A Peaceful Mind is Priceless

LaurenUncategorized

Full disclosure before you dive into this…it’s very candid, very personal, very real. If this was Instagram I would post the “it me” sticker all over this post.

I read an article in Outside magazine about being okay with being good and not great. It really hit home for me and pretty much summed up the past few years for me racing, in relationships, personally, and mentally.

I have talked at length in previous posts about how I have struggled with my weight and also with sleeping for my entire triathlon career – 8 years. For far too long have I told myself that I am doing great. I own real estate, I am actually making triathlon my career and not just a hobby, I have great friends, I am healthy, my family supports me 100% and they love me to death. I told myself I had everything I needed and could want. Yet I still couldn’t sleep. I constantly stressed about my weight and relationships. I ignored these things for years and validated it with the fact that on paper, and to others, I was successful.

At the beginning of this year everything came to a head and I felt like I hit rock bottom. The second half of last season (2017) I pretty much starved myself because the first half of the season I was racing so fast at about 6 lbs lighter than normal. I originally lost weight because I changed to a plant-based diet but then in typical LG fashion I went extreme and I wasn’t eating enough. My bloodwork was awful. I was depleted of nutrients needed to function normally, let alone race. At the Island House Triathlon in November last year I struggled to run the 5km portion of a sprint distance race. Compounding things, earlier this year, I had a really bad break up with a boyfriend. I was feeling depressed and per usual I felt like I lost everything that meant anything to me. To top it all off, I was not sleeping at all. I would go 4 or 5 days just lying in bed awake stressing about training and anxious that I would get sick.

Race season started in April and I flew to Brazil forIRONMAN 70.3 Florianopolis. I arrived and didn’t sleep for one minute the entire trip. I simply couldn’t sleep. I thought I was losing my mind. I DNF’ed the race, and flew back to Florida to prepare for my next race. I called my mom and broke down in tears and she drove 7 hours to be with me.

I knew I needed to do something, so I arranged an appointment with a psychiatrist. We spoke for 15 minutes, I paid her $200, and she prescribed me Ambien, Xanex (anti-anxiety) and Lexepro (anti-depressant). I took that cocktail for 6 weeks and I felt like my life changed. I was so happy, sleeping awesomely, and training consistently. I raced Escape from Alcatraz, got 3rd, and jumped back into training. Well, the meds ran out and I chose not to go back on them. In a blink of an eye I was back exactly where I was in April…on the phone with my mom breaking down.

SO what did I do next? I took action.

I was so close to quitting the sport as my only hope of sleeping again. I thought the pressure of performing was why I was not sleeping, and I decided sleeping was more important to me than racing. I did not want to just walk away though and let those who support me down. A few people suggested I attend The Landmark Forum. It is a 5-day personal development program that helped me to step outside of myself and uncover my repeating behavioral patterns and reasons for them. I realized that the things that happen to us are just that- things that happen. I also learned to be vulnerable and to be ok with failing sometimes, it causes growth.

I also began doing CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia). CBT-I is non-medicated sleep coaching that can help reset the body clock. I learned so much and identified areas for improvement. Together, these steps helped me get out of the downward spiral I was quickly drowning in.

I felt ready to race again and headed to IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines, the Asia-Pacific Championships in Cebu. This was the biggest 70.3 race and most competitive I had ever done. I slept amazingly, felt calm, and perfectly executed my plan placing 2nd. I was absolutely elated especially after the previous 7 months. One hour after the race I found out I was disqualified because I did not serve a 30” penalty that I had no idea I had. Woof, that was rough. Honesty though, I was more stoked that I finally slept, had zero anxiety going into the race, and executed my plan, than I was sad about losing out on a very good payday. I was all smiles at the after party and the long journey home. My friend, who I traveled to Cebu with, actually asked me last week how I was so happy after being DQ’ed in Cebu. I told him that sleeping and being able to have peaceful mind is priceless. This can easily be taken for granted.

So where am I now? Well, I am a healthy weight – in between what I was at the end of last year and I guess my historical weight. I still have a so-so relationship with food but I am not sure that will every go away. I get my bloodwork done with Blueprint Fit every 6 weeks to make sure that my nutrition is dialed. I am sleeping so deeply now. I go to bed every night with a quiet mind and wake up feeling actually rested without taking pills. I am single, but I have a really close group of friends that I hang out with every day and they mean the world to me. I am racing the best I ever have and just won my last two races since Cebu. I am traveling the world, with more racing to come this year, and appreciating this fortunate life I have. I am vulnerable. I am present. I finally feel alive after a very long time of being so sad deep down.

So what is next? Well! I am on a racing tour. I am currently traveling back from Chile where I won IRONMAN 70.3 Coquimbo.

In 8 days I will fly to Argentina for another crack at a Championship race at IRONMAN 70.3 Buenos Aires. From Argentina I will fly straight to NYC to do a photoshoot with TYR and then back to Boulder for 6 days before flying to China to race IRONMAN 70.3 Xiamen.

After China, my mom will come spend a week with me at my home in Boulder for Thanksgiving.

From there I will fly to Colombia to race  IRONMAN 70.3 Cartegena and then the next weekend Challenge Daytona.

And finally, the day after my final race in Daytona, I am taking my mom to Italy! She has been my rock this year and who knows what I would have done without her. As hard as the times were earlier this year I truly believe it was to help me see the cause of why I was having so much anxiety and also to bring my mom and I closer together. She has never been out of the USA, so it is going to be such a great experience.

The rest of the year is is a challenging schedule. However; win, lose, or DQ I am so happy to be sleeping, without injury, and at peace with myself.

I feel free!

Why I Juice

LaurenNutrition

Racing endurance sports is hard. It is demanding of time, mental strength, and of course the body. As athletes we are always looking for that extra edge to get us closer to the next level without having to invest more time and energy into training. As a professional especially, as this is my full-time job, I am constantly doing research on ways I can gain an edge or performance or more importantly recovery.

Research has shown that beet juice is converted to nitric acid which helps blood flow, muscle contraction and neurotransmission, which can help in athletic performance. Beet juice also contains high amounts of iron that regenerates and activates our blood cells to carry fresh oxygen to the body. After learning about the benefits of beets it was a no brainer for me. I typically have a can of Beet Performer 2 hours before a key session or race.

Tart cherry juice has been another one I have been learning about for a while. I have always had trouble recovering from training and then also sleeping at night after hard days of working out. Tart cherry juice has high levels of potassium and has been shown to decrease inflammation and reduce muscle damage. I like to start my day with tart cherry juice when I have hard training on tap and also after the training for muscle restoration and rebuilding and to prevent further damage to the muscles. Cherry juice also has been shown to help aid in sleep. I have always struggled with sleep while training at a high level. At night I will have some cherry juice and it seems to be promoting better sleep for me without waking up in the night.

So, overall, my daily routine is to have a can Beet Performer 2hr before hard training sessions. I have a can of Cherry Performer often mixed into a smoothie or just alone right after hard training sessions and at night before bed. Keep in mind, consuming these will not magically make you an Olympic athlete. However, they will give you a little extra boost of talent without training more. In the end isn’t that what we want? Also, both juices are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy day in and day out.

Save 20% on Juice Performer with code Lauren18 at the Juice Performer Amazon Store!

(reprinted from Juice Performer: 
http://juiceperformer.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Lauren-Goss-juicing-article.pdf

Balancing High Performance and Diet

LaurenNutrition

The balance between high performance and diet is a very touchy subject for most athletes. I hate to say this but I am pretty confident that a very high percentage of endurance athletes have an unhealthy relationship with food. Just in my training group alone we are constantly talking about losing weight, banning appetizers and desserts from group dinners, our power to weight ratios, etc. Even when I go back home to South Carolina and visit family and friends I am constantly complaining about how “fat” I am or how I cannot go out to dinner with anyone because I have to keep my weight down. It is absolutely absurd. Endurance sports, triathlon in particular, creates this unhealthy relationship with food. In the end, if you are someone putting the time in to train for triathlon then you are an over achiever/perfectionist and that will also transfer over to your diet choices.

I have talked about how I was vegan last year multiple times and how I ultimately broke down and depleted myself of so many nutrients that I needed to race well. Looking back now, 7 months later, I am questioning why I chose to be vegan. Was it for ethical reasons, health reasons, or to lose weight? Initially I cut out meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs for an entire year. I lived off of nuts, nut butter, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and grains. After months of inhaling tablespoons of nut butter every time I went into the kitchen, I decided that I would cut out all nuts and nut butters as well because it was too many calories. Next, I decided that I would limit my bread intake as well. Why? Well because the internet said that gluten causes weight gain so I decided to eliminate that too. My goal was achieved. I was at the weight I dreamed to race at, 115lbs, and I thought everything would just go so well. If you have followed me then you know that fairytale was quickly shut down and I did not even have enough energy to finish a race let alone be competitive.

The point I want to get across here is that we need to really accept ourselves for who we are. This year I made a promise to myself that I would let my body settle at the weight it needed to be at without forcing it. I am now around 121lbs. I have been monitoring my bloodwork with Blueprint Fit every 6 weeks making sure my iron levels, hormones, omegas, vitamins and cortisol are all within normal range. (See a sampling of my recent results below; they are extracted from the comprehensive 8-page report.)

Of course my brain cannot completely stop obsessing over food and weight. I had a severe eating disorder in high school and I know it is something that I will struggle with forever. Surrounding myself with athletes who also are crazy about being lean does not help my own personal struggles but that is reality and I have learned to deal with it (better).

Is it possible to eat normal, enjoy a glass of wine from time to time, be social with friends at restaurants while having an appropriate race weight? Of course. Is it going to be hard mentally at times to let go and not feel guilty? Yes for sure 100%. We all just need to be a little more conscious about what we say around other people concerning our OCD weight obsessions and be mindful that we may be triggering a negative experience for someone else.

Right now I try to avoid sugar, eat when I am hungry, avoid snacking after dinner and only drink alcohol when I am out with friends and never at home. I am not by any means the leanest person on the start line. I have always struggled with holding a little extra weight. I stopped comparing myself to others though and I now value my health and having my bloodwork come back within normal ranges.

Love yourself for who you are. Eat when you are hungry. Let the body be where it wants to be. The results will come and the injuries will stay away!


A sampling of my latest results from Blueprint Fit!

 

 

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.