Triathlon Training

James Lawrence Kona Finish

Kona Ironman World Championships: Iron Cowboy’s 36 Ironman Finish

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Big congrats to Iron Cowboy James Lawrence on his 36th Ironman Finish at Ironman Kona World Championships.  It’s a pretty amazing journey.  Thanks for telling us what it takes and what this amazing day was like. James races his Fezzari T5 Triathlon bike.

Ironman Banner Wow!  I am still in disbelief that I actually did this race!  When I started triathlon over 10 years ago Kona was just a dream, the impossible dream.  Everyone talks about Kona…. Kona, Kona, Kona.  I’ve done a few Ironman races over my career, and without fail the one thing I hear about the most is Kona and the buzz of qualifying.  Everyone talks about it, but few will ever accomplish this triathlon dream.  It is hard to qualify in any division, and I know first hand how difficult it is for men 35-39 to qualify.  My best IM is low 10 hours… respectable yes, but in order to qualify I need to be low nine hours.  I’ve done the math and with my God given talent, five kids and real life, the sacrifices necessary won’t work for me.  At any given race there are just a handful of slots available for the big show, the World Championships.  Typically it is the genetically gifted athletes who have realized their gifts and developed these gifts with lots of hard work.  In 2012, Ironman announced a new program called the Legacy Program.  This is a program for loyal Ironman competitors to have a chance to grace the Kona stage, based on the number of Ironman races completed in a lifetime.  One of the requirements of this program is a minimum of 12 WTC Ironman races to be completed.  Most individuals take a lifetime to achieve this mark.  When they announced this program, I was just wrapping up 30 Ironman races in one year, this satisfied the 12 minimum races in a single year with ease.  Another requirement is to have done an Ironman race the year you meet the 12, and to also be registered for another Ironman the following year.  I met this requirement as well.  You are then put into a pool and they pull “so many” names to be invited to race in Kona.  Two years later my name was pulled and it was my time to go and dance.Hawaii M-Dot   I invited my parents, from Canada, to come to the big island of Hawaii to watch.  My dad had never seen me race an Ironman and my mom only on two occasions, my first and Ironman Canada when it was still in Penticton.  It was the four of us headed to the Island, myself, Sunny and my parents.  I wanted to enjoy the week and to not only be focused on the race.  We did a slew of activities to kick off the week including: sea kayaking, snorkeling, cliff diving, zip lining, volcano exploring and a night manta ray dive.  All were incredible and so much fun.  The second half of the week shifted to race stuff. Post Zip Line Sunny "Spiderman' Repelling Duel Zip Line Zip Line Bridge Zip Lining ZipLine Truck Ride Inside Lava Tube Lava Tube Volcano Tour Before Kayaking During the Athlete parade, we met all the Utah athletes and one of them offered to let us stay at their house the night before the race.  This was a huge help, as our condo was about 45 min away and would have made for an early, early race morning.  The house also served as a perfect ‘home base’ for Sunny and my parents on race day.  Thank you Cameron and LaRane for being awesome! Ironman Expo Athelete Parade I slept well, despite no air conditioning, and woke up excited for the day.  Again, I couldn’t believe I was at this race…. I wasn’t nervous at all and ate my bag of rice and quinoa, like I always do prior to an Ironman.  Cam and I left the house with plenty of time and walked down to the race start.  The pier was already buzzing and the energy was awesome!  The winds seemed calm and it looked like it was going to be a perfect day.  For some reason, they decided to do tattoo race numbers and all the athletes were herded into these lines so that volunteers could apply the numbers.  The system was HORRIBLE and I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with a good old fashioned sharpie.  Anxious and not willing to stand in the ridiculous lines, I sacrificed some of the water in my bottle and applied both Cam and my numbers.  We slid through the crowds and popped out the other side. Me and Cam Transition Bags Bike In Transition There’s not much to do in transition race morning of an Ironman.  Most everything should be done in the days proceeding the race.  I quickly pumped up my tires and placed my bottles on my bike.  Walking back out of the transition area, I stopped at a series of tables where volunteers where doing last minute ART (type of massage) work.  My right leg had been bugging me all week, so I plopped onto a table to see if he could work out any last minute kinks.  I actually felt better and headed toward the swim start.  On my way there I saw Macca and walked over to him and gave him a high five.  I had hoped some of his Kona Championship pedigree would transfer to me during this high five exchange…. as you will find out later, it did not :) Body Marking Race Morning I zipped up my BlueSeventy speed suit and walked off the pier into the famous swim start.  This was the first year they separated the woman and men age groupers.  The men went off first and the woman 10 minutes after.  With this being the world championships and swimming not being my strongest of the three events, I positioned myself near the back of the pack treading water and waiting for the deep water start. I was calm.  Totally at peace with whatever the outcome was going to be.  Sitting in the water, I felt very little pressure to perform.  I was honoured and overjoyed with the simple fact that I was there.  I was in the same spot as so many triathlon greats.  BOOM the gun blows and I start out super slow, super chill.  I am near the back of the mass start and wasn’t concerned about a fight or separating myself from other athletes.  In fact, this was one of the least violent swim starts and swims I have ever experienced.  Three reasons for a calm swim experience: 1 – I positioned myself appropriately, given the quality of the field and my swim skills. 2- I started out super slow and controlled.  I have found in my training experience that when I start out slow, I seem to end up with a better net swim result. 3- Most of the field are seasoned athletes and decent swimmers, meaning they swam straight.  There were very few swimmers making random left and right hand turns, swimming across the paths of other swimmers, and very few swimmers d

Swim Exit

oing the dreaded underwater breast stroke kick of death.Swim Start I was told there is typically a small current against us when swimming out to the boat and to not be discouraged when I look at my watch at the half-way point.  I found some great feet and just settled in.  The water was clear all the way to the bottom and the ocean was alive with fish.  I swam easy and the guys I was following did a great job swimming the buoy line.  I reached the boat, swam across the top and made the right hand turn for home.  I glanced at my watch and it was right at 35 minutes.  I was so happy since my goal was 1:10 and after swimming out and across the top I should easily reach this goal, only having to go straight back in and now I should be swimming with the current.  Well, this was the first cruel trick this island had in store for me today.  Due to the winds that had rolled in, I guess the current or tide had switched and was actually hurting us coming in.  I felt as if my effort was equal to my swim heading out, but when I popped up out of

the water my swim time read 1:18…. meaning an 8 min slower swim on the way in :( .
Overall I was really happy with my swim.  My effort was consistent, my swimming was straight, and I didn’t overdue it.  I quickly picked up my transition bag and headed through transition to my Fezzari bike that was patiently waiting for me.  Off towards the Queen K I go!

0813_055151 I had no issues through transition and felt really good coming out of the swim.  I felt good.  I was ready.  The first part of the bike was a short out and back on the Kuakini Hwy.  This section is in town and mostly protected.  Everyone is super excited at this point of the race and most are going too hard, myself included.  I was 20-30 watts above where I should have been and people were still zooming past me.  I kept saying to myself, “Chill, chill, chill.  Focus on you, your race and what you are doing.  Chill, chill, chill.”  So chill I did.  Early in the ride, I rode up to my good friend Sonja, who is a beast and ended up second on the day in woman 35-39.  I joked with her before the race that she wasn’t allowed to catch and pass me in the water (remember the woman started 10 minutes after us men).  Well, she did just that!  I joked with her for a second on the bike and then she took off like she was coming out of a cannon…. I never saw her again ’till late in the run. 0813_040375 The ride really started once we turned onto the Queen K.  Right out of the gates, the winds were present.  I thought nothing of it and knew that this was Kona and that it was suppose to be windy.  So bring it on!  I put my head down and just dialed in my watts.  I settled in nicely and started banging out the miles as David Warden had instructed.  David has been instrumental in getting me back into shape and will be the man to get me ready for my 50/50/50 challenge.  As we progressed down the Queen K, the winds got worse, and worse, and worse.  I knew I should stay down, stay in aero, but I was scared.  The winds had become angry!  They had become violent!  I found myself up, out of my drops, white knuckled, trying to just keep the bike upright.  One gust in particular scared me silly, which set me up for a disastrous rest of my ride.  There were four us, legally spaced, and suddenly  this gust hit us from the right, blowing us through our lane, over the center line, and into on coming cyclists.  Luckily none of us crashed.  Some cyclist weren’t so lucky and there were many reports, post race, of crashes caused by the wind. 0813_028994 Sitting up in the wind is the worst possible scenario to achieve maximum speed.  I started to get passed left and right, but couldn’t force myself down into the aero position.  I was getting defeated mentally which is rare.  Usually I’m mentally tough!  “Bring on the element!”  I say.  A guy wearing a chocolate milk kit biked past me that looked like Apollo.  I asked if it was him and he said, “No, I’m his stunt double.  I believe he is 10-15 minutes up the road.”  “Bummer,” I thought…. my Cowboy vs. Apollo undefeated streak wasn’t looking good.  I KNEW once I got to Hawi that it was going to be a magical ride back to Kona.  It HAD to be a tail wind!  I surveyed the trees, the bushes, and the resistance against me.  There was no possible way we’d be riding into the wind on the way back.  I FINALLY made it to Hawi and made the turn. 0813_034412 BOOOOOOM!  It was like a different island!  It felt like I was shot out of a cannon.  On the way out my watts were in the 220 range with my MPR coming in between 14-20…. After Hawi, I was pushing only 160 watts, in total recovery, traveling at speeds in excess of 30 mph.  This was about to be a 50 mile PR for me.  I was so excited.  I thought how perfect this was that I was going to be able to go this fast, with this little effort, and save so much for the run!  I was re-motivated and super excited – I was back!  This state of euphoria lasted only 5 very short miles before making a slight right back on the Queen K and back towards Kona.  I couldn’t believe it!  Dead into the winds again!  How is this possible?!  I mean, I’ve heard them say it on TV; but still, how on earth is this possible?  A head wind?  Come on, really?  My hopes of a record time back to town were dashed and I settled in for the long ride back Due to the winds, I was out there much longer than anticipated.  We had planned for specific watts, but not for a 6 hour ride!  My legs grew heavy and I was short on nutrition.  I started to not feel well and coke from the aid station was all I wanted.  I limped into town, but still had a smile on my face.  I saw Sunny and my parents and they looked concerned.  I was a good boy, stayed at my watts and just kept peddling.  Eventually I would get to the finish and would be able to start the run. 0813_019630

I was in the best run shape that I have been in in a long time.  I was pain and injury free (thanks to Dallas at Utah Spine and Sport and Natalie R for their magical hands).  I had PR’ed (personal record) at a run earlier this year in a half Ironman.  I was ready to run!  Coming off the bike I felt good, but not awesome.  I noticed my heart rate was high on the bike, based on the watts I was pushing.  David wanted me to go out hard and just hold on for as long as I could.  He wanted to see how far I could make it at a certain pace.  He said that slow down in an Ironman is typical, so let’s cover as much ground as possible before this happens.   This race really wasn’t my main focus (it is Brazil in 4 weeks), and again I was just happy to be there amongst so many greats.  As I ran out of transition and up the road, I could hear them announcing the winner of the race coming in.  Holy cow!  I must have really been out on my bike along time :) I came out of the gates at a conservative 7:45 (slower than David wanted), but that was all I had…. and it only lasted 4 miles…. ahhhhh!  It was going to be a long marathon.0813_058495 I was hot.  I was tired.  I was beaten.  Mentally defeated.  This just isn’t me.  This isn’t the IronCowboy!!!  I knew there was no point turning myself inside out over the next 22 miles.  I would save it for another day – I would save it for Brazil.  Even if I had run a PR marathon on this day, it wouldn’t have mattered.  The competition here is unbelievable.  So what was the difference between 100th and 200th…  at this point, nothing.  My goal was now to smile, thank the volunteers and cheer on the others around me.  Remember the winds on the bike course?  They were now a blessing on the run course.  We had cloud coverage and a light breeze, which is rare and welcome.  Oddly enough, I was slightly disappointed (I will explain in a moment). My cramping became worse.  It was the worst in my upper inner leg.  So running fast was out of the question and my stomach was starting to turn.  I couldn’t figure out why.  I had practiced my nutrition A LOT and have had minimal issues.  Unfortunately sometimes it is just not your day. 0813_062611I had made it all the way out to the turn in the ‘energy lab’ and committed to run through it and experience it’s infamous heat (insert disappointment).  The cloud coverage made the ‘energy lab’ normal… somewhat cool.  At mile 18.5, I buckled over to the side of the road and threw up a bunch of liquid; man I hoped that would help.  I started to run and a guy that had passed me while I was pulled over remarked, “Oh my!  You are running again!  I’d be down and out after what you just did!  Go get ‘em!”  I laughed and said,  “Thanks,” and finished up the ‘energy lab’ out and back. The next 6 miles were full of emotion.  Happy… Sad… Tired… Energetic… Excited… Disappointed… Stressed… Relieved… but mostly gratitude  Grateful for Sunny, my kids, my health, the journey, all of it. I turned the corner and started to head down Ali’i drive.  I heard cheers from the crowd and tried to hold myself together.  I’ve crossed a lot of finish lines, but none more meaningful than this one.  This was bigger than 30 in a year; this was Kona.0813_080135 Total side note – the most inspiring person on the course was by far Apolo Anton-Ohno.  He REALLY impressed me!  We raced in Boise earlier this year.  I ran him down and beat him overall.  I didn’t think there was any way he could take himself from that performance in Boise to what he pulled off in Kona.  On his first Ironman, on that stage, in those conditions, he managed a sub 10 hour race.  Of all the celebrities/athletes that have graced this course, who didn’t deserve to be there taking the spot from a deserving athlete, Apolo earned his right to be there with that performance.  Hines Ward, Tera from the Biggest Loser and chef Gordon Ramsey… THAT IS HOW YOU DO IT.! Congrats Apolo and you sir have my respect!  I hope we meet again in the future and settle our 1-1 record :) After the race I hugged Sunny, my mom and dad and just thought to myself, “We did it…” What is next?  Brazil… Then prep starts for 50 iron distance courses, in 50 consecutive days, through all 50 States.  #NoGoalTooBig www.ironcowboyjames.com

Review Fezzari CR4

Industry Review: Road Bike Action Reviews Fezzari Fore CR4

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Road Bike Action Reviews Fezzari Fore CR4: Road Bike Action Magazine recently published their long term review of the Fezzari Fore CR4 Road Bike. See why this bike is really a jack of all trades and lays claim the a true ‘All-rounder’ road bike.

“After several weeks of testing and hundreds of miles in the Fezzari Fore CR4’s saddle, we came away impressed with the bike’s all-around capabilities. This is noteworthy due to the growing trend among manufacturers to design bikes for very specific purposes…there are fewer and fewer new models coming to market that can lay claim tothe title of “all-rounder.”’

See the full review here: 2014 Fore CR4 Review RBA

Review Fezzari CR4

With every Fezzari bike you receive our 23-point custom setup. Each bike is hand built in Utah and checked multiple times by multiple technicians to ensure you recieve the best fit and best quality. Plus we sell directly to you, the rider, to ensure you get the best value. Learn more about our 23-point custom setup with this short video and don’t hesitate to contact us with the question you may have.

douse

Thermoregulation: Tips for Keeping Cool When It’s Hot

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We found this great article by Garret Rock that we thought our readers would find useful and insightful. Enjoy…

Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to maintain a body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different. Basically, this refers to your ability to stay warm in cool environments, and cool in hot environments. A physiological example of thermoregulation is sweating.

The concept of thermoregulation is important to endurance athletes because it directly correlates to performance. The inability to control temperature swings results in a decrease in performance, and can put an end to your race day altogether. This decrease in performance is hardly negligible, just look at the following statistics from a study on marathon times.

  • In elite pro runners, for every 5 degrees over 41 degrees Fahrenheit, times slow by 0.4%. On a 77 degree day, an elite pro will expect to run 5% slower than on a 41 degree day.
  • The rate of slowing increases with slower run times. For example, in this study, they found that a 3 hour marathoner will be around 12% slower on a 77 degree day compared to a 41 degree day. This brings their finish time from 3 hours flat to 3 hours 21 minutes.

Fortunately, there are small steps we can take to battle the performance deficits that come with hot temperatures. Here are four of the most effective methods for avoiding over-heating during training and racing.

 

Hydration

Hydration is your first line of defense in thermoregulation. Although on the surface hydration seems simple, how you hydrate and what you hydrate with can actually have a big impact on thermoregulation and hydration status.

Laboratory based tests conclude that hyperhydration is an effective strategy for maintaining a slightly lower body temperature during endurance exercise in hot temperatures. Hyperhydration, put simply, is preventatively taking in fluids, or drinking when you are not thirsty. This effect seems to be due to a faster onset of sweating and improved “sweating efficiency”. For shorter races (1-3 hours), hyperhydration does appear to be an appropriate strategy on a hot day. Exactly how effective this strategy is in improving performance is yet to be determined at these distances, but theoretically benefits do exist, as research definitely shows improved thermoregulation through hyperhydration.

One way to enhance hyperhydration without having to chug down as many bottles of water is to nutritionally optimize intracellular fluid uptake. One supplement that aids this is glycerol, yep that evil alcohol sugar. Before undertaking glycerol supplementation for hyperhydration, be sure to do your research, or better, work with a professional that knows what they are doing. Done right, you win. Done wrong, you lose. In addition, during exercise, plain water is fairly poorly absorbed in the intestines. Including carbohydrates in a fluid replacement drink is crucial for optimal fluid absorption in the intestines. In fact, research shows that combining a carbohydrate with water during exercise improves intestinal fluid absorption up to six times!

Action Step: I recommend using a sports drink as your primary hydration source always. On exceptionally hot days, I recommend drinking 25 ml/kg body weight (175 lb person will drink approximately three 21 oz bottles) of fluids prior to the race. Make two of them water and one a sports drink. Be sure to use electrolyte tabs as directed during the race to ensure adequate electrolyte levels. 

 

Water Dousing

There is not much science to be found on the effect of water dousing on core temperature during exercise, however anecdotal “evidence” strongly supports frequent water dousing during a race in the heat. Fortunately, many races in hot environments now provide sponges and cups of ice for dousing.

Action: At each aid station be sure to douse yourself with water and/or ice/sponges. This is typically only needed during running, as the wind during biking is typically enough to evaporate sweat quickly.

 

Clothing Choices 

Your choice of clothing impacts thermoregulation. Sweating is the body’s natural cooling method. However, in order for sweating to be effective, the sweat must evaporate. It is the evaporation of sweat that cools the body. The ideal clothes for training and racing in hot weather allow for air to flow through them. On sunny days, protecting the skin from the sun is beneficial to staying cooler. Sunscreen can interrupt both sweat production and evaporation. Although dark colors do absorb more heat when the sun is out, in a short race this is unlikely to result in hotter core temperatures. However, in a long race, opting for the lighter color is likely the wiser decision. On sunny days, wearing a visor to protect from the sun and save on sunscreen use is the wiser choice.

Action: In a running race, wear light, loose clothing. If the sun is out in force, choose light colors. In a triathlon or cycling race, choose a kit made of breathable material. Choose coverage with the light apparel over sunscreen for most of your body. 

 

Pre-Cooling 

On hot days, pre-cooling appears to mildly improve performance in endurance races. For long and ultra races (Ironman, 70.3) this may not provide much performance enhancement. However, in shorter duration races (marathons, half marathons, 10K’s, 5K’s, sprint tri’s, and olympic tri’s), pre-cooling appears to benefit performance and thermoregulation on hot days. Pre-cooling may include staying cool in the water prior to a triathlon (if chilly), wearing a cooling vest during your warm up (www.stacoolvest.com), or sitting in a cool environment. Basically, be chilled just prior to the race. But don’t neglect an appropriate muscle warm up.

Action Step: Either perform your pre-race warm up in a cooling vest, or perform your pre-race warm up, then find a cool environment to sit in and get chilled (air conditioned car, water for a triathlon, or building close by). Being you’ll be sweating, the cool air will evaporate the sweat well and result in rapid cooling.

 

Michael N. Sawka; Lisa R. Leon; Scott J. Montain; Larry A. Sonna
Integrated physiological mechanisms of exercise performance, adaptation, and maladaptation to heat stress
Comprehensive Physiology 2011;1(4):1883-1928.

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1987;56(5):603-7.

 

Grucza R, Szczypaczewska M, Kozłowski S.

Source

Department of Applied Physiology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw.

 

Br J Sports Med. 2006 April; 40(4): 320–325.

doi:  10.1136/bjsm.2005.022426

 

 

A Good Bike Fit Is the Easiest Way To Get Faster Instantly

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There is something about triathlons that seems to suck you in. What starts with a goal to just survive the swim of your first race quickly turns into a deep passion for the sport of triathlon in most.

Soon we find ourselves spending gobs of money on triathlon specific gear, subscribing to Lava and Triathlete magazines, and walking around comfortably in clothes more revealing than the road bike kits we once said we’d never wear. It’s about this time that we concern ourselves with our times.

The most wonderful characteristic of triathlons are that they are a race against yourself for 99% of triathletes. Its not about what place you got, its about achieving your goals. Maybe this is why the sport is so addicting. We can all be successful!

Being the bike is longest portion of a triathlon race and the easiest to improve in, if you want to improve your times, this is the place you should focus on first. If you are a serious racer looking to compete and are not riding a triathlon/TT bike…get one.

For regular road bikes, a good fit is very important. For triathlon/TT bikes, a good fit is what will make that bike pay off. I see so many people at triathlons riding expensive triathlon bikes outfitted with all of the gadgets and expensive wheel sets that are riding with their seats back as far as possible and propped up so high in front they could as well have saved their money and ridden the road bike they already had. They are losing the benefits of a triathlon/TT bike. If you are going to spend the money on a triathlon specific bike, spend another $200-300 on the proper fit.  Fezzari’s 23-point custom setup will get you 99% there on this fit.  They take specific body measurements to determine the proper frame size, stem length and angle, stack height, bar width, crank arm length, etc.  This is pretty great because if you do need to change what comes standard on the bike, i.e. a medium bike usually comes with a 90mm stem, 172.5 crank, etc., you would have to pay this out of your pocket.  They include this free of charge on every bike purchased which can save you a good amount of cash. Take a couple minutes and watch this video that describes what the 23-point custom setup is all about.

What Type of Bike Fit Is Best?

I am hugely biased toward digital motion analysis fits, either 2D or 3D is fine. The system I seek out is Retul (http://www.retul.com/). Although these fits cost more (usually $200-300 compared to $75-150 for a manual fit), they are definitely worth the extra money. I’ve noticed that many manual bike fitters concern themselves more with the drive train and revolve everything around that. The couple manual triathlon bike fits I’ve had that were done in such a matter resulted in me being in a position that was more of a hybrid between a road bike position and TT position. At the time this position felt great to me, however after getting a digital fit, my eyes have been opened.

My rationale for prefering a digital bike fit is because it eliminates most human error. Research has provided us with information regarding ideal hip angles, knee angles, etc, etc for optimal power output, endurance, aeroness (is that a word?), and comfort. With a digital fit, markers are placed on specific body landmarks and angles are measured while pedaling. The fitter then can adjust the bike to place you within these ideal angles. Compare this to eyeballing a fit and utilizing ancient plumb lines. I love science and exactness, and that is what a digital fit provides.

Below are my before and after pictures of my bike fit. From the naked eye, the changes look small. However, from a performance perspective, the changes are big. Most notably, look at how my entire body looks like it rotates forward, making me more aero and put my legs in a position of greater power and endurance of the pedals. This is achieved without changing my hip to torso angle, which means no greater strain on the low back.

BEFORE
AFTER

Here are my improvements in average speeds (compared to last years times) with changing to a triathlon bike and getting a digital fit:
Race 1: 25.0 mph compared to 22.1
Race 2: 24.1 mph compared to 20.9
Race 3: 22.5 mph compared to 20.5 (this course has 1500 ft of climbing and is almost better suited for a road bike)

Prior to my digital fit through Retul (and following my first manual fit with my current bike) I averaged about 0.8 mph slower on my standard training rides. Over the course of a 70.3 or Ironman distance, that equals a fairly significant amount of time.

So, the moral of this story is…if you are looking to get faster, get a professional bike fit (preferably digital). If you are going to spend money on a tri/TT bike, get a professional bike fit. Just get a professional bike fit, you’ll be happy you did.

Supplements for Triathletes Part 1: What Is Really Necessary During Training?

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The world of endurance sports is being inundated with supplements manufactured with the endurance athlete in mind. It’s easy to get wrapped up in supplementing.
Before you know it you’re taking a handful of pills in the morning, a special powder for your water bottles, and another handful of pills in the afternoon. The goal of this series of posts is to help you understand what works and what likely does not, and hopefully save you some money on unnecessary pills.
But first, one important concept…Although it is sometimes difficult to get all of the nutrients needed through diet, it is almost always better to try to meet your nutrient needs through foods than supplements. Foods, especially fruits and vegetables, have enzymes that optimize bioavailability (how much you absorb) of nutrients within the food.
When nutrients are isolated to be made into supplements some of these enzymes are lost. Bioavailability of supplements varies depending on many factors, including the supplement quality, how the supplement is manufactured, what the supplement is, time of day you take it, what you take it with, and on and on. Some popular supplements have been shown to have absorption rates of less than 5%!  It is because of the variables above that you should strive to get the majority of your nutrients through an ultra-healthy diet. Put the same emphasis on diet as you do training.
Of course, there are supplements that do show to benefit endurance athletes in well designed, double blind studies. Below is a summary of well-researched supplements. There are more supplements that may be effective. This list is simply a list of those that consistently show to be effective.
The “A” ListThe following supplements have consistently shown through quality, peer reviewed research to be effective for endurance athletes.
  • Multivitamin - although multivitamin supplements do not appear to improve performance in endurance athletes, they are a proven general health strategy. Endurance athletes burn through a lot of nutrients during and after workouts, which can lead to depleted micronutrients. Even if these depletions are marginal, they can affect performance, recovery, and immune function. I have yet to come across a study that tests micronutrients, then does performance tests with athletes deficient in various micronutrients, then repletes and tests again. This would be a very difficult study to do without having uncontrollable influences. However, I can say through my experience with professional and elite amateur athletes that when we find deficiencies in an intracellular micronutrient test, then correct for those deficiencies, I typically get very positive feedback from the athlete about improved performance and quicker recovery. *Processing and brand make a difference with multivitamins, as a poorly processed multivitamin is not well absorbed. Take as indicated.
  • Fish Oils/Omega 3′s - fish oils should be an essential supplement for every endurance athletes. These super powered anti-inflammatory and antioxidant supplements are one of the most well-researched and supported supplements. They fight free radicals and oxidative stress, and reduce post-exercise inflammation. *Processing makes a difference. Omega 3′s in the triglyceride form have shown to be superior. The huge majority of omega 3/fish oil supplements out there are in the ethyl ester form because this form is easier and cheaper to produce. One over-the-counter brand that is in triglyceride form and can easily be found is Nordic Naturals. The ideal EPA to DHA ratio for athletes is 4:1. Most supplements are 2:1. This ratio is fine, but if you can find a 4:1 supplement (such as Nordic Naturals ProEPA) that is ideal. I recommend 1200-1800 mg per day with food.
  • Vitamin C - strenuous exercise increases production of free radicals, which can damage muscle tissue, increase muscle soreness, and create inflammation. Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant, and can be taken in high quantities safely, easily, and cheaply. Antioxidants fight the production of free radicals. Vitamin C is also an immune booster and high intensity training can decrease immune function. Most professional triathletes and ultramarathoners I see have deficient immune systems throughout the peak of their training. There are well run studies that show vitamin C does reduce post-exercise muscle pain and speed recovery and there are well run studies that conclude it likely does not. My opinion…vitamin C is easy to take, is cheap, boosts the immune system, and probably helps with recovery. I recommend taking it throughout the peak training season. My favorite form is the Emergen-C packets, as they are bioavailable and easy to take. One packet per day (1,000mg) is adequate.
  • Iron (when indicated!) - iron should be taken under the guidance of a physician. I will repeat, iron should be taken under the guidance of a physician. There are hundreds of thousands of endurance athletes blindly taking iron. When iron is indicated, this supplement can be essential to your well-being and ability to train and race. When taken in excess, it can be hard on the liver and cause gastrointestinal problems. For more information read the “Blood Test Monitoring” blog below. Take as directed by a physician.
  • B12 (when indicated!) - when used correctly and at the appropriate time, B12 can help ward off anemia and pre-anemia. If you are monitoring your blood work during your training, a sudden change in the MPV (which indicates the shape of the red blood cells) and slight drop in hemoglobin and hematocrit suggest that it is time to supplement B12.
  • Magnesium - research shows magnesium can increase lactic acid clearance, decrease muscle aches and cramping, and possibly improve power output and performance. Magnesium is plentiful in foods, however some studies show that in athletes magnesium levels are very slow to rebuild once depleted by prolonged muscle use. In addition, alcohol, coffee, refined sugar, and high salt intake can deplete magnesium. Being we endurance athletes love our beer, coffee, and frequently partake in salty food binges, supplementation should be considered. Magnesium is also closely linked to potassium and calcium. When magnesium levels drop, potassium and calcium will soon follow. Drops in potassium result in severe muscle cramps. Drops beyond certain levels can be dangerous and will surely end your race and send you on a ride to the hospital. 500-1000 mg/day during training (can be part of a multivitamin). For two days prior to a race, up to 1500 mg/day can be taken, however if it leads to an uneasy stomach, back off to your regular levels (too much can cause diarrhea).
Should you have questions regarding the effectiveness of a supplement not listed in this article, feel free to e-mail me at garretrock@hotmail.com. Be patient for a response, I’m a busy guy.
Sunrise

REV3 Finale: Venice Beach

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REV3 Finale: Venice Beach

I made my third quick trip of the month to a REV3 event, this time to Sarasota, Florida for the final installment in the 2013 REV3 Triathlon Series. This was a big race with a large prize purse and double points on the line to decide the final standings in the REV3 Pro Series. It drew a strong field with an interesting mixture of athletes which made for an unpredictable and exciting day. Added to that were the unusually high winds from Hurricane Sandy’s steady march northeast, presenting a good challenge on what might otherwise have been a more mundane course. In fact, the winds were so bad that riptide warnings were issued and the Coast Guard informed REV3 that they absolutely could not stage a swim. It’s a good thing the staff are so nimble on their toes and readily adapt to the challenges that are thrown their way. The solution was to cancel the swim for everyone and do a run/bike/run for the pros and a time-trial started bike/run for the age groupers. This was the third race I’ve done within the past 12 months that was altered due to weather-related issues so I wasn’t really fazed and simply reorganized my Pearl Izumi running shoes and my Fezzari T5 triathlon bike to fit what the day called for.

Sunrise and wind. Photo by Eric Wynn.

It was really fun starting off with a quick little run first—with the exception of short-course ITU racing you don’t often find yourself in that large of a pack on the run in a triathlon. It felt like a real horse-race! I think the purpose of doing a 1.5 mile run first for the pros was to attempt to break up the field somewhat but most of the ladies ended up coming into T1 together anyway. It was a bit frantic with everyone trying to kick off their shoes and grab their bikes at the same time, not to mention that it was a really narrow space to begin with, but I had a good spot and was able to get through without any issues.

The 1.5 mile horse-race. Photo by Eric Wynn.

My strategy on the bike was to ride conservatively for the first half and let the tailwind do a lot of the work for me before pushing the pace and trying to make a move once we made the turn into the wind. Alicia Kaye and Becky Lavelle took it out REALLY hard and established a gap right away, but I hung back in a group that included Nicole Kelleher and Lauren Goss. I felt that I could afford to let Alicia go because she was not competing for the overall series, and while Becky was in the running for the series it was a tighter battle points-wise going into the race between Nicole, Lauren, and myself so I wanted to mark them for a while instead of risking a major blow-up by pushing too hard too early. This plan unfolded exactly the way I envisioned and I was able to bridge up to the leaders while building a gap on Nicole and Lauren in the second half of the ride. There was a short out-and-back section with about 10 miles to go where you could get a good look at everyone—and I liked what I saw! Rolling into T2 in 2nd place just steps behind Becky, I knew I was positioned about as perfectly as I could hope for going into the half-marathon.

Changing shoes…yet again. Photo by Elaine Kratz.

I made quick work of T2 and actually got out onto the run course in first place. My lead was short-lived, however, as Becky came storming by within the first half-mile. I didn’t panic because I had done the math and knew that I still had some wiggle room in the overall series in relation to Becky. I’ve been guilty of taking the run out too fast on more than one occasion this season and my plan was to start off more conservatively and then build the pace. However, when I tried to tighten the screws down a bit there was nothing there. My legs felt really heavy, I could tell my form was not pretty and no matter how I tried I could not seem to get my feet to turn over any faster. Nicole passed me somewhere late in the first lap, then I began a steady slide backwards through the field. The second lap of the run was something of a death march and I’m pretty sure that Mile 9 was the longest mile of my life. By the time I crossed the finish line I had slipped to 8th place, which was exactly where I did NOT want to be: in a position that did absolutely nothing to improve my overall series score and would in fact drop me down to 5th place in the final series standings.

Who looks better in this picture? Photo by Eric Wynn.
To say I am bummed is a major understatement. I was in a perfect position going into the run and I let it slip away from me. I’m not really sure what the root of the implosion was—nutrition, hydration, over-exertion on the bike, or if it was simply all in my head. Whatever the case, it provides me with some good food for thought in the off-season and a project to work on so that I will come back stronger next year. I can’t really dwell on it now though because I’ve got an Ironman coming up in less than three weeks and a reunion with my fan club in Arizona to look forward to!

Post-race with Trish, my high school swim coach’s wife. She’s a stud! Photo by Matt Rydson.

I’d like to express my gratitude to the following for their support over the weekend: to Ray & Lynn for theirincredible hospitality; to Brittany for the good company and introducing me to Ray & Lynn in the first place; to Chris Jarc for the much-need post-race piggyback ride; to Charlie, Eric, Sean, Stu, Ashley, Alex…oh gosh, there are too many to name! To the entire REV3 staff for being the most wonderful, friendly, fun, supportive, and professional event staff around; to the media crew for the great work (can’t wait to see the TV coverage!); to the city of Venice Beach for the venue and to all the volunteers who donated their time to make this event a success; and of course to my sponsors who help make it possible for me to get to the starting line in the first place (REV3, Recovery Pump, Powerbar, Pearl Izumi, Rudy Project, Blueseventy, Fezzari, Maxxis, and The Bike Shoppe).

Special congratulations to Brittany Banker for capping off a stellar season and celebrating 8 years of kicking cancer in the butt, to Trish Rydson on her age group win (great to see you Trish & Matt!), to Becky Lavelle & Jesse Thomas on their impressive victories, to Nicole Kelleher and Richie Cunningham for their spectacular seasons and the well-deserved series titles, and to my teammate Jessica Meyers for a great performance and clawing her way up to third place on the day. One day I will be tough as nails like that!

 

Any excuse to play dress-up! Any guesses as to what I am? Photo by Ray Pecharich.

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Cramps: What We Know About Prevention

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Cramps: What We Know About Prevention

Cramps are a very common occurance in endurance athletes. Despite plenty of research, the science of cramping is still a bit inconclusive. Despite our desire to pin cramping down to a single nutrient deficiency or event, it does not appear we will find this. So, what do we know? Here is the short version of a couple key concepts in preventing cramps?
The Science of Cramping
There are different types of cramping. Some are serious (and if you get them you will know they are serious), and some are benign. This blog is going to focus only on the benign cramps, the ones most of us have experienced.

The two primary culprits for cramps appear to be fitness and hydration status.

Fatigue Induced Cramps

Fatigue cramps are the most prevelant types of cramps. They are essentially the consequence of a muscle hitting a point of exhaustion and going into a hyper-excitability state due to aberrant brain-muscle communication.

Have you ever noticed that your muscles seem to cramp only at the worst times, such as during a race? This is most likely to be fatigue cramps, and an indicator that you are missing out on an important aspect of training. That aspect is typically race intensity training.

For those that follow my blog, you know I am a fan of base building using your heart rate for monitoring. This type of training helps prevent injury and results in improvements in “aerobic speed” (see post on heart rate monitoring), which is important to becoming faster over longer distances. I put myself through an experiment prior to last season where I didn’t do anything but heart rate training for several months leading up to the race season. The results? I was a much faster triathlete all season despite not ever doing speed work, but I did have cramping issues during races.

As race season approaches, it is important that you mix in race-effort intensity into your training. If you don’t, you are asking for a bonk, muscle fatigue, and fatigue cramps. A race is generally not the time to introduce your muscles to a new level of intensity. That doesn’t mean you should go out and cook yourself each workout. But, it does mean your body should at least be adapted to the intensity level. Typically, 1-2 days per week of intervaled race intensity work is enough. Anymore, and you risk over-training (see my blog on cumulative stress and over-training syndrome).

Try mixing in these workouts into your routine (for a 70.3 or Half-Ironman distance triathlon):

Key Interval Run Off Bike:

Spin easy on trainer or flat outdoor route for 60 minutes, then do a 1:15 – 1:30 run off the bike with the following sets (4 x 10 minutes at 10 seconds below goal race pace with 5 minute recovery run between sets. Follow this with 5 x 3 minutes at 20 seconds below goal race pace with 2 minute recovery run between).

Key Interval Bike With Short Run Off Bike

On your long ride day, mix in 5-8 sets of 10 minutes at your race pace with 2-3 minutes rest between sets. End the bike with a 20 minute time trial. Do a short, easy effort 20 minute run off the bike.

Drink a protein shake or recovery shake immediately after these workouts. Here is my favorite recovery shake:

1 Banana
1 TBSP Honey
2 Level Scoops Hammer Nutrition Recoverite (chocolate!)
2 Cups Vanilla Almond Milk (Coconut Milk or Regular Milk can be subsituted)
4 Ice Cubes

Make sure you follow this workout with a low intensity day the following day, such as a long easy/moderate swim. Putting your muscles and joints through that intensity requires recovery.

Hydration and Cramps

Both dehydration and over-hydration can cause cramps. Both result in a loss of electrolytes. There are several different opinions on proper hydration leading up to a race. Because of variable sweat and water loss rates among individuals, it is very difficult to give specific recommendations on how much fluid to take in leading up to a race.

I generally simply recommend monitoring your urine color. Prior to the start of the race, your urine should be relatively clear and colorless. During the race, I subscribe to the 1 bottle per hour during the bike with electrolytes every other bottle as a starting point. During the run, grab something every aid station for an Ironman and at least every other aid station during a 70.3 as a starting point. If conditions are hot and humid, or you are at higher altitudes, or you have a higher than normal sweat rate, you may want to increase your fluid intake during the race. But, don’t overdo it. If water is sloshing around your gut, slow the fluid intake down.

Proper hydration can be made more complex than the above if you so desire. I generally choose to keep it simple, as there isn’t a lot of research showing the more complex methods result in better outcomes. This is where experimenting during training can make all the difference. Train in all types of conditions and experiment with different intakes.

Happy Training!

Malaika-2012 REV3 Knoxville Bike

Fezzari Triathlete Malaika Homo

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Meet Fezzari Triathlete Malaika Homo

 

Where are you from originally?  What brought you to Utah?

I grew up in a little town in northern Indiana called Elkhart, which is 25 miles east of another little but more famous town called South Bend.  Northern Indiana is not exactly an outdoor recreation mecca, so I moved away from there to Utah in 2005 to help feed my appetite for playing in the great outdoors.

 

What got you into biking and triathlon?

I guess I had always been training for triathlon from a young age but didn’t know it at the time.  I grew up swimming and was exposed to running literally before I was born because my dad was a track and cross-country coach.  My brother and sister and I were always messing around on bikes as kids.  I first heard of triathlon when my brother did a few races in the summertime when he was in college to stay in shape for his swimming and running seasons.  Several years later it was my turn; I was dating a guy who was in the Purdue Tri Club and he encouraged me to come to one of the club meetings, and somehow I found myself going on a spring break training trip to Florida and South Carolina to do my first duathlon & triathlon.  I won the duathlon and placed 4th in the triathlon and was hooked!  My first couple of seasons I rode my brother’s old bike: a way-too-big-for-me red Raleigh road bike with flat pedals and shifters on the top tube behind the stem.  Every time I stood up to climb (which luckily isn’t too often in Indiana) my knees would clip the shifters and the bike would unexpectedly shift mid-stroke.  I made a lot of what seemed to me at the time to be big improvements to that bike, including putting aerobars and spd pedals on it and replacing the old black foam covering on the handlebars with red, white, and blue bar tape.  I believe that bike is now sitting on a trainer in my brother’s basement, so I guess we’ve come full circle.

What has been the highlight of your triathlon career so far?

Winning the REV3 Cedar Point Full on September 11, 2011 has definitely been the highlight of my triathlon career so far.  It was only my second full-distance triathlon and I knocked 48 minutes off my previous time; having that huge of a breakthrough at a race only a couple of hours away from where I grew up, with my family and friends on hand to witness it, was truly an incredible experience.

 

How many miles did you ride last week?

160-ish

 

What is your favorite race?

Escape From Alcatraz for it’s unique-ness, REV3 Quassy for the challenge.

 

When did you start biking?

I have a picture somewhere of me as a little kid sitting on a bike in the driveway with the kickstand down; right after that picture was taken I actually rode the bike unassisted for the first time.  I’d have to ask my mom for sure, but I don’t think I was more than 3 or 4 years old.  The bike was a red Schwinn with a banana seat and coaster brakes that was a hand-me-down from my brother and sister (sound familiar?).  We all learned to ride on it and none of us ever used training wheels.  I always had a bike growing up, but I first started “biking for real” when I began dabbling in triathlons at the tail end of my college days at Purdue.

 

What was your first bike?

My bikes (in chronological order) from when I was a kid have been: red Schwinn, peach Schwinn, purple Schwinn 10-speed, cheap black mountain bike, ancient red Raleigh road bike, Cannondale “Purple People Eater” (can’t recall what model it was), Trek 5200 road bike, Orbea Orca, Marin mtb, Fezzari T5.

 

What bike setup do you ride now?

My new speed machine is a Fezzari T5 with Shimano Dura Ace components and FSA Vision carbon bars and crankset.  It is RIDICULOUS, and I’m so excited to break it out this weekend at REV3 Knoxville!

Why do you bike?

I love the freedom and the feeling of really GOING somewhere under your own power.  Biking is a great way to see the countryside; some of my fondest memories of places I’ve been are from the bike rides I’ve taken there.  On a more practical level, biking is my preferred mode of transportation.  I live in Ogden but work 5 days a week as a personal trainer in Salt Lake, and I commute to work via a combination of biking and the Frontrunner train.  I usually ride between 20-40 miles per day on my commute, depending on the time of year, the weather, and where I am in my training.  It’s a great way to rack up a lot of base miles.

 

What is your favorite ride or route?

I love riding in Ogden Valley and then going up and over Trappers Loop, over through Morgan to East Canyon and back.  Emigration Canyon was always one of my favorite training rides when I lived in Salt Lake, and I still like to ride it whenever I get the chance.

 

What is your favorite time of day to ride?

I like early morning starts just for the feeling of accomplishment later in the day when you’re done, but I think I honestly prefer the angle of the sunlight later in the day.  The world just seems to glow more in the afternoons.

 

What is your biggest goal with cycling, triathlon, and running?

Oh boy!  I like this question.  The general answer is that I’m trying to be the best, most well-balanced triathlete that I can be.  The specific answer is that I’m aiming to break 9 hours in a full ironman distance triathlon, to qualify for Kona as a professional next year and place in the top-10, and to someday run in the US Olympic Marathon Trials.

 

What does an average training week look like for you? Training hours? Type? Where?

Training hours/type change drastically depending on the time of year and what I’m training for, but a current sample week would consist of 4-5 swims, 5-6 bikes, 4-5 runs, 2 strength workouts, plus foam rolling and quality time in the Recovery Pump boots every day.  Total hours might range from 10-25 hours (not counting recovery work).  I swim at Ben Lomond High School, at 24 Hour Fitness in Sugarhouse, and sometimes in Pineview or Causey Reservoirs.  I get most of my weekday bike miles commuting sections between Salt Lake and Ogden, then do longer weekend rides either in Ogden Valley or in the direction of the Great Salt Lake.  Most of my running is done in North Ogden and on the Shoreline Trail, with occasional forays into the Ogden Valley.

What do you do for training during the winter?

I ride my mountain bike to work and cross-country ski.  This is also when I focus on strength training and corrective exercises.

 

What do you do for nutrition on long rides?

I use Power Gels and PowerBar Gel Blasts, and until recently I used PowerBar Energy Bites—I’m so sad that those are being discontinued!  I also like to eat boiled potatoes.  I typically drink water and PowerBar Perform.

 

What races do you have planned for this year?

Feb.    Striders Winter Running Circuit 5K

Striders Winter Running Circuit 10K

Mar.    Striders Winter Running Circuit 10 Miler

REV3 Costa Rica Olympic Triathlon

Apr.     Striders Winter Running Circuit Half Marathon

Salt Lake Half Marathon

Striders Winter Running Circuit 30K

May.    REV3 Knoxville Olympic Triathlon

Jun.     REV3 Quassy Half Rev Triathlon

Dino Tri Olympic Triathlon

Jul.      REV3 Portland Half Rev Triathlon

Scofield Escape Triathlon

Aug.    REV3 Wisconsin Half Rev Triathlon

Sep.    REV3 Cedar Point Full Rev Triathlon

Oct.     REV3 South Carolina Half Rev Triathlon

REV3 Florida Half Rev Triathlon

Nov.    Ironman Arizona

 

What are your goals for 2012?

∙ Win the overall 2012 REV3 Pro Series

Defend my REV3 Cedar Point Full Rev title

Break 9 hours in a full iron-distance triathlon

Run a sub-1:25 half marathon

Break 3 hours in a marathon

Qualify for the 2013 Ironman World Championship

Top-10 finish at the Ironman World Championship

What’s on your ipod?

I am soooooo uncool, I don’t even own an ipod.  But I do like music!  I’m sort of a throw-back, I really like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, folk music in general, ’80s music (how could I not, I grew up in that decade!), classic rock…and yes, I am a big classical music fan too.  Like Mozart and Beethoven and Bach, those guys.

 

What’s your favorite recovery meal?

Chocolate milk first, then a nice big fat juicy steak with grilled veggies and yams.

 

Do you have a pre-race routine? If so, what?

I like to be organized, so I make sure I have all my gear laid out the night before.  On race day I eat breakfast 3 hours before the start, and I like to arrive in transition to set up my gear about 90 minutes before the gun goes off.  After setting up my transition spot I like to go off by myself to warm-up—usually a little jog and a swim.  I always “christen” the water during my warm-up swim (I think any triathlete who says they have never done this is a liar!).

 

 

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