Monday, June 13, 2011

Miss the Misery...

Alternate title: "You're just a slut for punishment, aren't you?" (A quote from fellow Maine Running Company employee, Ben Webber, after hearing that I wanted to race again so soon after the disaster-debacle known as my experience at Rev3 Quassy).

After having a week to look back at what happened during the race experience, there's an awful lot that I'm still happy about. But, in the recesses of my mind, I've got a fair bit of disappointment lying around, too. After all, when you're shelling out between $260-$300 a race at the half-iron distance, you want to maximize the potential value of the day. (Some would argue, of course, that by staying on course longer, you actually maximized your money's worth, as it was cheaper by hour out there compared to others. I digress.)

For myself personally, I think I've identified four major things that, going into Timberman 70.3, need to be improved upon in order to ensure that another Rev3 result does not occur:

This, obviously, was the big downfall at Rev3. Once I got behind on the calorie count on the bike, I never was able to catch back on up. Now, I don't ever foresee another situation with the heart-rate monitor happening quite like that again. But, analyzing my choices for both liquid and solid nutrition, I think I may have also set myself up for a bit of a long day.

To review, for the bike the game plan was as follows:
2 bottles: Ironman Perform mixed with 1.5 scoops of CarboPro (300 calories per bottle)
Total: 760 calories, at 2:45 average time works out to roughly 280 cal/hour pace

This seemed sound: after all, it worked in training. Why the hell wouldn't it work on race day? it's time to get a little scientific with everybody, so bear with me for a minute. And...well, just watch the video. Then come on back...

...yes, blatant Marty McFly interlude......done? Good.

So, let's take a quick look at the composition of both Ironman Perform and Carbo-Pro.

Ironman Perform: C2Max energy blend (maltodextrin, fructose, dextrose), citric acid, trisodium citrate, natural flavor, salt, magnesium citrate, potassium citrate, turmeric (for color).

Carbo-Pro: Glucose polymers derived from hydrolysis of maltodextrin

Analysis: First and foremost, we're talking about three separate needs during the course. We need to be replacing fluids lost via sweat/urination; we need to be replacing the electrolytes in the system; and we must be replenishing the glycogen available to muscles to continue using it as fuel. For the uninitiated, glycogen is what the body stores carbohydrate as; when somebody says that they are "carb-loading," they mean that they are trying to maximize their glycogen stores.

Breaking down further: hydration needs are an entirely independent sort-of inquiry. For some people, they need to be downing 30-40 oz. of fluid per hour while out there. That doesn't work for me in the least. I can handle about a bike bottle per hour while out there. That's approximately 20-24 oz. of fluid per hour. (Note: I only managed to put down about 10-12 oz. per hour at Rev3 on the bike. And we wonder why I med-tented it.)

IM Perform is also pretty high in a fair number of the electrolytes. There are five key electrolytes that are lost during endurance activity. Most people only focus on sodium, but the other four are potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. They're all necessary to keep the body functioning at a high level during intense athletic activity. As you look at IM Perform, you see potassium, salt, and magnesium, but a bit lacking in chloride and calcium. Why? Often times, it's a matter of digestion: in order to get calcium into a drink such as this, you will regularly need to be adding some kind of dairy extraction into the mix. You can imagine how palatable that would be on a 90 degree day. Other drink mixes do, however, manage to do this (First Endurance being one of the primary examples).

So now we come to carbohydrate, and this is where things get a bit tricky. There are both simple and complex carbohydrates (also referred to as short-chain versus long-chain carbohydrates). Simple carbohydrates are your primary sugars, like glucose, sucrose, and dextrose. These are quick-burning, and easily absorbed by the body. However, it's much like throwing gasoline on a fire: you get a quick, explosive effect, but the body burns through it rapidly, and you're back to where you started from.

Long-chain carbohydrates, meanwhile, are a more refined fuel: think of it more like putting that big log on the fire instead of the gasoline. You'll get a much longer, more sustained burn out of it. However, it takes the fire some work to get on that log: it's going to have to bring in enough oxygen from the outside in order to keep the original burn strong enough to light the log, before finally being able to penetrate and start burning the large log. Much the same in the body: it's going to take some work for your gut to be able to process a longer-chain carbohydrate, but when it does, you get sustained energy. But if there's not enough energy available to start that log on fire...well, things can start getting bad quickly. Nevermind getting into the osmolality of the solution (essentially, you want the solution to be at a lower osmolality than body fluid, so that it can process through your system easier).

So, what do we take from this? Why would this drink mix work during training, but not during racing? I think it is mostly due to the composition of the carbohydrate in the drink mix. Because IM Perform's C2Max energy blend is more long-chain than short-chain carbohydrate, I was essentially taking in nothing but longer-chain carbohydrates during the course. This meant that I needed to have things low enough out of the gate that my body would be able to process this. Well, here's the rub: my heart-rate coming out of the water was going to be much, much higher than that of when I was doing a normal training ride. I didn't have enough energy available to transfer blood to my gut and start processing the fuel; when that happened, I got backed up, nauseated, and then behind the eight-ball. I also didn't have enough short-chain carbohydrate on board the bike to try and get things rolling again.

So, then, it's no surprise that at about the one hour mark on the bike (or about 90 minutes into the race), I was going to have to slow down a bit: your body only has enough glycogen storage for 90 minutes of activity. This meant that the body would start using fat as fuel instead, which means the heart-rate must come way, way down. So, when reviewing my data from the race, it wasn't a shock to see my average heart-rate drop down to the 135 BPM mark at the one hour mark on the bike, down from the 150/155 mark that I was planning on racing at all day long. This also marked a pretty heavy departure from the 20.5 MPH I was averaging on the bike down to 14-16 MPH.

So, to review: I was too heavy on long-chain carbohydrate, and did not have the tools on hand in order to put the wheels back on once they started coming off.

This. Will. Not. Happen. Again.

What to do, then? Well, I'm looking into new drink mixes. The First Endurance stuff listed above intrigues me the most, as it is a bit higher than most other mixes in the five electrolytes. It is also a different sugar blend (higher in short-chain carbohydrates), which I think, when mixed with Carbo-Pro, would make a better solution. I do like Hammer's HEED for taste, but unfortunately it isn't high enough in sodium for my needs, and it too is fairly high in maltodextrin. I'm also planning on a contingency plan of GU Roctane, or incorporating it a bit more. Perhaps 200 calories of drink per hour supplemented by a gel. I'm also debating implementing a 600 calories "slurry" bottle (essentially, a concentrated mix of the electrolyte and carbohydrate drink), and then having a separate bottle for my hydration needs. Undecided. Luckily, I have some time to figure it out.

Although I had myself a pretty solid swim at Rev3, I also realized that a bunch of my fellow age groupers are a HELL of a lot faster here than I am. So, it's time to hit the water. During the build to Quassy, I thought that I had done a good enough job getting into the pool. Well, I did but I didn't: although I had good fitness, I think my form limitations made me have to work a bit harder to get that swim time.

To be blunt: I need to work on technique as much as I do aerobic capacity. The better my form is, the faster I go, with less energy exerted. The fresher I can come out of the water, the better; then, the lower my heart-rate is coming out of the water, the better off my nutrition gameplan can go.

I know I can swim faster; the question is, can I swim faster while exerting less energy? That, too, I believe can be answered in the affirmative. It's just going to take a lot more work.

This isn't to say that my bike fit was wrong. To the contrary, Doug Welling and I had decided to go a bit conservative with my fit at the outset.

The thing is, we both think I've outgrown it. By that, I mean I can definitely ride a more aggressive position than I could have just a couple of months ago. So we're going to go aggressive with my fit, and try to lock in a better aero position on the bike. We will also make the final determination for pad reach, etc. and cut things down. It's time to make this bike mine, and mine alone.

I'm also looking into gearing and crank length. However, considering my run time off the bike was not nearly as catastrophically terrible as one would suggest with the bonking that I did do, perhaps things are where they should be. (For those wondering, I am riding a 175 mm crank, 53/39 chainrings, with a 12-25 cassette. I MAY switch to a 12-27. We'll see. It may also be more effective to go to a compact crank. But again, not sure as of yet.)

To make this long story short: more hills, please. More time in the saddle. A few more light brick workouts (35 mile ride, short run afterwards.) I think this is where I have the most overall to gain. I'm happy with my running ability; I know I can run a 1:38 open 13.1. I also know I can hold that pace pretty decently, even when the wheels come off. So it's the bike where I have more to gain.

Overall, then, I think I've had the time, and the patience, to look critically at how Rev3 went. Now it's time to put the work into Timberman. This week is my "ease back into things" week, meaning I'll start a little bit of swimming, biking, and running. Next week is a full-on recovery week, where the intensity stays quite low, but I get back to normalcy. Then it's time to crank up the wick, and start the fun back into Timberman.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? As always, post a comment and I'll respond.

Get out there, have fun...and be ready to work!


Matt said...

Great race breakdown, love it. I would love to offer some help via the nutrition. Feel free to email me, on team with ya so easy to get. First off, what works in training is usually different than what works in racing; plain and simple. Even though maltodextrin is long chain, it doesnt burn slow, it's very high glycymic, more so than fructose. IMHO, 300 cals in one bottle for racing can be a bit much, at HIM intensity we have harder time taking in lots of cals so should be limited. In training u generally eat normal foods. First endurance liquid shot is worth a look, I keep my fuel and fluids separate In racing. First endurance has This video and other great ones to watch :

Ryan said...

Hey Matt. I did do some First Endurance research, along with some talking with Brian from Personal Best Nutrition. After doing some seriously scientific breakdown, we figured on something relatively similar to their Half-Iron mix, with EFS Drink replacing the IM Perform, and downgrading Carbo-Pro levels. Can't do the LiquidShots.

Will supplement with Gel instead of the waffle, too. The taste was sickeningly sweet when my taste buds got all out of whack.

Matt said...

Brian at PBN is great!!