Essential Sports Nutrition


IMCA Race Recap: 112 mile bike

The first few miles of the Ironman Canada bike were a little technical as there were speed bumps, bumpy roads and a few twists and turns. I didn't want to do anything silly in these early miles so I treated it as a warm-up, especially since my body was still adjusting to the bike position after the swim and I was finding myself a bit cold from being so wet from the swim. Once I got on the main road (Sea to Sky hwy) I started to ride into my Ironman event.

The layout of this course was rather simple as there were four main segments. To Callaghan Climb, Callaghan Climb, to the far turn around, riding back to town and then you repeat. This allowed me to break the course up into small segments so that I could focus on executing each segment to the best of my ability. Although I didn't have any metrics to abide to, I lapped my computer at each segment so that I could check in with my metrics just to see how my numbers (specifically lap normalized power) was correlating to my RPE. I primarily rode the entire bike by feel but checked-in with my metrics every now and then, especially on the first loop.

My strategy was to ride the first loop relatively easy (feeling like I had three more effort gears in me) and to then ride the second loop strong (feeling like I had two more effort gears in me but using a gear or two as needed depending on how I was feeling). I resisted the urge to push hard on the first loop, especially since I was so cold. I found myself shivering at times but climbing the 8 mile climb in Callaghan helped. The descend was extremely cold for me but thankfully, I warmed up after the turn around. This helped me enjoy the second lap a lot more.

I didn't find this course overly challenging as my training really prepared me to ride my bike well on this course. I don't think I could have executed the bike course any better. The first loop was rather quiet with riders whereas the second loop was a little more busy with the 70.3 athletes. However, with the layout of the course and the long hills/descends, I didn't find it difficult to ride my own race, often not seeing any riders directly in front of me. This is the second Ironman I've done on my Ventum and I am absolutely in love with how it rides. It's not only smooth with how it handles (similar to a road bike) but I feel incredibly in-control while descending, especially in the wind. This not only helps me ride better but I expend less energy as I can ride more relaxed and efficient.

For nutrition, I front-loaded my calories so that I took in a bit more in the first loop of the bike due to the cooler temps. Because I did warm-up, I knew that my calories would digest and absorb a lot better in the first loop - especially with all the climbing. My nutrition was as follows (well-practiced in training):

First loop (on my bike): Skratch PB&J bar (consumed after the Callaghan climb in small bites spread out over an hour), aero bottle (CarboRocket 333 black cherry, 2 1/2 scoops 260 calories), Ventum hydration (1.2 L - 4 scoops + water of INFINIT custom formula Fruit Punch, ~500 calories), rear bottle (Infinit Custom formula Pink Lemonade, ~250 calories).

Second loop (in special needs): Aero bottle (NBS Carbo-hydration, 5 scoops, ~200 calories), Ventum hydration (same as first loop, I used a large plastic water bottle so it was already mixed and filled up my hydration system in special needs), rear bottle (CarboRocket 333 black cherry, 2 scoops 220 calories).

I aimed to drink ~10 minutes (4-5 sips) and always listened to my body before I took in nutrition to assess how I was feeling. Although a hilly course (7500+ feet of elevation gain), there was plenty of time to be aero but also great opportunities to sit up and stand, which helped stretch the legs and hips. I looked for opportunities to gain "free" speed so I made sure to take advantage of the faster sections of the course where speed came easily with little energy expended.

On the first loop, I didn't finish my rear bottle (which was more of a back-up bottle) but on the second loop I finished about 3/4ths of everything. I had one low moment around mile 80 of the bike but it went away in around 20 minutes. These things happen during Ironman racing and after troubleshooting the situation (is it pacing, nutrition, just a low moment?) I realized it was just a low moment and it will pass...and it did. I only grabbed water at the last aid station to cool myself off as I was getting a little warm. I eased up in the last few miles with a slightly higher cadence just to get the legs ready for the run.

I loved seeing my athlete Erick and Karel on the course. I cheered for them both every time I saw them. I also saw a few of our athletes doing the 70.3 which made me happy to see those familiar faces.

Because the run was still a big unknown for me, I put all my mental energy into the swim and bike. I knew that I had great fitness going into the race and even if the run didn't happen, there was still a lot I could gain/experience in this race so I kept my mind in a positive/can-do place.

The course was absolutely beautiful and I loved being surrounded by the mountains. The volunteers were exceptional and it was nice to have two lanes closed for us on the bike course. The course was really well marked and the weather was just perfect for the entire day. I liked the set-up of the course as the climbs were long enough that I could still settle into a good rhythm. The ride back to town was the slowest as it had a bit more elevation gain but there were still segments to gain some speed and shake out the legs.

Although my athlete Ericka rode a few minutes faster than me, I exited the bike as the overall amateur female by 3 minutes. I didn't know this until after the race but this was certainly a high note and a reminder that the Ironman is filled with highs and lows and you need to hold on to whatever positives you can find. It's a long day filled with a lot of uncertainty and just because a race doesn't go as planned, there is always something to be grateful and thankful for.

After I dismounted the bike, I jogged to my run gear bag (a volunteer handed it to me) and went into the changing tent. The tent was filled with other females from the 70.3 but a volunteer came over to me and helped me with my gear. I was a bit nervous as to what would happen on the run since I haven't really ran in 3 weeks but I tried to stay positive and reminded myself that my main focus is on Kona. I made a quick stop in the port-a-john and then headed out on the run by focusing on my form and trying to run as easy as possible.

For the record, the bike was 109 miles (not the full 112 miles)

More to come......

Karel's bike recap: 
OK so I really messed this up 😬I wanted to start and do the first loop a little more conservative to feel strong on the 2nd loop. I felt great and despite seeing a high power I kept on going thinking the powermeter is not working right. Well it was working and I paid for it after 50 miles. I also got distracted by a few Uber bikers who passed me - I made the mistake of thinking I’m failing and the race is not going well. First time up to the Callahan mountain I went up pretty fast but it felt easy. 2nd time around it got real for me. At that point I was in a very low moment and after the descent, I even experienced a few pre-cramp signs and had to really ease up to shake it off. The returning leg back to town was very tough mentally and I had to be careful not to fully cramp. I was also dealing with my typical back pain. During those rough times I focused on riding well in terms of posture and staying aero - not to create any extra drag. I still managed 5th fastest AG time and still hit the T2 in 2nd place AG (I looked these up after the race). During the race I had no updates and had no idea of my position due to the rolling start. I’m glad I was able to overcome the lows and the wrong pacing on the bike to still finish it well. For nutrition, my only source of liquid nutrition was NBS Carbo hydration (5 scoops per bottle). I started with 2 bottles worth in the hydration system in the frame and then another bottle between the aero bars. I had two more bottles in special needs. I also had one water and one base bottle from the aid stations. I also consumed 1 Skratch Bar (lemon raspberry) and 4 Skratch Chews. One Enervitine cheerpack at special needs and 1 SIS gel. Nutrition wise, everything worked well. It was cool so I didn't feel like I needed a lot of liquid but I still took in calories. I never have a specific nutrition plan when I race - I kinda wing it as I go along but have plenty of stuff with me and pick and choose based on how I feel. 


IMCA Race Recap: Pre race + 2.4 mile Swim

Photo: David McColm

Saturday was a smooth day. I woke up around 5am after a solid 8 hours of sleep. Since arriving to Whistler, I've been going to bed around 7:30pm PST (asleep by 8-8:30pm PST) and waking up without an alarm around 4:45-5am.

After my normal 2 waffles + syrup + peanut butter pre-workout snack, I headed out on my bike around 7:30am for an easy spin on the race course. I used the first 45 minutes to include a few efforts to wake-up the legs and then finished off the ride with a recon of some of the run course (easy spinning). Karel went out shortly after me and did his own thing but we unexpectedly saw each other on the run course (biking). I attempted a jog off the bike but I was still feeling some tugging in my adductor/groin so I didn't try to run through it. It left me a little sad with less than 24 hours before race day but I also reminded myself that I can't waste energy on something out of my control.

After our morning workout, we each had a big carb-rich breakfast at our place and then finalized the packing of our gear bags. I put out all my gear on my bags on Friday so it was easy to stuff the bags. I also pre-portioned my sport nutrition in baggies for the bike and run (and special needs) so it was easy to fill my bottles on Saturday evening (stored in the fridge overnight).

Around 11am, I walked my bike and gear bags to T2 (5 minutes away from where we are staying). I dropped off my run gear bag in T2 (two transition layout) and throughout this time, I sipped on 1 scoop NBS pre-load in a bottle of water. Karel rode his bike to the lake (T1) and I rode the bus. Our bikes were transported behind us on a Uhaul (wrapped in heavy duty blankets).

After arriving to the lake (about 20 min ride), Karel met me inside of the transition area. I had him give my bike one last look over before racking it on my rack. Karel and I were on the same rack, just a few spots down. 

To help clear my mind from the unknowns of the run, I decided to walk the 1.8 miles back to the lodge where we are staying. Whistler is incredible because of all of the walking/biking trails. And the sights are incredible. I really enjoyed this walk. While I knew it would be energy to walk (instead of taking the shuttle) back to our place, I felt like I needed to be in nature - and walking doesn't bother my hip/back - just hopping forward. 

As for the rest of the day, it was pretty low key. We chatted with a few of our athletes, Karel visualized with his music (in bed) and we ate and hydrated throughout the day. I had an early dinner around 5pm (eggs and Basmati rice) and I went to bed around 6pm and fell asleep around 7:15pm. I was really tired throughout the day - I couldn't wait to go to bed - but I know that's a sign that the body is ready to race. It's a weird feeling as it also feels like the body is too tired to perform but I've experienced this many times before and I know that when I am tired on the day before the race, it just means my body is doing it's final touch-ups before race day. 

Race morning came early with a 3:15am alarm. I slept fairly well until 12:30pm and then it was a bit of tossing and turning. Thankfully, I woke up fairly rested. After eating my normal pre-race meal (waffles, PB, banana, syrup) and sipping on NBS pre-load and a cup of coffee, I packed my bags with bottles and extra stuff for the morning and we left our place around 4:40am.

We walked down to T2 to put our run flasks in our bags. Because of the bear population, we were told not to put any nutrition in our bags/bikes until race morning. After getting body marked at the bus line and dropping off our special needs bags, we boarded the buses. Somehow Karel and I got on different buses after I dropped off our special needs bags but we met up at the race venue.

The bus ride was nice as it gave me an opportunity to relax my mind before getting to the transition area. After putting my bottles on my bike and my computer, I double checked my gears, brakes and tires (well, Karel did) and then it was time to get on the wetsuit.

It was in the upper 40's on race morning and I was a bit cold (even dressed in warm gear) so I opted out of a swim warm-up and instead, just stepped in the water and put water down my Roka wetsuit to help adjust it. I wished my athlete Ericka a great race and went over to the swim line-up after dropping off my morning clothes bag. My feet were super cold standing on the grass so I used a plastic bag to stand on before the swim start. I had a throw away bottle of sport nutrition (NBS carbo-hydration) that I sipped on in the morning and also took in an Enervitine cheerpack "gel".

I met up with Karel in the swim line-up as we both lined up near the front. I let Karel stand a few rows ahead of me as I didn't want to swim right next to him but instead, I wanted to be behind him in the case that I swam faster than him, I was hoping I would see him on the bike.

Photo: David McColm
The race started at 6am for the age groupers (5:50am for the pros) and they had us go off 4 at a time in rows, every few seconds (at the beep). The start was a little rocky so I took my time getting in the water and then as soon as the water got to my knees, I started swimming. It took me about 2 minutes to start the race after the official race start.

The water temperature was perfect - in the upper 60's. The only issue was fog on the lake, which made it a little tough to see the buoys at times. The buoys were set up 100 meters apart and the course was set up as 750 meters down the lake, 200 meters across and then 750 meters back and then 200 meters across - Two loops without exiting the water.

Immediately I found myself working well with those around me. I love the rolling start for this reason - so long as athletes seed themselves properly. I stayed close to the buoys without even trying and I felt like I did a good job staying on course. The first loop went by really quickly and I was feeling really good in the water. It took me about 300 meters to get into a good rhythm but when I found it, it never went away. I like to build my effort as the swim goes on so I found myself feeling stronger on the second loop, where I tried to pick up the effort. Somehow, I spotted Karel swimming and then I passed him. Since we do so much of our swimming together, I know his swim stroke really well. I was happy to see him and also happy to pass him :)

The course got really crowded on the second loop which not only made it hard to stay on course at times but also to see the buoys with the fog. I found myself needing to sight a bit extra - I first would sight for the buoy until I saw it and then I had to sight to find clean water/clear path to swim.

I was a little confused as to how we were going to exit the water but once we made the last turn, it was a straight shot to the swim exit. I couldn't believe how fast that swim went and I didn't have any low moments. Because I don't wear a watch when I swim, I didn't know my swim time until I exited the water. Later I learned I swam 57 minutes which made me super happy. Karel swam 58 minutes which was a great swim for him - especially since he just learned how to swim in 2012.

I kinda expected my endorphins to take over but I didn't realize they would be so strong so early in the race. I found myself running to the transition tent and I didn't even think about it - I was running and no pain! I felt a little tugging in my inner thigh but it wasn't painful. Wahoo!

When I got into the women's changing tent, I ran to the far end and had a volunteer help me out. I chose to wear compression socks so I had the volunteer take off my chip as I put on my sock and then put it back on - that was her task for me ;) I put on my shoes and helmet and opted no arm warmers and gloves (even though I had both in my bag). I was warm from the swim but by 10 miles of the bike, I regretted that decision as I was so cold.

As I was running to my bike, we ran by a line of 70.3 athletes getting ready for their swim start at 7:20am. I spotted our athlete Jim and gave him a high five. I grabbed my bike, started my computer and ran my bike to the mount line. I veered to the far left side to make room to mount my bike. Because we had a hill to climb right out of the transition area, I had my bike in an easy gear to make it easy to get momentum up the hill.

The highlight of this moment was hearing Karel's voice behind me as we both started the bike at the same time. I can't recall that ever happening so it put a big smile on my face to see him for a hot second until he rode away from me. I wished him a great race and off he went.

More to come..................

Karel's swim recap:
Super happy with this swim. I think it was my best Ironman swim ( not counting Chattanooga :-) First loop went really great, clear water and I felt very controlled with my effort. As soon as I started swimming, I felt really good in the water. Sighting was a little tricky as there was steam on the top of the lake and you couldn’t really see the buoy until you got closer. I had to clear my goggles twice as they got foggy. 2nd lap was more congested with athletes starting their first loop but nothing too bad. Overall it was a great start to the day. AG 4th place but moved to 2nd at T1.


Ironman Canada - Quick Recap

Ironman Canada has been on our racing bucket-list for the past few years. We were immediately drawn to the challenging bike course. We find that the more difficult the race course, the more satisfaction we feel when crossing the finish line. It's also a lot easier to reflect on the race as a whole when there's more to think about than just a finishing time. Although Karel and I "race" the Ironman distance, the real race is always with ourselves - overcoming physical and mental obstacles, pushing through fatigue and self-doubts, exploring our limits and finding reasons and meaning to get to the finish line. With this being my 15th Ironman, I have a lot of experience knowing what it takes to get to the finish line and a big part of that battle is arriving with a strong and healthy body and a positive attitude.

Whistler exceeded our expectations. The community was exceptional nice, the Ironman volunteers were wonderful, the Ironman staff put on a great race and the course was incredibly beautiful. It was so great to share this course with 13 of our athletes and to see so many familiar faces on and off the course.

I'm so happy that we could check this race off our bucket list, especially since it's the last year of holding the Ironman in Whistler. There was a big question mark if I would be able to finish the race due to a recent hip/back issue that occurred three weeks before the race (which prevented me from running forward without pain/tugging in my adductor/groin - luckily, I could swim and bike just fine and I was able to walk, hop sideways and run backwards without pain :). I kept me run fitness through water jogging and was able to reflect back on my previous training with confidence that I had exceptional swim, bike and run fitness thanks to consistent training. While I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to "race" the run and had to incorporate a lot of walking and stopping to help me get to the finish line so that I did not do more damage to my body, my primary focus was to race the swim and bike and to take the run mile by mile - assessing the situation and stopping the race if I experienced pain or change in my running form. I was not willing to run through pain just to finish my 15th Ironman (especially with Ironman Kona in 10 weeks). 

Karel arrived to this race with exceptional fitness. His training was extremely consistent - although there were a few modifications for extra recovery between a few hard sessions. But thankfully, he didn't have any setbacks or injuries throughout this season and has been able to train really hard. He still suffers from back aches while riding but through some PT/breathing work, it's (mostly) manageable for him. Going into the race, Karel was looking forward to racing on this course and giving his best on the day. He uses visualization (with music) to get into the zone and reflects on previous races to help him get into a good head space. We each have our own way of getting excited to race an Ironman but we both felt excited to experience this race course.

I am thrilled with my swim/bike combo and how I was able to pace the bike. I started the run as overall female amateur but at that point, it was less about racing and more about listening to my body and focusing only on myself. Karel had a great swim but suffered a few low moments on the bike due to pacing - but as usual, once his feet touched the ground, he was in his happy place and he ran himself a PR Ironman run. 

While our fitness was great going into this race, it never makes racing any easier. There are always nerves, worries, unpredictable moments, low moments to overcome and the mental games you experience as your body experiences more and more fatigue. But nothing feels as great as crossing that finish line, knowing that you worked through all the tough moments and finished what you started.
More on the inside details from the race but here are the quick stats from the race:

2.4 mile swim: 57:48 (2nd AG, 7th female)
T1: 3:30
112 mile bike: 5:39.33 (2nd AG, 16th female)
T2: 3:39
26.2 mile run: 4:22.41 (12th AG, 61st female)
Finish time: 11:07.09, 5th AG (35-39)

2.4 mile swim: 58:30 (4th AG, 22nd male)
T1: 3:15
112 mile bike: 5:17.06 (5th AG, 27th male)
T2: 2:20
26.2 mile run: 3:04.04 (1st AG, 2nd male, 2nd overall)
Finish time: 9:25.13, 1st AG (40-44), 4th overall male, 5th overall