While as a whole the past few weeks of training has gone VERY well, Ironman training is just plain tough and bound to be filled with its share of rough days. After the past couple of long rides in August, I'm feeling as if I've experienced the whole gamut of potential challenges, including: mechanical malfunction (broken real derailleur hanger at Culpeper Gran Fondo), asthma attacks (oh humidity...), anxiety attacks, bonking, significant dehydration, and then two weeks ago: learning that I'm allergic to bees, hornets or whatever it was that stung me during the Burke's Garden Century!! I was stung at about mile 78 (of 105) and within a few minutes had the most torturous itching sensation up and down my body that I've EVER experienced. Naturally, I kept riding... 25 miles back to my car... because I was in the middle of nowhere and really didn't see how getting OFF the bike would be beneficial. It wasn't until I started my brick run (which I told coach was a combination of stubbornness and stupidity on my part) that I began to break out in hives. Needless to say, one trip to the ER and a few hundred dollars later, I'm now the proud owner of an epipen. Those things hurt like CRAZY, by the way...
^^My hives started with that "little" spot on my forearm and progressed full body. I'll spare you the beautiful pic of my face, lol
Regarding the challenges, I do feel like I've done a better job of accepting them as part of the process, learning from mistakes and mishaps, understanding that the training won't EVER be perfect and moving on. Mentally they have certainly left me feeling prepared to handle just about anything come race day (knock on wood, however, that things go smoothly!!!) In regards to fitness, my training has still be VERY consistent and I'm confident this will pay dividends come race day. The fitness is there, the knowledge of how to complete an ironman is there... now what's left is a few more weeks of hard work + tapering!! Things are coming together very nicely, and I'm working to keep up with all the little things that will keep me happy and healthy through race day (and beyond).
Nutrition: So fueling for an ironman is a tad bit challenging, and keeping up calorie-wise during peak ironman training has proven to be a major challenge for me in the past. The training seems to send my body into a state of hyper-metabolism, my appetite isn't always the strongest and without careful monitoring I have difficulty keeping weight on. Furthermore with the start back to school my schedule becomes busier and more stressful, thus making preparation of said food even more challenging. That said, a few weeks ago I decided to consult with a sports RD for a fresh (outside) perspective into how I'm doing nutrition-wise, accountability and a much needed kick in the arse to ensure I'm doing my best to fuel my body over the coming weeks. While I have a LOT of great things in place fueling-wise, I know there's room for improvement (she agreed :) The primary goal right now to is to optimize fuel in the coming weeks to optimize workouts and recovery during my peak training weeks, and then pull together the final pieces of my race day fueling plan. So far it has provided some much needed motivation to stay on top of my nutritional game-plan and I'm really looking forward having someone to who speaks my language to bounce ideas off !
^^Since I have absolutely no training pics right now, here are some fueling pics, L to R: steak, sweet potato fries, broccoli and corn; gnocchi with corn, greens and whatever else (blue apron recipe); superhero muffins (from Shalane Flanagans new cookbook "Run Fast, Eat Slow."
Iron: I'm happy to report that I retested my ferritin levels last week and my dietary adjustments have made a significant difference! My ferritin level is now sitting at 39, the highest it has ever been since I started tracking 2 years ago. Cue a HUGE sigh of relief now having the confidence that this aspect of my health is in a better place as I move into my hardest training weeks of the year.
Body Composition: Although I've been weight stable this entire summer I have recently observed some notable differences in my body composition over the past several weeks. Specifically, my favorite run and bike shorts are just about too tight in the quads and my favorite professional dresses (and hydration pack) are just about too tight in the shoulders. Seriously though! I'm in the process of getting new tri shorts one size up for race day. Not sure what to say other than "What's a girl to do??!" (Thanks coach??)
Equipment: I'm continuing to tweak my bike setup for ergonomic efficiency and am now sporting a SWEET pair of race wheels (yay!) in which I'll be borrowing to utilize on race day. I had my first ride with them on Saturday and my response is best summarized as "holy macaroni... SO FUN !!!!" :D
Sleep: Sleep is the other major thing that tends to suffer during peak ironman training. Partially because of the busyness of schedule and partially because a sore, tired body makes it more difficult for me to rest. That said, I'm now a FitBit owner (thanks sister!) and I plan to wear it over the next 6 weeks to gain more accurate insight-feedback into how I'm doing with this oh-s0-important aspect of recovery. Two nights ago I woke up having finished the night sleeping on our chase lounge, by the window and upside down with my feet up if that gives you any insight into the difficulties faced sleeping-wise (at times) for me. It felt awesome actually!
Sweat: Let's talk about sweating... It's quite obvious to me that I have inherited a high sweat rate (thanks dad), so much that it's been VERY difficult to keep up hydration-wise during runs. With the heat and humidity as of lately I simply feel like a human water sprinkler!! My only real response to that is CAN IT PLEASE BE FALL YET??
Moving forward I have two "peak weeks" ahead of me (with a down week sandwiched in the middle!) followed by 3 weeks of tapering. This weekends' primary workout is a "this is your life today" long ride (in the words of coach) + 10 minute brick run (naturally) which really truly I am looking forward to. And regardless I cannot complain whatsoever about it since every ounce of challenge I've asked for in this season I've received (thanks coach!!!)
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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