Your Triathlon Questions Answered - II

As a Fitter Radio Coffee Clubber you’re given the opportunity to ask any triathlon related question of our coaches or nutritionist. We’ll be posting some of them via our blog page - hope you find the information useful! 👌

Bevan and Tim - Lake Wanaka

Bevan and Tim - Lake Wanaka

Dear Bevan and Tim,

An O.W.S. question. I have swum the 70.3 distance several times with no issues. But when training for or racing a local 2-mile swim I get crippling gas pains after exiting the water. Has me concerned as I’m racing my first full this July at IM Austria. Any thoughts, help or suggestions?


My first guess would be that it’s due to poor breathing mechanics during the swim. It’s not uncommon for non-elite adult swimmers to insufficiently exhale when their face is in the water. We should be attempting to minimise any time spent holding our breath. The goal is to deeply exhale when the face is in the water and this starts from the moment we return our face back into the water after breathing. The greater the exhalation, the bigger the breath we can take in. This also helps us maintain a more normal diaphragmatic breath as opposed to a more stressed hyperventilated chest breath.

If this is what’s happening with you then it’s not uncommon to have some trapped air from “gulping” your breath when swimming. The moment you stand up out of the water then you either have to burp or fart to release it!

Dear Bevan and Tim,

In 2019 I would like to get a better handle on my nutrition. I eat pretty well but feel that it’s an area that will help me get that extra few percent I am looking for to reach my big goals. I was flipping through the ROAR book on my flight home yesterday and was reading some of the nutrition chapters. There were some contradictions to what you and Mikki preach. I am not sure if Stacy has changed her tune since the publication, but she is not a fan of low carb and ketosis for women and isn't a fan of fasting. I know diet and nutrition is very individual. I don't want nutrition to add stress to my life so I’m going to keep it simple. Could we get to the basics of what to track, a good range of macros. I am also going to start the year off with a blood test to see where I need to add and cut back in my diet. Any specifics on blood testing, main things you look for in blood work. My first goal with nutrition is to start meal planning dinners (for the family) and cut down on the things that shouldn't be in my diet (processed foods and wine 😊 Cheers to 2019!


Hi EK, Mikki here. Thanks for the question and great that you’re focusing on nutrition to help you reach your goals in 2019!

My first bit of advice would be to use a food tracker such as My Fitness Pal or Chronometer to have a look at baseline diet and what your current macros are. It will also help you to better understand where carbs, protein and fats are found in food if you're not familiar.

My thoughts around what is optimal for an athletic female is that generally I aim for 2g protein per kg body weight, low-mod carbs with carbs placed in the diet after training, for recovery, rather than before training. This will help to enhance fat metabolism for training purposes. Fat I would recommend 1-2g per kg of body weight typically.

In saying that, it's hard to track and stick to numbers without being obsessive! So I think in terms of food: 150g-200g of a protein source food per meal, an abundance of vegetables, 1-2 serves of fruit for some (not others, if wanting to be lower carb) starchy carbs after training (fist-sized amount) with potentially some low glycogen training techniques keeping you lower carb at night or during the day. 2-4 serves of fat depending on the person/body composition goals (a serve being 1/4 avocado, 1 Tbsp oil/fat, 1/4 cup nuts) etc.

My recommendations for the main things to look for in blood work would be:

Hba1c, TSH, T3, T4, B12, Folate, Liver Enzymes, Zinc, Iron Panel, Ferritin and Cholesterol.

Good luck with your goals for 2019 😊


Dear Bevan and Tim,

If I fail during the run portion of a 70.3 how do I know FOR SURE if it was a nutrition issue or a training issue?


Maybe the best way to answer this is to look at how I would attempt to work this out if it was for an athlete I was coaching. Before I looked at the training leading into the event, I’d first analyse the execution of the race. Now I’ll assume you didn’t encounter gastric upset and that the athlete’s run leg was just slower or they ended up walking.

The first thing I would do is look at how the bike leg was executed in terms of the intensity the athlete maintained in relation to their current Functional Threshold ability. Mid-pack age group athletes should stay within 70-80% of their Functional Threshold power when racing a 70.3 - elite age groupers can afford 80-85%. If I find the athlete rode above this intensity based on their ability then potentially they starting running out of fitness and/or fuel during the bike.

I would look at the relationship between the power they produced and the HR response during the bike leg to see if there was a drop off in power (as HR remained stable) or an increase in HR (as power remained stable). If during the bike leg the athletes HR started to climb whilst the power remained stable then this could indicate that the intensity they selected was too high for their fitness levels and they were having to work harder to maintain it. This would have the same effect on the body of running out of fitness and/or fuel. If HR remained stable put power started to decline this would indicate the same thing. Fitness wasn’t established enough to maintain the intensity they were riding at for the entire bike leg.

I would look at how stable their effort was across the ride given that we know there is a high energy cost for highly variable power outputs versus lower energy costs when effort is held very steady. If an athlete is riding with power, we look at how many high ‘power surges’ the athlete may have performed within the bike leg. High power spikes are very costly in terms of energy and if we do this too many times over a long duration race this this can contribute to quickly running out of fuel. The best use of our energy store in a 70.3 is to stay within a tight range of power or pace output. Highly variable pacing has a huge fuel cost. Viewed simply, any period over 2-3 mins above FTP (Functional Threshold Power) would be metabolically very costly

and could easily affect the run. This is easy for athletes to do on a hilly course or if they surge a lot on the flats.

I’d also ask the athlete to document the exact amount of fluid and nutrition they remember taking in during the bike leg, including whether they ate breakfast or not prior to race start. If I find that none of the above has occurred then I look to how many calories per hour the athlete took in. It’s not uncommon for athletes to take in far less than they intended and my belief is that we should be optimising fuelling by training our bodies prior to race day to know what the upper limit is and then working to make sure we get that amount in come race day.

And lastly depending on at what point the run went South, I’d look at the pacing (and fuelling) of the run in the first half, again in relation to current run fitness. It’s very easy for an excited athlete to go out too hard in the first 5km only to pay the price later on. Also, when athletes hit the run their ability to continue to fuel is harder with the movement of the stomach whilst running.

Now I know all of the above is geared towards those people who have a power meters, GPS, HR etc. which offers the ability to analyse data and make for a deeper understanding of what might have gone wrong, but the areas I’ve focused on are typically the most common faults that occur in long distance triathlon. If the run has been sub-optimal then we need to look at:

• Pacing in relation to the athlete’s fitness level and ability

• How they paced the bike in terms of holding a steady and stable output

• How they fuelled the bike in terms of optimising their intake with a run still to come

• How they paced the run, in terms of their fitness level and ability

Then if nothing comes up from the race execution analysis then returning to the taper period leading into the race and then the broader training for the event will be where you might find other areas that reveal why the run might have been underperformed.

Dear Bevan and Tim,

If you’re doing lots of longer aerobic work because it’s a base phase/aerobic event or you’re in Xmas mode do we assume TSS will be lower or does it factor in duration (obviously it works of HR, intensity etc). Because then it makes the form number low because there’s not enough stress/intensity to increase fitness/adaptation? Assuming therefore there must always be some session(s) to create the adaptation

(KC: New Zealand)

Great question and it depends on the phase of training you’re in and the overall composition of your training week (assuming it’s a working athlete using a 7-day cycle).

You’re right in the fact that the goal of training is to make the current training load greater than current fitness levels. This can be viewed as an individual workout or the total load of your training week. If using TSS as a measure of training load it’s good to know the factors that are used in the calculation of TSS. For the bike and run, TSS is calculated using ‘Normalized Power’ or ‘Normalised Pace’ - the intensity of the workout in relation to your current Functional Threshold power or pace settings and the workout duration. When you understand these factors, you can see that TSS can be influenced in a few different ways. For example, you could do a very long easy ride and the fact that the duration of the workout is extensive (but intensity is low) you can still accumulate a fair amount of TSS. Equally so a short high intensity session may accumulate a high TSS value as well. This has a bit to do with the fact that intensity is weighted heavily in the TSS algorithm and wracks up TSS points really quickly to recognise the acute stress.

So, if you’re using TSS in its simplest form when gauging training load on a week to week basis then the goal would be to have the total TSS from all sessions being slightly higher than the previous week’s. This should see your ‘Chronic Training Load’ (fitness) grow each week and we refer to this as the ramp rate. The common belief via Training Peaks is that most athletes should see a ramp rate of between 5-8 CTL (fitness) points per week. Higher than this would indicate that the previous week’s training has been significantly greater than current fitness levels so the risk of injury or illness becomes much higher. Lower than this and the week’s training stress might not have been high enough to see real fitness adaptation.

Now this is a broad description of TSS and the caveat is that athletes new to this concept can become fixated on attempting to have all sessions create more stress

than their current fitness levels as they want to see their fitness score grow. The art to this is in where you place the emphasis on overloading the body. There may be times when you conduct a recovery session and the goal is a very low TSS score. Or you may be attempting to simply maintain fitness so you choose to create a workout that simply matches current fitness levels. This is when the art meets the science of workout programming and you can learn this by playing around a bit with your training. You’ll also need to ensure that the ‘Functional Threshold’ settings in Training Peaks are up to date and accurate as this is how the software calculates the intensity of the uploaded session. If your thresholds aren’t accurate the TSS score won’t be either.

Chris Collyer