It's time to preach the good word of nutrition.
My Ironman last week was ONE HOUR ahead of my goal time. ONE HOUR! I couldn't believe it when I crossed the Ironman Maryland finish line in 11:18. That included a five-minute penalty for not passing quickly enough (what?), crazy circling and treacherous winds, and a shorted swim by 800 meters -- so we'll call this 140.1 just to be accurate. (But those winds made up for any gains on the swim, you can be sure.) This was Ironman number five for me -- so what did I do differently? How did I improve so much after a two year hiatus and two year age-up?
It all started last January, after signing up for Ironman Maryland. I wanted to do a strong race that met or possibly surpassed my previous PR of 12:15. So I formulated a training plan -- that's my job. But I also hired my associate, Katie Rhodes, a registered dietician. Katie and I had worked together at Sigma Human Performance and I was ready to put her skills to the test.
The first step in my journey was to get a metabolic test. With this test information, I was given training zones which told me when my body was burning fat versus carbs. This was invaluable information when it came time to base train in fat burning zones, build in sub-lactate zones and then peak into my fast and intense sessions at anaerobic capacity. My plan was based on three week builds with one week recoveries.
Secondly, Katie and I met and we discussed my goals and desires with this race. She would email me weekly meal plans that included my diet, my grocery list, and the percentage of carbs, fat or protein for each meal. I quickly realized I had been eating too many carbs and not enough healthy fats. My portions were too large, also. So I buckled down and did not stray from her plan, eliminated a lot of the sweets and empty calories I was consuming. And things began to change.
In the first few weeks with my nutrition plan I saw noticeable weight loss. And with that came increased speed and power. I was able to hold faster paces in all three disciplines. Things plateaued after several months, but when I was consistent with my training and my diet -- I saw measurable improvements.
A few weeks prior to race day I noticed Katie begin modifying my diet to be more carb-heavy with less fats. To prepare me for the race she prescribed specific grams of carb intake instead of my usual calorie count methods. And again, I felt strong and not fatigued or weak when I followed her instruction. She always provided a post-workout meal for recovery, as well.
Then it was RACE DAY. For the first time in all my Ironmans, I not only had a race plan but a specific race-day nutrition plan. I listed everything I was to consume on race day down to the last gram of carbohydrate and sip of water. And I was eating WAY more than I ever had in any race. I did not just grab whatever was available at the aid stations -- I brought my own food and utilized my special needs bags carefully. I was dialed.
They say luck is the residue of hard work. Well it all came together on race day. Luck was on my side but really, the hard work and dedication paid off. I'm ecstatic with my race time. And I can't wait to cross the finish line at Ironman number six. I have learned so much on this journey -- and one of the main things I can preach is that you should not ignore your diet. As triathletes we can get away with consuming too much food and especially the wrong foods. We will burn it off and most of us end up thin-thin on race day.
Fueling your body with high quality foods is not really a secret. But it is the key to a faster finish. My life has changed thanks to Katie Rhodes. My plates are colorful and balanced. And I will never again disregard my daily eating plan. Good luck to all you future Ironman finishers. Let me know if I can help get you across the line with a new PR. Email me here firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with Katie at Katie@OWN-Nutrition.com.
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