue in a smart training plan, this allows you to adapt in order to gain the necessary physiological adaptations to help meet the physical demands of your upcoming event. Come taper, you can finally maximize those adaptations and "cash out" on all of your training investments.

Tapering also provides a necessary mental relief from the emotional toll that training has on the body. Because racing is mentally exhausting, it's important to give time to yourself on race week to improve your mental energy to feel psychologically and emotionally ready for your race.

There are many methods and thoughts regarding how much “rest” is needed by triathletes before a race. Is it one week, a few days, two weeks or three weeks?

Ultimately, when done correctly, tapering sharpens your body and mind so that you arrive to your race prepared physically and mentally, to perform at your best. Understanding that tapering does not result in detraining, a reduced training volume allows the body to recover from the accumulated effects of fatigue and muscle/tissue breakdown, induced by heavy training. Make note that an effective taper comes after consistent training. Tapering will not set you up for a great race day performance if you do not put in the necessary work to physically prepare for your upcoming event.

What can you expect during taper? 

Because too long and too much of a taper can make you feel tired and off your normal routine, your taper should sharpen your body, mind and skills for race day. During your final 1-2 weeks of training, you should include a nice mix of intensity, recovery, a sight drop in overall volume and a lot of frequent workouts to keep you fresh for race day. You must trust this process as it’s not about resting but priming your systems to help you gain an athletic advantage to perform at your best on race day.

Avoid the taper funk 

Taper can be a long-awaited yet uncomfortable time for triathletes.

During the first 3-7 days of taper, athletes will often complain of feeling overly sleepy, walking around with heavy legs, noticing a drastic change in appetite, noticing new niggles, aches and other phantom pains, feeling run-down or sick and moody, losing motivation to train, lacking energy during workouts, not feeling fresh or sharp and feeling worrisome that fitness is lost. However, every athlete responds differently during taper.

When you are so comfortable to doing things a certain way for many months, and then you suddenly change that routine, your mind and body can become very confused. You may become oversensitive to any body issue/niggle and start to freak out.

When you have been training through fatigue for many months and then you progressively let your body recover and heal, the repairing process can make you feel weird, tired and even out of shape!

Do’s and Do not’s during taper
  • Do not freak out if you are feeling off. The only day that matters is race day and on race day your body will know exactly what it needs to do.
  • Do not train with fear or try to prove your fitness during taper (ex. fear you won’t be ready unless you do x-miles/distance workout). You cannot gain any fitness during taper or make-up for missed/bad workouts but you can lose your readiness to perform by doing too much volume/intensity during taper.
  • Do not get off your normal routine. While you should try to go to bed earlier and sleep in on the weekends, try to keep yourself on a similar routine as to when you normally workout.
  • Do not be scared of intensity during taper, just be sure to follow the recommended recovery between sets/intervals and don’t go harder/longer than advised.
  • Do not do nothing on race week. It is very easy for athletes to assume that they can skip or reduce the volume of workouts on race week because they are tapering, traveling or because life is keeping you extra busy  You must follow your taper plan which includes frequent, low volume workouts. If you skip workouts and rest too much, the body will get lazy and it will be difficult to wake it up on race day.
  • Do not fill in your free time during taper with housework, chores, outside activities (ex. soccer, Frisbee) or other strenuous activities. While you don't have to be sedentary, you need to be extra careful with how you spend your energy. Use your free time to visualize, relax, cook or read. We have had several athletes get injured during taper due to accidents thanks to too much free time.
  • Do not try new things during taper. However, taper is the time when you can sharpen your skills (swim, bike, run) and practice the little details like u-turns on your bike, swim starts/finish in open water, transitions, grabbing and rotating bottles on your bike and hydration belt and anything else that will help you feel more prepared for race day. Always be careful and cautious during taper – many accidents happen during taper because athletes become careless with everyday activities.
  • Do us similar gear in training as you would on race day and rehearse your race day skills, clothing and tactics. Race wheels, helmet, goggles, gadgets, clothing and anything else that you plan to use on race day should be used in training, several times, in the 2-4 weeks before race day.
  • Do arrive to your race as early as possible to avoid feeling rushed before a race. 
  • Do make yourself workout the day before your race, within 90 minutes of waking. We do not believe in having the day-off from training on the day before a competition. This pre race workout should last 45 minutes to 90 minutes and should include biking and running. We leave swimming as optional, but recommended if water conditions are safe, weather is ideal and you are not rushed.
  • Do not spend too much time outside in the heat or on your feet during race week.
  • Do put yourself first on race week. Communicate with your family as to your needs and expectations on race week so that you can get yourself and keep yourself in the zone.
  • Do not try anything new during taper unless you have discussed with your coaches. If you are considering trying something new on race day, discuss with your coaches.
  • Do visualization and mental strength activities every day on race week for at least 10-20 minutes.
  • Do write out your race strategy/execution plan and travel itinerary on the weekend before race week.
  • Do not “race your workouts” or try to validate your fitness or readiness in training. Save your best performance for race day.
  • Do not hang around energy suckers. Surround yourself with energy givers. Limit your time on social media. Do not make excuses before the race or go into the race with low expectations.
  • Do minimize/remove yourself from social media and reduce work/family obligations so that you can stay within your own thoughts and not worry about what’s happening in the world, feel stressed out or compare yourself with other athletes.
  • Do go into your race slightly undertrained than overtrained. No matter what obstacles or setbacks you had to overcome in training, you can only race with your current level of fitness.
  • Do focus on good nutrition throughout taper. You should only modify your diet in the 48-72 hours before your race by reducing high fiber/fat foods and slightly increasing carbohydrates.
  • Do stay well-hydrated and fueled during taper.
  • Do not bash your body, diet or worry about your body image during taper. Be proud of your body.
  • Do focus on really great sleep, lifestyle habits and stress management. Tapering is not just about reducing your training load and enjoying free time but focusing on the many ways that you can stay healthy, fit and fresh for race day.
  • Do not race if you are injured or sick. Consider the outcome of your choice as well as your long term health and training/racing goals before the instant gratification your ego may feel when consider toeing the start line. 
  • Do get a full body massage on the Sunday/Monday of race week. This should be a flush massage, not spot specific or deep tissue. Your massage should be from someone who you have used in the past, that knows your body well.
  • Do not focus on what other athletes are/are not doing. Only focus on yourself. Never race another athlete's race or try to follow the diet/fueling plans of another athlete.
  • Do understand that there is no one perfect recipe for tapering. Your taper response is unique to you and your training background, your event and your physiology.
  • Do remind yourself that you are ready. Don't worry about the past or the future but focus on the present moment. 


It's Race Week!!

High Fives All Around!!

It's race week! 

I've waited seven long months since Ironman Chattanooga to say those words.

On Sunday, I get to experience all the nerves, excitement, questions, low moments, pain, what if's, emotions and fun of participating in a half Ironman. But this time it will be extra special as Karel and I will be sharing the race course with over 30 of our Trimarni coaching athletes as part of the Tri Club Regional Championship at IM 70.3 FL!

Nearing the age of 36 years old, I think back to almost 12 years ago when I participated in my first half IM event in Disney. I had no idea what I was doing yet I loved every mile of it. Fast forward to 12 Ironman finishes, 4 Ironman World Championship finishes and too many half IM events to remember, I feel stronger, healthier and fitter than ever before but my love for the sport hasn't changed. I love the sport of triathlon as it keeps me healthy and happy and provides me with so many amazing opportunities to live life to the fullest.

Racing is a skill and it's something you get better at the more you do it. It's now time to dust off the rust at this early season race and go through the motions of racing. I look forward to the high and low moments of pushing my limits for 70.3 miles as I test my current fitness, strengths and limiters.

And most of all, I look forward to finding motivation and inspiration from other athletes as racing has a special way of bringing out the best in all of us.