Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Top "Gots to have its" of the season

No, I promise, this isn't a list of the hot goods from Vogue for fall 2013, but in my opinion the following goodies SHOULD be in Triathlete magazines "what we love right now" section.  These are the items right now as I build towards Kona that are my go-to's, what I use day in and day any of these make your list?  What are YOUR must have's?

Matchy Matchy Kit and Sunnies
Peeper Protectors, Sunnies...whatever you call them, these are a critical piece of gear not only so you don't squint and get wrinkles duh, vanity always is the most important reason but these bad boys also protect your eyes from flying debris, low branches and if you have the right pair, they make you look good out on the race course.  My of the moment pair are my Smith Pivlock V90 in Sea Glass...they may match my kit and that is a BONUS!

Just say NO to salt tabs...with OSMO Pre-Load! Friend and wicked smart Dr. Stacy Sims is the brains behind this amazing product that will keep you hydrated in hot weather.  Los Cabos where I won the AG and was 2nd OA Amateur?  Powered by Pre-Load for bottle the night before and then another in the morning before a hot long race or hot, long anything...ride, run, day at the beach sipping marg's...  Speaking of marg's, pre-load IS salt after all so don't expect it to taste like coke. This stuff will keep you hydrated without the normal post race swell that is brought on by salt tabs and the like...I love me a 5lb weight gain and all, but who likes to remember ANOTHER thing to do while racing?

Tasty Treats
While we're on the topic of nutrition- I've been trying to stick with more whole food while on the bike, specifically in racing.  During training, I rarely eat sports nutrition products.  Gotta save up my appetite for the race!  Enter Barnana, portable heard me right, these dried, organic, non-GMO bananas are soft and chewy and sweet. This company is awesome to support as they are owned by fellow triathletes!  Packed with potassium, this is perfect on the fly nutrition.  They're also great for 5:20AM need to eat SOMETHING, but who is going to get up earlier than necessary to make breakfast?  Not this girl. I also keep a pack in my car/purse at all times as you never know when Hangry-time will strike.

THE iron team
While I've been dealing with low iron, there have been two nutritional go to's in my arsenal.  Muscle Milk and spirulina.  Yes, one may be manufactured and one from the depths of the Kona sea, but BOTH have half of my daily iron needs covered.  What, you say?  Muscle Milk helps me to pump my iron?  Indeed it does.  My smoothie of choice: 2 scoops of Muscle Milk Light Chocolate powder mixed with 1 tsp. spirulina, 1 c. frozen strawberries, one frozen banana and a cup of H2O.  Blend and viola!  Instant Iron recovery shake.

Stop: Recovery Time...Ever sit on the couch with bags of peas on your legs or in an ice bath, wishing you could do the dishes/laundry/cook dinner WHILE you were icing your gams after a long day at the office of SBR?  I was lucky this season to receive goodies from 110% Playharder.  These guys make life easy...compression?  Check! Slots for ice integrated into these compression garments? Double check!!  My fave, is the aptly named, "clutch" tight.  You can put ice on your lower back/calves/hamstrings...any part of your leg that may be screaming for mercy can be icily compressed into submission.

A Bevy of TYR bags to stash my goodies
OK, let's talk gear storage.  Unless you work from home, chances are, you need to take gear to/from work and keep it in your car for that evening run or morning swim session.  At any given moment, you can find at least one, but usually two of the TYR Alliance Backpacks in my car brimming with gear/clothes for work&dinner/snacks/water name it and this bag fits it, and has many secret little pockets for coffee money to hide so it doesn't get stolen from the women's locker room while you're out staring at the black line for the better part of 90 minutes!  It also has mesh side pockets for wet gear storage after masters so you don't have to worry about drying of your cap and goggles but I do cause I'm SUPER Type A.

Give me my bike back!
Take it to the hills.  I live in Northern California, and if you've ever been here, you know that it ain't flat.  So while I may be in LOVE with my Argon E118 for racing and long flat rides, my daily go to, my husband isn't embarrassed to be seen with a tri-geek, can climb mountains like a billy goat bike, is the Argon18 Gallium Pro.  This bike is so light and comfortable that it was stolen by my husband this past weekend for his uphill time trial.  Time to upgrade buddy...Thankfully, my bike has been returned to me and all is right in my bike love world.  I love to feel as stable as possible training wheels to prevent tipping over ever would be awesome and this bike takes stability to another level, up and down the mountain I go smiling all the way.

I have been living in these team kits for the better part of three years.  They keep me from needing to "double bag" my girls, keep my thighs chafe free, and my undercarriage as happy as possible over the journey of 140.6 miles.

Friends, Family, and Sponsors.  This list of people deserves their own post.  They train with me, keep me sane and support me in an enormous way and that makes my world a pretty awesome place to be.  So to all of you, I am grateful!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Whoops! A little race called Vineman...

So, about three weeks ago, I published this little gem about how I had been diagnosed with low iron and how I was so bummed.  And I was.  It had been recommended that I take it easy and pull out of Vineman. But then, I adopted the most type A plan to supplementing (iron in the AM with an EmergenC- no calcium for 2 hours, liquid iron at night with another EmergenC- again no calcium 2 hours before, eating plenty of beef, and drinking my Muscle Milk which has 40% of my daily iron in it...didn't know that one, did ya?!) and three weeks later had my iron checked just not at all coincidentally before Vineman to see how my body had been dealing with the iron supplements.  Turns out, like a BOSS.  My iron went from 10ng/ml to 31 ng/ml in 3 weeks, placing my in the "normal range".  Not what some sports folk think it best, in the 50's, but I am higher than a lot of other females. AND it's only been three weeks.  So hopefully it continues to go up and then I can maybe supplement only 1x daily so this whole thing stops messing with my morning latte bliss.

Side note:  Did NONE of us know that this was a possibility with all of our long distance running/training?  I feel like there is so much fear placed into people about supplementing with iron, and maybe that is a good fear to have if you are not an athlete running a marathon+/week in distance.  But for those of us hammering our bodies day in and day out, asking it to perform, we are physically breaking our red blood cells when we run and then sweating them out.  Always check with your Dr, but it seems like a no brainer that most women endurance athletes should at least have their numbers checked periodically to ensure that they are getting enough iron. Seems like since I became more aware of low iron and talking with my fellow ladies of the Social Sphere, it is SO common and sounds like a lot of you supplement.  Making a mental note to pay more attention to things that don't currently directly affect me but could.

So after speaking with a friend/sports nutrition/expert who cautioned me against racing and also speaking with a sports orthopedist, who said that as long as I felt OK, and my iron had come back up, that I wasn't really going to do any damage (but i'm getting my iron stores check tonight anyways).  Who's answer did I take?  The one I paid $200 for of course!  However, the friend who told me to not race and focus on Kona has also been helping me on nutrition and I was able to implement our new strategy and that was a about a calm tummy...more on that later. So she HAS to be happy with me for racing right?!!  Otherwise we would have gone into Kona with a never been tested nutrition plan.  I can rationalize wit the BEST of them.

My wave went off so late I got to see BFF Jess!
With all of this in mind, I knew that it would not be a fast, PR, guns ablaze kind of day.  And I told myself that if at any time I wanted to pull out if I was feeling bad that was also shame here in doing what feels best to your body.  And I knew that I had to be OK with whatever result happened on the day and told myself that that was the only was I could race.  That mental preparation really helped when I saw gals going past me who I can normally keep up with.  I knew I couldn't push that pace and that was OK. And I felt flat all day (16 minutes flatter than LY apparently), but not like in Texas where I felt awful and didn't know what was going on. My HR monitor didn't work on the bike, but it was in a normal range for racing on the run and I figured as long as it stayed there then I would keep running.  And at a certain point, you have to finish, cause if you run 6 miles, you have to get back to the transition area to pick up our bike, so may as well cross the finish line :)

Night before race nutrition:  OSMO Pre-Load to get my sodium stores up and ready for the heat of racing.

Pre swim nutrition: Chia/coconut granola, Wild Friends Chocolate Coconut peanut butter, banana, OSMO Pre-load  Approx 900 kcal's

Swim: 6th AG 29:08 vs LY: 28:26
So Shallow you could run...or swim!
For the first time, there were 2 waves at Vineman for the women 30-34, so coming out of the water in 4th with my wave I knew there would be a few more gals who  had swum faster in the wave ahead and were now 6+ minutes (time between waves) up the road.  I went out with the eventual winner of the amateur race Sarah C, but quickly lost her as that flat feeling came across and she is a SUPER swimmer.  It was so shallow this year that SO many people were walking, but again, walking in water is NEVER as fast as's a RACE people!

Bike Nutrition: 2 Tram Bars -just found these things and they are ridic! OSMO Active Hydration, total kcal's: 800

Bike: 2:41:34  VS LY 2:30:16
Compact (me) vs all you can bring T1
Where all of my time would be lost from LY.  This is where I began to implement my new MONEY nutrition plan.  Only solid food was allowed from now until the run and even then I had to try to keep real food in the picture and only go to my beloved energy chews towards the end of the race.  The bike was, as always beautiful but starting in the 3rd to last wave meant there was a LOT of passing to do.  And while this makes you feel like a hero, "I'm CRUSHING this bike" tends to run through your head way too often, it also means that you have to be even more aware than normal about what others are doing and how others are riding.  I know I've heard others talk before about having a faster age group wave right after the pros, and I think this would be a great idea.  It would allow those that are a bit more aggressive to get out there and do their thing and I think it could offer a better racing experience for all athletes.  Back to racing, the sun came out right as I was thinking, jeeze, I'm still cold, where's that sun?!!  POOF, it came out, but thankfully not like last year.  We got a real treat with the weather this year and it only got into the 80's.  Off the bike, and try to see if I had any run legs available for use...

Run Nutrition: cup of Gatorade/cup of water to dilute the Gatorade and not have any tummy issues, a few cups of coke towards the end, half banana, half nectarine, water, 1 pack of Cytomax Energy chews on the back half of the run.  Total kcal's  400

Run: 1:41:31  VS LY 1:38:06
I hit the run and immediately was running with a guy who was keeping a good pace.  I must have been annoying to be right on his hip for those first few miles...he picked it up and dropped me, but I found him at mile 12 and said hello to my long lost friend.  I was not feeling my competitive juices flowing and was just running plodding along saying hello to friends and then it happened...around mile 8 I saw two girls who had passed me at mile 48 of the bike and I have raced against one of the gals before and knew that I usually can run I started to catch her and then saw another gal up the took me until mile 11 to catch her and she forced me to run two 7:20's in a row (not normally a big ask but it was on Sunday) to get a comfortable gap.  But then, a gal passed me int he last .25 mile of the race, and beat me by 12 seconds...DOH!  But again that's OK...I should not have been racing on Sunday...I was under orders to participate and see how it went.  Hard to quash that competitive spirit right?

I ended up 9th in the AG and 19th amateur female.  It's hard not to compare myself to last year as that time would have garnered me the 2nd OA position as well as 2nd in the AG.  I'm keeping that in perspective and focusing on the last big goal for the season and that is Kona.  Hopefully I got some fitness at Vineman this past weekend and enjoyed racing with friends from all over the country that I don't get to see that often.

Thanks to all of you who have reached out to offer stories of  low iron and your solutions and support, I truly appreciate it.  Makes me not feel alone in this at all!!

Through the fog and into the Sun!

Friday, July 5, 2013

An Ironman with low iron?

Where to start on this one...I don't even know.  Maybe Ironman Texas?  Now, thankfully I may have my reason as to why I so badly crapped the bed at that race. What even prompted me to go get tested for iron?

Taking it back a few clicks, my sister had her thyroid out early in June and as it runs in the family, I went to kaiser to get mine checked out.  I thought, huh, I've been abnormally tired now for a needing to take a nap in the middle of the day, going to bed at 8PM kind of tired.  Not your regular Ironman training tired.  I've been training and racing for long enough that I know what that tired is supposed to feel like and this wasn't that.  And did I mention the cranky pants that have been on SO tight that I don't even know how to begin to take them off?  I just try to be quiet so that no one sees those pants. The jury is still out on the whole thyroid thing, and that could be adding to the fatigue I've been having so we'll see.  Can you say, "hot mess"?!!

So I ask the GP to test my ferritin levels and he gives me a "why would you do that" you're full of shit face.  I proceed to tell him that low iron is common in endurance athletes, especially females.  After telling me that this shouldn't be possible, he agrees to the test.  Three days later, I get an email stating that all looks good, with THE EXCEPTION of my iron levels.  I am at 10ng/ml vs the low end of 22 and the advice that athletes should be around 50.  I had my iron tested last year and was in the 40's. Cue my nah, nah, na, boo, boo face. I surely sent him a few links to studies detailing what happens to athletes and why we break our iron down. And I only went to a public college.  Turns out, we triathletes know our bodies pretty well. Now the stumper is WHY has my iron dropped?  I haven't had an radical dietary changes, and my run volume (something that really breaks iron down) is not higher than in past years. So no clue really why this happened other than 2 ironman races within 8 weeks...but other folks do this without the same consequences, so I am still at a loss.

The latest addition to the Ironman Club, Jenny!
So last week after running to a dinner to celebrate my first time ironman pal Jenny things really came to a halt.  I was running at a HR of 170 and only pulling off 8:00/mile....on a relatively flat run.  It was hot out but not that hot! This is not normal for me.  "Huh" I thought, we had better call in for reinforcements to see what is going on here and how we approach training.  Race this weekend?  Not a chance!

I am lucky enough to have some great resources available to me and it turns out that low iron is not just like being pregnant in terms of exercising through it.  I always think when I get pregnant that I will continue to train...I'm not going to be sick, just in a +1 situation and no harm will come of continuing to exercise.  Turns out this is not the case with low iron and if I continue to train hard through it, I will not recover quickly and will ruin my later season goals.

Time to celebrate the birthday boy!
So what does this mean for now?  It means that I have had to pull out of Vineman 70.3 next weekend in a wholly nonrefundable situation, adding insult to injury.  I am also on strict orders to take all workouts easy and am not allowed to go out for very long.  This is breaking my heart.  I know in the long run, this is inconsequential to my goals and life, but right now, ALL I want to do is go ride my bike for 5 hours with friends, get my blood pumping and run as the miles just click away under my feet.  I haven't' had that feeling since training for Los Cabos.

So maybe my iron started dropping after Los Cabos and Texas was just the icing on the cake that sealed the deal.  I'm supplementing and of course taking Vitamin C for absorption.  Hoping to turn this ship around so that come August I can get back on the horse and have a good build before Kona. I also have an appt with an actual sports Dr. next week so am looking forward to seeing what else I can do to impact my recovery time.

The back garden
What's been really depressing about this whole situation is that since this isn't an obvious "injury", it's hard to rationalize why you are going so slow in your new, but not improved lane at masters or when the yellow jackets are passing you on their bike ride that it isn't actually you that's slow, it's the current condition that is causing you to do this.  Convincing yourself that you're not a snail can prove to be the toughest part of this game. And forcing yourself to go slow means managing an ego that thrives on competition, but I am doing it so that come August, I can (by the grace of a larger being) get back to doing what I love, training.

Not that this is bad, BUT...where's my bike?!
I'm trying to keep it positive by working on my form while going slower and keeping it all in perspective. More time at home lounging by my pool and watching the Tour De France?!!  Turns out I can't be satisfied by lounging and TV watching, even if it is The TDF...there's only so much time in the day that I don't want to be out on my bike, running or swimming and right now that balance is way out of whack.  I get that there are other people out there in MUCH worse situations than I am currently in, so if this strikes you as a "woe is me" post, that is OK.  This post is half of me talking it out so that I feel better and half to see if anyone else there can offer up their story.  This little bout, however short is may be has definitely shown me how important triathlon is to me.  I miss it SO much and i'm not really even that removed, but being a spectator right now from the sidelines makes me sad...AND really excited that when I come back...I'll keep this nugget in my back pocket when motivation runs grateful that you get to get out there and do X.

How about you, anyone else have experience with iron issues?