Tag Archives: nutrition

Transitioning to the Off-Season

It’s official:  I’m now in my off-season.  I’ve cut back on training time and lowered the intensity of my workouts.  So far the transition has been quite an adjustment which I guess shouldn’t be a surprise.

During my triathlon season I found myself training between 2.5 – 4 hours/day.  Now I’m training about 1 – 1.5 hours/day.  Since I’m not working my body as hard, I don’t need as much sleep.  And I’m reducing my caloric intake.

The off-season has its benefits.  My newly freed up hours allow me to spend more time on work and other interests.  Also, I can exercise with MLH more often which is really nice.

At the same time, these changes have been a bit challenging.  I don’t recall feeling like this at the end of my 2011 season.  I think it’s because my training was not nearly as intense nor so time-consuming then.

Reducing my calories has been easier than expected because I’m not nearly as hungry as I was between February – August.  However, during the season I pretty much burned off all of my desserts and cheat meals (e.g. burgers) with great ease.  (I did pay the price for eating such food during my actual workouts!)  If I want to maintain a healthy weight I should decrease the number of sweets and other “less healthy” foods I eat.

And to truly benefit from the off-season I need to be mindful about holding back during my training sessions.

I think the hardest change has to do with this special time I have with Noah.  And the fact that all of this physical activity — pushing, challenging and strengthening myself  — is so healing and comforting.  In many ways I feel like I have a bigger void than before.

But I really do need to allow my body to rest and repair in order to keep it as healthy as possible so I can continue training and racing for as long as possible.   I’m trying to let my entire body fully recover from this season of triathlons.

I’m starting to think my off-season workouts are precious in their own way given these changes.

I fully admit, though, I’m already very much looking forward to next year’s triathlon season.

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Honu 70.3 Finisher!

I crossed the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii (AKA Honu 70.3) finish line! Since then I have had and continue to have so many different thoughts and emotions about this race. I imagine I’ll post at least few times about it. For now I’ll share my race results and sort of recap each leg of the race.

The results:

Swim (1.2 miles) — 50:56

Bike (56 miles) — 3:20:04

Run (13.1 miles) — 1:58:35

Overall (70.3 miles) — 6:20:21

Swim

I definitely struggled with the swim. I have a hard time sighting the buoys and swimming in a straight line. I’m sure I swam more than the necessary 1.2 miles because of these shortcomings. (I don’t know my actual distance because I don’t use my Garmin in the water.) I was pretty late coming out of the water. Oh but the water, the water was absolutely beautiful! I could see the bottom of the ocean! The sky was blue and the temperature was practically perfect.

Bike

The bike was extremely challenging. The place where we mounted was on a very steep incline so I (along with lots of others) had a hard time with the start. In fact for a couple of seconds I thought something was wrong with my bike because I couldn’t seem to pedal! Then at some point way too soon — I can’t remember when exactly — I began dealing with the notorious crosswinds. I do know I felt them as soon as I made it to the famous Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway — we actually ride part of the Ironman World Championship course — but I seem to recall encountering them almost as soon as I got past the steep incline. Whatever actually happened, these crosswinds are a big reason why this course is one of the hardest in the world. The winds are so strong bikes will slant over to one side while going straight. There were a few times when I truly felt like the wind was going to blow me off the road. (Seriously, picture scenes from “The Wizard of Oz!”) And they don’t seem to give any warning when they’ll blow. At times right when I think it’s relatively calm enough and I’m stable enough to grab my water bottle or a Clif shot, they hit me, and wham or even double or triple wham I’m holding on tight! Proper hydration and nutrition are so important while racing. The heat and humidity make these components even more critical for Honu 70.3. I’m not the most coordinated person either so trying to:

  • drink,
  • down an energy gel or
  • actually eat a Clif bar

while:

  • balancing myself on my bike,
  • bracing for winds,
  • navigating among other cyclists (without breaking any rules)
  • maintaining somewhat good form,

and oh yes shifting gears and pushing myself as hard as possible is “somewhat” challenging for me.

And WOW! I actually saw Lance Armstrong! I like to say, “I passed Lance on the bike!” Granted he was riding in the other direction well beyond the halfway point, and I was at something like mile 15. The cyclist right next to me yelled, “he makes it look so easy.” I completely agree. To see him in action was very, very cool. He’s truly impressive!

Run

The run was hard but not for the reasons I imagined while training. I thought once I put on my running shoes, consume a Clif shot and head out of transition I would feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to run 13.1 miles. The distance didn’t bother me though. I told myself, “I’ve got this run down. Just tick off the miles.” And the miles didn’t seem long until I was around mile 10.5, that is. That’s when my mind and heart wanted to go faster to finish strong and hard but my legs didn’t cooperate. I was able to pick it up but not nearly as much as I’d like. What made the run hard was the brutal wind and sun. My hat blew off at least once, and I had to hold it down with my hands a few times — not the best form for running. I felt the sun beating down on my arms and its intensity seemed to increase over time.

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One Week to Go, One Week to Get Psyched!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been increasingly anxious about Hawaii.  I keep thinking, “I hope I can finish!”  This race does have cut off times for each stage:  1 hour 15 minutes after the start for the swim, 5 hours 30 minutes after the start for the bike and 8 hours 30 minutes to finish.  I’ve also begun to worry about my nutrition.  While I’ve been able to figure out what I need to consume for each stage while training, I’ve yet to put it all together.  Then reading about Lance Armstrong‘s struggle with race day nutrition reinforced my own concerns.  (Yes, I know, comparing myself to him is a little absurd.  He and I are in very different categories – actually completely different worlds!  He’s a seven time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor who this year returned to triathlons and in fact came in first place last week at Ironman 70.3 Florida, and I’m just an age grouper and bereaved mother who is hoping to simply finish her first Half Ironman.)  Oh and my left knee is still giving me issues every now and then.

Nevertheless, one week from today surrounded by 1,600 fellow triathletes (including Lance, Chris Lieto and other amazing professional athletes), I’ll be at Hapuna Beach State Park on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island in my tri-suit with goggles and swim cap on and body marked.  One week from today I’ll swim 1.2 miles, ride 56 miles and run another 13.1.  One week from today I’ll find out what 19 weeks of the most serious, structured and hard core training I’ve every gone through will do.  One week from today I’ll have another opportunity to honor Noah.

So starting with this morning’s training session I made a point to shift gears and focus on getting myself psyched.  After all, I’ve followed Pete’s training program.  And while next Saturday’s race will be my first 70.3 distance, I do have seven successful triathlons under my belt already.  And I did qualify for USAT 2012 Age Group National Championships.

As I prepared for this morning’s workout I pushed all negative/anxious thoughts out of my mind.  This worked!  During my two-hour ride I actually found myself dancing (as much as one can while on a bike – yes I’m sure I looked pretty funny) to some of the songs on my iPod.  I had to do a 10 minute 80%+ endurance effort and boy it was hard.  But I kept embracing this challenge more and more; digging deeper and deeper.  Towards the end of my ride I even found myself smiling a bit.  Believe me I did work very hard for the entire time.  With the exception of my 10 minute drill (which as mentioned before was at the 80%+ level), I stayed at the high end of my endurance level throughout the ride.  And I finished my session with a strong 20 minute run afterwards.

To continue psyching myself up this week, I’ve decided to think of all of the positives such as:

  • I’m the fittest I’ve ever been.  I recently hit a milestone.  On the bike I noticed it’s now taking me an additional 20-30 minutes to get my heart rate up to my endurance level — a sign that my body is getting into better shape.  (Also a sign that I need to increase my effort level!)
  • I’m back in CA.
  • I’m racing in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
  • I have the support of wonderful friends.
  • According to my grief counselor I’ve been making good progress.
  • I have MLH.
  • And of course there’s Noah.
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Food 4 Thought: 1

Here’s the thing.  I know the basics of managing my nutrition during training and races for sprint and olympic distance triathlons.   I know after extensive workouts (including two-a-days) I need to recover with the right mix of carbohydrates, potassium, sodium and protein.  I know I need to consume a certain number of energy gels during long workouts and races.  I know I need to replenish my body with electrolytes.  I know eating fries and a burger before I workout (whether it’s the night before or earlier in the day) will cause a crappy session.  And yes I do know I have a lot more to learn.

To start I want to learn more about the body’s sensitivity to different foods during racing season and actual training sessions.

The other night I treated myself to a Starbucks Petite Cake Pop, the Peppermint Brownie Cake.

Silly me, I thought, “oh it’s a petite dessert; filled with only 170 calories.  It’s not a big deal.”  Whatever!  I came crashing down about an hour later, and felt it the next day during my workout.  Why did I feel this small, little, seemingly harmless dessert?  Was it psychological?  Was it a shock to my body?  I’ve been trying to eat more healthy for a while so maybe my body isn’t used to such sweets?  (Note: The bar for eating “more healthy” is pretty low since I’ve been known to eat dessert several times a week and chow down on burgers, pizza and fries on a regular basis.  And don’t get me started on my love for cheese!)  Perhaps my body is demanding more of the right kind of nutrients during my workouts and the cake pop actually hindered the supply.  I’m not sure what the explanation is.

And last night I consumed pasta with shrimp and crab with a touch of  butter.  I thought “oh I’m eating pasta; that’s great!”  Well I didn’t sleep well at all.  Did I eat too much? Was the seafood not sitting well with me?  Maybe I should have skipped the lemon garlic butter.  Proper rest is critical for everybody, and for an endurance athlete it’s even more important.  I did not get enough sleep last night and I’m feeling it now.

I do try to think twice before treating myself to a dessert or other delicious – aka unhealthy – foods.  I don’t want to mess up my next workout.  In fact I want to do what I can to ensure I have a great session!  And I want to make sure my body doesn’t damage itself during training and can recover properly afterwards.

One other thing I’ll tell you I know: I know “knowing,” “wanting” and “doing” are three very different concepts.

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The Coach

Now that I’m racing a Half Ironman and Nationals I need to take my training up several levels. I’ve never raced 70.3 miles which is the distance of a Half Ironman, and for Nationals I need to focus on speed which is a new type of goal for me. Also, I need to create a more comprehensive nutrition plan. I’m comfortable consuming the right number of calories and mix of nutrients for sprint or olympic distances. Racing 70.3 miles over several hours is a different story. To address all of these new aspects I’ve decided to work with a coach.

I’m relatively new to the world of coaching. So far I’ve had only one coach, Lori, who coached me in a group setting when I lived in LA. She specializes in helping women train for their first triathlons. She makes women comfortable with each discipline and each transition. She’s very good.

I’ve also had a few trainers through my gym. After completing Lori’s newbie program, I moved on to Sara-the-Triathlete to focus on strength training and help with my running and swimming. Although I stopped racing once I learned I was pregnant, I continued to work with Sara-the-Triathlete to maintain a solid level of fitness. And when we learned about Noah’s diagnosis, I felt an even stronger desire to be in top shape. I believed — and still do — Noah was healthiest while in utero because for the most part he didn’t need to rely on his own body to live. He needed what my body gave him. While always adhering to my OB’s guidelines of course and even checking in with her about specific yoga positions and whatnot I exercised religiously so my body was strong enough and healthy enough to give Noah everything he required; so it could protect Noah as much as possible.

Around the beginning of my third trimester we moved to D.C. I worked with my last two trainers here. They weren’t very good. I’m sure part of the problem was me. I was probably not enjoyable to be around during the last few months before Noah’s birth and after Noah passed away. I was not in the mood to be social and share with these strangers the ongoings of my life which were mainly focused on Noah and preparing for his birth and medical care. After Noah died I didn’t want to talk to anybody really. Trainers are kind of like hair stylists in the sense that they want to engage in conversation with you; they want to get to know you. They must have been frustrated with me since I really didn’t talk during our sessions. I won’t take all of the blame, though. They weren’t professional, and it was pretty obvious they made up my workouts on the fly. So I stopped working with trainers last May.

Three weeks ago I started looking for a tri coach. In my research I found online coaching to be pretty popular. I don’t know if it’s popular everywhere, a recent phenomenon or more of a regional trend. Perhaps I’m just ignorant about all of this because I never really had to search for a coach before. It was pure luck that I came across Lori and even Sara-the-Triathlete. I learned about Lori through a clinic at a local tri store on the Westside of LA, and Sara-the-Triathlete was introduced to me by another trainer who knew about my interest in triathlons.

I still don’t like socializing with strangers. I dread meeting new people or talking to folks who don’t already know about Noah. I fear they, unintentionally of course, may say something that’s a trigger. Or even worse, they may ask if I have children. I hate that question. I still don’t know how to answer it. Do I say “yes?” What if they want to learn more about Noah? Do I say “he passed away” which creates an awkward moment when usually one of two things happens: 1. the person asking fumbles around to try say something comforting but ends up saying something that makes me feel worse, again unintentionally of course, or 2. the awkward silence puts the burden on me to immediately shift gears and say something to make the other person feel better. (How twisted is that? I’m the one who lost her child but I have to make the other person comfortable with this fact.) Or do I say “I don’t have children” to keep it simple? I HATE that answer because it’s a lie. The two times I’ve tried this response I literally felt a raw pain in my stomach. I know it’s guilt from not acknowledging Noah. I do have a child and although he is no longer alive, he is still my son and I am still very much his mother.

So online coaching may just work for me. I don’t have to talk to someone during my training sessions. My communication with the coach will be via email or phone which most likely will force the discussions to be brief and very focused. Because s/he won’t be with me I can focus on the assigned workout and my connection with Noah. My only concern is not getting help with form and technique. In person coaching is better for this. I have to prioritize my needs though. After all I know all too well that I can’t have it all.

I obtained a few coach recommendations from my tri club online forum, and a couple of friends gave me some names as well. I used the following general criteria to determine which one I’d use: extremely supportive and encouraging; highly professional; possesses a proven track record; in tune with his/her clients; and very responsive. After contacting most of them I decided to go with Pete who is based in the San Francisco Bay area. I’ll use his online program. What’s great about him is he also holds weekly group workouts. These additional services may sound odd given my current location. I already know, though, I’m going to be the Bay area a few times this year which will allow me to take advantage of these training opportunities. I think what really won me over is the fact that Pete and his team raced Hawaii 70.3 before.

I start training with Pete on January 23.

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