Essential Sports Nutrition


A tribute to Bethany - Keep triathlon fun

I've been filled with emotions over the past week after learning of the passing of Bethany Rutledge. Bethany passed away in her sleep while taking a nap. Bethany was a leader, mentor and hero in the Atlanta triathlon community. Far and wide, anyone who met Bethany could instantly see her love for triathlon, her twin boys, her husband/family, writing, dogs and life. To learn more about Bethany, here are a few beautifully written letters:

Remembering Bethany
Remembering Bethany - Triathlete Magazine

Times like this really shake me up. While the loss of a loved one can change your life, it can also change the way that you live your life. Ever since my dad passed away in 2014, I've made a conscious effort to live each day to the fullest. Regardless of the day or what obstacles I have to overcome, tasks I need to complete or how I am feeling, I try to live the day as if it is my last. Knowing that I can't quit my job and travel the world with Karel and Campy, there are still daily decisions that I can make in an effort to make the most of the day. One thing that makes me feel alive on a daily basis is the sport of triathlon.

When I think of the role of triathlon in the life of Bethany, I think FUN. As a leader in her tri community, she was very accomplished but also very humble. While I didn't know Bethany on a very close level, I know she welcomed everyone into the sport. This allowed athletes and exercise enthusiasts to feel like a triathlete without judgement.

I love the sport of triathlon. I've been racing competitively for the past 13 years and I couldn't imagine my life in any other way. It's my passion, hobby and business. Bethany always did an exceptional job of changing the way that outsiders look in at our sport. But as an insider looking out, we need to continue to keep triathlon fun.

Triathlon is a fun sport. Triathlon, like any other sport, offers a stress release, an opportunity to exercise, an escape from the office to nature, the opportunity to feel accomplished and the strength and tools to overcome failure. But if you hang with the wrong people, read too much or become too serious about it, it can quickly becomes overly competitive, draining, exhausting and obsessive.

For many, fun may seem counter-intuitive to peak performance. But fun is what keeps you in a sport - it's also what got you started. As people get older or more accomplished, it's easy to lose the ability to have fun. When fun is removed from sport (or never found), sport becomes a burden in your life. You can't quit figure out why you do what you do. When you have fun and truly enjoy yourself, you are more capable of dealing with everything else in life and there's purpose with your training and racing.

We all know that life isn't always fun.

Life is tough. It's often serious, sad and difficult. Triathlon is a beautiful escape from life. Triathlon shouldn't be all serious and hard work. Sure, being dedicating and working hard makes you a better athlete but if you are overly serious, competitive and extreme, you probably aren't having much fun. 

Bethany did an exceptional job leading the way to show others that triathlon and fun can coexist. Incorporating fun into your triathlon training and racing should not be difficult to do but if you have lost sight of why you are a triathlete (or why you started the sport), you may have lost the fun in triathlon. It's important to your physical, mental and emotional health as well as to your athletic success to keep your sport fun.

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals that make you feel great about yourself - and your decision to be a triathlete. Don't fall into the trap that you need to look, eat or train a certain way to call yourself a triathlete. If you are scared to get started, join a club/coach and find someone who can help guide you. Success looks different on everyone. Triathlon is not about podiums, PRs, body image or fancy equipment. It's about enjoyment, passion, development, personal exploration, building self confidence, overcoming fears, physical activity, health, learning new skills, supporting others, socializing, improving body awareness and of course, having fun! Having love for your sport, your body and your health is more important than results.

If you are a triathlete, coach or future triathlete, help me keep triathlon fun.. I know Bethany would want it that way.


IM Canada: Post race

Surprisingly, I slept pretty well on the night of the Ironman. We stayed up until around 11pm as we first watched the last stage of the Tour de France and then watched some of the IM Lake Placid coverage. I have found through experience that the more I push the run, the more damage I feel in my legs - which affects how I sleep and recover post Ironman. Because of so much walking throughout 26.2 miles, I luckily didn't experience the typical extreme tissue/muscle damage that occurs during 26.2 miles in an Ironman. I was still very sore and had some familiar aches in my left leg but overall, it wasn't as bad as I expected. Karel, on the other hand, was having a rough night and apparently I slept through it all. He was sore all over - head to toe.

We kept Monday as a chill day and reserved it for 1) Awards 2) Eating.

The award ceremony was outside in the Olympic Village area (just behind our condo) and we were joined by several of our athletes who were still in town. It was great to catch up with everyone and hear the stories from the race. It was awesome to share the podium with my athlete Ericka, who not only qualified for her first Kona but won overall female amateur. What an exciting day for her. Every time I saw her on the course, she gave me so much positive energy. I somehow managed to place 5th in the 35-39 age group so that was a huge surprise for me. Karel won his age group and received a nice customized jacket (so did all of the AG winners). Gin also placed on the podium for the 70.3 event. We waited for the roll down for a few of our athletes to see if they could get a slot for 70.3 worlds but the slots were quickly taken by other athletes.

After the award ceremony, we went back to our condo to get a little work done throughout the day but overall, it was a chill day. Later in the day we went to Hunter and Gather restaurant for a well-deserved real meal. Of course, Karel got some ice cream afterward.

As for the next few days, we enjoyed our time in Canada by doing a little sight-seeing. Even with a tired body, we were still able to see a lot. Since we didn't do any eating out prior to the race, we looked forward to trying some of the local eats. Before my ART apt on Tuesday in Squamish, we ate lunch at Saha Eatery (Mediterrean food).

We also hit up a local chocolate shop before lunch. We rode the Gondola in the afternoon and took a short hike to a scenic overlook point. It was a packed day but a great one.

On Wednesday we made the hour drive to Joffre Lakes. Although the parking lot was packed, luckily the trails were not overly crowded. The almost 10K (~4 hour) hike was pretty intense and technical but it was well worth it. The views were incredible.

We brought some food to keep us fueled along the way during the hike but had a quick stop in Pemberton at Blackbird bakery. Karel got a cappuccino and quiche and I (finally) got a cinnamon roll - oh how I love cinnamon rolls!

Thursday was our travel day and with a red eye and a lot of driving to do, we kept this day pretty low key. My friend Jennifer Ward suggested a local cafe for us to get some work done. We then ate lunch at Naked Sprout before hitting the road around 2:30pm. It was a cooler/cloudy day and we really lucked out with weather on race week/day.

The drive to Vancouver was absolutely beautiful. Because we drove in the dark when we arrived, we never got to experience the beautiful sights of mountains and water. However, once we got to Vancouver, the traffic was ugh. It took us over an hour to go 12 miles. Luckily we allowed plenty of time before our 10:30pm flight. After returning our rental car, we waited in the airport until we could check in, had some dinner at Freshii and then went to our gate.

We were able to kill some time by getting some work done and by the time we boarded the plane, we were ready to go to sleep. Of course it's a bit hard to sleep on the airplane but we managed to get some on and off sleep for the next 5 hours.

When we arrived to Atlanta at 6:40am, Karel had his first ever experience going through customs as a US Citizen. We were shocked how smooth and easy it was compared to all our struggles and troubles in the past with him as a green card holder. After getting our bikes (which were free again on Delta!) and our luggage, we took the two shuttles to our car and then hit the road. It took us a good 3ish hours to get back (plus a stop at Panera for breakfast) and after picking up our excited pooch from my mom's, we all crashed in bed for a solid 2 hour nap.

As for the rest of the week post race, I didn't do much exercise - just a 1800 yard swim on Friday evening. I wanted to fully heal my body to make sure my body and mind were ready for the next 10 weeks of training in route to IM Kona. Karel and I both felt like we were mostly recovered from the IM (physically) by Saturday - but of course, there was still some deep damage inside (especially for Karel). We were mostly just tired (Sleepy) from the travel.

While I was excited to easy back into training this week, I was hit with a curveball as Campy accidentally stuck his nail in my right eye on Monday evening as we were snuggling in I am not able to do anything until it heals. I am in a lot of pain as it feels like I have glass in my eye but it should heal soon. I'm thankful for Voss Vision for seeing me under this emergency situation. I can't help but laugh a little as my dad was an Optometrist and I know he would have loved to have "treated" me with this type of situation. My dad saw everything with eye injuries so this would have been something minor from his point of view (although it feels super traumatic for me! haha)

My coach Cait told me that it's just a sign from the Universe that my body still needs time to heal from the Ironman.


IM Canada race recap: 26.2 mile run

I had a great team helping me overcome an injury to my back/hip that occurred ~3 weeks before the race. During this time, I was unable to run but with every day, I felt myself improving - oh so very slowly. I am grateful to Scott, my PT for the dry needling and exercises which helped my body go from pain to relief. I am also thankful to Frank, my massage therapist, for his time and energy in helping to fix my twisted body. I would also like to thank Valerie - from Physiofocus for seeing me before and after IM Canada (in Whistler). I also had Chris Johnson, PT do some tests on me on Friday before the race (thank you Chris for your time and help!). With many hands helping my body, I was able to arrive to the race feeling like my body had overcome an injury. While I still wasn't out of the woods yet, I felt relieved that I was no longer in pain. I'd also like to thank Karel who was so supportive during this time. I knew it was hard for him to see me not running but I found energy in seeing him excel in his training, knowing that he was going to put together a solid performance at Ironman Canada.

Over the course of these three weeks, I choose positivity. During this time, I had a choice - be upset and mad or be happy. I choose happy. Sure, I was bummed about the situation I was in but life was still good. I also choose not to feel pressure during the healing process. I knew my body would heal (and it still is) but I couldn't rush the process or predict the future. There was a chance time would run out and I wouldn't be able to run on race day but in the meantime, I made sure never to waste a day. There was still so much to be thankful and grateful for, life was still worth living, and I remained excited for the opportunity to start my 15th Ironman. Part of me was still optimistic that I was going to be able to run a few miles off the bike but I also had to mentally prepare myself for a DNF due to not being able to finish the run. While the situation was not how I envisioned my race going several months ago, I was constantly reminding myself that no one is forcing me to finish. Any pressure that I feel to finish this race is from myself - and I don't need to run through pain or risk a further, more serious injury. Reminding myself of this helped to ease any frustration or worry about the run. My coach Cait told me to assess the situation for 1-2 miles and if I felt pain and my form was altered, the best thing to do is to stop. While I couldn't control the situation - or plan for the future - I could control how I reacted to the situation.
As I started to run out of the transition area, I assessed my body. I took each step very carefully and remembered the advice from my coach and also all the mental training I did going into this moment to prepare myself for what may happen over the next few miles. I have never been in this situation before so there was a lot going on in my mind during the first mile of the race. Because of the extreme body awareness that I needed to place on my body, I removed any pressure of "needing to perform." Whereas I was racing the swim and the bike (and leading the race as overall female amateur), I was no longer focused on what others were doing as all my energy was on myself.

The first few miles of this run course are a bit technical - up and down and on and off gravel. There were a few turns as well. I actually love this type of running but it was hard for me to settle into a good running stride and to truly assess how I was feeling. After one mile, I didn't feel any pain in my groin - which was the reason why I was unable to run for the past three weeks. I felt a little tugging around my knee/inner thigh but it wasn't painful. After another mile, still no groin pain. I was really happy about this but still a little concerned that things may get worse. After two more miles, I was still without pain. At this point, all I felt was a bit of tugging around my lower leg. While I knew it wasn't normal soreness from an Ironman, I also felt like it was something that I could safely run through - so long as I was smart. Nearing 4-5 miles, I started to take a bit more walk breaks. I wanted to make sure that I could keep restarting the run after I walked as any tightness or flare-ups would likely occur while I was trying to restart the run. I was successful in this approach and I also felt like the walk breaks were helping me avoid anything serious happening. While it didn't feel like my normal Ironman run, I was able to keep good form.

After a few miles, I saw Karel and he gave me the biggest smile as he wasn't sure if I was going to be able to run. He later told me that this made his day and he was able to run more relaxed knowing that I was able to run. Shortly later, my athlete Ericka (who later on went on to win the amateur race and qualify for Kona) passed me and we had a little discussion. I told her to not change what is working - no need to go any harder/faster and to keep doing what's working with walking and nutrition.

As the miles went by, I found myself walking a lot but also running. As I was nearing the first loop of the run (13 miles), I couldn't believe that I went this far - my first true run in 3 weeks. Again, it wasn't the run feeling I am use to in an Ironman but it wasn't painful. Because of all of the energy that I was spending on my body, I failed to do a good job with my nutrition. While I had my flasks (1 flask of NBS carbo hydration and 1 flask of Carborocket hydration) and sipped on them, I wasn't doing a great job being consistent with my intake and listening to my body as it relates to when I took in nutrition. Because of this, I had a few quick bathroom breaks. I didn't get upset or frustrated as my focus was not on racing but just being in the moment. During these times, I accepted it as one of the many things I was going to experience during this Ironman.

As I was nearing the end of the first loop, I saw my athlete Gin who raced the 70.3. I stopped when I saw her as I had just convinced myself that I was only going to run the first loop and it was way more than I thought I would be able to run. I already felt so accomplished! Plus, Karel was getting close to the finish so I thought it would be fun to stop and see him finish. But Gin told me I was looking really good and that I was 2nd overall amateur. I was kinda shocked by this but it also gave me some good energy that even thought I felt like I was no longer competing, I was still having a "good" race. I told Gin that I wasn't sure what I was going to do as I was ready to pull the plus on the race but something inside of me told me to keep going. Gin was great as she was calm and cool about the situation and even as a coach, I appreciated her support and enthusiasm without putting thoughts into my head. She told me she would be at the same place so I told her I'd run a few more miles and then assess the situation once more. During the next few miles, I had a longer walk break as I really needed to think about the situation. Knowing that I was not in pain and I felt confident that I was not doing more damage to my body, I felt like the only thing that was making me want to quit was the uncomfortable soreness in my legs - both legs. It took me several miles to realize that this was Ironman soreness and not injury soreness. Knowing that I had an injury-card to pull out at any time for a good excuse for a DNF was making me feel like it was OK to stop. But when I searched deep inside of my thoughts, I realized that it was not a valid excuse. I needed to work through this discomfort of the Ironman and get myself to the finish line. Although I was still listening closely to my body and walking anytime I felt like my form was suffering, I was using my experience of racing so many Ironmans to mentally stay strong and to work through the low moments that occur during the last 13 miles of racing in a 140.6 mile event.

I was taking full advantage of the aid stations and finding happiness wherever I could. Whereas I am normally a bit more focused when I am racing the run at the end of an Ironman, I made sure to really enjoy this run - plus it was so beautiful! I would high five kids whenever I saw them, I said hi to all the dogs on the course (I do that anyways, even when I am racing the run), I was making the effort to cheer on other athletes and I was even celebrating little milestones like reaching certain points on the course. For example, when I got to mile 20, I said out loud "wahoo!" as I never thought I would make it this far. When I saw Ericka at her mile 23, I told myself, "just 3 more miles until you are there!" I was finding everything possible to give me energy. Karel gave me a ton of energy every time I saw him and I also loved seeing our first timer Reid out on the course. I even celebrated seeing 9-9:30 min/miles on my watch as I felt like I was doing pretty well with all my walking. It was all these small things that kept me smiling and really enjoying the run. Once I committed to finishing the race, I made sure to enjoy every mile and to not wish for the race to be overwith. Yes - I wanted to sit down and rest my legs but I was finding joy in finishing what I didn't think I could start.

As I was nearing the last mile of the race, I was extremely happy. I couldn't wait to share stories with Karel and hear all about his race. I was super pumped to see my athletes at the finish line but they were all there cheering for me with less than 1/4th mile to go. I gave out some high fives and smiled ear to ear as I saw them all there cheering.

As I ran down the finish line chute, I gave away a few more high fives, lifted my arms up and crossed the finish line that I didn't think I would see. After 15 Ironmans, I can honestly say that every race requires something different to go from start to finish but that finish line always feels incredibly good.

Karel, who finished a good 90+ minutes before me, was there to see me finish. He was so happy for me and knew I could do what I didn't think I could do. Thankfully I was able to still walk after the race and I somehow managed to be better off than Karel - who ended up in medical, needing a few cups of chicken broth to bring him back to life.

I'm grateful to my body for what it allows me to do. I really try hard not to take my body/health for granted. I was worried about this race as I didn't want to damage my body on the run, but somehow, my body surprised me. I want to send a huge thank you to all those who cheered me on and I'd like to give a big congrats to all my athletes who raced the 70.3 (and to Ericka for smashing the women's field and to Reid for finishing his first Ironman!)

Karel's run recap:
Wow! I’m speechless and so stoked about this run. How is it possible, I only did one 2hr run in training 😉 Soon as I finished the bike, I stopped thinking about what I did wrong with my pacing and my focus was purely on putting together a good run. From the first step, I felt great! I tried to run with a very controlled effort and the faster paces were coming with ease. I felt great rhythm and was moving pretty good. Everything felt really good until 18.5 miles where I started to feel the typical Ironman toll. I had a few low moments where my mind had to work really hard to keep my legs moving forward, but I was able to bounce back from these low moments. The last 7 km was really hard and last 4 km I was just on autopilot - I was still running OK but I felt like I had no control over the movement of my legs. And the last 1 km was so long! That finish line took forever to come. Crossing the line and seeing 3:04 on my watch was a really great feeling .... and then I collapsed on the grass and went to medical (no IVs, just chicken broth to bring me back to life). Later on I found out the results of the race and I was very happy. During the race, I never knew where I was in my age group or overall so I just had to race my best effort on the day. Overall this Ironman was definitely one of the hardest courses but also one of the most spectacular races.