Triathlon

What You Need to Know About Open Water Swimming

by Doug Carr in Train With Grain, Triathlons

The very thought of open water swimming is intimidating to a lot of people, but as a triathlete, it’s a fact that the majority of races are held in bodies of open water. Depending on the part of the country you live in, early season races held in pools, come to an end when the signs of summer start to appear. So what makes it so intimidating? Well, for one, there’s no line on the bottom to follow, no wall to hold on to and usually after a few strokes, no bottom to rest on to catch a breath. Plus, most of the time you can’t see “what’s down there.” You have to go in with a mental attitude and confidence level that says, “I can do this, I’m a decent swimmer and I can always float if I need a break.” This is a good time to point out, No Swimming Alone! Ever!

I’ll point out some of the things you’ll want to know, and need to know before you get your toes wet.

The Body of Water

Is swimming allowed at the location you’re considering? Are there any hazards (currents, sink holes, debris, etc.) you need to know about? Some lakes, ponds or rivers may have a designated swim area that might not be large enough for getting those longer laps in. You’ll want to know if it’s legal to swim outside this area, as fines can be imposed for doing so. Ask other triathletes what the rules are. Chances are you’ll be meeting up with a group to swim right along with them.

Water Quality

Is the water regularly tested for swim quality? The last thing you want is a “bug” that shuts down your training schedule. The agency responsible for that location should have this data online or at least able to quickly find it for you. High amounts of rainfall over short periods of time can change a water’s quality quite quickly. Be aware of this and make alternate plans if necessary. Brown or muddy water is a good sign things have been stirred up lately.

Water Temperature

Your agency would usually have this information too. Will temperatures require you to don a wetsuit? Cold temperatures for one person may feel very comfortable for another. Most triathlon shops have a rental program or can direct you to someone who does. Just make sure the wetsuit is designed for swimming, not diving or wakeboarding. There really is a difference here.

You may get lucky and know someone who has an extra suit you can borrow, but we triathletes can be pretty hesitant about loaning our suits out. Outside of anything related to bike gear, it’s the next most expensive piece of race equipment we own, and it doesn’t take much to put a fingernail through it or split a seam. Most shops will rent for several days, and apply part of your rental fees toward a future purchase. If you find a suit that fits particularly well, and you want to rent it for an upcoming race, call them ahead of time and most shops will reserve it for you.

A product called Bodyglide will reduce chaffing in key spots like the underarms or around the neck of the suit. It will also make removing the suit easier if applied to wrists and ankles. Do NOT use any petroleum based products on your wetsuit, as they will destroy some types of neoprene. This includes Vaseline.

Safety and Comfort

It’s a good idea to wear the brightest (think day-glo, neon, tie-dye, etc.) swim cap you own or can buy. You will be much more visible for those on shore or in the water with you. Since you’ll be outdoors, have a pair of goggles that will cut down on bright sunlight, or glare and reflection off the water. I like a metalized or mirrored finish on those clear mornings when the sun is low and you’re swimming into the glare for that next buoy.

Planning Your Route

Just like any training session, your open water swim should have a purpose. How long will it be? What route or direction (out-and-back, circular around buoys, etc) will the group take? Will you be re-grouping at any point? Talk to the others and find out what the general plan is. If you are not comfortable going as far or as long as the others, make your intentions known. Don’t be afraid to ask if someone might swim at your pace or for your distance alongside you. If you get no takers to help you out, you’re swimming with the wrong group. Once you’re out on the route, if you decide to change your plan, it’s absolutely necessary that you tell someone in the group. Even better if you tell two people. Everyone should be aware of everyone else, and follow up to make sure you all get out of the water safely.

Suited Up and Getting Wet

At this point, the wetsuit might feel a little restrictive especially around the chest. Get in the water and take a little time to get used to the temperature. Let the water enter your wetsuit through the neck, wrists or legs. I do this by grabbing the sleeve at the wrist, pulling it opened and closed to pump the water up my arms. Same for the ankles. This gets a lubricating layer of water against your skin, and the water warms up to keep your body warmer. Once you’re completely wet inside the suit, you’ll notice how much more comfortable the suit feels, and at this point you can make adjustments in the elbows, armpits and knees.

Sighting and Navigating in Open Water

Since you now know what the intended course is, how are you going to get from Point-A to Point-B? From the water level, it can be quite difficult to see smaller buoys or floating objects also at water level. Your best bet is to sight off of a distinct feature on the horizon or landscape ahead of you that aligns with your intended target. This makes it easier to navigate while swimming, rather than having to stop, look for your target, then start again. This also allows you to just take a quick peek forward every so often to check your progress. With practice, you’ll be able to sight and still maintain a good rhythm while making slight course corrections.

Drafting Allowed

As you swim with your group, see what it feels like to get close to others, whether behind them or alongside. This is called drafting, and can save a fair amount of energy over a long swim. Let others draft off you, and have them tap your toes every once in awhile. The swim can sometimes be classified as a contact sport. In the case of a mass start, like an Ironman event with 2000+ competitors, it can almost be called a “combat” sport. This takes some getting used, but as with anything, practice makes the difference. Swimming in tight groups builds experience on what to look out for to avoid getting hurt.

Exiting The Water

Because you’ve been in a horizontal position for some time, you may feel dizzy when you first return to shore. This is more common than you might think, and it’s not a symptom of being a novice. Try to first stand when you are in chest-level water, as the water will support you while you “get your legs back” before exiting completely. Remember the water I talked about that acts as a lubricant inside your wetsuit? It also makes it much, much easier to get your wetsuit off. As you exit the water, peel it down to about waist level and pull your arms free. From there, you can stand on firm ground or lean against something to get your legs out. If you are going to step on the opposite leg of the suit while pulling your other leg out, do so very carefully.

Rinse and Repeat

Make sure you rinse out the wetsuit with fresh water as soon as possible, and always hang it to dry completely before folding and storing. I always turn mine inside out to dry, as the inner fabric tends to hold more moisture than the outer, smooth skin. Try not to fold your wetsuit any more than in half if storing for an extended period.

As you get more comfortable in open water and in your wetsuit, practice taking the wetsuit off as quickly as you can. This is good training for making a smooth transition from the swim to the bike. Before you know it, you won’t miss the smell of chlorine.

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Doug Carr Google: Doug Carr
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Health Benefits of Almonds

by Guest in Train With Grain, Triathlons

We asked the kind folks at Barney Butter to give you a little insight into what makes almonds so darn good for you. Without further ado…

A high-fat food that’s good for your health? That’s not an oxymoron, its almonds! Adding almonds and almond butter into your daily diet is not only easy, fast and delicious, but it’s also a smart choice because they contain so many health benefits. The health benefits of almonds are mostly because they are packed with nutrients and high in monounsaturated fats which will help keep your heart healthy.

Adding almonds to your daily diet can lower your LDL cholesterol level and lower your risk of heart disease. One study showed that substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrates reduced heart disease by 30%.

Almonds are also a surprisingly helpful aid in weight loss. In spite of almonds being high in fat and calories, eaten in moderation they can actually promote weight loss. One study showed that people who substituted almonds for 500 calories of their daily caloric intake lost more weight than those receiving their calories from other sources. One possible explanation for this is that a portion of the fat in almonds is not easily digested and therefore not readily absorbed by the body.

Almonds are also packed with other nutrients beneficial to overall health. They are high in protein and low in carbohydrates, so are an excellent snack choice for diabetics. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E which is beneficial in the fight against heart disease and cancer as a well-known antioxidant. Also rich in calcium and magnesium they can help build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Almonds contain zinc, phosphorous and folic acid, which are all indisputably healthy elements for a healthy body.

These are all great reasons to add a serving of almonds into your daily diet. This can consist of a handful of almonds (10-12) or a serving of almond butter. Almond butter can easily be spread on an apple or banana, swirled into yogurt or oatmeal or used in any recipe as a substitute for peanut butter. Enjoy and spread the love!!

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Guest Google: Guest
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Hydration Tips: Triathletes

by Doug Carr in Train With Grain, Triathlons

Hydration, like nutrition, is a very personal matter when it come to types, quantity and the timing of intake. What works for one person is not necessarily going to be the magic bullet for another. There are charts that will estimate your intake based on a “sweat rate” test, while others might go about it from a body weight standpoint based on so many ounces per hour. Whatever method you wish to employ, it’s only going to work if you apply it in real world situations and know that your method is on track. Training and racing can present similar litmus tests regarding what works, but they can also be complete opposites. Let’s look at some areas to consider regarding hydration and at least give you options to make knowledgeable choices.

Hydration Types

I believe the act of hydrating should be considered separately from fueling and electrolyte replacement. That’s not to say that there aren’t solutions out there that can do all three. In fact there are specific “drinks” that combine all three qualities, but more often than not, your hydration needs will require the use of plain water to supplement the administering of the fueling and electrolyte components. This sounds pretty basic, but there are many a tale of woe out there where a race takes a nasty turn, and the only thing consumed to that point was some sort of “sports” or “power” drink. Again, separate your hydration from your fueling and electrolytes.

Hydration Requirements

As mentioned above, the sweat rate test can be used to determine hydration requirements. Check out Sweat Rate Test for the Runner’s World explanation. Required hydration means keeping the body from going into a dehydrated state. Weather, clothing, body structure and fitness level are just a few of the things that contribute to how fast you lose hydration either through sweating, respiration or bladder/bowel elimination. Keeping hydrated without over- or under-hydrating is sometimes a delicate balance, and the stakes go up the longer the event takes to complete. Mild dehydration occurs at about 3% or less of lost bodyweight. Moderate dehydration occurs in the range of 3% to 6% weight loss, and anything above that can be considered serious which may lead to cramping, coma and even death. If attempts are not made to consistently replace fluid loss, at a rate that keeps body water in balance, dehydration will occur.

The Thirst Mechanism

During the day, our thirst mechanism tells us when we need to drink. We feel the urge to quench our thirst and we do so. Under more vigorous conditions, our thirst mechanism tends to get dulled or sidelined by the activity at hand. “If I can just pass the next two aid stations, and not waste time to drink, I’ll beat that many more people to the finish line!” Do you know someone like that? I sure do! So knowing that the thirst may be dulled, toned down or shut off on your next event, what are you going to do to stay hydrated? My advice is to drink early, and drink consistently. Consistently might mean a few swallows at each aid station. If you come in slightly dehydrated at the finish, you’ve obviously done a good job of hydrating. From that point it would be wise to slowly intake fluids to bring your levels back up.

The Urine Test

If you’re in an event for anything over two to three hours, and you haven’t urinated or even had the urge to visit the “Blue Room”, chances are you’re behind in hydration. One fairly good indicator of your hydrated state is the color of your urine. Anything darker than everyday light-yellow is a sign that you’re behind, and you should be consuming regularly over the next several hours to bring it back to near-clear. I myself have been in a dehydrated state such that it took well into the evening to get my urine color back to normal. And in the hours leading up to that point, I couldn’t seem to consume enough fluids. Not a good thing to put your body through. So when I ask my athletes, “What color is your urine?” the snickers are gone and it’s as if I was asking them what they ate for lunch. And they better know too!

Methods of Hydrating

How you choose to consume fluids is another personal choice.

On the Bike: On bike systems include the standard bottle cages that are easy to use in all conditions, to the more complex and aerodynamic systems that strive to shave precious seconds off your finish time. I do like the aerodynamic drinking tube systems as the fluid is always right near my lips. It’s not an “out of sight, out of mind” thing, and because my wrist and watch is right there in the vicinity (on the aerobars), it’s easy to time my drinks too. The added advantage to this type of systems is being able to refill it on the fly for longer events. As with any new piece of equipment, train with it first before racing with it.

On the Run: In my years of coaching first-time marathoners through a 26 week program, at week 6 we took away all the paper cups at home base. The distance had climbed to 8 – 9 miles and it was getting critical for them to have fluids with them. From that point on, they were responsible for carrying their own hydration system out on the routes. There are a number of methods available now, from hydration packs, to belts, to handheld systems. They come in varying sizes and capacities and it’s a good idea to have at least two types in your stash of equipment.

A smaller system or handheld bottle will suit you well on those shorter runs when a back pack is too much, and going without is questionable. Handhelds can be filled halfway, and they also have the advantage of easy refills. If you’re new to drinking from paper cups on course, it helps to close the top of the cup while drinking on the run. That way your sinuses don’t get a bath. You’ll thank me for that tip later.

Anxious Dehydration

Well, I didn’t know what else to call it. Anxiety runs moderate to high in triathlons. “Did I bring everything for any circumstance? Will I have enough time to get my bike ready and transitions set up? Will there even be enough room? Man, he looks fast! Is he in my age group?   Why does my wetsuit feel two sizes too small now?” The Porta Potty lines are long and growing, there’s 15 minutes to my wave and I’m standing in line for the second…no wait…third time, because I gotta pee again. You can already be on the road to dehydration, and you still have the swim ahead of you. If you don’t think you sweat on the swim, I’ve got some news for you. Not much to drink out there. Well, there is if you’re a fish. The point is, somehow you’re going to have to replace those fluids. The bike is the best time to do it. You can ease up if you have to, and your stomach isn’t bouncing around like it will be on the run. Get into to your rhythm, drink when you can, and continue with your intake.

Dehydration can have very serious consequences. No need to go there!

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Doug Carr Google: Doug Carr
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My Favorite Piece of Gear

by Keyon Maljai in Train With Grain, Triathlons

Writing this week’s blog about my “Favorite Piece of Triathlon Gear” has taken me in a lot of different directions.  I’ve spent ample amounts of time pondering what to write about.  I thought, maybe my most important piece of equipment would be my bike – I can’t really live without that, maybe its some funky gadget like my bike speedometer which I truly couldn’t live without either as its helped guide my pacing and effort during those long rides out in the country, or maybe its the endless sticks of body glide that keep me from dealing with some very painful chaffing issues…but the more I think about it, the one piece of “gear” that I truly can’t live without really isn’t a piece of gear at all, plain and simple it’s my triathlon training partner.  No matter how I try to tackle this topic, I just can’t discount how important it has been for me to have a great training partner every step of the way.  Together, he’s guided my journey from absolute triathlon beginner who didn’t own a bike six months ago to someone who just came off of his first successful Olympic triathlon and will soon attempt to complete his first Half Iron-Man.

The great thing about thing about this piece of “gear” was that while we both have the same goal, 2011 Pacific Crest Half Iron-Man, we’ve gone about it in slightly different but equally supportive and complimentary ways.  My training partner is amazing; he’s super meticulous, detail oriented, diligent and has amazing foresight.  I’m however, more of the mindset of let’s just get out there and go for a ride and see what happens.  Fortunately, we’ve been able to compliment each other’s style and I think teach each other something valuable along the way.  I’ve learned from him to be more disciplined about my training, eating, etc.  On the flipside, I believe that I’ve been able to push him at times harder than he would have pushed himself if we weren’t training together.  While you can train for your particular race on your own, its amazing how much more fun and productive training with a partner or a group can be.

If you’re just beginning your triathlon pursuits, you have probably experienced the following dilemmas…First, what the heck am I doing?  Second, where do I turn for information to start this process and what the heck is a brick workout?  Third, who the heck can I train with to help keep me going when its cold and rainy outside and the last thing I want to do is jump in the pool?  Lastly, ummm help!?!?  I have asked myself all of these questions and thankfully I’ve been able to find guidance from my training partner, who fortunately for me, has done a few triathlons but by no means are we considered to be super advanced triathletes.  For that matter, I don’t believe that you even need to be a super athlete to enjoy this sport.

When I first began looking into trying this triathlon thing on, one of my other buddies whose completed many tri’s and is a very experienced bicyclist gave me a great piece of advice, he said, “its not necessarily about the end goal, those races come and go quicker than you can imagine, but it’s the journey and transformation that you take mentally and physically that become the best part of being a triathlete.  If you work hard and stay focused, you will without a doubt enjoy some of the best times of your life training with your friends.”  And you know what, he was right.  Finding an individual or a group of people who you can rely on to help guide you through this crazy triathlon journey is by far the most important piece of “gear” that I could ever have.

My transformation from beginner triathlete to someone who now knows a thing or two was greatly guided by the encouragement of my particular support system as I mentioned previously.  However, if you’re interested in becoming a triathlete and you haven’t had your friends harassing you for the past 5 years to just go out and “buy a bike” but you want to give triathlons a try, I’d highly suggest looking into the many great triathlon clubs that your area has to offer.  A simple internet search for Portland can steer you to the likes of Athletes Lounge, The Portland Triathlon Club, All-Star Fitness, ironheads, etc.  Also, websites and books that I’ve also used for guidance include www.beginnertriathlete.com, www.triathlete.com, The Triathletes Training Bible and the Complete Triathlon Book have proven priceless for me as well.

No matter where you are in the process, if you’re interested in becoming a triathlete, the most important piece of “gear” you can have is a great support team.  From your training partners at the gym to your support system at home, find your team, and get after it!

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Keyon Maljai Google: Keyon Maljai
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Train with Grain Summer 2011

by Cassidy Stockton in Cycling, Featured Articles

Train with Grain is designed to help fuel the workouts and boost the training efforts of dedicated athletes everywhere. The idea: create a well-fueled community where athletes of every level can share and learn and grow together.

It kicked off last year with Cyclocross, and this year we’re eagerly expanding into road racing and triathlons, two other sports that demand great nutrition and long-lasting energy.

Participants receive an awesome training kit, packed with a delicious variety of whole grains – including Honey Oat Granola, 10 Grain Hot Cereal, Quinoa and 7 Grain Pancake Mix – as well as their choice of a sweet cycling cap or running hat (plus a few other goodies). We’re including recipes and photos for how to use these products, so anyone can easily start making training-friendly food at home.

This year we’re also bringing in a handful of contributors to share their training experiences and war stories on our blog along the way. This team of road warriors and triathletes comes with varying years of experience, and is well prepared to talk about everything from biomechanics and hydration to etiquette and training schedules. Count on video diaries, horrific injury stories, tips on how not to get divorced while training, and a short film on leg-shaving techniques for men. They come from all over the country, and can offer perspectives on what it’s like to train and race in a variety of climates.

This crew will also provide cooking demos, meal plans and “night before” recipes based on the grains in your kit.

It should be a lot of fun.

We’ve also created a slick and ultra-user-friendly dashboard where you can login, choose your races, upload photos, and interact with everyone else. It’s connected through Facebook, so you can post every victory directly to your wall and encourage friendly competition (read: taunt) everyone you know.

It’s going to be awesome.

If you want to find out more, join the Train with Grain community right now. We’d love to have you on the team.

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Cassidy Stockton Google: Cassidy Stockton
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Example Training Schedule: Training Phase Dependent

by Doug Carr in Train With Grain, Triathlons

My training schedule has been a dynamically evolving organism in the past two years. My love of triathlon regarding training, competing and coaching has been fighting with my love of running, specifically endurance running or marathons. Because I can still choose to run in the winter, my focus in the early season is to knockout one marathon a month for April, May and June. During the winter I participate, and then coach, an indoor cycling class for athletes of all abilities. This keeps me on the bike instead of the couch. Since the pool is always open, swimming is available so my gills don’t dry out. With that in mind, and a goal race looming in the late spring, winter run training keeps my running base stable while two indoor bike workouts keep things sharper than choosing to be out riding in the rain with automobiles. All three sports keep my cross-training level up and reduces my incidence of acute or nagging injuries.

I’m excited to be competing in two new triathlon events coming to Portland this year, both of them 70.3 (miles) Half-Iron (H.I.M.) distance races. Blending the last marathon this Sunday the 19th, into the triathlon training schedule for a H.I.M. in three weeks, involves a bit of juggling, but basically my weekly schedule starts to look more intensely and exclusively triathlon based. I follow a Three-Week-On/One-Week-Off monthly schedule to build and vary Intensity and duration.

Monday: Resistance and Core Training

Tuesday: Swim Drills w/Upper Zone Focus and Run Day (tempo). Distance and Time dependent on Training Plan phase.

Wednesday: Bike Intervals on Road

Thursday: Swim Distance and Easy Run

Friday: Active Recovery Day, Stretching or Short Easy Ride

Saturday: Long Bike on Course-Similar Terrain. Distance and Time dependent on Training Plan phase.

Sunday: Long Run w/Aerobic Threshold Focus.

I’m also excited to be contributing as a part of the BRM-TWG team and helping to further elevate the awareness of correct nutrition in training and competing. Correct nutrition is a year-round event.

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Doug Carr Google: Doug Carr
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Let’s Get This Party Started!

by Cassidy Stockton in Road Cycling, Train With Grain, Triathlons

Welcome to Train with Grain Summer/Fall 2011! We had such a blast meeting folks from all over the country last fall and are really pumped up about some of the events that will bring us to a city near you (we hope). Here is a run-down of some of the events that have us excited to hit the road:

Pacific Crest Sports Festival (Sunriver, OR): How can we NOT be excited? Not only is it near Bend, Oregon (one of the prettiest places on the planet and home to awesome micro brews), but the weekend is filled with live music, family activities and races for every level of athlete. Did we mention the beer garden opens at 10 am and there are shuttles to the event location?
Dates: 06/24-6/26/11
Website: http://www.racecenter.com/pacificcrest/index.htm

Ironman Lake Placid (Lake Placid, NY): First of all, this is one of the oldest Ironman competitions in the United States AND it’s held in Lake Placid, NY. While I’ve never been myself, Lake Placid looks like a small chunk of heaven nestled in  upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains. This event runs for five days and is packed with everything from a Fun Run for the kiddos to a massage tent to a pancake breakfast.
Dates: 7/21-7/25/11
Website: http://ironmanlakeplacid.com/

Ironman Boulder (Boulder, CO): First of all, we LOVE Boulder. This Ironman boasts strong volunteer support, promises loads of spectators and its challenging course has spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains at every turn. With a reputation for great food, entertainment and known as one of the friendliest cities in America, Boulder is a great place to visit and test yourself against other Ironman athletes.
Dates: 08/05-08/07/11
Website: http://ironmanboulder.com/

Mayor’s Cup Criterium (Boston, MA): Not only is a criterium a wonderful spectator sport, but it’s a pretty darn fun way to race too. If you’re not familiar with a criterium, this is essentially (all of you pro’s can just pipe down) a closed-circuit bike race. No getting lost, just around and around in downtown Boston! Beyond the bike fun, the city is in full celebration mode. Before the criterium is a city-wide bike ride and after the race the city hosts the Boloco Block Party which boasts live music, booths, great food and, we suspect, a beer garden where one could find a cold beverage to enjoy while watching the Mascot Race.
Date: 9/25/11
Website: http://tdbankmayorscup.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=471130

These are just a small smattering of the events we’ll be at this summer. We’re excited for each and every one of them and cannot wait to meet you in person and share some of our cool gear with you. For a full list of events, check here and follow us on twitter (@bobs_red_mill) for updates on where we’ll be.

 

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Cassidy Stockton Google: Cassidy Stockton
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What is Train with Grain?

by Cassidy Stockton in Cyclocross, Road Cycling, Train With Grain, Triathlons

Train with Grain is designed to help fuel the workouts and boost the training efforts of dedicated athletes everywhere. The idea: create a well-fueled community where athletes of every level can share and learn and grow together.

It kicked off last year with Cyclocross, and this year we’re eagerly expanding into road racing and triathlons, two other sports that demand great nutrition and long-lasting energy.

Participants receive an awesome training kit, packed with a delicious variety of whole grains – including Honey Oat Granola, 10 Grain Hot Cereal, Quinoa and 7 Grain Pancake Mix – as well as their choice of a sweet cycling cap or running hat (plus a few other goodies). We’re including recipes and photos for how to use these products, so anyone can easily start making training-friendly food at home.

This year we’re also bringing in a handful of contributors to share their training experiences and war stories on our blog along the way. This team of road warriors and triathletes comes with varying years of experience, and is well prepared to talk about everything from biomechanics and hydration to etiquette and training schedules. Count on video diaries, horrific injury stories, tips on how not to get divorced while training, and a short film on leg-shaving techniques for men. They come from all over the country, and can offer perspectives on what it’s like to train and race in a variety of climates.

This crew will also provide cooking demos, meal plans and “night before” recipes based on the grains in your kit.

It should be a lot of fun.

We’ve also created a slick and ultra-user-friendly dashboard where you can login, choose your races, upload photos, and interact with everyone else. It’s connected through Facebook, so you can post every victory directly to your wall and encourage friendly competition (read: taunt) everyone you know.

It’s going to be awesome.

If you want to find out more, join the Train with Grain community right now. We’d love to have you on the team.

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Cassidy Stockton Google: Cassidy Stockton
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