Putting It All Together

I’ve written a lot about food and recipes lately, so I thought it might be about time to write about another workout. After all, my blog is about running for food, not just eating it. The post will talk a little bit about food in order to properly choose a snack/meal for fueling yourself, putting together all the pieces of nutrition that I have talked about in some of my foods of the week.

Another reason this post is called “Putting it all Together” is because last weekend I competed in my first triathlon! During my training I gone for runs, bike rides, and swims, but I never did one right after the other. The race was the first time I had done all three continuously. If this had been a serious race, I probably would have trained a little harder and smarter, but for the Top Notch Triathlon in Franconia, NH, my training was enough to win the women’s overall race. This fun triathlon, made up of a muddy bike ride, swim across a lake, and run/hike up Cannon Mountain, was perfect for someone who was in shape but maybe not finely tuned with proper triathlon technique. With a 3300 foot vertical ascent from start to finish, it’s pretty impossible to take this one easy! It was a really fun day, and I am already eager to find some more races.

The course map. Lots of climbing
The course map. Lots of climbing!

I recommend the triathlon for two reasons. First of all, racing is always so much more fun than training by yourself. And knowing that you have a goal while you are training makes you that much more motivated to keep going. The triathlon definitely helped force me out the door some days and pushed me to try harder workouts. Because I knew the last leg would be running up a mountain, I put in intense workouts such as hill sprints and stadium runs throughout the summer. During the race itself, adrenaline and the thrill of competing also pushes you farther than you thought you could go. I realized that I wasn’t really thinking about being tired, I was just thinking about the next step or catching the person in front of me. My worst leg was the bike since I am least experienced with that, so I spent much of that time trying not to go flying off into the woods/over the handlebars or prevent getting stuck in a mud puddle. As a result, my mind was occupied for most of this leg with things besides fatigue. And I had a fun time passing all of the more seasoned bike riders during the swim and run! By 10AM that morning, I had put in an hour and a half of strenuous working out without even thinking about it! That definitely deserves some ice cream.

Pre-race with my timing chip ready to go on my ankle
Pre-race with my timing chip ready to go on my ankle
Post race shoes looking a little muddier...
Post race shoes looking a little muddier…

Another reason the triathlon is great is because of the variety. When you switch up exercises so much, it doesn’t give you time to feel bored or tired with working out. If you want to put in a long workout, try doing two or three different activities and it will make the time seem to pass by even more quickly. As soon as I started getting tired of biking, it was almost time for the swim; the swim started dragging on just as I was getting close to the opposite shore. The hike was pretty long… but at least the scenery was nice! It was so steep that running didn’t add all that much speed.

View from the top! That was the lake I swam across
View from the top! That was the lake I swam across

Training for a triathlon is also pretty interesting and keeps everything well balanced. It forces you to do a variety of exercises instead of just going for a run everyday. Cross-training during rowing always helped me avoid injuries for longer and made me feel less tired; a triathlon basically is cross-training. I would have biked and run on my own, but swimming laps in a pool is not something I get excited about. I was forced to do it for the triathlon (although maybe not as often as I should have…), and I know that doing such a different type of aerobic workout was good for me. A nice way to keep working on upper body strength, something I definitely lose when I just run.

Do triathlons:

  • Motivate yourself to work out with the thought of an upcoming race
  • The variety of exercises will enable you to work out longer and harder without thinking
  • Racing makes you push yourself!

Run, swim, and bike for that food!

Emerging from the mist...
Emerging from the mist…

Speaking of food, I was very thoughtful about what I ate the day before the triathlon. Because it was a morning race, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fuel up much that day. Everyone always thinks carb-loading the days leading up to a race is the way to go. Although it is important to eat carbohydrates, if you load up too much, you will just end up with a pasta baby in your stomach. I focused on eating things like sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, lean meat, and fruits/vegetables. Not too much of any of it, just slightly more than normal. And bananas! I told you they were good for performance. I had three in the 24 hours before the race. One of them in the form of a “chocolate milkshake.” I didn’t want to eat ice cream the night before racing, so I made my own version of it.

Looks delicious but it is healthy! Just frozen banana, almond milk, cacao powder, and some cinnamon
Looks delicious but it is healthy! Just frozen banana, almond milk, cacao powder, and some cinnamon

The day of the race, I didn’t have anything fancy. It’s important to eat something that will give you quick energy and that you are used to eating so you know its effects. I woke up at 5, four hours before the race and had a bagel with almond butter and a banana. Bagels are pretty easy to digest because they contain quick-releasing sugars. If you are eating fat (like almond butter), make sure you have about 3 hours to digest it. I also know that I digest pretty quickly and have eaten lots of almond butter (I lived off of it at lunchtime while training). I felt digested but fueled by race time. During the race, my dad gave me a Honey Stinger before the run (basically Gu but a more natural form—AKA pretty much pure honey). If you are working out for more than an hour, I would recommend taking something to prevent dead legs or fatigue. Gus and stingers are good because they are just carbohydrates that your body can start using immediately. Make sure you drink water with them or else they will dehydrate you.

Race Nutrition Tips

  • The day before: focus on complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and some fruits and vegetables
  • Don’t eat too much of anything, just slightly more than normal
  • Stick with foods you know
  • Eat early enough before bed that you can start digesting
  • Bananas are great pre-race foods. They prevent cramps and give you energy
  • Make sure you have enough time to digest the morning of a race. 3-4+ hours before, you can eat anything. Starting at 2 hours, stick with easy to digest foods.
  • If the race is longer than an hour, bring a quick-releasing sugary snack
  • And of course, drink lots of water

Overall, it was such a fun day! I love racing and competing, and it had been too long since I had done a race of any kind (coming from college rowing, I was used to racing every week). If you have gone a while without racing, sign up for one! Even just a 5k run. Your mind will take over your training for you, and during the race, you might surprise yourself. Fuel up properly and then reward yourself at the end. Happy racing!

The post-race celebration
The post-race celebration

 

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