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Eating During Ironman: 14 Hours of PowerBars, Cookies and Chicken Broth

You can't imagine how good it feels to be re-entering the world post-Ironman.  I am going to resume my life of eating for pleasure (not just fuel), exercising for fun (without worry and obligation) and living as an easy going Chicagoan who loves to eat right around this grand city.  If you have been following my sporadic posts between swim, bike, run, eat, sleep, repeat, then you know that I have spent my summer training for Ironman Wisconsin 2010.  I exhale with relief every time I say that now.  My summer was hijacked by tireless hours swimming, biking and running.  Although Ironman is a gift, it's also an obligation that, for about 4 months, removes you from normal activities of daily living.  Alas, it is done...and I am a (two-time) Ironman finisher.

When you make the ambitious and loony decision to register for this 140.6 mile race, you may not realize that you are also committing to denying yourself commonplace activities like brunch on the weekends (you will be biking or running), late night of cocktails (bed by 9 PM), shopping for something other than gear, wearing your hair down (I can't believe how long my hair is now) or even keeping up with stuff that "make you look good".  I put makeup on for the first time in months this past weekend and even had my brows threaded (like plucking or waxing).  Although I have ridiculous tan lines on my arms and legs and my face looks like a handbag, my blisters and chafe marks have healed and I'm officially starting to look like a girl again.   

Before I close the chapter completely, I thought I'd share with you what I ate during Ironman (mostly because that seems to be the most commonly asked question).  So, check out my photo gallery of the event and here is a laundry list of what I ate for my 14+ hour day (water, ad libitum, all day).

Overall times: 
14:56:08 overall
1:25 Swim (2.4 miles)
7:18 Bike (112 miles)
5:45 Run (26.2 miles) - also known as "walk/jog"

- 4AM Breakfast:  Whole grain bagel with walnut cream cheese, banana and coffee
- 1 Hour Prior to Swim Start:  PowerBar gel
- Swim to Bike Transition:  PB&J on wheat
- Bike:  2 bags PowerBar Gel Blasts, 1 PowerBar, 1 oz. Fritos, 1/2 PB&J, 1 package Ritz Cheese & Crackers, 1 PowerBar Gel
- Bike to Run Transition:  1/2 PB&J, 1 oz. Fritos
- Run:  (this is where it gets weird because my stomach is starting to reject everything) 1 PowerBar Gel (with caffeine), ~8 oz. flat Cola, ~8 oz. chicken broth, 1 package Ritz Cheese & Crackers, 8-9 sugar cookies (yes, for about 8-9 miles, I had a cookie at every station), 2 orange slices

Immediately after the race:  2 slices of pizza

1- hour after race:  a few bites of French Onion Soup and a beer

Enjoy my pics!

Gallery sneak peek (24 images):

View the gallery...
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Eat Carbs, Last Longer: Carb Loading

Ugh, I am less than 5 days from Ironman Wisconsin.  I've tapered (decreased my exercise) and now I'm battling mental anguish and nervousness.  I am packing my tri bag, checking my list of nutritional needs and stressing about forgetting something crucial.  I call this the worrying week:  have I trained enough?  What if it's windy and I'm blown to a halt on the bike?  Oh, God, I have to swim 2.4 miles with 2000 flailing arms.  What if my neck aches?  Will I get a blister?  What if my belly rejects food?  Aaaaah!  What have I done???

OK, enough of my pre-race pity party, I will give you some information that you can use...worrying week is also for catching up on sleep, resting and topping off fuel stores.  Although I don't count carbs (or anything really), I recognize that it's important to mind my nutrition this week.  For me, it means eating every 3-4 hours, avoiding fatty foods, sticking to easy-to-digest items and emphasizing carbs, e.g., fruits, vegetables, grains and pastas.  (I also try to avoid hitting the bottle...but that's Sports Nutrition 101, so probably something you already figured out.)

Why Carbs?

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for most types of exercise - even the long endurance events.  Don't kid yourself - if you are doing an Ironman or exercising over 2 hours - you will use fat as fuel, but no one bonks because they ran out of fat.  Buuutttt, you will hit the wall if your carbs are depleted.  And it won't be pretty.  Even 60-90 minutes of endurance training or a few hours in the weight room can seriously deplete carbohydrate muscle fuel stores.

Bottom line:  if your diet is too low in carbs, your performance will suffer and so will you.

Still not convinced?  Consider this:  you're sitting at your desk all day and you skip lunch.  Find yourself getting cranky?  Have you snapped at a co-worker?  Feeling tired?  Maybe a little blurry?  Well, your blood glucose is declining and your body is not OK with this...neither is your brain.  So you start to decline in function.  Now imagine if you're on a bicycle or running.  Yup, you may fall off your bike or crumble during a run.  Friends don't let friends run out of carbs - so make sure you start your race fully fueled.

I think of "carb-loading" as carb-emphasis.  And, it isn't something that you wait until the last minute to do.  It starts days out from the big day, not the night before.  The point of carb-loading?  Well, research shows that if you maximize your stored glycogen (carbs in your body), you will help to ward off fatigue and optimize performance.  It's like starting a road trip with a full tank of gas (which you may not do if you live in Chicago because gas prices decline as you leave the city...but that's a different issue).

No need to empty to fill.
  The concept of carb-loading has come a long way.  One old-school view was that you needed to empty your tank, so to speak, and spend a few days focusing on high fat and protein foods with little to no carbs.  It's now known that you don't have to do this.  No need to starve and replenish.  This "super-compensation" exercise was deemed unnecessary, difficult and likely to contribute to stomach upset.

If you're exercising at a steady pace and intensity, carb-loading can increase your endurance by about 20%.  I'll take that. 

Your Carb-Loading Plan (if you like numbers)

3-4 Days Before the Race:  3.6 - 5.5 grams of carbohydrates per lb of body weight

1-2 Days Before the Race:  4.5 - 5.5 grams of carbohydrates per lb of body weight

So, wish me luck.  That's all I have at this point.  I have to trust my training, hope that I can stay strong enough to keep my posture, persevere when it hurts like a mo-fo and avoid signing up for Ironman again. 

If you're bored on Sunday and want to see if I am able to finish my 2nd Ironman race in under 17 hours (my first IM was completed in 14:27, but I'm not feeling as fit and agile as I was in 2007), you can track athletes online (last name Bell, first Jenna).  Click here:  Athlete Tracker.  You just won't be able to find out if I'm crying or swearing or dragging myself across the finish line.  I'll blog about that after the race if my ego isn't too bruised.

Oh and if you're attending or doing the race, I'll be doing a book signing at the PowerBar booth at 10:30am on Friday at the expo.  See you there!!! 

And hope for a windless day of pain-free fun!  
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Swim, Bike, Run, Eat...Take 1

June 12th marked the first race of the year for me - Elkhart Lake Olympic Distance Triathlon.  I'm only doing three triathlons this season, but I will be progressing from a manageable Olympic distance to a not-so-bad Ironman 70.3 in Racine to the "why am I doing this again?" Ironman Wisconsin on Sept 12th.  To share my nutrition tips and race testimonials, please enjoy my photo gallery!

Gallery sneak peek (28 images):

View the gallery...

Eat Right During a Workout

Madison ride.jpg

Dave from VQ tells us the plan

I spent my Wednesday bathed in sunblock, pockets full of fuel and with bottles of warm water riding 80 miles of the Ironman Wisconsin race course with a group from Vision Quest in Chicago.  It was a beautiful day, especially if you were having a picnic or taking a midday walk.  But if you were on a bicycle, it was gusty and relentless (for the 2nd 40 mile loop).  Like your annual pap (sorry, guys), it was humiliating and even a little small talk couldn't make it more pleasant. While I can't control the weather on a long ride, I can control my nutrition.  I'll stop griping about a day of biking and use this as a clumsy segue into eating during exercise - did I mention that my bike shorts ripped and I'm pretty sure that I have a diaper rash? 
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Staying Hydrated During Exercise

It's getting hot.  If you're like me, that means you're getting thirstier when you exercise.  And if you're just like me, you find it difficult to maintain proper hydration and balance your fuel and sodium needs during long workouts.  We're not's a frequently asked question among athletes of all levels that I train or work with at Swim, Bike, Run, Eat!  When asked about staying hydrated during exercise, this is where we start...

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