Monthly Archives: January 2013



The cold and flu season is here, and all the usual precautions apply: wash your hands often, increase the size of your “bubble” and do not touch your face. I’m talkin’ to you, picking your nose at a stoplight! Seriously, though, that is the easiest way for pathogens to enter your body in sufficient force to cause illness. I don’t get sick very often, despite encountering a lot of people every day. I attribute that to a plant based diet, but recovering from a cold right now has prompted me to remind myself of some cold and flu secrets.

I have a problem with the germ theory of disease. There are pathogenic bacteria and viruses all around us, yet we only get sick occasionally. Some people get sick, but those closest to them do not. So something else is at work here, and that something is the immune system. A healthy immune system should be able to resist any infection.

So hygiene aside, what can we do to optimize our immune system?

  • Get enough sleep- Sleep deprivation causes stress that interferes with immune response
  • Reduce stress- Stress puts the immune system on hold until the threat is over
  • Exercise- Moderate, regular exercise like base training improves immune function
  • Nutrition- Get lots of phytochemicals and micronutrients, from food, not supplements

G-BOMBS to the Rescue

Big ups to Dr. Fuhrman and his recent book Super Immunity for details about how lifestyle impacts the immune system for both infectious disease and cancer. He created that acronym to serve as a reminder of the most potent immune system supporting foods to include as often as possible.

G- Greens: all leafy green and cruciferous vegetables like kale, collards, spinach, chard, cabbage, broccoli

B- Beans: all varieties of beans, peas and lentils

O- Onions: anything in the allium family: onions, leeks and garlic

M- Mushrooms: turns out this low calorie filler has potent immune benefits

B- Berries: antioxidants and more, grapes included

S- Seeds: especially pumpkin, sunflower, flax and sesame

You do not have to have all of these ingredients in the same dish or meal; spread throughout the day they provide the same benefit. But it is kinda fun to see if you can pack them all into one dish.

Here is one G-BOMBS Dish:

Based on a Spanish dish

Saute some chopped onion and garlic until soft. Add a bunch of chopped chard, a few sliced white mushrooms, and some diced tomato. Cover and steam for a few minutes. Uncover and add a can of drained garbanzo beans, a handful or raisins or currants, and season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and a splash of balsamic. Heat through. Garnish with sunflower seeds and serve over rice, potatoes or your favorite starch.


Real Food Fueling: Base Training Part 2

These little guys got me through 8 hour solo MTB races!

These little guys got me through 8 hour solo MTB races!

After my GI distress in last year’s LQS race, I have been a little more interested in finding real food to fuel my long training rides. I have become a little leery of the sweet taste and processed carbohydrates of  sports drinks and gels. One reason I switched to Hammer products was because they aren’t as sweet, and I found the exclusive use of maltodextrin to work better for me. Until it didn’t.

Plus, real food such as natural fruits and starches will be far more nutrient dense than engineered food.

I have found that the Maffetone Method allows me to train on water alone up to 2 hours. Greater reliance on burning fat for energy means I no longer need carbs along the way. Also, following a starch based diet means my glycogen stores are always full. Part of base training will be trying to push that a little further out. Can I ride for 2 1/2 hrs? 3hrs?

But what about racing?

Higher intensity means more carbohydrate burned at faster rates and the need for refueling. Short races of two hours or less I think will be fine with some Hammer HEED or gel. But what about those marathon mountain bike races? It is for these longer events that I want to find some real food alternatives.

Here are some things I have tried with varying success:

  • bananas
  • dates
  • small potatoes

Most people have discovered that bananas don’t travel well. Dates travel really well, they’re like nature’s gel packets, and I know a guy who raced on figs, but fruits have a problem shared with sports nutrition: the sweet taste can get to you after a while. Manufacturers get around this by adding things like citric acid, but this can be irritating. Finally, I began to appreciate what Allen Lim and many pro cyclists call “gut rot.”

As far as potatoes and sweet potatoes go, they travel well, but I worry that the fiber could cause a problem over time. But after reading endlessly about Allen Lim’s rice cakes and reading a recipe for and explanation of Japanese rice balls I had a flash of insight: white rice! I have been a brown rice snob for so many years that I completely ignored that white rice is low fiber but high carbohydrate without being sweet. It just might solve my problems.

So I turned to Allen Lim and his book The Feed Zone Cookbook for some ideas. As a vegan athlete, I took a real chance ordering this from Amazon unseen, but it seems to have some good ideas and stories.  Scott Jurek uses rice in the form of onigiri, or rice balls wrapped in seaweed. kinda like sushi. Brilliant! All I have to do is find a recipe I like and learn how to package it. This part worries me, as I am clumsy while trying to fuel during a ride. I also don’t want my jersey to turn into a glutinous mess. So far I like the rice cake while skiing, but the stop and go nature of skiing coupled with a chairlift ride makes eating real food easy. For cycling, I will have to practice on some long rides to see if it works.

Then what about Tarahumara foods like chia or the little bean burritos they use while racing?

Stay tuned.

Base Training: Build a HUGE Aerobic Engine

Build cardiovascular fitness that looks like this!

Build cardiovascular fitness that looks like this!

New Year’s is over and while the weather here in California is cold, it’s time to put in those base miles. OK, I know, much of the country experiences REAL cold, but temps in the 30s mean my morning bike commute isn’t happening. That’s a pity, because there is no more convenient way to amass training hours than to incorporate them into something you already  have to do, like go to work.

Of course, I could ride on the indoor trainer. But that sucks.

I would rather be outside running than sweating on the floor. But I promise I will train on the trainer this week if I have to.

Base Training Goal: Aerobic Fitness

This will be my second full season of Maffetone training, and this year I have residual fitness from last season. My informal MAF test of my usual running route shows some slowing from last year’s best, but it has been holding steady, and I have not tried to push that fitness further. In the off season, I think that a plateau equals progress. Compared to last year where I lost weeks of training from pneumonia, this year I have maintained some reasonable run fitness. My hope is that I can build on that this season and get even faster. Like last year, I will not race until the end of March, giving me three months of uninterrupted aerobic base training, except for some alpine skiing. I will use my 180 formula maximum heart rate of 145 until I start racing. If everything goes well, I will experiment with calculating my MAF by working down from lactate threshold, which will give me a higher heart rate range to work with.


Because unless you race on the track, almost all of your energy is being produced aerobically.

Because more health benefits come from aerobic fitness.

Because it creates less stress, avoiding burnout.

Because it’s good for the brain, helping Seasonal Affective Disorder (more on that later)

How to Build a V8 Aerobic Engine

Stick to MAF.

Aerobic and anaerobic workouts can interfere with each other. Use the 180 formula and be disciplined.

Don’t race

Resist the temptation to “tune up” until after you’ve built the engine.

Increase volume

Do this more by increasing frequency than super long workouts. The sweet spots seem to be 45-60 min. and again around two hours. The Kenyans never train for more than 2 hrs, but they train often.

Be patient

Improved fitness will come week by week and three months should build quite an engine.

Happy training!

2013 Goals

Everyone else already made their goals and resolutions and reflected on last year. I’m behind because this year the school year had me on vacation until well past the New Year. So now it’s my time to figure out what to do with my life.

Goal #1


125 posts

Last year I managed almost one hundred. This year I want an average of three per week. That should work out to two posts here, and one recipe and cooking post over at The Vegan Training Table.

Finish one of those really rough Nanowrimo novels.

Goal #2


Reorganize both blogs to make this my primary and personal blog of health, training, racing, news, and whatever else catches my fancy. Migrate all cooking over to sister blog, The Vegan Training Table, which was born awkwardly during Vegan Mofo. I probably should have kept everything in one place, but I will spend the year  keeping the blogs separate.

Goal #3

Achieve race weight:

less than 150 lbs. for the first time since. . . well, the last time I was under a buck fifty.

Goal #4

Race faster!

Faster at all XTERRA races than last year, and under 7 hours at LQS Northstar. I would also like to run a sub 45 minute 10K.

Goal #5

New races:

Tahoe Sierra MTB


Olympic distance triathlon on the road.

That’s enough for now. In sum, it’s always about the same thing: Training, Racing, and Writing.

What about you? What’s on tap for 2013?

2013 Race Season

New Year’s Day means football to many, hangovers to quite a few, and hopefully the end of the feasting holidays for everyone. For me, it is when I plan out my race season as best I can. I get a brand spankin’ new calendar, fire up the interwebs and try to track down as many firm dates for the races I want to do this year. I base this on past years, but there is often some change, confusion and sometimes conflicts. Many promoters have their calendars ready, and many of the most popular races have opened for registration.

Here is what I look for when planning:

  1. Season length- when does racing start, and when should I finish?
  2. Frequency- how often should I race?
  3. Priorities- which races are the most important?
  4. Training Plan- what kind of training should I be doing?
  5. Performance?Participation Goals- where do I want to see improvement, and when am just doing something new?

Based on previous seasons, here are my answers so far:

  1. April-October
  2. Twice a month
  3. XTERRA and the Leadville Qualifying race at Northstar
  4. Maffetone  until at least April, then off-road as much as possible
  5. XTERRA and the LQS is where I want to go faster, Wildflower, SoNoMas, and Santa Cruz are the races I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

There, wasn’t that easy?

My Race Schedule:

March 30 XTERRA Real, Folsom Lake

April 6 ICE Breaker Sprit Triathlon, Folsom Lake

April 21 Sea Otter Classic XC MTB, Monterey

May 4 Wildflower Lake San Antonio

May 25 Hammerstein 8 hr Solo MTB, Monterey

June 1 SoNoMas XC MTB, Lake Sonoma

June 22 Tahoe MTB 4 hr Solo

June 29 XTERRA Tahoe City

July 20 Leadville Qualifying Series, Northstar at Tahoe

August 3 Squaw Mountain Run, Squaw Valley

August 17 XTERRA Incline Village

Aug 24 Tahoe-Sierra MTB

September Santa Cruz Triathlon

October Golden State Sprint Triathlon

Three remaining slots are open: I would like to race a running race in July, September, and October.

“A” priority races are BOLD.  These races are ones I want to see improvement.

I think this spaces out the races so that I can recover. There is some room where I can jump in a short local race if I feel moved to. It is a nice mix of old favorites where I can compare my performances to  previous years, and a couple of new ones I have had my eye on.