5 Real life signs of overtraining or a need for a rest day

By Carrie Lester, Pro Triathlete and Coach

I am not a doctor, an exercise scientist, or any other scholar when it comes to identifying signs of overtraining or when we as athletes are simply in need of a few easy days. I am, however a coach and an athlete, and have years of experience racing as a professional athlete in my body and mind. It has taken a long time to recognize the clear signs that I am on the edge, and I see similar signs in athletes I coach as they are Age Group athletes managing work, kids, training, social commitments and basic life chores. These are my top 5 signs:

1. Mood.

This one for me is the screaming sign I am in need of some easier days.

Feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, low self esteem, low everything…it starts to become consuming. Why? Without getting into the science = HORMONES.  What we do places an awful amount of stress on our body and mind and eventually our hormones start flipping out. They control everything. When I find myself in tears for no apparent reason, its time for a rest.

2. Food choices.

Where’s the sugar?? I want it ALL the time. Hormones are out of whack, mood is down, what is going to make me feel better…SUGAR! Most of the time I eat a balanced, healthy diet. But when I am at a low point, I make bad choices. Then feel worse because I made the bad choice. And turns out it didn’t make me feel better.

3. Strength & Power.

I have none. Just deep fatigue. In any discipline I am fighting myself in whatever I do. My legs, arms, everything is heavy, and no matter how much time I give myself to “clear the pipes” in sessions it just doesn’t happen and usually ends in tears (a little over exaggerated but known to happen). 80% efforts are capped at 60% if I am lucky because I can’t go any faster, my heart won’t let me. Hills become mountains and I scramble up them.  The list goes on.

4. Sleep.

It’s restless. And not enough to recover and feel rejuvenated. I always wake feeling I want more and am usually in a pretty deep brain fog. Don’t talk to me until I have had a cold shower and coffee (which at these times you should try and avoid!)

5. The scientific signs.

As I said, I’m no scientist, but it doesn’t take one to know that what we do creates inflammation within us. At times, this will create inflammatory conditions that will show as red flags should you have blood tests or ASI tests done. THIS DOESN’T MEAN A DOCTOR PUTS YOU ON MEDICATION. I REPEAT, YOU DO NOT NEED MEDICATION. Most of these conditions WILL stabilize with the correct diet, rest and lifestyle. If they don’t, then you should seek professional help and consider other options.

If you start noticing any or all of these signs communicate with your coach (if you have one) and plan a few easy days until your signs start to turn around.  Note, I said easier days. NOT days OFF.  Sometimes taking full days off is not what we type A people need, but in extreme cases may be ok with doing so. Consider it a time of adaptation to come back stronger.

It’s important to recognize the signs and not take it out on others or ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up, but instead treat your body and mind to a few days of R&R. Eat well, sleep as much as you can, back the training off, take a mini break, go out with friends and have a good laugh. Your body & mind will thank you!

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.

10 Tips for Improving your Open Water Swimming

by Patrick Evoe

     The swimming portion of a triathlon is the triathlon discipline which gives many amateur triathletes the most anxiety. If you had a competitive swimming background before taking up triathlon, then you’re in the minority. For the rest of us, we took up swimming later in life and with that comes challenges. We do most of our swimming training in a pool, then on race day we plunge into the open water. This environment differs from the pool, requiring additional know-how to be able to thrive. As a professional triathlete, swimming was never my strength, so I had to study, practice, and learn the unique set skills open water swimming requires. If you’re looking to improve your open water swimming for next year, read through and incorporate my tips for your upcoming season.

1) Comfort – As you read on, you’ll notice that most of the content I present all relates to making you more comfortable in the open water. The swimming pool is a very controlled environment. The water’s visibility is pristine. The lines on the bottom of the pool keep you swimming straight. The lane lines prevent collisions with other swimmers. The walls and lane lines limit the amount of surface chop and waves. There’s no dangerous aquatic life. The water is usually a pleasant temperature. To most people’s comfort, you’re never more than a few meters from a wall where you can stop if you get in trouble. When you enter an open water environment, depending on the conditions where you’re swimming, you are encountering the exact opposite of all of those attributes of a swimming pool. If you’re used to this nice, safe, controlled space where you do all of your swimming, then it’s no wonder many athletes are uncomfortable when they swim in the open water. Everything you work on in your preparation for open water should include ways to make you more comfortable. The more comfortable you are out there, the better you’re going to swim.

2) Composure – First and foremost, you need to learn to keep your composure, even when it’s dicey. The environment and the competitors around you can lead to stressful situations. You first need to teach yourself to keep your composure. Trust in your swimming training and preparation. If something spooks you, you need to go into problem solving mode instead of panic mode. Don’t dwell on the fear or panic, focus on finding a solution, then move on. In my 10 years racing as a professional triathlete, I’ve had a lot of things happen in races from being stung by jelly fish to getting a black eye from being kicked in the face. You need to have the mindset to be able to stay calm and manage any situations that arise out there.

3) Nutrition – Before you train in the open water or race, you need to make sure you’re properly fueled. The main difference between here and training at a swimming pool, or your bike or run training for that matter, is that you won’t have access to nutrition while you’re swimming. Some athletes will keep a water bottle at the side of the pool to drink during swim practice, but once you’re out in a lake or the ocean, there aren’t opportunities to take on fuel or fluids. XRCEL is the perfect nutritional product to fuel your open water swimming. For a morning race, I make sure to have a bottle of XRCEL first thing when I wake up so my body can begin taking on calories even while I’m making breakfast. I make sure to have another bottle about an hour before the start gun, then a final bottle anywhere from 15-30 minutes before the start. This way, I’m continuing to top-off my fuel tanks with XRCEL. I know the extended release formula will fuel me throughout the swim. Then if it’s a triathlon, after the swim, as soon as I get on my bike, I begin drinking XRCEL to start filling my fuel tanks for the rest of the race. Make sure to think about your nutrition plan leading into your open water swimming and using XRCEL to get the most out of your performance.

4) Conditions – The open water swim environment can host a variety of different conditions that can affect your swimming, comfort level, sighting and visibility. Waves, surface chop, swells, rain, clouds, sun glare, murky water, aquatic life, water temperature, air temperature, salt water, wind, and currents will make each swimming venue different. Your best ally to dealing with these conditions is experience and scouting. The more you swim in different conditions, the more you’ll be comfortable. If you have a few days at a race venue before your event, it can be very valuable to take the time to scout out the conditions. Practice swimming in them. Try to swim as close to the time of day that your race will be so you can understand and prepare for lighting conditions. Talk to other athletes or local swimmers to try to learn as much as you can about the nuances of that swim venue. The more you experience and understand you have of different open water swimming conditions, the more comfortable (and faster) you’ll be on race day.

5) Sighting – Navigating in a pool isn’t even a skill discussed because it’s irrelevant. You have the black lines on the bottom and the walls and lane lines as you breath or in your peripheral to ensure you swim in a straight line. In a lake or the ocean, there aren’t any easy indicators to ensure you’re swimming straight or the most direct route. If you’re navigation is off, then you’ll swim further as you zig-zag your way around the course. The way to counteract your misdirection is to sight, or briefly look up as you swim along. The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to do this without breaking your stroke and slowing you down. You need to be aware that when you look up while swimming, your legs drop in the water, adversely affecting your body position in the water. This slows you down. If you can practice only raising your eyes as high in the water as you need while looking forward, you’ll maintain better speed. The more you practice, the more it will be come part of your stroke’s rhythm. The timing and looking forward will become natural. You’ll need to find out for yourself the best frequency of sighting for you. If you swim pretty straight naturally, you’ll sight less often. If your natural navigation leads you to and fro, you’ll want to sight more frequently. I found that sighting every six strokes works for me most of the time. When I get closer to a buoy or in a situation where more precise navigation is required, I tend to sight every four strokes.

6) Entry/Exit – Every open water swimming race will have a unique swimming start and swimming exit. Some races have “deep water” starts where you’ll swim to an imaginary start line (usually between two buoys), then tread water until the start gun. Some you’ll start in ankle deep or waist deep water. Others you’ll have a beach start where you run into the water and then start swimming. Take the time before the race to scout out and learn about the swim entry. How long will you run before it’s deep enough to dive and start swimming. Can you dolphin dive for a distance before you start swimming (a fast way to move forward with little energy; look up dolphin diving for more information). Are there sand bars where after swimming out, you’ll stand up again and run for a few yards? Are there waves, if so where do they break? If you can, practice diving under the waves so you’re ready on race day. Are there rocks or debris you need to be aware of if you’re running into the water. I once saw another professional triathlete actually moving rocks in the shallow water away from the path he wanted to run  into the ocean. Experiment if you’re faster running further into deeper water, or starting swimming earlier. All of these can affect the success of your race start.

The same goes for the swimming exit. How quickly does it get shallow? Are there stairs out of the water onto a dock? Debris or rocks you need to be aware of? If there are waves, study the break so you don’t get bashed swimming into shore during the race. If you have the time, learn the basics of body surfing. If you catch a good wave coming into shore, you can ride it in and gap your competitors. If you take the time to learn about and practice your swim entries and exits, you will give yourself and edge on race day.

7) Rubbing’s racing – There’s a great line from the movie Days of Thunder: “rubbin’s racin’!” Body contact with other competitors is inevitable in open water swim racing. In the pool, the most contact you’ll have is the occasional hand or arm slap from someone else if you’re both swinging your arms wide. In an open water race, there will be contact. Some will be intentional by others, but understand that most is unintentional. No one has black lines to follow like the bottom of the swimming pool, so no one (not even you) is swimming a perfectly straight line. You’re going to collide.  Also, because there is a tremendous energy and speed advantage when you draft off another competitor, it’s advantageous to be as close as possible to other swimmers in certain scenarios and positions. You’re bound to bump into each other. You need to be comfortable with that, know that even if you get bumped around, you’ll be fine. Sometimes it slows you down, but if it does, just keep swimming until you get your speed and stroke back. Try not to expend extra energy by “fighting back”. Sometimes if you can think quickly and maneuver to find some clear space, you’ll get right back into your groove. You need to think of open water as a contact sport, embrace it and just go with the flow.

In the summers, the group I train with does one open water swim per week. We practice all of the open water swim techniques I’m discussing here. One of the most valuable parts of that practice is when we get in tight groups and swim around, bumping, playing, wrestling, dunking, and messing with each other as we swim around the lake. It’s a fun way to get used to the contact and learn that even with some bumping, you’ll be okay.

8) Turns – There aren’t any aspects of normal pool swimming that prepare you for turning around a buoy in an open water swim. First of all, if you’re not alone in a race or practice swim, everyone spatially compresses from the sides as we all try to take a tight line into the turn to reduce the total distance. We also compress like an accordion going into a turn and then the pace picks up out of the turn much like car traffic. So you have everyone compressing from all directions going towards one point. This creates an inevitable melee as everyone fights for space. This is a skill that you’ll be better off if you can practice in a controlled setting before a race. In my training squad’s weekly summer swims we use floating docks as turn buoys. If there aren’t docks, we’ve had friends swim out 75-100 meters and tread water to be a human buoy. Then 2-5 of us will swim out to the turn and simulate a  race situation: trying to find the right line, fight for the best position, hold your own around the turn, then accelerate through the turn and get back into your groove. The more I’ve practiced this, the more comfortable I’ve become in races as it gets dicey. If you’re swimming in a group, having great turns can make or break you staying with your group or bridging up to the next fastest group ahead of you.

9) Drafting – Every triathlete and cyclist knows there is an advantage drafting on the bicycle. You gain an energy and efficiency advantage from the reduced wind resistance. Drafting is even more important (and it’s perfectly legal) in open water swimming. Water is 784 times denser than air, so even though you are traveling at a much lower speed swimming than cycling, drafting skills in the open water are critical. The first skill to master is drafting behind another swimmer, just behind their feet. The closer you are, the better the draft. You may even touch the person’s feet periodically, but as long as you’re not doing it constantly, you won’t annoy the lead swimmer. The farther you drift back, the less draft benefit you’ll get. It’s not easy to stay “on someone’s feet”. People don’t swim in straight lines, so you have to keep close tabs on the lead swimmer. I frequently sight and feel with my hands for the bubbles generated by the lead swimmers kick. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.

     Even better than sitting on someone’s feet, best drafting position is just off the leader’s hip, but this requires much more skill and practice. You will receive more drafting benefit when you “board short” someone. This named for board shorts swimsuits indicating that you want to tuck in between the leader’s hip and knee, the area covered by material in board shorts. You need to situate yourself tight to their body and you’ll see the biggest dafting benefits. This requires the most skill and control of your body and swim stroke. If your position or timing is off, you’ll lose the benefit from frequent colliding or swimming over one another. This is a great technique to practice with friends to see if you can get the hang of it.

10) Practice Open Water Races – I brought up earlier that my training squad meets weekly in the summer at a lake to practice every skill I discussed here. We practice our entries and exits by doing relay races from the shore so running in and out is part of your time with your team mates. We use docks as turn buoys or if none are around, have a couple friends swim out and tread water acting as turn buoys to practice our lines going into and out of turns. We practice as well the inevitable melee that comes with turns as well. We practice drafting, getting into tight groups, as well as the bumping that goes on when swimming close. Here in Boulder, we’re lucky enough to have several open water swim races throughout the summer. It’s fun to then take the skills we practice and apply them in a race situation without risking our performance in an “A” triathlon race. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be when it’s race day. Make a point to practice and put yourself into open water race situations so you can be ready to go when it comes time for your goal race.

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

Laurel Wassner: Finding a way to Win on and off the Ironman Course

Many professional triathletes spend their entire career chasing the ultimate prize, an Ironman win. Yet many fall short of the sport’s ultimate prize, but not for a lack of trying, as it is one of the toughest events both physically and mentally. Thanks to hard work, perseverance, and endless preparation, XRCEL ambassador Laurel Wassner is a pro triathlete who will one day walk away from triathlon having stood on the top of the podium after her win at Ironman Taiwan. After battling and surviving cancer earlier in her career, Laurel is not only an Ironman Champion, but the first cancer survivor to win an Ironman event. We caught up with Wassner to find out why she decided to race halfway across the globe, how her race day unfolded, and how she’s recovering from one of the toughest Ironmans on the race calendar.

XRCEL: What made you decide to race Ironman Taiwan, knowing it’s a very difficult race as far as the conditions and terrain? 

Laurel Wassner: I decided to race Ironman Taiwan for a few reasons.  First of all, it fit into my schedule and gave me the entire summer to prepare for the race.  My season got a late start after I raced Israman, a full-distance triathlon, in January and then I took my off-season break.  I knew that I wouldn’t be in peak Ironman form until later in the year, so I decided to target a race in October.  I chose Ironman Taiwan knowing that it is a very hot place and that the conditions would dictate the day, but I know that I tend to race better in hotter climates. Finally, I wanted to have the experience of racing in Asia.

XRCEL: You raced and won Israman, which boasts one of the toughest bike courses in the world, as well as other races with tough bike courses, like Ironman Mont-Tremblant and Wildflower. What has drawn you to races with immensely difficult bike courses?

LW: As a smaller rider, standing at 5’3″ and weighing 110 pounds, I need to choose races that have some hills in order to maximize my strengths and power to weight ratio.  I am a natural climber, but in the past two years I have worked very hard on my time trialing and ability to hold my power steady while in the aero position for hours.

XRCEL: When training for Ironman Taiwan, how did you prepare knowing the challenging course and conditions you would be up against?

LW: Knowing that Ironman Taiwan was more of a battle with the conditions rather than a “fast” Ironman, I focused on getting strong and resilient instead of superfast.  I still did speed work and raced several Olympic Distance races, but the focus was more on making sure I was a strong runner, meaning I could keep pushing throughout the race. I added in a lot of uphill runs, even pushing a 30-pound nephew in a stroller, almost every day for a month.

XRCEL: What is your typical nutrition plan during a full-distance triathlon race?

LW: My nutrition plan consists of 1 bottle of XRCEL before the start of the race to make sure I am fully-fueled and ready to go. Once on the bike, I take 1 XRCEL every 45-50 minutes on the bike, as well as a bottle of sports drink every hour.  On the run, I start with 1 bottle of XRCEL at the beginning and take two more bottles throughout the race.  I also added salt tablets due to the intense heat and humidity.

XRCEL: During Ironman Taiwan, what adjustments did you have to make in your nutrition due to race day issues out of your control?

LW: I pre-hydrated in the days leading up to the race with extra electrolytes as well as extra salt tablets. On the run, I had to take in a lot more fluids that I ever have because of the intense heat and humidity. 

XRCEL: You came out of the water 4 seconds ahead of 2nd place and then put the hammer down on the bike. What was your actual race strategy once you got on the bike?

LW: My strategy for this race was just to race my own race and not worry about anyone else. I knew my biggest challenge was going to be getting through it in such extreme conditions.  I rode the first hour a bit hard, but I didn’t feel out of control, so I kept my pace and power going.  I rode with Charlotte Morel of France for an hour, and put in an effort to get across a windy bridge and get a gap on her.  After the bridge, I was by myself, just sticking to my plan and trying to cool off with water at the aid stations.  XRCEL definitely kept me going strong throughout the heat and the very hilly bike course. I got hot and uncomfortable, but I never felt low on energy.  It was one of those days I never really got tired.

XRCEL: At what point did you realize you had created a 10-minute lead as you started the run and how did that affect your race strategy?

LW: I was still in earshot of the announcer and I heard him announcing 2nd place coming into T2 and saw that I had 10 minutes on her. At that point, I was entering the toughest part of the run and it was a struggle to keep going.  I actually thought I’d have to drop out as it was that unbearably hot.  However, after running four miles, I got some ice and that helped me out. It was at that point I realized that I could keep going, as long as I stayed cool.

XRCEL: Even though you won by a 46-minute margin, were there parts of the day where the race got tough to manage?

LW: I may have won by 46 minutes, but it was a very, very tough run. It was the kind of run where, even with a 30-minute lead, I didn’t know if I could keep going.  I eventually had to stop looking at my pace because it was so slow. I actually ran well at different points of the race, but I walked and stopped at every single aid station.

XRCEL: After battling and beating cancer, what did it feel like to win an Ironman race?

LW: It was overwhelming emotionally because it was my first win at an official Ironman branded race and in extremely tough conditions.  It actually fits really well with my life story.  As I was running down the finisher’s chute, I was pretending that I was high-fiving my family.

XRCEL: What did it feel like to win by such an epic margin at the pro level?

LW: During the race, I still felt like I was going to get caught!  When I saw the results, it was then that I realized I finished sixth overall, men included. I also saw that I had the fourth fastest marathon time overall and one of the few to go sub four hours. It was then that I realized I had done something pretty special out there. It means a lot to me to show my family and supporters that I was able to execute, not only the proper training leading up to the race, but also on race day.

XRCEL What surprised you the most about your race in Taiwan?

LW: I surprised myself by being able to turn around a poor performance in Malaysia the week prior and put in such a dominating performance in Taiwan. I learned that adjusting to that kind of heat, humidity, and time change is very important, but most importantly, I learned not to give up on myself.  I had people telling me I was so fit and such an amazing athlete and I could win, but I think I was the last person to believe it all!  This race taught me to believe in myself.

XRCEL: After racing a grueling Ironman Taiwan, what role did XRCEL play in your recovery?

LW: I had an XRCEL right after the race to help speed along my recovery. I think that XRCEL helps me feel better since it helps replenish my glycogen stores. It’s also easy to get down after an Ironman, when eating is not always easy. I even put one bottle in the fridge in my hotel so it was nice and cold when I got back.

XRCEL: What is the next race on your calendar?

LW: I’m going back to Asia to race the Bohol 5150 in the Philippines.

XRCEL: After the Philippines will you take a break and what will you do in the off season?

LW: My training will be less structured and I will have more time to dedicate to photography work where I will shoot things such as food, lifestyle, and, for the holiday season, I am focusing on portraits of families for holiday cards.  If you’re in the NY/NJ area, send me an email (wassnertwins@gmail.com).  I’m also going to start coaching triathletes and runners and will be announcing details soon. I am really excited for the opportunity to help others achieve their goals.

A Beginners Guide to Power Meters and Cycling with Power

By Patrick Evoe, Professional Triathlete

If you are around serious cyclists, inevitably at some point you will hear them talk about their “power” or “watts”. What are they talking about and is this something you can use in your training and racing?

Power meters are technological tools that have become common place amongst serious cyclists and triathletes over the last couple of decades. As the technology has improved and become more affordable, power meters lately have become within reach of more amateur and recreational athletes. Even some stationary/spin bikes at gyms have power output displayed.

A power meter is a tool that can measure the power you are generating as you cycle and display it as a number on your bike computer. To put it in simple terms, it’s basically measuring how hard you are pushing the pedals versus how fast you’re pedaling. The meter calculates this into the number of watts you are generating. If you keep your pedaling cadence steady but push a harder gear, your watts will go up. If you push the same gear but pedal faster, your watts will also increase. You may find to hold the same power, it may be easier to spin your legs faster in an easier gear. You will quickly find though, by looking at your power, you have a limit where spinning faster just makes you more tired and you find it more comfortable to push a harder gear at a slower cadence.

Because power meters basically display how hard you’re cycling, to use one effectively in your training, most people will perform a test to determine their Function Threshold Power (FTP) in watts. This is, to over simplify it here, the watts you can hold in an all out hour of cycling. There are certain tests to estimate this number. A common one is to bike as hard as you can for 20 minutes, then take 95% of this value to estimate your FTP. When you have that number, you or your coach can use formulas or percentages of that number to tell you what power or how hard you should go in different workouts. This makes the workout very specific to your fitness and ability level. It makes measuring workouts very simple and straightforward.

There are now many manufacturers and styles of power meters on the market. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. This could be a blog topic in and of itself, so I’ll just touch on a few here at a high level. If you plan on purchasing a power meter, I’d recommend spending some time researching more into this area.

Crank based power meters: probably the most popular style of power meter is the crank based power meter. With these, the instrumentation measuring torque is in the bike’s crank. The advantage of this style is that it’s a direct measurement of the strain on the crank arms, so they tend to be accurate. You can also swap training and racing wheels and still be able to use the same power meter. Their disadvantage is that they tend to be the most expensive. Also if you have multiple bikes you like to use, swapping out cranks is not too difficult, but it can be a bit more of a pain than the other two types of power meters.

Hub based power meters: These power meters house the instrumentation in the rear wheel hub. As you pedal, the force you push on the crank is transmitted through the chain to your rear cassette. This is then read in the read hub. The advantage of these meters is that they are less expensive than the crank based meters. They are also very easy to swap between bikes. You just have to swap rear wheels, then go ride. The biggest disadvantage is that if you want to train and race on it, you need to buy two power meters, one in your training wheel and one in your race wheel. This can make it more expensive than the other types. It also significantly increases the weight of your light expensive race wheel.

Pedal based power meters: the newest addition to the market over the last several years have been power meter sensors in your pedals. You can measure power directly from your foot into the pedal. Their advantage is they are portable and can easily be swapped between bikes. Their disadvantage is that the instrumentation makes the pedals bulky and I’ve also heard they are not as accurate as crank or hub based power meters. I’m not sure how true this last statement is, as I’ve never tested any myself.

Now that you understand power meters,  I want to explain why cycling with power can be helpful. Because it is basically measuring how much force you are pushing on the pedals, it is an objective and measurable quantity. It doesn’t matter if you feel good or bad, or if you’re dehydrated, the power number is the number. 200 watts is always 200 watts. What it takes for you to produce that power never changes, only you change. With it, you can easily observe improvements, fatigue, good and bad performances alike. If a certain power was challenging for you to ride earlier in the year and now it’s no problem, you know you’ve improved. If you’re struggling to hold a certain power one day that was easy a few days earlier, you know you are tired. It takes factors like wind and hills and shows you if you are riding steady, too hard in certain sections, or too easy in others.

Heart rate used to be the standard measure for cycling effort, and it still has its uses. But your heart rate can change along with how you feel. If you get dehydrated, your heart rate increases at the same work load, so you’re actually pedaling easier or producing less power at the same heart rate. During hard training sessions or racing, you can also experience cardiac drift where your heart rate climbs at the same effort over time. Where power never changes. You will see your power decrease in these scenarios if you are holding your heart rate steady.

Also your heart rate changes lag your effort changes. Meaning that if you start pushing harder, it can take a couple minutes for your heart rate to elevate to the level reflecting your effort. So if you have short VO2 Max type intervals on the bike, say 30 second to 2 minute maximum efforts, your heart rate won’t elevate until the end of the effort so you won’t know how hard to go. Whereas power will instantaneously show how hard you’re pushing.

An additional benefit of training and racing with power is that you can download your power file after a workout or race to see exactly what you did. You or coach can learn a lot about your performance by examining and analyzing your power file. Maybe you went out too hard and blew up. Maybe you surged too much and didn’t ride nice and steady? These are easy to spot on a power file.Using power isn’t perfect. It’s a great tool, but it does have its limitations and drawbacks. First is to understand that your power is unique to you. It’s easy to talk training and racing power numbers with friends and training partners. This can be tricky because power numbers can vary greatly. First, every power meter reads a little different. I know someone who got a new power meter, same brand, same model, and it read almost 25 watts different. That’s quite a big difference. What’s most important is that you’re looking for relative changes of your power over time. You want to hold 20 watts higher later on. Maybe your friends power meter reads lower or higher than yours.

Also, weight is a huge factor in reading power. Someone who weighs more, requires more power to propel them forward and will have higher power numbers. For that reason, it’s important to look at power to weight ratio rather than just raw power. If you have two professional triathletes racing an Ironman and one holds 260 watts and the other holds 270 watts, who biked better? It depends on weight and ultimately who biked faster. Let’s say the 260 watt athlete weighs 141 lbs, or 64 kgs. Let’s say the other athlete weighs 154lbs, or 70kg, to ride the same power to weight ration as the 64kg athlete, he would have to hold 4.1 watts/kg so that’s 287 watts! That’s 27 watts more for weighing 13 lbs more! So if you compare power with someone else it may seem like apples to apples, but it may actually be apples and oranges.

Other factors greatly affect your performance in ways that your power meter can’t measure. Aerodynamics is probably the most important. If you have two rider who are theoretically the same (shape, height, weight) and they have the exact same power meter and hold the same watts on a ride, one rider will inevitably be faster because he has better aerodynamics. Aerodynamics are affected by your bike position, how much time you spend in the aerobars, your equipment and clothing choices, even how low and tucked you can keep your head while biking. So it is important to note that holding higher power alone will not make you faster, that aerodynamics plays an important part of the equation.

Even if you are very aerodynamic and can hold great power, it doesn’t guarantee you will bike fast times. If your nutrition isn’t dialed in, you probably won’t be able to maintain your race watts. Fueling with XRCEL’s extended release mico-gels ensures you will have the energy you need in your muscles when you need it. If you fuel improperly, it doesn’t matter how well trained you are, a bonk will stop you in your tracks and ruin a race or workout.

Another pitfall with using power meters is that it can make cycling almost too technical and numbers-based all of the time. Every ride can become all about the numbers. This is why the type-A personalities who love endurance sports embrace power meters. Every ride can be analyzed quantitatively. Obsessing about the numbers all of the time isn’t a good thing. Sometimes it’s good to turn off the numbers and just go out and enjoy riding your bike. I learned this about myself. Sometimes I need to turn off the numbers and enjoy riding my bike for riding’s sake. When the power meter is on and you see numbers, it’s too easy to judge every ride as a good ride or bad ride. You have to learn to turn that off and sometimes just go ride your bike and love life. Then there are other times where the power meter needs to be on to have an objective and accountable Measure of hard work.

Like any other piece of technology, power meters are extremely useful tools and can greatly help you improve your cycling. At the same time, you need to learn their limitations so you don’t become a single dimensional athlete and neglect other important facets of your training and racing.

Taking the Win- First Event of the Castelli Race Series

By Stephan P. Dioslaki, Cycles 54/ Metra/ XRCEL Elite Team

My teammate Adam Pantastico and I raced the first event of the Castelli series race last weekend (on April 15 2017) in Prospect Park (Brooklyn NY). It was a good day for us with Adam taking 7th and me taking…well…read on.

There were 92 pre-registered so I’m guessing we had a full-field of 110 starters.  I have to say that promoter, Charlie Isendorf consistently, year after year, knows how to put on a good, well organized race.  He keeps things flowing seamlessly and he keeps things exciting. The series has an Overall Leader’s Competition, a KOM competition (announced randomly during 2 laps of the race) and a Sprint competition (also announced randomly during 2 laps of the race).

Some cool frills come along with these laps (essentially a “race within a race” so to speak) — huge green flag is waived with the bell lap for the sprint and a huge polka-dot flag is waived for the KOM laps.  They are HIGHLY contested laps. Each leader gets their respective leader’s jersey (actually a very nice quality, full on kit) + at the end of the entire race series, a big trophy and even bigger bragging rights to the ultimate, overall winners.  And then, of course, the Overall champion ends up getting the Yellow Leader’s kit, a big yellow trophy and some descent bucks and/or high valued merchandise.

In this race, although there were numerous breakaway attempts, none of them lasted.  So it came down to a bunch sprint.  With approx. 1 mile to go in the race, we were approaching the hill which precedes a 200-yard false-flat that takes us to the finish line.  I positioned myself well as we approached the base of the hill. As we began to climb, I elbowed my way through the masses and got myself into 10th or so. The speeds ratcheted up and I noticed, ever so slightly (as the lactic acid burn in my own legs was setting in) that the guys around me beginning to fatigue. Approx 2/3 of the way up the hill when it began to hurt the most, I knew it was time…I gunned it and blasted out of my saddle with all I had knowing it would (a) either demoralize the others who were hurting equally as bad OR, (b) that it would result in the leadout to the final finish line sprint. After giving a hard dig for what seemed like an eternity, I looked over my shoulder to see that it was the former…I opened up a sizeable gap on the next guy…I was clear…but the finish line was still far enough ahead where there remained much work to be done.  I put my head down once and plowed forward with another thrust…all I had.  I looked over my shoulder to see they were still there and not able to rationalize a sense of depth perspective from everything burning by now (as to whether or not I was far enough ahead or if they could catch / pass me)… I gave one more head down, full blast. After that, I looked over my shoulder one last time to see what I was hoping for…enough room to sit up and salute crossing the finish line…taking the win!!

There remains a long way to go in this series…as for now, I am in the coveted yellow jersey as the overall leader.

Fast forward to one week later…I contested another race on this same course – April 23, 2017 – but not part of the series that I am the overall leader on. It was a sell-out race with the maximum capacity of 110 preregistered racers…the dynamics in this one were ENTIRELY different than last week’s.  The only things that were consistent was the ferocity of the competition, the brutally early start time of 6 AM and the little bit too cold for my liking (upper 40’s) temperatures. The avg speed was just under 26 mph and the race length was 42 miles.

This time there was a 12 or so man breakaway established early on in the race…I managed to work my way up into that group…I thought for sure it wouldn’t last because it wasn’t as well organized as it should be. And, it occurred early on in the race. There were 2 or 3 guys that just weren’t working, and as a result, disrupting the “flow” of our pace line. It was uncertain as to whether they were just sandbagging and sitting back to save energy for the final sprint, or if they were too hurting to take a pull and work…the beauty of our hard-driven pace-line answered that question.  As the miles continued, the group dwindled…those who weren’t pulling and doing any work were disappearing.  At the end, we were left with only 8 or 9 guys in our breakaway group as we shed the guys who weren’t strong enough to hang.

On the last lap, approaching the finish line, our group began to play the usual cat-and-mouse game. The waiting game…waiting for the next guy to be the one to make the move and to GO.  As a result, we slowed our pace dramatically.  I looked over my shoulder to see what I was fearing…the main field of 100 was within sight…and digging, clawing, bearing down upon us.  It looks kind of like a big WAVE spread from one side of the road to the other.  As we approached the hill, everyone in my group had their eye on me, And of course, I had my eye on them… hoping it would be one of THEM. But no one wanted to GO.  It was a gamble and the risk was high that we would be caught and instead of top 10, get swallowed up by the surging field for maybe a 50th place….so…someone had to do the “dirty work”. It was me…I made a very ill-timed but necessary EARLY sprint starting from right near the base of the hill…I gave it all I had. But the finish line was just too far away…I couldn’t hold it… I was caught by 3 of the guys in my breakaway and they passed me. Then they opened up a punishing gap on me as we neared the end. I dug deep and, rapidly approaching the finish line, was able to close that gap and get back into the aerodynamic slipstream. But no sooner did I latch on than time to GO. Literally.  I dug one more time as I swung out to the side and into the open wind…I passed 1…I was about to pass another…but there was the finish line…and 2 guys remained ahead of me – I landed up in 3rd place…not so bad considering the circumstances.  The main field did not catch us…

Onwards to my teammate Glenn – he is continuing with his dominance!! Here’s a quick recap from him this past weekend in his very own words: “I did the final regular season collegiate race in Rhode Island this weekend. The races were tactical with the overall contenders marking each other and riders not in the overall getting into breaks.  I took 4th in a wet partial dirt road race and extended my leader on yellow. Today I took 6th in the crit defend my overall lead to take yellow for the third year in a row.  Win number 5 for the season.”

Glenn is heading off to do the Nationals in Colorado this coming weekend. Good Luck to you GLENN!!

 

Again, many thanks for all your support and encouragement.

The Great 8: Helping Endurance Athletes Stay Fit with Fats

By: Megan Evoe

For a period of time, the “non-fat” epidemic had many athletes running scared of any fatty foods, in fear that they would gain weight. Today, it’s time to turn your shopping carts around and head to your favorite fat sources to not only help you stay full, maintain focus and healthy brain function, but to also improve your overall athletic performance and recovery.

Balancing your nutrition plan is essential to athletic success. Finding the right combination of carbohydrates, fats, and protein for your body and your competitive goals will play a key role in your success.

As a part of that balance, healthy fats are essential in every endurance athlete’s diet, for fueling and recovery, which is why we have compiled a list of “The Great 8 Fats.” All of these fats have exceptional health benefits and keep your hunger in check so that you can train and race without missing a beat!

Note: While fats play a major role in fueling nutrition for endurance activity and are the focus of this article, carbohydrates are the primary and essential fuel source for athletes in training and competition.  

Our XRCEL ambassadors, Laurel and Rebeccah Wassner, are not only professional triathletes, but they are also foodies, who take their time in the kitchen as seriously as their triathlon training. For more specific fat-friendly recipes, check out how you can incorporate our list of fats into your diet through their athlete-specific recipes. Bon Appetit!

Avocado

You’ll be green with envy when it comes to adding this nutritious fat to you diet. Avocados are not only loaded with “good,” monounsaturated fat, but it also full of fiber. Fiber not only aides in helping you feel fed and happy, but an avocado’s fiber can also help maintain a healthy gut. A less known fact about avocados is that they actually contain more potassium than bananas, so make sure to add some avocado to your pre-workout and recovery meal to help prevent cramping. Start your day with some avocado in your omelet, spread some on the bread of your lunch time sandwich, or add some chopped pieces onto a dinner salad.  If you like smoothies, then you will love a creamy, avocado-based smoothie. Throw in your favorite milk and protein powder for a filling snack before or after any tough training day. There’s never a bad time to add avocado into your meals to feel great before and after a workout.

Try this recipe: Kiwi Avocado Protein Smoothie 

Coconut Oil

When you first think of a coconut, you might think of a tropical drink or a day on the beach. However, coconuts have evolved into the endurance world and now, coconut oil, is taking the athletic world by storm. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which can possibly reduce the body’s reliance on carbohydrates as a source of energy and cut the amount of lactate produced during exercise, leading to greater exercise endurance. So what are you waiting for? Try incorporating coconut oil into a pre-workout smoothie with your favorite fruit and milk for an extra boost of energy. Coconut oil is also great for cooking, so stir some into a frying pan to saute your favorite vegetables or meat dish. If you love to bake, use coconut oil to add a healthy source of fat to your favorite baked snack or treat!

Try this recipe: Snack Time: Smashed Sweet Potato with Coconut Oil and Walnuts 

Dark Chocolate

Calling all chocoholics! You don’t have to wait until the next holiday assortment rolls into the stores to treat yourself to some dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is a year-round, fabulous fat that comes with an array of benefits, as well as a tantalizing taste! Although dark chocolate is high in fat, due to it’s plant-based origin, the cocoa in chocolate, can be seen as more healthy than foods that come from animal fat. Many dark chocolates contain the highest percent of cocoa butter, which is known to slowly digest the saturated fats. This helps keep you feeling satisfied and fight the hunger before a workout. Dark chocolate is filled with a potent antioxidant called resveratrol, which is known to help fight inflammation, helping you recover faster. Pop in a few of your favorite dark chocolate bites for a quick treat or make sure to use dark chocolate in your next dessert recipe.

Try this recipe:  Bananas + Dark Chocolate

Eggs

The poor egg has gotten a bad rap over the years, however, the tune on eggs is changing and now, eggs are said to be a good fat to add to any endurance athlete’s food pyramid. Although you do want to eat eggs in moderation due to the high cholesterol, adding in a couple a day as a healthy fat has benefits. Not only do eggs serve as a solid source of protein, but they provide two kinds of healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Both of these fats contained in eggs, not only help deliver a feeling of fullness after eating, but they also protect your heart by keeping your cholesterol in a normal, healthy range. Adding eggs to your diet is pretty simple, especially if you like eggs for breakfast with some toast and a tall glass of orange juice. Start your morning sunny side up, scrambled, or with a breakfast taco to have an egg-cellent source of fat before you start your training! When it comes time to meal prep, keeping some hard-boiled eggs handy makes it easy to pack in your lunch or slice it up and add to your favorite dinner salad.

Try this recipe: Farm Eggs and Spring Greens 

Flax Seeds/Chia Seeds

It’s not just the birds these days that are filling up on seeds as a healthy source of fat. The benefits go beyond the birds, and endurance athletes are loading up on these “superfoods,” particularly, chia and flax, for a source of fat that also aids in recovery. Chia seeds are not only a healthy fat, but also a complete protein source, meaning that they contain all essential amino acids. Adding chia seeds to a post workout smoothie means your body is provided with the protein needed for muscles to repair and recover adequately. As if that wasn’t enough good news, chia seeds high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids are known to help reduce inflammation. Think of how fast you’ll recover from your latest workout!

The other “it” seed for endurance athletes, flax seeds, also contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty oils that help keep you feeling satisfied while contributing other health benefits. Made up with large amounts of lignans, a nutrient found in fruits and vegetables, flax seeds are thought to help fend off cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Sprinkle some flax seeds in your favorite yogurt with fruit, or on top of a serving of cottage cheese, add it to your favorite bowl of cereal, or toss it into your favorite salad or salad dressing. Don’t forget to add flax seeds into your muffin mix the next time you decide to bake and start enjoying the tasty benefits of this sensational seed.

Try this Recipe: Zucchini Walnut Muffins with Flax

Olive Oil

Olive oil plays an important role for endurance athletes. Like the other healthy fats on our list, olive oil delivers omega-3 rich fats, helping you stay full so you don’t have to worry about getting extremely hungry during workouts. However, what sets olive oil apart from other fabulous fats is it has the ideal makeup for bone health due to its unique combination of oleic acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which work together to build bone tissue. This is crucial for any endurance athlete who is constantly pushing their body to help regenerate and gain strength. The omega-3 fats also help produce anti-inflammatory substances that reduce inflammation. This is critical as endurance athletes need recovery time so that their muscles can rebuild and repair. The last thing any endurance athlete wants is their muscle tissue to break down or to feel depleted of energy during a workout. To help aid in recovery and have a healthy store of fat during exercise, add some olive oil to your cooking pan to make those morning scrambled eggs with veggies or mix it with some apple cider vinegar to have a tasty dressing on your lunch time or dinner salad.  For a healthy and filling snack, make sure to add olive oil into the mix the next time you make your favorite granola.

Try this Recipe: Athlete Food Granola

Salmon

Salmon not only has the ability to be prepared in multiple, creative ways, it’s made our list because it’s a good source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. This lethally nutritious combo makes a sure-fire way to keep the hunger pangs away. The omega-3 acids, again, aid in reducing inflammation and joint pain, both of which  can get in the way of any athlete’s peak performance. Eating some savory salmon before a workout with some steamed vegetables is sure to give you energy and stamina.  If you are feeling sore, make salmon your dinner dish to help heal those tired muscles. Whether you bake, grill, or saute your salmon, there are endless possibilities for preparing salmon with your favorite glazes and spices to make it your own, while treating your body to a healthy fat.

Try this Recipe: Sweet and Salty Glazed Salmon

Walnuts

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the best nut for endurance athletes of them all? Walnuts have garnished the title of “top nut” by athletes and experts alike, but not just for their healthy fat concentrate. Of all the nuts out there, walnuts contain the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for preventing heart disease and helping to reduce high cholesterol and blood pressure. Walnuts also contain almost twice as many antioxidants as their competitor nuts, which contributes to an athlete’s proper, physical recovery. Walnuts are great for keeping your hunger in check, so don’t be afraid to throw some into your favorite morning yogurt or smoothie as well as a recovery meal like walnut-crusted chicken, or topped on your salad.

Try this Recipe: Greek Yogurt with Cucumbers, Mint, Walnuts

For more specific athlete-based recipes, check out the Wassner’s website, Athlete Food, which is filled with an array of tasty recipes that are sure to help you incorporate the healthy meals and snacks you need to  train and compete at your best!

http://www.athletefood.com/?category=Recipe

As noted above, reaching balance in your nutrition plan is critical to success.  Healthy fats are key ingredients in the overall plan. Balance your healthy fat intake with the right carbohydrates, and use of protein, to optimize your nutrition plan. Adding glucose, a simple carbohydrate is the body & brain’s primary source of fuel, as it is the fastest converting carbohydrate to produce ATP and ENERGY, to your nutrition plan will boost your performance.  XRCEL Athlete Fuel is the ideal source of glucose because it is the only glucose supplement that delivers both an immediate supply and an extended release supply of glucose, allowing athletes to fuel quickly and stay fueled over a longer period of time.

For more specific athlete-based recipes, check out the Wassner’s website, Athlete Food, which is filled with an array of tasty recipes that are sure to help you incorporate the healthy meals and snacks you need to  train and compete at your best!

Willpower Week

By Scott DeFillipis – Professional Triathlete and Coach

There are two types of athletes I get the most joy out of coaching…First are the first timers, those that simply want to complete an Iron distance triathlon. This is something that should not go unnoticed!  It is the toughest one day event in the world that takes an incredible amount of time and energy to complete.  Just go to any Iron distance event in the final 2 hours and you will see the most incredible outpouring of human spirit that one can witness in this day and age of instant gratification.   Most that come to me for help in this department are completely raw, have not read a bunch of articles that contradict each other on what to eat or how to train, they simply have a goal and just want to swim, bike and run. They listen to everything I say and execute every day to the best of their circumstances!

The second type are the Kona go getters…Those that have aspirations of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships. These are the athletes that are out there racing, not just completing. I love working with athletes of this level because it’s a fact of life that father time catches all of us and this group recognizes that they can’t do this sport forever so they are trying to squeak a few more good years of active sport in before they move on to Grand Fondo events or look to take up something like sailing…

This group is a bit more challenging because most have been exposed to all things I try to protect the newbies from;  the easy way, the latest super chain, or bearing, or helmet, or bike that is going to make them go like a rocket.  The reality is you cannot run away from the hard work that is required to get to the highest level in our sport.  If you have aspirations of qualifying for Kona you must be bullet proof both physically and mentally!

Such aspirations sometimes call for an unorthodox approach. My old coach Brett Sutton of Trisutto Coaching used to dish out what he would call “Willpower” days which were triple bike or run days, 100 x 100 in the pool, or 50km runs during the middle of the day under the blazing sun.  So this past February my partner in crime (and life) Carrie Lester and I had a group of our athletes come to our home in Southern California so we could put them through a “Willpower Week”,  a 6 day escape from the winter back East, which included 4 big days of riding with a swim, bike, and run day wedged in the middle.  The purpose of this week was simply to get the gang to push beyond what they thought was possible.  Before going any further I must mention that before attempting such a training block with a group of people, you better be certain that the personalities gel, that they all get along, and there are no egos involved.  Last year was a dry run as I had the entire group here for a more traditional training camp with swim, bikes, and runs spread out more evenly.  But this year with all having very high aspirations I felt we needed to push them a bit further!

Here is a brief summary of the work we did.

Day 1: 75 mile ride with 6000 ft of climbing that took us from Santa Isabel, which is just outside of San Diego, to the high desert of Borrego Spring where we climbed back out the backside to Juian before descending home to Santa Isabel.

We finished the day off with a 3km easy recovery swim

Day 2: 100 mile ride which went up the famous Kitchen Creek Climb to the top of Mt. Laguna. In all, we climbed over 8000 ft and finished the day with an easy 20 min jog off the bike.

Day 3: Swim Day: We did a 4 km swim with some instruction and then finished off with an easy recovery jog.

Day 4: We began with a 3 km wake up swim then rode from our base in Cardiff  to the birthplace of Triathlon, Fiesta Island, where the group did individual Time Trial Intervals for 1.5 hours. Upon completion, we rode home where the group did an 8 km transition run.

Day 5: Once again, we returned to the pool for a shakeout swim of 3 km before heading out on the bikes. We had planned a nice little tour of the coast which would take us from Encinitas north to Dana Point where we would stop for lunch.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, as the group was starting to crack at this point… we were stopped just 1.5 hours into our ride at the edge of Camp Pendleton. We had to abort our journey due to military exercises that were going on just off the coast.  I could tell the gang was about to crack so I decided it best to turn around and head straight to the World Famous V.G. Donuts.  I gave some the option to ride another 1.5 hours but they chose to rest for the evening’s mandatory bowling night.

Day 6: For the final day of the week I had planned one last day of riding around the loop that has produced multiple World Champions over the years, The Henshaw Loop. This was the day that was going to really, really push the gang beyond what they thought they were capable of. But old man winter decided to show his face once again and with heavy rain in the forecast I had to make the call to cancel the ride.  So instead we did a medium long run of 1.5 hours and then hit the pool for 1 last swim.

Even though the last 2 days did not go 100% as planned everyone left here physically and mentally stronger than when they arrived and I was able to show them first hand that sometimes just because we write a week’s worth of training sometimes we have to be smart and adjust rather than be stubborn.  Being smart and making such adjustments usually saves us from getting sick or injured, so let common sense override from time to time.

If you’re a coach and want to hold a camp like this or a group of friends want to support each other through such a week here are a few tips.

As mentioned make sure everyone in the group gets along!

Ideally make sure everyone attending is around the same ability level!

No egos allowed! Make the rides a no drop policy, some will fall behind on climbs but be sure to stop and wait at the top

Mechanicals will happen so invite someone who knows how to fix minor problems or hire a mechanic that can be your support vehicle

Don’t ignore fueling.  We distributed bottles of XRCEL fuel before each session so that everyone begins the workouts topped up with the most efficient fuel source. But also never ignore real food.  When training like this, back to back days for a week, sports nutrition alone won’t keep the engine going.  So on the super long days always plan a lunch stop so the ride is broken up.  Use a smart fuel source such as XRCEL for the shorter sets, beginning of the day, or transition runs

Thanks for reading and I hope if you plan such a week all who attend will have a great time!

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” Romans 5:3-4

Yours In Sport!
Scott DeFilippis

KIS Coaching 

About Scott DeFilippis:

Scott is a professional triathlete, Triathlon coach for KIS Performance Team, and an XRCEL ambassador.  You can learn more about his coaching services here

3 Tips for a Successful Race Season

By Carrie Lester (Professional Triathlete)

One of the most important things I have learned in the last few years of professional triathlon racing is the need to be flexible. We need to be flexible in our training schedules due to such things as injury, illness, weather, social/family/work commitments, and because sometimes life just gets in the way. The same extends to how we plan our race schedules; sometimes things beyond our control force changes. I’ve found flexibility and acceptance is the best policy.

I have started the last few years with a sound race schedule, only to have it completely changed around by unforeseen circumstances. Recently, I travelled halfway around the world to compete in Ironman New Zealand, only to find myself so sick I had to withdraw from the competition, before it even started. Disappointed? Yes. Able to rethink and regroup? Yes. By April my schedule was now a different schedule than when I first laid it out. Years of encountering the unexpected have definitely helped shape my attitude and ability to accept and move forward. While it may be easier for professional athletes to quickly change their schedules, I also know of Age Group athletes that have been able to change their schedules when things have gone wrong and ultimately still achieve their competition goals. Remain flexible in your thinking and approach and a detour doesn’t have to be the end, in fact it could lead to another exciting challenge.

If I can give any advice when it comes to planning your race schedule, it would be to keep these three things in mind:

1. Always have a Plan B

There is never just one way to get somewhere, but you have to be open and willing to try another way – and once the decision is made, back it with all of your energy and focus. There are a plethora of triathlon races to choose from today and if Kona is your goal, find a way to get there that works for you – and make it happen!

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself if things go pear shaped

I know, much easier said than done. It is in our nature to pick ourselves apart sometimes (lots of times), but it is counterproductive if we want to move forward with a new plan. So have yourself a pity party for 24 hours and then MOVE ON.

3. Include “experience” races

Take the pressure off yourself and don’t make the season all about one race. There are many iconic races around the world offering some serious challenges and amazing experiences. Do one with a group of friends and the experience becomes even more memorable. I mean that’s why we do the sport we do, right? It’s the challenges it brings and the memories & friendships it creates that keeps us coming back for more.

An old coach of mine would always say, “Improvise and Overcome”. The words are true in everything we do, and in order to achieve anything in life being able to do this quickly and smoothly will always result in success. One way or another.

Happy training and racing!

Carrie

Carrie Lester is a professional triathlete from Australia who now resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California. She has raced as a professional since 2009 and in that time has won 7 iron distance titles and had multiple podium finishes over the iron and half iron distance. Her most notable performances to date have been her 10th place finish in the 2016 Ironman World Championships and her 2nd place at 2016 Challenge Roth where she finished in a personal best time of 8.42.  Carrie is coached by her partner, Scott DeFilippis of KIS Coaching, and are XRCEL ambassadors.