Saturday, September 22, 2012


One of the bummers of not riding since my accident in May is that I was really getting my bike nutrition down. Last year I started experimenting with a recipe for my own drink to take on long bike rides and this year I started making my own "bars" to eat. While the bars still need some work, now is as good a time as any to share the drink recipe:

Mix together with water in a 24 oz. water bottle.

The story behind the recipe:

A couple of years ago I was listening to a podcast on Competitor Radio with Asker Jeukendrop, a sports nutrition scientist. On the show, he talked about how glucose and fructose have different pathways to get absorbed by your body, so by consuming both (in about a 2-1 ratio--it's around 9:00 into the podcast) you would increase the amount of carbohydrates you can absorb compared to consuming either by itself. Makes sense. He also gave an amount of carbohydrates that people can typically absorb so I did some mental calculations (drinking every 15 minutes on the bike, typical amount per drink, 22 oz water bottle, composition of sucrose (table sugar), taking in other food, etc.) and came up with 2 Tablespoons each of table sugar and dextrose. That didn't sit so well in my stomach on long, hard rides, though, so I dropped down to 1½ Tablespoons each and that worked much better.

What to do for electrolytes? I looked and looked but there aren't a lot of choices for electrolytes on their own. There are things like Nunn tablets, which act like Alka-Seltzer when you drop them in water. Unfortunately, they tasted like Alka-Seltzer, too. I found Elete Electrolytes, a liquid that I could add to my drink but that wouldn't be so convenient to take along on long rides when it came time to refill my bottles. I used to crack open an Endurolyte capsule and put its contents in my bottle but it doesn't dissolve in water so well. I finally settled on the Base Performance Electrolyte Salt (even though I have a sneaking suspicion that it is just re-packaged Real Salt). Each container comes with a tiny measuring spoon and I scoop one of those in my water bottle. I tried using two spoonfuls but it was way too salty.

As for the Kool-Aid, I needed to put some flavor in the drink. Sure, I could go with something all natural but, frankly, I can get three servings out of a 20-cent package of Kool-Aid and there are a lot of flavors to choose from. I really don't think that it's going to kill me.

Why come up with my own drink? Why not just buy a bucket of stuff they sell in bike shops? For one thing, I don't want to spend a bunch of money if I don't have to. What do I need this drink to do? Hydrate, replace electrolytes, and supply as many carbs as I can handle. Do I, a 49-year old, middle-of-the-pack triathlete, really need so-called cutting-edge nutrition? Or do I need some water, sugar, electrolytes, and flavor? I'll go with Door #2, if I can.

A side note: I am training with Gatorade on the run. Why Gatorade and not Michaelade on the run? Because on the bike I have four water bottle cages that let me carry whatever I want. I can also put some drink mix in ziploc bags (which I can stash in a jersey pocket) to make more when I finish the bottles. I can drink higher-calorie drinks on the bike than I can on the run because of the pounding one's body takes on the run. On the run, even if I take a FuelBelt with me, that will only last eight miles in the heat. During an iron-distance triathlon, I have to live off the course for drinks, though I plan on taking some gels with me. Gatorade lets me do that and it's what they have on the Vineman course.

How does Michaelade compare to store-bought mixes? First, you have to remember that I don't know what I'm doing. Given that, though, I like the drink. It doesn't upset my stomach, and it, combined with other foods (Snickers, e-Gels, and the aforementioned homemade bars) works for me on my rides. YMMV. Let's compare it to Hammer Nutrition's HEED and Perpetuem, and Skratch Labs' Exercise Hydration Mix:

  Michaelade HEED Perpetuem Skratch EHD
Cost per 24 oz. bottle $0.38 $0.66 $1.50 $0.98
Calories per Serving 139 100 270 80
Sodium per Serving 290mg 40mg 220mg 310mg
# of Flavors 11 4 3 4

What does all that prove about Michaelade? Well, the cost is cheaper, calories are okay, sodium is good, and a lot more flavors, for starters. The point of all this is that my homemade, relatively cheap sports drink is working for me. Will it work for you? Don't know. You could give it a try, make some adjustments, and see what happens. Or not. Remember, this is not cutting-edge research. It's just me trying to save some money in my triathlon hobby and if I can, you probably can, too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Year Ahead

So much for 2012.

Accident in May. No running for two months. No bike 'til possibly November. Yeah, my 2012 triathlon season was a bust. Time to focus on 2013 and that focus can be summed up in one word: Vineman. All my training between now and next July is in preparation for the Full Vineman Triathlon (an iron-distance event).

Why Vineman? I have a friend from way back whose first stab at an Ironman didn't work out so well so she's going to attempt the distance again at next year's Vineman. When I saw that, I figured "Why not?". It's a full iron-distance event (2.4 mile swim, 112 bike, 26.2 mile run), the swim is done in a river (I can't do ocean swims), though the race will be in July the Northern California weather should be manageable, and the price is less than a WTC-affiliated event. It'll be nice to have someone I know in such a big race.

So what does that mean training- and racing-wise? For starters, it means I'm not going to have the time to do a half-iron-distance race beforehand. There's just no room in the calendar for it, especially since I can't do ocean swims. Does that worry me? No, I know I can finish a 70.3. When I've had some pool time, swimming 1.2 miles isn't a problem. Riding 56 miles isn't a problem, either. And I've done four half-marathons. I'm familiar with all the legs and it would be just a matter of finishing.

I want to do a marathon beforehand. I want to know what running 26.2 miles feels like so I can (somewhat) prepare for that during a triathlon. Which one to choose, though? I'd love to run a big one like the L.A. Marathon. However, the logistics of getting to Dodger Stadium for the start, then getting back from Santa Monica at the end doesn't make me happy. There is a little group, Rocket Racing Productions, that puts on small, low-key marathons (yes, plural) by the ocean in Santa Monica, that has piqued my interest. Fully supported. Experienced organizers. Start and end in the same place. Don't have to weave around 20,000 walkers. Did I also mention cheap ($49 for a marathon!)? They put on multiple races a month throughout the year. Wow! I'm aiming for one in February (they don't have their 2013 calendar up yet).

Since the bike course is easy (only 2200 feet of climbing), I don't have to hit the hills so hard. That and no track cycling means my thighs aren't going to get huge. It turns out that the little bit of track cycling I did and the tough climbing I was doing on the bike conspired to put some good muscle on my legs. I didn't know 49-year olds could put muscle on that easily but I did. There's another reason to hold off on track cycling: bike fit. From the first session, I started having IT Band Syndrome. The next session made it worse. By the time of my accident it was getting better because I hadn't been on the track in a few weeks. The pain from the accident on my left side covered up the IT band pain on my right side. The IT band problem was likely due to poor bike fit, caused by my renting a bike because I don't have a track bike. If I leave track cycling for after Vineman, I won't have to deal with the extra weight from bigger legs. If I go back to the track, though, it's going to have to be on a bike I bought so it will fit properly. I'm thinking my bike training can be summed up on one word: long.

I don't want to swim year-round (I still suffer burnout from competitive swimming in my youth) but I do want to be in good shape for Vineman so I'm not wiped out before getting on the bike. I know I can get in okay shape in a month, so I figure four months of training should do. That means I'll start swimming in April but that also means that I can't do the IronBruin next March.

Maybe I'll do a sprint triathlon in May or June but that's just an idea I'm tossing around in my head. I don't think I should do the Santa to the Sea half-marathon this December, so that will have to wait until 2013. Oh, and I need to do a 5k race in October (and another in March) to gauge how I will be training for the marathon (per Run Less, Run Faster).

Right now I am running three or four days per week. A long run of no more than nine miles on Saturday, then some 5.5 mile runs on Sunday, and Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I have been running in the heat on weekends. During the race I will be starting my marathon in the afternoon so I want my body and mind to know what it's like to run in the heat. How much to drink. When to slow down. When to walk. I finally did a sweat test this past weekend and found that I sweat a half-gallon in an hour in moderate heat. Time to start testing drinking more on the run.

So, the plan in a nutshell: Vineman in July. Marathon in February. Swim starting in April. Long-distance training on the bike (once it gets here in November). Stay healthy. Oh, and it would be nice if I could lose some weight.