IRONMAN™ Triathlon Training Tips from a Seasoned Veteran

By Debbie
April 8, 2015 on 12:52 pm | In Athlete Profile, Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by longtime TriSports athlete Karin Bivens. With many IRONMAN™ races under her belt, she is well-versed on training and racing. Check out her top 10 tips to ensure you are well-prepared for your next attempt at the full distance. Check out Karin’s blog or follow her on Twitter – konakarin.

As a 10-time IRONMAN™ finisher, including 5 IRONMAN™World Championships and a 3rd place podium finish in Kona in 2009, I was recently asked for training tips by someone who  was planning to sign up for his first IRONMAN™ (Arizona) since, as he put it, I was a “seasoned veteran!” I was somewhat surprised and also flattered that he would value my input. I thought about it and here are my Top 10 Tips for IRONMAN™ training:

    1) GET STRONG ON THE BIKE!

      • Although you do need distance, put in the speed work, too.  I did some Time Trials which really helped me push my pace under race conditions.  If you don’t want to sign up for a Time Trial race, you can measure a 20K and/or 40K stretch of road (typical Time Trial distance) and then periodically (i.e., once every 2 or 3 weeks) do your own Time Trial and try to better your time.
      • Bike with stronger people – I tend to do the hard rides (trying to include hills) with fast riders on all kinds of days (windy, hot, etc.).
      • Welcome the wind – let the wind be your training friend!  The wind will make you strong and also confident that you can handle it.

      Karin heading out on the bike

          2) DIAL IN YOUR NUTRITION!

            • I had the good fortune to hear Bob Seebohar speak (www.fuel4mance.com – Dietitian for Olympians, elite athletes and mere mortals).  He indicates that much of the G.I. distress that athletes encounter is not because they eat too little, but because they eat too much!  He emphasizes training your body to utilize its own stored energy.  I use his book, Metabolic Efficiency Training, as a guide. Another great book of his is Nutrition Periodization for Athletes.
            • Personally, I do better with “real food” and try to avoid or at least minimize products with ingredients I cannot pronounce.
            • Most of my solid nutrition is on the bike.  I eat the bars and gels that consist of real food without all the additives.  In my bike Special Needs Bag, I pack a peanut butter and honey sandwich (cut into quarters) and really look forward to ingesting something other than nutrition bars and gels.  One year at IRONMAN™ Canada, I stopped to get my sandwich from my Special Needs Bag and there was Sister Madonna Buder eating her sandwich.  When I asked her what was on it, she replied, “Peanut butter and a pickle!” So eat something that works for you.  I would, however, advise against putting something in your Special Needs Bag that could spoil (I’ve heard of people putting a Big Mac in their Special Needs Bag and wondered how safe it was to eat after sitting there all day and often in hot weather). I also carry my preferred Electrolyte drink on the bike and pack a frozen bottle of it in my Special Needs Bag which helps keep it cooler.
            • On the run I tend to stick mostly with liquids (water, electrolyte drink) and gels. Do find out what electrolyte drink will be served on the course and train with it! It is difficult to pack enough of your preferred drink for the entire race.  Also, there is a possibility that you could lose your nutrition/drink.  At IRONMAN™ France, my Bike Special Needs Bag could not be located!  My system hasn’t always favored the electrolyte drink served on the course, but training with it helps, as well as putting a small amount over a cup of ice or else just diluting it.  You can pack some of your preferred drink in your Special Needs Bag, but you still may need to drink what is on the course.   I found that sipping some Coke over ice can be a real pick-up and can be settling to the stomach!  I remember doing St. Croix 70.3 and Chris “Macca” McCormack was volunteering on the run course handing out Coke (after he finished the race).  He told me, “Take some as it will give you FAST LEGS!”

            3) WORK ON TRANSITIONS!

            • This is “free time!”  I have friends who have missed out on the podium, even though they swam, biked and ran faster than their opponent. They lost it in transitions. There are lots of good videos online about efficient transitions.
            • Take advantage of transition clinics.  You are bound to pick up some small tip that can save time.
            • Train for transitions.  I keep my bike in the garage with my helmet/gloves on the aerobars and my bike shoes next to the bike.  Whenever I head out on the bike, I put on my shoes while standing so that I become efficient at this.  My husband will sit down in a chair to put on his bike shoes and then in a race, he still needs to sit down to put on his shoes.  This takes more time and often space is tight at the bike rack, so learn to put on your shoes while standing.

            Practice standing while putting on your bike shoes

            4) BECOME MORE EFFICIENT AT SWIMMING!

            • I am not a particularly fast swimmer, but I have learned to become efficient and come out of the swim without wasting too much energy and am ready to bike.  If you can, join a Masters swim program.  It will really help.  Swimming is so technique-based that you might want to consider taking some lessons to make your swim more efficient.  You can also read books or watch videos on swim technique (www.swimsmooth.com, www.totalimmersion.net or some of the videos by Dave Scott) or, if possible, take a Total Immersion clinic.
            • Practice sighting as you will need it to make sure you are on course.
            • Practice bi-lateral breathing.  I favor breathing on my right side and am more comfortable on swim courses that are clockwise but that isn’t always the case and sometimes things like wave action can make breathing on the other side more desirable.  It also can help balance out your stroke.  Your head/neck can get pretty tired of turning the same way for 2.4 miles.

            5) VARY YOUR RUN TRAINING.

            • When I trained for my first triathlon (with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Team-in-Training”), I was extremely fortunate to have a Pro triathlete (Tim Sheeper) as a coach.  He said to regularly run coming off the bike, even if it is just for 10 minutes, to get your legs adjusted to “running after biking.”  Of course, there are days when you have longer runs following the bike and days when you just focus on the run, but get accustomed to running off the bike.
            • I found that doing some shorter running races (i.e., 5Ks, 10Ks) really helped with my speed as there can be a tendency to run long (but slow) distances.  So train yourself to run fast, as well.
            • Run hills – this will help make you stronger. Even if you are training for a flat run, think how much easier it will be, and if it’s a hilly run, you’ll be better prepared than much of your competition.

            Hills, hills and more hills!

            6) RACE!

            • Doing some shorter triathlons and at least one long course race prior to doing the IRONMAN™ will help with experience, training, nutrition, pacing and transitions.

            7) MIMIC RACE CONDITIONS!

            • Find out what conditions are highly possible on the course.  Train for it.  I cannot tell you how many races I have done where the winds have picked up.  This year at IMAZ, the winds were fierce and there were many DNFs due to missing the bike cut-off. I always think the Pros have it easier as conditions tend to worsen as the day goes on.  By training in wind (refer to the bike tips previously mentioned), you will better be able to deal with them.  The same goes for heat.  If it is likely to be hot on race day, train for heat.  Heck, train for heat even if it isn’t usual at that particular event.  One year when I did IRONMAN™ Canada, it was unseasonably hot, but not as hot as training in Tucson, so I had a good race whereas the heat, and the resulting GI distress on the run, had some calling  it “Vomit-man” (yuck)!  You also need to consider the opposite: cold.  Be prepared.  When I did IRONMAN™ Switzerland (held in July), there was a rainstorm and colder temperatures, especially as we biked into the higher elevations.  I remember being cold on the bike but luckily had a cycling jersey in my bike bag (a jacket would have been even more helpful). Consider the terrain.  Is it a flat course?  Technical course?  Hilly course?  Train for it!  If you are planning to do a hilly course, but live in an area where it is quite flat, you may need to bike on a trainer to mimic hill work, or  find the highest point you can (i.e., ramps, bridges) and do repeats or consider another race that is less hilly.  Humidity or lack thereof also plays a role.  Conditions will determine nutritional needs.  I find that in the hotter races, I eat less/drink more and need lots more salt supplements.  So, again, train under a variety of conditions so that you will be better prepared. These races are hard under perfect conditions, throw some unexpected weather in and it can knock you out of the game. Don’t let all that training go to waste…practice!

            8 ) HAVE A PLAN!

            • You cannot just WING it in an IRONMAN™!  Consider hiring a coach.  If you cannot afford a coach, there are training plans online and books on training.  Joe Friel’s The Triathlete’s Training Bible is a great guide… but there are many others out there.

            9) TRAIN ALONE!

            • Although training with faster people can help make you faster and keep you going,  you also need to train alone and tune into your own workout so you don’t get caught up in someone else’s workout or find that you’ve extended yourself when you should have taken an easy day or a recovery workout.
            • Training alone can improve your mental toughness.  In an IRONMAN™, you are basically out there on your own doing your own race.  You will need to dig deep, especially when your body is not saying anything nice!  You can draw from the experience of having trained alone.

            10) BE THANKFUL THAT YOU GET TO DO THIS!

            • I’ve often said that the best part of these events is the great people you meet who share a similar lifestyle.  Races often become reunions.  I have made great friends along the way, some in my age group, and when we are racing, we duke it out and push each other to greater heights!  The camaraderie is a bonus of these events!  No matter what the outcome, be thankful of the fact that you are out there!  It’s all good and you learn from every race!

            Great friends made over time

            Tri-ing to Fly With a Bike (or Flying to Tri With a Bike)

            By Debbie
            March 23, 2015 on 3:53 pm | In Community, Employee Adventures, From the shop, Product Information, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by former TriSports Champion Dan Dezess (former only because his wife now works for us and he gets all the benefits of being part of the team, anyway!). With the race season upon us, many people spend a ton of time researching how to travel with their bike. Ship it? Fly with it? Bike transport? Here’s one man’s experiences flying with his bike.

            I love triathlons and I love to travel. Who doesn’t? Now put the two together and it could be a little intimidating, frustrating and, not to mention, stressful! Questions about how the bike will fare under the scrutiny of TSA inspections, how much it costs to ship and the horror of “what if something happens to it between point a and point b?” race through one’s mind.

            I have done a few “fly-aways” throughout the years and each time I think I have it mastered, I learn something new.

            The first time I flew was for the 2010 Big Kahuna Triathlon in Santa Cruz, CA.   I had just bought a Velo Safe Pro-series Bike Box from TriSports.com. I packed it with care, making sure that nothing could move which could damage the bike. Flying to San Francisco was fine. Coming back, however, I found that the company outsourced by TSA to inspect baggage did not re-secure the tool bag I had packed in the box. Lesson learned – do not put excess items in the bike box!  What if it had shifted during the flight or handling and had damaged the bike? Shudder!

            TRI ALL 3 SPORTS Velo Safe Pro Series Bike Case

            In July of 2011 while packing for Ironman Racine 70.3, I felt like I had a handle on the travel thing. Again the box was packed with care, foam padding and all. After some thought, I also decided it couldn’t hurt to place a nice little note inside asking them to please re-secure the items and thanking them for keeping us safe. A little kindness could go a long way.

            All was well until I boarded the airplane. As I sat down and looked out the window, I saw, much to my horror,  the airline baggage handler grab the box (which was upside down on the cart) and flip it end over end onto the conveyer belt, landing on its side and up into the airplane. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I dreaded what I would find upon landing.

            Those dang baggage gorillas!

            We arrived in Detroit and I anxiously made my way to baggage claim. I found the box and opened it. The bike was fine, but the wheels were no longer secured.  The end result was a nick in each race wheel about the diameter of a pencil eraser. I immediately went to the airline baggage office to file a claim, but was told that I needed to do that at the home airport.  Fortunately, I was able to patch the wheels with fiberglass filler. Meanwhile, my wife and I researched what we needed in order to file a claim. We had all of our ducks in a row, or so we thought.

            Back in Tucson, we went straight to the airline baggage office to file. To make a long story short, the airline denied responsibility despite the fact that we had photos showing the box being mishandled.  They stated they were not responsible for damage done due to my lack of making sure it was safely packed. Lesson #2 learned – pack your wheels in wheel bags, or a separate wheel box,  and do not expect the airline to pay for damages.

            Playing it safe with a Wheel Safe

            Determined to finally master the art of traveling with a bike, I invested in a wheel box and decided to fly non-stop from a larger airport nearby to lessen the number of times the box would have to be moved, and thus reducing the chance of it being man-handled. At baggage check in Phoenix, on the way to the 2012 Ironman New Orleans 70.3, I was happy to see that the workers recognized that it was a bike box and knew it contained fragile cargo. Finally a problem-free trip!

            After New Orleans, I read about a product called Albopads in a triathlon magazine. They are re-useable pads with Velcro that you attach to the bike frame during transport.  I decided to ditch most of the worn Styrofoam padding in favor of the newer, less bulky pads.

            It's like the snowsuit on the little kid in "A Christmas Story," only for your bike!

            I used the same non-stop flight strategy to travel to Ironman Steelhead 70.3, again with much success. Flying conquered. Piece of cake!

            Just when you think you know it all, though, something happens.  I checked in for my flight for the Rocketman 70.3 in Orlando. Not quite a non-stop flight, as it stopped in Saint Louis, but at least we got to stay on the same plane.  All was well until my wife and I had to stop near where over-sized baggage was manually inspected. I was rummaging through my backpack when I overheard the TSA baggage inspector tell the other inspector, “We have a HAZMAT.”

            Being a firefighter, I knew what HAZMAT meant and was a very alarmed. I looked over and them standing around my open bike box. Oh no. I wracked my brain trying to think of what I could possibly have packed that could cause such panic. What if the airport was shut down? Yikes!  It turned out it was the CO2 cartridges. They are apparently banned by the FAA from being transported on aircraft.  I had never heard of that before, but now I know not to pack them. Ever.

            Just when you think you think you have the game figured out, you get thrown another curveball. Live and learn. I can deal with all that, though, as long as the bike gets there safely!

            One Long, Creative Conversation

            By Debbie
            March 16, 2015 on 3:57 pm | In Life at TriSports.com, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Jake Greenwood. Feeling like you need a break to get your head on straight? Spas and vacations are overrated…just do what you already do – train!  Check out Jake on Twitter – @GWoodJCG.

            Recently, as I often do, I was on the spin bike watching an old Kona race video.  In the 1995 video, Paula Newby-Fraser made a quote that has become synonymous with triathlon training.  Frasier quips that triathlon “is one long, tedious conversation with yourself.”  Others have often asked me what I think about on long training rides and runs or during an Iron distance race.  Surely, anyone who does triathlon training and racing has spent hours alone with nothing more than their thoughts.  During this time the mind wanders to quiet, repetitive places.  The repetition becomes a mantra where counting breathes, pumping the cranks, or turning over your legs fades into the background as your wandering mind takes over and you think deep and hard in a type of dream-like state.

            I started thinking about Newby-Fraser’s quote and identified with her sentiment.  I have often produced, solved, and forgotten about problems all in one training session.  After stressful days at work or when I’m feeling distracted, I use exercise as a mental break.  I’ve always felt that exercise has left me mentally fresher and allowed my mind the needed time to seek creative solutions to problems.  And so, a question arose for me, does triathlon training yield increased creativity?

            In the article “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime,” Jabr (2013) argues that the brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and generate its most innovative ideas.  A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future.  Mental idleness is indispensable to the brain.  We obsessively check and respond to emails and even feel obligated to get work done in the evenings, on weekends, and while on vacation.  Personally, between my job, family, and household chores, training remains as the only quiet time I have in a week.  During my training, the space and quiet that mental idleness provides is necessary to make unexpected connections and leads to strikes of inspiration.  Mental downtime has been described as an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what has been recently learned, to surface unresolved tension, and to reflect internally.  During these moments of mental quiet we craft fictional dialogue, mull unfinished projects, and catapult ourselves into different hypothetical futures.  Often while training, I have found myself role playing through deep conversations that determine how I ultimately handle sticky or stressful life situations.  These moments of introspection help foster a stronger sense of self, which is the story we continually tell ourselves.  It seems my consciousness is awakened by the unconsciousness of the repetitive movements.  During a race it is often said you will go to “dark places” within the recesses of your mind.  But what is in that dark place? Perhaps the darkness is the key to light, or better yet, enlightenment.

            Long training rides give you loads of time alone with your thoughts

            I choose to use my endurance training as an opportunity for much needed brain breaks.  However, I often find myself almost obsessively pondering life situations at home or work as the miles tick by.  I’ve often run through the door and quickly jotted down potential solutions to problems or pulled my bike over to make a quick voice memo in my phone.  Opipari (2014) commented that a single workout can immediately boost higher-order thinking skills, increasing productivity and efficiency.  Science supports this claim due to the fact that specific brain proteins move across brain synapses with increased blood flow that comes directly from exercise (Tomporowski, 2003).  These brain proteins facilitate the growth of new brain cells and nourish existing ones.  The result is improved executive functioning and higher-order thinking that allows people to formulate arguments, develop strategies, and creatively solve problems. In this way, exercise unleashes creativity.  Therefore, it seems the mental idleness and increased blood flow in the brain during endurance training both physiologically and biologically yields a more creative mental space within which to solve problems.

            The link between endurance training and creativity may well exist.  Maybe Paula Newby-Fraser was making a deeper statement about this link in her famous quote, or perhaps she was simply using an eloquent metaphor for Jens Voight’s more concise “shut up, legs.”  In any event, the next time you’re mentally stuck, stressed, or fatigued, don’t reach for caffeine or energy drinks.  Grab those running shoes and leave your phone at home.  You already possess the key to increased mental acuity and productivity; your legs.

            Increasing creativity post-IM Lake Placid

            References

            Jabr, F. (2013, October 15). Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime. Retrieved September 25, 2014, from Scientific American.  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/

            Opipari, B. (2014, May 27). Need a Brain Boost? Exercise. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from The Washington Post.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/need-a-brain-boost-exercise/2014/05/27/551773f4-db92-11e3-8009-71de85b9c527_story.html

            Tomporowski, P. D. (2003). Effects of Acute Bouts of Exercise on Cognition. Acta Psychologica , 112, 297-324.

            Recovery: My Version of the Myth

            By Debbie
            March 10, 2015 on 1:32 pm | In From the shop, Life at TriSports.com, Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Juan Martin Tanca. Recovery is truly a buzzword in the endurance world, but what does it REALLY mean? Check out Juan’s take on it…I think he’s onto something!  Check out Juan’s blog and follow him on Twitter – @jmtanca.

            In recent years, recovery has been the most common topic in the endurance world, yet the most ignored and misunderstood by the majority of everyday athletes. My idea of recovery and rest is quite different from what most people do and think. A few months ago, I was reading Matt Hanson’s blog and he was explaining that for him, recovery was a whole day process, not just a single action done after a workout. When I read this, I started thinking more about it and, after some research and discussion with my coach, it made complete sense. If you integrate recuperation and rejuvenation into your lifestyle, the results in training/racing will be evident and way cheaper than getting a new “superbike” or a Star Wars-like aero helmet.

            Recovery involves sleep (at least 8-9 hours/night), proper nutrition and fueling, hydration and trying to minimize life stress. We all know that it is almost impossible to have a stress-free life nowadays, but the key is trying to keep balance.

            Recovery is seen sometimes as “nice to have,” but in order to be successful as an athlete, resting must be part of your plan. Viewing rest and recovery as a triathlon’s 4th discipline will have positive impacts in your training adaptation, hormonal balance, immune system and overall mood.

            Sleep

            Sleep is the single cheapest and easiest way to boost your performance. This is where all the training adaption takes place. Sleeping 8-9 hours per night is ideal but 7 will work, too. Power naps in the afternoon are great, as well (10-20 minutes). Sleeping 60 to 90 minutes in the afternoon is not beneficial because it disrupts the sleeping cycle and it will be difficult to sleep at night.

            To understand how to heal our body, we must understand what happens to it when we exercise. The body sees exercise as stress, therefore when we are training, our endocrine system secretes stress hormones (Cortisol & testosterone). The downside of this is that for our body, having a bad day at work or an argument has the same result as a hard track session or hill repeats, so if we want consistency and good health, it is vital that we must try to keep a low stress life and have “Athletic IQ.” What is this? Athletic IQ is not having a myopic look at the specific training day, but instead having a long lens view. What I mean is, for example; yesterday I went to bed at 9pm and woke up at 6am. I slept for 9 hours but woke up feeling heavy and fatigued, so I slept in, then went to work and did my workout in the afternoon instead, feeling refreshed and with a better mood. Sometimes forcing a workout with residual fatigue is useless. Tim O’Donnell says “One workout will not make you a world champion but the sum of consistent years of training, will.” By no means am I saying to be lazy, but if you know your body and your fatigue levels you will be able to make the call. Training = stress + adaptation.

            You should wake up feeling refreshed

            There are other kinds of methods of boosting and balancing your hormonal level. My coach (Matt Dixon) likes us to go for 30-40 minutes runs, but REALLY, REALLY easy. If your running pace is 7min/mile, go for a 10min/mile pace, it will boost your mood and your endocrine system will secrete endorphins that are always awesome. Those easy runs and easy rides (coffee shop rides) will make you feel rejuvenated and fresh and will serve as a bridge for the next day. The key is to differentiate the easy workouts from the hard ones; there must be significant difference in intensity.  To achieve this, it is very important to trust your coach and be brave.

            Fueling, Nutrition & Hydration

            What we put in our bodies is extremely important. If you want your car to run amazing, it’s better if you put super premium gas in it. Our bodies work in a similar way. Some people do not view nutrition and fueling as important, but they are extremely important. First let’s explain each of them separately.

            Fueling is what you eat 60 minutes before a workout, what you eat and drink during the training session, what you eat and drink immediately after working out (30 minutes max!!). Like Meredith Kessler says: “The workout is not finished until the fueling is done.” During training I like to go with natural foods (Feed Zone Portables recipes are super easy and make training tastier, and Osmo nutrition is my hydration choice). As I said earlier, the body secretes cortisol when we workout, so the only thing that stops it immediately after we finish our training is protein. Having a high protein meal with carbs (4:1 ratio) within 30 minutes of finishing your training will help you to be ready to tackle the next training session feeling better. Avocados are great for recovery, as they have good fats to stabilize your metabolism and reduce muscle soreness.

            Feed Zone Portables is a great guide to real training food

            Nutrition is what you eat the rest of the time. If you want to lose weight, here is where you want to cut your calorie intake – do not sacrifice your training adaptation by cutting fueling calories. If you have a healthy diet and fuel correctly your body will do its part and will put you at the correct weight. Remember, it is not a linear formula that the lighter you are, the faster you will run.

            Hydration is a key component, as well. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated and your body is producing cortisol.

            Personal protocol, tips and objective measurement

            Immediately after I finish working out I have a pre-set protocol that I try to follow every time:

            1. Rehydrate and refuel
            2. Shower
            3. Dynamic stretching  and hip mobility exercises
            4. Wear recovery boots for  60-90minutes
            5. Rest with the feet higher than the heart
            6. Foam roller massage 2 or 3 times a week.

            When I am on a hard training block or I feel that I have not recovered enough before going to bed, I drink Nocturne from Infinit Nutrition. This product uses tryptophan (which is found in cherries) to boost your growth hormones while you sleep so you can feel fresh and rested when you wake up.

            An objective way to measure your fatigue level is to use urine strips. If, on the first pee of the day, you have protein in your urine, you are not ready to go. Sleep in and enjoy an awesome day off from triathlon. Urine strips also measure your leukocytes levels. If leukocytes are present in your urine, you might be in an early stage of sickness.

            Follow the signs your body gives you!

            Recovery is a vital part of every training plan. It is important to understand that recovery is not only taking a day off, but an integral piece of training. It should not be hard to apply in your daily life, and your recovery protocol should not be daunting and should not cause more stress. The key is balance and planning ahead. You can be a successful triathlete with 12 hours of training a week or less. The volume of training (miles-hours) is not a very successful tool for measuring your success.

            “Most triathletes are extremely fit but are chronically tired” – Matt Dixon. Don’t be one of those triathletes!

            References:

            Dixon, Matt. “Recovery.” The Well-built Triathlete: Turning Potential into Performance. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Boulder2014: Velopress, n.d. 35-58. Print.

            The Age Grouper’s Holy Grail

            By Debbie
            March 3, 2015 on 10:49 am | In Community, Nutrition Tips, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by Brooks Vandivort, former TriSports Champion and current TriSports fan. They say “you are what you eat,” but are you really giving your diet the attention it deserves? Read on to learn the importance of eating right while training.  Check out Brooks’ blog and follow him on Twitter – @TriBrooks.

            So you bought a bike, running shoes, a Speedo and more GU, Clif bars, and Honey Stinger gel than you can handle. You probably have downloaded several training programs or might even have a coach. You have read the books, blogs, and magazine articles and slowly your body has responded to become a fit age group triathlete. You probably have a full-time job, family, other hobbies and a busy schedule, but the triathlete in you wants to be even better this season. So what can you do to see a noticeable increase in fitness and performance without killing yourself in training or distancing yourself from your family?

            Brooks being a fit age group triathlete

            Whatever you call your daily eating habits: fuel, diet, food, sustenance, it is probably the single biggest variable you can change in order to perform at the next level. Let’s face the facts. We wouldn’t run a race with one shoe or ride our bike with the front brakes engaged, so why do we continue to hold ourselves back by eating a poor diet? I’ll be the first to admit that diet is my biggest problem in preparing for my season. To borrow a few boxing terms, my “walk around” weight is 177 lbs. My “fighting” weight or racing weight is optimal at 165 lbs. I’m 6’2” and race in the male 40-45 age group. To the average person I look fit and to many I look a bit too much on the skinny side, but as a triathlete I know that I can be doing a much better job at what goes into my body.

            Remember when you first started out in the world of triathlon and training was literally a workout? You had to push yourself to roll out of bed or mentally psych yourself out in order to finish that 5 hour bike ride, but now after a few years, training is a way of life. The same thing can happen with your diet. Make what you eat a way of life. If you are not already doing it, incorporate more fruits and vegetables along with lots of water into your daily routine. I know this is the same advice that you have probably heard a million times, but it really does make a difference. Most, if not all, age group triathletes are never going to run five minute miles or average 28 mph on the bike, but with proper daily nutrition we can begin to shave off those precious seconds that can move us to consistent podium finishers. A couple easy tips to follow that will help you on your way to feeling and racing with more energy and strength:

            1. Have a food log. MyFitnessPal is an easy and free website and app that allows you to track what you are eating and drinking. Seeing the amount of calories you are taking in really sheds light on either your good or bad habits. It also tracks your workouts and weight.

            2. More frequent small meals versus less frequent large meals. Given the amount of time spent training, frequent small meals really just make more sense, as well as being a better way to fuel your body. Most of us have some combination of two disciplines that we train for everyday and need to be able to fuel the body in order to maximize our training time. Small meals allow for a nice boost of energy without causing that sluggish feeling.

            More small versus less big meals

            3. The last tip is probably the most important, but also the hardest to accomplish. Make your diet just as important as your training program. Seriously, most us obsess about what workout(s) we have planned for the day, but most of the time think of eating as the thing we do so we don’t die! This season plan your meals just as carefully as you plan your training and I guarantee you will see results. Good luck and keep your wheels on the road!

            An Interview with a Future Triathlete

            By Debbie
            February 24, 2015 on 2:32 pm | In Athlete Profile, Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by Meredith Yox, TriSports Champion and super-mom. Youth races are popping up all over, but what do you tell your young’un when they ask you about it? Here’s your chance to let them hear about it from the perspective of another kid.  Check out Meredith’s blog and follow her on Twitter – @cabullydogs.

            Sydney Yox is a nine year old fourth grader who, after three years of competitive running and swimming, decided to try her first triathlon last August. The following is an interview conducted with her after completing her first triathlon.

            Sydney Yox pre-race

            Why did you decide to try triathlon?

            When I saw my Mom do all the triathlons and she told me how it was and how she did, it sounded fun. Then my Mom asked me if I wanted to try a triathlon since I had gotten comfortable on a two wheel bike, and I did.

            How were you feeling before your first one?

            I was feeling really nervous. I was trying to focus on one thing at a time and how it would all work out. How I would run and what it would be like to do it all.

            Did you have any plan before the race?

            My Mom told me to focus on one thing at a time. The swimming first, then focus on the biking when I was on the bike, and then focus on the run during the run. So that’s what I did.

            How did you feel when you finished the swim?

            I didn’t have a cramp, and I didn’t feel tired. So I said to myself, “Okay.  Focus on the bike now!”

            How was transition?

            It was really hard because I was all wet, and it was hard to dry off and get my helmet on over my pony tail. It also was really hard when I came back because someone had put their bike in my spot.

            How did you feel on the bike?

            I didn’t feel too bad.  I didn’t feel tired.  But I was scared because there were bumps in the road, and I was scared I would fall. But I was able to do it.

            Once you made it to the run what was going through your head?

            My body was saying, “You’re almost done.  You’re almost there!  You haven’t stopped yet, and you haven’t slowed down.  You’re almost at the finish, and you can do it!”

            Sydney killing it on the run (and sporting a 2XU Girl's Active TriSuit)

            How did it feel to cross the finish line?

            I felt really good because I had just completed my first triathlon! I was really tired, and my throat was sore from breathing too hard. I felt proud of myself when they gave me my medal.

            What’s your favorite part about multi-sport events?

            I really like the biking because it’s easier than the swimming and running.

            Now that you have completed one triathlon and one duathlon what’s next?

            The SuperKid triathlon in Santa Cruz, CA.

            If you met another kid who was thinking about doing a triathlon what would tell them?

            Don’t be nervous, you’re going to be great! It’s actually really fun!

            Sydney post-race with her Mom and 6 year old sister Kylie, who competed in the 6 & under division

            Editor’s note: Is your child interested in trying a tri? TriSports has a whole lot of kid-specific gear. Check it out here!

            Eye Care Needs for Triathletes

            By Debbie
            February 17, 2015 on 2:27 pm | In Community, From the shop, Life at TriSports.com, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Steve Rosinski. We frequently think about protecting things like our head, but how often do you think about protecting your eyes? They’re kind of important. Learn some tips from Steve, who isn’t only a pro triathlete, but an Optometrist, as well! And you thought your schedule was busy! Check out Steve’s blog or follow him on Twitter – @steverosinski.

            As a Doctor of Optometry I think about the eyes a lot! And being a Professional Triathlete I think about Triathlons probably even more!  With both of them being such an integral part of my life I want to share my thoughts on the importance of eyewear – whether sun or prescription, goggles and even contact lenses.

            Let’s first take a look at sunglasses.  Sunglasses are in every triathlete’s bag of essentials when it comes to training and race day.  They not only make you look extra cool with the latest colors, shapes and designs, but they also protect our eyes from the wind, rain, and dust that we encounter on the road or trail.  If you are not wearing sunglasses or even clear lenses when it is cloudy, I would strongly suggest that you do! I have, on more than one occasion, taken a bug to the face descending at over 50 mph only to have it smack my sunglasses, therefore preventing disaster. As an eye doctor I have had to remove small pebbles, insect parts and have treated people for corneal abrasions (tree branches to the eye) because of similar episodes when people weren’t wearing proper eyewear.  And let me tell you, the eye is highly innervated with nerves, so anytime something gets in there it is painful – don’t let that happen to you…wear your glasses!  Some suggestions for eye wear would be photochromic or “transition” lenses that change depending on the light levels.  They have lenses that go from clear to a grey for people riding at dusk/dawn/wooded areas.  They also have lenses that start at a light grey and go to a dark grey as the sun becomes more radiant.  Popular sunglass companies for triathletes are Tifosi, Oakley, POC and Bolle.  Fortunately many sunglasses can now have prescriptions put into them, from single vision to bifocals (for those ages 40 plus that need to see both distance and your bike computer). For prescription I would recommend going to your local eye care provider where they can put your prescription lenses in the frame correctly.

            Wear your sunglasses!

            On another note, for those who are active, there is the option for contact lenses.  I am a huge believer in contact lenses when used appropriately. Contact lenses give you freedom and an extra field of view compared to glasses.  But…I still recommend wearing sunglasses when biking and running (to protect the eyes).  Contact lenses are a medical device so they need to be fit by a proper professional and not over worn.  With over-wear you will predispose yourself to eye infections which can be potentially blinding.  Most contact lenses these days do a great job with oxygen transmissibility (the ability of the contact lens to allow oxygen to get to the front part of your eye), which can help reduce the risk of infection compared to contacts of years past.  Most contacts are either a 1- day, 2 week or one month lens. There are contact lenses for people with near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism, but have even developed them for those who need bifocals.  I am a huge advocate of 1 day contact lenses (wear them one day then throw them out) – I wear them myself. Not only are they convenient – you don’t have to clean them – but most importantly, they are the healthiest option.  One day lenses are great for part-time wearers, allergy suffers and swimmers. I would not recommend swimming in contact lenses in general, but if you are going to, you might as well use the best option with one day lenses.  I especially point out swimmers because people who swim with contacts, whether in pools or open water, are predisposed to an infection from an Acanthamoeba. This infection is a very painful and vision threatening one. So in general, don’t swim in contacts, but if you do, only wear one day contacts and throw them out after use.

            You then ask, “if I can’t swim in my contacts what can I do?”  There are companies that actually make prescription swimming goggles. The goggles work well and you can see with your prescription in them – now maybe you won’t run into the pool wall!

            TYR Tracer Corrective Optical Goggle

            Best of luck this season and if you have any questions contact your local eye care provider!

            Five Time and Money-Saving Tips for the Vegan Endurance Athlete

            By Debbie
            February 9, 2015 on 11:11 pm | In Life at TriSports.com, Nutrition Tips, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Liz Miller. Many athletes are choosing to try training on a vegetarian, or even vegan, diet. Can it work for you? Learn some tips that can help make the transition a little easier. Check out Liz’s blog or follow her on Twitter – FeWmnLiz (can you tell she’s a geologist?).

            Have you ever wondered about following a vegan diet but didn’t think you could do it while still maintaining a heavy workout load for your next half or full Ironman? I have been following a vegan diet for the past year and recently switched to mostly gluten-free, as well. I am a huge animal lover and advocate, but my decision to go vegan was based mostly on the desire to find the best possible diet for my body when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and fast race times. The vegan lifestyle isn’t appropriate or feasible for everyone, but it can be a new and exciting way of eating. If you’re curious about trying it, here are a few simple time and money-saving tips for following a gluten-free and vegan lifestyle without breaking the bank or taking time away from training.

            1. Find and join a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

            A CSA not only supports local farmers, it also reduces the time spent at the grocery store picking out all those fruits and vegetables each week. By joining a CSA, you’ll get a wide variety of fresh, local, in-season fruits and veggies that can make cooking fun and exciting. I had never even heard of kohlrabi until we got it in our CSA box one week! Whether your local CSA has a weekly pickup or a home delivery service, it easily saves 20 minutes or more at the grocery store and it can add fun and new foods to your weekly diet routine.

            For more information, or to find a CSA near you, check out the Local Harvest website

            Polenta crust pizza with pesto, caramelized onions, purple potatoes, and cashew ricotta. Basil for the pesto and purple potatoes from our local CSA!

            2. When you’re making dinner on Sundays, make up a 2 or 3 cup batch of brown rice for the week

            Because brown rice takes so long to cook, it’s a pain to cook it during the week when you get home at 8:00 PM and you’re starving and need food on the table FAST. A large batch of rice will easily keep in the refrigerator all week and can be used in a large variety of meals: veggie stir-fry, curry sidekick, black bean and rice burritos, tempeh and rice loaf. On nights when I am really pressed for time, I crisp up a few spoonfuls of rice in a nonstick pan, add some frozen peas and spinach, top with a few frozen wontons, and dinner is served!

            3. Make friends with your Crock Pot

            Crock pots aren’t just for cooking chewy chunks of meat! Some nights, I get home late and just want to eat and go to bed, not spend 45 minutes making dinner. Soups, stews, and curries all make great crock pot meals that are ready when you walk in the door.

            4. Have a few quick meals in your arsenal that will make cooking dinner faster

            Some of my favorite quick and easy meals are veggie burgers with baked French fries; brown rice pasta tossed with veggies, olive oil, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes; and a stir-fry made with rice, veggies, pineapple, cashews, and tofu. Having precooked rice and frozen veggies on hand at all times means that you have a quick, healthy, go-to meal filled with carbs and protein that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less.

            5. Buy a 1 or 1.5 quart crock pot for cooking large batches of beans

            Beans are a great source of fiber and protein with a wide variety of uses – hummus, salad toppers, and bean burritos, just to name a few options. Buying beans in bulk is significantly cheaper than buying canned beans, and a small crock pot will let you cook a batch of beans for the whole week. Mix up the beans each week for some variety!

            Make friends with your crock pot

            The vegan and gluten-free lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but with very little extra time and effort, it can be easy, quick, and maybe even a little cheaper than your current diet!

            How Old Am I?

            By Debbie
            February 3, 2015 on 12:01 pm | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Karin Bivens. She got a late start in triathlon, but she’s tearing it up! Join her as she breaks down the confusing age group assignments in various sports. You may just end up more confused! Check out Karin’s blog and follow her on Twitter – @konakarin.

            This past year was an “age-up” year for me! I was so excited and looking forward to being the youngest in the new age group which, in my case, is F70-74.  For all of the sanctioned triathlons and duathlons, I would race in my new age group since they have you race whatever age you will be as of December 31st of the current year.

            In addition to my multisport events, I signed up for a number of running races, cycling races and swim competitions.  In the running races, however, they have you run the age you are on race day, so in all the running races for which I had registered that occurred prior to my birthday, I raced in the F65-69 age group.  Of course, it was very frustrating to know how much higher I would have placed in the next age group (although occasionally there was an exception where there was some “ringer” in the next age group), but running races do not use the age-up rule.

            All smiles, even though she has no clue how old she is!

            Like triathlons and duathlons, in official cycling races, you supposedly race your age as of December 31st, as well, unless you race in a “Cat” ranking; however, in a Time Trial which I did in February, results show me in the F65-69 age group even though my US Cycling license has me as F70-74, a mistake perhaps, but it didn’t matter this time as I would have won in either age group.

            Swim competitions get complicated.  I did swim a USMS meet last January and asked the official which age group I would be racing under. I was told for that particular event, I raced my age on race day since the event was in yards! If the event had been in meters (International), though, then I would race in the new age group.  In checking out swim competitions online, I found that even this varies as some meets (even those in meters) still had you race your age on race day. Another interesting aspect was that if the swim meet covered more than one day, some races had you race all the days at your age the first day of the meet, while other had you race all the days at your age the LAST day of the meet.  Are you confused?  I sure am!

            In the Senior Games and Senior Olympics that I found, they tend to have you race your age as of December 31st no matter what sport you compete in.

            It does make it easier to race at the same age for the whole year, especially when it comes to annual rankings.  Plus it is a lot less confusing for races you do before your birthday in a year in which you move into a new age group. Moral of the story? Check closely to be sure that you are correctly registered for the appropriate age group when racing and realize that not all competitions have the same age rules.

            Winner, winner!

            “Go-To” Trainer Workouts

            By Debbie
            January 20, 2015 on 1:50 pm | In From the shop, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by TriSports Team Athlete Mark Tripp. Embarking on his first year as a Pro, he’s one to watch. Check out Mark’s blog and follow him on Twitter – @trippmj.

            For most people, including me, riding outdoors is a lot more appealing than staring at a wall while riding your bike on a stationary trainer. But there are still those occasional cold and rainy days that end up interfering with planned bike workouts.  For these types of days, I am sharing two of my “go-to” trainer workouts. I ride these two workouts regularly and for different purposes.  One is intended to be an endurance workout for strength building and the other is more of an interval speed workout.

            I should point out that these workouts are geared towards training for the Olympic distance triathlon, which consists of a 40 kilometer distance bike leg.  For my trainer setup I use a compact crank and my rear cassette has the following gearing: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25.  For both workouts I also try to maintain a 90-95 RPM cadence throughout the entire workout.

            Trainer sessions can be efficient and valuable additions to your triathlon training.  I understand that they can sometimes be boring, so to fight the boredom, I recommend incorporating some entertainment that helps the time pass by but does not distract you from your workout goals.  I typically listen to up-tempo music or if the timing is right, watch a football or basketball game on television.  If that doesn’t work, maybe try closing your eyes and pretend you are riding through the Swiss Alps.  Whatever you do, try to choose something that helps pass the time but doesn’t distract you from your trainer session goals. Happy trainering!!

            Trainer set-up

            Power Workout

            I like this workout for early season training when I am trying to simply build strength and endurance.  It is perfect for the spring months when the days are still short.  If I am feeling frisky, I insert another half hour after the first 5 minute recovery that consists of 20 min (L-17), 3 min (L-16), 2 min (L-15), and 5 min (S-17).  If I am feeling less than frisky, I insert a 5 min cool down at 40 minutes and stop.  Note that the gearing descriptions describe the gearing in the form of “crank-rear”.  As an example, “S-17” means small chainring on the crank and 17 tooth chainring on the rear cassette, “L-16″ would be large chainring and 16-tooth on the rear.

            Time                        Gearing          Description

            5 min                        S-17                Warm-up

            30 min                      L-17                Cruise

            3 min                        L-16                Hard

            2 min                        L-15                Harder

            5 min                        S-17                Recover

            12 min                      L-17                Cruise

            2 min                        L-16                Hard

            1 min                        L-15                Harder

            5 min                        S-17                Cool-down

            Total: 1 hr 5 min

            Strava data

            Interval Workout

            I like this workout for mid-season when I already built a base.  If I am feeling frisky, I’ll drop a gear on my rear cassette for parts 2 and 3 except for the recovery portions.  If I am feeling less than frisky, I’ll only repeat the first two parts twice each.

            Time                               Gearing          Description

            5 min                               S-17                Warm-up

            Part 1 (repeat 3x)

            1 min                               L-18                Moderate

            3 min                               L-17                Cruise

            1 min                               L-16                Hard

            2 min                               S-17                Recovery

            Part 2 (repeat 3x)

            2 min                               L-18                Moderate

            5 min                               L-17                Cruise

            1 min                               L-16                Hard

            2 min                               S-17                Recovery

            Part 3 (repeat 2x)

            1 min                               L-16                Hard

            1 min                               L-15                Very Hard

            1 min                               S-17                Recovery

            Part 4

            4 min                               S-17                Cool-down

            Total: 1 hr 6 min

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