Going from short- to long-course racing requires adjustments in diet, nutrition and overall training. like the rest of us, it’s been trial and error for Leanda Cave to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Cave recently discovered that her GI problems during long races were related to an inflamed gut, so she now tries to maintain a gluten-free diet and, the night before a big race, eats high-calorie food that’s not dense in fibre and easy to digest.
“People have told me some Ironman athletes just eat ice cream before race day and that’s what I’m kind of trying to do,” she said. Her dinner the night before she won this year’s Wildflower Long Course Triathlon was porridge with lots of peanut butter. Her breakfast that morning: just plain porridge.
Cave knows how many calories per hour she needs and has experimented with different ways to get it all in without upsetting her stomach. “On the bike I used to eat some solids, but now I’m tending to stick with just liquids,” she said. “That’s helped a lot.”
For a long-course race, she mixes Accelerade in her water bottles and fills two gel flasks—one with the contents of four Accel gels without caffeine and another with the contents of two Accel gels with caffeine for an extra kick late in the race. The week leading up to an Ironman, she’ll do a brick workout to test her race-day nutrition to make sure there are no fuelling problems when riding and running at race-pace intensity.
Running a fast marathon after biking 180K demands superior leg strength, so Cave is doing a lot more work in the gym this year. “At the start of the season, it really helped my cycling,” she said, “but now it’s transferring to my running as well.”
Her gym workouts, which she does three times a week, consist mostly of various types of lunges and one-legged squats. She typically avoids heavy weights, concentrating instead on high reps.
“You want to replicate your race event,” she said. “For a long-course race, I don’t want to gain muscle mass—I want to gain strength-endurance.”
Running Long Off the Bike
Cave has been making steady progress dropping her run times in her 70.3 and Ironman races by increasing her cadence and leg strength. But after she ran a 1:25 half-marathon on the extremely hilly Wildflower course this year (despite very little running the month before the race because of a broken rib) she discovered the value of running on an inclined treadmill.
“After I broke my rib, I could only run on an incline,” she said. “So everything was uphill running on a treadmill on an incline of three per cent or more. Anything less than that and the impact would just hurt.”
Cave’s coach, Siri Lindley, had Cave running on the treadmill two weeks before the race with 90-minute runs that started at five minutes at a three per cent incline, six minutes at six per cent, five minutes at three per cent, three minutes at eight per cent, five minutes at three per cent, then finally one minute at 10 per cent before she repeated the sequence again.
“You’ve got to use your leg speed while you’re running on an incline, and that was a big thing for Siri,” Cave said. “She wanted me to use my leg speed.”