Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nutrition and Hydration at Ironman Texas

I've been working specifically on nutrition for 18 months now.  After a nutrition disaster at Ironman Austin in October of 2011, where I had to abandon my plan and rely on flat coke and water to finish the race, I needed a change.

So, I turned to Infinit.  I'd heard about them, and at this point, was up for anything.  Eighteen months later, it's been successful.  But it did take some work.

At Ironman Galveston in April of 2012, I nearly bonked on the bike.  We discovered that my heart rate runs too high for me to make use of the protein that was in my bike mix.  We switched the mix to higher carbs/lower protein, and raised the calories a bit.

When Ironman Texas came in May of 2012, it went like a dream.  After that, I kept the calories the same, and made tweaks to my hydration system.

At first, I was using multiple water bottles, which I really didn't like.  Some time last summer, however, I found FlexrSports, and their remote water bottle kit.  Basically?  A water bottle with a really long straw.  I went through several variations of the remote kit setup on my bike.  Finally this year, I settled on this:

There are two 28 oz bottles behind the seat, and one long flexible straw that connects the two then comes up along the top tube to the aero bars.  I recently overhauled my bike, and when I put it back together, I wasn't really happy with the way the bottle cages sit - so I changed that too and wound up with this:

You'll notice the bottle cages sit upright, and there's a water bottle on the aerobars.  Right now I use a bungee cord to hold that bottle on, because that bungee is pretty damn useful for lots of things - including keeping the straw in place.

So, my nutrition plan (trained, tested and proved) goes something like this:

Breakfast is coffee and oatmeal about two hours before the race starts

About an 30-60 minutes before both half iron and iron distance races I start sipping 12 ounces of water mixed with a 1 hour serving of my bike mix - I finish this about ten minutes before race start.

I start drinking my Infinit bike mix right out of T1.  For half iron distance races I mix an hour and a half in each bottle, and for iron distance races, I mix three hours in each bottle.  I know exactly how much to sip every 15 minutes to get exactly the right amount of calories for however long I'm on the bike course.  I take water bottles from the aid stations and rest them on the aerobars with the help of that bungee cord.  Depending on how hot the day is, I'll drink a minimum of 20 oz per hour.  Ironman Texas 2013 was a whopping 40 oz per hour!

Once I get back to T2, I have a flask set up with Infinit's Napalm.  I drink one ounce every 20 minutes.  This year at Ironman Texas, I had an empty plastic water bottle that I reused for my special needs bag.  I put six extra ounces of Napalm in that bottle. I take water and ice from all the aid stations if it's pretty hot, otherwise, I drink to thirst.

One other thing that I do - I carry an extra hour of my bike mix on me in a plastic baggie, and I pick up a bag of gu chomps from an aid station and put them in my pocket - just in case.

As far as nutrition goes - after breakfast - I don't have anything solid until after the race is over.   And I don't notice getting hungry at all.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ironman Texas 2013

Wow, what a difference.

Another year of experience behind me. Another year of training. What to expect no longer a mystery.

A few last minute fixes
A week or two out I had that feeling. It happens less and less now.  The "what did I get myself into?" feeling.  Where I'm not sure that I really want to do the race I've signed up for.  The feeling didn't last very long, but race nerves started a few days early.  By the time I left town on Thursday, my race nerves had peaked.

Thursday evening after athlete check in I put in a short swim - after that, the race nerves were gone.  I'd put in the training, logged the hours, the miles and the meters.  There didn't seem much of a reason to worry.

The race comes without permission, and happens - with or without me.  The weather would be what it would.  We were expecting high eighties, high humidity and about half cloud cover.

Bike check in.  Hot.  Few clouds.
Race day came.

I was more forgetful this race than for any of my others.  I had the essentials, but also had to arrange things differently than planned. Everything set up, then off to the swim start.

Age groupers piled into the water - where the pros were getting ready to start.  The pros started, then time for age groupers to line up.  We tread water for about ten minutes, and it got crowded.  Very crowded.  We were bumping into each other, getting kicked, elbowed, grabbed.  Finally, it was time to go, and.....

The washing machine
The swim felt like it went on forever.  And I felt like I wasn't going anywhere.  At first, everyone was packed tightly in and it was hard to get in a groove.  But in comparison to last year, I had a stronger pull with a slower cadence, and better endurance.  The overall swim was faster for me.

Into transition - that went better too.  Better planning and more experience lent itself to getting out faster.

Onto the bike.  I remember last year, it felt like I was flying and I had to hold myself back.  This year, no such feeling.  My body felt worn out going into the bike.  But still, I had a good pace, and consistent power.  In reviewing the files later, I can see that the power and cadence remained consistent throughout the ride.  But that's where the good news stopped.

The aerobar slipped
As soon as I got on the bike, my aerobar started slipping.  By the time I reached the first aid station, I had slipped enough that it would no longer support a water bottle.  I tried anyway, but dropped it.  So I couldn't start hydrating until I reached the second aid station, when I started putting the bottles in my kit pocket.  Long before then, my stomach started cramping.  But I did the best I could to get nutrition and water in. Fortunately, I'm completely liquid with my nutrition, so there isn't anything solid in my GI system to draw fluids away from the rest of my body.  The cramps got progressively worse, and by the time I got to 70-80 miles, they were so excruciating that I could not remain aero for more than a few minutes at a time.  AND, starting as soon as I could, I was drinking about 40 ounces of water an hour, keeping my kit wet, and dumping water through the vents in my helmet.  As with last year, around 80 miles is where it just got purely miserable.  And it was hot.

I was so glad to see the chute leading to transition.

This transition is where is started to become clear just how hot race day was.  I remember sitting in the tent and thinking "Where is everyone?"   I stayed in the tent long enough to get more water on and in, cool off and make a bathroom trip.  But it still took a while.

Then onto the run.  Once on the run, the stomach cramps eased up, and in reviewing the run file, cadence and pace stayed about the same for the entire run.   On the flip side...

It.  Was.  So.  Hot.

I'm really not sure how I kept going.  By the time I was nearly done with the bike, I was dizzy.  Later, I found out I hadn't had enough calories before I got to the run.  I hit the run dizzy, cramping, hot, and much more miserable than I expected.  My calves started hurting at some point, and I got to the point where I was afraid to eat or drink anything that I didn't have to.  I didn't want a spectator to catch a picture of me urping up my toenails.

 But I focused on what training had taught me: cadence - keep it mid to high eighties, pace - keep it steady, get the nutrition in, drink water, get ice in my kit, and try to figure out how to cool off.  Focus on one foot in front of the other.  One at a time. And again.  I knew sometime during the second lap that I was likely to need more after the race than several bottles of water.

I remember thinking "It must have been this hard last year."  I remember wanting to quit.

But I didn't.  Something in my nutrition plan helped me stay functional until the race was over, and some part of me - one of my defining characteristics - kept me going.  I don't quit - that's just who I am.
Just before my hugs

Race day turned out to be 95 degrees according to several, and mostly sunny.  It takes it's place as the hardest race I've ever done - mentally and physically.  I wound up in the medical tent becaust I was dizzy and nauseated. They gave me a bunch of fluids, massaged my lower legs so that I could walk, and let me go.

But I will be signing up next year.

The best part of my race was seeing my kids.  It always is.  My family is my best support crew and my motivation.  They braved the heat to come see me and to cheer me on.  And six miles into the marathon when I was miserable, I came around a corner and got the best hugs in the world from the two best kids in the world.
And finally, the finish

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Harassment at a Half Marathon?

I recently read this post after being asked my opinion of it.

I'm appalled.

Not at the signs, or at the fact that random men were paid by a corporation to hold them out there.  To me, that seems like it's actually a pretty brilliant marketing scheme by a makeup company.

I'm shocked by the fact that a spectator (also someone that a quick search on athlinks reveals has not ever run a race) would believe that they have the perspective to complain about such a thing.  The author of that post called it "sugarcoated and corporate sponsored street harassment."

She complains about the signs and states that they objectify women, and asks if we we see these signs at a men's marathon.  Her answer is no.  (I giggled about that one.)

Now I've been at countless mixed gender races, and I can tell you that a sign saying "Hello Gorgeous" would be pretty damn cool at mile 24 of a marathon when I'm digging deep for every last bit of what I've got.  I can also tell you that the signs get better. They are one of the best parts of racing.  Years down the road, we laugh about what some of the signs say.  My favorite (I forget the race now, but it was during the run of a mixed gender half iron distance triathlon) said "You have stamina, Call me."  At whatever point of the race I was at, I laughed.  And at that point, I needed it.

The author of the linked post has no perspective on what those signs out there mean to endurance athletes - and yes, you would find something VERY similar at a men's half marathon.  You'd probably find signs that you'd consider worse.

If you continue this rabbit trail, you might endanger one of the best parts of our races.  The signs from our kids, our husbands, our wives, our parents.  The ones that say "Hello Gorgeous,"  "You're beautiful when you sweat," or "Cute Running Shoes."  The ones that keep us motivated because someone is watching.  It gives us the strength to dig deeper in ourselves.  To find strength when we thought we had none.  Guess what? Our families that are out there to cheer us on are all random people to all but one person.

And you, you may think you've done something wonderful.  Stood up for women that you think are being harassed.  But thousands of racers will resent that their families can't put signs up for them because one spectator once, with no perspective on what a 24 inch by 36 inch piece of cardboard meant, took offense to something that is part of a culture they couldn't possibly understand.

And don't even try to school me on feminism, sister.  I've been entrenched in a patriarchal career for almost as long as you've been alive.   This is one female keeping your assumptions in check.

Those signs?  They were brilliant.  Women are gorgeous at every point in their athletic path.  They are beautiful when they sweat.  And running shoes - well - the good ones are getting cuter.  So dig your panties out of their twist and lighten up.  Go for a run.  And at 13 miles - see if you wouldn't like some random stranger encouraging you.  Because that is what that sign is.

If anything got objectified out there that day, it was the guys holding those signs.  Thanks, Bare Escentuals - and also thank you to the guys that held those signs for all those beautiful women.  A half marathon is hard.  You probably made it just a bit easier for them.