IronMan and Discussing Feelings Don’t Mix

IronMan Coeur d’Alene is the plan of the day around here, and it got me thinking about racing and training.

We recently discussed getting too much or too little electrolytes, but that’s not really the topic for today.  What I wanted to discuss today was…how those things make us FEEL.  And how important is that in an endurance event?

Feelings, Really?

I know, this may not be what you’re expecting to see in regards to long-distance racing.  But how we feel can greatly impact how we race.  So, yes, let’s talk about feelings!

If we think about this logically, when we feel good we…well, feel good!  During a race, this can equate to riding straighter, riding stronger, and with more confidence.  Then, when we get off the bike, we run stronger and with better posture.  Does this not impact performance?

I’ve never seen any studies, but it absolutely has to!  Just think about these 2 scenarios:

  1. Your electrolytes are low, and you are “slogging” through the race.  Everything hurts, you feel tired and bonky, and in general just lose interest in being there.
  2. Your electrolytes are balanced, you feel great, everyone cheers you along, you’re smiling, and everything is clicking – you’re in the zone.

Which scenario sounds like a faster finish time?

Call me crazy, but I think feelings actually matter a LOT.

Endurance Training Diet

Carb Loading

Everyone is familiar with the idea of carb loading.  If you have ever been around someone training for an endurance event, you’ve likely heard them say (as they reach for their third helping of bread with their pasta meal), “I’m carb loading for my race tomorrow.”  While Glycogen stores are necessary to help with endurance training and events lasting longer than an hour, “carb loading” on a regular basis is not necessarily a priority, or the best source of fuel.

Every Day Diet

Most endurance athletes are constantly pushing their body’s physical and mental limit.  While eating high sugar or high carb meals will help boost energy and state of mind, it is used as more of a quick fix.  Eating a diet full whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good fats and healthy proteins) will help your body stay healthy, strong and allow you to recover more quickly.

Antioxidant Rich Foods

Inflammation caused by prolonged endurance training or exercise will increase the production of free radicals that cause fatigue, soreness and over time injury and illness.  By properly refueling after training sessions with additional vitamins and minerals, not just protein and carb replenishment, it will help offset the free radicals.

Instead of reaching for a bag of skittles to satisfy your sweet tooth, try a bowl of fresh berries:  Blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are all loaded with Vitamins A, C & E – all antioxidant rich minerals.  They are also loaded with potassium and magnesium, essential electrolytes that are depleted during endurance training, in particular with excessive sweat.

Sweet potatoes, spinach and asparagus are all packed with vitamins and minerals and when cooked their antioxidant properties are enhanced.

If you are looking to boost your meal with some spice and flavor, try adding one or more of the following to your food:  Garlic, curry, cinnamon or ginger to naturally reduce inflammation.

Post workout recovery and daily diet

While your pre-and post workout nutrition is very important to your performance to promote energy before/during and recovery after – eating a regular diet full of nutrient rich properties is just as important.

Eat REAL food.  Leave the processed, added sugar foods behind and your body and performance improvements will thank you!

Chrissie Wellington Retires

She has been dubbed the greatest female endurance athlete in history.  She blew everyone away in 2007, her first year as a professional triathlete, by winning the Ironman World Championships in Kona.  It was her first attempt.  Chrissie Wellington went on to win every single race. She has never been beaten at the Iron distance, and holds 3 records relating to the distance: Overall World Record, Ironman World Championships course record, and official World Record for Ironman Branded Iron Distance triathlons.

After her 4th win in Kona, Chrissie took a sort of leave of absence from racing to focus on her charities, public speaking and relax.  In her words, “I’m happy.  I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone anymore – not even to myself.”

Athletes all over the world look up to her.  They admire her no quit attitude and her ongoing pursuit of being the champion.  Her competitors fear her.  But now what?

On 12/3/12 Chrissie announced her retirement from Iron Distance Racing.  I believe the endurance world, athletes from all walks of life are shocked.  Some sad they will never see their idol, role model defying all odds and crushing records over and over.

I for one find it, and her journey, nothing short of amazing.  After reading her personal blog entry, I’m overwhelmed with her words.  How many of us feel the same way.  Always looking for that perfect day;  the day where we finally reach our goals.  the day where we realize we have nothing to prove to anyone else, but most importantly to ourselves.  If you want to read it for yourself, it’s HERE.

I suppose what I personally take from all of this, from seeing possibly the greatest endurance athlete of our time do the unthinkable, is that there really are no limits to what we can achieve.  I can only hope and dream that someday I will feel that sense of accomplishment and whole heartedly satisfied with my achievements.

Until then, I keep racing…

“As and athlete I always sought ‘the perfect race’ – the true meaning of ‘sporting success’.  That race within myself where I dug to the depths mentally and physically, and that hard-fought race with my competitors.  The Ironman World Championships in 2011 was the icing on the cake for me as an athlete.  It was my ‘perfect race’.  I finally felt worthy of being called a champion.” –Chrissie Wellington

Aerobic Training Benefits

What is aerobic training?

Order Recovery e21
Aerobic training can also be simply called “cardio.”  Run, walk, bike, swim, row, etc.  Any gym you go into will have a “cardio” section with fitness equipment.  It is basically any physical exercise done at low intensity that can be performed for extended periods of time.

What are some key benefits to training aerobically?

When you are training consistently at an aerobic heart rate (lower HR, extended periods of time) your heart gets stronger and pumps more blood per beat.  As your heart gets stronger it pumps more efficiently, meaning it doesn’t have to pump as fast to meet the demands of exercise.  Your resting HR will get much lower (40-50bpm) than average (60-80).  You may also develop more endurance because your muscles will not run out of oxygen as quickly.

Another key benefit is that your body will begin to burn fat instead of carbohydrates.  If regular aerobic exercises is performed, your body gets better at using oxygen which is needed more, to burn fat.

As you increase your aerobic capacity your body will become more fit.  You will be able to handle harder and longer workouts without causing damage to your muscles or risk injury.   Your muscles will get stronger by burning fat and building leaner muscle mass.

Longer term benefits

Over time your body will see improvements in circulation and blood pressure (lower).  It may help reduce stress and improve your overall outlook on life (reduced depression).  It can also lower your risk for diabetes.  As your aerobic capacity develops bone growth is stimulated resulting in a lowered risk of osteoporosis.
As always, consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.  Start slowly, 20 minutes per day, 3-5 times per week and increase your duration by only 10% per week.  Always listen to your body and stay hydrated, resting when needed and do not exercise if in pain.

IronMan Week – Arizona Style

For most athletes November is the off season for triathlon, the beginning of run season, or time to step away from the day to day grind and enjoy our friends and families over the Holidays.  Days are shorter, mornings dark and cold, motivation sometimes lacking.  We spend time reflecting on our past season, planning and getting excited for the next year to come.

Then, there are those of us fortunate (this would be a slightly different sentence if posted in say July-September) to live in Arizona and enjoy cool crisp mornings, sunny afternoons and gorgeous 70 degree sunsets.

This also happens to be one of the most exciting weeks in our home town, Ironman Arizona.  Since making the change from April to November a few years back, the race has grown, bringing the best of the best to compete. And it sells out instantly.  With the exception of 2010 when we had a freak hail, wind and rain storm for the event, race day weather is about as perfect as one could dream of.

Race Day

A chilly morning swim start, sending you off on your bike with temperatures rising with the sun into the mid 70s.  A run course that has little shade, but with mild temperatures cooling down to the mid 50s and 60s into the dark.

The race is spectator friendly with cyclists coming back into town twice before heading out onto their third loop of the bike.  A run course that loops athletes around the swim venue and transition areas in a sort of figure 8, 3 times.  Athletes are basically never alone and spectators are entertained all day long!

Ironman Arizona updates are littering my Facebook feeds and I love it.  Twitter is exploding.  Invites to our local triathlon shop and bike shop sponsored events are almost overwhelming, yet so exciting!  Raffles, fundraisers, schwag, pro-clinics.  I love it all!  It’s exciting to see what a huge community of triathletes and supporters we have here in the Valley.

As a local I’ve spent every year heading down to Tempe cheering on friends and teammates.  I got to watch Chrissie Wellington smash the course record and “chick” several male pros.  This year I get to see things from a  new perspective.  I will be volunteering at the finish line and *hope* to have the honor of catching some very good friends as they achieve their goal.

Watching an Ironman finish is always an emotional and inspirational experience and I can’t wait to see it so up close and personal.  Several friends of mine signed up to volunteer at this station together so if you plan on finishing between 6-10pm, you will be finishing into a party!

And as if all this excitement wasn’t enough, I think the best part about the entire experience is that after years of saying I didn’t want to do this race, I’m officially committed to racing Ironman Arizona in 2013.  After the cancellation of Ironman Canada this year, the race directors gave all athletes the opportunity for early registration to a few select races, and Ironman AZ is one of them.  So, as of 10:30 this morning I am officially $700 more broke with a year to get ready and fired up to toe the line.

The fun begins Thursday with the arrival of friends from out of town, group lunches and the opening of Ironman Village.

I can’t WAIT!  I’m ready to be inspired, motivated and elated for all the finishers!

How Do I Increase Aerobic Capacity?

What is Aerobic Capacity and why is it important?

Aerobic Capacity can also described as your Vo2 max;  the ability to use oxygen to produce energy.  If you think about it comparing 2 runners out for a jog together.  One is chatting away effortlessly at an XX pace, while the other is unable to hold a conversation with a pant-like breathing effort.

Pretty clear to see who has a higher aerobic capacity, or who is more aerobically fit, right?

Building your aerobic capacity is primarily done by training in your aerobic zone (differs person to person).  Training in this zone is the best way to teach your body to use fat for energy (vs carbohydrates/sugar), build your overall endurance and stamina, reduces chance for injury and over-training and it also can help your recover faster.

How can I know what my aerobic training zone is?

Everyone’s aerobic zone and capacity differs, but there are medical tests that can be done such as a VO2 or Lactate thresholdwoman running to increase aerobic capacity test.  These tests are done wearing a mask that will measure the volume of air expired with the percentage of oxygen and carbon dioxide expired.

These measurements are taking every minute while a person is either running or biking, and also wearing a heart rate monitor with increasing efforts.  The test can provide very detailed feedback of your aerobic threshold (highest HR you can still train at aerobically), your lactate threshold or the “red zone,” and your VO2 max or your maximum potential.

There are less scientific ways to measure this and they can be used as very good baselines for training.  This is a very basic measurement here to find your zones:
Females MHR = 220 – (age * 0.7)
Males MHR = 220 – (age * 0.8)

This calculation will give you your MAX HR.  You aerobic zone is typically capped at about 75 % of that number.  This is a good BASELINE to use for aerobic training.

How long will it take to build my aerobic capacity?

Aerobic training, and getting aerobically fit is not something that will happen over night.  While it will vary from person to person, a good estimate would be 6-8 weeks.  You have to be patient. It will take your body (and mind) a while to adjust to this easier effort.  Your times will start our significantly slower, and it takes a lot of persistence to keep this type of training up.

How will I know if my aerobic capacity is increasing?

You will start to see improvements after about a month.  For some people who have trained aerobically in the past, it may come sooner and for those who have always trained HARD and anaerobically, it may take a while longer.

Your pace at a “140” HR will start to be faster, easier and with less labored breathing.  You will begin to utilize fat stores instead of glycogen, needing less calorie supplementation during extended workouts. You may notice that you aren’t famished or starving after your workouts.  You muscles will feel less sore and fatigue.

Once you have built your aerobic capacity, you will be able add in harder efforts and you will most likely notice faster times than before.  You can push harder and to faster paces, but your Heart Rate will likely not reach to point it would before.

Another key benefit of doing this aerobic training is when you take time off in the future and need to return to the base training or aerobic training, it will come back much quicker.  You will be able to handle higher volumes than someone less aerobically fit and you gain more benefits from the harder more intense workouts.

Endurance Athlete Supplements

What is a supplement?

A supplement can be defined or described using the base of the word.  Anything used to supplement, or add to, making it whole.  When describing a diet, it would be to supplement or make up for a deficiency, for example Iron.  If you are Iron deficient, also known as anemic, you would supplement or add Iron to your diet.

Supplements can also used not just to make up for but to add effectiveness.  Vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements and sports nutrition products are commonly used to promote general health and well being.  They can also be used to help athletes train, and recover more effectively and efficiently.

What kind of supplements should an endurance athlete take?

Depending on what the end result one is looking to achieve is, the supplements that a person should take would be very individual.  Here are a few examples:

Electrolytes:  While electrolytes are important and necessary for everyone, including all athletes, an individual training longer would have a greater need to replace these electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium, etc.) due to higher sweat loss and dehydration.

Fuel/Carbohydrates:  Simply put, an energy gel or other quickly digested source of calories.  Again, these are important to an endurance athletes after prolonged (excess of 60minutes) exercise when energy stores are depleted.  It’s recommended to take ~100-300 calories (highly individual) per 1hr of exercise.

Glucosamine and Omega-3 fatty acids:  These supplements help with injury prevention like joint pain.  They can also act as natural anti-inflamatories and are much easier to digest then NSAIDs (not steroid anti inflammatory drugs).

Protein:  Protein helps the body and muscles repair faster.  Protein is used for maintaining aerobic metabolism and if intake is too low the body will take what it needs from lean muscle.

Amino Acids:  Amino acids are building blocks for muscle and digestive enzymes.  There are eight essential amino acids that must be obtained from one’s diet.  However, a typical endurance athlete’s body can synthesize (use up) them faster than they can consume them with their regular diet.  Taking an amino acid supplement has been helpful to optimize and improve physiological responses during racing and training.

Top 10 Moments from the 2012 Ironman World Championships

I remember hearing about Kona years ago when I first started doing triathlons.  It was something that seemed so far out of reach I didn’t think twice about it.  Then, I find myself 10 years later after multiple Ironman finishes and some great improvements over the years thinking what if?  So, where does that leave me last Saturday?


P.S.  Thank you for finally getting your website coverage and athlete tracking to work this year!

Here we go, in no particular order, my top 10 favorite thing about the 2012 Ironman World Championships.

1.  Watching the last finisher exit the water. They had about 90 seconds to go and you could hear the crowds, even on line, cheering him in.  He popped his head out of the water, walked up the steps to the timing mat at such a leisure pace I wanted to jump into my computer and PUSH him forward.  So intense, but SO cool.  I hate watching the ones where the people are swimming and swimming and then BAM, the clock hits 2:20 and some official has to tell them sorry, you can not continue.  HEARTBREAKING.

2.  Fair, evenly given out (to age group & pro as far as I could tell) draft penalties.  After reading race report after race report last year talking about pelotons of cyclists flying by, it seemed like the enforcements were out keeping the course honest this year.  They even showed coverage of the female pro race, watching and talking about the seconds each pro had to overtake another athlete, and then what the passed athlete had to do in response.

3.  Chrissie Wellington.   Nuf said.  No, really.  She wasn’t racing, however, I saw so many pictures of her online.  One was of her actually kissing a runner’s feet.  Something about calling him the “croc guy.”  I heard a lot of recaps of her being at mile 6ish of the marathon smiling, cheering, encouraging every athlete she saw.  SO.COOL.

4.  Natasha Badman.  6 time IM World Champion.  45 years old and taking 6th place, clocking the fastest female pro bike split of the day.  AMAZING.

5.  Mile 19ish.  Craig Alexander cutting across the road to high five the eventual Men’s Ironman World Champ, Pete Jacobs.  CLASS ACT.

6.  Sister Madona.  I know she DNF’d BUT at 82 years old to be toeing the line with some of the greatest endurance athletes in the world, and NOT for her first time.  Also, just ~8 weeks after breaking her age group course record at Ironman Canada.  That woman is a legend and another living proof of defying age.

7.  Kona inspired.  8 athletes with stories that will drop your jaw, given the opportunity to race in the Ironman World Championships.  Cancer survivors, Cancer fighters.  Athletes that have overcome and fight every day.  I hope they continue this program allowing people with the most unthinkable stories creating awareness and inspiration for everyone.

8. Leanda Cave running her way to first place and surprising everyone, including herself that she has what it takes.  Becoming the first ever World Champ at both 70.3 and 140.6.  You could see the determination in her face as she made the final pass into first like she meant it.

9.  The underpants run.  It’s cheesy, it’s obnoxious and it’s inappropriate in so many ways, but who doesn’t go on line or if there in person, take a look at the less than there outfits of all the crazy fit people.  Eye candy or TMI?

10. The Blazeman Roll.  I don’t know what the total count of people who did the Blazeman roll across the finish line, but I do know that it gave me goosebumps watching Leanda do it.  What a mark that young man left in this sport.  What a legend.

And, there you have it.  My top ten favorite things about the 2012 Ironman World Championships.  Hopefully, someday my number one will be witnessing it in person – preferably as a participant!

Nutrition Supplements for Athletes

I eat healthy, why would I need to take additional supplements?

First, lets start of by saying that a well balanced,  healthy diet is the first step to getting all of the nutrients your body needs.  Healthy, organic and natural foods help the body process and absorb nutrition best.  That said, studies have shown that even following such healthy diet and lifestyle our bodies are still missing important nutritional requirements.

The best way to find out what types of supplements you may need would be to consult your physician and do a full blood work panel to find out your deficiencies.  An example of of a deficiency that would appear on the blood work would be iron (high potential in women or vegans).

What types of supplements do athletes need?

Some examples of supplements and what they may help with are:
• Protein powder

• Amino acids:  promotes muscle growth and repair

• Glucosamine:  Joint health (achy knees!)

• Anti-oxidants

• Zinc:  Immunity boosters  (no more colds!)

Electrolytes: magnesium, sodium & potassium


A few things to know about supplements

Supplements are not required to meet any sort of FDA (Food Administration) Standards.  However, this does NOT meant that the products are not effective.

Supplements are found in a variety of every day products you may use like:
Caffeine has been used by endurance athletes for a very long time to help with brain stimulation and energy levels.  Every tried having a coke in the middle of a workout or race when you are feeling tired?  B-Vitamins are another common supplement that athletes and non athletes include in their daily diet.  They are found in most meal replacement (bars, energy drinks, etc), as well as your immunity boosting mixes like Airborne and Emergency.


Where should I start?

As mentioned above, if you are looking to supplement your diet with additional nutrients that it may be missing from your every day food intake, consult your physician for a full blood work panel.  If you are looking for immunity and muscle repair and recovery supplements, then begin by taking a multi-vitamin, electrolytes and possibly glucosamine for joint health.