So, by nature I'm sort of curious. To that I end a week or so ago I decided to change the structure of my training to see what gains could be had with more frequency of training with more structured recovery and nutrition spaced in between. To be honest, I'm going to make this up as I go along and so the potential for a huge, miserable failure is quite possible. But I believe that failure can provide valuable insights on the path toward success so I'm going to try this out and see how it goes. Basically I want to see how much I can train in a day if I eat and recover in between the sessions. Today there were 4 workouts. 2 swims (1 in a wetsuit in open water), 1 run and 1 bike session. Each workout was done at a comfortable pace though as I get used to it I will intersperse some intensity in the mix. After each workout I ate then took a nap or rested on the couch and watched a video. I also did a bit of yoga after the run to keep myself loose. The last swim is more of a restorative easy continuous 1500 meters after about 1000 meters of drills.
So this year I've been training smarter. And I've focused most of my attention though on some days or weeks it has seemed, all of my attention, on diet and recovery. This year I wanted to see how far I could take my fitness gains if I worked my training from the other side of the equation. Instead of breaking my body down and allowing it to recover, I decided to build my body up physically and nutritionally first then exploit this heightened "wellness" to then train harder and longer.
I know that some athletes have started to make the connection that food is fuel, but I've been trying to take my food beyond that. I've been using my food as fuel, as a restorative , and as medicine. To that end I put my beliefs and money where my mouth was this year and began working with raw/vegan food chef Dina Knight.
At first all I was looking for was someone to help me up the quality of my meals when my time became more constrained like on the days I have to travel 35 miles to the office to work. I figured if I could just have someone help me prepare a few meals on those 2 or 3 days, the rest of my week would take care of itself. I wanted to stop eating "whatever I had time for" on those days and eat as purposefully as I was when I was off. For me what sealed the deal was Chef Dina's knowledge of nutrition honed during her own personal wellness journey, her work with people attempting to lose weight in a healthy balanced fashion, and her philosophy of making the food as nutritious as possible and then making it tast delicious.
I have to admit, even though I've been a vegetarian for years, I really didn't know what I'd be getting myself into. I had my habits of eating just like everyone else. And I while I had been exposed to raw foods in the past and had several books on the subject in the house, I'd sort of dismissed the raw diet even in spots as impractical for an athlete.
What I can say now, after having eating this way for the past 6 weeks is taste is always going to be king when it comes to food and what we choose to put in our mouths. And if that food is also nourishing, cleansing and healing along with tasting amazing then that is when change in not only practical but easy. The food I've been eating has been the best food I've ever tasted anywhere. And it comes from my own kitchen with very simple ingredients. It is so easy to leave things at the store or drive by a restaurant now because I have more nutritious and better tasting food at home.
The pictures in this post are to give you an idea of what I've been feasting on. I'll make an effort to post some of the recipes as I've decided to post this stuff weekly after my work with Chef Dina. Train well!
So yesterday was the annual Jack's Generic Triathlon. I must say this has to be one of the best run big (in terms of the number of participants) little (in terms of distance 500m open water swim, 13.8 mi bike, 3 mi run) around. I think the reason I like Jack's is it reminds me of all the reasons I started doing tri's in the first place - fun, swag, camaraderie, and food. The course is well done, there is ready aid everywhere, and the course is challenging even though it isn't long which means it is as good a race for beginners as it is for seasoned athletes. All of this is probably because this is truly a race done by athletes for athletes and its back to basics formula works.
At any rate, I was using Jack's Generic as sort of a systems/equipment check. I wanted to get back on the the tri bike and see how it felt to fire on all cylinders. And I was using a new tri top and short combo that I bought last year but thought I was still just a bit too big for (everything seems to fit perfectly now ;) ). I was also interested to see if my new diet would have a noticeable impact while my body was experiencing the stresses of racing.
What I can say I noticed right off the bat, when I woke up is I felt really relaxed and all of the body tension from the prior week's training seemed to have dissipated. I really didn't feel the need to stretch or create some blood flow to jump start things which is a completely new sensation for me on race morning.
On my way to the race, at about 5:45 AM, the freeway was completely shut down and all traffic was diverted onto the feeder. This didn't look too good but as luck would have it I made all the right choices and was back on my way in pretty short order. I got to the race site a bit later than I would have liked and most of the rack space in my age group was taken but I was able to squeeze my bike in thanks to a kind soul who made some space for me.
I quickly got my stuff arranged and then went down to try out the water. The water was a touch warm considering all the rain we've had here lately but it was also not as smelly as I've remembered it being in the past. I got a good idea of the layout of the buoys and then got ready for my wave.
As I mentioned earlier, this has to be one of the most relaxed pre race mornings I've ever had. The sense of ease in my body was amazing. In fact if I was going to freak out about something it would have been how much at ease I was feeling. I mean there was a lot to I could find to be nervous about. My running though, happening again was way behind schedule due to the dislocated bone in my foot. And the first 3 week block of speed work on the track hadn't happened at all. Work responsibilities had ruined two weeks of training in the pool and on the bike making it possible to only do the bare minimum of work on a single sport per day. Then of course there is the normal apprehension that closely follows a period like that. And I had recently decided to experiment with my diet even more than normal by taking classes from Raw/Vegan Chef Dina Knight. Lower than normal training volume, recent injury, overtime work obligations, and experimenting with a completely new diet all should have added up to a catastrophic racing failure. So there was a lot to be nervous about, but here I was pre race and I was completely at ease.
The swim was pretty uneventful. I was never at all distressed and I came out of the water pretty much in the middle of my wave. Had I pushed the issue I could have finished sooner but I was working on my stroke mechanics and trying out racing using bilateral breathing for the first time ever. I know, I know... Next offseason, I'll start working on flip turns too.
At any rate, I think I had a fairly speedy transition as a result of not being spent on the swim. But the first mile or so on the bike was a bit sketchy and this is where my first small bit of doubt set in. I was feeling some fatigue in my legs and wondered if perhaps my training for the week was going to catch up with me? I had done a couple of sessions of power intervals and a time trial early on in the week. But after a couple of relaxed breaths, my legs loosened up and I settled into a nice cadence. I checked my heart rate monitor and it read 152 - a bit high but way below aerobic threshold so I decided not to fret. My legs felt great and I just started to feel stronger and stronger. The first miles where a blur and I passed about 8 guys in my age group, most as if they were standing still.
Somewhere between mile four and five, I caught one guy in my age group and we battled back and forth. I realized I was a much better climber than he so, I began to really work the inclines. At this point my heart rate had dropped to about 147 and the distress I'd felt at the beginning of the bike was nothing but a distant memory. So I pushed several climbs in a row and lost my shadow around mile 8.
I was still flying, coming up out of a valley and into the last series of hills before the mad downhill sprint to transition when I felt the instability in my rear wheel. Crap! As I rode past a guy in one of the prior waves, I asked him to check my back tire. Yep, he confirms that it's flat. Basically that ended my race. I wasn't able to change the tire because I was running my racing wheels and hadn't brought a tube with a long enough stem.
A couple of days later, looking over the results I saw that at the time of my flat I was in 3rd place in my age group and about 12 minutes up on time from the prior year. I'm pretty happy with that. I felt I was having a good race. And I was enjoying myself. I think the strategy of paying more attention to my diet and recovery this year is paying off.