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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Race Report: Epic 8 Hour 2019 (Chico Racing)

Another really great event by Chico!  Always a good time, always challenging.

This was a warm-up for the 24h for us again, just like last year.  I was in better shape this year and had a new bike to attack the course with.

The Race

8 hours, go as far as you can.  Each lap is about 30-50 minutes depending on ability (or even shorter/longer for the really talented/not people).

We were in the "Team of 2" category - so one of us on the course at any given time, swapping laps.

Others do it solo (I did the fall 8h solo in 2014, crazytown) or in larger teams... but I think Team of 2 is rather perfect.

The Course

10km of alternating single and double track through beautiful forest at the Mansfield Outdoor Centre.

It's weird there - not matter how wet it is, it's fine.  And it's sandy, but not beach-like (except ONE spot which was annoying, but tolerable).  It holds together surprisingly well with 200 cyclists doing ~10 laps each!

This year was slightly longer by time than last year - mostly on account of the climbs. 

The opening climb is always there, it's long and spinny, not a big deal.

But from 5km on there were 4 really tough ones.


  • Singletrack switchback climb with roots at 5km
  • Straight shot up a hill that I feel could be avoided by adding some switchback to make it less steep, get on it someone!!!
  • Last 2 climbs - 2 climbs in the last ~7minutes up to the last descent - one doubletrack that's just steep, the other singletrack that's rooted and tricky
Apart from the climbs, the course was fast, fun, and rideable!  

My Race - Lap 1 (Team Lap 2)

My buddy took the first lap (he said it was traffic jam hell) but by the time I started my lap things had spread out a bit, and everyone near me was reasonably similar ability.

I had a pretty tough time keeping an even pace on the 1st lap - blew up a few times.  This was especially true at the singletrack switchback climb at 5km mentioned above.  My heart rate flew into the 180bpm+ range - which is like sprinting fast for me.  I had a really tough time nursing it back down... I just hadn't expected the climb so didn't pace well before it, so went from pushing to screwed.

Oops.  Score one for knowing the course ahead of time I guess.


There were rooted sections from the previous year that my new full suspension bike had no trouble at all with - big change from last year on the hardtail!  It was a hoot.

The last 2 climbs killed me again, I didn't even bother trying the first one, just walked it every time.  Going into the red with a hard low cadence effort just isn't worth it for me - it leads to cramping and horribleness.  The second one I managed most of the first lap (and some of the subsequent laps) but always walked at least a little.

Lap 2 (Team Lap 4)

I felt like complete ass during my "recovery".  Fatigued and just not good.  Ate as much food as I could stomach but my body was just not loving it.

The second lap though went much better - I was able to smooth out my effort, knew what was coming so was smarter going into the big climbs, and just mentally came to terms with not riding some of the gnarly climbs.

The singletrack switchback climb still sent my heart rate flying, but at least going into it I eased off and was good and fresh!  And I knew better how to recover on the other end of it.

Lap 3/4/5 (Team Laps 6/8/10)

There really isn't a lot to say - fortunately they were uneventful, and each lap felt a little better than the last!  My recoveries were more useful and I hit the course each lap feeling a little better than the one before it.  

I had a V8.  Is that interesting?  Maybe a little.  650mg of sodium in one can!  And some potassium too - and even some carbs.  I was a bit worried about the fiber but stomach liked it well enough - so I'll use it in the 24h as well.

There was a small chance we'd have enough time for an 11th lap... my teammate said he didn't want to do another, and I was feeling so good I briefly flirted with the idea of doing a double.  I talked myself out of it (and in the end we ran out of time anyway).  But that's how good I felt later vs earlier.

It's weird.  But that's just me.  Bodes well for the 24h!

Overall my laps were 47:37, 47:46, 48:19, 49:00, 48:51... so I was getting a bit slower I guess, but not a precipitous drop-off.  

Next Up

Storm the Trent!  Padding, Biking, Running.  Should be a hoot.






Saturday, April 20, 2019

Race Report: Sausage Suit ITT (XCMarathon/Substance Projects)


I did the "half".  I literally noticed this race was even a thing last night, on Facebook, when they posted some stuff about it... so a few beers in, I stopped drinking abruptly and bravely readied myself to ... race.
Race Bib.  Helpful Emergency Numbers.  Not that it's dangerous, but you know.

And it was hard.

The Race

This race is part of the XCMarathon series - basically a bunch of lonnnnng mountain bike races.

24km or 48km doesn't sound long - but this is mountain biking, single track, and trust me - it's long.  I can hammer out 60km in a couple hours (and change) on my road bike, but it took me just as long to finish the 24km!

The format of this one is an "Individual Time Trial".  Riders started 30 seconds apart from a start "hut" (a trailer) with a ramp - it was very authentic-ish.

It was self-seeded - but past participants were the first to go, based on their results.  I was really planning to mail this one in, so I seeded myself pretty far back...

My Race

The forecast was terrible - but the organizer convinced me on Facebook that the Dufferin County Forest we'd be riding in drained very well, and it wouldn't be muddy.

He was mostly right - it was really incredible that everywhere else in Ontario there's standing water everywhere, but these trails were 97% mud free.  Awesome!

It actually wasn't raining at all at first - but right as the half marathon folks were going it started to pour.  I ducked under the little tent, and then fortunately it let up... which lead me to make a kind of dubious decision to go a bit earlier than I maybe should have.

My plan was originally to go pretty close to the back - but sizing up the crowd I figured I could go after about 75% of them had started.  Also I was worried it'd start to rain again before I got a chance to start and get a little warm.

That was... wrong.  The thing about people who do mountain bike races in the rain in early April is that they're pretty bloody hardcore.

I'm hardcore in that I'm resilient to weather - but I'm certainly not a hardcore mountain bike racer!!!  I can't really hold a candle to these folks...

Guy in puffy jacket?  Passed me.
Lady with grey hair?  Passed me.
Lots of other ladies, passed me.  Dudes fatter than me, passed me.
I didn't see the guy in pants.  Literally wearing street pants.  So I'm calling that a win.

Oh one other thing - this was my first mountain bike ride of the year, other than one snow ride in Feb.  It's amazing how different it is.  The sharp climbs destroyed me, my confidence in the corners just wasn't there... all the time in the world on the trainer and roads just doesn't prepare for it.

So I sucked.  Deep.  I chugged along though, just happy to be out on the trails.

The map showed two loops, one big, then a return to near the Start/Finish, then a second smaller loop.

... although I think I may have read it wrong, because on Strava now I can see the second loop was actually longer, and much much tougher!!!  So after finishing the "long" first loop in 45 minutes I was thinking I was at least halfway, maybe more!

I was not.

My total time was 2h19.  I didn't even have the distance showing on my Garmin - I just kept expecting to round the next corner and see the road to the finish... but it just never happened.

Worse, the last hour was really wet.  Rain coming down, not pouring but steady enough that I was soaked.

Worse, the sharp little climbs destroyed me.  I'm really good at steady road efforts, and total shit at punchy stuff without much recovery - which pretty much describes mountain bike racing. 

So it was a tough day. 
Great workout. 
Learned a bit. 
Got wet.
Accomplished something.

All's well that ends well.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Fat as Fuel for Endurance Activities


I have been dabbling in the "low carb" world in recent months.

It all started with Intermittent Fasting and the Jason Fung theory that insulin resistance is the key factor that leads to obesity.

I'm not 100% convinced that he is correct - but at the same time I have been losing weight with Intermittent Fasting and reducing carbohydrate (especially refined and sugar).

Next question was - can you perform athletically without carbs?

This is where life gets difficult.

Evangelists like Timothy Noakes emphatically say "yes".  There are athletes like Zack Bitter who are running Ultramarathons on High-Fat-Low-Carb diets.

Finally I found a very good summary in this article.

Adapting to Fat over Carbs

This was interesting to me, because it implies you can train your body to prefer fat longer.
Maximal fat oxidation has been reported to occur between 47 and 75% of VO2max, and varies between trained and untrained men and women [1, 5, 6]. Nonetheless, MFO has been observed to range from 0.17–1.27 g/min [7], where ketogenic adapted individuals can exceed ≥1.5 g/min
This is from the article, it shows the concept:

image

So that MFO point is not static - you can move the point to the right (ie. to higher intensities) with fat adaption.

... But There Is a Limit

Back to the article:
However, during sustained high intensity exercise (>70% VO2max) which is common during competition, CHO is the primary substrate relied upon despite short and long term fat acclimation
In other words - fat adapt all you want, if intensity gets too high, you're going to need carbs (CHO).

The Bottom Line

It seems entirely possible to perform at medium intensity on fat - but once the intensity ratchets up, you need carbs.

How I'm Applying This

Day to day, I'm using Intermittent Fasting, avoiding processed carbohydrate, and generally eating a higher fat lower carbohydrate diet.  It has resulted in weight loss and I generally have felt better.

In training, though - I tinkered with fasted runs and with not supplementing with carbs.

It works OK, but since re-introducing sugar to my high intensity workouts I've felt a whole lot better.  It is like rocket fuel!  When I race I will certain use carbs to enhance performance.

Is that the end of fasted runs/rides?  Certainly not!  I will continue to use the no-carb run/ride when intensity is low, to teach my body to use fat more efficiently and not rely on "rocket fuel".  I have some very long endurance events planned this year, the only way they will go well is to become a lean, mean, fat-burning machine!

All things in moderation.






Saturday, January 19, 2019

Weight Loss at 4 Months


Stoopid Christmas.


... so basically I'm where I was early December.

Pre-Christmas office parties and get togethers, followed by Christmas week and change of being way off plan.

Didn't do much fasting, and certainly wan't low carb.

Back at it post-Christmas.  Tried to do it abruptly but that failed.  Now back to the gradual process that was working.

Intermittent Fasting

16-24h fasts daily.  Fit around life events.

Low Carb

I was trying very low carb with a goal of ketosis - but this wasn't working well for me.

Instead I'm doing very low processed carbs.  It's been better for my overall energy levels, my mental health, and it's made my runs/bikes more effective.

I have to write a blog post about this wonderful study that I found.  Long story short, though - for endurance activity, you need carbs to do higher intensity workouts... and there's good reason to do some fasted workouts as well.

Low Alcohol

After the holidays I had to re-re-adjust my alcohol intake back to guideline levels.  This hasn't been tough, just stopped buying the IPAs I've grown to love, as they have higher alcohol levels... back to 4-5% beer.  I don't feel compelled to drink any more 4-5% beer than I do 6-8% beer!

There are a lot of good Session Ales, some of them pretty hoppy and flavourful, and mostly around 4-5%.

Workouts

I mention exercise last as it feels like it has the least impact on weight.

Counter-intuitive.

I've managed to start pushing some pace, though.  I'm still heavy (204lbs-ish) so I'm not lightning fast, but building the speed at this weight should pay dividends once I manage to drop it!

Next...

... just running, biking, doing the odd row / core workout... eating right... losing weight




Monday, December 31, 2018

2019!



I was sick a lot (hopefully something I've figured out, lousy sinusitis!).  
I missed the Chicago Marathon as a result.
Hours down.
Kilometers down.

Worst of all ... weight was a struggle ... until I really found out why and reversed the damage.
June was the only real bright spot.

We did the new course of Storm the Trent - that was awesome.  

And then the 24 Hour MTB race tag-team - first time, it was fun, great learning experience!  We'll be back for 2019.  Discovered riding at night in the woods in the process, which is a real thrill.

2019

I have one goal.  I will lose weight.  And I finally figured out how.  

I know not everyone is with me on this ride - but I'm now using a low-carb and intermittent fasting approach.  The fasting especially has been remarkable.  From September to Christmas I was down about 10 lbs overall - I've gained back a couple over the holidays, but as the clock strikes midnight I'm ready to rock.

This weight is going bye-bye.

Races

Storm The Trent - going back, this time to do the Trek distance.  Canoe, mountain bike, run, navigate - it's a wicked awesome fun adventure.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice - going back, tag-team again!  New bike should ease the bumpiness, give me more comfort over the ~12h of riding I'll be doing, and more confidence.

Muskoka River X - stepping up to the full distance, 130km!  It's a canoe race.  We've done the shorter 80km before, but this is a 20h+ adventure, and includes up-stream paddling.  Lots of portages.  It's going to be painful and awful - and AWESOME.  Obviously.

Chicago Marathon - signed up again after missing last year.  This year I'll be there.  And I'll be light.

Really looking forward to the adventure!  I know there will be highs and lows, but I have a good feeling.









Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Weight Loss at 3 Months


The plan was really just to try Intermittent Fasting, but to be more aggressive with the fasting.

The Obesity Code

I based my strategy on "The Obesity Code" by Jason Fung.

He theorizes that we are fat because of insulin resistance, and that the best way to fight it is to spend more time in a low insulin state.  He recommends intermittent fasting as the primary tool.

Everything in his book spoke to me - the way I was hungry all the time (ALL the time), the way that I would do 10h/week of exercise and still gain weight, the way that calorie counting worked for short term but my weight would always, always come back...

Without further ado - here are my results so far.



The blue dots are the daily measurements - they fluctuate a lot, based on when I was fasting/exercising/etc.

In 3 months I've lost about 10 pounds.

For people who have followed my blog and life, you'll know I've tried to lose weight over and over.

I had success with counting calories, for years.
I added in exercise - copious amounts.  Ironman!
When my weight would go up - I'd count calories again.

But it became harder and harder.

If you believe Fung, it could be that my insulin resistance simply got worse and worse.  I believe this, partially because I had a blood test where my doctor told me so!  I was on a bad road, and I feel like carbs played the lead role.

The first 6 weeks...

Some of the fasting time isn't actually on that chart - the weight just didn't come off immediately.  It took about 6 weeks for anything to happen, which felt like an eternity.

Then one day... the weight started coming off.

Actually before that... I remember one day saying to my wife "I don't feel hungry!".

It was a revelation.  I was sitting on the couch, watching TV, and I wasn't hungry for food.

I was always hungry before that.

It's a weird thing with fasting - you think you'll be hungrier, but the opposite happens.  I'm never hungry in the morning.  I'm rarely hungry throughout the day.  I get a little peckish in the evening, but much less than the ferocious hunger I used to feel.

When am I most hungry?  After I eat carbs, especially sugar.  It's like crack cocaine, I become obsessed with getting more.  (I assume that's what crack is like, right?)

Ketosis 

I started checking my ketones early on, and they kept coming back negative.  Then I took the "low carb" diet more seriously... eventually I figured it out.  I can get into ketosis at will now.

The easiest way is to run or bike while fasted, or having eaten very few carbs.  In the immediate aftermath there won't be ketones (your body sucks them up as fuel!) - but a few hours later?  Dark purple on the strip.

Even days when I feel like I really pigged out, if it was on high fat / low carb food?  The scale gives me a good number the next day.  It's pretty amazing.

Flexibility

Jason Fung's magic to me is that he doesn't prescribe some exact regiment.

"Thou shalt fast exactly 20 hours a day and feast exactly 4"
"Thou shalt never eat cake"
... etc.

You can't sustain that.  He says as much - Atkins fails because most people will eventually cheat, and it snowballs.

Build the approach around your lifestyle.  Your daughter has a birthday party?  Go!  Eat cake.  Pizza.  Have fun.  Don't give it a second thought.  Fast the rest of the day, before you go to the party.  Or fast after!

It's not a religion - you just always have to understand the insulin has to be low most of the time, and arrange eating/fasting windows around that.

He does tend to advise longer fasts - 24h or 36h - rather than 16:8.  This worked better for me.  Now I'm pretty regularly doing about 20h fast, 4h feed - but like I said, I'm not religious about it.  I fit it to what I'm doing that day.

Future

I'm excited.  This has been a great little run, and I'm looking really forward to keeping it going into 2019!  I feel like I finally found something that really really works, and addresses the root issue.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

My Long Slow Fat Adaption


When you listen to guys like Dr. Timothy Noakes, they talk about the notion of being "fat adapted".

The idea is if you restrict carbs, your body starts to use fat as its primary fuel.  This is backed up in studies - at the end of carb-restricted training periods, the fad adapted athletes burn 2.5 times as much fat for fuel, and they do this from the very start of their activity.

Here are my experiment runs...

Run 1.  20km, 6:30/km.  Bonked bad.  3 weeks into IF.

Run 2.  21.1km  6:09/km.  Better.  Almost 2 months of IF, 2 weeks of HFLC (sporadic).

Run 3.  21.1km  5:52/km.  Much better.  Almost 3 months of IF, using HFLC more regularly.  Felt strong and comfortable.

The really interesting thing about Run 3 is that I was actually 16h fasted and consumed zero calories during the run.  I had nothing but black coffee and water for 16 hours, plus another 2 hours of running.

In fact, I had biked the day before for 1.5h (water only), and had eaten HFLC the rest of the day.  So I hadn't had any kind of significant carb for almost 2 days, and had even burnt off some of what I would have had stored on that bike ride.

I find this all remarkable. It's exactly what Noakes predicts, but it still goes against so much orthodoxy.  I was kind of sure it would fail.  I'm shocked.

Questions still remain

Am I able to perform better than I did as a high carb athlete?  Sure I can get through a 21.1km long slow run, but can I push the pace?

Can I actually go longer?  How much longer?

Is the weight loss permanent?  (I'm down about 10lbs so far, give or take).  Or like most calorie restricted diets, will it come back, and bring friends?

I also still have some questions about "high fat, low carb" vs fasting - the athletes seem to be doing HFLC and I can't find much about fasted athletes.  I'm guessing it's because they're generally not overweight to start with, so fasting doesn't really enter the equation.  My main question: does it matter during activities if the fat I'm burning is coming from my (ample) stores rather than from food I just ate??  I'm still trying to find the answer to that.

From Experiment to Lifestyle Change

I'm making this permanent.  Even if my performance were to suffer (and I'm not sure yet if that's the case, but if) I am meeting my real goals.  I'm losing weight.  I feel great.  My mood is great, even.  I'm able to do the activities I love. 

To the moon, Alice!