When More is Less

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 14:00

This blog is a quick one about how more is not always more. The "hellth hole" I'm climbing out of is proof of that, but there are many other instances in training and in life where balance is key! Read on...

When many of us first start this crazy sport, we're doing a few workouts per week and decide "hey, why not? It could be fun" and sign up for a sprint triathlon. Our first race sets the bar, and then a strangely large percentage of us "catch the bug" and want to see how much better we could do if we actually knew what we were doing, and trained...like, for real. I know this because I had the same thoughts after my first triathlon. Here's a profile of what it looked like:

  • Running shorts under my wetsuit
  • Toe straps on my dad's 1980 steel-framed Peugeot that must have weighed 30+ pounds
  • Rode in one gear the whole time because it was too hard to switch gears using the two levers by the headtube
  • Floundering in the pool once per week, spinning twice per week, one devastating abs class and a couple of runs defined my training regimen

It was pretty ugly, but I loved it.

So we step it up a notch, and might even decide to take on a long race like a 70.3 or Ironman. Maybe the 4 hours per week of training becomes 7 hours per week, and at your next race, boom! improvement. "Great, so I added training and I got better. What if I trained 10 hours per week???" You bag the weekly poker sesh with the gang to get another workout in, and at your next race you are rewarded with another PR. Now your wife is taking the kids to soccer practice so that you can leak salty water all over a black ribbon for an extra two hours every Saturday. It's at approximately this point where things go wrong. We, as human beings, tend to see patterns, but in this case our recognition of increased training equating to increased performance as a linear relationship is flawed. It is not linear! It seems fairly linear at first, but then we experience diminishing returns...then a plateau (called "the plateau")...and then a decline (overtraining).

Here's my crude illustration:

The "Me" is where I was during 2012, 2013 and 2015. In 2014 and early 2016 (before the injury came), I had better balance and was on the right track. I could tell because I had a life, and was improving quickly. Less became more.

There's another thing that makes us type A triathletes susceptible to overtraining and it's our mental strength / willpower / discipline. Paraphrasing Matt Fitzgerald's new book How Bad Do You Want It?..."in baseball, or many other sports, perception of effort plays only a small role, whereas in endurance sports, it is everything." Many of you, whether you are consciously aware or not, are drawn to triathlon because you have a higher degree of mental toughness than the average person. It is part of the reason why you are successful in this arena. Your mental toughness results in better and more training, and you are rewarded with increases in fitness and performance. For me, that held true and was part of the beauty of triathlon. Until it didn't. Until the extra work that I had managed to add into my schedule resulted in a derailment of my health and performance. We are a sport dominated by mentally tough go-getters who like that more results in more, and we must be careful because at some point, more becomes less.

 

Train Healthy, Train Happy,

Matt

 

The Road Bach #3 - Santa Cruz 70.3 Recap

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 - 16:30

I'm back from Santa Cruz 70.3 and here's a recap.

The big takeaway from the weekend was that training works! ha, I think we knew that right? I did minimal training leading into the event (1-3 endurance workouts per week for the 4 months since I learned the extent of my health issues) and it showed up in the numbers, even more so than expected. I overestimated my fitness thinking I'd be around 30-32 in the swim, and swam 33:09. I thought I'd be around 250w on the bike, but only averaged 233w. As mentioned in my blog pre-Santa Cruz, my goal was to run an experiment on the bike...to build throughout the leg and get a nice negative split. Did I accomplish that? Eh...not really. I figured I'd be around 250w overall, so I started with a target of 220w for the first 10 miles, then moved the target up 10w every 10 miles until targeting "Hard" for the last 16 miles. As you can see in my TrainingPeaks file, that plan went pretty well until mile 30 when I was supposed to notch it up to 250w, but could feel the effort weighing on me and decided to back it down a tad so that I could still push it hard for the last 16 miles. I did achieve that, as the closing miles were my highest normalized power and speed.

One thing that struck me about racing this weekend was that even though my swim was ~5min slower and bike 45w lower than when I was at peak fitness, it felt the same. It still felt like a race! I still felt the burning legs, high heart rate, adrenaline and competitive drive that I always feel in races. It was great to be bach.

 

Other highlights of the trip:

- Christine Hoffman, a training partner and friend from when she lived in NYC before moving to Tucson, was also racing (in a wave that started 8 minutes ahead of me) and it took about 30 miles to catch her. Once I did, I shouted some words of encouragement, and then rode by, but on the next hill, she repassed me! It took another few miles to catch her again. She went on to ride just 4 minutes slower than me and take 2nd overall amateur at the race and to earn her pro card. She's a beast.

- Mingling with pros - prior to the race, I had the chance to meet Jesse Thomas again at the pro panel (met him briefly in Kona last year). I very much admire his story...All-American NCAA runner, co-founder of Picky Bars, races in aviators, 6x Wildflower Long Course champ and 2 for 2 at the Ironman distance including a win against Jan Frodeno. The next day, I met Ben Hoffman (2nd in Kona 2014) for the first time since receiving some great advice from him via email conversations, and then met Cody Beals finally. Cody, those who have read my blogs and followed my story will already know, has been very helpful with solving my low testosterone issue. He had low T and low bone density himself, and has overcome it to go on to be a solid pro on the 70.3 circuit. He was gracious enough to sit down and chat with me at the athlete food tent for about 40 minutes after the race. These three guys placed 5th, 3rd and 4th respectively and were part of a speedy running group off the bike, hitting 1:13s for the half marathon. Impressive athletes!

- I stayed with a high school friend of mine, Wes, and his wife (Hilary) and dog (Riley). They're a power couple working at Tesla and Lockheed Martin and living in Sunnyvale. After seeing redwoods for the first time, I had the chance to ride with Wes on the bike course and then climb up a meaty 6 mile hill back to the car. If I was racing "for real" two days later, I would have been panicking! but since I wasn't looking for peak performance, it was fun checking out some of the Cali terrain. The next day they drove me to the race in a Tesla Model S, and WOW that car is amazing! The thing goes 0-60 in 3.9 seconds and we might have tested that. The G-force (less than 1 G) made my head spin - I can't imagine astranauts at north of 3 Gs...

- Two of my cousins live in San Mateo so I visited them Friday night. They took me on a boat ride over to one of their favorite restaurants where Jay walked in like a celebrity. Everyone knew him, and he knew everyone. "Kids good?"..."Yea! How's business?"..."Hey, get me my usual please"..."Sure, Jay!" You might think he owned the place. Both Christine and Jay have personalities and hearts that fill a room.

- It was my first time flying Virgin America and it was great. They were also ultra-speedy returning my bike to me after each flight.

 

All in all, the trip was a success. A strong mix of excitement, learning, networking and fun. As my health returns, plans are formulating for the future and my road bach. Stay tuned for future blogs on that!

Salt and Dehydration

Alden_Tris's picture
Friday, August 12, 2016 - 16:45

Waking up in the morning with cotton mouth, looking for a glass of water as quickly as possible, and then it just evaporates in your mouth leaving you wanting another. You start thinking back to the night before and reviewing what you had. We've all been there. And no, I'm not talking about being dehydrated from drinking. Rather, you're all dried out from salt in your food. 

My initial thought had been that I had too much salt in my food during dinner and that made me dehydrated. So, working under this premise, how in the world could sodium loading possibly be helpful in training and racing? Wouldn't that just dehydrate me more?

As a roundabout way of answering those questions, I'll say that sodium loading has been a missing component to my nutrition plan and that salt tabs during training and racing have elevated my performance this season. Having salt doesn't dehydrate you. It's not that the salt intake takes water away from your body and dries you out. By having more salt, your body wants to hold on to more water. So you need to drink more water to satisfy that urge. With this understanding, the benefits of salt intake become more apparent for training and race purposes. With an extra intake of salt, you can hold on to more water and also not cause discomfort to your body. I know I've felt the sloshy up and down feeling of having too much water in my stomach while running. With the sodium intake, there's now an extra source to absorb the new water. 

This has made a huge difference in the cramping that I've traditionally experienced during longer endurance tests. In the past, I've hit the run and started to have calf cramps or quad cramps at some point during the run leg. During the Boston marathon, I waited too long to have electrolytes / salt tabs and that made a huge difference in the last few miles. Now, as I've started to use salt tabs throughout training and races, those issues have dropped off and my performance has stayed consistent. All of this has been made possible by the work with my sports nutritionist, Nicci Schock and Elevate by Nicci

Sodium loading is a two part process. The night before the workout/race in question, you take a certain amount of sodium. For me, it's roughly 3000mg of sodium mixed with water and orange juice. The oj acts to help absorb the sodium and process it in your system. I'm sure there's a more scientific way to describe it, but that works for me. Then, in the morning, you finish off the process with a smaller amount of sodium. The benefit here is that your body will hold on to water as you drink it. It doesn't mean you won't sweat and lose water, but you are ahead of the game and able to hold on to more for longer. This is especially helpful when it's hot outside or if you are a heavy sweater. As you add electrolytes / salt tabs to the in-race/training nutrition, then the sodium stores in your body won't be depleted as quickly. The end benefit is less muscle cramping and fatigue and more performance. 

It's definitely a trial and error process to find the right balance for sodium loading and not feeling bloated and uncomfortable. But once you find the right intake, the results are amazing. There's no reason to think that salt is an enemy of training and performance. As is the case with all parts of nutrition, just be smart. Test different approaches in training and keep track of what works. 

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