Avoiding gastric distress: Gastrointestinal Distress: is most commonly defined as a reduction in gastrointestinal blood flow (circulation) due to a buildup of lactic acid in the blood. This buildup of lactic acid results in the inability of the digestive system to effectively breakdown and process food, absorb nutrients to be used as fuel and clear the bowel. Peristalsis (The wave like muscle contractions in the intestine that help clear the bowel) is greatly compromised during gastric distress and can even cease until blood lactic levels return to normal. The onset of Gastric Distress differs for every athlete and this is why it is important to practice your nutrition in training and not on race day. In general, most athletes will start to develop GI distress at 120 -180 minutes into race pace training or racing. Symptoms include: nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and pains, bloating and burping. Almost all endurance athletes will experience gastric distress and women are more likely than men to experience GI distress.
Upper GI distress manifests as heartburn, vomiting, belching, bloating, nausea and/or stomach pain, inability to eat or keep down food
Lower GI distress includes cramping, gas, urgency and diarrhea, vomiting
As endurance athletes we tend to be a “picky” bunch. We spend hours picking out the perfect bike, getting the perfect aero position, devote time to finding just the right chamois for all those hours in the saddle for training, and let’s not forget time spent analyzing and comparing all that training data. We leave no stone unturned when it comes to our equipment and what works best for us, and yet, we will devote more time to filling our water bottles than we will to developing a solid nutrition plan and strategy for training and race day. Your nutrition can be the single source to win or lose your long course event. Proper fueling is not an accident it must be tried and tested before race day to make your body work best for you. Let’s chat a little about what you can do to ensure a happy gut on race day.
How does Gastric Distress affect my training/ racing?
Most athletes have found themselves out on a training run or ride searching for a corner store to buy a Coke or begging a gel or bar off a training buddy deep in the fog of bonking or cramping and it was a very long ride or run home. As we all know, the training post a “bonk” is pretty much useless and leaves you pretty sore and tired afterwards. The fundamental goal for fueling as an endurance athlete is that we want to maintain the most consistent blood sugar levels as possible for maximum use of the muscles, circulation and power output. This principle is also used in avoiding gastric distress. As we train the body builds up lactic acid in the muscles and we are in a race against time to fuel our body with electrolytes and carbohydrates before our GI system shuts down due to lack of blood flow as the body continues to buildup lactic acid. Most of your solid foods should be consumed in the first 120 minutes of a prolonged race or during training. This fueling should include carbohydrates and electrolytes for the body to use as long term fuel during the event. Continued fueling past this point should include soft foods such as chews, gels and liquids
When training practice what and when you will be eating. Don’t forget pre-race nutrition starting the week before your goal event. Glycogen stores, hydration and even the amount of sleep you get all impact your body many days out from your goal event.
Simon Bennett is an elite road, track and multisport coach for APEX Coaching. As an Australian Level 1 Triathlon Coach and Silver Level Swimming Coach he had several of his athletes selected to compete at the Australian National Triathlon Championships, ITU Elite races and Swimming National Championships. Simon was a podium endurance coach for British Cycling during the last Olympic cycle with 6 of his athletes winning gold medals in Rio on the road and track. For more information on Simon, click HERE.
Ellen Hart grew up with seven brothers and sisters in New Mexico playing basketball and pioneering all kinds of sports in her schools. In this podcast she mentions how the newly enacted Title IX afforded many opportunities for her in school, but in the end, her favorite thing to do was simply head out the front door on a run. And ran she did, all the way to an American record at one point, to two Olympic trials and across the finish line in first place at the Bolder Boulder when she was just 23.
She turned to triathlons over a decade ago and has competed and won world championships in all distances many many times. She says Kona 2017 is where she probably learned the biggest lessons of her career when things didn’t go as expected.
She talks about many triumphs and many stumbles throughout her career and life in general. We talked about her well documented eating disorder and what catalyst finally happened to get her through that. She shared the experience of making a Hollywood movie about her life while she was married to the Secretary of Transportation and former mayor of Denver. We talked about her future and how she is using her law degree to help others and her platform as an athlete to make difference. The lessons her parents taught her come to light and she talks about being a mom, an athlete, an advocate, and a messenger for so many things.
I find myself amazed when I think how much she has accomplished in sports and life, but I am equally amazed at how much of a life she has lived and more impressed than anything at her humbleness and genuine kindness. Along with it all, comes a pressure to be the be a good role model and accept that through her running and triathlon endeavors she can and does make a difference.
We are so lucky to have her in our Colorado triathlon community!
Join a free class and information session on Foundation Training for Endurance Athletes at the APEX Hub to discover how incorporating Foundations could take your training and racing durability to the next level. APEX Certified Strength Coaches Jeff Hoobler, Joseph Cavarretta, and Cody Moore will be on site to answer any questions you may have about Foundation Training, as well as everything else APEX has to offer.
6:00pm – 6:30pm: What is Foundation Training? Why do it?
Presentation by Coach Jeff Hoobler
(Light snacks and drinks will be provided)
6:30pm – 7:15pm: Foundation Training Class at APEX Coaching
7:15pm – 7:30pm: Wrap Up Q&A
What to Bring:
Clothes you are comfortable moving around in
Pen & Notepad (optional)
Episode 1 of The Sufferfest podcast Everybody Hurts. Neal and beg for mercy.
We sit down with Neal Henderson, founder of APEX Coaching, elite coach to stars like Evelyn Stevens, Taylor Phinney and Rohan Dennis; and evil genius behind many of The Sufferfest workouts, including Blender, The Omnium, and ISLAGIATT.
What’s the most Neal has ever suffered? Listen and find out.
You may know these guys. Maybe from their days as XTERRA pros in the early 2000’s. Or their current roles as high-end coaches to world-class athletes like Cam Dye, Christine Jennings, Flora Duffy, and Taylor Phinney. Or maybe you just enjoy their snarky feed on twitter (@apexcoaching). Today they are in the news not for their professional aspirations, but a little bit of friendly rivalry that has brought them to XTERRA World Championships in Maui, where they will both be competing as amateurs on Sunday (in addition to coaching Flora Duffy and Kyle Leto).
Grant Holicky is a former professional triathlete, Director of Aquatics at Rallysport Health and Fitness, head coach of Rallysport Aquatics (RACE) in Boulder, and a coach with Apex Coaching. (You can usually spot him by the throngs of teenage swimmers tagging behind him, devoted to his “keep-things-positive” coaching style. He is also married to the venerable Breeze Brown, the nutritionist and founder of Breeze Bars. )
Neal Henderson is a long-time endurance coach, former professional triathlete, award-winning cycling coach, sport scientist and founder of Apex Coaching. (You can usually spot him by the throngs of hopeful athletes tagging behind him, asking questions about his Olympic coaching, eager to improve, threshold questions in hand.)
What Grant and Neal have most in common are their duals on the racecourse, and their grounded friendship.
Grant elaborates: “When Neal and I raced professionally we had some epic battles for 15th place . . . We were always close. Neal always had the upper hand but it was always close. There are multiple stories of us duking it out in the last 1k of the run. We’ve been good friends ever since.”
So how is it, after so many years out of the pro circuit, the two find themselves facing each other again? “I joined Apex coaching in 2011, so now we are professionally intertwined,” Grant explains. “We both turned 40 a month apart this year, and we’d been talking about XTERRA all year. But I have to put it on Neal – he made a decision in July that he was going. So I had to go. It was one of those friendship things where he said ‘you’ve got to go.'”
Neal jokes about how little training the two have done, saying “You know the quote in the Rocky movie when the guy is asked about his prediction for the fight, and he responds, ‘Pain!’? Ya, I predict pain. It’s going to hurt out there, but I’m looking forward to having a good time with it. When I did XTERRA in Beaver Creek I forgot to practice swimming, and I hadn’t run for four weeks – I learned that I was in over my head. But now, for this, well . . . I swam several times in the last week.”
Grant interjects: “Neal does refer to himself as ‘Mr. October’ – he’s ALWAYS ready for this race and he’s always dominant – gleaming, in fact. Or maybe that’s just his head.”
Neal continues, “I figure out what doesn’t work with myself – I’m the ultimate experiment – I go out and do stupid things, and then I don’t repeat those things with the folks I coach.”
They both agree the world of XTERRA has changed over the last decade. “Around 2000, 2001, that was the golden era of XTERRA,” Grant notes. “The prize money was high, and back then Kona and Maui were on back to back weekends so the ‘double’ drew a lot of racers. It was a spectacle.” (The “Double” award is given to the pro and amateur man and woman with the fastest combined 2013 XTERRA World Championship and Ironman Hawaii Championship time.)
He continues, “The national series was 8-10 races, and inevitably there would be two in a region. A lot of us struggling pros would travel by car. Now, there are more races with less prize money spread around. I think as the prize money drops a little, the interest drops a little bit. What was so much more dramatic ten years ago was the prize money in the national series – a pro could have a successful year in prize money alone and make $100k – so you saw a lot of people dabbling in both road and off road.”
“The series had fewer events and so had relatively higher prize money per event,” Neal adds. “Now the actual prize purse is comparatively lower – you have to do so many more races, and the cost of traveling to all of those races has made it difficult for the pros to do the global series.”
“Also, the guys winning XTERRA are so damn good – these days you’ve got to be a specialist in it – you don’t see a lot of guys from road coming over,” Grant says.
Those that do tend to suffer, Neal points out. “Lance Armstrong did the XTERRA championships and got his butt kicked. It just shows you can be a hyper fit individual with capacity to go fast, but there’s an element that is clearly different than what road triathlon demands.”
But the lack of pro prize money and the arduous demands of the sport do not seem to deter those who are passionate about it. “Off-road triathlon requires getting out of your comfort zone, going up steep climbs, steep descents, no rhythm – you are all over the place. For a lot of us that’s one of the attractions,” Neal says. “I did traditional Ironman and found that the XTERRA really suited my psychology and skill set because it was so variable. I don’t have to be fastest, but I need to be strong. It has very different requirements.”
Grant adds, “What I notice is a different mindset, a little more of the cyclocross scene. It’s more laid back, there are more smiles and more support among athletes, along with less competitiveness. I don’t know if it’s because with XTERRA something’s going to go wrong – something always doesn’t go according to plan – but you’re all in it together. There’s a different type of psychology. When Neal and I were racing together professionally, we were always trying to beat each other’s brains out, but we were the best of friends. To me that’s just a different personality. It really suits some people and is a real draw. I’d say it’s competitive with a huge amount of support.”
That friendly aspect, and the atmosphere of camaraderie, is causing the amateur ranks to grow. In Colorado, there are now several XTERRA events throughout the season put on by Without Limits, including a new race for 2014 in Aspen. Grant notes, “The sport does have a growing amateur following. One thing they’ve done really well is created more regional races. Now there are 5-6 in Colorado alone. Lance (Panigutti) of Without Limits held 3-4 events this year that all sold out, so numbers are there. You have to limit the number of participants because in off-road it’s not as easy to police the course.”
As for Sunday? Neal & Grant are downplaying their individual preparedness, but admit they have each been “secretly” training. Grant reveals, “I will occasionally ask Neal for an opinion, for road racing and cross racing. When we were talking the other day Neal looked at me with a gleam in his eye, and admitted, ‘I wrote a Training Peaks plan for myself.’ And I had to admit, I did too. But, I haven’t been a great athlete to my own coaching. The main goal for us is that we race to be fit, to have fun, and to get out there and challenge ourselves. It’s not a whole lot different than the hard time we give each other before a race or a hard workout.”
Neal adds, “I’m looking forward to passing along to my athletes what I experience on my own. It makes it easier on our athletes when we’ve walked in their shoes. We understand what they’re going through, and we have that perspective. We understand the inside of the race.”
Neal also ranks the fun factor at the top of his race goals: “I’m going to show up and go as hard as I can go. I’ve been putting fun first in everything I do. There’s not a lot of pressure.”
Still, they can’t help but rib each other about finishes. “I think I’m going to be good on the bike – we’ll have to wait and see on the swim and the run,” Neal says.
Grant jumps in, “I think all the pressure is on Neal – If I go out there and beat him, it’s all on him. I have nothing to lose.”
“Wait a minute – there is a 10min offset for each child that you already have,” Neal chides (he has two children). “I just want to make sure we’re clear – the children thing brings a whole new level that Grant hasn’t had to manage in his life.”
Grant is quick to clarify, “What Neal doesn’t know is he’s got two kids and I’ve got 35 teenagers!”
For complete information visit the XTERRA World Championship website. Live updates will be provided throughout the day (the race begins at 9am Hawaii time, 1pm MST). You may also follow the race on twitter: #XTERRAMaui