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Race Report: ICE Breaker Triathlon

Starting the run, feeling better step by step

Starting the run, feeling better step by step

April 6, 2013
Folsom Lake
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.

The Race

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

SWIM:
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.

BIKE:
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.

RUN:
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.

NUTRITION:
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.

SUPPLEMENTS:
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!

Race Report: XTERRA REAL 2013

XTERRA REAL Bike Course

XTERRA REAL bikecourse

XTERRA Real

Granite Beach, CA
March 30, 2013
Folsom Lake

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.

Conditions:
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.

Swim:
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.

Bike:
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.

Run:
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.

Nutrition:
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.

Recovery:
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.

Supplements:
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!

xterra run

Base Training: Build a HUGE Aerobic Engine

Build cardiovascular fitness that looks like this!

Build cardiovascular fitness that looks like this!

New Year’s is over and while the weather here in California is cold, it’s time to put in those base miles. OK, I know, much of the country experiences REAL cold, but temps in the 30s mean my morning bike commute isn’t happening. That’s a pity, because there is no more convenient way to amass training hours than to incorporate them into something you already  have to do, like go to work.

Of course, I could ride on the indoor trainer. But that sucks.

I would rather be outside running than sweating on the floor. But I promise I will train on the trainer this week if I have to.

Base Training Goal: Aerobic Fitness

This will be my second full season of Maffetone training, and this year I have residual fitness from last season. My informal MAF test of my usual running route shows some slowing from last year’s best, but it has been holding steady, and I have not tried to push that fitness further. In the off season, I think that a plateau equals progress. Compared to last year where I lost weeks of training from pneumonia, this year I have maintained some reasonable run fitness. My hope is that I can build on that this season and get even faster. Like last year, I will not race until the end of March, giving me three months of uninterrupted aerobic base training, except for some alpine skiing. I will use my 180 formula maximum heart rate of 145 until I start racing. If everything goes well, I will experiment with calculating my MAF by working down from lactate threshold, which will give me a higher heart rate range to work with.

Why?

Because unless you race on the track, almost all of your energy is being produced aerobically.

Because more health benefits come from aerobic fitness.

Because it creates less stress, avoiding burnout.

Because it’s good for the brain, helping Seasonal Affective Disorder (more on that later)

How to Build a V8 Aerobic Engine

Stick to MAF.

Aerobic and anaerobic workouts can interfere with each other. Use the 180 formula and be disciplined.

Don’t race

Resist the temptation to “tune up” until after you’ve built the engine.

Increase volume

Do this more by increasing frequency than super long workouts. The sweet spots seem to be 45-60 min. and again around two hours. The Kenyans never train for more than 2 hrs, but they train often.

Be patient

Improved fitness will come week by week and three months should build quite an engine.

Happy training!

How Active Recovery Works

Arright, hands up, who has raced hard enough to have to walk down the stairs backwards? Yeah, me too. When that happens, it seems like the most important thing to do for recovery is find the nearest couch and stay planted. Forever. Or at least until all the ice in the beer cooler next to the couch has melted. What is definitely counter intuitive is the idea of active recovery. Active?! Sounds ridiculous, but then I tried it. And the coaches are right, it really can help.

How I Used Active Recovery to Learn How to Walk Again

The run course at XTERRA Tahoe CIty is hard. You start climbing a steep, paved road that switches to steep, rocky singletrack. There is a brief respite at the top, then what goes up, must go down. A steep, quad smashing descent on loose, rocky road and pavement. Of course, that all follows a couple hours of mountain biking. My legs were done. My left knee started to really hurt during the descent, and trying to compensate, my imbalanced gait hurt my right calf, already stressed from the climb. Delayed onset muscle soreness had no delay for me. I hurt at the finish line. But three days later, I was healed. Fighting the instinct to collapse was the key.

Keep Moving

The following day I went for a walk. About 30 minutes. A little shorter would have been better, but my knee and calf required a slower pace, and maybe trails were not such a good idea. But the forest was good because of the trees. They have been proven to help brain function and mood. I felt refreshed physically and mentally. The second day after the race I repeated my recovery walk. Maffetone describes walking as an ideal cross training tool for racers because it can help recovery. The third day I went for a short walk/jog keeping a close eye on heart rate and muscle soreness, which was quickly decreasing. It worked OK. A bike ride would have been better, but I ran out of time after my afternoon recovery nap. More on passive recovery later. The next day I got back on the bike for an easy 90 minute spin. It felt great, and I successfully resisted the urge to do more. Now I’m ready to train again. Even my sleep and HRV have returned to normal.

Why I Think it Works

Using the Recovery Issues:
FATIGUE:
For some people 30 minutes of exercise is a lot. But if you race, a 30 minute walk is very easy, so it does not add any fatigue to what you’ve already done.
MUSCLE SORENESS/DAMAGE
Walking directs more circulation to stressed muscles. More nutrients and less waste products from metabolism and repair means faster recovery than doing nothing.
GLYCOGEN DEPLETION
Like fatigue, there isn’t enough activity to deplete storage carbohydrate, which means it won’t take any longer to rebuild the stores emptied by a long race.
MENTAL/NERVOUS SYSTEM
If you take your walk in a place of natural beauty, you can benefit even more. The brain likes blood nutrients, and oxygen, so a walk in the forest, or anywhere there is a lot of O2 producing vegetation can help a lot.
STRESS REACTION
It’s very refreshing to be doing something, but the lower intensity relieves stress, especially if you have a mild addiction to exercise.

Other Forms of Active Recovery
Swimming in the way that walking is different from running would also help. Maybe more like floating around. I didn’t try this because drifting around in the freezing water of an alpine lake did not appeal. If you’re a fan of cold therapy, it might help. But in a warm climate, or a pool…

Yoga if done in a restorative manner could help. I was too sore to want to risk stretching stressed muscles. If I had been practicing regularly, I could scale it back.

Foam rolling would be the same as yoga. Helpful if you already know what you’re doing. I don’t, so I’m saving it for later.

In the end, I’m not going down the stairs backwards. Instead I’m motivated to train. Enough blogging, time for a nice run in the forest!

How I Recover from Long Distance Racing

What Needs Recovery:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Muscle Soreness/Damage
  3. Glycogen Depletion
  4. Mental/Nervous System
  5. Stress Response

 

These are the elements of recovery. The difference in length and intensity between a race and a regular workout affects recovery. A long run that goes further than ever before will need more recovery than an easy run you’ve done a million times. A race that puts you at threshold for an extended time requires more recovery than an interval workout. Work or family stress impacts training and racing, requiring more recovery. Here’s what I learned about recovery recently.

Fatigue:

The longer or more intense the workout, the more fatigue produced. The more volume over days, the more fatigue accumulates. This fatigue must be “unloaded” in order to move forward. This can happen voluntarily by taking time off, easy days, or getting more rest, or your body can force it on you with illness or injury. I’ve neglected fatigue, covered it up with caffeine, and run myself into the ground. The best solution I’ve found for fatigue is passive recovery, emphasizing quantity and quality of sleep.

Muscle Soreness and Damage:

Cycling doesn’t leave me as sore as running. Triathlon is worse than running alone. So after a short cross country race or regular long run, the soreness isn’t bad. I can train easy until recovered. But a trail race or triathlon can leave me so sore that walking is uncomfortable. That’s where I am now after XTERRA. I have had to take three days off with walking as my only exercise while my muscles heal themselves. Soon I will add some yoga and foam rolling, but to this point I’ve been too sore. I experimented with amino acid and proteolytic enzyme supplements to help speed recovery, and believe I have benefitted.

Glycogen Depletion:

This is easy. Following the starch based diet of Dr. McDougall makes replenishing storage muscle glycogen as simple as following my appetite. Most of us have heard of the “window” of opportunity following a workout where enzymes peak, making glycogen replenishment easier. I can tell when I’m depleted by my low energy level and high appetite. Those two factors tell me when I’m recovered. The day after long glycogen depleting races, I’m hungry more often. Then, as I recover, my appetite decreases due to less activity, even though I am still sore. Using the Maffetone Method for training helps as well, since I have trained my body to rely more on fat for fuel. Before Maffetone, I would be really wiped out after a long ride. I could literally feel my recovery progress along hour by hour as I ate more. By using more fat as fuel during exercise and eating a high starch diet, I recover faster. Taking in calories during the workout or race helps, because then there is less that must be replenished.

Mental/Nervous System:

Often I’ve felt like my body was recovered, but my mind was unwilling to go on. There are some possibilities for why this might be: depleted neurotransmitters, hormone imbalance, low levels of amino acids, or just lack of fuel. From my experience, it seems to be tied directly to glycogen depletion. Since the brain runs almost exclusively on carbohydrate, if levels get too low, the brain puts on the brakes to conserve energy. As my storage carbohydrate returns to normal, I can feel my brain come back online.

Overall Stress Response:

The body’s stress response gets engaged by non-physical events. Which is why someone can be so tired by mentally demanding, yet sedentary work, or emotionally stressful circumstances. This same stress response is responsible for getting you ready for another race or workout. The mistake I’ve made in the past is not considering life stress as equivalent to training or racing. I’ve always thought, “Hey, exercise relieves stress, right?” Well, yes, and no. My recent race at Laguna Seca, the Hammerstein, showed me this phenomena very clearly. School had ended only two days prior, and while I had decreased training to rest, the life stress had peaked. I had a very tough race. One week later, with school stress gone, I raced better. Any stress reduction techniques could help here. I think the best option is meditation, because one has the potential to learn how to control the stress response and decrease the energy cost by retraining the brain.

Conclusion:

I think I’ve finally gotten a firm grip an what needs recovery, and some good techniques to use. A little research and using myself as an experiment of one with three weeks of big races have taught me a lot. What do you do for recovery? Any secrets or effective protocols?

 

Next up:

Active Recovery

Passive Recovery

Nutritional Recovery

2012 XTERRA Tahoe City Race Report

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:

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.

The Bike:

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!

The Run:

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.

Next up:

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.

Recovery Overview

How do you recover from those epic days? Boundary pushing long runs or bike rides? A long or intense race? Anything that pushes you “to boldly go where” you haven’t physically been before requires attention to recovery afterwards.

Personally, I have failed epically at this in the past, burning myself out in many creative ways.

Racing each Saturday for 4+ hours each time for the past three weekends was exhausting, especially for those of us in the back of the pack. How can I best recover between each event and not blow a fuse this early in the season? In the past, recovery to me meant plenty of couch time with a good book, or going to bed a little earlier. But I wanted to develop some better skills so I can get faster. And have more fun. So I even bought the book, The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery, by Sage Rountree to see what more I could learn.

So What Have I Discovered about Recovery?

Three broad categories, and a lot of subtlety about timing.

Active Recovery

Easy exercise- encourage circulation to speed nutrients to damaged and tired tissues. Example: a 30 min. walk.

Passive Recovery

Doing nothing physical, but getting the deepest rest possible to rebalance hormone levels and allow for repair. Example: the treasured afternoon nap.

Nutritional Recovery

Replacing the nutrients depleted by training and racing. Example: a post-workout recovery drink.

Recovery Issues

  • Difference between recovering from training and racing
  • Mental/nervous system fatigue
  • Glycogen depletion
  • Muscle Soreness/Damage
  • Overall Stress Response

Unfortunately, I could not find the easy formula I wanted. Recovery seems to be more Art than Science. While the physiological processes are scientifically clear, there is tremendous individual variation. Which means trial and error. I want the plug and play version, and instead I learn that a lot of tweaking is necessary.

My first big racing block is over, and my experiment with what I’ve learned about recovery begins. Today’s recovery protocol will be: a walk in the forest, meditation, a long nap with brain wave entrainment, and a few supplements. Tomorrow will probably be a repeat.

XTERRA Tahoe City Preview

XTERRA Tahoe City

Third weekend in a row with a big race. It started by getting Hammered by the Hammerstein at Laguna Seca, continued with high altitude racing at the Lake Tahoe 8hr Mountain Bike Race, and culiminated with an off-road triathlon the XTERRA Tahoe City on Saturday.

Goal:

Chop off 15 minutes from last year’s best time.

Issues:

The bike course will be slightly longer this year since there iss no snow in the way. Advantage: Race.

However, that lack of snow will make the run course faster. Advantage: Me.

I haven’t been swimming much, but I’m a little faster. But the water is 50 degrees. Advantage: Push

Recovery: I feel stronger each day, so I’m hoping the training effect of the last two races will carry over into faster times this year. Advantage: Me

Dave: I want to beat Dave again this year. He had pneumonia and lost fitness. So did I. Advantage: ??

More fun and games in Tahoe City, thanks to the race promoter. For a different kind of recovery after XTERRA and for non-racers, thirty California wineries our pouring at the Tahoe CIty Winewalk. Killian Jornet running with regular folk and doing a Q&A at Alpenglow Sports. And the premier of Unbreakable, a movie about the Western States 100 trail race also held this weekend over at Squaw Valley. Lotsa good reasons to hang out in Tahoe. As if any reason was really needed.

Book Review: Finding Ultra by Rich Roll

“I can say with full confidence that my rapid transformation from middle-aged couch potato to Ultraman—to, in fact, everything I’ve accomplished as an endurance athlete—begins and ends with my PlantPower Diet.”
He had me right there. I absolutely loved that he came right out and said it up front. No beating around the bush of labeling this or that. Straight up: this was only possible because of diet. I feel exactly the same, even though I’m not at his level. I race at the back of the pack, but before I changed my diet, incidentally at about the same time, I couldn’t race at all. Racing was a dream that required far more energy than meat and dairy afforded me. When people remark about my healthy eating habits, my response is similar: I can’t do what I love to do unless I eat this way. I indulge myself from time to time, but I don’t kid myself any more. I know what it will do to my training and recovery. Indulgences are becoming less and less pleasurable.
If you’re the last person on the planet to read this book, get thee to a bookstore now! Or Amazon. Or drop by and I’ll loan you my copy. This book is amazing. I thought I knew what it was about, but I got surprised. I first found Roll online searching for other plant based athletes who shared their experiences, so I thought I knew what it was about. Then I heard some interviews where alcoholism was mentioned. Then I read the book. Holy cow! What a tale.
The book can be divided into three parts:
1) Swimming career that morphed into a drinking career
2) Mid Life Scare: goes vegan and becomes ultra distance triathlete
3) Nuts and Bolts: (or twigs and berries) how he eats, and why
TIME IN THE DRINK (chlorinated and alcoholic)
The early life stuff I tend to skim through in biographical reading. I don’t usually find it that interesting. Fortunately, Roll and his editorial team fixed that for me. The two important parts the reader needs to understand for the later story are made clear. Roll was not an athletic kid until he discovered swimming. And then he got good. Fast. He was able to choose what collegiate swimming program to attend. This shows the foundation of talent he had when he came back to sport later in life. Second, he was socially awkward and isolated a lot. This makes it much clearer why he became an alcoholic. The booze erased the awkwardness, and even early on he knew that, “Although a miracle salve to my social inadequacies, I just liked it too much.”
Part One of the book is about Roll’s career as a drinker. The vegan stuff, the endurance stuff, all that comes later. That’s what I wanted to read about, but instead I got hooked on the ten year binge. Roll tells this part of the story with a carefully balanced tone that doesn’t over-dramatize, nor leaves out anything crucial. This is not the story of a celebrity binge, but what an otherwise normal person can get themselves into. There are enough details to feel the everyday life of an addict, and drama from DUIs to keep you turning pages, but it never bogs down. The story keeps moving forward. But the best part, and what made me read it in one sitting was the clear understanding of why he did it. His insight is so clear that it all makes perfect, logical sense.
The attraction for him started from the very beginning, the first drink he had at a swim team party:
“… all those feelings of fear, resentment, insecurity, and isolation just                 vanished, replaced with the rush of comfort and belonging… For the first time         in my life, I experienced what I thought it must feel like to be normal-“
From there, the double edges of the sword begin to appear. While alcohol helped in some ways, the very problems Roll thought alcohol solved, alcohol started to cause. Rather than ease his social problems, it ended his first marriage on his honeymoon! Of course we as readers can see it thanks to power of hindsight, but the Rich Roll of the time couldn’t. And that’s what grips you.
Part Two is the athletic story that I thought I was buying. Like many people, once Roll sobered up and put his career back in focus and started a family, his health declined dramatically. It’s a bit ironic that in a story of an alcoholic, the main “moment of clarity” is walking up the stairs gasping and afraid of a heart attack! What makes this section of the book so readable is seeing Roll make mistakes trying to apply a new plant based diet and learn from them. I’ve made some of the same ones, but I guess I didn’t learn as quickly as he did! For instance, he reflects on the typical swimmer’s attitude toward nutrition by describing how many donuts he and his teammates would eat. Replacing all the calories burned from swimming was all that mattered. You might recognize this as the Michael Phelps diet. I swam in high school, so I’ve done that. When he does change his diet, his extreme personality leads him to some exotic “cleanse”. After a few days of suffering, he comes out the other end feeling great. But then he goes into what I call being a junk food vegetarian: fake meats, dairy, processed and refined foods, all the while wondering, “Why don’t I feel any better?” I have done that too, although less and less. What Rich discovered, and I am learning as well but more slowly, it doesn’t just matter what you don’t eat, it matters what you do eat. Nutrient density is key. And consistency.
Roll’s focus and drive to improve himself is where the story really becomes inspirational. In just a few months of changing his diet, he was exercising like crazy. In my experience, you have to nail the diet first in order to have the energy and motivation to exercise. I believe that the main reason most Americans don’t exercise is simply that they feel too bad from their horrible diet. In just a couple of years he had completely reinvented his body for Ultraman. His training was limited in description, but when I recognized the Maffetone Method at work by his coach, I was even more excited! Roll made horrible pacing and training mistakes early on by using intensities way too high that come directly from the swimming world. He had to learn, as I have, you must slow down to get faster by really developing the aerobic system. Consistently training his aerobic system and consistently eating nutrient dense foods led him to Ultraman and the EPIC5. By using the example of Rich Roll, my two year dream of Leadville doesn’t seem so impossible.
Part Three is the method to his madness. Roll succinctly explains how he does it in the kitchen, and why he does it. I disagree on his reliance on a blender, I think it’s better to chew your own food most of the time. I also disagree with his use of oil, especially when he references Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who vehemently opposes oil. He also relies a lot on high fat plant foods, coconut, avocados, nuts and seeds. He explains that his high volume training necessitates it. But I think whole food starches are better fuel than fats. But even if the vegan lifestyle isn’t for you, this last section gives a lot of great reasons to change your diet to include more high nutrient whole plant foods.
All in all, a fantastic read. I would not be surprised to find that this becomes my favorite book of the summer. But, next up, another great vegan endurance athlete’s story: Scott Jurek, six time Western States 100 winner.

Waiting for Rich Roll

I decided to be a good neighbor and pre-order Rich Roll’s new book, Finding Ultra. I didn’t realize until he reminded everybody that pre-orders on Amazon mean a lot to authors. And since I’m a big fan and love his plant powered message, I complied. Now I’m waiting, and I can’t stand it!

I’ve listened to two great podcast interviews with him in recent months:

Both interviews are really inspiring since Roll comes across as very approachable, regular guy. His story of resisting middle age is one many can relate to. He has the usual encumbrances of a demanding job and kids, yet he found a way out of it. Hearing how down to earth he is is contrasts a bit with his uber athlete photos! I liked in particular his response to dealing with time issues on a plant based diet. He really makes it sound much simpler and easier than many people think. It often seems to me that most people think we spend all day in the kitchen chopping vegetables. Not really. Maybe half a day.

I’ve skimmed the free excerpts of the book since I don’t want to spoil it competely for myself, but now I’m really hungry for more. Thwe world needs more plant based, athletic heroes and their stories. Now we have Rip Esselstyn, Rich Roll, and soon Scott Jurek.

C’mon Amazon, give me my Rich Roll!

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