Top 10 race day tips

Race season is here, some of you will have done your first race, many of you will have your A race approaching. For our GTR100 athletes who have been training since January, the big day is this weekend at Staffordshire Ironman 70.3.

Race day can be daunting; there is a lot happening on race day morning and lots of kit to remember, so we’ve put together our Top 10 race day tips, learnt over the countless races we’ve done ourselves, to make it that bit easier.

  1. Don’t eat more than normal on race day morning, eat the same as you would before your standard long weekend training session. You only need to fuel for the swim, not the entire race – once on the bike you can start taking on more nutrition so don’t overeat thinking it will be better for you – it will just make you feel sick!

  2. Add an extra 45mins to how long you think you’ll need in transition, time always speeds up on race day morning!

  3. Don’t waste time and energy in transition looking at other people and thinking they have a faster bike/they look fit/have better trainers etc. Race day is about you and performing your best, you can’t control what anyone else does so don’t worry about it.

  4. Walk through transition: swim to bike to bike out. Then bike in to racking to run out. Pick a marker that you can look for to spot your place – a specific tree, a lamppost, a sign, a shop etc. This will be much easier to run towards in the frantic nature of the race then looking for a number.

  5. Put your bike in an easy gear ready for the start of the bike section.

  6. Vaseline the hot spots in your run shoes e.g., the arch, the heel – you should know where these are from training runs without socks.

  7. Take time to put your wetsuit on properly, make sure it is fully pulled up and have a friend help you get as much material up and around the shoulders as possible. This means getting to the swim start well in advance so you aren’t rushed and in a sweaty panic trying to get your wetsuit on. You want to keep calm and relaxed pre race and that means being in control of your timings.

  8. Do a warm up – you want your heart rate elevated before the swim start. If on land do a little jog and some squats/tuck jumps, then arm swings to mobilise the shoulders, if in the water, once acclimatised do some sprints of 15 strokes hard.

  9. On the bike, as you approach the end start spinning in an easier gear (up your cadence) to flush lactic acid out of your legs and aid the bike to run transition.

  10. When the run starts to get tough use your arms, the legs will follow the arms so keep pumping the arms!

And a bonus number 11. Don’t look down at your watch as you cross the finish line. Look up and smile for the photo :)

Enjoy your races and good luck!

Pre-race taper panic

I had a message from a client today, 1 week out from their A race of the year, and it was panic stations: A sudden niggle, feeling sluggish, worried about getting ill, panicking about the race…. it’s a situation that might feel familiar to many, and I’ve certainly been that person before.

So, if you’re starting to feel the pre race panic and think that new pain in your leg is a sudden stress fracture – don’t worry!!

Twinges and those little aches you are feeling are all part of the body's rejuvenation process during the reduced volume of the taper period. During a taper, tissue repair on the microscopic level causes muscle twitches and sometimes cramps as the body adapts. Also, as the training reduces and the race gets nearer everyday aches and pains that you would normally ignore become significant and you focus in on them. So try just thinking of each little pain as a sign that your body is healing itself from your training and preparing you for your race.

If you are feeling like you’ve got really heavy legs and sluggish in your sessions, again, don’t worry this is all part of taper! It's the tissues repairing coupled with doing less training so you'll be storing more carbohydrate and thus water, so you'll feel heavier and well, like a slug, but that's normal and come race day the extra carbohydrate stores and water weight will be beneficial and help you get through the race, and your legs will be fresh and fully regenerated.

Panicking about the race often stems from fear of the unknown if you’re a beginner or lack of confidence – so do what you can to mitigate this: read the race guide, recce the course (or learn the race map in your head), look at your training log to see all the training you’ve done and remind yourself you have done the hard work and are capable of doing the race. Also, accept that during the race there will be times when you feel really tired and might struggle, as long as you are prepared for this, when it comes you know that you were expecting it and can manage it better.

Finally, feeling nervous is no bad thing – as long as you control those nerves. After 20 years of racing I still get nervous, if I wasn’t nervous that would be weird, so now I embrace the nerves as they signal that I’m ready to race. So ifyou are feeling those butterflies in your stomach don’t get wound up about them, smile, and say to yourself ‘bring on race day, I’m ready’.

So to sum up, take a few deep breathes, everything you are feeling is perfectly natural - think of it as your body priming itself to race, go with it but don't let it get the better of you.

You are going to be fine!

Race day nutrition

Race season is almost here, you’re training is coming together and you have tried and tested your nutrition plan for race day.... or have you?. Have you even thought about your race day nutrition plan yet?

 Don't ruin your hard training by getting your nutrition wrong during the race

Don't ruin your hard training by getting your nutrition wrong during the race

You need to be practicing and fine tuning what you’ll be doing in the race now, it’s better to realise what brands you don’t get on with during a training ride then on the big day, and now is the time to find out how much you can handle – don’t just assume you need or can tolerate the same amount as your mate.

If you’ve yet to even think about this do some planning ahead of this weekend’s training – think about how much you should need in your race and at what time points you’ll take it, then stick to that plan and see how you feel and tweak it in your next session.

A rough guide to the amount of carbohydrate you need to be taking on is:

  • up to 75mins, minimal needed, water alone is fine
  • 75mins – 2hrs, up to 30g/h – from this point on nutritional training is advised to get your gut used to processing carbohydrate while you are exercising
  • 2–3hrs, 60g/h
  • 3hrs+, >60g/h, 90g/h is about the max that can be tolerated.

These are guidelines, some people will handle/prefer much less, and if you’re smaller you’ll probably want to be near the lower ends of suggested amounts. The key is to find out what works for you.

First, work out how much you might need for length of your planned race. For example a regular energy gel is 20-25g of carb, sports drink 7.5g of carbohydrate per 100 ml, an energy bar could be 45g carb/bar and energy chews can be 8g carb per block (different brands differ so check your preferred brands first).

Taking the bike section - where you'll consume the majority of your calories (can't in the swim, not as easy when running) If you’ll be riding for 3hrs then you might need 1 bottle of energy drink, 1 energy bar and 1 gel.

Second, think about when you need to take them on. Hydration is vital, it seems obvious to drink but on race day it’s too easy to forget once you’re in race mode so it’s good to have in your plan to drink every 15mins.

Energy bars can contain fat, fibre and protein, which slow down absorption, so I would break a bar into 4 bites and have a bite every 30mins rather than all in one go. In addition, you should look for bars that have the lowest fat/fibre/protein amounts and mainly carbs to reduce the risk of GI problems.

Gels are made of simple sugars, which are digested quickly into the bloodstream to provide energy shortly after consuming them. You might want to take a gel towards the end of the race to give you that kick for home and fire you up for the start of the run. So you might want that gel 20 mins before the end of the bike. Then maybe another one at 10k in the run.

Third, test it out! Above are all suggested timings and amounts, once you’ve worked out your plan, test it, test it and test it again. If you might forget to stick to your carefully thought out plan make a note and tape it to your toptube, or set an alarm on your watch to beep every 15 mins.

Happy training, and fuelling!

Macronutrients. #1, Protein

Carbohydrate, fat and protein, are known as macronutrients and a healthy balanced diet consists of all of these.  Proper nutrition is essential to provide us with the energy to train, to help us recover, and to keep our immune system healthy.  But how much of each macro do we need? What type of each? And, when should we consume them?  

protein

We’ll be looking at each macronutrient in turn, first up – protein.

 

So, first the sciencey bit. What is protein?

Proteins are the building blocks of your body.  Our organs, muscles, bones, skin and hair are made of proteins; and hormones, enzymes, antibodies and haemoglobin (which carries oxygen in your blood) are protein molecules. So you can see that protein is not just for muscle repair and growth, it is also needed for the correct functioning of our immune, hormonal, circulatory and digestive systems.

A protein is made from a chain of amino acids (AAs),  of which 9 AAs are essential, which means that we must get them from our diet as they cannot be made by the body. 3 of these essential AAs are branched chain (these are your BCAAs you often hear about as a supplement) which are metabolised primarily in the muscle rather than the liver like other amino acids.

How much do we need?

For endurance athletes, the general advice nowadays is to take in 1-1.5g per kg bodyweight per day, and of that to have 15-25g of your daily amount as high quality protein within 1hr of finishing exercise to optimise recovery, and then spread the rest of your intake out over the course of the day.  The exact amount you need varies depending on your size, how much training you are doing and the intensity of your training. So if you’re smaller/training less start at the lower end of the recommended amount. During heavy training you will need more to help you recover in time for your next session, but usually your increased calorie consumption when in heavy training will cover your protein requirements.

When should we have it to maximise recovery?

Within the first 60mins after exercise you should consume protein to assist in the repair of damaged muscle tissue and help with synthesis of new muscle proteins.  In a following article we’ll discuss carbohydrates, but the importance in relation to protein is that the effect of post-exercise protein intake is enhanced when protein is combined with carbohydrate, so your post-exercise nutrition should include a mix of protein and carbohydrate for optimum recovery.

If it is not convenient to have a full meal within 30-60mins of finishing a session have a recovery drink such as a whey protein shake (or just chocolate milk) or yoghurt, which contain high quality and also adequate carbohydrate.

What are good sources?

Lean meats (chicken, white fish), eggs and milk. Also, red meat (but it obviously has a higher fat content), and if you are vegetarian natural/greek yoghurt, quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds.

Animal foods nearly always contain all the essential AAs in sufficient quantity, and are known as a complete protein source. Other protein sources such as grains and seeds may lack one or more essential AA, or not contain very much of them, so if you don’t eat animal proteins just make to sure to eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day in order to get all the AAs you require.

It is not necessary to take extra supplements such as BCAAs or protein powders. As long as you’re eating a balanced diet you will likely be getting enough protein from normal dietary intake.  Exceptions to this might be during very intense periods of training. In general, look to maximise your protein intake from your diet before adding in supplements (which can also be quite costly!). Although, as mentioned above, protein shakes can be a practical way to take on protein when sufficient food cannot be found.

Finally, some suggestions for high protein snacks that you can use to up your daily protein intake – apple and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, greek yoghurt, handful of nuts (just be wary of fat content).

 In following articles we’ll look at the importance of carbohydrates and fats.  Any questions on any of the macronutrients or how to include them in your diet please message us on facebook or twitter and we’ll get right back to you.

Twitter: @Precision_Coach

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The Times GTR100 Feature

Seriously guilty...

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As I sit down to write this article I do so in the fog of a Monday morning impacted by the interactive features of a busy work schedule, two small children and training.  This is particularly fitting as it is extremely representative of the largest demographic involved in triathlon that of the ’30 something’ (a term used loosely to describe anyone under pensionable age), working professional possibly in a long term relationship and potentially with or starting a family.  The simple truth is whether you fit into this demographic or not triathletes are categorically busy people with some drive behind them – one of the probable reasons in fact that they got involved with triathlon in the first place. 

All too often you’ll hear the phrase ‘I’m starting training seriously on Monday’.  We’re guilty, we’ve said it, and if you’re honest you’ve probably said it before too.  You might even have said it last Friday…  The level to which people dedicate themselves to this sport never ceases to impress and inspire me.  However the word ‘seriously’ needs to have a caveat.  We should not confuse dedication with sapping the fun out of the sport and consequently our lifestyle by feeling guilty about our other priorities.

There are several areas of importance to consider when addressing the subject of life vs. triathlon.  If you focus on these then you’re likely to get the best out of yourself, your lifestyle and most critically give back to the people around you.

Goal Setting and Time Efficiency – This has to be the singularly most important point.  If you want to achieve your goals in triathlon within the parameters of your life you have to be realistic when setting your goals.  There is no point saying you’re going to train 3 times a day every day and consequently set the target of doing a sub-2 hour standard distance race when in fact you realistically can only train once a day.  The best simple, tried and tested method to goal setting is to first work out how much time you actually have.  Take your normal working week and work out where your current sessions are and then work out your potential training week.  Write next to each session the probability of you completing the session out of 10.  Review the week.  You are looking for numbers of 8 or above.  If you have to take your daughter to judo on a Thursday every other week this is not a viable regular session.  Remember consistency in all training is key.  This done, you have built a sustainable training week and can look realistically at what goals can be achieved with this. 

A good way to review your programme is to keep an electronic training diary and use a simple traffic light system – green for all sessions completed, amber for only partially or one session on a day of two and or course red for a missed session.  This allows you to acquire an overall impression of how your training is going as well as identifying problem areas from which you can manage your goals and expectations.

Motivation – Linked to goal setting, ensure you break your large goals into small manageable chunks e.g. dropping your 1km run time by 10sec over the next 4 weeks.  Combine this with a training diary, group training and potentially training with a partner (no hiding!) you’ll keep motivation high on route to goal completion and success.

Hours needed to train vs. Recovery – One of the key differences between an elite athlete and an age-grouper is the ability to rest and recover.  Sadly the majority of us cannot sleep at our desk at least not in the present economic climate…  This leaves us with the issue of recovery.  If you do not build this into your programme two consequences will certainly occur.  Firstly you’ll get injured.  Secondly you’ll fail to achieve you goal.  It is as basic and unforgiving as that.  However whilst you may not be able to achieve the same recovery as an elite athlete there are supplements and products out there that will help you accelerate your recovery.  That’s a whole other subject which we’ll be covering in the coming weeks and months.

Work/life balance – Triathlon is a lifestyle sport there is no denying this and it definitely sits on the life side of the work/life balance scales.  However as an age-group athlete it is important to make this distinction clear and understand how it may feel for those around you.  Simply put, if they don’t see you, you might as well be at work.  Remember this and you’ll not have any problems.  Managed well and you’ll find triathlon massively enhances your life.  We have certainly made friendships of the strength not found in other walks of life.

So we make sure you take a step back and make sure you have everything in balance.  The sooner that’s the case the more you’ll get out of this fantastic sport.

Tasty Balls

As promised, here are the recipes for some of our favourite homemade energy balls and bars. Don’t worry, pretty much no cooking skills are required. As long as you can switch on a blender you’ll be able to make these, you just need the willingness to get your hands a bit messy!

These make great fuel for out and about on long rides and runs as they are full of natural energy foods like nuts, oats and dried fruit. They also make a great post-session snack to tide you over until you’ve time to make a proper meal, or as an afternoon pick-me-up ahead of an evening session. Not to mention an on-the-go breakfast or even as dessert (especially the ‘chocolate truffles’).

 Tastiest balls n the endurance world according to us...

Tastiest balls n the endurance world according to us...

And the beauty of them is that you can adapt the recipes to suit your tastes – want more protein? Add a scoop of protein powder, don’t like almonds? Use whatever nut you prefer. Don’t like nuts? Don’t add the nuts!

Most of them probably take about 10-15mins max to make. And compared to buying energy bars at ~£2 a bar/ball they come in significantly cheaper (if you can avoid eating about 5 at once, we’re still working on that one!)

Give them a go and let us know what you think J

PS. There are more to come, so keep your eyes peeled for future recipes.

Peanut butter oat balls

  • 1 cup oats (I use gluten free but not essential)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (or almond butter if preferred)
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed or wheatgerm
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Optional: desiccated coconut /chopped nuts/seeds/raisins/chopped dried fruit, ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Optional: to make them chocolatey, add 2-3 tblsp cocoa powder

Method

  • Melt honey, peanut butter and coconut oil in the microwave - give it a stir every 10s.
  • Add oats, flaxseed, vanilla extract, choc chips (if using) and any additional extras to peanut butter and stir until thoroughly mixed. If they look too dry, add in extra melted honey or peanut butter, too moist then add more oats.
  • Roll into balls of ~1 inch diameter.
  • You can roll the finished balls in cocoa, or in coconut.
  • Store in an airtight container in fridge.

 Chocolate coconut protein balls (aka healthy chocolate truffles)

          1/2 cup vanilla protein powder

       1/4 cup of coco powder

·         10 pitted dates (soft ones for easier blending, or soak in water before using)

·         4 tbsp coconut oil (or could use a nut butter - almond, cashew etc)

·         Dessicated coconut for rolling in

 Method

  • Put first 4 ingredients in food processor and blend thoroughly to combine.
  • If its a little dry and crumbly add a little bit (2 tsp) of warm water and blend again.
  • It’s the right consistency when it all groups into one big lump.
  • Roll into little balls and then roll in the dessicated coconut.
  • Store in an airtight container in fridge.

 Fruit & Nut Energy Bars

  • 180g (1.5 cups) mixed nuts and seeds (I used mixed nuts & sunflower seeds)
  • 20g (1/4 cup) desiccated coconut
  • 100g (1/2 cup) dried fruit (I used figs & apricots)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 60g (1/4 cup) almond butter
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) honey

Method

·         Place seeds and nuts in food processor and blitz until finely chopped – but don’t blitz too much, I prefer them chunky. Put in mixing bowl.

·         Repeat with the dried fruit and add to nut mixture.

·         Melt coconut oil, honey and almond butter together.

·         Add nuts and fruit to wet ingredients and mix to combine.

·         Place mixture in nonstick tray (size depends how thick you want bars).

·         Set in fridge for a couple of hours, then slice into bars.

·         Store in an airtight container in fridge.

 John was nervous of under fuelling.  Bert, pushing, was unsure he'd got it right...

John was nervous of under fuelling.  Bert, pushing, was unsure he'd got it right...

Who wants to bonk?

 Bobby didn't like gels...

Bobby didn't like gels...

‘What’s happened to watershed’, I hear you shout, oh that’s right it’s the internet!  Hopefully this will get through your firewall though…  The double entendre of this phrase might well be missed by the younger generation but thankfully most of us triathletes will remember it!  Sadly we’re talking about the performance damaging effects of nutrition which I guess could still be construed differently at least for those fans of 9 ½ weeks.  Possible we’re ageing ourselves again… 

Anyway keeping it firmly within the parameters of triathlon who wants to bonk? No one.  Many of you will have experienced that miserable gnawing feeling in your gut which pre-empts the dramatic loss of power, motor control and cognitive ability.  Usually resulting in you failing to unclip at a junction and always in the presence of a white van driver, some adolescent kids and a local news crew.

So taking into account that we’re now in the off-season how do you sensibly put a nutrition plan together to get through your training?  For those social cake-lovers out there, don’t worry there’s always a place for cake, particularly in the off-season.

First off, let’s all accept that over winter we’ll put on a bit of weight – cold dark nights and gloomy weather send us all in search of comfort food, and then there are the inevitable Christmas celebrations which all add to the winter insulation we acquire. The key is to not let the winter bulk get out of control and neglect good nutrition. It’s hard to lose weight when race season begins so it’s important to keep the weight gain in check now, but without restricting yourself and ensuring you are fuelling your training sessions properly.

Below are some tips on healthy eating over winter, without sacrificing the cake! If you are interested in more closely monitoring your calorie intake then myfitnesspal is an easy to use app in which to log your daily diet.

Pre training. Eat porridge for breakfast – it’s comforting and warming on cold mornings and provides a sustained slow release of energy to get you through the long winter miles without the dreaded bonk. Have a big bowl roughly 2 hours before you set off. If you are going a longer ride >3hrs you could also add in some protein to your breakfast, e.g. an omelette. Don’t try to do long training sessions on an empty stomach as you will not be able to train as hard or for as long, and you might even start to break down your muscle as the body strives to find the calories it needs.

During training. Make sure to take snacks on your rides – you will need to refuel on rides over 2 hours, even if you have had your porridge! Take some energy bars or better yet homemade flapjacks or energy balls – we’ll share some of our fave recipes in due course – and, here comes the good news, once December hits a slice of Christmas cake full of dried fruit and nuts makes a great energy snack for on those cold rides. Equally, when you’re out riding don’t feel you can’t enjoy a slice of cake on your coffee stop.  Just don’t enjoy another 3 or 4 slices when you get home! As a general guide aim for up to 1g carbohydrate per kg body weight per hour to sustain your energy.

Post-training. You want to eat a mix of carbs and protein to replenish energy stores and aid muscle recovery, and ideally within an hour of finishing your session to optimise recovery, and set you up for your next session, especially if training again within 24 hours. A great kitchen tool is the slow cooker – this way you can have a healthy, filling and warm meal ready and waiting for you to return to after long winter sessions, instead of snacking on whatever you can find. Other quick and easy options are scrambled eggs on toast or a smoked salmon bagel.  And if you are cooking a meal that takes a while, have some chocolate milk while you wait to start the recovery process and stop you snacking.

The key is to make it easy and sustainable to eat healthy, wholesome food.

So, keep your bonking off the bike and look out for our energy balls recipes coming soon!

Bike Groupsets - Breaking it down.

There are three main manufacturers, Shimano, Campagnolo, SRAM.  What's the difference between them?  They are similar weights and have been developed along similar lines.  Shimano and Campagnolo are thought to be the industry leaders and in fact the most established.

There is an element of personal preference with many people living and dying by one brand.  Probably the best consideration is the practical one.  Shimano is the most readily available and is also compatible with SRAM components which can at times be useful as it makes servicing and maintenance anywhere much easier.  However if you live in Italy Campagnolo will probably be in your blood...

If you're spending around £600 or under you should be getting either Tiagra, Veloce or Rival.  We would recommend though if you can afford to get a bike with a minimu of 105, Centaur or Force.  The reason why?  Basically one of the most frustrating things whilst training or racing is the gears slipping - this happens when you put more pressure on the pedals typically when you're riding up a hill and leads to a loss of torque.  Simply put, spend money on the moving parts.

 A Groupset is basically the moving parts on your bike.  The brake levers, brake callipers, crank, front chain rings, cassette, front and rear mechanisms, chain and your bottom bracket.

A Groupset is basically the moving parts on your bike.  The brake levers, brake callipers, crank, front chain rings, cassette, front and rear mechanisms, chain and your bottom bracket.

 This is a comparison table for you to help break it down.  There have been some new advances with SRAM at the top end but this will get you going!

This is a comparison table for you to help break it down.  There have been some new advances with SRAM at the top end but this will get you going!

Getting strong over winter....

As the clocks go back and the weather seems to be heading to winter, you might start thinking more about indoor-based sessions in a nice warm gym!

Winter is a great time to get in the gym. A structured strength program can increase your flexibility, strength, power, stability and balance. As a result you’ll be less likely to get injured when the demands you place on your body increase as training intensity rises in the new year. In addition you’ll find it easier to hold correct form for longer, so you’ll be able to train better, for longer – win!

We thought we’d list a few of our favourite gym exercises and pieces of kit to give you some ideas.

TRX – great bit of mobile kit. Good for rows, hamstring curls and single leg squats.

Resistance bands – Not too expensive. Great for activation exercises and developing good alignment in your movements. Also a great assistance tool for progressing to full pull ups.

Box jumps – try doing these superset with squats to develop strength and power. Most gyms have plyo boxes now in a range of heights so you can progress from a starting low level box.

Squats – Kat’s favourite exercise!

Deadlifts – Kat’s second favourite exercise!

Push ups, pull ups and dips.

Core stabilizing workouts – not just sit ups! By core you need to think about everything between your hips/pelvis and your rib cage. A strong stable core will really help increase the efficiency of power transfer and improve your balance. For example you can do glute bridges, single leg squats, planks, human flags, and any free weight/dumbbell work will require you to switch on your core too.

That’s by no means all we do in the gym, just some ideas for what you could think about adding into your winter training routine.


Happy training!!