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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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!


Race Day Meals

Fuel up to go fast

Fuel up to go fast

Race day nutrition is very tricky and requires a lot of experimentation. Everyone is unique and some real trial and error is needed to find the ideal pre-race dinner the night before. Breakfast is even harder to figure out, since it might not be needed or even desirable. I failed miserably last summer at Northstar by not eating and drinking in small, frequent amounts. Instead I got behind, tried to catch up which forced my gut to rebel and shut down.

But my recent two races went off very well from pre-race dinner to post-race lunch. I am very excited about what I discovered.

I used to love a big bowl of whole wheat pasta with a thick, chunky sauce jammed with vegetables for dinner the night before. For breakfast, I loved my usual oatmeal, or a lentil spread on toast. I don’t these things anymore. Can you figure out why?


For any other meal, fiber rich foods are the goal. It slows down digestion and keeps your blood sugar and energy on an even keel. But that’s not what you want before or during a race. That pasta dish? Had me seeking bathrooms as desperately as the Oakland Raiders for a head coach. Lentils for breakfast? Awesome on a regular day, but not so nice when charging hard on the race course, trying to get fuel out of the gut and into the muscles and the brain.


My pre-race dinner is now white rice with a few veggies for color and texture. Or potatoes, baked, steamed or mashed with a little seasoning or sauce. I eat dinner early because I want all of that food out of my system before the gun goes off.


Steve Born of Hammer nutrition recommends no breakfast. He would rather sleep. His reasoning is that food consumed too close to the race will slow down in digestion and interfere with fat burning. Muscle glycogen is already full if you train and eat properly, so that breakfast won’t really help. Instead he suggests at most taking a gel right before the start, get into your pace, and just start fueling the way you usually do. This sounds weird, but it works. If the race is under two hours you probably don’t need anything. Longer events will need fueling, but that can be handled during the race itself.

I like breakfast. So I like to eat a little before races. I only do this if I can have three hours before the start to make sure that food is metabolized. Since my muscles are already stocked with glycogen, all the breakfast needs to do is top off the stored glycogen in the liver that was burned overnight. This amounts to only a couple hundred calories. Both of my recent races required a couple hours of driving, so I ate two smallish baked potatoes or sweet potatoes. They took the edge off my hunger, but did not bog me down.

I stuck with what I’ve used in the past, but I surprised myself by needing less. For a 2 1/2 hour XTERRA, I drank one bottle of Perpetuem, about 250 calories on the bike, which lasted about 90 minutes. I sipped on HEED during the transitions, and I had plenty of energy. In the past I was sucking down gels as well, but I did not feel I needed that much energy. Also important was not overdoing the calories thinking that I needed them and forcing my gut to fight back. Been there before, lesson learned!

Immediately after finishing, I kept moving, walking to my transition bag, getting my bottle and refilling it with water. I mixed two servings of Brendan Brazier’s Vega Recovery Accelerator which gave me about 160 calories, 35 g carbohydrate and 8 g protein. I kept sipping and walking until I felt my heart rate come down.

The XTERRA race was a bit longer and ended close to lunchtime, but I didn’t feel very hungry until after the awards. I had packed a nice soba noodle salad which made an awesome lunch. After the sprint tri, I was even less hungry, since the race was an hour shorter. Knowing that I wanted to get on the road right away, I packed onigiri rice balls for lunch since I could easily eat them while driving. Very tasty, but I may have been lacking a little in protein.

Training on Bread and Water


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.

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.

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.

Relax! The Holidays are Here!

The holidays are here, and with it comes all kinds of anxiety about all kinds of things. But one of the big ones for many people is holiday weight gain and loss of fitness. Athletes are often terrified about losing their hard won fitness as the season winds down, and the days get shorter, close and wetter. Everyone worries about the dreaded weight gain, whether casual exerciser or top age grouper. There are roughly six weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year’s, which seems like a long time with which to do all kinds of damage. Fittingly, it seems every fitness or health oriented magazine or website has all kinds of complicated advice about how to avoid the pitfalls. I have got a simpler plan, don’t worry about it.

Research shows that the average holiday weight gain for adults is one pound.

That’s it. One pound.

The problem is that most people never lose that pound, so after ten years, you have ten extra pounds. Also, the more overweight you are, the more you tend to gain.

But, if you are reasonably active and motivated, you can deal with that pound. You can prevent it with a few counter measures strategically applied. Even if you gain some, you can implement some austerity and lose it after New Year’s. It really is not as bad as you think. All through human history there were periods of feasting, and gaining a few pounds was not a bad thing. Things have changed a bit now, so we must exercise more caution, but there is no reason to get paranoid. You can enjoy the holidays, indulge some, and still get right back on track for the coming season.

So, do not fret. It is not the end of the world, only the end of the year. Just flex that muscle between your ears a bit and you will be fine.

To Supplement or Not?

Do you take dietary supplements?
Apparently most of us do, just over half of Americans take some kind of supplement, usually a multivitamin. Yet we are exhorted regularly to get our nutrients from foods, espucially from vegetables, since multivitamin use is not without risks. What to do? To supplement or not to supplement? That is the question, whether ’tis nobler for the body to go beyond the minimum, or to eat lots of vegetables and ignore them?

I have a love/hate relationship with supplements.


I love the idea that the ease of swallowing a pill could solve a problem. I love the idea that the right combination of supplements could make me stronger, faster, or better in some way. So I have in the past made myself into a laboratory experiment turning myself into a case study of one. Some have seemed to work, but it was subjective perception possibly clouded by the placebo effect. Most were a waste of money.


We should not have to resort to supplements to get what we need. That really is the role of diet.

If we are deficient, we should tweak our diet, not pop a pill. Loking for better performance from chemistry might have unwanted consequences further down the road. Isolating certain nutrients from the their natural context may create imbalances that negate any other positive outcome in the end. Trying for a pharmacological effect from isolated nutrients really isn’t that far from relying on pharmaceutical drugs for health or even illegal doping. Indeed, some research suggests that even seemingly innocuous supplements like multivitamins may actually have long term negative effects.


Supplements can help if there is a true deficiency, but above and beyond that, it’s unclear whether there is a benefit. As for a performance boost, it’s mostly hype, but some supplements have that potential. It becomes a question of risk versus reward. And price. They can get expensive.

What do I do?

I supplement with vitamin D in the winter due to lack of sunshine. I have recently begun to supplement with vitamin B12 year round since I have not eaten meat in years. But as much as I want to believe that there are no performance benefits from supplements, I have often felt a positive difference when taking them. Can the placebo effect work if you don’t want to believe? I want to believe that my leafy greens are all that matters, but I have my doubts. This past week I restarted taking a simple multivitamin and separately added added chromium with my meals, and I feel a positive difference. The chromium especially did what was advertised in stabilizing my energy between meals. This is not the best experimental design, because I also tweaked my diet toward higher nutrient density by eating my five bunches of greens. So as I gear up for race season, I will continue to supplement. Then we’ll see.

Heart Attack Grill Serves a Real Heart Attack: Ironic?

The sign on the door clearly states that the food is unhealthy. With names of burgers based on real cardiac procedures, no one pretends that The Heart Attack Grill is safe. But that doesn’t stop the customers, not in the former Arizona location or the current Las Vegas location.

Is it ironic when a customer experiences a heart attack in the restaurant of the same name?

It is,

when one customer says what most people are thinking, that you don’t think it would really happen. It’s just a joke right? All fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or a coronary artery.

It is,

when the owner and perpetrator of this says that anyone “with an ounce of compassion” would feel for the victim. Apparently we need more than an ounce not to serve up this dangerous food, take the money to the bank, and fall back on customer responsibility as an excuse. Maybe a metric ton of compassion is needed.

It is,

when other customers, after the show has ended, go back to destroying their own cardiovascular systems without a bat of the proverbial eyelash. Out of sight, out of mind.

It is ,

when the owner criticizes other patrons for taking pictures “like it was a stunt” and that even “their morbid sense of humor” would never go so far. His marketing plan appears to rely on quite a bit of spectacle.

It is ironic because the many customers of this or similar restaurants don’t expect such a tragic event to actually happen right there. But studies of “holiday heart” show that it should actually be more common after such large fatty meals.

Like The Smiths once sang, “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.”

The Myth of Moderation

The Myth of Moderation

        In the third part of my Paula Deen series, I take issue with her repeated comment to eat “in moderation.” I hate that word, moderation. Why? Because it means absolutely nothing. It could mean something, but almost never does because one has to know the extremes before moderation is clear. Moderation is simply an intermediate point between two opposite poles. Move or change the poles and the point of moderation changes too. Moving targets are difficult to hit. And if the opposing poles are not defined, then moderation cannot exist.
In more everyday terms, one person’s moderation is another person’s extreme. Who is right? They both are. And neither is. As long as you don’t explain the rules, you can always be the winner. When someone says they only eat sugar, or junk food in moderation, what does that mean? Whatever they want it to mean. So when Paula Deen says that her recipes are meant only to be eaten “in moderation” but doesn’t explain what that means, what do we do? Apparently, we do whatever we want to. In Paula Deen’s case she is cutting back on sweet tea. How much did she drink before? How much does she drink now? Is that moderation? We don’t know. But more important is the overall diet than any one specific food. What impact does her sweet tea consumption or lack of make on her diet? Considering the sugar laden recipes she showcased, it is hard to think that decreasing sweet tea is any big change.
But of course it is not just Paula Deen, many of us believe fervently in this myth of moderation. We believe that any decrease in a bad habit, no matter how small, counts as moderation. And then we’re surprised when we don’t see any results. I like the analogy of a car crashing into a wall. If an experiment showed x number of fatalities at 60 mph, but no measurable difference at 50 mph, one could conclude that slowing down was useless. But what if we slowed down to 30 mph? 15 mph? I would hazard to guess that everyone thinks that their version of moderation is enough. But nearly everyone develops some combination of cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, or diabetes. So however most people are defining moderation, it’s not working. It’s time to wake up, moderation is killing us.
I like clear definitions of moderation. For instance, based on current data, “moderate” alcohol consumption has been defined as one drink a day for women and two drinks for men. It goes even further to define what that means in terms of beer, wine, distilled spirits, and even grams of alcohol. Whether or not you personally agree with that definition is made possible because the limits are clear. But what about meat? Cheese? Sugar? Fat? Cholesterol? Refined and processed foods? Most health authorities that encourage moderation are conspicuously silent. I would say as close to zero as humanly possible, even though I fall short. But most people probably define it as whatever they actually do, or maybe a little less, if they’re being modest. Do we have anything objective to use to set those extremes to know whether our moderation counts?
Yes. When it comes to trans-fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, the acceptable maximum amount is zero. Anything above that increases disease risk in a measurable way. Anything above that would be excessive. How about sugar? Salt? Processed and refined food? I think we can look to nature for guidance here, since historically these foods have been rare or nonexistent. Those populations who even today have little contact with these foods have little or none of the chronic diseases we suffer from. So zero looks like a good place to start.
Or maybe end up. Maybe that’s a little too ambitious. For myself, I’ll set that as the goal. But I won’t let my current or past transgressions count as moderation and then transform that through personal alchemy into “good enough”. We can see through research what it takes to reverse heart disease and diabetes and prevent cancer, so that is what I will define as “moderate.” After all, I don’t think there is such a thing as a “moderate” heart attack.

Paula Deen, Diabetes, Drugs, and Groupthink

I don’t want to be that football player who, long after the hard work of tackling the ball carrier has been done by his teammates, comes flying into the frame to land on top of the dog pile after the whistle.

But that is what I am going to do.

So Paula Deen announced that she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years ago but has waited until now to make it public. In the interim, her popular TV show has featured the same high fat, high sugar, decidedly unhealthy fare as always. What’s different? Now she has a financial deal to represent an expensive, dangerous drug.

People are in an uproar over her unhealthy cooking while diabetic. They say she should have set a better example. They’re still upset that she doesn’t acknowledge the primary role lifestyle plays in the disease. They are also upset that the one dietary change she has mentioned has been cutting back on sweet tea.

I agree with the criticism, but I don’t want to bash on Deen individually. I am disturbed by the pharmaceutical connection, but it could have been anyone. What bothers me is the way the way that all of us, not just Paula Deen keep looking to the drug companies to save us when we should be looking to lifestyle changes for chronic disease. A little research will uncover some doctors who have amazing results reversing diabetes using diet. But unfortunately this information is not widely known. It’s not really Paula Deen’s fault that she doesn’t know this, since it appears radical and almost quackery. But we owe it to ourselves to check into all the possibilities before settling on powerful and dangerous drugs. Doctors need to acknowledge the power of lifestyle and counsel their patients on its use. It’s up to the individual what they choose to do. But we all deserve to know our options.

Here is one of those little discussed, yet powerful options, a vegan diet. It’s a long video, but check out Dr. Barnard’s success using a low-fat vegan diet against the standard recommendations of the American Diabetes Association.

How powerful would it be if Paula Deen could follow this plan, and change her show into a show that taught people how to make delicious dishes that could reverse disease? She wants hope to be her legacy, if she taught healthy cooking, it certainly would be.

Diet, Not Genetics Controls Heart Disease

Happy Healthy Long Life: The Big 9p21 Cardiovascular Gene Turn-Off! Vegetables & Fruits – Q & A with Dr. Sonia Anand, the McMaster University Researcher Who Helped Discover the Interaction Between Heart Disease, Genes and Diet.

This new study and great commentary fits in well with the medical myths article I posted earlier this week. Genetics are not your destiny. Instead, they are fluid and changing and react very strongly to what your lifestyle throws at it. I’ve long believed that we ALL have heart disease and cancer in our genes. It doesn’t just run in only some families. The gene that has the strngest link to heart disease has been extensively studied. And guess what? According to this study those genes are in 75% of us! But the really good news is that with just a few servings of fruits and veggies, those nasty genes can be turned off. We are not helpless victims to our genes, but active creators of our own health. Go cook up some kale. Do it now.


Long Run Recovery

Another two hour run today in preparation for a marathon. The whole run, except for a mad dash across six lanes of waiting traffic to make a light, done at a brutally slow MAF pace. The good news: I went further and faster than the last attempt two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I missed last week due to being out of town for an all day weekend workshop.  I think this led to the bad news: a sore and very grumpy left knee about 90 min. into the run. It was just the muscles that control the knee and power my stride. They will get stronger and if Maffetone is correct, keeping the aerobic metabolism exclusively engaged, the correct muscles for endurance are getting stronger. So here are my secrets for recovery since tomorrow I have a two hour ride planned.

Post Workout Nutrition

NUtrition timing is over rated. The research seems to show that it doesn’t really matter whether it’s solid or liquid, consumed within 30 min. or 60 min. What matters is that you eat sooner rather than later. I used to be serious about drinking a commercially prepared “recovery” drink with the trendy ratio of highly processed carbs to high refined protein immediately after a long workout. I still do that after really long races, like an XTERRA, because I can’t stomach solid food for a while. But I am trying as much as possible to get away from the processed calories and instead eat whole food sources. So I time my long workouts to end within an hour of a real meal, either lunch or dinner. Today I finished my long run with a bottle of sports drink because I needed fluids and some calories. But after I cleaned up I ate my lunch, an enormous bowl of soba noodles with stir fried veggies and tofu.

Post Workout Rest

Rubbed magnesium oil into legs for relaxation.

Take a nap. Nothing helps recovery like sleep. Ad who doesn’t like a nap after lunch?

Post Workout Chillin’ Like a Villain

Compression socks

Feet up

Reading an old Travis McGee novel


For extended recovery, I’ve got basic black beans in the slow cooker. They’ll go with quinoa, homemade fresh salsa and avocado. Does it get any better? I’ll save you time spent on research, it does not.

What works for you? Any special rituals put mind, body and soul back together after a long effort?