Episode 64 - Part 2: Two Different Race Nutrition Plans for Sunny Coast 70.3 With Michael Welsh

Part 2: Two Different Race Nutrition Plans for Sunny Coast 70.3 With Michael Welsh

From boxer to triathlete. Michael Welsh or ‘Welshy’ takes you behind the scenes of his Sunshine Coast 70.3 Race Nutrition Plan. 

Michael’s main goal was to go fast and to focus on racing. For his third triathlon race of this distance, he didn’t want a complicated race plan where he was constantly chewing or having to remember what he was up to. 

As a result of getting a triathlon specific sports dietitian in his corner, he managed a 4:15 race, 15 minutes faster than what he was expecting!


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Episode Transcription

Episode 64: Part 2: Two Different Race Nutrition Plans for Sunny Coast 70.3 With Michael Welsh

Taryn Richardson  00:00

Welcome back to Part 2 of this little mini series where I'm taking you behind the scenes of what a couple of my athletes race nutrition plans were for Sunny Coast 70.3. And today's episode, I'm joined with ex boxer, Michael Welsh, or "Welshie" and his race nutrition is totally different to Jason, who we heard from last week. And I really want you to understand that - your race nutrition needs to be perfect and dialed in for you. Not a generic plan you've pulled off the internet. Not using products that somebody suggested to you because they get kickbacks for doing so. Not trying to just follow blindly what the pros are doing because, you know, they should have it figured out! And also not getting waylaid by your training buddies who have their race nutrition plan sorted for them as well.

Taryn Richardson  00:49

Now Michael came to see me way too close to Sunny Coast, but I felt bad for him so I helped him out. Usually I want to start working with somebody many months before an event because there was a lot we need to do when it comes to racing. But he came to me because his old plan, that another practitioner had written for him, was just not working for him. It was super complicated, hard to remember, and hard to get down. Like everything was very solid for somebody who's trying to do a sub 4hr 30mins 70.3 race. So we completely overhauled his race nutrition, and I wanted him to talk you through what that is today.

Taryn Richardson  01:31

Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. The show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy-to-digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.

Taryn Richardson  02:08

All right. Welcome to the podcast, Welshy.

Michael Welsh  02:11

Thanks, Taryn. Thanks for having me.

Taryn Richardson  02:12

So this is your very first podcasting experience. I understand.

Michael Welsh  02:16

It is. First time!

Taryn Richardson  02:17

You're gonna be fine, mate. It's all good.

Michael Welsh  02:20

The pressure is on me.

Taryn Richardson  02:21

No pressure. So for the listeners  - who is Michael Welsh?

Michael Welsh  02:25

Everyone calls me Welshy.  Just a construction worker who does triathlon for a hobby. So...

Taryn Richardson  02:30

How long have you been doing triathlon for?

Michael Welsh  02:32

I started triathlon with a few sprints in 2019. And build my way up to my first 70.3 in Geelong in February.

Taryn Richardson  02:42

So only fresh - only a couple of years doing the sport.

Michael Welsh  02:45

Yeah, very fresh.

Taryn Richardson  02:46

What were you doing before triathlon?

Michael Welsh  02:48

I was doing a bit of amateur boxing before triathlon.  And (it) just got a bit hard, fully committing to that. I needed a goal and a challenge so ... so that's why I got into triathlon.

Taryn Richardson  02:59

Super fit! But yes, boxing is a whole different kettle of fish to triathlon, isn't it? It's like about making weight and you know, powder weight and all those sorts of things. It's very different compared to triathlon, when we need to be, sort of, way more aggressive with our fueling really!?

Michael Welsh  03:14

That's so true. And my partner is a boxer and I see how she has to commit and it's just hard to do both - work and box. So yeah.

Taryn Richardson  03:22

Interesting career shift, sporting wise.

Michael Welsh  03:24

Yeah, but I'm actually loving it and really found a niche, and I really want to get better. So ...

Taryn Richardson  03:29

Yeah, awesome. So we're going to talk about your Sunny Coast 70.3 race nutrition plan today. But was this your first Sunny Coast race?

Michael Welsh  03:38

It was? Yep.

Taryn Richardson  03:39

And second 70.3?

Michael Welsh  03:41

Third. So I'd done Geelong in February and then Cairns in June, and then, now, Sunny Coast - it's done, so ...

Taryn Richardson  03:49

Okay, nice. And do you think that 70.3 distance is where you're at? Or are you looking at going a bit longer?

Michael Welsh  03:55

Everyone's been asking me "When are you doing a full one?" and I'm just like, "Just give me a couple more years at 70.3 first and just ease into it." I really want to become a good 70.3 athlete first before I tackle the big one.

Taryn Richardson  04:07

Yeah, great plan. Everyone's so forceful into "You have to do an Ironman", but honestly you don't. And if you never want to do an Ironman, that's also okay.

Michael Welsh  04:17

I really want to do one. But for now this is … this is where I'm at and just want to build myself as a good athlete.

Taryn Richardson  04:24

Yeah, good plan and learn how to eat properly for triathlon, if you've got that boxing history, because it's very, very different when it comes to nutrition.

Michael Welsh  04:32

One hundred percent it is, yeah.

Taryn Richardson  04:34

So how did we end up working together? Why are we talking about your Sunny Coast race plan? How did that whole journey start?

Michael Welsh  04:42

I got told about you by a good friend of ours and my partner's dietitian, Ange Clarke. I had a few things that just weren't working for me at that point of time. And so yeah, I reached out and we started working together in the lead up into Sunny Coast. Didn't have much time, but you nailed it Taryn. So, it was great.

Taryn Richardson  05:01

Thanks. So you'd done two 70.3s before we started working together. What was the issue or what was going on with your race nutrition before that, that made you want to get a new 70.3 race nutrition plan?

Michael Welsh  05:15

It was working but once I got talking to high level athletes and stuff like that, they asked what what I was having. And I was doing a lot of chewing while I was racing. And they were just like "Whoa man, that's a lot of chewing!" And then that's what made me question what I was doing. And that's what I wanted .... to really reach out to someone like yourself - triathlon was their niche. So now - really flipped it on its head.

Taryn Richardson  05:39

So your plan before was, yeah, very complicated. There was a lot of chewing - like every 20 minutes, there was something solid. And a very convoluted plan that was quite difficult to follow and calculate and almost forgetting what you're meant to be doing at each, kind of, 20 minute interval. Is that right?

Michael Welsh  05:58

Yeah, that's right, it was eating every 20 minutes. And when you're racing, the last thing you want to think about doing is, "Oh!", you know, "Crap, I've got to eat!" -  just keep reminding yourself every 20 minutes instead of just focusing on the job on hand  - racing. And so ...

Taryn Richardson  06:12

Yeah, and your goal was to go fast, right? What was your goal heading into Sunny Coast 70.3? What were you aiming to achieve timewise?

Michael Welsh  06:19

My goal was to go under 4:30, sub 4:30. So...

Taryn Richardson  06:23

Well, you smashed that mate! You had a cracking day. So let's dive a bit into your race plan for Sunny Coast. Let's go from the beginning to the end. So starting with carb loading first - what was different about this race compared to before, and how did your carb loading plan, sort of, work for you?

Michael Welsh  06:43

Leading into it, I think I started carb loading on the Friday night. And then all day Saturday. It was just simple and easy to follow.

Taryn Richardson  06:53

So you're used to following a bit of a plan as a boxer, like it's very kind of structured and controlled in a way because it has to be and so interesting to then take that behavior and mindset around food into, then, triathlon fueling. So with boxing, you potentially do things that you don't want to do, but you know, you have to, because that's what's going to help you achieve what you want to achieve. But with carb loading, I always love to put into people's plans, foods that they love. Because it's not easy to carb load, it's actually quite difficult to get the volume of carbohydrate in that you need to actually super compensate your muscle glycogen stores. So it always has to be an element of foods that you like, and things that are not potentially Dietitian Approved outside of carb loading to make that whole process as enjoyable as possible. Because it's a little bit of force feeding carbohydrate going in to actually fill our fuel tank properly.

Michael Welsh  07:45

Yeah, that's correct. I'm a very good eater. I'm always happy to eat a bit of extra carbs and a few extra lollies here and there. So as you said, you wouldn't really recommend the stuff I was eating, if it wasn't carb loading couple days before the race. But yeah, it was great.

Taryn Richardson  08:00

So did you feel different in a carb loading sense for this race? Or did it feel the same as before?

Michael Welsh  08:06

No, I just felt really fueled like with the taper and everything I was doing. I was excited to get out there. Yeah.

Taryn Richardson  08:13

And this time, you had a pre race meal, sort of, planned and developed as well. Was that different to what you've done before? And what did you actually do for your pre race breakfast?

Michael Welsh  08:23

So I had the old faithful what I have before every long session - my smoothie. If it's not broken, why fix it? So yeah, it worked really well.

Taryn Richardson  08:32

And is your pre race meal smoothie different to just a normal training session smoothie? Or do you put the exact same things in there?

Michael Welsh  08:40

Probably a couple of little things different - maybe extra banana or something like that. But I had had that the last couple of weeks leading into Sunny Coast. So I got used to it.

Taryn Richardson  08:49

Yeah, number one rule of racing, right? Never try anything new on race day. Always has to be very well practiced, and very well rehearsed. Okay, so that's your carb loading. You've done that before. But this is another opportunity to kind of practice that before event. What about what you did on the bike? So before you did something every 20 minutes, lots of bars, food, sandwiches, like every 20 minutes, there was something solid that you had to chew. What did you do for this ride?

Michael Welsh  09:16

This time I just had Pro4mance Endurance powder. And I think we aimed for around 90 grams per hour on the bike. So yeah, that's my fuel on the bike and (it) worked really well.

Taryn Richardson  09:29

So your old plan from memory was around 90 grams of carbs as well, too. Was that right?

Michael Welsh  09:35

Yeah, that's right. 90 grams of chewing.

Taryn Richardson  09:38

Yeah. And you tolerate that really well. It's not something that is foreign to you because you're not a 90 kilo athlete either. But that's the level of fueling that you have done. So it wasn't changing that so much. More the way that it gets in. And that's really important because you don't have to follow what the pros are doing with their nutrition. You don't have to follow what your training mate does with their nutrition. It's about getting a plan that is right for you. And Michael wants to go fast. He doesn't want to slow down undoing wrappers, chewing, trying to breathe, chewing. Like he wants to head down, stay in aero, not get out of that position for 90kms on the bike. How did that feel differently compared to what you've done before?

Michael Welsh  10:19

Yeah, it worked really well. And obviously, when you working hard you want to drink anyway. So that's what I find worked really well.

Taryn Richardson  10:27

So was the bike time faster? Because I know everyone had a fast bike at Sunny Coast. Was it much faster than what you anticipated? And what we planned for?

Michael Welsh  10:36

It was. I think the bike was 4kms short, or thereabouts. But it was a fast day, like, especially compared to Geelong or Cairns. The conditions were unreal, so...

Taryn Richardson  10:47

Flat course, freshly laid bitumen (or asphalt if you're in the US).

Michael Welsh  10:51

Yeah, it was super fast and super smooth and yeah it was a really good day.

Taryn Richardson  10:56

So did you get through all of that nutrition then? Or did you leave some on the bike?

Michael Welsh  11:00

No, I got through all that. Seven and a half scoops was our rough estimate from the bike. So got through that, and then headed in for the run.

Taryn Richardson  11:08

So what was your old plan for the run?

Michael Welsh  11:12

My old plan for the run was every 20 minutes it would go from gel, three snakes, gel, three snakes - that ratio. This time, it was a lot different. I just had my flask with my three gels in it, and just drank water at aid stations, I think I had a little bit of coke at maybe the second or third aid station. And then I kind of stayed away from that as well. And just sipped on water and felt really good on the run. So yeah, this nutrition plan worked really well for me at Sunny Coast. It was good!

Taryn Richardson  11:44

What did you end up crossing the finish line at?

Michael Welsh  11:47

I think it was 4:16. Four hours and 16 minutes.

Taryn Richardson  11:50

Yeah, nice 15 minutes faster than you thought you would go.

Michael Welsh  11:53

Which was a bonus. A lot of hard work went into this race. And I hadn't been working because we just moved to the Gold Coast so I had a few extra weeks off. And just thought I just want to have a race where I wasn't doing 50 hour weeks and just see how I'd go at nailing a race. So I was thankful to have that stress free of working them hours and got to nail one.

Taryn Richardson  12:12

So super simple run plan again. Like, the fueling was sort of roughly about the same. But it's really hard to guarantee an amount of liquid going down the hatch when you run too, particularly running at the pace that you're running. Like what was your average run pace for that 21 kms?

Michael Welsh  12:27

I think the average was 4:16 pace for the 21 kms.

Taryn Richardson  12:31

Yep. So you're not going slow? Hard to get a cup full of sports drink and get all of it in your mouth when you're running at that pace.

Michael Welsh  12:38

And you just don't know on the day like how you're gonna feel do you?

Taryn Richardson  12:41

Yeah, exactly. And so did you get through all of that flask of your gels throughout the run? So that if you had three Pro4mance gels in a flask - that's 90 grams of carbohydrate in a little 115ml handheld flask thing?

Michael Welsh  12:54

Yeah, I think I nearly finished it. I kind of chucked the flask out coming up the hill, the last kilometre, so I pretty much got through it all.

Taryn Richardson  13:01

And any gut issues? Like any cramping? Anything that slowed you down on the run other than that bloody hill?

Michael Welsh  13:07

Yeah, that hill was a killer. But no, compared to Cairns where I had a really uncomfortable run. This time - no gut issues. Yeah, it was really good.

Taryn Richardson  13:16

So good to hear. I haven't actually spoken to you after the race. So this is a little bit of like, I want to pick your brain and see how it went. But is there anything that you would do differently next time? Because I always believe that a race plan is for that event. And yes, you can totally rinse and repeat it but having a bit of extra thought process, go into different courses, different environmental conditions, your fitness levels, different products that you might want to use as well like, is there any learnings that you got from this event that you want to take with you into your next 70.3?

Michael Welsh  13:50

Not so much. I reckon this will work for the next kind of race, that I want to do because it's a similar course for my next race.

Taryn Richardson  13:58

What are you doing next?

Michael Welsh  13:59

I'm going to do a Olympic distance in three weeks at Robina. And then after that, I'm going to aim for Tweed Enduro.

Taryn Richardson  14:06

Okay, nice.

Michael Welsh  14:07

Yeah, it's gonna be a similar fast and flat course.

Taryn Richardson  14:11

A tide assisted swim, which should give you a bit of an advantage. And yeah flat. It is pretty hot that race though. So in terms of race nutrition - this is for everyone - thinking a bit differently about your hydration in an event where it's going to be so much hotter. Just need to bump that up with maybe a bit of extra water on the bike, depending on what your sweat needs are and thinking about what the plan is on the run too, to make sure that hydration kind of steps up a notch to match a really hot race at Tweed Enduro.

Michael Welsh  14:41

Yeah, that'd be good. And we'll probably touch base before Tweed Enduro and we need to change anything leading into it, we will.

Taryn Richardson  14:47

Okay, cool. Well, it's nice to hear your take on what your race nutrition is. And very different to Jason who we spoke to last week. Jason's plan is all liquid on the bike as well because his is a balance issue. But for Michael, it's "I want to go fast. And I don't want to slow down for any single reason. And I don't want to affect my guts", because that was some of the issues that you had in Cairns earlier on in the year as well. Like, let's not get to gut issues on the run, so that you can focus on running without being hindered by feeling a bit awful. And yeah, turns out that really worked because you smashed it - 4:15 or 4:16 or whatever your end time was, is pretty good going for a 70.3.

Michael Welsh  15:29

Yeah. Thanks, Taryn. Appreciate that. Third one done. So just hopefully keep getting better.

Taryn Richardson  15:34

What's the goal time? Like? What's the pinnacle? What do you want to achieve?

Michael Welsh  15:37

Hopefully, within the next year or so it'd be nice in the top 10, top 5 finishers in my age group. I know they're super fast boys, but I'm doing the work. So hopefully reap the rewards.

Taryn Richardson  15:48

So stepping up to Ironman, which is kind of the longer distance plan in the future. What do you want to achieve there? Do you have the same sort of big goals around hitting good performances? Do you want to go to Kona? Have you thought that far yet?

Michael Welsh  16:01

I've always said I'd love to do Cairns, full Ironman. Just the location there is great. And yeah, the optimum goal would be to hopefully qualify for Kona.

Taryn Richardson  16:11

What do you think you could do an Ironman in? 9, 10 hours? sub 10?

Michael Welsh  16:15

No idea yet, Taryn. Haven't thought that far.

Taryn Richardson  16:17

No, sorry, sorry. I'm not going to push you. I see so many triathletes get pushed into long course. Because that's, kind of, seems to be the natural progression. But there is absolutely no pressure for me to go long. I think just perfecting a 70.3 is ... is an awesome goal without even needing to go to Ironman if you didn't want to.

Michael Welsh  16:36

Everyone's been asking "Aw, when are you doing a full?" but, as you said, I really want to perfect the 70.3 distance. And I really want to become a good athlete at that distance also. And then, hopefully, when I'm happy with what I've achieved in the 70.3 move on to the big one.

Taryn Richardson  16:51

Yeah. Nice. I'm looking forward to that chat when we get there. All right. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast, Michael - Welshy!!

Michael Welsh  16:57

No worries at all Taryn. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Taryn Richardson  17:00


Taryn Richardson  17:04

Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned, email me at [email protected]. You can also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media, @dietitian.approved, so I can give you a shout out, too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to www.dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smashed in the fourth leg - nutrition! 

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