A Great Day at the Races

Aloha from beautiful Kona… Couldn’t resist sticking around for an extra couple of days of W & R ( work and relaxation ) after the race on Saturday this time. Another plus to being mobile with my work! The race was another beautiful day on this course, one which is so special, sacred almost, as it’s here on the big island, close to where the sport all began in Oahu, back in 1978, and where the big show, World Championships, have been held every October since 1981. The fact that it always bit more mellow, arguably in part because first of all, it’s half the distance, but also because of it not being a championship race and even more so now that there is no pro field creates an easier path to focus all that positive energy on having the best race you’re ready for, rather than trying to deal with the demons in our minds we all tend to have on the days leading up to an event. Every season and even every race is an opportunity from which to learn and grow. To take the things that didn’t work before and replace them with something new that we’ve tested off season. And to fine tune the things we have found to be viable options and continue to implement them because, after all, why fix something that’s not broken? For me, the 2015 season was a leap of faith in that it was the first time I dared to think outside the carbohydrate box and add fasted training, and adapt my body to tap into fat for fuel. It proved successful and because of this, I continued with the same protocol for the rest of the season and into this one as well. For years, I’d raced on gels, all the while feeling fundamentally frustrated about the mere principle of eating man made packets of sugar to fuel my performance. The epitome of the antithesis of everything else I was all about: eating natural, unadulterated food, low in sugar, high in nutrient density, abundant leafy greens, wild proteins and ample good fat; you can’t get much further way from a real, Paleo inspired regime than a carbohydrate gel! So despite this strategy I’d implemented for years of healthy eating on a day to day basis, then switching to gels for the longer sessions and races, and despite being able to perform very competitively without GI distress, it was the fundamental imbalance that prompted me to make a switch. In all honestly, some of the switch has been straightforward: train fasted, build the time and intensity of the sessions you do in a fasted state slowly and safely and reduce sugars (including fruit) while adding more fat. Other components have proven more vague with considerably more trial and error. More water and electrolyte is needed in this protocol as the body requires water, and subsequently more salt, to perform the reactions needed to make glucose out of ketone bodies for the brain and for the exercising skeletal muscles. Sweat rate increases tremendously as well, warranting even more of a need to stay on top of rehydration. And the part that to me that proved to be the trickiest is just how much and when to add a little bit of carbs into the mix. The idea, after all, is not to ‘never use any carbohydrate’ to fuel us; rather to not rely on it as the main pathway, but as a little extra to rev up the engine which is primarily stoked up with the cleaner burning fat as it’s main fuel. I have to mention Peter Defty at Vespa for his knowledge and help on this point; his amino acid product is the one supplement I’ve been using and that along with salt, water and testing out a small amount of carbs along the way have resulted in several wins and podium finishes over the past year. Whether it’s a swig of cola at an aid station or half a carbohydrate gel on the bike, if the net takeaway of a season is an extremely low intake of any man made sugar, several wins and podium finishes, and no disruption of the daily reliance of fat as the primary source of fuel, to me, that’s a far better result than consuming the gels, the bars, the blocks and the drinks day in and day out, which far too many triathletes continue to do, at their disadvantage. The most difficult part is taking that first jump to test out something new when most of the mags, the websites and blogs are still pushing hard on the carb heavy approach and claiming fasted training and racing only works for certain people and only for short sessions. Sure, it may not be for everyone, but why not try something that despite the short period of trial and error you may need to fine tune your specific balance if it means zero GI distress (nothing to get sick from if your stomach is empty), extreme mental focus, barely any post race muscle soreness, thanks to zero lactic acid build up and not needed to continue to skew in and out of fat burning to carb burning, as if daily nutrition needs to be a completely separate regime than training and racing? Give it a try. You may surprise yourself with how you become leaner, fitter, faster and more focused. Need help? Help me help you: the consultation is the best first step no matter where in the world you are. Aloha!