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Living Gluten Free on Vacation

Posted by Cole Millen
Cole Millen
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on Tuesday, June 25, 2013
in Weight Loss

Eating only gluten-free products is an easy part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle while at home.  Thanks to the added emphasis on health that is sweeping the nation, grocery stores and markets now provide an abundance of options that eliminate the need to stop eating many of our favorite foods simply because they contain gluten and other unhealthy products.  However, maintaining a gluten-free diet when it is time to go on vacation can present quite a challenge.  In addition to facing the temptations of exotic foods and the mental excuses one makes to break the rules of their diet, you can easily find yourself in situations where gluten-free meals or snacks are not even an option.  If you have pledged to yourself that you will not make sacrifices when it comes to the health of your diet despite the circumstances, then consider some of this advice on how to enjoy your vacation free of gluten.

The first challenge you will potentially face is food and snacks that are being served aboard an airplane.  Most airport restaurants and meals served aboard flights lack gluten-free options.  The vegetarian meals are a healthy alternative, but there is no guarantee that the specific ingredients will be available.  It is wise to eat a healthy snack or meal at home directly before leaving to board your flight.  If you are forced into eating due to flight delays or cancellations, then choose unprocessed food items that can only be served fresh such as fruit or salads.  People flying on a regular basis also find that it’s easier to maintain their diet when they pack healthy snacks that are free of gluten into their carry-on baggage.

The next place that one is likely to face pitfalls, are hotels along the way. Make sure to do your due diligence before hand to determine which hotels can accommodate your needs. I have found travel reviews to be the most honest and unbiased form of information in this regard. I recently took a trip out west and found a great site called Gogobot that offered reviews on every aspect imaginable. I was then able to find a list of reviews for Las Vegas hotels regarding their amenities as well as restaurants in the nearby area that resulted in finding a complete gluten free restaurant. Tools like these make it easier than ever to maintain your lifestyle regardless of your destination. If you are one who easily succumbs to temptations and the whims of the small snack, avoid the temptation altogether by turning down the key to the minibar.  In this instance, we have another situation where packing gluten-free snacks from home can be beneficial.  Bring along instant soups and other food items that can be prepared using nothing more than the hot water from the coffeemaker.  Should you desire to prepare meals on your own in the hotel room in order to know exactly what is going into your body, pack a crock-pot that works with any traditional wall socket.  Stocking up on gluten-free products that can be prepared using this item allows you to take advantage of the healthy choices at the local grocery.

Eating out while on vacation is the kind of situation that provides the greatest amount of danger.  Typically, servers are not even aware whether or not the items on their menu contain gluten.  The first line of defense is to choose restaurants that have a healthy approach to the food they serve in general.  It will be much more difficult to locate an appropriate dish at a restaurant that is geared towards heavy meats and seafood than it will be at a place that is geared towards sandwiches and wraps.  Be discerning before you even walk in the door.  You can also save valuable vacation time by researching restaurants and hotels in the area online before you even depart.  The majority of good restaurants will post their menus on their website.  If you find yourself in a situation where you had to eat an extremely light meal in order to safeguard your diet, then be sure to have multivitamins at your disposal in order to supplement the minerals and vitamins you may have missed during the dinner service.

Cole Millen, is an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life's best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate "experiences." Follow his blog at Cole’s Mill.

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Crazy Conditions at Montreal Olympic Triathlon Swim

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Friday, September 21, 2012
in Uncategorized

 The Montreal Esprit Triathlon starts at 7 AM and is the first race to start on the big day of races in Montreal. During the day I completed my Ironman distance event, there was also a half Ironman (demi-esprit), Olympic, Sprint, and a Duathlon. All of these events are run on the same course. The only difference is the amount of loops each race completes. My brother-in-law and training partner Mike competed in the Olympic Triathlon. His race did not start until 1:00 PM.

During the 6 hours I was killing myself on the Ironman course the winds had increased dramatically. While I was struggling to keep upright on my bike in the heavy winds about a half mile from where he was standing, Mike was faced with the toughest swim of his life. The usually calm, no current Montreal swim course had turned into an angry sea with white caps and waves. The water was so rough every time I went by the basin and saw the water in the distance I thought for sure they would cancel the swim. Take a look at what Mike had to face at the "easy" Montreal Olympic swim course.

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Montreal Esprit Triathlon 2012: Ironman Dreams Come True

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Sunday, September 16, 2012
in Triathlons

Ironman Finish

Most stories of success end with a paragraph of thank yous and acknowledgements to family and friends that helped to make a dream possible. I am going to change it up and lead my story with that paragraph.

First of all I could not have accomplished my dream of completing the Ironman without a tremendous support team. Training for the Ironman is the hardest thing I have ever done and has consumed my life for 18 months. I would like to thank my wife Sarah for supporting me while I made my dream a reality. Thanks to my daughter Alyssa for all her support and grace as she listened to me talking about my Ironman training for the millionth time. Thanks to my parents, for supporting me since I was a 17 year old boy who wanted to start competing in some crazy sport called triathlon. A huge thanks to Mike for cycling with me every Sunday since April without fail and for traveling with me all over the country to compete in different events. Thank you to Mike's family for giving him up for the past 6 months. I know it wasn't easy every week. I want to thank all of my friends who joined me at Lake Mascuppic at various times (Pam, Mike, Rodney) and especially Claire, who I have been swimming with at least twice a week since last year. I once cancelled on Claire, and she made me feel like I was calling in sick to work....never missed another swim. I would like to thank Josh for letting me use his bike for 2 months with no questions asked. Many other people supported me with words of encouragement and advice over the last year and I would like to say how truly thankful I am to have incredible family and friends.


In 1989 I watched the Hawaii Ironman on the show Wild World of Sports and became immediately inspired by the incredible determination portrayed by the athletes as they struggled to complete the event. It was on that day 23 years ago that I vowed to one day complete the Ironman.  At the time I had only swam in back yard pools and ridden my bike as a means of transportation. So at the age of 17 I started the process of entering the sport of triathlon. In 1989 triathlons were not very popular. I did not know anyone who had completed one. I had to explain to most people that it was a race with a swim, bike, and then a run. Anyway...I bought the book Dave Scott's Triathlon Training and read it over and over. I read it so much the binding ripped in three places. I joined a gym and taught myself how to swim using several books and videotapes. I bought a bike and started riding. I had already done a lot of running because I played soccer in high school so starting a run program was easy. I entered my first triathlon about a year later. Fast forward to this year, I had completed 72 triathlons covering all distances with the exception of the Ironman.

For several years I have been talking about fulfilling my Ironman dreams as close to my 40th birthday as possible. Kind of a "screw you" to the aging process. For this reason I chose to enter the Vineman Triathlon on July 28th which was 4 days before my birthday. My Ironman dreams did not come true that day. (read the depressing story here) Despite the devastating DNF at Vineman I was determined to finish the Ironman, and I wasn't waiting around. A couple of days after Vineman I signed up for the Montreal Esprit Triathlon which is another Ironman distance race......


The Race

The Montreal Esprit Triathlon is held entirely on ILE Notre Dame which is a man made island in the St Lawrence River. The swim is in the Olympic Basin which was built for the rowing events for the 1976 Olympics. The bike is a circuit course on the Formula 1 Grand Prix race track. The Montreal Casino is in the middle of the track. The run course does multiple loops around the Olympic Basin area.

My swim

Weather was 73 degrees and water was 75. Montreal has a small Ironman field so all athletes start in one wave at 7 AM. The swim should have been my easiest of the season, but my time didn't show that. I purposely swam slow to conserve strength. Unfortunately, I took it too easy. I ended up 11 minutes slower than I was at Vineman. Effort level was right on but for some reason I must have "fell asleep" in the water because my time was way off. I did not waste too much time worrying about it because this is the Ironman. No one at my level cares about 11 minutes. The whole point of the swim was to finish and feel fresh for the bike. Mission accomplished.

My bike

The bike course was on the Formula 1 race track. Each loop is about 2.7 miles, and I had to complete 41 loops. The course is flat with the exception of one short hill that you have to do 41 times. Now about the time I finished the swim the wind started to pick up significantly. By the time I got on the bike course the wind was very strong. Since the course is a circle you face north for half the loop and south for the other half. About 30 minutes into the bike the wind was howling. Riding into the wind was very difficult, forcing me to downshift. At times it felt like I was going to be blown over. Making the turn to change directions on each loop put the wind at your back, and I would shift up 3 gears. As tough as the wind was on the first half of the loop, for the second half I was pedaling nice and steady and was comfortably riding 25 MPH. Many people were passing me like I was standing still. I really wish I could have seen how fast I could have gone on that stretch if I went all out. The wind made this course more difficult, but it really was a flat course.

My nutrition plan on the bike was radically different from Vineman. After receiving advice from many sources I decided to have a large variety of options in my special needs bags. During the bike I had the following....peanut butter and fluff sandwiches, bag of chips, mountain dew, electrolyte tabs , salt tabs , Gatorade, snickers bars, and water. Mike called this my "teenage diet" nutrition plan. It may have been unorthodox but there is one thing I had drilled into my mind for this race...I was going to eat and drink as much as possible on the bike. Sugar, caffeine, electolytes, salt tablets.....I wasn't trying to win any nutrition awards....I just needed to eat anything that would get me to that damn finish line. I finished the bike 50 minutes faster than Vineman and felt good. Mission accomplished.

My run

Bacause of my Vineman experience I was very nervous about how I would feel at the start of the run. The Montreal Esprit Triathlon run course has a short 2k section on a dirt road on the first lap and then all of the remaining laps circle the Olympic Basin where the swim took place. I had to complete 9 laps for the marathon course. I started the run feeling decent. I actually started running!! In Vineman I was dead at the start of the run and barely ran at all. My running was short lived as I needed a walking break at the 2k mark but when I had to walk I was walking fast and steady. Once I got to the basin I faced the same issues on the bike. Half of the course was directly into the wind and the other half the wind was at your back. I saw Sarah and she told me to treat the wind like a hill. Walk fast and steady into the strong headwind and then run as much as possible with the wind at my back. This method would conserve my energy and maximize my efforts when I could run. I stayed focused and continued this strategy for the entire race. At one point there was a torrential downpour for about 15 minutes and the wind must have been blowing 40-50 MPH. The rain stopped but the wind never let up all day. I didn't care if it started snowing..nothing was going to stop me. I ran when I could and when I couldn't run I walked. This race actually allows non-racers to run/walk alongside racers at the 12 hour mark. This was a big boost. Sarah was with me for the last few hours. I finally finished at 9 PM with a race time of just over 14 hours.

Finish - I'm an Ironman!

Post Race

I have dreamed about completing the Ironman for over 20 years. Finally finishing this race is an incredible feeling. Training and finishing this race is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I have incredible respect for anyone who completes an Ironman. The dedication, perseverance, and commitment is all consuming. The inner strength and focus required to keep pushing your body for 14 hours really can't be described. Even if you never have the desire to compete in a race like this I would encourage anyone to be a spectator at one of these events. Watching athletes of all ages, sizes, and abilities give everything they have to finish this race by the 17 hour cut-off is awe-inspiring. I am truly humbled and honored to be an Ironman Finisher!

What's Next?

I have been completely focused on Ironman for so long I forget what it is like to have other goals. I am going to take some time off and figure out what the next challenge will be. I will definitely be competing in a lot more events in 2013. Training for Ironman has prevented me from competing in a lot of the shorter triathlon events and road races I have enjoyed competing in over the years. Entering a marathon soon has crossed my mind. Can't rest too long!!

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Enjoying my Ironman Taper

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
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on Tuesday, September 04, 2012
in Uncategorized

My second attempt at completing my life long dream of finishing an Ironman triathlon will be this Saturday September 8th in Montreal. The race is the Montreal Esprit Triathlon. In case you missed it, I failed in my first attempt on July 28th at the Full Vineman in Windsor, California. I won't re-hash the details...if you need to get caught up, read my story of disappointment here. Many of you may be wondering why I would make a second attempt only 6 weeks after my first attempt. Did my first attempt take a lot out of me both physically and mentally? Of course. Am I sick of the training grind? Yes. The problem is I am not the type of person that can live with failure. This is especially true when I have the opportunity to make things right. I knew the day after my first attempt that I was trying again ASAP.

Chilling in Southern California

Now before my first attempt I actually made a point of not talking about the race and my feelings before the event. I didn't write a blog or post anything on Facebook prior to the event. This time around I told myself I was going to do a lot of things differently. Here are a few things I have done to prepare for my second attempt.

  1. Nutrition and HydrationI have a totally different plan for this race. I will be using Electrolytes , Ensure, and Salt Tablets instead of Gatorade and Balance Bars. I will not go into the details of the science involved but basically during my first event I became extremely dehydrated which resulted in my DNF. I also plan on eating peanut butter sandwiches and several other items to keep me fueled during the event.

  2. Training: Obviously I have continued to train for the last 6 weeks. One difference is that I really have been training less. I had to recover for a few weeks after my first attempt and since then I have reduced my training volumes. I also entered a 10 mile trail race a few weeks ago just to mix things up. I have been less structured and more focused on a few key workouts during this time period.

  3. Relaxation: In addition to training less I have allowed myself freedom to have a good time and do a few things I enjoy doing other than training for Ironman. I have been to several parties (not good for hydration) and I also played 72 holes of golf last weekend. I have given up many good times this summer due to my long runs/rides and it has felt good to relax a bit and have some fun.

  4. Mental Prep: The first time around I had a plan but since I had never completed an Ironman I really had no idea what to expect. Analyzing my failure and visualizing the differences I want to make for my second attempt is definitely an added benefit. I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my upcoming event and how I plan to attack the course. I think a more relaxed but focused approach on the bike will help me complete the race.

  5. Stress: Before my first attempt everything was magical. I had planned to complete the Ironman, turn 40, and enjoy a long vacation in southern California. Unfortunately I didn't complete the Ironman and I did turn 40. (couldn't stop the clock) On the bright side I did enjoy a long vacation in southern California. For my second attempt there is a lot less build-up and a more workman like feeling towards the event. I do feel some underlying stress but it is different from the 1st time.The first time it was stress over the unknown and the enormous pressure of the event. This time I know what is going to happen, I just need to fight my way through to the finish.

The Ironman journey is a long one. It started for me last summer when I began training for the Great Floridian Aquabike. I have been training for the Ironman for almost 1.5 years now, and I am ready to close this chapter of my triathlon career. As I once again enter the final few days before my Ironman, I remain focused and know I have the ability to complete the event. I know I have the full support of my friends and family. My biggest supporter is my wife..In her own words..."You will finish this race. I don't care if I have to carry you the last 10 miles". Apparently she may be a little tired of hearing about Ironman.

Follow my progress during the race at I also will have updates posted on Facebook during the race.


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