Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Exercise Science and Women

There was a NY Times blog posted today titled "Phys Ed: What Exercise Science Doesn't Know About Women." It refers to study done by Dr. David Rowlands, a senior lecturer with the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health at Massey University in New Zealand whereby he attempted to replicate the results of certain studies traditionally done on male athletes on women athletes. The results of this new research were quite stunning. In short, his research showed that women did not benefit from protein after exercise the same way that men did... perhaps showing no benefit at all.

In the case of men, the benefits (improved power/endurance, lower fatigue, etc) of taking of a protein-carbohydrate drink after exercise seem to come after a day or two. Many studies have reconfirmed these results in men. Dr Rowlands showed this may not the case for women. Since this is the only study of its kind, it's unclear really how much post-workout protein women should take and what effect it will have and how quickly the results will manifest themselves... it's also unclear if this one study was just a fluke.

One thing is for certain: the scientific community needs to devote more time and energy into studying the effects of certain exercise and nutrition protocols on women... not just men. My hypothesis is that the new studies will show that men and women are more alike than they are different, but that when it comes to maximizing performance in trained athletes all bets are off... I await the results!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Metlife Duathlon Race Report

By Joe

MetLife Duathlon, Tinley Park, IL  2 mi run/11 mi bike/2 mi run

Heading into this race, the plan was to not lose too much time to the runners on the first run leg, hammer on the bike with the aim of coming into T2 first or second (hopefully with some breathing room) and try and hold on for a top 3 finish in the final run leg. I knew I could get in the top 10, probably top 5, but I did feel that coming in top 3 was possible if everything went right.

The wait at the starting line was a bit nerve wrecking. I looked around and there seemed to be a lot of runners in the front group. Don't ask me why I thought that, but it just seemed like they were all runners and I knew the run was where I would be losing time.

The gun went off and a group of 5 shot out ahead. Within a few minutes they were at least 20 yds ahead of the next 'group', I had initially hoped to be in that crowd, but reality hit and I had to hang back a bit. I snuck in at position #8, behind two guys from the same club. It was working out great cuz we were running into a head wind, and it was helpful to have a wind block. Half a mile in, a couple guys passed me and my wind blockers. I knew that I couldn't afford to lose any more positions so I moved around to hang on to those guys. Unfortunately, they were too fast for me and I watched as they gradually pulled away.

At the turnaround mark I see the leader- he's this young kid, probably no more than 20. His form seemed perfect and effortless. I think he had about a 1 minute on me. I was falling a bit behind schedule... I had hoped to get into T1 no more than 90 seconds back. I decided to turn it up a notch to keep within striking distance of the leaders. There were no more position changes in the run.

While unracking my bike in T2 I hear Maggie yell "2 minutes and you're 9th!!!". So I was pretty close to where I predicted I was going to be at this point in the race. I got a bit more good news as I pulled out of T2. A guy yelled out that I was in 6th position. That means I gained 3 spots in transition... SWEEET. I took my time putting my feet into my shoes. Got a good slurp of power gel from my gu flask, downed a gulp of water and I was ready to roll.

I started picking guys off pretty quickly as I moved into 5th position, 4th position, 3rd position, 2nd position. Then heading into a turn I saw the young kid at the lead. I passed him and looked down at my computer - 6 miles in. 5 miles to go. I was in the lead way earlier than I expected. That was good news since it will allow me to (hopefully) build in more time. This was when I first noticed my police escort on a motor bike. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. :)

Heading into the last turn I looked back to see a guy right on my tail. He was legally spaced behind me, but I had no idea anyone was so close. When he realized I saw him, he turned it up and passed me. We were about 500 yds from transition so I slowed down to slip my feet out of my shoes. He heard my free wheel spinning and he turned around to see what I was doing. When he realized it, I saw him unstrap his shoes... which to me was a bit wierd. I had no idea what kind of clipless pedals he was using but it was a rather odd action. I took that opportunity to push pass him and get into T2 as the leader.

In T2, he was racked literally 2 bikes to my side. I saw him throw his bike on the rack and run off. So THAT'S what it was. He was biking in his running shoes. I ended up leaving transition about 10 yds behind him. Within 500-600 yds, I had closed up the gap to a few yards. For the next mile, I ran right on his shoulder. When the turnaround cones came into sight, I picked it up the pace a bit and passed him. I started pulling away at the 1 mile (halfway point) turnaround. About 150 yds after the turnaround, I pass the young kid running the other way. He's in 3rd, with a guy in a red jersey right behind him at 4th. I recognize the both of them as superior runners to me.

I decided that this was it. Do or die. Lift knees, relax shoulders, and GO. The last mile was a blur. I had a lot of people running the other way wishing me good luck and telling me good job. I wasn't trying to ignore them but I was in a world of my own. Form, form, form, form. I saw the final right turn and for the first time I realized that I had a shot at winning the race. That moment of epiphany was like another shot of adrenaline.

At this point I was running close to all out. 400 yds out from the finish, my bike escort looks behind and tells me that I'm in the clear. That there's no one behind me. I think he just wanted to let me know that I didn't need to keep killing myself. :) For a split second I considered slowing down, but the concept seemed too foreign. I have never crossed a finish line easy before, and I probably shouldn't start now. Besides, I have the end of my pain in sight. I cross the finish line first in 53:xx, and everyone's cheering. The moment was absolutely surreal.

Epilogue: After I got home and checked the official results online, it turned out that the guy who came with me into T2 was from the prior wave (2 minutes behind). He ended up beating me and getting 1st overall by about 80 seconds (which is a pretty big margin for a 50 minute race). Either way, I'm very happy with my 2nd overall. Originally, I wasn't planning to do this race next year, but now I may have to come back and try avenge the loss.

Race Nutrition:
1 Powerbar gel + 1 S! Cap 15 minutes before race
1 Powerbar gel on the bike
3 S! Caps on the bike
1 full bottle of water

Big Day Training

By Mike Donikian, USAT Certified Coach, NASM-CPT

Today I scheduled a really tough workout--one of those workouts that just goes above and beyond what you're normally used to. In some circles they're called "Breakthrough Workouts" while other people refer to the concept as "Big Day Training". There are some slight variations in the two definitions but the goal is the same: gain a dramatic increase in fitness without taking on a huge risk of injury.

Here's what I did today, broken down by the Sports Bistro Methodology of "Before, During, and After".

I slept in a little bit and had a good breakfast. I wanted to make sure I was ready for the day ahead.

During Part I: 40 mi Ride:
I rode 40 hilly miles in two 20 mi segments separated by a 10 minute rest stop for fluids (and an espresso). During the ride I drank a total of 20 oz of water and 40 oz of Gu Electrolyte Brew sports drink. I also took three Gu gels spaced evenly throughout the ride. The entire ride took 2.5 hours.

During Part II: 5K run (with some extra weight):
I got home and drank some more fluids and changed for a run. I took my hydration backpack filled it with 70 oz of Gu Electrolyte Brew and stuffed my swim gear, lock, cell phone, keys and money into the pack's pockets. It was heavy! I also stuffed some gels in my tri top pockets and then took off on a hilly 5K run to my gym. I took one gel early on in the run.

During Part III: 25 min swim:
When I got to the gym I took another gel, changed and completed a 25 minute moderate paced swim.

During Part IV: 5K run (with slightly less weight):
I then changed back into my running gear, took my final Gu gel and ran another hilly 5K back home. I also made sure to finish my entire hydration pack before I got to my front door.

I weighed myself at the end only to find I had lost 6 lbs as a result of this workout despite my best efforts of keeping hydrated. I quickly took my Fluid recovery drink as soon as I was done, had lunch, relaxed a bit and then took another Fluid recovery drink later in the evening.

All in all it was ~3.5 hours of training spaced over ~5 hours. The little bits of rest in between workouts was critical to making sure each workout was a quality effort. It also helped reduce risk of injury that could be caused by fatigue compromising my form and technique.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fluid Recovery Drink

We first became familiar with Fluid when they were a sponsor of a women's road cycling racing clinic in Central Park.  One of us was fortunate enough to score a free tub of the Berry Treasure flavor after the race and we tried it as a new recovery drink.  This drink is for real!  The taste was actually quite good- not too sweet and they got the berry flavor pretty close.  The contents were solid- gluten-free, no artificial colors, ingredients, or sweeteners and the right 3.5:1 carb/protein ratio.  And perhaps just as importantly, the powder mixed extremely well in a bottle of cold water (rather than the clumpiness we see with a lot of powdered sports and recovery drinks). 

Fast forward one year later and we still use it as a premier recovery drink.  Take it immediately after a hard or long workout (anything under an hour and it's probably not necessary) to help your muscles recover for the next day's training.  Fluid was originally created as part of a senior project at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. In its first year on the market, Fluid was awarded the Best Nutrition Product of the Year and Best Sports/Recovery Drink of 2008.  Not that there are a ton of recovery drink products debuting each year, but it's certainly a feather in Fluid's cap. A bonus is that they really understand and support the endurance sports market and we find that very appealing.

The downside of this product is its name.  It's hard to Google "Fluid" and I think they may have trouble with the branding going forward as it gets more and more popular.  But these are nits, and if you are still experimenting with recovery drinks, Fluid is one to add to your list.  And it's now 10% off at!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rev3 Quassy Half IM Distance - June 6th

Posted by Ton

I had a pretty good week of rest coming into this race. Work was busy as usual, but I was able to maintain a fairly regular sleep schedule while eating pretty well. Most importantly, I was conscious of rolling out my problem areas and visited my ART practitioner on Friday morning.

Morning of the race (Sunday, June 6th)

Woke up at 4:45am after about 7 hours of sleep. Felt pretty rested. Ate a sandwich with peanut butter and nutella and started drinking a bottle of GU Electrolyte Brew at the hotel, and then we were off to transition. Realized I wouldn’t have heart rate for this race. Long story short… my Garmin had run out of juice. I happened to have my Polar on me but forgot to bring the strap. With about 10 minutes left til transition close, I decide to bolt over to the vendor tent, and as luck would have it, there was a lady there that happened to have an extra Polar strap. (What are the chances?!) She graciously lent me her strap and I ran over to the swim start, where I had just missed the swim warm-up as they were calling the athletes out of the water. Doh! I put on my wetsuit and decided that I needed to take it easy since I hadn’t warmed up. I took a GU Gel (Vanilla Bean) and followed with a couple of sips of my remaining GU Electrolyte Brew. I find Mike, who looked like he had just come out of the water for a quick warm-up.

The Swim –

Gun goes off and my wave is pretty big. It’s a clockwise loop, so I’m towards the right side of the start to minimize distance. I immediately find feet in what must’ve been less than 50 yards and proceed to hang on to the SAME guy for the entire 1.2 miles. In hindsight, this was probably not the best decision as there were times when I wanted to shout… “C’mon, man! Let’s go faster!”… but after the halfway point, the group surrounding me had lulled to a similar pace so there were no other feet to latch on to except for the occasional swimmer from the next wave flying by, but then of course those guys would be too fast. In hindsight, maybe I should’ve pushed my pace a bit til the first buoy and latched onto someone around then, after the weaker swimmers had dropped back. I came out of the water fresher than I have for any race I’ve ever done, and for a half IM, that’s actually not a bad thing. Overall, I don’t think I lost that much time at all.

Time: 38:39

Average HR: 154 BPM

Previous PR (Timberman 2009)
Time: 38.18
Average HR: ???
* About the same swim performance as Timberman, but definitely an easier effort.

T1 –

Nothing to say here, other than I’m pretty sure I left transition before almost all of the guys in my “block” that had already been there before me. I remember thinking to myself… “What do you guys need with all this time?!”… as I hopped on my bike with my shoes already clipped in, and I’m off.
** Official race results say that I passed a total of 40 people in T1 alone, including 4 people in my age group. For the record, for the rest of the race, other than Mike, only one other person in my AG would pass me.

The Bike -
Truly a KILLER bike course. Toughest one I've ever raced. Despite that, I think this was actually one of my better bike performances in terms of pacing and effort. I set the Polar to start beeping once my HR hit 160, so I was pretty much “in-check” most of the way. Unfortunately on the tough climbs, it’s really hard not to go above that, but at least I was counting the times I pushed it and was careful not to light more than my allotment of “matches” for the race before I hit the run.

Coach Mike passes me at mile 16, and he’s looking pretty strong. This is where my mind begins to play tricks on me. I remember thinking a number of thoughts to myself, like… “Wow, I figured I would at least get to mile 26 before he passed me. Either I really messed up the swim, or he’s riding super strong…” as well as “Damn, maybe there’s something wrong with my equipment? I haven’t used a Polar since last year, and this is someone else’s strap. I’ve been feeling pretty damn fresh so far. Perhaps I’m riding too conservatively?” I then picked up the pace a slight bit for a couple miles with Mike still in sight before reminding myself that I’m playing a dangerous game. I would rather err on the side of too conservative than make a rookie mistake. There’s nothing about my bike training (and results) this year so far that would indicate that I’m capable of holding the same pace as Mike for 56 miles, and I back off, but only slightly. At about mile 40, my old friend Mr. Piriformis Pain comes for a visit and stays for the rest of the ride. I keep him in check since I never really put out too hard an effort. I see Mike heading into the run course as I have about a mile left on my ride. At that point, I remember estimating that I’m less than 10 minutes behind, which at that point I was.

Bike Nutrition: 4 GU Gels (Chocolate Outrage) + 2 GU Electrolyte Brews + 2 Water bottles + 3 Salt Stick tablets.

Total Time: 3:09:32
Average HR: 153 BPM
Elevation Gain: 5200 feet
Previous PR (Timberman 2009)
Time: 2:57:02Average
HR: 156 BPM
Elevation Gain: 3600 feet
* Pretty happy with this bike performance. 12 minutes slower than Timberman, but with 1600 feet more climbing at a lower average heart rate. Nutrition was pretty spot-on.

T2 –

In and out. No problems.

Run -

As soon as I run out of transition, I head straight for a porta-john. Had been holding it for quite a while, and I think I must’ve lost a good 60 seconds in the stall. I come out and bolt onto the course. Immediately I see our good friend Bob Cowin who snaps a photo of me. My legs are actually feeling pretty good despite the brutal bike course, a testament to my indoor brick repeat workouts in the gym over the winter/early spring. At that moment, the sun decides to come out and it gets really hot really fast. I remember thinking to myself “Damn, I wish I had brought some more salt tabs on the run” and made a mental note to drink at every stop. I maintain a heart rate of between 165bpm and 170bpm for the first 5 miles. (Official race results say 9:14 pace for the first 5.4 miles, inclusive of bathroom stop.)

THIS RUN COURSE IS BRUTAL. Completely insane. You never quite find your legs and can never “coast” – it’s either up or down. There were parts where I recall collective sighs of “You CAN’T be serious!” amongst the runners around me as we turned the corner to another hill. At the halfway point, as I resolved that Quassy was a one-and-done for me, I had to start digging deep to push forward. I begin to pass a number of broken, walking souls who had pounded too hard on the bike (unfortunately none of them in my AG), meanwhile plotting my final balls-to-the-wall push in a couple miles. But then mile 8 came… and my “oh shit” moment began. Suddenly feeling dizzy, my pace drops, and I began to scan my head of all the things I had done during the race that could’ve lead to this. “I don’t get it… EASY swim, followed by a controlled, well-nutritioned bike leg…” and as I came to a fluid station and waved off yet another person trying to offer me this isotonic drink I had never heard of called “Cerasport” as I was drinking my umpteenth cup of water on the run course, the obvious answer somehow didn’t quite dawn on me. (It certainly would in the medical tent after the race.) With about 5 miles to go, I begin to do the math and I realize that if I don’t maintain my pace, I won’t break my PR from Timberman last August, and that was not sitting well with me at all. I hadn’t failed to break a PR all season, and despite this being a much tougher course than Timberman, I wasn’t about to break my string. The last few miles took every last ounce of me – I literally had to push harder than I ever had this year. In the last half mile there was yet another very big hill and I begin cursing the hell out of the evil race directors who thought it was a good idea to put this damn climb here. And yes, full disclosure… I have to admit… as I was about to hit the top of the hill… I had to walk for a bit. I was defeated. My head was spinning and my body was toast. As the course flattened out towards the end, I gave it one last push. I would like to describe the finish, but unfortunately… I don’t quite remember it. No, that is not a lie or an exaggeration.

Run Nutrition: 3 GU Gels (Vanilla Bean) + Water at every stop

Total Time: 2:03:50
Pace: 9:27min/mile
Previous PR (Timberman 2009)
Time: 2:17:54

* Ah, the fruits of my off-season run focus. 14 minutes faster on a vastly tougher run course. To this moment, I have no idea how Mike managed to pull off an insane 1:45. Of the 25 minutes he beat me by, approx. 18 of it came on foot. Wow, I'm humbled. Other than the blood pressure problem, I can't say I really had a "bad" run per se, considering how I came into the run leg feeling pretty springy. This kid is dangerous.

The aftermath –

I found Mike in the recovery area getting some post-race stretching, but I don’t remember what I said to him. We walked over to towards transition, where I plopped down in front of my bike and felt a dizzying nausea. Walked over to Mike and told him I didn’t feel well, and then he helped carry me over to the medical tent. 97/56 blood pressure. I refused an IV as I lay in the stretcher, and they handed me a cup of Cerasport. (Oh, the irony!) After about 4 or 5 cups, my blood pressure begins to go up. I stayed in the tent for quite a while longer. Mike goes over to grab us some food, but I knew I would not be able to ride my stuff to the train station and endure the trip home. And, the rest is history…

Words cannot describe how sore I was the next couple of days. But it was worth it. I’m proud as hell for fighting harrrrd... harder than I have at any race this year. In total, I end up beating my Timberman PR by a “whopping” 2min 21sec. But boy did I have to dig deep for this one. :)