The krazy life of triathlon


Going Paleo

Well it has been the first week at starting to change my diet, and I am slowly making the switch to the Paleo Diet.

The Principles

For those that don’t know, the Paleo Diet is based on the theory that genetically we are optimised to eat the type of diet we had from a million years ago to about 10,000 years ago when we suddenly discovered agriculture and started eating much more processed carbs. So effectively it suggests you shift your diet back to reduced carbs, and removing processed carbs, more protein and more healthy fat. For athletes, the rules have to be slightly bent to allow for all the exercise, so just before, during and immediately after you increase your carbs and use carbs with a higher GI, so things like pasta, energy drinks/bars/gels, even chocolate. The rest of the time, you concentrate on removing all your empty calories, so there is a lot of fresh fruit and veg and salad, so you have lots of nutrients.

My change

Instead of immediately switching, I’m doing a more gradual change. I’m doing it meal by meal, so this week I’ve been concentrating on breakfast. When I’m in training my snacks are usually pretty healthy, but I’ve been weening myself off crisps, yoghurts, and cereal bars, and moving myself to more fruit, and with the increased protein I shouldn’t be having as many cravings anyway. When I’ve been training before breakfast, I have my usual big bowl of cereal, though will need to think of some alternatives. When I’m not training, my breakfast has been some form of meat and fruit:


Now that I finally got round to getting some eggs I’ll have omlettes as well, the increased calories helping when I start to train heavier.

The rest of my diet is pretty good, but there are a lot of processed carbs, such as rice and pasta in it, so I’m working at getting these out. This week I’ll concentrate on my dinner, and try and switch that. But thankfully, if I’m eating right after training I can have my usual spag bol! Lunch is gonna be the hard one, not having my sandwiches, but it should be ok. I’ll still have my lollies and the odd chocolate bar, but as long as it’s swamped by salad and fruit it’s fine!

Any Changes?

In terms of how I feel, you certainly notice the difference when you eat healthily and not lots of junk food. Admittedly I feel less hungry during the day with more protein to fill me up, and no blood sugar level spikes. In terms of performance, it’s difficult to say. I haven’t really been in full training for quite a long time, so can’t really compare it. I do think however, that I am recovering a bit quicker, my legs don’t feel quite as tired the day after as I remember they used to, but it could be improved fitness and less training. In a month or two when I am training fully, it will be interesting to look at my old diary and see if I have an improved recovery and performance. I certainly think the extra protein will help, as I wasn’t eating enough before. Whether the extra fat will help my body use more fat as it is supposed to will be interesting to see. Certainly it has been a change for the better though.

Tested and Overtrained

Well I think I may have been right about me peaking in my last post, because after I think I crashed and burned! But first things first, the fitness testing.

Fitness Testing

It was in two parts, the first part was a standard VO2 Max test on the bike. For those that don’t know, this basically involves sitting on a rather fancy exercise part which is hooked up to a computer, and your wearing a mask which is also hooked up to a computer. You start off at a fairly easy intensity, and the bike adjusts the resistance so that for the cadence you are pedalling at you keep a constant power. The power is then upped every minute until you can’t continue any more. The mask measures how much oxygen you use up when you are at your maximal effort. This will give you your aerobic capacity, which to be honest isn’t really going to give me much as such, but will set a good marker for future tests and should tell me what I am capable of in my current state.

The second test was a 5k run time trial, also with the mask, and hooked up to an EMG, with electrodes on my calf and shin to measure muscle recruitment. I also had motion markers and as video recorded. This sets a precedent for how I run with fresh legs and then can be compared with in the study. This won’t have been helped by pounding it on the treadmill causing my shins to ache like hell, but I still managed a good performance. I now have two studies to do, 20k bike and 5k run bricks. One of these is running the first kilometre at 5% over my average 5k speed, and the second one at my average speed. After the first k, I get to choose my own speed based on feel but won’t actually get to see my speed. The point of the study is to try and find out if there is a ‘better’ way to run of the bike. This is based on the fact that elite triathletes at olympic distance tend to run hard off the bike then hang on for the rest of the run, whereas elite 10k runners tend to run a constant pace. The study tries to see if there is any benefit in either method. So for taking part in the study, I get free fitness testing (which saves me a fair bob) and a couple of hard brick sessions.

Burning Out

Ok, I think it’s time to admit I tried to get into training too soon after my IM, a typical rookie error. I think physically I was fine, well enough to train lightly. Mentally I was exhausted. Couple that with settling into work, some personal issues, a hell of a lot of travelling and missing too much sleep, just drained me. So it had its usual affect and I missed a week of proper training. But to be honest I’m not too bothered, I’ll get my feel back in the pool fairly quickly, some good speed sessions from the study, manage to keep my fitness ticking over. A 14 hour sleep has certainly managed to fix a lot of problems, and a lazy day of doing absolutely nothing is something I really needed. So the plan over the next month or so is light intense training, a few long sessions to keep fitness up and put in a fun performance at Fleetwood Tri. I am also going to enjoy my 21st, and freshers week with my friends and have my life back before I settle down into hard training again.

Settling down involves everything discussed in previous posts, including yoga, weights, structured training and getting back into it. I have finished reading the Paleo Diet and am convinced enough to try it out for a month. To be honest I seem to be going off lots of carbs anyway, and really finding big servings of plain rice unappetising. So I will try it out for a month, but what the hell do I eat for breakfast? Turkey breast and fruit! When do I cook that? So that is going to take some planning but it will be interesting.

Finally, Ironman Switzerland have been kind enough to move the date of it a week forward. Not only does this ruin my plans for a holiday afterwards as it was supposed to coincide with me finishing work, it also reduces the time I have to recover from IM Lanzarote if I do it. 11 Weeks should be OK, but it does mean that I might not be expecting to go as hard as I could at Switzerland. As this is man A1 race of the year, I may hold myself back at Lanzarote but we will see. For starters, I need to see if I can still enter when I can afford it. If I can’t then it simplifies things massively, but is not ideal. Also, next year is not a year when I expect to be at full potential, so may just see how much abuse I can take. We shall see, all I can say is next year should be a good year, just need to sort my knees out (again) and avoid the potholes!

Knees – passive, reactive, proactive

Well it is the weekend, I can’t train, there’s nothing good on tv for a while so what better way to spend it than update my blog!

My knees seem to be a recurring theme, no matter what I do, and have plagued my training ever since I started training in a serious way 5 years ago as a rower! Genetically I’m screwed, it’s an old family problem, but despite this and all the signs I get from my body, I’m going to pummel it into submission until it accepts the fact that it is going to have to put up with this for a while!
Anyway, my knees… well rather unlike me, my recovery from this injury has been rather slow, even compared to my fracture! It has been nearly 2 weeks since IMUK, and it still has major problems. Though to be fair, it was swollen up massively, and in all the knee injuries I’ve had, I’ve never had swelling. It doesn’t bend very well due to the suspected torn tendon in the back of my knee, but this is slowly healing, mainly helped by a decent massage from Ambulant Physios in Preston. The massage therapist really knew her stuff, and forced my leg to bend, really loosening it up and has doubled my comfortable ROM. The other way, straightening it, is not going well. I still cannot fully straighten it, and despite all the swelling going down, it is showing no signs of improvement, and feels like there is something blocking it under the knee cap, which is starting to make me worry now, and I am really hoping it doesn’t need surgery. I’ve got an MRI on Monday to see if they can find out what is actually wrong with my knee, and will know the extent of the damage by then.
So instead of sitting on my arse, waiting for it t heal, I have decided to do something about it. Funnily enough, I have found I am not a 9-5 guy, and do not enjoy sitting behind a desk all day, as much fun as the work is. However, it is what pays for my triathlon adventures, so I don’t have a choice. I just wish I had an extended lunch break to get a good swim/ride/run in…and then a meal…and then a nap… So I am trying to help my recovery along, forced in part by the fitness testing I am supposed to be having next week at the University of Chester for a Sports Science study, the Manchester 100 which I want to do, and St Anne’s Triathlon (in Fleetwood!) which I have promoted around the office, and now everyone is expecting me to storm! More importantly, I am now desperate to get training again. So I will hopefully get on the turbo tomorrow to see how my knee holds up, and then back in the pool with a pool bouy on Sunday. I will also start my strengthening exercises on my knee to kickstart the recovery and try and avoid a repeat. When I was doing them and in full training I had no problems from my knee, even clocking up 20 hours weeks with 250k on the bike and 70k running! The reason for the problems was my crash, which meant I stopped doing my exercises and stopped training, so all the strength my knees had built up was lost, and my stamina faded and then I did an Ironman! Should have seen it coming really….
Anyway, as soon as I have my results from my scan I will know what to do to fix it. More than likely, it will include more physio and ultrasound, but I am hoping to be back training in a couple of weeks, ramping up for a good solid winter, assuming no surgery is required! Once I am back, I will continue to do my exercises to keep my knee strong, and assuming no more potholes I should have a good solid base of training come next year!
Given the chance to go back to my Ironman to the point where my knee went, I’d do it all over again though. I said from the start giving up was not an option, and I meant it! Hopefully next time I won’t have busted knees and broken collar bones to overcome!
Speaking of next time, I am entered into IM Switzerland 2010 for the 1st August! I got paid today and took the plunge. Wow the exchange rate is poor! Cost me an extra 70 quid than it would have done this time last year I reckon! As mentioned before I have the Manchester 100 and Fleetwood Tri lined up, depending on my knee and then it’s time to muscle down for the winter. Next year I have got IM Lazarote penciled in, assuming there are still places left when my Student Loan comes through and I can afford it (it’s for ‘educational’ purposes, honest!). This is probably the 2nd toughest IM there is, second only to Hawii, with a killer combination of wind, heat and hills and it will be a real test of how my winter went, and how I perform in the heat, which will be a good indicator of how I would perform in Hawii (which is on my long-term goals, before I leave my age group). I would also like to get an early marathon in, sometime around march, early april as a standalone. Other races I have in view are Weymouth Middle Distance (unfinished business), Oswestry Sprint (home town and a final bit of speed work before Switzerland) and preferably another middle at some point.
I am currently in the process of using up all the free time I have from not training putting together my training plan for next year, using Joe Friel’s Training Bible, which although taking a VERY long time, is very concise and will give me a very good training plan for next year. I just need to know my race calendar and knee implications! Once I have done this, I plan to get what every self-respecting athlete has… his/her own website! Seen as I am spending my life at work redoing the department website, I thought I would put my own together! This will include my usual blog, and also race diary, results, pictures, other info and I will try and get my training plans up, which as I will be doing it on my laptop, means lots of graphs to look at and compare!
Another thing that I am looking at implementing in the coming months is a new diet. Now I am not one for diets, fads, silly lose 20kg in a day eating cucumber smoothies all day type of diets. To me, it is simple science, Don’t eat junk, and more calories burnt than calories in and you WILL lose weight, just do some exercise and have the willpower not to reach for the biscuits. But there is diet called the Paleo Diet that has been gathering momentum for a few years now, and especially amongst athletes. It is based on the assumption that we have evolved over the last 250,000 years to be suited to what was around, and then all of a sudden we discover agriculture and started piling processed carbs into us. Basically it involves lot of fruit (yey!), vegetables (ah), salad (hmm), good lean meat and fish and that’s about it. You get all the carbs you need from the fruit and veg and other things like nuts that were readily available to cavemen and the results seem astounding. Obviously the rules have to be bent for athletes before, during, and after exercise to get the carbs in for the exercise. From what I can work out from it, you have the carbs to fuel your exercise, lots of protein to help muscle repair and then so much fruit and veg to have enough calories, you have ridiculous amounts of vitamins and minerals you feel great! This is going to present a problem, however, in that I don’t like vegetables, and have far too a great a liking for milk, yoghurts, cereal, pasta, biscuits, sweets and chocolate. However, I am prepared to stick it out for a month, and if it is a good as I have heard, well, looks like I am going to have to make the most of junk food during exercise!