Monday, July 9, 2018

Race Day Nutrition- Screw the science and find what works

        There is a lot of information out there on race day nutrition from articles to advice from friends, coaches, and fellow racers. What is the best product, what will help an athlete achieve their PR or get them to the finish line of an Ironman?

        When it comes to race day nutrition, I am not against science (I will admit, the title is a little bit of an attempt at click bait). Science has allowed us to make amazing strides in nutrition and training and I use it to guide me. However, I also like to go by the philosophy of find what works best for you. It does not matter how great a product is, how science has proven it is the best product. If your stomach cannot tolerate it, if it will make you sick, then it does not matter how great it is if you will not be taking it in.

        The most important thing you an do is to try different products in your training and see how you respond to them. How does your stomach tolerate it, how does it make you feel during and after your training session.

         Coach Dana, when she did Ironman Wisconsin, had to find what would work for her. She could not stomach gels, they made her sick.  So she did some reading and tried different products. In the end she discovered her stomach could tolerate white bread with almond butter and shot blocks. It worked for her as she had a 3 hour PR.  Another athlete I had ate SPAM sandwiches when she conquered her first Ironman after having an unsuccessful first attempt. Personally when I race shorter distance tri's I drink a mix of half orange Gatorade and water. I do this because the orange flavor suits me and the reason it is half water is because I don't like the taste of warm Gatorade, which happens in the summer as your bike sits in transition. By diluting it, it tastes a little lighter and I am more likely to drink it. For Ironman Wisconsin I used Nuun because I could not choke down what was being offered on the course. I liked the taste of it and it was easy to have the tablets if I needed to mix more up during the race. The decision was made to change to eating bonk breakers as that was offered on the course and I like them. If there were any problems taking in bonk breakers, then it would have required me to find a different solution. My preference for gels is GU, however, what flavor of GU I use will depend on the outside temps. If it is really hot, flavors like Chocolate, Mocha, Chocolate mint, Salted Caramel don't appeal to me, I find they are hard to eat. My preference are for flavors that seem to be lighter when taking them in, such as citrus flavors or raspberry.

        If you are convinced a certain product is best do to reviews you have read or advice from coaches and friends, but you you keep finding yourself not feeling well or having GI issues, try something different. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing or and over again and expecting a different result. The good news is, there are a lot different products you can try and you will find what works best for you.

        Have you found something that has worked best for you? Please leave a comment as it may work for someone else.

    If you find you like the information on this blog, please share! If there is something you want me to address, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Its Getting Hot Out There- How to Make Smart Decision for Better Results

        We are again getting into the race season and that means it is getting hot outside. In the Midwest one weekend we had temps in the 50's and within a week temperatures reached 90 degrees. For those who live in Florida and other warm weather locations are thinking the 90's are no big deal. And this is true, if you are acclimated to hot weather, it can be easier to manage. The challenge is, when we hit the summer months and we have spikes in the temps. I am sure everyone can agree doing a run in 50 degrees weather and then a few days later doing one in 90 degree weather is just not enough time to acclimate and we need to be smart in out training to not only have a good training day, but to be able to recover so we can have another good day the next day. The heat can wear us out more then we realize and can not only have negative effects on a training session, but due to the recover time, may have negative effects on our recovery several days later.

        Since a pool can keep us cool and the bike with wind resistance and being able to carry more water and fluids makes it easier to keep our core temps down, I am going to focus on tips for running in hot weather. However, some of these tips can be applied to swimming and biking as well.

1. If you can, schedule your run workouts in the morning or evening. It will be cooler during these times and will allow for a better overall workout.

2. Slow down and watch your heart rate: You may have been prescribed certain paces to hit on your run, but pay attention to your HR. Even though your pace maybe at a recovery or endurance the heat maybe causing your heart rate to sky rocket. If you are doing an endurance run and your HR is reading 170, then you are taxing your body to much. Pay attention and realize it is ok to slowdown, you are still getting the work in. If the HR is to high, you will be working much harder then you need to and it will take longer for you to recover.

3. Carry water and fluids. You need to replenish your fluids and electrolytes and the hotter it is, the more you need. With fluids on a hot day it is better to take the side of caution and carry more then you think you will need or plan a route were there are water fountains or water stops to fill back up. It is better to have it and not need it vs need it and not have it.

4. Wear a hat or visor and sunglasses. The shade covering your face along with your sunglasses blocking the sun will help keep you cool. On race day a mesh hat is a good idea. During ice stations you can take ice and put it under your cap and hold it in your hands to help keep you cool.

5. Find a shade. If you are running, try to pick route that has plenty of shade. If you find yourself over heating get in some shade to bring your body temps back down.

6. Be honest and be safe. If you are over heating stop!! There is no need to think you need to gut it out.  You do not want to get heat exhaustion or heat stroke. I have dealt with those situations where someone has had heat stroke and heat exhaustion and it can be scary. All three times we had paramedics on staff and could give immediate assistance. If you are out on a run by yourself or far from immediate assistance, the results could be devastating.

Stay safe out there. I would personally have an athlete tell me it was just to hot to run so they skipped it vs getting a phone call that something bad has happened because they felt they had to get a workout in. One workout will not make or break you if you need to cut it short due to the heat. However, one workout where you push too far in the heat could end your season or something worse.

Stay cool and stay safe

- Coach Nick

Friday, May 4, 2018

What's the End Game? What's Next?

Recently I was speaking with some parents of young athletes. Our topic was the overall goal of youth athletics and what they want to see their children accomplish and learn from their experiences. What's the end game?

I will not get into the entire discussion on the topic and my opinions youth athletics as that is a different topic for another time. However, it is a good question we should ask ourselves  and revisit from time to time as we train and take on these challenges we have set out to conquer. Below are two of the many reasons we should do this.

The first is that it is important to have a reminder of why we have set out on this journey, why have we chosen the road we we are on. We all face different challenges and obstacles and, given enough of them, along with the fatigue that comes with training, it will wear anyone down over time, just as the smallest trickle of water, over time, will crack the largest rock. There will be times almost all athletes question why they have decided to try and do a race. This is is the same for life and what we take on outside of racing. Reflecting on why the first step was taken in the first place will help guide us through the tough times and serve as guide to help us keep pushing forward, to stay the course.

All our goals are different. Some of use race to beat a time, some race to try and get a certain place, others race to finish. And all of these reason are admirable and its important to understand that not one of them is more important then the other. Never think or let anyone tell you that because your goal has nothing do to winning it carries less value. It is important to you, and that is all that matters.

In addition to these, ask yourself what other reasons are you out there? If your only reason is to have a certain place or a time, then, with factors out of your control, you end up not reaching your goal, the day will feel will feel empty., and you will take no joy from it. A good example is Boston this year. With running into 20+mph winds, temps at 40 degrees, and rain, it is not an ideal day to achieve a goal time. If I had wanted to only hit  a certain time, I would have been very unhappy. But I also wanted to walk away feeling like I went after the race and had a solid effort. In the end, I did and it that is something I can hang my hat on. So find more then one reason. Perhaps it's to stay healthy and active. Maybe its the challenge of a tough course. Maybe you want to set a positive example for your children, nieces, or nephews.

If you want to explore this further, I encourage you to read "Magical Running" by Bobby McGee as he speaks about targets vs goals and how you can find more meaning in your racing. Yes, it does have the title running in it, but it can be applied to any sport.

The second is to have an idea of what is next. You may not know exactly what you want to do, but having an idea will help you transition after your goal race.  Some athletes set out to run a marathon or a do an iron distance triathlon. Then, after a lot of work, time (could be years) and focus the goal is accomplished and they are now left without an idea of what they should do to fill their time. No real thought was put into what comes next.

Did you know many Olympic athletes will deal with depression after their careers are done. To compete at that level and to accomplish what they do, they put the blinders on and push forward and do whatever it takes. Once they are done, there is now a lot of time that is hard to fill and to fill it with the passion and drive they pursed in their careers. Trying to figure out what you want to do next is hard when you just want to focus on your current goal, but having at least an idea will help the transition. It does not have to be a race, it could be you want to focus more on a hobby, write a book, maybe go back to school, or simple have the time to coach your child's soccer team. Having an idea of what you want to do next will allow you to be be able to put your time, energy, and efforts into the new challenge and allow you to have the fulfillment and satisfaction out of life that you deserve.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fall Back on Training. Don't Leave Your Goals to Luck

Spring is just around the corners and many of us have early season races on the horizon that we are preparing for. Additionally, it is March Madness with many other championships happening in college and high school sports. As I listen to ESPN radio and read the news and hear radio hosts and coaches talk about players, there is a common phrase that is repeated again and again that, to me, is like fingers on a chalk board. It's when they say this player or that athlete "really stepped up today" or they "rose to the occasion."

Why is it that I do not like when this is said? Because if you ever have to rise to the occasion or step up to the occasion, then you are not properly prepared for your race or competition. In my time working as a contractor with the Navy, I was told something that really made me think how we as coaches should prepare our athletes and how, as athletes, we prep for races. I was told they never want anyone to rise to the occasion, they want them to fall back on their training.
The thinking is, we want to take as much chance out of our situations as possible. There are many things we cannot control, however we want to control everything that we can. No one should show up to the start line hoping on luck or chance to reach their goal. Anytime a world record is set, that athlete trained to set that record with efforts at or faster then race pace. Anytime a distance or goal is achieved, the athlete is prepared for that. The game winning shots in the NCAA basketball tournament and game winning drives in football have been rehearsed time and time again. It is the preparation of the athlete that allows them to take advantage of those moments, that makes others look on in awe and say "WOW".

This coming Sunday I have a half marathon as a prep race for the Boston marathon in just over four weeks. This race was chosen because it is hilly and will prep me for any hills at Boston. Even though the half is being used as tune up for Boston, I will also be prepared for the half, I want to know everything I can about the course and competition. On packet pick up on Saturday, I will drive the course to familiarize myself with it and finalize my race strategy so I know what to expect on race day. What are the hills like. Is it more down hill in the beginning, with more up hill at the end? Were are water stations? I will gather as much information as I can as that will dictate my pace and effort. Example, if it is an uphill finish for the last couple miles, I want to make sure I have conserved energy so I do not suffer and break. For Boston, I have found a Youtube video of the Boston course and I have watched it a couple times and will watch it more so I can familiarize myself with the course as much as possible, where the hills are, how it should be broken up, and what are key landmarks to look for.

You may not be able to drive the course before your race and there may not be a video to watch, so you want to do what you can. Look at the course map, look how it compares to google maps to find landmarks, find something that shows elevation differences so you know when the race has a hill or is flat. The more prep there is, the less there is left to chance and you can enjoy race day and fall back on your training for a successful race day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How to structure your off season!

For most athletes they are now entering or about to enter their off season. How an athlete structures the off season will have a direct impact on their success for next season. Here are some tips on how we at E-Endurance approach the off season.

The first step is to set goals for next season. Many athletes, especially ones coming off racing Ironmans, find it difficult to find their motivation to continue to train. It is important to take some time off, but one needs to be careful as two weeks off can become one month, then 2 months, and then 4 and the longer one takes off, the longer it will take to get your fitness back. By having goals it will allow you to map out your training plan and give purpose to your workouts. 

Whatever your goal race, determine how many weeks will be needed for a specific build to that race. It maybe a 12, 16, 20, or 24 week build. Count backwards and determine when the build will start. If its a late season race, you may find the build starts in May or June.

With your build to your goal race figured out, you can now plan the off season. There are many ways this can be approached. If your build does not start till May or June, there maybe a spring race you can peak for. Or perhaps a spring half marathon so can improve your run. Cyclocross is another option. Not only will you improve your biking, but you will also improve upon your bike handling skills. The Illinois Masters swimming state meet is in April every year. Work on improving your time in the 500 and 1650 free and watch how it improves your swim in a triathlon. 

Regardless if you plan to do a spring race or not, its is important to take some time off. Normally we will require athletes to take 2 weeks completely off before moving into a couple weeks of light training with little structure. This allows not only the body to heal, but the mind to rest as well. 

Its a good time to work on getting rid of any nagging injuries or pains. You may need to do physical therapy. Take the time to get completely healthy. Build in strength training. It will be important to build up the body so it will be able to handle the strain you will put on it. 

If you find getting in the pool, biking, or running is a little to much, find something else you like to enjoy. If you like to kayak, get it in while it is still warm enough out. Perhaps you always wanted to snow shoe or do more down hill skiing. Perhaps you were an ice hockey player at one time or a soccer player. Find a hockey or indoor soccer league. It does not matter what you do as long as you stay active. 

Finally, now is a good time to spend time with family and friends. Training can take up a lot of your time. use extra time you currently have to spend it with those who support you.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Training with Illness

Racing season is coming to an end, the leaves are starting to change color, and the temperatures are starting to cool off and that can mean only one thing, flu season and dealing with illness. I recently have had athletes reach out to me and ask what they should do since they have gotten sick. Should they push through, take time off, or reduce what their training load is and continue to workout. They have a big race coming up and do not want to take time off. Here are two points to help you get through being sick.

1.  Don't panic: If you have been consistently training, don't worry, a couple days off will not cause you to loose fitness. Training breaks your body down. If you are sick and you go out and do a hard workout, you may do more harm then good. If you are sick and need time off, take the time off and don't rush yourself back. Be patient and smart. Think of it this way, if you need to take 2 days off to get healthy, but you don't take the time off, it will take you longer to get health. That 2 days may become 4 days. During that time you are doing more damage to your body, risking injury and it will take you longer to get back to normal training. 

2. Be patient: The amount of time that you missed should be, at a minimum, equal to the time that was missed. If you are out for 2 days, then take 2 easier days to get yourself back into training. From there you can see how you are feeling. If it takes an extra day, then take the extra day. Better to be healthy and your body ready before putting heavy demand back on to it. Keeping the first point in mind, would you rather miss 2 days, take 2 days to build back into training, and be back to full training on day 5, or be sick for 4 days with crappy training, risk injury, and then only be back to full training in 8 days. Training is all about optimizing your recovery so you can push your body again as soon as possible. If you get sick you need to do the same.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Preparation and planning for race day.

Preparation and planning for race day.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
-          Benjamin Franklin.

I remember hearing a story of a stage actress (sorry, her name slips my mind) who, before every show would go on stage and run through every line, every movement, and hit every mark before the show started. Without fail, she did this every show, even if the show ran for several months. One would think that after so many shows, she would stop this routine. But there she was, every night before the curtain raised, going through every line on stage.
        This really stuck with me when I heard it. It was her dedication to her craft and the seriousness that she took her job. Her excellence may have been seen as talent, something she was born with, but what no one saw were the hours of work she put in.
What would a theater production and stage actress have to do with a triathlon or any race for that matter? Great ideas, focus, determination, and preparation are important in everything we do if we want to achieve success. 
                It is coming to the end of the season. Everyone’s “A’ races are just around the corner, whether it is your first race, a local 5k, World Championships, Wisconsin, Kona, Arizona, or any number of other races. What I have come across recently are many athletes who have put in a lot of training, but outside of nutrition, heart rate, or power data, they have no real race plan. They know little about the course. They know what they will have for breakfast, which is good, but only know if it is a flat bike or hilly run, etc.  When you go into a race, leave as little to chance as possible. Here are some areas to think about when coming up with a race plan.
1.       Know your course. When I did Ironman Wisconsin, I knew the bike route like the back of my hand. I rode it with friends many times before and I went up to ride the loop several times before I raced it. Every time I rode the course, I planned out my race. I knew when the roads were fast, I knew when they were slow. Everything was planned out, from how to take a corner so it was fast to the large rollers- carry speed down and use momentum to carry myself over the top as to not use too much energy climbing. I never rode the entire route out and back, but I did drive it.  A big mistake I made when training for Wisconsin was never looking at Observatory hill. It would have been easy for me to bike most of the run course on one of many trips up there and that little extra riding would have helped on race day. Every Olympic I have raced, I drive the course a day or two out. At one pre race dinner I was telling other Pro’s about the bike course and warned about a dangerous turn. Sure enough on race day a very famous triathlete was being loaded into an ambulance on that same corner (he was not in our discussion). I don’t know if he ever drove the course, but I knew a hard turn there would end in a possible accident.  Riding the run course is part of my day before race prep. Knowing where the turnaround is on an out and back can be a huge mental advantage. Knowing of any hills, exposed areas to the sun with no shade can help prepare for the run. You may not be able to see the entire course, but there are maps out there. Study them. Look at elevations and where on the maps any climbs are. You may not be good at reading elevation maps, but will have a better idea of what to expect.
2.       Segment the course: I tell all my athletes to segment the course. Break it down into parts. This makes it a lot easier on race day from a mental approach. 112 miles can sound daunting. If you break it into 4 x 28 miles stretches, it does not sound as bad. Wisconsin is an easy course to segment on the bike. There is the ride out, and then each loop, and finally the ride back in. If you focus on each section then the parts are easier to handle then the whole. Break your swim up by buoys and turns. The bike and run can be done by aid stations and out and backs. The longer the race, the more important it is. During Hell Week for Navy Seal Training, where the candidates get very little sleep, they are told, just make it to each meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. When it gets difficult, if you focus on each individual segment, it becomes a lot easier to stay motivated and keep moving through each section..  
3.       Train to your race strategy: Once you have a race strategy and know your course, train to it. If there is a bike course that has a lot of turns (ITU World Champs in Chicago for example), work on your cornering and pickups out of those corners. If you go into a race without working on small spikes in power for a race with a lot of corners (you spike in power as you get back up to speed), then when the run comes, your legs are going to feel flat. If there are hills, do some practice on hills or simulate hills in some way. What is the history of the swim venue? Is it usually choppy, flat like glass? Make sure to prepare yourself at least mentally for the conditions you will race in.

4.       Practice every situation: What are you going to do if you get a flat during your race? Have you practiced changing a flat so you are quick and efficient and there is not panic? Prepared if it is a non wet suit swim? Do you know what to do if you throw your chain? Preparing for as many situations as possible will not only make correcting the situation faster, but will also keep you calm.