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Weekly Plan: Week of July 16

Peak, Taper and Rest

Yup, that’s the plan. BIG race this weekend, the Tahoe Traill 100, a 100K mountain bike race that also serves as a qualifying race to get into the infamous Leadville Trail 100. I did this race last year on a lark as a personal challenge, only hoping to finish within the time cut-offs. I succeeded, so of course I wanted to do it again and see if I could improve on my time. Using the Maffetone Method of developing a great aerobic base and avoiding high intensity training means my “peak” is a little different. What I’ve done is accumulate volume by not taking days off, and stretching my workouts a little longer each time. Then my “taper” will be three days of reduced training, then three days of rest to absorb all that volume. Then race!


Two hour MTB time trial. Aerobic climb to compare fitness to last year

Short transition run, depnds on bike time

Dinner- Jeff Novick’s SNAP curried cauliflower and potatoes


60-75 min run

40 min swim

Dinner-Turkish Eggplant and rice, green salad


90 min. road ride easy

Dinner- Italian potato/green bean casserole, green salad


MAF test on the track


Dinner: Curried vegetables and dal



Dinner- Fuhrman style GOMBBS (greens, onions, mushrooms and potatoes)


Drive to race venue for athlete’s meeting

Dinner- Pasta



Go as FAST as possible!


Vegan Athletes in the Mainstream Press

Can Athletes Perform Well on a Vegan Diet? –

Of course they can!

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

My Vegan Marathon –

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.

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.

Back in the Saddle

The Hammerstein is over. And while I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, it’s time to move on. I experimented a bit with recovery supplementation, and it appears it paid off. While the two days following the race were filled with a lot of fatigue, I wasn’t really that sore. And the first couple of days after the school year ends always fill me with fatigue as the emotional let down sets in. I usually camp out on the couch with a thriller to read or watch. So I did the same this year: nothing a little James Bond and an old Travis McGee novel can’t fix. And naps. Two hour naps both days.

But now it’s time to get back in the saddle, literally. An easy road ride of 90 minutes, or maybe two hours. I’ll see how the legs feel. It will be strictly aerobic (MAF) with no climbing. I took the last two days off with only a couple of easy walks to get the blood flowing and help recovery. It seems to have worked as I feel good now. Post school year partying with friends is over, and it’s time to get back to the MWL eating disciplines in search of that elusive race weight. Farmer’s market veggies and rice on the training table for today. I must get back to correct nutritional practice for recovery since restaurant food, even with great company, won’t cut it. I will add to the experimental recovery mix some yoga and foam rolling. I have practiced plenty of yoga in the past, but not lately, so I must ease back into that. I’m new to foam rolling, and talk about being late to the party. I think I may very well be the last endurance athlete to incorporate foam rolling into their routine.

Can’t go too crazy though. Next race is Saturday’s 8 hour mountain bike race in Tahoe.


Maximum Weight Loss Rules Review

I need to periodically review the rules that I want to follow to reach my goals. I also find repeatedly watching DVD lectures by the experts helps with motivation too. The following MWL rules come straight from the eponymous book, while the annotations are my own reflections on application.

Eliminate all animal foods

No problem here. Done. But cheese can sneak in if you’re not vigilant. Have to be extra careful with that.
Eliminate all oils

Easy, with two exceptions:  I use sesame oil for authentic Asian flavoring in small amounts, but not for now. I will have to use other flavors. Restaurant food is dripping with oil, and must be avoided. The Chinese food I cheated with was a low calorie vegetable dish, but the oil was crazy.

Eliminate all high fat plant foods

I’m pretty good about this, except for tofu. No soy, nuts or seeds for now, except for a little flax on my oatmeal for omega 3 EFAs.

Eliminate all flour products

This is one of the main distinctions between MWL and the regular program. It means no soba noodles, which I adore. I also like bread and tortillas, but none for now. The problem is calorie density and the quicker and bigger impact on insulin.

Eat Legumes

Eat whole grains and potatoes

Easy. These are my favorite foods. But beans and potatoes have a special place in the MWL plan because of their their effect on satiety and blood sugar. Potatoes have more satiety per calorie than just about anything, and their nutrient density compared to whole grains is favorable. Beans, peas, and lentils have a strong effect on satiety as well by releasing their carbohydrate slowly over a long time, making one feel full longer on fewer calories. Score!

Make low-cal green and yellow veggies 1/3 to 1/2 of the meal

I need to work harder on this. I need to lower my calorie density by including more veggies. I often stop food prep with the main dish starch. Even a simple side of steamed veggies would help greatly.

Eat raw veggies

Salads can make both this rule and the previous one easier as long as a no-oil dressing is used. Now that we are into the warm months, great salad ingredients are available and appetizing. So big salads before the main dish are the order of the day.

Restrict fresh fruit to 2 servings a day

I’m not as much of a fruit eater as a starch eater, but summer means great fresh fruit is tempting. I always put fresh berries with my oatmeal and I’ll continue to do that. I also like a little fruit, especially grapes in my salads, so I may flub this one. I will time it so that I eat fruit after training for the best effect.

Use simple sugars sparingly

Not a problem. I don’t have a sweet tooth. The sweetest thing I like is fresh fruit, with the occasional exception of a coca-cola. Some simple sugars end up in condiments, but I won’t fight that. I don’t think it makes a meaningful difference.

I’m adding another rule with built-in flubs:

No liquid calories 

Except for:

Sport drinks during training sessions over one hour. They do help with recovery.

Tart cherry juice. I’m going to experiment with this for the anti-inflammatory benefits on recovery in between some big races. To minimize negative impact, I’ll only drink them after training.

Alcohol on designated cheat days. All work and no play, right? But my experience with the effects of limiting alcohol this past week suggests it does make an impact. Dr. McDougall writes,

“The process of turning alcohol into fat requires significant amounts of energy. Rather than waste such energy, the body burns off the excess calories as heat; so alcohol does not turn to fat, despite the added calories. By providing these calories, however, alcohol prevents body fat from being burned, leaving fat in the adipose tissue. Thus your attempts to lose weight are foiled by alcohol.” pg. 113

Alcohol also raises insulin, which prevents fat from being burned. Since the main goal of my use of the Maffetone Method is to maximize the energy I can produce aerobically from fat, this makes alcohol a problem. I think avoiding it over the last week helped, since my training time is close to cocktail time. So, until race weight is achieved, summer sippin’ rose only once a week.

And just because “racer” is in the name, Bear Republic’s Racer 5 won’t make me faster. Darn.

I Started to Slip, But Saved It

I made it four days.

I set myself for five.

In some ways that’s a fail. But I failed deliberately. I planned for Saturday to relax the rules and reflect. I decided instead to relax the rules on Friday and reflect today. Based on my planned workouts and timing for the weekend, I decided Friday was a better cheat day than today. I was aware that I could just be rationalizing my bad behavior as I have before, but I indulged. I went out instead of cooking MWL food and drank beer. Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA is for racers right? The ride on MWL wagon is a bit rough at the moment.

So what went wrong?

Fatigue. I call it “friday fatigue”. It’s a mind numbing paralysis of mental and emotional fatigue that builds up during the week. I put in a lackluster bike commute in annoyingly hot weather. Feeling down, I cut it short. I showered and fresh brewed some fancy tea and relaxed. I tried to nap, but felt no better. I had two options for MWL food for dinner, but could not bring myself to enter the kitchen. I had a few options for eating out of various degrees of non-compliance, but making a decision was agonizing. So I followed the age-old advice, “When all else fails, lower the bar.” I lowered it. I hobbled over it. But while I failed and am paying the price this morning with feeling only somewhat rested, I am mentally back on track to swim this morning and do a long run this afternoon.

So what about next time?

The good news is that there won’t be a Friday like this for a long time. School is almost out, and any fatigue will based on training and racing, which is much easier to deal with. Knowing this was another reason I lowered my expectations yesterday, since I know I don’t have to last much longer before a significant mental and emotional break comes my way. So I will lay low, recover, read entertaining stories rather than heavy stuff, and wear my compression socks. Do they have compression gear for the brain?

Other than Friday, there was some success. I slept fairly well, but it was uneven. I slipped with a little junk food offered me. But all meals were MWL. I lost a little weight, so the method works. My workouts were OK, but like sleep a bit uneven. This unevenness was also reflected by my HRV score.

I just remind myself throughout the day of my mantra:

I feel best when I am:

Well Trained

Well Rested

Well Nourished

If You Fall Off the Wagon, Flag the Next One



The scale does not lie. But it can bend the truth a little, with water weight. I am not at racing weight, and since the overall trend is up, I can’t blame that on water weight. But I can blame myself. I have four weeks  until my first A priority race this season, and another four until the next A priority race, probably the most important race of the season. I think that I have ten pounds of useless fat I can lose to be at a good racing weight. Avergaed over eight weeks that equates to 1.25 pounds per week. Most weight loss experts recommend losing no more than 1-2 pounds per week, so I’m right in there. Dr. Fuhrman suggests that if you’re truly doing his program and have weight to lose, that 1% of your weight should come off per week, which would be a little more.

Where did that wagon go?

I fell off. I have been eating out. I have had too much wine and beer, and those liquid calories add up. I have been eating emotionally to deal with the streess that increases dramatically at the end of the school year. I have been making too many exceptions and “treating” myself. I haven’t planned out my meals well enough ahead of time, leading me into dangerous hunger

It wasn’t a hard fall…

To my credit, I have done far worse in the past. I do keep trying. My steady fitness gains and improving heart rate variability score show real progress. So I will pat myself on the back briefly.

But it was a fall nevertheless…

I am still not satisfied. I know I can do better, be better. I want that racing weight, and want real progress in racing this summer. I don’t want summer to end by blogging along the lines of “Well, it went really well, but if I had been a few pounds lighter…”

Where’s the next wagon?

So what will I do? Recommit myself to the Rules. The rules I will follow are the principles of McDougall’s Maximum Weight Loss Program, MWL for short.

How long will I ride?

Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits suggests making changes in small steps. For instance, one habit at a time, starting at five minutes a day. Then build. So I will commit to five days in a row. Starting today, that will be Monday through Friday. Then I can reevaluate. I can decide to take a day off, or try to build more momentum going forward. It’s always fair to get off the wagon by choice at a scheduled stop.

Today’s MWL Wagon Ride:

Cuban Black Beans and Rice from The New McDougall Cookbook I substituted red pepper for one of the green peppers, so it will be slightly less authentic.

Asian stir fry veggies. An old stand by. No tofu or noodles this time, I’m playing by the rules.

I flagged down the next wagon, and I’m climbing on right now. Lunch time, MWL style.


The Cuban Black Beans and Rice came out well, except for the slightly overcooked rice because I chose to blog about cooking instead of cooking!  I measured out 1.25 lbs of food out of curiosity, which resulted in a sizable bowl. Using Jeff Novick’s Calorie Density guide, that’s about 600-650 calories, so I will have to eat more!