Friday, September 24, 2010

Portage Lakes Triathlon Was a Success!

Well I made it through my second official triathlon successfuly! And it was so much fun! I absolutely love everything about this sport! My performance was much better than at Milton Man. I finished in 1:30:14, a time worthy of third in my age group. Not bad for a newbie I suppose!

The race was well organized and well attended. I enjoyed the course. My only complaint is that the water was chilly to swim in...but on September 19 in Akron, Ohio that is to be expected. Next year I will likely wear a wetsuit to this race!

I arrived at Portage Lakes State Park about an hour early and had plenty of time to pick up my packet, timing chip and set up my bike and transition kits.

I actually felt surprisingly calm considering it was race day --and a triathlon race at that. I'm sure my boyfriend had something to do with that as he was very helpful in getting me ready and keeping me relaxed.

As I said, the water was cold but when the race started I soon forgot about the temperature and tried to focus on finishing the 1/2 mile swim. There were a lot of people and so I wanted to pay close attention so I didn't get kicked. My time was a couple of minutes slower than at Milton Man. I finished in 18+ minutes whereas at Milton Man I was around 16:30. Some people said that the swim course at Portage Lakes is longer than it should be so that could explain my lackluster time on the swim.

The first transition went pretty smooth as I ran to get to my bike. I could have been a little faster and hope to improve on these transitions as I gain more experience racing next season.  The bike portion of the race was only 12 miles but it was a challenging, hilly course! I was happy with my 42-minute time considering and really had fun getting the bike up to speeds of almost 40mph on some of the downhills!

The second transition I was slow and lazy. I sat down and took a few minutes getting ready for the run, which was inefficient.  But once I got going...I got going! I had a blast on the 5k run! Because running is my main sport, I usually feel really good here even after the bike. My first mile was 7:04! Finished in 23:27 so not my best effort but I was okay with it.  I felt great at the end and had a nice sprint going on so I think I could have kept going for a while!

After the race I felt good. I had some food and water and was really looking forward to that hot shower so I could get the lake smell off of me! It was a great race and I will do it again next year.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nutrition Advice for Athletes

If you're a veteran endurance athlete then you are most likely aware of how important nutrition is to overall health as well as peak performance in your athletics. Still we can all use a refresher!

For those of you who are new to running, triathlons or other endurance sports, read up!

1. Eat or drink protein at every meal - you'll be more full and the extra protein will help replenish your muscles after a long workout.

2. Choose whole grains - It's better for your overall health and also the whole grains take longer to digest so your body absorbs more nutrients contributing to more energy for your workouts.

3. Choose foods with the least amount of ingredients (whole foods are always healthier than precooked or prepackaged meals).

4. Eat lean meats (lots of seafood for the high amount of Omega-3's, chicken, turkey, lean beef).

5. Avoid cereals packed with excess sugar. Instead try healthier options like Kashi and Nature's Path.

6. Lots of fruits and veggies! At least 5-6 servings a day (mixed variety is best).

7. For sessions longer than 60 minutes - refuel with gatorade or energy gels such as GU or Cliff Shots as needed. After the workout, eat some healthy carbs (for example: carrots, an apple, a banana, G2, wheat toast with nutella) within 30 minutes of the session for maximum recovery). You also will want to have some protein to recover from tougher workouts. Chocolate milk is an ideal recovery drink since it has both protein and carbs!

8. Drink lots of water! On longer runs exceeding 10 or 12 miles it is ideal to bring along at least a small bottle.

9. Avoid fried foods or new foods before races and key workouts as you risk poor performance due to GI issues.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Yoga for Endurance Athletes

I used to think yoga was pointless. It's easy, girly, and boring...right? Wrong! Yoga is much more difficult than some people think! And the the benefits received from yoga extend well beyond physical benefits.

I have been doing pilates training for a while now, focusing on stengthening my core so that I can become a stronger, faster runner and triathlete. And while there are some shared poses in pilates and yoga they are not alike. I didn't realize how much yoga could challenge me and relieve me of my aches and pains. I now respect yoga. It is a terrific way of helping our bodies strengthen and lengthen muscles and to relax and relieve mental and physical tension that we inflict on ourselves as endurance athletes. 

Many athletes swear by yoga for preventing injuries (especially runners). There are numerous poses and variations that you can try to strengthen and relieve your hips, hamstrings, thighs, calves and knees. Don't be afraid to go to a yoga class in your gym or a nearby yoga studio. There will be people at all levels there. You can also do yoga in the comfort of your home by watching a DVD or online video (there are many free videos online at YouTube).

I am going to list the poses that I use in my own practice below. I am not going to provide lengthy explanations or images but you can easily look these up online and may already be familiar with some of the popular poses.

Best for stretching out muscles:
  • Downward Dog
  • Triangle
  • Pigeon Pose (and double pigeon)
  • Frog
  • Bound Angle
  • Half Lord of the Fish Twist
  • Wall Dog
  • Child's Pose
Best for stengthening muscles:
  • Warrior I
  • Tree
  • Chair Pose
  • Runners Lunge
  • Crescent Lunge and Crescent with Prayer Twist
There are many other poses you can try. The point is to do it. Most endurance athletes should practice yoga at least once each week for an hour. You can fit that into your schedule wherever or however it makes sense (an hour class or 10 minutes a day after your workouts). You will become a more relaxed, balanced athlete from applying yoga to your training. And if you're not an endurance athlete, you still will benefit your mind and body by practicing yoga. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Flexible Training

No matter what kind of event or goal you're training for, it is important to remain flexible. Not every run or workout goes as planned. A number of things can have an impact on your plans: weather, work, unexpected conflicts or most importantly your own body's alarm! Sometimes you get out there and just feel like something is off. That's okay. We all have these days. Learning to accept them for what they are and moving on is important to our well-being.

Case in point, this evening I went trail running at West Branch (mountain bike trails) with my best friend Chrissy and her awesome dog Dash. We had a great night but our workout didn't go quite as we had planned. Both of us had some aches and pains, Dash was more wild than usual and we ended up cutting our run a little short because of it. I had already done 16 miles on my road bike this morning as well as 30 minutes of core so I figured a 5k trail run was enough. It was. We listened to our bodies, which is an important thing for endurance athletes. Not listening can lead to overtraining and ultimately injuries, which none of us wants to deal with.

So if you have an off day in your training, just accept it as that and you'll be back to good in a day or two or else soon. Listen to your body's inner alarm and don't push yourself to the point of injury. Being flexible in your training may help you to avoid injuries and burn-out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Where Are You Going?

As summer comes to a close and fall gently knocks at your doorstep, have you asked yourself where you are going?

Maybe you're getting ready for a fall marathon or marathons or your last outdoor triathlon of the season...and that's awesome! But what comes next? What's your plan for the fall and winter? Do you hibernate? Or will you adapt your training to the changing weather conditions and push on racing through the cold, snowy days and forging through to the spring sprints or marathons?

This will be my second year of serious year-round training. No longer do I "take it easy in the winter". Not that there is anything wrong with that approach, it's just that for me I have no desire to stop or lose endurance, which we all know takes time to build.

So I'm curious. Where are you going? What is your plan for the colder months? How will you stay in shape and if you're an endurance athlete, how will you maintain your fitness especially through the laborious months of Jan-March?