Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My supplements and long run/ride fuel

A few times in the span of this blog, I shared what I used in the way of supplements and long ride/run nutrition. I thought I'd do an updated list, with the caveat that I always believe WHOLE foods are the best way to go. I acknowledge that I am not an expert in this kind of thing and there is a distinct possibility I am flushing money down the toilet with some of these supplements.

I compared notes on the supplement side to the 70-74 triathlete and retired physician/cancer doc with whom I traveled at the ITU World Championships and our lists were very, very similar. He adds in baby aspirin and a few other things.

You may not agree with these choices, but I share them in the spirit of well....sharing. Feel free to comment and share back. I'm open to dissenting thoughts and open to change.

Daily supplements
  • Multivitamin with iron
  • D3
  • CoQ10
  • Fish Oil
  • Calcium (with Magnesium)
  • Glucosamine, Chondroiton, and MSM (always worked for my horses)
 I put them in a giant pill container and pop them at night.

Long run fuel (over 12-14 miles) - I take a gel every 30-40 minutes or so. I include a few with caffeine (2nd Surge) for if/when I need a boost mid-way or toward the end (even if only psychological). I fill in with whatever odd gels I got for free in race packets as I seem to have an endless supply of those. Fortunately, my gut doesn't seem to care what brand/flavor/etc.

Long rides (over 2 hours) - I usually take a Clif Bar in my top tube bento box, cut into 6-8 pieces. I'll have a piece every half hour or so, with a caffeinated gel along just in case. I don't ride over 3 hours very often. If it's much over two hours, I'll add Perpetuem into my bike bottle water for extra fuel. And at races that is my primary fuel.

Hydration - during longer rides and runs I add BCAAs to my water (Branched Chain Amino Acids - Scivation Xtend). There's quite a bit of supporting research on its ability to reduce muscle breakdown. Because it's flavored, it helps me to drink more water.

Other than that, it's just good food, and real food in between. That's the part of nutrition that matters the most - the daily choices!

Monday, January 28, 2013

I was a bicycle cowboy! No, really!

Sunday I set off on a two-hour upper aerobic ride. I ended up doing it as 8-mile loops of my favorite valley road because upon venturing off, I encountered ice on shaded road sections (it was 31 degrees). I had many laps to think about how much I love this nearby valley road with its wide shoulder, bike lanes, and gently rolling hills that take me past a meandering stream, horses, sheep, and cows, under railroad tracks, and all set against a gorgeous Appalachian mountainous backdrop. Today's adventure only made me love it more.

About 1:20 into the ride I saw a cow running up a gravel driveway with two young guys giving chase. On the previous lap I'd seen a stock trailer pull into the property (and I wondered if the cows were cold in the trailer) and I figured she'd gotten loose getting off the trailer. The cow was now running along the outside of the fence line, toward the road, with a row of bushes on the other side of her.

Without much thought, I stopped my Garmin (can't mess up the data!), unclipped, and used my bike (and bright yellow-jacketed self) to try to cut off her escape and keep her pinned between the shrubbery and fence. I am a former horse-girl but have limited cow experience so it was all cow-psychology guesswork.

My bike "barrier" worked only briefly, then she barreled past me, with the guys in hot pursuit. I jumped back on the bike and sprinted down the road to get ahead of her, cut her off, and warn oncoming traffic. She stopped, jumped the guardrail, and tried to get between strands of barbed wire. I kept my distance and stayed still not wanting her to panic and do serious damage to herself.

The cow freed herself, jumped back over the guard rail and started back down the road. I was holding up my bike and trying to scare her into turning around, with an outstretched yellow arm stopping traffic!

She was not scared, but suddenly I was!! I wondered if she was going to run me over and saw up close how ginormous (and very cute) she was.

This scene popped into my head!
One more bike sprint and I got her turned around. She jumped (more like clambered over) the guardrail a final time and made her way successfully between strands of barbed wire and into a field belonging to her owners. (Top photo is her in the field.)

Looney between the guardrail and fence

The owner drove up and explained that the cow, named "Looney", is claustrophobic and pregnant, due to have her third calf sometime after the 10th of next month. 

I guess Looney was just in the mood for some adventure, and it turns out, so was I! (And I even set a "cold temp" bike ride PR for myself, starting out with it at 28 degrees.) You never know where triathlon training may lead you.

(.... and online you can find an image of nearly ANYTHING!!)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Morning Tri Coffee Reads - January 26

Nutrition and Health
  • From the Rearview, I've got a Clear View - Kevin Purcell, D.C.  Endurance Corner, January 25, 2013 - Coach KP talks about what happens when life pushes us away from a fitness lifestyle. It's a slippery slope, one that he descended and returned from. 
  • Racing Weight - Jeff Irvin at Dangle the Carrot, An Endurance Blog, January 21, 2013 Jeff presents his weight and 5K times over the last 3-1/2 years and discusses his thoughts as an "n" of one in his own experiment. While he's not prepared to attribute all of his speed gains to getting leaner, he does think it's a significant factor. I do too! In fact, my Endurance Films Racing Teammate, Nick Logan, has been documenting the same phenomenon. The guy has been setting PR after PR, all while getting leaner. Disclaimer: there are limits to what is healthy lean and what is not.
  • Fast Descending - Cycling Secrets, January 13, 2013. Brief video and simulation explaining how to descend, and corner at speed, safely (but quickly). 
  • 10 Tips for Riding in the Rain - Philip Booth, Road Bike Action ( - I could have used this a few weeks ago when I had a very cold, wet, rainy ride and felt the rain dripping down my tights, into my shoe covers, and into my shoes. Did you know you can buy clip-on fenders?
  • NYC Bound: A Triathlon in my Apartment - Outside Online, January 3, 2013. Brooklyn resident Noah Davis reports on doing a triathlon inside his apartment building - pool, bike trainer, treadmill. Too bad the guy didn't have a Vasa Ergometer, he could have done it all right in his own apartment! The indoor triathlon phenomenon seems to be gaining momentum as LifeTime fitness has announced 81 events at their facilities!
  • Slowtwitch 50 - Dan Empfield, January 24, 2013 - top 50 retailers in the United States who, "most expertly serviced the sport of triathlon with retail goods" last year. Dan, in good research protocol, discloses some weaknesses with the process. Still, it's a handy list and if you find yourself in one of those towns/cities, you can check out the retailer!
Strong and Inspiring
  • Skirting the Issue - Runs Like a Duck, blog, January 25, 2013. I follow "Duckie" - she's a triathlete and makes a living braiding show horses on the circuit. As a former horse person (and not a great braider) I find it doubly impressive that she integrates tri training with her work. Anyway, this is a great piece on choices and gender issues in sport and equipment. This line made me laugh (and I agree) - "I prefer "shrink it and pink it" to "dumb it down and make less functional.. then slap a flower on it."
  • Hector Picard's Can Do Attitude - Herbert Krabel, Slowtwitch, January 14, 2013. Hector is a triathlete and double arm amputee from Florida who has completed 70 triathlons including iron distance and marathons. He just sounds like one of those people you'd really want to meet. 
  • Endurance Films just released their 2013 Paratriathlon Promo Video featuring a number of top paratriathletes. How cool that it will be included in the 2016 Rio Paralympics!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Schedule Challenges Amidst Weather Challenges

The forecast is calling for continued cold and now snow on Friday. With a longish run on the schedule for Saturday (105 minutes) and the high potential of slick roads, I am planning to move it to Friday morning and try to beat the snow, but there is no avoiding the cold temps (low of 14...sigh).

But moving the run sets off a ripple effect in the training schedule, which is why I rarely mess with the schedule except in the case of potentially dangerous roads on a long-run day. (The treadmill is not a great option since I don't use it regularly - once in two years - and am not about to start with a long run.)

Friday's pool swim will have to move to this morning (now in fact); the bike trainer workout stays. The Erg workout will move tomorrow which means hitting the Erg two days in a row (Fri/Sat). My trip to PA shifted our gym workouts to later in the week so I need to squeeze in one more gym session, probably on Saturday. And that all depends on decent roads to let us get out of the valley and into town. ACK!! It reminds me of those sliding tile puzzles, where you have to get pieces lined up and there's just one empty space allowing movement!!

The weather-induced logistical challenges are a big part of the sport. I try to be flexible and creative and I'm thankful my daily schedule (and family!) allows for that. It helps to be a good weather forecaster too :-)

Off to the pool....

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Articulate Athletes - Craig Curley

On my long runs I like to start out listening to an episode of Competitor Radio with Bob Babbitt and Paul Huddle. They interview amateur and professional runners, cyclists, and triathletes of all ages and stages of their careers/hobbies. What I've come to notice is that these athletes are incredibly articulate, thoughtful, deep-thinking, and usually quite humble. Do they only interview the most well-spoken athletes, or is the thoughtfulness developed due to the somewhat solitary and soul-exposing nature of these sports? I suspect the latter.

On my drive back from Pennsylvania to Virginia on Monday, I listened to an episode with Craig Curley, a 24-year-old runner and member of the Navajo Nation, who won the Columbus Marathon in October in 2:19:01. Something about this young runner really struck me - his perspective, values, work ethic, maturity, and clarity. He has a refreshing naivety from growing up in a very small and extremely rural community in the Navajo Nation, yet he is in many ways a wise old soul. The episode is well worth a listen.

He talked about the Columbus race, and I loved this excerpt:
“I went into that race without being scared. I was like, I know how it feels, I know how it feels to train for a marathon…there’s a specific pain for a marathon, and I got used to it, and I remember that feeling. I trained every day. I practiced with that feeling of pain.” 
I also believe in becoming acquainted with a certain amount of pain in training (in the appropriate types of runs, etc) and that we make a choice each time we race, whether we do so with fear or with courage. I will definitely be following the career of Craig Curley and look forward to hearing more from him.

I hope Bob and Paul crank out enough podcasts to keep me going through the next 10 weeks or so of long runs!! Keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Meaning of numbers

The kids and I drove up to PA for a quick MLK weekend visit to my folks. I did the 315 mile drive after my 16-mile run and was fading. I knew I was tired because I glanced at the clock in the minivan and saw 6:37, which registered immediately and clearly as a mile split (an aggressive one for me) and only after that, as an actual time of day. We had a nice drive, regularly calculating the percentage we'd covered along the way (they are math-heads too).

playtime at the pool in PA
Do you notice certain numbers having meaning to you now that you swim/bike/run?

I definitely do. I'm not sure I had much of a concept of time or distance prior to the sport. I can now reference distance relative to things like 25y (length of the pool), 100m (strides), 400m (one lap of the track), 750 m, one mile.....marathon.

My time standards include everything from 20s (max effort intervals on bike) to 3:38 (marathon time). When we considered going to see the Hobbit, three-hour movie, the Hobbit, I compared that to running a marathon, and thought "yeah, maybe I can sit for three hours." We ended up not going; we'll wait for the DVD!

I don't need a metronome to know what 90 __ per minute is (my average run cadence) or 68 __ per minute (my average arm turnover on the swim). I know precisely what 8 mph feels like - a solid run speed or killer steep uphill on the bike. I also know the sensation and sound of 35, 40 mph on the bike!

Ah, no wonder this sport attracts "arithmophelias."

And yes, sigh, it IS highly ironic that I still struggle to count laps at the pool.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dressed to Run

One of the things that still intrigues me about running is the fact that our "engines" warm us up to such a degree (haha) that we can be out running in a fraction of the clothing that we'd need to say....walk from the parking lot to the grocery store.

Saturday I ran for two hours in a snow-covered landscape, in temps in the 30's, in shorts and a tshirt - along with gloves and a hat. I was perfectly comfortable, and oh so fashionable!

It's fun, as runners, to thumb our noses at the weather. Wednesday morning I put down 8 miles in pouring down rain and temps in the mid-30s, starting before sunrise. Yet I did so happily in shorts, a hat, and a light rain jacket. I'm sure the passers-by thought I was miserable, but I wasn't at all.

What got me thinking about all of this was two days prior when my friend, ultrarunner Shannon Price in Fort Collins, commented that with temps below 0, and -14 wind chill, he might actually have to forgo shorts for pants. My shorts/tights cutoff temp is a bit higher than his.

I ran Saturday in my "Suck it up Buttercup" shirt because we were about 42 hours into a power outage and I was feeling very frustrated...and...well...powerless. Luckily my own personal "power grid" is way more dependable and I had a really good run - 16 miles, my longest since November 2011 and a solid start toward Boston. The run restored a happy mood in me, and a few hours later, the power co restored happy power to our home.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Morning Tri Coffee Reads - No Power Edition (Jan 19)

We've had no power (or water) since Thursday at 5 pm thanks to a little snowstorm, and AEP is not promising restoration until Tuesday evening. So this is being put together quickly from a coffee shop!!

Nutrition and Health
  • Gut-busting restaurant meals named 'dis-honorees' by Saundra Young, CNN (January 16, 2013) - Care for dessert with that 3120 calorie Bistro Shrimp Pasta from the Cheesecake Factory?
  • The Fallacies of Fat - Science Friday podcast (January 11, 2013). I listened to this on a run the other day and found it very engaging and not the usual ho-hum nutrition talk. Endocrinologist, obesity doc, and author Robert Lustig talks about his book, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. Basic points I took away: exercise is important and good but a minor player in weight loss, calories don't matter but insulin values do; our bodies are not equipped to handle the amount of sugar we ingest; sugar addiction is real and can take weeks to get under control. The difficulty is that sugar is in nearly everything processed.
  • How to Read Egg Labels by Joseph Erdos, Huffington Post (June 20, 2012) - cage free, organic, omega-3s, free-range, etc, it's hard to know what to buy. Skip the video but go through the slide show at the bottom and read about how so many of these egg carton labels are unregulated! I buy local eggs as often as I can.
  • 2013 Report on the State of Endurance Coaching - TrainingPeaks (January 15, 2013). Neat look at coaching - what coaches charge, what they earn, the number of athletes they coach. Coaches are the unsung heroes of triathlon - most go so far beyond coaching, athletes expect so much of them, and they are not compensated anywhere near their value and contribution, mine included. Thanks, Coach Jim, I'm grateful for every day of your nearly four years of coaching!
  • Running form: How you can become a better runner without increased fitness by Owen Anderson. I referenced this in a blog post earlier this week. It's a great write up on stride length and cadence as they relate to run speed and age-related changes, pulling from research by Nancy Hamilton at University of Northern Iowa who is a noted expert. 
  • Sole Man: Shoe Trends for 2013 by Brian Metzler, Competitor (January 12, 2013)- The minimalism movement is receeding somewhat and the real focus is on light/moderate weight shoes with a minimal heel drop. I could have told him that!
Strong and Inspiring
  • Conner and Cayden Long - Sports Kids of the Year - Probably most folks have come across this news this week - Seven-year-old Cayden has cerebral palsy and together with his 9-year-old brother Conner they race together in triathlons. The video will leave you teary-eyed.

  • These guys demonstrate tremendous strength and balance on playground equipment and in public spaces. Awesome.

swim/bike brick workout
Sumo run (turns out there are entire races of sumo runners!)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Avoiding the "shuffle"

When I came back from my hip injury last winter, after a diagnoses of "dead butt syndrome", I decided the vacation was over for my glutes. Hip rehab got me back to running, but from there my instinct said I needed open up my run stride a bit and give the glutes their job back. It was a subtle change, not to the point of over-striding, but simply allowing for more drive and "kick". It seemed to work and I had a season of healthy and fast tri-running.

Related to this, I think we need to take steps to stave off the onset of age-related stride shortening - the "shuffle" - which is related to declining speed. I tried to find some publicly available recent peer-reviewed research on the effects of age on running stride length, but didn't readily find it and didn't have the time/patience to devote to the search. I did find this excellent piece on "Running form: How you can become a better runner without increased fitness - with the right form." It pulls from Dr. Nancy Hamilton's research and explains that the decrease in stride length is primarily related to range of motion and flexibility issues.

Speed is a function of cadence and stride length. There's a sweet spot in there for each of us and the trick is to minimize deterioration in either/both, especially late in races and as we age! Here are some things I think will help fight the "shuffle" in me, and maybe you:

Speedwork. To run fast requires a high cadence AND a powerful open stride. I played around with this the other day on some intervals and figured out for myself that cadence alone was not enough to run fast. Speedwork will naturally bring about lengthening of the stride.

Awareness of Form. I'm working to maintain cadence and this open stride late in runs. When I start to drag, I tell myself to "reset" and mentally search for that free-flow feeling I get following a short rest.

Flexibility. I'm back to rolling and stretching at night. Tightness/lack of flexibility, particularly in the hip flexers and quads, contribute to a shortened stride.

Strength. I'm back to leg work at the gym including lateral work/hip strengthening.

One of my goals in this marathon prep is to maintain good form through fatigue, fight the onset of the marathon shuffle, and try to stay "open" even in the final miles of long runs. By "open" I am not describing a gigantic lumbering stride, but one that is relaxed yet propulsive, lacking inadvertent braking forces, flowing, playful, and free. I imagine my 10-year-old on the soccer field, dashing about, colt-like. That's what I mean. It's the anti-shuffle.

oh, the pain of the marathon shuffle in the final miles!

the natural freedom of the 10-year-old's stride is beautiful

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Vasa Ergometer Training begins

This week we received our first workouts for the Vasa Ergometer from Coach Eric Neilsen of Fort Collins, CO. He's an ASCA (American Swim Coaches) Level Four Certified Coach, triathlon coach,  Ironman Hawaii World Championship finisher, All American Masters Swimmer, and Vasa user/advocate.

Each workout includes a purpose/focus (technique, pacing, acceleration) and the "why" of how it relates specifically to the triathlon swim. There's a warm-up, main set and cooldown, just like the pool, with plenty of the structure that I enjoy. I'm keeping a log on a separate page of my blog but will provide periodic updates here too.

Unlike the pool, there was obvious and visible sweating - on me, the swim bench, and on the floor!!

It was suggested we take some video to help track progress, so I did. I ended up logging just about 1200m in about 22 minutes (not including rest breaks). The video is a 4 minute sampler.

It really sounds like I'm fussing a lot in the video, but it's more that I still can't believe what a tremendous workout the Vasa Ergometer provides! (How it kicks my butt!) I put in 2500y swim workouts 3x a week, I'm a year-round gym goer/strength trainer and can crank out pull ups (see 45 pull ups on 45th birthday), but the Erg is some serious swim-specific power and endurance building. I have it set to the lowest resistance setting. But, considering I struggled to log 500m on it when I started, I am making progress.

The design of the Erg, and the location of the pulleys is such that it really encourages the powerful high elbow catch position. That is where I look forward to developing strength and endurance. And I feel somewhat qualified (PhD, Human Factors Engineering, Virginia Tech, 2007) to comment on the fact that the Ergometer is very well engineered for this human's biomechanics. There's never a time that I'm thinking about the equipment vs my swim. It's very natural.

I'm using the Ergometer in conjunction with my pool swims, with Coach Jim helping me to integrate the two. One cool thing, we are expecting a heap of snow later today that may prohibit me from getting to the pool tomorrow morning. For once I am not worried about it. With the Erg right here in the house...and a large towel to mop the sweat...I'm all set!

(Incidentally, one of my Endurance Films Racing Teammates, Nick Logan, uses the Vasa Ergometer too as does a fellow One-on-One Endurance athlete in Virginia Beach. It's popping up more and more on the triathlon scene!)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Two questions for runners - results!

Hey thanks for the responses! I'm excited that this worked...YAY, numbers!! Google does a decent job with surveys.

Going out too fast - Of the 28 folks, just 3 people, 11%, went with my "went out too fast" option of "dig and suffer at any cost to hold that early pace." That's what happened to me Saturday...and it actually happens pretty regularly. I started with my desired/dream/planets aligned/chased by a bear pace rather than my reality pace and suffered greatly to hold as close to it as I could. Anything else would be admitting I was wrong!!

The other 75%, the rational group, would back off.  Some of the write-in answers included: back off when the heart rate goes off the charts, back off if I will blow up and ruin the effort, and never start that fast in the first place!

Running to get to an even 5.00 - On the GPS question...nearly half of us would run beyond 4.99 and 4.87 miles to reach exactly 5.00. Almost a third would do so if our watch read 4.75. Only 3 people, or 11%, didn't care, and only 1 runs without GPS.  The write-in answer was all of the above, so in fact there was one person who would go beyond 4.01 to reach 5.00. They must REALLY love integers!

The other day I had stopped my watch at 4.99 and upon realizing it, started it back up to run the extra ten feet to get to 5.00. Ridiculous, I know! I do love integers too (what's NOT to love?), but I'm learning to let go, one perfectly even tenth of a mile at a time.

Two questions for runners

I was curious enough about the answers to these questions that it inspired me to try my first-ever poll. We'll see if it works!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday Morning Tri Coffee Reads - Jan 12 Edition


  • Tire Sealants by Greg Kopecky for Slowtwitch (May 15, 2012) - This is one of those "mystery products" I learned about when I got my tri bike with tubeless tires. There's some thought that sealants can be used in all tires, but the high pressures we use make it less effective than it is for mountain bikers. Still, worth considering! Writer Greg Kopecky puts out incredibly detailed writings on all things triathlon for Slowtwitch, I'm a fan!
  • Plantar Fasciitis with Jordan Metzl - Runner's World (November 12, 2012) - This condition seems to be a growing issue within the running community and it's a frustratingly slow-healing injury due to limited blood supply in the plantar fascia. Dr. Metzler explains what it is, how to treat it, and how to try to prevent it. Hint - like many issues it comes down to overly tight muscles. It's worth the 7+ minutes to watch.

  • Suffer Camp: On Location with Team TBB by Fred Dreier for Inside Triathlon (January 9, 2013) - If you read Chrissie Wellington's book and learned about her now legendary coach Brett Sutton, you may have been a bit shocked by his unorthodox ways and psychological tactics. This article delves into that a bit more with his current crop of athletes. Yeah, and I think I'll be sticking with my coach!!
  • Swimmer - All the back issues of this magazine, put out by the US Masters Swimming organization, are available online. 

    • Tim O'Donnell Talks Trek, Kona, and Wedding Planning by Liz Hitchens for Triathlete (January 11, 2013) TO's getting married in December to Rinny Carfrae and I forsee a tremendous season for him. It makes me think of this quote from Tyler Hamilton in the Secret Race - "it's funny how much racing depends on your emotions; my crush on Haven was a shot of rocket fuel."
    • Competitor Radio interview with Amy Dodson (January 2, 2013) - Amy is a school teacher who lost both a leg and a lung to cancer but she is a tough Ironman competitor, ultra runner, and marathoner. I listened to this interview on my iPod on a trail run last Saturday and I just felt myself getting fired up, feeding off her energy and confidence. Paratriathletes like Amy bring SO much to the sport!


    Triathlete’s Prayer  

    reprinted from 'Blob to Blog' by September 4, 2011

    Now I lay me down to sleep
    And pray that I may really keep
    Myself at rest with eyes shut tight
    All throughout this last long night.

    Now I lay me down and list
    All my gear – What have I missed?
    I pinned my bib and untied shoes,
    Packed water and my protein chews.

    Now I lay me down and play
    The races phases through and say,
    “Just do your best,” and in my mind
    Repeat this mantra five more times.

    Now I lay me down and pray
    For a successful racing day;
    For access to my drive within;
    And for my goal – a PR win.

    Let me swim and bike and run
    Just like a bullet from a gun.
    But in the end if I’ve not won,
    Let me remember, “That was fun.”