February 2009 Triathlon Training Chat with Coach AJ

author : Coach AJ
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Discussions on wide feet, Ironman nutrition and it's importance, the use of fins in swimming, transition mistakes, special needs bags and running sockless.

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[TriAya] If you have ridiculously wide feet, is it okay to cut out part of the side of the running shoe so your feet don't squish? I've tried lacing, I have inserts, everything ...

[Coach AJ] I would suggest talking to a podiatrist first. But barring that, do what you have to do in order to keep your feet comfortable! I too have wide feet, and certain models work much better than others. I don't know of any custom running shoes out there. I think runners/triathletes need to do more research about the shoes they buy. Too many athletes see the new shoe, or others racing a certain shoe. It may work for you, but may not! If you trust the store knows what it's doing, yeah. Some running stores have very qualified people, others just sales folks.

[TriAya] Okay, so to a broader subject: how important, really, is nutrition in an Ironman? I kind of have an iron stomach and on long runs and bikes have eaten whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it--Uncrustables, Gu, banana, Gatorade Endurance--and have never had stomach upset.

[Coach AJ] Nutrition is the single most important element of an IM. I have seen the fittest athletes in the world come undone due to bad nutrition. I too have a pretty iron gut, but on race day it seems to be a bit more finicky. I've done 13 IM's and each one has been different nutritionally. Sometimes I've craved salt, other times a gel. Don't just have a single nutrition plan, have several so you know what to do if X happens. It's trial and error unfortunately.

[TriAya] Have you found that what you craved was what you really needed?

[Coach AJ] Yes, your body will tell you what it needs, listen. This is true in training as well. When you are tired, rest! We are obsessed with high workloads, not proper workloads. It's what I call the Rocky Syndrome.

[Socks] So, what do you think about fins? I recently started going to a masters program and they use fins a LOT which s very different for me.

[Coach AJ] Fins are fine with me. As with any training tool, you don't want them to become a crutch. Use them during masters, but when you swim on your own, kick without them.  A good kick is underrated. It helps with body position and helps to keep your hip flexors open.

[Socks] I read an article that said the key is to do the least amount of training needed to perform your best.

[Coach AJ] Absolutely! Doing more is not a guarantee of success. I hate to say it, but lots of hard work and hours is no guarantee. I could work super hard on my run, but if my bike and swim stink, I'm not going to finish well.

[TriAya] Curious ... have you ever heard anybody say, "I wasted myself on the bike because I kicked too much on the swim?"

[Coach AJ] No, but I have heard of people cramping up or having bike issues due to poor hip flexor flexibility.

[ejc999] I've been participating in the mentor program here on BT. We've been discussing transitions. What is the biggest mistake you see beginners make in transitions?

[Coach AJ] Not knowing where their bike is! In the bigger races I've seen so many athletes frantically looking for their ride. Also, not having their gear laid out in an orderly fashion. You can do things in any order, helmet, sunglasses, etc, but have a plan.  Also remember than you can save time in transition by doing things on the fly. For IM I have my gels in my helmet, than as I run to my bike I tuck the gels in my singlet and slide on my helmet.

[ejc999] I think they bring too much stuff - water buckets, stools, big towels, 4 changes of clothes.

[Coach AJ] Yeah, keep it simple and don't lay stuff out like your at the beach. The less you have, the less things to go wrong.  Hey, we've all seen it or been next to that athlete that has decided to bring their garage.

[Socks] I have come to the conclusion (especially at an IM) that people are so scared of the fact that they are going to have pain and discomfort that they try to plan for so much to keep away the inevitable and bring their entire house with them.

[joemac3] What do you bring to a race?  Aside from the obvious for a HIM or Full IM?

[Coach AJ] Depends on the distance. Usually no more than shoes, shades, helmet, gels, number belt and hat. On occasion I've had a can of FRS there for a sip going out for the run. For me, there's no magic bullet. With IM and HIM there is so much available on the course and in the special needs that you shouldn't need a whole bunch of gear in transition. That said, if there is an item that you have to have that may take time to put on, but will save you out on the course, use it. Going sockless may save seconds in T2, but can cost you minutes if you get blisters.

[jldicarlo] Is there a way to "train" your feet to survive sockless? I can't do an Oly without socks but I'd REALLY like to be able to.

[Coach AJ] Just run more without them in training. If your feet don't respond to that, then socks are just a must for you. Why do you want to do an Oly w/o socks?

[jldicarlo] I ride without socks....and it always feels like it takes me forever to put them on in T2....so I'd rather try to do it without.....save that extra minute.

[Coach AJ] Some of the new shoes are designed for use without socks, but they won't work for everyone.

[joemac3] I have done a sprint with and without socks (love my Zoot Tempos) but I do get blisters after about 3 miles (only in one spot) so socks for the long stuff is a must.

[Coach AJ] You can try things like Vaseline, Moleskin and Bandaids as a preventive method.  The Bandaids/Moleskin have a tendency to come off or shift around though. Socks are your best bet!!!  Blisters are a part of the sport, especially in IM. Watch for a canted road surface. This can lead to your feet slipping around in your shoe.

[Socks] I had major blister problems for YEARS and Wright socks solved the problem.

[jldicarlo] I Aquaphored my feet before putting socks on for my IM...and that worked like a CHAMP!!!!!


[joemac3] As for the special needs bag I am not clear as to what it is but I am sure I need to find out. I ask because I have my first HIM in 2 months and first IM in August and I don't want to be unprepared but I don't want to carry 3 whole bags worth of stuff to the transition zone either.

[Coach AJ] There is no special needs bag for HIM. For IM, you will get  2 bags, 1 for the bike and 1 for the run. These bags will be handed to you by volunteers at approx. the 1/2 way point of the bike and run. You can put whatever you like in those bags. A PBJ, a Coke, an extra CO2, sunscreen. It's designed to give you a chance to have your own personal aid station.  I've hear of all sorts of stuff in special needs bags. Cookies, hamburgers, chicken broth...you name it. For the run, pretzels are good for another salt source. Gummy bears, jelly beans, cookies are all good. Make sure you try all nutrition during a long IM simulation day. No surprises on race day.

[Coach AJ] Calories I could care less about. It's the sugar that makes your body start to burn carbs rather than fat. Fat free items are loaded with sugar, and that keeps your body burning carbs rather than fat. If you cut out sugar your body will learn to utilize fat as an energy source, which has much more potential energy than carbs.

[chirunner134] Sugars or high carb items?

[Coach AJ]
Both. As we know, there are different types of carbs and both are needed. But the American diet is high on sweets. For most, an apple or orange isn't sweet enough since they are used to breads, soda and candy. Back off the sugar stuff then go buy good quality berries. Nothing is a good as a ripe raspberry or blueberry! Sure there is sugar withdrawal. You may notice you feel more tired and sluggish. But stick it out and you will be happy in the end!

[Coach AJ] Low fat is best. Again, we all know about the good fats of avocados, olive oil, etc. Those are fine. Experiment with your daily diet. Try Old Fashion Oats rather than quick oats. Try quinoa or barley rather than rice or pasta. Up your veggies and fruits. Everyone is different.


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date: March 4, 2009

Coach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

avatarCoach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

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