Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why You Need to be the First One At the Race


 Racking one's bike very carefully. It has a big job in just a short while.


 In my mind, you're never early on race day. Maybe late, but never too early. You can't put a price on being as relaxed and in control as much as possible when the gun for your swim wave goes off.

 As you get more experienced, your habits become more efficient, transition set up is more easily accomplished and you have more time to scout out the area. If you don't have the quickest transitions in your age group, WHY NOT? And who does? You can literally shave minutes from your time. In my most recent race, the shortest total transition time in my age group - T1 plus T2 - was 2:30 (guess who), and the longest 5:59. That's 3 and a half needless minutes, an eternity when checking the race results after you've crossed the line! In the next couple of months I'll blog only about transitions, but you get the point. An early arrival allows for an adequate warm up in each of the disciplines without the feeling that you're hurrying. In my mind, particularly if you are an older athlete, this is the opportunity to really loosen up the shoulders and legs. Not only does your potential for an outstanding performance increase, the probability of injury diminishes...e.g. the common thread of this web site.

Not everyone agrees with this concept. In Kona, the gun for the pros swim start is 6:30 am,  females 6:35, and age groupers 7:00. But, if everyone looks set, the starter can release the age groupers as early as 6:55 am. Believe it or not, in what might be the most important athletic event of their lives, at 6:50 there are still people in the transition futzing around with their tires, or helmet straps, or gosh knows what! They've had months to get this done and this lack of preparedness will put them late in the water, late to the start, and perhaps spoil a major portion of the day. What the heck are they thinking?

 I have also used this pre-race time to learn. To learn from the other participants, where I appear casual in my inspection of their gear and transition area. As you might expect, those in age groups far different than mine are most eager to help. Those in my age group...less so (ahem).

 Lastly, would you rather eat or work out? If you said work out, that's the right answer. You're a real triathlete.   You can always eat. I was recently told that French children learn from an early age that, for them anyway, meals are multi course and paced. There's even a cheese course. That's true for us on occasion, but if you can get in a 4 mile run over lunch with a 3 minute shower, or maybe even just wipes, your log book will be smiling when you get home. And don't we all like happy log books?

Corolla and Breezy 037


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Is Chocolate Milk Best for Recovery? Maybe. Maybe Not.

Those of you who  read this blog regularly know that I've never been a fan of radical diets or adding 15 supplements to your training regimen, each guaranteed to a) Cut your run time, b) Make you recover more quickly, c) Give the strength of Adam Nelson, d) Reduce belly fat twelve ways, etc.  Simply stated, I believe it easy to market to a willing public, occasionally backed by minimal data, when the potential for making money is on the line.

It's like Las Vegas.  When you walk down the strip, on every corner there's some gent handing you a color brochure of "private dancers" or "adult entertainment."  When you walk around many tri race sites, how often have you been handed a drink sample, decal, info page, pill samples, etc.?  Think about it.

So, when the below appeared from Allan Phillips of Swimming Science, I thought sharing would be of benefit.  It's well thought out and fairly presented.  When you read it, or anything else, try to be even handed and not, like me sometimes, see only what I want to see.


Chocolate Milk for Recovery

In recent years chocolate milk has emerged as a popular recovery beverage for athletes.  Last year, USA Swimming partnered with milk in a marketing campaign with many elites making a pitch to the swimming community.  Popular science publications have also made the public aware of milk’s benefits, or at least its comparability (and perhaps superiority) to expensively engineered supplements and recovery drinks.

Chocolate milk, as a relatively natural product, offers many benefits compared to supplements and other manufactured products.  The most obvious is cost, as unlike most supplements, chocolate milk can be purchased inexpensively at place like the local gas station.  Another benefit is that you’re less likely to fail drug test (as Jessica Hardy reminds us).   Chocolate milk’s portability and accessibility also makes it a good accompaniment for breakfast after morning practice.

In this post, we’ll summarize the evidence behind chocolate milk as recovery nutrition and examine whether it is indeed superior to engineered drinks and recovery supplements. 

Karp (2006) studied nine male, endurance-trained cyclists and compared chocolate milk with a fluid replacement drink and carbohydrate replacement drink.  On three separate days, subjects performed an interval workout followed by 4 h of recovery, and a subsequent endurance trial to exhaustion at 70% VO2max.  Subjects ingested one of the three beverages on two occasions: immediately after the interval workout and two hours later. 

Results: Authors observed that time to exhaustion and work output were significantly greatest in the chocolate milk and fluid replacement trials compared to carbohydrate replacement. In a similar study, Thomas (2009) also studied nine cyclists in a nearly identical format and found that subjects cycled 51% and 43% longer after ingesting chocolate milk than after ingesting carbohydrate or fluid replacement.

Other studies have addressed the potential mechanisms affected by different recovery nutrition strategies, specifically creatine kinase levels post-exercise.  Pritchett (2011) studied competitive cyclists and triathletes in a cycling experiment comparing chocolate milk with a commercial carbohydrate beverage during recovery between two high-intensity exercise bouts.  Exercise was separated by 15-18 hours.  In comparing creatine kinase levels post-exercise, authors found “no difference between chocolate milk and this commercial beverage as potential recovery aids for cyclists between intense workouts.”

In a field study on soccer players, Spaccarotella (2011) studied thirteen division III players (5M, 8F) during their preseason, which included both morning and afternoon sessions.  Players completed a max shuttle run test after the afternoon practice.  Authors found no difference in finish time comparing carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage with low fat chocolate milk, but among men there was difference in time to fatigue.   

Gibson (2010) tested a more expansive battery with soccer players but did so after a four day intensive training block.  Subjects were given a high carbohydrate recovery beverage or chocolate milk after training.  During follow up, there were no differences in myoglobin, muscle soreness, fatigue, or maximum isometric force, nor was there any difference in performance testing.  However, chocolate milk was correlated with lower creatine kinase levels.  

Overall, the evidence shows that chocolate milk is at least comparable, if not superior to high-carbohydrate recovery options.  However, more research is needed to compare chocolate milk with other products containing a similar nutrient balance.  There's reason to believe a combination of whey protein with dextrose may proven superior to chocolate milk, but the head-to-head research comparison is lacking.  The only recently published head-to-head comparison between chocolate milk and a protein supplement was from an undergraduate study in which authors failed to match the doses provided to subjects.  Most of the existing research compares chocolate milk to high carbohydrate drinks and foods.  It is still possible that future research will find more definitive answers, though critical thinking can help fill those gaps (See The Benefits of PeriWorkout Nutrition). 

One thing we do learn from chocolate milk research is the importance of including carbohydrates, protein, and fat in recovery nutrition.  Certainly each commercial manufacturer will proclaim their engineered product is different and superior, which might or might not be true.  Yet remember in the “real world,” compliance is a major issue.  Accessibility means that chocolate milk increases the odds that swimmers will ingest recovery nutrition post-workout. 



  1. Spaccarotella KJ, Andzel WD.  The effects of low fat chocolate milk on postexercise recovery in collegiate athletes.  J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):3456-60. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182163071.

  2. Pritchett K, Bishop P, Pritchett R, Green M, Katica C.  Acute effects of chocolate milk and a commercial recovery beverage on postexercise recovery indices and endurance cycling performance.  Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Dec;34(6):1017-22. doi: 10.1139/H09-104.

  3. Gilson SF, Saunders MJ, Moran CW, Moore RW, Womack CJ, Todd MK.  Effects of chocolate milk consumption on markers of muscle recovery following soccer training: a randomized cross-over study.  J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 May 18;7:19. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-19.

  4. Karp JR, Johnston JD, Tecklenburg S, Mickleborough TD, Fly AD, Stager JM.  Chocolate milk as a post-exercise recovery aid.  Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Feb;16(1):78-91.

  5. Thomas K, Morris P, Stevenson E.  Improved endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with 2 commercially available sport drinks.  Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Feb;34(1):78-82. doi: 10.1139/H08-137.

By Allan Phillips. Allan and his wife Katherine are heavily involved in the strength and conditioning community, for more information refer to Pike Athletics.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Kona in 60 Days- I'm Getting Excited!

 Again this year, I'll be writing a daily post for the good folks at from Mile Post Zero on Alii Drive.  The start/finish line of the Ironman World Championship.  Ground zero of this event is the fishing pier in Kailua-Kona which, for 51 weeks a year, serves fishing boats and tourists.  But the second week in October brings IRONMAN!!  This was my first entry rom 2012. 

From the Pier: Sunday, October 7

An IRONMAN veteran's first observations of an evolving island town


by John Post



Kailua-Kona pier, HI
8 a.m., Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone

A fishing pier, in a quiet American town. Cruise ship tenders come and go spewing wide-eyed tourists eager to learn about the local geography, shopping opportunities, and food specialties, This could be anywhere, right? But it’s not. What these fresh-faced visitors to the Big Island of Hawaii might not realize is that in just six days, this pier will be transformed into the transition area for the biggest triathlon of them all, the IRONMAN World Championship. Very shortly, this small seaside town will be teeming with swimmers, runners, and bikers, becoming a new home for thousands of newcomers awaiting the coronation of the 2012 king and queen of Kona.

About this time each year, thousands of triathletes and their support crews descend on this sleepy town on the West coast of the Big Island to test their mettle. IRONMAN makes a significant contribution to the overall tourism industry that powers the town's economy. How many visitors—after just a few days in the Kona sunshine, sparkling clear waters of the Pacific, and warmth of its inhabitants—don’t at least wonder what it would be like to live here?

The IRONMAN is coming! Soon.

Above left: Quiet today, the Kona pier will be action central of the triathlon world before long. Some 1800 of the sport's finest bicycles will be racked here by 5:30 Friday night in anticipation of the 6:30 a.m. cannon blast.

Above right: 


This is famed “Dig Me” beach, a term credited to former two-time World Champion Scott Tinley. Many an IRONMAN athlete has left their footprints here before being tested in the clear Kona waters.




John Post is a six-time IRONMAN World Championship finisher, having done one of the first races on the Big Island in 1982. He serves as the medical advisor for Training Bible Coaching and The Rock Star Triathlete Academy. Read more of his work on his blog, and stay tuned for these daily "From the Pier" posts during race week.

Originally from:


Monday, August 5, 2013

Unforeseen Race Complications: Are You Prepared

Do you think, when this athlete was topping off the air in his tires this morning, that he thought, "You know, I'm sure glad I'm the the type of racer who never gets penalized..." I wonder if he was prepared for this.


They carried a man off the race course on a stretcher. I heard that he just collapsed on the run;maybe it was the heat – a low of 75 degrees last night. And the sun came up well before the first athlete was body marked or the transition area opened to further push the mercury toward inferno status… from a racing point of view anyway. You know, one of those days when the heat simply blasts you when it radiates off the asphalt. It’s a good thing most of were wearing hats and could put ice in them at the aid stations. As we watched them load him into the ambulance, we hoped it wasn’t something serious.

 Plan “B.” Everyone needs one. You arrive at the race course and – SURPRISE – no wetsuits for the swim (like happened to us today.) Or – SURPRISE – the expected temperature is 15 -20 degrees higher than where you live and train. This happened at the Boston Marathon a few years ago where runners were just finishing a winter of snow running and an unexpected heat wave brought temps in to the mid 80’s. They were dropping like flies. There were so many people with heat related problems that the enormous armory-like building they use at the finish line with cots as far as you can see, was simply overflowing with “bodies.”

 All too often, racers just plow ahead “business as usual,” and if they’re lucky, only have a poor performance. They wonder why, despite ample beverage at the post-race party and more on the way home, they still don’t pee for hours. There’s a take home lesson here.

 There can be course changes, weather curve balls, rightly or wrongly you get penalized, alterations to the order of events, unintentionally getting kicked in the stomach, or face –hard- on the swim just to name a few things that cause us to re-evaluate our original race plan. How about a flat tire? But, if we’re to survive and do our best on that particular day, flexible we must be. Despite one’s physical suffering, always try to remind yourself that everyone has the same course to ride and run on and just maybe you can do it just a little better than they do. In the immortal words of that famous rock group of the 60’s, Pacific Gas and Electric, “Are You Ready?”

Be prepared (the Boy Scouts were right)

Be flexible

Know when you’ve reached your limit and it’s time for Plan “B

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Triathlon Ocean Swims; Jellyfish and More

"The guy sure looks like plant food to me." Audrey II, Little Shop of Horrors

 I can't tell you how many times I've been "nipped" by jellyfish during an open water ocean swim.  More than 20 times I'd bet.  Kona, Boston, Chesapeake Bay, Florida, SC, come to mind quickly.  Many of us have run into a jellyfish or two either training or racing in ocean water. More of an inconvenience than anything for most of us, some poor souls have a more significant reaction. I received a note from an athlete a while back who stated a jellyfish sting allergy and she wondered about the legality of wetsuits in an important ocean swim she has in her future, I suppose thinking the wetsuit a shield of sorts.  Triathletes understand the significant differences between events held in a pool or lake and those in sea water.  Currents, waves, sighting,  etc., all are a little different and the triathlete who shows up event morning for their first effort trying to race in an ocean environment is not only stupid but risks both success and physical harm.  It's one of those times where the old adage of practice makes perfect has never been more true.

Well, our athlete in question's race is the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii where wetsuits are not permitted. I've been stung in Kailua Bay a number of times, but it's always more like little needles that hurt/itch a little that day and then, like most of us anyway, it's gone. I've never even seen the ones that got me. If you're lucky, and looking ahead while you swim, which I know most of us don't do, and there's a big Portuguese man-o-war ahead, you can try and swim around it. Remember, it's tentacles can be 5-8 feet in length and have 100's of stinging cells on each. It's not uncommon after a stinging that some swimmers experience nausea, headache, muscle pain, etc., and after the initial welts subside a few are left with permanent scars.

In some locations, primarily around Australia, some jellyfish stings are so powerful that those who encounter them may need hospitalization with intravenous anti venom without which they suffer respiratory failure and and die.

So, if this summer you are stung by one, first (with gloves) peel off any left over tentacles and apply vinegar, straight from the kitchen. More involved stings may require medical attention and support from a cardiopulmonary perspective. And, always be aware of the signs of an allergic reaction - difficulty swallowing/breathing/swelling of hands, face or tongue, etc.

And how do we advise our lady with jellyfish allergy? Well, first, I told her to contact the race director and race medical team well before the event. I'm assuming that this has already been thoroughly worked up by a board certified Allergy Specialist.  The race medical guys need to know of the possibilities here. Second, there's a high likelihood that she can be "premedicated" before the race such that should a stinging event occur that she's covered. Sadly, in this day and age, I wouldn't be surprised if a special legal document isn't drawn up for her signature noting the risks she faces and accepts. Hey, it's 2013.

But, the take home here is that most of, when hit by that odd jelly or two in our morning swim, simply complain about it at breakfast - maybe lunch, a little - and then it's chalked up to triathlon experience.  They might even brag about it one day.