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!

Season Opening Win at St. Anthony’s Triathlon

LaurenRaces

After a long base season, 2017 race season is officially underway. Typically, I like racing an early season event sometime between the end of January and early March just to get things rolling and see where I am at fitness wise. However, this year, my coaches basically told me I had to have 16 weeks of consistent training without illness or injury before I could race. I was pretty bummed because I wanted to race IRONMAN 70.3 Buenos Aires. If you follow me, you know my love for South America and wine so how could I pass up an event in Argentina!? Oh well, it was not meant to be and it was a long winter of training banking so many sessions.

I did the Cooper River Bridge Run 10km in Charleston, SC (my hometown) on April 1st and I was pleased with my race. I knew my swim and run fitness were optimal but unsure on my bike fitness since I had been riding indoors a lot. My plan was to race IRONMAN 70.3 Lima as my 2017 opener but I got sick leading up the race and I had to withdraw. I hope to be there next year though as it looked like a fun one. Fortunately, St. Anthony’s Triathlon was the week after and an event I was extremely familiar with as I had done it 4 times already and a few of my best friends live there. For some reason I hadn’t raced well at St. Anthony’s, so I was a little nervous, but decided it was best to start the season off with a fast Olympic distance race.

The wind was up and unfortunately the swim was shortened from 1500m to 900m. Typically, I would be pretty upset with this as swimming is my strongest of the three disciplines. However, once I was fully emerged into the bay I knew this was the right call. The water conditions were rough and there was no way I wanted to continue on as I approached the swim finish of the shortened course.

I exited the water in 1st position and ran very hard to T1 so that I could try and get a little gap and get away on the bike. Cycling has not been my strongest event so I committed to stepping it up this year. My goal was to ride off the front and never look back. If I ran poorly but rode well then it would be a success in my mind. My new Trek Speed Concept with the new Shimano Dura-Ace is fast, comfortable, and looks great. I felt pretty special to have the high vis edition with matching Ballista helmet.

I tried a few new mental tricks on the bike and ended up putting time onto everyone and having the fastest bike split. At this point I had already achieved the goal I set for myself and the run would be a bonus. Fortunately, I felt fresh coming off the bike and ran comfortably off the bike.

Although I wanted to run hard, I did not want to blow at the end of the race, so I just ran conservatively focusing on my form and working to get to the line first. I love this run course because it is an out and back and I get to see many friends on the course who were also racing. Last year I was running scared with Mirinda Carfrae literally breathing down my neck, so it was nice to actually enjoy the run and cheer others on as well. I ended the day with the fastest run split and won my 5th attempt at St. Anthony’s triathlon. This event is a special one to win as it has been around 34 years and has a history of world class athletes as past champions.

After the race I got to catch up with my friends down in Florida and just relax a bit. I am fully focused for this year and doing everything I can do be the best athlete and also ambassador for the sport. I am so grateful for the support team I have surrounding me providing every resource available to me that I need to be my best. I will mix it up this year with some different races and hopefully have my best season yet. Thank you all for the continued support!

My next race will be the Pan American 70.3 Championships in Monterrey, Mexico on May 14th. After that I will return to San Francisco for another shot at Escape from Alcatraz followed by the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Costa Rica.

Getting the best out of ourselves in 2017

adminUncategorized

mountainclimbing

Happy 2017 everyone! I hope you all are motivated, happy, and ready to better yourselves from last year. 2016 was not my best year but I was happy to end it on a high with winning IRONMAN 70.3 Cartagena and hosting my family for Christmas here in Boulder, CO. The last 10 weeks have been really satisfying. I have met a lot of new people who have challenged me to go out of my comfort zone. Some examples: repelling off of mountains, doing 4hr trail runs, changing my diet and mindset towards eating, taking risks with investments, trying new forms of exercise, reconnecting with high school friends, and really just growing up. I am determined to make the most out of 2017 and get the best out of myself as well as connecting with others and hopefully inspiring at least one person to live a healthier lifestyle and to be active.

FullSizeRender

This year I am trying a few new things. First of all I am changing my diet to strictly be plant based. In June I stopped eating dairy, red meat, pork and chicken simply because of a book I read about meat processing and also because dairy made me feel bloated and lethargic. I was a little hesitant of how I was going to get all of the nutrients I needed and enough protein. However, I quickly discovered if you just pay attention to what is going in and keep track of it all then it is simple to get enough. I was eating fish and eggs but once the new year came I wanted to test myself and try out the plant based diet. So far I absolutely love it. I am eating different things that I never would have touched before (lentils, flax, chia, chard, bok choy, garbanzo beans, kale, quinoa). If you are interested in trying out plant based eating feel free to contact me.

Also I am implementing Pure Barre into my workout routine. People ask me what exactly Pure Barre is and I cannot even explain it. It is not yoga or pilates or weight lifting. It is a full body workout with small isometric movements. On top of a great workout, the music is awesome and I leave with a smile after ever session. I have met so many empowering women (and men) in class and I just cannot give it up. It was easier in the off season to fit it in but now that full training is back in session it is hard. I refuse to stop going though because it makes me so happy and I really think it is great for injury prevention and obviously to look good!

©Wagner Araujo / MundoTRI.com.br

©Wagner Araujo / MundoTRI.com.br

Another thing I am doing this year is MAT- Muscles Activation Techniques. I am working with Paul Lugar at Colorado Athletic Club. He is helping fix my muscular imbalances, joint mobility, and overall range of motion. So far I am liking the results and swim/bike/run are all benefiting from it. I also will continue to get massage once a week and try my best to stay injury free this year. Also, I will continue working with Boulder Coaching- Simon Lessing, Lisa Lessing and Darren DeReuck for 2017. We have some new people in the group so training is tough and fun.

My season kicks off on April 23rd at IRONMAN Peru 70.3. I raced in Lima my first year racing PRO and won my first race there. I am so excited to go back being a little bit older to appreciate the culture and beauty of the city. My complete race schedule will be posted soon so please check back. I hope everyone has an amazing year— be open to change and let your body adapt. Smile and enjoy the process.

TYR Standing