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January 1, 2017

The Trials and Errors of Diet and Exercise

Filed under: Ironman,Nutrition,Recovery — Aubrey @ 7:55 pm

IMG_2163   What is a healthy diet?  Does a healthy diet mean the same thing for non-athletes as it does for athletes?  The simple answer is, absolutely not.  Diet is as individual as exercise and just like exercise it will change throughout your life, training cycle, and even from day to day.  I’m going to tell you a little about my experience with diet and dietary changes from the start of my endurance career to the present.  Again, diet is highly individual, and I am in no way recommending anyone try the things I am about to describe.

In 2008 I competed in my first ironman triathlon.  The race was in Louisville, Ky in the summer time, and it was blazing hot.  My everyday diet at the time was not the best.  It is a fair assessment to say that my diet consisted of primarily processed foods, and enough gels and sports drink to kill a horse.  Being inexperienced and not clearly understanding my limits in that race, I over did my bike effort early on and starting throwing up gels around mile 50.  It didn’t stop there.  The next 62mi of the bike were a disaster and the run got pretty ugly as well.  Going forward I made a few key changes to my race nutrition and was able to knock off 1.5 hours in the next try at the distance, 6 weeks after the first.  Over the next few years I still battled with GI issues off and on in training and racing.  I found the right race day nutrition for myself over the iron distance, but was still lacking in other places.

After a tough race at the Great Floridian Triathlon in 2009, I became seriously dehydrated to the point of passing out while walking to my car after the race.  When I woke up I had no idea where I was or where my car was parked.  The GI issues were much worse than ever for a good 6months after the race until finally discovering I had ischemic colitis due to the extreme dehydration in that race.  I had a hard time eating pretty much anything before a workout with severe distress right away in each workout.  Something had to change.  Besides resting properly and allowing some time to heal, I changed several things in my diet.  I began to eliminate nuts and seeds and whole wheat/grains that were seemingly so difficult to digest at the time.  I also started cutting back significantly on processed foods.  7 years later and still can’t eat tomatoes two days in a row or the seeds bother me.

IMG_5990   Fast forward to 2011, the year we went vegan.  My wife has been a vegetarian for most of her life, but I ate a fair amount of animal products all of my life.  That year, to support her and also work on my own healthier eating, I decided to eliminate all meat and dairy products.  Filling my diet with so many colorful and nutritious fruits, vegetables,  grains, and beans made me feel amazing.  The first two weeks were a little rough, but then I began to feel the benefits of eating all the healthy/unprocessed foods all the time.  3 months later I qualified for a elite license and had two strong ironman races in two weeks time.  That was it, I was sold, vegan is the way to go for me.

Starting the 2015 triathlon season I was more motivated than ever and looking to step things up within the pro ironman field.  I began working with new coaches and also changing some things in terms of training focus.  It seemed as though I was not able to handle the same training load as the other elite athletes under the same coaches or others for that matter.  The level of commitment and training required to compete at a truly elite level is unbelievable sometimes.  I would have good and bad days.  Right from the beginning my coaches were concerned with my vegan diet, but respected my choices completely.  After a few months of mostly breakthrough training sessions I was ready to see this new fitness put to use in a race.  Two days before the race I started to catch a cold.  On race day my face and ears were a mess and I didn’t have the race I had hoped.  Oh well, stuff happens, onwards and upwards I thought.  Then about a month later I started to have lateral hip pain that caused me to not be able to run in training for a few weeks.  Because of this I skipped Ironman Texas and decided to look for a 70.3 in July sometime.  I chose Racine 70.3 which was a cool experience and my homestay was awesome.  However, the race was another story.  I almost did’t fly up to Wisconsin for the race since I was feeling pretty sick.  My cough was nasty and my head felt horrible, but was so eager to race I had to give it a try.  No go, I have never felt so weak and unenthused during a race in my life.  I pedaled easy the back half of the bike course and went straight to the medical tent when I hit transition.  I knew something was really wrong.  Shortly after arriving home it was more of the same.  The illness got worse and I broke out in a rash all over my legs from something I picked up in the pool I guess.  My immune system was shot.  I found out later that my adrenals were barely hanging on.  DHEA was non existent and cortisol was all wrong too.  We figured out that I was deficient in several things, including 5 amino acids that actually were in my diet through powder form, but I had not been absorbing them.  In hindsight I believe the years of training the way I had, and possibly the lack of certain things in my diet coupled with poor absorption of nutrients led to the issues that came to head this past year.  You can get away with it until you can’t.  Finally I couldn’t get away with it.  Everyone has a breaking point, but the healthier the athlete overall, the further away that point tends to be.

Overtraining was not my problem, nor is it the problem for most athletes.  The bigger issue is lack of proper recovery to support the training, and nutrition is a huge piece of it.  Be cautious of the hormonal response of certain types of training and the long term implications of less than ideal recovery.  That being said, work works, and hard yards are absolutely essential to high performance.

Onwards and Upwards

February 15, 2016

Coaching and Learning

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aubrey @ 9:42 am

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything and there’s a lot that’s happened since I last blogged.  In 2015 I changed some things in terms of my training in order to take a shot at stepping up within the professional ranks of triathlon.  I took part in the Magnolia Masters Pro camp last January and dropped 7sec off my repeat 100y time in about 3 weeks.  I also started working with David Tilbury-Davis to handle the triathlon coaching.  Tim Floyd from Magnolia Masters handled the swim training.  This combo has proven success and I was seeing it first hand.  Unfortunately, I came into the year with too much chronic fatigue and continued getting sick until finally having to take a step back and take a break from training to get my health on track.  One interesting fact is that I had been eating a vegan diet for the previous 2+ years.  I’ll get more into this another time, but hind sight is 20/20 and I have learned a lot about training and diet and how to be a more healthy athlete overall.

Morning Steam Recovery

This year I was looking at where I could get the best opportunity to continue my education as a triathlon coach.  When the opportunity came up to spend time with Tim and the Magnolia Masters Pro camp from the deck, I jumped on it.  What better way to learn than spending time with the best and observing from an entirely different perspective than what I had the year before in the water.  I got in town just in time to drive straight to the the pro practice on a Friday afternoon.  The first question Tim asked me as they rolled in one by one was what was my observation on their mood.  I know most of the athletes, however it was obvious they were fatigued as most walked in staring at their feet that day.  It was also the second swim of the day at the end of two big swim weeks.  After watching them warm up he knew he had to back off a bit.  Tim had an idea of what he wanted to accomplish in that workout before he got there, but how the looked and performed in the warm up determined what would actually happen.  When the goal is to get the most out of an athlete, proper placement of stress is everything.  It sounds so simple, yet it takes time to learn your athletes and the how to monitor them well.  This is true at any level.  The same holds true for the Magnolia Masters age group athletes.  Most triathletes do not have a big swim background.  It sounds like a disease, but it’s referred to as, adult onset swimming.  There are some common issues slowing down adult onset swimmers. The first is immobility in the shoulders, back, hips, and ankles.  One way to address this is by warming up right away with fins on.  This takes pressure off the shoulders, loosens the hips and ankles and allows for a much better body position without struggling right off the bat.  Core stability and body alignment are two of the most important things for any swimmer.  Without keeping the core firm and able to transfer power, you are essentially kicking and pulling against a wet noodle.  As they say, “you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe”.  Muscle firing speed and the neural ability to swim fast with good posture are what every swimmer needs to continually work on.  Swimming fast is the best way to address this, but not the only way.  Strength training is important as well.  While in TX, Tim introduced me Bridge Athletic who I have been using for over a month now and am loving what I’ve seen.  Several alldayendurance athletes are now using the program as well, with great feedback.  Another thing I was introduced to last year for the first time was USRPT, ultra short raced pace training.  This is an interesting concept of hitting very specific times for short repeats with just enough recovery to repeat the time.  In a more traditional swim set the intervals are longer and the rest periods are manipulated in order to hit the target effort or system for the set.  For some reason USRPT in triathlon is misunderstood.  The point is not to swim every workout in USPRT style as it was written, but instead take pieces of the style and place it appropriately in a triathlon swimmers routine.  Everything comes back to knowing your athlete and proper placement of stress.  The better you are able to monitor your athletes, the more you will get out of them.

Group Sprints Side 2

There was too much knowledge to take in 4 days.  I hope to make the trip back next year and continue the process.  As always everyone in the Woodlands, TX is friendly and helpful to out of towners visiting the area.  The environment at Magnolia Masters and in the Woodlands, TX is one of the best all around tri communities period.  Love it out there, and the beer is pretty good too.



March 19, 2015

Puerto Rico 70.3

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aubrey @ 5:17 pm


I came I saw I didn’t quite conquer, this time…

 San Juan swim   

The trip started for me on Friday before this Sunday race.  When I woke up that morning I was crazy congested which was concerning, but no big deal if it passed quickly.  I still had two days before the race to get rid of it.  After a quick drive to Ft Lauderdale and an hour and half delay for plane repairs, we were off.  As we started to descend the pressure change pushed all that congested into my ears.  The right ear was starting to sting a lot but finally cleared walking through the airport.  I stayed at the Condado Hilton which is where I stayed two years ago also.  It’s about a 15min walk to the host hotel and transition area. Not a bad spot with a Starbucks right there and a Denny’s for pre race day pancakes.  They’re not the best pancakes I’ve had but unless they’re burnt it’s hard to mess up pancakes.  I woke up for quick swim and jog before heading to pancake breakfast.   Luckily as I walked in I saw some friends from Naples and talked race plans as we carbed up for Sunday.  The plan was to go for a short 45min ride but leaving my helmet in my car changed my plans a little.  I ran down to the expo to the Rudy a Project booth and told Heath about leaving my helmet.  These guys are amazing!  No problems at all, they replaced me with a brand new wing 57 TT helmet and I was back in business.

San Juan bike

After a quick death defying ride through San Juan traffic, it was back to the hotel to kick the feet up and get ready for Sunday.  At this point I was concerned about the illness that I’d been dealing with, it wasn’t getting better.  I decided to pick up a decongestant at the hotel shop and give it a try.  Sunday morning the temps were nice, around 70 with a light breeze and I felt pretty good warming up for the swim.  As usual, the gun fired and we were full gas to the first buoy.  I’ve been working hard on my swimming lately and have dropped substantial time in the pool so I knew this would be a good swim for me.  At the first buoy I couldn’t believe it, I was in the front pack of swimmers.  Right about that time I started having trouble breathing and just couldn’t exhale very well.  I lost focus for 30 seconds and that’s all she wrote when it comes to hanging with a group of fast swimmers who had now gapped you significantly.  I refocused and kept swimming, although my sighting wasn’t great either and was corrected a few times by paddle boarders.  Transition was smooth, the new helmet fit perfectly, and it was a lot easier to breathe out of the water.  I lifted my watts for the first 30-40min in hopes of bridging up to some other riders but eventually settled into my goal watts and rode steady the rest of the way.  My heart rate was really low and looking back, I should have lifted the average power and rode a little harder.  T2 again was smooth and I immediately felt my running legs were good.  The plan was to not make any moves until after mile 7.  It was warm and humid, but also a very hilly and tough run course.  It is a great course.  Views of the ocean, old San Juan and around the walls of an old Spanish fort, very cool.  I passed one pro guy on the bike and a few on the run but mostly had no one to chase and get the extra push for placing.  Swim position dictates so much of the pro race and not being in the mix, I was out of the race early.  With the swim improvements I know I’ve made and will continue to make, when I’m healthy there will be different outcome.  I  ran into a swim buddy from Magnolia Masters, Scott Lile after the race and got to meet future triathlete superstars Gracie and Jake Lile too.  After the race I was talking with Tim Floyd and he mentioned the war zone that happened on the bike course.  That was the first I’d heard of it!  Seriously?!  Two age groupers were shot in a supposed drug/gang crossfire.  The girl who was hit was apparently hit in the leg but doing ok.  The man, a doctor himself, was hit 3 times and not doing as well, but was in stable condition.  Puts things in perspective.  Since the race I’ve started antibiotics mixed with a lot of rest and I’m starting to turn the corner on this sinus infection.  The plan is to get healthy first, get on to the next block of training, and be ready to rumble for IM Texas in May.