Monday, December 1, 2008

Magic potions and a sour economy

One thing that struck me about Ironman Arizona, is that the sour economy left its mark. I already mentioned that freebies were absent at the welcome dinner. The host hotel Mission Palms also had plenty of rooms available before the event. In years past there was a wait-list, and getting a room was hard. Not so this time around.

Although the race sold out and was oversubscribed as usual, there were many signs of trouble. The Ironman village had far fewer tents and some prominent vendors and sponsors were missing. While Ford seemed unaffected -maybe that is why they are in trouble- others like Timex and Powerbar that always make a strong showing now left a distinct vacuum.

There was no Endless Pool, no Tanita scales, no free Gatorade bike bottles, and there were no booths along the path to the swim start. The only noticeable "growth" was by newcomer shoe salesman Newton, now featuring a big display booth. Newton's claim to fame is a slightly altered shoe that improves performance. Skeptical? You should be.

Because what did not disappear despite the dismal economy, were the many snake-oil vendors. From nitrogen-balanced protein tablets that supposedly eliminate delayed onset soreness, to energized and concentrated water that gets absorbed more quickly, or special sea salt that replenishes electrolytes faster and more completely without being bad for you, the quack offerings keep coming. I wonder when the Vegas favorite, flavored oxygen will show.

I once read that athletes are more susceptible to nutrition and gadget scams than the average population, and if the presence of magic vendors is any indication that certainly seems to be the case. I have to admit that I too, once fell for such scams. Not the more outrageous ones like calorie-free energy drinks, or concentrated water, but scams nonetheless.

Things like recovery drinks, long-acting carbs, protein bars, energy bars, electrolytes, salt for cramps, and drinking as a precaution. Over the years I have learned that a normal diet is better for you. A normal diet that includes a fair amount of fat. It leaves you less hungry, it keeps the body fat off, and it allows you to compete harder. You drink when you get thirsty (no it is not too late then) and in general you don't overeat or over-drink. The end result will be less stomach trouble, less time spent on porta-potties, and faster finishing times.

What you do need is to train hard. There is no substitute for training. No "smart" training (although a lot of dumb training), no free lunches. Training enhances performance, prevents cramps, speeds up fluid and nutrient uptake, allows you to adjust to heat, cold, dehydration, and resets your sense of thirst and hunger appropriately.

You don't need special foods, or special drinks, or supplements, or vitamins. All current research shows that food supplements are ineffective at best and more often than not, harmful. What you need is a normal diet. One that isn't too sugary or salty and contains a variety of food items. And a training regimen that mimics your race conditions. The rest is all hogwash.

1.5 mile swim today. All freestyle.

No comments: