Sarah's Tips for the First Time Ironman

Now that she's an Ironman, we asked Sarah to reflect on her experiences and share what she learnt from the day. Here are her top 5 tips for anyone out there embarking on their own first Ironman journey. 

 

  1. STICK TO THE PLAN!! The days leading up to the race and particularly on race day, you'll be a ball of nerves and not thinking clearly at all. No matter what advice you receive from the well-meaning seasoned athletes who have done a billion Ironman races already... Never, ever, steer away from the plan. DO WHAT YOUR DIETITIAN TELLS YOU. The golden rule of racing - never try anything new on race day!
     
  2. ENJOY YOURSELF. Make sure you enjoy every second of the race because the day goes by way too fast. On the day you are so busy caught up in staying focused that the hours just fly by you. No matter how exhausted you are, take in that finish line chute because they really make you feel like a rockstar.
     
  3. DON'T EVER DOUBT YOURSELF! When you taper, your head will start to try and convince you that you aren't ready to take on this event. You will start to worry about things that have never even crossed your mind. Trust your program, trust your training and always back yourself.
     
  4. THANK THE VOLUNTEERS. Those people are just incredible and the lengths they go to to help you out are just amazing. When it's getting late into the night and a lot of spectators have gone home with their athletes, the volunteers will still be out there screaming cheers for you, giving you water and food and going above and beyond to help get you to the finish line.
     
  5. BE POSITIVE. When it starts to get tough on course, reflect back to all the achievements you have made to get to the start line. Think of the sacrifices, the hours spent on the bike, the laps in the pool and the pavement you pounded every day... You are better than your head it telling you, stay on track and go get it!

- Sarah Leuenberger

Dietitian Approved Crew - Sarah Leuenberger

Introducing Sarah!

Sarah came to see us in August 2017 with the primary goal to get off the couch and keep Hubby happy on the weekends after big training sessions. She's gone from strength to strength and is gearing up for her Ironman debut at Port Macq in a few weeks time. We're excited to share her story with you and can't wait to see her become an IronWoman next month.

Tweed Enduro

Name: Sarah Leuenberger 

Current home location (where you live): Brisvegas 

Profession/Educational background:  Assistant bean counter studying to be an official bean counter (accounting) 

Sport of Choice: Triathlon  

How many years have you been training and competing in your sport? 3 years since my first triathlon  

What got you into it in the first place? 
I have always been interested in triathlon but was never brave enough to try one (plus I couldn’t run down the street even if a pack of wolves were chasing me :).  My work offered free entry to a friendly non-competitive corporate triathlon which was a nice enticer distance. Even though I thought I was going to have a heart attack during the 4km run, I finished it with a smile and was completely hooked. 

What’s your favourite training session?  
I always enjoy my bike sessions. I love exploring and taking in my surroundings. Rides are always therapeutic especially as they generally end with a caffeine fix.   

Main Competition/Event/s for 2018: Ironman Australia on the 6th May; it will be my first Ironman distance event! 

Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, what are your bigger goals for your sporting career: 
My main goal is to continually improve and always try new challenges. I love the feeling of doing something amazing and I also love getting out of my comfort zone. I haven’t thought too much about what my next event will be, I just want to keep having fun and keep inspiring my kids and friends to get active and involved in fitness.  

What’s your biggest achievement in your sport so far:
Hmmm that’s a tough one as if you asked 5 years ago Sarah if she could do half of the things 2018 Sarah has achieved then she would laugh in your face and tell you that “you cray cray”. I think my stand out moment would be when I rode my bike from Brisbane to Sydney with some friends. We did the trip over 6 days and we had the best time. It was very challenging at times and backing up each day was hard work but we got to see some parts of Australia that you just can’t appreciate as much when you drive through in a car. 

Do you have a saying or motto you live your life by? 
My very favourite quote is one said by Audrey Hepburn and it is, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible”. I try and remind myself of this quote each and every day. The only thing stopping me from being great is the doubts I allow to enter my head. Get rid of those doubts and anything is achievable. 

What are one or two things you do in your day to day training life that you feel are keys to your success?  

  1. Like I said, I never doubt myself, as soon as I let the negative thoughts enter my head then it’s game over.  
  2. Always be open to push out of your comfort zone, no matter how scary it seems. Like they say, out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens. 
Sarah Tweed Enduro.JPG

Three things you can’t live without? My family, coffee and my bike. 

Favourite food: Mexican for suuuure! Love it, the more spice the better…now I want some Mexican food immediately…damn it. 

Favourite post-training meal or snack? Sarah’s Secret Smoothie, I would tell you what’s in it but then I’d have to kill you. Let’s just say it may or may not involve a banana, a shot of coffee, a hit of protein and milk.

What’s the number 1 (or 2) thing you’ve learnt about sports nutrition for performance in your sport?  

  1. How to use food to fuel! My number one thing I asked Taryn to help me with when I first met her was, how to prevent myself from becoming a useless heap, asleep on the couch after any big sessions. We have nailed this perfectly!! Yay team!!! 

  1. The right foods to eat to keep me full and stop me heading for those binge sessions at the fridge. Healthy grazing options have been my saviour when it comes to getting down to race weight.  

Talk about inspirational!

Talk about inspirational!

Caffeine - Performance nutrition

Caffeine is a widely used, socially acceptable stimulant.
cappucino

 

It is found naturally in the leaves, beans and fruits of a variety of plants. The most common dietary sources of caffeine include tea, coffee, cola, energy drinks, chocolate and supplemented sports foods like gels and shots. It is rapidly absorbed and transported to all body tissues and organs where it exhibits a complex range of actions. Effects include the mobilisation of fat from adipose tissue (yes please!) and the muscle cell, changes to muscle contractility, lowering the perceived rate of exertion (how hard you feel you’re working), effects on the heart muscle and stimulation of adrenaline (our fight or flight hormone).

The major benefit of taking caffeine on exercise performance appears to be achieved by central nervous system effects, which can help reduce perception of effort and fatigue, effectively allowing you to train or race harder and longer.

Who would benefit?

There is a solid body of evidence that supports caffeine use to enhance endurance exercise performance, with studies dating back to the 1970s. Caffeine has a half–life of approximately 6-7 hours, with peak blood concentrations occurring around 45-60 minutes. Individuals respond differently, some feel energised, focused and ready to perform; others don’t feel or notice any perceptual changes; and, some are affected negatively suffering from nervousness, gut upset, anxiety, irritability, headaches, heart palpitations and an inability to focus. Given the varied response it’s important to trial caffeine in training before any thought of introducing it into a race.

How much and when?

Previous recommendations for caffeine use during exercise were around 6mg/kg body mass (420mg for a 70kg athlete), consumed 60min prior to the start of exercise. More recent evidence suggests doses as low as 1-3mg/kg body weight (70-210mg for a 70kg athlete) are enough to enhance endurance performance.

Caffeine taken before exercise, spread throughout the event, or taken late in the race when fatigue starts to set (i.e. an IM) appear to assist exercise performance. Furthermore, caffeine withdrawal for a few days doesn’t appear to enhance the beneficial effects of caffeine use during exercise for habitual users.

If you currently use caffeine or are intending to use it, start with a low dose (1mg/kg) in training and build up to develop your own protocol that enhances performance using the lowest effective dose for you. Also play around with taking it 30-60minutes before training, part way through an extended session and/or towards the end of a long session to determine the best protocol for your individual needs.

A word of caution

The effects of high doses of caffeine can be negative such as increased heart rate, anxiety, over-arousal and impaired fine motor control. Also be aware of the side-effects of withdrawal such as headaches and lethargy. The other major factor is that caffeine can interfere with sleep patterns, making it difficult to get to sleep and in turn affecting your body’s ultimate form of recovery. And lastly, it’s not a substitute for quality training and race experience – so caffeine supplementation shouldn’t be considered for younger triathletes.

So what’s the verdict?

Caffeine has a proven performance enhancing benefit for endurance sports like triathlon. If you are considering using it as a supplement, try it in training first! Start at a low dose and manipulate the dose and timing to develop your own personalised protocol. An Accredited Sports Dietitian can help you individualise your plan and incorporate other nutritional strategies to maximise your performance for training and competing. 

 

Look out for the full article in Triathlon 220 magazine!