The Importance of Keeping an Eye on Your Shoes

By Debbie
November 5, 2013 on 12:15 am | In Product Information, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Clyde Messiah, who now makes sure he always has an extra pair of shoes at the ready. Check out his blog!

Whether you’re a triathlete, runner, or just someone who likes to stay active and fit, it’s important to have shoes that fit your foot type and gait. If you’re a runner or triathlete, you probably already have that covered; if not, get to your nearest high end running store ASAP!

Keeping track of your shoe wear is, however, equally, if not more, important. Last year I learned this lesson the hard way. I was racing Ironman 70.3 Kansas. Once I hit mile 3 of the run, I started to experience awful pain, mainly in my ankle joints and the bones of my feet. It was the classic symptoms of worn out shoes (sudden joint and bone pain). Trust me, mile 3 of a half-marathon that’s following a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike ride is not the time you want to find out your running shoes are worn out!

Shoe wear chart

So how can you tell when your shoes are done? Most running shoes have a life of 300-500 miles (but can vary based on the type of shoe, the terrain and the type of runner you are). An easy solution is to keep track of your shoe mileage. This can be done by simply looking at your regular running/training log, if you keep one; or if you average the same mileage each week, you can keep track of that. Once you get close to 300, it might not be a bad idea to buy a new pair so you have them ready. You can also check the wear patterns. Below are 2 pictures comparing worn out shoes to new shoes. For reference, you can take a good picture of your shoes when they’re brand new, or take your shoes into a running store and compare them with a new pair (an employee at a high end running store will usually be glad to help you, as well). There’s also an illustration above of the spots to monitor for wear based on the type of foot motion you have. An important thing to note is that even if you’re naturally an over-pronator or under-pronator (also called supinator), if you have the right shoe and orthotic combination you’ll most likely have a normal wear pattern. On the same note, if you do have the wear pattern of an over-pronator or under-pronator while using an orthotic, then you may want to get your shoe and orthotic combination re-evaluated to keep you healthy and prevent injury.

Forefoot wear comparison

Heel wear comparison

Remember, keeping track of your shoe wear patterns is just as important as keeping up with your nutrition and bike maintenance, and can help prevent injury, keeping you on the road and in top training and racing shape!

My Secret Weapon (shhhh!)

By Debbie
October 22, 2013 on 2:58 pm | In Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion and former TriSports.com employee Kris Armstrong. Hope you are enjoying that MI winter, Kris (you know you regret leaving Tucson when this time of year hits)!

One of the most common reasons for becoming a triathlete is to cross train. Swimming, biking and running provides a variety  in training that is very attractive to those bored with doing one or the other solo. The problem is that after 13 years of tri training, I am a triathlete and no long benefit like I did a few years ago. I have adapted to swimming, biking and running and even transitioning from one to the other. So what can a triathlete do to again experience cross training benefits like injury prevention/rehabilitation, improved performance and greater enjoyment of our sport? The answer for me, my secret weapon, is Triad Health and Fitness in Farmington Hills, Michigan, owned and operated by Kirk Vickers, a former trainer of the Detroit Red Wings professional hockey team. Kirk has a variety of clients, ranging from high school to professional athletes, as well as amateur athletes of all ages and those recovering from injuries. I had the privilege of working with Kirk during one of my internships for my degree in exercise science. Working with Kirk Vickers at Triad has helped me recover from injury, improved my performance and made training and competing a whole lot more fun!

Injury Prevention and Rehab

I have one injury that has been recurring since I was hiking in Arches National Park in Utah in February of 2010. It was a simple rolling of the ankle, pretty common, but whenever I pushed off the wall too hard swimming, biked a lot of hills or ran long distances or trails, my ankle would swell and be in such pain I had to take days off to recover. I found myself doing fewer activities to protect the ankle instead of solving the cause of the problem. Working with Kirk I learned that it might not be the ankle that’s the problem but could be instability in the hip allowing the ankle to roll. He also suggested lateral exercises to help stabilize the ankle, knee and hip – conditioning triathletes don’t get from swimming, biking and running. Kirk started me with some simple side steps that progressed to hula hoop jumps, two feet in two feet out. Currently I am doing 6 inch lateral hurdle jumps that have a cone at each end to touch and then return in the opposite direction. Kirk’s favorite remedy for pain is ice, which I use whenever the ankle acts up on occasion. The best thing about my ankle, knee and hip stability is my return to trail running which is one of the few things we can do outside during the long Michigan winter.

Lateral hurdles...great for ankle, knee & hip stabilization

Improved Performance

One of my favorite bike rides is Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona. If you climb all the way to the top, it’s at 9000 feet, an elevation gain of over 6000 feet from the base of the mountain. As difficult as this is on a bike, my most memorable performance improvement was realized during the Mt. Lemmon Marathon. My training not only helped me finish this, as advertised “Toughest Marathon in the World,” but actually do a pretty respectable time. The exercises that prepared me for this event were simple but very effective. The two exercises that I thought of while running were walking lunges and hip drives. For hip drives I used a weight lifting bench with one foot on the bench and the other on the floor. The arm on the side of the benched foot starts behind and the arm of the floored foot starts in front like a running stance. As the benched leg drives up the arm swings forward then returns to starting position. After 15 reps change sides. I also used a slide with hand weights. Place the hand weights in an upside down STEP, used for step aerobics, using the weights as handles push the slide ten yards. Immediately change direction and push back to start. Five reps of this drill are usually plenty depending on how much weight you choose.

Greater Enjoyment

Working-out in a gym is usually very boring to me. I like to be outside as much as possible which is why I like triathlon so much. But working out at Triad is fun and I look forward to each visit because I always learn something new and Kirk makes it challenging. If someone else is working out at the same time he will put us together to push each other. A little friendly competition is always fun. I usually do a warm-up then 5 drills and then a cool down. My 5 drills include something to improve stride, lateral stability, explosive power, core rotation strength and stability, and upper body strength. Normally these are done one at a time with breaks in between to recover, but sometimes it’s fun to run these drills as a circuit. Add a friend or two and time each station and switch every 30 seconds or every minute.

Cross training is very important when preventing and recovering from injury and improving our performance, but I must admit that it’s the fun factor that keeps me coming back for more time and again. Have fun!

Running off the Bike…Master it in the Off-Season

By Debbie
October 15, 2013 on 1:35 am | In Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Ed Ten Eyck, who is a kick-ass duathlete and coach. Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter – ed_teneyck.

Not too long ago I was invited to an event at one of my local bike shops as an information night for Irongirl. I was to present information about running off the bike and how to avoid the feeling of heavy, or dead, legs. Being a standard distance duathlete and exercise physiologist I thought nothing of the matter as I could talk about running on or off the bike for hours. Since I only had 15 minutes I compiled a very well manicured list that can keep most people out of trouble! I will outline the different sections and then get into more detail later about each one.

  • Bricks
  • Bike efficiency
    • Pacing
    • Cadence
  • Better running form

Bricks are the most common and possibly the most feared workout that new multisport athletes encounter. What is a brick? A brick is when you combine 2 workouts into 1. Whether it is a swim/bike, bike/run, whatever the combination you come up with you have a brick. So how can this help your run off the bike?

The dreaded "brick"

Specificity of training states that training should be relative and pertinent to the sport in which you are training. If you are going to bike and then run in competition, you should train that way so your body is used to the stress demands placed on it. By incorporating brick workouts into your training you are stressing the muscles in the same way that you will during a race. This allows your body to adapt to the stress more efficiently. This alone will not prevent you from having the feeling of heavy legs, but it is one of the tools used to help.

Bike efficiency is a very broad category but we will focus on pacing and cadence.

Pacing is the hardest thing for most, if not all, athletes who compete. The reason? We are all competitive and we all want to win. That being said, pacing on the swim or run followed by pacing on the bike can help you set yourself up for a successful run off the bike. Pacing can be done using a variety of tools; HRM, power meter, RPE, speed, and cadence. Personally I feel a power meter can be the best tool when planning your pacing strategy for the bike portion of a race. It is the only true direct measurement of effort you can monitor. So what is proper pacing? Pacing depends on a number of factors but if we just look at the bike portion of a race we would have to look at the distance that the bike portion is, the terrain, and what your goals are coming off the bike into the run. For shorter distance bike courses you will be able to ride at a higher pace than if you were riding a full IM course. The same can be said about flats versus hills. When it comes to the run off the bike, if you are looking for a solid overall performance and want to negative split the run, then pacing on the bike is key.

Cadence is the other side of bike efficiency. The faster you turn over the pedals the less stress per pedal stroke is placed on the muscle; however, more stress is placed on the cardiovascular system. What is the optimal cycling cadence? That is the never-ending question. A lot of research has come out supporting a cadence between 86-96 RPM. Is this perfect for everyone, no, but it is a general range that the majority of people will fall into. The more experience you have the easier it tends to be to maintain a cadence in this range. Some studies have shown that slightly higher cadence can benefit riders; however, there is a good deal of training that would be needed to adapt to the demands. Winter is a great time to practice this on an indoor trainer.

For the focus of multisport I feel the range of 86-96 RPM is ideal because when you get off the bike and you run at about the same RPM, your body is used to moving at that pace. When it comes to running, you are more efficient when running at a higher cadence because at lower cadence, the stored energy in the muscles is not used as effectively. Also, when you spin a higher cadence on the bike you are giving your muscles a break because you aren’t generating as much force per stroke. So the take home from this section is that your bike and run cadences should match, which will decrease the likelihood of feeling the onset of “heavy legs.”

I believe better run form is one of the best off-season training tools you can use to your advantage if you are new to the multisport or endurance world. Having inefficient running form forces you to work harder and can increase the likelihood of injury. It takes time and patience to become a more efficient runner, but usually after 6 months of dedication and focus on form you will begin to see the results. So what is better running form and why is it more efficient? A natural running position is when your kinetic chain is in alignment and you are landing more over the center of your body. This is typically the result of landing more mid-foot versus having a heel to toe gait pattern. When landing heel to toe, the majority of people are landing behind their center of mass enough that they have to overcome the compression and gravity pushing them backwards to continue the running motion. This results in a decrease in efficiency. When you land more mid-foot or with a landing closer to the center of mass, then you are propelling yourself forwards. Correcting your running form is something that takes time and energy to do. It is something that can be done during the off-season and help you prepare for the upcoming season, but I wouldn’t ever recommend attempting to overhaul your running form during the race season.

Proper vs. Improper Running Form

In closing, these are just a few of the ways that you can feel more fresh coming off the bike going into your run. By working diligently on this during the off-season and pre-season, you will go into your races knowing you have new tools to help you PR the run portion of any multisport event.

Slow Down and Try Some Yoga!

By Debbie
October 7, 2013 on 10:57 am | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Monica Pagels, who wrote this much earlier this season and who has, now, completed that first Ironman she mentions. As the off-season begins for many, we thought this a fitting blog to get you strong during the winter months.

Ommmm….. yes, we’ve all heard it, the ever popular meditation sounds that so often accompany a just as stimulating yoga class. Runners and triathletes alike have heard it for years, “try yoga, it will help with your injuries.”  But most of us who thrive on the adrenaline rush of zipping through the trails in our newest and coolest trail shoes, or racing down a hill in our aerobars hoping to hit a new high speed, cringe at the thought of placing our feet (or our head or our hands, or all 3 at once) on the mat and inhaling and exhaling to a count of 8! While the benefits are well documented: stress relief, improved mood and well being, improved flexibility, improved digestion, improved sleep… the list goes on and on… for some reason, it is still tough to convince us cardio-junkies to forgo a one hour brick workout where our legs will feel like lead for an hour of gentle relaxation and meditation.  We are conditioned to believe that in order to set a new PR or achieve that highly sought after age group place, we must push harder, put in more hours, do more hill work or add speed work.  While there is no compromise for hard work (you get what you put in), it is time to re-condition our minds when it comes to how we think of yoga.  What if we had the mindset that the more yoga we practiced, the better we could bike, or the faster we could swim? Well, fellow tri-geeks, it’s true! Yoga really can make you into a “warrior.”  I was the first to stake my claim against it, I thought, “Who has time for one more activity?” And who wants to sit around with their legs twisted like a pretzel becoming one with the universe? That is, until I tried it!

Looks easy, but it's not!

Tired of the long winter full of indoor bike rides and treadmill runs, I headed to the group fitness studio for a Yoga Fusion class. This sounded at least a little more fitness based and not as meditative. To my surprise, I struggled through most of the class! I am an 8 time 70.3 veteran, run more marathons than I care to count, and I am training for my first full Ironman. I had been putting in about 7-8 hours a week of base training and thought the yoga class might be a nice stretching break for my sore, tired muscles. Instead, I found myself in plank, pigeon and half moon, shaking to hold the poses.  Shocked at my lack of apparent strength and balance, I began attending 2 yoga classes a week.  Within 2 weeks I noticed remarkable improvements and had to admit to its benefits. As my IM training progressed, I entered a 70.3. It was very early in the season when you come from Michigan and have only had a month of outdoor riding. To add to that, the bike course was the hilliest and toughest of any I have done.

St George bike elevation...ouch!

As I started on the course and climbed the hills, I felt very strong and quickly passed people. Hill after hill, the same result, I was strong and pushed with ease to the top of them. My bike split was faster than on most courses, despite its difficulty.  What’s more, my legs recovered quickly after the ride and my run (hills, again) split was consistent with my others. Yoga has not only improved my strength and balance, which no doubt helped me climb those hills, it has given me a sense of control over my body.  It has taught me how to breathe deep and remain calm amidst chaos.  Now, triathletes, hear me when I say: this is worth far more than it sounds! In mile 90 out of 112, when your neck and shoulders ache and your legs are burning, if you can put your mind into that place where you feel calm and in control, your focus shifts from the here and now (“I still have to run 26.2 miles..”) to a place where you have a greater awareness of just you moving through space, in a world much bigger than just you pedaling on a bike.  If that is what it takes to get you to T2, and ultimately, the finish line, isn’t it worth considering?

Yoga teaches you to become aware of your surroundings and to feel weightless as if you were part of those surroundings.  This is achieved by challenging yourself to complete the strength and balance poses, breathing through them, and accomplishing a little more with each session. Yoga practice can mean different things to different people. For me, it was at first the humbling experience of inadequacy that convinced me to continue, but eventually the benefits carried over into my first passion, triathlon. Once I began to feel the strength and control of my body, and my race times improved, I knew yoga was for me.  While I may never feel the meditative power many achieve from yoga practice, knowing I am stronger and more aware of my body I will continue to practice. I urge all of you cardio-junkies that can’t get enough of the wind whipping past your face and feel the need to be in your target heart rate zone for hours at a time, give yoga a try and see how it can improve all aspects of your life, not just your athletic performance.

Learn more about the benefits, and different types of yoga.

Beauty and balance

Head Games

By Debbie
September 11, 2013 on 9:37 am | In Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | 3 Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Nicole Ramsbey. Check out her blog at www.nicoleramsbey.com and follow her on Twitter – nicoleramsbey.

I raced a sprint tri the other weekend and was not in peak form to say the least.  I managed to perform, and perform not too badly, which led me to thinking about a few things.  One of the things I started thinking about was how much of triathlon is physical fitness and how much is mental fitness? At this point in the season when you may be approaching your ‘A’ race, now’s the time to figure it out.

Finished, and Done

I guess my first thought was, how many people, when they reach a tough moment, give in to the negative Nancy talk?  I hit many negative points throughout racing, but rarely do I “give in” to those thoughts.  Say you are coming up on a big hill during a sprint tri, you’re maxing out your heart rate and you get halfway up…what’s the first thing that you typically hear in your head?   Is it, “I can’t do this anymore, I have to walk”?  If that’s a typical thought process for you, how do you respond to it?

If you respond by giving up the race in your mind and walking, then I’d have to say your mental toughness might need a swift kick in the @**.  I may get this thought once in a while, but I immediately counter it with a positive thought.  During the sprint tri, I had my own mental battle, but I won.  Every time a negative thought comes to mind, I always attempt to counter it with a positive.  Last weekend when I hit the hill, I had to remind myself that I can do anything for a mile.  My responses are almost automatic now, and if yours aren’t they will get to be that way if you continually work at it.

I’d say mental toughness is at least half of triathlon…if you can’t handle the mental stuff then the fitness won’t matter.  Even though you may not be physically fit, if you are mentally fit going into a race, you can still do well.   Imagine the day that you are physically AND mentally fit…you can OWN that day like no other.  Don’t short change yourself, and remember it’s not always about how many miles you’ve logged.

Race with a Smile

Stay Cool, Stay Hydrated!

By Debbie
August 21, 2013 on 11:19 am | In Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Training, Water | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Nicole Truxes (rhymes with “success”). Check out her blog at www.nicole-stateofmind.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter – nicoletruxes.

It’s heating up here in the desert, as I’m sure it is for much of the country.  Summer time BBQs filled with burgers, watermelons, and margaritas are just around the corner!  Everyone loves summer, with more hours of sunlight, less clothing, great tan lines – especially us triathletes ;) – and (for most) no school!  Even with all we have to look forward to in the summer, all the sweating during those hard miles does take a toll on your body, one that you may not be used to coming out of your winter training.

Getting hot, must hydrate!

Staying hydrated is one of the most important parts of our training, and it’s one of the easiest ones to forget.  First thing in the morning, aside from the hunger I’m sure many of you experience, you should be thinking about a glass of water.  You don’t have to overdo it, especially if you have a workout shortly after you rise (gotta beat the heat!), one 4-8 oz glass is fine depending on what you can handle and the duration of your workout.

If you think about it, the adult body is made up of about 60% water; wouldn’t it make sense to make it a key ingredient in our daily nutrition regimen?  Many of the metabolic processes necessary for training and recovery require the proper amount of water to happen, so why wouldn’t you supply your body with this integral piece of training equipment?

Your body is made up of about 60% water

Another important thing to consider is the amount of electrolytes you’re getting.  This word is thrown around a lot, but do you know what all of the electrolytes are and how to figure out if you’re low on any of them?

  • Sodium- the most common, most demonized, but very necessary electrolyte.  Sodium gets a bad rap because of all the high blood pressure and heart disease we have in this country; however, as an endurance athlete you need to be very aware of how much sodium you get because you may not be getting enough!  If you often get confused, or dazed when doing a hard workout (particularly one where you sweat a lot), you’re covered in white, and your skin tastes like salt—you might be in need of some sodium, pronto!  This confusion you’re experiencing is one of the first signs of hyponatremia, which can be very serious if you do not take care of it. When your sodium levels drop in your blood and you do nothing to bring them back up it can cause you to go from confusion to vomiting to more serious things such as cardiac arrest, pulmonary edema, or even death.  This has happened in many of the major marathon events and can even be caused by having too much plain water and not enough electrolyte supplementation.
  • Potassium- just eat some bananas, right?! For the most part, yes.  Potassium is much different than sodium in that when your blood levels first drop, it is difficult to tell that they are low.  It is not until real problems begin and your muscles are already cramping that you know you are very low in potassium.  This can also cause GI distress (mainly constipation) along with the muscle cramps, so be sure to eat your ‘nanners.
  • Calcium- Stress fracture fighter no. 1! It may come as a surprise that some of the most avid runners have some of the lowest calcium and therefore weakest bones.  But running is weight bearing? Yes, running is a weight bearing exercise, but sometimes runners (particularly female) have such low hormone levels that it causes their calcium to go down and therefore their bones become weak and brittle, allowing for stress fractures to happen much more easily.  Calcium can be taken in a supplement daily to help raise these levels and prevent against stress fractures; however, vitamin D is very important to take along with it to help boost absorption into your blood!
  • Magnesium- Seldom talked about, but very important!  Magnesium is a mineral we don’t generally hear a ton about.  However, it is very important to carbohydrate metabolism and muscle strength (two very important things for an endurance athlete).  Magnesium deficiency can decrease endurance by fatiguing muscles and decreasing the efficiency of carbohydrate metabolism.  The symptoms of low magnesium are difficult to distinguish from those of potassium or sodium, so it is important to supplement magnesium along with the other electrolytes!
  • Phosphate- Generally phosphate is not a problem for athletes.  It is very common in our diet and usually not lost in mass quantities when exercising.  The only time this electrolyte is a problem is when an athlete has an eating disorder or other severe disease of some kind, in which case they should seek medical attention anyway.

So that is a quick and dirty breakdown of the electrolytes. Many triathletes supplement with electrolytes caps. A great source of hydration and energy that I like is Fluid Performance. Check yourself every once in a while, monitor your electrolyte intake and determine if you have any of the beginning stages of any of these electrolyte deficiencies.  Not only will this increase your performance, but it could save your life!

Stay hydrated everyone!!

(I’m sure many people have seen this memorable finish…these ladies could have definitely used some electrolytes!!)

Saving Space – What is Truly Essential?

By Debbie
July 9, 2013 on 10:28 pm | In Product Information, Random Musings, Training | 2 Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Scott Bradley. Check out his blog at www.scottbradleytriathlon.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter – scottbradley11.

When I walk into transition on race day, I am amazed at some of the things I see. I’m pretty sure that there are several people who come into transition with a tent in their backpack as if they are going to hang out for a few days. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but seriously, I do see lots of people bring in huge, plastic buckets of gear and I think to myself “What am I forgetting?” No…really what I’m thinking is “How could one person actually use all of that stuff in one day?” What it boils down to is this: by bringing all that stuff that you don’t need into transition, you are cluttering the area and actually slowing yourself down during the race as you try to sort through all your gear.

Saving space comes with practice and growing accustomed to what you actually need during a race. As you race more you become more confident in your practices by finding out what works and what doesn’t work for you. These are things you can practice on your own though, to find out what your essential items are. It may seem silly, but you can solve this problem with a few dress rehearsals at your house or a park. Set up a little transition area with the items you think you’ll need in the driveway or in your trunk. Run in as if coming from the swim (you can pretend here or put your wetsuit on if you want to practice getting out of it), practice T1, and head out on your bike. Then ride for a bit, come back and do the same thing for T2 before heading out for a short run. What items did you bring that you didn’t use? Don’t bring them to transition for your next race and give it a go without them. I would bet you’ll make it through the race just fine, your transitions will be faster, and you’ll be happy at the end of the day when you aren’t lugging as much stuff back to your car.

Space saving transition area layout

If you think about it, what do you really need? A wetsuit, goggles, a helmet, your bike, sunglasses, your race bib, bike shoes, running shoes, some nutrition (depending on the length of the race), and maybe some socks and a hat. You probably won’t need extra socks, an extra top or bottom, three sets of goggles, an infinite amount of nutrition, towels, extra shirts, four spare tubes and tires, etc. That stuff will just get in the way and slow you down.

This brings me to the other place for saving space…your bike. I always find it ironic that people will spend literally thousands of dollars on expensive bikes and race wheels to make their bikes are super aero and to shed a few hundred grams. Then on race day, they put gels and nutrition all over the frame, creating tons of drag, and then carry enough stuff to stock a small local bike shop. Again, ask yourself the question “What do I really need?” You can help yourself out here by finding out what is available on the course and using that if it is something you are comfortable with. If not and you want to use your own, that’s completely fine, but how much extra do you need? Practice your nutrition plan and carry what you’ll use and not the extra 1500 calories your stomach couldn’t process anyway. How much fluid will you actually need? Carrying that extra bottle or two adds a lot of unnecessary weight if you can grab something at an aid station on the course or if it’s a shorter race and you won’t need more than a bottle or two. How many extra tubes, CO2, and tires do you really need hanging off the back of your seat?

Bike in transition (see, no gels taped to the top tube)

As triathletes I think we are paranoid by nature. We imagine the worst will happen on race day and prepare for it by stocking enough nutrition for a six hour ride, four flat tires, one of our hats not working properly, and our tri shorts needing to be replaced half way through the race. I always try to take the minimalist approach to setting up my bike and transition area. Only items that I absolutely need and know I will use get brought in on race day. I’ve learned the essentials through practice and thinking back to what I really need to get me through as fast as possible and to set myself up for the best race I can manage.

How to Travel to a Race

By Eric M.
May 29, 2013 on 1:13 pm | In Nutrition Tips, Races, Sponsorship, Training, Training | No Comments

This post was written by TriSports Triathlon Team member Zara Guinard.

So you just signed up for a race that is not within 20 miles of your house; hotel, flight, and rental car are all booked. The next question is, “how do you ensure you arrive at your destination (relatively) stress free, prepared, and ready to race?” You must plan. I mean REALLY plan. First you have Plan A, and then you have Plan B, Plan C, and maybe even a Plan D.

It is my experience in the past few years of traveling to races that things will always go wrong, but you can minimize your stress by arriving well prepared. I always do a little research on the area where I’m staying and find out the projected weather conditions for my time there, a layout of the area such as restaurants near the hotel, and distances to the expo and the airport.

Now that you know what the conditions and weather will most likely be on race day, it’s time to pack. I have a list that I print out (packing list at the end of the article) every time I go to a race. I only cross off an item once it is packed away. Sometimes I don’t need all the items for where I’m traveling, but its comprehensiveness ensures that I won’t absent-mindedly forget something.

I travel with a Rüster Sports Hen House, my wheel bag, and a backpack.

In my bike bag I put everything that I need to race: wetsuit, race suit, bike and run shoes, goggles, nutrition, bike tools, etc. Then in the wheel bag I pack all the rest of my clothes and toiletries. My backpack is my carry on and where I usually keep all my expensive electronic items such as my iPod and Garmin 910 XT.

Okay your bags are packed and you’re ready to go! Wait, what about nutrition?! Traveling to a race can be stressful on your body; you may be switching to a different time zone or your flight may be at an odd hour of the day. So how do you ensure that you are fueling properly to have a great race? That’s right! You plan. When traveling to a race in Florida where I knew that I would be going pretty much all day nonstop, this is what I packed for food:

I made sure to have my dinner food (the brown rice and avocado) with me. That way when I arrived at my destination I could focus on building my bike, and getting to bed, since my race was the following morning.

Okay, so you have your clothes, gear and food. After flying and driving for what seemed like centuries, you have finally made it to the hotel and now you can …rebuild your bike!!! For those who travel often, it is more economical to be able to pack and rebuild your bike on your own. If you have the means, there are often companies that will break down, ship and rebuild your bike for you. I happen to be very protective of my bikes and, as taught to me by my coach Trista Francis of iTz Multisport, I won’t let anyone touch my bike in the break down or re-build process. Only I know exactly how it is supposed to be for race day. Even after multiple assembly processes I still find it helpful to take pictures just in case in that frustrated, foggy, post-travel phase, you accidentally put your fork in backwards…not that I’ve ever done that of course.

Congratulations! You arrived at your destination with everything you need, a functioning bike, and either food for dinner or a contingency plan for the closest restaurant. Now it’s time to relax, hydrate, and enjoy a race outside of your own backyard!

Packing List:

Meds and Multisports: OTC Danger

By Eric M.
May 8, 2013 on 10:20 am | In Training, Training | 1 Comment

Today’s post is brought to you by TriSports Champ Greg Vanichkachorn, MD.

Triathletes are an assorted bunch.  Our swim styles are as uniform as the weather at St. George.  Our choice in bikes is as predictable as the Kona lottery. We do, however, share one common trait: we love to punish our bodies. Back aches, ITB pain, and anything-tendonitis: these are common maladies for the masochistic multi-sporter. The constant barrage on our bodies can take its toll, and it’s easy to reach for a pill when the pains persist.

As a physician, I have seen the unfortunate ramifications of equating “over the counter” with a notion of “not a real medicine.” Over the counter drugs, with their dangers hidden beneath familiarity, are most certainly real medications that can have significant side effects, even when used properly. Here are a few tips that can keep meds from being a prescription for disaster.

Nothing new on race day

One of the wisest adages of triathlon is that nothing new should be tried on race day. No matter how enticing those new wheels are at the expo, you don’t change your bike setup the day before an Ironman. The same philosophy should go for medications.

I know the feeling. That moment when you’re standing in Target, buying that travel toothbrush with that cap as a handle before leaving for Ironman, when you see it – the brand-spanking-new, clinically proven pill that cures aches, prevents sunburns, raises your power output, and unites North and South Korea. The shiny and new can be difficult to resist, but you must persevere.

Race day is not the time to realize that new med also causes explosive diarrhea. If you have medication requirements on race day, stick to what you know works for your body. Also, make sure you get your medications filled in a timely manner. You don’t want to show up on race morning without your blood pressure medicine. All the training won’t matter if you suffer a stroke.

NSAIDS, Exercise, and Gastritis Oh My!

Some of the most common medications used by athletes are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil and Aleve. While they are effective pain relievers, they can have several significant side effects, one of the most serious being irritation of the GI tract. This irritation can be so severe that it may result in bleeding or even perforation.  The risk is even greater with the extra sensitivity of the GI tract during strenuous exercise. Gastritis is not a fun way to recovery post race!

You can help avoid the bathroom podium finish first by practicing moderation: only use NSAIDS, especially before a really tough workout, if you really need it. If you do have to pop a few tablets, stick to the instructions on the bottle or your doctor’s orders. Unlike bicycles in the garage, more pills are not necessarily better! Also, take the medicine with food and allow plenty of time for it to settle in, say an hour, before pounding the pavement. If you do have post-workout GI issues from taking NSAIDS, speak with your medical provider to make sure nothing more serious is amiss.

Allergic to Being Awake

While we cherish the spring blooming of flowers (or the July thawing of lakes here in Montana), all of that glorious pollen blowing in our faces at 20 mph can have less than ideal results. The sore throat, itchy eyes, and runny nose of seasonal allergies can turn the most perfect of days into mucous mayhem.

“I love spring rides”

Fortunately, there are plenty of medications available to help prevent you from turning into a snot rocket. However, while some of the newer medications, such as Loratadine, are relatively safe, there are a couple out there that you should be wary of.

Benadryl, or diphenhydramine HCL, can definitely stop allergy symptoms in their tracks. The only problem is that Benadryl can also stop a horse in its tracks due to its sedative side effects. The drowsiness potential should not be underestimated; sometimes Benadryl is prescribed purely to help with sleep and anxiety. It is also one of the most commonly abused and impairing medications used in the work place. If Benadryl can make photocopying in the office dangerous, it’s the last thing you want in your system while descending at Coeur d’Alene or using a porta-potty.

Another allergy medicine that deserves special caution is good old Sudafed, or pseudoephedrine. Sudafed is a powerful nasal decongestant, and it works by constricting blood vessels in the nasal passages. The problem is that the medicine works like the TriSports Team; it gets the job done everywhere. The widespread vasoconstriction through out the body can lead to increased blood pressure, dry mouth, reduced sweat ability, and troubles urinating. These are the exact things you would like to avoid on the way to the Energy Lab in Kona.

Stay safe

In a time when there is a pill or supplement for everything, it is tempting to take a visit to the local drugstore for the next great cure when aches and pains arise. The indiscriminate use of meds, however, may do more harm for your triathlon career than a bottle of EPO in your fridge. Careful consideration and planning well ahead of race day will keep your medications a prescription for safety and success.

Commuting your way to a faster Ironman

By Eric M.
May 1, 2013 on 9:31 am | In Training, Training | 1 Comment
This post is brought to you by professional triathlete and Team TriSports member Thomas Gerlach.

One of the reasons that I choose to partner with TriSports is their unique desire for sustainability.  In case you haven’t visited the TriSports retail store/distribution warehouse in Tucson, they have a number of sustainability initiatives including, but not limited to: water harvesting, solar harvesting, and a first-rate bike commuter program for their employees. Just the bike commuter program alone has me in awe and is something I wish all companies took seriously. Imagine a world where everyone biked to work. That is my dream, but this post is about commuting your way to a faster Ironman, so I’ll save my dreams for another day.

As a professional triathlete, I have learned to get the majority of my easy, base miles (ie. building endurance) through simple commuting by bike. At different times of the year the percentage will fluctuate from anywhere from 35% of miles to 100% of my total bike miles, and the activities for me can be endless. Although I work out of my home, I do my grocery shopping by bike; bike to and from the pool, gym, and track practice; and even show up for my weekly massage/scrape session by bike. Although the miles and sessions may seem small compared to that cruel 8-hour ride that your coach put on your schedule, just like pennies in a penny jar, the miles really add up commuting.

Now, I am not suggesting you shouldn’t go out for the long rides that your coach has planned for you. It is important to go out and sit in the saddle and be prepared for just how long 112 miles is. However, I am suggesting that you talk with your coach about working in some commuting miles if you can. Over the course of an Ironman build, maybe you can replace one or two really long rides with commuting miles.

Truth be told, training for an Ironman is incredibly time consuming and can leave people exhausted and socially removed. Between all the work, family, and friend commitments, sometimes training is just getting in the way. Wouldn’t it be nice if biking to and from work was your only activity for the day?  Think about how long it really takes you to drive to work or do that regular errand?  What is preventing you from accomplishing it via bike? For me I can drive to my weekly scrapping/massage session at Proactive Therapy in Tucson and it takes me 40 minutes (14 miles). I can bike there in 45 minutes, and that is with 45lb commuter bike with 42mm tires and baskets hanging off the side.

Commuting by bike has been part of my DNA since I was a kid. However, it wasn’t until 3 years ago that I started to get serious about it again when I lived in Chicago. For the record, this will be my 7th season in triathlon. Looking at my training log from last week I can see that I sat in the saddle for a total of 9 hours and 17 minutes. However, only 50 minutes of that time was spent doing “real” work on my TT bike. Yet, all around me I am bombarded with social media updates about the latest pro triathlete’s “epic” training day of 8 hours and 140 miles. Truthfully, there is nothing sexy about all my dinky rides of 10 miles here and 20 miles there. However, I have confidence in my methods and a 4:15:57 Ironman bike split (3rd fastest split by any athlete in 2012) to back it up. Needless to say, I won’t be changing my DNA anytime soon.

Even if you don’t want to commute by bike, humor me, and next time you set out for a day of errands, just reset the trip odometer. Look at the odometer at the end of the day. I think you will be surprised by the number of miles you cover in your car when you likely could have used your bike and got in some significant base mileage. One of these days you might even been able to skip that early Saturday morning ride and sleep in for a change.

Thomas Gerlach is a 3rd year triathlete on Team TriSports. He is in his second full year as a professional triathlete and recently took 7th at the inaugural Ironman Los Cabos along with numerous podium spots in 2012 including 3rd at Ironman Louisville, Leadman Las Vegas, and Leadman Bend. He writes a weekly training update every week at www.thomasgerlach.com where he publishes his weekly training numbers.  Follow him at www.facebook.com/thomasgerlach and https://twitter.com/thomasgerlach.
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