Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ain – Jura Mountains

Distant Mountains visible left to right include The Matterhorn (Switzerland), Mont Blanc (Haute Savoie), Mont Pourri, Grande Casse, Bellecote (Savoie)

Before leaving the department of Ain (01) we decided to forego all the usual tourist rubbish in the valleys and just take advantage of a sunny day to hike up to a panoramic vantage point – which we had no idea actually existed? We also had no idea what we might see if we eventually found something. To help we switched off the GPS navigation and followed our noses – going first up to a small but completely dead ski station then taking forest trails that became more and more obscure and dodgy in appearance. Instinct of course does work in such situations and we got it spot on – finding the most stunning location by hiking up for an hour or so after parking. We were right on the tail end of the Jura mountains on a narrow ridge and peak that provided an almost 360° view of a vast area of France and Switzerland. The location is just to the North East of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine.

In fact we did attempt to hike in the Valserine gorge to look at the river erosion of the limestone – but it was so horribly polluted and stinking of everything from excrement to plastics and chemicals that we had to give that a miss. I actually couldn’t smell anything but Christiane has a nose like a bloodhound so she gives the advance warning signals.

01phy

 

Juras on the left, Geneva and lake Léman in the middle – Alps on the right.

Mont Blanc closer up.

Looking to the South – on the right is the Grand Columbier. Middle is the Rhone – coming from Lake Léman and towards the left is the Lac du Bourget leading to Chambery.

Driving home later on in the day we stopped by the side of the Rhone at the hyrdo-electric dam at Génissiat on the Rhone. The most impressive thing to see however was the stunning level of pollution in the water. In 1949 this was the most powerful hydro-electric dam in Europe.

 

Further down the Rhone we found a widening where there was a port for pleasure boats and a small and friendly café still open and selling excellent coffee – the “Lac du Lit au Roi”. Thankfully most of the obvious pollution seems to have been backed up by the dam and this place was charming and clean in appearance.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Le Tour de l’Ain–Craft Challenge Cyclo

Pre-Race

Bad weather continued this month – even for this key “August 15th” French holiday weekend. The professional Tour de l’Ain is quite a big event now and attracts all the top World Tour teams. It seems that a short 4 day event at this time of year is quite useful for bridging between the big “Grand Tours”.  Ain is a river that joins the Rhone not far downstream and it is the name of the “department” – like “Isère”. It’s a place that is easily missed as people scoot south to the Alps but it has some excellent cross country skiing and ski touring in the winter and is peppered with small downhill ski resorts. Despite the great beauty of the valleys this area is heavily overshadowed by industrialisation, aggressive Islamisation, pollution, general degradation and serious poverty. The overriding memory however was of meeting extremely joyful and friendly people. The actual race was excellent and a real privilege to participate in. The entry fee of 15 euros is a complete give away and a breath of fresh air considering how the Tour de France severely exploits people for it’s vastly over subscribed “Etape du Tour” with 13 thousand people each paying about 90€. In contrast we numbered only 200 including the riders who were involved in the entire 4 stages. Actually, it’s is little bit scary knowing there are only 200 and you will be covering 140km over mountainous terrain. The potential for doing a complete solo trip is pretty high. The pros numbered just under 100 for their afternoon race (ours started at 9am) – so there wasn’t a great difference in numbers but in our group the ability to remain protected and helped within a peloton was not as certain by a long way.

Leaving Savoie on Friday afternoon to head for Ain we were confronted with torrential, cold rain. Later, talking to one of the top cyclists in stage 3 that day, he said it was the worst day of his life ever on a bike! We ourselves were heading for a campsite so that was a slight worry but the weather forecast was for it to clear. I use the “WeatherPro” app (basic purchased version) on my tablet and telephone and it’s amazingly good – with radar tracking of clouds and satellite cloud tracking – so we were fairly confident that it would be fine – and it did clear up as we were en route. The real worry was that on Google maps satellite images the campsite in Nantua looked like a dump in the middle of an industrial zone surrounded by ghettoes. In effect it was all of those things – except that after going through the gate it was like a complete transformation into a peaceful, calm and protected natural and green haven. The couple running the campsite were bright and creative artists, spotlessly clean and attentive to detail. This made the stay a real pleasure – sleeping in fresh air to the sound of distant animals through the night – in particular a pair of owls who decided to hoot to each other until daybreak. Natural noises like that are more comforting than disturbing – in comparison with machinery and road noise – which is just about everywhere these days. In addition I absolutely hate hotels – they are vastly overrated nonsense to be avoided if at all possible.

The building for registering for the race was only a few hundred yards from the campsite so around 7:20 am I was there to register. Having gone to bed early – as is the way in campsites with lights out at 10 pm. I had already been up before 7 am and cooked a breakfast of porridge, banana and coconut oil so that I’d have a couple of hours to digest it all before the race. I made a big pot of coffee and filled a travel mug to take to the registration. Christiane remained in bed during all of this – but was up when I returned from registration in time for the campsite café opening where she could get a much better coffee and a really good croissant. Christiane invited me for a coffee and it was a mistake accepting because I still had to prepare for the race and this left me running a bit short of time. In the event all worked out well and I was lined up at the start with about 10 minutes to spare. Knowing the course was over 140km doing a warm up seemed pointless as it would only add to the inevitable tiredness later on in day.

Race

The first 7 km of the race was neutralised and controlled by a security car and motorbikes until we were well past the lake at Nantua and out into the countryside – where a panel displaying “KM 0” was positioned. The timed race itself was over 133 km so this first 7 km turned out to be an excellent warm up anyway. During this warm up I suddenly realised that my distraction with Christiane during preparation had caused a slight problem – I’d completely forgotten to put water into the water bottles! Turning to Chris Harrop who was beside me I said ‘Chris, I have to ask a REALL BIG favour of you!”. Chris gave me one of his full bottles in exchange for one of my empties. It was a lifesaver for me but could potentially seriously screw up his race. If you are in a peloton then you really can’t stop to pick up water during the race or you get completely dumped! I was sorry to have put Chris in this situation but unfortunately had no choice. If he had refused I wouldn’t have held it against him – it was my stupidity after all.

Shortly after the official start we began the first proper climb of the day and this separated out the different levels immediately. I saw Chris pushing hard to get into the first peloton and I settled into the second which was also going pretty hard. For the next couple of hours of climbing and descending I remained hovering around two or three of the same cyclists. They impressed me with their strength and it felt weird being able to stay with them. It was clear to me that I was punching well above my weight here but I decided that as long as it was working I’d make the most of it. What surprised me most was simply being able to stay with the people when climbing. When I was a little heavier (a lot heavier actually) I’d just be going backwards on those climbs relative to those guys. Staying with those guys and being in the fight was a very good feeling. Some guys would lose it on the climbs and then battle to catch up on the descents – each making best use of his strengths. Most often I found myself beside an extremely athletic looking young guy with a solid square and muscular build – no 2038 – and wondered how the heck I was keeping up with him.

Everything was going well until KM 69. Ironically my race number was 2069 – so this may have been programmed! We arrived at a 3 km climb and by this time our ever accelerating peloton had amassed at least 30 people. The problem was that it didn’t stop accelerating on this climb. By the top the peloton had completely exploded into pieces – and I in particular was spat out of the bottom. My energy levels were fine, it was just that the legs were starting to “ping” and “twang” feeling one step away from cramping. The legs had reached their limit. I actually couldn’t increase power in them when I wanted to. The energy and motivation were both still intact and the legs didn’t even feel tired – they just couldn’t mechanically handle it. This is purely and simply the result of undertraining and not enough mileage in the legs. In July I’d barely reached 500 km total due to awful weather and circumstances. On the positive side I did manage to grab a water bottle (bidon) on the fly that someone was holding out. I don’t know if it was intended for me but I grabbed it anyway. After emptying it into my own empty bottle I stuffed it into a back pocket to return at the end – but it popped out somewhere along the road. I was hoping that Chris had the same luck with water. In fact I’d missed the first “ravitaillement” completely so without Chris’s help I’d have been out of water until KM 70. While occupying myself with the water the few other remaining stragglers from the exploded peloton managed to from a small group ahead of me and pull away – soon to be out of sight. I was not interested in chasing them as I understood that the legs were already in the red zone. Interestingly the three guys that were dropped along with me were all about the same age as me too – so that probably played a big part in it. The younger guys probably had a bit more reserve whether properly trained or not.

The next 40km ended up being a solo time trial. Our peloton had been so fast – averaging over 30 kph for over 2 hours with considerable climbing involved – that there was nobody for miles behind me that I could even consider waiting for to team up with.  For example – the winner of the pro race was predicted to average 38 kph – so for a bunch of ragtaggle complete amateurs that speed was pretty good. The moment I was on my own I could feel the loss of speed but not a loss of energy and effort. It was necessary to pace myself just slightly under the level I’d been operating at but in reality I was probably working just as hard and my heart rate graphs proved that in the end – sitting on average around 152 bpm – which is my normal training level. My feedback was coming every kilometre through an earphone in my left ear connected to my telephone, running GPS and the “Runtastic” app, along with Ant+ heart rate monitoring thanks to Sony technology in my trusty Xperia Arc. What surprised me was the kilometre times on the climbs were not dropping by more than a few seconds – which was very encouraging. When you are isolated it’s easy to become detached from the entire process but the audio feedback is a great point of reference – a bit like having your own coach in a car behind you urging you on. Only one guy caught me from behind about 500m from the end of a big climb and very frustratingly I couldn’t respond to stay with him without risking too much. During the entire 40km time trail this was the only person to overtake me. Once again I watched him progressively disappear into the distance. On the next climb when near the summit I spotted another two guys closing up on me – but I got the the top before them and when the caught up on the descent I was able to speed up and get in behind to draft and let the legs recover a bit. There was a long descent and this gave a good break and time for proper recovery – especially as I could easily stay with them without pedalling. During the descent I lowered my heels to stretch the calf muscles as much as possible. Stretching is a great protection from cramping – if you can manage to do it. There were still two of the biggest climbs of the day to come so I didn’t expect to stay with those guys. in addition they were both participating in the whole 4 days tour so they were confidently strong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprisingly, right from the start of the first of the two climbs I took the lead and  ended up pulling the two other guys the entire way up the climb. My legs had completely recovered and were back in fighting mode even though we’d been going for almost 4 hours by now. It was extremely hard mentally holding that pace right to the top of the hill – but then I repeated the same exploit on the next and final hill too – the biggest climb of the day! On that last hill we caught up with and overtook two of the guys who had dumped me from the peloton that had exploded earlier on. They had both completely cracked by now. One was the guy who I’d almost held on with during the explosion and the other was a young guy I didn’t expect to see again. They were now dropped in turn. Just after passing the summit another guy caught us from behind – he too was participating in the 4 day tour. Now I was with 3 guys who were fighting for overall placing in the tour – so they meant business. This new guy put on the pressure so that my heart rate was the same during the descent as it was in the climb and with only 10 km to go there was now no letting up – with constant pace changing and sprinting to stay together. Coming up to the finishing straight I knew the game that would be played out. My concern was to get the best overall time that I could but their concern was position in the competition. I decided to keep the pace up and lead them in. Sure enough about 300m from the end they all sprinted past me flat out. The funny thing was that when I stepped on the power – just intending to stay together with them – the legs went straight back into “empty” mode and wouldn’t function. It felt like operating a set of bones with broken elastic bands. I found that amusing more than anything else – and disturbing considering that the others managed to vanish completely from sight in such a short space of time. How I managed to pace them up those hills and then for this to happen I really don’t understand.

The time from “KM 0” was 4 hrs 37 mins. This was about an hour slower than Mark Cavendish would manage in the afternoon – so pretty satisfying from my point of view as a seriously undertrained amateur more than twice his age. Unfortunately the cyclo results have not been published anywhere yet so nobody knows where he came in the race. (I say “he” because there was not a single woman participant.)

During the week building up to the race I’d been on an almost complete ketogenic diet – with almost no carbohydrates at all. This had been an experiment and was extremely interesting. On the Friday I cut out the intermittent fasting and started carb back-loading  - because I wasn’t confident about performing in a ketogenic state. It takes a body three weeks to become properly keto-adapted so there was no way I was ready for a competition without the use of carbs. The advantage here however is based on the “train low – race high” theory – of depriving yourself of carbs in training and then carb loading even more strongly as a consequence of this for the actual competition. There is still a lot to learn about the ketosis state but it feels very good as the body starts to adapt to it – so from now on that will be my objective – at least as an experiment. Carbs can be supplemented for competitions without destroying the ketogenic state once it is properly established – so it’s not a all back or white. You can create a “carb debt” and then eat carbs to compensate afterwards without ever leaving a keto-adapted fat burning metabolic state.

After the race Chris had to be driven back to Nantua to collect his car (22 km from the finish) and when back at the campsite I had a shower and change. Unfortunately on the return journey back to  finish I was too late and the motorway closed and trapped everyone on it as the pro peleton went through town – so I missed seeing the finish. One consolation was that at the only commercial stand at the finish line – an Ekoi stand- I was able to pick up a newer and more modern helmet for only 35 euros – so that was a nice compensation. Most importantly I had really enjoyed the race  - especially the first 70 km where our peloton was marshalled by a security car and motorbikes and ambulances the whole way – literally clearing the road in front of us. The last part also turned into an exciting battle and once again earned us a motorbike escort and support – with an ambulance following us across the finish line.

I spoiled myself after the race with a well cooked “hamburger maison” and chips in a restaurant and loved it! Sometimes diets need to be forgotten!

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Beaufort–Col du Pré

Today was supposed to be an orgainsed event at Bourg St Maurice. However some were setting off at 7:30am and not paying for the meal – and others would set off at 9am and the route would be nothing more than a collection of my normal inter-season mid-altitude plodding paths. Finding it impossible to get motivated for that I chose to do my own thing and head off for a solo 120km ride around Beaufort – taking in the Col du Pré and the Cormet de Roselend. In the course of events it was a late start because the evening before I’d gone out late for a 10km run and needed to use the morning and a good lunch for recovery. Night time would be already upon us by 9pm so I mounted some mini high brightness LED lights – which are also useful for going through long tunnels – just in case.

This was a great decision as the roads were almost empty, at altitude there was no wind and the setting sun was stunning – it was absolutely gorgeous. It’s what living is all about – screw the office job and wage slavery!

Sometimes it’s important to have the time to stop and take photos or just take a break in a mountain top café for a drink – with no pressure or distraction from others.

Exercising itself was tough because I didn’t have a lot of energy. Perhaps it took a while to digest the pasta and veg (with coconut oil for ketones) lunch, but it proved difficult to raise my heart rate to a performance level. This was the first time out on the bike since Tuesday’s big ride – since when I’d managed a 6hr mountain hike, 36 hour fast and a 10k run. Normally the next ride on the bike after a big ride turns out to be a “recovery” ride – whether it’s the day immediately after or several days later. This felt like a recovery ride but it was impossible to really say why. What was interesting is that my functional heart rate did progressively rise so that it was correct by the time of approaching the top of the steep Col du Pré. The col is impressive because it has several kilometres averaging 11% gradient – so it’s tough with normal gearing!

I stopped briefly in the centre of Beaufort, expecting to have to change the battery in my phone/sports app device. Surprisingly the battery was fine and so I just had a Coke and filled the water bottle in preparation for the climb up to the Col du Pré. Sitting on the terrace enjoying the break and the iced Coke in the heat of the sun it was hard to not be disturbed by the incongruity of the tables surrounding me – all filled with bikers and biker families in their leathers – and all puffing away at their stupid cigarettes  – parents and offspring alike – without exception – as they slavishly do all day and every day of their lives. Horrible!

Escaping from the mechanised idiots I was promptly back on the bike riding up through Les Areches village – which was closed for a special 50th year festival of some sort. The gendarmes however let me dismount and walk though the town to start the climb at the other side. before climbing in the heat I topped up my bottle at an old fashioned water stand that uses a mechanical wind up handle. One of the little local kids offered to turn the handle for me – cute!

With the town being closed the road up to the col was empty. It was like being in heaven! Right at the top of the col, overlooking the Roselend dam I discovered La Pierra Menta  café/restaurant, also overlooking the famous Pierra Menta peak. This would be my final extended pit stop for the day. There would be another stop at a watering point just before starting the climb up to the Cormet de Roselend – but here at the café I’d consume another Coke – if for no other reason than to have a break and chill out. The temperature was better here at 1750m altitude – although wind had kept me cool enough lower down where it was between 25°C and 30°C. 

 

 

La Pierra Menta (famous for its winter ski touring competition)

My legs had been throbbing by the top of the Col du Pré so the café break was a useful recovery. I was eating some dried dates and consuming some sugar mix along the way – but using only a minimal amount to keep brain fog and headaches at bay. Fortunately headaches caused by low energy supply to the brain are rapidly remedied by eating glucose – so you can more or less wait for the first signs and then use it as a signal to eat a bit more. From the café there is a descent down to the dam and then it’s necessary to cross the dam and cycle around the lake before starting the climb up to the Cormet de Roselend. The climb up to the Cormet was very easy in comparison with a setting sun still providing body warmth even at 2000m altitude.

 

 

 

 

 

Timing was spot on as light was just starting to disappear when arriving at home. The small LEDs were perfect for making the bike visible and there was still ample light for seeing the road. 15 minutes after arriving it would be dark! My energy levels continued to improve right up to the 5hr 25min (not counting stops) and 119km end – despite eating very little and having missed the evening meal. The descent from the Cormet was excellent as the wind was from behind and the roads were completely empty. The dry hairpin bends are real fun and you can play with dynamics, trying to nail the bends with maximum speed and g-forces, without worrying about skidding and falling. Needless to say there is no gravel there either.

After the hard ride my appetite – as usual – was curbed. The body goes into a post exercise ketogenic state – where it metabolises fat and produces ketones for energy and feeding the brain. It’s true that if you want to replace the glycogen (glucose crystals) in your muscle and liver stores then you are best to eat within an hour of exercise – but the big problem with this is that it completely shuts down fat metabolism. I decided at this point not to eat and to go straight into my weekly 36 hour fast – despite having just burned about 5000 calories in exercise. There is a slight risk here that the body might steal protein from the muscles to metabolise and produce glucose – but with the fat metabolism already running there is also a good chance that more fat will be burned. I would really like to lose a few more kilos just now – so weight loss is priority. I have heard in the past that a good way to lose weight is to “not eat” after a workout. Of course this is never properly explained. When you understand the logic then there is more motivation to carry out such a dietary restriction. 12 weeks of fasting exercises also removes the fear and apprehension of not eating. Endurance sport itself appears to have boosted my fat metabolism anyway as performance has improved – so there should be no issues with “bonking” during the 36 hours of fasting. Whether or not I can manage to go for a run during this period remains to be seen. Any exercise will be slow – at “fat burning” pace due to reduced energy availability. Apparently the training effect of a workout is every bit as powerful when on reduced energy as when going flat out on a high carb workout! When the body is fully keto-adapted apparently the “fat burning” pace is as high as the carbohydrate performance pace – so the “fat burning” label needs to be used very carefully. In effect “fat burning” is a pace which uses the highest absolute number of grams per hour of fat in metabolism – which is different for someone using carbs and someone who is keto- adapted. I’m not keto-adapted!

Chi Running – evolution

The previous evening’s run had been interesting. Having just come off a 36 hour fast (later in the week than usual due to competition and other events) there was no way to get up to full power – so it was a good time to work on technique and efficiency. There were two key issues that really stood out. First of all the efficiency of raising the heels the get the lower leg properly horizontal for the recovery – it makes a massive difference to the reduction in energy required to pull the leg forwards. Secondly there was a new sensation. Normally running is a matter of “pushing” to try to advance the body. Of course this is a massive screw-up as the propulsion should come from  gravity (deflected) – but even knowing this it’s mighty hard to avoid the temptation to actively push. On this occasion I really felt that acceleration and speed came from driving the thigh forwards – and not at all from pushing. When coordinated with the falling forwards of the body I noticed that instead of the driving forwards of the thigh causing a breaking effect (equal and opposite forces) – the power from the forwards drive went into the leg that was extending behind. The power was not coming from that support leg – it was coming from the recovering leg and core (abdomen/ mid-section) and upper body (arms).

For speed – there is a cadence and rhythm that must be met – about 90 strides per minute – to ensure an energetic/elastic  rebound and “freewheeling” sensation. Running downhill for a moment can help to connect with the sensation – but it isn’t about speed it’s about cadence. Oddly however, when just focussing on cadence alone it’s easy to miss the effect!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Champagny Hike

Tignes Glacier seen from above Champagny le Haut.

 

 

 

Tignes with the Grande Casse to the right.

 

The Grande Casse glacier (main glacier is on the other side)

 

Moraine at the bottom of the Grande Casse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View in the opposite direction – down the valley – looking directly onto Courchevel and the next two valleys are Meribel and Les Menuire.

 

The Three valleys!

 

Christiane reaching the top of our ridge crossing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chartreuse

Today was primarily a “day out” on the bike  – the first time this year cycling on new roads that I’d never seen before. The trip would cover both mountainous sides of the valley leading from Chambery to Grenoble – with the main (hard) part being on the West side – the Chartreuse Massif. This would mean finding an apparently invisible road up a vertical 3000ft wall. I think I’d driven up that road in 1993 and went mountain biking once up at the top – but got lost and miserable. There was no public GPS in those days and I remember it was misty with low cloud. The bike was  a useless Marin steel mountain bike from close to the first generation – with no suspension and weighing half a ton – which was still considered pretty good in those days. Those bikes were not cut out for real mountains, being perfect only for trails in reality. I gave it away to a friend in Les Arcs eventually – but he only used it once and seriously hurt his nuts so never used it again. Hint! – never give a bike away because you will always regret it eventually! I’d cycled across the whole of the Pyrenees from West to East on that bike so it’s sad to think it is not appreciated now – however technology moves on and today’s technology is one whole lot better and far more reliable.

Leading our group was Chris – who had ridden the route last year – the route being planned by a local French cyclist named Richard. (Route can be seen here in full: http://www.openrunner.com/?id=3928653 ) i downloaded the planned route from openrunner.com and uploaded it into runtastic.com online so it became a selectable route on my Runtastic (Road Bike Pro) telephone app. It was the first time I’d actually used a mapped “route” with Road Bike Pro so that in itself would be interesting – to see if it actually helped with route finding etc. Lesley and Rob were the other two cyclists and like me were not accustomed to such distances or such big accumulated ascent totals in training this year (147km and 3600m climbing on this route).

The photo of Chris, Lesley and Rob has the Chartreuse Massif in the background. This striking geological feature extends all the way from Grenoble to Chambery. At the Chambery end it was the source of one of the worst disasters in the middle ages when a partial collapse killed between 1000 and 2000 people. Mount Granier collapsed near midnight, on November 24th, 1248 and the debris covered an area of approximately 20km sq – the rockslide being 7km long with maximal width 6.5km.

Central Fatigue

This was only a training ride so stops and photos would be possible. The racing mentality has the unfortunate side effect that you don’t really notice anything other than your intense effort. At least today we would be able to take some time out to enjoy the new surroundings. None of that would lessen the intensity overall however – and Rob was unfortunately soon to become a victim of that fact.

Myself, Chris and Lesley were all using a sugar mix of 2:1 maltodextrin to fructose – but Rob wasn’t! Following shortly after the climb up to the Chartreuse Rob bonked. Oddly, this hit him on the descent which although tricky and largely on a single track road, shouldn’t have been the point at which he slumped. “Central fatigue” is the technical name for bonking and it’s when the brain is not receiving enough fuel to function properly. Rob ended up stopping and laying his bike down – but only after dismounting with difficulty, putting his hand on the ground to help. he then lay flat for 15 minutes and eventually crawled on all fours to a river to get some more water. This is the difference between those with a nutritional plan and someone without one.  The fact is that “superstarch” or “maltodextrin” when used along with fructose, keeps Central Fatigue at bay regardless of the intensity and duration of exercise. Other fitness issues will be exposed but bonking won’t happen.

Meanwhile, we were all waiting near the bottom of the descent wondering what had become of Rob. I was sure he had a puncture or something. When Rob did turn up we were all out of water but fortunately only a few hundred metres further on there was a public water supply in a small village – and nearby there was a restaurant open so happily we all agreed to have lunch – and all plumped for the “plât du jour”. This is SO much more enjoyable than racing!  OK, it’s different – racing is also very enjoyable.

It was slightly chilly during the descent though we all had windbreakers to wear. Rob ended up shivering and shaking all through his meal – but this was clearly coming from the Central Fatigue. We still had a good 1000m of climbing to do and about 70km to cover so I was a bit concerned about how he would cope.
Each person was effectively climbing at his/her own rate and then we would meet at the top of each climb. The climb up to the Chartreuse that destroyed Rob was quite impressive with very long stretches of over 11% gradient, long dark and wet tunnels and finishing up at the top with the “Col du Coq” – a word play in English which clearly amused Chris. No doubt the rest of us were having slight humour failures by this point as basic survival was probably more important. Chris – shepherding everyone, was no doubt staying well within his limits.

Two more cols would have to be climbed before our final descent into the valley near Chambery – the Col de Couzon and the Col de Granier. Couzon was steep but only about 4km. Granier was not so steep but it went on for about 8km. Granier is quite a famous climb but that must be from the other side – which is really steep and goes all the way to the valley floor.  The best part was that at the top of the Granier there is a big café so we had our final rest stop of the day and could prepare for the descent and then the 35km hike along the valley floor back to the cars. Rob had impressively recovered and was back performing every bit as well as he was before bonking. That was interesting to observe.

The important thing to know about Central Fatigue is that there are two ways of preventing it. You can either load up with carbs before a workout and then supplement with appropriate carbs during the session – or go the other way and train the body to burn fat very much more effectively through either fasting or eliminating carbs and most protein from the diet. The jury is still out on the question of which is best as very little research has been done on the second option – the “ketogenic” state.

In my own case I’d supplemented on this day with ketones consumed directly in the form of coconut oil – and had been loading up with carbs pre-workout – plus using the maltodextrin/fructose supplement during the session. For about three months I’ve also been using one or two day weekly fasts and more recently daily intermittent fasting – to get the body better adapted to ketone use. The body, being subjected to post exercise ketosis, fasting ketosis and also training while low on glycogen  - plus eating ketones directly – tends towards using fat more efficiently as an energy source when exercising – hence sparing the glycogen in the system. On this day I’d only taken enough sugar for two hours supplement at 90g/hr – and instead spread this out over 6hrs 33 mins. The large meal in the middle no doubt helped though as I finished the day feeling stronger than when starting out.

Altogether it was a great day on the bike. From now on I’ll be making up new routes myself and getting out there. The Road Bike Pro app worked perfectly and the map really helped with navigation – until the battery ran out. I need a new battery – but as the app allows a power down and then picks up again from were it left off I can change batteries during a long day if carrying a spare. Recently I bought an “original” Sony battery from the internet but it was a con – obviously being original – but used and useless! Cheap Chinese batteries are also a false economy as they too come from recycled dead batteries and they are very poor quality. Don’t buy Chinese unless you enjoy being ripped off. Next battery will unfortunately be an expensive but new Sony original.

Monday, August 4, 2014

La Bourgui 2014

Electrical Storm – Torrential Rain

Aime – recovering from the torrential rain.

The evening before La Bourgui 2014 race there was a spectacular electrical storm with bolts of lightning striking at much lower altitudes than usual. Driving home on a dual carriageway when climbing a hill my car managed to aquaplane half way round a corner before coming back under control. Luckily it happened when climbing and not descending. The problem was this was forecast to continue until late the following afternoon and racing bikes are not guaranteed to stay upright in anything approaching those conditions – even with my high carbon “nanotech” Continental tyres. The start of the race would even be downhill from a ski resort.

Sure enough the torrential rain continued during the night and at 6am was not letting up. Having registered and paid for the race I decided to go anyway and then make a last minute decision about bailing out at the race start. Driving uphill to St Martin de Belleville where the race would begin, just down from les Menuires ski resort, there was dense cloud to drive through and curtains of rain that were severe even for a car. The one saving grace was that the air temperature wasn’t too low – and that changes everything.

Preparations with the bike and clothing had been completed the nigh before. There’s a million and one things to consider when preparing and any one overlooked item can be a source of real trouble. Cleaning and oiling the bike is important – then leaving out the pump to remember to bring the tyres up to pressure before setting off. Making up the food supplements for the race takes time and getting everything laid out for a fast, efficient early morning breakfast and departure takes hours of organisation.

Driving up to the start there were no other cars going up the mountain and I wondered (or hoped) if the race had maybe even been cancelled.  Arriving at St Martin de Belleville however it was all go with the race security cars and motorcyclists, ambulances and organisers as busy as ever. I registered for the race and went inside for a pre-race coffee (and toilet) still not having made a definitive decision. Despite the rain still falling there was a momentum building up about the race and bailing out felt less and less likely. The long descent to Moutiers would be very risky and the participants would be reduced to only a few real diehards – but this is a race only for diehards anyway – tourists being conspicuously absent every year even if the sun is shining. At best it’s a brutal race from start to finish.

Pre-race Fatigue

Right from the start of the race my legs didn’t feel right. At first I thought it was just due to not warming up properly, exacerbated by the cold rain against the legs. In reality the legs hadn’t fully recovered from Thursday’s very hard workout and Firday’s 12.5km run. The week before that I never got out on the bike at all and although there were a couple of running sessions this doesn’t maintain cycling fitness. July on the whole had been a wash out with rain storms and waves of cold air so that up until Thursday I’d only managed around 400km total during the month – with most outings being short hill climbs of no more than 90 minutes. Thursday’s attempt to catch up on lost time was not ideal preparation for Sunday’s race – but this was anticipated. Priority was never just for this race – it was to get out on the bike when conditions permitted. The racing is for fun and motivation.

How do I know the real limit was cause by fatigue? Well, in addition to subjective feeling the give-away indicator was the heart rate – simply being unable to sustain the high levels that I know can be sustained. When the heart rate doesn’t climb to it’s expected level then this either indicates illness or fatigue. Despite feeling an apparent dip in performance in the middle 10km of the last climb there was no genuine energy loss. On reflection even the dip in performance was only fatigue induced because as soon as the gradient eased off a little the heart rate went back up to the same level as it was 3 hours earlier.

The Race

Start – Wet Descent

Participation level was low with only about 67 on the short course. There is a short climb at the start before the long wet descent to Moutiers and my legs had no response to people overtaking me even here. Saturday had been a full rest day but recovery was clearly not complete. It wasn’t as if the legs were dead – they were good – but just not 100%. My main adversary for the day would be Jacques Matt. Jacques had beaten me by 2 minutes on the Time/Mégève and I’d beaten him by 6 minutes on the JPP so today’s battle would be interesting. Jacques overtook me on the climb – which is unusual because he normally climbs relatively slowly early in a race. Responding to this I was able to muster up the effort to regain the lead from him before the top of the climb. The descent to Moutiers is punctuated with several faux-plat climbs – not being a direct or simple descent. This guarantees a fight right from the start as people need to slipstream or risk being dropped early on. Jacques was wearing a black bin bag with holes torn for his head and arms – to be torn off and discarded at the bottom of the climb.

Everyone was worried about the water on the road and the likelihood of falling. The trouble was that the descent was a good 20km so a lot of time could be lost. I pushed on past the over-cautious and thought that this would be a good pace until I heard a roaring noise as Jacques flew by about twice as fast with his bin bag thundering in the wind. Naturally, caution went out of the window at that point as I had to make sure not to let him get away. On the next climb I caught up with Jacques and then dropped him after a short sprint to catch a faster guy to draft behind. From this point on Jacques was history – or so I hoped.

The steep technical descent into Moutiers was a battle to avoid getting dropped. My descending skills are relatively strong so that helped a lot – choosing good lines and keeping the bike as upright as possible gains a lot of time on the hairpins – and keeping the arms tucked well in makes freewheeling much faster.

The Hills and Flats

Climbing out of Moutiers it was clear I didn’t have the strength to stay with the guys I’d hooked up with on the descent. However after losing them for a while someone else caught me up and then by sharing the work and rotating the drafting we rapidly caught up again on the flatter ground. I was clearly struggling to keep up speed on any gradients though – regardless of recent weight loss or better nutrition. When we hit the first proper climb – part way up to Naves – a small cross country ski station – I just let the faster guys go. I knew there were people behind but only a few caught me up and there was no sign of Jacques. The guy I previously worked with (in a red jersey) eventually stopped pulling ahead and kept a steady gap of about 100m. He was then joined by race no 96 who had also overtaken me. Interestingly 96 had a really slow cadence and Red a really fast one – which was odd to watch as they climbed side by side. My cadence was in the middle.

Descending back down to the valley floor would be on a very narrow sketchy track – which is the only place I managed any sort of skid during the day. The road was a bit steeper than the main road, with gravel and tighter hairpin bends. Skidding in a straight line is not a problem – it’s something that every kid practices while destroying their rear tyres. The only snag here is that in France the rear brake is on the right – whereas British kids grow up with the rear brake on the left – so there is always a potential confusion possible.

Getting to the long flats I knew that it was important to catch the other two for drafting as we were now on a stretch of 35km where getting isolated would be a disaster. Despite the other two properly drafting in rotation I was able to catch up before the next short climb. Being really familiar with this particular climb I was able to pace it better than either of them and get in front by the top. A couple of others then soon appeared from behind – but eventually they were too strong. About 5km further on I was caught out by a short hill which the others had anticipated better. My legs had been tired from pulling in front and they all accelerated to get momentum up the hill – so I was dropped and it was impossible to get back – a clear mistake on my part! All was not lost however because 96 had made the same error and so we ended up for the next 20km or so having to share the work and helping each other. 96 would start off up each hill faster than me but I was always able to get back together by the top – until the final steep slope coming into Moutiers. After dropping me 96 then kept looking back and slowed down slightly to let me catch up as there was still a fair stretch to go before the start of the final climb.

Arriving at Moutiers the roundabout was confusing as there was no clear direction sign and the person stationed there made no effort to signal. 96 almost went off in the wrong direction so I had to shout to warn him. Earlier on Chris Harrop had almost fallen here on the white road paint as his front wheel slipped a little. Martin Rowe further behind was not so lucky and landed on his hip and head when his front wheel went from beneath him.

The Final 20km Climb

When we started the final climb back up to Les Menuires I just let 96 go ahead because he was obviously stronger and drafting wasn’t needed now. There was someone at the roadside with a stopwatch who called out the time ahead of the leaders – only 23 minutes! The first 60 km had been covered in 2hrs exactly – 30kph average. That’s a speed that would destroy me regardless of the condition I was in – and I was not to be disappointed. Looking down the road as the climb began the next group was about half a kilometre behind and I wondered how long it would be before they all came past me. I felt sure that Jacques would be in that group.

For a while I managed to climb in 3rd and 2nd gears and keep up a reasonable pace – which was quite encouraging. Either the road then steepened or I got tired because before long I was in first gear and looking for a lower one that wasn’t there. About 5km up the climb and I saw the Maçot club red and yellow jersey of Jacques, minus the bin bag, approaching and knew that he was going to easily devour me. Jacques went past at a significantly better pace. I still felt fine and wasn’t running short of energy – just strength. All I had to do was use low gears and there were no issues of sustaining the effort – but there was just no force in the legs or speed up  the hill. The middle 10km of the climb was a bit grim – but not as black as I’ve known this section in the past. Stopping for water at St Martin de Belleville I was even able to joke with the helpers – so mentally and physically there was not the deep low that can be experienced at this point. Only a kilometre further on and the road would widen and level off a bit. When the gradient reduced to around 5% I was able to work properly again and get my heart rate back up to over 150 bpm consistently – which again shows that there was a fitness/strength/fatigue issue and not and energy issue at root.

Two kilometres from the end there is a slight dip downhill before a steepening of the gradient uphill. Last year when hitting this gradient both my legs went into violent cramps and forced me off the bike – so I was paying great attention to how my legs felt this time. Despite being on the edge during the whole race I’d paid attention to coordination and alignment – making sure to use the muscles, joints and leverage in an optimum pattern. The food supplements should also help with cramp issues – despite the obvious fatigue. Sure enough there were no signs of cramp and my small recovery from the doldrums continued with a progressive catching up of the guys who were visible ahead in the distance. About 2km from the top 96 passed me on his way back down the hill and 1km from the top Jacques passed by too – having finished about 8 minutes ahead.

In the end I was 7 minutes faster than last year (3hrs 44 mins) and had no cramps – not as good as I’d hoped for but not a complete disaster either.  Chris had been only 12 minutes ahead at the 60km mark but I lost another half an hour to him on the climb.

Despite fatigue I was able to hold a good level until the critical 7% gradient where power to weight ratio dominates in climbing. This makes it clear that I need to lose another 3 or 4 kilos to prevent this from happening. There were certainly no fatties ahead of me. Most of the skinny mutants who win those races do not look healthy at all – so I’ll be happy just to settle for the 3 or 4 kilos and a sensible time.

After the race I had to cycle about 8km down to St Martin de Belleville to get back to the car before getting cold. During the descent the sun started to appear. Rain had actually stopped after the early morning descent into Moutiers – but by then everyone was thoroughly soaked. I’d kept my waterproof on and never got too hot. I function better when feeling hot than when feeling cold. When I got to my car and put the key in the lock – it wouldn’t work. The lock was jammed (perhaps due to all the water) and this key only works in one lock. Not ideal when you are standing there cold, wet and tired! I had to break a rear side window to get in the car – not the first time! Peugeot lock systems are CRAP!

Chris took 2nd place in our age category (18th overall I think) and so won a pair of Look pedals – and that meant we had to hang around for four hours for the prize giving. That on it’s own wasn’t bad but the food after the race was really horrible. At least coffees were free.

I came 57th overall (out of 69+ )and 10th (out of at least 12) in age category.  I’ve never managed better in this race so there are no surprises there.

 

Chris on the podium – on the left “Maçot”

(first time ever in a cyclosportive! – though he won it last year he didn’t know and missed the podium that time – beating the guy who had top spot this year!)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Training - Cormet de Roselend, Beaufort

Thursday 31 July

At last a day without rain! This July must be one of the wettest on record in the Alps – pity that wasn’t the case during the winter when excessive precipitation was desired.

Due to a combination of working on clearing weeds and trees last weekend and the bad weather I’ve managed – even in the month of July – to miss an entire week’s cycling. This session would be a long one of 115km to get back into it properly. It’s strangely hard to get back on the bike after a week off. In fact it’s disturbing how easily an exercise routine can be forgotten and quickly be relegated to the back of the mind.

Intermittent Fasting – Ultra Endurance Workout

Perhaps my main concern for today was that it would be the first “ultra endurance” (over 4 hours) workout since adopting a daily intermittent fasting program. Monday had been a full day without food spanning 36 hours and from Tuesday evening a daily fast of 12 hours was being employed – as it was all the previous week. This has noticeably reduced my cravings for sweet things and all foods in general. In effect it has modified my appetite. The concern is however that the nightly  - 8 pm to 8 am – fasting which empties the liver and muscles of glycogen (as it is intended to do) – might cause negative issues on a long workout.

So! What happened?

It was my best workout around this circuit for several years. Perhaps most of that outcome can be attributed to weight loss of course – but the last time going around there in June on the back of a full day’s fasting (separated by one full day of recovery) was the exact opposite, leaving me struggling badly for energy all the way – and that was without any intermittent fasting going on.

The intermittent fasting seems to have removed the tendency to be dependent on sugar, not just for appetite but for energy in general. Perhaps by cleaning out the glycogen every day – this encourages the fat burning system, in particular  “Ketosis” to function better. This was also week 11 of my whole day fasts so perhaps there has just been a general evolution or adaptation regardless of the intermittent fasting – but the appetite changes didn’t begin until daily intermittent fasting began.

Chi Cycling – Lower Back

The demanding physical work of clearing land at the weekend had left me with a very sensitive lower back. A few years ago cycling would have aggravated this into a problem but now it only helps. The key to this of course is the Chi Cycling coordination and I was looking forward to it as a therapy for the back. Yes, it worked! There was no backache on the bike and it helped the overall recovery markedly. I have had back surgery three times but left all that nonsense behind me over 25 years ago as I learned to deal with such complex “management” issues myself. In effect I’ve never missed a day’s work on the mountain in 25 years even through the harshest of winters. There is a permanently compressed sciatic nerve in my lower back – with blocked circulation of spinal fluid – but it acts a a sentinel which helps keep me alert and managing the back properly. Awareness levels necessary for managing such issues are hard won but invaluable – protecting the whole body and all the joints especially in the most demanding and extreme situations.

Ketone Supplement (Coconut Oil)

One new additional factor added to this day’s workout was supplementation with ketones – in the form of two tablespoons of pure organic coconut oil. The brain can use two fuel sources – glucose and ketones. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of ketone’s – Medium Chain Triglycerides – and is around 50% lauric acid – with another three similar ketones (fatty acids). The idea of supplementing is to supply alternative fuel to the brain and muscles and produce a glucose sparing effect to make the sugar last longer. Bonking happens when the brain runs out of energy so this is potentially a tool for tricking the brain into holding off from shutting down the system – bonking – or “central fatigue” as it is more technically referred to.  In addition, when the body is trained for endurance events then fats are burned during effort in a higher proportion than for untrained people – maxing out at around 65%VO2max for trained athletes. Supplying additional ketones to supplement those that will be slowly produced from the body converting its own fat stores seems to make sense.

Having fasted all night the workout was delayed starting until mid afternoon so there would be time to backload a little on carbs. In this case lunch was rice and a massive nutritionally rich salad. The evening meal the day before had also been wholegrain organic rice with mixed beans and nuts. Added to the rice this lunchtime were two tablespoons of melted coconut oil. In addition to being rich in ketones the coconut oil is also very rich in vitamin E and antioxidants and the fatty acids are actually beneficial to the heart. “Virgin oil” – first cold pressing of fresh organically grown pulp – might be expensive but it’s incredibly pure and odourless (though I generally can’t smell much anyway).

Coconut oil (two spoonful's per day) is known to markedly improve brain function in those suffering from Alzheimer’s and is known to improve thyroid function – which is a key factor in metabolism. When overweight people supplement with coconut oil they are reported to specifically lose abdominal fat.

The oil also makes a perfect synthetic chemical free skin care cream and doesn’t break down in high temperature cooking. It’s definitely a seriously overlooked “superfood” – due to early misunderstandings that led people to mistakenly believe that it’s high saturated fat content was bed for heart disease.

The Workout – and Sugar and Amino Acid Supplements

Pre-workout I’d been a bit ill with a headache and explosive bowels so it was going to be slightly hard to know what symptoms to come would be from this or from the actual workout. I had also started to supplement correctly (twice per day) with specific amino acids to start building up levels in the body for the upcoming race on Sunday. (Citruline Malate, Arginine, Taurine plus Vitamin C and D-Ribose (riboflavin))

Climbing the Cormet de Roselend I was able to avoid dropping below 2nd gear despite wind in places. Until now this year first gear has been obligatory. The climb was physically strong and psychologically enjoyable the whole way.  Perhaps the week off from training contributed to this effect as accumulated tiredness levels would have definitely dropped. At the top I stopped for some photos with my new tiny Sony DSC WX350 20x optical zoom compact camera. It’s small and light enough to carry on a bike without feeling it at all. In fact a couple of times I panicked thinking it might not be in the pocket. The images look great and dramatic – but those posted here are post-edited with the great “Neutralhazer” filter added to Photoshop (Brought to my  attention by Paul Evans).

After the descent to Beaufort there was a bit of a headwind to work against all the way to Albertville. If anything the mildly headachy feeling from before the workout was clearing – but pushing against the wind seemed a bit uncomfortable. It’s the only point during the session where I felt a bit under par.

The rest of the workout felt fine with highs and lows of energy at unexpected moments. That’s usually a sign of things going well. I stopped for water at three public water spouts along the way – just carrying one bottle on the bike. Along with the water I had 180 grams (dry weight) of sugar mix – 2 maltodextrin to 1 Fructose, with multi-vitamin-mineral, L-taurine, D-ribose, caffeine, sea salt and organic lemon juice. This is about 50% of what the body can process and use over a 4 hour period. I kept the sugar supply to 50% because this was not intended to be a workout at maximum intensity – due to the need to recover for the Bourgui race on Sunday.

From about the 80 km mark I was starting to get deep leg pains. This is the sort of hurt that has positive developmental effects in the long term – unlike cramp – which is simply debilitating. It was impossible to determine the real cause of the leg pain – Pushing higher gears? Low carbs due to intermittent fasting? Ketones masking low carbs? I suspect it was the use of higher gears. The final climbs from Moutiers to Aime were all carried out using the large 52T dual camber chain ring. Until now none of those climbs were possible using that chain ring – so bigger gears were definitely being used. At no point was there a serious energy or motivation dip.

On stopping at the end there was a deep leg ache for about half an hour – similar to how it often feels at the completion of a tough race. Recovery however was good – eating promptly after the workout and there was no trouble sleeping. Next day (Friday) I was able to run 12.5 km without feeling particularly tired – passing the 10 km mark comfortably in 55 mins.

Carbohydrate Loading

Eating immediately after the workout was an essential element for commencing carbohydrate loading for Sunday’s race. There is about a 30 to 60 minute window after a workout where eating can restock a maximum amount of sugars back into the muscles – and after that it’s too late. At least 3 days  are necessary for carbohydrate loading and in reality exercise should be being reduced by this point. Bad weather had not allowed this program to be strictly followed. Cycling over high altitude mountain passes in bad weather is not recommended – they were literally white with fresh snow a day or two earlier. On this day, with the sun out I was able to climb and descend with only a cycling jersey and no windbreaker. (Though I had one in a pocket just in case the sun disappeared behind clouds)

Carb loading has proven somewhat difficult as my appetite seems to have diminished with all of the fasting. I’m basically on a vegetarian (plant nutrition) program. Perhaps the one thing that’s kept me on track here is organic red grape juice – which is incredibly sweet and an effective natural way to carbohydrate load. Even just a few weeks ago this juice seemed like pure nectar and I could guzzle it by the gallon – along with dates and anything else sweet. Now all that sweetness is slightly repulsive. Saturday will have to be a massive wholegrain (épeautre) spaghetti day to make up for it all. From Thursday until Sunday the intermittent fasting has been stopped to allow for carbohydrate loading.

Ketosis Performance

I’m currently reading about the possibility of using chronic ketosis for enhancing athletic performance. This involves so-called “keto-adaptation” over a period of 3 to 4 weeks of either fasting or high fat, very low carbs diet. The science looks good but at some levels it seems to lack credibility. There is too close a relationship for my liking to the “Atkins” fad diets – which are clearly not nutritious. So far I’ve found no serious evidence of any successful elite athletes who perform in a genuine state of ketosis. Perhaps they use low carbs or fasting at some point and then either backload carbs before or even during competition – but nobody seems to race purely in a ketosis state. With this in mind my current intention is to remain on course with the use of intermittent and one day fasting along with carbohydrate backloading and supplementation – adding only ketone supplementation from coconut oil.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Training and Fasting

La Plagne 2000

Training

Today’s workouts involved running 12.6km with a mostly anaerobic heart rate (above 150 bpm in my case) and then cycling up to la Plagne 2000 – which is a 4,600ft climb from the bottom – also anaerobic all the way up. Back-to-back workouts like this have always been beyond my reach in the past – the first session alone normally leading to fatigue and even obliging a nap within a few hours of completion – no matter how fit I was. After today’s workouts there was no fatigue or sleepiness all evening. Both workouts were well within my comfort zone and physical limits despite being anaerobic. The changes that have brought this result appear to be purely nutritional and not an issue of training technique or volume.

The only author I trust in the field of nutritional health is Dr Joel Fuhrman – a rare species of medical doctor who is prepared to criticise his own profession.  When his work is taken as a reference everything else appears to be intellectually incoherent by comparison. He simply practises a principle that has been well known and understood for thousands of years – the practice of basing health primarily on good plant based nutrition and the body’s own unsurpassed powerful capacity to heal itself when given the appropriate opportunity.

There are three core aspects to training nutrition: Basic Diet, Supplements and Fasting. Unfortunately Dr Furhman doesn’t discuss anywhere on his website or in his books in any depth how to apply this trio to athletic performance. He only discusses the benefits of a highly nutritious diet with respect to protecting the immune system from being depleted due to intense physical effort. In this post I’m going to focus mainly on “fasting” from a training perspective.

The Big Nutrition and Medical Lie

It’s tricky to find reliable information on diet and nutrition. So called “experts” contradict each other outright with specific scientific “facts” cherry picked to justify their beliefs. You end up with your head spinning and almost nothing but complete confusion. Planet Earth now apparently has 2.1 billion overweight or obese people so all those wonderful “experts” are doing a great job! 30% of all deaths in Europe and Central Asia are from heart disease alone – all absolutely avoidable (17+ million per year worldwide). The countless millions of people living with heart failure each spend around 500€ per month on drugs – so it’s an extremely profitable business altogether – not to mention the cost of unnecessary heart surgery, the most common surgical intervention that exists - 700,000 open heart ops per year in the US alone at $107,000 per op. There are also many people on the planet suffering from starvation - 842 million - with 1.2 billion in extreme poverty and 2.6 million children dying from starvation causes each year. Either way it is all malnutrition of one form or another whether obese or starving. It’s too easy to blame the victims and leave the “experts” squeaky clean – or to deflect the issue towards political, industrial or commercial influences. The fact is however that if the medical world was criminally insane it couldn’t generate more carnage, misery and unnecessary expense than it already does.

American Indians had a principle where they only paid their doctors when they were in good health and not when they were ill.  If that principle was applied to modern medicine the effects would be remarkable. Instead of keeping everyone nutritionally wrecked, drugged, surgically mutilated (In the US by the age of 60 one in three of ALL women have had hysterectomies.) and bankrupted through extortionate insurance or medical bills – doctors would have to learn how to actually help people instead of slowly killing and robbing them and the pharmaceutical, fast food and tobacco industries would be the first to be hammered.

We are brainwashed by a constant barrage of information telling us to never skip a meal and to eat small meals every three hours etc. We are advised even by governments and medical associations to have rich diets with a minimum of 20% to 35% fat – even if we are dying from heart disease or have a body crippled with chronic inflammation.  You have to wonder if those establishments have been deliberately set up to cripple and murder the general population and to profit from all the misery generated. Toxic fluoride pills for children have been standard for a generation now even though fluoride has absolutely no place in the human body and is only useful for generating Sarin Nerve gas, rat poison and Prozac (fluorine compound with the fluoride ion used in production). Fluoride is generally produced as an industrial waste when making agricultural fertilizer and it used to be very hard to dispose off until they decided to feed it to children and dump it into household water supplies. There is no scientific evidence showing that fluoride does anything positive – but we do know for certain that it is potentially extremely destructive in the human body and brain. Vaccines are also full of heavy metal toxic additives and there is plenty of evidence that they do not work. Try finding a post-war modern scientific study of the effectiveness of the smallpox vaccine and you won’t get very far. The fact is that the disease was on a steady decline long before the vaccine was introduced and that the rate of that decline was not changed by the vaccine. More importantly the vaccine had the effect of stopping the prevalent medical practice of the period of deliberately infecting people with smallpox as a supposed cure – a horrific practice that came to Europe from China through Turkey. In those days it was accepted that a doctor could kill an otherwise perfectly healthy patient. Nobody ever seemed to think about killing the stupid doctor. I do have to wonder if this perverse practice was a deliberate attempt to kill Christian and Muslim people – and whether it was introduced by the Turkish Doenmeh – Crypto Jews with a well known apparent agenda to occupy the professions and to destroy the so called “goyim” (Jewish supremacist and racist terminology for anyone who is not a Jew). Today’s giant pharmaceutical corporations may unfortunately have similar aspirations.

Along with many other devastating toxins even fluoride can slowly be removed from the body through both fasting and exercise – and so it’s not just about avoiding serious toxins which are commonly present in our food (pesticides and additives), water and medicine – it’s also about eliminating them and providing nutrient rich food at the same time.

“Fluoride causes more human cancer, and causes it faster, than any other chemical.”

- Dean Burk, Chief Chemist Emeritus, US National Cancer Institute

Fasting

Fasting is extremely counter-intuitive as an aid to athletic performance.  During fasting you become tired and lethargic – especially when you continue training. It also takes a few days to recover strength once the fast is finished so this gives both a sense of weakness and lost training time. It would be easy to dismiss fasting as inappropriate for athletic improvement – but that assumption may be short sighted. There is a seemingly complete absence of information available on this subject so I’ve simply had to become my own guinea pig and observe the effects of various periods of fasting and recovery on performance issues. The results are surprising.

Some major benefits of intermittent fasting: http://www.naturalhealth365.com/natural_healing/brain-power.html

  • Lower weekly caloric intake (full day fasts)
  • Rapid weight loss
  • 20 fold increase in Human Growth Hormone levels (2000%) after only 24 hours
  • Rapid cellular detoxification
  • Improved immune system function
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Lower threshold for commencing glycogen replacement (greater carb loading capacity)
  • Cleansing of arteries – improved circulation – reversal of cardiovascular disease
  • Growth of new neurons in the brain and improved brain function
  • Genetic repair and longevity

So far I’ve only used either one day (30+ hrs) or two day (60+ hrs) fasts but this week I’ll be experimenting with daily (12 to 16 hr) intermittent fasting in addition to a one day fast.

One Day Fast (approx 24 to 36 hrs)

Preparation

My preparation for fasting until now has included a good strong workout rather than a reduction or modification in eating – either cycling or running on the day or evening before – so that glycogen levels are already driven down a bit and any potential break in training time over the following few days is minimised. There is also an assumption that having used the muscles strongly there is less likelihood that fasting will start to break down any of that particular muscle tissue. I don’t know this for sure but based on the principle of “use it or lose it” this assumption might be reasonable. People are normally advised to modify their diet for about a week before attempting to fast so as to have more stable blood sugar levels.

Starting

For me the easiest way (psychologically) to begin any fast is to go to bed. When you wake up in the morning you are already 6 to 8 hours into your fast – and probably not hungry either. All my life I’ve felt obliged to eat breakfast when not feeling hungry – because we are commonly advised to do so. Perhaps this even discourages us from listening to our bodies. If there is no desire or need to eat then perhaps it’s better to go along with that. Despite common advice to avoid stimulants such as coffee I do like a coffee in the morning – and considering all the other things I’m avoiding I’m not about to give this up too.

Cheating

On a one day fast I’ve used the occasional spoonful of honey in hot water when going through a difficult patch. Organic stock cubes work too for giving a comforting substitution for food. More recently however I’ve not needed the honey at all and have begun to dislike the stock cubes which leave an unpleasant aftertaste. Non organic stock cubes all seem to have monosodium glutamate and need to be avoided.

Exercising

During the fast there is enough energy for exercising in the middle of it. Running 10k would be slowed down by about 5 minutes due to low glycogen levels – but it’s not that hard to do.  My idea with this – right or wrong – is to drive glycogen levels even lower and to push the body more rapidly into a deeper detox situation and ketosis (switching from glycogen to fat burning). There is a strong possibility that ketosis develops the body’s ability to burn fat more effectively. During exercise there isn’t such a clear switch from one metabolic system to the other. Running or cycling slowly will burn fat but that doesn’t stop when running fast – the other mechanisms are added and the fat burning continues with more overall calories being consumed.

Boredom

During the full day of the fast there is no real tiredness or lethargy. The only difficulty is boredom at meal times! Other things need to be found to occupy the time so that social pressure and habits are removed.

Tiredness

The second morning (before break-fast) is when I have a mild headache. On two or three occasions I’ve had mild headaches and impaired vision (ophthalmic migraine). This begins a loss of central vision which is replaced by a flickering central aura. The aura then grows into a circle expanding outwards and the central vision itself becomes clear – eventually the thin ring moving outwards until it disappears after about 20 minutes. This is caused by the body eliminating cellular toxins and with the toxins entering the bloodstream. Usually around the same time tiredness from low blood sugar levels begins to kick in. Once this tiredness kicks in it stays. Normally it should take about 3 days for a male (less for a female) to enter a ketosis (fat burning) metabolic state but I get the impression that due to exercise the time for reaching this point has been about halved. Some people claim to feel energetic when this happens – but for me it is always just like permanent a “bonk” in running or cycling – it makes everything into a slow plod. The brain starts to become sluggish and very lethargic too. Perhaps after a long time of this the entire system would adapt – and it surely does in extreme circumstances – but I’m not yet interested in finding that out for myself.

Rest and Recovery Day

Although most people would suggest resting during the fasting day I’ve chosen to rest the day after fasting instead – when glycogen stores are at their lowest and the opportunity to rebuild those stores is necessary. If you exercise at this point (day following the fast) then you will not be able to work hard, you will feel demotivated and your heart rate will remain low. Oddly enough there is sometimes a great sense of wellbeing when exercising then despite those issues and I can only assume that this is linked to detoxification – which occurs significantly within the brain itself.

After a tough sporting event a rest and recovery period is also necessary and I’ve been struck with the similarity of the state of the body after fasting to this post-competition state. This hints that the real post-competition issue is not “fatigue” but very low muscle glycogen storage levels. One major key to restoring glycogen levels after exercise is the immediate consumption at a rate of 1.5g per Kilo of body weight of carbs (either simple or complex) – which allows an efficient recharge of muscle glycogen during a brief window of opportunity. One hour later and the ability to recharge quickly to a good level is literally lost. This is also useful to know if more than one training session will take place in a day.

Carb Loading

After the fast you can load up with carbs and apparently stock greater amounts of glycogen than before. The standard way of carb loading is to eat no carbs during a week starting 10 days before a competition – eating only fats and protein. Three days prior to the competition the diet is reversed with protein and fats eliminated, exercise reduced and only carbs consumed. This roughly doubles the glycogen and glucose stocked within the liver, muscles and blood. Fasting seems to do the same job as eating only protein and fat. It would be interesting to know if fasting is even more efficient than the standard approach. So far I’ve found when exercising on the day of breaking the fast it hasn’t been possible to restore glycogen levels fast enough after either a one or two day fast. On day two of the recovery after a two day fast there is still not a good level of glycogen or performance, but after a one day fast there does seem to be a strong recovery – at least up to normal levels. What I do know for sure is that three full days of carb loading works perfectly in both cases.

In my case the one day fast was followed up with additional 12hr “intermittent” fasting overnight so the gain in strength/glycogen by the afternoon following the fast was also subject to this constraint.

In conclusion it appears that the longer you fast the longer it takes to rebuild glycogen stores – but 3 to 4 clear days seems to guarantee not only recovery but a boosted level no matter how long you fast.

I’ll go from now on for 1.5 to 2 days recovery for a one day fast and 3 to 4 days for a two day fast or from any sustained absence of carbs from the diet. Intermittent fasting doesn’t seem to cause training problems – as long as a good meal is taken a few hours before training. I would probably stop intermittent fasting however about 3 days before a competition to ensure carb loading.

Two Day Fast (48 hrs to 64 hrs)

Fasting longer than one day is just a case of “more of the same”. It just takes longer to recover and your brain goes into hibernation mode for longer. People talk about experiencing alertness but so far I’ve not experienced anything like that  at any time with fasting – nor has anyone else I know personally who has tried – at least up to 6 days. The only way the brain seems to be affected during fasting is that it makes your behaviour irritable and lethargic. I’ve also noticed that those who fast for five days or more seem to be more or less traumatised by the experience. Two days seems to be long enough to seriously induce weight loss but to not create any behavioural swings afterwards. The second evening seems to pass very slowly and the best way to to find a good movie to act as a distraction. It’s not really possible to be very productive by this stage.

Recovery from a two day fast takes time – so we are really looking at a 5 day block minimum. This is what I used successfully for the JPP race recently – privileging weight loss and carbs loading over outright training. Two day s fasting – then three days (3x 24hrs) recovery from the morning of breaking the fast to the morning of the race. Mon/Tue fasting – breaking the fast Wed morning and racing on Saturday morning. Full day of rest on Friday.

Intermittent Fasting (12 to 16 hrs daily)

Fasting for a number of hours within a day – normally from 12 to 16 hours – is called “Intermittent Fasting”. The idea here is that the body gets 4 hours to digest properly after the last meal and then 8 more hours at least for the liver to go though a full detox cycle. This is apparently long enough also for the brain to start its own cleaning up processes. Currently I’m experimenting with a 12 hour cycle of fasting from 8 pm to 8 am – to fit into line with normal meal times. The big advantage for me is that it prevents the evening munchies from taking over and frequent raiding of the refrigerator for comfort eating in front of the computer.

Current Plan

Currently I’m combining a one day fast each week with intermittent fasting on all the other days. The intermittent fasting is the easiest way to fast. It’s far more natural than any “diet” because it’s utterly simple. Just don’t eat again after the main evening meal until breakfast! If you feel like extending the fast then skip breakfast and eat at 12am instead.

Even if you decide to misbehave and stuff yourself with rich food during the 8 hour eating window it’s not really possible to consume enough calories to make up for what you have cut out – at least if you have also been exercising heavily. Appetite tends to be curbed by fasting so that even with intermittent fasting, when you start eating again, you don’t actually want to eat very much.

So far I’ve completed one week of this combination of “One Day” and “Intermittent” fasting and that included not only some reasonable training performances but one 12 hour stint of heavy labour clearing shrubs, trees and weeds that had formed an impenetrable jungle. I was physically exhausted after that and my brain felt dead – but that might have happened under any circumstances.

This week during the One Day Fast I went for a 10k run and could only manage 57 mins due to low blood sugar. The day after the fast was used as a rest and recovery day. The following day I rode up to La Plagne (2000m altitude) and was already strong enough and with enough glycogen to set a personal best time for the season of 1hr 26mins.  The next day on tired legs and while getting used to Intermittent Fasting I ran the second fastest 10k of the season at 51 mins.