Triathlete’s Top Quandary
The number one question I get from age groupers is “what do I use to fuel during training and Ironman racing?”. Unfortunately, what works for me won’t necessarily work for everyone. In fact, I have found that my own fueling is not a one-solution problem. There is no simple answer that will work for every person in all race conditions. As I get older and more experienced at long distance racing, I have found that what I need to consume daily to maintain my training load as well as what I need during a race changes yearly. This means that I need to continue to adapt and adjust each year to find the best formula for my body.
At age 33, I started with First Endurance and their fuel as well as their daily multi-vitamin and optygen product were essential to enable me to race and train consistently. With First Endurance fuel and supplements, I was able to stay healthier over the entire season enabling me to achieve consistent race results.
However, now that I am in my late 30s my needs have changed. Recently, I’ve struggled with my stomach in hot races and started working with Glukos to fuel during races. Their energy drink and gels have worked well for me in hot humid conditions like Kona where I have struggled like many Ironman athletes with nausea and vomiting. Their product is simple and digestible. In addition, after hard sessions, their protein bars and shakes are perfect for recovery.
In addition, in order to support my training load and recovery, I started working with Enduropacks. Initially, I was drawn to Enduropacks for their Electrolyte Spray. I have struggled to ingest mineral and salt pills during hot Ironman races. The traditional salt pill regimen was not successful for me as was clearly evidenced by my meltdown in the lava fields in Kona the last two years. The spray allows me to get in salt and minerals either in my drink or separately and absorbs better than capsules. In addition, the Enduropacks liquid Multi-Vitamin and Glutamine Recovery Complex have keep me battling through some obstacles namely Lyme disease this year. I find the liquid multi-vitamin absorbs better and have been surprised to find myself feeling more resilient than I have in years. I don’t think that is a coincidence.
I have noticed that in my late 30s that I need to be more careful about recovery and illness. With Glukos fuel and Enduropacks, I have managed to stay healthy unlike last year where I got sick on almost every flight. In addition as training has accelerated over the past month, I have responded very well to the load and been feeling great despite the demands I have put on my body. The recovery from training definitely seems faster, and my body has been durable something that is harder to maintain as I age.
As an endurance athlete, the key to success is racing fast but to achieve that you need to stay injury-free and healthy while minimizing daily stress on your body. As a professional athlete, I believe Glukos and Enduropacks have helped me get the most out of my aging body this season. I would definitely recommend that any athlete struggling with recovery whether due to age or life stresses or just training, try something new with your nutrition. Glukos and Enduropacks work for me, while there is no guarantee they will help you it might be worth a TRI.
Badger Time: Lessons in Grit
My coach has given me the nickname the honey badger. It not just a nickname but the way I approach all the challenges in my life. I don’t have unflappable confidence and am not really really ridiculously good. For me, it’s always come down to grit – hardheaded, stubborn, down and dirty, blood sweat and tears, grit.
So in my typical badger style, I took my Lyme disease diagnosis this June with a stubborn desire to preserve yet another challenge in my path. It is only through grit that I am here racing professionally at all.
I wasn’t born with ridiculous talent in fact I was born with a hole in my heart, a mitral valve prolapse with mitral regurgitation of blood and deformed heart valves. Now this isn’t uncommon. But it is not an advantage to have leaky valves allowing blood to rush backwards every time my heart pumps. Add to this my bad hips and their two torn labrums and early osteoarthritis, my ten stress fractures, feet with plantar plate tears, and bad knees, it’s only with grit and a lot of duct tape that I make it out the door to train every day.
I wasn’t born with ridiculous luck either. Start with my ill-timed broken collarbone and shredded AC joint a month before Kona in 2013. Add in a similarly ill-timed crash caused by a convicted doper in an ITU race three weeks before the Olympic Trials in 2008. Not to be outdone by a dog attack resulting in a puncture wound while riding my bike, not a big deal except when the dog has not been vaccinated for rabies so a month long rabies vaccine protocol is required. And finish it off with a low speed sailboat drive by hit. I know you can’t make up this stuff. Who gets a hip contusion from a sailboat cruising slowly through a pack of swimmers? But all this bad luck only made me more determined to get to the next starting line with typical honey badger stubborn perseverance.
I wasn’t born with studied forbearance. The obstacles above have been tough but the challenges that have truly tested my grit have required patience. I’ve had to take a step back from my normal urgent gritty stubbornness to get past Mono, years later Epstein-Barr virus, and now this summer Lyme disease. Taking a step back to recover requires a placidity and intelligence that is difficult for me. But despite being forced to step back, I never considered stopping.
As I reflect on my strengths and weaknesses, I can see where my stubborn determination has both helped and hindered me in reaching my goals. My only ambition this year is to put Lyme disease away and take every race as an opportunity to unleash raw honey-badger courage. With that in mind, I will tackle my first race in many months, Ironman Maastricht, this weekend. I can’t promise much except that it will be gritty.
When Adventure Calls….You Answer
In the spirit of off-season adventure seeking, I am tackling a crazy daunting challenge. In four short days, I will be running the North Face Endurance Challenge, a 50 mile trail ultra marathon with 10,000 feet of climbing. To say I am nervous would be an understatement. I feel like I did treading water on the start line of my first Ironman back in Klagenfurt in July 2011. It is a feeling of apprehension mixed with excitement: not knowing if I am ready for the race but eager to test myself against the course and competitors.
After Kona in October, I was in dire need of a mental and physical break from the myopic focus of triathlon training. In my hiatus from the tri-world, I hoped to find a new challenge that spoke to my heart. As soon as I read about the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile event, I immediately wanted to enter. (My bucket list of life adventures has always included some ultra marathons like Comrades, Hard Rock, Western States, and UTMB to name a few.) The race hit my adventure target with 50 hard undulating miles along the gorgeous trails in Marin county with amazing views of the ocean, bay, and city that are sure to take my breath away if the hills don’t.
As soon as I entered, after struggling through a four hour long run, I questioned my sanity. Who enters a 50 mile hilly trail race as their fun off-season activity? But now with only four days until the race, I am excited for the challenge, can’t wait to test myself on the amazing trails, and of course my main goal is to finish with a muddy, tear-streaked, but smiling face.
Enjoy your off-season adventures! I look forward to seeing you all back out there rested and refreshed to tackle your triathlon-ing challenges in 2016!
Anatomy of a Meltdown
As a professional Ironman triathlete, Kona is the holy grail. If you perform well in the lava field, your season is a success if you fail then what?
Having given myself 40 days to consider my performance, I haven’t come any closer to the answers. I started the world championships in Kona with an aim of finishing on the podium, but I ultimately struggled and managed only a distant 13th place on the back of my slowest ever marathon.
Like Plato in the cave, I can’t see what led to my failure but I can determine what didn’t go wrong.
I wasn’t injured. Thanks to Brett Sutton and the entire TriSutto team especially Robbie Haywood and Susie Langley. I started the race in the shape of my life.
I wasn’t unprepared. The TriSutto team was acclimated in Jeju. I should have been completely ready to race.
I wasn’t sick. I didn’t get food poisoning or a bug or get sick really the entire season. I can’t blame some unnamed illness anytime during the entire season for my defeat.
I didn’t have any equipment failures. There were no mechanical issues in the swim, bike, or run that resulted in my demise.
I didn’t have anyone interfere with my race. I wasn’t penalized and didn’t see any other athletes who unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged by the race conditions.
I didn’t make any huge mistakes during the race. I always swallow seawater and get sick on the bike in Kona but that didn’t impact my race. I knew to expect it. My pro fluid bottles were frozen and I wasn’t able to get anything from them. But again that didn’t impact my race, as there were plenty of aid stations on the run course. I just had to take aid like every other age group athlete or like I would at any other event.
I didn’t have any GI issues during the race. I didn’t puke or have to use the porta-potty.
Seeing what didn’t happen leaves me with one one outcome. I went for a podium finish and wasn’t good enough on race day. Whether I simply had a bad day or whether I am not good enough is the real question.
With my swim and bike performances, I only needed to run a 3:15 to finish in the top three. If I was given that information before the race, I would have said done and backed myself for a podium every time.
I don’t regret that I went for the podium and flamed out on the day. My only regret is that all the hard work and support of my entire team didn’t get rewarded. This is a selfish pursuit and our team from family and friends to sponsors and coaches is what makes it all possible. When you don’t succeed, the team doesn’t always get the credit they deserve for all their work day in and day out. All you can do is say thank you and stay the course believing in both yourself and your entire team.
Onwards and upwards!
Change of Season
As the spring came to an end, I found myself at a crossroads in my triathlon career. For the past year, despite the world’s best training, I have struggled to execute consistent performances in my races. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was letting down my coach and myself, and that it was time to either walk away from the sport or make a change.
For the 18 months, I have had the incredible opportunity to live at home and work with Siri Lindley and her amazing team of athletes. I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without Siri. She has been an inspirational mentor and an incredible friend since she gave me my start in the sport in 2006, and she was gracious to take me on after my season-ending crash in 2013. Coming back to train with Siri was incredible. She has an enthusiastic energy and is completely dedicated to getting the best out of all her athletes every day. On the performance side, Siri’s record as a coach in the US is unmatched; her athletes dominate on the world stage from ITU Olympic distance to the Ironman world championships. Siri is an amazing leader.. But, I couldn’t seem to turn the training into race results. And, while I have no doubt we would figure it out eventually, I also know that my time in the sport is limited. So, after some very deep reflection, I made the incredibly difficult decision to go back to what had proven successful in the past.
Now, I’m here in Switzerland and back under the supervision of Brett Sutton who coached me through the most successful years of my career. Brett, while with a different style than Siri, is equally accomplished having produced countless triathlon world champions over his coaching career. I approached Brett Sutton for the first time at the end of 2010 when I was at another crossroads in the sport and considering retirement. This time, I was at a similar point and knew that if he was willing to take me on his squad that Brett would do his best to help me find the consistent race form that I had under his tutelage in 2011-2013. Brett agreed to help guide me through my final years in the sport. This change will not allow me to live full time at home, but with the support of my husband, who has once again gotten behind me, we’ll both give triathlon a few dedicated years before I hang up the tri kit.
This was not an easy decision to be taken lightly. In addition, this change has no guarantees. However, in the words of Arthur Ashe, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” When faced with an impasse, sometimes the only choice is to change direction, push onwards, and take a risk to find not the right path but your best path forward.
All the best on your triathlon journeys!
Digestif: Ironman World Championships
The final race in my Tri-ple Triathlon crown was the Ironman World Championships in Kona. After 70.3 Worlds, I flew home for a week then headed out to Kona early for a heat training camp with Siri and the team. The block in Kona couldn’t have gone better. My injury healed up and by race week in Kona I was acclimated, healthy, and ready to fly.
To help illustrate my race day in Kona, my trusty best friend Keiki offered to act out the day in illustrations for me.
I got up just before 4am and forced down some bread and eggs. I was so excited to get going and race morning started with some extra drama as a centipede bit Eric on our way to Starbucks.
When I did arrive to the pier, I got stuck into the process of getting my bike ready for a long day. I did a little pre-race jog to loosen up things and the necessary pre-race toilet then got into the water.
I lined up to the far left all by myself. I had a good start as I learned the creep from the best, Julie Dibens. Into the swim, I felt good sitting behind what I thought was the two leaders except I was being bashed by the swimmer next to me every stroke. I fought for my position but Ms. Basher wouldn’t let me go ahead of her so I settled behind her. On the way home, I was disappointed to see the swimmer in front of me had lost the feet. I pulled around and swam hard the last 900 meters to try to keep in contact with the leaders. Out of the swim, I was pleased to see that I wasn’t too far behind.
It was time to ride.
This race being the first Ironman I have ever been rested for I went a bit nut-bar during the first 10K of the bike where I am usually pretty conservative. I bridged up the gap to Jodie in the first two miles of the bike. When I pulled ahead to take the lead, Jodie was having none of it. She let me stay ahead for maybe a minute then re-passed me yelling that I wasn’t to go to the front if I was going to slow. Properly chastened yet again by Jodie, I let her take the lead knowing that I could help take the lead later in the race when she finally would let me go to the front.
After another 10K Meredith went to the front and again I could tell Jodie was having none of it. Only this time, I could see the official eyeballing Jodie who eager to get the pace back up was sitting a hair too close to Meredith for a hair too long.
I didn’t have long to ponder that as right then a gust of wind tore my entire container of salt tablets from what I thought was a safe spot tucked into the top of my race kit. I wanted to go back but they were gone flying away on the gust of blasted wind – what a dolt I am. To add insult to injury, the official saw this and gave me a penalty for unintentional littering. As a professional, I should have had a plan B with extra salt anywhere on my bike or in special needs or in my T2 bag but I didn’t. I had all 24 tablets in the one container that was strewn somewhere in the lava fields outside Waikoloa.
After the penalty tent stop, our little group was broken up with Jodie and I both stopping. I got back on my bike and was glad to ride solo without having to worry about any other ladies. I slowly bridged my way back up to Meredith right before the turn off the Queen K and that was also when Daniela caught us on the bike.
I felt good on the climb but preferred to ride my own pace so I pulled ahead of Meredith but didn’t fight to stay with Daniela, I just rode my own pace. When Rachel also came past, I let her go as well but noticed that she stayed around 20 meters ahead most of the climb and I bridged back up to her before the turnaround. I grabbed my special needs, again Rachel gapped me by 20 meters but it didn’t get any bigger so I just focused on riding my own pace. I stayed in that range until Rachel made a move on the way home and dropped me by a 20 seconds only to again bridge back up on the climb to scenic lookout then I had my only bad patch on the bike from the airport home and lost time to both Rachel and Daniela.
Off the bike, I felt pretty rubbish but I have been there before so I didn’t stress. Once I got onto Alii though I felt pretty good not fast but the effort was easy. I felt like I got into a steady rhythm I could maintain for the entire marathon.
But when I hit Palani I knew I was so wrong. I was completely wasted and that one climb felt like Everest in the race. Out on the highway I never recovered and things went south for the rest of the run. The last 12K were the worst of my Ironman career, every muscle in my lower body was cramping as well as my abs and arms. Every step was a struggle but I just wanted to make it home as fast as possible. I was bleeding time and got passed by what felt like the entire field. Down Palani was almost as bad as up just this time my cramping muscles were like lead weights holding me back.
When I crossed the line, I was very disappointed but was glad that I gutted out a very ugly top ten finish. I am not sure what caused such a disappointing run most likely a combination of factors that I need to address with Siri over the next twelve months.
I collapsed over the line and taken straight to medical. My least favorite place, please get me out of the medical tent, now.
Time for a beer or two or three, please.
Thanks to Keiki for helping me illustrate this year’s Ironman World Championship race.
Claret in Mt. Tremblant
The hard competitive race in Hyvee left me like a wounded soldier shot in the butt. I hobbled around the entire week before 70.3 Worlds not sure if I would be able to bike or run. At the start of the week, Siri and I decided to table the issue and what and see what happened. As the week wore on I was getting treatment and finally able to bike almost normally and start jogging very slowly by Thursday. Siri and I decided to give it a try on race day and go as long as the pain didn’t get any worse.
Race morning was cold and crisp more fall than summer. I woke up early and made my way to the bike transition. At least the swim looked warmed than the air with a nice steam coming off the scenic lake in Mt. Tremblant. The wetsuit swim would be nice and cozy both temperature wise and congestion as neoprene usually promises that things will be bunched together. I lined myself up at the far right side hoping that would help me stay out of the fray. It worked and I was able to get out fast and only saw Annabelle out faster to my left. Then as the faster swimmers pulled through I was able to slot in sitting comfortably behind Jodie and Helle.
Out of the swim, I saw that we had a great group of strong athletes who I knew were all amazing cyclists. Right away the pack was very aggressive and I had trouble getting to the front. When I did, it only lasted for a minute as both Jodie and Daniela weren’t have any of it. I settled in for the long hard course in Mt. Tremblant as I knew the short hills in town were my strength but the stronger girls would make me suffer out on the highway with the longer less steep grades. I struggled as I thought I would on the way home and was completely dropped off and had to slowly work my way back up to Jodie and Helle only to be dropped again. I ended up riding the majority of the second half of the bike on my own at some points seeing the other girls but mostly chasing solo. It was a relief to pace the bike myself and meter out my energy to have enough to ride strong through the roly-poly out and back section that composed the last 20K of the bike ride. I averaged 235 watts for the bike ride, and was so pleased to see that I held the power through the entire ride.
Off the bike, I noticed that my glute had really tighten up and wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete the run. I shortened my stride and tried to just increase my cadence and not push off too hard running up the hills. The glute was sore the entire run with a dull ache but it didn’t get worse so I continued to run. I expected to see the entire field charge past me on the run but was pleasantly surprised that only a few went by and I finished in 5th place and was pleased to get 100% out of myself on a day when I wasn’t at my best.
I was so impressed with the top ladies. Daniela and Jodie were both so strong balanced triathletes who swam fast, biked like they had motors, and ran strong. Personally, it was an omen of what to expect from these two tough competitors in Kona. I walked away from 70.3 Worlds, thesecond race in the triple crown, optimistic for my chances in Kona and pleased that I was able to race well through some challenges. Stay tuned for the final chapter in my saga.
(Love this finish line shot! Nice to see someone super happy on line ;-))
The Aperitif: Hyvee 5150 Championships
I love racing in Hyvee; the organization and event team do an amazing job every year of putting together an incredible race for the professionals. I was there in 2008, 2009, and 2010 when it was still an ITU race. This year was my first trip back to Hyvee, and it was just as memorable as a 5150/WTC event.
Siri and I approached Hyvee with the goal of coming into the event very fit but un-rested since our target races were 70.3 Worlds and Kona. While it may have impacted my top gear, the body is incredibly resilient and often even without much rest I can still get a very hard effort out on race day. As a bonus, Hyvee is one of the few truly professional races where there is no downside to racing as every professional competitor walks away with a great paycheck at the end. Almost makes our sport seem well professional!
Race day in Hyvee was exciting. The short races are always full-gas from the gun especially with super-fish in the race like Sara McLarty and Lauren Brandon. I had a decent swim getting only a bit bashed around a bit at the first buoy, but I was able to get past the fray with some dolphin diving on the way to the second buoy. After the first two buoys the swim settled down and I got into a comfortable rhythm sitting on feet.
I raced onto the bike and went full gas from the start. My legs didn’t feel bad but I didn’t have the spark in my legs that I had in Kansas. I was very impressed with the bike legs of Jodie Swallow and Alicia Kaye. I wasn’t able to keep their pace as they bridged up to the leader Helle Frederickson. I rode solo the first two laps of the bike with some girls behind. During the second half, we picked up some of the faster swimmers and Lauren Goss pulled up to ride staggered. It was perfect as she kept our pace high during the end of the bike.
Onto the run, I saw we only a small group and had a nice gap to the next girls on the road. Off the bike, my run legs felt average at best and a bit more sluggish than I would have liked. II did my best to push through the run – happy it was only 10K. With about two miles to go, all the pushing can back to bite me as I felt a strain deep in my glute. All year I have had some trouble with that muscle but I managed to train and race gingerly to not aggravate the issue. This time I was not so lucky. The last two miles of the run were a bit tough as the muscle strain prevented me from pushing and extending backwards. I held it together to finish 9th but after the race it was clear that I had done some damage.
I was so impressed with the ladies on the podium: Helle, Alicia, and Jodie were all class putting together amazing performances with incredible swims, bikes, and runs. Personally, I learned that I am no spring chicken and trying to race a hard competitive Olympic distance race with the best in the world took its toll on my tired compensating body. But I headed to the next stop on the Tri-ple Crown, 70.3 Worlds, with an optimistic view hoping I could be ready to roll by race day…….stay tuned for the next update.
Triathlon Tri-ple Crown Digest
It has been over 3 weeks since the finale of my “Tri-ple Crown” the Kona Ironman World Championships. As the title of this blog would suggest, I have been slowly trying to swallow a season that hasn’t quite been what I desired.
Time and distance don’t always provide answers but do inevitably allow a clearer view of the entirety of a season. Over the next week, I will release a recap of each part of the Tri-ple Crown starting with my race in Hyvee 5150 Championships, moving on to the 70.3 World Championships, the Ironman World Championships, and finishing with a summary of everything I learned this year that will help both you and me in our 2015 season.
My triathlon triple crown started with the ambition to toe the start line at the three biggest championship races in non-drafting triathlon. But of course I had my personal goals to get a top ten in Hyvee, a top five in 70.3 Worlds, and a top 3 in Kona. I scrappily managed to achieve the first two goals but fell quite short of my final goal. As always, the results don’t tell the full story so I’ll cover all the gritty details in my race reports.
If you played in my Tri-ple Crown Contests, Don’t forget to check my Facebook fan page to see if you are a BIG winner and thank you for playing!
I have found that fueling is not a one-solution problem. In my experience, there is not a simple answer that works forever with every person in all race conditions. As I get more experienced at long distance racing, I have found that what I need during a race is different as my everyday diet changes, my training changes, and depending on race conditions. I need to adapt and adjust each year to find the best solution for my current body.
Starting with what hasn’t changed. I do think that everyday nutrition is essential for helping to fuel and recover from training. On top of trying to eat as well as I can, I take First Endurance Multi-Vitamin and HP Optygen. Since I started taking these two daily, I have been more resilient physically and healthier. I don’t think that is a coincidence.
In my first Ironman of this season, Ironman Melbourne, I screwed up in attaching my fuel to my bike and lost all my planned fuel except my two bottles of First Endurance EFS, only about 300 calories of fuel. I had to overcome and adapt but I ended the bike completely empty despite drinking the two EFS bottles and taking three bottles on course and drinking about another 400 calories from those combined bottles. It wasn’t enough calories for the 6 hours. But I found that taking EFS liquid shot flask and a banana right away in the first few miles of the run gave me 500 calories and I was able to finish the run feeling stronger and with more energy than ever before. I learned that it is never too late to fix the fueling. If you bonk, just take the time to force it in and you’ll come around.
In my first race of the season, Panama 70.3, I had two EFS drink bottles and more fuel that I needed attached in supplemental gel and food attached to my bike. Unfortunately, I struggled with an unknown illness that caused me to throw up during the entire bike ride. In addition to myself, several other professional competitors in the race had a similar problem. I believe there was either a bug going around, something I ate before the race was bad, or I swallowed too much sea water during the Panama canal swim. It is hard to judge my nutrition strategy under the circumstances. The only nutrition I was able to keep down during the event was one bottle of EFS. The fact that in those hot and humid conditions that I was able to finish the race using only one bottle of EFS drink goes to show how incredible that solution is in hot humid conditions.
Conversely in my most recent race, 70.3 St. George I adjusted my race morning nutrition and race day mix and had as near perfect race nutrition as possible. I had no stomach distress at all during the event. The swim was in a lake so there was no sea water to cause any issues. During the bike, I had about one and a half bottles of EFS drink as well as about 200 calories in supplemental food. On the run, I felt fueled perfectly and didn’t eat or drink other than grabbing what I could from the aid stations. The only struggle was taking my hands off the bars on the hilly up and down course to get in enough drink and food. While in retrospect, I could have fueled a bit more on the bike and early in the run. I felt like I had a consistent energy level with my fueling and didn’t have any stomach distress.
I look forward to continuing to test and refine my fueling strategy. It is a work in progress and definitely somewhere that I can improve. But I feel lucky to have a great partner in First Endurance helping me to get it right.
Current Ironman Plan:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with peanut butter and maple syrup, 3 shot Americano or 20 oz coffee, 1 bottle of EFS,
- Bike: 2 – 24 oz. bottles with two scoops EFS drink in each, 1 EFS Gel, 2 packs dutch stroopwafel, 1 snickers bar
- Bike Special needs: 2 – 24 oz. bottles with two scoops EFS drink in each
- Run: 1 Banana, 1 EFS Liquid Shot, 1 flask 1/2 EFS scoop
- Run Special needs: 1 Banana, 1 flask Cola
Current 70.3 Plan:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with peanut butter and maple syrup, 3 shot Americano or 20 oz coffee, 1 bottle of EFS
- Bike: 2 – 24 oz. bottles with two scoops EFS drink in each, 1 EFS Gel, 2 packs dutch stroopwafel
- Run: 1 Banana, 1 EFS Liquid Shot