This season has been an opportunity to practice my fat-adapted race nutrition. It’s been interesting, as this approach is typically used for longer distance races. I've had success in longer running events, but I was curious how well it would work in shorter distance triathlons. Since this is not an Ironman year (I do every other year to keep the family life in balance), I had shorter races on the calendar. I was anxious to see if I would need some fast-carbohydrates to fuel the shorter distances, assuming a higher intensity is maintained. That said, I am amazed and impressed with how well the nutrition and training has prepared me to race short distances. I made no adjustment to my typical diet in the days leading up the races and it worked perfectly!
My first triathlon was a sprint in early June. It was in the evening so I ate my normal diet throughout the day, albeit it a bit less to ensure I did not have any undigested food in my stomach during the race. I felt fantastic during the entire race! My swim felt pretty fast and I had a PR. The bike was an absolute blast and I did not have one person pass me that I did not eventually re-pass. I felt pretty good on the run and a friend at the aid station let me know that I was third female overall. That was what I needed to keep pushing. It was getting tougher, particularly since the course was long. I gave it everything I had in the end to hold off another female that was trying to chase me down. I kept pushing and my heart rate was higher than an endurance race, but not so high that I was burning too many carbohydrates. I emptied the tank and was very happy with my performance! Nutrition: smoothie with protein, blueberries and almond milk 2 hours prior to race, X2 Performance 15 minutes prior to race. Result: third female overall, first in age group.
My second triathlon was another sprint. I followed the same nutrition protocol as the last race. Since this was a typical morning race and my liver glycogen was likely depleted when I woke up, I added a bit more calories to my smoothie. When I got to the race site I had some technical difficulties, which were resolved, but I think that spiked my heart rate before the race started. I had a great swim and jumped on my bike, ready to pass people as I typically do (one of the benefits of being a slow swimmer). The bike was fun and fast, but I was in the last wave so it was tough to determine my standing. I just kept pushing. Had a problem with my Garmin in transition so I ran without data. I figured I’d better just go as fast as I can. I didn’t feel as strong as I did in the last race and I was in the pain cave. I just wanted to finish and figured the faster I go, the sooner I will see that finish line. I was done when I crossed that line, but happy to see my family and those beefy firefighters. :) When I reviewed my data later, my heart rate was about the same as the race prior so I did not have an issue with too much carbohydrate burning. This race was also shorter than the last one and it took me a little over one hour to complete. One of the benefits of being fat adapted is that you feel stronger the longer you are exercising. For me personally, I start to feel really good after one hour, which is when I was finishing this race. Nutrition: Smoothie for breakfast, X2 Performance prior to race. Result: fifth female overall, first in age group.
My third race was an Olympic distance. I added more nutrition for breakfast and some amino acids to my race plan. I felt relaxed and excited prior to the race. My swim was slower than I had hoped for, but still a PR. The swim is what always holds me back so it’s something I need to focus on if I want to improve my performance. The bike was great and I was passing people and cheering them on. Once the oly group separated from the sprint I could see my placement. I was fourth female overall. I figured that likely put me first in my age group. I was happy with that, but I wanted to get on the overall podium. I kept pushing on the bike, but didn’t pass any of the top three women. The run was hot, but I kept moving along. I wasn’t going all out, but I wanted to keep my pace under eight minute miles. At the turnaround I could see the second and third female and thought I had a chance at taking third. Once I was close enough behind her, I tried to gauge the best time to pass. She slowed a bit and I took her with a little less than one mile left. She couldn’t catch me. Overall, I was excited about my performance. I likely could have pushed myself more, but this distance is always a tough one for me to determine how hard to go. I prefer either longer or shorter events. Nutrition was perfect: gluten-free bread with almond butter and ½ banana two hours prior, ½ X2 Performance with ½ Vespa Jr. 15 minutes prior. UCAN with 1/2 X2 Performance and ½ Vespa Jr. on the bike. 80 calories total during the race. Result: third female overall, first in age group.
As you read this, you can see that my race nutrition is minimal. That is because I am using fat for fuel. Even as a lean athlete, I have more than enough body fat to fuel an Ironman. It’s all about proper nutrition and training. I had no gas or bloating after the race and my energy levels were stable. I didn’t need that afternoon nap before I went out to celebrate my race performance! Oh, and that cute little guy is my son. He and my husband are the best race supporters out there and I couldn't do it without them!
The rest of my season is a bit open ended, but it will include some longer distance races as I build towards the inaugural Boulder Ironman in 2014! Stay tuned for updates!