How to Transition like a Pro

By Laurel Wassner, Pro Triathlete

Most people know of triathlon as a combination of swimming, biking and running.  Knowing how to switch from one sport to the next is a crucial part of the race.  These transitions may be a small percentage of the overall time, but they can be the difference between winning or losing, or getting that Kona slot or missing out by a few seconds.  So, how do you go from swimming to biking and from biking to running as fast as possible?  Try these pro tips:

Transition 1:  Transition from swim to bike

-Scout out the transition area and know where your bike is racked.  Have you ever parked in a garage and then come back from shopping and lost your car and taking forever to find it?  Well, you don’t want that to happen in a race!  When you go to rack your bike the day before the race, pick out some landmarks and visual cues to help you navigate the fastest way to your bike.  For example, trees or signs.  Also, make note of how many rows of bikes you have to pass before getting to yours.  It can help to put a bright colored towel or shirt in your area or even on your handle bars. Make sure to do a practice walk through transition so you have this route in your head.

-Just like you practice swimming, biking and running, rehearse your transitions.  Organize and lay out your gear in practice and then do the same thing when you get to the race. Keep in mind that you may have less room when you get to the race site, so be flexible and adapt.

-While you are walking down to the swim start the morning of the race, make sure to take a moment to check out the swim exit and where you will be running to your bike. Keep an eye out for curbs you might have to run over or potholes / places you could trip.  And once again, visualize where you need to be when you are running out of the water.

-Some races offer volunteers to help you strip off your wetsuit. If they offer you help, take it!  Those things can be hard to get off.  One tip is to put sportslick or body glide directly on the wetsuit on the lower leg openings.  Also putting a little on the back of your hands helps getting the sleeves off.

-Rubber band your bike shoes to the bike frame like a pro.  The fastest way to get on your bike and start riding right away is to have your shoes already clipped into your pedals before you jump on the bike. Most triathlon shoes have a loop in the back that can be used to loop a rubber band from there to somewhere (a bolt or screw) on the frame.  You place your feet on top of the shoes and start pedaling and within the first few minutes slide your feet into your shoes and fasten them.  The rubber band will break. If you try this, practice it first!

Transition training can also be fun for everyone from the athlete to their support team…have fun training!

Transition 2:  Transition from biking to running

-Scout out exactly where the dismount line is.  You want to be ready to hop off the bike at the appropriate place and not get a penalty for going over the line.  Just like I mentioned above, do a walk through to navigate the best route to your bike stand.  For example, pass 7 rows and make a left.  If you used a bright colored towel or shirt – look out for it.

-Put elastic laces in your running shoes.  Huge time saver.  Also, roll your socks in to a donut shape so you can easily unroll them and slide them on.

-Have a bottle of XRCEL ready to drink.  Unscrew the cap and then lightly close it, so it will be quicker to drink.  Drink it as you are running through the transition area.

-Also, have a bottle of water with your things. You never know if you’ll come off the bike thirsty, or if it’s hot it can be handy to have it there to cool you down.

The most important thing about transitions is to stay calm. When you get out of the water, take a deep breath and think about your mental map to your bike.  If you get back to your bike and your things have been knocked around, stay focused and make sure you collect everything you need.  The more focused and calm you are, the more efficient the transition will be.

And, don’t forget to practice the details before the race!

KIS Athletes in Full Bloom at Wildflower Triathlon

It was a “wild” weekend of triathlon racing for the KIS Coaching athletes as they took on the iconic Wildflower Triathlon. Located in Central California’s beautiful Monterey, our XRCEL-sponsored KIS athletes came up roses as they turned in some superb individual performances, while showing off some early season fitness.

Leading the way for the KIS Coaching athletes were Carrie Lester, who finished second overall amongst the elite women, and Scott DeFilippis, who finished sixth overall amongst the elite men. DeFilippis, one of the founders of KIS Coaching, focuses on combining hard work with fun to help athletes of all levels meet their personal goals of making personal improvement. With no pro racing field in 2017, many of the elites were excited to get back to this one-of-a-kind event.

“As a Professional it’s very important to support events like Wildflower as they make a point in supporting the pros. Even after a year hiatus due to the drought in California, the race returned and still offered a $40k purse paying the top 10 men and women,” said DeFilippis.

However it’s not just the money that keeps the pros and age-groupers signing up for what is not just a race, but a weekend long experience. No matter what you enjoy in life, there is something for everyone. From wine tasting to beer gardens, music performances to painting while you sip, and from helicopter tours to yoga; the fun is endless and extends well beyond the triathlon race alone. Often called the “Woodstock of Triathlon,” you can choose to join the other campers and sleep under the stars or treat yourself to some comfortable night’s rest at the Wildflower Wellness Spa. You might even throw in a pre or post race massage during your stay.

Even with so many appealing activities, the triathlon is still considered the main event. At 35 years old, Wildflower has not only been around more than most races, but it consistently offers an honest, challenging race course, combined with the beauty of Mother Nature.

Wildflower is a very important part of our sports history. It’s unique race site in the middle of nowhere makes for a communal setting. It’s everything this sport was meant to be about, a tough as nails course that makes for fair racing,” added DeFilippis. “The location in Central California really can’t be beat in terms of venue location, tourism opportunities such as wine tasting or sightseeing along the Pacific Ocean, and near perfect weather.”

Preparing for the demanding race course takes a combination of triathlon training as well as dialing in your nutrition plan. Lester, who has cracked the Ironman distance code over the last couple of seasons, earning a top-10 finish in the last two Ironman World Championships, has found the right solution for staying fully fueled for the half distance races.

“In a half distance race, I will have three bottles of XRCEL with me for the bike versus five bottles for a full. On the run, I drink one in T2 and then carry another with me for the rest of the race,” said Lester.

Not only did the KIS Coaching pros turn in a stellar day out on the Wildflower course, but eight age-group athletes persevered through the grueling course. XRCEL is proud to fuel all of our KIS Coaching athletes and want to say a huge congratulations to all of them for hanging tough, working hard, and “fueling smarter!” Congrats on your outstanding age-group accomplishments!

Chris Deptula 46th in the 40-44 Age Group

Veronica Eguia 10th in the 30-34 Age Group

Megan Gibney 13th in the 40-44 Age Group

Richard Kane: 10th in the 45-49 Age Group

Olga Lech 28th in the 30-34 Age Group

Louis Mancuso 15th in the 50-54 Age Group

Amelia McKraken 6th in the 30-34 Age Group

Michael Villane 20th in the 50-54 Age Group

Performance Nutrition Basics – Leg Three

Protein: Really the superstar?

Most Americans eat more protein than they need each day.  Intake beyond the body’s needs is unnecessary & can possibly have negative effects.  The big question is, what are the body’s needs?  Obviously, each person’s protein needs are different, and those needs depend on many factors.  Here are some guidelines:

Average adult (non-athlete):  0.8grams per kilogram body weight per day (about 55g/day for an average 150-pound person)

Endurance athlete (depends on training cycle): 0.8-2.0g/kg/day (55-135g/day for an average 150-pound athlete)

Other athlete with goal of building body mass: 1.4-1.8g/kg/day (127-163g/day for an average 200-pound athlete)

But here’s where the rubber meets the road: how do those numbers translate into actual food choices?

2 eggs–12g

4 ounces chicken breast–35g

4 ounces salmon–25g

1/2 cup black beans–8g

1/4 cup almonds–8g

various grains/veggies throughout the day (2 slices bread, 1 cup brown rice, 1 sweet potato)–13g

Total protein intake: 101g

This is, of course, more than what is necessary for average adults and even most athletes, except for endurance athletes during their pre-race cycle, and larger athletes looking to build mass.  All that would be required to meet any higher recommendation would be slightly larger portions.  The bottom line is, you can get all the protein your body needs to function properly, and satisfy the demands of athletic training and competition, from a healthy balanced diet. If, however you don’t have access to, or time to make, balanced meals, there are options for supplementation. At least now you will know how much protein you really need and can decide accordingly what to consume and when to consume it. Here are some of the healthiest sources of protein:

  • Chicken, turkey, ham, fillet steak, or seafood cooked in a healthy manner (grilled, baked, broiled; not fried)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Beans or legumes

Protein does, of course, have important functions in the body:

  • Maintenance & repair of body tissue (muscle, hair, skin, eyes, organs, etc.)
  •  Enzymes
  •  Hormones (insulin, secretin, etc.)
  •  Antibodies (read: immune system)

These functions are certainly important, but the functions of all the other nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fat, water, fiber) should not be considered any less important.  Getting more protein than what you need is not going to enhance or increase any of these functions/processes.  Also, excess intake of protein can be stored as fat and, depending on the sources of protein, could lead to high intake of saturated fat (see “Performance Nutrition Basics, Leg Two; Demystifying Fats”).

Just remember, all of the nutrients are important; we just need different amounts of them.  Finding a balance may be tough sometimes, but a little planning ahead can go a long way towards a healthy, balanced diet.

Janet Carter, MS, RD, LD, CPT, CLS
Dietitian/Sports Nutritionist
Endurance Athlete
dietjc24@yahoo.com
774-400-7566

Coming Soon: Performance Nutrition Basics, Leg Four; Vitamins, Minerals and Water

This blog is written using the most updated scientific information available.  The author has no financial stake in anything that’s discussed, nor is she benefiting financially from writing the blog article.  In other words, you are receiving un-biased, science-based sports nutrition information from an experienced professional who is also a seasoned endurance athlete.

Performance Nutrition Basics, Leg Two

Demystifying Fats

Over the decades, the public’s opinion of dietary fat has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other & back again.  Fat is important for many of the body’s functions and components.  The confusion stems from the fact that some fats are healthy and some are not as much.  The healthiest fats are the unsaturated fats, which mostly come from plants and fish.  The not-so-healthy ones are the saturated fats, which primarily come from animals.  Notice I didn’t say “bad” when talking about saturated fats.  You do not have to avoid them completely, but just be careful not to take in too much.  High intake of saturated fats over time can lead to higher levels of LDL-cholesterol in the blood, which can then lead to clogging of the arteries (atherosclerosis).   Trans fats, on the other hand, are very bad for us & should be avoided.  Here are sources of all three:

Unsaturated fats (usually liquid at room temperature):

Plant oils, such as olive oil, canola oil, corn oil

Nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters

“Buttery” spreads that come in a tub (best are Smart Balance, Earth Balance, Benecol); these are not “fake”, but a blend of unsaturated oils

Avocado

Olives

Fatty fish

Saturated fats (usually solid at room temperature):

Butter

Meat fat/high-fat meats (steak, ground beef, bacon, sausage, processed meats, etc.)

Lard

Any foods that have been deep fried

Cheese, ice cream and other high-fat dairy

Coconut oil

Trans fats:

Processed foods

Foods that have been deep fried
*Of note—many food manufacturers have been eliminating trans fats from their food processing, knowing that consumers are becoming educated about them

It is best for athletes to strive to get about 20-30% of their calories from fat, depending on their stage of training.  That’s about 55-83 grams of fat per day for someone taking in 2500 calories.  Only about 10% of calories should come from saturated fat.  That translates to no more than about 25 grams of saturated fats for that 2500-calorie diet.

If you choose to try the latest high-fat diet craze (also known as the ketogenic diet), be sure to get the majority of your fat intake from unsaturated fats to prevent any deleterious effects on your cholesterol levels.  Bear in mind, however, that while the ketogenic diet (or any high-fat diet) may be effective in weight loss, it has not been shown to improve performance in athletics (though, in some athletes, weight loss itself can improve performance).

Janet Carter, MS, RD, LD, CPT, CLS
Dietitian/Sports Nutritionist
Endurance Athlete
dietjc24@yahoo.com
774-400-7566

Coming Soon: Performance Nutrition Basics, Leg Three; Protein: Really the superstar?

This blog is written using the most updated scientific information available.  The author has no financial stake in anything that’s discussed, nor is she benefiting financially from writing the blog article.  In other words, you are receiving un-biased, science-based sports nutrition information from an experienced professional who is also a seasoned endurance athlete.

Performance Nutrition Basics – Leg One

A Registered Dietitian & Sports Nutritionists Point of View:

Carbohydrates—What They Are and What They Are Not.

The word “carb” strikes fear into the hearts of many.  Often, carbohydrates are seen as “fattening”.  Here’s the real story: our body needs carbohydrates, but it’s always best to choose the healthiest sources and not to over-indulge.

The main reason why “carbs” get a bad rap is because of what typically comes to mind when the word is uttered: a large plate of pasta, heaping helpings of rice, bagels the size of your face.  Sadly, this mindset is short-sighted.  Carbohydrates are found in many foods; some healthy, some not as much.  Foods that contain carbohydrates are fruit, starchy vegetables (and any product made from them, like French fries and potato chips), foods made from grain/wheat, most dairy products other than cheese (this includes ice cream, too), and anything that contains any type of sugar (candy, cake, pastries, etc.).

When we eat foods containing carbohydrates, they break down into a special kind of sugar called glucose and enter the bloodstream.  To many people, this sounds terrible!!!  Herein lies the confusion.  The truth is, the body requires this blood glucose in order to function.  It is one of our body’s primary sources of fuel.  The problems come about when the source of the carbohydrate is a less healthy food or the amount eaten is too much.  That’s when there is more likelihood for excess to be stored as fat.

For the athlete: despite what you may read online about the latest buzz in endurance nutrition, the tried-and-true best fueling method that’s been proven over decades of research is adequate carbohydrate consumption on a regular basis (future blogs will address fueling during training & competition).  The definition of “adequate” is different for everyone, but it’s always best to choose the healthiest carbohydrates you can.  Here’s a list:

  •  All fruit—don’t believe it if you read that one fruit is any better or worse than any other (unless it has sugar added to it—that’s not as healthy)
  •  Starchy vegetables—potatoes (yes, white potatoes are very healthy, as long as they are minimally adulterated; in other words, not potato chips or French fries), sweet potatoes, corn, peas, winter squash
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains—look for the word “whole” in the ingredients
  • Low fat milk or yogurt (or dairy alternatives)

Janet Carter, MS, RD, LD, CPT, CLS

Dietitian/Sports Nutritionist Endurance Athlete
dietjc24@yahoo.com
774-400-7566

Coming Soon: Performance Nutrition Basics, Leg Two; Demystifying Fats

This blog is written using the most updated scientific information available.  The author has no financial stake in anything that’s discussed, nor is she benefiting financially from writing the blog article.  In other words, you are receiving un-biased, science-based sports nutrition information from an experienced professional who is also a seasoned endurance athlete.

Avoid GI Issues and the dreaded Energy Bonk on Race Day

By Patrick Evoe

I want to ask you a simple question: why don’t you dedicate as much time and energy into perfecting and dialing in your training and race nutrition as you do for your workouts or training plan? I would argue that having a fine tuned nutrition plan is just as important as your race day fitness. It’s also equally important as the time and money you put into having excellent equipment. You need to have confidence on race day that your body will be running its best. I’ve been around triathlon for a long time and I’ve heard loads of athletes give reasons (read: excuses) for why they didn’t perform up to their racing potential. At the top, or near the top of the list is nutrition or gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Only a couple other issues will ruin a race as fast as nutrition problems. Going too hard only to blow up because of muscle fatigue, as well as catastrophic mechanical failure (including flat tires) are the other two top race ruining events. Of course if you show up to a race with an underlying injury, you’re set up for failure even before you double-knot your shoe laces.

Mechanical failure or a flat tire can be just dumb luck or the result of improperly maintained equipment. So that scenario is partially out of your control. Physically blowing up in a race results from improper pacing and an undisciplined race execution. Because of this, I’d argue that blowing up is also in your control. Race nutrition is also in your control if you take the time to devise, test, and then fine tune a race and training nutrition plan. Too many athletes do not take their race and training nutrition as seriously as they should. I think this could be because either they’re too lazy or they don’t understand its importance to their overall race performance. Think about how much time and energy you or your friends dedicate to your training and equipment. If you spent just a fraction of that time perfecting your nutritional plan, you could greatly reduce your chances of having GI issues or a dreaded energy bonk on race day.

I want to discuss what I’ve seen as the two biggest nutritional self-sabotaging mistakes athletes inflict on themselves. The first is the dreaded calorie “bonk.” This is athlete slang for simply running out of energy. This happens when your muscles demand more calories than you have available to use. Without going into the dirty details of your physiological processes, your body takes readily available calories (from what you eat), stored fat (depending on how hard you’re working), and glycogen in your muscles and liver (think your body’s fuel tank that’s filled from the food you eat in the hours and days before you work out), then converts those energy sources into a compound called ATP which is the only fuel your muscles use. I’ve over simplified it here, but if you keep this in mind, you can quickly see that if you’re working hard and don’t have enough calories in your system, at some point your gas tank will be empty and there won’t be any ATP to fuel your body.

When that happens, your body is very smart and knows that it has to protect itself and will shut down before it runs out of fuel for your critical functions (think brain, heart, lungs). When this occurs during exercise, you start to simply feel systemically terrible, maybe dizzy, maybe nauseous, and you just won’t be able to push anymore. You have now officially “bonked.” If you think about it in these terms, it sounds simple to avoid. If you continue to take in calories as you train, especially as the duration of the activity increases, you help to ensure your body always has calories in the fuel tank from which it can draw.

This isn’t as simple as eating and drinking a Thanksgiving’s feast on your swim, bike, or run. That can lead to the next issue I want to discuss. However, spending the time and effort to fine tune exactly how much and the right type of nutritional fuel you can ingest while you train can help you keep your body fueled and running strong on race day.

The flip side of the exercise nutritional equation is taking in too much or the wrong types of fuel while training or racing. This leads to GI issues, including nausea, sloshing stomach, upset stomach, bloating, and/or diarrhea. None of us like to try to deal with those issues while working out. If you take in too many calories per hour versus the intensity level of your activity, you can end up with any of the symptoms on this list. If you take in products with too much or the wrong types of sugar (I’ll explain this in a minute) your GI tract will suffer. You can end up in this same place if the calories are too concentrated in your gut versus the amount of fluid it’s taken with. Even ingesting solid versus liquid forms of fuel, or taking nutritional sources with varying amounts of protein or fat will change your personal nutritional equation and thus how your body reacts. If you aren’t confident that your nutrition plan is tried and true, then you’re leaving your GI tract up to chance on all of these variables.

I mentioned the types of sugar your body uses as fuel. It’s important to understand that not all fuel sources are created equally. Luckily for us, our bodies are very smart and adaptable. As omnivores, our bodies are great at digesting and converting a wide variety of plant and animal caloric sources into usable fuel for our bodies. For exercising, on the other hand, while we CAN use different fuel sources, we perform better using the types of fuels that our bodies most easily and efficiently convert into our muscles’ usable energy. Think about a hot flame. Many items you find will burn in that flame, but some will burn quickly, efficiently, and clean (think alcohols or natural gas), while others give off soot and dirty byproducts (think burning a tire). For sports nutrition, glucose is the most readily available caloric source for your body to convert into usable fuel (remember the ATP we talked about earlier). XRCEL Athlete Fuel uses glucose-loaded micro-gels in its suspension, formulated to release that glucose in your intestines while you exercise. Your intestines are the place where your body can absorb those calories. If you’re fueling with other forms of sugar, carbohydrates, protein, or fat while you’re training, you’re not using that clean, fast, efficient fuel your body wants. You’re burning the tire rubber instead of the Formula 1 race car fuel. This is why XRCEL is a superior exercise nutrition product. It is designed specifically to be the best at giving your body what it needs.

As you start to work on your nutrition in training, its critical that you try to test your nutrition under different scenarios. Testing a nutritional plan a couple times in training and then assuming it will be perfect on race day is one of the biggest errors I’ve seen athletes make. First, the intensity you train at is not always the same as your race intensity. As you stress your muscles and cardiovascular system more, it changes how your digestive system works. If you go out for a long easy ride while chatting with friends, I can guarantee that your GI is working very differently than it will on race day, unless of course, your race day pace is the same as your long, easy, chatting pace. Also, think about how much time you spend stopped during training sessions. Every time you stop at a red light, stop for the bathroom, stop to refill water bottles, stop to change a tire, or stop to tie a shoe. Every time you stop in training, your heart rate drops and it becomes easier for your body to digest the calories you’ve been ingesting. I know it’s very hard to have a perfect race simulation in training, and physiologically it’s not always good to do them, but you need to find ways to do workouts where you can stress your body like a race to see how it reacts to your nutrition plan. If you don’t, you’re rolling the dice on race day.

The second variable to consider for your nutrition plan is the environmental conditions. Hot versus cold, humid versus arid will change between your training and racing environments. This will not only affect your sweat rates, but also how your stomach reacts to different amounts of fuel. I know most of us cannot travel around the world to test our nutrition in different climates, but you need to find ways to keep testing your plan. This is one reason that testing your nutrition year-round is helpful. If you’re only testing on nice warm 80-degree summer days, what happens if your race day comes and a freak cold front blows in? How does your stomach react when you’re biking hard in temperatures in the 40s and 50s? Failing to test how your GI system changes for different environmental conditions is another area where I’ve seen athletes make major mistakes.

After reading this, I hope you understand why it’s important to focus on perfecting your nutritional plan. I also hope you have learned a few factors many athletes overlook while testing their plans in training. The key to all of this is to start with your initial plan, then test, test, test in training. Try different types of workouts and different environmental conditions throughout the year. Try taking in more calories, then when you think it’s too much, try backing off. You need to think of yourself as Goldilocks and find the nutritional plan that just right for YOU. I recommend XRCEL because it’s designed specifically with all of these factors in mind. It’s designed with the best type of fuel for your body as you exercise, so you don’t have to worry about using different nutrition products. You just need to figure out how much XRCEL to drink and balance that with your overall hydration plan. Don’t leave anything up to chance. This is one area where you have a lot of control in your training and racing. You can understand after reading this why I find it both perplexing and disappointing when athletes have their races ruined because they didn’t place as much importance on their nutrition as they did on their training and equipment.

Stay out of trouble, Turn up the Base: the Importance of Base Training for Marathon Runners.

By Patrick Evoe

     “I’m just working on my base for a while”

     “I’m just doing base miles right now”

We hear athletes saying these phrases like a broken record during the off season. I think sometimes athletes are saying it because they know it’s what they are supposed to say this time of year. The question is, when it comes to putting in the base miles, do they know why they are doing it, and are they doing it in the right way to gain the most benefit for their marathon racing. All phases and types of workouts have a specific purpose in your training cycle. I think sometimes base training is marginalized or over simplified because athletes don’t know its importance or how to incorporate it into their training cycles.

Base training usually coincides with your initial training period as you start your build towards your peak fitness. Athletes can spend 2-4 months during this phase working on their foundational fitness. What you do in training and how you do it during this phase directly impacts your peak fitness potential as you approach your key race. The base training is the time when you build your aerobic engine and efficiency. There are several physiological reasons why base training increases your aerobic capacity. It increases the number and density of cellular mitochondria, which produce energy. It also improves your capillary systems, or the tiny blood vessels delivering blood to your tissues and organs. Think of this as improving your cardiovascular system’s plumbing by increasing the number of pipes. When it’s time to do the more intense work, the increased volume of your pipes will allow more blood flow so you can go harder.

The second aspect of base training that many athletes lose sight of during this phase is functional strength. Not only do you want to increase your aerobic engine, you want to increase your functional running strength through both “on road” strength work as well as work in the gym. Putting both of these together will help your muscular endurance as you move into future training phases.

The more you work on your aerobic engine now, the greater capacity you’ll have to do harder sessions as you start working your other systems. The stronger you are as you start adding more intensity the more power or force you can produce. It’s a pretty straight forward concept. I’ve always liked the analogy of thinking of your fitness as a pyramid. The bottom of the pyramid is your base aerobic fitness. The next layer up is your strength and muscular endurance. As you move up the pyramid, you have your tempo work, threshold, and anaerobic systems. The larger base you have on your pyramid, the higher you can build it. The reason it’s called base training is because it truly is the foundation of your fitness.

During your foundation period, it’s also an excellent time to work on your training and racing nutrition. Because XRCEL is a newer product to the world of marathoning, you may not have had the opportunity to try it in your training and racing. Many athletes struggle with gastrointestinal (GI) issues during races from using gels and/or sports drinks. XRCEL’s patented micro-gel technology ensures that the glucose-loaded packets of calories are delivered in the right concentration, to the right place in your GI, and remains there longer to increase your body’s caloric absorption without upsetting your GI. In other words, during your base miles, its a great time to start experimenting with XRCEL as part of your exercise nutrition plan. Find the best formula for how many bottles of XRCEL per hour you like. Try drinking XRCEL before your sessions for increased energy during those workouts. You want your nutrition to be dialed in and spot-on come race day. The only way you’ll get to that point is to start working now and finding how incorporating XRCEL into your sessions works best for you.

Now that you understand what base training is and how it’s beneficial to your marathon training, let’s discuss how to incorporate it into your training to be the most effective. The aerobic component is best done by slowly increasing your mileage (both through frequency and duration) throughout your base phase, but doing most of that training at a low heart rate. This is best accomplished by establishing a heart rate ceiling. That’s your speed limit, keep your heart rate under that number. You’ll need to find your own aerobic threshold. There are a lot of articles and on-line references describing self-tests to establish your threshold heart rate. From your aerobic threshold, you can establish your training heart rate zones. Your base miles are best done in zone 2 which is your aerobic pace. During your base phase, the majority of your miles should be here. You should slowly and carefully increase your running frequency (runs per week) and total mileage in this zone. The more time you spend here, the stronger aerobic engine you’re building.

While most of your time should be done in this zone, that’s not to say you shouldn’t do any faster work. It’s good to do some work to maintain foot speed. The trick is to incorporate some faster efforts periodically without turning your run into a tempo run. You want to stay south of heart rate zone 3. Your goal is to avoid that “gray zone” or junk miles which is the feeling that you’re running pretty hard, but not too painful. The best way to maintain leg speed during your base period without training in the gray zone is to incorporate short fartlek efforts into your zone 2 runs. Try spacing out one minute hard efforts into your run, but allow enough time between each effort for your heart rate to come down and you still get time in zone 2. This will help when it’s time to start picking up the pace in your next training phase, your legs will still have some snap.

Now let’s talk about strength, but more specifically functional strength. This is not about how much can you squat or dead lift, but rather building total body strength that’s directly applicable to your running. During your base phase, I think it’s the perfect time to work on your functional strength. Too many runners think the base phase is all about slow long miles. You want to come out of this period strong and with a great aerobic engine so your body can take the intensity as you start adding those sessions later in the year.

 You can always work on your functional strength in the gym. One to three gym sessions per week, depending on the athlete and how much time you have will build a great foundation. You want to work on your core, plyometrics, major muscle groups, but also work on mobility and activation exercises. There are a lot of resources where you can learn specific exercises or routines to get the specificity for the most benefit. Don’t worry, I can tell you that you won’t get “too big” by doing gym work. That’s an antiquated fear that circulates around old school endurance athletes and especially runners. I can tell you for certain that all of the top professional and Olympic distance runners spend a lot of time in the gym working on their strength. Take some time to talk to your coach, trainers at your gym, or research for yourself to find an effective gym routine to work on your base strength this winter.

In addition to the gym, working on your functional strength while running out on the road or trails is one of the best ways to prepare for the coming marathon season and also to take your gym work and apply it directly to running. Remember that during this base period, you’re still working on your aerobic engine, so when you do any strength work in the field, the focus is on the muscle resistance and not on stressing your cardiovascular system. Try finding long hills that are not too steep and incorporate them into your runs. As you run up the hills, don’t focus on sprinting, but rather try to pick up your knees and really drive down and engage your glutes. I’ve found it especially effective on steeper sections to bound up, almost like you’re doing a jump from one stride to the next. Think of it as an over exaggeration of your normal running stride. To do this you’ll need to really slow down your pace and think of using your leg drive to propel you up as much as forward. You’ll feel the muscle fatigue building in your quads and glutes as you bound up the hill, but you’ll be able to keep your heart rate more aerobic than if you sprint up the hill like most impatient runners.

Another great way to incorporate functional strength into your base phase is to put in sets of plyometrics directly after a run. As soon as you stop your run back at your car or home, try going right into sets of squat jumps, single leg hops, double leg hops, bounding, walking lunges, and you can even throw in sets of jump rope. You’ll already be fatigued from your run, so you’ll need to really focus to keep your form and push to get the most out of this strength work. If you can incorporate uphill bounding and post-run plyometrics into your normal running to supplement your base work this winter, I think you will notice significant strength gain come springtime.

There is one more, little talked about, benefit to having a base phase as part of you your marathon build. I’m referring to the mental rewards. First, if you’re working on your base running as I’ve described here, you’re giving yourself a mental break from the intensity of tempo runs, track sessions, and other similar hard work. Even though strength work is challenging in its own right, it’s very different than that “I want to cry, this run is so hard” type intensity. Think of this time as important to recharge your mental and emotional batteries. You’ll need that mental energy as you start the big build to your key event. Execute your base phase correctly and you will be mentally fresh when you need to dig deep. The second mental benefit is that if you have a proper base training phase, you will have the confidence that you are stronger and have a better aerobic engine that ever before. You will know that because of this, your body will be able to handle a bigger work load for the rest of the year, setting yourself up for your biggest peak just in time for your “A” race this season.

One Bad Habit at a Time

By Scott Turner

In endurance sports, there is no shortage of amazing stories. At every turn, we are surrounded by stories of people overcoming incredible challenges through the discipline of endurance sports. Be it mental health, addiction, physical limitations or personal tragedy, many people have turned to endurance sports for help. I love hearing these stories as they remind me that all this splashing, pedaling, and running around I do can be so much more than simple exercise. It makes me feel as though the sport I love so much is part of something larger.

However, I have occasionally felt that a certain effect is lost when viewing these stories from a distance. The inspirational feeling that results from hearing someone tell their amazing story can fade quickly after reading or viewing their presentation. Often, we don’t know these people personally, so while their story is immediately impactful, those feelings aren’t reinforced beyond the initial telling.

This is where I have had an incredible privilege over the last three years or so. I have been part of an inspirational story happening right under my own roof. My Mom, Dorald “Dee” Turner, has undergone a life altering transformation that truly must be seen to be believed, and I am so proud to have even had a small role to play in this story.  I sat down recently to interview her to get her thoughts on where she’s come from and where she’s going. This story begs to be told, and while it may seem similar to so many others you have read, it has some very subtle, yet important, lessons to teach about the power of personal effort.

The roots of this story lie, perhaps unexpectedly, not in endurance sports. In the early part of 2015, my Mom’s weight sits about four hundred and twenty pounds. She cannot run due to extensive damage to her knees, her body prevents her from getting onto a bike, and her lack of self-confidence bars her from getting into a pool. That number, four hundred and twenty pounds, bears remembering, because it’s going to become important very shortly.

My Mom began this journey with very little supports in place to guide her. She simply decided that enough was enough, and this was something she was going to take on. She wanted to live a healthier life and take on the weight problem that had plagued her since early adulthood.  She stressed to me that she knew that change wasn’t going to happen overnight, and she had to be realistic about her goals. Her only driving force behind this undertaking was, “focus on one bad habit at a time.”

Fast forward to a date that she marks very specifically, October 18, 2015. She explains to me that this was the date of her first information session. Having already made drastic diet and lifestyle changes, she decided that her next steps were inside a selective weight loss program through Holy Cross Hospital. At this meeting, she learns all the requirements she will have to meet to qualify for her ultimate goal, a gastric bypass surgery. This surgery would decrease the size of her stomach allowing her to attain the drastic weight reduction that was needed to safeguard her health. In addition to further weight loss as a requirement of this program, she would be required to attend two ninety-minute weight loss courses, two three-hour infoormation sessions, several mental health screenings, numerous nutritionist appointments, and submit detailed food journals for her six to nine month attendance in the program. At the end of which, her case would be presented to a panel of doctors to ultimately decide whether to approve her for the surgery.

The ferocity with which my Mom took on this challenge was astounding. She underwent what she described as a, “total lifestyle change both physically and mentally.” She attended her first official meeting in November of 2015, and she was off to the races. She passed all her initial screenings with flying colors, and she managed to lose eighty more pounds during her time in the program even before the surgery.

At the end of the program, she was given some amazing news; she was approved for her surgery, and the date was set. She remarks, with a big smile, that they gave her July 5th, 2016, “my Independence Day.”

After recovery, she made quick use of her independence; she continued and even built on the lifestyle changes made within the program, completed three five-kilometer races, and became a spokesperson for her program. She has been invited to numerous meetings to speak to potential members and offer her story as a beacon of hope. She’s quietly made herself a resource to the other alumni of the program and helps to keep wavering members from losing their way when the post-surgery life gets more complicated.

All this progress still rings through today. At the time of writing, my Mom sits at one hundred and thirty-eight pounds. A total weight loss of about two hundred and eighty pounds. As we sit together in her kitchen in Western Maryland for the interview, she informs me proudly that she has logged two years straight in her food journal app as of that date. She tells me with an unmistakable glimmer in her eye about her plans for the future. She has already registered for several more five-kilometer races, an all women eight-kilometer race, and she will make her outdoor triathlon debut this June as her and I race together at the Escape the Cape Triathlon Series in Cape May, New Jersey.

I asked her what made her story different from all the other inspirational stories that we are told about in endurance sports. She thinks for a moment, and she tells me that her story stands out because it’s a victory on two fronts. She explains that she overcame her physical limitations in the weight loss, but the harder fought battle was the mental one. She had to overcome all the feelings of self-hatred and self-doubt, and she had to “know, really know, that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I stuck my mind to it.”

For my final question of our evening interview, I asked my Mom which steps of a race did she think were the most important, the first ones or the last ones. True to form, she picked the last ones. She remarked that the last ones are where you learn the most. I would contend that they are also where you have the greatest opportunity to teach. This, I believe, is the true power of my Mom’s story. There have been so many finish lines for this journey of hers, many opportunities for her to be “done,” and yet she continues to use her journey to teach and inspire. She has recognized that while a journey may end at some destination, the echoes of that final footfall ripple into something so much larger than can be seen. I think that her story teaches that the true power of endurance sports, or any undertaking for that matter, come from mindful participation, deliberate effort, and an awareness of the effect we can have on others.

A Busy Mom’s Secret Weapon for Getting Through the Day

When I became pregnant recently, my professional athlete’s training load was greatly reduced, and along with it my consumption of XRCEL…or so I thought.

I quickly found that with my body working in overtime to grow a human, even the shortest of workouts demanded the proper pre- and post-workout fueling that XRCEL provides. And what surprised me the most is that on my off days of exercise, I was still reaching for XRCEL to power me through days of parenting while pregnant.

I started always keeping a bottle or two in my car, in case I started feeling low on energy while stuck in a traffic jam or if I needed a boost before going grocery shopping. Those may sound like easy tasks, but at 8 months pregnant with two other little kids to wrangle, it feels like running intervals!

I also now always keep an XRCEL in my purse. It has saved me a few times recently – most notably while touring elementary schools (with lots of stairs) for my older daughter and while chaperoning a pre-school field trip. 

 So my theory is, if it’s good enough to fuel you through a grueling 12 hour race, why not use it to fuel you through a (just as hard) day of parenting? 

Bec

Training on XRCEL Athlete Fuel (and a Special Offer)

While XRCEL Athlete Fuel is a fantastic fueling source for your races it can be just as valuable of a tool in training.  Carrie Lester and I have been using XRCEL regularly for 2 going on 3 years now. At first we came on as ambassadors to help us in our races but we quickly found that XRCEL was helping us get through some really tough workouts in which we were going in under fueled for a variety of reasons….

Prior to using XRCEL I very rarely would use a GEL in training.  Between the consistency of traditional gels, and the goopy mess they can leave on your hands and face, I saved them for races only…But with XRCEL, it’s easy ready to drink bottle packaging, and liquid consistency, I found it much easier and cleaner to consume.

So, when do we use it in training? Most don’t realize this but many triathletes are walking Zombies because we are running low on calories. This is especially the case when an athlete is in the middle of a high volume training block.  In our case we typically swim 4-5 days a week first thing. Most days it’s a coffee and off to the pool. I typically save breakfast for post swim workouts mostly because of the lack of appetite in the morning.  For any swim session longer than 1 hour I take an XRCEL mid swim.  I can’t tell you how many early morning swims have been turned around after taking an XRCEL just before starting the main set….

Days when we run first thing I use the same principle of anything over an hour I either take an XRCEL before starting a run or I carry one with me that I’ll take after 30 mins of running.  Somedays if I’m dragging a bit or feel I didn’t eat enough the day before I’ll take an XRCEL before a run and then also carry one with me.

Longer bike days which are typically midweek and on the weekends, I’ll have breakfast but as mentioned if I don’t have much of an appetite I’ll take an XRCEL before rolling out for my ride.  Then typically take 1 or 2 more with me that I’ll carry in my jersey pockets to take as I need.

On brick session days I’ll normally have 1 XRCEL before heading out for my run, simulating what I do in races, consuming 1 bottle in T2 from Bike to Run.

Some of the other ways we like to train on XRCEL are for late afternoon or early evening sessions. Let’s say for example we have a double run day or a day in which we ride in the morning and come back in the evening with a run. These days will be a bit lighter on the lunch so that we aren’t feeling bloated or running on a stomach full of food.  On these days I can feel that I am a bit hungry and if I didn’t have a PM Session I’d have a much bigger lunch, so to insure I don’t crash and burn mid workout I’ll take and XRCEL before starting the workout.

So, as you can see, we are typically consuming at least 1 XRCEL per day to keep us topped in order to maximize our training days.  You might be asking yourself how we keep up on our supply of XRCEL?  Well, every month we get a delivery of 2 big boxes each filled with 36 bottles of XRCEL, 1 for Carrie and 1 for me.  If you are interested in signing up for automatic shipments of XRCEL please send an e-mail to Customerservice@XRCEL.com and the XRCEL team will work with you to get set up. Feel free to use our code SDXRCEL to get a 15% discount.

Thanks for reading and we hope this little bit of fueling strategy will prevent you from running on empty while you are pursing your athletic endeavors

Yours In Sport!

Scottie D.