On this special episode 32Gi Sports Nutrition we catch up with Danish long distance triathlete Maja Stage Nielson. Focused on the half distance events for now, Maja has already started to put in some impressive performances. Her sporting career however, nearly took a different course.
Welcome back to the latest edition of 32Gi Sports Nutrition I’m Mr Active David Katz. Mark Wolff once again not with us this week because we do have a professional athlete. I’m very excited to talk to her as well. Of course we did chat to the sort of running squirrel a few weeks ago looking more at trail running. Now we going back to triathlon and long distance triathlon specifically as we catch up with Maja Stage Nielson. Maja, thank you very much for joining us on the podcast.
MSN: Thank you for having me here.
DK: Now Maja just to contextualise it for people who might not know who you are. You coming off a very good recent win at the sort of European middle distance championship. For Ironman people that’s obviously 70.3 or half challenge distance.
You’ve also had a second at the European duathlon champs this year as well. So you coming off a good season. But because it was more fresh in the mind, tell us a little bit more about that European middle distance championships.
Making good use of my strong run
MSN: I was second at the championships it was an amazing experience. Really in beautiful, beautiful settings in Austria, and really the best race I can ask for. Running is my strongest discipline and I have to say I ran my way to my second place.
DK: Well when it comes to triathlon there’s nothing wrong with having a very good run, looking at this sort of duathlon champs as well, you know you talk about having a good run. Duathlon’s probably something that really suits you then.
MSN: For sure, and that’s why I like to do triathlon races from time to time. Because they’re my I really feel like being a part of the race from the beginning. Where I’m used to kind of having to chase the leaders down during the race. But recently my swimming has improved.
So like this weekend I was certainly in the group as well. Like you can’t really say it’s a group when it’s long course because you not allowed to draft right. But you still in the bunch and you feel like being a part of the race from the beginning, instead of just being on your own. Not seeing anybody on the bike and then just chase them down on the run.
DK: Now you talk about of your swimming not being a strength. A lot of people don’t even try triathlon cos they so scared to get in the water. But is that possibly a reason why you’ve chosen the more long course stuff over the Olympic distance?
MSN: Sure it has never really been an option for me to do Olympic distance racing. Because my swimming has not really been at a level, so that I can compete on that level that I like to compete on. When you race long course you can have more time to catch the other girls when you biking and running. If you do short course you lost if you don’t get out of the water with the group.
Continuing to grow on the bike
DK: Indeed a non-drafting in the events you do which makes a big difference. You’ve talked about your run being strong, but you’ve still gotta transition from making up time in the swim already to the bike. How do you fair on average in comparison to the people you racing against on the bike?
MSN: Well my biking is getting stronger and stronger I think love riding my bike and I love going for long rides. That’s what you need so that you just build up mileage. Get stronger and stronger by sitting on that bike really. You just need to do your homework. But now when I compare my times, and my swimming is starting to improve. I can also see that biking is where I need to sit in now if I want to reach or take the next level up. I need to get faster on that bike.
DK: Well Mia you still under 30 I’m correct?
MSN: I am.
DK: So time is still on your side, specially looking at the fact that you doing an endurance based sport. But you know you already starting to rake up some wins of course. Second we said at the European middle distances championship, but over the same distance at a half Challenge event earlier this year in your native Denmark you went and won that as well.
MSN: That was an amazing experience. Winning an event really gives you a confidence boost. I guess that makes you believe like when you done it once you can do it again. Then on home soil, sure like a lot of my personal sponsors were also sponsors on the event.
So a lot of my sponsors were for instance 32Gi and my friends and my family were there. I raced against one of the very best Danish athletes Michelle Vesterby and also long course athlete and beat her, and she has always been one of my biggest role models so that was kind of cool.
From potential pro golfer to pro triathlete
DK: I’m sure that’s very cool and as you said the confidence thing and that’s half of what it’s about. I wanna take a step back now though because it hasn’t always been your sport sort of triathlon and the long distance stuff. You’ve got a bit of a golfing background don’t you?
MSN: it’s a bit of a change I made a few years back now. But throughout like my younger years, I started when I was 10 years old to play golf and kind of stopped when I was 21. When I just graduated high school I needed a change in some way.
I took a break from golf to, and hope that I would start missing it. So that I could come back and go and give it a shot as a professional or maybe have a scholarship and study in the States and play at the same time. But in this break I was working as a golf instructor as a sport resort called Kwabla Centre and triathlon is very big there. Suddenly I discovered triathlon.
DK: You did mention to me before we started talking though you did, I mean you’d never done triathlon. But you used to do a little bit of running before sort of as cross fitness for your golf didn’t you?
MSN: Yeah I always liked running and it was also a way to clear my head when golf didn’t turn out the way I liked it to. I could just go for a run and clear my mind.
Maja’s nutritional tips around racing
DK: Now let’s move on to nutrition. This is a sort of sports nutrition podcast. For people out there who might wanna know how you do it. How you sort of compete. Everyone’s got different regimes, maybe they can learn something from you. So run us through; night before an event, morning of an event and then also how you sort of fuel or what nutrition you sort of take in during an event?
MSN: Well the night before I carb up. So I prefer rice or pasta. Then I cut the fibres which I normally like to have a lot of vegetables and whole grain food. But the night before the race and actually the day before the race I try to cut them out. So that you have as clean food as possible or like yeah basic food as possible.
Then in the morning before I will have oatmeal, but add a bit of extra peanut butter. So that I have a bit more fat in it. And some raisins to have some energy. A lot of coffee because I will have cut my caffeine in the week leading into the race. Then have this boost of caffeine the morning before.
I will make sure that I have my breakfast three hours before the race so that I have like time to digest them and go to the toilet. All this stuff that every long distance, every triathlete in general I guess athletes know that’s needed. To have that stuff done before you start your race.
In the race I will race with 32Gi products I like to have a bit of a strong race drink. Then I top it up with gels and make sure that I always have enough like on the bike. I keep taking gels and then I will have a few when I run as well.
How to get through a half without solids
DK: And that sort of does it for you with gels and the drink? That’s sort of enough to get you through the entire event?
MSN: What I use, I will in like in the morning before the race start I will like 15 minutes before the gun goes. I will have a gel and a caffeine pill. Then just drink some very light mixed energy drink. Then on the bike I have my mixed race drink.
Because I do half distance I can have all I need on the bike before I start. I don’t need to take anything from the aid stations, except if it’s a very warm day. So I can make it through with two bottles. But other than that I will have all that I need in the race with me. So I don’t depend on the aid stations.
DK: Yes, I mean that’s a great strategy you mentioned right at the start about cutting out that fibre. We did an interview a couple of months ago with James Cunnama and Jodie Swallow. It’s something that they swear by as well. I think that’s definitely a triathlon thing. Want to keep your stomach stable cut out the fibre a couple of days before your event. Mia I wanted to ask you as well we talked about you being relatively young still. You at the half distance now. What is the ultimate goal for you what do you wanna achieve from triathlon?
Big things to come from Maja
MSN: Well since the day I started I wanted to go to Kona and race full distance. But I have always had it like I don’t want to rush it. I want to do full distance when I’m ready to do it and when I’m ready to compete.
But because I started triathlon living in Lanzarote where Ironman is very big. I guess it was a natural thing that, that’s where I wanna go. I also want to go back to Lanzarote and race Ironman Lanzarote one day because that’s what make me start.
DK: Where your journey starts I can understand how sort of sentimental that could be that would be an amazing for you to go do. Challenge themselves they’ve put together I think it’s coming next year sort of a half distance world championships. What I love about that is you can qualify on points from both the 70.3 and Challenge event. Is that something you’d look to get to?
MSN: Actually I have already secured my slot by winning challenge Denmark. and now so for my second year at European Champs. It’s definitely a race that I think would be cool to do. It’s like a race with a strong field is always cool like I like to put myself up against the good girls. So that I can compare myself to the best and that’s also why I want to go and race in Kona. Because you only know where you at if you race against the best.
DK: Well Maja Stage Nielson it’s been a pleasure chatting to you, you seem to have your head well screwed on. Everything’s there the plans there what you already doing I mean the strategies you have sound brilliant. So thank you very much for joining us on 32Gi Sports Nutrition and we look forward to following your career.
MSN: Thank you.
DK: Maja sorry just lastly also before I let you go, if people do want to find out more about you do you are you on social media do you have a website?
MSN: I do have a website it’s basically my name dot com.
DK: Well there you have if you wanna find out more see her history find out about it’s Maja Stage Nielson joining us on 32Gi Sports Nutrition. From myself Mr Active David Katz, we’ll catch up with you again next time.