Essential Sports Nutrition


My 2018 IMWI training stats

                                                       2010 Ironman Wisconsin Finisher!

When I started training for my first Ironman, I was really obsessed with volume. I felt that with every workout, the more miles/hours that I could accumulate, the more prepared I would be (IMFL '07). While I had a great day of racing and loved the entire race day experience, this mindset didn't serve me well in my second season of long distance triathlon racing. I got injured just before the Ironman World Championship - my very first IM Kona.

Over the next six years, I made a lot of mistakes with my training. I was still able to race but I was always frustrated that I couldn't stay consistent with training. My body never felt strong enough to handle the volume and intensity of training that I felt I should be doing to improve as an Ironman triathlete. It was disappointing to feel like I was constantly rehabing myself to get well enough to race, instead of putting my energy and time (and money) into training.

Thankfully, lessons were learned. I changed my perspective on endurance triathlon training. It was not an easy change or one that came naturally. Rather than trying to go longer or to get faster, my focus was on getting stronger. This required a new methodology of training that did not look like the training of other Ironman athletes. I kept worrying that I wouldn't be ready without all the volume. I was doing much less volume and the results were very slow to come. I was hesitant at first but with Karel as my guide (coach), I knew something had to change if I wanted to stay in this sport and not destroy my body.

Overtime, I improved. And continued to improve. And I'm still improving. As I got stronger, my confidence grew. A lot of this happened over the last 4 years. I have been racing more often and I'm racing better than ever before. And with this new style of training, my body is staying healthy.

Because I had spent so many years frustrated with my body, I finally felt what it was like to have a healthy and resilient body. This made me love the sport even more for I felt like I wasn't destroying my body but actually making it stronger with an appropriate style of training. We didn't want to keep this training a secret so we began to apply these new methods to our coaching athletes. While some athletes needed a learning curve to trust this higher-frequency/intensity, lower volume Ironman training, we can confidently say that this style of training works for us and our athletes.

Of course, the definition of "works" is all relative to our coaching philosophy which is focused on helping our athletes reach performance goals without compromising health. 

While my 2018 IMWI training stats may not be all that impressive in terms of volume, I'm very proud of what my body was able to do with my training this summer. More so, I'm so thankful to my body and I hope that my health stats reflect why this style of training works so well for me. 

Training stats:

Number of Ironman starts: 13

Number of Ironman finishes: 13
Kona qualifying: 5 times
IMKona finisher: 4 times
Races completed this year: 1 Ironman (IM Austria, 2nd AG), 3 half Ironmans (IM 70.3 FL 1st AG, IM 70.3 St. George tied for 2nd AG, Challenge Prague 1st AG)

Longest swim (8/29)
5400 yards

Longest bike hours (8/11)
5:20 (88 miles, ~6200 feet elevation gained) - Trimarni training camp

Longest bike miles (5/12)
91 miles (4:56)

Longest run (8/19)
1:58, 14 miles

Mentally toughest weekend of training (8/17-8/19)
Friday: AM 5100 yard swim
Sat: AM 3:56 bike + 1:01 (7.7 mile) brick run, PM 25 minute (2.5 mile) run
Sun: AM 1:58 run (14 miles), PM 2600 yard swim

Biggest week of training (6/4-6/10)
21:35 hours
12 hours swim
11:36 hours bike
5:46 hours run
15 sessions completed over the week

Biggest weekend of training (6/8-6/10)
Friday: AM 4200 yard swim, PM 1:22 bike
Sat: AM 4:20 bike (78 miles) + 1 hour brick run (7.48 miles), PM 45 min run (4.76 miles)
Sun: AM 1:56 run (13.5 miles), PM 3000 yard swim

Number of workouts to "test" to establish training zones:
None this year

Health Stats: 
Last sickness (cold/flu) - June 2007
Last time taking antibiotics - ? Maybe 10+ years ago
Menstrual cycle - regular each month since Sept 2007 (naturally)
Stress fractures - Never
Broken bones - Never
Last injury - Spring 2013 (hip/back)
Average sleep - 8-9 hours/night
Food allergies - none
Health issues - none
Daily supplements consumed:  Iron
Diet: Lacto-ovo vegetarian for 26 years


Feeling burned out before a big race?

One of my favorite parts about nearing the end of an Ironman journey is reflecting on all of the past training sessions that occurred over the past year. Even more so, I like to think back to all of my previous Ironman events to remember why I love the 140.6 mile distance. I have 13 Ironman experiences to reflect on and each one came with highs and lows while getting myself to the start and finish line. There's something so special about the process of mentally and physically preparing for this extreme one-day event. While it may seem like an arduous task, I think of it like any other project in life that requires patience, trust, commitment, consistency and flexibility. I also feel strongly that the Ironman distance is an event to be taken very seriously for it takes a huge toll on the body and mind. While there's a big commitment to the training, I never feel like training takes over my life. If anything, I really enjoy the training for it provides me just enough of a release to explore nature, strech my limits and relieve some stress without feeling too exhausted for more important life responsibilities.

Nearing the end of Ironman training while approaching the Ironman taper, I find that many athletes feel a sense of relief that the Ironman journey is almost over with and they can't wait get their life back and return to a normal state of health and living. This is concerning to me for I feel that even with the monumental task of preparing for a 140.6 mile event, no athlete should feel that training is taking over their life. Sure, there are some times when training will take on more of a focus in life but I don't feel that an endurance triathlete should experience this type of burn out, especially so close to race day.

So why does this happen? Here are a few of my thoughts:
  • Too much emphasis on miles/volume completed and not enough rest and proper nutrition to support this extreme style of training. 
  • Internal and external pressure. 
  • Perfectionism, a rigid training plan and unrealistically high expectations can contribute to loss of enjoyment for the sport. 
  • Training monotony and not enough variation in the training structure of workouts. 
  • Feeling stressed about a performance outcome (achieving a certain time, place or qualification standard). 
  • Ignoring the body's signs and symptoms of being fatigue, overtrained, dehydrated, sleep deprived, underfueled and injured. 
  • Low self-confidence due to inconsistent performances or not meeting self-imposed standards. 
  • "More is better" belief and starting/completing a training session at any cost. 
  • Losing your relationship with the sport and seeing training as a chore. 
  • Spending too much energy on what other athletes are doing, never feeling like you are doing enough. 
  • Poor stress management, self-care and coping skills for when life feels too busy or overwhelming. 
  • Not enough (or any) support from family/significant other. 
  • Your coach is treating you only like an athlete instead of like a human being and whole person. 
  • Too much focus/emphasis on weaknesses instead of on strengths. 
  • An extreme and rigid style of eating. 
  • Obsession with body image.
While it's completely normal and expected that you are going to feel tired at times throughout your Ironman journey, complete mental and physical exhaustion just a few weeks (or months) out from your big event is not something to take lightly.  The pressure that most athletes put on themselves to succeed in all areas of life is tremendous. Remember, you do this sport because of what it gives you in return, with all the other moving parts in your life. If you are feeling burned out, take a step back and figure out how you can train for your event without it feeling like it's another stressor in your busy life.

If you need a break from your sport, take it without guilt, shame or worry.