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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Still Sick. Exercised. Questionable Idea.

Still have a lingering chest cold, lots of phlegm and stuff (use your imagination).

Energy level comes and goes.

Curious thing, though, when I hit the bike or run, I feel good.  Not great, but I have energy and feel almost normal.

Even after I feel good for awhile... energy is back, breathing feels good!

... then late evening comes, and the stupid cough comes back, can't sleep well, wake up feeling groggy and lethargic.  My muscles and joints get all achy, and the morning is awful.

Then afternoon rolls around and life feels OK again.

This has gone on for about a week, so almost time to go to the doctor I guess.  Stupid.

Friday, May 20, 2016

What Happens When You Get Sick

I'm sick.  Just in time for the long weekend, too.  Hope this is a quick one.

Somehow, reading this article about what happens when you're sick inside your body made me feel better.  Not physically, but mentally maybe?

I had a sore throat - now I know why.  The body encountered the infection and sent blood and antibodies to fight it... which caused pain.  So it wasn't actually the invader that hurt my throat - it was my own body.


That went away after one day, and now it's more of a chest cold, muscle aches, headache, and lethargy.  Interesting thing about the muscle aches...

This happens because of chemicals released to fight the invader tend to cause inflammation in muscles and joints, and often muscle enzyme levels are elevated in the blood as a result of this. Ow. When antibodies bind to the virus or bacteria they deactivate it and make it more easily digestible to white cells. However, this process causes inflammation and tissue irritation

Whelp that sounds about right.

Should I Exercise?

I've always pushed through regardless, but it never felt helpful.  It probably isn't - when you think about all your body is doing to fight off the invader, inflame itself, create antibodies and white blood cells... it's under a lot of stress as it is.  The last thing it needs is me going balls-out on a run or bike.

That being said, I'm not one to sit still.  It's too nice out.  Maybe I'll go for a walk or do some light gardening or something.  Restraint (which I lack) is key I think.

What About Alcohol?

This one I'm less sure of.  Presumably dehydration would be a negative, but the odd nip makes me feel better.  Not my throat, though, but the rest of me... I don't think it lengthens the illness, so I won't abstain.

What Else Can You Do?

Nothing.  Lots of people are willing to sell you shit anyway, but how do I put this nicely... they're bullshit.

People take stuff, get better, then feel like they worked.  No scientific basis for this, though - illnesses get better on their own most of the time (90%+), that's what they do.  Your body is good at this stuff, and other than antibiotics for a bacterial infection there's nothing you can do but rest and feed.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Race Report: Storm the Trent Trek 2016

Whew tough day!  Rain, rain, rain... mud, mud, mud.... wind........

I'm pretty sure this is us!  So far behind... horrible start!  Although you can't
see all the people behind us... we're probably mid-pack by this point, 30s or so
after the start... 

Inexplicably they started with the canoe... which meant something like a hundred boats bashing into each other.  To make matters worse - we were supposed to start at this dock, which I confirmed with one of the race people... but then other people went past the dock.  We were assured they would be told to move back, but then the race organizer showed up and... didn't do that.  So we were stuck behind loads of Canadian Tire specials and such... it was a nightmare.

They also shortened the canoe from 9km to much less... my GPS puts it at about 4km.

So after working damn hard to get some clear water, when we all got to the 3 floating checkpoints it was yet another smash-up derby as everyone clamoured and clashed trying to get to the checkpoint.  We were rammed 3 separate times trying to get it!  Line it up perfect... ram.  Line it up again... ram.

So yeah, not a great start, and I really have to implore the organizer not to do something that dumb again.  Spread folks out before you throw them in boats.

Even more frustrating was our performance, which was pretty lackluster... we just didn't get it done today, this is our strong leg, and without much spring practice (we've only been in the boat once this season) we just sucked.


We held our own on all the bike sections.  Lots of mud, some technical rocky sections, it really was a hoot.  Didn't care allll that much for the long road sections, especially near the end with the headwind!  But some that I thought were roads from the map ended up being fun ATV trails, so I'll call it a win.

Running and Navigating

This was one cool thing they did differently this year.  We got a map of one of the later running areas, but the checkpoints weren't on the map.  You had to look at map boards during the previous running section to get the locations and fill in your own map!

Figuring out where they were wasn't that hard, putting them on the map wasn't that hard, but figuring out how you'd navigate to them in the middle of the race?  That was tricky!  Usually you get the map beforehand so you can do a bit of planning, but not this time..., had to think on your feet.

We managed to get to the first 2 checkpoints easily enough, but then we had a minor calamity... trying to cut across to the furthest one, we got lost in these caves.  Not literally in the caves, but amongst the caves... there were families there going from cave to cave, asking us "do you know where cave 5 is?" and we're like "no, do you know where the road is!?".  It was awful... cost us about 4-5 minutes I figure based on GPS after the fact.  Not entirely sure where I got it wrong - there's a trail on the map, but we ended up on numerous trails that I guess weren't THAT trail... oh well.

We decided to run on the road from the last bridge checkpoint back - since the trails were pretty gnarly, figured this would save time (even if slightly longer).  I think that was the right call.


... I don't know.  We saw a lot of people ahead of us, so presumably we didn't podium or anything.  Definitely a more challenging crowd than the "Hike" we did last year (shorter distance).  But I think we held our own, finished in 4:45 which was decent.

Edit: 7th out of 30 male teams of 2.  Not bad!  It'll be interesting to see the splits when posted... 


BBQ ... outdoors, freezing, in the rain... ate quickly and left, just wasn't fun to hang around.  Could have used an indoor contingency plan.  I'm a little grumpy about the organization today in case you hadn't noticed!  It wasn't what I've come to expect with these guys - their races are usually spot on.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Homemade Energy Gel - Second Try

My first try at Homemade Energy Gel went reasonably well, but in the end it was just too sweet/gross and cost too much.

1/2 cup Brown Rice Syrup (purchased at Bulk Barn in Canada) (300 calories, 81mg sodium)
1/2 cup sugar (400 calories)
1 scoop orange gatorade (90 calories, 160mg sodium, 45mg potassium)
1 tsp blackstrap molassas (also from Bulk Barn) (10 calories, 300mg potassium +/-)
1/4 tsp table salt (575mg sodium)
squirt of lemon

Put it on the stove with enough heat to get things to dissolve and mix up and bam.  Energy Gel.

Yields a cup and change of liquid, or about 9 ounces, 800kcal.

About 600mg of potassium, 800mg sodium.

Brown Rice Syrup is composed of the complex carbs maltose and maltotriose - both of which have surprisingly high Glycemic Indexes (higher than sugar!).  They break down into glucose without going through the liver - and whoooosh into the bloodstream.  (Note that there is contradictory GI information on the internet - some say it's only a GI of 25, but these seem to be wrong).

Sugar is made of sucrose, which contains one glucose and one fructose molecule.

Gatorade Powder is mostly sugar.

Sugar Profile

We end up with most of our calories coming from glucose, with not very much fructose... this is probably a mistake, we usually want pretty close to a 50/50 balance.  But it's not that far different from commercial gels... they typically under-represent fructose.  We could swap out regular sugar for Fructose (available in most grocery stores, inexpensive) if we want.


Commercial gels come in around 50mg each of the two, or less (generally).  This is about 60mg of K, 80mg of Na.  So should be good for a hot day!


For a batch (makes around 10 gels worth) we're talking about $3 or so.  Most expensive is the brown rice syrup at $7 for 450mL, everything else is pennies.


Great!  Less sweet than normal crap.  Runny gel that went easily into a bottle and delivers a lot of energy in a hurry.

Race Preview: Storm the Trent 2016

We did this race last year and it was awesome... so this year we're back for the longer version (the "Trek" distance).

42km of mountain biking
9km of "hiking"/running
9km of paddling

They don't tell us in advance how it's all split up... last year for the shorter "hike" and "trek" distances, it was run/bike/run/bike/paddle.  The short distances to the first run checkpoints lead to long line-ups early on, especially for the first one.  So I'm hoping we either bike or paddle first!

Looks like the last time this was in Warsaw, they did bike/run/bike/paddle/run/paddle... but no guarantees at all, need to be ready for anything.

It looks like a cold and rainy day, which could prove horrible... or amazing.

I expect we won't be quite as competitive in the longer race, as the competition tends to get stiffer as distances get longer.  But looking to have fun, pace it right, finish ahead of who we can and finish behind who we can't (and try not to get lost).

Monday, May 9, 2016

Follow-up: On The Futility of Maintaining Weight Loss, and the Biggest Loser

I wanted to follow-up my last post with some of my findings since.

Futile, or not?

First off, I found a separate study, and one with a much much larger sample size.

Link to the Study

What this study shows is that when people followed an intense and fully monitored program (which they call ILI), many were able to lose weight - significant amounts - and retain that weight loss for four years.

In fact 46% of participants were down at least 5% of their body weight after 4 years.  That's a pretty remarkable number when you think of all those who try and fail...

They contrasted this to more of an "informational" program, where the numbers weren't as encouraging... so it seems that being part of a group losing the weight together with proper support (instruction and holding you to account!) is a big factor in whether you will be successful or not.

Who were the successful ones?
Participants who maintained the loss, compared with those who did not, attended more treatment sessions and reported more favorable physical activity and food intake at year 4

So basically those who remained engaged in the group, who exercised and watched their food.

The Caveat

So how do we square this with the Biggest Loser results?

Well first we have to recognize that 54% even in this study failed to keep 5% of their body weight off, so that's still most people.  And then we have to recognize that nothing is one-size-fits-all -  it could well be that there are strong genetic factors that determine your body's response to weight loss, and in the ultra-obese group of Biggest Loser contestants you'll be most likely to find them.

For the rest of us?  Well I'll take a 46% chance at keeping it off, since I've managed to do it so far!

Monday, May 2, 2016

On The Futility of Maintaining Weight Loss, and the Biggest Loser

I was 235lbs.  I got down to under 200lbs in 2002... and have kept it under ever since.  In fact I've rarely strayed much above 190lbs, and mostly keep my weight in the 180's - healthy for my height (6'0").
me in fatter times... not even my worst
I would add!

So when I read about how hard it is to lose weight and keep it off?  My reaction is simple: YUP.

Even after 14 years of having lost weight, if I don't pay attention, it comes back on - fast.  My body isn't content to be this weight - it wants to be bigger, fatter.

This NY Times article about the Biggest Loser is one of the best I've ever read.

My main take-aways:

  1. Your body's metabolism works against you
  2. The medical profession and science isn't sure how to help you
To me, this is the scariest part of the whole article:
“We eat about 900,000 to a million 
calories a year, and burn them all
except those annoying 3,000 to 5,000 
calories that result in an average annual 
weight gain of about one to two pounds,” 
he said. “These very small differences 
between intake and output average out 
to only about 10 to 20 calories per day ... ”

You'd think when we need 900,000 calories, consuming 900,000 instead of 903,000 would be a trivial exercise... but you'd be wrong.  Your body just seems to adjust, and burns the difference, or lowers your metabolic rate to deal with those small fluctuations.

I'm proof it can be done, but holy hell I work hard at it.  I run marathons, ride thousands of kilometers per year, canoe, anything that I can to keep me interested and burning calories.  

It doesn't surprise me in the least that only about 5% of people who try lose weight keep it off... it's a life-long struggle.  For me, a struggle worth struggling.

Toronto Marathon: Post Race Navel Gazing

Doing the Splits

Misery loves company.

Looking at my splits, it's pretty clear that there are a lot of people whose pace drops off during a marathon.  Sure we all talk a good game about negative splits, but really, most people have a hell of a drop-off after the halfway point.


Split 1 is seriously net downhill, but 5:03/km is pretty darn fast.  Placing 448th.

Split 2 was flat with a tailwind... things got bad, felt like hell, 5:25/km.  A very precipitous drop in pace, and yet my placing actually improved to 443rd!  Picked up a whopping 7 spots in my category!

Split 3 was flat with an awful headwind, I went right off and struggled to keep it under 6:00/km pace... and yet I barely lost a place, going 449th (ie. right in line with where I was at split 1).  Held by category placing, and actually improved my gender placing!

This tells me:
- Most people at marathons are as unprepared/dumb as me
- Men are likely even worse for it than women

Insanity, Specificity, Weight

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

My 2010 post-marathon blog post:
It seems to come down to this: up to the half marathon, I can get away with 2-3 runs a week (one long, one tempo, one other) and enough of the cycling fitness carries over to still be able to improve and do well. But for the full marathon, there is a wall you can't get over without the big running mileage
Then I tried the Furman First plan in 2013, which calls for 3 runs per week, and had the same miserable end to the marathon.

And now, in 2016, what did I do?  Ran the long runs, did a tempo or two each week, and biked a lot... and expected that to carry me to a PB!

Surprise - it didn't.  Specificity matters.  If I want to run fast over 42.2km I need to do run-specific training leading up to it.

And then there is weight...

2013 post-marathon Jono, what do you think?

But ultimately I think the bigger factor is still weight... I don't think I can pull off a 3:35 without dropping some pounds

Wow, you're smart, you'll definitely do better in 2016!

Except I didn't lose the weight, and didn't improve.

I know all of these things but for some reason I expect something magical to happen on race day and carry me through... I forget just how bad it feels when the legs stop moving nicely and freely and start lurching and protesting.  Those last 10km are never going to be easy, but I think with additional running mileage (read: less biking!) and less weight to carry around I could overcome them and PB.

... if I'm willing to lay off the biking, I should try it sometime.  Right now, I'm not.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Race Report: Toronto Marathon 2016

Well, that's done.

Hard to know where to start, but let me first talk about the race organization...

Race Organization

Abysmal.  I've always loved this race, but when you run out of water/Gatorade in the last 10km of a marathon and it's not even hot out?  That's beyond pathetic.  Some aid stations at the end had one or two people manning them - it was a gong show.  You had to stop and maybe get water/Gatorade (or maybe not?)... amateur hour stuff from a race organizer who has been doing this entirely too long to make those mistakes, repeatedly, and not get called out for it.

The race ends at Ontario Place, which is near... nothing.  We managed to find where the buses were after a fair hike (exactly what you want to be doing after a marathon).  Oh and bag check was a treat - they laid the bags out in the rain to get soaked.  Hey you know those dry clothes you packed?  We didn't want to pay for an extra tent, so....

Race markers were wrong.  I know, you'll try write it off as me putting too much trust in GPS, but they weren't even close.  I'd be right on pace and next marker 40 seconds off, then the one after it back on pace?  C'mon.  Amateur hour.

I can't see myself doing this race again, too many other options to put up with that kind of nonsense.  Even the course isn't as appealing as it once was, that out and back along the lakefront goes on forever.

At least their medals are big.

My Race

It started out really well, held my target pace (as best as I could tell with the randomly spaced kilometer markers anyway).  Took it really easy up Hoggs Hollow, the big hill near the start, kept it out of the red.

My overly complicated pace band!
As you can see from my pace band (if you really want to click on that monstrosity) I had factored in everything... the speed on the downhill, the tailwind, and then the fade into the headwind.  It was a brilliant plan, really.

But you know what they say about plans.

Everything felt wonderful through to about kilometer 26 or 27... that's when it started to feel like work.  I backed off a little and had a heart-to heart with myself, eventually deciding that pushing to keep to my plan would just blow me right up.  So I tried from then on to just stay within myself and find whatever pace I could that wouldn't put me too far in the red.

In the end I was 5:32/km with the tailwind, vs my planned 5:05/km (whooey that's a miss!), then 5:58 into the headwind vs my planned 5:30/km... so pretty much 28 seconds per kilometer off for the last 14km.

Rolled in at 3:44:58 or so (sub-3:45 barely), so that's something.  Missed my PB by a lot, but some days, it's just not there.

Post-Race Navel Gazing

I did all the long runs, did some speed stuff, but really just didn't run enough to improve the marathon result.  My weight was bad, too, nearly 190lbs this morning when I should be under 180lbs to even think of PB'ing a marathon... so as usual I will hereby vow to lose weight (and then will order pizza instead).

The End.