Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

The Iron Stomach

Friday, March 19th, 2021 | Sport

James Lawrence, better known as The Iron Cowboy, is the triathlete that completed 50 Ironmans in 50 days (the 50-50-50) and is now on a new challenge: #Conquer100. Which, as you might guess, is an attempt to do 100 Ironmans in 100 days. All of this is amazing and in this post, I want to focus on just one area of that amazing which is how much he needs to eat.

I don’t actually know what he is eating other than a few social media pictures but just calculating the numbers makes suggests that his is truly a test of GI tract endurance. Here is why.

Calories burnt

Lawrence is posting his Garmin workouts as he goes and he is burning around 5,900 to 6,800 kcals per triathlon, which is taking him somewhere between 16-18 hours. Then there is the 6-8 hours he is not racing, most of which is sleep, so we can assume another 600 kcals of basal metabolic activity on top of that. Therefore, he is probably burning through around 7,000 kcals per day.

Which means he needs to eat 7,000 kcals a day. And because he is mostly racing when he is not sleeping, most of that needs to be done while he is doing the triathlon.

Could he run a calorie deficit?

One option would be to eat less than he is burning. Except this is not an option in Lawrence’s case. Because he is doing it for 100 days.

Even a modest deficit of 500 kcals per day (modest when you are burning 7,000) would cause him to lose 0.5 kg per week. But he is doing it for 14 weeks, so that is 7kg he would lose. He probably only has around 7kg of body fat on him at most and we need some body fat to live. Men can get down to around 2-5% and still be okay, but when you only have 10% body fat, you cannot lose 10% body fat and except to survive. Of course, he could also lose muscle but that is a pretty bad idea when you are trying to do an Ironman every day.

In any case, he isn’t going for this strategy as he has been posting his weight in his daily updates and gained a little bit of weight over the last week.

Okay, so gels then?

One of the big challenges is that he needs to eat a lot of this while doing the triathlon.

Typically, we would minimise eating while exercising because the body needs to shift blood flow and energy to the muscles and so if we try and force it to digest food at the same time we end up with stomach cramps. To offset this risk we would typically use gels: they are made up of glucose and fructose that the body does not need to break down because it is usable energy.

In comparison, we would avoid eating protein because proteins are long chains of amino acids and so the digestive systems need to break these down into individual amino acids before it can use them.

But in Lawrence’s case, gels are not an option. First, his body physically could not process them fast enough. The perfect ratio is a 2:1 mix of glucose to fructose that allows us to take up 90 grams per hour (360 kcals). To get through 7,000 kcals per day, he would need to take a gel every 20 minutes for 20 hours per day. He is not awake that long.

Also, who could stomach 60 gels per day? And no, he can’t mix it up with anything else because nothing else has the magic 2:1 ratio of glucose and fructose. Start eating sugar out of a bag, for example, and it is not as effective because its a 1:1 ratio and the body needs to cleve the table sugar in two to get each part.

The only way to get the energy content in then is to rely on protein and fat to avoid the 90 grams per hour barrier.

Second, a pure sugar diet would not work because he needs to rebuild the damage in his muscles constantly. Typically, we would go out and do a hard race and worry about eating protein after as our muscles recovered. If this process took a few days, it no big deal because our races are widely spaced. But if you are doing nothing but sleeping and racing for 100 days, you don’t have this luxury. The body can only handle 20 grams of protein at a time and functions best when it gets these protein shots 5-6 times per day.

The iron stomach

In summary, he needs to eat around 400 kcals per hour, every hour, from a mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrates, and leave himself enough energy to digest all of this while swimming, cycling and running.

While 400 kcals is not a heavy meal, it is clearly a meal, compared to an energy gel (typically around 100 kcals) or energy bar (maybe as high as 200 kcals if you get a big one) and then he has to race on that basically all of the time.

Route 66 virtual challenge

Monday, February 22nd, 2021 | Sport

Since June, I have been cycling along a virtual Route 66. Earlier this month, I finally finished it. At 3,670 km, I had set myself a year to finish it. It’s been with me like a trusted companion all this time. On to Iceland next!

Workout logs for triathletes

Sunday, February 21st, 2021 | Sport, Tech

I have been playing around with a range of options for tracking training for myself and my athletes. Here is a brief write-up of my findings.

Final Surge

Really nice. The new beta platform looks good. It’s free. The downside is that you cannot integrate TrainerRoad or Zwift, and if you connect Garmin and Strava to get them both, you get duplicate workouts. Actually, TrainerRoad support is there via TrainerRoad. But on Zwift support.

Today’s Plan

Costs money. Very power base and forces you to enter values from the start. I have to put the sports in that I do, but why> I select triathlon but then the other sports, too? It does have integration with Zwift, but despite sticking TrainerRoad’s logo on their page it is actually a manual upload process at the moment.

TrainerRoad

It’s beautiful but it’s all about cycling. It does not import my other workouts so I cannot analyse my load. I use it just for cycling.

TrainingPeaks

Integrates with everything. I have used TrainingPeaks previously but it seemed expensive for what it was. That said, thanks to the integrations and how nicely it all works together, TrainingPeaks is a winner for me.

Trail running

Saturday, February 20th, 2021 | Sport

Traditionally, I’ve been a road runner. I like it. You can focus on the pain. Trail running is fun and I am not always a fun person. But I am challenging a lot of beliefs about myself recently and one of them is that getting my feet wet and muddy may not be as bad as it first seems.

Lockdown 3 has been miserable. It is long and the weather had been terrible for months (I am writing this in the middle of February). I have not taken my bike outside since Christmas Eve. But I have been running in the snow. Given it only snows a few days a year, and sometimes not at all in a year, and I am in my 30s, I may only have a month of snow days left. And that ignores climate breakdown. So, I didn’t want to miss them.

But running in snow is slippy when all you have is a pair of road shoes. As is running on the trail which I have traditionally limited to summer. So, I have finally given in and bought a pair of trail shoes. I tried the Hoka Speedgoat 4 as these match my Clifton 6s, but there was not enough height in the toe box for my giant toes, so I had to switch to the Torrent. Less cushioning but otherwise very nice.

While it is a little annoying to go through a puddle the first time, my feet did stay relatively warm at six degrees Celcius. And because of how miserable the weather was, I literally had Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve to myself.

Zwift bike unlocks

Friday, February 12th, 2021 | Sport

January has been awful. I haven’t taken my bike outside since Christmas Eve. But it’s been good for Zwift. I’ve finally reached level 18 and unlocked the Specialized Shiv Disc TT bike. I also completed the Everest challenge (not all at once) and unlocked the Trek Emonda. Onwards to the Tron bike!

IRONMAN Certified Coach

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021 | Sport

I’m now an IRONMAN Certified Coach. I am already a certified coach with British Triathlon, but it is reassuring to know that my coaching skills also extend to looking after long format athletes and that I am not just winging it based on my personal experience completing full distance and 70.3 races.

I might write up a proper review of the IRONMAN U programme later but in the final assessment, your skills get put to the test when you have to design a detailed training plan for a fictional athlete looking to complete their first full distance event. It was tougher than expected but the work apparently paid off as I achieved 98%.

Alps to Ocean medal

Sunday, January 24th, 2021 | Sport

Last month, I completed the Alps to Ocean virtual ultra, which is a 290 km run across New Zealand. It is always a pleasure to receive one of the medals because The Conqueror put so much effort into theirs.

(not the) Sir Titus Trot

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 | Sport

In autumn last year, I noticed my motivation was flagging. I decided to set myself a challenge and didn’t think that anything shorter than a marathon would really do it, so I signed up for the Sir Titus Trot. I was supposed to run the race (half-marathon distance) but picked up an injury before the race. This year was not to be either as the government pulled the race licence 48 hours before.

By that point, I was ready to race, though, so I decided to turn it into a self-supported marathon.

It was bright and sunny when I set off but still cold. The grass was frozen which made for a nice surface. I turned around just after Apperley Bridge and headed back to the car park to pick up more supplies. On the way back, the ground was a little muddier as the sun melted it. And then the snow arrived. It settled on most of the canal making it a bit slippy under foot.

As I got back to Leeds it cleared up and I set off toward Skelton Grange bridge for the final out and back. By this point at the Yorkshire marathon I was dying, but I felt good this time. The final quarter hurt about the same as the third quarter, which is not insignificant, but manageable compared to how the fourth quarter felt! I realised I could set a PB if I put in a fast final few kilometres and finished in:

3:55:33

That is 1:44 seconds faster than my previous PB. And that was in the snow without trying (for example, I stopped to take a selfie). That said, I was wearing my Nike Vaporfly Next%, so what are records now that I should be running 4% faster because of the shoes?

In any case, a great way to begin 2021.

Alps to Ocean virtual ultra

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020 | Sport

Yesterday I finished the Alps to Ocean virtual ultra running challenge. It’s set in New Zealand and, not surprisingly, takes you from the mountains down to the coast. Not all of it is on Google Street View so the views are not as good as they otherwise might be. There are a couple of postcards along the way. Total distance 289.7 km which I completed in a leisurely 87 days.

This is the fourth Conqueror “ultra” I’ve done, plus GVRAT and three “real-world” ultras. I had only done two until 2020 started but it’s been that kind of year.

Running For Beginners group

Sunday, December 27th, 2020 | Sport

Over on Facebook, I founded a Running For Beginners group to help new runners gain confidence and ask questions. At the start of the year, we had just 100 members.

What a difference 2020 has made. The group has exploded in popularity and now boasts over 3,000 runners supporting each other, asking and answering questions and sharing their stories.

If you are into running and want to share your wisdom with new runners, or maybe ask a question or two yourself, feel free to join us in the group.