Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Hang-Ups

I am often asked, "how does Coach Bob make it through the holidays from a nutrition perspective?".  So, I thought I would let you know how this Sport Dietitian thinks around this time of the year…

1. Don't calorie count.  This isn't really specific to this time of the year because you shouldn't really do it.  However, if you meticulously calculate the calories that you eat around the holidays, it will make you depressed and who wants that?  

2. Enjoy food!  Again, not really a holiday tip as you always should be especially during this time of the year.  That doesn't mean eating junk.  It means enjoying the taste of different foods.  Remember, your taste buds are on your tongue, not your stomach!

3. Explore outside your comfort zone.  Try new foods.  What a great time of the year to have this opportunity.  Who knows?  You may add a favorite to your list.

4. Approach holiday parties as a way to improve your nutrition skills.  It shouldn't be a sabotage situation but rather an opportunity to seek out the protein and veggies first and foremost.  That will get you full and help reduce any cravings.

5. Don't stress out about treats.  So maybe you do enjoy the holiday treats every so often.  Don't think of yourself as a lesser person.  Enjoy the taste, savor it and then move on to your normal way of eating again.  It will help you develop a healthy relationship with food.

6. Make smoothies.  A great way to get a liquid source of protein, fat and fiber.  Experiment and have fun with different ingredients like sweet potatoes, kale, coconut and more!  Check out the new Fuel4mance Smoothie e-recipe book for 85 great ideas!

Of course, the most important is to control your blood sugar by combining protein, fiber and fat together about 90% of the time you eat.  Do your best but allow misses to happen (about 10% of the time).   It's all about "ME" (metabolic efficiency)!

Enjoy the holidays!

Coach Bob

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Metabolic Efficiency Check-In

It's been about a year since I moved from vegetarianism to including animal protein in my daily nutrition plan and happily living the controlled carbohydrate, higher fat lifestyle.  I wanted to do a short blog to describe where my metabolic efficiency is at today and explain a few things in the process.  Here is my metabolic efficiency (ME) assessment as of yesterday.

The assessment was done on the treadmill, beginning at 8:27 minute/mile and progressing to the last stage of 6:19 min/mile.  As you can see, I did have an MEP but my fat burning abilities were much less pronounced versus one year ago (look at the %'s to the left of my MEP).  I will explain why that is soon.  What I did differently this time around was measure my blood lactate to attempt to correlate LT (lactate threshold) with MEP (metabolic efficiency point).  My MEP happened about :30 before my LT which indicates that my nutrition could better support my current fitness level.  Keep in mind that I normally do not do ME and LT testing in the same test because they are looking at different variables.  ME testing is not meant to test for threshold or even go that high in intensity while LT testing is only looking for the point in time where lactate clearance cannot keep up with lactate production (we do this to set heart rate and pace/power zones for athletes).  Additionally, the pre-test protocol for ME testing is a 12 hour fast while pre-LT test protocol calls for entering the test just like you would a race, following the same nutrition plan with only about a 2 hour fast before.

I have been controlling my daily carbohydrate intake throughout this past year but it cycles daily and weekly based on my training needs (I call this microcycle nutrition periodization).  I have been experimenting with adjusting my carbohydrate intake between 60-120 grams per day, mostly dependent upon my energy needs to support higher intensity triathlon and cyclocross training.  That said, in the weeks leading up to my most recent ME assessment, I averaged roughly 100 grams of carbohydrate per day.

I was happy to see where my MEP was but take a look at where it was the month after I started eating meat again (October, 2012) and limiting my carbohydrate intake to 60-80 grams per day.

The intensity change per stage was the same with the exception that my last stage was a 6:31 min/mile. Yesterday, I was able to go one more stage (to a 6:19 min/mile), mostly because I have been training with higher intensity for cyclocross racing and am building into a reverse periodization triathlon training plan for 2014.  What is very interesting is the overall amount of fat vs. carbohydrate that I was burning in my ME assessment last year versus this year.  Today, while I am burning a decent amount of fat before my MEP, it is much less than one year ago.

Why you may ask?  Pretty simple actually.  Combine my eating 20-40 more grams of carbohydrate per day along with pretty high intensity exercise and you get less fat burning.  Nothing that would raise a red flag but nonetheless, still a lower amount.  The take-home message for me is that lowering my daily carbohydrate intake to around 60-80 grams yields a higher state of metabolic efficiency.  This is for my body as everyone will be different based on their training, genetics, carbohydrate intolerance and daily nutrition plan.  

As I continue to cycle my daily carbohydrate and fat intakes in search of the right equation that yields the "biggest bang for my buck", I will continue my ME testing more often during this off-season.  While there really isn't a technical definition of "low carb", I do believe that an ideal range exists for each athlete.  One that yields both optimal metabolic efficiency and performance while having the ideal body weight and body composition.  It's a fun exploration  and I will continue to report my progress.  Hopefully, there are some take-aways for you also in relation to changing your daily nutrition plan to improve your body's ability to burn more fat.

Stay tuned…

Coach Bob

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Metabolic Efficiency and Nutrition Periodization

I am asked quite often what the difference is between my two concepts: Metabolic Efficiency and Nutrition Periodization.  Here's the down low on the differences.

Nutrition Periodization is the overall concept that is utilized as the foundation of any athlete's sport nutritional needs.  Each athlete will follow different training cycles with altering volume, intensity and energy expenditure and because of this, their nutrition program should support these alterations.  That is the basic idea behind Nutrition Periodization: support the body's energy needs with varying training load shifts in order to optimize physical training performance.  Irrespective of the sport, gender, position or class of athlete, Nutrition Periodization is the cornerstone of athlete nutritional planning.

Metabolic Efficiency is based on the premise of controlling and optimizing blood sugar.  There is not one time that an athlete should not have the goal of doing this.  The reason behind this concept was to eliminate GI distress in athletes who were prone to having this during training and competition.  However, not all athletes experience GI distress so these athletes have argued that they do not need to be metabolically efficient.  Unfortunately, they may not know that there are very positive ancillary benefits to improving their metabolic efficiency such as blood lipid improvement, decrease in risk factors for certain diseases, improvement in recovery and sleep patterns and weight loss/fat loss.

Metabolic Efficiency is a component of an athlete's overall Nutrition Periodization program.  At certain times throughout the competition year, an athlete may wish to manipulate their body weight and composition or improve health markers.  This is where the ancillary benefits of Metabolic Efficiency come into play.  Every athlete should have the number one goal of controlling and optimizing blood sugar.  It is just a matter of timing in regards to when they implement the different approaches to Metabolic Efficiency.

The most basic way to begin the metabolic efficiency path is to watch your carbohydrate to protein ratio.  In brief, if a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of carb to protein is maintained at meals and snacks, it will optimize blood sugar thus reaping the benefits of hormonal control.  From there, it is up to the athlete on how to progress their metabolic efficiency.  There are a handful of additional dietary strategies that the Sport Dietitians at Fuel4mance implement based on the athlete and their individual needs.  This is also taught in the Fuel4mance Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist Certification.

For now, the take-home message is that Nutrition Periodization is the guiding nutrition principle for athletes and Metabolic Efficiency is a sub-concept within the overall nutrition plan.  Metabolic Efficiency can have significant positive ancillary results aside from just blood sugar optimization and I recommend athletes get a good Sport Dietitian on their performance team to help guide them through the process.

Coach Bob

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Metabolic Efficiency FAQ's

I have been talking quite a bit about Metabolic Efficiency (ME) lately to different groups and podcasts and have realized that there are still quite a few misconceptions about the concept floating around.  Let me take the opportunity to address some of these to clear up any confusion.

1. What is Metabolic Efficiency?

ME is a lifestyle change that focuses on combining the proper nutrients (food) during feedings to properly control and optimize blood sugar.  This teaches the body (from a cellular level) how to use fat better as an energy source and preserve carbohydrates.

2. Why is it important?

ME has a profound effect on health by improving certain blood lipid markers and decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome and some chronic disease states.  It also reduces body weight and body fat.

ME has a performance effect also.  It eliminates GI distress (nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, etc.) in endurance athletes and also reduces the amount of calories needed per hour of exercise.  It does this by increasing the amount of fat used at higher intensities.  Because glycogen (stored carbohydrate) depletion is the deterrent to athletic success during competition, it makes sense that you would want to use more fat as fuel at higher intensities and preserve carbohydrates until they are really needed.

3. Is it for me?

ME is for anyone with a health or performance related goal.  I use the ME plan for myself, my kids, my mom...really anyone.  Remember, it's all about controlling and optimizing blood sugar through the different combinations of food.  It's safe as long as it is not followed to an extreme for too long.

4. What types of athletes is it good for?

ME works for all athletes but let me make it known that ME is a part of the big picture, that being Nutrition Periodization.  As an athlete, you must determine what training cycle you are in first then alter your nutrition to support your energy needs, body weight/fat goals, immune system and health accordingly.  For example, an endurance athlete could follow ME year-round but change their carbohydrate and fat consumption based on the time of the year.  A bit higher carbohydrate (not a high carb diet) intake during competition cycle may make sense for some athletes while a lower carbohydrate intake would make sense during off-season and early base training.

5. How do I follow the ME diet?

You don't.  It's not a diet.  It is a manipulation of nutrients based on training and lifestyle.  Diets don't work.  Diet's are not successful long-term.  The ME plan works for anyone because it takes into consideration activity level and other health and performance related goals.  The great thing is that all you need to do is change the quantities of carbohydrate, protein and fat throughout the year.  ME works beautifully with all sorts of individuals but it must be periodized just like training.

6. What if I screw up?

A change in nutrition is a change in behavior.  It takes a few months to really make a new habit stick and there are planned and expected "speedbumps" along the way.  Expect these as they will teach good lessons.  Don't expect to be perfect.  There is no such thing.  Allow these "speedbumps" and do not let them affect your self confidence and progress moving forward with your ME plan.  As long as you control about 90% of your food, timing and choices, you will do great.  The other 10% will be your "speedbumps".

Of course, there is also the topic of nutrient timing and ME.  How do you follow the ME plan during training to optimize fat burning and performance at the same time?  That will be my discussion for my next blog.

Refer to the great ME resources at the Fuel4mance website for more information.

Stay tuned.

Coach Bob

Monday, September 23, 2013

low psi

One week ago, I embarked on one of the most exciting ventures of my entire sports career.  I have had my fair share of participating in some pretty cool events like six Ironman races, the Boston Marathon, the Leadville Leadman series and crewing for the Badwater 135 and the Brazil 135 but there was something about September 14, 2013 that I will remember forever.  My first cyclocross race.

The feeling was a bit like my first triathlon back in 1993 except I have much more knowledge of sport and training.  My first tri was done off of a dare in college and I had no idea what I was doing.  I swam in a pool with heavily padded cycling shorts and I rode a mountain bike with big knobby tires.  Luckily, growing up a soccer player, I knew how to run and found extreme joy running a 5k off the bike even though I had never experienced this "dead leg" syndrome before.  After crossing the finishing line in the far, far back, I knew I had a new found love of a different sport.  One that has taken me 20 years to explore.

In 2006, I took a sabbatical from triathlon and embarked upon my ultrarunning and ultra mountain biking interests.  It was definitely more of a challenge than what I was used to (yes, even Ironman training and racing was easier) and that is what peaked my interest.  I spent a few years getting dirty on trails before I realized how much I missed triathlon.  So, I returned back to triathlon and began with short course (sprint and Olympic distances) again due to lack of time for heavy volume training.  What I had learned was that my body loved this type of shorter training.  No more than 1.5-2 hour training sessions.  High intensity repeats.  Plyometric training.  It was like I found my home again.  Growing up playing soccer, I had endurance but was much better suited for the stop and go, anaerobic nature of that type of sport.  I was driven to become as fast as I could in shorter triathlons not necessarily to see how good I could be but rather, to regain the sensation of going fast and using more of my anaerobic energy system.  It was this, and the true curiosity, that led me to completing my first cyclocross race last weekend.

I have a cyclocross bike and I know how to bike, even push my limits.  What I didn't know prior to my first cyclocross race was anything really about the tactics.  I watched some YouTube videos but that didn't teach me much.  I talked to some friends who had done some races and began to understand a bit more about the sport but it wasn't until toeing the line that I truly gained my first lesson in what cyclocross really is.

I had no idea what category to enter so luckily, my friend Brandon Jessop gave me some tips and he was spot on with his selection: SM35+4.  That means senior men over 35 years old, category 4.  Sounded good to me, not knowing really what that meant in terms of how good the guys would be.  My goals for my first race were very simple: 1) have fun, 2) don't crash, 3) don't get lapped and 4) inspire the teens that I coach at Teens that TRI to try a cyclocross race.

Luckily, I achieved all four of my goals. I was a bit worried about goal #2 because it is hard to control others actions. In fact, on my first lap, three guys went down right in front of me in a pile up.  I was able to act quickly and ride up a little hill on their left to avoid them.  But I digress, let me take you back to the start.  I lined up in the second line (out of three), not knowing what to expect.  The starter gave us some instructions and then 30 seconds later, the whistle blew.  Welcome to sprinting!  Two guys sandwiched me in the first few seconds so I bumped the one on the right to give me some space.  He was a bit upset but I wasn't about to go down so soon in the race!  Luckily, I have built up my technical cycling skills by teaching them to my teens so I wasn't afraid of bumping or locking bars.

Off we went.  It was a mad sprint to the doubletrack!  I played it safe and sat in the middle.  Remembering that this was my first cyclocross race, I wanted to observe what the athletes did, how they responded, when to attack and when to sit.  My first lap was pretty hard but not all out.  Second and third laps were getting tougher as I was learning what to do, how to take corners, get on and off my bike fast to get over obstacles and handling my high heart rate.  Figuring out when to get a few seconds of recovery was the tricky part.  I managed to do this around some corners where the speeds were pretty slow.

Mud pits, 180 degree turns, super short and steep hills and bunny hops...all while redlining my intensity.  I had predicted we may finish about 4 laps of the course in the 40 minute race but boy was I wrong!  At lap 3, they announced we had 3 more laps!  This meant I wasn't going to get lapped so a good thing but another 3 laps?  Could I do it?  I buckled down, told myself it was only about another 20 minutes and actually starting gaining on some guys.  I was getting a bit faster and more comfortable with the course as time went on.

I had the support of many of my Teens that TRI families out there along with friends and my family.  It was awesome having all of them screaming for (at) me during the race as I surely needed the pick me up at times.  Last lap, coming around the last corner on pavement after a mudpit (read: my tires were slick), I was cautious on the turn then threw down my finish line sprint.  At least I think I was sprinting but that is beside the point.  I crossed the finish line the same way I rode my first lap: with a huge smile on my face.

There is something about cyclocross that is addicting (like most sports).  For me, it is the anaerobic nature of the sport along with the tactical skills.  Both of which I look forward to in the next few months of cyclocross season in Colorado!

Are you wondering why the title of this blog is "low psi"?  Well, in cyclocross, as I am learning, tire pressure is a big thing.  Deciding on which tire pressure to run can make or break your race.  Course conditions, rider weight, environmental concerns all factor into this.  It was funny because in some of my research about cyclocross, I read the most talked about thing prior to the race is what tire pressure are athletes running.  I also experienced first hand the psychological tactics some racers use in the few minutes before the race.  Lined up at the front, guys were letting out some pressure in their tires almost taunting others to question if their pressure was too high.

Funny.  Welcome to cyclocross!

Coach Bob

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Perspire 2 Inspire

Admittedly, and on purpose, I took the title of this Blog from the Runwell "Perspire 2 Inspire" campaign that they are doing because it just makes so much sense on so many levels.  In this blog, I want to recap my Labor Day weekend trip to Ironkids National Championships and the 5150 Championships.

I was honored to have 42 of my Kids and Teens that TRI team members and their families travel to Des Moines, Iowa for Ironkids Nationals.  All had to qualify for the race and while each young athlete had their individual goals, my intent for them is always to be safe, have fun, exhibit good sportsmanship and  inspire others to be more active through the sport of triathlon.  All finished the race and while some had great performances, others did not.  That is where the Perspire 2 Inspire comes into play.  I addressed many of my young team members after the race and of course congratulated them for putting out their best effort but as always, I used that opportunity as a teachable moment.

By now, my Kids and Teens that TRI get it.  They know that Coach Bob will have words of wisdom for them but that they must also apply my words to real life.  To those who did not achieve their performance related goals, I reminded them that the act of preparation and all of the training, dedication, motivation and life balance was one of the biggest successes of the day.  A race is just a race and not something that defines you as a person.  Rather, it is how you approach every day leading up to the race in your preparation that matters.  Are you taking care of yourself?  Getting enough sleep?  Practicing good nutrition?  Balancing school and family and friends with training?  Are you doing the proper things to recover your body?  It is these things that I remind them that are of greater importance than a placing in one race.  Doing the right thing on a daily basis teaches character.  Even more important though is how you react to a race that may not go the way you wanted it to.  It is okay to be upset but it is not okay to lose focus of why you are doing this or exhibit poor sportsmanship because things didn't go your way.  Be proud of your effort.  Be proud of who you are as a person.

It was during these teachable moments where I reminded them what Perspire 2 Inspire really means.  The day was much more than just a performance.  It was shaping their lifestyle and not only theirs but also their parents, siblings and friends and for that, they should hold their chins up high and be proud.

I was conveniently reminded of this during my race the very next day.  I was honored to have qualified in the amateur elite category for the 5150 championships and approached it as a challenge.  Sure, I was the oldest out of 35 guys in the category but I never let chronological age stand in my way of achieving something great.  For me, having qualified as a 42 year old amateur elite was no easy task but even more important was the message that I wanted to send to my Kids and Teens that TRI team and my family.  I never make any excuses going into a race.  If something hurts, I deal with it.  If I am sick, I deal with it.  If I am tired, I race the best I can on that day and that is what I want my team to remember.   It is all about a positive mental attitude and giving your very best from start to finish.

Interestingly, I had a horrible swim that day, had no legs on the bike at all but I had very good transitions and a fast run.  I knew my swim would be slow when I took my first few strokes but I persevered and did my best to get out of the water as fast as I could.  After hopping on my bike and testing out my legs, I knew it would not be a PR bike and I was okay with that.  It is how you react to the cards that you are dealt with that truly defines character.  At that point, I did not succumb to failure or simply just finishing the race.  I was still racing despite knowing it was not my best day.  But I thought back about all of the fun that I had preparing for this race and I had friends and my son cheering for me along the way.  It really doesn't get any better than that.

Upon crossing the finish line, I was excited to see my friends and my son but truly embraced the next thing that happened.  After I crossed, I saw Hunter Kemper standing near the finish and I went up to him and congratulated him on his 2nd place finish.  I have worked with Hunter for many years on his nutrition so we know each other and to say that he is a class act person and athlete is an understatement.  He was one of the very few pro's that I saw who was still hanging around the finish chute after his race to talk to age-groupers.  He then came over to my friends and shared good conversation and took some photos with the kids.  Hunter is, and has always been, one of my most favorite professional triathletes because of what he does off the field of competition.

Perspire 2 Inspire.  Enjoy the journey in preparing to achieve your goals but more importantly, to inspire others to do the same thing.  All 42 of my young athletes did it.  I did it.  Hunter Kemper did it.  We can all share our love of sport in different ways.  Find your way and lead others to it.

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The numbers are in...Badwater

Almost a month ago, I had the honor of serving as crew chief for one of my most amazing athletes, Linda Quirk of Runwell, as she embarked on her journey to conquer Badwater, a 135 mile running race in California.

Badwater is not just another 135 mile race though.  It begins in Death Valley, below sea level and finishes at the base of Mt. Whitney, about 8300 feet above sea level.  The vertical ascent may not be that big of a deal for some but the heat sure is!  I was eager to experience first hand what 120+ degrees felt like when running and it certainly did not disappoint.

We had a six crew team to assist Linda in making it to the finish line and while I will spare some of the details for sake of keeping this blog somewhat short, here are a few things I noticed along the way:

  • Running in 120 degrees is hot.  Running on black asphalt adds even more heat, upwards of 160-170 degrees from what I was told.  It definitely felt that hot!  In fact, at one point during my pacing of Linda during the hotter part of the day, I had clothing covering everything except the back of my hands and my cheeks.  When I was out there on the road, I felt like I was running in an oven.  There was no break from the heat until the night time.  Even after taking a pacer shift with her, I would hop back in the air conditioned car and it would take me about 15-20 minutes to stop sweating!
  • Our pacers usually carried a water sprayer to cool Linda off while she was running.  I continually used it on myself also to try to keep cool and I remember at one point of spraying my shorts with water, it evaporated so quickly that I couldn't even see the water make contact with my shorts.  HOT!
  • Linda got no sleep at all for two days.  In fact, the most she ever stopped was about 10 minutes (and that was to try to get a back adjustment).  I slept for about 40 minutes, all interrupted as car doors where slamming.  It's the nature of the game.  All well worth it though.
  • In my opinion, the hardest part of the course was right before entering the last town, Lone Pine.  It was the hottest part of day two, I was running with Linda on black asphalt, carrying the water sprayer on my back and just remember the intense heat coupled with the gnarly crosswind that was blowing fine sand on our bodies.  There is hardly any shoulder on the road that we ran on and running against traffic with an athlete who is sleep deprived can be quite nerve racking.  All of our crew members had to ensure Linda's safety from oncoming cars.  After we made it to Lone Pine, it was much better yet all uphill to the finish!
  • I chew gum while I run.  It keeps my saliva response "fresh" and prevents dry mouth.  I cannot even begin to describe how much fluid I drank while out on the road and in the crew car during the race.  Linda on the other hand cannot chew gum so she had serious cases of dry mouth which meant she drank quite a bit of fluids.  I tried to monitor this and her electrolyte intake as closely as possible but in a race like Badwater, dehydration can destroy goals (and the body) thus I wanted her to drink according to her thirst most of the time during the hotter parts of the day.  During the cooler night opportunities, I decreased her fluid intake.  It was quite a hydration and electrolyte circus!
  • Food.  Ah, food.  We had the best laid out nutrition plan before the race, tried it throughout training and it worked.  Guess what?  As I always teach, you must always have an A, B and C nutrition plan for races like Badwater.  Linda depended on Generation UCAN as her main source of calories but there were times where she just didn't have a taste for it.  So, I had to rely on plans B and C and get her calories with other food sources.  Luckily, Linda is extremely metabolically efficient and requires very few calories per hour to sustain exercise.  The other sources of calories we included throughout the race were potato chips, peanut butter and jelly, crackers and jam, pretzels, coconut butter, Clif Mojo bar and even a bit of a Snickers bar (if you read my blog about our Brazil 135 adventure in January, you remember that Snickers saved us!).
  • In all, to the best of our food recording abilities between myself and my colleague Dina Griffin, Sport Dietitian at Fuel4mance who was part of our crew, we concluded that Linda consumed approximately 80 calories per hour.  How many hours did it take her to complete the world's hardest ultra running race?
Well, Linda's goal was not really to finish Badwater.  Her goal was to break the record in her age-group which was [previously] just over 47 hours.  The cutoff time to complete the race was 48 hours.  With the help of her crew and her sheer determination and competitiveness, she crossed the finish line in 44 hours.  Yes, she not only finished her first Badwater but smashed her age-group record.  All while consuming roughly 80 calories per hour.

Impossible?  I think not.  Wait until you hear about our next adventure together!  Stay tuned...

Coach Bob

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Deck of Cards

The Deck of Cards

The four races that I coached this weekend, along with mine, reminded me of a deck of cards. You know what is in there but you are just not sure what will be dealt to you on the day. My seven Teens that TRI all did great in their races, three of whom which completed their first draft legal triathlon. I was hoping to cap off the day with my first ever draft legal triathlon but I was dealt a different card.

A few tidbits of what I learned from this race:

  • When I first registered for this race it was designated as an age group draft legal race. USAT then turned it into a U25 Elite Development Race (EDR) which basically means young guns are competing for their pro card. That changed the entire race for me but true to my nature, I was not about to take a DNS, even though I knew the risk of getting lapped out on the bike was very high. Take home message (THM): not starting something is cowardly. No matter what cards are dealt to you, always begin something you signed up to do.

  • I spent a very long 8.5 hours on my feet in the sun coaching my youth and juniors before my race began at 3:30 in the afternoon. THM: not the smartest thing I could have done knowing the field I was racing but my priorities were my team. What happened with me was less of a priority.

  • The water temperature was 65 degrees at 7:00am and had increased to 72 degrees the hour before my race. Being an EDR race, wetsuits were not legal. THM: I had mentally prepared for this prior to the race so I was calm but I had to add another :45 to my swim exit calculations to account for this. I swim much faster with a wetsuit and this, along with one other thing discussed below, negatively affected my race.  I also was shocked that a body of water could have such a drastic shift in temperature in one day. That doesn't happen in Colorado!

  • There were 26 guys that toed the line which meant the top two finishers would receive their pro card. I knew the cards were heavily against me and I also knew that there was a possibility of getting lapped out on the bike. I calculated what my swim needed to be in relation to the top guys so I would be safe on the bike and finish the race. Unfortunately, I did not know of one competitor who, by himself, annihilated the competition and frankly, I did not factor him coming out of the water roughly 75 seconds before everyone else. This created a bigger deficit for me which did not bode well.  THM: talk to the USAT collegiate development person prior to the race to recon the young guns talent!

  • I figured on coming out of the swim about three minutes down from the fast swimmers. When I came out 4:30 behind the top guy, I knew I was in trouble (because each bike lap would take about 6 minutes) and I had to make myself hurt on the bike. Out of T1 I peeked over my shoulder and saw three guys behind me.  Perfect! I started pedaling, got my feet in my shoes, looked back and they were gone.  No chance for a pack to develop. This would not help my situation for I needed a pack to ride with to prevent getting lapped out. I time trialed the first lap before a young "kid" came up to me and we began to work together for the next lap. I kept a close eye on the lead pack so to keep ahead of them enough to not get lapped out. Little did I know that the guy who smashed the swim was also riding the entire bike course on his own ahead of the main pack by about 75 seconds. I thought this guy came out of the water behind me and was an uber cyclist. The latter was certainly true and as he passed me, followed closely by the nice lady on the motorcycle telling me my race was over, I was in complete disbelief!  I was not expecting one guy to lap me. If anything, I was waiting for a pack. Turns out I wasn't the only athlete dealt this card. This guy lapped out 8 of us. THM: while I was in my two man pack, we would average between 26-28 mph. This guy had to be going in excess of 30 mph to lap so many of us. Guess I needed more TT training on the bike!

So I ended up doing a modified aqua bike and while I was disappointed, I could not help but think of what a great experience this was but more importantly, this experience in itself contributes tools to my coaching toolbox that I did not previously have. By experiencing draft legal racing up close and personal, I can provide an even better service to my athletes and for that I am extremely grateful.

Oh yeah, that guy won the race by only 3 seconds (he came out of T2 with about a 90 second lead). Turns out his run is his weakness. Figures. Had I had the chance to run, my 5k off the bike would have bettered his.  Not that it matters.  It's all in the rear view mirror now but kudos to him as he had a phenomenal race and deserved the win for sure. You never know what card will be dealt to you on any given day but you must be ready to play it no matter what.

And yes, if you are wondering, another draft legal race will be in my future. I don't give up without a fight!

Coach Bob

Friday, June 14, 2013

Daily Nutrition Update

As some of you may be following, I have completely changed my dietary habits beginning last October moving from a vegetarian eating plan to being a carnivore again, after 10 years.  You can check my old blog posts for the quantitative proof of my heightened metabolic efficiency and improved blood lipids but I wanted to write a short post on how this has affected my performance.

I employed a controlled carbohydrate eating plan which significantly improved both my metabolic efficiency and blood lipids but that was during a time in late 2012 when I wasn't training too much.  I consistently ate 60-80 grams of carbohydrate per day, moderate protein and higher fat (roughly 60% of my total daily calories).  Since then, I have been training with more intensity getting ready for my short course triathlon season.  With this, I have strategically placed more carbohydrate in my plan as it correlates with my training load and objectives (this is called nutrition periodization).  While I have surpassed 80 grams of carbohydrate on some days preparing for higher quality training or racing, I have never gone above 120 grams in one day (if you recall, many believe the body and brain need a minimum of 130 grams per day to function properly).

I believe myself to be living proof that a controlled carbohydrate daily nutrition plan can be employed in a non-long course endurance athlete's plan.  I have competed in two sprint triathlons so far and my performances have exceeded my expectations.  My body weight remains unchanged since March, my functional threshold power has increased by 30 watts in the past 8 weeks and my running velocity threshold is on par for being faster than it was last year.  At this time last year, I could only manage holding roughly 6:15 per minute per mile pace for a 5k off the bike.  Last weekend, I was able to hold 6:01 averages.

What does all of this mean?  Well, you can read between the lines but between my experiment of employing a controlled, yet strategic carbohydrate nutrition plan for short course triathlon training/racing along with my colleague, Dina Griffin (Sport Dietitian at Fuel4mance) who is utilizing this same approach in her Ironman training, I do believe we are beginning to not only understand a bit more of what the body is capable of but we are also chipping away at many sports nutrition fallacies (such as ingesting a ridiculous amount of carbohydrates) that are becoming a thing of the past.

Stay tuned as Dina and I continue our experimentation and be sure to keep up with Dina's blog as she will be providing some great updates on a handful of athletes whom she is working with in terms of their metabolic efficiency and performance.

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Thursday, May 30, 2013

ME for You

Interesting blog title, eh?  Well, I was talking with a Team EMC athlete today at functional strength and conditioning practice and got to thinking which sparked a blog idea.  This triathlete is also a firefighter and I have had the pleasure of assisting him with his nutrition plan leading up to his half Ironman earlier this month.  Of course, as I always do, I addressed his daily nutrition first before his training nutrition.

As I am sure you can guess, I implemented a metabolic efficiency nutrition plan that was periodized to support his energy expenditure from training needs.  With his feedback, we eliminated all grains and increased fruits and vegetables as well as his fats.  Many athletes are asking about how to implement a high fat diet but in all reality, what forward thinking sport dietitians are doing now is approaching athletes from a nutrition periodization perspective and controlling carbohydrates to support training and health needs.  So, where he was at in his training cycle at the time of our first nutrition meeting, it made sense to lower his carbohydrates and increase his fat intake to support his goals.

What happened?  Well, it worked.  Plain and simple.  He shed body fat, became leaner, had more energy, was able to sustain better energy levels throughout the day and had a positive impact on his family also.  Oh yeah, and he smashed his half-Ironman time!  His wife and kids also adopted some of the principles of metabolic efficiency with similar effects (most notably increased energy levels and better moods).

The point of this blog is not to share his success story (although it is fantastic!).  The point is to look beyond the athlete where implementing metabolic efficiency nutrition plans could have even more benefit.  Where?  In you, your parents, kids, neighbors.  Whomever.  But specifically what made me think a bit more about this topic was the fact that this triathlete is a firefighter in Colorado.  We have a very active fire season coming up that is often characterized by these guys and girls being deployed in mountainous areas with little resources and working around the clock to keep the public safe.  They are on the line in shifts and often cannot fuel themselves as adequately as say, athletes, can during a training session or race.  Very similar examples can be found in police officers and our military.

So, I pose the question..."is metabolic efficiency training really just a fad that is used in endurance athletes?".  I think not.  In fact, I know not.  This triathlete/firefighter told me that he has begun teaching the firefighters at his station how to become more metabolically efficient and they are having great success so far as measured by body composition changes and energy levels.  These are the guys and girls who protect us and in the case of our military, provide us the freedom that we enjoy.

Perhaps we should begin looking outside the box a bit more and utilizing the concept of metabolic efficiency with those individuals and groups who are required to be more efficient with their nutrition plans.

Just a thought to ponder...

Coach Bob

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Racing Weight?

There has been quite a bit of talk in the endurance athlete and coach arena regarding racing weight and I have been experimenting with this during my higher fat, controlled carbohydrate nutrition experiment.  First off, I think it is important for me to explain a few things before getting too much into the body of this blog.

Point 1: There is no such thing as an "optimal" weight.  As a Sport Dietitian, I work with athletes to find that weight that supports good health, a strong immune system, quality and uninterrupted sleep patterns and for females, regular menstruation.  As athletes, do we sometimes give and take a little in these categories?  Of course!  But that is the important part of experimenting with your individual body to see what is right for it.  Do not compare yourself to others from a quantitative (scale number) or qualitative (aesthetics) point of view.  What is important is the point at which your body weight and body composition supports optimal health and performance (read: the combination of both is utterly important).  Now, I have seen many athletes get too low in their body weight and while they may run well, they start to get sick more often or they cannot recover as fast.  There is no secret equation that professionals use to determine if your weight should be different during race season versus the preparatory or pre-competition training cycles.  This is a journey that you must explore on your own and I recommend keeping good quantitative and qualitative data to help you in this process.

Point 2: If you are a triathlete, too low of body weight and fat (while it may be aesthetically pleasing), may actually compromise performance.  You should not measure your racing weight (if there is such a thing for your particular body) in terms of the number on the scale.  Rather, you should look at your quantitative performances for the swim, bike and run.  You can use your 100 yard/meter time or a field test such as a 3x300 time trial set for the swim.  The run can be a threshold test done in the field or in a performance center to measure velocity and lactate levels and having a power meter on the bike for field testing in or out of a lab is crucial to determine threshold power movements.  It is these data that will help you quantify if and where your body weight and composition should be for optimal performance.

Point 3: If you aren't healthy, you cannot perform.  Far too many athletes try to get their body weight or fat levels so low that they compromise health and get sick.  If you are sick, you can't train.  If you can't train, you can't race.  If you can't race, you don't have a season and thus you cannot really be an athlete.  Take care of your body and think of improving and supporting good health first.

Back to Coach Bob.  As I have been navigating this higher fat with controlled carbohydrate nutrition plan with higher intensity short course triathlon training, I have been playing with my body weight and composition as an experiment.  Interesting what I have found.  I noticed that I initially lost about 8 pounds on this nutrition plan and while I was pretty lean, I also noticed that I was not swimming well and had a hard time generating power on the bike.  My run was great but as a triathlete, that is only 1/3 of the game.

So, I started shifting my body weight and fat a bit while measuring my performances (quantitatively as noted above).  What I found was that my body was not efficient in generating power in the swim or bike when my body weight was too low.  I have noted that, at this point in my training (very important to consider due to nutrition periodization), that my quantitative performances and recoveries are enhanced when my body weight is only about 4 pounds lower than my "normal" (meaning when I was not eating higher fat and controlling my carbohydrates) body weight.

Interesting data so far and even more fascinating since I am soon entering my triathlon race season.  As I continue to dial this in and experiment with my swim, bike and run numbers, I will report back my findings in hopes that you too can learn more about your body and at what physiological markers it is most efficient.

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Hello world.  It's been a while.  I apologize for the long lag time in between posts but I have been doing a bit of "body inventory" as I have been ramping up my short course triathlon training.  If you recall from my posts in late 2012, I began implementing a controlled carbohydrate nutrition plan where my daily carbohydrate intake ranged from 60-80 grams per day.  I saw tremendous results in metabolic efficiency, body composition and blood work.  The holidays went by along with the new year and I go the flu.  My exercise program did not exist and I had a rough go about with my nutrition plan.  Sometimes I ate, sometimes I had no hunger response or urge to eat anything.  That went on for 5 weeks so definitely a bit of a set back.

I have spent the last month really trying to rebound from the after effects of the flu and while it is almost out of my system, I still notice a bit of burning in the chest as my intensity goes above my threshold for a sustained period of time.  It was also pretty cold in Colorado and I attribute the cold response to part of my chest burning response.  Luckily, I have turned the corner and am about 90% now and have been introducing some very good intensity.

Of course, you are wondering about my nutrition...when coming off of the flu, I tried to get food in my stomach and the higher fat foods were not appealing to me for a few weeks.  I didn't not go crazy with carbohydrates but I included more frequent breads and trail mix to my daily plan.  While I did not meticulously log my daily nutrition, I estimated my daily carbohydrate intake between 120-160 grams per day on most day.  Thankfully, I put an abrupt halt to this higher carbohydrate intake but not before having blood work done.  I was curious what adding roughly double the amount of carbohydrates to my daily nutrition plan would do to my blood lipids.  I had a much more comprehensive blood analysis done, one that looked at the particle size of my LDL and HDL, among other things.

Here's a quick snapshot of my bloodwork changes when I added more carbs into the plan:

  • My total cholesterol went up
  • My LDL went up
  • My HDL stayed the same
  • My triglycerides went up
  • While I have never had my particle size assessed before, my HDL particle size is fine but my LDL particle size is high in the small dense particles (promoting a higher risk for heart disease)
  • Aside from blood lipids, my testosterone was fine, cortisol and DHEA normal, iron level good but my vitamin D levels were extremely low (low for athletes)
Taken altogether, this indicates that my body responded poorly from a blood lipid standpoint with adding more carbohydrates into my daily nutrition plan.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Guess what I am back doing again?  And yes, in the heat of high intensity training for sprint and Olympic distance triathlon training.  My fitness is improving and in my next blog, I will discuss my dietary nutrient timing strategies and thoughts regarding following a controlled carbohydrate nutrition plan for high intensity endurance training.

Stay tuned!  It's just getting good.

Coach Bob

Monday, March 25, 2013

Prehab not rehab

I coach a limited amount of athletes so I can provide a high quality coaching experience to each one.  With this comes methodical athlete monitoring of each to ensure that my training plans are working in their physiological adaptation process.  As you read in my last post, balancing stress with recovery is very important but another aspect that is often overlooked in the athlete equation is allotting time for prehab.

Prehab, or better known as pre-habilitation, introduces an opportunity for athletes to reduce the risk of injuries by introducing specific movement pattern exercises that improve muscular balance and typically introducing the concept of myofascial release.  I would be willing to bet that one of the reasons that contributes to injury in endurance athletes is the lack of planned prehab exercises.  These exercises are usually not deleted on purpose from the training plan (like, say, strength training is) but are simply not included due to a lack of knowledge pertaining to the efficacy and the "how's" and "when's" of implementation.

There are many ways to fit in prehab exercises but what I have found works best for most time crunched endurance athletes is scheduling 5 minutes upon waking each morning and using something like a foam roller (I'm a big fan of the TP Therapy Grid) to do a few exercises to improve tissue tolerance and implement myofascial release.  The latter will help break up muscle adhesions and scar tissue that is common among endurance athletes along with improving blood flow.

Take 5 minutes each morning and roll the following areas, each for about 5-10 seconds and repeat throughout the 5 minutes (if you have more time, even better!):

  • Gluteals (maximus, medius and minimus)
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Quadriceps
  • IT band
  • Lower and upper back
Do this once and you will feel good.  Implement this on a consistent basis and you will be on your way to reducing your risk of injury!

Coach Bob

Saturday, March 9, 2013


OPT: Optimal Performance Training.  It's a term I utilize when coaching athletes.  Every athlete wants to achieve optimal performance but how one athlete goes about it is always different than another.  What is fairly consistent though is how athlete's recover (or should recover!).  My OPT term can be explained by the following equation:

Stress + Recovery = Adaptation

The stress part of the equation is relatively easy for athletes to attain through training and career, life, and social stressors.  However, the recovery aspect is often misunderstood by athletes. While many believe taking a full rest day from training is recovery, it is often filled with chores and other tasks that really do not promote recovery.  Unfortunately, it is fairly impossible for age-group athletes to devote a complete day to do nothing due to life demands.  Thus, the importance of implementing recovery strategies, sometimes instead of complete rest days, is an important piece of the OPT equation.

Recovery opportunities are endless and include things like ice baths, massage, nutrition, hydration, compression socks and my recent favorite: sequential intermittent pneumatic compression (SIPC).  I have had my eyes on similar technology for years but it wasn't until recently that I decided to take the plunge and see exactly what the benefits may be.  There are a few companies who provide this type of technology through compression boots but the system of compression is different among them.  The Recovery Pump system and boots are my choice of technology due to the SIPC.  As I sit writing this blog, I have my Recovery Pump boots on and the four distinct compartments provide this SIPC so that compression is initiated in the feet and moves up to the upper legs, which allows for maximal venous return and improved circulation.

The recovery opportunity can be used immediately after a training session, later in the day after getting home from the day's activities or before a training session as a type of dynamic warm-up.  It is very functional and requires nothing more than devoting 30-60 minutes of relaxing with the boots on while they do their job to enhance and speed recovery.

I have been putting the Recovery Pump boots (see the photo below) to the test for 2 weeks, before and after many different types of workouts including very aggressive strength and conditioning sessions that produce a great deal of delayed onset muscle soreness.  What have I realized in the last 2 weeks?  Well, I have not experienced any muscle soreness after using the boots and have been able to do 2-3 quality session days in a row without any compromise in performance.

No matter the recovery opportunity utilized by athletes, it is important to 1) make recovery a priority, 2) utilize recovery opportunities on a daily basis and 3) respect the recovery part of the OPT equation so the body can experience enhanced physiological adaptation.

The Recovery Pump system is a great recovery opportunity and is simple to utilize on a daily basis.

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Training vs. Coaching

A little off the nutrition path for a blog or two so excuse me but many things have been entering my mind as of late.  I suspect this increase in thought process is happening due to my slowly increasing training load coming off of the flu.  I always think better when I am training and thus, here you have my latest "think tank" installment.  Enjoy!

Training vs. coaching.  Not many people know the difference or understand it for that matter.  I teach new triathlon coaches around the country about exercise physiology and athlete monitoring and the first thing I like to bring up is the question, "are you training or are you coaching?".  The answer, while not right or wrong, helps new coaches set their business models and services.  But I digress.  I am not writing this blog for coaches.  This time it is about the athletes so listen up and take note of what comes next...

Many people can be deemed a coach.  There is no licensure, accreditation or even standards to become a coach.  For the most part, in the US, a person can pay a registration fee for a coaching clinic (many offered throughout the US), attend either online or in-person, take an exam (usually open book) and receive their coaching certification in the mail shortly thereafter.  Does this mean they are a coach?  Yes.  It says so on the piece of paper.  Does it mean they know how to coach?  In some cases, no.

Like any other profession (yes, coaching is a profession), it takes years to accumulate enough knowledge and experience to be able to properly provide coaching services to athletes.  Unfortunately, athletes do not take the time often to interview potential coaches to determine if they have the skill set to assist in reaching their goals.  I often tell new coaches at clinics that I cannot teach them how to coach but I can give them the tools that they can use in their journey of becoming a coach.  It is up to them to continue their learning and identify mentors to learn the actual coaching process.

I hear far too often from athletes that they fired their coach because the coach wasn't communicating well with them or they couldn't explain why they were giving them certain workouts.  While it is a two way street, I can honestly say that some coaches simply do not coach.  They provide training plans.  Training plans range from 4 to an unlimited number of weeks of set training that specifies the mode, time, intensity and goals of each workout.  Some athletes require only this to be successful.  However, I would argue that these athletes simply following a training plan are missing the full benefits of what coaches provide.  Coaches coach, we know that.  But what does coaching really mean?

Some of us grew up playing sports and if you are like me, I had some very good coaches and some that I have done my best to forget.  The more positive coaching influences I had growing up were due to the communication strategies the coach used with me.  Some of my coaches simply didn't care.  "Go out on the field and play."  While others helped me understand the game, the tactics the "why" behind what I was doing so I could be a better athlete, person and role model for my younger teammates.  It is these type of individuals that we must surround ourselves with as athletes.

Providing training plans, which some coaches do, offer just that: a plan.  What is missing is the communication, the monitoring piece of the puzzle.  Monitoring training is the most important thing a coach can do for an athlete. A coach is the objective person who looks at the data gathered from training sessions and puts them under the microscope.  He or she continually strives to be better by always asking questions.  "How can I help my athlete adapt better to make them faster, stronger and attain their goals?".  "How can I do my job better through asking the right questions when I interact with my athlete?".

Athlete monitoring, whether subjective when a coach asks you how you are doing or objective, when they study your times, zones, power or running velocity data, biomechanics, nutrition, psychological preparedness and life balance, are the key ideals that make a coach a coach and separate them from those who simply provide training plans.

I do believe coaches who provide training plans without much communication or athlete monitoring are doing a positive service to the athlete.  However, athletes, please remember that this is not coaching and you get what you pay for.

This is my 20th year in this industry.  When I first started coaching, my going monthly rate was $75/month.  While many things have changed in 20 years, one thing still puzzles me.  Why is it that I am seeing these similar rates from coaches 20 years later?  The answer is simple.  These coaches are either 1) funding their hobby and are not putting much time or effort into their athletes, or 2) providing training plans only with no athlete monitoring.  Athletes: please remember that when you are hiring a coach, you are receiving their knowledge, experience and more importantly, their ability to help you objectively monitor yourself in order to achieve positive physiological adaptation while reducing the risk of injury and overtraining.  Coaches: please remember that coaching is a profession and before setting your business structure, ask yourself if you want to train or coach athletes.  When you do not respect the profession and the financial commitment necessary to do the job well, it devalues the services all of your colleagues provide.

In the end, most athletes find their way to the coaches whom will suit them and their goals the best.  However, athletes can certainly shorten their learning curve by first seeking the right qualities in the coach that will work best for them.

And with that, I will now get off my soapbox...

Be on the lookout for my next blog which will be about recovery (a very important piece of the athlete monitoring puzzle)!

Coach Bob

Sunday, February 10, 2013


After coming back from Brazil, I had the best intentions of doing another Metabolic Efficiency Assessment to note any changes in my metabolic efficiency immediately after pacing my athlete during the Brazil 135 ultra-run.  I was also scheduling my comprehensive blood work analysis to get a more clear picture of my blood lipid and stress profile.  However, a minor setback (aka-The Flu) had other plans for me.

I have been down and out for 9 days.  Seven of these days were absolutely miserable and sidelined me from even leaving the house.  I had to clear my entire work schedule.  Training was out of the question and even more alarming to a person who loves cooking and experimenting in the kitchen: I lost all taste senses!  Noooooo.  The horror!

Anyway, it is day 10 and I am going to attempt my first training session tomorrow morning at the Team EMC swim practice led by Coach Susan Williams.  I, of course, will be adapting my workout quite a bit and will swim down a lane in order to keep my efforts aerobic and ease my way back into health.

From a nutrition perspective, I completely lost my appetite the first three days and slowly regained it back.  I tried to stay on my controlled carbohydrate experiment as much as possible but to be honest, higher fat foods did not sound good at all.  I enjoyed a few nutritional speedbumps through this illness as I listened to what my body wanted.  Mostly, it called for soups, crackers (almond crisps) and fruit.  Very strange but I fed my body what it wanted.  I am happy to report that I am back 100% to my controlled carbohydrate experiment now. 

As I add in my training, very slowly, I am eager to note how my body bounces back from this illness of which I have not had since I was a kid.  Stay tuned...high intensity triathlon and plyometric training is coming!

Coach Bob

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Brazil 135 and Fat Adaptation

Two weeks have passed since my trip to Brazil to pace one of my athletes, Linda Quirk, founder of Runwell, in her quest to finish the Brazil 135.  Needless to say, it was everything that I expected with a million little surprises.  I posted the course elevation chart on my last post and I have learned that what you see on paper does not do any justice in real life.  The Brazil 135 was true to its promise of being one of the hardest races on the planet with over 30,000 vertical feet covered.  

I will be brief in my race recap as I could go on an on but will instead focus on more of the highlights that I encountered on my 7-day adventure, most notably nutrition.

1. Sleep is not overrated.  I don't care who tells you that, we need it!  This was the longest I had ever stayed awake, beating my record by about 20 hours and my body felt it toward the end.  Staying awake for about 52 hours was daunting and as some of our crew would attest, lack of sleep plays funny tricks on our mind.  Two of our crew members thought they saw a UFO in the middle of the second night.  Turns out it was a streetlight with a motion sensor!  Funny times.

2. Training for a hot and humid race in the winter of Colorado doesn't work out so well.  We saw very little rain (uncharacteristic for this race) and thus, the heat and humidity were intense (at least for this Colorado boy).  I was profusely sweating most of the days but the nights brought much needed reprieve.  Regardless, it was a huge shock to my body!

3. My nutrition experiment of following a low carbohydrate (60-80 grams per day) and a high fat (~60-70% of total calories) regimen worked beautifully.  Here is a short recap of what I consumed:

  • 50-60 grams of carbohydrate per day while in Brazil.  
  • The morning of the race I enjoyed a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, cheese and two slices of pineapple with a glass of water.  After that, my nutrition turned interesting since my duties as a run pacer were very inconsistent.  There was another crew member of my athlete’s team who was also able to pace her so he and I took shifts in leading our athlete throughout the course en route to the finish. 
  • Aside from drinking water and consuming some electrolytes (from the products The Right Stuff and Saltstick), I consumed almost no calories during my running shifts.  The longest run I had with my athlete was 13 miles but a separate, shorter distance run, took us five hours to complete.  My nutrition plan was to consume calories during my time in the car so I would only have to carry supplies (food, water, electrolytes, clothes) for my athlete in my pack that I wore on my back.
  • This strategy worked out very well and allowed me to fuel prior to any run segment that I did with my athlete.  While my nutrition over the 45 hours and 40 minutes (her total time to finish) was sporadic and somewhat difficult to calculate hourly totals during running, I was able to keep a food log which included mostly the food I consumed while riding in the car.  Here is a list to give you an idea of what I ate over these two days, which consisted of me running approximately 65 miles with my athlete:
    • Generation UCAN: 6 packets, chocolate, protein enhanced
    • Mrs. Mays granola bar: 2 total (these are wonderful bars made of seeds, nuts and a little dried fruit; they contain 22 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrate and 10 grams of protein)
    • Cocoa almond butter: 1 packet
    • Peanut butter: 4 tablespoons
    • The Right Stuff electrolyte solution: 2 packets added to water
    • Saltstick electrolyte capsules: 6
    • Clif Mini Mojo bars: 3
    • Quest energy bar: 1
    • Foodie Fuel: 4 ounces (a great new snack food I found that has a good ratio of carbohydrate to protein)
    • Zone Bar: 2 (my athlete brought these and I did not plan on eating them but tried a bite and it really satisfied my hunger well)
    • Almonds: 4 ounces
    • Trail mix: 1 cup (nuts, dried cherries, a few chocolate chips)
    • Melba toast: 8 pieces (we found this in a local grocery store; they were little 2x2 inch squares and I wasn’t planning on eating them until I tried them and again, they satisfied my hunger without disrupting my stomach; I put the peanut butter on them)
    • Snickers candy bar: 1 (I always bring these to ultra runs as a just in case of emergency; during the last 9 miles to the finish, it took us 5 hours and I left the car with only a Snickers bar in my pocket with the rest of the food and water for my athlete; our car was not able to follow us due to extreme conditions on the trail so I had to revert to eating this to help get me to the finish line)
    • Water: I cannot even begin to guess how many ounces I had as my intake was extremely sporadic and hard to monitor but rest assured, I was hydrated as indicated by the frequency and color of my urine.

As I mentioned, I did not consume many calories during my run pacing thus I cannot calculate hourly totals.  I can however, say in confidence that I consumed roughly 800-1000 calories less per day than I normally do at home.

Even more important and relevant to metabolic efficiency, is what my athlete consumed.  I was able to keep track of her nutrition during her 45 hour and 40 minute effort and the results are not shocking if you subscribe to the metabolic efficiency concept.  Here is a summary of her nutrition throughout the race:

  • Generation UCAN, 12 packets, chocolate
  • Zone Bar, 2, Sweet and salty
  • Melba toast with apricot jelly, 6 pieces and 4 tbsp jelly
  • Snickers bar, 1
  • The Right Stuff electrolyte supplement, 5 packets
  • Saltstick electrolyte capsules, 4
  • Water, not sure how many ounces 
Totals for her per hour:
  • Calories: 79
  • Carbohydrate grams: 13
  • Protein grams: 5
  • Fat grams: 1
  • Sodium milligrams: 300
She had never attempted a race this long and her goal was to come in under 48 hours of which she accomplished with 2 hours and 20 minutes to spare.  Nutrition was never a limiter and as you can see, she managed a very good effort on very few calories per hour due to being incredibly metabolically efficient.

All in all, it was a very successful trip for both my athlete and myself.  She will be submitting her application for Badwater as her time in Brazil provided her a qualification time.  As for me, I plan to getting back to short course and high intensity triathlon training while continuing my nutrition experiment and further test my theory of being fat adapted for higher intensity endurance training.

Stay will get even better after I recover my body and move into speed work!

Coach Bob

Saturday, January 12, 2013

30,000 Feet

As I write this last blog entry before my Brazil trip, it is 8 degrees and snowing in Colorado.  One-week from now I will be somewhere in the remote area of Brazil just outside of Sao Paulo "enjoying" heat and humidity and pacing my athlete Linda Quirk of Runwell during the Brazil 135 ultramarathon.  It is an honor that she chose me to be her pacer but since I am her coach and sport dietitian, it makes sense because I know her well.  My "job" during this race is to get Linda to the finish line in under 48 hours.  Not many athletes have the distinction of doing this and no matter the weather, terrain or any other obstacles, she will cross that line under the cutoff!

I have not been able to find much information about the race other than some YouTube videos and a bit of info on the race website but one thing I did find was the elevation chart (see below).  From what I understand, there is roughly 30,000 feet of climbing and only about 12 miles (out of 135) that are flat.  Up or down will be the mantra of the race!

But it gets even better.  Not only is there some serious vertical ascending and descending, there will also be Mother Nature as a challenge.  The weather, as of today, is supposed to be in the 80s during the day and 50s/60s at night (depends on the elevation) with a 50% chance of rain on both days of the race.  Because the race is mostly on dirt roads/paths, this will make it a slippery, muddy mess of fun!  Of course there is that little thing called humidity, which is my arch enemy.  I can and will deal with it but it is not my choice environment to train or race in due to my high sweat rate and fluid loss.  Needless to say, my electrolyte intake will be consistently high in an effort to remain hydrated.  Generation UCAN (chocolate) will be my main source of energy and I will be bringing a new found product, Foodie Fuel, as a snack along with some other higher fat, lower carbohydrate snack bars that I have found.  Eating will be an adventure, always is in a different country, but my trip to the 2008 Olympic Games in China prepared me well for this!

My daily eating has been spot on for the last few weeks, still following a controlled (lower) carbohydrate and higher fat nutrition plan.  I am more metabolically efficient than I have ever been and while my physical training did take a small dip due to an IT band scare, I am more than physically ready to embark on this challenge.  My longest run has been 25 miles which is good "money in the bank" or as ultrarunners call it, "time on feet".  I have been doing a good deal of crosstraining, strength training, swimming and mental preparation for the task at hand.  In fact, while my long run miles have been compromised, I made sure to run more frequently (4-5 times per week) for shorter runs.  Time on feet...time on feet.  An ultrarunners friend.

I can honestly say that the three aspects of completing this journey (nutrition, physical and mental) are all in check.  The challenge really comes when we hit the ground in Brazil and after the race meeting as I then begin to map out the paces we need Linda to maintain to make it to the checkpoints in time en route to her sub 48-hour finish.  Of course then there are the small details such as not getting lost, making sure both of us stay hydrated and fed and dealing with sleep deprivation for 2 days!

Ah, the fun of ultrarunning is back!  Bring it on Brazil.

Until my return...

Coach Bob

Friday, January 4, 2013

Welcome to 2013!

Ah, the holidays are over which only means one thing: remorse.  I know, not the most positive descriptor but let's face it, way too many people overindulge in delicious food over the holidays, feel bad about it after the fact then set New Year's resolutions to rectify the issue and feel better about themselves.  I myself experienced the first part of it for sure as I did engage in the luscious holiday offerings but I have been to this rodeo before.  I know that when this happens to me, I enjoy it and not let it affect my psyche.  Enjoy and move on.  The important thing is how you respond to this speed bump or "miss".  Life is way to short to get down on yourself.  It happened and it will continue to.  Hopefully, you are able to control it but more importantly, you are able to control the response it has on you.  Like I said previously, enjoy and move on.

Okay, back to the topic at hand.  Welcome to 2013 everyone!  Personally, I have had a great introduction to the New Year as I have had a much needed rest, have spent time with my family and have continued to refine my preparation for the Brazil 135.  Two weeks from today, my athlete Linda Quirk from Runwell will be embarking on her journey to complete the Brazil 135 in under 48 hours and my role is to make sure that she does it.  It will be the first time that I have been a pacer and on a crew and I am very much looking forward to the adventure!

I have been refining my daily nutrition on my lower carbohydrate, higher fat plan and have reduced my long runs to add more frequent runs (due to issues with my IT band).  I am training much more intelligently for my pacer duties and have been able to continue my 2-3 times per week swimming (including 100x100's on New Year's Eve) and have ridden my secret weapon (Powercranks) about 4-5 times per week.  My run volume can support running a 20 miler pretty easily right now but I am being conservative with 2 weeks to go to make sure I have no IT band flare-ups.

I haven't been able to do follow-up blood work or another metabolic efficiency testing as I have been fighting a cold but I am just about 100% again and hope to have both of these done before I leave for Brazil.

Stay tuned for my next blog which I will post before Brazil and remember, focus on the journey, enjoy food and family but without remorse or future doubt.  Head into 2013 by looking through the windshield and not the rear view mirror.

Coach Bob