You can lose the goal, but don’t lose the lesson

Well, that was a frustrating last half of the season.  There were some very uplifting moments over the last 9 months, but it is hard to end my last two races way off what I know and feel I’m capable of.  Physically, I was totally ready to go out there and lay down my best race to date, but absolutely failed to deliver.  This time round was pretty much exactly the same melt down as Ironman Canada – a slow energy loss at mile 13 once the gut shuts down, soon followed by total detonation and no way to get fuel to the muscles.  There is definitely something that I am doing wrong, or completely missing altogether.  I hate to play the blame game on nutrition ’cause it’s always the first thing any athlete points at when their day goes wrong.  Often times it’s not nutrition at all, it’s bike pacing or simply poor training.

Training: I know that’s not it.  Test numbers on both the bike and run have seen unbelievable improvement this year.  Running especially, almost unimaginable to be honest.  Consistent gains month after month the whole year.  If there is one major disappointment this year it’s not letting those number come out on race day.

Pacing: Again, I know that’s not it.  I put that issue to bed yesterday.  I rode well below any semblance of a red-line with the intent of giving myself a really good shot at running sub 3 hours, my main goal for this race.  In fact there were points I was so far below red line I closed my mouth for a few minutes to breath through my nose, simply to see if I could.  Perhaps not the smartest thing to do in a race, but clearly a sign of keeping things under control.  Yes, I was well behind any semblance of a race for a top 10 and that did bother me on some levels, however, keeping site of running well and finishing strong was more important to me personally.

That leaves nutrition, mental strength, and will to suffer.  I can guarantee I’ve got the last two covered, but, nutrition is one thing I’ve kept the same (relatively similar anyway) over the last 2 years.  Some great moments in more than a couple Ironmans have left me hanging on to that plan, now though, I’ve got to re-evaluate and put something better together for next year.  My main concern is eating Ensure+ over the first couple hours of the bike.  It works well for me in training at low intensities, but never do I train at the same levels or distances back-to-back like an Ironman day.  My thought is that I’m unable to digest it properly, leaving it curdling in my stomach for 5 hrs till my gut says “f-you man, I’m cutting you off.”  Really, that and dehydration are my only potential culprits (obviously not the only potential culprits when it comes to fully excelling as a professional triathlete – putting the work in is the only possibility to get that outcome – but finishing a race without keeling over from intestinal pains, most likely something going in the hatch). I had a good talk with Coach CV this morning and we’ll definitely look at putting some time into sorting out these issues.  I’m happy to have him on my side to keep self doubt at bay, in many ways he believes in me more than I believe in myself.  What more could you ask from a coach, really?

Number one priority for the Wurtele crew now is to recover well and maintain a decent level of fitness over the winter.  Heather needs to get her injury sorted out, so, will more than likely make her way back to Victoria where she knows some great massage and physio guru’s.  I will most likely hang out with Manah (our cat) in our RV down in Lompoc, California until she returns.

All in all our first full season as true professional athletes has been a good one.  Some great lessons and good results.  Heather hit the podium at every race she cared about with the exception of Hawaii and Wildflower – where 5th place is still a freaking good result.  I managed to grab a 6th place at Ironman Coeur d’Alene along with some PB’s in the early season races, ending the year with moments of brilliance but a definite gloom on the overall finishes.

We look forward to spending the entire winter building on what we’ve built up this past year so that we can hit those early season races with gumption.  Last winter was extremely rough in that department.  Leaving jobs in February, living in an RV with feet of snow to deal with through January, and a relative unknown wearing on the nerves.  This time round we know where we’re at, what we want, and how to go about doing it.

All that’s left to be done is to go out and do it.

Thank you great sponsors and family members for believing in us.  We truly could not be pursuing this passion and dream were it not for you.


~ by trevorandheather on November 23, 2009.

7 Responses to “You can lose the goal, but don’t lose the lesson”

  1. trev, I am going to suggest something. now that your season is done get some blood work done to see if your body is absorbing the food you put in. you may have some underlying problems that you didn’t think of. I am become an ezpert the hard way about nutrition so if you want to pick my brain e-mail a phone number, I use skype for long distance so it doesn’t cost me anything

    • Hey Mike,

      Thanks for the suggestion. It is indeed a thought. Maybe I’m being stupid not to look at that avenue right now, but I’ve never done an Ironman without the Ensure+ drink, so have to think that that could be an easy fix by getting rid of it. The catch is I had no gut issues in 2008, none at all. Even in the June Ironman this year I had none at all, and I sucked that stuff back for sure. I know I can’t use it in shorter events, and up until now I didn’t even think of taking it out of a long event. It’s a question mark, but there are many months ahead to figure some of that out before racing again.

      I’d hate to think that’s it’s mental, but, that thought has crossed my mind after this one. Having the slightest doubt about anything in an Ironman can be a tough battle to win. Another great reason to really make a change and scrap those back of the head thoughts.

      Anyway, I’ll email directly, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  2. It ain’t mental, not until after the fact. Only then do the question marks surface and perhaps rightfully so.

    Let’s tackle this thing all winter, one possibility at a time. If you’re back in Canada at any point this winter the blood tests could definitely be of service. Or they couldn’t hurt anyway. Here in the land of the unhealthy and uninsured, though, they’d kill your wallet.

    Let’s look into those balances or ratios you and I spoke of…water to calorie ratio, which on race day cannot hover too much higher (thicker) than 6-8% solution. Then there’s the water to sodium ratio, which is also obviously vital when under duress (or when sweating). Finally, there’s the *types* of calories (fats, proteins, sugars) being ingested. I truly believe our issue can be resolved somewhere within this realm and the sodium one likely ain’t it.

    Since absorption is rarely impeded when calories are diluted (except when diluted by too much water and too little sodium…i.e., hyponatremia) we know it’s not too little of something, other than water possibly. This doesn’t mean it’s the opposite necessarily, but my guess is that it’s the Ensure/CarboPro combo (very condensed forms of calories) with too little water to chase it or dilute it. The gut gives up the fight since blood is directed to muscles and skin (for cooling purposes) where it’s also needed to do the job given the level of exertion. Once the gut quits draining the muscles (etc) have to let up, so you don’t overheat. The body chooses self-preservation over performance.

    So…our first experiement is learning to take in weaker/thinner forms of calories, but more often so you still meet the caloric needs of your muscles (etc), with enough water and sodium. We can do this here in Solvang since it’s still warm…that much more so when indoors near a scale! (Hint, hint!)


    • Hey Chuckie,

      It’s Su (with no ‘e’) from Solvang Spring Fling camp. Trevor, we never actually met at the Solvang camp but I did see you blow by me on the bike like I was a lamp post.

      Anyway, didn’t PZ say at the camp that we don’t need protein during endurance events? He said that consuming about 10% protein was a “nice theory” since your body gets about 10% of its energy from protein metabolism. However, this doesn’t work in real life. He had some complicated physiological explanation which pretty much flew over my head. But the gist of it was that the protein could sit in your gut undigested and can cause problems when intensity goes up (ie on the run).

      Trevor, you might want to think back to the IM races where Ensure didn’t cause a problem. What was the temp on race day? For CDA this year, it was cold. I remember it was around 60F that day (maybe colder?). Arizona and Canada were comparatively hot. Heat will slow your digestion down. Perhaps the protein in Ensure got digested during CDA because the temp was colder?

      For my first two IMs, my gut would shut down about 1.5 hrs into the marathon. Quite painful. With CDA this year, I removed protein from my nutrition plan and had my best race GI-wise. Without protein, I’d feel hungry which would make me grumpy. So, I ate white bread with jam on the bike (no fiber, no protein). This kept me from getting grumpy during my race.

      Just thought I’d give you something to think about. I’ve trusted PZ on several other issues and he hasn’t been wrong so far. He was the only one who was able to figure out what caused a repetitive strain injury in my knee. The man is a genius as far as I’m concerned.

      Good luck to you!


      • Hi Su,

        Thanks a bunch for the comment and suggestion. I hope you’ll be coming back down to the Solvang Camp in 2010. I’m sure Heather and I will be in the area again and we’d love to take in a couple of the group rides, though, I’m not sure if Chuckie is helping out this year or not.

        What you say makes perfect sense and is definitely something to consider. No doubt I will be getting rid of Ensure Plus as a calorie source. Like you, I know I would start to feel really hungry if I didn’t have SOMETHING in my stomach. A piece of white bread and jam could do the trick, maybe even a bit of banana. We’ll see what happens, this winter will be spent sorting all that stuff out properly. I’m excited to make the switch.

        Thanks again,


  3. Hi Trevor,

    My name is Noa, I am a coach/biomechanist/sports nutritionist from Victoria, BC (Heather actually jumped into one of my swim sessions last Monday at crystal).

    First thing – listen to your coach, from his comment it sounds like he knows his stuff 🙂 Second thing – I recently finished grad school in sports nutrition and have helped many athletes with the issues you described (both ITU racers and IM athletes). There are several things to consider, like bike position (yes, it can actually be related to your race day nutrition), breathing patterns, heat and intensity. If you like, send me an email and I will be happy to give you a bit more food for though!


    • Hi Noa,
      Thanks for note. I’ll definitely send you an email. All input is welcome and I certainly have some questions for you, I’m leaving no stone unturned this winter.

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