Life of the Solo Pro

LaurenTravel

A few days ago I had a tiny mental breakdown as I was sitting on the living room floor with my TT bike trying to get my power meter set up after numerous failed attempts. If you know me well, then you know this is not really out of the norm for me, haha.

Anyway, I had traveled from Florida to San Francisco to race Escape from Alcatraz, raced, got hit by a car after the race, and still had to pack up my bike and fly back to Boulder to unload my life from being on the road for 7 weeks. Then I stayed up until midnight unpacking and assembling my bike, packing my new bike with race and training gear, and building up a road bike that had been delivered while I was away.

I woke up and had a normal training day. Then I packed up again for another month on the road and flew back to Florida.

Woof, that was a quick 36 hours but I can happily say that I am now settled in Florida and doing just fine. I survived (well, I knew I would, but sometimes I seriously think I won’t).

The overall experience had me thinking about how much easier this “job” would be if I had a someone/significant other to work on my bike, clean my bike, pack my bike for races, cook for me, do the laundry, take care of travel logistics, calm me down when I am stressed, pace me during training sessions, give me time splits on course, and oh the most important of them all- to be my personal photographer so I could have an unlimited bank of photos for my sponsors.

Honestly, I would just take a bike mechanic. 

I can pretty much do everything else on my own after eight years of doing everything on my own. But it would sure be nice to not have to and have another person to pitch in.

Racing for a financial living is hard emotionally. The pressure I (and I am sure mostly all of us) put on myself is sometimes hard to handle alone. It would be nice to have someone at my side to talk sense into me when I start over-analyzing everything after a less than ideal race or training session.

I try really hard not to think about the ‘making money’ part of triathlon, but it is a part of it. This is all I do for a living (by choice), so for me this is it. It is a tough yet very self-satisfying way to live.

When everything goes to plan and I did it all alone it feels really really good. It’s a feeling I cannot replicate doing anything else. When things go bad though, I am alone, facing dark thoughts…and also facing the task of packing up my bike up, somehow lifting the giant awkward-shaped bike case into the rental car, and dragging myself on the airplane to get back to work.

It’s not easy being a solo pro triathlete.

So the next time you see a girl struggling through the airport with a bike case, two suitcases, and a backpack guys, please help her out!

Tracking health improvements with BlueprintFit

LaurenNutrition

As a professional triathlete, it is important to figure out the equation to be as lean and strong as possible, but still have enough energy stores to meet the high demands of training, racing, recovering, and traveling.

At the end of 2016, I decided to implement a plant-based diet. I read a lot about endurance athletes switching over to this type of diet and having success. I made the change at the end of 2016 and strictly held myself accountable throughout the entire season in 2017. I partnered with BlueprintFit in the middle of 2017 but I assumed with having a vegan diet my bloodwork would be flawless. To be honest, I did not get enough testing done to monitor the changes in my body with the new diet.

I was having the best season to date with 5 wins until around October, and then things went south. I had no energy, motivation, and could not finish workouts. Most notably, I stopped having my period. This is always a bad sign and can have severe long-term effects. I decided it was time to get more testing done with Blueprint and also have it analyzed to see what was going on.

In November, I got blood testing done with BlueprintFit and there were some major red flags:

  • Very low B12 which can lead to cognitive decline, fatigue, anemia
  • Low prealbumin indication nutritional (protein) malnourishment
  • Low hematocrit which means anemia, fatigue, poor athletic performance
  • Low EPA/DHA associated with higher states of inflammation, poor recovery, anxiety, depression
  • Lower amount of free thyroid hormone
  • Lower carnitine which is vital for the ability to burn fat
  • Extremely low cholesterol which inhibits the making of vitamin D and leads to low absorption of calcium

After learning about these issues, I decided to make a change and end my plant based diet. The transition from being 100% plant based to incorporating animal products into my diet has been challenging as I expected, but I am feeling stronger and executing training exactly as planned.

I gained about 6 lbs. My body feels heavier, but I have more energy in training and I have yet to have a niggle or any health issues this winter. Overall, I am very happy since nailing my training is my main focus right now and not necessarily how I feel or look.

Breakfast:

Breakfast still consists of a giant glass of lemon water immediately when waking up, two big cups of coffee with unsweetened almond milk, a can of  Beet Performer and oatmeal. However, now my oatmeal is a little more substantial. I have 2/3c of organic rolled oats, 10g of Garden of Life Vanilla protein powder, 1 scoop of collagen peptides, banana, almond butter, and chia seeds. It is pretty high calorie and full of protein but I feel satisfied after and I can train shortly after eating this.

Lunch:

After my first training session, I have lunch which consists of 2 eggs with the yolks, ½ avocado, spinach, sweet potatoes or quinoa and collagen peptides. I am eating eggs all of the time and I have had fun learning new ways to prepare them. I literally have never hard boiled an egg until this month. Now, I can’t get enough of them! If I need something easier to digest I make a protein smoothie with Beet Performer, Garden of Life protein, frozen bananas and berries, and almond butter. 

Dinner

Dinner is where big changes have been made. I have red meat (preferably Bison) 1-2x a week and I have fish (Salmon, Mahi Mahi or Ahi Tuna) 1x a week. I try to eat red meat after big training days. The evenings I do not have meat, I always have 1 hard-boiled egg. The rest of the meal is plant based. That usually consists of a quinoa salad, veggies, potatoes, coconut sticky rice, soups etc. I am staying away from bread as much as possible after midday and I am also not eating dairy. 

After 12 weeks on this plan, I decided to get my blood checked again with Blueprint. I knew it would not be anywhere close to ideal. It took about 10 months to deplete myself of nutrients so I am fully aware I will not be back to normal overnight, especially with hard training. My training is in full swing sitting at around 25hr a week with some high intensity and high volume mixed in. However, I got my period back and I feel healthier all around.

My March labs reported that:

  • My Hemoglobin/hematocrit are much higher which means I am staying clear of anemia
  • Higher prealbumin which means I am eating sufficient calories for the exercise I am doing
  • B12 and Folate are better but still on the low-normal side and can be improved
  • EPA/DHA still low which means I need more Omega-3s in my diet
  • My good HDL cholesterol is much higher which is driving up my total cholesterol #

I am fortunate to have BlueprintFit as a tool to monitor my health on the road to feeling healthy and strong again! I will continue to post updates on the process and how I am racing and adapting.

Invest in your own health improvements with BlueprintFit! Use promo code GOSS30 for 30% off through May 15, 2018 at www.blueprintfit.com.

Choose the tests that are best for you: Blueprint One, Metabolism, Nutrition, Muscle & Recovery, EnduranceHormones, and Food Allergens (link coming soon). BlueprintFit also offers coaching with registered dietitians to review results and identify strategies to improve your health and performance. 

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of BlueprintFit. The opinions and text are all mine.

2017 Year (of health) in Review

LaurenNutrition

2017 has been one to remember. The year started on such a big high and ended at a low but honestly it was a year I would never change.

January started off cold being based in Boulder but I had a really fun and motivating training group to get me through the snowy days. At that time, I also decided to become vegan. The lifestyle changed my own personal life and how I viewed food and fueling in general. I knew switching to a plant-based diet would mean that I needed to be more aware of what I was eating (and what I was not eating) in order to be able to maintain a high training load. I accepted the challenge and really became passionate about the lifestyle.

I won St. Anthony’s triathlon, Escape from Alcatraz, NYC Triathlon and was having my best 70.3 to date at Monterrey 70.3 until I flatted. I was convinced that my focus on training, elimination of alcohol, and my new diet were critical to why I was having so much success. I finally felt like I figured myself out and I was achieving everything I wanted to.

The week after the NYC Tri I was out to dinner with a friend from college and when we got up to leave I just fainted on the way to the door. I assumed I got sick from the Hudson river and quickly forgot about it.

In early September I won ESCAPE Des Moines and felt extremely prepared for the Beijing International Triathlon, which was an A race of mine. I ended up getting 2nd at that race and literally had to walk on the run. I felt lethargic, drained and I had no energy at all. I quickly wrote it off to jet lag, lack of sleep, and just an off day.

I flew back to Boulder and I was suffering with extremely high heart rates, trouble breathing, and low energy. My coach proposed I leave altitude immediately and go to the site of my next event- Lake Geneva, WI. I took his advice, rested, ate a ton and just chilled one week leading into my race. I won ESCAPE Lake Geneva at the end of September and I felt I was back on track.

A few weeks later I flew to Kona to have a mini training camp and to meet with current sponsors. The camp was not that great. Once again I had low energy, nausea, and trouble recovering. There was a stomach bug going around Kona therefore I assumed that is what I had.

I flew to Miami from Kona to race Miami 70.3. I went in with confidence and ready to race for the win. I was immediately dropped in the swim, dizzy on the bike to the point where I was looking for a cop car to take me back, and basically walked/ran the run to complete the race. To have the poorest swim of my life was the most concerning to me. The bike and run are sometimes a wash, but the swim is 99.99% always the same for me personally.

Anyways, I left that race really defeated and went straight to McDonald’s for a large fry. I had big expectations and I failed. I talked to my coach and helped me to forget the result and focus on the main event of the year- Island House Triathlon. I spent 4 weeks in Miami (similar conditions to upcoming race in the Bahamas) and the only things I did were train, eat, sleep and recover, I never skipped a session and I felt like I was the most prepared I have ever been for an event. Well I will spare you the details, I ended up getting dead last in the race. Going into the race I told myself I would be upset with anything lower than top 7. Once again, I had no energy, I could not clear lactic acid, I was not sleeping, and overall I was lethargic and tired.

I immediately came home to South Carolina and just had some time to think. My mom told me it was clear- I lost weight, I wasn’t eating enough, and the vegan diet just was not working for me anymore. In my mind I thought that I was eating all of the time, I went to bed full, and I really hadn’t lost much weight at all. I had skipped my period for 3 months and I knew that meant something was not right. A friend of mine who was at Island House and knew I was not myself reached out and recommended that I work with a nutrition specialist in Boulder.

I immediately contacted Kiki Silver here in Boulder and explained to her what was wrong. I also reached out to a sponsor of mine, Blueprint for Athletes, to see if they could get some blood work done for me immediately. Fortunately, I was able to get all of this done within three weeks of finishing Island House and Kiki was able to help me figure out what was going on. 

Below is the summary of Dr. Kiki’s evaluation of my blood work from 12/4. She also had my blood work from 9/4 and I was equally as malnourished. This was the time I started feeling lower in energy and unable to recover.

The deficiencies we identified:

  1. Low B12: long-term this can lead to memory loss/dementia, cognitive decline, neuropathy, fatigue, anemia….
  2. Low pre-albumin: indicates absolute nutritional (protein) malnourishment.
  3. Low Iron: leads to anemia, feeling cold, poor wound healing, fatigue, poor athletic performance.
  4. Low EPA/DHA and AA: critical fat and Omegas are low – which are associated with higher states of inflammation, poor recovery, anxiety, depression, neuromuscular disorders, etc.
  5. Higher CPK/LDH/AST/BUN: all indicating increased muscle breakdown as your body is breaking down muscle to obtain requisite amino acids given you don’t have adequate protein in your diet.
  6. Lower amount of free thyroid hormone: related to lacking the building blocks to make thyroid hormone (Iron, Bs, tyrosine, etc).
  7. Lower Carnitine: vital for production of acetylcholine (memory neurotransmitter) and also for ability to burn fat as fuel.

Basically my Omega 3’s were gone completely, my ferritin was extremely low, my B vitamins were gone, and my muscles were breaking down feeding my body because I did not have enough protein. 

I figured I would have some lower values in a few areas but overall I was really surprised. I was convinced the plant based diet was the absolute best for me. I really felt good day to day but in the end I just was not getting the crucial nutrients I needed for triathlon.

I will be honest I am pretty sad. I am happy that there is an explanation on why I was so terrible at the end of the season but sad because I really loved eating plant based. I publicly posted about how great it made me feel and this really was the case until it was too late and my body started becoming deficient in critical nutrients.

So what is next? Well, I have been told by the doctor to eat red meat 3x a week, salmon 1x a week, avocado for the “good” fats, black strap molasses, and a ton of eggs. I have been on this regime now for 5 days. I am gaining some weight and this is what I need to do to be able to race and to get all the nutrients I need to function. 

We all need to be careful with the choices we make with eating and not get carried away with any particular idea we may have. What’s most important is that our eating and fueling choices work well for us and our individual needs. This year I will focus on fueling with the foods that I need to function. My best racing, your best racing, comes from good health, not a number on a scale. 

5 Tips for a More Energized Life

LaurenUncategorized

Photo credit: Island House Invitational Triathlon 

1. Drink a large glass of water as soon as you wake up

Usually I would hydrate with a very large cup of coffee as soon as I stepped out of bed. Very soon after I would crash again! I started drinking a large glass of water as soon as I get up to hydrate at the cellular level so that I have a lot of energy to start the day.

2. Check resting HR before getting out of bed

The typical athlete mindset is to always push no matter what. I check my resting HR every morning to make sure my body is ready to train. If my HR is 8-10bpm over my normal resting HR (42bpm) then I talk to my coach and we adjust the training to something easier or a complete day off.

3. Eat more frequently

I have always had a strange relationship with food. I love food, don’t get me wrong. However, I have this mindset engrained into me that skinny is fast. Constantly I am trying to avoid snacking or heavy meals. After changing coaches, I was taught why I need to fuel constantly and that actually in the end I will be leaner if I eat more during training and after training. I have implemented this into my daily routine/training and I now know why this is so important. The only downside is my grocery bill!

4. Follow a plant-based diet

I changed to a plant based diet to avoid ingesting hormones from animal products. The mass production of animal products in the US require the use of steroid hormones to increase growth rate. I feel more energized, sleep much deeper and uninterrupted, experience less inflammation, no more bloating, and my skin cleared up.

 

5. Meditate

Life is so busy and my mind is always stimulated. Like many others, I can feel overwhelmed. I have started meditating 10min a day to train my mind to switch off and let go of all of the stress I have accumulated. Deep breathing and focusing on mind+body awareness have helped me feel refreshed and calm.

Photo credit: HOKA One One

A Day in My Plant-Based Diet

LaurenNutrition

 
I have had a lot of interest in my switch to plant-based eating while training at a high level.  I decided to switch to a plant-based diet in January. The past eight months have been so much fun though, trying new foods and figuring out how to get the nutrients I need from plants to perform at the highest level. Being plant-based takes some prep and time. But once you get a routine down it is pretty easy. Figuring out what works for you and your schedule is the tricky part. The deeper I get into this lifestyle change, the more I want to make everything from scratch and completely eliminate processed foods.

So what does my day look like?

I typically start the day with a light workout and then I eat something. For breakfast I lean towards avocado toast, oatmeal with berries and banana, or a smoothie. I use Garden of Life products for smoothies. I think they make the best plant based raw protein on the market with low sugar and complete amino acids. I incorporate nut butters from Naturally More*. During the day I eat a lot of carrots and hummus, sweet potatoes with avocado, salads, and fruits. 

 
 
Dinners usually consist of a grain (quinoa normally since the protein is the highest), tons of greens, veggies, beans (chick peas, black beans, white beans, or hummus). I put hemp seeds, ground flaxseeds, and chia seeds on or in everything I can. These three things add a lot of protein.
 
 
 
At night I try and stay away from refined sugar. If I want dessert, I will make chia pudding with berries and homemade granola that has no added sugar. I also make my own almond milk for coffee and smoothies which is very easy to do.

When I travel, I take a rice cooker and my nutribullet and usually eat in the hotel making smoothies, black bean quinoa avocado burritos, oatmeal etc.

As supplements go, I take:

Since being plant-based I have limited alcohol subconsciously. I no longer view it as a reward for a hard day’s work. I can feel it when I eat poorly or put unhealthy stuff in it. So far I am happy with the progress I have seen with this lifestyle change. I will continue to be plant-based until or if I feel a craving for animal products. I don’t restrict anything my body asks for.
 
Feed your body well, enjoy your meals, and share them with friends! 
 
 
Enjoying a meal with Kate Bruck, Leanda Cave, and Michelle Maxwell
 
*Naturally More – save 20% on an online order with code Lauren20.
**Juice Performer  – save 20% on Juice Performer at Amazon with code  LAUREN17.

3 Races, 3 Weekends, 3 Countries

LaurenRaces

Summer is here! I just got back from doing 3 races in 3 weekends in 3 countries with a return to Boulder each time in between. I knew this would be a challenge when I signed up for it. My coaches voiced their concerns, but I felt strongly I wanted to try. I have never raced three weekends in a row or even two 70.3s in a month, but I wanted to see how my fitness could sustain me.

My passport got a workout! 

After my misfortune at IM 70.3 Monterrey (flat and fall), I felt like I needed to race sooner than later so I registered for IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria while at the airport leaving Monterrey! I felt pretty good leading into Victoria and I was full of confidence. Well, little did I know, I would freeze and suffer all day long. I finished in 3rd. It was not the race I had hoped for, but the cold temperatures really did not suit me. It shook me and I wondered how I would fare racing twice more, with Escape from Alcatraz Tri up next.

Pre-race run in the beautiful city of Victoria!

I had a mental reset and received words of encouragement from my coaches during the days in between. I basically rested and ate a ton of carbs leading up to Alcatraz. I was so grateful to have the support of my three main sponsors, Trek, HOKA, and TYR at the event so everything was easy leading up to race day.

I had one of my best performances ever and came away with the win at Escape. It was a very emotional and happy victory! I am still a bit on cloud 9 from winning the race as it is something I have wanted and worked toward for six years. There was no time to celebrate though, as I rushed off to the airport after the race without even showering!

After returning to Boulder I had just three days to unpack and repack before I set off for IRONMAN 70.3 Costa Rica. This was the inaugural event in Playa del Coco. My body was really feeling the effects of the effort I put out at Alcatraz. But Wilbur Anderson and his crew nailed it with the execution of this race. This is really notable for a first year event so kudos to them!

I put out my best effort in the heat and humidity and finished in 2nd place.

As I reflect on these crazy few weeks, I am so happy I followed through and completed all of the events regardless of how I felt on the day. I met so many people who were truly amazed with the sport and simply loved asking me questions about my passion. Next for me is a solid few weeks of training and then off to the Big Apple for NYC Tri!