Essential Sports Nutrition


IM 70.3 Chattanooga - gear and nutrition recap

Marni Race Day Nutrition 

Pre Race Nutrition (race day)
-2 waffles, peanut butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon
-Cup of coffee (Nescafe Gold Instant)
-Small glass of water
-Small glass of water w/ 1 scoop Osmo pre-load for women

-In the 90 minutes before the race - 16.9 ounce plastic water bottle filled with 2 scoops NBS Carbo Hydration (100 calories/25g carbs/300mg sodium)
-~15-20 min before race start - 3 Skratch Rasberry chews

Bike: -Front bottle cage - 26 ounce bottle w/ 6 scoops NBS Carbo Hydration Strawberry Lemonade (240 calories/60g carbs/720 mg sodium).
-1.2 Liter (40 ounce) Ventum hydration system - 4 scoops INFINIT custom nutrition (pink lemonade flavor) mixed with water in a bottle, then poured into hydration system (total: 500 calories/122g carbs/1012mg sodium)
-Rear bottle - 26 ounce bottle w/ 2 scoops INFINIT custom nutrition (grape flavored) (250 calories/62g carbs/506mg sodium) - only consumed a few sips, used as back-up fuel/hydration.
-Bag of Skratch chews in bento box (opened in advance) - not consumed, used as back-up fuel.
-Water at aid station 2 and 3 for cooling (and a few sips)

Run: -Naked Running belt (size 3)
-2 x 10 ounce flasks - each with 1 scoop Carborocket Hydration Raspberry Lemonade (108 calories/27g carbs/331 mg sodium per flask)
-Sip of coke at mile 9 (not planned, just on impulse)
-Water at each aid station for cooling/sipping
Karel Race day nutrition

Pre Race Nutrition (race day)
-Quaker overnight oats (mixed in the morning), 2/3rd Rasberries and lemon bar.
-Espresso from Nespresso machine (brought from home)
-Glass of water with 3/4 scoop NBS pre load

-In the 90 minutes before the race - Water bottle filled with 2 scoops NBS Carbo Hydration (100 calories/25g carbs/300mg sodium)
-~15-20 min before race start - -Nutrend Magneslife strong

Bike: -Front bottle cage - 26 ounce bottle w/ 6 scoops NBS Carbo Hydration (240 calories/60g carbs/720 mg sodium).
-1.4 Liter (47 ounce) Ventum hydration system - 12 scoops NBS Carbo Hydration mixed with water in a bottle, then poured into hydration system (total: 480 calories/120g carbs/1440mg sodium)
-SIS Electrolyte Gel - consumed in last 30 minutes of the bike (87 calories/22g carbs/300mg sodium)

-2 x 10 ounce flasks (stored in kit pockets) - each with 1 packet Skratch (80 calories/21g carbs/380mg sodium per flask)
-1 Enervit sport gel
-Water as needed for cooling/sipping 



PR lotion (applied before arriving to race venue)
-Castelli San Remo one-piece Trimarni kit
-Lulu sport bra
-R2 Compress Sport Calf Sleeves
-TYR 2.0 Special ops clear goggles
-ROKA Maverick X wetsuit

-Ventum One
-Alto cc56 front wheel (tubeless)
-Lightweight autobahn tubeless disc
-Bontrager Velocis Women road shoes
-Giro Air attack helmet with shield
-Socks: Compressport pro racing ultra light
-Garmin Edge 500

-Nike 4% running shoes
-Garmin 235 watch
-Garmin HR monitor
-Roka custom sunglasses (SL-1 series)
-Trimarni BOCO visor 


PR lotion (applied before putting on wetsuit)
-Castelli San Remo one-piece Trimarni kit
-Michael Phelps Xceed goggles
-ROKA Maverick X wetsuit
-Garmin 735 XT

-Ventum One w/ custom Kcycle paint job
-51 Speedshop mono bars with FSM extensions
-Shimano Dura Ace Di2 groupset
-Dash Strike Custom Saddle/Post combo
-4iiii powermeter
-Front Alto CT 56
-Rear ALTO CT 311 Disc
-Continental Force 24mm tubular tires
-Giro Aerohead
-LG Tri Air Lite shoes 
-Garmin Edge 820-Scosche Rhythm 24 HR monitor

-Nike 4% running shoes (1st generation)
-Garmin 735 XT

-Roka custom sunglasses (SL-1 series)
-Trimarni BOCO trucker running hat
-Socks: Compressport pro racing ultra light 


IM 70.3 Chattanooga Race Report

We arrived to Chattanooga on Thursday afternoon. With this being our 4th time Chatty for a race, it was nice knowing that we are familiar with the area. It was a fairly stress-free 4.5 hours of travel and Campy was super excited for his road trip. He loves the car and of course, being with us. The week going into the race was extremely rough for me. My body was exhausted from my last block of training and my hormones making me feel blah (more on this in a later blog). Karel was on and off - one day he felt pumped to race and then the next day he felt flat and tired. A lot of this was from lingering fatigue from St. George 70.3 just two weeks ago. Whereas Karel doesn't overthink, I experienced a roller-coaster of emotions, thoughts and physical issues on race week. Thankfully, come Friday I started to feel a lot better and the closer we got to the race, the more excited I was to race.

We booked a cool Airbnb townhome (pet friendly) just 2.5 miles from the race venue which made it easy to relax, spread out and get into the race zone. As usual, Karel's back was bothering him in the 48 hours before the race so it was another one of those unknowns of how his back would affect him during the race.

With this being a key race for our team, we had nearly 30 athletes racing (a mix of coached athletes and educational team members). It was so awesome to see so many Trimarnis around the race venue and to have (almost) everyone in one room for our typical pre-race pizza party + course/race discussion. A huge thanks to the YMCA for letting us host the event in the top floor meeting room. We ordered pizza from FIAMMA pizza company and it was so delicious.

After a bike and run on Saturday morning, we went to the race venue to set up our team tent in the Tri club village (thank you Run In for letting us borrow a tent!) and then a few hours later we returned to the venue to check in our bikes. Campy wasn't allowed in the transition area so a nice volunteer watched Campy For the rest of the evening, we watched ITU triathlon racing and cycling all while eating and visualizing our race performances.

Typically I sleep somewhat ok before a race but I got no sleep before this race. I was tossing and turning all night and it felt like I was awake the entire night. I tried not to get frustrated and reminded myself that even if I don't sleep, I can still perform well. Around 2am, I moved to the other bedroom hoping that a different bed/room may help. I may have managed to sleep a little but before I knew it, the alarm was going off at 3:45am. I felt exhausted and super tired on race day morning but just stayed calm and told myself that I would wake up once I arrived to the race venue.

Race morning
After taking a few sips of my morning coffee, I made my standard pre workout/race meal. Karel and I don't do much talking with one another on race day morning as Karel likes to be alone with his own thoughts so I just let him do his own thing. Luckily I had Campy there to talk to :)

After getting dressed in my race day gear, I did a quick jog/walk with Campy around the block to help wake up my body and to get my system going. Karel did his jog as well and around 5:15am we packed up the car with our gear and water bottles/flasks and headed to the race venue. We had already planned where we were going to park on the street so that made it easy to quickly find parking just a few blocks away.

After getting body marked, I helped Karel pump up his disc wheel and then my disc wheel (two person job) and we each set up our transition area. Whereas in IM 70.3 FL I felt flustered as it had been a while since I had to lay out my gear by my bike, I felt like this time around was much easier. Although I always seem to feel like I'm forgetting something. I made a bathroom stop before heading to our team tent to drop off a bag and then we walked to the bus area.

A little after 6am, we took the bus to the swim start (about a mile away) and it was already filled with athletes. The swim was a rolling start, seeded by expected swim times.We were tole pre-race that the swim may be shortened due to the current, which was not something we wanted but it was out of our control. Karel did a short jog warm-up and since I did most of my jogging by the transition area, I felt pretty good before putting on my ROKA wetsuit. It was great to see so many of our athletes near the swim start - so much positive energy.

Around 6:40am, I lined up near the front with no more than a hundred athletes ahead of me (I think). Karel lined up with two of our athletes (Al and Thomas) a few rows ahead of me. The planned 7am age group swim start was delayed as the pros (who swam the entire swim course) needed to pass our first buoy before we could start. Finally, sometime after 7:20am, the horn went off as the official start for the age groupers.

.75 mile swim (Shortened from 1.2 miles)
The swim was quick but we still had to work for it. Because of the shortened swim, I made sure to give a bit stronger effort than usual to try to make up as much time as I could before the bike. I was swimming hard right from the first stroke - which is not how I usually start a race but knew with the short swim, I had to go for it. I was really focused on swimming the shortest line possible to the swim exit (buoys on our right) and also with each stroke, I focused on catching as much water as possible and moving it forcefully behind me. I felt great in my ROKA wetsuit and found the water to be perfect - not too cold, but just right in the low 70s. I was bummed about the shortened swim but grateful that the swim wasn't cancelled. Before I knew it, the swim was over. The best part of my swim was exiting the water and hearing Karel's voice next to me. We both ran up the ramp together but it wasn't long before Karel's speedy legs ran away from me. That was the last time I would see Karel until the end of the race but I was happy that we exited the water (and that I beat him in the swim ;)

Karel's recap:
I was bummed that they adjusted the swim - short and all downstream. Even if I am not the fastest swimmer, I wanted the challenge of swimming upstream. Anyway, I didn't let it bother me. I couldn't change the situation so why waste any mental energy on it. I tried to swim very strong the entire swim, right from the first stroke. I felt very solid during the swim but if it would have been longer, I would have had to ease up a bit with my effort. Overall I'm happy with this swim. 

56 mile bike
After making my way through the long transition, I quickly took off my wetsuit, put on my helmet and cycling shoes (and socks), powered up my Garmin and rolled out of the transition area. The mount line was packed with athletes so I kept running with my bike (close to the barricades) until I had plenty of clear space to mount my bike.

For the first few miles getting out of town, I used this as my "warm-up" to ease into my race effort. I was happy I was on my bike and looked forward to the next 56 miles. Neither Karel or myself race with time goals or metrics goals so racing is entirely by feel - as we are constantly adjusting and adapting to the dynamics of the race. I actually never looked at my total time during this ride as my Garmin screen was set on lap intervals and I would lap the screen to focus on a specific section of the course at a time.

Once I got into GA, I settled into my race effort. I would check in with my power at times but otherwise I just focused on riding my bike well. It's hard to say how I felt on the bike as my watts were higher than normal and I wasn't feeling that pep in my legs. In other words, I felt really strong and could see I was working hard so I didn't expect to feel fresh. Breathing felt good and I reminded myself to keep my pedal stroke smooth (advice of my coach who gave me the OK to push the bike). I didn't feel like there were any big groups around me but I did have to navigate around guys ahead of me here or there. I would either stay draft legal until I felt like there was a good time to pass (typically on an uphill) or I would have to slow down a little which affected my rhythm. I spent a lot of time riding alone or with just a handful of people in the far distance. I spent a good chunk of the race riding in the sights of my athlete Al (either behind or in front of me) which was great to have another Trimarni athlete nearby.

I wouldn't say that this is a hilly course but there are hills - more like rollers. I started to feel better on the rollers and my legs started to open up. Once I got to the Andrews Hill (the "steep" hill on the course), I stood up to climb it and I instantly felt a lot better. I took advantage of the downhill to gain some free speed and then felt like I was really "racing". The last climb into Chickamauga felt good - a nice mix of aero, sitting and standing for me and then I enjoyed the descend right after that climb (although I felt like I still had to work for the descend).

It was cloudy out and a little windy but knowing that it was going to be a hot day, I made sure to use water from the aid stations (#2 and #3 aid stations) to keep my body cool. The water was cold which was refreshing.

The ride back to town was a little more filled with cars/traffic so that affected my rhythm a bit. Overall I felt really strong on the bike and within each section of the race, I focused on giving my best effort. I didn't have any issues or low moments although my ride side of my back felt a little tight in the middle of the race. It didn't concern me too much but looking back, it may have been my SI joint feeling loose due to my hormones (more on this later). This wasn't the first time I felt like this so I just put it out of my mind the best that I could.

I finished all my planned nutrition (sport drinks) and had a little left in a bottle as I brought extra just in case I lost a bottle at the railroad crossings (there are a lot of them in the first/last 7 miles so I was extra cautious over them).

After finishing the bike, I was looking forward to the run. Even though I worked hard on the bike, I reminded myself of all the runs I've completed off hard bikes and how much I really do love to run off the bike (seriously - my fav runs are brick runs).

Karel's recap:
I'm super stoked with this bike. I felt strong throughout the ride and felt good in the 2nd half of the ride. I had almost no back pain so that is a huge victory for me. I felt like I was really racing the bike instead of just suffering through like in past races with back pain. I was in a good group of guys who were racing strong and all staying draft legal. There were many surges where I had to dig deep to pass a group of guys or to accelerate to stay with someone that I felt was riding strong. Some guys would pass me right back only to slow down forcing me to squeeze on my brakes to get out of the draft zone. I would then have to collect myself to make another pass. This made it hard to keep a good rhythm but overall, I felt really strong and also felt like I could finally push the bike, stay on top of my pedal stroke and not force the effort. At the end of the bike I was in a really good headspace to hit the run (my favorite part of triathlon racing). 

13.1 mile run

Photo Nicole Rambsey
I tried to make my transition as quick as possible so I was putting on my watch, visor and glasses as I was walking and then started to jog. I knew the competition was tough here so I didn't want to lose any extra time in the transition area. My friend Chris M. shouted to me that I was in 3rd place in my AG so that made me happy. Immediately, I found my running legs and felt like I had a good stride. I was willing to push the run as my run form and fitness has been really good lately but my right leg was giving me some trouble during this race - for all 13.1 miles. Although it was not noticeable to an outsider, my right leg felt weak and unstable. This is not anything new for me as it's something that I often deal with. Typically I can get it to stiffen up with a few tricks of stretching my back and popping my hips but this time around, it felt a bit different. I contribute it to my hormones loosening up my joints so I just accepted that it would be something I would have to race with but it wasn't going to slow me down. So with my right leg feeling like a wet noodle, I just couldn't run any harder/faster as I was using a lot of mental energy to keep good form. I'm not concerned about this as it was just a bad-timing issue. I also blame my shoe choice (4% Nike) as I feel with the layout of this course, using so much water to keep myself cool and the shoes already being a bit unstable, the shoes were not a good choice for me for this race. The inner in my right shoe was also moving which made the shoe feel really loose. Just a bit of background info as no race is ever easy or perfect - there's always something to deal with and it's usually something that you don't plan for or expect.

On a good note, I never had any low moments and I really enjoyed the course. I was passed by a few girls and I was able to stay with one or two of them for a few miles at a time. I was a bit discouraged to hear I moved to 4th in my age group in the 2nd loop so my mission for the next 6 miles was to get on that podium! I do feel that I had a sub 1:40 in me for this race but I had to deal with the cards I was given. I wasn't able to work the uphills like I usually do but I really tried to push it on the downhills and any section that was shaded. I took two quick reset breaks to try to fix my leg but it didn't help much. I pushed the last mile as I was running next to another girl and Karel was cheering for me with less than 1/2 mile to go (he had already finished). I sprinted as hard as a could - ouch that was painful - to the finish line.

I was thankful for no GI issues, bonking or low moments. I never felt too hot so I feel my choice of a cooling towel and visor worked well. Since I always bring my own nutrition with me when I race (in my Naked Run belt), I could use the aid stations for ice/water and fuel whenever I wanted to on the course.

Karel's recap:

Photo Nicole Rambsey

In T2 I racked my bike, put my socks on and then my Nike 4% shoes. I stepped into my race belt with bib number and grabbed my flasks which I kept in my kit pockets. I also had my sunglasses and hat in my hands as I was running through the transition. Since I like to hold something when I run, I held an Enervitine Cheerpack in my hand.

The only thing I can say about this run is wow. This was one of those runs that don't come very often for me. I felt great from the first step and actually felt like I was running faster/stronger as the race went on. It was hot and humid out but I never felt bothered by the heat. I ran happy and enjoyed seeing some of my athletes out on the course. I gave myself a bit of a boost when I could see that I'm running faster than anyone around me - this was giving me more and more strength and energy. At the end of the first lap my friend Chris told me I was 1st AG with about a minute lead. Hearing this gave me more energy. I kept running strong as I didn't know if some fast runner started way behind me in the swim. At one point I was passed by two pro males and I thought I could try to pace behind them on the bridge. Ha - that lasted about 400 meters! This run went by super fast and before I knew it I was running down the finish shoot. Finishing this race knowing that I gave all I had on the day and I felt so good from start to finish was a great feeling. I can't believe I won my age group and was 7th overall amateur. This was a great race as my 3rd 70.3 in 5 weeks. 

Post race:
After the race, I found Karel and we chatted about our day. I grabbed two slices of pizza and some pretzels and then walked to our team tent to cheer for and wait for the rest of our athletes. Karel went back to the townhome to rescue Campy (and to shower/eat) and I stayed at the venue for the rest of the race. Karel and I stayed until every one of our athletes crossed the finish line. It was so much fun to hang out with our athletes and to hear about their races.

As our last planned 70.3 of the 2019 season, we are feeling healthy, fit and strong and we are both excited to train for our last two races of the season..... Ironman Canada (in 9 weeks) and Ironman World Championship (in 20 weeks). 

Thanks for the cheers and a big thank you to the 2019 Trimarni team affiliates and supporters!
It was so great to see so many familiar athletes on the course, some of my nutrition athletes and thank you to the amazing volunteers! 

Gear and Sport Nutrition Race Recap coming soon.


IM 70.3 Chattanooga - Quick Recap

I remember a time not too long ago in my triathlon journey when my love for training outweighed my love for racing. Sure, race day was something I always looked forward to but with every race came expectations, pressure, competition and worry about the unknowns. Race day was stressful whereas there was nothing to worry about when I trained - as no one was watching.

Over the years, I've studied Karel and his love for racing. He loves to race. If he could, he would race every weekend. I've noticed that he always displays a few special "race day" qualities. Applying these strategies to my own pre-race and race day thought processes has allowed me to love racing as much as I love training.

Here are a few takeaways of how to enjoy racing and to get the most out of your race experience:
  • Don't chase results, PR's or podiums. Race the competition - whoever shows up on race day. 
  • Preparation builds confidence. 
  • Rely more on RPE over metrics to race more proactively (instead of being reactive and robotic). 
  • You don't need to prove anything to yourself or to anyone else on race day. 
  • Accept that everyone has to race with/in the same conditions. 
  • Understand that something/everything won't go well/right on race day. 
  • Don't waste energy on things out of your control. 
  • Focus on your own pre-race routine. Stay away from people who suck away your energy (including forums/blogs/social media).
  • Don't race with expectations or outcome focused goals. 
  • Always decide on the best tool for the job. It's good to have a plan but you also need to know how to adjust. 
  • Your mind should be as strong as your body.
  • Don't be afraid to fail.
  • Something good can come from every race. 
  • Don't race another athletes's race. 
  • Don't race with an ego, race for the joy of racing. 
  • Stay humble and confident. 
  • Know that you are always a work in progress. 
  • Don't let one race define you or your season. 
  • Avoid putting too much energy into one race day performance. 
  • Reflect on your race in a productive way so you learn from each race. 
IM 70.3 Chattanooga was a first-time event for me and Karel. Although we've raced in Chattanooga in the past, this course was something new for us to conquer. We really love the city and the community loves to welcome this event. The volunteers are incredible.

The competition was stiff, the weather was warm and the swim was shortened. Karel put together an incredible race where he felt strong all day - and got stronger as the day went on. Just two weeks after IM 70.3 St. George and 5 weeks after IM 70.3 Haines City, Karel's strategy of racing himself into great fitness (on top of some great quality training in between) proved to - once again- work really well for him. I placed 4th in my age group. There were so many strong girls in my age group and I knew it would be tough to get on the podium at this race. While I could be disappointed with my placement, I am not. I felt incredibly strong for all 70.3 miles. Even when I heard from a friend that I was in 4th AG, I didn't stop smiling as I felt like I was winning my own race. I am far from upset as I put together the best race that I could on the day.

We had 29 Trimarni athletes on the race course and it was so much fun to share the course (and race experience) with them all. I just love racing with our athletes. And....thee Trimarni coaching and nutrition team placed 3rd Tri Club!! Way to go team!!

As a takeaway from our race, it's totally normal to be disappointed after a race. Those "perfect" races don't come very often so it's expected that there's going to be a learning experience, highs and lows from every race. Most importantly, make sure your race day goals (or expectations) are for the right reasons. We all love to celebrate PR's and podiums, but most importantly, race for the happiness and joy that is racing brings to you. Racing should always give you a great sense of personal accomplishment. No matter what, be thankful and grateful for your healthy mind and body. It's a gift to be able to do what you/we can do with our bodies.

Race Results

Marni - 4th AG (35-39), 10th overall amateur female

.75 mile swim: 14:52 (1st AG, 5th fastest female)
T1: 4:01
56 mile bike: 2:31.03 (4th AG, 10th fastest female)
T2: 2:48
13.1 mile run: 1:40.10 (6th AG, 18th fastest female)
Total: 4:32.53

Karel - 1st AG (40-44), 7th overall amateur male)

.75 mile swim: 15:17 (6th AG)
T1: 3:13
56 mile bike: 2:21.33 (5th AG, 27th fastest male)
T2: 2:21
13.1 mile run: 1:22.12 (1st AG, 3rd fastest male, 4th overall)
Total: 4:04.34


How to avoid GI issues on race day

Photo by Deuce Bradshaw.

Unwanted in training and competition, GI issues frequently impair performance and recovery. The three main causes of GI symptoms include physiological (reduced blood flow to the gut), mechanical (bouncing/jumping) or nutritional (diet/sport nutrition). For example, during exercise, blood flow to the digestive system is impaired so the stomach may reject ingested food or fluids, sending them out of the body - either up or down.

Common upper and lower GI issues include:

Intestinal cramping
Side stitch
Stomach pain/cramps
Loose stools/diarrhea
Intestinal bleeding
Urgency to defecate

Severity differs depending on the athlete and sport.

For example, the high-impact nature of running may jostle the gastric system, contributing to lower GI issues. In cycling, posture on the bike may increase pressure on the abdomen causing upper GI issues. Among swimmers, swallowing air from short and rapid breathing may cause belching.

Additionally, using a straw-based hydration system or gulping fluids (especially carbonated drinks) may cause aerophagia – which is a condition of excessive air swallowing, contributing to GI issues.

To reduce the risk of GI issues during exercise, follow these practical guidelines:

  • ·     If you get gassy with dairy and fructose, consider a lactose or dairy-free alternative and avoid grapes, apples, asparagus, melon and juices when gut flow may be compromised (ex. high-intensity training, competition day).
  •       Reduce/avoid high-fiber food such as cruciferous veggies and high-fiber cereals/grains and replace with potatoes and plain breads in the 4-24 hours before intense or long duration activity.
  •       Avoid high-fructose foods such as soda, candy and juice, as well as carbonated drinks around workouts/competition.
  •       Stay well-hydrated before, during and after exercise. Dehydration can exacerbate GI symptoms. Drink frequently in smaller amounts on a schedule throughout your race instead of big gulps randomly occurring when you feel overly thirsty to reduce the risk of a sloshy stomach.
  •       Allow 4-6 weeks to train your gut to improve intestinal absorption with ingested foods and fluids. Don't wait until race week to try out your race day nutrition plan. Consider the formulation of your sport nutrition products to ensure optimal digestion and absorption. In other words, don't concentrate your products.
  •      Trial and error to figure out what works/doesn’t work before and during training/competition. Keep your pre race and race day fueling and hydration plan simple so it's easy to execute under pressure/nerves/stress.
  •       NSAIDs and aspirin are associated with an increased risk of GI complications, mucosal bleeding and ulcers. Avoid as much as possible, and avoid before and on competition day.
  •      Stay calm and relaxed. Stress can exacerbate GI issues. 


Don't believe everything that you see on social media

Within the endurance sport world, it's not uncommon to see/hear of athletes manipulating training and the diet in an effort to change body composition, to improve health or to boost performance.

Although endurance sports welcome all body shapes and sizes and training approaches, many athletes accidentally fall into the mindset that to be successful, an extreme style of eating and a rigorous training plan is necessary This begs the question "is training for an athletic event just a socially acceptable way to disguise an obsession with exercise and disordered eating habits?"

Even if you are not obsessed with training miles, body image or the marginal gain approach, it's still rather easy to become extreme with your choices when training for an endurance event - especially if you are following the journey of another athlete. There are many athletes who have been forced away from the sport due to injury or health issue (mental or physical), only to spend years trying to put together all of the broken pieces that occurred from a body that was damaged by extreme choices - such as restrictive eating and overtraining.

Endurance sports often attract a specific personality type - driven, hard-working, competitive, perfectionist, type-A, etc. It's not uncommon for individuals with underlying eating, body image and obsessive-compulsive behaviors to enter the world of endurance sports - only to realize that these issues are exacerbated when training gets more serious. Behind the hidden lens of social media, it's difficult to know if a driven, dedicated and hard-working individual - who is sharing his/her tips, giving advice or sharing his/her personal journey - could be a person who has a very unhealthy relationship with food, exercise and the body.

With so much misinformation circulating over the web, via word of mouth, on YouTube and on social media, often given by inexperienced, unskilled and qualified "experts," I caution you to not believe everything that you see, read or hear. Athletes and experts are not always transparent and this can have a detrimental effect on you, the "follower" or "client." Social media provides a very skewed reality.

And this isn't limited to athletes. Coaches are also to blame. Inadvertently, a coach may reference weight as a limiter to performance, suggesting that a way to improve health, performance or body composition is to weigh daily, cut out certain food groups and avoid carbohydrates at certain times of the day. The coach may then blame athletes for lack of progress or compliance if results are not achieved. Instead of flexibility and freedom, your life becomes an obsession of food, numbers, results and data.


Conquer your inner critic

Have you ever noticed that you are constantly talking to yourself? While you may not always be aware of what's going on in your mind, there's often a conversation or two going on in your head.  Don't worry - you are not alone in this. We all have an inner voice.

Interestingly, most people are incredibly hard on themselves and have a really harsh inner critic. For athletes, saying things like "You are too fat" or "You are so slow" or "You are not ready" or  "You should just give up" or "You will never be successful" are not productive thoughts - especially if you are approaching a workout or race.

You may not realize how much your inner critic is telling you that you are never good enough. These destructive thoughts may be difficult to identify, especially when you are stressed, nervous, overwhelmed or anxious.

One of the biggest mistakes of the inner critic is acting on your thoughts. If you hear that you are "too fat" you may suddenly feel the need to diet or overexercise. If you hear that you are "not ready" for your upcoming race, you may suddenly feel the need to validate your fitness/race readiness by trying to prove to yourself that you can do the distance or specific efforts/paces. Or you may even give up before you have a chance to try, all because you've convinced yourself that you are not good enough.

It can be difficult to live a fulfilling life with so many private conversations going on in your head. Because these thoughts can greatly influence how you feel, act and behave, overtime these self-destructive thoughts can affect your self-worth, self-confidence and may negatively impact your overall health, relationships and quality of life.

It's time to stop being a victim to your own verbal abuse. Become aware of these thoughts, ask yourself if you'd say the same things to a dear friend or close family member and then examine the evidence to determine if these thoughts are accurate. Even if you do feel that your thoughts are true, it's ok to be a work in progress. No one is ever 100% ready or perfect. 

When your inner voice is being overly critical, acknowledge that your thoughts are probably an exaggeration and are not speaking the truth. For every insult that you hear in your head, challenge that thought with a more compassionate response. This may be difficult if you are not use to recognizing your strengths and capabilities but it's important to learn how to speak to yourself in a more kinder and respectful way. 


Wetsuit Testing

As a lifelong swimmer, wearing a wetsuit is not something that I need when it comes to open water swimming. I actually would much rather swim without one. However, if a triathlon is wetsuit legal, I'll be sure to wear one as it does keep me warm in cold water and it gives me a little lift to make swimming faster a bit easier. Because I've spent over two decades mastering my body position, alignment and tautness in the pool, the wetsuit doesn't give me a huge advantage when I swim in the open water. Whereas for Karel - who just learned to swim in the summer of 2012 - the wetsuit gives him everything he needs to "speed up" his swim times. For me, I don't get the same significant advantage.

For the past five plus years, we had a great relationship with Xterra wetsuits. The Vengeance was our wetsuit of choice and it worked really well for us. My fastest wetsuit legal open water time in an Ironman was 57.04 - set in Ironman Austria in 2016. Karel also had several great Ironman and 70.3 times with his Vengeance wetsuit.

After partnering with ROKA this year, we purchased our new wetsuits and wondered - will this wetsuit be as fast and comfortable as our Xterra wetsuit??

After St. George 70.3, Karel was wondering if his new Roka Maverick X wetsuit was really as fast as his previous Xterra Vengeance wetsuit as he wasn't so thrilled with his swim time. So, we decided to put them to the test with a wetsuit pool test, prescribed by Gerry Rodrigues. 

Gerry R. with Tower 26 posted a podcast (and video) on how to test wetsuits. He stressed the importance of testing a variety of wetsuits, instead of just purchasing a wetsuit based only on price, popularity or hype. We have had a few of our athletes use this test to try out different wetsuits and not surprisingly, even though we have partnered with ROKA, some athletes found that other brands worked better for them. 

After an exhausting week of training as we gear up for Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga on Sunday, we decided to do our wetsuit test on Sunday afternoon in place of our normal Sunday PM swim.

After warming up for around a 1000, we did the test which was:
5 x 100's at race pace w/ 10 sec rest (per wetsuit)

We used our smartphone stopwatch to record the times to be as exact as possible. Karel went first with his ROKA suit and then I went second in my Xterra wetsuit. We swam a 100 yards right before the test just to adjust the wetsuit and to get a good feel of it in the water. After we both completed the first round, we put on the other suit. Whoever was on deck recorded the times with paper/pen and gave the 10 sec countdown so that this was a blind test (not knowing what times you did until it was complete).

Along with the times, we also recorded our immediate feedback with each wetsuit. With years of experience with our Xterra Vengeance wetsuit, we always found it comfortable to put on. But after comparing it to the ROKA, we noticed how much better our arms felt with the ROKA. We felt like the ROKA was more fitting, allowing for a more natural swimming feel. We both agreed our arms were more tired in the Xterra whereas with the ROKA, it felt much more efficient and smooth. Karel immediately mentioned that his RPE was going up in the Xterra and in the ROKA he never felt tired. Subjective feedback is important when doing a wetsuit test for a wetsuit may be fast but if it exhausts you or feels uncomfortable, it's probably not the right wetsuit for you.

The purpose of this blog is not to say that one wetsuit is better than another. As I mentioned above, we have athletes who don't wear ROKA simply because it doesn't work for them. Try out a variety of brands well in advance of your upcoming race so that you can feel confidence and comfortable when swimming in the open water.

Here are the results of our test:
As a reference, Karel usually swims 1:22-1:25 for 100 yards if doing half IM effort with short rest in the pool. As a comparison, I typically swim 1:14-1:16 for 100 yards if doing half IM effort with short rest in the pool. You can see how much the wetsuit helps both of us, but specifically how much it helps Karel as a non-swimmer. 
Karel ROKA

Marni ROKA

Karel Xterra

Marni Xterra


My Sport Nutrition Fueling Regime

It doesn't matter the training session, you'll find me utilizing some type of sport nutrition product. Come race day, I have great confidence and experience in my race day fueling plan, which also helps me reduce the risk of race day GI, bonking and dehydration issues.

I have no hesitations or concerns consuming sport nutrition products in all of my training sessions because I feel these products extend far beyond helping my body maximize performance and adapt to training stress. I believe my good relationship with sport nutrition products has helped me ward off illness over the past 12 years (no sickness since 2007!) and help reduce my risk for injury (last injury in 2013!). I've also been able to do a lot of incredible things with my body over the years. Thank you body!

In our current society, sport nutrition has come very far. There are so many different types of sport nutrition products designed for your sport and most are very well formulated to provide your body with exactly what you need to perform at your best. And most of them taste pleasantly good and use natural ingredients (no chemicals, food dyes or sweeteners). Despite plenty of research demonstrating the benefits of consuming sport nutrition in training and racing to help delay fatigue, minimize excessive dehydration, protect the immune system and optimize performance, many athletes still struggle to understand how to best use products effectively and/or there are many athletes who refuse to consume sport nutrition products in training and racing because they feel they don't need it or the products are "unhealthy".

For the purpose of this blog post, I'm assuming that most athletes understand the importance of consuming sport nutrition products during training and racing but there's a common struggle when it comes to the application of sport nutrition and finding the right product to meet your physiological and taste bud needs.

Here is a past blog post explaining why your sport nutrition products may not be working for you.

Here is a video explaining what products I use for swimming, biking and running. Below the video I have included links to the companies along with a few discount codes. Happy fueling!

Carborocket - discount trimarni
NBS - discount trimarni
INFINIT - discount trimarnicoach
Vite Nutrition - discount trimarni25
Naked Running Band - discount trimarni15
Amrita bars (not mentioned in the video but I love the protein bars!) - discount trimarni


Ironman 70.3 St. George Race Recap - Karel

Race week was very tough for me mentally and emotionally. On Monday, we made the incredibly difficult decision to say goodbye to Smudla - my best furry friend for the past 16.5 years. Tues was even worse for me. I was able to do my workouts but I felt like I was just going through the motions as I was completely empty inside. My sleep was off and so was my appetite. It was a rough week. I didn't even get around to packing my bike until late Tuesday afternoon. It was probably good that I was able to get away as I was constantly seeing and thinking of Smudla all around the house - even though she was no longer there.

My flight left early Wed morning and I arrived in Vegas around lunchtime. Robb (our athlete and friend) picked me up at the airport and we arrived to St. George in the afternoon. After grocery shopping and then checking in to our rental house near Snow Canyon, I went for a short jog just to shake off the travel. It was a very long day of travel and my back was bothering me during the plane ride but it was nice to move some blood before dinner.

On Thursday I did my mini triathlon - swam in the lake, biked on some of the course and then ran. The water was cold (low 60's) but after my head unfroze, I was ok. I had my new Roka wetsuit which felt good in the water. After the bike and run, my legs felt much better than on Wednesday - much more springy.

Friday was the typical pre-race warm-up of a short spin followed by a short run. Since we stayed at the top of the hill on the bike course, I rode down to the expo to show off my freshly painted (by Kcycle) bike at the Ventum booth (I told Rachel I'd stop by). I then biked easy going back up the hill. My run off the bike was mostly flat around the subdivision. Overall I felt fine. Being around our athletes helped me clear my mind a bit but anytime I was alone and tried to visualize and focus on the race, I would think about Smudla and it would make me really sad.

Robb, Diane and I arrived to T1 right when it opened so that we could check in our bikes. New this year was having bags for the bike (with all gear including shoes in the bag). These bags hung on a rack instead of having us set up our own transition area.

Pre-race Meal:
The standard for me: Oatmeal and coffee. Then a half of the Skratch bar about an hour before the race and sipping on a NBS drink. SIS gel right before I lined up for the swim. I also had Osmo pre load the day before the race (morning and evening) and on race day morning.

Race morning procedure/warm-up: The usual jog warm up and bathroom stops at the race site. No swim warm-up allowed - which I feel is dangerous considering the water was only 62F. I also used the PR lotion which I feel really works. 

Bike nutrition: NBS carbo-hydration drink (hydration system and bottle) + 1 x SIS gel.

Run nutrition:1 flask with Precision hydration 1000 and one flask with Skratch. I also had one Enervitine cheerpack and a few licks of base salt too. I don't have just one fueling plan but instead I think about the course and the conditions and what I feel will work best for me on the day.

1.2 mile swim: 31:04
I was a little late to line up for the swim so I was a little more back of where I wanted to stand but still I was in the 30 to 34 min crowd (self-seed rolling start). They started 3 of us at a time, every 5 seconds. The water was cold (62F) and since I usually don’t do well in the cold water, I wore my Xterra neoprene booties (allowed in US races if the water temp is below 65F). My goal was to swim comfy to the first buoy to avoid any possible chest tightness due to the cold water and due to the lack of a swim warm-up. I felt fine and quickly find a good rhythm. Because of the cold, I didn't do my usual “take out speed” but just swam comfortably so that I wouldn't panic. The water was crisp and clean and it was easy to see the other swimmers and kicking legs. No kicks in my face for me this race :-)

Overall I felt good throughout the swim but I just couldn't get into that maximum sustainable effort. I was moving fine and passing some slower swimmers, but then at one point I noticed that a girl that I
passed was still on my side. I tired to swim away from her but she was still there. I backed off and swam on her hip for some time, thinking it is basically my speed. But looking back, I’m not sure if it was a good decision or if I should have just taken a breather and then kept on pushing. I stayed on her hip for the entire back stretch. Sighting was a bit difficult on the back long stretch due to chop and sun but I think I was able to stay pretty straight. Looking at my swim file after the race, the lines were not as straight as last year and my Garmin showed about 100 yards more in distance compared to previous year. The swim time at the end wasn’t what I was expecting but when I saw the slower time at the clock I didn't make any assumption because you never know what the other athletes did. I was in a good head-space as I exited the water and ran towards my bike bag.

I grabbed my bag quickly and dumped my helmet and bike shoes down on the ground. I quickly slipped off my wetsuit (I didn’t use the strippers) and bent over to grab my helmet and shoes. That made me dizzy and I wobbled a little and had to grab a chair. My head was spinning - probably from bending down right after the cold water. I kept on moving and the feeling passed as I made my way to my bike.  I had my bike shoes in my hands and put them on right in front of my bike. The transition was long and I didn’t want to run in my cycling shoes. The shoes were not allowed to be clipped to the pedals otherwise I would have had them clipped in to my bike. My bike was close to the bike exit
so it was a short run and a very quick hop on the bike at the mount line.

56 mile bike: 2:26.26
I really like the St. George bike. It has everything I like in a bike ride - lots of good climbing and also some nice long descends. It is also easy to break the course down into segments, which makes it go by quickly. It is a very honest course and you don’t really see any AG draft packs on the course.
There is a big hill around mile 2 of the bike and it's very easy to push too hard there and then pay for it later on as the HR and power goes skyrocket high. I made it up that hill pretty comfortably and used the following descend to collect my legs and to get ready for the actual bike ride.

With this being my third time racing here, I knew the course very well. I mentally broke it down into several segments and focused on the best execution possible on each segment. I made sure not to think too much in the future but just stay in the present moment.

The first segment was around the lake and then getting out to the main road ~30 min or so. Then it was the first big hill on the main road, followed by 2 other major hills with long and fast descents in between. Then it was the road to the Red Hills Parkway (also part of the run course) which then heads towards the Snow Canyon. The ride gets more and more beautiful as the race goes on. Then it
was the Snow Canyon section (about 4.5 miles) and then the final descend into St. George.

Nothing new, my back really bothered me very early on and it was very difficult to pedal. Normally my back starts to bother me mid ride and lasts until I get off the bike but this time, it actually got better as the ride went on - probably from being able to change my position on the climbs and do more out-of-the-saddle pedaling. I also did some out of the saddle stretches, together with my breathing exercises from Scott (my PT) which helped me manage my back pain. I was able to manage the 2nd half of the bike and felt much better with less back pain. It never really went away but it was tolerable. I'm use to this as I just can't seem to ride without some type of back pain. I got passed by 3, maybe 4 guys during the bike ride. I felt really strong in the Canyon and enjoyed the final descend into town.
Overall I'm really happy with this ride and how it went. I tried to push harder but I just don't have that power like I used to have in my old cycling days. I can’t live in the past and I need to work with what my abilities are these days. I passed a lot of guys going up the Snow Canyon and that felt good. There were no winds today so it helped with overall faster bike times compared to the previous 2 years. I was feeling good at the bike finish and I was excited to run. On the descend into town, I was rehearsing the T2 and the start of the run and I was ready to chase down some of the faster cyclists in my age group.

13.1 mile run - 1:23.22
I quickly racked my bike, ditched the helmet and put on my running socks and shoes. I don’t use socks on the bike so it takes me a few seconds longer to put them on in T2. I usually wear my Naked Running belt but in the week leading up to the race, I realized in a training run that I can easily put my 2 flasks into the rear pocket of my new Castelli San Remo (one piece) Tri suit and they stayed there secured without bouncing around. So I did just that and just had a race belt with the bib number to put on. I grabbed my running hat, glasses and flask and started moving out through T2 to the run exit. During that time I put the flasks in my pockets, hat on my head and sunglasses on. I kept my Enervitine cheer pack in my hand. Sometimes I like to hold on to something when I run and it felt good.

The run is very difficult and it can break some souls if you are not mentally prepared for it. It broke
me the first time around three years ago! Last year I was much better prepared mentally for it and managed to have a good run. I was hoping I could match my run from last year which was 1:25.

I mentally broke the run into several segments again just like the bike. First was the 3 mile hike up the hill. I didn’t want to look at my watch until this segment was done. I don’t run by paces or HR on my watch anytime when I race but since I have done this race twice before, I knew how long it should take me to get to the top of the hill around 3 miles and wanted to check in with myself around that time. I felt pretty good and just focused on from, breathing and tried to find some fluidity in my stride (if you can call that going uphill). I saw a friend at mile 1-ish aid station who cheered me on and said something like “go run them down”. It gave me a spark of energy. Thanks Lee!

I was moving well and kept on passing other athletes - some that I recognized from passing me on the
bike. That always feels good. I got to the top of that hill and finally glanced on my watch. I was pleased to see a faster time compared to last year and I was ready to tackle the next segment.

Next came the rolling hills (mostly downhill) to the first turnaround. It went by quickly and I found a really good rhythm. I was drinking from my flasks and took a sip of the cheer pack gel. My next segment was the middle part - 1st and 2nd turn around with more uphill running. I felt good running the hills and I kept telling myself that I am really looking forward to the monster hill that comes on the way back and peaks at around mile 9-ish. I remember the first year - that hill totally broke me and even last year it was very difficult to conquer. Not this time. I was ready for that beast. The run course has absolutely zero shade and if it is sunny, there is no escaping it. It was sunny but I could still feel a little bit of breeze and never felt too hot. Our new Castelli suit felt awesome - I even kept it zipped up all the way.

I got the the bottom of the monster and start climbing up. I kept a good pace and was knocking down the monster one step at the time. Just before the top, I saw our athlete Robb heading the opposite direction and he cheered on me. I wanted to cheer back but I was in the hurt box. I focused on the last few meters of the uphill and just nodded my head to him as I was cheering for him from the inside.

From the top of that beast, it was mostly downhill with just a little bit of rise up for next mile and then it was all downhill to the finish. In my head the run, I convinced myself that after the monster hill, the run was done. I still had about 3 miles to run but it was all downhill. I kept on pushing and was able to pass more people (several in my AG).

I went by my friend Lee who cheered me on again and I just keep on pushing towards the finish line. I glanced on my watch and new it would be a better time than last year. That felt good. I sprinted to the finish line even though there was nobody else on the red carpet - but you just never know with these rolling starts.

I missed out on 3rd place in IM 70.3 Florida a few weeks ago by 18 seconds and I wanted to make sure I gave it all I had all the way to the finish line.

I crossed the line with time of 4:26-ish and sub 1:24 run which was 2 min faster than last year. I was
super stoked with that but I still didn’t know where I finished. It took me some time to get my morning gear bag and powered up my phone….. and there it was (a text from Marni). I placed 2nd in my AG (40-44) in very competitive field that was way stronger than the previous year. I was super happy and I knew I gave it all I had. There was nothing left in the tank and nothing that I could have done better.

I really love St. George. It is a super hard race but it's a very honest course with beautiful scenery. If only the water was a bit warmer :-)

The town and community of St. George is great and they really welcomed and supported the athletes and the event.

I’m super stoked to see that the IM 70.3 World Championship will be in St. George in 2021 and hopefully I will be at the start line as well. I’m also pumped to hear the return of the full Ironman to St. George next year - although I still can’t even comprehend how the heck anybody can do a full on this brutally hard course......but there is a 99%  chance that Marni and I will be there in May next year to tackle the full. It is one of those bucket lists races that I need to do.

I like what Sebastian Kienle said "people want to sign up for an Ironman as big challenge but then they seek a flat, fast and ‘easy” course. It is like ordering a gallon of ice cream and wanting to have it without any calories." Bring on the calories St. George!

Thank you to the Trimarni affiliates and supporters


Looking through a different lens - athletic success

I always make sure to have fun when I train. Within a season, there may be a handful of workouts when I'm truly not enjoying the workout (typically around my menstrual cycle - ugh) but otherwise, there's joy when I train. I'm not immune to suffering or feeling uncomfortable during intense efforts but when I workout, you'll be sure to see a smile on my face as I'm happy, grateful and thankful for what I get to do with my body.

Over the past six months, I've been training under the coaching guidance of Cait Snow (with the watchful eye of Julie Dibens). At the age of 36, after 13 consecutive years of endurance triathlon racing, I'm grateful for how much I've achieved in the sport. But I sought the experience, wisdom and accountability of a coach to see if I could unlock a bit more of my body's fitness potential.  With this in mind, I was aware that I'd be trying a new style of training and my coach would be giving me different training stressors. However, it was extremely important to me that I didn't lose my joy for training and racing. I'm happy to report that I've only become more excited by this training journey, I still love to race and I love this sport more than ever before. My coach sees me as a human being, in the context of my life. Although she challenges me mentally and physically with every type of workout, we are in agreement that in pursuit of athletic success, it will not come at the risk of my long-term health and happiness.

Although I am extremely dedicated to my training, training is not a means to an end. In other words, I don't train for weight loss, to burn calories, to escape the stressors of life, for body composition changes or even outcome goals. I don't train with expectations. Interestingly, this is the first year I don't have any race goals for myself. I'm simply enjoying the process and seeing where it takes me.

When I train, I am very focused, in-tune with my body and present. I always look for ways to set myself up for a great workout and to stay consistent with training. I know that to experience athletic success, I need to be very committed to my training. This does not mean that I make extreme choices or sacrifices. I'm human after all. Life is much more than sport so as my body allows me to pursue this hobby, I need to make sure that sport enhances my life and doesn't destroy my life.

Nothing makes me feel more alive than being outside. I love where we live in Greenville for never am I alone when I train. I'm constantly surrounded by mountain views, farms and so much nature. I always give myself permission to stop and take pictures.

Saving a butterfly on the road. 

Saying hi to the cow "puppy." 

Rescuing a baby turtle on the road. 

Saying hello to the baby ducks. 

In the comment section of Training Peaks, you'll find several workouts where I let my coach know that I stopped to take a picture of an animal or rescue some creature on the road. This doesn't happen all the time but it's certainly part of who I am as an athlete. I don't worry how this short stop will affect my paces, speed or power or hoping that my coach won't be upset that I am taking an intentional stop. Never has my coach told me to be more serious or to focus more when I train. I'm incredibly grateful that she "gets me."

Additionally, my coach has never told me to fast, cut back on carbs, change my diet or lose weight. She's 100% focused on my development and making sure I stay healthy throughout this journey to the 2019 Ironman World Championship. 

I wanted to bring this up because I see and hear many athletes who make radical changes in training and nutrition. All in hopes of achieving a certain end result. But what I see/hear are athletes that aren't having fun. They look miserable. No longer are they as excited and enthusiastic for training as they were when they first began participating in the the sport. It's not that you have to have great workouts 100% of the time but in my opinion, many athletes forget what it's like to have fun when you train and compete. Training turns into drag-fests where you spend far too much time watching the clock until the workout is finally over with and you ask yourself "why I am putting myself through all of this??"

It's a mistake to your athletic journey to believe that there's a specific pathway to performance and you need to jump on that path. Whether it's ketosis, fasted workouts, decreasing body fat, reducing carbs or investing in certain gear, athletes (and coaches) often have great expectations that if X is done, Y will happen. Rather than enjoying the moment and focusing on what can be done today to bring health and happiness to the present situation, athletes are constantly hoping that success will occur in the future. Athletes are becoming way too serious with all the marginal gain approaches and end up mentally and physically burnt-out. In the end, athletes are forced to retire from the sport but more so, look back thinking that they have missed out on a big chunk of life. The food rules, concerns with body image, fatigue and other side-effects of chasing an outcome become the norm. As a result, athletes change from enjoying the journey to becoming extremely hyper-focused on every little thing that may help with performance only to become frustrated, stressed and disappointed. No longer is training fun but it's a daily stressor. No wonder so many athletes get burnout when they start taking training "too seriously."

Training and nutrition should never be a chore. It should be something that you really want to do and not feel that you have to do to experience athletic success. If you feel a sense of dread about having to train a certain way or eat a certain way, thinking "when will this all be overwith??" you've lost touch with what's most important to you and your athletic journey. You've become way too focused on the end result.

I'd love to see a shift in attention away from assumptions. Assuming that if an athlete becomes fat-adapted or loses weight that success will follow. Assumptions that hitting certain weekly miles or metrics will ensure race readiness. I'd love to see coaches focusing more on effort, hard work, progress, patience and the value of doing your best instead of looking for every marginal gain to increase the chance of athletic success. Stop seeing the human body as an object.

Continue to work hard to optimize your performance and make smart choices that will help you better adapt to training stress. But make sure that your choices ensure a sufficient level of enjoyment.

Athletic success and fun can coexist. 



Smudla, we will always love you

Feb 15th, 2003 - April 30th, 2019
May 30th, 2006. 8:11pm. I received an email from Karel, letting me know that he was looking forward to meeting me the next day on a group bike ride. At the end of his email, Karel made sure to let me know that he had a roommate....who was a girl......named Šmudla. He sent me the following two pictures.

Šmudla is the Czech translation for Dopey from Snow White and the seven dwarfs. After getting to know Karel a bit more over the summer, I realized the Smudla and Karel shared a very special bond.

Three years before I met Karel, he was working three jobs. Trying to make a life for himself in America, his work was exhausting. There really wasn't a lot to his day except for working and trying to get a little sleep between jobs. There was very little money for food or clothing and there certainly wasn't any bike riding. Not able to speak much English, Karel didn't have many friends.

The day after Valentines day in Georgia, before Karel headed back to his home in Clearwater, FL, he stopped by the pet store next door to where he was working to visit the cats in the window. Karel has always loved cats. And there was this little kitten, just 6 weeks old, crying for Karel to take her. She was wild and energetic. With little money to his name, Karel managed to pay the $70 adoption fee and called her Smudla - which can also be translated to "messy."

Smudla spent her first few years of life as an outdoor cat. Because Karel traveled so much for various jobs, Smudla was free to room the neighborhood. 

In between her naps, she would climb trees, chase birds, tease the neighbors with her good looks and explore. 

She was always up to something. 

Or in something. 

Or on something. 

Or trying to find something.  

She was a curious cat with no fears. 

As a "tortoiseshell" cat, she lived up to her "tortitude." She had a very strong and forceful personality. 

Smudla loved Karel. She was always there when he came home and demanded lots of attention from him. She was always interested in whatever bag or box Karel brought home - which was always so much better than any purchased "cat house" that Karel decided to surprise Smudla with.

Smudla loved boxes. She was very curious and bold. She knew how to demand attention and was afraid of nothing. Regardless of who came into the house, she was quick to tell that person what she wanted.

In addition to boxes, Smudla loved drinking from a faucet. She was never one to drink from the water bowl. There was something about the running sink water that was so much better than the water from the bowl. 

Because of Smudlas "tortitude" she always got what she wanted...or at least she tried her best to get the attention of anyone around to help her get what she wanted.

When I cam into Karel's life, I instantly feel in love with Smudla. However, I was not thrilled that she was an outdoor cat as this made me worry about her. After just a few months of dating, I told Karel that Smudla needs to be an indoor cat. Karel's first responses was "Smudla will not like that." And oh, was Smudla not happy with me and that decision.

I remember the first night I spent the night with Karel. He left early for work and shortly after, I was getting myself ready to leave for work. Smudla was no where in sight and as soon as I opened the door to leave, there she was running right past me, making her escape outside. I quickly called Karel "Smudla escaped!" and he told me "She will be just fine." Of course, now that I felt like Smudla was my cat, I was so worried and had to find her and bring her home before I left. Smudla was not too happy about my new role in her life, especially as someone who was getting more of Karel's attention. 

After moving from Clearwater, FL to Jacksonville, FL in 2008, Smudla was starting to warm-up to me as her new "mom." But then came Campy and I was back on her bad list again in October of 2008. After Karel and I got married a few weeks later, Smudla slowly adapted to this new furry creature in the house.

And then came Madison. Smudla was not happy about this new arrangement. Madison wanted so badly for Smudla to like her but Smudla wanted nothing of it. Smudla would often look the other way, never making much eye contact. 

Smudla was not a mean cat. She just had a very strong personality and always had an opinion. You could see it in her face. We would often play a game of "what is Smudla thinking" and create a dialogue as if Smudla was talking to us or to Madison or Campy.

Over the years, Smudla become fiercely independent, feisty and unpredictable. But all in a great way. She loved being in the garage with Karel, especially when he was doing a bike fit or fixing his bike. Her morning routine was laying by Karel on the kitchen table as he worked on the computer. She always had to have one paw on his keyboard........probably to annoy him :) 

As she got older, she began to run the house - letting us know when she wanted to eat and drink. It didn't matter what time of the day, she was sure to show us who was boss. She would knock stuff off the dresser, scratch on the door and cry until she got what she wanted. Oh Smudla. 

As we moved from apartment, to town home, to rental home to our house, Smudla loved the moving many boxes and places to hide. Although she hated riding in the car, she was never afraid of being somewhere new for it was a new opportunity to explore.

She loved suitcases and bags and anything she could find to sneak inside. 

Smudla always told us what she wanted. She even knew how to tell Joey (our neighbor who regularly watched Smudla when we traveled) what food or treats she wanted. Anytime we would come back from a trip, Joey let us know what new food Smudla liked. Smudla was an easy cat who lived a fun and adventurous life. 

Eventually, Smudla let us know that she only wanted to eat on the counter (because it was close to the sink faucet). We obliged.

Smudla often slept with one paw over her face. We would joke "Oh so sorry Smudla, we will turn down the lights for you."

Smudla always had a special spot in the house. This spot would change every week or two. It was always a fun adventure to try to find her new spot. 

Boxes were always her favorite...especially when lined with crunchy paper. 

As Smudla got a bit older, she remained in great health. She only saw the vet two or three times between the ages of 14-16. It wasn't until the last few months that we noticed that she was beginning to age very quickly. 

After turning 16 this year, Smudla started to show her softer side. She didn't mind the company of Campy and Madison. 

Over the past few months, Madison started to follow Smudla around the house. Wherever Smudla would rest, Madison wanted to be as close as possible to her. 

Seeing that Smudla was getting closer to her later years of life, we made sure to give Smudla everything that she wanted. With her appetite changing, she was able to eat whatever she wanted. 

With Madison constantly watching over Smudla, we knew that our time left with Smudla may be short. Of course, we didn't want to believe it or accept it. 

Smudla became much more affectionate over the past few weeks and made sure to always show us how much she loved us. 

As Smudla lost weight, we made sure to keep the windows open as she was craving warmth, sun and fresh air.

Over the past two weeks, Smudla spent a lot of time outside....which is where she loved to be as a young kitten. We are thankful that the weather was so lovely for Smudla to enjoy. 

Smudla spent several hours each day (spread out throughout the day), laying in the sun and enjoying the fresh air. 

Smudla had come full circle. On Monday April 29th, we had to make the hardest decision that we've ever had to make. 

Karel shared the past 16.5 years of his life with Smudla. They have been through so many life events together. The bond that they shared will never be forgotten or replaced.

Smudla gave me 13 incredible years of love and memories. She was such a special cat to me and I will never forget her sweet and bold personality. 

After we made the decision that we would need to say "see you later" to Smudla on April 30th at 11am, we made sure to shower Smudla with our love for the next 24 hours.

While this has been an extremely emotional time for us, we want to thank the Pointsett Animal Hospital for helping us through this process. The staff was compassionate and caring and allowed us to spend as much time as we needed with Smudla during the entire process of saying good-bye to her. While an extremely difficult moment in our life, the staff made us feel comfortable and at peace with our decision.

Thank you for taking the time to read about Smudla and the impact that she had in our life. She will be greatly missed.