Category Archives: Race Report
April 6, 2013
Granite Beach, CA
Reversing Aging Through Racing
If I raced to almost the exact same time I did three years ago, that means I am not slowing with age. If we are supposed to lose function and fitness as we age, and I haven’t, does that mean I have reversed aging? I say yes. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. It also explains why folks in the older age groups look so great. They’ve reversed aging too. So as long as you don’t overdo it and get injured or overtrained, then you too can reverse aging.
I wasn’t super motivated to race two weekends in a row. What would that show me? Usually these races have a couple of weeks in between, although I haven’t raced the ICE Breaker recently. There is little else on my calendar for April since I gave up on the Sea Otter Classic due to logistical issues, so I jumped in at the last minute. This race is very similar to last week’s XTERRA, except this race has the bike leg on closed roads instead of trails. As a result it is quite a bit shorter, taking me about one hour less that the off-road version. That should make for faster recovery, right?
Swim: 1/2 mile
Bike: 13 miles road bike
Run: 4 miles trail run
Started great. The breathing tactic paid off again as I have yet to train my swim. As we got further out in the lake the cloudy, breezy weather showed up as some chop that began to push me around. Unfortunately, I kept my head down and followed some feet. They were the wrong feet to follow. I kept swimming wide, wasn’t sighting often enough and I felt my swim collapse. As bad I thought it was going to be, I actually went a few seconds faster than the previous week! Never give up. Note to self: sight the buoys for yourself, don’t trust others.
Two laps on closed park roads. Like the mountain bike leg, these roads constantly have you thinking. Shifting, climbing, descending, cornering, there is never a dull moment. I thought I was going fast, but unlike the swim, this was deceptive. I went slower than the last time on this course. Reflects the need to do much more bike training. Running does not seem to translate into bike fitness the way the reverse does.
Killed it. Felt great, and felt even better as the run went on. I kept lifting my pace gradually and I didn’t blow up. I actually went several minutes faster than the previous week on a course that was a half a mile longer! I attribute this to riding a bike leg that was an hour shorter and on roads. Mountain biking really beats up your legs before a run.
Two small Japanese sweet potatoes and plenty of time for digestion. Felt hungry at the start, but so what? Took in one bottle of HEED on the bike, nothing on the run. Two servings of Recovery Accelerator immediately after while walking and cooling down. Ate several onigiri rice balls for lunch while driving home. Fillings were pickled ginger, miso, umeboshi paste. A little short on protein for recovery, so I need to create another filling with beans or tofu to use for recovery meals.
I just got my Hammer order for this season, so I brought back the supplements that I think give an ergogenic boost. Controversial and not truly necessary, I still like experimenting with them. I used their Daily Essentials along with some Endurance Amino before and after. Again I used the curcumin and proteolytic enzymes to help with inflammation and muscle recovery. I felt my recovery went well, but the race was an hour shorter.
All in all, a great race. Many thanks to TBF Racing for producing such great events!
Granite Beach, CA
March 30, 2013
My Race Season Starts:
I like this race. Since it is the first race of any kind for me, it is always a rude shock to the system. After months of low aerobic intensity Maffetone training, it feels good to open up the throttle. It also hurts. A lot. Cruising around at 140 BPM is definitely not the same as charging up a muddy climb at 175 BPM. I always worry at the start of a season that I have forgotten everything that matters. Like how to pedal my bike over rocks. Or swim in open water. Or change out of my wetsuit. Even packing my transition bag gets its fair share of worry. It was nice to see that I can still do all of those things. Just not very quickly.
Much better than in years past. The last weekend in March can be dicey. Usually the water is very cold, feeling like it was snow maybe twenty minutes prior to race start. Five minutes into the race I was very comfortable. It’s been a fairly dry winter this year in California, so the trails were smooth, fast, and fun. There were only a couple of mud puddles compared to the usual bogs, yet judging by my bike it seems that I brought it all home with me. Temperatures were mild as well, though a bit humid thanks to the clouds and nearby lake.
I haven’t been in the water in months due to the usual excuses. Thanks to Coach Rutherford, I can get by on muscle memory. For a half mile swim, I can probably float in my wetsuit. So I picked one thing to work on during the swim and succeeded. I focused on breathing. Many people, myself included, make the mistake of holding the breath underwater. This makes for gasping, and hurts technique. The goal is to breathe as naturally as possible by exhaling continuously while your face is in the water. I concentrated on this one thing and it worked! My stroke was much smoother, and I felt very relaxed and comfortable. When I forgot, I immediately began to tense up and slow down. So despite not training my swim at all, I was only a little bit slower than usual.
I like this bike course since it’s a bit technical. It’s real mountain biking. There are no real sustained climbs, but you are always actively doing something: Climbing, descending, clearing rocks and boulders, swooping on singletrack. The first lap felt great even though I haven’t done much mountain biking lately. I smoothly cleaned the technical sections that often trip me up. The second lap was harder. Fatigue set in, and those technical sections tripped me up.
My legs felt like concrete, but I made them run anyway. Knowing the course, I knew where to hike to conserve energy, and my overall time was typical for me.
Spot on. The effect of increasing fat burning by Maffetone training helped me race without needing as much fuel. I ate a small breakfast three hours prior, and used liquid fuels during the race. More on this later, since it worked so perfectly.
I also didn’t feel as drained afterwards. My legs often feel wrecked after a race, and my brain is often in quite a fog for a few hours. My recovery the rest of the day went well. After a recovery drink, I had a real lunch. I wasn’t terribly hungry until a regular dinner. Unfortunately, I slept TERRIBLY, and my recovery fell completely off the rails. I blame the altitude that always affects my sleep, and the stiffness and soreness that set in making a comfortable sleeping position impossible to find. A nap the next day made things much better.
Concentrated curcumin extract as an anti-inflammatory and proteolytic enzymes to help break down broken tissue to speed healing.
Overall, a great day and a solid start to the season. Much work to be done before XTERRA Tahoe City!
Despite my recent fall hiatus from racing to allow for full recovery of mental and physical faculties, I decided at the last minute to jump into a neighborhood 5K just for fun. I almost never race on the road. I prefer the adventure and challenge of racing on trails. I also like that trails make comparing times much more difficult, and usually impossible. The temptation to become a numbers freak always worrying about times and paces disappears with the first rocky singletrack section.
But racing once in a while on roads or the track is good too. It’s nice to run on a consistent marked course to see what kind of pace I really can manage with my current level of fitness. If and when I do any anaerobic style training, I know what kind of pace to use. It also allows me to set reasonable time goals for the few events I want to do on the road, like a half marathon and eventually a full marathon.
I last ran this race a couple of years ago slightly faster.
I missed my 5K PR by 1.2 seconds!
Seriously, how can this be? I also ran the Squaw Mountain Run in nearly the exact same time as the previous year. How do I interpret these results?
The Glass is Half Empty:
All that slow aerobic Maffetone training isn’t helping. Train fast, if you want to race fast!
The Glass is Half Full:
I haven’t aged in three years. I’m capable of the same performance.
In reality, this has been a tough year since I started by missing all of January with pneumonia and had to start rebuilding my fitness from ZERO. So I’m not worried yet. I’ll stick to Maffetone for the time being because I enjoy it. I’ll run a half marathon instead of a full marathon for other, related reasons. My race pace now finally reflects my MAF test results, showing that my aerobic system is catching up with my anaerobic speed. So now the long, patient work of building an even bigger aerobic engine for next season begins. I’ll race again next month, then focus on MAF all the way to April before worrying about racing again.
5K Time: 23:00 41st overall out of 500(?) runners
(from L -R: Leadville founder Ken Chlouber, Bay Area phenom Meiling Yee with her Leadville entry, me, Leadville former race director Merrilee Mauquin)
I raced forty minutes SLOWER this year than last year. I was supposed to go an hour FASTER. Big disappointment. My weight is down 12 pounds and my aerobic fitness has improved. I’ve gone further and faster.I’ve thought about this race every day for the past year. I put the pressure on myself, and, I cracked. Complete gastro-intestinal meltdown. Dehydrated? I guess. Bonking? It appears so. How could this happen?
Well, the weather and scenery was gorgeous, another awesome Tahoe day. Seriously, as I finished, I couldn’t help but smile and feel good about myself, even though I had my worst race ever. How could this be? The disaster was only physical, and it was temporary. The beauty was mental, emotional, and spiritual. That lasts longer.
Well, not everything went wrong. The first lap went well. I passed some people, some people passed me. I felt reasonably strong and paced well. I found a group, and we rode together through the aid stations, leapfrogging our way around the course. It felt like I was going fast, though compared to last year, not as improved as I hoped. But I got into that zone where time sped up. I kept thinking, I’m already this far? Another aid station already? This climb is over? I get to descend so soon? Then halfway through the second lap, it crumbled beneath me.
So What Went Wrong
The Golden Rule of Racing:
Never change anything on race day! Make sure any equipment, nutrition, or hydration issues are thoroughly tested in training or low priority races. Never show up when it counts acting like it’s a lab experiment. I bent this rule (didn’t truly break it) without realizing it. I slightly changed my nutrition/hydration protocol, and it seems that is was just enough to cross a very fine, gray line into disaster. I used my usual blend of plain water, liquid Sustained Energy, and an occasional Hammer Gel.
But if I had my usual set-up of water and preferred fuels, and plenty of aid stations, how could I dehydrate and bonk? After reflecting, I figured it out. I didn’t use my Camelbak, which I use most of the time. I had forgotten how rough the course was, and was unable to get water consistently. When I did stop and try to catch up, I overdid the water and fluids.
About five hours in, I realized I was behind on fluids and calories. At the first aid station on the second lap, I tried to catch up. I was feeling tired, but I should have felt tired. Then, about 20 min. later, as the carbohydrate and caffeine hit me, I felt great! My energy was up and I passed people on a tough climb. I was even singing and rapping to myself! Then it all went sideways and the crash came. I started to feel worse and worse, and the nausea became so strong I could barely tolerate plain water in small sips. Trying to push hard on the pedals on climbs made it worse, so I was reduced to walking. I couldn’t eat. I could barely drink. I was pushing my bike and sweating in the hot sun all by myself. For about an hour I sank and wallowed in this until my gut finally started to settle down. By then I had lost enough time that I would not make the time cut-off for a Leadville spot.
Leadville Trail 100 founder Ken Chlouber always like to exhort people to dig deep. He told me that personally the day before after the racer’s meeting. I did. I felt so bad that I almost quit. Except that I was in the middle of nowhere. As I pushed my bike up climbs, coasted descents and soft pedaled the flats, I dug deep. I reminded myself that the climbs would end soon, replaced by a long, fast descent to the next aid station. I decided to see if I could bring my heart rate down and recover a bit. I told myself that I would decide at the aid station to continue or not. When I got into the aid station, I drank two big cups of Gatorade, which I usually detest, but it felt good. My stomach was better. I drank more water and waited. My stomach felt OK. I refilled bottles and decided I was going to finish. Either I finished or they scraped my carcass off the trail. I thought about the last demoralizing climb, and figured I could walk if I had to. I did. But by combining walking breaks with riding, I managed to keep my stomach from rebelling completely. And I kept moving forward. I vowed to keep moving forward until I couldn’t. I finished.
So while my physical performance was disappointing, I’m very proud of how I overcame that adversity. Although I think I could have gone a little faster at the end, I was worried about my stomach so I played it a little too conservatively. But I didn’t quit. I reminded myself that I only have three goals in a race: 1) Stay on course 2) No DNF 3) No DFL. I succeeded with all three, and it took a lot more than usual to get to the end, making my finish very satisfying indeed.
The usual answer is to get better, go faster, to see and mark some kind of improvement. But I didn’t improve in any measurable way this time, in fact did the opposite, yet I’m well satisfied. So I realized that maybe we race “to boldly go” some place uncharted. We hope that this will be a new level of performance, but it could just as easily be a new state of mind. The suffering I went through pushing my bike through sections I rode last year was new. But I realized that is just pain. Not all pain is significant. And it wasn’t really that bad. It wasn’t life threatening. Yeah, I was dehydrated, but a long way from true disaster. Ditto for calories. The brain protects itself in endurance events by gradually shutting things down. I still had a long way to go before complete physical failure. And it was a race, so somebody would help if I truly needed it. So I went to a place I’d never been before where everything went wrong. And not only did I survive, I finished with a smile.
My GI recovery continued after the race, and I ate, rehydrated as normal, enjoying the awards and cheering those people who got an entry into Leadville. That includes my friend Meiling Yee, who arm wrestled the women’s overall winner Rebecca Rusch for a win and an entry. My recovery continued over the following week, and now I’m back on the trail. All in all, my low point lasted about an hour before I started to climb back. Not too bad. It could have been a lot worse.
See? I finished with a smile!
I’ve done this race three years now, and I’ve raced three different courses! It makes comparing one year to the next a bit difficult, but that is also the beauty of off-road racing. Unlike track and road runners who obsess over time splits and pacing, or cyclists that obsess over their power meters, the ever-changing nature of trails means that you never really race the same course twice. Even if it appears to be the same course, no doubt something will be different. Case in point: XTERRA Tahoe City.
2010: Dry course, warm conditions. Full course raced: 1500M Swim, 22M MTB, 6M run.
2011: Muddy, and plenty of snow. Bike course shortened due to snow. Run impeded by snow.
2012: Unseasonably cold, windy. Lake very choppy and with plenty of swell. Swim course shortened to 1000M. No snow, full bike course raced.
How can I compare my results from one year to the next?
Quantitatively, it’s difficult, but with my split times, I can compare my performance in individual sports and transitions.
The swim has been really slow and difficult every year. The combination of cold water and altitude really puts the zap on me. I improved by several minutes from ’10 to ’11. But this year, even with the shortened course, my swim performance declined. This is disappointing, since I swam well in the pool and at a Splash n Dash aquathon. Clearly I need to train my swim more, including much more open water practice before racing again here in Tahoe, at XTERRA Incline.
I went 7 minutes faster than the last time I raced the full course. Yay! All the extra racing I’ve done on that course and elsewhere has paid off. Even better is that my bike split is almost as fast as some rivals. I’m catching up!
Last year was slowed done by snow, but I went 4 minutes faster than my previous best. And that was with a very sore left knee that slowed me way down on the downhills. I think the rough nature of the course hammered my knee, and that I need to spend more time running on trails instead of the road.
So despite the nasty weather, the race was a success. I am more motivated to continue with the Maffetone Method for training. But I do need to do a lot more swimming, especially up here in this cold lake. I haven’t raced Incline before, but from what I have heard, the swim is often very rough.
Long, LONG rides to prepare for the Tahoe Trail 100 at Northstar. I should also find a sprint triathlon on the road, just to keep myself honest on the swim. And a flat road 10K. I’d like to know what my actual speed is right now. Then XTERRA Incline. No excuses about the beginning of the school year, I need to race to see improvement.
Last year I did this race in the four hour solo category just for the fun of it. Conditions were difficult, but overall the race was a great challenge and lots of fun. I used it as preparation for the XTERRA Tahoe City race, since the bike course uses some of the same trails.
Last year, after California’s endless winter, two miles of the course had to be cut out due to snow. Even with the shortened course, race crew had to shovel for days to clear enough trail to be usable. Despite their heroic efforts, there were several big patches that had to be negotiated either on foot or as a slippery ride.
There were none of those problems this year. This year conditions were much more typically summertime Tahoe: warm, dry, and dusty. No snow or even mud to contend with. Just lap after lap of rocks, singletrack, and forested meadow. Last year I gassed myself by doubling up the racing by following the mountain bike race with a 10K trail run the next day. I did not repeat that mistake again. Instead, I doubled up on the bike and entered the 8 hour Solo category. I wanted the maximum aerobic workout I could get for the day, and boy howdy, did I get it!
I was a little disappointed with my performance at the Hammerstein last weekend, but I figured that in large part that related to the normal fatigue at the end of the school year coupled with pacing and fueling. That seems to be true. I only lasted 5 1/2 hours there, but here in Tahoe, at 6,000+ ft elevation, I lasted almost the full eight hours. I did not make that improvement based on fitness gains. It shows clearly that training and racing are truly dependent on other life stress. A week to recover from school, the race, and consolidate that fitness, led to a much better showing this weekend. A fellow racer remarked on my Hammerstein t-shirt, calling me a glutton. Yes, but I want these huge days to bolster my fitness for my “A” race, the Lake Tahoe Trail 100 (Leadville Qualifier) at Northstar in July. It appears that I have made some progress, but not enough to meet my time goal for Northstar. While I think the Northstar course is a little faster, with more road miles, I clearly have some work to do on my fitness.
Breakin’ it Down:
Dusty singletrack and doubletrack. A rocky, tight, twisty singletrack climb, and a steep, loose, rocky jeep road climb that hurt. Some fast scary descending. Lots of forested singletrack, and a lot of leg sapping false flats that felt harder than they looked.
I stayed upright (mostly), pedaled (mostly) and survived for nearly eight hours. I completed five 12 mile laps for a total of 60 miles, similar to Northstar. My performance was similar to last year’s Northstar, and I still have a month to prepare. My nutrition worked well. I used Hammer Sustained Energy on the bike, and steamed purple potatoes when I would pit. I took one caffeinated Hammer gel late in the race to power through. I drank plain water from my Camelbak. And I finished feeling much better than I did last weekend, or on the shorter version of this race last year. I even felt better than after Northstar. I’m recovering faster.
I crashed. While climbing at a snail’s pace. Embarrassing, but I couldn’t unclip fast enough. Gotta get those shoes and cleats fixed. I had a few minutes of tummy troubles due to mixing my energy drink stronger than usual and gulping a little too fast. I spent more time in my pit than I wanted to. It helped keep me going, but contributed to my biggest problem: I. Am. Really. Slow. My average speed is nowhere near what I need to meet my goal at Northstar. I wasn’t DFL, but pretty darn close.
That loose, rocky jeep road climb. I hate it. I have ridden it many times in races, but it’s hard. This time I had to walk sections several times. On my last lap I walked the whole thing. I blamed my shoes, but I don’t think I had it in me anyway. Steep jeep road, I abhor thee! And, yay, next week I get to climb it two more times in the XTERRA. Lucky me.
My average heart rate was 151 bpm, last year’s four hour events yielded a 161 bpm average. According to some coaches, the Maximum Average Function heart rate zone should be 20-30 beats lower than lactate threshold. Estimating my LT at 175 from other races, my training range to maximize aerobic development should be 145-155 bpm. This coincides nicely with recent marathon mtb racing, but puts me a full 10 bpm above the range prescribed by Maffetone and Mark Allen using the 180 formula. What do I do? Stick with the 180 formula, or go with the LT formula?
I think my plan going forward will be to intersperse some workouts using the higher heart rate range. I have toyed with the idea previously of adding in anaerobic work now that I have built a base. But since racing at this distance stays primarily aerobic, I see no need for LT intervals. Instead, I will mimic race conditions by upping intensity a bit. I also need more volume, in the form of longer rides. I just need more adaptation to sitting in the saddle for so long. I will continue to use HRV and MAF tests to ensure that I am progressing and not overtraining. If I start to regress, I’ll slow down.
Many thanks and a great big shout out to Global Biorhythm Events for the awesome Hammerstein mountain bike race at Laguna Seca over the weekend. Everything went off well and it was a great day (or two!) of racing on trails made legendary by years of the Sea Otter Classic. There were categories for 8 hour, 24 hour, team and solo racing. I chose to race the eight hour solo and see how long I could go before I fell off my bike. I lasted five and a half hours, then the lights went out. So it was bittersweet. I had hoped for more. But it was a swell way to end the school year, riding myself into the ground on some sweet Monterey singletrack. I used this race as a training race, experimenting with some fueling and supplementation, and thanks to Thursday’s Splash ‘n’ Dash race, I even had some lingering soreness in my legs. Recovery from this race is paramount, and that is part of the experiment. I recently reread The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery to help figure out the best protocols to use. Along with suggestions from the book, I decided to experiment with supplementation ideas from Brendan Brazier and Ben Greenfield. These guys are like mad scientists when it comes to nutrition, so I put the principles of MWL on hold to race my bike and try to recover in time to do another 8 hour race in a week’s time.
Awesome course! Bomb singletrack descent! Singletrack climbing as well as dirt road. Plus it was cool to watch the race cars on their track too. I rode double what my longest ride has been so far this year. I basically crammed an entire week’s worth of cycling into one afternoon. Six months ago I was dying of pneumonia, Saturday I was racing lap after lap. I could be surfing the interwebs or watching TV, instead I raced my bike. Score.
I had time to ride one more lap. I couldn’t do it. I wanted it, but the lights went out, and nobody left at home. I asked a race official a procedural question and could barely form a coherent sentence. It was the right thing to do, even if it was disappointing. The disappointment comes from feeling like I’m fitter and faster than last year when I raced Northstar, and there I rode for seven and a half hours. But I know the reason, and that is that I have not done enough long rides. I have trained consistently, but not often enough past two hours. More saddle time!
Nothing really. It was a great day. Oh wait. The wind. That was UGLY. Long dirt road climb on an exposed ridge into a stiff headwind that came right off the Pacific and funneled through the Salinas valley. That hurt.
I tried more solid food this time for fueling, which worked well. I steamed some baby potatoes and kept them in my cooler in the pit area. Between laps I munched on some. They tasted great compared to the engineered sports nutrition I usually use. Next time I will eat more since I tolerate it well. My usual approach of Hammer’s Sustained Energy, Hammer gel and HEED worked just fine.
SUPPLEMENTS: Pre and Post Race
Before, during and after I used my usual cocktail of Hammer’s Endurance Amino and Anti-Fatigue products which helped some. This time I added Mito Caps. I don’t know if they helped or not, since I just started them. I changed up the pre and post race routine by trying Brendan Brazier’s Vega pre and post drink mixes. The tastiest and most convenient yet. Plus, I like the vegan ingredient list.
I also scored for planning ahead a post race dinner of soba noodles, wilted spinach, cucumber, red pepper and baked tofu. Tasted great, went down easy and fueled me up for the drive home. I ate half after the race, and the rest when I got home.
SPECIAL RECOVERY SUPPLEMENT WIZARDRY:
The really big supplementation change I made was to try taking proteolytic enzymes and Master Amino Pattern (MAP) to speed recovery. The enzymes when taken on an empty stomach can help with systemic inflammation, essentially speeding the healing process along and decreasing soreness. MAP consists only of the essential amino acids, helping protein synthesis along, but without being a digestive burden. Two days later, when soreness usually peaks, I feel better. Not as sore as I expected. I’ve also been sucking down the tart cherry juice, and taken all together, I’m not as sore as usual. I am tired though.
MORE ON RECOVERY:
A nap after lunch on Sunday that would make a sloth jealous. Seriously, that took some real skill. Two recovery walks, one in the morning to the Farmer’s Market, and another around the neighbourhood in the afternoon. Woke up this morning thinking a recovery spin on the road bike ould be a good idea. Nope. Still a lot of fatigue. In the future, I need to make sure I have high nutrient meals ready to go in the fridge or freezer. Cooking anything was almost too much for me, and temptation almost won out. Today will be another double recovery walk, one before lunch. and another to meet friends for dinner. Tomorrow I will ride again.
Ah, life at the back of the pack. Or in this case, the Beginner category for mountain bike racing. I’d like to upgrade to Sport, but a fourth out of ten in my age group puts me right in the middle of the pack. So I’ll stay for now. After endless Maffetone style aerobic workouts and only one race, it felt good to get out and go hard. The race was billed as the Race Behind Bars because part of the course ran on Folsom State Prison grounds. I expected something dramatic, like prison walls, or at least an armed guard or two. Nothing. I never saw anything connected to the prison. What I got was a fun course that had some challenges in it. No real big climbs, but enough rollers to disrupt your rhythm. There were some tricky sections of tight, twisty singletrack that forced you to pay attention. And one set of 4′x4′ stairs with a steep ride around that I’m proud to say I powered up and cleaned on both laps. Oh yeah, there were two laps. Pay attention! I was used to beginner courses doing only one lap, until I rode through the start/finish and was reminded by the racer behind me. Oops. Back out on the course. But the second time I got to see some scenery as we rode right above the river. Never saw it on the first lap. Fun race, I’ll be back at the end of the month for the last in the series and see if I can turn in faster lap times.
I thought I would be going faster considering my aerobic progress this spring. But when I cranked up to 175 bpm for race intensity, my average speed wasn’t that great. It makes me want to reconsider Maffetone style aerobic training. I feel I need to add some intensity, but I don’t want to hurt my aerobic development, especially since this year’s main goals are long distance events. Decisions, decisions… Another thing odd was the crazy adrenalin, endorphin high I felt afterwards. It was fun, but I really had a hard time winding down afterwards. I need to find some kind of post race routine to calm down and relax. I felt like my anaerobic engine was still cranking, even after grocery shopping and a cold micro-brew at Whole Foods. Hmm… meditation? Visualization? Some kind of biofeedback or brain wave synchronicity? For these shorter races I need something. I will have to pick a method and try it at the next race… which is-
The Chick Chaser!
My triathlon club is hosting the Chick Chaser 5K. Girls get a 3 min. head start and then the boys get to go. Should be fun.
So after nearly eight months of no racing, Maffetone training that never had my heart rate over 140 bpm, influenza, pneumonia, and a slow march through base training, I finally got to uncork one!
And I went… slowly.
It was disappointing to go slower than two years ago, which was close to this year in course conditions. The swim was slow, thanks to freezing conditions that forced more breast stroke than I like. The bike was a little slower as well due to mud and some mechanical problems with my brakes. I knew my brakes were mushy going in, but I thought they would hold for two laps. They held for a lap and then the rear brake began to fade dramatically. Not as bad as last year though, when they failed completely, destroyed a rim, and left me walking the downhills. I shouldn’t be disappointed considereing my lack of training or racing at high intensity. After all, this was the first race of the season. But I am disappointed considering the improvement in my MAF tests compared to last year. I thought I would be going a lot better.
What was puzzling was that I felt great while racing. Even the swim, which I haven’t trained much at all, felt comfortable after I got used to the ice cold water. The bike was a challenge because it’s been months since I rode the mountain bike on anything remotely technical. While challenging, it was fun to ride those Granite Beach trails. The bike course is real mountain biking: lots of single track, and you’re always actively doing something, climbing, descending, negotiating rocks, turning through tight and twisty singletrack. You have to concentrate. The run felt pretty good as well. My stride and cadence were what I wanted them, I didn’t have GI issues, but my time shows the truth: I didn’t go fast.
I wore my Garmin hrm so I could graph my heart rate for the bike and run sections and see what happened. I found that I averaged 170 bpm, and cruised a lot around 175 bpm. I noticed that around 180 bpm the door to the hurt locker slammed shut, and I had to back off, usually at the top of a climb. So, since I have done all of my exercise under 140 bpm, but race from 165-175 bpm, it appears that I need to do more anaerobic, race pace training to get used to going fast. Also, the fact that I “felt good” might be a red flag. After all, isn’t racing supposed to hurt? At least a little? I think I held back a little too much, perhaps due to being out of practice.
So going forward?
More mountain biking. Spring is here, the trails are drying out, my bike is tuned.
Readjust my MAF training range up from Maffetone’s formula of 140 to Mark Allen’s version, which is 145, especially on the run.
More volume. I felt that I faded in the second half of each event. Probably due to lack of truly long rides and runs.
What about anaerobic effort?
I will hold off anerobic training for another month and just use racing for that training effect. I need to continue to build my aerobic base because it still lags behind. I may readjust my range upward again to follow what some coaches recommend by basing my MAF off of lactate threshold instead of the 180 formula. For the moment, I will keep it low since I am still getting benefits.
After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
This run is a beast. 2000 vertical feet of climbing in 3.6 miles. It is relentless. You start climbing immediately on the long ski run that links the base area and High Camp, and it never flattens. Even the finish is uphill. Even after the finish it still goes uphill while you are gasping and trying to get out of the way of the other racers. Last year I fink ally figured when this long running race is held, the first Saturday in August, and so now I know I can test myself on it every summer. Last year I managed a painful 54 min. that included a lot walking, numb legs, and being passed by dogs and small children. This year I passed all the dogs and children. I would a be damned if that Tibetan mastiff would pass me, and only the teenagers passed me. I’m OK with that.
So I really wanted to improve over my time from last year. Last year I really struggled, which surprised me since I usually climb well in trail races. But this course was ALL uphill, and while the gradient eased slightly a couple of times, it never really went flat. I feel fit this year, so I had that going for me. But I’ve done no anaerobic training and no specific climbing workouts. What would all this low intensity Maffetone training mean when I was going to redline my heart rate and not let up? And this was a short race, making it very intense and anaerobic, not like the longer efforts I’ve done this summer where the aerobic training would clearly pay off. To race for four or seven hours means almost all your energy is aerobic. But a super intense uphill effort for less than an hour will significantly challenge my anaerobic fitness as well. Since I do no anaerobic workouts and just use racing for my intensity, do I even have any such fitness? The only other short race I’ve done this summer was the Burton Creek 10K, and I definitely struggled there. I want to believe that was solely due to the previous day’s MTB race, but I still doubt myself. Also going against me, especially climbing uphill against gravity, is that I am far from my racing weight. This summer was supposed to get me close to racing weight for this race and especially XTERRA Incline. Too much livin’ large in the Tahoe summer. Rich food and drink make for a slow racer.
So the results were very favorable. And while I had to drag my heavy body uphill against gravity, I did so at a run for almost the whole race. For the first two miles I never walked except in the traffic jam at the start. While other racers kept alternating from a walk to a jog, I just kept chugging along like a diesel going up Donner Summit. I seriously thought that I might be able to run every step. But just before the single track section I walked a switchback which was really steep, thinking a recharge would help. It didn’t. The single track was steeper and narrower than I remembered, and very congested with people. I walked a lot of it to conserve energy. In retrospect this was the right thing to do, but it was demoralizing at the time. When the single track ended, there was only a half mile to go, and it eased a bit before the final finishing straight. This is where I really came unglued last year. I was hurting, got passed by a dog and then a young girl. This year, I felt much better and pressed on, even managing a finishing kick and lunge that put me past a guy that I had been sparring with. And I chopped minutes off of my time.
Even more good news about the low heart rate aerobic training. In a much shorter and more intense race, I could feel that more of my energy was aerobic, and I recovered from the race within a few minutes. Last year I sat on the lawn with a thousand yard stare and struggled to get my metabolism back to normal. In addition to the low heart rate training, I am experimenting with hydration. Since listening to this podcast interview with Dr. Timothy Noakes, author of the massive tome The Lore of Running, I have followed his advice to drink only water, and only to thirst. Apparently, electrolytes and dehydration are greatly exaggerated, possibly by the sports drink industry. More on this later as the experiment evolves. I felt no thirst during the race, but afterwards I drank a big glass of water out of habit from my commemorative pub glass, then a glass of the free beer. You can’t pass up free beer.
Nearly four minutes faster than last year
Attached video is Tim Van Orden, another plant based athlete, describing how hard this race is.