Learning from my Mistakes

As many of you know, I am again training for IRONMAN Wisconsin.  I participated in IRONMAN Wisconsin 2011 and crossed the finish line, but in a less than desirable state.  As a result, I feel it is important to look back on my experiences from my IMWI race day in 2011 so I don’t make the same mistakes again.  What was my biggest mistake???  Hyponatremia…a condition when the sodium in your blood is abnormally low.  While anything can happen on race day, I don’t ever want to relive hyponatremia.

So…What happened?

On race day, it was sunny, 84 degrees with wind speeds as high as 16 mph from the SW.  While this isn’t ridiculous midwest summer weather, it was warmer than I had planned for.  I drank plenty of water…a little too much actually.  I didn’t take in enough salt tablets or salty foods while on the bike.  I finished the race, but I don’t remember the last 90 minutes on the bike or the entire marathon (which I mostly walked…6 1/2 hours).  As a matter of fact, I don’t remember much until about 1 pm the next day and what I do remember is foggy…imagine getting completely intoxicated, waking up the next morning and having spotty memories from the night before wondering if “that really happened” or if you are imagining it.

What did I learn?

  1. Too much water can be a very bad thing.
  2. Many of the symptoms of hyponatremia and dehydration are the same, which can make proper diagnosis difficult.
  3. I did not have enough sodium in my nutrition plan on race day at IMWI 2011.
  4. I need to develop a different nutritional plan for IMWI 2014.
  5. I need to practice with a variety of fuel sources.

mistakes are progress

What will I do differently in 2014?

  1. I will try to incorporate solid food while on the bike.  In 2011, I only used liquid calories (Carbo-Pro), which did not contain much salt and I did not do a good job on race day of supplementing with salt tablets.  I am starting to practice with these now while on the trainer to see how my stomach responds to them.  This will give me about 7 months to practice and adjust as needed.
  2. I will try a variety of fuel sources during training and smaller races throughout the year…I am not going to stick with only one fuel source this year.
  3. I will develop a different nutritional plan for race day in 2014 that has multiple levels to it.  My nutritional plan will have possible strategies for different weather, different moods (what I feel like consuming), etc…if plan A doesn’t work, go to plan B or C and so on.  If it is hot, try this…if it is cold, try that.  You get the idea 🙂

What I DO know…

  1. I do know that I am lactose intolerant and anything with whey protein upsets my stomach, so I will need to avoid fuel sources that use whey protein.
  2. I do know that I need more sodium than what I used in 2011.  If I continue to use Carbo-Pro, I will need to supplement it with salt tablets or additional fuel sources containing sodium as Carbo-Pro does not have sodium in it.
  3. I do know that my body does not respond well to caffeine (accelerated heart rate, excessive sweating, twitchy muscles, etc.), so I will need to find fuel sources that do not have caffeine in them.
  4. I do know that I have struggled with solid foods on the bike in the past.  For some reason, my body struggles to digest the food and it feels as though someone has put jagged rocks in my gut.  I am willing and not afraid to try solid foods again and hopefully find a solution or two that will work.
  5. I do know that I did have some success in 2013 incorporating Oreo cookies into my nutritional plan for my 1/2 IRONMAN races, so that is a starting place for 2014…

Finding a nutritional plan (with back-up options) will be an ongoing experiment for me this year…good thing I am a science teacher and enjoy a good experiment!!

Errors are stepping stonesWhat struggles have you encountered while racing and how have you overcome them?

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21 thoughts on “Learning from my Mistakes

  1. It must be so hard to deal with nutrition, on top of finishing an Ironman. But Im sure that with a lot of experimentation you can figure it out. Have you tried soft bread with PB&Jelly?

    • It can be a challenge, but one I will overcome!! Thanks for the suggestion on the PB&J…I’ve tried that, but it didn’t work. I’m ready to try again though. 😉

  2. Kecia, thanks for sharing this. It’s really important to learn from others because race day conditions can be so different. I got really used to PowerBars in training, but got sick of eating sweet foods all the time. I took to covering them in salt (crushed sea salt flakes to be exact). Tasted kind of like a salted nut roll (which I tried, but didn’t do anything for me). Maybe you could put salt in your OREOs? Have fun training and keep us up to date on your progress!

  3. I am thinking about an Ironman in 2015, so every post like this helps me! I definitely had to learn how to fuel my runs without tummy issues – and I’m still figuring it out. The best thing to do after every race is sit down, like you did here, and reflect!

    • Glad I can help Laura!! I’ll keep you informed as I go through my 2nd IRONMAN journey. Stay tuned for more posts as they relate to training and racing.

  4. Sounds like you had a tough go at the end of your last one. Glad you know what you need to figure out to make this race more memorable!
    I don’t know if you’d tried these foods, but on the bike I like to eat pretzel sticks, goldfish crackers, licorice, and/or rice krispy squares. I love having solid food, and the pretzels and goldfish have lots of sodium!

    • I have not tried any of these foods Abby. I am DEFINITELY going to give them a try. These are all foods I really like. Thanks for the suggestions!!

  5. IM nutrition is tricky… so important to be on top of it early to figure out what works for you! I had GREAT luck with Osmo Nutrition pre-load last year. I drank a bottle of it the night prior to a big day and IM and another bottle of it the morning of. Not a single cramp and felt like I recovered much quicker with not as much soreness. I’ll be using that again as well as Osmo hydration. Even better: They make a line specially formulated for women’s physiology! My other go-tos include Picky Bars and Bonk Breakers. And, I’m also going to experiment with some homemade salt-filled goodies 🙂

    • I’ve looked at Osmo nutrition, Erin. My only concern is that I see whey protein listed as an ingredient. Being lactose intolerant, I’ve noticed when I have whey protein in my diet, I end up with a severely cramped gut. I have considered purchasing some of it and giving it a shot though. 😉

  6. Oh my goodness, this information is so good to know. Nutrition is one of those things that can be so particular for each person. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what is “best” for you, even though that can even change on race day. Good to know about taking in salt and not over hydrating! Have you thought about the day or two before the race and how this influences your performance? I am always worried about eating too much or too little. I’m definitely trying the Oreo thing – YUM!

    • Thanks Kristen!! I did take salt tablets the few days prior to race day and really watched my nutrition, but it all fell apart on race day. I will just keep experimenting this year and not make the same mistake again 😉

  7. I understand your nutrition planning. I am training for my first IM and plan to try lots of options to find out what works best. Two suggestions I will make is 1. PB filled pretzels (I buy the ones from Trader Joe’s or World Market) and 2. Potatoes. I have not yet tried the potatoes, but my husband used them in training and racing IM FL. He would buy the Del Monte canned new potatoe, store them in a ziploc and eat them on the bike (along with other typical nutrition options). That is one thing that worked for him that I see as an unusual suggestion, so I thought I would pass it along! Good luck!!!

    • Thanks for the tip Lee!! I will definitely be trying a variety of things this year and hopefully finding many options that work so I am not “stuck” when one might not work 🙂

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