Rinny, Angry Bird and The 4th Discipline of Triathlon

Friday, October 17, 2014 by Coach Tommy

I watched the 2014 Ironman World Championship on Saturday. I sat in front of my computer for about 9 hours. The women’s race was especially exciting. Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae came from 14:30 down out of T2 to win her 3rd World Championship. Rinny eventually caught and passed Daniela “Angry Bird” Ryf at about mile 23 of the marathon. Rinny ran 40 seconds per mile, on average, faster than Angry Bird to make up the 14:30 deficit. That was a spectacular performance by Rinny and, I think, some mistakes made by Angry Bird.

At one point during the webcast, the camera was squarely focused on Daniela for several minutes as she ran the marathon. She was running along at about mile 15 or so if I remember correctly. She reached into her rear jersey pockets to pull something out. As she did this, an energy bar fell to the ground. Daniela hesitated for a split second, looked back at the bar on the ground then continued running. The coach in me thought “Oops, big mistake. Not paying attention to the details and nutrition”. I thought since this bar was in her jersey, it was probably nutrition she picked up in T2 and was part of her nutrition plan for the run.

On Sunday, being the tri geek that I am, I watched the endless interviews being given by the podium finishers. Bob Babbitt does a webcast called “Breakfast with Bob”. I watched 3 hours of interviews he did with the podium finishers including an interview with Angry Bird. She recounted how she ran out of energy during the run. The words she used were “bonked” and “hit the wall”. She also talked about missing some gels at the aid stations and dropping that energy bar. She said by the time Rinny caught her, she was just recovering after eating as much as she could at the aid stations. I wonder if that dropped bar had something to do with her bonking. You can see the interview here: Her interview is the last one at about the 2:40:00.

Rinny had a similar issue a couple years ago at Kona. She dropped one of her nutrition bottles while on the bike and didn’t do anything to rectify the problem. It cost her the win that year.

If you’re one of my coached athletes or have been to the TTT training camps and been through my Competitive Edge clinic, then you know I preach writing a race plan. Part of a race plan is a nutrition plan. The nutrition plan details what the athlete will eat, how much the athlete will eat and when the athlete will eat during the race.

Here is some advice on your race nutrition:

• Practice your race day nutrition during training
• Practice your race day nutrition during training and at race day intensity. A big mistake is expecting your body to digest food the same as in training when your race day intensity is higher than your training intensity.
• Consider using the energy products that will be on the course. This means you won’t have to carry your nutrition with you on the bike and run.
• Stick to your nutrition plan.
• Have a plan if your nutrition plan goes catawampus.

o What do you do if you drop some of your nutrition on the bike? Many times it isn’t safe to stop and try to recover it.
o If doing an Ironman distance race, have some spare nutrition in your special needs bags. If you need it, it will be there.
o Carry some extra nutrition in case you drop some or feel like you need more.

Another aspect of a nutrition plan going catawampus is GI distress like bloating, nausea, upset stomach, and indigestion. Here is my advice for GI issues:

• Stop taking in any calories. That includes gels, bars and energy drinks. Part of the problem with GI distress can be that you have too much carbohydrate in your stomach and it’s not being digested. Adding more only makes the problem worse.
• Drink some plain water to dilute the concentration of carbohydrate in your stomach. Plain water will help bring the osmolality of fluid in your stomach back to the proper level for digestion to proceed.
• Reduce your intensity. This goes back to training at race intensity and practicing nutrition. Sometimes racing at too high of an intensity will cause your digestive system to shut down.

Nutrition is the 4th discipline of triathlon and needs to be planned and practiced just like your swim, bike and run.

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