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5 Tips From My First 3 Triathlons (Unrated Version)

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5 Tips From My First 3 Triathlons (Unrated Version)

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With three 70.3 IRONMAN triathlons under my belt, I feel I've learnt a lot. This knowledge includes a lot about myself, about nutrition, about swimming, about running, about biking.

In this post however, I'd like to focus on 5 Topics in particular that I've been asked a lot about over the last year or so and that, well, I think provide for some entertaining reading and writing.

I've also asked Trevor to provide his particular insights into the Tips and Advice, to offer a more holistic view.

So here we go:

Tip 1: Avoid anything "new" during race week

This is meant to be a catch all, but I really cannot stress this enough. From what you eat, to the activities you typically do, avoid doing anything your body isn't use to. This is not the time to shock the body with new experiences, foods, drinks, etc. As you'll see below, there are a number of reasons for this. This leads me to Number 2 ....

Brandon's Advice: Be boring. Eat boring food. Consume boring drinks, in quantities not out of the ordinary. Sleep the same amounts. Simply, don't change things up too much from your regular routine. Now is certainly not the time to throw in a random game of pick up basketball for shits and giggles. Nor is it the time to put your stomach under distress by trying new foods or foods your not used to. You don't need all that training and prep work being wasted on some unwanted GI issues.

Trevor's Advice: I agree that this is good advice per se, but I’m not usually very good at following it.  I do new things sometimes because I get bored, or I get lazy, or I panic and forget things last minute.  Tammy ran a marathon in new shoes not that long ago.  Brandon did Ironman Calgary 70.3 in new bike shoes when his broke. I raced Victoria 70.3 with new headgear and did a sprint triathlon with a brand new wetsuit. So I would say that use this is a guiding principle, but only to the point where it doesn’t cause you extra stress.  If, for example, your race destination doesn’t have the right kind of bagels, just get other bagels that are close and don’t stress it.  I do totally agree though that you should avoid new and different athletic activity.  By a week out your body is like a tuned up guitar string.  Pluck it right and you get perfect tune, pluck it wrong and it snaps and hits you in the eye and just like that you find yourself on the waitlist for an eye transplant.  No one wants that.

Tip 2: Sex - go for it, but keep in mind Tip 1

We've all got needs. Of this there is no doubt. When it comes to sex, I have to recommend balance, but it really depends on the person. Some people like to have some built up sexual tension to add a little drive to their race. Others might find that it takes away from performance by keeping them tight and wound up. It really is up to you. Based on some quick research, there really is no evidence that the typical approach taken by sports teams of abstinence before big games does anything to improve or hamper performance.

Brandon's Advice: Go for it. I'm definitely not going to abstain, in fact, I'd prefer to have sex at least a few days before a race. My only caveat - race week is not the time to be getting experimental. In fact, I'd strongly encourage asking your partner to "do most of the work", it would be an awfully embarrassing story to miss your race because of a sex injury or twisting or pulling a muscle ..... trust me.

Trevor's Advice: I’ve…..uhhh….never had sex (Hi Mom).  But if I were to have done that shameful thing, I like Brandon’s advice about letting your partner “do most of the work”.  Lol.  That’s amazing advice.  In conclusion, just be a bottom.

Brandon's Advice: I'd also add, make it up after race time. Nobody needs to be selfish here.

Tip 3: Get over it, Peeing in your wetsuit is smart and strategic

It really is amazing how many times I get asked about how or when I go to the bathroom over the course of a race. It is not unexpected. The races are long and biology is biology. The answer is pretty easy. There are plenty of porta potties sprinkled all over the bike and run courses. I've used them before. It is easy. It just costs you time. Want to save time. Learn to pee yourself.

Brandon's Advice: Get over it and learn to be comfortable peeing yourself in particular. My typical routine is usually - use a bathroom before you put your wetsuit on - if possible. If not, pee in your wetsuit. In fact, I particularly try to pee right as I'm leaving the water at the end of the swim. This empties the tank as I prepare for the long ride. Strategic. I know.  As for biking and running - my rule is simple, if I'm on track to best or match my goal time, I'll have no issue peeing on the fly. If not, i'll salvage the 1-2 mins and use the bathroom.

Trevor's Advice: I’m actually peeing as I write this.  So yeah, pee wherever and whenever you can.  I tell you the discomfort of letting it go in your race kit is far less that the discomfort of of having to hold it until you can find a stop.  Especially on the bike with that little seat smashing into all the go-pee areas.  Plus, one piece trisuits are impossible to strip off in a porta-potty.  You’re most likely to pull a muscle and there are no guarantees you won’t pee all over yourself anyways.  Just grab an extra water bottle at the aid station and hose yourself off.  No one will be none the wiser.  Although for “number 2” I would suggest you avoid doing that in your suit if at all possible….

Tip 4: You'll never avoid saddle sores or occasional scrotal numbness

Yes, saddle sores and scrotal numbness are a thing. What are saddle sores? Well those nasty little irritations you get between your thighs and on your ass for riding on a bike seat for hours on end. An especially uncomfortable problem when using a stationary bike, where you are literally sitting all the time. And scrotal numbness, well its when you private parts go numb and tingly. Plain and simple.

Brandon's Advice: There are a number of ways to prevent this from happening. A few recommendations: get a good seat - you'll never find a perfect one, but some are definitely better than others. Use some sort of chaffing cream. There are ton out there, but seriously I just use Vaseline. It is cheap and effective. And lastly, try sit up every hour or so when on your trainer. Relieve some of the pressure, give your body a rest. Minor relieve, but it will help. Word to the wise - NEVER EVER let someone see you apply Vaseline to your undercarriage as it is the least sexy act ever, although it is a sure way to make Tip Number 2 irrelevant.

Trevor's Advice: I’m actually battling a particularly nasty saddle sore myself right now.  I’ve never had one before.  It really sucks.  If it gets bad, days off, epsom salt baths and polysporin are my go tos.  As for scrotal numbness, this is a terrifying but very real effect of hours on a bikeseat.  Sometimes you have to just muscle through, sometimes you have to stand up, sometimes you have to bash it around until it comes back to life.  I would caution against ever “getting used to it” though.  If it’s happening more than just rarely, get a new seat or maybe switch the “tuck” direction (I’m a lefty most days myself).

Tip 5: You can trust a fart after 30 km ..... but seriously, be careful.

I'm sure you've heard the adage "don't trust a fart after XX km". No? Well it's a thing. And while there is certainly some truth to that I'm sure, I'm guessing you can actually trust a fart after 30 km, but I'd seriously just be careful.

Brandon's Advice: I've luckily not have to deal with  this particular issue. My approach has been to have a little cup of coffee very early in the morning and hopefully empty the tank prior to race start. I also avoid excessive fibre intake in the days leading up to a race. If push came to shove - there is no way I'm shitting my pants to save a couple minutes. That's an easy one.

Trevor's Advice:  I am no pro.  There is no reason for me to shit my pants.  If in doubt slow down immediately and pucker up until you can find a rest stop; don’t tempt fate.  If you can’t find a rest stop, well, you’re your own best guide at that point.  But yes “GI” issues are very real.  They are hugely inconvenient.  They are absolutely embarrassing.  And they are a reminder that in the great sport of triathlon there are just some things that you have to deal with on the fly; you can’t plan for it all.

Happy Training!!

 

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Fueling on the Go: Homemade Potato Chips

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Fueling on the Go: Homemade Potato Chips

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As  I continue my weaning off of the gels/gummies, I've taken a little bit of relapse. This week it became obvious to me that I'm going to have to rely somewhat on gels/gummies - a necessary evil of travelling for racing. With that in mind, I did go back to using them occasionally as a means of keeping my body use to them. That being said, I'm certainly not giving up on my use of the real-food alternatives. My last attempt were some absolutely amazing Ham & Pineapple Rice Balls that did everything I needed and wanted from it. Tasted delicious, like a Hawaiian Pizza, and kept me feeling strong and energized the entire time. I will certainly use this recipe again.

This week I'm trying something I've been wanting to try for awhile - Homemade Potato Chips.

I've read a lot of articles that professional cyclists use potato fuel quite a bit in their races and training sessions. Trevor and I also have a fellow triathlete friend who loves fueling with potatoes. So I figured why not - full of potassium, magnesium and carbs they certainly have the necessary ingredients for a good fuel source on a long ride.

Homemade Potato Chips

This may actually be the easiest recipe I've made. Potatoes, seasoning salt, olive oil. Slice the potatoes as thinly as you desire. My cutting skills suck, so they are all over the map. Throw the ingredients into a bowl or Tupperware container and mix together.

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Preheat the oven to 400. Take the covered potato slices and spread evenly across a cooking sheet on some parchment paper.

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Bake the potatoes until desired crispiness. I did 15 minutes. Then flipped the potatoes and did another 15 minutes. When they were done I added a little bit more salt just for flavoring and good measure.

That's it. That's all.

Happy Training Everyone!

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Fueling on the go: Ham and Pineapple Rice Balls

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Fueling on the go: Ham and Pineapple Rice Balls

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It has been almost 4 weeks since I've relied exclusively on gels and/or gummies to fuel my long distance training sessions. Now, I'll be completely honest, this has been helped by the fact that I've been forced indoors on account of living in the frigid North. Nonetheless, I'm proud of myself. So far it has been a successful transition. I don't think I'll be quite there before my next race and will definitely have to use some gels, I feel confident that I'm on my way to transitioning away completely in the future. The results have been great. I feel better. I've yet to "bonk" on a single ride. My stomach has been settled and in a few brick sessions I've noticed none of the fear "sloshing" that has accompanied me in the past when relying solely on gels gummies and sugary drinks.

A quick review of what I have tried:

  • Rice cakes - good option. Not very mobile. I may have made the servings too big
  • Energy balls - a great recipe. Better option as a snack rather than fueling for a long ride or run
  • Orange Almond Macaroons- again, delicious recipe, but found them a bit difficult to eat on the go. Good snack, decent for indoor training.

My primary source of inspiration has been, or course, the internet and seeing what others have tried but I also picked up the amazing The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes  which I strongly recommend for anyone and everyone. It is full of amazing recipes and information as to why making the switch is worth it.

This week, I'm again relying on the The Feed Zone Cookbook

Rice Balls - Ham and Pineapple 

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This week I'm trying the rice balls. As mentioned in my Rice Cakes review, I found the cakes to be a little large and hard to eat. So this week, I'm trying the balls, which include a little 15 minute baking time to add some structure I think .... At the very least, that is the major difference I've noticed already.

Again, simple simple recipe and takes no time at all. Cook some sticky rice. Chop some pineapple and some cooked ham. Throw them all together into a bowl and roll them into balls. Easy.

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Once you're done, not only do these rice balls taste incredible, are easy to consume on the bike and pack easily; they also make your house or apartment smell like ham and pineapple pizza - without all the greasy and guilt that comes with that phone call.

Of all the recipes I've tried thus far, these are by far my favorite.

I used them on my recent 5 hour stationary training session. It was the first time I've ever rode that distance and not once felt like I was losing energy. I had sustained energy and power throughout the entire session and no digestion issues whatsoever. I felt good during and after the workout. Cannot ask for much more than that. Not to mention they tasted delicious. Like actual food. Which I'm more than certain helps ones mental game as well.

Pick up the The Feed Zone Cookbookand try this recipe. You will not be disappointed.

Until the next installment!

Happy Training!!!

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Brandon Progress Report: September

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Brandon Progress Report: September

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It is actually hard to believe that it is October all ready. As I write this, the leaves are falling off the trees in front of me and the wake-up temperature is dangerously close to below-zero. While Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm officially indoor bound for the rest of my training efforts - stationary bike, treadmills and indoor pools. In my August update I mentioned that September would not be an easy month for training consistency. I was right.

However, while I had some ebs and flows I put in a solid month again, consistent with previous months. I've also made some significant improvements on this years issue that has been hampering my performance - my run. All in all, having spent a week in another country and three days sleeping in a tepee with no cell phone coverage, I'm pretty darn happy with this months efforts.

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Right in my typical range. Importantly, higher running and swimming numbers. I've also added some mobility and strength training, specifically focused on my core and knees.

September by the numbers:

  • Swimming: 8.15 km
  • Cycling: 508.93 km
  • Running: 47.48 km
  • Total: 564.56 km
  • Training Time: 27.33 hrs
  • Total Calories Burnt: 22,776

So, despite September challenges with work and life responsibilities, I managed a good month and feel pretty good. However, it is officially crunch time. The clock is ticking and it is buckle down time. October looks good so far in terms of work/life balance and travel responsibilities, but who knows what the month will bring. The count down is on to IRONMAN Cozumel!

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The focus for October is consistency:

  • Sticking to my schedule - it is time to put my schedule and training first and foremost. I'm scheduling out the next 8 weeks and going to stick too it.
  • Diet - Always a focus for me. I'm going to really focus on getting to my ideal race weight; shed a few pounds and lessen the impact on my body when I run and lighten the load on my bike when I ride. I need to shed 10-15 pounds easy, obviously not in September but by November
  • Reducing stress - the time has come to slow things down and focus on the mental aspects of the sport. I'm going to focus myself internally this month and try to reduce external stresses that have impacted my training in the past. Yoga, meditation and a focus on recovery will be huge this month. The mental challenge is as hard if not harder than the physical and it is time to stop neglecting it.

I feel good heading into October. I'm ready to buckle down and focus.

Happy Training Everyone!

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Fueling On the Go: Orange Almond Macaroons

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Fueling On the Go: Orange Almond Macaroons

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I'm now entering into the third installment of my search for some real food alternatives to fueling those long-ass endurance runs and I've got to say it has been pretty successful so far. While I certainly haven't fully eliminated the gels and gummy fuel sources, I've made good progress in alternating in some real food options. The verdict so far: Fantastic.

I've found the rice cakes and energy balls to provide me with the needed energy and sustenance to power through my workouts, avoid bonking and just straight up feeling great. So with the positive results so far, there is no other option but to keep experimenting and trying new options.

Last weeks energy balls were fantastic. I found them an excellent option on my bike rides, as a pick me up after say a swim and honestly I took them to work as a great snack to get me through the afternoon energy drain. All and all, a quick and excellent option for anyone.

This week:

Orange Almond Macaroons

I got this recipe from The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes  which I strongly recommend for anyone and everyone. It is chalker blocked full of amazing recipes that are quick, easy and delicious.  These macaroons are no different.

Like all baking it is easy. Put the ingredients in bowl, exactly as directed. Mix together and bake. The incredients are pretty straight forward and you likely have most of it in your pantry already. Consistent with my other recipes, these are easy to customize to your tastes. I like oranges and almonds so it was a perfect fit.

Total prep and bake time was 30 mins.

Spoiler alert for next week .... These are delicious!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Happy Training Everyone!!

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Fueling On the Go: Energy Balls

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Fueling On the Go: Energy Balls

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A little task and goal I started a few weeks back was to start reducing and replacing the gels, gummies and energy drinks I used as fuel on my longer endurance training sessions. This post is a follow-up on my rice cake experiment, as well as an introduction to my latest attempt - Energy Balls. First off, the Rice Cakes. I was pleasantly surprised with the rice cakes. They were easy to make, they kept well and most importantly they are easily modified to your particular taste profile or nutrition requirements.  

I found the cakes very easy to eat and store on my ride. They also kept me well fed and energized throughout the rides, including rides over 100km.

A few findings on my first attempt with making the rice cakes:

  • Make portions smaller- I made my portions way too big. It made them clumsy to eat and I found I was eating them for way too long. Next time I would make them smaller, so they are easier to digested and eat while on the move.
  • Add a little more flavour - the apple cakes I made were a little bland. I would add a little more apple and cinnamon next time. I might try mango or chocolate chips as well just to add a little flavour.
  • Pay more attention to the wrapping- I was a little lazy with the wrapping and would definitely take a little more care this time.

This week we've got .............

Energy Balls

I'm sure you've all seen some sort of energy ball recipe and that this isn't new to many of you. However, keeping with my goal of recipes that are customizable and easy to transport, they seemed like a good choice.

Simple ingredients: peanut butter (almond butter), oats, vanilla flax, chocolate chips, salt, protein, honey, coconut. You could add anything chia seeds, nuts, fruit - the options are endless.

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Just throw all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them together and let them sit in the fridge for 30-45 mins. Roll into balls and wrap. Easy peasy.

Happy Training Everyone!!!

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Race Week Routine - Nutrition

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Race Week Routine - Nutrition

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In my last post, I discussed my race week routine with regards to tapering and bringing down the volume of training I'm doing.  Since then, I've had a few requests about what my diet and nutrition plan looks like during the week before a race. My typical eating habits will not change much during the beginning of the week. Although, there are a few things I try stick to when I start the week and especially later in the week:

  1. Avoid introduction of new foods - I try stick to foods by body regularly receives, no need for some random onset GI issues
  2. Stay away from the heat - spicy foods, well .... you know. I just stay away.
  3. Avoid/Limit Fiber intake - I stick to white carbs (whole wheat are much higher in fiber) during this week.
  4. Limit caffeine - I stick to a single cup in the morning. Just enough to perk me up.
  5. Limit Alcohol - the hardest, but necessary. One drink the Friday before.

Where I start to see substantive changes is the three-days prior to the race when I start carb-loading. This is where, unlike Trevor, I load up on my bread.

What is carb-loading? Carb-loading attempts to maximize the storage of glycogen in the muscles and liver. The idea being you top up the glycogen stores to be used on race day, helping avoid bonking and potentially limiting the amount of on course nutrition needed to maintain energy levels. I've been told that typically you've got about 2 hours of glycogen stores, carb-loading can bring that up too 3 hours. Not insignificant.

I personally follow a three-day carb-loading routine where I seek to consume somewhere in between 560 - 810 grams of carbs per day (7-10 grams/kg). Yup that is a lot of food ..... and it sure isn't easy to do. I try to best break it out over 6-8 meals/snacks during the day although as we all can attest, this isn't the easiest thing at all times.  But my schedule looks something like this (I've simplified for the sake of the post, but you get the general gist):

  • Breakfast - 100 grams carbs, 15-25 grams protein, 5 grams fat
  • Snack 1 - 40-75 grams carbs, 15 grams protein, 5 grams fat
  • Lunch - 200 grams carbs, 15-25 grams protein, 5 grams fat
  • Snack 2 - 40-75 grams carbs, 15 grams protein, 5 grams fat
  • Dinner - 200 grams carbs, 15-25 grams protein, 5 grams fat
  • Snack 3 - 40-75 grams carbs, 15 grams protein, 5 grams fat
  • Snack 4 - (optional 40-75 depending on snack volume and general feeling)

Total Carbs - 660-800 grams; Protein - 105 - 175 grams; Fat - 35 grams

As you can see, that equals a lot of food in a single day. Now, it is easy to eat a ton of carbs of unhealthy foods, but when you're trying to eat healthy it can be a bit of challenge; and, at times, quite bland.

Here is a list of foods that help me reach these targets:

  • Bread & Bagels (white only) - Rod I am forever grateful for the delicious bread you provide (pictured above)!
  • Rice (white)
  • Potatoes (regular and sweet potatoe)
  • Fruit
  • Pastas (white)
  • Chicken, Turkey, Beef, Fish (leaner the better)
  • Granloas
  • Energy bars - Elevate me and Cliff
  • Yogurt (Greek during day, regular at night)
  • Vegetables (although not much in terms of carbs, I can't ignore the micronutrient benefits)
  • Water
  • Gatorade

Finally, race day morning looks a little different than a typical morning as well. Assuming a 6:20 am race start, my race morning looks like this:

  • 4:00 am - Wake up
  • 4:05 am - Breakfast - Bagel (white), Peanut Butter and Jam (no butter) + water (with NUUN Tablet)
  • 5:30 am - Energy Bar (Cliff, Elevate Me), sips of water
  • 5:45 - 6:00 - Warm-up
  • 6:30 - Game time

So there it is, a high-level overview of my nutrition strategy prior to an event. I find that this works well for me. While it may not work for everyone, it may provide a good jumping off point.

If you're creating your own plan, I would definitely recommend consultation with a Registered Nutritionist (I'm not one, but I consult one quite regularly).

Happy Training or Good Luck, if you're racing this week!

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