Roch Frey and Paul Huddle answer age-groupers' burning questions

Credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport
Dear Coaches, Within the past year I have lost 70 pounds through proper diet and working out five days a week. One of my dreams is to compete in the Hawaiian Ironman, hopefully in 2001. I've been working with a trainer for the last 10 months to get my body ready for a small triathlon (just to test the waters).

I want to compete in Hawaii, but I don't know how to prepare for it. It isn't so much the swimming, biking and running that I am concerned about, but more the nutrition. I have no clue about how to properly feed my body. The only thing I am certain of is that I need to eat in order to fuel my body and keep up with my training. Could you give me some advice to prepare for a race of this magnitude?

Also, I am wondering how someone affords to compete in a triathlon?

Derek Meyers
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Derek, You lost 70 pounds in 10 months?! Congratulations, and keep up the great work!

So, youre getting healthier and are about to compete in your first triathlon (and living in Halifax to boot!). Thats nice. But why do you want to go throw it all away by doing an Ironman?! Be careful what you wish for . . .

Were not telling you that you shouldnt do an Ironman race, but weve both been involved with too many athletes who do an Ironman in their first year of competition and then quit the sport entirely. Youre on the right track with your first sprint race this summer and could, perhaps, follow it up with an Olympic-distance event by the end of the season. After this, one or two more seasons of doing sprint- to Ironman-distance events is a logical progression that might lead to your first Ironman.

As inspiring as the distance can be, dont get caught in the trap of having to do an Ironman too early in your triathlon career and at the expense of keeping a healthy lifestyle activity going. Too many athletes do this to justify their triathlon identity when theyre quite happy doing shorter distances. Its a big commitment in time and energy (not to mention money) and can lead to diminishing returns with regard to health and lifestyle.

That said (and, if you knew us, youd know that we are Ironman fanatics), preparing for and doing an Ironman can be one of the most rewarding experiences in all of sport. As amazing as the act of finishing is, if youve ever seen one of these events or met some of the participants, you know that it doesnt have to be an all-consuming process. Take your time and enjoy being a triathlete for a while before you make that next step. Not only will you be more likely to stick around a bit longer, but youll probably appreciate the experience even more.

As you may or may not be able to tell, our goal is to get you to do as many Ironman races as possible. If you take a more gradual approach, youll be more inclined to do just that.

As far as nutrition goes, two words: variety and moderation. Were not dieticians, and if we were, wed be writing books on losing weight and asking you for advice. Were beginning to get a little on the heavy side Roch looks like hes in his second trimester and in addition to his now consistent love handles, Huddle has developed quite a rump (yikes!). It all started with this mail order Nanaimo bar company . . .

Seriously, though, a bigger issue (nutritionally speaking) is how much to take in during training and racing. Remember that when youre working out or racing, youre limited not by how many calories you burn, but by how many calories you can absorb while working aerobically. So, through your longer training sessions, you need to begin to arrive at a number of calories that your digestive system can handle without shutting down. Start with 250 calories an hour and see how you do. Youll probably have to adjust this number depending on your own metabolism and body size (plus or minus 100 calories or more).

Stay healthy,

Paul and Roch

Dear Coaches:

I am a triathlete entering my ninth season of training and racing in Florida. Living here for so long, I have acclimated to the best of my bodys ability; however, I still die a thousand deaths every time I try to have a good race in a hot, humid environment. Consequently, I do everything possible to help myself, including drinking as many fluids as I can during a race, using glycerol, wearing a running cap and a few other tricks to try to alleviate some of the stress on my body. My question concerns something that Tim Mickleborough wrote in his SpeedLab column in the December 1999 issue.

Paraphrasing Tims statement, he said that you should not go bare-chested in a race in this type of environment. He suggested wearing a light-colored, breathable top since it will block the sun from directly hitting your skin, ultimately attenuating the rise in core body temperature. However, this goes against what I have heard about exposing as much of the skin's surface as possible to the environment for maximum cooling effect (evaporation and possibly conduction, depending on whether theres a wind). Have there been any studies that you know of testing these opposing theories, and which would you advise? I appreciate your help!

Sweltering in Florida

Dear Glowing in Gainesville, Maybe you should consider moving to Canada, eh? Having lived in Florida as long as you have in a hot and humid environment, you certainly should be starting to get accustomed to it. Tim is exactly right in suggesting that you should cover your upper torso with a lightweight, breathable fabric to assist in keeping you cool. Ever wonder why people living in the Sahara wear all that clothing? A loose fit allows air to flow while keeping the direct sunlight off the skin.

With the current state of fabric technology there is no reason to wear a cotton T-shirt that will become a 20-pound wet rag in tropical conditions. In humid conditions, body sweat has a hard time evaporating, and leaving the skin exposed to the sun will not increase evaporation and cooling, but will further increase the temperature of the skin.

As long as you wear one of the new high-tech fabrics on the market that wicks sweat away from the skin and is breathable, you will be better off keeping your torso covered. Just a note of caution: high-tech fabrics does not include gold or silver lame or anything with rhinestones. Now, go get dressed and cover up that chest.

Good luck,

Roch and Paul

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