Saturday, June 13, 2015

Criterium Dauphiné

Today Chris and I went on a 55km loop - from Albertville, uphill towards Beaufort then cutting across the Col de la Froclaz and down to Ugine then up a long 2.4% gradient up to Faverges and then climbing up to the Col de Tamié - arriving an hour ahead of the Criterium riders and before the large contingent of gendarmes could stop us on the road. I filmed the passage with my Sony Z1 compact phone - not bad video for a telephone!

I was impressed by the speed of the riders and the numbers of vehicles supporting them... Froome wins this stage in the end.


Next day - Sunday and Chris Froome wins the final stage and the overall victory in the Dauphiné in classic style - being 18 seconds behind in second place he wins by 18 seconds exactly!


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Time Mégève Mont Blanc 2015 - cyclo-farce

64th out of 134 Age Category
311th out of 498 General Classification
291st out of 461 Men

4h: 08m: 08s           112km

ALL descents neutralised - over 50km including the 12km descent to the start.

769th (out of 1235) 01h: 45m: 13s Sallanches - Col de la Columbière  (Alt 1613m, 1110m  vertical)
854th (out of 1235) 00h: 50m: 18s Grand Bornand - Col des Aravis  (Alt 1486m, 866m vertical)
588th (out of 782)   01h:08m: 37s  Flumet - Les Saisies  (Alt 1633m, 747m vertical)
                                00h: 24m: 00s Flumet - Mégève

I'll warn you right now - I did not have a good day! However, I had a better day than Jacques Matt (Bourg St Maurice) who almost broke his collar bone, bruised his ribs and lost his car keys before even getting to the start. Not only did Jacques still participate (85km event) and came 5th in his age category with his body mangled but despite being 10 years older than me he left me for dust on the first 1110m vertical climb. Altogether that spells "Exceptional Performance Observation" to me, or as Lance used to simply say "Not normal". (Also "not normal" is that one of the older Bourg club members died of a heart attack on his bike later this week!)


Preparation

Anyway - I didn't manage to recover in time from the previous week's race in the Vercors and during the week I'd had brief  headaches (left eye)  and general lack of energy. The night before the race sleep had been had to find and very restless. However we arrived in Mégève in plenty of time in the morning despite the main road up the Gorge d'Arly being closed as usual. I'd prepared as well as possible but had just missed the online inscription deadline by 2 minutes the previous day. Being slightly under the weather this meant that when I found they were charging 50€ instead of the online 44€ I already felt pretty pissed off. Part of the fee is to cover their self publicising Time Mégève cycling jersey that they give us and I was looking forward to picking up a Small size for Christiane - but the bastards only had XL - for everyone. Luckily it was only daft Jacques who fell off his bike - as he seems to do on a weekly basis because if I'd fallen I'd have turned around and called it a day immediately. Jacques had sped off ahead down the road when both Chris and myself had slowed down instinctively due to that section of the road being very wet. True to form Jacques lost his front wheel on a white line in the middle of the road. Personally, I've been using racing bikes for precisely 40 years - having cycled solo around Scotland at age 16 on one. What is going on in the head of somebody who falls often in training? If anything though this demonstrates how utterly pointless neutralising the descents really is. If people are going to fall they will fall - racing or not - because they are brainless.


Race

Only at the race start did I learn that all the descents were neutralised. This meant that if you included the 12km descent to Sallanches for the start that around 52km would be neutralised over a total distance of 124km - with the actual "race" being over 112km. Not only did I already feel ripped off by the organisers but this was adding insult to injury. Nobody could figure out how the timing was supposed to work so when standing in a long line of 1500 cyclists the next question was when to start our own timing devices? I started mine on the official start time then proceeded to take 6 minutes to cross the start line. Confusing or what? Later I realised that on exiting Sallanches there was a control point for our timing chips and then at the top of the Col de Columbière there was another control point - so because those stupid organisers were not interested in the race we would individually be timed between the two points. I tucked in behind Chris and averaged close to 50km/hr for the 20km down the valley until the start of the climb. Even slipstreaming it was hard work for me because the legs didn't feel right and my heart rate was not climbing appropriately. Right at the start of the climb I said goodbye to Chris and settled into a sustainable rhythm of my own. It felt like crap but I knew the aim when feeling this way was to just plod on and make it a good aerobic training ride. The anaerobic zone was out of reach today. Arriving at the Col de Columbière was a relief but also quite a miserable one. The feeding stations were neutralised so people could chill out and sunbathe or have a party and not lose any time. The descents would become a totally disengaged amble to nowhere with nobody talking to anyone. Utterly pointless! This was turning out to be the first time ever that I've genuinely hated a race - all because of the sheer stupidity of the organisation. The rest of the event followed suit with another three timing zones. I've never seen anything like it before at an event. It was effectively three solo hill-climb time trials one after the other - with nobody having a clue where they were actually placed overall or relative to the person next to them. Complete rubbish and totally demotivating! This race has to be avoided at all costs in future. It used to be good but it has degenerated into a complete farce. The previous week in the Vercors we raced but were also timed on the hill-climbs! There was no neutralisation! I wouldn't mind so much if they hadn't charged 50€ for this rubbish. Imagine every descent in the Tour de France being neutralised! Risk is an essential part of sport and we are insured - all of us.

Only the final return to Mégève was interesting where I became involved with another group of frustrated riders who started to battle and accelerate while slipstreaming and sprinting alternately. It was 10km of good fun and the only time my heart rate went up high all day - after 5hrs 40 minutes out there. (1hr; 32m in total was spent in limbo - neutralised!!!!!!!!).

After the race I avoided the rubbish pasta food meal because I don't want gluten poisoning. There was no food choice other than pasta.


Conclusion

Definitely and by far the worst race on the calender (in fact in all of history) and to be strictly avoided in future by absolutely everybody.

For the rest of the week following I have still not managed a proper recovery. Alternating between running and cycling perhaps doesn't help. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Challenge Vercors 2015 (121 km)

  • 33rd out of 99 (Age Category)
  • 171st out of 372 (G C)
  • 4h 16m 53s (official) 120.3km 2600m climbing
  • Ketogenic - no supplements or food during comp
  • BAC (Body Acetone Concentration) 0.06%  by 6pm
  • Sodium bicarbonate used as H+ buffer

 

Ketosis

Nine months of constant ketosis is starting to bring a significant performance gain at last. Until now all I felt was a constant weakness. Weight loss - down from 77kg to 63kg by the start of winter last year was mainly gained through fasting and that probably sacrificed too much muscle. Had the weight loss been when in ketosis (avoiding carbohydrates between  weekly fasts) then the muscle would have been spared. When going through all the fasting I had no knowledge of ketosis, being misled by a book on fasting by Dr Fuhrman. Furhman is a vegetarian low fat diet guru who also happens to advocate fasting. Unfortunately the two things are totally incompatible and that reality is revealed through understanding ketosis.

During May this year I've been training every day, alternating between running and cycling, covering 1012km in total, 155km of the total being running and all of the cycling being in the mountains. Before ketosis I was never able to train without between one and three complete rest days per week. During this month I was eating to gain weight - gaining around 3 kilos. I'd eat a breakfast and then nothing until after training - around 6pm. The intention is to gain as much muscle as possible and then once strength is good to try to lose the new fat while in ketosis - to keep the muscle gain. I enjoy being thin but do not enjoy feeling weak.

One new factor has however come into play in this whole process and it appears to be a game changer. Consuming sodium bicarbonate about an hour before exercise dramatically overcomes the apparent limitations of strict carbohydrate avoidance. Since going ketogenic every training session has been very sluggish at the start, taking between 20 to 40 minutes to warm up properly. Somehow this seemed to be less of an issue during competition, probably due to adrenalin but it was still a perceptible problem even there. The bicarbonate acts as a buffer against hydrogen ions created during the metabolism of glucose in the muscles. For some strange reason this seems to be a bigger problem than usual when in ketosis and not using glucose as the primary fuel. Muscles tie up quickly with far less effort - unless there is a substantial warm up. Even after a good warm up there appears to be less ability (or perhaps motivation) to sprint or push very hard for the same reason. You even get to the stage where you try to avoid excessively hard efforts. In my case the lack of strength once warmed up could however be due to the muscle lost during fasting and have nothing to do with ketosis. Whatever, taking sodium bicarbonate just simply stops all of this. Most significantly it appears to facilitate performance at a level that would encourage new muscle development. The fact that the muscles simply don't tie up lets you use all your current strength and it feels very good. 

I'd like to know why bicarbonate has such a big effect when in ketosis. The pancreas produces a form of bicarbonate by itself. Considering the pancreas is also where insulin comes from there might be an interesting connection. This thought prompted me to do a little research…

http://drsircus.com/medicine/sodium-bicarbonate-baking-soda/the-pancreas-bicarbonate-and-diabetes-2

Perhaps a lifetime of carbohydrate addiction and toxic or acidic abuse skews the system adversely. It looks like a lifetime of punishing the pancreas with excessive carbs may cause a drop in the capacity for the pancreas to produce bicarbonate. Just swallowing a spoonful seems to compensate for this. There might also be a mechanism whereby when eating loads of carbs and producing excessive insulin with the fat metabolism switched off then there could be less need for the acid buffering effect of bicarbonates - so any developing pancreas “bicarbonate” problem simply wouldn't be spotted. Perhaps all of the above contributes to the long three years needed to attain the full benefit of ketosis for sports performance.

One problem with sodium bicarbonate is that you want to consume it on an empty stomach so it isn't neutralised by stomach acid - so timing is difficult in the morning. Some sources recommend taking bicarbonate about 45 minutes before activity but others say that you can build up in the preceding days and don’t even need to consume any on event day.  

For this morning's race I had a full ketogenic breakfast with the addition of extra lactofermented vegetables - including beetroot. The carbs have been fermented out of this food and turned into lactic acid. Lactic acid converts to lactate which is fuel - the preferred fuel of the heart and brain - in competition for that honour with ketones! When lactic acid turns into lactate the bicarbonate buffers the hydrogen ions that it gives off. Just eating food like this gradually increases the lactate threshold (tolerance) - as does training at lactate threshold levels. Better athletes have higher levels of lactate in their blood and muscles. The limiting factor in muscle use is not lactic acid - it's the H+ ion.

My “feeling” is that by bicarbonate allowing the muscles to use lactic acid more efficiently this gives time for fat metabolism to kick in and ketones to be produced without performance being compromised in the meantime. I suspect this is why supplementary bicarbonate removes any apparent performance issues of ketosis.

 

Race Preparation

May 30th 2011 was the last time I participated in the Challenge Vercors. On that occasion I did the long “Masters” course (168km) but it was probably a bit over-ambitious.

http://skiinstruction.blogspot.com/2011/05/le-challenge-vercors.html

This time I'd chosen the shorter, more sensible  "Senior" course which is also the more popular of the options.

Preparation for the race involved a long 115km hard ride on Thursday then an easy "recovery" 11km run on Friday, leaving a full rest day on the Saturday. The big ride on Thursday was just a fraction too close to race day and even though I didn't let my heart rate climb too high my body had been very tired afterwards. Regardless of this the recovery was sufficient to permit a fully satisfying performance during the race.

I drove to Meaudré in the early evening after eating at home and found the parking zone just behind the race start area - about 200m further on. The parking area was large due to it being built for winter skiing clients with a full ski station being situated right there. They even left clean and organised pubic toilets open. I found a quiet corner of the car park away from most of the big camper vans and within easy walking distance of the race registration building in the morning. I really like sleeping in my estate car - it's like camping but without any fuss. I had a flask of coffee and plenty of snacks for the late evening plus an internet connection from my tablet. The air was fresh but warmer than usual for this altitude and this particular mountain range. Sleeping was easy and comfortable.

Race morning was straight forward being up at 6:30am, two hours before the race start. Even with all this time at hand I still managed two glitches. Food and water were fresh having been stored in insulated bags with frozen gel packs. I'd brought two separate heart rate monitoring systems because my new Mio Fuse optical wrist HRM (Heart Rate Monitor) was already showing serious battery problems (after only 5 months). I changed all the settings to minimise battery use as much as possible and then launched the Endomondo App on my brilliant Sony Z1 compact phone. This app connects to the HRM though Bluetooth 4 when paired with the Mio Fuse. One serious Mio fault is that it cannot be "paired" with normal Bluetooth protocol and is actually paired directly through the app itself - rendering it dependent on app compatibility! That's a BIG negative for Mio! Simultaneously I was using a Garmin ANT+ chest strap and running the Runtastic Road Pro app for that. When the Mio uses its ANT+ connection any Garmin signal in the near vicinity takes over and you lose your own heart data and start recording somebody else's - another very BIG negative for Mio. This way I'd however have two correctly functioning independent  devices and be able to make a comparison at the end. I set Runtastic to give audio feedback but left the switching on of my Bluetooth 4 earbuds until the last few minutes and they just didn't get any sound - so with my phone in my back pocket I'd now not get any direct feedback during the whole race. That was glitch number one!

Now glitch number two! All of that technical fluster was exacerbated by a last minute dash to the toilet and a massive diarrhoea attack - with only minutes to go before the start. This might have been due to eating too much cheese the night before. I seem to react badly to the casein protein in cheese.

 

The Race

Those pre-race issues however were the only minor glitches. I'd put on a base layer and made a good decision there because the air was still a bit fresh and long descents in the shade would keep their chill all day. The result of all this faffing around and the toilet adventure was that I lined up right at the back of the 372 strong field for the start. I started my two apps about half a minute after the start signal but we hadn't even moved by then at the back. It took almost two minutes to get across the start and not only would we all have the same start time (despite having timing chips) but by the time I crossed the line the head of the peloton would be a good kilometre away. The logic here is that at the end of the race when your cross the finish line you know for sure that anyone behind you has been beaten by you. There are no annoying surprises that way. The negative side of this is that it means queuing up about half an hour before the race start if you want to actually start with the gun.

When I finally got going there was no question about what to do - it was a case of going flat out an trying to catch up as much as possible.  Although I began a solo charge up the field soon after others joined in. Two guys in  "Team La Forestiere"  were on a mission to make up ground and they were strong. When they passed me, perhaps coming out of my own slipstream, they accelerated and I managed to hang on behind and settle in for the tow. The two of them were alternating the lead in rotation and as they were clearly happy to do so alone I held back to conserve energy. After a good 20 minutes the front of the leading peloton with the safety car became visible on a straight section of road only about about 400m ahead. I figured that we had passed about 200 racers and as the lead peloton would itself be going fast this was a pretty good start. Getting no heart rate feedback meant I'd no idea how high I'd been going into the red but I felt good. The bicarbonate had obviously worked because even without a warm up there was no sluggishness and I was straight into it. One of the guys I'd caught up with let out a loud groan in French, saying that he hoped the rest of the course wouldn't be as fast as the start or he would explode.

It was actually quite refreshing not to have earphones plugged into my head for a change.  When we hit the first real climb there was a bit of re-settling amongst the group with one bunch passing me. I tend , especially after such a flat out effort, to take a while to adjust when suddenly arriving at steep climbs. Lots of people can just charge ahead but they often tend to pay for this later on in the climb. What was encouraging was that after the initial surge there was no more slipping backwards in the pack and in fact I began catching people one by one more than being overtaken. This is always a good sign!

To be honest most of the race is just a blurred memory. Not having feedback meant that I had little idea where I was and what lay ahead. In some ways that was good because I didn't attempt to control anything and just went with the flow - working as hard as possible. When you don't really know what the body is capable off then it often works out better this way. Perhaps the top elites can calculate precisely how their performance will pan out but I doubt even that. All I know is that the best races seem to be when you push hard from the very start. When you go slower and try to pace yourself then you just never seem to get going and end up even more tired.

During the first descent it was a bit surprising how slowly some were taking it. Guys who had left me behind on the climb were losing all their hard won advantage. When cornering at speed all you need is a good racing line for security. Enter the turn wide - cut close to the apex and exit wide if there is no traffic or within the limits of your lane. Visualise the whole thing in 3D as if the road tilted to stay at 90° to the bike. Getting the line right makes a massive difference to security and that gives confidence to go faster.

I'd become isolated close to the end of the highest (but not biggest) climb up the Col d'Herbouilly as most of those around me were stronger climbers. Until now I'd been catching them all on the descents. They were still visible ahead near the top, but that difference in distance gives them a serious advantage when they hit the descent in a group. I'd been lucky until near the very top because there was always a few hard working people around to work with and slipstream on the flatter sections.

After the Col d'Herbouilly there was a long 10km descent followed by 20km of faux plâts. During the long descent - for which my average speed over the 10km was 53kph - I caught up with and collected several others again. Only one person caught up with me and he appeared to be particularly strong on the descents so I didn't let him get away. From the bottom of the descent however it was clear that it would be up to me to pull the newly formed group. To my surprise none of them came to the front to do a turn. Normally when someone wants to speed the group up a bit this turn around happens automatically but they all appeared to be content with my pace – or just unable to take the front. The long descent and this long “faux plât” together amounted to close of 30km without respite - and that following on from the highest climb of the day. I was surprised at having the strength for this and also still feeling quite good. When the climb steepened up to the Col de Saint Alexis one of the younger guys I'd been pulling along for ages went to the front and having fresh legs started to drop me. He spotted it though and deliberately slowed down to show his appreciation and pull for a while until the climb itself took command over everything.

Starting in earnest up the climb to Col de Saint Alexis it began with about 10km from the summit on a sharp hairpin bend. As we came around the sharp bend and could see back down the road I was astonished to see loads of riders in the few hundred metres behind us. That meant that I’d pulled all that way for nothing basically and I could have sat comfortably behind any of that lot saving energy and not losing any time. This turned out to be quite a fast climb – around 16 Km/h so it was good to be amongst people who could now provide me with some motivation and a little slipstreaming. The climb was followed by another monster descent which I loved a lot. I just like anticipating the road and trying to nail the corners as fast as possible. At the bottom one guy in yellow just pulled past me and when we hit the flats he kept up his speed and I enjoyed being pulled along at around 40 to 50 Km/h for quite a stretch. This is where the course bifurcated between the 170km version and 120km version. I was very glad to be only on short one. The biggest surprise was seeing how many peeled off to go up the 170km route – considering that they had started out half an hour before us! That’s a lot of catching up! One guy in red behind me commented that he was doing his best to hang on staying on my tail. I think he had been behind me for about 40km by now. After the next climb he made an effort to go in front and do some work on the descents. Descents are just as demanding if you go in front and act as the main airbrake. He was doing well  but there was a very long harsh climb to come after Saint Martin en Vercors and this would split up everyone so he should really have conserved his energy for that.  He did create a real problem though because he took random lines into each turn and so was totally unpredictable. This caused both of us to skid slightly at one turn – but I’d been on guard for this so nothing bad happened. I didn’t want to force my way in front either because I was aware of the climbing ahead. On the Saint Martin climb three guys pulled ahead of me and about the same number dropped behind. Meanwhile I was still climbing at around 15km/h and overtaking quite a few others along the way. The guy in yellow I’d been with earlier had been one of the three who pulled ahead but near the top he started to crack and although he’d been a few hundred metres ahead at one point I caught him back up. That was aided by someone else who overtook me near the top which allowed us to accelerate up to 30km/h before the climb was fully over. For all I know he was slipstreaming me for miles before he shot past. I think I’ll install a mirror for future races because I really haven’t a clue about what’s happening behind. The guy in red was now dropped and that left me with Yellow for the final descent. This descent was stunning – a road carved out of the face of a cliff with overhangs and tunnels – fantastic bends for high speed turns – not so tight that too much speed was lost but tight enough to make you keep your wits about you.

When the next climb started, still on the spectacular cliff faces, Yellow pulled past me once again. He’d apparently been on my tail for the descent. I was pretty much clueless about how long we had been going and how far we still had to go so I asked him. He told me 10km but I wasn’t sure whether he meant to the end or just the end of the climb. Regardless, what should have been a stunning last climb was rendered horrible because for the entire distance – which turned out to be a very twisting 5km of cliffs – the entire road surface had been stripped off for resurfacing. It was like riding uphill on cobbles. We even had a bus try to overtake us on the way up and he struggled getting past the bikes due to his fear of hitting the overhanging cliff above. About half a kilometre from the top Yellow cracked again and I left him behind. I was still averaging about 13 km/h even climbing on the cobbles and the legs felt ok. Popping out of the top of this onto proper tarmac and a relatively level road was wonderful. However there was still 5km to go, uphill and now against a headwind. I just “bit the bullet” and increased the effort in the certainty that it would all soon be over. The final straight back home to Meaudré has a view about 500m ahead and I could see the guys who had pulled ahead way back at Saint Martin. They weren’t that far ahead. About 200m from the town Yellow came flying past me slipstreaming someone who had teamed up with him. He pulled a funny face and I shouted that it wasn’t fair but accelerated and got behind him. Fortunately the actual entrance to the town has a sudden climb and when Yellow’s tow pulled a few meters ahead and opened a gap Yellow was finished and couldn’t keep up the speed. I had enough strength from the brief period of slipstreaming to accelerate and then sprint to the finish putting Yellow about 12 seconds behind.

 

Recovery

My official time was 4h: 16m: 53s and I’d consumed only two 700ml bottles of filtered tap water – with no actual stops. Towards the end I was feeling a bit headachy and slightly low on energy. Breakfast was low carb / ketogenic and so the goal was to rely on fat metabolism. I’m pretty convinced however that those symptoms were dehydration. After the race I avoided eating and just drank water and coffee and all the symptoms disappeared. Perhaps in future I’ll try to drink more during races.

Driving home in the afternoon I did start to feel a bit tired. This is where I’m trying to determine whether eating would be beneficial. I now know it’s not essential but soon I might start to experiment with eating after the race or even certain supplements during. This will need to be researched properly. Perhaps it’s more important to simply eat protein to protect muscle than to worry about energy sources. The afternoon tiredness tells me however that food might be useful.

      • DISTANCE               120.3 km
      • DURATION              4h:16m:53s
      • AVG. SPEED           28.1 km/h
      • MAX. SPEED           68.1 km/h
      • FASTEST 10K         52.8 Km/h
      • CALORIES              4123 kcal
      • HYDRATION            4.01L
      • AVG. HEART RATE 155
      • MAX. HEART RATE 171
      • MIN. ALTITUDE        717 m
      • MAX. ALTITUDE       1419 m
      • TOTAL ASCENT      2600 m
      • TOTAL DESCENT   2592 m

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Les Trois Cols 2015

100% Keto Racing

Today was going to be my first pure ketogenic race – with no carbohydrate drinks or any food at all for that matter during the event – only plain water. Having participated in the 2013 version of the event (Les Trois Cols), at which time I was obliviously addicted to carbohydrates, there would be a great opportunity for comparison.

affiche2015.jpg

Stress

True to form, with Chris as a companion there was a significant amount of stress in the build up to the race. Now that I know to expect this it’s much easier to ignore. The evening before we arrived at the race registration building at 7:57pm just 3 minutes before closure when they were packing up and just managed to get our timing chips and numbers for the race in the morning. At least this spared us the horrible queuing process in the morning – which was just as well because despite a relatively late morning start (9am) we were about to end up at the sharp end of the stress zone again as usual. Chris had a couple of plastic bottles with glucose liquid in his pocket and shortly after starting the drive from the hotel to the race start he felt the liquid leaking through his clothing. Nothing is more distracting when driving than goop flowing through your clothing and all over the seat so this then provoked the missing of a turn off and getting lost. My Sony Z1 telephone GPS came to the rescue rapidly as the car GPS system was not so great and we made it there with 5 minutes to spare after getting the bikes ready. Chris was on the long 150km course and I was on the short 100km course and the long course start was 15 minutes earlier at 8:45am. Once Chris was gone I decided to make use of a handy public toilet right there on location. It was one of those awkward “hole in the ground” French jobs that you can’t easily squat on with cleated shoes. (Even worse with ski boots on!) I needed to go because I was having an attack of the “runs” and so this was a great opportunity to deal with it. Cycling bibs require you to remove your shirt and in this case place it on the ground – near the door entrance. Half way through the operation the lights went out completely and I couldn’t find the switch. I probably even missed the target not being used to squatting. Before opening the door I pushed the button for the water to clean the toilet but it came out explosively and soaked my feet even though I was standing already at a distance. The flood surged forwards and I just managed to grab the shirt and telephone before they were soaked – only my right foot being drenched. Finally getting out of that room I was glad to see that everything was still clean and more or less intact. I’d not have thought it was possible to have any more stress after Chris had gone but somehow it was just continuing. Next thing is that my ANT+ cardio system seemed to be picking up everybody else’s signal instead of mine – so my heart reading was not displaying the same on the telephone app as it was on my watch (Mio Fuse Optical wrist HRM). It seemed to dump the signal from the Fuse and take the signal from whoever else was closest. Still, it was too close to the start of the race to mess with anything. ANT+ is not supposed to do this. I could have switched to Bluetooth 4.0 but that could have brought another set of problems so I didn’t bother even trying. In the end I only forgot two relatively minor things – sunscreen and anti-friction cream for the bottom. I had two full water bottles – with just plain water - and this turned out to be perfect for the 100km permitting me to go to the end without stopping.

The 100km course had two main climbs the first of which would be timed. Overall climbing was claimed to be around 1700m. The mountains to the South West of Lyon (Le Tour de Salvagny) are considered “middle mountains”. They aren’t as high or steep as the Alps and the altitude in general is lower with the temperature higher. The course was changed from the 88km course two years before but the new course is a better distance and with more climbing as it used to be only 1300m.

 

Race

The start of a race is always tough. You always think that if you start near the front it will help – but catching up with them by slipstreaming others fighting their way forwards is probably no more difficult than just trying to hold on with the guys up front anyway. Those races always start out full bore – probably with a bunch of dopers in front. My start was a bit slow as I was quite far back in the crowd due to the distractions that had been occupying my attention up until that point. When we got going I started my own clock on the start line and then set about catching up.

Ever since going ketogenic I’ve missed the “carb buzz” that carb loading had provided at the start of any race. Basically the carb buzz appears to let you start off strongly without even warming up. Today the lack of a warm up was really evident as the legs just felt like they were partially seizing up. This feeling is now normal for me as it happens in every training session. Perhaps some people are like this even when loaded up with carbs but I never used to feel any need for a warm up before. Prior to the race I’d managed 19 consecutive days of training alternating daily between running and cycling. The entire time I’d felt tired during training – though once in running there was a fast and strong performance. There had been one or two strong cycling days too but most training was in a slightly fatigued state. I’d chosen to have a rest day on the 20th day – the day before the race. Already by evening of that day the legs were starting to feel like they had some strength so it seemed that the actual race might not be the total nightmare I was anticipating.

In the event it only took ten minutes or so for the legs to be warmed up and for my heart rate to be in the anaerobic zone (160+ bpm). That just doesn’t happen unless you are properly recovered and ready. The first 31km would just be a non stop battle of catching up and trying to hold on to a fast group. This included the first timed climb which I managed in 21’23” and came 33rd in age category out of 78. There was a constant problem caused by catching up with the group just as one or two were dropping off the back. I’d then be stuck with the guys falling off the back and have to begin the solo struggle all over again – or just ignore them completely and continue alone. Eventually the group whittled down to nine and then five. The final five were flying and I went with them for the next 20km – never going in front. There were two riders in front of me who were terrible at cornering – a guy and an girl. They would slow down on the bend and then sprint to catch up with the others. Constant accelerations were killing me so in the end I had to force past them to ensure a better line and less loss of speed.

When we arrived at the second of the two main climbs I was a bit shocked to find myself dropping all of the others. Normally it’s the complete opposite and I’m the one who is dropped. This turn of events was completely unexpected. However, just before the end of the climb there was a brief plateau and descent and the others caught me up – my strength beginning to fade now. There was no “energy” crisis and I wasn’t hungry but physical tiredness was creeping in and the power to stay with the others was waning. The difference wasn’t great but when they took about 100m on me during the last bit of the climb I couldn’t recover the gap. From then on until the end this would be my mode – a reduced power setting. The body wasn’t doing this to conserve fuel or tyres as in Formula One but to conserve some physical homeostasis that can probably be best related to a lack of training and mileage. In total I've only accumulated 1067km on the bike this year and 380km running. What saves me is that most of the cycling has been on climbs.

From then on there was a small collection of individuals who seemed to come and go around me. Each had a strong point and weakness. Some were light and so good climbers and others would struggle on the climbs or descents and then be strong on the flats. The net result was that most of the time there was somebody either in front of me for slipstreaming or someone behind getting a much needed tow.

About 8km from the end there was a sharp turn with a sign saying 14% gradient. This would destroy anyone who didn’t have a decent climbing gear ratio available (as was the case for Chris!). The climb was not terribly long in real terms though it felt interminable as most torture probably does. That climb didn’t do me a lot of favours and then I started to lose some of the guys around me as they pulled ahead. Then around 4km from the end I came around a tight corner to the sight of a whole bunch of guys stuck at a closed level railway crossing. Fortunately I was only cornered there for a minute but they had been held up long enough for me to catch up and there were not many people directly behind me for them to be able to catch up too. I certainly came out of that glitch well and had recovered enough with the minute long break to be able to go ahead and stay ahead of most of them all the way to the end. There was nobody chasing me to the finish line.

 

Results Comparison

2013 88k, 1300m climb, 3hrs 20’, 26.4 kph, Hr Avg 158, Max 174, GC 209 / 251, Age cat 37 / 55

2015 99k, 1700m climb, 3hrs 34’, 27.8 kph, Hr Avg 159, Max 183, GC 258 / 382, Age cat 41 / 78

5.5% Speed increase.

17% General Category improvement.

15% Age Category improvement.

 

Conclusion

There are so many factors involved in racing that it’s almost impossible to draw any accurate conclusions. The main interest here was whether or not the long term ketogenic diet was having a positive effect or not. Well, a 5.5% increase in speed is very significant. It’s for certain that if all the signs were towards poorer results it would be the ketosis that would automatically receive the blame – so it might as well in this case receive the credit.

My only consumption during the race was plain tap water – with two 600ml bottles. There was no need to stop for refills despite temperatures up to 25°C in the sun. Breakfast at 7am had been a high fat ketogenic meal and nothing was eaten during the race or post race (until 6pm). There was no hunger or energy dip experienced.

My ketosis level before the race was a BAC (body acetone concentration)  of 0.04%. After the race for 3 days this went up to 0.05%.

There were no cramps, leg pains, abdominal discomforts, bottom irritation, back pains, neck/shoulder pains or any of the usual problems that can arise during a long race.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference for me was a constant positive state of mind throughout the race. There were no dips in morale and it was all enjoyable and competitive. There were a few moments of shared teamwork with strangers and a great atmosphere altogether.

Long term ketosis isn’t only a dietary state – it’s an epigenetic mode. The aim is to modify the external environment – food supply, exercise circadian cycles and temperature – so as to influence the cellular environment (hence altering hormones). In response to the cellular environment changes there is an alteration of the DNA molecule. DNA code doesn’t change – it isn’t re-written! The code is simply interpreted differently – some genes being switched off and other switched on. This switching alters the state of the DNA molecule. Some foods manage to do this very rapidly – such as coffee! Coffee causes a cascade of events resulting in a massive production of the body’s own antioxidants. The upshot is that when in long term cold adapted ketosis you feel like you are in a different body – especially if you are previously used to carbohydrates and addicted to the energetic “buzz”. Getting used to this new system is not necessarily easy (even after adaptation). Most of the apparent performance benefits of ketosis are not immediately obvious. High carb comfort eating is also paralleled by high carb comfort sports performance – giving the illusion of fitness while simultaneously leading the body towards rapid degeneration. Ease off on the exercise and stay with the carbs addiction and you end up like Maradona with half your stomach being cut out to control your weight. There’s plenty of well paid doctors around willing to cut you apart – rather than just tell you the obvious – to dump the sugar and wheat.

If there is an apparent absence of elite medal winners in ketosis it’s perhaps due to two things. First of all the ketogenic athlete probably won’t be doping. Secondly the vast pool of athletes from which natural selection is taking place is vastly inclined towards selection from the sugar consuming population. Those with real talent in a ketogenic state may simply remain completely hidden and they may never even know it.

Last year due to misleading information – particularly on the part of Dr Fuhrman and other “low fat” vegan medical protagonists – I lost a lot of excess body weight through fasting each week and then returning to a low fat/high carb diet. This meant my body was never in ketosis. Ketosis is a natural antioxidant state wich protects the heart and major organs while at the same time protecting muscle from wasting in a fasting state. During the summer last year I lost 30lb in weight but saw absolutely no performance improvement in cycling – even for climbing. Weight loss in the low fat/high carb mode is a complete disaster. Had I remained with this disturbingly difficult diet on a restricted caloric level afterwards not only would it have been seriously difficult I would have given up for sure and due to all the muscle loss all the fat would have returned but very little muscle. Fortunately I became wise to this nonsense (which I now believe is a deliberate misguidance) and found out about ketosis. Over the winter ketosis prevented any more muscle wastage, allowed excellent dietary and weight control without caloric restriction, suffering or more muscle loss. Now that Spring is here and Summer is arriving it appears possible to properly rebuild the muscle lost last year – without all the fat reappearing. I may even fast on occasion but when in a fully adapted ketogenic state – to protect muscle tissue. When training I’m noticing that I have an impulse to train every day – even when a bit tired. Science shows that training in a fatigued state is every bit as beneficial for final performance as training in a fully recovered state. When on carbohydrates I felt forced to take at least two rest days per week. After this race the following day it was snowing and miserable but I had no great trouble getting out for a 10k run. The run wasn’t fast but the legs felt good. Next day on the bike – same thing! The legs, body and morale felt great – even though in recovery mode it was still impossible to raise the heart rate. Even on the third day, when running felt better, heart rate was still relatively low. It should take about 4 days for recovery from a hard race anyway – but it’s nice to be able to exercise your way through this period. (4th day I did manage to get back up to 160 bpm on the bike)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Luke 5

The sun was shining, the air was cold and the snow was fresh so today was Off Piste day – not a technical session. This would be the opportunity to take advantage of all the hard technical work.

Leonie was physically tired from yesterday and so was stiff and tentative on her first off piste run but soon loosened up and recovered her confidence. Both Luke and Leonie had a re-calibrated set of goals now and so were actively self-correcting and letting me know each time they became aware of something new.

Luke

Luke figured out that he was weak on his right foot (due to past foot pain) and that contributed to his frequent failure to stand on that foot at the start of the turn. However he appeared to suffer much less metatarsal pain now since avoiding the collapse of the ankle and this was allowing him to experiment. Luke also gradually managed to relax his outside leg more instead of locking it at the hip – however all the flexion appears to be at the hip and almost none at the knee. This development however did allow him to control his turn radius and speed better. The first off-piste video clip shows how the rigid leg caused an uncontrolled acceleration – and the second clip shows far improved dynamics, range of motion and control of rotation. This still didn’t prevent a brief lapse of concentration from ending up with crossed skis (weight back) and a proper face plant. Luke skied hard and was completely wiped out by the end – despite eating an extra pain au chocolat.

 

 

Leonie

Leonie made amazing progress and once she had loosened up manage to bring rhythm and dynamics into her skiing on steeper off-piste. Her range of motion with the legs changed dramatically – with a good reduction of her (until now) chronic passive rotation (tractor turns). This is exactly what we had been aiming for.

Even more impressively Leonie coped emotionally with steep sections and didn’t once freeze up. She explained that clearly understanding the pivot had made a great difference to her confidence.

I’d explained that the pivot is for braking – always staying on the uphill edges of the skis and using the pole to hold back and control acceleration from gravity. This way of skiing is directly in the fall line and can involve jumping when the snow is not good or it is too steep or narrow. Serious steepness still requires some dynamics even for pivoting because the angle of the slope will prevent a change of edge anyway. In addition on the steep it’s best to retract the feet beneath the body in jump turns – to buy more time to swing the skis around – and to avoid excessive bouncing. We used jump turning today in tricky steep snow and Leonie negotiated it well. (Full dynamics – passing through the perpendicular and changing edges before starting the new turn develops more acceleration and is used in racing or off piste in snow where pivoting is impossible. The speed would be exclusively controlled through the line/direction of the turn.)

It would have been better if Leonie had managed a closer stance for a two footed pivot  - but the stance did generally narrow down naturally by itself as the legs softened and rotation came under control.

 

 

 

 

Back on the piste everyone was tired and Ella, who joined us after lunch, was recovering from a very late night out. Slightly sloppy skiing from everyone was acceptable with the general level of tiredness so there is nothing to criticise in the following video. Ella’s knee felt better when she remembered to pull everything “inwards”.

Both Leonie and Luke had better control over the downhill hip position on this tricky descent than in the previous couloir…

Spindrift due to wind at high altitude….

When waiting for Luke and Leonie to catch me up after a short stretch of hiking I was taking photographs of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley when there was a rumble and roar – obviously an avalanche somewhere – purely by chance my camera was pointing directly towards it…

Conclusion: A successful day!

(All music in the videos - Afro Celt Sound System – naturally.)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Luke 4

We started the day heading towards the glacier to try to break through the fog. The first run from the top of Solaise down the “L” gully would be a warm up and opportunity to revise and consolidate technique. After this run – we took the chairlift from the bottom of the “L” up to above the mid station at Le Fornet and then proceeded to ski down off piste – starting out on excellent snow and being able to pivot freely – but then ending up in dense fog and unable to safely advance. Due to my familiarity with the terrain we escaped without any lost time and made it back onto the piste without incident.

Feet

Inside the Signal restaurant with boots off we set about looking at how to use the feet properly. When standing facing me in socks and when asked to bend Luke bent his ankles and pushed his pelvis forwards locking the hip joints. It’s safe to say this was happening in his skiing too – with the weight on the front of the feet and the ankles collapsing. First of all I asked Luke to stand on his heels (toes still touching the floor) and then bend – with no weight shifting to the fronts of the feet. This forces the bending to take place at the knees and hips – causing the ankle joint to stiffen and the anterior tibialis to contract. From this stance the subtaler joints can be used beneath the ankles to rock the feet – in this case both onto their inside edges. While moving the bottom over to one side to place it on a bench (during the exercise) this showed Luke’s hip to once again be locked up. Actually relaxing the hip and sitting on the bench freed up the joint. This is the sort of freedom and relaxation required at the hip joints.

Off Piste

Off piste in good snow in the Pay’s Dessert Luke managed to ski some deep soft snow very well – with a good rhythm and improved mechanics. Leonie also managed well – perhaps her best yet. Unfortunately in the following video the snow was not as nice and this threw both Luke and Leonie back into survival mode and old habits. Luke is locking his hips and rotating into the turn, weight back. Leonie is just following the skis  (passive rotation) and losing rhythm and has the skis too far apart to make a stable platform. Basically neither Luke not Leonie are using enough range of movement in the legs and hips. Correcting this would become the main focus of the rest of the session.

The window of opportunity for off piste was quickly over as fog once again engulfed us. With Luke’s problems proving intractable and  Leonie struggling to break through to the next level the focus returned to technique for most of the day. (The last hour and a half of the day provided a lot of skiing where this work could be applied and appreciated)

Hips

It was apparent that both Luke and Leonie had trouble at the hip joints – but with some different issues. Luke was locking up the hips and Leonie was rotating. I first tried a skating exercise  - skating straight downhill - but saw that it was going nowhere so changed plan immediately. We did a static exercise instead with skis off – right leg planted in the snow facing downhill – left leg placed behind the body and swung forwards in an arc – wile the hip was pulled backwards. This provides the full range of feeling of the leg completely changing from pointing outwards behind the body to inwards in front of the body and terminating with sinking down low driving the centre of mass down and into the imaginary turn ( simulating building up pressure before the very end of the turn).

Despite this exercise providing the full range of motion required at the hip joints it didn’t have a noticeable effect when returning to skiing.

Dropping Into a Turn

I explained that relaxation at the hip can be used to simply drop down the centre of mass rapidly into a turn at the initiation. The relax/drop action is rapidly met with a reactive pressure from the outside ski despite the initial moment of free-fall. This exercise seemed to be understood but had minimal results for the time being.

Short Swings

We worked a little on jumping on the spot – but Luke had a tendency to bend in preparation by bowing with a hollowed lower back and poor posture – instead of using the quads (as when indoors working on the feet). I explained that the jump was the end of a turn or traverse (not the start) and the subsequent swinging of the skis downhill would be just a mid-air pivot. Initially we did this just to make turn transitions but then the idea was to link the jumps with no hesitation almost in a bouncing action.

Leonie’s initial attempt at linked short swings was revealing as there was no pole use at all – which fits her main limiting issue currently – being unable to sink appropriately into the turn (thus avoiding rotation).

Luke’s attempts brought us closer again to fully understanding his anomalies – because he was clearly trying to pivot his skis around an axis somewhere towards the tails of the skis – so the tips were coming up high in the air and a strong active rotation of the body was being used. This issue clearly stems from many years of defensive leaning back and then forcing the skis around with a whole body rotation.

Leonie improved when making a determined effort to get down and over her ski pole and Luke worked at trying to bring his pivot axis forwards – also helped by determined pole use.

Pressurising the fronts of the skis

To help Luke discover the turning power of the fronts of the skis we played about with stance – hanging in the fronts of the ski boots. This was tried both by standing up on the balls of the feet (extended ankle) and when on the heels. We took this into “rocking” fore/aft during the turn – beginning the turn by tilting forwards onto the fronts of the feet and skis – and ending by coming back onto the heels. Gradually Luke started to feel that his skis actually had a front half that could be used for something.

Core Activation – upper/lower body separation

Leonie revealed – due to hip pain – that she was somehow falling short of understanding the “chi-hips”. It’s clear that Leonie also has trouble maintaining posture and neutral pelvis – which is probably why the issue became confusing. The pelvis must be held (usually up at the front) in “neutral” to allow the pressure reflexes from the feet to trigger contraction of the deep abdominal muscles and muscles surrounding the spine. Those reflexes cause a hydraulic sac to compress around the spine which then distributes any vertical shock load over this entire cross-section instead of just through the spinal column. When the hip is correctly primed – pulled back – there is an even more intense contraction of the abdomen.

When I altered the emphasis of my description Leonie could finally see the correct action. Taking the rib cage and immobilising that in space the idea is to allow the entire pelvic basin to rotate beneath. This twists the spine slightly up to the ribs (12th thoracic vertebra) – which is the true location of upper/lower body separation.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Luke 3

Off Piste

After a warm up on the bottom part of the Face we immediately took advantage of the new layer of fresh powder on the Bellevarde plateau. The reason we have been working hard on technique is to enable real skiing – in real snow – just like this.

Ella immediately panicked at the idea of going off piste – but the fresh snow was perfect for pivoting and the base beneath had frozen during the night and was solid. Unfortunately I had woken during the night with a headache and this translated into a slightly grumpy mood – so Ella didn’t receive much sympathy and was told to just get on with it. Everyone skied well in the powder – including Ella – so hopefully this should contribute to increasing her self-confidence.

Both Ella and Leonie were also given a hard time for constantly snowploughing when getting on and off the chairlifts – the most certain way to guarantee having the feet taken from under you and to end up with a snapped ACL. Mr Grumpy was on a roll…. 

We had to take advantage of the snow and weather opportunity so there was no time at this point for technique – but everyone had a good enough level to be able to gain useful experience and to enjoy the snow (for the most part!).

…. anyway when Luke finally did manage to ski a steeper and slightly deeper pitch he reverted to survival mode (start of video clip) – mainly due to not being able to see anything at all due to very poor contrast. The reality is that there is still a lot of work required on technique – so after a drinks break and with the weather starting to close in we shifted back to focusing on technique.

Revision

Luke was able to remember some of the key points that we had worked on yesterday – but revealingly, not all of them! There were several bits missed out. The problem here is that it’s a complete system: Stand up on the uphill leg – uphill edge – pulling the hip backwards – realigning the leg and pulling inwards with the adductor muscles – rolling the foot onto its inside edge – moving the centre of mass into the new turn.

Our goal was just to practice this mindfully for a moment on the piste to get back to where we were yesterday – before moving on.

Inside Ski Pivot

Our off piste adventure demonstrated to me that everyone needed to move the pivoting skills forward so as to have a two footed platform – but in order to get there we would first of all have to develop the “Inside Ski” pivot. The pivot is made from the lower ski which is on its uphill edge. The foot is rolled onto its uphill edge too – this shows that the adductors always pull inwards towards the centre of the body – not the centre of the turn. The turn itself is controlled by the motion of the centre of mass – with the ski pole preventing gravity from taking over. Initially the task is to stop the ski changing edge too early but the hardest part is finishing the turn on the ski after the edge change because most people fail to keep moving the centre of mass inwards to compensate for the change in geometry, edge angles and relation to gravity. In fact the exercise is also a very useful lesson in dynamics and how to work the centre of mass through the turn.

Two Footed Pivot (Close Stance)

Going from being able to pivot on the inside ski to coordinating two skis together as a single platform is now very easy to do.  The goal is to use the adductor muscles now to keep the feet and skis close together – this provides a wide flotation platform for soft snow. The close stance is also very important for bump skiing where the if the feet become separated the body can be tossed around unpredictably. This was also the problem everyone had been having off piste with the outside ski sinking in and pulling the body out of the turn inappropriately. The close stance corrects such issues.

Ella managed this very well off piste showing significant improvement. Later on when she became too tired and lost concentration this all disappeared and she reverted to pushing out her skis again with a wider stance.

Two Footed Pivot (Wide Stance)

When using two footed pivoting for direct fall line skiing on a narrow piste it’s far better to use a wide stance – each ski pivoting independently but simultaneously. This way the real work is being done by the outside ski which takes nearly all of the pressure and the legs can turn independently in each hip socket giving greater freedom of movement.

Dynamics (End of Turn)

Moving away from the pivot to dynamic flowing turns we continued yesterday’s work with Luke on “end of turn” dynamics – passing the body over the lower ski to complete the turn. I supported each person in turn physically moving the body (stationary) into perpendicular over the lower ski. When there is significant forward momentum this is how dynamics have to be employed to efficiently enter into the following turn on the inside edge of the outside ski. This is a major key to racing and for skiing off piste in difficult snow (when the ski cannot pivot) where it  guarantees success in starting each subsequent turn – but requires great commitment. I wanted everyone to have this option for future off piste skiing and for going into the slalom course at some point. Luke required it also for ensuring he would make the turn on his right hip correctly – however this eventually stopped working when his left foot developed a very painful metatarsal arch and he simply could not stand on the leg properly. This then revealed the real reason (the feet) why he could not support the end of the turn properly on his left leg (leading to a big rotation to compensate when initiating the following turn to the left).

Working the Centre of Mass (Purposeful Turning)

To control the turn speed and feel the correct build up of pressure Leonie had to work on using the hip angulation to sink into the turn during the second half of the turn – building up pressure – to then use this to come back up and out over the downhill ski. The shape of the turn and work with the centre of mass has function – which gives control of speed.

Inside Leg – Outside edge

When skiing at higher speed with longer arcs – or carving – its important to still use the inside edges of both feet – even though this means that when inclined the inside ski will be on its outside edge – but the inside edge of the foot. Leonie clearly understood this. I was asking her to do this to prevent her edging the inside ski with the outside edge of her foot – which was artificially widening her stance in a manner that blocked her centre of mass from moving freely inwards.

Foot Mechanics

Luke’s painful metatarsal arch indicated to me that he was collapsing his ankles during the turns and relying on the ski boots for support. I first of all checked his alignment – which was fine – then re-explained how the feet work. Pressure should be focused beneath the ankle – front of the heel. This allows the anterior tibialis to contract (muscle next to the shin bone) and lock up the ankle joint so that the leg supports itself ( along with the active use of muscles in the feet). The foot is then rocked laterally from the subtaler joint beneath the ankle. None of this can function if the weight goes onto the ball of the foot with a flexing ankle. Luke found the sensation completely different – so clearly had not been using the feet correctly. The inappropriate use of and pain in the right foot clearly contributed to the main anomalies in his skiing.

Seated Stance

Right at the end of the session I saw that Luke was now unable to flex his legs effectively when working on his feet – but it was probably just due to pain by this stage. I introduced the seated stance principle regardless – just in case it could help. With skis off we stood facing downhill – sitting but feeling that even on the heels the relaxed legs came firmly against the fronts of the ski boots. This is how is deep snow and bumps we manage to place the centre of mass behind the feet without leaning backwards.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Luke 2

Today was a fairly extensive technical program. The goal was to fix as rapidly as possible all the stemming and rotating issues so we began immediately, taking advantage of the improvement in weather.

One Leg

I decided to start by securing the initiation of the turn on the outside leg. This means standing up strongly on the uphill leg – prior to beginning the new turn. Once standing up on the leg, which raises the lower leg off the snow, you then allow the foot to roll onto its downhill edge as the body falls over into the turn. The ski remains on the uphill edge initially so that it cannot be stemmed in any way. Yesterday we had already started work on feeling the isolation of the edge of the foot and edge of the ski – and how they are separate things. This took practice as nobody was used to the sensation of really standing on the uphill leg to initiate the turn – something which takes commitment and confidence and is somewhat counter-intuitive when plunging down a hill.

The end of the turn is an up motion (bike coming up out of a turn) so you need to stand up on the lower leg at the same time – thus actively stepping onto the uphill leg. It’s a natural walking action. This can also be condensed into perceiving it as a single action – standing strongly on the uphill leg at the start of the turn and then sinking into the turn on it – to stand back up on it again at the end when stepping onto the other leg.

Core Activation

Once everyone was more or less comfortable turning on one leg I decided to move directly to working on activating the core muscles. Not very long ago it came clear to me that the way to communicate this to people is to stand behind them and hold the foot and shoulder while they pull their hip backwards on the same side. Sometimes postural adjustments need to be made but today there wasn’t much time needed on this.

I showed how the pulling back of the hip aligns the leg, activating the adductor muscles and assisting in pulling the foot onto its inside edge. The aim is to do this immediately on standing up on that leg to begin a new turn – and to hold that hip relationship throughout the turn – preventing the damaging action of the hip being rotated around in front of the ribs.

Everyone immediately connected with this new feeling and when skiing down the Face de Bellevarde they all noticed the ease that it brought to the turn transitions.

 

Centring

From this point onwards we were aiming to ski mindfully, focused on the centre of the body and initiating movements from there – both muscular, internal movements and global movements of the body. The first action to make is to pull the hip back when standing on the leg then feel the adductors and foot engage as the centre of mass moves into the new turn.

We spent some time using pivoting to work on awareness of how to direct the centre of mass – always inwards towards the turn centre. There is only centripetal (inwards force) produced when skiing and we have to direct everything inwards to generate this – no stemming or pushing outwards. The centre of mass drives the turn – and the organisation of the body just supports this.

Working from the centre of the body – has the strange effect of also centring the mind and helping to focus internally. Mindful activity is necessary for effective and rapid training and skill development – reprogramming the unconscious mind so that new automatic patterns can take over. Apart from the meditative aspects of centring the mind (removing distractions) there is a whole process initiated leading to perceptions changing and developing on a constant basis. Awareness just grows – and this accelerates over time – apparently endlessly.

When we skied with this aspect of dynamics Leonie managed for a while to identify a resonance – where the skis lifted her back up out of the turn and into the next one. It’s when things start happening to you – instead of you trying to generate them – that you know you are on track! Feedback like this has always served me personally as clear confirmation when working things out.

In the video above Ella is not allowing the turns to develop from standing on the uphill leg solidly. There is a “snatching” and braking then traversing instead of a smooth arc. There is limited leg movement, core activation and dynamics – also indicating a partial failure to form the turn on one leg and shape the turn purposefully by directing the centre of mass.

Leonie is moving well and applying everything that we were working on clearly – but she was not closing her turns and so gained too much speed. We worked on the “line” after this – turning almost uphill to complete the turn and control speed – lifting the centre of mass up and out of the existing turn.

Luke was struggling on his right side with trouble with rotation – though his left side was much better. Once again the turns were not being worked strongly or purposefully.

Off Piste

We explored a little off piste but Ella was feeling a bit too fragile. The feedback from the skis is much more powerful off piste and this can frighten people initially – but all they need to know is that movements need to be amplified to cope with this. Ella’s weakness is currently in dynamics so she just didn’t feel secure and the snow wasn’t forgiving enough to allow for timid dynamics or to facilitate pivoting actions. Tomorrow we will work a little on dynamics directly to prepare everyone for a more aggressive approach with such challenging snow – though the basic mechanics and principles remain unchanged.

Carving

Our final run touched on carving where the Core Activation can be much stronger and more pronounced than in any other aspect of skiing. We didn’t really spend enough time on this but I wanted to show how the lower and upper body integrate through the core much more extensively than we had looked at until now. I used the “plough-carve” exercise to begin to introduce the basic movement pattern and Luke did quite well with this for a first attempt. I won’t cover that here because we will return to that in greater detail again – repeating it a few times over the next few days.

On the final descent I asked Ella to stop adding an automatic “downsink poleplant” because it was preventing her from coordinating the timing with her legs. This is exacerbated when there is a break in rhythm and a traverse added between each turn. When Ella started to link the turns more she was able to stop poorly timed pole planting.

Luke – End of Turn Dynamics

Finishing up the day I skied behind Luke for a while to see what he was doing and saw a large rotation on the right side. This prevented Luke from using any of the technique he was working on for his left turns. My hunch was that this was caused by him naturally avoiding allowing the body to complete the turn by moving freely over the left leg – due to him being right handed. We hadn’t worked on this aspect of dynamics yet – as we had focused mainly on pivoting and internal mechanics. When sliding with forward momentum however pivoting won’t happen so we need more complete dynamics and so I demonstrated to Luke how to move over the lower leg. This immediately cured his rotation problem and allowed him to stand on his right leg correctly.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Luke 1 …work to be done!

Luke, Leonie and Ella returning for a late season long weekend  manage to make it to Val d’Isère in time for a very useful couple of hours skiing  – despite starting the day in the UK at 3:30 am. That’s a pretty good achievement on its own.

We only had a few runs in some fairly poor weather before finding ourselves on the narrow Mattis red run – with its fair share of bumps and ice. Ella had started out afraid due to having missed skiing altogether last year and having recently dislocated a knee. However she soon recovered her confidence during our first few runs on easy pistes. Everyone was challenged by the difficulty of the Mattis run so it was a good idea to video this. Even if with some practice everyone would have skied better the advantage here is that the video captures the main weaknesses very clearly so that they can be identified for working on tomorrow. We are best to strengthen the skiing before considering venturing off-piste.

There are a lot of positives in the skiing  - like good dynamics for instance – but here I’m focusing on the issues that need to be fixed ASAP!

Hip Rotation                                                                                                                                 Stemming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stemming / Weight back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stemming / Weight back / Skis crossed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The common denominator here is the tendency to always try to get the turning ski on its inside edge from the start of the turn – as in a snowplough, stem turn or flowing parallel turn. This doesn’t work well for pivoted turns in bumpy and steep terrain – hence the problems encountered here. For Luke this translates into accelerations which leave him in the back of the ski boots – for Leonie it causes strong hip rotation and big defensive stems and for Ella it causes a loss of control over speed and line.

We need to work on clarifying the necessary skills to overcome those issues – and we will get into that properly tomorrow. Meanwhile the two hours today was used constructively to get Ella her confidence back and to return everyone back to full skiing mode.

To encourage pivoting and to stop everyone trying to systematically feel for the inside edge of the ski at the start of the turn we did one exercise only on pivoting. Standing on the uphill edge of the uphill ski (poles for support) I asked everyone to allow the foot to roll onto its downhill edge inside the boot – separating the edge of the foot from the edge of the ski. This is what allows the ski to be pulled inwards into the new turn – instead of pushed outwards in a stem. The separation of the foot edge and ski edge is critical – but only one component so tomorrow we will work on other supporting aspects of the pivot and how to change perception of the entire process in a way which easy to focus on and repeat.

Monday, March 30, 2015

ZAG Comes Good!

Be careful when buying skis over the internet! I’d purchased a pair of ZAG Bigs at a great price in 2012 from ColoradoDiscountSkis.com – and while had been waiting for them to arrive from the US I ended up on a pair of K2 Kung Fujas – which became my main ski for the next two seasons. The Zag was placed aside for future use and meanwhile I used an old pair of Bigs for teaching and rock bashing – particularly this season due to the severe initial snow shortage. All of this meant that I never really looked closely at the new Bigs when they arrived.

Finally this year I chose a good value set of touring bindings to put on the new Bigs and get them ready for the snow improving. Taking them out for the first time at Tignes I was shocked to see that two of the binding screws were pushing through the base material. Initially this looked like a major mistake by the Ekosport.com technician who had mounted the binding. On taking the ski back to Ekosport the technician eventually spotted that one of the skis had been constructed with the core the wrong way round – so the thick section was near the front instead of under the foot. The only solution was to take them to the ZAG offices in Chamonix.

Initially there was some confused communication with ZAG “after sales service (SAV)” and it looked like a global war was about to start – but after that was sorted out ZAG replaced the skis and shipped them directly to me. The culprit appears to have been a rouge factory in Taiwan which allowed a condemned batch of skis to escape through the back door onto the market. The shop which sold them would have nothing more to do with them and refused all responsibility – citing their standard 14 day returns policy. I’d go along withe that if the skis weren’t put fraudulently on the market – but to be honest this is going a bit too far by the shop. I certainly wouldn’t risk buying anything from that source again. From now on ANYTHING bought online will be thoroughly checked on arrival. Anyway – ZAG were very good in the end and didn’t let me down. Unfortunately the “Big” has been discontinued so the world will in future be deprived of this brilliant design of ski – but if this pair lasts as long as my old ones they will still be in use 10 years from now!

30 cm of fresh snow

30 cm of fresh snow in Le Fornet today – and much more to come! The weather has just decided to be weird this year – now reverting to winter conditions at altitude. Of course – after recent extreme heat we do need the snow to be replenished…. (photo yesterday)

Cycling (Max heart rate confirmed at 188 – increase from 172 !!!!!)

Three days ago I went out on my bike in shorts and racing kit in the cold - first time for 10 days due to circumstances. I felt weak at first and when plodding up to the first km point at a hairpin bend I spotted a fully covered up mountain biker only about 40 m behind and catching me fast. That's always too embarrassing a situation and purely out of ego driven self preservation I instantly stepped on the gas and my heart rate went up from around 140 to 165 average. When you do this the game is to never look back because the guy trying to humiliate you (or driving your own paranoia) and using you as a target will sense that as weakness! Also by never looking back you always imagine the worst - that he is right on your tail - so you just don't ease off. About 30 seconds into this nonsense I was already regretting it as there were still 7.4km left to climb.

Only 6 km later I saw from turning another hairpin that my sustained acceleration had put a full kilometre between us - but now I couldn't ease off because there was the chance of actually getting a good time for a change at the top. As it happens the time was 34:40 - and I think this is the first time I've been back beneath 35' since the 2103 season and all the fasting and diet work last season.

Right at the finish there is a short steep climb so I accelerated up it to the end - as hard as I could sprint. This now confirms my new max heart rate genuinely has moved up to 188 bpm (from 172 early last year) not just for running but also for cycling. I've seen it twice in running but didn't trust it - thinking it might be the wrist strap optical heart rate monitor doing something weird when sprinting - but on the bike the arms aren't flying about like mad. Heart rate max is not supposed to increase at any stage in life - it's only supposed to reduce. I’m attributing this change entirely to the ketogenic diet despite never having heard of such a thing happening. All I know is that the heart is up to 28% more efficient running on ketones.

 

Running

The day following the 188 bpm bike experience I went running in minimalist trail shoes. Once again the body would be suffering from the long layoff so the running muscles would not be in great shape. I wanted to know specifically if the body had recovered from the hard bike ride or not. One issue that’s been concerning me is whether or not stored glycogen in the body plays a positive performance role after a short layoff. If running on this occasion turned out to be a struggle it would imply that the sugar hadn’t had time to replenish on the ketogenic diet – which supplies hardly any carbs. I’m relying on the body itself producing carbs.

Surprisingly this turned out to be the fastest run of the year – 51’29” for 10k – and although this caused muscle pain due to the layoff it demonstrated that performance for me is not dependent on accumulated carbohydrate stores.

Both cycling and running this week made me aware of the need to focus now on the mental side of performance. It’s hard to sustain a strong effort over a long time – and to know that each session it all starts over again. Years of battling with losing fat turn you into a plodder instead of focusing on performance. This year there is no fat to lose!

Skiing

Yesterday’s skiing session was with Gareth – but we spent more time laughing than actually skiing. I tried my old Fischer World Cup parabolic slalom skis and they felt horrible. Gareth was shown some recent evolutions in my teaching – including the “snowplough’ carving/hip-control  exercise I used with Ersin – but his dyslexia prevented him from getting his head around that one on this occasion. We also looked at the complete connection from the centre of the core through the adductors to the foot – then pulling the skis inwards into the turn with the centre of mass.

I physically held Gareth so that he could feel his hip being pulled backwards and not the shoulder or foot. Gareth needed to pull up his pelvis at the front to make this work properly – his posture being unstable.

We also worked on the separation of ski edge and foot edge (inside the ski boot) so that he was more aware of this than previously – because I noticed that he was always searching for his inside edge when initiating a turn. I told him to ignore which edge his ski was on for starting a turn – because it is irrelevant.

This “active adductors and inside of the foot” principle for both legs simultaneously was taken into carving – but the weather began to misbehave and cut the session short.

Ketogenic Bread!

Yes it’s possible to make bread without wheat and with very few carbohydrates.

This recipe (discovered by a friend) is so useful that I’ve decided to post it here:

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup milled linseed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

combine the above and then mix in the following:

5 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil or butter
1/8 cup water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or balsamic)


Bake for 40 mins at 325F (160C) in a small greased and lined loaf tin until a knife comes out clean.