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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Fasting Update

Image result for dinner plate
Dinner Time!

I've been fasting for 2 weeks now.
My longest was 26 hours, but I also did 24, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16... I've been trying to just fit it in with my life, which isn't always that easy!

Brain Fog

I'm having some difficulty with fasts that go through the work day.  If I break the fast at lunch I'm good, but the afternoon gets my brain going a little squirrely.  I don't know how to describe it exactly - I'm not exhausted, just feel "off" in the head.

Feels like my best bet is actually 24h fasts that go lunch to lunch. But then I miss the family dinner "ceremony" so I'm still figuring this out.


I've been trying to keep on the exercise, and mostly that's been great!  I've been doing my running/biking at a moderate pace if it's later into a fast, but if it's near the start I use it as a way to deplete glycogen sooner. 

It's a complete mindset shift - when you're a runner/cyclist, you're always told to eat to train, then get home and eat to recover.

I've been most surprised by the cycling.  It's crazy to me that I can go for 2, 2.5h on the bike without bonking.  Just have to watch the intensity - when I'm actually training for something, I will have to figure that part out.  Presumably I'll do my cycling during the non-fasted state and consume stuff on the bike.

Weight Loss

So far... nothing.
Image result for friar tuck eating
Me Enjoying my Feasting Period
Now I have to assume that the "Insulin Resistance" problem takes more than a couple weeks to resolve. But I need to eat better - in the eating windows I've been feasting like Friar Tuck.

I also haven't been very good at reducing refined carbs, one of Dr. Jason Fung's pillars of health and lowering insulin levels.

"Reduce intake of refined grains and sugars, moderate protein consumption, and increase natural fats"

... sounds good, but I whip up some guacamole (natural fats!) and then eat it with... chips (refined grain).  Because it's delicious that way.  Dr Fung suggests condiments mostly (olive oil, butter, etc) - but they have to go on something.   Dairy fat is the one that's easy (mmm cheese!), I guess I can feast on nuts and avocados a bit... I should really google some high fat recipes.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Fasting and Endurance Sports - Part 2

Velonews Fast Talk episode 23


They talk about "periodization" of nutrition, and a lot about "low carb" states!

The long and short of it - in non-competition phases when your intensity isn't as high, there are times you'd want to train in a low/no-carb state.

"Not throwing carbohydrates in massive quantities at every training session" ... which he says is the "old advice".  I think it's also the advice every manufacturer of sports drinks and gels wants you to take!

In the "Build" phase - his suggestion is to have a high intensity session in the evening, recover with high fat / low carb, sleep, then wake up the next morning and do a lower intensity session in a low-carb state.

He also stresses the need for carbs for intensity - this stands to reason.

"How often should you be training with low carbohydrates?"

No more than 2 times a week, in the "Build" phase.

Etc!  It's a great listen.


He doesn't address fasting specifically, and his focus is on getting the best cycling results, not losing weight.

I haven't been "racing" and I'm certainly not an "elite athlete" so my focus right now is on weight loss, not on training adaptations.

Glad to hear though that while I'm meeting my weight loss goals, I'm not totally out to lunch on the endurance training side.  Low/no carb states aren't incompatible with training.  It will just be a question of finding the right balance.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Fasting and Endurance Sports

I've dabbled with fasting in the past - but I'm getting into it more seriously now.

I recently read The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung.  He makes a compelling case that the old advice "Eat less, Exercise more" is ineffective.  And this is backed up by studies showing almost nobody keeps off weight with that approach.

If you don't feel like reading an entire book (although it's great!), then check out this video... hits the key points.

The book is mostly not about fasting - he actually doesn't bring it up until the very end.  Instead it explores the advice we've generally been given, and the science of why we are fat.

His claim is that the root of the problem is hormonal, and primarily insulin.

Boiling it down: we are fat because of what we eat and when.

The What:  Sugar and refined carbs.  These create elevated insulin responses that ultimately lead to reduced insulin sensitivity, which result in more insulin, which makes us fat.  He also takes aim at artificial sweeteners, which provoke an insulin response despite having no sugar in them (!). 

The When:  Snacking, snacking, snacking.  We eat too much, and the advice to "graze" makes it even worse.  Our bodies are flush with insulin, always, which just makes the body numb to it... which again leads to even more insulin, which makes us fat.

This is where fasting comes in.  There are various approaches, but in all cases the idea is to reduce insulin for long periods of time by not introducing new glucose into the bloodstream, thus no insulin response.  This in turn has been shown in studies to increase insulin sensitivity, which he argues is the cure for obesity. 

My Weight, and How I Will Apply It

I was an outlier in 2014... and had a bit of swagger about it.  I had lost weight and held it off for 10+ years.  I did it through calorie reduction and exercise. And it was bloody hard.

I'm not anymore.  I weigh 212lbs, vs the 235lbs I weighed at my peak - but I'm almost 30lbs above the 185lbs that I need to be "Normal" rather than "Overweight", and a good 40lbs above where I'd like to be.

Fasting - in the past I had done 16:8 - basically not eat except between noon and 8pm.

But I think the 24h/36h fasts he suggests sound like they may be more effective.  Fast for 24h 2-3 times a week, rinse, repeat.

Wither Endurance?

Dr. Fung is very clear that exercise is good for you - it has a lot of hormonal effects, including increased insulin sensitivity and reduced Cortisol (stress hormone).

However he is very down on the role it plays in weight loss.  Burning calories via exercise is not the way you will lose weight.

He mentions exercising while fasted is a "good time" - but it sounds like he's mostly talking about gym rats (and he even references the Lean Gains guy).

... so where does endurance exercise fit in?

I found this very excellent chart.


At low intensity, the body burns mostly fat (which I have a lot of!), so it's possible to go for a long time without using up the body's glycogen or consuming additional sugar.

At high intensity, the body burns mostly carbs, so it either needs to be short or you can't be fasted.

I've done runs as long as 16km while fasted for 16h before - they were slow and pretty horrible.  I don't know if they get better, I think it's just something I'll have to experiment with.

One more beautiful chart, from the same source...

... so as you can see, the probability of hitting "the wall" (running out of carbs) is nearly zero when the "running intensity" is under 40% of VO2 max...

This is probably down to one's personal fitness/genetics/weight/etc - but I this all points at it being possible to run long slow runs, fasted, with nothing but water and electrolytes.

My goal right now is to lose weight, not to run a marathon - so I'm not so worried about this.  If I can run long I'll run long.  If I can't I'll put that on the back-burner until I can.

It will be an interesting journey, if nothing else!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Sinusitis, Rockstar, Running Whilst Sick

I've had a horrible case of sinusitis.  It has taken me down for the last 2+ weeks... felt like a cold at first, thought it'd pass in a day or two, or three... but now on day 17.  Halfway through a bout of antibiotics and feeling a bit better, but still not 100%.

I missed Rockstar.  It's one of my favourite races.  Sadness.

Running Whilst Sick

I tried a run early in the illness - that was a bad idea.  It went horribly, and probably made it worse. 

This weekend (day 14/15), despite still being fatigued and my throat being sore and phlegm still flowing...

... I said "screw it" and ran again.  Short runs, slow, they were tough, but I didn't feel bad after.  I think it makes a big difference whether you're on the start or end of the illness.  I'm getting better, slowly, but this has really sucked.  Especially in summer.


Monday, July 2, 2018

Humidex, Wind Chill, and Other Fake Weather Things

Ahhh, summer, the time of year when we like to exaggerate how hot it is.

The CBC had a great article some years ago about just how and why the Humidex, a Canadian invention, is flawed.

It's especially important for us runners and cyclists, as we may miss other factors that are equally important!

In no particular order:

  • Humidity - when it's very humid, sweat doesn't evaporate well to cool you down
  • Sun - this is massive - I especially notice it in winter.  A sunny day at 0C feels a lot warmer than a cloudy day at 0C!  Running at noon vs early a.m./p.m., even at the same temperature, is much more difficult.  The direct rays add heat to your body that you need to then expel. 
  • Wind - the one thing that makes cycling more tolerable than running in hot weather is the speed of travel generates more wind!  Ahhhhh. 
    It's remarkable, I biked yesterday for almost 4 hours in +32C (+36C with the fake Humidex, and in the sun!) but it felt... ok. 
    Today I ran in cooler temperatures and died by the end.  I'm still sweating and that run ended half an hour ago.
  • Clothing choice - black in the sun?  Long sleeves?  Etc!  So many ways to either help or stop your body from cooling itself down.  I used a singlet today - it really helps with the air flow.
... etc.  

Feels Like? 

And, as the CBC climatologist notes, "no two people react the same way to weather. Age and health, including respiratory issues and fitness levels, affect how hot it feels".

So when they say it Feels Like 36C  - first of all, what day's +36C are they comparing to?  A sunny dry day with no wind?  Cloudy?  Windy?  Who knows!

And each person is different, so what might feel like +36C to one person might feel like, I dunno, +42C to another.

Who Cares?

Yeah maybe.  But I think it's worth paying attention to the other factors and knowing how one's own body reacts to them, rather than just blindly taking a number that "Big Weather" throws out there.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Race Report: 24 Hours of Summer Solstice

The Race

24 hours of laps of a mountain bike course.  Most laps wins.

There were a bunch of different categories - we were a team of 2.  One person rides, the other rests, rinse, repeat!

We had done the Epic 8 Hour a few months ago, similar format - but the extra challenge of night riding and lack of sleep was going to be new...

Our Race

We got there with a few hours to set-up and ended up with a pretty nice set of digs.

I mean it's nothing compared to what some folks were rocking... RV's, cooking stoves, etc.  We also didn't use the tent much at all - the canopy things was way more useful.  Nobody wants to be in a steamy tent if they don't have to be.

Lap 1 (rest)
The Start

My teammate did the first lap - it had an extra loop and a lot of traffic/waiting, sounded kind of crappy.  Similar to our previous experiences at the 8 hour, just so many riders and not a lot of real estate early on.

The rain subsided early on, and we wouldn't see much more than a few drips for awhile.  Course wasn't too bad considering!

Lap 2 - 1h19

My turn, and my first look at the course.

I loved it!  The trails were beautiful, so much flow, everything was ride-able start to finish.  A few hills with some pop, but nothing quite as tough as the 8 hour.  Lots of fast double track too, gave good opportunities to fly down hills, spin, recover.

The only thing was my crazy high heart rate.  I wasn't pushing but it kept going waaaay up into the 180bpm range.  I don't know why.

Lap 4 - 1h18

Second lap - felt a bit of a burn, but nothing too bad.  Heart rate still bad, if not worse.

Lap 5 (rest)

Lap 6 - 1h20

Started to feel the first signs of cramping early on in this lap, which was ... unwelcome.

I've been having cramping problems a lot on these longer distance MTB races.  Just so many muscles get abused in so many ways.  If I'm too tense or panic in a corner, I tend to get muscles locking up, and it can be bad!

Fortunately I was able to stay light and spinny and recover - and the rest of the lap went great.

By this point I had eaten a lot of Cliff Shot Blocks and was good and tired of Gatorade.  Note to self for future: bring better solid food.

Lap 7 (rest)

Lap 8 - 1h29 (estimated)

First Night lap!  Started at about 9.30pm.

Night riding was tough.  We'd done a test run last week, but on a relatively unfamiliar course it was a different story entirely.  And the terrain was tricky now, some corners were pretty beat up.

There was also a lot of traffic now.  Seems like sundown brought out the speed demons - and they seemed to hang together, so when you had to let one person by there were a few others right behind them.

The freakiest thing to me wasn't the single track - I did alright on it.  It was the fast double track sections!  So many times we'd bomb down a hill and up the other side, but in the dark you just couldn't see.  I would still bomb down the hill but without being able to actually see!

It was fun, a bit scary.

Lap 9

I needed solid food so I bought this.

It was touch and go whether I could digest it in an hour.  I more or less did.  Winning.

Lap 10 - 1h33 (started at 12:45am-ish)

Second night lap.

I felt marginally better.  I know my pace doesn't reflect feeling better, but I was really pacing myself by now - lots of spinning and taking it easy, not pushing on anything.

Lap 11 - 1h39 (started at 4am)

My teammate had trouble riding in the dark, combination of poor night vision and not having a strong enough helmet light (note to anyone - the helmet light should be your strongest one, as it points where you're actually looking!).

So after a rest I took on what would be my final lap.

I felt pretty good at the start, but fatigue and darkness really caught up to me.  It was spitting rain, my glasses fogged up - so between the night and the fogged up glasses I had a hell of a time seeing anything.

By the time I finished the lap, it was pretty much light out... so I made it to morning at least!


We took a look at the forecast - horrible rain - and called it a day.  We were really doing this for fun/experience, and it was not going to be fun anymore!

Edit: Looks like the race was called off before 24h!  Rain was really bad.  So we didn't miss as much as we might have thought.


I don't seem to need sleep.  I felt fine on the 4am-6am lap - totally surprised that the lack of sleep didn't impact me more.  I was fatigued, but it was from ~9hours of exercise.

Food - I blew it.  I brought a bit of solid food but not nearly enough.  Would really have liked more real food - the burger worked (luckily) but that was risky.  Need good digestable solid food.

Team of 2 - kind of sucks.  It's just so much riding, and no rest.
Edit!  Team of 2 doesn't suck as bad as I thought.  We finished 7 of 21 teams, and looking at the results most of them took at least one break (a lap that is 4-5h means they weren't riding for a bunch)!  I just assumed they were going balls out straight through - but I guess those were mostly bigger teams I saw out there.  Another lesson learned - rest when you need it and stretch the effort out to 24 hours.  More fun, and maybe more laps?

Everyone in big teams was having a lot more fun, drinking beer and sleeping and stuff.  The whole event was more like "camping with some mountain bike racing".  Lots of families and friends getting together, pretty cool if you like that sort of thing.

Mountain Biking - I think I'm pretty good at it, but when you see guys who are ACTUALLY great at it... wow.  They just carve the trails without a hint of hesitation, carrying so much speed.  It's amazing.

I go sleep now.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Race Report: Storm the Trent 2018 (Hike)

I'm a week late but better than nothing, right!?

What a day, what a course!

New Venue

For the first time, this race moved to Haliburton.  This meant all of our old area knowledge was useless (not that it was of all that much use before!).

This part of the world is so beautiful, though.  View from the finish!

... but we'll get to that later.
Getting ready!!

The Start - Canoe

We started by canoe on the lake in Haliburton.

We had left our bikes across the lake - so I was kind of hoping it would be some kind of point to point... but instead we paddled around 2 lakes and a small connecting channel.  Very pretty, flat water.

As seems to be the case every year recently - we finished second.  Our boat is fast, but the guys that beat us are clearly stronger!  But we were at least close.

The only new thing this year was collecting information about future checkpoints in the race from the buoys on the lake.  I took the time to write down 2 of them at once, which in a wet canoe wasn't the easiest thing - but it all worked out alright!

Run #1 

One thing I screwed up - I had an extra bottle of Gatorade in the boat that I had meant to take on the run.. I forgot it.  This was bad.  Very bad. It was too hot of a day to be light on fluids.

We ran around the lake over to what appeared to be a conservation area of sorts.  It was pretty, lots of well defined trails.  We had very little trouble finding the checkpoints, but at this point the heat was getting to me...

This is where the eventual winners got past us - they ran so fast, some of the volunteers thought they'd cheated!  But we saw them on the trail - they were just bloody fast.  Meanwhile we were walking some of the uphills (OK, most).

Still, we hit the bike in pretty good shape, I think 3rd.

Bike #1

This one started out on some road/sidewalk, but quickly changed to a long rail trail section.
This is part of the rail trail we rode last year - see my report here!

Flat hammering, which I'm usually great at.  I had a tough time keeping up my teammates pace, though!  I think it was just the heat?  I wasn't feeling great at this point.

... and my fluid situation was biting me.  We weren't even half done the race and I was into my last bottle.  Dangerous situation.  I was trying to go easy on the fluid, but stay hydrated - mission impossible!  I started asking my partner if he'd have any extra he could lend me if I needed it.

A few climbs on a small paved road and we were finally at the next run.

Run #2

This was short and pretty easy.  Trails were a little funky, as were the checkpoint locations (at the top of a cliff thing and on a beaver dam??).  We saw the team that eventually won in there, and we'd assumed the other team we were always chasing was in there somewhere... based on the fact there were 4 bikes left at the start of the run!

Best of all... WATER!  I hadn't expected water on the course, so this was a huge relief.  I guzzled down a full bottle and filled up the other one - I was now flush with fluid and ready to rock.

My Big Screw-up

We got back on our bikes.

This race was so easy to navigate that I had paid zero attention to this checkpoint.  The bike is marked, how hard could it be?

From the map I thought the little road we had taken to Run #2 wasn't really a road - just a driveway - and that the bike continued on the road we'd started on prior.  So we climbed the lonnnnng climb back up to the road, turned, went down some hills... only to get to a complete dead end.


We doubled back now realizing the error and back to the checkpoint, just as another team of 2 guys was leaving ahead of us.

11.  Minutes.  F**k.  I couldn't believe it, I was so pissed at myself.

Bike #2

This was my favourite part of the entire day.  Beautiful winding hilly narrow road/ATV trails.

Almost no mud, strangely!

But those hills... wow.  My teammate struggled a bit here, which I was mildly thankful for as I needed to recover.  I felt great the rest of the race!

We passed a team that had split up (which is against the rules, I might add!).  The one guy looked like he was getting his ass kicked by the heat, other one blasted ahead without him to the checkpoint.  Pretty sure they were father/son.  Kid, you shouldn't leave your old man out to dry like that!!!

Final Climb


We caught one last team on this hill - it was a team of 4, so not in our category, but still felt good.

Managed to ride the whole thing while others walked.  Strava says the road section averaged 8%, but felt much worse!  And after that it turned off into a rough trail climb, that I'm sure was steeper and was definitely tougher.  At the end of a race it was a widow-maker!!!


The top of the hill!

We managed 3rd in our category (Team of 2 Male) and my error didn't actually cost us anything better on the day - so that was good.

Random Musings

New course/location - awesome!  Really enjoyed it.

Run checkpoints were a bit too straightforward for us... other teams are great runners, so we need something that throws them off haha.

The bike was sufficiently awesome.  Rail trail was a nice touch - I'm sure a lot of people haven't experienced that.  Hopefully they realize it's part of a huge connected rail trail system that extends as far as Uxbridge, Lindsay, Peterborough!

I'd love to bike on singletrack MTB trails, but those back roads on the way back to town were just as great!  Winding, hilly, rough, everything you need to put a smile on your face.

All in all a great, well-organized, fun event.  I'm certain we'll be back.