Essential Sports Nutrition


Ironman Austria '18 Race Report - 2.4 mile swim

2.4 mile swim
With two previous great swim performance at Ironman Austria (my first 1-hour swim and first sub 1-hour swim of 57 minutes), a little part of me was looking forward to a fast swim but a big part of me was wondering - will my body know what to do for 2.4 miles? I tried to clear those thoughts and just focus on the present moment and to not jump ahead with any thoughts on the outcome. This is the reason why I don’t wear a watch when I swim in races as I don’t want a time to get into my head or dictate how my day will go or is going.

When I got to the first buoy, I settled into a good rhythm. Because of the rolling start, there were not clumps of athletes but I always found myself next to other swimmers. Thankfully it wasn’t sunny out (very overcast) so this helped with sighting. Plus, I always wear a fresh new pair of goggles for an Ironman which makes for fog-free swimming. The water felt a bit choppy at times but I found a good rhythm and really focused on my stroke and grabbing the water and moving myself forward. I was able to swim side by side by a few fast swimmers but I also found myself passing a lot of athletes. Even thought Karel and I started somewhat together in the water, I didn't focus on his race or try to swim with him.

Many times when I swim, I find myself by another swimmer who is veering of course and swimming into me but I don’t let these things suck the energy out of me. Most of the time I just laugh and think “dude – where are you going?” Whenever I found myself thinking how far I still had to swim, I just rerouted my thoughts to focusing on getting from one buoy to the next, imaging myself in the pool covering distance like I was swimming continuous 100 yards.

Once I made the first left hand turn (keeping buoys on my left), I found myself drifting away from the course. I felt like I was having to counteract this push by swimming at a diagonal just to get myself back on course. Finally I made my way back on the course by the buoys. I don’t like to swim too close to the buoys as it is usually more cluttered and harder to keep my swimming rhythm so I am ok to swim a little out from the buoys but this time I felt way too far. It only took a few minutes of swimming before I found myself back on course. Once I made the next/last turn, it was time to swim straight to the canal. The water was getting a lot more choppy but I felt myself getting stronger with each stroke as if my body was finally waking up. There were plenty of buoys on the course which made it easy to sight. I warmed up nicely in the water but oddly, I got a little cold on the way to the canal – it lasted only a few buoys and then I warmed up again.

I typically like to build my effort as the swim distance progresses in a half or full distance Ironman so once I entered the canal for the last 1000 meters, I really picked up the effort. I love swimming in this canal as it makes me feel like I am in a pool as I can see myself moving forward with lots of spectators cheering on both sides and on the bridges that we swim underneath. The canal is rather shallow but deep enough to take a full swim stroke (at least for me and my 5-foot frame). It’s quite the swimming experience!

I had plenty of room in the canal as it wasn’t too packed when I got there so I could really focus on my own rhythm. Once I saw the two big orange buoys to signal that we were at the end of the course, I started to make my way to the right to make a hard right turn to the swim exit. My immediate thought when I was pulled out of the water by the volunteers to get on the ramp to exit the swim was that my swim didn’t feel super fast- I was guessing I swam around 1:01-1:02 as it just felt like a slow swim because of the chop, me getting slightly off course and my body taking some time to wake-up in the water. Of course, I was just guessing as I had no way of knowing my swim time without a watch (and no clock at the swim exit) but that’s what it felt like. But once I started running to make my way to the transition area (it’s a loooong way to run), I felt the energy from the crowd and it felt good to be out of the water and on my way to my bike.

At Ironman Austria, all athletes share the same "changing" tent so there is no men and women’s changing area (unless you do need to change/get naked and then you can go behind a curtain wall). Because of this, the tent is much busier than I am use to in the states - which it is nice to have so many athletes around as it reminds me that we are all in this journey together. I also saw several ladies around which reminded me how competitive the field is here in Austria. There were lots of volunteers and I had a nice lady helping me out as I transitioned from swim to bike. She put on my bib belt for me around my waist (required to be worn on the bike on your back) as I put on my compression socks and helmet. I opted to wear compression socks instead of socks + calf sleeves as I often get blisters from wearing the socks + sleeves combo while racing. This required me to take off my chip to put on my compression socks (I didn't want to put the socks over my chip as I was worried it would be too tight) but I put the chip in my mouth just to make sure I wouldn’t forget to put it back on (versus lying it on the bench).

Instead of putting on my cycling shoes in the tent, I carried them with me to my bike which was in the very last row before the bike exit. The transition area is really long! But first, before running to my bike, I made a quick trip to the bathroom. I’ve learned from many Ironmans that it’s much better to use the transition area to empty yourself versus needing to go when on the bike or run. Let’s just call it being proactive versus reactive. Once I got to my bike, I turned on my bike computer and put on my cycling shoes by my bike and ran my bike out to the mount line and started my ride. I was really looking forward to the bike as I wanted to showcase my improved cycling fitness and skills. I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed that Karel’s bag and bike (on the same rack as mine) was gone before I arrived which meant he once again beat me out of the swim. I'm ok with this so long as it's only by seconds and not minutes. 😁 


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. 


2018 Ironman Austria Finishers - quick recap

As of yesterday, Karel and I have now completed a combined 23 Ironman races. With every race, we learn something about the art of Ironman racing. While physical readiness is important, the race requires such great mental toughness. With every Ironman, we get a one-day opportunity to test both our mental and physical skills. While we always hope for that perfect day of racing, we know very well that that day rarely comes but just a few times in an athlete's career. Therefore, the other 98% of races require a lot of focus, determination and strong will to not give up in order to reach the finish line. And let's not forget about all those mental demons trying to convince you that the pain is not worth the finishing medal and that quitting is the best option. 

After crossing our 3rd Ironman Austria finish line (my 13th Ironman and Karel's 10th finish/11th start), Karel and I can honestly say that this was one of the hardest 140.6 mile adventures that we have ever had to take our body on and to be honest - it wasn't a day full of smiles, enjoyment and fun. We both struggled all day, at various times, throughout the entire race. While there were some highs, there were many, many lows. It was one of those days where the body and mind were not working well together. I'm not sure how it worked but something in the mind kept us going when we wanted to quit a thousand times on the marathon run. Typically, the pain that is felt in the later miles of an Ironman marathon is anticipated but this time, the pain was just so deep and uncomfortable that it was a constant struggle to run 26.2 miles in that type of hurt. Thankfully no nutrition issues or other issues - just not enough energy to speed up my pace. There was A LOT of walking through the aid stations to reset my mind and body from mile 6-24.

The highlight of the day was Karel swimming his first 1-hour swim in a speedy low 58 minutes. Of course, he had to one-up me and beat me in the water by 28 seconds. I am just happy that my 57 min swim from 2016 Ironman Austria was not a fluke and I have another legit 1-hour wetsuit swim in my Ironman resume. Karel felt so-so for the bike, especially since he rode most of the bike solo as the rolling start swim (8 athletes every 5-6 seconds) really separated the field. My legs didn't come around on the bike until the 2nd loop when I finally started to feel a little more like myself. But the first loop was a struggle and I almost debated stopping at half way on the bike.

If it wasn't for Roman (Karel's friend from Czech) telling me that I was leading my age group around half way of the run, I was ready to give up. But hearing that I was still having a competitive race despite not feeling very competitive, it somehow kept me going. Karel couldn't believe that he finished 5th (out of over 400!) in his very competitive age group. The weather was nearly perfect for the swim and bike and although it did feel a little warm when the sun came out on the run and it was very windy on the bike (and choppy in the water at times), the conditions were tolerable for racing. We have raced in far worse conditions but something was just off all day. But that's ok - that's all part of racing. You can't feel great all the time and you can't get much accomplished if you only start (and finish) races on the days you feel good.

With every Ironman finisher medal, there's a story behind what it took to earn that medal. This medal's are not given away but you have to work for them.....really, really hard. While the day did not go as Karel and I hoped for it to go, we are not disappointed in our performance for that's part of racing. You savor the few races when everything seems to fall into place and you test your mental strength and learn things when your body falls apart. This race took every ounce of willpower to not quit and despite the all-day struggles, I'm so glad that we didn't give up.

Thank you for the cheers and support - we could feel your energy all day!

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Also a huge congrats to our athletes Justine and Natalie for finishing their first experience of racing Ironman Austria! It was so awesome to share this race with them! Proud coach moment to witness our athletes grit it out to the finish line!
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And it was so special to have Karel's mom out cheering for us as it was the first time she has watched Karel race in a triathlon!


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2.4 mile swim: 58.48
T1: 6:08
112 mile bike: 5:20.58
T2: 4:03
26.2 mile run: 3:53.15
Total: 10:23.10, 2nd AG 35-39 (out of 64), 22nd female (out of 336), 344th overall (out of 2315)

2.4 mile swim: 58.20
T1: 4:31
112 mile bike: 5:03.29
T2: 3:01
26.2 mile run: 3:10.43
Total: 9:20.02, 5th AG 40-44 (out of 411), 36th male (out of 1977), 41st overall (out of 2315)

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