Friday, 7 June 2013

A fall, likely to be one of the hardest


I swim, I bike, I run. I do this because I love it.

When a medical professional tells me I can’t, it hurts. A lot.

No matter how many times we fall, we can never quite relate to how hard it actually is to fall, until we fall again. I have just been diagnosed with Costochondritis, an inflammatory condition of the costal cartilage and quite frankly I hate it. I am not going to sit here and write I have a big smile on my face and I am so happy because I ain’t. What I will sit here and write though is I have been here before and I will be here again. It is time to put my knowledge, experience and never give up attitude into good use.

I have fallen many times in my career from that discus prolapse in 2007, numerous bike crashes, over use injuries, parasites, burnt feet, the list goes on. Falling is part of growing; it shapes us, makes us stronger, keeps us in touch with reality and brings out the best in us. However there is one thing about falling that is no secret; it does hurt.

The doctors say I have to rest, so what is the story and what is the situation? Well hopefully I can curb my frustrations in the best way possible and bring some good out of a bad situation. If not then I can at least enlighten you all, on what I can only describe as weeks of on-going nightmares.

‘In search of fresh air’

It has been 5 weeks since my withdrawal from Rev3 Knoxville. There have been some OK periods of training in these 5 weeks but no doubt a loss in consistency and a respiratory system that has just not been right. For those of you who don’t know; I withdrew from Rev3 Knoxville as a precaution to my health; upon arrival to Knoxville my respiratory system was struggling to cope with the high levels of birch pollen.

In May 2012 I was diagnosed as being an allergic to birch pollen. May back then was a month where I needed to push my body in search of absolute life best form. Being an unknown allergic at the time and preparing for my first ever Olympics, I pushed my body through the intensity levels needed. Unknown at the time I was severely overusing my intercostal muscles, of which generated a stress fracture of the T4 rib.

Back to 2013 and Rev3 Knoxville, suffering similar symptoms to those experienced in 2012, Ben and I took no chances. We were in Knoxville a total of 24 hours before making the decision not to race; we rented a car, chose to miss our scheduled return flight and made the 11 hours road trip back to Florida in search of fresh air. This is something that has been told before, but what has followed since that ‘escape from Knoxville’ has been tiresome and demanding.

Returning to Florida from Knoxville, I put in a solid few days of training on what we thought was a healing body. The immediate plan was then to return to Denmark, fulfill several sponsor commitments, attend an interview for a much wanted U.S visa and end up with a trip to France to visit LOOK. From there it was to be the U.S for as long as I felt happy.

It wasn’t to be…

Upon touchdown to Denmark what transpired was; a panic 5 hour travel across Denmark in search of low pollen levels, 4 days hidden away in a summer house on the west coast, permanent wearing of a face mask outside of a home environment, cancellation of all sponsor commitments including my trip to France, a 5 hour return travel to Copenhagen, visa interview and same day departure to Lanzarote.

Why such madness? With the stress fracture of 2012 and what I experienced in only 24 hours in Knoxville, I needed to do what I could to avoid further contact with birch pollen.

When I got on that plane from Copenhagen to Lanzarote, it was such a relief. I felt a sense of excitement that I could arrive in Lanzarote forget about the recent ‘drama’ and crack on with my preparation for races in the U.S. The plan was simple, get back on the horse, make contact with the shape I left the U.S with and fly back for an entire summer state side.


Expressing my excitement 24 hours before travel to Lanzarote


If only…

After only one full training day on Lanzarote I experienced pain, along my rib cage and across my chest. I spent 13 days training, some days were good, and some days were bad. I was suffering chest pains, occasional sharp shooting pains, neural pains down my arms and across my back, on the 13th day I feared for my heart. I sat in a hospital in Lanzarote contemplating what life would be like away from the sport. I feared the ECG scan and blood tests that I had just had would come back with unwanted findings. I always think the worst. Thankfully it didn’t; it confirmed that my heart was healthy. X-rays confirmed that my respiratory system and rib cage were perfectly healthy. Blood counts were great apart from a minor increase in inflammatory markers.

The conclusion?

Costochondritis - an inflammation of the costal cartilage. Having now spent 10 days since the diagnosis trying to get back into training, it is no use my body needs complete rest. My daily approach towards training over these last 3 weeks has become based on pain tolerance. For many injuries or problems this is OK, for Costochondritis it is not. The doctors say I have to rest, 2 weeks or more in total and then a slow progression from that point. It is safe to say I have recently fallen, 12 months since my previous fall and I can say this one hurts more than any of those in the past.

I recently believe I have found where my heart is in this sport, since the start of this year I have simply felt new again. I feel like a rookie with so much to learn, so many areas to improve on and I love it. Feeling a new sense of self-assurance and an ever-growing belief that I can consistently perform at the top end of this sport makes this fall hard to soften. I have, for a long time known what my ability is and I was very happy to demonstrate this in all races I have done this year. The most exciting part about my early season success is, Joel and I had yet to be specific. The training data I put out around the time I won San Juan was training data developed primarily for my intended start in ITU racing. With a knowledge and understanding on how to move that data even further to benefit my performance at non-draft events makes my hunger, my belief and drive to overcome this bump in the road even stronger.

24 hours prior to writing this blog I was anyone’s worst nightmare, short tempered, fragile, feeling my world had come to an end, just a down right negative human being. We always seek for reasons, solutions and strategies to limit the time off from something we love. We do it so we can get back into a rhythm and conduct what we are driven by. The fact is we need to make decisions, not by ourselves, not by one other person but by a group of trusted people. In a time where reassurances are needed seek comfort from those that have experience, don’t take it all by yourself. Understand that no matter how hard, how many times you fall there are ALWAYS positives to take away. I will return back to Denmark from Lanzarote tomorrow. I already now look forward to commencing my recovery and return to racing.


This image will be my motivation for the coming weeks.
A big thanks for all the messages of good luck regarding IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman this weekend, I will keep them closely and put them to good use at the next racing opportunity.

Good luck to all those who are racing globally, I really do envy each and every one of you.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

"SAY NO! TO DOPING" but why aren't we?




Our sport is young enough, it is connected to campaigns that drive the words Say NO! to doping, yet we accept those that go back into competition? More so they are allowed to earn victories and earn prize money.

There are enough motivated, honest people in our sport to override the minority and out those who have chosen to dope, cheat or bring the sport into disripute. So why is it that victories, prize money, media attention and sponsorship is being given to those who have once chosen to dope?

The past weeks have seen a large increase and focus on Lisa Hütthalers victories at IRONMAN 70.3 events. Observing these Tweets, Facebook posts and comments from other professional triathletes globally has brought me to think we need to speak our mind in order to better the future of our sport. Now I fully believe if the system, organisation and structure of our sport is correct, it will go mainstream. The bottom line is if we don't get a hold of the doping situation at an early enough stage our sport will loose recognition.

Should those who have once tested positive for the use of performance enhancing drugs be eligible for qualification to major championships and receive race prize money? My answer to this question is - NO! Why? Because my belief and duty as a high performance sports person is to stand for what is right in sport; clean, honest and fair racing. Whether it be now or in the past those that have failed doping tests should become ineligible for qualification to major championships and/or games and ineligible from receiving prize money.

Lisa Hütthaler to those that don't know has a history that includes failed drug testing, bribery and cheating. Here is what we know through publications written and available in the media. The information stated in the below bullet points has been gathered from online medias.

- Lisa Hütthaler, according to this article, paid 15.000 EUR for EPO.
- Lisa Hütthaler, according to this article, attempted to bribe a laboratory worker 20.000 EUR to make a 'B' sample test negative.
- Lisa Hütthaler, according to this article, used controversial racing methods in IRONMAN 70.3 Miami.

Lisa is not the only one and there are probably a few out there. So is it right that those that have once cheated are eligible to compete in major championships, claim race victories and receive race prize money? 

I certainly think a lot more can be done to combat cheating in our sport. Doping regulations and testing programs have got better but I believe there is still a large room for improvement. We should also focus on past offenders; my wish and belief is that triathlon organisations (WTC, ITU, USAT etc.) will write their own rules to combat past offenders also. Rules that go something like "…any person committing any form of doping violation becomes ineligible indefinitely; to compete in major championships; be awarded race victories; receive any form of payment from race organisers (start fee or prize money)".

Now we are very ignorant if we believe every triathlete out there today is clean, BUT we are certainly a sport that is young, not wrapped in doping scandals and in a position to make change. So before it goes to far I think a stronger stance needs to be taken on doping whether past or present.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

What I eat and my approach to food...

So following on from yesterdays blog this post now covers what I eat and how I approach nutrition whilst my career is high performance sport. My approach to nutrition and food is very simple, I base everything around intaking macro nutrients: Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats (Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids). In addition I then seek out micro nutrients: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Selenium, Calcium, Zinc and Iron. All of these key macro and micro nutrients I seek in the food I eat over a period of a week. I don't physically register the intake of these macro and micro nutrients I am just aware of what food types they are in. To ensure I get all of these micro and macro nutrients, well it is quite simple, I make sure it is only these food types that are in my cupboard and in my fridge wherever I am in the world.

So why do I look at my food in a categorical way? Now this is where my education benefits my career. When we perform daily at such high intensities and volumes I am aware of exactly what nutrients our body uses during the course of a training session, hard training day and week in general. My aim through restoring all of these key nutrients is to ensure my body is in energy balance. These key nutrients are not only what my body uses and I need to restore, it is also a massive contributor to my bodies healing and recovery process.



So why the above macro and micro nutrients in particular? Below I have very simply defined how I view each macro nutrient and summarised the value of micro nutrients.

Carbohydrates: Our bodies main source of fuel when conducting activity is carbohydrates, just like cars run on efficient, fast acting fuel our bodies do the same and this is Carbohydrates.

Proteins: every time we train we break down small muscle fibres, in order to repair these muscles fibres and make them stronger our body requires proteins.

Fats: when I say fat I mainly focus on getting mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 3 and 6), why? These fats are vital for our immune system. When we train and race hard we suppress our bodies immune system and it is always a balance to ensure we don't get ill and we don't get injured, especially when in heavy training and immediately after competition.

Micro Nutrients

All of the above micro nutrients Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Selenium, Calcium, Zinc and Iron we basically can't live without them. These micro nutrients are especially important for us as sporting athletes. Compared to the general population we put a large demand on our bodies ability to repair, restore and strengthen the overall structure.

Look at this way, we smash our bodies day in day out through hard intensive training, our body basically needs to be able to repair itself in order for us to become stronger. By ensuring the regular intake of key micro nutrients we are giving our body the best chance possible of recovering, gaining strength and adapting to our ever demanding training load. We can't train day in day out and expect the body to recover if we don't feed it with the right nutrients.

That is how I look at food and this is how I structure my eating habits. There is always room for 'plea surely' foods, especially when you are having a high training load, but it is vital that the key nutrients come first.

A welcomed treat after my win at Life Time Fitness Tri, Miami

So what do I exactly eat, well as I mentioned at the start I think it will surprise many as to the quantity of food I eat so instead of just writing a list I thought why not make a food diary? It is what I do whenever I work with new clients and their eating habits, so I am going to do the same through images. Tomorrow I start my approach to Rev3 Knoxville, I have 3 days of hard training remaining and then I enter my taper period, it is this time where it is absolutely crucial my body gets what it needs in order for me to be in energy balance come the weekend. I will commit to publicising a 3 day food diary from Monday to Wednesday. I will upload images at the end of every day when I have got my feet up and resting in bed. This album I will host via my Facebook page - www.facebook.com/helletri

I hope this blog and the 3 day food diary will provide you all an insight into my approach to food and what I eat on a regular basis.

And now to finish up by saying awesome job to Alica Kaye for the win at St. Anthony's today, Alicia and I have spent a lot of training hours together over the past months, she has put me in the hurt locker on many occasions and it is fantastic to see her hard work paying off.

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