In this post, we dive into marathon training nutrition and give our 10 rules for how to eat and fuel when in marathon training mode. Fueling for…
by: Stephanie Fontenot
Three letters I was afraid of and never thought I would actually hear in my triathlon career. I mean I always kind of had it in the back of my head that there might come a day when I would not finish a race, but I never thought it would actually happen. It just seemed like this far away possibility that would never catch up to me.
All that changed when I attempted to race Ironman Coeur D’Alene this summer. Prior to leaving for CDA, I had been eyeing the forecast so I knew what I should pack for race day. Imagine my surprise when the forecast predicted a record heat wave that would be sweeping through the area and would continue through race day. Perfect. Who doesn’t love racing in 100+ degree heat? Oh yeah, me.
The morning of race day started with a balmy hour and a half wait in my wetsuit as we slowly trudged toward the starting line of the swim. Pro tip, wait to put on your wetsuit until you get closer to the time you will be starting. I’m pretty sure my dehydration started while I stood in the heat dressed as an Orca whale. The swim was unremarkable despite being in a beautiful lake. I thought it would feel refreshingly cool when I got in, but the sun had already started to warm the water. You know how in the movie The Lion King, Mufasa tells Simba “everything the light touches is yours”, well in Coeur D’Alene, everything the light touched was hot.
I made it out of the water and into transition where I grabbed my grocery store’s worth of fuel for the bike and shoved it in my pockets before heading out to the course. The bike course is where it all fell apart for a number of athletes that day. Between the heat and the elevation, it was brutal. To put it simply, it was like biking through hell, if hell had mountains. At mile 30, I began to think that this really might not be my day. My body was not keeping calories down. I was incredibly thirsty no matter how much water I drank. It was heating up very quickly and I knew that I would be spending a lot of time in the sun. There was very minimal shade along the bike course, and in Idaho there is apparently 18 hours of daylight. Seriously, it didn’t get dark until after 9pm.
I made it through the first loop of the bike course, and I told myself to just try and make it to 70.3 miles before re-evaluating my next steps. I really didn’t want to give up despite the fact that I was gradually feeling worse and the heat was getting to me. Aid stations were running out of ice and water. I was running out of water and patience. I had irrational anger towards the sun. All of my fuel that I put in my special needs bag was hot, like it had just come out of the oven. On the second loop of the course, I got to mile 91 before making the decision that my race day had come to an end. When you find yourself at an aid station trying to crawl under a parked 18 wheeler because it looks shady, you know it’s time to throw in the towel.
I told the aid station staff that I was done. They helped me load up my bike and get onto the bus that would bring me back to the start of the race. As I sat there on the bus, it hit me that I wouldn’t be crossing the finish line of this race that I had trained so hard for. I thought about what I would tell my family and friends and all the messages of support that I would come back to when I turned on my phone. How would I tell them that I failed? Would they be disappointed? Would they think that I’m less of an athlete for not completing the race? Should I have just toughed it out and tried to continue despite being overheated and dehydrated? Was there anything I could have done differently that would have yielded a different result? A result that didn’t involve me being shuttled back to the starting line.
I second guessed myself for a solid hour before finally just saying screw it, there’s no shame in not finishing. There is no reason to sit there and berate myself over it. I did everything I could to make it as far as possible in that race. I knew at Mile 30 of the race that it wasn’t going to be a good day, yet I made it 93 miles. I think sometimes athletes don’t want to talk about DNFs because there is a feeling of embarrassment or shame associated with not getting to the finish line of a race.
As athletes we like to talk a lot about our successes but the failures are just as important. Failures are an opportunity to learn. I learned that I needed to rethink how I fuel for races and take in nutrition along the course. I learned not to stand in my wetsuit until I absolutely needed to put it on and get in the water. I learned that sometimes you are just handed a bad day no matter how hard you train for something, and I learned that it’s okay to fail. Every race day will not be perfect. I’m not any less of an athlete because I didn’t get to the finish line that day. No one was disappointed in me for not finishing. I did my best and it just wasn’t my day. The important thing is to keep going after you fail. Don’t let it stop you. Failure doesn’t mean the end of things, and that you should give up. Failure can be the beginning, the beginning of you learning what does and doesn’t work for you as an athlete. Failure can be the opportunity to work towards a new goal. Think of it as re-routing rather than the end of a road.
New Year’s is the time of year most people look to set resolutions which most often have to do with getting healthier. For all the insanity that was 2020, it reminded us of the importance of being healthy. So if you are looking to live a healthier and happier life in 2021, we’ve put together a few tips to help you achieve that goal.
Our first tip is simple. Make small changes in your daily life that are sustainable over a period of time. Getting healthy doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time and a few small steps go a long way. A lot of people try to tackle too much with a resolution and end up being overwhelmed and giving up. So try to make one or two small changes to your lifestyle that you can keep up with over time.
A lot of resolutions involve eating healthy and exercising. The best way to achieve these are to set 1 small resolution in both of these categories. Try to eat a little bit healthier and be a little more active. Once you accomplish doing some little things, you can tack on bigger things… the goal is just keep moving forward each day in your health journey. While it sounds like a cliché’, its 100% true, being healthy is a journey, not a destination.
There are several options for eating healthier: elimination, reduction, addition, substitution
Elimination involves simply eliminating one or more unhealthy things from your diet. For example, if you drink sodas, try slowly eliminating those from your diet. It’s hard to quit all at once so try drinking 1 less per day and substituting water in its place.
Reduction involves reducing the amount of something in your diet. If you LOVE ice cream and eat it every day, try eating every other day. Another great way to reduce things in your diet is to reduce the amount that you are eating. If you LOVE French fries, try eating a small order of fries instead of a large one. Remember that small changes go a long way.
Addition involves simply adding one or more healthy things to your diet. Any easy option is to add water to your diet. Simply drink one or two 8-ounce cups of water a day. Another is to add 1 serving of a fruit or vegetable per day. For example, try eating a banana or apple for a mid-day snack or as part of a meal.
Substitution involves switching out one unhealthy food item with a healthier choice. A few examples are substituting pretzel chips for potato chips for lunch or substituting carrots dipped in hummus or peanut butter instead of crackers. Another great substitution is to try packing your lunch two days a week at work instead of eating out. This will not only save you calories but also money. When you plan your meals ahead of time, you often make healthier choices.
When it comes to exercise, it’s not important what you do, it’s just important that you do something. Find something that you enjoy – walking, jogging, playing tennis, yoga, etc. and try to make a habit of doing it several times a week. Doing a variety of things is best so you don’t get bored and you vary the types of exercise you are doing. So try to pick a few things you enjoy and schedule them into your day. Set a goal for the number of days you want to be active per week – set a goal that is manageable for you and then select the time of day that works best for your life and make yourself an easy to follow schedule. After a few short weeks, this will become routine and thus become a part of your health journey.
Set Yourself Up To Win
Here are a few good tips for ensuring a successful resolution
Find A Friend: Find a friend to partner with in your health resolutions. A friend will hold you accountable which will greatly increase the likelihood of you sticking to your resolutions.
Write Your Goal(s) Down: Putting your goals down on paper helps you commit to them. Another great tip is to stick them somewhere that you will see every day – like a stickie note on your bathroom mirror or your computer screen. This is just a daily reminder of the goal you are working towards. Somedays will be easier than others to make healthy choices and on the harder days, a simple reminder can be very good motivation.
Allow Some Wiggle Room: The typical all or nothing approach rarely works and is often a recipe for failure so allow some wiggle room in your resolution setting. If you miss a day of exercise or don’t stick your healthy eating goals every day, its ok, just do better tomorrow. Forming new habits is often hard so give it your best effort and when you fall short, go easy on yourself and simply do better tomorrow.
Hit The Reset Button: You can resolve to be healthy at any time, it doesn’t have to only be at the beginning of the year or the beginning of a new month or the beginning of the week. You can hit the reset button at any time. Don’t give up, simply reset. Remember this is a journey, not a destination. It’s not all or nothing, it’s a daily commitment to doing better and feeling better.
Find Your Why: Solidify in your mind, the reason you are making these resolutions. We all deserve to be better for ourselves. Remembering the reason you started on your health journey will help you stay on the journey and keep moving forward.
Lastly remember one of the biggest ingredients to being happy is being healthy in both body and in mind. So take the time each day to do something good for yourself, whether that is sitting silently and taking a few deep breaths to regain some focus and energy or whether that is going for a short walk outside to soak up some sunshine. Take time this new year for you and your health and it will not only benefit you, but those around you, because being healthier makes you happier and that is infectious to everyone in your life.
If you are looking for a way to get healthy in the new year, we’ve created a Healthy is Happy Challenge. We have a 30, 60, or 90 day challenge that aims to challenge you to do some physical activity for 30 minutes each day for 30, 60, or 90 days.