Step Up and Tri – February 2013

Welcome to February’s Blog.

I think I was surprised how fast time was flying at the end of last year- and look at this, February is nearly over and I have yet to get a blog out!

The end of the season and some time away from training gives us time to think about what we want to accomplish next year- what races to pick and goals to target. I find that many athletes have trouble coming up with the best races in which to show off their strengths and improve on areas of weakness, so here are some tips for planning out your season.

1.     Figure out your goals for the year- do you want to try to qualify for Nationals, aim for a PR in your favorite race, or simply hit a destination/bucket list race?  Pick two major goals for the year, and these will help you pick other races appropriately. These other races can be tune up events, or maybe just some fun with friends (as long as the timing is right and it does not interfere with essential training for the A race/s (there should only be 2-3 of these. And they should either be 8 weeks apart, or for short course athletes, they can be grouped over 2-3 weeks).

2.     When do you typically perform at your best- early or late season? If you like it cool and live in SoFla, perhaps an early season A race is good- so you can train through the winter. Or if you prefer more racing as training and more training with friends, perhaps a late season race is better.

3.     What type of course do you excel on? Do you like lake swims that are wetsuit legal (cos you get seasick in open water- anyone we know….? 🙂 ) or do you prefer a kick butt hard, ocean swim so you can show off your swimming prowess? Do you like hills or flat? Windy, cold or hot? Figure out your strengths and pick a course that caters to it. Figure out your weaknesses and pick a course that won’t show them up- OR that forces you to address them!

4.     Do you like destination races that are combined with a holiday, or is it better for you to race closer to home for the convenience and support factors?  Remember, Ironman branded races sell out in record time, so you need to plan a year in advance for those. Some of the smaller races are not as hard to get into and will be cheaper.  Planning a year out lets you save up some money and look for cheaper accommodation too.

5.     Is altitude or time difference going to be a factor for your destination race? Altitude can begin to affect performance at around 5000 feet, and it takes about 10-14 days to fully acclimate. If you can’t get to the venue that much in advance then it is better to arrive as close as possible to the race start so that the negative effects of altitude are minimized. Until you are acclimated, you are simply negatively affected and arriving 3-7 days in advance will simply hurt your performance due to fatigue, dehydration, sleep disturbances, elevated HR’s, and elevated reliance on carbohydrate substrates.

Jet lag: more than three time zones can be very challenging! You can try to adapt to the destination’s time zone at home to get a head start on it. Also, pay attention to the direction you are traveling: If you’re traveling east and want to adapt to the new time, you will have to wake up earlier and go to bed earlier than you normally would. This is known as advancing your body clock. If you’re traveling west, you’ll have to adapt to the new time by waking up later than usual and going to bed later than usual, delaying your body clock.  Controlling jet lag is fundamentally about controlling light and darkness: if you are traveling east, you must expose yourself to light early, advancing your body clock so that it will be in sync with the new time zone. Conversely, if traveling west, you should expose yourself to light at dusk and the early part of the evening, delaying your body clock so that it will be in sync with the new time zone. Also, stay away from alcohol and spicy foods for the first few days.

Heat: also takes about 10-14 days for the body to acclimate, but at least we can do this at home (in Florida we are ALWAYS heat acclimated it seems, but that is actually not true. Think about how you feel when the first truly Floridian hot days arrive…). To acclimate  you can simply wear more clothes if it is not hot outside. When acclimating to both heat and altitude, initial workouts should be shorter and easier. Then you can add some distance and lastly add some intensity over a 10-14 days period. Stay hydrated!

6.     For races leading up to your A race, make sure you pick races that meet available family and work schedules and budget.  I suggest you use local as training races so travel is minimized, training is disrupted the least, and there is less stress attached to the race. Choose a reasonable number of races that actually contribute to your season’s main goal/s in some way. These “B” and “C” races will allow you to practice all the elements of your A race and can be “trained through” (meaning less of a taper and recovery, and more of a workout). These races will let you gain more experience, practice pacing, hydration and nutrition, mental skills, try out new/different equipment, and simple race logistics.

7.     Remember, if you race too much, it actually cuts into training time- especially if you plan to taper and recover for those races. So you would actually lose fitness racing too much! “C” races can be trained through (minimal taper and recovery) so your training is not impacted too much. But you need to consider how tired/sore you are post race and what that will do for the next week of training. It is often, therefore a good idea to put a C or B race at the end of a training block before you enter a rest week. Some races with friends as “throw-away” races are fun and will remind you why you do this.

8.     Recovery from sprint races can be anywhere from a few days to a week, Olympic distance in about 1-1.5 weeks, half-Iron in about two weeks. Full Iron distances, about 5 to 8 or more weeks is typical full recovery times- but for some athletes it can be longer and for novices it usually is much longer. You can workout during these recovery times, but it should be done at a lower intensity without the same training goals. The point is just to go have fun and recharge the batteries. There are many factors such as nutrition, age, lifestyle, and fitness level which affect this recovery time so it will vary from individual to individual.

Lay out your calendar so you can really see how it all fits in your life and how each race affects and relates to the A races. You’re A races inform the whole season, and dictate what your training objectives are and this should help you come up with your schedule for the year. And of course, your coach will be advising you!

Athlete Race Update:
*Sue Caplan
was a marathon maniac: racing her first marathon at the Palm Beach Marathon in December, Goofy Challenge (a half marathon on Saturday and full on Sunday), and capping it all off with a PR at the A1A marathon in February! All that and still walking! Without a limp!
*Bonnie, Franny and Nate did the Palm Beach Marathon, as well as the A1A Half Mary. The weather was a lot nicer for this February race than their December race!
*Colin came in 29th overall at A1A Half Mary this past weekend- his first.
*Sean Tibor finished his first marathon at the A1A also.
*Nadia raced really strong in a 10k in 29 degree weather in NYC in January.
*Liz and Sandy ran great at their first 5k of the season this month too.

Training/Nutrition Tidbit: Triathlon is really 4 events: swimming, biking, running, and your hydration and nutrition plan.  Make sure you dial it in, practice with it AT RACE INTENSITY, and in the heat conditions likely to be experienced on race day. The following study demonstrates the efficacy of following a scientifically sound nutrition and hydration strategy. Simply put- we are all faster when we eat and drink according to sound scientific principles!

Featured Athlete:
Carol Thompson
, who has been my client and friend for 10 years!
Past history of sports participation:
I was on the tennis and track team in High School way back when. Those were the only 2 sports girls could be in to compete with other schools at that time!
What made you want to compete in triathlons? My wonderful husband and I found ourselves being my Mother’s primary caretaker after her stroke. The first morning we were at my mother’s house, I sat down at the table opened the paper and there she was… Dara and her wonderful smile! In the article she said she could take a couch potato and in a few weeks make them a Triathlete! I just thought, “mmm… I can swim, I can run, I can ride a bike, all I got to do is win this contest! I really did not want the same health issues my mother had and my family health history suggested that was was going to happen. I knew I had to change it and that I had the power to change it; just didn’t know how! Dara knew how and I knew that. P.S. I won the contest!
What was your first tri & what did you learn? My first Tri was in Richmond, VA in July of  2003.
What surprised you most about how it made you feel about yourself? The euphoric feeling when I crossed the finish line. In fact I get the same feeling every time, just like it was the first time! When I crossed that line all I kept saying was “I did it, I did it!” And my family was there to watch!
Do you think that training for triathlon and long bike rides has affected other areas of your life? If so, how?
The training really helps me to focus on balancing my life. The long bike rides are just fun, especially  when you talk to someone and they tell you about a pretty road out in the country somewhere and your first thought is “I wonder if I could bike down that road” or, “I have been on my bike on that road!”
What are you most looking forward to this year in terms of training and racing/events? I hope to do my first century ride and my first 1/2 Ironman with Dara!
What does endurance training and racing mean to you? I have discovered that it is much more satisfying to say the you are training for something than to say you exercise. 🙂
How do you mentally approach a race? I like to treat all the races and events like it’s the only one I’m doing, cause I can then just focus on it and try not to get worked up.
Favorite racing and/or training tip (what would you tell a newbie, and not necessarily something Dara told you!): Have fun and enjoy yourself… YOU WILL FINISH!
A favorite “Dara-ism(s)”: 1.  YOU CAN DO IT!!!!! 2. Carol, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE write in your log!

Erica Goldstein submission:
Glucose Uptake by the Cell, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, and Cinnamon
The average athlete does not suffer from insulin resistance but understanding this medical condition sheds light on the physiological underpinnings of glucose uptake by the cell. Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) differs from Type 1 diabetes in that T2DM is a progressive disease. In a Type-2 diabetic person, insulin is still being secreted from the pancreas; however, this function is greatly diminished. In addition, insulin resistance in peripheral tissue (muscle, adipocyte) develops and impedes the amount of glucose (sugar) that is absorbed into the cell. This is the reason for the higher than normal blood sugar levels in a T2DM person. In Type 1 diabetes, the beta-cells of the pancreas are no longer secreting insulin and that is why these individuals must receive insulin injections.

Insulin is a hormone that is released from the beta-cells of the pancreas. Muscle and adipocyte (fat) cells rely on insulin to stimulate glucose uptake by the cell (i.e. sugar absorption). A common misunderstanding with T2DM is that insulin is no longer able to bind to the surface of the cell and stimulate the uptake of glucose, which results in high blood sugar. In fact, in T2DM insulin is still released from the pancreas and does still bind to its receptor on the cell; however, the problem occurs downstream within the cell.

Glucose Transporter 4 (GLUT 4) is exactly what the name implies – a protein that is able to move to the surface of the cell membrane (i.e. cell surface) and transport glucose into the cell. The glucose can then be metabolized and used as a source of fuel for exercise.  In a normal healthy individual, this action of insulin in conjunction with GLUT 4 moves sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cell, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. However, what occurs with T2DM is insulin resistance. Carbohydrate is eaten, digested, absorbed, and released into the blood, which triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas. Insulin binds to the receptor on the cell but GLUT 4 is not able to properly translocate to the cell membrane and pull sugar into the cell. In this scenario, blood sugar levels will continue to rise, more insulin will be secreted, and additional stress is put on the pancreas, which results in damage to the beta-cells and a diminished ability to secrete insulin. That is why T2DM is considered a progressive disease and state of insulin-resistance.

Inflammation is a chronic condition in obese persons and negatively interferes with signaling mechanisms within the cell and subsequent ability for glucose to effectively move from the blood plasma into the cell. Enter cinnamon. Consuming cinnamon extract will not prevent this type of inflammation but rather in the state of inflammation acts to enhance the action of insulin and the chemical signaling that occurs within the cell (i.e. movement of GLUT 4 to the cell membrane). Cinnamon, therefore, may enhance movement of glucose from the blood into the cell in a person with T2DM.

Athletes are driven by the love of sport. However, convincing a pre- or Type-2 diabetic, who is sedentary, to engage in physical activity can be somewhat formidable. Persons with T2DM have the ability to secrete insulin; therefore, exercise (in addition to diet) is the best form of therapy for increasing insulin sensitivity and managing blood glucose levels. Exercise is recommended because it results in a net movement of sugar out of the bloodstream and into the muscle cell. Exercise will enhance insulin sensitivity in muscle tissue and is a result of both an increase in GLUT 4 activity as well as number of GLUT 4 transporters, which helps to increase glucose uptake by the cell and reduce blood sugar concentrations. Moreover, exercise in addition to diet may enhance weight loss, which can also contribute to increased insulin sensitivity and glycemic control.

In conclusion, exercise is as always the best form of medicine. Athletes may also benefit from cinnamon because it possesses certain phytochemicals that may act as an antioxidant in the body.

Add 1 tbsp. of cinnamon to plain cereal like oatmeal and cheerios, or try these tips for incorporating cinnamon into daily life:
-Add a cinnamon stick to rice as it simmers for a Middle Eastern flavor
-Include 1 tsp. of cinnamon with coffee beans and grind together

-McArdle WD, Katch FI, Katch VL. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance. 6th Ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2006:439-453.
-Gropper, SS, Smith, JL, Groff, JL. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2009:73-74, 264, 276.
-Wellen, KE, Hotamisligil, GS. Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. J. Clin. Invest. 2005;115(5):1111-1119.
-Qin, B, Panickar, KS, Anderson, AA. Cinnamon: Potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2010;4(3):685-693.
-Nelms M, Sucher KP, Lacey K, Roth SL. Nutrition therapy & pathophysiology. 2nd Ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning:2011:482, 500.
-Mayo Clinic web site. Is it true that cinnamon can lower blood sugar in people who have diabetes? Available at: Accessed January 25, 2013.
-The spice barn web site. Cinnamon recipes: taste tips. Available at: Accessed January 25, 2013.

Nutritional Tidbit:

Tofu & Vegetable Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce


  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked or 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1+ cup green beans, with ends cut
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • ½-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 or 4 TBSP peanut butter
  • 5 TBSP water
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 TBSP soymilk

1. Pan saute the tofu in a non-stick skillet pan until the tofu is lightly browned (5-10 mins). You may add a teaspoon of oil, or you can just pan fry with no oil in a nonstick pan. Remove from wok/pan.

2. Heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in the wok and stir-fry the onion, carrots, and beans for 4 minutes or so – until the beans start turning a bright green and the onions become translucent.

3. While this is cooking (or even beforehand), add a small amount of oil in a separate pan and add the ginger and garlic. Cook for a minute or two, then stir in the peanut butter and then the water. Stir until smooth. Add the lemon juice, tamari/soy sauce, soymilk, and stir well.

4. Return the tofu to the wok, and stir in the peanut butter sauce. Mix well and serve on top of the rice.

Always time for a laugh:


About TriCoachDara

I have been a multi-sport coach since 2001 and during that time I have trained hundreds of athletes for whom triathlon, running, biking, fitness and health must fit into very busy lives. My clientele includes lawyers, doctors, full time mothers, office workers, school teachers, nurses, and entrepreneurs – and every one of them has a jam packed schedule. My goal is to help each athlete strike a balance between training to their maximum potential and balancing the various other aspects of their lives, as well as to provide all the information they need to perform at their best and stay healthy and injury free.
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