Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The 4th Discipline

Swim, Bike, Run. That's what we triathletes spend the majority of our time thinking about. It is what occupies our daily thoughts, our dreams at night and (much to our families' chagrin) dinner conversations on one too many occasions.

But there is a fourth discipline to triathlon: Nutrition. Ask any seasoned athlete and he or she will tell you that nutrition and hydration is key to successful performance. We've all see athletes meltdown due to dehydration or make a mad dash for the porta-potty at inopportune times during the race to relieve the products of an upset GI system. Proper fueling can mean the difference between a triumph and a catastrophe.

Being a Registered Dietitian, I am quizzed frequently by fellow triathletes about race nutrition. The questions posed could easily make Letterman's Top 10 list, as they've probably been the punchline of every triathlete's dramatic tale of race-day horror at some point:
  • "What gel do you recommend?"
  • "Which electrolyte replacement is best?" 
  • "How do I manage GI upset?" 
  • "What's your favorite pre-race meal?"
  • "What do you think about drinking beer for recovery?"
10 Barrel brews hold a special
place in my nutrition plan. :-)

And so on. The tricky thing is, everyBODY is different and will respond to nutrition differently. Everyone has different taste buds, different amounts of enzymes and digestive compounds running through their system, and will be working at varied intensities. It is impossible to examine all of these aspects of race nutrition in a blanket statement that will fit every athlete.

Through my blog posts I look forward to sharing some of my insight, as well as learning from others, as to what strategies compose a winning nutrition plan. For now, I'll share my race day nutrition plan for a long course race such as Boise 70.3. Remember, this is what works for me...your body could be totally different.

  • First and foremost: a hearty breakfast. My daily nutrition is of utmost importance to me, and pre-race is no difference. My favorite go-to breakfast is a huge bowl of fruit with plain, fat free Greek yogurt (Chobani Plain is my fave) and a crunchy cereal like Kashi GoLean or granola. Paired w/ my standard cuppa joe and I'm ready to rock. 

  • Pre-race snack. Most races require athletes to get up and get moving early in the morning, but if you think about it you probably have a few hours between the time you finish breakkie and when the gun goes off. I prefer to take half of a peanut butter and banana sandwich with me and eat while I'm setting up T1. Boise 70.3 had a unique "lunchtime" start, so I had my sando on the way out, then nibbled on carrots and yogurt while setting up my bike. And drink water!
  • On the bike: Usually my tummy is a little temperamental after jacking my HR in the swim and with the adrenaline coursing through me as I roll out of T1 I can't really get anything down my throat but water until I calm down. Since I've done such a good job of fueling up to this point, I will allow myself about 30 min of "settling" into the bike before I touch any food. I'll sip water during this time. People joke that I ride with a "buffet" of food...and maybe by some standards I do. My Bento Box is jam-packed with boiled, salted Idaho potatoes, an oatmeal power cookie made by our local Wildflour Bakery, a couple Nuun tablets and some raspberry Powerbar Gel Blasts. I'll also take about 16-20 fl oz of Powerbar Restore (approximately 2 scoops) for sipping throughout. A few notes about my bike nutrition choices:

    • I like to EAT on the bike. I have trained my body to handle this and to expect solid food. That said, semi-liquid and liquid nutrition is absorbed more quickly, thus the sports drink.
    • The salted potatoes are money when you're so sick of sweet, sugary stuff that you'd give anything for something "real". A word of caution- I have had trouble chewing and swallowing these down if I neglect my hydration and get cotton mouth. So this actually helps me remember to drink water to wash 'em down.
    • Powerbar Restore is not designed or marketed for use during the event- it is intended for recovery. However, years back I had latched on to Perpetuem, which is a carb/protein mixture. I used this for a season until it didn't seem to work for me any longer. In the process of seeking out a replacement product that still had some protein and carbs I came across Restore. Now, the research on consuming protein during endurance exercise is mixed...but if it ain't broken...
    • I always have a little more food than I think I'll need on the bike. The Powerbar Gel Blasts are good insurance for me, in case I just don't feel like eating anything else, or need some quick sugar in the system. You never know when you'll get a mechanical, drop some goodies on the ground mid-bite, or simply just need more fuel than you originally estimated. I figure if I roll into T2 with a little fuel leftover I'm in a good position nutritionally.
    • Sometimes the Nuun gets used, sometimes it doesn't. My bike food supplies fantastic electrolytes so it is rare that I need more. On very hot days, or days where I don't need as much fuel, but more hydration I'll pop one of these puppies into my Speedfil to ensure proper hydration.
  • On the run: By this time I know I have loaded my system with about all the calories, carbs and electrolytes it can possibly handle while working at this intensity. Things are about to get even harder on the run and solid food is not an option for me. My solution: suck on Gu Chomps the entirety of the run. Rolling one around in my mouth will last about 2-3 miles, then if there's anything left, the Chomp gets chomped down. Aid stations are water for the first 6 miles or so, then supplementing with cola each aid station after. 

Now, to go back to my initial point: that every individual's physiology and taste preferences vary. What I have described is my plan, and will hopefully give you some new ideas to try. I also welcome comments, sharing strategies, or questions regarding this topic. The fourth discipline is, for many, the trickiest of all.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Boise 70.3- Where the heart is

I am still coming down off of the energetic high from this past weekend. Being my second race in the pro field, this event presented an interesting dichotomy: the comforts and familiarity of racing in my own community coupled with the added pressure to perform and make my city proud.

The week leading up to the race was not a stress-free time for me. In true over-achiever fashion I had saddled myself with 3 work-related project deadlines. I had also suffered a little tumble at the Lyle Pearson 200 bike relay that resulted in a broken handlebar the weekend before. This made for a nail-biting situation for me and MFMG to get my bike fixed within a 6 day window. If that weren't enough this rookie went and screwed up her registration and had to scramble to remedy the situation 48 hours before the gun went off. Stress is only as influential as you allow it to be, though, and by Friday afternoon my life had harmoniously aligned. It is critical to mention that I schooled MFMG in a game of cribbage the night before the race. Historically my cribbage performance is inversely related to my race results...but it appears the winds are changing...
Take that, sucka!
Photo by Matt Green
Surrounding myself with positive, supportive people is critical in the days leading up to a race. The individuals with whom I spent my pre-70.3 time are some of my favorites: MFMG (of course), Heather and Wattie, my friends and fellow Wattie Ink teammates Sue and Jay, Dusty Nabor & Karin Langer, Wildflower roomie and buddy Liz Lyles, my coach Flanny, as well as dozens of friends and coworkers who have all got my back.

I will spare you too many details, as I realize everything I think is important to convey in a race report may be snore-worthy for all of you. In reflection, there were some key voices in my head throughout race day that were crucial to my performance. (I teed up that one for you smartasses who want to make a quip about "the voices") Here is a quick breakdown of my breakthrough:

  • Nutrition Bullseye! Matt told me on race morning, "Your nutrition plan is your greatest advantage. It will be hot and windy out there, and people are going to meltdown on the run. You've got your nutrition dialed, stick to it and HYDRATE." So every time the wind jolted me around I said to myself, "Drink!" It worked...I drained my Speedfil at least 4 times over the duration of the bike, ate my standard salted potatoes and power cookie and routinely sipped my Powerbar Restore (yes, I use this during the event instead of Perform). 
  • Relax and swim. When I was getting all worked up about the intensity of the swim start and my lack of confidence in that area, Flanny encouraged me to look at every race start as a learning opportunity. "Don't spend a lot of energy worrying about such a small fraction of your race," he said. Liz and her mom played chauffeur to me race morning and it gave us a chance to share some hopes (and apprehensions) about the race. Having her encouragement really helped. And wouldn't you know it...we swam shoulder to shoulder. Booyah!! If not for the sensation that I was drowning after that second buoy I would have smiled about this. Thank goodness it was a wetsuit-legal swim; my Blueseventy Helix performed flawlessly. Remember that waterboarding scene from GI Jane? This is what I sounded like during the latter portion of the swim (no joke):

  • Race the bike, but don't race stupid. That gem was provided by Flanny when discussing race strategy. At Wildflower the word of the day was "patience." For this race, I was given a little more discretion to use my power meter as a tool and gauge my efforts accordingly. Boise spring lived up to its blustery reputation and made for an extremely challenging bike leg. If not for the comfort of my ISM Adamo Breakaway I could not have stayed tucked into my aerobars for such a grueling effort. At the turnaround at 10 Mile Creek I could see that I was hanging in there mid-pack. Sweet! 

Highlight of my race: a shout-out and supreme fist pump from my #1 fan, MFMG.
Photo: Matt Green Photo
  • A run PR! My run training is relatively in its infancy this season. We have infused my steady (but cautious) mileage build with a few speed sessions and my body is responding well. That and the nonstop party (courtesy of the Boise Aeros) occurring on 8th street fueled the fire under my KSwiss Kwicky Blade Lights for all 13.1 miles. Huge thanks to Wattie, my mentor Harold Frobisher from Tri Town and local pro Chris Ganter for zipping around on their bikes giving me splits. Also, my good friend Justine was a bike escort for 3rd place pro male so I got an extra boost from her giving an encouraging shout-out to her "bitch". A 1:32 half marathon after that tempestuous bike?? I'll take it!
Photo: Matt Green Photo
Our State Representative and friend Holli Woodings ruled by volunteering , cheering and snapping photos!
Photo: Holli Woodings
  • A 4th place finish. I am thrilled! I executed my race plan impeccably...and in the midst of my family of Boiseans! From the wild cheering on race day to the touching Facebook posts and texts for days following, I am humbled and moved by the volume of support and camaraderie of this community. 
Photo: Dusty Nabor

  • 10 Barrel after-party with Wattie Ink teammates Sarah Barkley, SheriAnne Nelson and Toby Baum (who all had fantastic races!), Jay & Sue, Matt, Liz, Ben Hoffman (who also finished an impressive 4th...look for good things to come from him at IMCDA in a couple weeks!).

There are just so many people to acknowledge that I'm afraid of accidentally forgetting someone. Of course, Matty Green, the wearer of many hats, I couldn't do this without you. Wattie Ink and all the aforementioned sponsors and teammates, thank you for all of your time and support! Flanny, I'm so excited to continue down this road with you- great things to come! Thank you and congrats to Liz and Heather for inspiring me and being such awesome ladies...and to Uli Bromme for pushing me all the way to the finish line. And finally, to Heather Fuhr and the Ironman team who were very cooperative and prompt with helping me correct my registration error.

Media coverage: The Statesman and KBOI

Next up: Pacific Crest

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