Category Archives: Reflection

People, places, ideas

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.

 

 

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Fat Tuesday is Gone, a Lean Six Weeks Ahead

Running, cycling, lifting weights. Added mobility work after reading Kell Starret’s Ready to RunHealed up some weird back pain from adding barbell work. Need to get back to Eric Goodman’s Foundation training as recommended by my chiropractor to reduce injury risk.

But Lent means discipline, even to the point of a lithe deprivation, and reflection.

Time to get to racing weight. Too many vegan goodies left over from the holidays and rationalizing “this little bit” won’t matter. The little things can add up faster than anyone wants to admit. Even healthy food, if its too calorie dense. The Pleasure Trap is real, folks. So, time for a new plan. A good plan. Then, work the plan. And give the plan time to work.

The plan?

Tried true, the McDougall program for Maximum Weight Loss, or MWL for short. With a couple of modifications excuses. But in reviewing the rules, I realized that there was too much of “a little this, a little that” that added up.

The Rules:

No meat.

No problem here.

No eggs.

Vigilance required. Some noodles have eggs, but that will be handled elsewhere…

No dairy.

I will always be a cheese addict, so to avoid possible trigger foods, no more homemade vegan cheesy things. They’re a bit rich, and can encourage overeating.

No oils.

Vigilance required. No restaurant food, with the excuse of doing “the best I can.” Not even sesame oil for Asian dishes, the one oil Mary McDougall, and I, ever use.

No high fat plant foods.

Guilty! Avocados have been cheap and so good! Nuts, seeds, and their butters have been creeping into my diet. No walnuts in my oats. And soy foods. No more tofu or tempeh, which I love. Sauces, tahini, mmmm, no. Not till Easter.

No flours.

Guilty! I’ve been eating a lot sandwiches lately. And while I use a good sprouted bread, I can easily overeat on bread. No pasta. Sort of.

Eat whole grains and potatoes.

I’ll try some Mary’s Mini style meal plans by focusing on one starch at a time. Potatoes for awhile, then rice. Small potatoes for snacks.

Eat legumes.

The McDougall program usually limits legumes, but they have a great track record for weight loss, and are bug part of Blue Zone diets around the world. So I’ll go heavy on legume dishes.

Make green and yellow veggies one third to one half on your meal.

Guilty! I know it’s a starch based plan, but I could lower calorie density with more veggies.

Eat uncooked foods.

Guilty! More salads with raw veggies helps lower calorie density, but I am remiss.

Only two servings of fruit. No dried fruit or juice.

Not a problem. Not a big fruit eater. I like berries on my oats.

Simple sugars sparingly.

No big problem, no sweet tooth. But, I do like sodas sometimes…

Additional Rules:

No liquid calories.

There’s no satiety. No sodas, no juice, no microbrews, no Sonoma county vintages, no sports drinks. Water or herb teas only.

No caffeinated drinks.

An experiment. No coffee (haven’t anyway) no green or black tea except decaf. This comes from a recent discussion on caffeine and sleep. I’ve never felt tea made a difference, we’ll see. Caffeine can be a performance enhancer on race day, but one needs to abstain long enough to be re-sensitized to its effects.

But, But, the Exceptions.

Or excuses. I’m sticking with my typical oatmeal breakie unless I really have to give it up. I use dried goji berries , raw cacao nibs, chia and maca for added flavor. I’ll keep them, but skip the walnuts.

White rice and rice noodles for races and exceptional training days. Rice or soba noodles are my favorite pre race dinner and post race lunch. White cal rose rice is needed for a sticky texture to make onigiri rice balls and rice cakes. I only have a couple of races, so should not be a big deal. Nobody gets between me and Asian noodles.

Soy only in the form of whole edamame in a stir fry or miso soup. Tofu for pre/post race noodles.

Whole wheat pasta once a week if I want. It has a similar calorie density to whole grains.

I might bend the fruit rule a bit if it gets hot and while training.

I think Lent allows a cheat one day a week on the Sabbath to re-appreciate the good things. Good or bad idea? Don’t know.

It’s a good plan.

Now to work the plan.

And give the plan time to work.

4o days should be enough, right? Just in time, because the Saturday before Easter is a Beast of a race, SoNoMas!

 

Cold and Flu Season? It’s SUPER IMMUNITY Time!

Wintertime Enemy

Wintertime Enemy

It’s that time of year again, sniffles, colds, maybe even a full blown flu that lasts a week or two. And with the holidays approaching, the assaults on your immune system are legion, and they’re on their way.

Why now?

  1. Vitamin D- Some speculate that lower levels of sun exposure, and dropping levels of vitamin D may weaken the immune system.
  2. Indoors- Whatever microbes that attack you will linger around indoors instead of being blown away by the wind or fried by UV light.
  3. Other People- Being indoors a lot also means being around other people and their pathogenic microbes. Holiday gatherings intensify this.

Solutions?

  1. Test your levels and supplement if needed. Or, take a tropical vacation and get some winter sun!
  2. Keep your distance from other people, wash your hands a lot, and don’t touch your face. Hand sanitizer helps. Most cold and flu viruses enter via your face. Old news, for sure, but it works.

But Most Important is to Strengthen Your Immune System

I have a problem with the germ theory of disease. If it were  purely about germs, we would all be sick all the time because we are always surrounded by germs. The most important part of all this is a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system should be able to handle the viruses and bacteria that surround us, since we all evolved together.

How do you maximize your immune system?

Skip the vitamin C, and read Dr. Fuhrman’s excellent book, Super Immunity.

This book is a fantastic exploration of how nutrition and diet can affect the immune system in two very important ways: cancer prevention, and communicable diseases. Tgose seem like very different subjects, but they are related becasue the immune system not only keeps away colds and flu, but also destroys cancer cells before they can develop into tumors and metastasize into something really scary.

How Diet Affects Immunity

Here Dr. Fuhrman explains:

Certainly, the exposure to the virus and its multiplication within our body is at the core of viral infections. However, though it is not generally recognized, the virus adapts itself to the host (our body) and becomes dangerous and multiplies as a result of the host’s disease promoting environment, created by nutritional inadequacy. ( Super Immunity, p. 29)

So a healthy diet creates a healthy immune system, and viruses will struggle and fail to get a grip within your body.

Dr. Fuhrman’s Anti-Virus Prescription:

A clever mnemonic:

G-BOMBS

  • G- greens (spinach, chard, kale etc.)
  • B- beans (legumes, peas and lentils)
  • O- onions (all onion types and garlic)
  • M- mushrooms (all types)
  • B- berries
  • S- seeds

The Super Immunity protocol is to incorporate as many of these ingredients in as many meals as possible. Occasionally, I’ve been able to put them all in one dish, but the berries are usually the tricky one to include. But we know that these nutrients are stored in the body, so if you got them all in over the course of a day, imagine what immune system power you’d have!

Work with it Wednesdays will be devoted to testing out some of the book’s recipes over at The Training Table. Check ’em out.

Diet Guru FAILS?

Found this on Yahoo while traversing the on-ramp to the information superhighway:
Diet Guru Failures

Of course my favorite punching bag, Atkins is there, but so are Jim Fixx and Nathan Pritikin. It makes sense that some of the real wacky fad diet folk didn’t have great health, what about those who really did show the benefits of a healthy lifestyle?

Jim Fixx:

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Fixx played a huge role in getting Americans off the couch and exercising. It was not long ago that doctors recommended against exercise, which seems ridiculous these days. Then again, doctors used to advocate cigarettes. Fixx himself was a poster child for lifestyle transformation going from an obese smoker to a marathoner, and then showed others how to do it for themselves. Unfortunately, Fixx thought smoking was the real demon, and that if he lost weight and gained fitness he was healthy. He never really changed his diet away from the Standard American Diet.  As far as I know, he thought that if he had cardiovascular FITNESS he was HEALTHY. Unfortunately he found out the hard way that fit does not mean healthy. The converse is also true. You can also be quite healthy without being very fit. Unfortunately, the nay sayers went bananas with this and used it to justify their couch potato ways, unhealthy lifestyle, and leave it all to genetics, absconding all personal responsibility.

The Jim Fixx Lesson:

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A healthy lifestyle requires some attention, and consists of more than one factor. You can’t out-exercise a poor diet.

Nathan Pritikin:

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Here is another example that confounds people. Nathan Pritikin was ahead of his time, just as Fixx was. He hacked his own health when he was diagnosed with heart disease. With the mind of an engineer, he researched heart disease, determined what caused it, created a solution, and tried it on himself. He cured his own heart disease, then began teaching other people at his health centers. Throughout the 1970s he demonstrated amazing health improvement for thousands of people. With that success, was he lauded? Of course not. Like Fixx he was ridiculed. His death likewise is used as criticism. While his heart disease was gone, as shown by his autopsy, his suicide from terminable leukemia is used by the critics as evidence that he was wrong.

The Nathan Pritikin Lesson:

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Pritikin combined healthy diet and exercise to eliminate heart disease, so he was way ahead of Fixx. Unfortunately, not everything can be cured with lifestyle, and there may be some new things to learn. A good reminder to those of us to realize that our healthy lifestyle may not be a panacea.

Robert Atkins:

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Regardless of whatever the real cause of Atkins’ death was, the man was not healthy. He peddled weight loss books despite the fact that he was seriously overweight. It’s pretty clear he had heart disease, whether or not that killed him. Why people still revere him, or pursue any similar diet or lifestyle is beyond me.

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Takeaway:

It’s important to see what the people behind any advice look like. If they stand behind what they advocate, are the results good enough to copy? At the same time, we need to be realistic about what lifestyle can actually do. We have really good information, but the full story has yet to be told.

What do you think about diet and health gurus? Was somebody missing from the list? Do they walk their talk? Should they be judged?

Veg Origins: Pt. 1 John Robbins

(This is a Re-Post from The Vegan Training Table, during the Vegan Mofo marathon. The theme of vegan origins and influences fits in better here.)

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My appetite and actual food consumption have not quite caught up with food production in the Plant Powered Performance Lab. So I mined the great list of writing prompts the Vegan Mofo HQ devised to help everyone get through the month and picked the most obvious one: My Origins.

Anyone who chooses a vegetarian or vegan diet or lifestyle has instantly begun to swim upstream. Unless you live as a hermit, you immediately face resistance. We are a naturally social critter, and despite the complexity of society, a big part of our psychology is bound up in being accepted by others. Challenge any of those beliefs, even minor ones, and you will feel the resistance from others. How do we make that choice? What changes us? What allows us to continue when we know it upsets others?

First comes the most basic, obvious question:

Why?

The usual answers are well known and sometimes understood, even by omnivores:
Health
Environmental Concerns
Animal Welfare

No surprise there. But this essay isn’t so much about why I believe those are sound enough reasons to swim upstream, but more about how I reached the conclusion to clean my plate of animal products. In my origin myth there are two themes that seem inseparable and somewhat obscured by the mists of hairspray from the Big Hair 1980s. They are John Robbins’ seminal work Diet For a New America and my interest in Eastern philosophy, which often includes a vegetarian lifestyle.

Those who have been around the veg world for any length of time certainly know of John Robbins and his many books, and those lucky enough to hear him speak know what a great ambassador he is. I first heard of John Robbins in a cover story interview in the Sep./Oct issue of Yoga Journal. His book came out a few months later and his name stayed as his message spread. I first read Diet for a New America in 1989. I was immediately changed. I knew that there was no way I could continue as an omnivore. It was one of those genie in the bottle moments. Just like you can’t put the genie back into the proverbial bottle, certain things cannot be unlearned once learned. The realities of an animal based diet were forever engraved in my brain from that one book by that one man. Even when I quit, the experience of that book haunted me. Those three veg themes were so clearly put forward in the book that I found it impossible to rationalize eating meat any longer. (Although I did in fact do that on occasion, always with guilt)

So with a couple of months to prepare myself, I chose New Year’s Day 1990 as the day to become vegetarian. Many would think, and I am sure that many did at the time, “just another New Year’s Resolution, dead by February.” Except that it didn’t die. It lasted 6 1/2 years until June 1996. Why it stopped is another story, and surely the more important one. Later.

For those long time vegetarians who can remember the 1980s, it was a different time back then. There were not as many resources available. There certainly was no internet and the vast sharing we can do now. Definitely no Vegan Mofo! There was the Moosewood Cookbook, which was my bible, Yoga Journal, which had some veg articles, and the now defunct East West magazine that had a macrobiotic perspective. Vegetarian Times was out there somewhere, but I don’t ever remember seeing it. There was no Whole Foods Market, and while not required, most of us shopped at least some of the time in funky little health food stores that had a distinct counter cultural vibe. But despite the paucity of information and isolation, John Robbins and THE BOOK as it came to be known by those who were spiritually minded or into alternative health care, was everywhere. As much as it was possible in such a small world, John Robbins was a celebrity. For me, he was a role model.

There was a serious benefit for me in the fact that this lifestyle was so minor and small. I had to learn to cook. Vegetables. Whole grains. Legumes. The healthy stuff. There wasn’t much processed vegan convenience food then. It was a real DIY mentality. But there was a drawback. I had never even heard the word “vegan”, and the thought of eliminating eggs or dairy never really occurred to me. That part of the message never came through to me reading Robbins’s book. I rationalized very easily that dairy and eggs were acceptable because the animal wasn’t killed. I wasn’t “eating death” as many yogis like to describe it. I did not realize at the time that egg laying hens and dairy cattle live just as brutal a life as any animal destined for slaughter. But just giving up meat seemed so radical at the time, I rationalized that eggs and dairy didn’t matter, especially for my health.

But while I can look back on the choices and rationalizations now with some regret, at the same time I am very proud of myself for even asking the questions. I am even more proud of myself for answering those questions in such a way that I could live with the difficulties and resistance such a lifestyle naturally engenders. The reason John Robbins seemed so radical was simply that very few people ever asked questions about where their food came from.

John Robbins opened my eyes to the realities of our food choices long before Food Inc., Super Size Me, Forks Over Knives, or Michael Pollan. Even before Dr. Dean Ornish published proof that a veg diet can reverse heart disease, John Robbins showed eating animal foods has serious detriments to our personal, physical health. I’ve always been interested in health and fitness, even though I was not a successful athlete. But I wanted to enjoy my physical self, so Robbins spoke to me. My favorite sports have always been outdoor sports, and at the time surfing was my passion. Surfing brings you into very close contact with the environment, and often, nasty human made pollution. Robbins spoke to me about how our food choices affect the natural world that I love to play in. I grew up always having pets of some kind. Loving animals of certain species while blithely ignoring the suffering of other species no longer made sense because Robbins spoke to me.

But mostly John Robbins showed a beautiful interconnectedness and symmetry where health exists on many planes that all intimately connect to each other. Years later I would encounter this thought again from the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh who created a neologism to express this, interbeing. We are all in the act of being, and we be in a way inter-connected to each other, to other animals, and the larger web of life on earth. Our personal physical, emotional, and spiritual health depends on all those other beings. The health of all those other beings depends on our personal health. John Robbins showed this to me in 1989.

Thank you, John.

Do You Really Need to Eat That?

Allen Lim wrote very succinctly at the beginning of his cookbook for athletes:

“First Ask This> Do You Really Need To Eat That?

If  you’ve ever run out of fuel while exercising and ‘bonked’ or ‘hit the wall,’ then you know how important eating early or often is to performance. . . However, once we take a look at the numbers I think you’ll agree that in many situations we are better served not eating anything when we’re exercising.”  (Feed Zone Portables, p. 4)

Pre and Post workout nutrition is way overstated.

As an endurance athlete who does not eat animal foods I get asked a lot:

  1. What should I eat before I work out?
  2. What should I eat while I work out?
  3. What should I eat after I work out?

The answers I used years ago came from the sports nutrition and supplement industry:

  1. a gel or half a bottle of sports drink
  2. 1-2 gels plus sports drink per hour
  3. a post workout recovery drink

Then I wised up a little and decided that such engineered food wasn’t all that nutritious. So I changed my answer:

  1. same?
  2. same!
  3. a recovery smoothie in the blender with fruit, some spinach and protein powder

A slight improvement, but I still wasn’t at racing weight, and I was going through canisters of powders and potions like they were going out of style, all while searching for this elusive “recovery” that would allow me to train myself into the ground and bounce right back.

So I wised up a little more and realized real food worked better than the engineered stuff and my answer changed again:

  1. whatever the last meal was, breakfast or lunch, ideally 2-3 hours prior
  2. maybe a sport drink, maybe some dates, maybe a rice ball/cake
  3. maybe a recovery smoothie, or some fruit and a meal an hour later

Then I wised up even more and began to question the whole process, with a new answer:

  1. the previous meal
  2. nothing
  3. the next meal, whenever that was

Everything went just fine and I learned that:

The Problem of Pre/Post and During Workout Nutrition is an ILLUSION!

You don’t need to expend any special effort to fuel up before a workout. You do not need to guzzle down 250 calories an hour during exercise, nor do you need some magic concoction after a workout.

Folks, we are a nation that is 70% overweight or obese. We do not need to look for new places and times to take in calories. Yet all the magazines drill into our heads that as soon as we start exercising, suddenly fueling becomes a tricky problem that requires diligent effort to overcome.

NONSENSE.

Most people, most of the time, who are exercising for an hour or so, do not need to eat anything. That’s right: NOTHING! If you are eating a healthy diet of adequate calories, you do not need to suddenly increase that. Your regular meals can suffice. What I see is a weird practice of people trying to limit their portions and calories at meals, then add all those calories back in the form of workout fuel  and pre/post workout snacks. Madness!  Just eat your regular meals and exercise. Your appetite will balance out whatever additional energy expenditure you engage in. Your brain is pretty smart like that, just trust it.

So why don’t people just trust their brain and eat normally?

Because some people do have to make a special effort. These are special people. We want to be like them. They are professional athletes, and they are not like the rest of us.

Professional athletes train multiple times a day for hours at a time. Their energy demands are very high. And it is crucial that they recover from the first workout of the day in time to put in a quality effort for the second (or third) workout. But that does not reflect the reality of a normal person,  with a normal schedule, who exercises for an hour or so.

An average exerciser can store 1000 calories or so of carbohydrate in their muscles. And many thousands of calories of fat. An average exerciser burns no more than 500 calories an hour for aerobic exercise. See the numbers? Until your exercise session goes well over two hours, fueling is not necessary. Post workout fueling would be important if you trained right after waking, but that’s OK, it’s called “breakfast.”

Thanks to the sports nutrition industry and our own insecurity, we think we need far more fuel than we do. For special events, like really long weekend efforts, or races at high intensity, some more fuel is needed. But regular people, on regular days, doing regular exercise, only need regular meals.

Eat, Sleep, Train, Live

Don’t Overthink It

 

Race Report: ICE Breaker Triathlon

Starting the run, feeling better step by step

Starting the run, feeling better step by step

April 6, 2013
Folsom Lake
Granite Beach, CA

Reversing Aging Through Racing

If I raced to almost the exact same time I did three years ago, that means I am not slowing with age. If we are supposed to lose function and fitness as we age, and I haven’t, does that mean I have reversed aging? I say yes. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. It also explains why folks in the older age groups look so great. They’ve reversed aging too. So as long as you don’t overdo it and get injured or overtrained, then you too can reverse aging.

The Race

I wasn’t super motivated to race two weekends in a row. What would that show me? Usually these races have a couple of weeks in between, although I haven’t raced the ICE Breaker recently. There is little else on my calendar for April since I gave up on the Sea Otter Classic due to logistical issues, so I jumped in at the last minute. This race is very similar to last week’s XTERRA, except this race has the bike leg on closed roads instead of trails. As a result it is quite a bit shorter, taking me about one hour less that the off-road version. That should make for faster recovery, right?

Swim: 1/2 mile
Bike: 13 miles road bike
Run: 4 miles trail run

SWIM:
Started great. The breathing tactic paid off again as I have yet to train my swim. As we got further out in the lake the cloudy, breezy weather showed up as some chop that began to push me around. Unfortunately, I kept my head down and followed some feet. They were the wrong feet to follow. I kept swimming wide, wasn’t sighting often enough and I felt my swim collapse. As bad I thought it was going to be, I actually went a few seconds faster than the previous week! Never give up. Note to self: sight the buoys for yourself, don’t trust others.

BIKE:
Two laps on closed park roads. Like the mountain bike leg, these roads constantly have you thinking. Shifting, climbing, descending, cornering, there is never a dull moment. I thought I was going fast, but unlike the swim, this was deceptive. I went slower than the last time on this course. Reflects the need to do much more bike training. Running does not seem to translate into bike fitness the way the reverse does.

RUN:
Killed it. Felt great, and felt even better as the run went on. I kept lifting my pace gradually and I didn’t blow up. I actually went several minutes faster than the previous week on a course that was a half a mile longer! I attribute this to riding a bike leg that was an hour shorter and on roads. Mountain biking really beats up your legs before a run.

NUTRITION:
Two small Japanese sweet potatoes and plenty of time for digestion. Felt hungry at the start, but so what? Took in one bottle of HEED on the bike, nothing on the run. Two servings of Recovery Accelerator immediately after while walking and cooling down. Ate several onigiri rice balls for lunch while driving home. Fillings were pickled ginger, miso, umeboshi paste. A little short on protein for recovery, so I need to create another filling with beans or tofu to use for recovery meals.

SUPPLEMENTS:
I just got my Hammer order for this season, so I brought back the supplements that I think give an ergogenic boost. Controversial and not truly necessary, I still like experimenting with them. I used their Daily Essentials along with some Endurance Amino before and after. Again I used the curcumin and proteolytic enzymes to help with inflammation and muscle recovery. I felt my recovery went well, but the race was an hour shorter.

All in all, a great race. Many thanks to TBF Racing for producing such great events!

Maffetone Musings

A few questions about the Maffetone Method have come up. My own reflections, probably due for an update, are under the training tab up top. There are links to great articles that will explain it better than I can. Maffetone’s website has a split personality, half of it being devoted to music, so it can be a bit tricky to navigate. Recently he was interviewed at Trail Runner Nation, and the podcast is an excellent introduction to his ideas about training. Well worth a listen. I do not agree with his nutritional approach, but his exercise method and insights about stress and lifestyle are solid.

Maffetone insists that everyone do at least three months of base training where they strictly follow his 180 formula for a maximum aerobic heart rate. Most people should do it for longer. This means training slowly, and walking if you need to. Eventually the speed will come, but only if you stay honest and disciplined.

Why?

Fat Burning

The aerobic metabolism is responsible for almost all energy in races over fifteen minutes. So unless you race exclusively on the track in short events, the aerobic system is the one to focus on in training.

Mark Allen

One of the best long course triathletes ever, used this method to great effect. When he started, his MAF pace was well over 8 minutes per mile. He later got down to a 5:10 pace at the same low heart rate. He did all his base training at the strict MAF heart rate. If it worked for the Grip, I figured it would work for me.

Stress

Low heart rate training is less stressful on the body and much easier to recover from. It feels good, and  it makes consistent training easier to achieve.

Train slow, train well, and race fast!

Training on Bread and Water

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Doping cyclists refer to racing when they arenot under the influence of any performance enhancing drugs as racing “on bread and water.” In order to better see how my aerobic engine grows I’m experimenting with my own version of “bread and water” avoiding commercial sports nutrition and supplements. For me it will mean white rice and green tea. Real food.

Base training means building the aerobic engine. This means going slow and resisting all urges to go fast. It takes time to build those capillaries. It takes time for the heart to get stronger. It takes time for the mitochondria to do, well, whatever it is that mitochondria do. But the relaxed pace of training below MAF can be very pleasant. It gives one time to think. It is also a good time to to try new things since there is no pressure.

So Saturday was the first bike ride in way too long, and boy, did it feel awkward! The position on my road bike felt weird, I wobbled a bit going down the street, and today the only soreness is my neck and shoulders. They weren’t used to holding up my fat head for a couple of hours. The good news is that I pedaled well for two hours, but running exclusively is not the same as cycling, so much work needs to be done before racing triathlons again.

The Experiment:
I want to try real food for training rather than processed sports “nutrition.” It seems to me that during low heart rate cycling, it should be easy to eat real food. So I tried making some onigiri to stuff into my pockets. Ordinarily, I don’t need food at all for aerobic workouts under two hours, but I wanted to experiment, and my ride was pushing into lunchtime.

Results?
A qualified success. They tasted great, and chewing on real food was a nice contrast to sucking down gels or liquid fuels. I found that using a little extra water when wrapping them made them hold together better. They held together beautifully in my jersey pockets. Nutritionally, at about 100 calories per half cup of rice, I could figure out how many calories I was getting, which is one of the conveniences of packaged foods. I used the traditional umeboshi paste and higher grade rice which tasted great. I loved the tangy, salty, sour taste, and I think that in the summer heat it would be quite refreshing.

Downsides?
One real, and one potential.

They were a bit of a challenge to eat while riding. They took longer than I thought, so maybe I should make them smaller. Also, the nori wrapper was a bit tough to bite through and chew at times. I anticipated this, but it was a bit tricky. Will it get better with more practice? I don’t know.

The weather was cool and breezy, and I hardly broke a sweat. I don’t know how they would fare in a jersey pocket on a hot summer day. They might need another wrapper of plastic, foil, or wax paper, which would make eating them even more of a challenge for a klutz like me.

But in sum, they taste good, settle well in my stomach, and at a few cents for a serving of rice and a nori wrapper compared to $1.40 for a Hammer gel, I will practice my technique.

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

Writing

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

Blogging

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

Wildflower

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?