Essential Sports Nutrition


IMKona '18: 10 & 9 days out

After a surprisingly great night of sleep on Tuesday, we woke up just in time for the sunrise while sitting out on the patio enjoying a pre-workout snack. We wasted no time with our first workout on the island and headed straight to "dig me beach" for a 40-minute open water swim. 

Sadly, the water was a bit more cloudy and there weren't a lot of fish. It was also rather warm. However, it still felt amazing to swim in the ocean with the sun shining down on us. 

Karel and I swam an easy 40 minutes (~20 minutes out and back). We kept it fairly easy throughout but built the effort on the way back. The focus was just to move blood after travel and to have fun in the ocean. 

Even though it's still 10 days out from the 2018 IM World Championship, the swim venue was pretty busy. It was nice to be surrounded with so many triathletes from all different parts of the world. Karel is looking forward to connecting with some of his Czech friends next week. 

As we were walking back to our condo, we spotted a turtle! 

A local walked by and told us that she has a name and it's "Sandy." So now when we see a turtle, we say hi to Sandy.

I was craving a hearty breakfast after a day filled with snacking on Tuesday (travel day) so I made us pancakes (with the help of a box of Kodiak cakes that I bought at Wal-mart), along with scrambled eggs and chopped fresh fruit (banana, papaya, pineapple). 

Karel unpacked our bikes from our Scicon bags and before getting on the bike, we walked to the farmer's market to pick up a few more produce items and then stopped at Daylight mind for fresh bread. 

It was then time to head out to the Queen K (Bike course). We first made a quick stop at Bike Works for Co2s on our way out of town and then made our way North on the Queen K for an hour out and an hour back of easy spinning just to wake-up the body again from all the travel. Although we started our ride just before noon, there were still plenty of cyclists out on the road. There are a few lights/stops for the first 6 miles or so (to the airport) and then it's non-stop riding - just you and the elements. 

It wasn't crazy windy out but it was windy enough to know that you were in Kona. It was also very warm - drinking two bottles was incredibly easy throughout the ride (INFINIT). 

This was the first time that our Ventums traveled to Kona and based on my feedback, the bike rides so well in the wind. As I mentioned in my IMWI race report (it was super windy there), the design of the bike makes it feel like you are slicing through the wind. Of course, I still need to give it the real wind test in Hawi (which I plan to do this weekend) but with the wind that we experienced and the long rolling hills, I felt very controlled, safe and comfortable on my Ventum. I could not be more happy about my decision to switch from my Trek to Ventum just a few months ago. Also, Karel really loves his Ventum. While his back pain isn't 100% gone, it's remarkably improved since switching to the Ventum. 

Here are a few more pics from our ride. 

I lava you Karel! Sorry, I have been wanting to say that :) 

I love my Ventum! This will also likely be my wheel choice for Kona '19 (possibly a deeper rear wheel).

Obligatory bike-lava picture. 

After the ride, we ate a later lunch and then spent the next few hours on the computer getting work done. Karel and I took a short walk in the evening as the sun was setting and finished off the evening by watching a few Talbot Cox videos and Super League triathlon (YouTube) on the ipad before bed. We forced ourselves to stay up as late as possible to help with the jet lag so we made it to about 8:30pm before we were both out. 

Thursday morning....9 hours of sleep! I couldn't believe that we slept until 5:20am! Our daily morning routine back in Greenville is answering emails and spending a little time on Training Peaks before our first workout of the day so we haven't changed the routine, just the view. 

Karel and I both had our typical pre-training snack (Oatmeal for Karel, waffles and yogurt for me) before driving to the Energy Lab for our run. 

With the new changes to the run course, we wanted to check out the new layout in and out of the Energy Lab. It looks like the course may have been changed because there is no longer an entrance to the Energy lab from the Queen K (heading North). The new section means more time on the Queen K and in the Energy lab and less time on Ali'i drive. 

We purposely wanted to start the run early to avoid running in the hot sun and lucky us, we were blessed with a cloudy sky around 8am. It was still warm but for Kona standards, it was not boiling hot. As always, Karel ran with his Naked Running Belt and I had my Nathan Trail Mix Plus belt. We both had two x 10 ounce flasks for the run. I used Clif Hydration in one and Carbo Rocket in the other and Karel had Clif hydration in both of his flasks. 

Karel's run workout was 80-minutes form focused, smooth running. Since I'm not racing, I could suffer a little more so I did my weekly "track" run on the course which was 6 x 1K (.62 miles) w/ 2 minute rest between. I've been doing this workout for the past few weeks and I really enjoy it. I go by feel and run as strong as I can and then review my file when I am finished to see how I did. For this run, I was able to do all 1K's around or under 6:40 min/mile. Karel and I both listened to the latest PPF podcast about conquering Kona. It was a good one and worth listening to. 

Here are a few pics from the run (I took them during my recovery intervals). 

New section in the Energy lab. 

View of the new section in the energy lab from the Queen K. 

Queen K

Back section in the Energy lab. 

After our run, a few pics and a recovery/rehydration drink, we made a quick stop at Wal-mart for a few more items before heading back to our condo. 

We came home to a condo that smelled amazing! Karel's mom made us Vanocka (similar to challah bread) while we were away and I couldn't wait to dig in and have some delicious bread with my breakfast. 

We headed back outside to the patio to refuel before getting back to work on the computer (it's not all play for us here. We still gotta pay for all of Campy's toys!)

Around 1:30pm, I gathered some energy for my swim workout only to find that the pool was closed until 3pm (after I arrived). I grabbed a quick snack and headed to the ocean instead. 

Karel and his mom headed to the beach/swim start for Karel do a casual open water swim while his mom played around in the water and I headed out for an open water workout. 

Holy waves! It was choppy out there! I managed to do a somewhat quality workout but I would have much preferred the pool. My workout was: ~700 warm-up. MS: 3x's: 100 smooth, 100 strong, 100 smooth, 200 strong. I "rested" 10-20 sec between. Rather than swimming out and then back, I used a few buoys as my "course" and swam back and forth along a ~300 yard course. I saw about 5 other people swimming but other than that, it was just me and the fish. 

47 minutes later, I finished up my workout and before getting out of the water, I saw Sandy! She was swimming and I am pretty sure she was smiling. As for the rest of the day, it was pretty low key. The days seem to go by slowly throughout the morning but with an early sunset (~6pm), it's easy to get sleepy for an early bedtime. The island is getting more busy with triathletes and I can feel the energy building as we only have a few more sleeps until race week! As a reminder, I am not racing (only Karel). But as a huge fan of the sport, I am so happy I can be here to enjoy everything on this magical island, along with all of the athletes who are racing. 


Kona '18 - Travel day

Maps not to scale make the Hawaii islands seem so close to California. So deceiving! Well let me tell you, it's not a quick hop over the Pacific ocean. Over the past 11 years (since my first IM Kona in 2007), I've traveled to the Big Island for the IM World Championship a total of 6 times. Four of those times I was an athlete ('07, '11, '13, '15) and now twice as a spectathlete ('16 and '18). While it's a long journey to get to Kona, the first step off the airplane makes it so worth it. There's nothing like seeing the island as the plane is getting closer to landing.  

Our journey to Kona started on Monday afternoon. After a see-you-later to Campy and our cats (they will be well taken care of thanks to my mom and our neighbor Joey), we packed up the car and headed to Atlanta around 3:30pm. With a 9am flight on Tuesday morning and a total of 11ish hours of flying, the thought of leaving our house at 3am on Tues was a bit exhausting and stressful. Since we were leaving our car at the Holiday Inn (Parkway Parking), I booked us a hotel room for the night. It was actually a great deal because we could get 7 nights free parking with a one-night stay at the hotel. Aside from a bit of traffic in Atlanta, the trip was very uneventful to Atlanta. We listed to a few podcasts (loved the recent interviews on Triathlon Taren with Lucy Charles and Cody Beales) to help pass the time by for 2.5 hours (well, 3 hours with traffic). We ate dinner at Moe's (our favorite "fast food" option when we travel) and then checked into the hotel around 7:30pm. It was a quick stay as we got up at 5:20am, ate some food in the hotel at 6am and boarded the complimentary airport shuttle at 6:30am. We arrived to the airport around 6:45am and by 7:30am we were at our gate. Pretty quick for the Atlanta Airport! 

We usually fly Delta but I was able to find very affordable tickets to Kona on United (likely due to the Volcano) and the seat options plus layover options were much better on United versus Delta. We also wanted only one layover to eliminate a lot of plane changes with our bikes, so that is why we decided to leave from Atlanta instead of Greenville. And because Karel's mom is going with us to Kona, I wanted to make sure that this trip was easy for us all but also affordable. 

The first flight to Denver was 3.5 hours. I packed a bagel + PB sandwich for this first flight, along with other snacks (ex. trail mix, pretzels, Amrita bars). I "upgraded" our seats for around $47 each which was well worth it to have the extra leg room (especially for Karel). To pass the time, I watched a movie and skimmed through my book (Essential Sports Nutrition) once again as I am sharing some sneak-peaks for you all on my Facebook page

I typically like to give us a layover of 1:45-2 hours when we fly with our bikes so we had time in Denver before heading to Kona, to get some food before our 7.5 hour flight. I found a delicious lunch option of tofu, potatoes, apples, walnuts and goat cheese along with a strawberry whey smoothie. I brought the salad on the plane for later and had the smoothie during our layover. When we travel, I try to eat small meals/snack every few hours as it's easier to acclimate to the new time zone and to help the stomach with digestion (versus eating large meals and then having long hours go by without eating). 

I was very surprised to see that our flight to Kona was nearly half empty! There were so many empty seats. This was a big shock because in the past, the flight has always been filled with people but perhaps with the Volcano, people are choosing not to travel to Kona right now. We did have plenty of triathletes on the plane which was nice to be around so many like-minded people. 

Karel had his own row and extra-leg room up in the front of the plane and his mom and I sat in the middle of the plane (I wasn't able to get us three seats together near the front so I just purchased a seat for Karel so he could stretch out). Karel's mom wrote in her journal throughout the trip and enjoyed looking out the window (we had three seats for two of us so I took the aisle and she took the window). I watched a few movies/TV shows, worked on the computer and took a few short naps (I'm not a very good napper but I tried). 

Although a long flight, it was great to touch down in Kona. The view, smell and feeling of stepping off the plane is priceless and I always look forward to that moment. Karel's mom cried when she got off the plane for she never thought she'd ever travel to an island. Thanks to triathlon, we have been able to share so many of our races with Karel's mom and it's given us an excuse to travel and see the world. 

There's something about the outside airport of Kona that says "welcome, you are on an island." 

Karel picked up the rental car (mini van) and I collected our luggage (yay - everything arrived!) and then we headed off to Wal-mart for groceries and then to the Kona Plaza - our home away from home for the next two weeks. 

Karel and I went for a ~30 min jog along Ali'i drive and it was so nice to move blood and smell the salty air along the ocean. When the sun went down, it got very dark so I used my phone as a light to keep us running safely along the road. We ran just after 6pm - it gets dark early here but the sun rises super early, which makes it easy to get the day started early and to wind down quickly at night. After a light snack, we answered a few emails (work stuff) and then went to sleep around 8:30pm. We were quick to fall asleep and surprisingly, we slept until 3am (forced ourselves to go back to sleep until 5am).

Stay tuned for more of my updates as I will try to blog each day of our daily activities/workouts on the Big Island. 


Is your sunscreen safe and effective?

As the seasons change from hot and steamy to cold and dreary, his means less outdoor workouts or layering/dressing for the conditions. But for a lot of athletes (especially those heading to the Big Island of Kona over the next two weeks), there's still a lot of time left for outdoor training, which means you need to continue to protect your skin. 

Sunscreen is a very important product for overall health. Sunscreen use can help prevent skin cancer by protecting you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Regardless of age, gender or race, anyone can get skin cancer. Sadly, it's estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Even if you don't burn easily, wearing sunscreen is still important. Sunburn is an immediate reaction, but sun damage occurs over a lifetime.

The following information is from the Environmental Working Group: 

"Thus, ingredients in sunscreen should be able to withstand powerful UV radiation without losing their effectiveness or forming potentially harmful breakdown products.  Ingredients should not be irritating or cause skin allergies. In a spray sunscreen, it's possible to potentially inhale ingredients, so ingredients must not be harmful to lungs or internal organs. Further, sunscreens commonly include ingredients that act as “penetration enhancers” and help the product adhere to skin. As a result, many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and can be measured in blood, breast milk and urine samples.
Active ingredients in sunscreens come in two forms, mineral and chemical filters. Each uses a different mechanism for protecting skin and maintaining stability in sunlight. The most common sunscreens on the market contain chemical filters. These products typically include a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. A handful of products combine zinc oxide with chemical filters.
Laboratory studies indicate that some chemical UV filters may mimic hormones, and physicians report sunscreen-related skin allergies, which raises important questions about unintended human health consequences from frequent sunscreen application."

If you are using a chemical-based sunscreen, there's a good chance that it contains oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is one of the most common chemical filters found in chemical sunscreens because it provides UV coverage. While the primary function of oxybenzone is to absorb UV light, research has shown that it is also absorbed by the skin and stays in the human body for an unknown amount of time. Why should you be concerned about this ingredient? The EWG has rated oxybenzone an 8 on their toxicity rating scale, meaning it is one of the most toxic ingredients found in cosmetic products like sunscreen. The EWG and other toxicology experts are concerned about the compound because it has been linked to hormone disruption and has the potential to damage cells that may lead to skin cancer.

Another UV-B filter is octinoxate. It can be absorbed rapidly through skin and has been detected in human urine, blood and breast milk. Octinoxate is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen and can disrupt thyroid function. Octinoxate does not filter from UV-A rays. As it relates to the environment, some states like Hawaii are looking to ban products containing chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate because of concerns to coral reefs relating to coral bleaching. Kona athletes - does your sunscreen contain 
oxybenzone and octinoxate??

To choose a safe sunscreen, here are some top tips: 
  1. Stay up-to-date on all things sunscreen by regularly checking out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their annual guide to sunscreens.
  2. Make sure your sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
  3. SPF 50 or less is recommended. Higher is not better.  People are more likely to use high-SPF products improperly and as a result may expose themselves to more harmful ultraviolet radiation than people relying on products with lower SPF values. Why? SPF factor tells you only how much the sunscreen is blocking the sun’s UVB rays, not the UVA rays. And since UVA rays don’t burn your skin as fast as UVB, you may be staying too long in the sun – without knowing it. So even if you don’t actually notice it on your skin, your skin may be damaged from the UVA rays. Properly applied SPF 50 sunscreen blocks 98 percent of UVB rays; SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. When used correctly, sunscreen with SPF values in the range of 30 to 50 will offer adequate sunburn protection, even for people most sensitive to sunburn.
  4. Avoid harmful chemicals. Read labels and choose companies who are committed to health and safety standards. Ingredients such as Oxybenzone, Octinoxate and Retinyl palminate should be avoided.
What's wrong with high SPF?
Sunscreen report
The problem with vitamin A
Coral Reef
Safe cosmetics - Octinoxate

Most of the information in this blog post above was copied from the sources listed above.
Because of my outdoor active lifestyle, I'm always on the hunt for a sunscreen that protects my skin from the sun and is free from chemicals. While there are products out there that meet my criteria, the biggest struggle is finding one that is tolerable for sweating, isn't sticky and is effective.

My friend Katrine, who is a Beautycounter consultant, reached out to me over a year ago regarding the sun protection line of products from Beautycounter. As a long time friend, I trusted her testimonial and asked her if I could try out some of the products. Of course, she did not ask me to promote the products in any way and I received no compensation to write this review. But when I like something, I want to share it with my followers.

Since last April, I have been using the following products:
Protect Stick Sunscreen Body
Protect All over SFP 30
Protect Stick Sunscreen Face

For myself, I have not had any issues with these products in terms of sunburn or feeling like I can't sweat with these products on my body. My favorite is the sunscreen face - it feels like a moisturizer on my skin. I also enjoy the refreshing smell and non-greasy feel. Since I have never been fond of cream-based sunscreens for training because it feels like I am sweating through layers of cream, I haven't had issues wearing the sunscreen cream. The nice thing about the stick is that it's easy to carry/bring with you and it makes sunscreen application very easy with no messy hands (which is a good thing when you are about to ride your bike or eat!). I also liked the size of the face stick, which is small and compact - perfect for traveling or keeping in your jersey or pool bag when you need to reapply.

If you are interested in trying out any of the Beautycounter sunscreen products, Katrine would like to offer you a discount (below). I get nothing back in return from your order....I am just looking out for your skin safety.

Place your order with this link and then email your order confirmation to Katrine at She will then immediately reimburse you via mailed check, PayPal or Venmo (which ever you prefer). I do not make any money from your purchase. Just passing along a great deal.

You will receive $25 off any order of $75 or greater (not including tax & shipping). You also do not have to purchase the sunscreen to qualify for this discount.

Happy shopping!