Here. We. Go.!
The woman who won Ironman World Championships last year, Daniela Ryf, had a time of 8:57. My first ironman took me nearly 15 1/2 hours. Not exactly the time you’d glance at and think, ‘that girl is going to Kona’! My first marathon, over 6 hours long, was equally not exactly demonstrative of the stuff champions are made of. But those times, are, in fact, my very own. When I first began racing triathlon, back in 1998, my goal was simply to complete the sprint distance event I’d chosen to do to test the waters in Catalina. I had just turned 24, I had an 80 pound Schwinn I’d purchased from Sears and I forgot to take my helmet off after I finished cycling and ran the whole 5k with it on! And while one might argue that everyone who is new to any sport is bound to make mistakes, for me, it wasn’t just a matter of not knowing that I needed to get my bike fit to suit my body or that many of the training plans I’d read in magazines were far too generic. I had a bigger, more personal issue I was dealing with and it went back far before I’d ever even heard of triathlon. You may have read my story before, in which I detail how, from a very young age I’d dealt with stomach issues. Even though I was raised by a hippie mom (dad followed along, too ) who prepared and fed me home cooked, natural food, which on the outside looking in would have appeared far healthier than what the typical American kid eats, unbeknownst to me, I was creating gut dysfunction by eating gluten, dairy and soy. I just lived with it as I grew up and just about at the very same time the GI distress I’d experienced on a daily basis went from bad to worse, around my early twenties, I was just tapping into the sport which I’d come to fall in love with and continue to participate in to this day. When I first started racing, the message was (and still largely is today), that endurance athletes need to get their carbs in. Some coaches even go so far as to recommend that the source is unimportant, and the key is just to get the calories in and I’ve seen many an athlete with my own eyes take this advice to the hilt, relying on cola, candy, cookies.. you name it, to get through a workout. This is precisely why, even after I first stumbled upon a website back in 2004 which mentioned something about a gluten free diet being indicated even for those who don’t have celiac, but just a sensitivity, I still thought I needed gluten-free versions of what is essentially still refined, highly processed carbohydrate. Keep in mind that my foray into gluten free living came at my wit’s end, after the very last GI specialist I saw, who ran the tTG-IgA test that came back negative, suggested I not cut out foods containing gluten, as those were the very foods that would provide the best sources of B vitamins and fiber, before he sent me home with a prescription for Prozac. No joke. Against his recommendations, I cut out gluten and felt remarkable improvement within days. Yet due to the fact that I was still eating that carb-heavy diet (which still included soy, gluten-free grains and dairy), while I felt better, I still felt sluggish. I still wasn’t lean and my performance was still average at best. It would be another year before I’d go back online and then have the good fortune to stumble upon the website of Dr. Loren Cordain. I read The Paleo Diet. It just made so much sense! And I read The Paleo Diet for Athletes, which Dr. Cordain co-authored with Joe Friel. In a word: life changing. I wrote to Dr. Cordain simply to thank him for his work, never expecting to hear back from him. He invited me to contribute to his newsletter after seeing my blog and later, to help develop an implementation program and in 2010, to collaborate on the recipe portion of The Paleo Diet Cookbook. Needless to say, it was, and continues to be an honor to have learned about his work, met and work with him and do my part in sharing the knowledge I’ve learned from him with clients, blog readers and guests of my workshops and retreats. With the implementation of what I learned from both books (it would be a nearly a decade before I’d have the opportunity to meet with Joe, when we both delivered keynote speeches at a symposium in Hamburg Germany), a solid coaching plan, learning all I could about mental focus and the support of my husband, also an elite age group athlete, I was able to transition from the average age group athlete to being able to regularly finish on the podium and compete seven times at Ironman World Championships in Kona. I’m skipping details here, but read on and you’ll see why. It dawned on me, that I’d never chronicled this or any of the builds I did leading up to what’s often referred to as the Big Show. So, when approached with the idea to do just that, by the folks who I liaise with for the newsletter at The Paleo Diet, I realized it’d be a great opportunity. Over these next several weeks, it’s my hope that with a glimpse into training, eating, resting and all the rest of it, you’ll take away that extra boost you may have needed to try something you may not have thought you could do. Of course, I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to race triathlon, but to take a good hard look inside and ask yourself if whether or not you’re not engaging in the physical activity you’d like to be engaging in. I’ll back up just a moment and share what it was that took me from doing a sprint to deciding to attempt my first ironman, back in 2001. Not too long after a friend of mine asked if I’d ever race Ironman and I assured her, I never could. I had gone to watch another friend race Ironman California, 2000. Back then it was a full ironman. She finished and after she crossed the finish line, I hung around, awe-struck. It was exciting to see all the finishers, from elite to mid-pack, but it was something else that struck me. An athlete with a prosthetic leg. Another in a hand cycle. Another who was blind, tethered to another athlete as his guide. And a man in the 70-74 age group! And there I was, mid twenties, with a body that worked, not engaging because I didn’t think I could! Reality check: we only have one body. And we can choose what we want to do with it, and how we want to treat it. So what I took away from that, is my hope that anyone reading these posts will take away. Find your inspiration, whatever that may be, from ironman to hula-hooping (the exercise of choice of one of my clients, after she racked her brain for months trying to think of an activity that sounded fun!) and do it. As I’ve said many times before, Eat Food.. and Move! I am exited to have you join me on my journey as I prepare for my 8th trip to Worlds! And let’s make this interactive! Send me your questions, comments…tell me what you want to know. If I can help, that’s what this is all about!