Week 5 – Oh, the joy of travel

Welcome to the review of week #5.

I love Colorado, and apparently many others have the same feeling.  Especially those who are focused on Ironman triathlon.  Check out this link:  10 Best Places to be an IRONMAN

Unfortunately, I haven’t spent much time in Colorado this week, and it looks like the next three weeks will be the same.  On the road the whole time.  Travel makes it tough to stick to a good training routine.  I was able to manage getting all but one workout in, missing the mid-week bike.  In all, it was a decent week.  The silver lining to the week was being able to train at sea level.  It certainly makes a difference to train regularly at 5,430 feet, then take a run on the California coast… feels great!

Missing one workout, I can’t call it a perfect week, but I’d give it a solid B for a grade.

Nutrition Report

In my nutrition blog last week, I promised to post what I was eating, to remain as accountable as possible to the advice I gave.  To that end, here’s what the week looked like:

Preworkout Breakfast Snack Lunch Snack Dinner
 n/a Raisin Bread with Cream Cheese  Yogurt with Granola  Black Bean and Rice Soft Taco  Clif Bar  Salmon Salad
Yogurt with Granola, English Muffin Breakfast Burrito with Ham n/a Clif Bar Banana Salmon, Spinach, Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes
Hammer Gel Eggs, Sausage, Oatmeal, V8  Banana Grilled Chicken on Wheat Bread  n/a Fish Tacos
(Missed Ride)
n/a Egg Whites, Ham, Rice, Tortilla Clif Bar Almond Butter and Banana Sandwich Peanut Butter on Wheat Crackers  Mexican Food (Chicken Chimichangas and Black Beans)
 Hammer Gel  Chocolate Milk (Recovery), Raisin Bread with Cream Cheese  Clif Bar  Tuna Sandwich Banana and Peanuts Lobster and Cheese Ravioli with Salad
(Long Ride)
 Hammer Gel, 1/2 Clif Bar while riding  Egg White and Turkey Breakfast Sandwich  n/a  Turkey Sandwich Clif Bar Chicken with Mustard Sauce, Rice, Brussels Sprouts
(Long Run)
Hammer Gel  Yogurt, Granola, Eggs, Chorizo n/a  Chicken and Artichoke Salad on English Muffin 1/2 Clif Bar  Shrimp Tacos

If I had to grade the week’s nutrition, I’d give it a B, or maybe even a B-minus.  I missed a few snacks, and I didn’t always combine protein and carbs, as I should have.  On the night I ate Mexican food, I overate a bit.  That affected my swim on Friday.  On the plus side, I ate seafood 5 of the 7 days, and chicken the other two for dinner.  Good protein week.

Also this week, I return to a dedicated strength training routine.  I’ll be doing the GORUCK event on Saturday, May 3rd, which will be pretty intense.  Check it out:  GORUCK Light

GORUCK Light LogoGORUCK Challenge Logo

At the end of May, it’s the Bolder Boulder 10K, which Runner’s World called America’s best 10K.  I’ve run it twice before, and it’s a great race.  Going for a PR this time for sure!  In June, I’ll do the GORUCK Challenge.  Good times.  After that, it’s all triathlon…

Even as I post this, I’m in the middle of Week #6, but now I’m in Las Vegas, which makes it even tougher to train and eat properly (not to mention rest), but I’m sticking with it.  More next week.

Train On!!


Endurance Nutrition Overview

In my Week #3 post, I promised another post, and blog a bit on the topic of nutrition.


First of all, let me just say that we, as triathletes, tend to focus on swim, bike, and run.  That obviously makes sense, given the sport we’re devoted to, but I would argue that the disciplines we need to master so that we can excel are swim, bike, run, rest/recover, and eat.  Swimming, biking, and running are obvious.  Mastering the ability to rest and recover properly is not so easy, but just as important, and is a topic for a future post.  Eating…  now that is a complex topic.

Bottom line: food is fuel.  That being said, there’s no silver bullet with respect to endurance nutrition.  What works for one person may not work for another, but there are a few building blocks that are common for everyone.

The Science:  Where do we get the energy necessary to compete at the distances we do?  The energy comes from the synthesis of a molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  I won’t get into the granular detail of glycolysis, the TCA Cycle or the Krebs Cycle, all of which you can research on your own, or I’m happy to show you where you can find info.  Suffice it to say that conversion of this molecule by mitochondria gives us energy.  When energy is used, the molecule loses a phosphate group, and become ADP (adenosine di-phosphate).


Basically, ATP is like a battery.  We draw on it for energy, and that converts it to ADP.  When we eat, food energy in the mitochondria converts it back into ATP, and we once again have energy available to swim, bike and run!  The trick, therefore, is to get the right food, in the right amounts, at the right time, to most effectively feed this process.

During exercise, the body uses primarily carbs and fat for energy purposes.  At low intensity, it’s normally fat that is used to meet the demands of creating ATP (although there is a little carb action going on).  At higher intensity, when you’re getting into zone 3 (or becoming more anaerobic), ATP synthesis demand increases, and fat can’t do the job on it’s own, so carbohydrate utilization increases.  Carbs require fewer “steps” to metabolize than fat, so it happens faster.  When intensity is low, fat has time to do the job.  When intensity is high, the faster synthesis that carbs provide is necessary to produce enough ATP to keep you going.  This is true even though, gram-for-gram, fat can produce far more ATP than carbohydrates.  It’s the speed…  at low intensity, people burn about 1-2g carbs/minute, whereas it can be upwards of 3g/minute while training at high intensity, or racing.  This is according to the lab tests done at Training Peaks.

Carbs get partially stored in the body as glycogen, which is the most readily available source of energy for ATP synthesis.  Most of this is in the muscles, with a little in the liver, and even less in the blood.  Unfortunately, these glycogen stores are typically somewhat small, but account for 80-85% (or more) of the energy we draw on while racing.  What happens when we run out?  The body uses protein and amino acids.  In other words, it starts eating muscle.  Dr. Iñigo San Millán refers to this as “eating itself to feed itself,” as yucky as that may sound…

In Practice:  So, we need to eat carbs, in the best manner to keep our glycogen stores full, and maintain ATP synthesis as we exercise.  The amount will be different for everyone, and will depend on size, activity level, and other factors.  Research shows that 30-60g/hour is sufficient for competition, usually, but for longer events (can you say Ironman?), especially those over 4 hours, 80-100g/hour is recommended.

Pre-workout and post-workout nutrition is critical to these concepts.  You want to have some gas in the tank before you get out there to do your thing, and you want to refill the tank when you’re done.  Again, pointing to the research, your post-workout meal should be between 3:1 and 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein.  You need the carbs to refill the glycogen stores, and you need the protein to start on muscle repair.  Beware the recovery drink that doesn’t have carbs (or is low-carb).  Massive protein intake without carbs doesn’t feed the machine effectively for endurance.  Also, it’s best to mix types of carbs (different glycemic indexes) to vary the rate of absorption.

What I do may not work for everyone, and we’ll be going off on a bunch of tangents if we get into the granular detail, so I’ll just state what I do, and why I do it, and let the discussion go where it may…

Pre-workout:  This depends on how much time I have prior to working out.  If I’m jumping right out of bed and headed to the gym (typically for a swim workout), I don’t eat any solid food at all.  I’ll take one gel (I use Hammer Gel) right before walking through the door to the pool.  Hammer Gel takes 15 minutes or so to get into your system fully.  That’s usually enough carbs to prevent a catabolic response (eating muscle), and Hammer Gel has amino acids.  Not all gels do.  Aminos can serve to improve focus during workouts.  For shorter workouts, I typically will have enough glycogen stores to get me through, regardless.

For running workouts, I’ll eat a banana if I’m short on time (pure carb), and knock back a gel, or if I have the luxury of an hour or two before working out, I’ll have some almond butter on an English muffin, sometimes with some jelly.  This gives me some longer lasting fuel at a variable absorption rate to help maintain my effort.

For cycling, I can manage more solid food, so I’ll have a double helping of oatmeal, with some brown sugar.  For protein, I’ll have some cottage cheese or greek yogurt.  Keep in mind that carbs and protein work together, and help each other synthesize.  Whenever possible, have both.

During the workout:  While swimming, I don’t usually eat J but if I’m doing a really long workout in the pool, I may have a bottle of Gatorade nearby to sip from occasionally.  These fast-acting carbs help ensure ATP synthesis.  For running, I rely exclusively on Hammer Gel and water.  I’m pretty resilient in most things, but I haven’t had much luck with other products while running, and have had GI issues.  Many people can tolerate more than me in this area.  For cycling, I like to have a Clif Bar with me, for longer rides, and Gu makes a great endurance gel called Roctane.  I’d only recommend using this for really long workouts.  It’s pretty potent.  I also use Skratch Labs in one of my water bottles, which helps with carb intake, as well as sodium/potassium.  All natural goodness!

Post-workout:  There are as many opinions on this topic as there are athletes out there.  I base mine on the science that I articulated above.  Get some protein and carbs into your system, in a 3:1-4:1 ratio.  And do it within about 30 minutes.  If you do this with liquid only, then follow it with some solid food within a couple of hours.  Good recovery options that hit these ratios include:

  • Chocolate milk (yum!) – just the right ratio of carbs and protein.  I get the Kirkland or Horizon single serving chocolate milk at Costco.  Perfectly convenient.
  • Greek yogurt with a healthy amount of granola – I go back and forth between Fage and Whole Foods 365 greek yogurt.  Both are really high in protein.  I prefer Udi’s Original granola.  Tastes great, gluten-free, all natural.  Good stuff.  To get the right ratio, I usually have to do one serving of yogurt to two servings of granola, and also have a can of V8 to get enough carbs and sodium.
  • Rice and beans –  I like brown rice or jasmine rice.  I mix the rice with black beans, and sometimes some chicken or tuna.  For more carbs, you can throw that into a tortilla and make a quick burrito.  This is also easy to pre-make before the workout, so when you’re done, all you have to do is pop it in the microwave for a little bit.

From a more general nutrition standpoint, some general guidelines include eating more meals every day (in smaller portions) to keep the metabolism going.  For most endurance athletes, 50-60% carbs is great, and the other 40-50% divided between protein and fat.  Don’t completely cut fat out of your diet.  As I said above fat is key to energy production.  It also protects organs and cell walls.  Another key point is to eat enough.  Heavily restricting calories is not conducive to endurance sports.  You’ll have a smaller gas tank if you do…   Also, don’t be shy about sodium.  Your body needs it to perform.

Finally, I wanted to stress the importance of hydration.  Hydrate well, and hydrate often.  As with carbs, your body uses fluid to perform ATP synthesis.  Fluid is the cooling mechanism for your body, and is used to eliminate waste.  Poor hydration can lead to many problems, so make hydration part of your daily routines, not just while exercising, but when you wake up, while you’re working, and every time you eat.  How much to drink while exercising/competing is a whole different topic, so I won’t get into that now.

In summary, I’ll state it once again: food is fuel.  Pay attention to what, how much, and when you eat.  To be serious as an endurance athlete, you need to do things intentionally, and food is no exception.  Make a plan, stick to the plan, and adjust as necessary.  We all learn new things every day, so try to evaluate what makes the most sense to change, if anything, and how often, by evaluating it against the science, and how you perform.  Some other basics include staying away from saturated fat, highly processed foods, and foods with high amounts of preservatives.  Some say that if it’s a type of food that never goes bad, don’t eat it, or if it has more than three or four ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t eat it.  Most of all, just use common sense.  Don’t deprive yourself of yummy things, just show some restraint.  With time, you’ll figure out what works for you personally, and you’ll see the effect on your performance.  Just make sure to start this significantly before race day, so you can be dialed in!

To keep myself accountable to my own advice, I’ll start including what I eat during my weekly posts.

Post any comments or questions you have, and I’ll be happy to get into more detail.  Until then, thanks for reading.

Train On!!

Week 4

Week #4 is behind us, and there’s 20 weeks to go.  Seems like it’s right around the corner!  I did get a ski trip in this past week, on Wednesday.  The snow was indeed great, and I got an opportunity to ski down from the very top of the continental divide, starting at 12,722 feet.  It was surreal.

I’ve been working on the nutrition blog that I promised everyone.  I should have it posted by tomorrow.

With respect to the training this past week, it was one of the best weeks so far.  The swimming is finally starting to come together (a little), and I can feel a bit more stamina in each of the disciplines.  For the bike workouts, I did one on a spin bike, and the other on my road bike, on the trainer.  The weather improved markedly on Sunday, so I was able to do my long run outside, with my friend, LJ.  It was 23 degrees Fahrenheit at 7am when we started, and 28 degrees when we finished.  It was tolerable (I’ve run in far colder weather), and humorous to see both of us with frost all over our hats when we were done.  LJ will be joining me on some of my long runs, which will be a welcome change from long, lonely efforts.  Great to have a training partner sometimes.

I did substitute one of my run workouts for that ski day, so I’ll be good for now, and run when I’m supposed to.   (Maybe…)

To remind everyone what the training plan looks like, here is it:

Weeks 1-6: Prep (so I’m four weeks into this phase)

Weeks 7-10: Base 1

Weeks 11-14: Base 2

Weeks 15-18: Base 3

Weeks 19-22: Build

Weeks 23-24: Peak/Taper

As I said above, I can feel more stamina.  Essentially, the zone 2 rides and runs are getting easier, and I can do more speed/distance at the same heart rate.  That shows an improvement in the aerobic system, which is exactly what this phase is designed to do.  I’m going to get another assessment done in April at the Colorado Center for Health and Sports Science (COCHSS) by my friend, Dr. Neil Wolkodoff.  I’ll get an idea of how my VO2 max has changed, and we’ll have an opportunity to reassess both my anaerobic threshold, and my heart rate zones.  We’re going to compare the results to the Freil method and see where we come out.  That’ll be the topic of a blog post in April.  My last assessment was December 31, 2013.

The next four weeks are going to be tough, because I have a horrendous travel schedule coming up.  I’ll be flying every week, so between travel and staying in hotels, it’ll take structure and discipline to maintain the training, nutrition, and recovery regimen.

Thanks for reading.

Train On!!


Running Sports Essentials and BioMechanics – with 6-Time Olympic Coach Bobby McGee

Running Sports Essentials and BioMechanics – with 6-Time Olympic Coach Bobby McGee

Hello all,

Please check out this link.  It’s for a live event (Free) this Thursday, March 13th.  I have great respect for the host, Bobby McGee, and what he’s done for runners.  If you can’t make the live event, you can watch the recorded replay afterwards.  Please register, you’ve got nothing to lose!  You can watch the replay any time.

Train On!!

Week 3 – The fun continues

Week #3 is in the books, and there’s 21 weeks to go. 


No ski trip this past week, unfortunately, but I am going again this week, and it may end up being the last time this season.  Snow should be great.

With respect to the training, I didn’t get as much time in as last week, but the workouts were good, quality ones.  My long run earlier today was great, mostly because we’ve been getting nothing but snow, and today was a wonderful 67 degrees and sunny.  So nice.

Rather than write a long blog today, I’m going to post a mid-week update, this time on nutrition.  I’ll share what I’m doing daily, and focus on pre-workout and recovery meals.  I’ll let you know where I get my information, and why I structure my nutrition the way I do.  It’s a work in progress, but I think that’s what it always should be.  I know without a doubt that I’ll have it dialed in by race day.

Thanks for reading.

Train On!!

Week 2 – plus review of online resources

Week #2: Done!  So… 2 weeks down, 22 weeks to go.

This week went pretty well.  I had one missed workout due to a work obligation, and I substituted by switching a run workout for a perfect day of skiing at Loveland.  Epic…


With respect to the training, I got in a solid six hours throughout the week.  My long ride on Saturday had to happen on the trainer, because it was snowing like mad.  I passed the time by watching the replay of the “To be Coached, or Not to be Coached” webinar by Triathlon Research (triathlonresearch.org).  Not a bad webinar, but they focused too much on products, and not enough on what the topic of the webinar was supposed to be.  Most of their webinars are pretty good, and I recommend checking them out.

Anyway, that’s a good transition (pun intended) to the topic of online resources.  Personally, I find online resources to fall into three categories:

  1. Tools
  2. Education
  3. Motivation/Entertainment

Tools:  I use all sorts of online tools to help manage my triathlon endeavors.  My main tool is TrainingPeaks.com.  I use this site to manage my entire training plan, nutrition, and metrics such as weight, body fat and sleep.  It’s the only tool that I’ve found that can manage (effectively) all of these things in one place.  Other sites are starting to catch up, such as MapMyFitness.com (also known as MapMyRun and MapMyRide), which recently added the ability to link to MyFitnessPal.com, a very popular nutrition tracking online app.  Every online tool has its pros and cons, and TrainingPeaks is no exception.  The all-inclusive aspects are great, in that it connects to my training plan and all my devices.  Reporting is pretty decent, although it could use some tweaks.  Their forum and webinars are good, and relevant to the sport.  The food database is huge, and growing every day (through contribution from the community at large), but you have to use good judgment.  Some people don’t enter food products into the database very effectively.  Follow up with me directly if you want more in-depth info on TrainingPeaks.  I’ll be happy to share.

Other online tools that I use, some more than others, include:

  • Garmin Connect (connect.garmin.com) – Good swim analysis, and connectivity to all my Garmin devices, as well as my iPhone and iPad.
  • Strava (strava.com) – It was previously just cycling.  Now that they’ve added running and swimming, it’s becoming a more complete offering for triathletes.  Fun to compare your performance with others.
  • MapMyFitness (mapmyfitness.com) – Good site to create routes, and have it tell you the distance, analyze the climbs, etc.  I’ve tried RideWithGPS.com, but I like the MapMyFitness/Ride/Run site better.

There are a few more I use sparingly.  In a future blog, I’ll devote the whole thing to evaluation of online tools, but in this blog, I wanted to give you a brief overview.

Education:  I could go on and on about how many resources there are for education on the Internet, but the fact that you’re reading this already shows that you know about one of them: blogs.  I consider blogs to be good at understanding people’s experience, and that is certainly relevant, but you should use caution when taking coaching advice from blogs.  Just because someone is a triathlete, or has even completed a number of big races, doesn’t make them an expert.  Take blogs (mine included) with a grain of salt.  What works for some, may or may not work for others, and there’s no substitute for a good, experienced coach.  Many are available for consultation online.  Other sites I visit and use with some frequency include EnduranceWorks.net (my coach, David Glover), TriathlonResearch.org, MountainGirlNutritionAndFitness.com (great nutrition blog), and SwimSmooth.com.  Also, the websites of the major trade rags have useful info, such as Triathlete.com, RunnersWorld.com, and usaswimming.org.

You should make use of these same tools on mobile devices.  WordPress blogs are available as an app, and the reader is quite good.  The subscriptions to Triathlete magazine and Runner’s World are available as online editions, and include great additional content.  Check them out.

Finally, from a motivation and education standpoint, in addition to blogs, take the time to do some searches on both Google and YouTube related to triathlon motivation.  Subscribe to the IronMan channel on YouTube.  Some of the shows there are truly inspirational.  We’re in this sport because we love it, and seeing how others are impacted by it provides additional motivation to push harder, longer, and achieve better results.

Sorry for the extended blog.  I try to keep them short, but any of the topics I talk about could turn into a whole book!

Train On!!