Pro triathlete and dietician Brooke Brown reached out to us earlier this year when she was doing some research into how to perfect her hydration strategy in her push for a Kona slot. She got on so well with our products and approach that she flew over from The Netherlands to meet us and soon she was part of Team PH as our resident Sweat Expert in Holland!
When she's not Sweat Testing athletes or working on their wider nutrition strategy, she's training for her own races and she recently came 2nd at Ironman Maastricht. This weekend she came 6th at Ironman Mont-Tremblant in a tough pro field, only narrowly missing out on Kona.
I wanted to find out just how she manages to balance running her own business with competing at the top of her sport, so I caught up with her to find out...
Hey Brooke, let's start with how you train. So, what does a typical week look like for you in the run up to a race like Maastricht?
Here's how a typical week pans out for me (excluding my taper into the event itself)...
Recovery Bike (<50watts)
Bike 2-3hr (140-160 watts) with some intervals (180-200)
Run 40 min (140-149bpm)
Recovery Bike/Run (HR<135)
Bike 2-4 hr
Run- Evening track session
Recovery Bike/Run (HR<135)
Bike 4-5.5 hours (race specific long intervals)
Run 30-40 min (140-149bpm)
Bike 1hr with PPT
Run 1:40-2:00 last 30 min (15sec/ km faster average)
What's the best and worst thing about training in The Netherlands? I'd imagine it's hard to prepare for races with more elevation?!
With all the negative exposure on social media around cycling injuries and fatalities while training, I actually feel pretty safe training in the Netherlands with their great infrastructure, promotion and bike awareness! They have great pools, tracks and running paths for miles with no traffic interruptions.
That being said, hills are hard to find and in order to prepare for Bolton and Maastricht I had to drive a few hours to the South of Holland or to Belgium!
It's commitment like that that gets you the results though isn't it! Right, let's talk about Maastricht. Can you talk us through your race? Are you generally strongest on your bike?
Maastricht was a key race for me. Being literally in our backyard, I had the opportunity to check out the course and train in the area earlier in the year. I think it's always a huge advantage when you feel comfortable on a course, especially one as technical as Ironman Maastricht.
The months leading up to the race had been a bit hectic for me with racing and expos all over Europe. I found it tough to get into a real training groove and struggled specifically with my swim. Fortunately, we were often in the hills, so that boded well for bike training!
Come race week, I found myself surprisingly ready go just 3 weeks after Ironman UK, where I was 4th. I was in a good head space which would come in handy on the run when the body began to say "are we really going do this again?!"...
The swim was a bit of a gong show, I had a career worst swim. Perhaps it was the lack of swim focus in training, or maybe getting lost on the course... it's all still a mystery to me. In hindsight, I'm happy that I did not know how much time I had lost to the leaders coming out of the swim. Sometimes ignorance is bliss!
Onto the bike, I did exactly as I had practiced. I put my head down and got to work. At 54 kg, I was crunching out some heavier wattage for the first 90km, averaging 170-175 watts. The first part of the course starts with a far bit of climbing, while the second has more sharp turns and flatter sections which made my numbers drop.
After the first 90km, I had hoped that I would have been closer to the leaders, however, I trusted myself that I was riding well...I was just hoping that they weren't riding too much stronger!
Around the 120km mark, I caught my fellow PH drinker Kate Comber in 2nd place! Despite the fact that my wattage began to slip on the second lap, I gained some confidence that I was finally getting into a good position to get off the bike.
Heading into T2, people were screaming at me that I was 1:55 off the leader, Saleta Castro, and upon exiting I had reduced the gap to 1:37. I didn't feel I was moving that quickly through transition, but it goes to show that a swift transition can win you time when it's a close race.
The crowds were very excited to see if I would chase Saleta down, but the truth was that this wasn't the race for me to risk everything for the win and end up completely off the podium! Although a late decision, if I podiumed here I had already made the decision to travel to Canada to race Ironman Mont-Tremblant. Further to that Saleta is a great runner and I knew that I didn't have my usual run fitness. I did what I needed to secure my second place and hop on a plane to Canada later that week.
I was impressed with my bike split. Coming from Windsor, Ontario, I'm used to flat and straight roads. Racing in Europe was a definite wake up call for me! Normally, I wouldn't consider myself to be a technical rider or someone who does well in hilly terrain, but I proved to myself at Ironman Maastricht that I can race well in these conditions too. All the bike training had paid off. Typically I wouldn't say that biking is my strength, I would say I am more naturally a runner, but last Sunday that's how things worked out!
What do you eat/drink the day before and morning of a race?
The day before the race I follow a pretty basic and bland diet. I aim to have my carb loading done in the previous days. I figure with a decrease in training my glycogen levels are pretty topped up, and therefore I try to just eat normally and not stress the GI so my gut feels relatively empty on race morning.
I avoid eating salads and gassy vegetables and rely primarily on lean protein (chicken) and rice. During the day I stay hydrated with my PH 250s dissolved in water and I try not to over-drink to avoid losing too much fluid through frequent bathroom breaks. The night before I always drink a PH 1500 in a half litre of water to give my blood volume a good boost.
My simple strategy is carried through to the morning. Typically because of nerves I have learned that I have trouble eating solid food. Overnight oats with coconut milk, chia seeds, hemp hearts and frozen fruit tends to settle best with me.
In transit, I may eat one or two unsweetened applesauce containers as I sip on another 500ml of PH 1500 an hour or so before starting the race. Oh, and I forgot to mention I always love a double espresso, or maybe even a triple! If I can't find a good espresso, I make an extra strong drip coffee.
What's your hydration strategy during a race? How has that evolved since you met PH?
Being a registered dietitian with a keen eye for sport nutrition, I have always played extra attention to my nutrition/hydration plan. Perhaps because of this attention to detail, I came across Precision Hydration in my search for perfection.
Working with you guys on my hydration plan has given me the added confidence of really knowing my numbers (how much sodium I'm losing and my sweat rate), whereas previously I was guessing on what my sodium needs actually were and popping pills on intuition without ever really knowing if I was over or under-doing it!
And how do you fuel yourself during a race?
I switch my race day nutrition plan up a fair bit depending on the race conditions.
Luckily temperatures were pretty similar at Ironman UK and Maastricht. I took 750ml of PH 1000 every hour on the bike. When I ran out of my own bottles, I relied on the course sports drink and supplemented my sodium intake with SweatSalt capsules.
As for energy, I managed 78.5g of carbohydrate per hour taken in the form of gels and the small amount of carbs in my PH 1000. After the 90km mark on the bike I start to trickle caffeine into my system with caffeinated gels or guarana shots.
I like to stay on top of my hydration. The best and safest way I know how is to start the run knowing that I'm getting off on the right foot with a drink that is 100% right for me.
In T2, I take a 500ml bottle of my PH 1000 out on to the run course with me. I drink that over the first hour which also approaches what my gut can handle on the run.
I take a gel every 10km and alternate through the aid stations with cola and the race provided sports drink. Again, I make an effort to supplement my sodium intake with SweatSalt capsules.
Solid plan! Always good to see a Sweat Expert practising what they preach! What have you learned by Sweat Testing athletes over the past few months?
I've learned how incredibly variable the amount of sodium lost in sweat is between individuals. It just goes to show that the average sports drink on the market doesn't meet the majority of endurance athletes need when it comes to sodium intake.
I now recognise that this can be a major game changer for athletes looking for a winning edge and it's really an area that few athletes have yet to tap into....
Finally, what are your wider goals in the sport over the next few years?
I will continue to race professionally while building my business, Dare2BeBetter, which offers athletes nutrition coaching and Sweat Testing. I'll enjoy racing a variety of Iron distance races, not limited to Ironman and Challenge series!