Misconceptions of Carbo Loading

is it a myth or reality? Learn what to eat before your race. Read more…

By: Dan Arnett
Head Coach – Endurance Concepts

If you’ve ever tried to get a reservation at a pasta place the night before a large race you know that it’s a task that may rival the race itself. Why is this? Do athletes all of a sudden get a sudden urge for Olive Garden at 7 or 8 pm the night before an event? Not really, they have bought into the concept of carbo-loading. Simply put, you eat a lot of carbohydrates (generally pasta & bread) before a race and that tops off your fuel tank for the race.

The concept of carbo-loading before is not a foreign one to pretty much anyone that has done any sort of an endurance event. But there are a couple of misconceptions that I want to address. The first is that carbohydrate loading is only recommended and is only beneficial if you participate in endurance events that are longer than about 1.5 hours. Your body, at any one time, has enough fuel to support a high level of activity for ~2 hrs. So if you have that 5K tomorrow, you will not reap the benefits of carb loading like the person who has an ironman the next day.

The second misconception is when you should carb load. Now try to find a find a table at Carrabba’s two nights before the race. You will be able to walk in and pick the table you want. Who will you see there eating? The smart ones that know it’s proper to carb load two nights before not the night before the big race. Your body takes awhile to process the carbs you are eating and fully utilize them. The last thing you want is to show up to the start line with a belly full of half digested pasta. So what should you eat the night before the race? Eat a normal meal, pasta or not, as early as you can. The last thing you want is to be eating at 8-9 at night with an early wake up call the next morning. Get that dinner reservation for 4 or 5 and be back watching reruns of Sanford & Son ready to tear up the race the next day.

The last thing you want to do is stuff yourself full of food in an attempt to carb load. Simply put you just pay attention to what you are eating and it should mainly be those that contain carbohydrate. And while you are carb loading, don’t forget to drink as well. Proper hydration will not only allow you to fully digest your meal, but it will help get your body ready for the PR you are going to set.

So in summary:

* Only Carbohydrate load if your race will last more than 90 minutes.
* Carb load 2 nights before the race
* Eat a sensible early dinner the night before the race

Don’t forget that you can also ingest a drink that is rich in carbohydrates. Think Gatorade or something to that effect.

Stealth on a Budget

By: Dan Arnett
Head Coach – Endurance Concepts

Every athlete would like to see performance gains without spending hour upon hour grinding it out on the road.  While the adage of “you don’t get something for nothing” will always hold true, it is possible to become a faster athlete with no additional work.  The following ways will gain you time for minimal effort.  Efficiency is the name of the game.  These tips will make you more efficient, thus gaining you the free speed you need right away.

I have prioritized my list according to the best bang for your buck.  Our sport is not cheap and budget is always a concern.  So scrape together your pennies and let’s get faster…Now!

  1. Bike Fit
    Cost: $100 – $300

    This is the most overlooked way to gain free speed.  If you cannot maintain an aerodynamic position for the duration of your race, then you are losing both speed and power.  Most people feel uncomfortable in the aero position and the most likely reason for this is that they are not properly fitted to their bike.

    You might have received a quick fit when you purchased your bike, but generally this is inadequate for the time you are about to spend in the saddle.  If you did not spend close to an hour with a fitter, I would recommend doing so.  Not only will you be more comfortable on your bike, which translates into more saddle time, but more aerodynamic and powerful as well.  A good fitter will balance aerodynamics, power and comfort to blend them into a specific fit for you based on your physical limitations.

  2. Aero Helmet
    Cost: $150 – $250

    The most controversial piece of equipment in regards to fashion has to be the aero helmet.  Many people dismiss it because they don’t want to look weird.  Let’s look at this objectively.  As triathletes we are wearing spandex, spilling gel on ourselves, all the while swimming, biking and running only to get to the same spot we started; but are worried about how a helmet looks?

    An aero helmet will give you approximately the same time advantage as an aero front wheel for a fraction of the cost.  Also, contrary to popular belief they are not hot and they do not always have to be exactly horizontal to be effective.  Just like any other helmet, make sure the one you pick fits your head and is comfortable.

  3. AeroDrink and Bento Box
    Cost: $75

    This may seem like an odd one to make the list, but here is my reasoning. Few would argue that the longer you can remain in the aero position, the more efficient you are.  Since nutrition and hydration are essential during a race, it is beneficial to do them while in the aero position.  An aero drink allows you to hydrate with minimal departure from your optimal aero positioning.  Also, a bento box places your nutrition directly in front of you, which will also maximize your time in the aero position.

    Since your hydration and nutrition are within sight the entire time, you will find it easier to remember to eat and drink.  So that, as well, should improve your finish time.

So for a minimal cost, you can get the most out of your bike leg.  While nothing replaces hard work, these are some inexpensive tips to help you gain some free speed in your next race.  Happy Trails.

Working the Downhill

By: Dan Arnett
Head Coach – Endurance Concepts

Think of the last time you raced a hilly course.  After you worked the uphill and crested did you keep pushing down the other side or let gravity ‘help’ you to recover?  For most people the latter is the choice they make.   Almost everyone’s heart rate and rated perceived effort drops on the downhill.  A lot of time is lost when one does this.  Gravity wants to help you go down the hill just as much as it limits your pace going up it.  Using gravity on the back side of the hill will allow you to keep a constant effort and separate yourself from your competition.

You adjust your stride length and body position when you are climbing, so why not when you descend?  Each time your foot hits the ground, you are applying the brakes.  Due to physics, it requires more energy to stop a mass going downhill.  So to keep your pace constant or relax going downhill actually provides more stress on your joints and muscles.  Keeping your effort constant on the downhill will increase your pace with little cost on your body.  Don’t just increase your stride and be out of control, but rather shift your hips underneath you and let those huge quad muscles absorb some of the work.  It will allow you to be under control descending and you’ll create separation from those that are taking the downhill as a rest period.  Now you don’t have to raise your heart rate back up from a low point, which requires more effort.

So next time you push that hill with another runner on your hip, crest and keep pushing.  This will cause you to increase your pace and give you an overall faster time.  It will also separate you from the person that worked the hill with you and now decided to rest on the downhill.  Stay in control and keep your heart rate in your race zone, regardless of terrain.  Practice this during training and you’ll be able to utilize it during a race to your advantage.

Ride Like a Pro (Triathlete)

Learn how to make the most of your next triathlete group ride. Read more…

There are many rules of etiquette used in cycling to keep athletes safe while riding in groups. These rules don’t always translate to a group of triathletes riding together. Here are some ideas to help make your next ride safe and effective.

#1: Give ’em Space
Whats the difference between a road bike and a triathlon bike? Some may say the seat tube angle, others may point toward the aerodynamic tubing, but the major difference is that a triathlon bike doesn’t have brakes. Okay, it may have brakes but they are far out of reach in an emergency.

Not only is 3 bike lengths the legal spacing for USAT races, it is also a safe distance to ride while in the aero position. So, next time you and your other aerobar wielding buddies get on the open road, give each other some space. Not only will this help keep you safe, it will make you stronger and better prepared to race legally.

#2: Eyes Up
Often times, the aggressive position of triathlon bikes makes it difficult to comfortably see up the road. As with anything in life, you have to see where you’re going to navigate safely. Keep your head in a comfortable, aerodynamic position and shift your line of sight just ahead of the rider in front of you. You should be continuously looking ahead and around for any potential hazards. Remember, your response time is far greater on a triathlon bike so you must stay aware at all times!

#3: Road Hazards
It is common practice among road cyclists to point toward hazards in the road. For triathletes using their aerobars, this can be especially dangerous. Rather than removing a hand from your controls, make an obvious movement around the hazard. Conversely, when your triathlon buddy swerves, it is wise to follow their path.

#4: Water Bottle Launchers
As triathletes, we’re obligated to carry at least four water bottles on every ride. Many of the rear mount bottle holders don’t adequately retain bottles over bumpy roads. Your water bottles are your responsibility so make sure they’re secure. You don’t want to lose your nutrition and the riders behind you don’t want to lose their teeth when they hit your errant bottle. If you need to use a rear mount bottle holder, don’t use a flimsy, lightweight carbon variety. Instead, go for a lightweight, secure variety like the Profile Design bottle cage. It will save you money and keep your friends safe.

#5: Push Through
It is natural to have ebbs and flows in your power output on the bike. When riding in a group, it may seem problematic to pass but this is your opportunity to practice your positioning skills. Envision yourself in a race and access your body. If you feel that you’re capable of making the pass, push through. Following the USAT rules and the guidance set forth in #1 (Give ’em Space), the rider which you passed should fall back. These surges may seem like undue effort but they will prepare you for the pushing your body on race day.