Inspired by Kenyan runners?
I sure am. Want to become a Kenyan, or at least like a Kenyan runner?
I sure have, and I am not alone.
There are two ways to become Kenyan:
1. Move to Eldoret or Iten, eat ugali and sukuma wiki every day. Run a ton with the various training groups and live and breathe running until you get fast. Adharanda Finn tried this, and wrote an interesting account of a European living, training and racing in Kenya in his book Running with the Kenyans.
Don’t want to pack up the kids and live in a third world country like Finn? The you’ll have to improvise and adapt. Here are a few Kenyan secrets that could be modified to fit a Western lifestyle.
- Build the Biggest Aerobic Base You Can: I recommend the Maffetone Method. A large part of Kenyan success is the years of easy to moderate aerobic running they do as kids. Many people are also surprised at how slow even elite Kenyans train much of the time. Aerobic fitness is the most important factor, and you can’t fake it for long.
- Don’t Run Barefoot, Run Like You Were Barefoot: Remember that Kenyan runners get shoes as soon as they can. But years of running barefoot have given them a fantastic stride. For Westerners who have lived their lives in shoes, a different approach is needed. Spending more time barefoot, running in less supportive shoes, training on natural surfaces and focusing on a high cadence efficient stride can pay off big.
- Simplify: The more you focus your life energy on running, the more improvement you can make. Take a close look at lifestyle factors that interfere with training and recovery. See what you can eliminate or reduce. Read Thoreau and remember his maxim, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!
- Periodize: Know when it’s time to train, and when it’s time to take a break. Know when it’s time to go hard, and know when it’s time for recovery.
- Rally the Troops: Find others to train with. Kenyans rarely train alone, and they feed off that group energy to get more done. Join a club, find a partner, go to races, get a dog. Lots of folks get more done when part of a team.
Eat a simple starch based, vegetarian diet. The Kenyan dietary secret is not the ugali and sukuma wiki, but that it is starch based with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. There are many ways to do this based on a number of different starches, fruits, and veggies to suit anyone’s taste.
OK, so you can’t really become a great Kenyan runner, especially if you missed out on a Kenyan childhood. But you can still learn from some of their habits. Who knows? Maybe a PR is in store for you this season.
I intended to use this PCRM Kickstart as a kick in the pants to erase some not so salubioius habits and replace them with better ones. Well, life interfered. It became busier than I thought, and in ways that surprised me. I had planned that I would try all these new wonderful recipes and blog about them. I wanted to support and inspire others that were new to this lifestyle. So I kept my head above water,and with one trangersession, I managed to stay on task. But I wanted to blog about more, especially the practical bits. Well, maybe next time.
I wanted to do more, write more, and share more about hoe this is a wonderful lifestyle that is not so difficult to maintain.
If it is so easy that I can’t even write 250 words about it, then truly, how easy is it?
For me, it’s not so bad, because stir fried veggies and rice or chili are always great options. But for anyone else looking for more practical advice about food addictions, sorry I wasn’t so much help.
Moving forward (the only thing we can do) we can resolve to do better. Everything gets easier with practice, so we should not panic if we blow it along the way. Try to find a way around whatever block it was. There is a way, we can find it.
Keep on keepin’ on,
Peak, Taper and Rest
Yup, that’s the plan. BIG race this weekend, the Tahoe Traill 100, a 100K mountain bike race that also serves as a qualifying race to get into the infamous Leadville Trail 100. I did this race last year on a lark as a personal challenge, only hoping to finish within the time cut-offs. I succeeded, so of course I wanted to do it again and see if I could improve on my time. Using the Maffetone Method of developing a great aerobic base and avoiding high intensity training means my “peak” is a little different. What I’ve done is accumulate volume by not taking days off, and stretching my workouts a little longer each time. Then my “taper” will be three days of reduced training, then three days of rest to absorb all that volume. Then race!
Two hour MTB time trial. Aerobic climb to compare fitness to last year
Short transition run, depnds on bike time
Dinner- Jeff Novick’s SNAP curried cauliflower and potatoes
60-75 min run
40 min swim
Dinner-Turkish Eggplant and rice, green salad
90 min. road ride easy
Dinner- Italian potato/green bean casserole, green salad
MAF test on the track
Dinner: Curried vegetables and dal
Dinner- Fuhrman style GOMBBS (greens, onions, mushrooms and potatoes)
Drive to race venue for athlete’s meeting
Go as FAST as possible!
Of course they can!
Elsewhere on-site, an inspiring story by an amateur athlete that I can relate to well:
With recent plant based athletes like Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek, and Rich Roll sharing their success stories, it’s a great time to represent this lifestyle. While none of them follow the starch based McDougall diet that I feel is best, they all attribute nearly all their success to their nutrition.
But it is interesting to see more exposure and discussion of plant based lifestyles and high level sport. What was mocked by many, including so-called “experts” a few years ago now gets fairly balanced coverage. I thought the interview article with professionals was good. It explains that just because a diet is vegetarian or vegan does not necessarily make it healthier. There are plenty of plant based junk foods, and basing your caloric intake on oil, refined flour, sugar, fake meats and cheeses will not promote health.
Here are few quotes I found particularly interesting:
“You do have to be diligent about protein intake if you’re vegan. I have clients, especially women, who say, ‘Oh, I put a few chickpeas in my salad.’ But that’s not going to do it.”
Perhaps. If you’re not eating enough whole plant foods, I can see this happening. But that’s not a healthy diet. If you’re eating intact starches and vegetables with enough calories, protein will not be a problem. Look at the Kenyans. The comment also reflects a bias many of us have where we pigeon-hole certain nutrients into certain foods and forget about the big picture. In this case it’s beans for protein. Whole starches average 10% of calories from protein, and green vegetables have more protein per calorie than most animal foods. I will concede that some research indicates that an absolute value of protein of 1.2g/kg of body weight maximizes recovery. For some, that may take a little extra effort.
“The one issue is vitamin B12, which is found only in meat; B12 is important for endurance athletes, since it affects red blood cell production. “
True. But we already know that, and it’s easy to fix. And it’s probably not nearly as dangerous as people think, especially when it also affects omnivores as well. Dr. McDougall explains the research quite well in his article.
“My feeling is that hard training trumps everything. Diet, if it’s healthy, isn’t going to make that much difference.”
Yes and no. Consistent training is the most important thing. The body adapts gradually. Time out due to injury, illness, or overtraining stall progress. But I firmly believe only a healthy diet allows for that long term progress. Without proper nutrition, the body won’t recover well.
Diet is certainly key fro me. I have raced the last three weekends consecutively for 4-8 hours each time. With plenty of time for reflection at the back of the pack, I realized that 10 yrs ago, eating the Standard American Gourmet Foodie Diet, there was no way I could have done even one of my recent races. Now I love racing, and as soon as my legs aren’t sore, I’ll be back training for the next one. Without my whole foods, starch based diet, I can’t be active.
“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.
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.
I need to periodically review the rules that I want to follow to reach my goals. I also find repeatedly watching DVD lectures by the experts helps with motivation too. The following MWL rules come straight from the eponymous book, while the annotations are my own reflections on application.
Eliminate all animal foods
No problem here. Done. But cheese can sneak in if you’re not vigilant. Have to be extra careful with that.
Eliminate all oils
Easy, with two exceptions: I use sesame oil for authentic Asian flavoring in small amounts, but not for now. I will have to use other flavors. Restaurant food is dripping with oil, and must be avoided. The Chinese food I cheated with was a low calorie vegetable dish, but the oil was crazy.
Eliminate all high fat plant foods
I’m pretty good about this, except for tofu. No soy, nuts or seeds for now, except for a little flax on my oatmeal for omega 3 EFAs.
Eliminate all flour products
This is one of the main distinctions between MWL and the regular program. It means no soba noodles, which I adore. I also like bread and tortillas, but none for now. The problem is calorie density and the quicker and bigger impact on insulin.
Eat whole grains and potatoes
Easy. These are my favorite foods. But beans and potatoes have a special place in the MWL plan because of their their effect on satiety and blood sugar. Potatoes have more satiety per calorie than just about anything, and their nutrient density compared to whole grains is favorable. Beans, peas, and lentils have a strong effect on satiety as well by releasing their carbohydrate slowly over a long time, making one feel full longer on fewer calories. Score!
Make low-cal green and yellow veggies 1/3 to 1/2 of the meal
I need to work harder on this. I need to lower my calorie density by including more veggies. I often stop food prep with the main dish starch. Even a simple side of steamed veggies would help greatly.
Eat raw veggies
Salads can make both this rule and the previous one easier as long as a no-oil dressing is used. Now that we are into the warm months, great salad ingredients are available and appetizing. So big salads before the main dish are the order of the day.
Restrict fresh fruit to 2 servings a day
I’m not as much of a fruit eater as a starch eater, but summer means great fresh fruit is tempting. I always put fresh berries with my oatmeal and I’ll continue to do that. I also like a little fruit, especially grapes in my salads, so I may flub this one. I will time it so that I eat fruit after training for the best effect.
Use simple sugars sparingly
Not a problem. I don’t have a sweet tooth. The sweetest thing I like is fresh fruit, with the occasional exception of a coca-cola. Some simple sugars end up in condiments, but I won’t fight that. I don’t think it makes a meaningful difference.
I’m adding another rule with built-in flubs:
No liquid calories
Sport drinks during training sessions over one hour. They do help with recovery.
Tart cherry juice. I’m going to experiment with this for the anti-inflammatory benefits on recovery in between some big races. To minimize negative impact, I’ll only drink them after training.
Alcohol on designated cheat days. All work and no play, right? But my experience with the effects of limiting alcohol this past week suggests it does make an impact. Dr. McDougall writes,
“The process of turning alcohol into fat requires significant amounts of energy. Rather than waste such energy, the body burns off the excess calories as heat; so alcohol does not turn to fat, despite the added calories. By providing these calories, however, alcohol prevents body fat from being burned, leaving fat in the adipose tissue. Thus your attempts to lose weight are foiled by alcohol.” pg. 113
Alcohol also raises insulin, which prevents fat from being burned. Since the main goal of my use of the Maffetone Method is to maximize the energy I can produce aerobically from fat, this makes alcohol a problem. I think avoiding it over the last week helped, since my training time is close to cocktail time. So, until race weight is achieved, summer sippin’ rose only once a week.
And just because “racer” is in the name, Bear Republic’s Racer 5 won’t make me faster. Darn.
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!
Been lagging on the blogging lately. Missed out on the great opportunity with the recent California Mad Cow. All I can say is, where there is smoke, there’s usually fire. Does the USDA inspire confidence in you? Me neither.
I’ve been adding some volume, so I’ll maintain that. Instead of an informal MAF test, I really need to do a formal MAF test on the track this week. I get three bike commute days this week, so I’ll do two on the MTB and one on the road bike. For one run I want to go about an hour, so I need to modify my usual route. And swim! I’ve been lagging at the pool. It’s so darn inconvenient. And a little racing at the Chick Chaser 5K next weekend!
Bike commute, MTB 90 min
Run, MAF test
Swim 30 min
Bike Commute, Road bike 2 hrs
Run 1 hr
Swim 30 min
Bike Commute MTB 90 min
AM: 2 hr road ride, recover
PM: Race 5K
AM Swim 30 min
PM Run 90 min
Meals and Nutrition:
Race weight is slipping away. I need to get more focused on the McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss and the principles of calorie density. Too much beer. Don’t drink your calories, Vegpedlr! Except after the race. Three miles of chasing chicks requires beer. It’s only fair.
So back to rice, beans, and greens. And little potatoes for snacks instead of things made with flour. Black eye peas are already cooked, chili in the crockpot for tonight, and the black beans are
Spanish Red Lentil and Garbanzo Soup with Chard, large green salad
Happy Herbivore’s Maryland Kale, Black Eye Peas and Rice..
Black Beans and Mangoes, Caribbean Style. (if mangoes aren’t on sale, Cuban Black Beans and Rice.)
Stir Fry: Bok choy, zuchini, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli with noodles or rice.
The farmer’s market has a lot of great stuff right now, but we’re still kinda between seasons, so a lot of random stuff. Plus, I hate May. The school year is winding down, and I’m tired and cranky. I want summer: ride the mountain bike for two hours, then ride the hammock for two hours. Repeat daily until September.
A little gem appeared recently in the Canadian Huff Post about Lance Armstrong’s plans for 2012. (Why Canada?) It appears that Mr. Armstrong has been influenced by his training partner, Rip Esselstyn to move more towards a vegan diet. Armstrong still allows himself to “eat whatever” for dinner. But following Rip’s plant strong approach has shown real benefits that he wants to pursue. I’m a little surprised at this, for in one of his autobiographies he mentions that he followed a similar vegan diet while recovering from chemotherapy. Plus, his famous focus and attention to detail, led me to believe that he would have already experimented with diet in order to get every advantage he could. But he clearly shows that we’re never too old to learn new things. He also contributed a blurb to Rip’s book. Moving into another athletic comeback, he is actually changing his nutrition. I hope that he takes this a lot farther. What a great representative of the plant based lifestyle he would be!