An interesting learning process thus far, and after 6 months I'm happy with the results. In summary, the main benefits for have been:
I'm off to Europe for two weeks to get away from the cold, and I suspect that it's going to be difficult to avoid the carbs. I'll do my best to avoid going completely off the rails :) and will have to hit the 21 day keto reset button when I return.
On a side note, I've taken a break from bike training this winter because of the insanely cold weather that basically requires way too much motivation to continue day in day out. I'm still doing at least 1 indoor trainer session per week, and a weekend fun ride with either friends or my dogs. This coupled with running, strength training, and BJJ is keeping me sufficiently fit and healthy. All of this means that the Shimano GP series is pretty much off the cards in terms of trying to complete at least 4 races. Maybe next year!
Those that live in colder climates will appreciate how difficult it can be to find the motivation required to ride in the winter. I've also found that high volume indoor bike trainer work is also very taxing on the body as well as the mind. I totally overdid things a few weeks back in my usual obsessive nature :) Way too much Trainer Roads. Wow those high volume programs are tough! So to keep things fun over the next few months I've decided to mix things up a bit with the following changes:
1. More jogging, and less bike riding
2. Steel mace training
3. Brazilian jiu-jitsu
Early AM jogs: there is something about distinctly primal about the overall movement that I find very stimulating for the mind which makes me prefer this activity over the indoor trainer. The 6-7kmp/h pace also keeps things aerobic which is my focus for morning activity on an empty stomach. Plenty of studies suggest that aerobic activity in the morning is preferable to optimising the fat burning process. I feel great after these. It's also a good time to catch up on podcasts and audiobooks.
Steel mace training: I just ordered a 6kg steel mace from ebay and will be giving this program a go https://www.bikejames.com/strength/mace-training-for-mountain-biking-using-hindu-warrior-training-for-the-trail/. I love James' approach to strength training, and in this instance he's making use of some cool training info from the Onnit website. Steel mace training is very good for balance, control, and the upper back. Something that I'm sure will help with the BJJ which is pretty hard on the upper back and shoulders.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu: I've just taken this on and am finding the whole experience fascinating. I'm totally out of my comfort zone rolling around and find that it's a massive learning experience. I've also found that it's very good for the mind because BJJ is highly technical so there is a strong element of problem solving involved. I'm also watching the UFC from a different angle which makes the experience more interesting :)
In summary, I'll be down to 3 rides per week (x2 indoor, x1 weekend ride/race), x3 runs, x3 gym, x3 BJJ, and one full recovery day on Monday's.
6 weeks of heavy deadlifting probably hasn't helped with the longer rides and higher levels of intensity, so I'll be trying out a few things over the next few weeks. Firstly, I'm going to ease off the heavy barbell deadlifts and stick to TRX or kettle bells instead. The deadlifts have helped me build some extra power but they are far too taxing during a build phase (for me at least). Basically my hamstrings are not recovering enough to withstand 2hr plus rides, and this ends up causing a whole bunch of pain in the lower back once the my hammies have had enough. I'm also going to stop the hamstring static stretching for a while and instead substitute this with a daily active strengthening routine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki8ZaeXmkaM). All part of the experimentation process. The active stretching feels fantastic so give it a go.
Unfortunately it comes with the sport, and it can be a major showstopper if it is not carefully managed. My management strategy involves lots of core strength training which is critical if you spend any reasonable amount of time on the bike. More recently I have introduced yoga and ice baths, both of which are having the desired effect. In summary:
I've started my build phase this week so managing recovery and injuries is going to be absolutely crucial, particularly after coming back from a broken knee. Traditionally I've also had a tendency to overtrain but I'm pretty confident that this is now a thing of the past :)
Shoot me a message if you want any further details. I'm happy to share my strength training plans etc.
Since commencing this blog my plan has been to update it regularly, at least once a week to help document the progress. It's been a couple of weeks since my last update, and I think this mostly comes down to motivation and general lack of energy. So what's changed? Basically not sticking to the regular sleep, diet, and training plan. I was actually interested to see what the effects would be in the short term as a bit of an experiment, and to validate all of the things I have been doing now for the past few months. In addition to the general lack of motivation (especially in there afternoons), my recovery has been slow and my appetite has increased. This has resulted in some added weight due to the extra calories and reduced level of exercise. So to get things back on track, I've tuned a few things this week including:
For a bit of Canberra Day long weekend fun I signed up and completed a MTB race called The Willow yesterday morning. The race is named after James Williamson, an Australian MTB rider that sadly passed away a few years ago. It's a popular event, well organised, and held at the Wingello State Forrest in NSW. There were 25km, 50km, and 75km options. Given my more marathon oriented type of riding this season, I signed up for the 75km option. I had never ridden the Wingello trails, but had been told to expect lots of fire roads and less signal track riding. However, to my surprise, it was probably more 60% single track vs 40% fire road, with a combination of pine and native forest terrain which helped protect riders from the bright sun for most of the course. The 75km race consisted of x3 laps of the 25km course. Riders competing in the 75km event headed out first at 9:15AM. The start of the race was typically mad, with most folk probably burning too much energy, eager to get into a good position to avoid the single track bottlenecks that occur on the first lap. Some bigs gun turned out so from my perspective I wasn't going to bother pushing to the front. I know my spot in the field :) So how did it go? Not particularly well after the half way point due to the physical fatigue that started to kick in quiet rapidly. First the hip flexors, followed by the lower back, quads, and calves. By the third lap I was cramping enough that I had to stop several times to stretch the pain out of the body. It helped a little. There was also the mental focus required to actually finish the race, fighting the other little voice in my head that was telling me to throw in the towel. Hard bloody work! While painful, it was challenging and rewarding, and I am very glad that I turned up and gave it my best. I've spent the day relaxing but with a bit of active recovery, giving me time to reflect on the race. I've noted the following:
So overall it was a super painful day, but I still had a great time amongst a friendly bunch of fellow MTB riders (no dickhead behaviour on the day which was nice). The event was well organised, and I will definitely be back in 2019 to improve on my 56th (out of 79) position :)
The next training phase requires completing 6 weeks of Base training to build on my endurance fitness. This means a progressive increase in training hours, which includes running, riding, and strength training. The bike work will be mostly on the road bike at aerobic pace but will also include at least 1 session per week on the MTB with some aneorobic efforts and skills work. Once completed, my plan is to complete 12 weeks of build work, gradually increasing the intensity in the lead up to round 2 of the Shimano series which is scheduled for mind-June. This means more MTB work and less road bike. My training plan also includes 5 lower priority races to help tune the engine, but more importantly to keep things fun! Training and not racing is obviously very boring so I've scheduled a few races between now and June to keep things interesting. The AMB100 in April is going to be the toughest of these. I have the choice of either 100KM or 100 mile categories. 100 miles around Stromlo Park is a painful but challenging thought. It will come down to mental strength to complete this one which is what I find appealing. Definitely going to be a solid test! So that's the training plan. Let's talk about the diet.
My weight increased by 1.5KG to 72kg-ish over the last couple of weeks due to a decrease in training load. This will come back down naturally with the added training load over the next few weeks, and my plan is to be 70kg by June. Key things to note on diet progress to date:
Until the next post!
No 'training' this week, and no plans to train this coming week either as part of my post-race recovery and in the lead up to my next training block. This past week has been devoted to commute rides on the roadie into work, swimming, a fun MTB ride with mates earlier today, and foam roller work to help with the sore muscles. Overall, just chillaxing :) Sleep has been pretty good (8hrs average), HRV, and blood indicators are all healthy. I also stood on the scales and recorded 70.9kg. The cool thing is that I've been eating a lot this past week so it's great to see that the additional calories haven't hurt me. My target is 69-70kg, a weight that I expect to reach through increased training volume as opposed to caloric restriction. I've found that the low carb diet has allowed me to control weight without having to starve myself, and in fact quiet the opposite. If I feel hungry, it's only in the evenings, in which case I have seconds and maybe some nuts or berries for desert until I'm full. So after a few months of experimentation, I think I've found a solid formula that works for me and I don't expect that I'll be making any major adjustments, just minor tweaks. Speaking of tweaks, after reading 10% Human (see my book list) I have introduced probiotics into my daily diet. I'm trialling two products currently, one in capsule form and the other as a liquid. The capsule (Prescript-Assist) I take during lunch, the liquid (Bio-Fermented Tumeric+) I take with dinner. Both products are sourced from Optimoz Australia. The desired effect is a healthy gut, which according to various studies is fundamental to a healthy immune system and critical to overall wellbeing. The book I referenced was quite the eye opener and I highly recommend it. I often say this to people I speak with "don' take my word for it", which should encourage you to do your own research before making changes. I've also introduced homemade Kombucha for an added boost, so it will be interesting to see how this combination plays out over the coming months. The expected result is an ongoing and general sense of wellbeing, basically continuing to feel like I do now, happy, fit, and strong in the lead up to heavier training loads. On that note, if there are any local folk that are interested in some Kombucha please let me know. You will just need to give me a large jar so that I can provide you with the active ingredient (the bacteria) which you can continue to 'feed' and grow at home. Until the next post!
Finish the 7hr race - check, avoid bonking out - check, feel comfortable and free of major pain throughout the course of the race - check. 5th place for my age group (30-39) with 10 laps is an encouraging result for my first race back from injury. Best of all, I had a ton of fun and finished the race with a big smile on my face. Let's start with the weather conditions. I was expecting intense heat but instead we got heat and sporadic rain throughout most of the day. The rain helped cool the body but made for some very slippery tracks, particularly during the first third of the course which consisted of mostly coastal rainforest surroundings (real pretty by the way). This means lots of fertile earthy terrain and plenty of tree roots. It's nice and tacky when semi-dry, but horrible under the rain. I had to really focus to stay on two wheels, and when I didn't (on two occasions) I came off. Fortunately these were only minor incidents. Bike wise, the new rig performed really well under these conditions and I did not experience any mechanical faults *phew*! I should note that I was super happy with the tyres (2018 Specilaized Fast Trak) despite running 30psi, excellent all round except over the exposed tree roots. The rest of set up (suspension, cockpit etc) was spot on. Specialized have done an amazing job with the new design. She's off to the shop tomorrow for a full strip down and rebuild. Call it preventative maintenance :)
So what about the lessons learnt? Firstly, the keto diet is working! I rode the race on a 16hr fast, relying on pure water, salt tablets, cacao fat chocolate, hard boiled eggs, and nuts for most of the race. Towards the second half of the race I threw in some bananas which gave me a surprising boost of energy to help finish things strong. More importantly, there was no sugar crash (a first for me) and minimal lower back inflammation. I've suffered from lower back pain ever since I started mountain bike riding and this is the first time I've been able to get through a race without only a small amount of pain. This is extremely encouraging and by far the biggest positive for me. Secondly, the bananas were a new addition that I had not experimented with during training but something that I will now keep up my sleeve for race day. I think the potassium, magnesium, and carbs helped avoid the hard hitting end of race fatigue. In fact, my pace increased towards the end because I felt a surge of strength kick in. The cacao chocolate didn't do much so I'll cease using it in future. Overall, I firmly believe I'm onto something that I can now use as a basis for further improvement. I ended up clocking in my 10th lap with less than 10 mins of race time remaining. Normally I would have headed out for an 11th but by this stage I was very happy that I had achieved my objectives. It was a weird feeling to call it a day with that much time left feeling completely satisfied with my effort. So what does this mean? It means that I'm now extremely motivated to continue learning, and building on the foundation that I have laid for further improvement. I can now start working on pace. My new goal is a podium finish in June :)
Until the next post.......
My focus for this week is on the final preparation for race day. According to the latest race report by the organisers (Rocky Trail), I should expect cooler weather with possible showers, favourable conditions for a long race to minimise the risk of dehydration and heat stroke. So how am I feeling? Pumped! I'm pleased with the progress made to date fitness wise, my knee is feeling strong again, and mentally I'm going into the race with a clear plan, and lots of motivation to give it my best. More importantly, I'm looking forward to having lots of fun on what is a fantastic course. I'll also be riding my new rig, a Specialized Epic S-Works 2018, and oh man what a bike this is! I've been riding S-Works for a few years now and I can honestly say this edition is the best yet. This is primarily due to a complete redesign of the frame and Brain suspension system. The overall riding quality has improved, and as far as I can tell, with no compromise to the overall efficiency of the bike when climbing. I took the new bike in for an initial service last weekend so had to ride my old bike (as seen in the picture) and oh man did it feel harsh, so the added comfort of the new design is definitely going to help with the final half of the race e.g. fatigue reduction. Training wise, I would have preferred to have squeezed in at least another 2 or 3 long rides as part of my prep. Family commitments and the summer heatwaves meant I had to alter my plans, so hopefully this ultimately won't have too much of a negative impact on race day. The plan for this week (tapering) is to keep the legs turning (low intensity riding) and to continue with my regular strength training routine (albeit with lighter weights), emphasising the mobility and stretching elements to maximise recovery. Diet wise, probably eating a little more than I should but overall the keto effects have been very effective, and something that I will stick with as it suits my lifestyle. I'm keeping a steady 71.5kg, looking lean, and feeling energised throughout the day. Again, my place for race day is to stick with the hard boiled eggs, handful of almonds, and electrolyte (sugar free) salt tablets and pure water. In summary, there isn't anything I can complain about, so no excuses :) Wrapping up this entry, my goals for the race are:
1. Finish the 7hrs race pain free.
2. No sugar to fuel the ride.
3. Maintain a consistent lap time throughout the course of the race.
In terms of strategy:
1. Keep a steady pace, and avoid unecessary bursts of energy expenditure e.g. it's a marathon, not a sprint.
2. Minimise risks to avoid crashing, mechanicals, and bonking out.
3. Get a good starting position to avoid bottlenecks. I suspect the tail end of the first third will be suffice.
Final position is somewhat irrelevant at this point due to the number of changes I've made. If things go well i.e. top 15% finish then I will consider focussing more on pace for race #2. Until the next post.
I'm a 36 year old male from Carwoola, New South Wales, a small rural area situated just outside of Canberra, Australia. I'll be using this blog to share my experiences with training, dieting, and other methods to optimise overall well being. The basic idea behind all of this is to have lots of fun with the learning and experimentation process. It's worth noting that what may work well for me may not work as well for others. I also don't think there are right or wrong answers, as things are constantly changing and evolving.