Sunday, May 5, 2013

Beet Juice-Does it work?

As a 50 year old triathlete I'm always for ways I can increase my performance and endurance. I initially stumbled on the benefits of beet juice when I was trying to reduce my blood pressure but in the course of reading the literature it became clear that there is a growing body of research that supports the benefits of beet juice for endurance athletes.

How does it work? Beet juice contains high levels of dietary nitrates. The body converts the nitrates in beet juice into nitric oxide which enhances blood flow and helps blood pressure. So, adding beet juice to your diet turns out to be a natural way to boost nitric oxide levels in the blood stream which in turn increases oxygen usage effficincy and enhances stamina. I could link numerous articles that support the proposition that beet juice enhances performance but I suspect most people that are considering adding beet juice to their diet are going to do their own research. Interesting that beet juice has been popular the last few years with Tour de France riders and with athletes at the London Olympics. The world's top athletes think there is something worth using. 

I bought several bottles from the grocery store but it was expensive at about $6.50 for a 16.9 ounce bottle. To get the benefit the recommended daily intake ranges from 8 ounces up to 32 ounces. I went with 8-12 ounces a day and must admit that within a few days I felt a noticeable increase in stamina. I measured this primarily through my bike workouts where I could compare watts with heart rate and rate of percieved exertion (RPE). I was in the final build heading into IMTX 70.3 and was able to hit my intervals in all of the long key workouts over the last few weeks.

The problem was the cost and inconvenience of buying bottled beet juice. The solution was Beet It Sport Shots!

The Beet It Sport Shot contains 0.4 grams of dietary nitrates in each  2 ounce shot. Based on what I have found online this would be about the level of dietary nitrates you would get out of drinking 16 ounces of beet juices. After switching to the Beet It Shots I continued to feel that little bump in my endurance levels. Of course, it is hard to say with 100% certainty that the beet juice/nitrates are responsible as there are so many variables with training and racing. All I can say is that I think it helps and I'm waiting on another order of Beet It Shots to arrive. You can order directly from the website. Its not cheap but is convenient and something I will use heading into my priority races.

I look at it this way. My stretch goal this year is to qualify for 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. If Beet It Shots can improve my performance by only 1% that turns a 4:45 HIM/70.3 finishing time into a 4:42:09. That is likely several spots in the finish order for my 50-54 age group and possibly the difference between qualifying and not.

Warning: Beet juice can cause your urine to be a pink or reddish color and can change the color of your stool as well. Sorry, felt it was important to let folks know. I have not really noticed this with the Beet It Shots but definitely with regular beet juice.

Disclaimer-I am not sponsored by Beet It Shots or any beet juice company. These are just my views based on my experience. Decide for yourself.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Season Begins

March 30, 2013-Red Hills Sprint-Tallahassee, Florida

This was the first race for the Gulf Coast Tri Team. I'm proud to be a member of the team which has the top age group athletes from along the Gulf Coast. Specifically, the team has members from Gulfport, Mississippi to Pensacola, Florida. The team had a great day taking 5 of the top 12 spots, first in grandmasters and numerous age group podium spots. So much fun to race with such a great group of fast athletes.

My race was kind of a mixed bag. It was a cold morning with air temperatures in the low 40's and water temperature somewhere in the mid 60's.

Swim: 9:46 for 580 yards (1:41/100 yards). 4/22 AG and 41/264 Overall. Nothing special here. Lost a few seconds when I had a moment of panic after swallowing some lake weeds about 200 yards in. Took a few breast strokes to get everything under control and then got back at it.

T1: 2:04  This was bad. My wetsuit got stuck on my ankle and I decided to put on a long sleeve zip up jersey due to the cold temps. I gave up over a minute to the top finisher in my age group here. Nothing went right!

Bike: 43:51 for 16 miles. (21.89mph) 2/22 AG and 24/264 Overall.  I had not had the chance to scout the course due to arriving in Tallahassee about 1:00am. Took off and was moving well until I dropped my chain at the bottom of the first hill. Stopped and put it back on but I had lost any momentum heading up the hill. Looking back at my powertap data I lost 40-50 seconds fixing the chain. The rest of the bike was uneventful. Fairly hilly course and I never felt great on the bike. Average power was 233 watts and Normalised power was 242. Speed was slow for that power...probably in part due to down time with chain.

T2: 1:12 Still bad. Gave up another 20 seconds to the age group winner.

Run: 20:47 for 5k (6:42/mile pace) 2/22 AG and 24/264 OA. The only bright spot from the race. My run was the unknown heading into the season since I had missed about two months of running due to a calf strain. Nice course with first and last mile on pavement and the middle mile a mix of dirt, gravel and grass trails.

Finish: 1:17:37  2nd in AG and 27/264 Overall. Came in second in the age group by about 30 seconds. Looking back I feel that I gave up about 2 minutes to the course between bad transitions and the dropped chain.

I knew I would not be in peak form heading into this race since I was racing IM TX 70.3 in Galveston the following weekend. The race did boost my run confidence a bit and given the lack of taper I feel it was a mediocre result. I would rate my race as maybe 4-5/10. It was a great venue and challenging bike and run course. Great to get the first race of the year in and shakeout some of the cobwebs. On to Galveston!

Full race report can be found here:


Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Favorite Bike Gear

My favorite piece of bike gear/equipment is without a doubt my E-Motion Rollers from

I have had my set for four years and have probably rode 12,000-14,000 miles on them.I think I paid around $700 for my set and it has easily been the best money I have invested in my bike training. The price has gone up since then but it looks like a few options have been offered. Mine are set up next to a work bench in the garage. Dvd player on the work bench, several good fans and a Netflix subsription and you are good to go. No need to use a trainer tire as the rollers cause very little wear on your tires. To ride outside I just pick up the bike and go. Other than wiping them down after a ride I have not had to do any maintenance.

Interval workouts are easy to do and the magnet on the rollers provides smooth steady resistance at several different settings. If you have a Powertap wheel or some other way to measure your effort you can mimic any workout you might try on the road including out of the saddle sprints. I've never fallen off of them and despite having never used rollers before I was riding down on the aerobars within an hour of getting on the rollers.

Another great piece of bike related gear is the Aluminum Quik Rack from 1UPSA. 

This is a picture of my tri bike mounted on the rack. The only parts of the bike touched by the rack are the tires. The arms pivot up and lock into place on the tires. I will occasionally attach a bungee strap to the bike just for piece of mind if I am traveling a long distance but its not necessary. I've driven 350 miles one way with the bike set up this way with no problems. I'm not sure I would want to have a disc wheel on the bike for traveling as the extra resistance may cause the wind to push the wheel a bit.

The rack is exceptionally well made, easy to install and remove and very secure when mounted in the hitch. I've carried mountain bikes and cruiser bikes securely in the rack without having to make any adjustments.  One of those rare pieces of equipment that work exactly as advertised and allows safe, easy and secure transport of a bike.     

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Hard to believe that January and February are in the books and my first race of the 2013 season is only a few weeks out. Training has been going pretty well. My late 2012 calf problems seem to be resolving and my run is slowly building back up to where it was in November when the calf strain happened.

Swim: 52,650 yards      16 hours 32 minutes
Bike:  381.01 miles       17 hours 56 minutes
Run:   59.18   miles         8 hours 35 minutes

Definitely a swim focus in January. Lots of hard intervals on the trainer for the bike and a slow build on the run.

Swim: 38,200 yards     12 hours 27 minutes
Bike:   452.04 miles     21 hours  8 minutes
Run:      78.37 miles     11 hours 23 minutes

Feel like I have plateaued with the swim after some nice improvement in January. More hard work on the bike with steadily increasing long intervals at 10-15 watts above what will be goal watts for Galveston. This past Saturday was 3X35 minutes at 230+ watts on 5 minutes easy recovery and for next weekend it will be 4X30 minutes. Great workouts to get mentally and physically ready to maintain a hard but sustainable effort through the 56 mile bike. The run is returning but the right calf still is sketchy and will require some ART I'm afraid.  

Hopefully March will be a good month with no setbacks and lots of good well as more frequent blog posts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Well, there it is. My main goal for 2013 is out there in BIG BOLD PRINT. It may be a longshot but I'm not getting any younger so what the hell I'm going to give it a shot! Over the past several years I have done primarily sprint and olympic distance events with one half iron distance race in late 2010. This year I'm planning on doing Ironman Texas 70.3 in April and Eagleman 70.3 in June with the hope of qualifying for the 70.3 World Chamionships in Las Vegas in September. It's a lofty goal given my limited experience at the distance but goals are suppose to be this certainly qualifies. 

Before jumping into 2013 I want to look back on 2012.  It was a breakthrough year for me in terms of results. I raced seven times finishing with three age group wins, three age group seconds and a second overall. This surprised me since I did not train as much in 2012 as I did in 2011. Much credit goes to the guys at Team MPI and specifically my Coach, John Murray. It was great racing and competing as a part of Team MPI. I met so many nice people and talented athletes and its always fun to have a group of teammates to provide encouragement at races. While I may not have done the volume in terms of bike and run mileage there was a definite increase in the intensity of my workouts. This was a great training formula given my focus on sprint and olympic racing.  

2012 totals
Bike:208h 31m 01s  - 4151.33 Mi
Run:137h 42m 46s  - 993.2 Mi
Swim:128h 07m 36s  - 358144.8 Yd


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Swimming-Will it ever get better?

For many triathletes swimming is their achilles heal. With running and cycling more miles will typically lead to faster times. Unfortunately, more laps at the pool do not necessarily yield a faster swim. This is compounded by the fact that we do our swim training in a setting totaly different than what we experience on race day.  I was never on a swim team while growing up and although I was comfortable in the water I really did not know how to swim well enough to actually get from one place to another. I've made slow but steady progress over the last four years but it has been frustrating.  Fortunately, I've made what feels like real progress over the last two months. There are two things that have helped:

1. I'm swimming more and working harder during my sessions. Essentially, I have gone from 3 sessions of around 2500 yards to 4 sessions in the 3000-3500 yard range.

2. I have taken to heart much of the advice that Gerry Rodrigues provides in the seminar linked below. The video is a little shaky through the first two to three segments but gets better. Each video segment is about 9 minutes long. The content is outstanding focusing on several specific ways to improve your swim as well as open water swim tips. Some of Gerry's suggestions are contrary to much of what you hear about improving your swim stroke. No one thing works for everyone.  I have not incorporated every suggestion but have made real gains focusing on a few.

Tower-26 Swim Lecture, Swimming for Triathlon: A 90 minute talk given at Trilabs in Santa Monica, CA.  Recorded February 2012.

I would encourage everyone to watch the entire seminar but the main points that I have incorporated into my swim workouts are listed below:

1. Body "taughtness"-engage your midsection and core. A tight, streamlined body will move through the water with less effort. Keeping your midsection taught also leads to better body rotation.

2. Swimming with an ankle band-Gerry emphasizes that the band needs to be tight to keep the ankles together. Initially you may want to use the band during pull sets to get the feel for the band then try to do some 25's without the buoy. I had used a band off and on over the years so this wasn't totally new. Its tough but can really help with balance, body position and stroke turnover. In the month or so that I have been using the band during every workout I have gone from struggling to do 25's to 6X100scy on 2:00 coming in around 1:41-43. Don't do too much too fast as it does put added stress on your shoulders and lats.

3. Swim more, swim harder and minimize the drills-As with any increase in frequency and intensity you want to avoid injury so be smart.  Gerry recommends incorporating hard sets into every session. My workouts vary but will typically have a main set that includes hard 50's or 100's on short rest. They hurt like hell but I'm doing sets now that I would have thought impossible two months ago. I've dropped the drill work and substituted ankle band work. I even use the ankle band during sets with the pull buoy to reinforce the feeling of keeping my legs/feet in a streamlined position.

4. Don't worry about strokes per length-Yes its important to be an efficient swimmer but maximizing your glide is not really practical in open water swimming. I still have a bit of a catch up stroke and it is tough to change something I've been doing for 3 years but I'm working on it.

5. Ditch the paddles-unless you are a top notch swimmer...I think Gerry said that unless you are swimming a mile in under 20 minutes then its technique issues rather than a strength or power issues that need improvement . If you must use paddles they should be no bigger than your hand.

Here's a link to my training log if you want to get an idea of the swim workouts I have been doing  Training Log.  I am not a fast swimmer but hopefully some of these ideas will resonate with you and help you improve. I've definitely enjoyed seeing some more speed in the pool! Good Luck!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Welcome to The Sage Triathlete

Sage is defined as someone having wisdom that comes with age and experience. Naming my first attempt at blogging as "The Sage Triathlete" may be a bit optimistic.  Well, I've got the age thing covered as I turned 50 in 2012 and got to bump up tothe 50-54AG. Experience? Some but not as much as many. 2013 will be my 5th season doing triathlons and fortunately I have improved each year. Over the last few seasons I have learned some from my successes and tons from the mistakes I have made. Wisdom? I'll have to leave that judgment to someone else.

Why a blog? I've become passionate and unfortunately obsessive about triathlons. I enjoy the training, love racing and have met some great people through the sport. Hopefully, this blog will provide helpful information on training, race reports/reviews, gear reviews and anything else I can come up with that is related to triathlons. This whole blog thing is new to me so I'm going to keep this initial post short so I can at least get one in the cyberbooks.