I am an adventure seeking wife and mother first! Travel, and endorphins are my best friends. I will try anything once, unless I know
I would be in danger. I have a crazy love of God, running, triathlon, the outdoors, dirt, wine, friends, good Vegan food, Yoga,
animals, happiness, and life! I truly believe the only limits in life are the ones set by ourselves. So get out there and expand the limits!!
~~Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Art of Nutrition

So I am coming into the last few weeks before Ironman.  This is the crunch time.  About 8 weeks out.  The time has flown by.  Now is the time that I will be doing my last 5 weeks of the Peak phase. Continuing to build distance, endurance and speed.  Have the last few weeks of intensive training volume buildup.  And then a three-week taper. 
This is “tweak” time.  Time to tweak workouts. Tweak the bike for comfort and power. Tweak nutrition.  Figure out what is working and what isn’t.  I am a FIRM believer in training with what you will race with, as far as nutrition.  Never, would I add something new to the plan. NEVER!  I have learned this the hard way.  Even gels are different.  They have different ingredients.  Could sit in your system different.  Could cause major distress.  This happened to me during a ½ marathon last year.  Instead of sticking with the plan, I used a gel on the course that was being handed out.  BIG mistake.  It’s funny when racing longer distances, what the mind will tell you sounds good, compared with the reality of what your stomach would say.  Gummy Bears sound yummy, but did you train with them?  What would your gut say? Those cute, little, tasty bears, could leave you feeling like they are ripping your guts out.

Nutrition has always been a mystery to me.  Being Vegan I am limited to what I can have and can’t have. Being Vegan also means I eat pretty clean. I am not a junk-food Vegan.  I eat fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters, Tofu and try to keep it Organic. Going into Ironman, I had people say I could never train for that distance on a Vegan diet.  I researched and found other endurance athletes that eat a Vegan diet.  Ironman Brendan Brazier wrote a fantastic book called Thrive, that I love.  Ultra runner, Scott Jurek, is Vegan. Track star, Carl Lewis, Vegan.  And many other, runners, cyclist, NBA stars, MLB stars and even body builders, that are Vegan and Vegetarian.  All doing long endurance races, or kicking butt at their sport, and are healthy.

So, last week during my Adventure Race, I made a few mistakes that got me thinking.  The week prior, I ate well, hydrated well.  The day before the race, I made sure, that even though we were traveling to Montana, I would not make the mistake of eating bad.  I ate often, and ate great nutritious food.  Drank a ton of H2O.  So on Saturday when we started the race I thought I was well hydrated. Drank about 10oz of a sports drink, and figured I was good to go.  I had a hydration pack on but for the first part of the race during the run I didn’t drink.  Falling back on the fact that I had hydrated so well the day before.  I finished that run, and into the kayak EXTREMELY dehydrated.  My mouth full of cotton, and sticky, pasty, lips.  I was so thirsty I was tempted to scoop in river water.  YUK!  By the time we got to the bikes, it was bad, and I downed a full 20oz bottle of Heed.  It helped, but I was still in a position of deficit and then I couldn’t eat.  Just couldn’t.  Lesson learned.  I know now, that even though I was well hydrated the day before, I had flushed all the salt from my body.  So finding that balance is important.

These next few weeks will give me the time to dial this all in.  Last weekend, I ran the 5-mile Spring Dash, and then took off on my bike for a 66-mile ride.  I stayed hydrated, felt good, used my Hammer products, (which I swear by) Figuring out what “real” food, and what liquid food I need on the bike is important.  I have found out this: Heed, and Perpetuem work awesome.  Perpetuem can give me GI issues if I drink it too quickly.  Meaning, if I mix a 2-hour bottle, I need to SIP the bottle over 2 hours.  Not look at my time, and think, ok it’s been one hour, drink half.  Not good.  Also, almond butter, and honey or jelly sandwiches cut into fourths, and eaten every so often work well.  Snickers bite-sized candy bars ARE THE BOMB!! (My ONLY non-Vegan race food, and ONLY eaten for racing in small amounts)
I do know I will gel during my swim, eat real food as much as possible on the bike and liquid only on the run. 
It is amazing to me that it is such a science. An art. A major part of racing.  It can make or break a race, especially on longer distances. The SLIGHTEST little thing can throw you off.  Something that may seem insignificant could make a HUGE difference.  You could easily have the best race of your life, or end up double over in pain, on a porta-potty, or on the side of the road puking.  It happens.
What is your best meal plan?  What products do you love/hate?  Have you had a bad experience with a product or in a race? 


  1. I admire your healthy eating Paula. Years ago, I was vegan and I am not sure I could go back.
    It really has been a trial/error experience with what to eat during the long workouts. I never thought about taking in any nutrition during the swim...have you talked to a lot of people who do that? I had to switch from GU to Clif Blocks and finally found a supplement to plain water...for years I have just used water because any other drink made me sick....until I discovered NUUN...thank goodness!
    I am going to have PB&J on the bike...my "happy" food for a possible low point...and clif bar(s), NUUN and clif blocks on the run...realized I better get a hydration belt, which I have not carried for years...because they serve Gatorade in the race.
    Hope you get the bike tweaked so your knee doesn't continue to hurt. I am using the last weeks of hard training to gain confidence as well as endurance and strength...this is going to be awesome!!! Sorry for the ultra-post!

  2. Great post. Perpetuem kicked my booty today but by the 7th hr I figured out that I needed to take less in. That whole 2hr bottle sipped over 2hrs, well should have asked you earlier. Will try again. I cut back on water thanks to the article you posted. I think I might have been over hydrating. Thanks Paula. You are going to do great.

  3. Great post! I am still trying to figure it all out because I go through these phases when things work and then they don't...ugh. I do like shot bloks and just discovered NUUN though.

    One thing I'm curious about is your favorite pre-race meal? My favorite meal used to be some kind of grilled fish, rice, and a steamed veggie. But, now that I'm a vegetarian (almost vegan) we don't eat fish anymore. Any suggestions??

  4. Aimee, are you talking the night before, or the day of? I usually tend to do either rice/stir fry, or pasta and a small salad. As far as the race morning, I always do the same thing. 1/2 a bagel with almond, peanut, or sunflower seed butter, with 1/2 a banana on top, and a cup of coffee. Just one. If I eat any more than that I get too full.
    I am really trying to watch what I am eating 2-3 days before also. I have a friend that is a trainer and an Ironman, and is always asking, what I ate 24-36 hours before.
    Also I have to watch how much salad or veggies I have due to the fiber. Which if it's too much, I am in trouble. =@