Monday, August 27, 2012

The Great Buckeye Challenge

First, let me just say I am deeply saddened by the death of a fellow triathlete.  Found that out this morning.  I still am unsure how to feel.  It is very sad, and it could happen to any one of us.  My thoughts and prayers are with him, as they were when I saw an EMS truck turn right next to me as I was leaving the park on the start of the bike leg :(

It does feel a bit weird writing a blog about my experience with that sad news above.  But I guess I'll go into it. 

The Swim: 

I asked a fellow Team Toledo member which way I was supposed to swim and through which buoys.  He explained everything to me in great detail, but when I'm nervous, sometimes it's hard to focus.  It made sense to when he explained it to me, but when I seeded myself near the front to get a nice spot in the water, I kinda started to follow all swimmers, (again, it was sunny, and the buoys were yellow!)  and then noticed I was way out of the buoy line.  I wasn't swimming the path of least resistance, so I had to swim over to the buoy line.  On the first turn around (it was an out and back course), I forget what my friend said, to swim between the yellow buoys or the orange and yellow buoy.  Then, I finally remembered him saying keep all yellow buoys on your right until the second lap, where you get out of the water between the orange and yellow buoy.  My fault for being confused.  Other than not swimming in a direct path, I felt rather strong on the swim.

The Bike:

Well, it was hiller than I expected.  I knew there were going to be hills, but the first part was a nice steady incline with random little hills thrown in them.  I know this course was nothing compared to other races, but I'm not used to riding on hills!  I did enjoy them, though, they just killed my average speed.  Later in the race, Catawba hill they call it (we had to do this lap twice...), it had a pretty good percent grade, I looked down and saw 3mph at one point...hahaha.  Anyways, on the first leg my water bottle fell out of it's holder, I didn't drop it, but some air got in it, and so it wasn't sealed correctly, which made it easy to fall out of the holder when I hit a bump.  Great.  I was down 1 bottle and I only drank about a forth of it, and I was only about 1/4 in the race!  It had my herbalife 24 hour athlete sports drink in it too.  Luckily, I had one left.  So I drank that until I got to the water stop.  Here...I grab the bottle from the volunteer, and realize I had my other bottle in the easier holder to get to.  The only holder requires more skill on my part to get the bottle in and out.  So what did I do?  I was already on the verge of falling over, so I just threw the water bottle on the ground, volunteer said she'd get it :(  Ugh, so I still had a little left in my other bottle, and rode the about 7 mi or so back to the turnaround, get water there and continue on.  I drank both of those up by the time I get to the water stop again.  And what happens?  THEY RAN OUT OF WATER.  HOW COULD THEY??  I was already pretty mad that the race director decided to start the half-ironman athletes at 8:42am, when the SHORTER races started at 7:30am.  It's a hot day.  Don't you think you should be prepared for enough water on the longest leg of a half-distance ironman triathlon?!!?  So I was about 10-15mi without water.  Would've been fine if it wasn't for my stupid mistakes too, ha.

The Run:

Well, I wasn't expecting anything pretty here.  I didn't practice brick workouts, I admit.  I raced a few triathlons over the summer, that was it.  Plus, training for this and the 10k swim was a challenge.  My main focus was the 10k swim, though, because I knew I could do well, and I wanted it the most.  This, I just wanted to finish.  I'm a slower runner anyways, and by the time I get it in a triathlon, it's definitely a jog.  Which is fine, I can't be good at anything, but there WILL be more brick workouts in my future!  This summer, though, I taught spinning at certain times, so I used that at my cycling workouts during the week (not the best think to do, I know, but I'm not a pro athlete here, so it worked!)  and many times I had swam 1.5-2 hours before that, and then left for work or worked on my thesis.  So it was just hard to get a run in after the bike.  I guess I could have on my weekend long ride, but I usually did a long run the day before, and knowing my body, I can't run the day after a long run.  I'm not going to injure myself again like I had in the past from too much running.

By the time I got to the run, it was almost 1pm.  So, 1) my pace slowed because of the 93 degree heat, and 2) I'm not that great of a runner   = my time of 2:27!!  But hey, I finished the thing :)  Anddd 2 weeks after my 10k swim race :)

I'm pretty happy I did all this.  I completed my first half marathon at the age of 21.  My first full marathon at the age of 22.  My first sprint and olympic distance triathlon, and 5k open water swim race at age 25.  And my first 10k open water swim race (my favorite by far), and first half ironman, which was only my 5th triathlon, at age 25 :)  I'm not stopping unless something happens to me where I can't train! 

I must start to train even smarter, though.  Those brick workouts...even though I hate them....I must do them once a week or once every other week, just to get my muscles used to the stress. 

Other than all the negatives here, I enjoyed pushing my body to it's limits.  I'm going to bed now :)  Happy adventures!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Swim to the Moon-10k

I'm not sure how to start writing about this 10k swim.  I could start with when I first started swimming, or why I'm still swimming, let alone swimming crazy distances in open water today.  Guess I'll start with how I got into swimming.

My parents used to take us (me and my sister) to the beach almost every summer until we finished high school.  And it was usually Myrtle Beach.  Well, they took me when I was 1 year old, I guess I loved the ocean then, and I still love the water now.  I have always loved the water, was always the kid who never wanted to get out of the pool. My mom put me in swim lessons when I was 5, I believe, until I was 12.  So I learned pretty good technique in those young years.  She wanted to make sure we knew how to swim, because she didn't know how to very well.  She quit swim lessons when she was pretty young, due to some kid jumping on her, which caused her to stay underwater longer than she would have liked.  So, my grandma never made her go back.  She can swim, can survive in the water if she needed to, but she was set on making sure we knew how to swim, so that at anytime in our lives, whether it was at a pool party or the ocean, we could survive and swim in deep water.

When I was in elementary school, I remember I wanted to join the swim team in the community, but I guess it started before my school let out at 3:30 (we have 7 elementary schools in my hometown, so who knows).  Maybe it was too expensive, too.  But...the summer of me going into 5th grade, my parents decided to get a pool, probably after me and my sister nagging them.  We would always swim in our neighbor pools, and loved it.  When we got that pool, I was in it just about every day out of my summer vacation until I moved away to college. 

So I didn't join swim team until I was 13, starting in 8th grade.  I won't go into detail here, but I swam all 4 yrs of high school, wanting to quit in the first year, but then we got a new coach the 2nd year, and all was good :)  I got recruited for a division 3 school, Mount Union.  I do regret not swimming in college, but was too nervous that I wouldn't do well with the amount of training. Plus, I probably wouldn't be in the program I'm in now, nor would I have met some of the awesome people I have, if I went to Mt. Union.

Anyways, I first started noticing I was better at longer distances when a friend would beat me in the 50 yd backstroke leg of the 200 yd medley relay, but I would beat her 100 yd backstroke time.  Then my coach started putting me in the 200 and 500 yd free more, but more towards the end of HS (I was a shy kid, didn't talk much, so maybe that's why she didn't figure it out?  I didn't know it either, and it's not like I was super fast at those distances when she put me in them, but decent).


On to today...well I swam the 5k last year, and felt like I could do more.  I have  Yes, that's the word I'd like to use here, exposed to ultraunners, lol.  I knew I wanted to do what they did.  But there's a body isn't ready for it, and I'm not sure it ever will be.  So I'm taking the distance thing to what I'm better at: swimming!  (and a half ironman in 2 weeks!).  So me thinking a 10k would be alright to do seemed ok considering some of my friends marathon and ultramarathon distances....Sure, it's a lot of stress on the shoulders, but mine actually feel pretty good right now, and it's non-impact.

So, I woke up at 3:30am, and left by 4:10am to make it to Halfmoon Lake at 5:10, 1 hour before the 10k started.  (I like to be at races early, to make sure I have everything on, and I'm there on time).  We started a bit late because half the people (including myself...oops) didn't know what wave they were in lol.  The send off was pretty much a ,"Ok....go!"  And we were off.

I started out fast, but not too fast because I remember from last year a lot of people went out too fast, then I passed them.  Good to maintain a nice steady pace at first.  Plus, we were going to be swimming, SWIMMING 6.2 miles, no need to speed off.  I remember seeing the first aid station and thinking, "Wow, I must be swimming pretty fast!"  Aid stations were about every mile.  The fast swimmers were too far ahead for me to catch up, then it was me, and 2 other swimmers, and everyone else.  (This is how it always is, I never can quite keep up!).  I thought these 2 swimmers were females.  One would pass the other, for a good mile, mile and a half.  Eventually, I passed them both up.  And I noticed they were males-sweet!  I passed some men!

I knew I was in the last lake because I had practiced this before with Dan Bellinger, who so graciously kayaked alongside me while I swam the course!  But something was wrong-the kayaker (they had many along the course) was yelling at me and pointing-oops I almost swam the wrong direction!  It was kinda confusing with the way in, and the way out buoys at the 5k mark.  That's ok, didn't take off too much time.  Then, I noticed the halfway mark, I was halfway there!  I got up, walked out onto the beach, grabbed some water and heed and gel from the volunteers, as well as my special needs bag.  I placed some Herbalife 24 Prolong that I've been using (kinda reminds me of Heed) in there, a power bar, and a clif bar.  I sucked down some fluids, and tried to eat the clif bar, but was wasting too much time.  I chewed and chewed, but couldn't chew fast enough.  I just watched a woman pass me at the halfway mark.  I don't even think she took a gel.  That's when I decided I was taking too much time, asked for another gel, and hopped back in the water.

The Return Trip:

Well, I thought the clock said 1:28 at the halfway mark, but then when I jumped back in the water, I couldn't remember the time, so I just tried swimming as fast as I could at a steady pace.  The sun was out, and it made it harder to site to the next buoy.  I almost swam the wrong way again, because of the sun.  I need to make sure I have shaded goggles next time!   About halfway to the finish, I noticed everything tightening up, especially my hip flexors (from kicking).  So I made my catch phase (the underwater part of the freestyle swim stroke before you pull) faster.  That seemed to help, because I still felt strong.  I didn't even feel that weak towards the end, like I did the first time I swam this course a few weeks earler.  About the last mile, I thought I was almost done at every buoy, lol, the sun got real bad and made it very hard to site.

So, I just focused on making it to the next buoy.  And then the one after that.  And after that one....until, the finish!  Wooo I started swimming as fast as possible (which wasn't very vast, because I was too tight!)  And then I got up where I could stand, walked across the finish line, got my water bottle for finishing, and the race director congratulated me.  Then I caught my bearings, got some food, and noticed the time said 2:56.  I had swam the 10k in under 3 hours!

I wasn't sure if I would swim in just over 3 hours, or under, with tapering.  I had swam it in 3:12 4 weeks ago, so seeing the 2:56 was a great feeling.  And when the results were posted, I smiled pretty big, because I actually swam the thing in 2:50:56!  Woooo!!

There were times I felt like stopping, times when I wanted to do breaststroke instead of freestyle.  But I didn't.  I just kept telling myself, "Just keep swimming..." lol, and I thought back to my ultrarunner and triathlete friends, none of them would quit running when it gets tough, so I'm not going to quit swimming. Also, I knew I had to believe in myself, believe I could get a great time, so I kept swimming on. 

It was nice having a friend from HS there with me swimming as well.  It was her first 5k and open water race!  She did very well, considering she's a sprinter.

Thank you to all who helped me train and get here! 

What's next?  Yeah...I'll probably swim more 10k's :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Women's Only Sylvania Triathlon

I haven't blogged in awhile about my adventures.  I've been so busy going on adventures and training for them, plus work, that I haven't had much time!  And I really should be in bed, because I have to get in the pool early tomorrow.  I'll try to make this short, but, I tend to write a lot...

So, it was nice to get a sprint distance triathlon in before my first 10k swim and first half ironman.  And, while I'm here living in Sylvania, I might as well take the chance to race the Women's Only Tri.  I'm usually quite calm about these events (well, maybe a little nervous race morning).  In HS I used to bite all my nails off before a swim race.  But for some reason, I felt like I was going to be sick before the race started.  I wanted to do well, but I knew that I hadn't properly tapered for this race, because I was thinking more long term.  Plus, I hate sprint distances, I'd rather go long and settle into a more comfortable pace :)

The swim:  We had to seed ourselves to what we thought we could finish the swim in.  I knew I would swim under 8 minutes, but was super nervous, so decided to enter the water 4th ( I also felt like I was going to puke!).  They let us dive in every 3 seconds.  Once I got in...I knew what to do :)  And I wanted that swim so bad, I just went for it.  I felt so effortless in the water, probably one of my best swims ever.  It was so fluid, almost perfect, I really enjoyed swimming through that quarry.  The only thing wrong there was I couldn't see the last buoy at first, the sun was in my eyes.  Before I knew it, I was running out of the water, and up the crazy staircase, about 37 wide steps or so.  As I was running, I knew I was in first, so I smiled, and then I heard everyone cheering, and I smiled even bigger.  I knew I'd get passed, but just that moment was magical :)

T1:  I was happy with it, 1:11.  A little shaky, had a hard time strapping on my cycling shoe straps.

The Bike:  Well, someone passed me in transition already, lol, their bike must have been close to the end of transition.  I had my bike in the gear I wanted it in, and just rolled out as quickly as possible.  Maintained 20.4mph, not bad, I think I could have done better if my stomach wasn't upset most of the bike leg.  And if I tapered better.  And...we all know...yes yes, I know I need a better bike.  But I'm in grad school and pretty poor, that's why I don't race much either.  I'll get there.

The run:  Well...I'll just say....I probably shouldn't have put in the miles I did this week, and needed to foam roll more...oops.  Ok, I'll say it, my run sucked.  I didn't even feel great running at any point, either.  Ah well, I know it's something I have to constantly work hard at and be careful with!  But I definitely will be well rested before my half ironman.  And I should probably practice more bike-to-runs.......

But, to go from a 1:22:28 to a 1:08...was a cool feeling!

It was also inspiring to see so many women racing.  And how many people from Team Toledo came to volunteer and watch :)  It seemed to me that every woman there pushed it to their limits today.  

"Some may never live, but the crazy never die." Hunter S. Thompson

Yep...I'll blog after again after my 10k swim :)  Which, thanks to a friend who kayaked for me while I swam the course, I am a little less nervous about.  Plus...some people I am friends with back home just ran 100 miles at Burning River...I think I can swim 6.2 miles in around 3 hours.....:)  They are my inspiration.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Island Lake Triathlon, Brighton, MI

So I wasn't quite sure how this triathlon would go.  It was an olympic distance tri (1.5k swim, or .93mi, 40k bike ride, or 24.86mi, and 10k run, or 6.2mi).  I was training for the Glass City half marathon all winter, but I need cross training along with running.  Plus, I love cycling and swimming, so I just keep all 3 of them up.  The only reason I signed up for this 1 is because it was cheaper than any of the others I have found so far ($55!)  and it was close.  An hour away.

So, because of school, I couldn't practice brick workouts (the bike-run, the one I'm most concerned about).  I would usually run before I taught spinning, then have to go to class).  Plus, I absolutely hate those workouts.  So I run before I ride haha.  I WILL do a brick workout once a week this summer, though. 

Anyways, onto the race.  I got there about an hour before the race.  I was all shaky getting my race number and transition ready.  I was so nervous.  Good thing though is it wasn't hot.  I think my car said 60-something while driving there.  Perfect.  After I set up transition, and go in and out about 5 times checking everything and counting which line I'm in (3rd from beach transition), I go stand over by the water.  I was one of the few who wasn't wearing a wetsuit.  The website said water temp was 74, so I figured I didn't need it.  Plus, until I can actually afford one of those things, there's no need for it (unless I'm swimming cold water).  I feel it would restrict my stroke. The race director (or someone, idk) held a race meeting explaining the course, then we were off.

(Olympic athletes completed 2 laps of the swim course, 2 laps of the bike, and 2 of the run, so we repeated everything twice).

First the male olympic athletes went first, then female olympic athletes.  We the alarm went off for us females, off I went!  I was cold standing around in the water with just my tri-suit, but once I started swimming, warmed up real fast.  Of course, all the sprint swimmers started out way fast, and I just got kicked in the side. That wasn't fun.  So I just held my own pace, and was able to swim away from some of the people who went out way too fast as I approached the second triangle buoy.  Oh, and there was a lot of seaweed in this lake, I actually stopped twice and picked some off of my race timing chip because I was worried it would fall off! lol!  I probably was the only one worried about that.  So that slowed me down.  One other thing I didn't like about this swim is that they started the sprint athletes about the time we (or I) was swimming around for lap 2.  I already caught up to some of the men on lap 1, now we had to avoid the sprint swimmers lol it was a mess in my opinion.  My swim time was almost 2 minutes slower than last year when I did this same distance!  (23:37 vs. 25:32 this year.)

Ok, once I stopped swimming, ran up to the beach and into transition.  Put on my running shoes (lol) and ran off with the bike.  Of course, there were "sweeping turns" like the website said and some small hills.  Now, these hills were challenging to me because in NW Ohio we don't have anything like hills.  So the bike course was challenging for me.  Oh and it started raining pretty good.  So of course I slowed down for each turn and some of the downhills.  I did notice, however, that (at least I thought at the time), I was one of the first females...and for awhile because I didn't see too many ahead of me as I was watching the men come back for the second loop.  So I was feeling pretty good, and my legs were feeling pretty good until I kept having to power up hills.  Down gear, up gear, constantly.  My legs were in pain, but I tried to ignore that and just ride as fast as possible throughout the bike section.  When I came back for the second loop, a volunteer failed to tell me to turn right, and I thought it was left, so I had to stop, hop off my bike, and turn right.  He apologized lol.  Anyways...2nd lap was good, rain picked up though.  Oh...and on the turn around to ride back during the second loop...I see this girl approaching me (noooo I say to myself with my competitive spirit-"I must not let her pass me up!").  So I speed up, and she passes me, but then I pass her up a hill.  Then she passes me again on the straight, and I pass her up another hill.  It was like that until the end, where I was able to beat her to transition!  Then, she sped off during the run.  Figures.  At least she wasn't in my age group. 

I maintained 19.36mph during the bike, which was surprising because I thought it'd be more like 18 something with the hills and turns.  Last year during Sylvania's flat bike course, I was at 19.1.  So, I'm getting stronger on the bike yay!

Ok, the run.  It always sucks after riding.  Nothing eventful happened until mile 3, when my legs loosened up and I was able to run faster, like always.  I'm not a sprinter.  I'm approaching the finish, when I see this woman coming up behind me.  I was not about to let any other woman pass me, especially when I thought I had a decent finishing spot.  So, I sped up.  One of her friends shouted "Get her!!"  lol, but no...that just caused me to speed up :)  I beat her.  She was in a different age group anyways.  I said good job to her when we finished, we slapped hands, lol.  I said she made me work hard and she said not to worry, her friends were just cheering her on.  She got a flat on the bike course, though, or else she would have beat me :)  My run was 55:40 as opposed to 55:32 last year.  This was with a few small hills.  So, about the same.  I know what I need to do.

2:41:47.  2:42:06 was last year at Sylvania.  PR by a few seconds haha.  My transitions were quicker, which I was happy about.  I ended up getting 1st in my age group, and 6th overall female, out of 49 females-I really couldn't believe that!  I teared up a bit.  Hard work really does pay off :)

Now, if I can only drop my time in a more competitive race...hmm.  It'll happen over the years, I'm sure, but now I have to focus on the 10k swim and half ironman I have in August.  I've been swimming 1.5-2 hours 4-5 times a week.  I feel a little more comfortable about it than when I first signed up.  Some people think (actually most I'm sure) it's crazy, but really, it's not that crazy to me.  What's crazier is running 50ks, 50miles and 100 mile races.  This will just take me around 3 hours.  No biggie.  :)  Goals for these 2 races is to first finish, then I usually make a second goal, and a third goal.  I'll be fine!

Anddd I'll end with some of my favorite quotes.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I---
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

"Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13-14

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Summer Adventures

     Well, I made it through the first full year of grad school, one to go.  I must say, I certainly enjoy studying exercise physiology way better than physical therapy.  It's just so fascinating and makes perfect sense to me, probably because I have a passion for it as well as actually doing endurance exercise myself.  I've come a long way over the past year and a half, I believe.  I still have a lot to learn in this world, but you must do what makes you happy.  Even if that means giving up a secure future. 
   Anyways...what I'm writing about is my summer adventures.  I planned to do this adventure race that I did last year with Rachel-50miles (36 cycling, 6 kayaking, and 8 kayaking) with Mike this year-I think we're going to have a ton of fun.  I just hope the weather cooperates!  Then, the week right after that, I signed up for an olympic distance triathlon in Brighton, MI. In June, I haven't signed up for any races, just Bike to the Bay with my sister and Mike-100mi each day!
     But what I'm really going to blog the 10k swim I signed up for.  I'm scared.  First off-let me just say that I like adventure.  Sure, I exercise because it's healthy, I study it, so I know all the great benefits.  I may take it a bit far sometimes, I get asked at the gym if I'm training for something because I'll spend an hour on the treadmill or elliptical before or after I teach spin.  I cross train the heck out of my body.  I am NOT going to get injured ever again, and I will continue to do endurance-type sports as long as my body allows it.  But...I've been thinking, one of the real reasons why I train so much...for...nothing in some people's eyes, is really, because I have goals of doing these crazy things like 10k swims, long hikes, (I fully plan on hiking the whole AT when I'm older), possibly ultra-anything haha.  When we were in Colorado, it was go go go, I had to see everything I could, whether on my snowboard or snowshoeing.  This is why I train.  So I can just do things like this and not get tired.
     But the 10k I in over my head?  Yes, like I said, I'm scared.  But, I also know that I can do it.  I hope to first finish the thing, but to finish in under 3 hours.  That means I'm going to have to do long intervals, some sprint workouts, and much distance.  I'm going to swim at least 4 times a week, if not more, and taking a day off here and there if my shoulders are too sore.  Running and biking will help my legs and stamina.  Can I really swim 6.2 miles?  When I got out of the water after last year's 5k swim, I said to someone, "Ah, that was fun, I'm ready for a 10k!"  But I do remember at one point thinking to myself "When is this swim was going to be over?".  That was just once, though.  Usually, for whatever reason, I enjoy long distance exercising, and can go on forever.  What do I think about?  I let my mind wander.  Sometimes even I don't know how I can do the same repetitive motion for hours on end, day after day. 
     Out of all the sports in triathlon, the open water swimming is by far my favorite.  So, it only seems right that I should continue on with this open water swimming, pursue a dream I had since I was a child (which, was basically to live my life as extremely as possible-accomplishing great physical feats, because ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed the pain of pushing my body to its own limits.  I can probably thank my Dad for that one :) So this is just another goal on a long list that I don't even know the rest of.  I think I have to do this, not only for myself, but for others around me.  If God gives you a talent, He expects us to use it (I read that somewhere, I didn't make that up).  So...for whatever reason, if I have the drive and swimming skills to do this, I will :)
     I know I keep talking about running ultramarathons, and I would like to.  But running is my worst sport, unfortunately, and I believe I must take this ultra thing in a different direction at the moment.  So, after much debate with myself since December, I did a few clicks of the mouse, and signed up for the 10k swim :) 
     I am also truly grateful for the Team Toledo triathlon club-without them in this area, I probably wouldn't have gotten into triathlon, or open water swimming.  I'd probably still be trying to run every day, damaging my body.  There's usually someone around to swim with, and I'm thankful for that because the laps in the pool can get boring from time to time.  Even if they're just next to me, doing their own workout, it's still nice to have some company :)

“I’m proof that great things can happen to ordinary people if they work hard and never give up.” Orel Hershiser, baseball

 "I found peace in the realization that if God gives you a talent, He expects you to use it. You don't need to apologize for His gifts, only for neglecting to use them. You are honoring your Creator by making use of them. Not to do so would insult His generosity." Sister Madonna Buder

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fluid Needs in Endurance Athletes

There is much literature out in the scientific community as well as popular magazines and sports nutrition websites that stress the importance of drinking fluids during long endurance events such as a marathon, adventure race, or any high intensity exercise lasting two hours or more (Hsieh, 2004).  With all the different sports drinks out on the market, it can be overwhelming to know what to drink during this type of exercise and how often.  Because of this confusion, people may just want to consume plain water, especially if it is one of the drinks provided on the course during a race.  Water is always offered during these long endurance events, as well as one type of sports drink that contains ratios of carbohydrates and electrolytes, such as Powerade or Gatorade.  However, if the person is a new to endurance exercise or racing, and gets gastrointestinal issues from the sugar in these sports drinks, they may be more inclined to drink water.  With more and more individuals signing up for marathons and endurance events of greater distance, there is a concern with consuming too much plain water (Hsieh, 2004).  Some of these individuals may not be knowledgable about nutrition and fluid intake during these events.  Also, some of the participants are out on the course for five to six hours during a marathon, and even longer during an ultraendurance event lasting five hours or more.  During the course of these races, these individuals may end up consuming way too much water, causing their blood sodium concentration to be off balance.  A condition, called hyponatremia, occurs if an athlete consumes too much plain water, causing intoxication.
Hyponatremia can occur at times in endurance athletes who experience greater sweat losses and drink too much plain water throughout exercise, which results in the loss of salt during the workout or race (Bean, 2010).  Urine production is decreased during high intensity exercise, which causes the body to have a hard time amending the balance between sodium loss and excessive water intake.  The concentration of salt in the blood becomes diluted as the amount of fluid in the blood rises from drinking too much plain water.  Because of this, issues can arise with the heart, brain, and muscle contractions if sodium blood concentrations are reduced.  Bloating, nausea, dizziness, going in and out of consciousness and seizures from the brain swelling are symptoms of hyponatremia.  Dehydration also causes these symptoms as well, so an athlete must closely monitor their fluid intake to avoid both of these conditions (Bean, 2010).  “If you are sweating heavily for long periods of time, drink dilute electrolyte/carbohydrate drinks rather than plain water.  These will help avoid hyponatremia, maintain better fluid levels in the body, spare muscle glycogen and delay fatigue” (Bean, 2010). 
An article from reported that 13 percent of runners from the Boston Marathon in 2002 may have been affected by hyponatremia.  Furthermore, four female runners have died from this condition over the last 12 years after running a marathon (Burfoot, 2004).  This is interesting because, according to the article, the Boston Marathon attracts the fastest, most fit, and skilled runners in the world; one would think they would know what signs to watch out for regarding fluid intake.  According to Burfoot (2004), Dr. Speedy studied hyponatremia in triathletes at the Ironman Triathlon in Auckland in the mid 1990s.  He found that 18 percent of finishers developed this condition.  Dr. Noakes found in the early 2000s that marathon runners should drink just 400 to 800 milliliters an hour, or 13.5 to 27 ounces of fluid.  This contrasted with many sports medicine associations at the time, such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), causing much debate because ACSM recommended at least 20 to 40 ounces of fluid an hour.  These were the recommendations up until 2003, when a major study by the New England Journal of Medicine was published, stating that hyponatremia is indeed a very serious condition, and explained why runners might not need to consume so much fluid (Burfoot, 2004). 
This study recorded blood sodium levels and body weight before and after the Boston Marathon in 488 runners, finding that 63 accrued hyponatremia when they finished.  “The researchers also performed a sophisticated ‘multivariate analysis’ to identify what actually caused hyponatremia among the afflicted runners, identifying three primary triggers: 1) weight gain during the marathon from excessive fluid consumption; 2) a finishing time slower than four hours; and 3) very small or very large body size” (Burfoot, 2004).  Out of these three factors, the largest was weight gain during the marathon.  One other interesting result was that a sports drink does not shield an athlete from developing hyponatremia, because there is very little salt in sports drinks, not much different than water.  Other studies have found that females develop hyponatremia more so than males, however, the researcher from this study, Dr. Almond, says that he does not think that just being female predisposes one to hyponatremia.  Yet, many women who are small in body size and run for more than four hours are at risk (Burfoot, 2004).  Dr. Almond wants runners to still drink fluids during a marathon, however, he states that “They should simply aim for a safe middle-ground in their hydration strategies” (Burfoot, 2004). 
According to Bob Murray, who is a Hawaiian Ironman finisher, a director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, and has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, says that sports drinks do not protect a person against hyponatremia if the athlete drinks too much of that sports drink during a race.  He says that any extra sodium in sports drinks than already contained must not be added because hydration will then be hindered.  However, Murray says that consuming Gatorade rather than just plain water may dull decreasing sodium concentrations in the blood, which can help shield a runner from a more serious form of hyponatremia (Burfoot, 2004).  An afflicting question is always asked after Murray’s talks, which is “If dehydration is so damn bad for you, why are the marathon winners often the most dehydrated runners on the course? ‘I can only say that I believe they'd perform even better with more fluids,’ he answers. ‘Our advice remains unchanged: Drink to minimize weight loss, but don't overdrink. And favor a good sports drink over water’” (Burfoot, 2004). 
Hyponatremia can occur in any endurance athlete, not just the marathon runner.  A study titled, “Prevalence of exercise-associated hyponatremia in male ultraendurance athletes,” decided to examine the occurrence of hyponatremia in other endurance athletes, rather than the commonly studied marathon runner and Ironman triathlete (Knechtle et al., 2011).  They investigated ultraswimmers, ultracyclists, as well as ultramarathon runners.  The chosen events to investigate these athletes were the “Marathon Swim” in Lake Zurich, Switzerland, (26.4K or 16.4 mi), the “Swiss Cycling Marathon” (720K or 447.4 mi), the “Swiss Bike Masters,” the “100-km Lauf Biel,” an ultramarathon, and the “Swiss Jura Marathon,” which is a 350K (217.5 mi) run through the mountains (Knechtle et al., 2011).  Fifteen ultraswimmers, 37 ultra-mountain bikers, 28 road cyclists, 95 ultramarathon runners, and 25 mountain ultramarathon runners took part in this study.  Alterations were assessed in blood sodium levels, body mass, hematocrit, and chemicals in the urine.  Fluid intake was documented by the participants.  One might suspect that the prevalence of hyponatremia may be more pronounced in these ultraendurance athletes since they are exercising for a long period of time.  However, only 12 competitors, or 6%, developed hyponatremia, meaning that hyponatremia is still a serious problem in endurance athletes of any type, not just marathon runners and triathletes (Knechtle et al., 2011). 
According to Hsieh (2004), athletes are more likely to develop hyponatremia if they have a slower finishing time, are female, the race is in the heat, or they have taken anti-inflammatory medications.  During the 2000 Pittsburgh Marathon, where the temperature reached 32.2 degrees Celsius, and the humidity was at 50%, 5.6% of the finishers had accrued hyponatremia (Hsieh, Roth, & Davis et al., 2002).  On the other hand, another study that was conducted 13 years before on the same race, where the temperature was a lot cooler, did not find one runner with hyopnatremia (Nelson, et al., 1989).  Many other studies did not find this serious condition during races in cooler weather (Whiting, Maughan, & Miller, 1984; Occhi, Gemma, & Buselli et al., 1987; Refsum, Tveit, & Meen et al., 1973).  Hsieh (2004) also reports that females and athletes with slower finishing times are more prone to developing hyponatremia.  Because of their smaller body mass, females might not need as much fluid intake as the current recommendations.  Also, those participating in races that finish with slower times do not need as much fluid intake either because they are exercising at a lower intensity.  It is also possible that athletes can develop hyponatremia from using anti-inflammatory drugs, which cause a reduction in the glomerular filtration rate activated by a decrease in the formation of prostaglandin, however more studies are needed to confirm this belief (Hsieh, 2004).   
Hyponatremia can often look like other issues commonly experienced by endurance athletes, such as heat stroke, hypoglycaemia, gastroenteritis, exercise exhaustion, and exercise-associated collapse (Hsieh, 2004).  Those with blood sodium saturations over 125-130 mmol/L might have a less serious form of hyponatremia, consisting of cramps, light-headedness, vomiting, lethargy, nausea, and oedema.  With this lesser form of hyponatremia, some individuals may not even show any symptoms.  However, more serious cases of hyponatremia have dangerous symptoms, which can lead to death.  “More severe symptoms include mental status changes, encephalopathy, seizure, pulmonary oedema and death.  The subtlety and similarity of these signs and symptoms to those of other exercise-related illnesses may delay diagnosis and, at times, result in iatrogenic worsening of a patient’s condition through vigorous intravenous hydration” (Garigan & Ristedt, 1999).  It is very important, therefore, to take necessary precautions in order to prevent this condition from getting more serious, or developing at all.
It is recommended to comsume 500 mL/h or less, especially for those individuals who take longer to finish races (Hsieh, 2004).  Many sports drinks that contain carbohydrate-electrolyte (CE) blends are aimed at replacing carbohydrate and electrolyte loss through sweat, help increase race performance, improve the absorption of fluids in the intestine, increase the physiological drive to drink, as well as help increase recovery (Hsieh, 2004).  These drinks are preferable to water in order to avoid hyponatremia because they contain some sodium which helps retain water in the body, lessening some of the need to drink (Hsieh, 2004).  “The exact composition of the CE solution does not appear to make a significant difference on performance or physiological parameters.  High sodium (>25-30 mEq/L) and glucose content (>12%) may be poorly tolerated.  Gastric emptying may be decreased by high carbohydrate or calorie content.  Most commercial sports drinks are sufficiently dilute to avoid these problems” (Hsieh, 2004).  These solutions are even more dilute than what the World Health Organization suggests for fluid intake, and should not be the only drink used when  loss of electrolytes and fluids is large, agreeing with Burfoot (2004).  Since these sports drinks are weak in their electrolyte concentrations, in order to prevent hyponatremia, some athletes will swallow salt pills over the course of their race.  However, studies have shown that there is not a significant difference between athletes who use these salt pills during their race and those who do not (Vrijens & Rehrer, 1999; Sanders, Noakes, & Dennis, 2001; Speedy, Thompson, & Rodgers, et al., 2002; Sanders, Noakes, & Dennis, 1999).
It is very important that the athlete pays particular attention to how much fluid they are drinking before and during an intense bout of exercise, especially one lasting two hours or more in hot and humid conditions.  There is a very fine line between too much and too little fluid intake.  The athlete must drink enough to avoid dehydration, but not so much (especially plain water) that their blood sodium concentration because diluted, causing the dangerous condition of hyponatremia.  I think that adhering to these guidelines, as well as practicing and training with different sports drinks to find out which drink, and how much intake is needed before and during the event or exercise bout, will help the athlete become more aware of the condition and able to prevent it. 

Bean, Anita.  (2010).  The complete guide to sports nutrition.  (7th ed.).  London, England:  A &
C Black Publishers Ltd. 

Burfoot, Amby.  (2004).  How much should you drink during a marathon?  Retrieved from


Garigan, T., & Ristedt, D.  (1999).  Death from hyponatremia as a result of acute water

            intoxication in an army basic trainee.  Military Medicine, 164, 234-238. 

Hsieh, M., Roth, R., & Davis, D, et al.  (2002).  Hyponatremia in runners requiring on-site

            Medical treatment at a single marathon.  Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise,

            34, 185-189. 

Knechtle, B., Gnadinger, M., Knechtle, P., Imoberdorf, R., Kohler, G., Ballmer, P., Rosemann,

            T., & Oliver, S.  (2011).  Prevalence of exercise-associated hyponatremia in male

            ultraendurance athletes.  Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 21, 226-232.

Nelson, P., Ellis, D., & Fu, F, et al.  (1989).  Fluid and electrolyte balance during a cool

            weather marathon.  American Journal of Sports Medicine, 17, 770-772.

Occhi, G., Gemma, S., & Buselli, P, et al.  (1987).  Effects of repeated endurance exercise on

            some metabolic parameters in cross country skiers.  Journal of Sports Medicine and

            Physical Fitness, 27, 184-190.

Refsum, H., Tveit, B., & Meen, H, et al.  (1973).  Serum electrolyte, fluid and acid-base

            balance after prolonged heavy exercise at low environmental temperature.  Scandinavian

            Journal of Clinical and Laboratory, 32, 117-122. 

Sanders, B., Noakes, T., & Dennis, S.  (1999).  Water and electrolyte shifts with partial fluid

            replacement during exercise.  European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational

            Physiology, 80, 318-323. 

Sanders, B., Noakes, T., & Dennis, S.  (2001).  Sodium replacement and fluid shifts during

            prolonged exercise in humans.  European Journal of Applied Physiology, 84, 419-425.

Speedy, D., Thompson, J., & Rodgers, I, et al.  (2002).  Oral salt supplementation during

            ultradistance exercise.  Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 12, 279-284.

Vrijens, D., & Rehrer, N.  (1999).  Sodium-free fluid ingestion decreases plasma sodium during
            exercise in the heat.  Journal of Applied Physiology, 70, 154-160. 
Whiting, P., Maughan, R., & Miller, J.  (1984).  Dehydration and serum biochemical changes
            in marathon runners.  European Journal of Applied Physiology, 52, 183-187.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dietary Fat in Endurance Athletes

A lot of us, athlete or not, associate negative thoughts with the word "fat."  However, your body needs fat to a certain extent for physiological processes to run smoothly.  Fat is especially important for endurance athletes, and you may not be getting enough.  That's why I decided to write an article review on the topic of fat for endurance performance.  Here's what my teacher said about this-she agrees!  "Great topic! Also, it is important to note that for endurance athletes who have very high kcal needs, fat is a very concentrated source of energy (9 kcals/g compared to carb of 4 kcals/g), therefore, having 30% of kcals from fat will help to meet total kcals needs without requiring larger volumes of food."  So, get at least 30% of total calories from fat!  (If you're an endurance athlete, the general population is less than that 30% because you're not burning enough off, and it will start to stick inside you and cause damage in a number of ways).

                                                   Dietary Fat in Endurance Athletes
           There is much debate in the athletic and scientific community on whether a high-fat or a low-fat diet improves endurance performance.  Supporters of a high-fat diet state that an increase in dietary fat over time will enhance fat burning by boosting the capability to breakdown and move fat around for energy use (4).  However, too much fat in the diet, with 60% or more of calories coming from fat in the diet, can cause adverse health problems, such as heart disease and high cholesterol (4).  Our book also says that restricting calories from fat to dangerously low levels can weaken endurance exercise performance, and the same thing can happen by eating too many calories from fat.  Our book says that it is safe to eat as much as 50% of total calories from fat without developing a decrease in exercise performance or adverse health symptoms, as long as the athlete is burning a significant amount of calories a day, such as individuals who take part in endurance exercise (4).  This diet is not recommended for sedentary people, and even people who are moderately active. 
I found an article from titled “Fats in the Endurance World,” by Sunny Blende, a sports nutritionist.  She claims that in endurance sports, the importance of fat consumption is greatly misinterpreted.  Some athletes totally avoid it while others eat too much of it because they think it will help them last longer and “spare” carbohydrate (1).  I have always been interested in this subject because I am tired of being told I should avoid foods with a high fat content.  After reading the section in our book labeled "High-fat versus low-fat diets for endurance training and exercise performance,” I was even more interested to read on because I have heard both types of those diets are good for the endurance athlete from many different sources.  This stimulated me to find more literature on the topic of how important fat is in an endurance athlete’s diet, as well as find what information was out there from a popular ultrarunning website.  I also found some published articles from reliable sources online, such as the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.  One article says that high-carbohydrate diets have prolonged endurance exercise performance more so than high-fat diets in the past (2).  However, today, there is increasing curiosity in high-fat diets because the effects include decreased levels of depleted glycogen during training or competition from metabolic changes that help the body use fat for energy both during exercise and at rest (2).  The body, in turn, will hold off on taking energy from carbohydrates so that the fat is burned first, and then the carbohydrates will be used, leading to a longer period to exhaustion. 
“These adaptations include decreased muscle and liver glycogen storage and rate of breakdown, increased gluconeogenesis, increased muscle triacylglycerol storage and utilization, increased mitochondrial oxidative capacity, increased ketone production, and decreased use of glycolysis-derived acetyl CoA” (2).  However, the effects of a high-fat diet on competition are vague, with some studies that show exercise capacity is pro-longed, while others have shown it is not affected, and yet others say exercise capacity actually is reduced (2).  The differences in study findings might be because of variability in fitness level of participants, exercise tests, the balance of the carbohydrate to fat ratio in calories consumed, or the length of the diet study (2).  One study took two groups of 20 recreationally active men who were either placed on a moderate-to-high carbohydrate diet or a high-fat and moderate protein diet (with 60% calories from fat) for six weeks.  Each group took part in a maximal oxygen consumption test, two 30-s Wingate anaerobic tests, and a 45-minute time trial on a bike before and after the intervention.  There was not a change in relative maximal oxygen consumption between both groups, but it was noted that there was significant reduction in absolute terms (L/min) for the group that consumed a high-fat diet.  The values for peak RER were significantly reduced over the course of the intervention period for those on the high-fat diet, but the high-carbohydrate group did not show any change.  Also, in the high-fat diet group, RPE (ratings of perceived exertion) was much higher at the end of the study at minutes 9 and 11. 
Interestingly, there was no noteworthy variation in RPE in the control group. In both groups, changes in overall time were not observed (2).  For the Wingate test, a test of anaerobic power, an all-out sprint test lasting 30 seconds, the high-fat diet group’s peak and average power significantly declined over the course of 6 weeks, but the high-carbohydrate diet group did not change in their results (2).  “During the 45-min cycling bout, work output for the HFMP group was significantly reduced from week 0 to week 6 at 15, 30, and 45 min (Figure 1). These values corresponded with significantly decreased RER values at 15 and 30 min for this group (Figure 2). No change was noted in either of these variables for the control group. Oxygen consumption was unchanged except for a significant decrease at the 15-min time point in the HFMP group” (2).  Also, both groups did not show a significant change in heart rate (2).  “Nevertheless, our results indicate that adaptation to a HFMP diet in non-highly trained men does not improve exercise performance and may slightly impair maximal aerobic capacity, peak power output, and endurance capacity when associated with a small but significant loss in body mass” (2). 
Supporters of the high-fat diet for endurance athletes say that an increase in fat intake overtime will encourage the burning of lipids by increasing the capacity to mobilize and breakdown fat (4).  In a study done on two groups of males who had the same fitness status, one group was fed a high-carbohydrate diet (65% calories from carbs), and the other group was fed a high-fat diet (62% of total calories from fat).  Both groups exercised 3 days a week at 50-85% of their VO2max (aerobic capacity), for 60-70 minutes during the first 3 weeks, and 4 days a week during the last few weeks.  What the study found was that there was an increase in endurance capacity for those who consumed the high-fat diet (115%), however, the high-carbohydrate group was able to increase their endurance substantially (194%) (4).
     Also, our book states that, "Comprised training capacity and symptoms of lethargy, increased fatigue, and higher ratings of perceived exertion usually accompany exercise when subsisting on a high-fat diet" (4).  It is important to remember that there are negative health hazards associated with a high-fat diet.  What I found interesting, though, was that this risk may not be a hazard for athletes who burn a ton of calories each day (like endurance athletes), and consume a higher-fat diet (around 50% calories from fat, not the 62% like in the study).  This will not increase the risk for heart disease or elevated cholesterol levels, if the athlete maintains a healthy or stable body weight and is able to burn many calories each day (4).  Our book also states that, "Conversely, significant restriction of dietary fat intake below recommended levels also impairs endurance performance" (4).  So, I think it is very important that athletes recognize this, especially if they are burning a lot of calories each day through training.  They need fat, and cannot limit it to dangerously low levels because they will not be able to give 100% in each workout or race.  They are still going to have healthy numbers for blood lipid profiles, triglycerides, etc., as long as they are burning enough calories each day, and maintaining their body weight.  I think it is our job as health professionals to help people understand this.  There is so much false information out there in the media.
            There is one more concern that I have, as well as the scientific community has, with endurance athletes consuming low-fat diets.  There are many endurance athletes who restrict their calories on purpose in order to lose weight to improve race performance.  Some may develop disordered eating patterns because of the desire to restrict energy intake to lose weight to improve performance, and lastly, many just do not eat enough calories because there is not a physiological stimulus to eat enough calories to match the calories they lose through exercise (3).  “Inadvertent low energy availability is more extreme when consuming a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. Low energy availability, reproductive disorders, low bone mineral density
and stress fractures are more common in female than male athletes. Functional menstrual disorders caused by low energy availability should be diagnosed by excluding diseases that also disrupt menstrual cycles” (3).  It is very important to eat enough calories from dietary fat in order to avoid these health risks.
            A study from this research paper by Anne Loucks also found that increasing total calories from fat to at least 30% without decreasing the ingestion of carbohydrates can greatly enhance endurance performance.  “Increasing dietary fat from 17% to 31% increased ad libitum energy intake and availability by =30% without reducing carbohydrate intake, and increased 80% maximal oxygen uptake running endurance time by =18% without increasing bodyweight or body fat” (3).  However, she found another experiment, which agrees with our book, saying that a high-fat diet that contains over 60% of calories from fat will hinder endurance performance.  “Increasing dietary fat from 17% to 68% did not improve 100 km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. However, the cyclists obediently consumed the same energy (=51 kcal/kgFFM/day) on both diets as the investigators told them to do, whereas the runners freely consumed what their appetites told them to eat.  Appetite is not a reliable indicator of energy requirements in endurance athletes” (3).  Ad libitum is just the physiological drive to eat, so when athletes were told to increase their fat intake to up to 30% of total calories, this stimulated them to eat enough calories to match their expenditure. 
            From researching this topic, it seems that including at least 30% of calories from fat in an endurance athlete’s diet can help improve endurance capacity, as long as the athlete does not eat more than 50% of total calories from fat, which will weaken their endurance performance.  I was glad to see that this article from was legitimate with the information on fat, because all too often people think that eating low-fat diets will help them lose the weight they want for competition.  However, this is not the case, and it seems that a healthy balance of all three macronutrients, carbohydrates, protein, and dietary fat, without going overboard in total calories, will help one lose or maintain their weight for optimal endurance performance.
1.      Blende, Sunny.  (2012).  Retrieved from
2.      Fleming, J., Sharman, M. J., Avery, N. G.,  Love, D. M., G√≥mez, A. L., Scheett, T. P.,
Kraemer, W. J., &Volek, J. S.  (2003).  Endurance capacity and high-intensity exercise performance responses to a high-fat diet.  International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 13, 466-478.
3.       Loucks, A. B.  (2007).  Low energy availability in the marathon and other endurance
sports.  Sports Medicine, 37, 348-352.
4.      McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., &Katch, V. L.  (2009).  Sports and exercise nutrition.  (3rd ed.).  Baltimore, MD:  Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.