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Monday, October 16, 2017

Weight Loss (Again)

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

So with that in mind... I'm going back to a few things that have worked for me in the past, and a few new ideas.

1)  Weight Loss During the Off-Season

One I picked up from the Velonews podcasts is to do your weight loss during the off-season.

When you're doing full-blown training, creating calorie deficits may seem easier - burn a few thousand calories on a ride, pretty easy to create a big caloric deficit!

... but without the calories things will just go sour, fast.  It's a recipe for not being able to recover properly, burning out, and just generally failing at weight loss.

2)  Crash Dieting Works

This one is more controversial...

According to this study, participants who lost weight quickly were more likely to stick to the plan, and less likely to put weight on again after.

"Across the world, guidelines recommend gradual weight loss for the treatment of obesity, reflecting the widely held belief that fast weight loss is more quickly regained,” said Katrina Purcell, dietician and the first author on the paper from the University of Melbourne

“However, our results show that achieving a weight loss target of 12.5 per cent is more likely, and drop-out is lower, if losing weight is done quickly." 
The number of people who regained weight after three years was also the same in both groups, 71 per cent, suggesting that crash dieting is better than gradual weight loss in the short term and no worse in the long term 

This flies in the face of a lot of conventional wisdom (as they note).  I find this happens a lot in nutrition and obesity, it just seems like no matter how much research is done, it's a tough nut to crack - and too much is taken on faith rather than actual study.

I'm going to revert to the old adage "know thyself".  I am not a gradual steady-as-she-goes kind of person - I like extreme solutions, and I like to see results.

I'm not going crazy with it - 1800kCal/day is low, but it's not that extreme...

3)  Intermittent Fasting

I have used 16:8 with a lot of success.

This helps curb hunger, counter-intuitively.  I found it much easier to stick to a low calorie diet if I compress the calories into an 8 hour period than if I try spread that out.  Lunch, dinner, very little snacking, and cut-off early in the evening.  Feel full a couple of times a day rather than be hungry all the time.

The Plan and The Math

Daily caloric requirement (based on 192lbs, average weight during weight loss): 2628kCal

Calculator here:

Exercise burn per hour (low intensity / base mileage) - 800kCal (estimated)
Exercise hours per week - 5
Add in some walking and other daily activities - 100kCal/day
Total daily requirement - 3300kCal

Target weight loss - 3lbs/week = 10,500kCal
Deficit per day - 1500kCal

3300kCal - 1500kCal = 1800kCal/day

Easy peasy!

Goal weight: 180lbs. 
Current weight: 203lbs. 

9 weeks = 27lbs ... a few cheat days in there, should be able to lose 23lbs, right? YAY!

Today, the work begins.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Race Report: Vulture Bait (50km trail run) - DNF

DNF!  In fact I barely made it through 25km. 

The Course

Before I moan about my horrible race, I wanted to make some course notes while it's still fresh in my mind.

In my previous report I said the second half is more technical - this isn't really the case!

First 6km

This is a mix of single/double track, and it's all very non-technical.  There's even a kilometer or more of road.

The only thing kind of crappy was the volume of runners - we ended up single file with some really slow people at the front.  This was OK though, as it kept my pace in check.

Oh and at 5km there's a pretty wicked hill up to the dam. 

6km - 11km

This part is pretty technical - a lot of little sharp rises, sharp downhills, roots, rocks.  Definitely tougher than I remembered it (and it was wet, which added a bit more sketchiness).  I'd say this was probably the toughest part actually.

11km - 12.5km

Road.  Paved.  Easy.  Aid Station.


More trails, winding.  Not as many sharp/technical things, but still not entirely trivial.


Short road section


Tough little trail section, up and down and stuff.


Road, bridge.


Almost all trail, up and down.  Short reprieve through the golf course parking lot, then double track to the end...

Moaning About My Race

I slept like crap, but that's not unusual for me the day of a race.

Woke up, had a normal race-day breakfast (about 4 hours before race start - lots of digestion time!).

I felt tired on the drive.  Could have used a nap.  But again, this isn't that unusual...

Rain stopped, got my kit.  Chilled out in the van.  Lined up at the start, normal start-line jitters. 

Start - paced myself with the crowd, backing off, letting people past.  Legs felt great, felt like I was setting up for a good day.

... except my heart rate was out of whack early.  160s, then 170s, at a really easy pace.  What the hell?  I had an average heart rate of 157bpm in my last training run - and when I was this easy, it was under 150 consistently.  I couldn't figure it out!

It only got worse from there.  I tried to reason that it must be the warmth or something, and I must surely have the energy for this slow pace.

... and I felt fine!  My perceived effort was reasonable, consistently.  I walked the steep hills, I ran at a gentle pace.  But my heart rate just kept going haywire.

I ate my Cliff Blocks (which I'd tried in training).  They went down well.  Life should have been good.

Just shy of halfway into the first loop, fatigue set in.  Complete energy crash.  I pushed through, occasionally walking now - but this was looking grim, and I wasn't even 1/4 of the distance.

Somewhere around kilometer 14 or 15 I decided to walk, to really get the heart rate down.  Even walking, I just couldn't get the heart rate to drop much... nursed it under 150bpm, but as soon as I'd start running it'd shoot back up over 170bpm!!!


By the time I got to the aid station around kilometer 17 I was done.  I figured I'd walk the 8km back on the course and DNF.

I did manage to mix in a bit of running after awhile, but heart rate was still silly, and if I ran too long I'd crash again.

I even managed to wipe out on a downhill... I think my brain was out of juice too at that point, went sprawling.  Cramped up.

Then the weirdest thing of all - my ear got plugged up, like when you're in the shower or pool and accidentally get water in it.  Then it unplugged... and a little later, plugged again!  Then unplugged... then plugged. 

Still, something in me wanted to keep going.  I knew the cut-off was based on 8:30/km pace ... I had run the first 17km at 7:00/km, and even with all the crap going wrong I had still managed 8:41/km pace!

But when that ear thing started I got freaked out.  I figure I'm sick with something, it was really weird.  No point in pushing and doing real harm here - I chose to live to fight another day.

Sheepishly pulled out after 25km, went to the medical folks.  They checked my blood pressure and heart rate - all pretty normal.  They didn't seem too concerned about the ear thing, just said if it doesn't clear then get it checked out.  It cleared.

I'm still feeling exhausted now, as if I really did 50km (I assume this is what that would feel like, having not completed one!). 

Really sucks!  All that training, suffering through taper madness... to have it go so bad when it mattered the most... gah!

I know I can do the 50km - I'm sure of it.  My legs felt great, even after 25km.  I'll do it.

Just not today.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Race Preview: Vulture Bait (50km trail run)

My first "Ultramarathon"!

Exciting!  And ... slightly terrifying.

I signed up for this while keeping track of the insanely insane Barkley Marathons.  Specifically, Gary Robbins's heart-breaking non-finish.  I don't know what about that level of pain/suffering compelled me to jump on board, but there's some instinct there about figuring out just how far you can go...... I've always had it, now I'll take my first shot at it with running.

Vulture Bait

A 25km/50km race around Fenshaw Lake near London, Ontario.  Almost all trails.

I ran the 25km version of this race in 2009 after my first Ironman - the 50km is two loops of that same course.  8 years have passed so my memory is a bit fuzzy on the course, good thing I have a blog to refer back to!

It wasn't massively technical.  I even ran it in regular running shoes (didn't own trail shoes back then), and I don't recall having an issue with the terrain.  I remember the second half being winding with little sharp climbs now and then, and having to cross a creek.

It also isn't massively hilly - it pretty much follows the lake, so there's some little hills carrying you away from it and back toward it at times.  Nothing that stuck out as particularly tricky - not sure I can trust the GPS elevation, but my watch had it at half the elevation gain of my training runs.

My Preparation

I've been biking about my normal amount, although I've tapered that off into September to be fresher for my runs.

Running - hills and trails. 

For my short runs, hills near my house (regular road running). 

For my long runs I literally ran up a mountain in Banff in August... but that was a bit special!  Mostly I've been heading up to the hilly and technical trails in the Durham Forest area.  My last couple of runs were ~3 hours.

I'm a bit worried.  It's been a hot September, really unusual.  Anything over +10C or so and my running has suffered. 

I had one cooler run (my last long one) and lo and behold, it went amazingly well. 3 hours, 26k, under 7:00/km (on some tough trails/hills) - and at the end I felt like I could have kept going.

So a lot will depend on the conditions....

The Race - Temperatures

Right now the forecast is not looking good - low of +14C in the morning, +21C and sunny in the afternoon.  Very little chance of rain.

I know it doesn't sound all that hot - but for fall running, that's hot!  Any research on marathon performance backs that up - for example, this study shows a significant drop in performance as temperatures exceed +10C. 

The maximal average speeds were performed at an optimal temperature comprised between 3.8°C and 9.9°C depending on the performance level

I'm particularly vulnerable to heat - I sweat a lot. 

Do I sound paranoid yet?

The Race - Pacing

My weight is a lot higher than 2009, but my overall fitness is a lot better.  But I'm older.

I averaged 6:03/km for 25km back then... 50km is a totally different beast.  I'm thinking something around 7:00/km would be decent, but frankly I'm not going to obsess about my pace - it's more about managing the effort.

Bottom line is that I need to really take it easy, nurse the heart rate, and think about the long game.  It's so easy on race day to get caught up in the excitement and blow one's wad - in a 6+ hour race that would be catastrophic.

Walk the steep stuff.  Keep the heart rate low. 

The Race - Nutrition

Last time I relied on the race nutrition, which was a disaster.  I didn't consume enough, couldn't really measure it, rookie mistake.

This time I'm taking my own Cliff Blocks - 200kcal/package, one per hour, plus some water or whatever sport drink they have.  Should do the trick.

Did I Mention Temperature?

Still parnoid.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Velonews Fast Talk Episode 21: How to ride better in the hot hot heat

My notes:
Me After a Really Hot Ride Feeling Awful

Fact: On hot days you'll be slower.  

Dissipating Heat Takes Energy

Your body first tries to cool itself - it moves blood to the skin, sweats, and all of that takes energy.  This is "cardiovascular strain" - shows up as cardiac drift (higher heart rate in heat).

Core Temperature

There's a point where you can't keep up and your core temperature starts increasing.  Once it gets high enough, your body will intentionally slow you down to produce less heat so as not to risk overheating.

So that shitty fatigue you feel is mostly your body trying to protect you.  Thank it.

What can you do?

  • There are ways to trick your body/mind into thinking you're cooler than you are.  This is probably a bad idea... it's doing everything it can to keep you safe, don't trick it into not doing that.  Unless you hate your organs functioning.

  • Evaporation of water dissipates more heat than drinking it!  Dumping water on your head can work - if it's dry.  If it's humid (ie. around my place, gahhh) then it's useless (or worse)  It won't evaporate well, it'll just drip off and not cool you much at all.

  • Some cyclists use women's nylons full of ice, stuff it down their jersey, and let it melt and keep them cool.  Ice vests, too!  Wild.  Some people use pre-cooling too - drink a slushie, swallow ice cubes.
  • Dehydration is actually not as big of a deal as people think... it's more important to lower your core (cold drinks or ice slushies!) rather than just consume luke-warm water.
  • Clothing ... light colours are maybe not even better - hard to say. 
    Base layers when it's hot - this is something people do.  For moderate heat this might be ok - we can spread out the sweat better.  But if we're going to be soaking, it's not helping.

What can I do?

I'm going to make more of an effort to have cold / frozen beverages in the heat, but it's tough.

I have a 50km trail run coming up this week - and the high is about +19C - not crazy hot, but uncomfortable for running.  I'm thinking of taking an ice bottle with me (it's 2 loops, so maybe I'll put it somewhere and pick it up on the 2nd lap??  If that's allowed - I'll check first).

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Velonews Fast Talk Episode 15: Nutrition!

I loved this one.  Blew apart so many nutrition myths.

Link to the Podcast (or find it on Google Play Music)

My summary from the notes I made (and it's worth listening to the whole thing for the full explanations behind these things).

It's (almost) all about the Sugar

There's really only two kinds of sugar in the end - glucose, and fructose.  No matter what you eat, that's all it ends up as in your bloodstream for use. 

Maltodextrin, etc, is just a bunch of glucose bonded together that is ultimately broken down into glucose and absorbed into your bloodstream.  It's not different. 

Maple syrup is sugar.  Honey is sugar.  Natural, organic, none of it ultimately matters (much) when we talk about energy - it's sugar.  Some of it tastes sweeter, some of it is digested quicker/slower, but those are subtle things and less important than the glucose/fructose ratio...

Before The Ride

Avoid eating an hour before an event!

Eating causes an insulin response that tells our body's cells "start taking glucose out of the bloodstream, there's too much". 

When you start exercising, your muscles now want to gobble up glucose that isn't there - and your blood sugar levels will drop before your body can adjust.

On The Bike

Keep it simple.  

You need sugar in a good glucose/fructose ratio (3:1), and some electrolytes (not tons).

Your body can use up to:
60-90g of glucose per hour
20-30g of fructose per hour

Nutrition guy on the podcast eats Swedish Fish (from Canada though - so better glucose/fructose balance than American versions which have too much fructose).  Another guy uses Twizzlers.  Not in a race... but for longer training rides, you just don't need much more than a bunch of sugar.

Anything beyond that will put a strain on your gut, especially as you go longer/harder.

Right After the Ride:

Sugar it up, baby!  Immediately after a ride (~15 minutes) you want simple sugar to replenish your glycogen.  Wolf it down.

Protein - about 15-20 minutes later, along with a bit more sugar.  Now you need electrolytes - more important now than before or during!  Helps your body re-hydrate.  Chocolate milk, for example.

Rest Of Your Day

You DON'T need much sugar - spiking of insulin causes health issues irrespective of your exercise load.  Diabetes, obesity, etc etc etc - lots of bad things.

Eat regular people healthy food.

What About Electolytes?

You don't need nearly as much as you think. You lose more fluid than sodium in your sweat, your blood actually gets saltier - but you actually want to replenish more water than sodium.  And you lose more sodium than potassium.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Velonews "Fast Talk" Podcasts

I've turned to these as a pretty nice resource - lots of interesting topics, and they generally bring in some real experts/pro coaches, etc.  Not to mention a decent dose of science (most of the time).

Check them out:

Episode 26 - Cramping Myths Debunked

This one was amazing.  Imagine, real science about cramping, not just urban legends!

It's not electrolytes, so stop wasting money on salt pills.  It's not hydration.  It's nothing you can fix by purchasing a product.

No, it's something much harder to fix - it's your conditioning.  If you don't train enough or you push too hard training the week of a race, you're at risk for cramping.

Don't show up for a 3+ hour event where you plan to race hard having not done the miles/intensity in training.

I've had serious cramping problems but it's always early season at Paris to Ancaster.  Long race at a time I haven't done much that long or that hard... in years I have, no cramping!

Episode 10 - Hit Race Weight The Right Way

Garbage science - and they knew it, but they posted it anyway.  They warned up front that the science was garbage (not in so many words).  Dr. Philip Goglia is not a guy I'd line up to hear again - he can stick to telling the stars nonsense fad diet advice.

The one thing I did get out of this one - it's better to leave weight loss to the off-season and base building periods, not during the race/training season.  Trying to lose weight when you're in race season is counter-productive, you'll just feel like hell (and have the results to match).

I think I already knew that, because no matter how many calories I burn I manage to not lose weight during the summer... food tastes good, exercise prompts appetite.  And when I have created large caloric deficits, it's lead to lethargy and crappy workouts.

As for the milk-bashing and stuff, give me a break.  The nonsense about  heat ... heat is a by-product of caloric expenditure, it's not the cause.  A calorie is not a measure of heat, it's a measure of energy.

But I digress.

Episode 2 & 3 - High vs Low Intensity

This one was excellent.  I learned two key things (but the entire podcast is worth a listen):

  1. The body can't handle more than 2 high intensity workouts per week - you burn out.  And this is true for both amateurs (me!) and pros alike - the stress it puts on your system isn't something you can train to take more of.  
  2. High intensity work isn't a substitute for piling on base miles... but if you're not a pro with 5 hours a day to spend on the bike, it's probably fine (but taking into account point #1
They talked a bit about reverse periodization  - conclusion: nobody is really doing reverse periodization (ie. intensity early and base miles later).  What they are doing is introducing intensity throughout their training, rather than only doing base miles at the start.  For pros this is partly about being ready for their early races.

What should a week look like for a time-crunched cyclist?

  • 2 intense workouts per week. Short intervals with little rest (ie. 20s all out, 10s rest, repeat for 4-5mins) have best results.  
  • 1 long ride, 4-5h at "talking pace".  In the season this can be made more intense, but not crazy.
  • Alternative to long ride - 95% of threhold for 20 minute intervals - not nearly as good, and not a real substitute for the long ride (but could work in the winter to some degree)

Happy 'casting.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Vulture Bait 50k Training Update #2

Just an update to my earlier post on my 50km trail run training.

This is a bit of navel-gazing so feel free to skip!!!

The Heat

The temperatures have finally subsided here in the Toronto area - from around +30C (in late September - whyyyyy???) to something more seasonal - +10-15C.

I got in my last long run yesterday in a bit of sprinkling rain and cool weather.

It was fantastic.

It's amazing how much of a difference cool weather can make - I finished over 26km in about 3 hours, and felt like I could have gone a lot longer (finally!).  Not dying at the end of my long training runs is a big plus, my confidence is finally there!

Just in time.

The Terrain

The other thing I did was to try better match the race day terrain.  This is a bit difficult as everything with a trail around here is also very hilly - not much I could do about that.  But I did throw in a bit of road (just like the race) and some gravel, and cut back on the winding single-track.

It was still quite a bit more difficult than Vulture Bait... 521m of elevation gain yesterday over 26km vs 218m of elevation gain I recorded when I did the 25km Vulture Bait.  But at least a bit easier/closer.

The Pace

I'm much more confident now that I can be in the 7:00/km range, maybe quicker.

I ran the 25km Vulture Bait in just over 6:00/km pace back in 2009... I was lighter, so add 20 seconds per km for weight, another 30 or so for pacing for 50km instead of 25km.  I'm also in much better run shape than I was back then (I had just done my first marathon and Ironman, but was a noob).

Ran 6:47/km in my last training run, which I wasn't pushing much and it was harder than the race (as noted above).

So everything is finally lining up for a good day!  Just hope the weather cooperates.