Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sport Legs

What is SportLegs
SportLegs is a supplement that contains vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and lactate. Based on the ingredients it doesn't seem like SportLegs should do a whole lot. The makers claim "It primes muscles with lactate, your muscles' natural fuel, so they make less lactic acid. It works better than electrolytes, without sodium or painkillers." and "Bicycling magazine's testers conclude, 'SportLegs really works. It pushes back the point where your legs start to 'burn' during hard efforts, allowing you to ride harder, happier.'" The website looks pretty gimmicky with a lot of testimonials and not a whole lot of real information (as a scientist I'm a big fan of double blind studies and from what I can tell, they haven't done any). But then they have all these testimonials. Sure a lot of them are sponsored athletes, but the majority of sponsored athletes are probably getting nothing more than free product. So they obviously think the product works if they want to get it for free. And if you dig a little deeper on the website you can find some supported sciency claims

Obviously magnesium and calcium are important in muscle contraction and relaxation and in ATP production (adenosine triphosphate is the energy that cells use, food eaten is eventually broken down into ATP). But I didn't realize they can be limiting factors in skeletal muscle fatigue and ATP production.

My Experience with SportLegs
I first tried SportLegs back in 2007 when Jeff first started working for Performance, I think we got a free sample bottle. I honestly don't remember if I thought they did anything or not. I do remember looking at the ingredients and thinking they shouldn't do anything. I only used them a couple times and didn't give it any more thought. Then while I was training for Ironman Cozumel 2011, my legs kept feeling tired and sluggish, especially at the beginning of rides. It would sometimes take me 1-2 hours to get warmed up, feel decent and be able to ride at my normal long ride pace (which is only about 14-15 mph so riding at 12mph was really brutal!). Sometime in February after Ironman Cozumel 2011, I found a bottle of SportLegs at home and decided to try them before a ride, I had a great ride! My legs felt great from the start! I assumed it was just a fluke, or placebo effect, but I kept using them and my legs kept feeling great! Even on some really tough rides like Marble Falls and the Easter Hill Country Tour! So I've continued to use SportLegs for most of my rides this season, even most of the short ones and I have only had that tired sluggish legs feeling 2 or 3 times this year. Does that mean SportLegs work? I have no idea, it could be placebo effect, it could be that my legs are getting stronger, or it could be something else. Then I got on the bike at the Austin Tri on Monday and my legs felt awful- that tired sluggish feeling is NOT what you want at a race! I kept trying to figure out why my legs felt like crap and why I just couldn't pedal as fast as I wanted. About halfway through the bike I realized I hadn't taken my SportLegs that morning...hmmm, interesting.

The other thing that I find interesting is that SportLegs claims to stop "the burn" but my issue isn't really lactic acid build up after riding hard for awhile. My issue is icky feeling legs from the minute I start to ride. This from the SportLegs sciency page may in part explain my issue: 
  • "How taking SportLegs first helps performance: SportLegs uses lactate, your body's primary high-exertion muscle fuel, to signal muscles not to overproduce lactate before you even begin exercise. Muscles switch from lactate overproduction to net lactate consumption in response to a rise in blood lactate concentration, regardless of whether blood lactate is raised naturally or from exogenous infusion (7,8,9,10,11,12,13). That's precisely what SportLegs accomplishes. It's 86.4% lactate. Taken an hour before exercise, SportLegs raises blood lactate, so you experience exercise with less limb "pump" and heaviness, and improved lactate transfer facilitates a noticeably higher Lactate Threshold"
What do you think of SportLegs? Have you used them? Do you feel like they work?

The Austin Tri aka TriRock Austin Race Report

The Austin Tri is one of my favorite tris, I love the course (only course I like more is Cozumel), I love the organization (High Five puts on a great race!), I love that it's local so I get to race with friends, I love the loops on the bike & run so I get to see tons of spectators! I just love everything about this race! 2012 would be my 5th Austin Tri- it was bought by the TriRock series, so it's new official name is TriRock Austin, but it's still the same race. I was feeling pretty good about my tri season so far this year, so I set a goal of PRing at Austin even though I knew my 2010 PR would be really hard to beat. Looking at the weather forecast, I thought it would be a great day for a PR (my 2010 PR was an odd cloudy, cool Labor Day) Sunny, 9 mph south wind, and high of 101 ("but it should 'only' be 88 when I finish"). In retrospect, I was a bit delusional.

Ed, Linda, Cindy, Eva, Kim H. Kim B., me, Katie, Jill, & Laura. Photo by Kristen Carey
Pre-race & Swim
Pre-race was pretty typical, up at 4:00am, meeting lots of friends in transition, hanging out at the team tent before heading down to the water for the start. The swim course was a little different this year, they've had a huge growth of fanwort in Town Lake, in some areas (most of the original course) it's way too thick to swim through, so this year we swam mostly east instead of west. I didn't think anything of it and assumed it wouldn't make any difference for me. I know a lot of people don't like swimming in Town Lake, but I have always enjoyed it. I don't think it's any "dirtier" than Lake P-ville, Lake Travis or anywhere else we swim, and it's certainly cleaner than the Ski Ranch water! No wetsuits this year, I got in the water with the other purple caps, and swam over to the start line, and heard "5...4..."seriously? already? ok, good thing I swam straight out to a good start spot! "GO" Not too much contact at the start and I felt pretty good. I noticed quite a bit of fanwort on that first stretch heading west, but we turned quickly and there wasn't much plant life after that. Crossed under the First Street bridge and headed toward the Congress Bridge- cool I'd never swum under First Street before! As I got close to Congress I started to smell the bat guano, I had not thought of that before the swim! We always smell it running under the Congress Bridge (where the famous Austin Bats live) but now I was actually swimming through bat poo! Ok, maybe this east bound course isn't so great after all. It also seemed like the water got choppy in that area, it was a little windy and they had boats out for safety so that's not really surprising, but I would turn to breathe and get a mouth full of water instead- yuck! I checked my watch at the turn but I knew it wasn't the halfway point and it didn't really tell me if I was on course for goal time or not. As I got out of the water I saw 36:xx on my watch! WTH how in the world did that swim take me 36 minutes?!? Goal time was 33 minutes. Yikes! Official swim time was 36:28  my slowest swim time at the Austin Tri ever! This was shocking to me because I felt good during the swim and I feel like my swim training has been going well.
Out of the swim. Photo by Miguel Ortiz
As I was running up to my bike I could feel the KT tape on my ankle coming off- not cool, I had practiced swimming in it and it stayed on fine. (I've had a slight Achilles "thing" for a while, it's really more of an annoyance than an injury, but I'd like to keep it that way, and the tape seems to help). I got to my bike and decided that I had to at least take off the bottom piece of tape that was coming off anyway, so I sat down on my towel to do it right, put my socks and shoes on while I was sitting, I actually put one sock on upside down first (heel of the sock on top of my foot) I've never done that before! Then I got the rest of my stuff together and got out of there. 6:00 for T1- my longest T1 ever at the Austin Tri- not looking good for a PR so far! But I knew if I had a good bike & run I could still make up for it.

Starting the bike. Photo by Kristen Carey
I was happy to be on the bike course and I knew I'd have to work hard to beat my fastest time of 1:31. I turned onto Congress for the first time and started up the hill, my legs felt kind of tired and sluggish- not at all what I was hoping for. I struggled to the top of Congress, turned around, enjoyed the downhill and hoped my legs would warm up and feel better soon. The rest of the loop is mostly flat and my legs didn't feel too bad even though I was pushing really hard to bring up my speed after a slow start up the hill. I hoped they'd feel great for loop 2. But as I started up the hill the second time, if anything my legs felt worse and that headwind had really picked up! I was getting a little frustrated that I didn't seem able to do what I had wanted and I tried to think of why my legs might feel sluggish. During loop 2 I realized I hadn't taken my Sport Legs this morning. I started using them early this year and they seem to work for me, so maybe that's why my legs felt sluggish (the Sport Legs issue might deserve it's own post). I pushed super hard during loop 2, but was still behind where I wanted to be. Up the Congress hill the 3rd time, I just tried to survive, it seemed crazy windy and it was crowded since most of the sprint racers were on the course by then too. I checked the wind speeds later in the day and toward the end of my bike there were gusts of 22 mph, so it really was crazy windy! Even though I had a tougher bike than normal, I still loved it! I loved flying back down that tough Congress hill with a tailwind (5 years ago I was braking and scared to death going down that hill). I loved riding through down town Austin toward the Capital, I loved hearing my name tons of times on the course, sometimes I knew who was cheering for me, sometimes I had no idea! I loved seeing so many teammates and friends on the course and cheering for each other. Even on a tough day, that's one of the best bike courses around! Bike time was 1:36:38, exactly to the second the same as my 2011 time (when it was ridiculously crazy windy the entire day).
Finishing the bike looking happy. Photo by Kristen Carey
 T2 was 3:27, nothing too interesting there, except that giant step up to get onto the course, I'm pretty sure they had a little step in between last year.

I started running and my legs still felt tired & sluggish. I hoped maybe it was just a brick feeling and they'd feel better soon. It already felt warmer than I expected, and I knew all hope of PRing was gone, so I just wanted to have a decent run. Mile 1 was actually pretty quick considering my legs didn't feel great. By mile 2 I was already getting hot and I ate my emergency sport beans. I was also feeling really thirsty, which is rare for me.  Up the little First Street hill and back down, I was already halfway done! I LOVED seeing and hearing all the spectators on the course- so much fun even on a hot, tough day!
When I saw Kristen I had just eaten my sport beans and needed to walk a few seconds to let them settle, so I pretended to run for her :) Photo by Kristen Carey
and then I laughed at how funny I was :) Photo by Kristen Carey
I had never even heard of Vitalyte the course drink and I knew I couldn't put something new into my sensitive stomach during a hot race so I had planned on just water and my sport beans if I needed them. But by the first aid station on lap 2, that Vitalyte looked tempting, instead I took 3 cups of water, drank them all and walked for a minute to let it settle. Kim H. and I kept passing each other the entire run, at least 5 times I think! It was fun to see her and it was a great motivator to pass her again, or not let her pass me again! I was still really thirsty and getting hotter. I thought it would "only" be 88 when I finished, but it "hotted up" faster than forecast and it was over 90 on my second lap. I even felt like my quads and calves might cramp which has never happened to me before! I saw the girls handing out ice and this time I stopped and grabbed two big handfuls- ice is the BEST on a hot run! Thank you to those girls- whoever you are! At the next aid station I did take a cup of the Vitalyte and it was super cold and tasted pretty good. I walked for a minute to let it settle and it seemed ok. But I still felt super hot and thirsty, I wished I had worn my fuel belt (which no one does for an Olympic distance). I tried to really enjoy the shady points, and at the last aid station I took more Vitalyte and water and walked again to let it settle. That's when Jason O. saw me and cheered like crazy "RUN Heather RUN!!!" I told him, probably not as nicely as I thought, that I drank that Vitalyte stuff and I had to let it settle...and he said back "I'm sorry, I'm just trying to encourage you"...wonder what I actually said to him, sorry if I was mean Jason! Saw Kristen again and this time I was actually running- Yay! Then up First Street one last time and all downhill to the finish! Run time was 1:15:08, about 7 minutes slower than I was hoping for.
Actually running the second time I saw Kristen. Photo by Kristen Carey
If I'm not having a fast race, I might as well have fun! Photo by Kristen Carey
Overall time was 3:37:43 my second slowest Austin Tri ever. I really can't figure out why... I've been training really well, I've PRed other races this year, I know I raced as hard as I could because I was absolutely exhausted after I got home. At least it's a really awesome race, so I enjoyed it and had a good time even though I wasn't as fast as I'd hoped. Nicki and I were talking about it and she said "sometimes it's just not your day" All I can say is, I really hope it IS my day at Kerrville!
I look pretty happy for it "not being my day" Photo by Kristen Carey