Liberty & Lifestyle Change

Liberty & Lifestyle Change

It’s hard to believe it’s already been one month since my last race. Liberty Half proved to be a major tipping point in figuring out some nutritional/gut issues that I’ve been experiencing for quite a while. But before getting into that, here’s a brief race report.

Swim: Starting with the Elite group, I knew it was going to be a fast start. I wanted to get out hard to catch some feet, but I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t blow up and end up in the same state of panic like in St. George. From the start, things felt really good. I managed to find feet early on and stay with them all the way till the end. My time ended up being just about the same as last year, which initially was discouraging. My swim improvements, however, seem to be manifesting themselves in similar results but with less energy expenditure. I still want to shave some time off my swim, but if I can get out of the water really fresh, I believe that will set me up for a great race.

Bike: Despite wet conditions again this year, I managed to bike seven minutes faster that last year. Nutrition was good, and I had plenty in the tank throughout the whole ride.

Run: Coming into transition, I saw Justin Herrick, a fantastic athlete from Des Moines, just leaving. This provided a lot of motivation, as I knew that if I could catch up with him it would make for a great run battle. However, within the first half mile I knew this wasn’t going to be my greatest run. With my first few steps came a somersaulting stomach. I’ve consistently had discomfort throughout the running portion of races for a while, but nothing like this. I was forced to stop a couple of times, and the time I was running was aimed at getting in what nutrition I could handle and surviving.

I ended up 7th overall with a time of 4:27. Definitely not a horrible day, but despite lots of encouraging words from Alyssa and Hillary post-race, I still didn’t feel like I raced to my full potential. The primary reason for this was the breakdown on the run.

A couple of months ago, the issues that I’ve been experiencing with my stomach started getting worse, affecting my training and racing. This prompted a journey to figure out the root cause. Alyssa suggested that I may have some level of food allergy or sensitivity. So I started tracking what I was eating, and after a couple of weeks we decided to eliminate dairy to see what difference that may have. Two weeks later with no improvements, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor to get his opinion and hopefully make some progress. I came out of this appointment fairly discouraged, because without being able to hone in on at least a smaller list of possible allergens, he didn’t offer much for suggestions. He didn’t seem to think that any sort of allergy testing would be worthwhile and simply suggested adjusting how much iron I was taking in.

A couple more weeks with no improvement and I was ready to try anything. Per a co-worker’s referral, I made an appointment with an allergist to have the scratch testing done. I knew this wasn’t the most definitive way to check for allergens, but it tests your reaction to a crazy amount of substances so hopefully I could at least get a direction to look in. The other plus to this test is that you only have to wait fifteen minutes for the results. After having 72 substances imprinted on my back, I reacted to six. None of these were severe reactions but enough to warrant eliminating them from my diet and paying attention to how that affected my symptoms. Of the six, I reacted to wheat, oats, barley and corn…so pretty much everything grain related. It was looking like I have a gluten sensitivity.

With some direction, now came the challenge of adjusting my eating lifestyle to eliminate these substances. The gluten-free aspect didn’t worry me that much as there are so many options for that diet. But corn proved to be a lot more difficult. Not only was it straight corn but also corn starch, corn syrup and anything that was derived from corn that I needed to eliminate. In the world of endurance sports nutrition, I started to realize how prevalent corn-based sugars are in bars, gels and drinks. Dextrose and maltodextrin are two of the most common ingredients that I’ve found. So not only did I need to alter my every day diet, but I had to take an in-depth look at the nutrition I was using in training. Gone are the days of nonchalantly grabbing an extra gel or Gatorade at a gas station mid-ride.

As of today, it’s been 17 days since I’ve had any gluten. After a week without any of the possible allergens in my diet I started adding corn back in to see how much of an impact that was having. I’ve noticed some discomfort and symptoms reminiscent of four weeks ago, but it doesn’t seem to be the primary cause of the issues. So I’m not keeping it out of my diet 100%, but I’m definitely staying cognizant of how much corn-based substances I’m ingesting.

It’s been amazing how much better I feel since making these adjustments. It’s pretty night and day! I’m going to be trying some different nutrition products for training and racing to find something that works well with my altered diet, but I’m pretty optimistic that I’ve figured out the root issue that was causing so much discomfort. Now instead of worrying about what my stomach was going to do during any given training day, I can focus on crushing the sessions that Alyssa is giving to prepare Ironman Wisconsin.

Any why a minion image for this post? Why not?