12 Tips and Tricks for a successful Duathlon

Truth be told, there are no “tricks” in duathlon.  Indeed, there is no substitute for practicing and mastering the three disciplines that make or break world-class duathletes:  running, cycling and nutrition.  Great habits in those three disciplines are more important than what is listed below.  That said, I have found that doing these 12 learning make a world of difference.

  • Check out your gear the night before. No marine goes into battle without going over his gear, piece by piece, and confirming that it is working, at specifications, before using it in a combat situation. Steal from the Marine’s discipline and go over all parts of your gear and plan.  Confirm all your bike screws and tight and that your shoes, socks and racing kit are laid out, ready to go in the morning.  Have spares.  Don’t wake up wondering where your stuff is or if it is ready for the big event.
  • Vet your nutrition plan with someone else. I ask Susan Kitchen to review my nutrition plan for all long course events to make sure I have the right formula of energy, hydration, and salt to sustain the distance about to be raced.  More often than not, my plan is wrong on at least one of those three items…if not all of them!
  • Tape nutrition to the frame. I race with gels or pineapple chunks.  71n2ftEither way, I want the food where I want it, and most certainly, I don’t want to deal with packaging.  I saw a woman tape a cliff bar, no packaging, directly to her frame.  Grab, pull and eat.  No ripping or tearing of a package required.  If I could get it injected into my arms on the aero bars via an IV, I would.
  • Race with a different pair of running shoes on each run. When I get off the bike in transition 2, my first pair of shoes may be ready to put right back on, or they might not.  I have found my shoes knocked  into other people’s bike rack space.  I have even found a bike on top of my shoes.  The value of having a 2nd pair of shoes, right where you left them at the start of the race, laces how and where you want them, assures that my time in transition is as short as possible.   I do the first run in Hoka One One’s and I do the second run, based on conditions (trail shoes or racing flats).
  • Put your spare tube and tools in a tennis ball case. Tennis ball caseThe case fits perfectly in your spare water bottle slot on your frame. The little pouches that sit under the seat don’t really lend themselves to easy in and out use.  A tennis ball case is large and in an easy to get to place.  It is aerodynamic enough to justify the placement location.  There is no zipper to deal with, and stuffing the old tube back in after your procedure is faster than the little behind-the-seat pouch.
  • Eat a normal breakfast in the am. Race morning is the wrong time to be trying that new beet juice your heard about that might increase endurance.  Your training plan is testing on race day, not intercepted and altered.
  • Run in and out transition efficiently. No one is effective at running in bike shoes.  They aren’t meant for that.  Yet, at every race, someone is clopping along slower than an opossum crossing the road.  We can, though, run in socks, if the ground conditions allow for it.  I use rubber bands to hold my cycling shoes in position so they don’t scrape on the ground as I push my bike through transition.  When I leave transition, I hop on my bike, put my foot in my shoe and pedal half a turn, until I can comfortably put on my other shoe.  Keep in mind, this is not a natural effort.  To be good at this function requires practice.  For those who comment that this is not for them, I wonder how much they have practiced, if any.
  • Practice transition. Take some time at either the start or the end of one of your outdoor training events to practice going quickly and smoothly from bike to run to bike.  Note what muscles you are engaging, and spend some time working them out.  I quickly discovered that it was my core that made the difference between a 30-seconds and a 1-minute transition.  My practice of Pilates helps me feel confident switching between disciplines.
  • Use the mechanic, if it is provided. He really does want you to do the best you can.  I do lots of my own maintenance and upgrade work, with no help.  That said, I overlook things.  Having the mechanic do a once over can help expose loose spokes, loose screws, and make sure that the tire pressure is correct, for conditions.  TeamUSA provides mechanics, and I use them!  It hurts no one to give them a tip for their time, too.
  • Dress and race as if it was 10 degrees warmer than perceived temps. During long course nationals a few years ago, I put on a base layer, as I was cold before race start.  Before the end of run 1, I had taken off my uniform and base layer and put back on my uniform.  I ran the last 2 miles carrying my base layer in my hands.  Not efficient nor smart.  Now, I wear arm warmers that I can slide down, as I warm up.  In addition, as the day rolls by, the outdoor temperatures increase while you heat up.  Stand around at the start a little bit cold…it will be OK once the race starts.
  • Interact with others before the race to assist. Isolating before a race is selfish on a couple of fronts.  There may be a chance for you to encourage someone else who is really nervous.  You miss that chance by separating from everyone else, claiming it is part of your race prep.  God calls us sheep and not goats for a reason-we need others to be healthy.   We marry and pair up to do everything of importance.  Extend our genetically social tendency to race day.  Talking with or listening to others can help you and others.  I spend time in prayer, and I pray for others.
  • Celebrate everyone’s success. Clap for everyone at awards ceremony, even if they are from another country.  Verbally approach those who beat you and tell them, “good effort,” even if they don’t speak English.   I have sadly watched more than one great athlete fail to enjoy an event that they prepared for and did well at because they hadn’t practiced or learned how to celebrate.  Happiness is in what you give, not what you get.  Tell first timers to keep coming back.  At worlds, I stop to let kids take pictures.  At local events, I talk to volunteers and thank them for their sacrifice.  Life is a beautiful thing.  Race day is a unique celebration to be shared.
Jeff Gaura, Alex Gaura and Mike Larsson Skiing in Telluride, CO

The Redneck within

The term “redneck” is defined by Wikipedia as a poor white person from the Southern US.  It has evolved to mean, “a bigoted and conventional person, a loutish ultra-conservative.”

Swimming Pool
Swimming Pool

I see it more in the world of exercise and nutrition than perhaps anywhere.  And, Redneck-ism, if that is even a word, has some Biblical roots.

During my teenage years in South Carolina, I got introduced to my share of Rednecks.  My example, my Uncle Harold had to vote straight Republican, since his father did.  And once my Redneck (Capital R on purpose) friends got introduced to Ford Trucks, there was no other choice, even when Chevy had a more reliable and durable truck at the same price.

It doesn’t stop with beliefs about political views, vehicles, guns and the like.  It is a state of mind when we fraudulently conclude that we need not assess our assumptions.  We think that since we were right once, then we must be right most all of the time, if not all of the time.

I tell my kids, “don’t be a redneck,” when they are offered something to eat that they have never had.  I tell them “don’t be a redneck” when it is time to travel to a new place, and they don’t want to go with me.  In our house, they know what it means. It is a derogatory word that means you are being intellectually lazy and it is showing up.

A Redneck has a predictable response to an opportunity to experience something new.    Do you immediately discard the idea, because you already have an answer that works for you?  If yes, you might be a redneck.

The question, “Let’s try someplace new to eat?” often exposes a redneck.  So does the question, “What is missing?”  People don’t know, because they never thought it a good use of time to ask the question.

My friend Randall described an Uncle from Georgia whom he had nicknamed “95.”  He got that name because he thought that he was right, 95% of the time.

That Uncle has made it to the exercise community.  And, I see people like 95 in the gym, literally daily.  How is he or she spotted? 95 does the same exercises, with the same bad form, with no interest in getting feedback about how to improve.  Many of them don’t think they need to improve.  Yet, if you ask them, “do you want to get better than you are today?” I have yet to meet anyone who responds with, “No, I am sure that I am at the very top of my game. Thanks for asking, though.”

God teaches us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).”  Everyone wants to get better.  However, that 95 in all of us gets in the way.  We think that we know the answer and we just have to try harder to achieve our results.  We hear from a teacher about how to do things, and we never challenge their assumptions. We don’t renew our mind.  We stick with 95.

Weight loss as well as greater strength, speed, and flexibility all require discarding the Redneck within and renewing our minds.

To get better, I must stop assuming that I know it all.  Last year, I learned Yoga and the importance of stretching.  This morning, I did some Pilates on the mats at the gym, to strengthen my core.  Last month, I read a book about how to be the best athlete I can be after age 50, and the author laid out the research findings that are already out there to point out what has been found to be most effective, for most mature athletes.

For me to agree with that author’s findings, I had to admit I was wrong and put 95 back in the basement.  I had to change my behavior and not just confess that he was right with my lips.  Even though it has only been a month since I started using his recommendations, I am hitting personal bests.  I can squat and bench press more than I ever have, and my running speed is nearly at the same level as college.  Yesterday, a normally 70 minute bike ride took only 64 minutes.

Had I just kept trying to doing things the old way and implement a “try harder” strategy, I would still be below my goals. Instead, I am above some of them.

95 will come back…he always does.  Hopefully, when he shows up again, someone can call me out on it.  Maybe, I will listen, too!

Sort out where you are a redneck…we all are in some places of our lives.  But, are you a redneck in an area where you really want to get stronger?

If yes, it is time to be wrong and put your 95 in the basement.  Go find your author, teacher, life coach or health coach. Talk to God and ask Him to put your next teacher in your life.  Ask Him to renew your mind and take 95 off of your shoulders for a while.

And tell everyone when it happens.  Maybe you will help them make their 95 go to the basement…even if only for a while.

Running for 3rd World Solar Power

Running for Solar Panels
Running for Solar Panels

Not a day goes by when I don’t get some sort of humbling moment when I find a new way to view the athletic gifts I am currently enjoying.  Watching another cyclist grind on a road or seeing a runner try to get in some miles late in the day, I speak under my breath.  “It is Grace that I get to go and go and go, with the best in the world.  These others are working hard…perhaps harder than me, but only I am getting this chance.  And, it is a chance of a lifetime!”

I secretly shake my head ever so slowly.  I am not yet OK with the labels associated with competing with TeamUSA.  Truth be told, I hope I never find them to be commonplace.  Just this last week, at a professional event, I asked a couple of different folks if they wanted to go running with me.  They all came up with an immediate excuse.  “I can’t go as fast as you,” or  “I can’t go as far as you.”  These folks were often half my age and dedicated athletes themselves, out on the road more days a week than I was when my foot was damaged.  I am just a middle-aged guy, who happens to have an athletic tint to his being…I guess that intimidates some folks.

Hmm..  I guess this applies to me, too.  I wonder if I was asked to go on a bike ride with Alberto Contador, if he asked.  I, too, would probably be a bit in awe.  Not that I’m Alberto…

At the same time, I need a new challenge, as there are no national or world level competition for duathlon in the immediate future.  It is time to do something for others with my skill for others.  I found a perfect fit.  Many of you know that I have worked in Nepal for years.  Two of the schools there have made requests in the last few months to get solar arrays placed on their schools, as they don’t have power for computers or even lights.  This small country gets all of its energy from inadequate resources, and there is no electricity for schools during the day.

Combine that with a lifelong dream to run the Boston Marathon, and out comes a new plan.  To run Boston, I need to do some Marathons to qualify.  As a first step, I am training for an Ultra Marathon that will raise money for Solar Panels in Nepal.  The one I am doing is a 50k trail run on the shores of the Catawba River around the US National Whitewater Center.  I am asking for folks to sponsor me… $1/km or $2/km.  All of the proceeds will go to paying for solar panels and inverters for two different schools in Nepal.

Click on this link to make a donation.  http://active.com/donate/thenepalproject

To get ready for this event, my focus is totally different than preparing for a Duathlon.  I spend much more time running, and, with the changing lengths of days, I find myself running early in the morning, wearing a headlamp.  Since the distance of my training runs is so much longer than I am used to, I drive the route the night before and leave food and drink caches on the route.  When I reach milestones on the run (mile 5, 10 or 15, for example), I get a drink and some carbs.  I look forward to reaching the snacks…like a mini Christmas hidden in the bushes on the sides of the roads!

Being in sustained cardio mode in the hot days of summer means clothing selection is a big deal.  Everything I wear is soaked at or before the halfway point, and its weight doubles!  Wearing anything cotton is out of the question.  That said, a 2 or 3 hour run before starting work gives me a mental clarity that I don’t normally get if I wake up and go right to work.

I fly to Nepal on October 23 for 11 days.  While in Nepal, I will climb on roofs with solar panels and meet with villagers whom I have known for literally 26 years, back to when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer.  None of your donations shall go towards buying my plane ticket…my wife and I funded that.

What are you setting as your new goal?  Do Life changes have you thinking about what to do as a physical challenge?  Look inside…not outside, and you will find a dream that goes back to childhood. I did.

Go for it!


Worst Foods in America

Came across this.  Worth reading outloud, in a group setting.

Worst Foods in America: 2013

by Megan Hovis, RD

It is amazing that this year has come to an end. The year of 2013 for our CRC saw many great races, accomplished goals and epic experiences. I usually like to focus on the positive (great recipes for runners, how to increase quality nutrition, etc.) but it is time to report on the worst foods in America for 2013. This is just a way to inform you of what is out there, what to stay away from as much as possible, and what to put behind you. This list is compiled by Men’s Health. Here we go….


Olive Garden Lasagna Fritta

1,030-calories; 63 g fat (21 g saturated); 1,590 mg sodium


Cinnabon Caramel Pecanbon

1,080 calories; 50 g fat (20 g saturated); 76 g sugars


Steak ‘n Shake Chili Cheese Fries (large)

1,170-calories; 67 g fat (22 g saturated, 3.5 g trans); 2,150 mg sodium


Quiznos Chicken Carbonara (large)

1,370-calories; 68 g fat (29 g saturated, 1 g trans); 3,110 mg sodium


Hardee’s Monster Thickburger

1,300-calories; 93 g fat (35 g saturated); 2,860 mg sodium


Outback Steakhouse Chocolate Thunder from Down Under

1,554 calories; 105 g fat (53 g saturated); 133 g carbohydrates


IHOP Chicken & Spinach Salad

1,530-calories; 111 g fat (30 g saturated, 2 g trans); 2,400 mg sodium


Baskin-Robbins Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Shake (large)

1,600 calories; 72 g fat (46 g saturated, 2 g trans); 181 g sugars


Chili’s Skillet Queso with Chips

1,580-calories; 96 g fat (34 g saturated); 3,880 mg sodium


Cheesecake Factory Grilled Chicken and Avocado Club

1,750-calories; N/A g fat (28 g saturated); 2,366 mg sodium


Perkins Southern Fried Chicken Biscuit Platter

1,860-calories; 86 g fat (43 g saturated, 0.5 g trans); 6,680 mg sodium


Baja Fresh Enchilado Style Chicken Nacho Burrito

1,880-calories; 82 g fat (36 g saturated); 4,650 mg sodium


Friendly’s Create Your Own Combo Chicken Strips Entree Honey BBQ and Kickin’ Buffalo Flavors (6)

1,890-calories; 121 g fat (19 g saturated); 2,810 mg sodium


Chili’s Southern Smokehouse Bacon Burger

1,730-calories; 105 g fat (34 g saturated); 4,530 mg sodium


Applebee’s New England Fish & Chips

1,930-calories; 138 g fat (24 g saturated, 1.5 g trans); 3,180 mg sodium


Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion

1,959-calories; 161 g fat (48 g saturated, 4 g trans); 4,100 mg sodium


Uno Chicago Grill Chicago Classic individual Pizza

2,300-calories; 164 g fat (53 g saturated, 1 g trans); 4,910 mg sodium


The Cheesecake Factory Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken

2,300-calories; N/A g fat (103 g saturated); 1,297 mg sodium


Chili’s Shiner Bock BBQ Ribs (full rack) with Cinnamon Apples and Home-style Fries

2,330-calories; 123 g fat (45 g saturated); 6,490 mg sodium


The Cheesecake Factory French Toast Napoleon

2,530 calories; N/A g fat (65 g saturated); 1,930 mg sodium; 253 g carbohydrates

Megan Hovis is a registered dietician for Upgrade Lifestyle, INC. Upgrade Lifestyle educates, motivates and empowers individuals, families and businesses on how to live a healthy lifestyle through custom-designed fitness, nutrition and lifestyle coaching programs. Megan holds a PR of 2:37 in the marathon.

Mixing Star Trek and a NUTRITIONIST…..

To Boldly go where no one has gone before
To Boldly go where no one has gone before

I love Star Trek. One of the ongoing themes of every series and every movie is that there is great honor and natural joy associated with exploring the unknown and trying to better yourself.  If you do these journeys with others, then communities and entire cultures can change for what people agreed to be better.   We discover cures, find new ways of doing things and see things that we didn’t even know existed.

The show starts with an introduction then famously speaks with great authority that the mission of the day is, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.” That translates as do something you have never done, with zest, and you and those whom you are in contact with are better off just for trying.”  There is a brand built on the idea that I find very attractive.

Tomorrow afternoon, I am boldly going where no one named Jeff Gaura has ever gone before. I am going to get another coach to guide, instruct and correct me on healthy eating. Healthy eating has always been heresy. I do it because I heard, “if you eat healthy, then you will lose weight/gain weight/keep your weight/gain muscle/etc/etc/etc,” or “if you eat clean food, then you won’t get cancer with the same likelihood as others.”  The truth is I don’t know what assumptions I have been making about food and drink, and i don’t know how to truly eject my past habits and replace them with healthy ones, without help.

I am starting with one fundamental statement.  We can eat better than we do today, and we will be better off for trying.

Today, I got permission from my wife to go into the pantry and get rid of some stuff that we both agree are toxins.  We took about 20 cans of soda and put them in the recycling bin and got rid of a yellow cake mix that has a list of ingredients that neither of us can identity…and I used to teach college chemistry.

No stone should go unturned when you analyze research.  That line of thinking shall apply to our home.  All pantry items shall be subject to the scrutinizing eye of the nutritionist.  Our fridge, our freezer, our lunch bags, our favorite restaurants and what appears on our dinner party menus shall all be submissive to her guidance.  For, if I do this alone, or if I do this without my wife on board, we are surely doomed to a temporary change, unworthy of a Star Trek episode.

I have leaned on natural athletic ability and supplemented it with a blend of exercise strategies that no one else I have encountered is doing as part of their routine. I have done it for half the time allocation of my competitors, and it got me to the top of the top.  I am assuming that if I eat clean and nutritious food all the time, I can rise to an even higher level.

I may be wrong, but I am boldly going there.