Finding the Right Nutrition

A training buddy of mine suggested I try Tailwind for fuel on the bike.  He said it was formulated by ultra runners with a big focus on curbing stomach issues.  It has about 100 calories per scoop and a couple sips told me I kinda liked the taste.  So, I decided to go get some.

I like to support local business so I went to a Brentwood shoe store (that will remain nameless) and found my hidden treasure.  There, right inside the door, was an entire rack of Tailwind.

I settled into my catcher’s crouch and eyed the selections.  As I pulled one off the shelf, a nice middle aged woman asked if she could be of assistance.  I said sure, and asked her what she knew about the product.

That’s when it got weird.

“Oh, I haven’t used it but I hear it’s great!  My 10-year-old swears by it!”

Now, I sorta like kids, but rarely trust their opinions on Ironman nutrition and took a discreet step backwards.

“Your 10-year-old, huh?”

“Oh yeah, he loves to run.  He’s done up to 17 miles before.”

I was honestly trying to roll with the conversation, but this was not the type of endorsement I needed.  I told her I was thinking about using it on the bike as my main source of fuel for the whole race.

“Well, I don’t know much about biking, but my best friend’s kid plays a lot of soccer and he loves it!”

Okay, so now I’m having second thoughts.  Nothing against her’s or the best friend’s kid, but at that age I could fuel an entire 15 hour day of sports with a Snickers.

We stood at the counter and another woman joined us, so I patiently asked if they knew of any adults who used Tailwind?

Her helper friend jumped at the opportunity!

“Oh yes, Joe!  He’s 70 years old and used it for his first 100-mile race!”

“Really??” I asked, with scant hope.  “How’d he do??”

I am not kidding when I say she looked me right in the eye and said, “Well, I think he made it through 60 miles!”

There was an awkward pause before I feebly asked her to ring me up.

I honestly don’t understand people sometimes.  I’m pretty easy to work with on things like this, but this conversation was just baffling.  I suppose that’s what I get for moonlighting on my favorite running store.

Post script

I did buy Tailwind and I did use it on a couple rides.  I think I kind of like it enough (and promise to give it another shot after Muncie) but for some reason I couldn’t get the kid thing out of my mind and by the end it felt like I was licking a sucker for 2 hours.

Since that ride it’s been sitting safely, just out of reach of the neighbor kids, on a high shelf in the cupboard.  Maybe I’ll hand out scoops on Halloween.*

*  I give endurance fuel companies permission to use this idea as a marketing tactic.

The Race Addiction

Sometimes I get tired of formulating specific points about specific topics.  The internet is loaded with awful advice and that is probably the reason I have about 200 posts sitting in draft mode.  There’s nothing worse than a know-it-all, and I certainly don’t know shit.

The thing with me (and I’m sure it is with most aspiring triathletes) is that I love to think about this sport.  It’s so complex because of the mixed disciplines and nutrition and finding time/energy, etc. that it becomes a twisted metaphor for life that nobody can quite figure out. So, if you’re like me, you are on a continual search for simplicity.

How can all of this be simpler?  I’m not sure, but it is definitely a clutter-filled existence and one of the reasons I started painting the interior walls of my home white.  I’ve also given valiant effort at throwing out clothes I don’t wear, but the other day I found a huge box of old clothes in the garage and it became my new wardrobe.  The clutter that won’t go away!


For some reason racing triathlon is important to us . . . especially our first Ironman.  It’s something we think about daily, and sometimes hourly leading up to our race.  A pressure cooker that never leaves us alone.

And now, after two Ironman and three halves, I have that feeling again.  I am buzzing about Muncie.  Probably too much, but at least it’s something.

I feel like triathlon really does mimic life.  The possibilities are exciting, but when you realize how damn hard it can be, there are two choices:

1.  Tackle it head on and honestly do your best through preparation
2.  downplay the whole thing and treat it like it really doesn’t matter.

I think both serve a purpose.

The key element here is, “you realize how damn hard it can be.”  I mean, if I knew now what I did before I started all this stuff, I’m not sure I would would do it again.  I’m not sure the payoff has been worth it, but it’s tough to appreciate incremental growth.

One thing I’ve learned for sure is:  the harder you work at difficult things, the easier they become.  It doesn’t happen that day or the next, but eventually you just start doing it with a new sense of ease.

Running or cycling hills is a good example.  If you suck on hills, do them more.  Suck your ass off for days on end with genuine focus on using better form, relaxing, and believing you will be good on hills.

If you’re a bad swimmer (and want to be better) get into the water a lot.  Struggle, get winded, think about and use proper form even when it feels wrong.  Sooner or later, you will become a better swimmer.

But the truth is . . . this shit is not only hard, it’s addictive and lures you into deeper water.  One IRONMAN isn’t enough.  Your time is never fast enough.  The work doesn’t go away.

Muncie is all I can think about right now and I’ve been calculating my splits in endless formations.  If I do “this” in the swim I should be able to bike “this” but then my run might suffer.  On and on.

In the simplest terms, I think all of the obsession and determination is a good thing.  It makes life more interesting.  The problem comes after the race.  If we’re not racing for ourselves, it can be a big letdown.  We may think we failed, or worse, accomplished our goal, and lose sight of all the good things that have come from training.

It’s the training, not the race.  But in America, it always seems to come back to the prize.  How much shiny stuff or attention can we get.  I’m here to tell you, that is a fucked up way to live.




What Motivates Your Race?

The other night I watched a documentary about Mike Tyson.  He was an animal in the gym.

Even Evander Hollyfield said he never saw anyone train so hard.  Tyson was in relentless pursuit of being the best and knew that happened long before he got into the ring.

Tyson destroyed everyone in his path (usually in the first round) on his way to becoming the Heavyweight Champion.  At some point he got distracted by the fame and discarded his relentless training habits before fighting a relative unknown and 42-1 underdog named James “Buster” Douglas.  Douglas shocked the world by sending Tyson to the canvas.


How do we keep the fire burning?

I started running and triathlon with a simple goal:  To pull me from a downward spiral and feel alive again.  Three years later, I’m in an entirely different place and using the podium at Ironman Muncie 70.3 as motivation.

So, the struggle now becomes, am I going too far the other way?  Racing for the wrong reasons?

I have talked so much about “racing against yourself,” and I still believe that, but “racing to win” is a motivation used by nearly everyone in sport.  I can also add an entirely different toll on your brain and body.  For one thing, I will have to cut at least 20 minutes off a pretty good time (5:16) from my first trip to Muncie.

But that added pressure has me the most excited I’ve been for a race since my first Ironman at Wisconsin.  I’ve been focused (for me) and even opted out of 3 shorter races to stay focused on my training plan.

LabBikeAnything can happen, and caution is always on my mind, but as much as an aging-amateur-triathlete can, I am going for it.  And what’s wrong with that?

In many ways “wanting to win” is the ultimate test of racing against yourself.  For months you build challenging moments into the training.  Moments that will test your will make you familiar with the pain when it comes.  So, when I say I’m racing for the podium, what I really mean is that race is happening now.

It’s far from training for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, but motivation is relative.  There’s another level of fuel burning and it’s pretty cool.

I totally get the concept of training to feel better, but in all honestly, if I simply wanted to “feel great” (especially in a Zen sort of way) I wouldn’t be training for an Ironman.  It’s physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining.  Probably overkill in the grand scheme of wellness.

So, the competitor comes alive.

I have looked at who is racing Muncie and checked the last few years to see if the top finishers are coming back.  It doesn’t really matter because every race is different, and who knows who will show up, but it’s kinda fun, and frankly, that’s what I need right now.

I’ve sliced this scenario in every way possible and it will take the perfect race.  Finishing a 70.3 is definitely a major accomplishment, but I’m treating Muncie like my rematch with “Buster” Douglas.

Motivation has to come from somewhere.  I suppose it could be saving the world, but I’ve kinda turned that one over to a power higher than me.

Other Posts Related to Muncie

Muncie Race Report 2013

Creepy Training Video for Muncie

Thoughts One Week Out From My First 70.3

Sunscreen and Racing Triathlon

Sunscreen and Racing Triathlon

One thing that gnaws at me nearly every day is my run last year at Ironman Louisville.  I honestly thought I felt good off the bike, but completely crumbled one mile into the heat.  Since that day I have been searching for a reason why and may have finally shed some light on this perpetual nagging.

I was talking with a friend who cycles a lot with a woman (we’ll call her Susan) who is a six time KONA Qualifier.  She was trying to articulate just how and why KONA is such a hard race, and said it all boils down to the heat, humidity, wind, and sun.  She said, “You have to have your body ready for those elements, and that includes your skin.”

I’ve always been skeptical of sunscreen, in fact, I’ve always thought it causes more problems than it solves. Evidently Susan agrees.

She said, “Whenever I see Age Groupers lathering up with sunscreen in transition, I think to myself, ‘they’re fucked.”’

“What else did she say?” I eagerly asked my buddy.

Her point is that sunscreen doesn’t let the skin breath or cool itself by freely sweating.  It’s like a car engine running without a fan.  It keeps getting hotter and eventually cooks itself from the inside out. And the car engine is at its absolute hottest right after it stops.

Ahh, like in T2 right after the bike.

I’m not sure I’ve ever used sunscreen for a race, except at Louisville, and trust me, I lathered it on (maybe too much?).  It’s a tough call when you know the 95 degree sunshine will bake you for the next 10 hours because sunburn isn’t an effective race strategy either.

Sunburn and sunscreen during triathlon
The aftermath of Ironman New Orleans 70.3

I will never be certain, but this sunscreen theory makes a lot of sense to me.  I “thought” I felt good off the bike because the wind in your face can mask overheating.  Then I stopped and literally walked into an oven on the run.  At mile one, I was cooked.  Done.  I can honestly say I don’t know if I have ever felt hotter in my life.

It was a persistent and brutal heat that never went away.  It made no sense to me at the time.  How can you not cool down when you have ice on your head, on your stomach, and in your tri shorts?  I covered my arms, shoulders, and neck with a substance that didn’t allow my body to sweat and cool like it normally would.  Add excessive water consumption to the equation and you can see how that could turn your stomach into a boiling cauldron.

It’s not like I didn’t train in similar conditions, either.  I purposely spent a lot of time in the Nashville sun including long floats in my pool to build a base tan.

On top of the heat issue, this article claims that 75% of sunscreens are toxic.

In this video, triathlete Ben Greenfield talks sunscreen, including why he rarely wears it, but he does say he applies it during races, but only certain kinds.

Like most things, this is a risk/reward scenario.  Even Susan said she knows it’s probably not the healthiest thing for her skin, but she always tries to train in the sun and even spends time in the tanning bed.  Her reward is being competitive and 6 visits to KONA.  Her risk is potential skin problems, but then you have articles like this that say sunscreen may actually accelerate the risk of cancer.

Hell, I don’t really know, and I’m certainly not a doctor, but I also think a lot of doctors perpetuate concepts that fuel their business.

In the meantime, here’s a link to buy sunscreen for  your dog.

Training While “Sick”

The paradox of being a triathlete is that we are hell-bent on doing the best things for our body, but our methods are definitely debateable.  We want to feel good, look good, and reach a higher plane, but in the process we tend to destroy ourselves.

A great example of this was on Sunday when I felt the rumblings of a summer cold or sore throat brewing.  It actually started Saturday night and my thought process was sort of like, “What better way to reverse a cold than submerge yourself in an oven?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the 2-hour-run on my schedule.  It would be my longest of the year and was prefaced coaching instructions to “leave the ego at home.”  An easy two hour stroll through Shelby Bottoms in 90 degree sunshine was my idea of a picnic.

I never think about being sick as “being sick.”  It’s more a sign or symptom of what’s going on in my diet or lifestyle.  In this case I reflected on the full pizza and junk-food-explorations I slipped down my throat a few days earlier.  Comfort food that simply makes it harder for your body to work right.

When this happens it usually re-kindles the “health-researcher” in me and he uncovered a really interesting nugget about toxins and hydration.  If you’re body is clean, you don’t need as many fluids as you do when you’re loaded with toxins because the body needs more water to flush that crap out of your system.  Wow . . . so simple, but incredibly relevant to triathlon training.

I felt pretty strong for the first hour and a half of that run, but the last 30 minutes took their toll.  My muscles and will were shredded, but I felt that elusive state of calm. The workout did its job.

As soon as I got home, I turned on the juicer and haven’t looked back.  The reason I believe in juicing (mainly greens) is because it’s based on nutrients more than calories.  If our cells don’t get what they need to function, they revolt and something is bound to go haywire.

Monday was a little foggy but it was a great reminder that I was do for a reset.  Much like the “base-run” I had just completed, it doesn’t necessarily feel good at the time, but it’s an investment in the future.



How I Enjoy My Training

Just over three years ago, living become difficult for me.  I wasn’t thinking clearly, I was laying around all the time, and I felt like I was leaving life on the table.

Regret is probably my biggest motivator.  It scares the shit out of me to think about looking up from a hospital bed and wondering . . . “what if?”

For some reason I decided running (and walking) would be the catalyst.  But real change is hard and frankly takes a lot longer than you want.

I had never been able to run for more than a short distance or a couple days in a row.  But with the help of a Couch to 5k program I got hooked and running eventually propelled me to triathlon.

Couch to 5k eases you into running by combining it with walking.  Slowly building your joints, muscles and tendons to the point where they can sustain a 3 mile run.

This Couch to 5k mentality has always been an important theory in my training, but it’s easy to forget.

Typical I’ll get lazy for a while, then tear off into the sunset to prove that I “still have it,” but I usually don’t.  That’s when patience is tested.

Someone once told me the purpose of exercise is to “get” energy, not lose it.  I really like that concept and often refer to it as an “excuse” when I cut workouts short.

Injury, fatigue, and general disinterest will kill your race far faster than under-training. There were many nights during that initial 5k training that I could have kept going after the workout, but quitting while you’re ahead does something really important: it keeps the fire burning.

Swimming is a great example for me.  I am not kidding when I say the furthest I swam last year before Ironman Louisville was 2500 meters (the race is over 4,000).  Why?  Because long pool swims absolutely destroy my body and mind.

That said, I swam almost daily for 3 weeks leading up to the race.  1,200 here, 1,500 there, etc . . . I fell in love with swimming.  By the time Louisville hit, I couldn’t wait to get in the water.

That frequency turned me into a fish.  I hit the river with zero fear on my way to a relaxing 1:06 Ironman swim that left me full of energy for the bike.

Thinking you have to be wiped out after every workout is a bad theory.  Ironman training puts us in a chronic-fatigue-state as it is and trying to add to that pain is masochistic.

For me, training hard means being frequent and strategic about what I’m doing.

I am always looking for ways to get faster and stronger, but with the purpose of making everything easier.  Improving my stroke in the water, run stride, etc… The minute my form falls apart or I feel like the workout I’m doing will ruin the next few days, I’m done.

Consistency is how the body and mind learn.  Sure, we can stay up all night cramming for our “test,” but building and retaining small doses along the way is more effective, and frankly, a lot more enjoyable.



I Almost Gave Up A Dream

I’m not sure anyone really cares, but a couple months back I made a big declaration that I was going to give it my all to qualify for Ironman World Championships at KONA.  It was a bold decision and rooted in the fact that I needed motivation.

About two weeks after that announcement, I fell off the rails.  My training was sporadic, I slinked over to Knoxville for an average (for me) performance in the Challenge Olympic . . . then I got depressed.

Even though I didn’t crush Challenge Knoxville, the effort wore me out.  I slept a lot the following week and I still hadn’t signed up for Muncie 70.3 even though I “planned” to do it.

I was “this” close to throwing in the KONA-towel and casually slipped it into a conversation with Rebekah.  I thought the words may slide by her.

She has always been supportive, but on this day, she got in my grill.

She agreed that it was my option to give up, but reminded me that I have been crafting my life and lifestyle for this moment.  I left my job, built a sustainable business model on my terms, and created flexible training situation.

She got a little firmer.

“You have the time, desire, and most importantly, you have the ability.  There are a lot of variables, but not everyone has the opportunity to get to that level.  You have the talent to be in that conversation.  Do you really want to look back and regret that you never gave it your best shot?”


One of my lifelong quests has been to use the power of fear, but far too often it uses me.  The only reason death scares me is because I don’t want to be lying there regretting that I didn’t go after my dreams and goals.  Not always obtaining goals, but honestly going after them.

The other night I was talking with my brother about our competitive softball days (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true).  We always seemed to do our best in the biggest, most pressure-packed tournaments.  As we talked it through we came to the realization that we excelled because once the games started we couldn’t hide.  We were forced to use fear’s energy or crumble under it’s negative power.

I have tossed and turned with anxiety before every one of my races, but somehow I’ve woken up in a state of peace every time.  It’s like I let go, drilled deep into the moment, and accepted the consequences.  I imagine it’s similar to the feeling you get before jumping from an airplane or lying on your death bed.

And I think it’s that feeling we always want our lives.  Calm, content, confident.  An understanding that everything will be okay and there is no reason to be afraid.

Stephen Pressfield calls it “resistance.”  Resistance is simple distractions that are far easier than doing the work it takes to reach your goals.

Since that conversation with Rebekah, I have turned those negative thoughts into motivation with a focus on Muncie 70.3.  My coach has me back on a plan that challenges me to be better and I have given the workouts priority.  It’s amazing how much things can change with a few weeks of focus.

It’s cold, but this is where I go after every workout. My legs thank me.