Welcome to (the end of) September’s Blog.
It is that time of year when many of you are gearing up for your final races of the season and for many of you, that race is the A race of the year. All the training has been banked, all the gains been made and now it is time for the taper- The dreaded taper. You would think we would be happy to have some down time- But no! The taper is when we all get a little psycho and worry that we are going to lose our hard won fitness and suddenly morph into slovenly couch potatoes who can barely swim, bike or run to save our lives. Yet the taper is the final piece of the puzzle that allows us to truly peak for our race and to actually be able to express the fitness, speed, power, endurance and strength we have built over the last few months. All the other training we have done as had recovery built into it: daily recovery (on two-a-days, one workout might be hard and the other easy,or it is the down time between two hard workouts); weekly recovery (easy days between the killer workout days), and monthly recovery (entire recovery weeks/periods after a 2-3 week cycle of hard work), but the taper is where we create a delicate balance of a decreased training load and sufficient intensity and frequency to ensure your very best performance on race day.
True peaking is typified by several physiological changes that you have created in training:
increased leg power, reduced lactic acid production and increased ability to clear whatever lactate is produced, increased plasma volume, a higher red blood cell count and an increased muscle glycogen storage. All of which make you an endurance machine! In addition to these physical changes you will have made great strides with your mental training as well- so that you have better concentration, confidence and motivation. For all of these things to come together you must be adequately rested.
Some elements to consider when tapering are that if you are doing a triathlon, the run needs the longest taper, then the bike and then the swim. The older you are and/or the fitter you are, the longer the taper, and the more easily injured you are the longer the taper. And of course, the longer the race, the longer the taper. There is some debate as to whether athletes with lower fitness should shorten their taper (so as to be able to increase fitness as close to race day as possible) or whether their taper should be as long as a fitter athlete (seeing as they could be more tired going into the race and the race will take more out of them)- this will be a delicate balance for those athletes and one that they will have to temper with experience- how tired will you be if you train hard up to 10 days before an Ironman or marathon? Attempting to gain fitness closer than 10 days to race day is ineffectual as physiological changes take about 10 days to actualize in the human body.
Over the years, scientific research has shown that a good taper is not simply a reduction in
volume which would cause you to lose fitness, but is actually a period of reduced overall volume that maintains intensity and frequency.
Volume: For long races, like iron distance races or marathons, a 21 day taper is typically
employed with each week’s volume being cut by about 20% from the previous week. For a 2 week taper (half ironman length races), volume will be cut by 30% each week and for a 10 day taper (half marathon or Olympic distance tri) the volume will be cut by 50% for the duration.
Frequency: rather than cutting back on the number of workouts you do in order to cut back your volume, you should maintain the same number of workouts, but simply make them shorter. If you do less workout, you may start to lose your feel for the sport- you get a bit stale. That’s the last thing you want to happen before your A race!
Intensity: here is where many athletes make a fatal error and cut out the intensity of their
training; do that and lose your edge and your fitness. Ideally you will have a race effort workout every 3 to 4 days and this will peak your fitness perfectly for race day. Give a little extra focus to your weakest areas too during this time.
Easy workouts: all the other workouts outside of the race efforts are easy, recovery workouts so you can do the race effort workouts well. Don’t make the mistake of working hard on the easy days- this will achieve nothing other than to make the race efforts feel harder. Specificity is key: easy workouts are for recovery and race efforts dial that in. On race day you will be fresh and rested and you need to know what race effort feels like in that condition. By working too hard on the easy days, your body won’t know what fresh and rested feels like!
Physiologically and psychologically we can generally only peak 2 to 3 times a year (with 3
months at least in between) because all your training brings you to this point of perfect preparation, fitness and freshness.
So, lean into your taper, trust the training you have been doing, and know that your body is ready and willing to do your bidding- you just have to let it do its thing!
Athlete Race Update:
*Mark and Rebecca showed us that rookies can race hard!
*Rebecca did the Fort De Soto international and came second in her age group!
*Mark did the Georgia State Time Trial (30k TT) and came second!
*Jodi competed in the Lake George 10k open water swim and took second place OVERALL! She was less than 1 minute behind the first place male and did it in 2:42.
*Mark Luttier and Joe Marx finished Ironman New York together- Mark’s first IM and Joe’s third! Best friends crossed the finish line together!
*Cicily and Sean completed the Escape to Miami in under 3 hours (Sean’s first triathlon ever!).
*Ruben raced hard and finished strong at the Escape despite severely restricted training over the last month.
*Bonnie, Donnie, Eric, Franny, Kristy, Ralph, Dara and 5 other crazies all took part in the Hood to Coast Relay-in a team called the Horny Heroes. It was the craziest race ever and I am pretty sure it is illegal in some states to have that much fun. We averaged 8:23 min miles and enjoyed every maniacal moment of it.
Good luck to everyone in these events!
*Kristy and Ralph are doing the 3 gap 58 mile HILLY bicycle ride in Georgia this weekend.
*Cicily is doing the Clermont Aquathlon.
*Ruben is doing Miami 70.3.
*Colin is doing his first triathlon at Tradewinds.
*Adam is doing the State 40k Time Trial.
*Rachel Van Ness is doing a 5k
*Rachel W is doing her first IM at the Bridge to Battelship in North Carolina.
Featured Athlete: Mark Miller
Would you tell us about your past history of sports participation, what athletic achievement/s you are most proud of and how you got into cycling and why?
I found out in elementary school that I had some running talent when I competed in the president’s physical fitness award and ran the fastest time in school in the 600 yard run. This morphed into running on the track team in Junior High school. At that time I was not that good running the 880 (now 800 meters) but managed a 2:18 running in converse basketball shoes! The summer before High School, I rode my brothers bike that he got form Montgomery Wards around the neighborhood a lot and remember enjoying riding bikes but did not take it seriously. When the fall came around, I tried out for the Cross Country Team in High School (10th grade then) and was only good enough to make the JV team…still running in Converse Basketball shoes. The following winter my mother took me to a sporting store and I bought my first pair of spikes. They were sprinters spike and had no heel support but I wore them anyway and got tons of blisters. At my first High school track meet, I ran the 880 in 2:06 at my coach was in shock…I guess this is when I realized I could do this sport. By the end of the year I ran 2:00 flat and by my Junior year ran 1:57. My final year of High School I decided to move up to the mile finishing the year with a 4:21 and breaking our high school record in Cross Country and the Mile. I had several scholarship offers to smaller colleges but decided to walk on at UF. I was able to get a partial scholarship after my freshmen year of running a decent indoor season. School played a major role in me limiting my running to 2-1/2 seasons but I was able to run 3:53 for 1500 meters (more or less 4:09 for the mile).
After I graduated, I did not run for 2 years and started running after being transferred (work related) to Naples and ran out of mostly boredom. This eventually turned into road racing from 1983 to 1989 with several years of sponsorship through Nike’s regional program. I mostly ran 5ks and an occasional 10k- only when I had to…(they were too long and too tough). My best 5k time was 14:43 run on a course in Chicago but most of my season was spent around the 15 minute mark.
I got hurt running the 17th street causeway bridge in 1989 doing an interval workout and damaged cartilage around my patella. I opted to go through therapy since arthroscopic surgery was new then…well it never healed and I just moved on with my life and started my own business.
Fast Forward to 2005 where I met my current girlfriend (an avid runner) who got me back into running for health (about 20 miles / week) and my weight started to come down from the 209 pounds I was sporting at the time. In February of 2011 I got a nagging Achilles problem and by April I knew that it just would not go away. I was about to quit when my girlfriend suggested to take the bike I bought off of E-Bay years back (steel frame I think) and start riding for conditioning…well my first bike ride I rode 40 miles to Manalapan and back in Bermuda shorts, tennis shoes and a T-shirt…I was beat afterwards but I wanted to do it again! It did not take long for me to become competitive with myself…trying to stay at 16mph for as long as possible. Shortly after that I got hooked on the more you spend – the better equipment you have – the faster you go syndrome and bought a specialized Tarmac 4 with Williams Carbon wheels. I also stated riding with the P&E boys (a local club with a lot of talented racers).
In November I realized that I wanted to do something with the sport and race but I did not want to leverage my chances of getting hurt by road or criterium racing…ahh the TT…that was the answer. Although I had very little knowledge about training I did know that I needed someone I could trust to bring me along. After (2) P&E members recommended Dara…I knew it had to be.
What do you like most about it? What does it give to you and teach you?
The TT is pure…everyone has an excuse in road racing or crits and everyone believes they are the best given a certain set of circumstances.
What was your first bike race & what made you do it?
The West Palm Beach TT series in August…I was so nervous the race director had to calm me down before I started. I knew I wanted to race right when I started cycling as it gives purpose to your efforts.
What do you love about training and racing?
I don’t love training…but you need to do it well to race well…The feeling of putting it together on race day is the payoff.
Favorite training or racing experiences:
The Georgia State Championships…I don’t remember the race too well but the feeling afterward will not be soon forgotten. [ Dara’s note: Amazing he can’t remember the race- but I will tell you that he came second! Those are good cyclists up there and he took his newbie self up there and kicked ass!]
Races/events completed this season:
Only 3 ever (2) at west Palm beach 15k TT and the Georgia state championships (30kTT).
Favorite race/s (all-time):
Goals for the 2013 season:
Take in 8 races in the 2013 season and try to improve my TT time by around 1 minute.
Favorite racing and/or training tip (what would you tell a newbie, and not necessarily something Dara told you!):
Trust the rest periods to make you better.
A favorite “Dara-ism”:
It’s a toss up: “You’re on my Shit list” or today is a “Fluffy” ride day.
Always time for a quick laugh:
Shit barefoot runners say:
Shit runners say to barefoot runners:
From now on, I am honored to feature a good friend and fellow FAU alum, Erica Goldstein. She is silly amounts of talented and passionate about her field of study. Here is a little background on Erica:
Erica Goldstein has a master’s degree in exercise science from Florida Atlantic University and is a certified strength & conditioning specialist (CSCS) as well as sports nutritionist (CISSN). She is currently in the last year of the nutrition and dietetics program at the University of North Florida. Upon graduation, Erica plans to pursue a dietetic internship and continue to develop her passion for nutrition and exercise research. In addition, she plans to become a registered dietitian (RD) and concentrate her efforts in the area of performance nutrition.
Iron and Exercise- Associated Anemia , Erica Goldstein.
Iron – function and response to exercise
Iron and oxygen circulate through the body attached to a protein you may know as
hemoglobin (note: you may see the term myoglobin in other readings, which has the same
function as hemoglobin but is specific to muscle tissue). Hemoglobin is the main storage site of iron in the body, and a red blood cell contains numerous amounts of hemoglobin. Iron serves other functions in the body, as it is an essential component of one of the main energy systems used to create ATP, which is necessary for muscle contraction. Therefore, since iron is required to deliver oxygen and create ATP for working muscle maintaining a sufficient amount of iron in the body is crucial to performance.
Long distance running or sprinting involves a heel strike. Every time you place your
foot on the ground to run your heel strikes first. During repetitive training sessions that involve numerous and frequent heel strikes, hemolysis occurs, which is the breakdown of red blood cells. This cascade of events (heel strikes and hemolysis) leads to inflammation. An interesting thing happens here: hepcidin, a hormone, is released from the liver and causes iron to essentially become trapped in cells of the liver, small intestine, and spleen to prevent it from moving into the blood. This action is a protective mechanism of the body to prevent pathogens (e.g. virus, bacteria) from using the iron as a means of proliferation. Indeed, the inflammation that occurs from a common heel strike in training is not related to a harmful virus or bacteria, but the body does not differentiate the source of inflammation, instead it serves to protect the site of damage, prevent further damage, and restore balance.
If this process continues over time (i.e. the course of a training season) then a decrease in
iron availability can occur, which can lead to iron depletion in the body and eventually anemia as less iron is available for the production of hemoglobin. Athletes with anemia will have a reduction in the transport of oxygen and ability to create ATP, which can lead to lethargy, dizziness and overall inability to perform effectively in their given sport. In fact, in one study (Reinke et. al. 2012) 27% of highly trained soccer and rowing athletes had markers of iron deficiency following the completion of a championship season. In addition, it would appear that women are at a greater risk for iron deficiency perhaps due to menstrual blood loss, as well as those female athletes participating in team sports (e.g. soccer; Milic et al. 2011). In other words, those at increased risk for exercise-associated anemia are women that train in a sport that requires repetitive heel strikes and reliance on both aerobic and anaerobic energy sources.
Iron and food
The recommended dietary intake for iron is:
Adults 19-50: 18 mg (F) — 8 mg (M)
Adults > 50: 8 mg (F) — 8 mg (M)
Iron can be obtained from both animal and plant sources. However, iron from animal protein is bound to hemoglobin, and during the process of digestion iron is released in a form that is more readily absorbed by the body. That is not to say iron cannot be absorbed from plant sources it just takes some managing. For example an acidic environment enhances the absorption of plant based iron, so consuming iron-rich foods on an empty stomach. Also, athletes who routinely take medications for acid reflux related conditions may want to have iron status checked during an annual physical as these types of medications alter the acidic environment of the stomach.
Consuming plant-based sources of iron with vitamin C will help convert iron into a more
readily absorbed form. You do not have to think supplement here – instead you can consume plant-based iron-rich foods with vegetables like red peppers or fruit like strawberries and citrus that are naturally high in vitamin C. Cooked lentils are a great source of iron as they contain 6 grams of iron per one cup. Seeds such as sunflower contain 2-4 mg of iron per one ounce (3 tbsp.). Also, if you are not a vegetarian, consider consuming animal based sources of iron with plant based as this will enhance absorption of the latter.
Iron rich sources of animal based protein include: lean red meat, tuna, salmon, and eggs
(iron is in the yolk). To maximize iron absorption, consider eating an iron-fortified cereal of
choice on an empty stomach with an orange!
Finally certain foods will inhibit the absorption of iron, so be careful of combining these
products with iron-rich foods. Tannins, present in red wine, tea, and coffee will inhibit
absorption, as will calcium carbonate or zinc supplements, milk (rich in calcium), chocolate, and raw spinach.
Putting it all together
Levels of hepcidin are highest three hours post-exercise, which means if you finish an
arduous training session that has included heel strike activity iron from food sources will not be effectively absorbed and used by the body. Therefore, it is important to plan iron-rich meals in the time period outside this 3-hour window to ensure adequate iron stores. Animal sources of protein are excellent sources of iron-rich foods. Plant sources are all also good sources of iron, but are best absorbed when either cooked or combined with a fruit or vegetable that is naturally concentrated in vitamin C.
Like most things in life training and timing are everything. Example of a real-life
scenario is Paula Findlay, a Canadian triathlete whose Olympic dreams were dashed this past summer in London due to her own iron deficiency that was overlooked by her team:
References are available upon request.