Author Archives: vegpedlr

Lessons from the CRON-O-Meter

I’ve changed my tune on the CRON-O-Meter. I always stayed away because I thought it was too inaccurate. Too much variability. I just didn’t think it would yield much useful info. But after reading Josh Hillis’s Fat Loss Happens on Mondays, I decided to do an experiment to finally see what I am and am not getting. Protein? Essential amino acids? Calcium? Magnesium? Etc, etc. I’ve always gone on the assumption that following Dr. McDougall and Jeff’s guidelines was enough, don’t overthink i! But I wanted to actually see it for myself. In numbers and graphs. I also wanted to play around with recipes and have an actual nutrition breakdown. What kept me away was not wanting to deal with the measuring for each recipe. Much of my cooking doesn’t require any measuring, so stopping to measure everything looked onerous. With an inexpensive digital kitchen scale, it turned out to be pretty easy. I measured for each new recipe, then when I make it again, I follow it again, or modify it as needed. It’s a little bit of a hassle, but doable.

So why do it? What can I learn?

If anything isn’t working, or you’re not seeing the results you expect, measure it and record it. Weight loss? Measure it. Weight gain? Analyze it. Worried about this or that nutrient? Measure it. Exercise? Measure it. It won’t be 100% accurate, they are estimates, but I’ve changed my mind and agree with others who believe that over time, the data will average out and be close enough.

What I found:

Calorie density vs. satiety as Jeff Novick teaches is real.

But there are individual differences. I can look at my records and see what foods give me the most satiety per calorie. For me, potatoes win, but my congees and kitcharis made with white rice and mung beans are quite close. Bread, my weakness, has much lower satiety per calorie. I *knew* that already, but the numbers make it clearer. Craft beer and wine are wonderful, but what a caloric wallop, and the munchies that come after make it even worse. And my morning oats? Chia seeds are a nice omega-3 boost, but add a couple of walnuts on top and wow! Another calorie bomb. Oh yeah, and that guac that the “Avocados from Mexico” ads have you craving? High fat plant foods can bomb like Vietnam your diet quick fast and in a hurry.

Energy balance, appetite, and true hunger are trickier than many people say.

When my bike volume dropped off in the fall and I switched to strength training, my appetite did not recalibrate automatically. I had to deliberately restrict calories, and at first I was really hungry. It did reset after a couple days, but it required effort. Dr. Fuhrman uses the concept of “true hunger vs. toxic hunger” to help people recalibrate. Toxic hunger is a detox symptom that is relieved by eating again. Just like a detox reaction to caffeine withdrawal is fixed by more caffeine. Over the holidays, I discovered the truth of this when comparing my feast days to my potato hack days. The day after a feast day, my hunger was upregulated. The normal simple potato hack meals that satisfied left me feeling a little . . . alone. What I really WANTED, as opposed to what I actually needed, was more rich food. The short term contrast between feast and fast was quite interesting. Those rich foods stimulate appetitive and you want more, whereas plain food is well, plain. Easier to move away from.

Lastly, Jeff has frequently admonished us to watch out for those little indulgences.

We often separate and compartmentalize our indulgences to hide them from ourselves. “But it’s only a little chocolate,” but when that is added to another different indulgence, and a third, the cumulative effect is big. But when considered separately, it’s “just a little!” Measure and it becomes clear. A “little bit” of X, then later in the day a “little bit” of Y, and “a little bit” of Z after dinner somehow registers in the brain as a “just a little bit” but really multiplied by three, you have much more than a little bit. Measure it and you can see how

It’s a worthwhile experiment to take the time to record your favorite recipes and see what they look like. Reassure yourself that you’re getting enough of everything, and if not, tweak it. It will also help with figuring out portion size relative to energy balance. If you’ve been at it for awhile but hit a plateau, use it to diagnose what’s not working.

And if you’re in the habit of discussing your diet with others, you can field the questions of “Where do you get your . . .?” Or, “You’re not getting enough . . .” with the answer that you have in fact measured it and can provide a printout.

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The Forty Day Challenge: EASY Strength!

Another chapter in my ongoing celebrity crush bromance with coach Dan John… This time it is all about trying easier, not harder. How does the old saying go? Don’t work harder, work smarter? My hope is that this Dan John program will work as well as his other advice .

Finished the 6 week Mass program for giggles, and it was fun. Though I wasn’t giggling much during 5 sets of 10 heavy squats! But now it’s time to get back on the bike and build my base. So I’m going to change it up for another of Dan John’s programs, variously known as “Easy Strength,” “Even Easier Strength” and the 40 day challenge.

What?! How can strength training be easy, or easier? Isn’t the point to smash yourself in the gym? Isn’t that the only way to get swol, or even just stronger? I’ve seen Arnold and the gang in Pumping Iron and Dorian Yates in Blood and Guts, so it’s clear: No Pain No Gain, No Guts No Glory!

Right?

Maybe not.

Like what Maffetone did for endurance training by focusing on the bottom end of aerobic function to lift everything up, this program does for strength work. Perhaps adopting a “less is more” approach and using frequency over the long haul rather than intensity and a crash approach will work best. At least in my experience, high frequency but smaller “bites” keeps me healthy and motivated.

“If it’s important, do it every day, if it’s not important, don’t do it at all.” (stealing from Dan John, who stole it from some other dude)

 

Obviously, for Leadville, that means riding a bike, preferably off road. But so far this winter has been so wet I can’t even see the roads, much less the trails. And strength is important to. In the end, if you can get EASY strength, why opt for “difficult” strength?

The workout came from a suggestion/challenge from the famous Pavel Tsouline the “Evil Russian” who popularized kettle bell training. As former military, he was thinking about the needs of various spec ops folks and law enforcement types who need to be ready to go at any moment. They can’t be sore and beat up from training. And most of their training needs to be the skills necessary for their job. They can’t spend hours in the gym on a typical bodybuilder routine, and take the time to recover. Such an approach also applies to athletes of other sports, practicing the sport is most important, strength training is a complement, it shouldn’t interfere. So he challenged DJ to go easy, and do a simple workout nearly daily for 40 days and see what would happen. Good things did, and the forum chatter backs it up.

Enter the Program Minimum.

What is the minimum we need to do to get results? Stop there and get back sports skills.

The program is simple, pick about five total body exercises that cover the basic human movements, and train them 5 days a week, but very low volume, about 10 reps each. So 2×5 or 3×3. It has to be easy, since it’s done almost daily. The idea is for the strength to be built up gradually from the bottom, rather than blasting from the top end, and getting sore.

So, for me:

  • Deadlift– MMS was all about the squat, so it’s time to work the DL. After working with a MTB coach, I see better the importance of the Hinge movement.
  • Pull Up– Still working on being able to blast full bodyweight. Compared to other pulling movements, the old pull up is real total body event.
  • Incline DB Bench Press– Same but different. Not a regular bench press, not an overhead press, but in between. Using DBs will force my weaker side to catch up.
  • Leg Raises– DJ suggests the Ab Wheel as a tonic for the hingeing movements. I went with this classic.
  • Plank Circuit- Same one I’ve been doing.
  • KB Swings and Goblet Squats as a warm up
  • Loaded Carry– various, right now I like one sided waiter’s walks and rack  carries.

 

All basic movements (squat, hinge, push, pull, carry)are covered. Hopefully my strength levels will continue to creep up while not interfering with the aerobic development. It’s quite similar to Maffetone’s idea of “Slow Weights.” I’ll use a 10 day schedule or “week” for training, taking one day off completely every 10 days rather than every 7 days. When using Maffetone training I find I only need a day off every 10 or so days.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? Like with Maffetone aerobic training, the only potential downside I can see is that maybe I don’t improve as much as I could have by going really hard. That doesn’t seem too bad. Why train difficult if you can train easy and get ot the same place?

For those who’d like to learn more:

[url]http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/40-day-strength-program[/url]
[url]http://danjohn.net/2013/12/the-forty-day-workout-again/[/url]
[url]http://danjohn.net/2011/06/even-easier-strength-perform-better-notes/[/url]
[url]https://philmaffetone.com/slow-weights/[/url]

MMS Lite Finished

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MMS Lite Review

Just finished the program and a one week break for a road trip. Last year I tried and got derailed toward the end. Didn’t get bigger necessarily, but I wasn’t really trying. I didn’t come in at a weight I wanted, and I didn’t want to eat “like a shark” as Dan John suggests. I don’t really need more mass anyway, but I really need more strength. So, I decided to experiment with logging all food with the CRON-O-Meter to see what I could learn, while only worrying about workouts in the gym. The food logging  was quite interesting, enough for a separate post.

What I wanted was to get stronger, and take a break from the bike. It worked. I liked the program’s focus on simple barbell training and loaded carries. I like squatting. I like Farmer’s Walks. I increased loads on all lifts over the six weeks, and in the case of the squats, load went up, and the volume stayed high. The result of that squat volume is better performance on the bike. Last year the time spent on the program definitely increased my torque on the MTB up those big CO climbs. My pulling improved, but my bench press is still really weak. I guess I need to keep at it.

What I missed was deadlifts, and after attending a MTB skills clinic, I finally “got it” concerning the hip hinge and its importance for MTB. It’s not just power to the pedals, it has to do with moving the bike most efficiently over obstacles, big and small, and pumping for speed. So while I’m sure the squat program helped, it’s time to get back to hinging as the main lower body movement. I also skipped my usual plank circuit, so that needs to come back as well. I didn’t want to completely shut down my aerobic fitness, so I added in a short run on non lifting days and some 45 min walks most days to help keep aerobic function and help with recovery. I did some light KB swings as well, until my back got a little grumpy, and I wanted to save it for the squats.

Now I’m off for a gym based 40 day program while building my aerobic base, another one Dan John’s favorites.

Mass Made Simple: Lite!

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Old School Muscle with John Grimek

Mass Made Simple

For what it’s worth, I will toss out my little experiment that I’m currently engaged in. While endurance sports are my passion, I do enjoy strength training, and it does value for endurance. I was leery of doing much gym work, worried that it would interfere with aerobic development a la Maffetone. But I figured that I can take a few weeks off here and there to focus on strength. After all, I’ve pretty strict with MAF training for some time.

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Old School High Rep Squat Program

Last fall I eased back into the gym, experimented, and built a little base strength. I’ve been heavily influenced by this guy Dan John. I became intrigued by his Mass Made Simple program. It is similar to really old school (read: pre-steroid) training programs that built tons of muscle and strength. I’m not as interested in mass, but these programs are based on high rep, heavy squats. Sounds like fighting up a steep technical climb on the MTB. So I gave it a go and lasted four weeks until I picked up a bug. Fell off the wagon, then switched to maintenance later in the spring. Definitely helped my riding as I had by developing greater torque. It didn’t seem to interfere with aerobic fitness, though I didn’t formally test it.

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High rep squat promoter Peary Rader demonstrating

So I’ve spent the last couple months rebuilding my strength base following some of Dan John’s ideas and riding whenever. Now, I’ve hung up the wheels for a few weeks to just blast away in the gym to see how much strength I can build before I start aerobic base training in January.

But as I read through that program, I knew that I didn’t have the strength base to safely complete it. It was definitely geared toward more advanced strength athletes. I wondered how to scale it down to my level. Fortunately, the gang at Dan John’s forum had already asked, and he delivered.

Mass Made Simple Lite!

I’m wrapping up week 2. A little sore, but so far, so good.

I’ve read most of his books and many articles. A gold mine, and he’s funny too.

So for those looking to get bigger, something to think about.

How Long Should a “Week” Last?

 

Most people will answer “seven” because that’s the Mon-Fri calendar week everything else depends on and which sets many routines.

But is that the best way to organize a training schedule?

I’ve heard over the years that professionals, especially endurance athletes set their schedules in blocks that disregard the seven day calendar week. This makes sense for a typical racing schedule, where races are infrequent, compared to team sports where is a distinct and shorter “season.” For North America, the race season starts in earnest in March, not letting up until late October. And there are winter events, such as indoor track at the college level, or cyclocross. For higher latitudes and altitudes, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing are available. So for periodized planning and preparation, perhaps longer “blocks” make sense than a typical Mon-Sun.

But the main reason is to get adequate recovery from the harder workouts. Trying to fit different kinds of “hard” or “quality” workouts in seven days may not leave enough days for easier recovery and aerobic training. Leading to injury, illness, and burnout. Trying to fit a long effort, intervals, and strength all in one seven day week, may be too tall an order fora an athlete.

I got Meb Keflezighi’s book for my niece for Xmas, and while flipping through it and ignoring the advice to eat lots of animal protein Meb’s training schedule caught my eye. Instead of a seven day week, Meb schedules his workouts over a nine day “week.” This allows for two days of recovery between hard sessions.

A traditional 7 day week for running might look like this:

M: Strength
T: Intervals
W: Easy
R: Intervals
F: Off/Recovery
Sa: Tempo
Su: Long

Nine Day Week:

1: VO2 max intervals
2: Easy
3: Easy
4: Long Intervals or Tempo
5: Easy
6: Easy
7: Long
8: Easy
9: Easy

Each hard workout gets two easy days for recovery before another challenge, compared to a more typical schedule. Strength workouts, which challenge the body differently, could be worked into the easy days. The problem with this is that the workouts will fall on different days of the calander week every time which could get confusing, or inconvenient. Particularly for a cyclist, whose long rides are typically 3-4 hrs, such a workout falling on a weekday could be a problem.

Joe Friel described this programming as a good option for master’s athletes in his Fast After 50 book. Since recovery is even more of an issue for older athletes, and Friel believes in not sacrificing intensity, a longer week makes sense, to make sure one is recovered before completing another hard session.

A famous athlete example of this comes from legendary mountain bike racer, Ned Overend. When asked whether he’s changed his training, his response was that he does the same thing he always has, it just takes him longer to do it. Overend has always belived like Friel in high imtnsity training. So he does the same workouts, just fewer of them over the course of a season, because there’s more recovery in between efforts.

An approach I’m considering, along with some “reverse periodization” to account for greater need for strength training and some El Nino supplied ski days.

Anybody experiment with a non-traditional schedule? How did it work?

Holiday Reading 1: Joe Friel

I read and re-read Friel’s Training Bible books for years. When it come to heart rate training, he’s one of the best, and if you’re a cyclist with $, his work with power meters is just as good. But when Fast After 50 came out, I gave it a pass. I already know his training method, and it clashes with Maffetone, which is my preferred way. Plus, I’m not in that age group anyway. But I heard a great review from a friend who competes in the 60-65 AG, and who successfully used Friel’s methods to self-coach his way to the XTERRA World’s for his AG. I listened to a few podcasts with Friel, and it sounded intriguing, so I added it to my holiday reading.

http://trailrunnernation.com/2015/07/faster-after-50-with-joefriel
http://www.nourishbalancethrive.com/podcasts/nourish-balance-thrive/joe-friel-world-class-coach-elite-athletes/
http://www.enduranceplanet.com/week-of-kona-joe-friel-your-training-bible-and-the-secret-to-ironman-success/

This book is definitely different from the others because of its narrower focus on aging. It also has much more of a personal story to it, since Friel just turned 70. He has also coached a zillion athletes, including many masters. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research on aging athletes. Exercise science is pretty young anyway, and it’s only recently that there were any aging athletes to study. So, a lot of what we know about aging is based on a sedentary population and will be different for athletes. Friel dug into the research to see what was available and combined it with his own decades of experience as an athlete and a coach. It’s all definitely a work in progress, because there are no definitive answers. Not yet. That’s what makes this so exciting.

So the book lays out what research shows, as closely applicable as possible to athletes and explains the limitations. It’s much more of a discussion than a prescription, though he does give his best guesses.

He identifies three factors for an aging athlete:

Decreased aerobic capacity
Decreased muscle mass and strength
Increased body fat

These are the factors that aging causes, and athletes are no exception, though compared to the average Joe, they will still be way ahead.

To fit these issues he suggests:

“High” intensity interval training (high here is relative, and specific to his method)
Year round strength training, planty of it intense
Strict diet (high fat paleo for him)

He believes aging athletes slow down because they start training slower all the time. As for intensity, it’s not necessarily as hard as you might think, and not as much as you might think. It sounds very similar to 80/20 training, as another aging concern is recovery. Focusing on intensity means being very careful with recovery to avoid injury, illness, and burnout. The evil trifecta of overdoing it. As an exapmple, he interviewed Ned Overhand, one of the legendary pioneers of MTB racing and still very active and fast, who explained he still the same training he always has, it just takes him longer to do it. One of his suggestions is to rearrange training cycles into nine day “weeks” instead of the traditional seven day calendar weeks.

The good news is, according to his research and experience, a lot of fitness and speed can be maintained until age 70, when there is an inevitable drop. Serious athletes who are also data nerds might notice a decline begin at any point from the mid 30s on, but that’s only if they always trained and competed without taking any real time off. So many of us leave sport for awhile, or don’t take it up until later in life. Good news for us, a lot of that decline we thought was inevitable may really just be inactivity.

A good read, with a lot to think about. This book is for those who want to be as fast as possible. This is not about what is necessary for good health. It’s for those who have tougher goals. The whole idea of aging athletes is fascinating, and with baby boomers that started a lot of it getting older, there will be lots more to learn.

Should I change trains, and move away from Maffetone towards a higher intensity plan? If so, at what point in the season? Food for thought.

Northstar LQS: Fully Cooked

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The coveted Leadville coin

“Crash” training worked. Sort of. By packing in the aerobic hours leading up to Northstar, I did get a big bump in fitness. I felt great throughout the race, made the time cut-offs, then was the second name called in the lottery. So finally, I’m off to Leadville!

Leadville Trail 100 August 13, 2016

I wasn’t fast, but I was smooth. My times for the first and second laps were very close. And even though I pushed hard the second lap knowing I was close on time, I still felt good. So crash training delivered the goods as promised.

It also delivered the “bads” as well as the goods. The risks of crash training are slipping over the thin line from “overreaching” which builds fitness, and overtraining, which erodes it. I didn’t rest quite enough after the hard endurance block before the race. I took enough days off to do well, but I needed a little more time absorb that training. I needed a few easy days on the bike to put it all together. I also should have done some more overt stress reduction during the block and as recovery after. Meaning I should have done some yoga and meditation to help everything along.

But none of that was clear during the race, because everything worked. I felt pretty beat up afterwards, but it was a race after all, that’s normal. My low back was pretty sore, which I attributed to 8 hours of pounding on an aluminum hardtail, but had other causes, more later. My pervious season’s hip flexor issue reappeared, but on the other side. After a week of barely doing anything, I eased back into triathlon training by doing a short morning run, and a short afternoon bike. Nothing like what I was doing in the pre-race block. All training done at MAF, and I kept it at the low end just to be careful. That crash block paid off, as I was definitely faster, even at the lower heart rate. I felt great.

Until I didn’t. My HRV scores looked a little wonky, but I thought it was OK. Then degradation set in. I got slower. A lot slower. I kept all my workouts short and strictly MAF. But I didn’t improve. My sleep didn’t seem to be working, plentiful though it was. The fatigue, while not extraordinary, just didn’t go away. It took me awhile to realize it was a form of overtraining. That often happens after a peak. The crash block, the long, hard race, and training afterwards dug a hole I fell into. What makes it so dangerous is that you feel so good, right before you fall in. The wonky HRV was a subtlety I hadn’t noticed before that showed by nervous system was out of whack, even though the software thought it was good. HRV is highly individual, so it takes some experience to be able to interpret the measurements in a relevant, personal way. Lesson learned. I turned to traditional Chinese medicine to help my recovery, I learned that my low back pain was not directly and only related to the MTB, but depressed “Kidney” function. (The organs in TCM are utitlized differently than in the West) A little self-diagnosis revealed the pattern.

Fortunately, Maffetone style training is beneficial. I continued to train, but always short, never over 90 min. and always under MAF. I didn’t want to lose fitness, and I didn’t get worse, so I plugged on. Some yoga, meditation, and qigong worked their magic on my nervous and endocrine systems, as well as the energetics as used by TCM.

It was a valuable learning experience. I’ve overtrained before, but this was different, and not so bad. My only regret was that I lost the enthusiasm for racing, and so missed out on some great fall races. But that lack of enthusiasm is a very important signal, and I’m glad I heeded it. I kept riding throughout the remainder of the dry fall weather, so I haven’t lost much fitness. And I have some good experience to draw on in preparing for Leadville.

Diet Wars: A Fable

Diet Wars: A Fable

A short time ago, very close by, we forgot how to eat.

For over 10,000 years, home cooks and gardeners took the bounty of the land: starches, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices and lovingly crafted meals to nourish body and soul. In touch with the seasons and the local powers of nature, generations of trial and error yielded a treasure trove of foods that sustained, and when necessary, healed. On rare occasions, special foods could be gathered for celebration as kinfolk would come together and praise.

Then a Dark Power began to emerge. The relaxed pace of working with the land and plants sped up as the Age of Machines arrived. With increased mechanization, the droid machines began grinding up our precious food. The Dark Side of Food sent its minions out into the world in search of the largest and cheapest sources of fat, sugar, and salt. They added this unnatural bounty to our food, concentrating the addictive power, enslaving the consumers with the Pleasure Trap. No longer was a simple bowl of rice with fresh local vegetables and spices adequate. Our taste buds and brains screamed for more! The Dark Side responded by colonizing much of the galaxy with their military-industrial power enslaving the locals to produce the much needed sugars, oils and Himalayan Celtic Black Purple Sea Salt. Not satisfied, the Dark Side turned to our animal companions. Huge factory farms replaced pastures, and their eyes shone with terror instead of peace.

Just as farm animals to slaughter, people ate these food-like products, and developed many chronic diseases. As the rich food of the Empire, people celebrated “progress” while they developed high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Deadly diseases never seen before became commonplace, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Then the ultimate Dark side disease emerged, cancer. A mysterious disease that eats away at you when your own cells rebel. Another Dark Power emerged to “manage” these conditions with even more chemicals at an enormous cost. Laboratories worked into the night to create medications to “cure” these new diseases. No cure, just inefficient management of the symptoms. But plenty of profit swallowed by the gaping maw of the Empire.

All was not lost. Some people managed to reconnect eating and health. On the fringes of the Empire, a perceptive few noticed something a bit odd. Some noticed that the colonized natives eating their “poor” diet were actually stronger and healthier. If violence ensued, these skinny locals were difficult to put down without fancy weapons. Dr. Burkitt treated patients from both sides and saw who was healtheir. He realized the value of the ancient ways, and sought to spread this knowledge to improve the health of Empire citizens. “Fiber!” he cried out. Meanwhile, in the heart of the Empire, a near implosion took place with two Great Wars. Food was disrupted, stolen, and redistributed. People had to reconnect with the “poor” food of their past. And despite the stress, became healthier. But despite a few lean years, the Empire was back on track, making their addictive “food” concentraed in flavor even cheaper and more convenient. Buy and eat you meal in your vehicle in five minutes? You bet.

Meanwhile, a small Rebel Alliance was born. Pioneering Jedi such as Chittendon and Kempner led the way. Chittendon challenged the protein myth, showing simple foods were best. Kempner solved incurable health problems. Others, like Pritikin, discovered the now arcane art of eating and disease reversal through their own study of the Force of health. John McDougall saw simple folk from far side of the Empire eat thier traditional diets with better health. Other Rebels, at the fringes of the galaxy, revived their marginalized traditions of native plants such as macrobiotics and ayurveda. A crack appeared in the Empire’s armor, when these Rebels applied simple foods to complex health problems and succeeded.

These rebels faced opposition in the form of convenience and the Pleasure Trap powers the Dark Side had made ubiquitous. But they trudged on. The Force began to speak to new warriors. McDougall, Ornish, and Esselstyn, struck out against the Dark Side from within the belly of the Beast. Setting up scientific studies in the Empire’s own language, they proved where much disease and suffering came from, and better, how to fix it. Farmer’s markets grew rapidly, organic standards were set and enforced. Gardens began to replace lawns. People were beginning to see the Light, then . . .

The Empire Struck Back

On the covers of national magazines, the new low carb warriors fought back with pictures of bacon, butter, and steak. “Fat does not make you fat!” they exclaimed, and Darkness gathered once again. Grass fed is OK, your brain needs saturated fat and cholesterol. Upset about the past 10,000 years, these Dark warriors went even further into the past, to fabricate an entirely new paleo paradigm. The foods that nourished and healed generations was bad. Only the rich foods of the Empire can save you!

These are turbulent times. The Dark Side is strong. It is quick. It is easy. It is seductive. It is tasty. Those concentrated flavors and nutrients enslave you.

But there are plenty still willing to fight for good, whole, natural, healthy plant food. New doctors continue to step away from the Empire’s health practices to help patients see the Light side. Athletes, chefs, gardeners, writers, and bloggers spread the word amid a cacophony of Darkness.

The battle rages on . . .

With the greatest respect, admiration, and gratitude for George Lucas

The Hay Is In The Barn

Pile it on, pile it up

Pile it on, pile it up

How much hay, and whether or not it will be adequate remains to be seen.

Sat. July 18 is the Tahoe Trail 100K MTB race. Another attempt to qualify for Leadville. To prepare, I created a version of “crash training.” For a cyclist, it’s a terrible name. And a runner couldn’t really do this sudden and dramatic increase in volume without serious injury risk. But I gave it a go.

I learned of this through an article by Chris Carmichael called “Spring Break for Cyclists” and another reference in Joe Friel’s The Cyclist’s Training Bible(p. 150)

Carmichael describes how as a junior in Florida, he would see groups of cyclists come down from colder regions to train every spring. They would pile on the miles during a week or so, ending red as lobsters, but with a nice effect on their aerobic fitness. A lot of cyclists and triathletes try to take a spring training camp as a vacation, but Carmichael came up with a plan for regular folk who can’t take off the time. Instead, it focuses on a long weekend.

Friel describes a Dutch study where cyclists took on a very heavy block of dramatically increased workload for two weeks, followed by two weeks easy for recovery. More detail is in The Triathlete’s Training Bible. ((p. 290-1)

In both cases, it was planned overreaching, then planned recovery, in about a 1:1 ratio.

I tackled a mini-crash with 5 days 3-4.5 hrs riding, including a MTB race in the middle, then time off. Then, two weeks out from the Tahoe Trail 100, I tackled an 8 day brick of increasing rides, from 1h to over 5, totaling 25h. It rained. It hailed. There was thunder and lightning. Got a couple cheers from motorists as I flogged myself in Belgian weather. Then I shut it down for a week, only doing a couple short 1h road rides which didn’t feel that great. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good. Strong every day, I was tired at night, but every morning woke with a good HRV score so I kept it up. Until day 9, which should have been a 1h ride. I was fatigued, so I skipped it.

Carmichael claims that his program can get you ahead a month in aerobic development. I don’t know about that, but I really needed those long rides to be ready for 8h at the Tahoe Trail 100, and similar races.

We’ll see.

Race Reports and Fueling Insights

People are way too concerned about pre/post exercise fueling and taking in calories while exercising.

I’ve posted on this before, but I tested it out in two races.Two trail half marathons, pre-race breakfast of potatoes or sweet potatoes. Black tea or yerba mate. Very little fueling during the races and I felt fine. Except my legs.

You don’t need to. Just eat your regular meals and snacks according to hunger. Feeling like you’re “running out of gas” during exercise is an incorrect metaphor. You’re not out of gas, you’re out of fitness. You don’t need more fuel, you need a bigger engine. It’s not that the gas tank is empty, it’s that you’re trying to tow a trailer with a Smart car instead of a diesel pickup. You can put as much gas as you want into the Smart, it won’t increase its horsepower or torque.

Same with our bodies. As long as you’re fueled up on starch, your carbohydrate and fat stores give plenty of energy. It’s the fitness that needs to improve, and it will, with regular training, and as it does, more can be done with that stored energy. Trying to eat your way out of the fatigue doesn’t work, but it might so upset you stomach that it ruins your race. Ask me how I know.

So…

I’ve been seeing how little I can fuel my workouts, and found I don’t need much. Usually just water up to 2 hrs. But I usually train at low intensity 140-145 BPM. What about high intensity, like a race?

I recently ran two trail races, one lasting 3 1/2 hrs, the other a little under 3 hrs. In one I had two small rice balls, two dates and a gel. Far from the conventional recommendations. of a gel every 20-30 minutes. Yesterday I ran 3 hrs on 20 oz of an experimental amino acid drink with negligible calories and one gel at about 2 1/2 hrs. No hunger, no bonk, felt great. The only suffering was in my legs. Heart rate in the 160s. I don’t think I really needed that gel. Sorta like a security blanket.

Build fitness, not the GI tract. Don’t fall for the sports nutrition industry’s sales pitch about what you need. Pushing the limits of your fitness can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, but food won’t solve it. It is true that at some point, some fuel will be needed, but my experience is that it is less than I thought.

So yesterday’s race was good because I met my goals. I was slow, but that was OK. My goal was to finish in under 3 hrs without killing myself, and focus on learning about pacing, perceived exertion, and heart rate for running, which could be different than mountain biking or triathlon. I was pleased that I kept a consistent effort, around 165 BPM that felt good for hours. This is similar to what I’ve seen in both triathlon and cycling, so in this case, Maffetone seems to be right about the primacy of heart rate and not activity. I was very pleased that monitoring my heart rate led to a very even pace. The first and second halves of the race were very similar in pace. The last two miles were hard, and my heart rate came up, but I finished without feeling like death. The course was rolling, no huge climbs or descents, and somewhat technical, which made it good for practice with pacing effort. My legs felt trashed, but in a good way, as in muscles that were stressed and will now get stronger. Not having been running much, and still dealing with imbalance due to last summer’s hip flexor injury, I was happy that nothing hurt in a bad way.

I took a leap of faith that this distance would be OK this early on, and I stuck the landing on two feet. A lot of what I wanted to work on was the brain. It’s just as important to train the brain as the heart and legs. The brain needs to learn by doing that a certain effort is not life threatening. Funny that the brain shuts us down long before we must quit for reasons of physiology. So the group effort of a race and the excitement is the perfect time to try something new and convince the brain that the limits have now been exceeded. Now I just need to take that speed, and extend the endurance to do it four time in succession in Leadville. And find another lung to bring along to help with the 10,000 ft altitude.

Recovery:

I used electric stimulation for 15-30 min an hour or so after each race, and again in the late afternoon. I napped with pulsed electro magnetic field device to lull my brain into an alpha state or relaxation and shut down the adrenaline stream that a race effort involves. I slept all night with it, as usual. The results? My legs are sore today, but not outrageously so, in part because there were no long steep descents. My sleep was very good, so I feel good today. No workout today, but I’ll go for a walk and do some yoga later to loosen up and get some blood flowing. Unlike the past, I didn’t try some new recovery food recipe. I snacked on clementines, potatoes, and hummus. I bought a burrito for lunch. It all worked. No green juices, superfood smoothies or whatever. The supplement experiment was using BCAAs and essential amino acids before, during and after. The whole package worked well.

Well, time to zap my legs again, and plan the next race.