Monthly Archives: June 2012

How Active Recovery Works

Arright, hands up, who has raced hard enough to have to walk down the stairs backwards? Yeah, me too. When that happens, it seems like the most important thing to do for recovery is find the nearest couch and stay planted. Forever. Or at least until all the ice in the beer cooler next to the couch has melted. What is definitely counter intuitive is the idea of active recovery. Active?! Sounds ridiculous, but then I tried it. And the coaches are right, it really can help.

How I Used Active Recovery to Learn How to Walk Again

The run course at XTERRA Tahoe CIty is hard. You start climbing a steep, paved road that switches to steep, rocky singletrack. There is a brief respite at the top, then what goes up, must go down. A steep, quad smashing descent on loose, rocky road and pavement. Of course, that all follows a couple hours of mountain biking. My legs were done. My left knee started to really hurt during the descent, and trying to compensate, my imbalanced gait hurt my right calf, already stressed from the climb. Delayed onset muscle soreness had no delay for me. I hurt at the finish line. But three days later, I was healed. Fighting the instinct to collapse was the key.

Keep Moving

The following day I went for a walk. About 30 minutes. A little shorter would have been better, but my knee and calf required a slower pace, and maybe trails were not such a good idea. But the forest was good because of the trees. They have been proven to help brain function and mood. I felt refreshed physically and mentally. The second day after the race I repeated my recovery walk. Maffetone describes walking as an ideal cross training tool for racers because it can help recovery. The third day I went for a short walk/jog keeping a close eye on heart rate and muscle soreness, which was quickly decreasing. It worked OK. A bike ride would have been better, but I ran out of time after my afternoon recovery nap. More on passive recovery later. The next day I got back on the bike for an easy 90 minute spin. It felt great, and I successfully resisted the urge to do more. Now I’m ready to train again. Even my sleep and HRV have returned to normal.

Why I Think it Works

Using the Recovery Issues:
FATIGUE:
For some people 30 minutes of exercise is a lot. But if you race, a 30 minute walk is very easy, so it does not add any fatigue to what you’ve already done.
MUSCLE SORENESS/DAMAGE
Walking directs more circulation to stressed muscles. More nutrients and less waste products from metabolism and repair means faster recovery than doing nothing.
GLYCOGEN DEPLETION
Like fatigue, there isn’t enough activity to deplete storage carbohydrate, which means it won’t take any longer to rebuild the stores emptied by a long race.
MENTAL/NERVOUS SYSTEM
If you take your walk in a place of natural beauty, you can benefit even more. The brain likes blood nutrients, and oxygen, so a walk in the forest, or anywhere there is a lot of O2 producing vegetation can help a lot.
STRESS REACTION
It’s very refreshing to be doing something, but the lower intensity relieves stress, especially if you have a mild addiction to exercise.

Other Forms of Active Recovery
Swimming in the way that walking is different from running would also help. Maybe more like floating around. I didn’t try this because drifting around in the freezing water of an alpine lake did not appeal. If you’re a fan of cold therapy, it might help. But in a warm climate, or a pool…

Yoga if done in a restorative manner could help. I was too sore to want to risk stretching stressed muscles. If I had been practicing regularly, I could scale it back.

Foam rolling would be the same as yoga. Helpful if you already know what you’re doing. I don’t, so I’m saving it for later.

In the end, I’m not going down the stairs backwards. Instead I’m motivated to train. Enough blogging, time for a nice run in the forest!

Vegan Athletes in the Mainstream Press

Can Athletes Perform Well on a Vegan Diet? – NYTimes.com

Of course they can!

Elsewhere on-site, an inspiring story by an amateur athlete that I can relate to well:

My Vegan Marathon – NYTimes.com

With recent plant based athletes like Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek, and Rich Roll sharing their success stories, it’s a great time to represent this lifestyle. While none of them follow the starch based McDougall diet that I feel is best, they all attribute nearly all their success to their nutrition.

But it is interesting to see  more exposure and discussion of plant based lifestyles and high level sport. What was mocked by many, including so-called “experts” a few years ago now gets fairly balanced coverage. I thought the interview article with professionals was good. It explains that just because a diet is vegetarian or vegan does not necessarily make it healthier. There are plenty of plant based junk foods, and basing your caloric intake on oil, refined flour, sugar, fake meats and cheeses will not promote health.

Here are few quotes I found particularly interesting:

“You do have to be diligent about protein intake if you’re vegan. I have clients, especially women, who say, ‘Oh, I put a few chickpeas in my salad.’ But that’s not going to do it.”

Perhaps. If you’re not eating enough whole plant foods, I can see this happening. But that’s not a healthy diet. If you’re eating intact starches and vegetables with enough calories, protein will not be a problem. Look at the Kenyans. The comment also reflects a bias many of us have where we pigeon-hole certain nutrients into certain foods and forget about the big picture. In this case it’s beans for protein. Whole starches average 10% of calories from protein, and green vegetables have more protein per calorie than most animal foods. I will concede that some research indicates that an absolute value of protein of 1.2g/kg of body weight maximizes recovery. For some, that may take a little extra effort.

“The one issue is vitamin B12, which is found only in meat; B12 is important for endurance athletes, since it affects red blood cell production. “

True. But we already know that, and it’s easy to fix. And it’s probably not nearly as dangerous as people think, especially when it also affects omnivores as well. Dr. McDougall explains the research quite well in his article.

“My feeling is that hard training trumps everything. Diet, if it’s healthy, isn’t going to make that much difference.”

Yes and no. Consistent training is the most important thing. The body adapts gradually. Time out due to injury, illness, or overtraining stall progress. But I firmly believe only a healthy diet allows for that long term progress. Without proper nutrition, the body won’t recover well.

Diet is certainly key fro me. I have raced the last three weekends consecutively for 4-8 hours each time. With plenty of time for reflection at the back of the pack, I realized that 10 yrs ago, eating the Standard American Gourmet Foodie Diet, there was no way I could have done even one of my recent races. Now I love racing, and as soon as my legs aren’t sore, I’ll be back training for the next one. Without my whole foods, starch based diet, I can’t be active.

How I Recover from Long Distance Racing

What Needs Recovery:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Muscle Soreness/Damage
  3. Glycogen Depletion
  4. Mental/Nervous System
  5. Stress Response

 

These are the elements of recovery. The difference in length and intensity between a race and a regular workout affects recovery. A long run that goes further than ever before will need more recovery than an easy run you’ve done a million times. A race that puts you at threshold for an extended time requires more recovery than an interval workout. Work or family stress impacts training and racing, requiring more recovery. Here’s what I learned about recovery recently.

Fatigue:

The longer or more intense the workout, the more fatigue produced. The more volume over days, the more fatigue accumulates. This fatigue must be “unloaded” in order to move forward. This can happen voluntarily by taking time off, easy days, or getting more rest, or your body can force it on you with illness or injury. I’ve neglected fatigue, covered it up with caffeine, and run myself into the ground. The best solution I’ve found for fatigue is passive recovery, emphasizing quantity and quality of sleep.

Muscle Soreness and Damage:

Cycling doesn’t leave me as sore as running. Triathlon is worse than running alone. So after a short cross country race or regular long run, the soreness isn’t bad. I can train easy until recovered. But a trail race or triathlon can leave me so sore that walking is uncomfortable. That’s where I am now after XTERRA. I have had to take three days off with walking as my only exercise while my muscles heal themselves. Soon I will add some yoga and foam rolling, but to this point I’ve been too sore. I experimented with amino acid and proteolytic enzyme supplements to help speed recovery, and believe I have benefitted.

Glycogen Depletion:

This is easy. Following the starch based diet of Dr. McDougall makes replenishing storage muscle glycogen as simple as following my appetite. Most of us have heard of the “window” of opportunity following a workout where enzymes peak, making glycogen replenishment easier. I can tell when I’m depleted by my low energy level and high appetite. Those two factors tell me when I’m recovered. The day after long glycogen depleting races, I’m hungry more often. Then, as I recover, my appetite decreases due to less activity, even though I am still sore. Using the Maffetone Method for training helps as well, since I have trained my body to rely more on fat for fuel. Before Maffetone, I would be really wiped out after a long ride. I could literally feel my recovery progress along hour by hour as I ate more. By using more fat as fuel during exercise and eating a high starch diet, I recover faster. Taking in calories during the workout or race helps, because then there is less that must be replenished.

Mental/Nervous System:

Often I’ve felt like my body was recovered, but my mind was unwilling to go on. There are some possibilities for why this might be: depleted neurotransmitters, hormone imbalance, low levels of amino acids, or just lack of fuel. From my experience, it seems to be tied directly to glycogen depletion. Since the brain runs almost exclusively on carbohydrate, if levels get too low, the brain puts on the brakes to conserve energy. As my storage carbohydrate returns to normal, I can feel my brain come back online.

Overall Stress Response:

The body’s stress response gets engaged by non-physical events. Which is why someone can be so tired by mentally demanding, yet sedentary work, or emotionally stressful circumstances. This same stress response is responsible for getting you ready for another race or workout. The mistake I’ve made in the past is not considering life stress as equivalent to training or racing. I’ve always thought, “Hey, exercise relieves stress, right?” Well, yes, and no. My recent race at Laguna Seca, the Hammerstein, showed me this phenomena very clearly. School had ended only two days prior, and while I had decreased training to rest, the life stress had peaked. I had a very tough race. One week later, with school stress gone, I raced better. Any stress reduction techniques could help here. I think the best option is meditation, because one has the potential to learn how to control the stress response and decrease the energy cost by retraining the brain.

Conclusion:

I think I’ve finally gotten a firm grip an what needs recovery, and some good techniques to use. A little research and using myself as an experiment of one with three weeks of big races have taught me a lot. What do you do for recovery? Any secrets or effective protocols?

 

Next up:

Active Recovery

Passive Recovery

Nutritional Recovery

2012 XTERRA Tahoe City Race Report

I’ve done this race three years now, and I’ve raced three different courses! It makes comparing one year to the next a bit difficult, but that is also the beauty of off-road racing. Unlike track and road runners who obsess over time splits and pacing, or cyclists that obsess over their power meters, the ever-changing nature of trails means that you never really race the same course twice. Even if it appears to be the same course, no doubt something will be different. Case in point: XTERRA Tahoe City.

2010: Dry course, warm conditions. Full course raced: 1500M Swim, 22M MTB, 6M run.

2011: Muddy, and plenty of snow. Bike course shortened due to snow. Run impeded by snow.

2012: Unseasonably cold, windy. Lake very choppy and with plenty of swell. Swim course shortened to 1000M. No snow, full bike course raced.

How can I compare my results from one year to the next?

Quantitatively, it’s difficult, but with my split times, I can compare my performance in individual sports and transitions.

The Swim:

The swim has been really slow and difficult every year. The combination of cold water and altitude really puts the zap on me. I improved by several minutes from ’10 to ’11. But this year, even with the shortened course, my swim performance declined. This is disappointing, since I swam well in the pool and at a Splash n Dash aquathon. Clearly I need to train my swim more, including much more open water practice before racing again here in Tahoe, at XTERRA Incline.

The Bike:

I went 7 minutes faster than the last time I raced the full course. Yay! All the extra racing I’ve done on that course and elsewhere has paid off. Even better is that my bike split is almost as fast as some rivals. I’m catching up!

The Run:

Last year was slowed done by snow, but I went 4 minutes faster than my previous best. And that was with a very sore left knee that slowed me way down on the downhills. I think the rough nature of the course hammered my knee, and that I need to spend more time running on trails instead of the road.

So despite the nasty weather, the race was a success. I am more motivated to continue with the Maffetone Method for training. But I do need to do a lot more swimming, especially up here in this cold lake. I haven’t raced Incline before, but from what I have heard, the swim is often very rough.

Next up:

Long, LONG rides to prepare for the Tahoe Trail 100 at Northstar. I should also find a sprint triathlon on the road, just to keep myself honest on the swim. And a flat road 10K. I’d like to know what my actual speed is right now. Then XTERRA Incline. No excuses about the beginning of the school year, I need to race to see improvement.

Recovery Overview

How do you recover from those epic days? Boundary pushing long runs or bike rides? A long or intense race? Anything that pushes you “to boldly go where” you haven’t physically been before requires attention to recovery afterwards.

Personally, I have failed epically at this in the past, burning myself out in many creative ways.

Racing each Saturday for 4+ hours each time for the past three weekends was exhausting, especially for those of us in the back of the pack. How can I best recover between each event and not blow a fuse this early in the season? In the past, recovery to me meant plenty of couch time with a good book, or going to bed a little earlier. But I wanted to develop some better skills so I can get faster. And have more fun. So I even bought the book, The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery, by Sage Rountree to see what more I could learn.

So What Have I Discovered about Recovery?

Three broad categories, and a lot of subtlety about timing.

Active Recovery

Easy exercise- encourage circulation to speed nutrients to damaged and tired tissues. Example: a 30 min. walk.

Passive Recovery

Doing nothing physical, but getting the deepest rest possible to rebalance hormone levels and allow for repair. Example: the treasured afternoon nap.

Nutritional Recovery

Replacing the nutrients depleted by training and racing. Example: a post-workout recovery drink.

Recovery Issues

  • Difference between recovering from training and racing
  • Mental/nervous system fatigue
  • Glycogen depletion
  • Muscle Soreness/Damage
  • Overall Stress Response

Unfortunately, I could not find the easy formula I wanted. Recovery seems to be more Art than Science. While the physiological processes are scientifically clear, there is tremendous individual variation. Which means trial and error. I want the plug and play version, and instead I learn that a lot of tweaking is necessary.

My first big racing block is over, and my experiment with what I’ve learned about recovery begins. Today’s recovery protocol will be: a walk in the forest, meditation, a long nap with brain wave entrainment, and a few supplements. Tomorrow will probably be a repeat.

XTERRA Tahoe City Preview

XTERRA Tahoe City

Third weekend in a row with a big race. It started by getting Hammered by the Hammerstein at Laguna Seca, continued with high altitude racing at the Lake Tahoe 8hr Mountain Bike Race, and culiminated with an off-road triathlon the XTERRA Tahoe City on Saturday.

Goal:

Chop off 15 minutes from last year’s best time.

Issues:

The bike course will be slightly longer this year since there iss no snow in the way. Advantage: Race.

However, that lack of snow will make the run course faster. Advantage: Me.

I haven’t been swimming much, but I’m a little faster. But the water is 50 degrees. Advantage: Push

Recovery: I feel stronger each day, so I’m hoping the training effect of the last two races will carry over into faster times this year. Advantage: Me

Dave: I want to beat Dave again this year. He had pneumonia and lost fitness. So did I. Advantage: ??

More fun and games in Tahoe City, thanks to the race promoter. For a different kind of recovery after XTERRA and for non-racers, thirty California wineries our pouring at the Tahoe CIty Winewalk. Killian Jornet running with regular folk and doing a Q&A at Alpenglow Sports. And the premier of Unbreakable, a movie about the Western States 100 trail race also held this weekend over at Squaw Valley. Lotsa good reasons to hang out in Tahoe. As if any reason was really needed.

John McDougall: Still Fighting the Good Fight

Despite the trends in recent years of high protein diets, low-carb diets, and emphasizing the so-called “healthy fats”, Dr. John McDougall is still championing his high-carb, very low-fat diet that has been the foundation of healthy human populations for thousands of years. Oh, and still helping people at his live-in clinic lose weight, regain health, and reverse chronic diseases. His new book The Starch Solution is out, and at first glance he appears to have summed up what’s new in the last twenty years since his last general explanation, while staying true to his core message that a diet of unrefined plant food is the key to health and happiness.  And of course there are plenty of Mary’s recipes that have all been tested by the thousands of paying patients over the years. While finishing the book and comparing it to his previous explanations for a future review, I found this nice article in his local paper describing his work. The article lists a few Sonoma county restaurants that have McDougall menus, and they are on my list to support during my next visit.

Book Review: Finding Ultra by Rich Roll

“I can say with full confidence that my rapid transformation from middle-aged couch potato to Ultraman—to, in fact, everything I’ve accomplished as an endurance athlete—begins and ends with my PlantPower Diet.”
He had me right there. I absolutely loved that he came right out and said it up front. No beating around the bush of labeling this or that. Straight up: this was only possible because of diet. I feel exactly the same, even though I’m not at his level. I race at the back of the pack, but before I changed my diet, incidentally at about the same time, I couldn’t race at all. Racing was a dream that required far more energy than meat and dairy afforded me. When people remark about my healthy eating habits, my response is similar: I can’t do what I love to do unless I eat this way. I indulge myself from time to time, but I don’t kid myself any more. I know what it will do to my training and recovery. Indulgences are becoming less and less pleasurable.
If you’re the last person on the planet to read this book, get thee to a bookstore now! Or Amazon. Or drop by and I’ll loan you my copy. This book is amazing. I thought I knew what it was about, but I got surprised. I first found Roll online searching for other plant based athletes who shared their experiences, so I thought I knew what it was about. Then I heard some interviews where alcoholism was mentioned. Then I read the book. Holy cow! What a tale.
The book can be divided into three parts:
1) Swimming career that morphed into a drinking career
2) Mid Life Scare: goes vegan and becomes ultra distance triathlete
3) Nuts and Bolts: (or twigs and berries) how he eats, and why
TIME IN THE DRINK (chlorinated and alcoholic)
The early life stuff I tend to skim through in biographical reading. I don’t usually find it that interesting. Fortunately, Roll and his editorial team fixed that for me. The two important parts the reader needs to understand for the later story are made clear. Roll was not an athletic kid until he discovered swimming. And then he got good. Fast. He was able to choose what collegiate swimming program to attend. This shows the foundation of talent he had when he came back to sport later in life. Second, he was socially awkward and isolated a lot. This makes it much clearer why he became an alcoholic. The booze erased the awkwardness, and even early on he knew that, “Although a miracle salve to my social inadequacies, I just liked it too much.”
Part One of the book is about Roll’s career as a drinker. The vegan stuff, the endurance stuff, all that comes later. That’s what I wanted to read about, but instead I got hooked on the ten year binge. Roll tells this part of the story with a carefully balanced tone that doesn’t over-dramatize, nor leaves out anything crucial. This is not the story of a celebrity binge, but what an otherwise normal person can get themselves into. There are enough details to feel the everyday life of an addict, and drama from DUIs to keep you turning pages, but it never bogs down. The story keeps moving forward. But the best part, and what made me read it in one sitting was the clear understanding of why he did it. His insight is so clear that it all makes perfect, logical sense.
The attraction for him started from the very beginning, the first drink he had at a swim team party:
“… all those feelings of fear, resentment, insecurity, and isolation just                 vanished, replaced with the rush of comfort and belonging… For the first time         in my life, I experienced what I thought it must feel like to be normal-“
From there, the double edges of the sword begin to appear. While alcohol helped in some ways, the very problems Roll thought alcohol solved, alcohol started to cause. Rather than ease his social problems, it ended his first marriage on his honeymoon! Of course we as readers can see it thanks to power of hindsight, but the Rich Roll of the time couldn’t. And that’s what grips you.
Part Two is the athletic story that I thought I was buying. Like many people, once Roll sobered up and put his career back in focus and started a family, his health declined dramatically. It’s a bit ironic that in a story of an alcoholic, the main “moment of clarity” is walking up the stairs gasping and afraid of a heart attack! What makes this section of the book so readable is seeing Roll make mistakes trying to apply a new plant based diet and learn from them. I’ve made some of the same ones, but I guess I didn’t learn as quickly as he did! For instance, he reflects on the typical swimmer’s attitude toward nutrition by describing how many donuts he and his teammates would eat. Replacing all the calories burned from swimming was all that mattered. You might recognize this as the Michael Phelps diet. I swam in high school, so I’ve done that. When he does change his diet, his extreme personality leads him to some exotic “cleanse”. After a few days of suffering, he comes out the other end feeling great. But then he goes into what I call being a junk food vegetarian: fake meats, dairy, processed and refined foods, all the while wondering, “Why don’t I feel any better?” I have done that too, although less and less. What Rich discovered, and I am learning as well but more slowly, it doesn’t just matter what you don’t eat, it matters what you do eat. Nutrient density is key. And consistency.
Roll’s focus and drive to improve himself is where the story really becomes inspirational. In just a few months of changing his diet, he was exercising like crazy. In my experience, you have to nail the diet first in order to have the energy and motivation to exercise. I believe that the main reason most Americans don’t exercise is simply that they feel too bad from their horrible diet. In just a couple of years he had completely reinvented his body for Ultraman. His training was limited in description, but when I recognized the Maffetone Method at work by his coach, I was even more excited! Roll made horrible pacing and training mistakes early on by using intensities way too high that come directly from the swimming world. He had to learn, as I have, you must slow down to get faster by really developing the aerobic system. Consistently training his aerobic system and consistently eating nutrient dense foods led him to Ultraman and the EPIC5. By using the example of Rich Roll, my two year dream of Leadville doesn’t seem so impossible.
Part Three is the method to his madness. Roll succinctly explains how he does it in the kitchen, and why he does it. I disagree on his reliance on a blender, I think it’s better to chew your own food most of the time. I also disagree with his use of oil, especially when he references Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who vehemently opposes oil. He also relies a lot on high fat plant foods, coconut, avocados, nuts and seeds. He explains that his high volume training necessitates it. But I think whole food starches are better fuel than fats. But even if the vegan lifestyle isn’t for you, this last section gives a lot of great reasons to change your diet to include more high nutrient whole plant foods.
All in all, a fantastic read. I would not be surprised to find that this becomes my favorite book of the summer. But, next up, another great vegan endurance athlete’s story: Scott Jurek, six time Western States 100 winner.

Lake Tahoe 4/8 hour Mountain Bike Race Report

Last year I did this race in the four hour solo category just for the fun of it. Conditions were difficult, but overall the race was a great challenge and lots of fun. I used it as preparation for the XTERRA Tahoe City race, since the bike course uses some of the same trails.
Last year, after California’s endless winter, two miles of the course had to be cut out due to snow. Even with the shortened course, race crew had to shovel for days to clear enough trail to be usable. Despite their heroic efforts, there were several big patches that had to be negotiated either on foot or as a slippery ride.
There were none of those problems this year. This year conditions were much more typically summertime Tahoe: warm, dry, and dusty. No snow or even mud to contend with. Just lap after lap of rocks, singletrack, and forested meadow. Last year I gassed myself by doubling up the racing by following the mountain bike race with a 10K trail run the next day. I did not repeat that mistake again. Instead, I doubled up on the bike and entered the 8 hour Solo category. I wanted the maximum aerobic workout I could get for the day, and boy howdy, did I get it!
I was a little disappointed with my performance at the Hammerstein last weekend, but I figured that in large part that related to the normal fatigue at the end of the school year coupled with pacing and fueling. That seems to be true. I only lasted 5 1/2 hours there, but here in Tahoe, at 6,000+ ft elevation, I lasted almost the full eight hours. I did not make that improvement based on fitness gains. It shows clearly that training and racing are truly dependent on other life stress. A week to recover from school, the race, and consolidate that fitness, led to a much better showing this weekend. A fellow racer remarked on my Hammerstein t-shirt, calling me a glutton. Yes, but I want these huge days to bolster my fitness for my “A” race, the Lake Tahoe Trail 100 (Leadville Qualifier) at Northstar in July. It appears that I have made some progress, but not enough to meet my time goal for Northstar. While I think the Northstar course is a little faster, with more road miles, I clearly have some work to do on my fitness.

Breakin’ it Down:

The Course:
Dusty singletrack and doubletrack. A rocky, tight, twisty singletrack climb, and a steep, loose, rocky jeep road climb that hurt. Some fast scary descending. Lots of forested singletrack, and a lot of leg sapping false flats that felt harder than they looked.

The Good:
I stayed upright (mostly), pedaled (mostly) and survived for nearly eight hours. I completed five 12 mile laps for a total of 60 miles, similar to Northstar. My performance was similar to last year’s Northstar, and I still have a month to prepare. My nutrition worked well. I used Hammer Sustained Energy on the bike, and steamed purple potatoes when I would pit. I took one caffeinated Hammer gel late in the race to power through. I drank plain water from my Camelbak. And I finished feeling much better than I did last weekend, or on the shorter version of this race last year. I even felt better than after Northstar. I’m recovering faster.

The Bad:
I crashed. While climbing at a snail’s pace. Embarrassing, but I couldn’t unclip fast enough. Gotta get those shoes and cleats fixed. I had a few minutes of tummy troubles due to mixing my energy drink stronger than usual and gulping a little too fast. I spent more time in my pit than I wanted to. It helped keep me going, but contributed to my biggest problem: I. Am. Really. Slow. My average speed is nowhere near what I need to meet my goal at Northstar. I wasn’t DFL, but pretty darn close.

The Ugly:
That loose, rocky jeep road climb. I hate it. I have ridden it many times in races, but it’s hard. This time I had to walk sections several times. On my last lap I walked the whole thing. I blamed my shoes, but I don’t think I had it in me anyway. Steep jeep road, I abhor thee! And, yay, next week I get to climb it two more times in the XTERRA. Lucky me.

The Puzzling:
My average heart rate was 151 bpm, last year’s four hour events yielded a 161 bpm average. According to some coaches, the Maximum Average Function heart rate zone should be 20-30 beats lower than lactate threshold. Estimating my LT at 175 from other races, my training range to maximize aerobic development should be 145-155 bpm. This coincides nicely with recent marathon mtb racing, but puts me a full 10 bpm above the range prescribed by Maffetone and Mark Allen using the 180 formula. What do I do? Stick with the 180 formula, or go with the LT formula?

I think my plan going forward will be to intersperse some workouts using the higher heart rate range. I have toyed with the idea previously of adding in anaerobic work now that I have built a base. But since racing at this distance stays primarily aerobic, I see no need for LT intervals. Instead, I will mimic race conditions by upping intensity a bit. I also need more volume, in the form of longer rides. I just need more adaptation to sitting in the saddle for so long. I will continue to use HRV and MAF tests to ensure that I am progressing and not overtraining. If I start to regress, I’ll slow down.

A Preview of Coming Attractions:
XTERRA Tahoe City: Can I beat Dave again?
Lake Tahoe Trail 100: A Leadville Qualifying Series Race

M.A.F. Test #5

After over four months of steady progress in building aerobic fitness with the Maffetone Method, I was still worried about what I would find in yesterday’s test. Since I raced so hard on Saturday, and last Thursday, would my aerobic development slow or regress? Even if it did, would that be a sign of over cooking myself anaerobically, or that I am reaching an aerobic plateau and could actually benefit from anaerobic training?

I woke up with an HRV score of 75 on my iThlete, which is about as high as I can go right now. The long-term trend for me is rising, which indicates steadily improving aerobic fitness. The short-term score shows how rested and recovered I am. Strangely, the day after Hammerstein my HRV was 74. I was expecting a crash, although I did sleep like a log.

So my HRV was good, my legs felt good, and spirits felt good on my way to the track. The weather was warm, but not outrageous. I am always nervous for the first mile because I can’t feel if I’m going faster than before. The result? My first mile was a minute faster than last month’s average! Still progressing! Miles two and three slow down a bit, of course, but my current MAF mile pace is about 45 seconds faster than the best score I achieved last season. Yay!

The Good:

I am still progressing, and I have two different objective measurements giving me that feedback. MAF average pace: 10:20. HRV scores regularly in the 70s.

The Bad:

I’m not as recovered from the Hammerstein as I thought. The soreness came back, and it was just a short, easy run. I guess even that little impact was enough, but I was feeling it in my quads, hamstrings and right calf. So I slathered them in magnesium oil a la Ben Greenfield, and elevated them for a recovery nap before administering the Traumeel and compression socks.

The Puzzling:

If my fitness is better than last year when I raced the LQS at Northstar, why did I struggle to last 5 1/2 hr at Laguna Seca? Perhaps I didn’t take in enough calories on lap 1? Did I go just a little too hard on the climbs early on? Or is it just that I haven’t done enough really long rides?

Not much time to solve the puzzle before the next 8 hour race . . .