Rather than trawl through the nitty gritty of all the last races this season - I will write a review, with points that I hope you can learn from along the way.
2013 is my 3rd season racing as a 'Pro' and it has been without doubt my most successful.
There are a number of reasons why - and it is not simply maturation as an athlete.
I was thrown in the deep end to life as a pro athlete when Brett Sutton took me under his wing in 2010.
Since that time I have had more than a few downs… but also plenty of highs.
A ton of frustration as i wasn't able to do the classic Sutton big volume training without breaking down both in terms of injury and poor immune health.
I went into 2012 thinking that something needed to change, but I wasn't sure what.
My doctor told me I was run down - yep, you could tell that by looking at me - but he wasn't really able to elaborate more than a iron deficiency anaemia and possible problems with nutrients being absorbed from my gut.
Things that have helped me improve as an athlete & can help you too!
Fixing anaemia should be easy right? But the Iron tablets tore my stomach apart & I had to stop them. It wasn't until I had more comprehensive testing carried out - by my now business partner at Curoseven.com that I realised just how endurance sport training affects your health. No mater HOW good your diet is, it is very difficult to replace what we lose without supplementation.
Do you know we lose the mineral Iron in our sweat? My iron levels would drop over the winter, despite eating red meat, because I was hammering out sweat-fest sessions on the turbo.
I, like many female endurance athletes (men are not exempt either, but menstrual blood loss contributes to iron deficiency) have to take Iron supplementation all year round, in addition to eating red meat regularly and a ton of dark green leafy veg. We simply turnover this mineral too quickly. I know exactly when my Ferritin (measure of iron stores) is dropping as my bike power topples off slightly and fatigue levels are higher. I now test every 8 weeks just to keep on top of it… as it is easy to forget supplements when travelling etc.
A combination of Floradix (Liquid supplement) and Neovite Colostrum keeps me feeling energised and without doubt helps me train and recover better.
Colostrum helps repair any gut inflammation and heals a 'leaky gut' which is far more common than we think, especially when training and racing in the heat. It also contains Lactoferrin which boosts iron levels and interestingly helps maintain bone integrity. (Useful when one has a history of stress fractures).
As Magensium Citrate at night. Helps sleep, muscle repair and the nervous system.
I Swear by Nordic Oil. This is my first year injury free and without doubt high level intake of a premium fish oil has helped. It also boots my skin and hair too :) (Gosh I sound like a Pantene advert ;)
As per last blog. I have increased by general fat intake this year. Most low fat products are out. Full fat dairy, nuts, coconut oils etc. I do not avoid carbs, but I certainly have reduced my general cereal and grains intake., i have never been a fan of simple carbs outside hard training and racing.
VITAMIN B SUPPLEMENT.
B1 AND B6 especially. (High dose - as in at least 5 x recommended daily allowance - what we put our bodies through is not normal)
Helps support the adrenal glands by taking these supplements in high dose format. I used to take B12 but the body stores it more readily than B1 and B6 so my levels were too high (which is common too - over supplementation of B12, & presents its own problem. (get tested.)
After being coached by two of the best endurance coaches in the world - Brett Sutton and Cliff English, I went back to basics this year and worked with a coach in London local to me on the recommendation of Olympic coach - Darren Smith, whom I met in Hawaii in 2012.
Tom Bennett of T2Coaching is superb. There is a high technical focus and quality beats quantity every time. I am often surprised how I have managed to race at the level I have on the number of hours I train (averaging around 20hrs max) having a trusting relationship with coach is key. Yes, sometimes I question him, (one of the reasons Sutton and I didn't work!) and he is forced to explain the reasoning behind some sessions for my enquiring mind.
I have got to know my body very well over the years, and yes we adjust things based on my fatigue levels, mood, waking heart rate etc.. but generally we are a good fit.
I have stopped worrying (so much) about the training that everyone else is doing - this was a massive factor at TeamTBB as the volume of training some of the girls like Mary Beth Ellis could withstand was highly intimidating.
Read more about Brett and his training here:
I have very little background in sport.
My first triathlon was late 2007 and before this I did zip (nothing) in the way of sport for 10 years.
My medical school years were spent in central London, either drowning in study or too much booze. I had the genes and tenacity. (My Dad is an ex Tour De France cyclist/National Champion and my grand-father an international swimmer.)
but I was they were certainly laying dormant.
The problem with not having a background in sport was that my body was relatively weak from a structural perspective and hence a reason why it broke down when thrown on to the Brett Sutton run track to do 20 x 800m twice a week (in addition to the other training). I developed an injury which many of Brett's athletes get - High hamstring tendonopathy and it is literally is a pain in the butt. It took a long time to rehab but key was engaging glute muscles, activating then strengthening and off-loading the hamstrings, in addition to a ton of stability and core work. All things which never happen in Brett's camp.
Tom, my now coach, is young, but full of passion and is ridiculously intelligent. I really hope we can encourage more elite athletes to join the squad to benefit from the environment and his expertise.
I do less volume of running, but more intensity and more emphasis on form and efficiency.
Bike wise - I train and race to Power, using Rotor Power Cranks. This year I also do more intensity on the bike and less of the grey middle zone riding - which Tom calls junk miles.
I know i need time in the mountains to truly be on my best bike form. Emotionally I feel in a very strong place in the Alps or Pyreenees and it helps when you are racking up Strava QOM's ;)
Swim - Much improved - ALL technique work. I did my most ever swim volume with Sutton but actually got slower… (yep 2 collar bone breaks along the way didn't help).. but it shows than swim fitness doesn't equate to swim speed. I met Darren Smith in Hawaii last year and his work on my swim over just 4 days put me on the path to enjoying swimming again and making big progress.
STABLE HOME SITUATION
Any stress in your life is stress that affects your performance and recovery. You probably hear people say that this is a mental game this triathlon lark.. you can do all the training you desire, and push your body to the limits, but if your mind is distracted then you will absolutely not be able to perform to your potential.
I track my Cortisol levels now through blood and or saliva testing (CuroSeven) so I know when i'm burning too many candles or not looking after my adrenal glands enough.
I also track my HRV (heart rate variability ) using Omega Wave.
"Seeing is believing" Sutto once said to me. I have had breakthrough races - 2nd at Ironman 70.3 UK in my first attempt at the distance - and my first Pro race.. but in between I had a lot of very average races and a lot of bad luck.
The first race of the season when I was a close 4th at Ironman 70.3 Mallorca (behind Ironman UK and Wales winner Lucy Gossage) (and leading up the climb on the bike) gave me the belief that I could mix it up with some of the best athletes in the world. Having said that, when Cat Morrison caught me on the run at the 70.3 European Champs - my immediate thought was "there is no way I can hold her pace" … i gave up there and then and settled.. I vowed to myself after the race that next time I would fight back and I did at Triathlon Gerardmer - catching Ironman 70.3 UK winner Eimear Mullan in the final metres of the race after she had passed me about 15k into the run. I very nearly won that race, as did Eimear, but the winner was openly drafting with her partner on the bike - she was never fined, but numerous complaints were made about how her conduct on the bike but to the organisers and on social media.
A case in point was made when I again raced against her 2 weeks later in Ironman 70.3 Pays D'Aix (France) and beat her by nearly 20minutes.
Learning to Race
There are tactics - even in long distance triathlon. If you can get on fast feet in the swim and stay there it puts you in a more favourable position on the bike - lose that group in the swim and it can be minutes difference to your swim time - minutes often separate 1st through to 5th. Make sure your wetsuit is right for you - the most expensive suit may not be as it maybe less buoyant - some of us need buoyancy - some of us not so much and it could hinder performance. For me, having broken my collar-bone twice - I need a ton of flexibility around the shoulders in order to get the range i need to swim well. It may or may not be coincidence that my best swim performance this year happened at the European Champs when I was forced to cut off one arm of the wetsuit minutes before race start because a hole developed in the arm.
Use your strength but ration your effort.
Always amazes me the amount of age-group men whom I see smashing up the bike course only to be walk/jogging on the run.
Its not rocket science.
Don't neglect to train as you race.
How often do you prepare for THAT swim start. Don't toe the line unprepared or the likelihood of panic and or more serious upsets in the first 400m of the race will be high.
Efforts at race pace on the bike - as determined by power (most accurate) or perceived effort are key. As is practicing your race nutrition, especially if you don't race that often.
I say this because I rarely if ever eat a gel outside of racing. But in season I often race twice a month - my body/gut adapts during these races to the nutrition.
My race staples:
3-5mg/kg of bodyweight. I take 100mg tablet pre-race and the rest during the bike - occasionally topping up with sips of coke on the run.
In the form of Beetroot shots or Nitrate gels 7 days pre-race. 2 a day are better than one studies show.
Omeprazole or Zantac.
Inhibits acid in the stomach and small intestine. I take night before and morning of the race. Gels and carbohydrates are acid forming, exercise is acid forming - makes sense to dampen down the acid in the gut - whenever I recommend this to others they ALWAYS thank me. Reduces nausea and bloating in the race and post race.
I usually (not everytime) take 20mg on the bike (I stick it to my handlebars) - 100% stops gut cramps in their tracks. Again as above - it works
Salt - i sprinkle some - perhaps 1/2tsp in my bottle for hot races - yes the evidence is equivocal but i will tell you as will hundreds of others, that for me/them - taking on salt (sodium chloride) in hotter race conditions reduces cramping.
- Post race - i usually have no appetite for a while. I take on a protein drink and continue to hydrate as much as possible until appetite returns. I also take Glutamine (amino acid which boosts immune function) and high dose Vitamin C if the effort has been particularly high. We are all slightly immunosuppressed post hard exercise. Why risk getting sick… wash your hands as soon as possible and replenish carbs and proteins as soon as you can.
I am looking for sponsor options for 2014 and trying to get some companies on board with some financial support.
This is the tough part. Living off prize money as a Pro is possible - well it would be possible if companies like Ironman actually paid you on time. I have been waiting FOUR months to be made from some of my earlier season races. Imagine Ironman allowing age-groupers to enter their races on a promise of payment!
But hey, most of us aren't in this game for the money - its for the fame and glory ;) (sarcastic snigger)
A little bit of downtime for me after a long season - I am in Kona, Hawaii at the moment for the Ironman World Champs - not competing, but wearing my other hat - the doctor one.
Each year they hold a medical conference here and some of the most influential speakers in Sports Medicine and Health from around the world come to speak.
Then i will work in the medical tent on race day - where as well as looking after the casualties (and there are many of them!) we will be collecting data on markers of heart damage.
Back to the UK to work on our business CuroSeven ...
Then at the end of November I will head to Thailand - my annual pilgrimage to race the Half Ironman in Phuket. This is one of the oldest races around and always attracts some legends of the sport. The after-party is also quite legendary ;0
"There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go"