Quest For Ironman Part 5: I Was Wrong

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Eating To Win, Eating To Live. A collection of heart-healthy recipes that fuels Ironman training. Also some pre-race thoughts before Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

I Was Wrong

I need to set some things right in this opening paragraph. My last article contained an opinion of mine that in the end it was my belief in myself and not other's belief in me that would carry me through the Ironman event. I stand corrected. Many people I trust and respect have come forward to wish me well and share their confidence in me and my ability to finish the Ironman Coeur d'Alene, and I have to say it's had a dramatic effect on me. I now know my earlier statement was incorrect. I'm going on record to say I don't stand alone, I'm not an island, and I'm not an "army of one." What I am is a very nervous triathlete who's about to attempt the most physically challenging day of his athletic career, and if I faced it alone I would have a hard time of it. All of your blog inspires have gone to my heart and mind, and all the cheers and whistles I'll hear on the course will be needed as well. Now that that’s in the books, let's talk about diet.

Eating To Win, Eating To Live

As a former heart patient, diet is crucial to my health. “Eat and train as if your life depends on it” is my mantra. Up until this week--week nineteen of the 20 week Ironman training course found in the BT training plans section--my fat intake has been between 15-20g a day, and my total sodium intake is less then 1500mg daily to keep my blood pressure under the pre-hypertension level. I’ve increased both as the event draws near to make sure I eat enough, and store enough carbs, sodium, and fats to have ample reserves come race day.


The last time I had my blood pressure checked at my doctor’s office, about three weeks ago, it was 100 over 70. I was ecstatic at the reading since I don’t take any medication for blood pressure. I also limit red meat to two or three times in a two week period now while consuming fish three times a week, and chicken or turkey about the same. I still love red meat, and could eat it daily but have committed myself to lead by example and set higher standards of health, fitness, and personal accomplishment never before reached by another heart patient. I’m trying to expand the life-circle or post-surgery world of heart patients who may only wish to return to digging in their garden, but are afraid of doing too much.

Recipes for Health

I make a vegetable juice that consists of 6-7 carrots, 2-3 stalks of celery, a handful of spinach leaves, and a clove of garlic. I call it “Super Juice,” and drink it daily. It’s a great way to consume veggies and anti-oxidants and I highly recommend it. If you were to consult the Mediterranean Diet pyramid you would have a handle on the importance of food groups and see that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains make up the lowest, widest layers of the pyramid. I’d like to share a few tried-and-true recipes that have helped me stay lean while at the same time fuel many an Ironman distance workout. But first let me establish what I consider to be my foundation foods, or things I always have on hand. Salmon, frozen chicken breasts, frozen turkey burgers, eggs, extra lean ground beef, and round steak or roast make up my protein sources and are listed in order of importance to me. I make sure to have these items on hand at all times, but I also consider beans, seeds, almonds, walnuts, and Adam’s 100% Natural Peanut Butter excellent protein sources. Fresh sliced turkey for sandwiches should be added to your list too, as well as low-fat turkey kielbasa sausage.

Oatmeal is something I consume daily, both for its cholesterol lowering properties and its complex carbohydrate content. Sweet potatoes, or yams, are high on my list of quality carbs, as are fresh tomatoes and green, orange, and red vegetables. Farm fresh foods are not always possible, that’s why I keep frozen broccoli, canned green beans, and sometimes corn in my cupboard. I say farm fresh because the area where I live is dotted with farms and farm fresh produce outlets, and in the spring and summer months I shop there as opposed to purchasing store-bought items. I enjoy riding my bike out to the farm to shop. We also grow our own produce in a backyard garden. Fruit such as apples, bananas, strawberries, frozen blueberries, raisins and pears are also on the list of must have food.

Brown rice, whole wheat pasta and breads, wheat germ, ground flax seed, and fresh bagels help fill in my carbohydrate needs in the whole grain category, although ground flax seed falls into the seed and nut classification. I use my coffee grinder for the flax seed, and it comes out almost like a powder that is easily added to almost any dish or recipe. It contains Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils. I also buy Krusteaz whole wheat pancake mix, and when I mix up batter I sprinkle wheat germ and ground flax seed into it and throw in some frozen blueberries too.

Olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning, vanilla, cinnamon, celery seed, onion powder or dried onion flakes make up my spice cupboard. Because I normally watch my sodium intake very carefully, I opt for the powder versions of spices instead of salts. You probably have your favorite spices too, so permission granted to keep them on hand.



One half cup dry Oatmeal, tsp. each of wheat germ and ground flax seed, Tbsp. each of raisins, frozen blueberries, and a handful of either walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds. I sprinkle cinnamon on top and add a dash of vanilla. I’m used to eating this cold so I mix it up in the morning and take it to work with me to eat at lunch time. On my long ride days I’ll get up two hours before I intend to leave and eat this for a nice carbohydrate breakfast, using hot water as opposed to cooking it or zapping it in the microwave oven. Throw in a glass of grape juice and a lo-fat cream cheese topped whole wheat bagel, and you’re fueled to ride for hours. Just don’t forget those gel packs.

Peri Peri Marinade spice mix

This stuff is very hot and spicy, and when mixed with olive oil and lemon juice makes an excellent marinade. Add 1 Tbsp. each cayenne pepper and paprika, 1 tsp. each salt, garlic powder, and black pepper, and 4 Tbsp. each olive oil and lemon juice. This makes up the marinade, but what I usually do is quadruple the dry ingredients and keep it in an old spice container to use in recipes. I only add the oil and lemon juice if I’m specifically after the marinade. Sprinkle it on salmon, steak or burgers, chicken, or even to season brown rice. It’s very versatile.

Squirrel Rub

1/4 cup each salt, paprika, and brown sugar, 1 Tbsp.each garlic powder and dried onion flakes, 1/2 tsp. each cayenne pepper and celery seed, 3 pepper. Use this rub on any meats, fish, or fowl, or even when making brown rice as I do.

Brown rice

Pour equal parts chicken broth and water into your pot. A can of broth is usually fourteen ounces, so add it plus fourteen ounces of water. Add half as much rice, in this case fourteen ounces, to the broth and water. Next, pour olive oil into the water and allow it to dot nearly the entire surface of the water. The oil will keep the rice moist and tender after cooking. At this point I usually add some of the above listed spices, or I’ll specifically use Peri Peri spice or Squirrel Rub depending on what I want the rice to taste like. Feel free to experiment with it. Next I’ll usually add sliced olives, pine nuts or sun flower seeds, and sun-dried tomatoes. Just experiment to taste and have fun with it.

Chicken Stew

This is a very simple recipe for a hot meal after a cold bike ride or run training session. Grab a pot and pour in a can or two of chicken broth and equal parts water. Set the burner on medium heat and add some carrots, celery, red potatoes, and any other veggie you have in your refrigerator. While this is heating up select a sauce pan big enough for 2-3 frozen chicken breasts, add water and chicken, and place on high heat. As the water starts to bubble you can flip the chicken over a few times until all pink spots disappear. Next, remove chicken from heat and cut it up into bite size pieces and add it to the stew pot. When you can put a fork right through the potatoes it’s done. Add pepper and garlic powder to taste. Another version of this is to boil the chicken first and use a crock pot for the broth and veggies. By the time your four hour ride is done it will be ready and waiting for you.

Jeff’s Potato Salad

This recipe is based on a Greek potato salad recipe I modified to make my own, and contains no eggs or mustard. You’ll need 5 pounds of red potatoes, 4 stalks of celery, 6 dill pickles, 1 red onion, 1 bunch of cilantro or Italian parsley, 16oz. low-fat mayonnaise, and pepper and garlic powder. These quantities are for the full blown recipe and will feed a large backyard B.B.Q. so feel free to cut it in half. While the potatoes are boiling chop and dice the other ingredients and put them in a large bowl and mix in the mayo. Add pepper and garlic powder until you can see plenty of both on top. Keep stirring this mix until you can’t see the pepper and garlic powder and then sprinkle on some more. When you can run a fork through the potatoes take them off the heat. For best results you should let the potatoes cool in the refrigerator overnight but letting cold water run on them for a while also works. Cut up the potatoes and mix them with everything else and once again add pepper and garlic powder. Now take it to the party!

Salmon Marinade

I use Smart Balance spread for toast and other butter uses, and when I make salmon I add it to my marinade. I line a glass baking dish or cookie sheet with foil and place the salmon fillet on it. I pour a liberal amount of olive oil over the salmon and sprinkle lemon juice over the length of the fillet. Next, I place a number of small dollops of Smart Balance along the fillet, season it with pepper and garlic powder, or use the Squirrel Rub or Peri Peri dry mix for seasoning, add some tomato slices or green beans, and cover it all with more foil making sure to fold to bottom piece of foil up and over to seal in the juices. Broil it for about twenty minutes or until done.

Pear Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
I love this recipe, and since sweet potatoes are full of Beta-Carotene and carbohydrates they taste even better. You'll need two yams or sweet potatoes, each about the size of your foot. You'll also need a ripe pear about the size of your fist, and by ripe I mean semi-soft to the touch. I've found the quickest, easiest way to cook the sweets is in the microwave. Leave them whole but stick a fork in them in several places before cooking. You should cook one at a time for about 8-9 minutes or until your fork slides right into them. Repeat for the second potato.


While this is happening, put a sauce pan on medium heat and pour some extra virgin olive oil into the bottom of the pan. While the oil is heating, peel and core the pear and then mash it up in a bowl. The oil should be ready by now so pour the pear in the sauce pan and add 1 tsp of cinnamon and nutmeg and about 1/4 cup brown sugar. Stir this mixture until the sugar is melted and everything thickens. Remove from heat and set aside while you work on the sweet potatoes. Cut the potatoes in half- length wise and scoop out the middle and put it in a bowl. If the skins are intact you'll use them again, if not toss them. Pour the pears and oil into the bowl with the potatoes and mix it together throughly. If you're able to salvage the skins pour or spoon the mix back into them but if the skins have been compromised you'll just have to spoon it out of the bowl and onto your plate. I really like eating this and feel like making some right now.

Mediterranean Diet

These are just a few of the foods and recipes that make up my heart healthy diet, and I encourage you to check out the Mediterranean Diet for a diet rich in complex carbohydrates and low fat foods. I do eat cereal for breakfast, usually lo-fat granola, Kellogg’s Red Berries, Honey Nut Shredded Wheat, or a combo of each with non-fat milk and some peanut butter and whole wheat toast. Oroweat makes a 100% whole wheat bread that’s just 40 calories a slice called Oroweat Lite Whole Wheat bread. Just remember “fresh is best,” and look for lo-fat alternatives to what you normally buy. Eating this way has kept my total cholesterol under 125 and helps me maintain desirable HDL and LDL levels. I've gotten used to eating anything for breakfast, lunch, or dinner regardless of when it's normally eaten. I'll heat up some salmon, rice, and vegetables for breakfast, or even have pancakes for dinner. Anyway, Bon appetit!

Nineteen Week Recap

As I stated at the beginning of this series of articles, my plan was to write an article for every five weeks of training, write one article on my last four weeks prior to the Ironman Coeur d’Alene, and one article on the last week of taper and the event itself. To be fair to the BT plan I used, I have to be honest and say I was not in HIM shape to begin with. The plan specifics were to go from HIM to IM in twenty weeks and because I suffered an IT band injury in September of 2006, I couldn’t run for a month, which seriously cut into my ability to maintain the shape I was in. By January of 2007 I was still attempting to rebuild what I’d lost, so consequently I wasn’t where I need to be prior to the start of the program. I feel that the twenty week course provides everything you need physically to complete an Ironman, provided you’re in something close to HIM condition, and with proper nutrition you should go into the event confident you’ll be able to finish it standing.

I was very anxious to begin tapering for the Ironman because I felt like I’d reached my training saturation point. Toward the end of the Ironman training plan most days contained two workouts that totaled several hours and had me up at 4 AM to train before work and pulling in at 5 or 6 PM after my afternoon workout. I spent a lot of time away from my family, but saw no other options. And of course, weekends were reserved for six and seven hour bike rides, or ninety minutes of swimming followed by two and a half hours of running. I found that the work thing got in the way a lot, and wished I were of elite caliber and tris were my job, so I’d be able to train in the morning and afternoon with a nap or some down time in between. But someone has to pay the bills, so until slower middle-aged men are considered elite, I’ll just have to keep my day job and train around it.

BT Buddies

I’ve kept in contact with many BT members during this time of extensive training, most notably Sue7013, Captaintony, ADollar79, Leopard8996, Boglecda, KathyG and Nightowl. Sue (IFD) was invaluable to me and provided detailed answers to all my Ironman questions based upon her experience at IMFL. Plus, she’s the queen of BT inspiration as far as I’m concerned. Doug (Captaintony) Andrew (Adollar79) Bonnie (Leopard8996) and Bryan (Boglecda) are registered for IMCDA, and we’ve shared information and concerns for weeks now. Bonnie gave me much needed nutritional information when I was in a panic about what to fuel my long rides with. I can’t wait to meet up with them and put faces to their names. Special thanks go to Ron for allowing me to post my articles and for providing a link to my website and book. rocks! Well there's nothing left to do but show up and suit up, so until we meet again, good luck to all of you at IMCDA!


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date: July 10, 2007


I love my family, football, tri training and racing, seeing heart patients smile when I share my story with them . . .


I love my family, football, tri training and racing, seeing heart patients smile when I share my story with them . . .

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