NYC Triathlon 2014

Race Report


A l(not so short) look at the two main options for fueling in endurance sports

My Famous Fails

A little recap of my accidents

Race Recap of the Demi-Marathon des Microbrasseries

Race report for this new race, complete with multiple distances, and BEER!!!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Carbs or Fat? How to Fuel For Endurance Sports

Nutrition is often referred to as the fourth sport in triathlon, because of its importance and impact on performance. This is especially true as you start to participate in longer events, from the Olympic distance, and of course more so for the Ironman, but also for sport-specific events like a Marathon. The questions that often comes up is; what do I eat and when? When I began racing endurance sports, the primary method of fueling that I was aware of were energy gels, or drinks like Gatorade. The gels generally come in 1oz packets that easy to tuck away, open and discard. Usually they have around 100 sugar based calories per gel, and nowadays you can get them in a wide variety of flavors. Most people are familiar with the Hammer, GU, or Probar labels, but it seems like every year more and more companies are entering the market. Some companies try to fill a specific perceived niche in the market, creating gels with all natural ingredients, different sugar types (such as maltodextrin versus sucrose), and I've even seen one that has chia seeds in it.

Now, traditional knowledge has been that your body only contains a certain amount of glycogen (basically stored carbohydrate) that your body can call upon to fuel itself through an endurance event. This is basically where the idea of "carb-loading" comes from, and has probably caused hundreds of thousands to stuff themselves with pasta in the nights preceding a race. On average, most people have about 200 grams or roughly 800 calories of glycogen in their liver, which is the most easily accessible. After depleting those stores, your body will try derive glycogen from other sources like your muscle, as well as fat, but those processes are more difficult. So, considering that you have limited glycogen, you need to make sure that you continually supplement your exercise with additional carbs to compensate and fuel yourself. Performance using this method is pretty easy to see, as many professionals use this method without problem. The constant fuel provides constant energy, and drinking energy drinks provide additional carbohydrates and electrolytes to prevent muscle cramping and proper energy usage.

Depending on how long the activity is, and your individual strategy, most marathon strategies have athletes 1-2 gels every hour, in addition to whatever liquid calories they might be consuming. For longer endurance events life a Half or Full Ironman Triathlon, you'll need more calories to fuel yourself, since you probably
burn more than the 200-300 calories per hour that I just described, and you'll eventually just run out of energy otherwise. It's generally considered easiest to take in calories on the bike, since your water bottles are being carried for you, and it involves less movement than running, which minimizes food/liquid sloshing around in your stomach. Gel's are still a staple on the bike, but many athletes like to use calorie and electrolyte enriched drinks, like Hammer Perpetuem, or energy bars.

Lately, many athletes have started switching to a fat-adapted basis for fueling. Essentially, through a strict obedience to a diet and training regimen, it has been found that your body can be adapted to use fat as the primary source of fuel instead of carbohydrate. The benefit is that since fat is a slower burning energy source, and is practically inexhaustible during a 1 day race, you won't need to consume nearly as many calories during the event. The catch? Your diet has to remain pretty low in carbohydrate (usually around 25% or less) and you have to tailor your training. Even in a a fat adapted state, your body will only use fat as fuel when you exercise aerobically. This means if you go too fast and enter an anaerobic state, your body will switch to using carbohydrates again, and actually stay that way for quite a while, even if you get control of your heart rate. Another potential benefit of this strategy is that by consuming less calories, you minimize the risk of GI issues. While your body is in "performance mode", it becomes harder to break down some food, so the idea is that the less you put in, the less risk of unpleasant effects.

So, which method of fueling works best? That's debatable and deeply personal. Different people might respond differently to each method, and a recent (albeit limited) study showed that as long as your metabolism is accustomed to one of the fuel sources, they will work equally well. I should also point out that even when fat-adapted, its still necessary to consume SOME carbohydrates, so many athletes will drink a honey-water mixture (recommended by Phil Maffetone) as their sports drink alternative.

This may have come as a really long post, but really could have been so much longer. I'd be happy to expand or answer any question that anyone has to the best of my abilities, or at leas point you to someone else for information.

Thanks for reading, keep Tri-ing, and stay safe!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Looking back and looking forward to 2014

Now that New Year's has come and gone, and events are starting to pop up on my calendar (remember my last post about planning?), I like to pause and look at my overall goals for the past, and set new ones for the coming year. This post is gonna very self-focused, but will be one of the few such posts that I make during the year (aside from race reports, which I try to make useful for all anyways)

Last year my overall goal was to double the distance that I both ran and biked (blog post here), bringing those numbers to a target of about 550 and 650 miles, respectively. Swimming technically should have been there, but I'm pretty bad at keeping count of laps by myself, and my watch doesn't measure pool swimming.

Since I actually do manage to log most of my run/bike workouts in TrainingPeaks, checking is easy and it
turns out I did pretty well. I was pretty much spot on with my running (493 miles), and passed my biking goals, covering over 1200 miles. Looking at distance isn't everything of course, especially when considering that I do races, but the times tend to be skewed because I often leave my watch on after training and races, and it gets added in. I use races and individual training sessions as better measures of my overall pace.

For 2014, I don't want to just double my distances again, since I feel that finding time to train might be getting harder this year as I will have to handle some personal challenges (for lack of a better word) like getting married. Instead, I'll be focusing on the quality of my workouts, making sure that every workout has a point. Also, I've been refocusing on my nutrition both in-race and general life, which I'll be sharing in future posts.

So what are my goals for 2014? Well I've got two Half-Ironman distance races scheduled (Vineman and Princeton 70.3), so from a purely time-based perspective I'd like to go sub-7. It's not such an ambitious goal, but considering the GI issues at my last race I want to be conservative. For running, I want to break the 4 hour mark on any and all marathons I do, and do at least 1:45 on all half-marathons. My time goals might not be crazy competitive to some, but I am after all just an average age-grouper, with other things going on. Though I am extremely passionate about endurance sports, I believe in having a well balanced life.

Just a short post today, so happy training and stay safe out there!