Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lessons in Triathlon

I've learned a lot over the years training in Triathlon. I started doing the most basic research on my own looking up suggested pre and post race meals, hydration planning, heart rate monitor training, found marathon training plans, swim workouts, learned about hill repeats and time trials. There are as many different ways to approach your training as there are opinions from those you ask.

When it comes to nutrition and hydration there always seemed to be some sort of mathematical equation to formulate what I should eat/drink, when and how much. If your like me, you gave up trying to figure that confluent mess of numbers out after reading something like "consume 225-400 calories per hour per 1kg of body weight divided by the amount of Ml you sweat and multiplied by the current temperature of the region in which your training". Or perhaps your hydration advice looked something like "0.5 - 0.6 ounces of water per pound of body weight, or 240-280 liquid calories per hour of exercise, or 16-28 ounces per hour." Huh?

I gave up trying to understand those hydration articles a long time ago. I now stick with the trusty age old method - trial and error. Yes, this method does take a bit more time to figure out and it does involve quiet a bit more "error" than what the scientist guys behind formula X=y, but eventually, you find a plan that works perfectly just for you because... it was made by you!
The good thing about this 'made for you' plan is also that it's as flexible as you need it to be. If you need more water or a boost of energy long before your formula guy says that you should - by all means - drink away!

After much trial and just as much error, here are a few things I've learned this year (that seem to be working so far)

Food and Fuel First: Everyone knows you need to hydrate. Not just the day before your big workout or race, you need to be hydrating heavily at least a few days out. You should be drinking a ton of water everyday anyhow, but pre workout and pre race you should add in a sports drink or some kind of hydration booster. Being hydrated on your long run or ride will make all the difference in the world. I have know idea how many ounces or ml I drink or what that ratio is to my body weight in Kg, but I think it's fair to say - it's alot. I keep an eye on my watch and drink two or three giant gulps every 15min. I never wait until I'm thirsty, if I'm parched, I'm in trouble. I've just this year found a calorie intake plan that works for me too. All the hype out there is geared towards gels and boosters. I found last year that gels for the most part just make me feel sick. They don't sit in my stomach well. I found PowerGel Blasts last year that I really liked, but found they weren't holding their own and I had to eat far to many of them to get the results I needed. So, while not very many articles and trends lean towards eating solids during your long run, I've found great success with the good ol' Cliff bar (Power Bar seems to be an ok substitute as well). Yup, nothing fancy, just a cliff bar and every 30min I walk for about 45 seconds - 1min and eat 2-3 bites. That's all. I make sure to stop and eat/drink on schedule. If your keeping track, that's an intake every 15min, so in one hour I drink four times and eat twice. That's just a template. On longer runs if I feel I'm dragging a bit. I just eat a bit more (always bring extra food).

This simple plan has kept me running and riding at 110% this year. This most certainly could change as my needs change, but for now... that's the plan.

Quality over Quantity: My second lesson has a working subtitle of "Under cooked vs Over done". My triathlon clubs training plan has three workouts a day on it. A primary workout, a secondary workout and a strength/stretching workout. I assumed that I should be and needed to be following this plan if I wanted to be a fit triathlete. Everyone else in the club must be following it and I don't even have a job right now to keep me from being able to do it. Well, it took about two weeks (if that) of following this plan before I was overtrained and burnt out. Trouble sleeping, no appetite, cranky, heart rate that won't settle, a mind that won't settle and worst of all - crappy workouts. So I must just not be fit enough. I must just have to work harder. Orrrr - I could just do what's right for me and get in one quality workout every day and if I'm feeling good, do the second one. I found that if I promised myself that I would never skimp on the long workouts (one long swim, long ride and long run) every week, and that the rest will depend on how I'm feeling. I just about always get in two workouts of each discipline a week plus two P90X home strength training videos (just upper body). However, my training plans is no longer a bible, but rather a template of suggestions. I make sure that I'm mentally prepped for that tempo (fast) run, or that Cypress Mountain hill climb and if not, I move it to another day and do something I can do with better quality that day. Most importantly, this year I returned to running with my heart rate monitor. I found that making sure I stay in my LSD zone (long slow distance) I finished my runs with energy to spare and feeling 110%. No more dying at the end of my runs. Always finish on a positive note.

Well, I'm packing up camp tonight so that in the morning I can just zip outta here to get to the race early. Think of me tomorrow and send your best thoughts of air conditioning and mint chocolate chip gelato.

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