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Trimarni is place where athletes and fitness enthusiasts receive motivation, inspiration, education, counseling and coaching in the areas of nutrition, fitness, health, sport nutrition, training and life.

We emphasize a real food diet and our coaching philosophy is simple: Train hard, recover harder. No junk miles but instead, respect for your amazing body. Every time you move your body you do so with a purpose. Our services are designed with your goals in mind so that you can live an active and healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Trimarni Blog

A blog dedicated to exercise, nutrition and my life

Filtering by Category: "race advice"

What to expect on triathlon race day - course check

Marni Sumbal

This coming weekend is the Ocala HITS triathlon - a distance for everyone from sprint to Ironman. I was scheduled to do this race but with my previous hip issues and the opportunity to speak at an upcoming Oakley Women event, the cards were not in my favor for the race but certainly, the cards didn't mean I wasn't going to come out a winner.

Next weekend I will be able to watch 4 of my 6 athletes who are racing in the HITS Olympic distance triathlon and I am super excited to be there to cheer for everyone. Karel and my other athlete Chris will be racing the half IM on Saturday and although I will be super sad not to be there to support them, I will be flying home from San Diego after my quick 2-day trip to the west coast.

I can't complain about my life when I am in control of my attitude. There are many times in life when we have a choice to say "why now?" or "that's ok". I prefer the later as my worst day may be someones best day. There are so many opportunities in life and I think many times, we get stuck in the moment and forget to be grateful for future opportunities. I am really grateful to be asked by Oakley Women and Shape Magazine to give a nutrition workshop at the upcoming VIP Oakley Progression Sessions in San Diego (this Fri), Denver and Texas (May). Lucky for me, there will be more triathlons.

On Saturday morning, Karel and I made a 2-hour drive to Ocala (leaving at 6:15am) to check out the race course. Karel did his last hard brick on Wednesday (his day off from work this week, along with Saturday) so the race course ride was just steady. Knowing that we would be checking out the course for my athletes as well, there was no planned workout for the day. However, Karel is tapering, is in phenomenal shape and is mentally my bike ride was challenging...56 miles, sitting on Karel's fast wheel. OUCH!

After the ride, Karel ran one loop (~3 miles) of the run course and took a dip in the water. Throughout the morning, I took a lot of mental notes of the course to give a run-down of the course for my athletes. I typed up a full page of tips from everything I could remember about the course (swim, bike and run).

This got me thinking about how athletes approach race day for as we all know, racing is more than just putting a trained body on a course. There are so many uncontrollables and controllables on race day so it is up to you where you direct your energy. Not everyone has the opportunity to ride/run a course before race day, let alone drive it. Therefore, there are a few things you may want to consider before doing a race so here are my top tips for what to expect on triathlon race day.

-Race venue: parking, distance from transition to race start, bathroom location, layout of transition area.
-Swim: in the water or land start, quality/color of water, weather on race day morning, opportunity for warm-up in the water, location of sun rise (proper goggle lens), swim course, swim exit.
-Bike: condition of roads, elevation, location of aid stations, fuel at aid stations, closed or open course (Safety), wind direction, weather forecast.
-Run: terrain of course, location of aid stations, fuel at aid stations, shade or no shade.

Of course - from start to finish, make sure you have all your necessary gear, gadgets and clothing. Better to have the "just in case" items instead of wishing you had them for the duration of your race. 

Many athletes check out the course ahead of time and stress out. Why freak out when the course is out of your control? If you are worried about running in the sand, cold water, bumpy or hills roads, perhaps it is best to consider a different race? If you have a coach, discuss these concerns so that you can plan the proper race schedule to meet your needs. Better yet, plan for the course by preparing yourself on similar conditions. If you never learn to be comfortable riding "fast/hard" on bumpy roads and trying to drink from your water bottle on your down tube of your bike (let alone switch bottles from rear cage to top tube), how do you expect to stay fueled and confident on race day? If you never wear a wetsuit until race day, how do you plan on swimming efficiently and comfortably if you feel restricted? If you never practice running and drinking, how do you think you will fuel on race day?

A few things I noticed in Ocala (not as detailed as my notes to my athletes);
-The course is bumpy - rough roads. The course is not exciting but not boring. It is not technical, a few false flats and gentle rollers. The course can make it easy to forget to drink/stay fueled and because of the out and back course (which is not a straight shot), it can be easy to feel frustrated for 56 miles if you do not pace yourself properly. If your water bottles are not secured, you will lose them. As in any race, if you don't like what is on the course, bring your own fuel. Lucky for HITS athletes, Hammer Nutrition is on the course.
-The first part of the half IM (and entire Olympic course) is on the sand. Not beachy white sand but dark, trail sand. Some of it is packed, some is loose. My thinking is be prepared, don't stress. Consider wearing socks to avoid sand being caked in the shoes w/ water from the aid stations for cooling. There is little shade on the course, stay cooled with water and ice. This should make it easy to not go out too fast but on the bike, better stretch your hips and not stay aero the entire bike course. You will need your hip flexors to be strong and not fatigued on a changing terrain course.
-For the swim, the morning will be cool. Getting in the water for a warm-up is always a good thing for a nervous swimmer with a wetsuit but I recommend jog/walk warm-up first before getting in the water for the water start.

As you read the athlete guide before your race, check out the course or talk to other athletes (read forums), remind yourself that everyone races on the same course and is trained differently. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. As you know, I LOVE hilly, hard courses. I will take any obstacle that comes my way so I can be smart on race day...not always the "fastest" athlete. 

You have a choice to be the smarter athlete on race day or be the one that wastes energy on things out of your control. Your choice.
Race strong, stick to your plan and  remember, even if the cards are not in your favor, you can still come out a winner by being grateful for the opportunities ahead of you.

Happy Racing!

Pre-race nutrition tips: Running

Marni Sumbal

Picture taken by Stefanie S.

Less than 1 mile from the 2011 Ironman World Championship finishing line. I couldn't smile any face hurt just as much as my body. There was no secret or magical food that allowed me to finish the 2011 Ironman World Championships but rather a body that was trained to perform. 

Choosing the wrong foods, eating at the wrong time or eating too much (or not enough) may negatively affect your racing performance in training and racing. And without a doubt, I'm sure you don't want your training to go to waste on race day. Isn't racing all about putting the training to the test? 

So, what should we be looking for when it comes to pre-race foods?

The research behind the pre-race meal (on race day) is to make sure your fuel tanks are full by the start of the race. You should have plenty of fuel in your muscles by reducing your training volume (or tapering) before a race and sticking to a well-planed race week diet  but sleeping depletes around 50% liver glycogen. Eating a small carbohydrate-rich snack before a race will help to sustain energy and postpone fatigue as well as keeping your brain motivated and focused. However, there are a few guidelines to follow when it comes to planning your pre-race snack. Certainly, research in a laboratory can tell us what may work under a controlled environment but how many of us feel like our lifestyle is controlled every day, all day?

Considering that many athletes struggle to understand the difference between sport nutrition vs a healthy, balanced diet, there is often a lot of confusion as to how to fuel before a race and to avoid GI distress as well as postpone fatigue and prevent cramping, bonking or dehydration.

1) Eat your pre-race snack at least 2-3 hours before the start of your race, and don’t forget water. Your digestive tract needs blood and fluids to help with digestion and nerves can affect intestinal movement. Aim for around 150-300 calories before a 1-2.5 hour event, primarily carbohydrates (at least 30-60g of carbohydrates and around 12-16 ounces of water) with a little fat/protein to slow down digestion.You don’t want to be full, stuffed or starving before the start of a race.

2) I know it isn’t what you are use to but you are not aiming for a heart-healthy diet. Limit the fat, protein and fiber (which help keep you "full" and satisfied on a daily basis and choose foods low in volume and carbohydrates that will empty quickly from the stomach. No “diet”foods or artificial sweeteners as those may cause diarrhea, bloating or gas!

3) Focus on yourself, your race day intensity, the race day conditions, recent dietary patterns, nerves, excitement. I’ve worked with many athletes who can tolerate foods just fine on a daily basis or before training sessions but once the nerves kick in, they can not tolerate them on race day.
Sport nutrition before and during a race is very individualized. As an athlete myself and working with a variety of athletes, I can tell you that there is no "perfect" way to eat before a race....even if research tells you otherwise. I feel that the athlete who succeeds the best is one who feels confident with his/her pre-race snack and has a practical and realistic race day plan. It should be noted that previous eating habits have a major influence on race day nutrition so if your daily diet isn't under controlled, there's no point in developing a "perfect" race day fueling plan. Health first, performance second. 

Because sport nutrition will differ and I don't encourage you to try new foods on race day, here are a few examples that may help you narrow down your options for pre-race snacks.

Snack options for the high intensity runner or with a high HR: Key points: blood will be used for the working muscles so we need something really quick to digest so the sugars enter the blood stream quickly and blood is not being diverted to the stomach for digestion. These foods will not be filling so be aware of how fast your body breaks down carbohydrates. Despite this fact, some athletes may do better with low glycemix foods vs high glycemix foods before a high intensity effort.

-Banana, raisins, nut butter (convenient, easy to digest, familiar foods)
-1/3-1/2 cup granola (carb-dense, not a lot of volume)
-Fruit Buddies (ex. fruit puree) + rice flake cereal (low residue)

Nervous belly, GI distress consistently during racing (or pre-race) Key points: liquid options or bland food. Experimentation is key as everyone will be different and perhaps you may find yourself more nervous at a local race vs a destination race. Dairy may upset your stomach and others may handle it fine. 

-Kefir yogurt based drink (avoid meal replacement drinks which are often high in fat and may contain sugar alcohols)
-Pita bread or wasa crackers with a few nuts (instead of high fiber or dense bagels or bread).
-4-8 ounce 100% fruit juice + 1 slice french bread with cream cheese.
-Couscous (unconventional, high in carbs, a little protein and fiber)

Run/walkers, conversational pace (moderate/low intensity) 
Key points: More time out on the course, a little more protein/fat to slow down digestion and to maintain satisfaction before and during race.
-1/2-1 bagel + nut butter + honey
-Oatmeal + nuts + raisins
-Sport bar + orange (or piece of fruit)


Sip on a sport drink (maltodextrin based, ex. Hammer heed) if needed before the race and around 8-10 ounces of water before the start (after your pre-race snack). Recommend no additional food after pre-race snack. Coffee and tea (caffeinated, non-carbonated beverage) is also fine pre race to get the system going, if tolerated and practiced.

Your pre race meal should be easy to find, easy to prepare, easy to consume and most of all, tolerable based on your racing intensity and distance. 
Keep in mind that no amount of pre race nutrition can help you run 7 min/miles if you didn’t train yourself to do so in training. It's recommended to take advantage of sport nutrition during a race (ex. sport drinks, gels) at consistent intakes (ex. every 10-15 minutes) to provide the stressed body with fluids (20-28 ounces per hour), electrolytes and carbohydrates (30-60g per hour). Pace within your abilities in order to better tolerate pre race nutrition which will also help you avoid cramping and an upset stomach. 
Happy Running!
Here's the recent TV segment I did on pre-race  nutrition for the upcoming Gate River Run. 
Pre-race running nutrition tips

(any additional questions or concerns - send me an email.

Putting training to the test!

Marni Sumbal

I have spent the majority of my higher education learning about the physiology of the body during exercise. Thus, I love creating training plans for myself and my athletes that when training stress is applied, the body adapts for physiological gains. No training session is without hard work and every workout has a purpose. I love training my body and mind knowing that come race day I can perform with my trained body and current level of fitness.

Every day we make choices. Some choices we feel the effects right away whereas other choices we don't realize the outcome of our decision until later in life.

With 13,500 yards completed between Thurs and Saturday in the pool, I had plenty of time to think about my decision to not race the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon. The race that I have dedicated every run training session to in the past 8 weeks. The race that I was determined to PR and break 1:30 and the race that would take me to a new level w/ my run training.

I achieved a lot in my run training but I was bummed when my right calf got very tight on Wednesday afternoon. Wearing different dress shoes over the past few days was likely the culprit but you can't control everything in life..only your reactions. I couldn't stop reminding myself that I have come so far with my run training and that was not something that was making me determined to run. It was a positive thought that made me so lucky that I had the opportunity to come so far w/ my run fitness.

I didn't cry, I didn't freak out and call every doctor I know and I didn't keep any emotions inside. I discussed my decision with my mental coach Gloria and of course, communicated with Karel in a calm manner.

With enjoyment that I have the ability as an athlete to make good decisions, I decided on Saturday (yesterday) that as my calf was feeling almost back to normal that I would not take a single risk in running the half marathon. Knowing that I trained for a PR, I purposely did not register just for the reason that if anything were to happen, I would not want to feel pressure to do this race. Also, I knew nothing good would come from running a race where I previously hesitated about running in it.

I am not in pain, I am not injured. I am taking precautions and I will not run until I feel 100% + 2 days. I can run without pain as Campy has made me run him two times around the block but I don't want to do any "tester" runs as I feel that is the worst thing an athlete can do is to "test" things out as the inflammation is going away and pain/aches subside.

I thought about this decision in the pool because I love to swim. I also thought about my decision today while I was on the bike because I love to bike. I also love to run.....but not in pain or with an injury. I love my active lifestyle and I believe that as a competitive athlete, I am focused on a consistent active lifestyle of training my body for performance gains. So, sometimes things change in the routine and instead of wasting energy on what you can't do - you just focus on what you can do. Instead of a minute decision turning into a 6-8 week mistake/regret, I am thankful for my acquired ability to not be a stubborn athlete. Not every decision is stubborn as I do realize that as athletes we have a lot of decisions to make on a day to day basis. But, there are times that we know what we should do and not what we want to  do.

Although I can honestly say that in the past two years, I haven't had to think about a possible injury, before then, I was constantly making poor decisions and not being respectful to my body. Now I am a smarter athlete who knows what it feels like to race and train to my full potential with a strong, healthy body.

So, here was my thought process...

A tight calf that could not be "healed" with a massage this week means something isn't right. A tight calf may not be the reason why I am scared to run but it is my limiter. A tight calf may turn into a calf strain, a hurt achilles, plantar fascitis, shin splints, ITB tightness and perhaps even a stress fracture. None of this is worth it for a one hour and 29 minute race (well unlikely I would have been able to PR if I was hurt) and a t-shirt and a medal.

My calf is much better but I wasn't able to pass my two day rule. I am still working on lingering inflammation around my foot. It is strange that this developed during my taper but after a massage and after wearing different shoes for my TV segment something happened not in a run and never before in my run training.  So all I can do is reflect, write it down in my Training Peaks and make sure I learn from this.

Learning lessons: I will go back to my two week prep for a race which includes 1 week of recovery then 1 week of taper (reduced volume, high intensity with adequate recovery). I get at least 1 massage a month but for my pre-race massage, I will get it on Sunday evening and take off on Monday. Lastly, I will remind myself that I have the ability to make good decisions with my body. I am so proud of myself for not racing and although at first it was a little frustrating, I did not waste any energy on this situation. My life is too good for me to miss out on anything.

So, now I can just live in Karel's success for he did race the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon. Karel was a little sick with a stomach bug on Wed and Thurs and was really weak and tired for both days. He was able to bounce back to 70% on Fri and felt 90% better on Sat. I did not pressure him to do or not to do the race so he waited until 5pm on Saturday to make the decision to race. He did not train Thurs or Fri and did an easy 4 mile run on Saturday to test out his energy.

This morning Karel left around 6am for the race down the road and I was on my bike by 7am. I had a great pain free ride and anxiously awaited a text from Karel. I kept checking my watch and with the race starting at 7am, I figured he would text by 9am.

I pulled over on my bike to check my phone and received a text from Karel:

"That was the hardest thing ever! I suffered the last three miles. 1:22:22."

WOW - I couldn't believe it! A 7 minute PR for Karel in his 2nd ever stand-alone half marathon. He trained really hard and smart for this race and really pushed himself to see what he was capable of at this distance. He is now feeling "almost" back to normal and is looking forward to "triathlon" training. :)


6:17 min/mile pace
4th age group (35-39)

I am really looking forward to 2013 and excited for the opportunity to share a full triathlon season with Karel.

Here's to smart decisions, healthy minds and bodies and working hard for dreams and goals.

Bottled-up energy

Marni Sumbal

"Being relaxed, at peace with yourself, confident, emotionally neutral, loose, and free-floating - these are the keys to successful performance in almost everything."
-Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
It still hasn't hit me yet but my mind and body are yelling at me - WE ARE READY!
 I can't believe on Sunday September 23rd, 2012, I will be doing my 7th half ironman with Karel on the hardest bike course in the world. Well, this course may be ranked "hard" because of the average bike times (average "fast" female bike times ranging from 3:10-3:20 for 56 miles) but I'll let my legs help me write my race report after I finish 70.3 miles in Branson, Missouri, on Sunday. I can't wait to finish this challenging event with my best friend and life partner.....I wonder how long he will have to wait for me??
Link found here
Can we say, confidently, that this is a course designed for a former Category 1 cyclist???
This has been one of the most amazing journey's of my life. Sharing a deep passion of mine with Karel, who needed a new challenge in his athletic career. Side by side, ups and downs and lots of laughs (and yummy food) along the way, I am filled with memories from the past 3 months.
I've seen Karel go from not being able to swim 400 meters continuously in the pool to speaking like a swimmer, telling me his splits and letting me know he can "most of the time" feel the catch in the water. We covered almost 3 miles in the ocean for an open water swim event last month and Karel is really loving the challenge of swimming. Still a lot more room for improvement before IM Lake Placid next year but hopefully Karel will carry confidence with him on race day, trust his swim training, keep good form, remember that it isn't won in the swim and to never forget where he came from. What I've learned in the past 3 months is that I am still a fish and I love to swim. But I still get lazy in the water as a triathlete. Karel has showed me how to challenge myself and I will remember all the oxygen-deprived sets in the "boys lane".
Give him two wheels and he will ride it. No longer does Karel suffer on a time trial bike for omnium cycling races. Karel has fallen in love with his speedy machine and really enjoys riding a tri bike. I've enjoyed his draft for the past 3 months, although never an easy ride to stay on his wheel. Since IM #1 in 2006, I've seen my cycling advance from scared newbie on a tri bike to experienced rider who craves hills. I feel like I still have so much more room for improvement but with Karel by my side (or in front of me), I know I'll continue to have fun on the bike. But most of all, I love riding my bike. It is likely my favorite part of the triathlon (by a hair to the other two disciplines) because it is my chance to reflect on where I was at one point in my triathlon career. I have struggled many times with the bike portion in triathlons but Karel has done an exceptional job of preparing me for Branson. I believe I can be stronger and faster but the work is done at this point in my triathlon career. Always room for improvement but I'm feeling strong thanks to Karel's constant encouragement, ability to help me train smart (and analyze files) and teach me how to "hurt so good." There's no question that Karel will enjoy this course. Certainly, knowing how and when to back off will be the constant question on his mind but I am sure he will race smart.
Don't be fooled by this Czech cyclist. He doesn't only run for beer.
I think this is the area where we both feel as if we improved the most. I am running injury free and with more confidence than ever before. Karel excels in criterium races. He loves lactic acid. Enough said.
My happy moments on race day will be when  my body is hurting and legs are screaming for rest, but I will have to dig deep to remind myself that my mind is my only limiter. Although we didn't do much run volume on a weekly basis, the runs we did on the track, off the bike and with the group, really counted. I'm not certain how the day will turn out for both of us, for a challenging bike course requires discipline and a few risks to ensure strong legs for the 13.1 mile run. I continue to struggle with that sweet spot on the bike to set me up for a strong run so I hope that we can both pull it together on race day. I was able to achieve a huge PR off the bike at the Macon Rock n' Roll Halfman in May so I will remember that feeling in Branson (boy, it sure did hurt but it was worth it!). There are no guarantees in racing so I believe that hard work sets athletes up for successful race performances. We trained hard.
Success is determined on an individual basis and often, not until the pain has removed from the body and the reflection period has begun. For success at Branson will not be about finishing times. We have zero time goals in mind. As for other things that can signify a successful race performance? Anything from crossing the finish line with a healthy body to placing on the podium. Our goal is to put our training to the test and to enjoy this experience together. The successful performance will be determined throughout the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run....not based on a finishing place or time.
Interestingly, no matter how long you are an athlete, the questions, concerns and fears never go away. First time or 20th time, the unknown questions rarely get answered until the finish line.
Taper is an interesting thing. Feeling a similar thing before the 2011 Ironman World Championships last year, the heavy legs and overly sleepy body has transformed into a body full of energy, craving to race. With a well fueled and healthy body, I'm thankful for this opportunity. Another opportunity in life to make memories and test my limits.

Coliseum's Rock 'N RollMan Triathlon - race report

Marni Sumbal

If you are long-time Trimarni blog reader, you likely know that I have dealt with a series of "injuries". Nothing that was able to be diagnosed by multiple MRIs, x-rays or countless PT sessions but something serious enough to prevent me from running for weeks to months at a time....over a course of 3-4 years. With poor judgement as to the serious of a confusing butt/hip problem back in 2007 (just 30 ish days before my second IM - world championships in Kona), I decided to "race" in Kona after over 30 days of not running and no surprise, it really made things worse.....for the long-term My agonizing finish over the finish line landed me on NBC for the Kona coverage....however, not how I'd like to remember that magical (painful) race and something 100% within my control at one time, that has continued to haunt me whenever I head out for a run.

Luckily, I have only be compromised in my hips and glutes, never any pain in my ITB, calves, knee or anything below the hip. Also, no fractures or broken bones in my life..just a lot of muscular skeletal aches and pains.

Back from my swimming days in HS and College, I constantly dealt with back problems due to massive inflammation that never left my back. I suppose that is my body being my body...and I am willing to accept that.

Looking back, I recognize that I have been able to accomplish a lot in my sport career since 2007 but because of my decision to race "injured", I have dealt with numerous residual flare-ups and pains in my piriformis, lower and upper back, groin and hip area. However, I refuse to let any obstacle stop my love for triathlons, running and competition...and luckily, I have been 99% pain free for over a year.

After a PR at IMKY (10:54) in 2009, I learned that I could ride on hills...and I liked them! After Karel riding the IMWI course while at Trek World, he told me this would be a perfect course for me in 2010. Scared as to the difficulty of the course, I went into IMWI in great shape and a goal to qualify for Kona. 10:57 and a roll down slot thanks to Jackie A. turning pro and I qualified for KONA has been a long triathlon journey but I have not only learned to respect my body with training but also to address my strengths as an athlete.  Because I don't plan on ending this fun journey anytime soon, I love knowing that I have a lot more work to do to get better..for when you work hard, results will come.
I understand that I am not crazy fast compared to some athletes but in picking my races, I have been able to succeed to the best of my other words..putting my training to the test. This is something that I strive for other athletes to do for themselves for I find that many athletes continue to race for times and speed and often compromise their own performances by focusing on elements out of their control.... only to try to have a good race on paper (AKA paper/internet race results).

For my strengths of pacing, preparation, nutrition and mentality have allowed me to succeed at the Ironman distance - which is my strength  - but keeps me coming back for more fun in the sport of any distance.

As a coach and athlete, I focus on a balanced approach to training, working toward quality over quantity and it works exceptionally well. No workout is without a purpose and consistency is the goal.

But, despite racing in countless races over the past 5 years, I still have it in my mind that I am still "injured".
Thanks to blog world and facebook, I have met an amazing group of individuals who have helped me in my personal and athletic life. I suppose I can call these people "mentors" but I'm also lucky that I can call these people my friends.

For someone who I have never met and lives on the other coast, I can't describe the passion that Gloria (Dr. G) has for helping others who are need of help.

I have been in contact with Gloria over the past year and she has helped me out in so many a sport psychologist, she is exactly what I needed in my life.

For I did the work on making my glutes stronger, learning that I need regular massages and epson salt baths to reduce constant inflammation, religiously wearing compression when I training focusing on training hard and smart but recovering harder....however, what was missing, was Gloria.

Before my races, I contact Gloria. In my head, I have a lot of work to do. As much as I try to stay positive and focus on myself, I still have limiters with my past. Perhaps, this is part of the difficulty in being an athlete for it is easy to tell yourself to do more but rather, forgetting (or learning from) the past and focusing on the now and what you CAN do.

Here's the email I received from Gloria last week....

"So look.....I know, and you know, that you'll turn it on come Saturday.  I want to challenge you to start owning the fact that you can run! All your recent road race performances have demonstrated that. It's evidence that you are doing what is right for your body. Uncomfortable is a good thing, it means breakthrough is right on the other side. Trust yourself and your experience, but don't let the past hijack your present. The point of power is always in the present moment, and the power to chose your thoughts which create your experience. You got this girl! Get your mantra or let it come to you on race day. Bank positive mental images and associated feelings with those images so you can retrieve them on race day. You got what it takes to adjust to whatever comes on race day. To me that's what being a triathlete is about...efficient adjustment to race day circumstances- phsyically and mentally.

Affirm to yourself that on race day you will have the wisdom, discernment  and physical ability to make it through each situation with ease, strength, speed, and focus. That your best performance for that day will manifest. That in each moment you are doing the absolute best you can with what you have....and so it is."

And with that - I went into the race confident, positive and happy. There was no good luck needed for this race...I had prepared the best I could. More so, Karel and I have been studying the 70.3 distance - particularly from other notable coaches, professional athletes and other "top" athletes, in learning how to "race" the 70.3 distance. Because the half ironman distance allows for higher-intensity efforts (compared to the IM distance), it's easy to lose form on the swim and swim inefficiently, overdo-it on the bike and suffer on the run. We see this all the time in athletes and it was a goal of mine to race smart and to pace my race.


After our 4 hour drive to Macon, Campy, Karel and me headed to the race venue to check-in my bike and to pick up my race stuff. It was a great feeling to rack my bike near the front of the transition area with a few amazing women (and men) around me. I was #18 and racing in the open category. I wasn't scared or nervous, just excited to put all my training to the test. After doing this race 2 times (2009 and 2010) and coming back for more heat and hills, I was really looking forward to the "cool" mid-80 degree temps, great competition and friendly atmosphere.

We headed over to the Swanger's house (kenny and stefanie - two of our coaching athletes) for the weekend. We had a delicious dinner around 5:45pm at their house - red potatoes, sweet potatoes (both grilled), salad, squash, zucchini and mushroom stir-fry and a hardboiled egg for me. I made sure to eat every few hours, mini meals throughout the day. I had been eating normally all week, slightly increasing my carb intake of whole grains over the past 2-3 days. With smaller meals and portions, I alleviated the normal "bloat" feeling that comes from increasing carbs (which is due to added water with storing of carbs) and although I rarely weigh myself, I have a rule to athletes - don't weigh yourself on race week! You have nothing to prove to the scale.

After dinner, I sipped on a FIZZ from Hammer and we relaxed a little while I multi-tasked by doing some stretching on the foam roller and with my trigger point ball for my piriformis. Feeling great, I had no worries going to bed around 9pm and I slept great...until 3:30am.

Not sure why I was wide awake at 3:30am but I managed to fall back asleep until my alarm went off at 4:10am. Luckily, I woke up again feeling fresh (worried I would wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle and be completely out of it - that is why I do not like athletes to wake up and eat and then go back to bed..get your full sleep!).
I let Campy outside while the coffee was getting ready and I prepared a whole grain pita (30g of carbs, which is the minimum I recommend for athletes before a race), with 3/4 large banana and spoonful peanut butter. I topped it with a few pumpkin seeds and cinnamon. Yum - went down great. Had a full glass of water with breakfast, along with coffee and by 4:50am I was almost ready.
I had prepared my bottles on Friday by putting 2 scoops Hammer Strawberry Heed + 1/2 scoop Sustaine energy in 3 bottles and that made it easy on race day morning to just put water in the bottles. I made an extra bottle of 1 scoop heed to sip at the venue. I also prepared 1 gel flask with 3 huckleberry gels for the run mixed with water.
I took 2 endurolytes and 2 Hammer Endurance Amino's and we were off by 5:05am.

I arrived to the race venue calm and relaxed. I kept whispering to Karel "I feel great". He would smile and say "I will do great".

I set up my transition area (which always seems to feel like it takes forever!) and re-checked a zillion times to make sure I liked my layout.
I had my swim cap and goggles (and spare goggles for Karel to hold) and my speed suit.
In my transition area on my pink Oakley towel:
Garmin watch for bike (it isn't water proof so I put it on in T1 - I will be getting a new one soon..hint to Karel!)
Socks (I believe in being comfortable during races and I feel most comfortable with socks)
Cycling shoes (I don't put them on the bike, it takes me 5 seconds to put them on)
Giro aero helmet
Commit Oakley women sunglasses
Running shoes
Hammer visor
Race belt (with safety pins for my number because I always seem to pull it off the cord that holds my number)
Gel flask

Once my transition area was set-up, I put on my old (but still good condition) Brooks Launch running shoes (same as in transition) to wear for a run warm-up.
After dropping off my transition bag to the car, I did around 10-15 min of jogging/walking/active stretching and still feeling good, I went back to the car to remove my Hammer jacket and to put on my TYR speed suit.

 Under my speed suit I wore my Louis Garneau Elite Lazer Tek shorts and Hammer sport bra (which I wear all the time for my long bricks - super comfy!). I asked the race official if I was allowed to wear my CEP calf sleevs in the water (since they are often not allowed in IM races such as IM Texas) and he said absolutely ok to wear.

The water was 84 degrees but didn't feel hot. It was absolutely perfect considering that the air temps was in the low 70's. What a beautiful morning in a beautiful lake!!
I warmed up in the water for around 10 minutes and once I heard the race was delayed for 10 minutes, I was happy to stay in the water.

Around 7:05am, the Open/Elite group of men and women were called to the start and it was a very clam and relaxed vibe. I knew several of the open women (Kelly Fillnow and Nina Kraft) and after the race, met a few of the others (Dee Atkins and Bethany Rutledge). Another bonus of racing...meeting so many amazing athletes and wonderfullly nice and passionate individuals.

And we were off!!

1.2 mile SWIM

The swim felt great. The sun was blarring so it was hard to spot but I tried to do the best I could. I felt like I was having a great swim - ahead of a group behind me but not in the lead group. I stayed focused on my stroke since I have been working on my catch, head position and reach n' roll. Yes - after 19 years of competitive swimming I still "practice" swimming and have to think in the water.
Nearing the end of the race, I felt like I was finally getting my groove. Perhaps not doing a half ironman in 2 years but completing 2 Ironman's since 2011, I have long-distance mentality when I "race" the short distance races. I felt great and as I exited the water, I didn't look back as I made my way up a steep, short climb to the transition area.

I spotted Karel and the first thing he said as I was running up the hill was "your second female behind Nina Kraft!" WOW - I thought to myself...then he said "everyone was slow today in the water."

Seeing the 35 minutes on the clock as I entered transition, I was glad to know that others were slow as well. Oh well - it is what it is...I felt great, not tired at all and ready to bike my plan.

56 Mile Bike

And this is why I love this course.....

Well, more like love this challenging course.

It's hard for me as a Floridian to describe this course because for someone who loves hills but rarely gets to train on them, it's all very relative in my description of this course. But I will be honest and no matter who describes this course, they will say it is challenging. One big loop but a super safe and bike friendly course....although you will get the occasional 1 or 2 (or 3) dogs chasing you along the rolling hills.

The temperature was comfortable but it was getting a little warm (but not crazy). Again, as a Floridian, I didn't find the temps unbearable but rather really great for this day. The wind was picking up a bit and I could feel it on some of the flats and climbs.
My goal was to take it easy for the first 3 miles for if you see the map, the course really starts around mile 15. Therefore, I wanted to build my effort for the beginning punchy hills and to not overdo it. This has been a focus of mine in order to have a strong run off the bike and to ease some of my worries for not having the energy to run strong off the that I am not injured! :)

I was passed by Kelly around mile 1.5 and she was gone. However, I rode my race (despite my power meter not working - this has only happened twice before in training) so I just focused on what I could control and I monitored my cadence, HR and speed with my new Garmin 500 (happy birthday present from Karel!).

I felt strong on the entire bike and never tired. I sipped on my bottles every 5 miles or 15 minutes and despite being passed by several guys, I remained third female until mile 53. Dee passed me quick and knowing she is a phenomenal runner, I didn't  try to go crazy and chase her down but just kept focusing on my race.

I ended up grabbing cold water at the last of 3 aid stations in order to take a sip and to pour on my body to cool my body and to reduce core temp the best I could, before the run.

I saw Karel on his mountain bike around mile 55 and he snapped a pic and cheered me on. I'm the dot in the right of the pic...way up there climbing another hill.

I felt great and had a full tank of energy...questioning if I took it too easy, I just stayed focused as I still had a half marathon to run and that would let me know how well (or not well) I paced the bike. For I pushed the best I could without my power meter working but didn't overcook myself. In analyzing my file and past races (both half and full IM), I know I have a lot more work I can do on the bike. Specifically, I need to get more comfortable pushing a bit harder in the half because I felt as if I was just getting warmed up around mile 50.

13.1 mile run

I quickly found my stride after a super quick transition. I started my garmin in transition so I hit lap as soon as I exited the transition area.
Karel has been helping me with my run by researching the strides of some of the top runners. We have really worked on me having a shorter stride..more like a shuffle and easing into my groove. It totally paid off along with a bank of memories of SUPER tough mile repeaters off the bike.

However, I did have a quick low moment at mile 2 when I thought to myself "oh, I just want to have fun and not race." But that quickly passed when Karel told me that I was fourth female and no other girl was in sight. By mile 2.5, my fun decision stayed with me but I was also ready to race.

With Dee, Kelly and Nina (3,2 and 1st) in a totally other zip code than me on the run, I was reminded by Karel (pre-race) to just "race my race". Yes  coach!

This is a really great course for the mind because it has a 4 mile out section, then a u-turn and you run back to mile 6 and make a right hand turn to mile 8, then a u-turn to a right hand turn to mile 9, then eventually another u-turn and back to another right hand turn to run you to mile 10. Then you have a long road (that seems to take forever) until mile 11 and then a right hand turn to a straight shot to the finish. So, a great course for the mind..but a tough one on the quads, calves and hamstrings.

And this is why I paced myself on the run. There is no shortage of hills on this run and with a slight climb to the finish line area, you are either going up or down on this body will admit that I felt like I was going mostly up!

I sipped my gel flask every mile at the aid station and sipped cold water at every aid station. I had the volunteers pour water on my head (multi-task) as I sipped the water. The volunteers were AMAZING and the cheers were non stop from athletes. I guess I was smiling the whole race because I had a lot of people tell me great job and "great smile". Well, I was happy with how I was feeling and couldn't help but smile...I love what I am able to do with my body!

Since it was  hard to monitor my pace on this course, I controlled my heart rate the best I could and when I found it getting high (either from hills or heat), I just jogged (or twice I walked for about 5-10 seconds) for a few seconds to "recover".

Amazingly, not once did I have a low moment. I felt so energized and the race just went by SO fast! I was feeling SO great and I LOVED this THIS is what pacing is all about!!!

Having the run of my life, my legs got a bit heavy around mile 10. I saw Bethany in the other direction (age grouper who I met after the race and an incredibly talented athlete) nearing me and she was within 1.5 miles from me. Knowing that she started 9 minutes behind me, I had a feeling she would bump me out of 4th place overall female because she was running FAST but in order to place top 5 for prize money, I didn't take any chances with anyone else behind me and gave everything I could for the last 2 miles.

Something came over me around mile 11 and with my legs getting really heavy I just told myself "well, duh's a half ironman and you are racing!"

Oh - Totally forgot what that felt like at this distance...and to be able to "race" a run felt A-mazing!!

My last mile - like always - was for Campy as I always do my last mile of my runs with Campy. It is always a special mile for me because it is fun to see his happy face, running so freely with his 11lb body.

I managed to pick up the pace and just smiled from ear to ear as I was nearing the last 1/2 mile. I was hearing my name from volunteers (which I later learned were blog readers of mine - thank you!) and I gave everything I could to "sprint" to the finish.


(wow - did I really do that?)

(Kelly Fillnow - 2nd place female and a 1:25 run PR!)
(The best coach....and my hubby!)

(I'm totally bummed I missed the awards that were suppose to start at 3pm. They started much earlier. By the time I got Campy who was at their house and quickly got showered, they were done with the overall awards. I always stay for awards when I receive one and I find it important that athletes stick around for awards. The race director handed me my check for $195 and Karel gave me the biggest hug - he was super proud of or no money, I had one of the best races of my life at this distance).

(Thanks to Stefanie - and baby- and Kenny for cheering me on and taking pics...also for the hospitality and great food!! Makes traveling to races super stress-free!)

After the awards, Campy played in the water and showed us how he can attack the tiny waves. Then, off for pizza at a local Macon pizza joint.

Stats from the race
5th overall female
Time: 5:08
Swim: 35.14 (2nd open, 3rd overall female)
Bike: 2:48.2 (4th overall female)
Run: 1:42.4 (11th overall female) - 6 minute PR on this course and my fastest ever run off the bike!

Run splits:
Mile 1: 7:33
Mile 2: 7:47
Mile 3: 7:27
Mile 4: 8:00
Mile 5: 8:06
Mile 6: 8:21
Mile 7: 7:52
Mile 8: 7:57
Mile 9: 7:51
Mile 10: 8:06
Mile 11: 8:21
Mile 12: 8:01
Mile 13: 7:00 (thank you legs for letting me put my training to the test!)
Average pace: 7:55 min/mile (Finally!!!)

Although I didn't PR and on paper had a "slow" race compared to many, I am so happy with my execution and how I enjoyed every mile...all 70.3. Exhausted when I crossed the line, I felt so alive for all parts of the race.
You see, there is nothing to prove to anyone with a race on paper. It's what happens within a race that will drive you, motivate you and inspire you to become better, stronger and smarter...and certainly, your description of your race may or may not inspire others who may look up to you for what you are able to do..even if you "only" did x-time for x-miles.
 For on race day - you are doing the work. Certainly, others helped you get to the race start feeling fresh (sport nutritionist, coach, family, training buddies) but it is up to you to execute a well-made race day plan and to have the right attitude to be satisfied with what the day offers you...for you can either throw in the towel before the race begins or race smart and feel amazing as you crosh the finish line.

This race is one of my favorites for many reasons but what I love about this race is the opportunity to race with so many talented athletes as well as a large group of people who absolutely love triathlon racing. With a distance and race for everyone (duathlon, aquathlon, sprint tri, half iron, relay), this is a great challenging course that is fair and safe. If you are seeking a tough course but a lot of fun (and great food afterward), I highly recommend the Coliseum Rock n' Rollman in Macon, GA.

Thank you to the companies who help me live a consistently great, active and healthful this stuff!!!

Smoothie article and Is Carb-loading necessary?

Marni Sumbal

I am excited to share with you a fantastic article that was written by Matthew Kadey, MS, RD in the recent June 2012 issue of Bicycling Magazine. On pg 39, there is a "how to" section on creating the perfect smoothie to meet your needs. As a lover of smoothies, it was a privilege to provide a quote in this article (pg 38). I invite you to purchase this issue or subscribe to the magazine (check out the website as well, here).

It's the beginning of the month so you know what that means....another article of mine in the monthly FREE Iron Girl newsletter! I know this topic gets a lot of discussion so I am happy to share my thoughts. Enjoy!

Is Carb Loading Necessary?
-Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N

A somewhat ritualistic approach for many endurance athletes, the typical pre-race "pasta party" needs little explanation for its purpose. Scientifically proven to boost endurance in events lasting more than two hours in duration, loading strategies vary but the premise remains the same. Effective to increase and saturate muscle glycogen stores in order to reduce risk of exercise-induced hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and prolong endurance by reducing chance for fatigue, a balanced "carb-rich" diet, while tapering for a big event, may certainly put your body at a competitive advantage on race day.
Carbohydrate selection and timing are key on the days preceding a race. There is no reason to fear the foods that belong in the category "carbohydrates." For a balanced diet of 50-60% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein and 25-30% fat should encourage stable blood sugar levels and provide several opportunities to "fill" your muscles with glycogen on race week. As you taper your training volume, remind yourself that your body is constantly "fueling" for race day and experimentation, racing distance/time, fitness and racing intensity will contribute to how you nutritionally prepare for your race day.
Carbs extend far beyond bagels and pasta. Fruits, veggies, dairy, whole grains and starches are groups of endless options that can be used to fuel your lifestyle. Here's a sample diet (not including water, which should be consumed throughout the day), showing how you can responsibly enjoy a "carb-rich", balanced diet on the 1-2 days preceding your race:

½ cup oats
3 eggs (1 whole, 2 whites)
½ cup berries
1 cup nonfat milk
1 slice toast
½ tbsp nut butter
Total: 510 calories, 68g carbohydrate, 14g fat, 34 protein
¼ cup trail mix (nuts, raisins, cheerios, pretzels)
1 cup mixed veggies
2 cups vegetable soup
1 cup brown rice
3 ounces lean animal or plant based protein (ex. chicken or tofu)
Total (using chicken breast): 558 calories, 88g carbohydrate, 6g fat, 37g protein
1 medium piece fruit
½ cup non-fat yogurt
¼ cup granola or cereal
Pre-dinner snack:
½ small banana + 2 tsp nut butter
Conventional: 2 cups whole grain pasta with meatless sauce
Dinner salad with ½ tbsp oil
Total: 595 calories, 101g carbohydrate, 13g fat, 18g protein
Atypical: Sweet or baked potato with 2-3 ounces lean animal protein (or plant based)
Dinner salad with ½ tbsp oil
1 whole grain roll w/ 2 tsp butter
Total: (using 3 ounces cooked tempeh for protein, 8 ounce sweet potato): 610 calories, 77g carbohydrate, 26g fat, 25g protein
Post dinner snack (optional):
5 dates or 1 package raisins
Total meal calories (not counting snack suggestions): 1763 calories, 266g carbohydrates (60% calories from carbs), 45g fat (23% calories from fat), 80g protein (18% calories from protein)

Marni works as a PRN Clinical Dietitian at Baptist Medical Center Beaches and is the owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, LLC. Marni is a Registered Dietitian, holding a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. As an elite endurance athlete, Marni recently won the 2012 Iron Girl Half Marathon and she is a Level-1 USAT Coach and a 5x Ironman and 2x Ironman Worldchampionship finisher. Marn is a 110% play harder, Hammer Nutrition and Oakley Women ambassador. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Fitness Magazine, Bicyling magazine, The Florida Times-Union Shorelines, Lava Magazine, Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes monthly to, USAT multisport zone and Lava online.

My last minute racing advice + to-do list

Marni Sumbal

Don't waste energy on things/situations that are out of your control. What can you control on race day? Your attitude, pace, clothing and nutrition. Check the weather and plan ahead for proper pacing, nutrition and attire. No matter what level of fitness you are in on Sunday, consider where you once were and where you are today. Be proud of any obstacles you have overcome and reflect for all x-miles on race day. If a race (or part of it) gets cancelled or changed, feel good that you have a body that IS ready to race the full distance. No matter the circumstances, thank your body at the finish line as well as giving it a big THANK YOU for letting you get to the starting line. Also, here's my race week to-do list from the Iron Girl participant guides, to keep you calm, cool and prepared for race day (pg 13 and 14). To-do list,