— Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong has bad races to counter his iconic accomplishments, capped by a record seven wins in the Tour de France.
The Texan has been racing since a child. He was a state-level swimmer at 12, a winning Iron Kids triathlete at 13 and became the top under-19 triathlete in Texas. He then concentrated on cycling, reached the sport’s pinnacle and has now returned to triathlon with a goal of a top finish in the Ironman World Championships in October.
In the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas (a half Ironman distance race) on April 1, Armstrong was favored to win, but faced serious GI issues during the bike and run, and finished a disappointing seventh. His predicament, and even more, his attitude towards his experience is a good lesson. What he said lifted my spirits, as I too had a bad race on April Fools Day for some of the same reasons.
That word usually brings a slurry of emotion. Rather than deliberate the athlete’s diet (yes, Bob and Betty, you are athletes now), let’s focus on race-day nutrition.
On the day of your race, you are going to expend a tremendous amount of energy, no matter how long your race. The longer the race, the more you need to fuel before you get to the start line. The best way to sabotage your race is to start hungry.
Since each person is unique, it is hard to state for a fact that you need to consume “x” amount of calories before and during the race.
So the best way to prepare is, well, to prepare. Make a note of what you eat race day or ate the night before. If you had a light dinner, you may need to fuel more race morning.
As we jogged together during warm-up before that April 1 race, a friend mentioned that he ate 1,400 calories for breakfast that morning. I was incredulous, but as he spoke, I realized that not only had I not eaten much dinner the previous night. I had also forgotten to eat anything but an energy bar that morning.
Hence, he was probably going to – bar any GI issues – have a much better race than I. And he did.
The lesson is this: Plan your race day nutrition just as you plan what you are going to bring for the race. Make a list: Bike, helmet, shoes, sunscreen, socks, sunglasses, running shoes, clothes to race in, inhalers or any medications needed, water bottles, energy drink, towel and food.
If you are lucky and you can eat at home before the race, all the better. Most of us cannot do that, so we need to plan ahead and bring the proper amount of calories to eat two-three hours before the race, and an energy drink or more to ingest before you start. If the race is longer than two hours you will need to pack calories.
Do you eat before or while you train? I hope so. It’s well researched that athletes perform better with calories consumed in the morning before they exercise. The time to diet is not before working out. Your body needs energy – calories – to do its best. Also, depending on the length of your exercise session, you need to refuel with protein after your workout to help your body recover and prepare for your next session.
So the next time you go out for a run, eat first. Practice with various amounts of calories and food. Usually, easily digestible foods are best – I prefer museli – but as my friend can attest, a breakfast of muffins works for others. If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to consume GU (a packaged energy gel) or more liquid calories before you race and exercise.
I carry GU on the bike and that sits well with me. Try various kinds of energy bars and “gus” to find something that works for you on both hot and cold days.
As with everything in life, the more you prepare the more chance you get to be a hammer. And when you experience the bad days, remember, even Armstrong has been a bent nail.
Bob and Betty, your workouts this week will include practicing your pre-race nutrition before your workouts. Practice riding your bike, preferably on the racecourse, and then transition to a swim. See how your legs and arms feel as you move from the bike to the swim.
This will take some adjustment. We will do this again.
During the swim, concentrate on proper body position in the water. Do sets of 50’s (one lap or two pool lengths) alternating easy and hard, practice swimming heads-up and start fueling on your longer bike rides.
Also, eat an hour before you run. Take mental notes so you will have your diet down when you put the hammer down on race day.
All columns are at http://www.ruidosofreepress.com/pages/sports_area.
Sarah Crewe is a USAT (USA Triathlon) Level 1 coach who coaches triathletes and is a certified RPM, yoga and American Swim Coach Association Level 2 coach. She is lead faculty for health and physical education at ENMU. To contact Sarah Crewe for training or learn more about the Ruidoso Sprint Triathlon, call the Ruidoso Athletic Club at 257-4900.
If you have any training questions for Sarah Crewe, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Always contact your doctor before beginning physical training and it is advisable to have a personal coach.