Introduction by Jennifer Gibson: I am very fortunate to introduce two very special people. For me personally, I have been very excited about introducing the two of them because I have had the fortunate opportunity to witness both of their contributions to our National Team and to see either one of these two in action, they are absolutely amazing. I know they are going to share great things with you guys today. Your first speaker is Steve Munatones and he has been one of USA Swimming’s Open Water coaches. He was at the 2001, 2003 and 2005 World Swimming Championships. He has written for Swimming World, Triathlon Magazine and Swim Magazine. He has been a race director and athlete – he was on the first USA Swimming sponsored open water team where he won the 1982 World 25K Championship. He swam on the Pro-marathon swimming circuit and did several solo swims in Asia.
Our second speaker will be Charlene Boudreau. She is with the Performance Service Director for USA Swimming. She has been at USA Swimming since 1996 and she oversees the nutrition education for Sports Medicine in the research grants program for the National Team Division.
Steve Munatones: I am going to take you through an explanation that I give our National Team athletes and it basically goes from the pre-race all the way to the finish. There are lots of pictures, but I believe a picture is much better than just an explanation because this is a very, very different sport than your pool swimming. In the pre-race, obviously they number your shoulders in the ready-room, but they also number your hand, your shoulder in the back and that is for the referees to understand who the athletes are during the race. In contrast to pool swimming, the athletes wear transponders on both wrists. So, for pool swimmers to be swimming with transponders, about the weight of your basic black Casio watch – it is a little bit different. You will notice that we typically tape down the wrist area so that it doesn’t flap.
They rules of sport require that you finish the race with at least one and what these do is when you hit the touch pad – it records the swimmer. Swim caps are required – men and women, but because the water in a lot of open water races in the summer is very, very warm – a lot of people purposely take their caps off so the gun starts – everybody has a cap and you will see half of the men rip their caps off. There is a ready-room, just like in pool swimming, except it is generally outdoors and in a tent. There is lots of commotion and there is a pre-race instruction the night before. There is a pre-racer’s instruction minutes before the race and open-water swimming you need to be flexible because often buoys will float away, courses will change and you always have to be aware of any change. After the – this is in a World Championships of FINA sponsored race – when the athletes exit the ready-room they typically go out to a pier or dock – someplace and they are introduced to the crowd – thereafter, they go to the starting area – whether that is a dock, a pier – edge of the pier. In the Olympics we understand that the rules will have such that the 25 athletes will be picked at random and that #1 will be at this side and #25 will be at this side. Prior to the Olympics it is generally – you go to the dock – you jump in and you get your spot.
This is a shot from the 2005 World Championships in Montreal – it was held in a rowing basin and it was like a giant swimming pool. You went down this side and back the other. Essentially what FINA has done – they have eliminated the need to navigate. You got a lane line to your left typically and you have got a cable underneath so that the athletes do not really need to lift up their head and navigate, except when it has to do with competing with competing with your competitors or knowing where the feeding stations are. You can see from this shot, this is about 800 meters from the large orange buoys and it is a straight shot. Your starts are typically behind a rope, between the pier and the lead referee and the person – the swimmers – there is a gun shot. Typically a gun shot – there is a lot of commotion – he may have a 10, 9, 8 – some athletes will go beyond the starting rope – he will say back, back, back – there will be a lot of commotion – he will say back, back, back – typically he will get frustrated and he will shoot the gun. When that happens you have a lot of people who are ready and a lot of people who are not so typically, I tell the swimmers here – you see a huge difference – be ready all the time. If there is a starting rope – when the ref is saying back, back, back – again, if there is any Europeans in this room, I apologize, but typically the Americans will go back first and other people will wait – typically Asians will go back first, but the Europeans having much more race experience will hesitate to go back so again, that is why there is a lot of confusion. I think the American was somewhere over here in this race so she got a pretty good start.
Very interesting – this was in the 2003 – Barcelona – 5K – I believe this was two Russian swimmers who actually – when they shot off the gun – they did the butterfly kick for about ten or 15 yards. It was a very interesting – in the water start, but they did their butterfly start which was – they got a very nice start. Now, why is a start so important in a race that will be anywhere from an hour in a 5 K, two hours for the 10 K or 5-6 hours in the 25 K – because typically that first buoy will separate the first and second group – especially in the rowing courses. You will see in this section the two gentlemen who ended up getting 1st and 2nd were way on this side – most of the lead top competitors were in here, but these two took off for a while and then just cut right in. Again, the important thing here is when the athletes are starting, that they understand what their strategy is – should be for the first buoy.
After the first buoy typically your strategy is a function of what the other athletes will do. Is the pace fast? Is the pace slow? Do you want to be leading the group? Do you want to be drafting? This was a shot taken minutes after a few – I would say 50-75 yards after the race started. You can already see here two clear groups – already settling in. You see here – this is – the previous shot was the men’s group – this is a shot of the women’s group – again – three distinct groups – minutes after race starts. Feeding is very important. I will speak specifically about the 10 K race because that will be our Olympic distance. Most athletes now days take Jell-Packs. They will either put them in the bottom of their suit or in the back of their suit. They will open it up very slightly so that during the race they can grab it quickly, tear off the end and squirt it in. We tell the athletes if you can’t take your nutrition within two seconds – that is too slow so as you are swimming you grab the pre-torn, pre-opened jell-pack on your back – rip the rest away and squeeze it in your mouth. Here, Chip Peterson, one of the leading American swimmers likes to put it in the front. John Kenny, another swimmer likes to put it in the back. It just depends.
Typically, athletes – whether they are American, Asian or European will have anywhere from two to four packs with them. The reason why is packs fall off – they fall off just naturally or they fall off because one of your competitors hit you and it fell off. Here is a shot of coaches at a feeding station. It is a frenzy. If the coach falls in the water, your athlete is disqualified so please either wear bare feet or shoes with a lot of friction on the soles. There is a lot of pushing. There is a lot of shoving. There is no – you know – Australia you go here – Germany – you here – America here – you get your best spot. What the American team does is we typically wear something bright and a lot of countries on their feeding sticks, they put their country flag at the end. That makes it easier for the athlete to site the feeding stick. Sometimes – again it depends what the strategy is. Some athletes bypass a feeding station, although the coach is ready and other athletes decide to take it. 10 K – mostly 10 K. typically in a 10 K the best athletes – meaning those that finish in the top 5 will take at least two stops – whether that is a jell-pack they drink or water or some kind of hydration that they will receive from the coach. It is a two hour race and although as pool swimmers we are typically not used to hydrating during a race – it is a nearly two hour race and if you equate that to marathon – triathlon and other endurance sports – those athletes are taking a lot of liquids – bananas – other things and typically – the open water swimmers take a lot less, but we do need enough fuel to have it you know – energy at the last, but I will let Charlene explain the reasons why in the second half of this talk.
I was talking about the frenzy. If you look at the #5 – this is a dock and the athletes were coming. Now, the athletes are getting closer – just look at that #5. Now again, the coaches here are taking a risk because they could easily be pushed in. If you are pushed in – even though you did not purposefully fall in – your athlete is disqualified, which they inform you after the race is over. Another thing that is interesting – some countries have long bamboo poles and others have PVC pipe there is no standard of what your feeding stick can be. Generally, the longer your stick is, the less control you have and when you are on your dock and that dock is moving up and down – it is quite often that when the athlete gets there – they grab it and they have got an empty cup. Again, what is very important – it is a frenzy when people stop – take a drink, typically they raise their feet up and kick again so I always tell athletes – be very careful – the most important thing is taking the water. The second most important thing is protect your goggles. Caps have come off. Goggles have come off. This was in Montreal. There were at least two black eyes – there were athletes with lacerations, etc. I encourage you all to enjoy the sport, but it is much – there is a lot more contact than you would have in pool swimming.
This is very important – there is always a lead referee with the lead group and he blows a whistle – that is his means of communicating. He will blow the whistle and point to the swimmer and that is why you have the numbers at various parts of your body so that the referee knows that #18 or #25 – committed the foul or the possibility for being DQ’d. he will blow the whistle once to warn your. He will blow the whistle twice to DQ you. Drafting is no longer a reason to be disqualified. There are two important reasons for disqualification – one is impeding and one is unsportsmanlike conduct. Practically unsportsmanlike conduct is the judgment of the referee so you could discard that. Impeding is such that a yank of someone – you are veering off and impeding someone from going forward is something that will be called. Drafting is as an important part of the sport as anything else. It is absolutely critical that all your athletes understand that the sport of open water swimming is closer tour de France, Vella-drome, NASCAR racing than it is pool swimming. Everybody will be drafting for two hours in a 10 K race. This is a classic draft where you are literally right in the middle of the wake, especially with the FINA rules now, having straight, generally rectangular courses, you generally want your athlete to be behind except for the last 25 yards of that 10 K race. Easier said than done. Here is a classic example of two leaders – three followers and three followers here.
Ideally where you want to be is this gentleman here on the outside – these people on the inside or in the middle will get boxed in. Your competitors will not allow you to – excuse me – I need to make my move now. You will be boxed in just like at the 10,000 meter run on the track or NASCAR or any other kind of competition. Here is a shot that we like to inform the swimmer – swimmer A will never get in the top 3 from this position. Swimmer B will have great difficulty and swimmer C is in the best position whatsoever. Anybody – a little bit hard to see, but there is a lane line here which you are not allowed to go on the left side, but we always tell – if your athletes want to finish in the top 3, you had better stay in the top 5 throughout the entire race, but don’t lead. There are cases – this is shot from Barcelona where the – it was the open ocean and some athletes decided to take their own course. Your own course may be the shortest spot, but just like long distance cycling and other races, you are much better off going with the pack than you are going by yourself. A little bit on navigation. This is Chip Peterson. He has got a classic – he doesn’t lift his head up too high. He lifts it during the breathing motion. It is very, very smooth.
The other thing about looking up is typically you don’t want to look up just to find out where you are going – you also want to look around to see where your competition is – again – some of your competition – the races now days are getting a little bit tougher. Before people used to wait until the last 1, 2 or 3K and now the race pace is picking up earlier in the competition so you do not want to lose contact with somebody. Here, this is probably okay – if he was a half a yard behind he is losing a lot of the benefit that he would have for the draft. Again, throughout the entire race, the athletes will have to be making major decisions – do I go – do I follow – do I go left – do I go to the right and that can literally only come with experience. Our top swimmers right now are generally from Italy, Russia, Germany and they have a circuit in Europe and they are competing all the time. The Asians, Australians, South Americans, North Americans – we don’t have so many races so we do not build up the experience, but I would encourage if any of your athletes are interested in open water swimming – just do a one mile race in the ocean – in the lake – wherever it is – if you need to jump in a triathlon and get that experience – that is what you should do. Again, there are large orange buoys – there are lots of lead escort boats. It is generally very easy to follow where you are going.
One of the most important things – other than drafting is going around buoys. Buoys, you will see here – I don’t even know how many athletes are here in this women’s race – this is I think in Dubai, but as important as a pool flip turn is or breaststroke under water pull, or backstroke start – that is as important as rounding a buoy. You can get hurt going around the buoy. You can, if there is a group of three or four, you are losing three or four yards as you are going around that buoy. Here is a shot where there are two close buoys and you will see the lead swimmer who is this young lady here, just built up a nice three or four yard lead with 800 meters to go. In this case, she held on, but she really turned it on around those two buoys and built up an insurmountable lead. Finishes are touch pads in FINA races – about a meter off of the surface of the water.
The finish of the race is when you touch the touch pad. It is not when you break the plane so even if you break the plane, you still have not finished. You need to touch the touch pad. Now, this is an ideal finish – just like a hundred meter runner. You want to be leaning into the finish so this swimmer here – do you see the angle of their arm and they finish. Well, you are saying it’s a two hour race – why are you so worried about a finish because most of the races actually come down to tenths of a second. This is one of our young upcoming stars. It is a little bit difficult to see in this picture, but she touched the pad and her body was already past the plane. Charlene was on a trip with me and there was a 10 K race – a very classic 10 K race where a Dutch and a German swimmer both were swimming stroke for stroke – they both reached up – both of them missed the touch pad, broke the plane of the goal and both of them came with their back hand and touched. Now what happened was because races in open water swimming are so close now days, there are cameras and every finish is photographed. Well, that race – that classic race when they missed the goal with their left hand and both simultaneously touched the pad. It took over two hours for the judges looking at the camera to determine who was the winner and then there was a protest after that. At the end – it is every man for himself, all those impeding rules and unsportsmanlike contact from all the races that I have seen throughout the years – the refs just let it go. It is very much similar to a 4th quarter of an NBA game – a foul may be called in the first quarter that is not called in the overtime or fourth quarter.
This is a race where the leaders you know, had a nice lead, but this last pack – it was just a furious fight to the finish and again, you just tell your athletes put your head down and take a beeline to the touch pads. Again, everybody fighting – a few of the athletes actually hit the pier head on and there is a touch pad there. This was another classic race – 25 K – these three were stroke for stroke – stroke per stroke coming into the turn, media, referees – FINA referees – all three gentlemen hit the touch pad at the same time. It took an hour to figure who was first, second or third after five plus hours racing so all these little things, going around the buoy quickly, drafting appropriately, feeding quickly, touching quickly does make a difference between gold, silver and bronze and out of the money and what we always like to tell our athletes is – it is great to be the person up there having the post race interviews.
What drugs were they testing for?
A. The exact same drugs – yeah – exactly what they are doing for all the other Olympic events – they are doing here. Exactly the same – that athletes finish a race and they are selected and they go and urinate.
Q. You mentioned the transponders at the beginning…
A. Swiss timing, Omega timing – whoever built the – I should say – the FINA technical committee has, under the current rules, the transponders are only to get the time. Now whose time it is assigned to, they still – it is still up to the human eye. It doesn’t make sense – technologically it should actually – each transponder should respond to an actual swimmer, but to date, it is actually the judgments of the human eye. So, are they going to resolve this technical issue for the Olympics? I hope so.
Answer: All the FINA races there is typically Day 1 is 5k, Day 2 is a rest day, Day 3 is a 10K, Day 4 is a rest day, Day 5 is the women’s 15 K, Day 6 is the 25 K for men and they all use the exact same course – they just do more loops. No, you just – 5K – lets say you do five loops – lets say the 10 K you do ten loops and lets say the 25 K you do 25 loops if it is a 1K loop. All the traditional pro races – FINA circuit races, etc. they are a variety, but the World Championships – the FINA sponsored World championships are all in a set course in that 5, 10 and 25 are all using the same course. It actually depends on the – typically you will have a rectangle, except at the end it depends on the course. Sometimes there are four buoys to go around. Sometimes there are six buoys to go around – sometimes there are two buoys to go around and sometimes that square, because of the buoy movement can be slightly rectangular, slightly indented – that is the – some people say frustrating part of the sport – some people say that is the beauty of the sport – you don’t know – even if you go around one loop, typically these buoys are not anchored tautly – if there is a wind they shift ever so slightly and there have been mistakes by athletes – they assume that the buoys have stayed in place and suddenly they look up and they have missed the buoy by a yard.
Answer: It is being interpreted differently. That is political speak for it is being changed and up to the judgment of the referee and each referee, over the last several years, typically is the same individual for the women’s 5 K, the men’s 5K, the women’s 10 K the men’s 10 K so the athletes – the men 10K swimmers typically have become accustomed to that referee and the women 5K have been accustomed to that referee and as a coach, you are getting very frustrated because it is like an umpire who calls Y strike zone and another umpire who calls a very tight strike zone so you just have to deal with what it is and that is why it is very important to question the umpire or the referee before the race – how are you going to call situation A, B, and C?
Answer: Are you going to allow – is it okay for arms to be hit? And he might say it depends. Well, what if they are hit intentionally – purposefully? Again, you need to question the ref before the race to inform your athlete what to expect. You are constantly hit. You are either – your size, your calves, the bottom of your feet, your shoulders, etc. and what we advise our athletes is if you are drafting or if you are boxed in – the least you can do is only have one person on your side. If you have got two people on either side of you and an hour and a half goes by and you are constantly hit, you are just not going to have it at the last half an hour or last 1K or the last sprint and it really comes down and that is why that first sprint, when the gun goes off, people immediately are positioning themselves to be in the best position that they believe will play to their strengths.
Answer: You will not be disqualified for any slip streaming. You will only be disqualified if you pull somebody back or you cut somebody off.
Q. sometimes you have to understand the rules are not necessarily rules in open water swimming and what they say one day can be changed the next day or during the race.
A. Yes so you do what you have to do and deal with the consequences which there are not usually consequences. Yes, that is exactly right so what a ref will blow a whistle on in the first K, he or she will not blow the whistle on the last one K. He or she will not and it just – that is the way it is.
A. Lets go back here – no you can actually feed at any station along the course and typically in a 15 K there will be several stations. Now what happens typically is the Russians, Italians, Germans, Spaniards who are a little more experienced than the other countries will choose a spot and everybody will start feeding from that spot so – but you are very free to choose and I will try to go back here – any spot along the course and they will have, typically, several spots along the course to feed.
A. One coach per athlete on the course or in the escort boat so your coach will typically be in a rowing basin – the coach will either be on a bicycle or running with the athlete and some countries get the – what do you call it? The electroped – the electric bicycle because for 25 K you will go more because you are going a long way.
A. Twine, rope, cable – I have seen everything. Sometimes – in a rowing basin – how they have now – typically the rowing basin is only 3 meters at most so that is usually not a problem, but you know – things happen that – and especially next year at Melbourne – it will be in the ocean and it could be a heavy surf day and you know, who knows what will happen there.
Q. If you anchor the buoys to the bottom and all of a sudden the surf swells, now your buoys may pull the center block up and now – you know A. We have seen races where the buoys have been punctured and suddenly a buoy that was there is no longer there.
A. The sport in the United States is big in very select cities across the United States. Honolulu has a big race. La Hoya, California has a big race. There is a big race in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. There are a few big races in Indiana. There is a handful of races in New Jersey – in Florida, but typically these races are either organized by an entrepreneur, the city, a swim club – to have an open water race that is open to the public you do not need anything other what you would do to organize a triathlon or a race. Now if you want to have something sponsored by US Swimming you have to meet certain criteria. I believe that criteria is on the website?
A. It is in the rule book. Now to have an international race there are FINA considerations that are extremely costly – costly meaning you have to have all these FINA officials come and you have to put them up in 5 star hotels, etc, etc.
I will hand this over to Charlene now.
Charlene Boudreau: A lot of things Steve mentioned to you already and some of you probably have experienced – some of you may be new to it, but you see that open water is a lot about strategy and a lot about experience, but also a lot of it is making decisions on your toes and kind of thinking on your feet. Unfortunately, from the nutrition standpoint – both prior to competition and during the race it is not as easy to change things up as it is to go a different direction or stay with the pack or decide to take your own way because the current is better. The nutrition part of it – there are a couple of components that I did mention – one is before the race and one is actually during the race and I am going to try to address both of those in the next 15-20 minutes, but to start with – the reason we apply the nutrition principles we do have to do with the physiological principles that are involved in the open water swimmer. Our longest event in the pool is 1500 meters and obviously your 5K’s, your 10K’s, your 25K’s are a heck of a lot longer than that so we have to kind of approach this from a different perspective.
You have got a situation where you are looking at – the 10K in particular – a low power sport, but you need to be able to maintain that maximum aerobic capacity for long periods of time so that really requires sufficient substrate or fuel and that does include fluid and it also includes the availability of oxygen so being able to maintain that pace where you could still use oxygen to access your fuel sources is extremely important. As far as nutrition principles that come from those physiological principles – that means optimizing your carb and your fluid storage prior to competition and also making sure that you can sustain your carb and your hydration status during competition – two very important things and for the 10K and up that becomes extremely important.
You take in fuel for example, that keeps your blood sugar at an elevated level. It allows your body to use that circulating blood sugar during the race. This spares the glycogen store which is your carbohydrate store so your body doesn’t have to tap into that during the race. That in turn helps maintain your branch chain amino-acids so your body is not tapping into its own stores of muscle tissue during and this could apply to workouts as well, by the way – two hour – three hour workouts. In the long run, that helps prevent central fatigue. Central fatigue is not only when you are feeling tired, but you start to feel lethargic – you start to feel a little inattentive – the attention span has gone down – that is why caffeine can sometimes play a factor in these distance races and it also inhibits the production of cortisol.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that does great damage to the immune system. It creates more of a catabolic environment which is a muscle tissue breakdown environment which is not a desirable physiologic environment for muscle tissue so this is the reason generally why fuel and fluids are important during training and racing these distances. Experience: Steve mentioned and we have seen it al lot of times – the Europeans have a lot of experience on the open water circuit. They have a lot more opportunities to race and they train for open water. We often times will take our pool swimmers and put them in open water competition and say go for it and they go for it and they do great, but sometimes there are some things that we don’t necessarily spend a lot of time thinking about and I think nutrition is one of them.
General preparation for open water competition as far as nutrition goes is pretty much the same. When we get to race day it is a lot different. Pool competition we do not stop to eat during the 1500, however, we over-rely on jell packs and things like that. We do expect sometimes to just show up to an open water race and take a couple of Gator-aids and jell packs and expect that to get us through a 25K race or a 10K race and it is not going to cut it necessarily. There is a lot of preparation on the front end that goes into it. So, just from my experience, I have kind of identified these as our major nutrition related challenges when it comes to open water – things like not taking in enough calories, over-relying on protein and fat during the preparation period, under-relying on carbohydrate because people are afraid of eating carbohydrates – especially for these long endurance athletes – carbohydrate is going to be their primary fuel source during this competition.
Poor recovery and use of recovery time – that includes of course things like lack of sleep and added stress, but mostly not taking advantage of that two hour post-workout window when the body is extremely efficient at storing food that it is given as fuel that can be used when it is called upon in the future. Neglect of performance related vitamins and minerals and in particular here I am going to talk a little bit about iron and how that can help.
Failure to strategize and practice feeding – that one is extremely important. That lends itself to the experience note that we were making earlier. These kids, if they are going to feed during races and take only two seconds to eat a jell pack – think of the practice doing that. They have to be able to take food in on a regular basis during their long workouts and practice how they are going to get those packs open. How are they going to get it out of their suit? How are they going to get it out of the cup, etc.?
And strategy – strategy – I cannon emphasize enough that the strategy for nutrition during the 10K race is highly dependent upon a lot of things including how many feed stations there actually are in the course. What the water temperature is like – what the air temperature is like – what your position as far as jockeying for a spot is – whether it is fresh water or salt water that you are actually racing in and the venue setup itself – whether it is a loop course or how big that loop is. There are a lot of things that can vary from race to race to race – it is not like showing up at the pool that always looks the same. We know that there can be a lot of things that play into that so developing a strategy is extremely specific to the race that you are going to and the way the course is set up.
Planning daily food intake – taking advantage of taper – it is probably one of the most overlooked parts – when we taper that intensity tends to stay high, but our volume is cut down a little bit. It is a perfect time for the body to makeup for small shortcomings during the year. If we can keep that food and fluid intake relatively high and top off those tanks during that time where the body has a chance to repair itself and recover a little bit will show up to the meet with a full tank of gas and ready to go which is the way we should. Over reliance on race day nutrition – basically is what I am saying is there is – you can’t just show up to the meet and skip breakfast and dinner the night before and eat junk food all year, but take a couple of jell packs and expect to have the race of your life. There is a lot that goes into it and the bottom line is and I say this to the pool groups as well – it is what you are doing those other 364 days of the year that has a lot more impact on your physiological fuel stores during race day than what you are taking in the morning of and during the race itself. Those things do help, but the preparation period is so important. It cannot be neglected. And the under-reliance on training nutrition which essentially says this exact same thing.
So these of course are challenges and I wish I had three hours to talk to you about everything, but we don’t and I can’t give you a general nutrition lecture which I would love to do, but trust me, I have done them here at ASCA before and that takes three hours too so I am just going to fly a little bit. I do want to mention iron. Iron and recovery – these are probably the two biggest factors that I seen in training nutrition for open water. Iron, as you know, is a molecule that attaches itself to hemoglobin which is extremely important in the delivery of oxygen to working muscle tissue. That is why having adequate iron stores – especially in our endurance athletes is extremely important. The more oxygen delivery or the more tools that you have to deliver oxygen to needy muscles during exercise – the more efficient you will be and the longer you will be able to sustain a higher level of intensity for longer periods of time. Generally, the most sensitive indicator of your iron store is called ferritin and you have to ask for ferritin – if you go in and have your iron checked by the doctor you have to ask for ferritin – they wont always run it on you and a desirable level is somewhere in the 25-35 range. There is no benefit to having iron if you are not iron deficient. Do not take iron supplements just in case. In some cases they can actually be extremely harmful. Iron is a vitamin that is extremely important, but it is also important to make sure that it is being gauged and measured under the supervision of a physician and any supplementation that occurs should also occur under the supervision of a physician. To get the daily intakes for guys and girls and it is a little higher for females – red meats, dark leafy greens, whole grains and legumes are going to be your best sources of iron from a dietary standpoint. Your red meats has the most bio available source of iron – that means your body absorbs it most readily. The others – the dark leafy greens, whole grains, legumes also good sources of iron, but not absorbed quite as readily, but certainly good sources to include.
The recovery piece really has to do with that two hour window of opportunity that you have following a tough workout and these guys go through long workouts. You have got this window essentially, where your body is much better at taking fuels that you give it after you have worked out and storing it as a fuel for later use so over the two hour period of time after a workout or after a race – if they are doing back to back distance races – that window of opportunity will slowly close until it is opened just a little bit – like any other time during the day, but the important thing is to eat pretty much as much as you can during that two hour window after workout – something substantial within the first 20-30 minutes after they get out of the water. Substantial means like a bowl of cereal with milk, a bagel with some peanut butter, a can of Ensure or Carnation Instant Breakfast or a Nourish or a cup of yogurt with some grape nuts or granola – something substantial like that – that is high in carb and has a little bit of protein and a little bit of fat doesn’t hurt either. Then, an hour later, either the main meal or another snack very similar to that – that gives you two feedings within that two hour window of opportunity to allow your body to restore what it has tapped into during that long workout.
The insulin response is essentially what makes that window of opportunity exist. Essentially it makes your – your body is extremely sensitive to insulin – whose job it is to take sugar out of your blood stream and store it as glycogen which is your gas tank. Eating right after the practice creates what we call an anabolic environment which is the muscle building environment versus a catabolic environment which is what you get when you eat nothing after practice so there is some certain degree of tissue breakdown which is natural with training – that is the stimulus to create the adaptations that we are looking for, but you want to minimize that catabolic environment as much as possible after the workout is over. Your first priority is carbohydrate – if you can get protein – that is great, but certainly do not take protein at the expense of carbohydrate. Protein might help with the anabolic environment, but it does nothing to put gas back in the tank so carbohydrate first – protein second and again, with something within the first 20-30 minutes and then another thing within an hour after that so you get two feedings in that two hour window of opportunity post-workout.
So, a few other important tips – as far as preparation – practice – what are you going to eat? When are you going to eat it? How are you going to eat it? Are you going to take a drink? Are you going to take a solid? Are you going to take a jell? Are you going to carry it with you? Are you going to take it out of the cup? And focusing on good nutrition during recovery – Gator-aide during training will actually help maintain blood sugar levels at a reasonable level to prevent that central fatigue we were talking about earlier – towards the end of a 2-3 hour workout so that is where Gator-aide can come into use. The nice thing about Gator-aide or Power-aide for that matter, it is in the right concentration to provide you with fluid to maintain hydration and it provides a little bit of a fuel source as well so it accomplishes two things – things like juices are too strong for the hydration factor and they can cause gastrointestinal distress. The Gator-aide usually doesn’t. Training to miss a feeding: making decisions on call – that is part of the game – your jell packs get knocked out of your suit – your feeding station is going up and down and you lose your cup – kids have to be ready for that.
Psychologically they can’t be too dependent on the feeding – they have to be tough enough mentally – they will do it physically to get through that and get to the next aide station, but don’t surprise them on the day of the race – practice that – practice missing a feeding – it is going to do them well. We have a lot of questions on supplementation and quite honestly, if they are following the good nutrition practices they do not need to rely on protein supplements to get their post-workout protein requirements or to get their daily protein requirements. We run into issues when we are getting into advising about dietary supplements and it has a lot to do with laws and regulation, but unless we can be 100% sure that the labels and the contents of the containers are matching 100% then we are forced to rely on conventional foods. Basically anything that has a nutrition facts label versus a supplement facts label on the container is probably pretty safe, but keep in mind too for example – a lemon poppy seed Cliff bar has a nutrition facts label. It is not a dietary supplement – it is a conventional food, but it contains oodles of poppy seeds. You will test positive on the drug test for opium so even when it has the nutrition facts label, there is some degree of label reading involved and you have got to know what your rules are as far as drug testing in your sport.
Maximizing the taper – I mentioned that – keeping your carb intake and your fluid intake adequate so those gas tanks can be topped off so you are showing up on race day with enough gas in the tank so if you do miss your feeding station on the first time around, you will be okay. Discussing your strategy is extremely important. You might be on a trip or at an international competition with a new coach – someone who you are not used to feeding you your feeds – you have got to sit down with that person – tell them what you want at each feeding station – how you want it – what your backup plan is and make sure that everybody is on the same page so there is no miss-communication. It is very difficult to have conversations in the middle of a 10K race. The 10K is pretty neat because it is not as much a sprint as the 5K – if you want to call that a sprint, but it is not – I think it is a little more aggressive than the 25K in that it is a shorter distance – you can maintain a higher intensity for that two hour period of time. You will get by if you miss a feeding. It is not necessarily the best option, but you will and sometimes there are decisions that you have to make ahead of time.
Bringing your own stuff is important too. You can’t always get in other countries what you can get in the United States. Usually bottled water is available, but if you are talking about bars, jell packs – things that you know that you prefer and you have practiced with in your workouts – bring them with you. Don’t bring them in your carry-on because you know that you cannot take jells on the plane anymore. They will make you leave them at the security so you know, thee is that toss of – what if my luggage gets lost – you can take them in both places and hope you can sneak them through I guess, but you do not want anyone getting thrown off the plane, but it is difficult to read labels in foreign languages also, so your best option is to bring your own food with you or work at the federations so that you can make sure you are going to get the right nutrition at the right time when you are going to the international competitions. As far as – I am not sure what has happened to my slides, but things are disappearing off them – like titles and stuff so this is supposed to be race day.
It is extremely important, once the athletes have done their due-diligence and prepared – to eat breakfast. I have been to competitions where our 25K racers – they get nervous the night before – they eat salad and then they can’t eat breakfast the morning of and they might have a cup of coffee – it is just not enough. We have to maintain you. You have just fasted for eight hours over night – it is extremely important to bring those blood sugar levels back up to a normal level so they are available for the body to tap into during the race and from the time you have eaten breakfast – which is usually about an hour and a half to two hours prior to the start of the event – then I would recommend what we call a sipping and snacking strategy which is the snack – small bits of low fiber and starchy foods – like a saltine cracker would be perfect. Snack on those – just a little bit at a time for the remainder of the time you have and also sip 2-4 ounces of water or sports drink for the remaining 90 or 120 minutes leading up to the event. That will keep the blood sugar levels up – keep the hydration up and when the gun goes off you are ready to go – your stores are readily available to you.
Feeding during the race: this is where I almost come to an abrupt halt, but I wont, but that statement underneath there is extremely important and I mentioned it earlier that feeding for any open water race is highly individual and involves the application of sound physiology and nutrition principles, combined with race specific characteristics. The distance of the race – the location of the race – the venue and the water type – feeding opportunities and swimmer tolerance and preferences – it is almost like a highly individualized prescription – depending on what you are facing and what you are looking at. And I have given an example on this fairly typical of a 10K course for there is a feeding station at the 5K and the 7.5K. Your feeding at the 5K is going to be about 55 minutes into the race. The 7.5K is going to be around an hour 25, plus or minus. Ideally, we would like to see the athletes be able to drink something every 15 minutes and eat every 45 – just not going to happen and particularly on this type of course when you are 55 minutes in and you want to drink every 15 and eat every 45 – you get one chance to feed maybe? You have got to make a decision – do I take food or fluid – so that is our first decision that we have to make, but we want to make that decision ahead of time.
My recommendation if you only have one chance to feed is to take food at the first aide station, but I would take it in liquid form and I would make sure that it has carbohydrates and that it is a reasonable temperature and some of the electrolytes that you are looking for. One of the examples that I would recommend would be the Gator-aide performance series Energy Drink and only because this is not your standard Gator-aide – this is like ultra-power Gator-aide and I don’t have a sample with me and I don’t work for Gator-aide – it is just a matter of the fact that I have found products that I think fit what we are looking for in this case or a jell pack that has been mixed with water. It takes care of the fuel. It takes care of a little bit of the fluid. The concentration is a little bit high, but it still gives you the carbs and it gives you the electrolytes that you are looking for. You are looking for things that will give you hydration and give you fuel, are easy to ingest, easy to digest so that you can get an all in one feed – typically a jell pack ideally should be chased by a little bit of water, but that means eating the jell pack out of your suit before you get to the feed station and then taking the water – that is two feeds – I don’t know if you have that much time to spare in a 10K race so some of those kinds of things have to be strategized ahead of time. That is not to say they shouldn’t have the jell pack in their pack because what if they miss the feeding station – you have got a backup. It is not going to hurt to take the jell pack. It is not going to be detrimental if it is not chased by that water – you have got to have a backup plan so like Steve said – 2-4 jell packs – depending on the distance of the race, but in the 10K basically what you are looking for is something that is easy to digest – easy to absorb. Jelly beans, power bars and gummies require chewing – too much work I think – too time-intensive – too labor-intensive for the athlete during the 10K.
Now the second feed at the 10K mark – you are looking at an hour 25 into the race. I think it is optional – if people are going to finish in the sub 2 hours – I mean, if you are going to finish that fast you have got to think about what your – what you are trying to do and what position you are actually in at that 10K point. If you are not finishing in two hours you can take a little bit more – it should not be optional – you will benefit from that second feed station so it is not optional for two hour plus finishers. You still have got at least 35 minutes to go in the race.
Basically, it is optional. Okay? Is it worth the time? Is the benefit of the fluid or the food that I am going to get worth the time that I am going to lose stopping for that feed station? Sometimes it might be – sometimes it might not be. And I have a bit of a cheat sheet here – actually, I might even have it on the next page – what it comes down to is – if you fed at the 5K you got your food and your fluid and you are feeling strong and ready to finish and you are expecting a sub-2 hour finish and you are jockeying for a spot still – I say skip the station. You have done everything right. You are in position, but you are jockeying for a spot still – I say – skip the station. If you missed the first station or – here is the chart I was looking at did I get food and fuel at the 5K? Yes. Skip it might be an option. No, I only got fuel – you should stop at the 5K to get some fluid. If you missed the 5K feeding altogether and your backup plan failed – skipping the 7.5K station is not an option. You should stop and if that is the case you may have had a little bit of a breakdown and your sub-2 hour finish might be going out the window anyway. Do what you can do to salvage that. If you are well-positioned now or still jockeying for a spot – if you are well positioned – skipping the station may be an option, but consider stopping. It depends on how well positioned you actually are. If you are still jockeying and you have done the other things right, you may be able to skip the station. Are you having a good race or are you struggling with stamina? If you are feeling good and you are ready to finish – consider skipping the station.
If you are struggling with stamina, perhaps a caffeine feed at the 7.5 will help. I am going to talk specifically about caffeine in just a second and there are two ways caffeine works. If you are on course for a 150 finish or closer to two plus hours – if 150 skip the station maybe – if you are going 2 hours plus – don’t skip the station. So, this is sort of your little guideline chart. If you meet all the requirement – you have got your feed – you are jockeying for a spot – you are feeling good – you are ready to finish – go ahead and skip the station. You have only got 25 minutes left to go. The adrenalin rush – the feeling that you are going to get is going to override the physiological effect of the fuel at that 7.5K station. So, you can see where decision and strategizing is coming into play. This is a 10K course with a 5K and a 7.5K feeding stations set up. It might not be the same at all for a 10K course that has a 2.5K and a 5K and a 7.5K feeding station so we have to look at what we are given and that is the advantage of knowing the course setup ahead of time.
Here is the caffeine factor: there are two things that caffeine can do and I know that there are a lot of questions about this. Caffeine has been known to spare glycogen. Caffeine also has been known to have a stimulant effect – both are true, however, the glycogen sparing effect only works or only happens when the caffeine is ingested hours prior to the event – not at the 7.5K feeding station. The glycogen sparing effect only works when there is a deficiency in the energy source to begin with – now when the athlete – as we all know they will – has done a terrific job of their nutrition during training – eaten their breakfast and showed up to the meet or the race, with a full tank. So, those two conditions have to be met in order for the glycogen sparing effect to happen. Otherwise, caffeine at that aide station – ether of the aide stations – is likely to have little or no effect at all. However, if the swimmer is struggling with stamina because they missed the 5K feeding or because of some other factor during that – between the 5K and the 7.5K feeding station – the stimulant effect may be effective at the 7.5K station. It may help them get through the final leg of that 10K – that last 25 minutes or so. It depends on how they are feeling at that point in time and the tolerance in the response. This is where experience will come in and strategy will come in. You have got to be able to tell your feeder whether you want caffeine in that 7.5K feed or not. Does that make sense? You are not going to be able to – basically what it is going to come down to is you are going to know physiologically how well prepared you are and you are going to have a feeling of how you are going to feel at that 7.5K mark and based on the time that you are posting and how long it is taking your swimmer to get to you at that 7.5K feed – you are going to know whether it is Mountain Dew you are putting in that cup or whether it is water or whether you are holding the pole out at all.
So, sometimes that might rely on you a little bit, but hopefully you have established that ahead of time or experience tells you – I know I usually feel a little dull toward the end of the race and I like to have caffeine at that time so off I go – I am going to stop and I am going to get it and I am going to take off.
Answer. I am not talking about huge doses of caffeine. I am talking like the equivalent of half a cup of coke or the equivalent that comes in a jell pack. It is a very, very small amount and caffeine is on the monitoring list. It is not on prohibitive list, according to the IOC rules. It is not – I would not recommend huge doses of caffeine, but we have plenty of swimmers who drink coffee before the race and by the way, if they do drink coffee typically in the morning with breakfast or before a race – they should go ahead and do that here too – as long as the water is safe to drink, but the caffeine in the blood stream afterwards – if it is over the limit yeah – that is bad, but certainly with the jell pack or with a half a cup of coke – it wont be the case.
A. In fact I would see that being more of a detriment than anything because caffeine is a diuretic too and we all know that if we have been off caffeine for a while and you have a cup of coffee – you are running to the bathroom or you are having other gastrointestinal problems so I would not – unless you have experience with that, but there is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that – a reduction of caffeine and then followed by a surge – isn’t going to be beneficial at all.
And the thing that I do need to mention – I put up here – that soda….. is the safest source and the reason for that is they have done a lot of research on the jell packs that are available and basically the four most popular ones that it is coming down to are Goo, Carb-Boom, Cliff-shots and Power-Jell. Basically, every flavor of Goo – except for banana blitz contains a proprietary blend of herbals and caffeine. They are all caffeinated except for banana blitz, but the caffeine source is what you need to look at – my cheat sheet – the caffeine source or the Goo jells is – yeah – it is the Goo herbal blend – chamomile, cola nut and ginger. So, we do not recommend herbal combinations to our swimmers usually simply because it is a little bit more risky than getting it from the Mountain Dew or Coke.
Your Carb-Booms – the only ones with caffeine are chocolate cherry and vanilla orange – all other flavors are caffeine free. The Cliff-shots – you are about half and half. Their caffeine source is green tea extract and the Power Jell – there are four flavors that have caffeine and all other flavors are caffeine free. The caffeine source in Power Jells – there is Power Bar Booster blend which contains caffeine, ginseng and cola nut extract so I will make this available – these charts available on the US Swimming website if you need to access some of that information later because I know it is a lot and I didn’t want to throw it on the slide – it is just a lot of tables to look at, but my opinion is either a flat coke or flat Mountain Dew is probably the most optimal source of caffeine, if that is going to be what you take at the 7.5K feed station and again, it could depend on the rate. I am just talking about the 10K and 7.5K feeding stations.
Then of course, you have got – what temperature should the feeding actually be – should it be hot, warm, cold, cool?? What? Basically if it is cold water and cold air it is nice to have a warm feed. If it is warm water and cold air it is nice to have a cool feed. Your food should never be hot and it should never be cold. It should either be warm or cool. Having one or the other or something that is not that will shock the system, but if it is cold out and you get a warm feet it helps to stabilize the core body temperature. If it is warm out and warm water and a cool drink helps refresh the athlete and keeps the core body temperature stabilized also. It is not often we see hyperthermia in open water swimming, but hypothermia is certainly possible so we do need to watch those conditions. Warming a drink is easy. You take – in this case – the jell pack mixed with water is the best option and not the Gator-aide Performance Series Energy Drink. The Jell pack can be mixed with hot water – it makes a warm drink. That is probably the most ideal for those conditions. We are talking about Beijing. I don’t expect it to be super – super hot. I don’t expect the water to be super – super hot. I am guessing that a regular temperature – maybe slightly cool feeding would be acceptable in that case and in that case you just chill it beforehand and try to keep it on ice, but I do not see it being an issue in Beijing for the 10K races. And – Steve knows a lot more about this than I do – feeding successfully – you have got – you know – being able to find your feeder easily and quickly – we talked about the flag – the pole.
Establish what your strategy is before hand so that the swimmer knows what he or she is looking for heading into those feeding stations. I don’t think that you are allowed to hang onto the feeding stations, correct? Okay, you are not allowed to hang on whether it is a raft or whether it is a boat – you cannot hang onto your feeding station or your pole. If the cup is close enough or if you can get close enough to your athlete use the cup of course. If you are not – taking it from the feeding stick or the pole and you may be able to hand it to the athlete depending on what the situation is – if it is a boat or if it is a dock like this and staying horizontal – avoiding getting kicked in the face, avoiding losing speed – especially if you are in a position where your position you know between first and second or third and fourth is close and taking the entire feed. Practice taking the entire feed – not skimping on it. You will use it – you will get used to it and it will be invaluable to you later.
And – the next few slides I have in here are simply resources that I will also attach to the piece that I throw up on the USA Swimming website, but what they include are examples of post-workout, post-training, post-race recovery food – some of the things that I mentioned earlier but, a little bit more. This is the rule on dietary supplements – this guy is from the UK and I consider him a world-wide expert on dietary supplement regulation and use in competitive sport. If it works – it is probably banned. If it is banned it probably doesn’t work and there might be some exceptions – does that help?? My rule of thumb – go with the nutrition facts label, read the ingredients, practice, feel safe and show up to the meet with a full tank of gas and good luck – swim fast and we will be happy to take additional questions if you need.