Yeeeehaw – Ironman Texas preview – my big training day!

Since I finished the race weight project a little earlier than expected, and since I experience some very good performance gains the the final 3 weeks of cake-eating, I decided to pull the trigger and enter Ironman Texas (April 22nd), as a big training day for Ironman Boulder in June (11th).

This will be an interesting exercise in “Just in Time” training. Basically, I’ve maintained my bike and run with regular training, at a level at which I can just launch into an Ironman build at short notice without any issues. This “base” is not very time intensive. In fact my weekly hours between January and April has been under 11 hours per week. Most of that has been biking and running, since my swim volume has averaged 1500m per week (for comparison, my normal swim volume training for an Ironman is 15-25km per week). My longest run before I entered Texas was 14 miles, and most rides were not longer than 2 hours.

So with 2 weeks to go, I had a bit of work to do, especially on the swim. 1500m per week just really nothing, and my swim was in terrible shape. Last Monday, I was struggling to swim faster than 1:35/100m for short intervals (like 100m) and my 200m intervals were coming in at over 3:20. My strategy was to swim every day, as far as I could before my form would break down, building up to where I could manage 4000m easily. That took about 7 days (17k of swimming), and by this Monday (April 17th) my swim was back on track. My 100m intervals were down to 1:22 and my 200s were down under 3 minutes, under 2:50 if I swam hard. Plus I could get through 4k of swimming in one session with not too much fatigue.  So we’ll see how race day goes, but I’m confident that I will at least make the distance.

Biking has been going well. I haven’t done any long bike rides (4 hours max, with a few 3 hour rides). But my power is good, so expect a decent bike split at Texas. I’m guessing it will be under 5 hours but I’ve never raced there before so I’m not sure. Best case 4:40, worst case 5:00.

Running is a bit of an unknown. No long runs at all, although I got in 18 miles last Friday. I feel my pace is where it needs to be, but not sure about my endurance at all. On race day I will just start with a run/walk structure (9 min run, 1 min walk) and see how things go. I expect I could run a 3:30 marathon if everything goes well. Probably more around 3:45, but I really just don’t know.

But whatever happens, I will be there with quite a few friends, and two of my coached athletes. So just being there for a big supported training day will be fun!

Cake day 21 – its done! Also it’s not

Ok so after 3 weeks of cake, I am finally done! 3 weeks is a bit too long for losing 1kg, so clearly I enjoyed it a little too much…! It could also be that as I’m nearing a low weight, the weight loss rate slows down a bit, but I think it’s safe to blame those baked goods for the slow progress.

On the plus side, I experienced some very good performance gains in my training, which was definitely not expected. My FTP (Functional Threshold Power on the bike) increased from 281 watts at the beginning of this project to 313 watts by last week. That’s only about 15 watts less than my all time best. My run also seems to be in reasonable shape. My swim is not, but that is mainly because I have not been swimming at all (maybe a topic for another post?).  Anyway all this performance improvement is a good thing, and I would certainly always give up rapid weight loss if it means my performance will increase. But as I’ve said before, it’s best to focus on one or the other, I just happen to have got lucky getting a performance increase while on a weight loss project. As you can see though, weight loss was almost non existent while my performance was increasing.

So, the main project is done! But, it’s also not done, because I’m interested in seeing what happens now that I return to normal eating, with a focus on training performance. That means higher calories, with healthy foods that help to support my training and recovery. It is about time, since bizarrely I have been craving salads and vegetables!

I will also throw in some experiments along the way – at some point I really want to see if that rapid weight loss I experienced in the ice cream phase was just coincidence due to the timing of ice cream within the project, or because the calories are very predictable, or some other reason. I did not expect that at all, so it will be fun to repeat it and see what happens.

In other news, I decided today to enter Ironman Texas (which is in 2 weeks time). That will be an interesting experiment because I have not been doing any real Ironman training. Between January and April I averaged under 11 hours training per week, with only 22 miles of running per week and 150 miles of biking per week. My average swim distance is 1500 meters per WEEK!!!! That is a 10th of my “normal minimum” of 15k per week when training for an Ironman.  So, I will definitely be able to finish the race, but I’m treating it as a big training day. I will not be competitive at all. I think I will just survive the swim, I’ll do quite well on the bike, and I will do as well as I can on the run, maybe a 3:30 marathon is not out of the question. Probably closer to 3:45. So possibly an overall time of 10:15-10:30 depending on how things go. 

I’ll be doing some last minute Ironman training this week, and won’t taper at all for the race, so at least I will arrive fit(ish) but not very fresh. Either way, it will be fun to race with some friends and have a good time out in the Woodlands on April 22nd! One great discovery I made during cake phase, was Angel Food Cake, which is pure carb (both complex and simple carbs) and no fat at all, so I will be incorporating this into my carb load for sure! Plus some burgers and ice cream the day before race day – my secret weapon!!!

Also, when I get some time, I will do a post with a recap of the whole race weight project. Lately I’ve been pretty busy so I need to squeeze in the time to get that done.


Cake Day 14 (plus a few days of review)

Ok so we are two weeks into cake. And it’s been a lot of fun – maybe too much fun! I’ve managed to gain 1kg, but that gain came with a benefit… First of all, last Monday I did an 8 mile run in Breckenridge up to over 10,000ft elevation, without a severe degradation in run pace. That’s the first time ever that I’ve had a good run at high altitude. Secondly, I did an impromptu FTP test during my Thursday ride and had an unprecedented 30+ watt increase in FTP compared to my last test this year. My working theory is that the weight gain and performance improvement go hand in hand. There is no proof of that, and there are a lot of variables, so it really is just a hypothesis.

The one “experiment within an experiment” that I’ve done with the cake phase, is to “eat back” my burned calories. That actually introduces a lot of room for inaccuracy, because measurement of exercise calories is not super accurate. It’s reasonably accurate, but if you burn 3000+ calories in a day, even a 10% variance can impact your weight loss goals significantly. So as counter-intuitive as this sounds, it can actually be easier to lose weight if you don’t do a huge volume of training. That way you just set a daily goal (in my case 2200 calories) and add nothing back in for exercise. However, if you’re training a lot, you need to fuel and recover in order to support that training. My plan is to add calories back once I am no longer focused on weight loss. That way, a gain of 1-2kg here and there is no issue when your focus is on performance, because your priority is on fueling your workouts and your recovery really well. That’s where food quality AND calories become very important. Usually, in that “performance phase” I focus on food quality, but don’t pay enough attention to getting in enough calories.  So I will still track calories, but the focus is on making sure I eat enough. I’ll be doing some trial and error to nail down the numbers that I use. In a way, this last 2 weeks has accidentally helped me to define that. I used a baseline of 2200 calories and added back ALL workout calories, so I’ll start with that when I begin to focus on performance. I also learned that during the weight loss phase, it’s a mistake to add back ALL workout calories. I’ve actually lost the most weight when training the least, but sticking to a specific number each day and not adding any workouts back in. It just simplifies everything and (for me anyway) seems like a very good strategy.

So the plan for the next 2 weeks: stay on cake (yay!) but don’t add any calories back. If I have a particularly taxing workout (like a 4 hour ride), I will just fuel that workout itself at around 300 calories per hour, but not add the exercise calories or the workout calories back in.

In a way, I like the fact that this experiment has had a few surprises and things that didn’t work as expected. All of that helps me to learn more about what to expect and be able to tweak my “real life” nutrition and training accordingly. So the longer term view is to get to 73kg on cake, then focus on performance and training for a while and just see where my weight settles (without letting it get much higher than say 75kg). And then at some point I really want to try the ice cream phase again to see if I can repeat that rapid weight loss phenomenon I noticed during this project. I’m mostly expecting that it was just coincidental with the timing of the project phases, but it would be really awesome if it works again!



Ironman Boulder 2017 Bike Course

Ironman Boulder has a new bike course for 2017. It’s 3 loops of fast rollers, but it’s a bit over distance at 114 miles, so don’t count on a fast bike split even if it is quite fast. There are no technical sections, but there are a few sections that I would call “key sections”:

  • Neva Road Eastbound is nice and fast with a great surface. You can take the turn from 36 at full speed and the first corner can be taken in aero. 
  • Nelson Road climb is about 4 miles. It’s a grind and you’ll probably have a headwind, but it’s not steep. Maybe 4% grade. Try to stay in aero, especially on later laps when you’re tired – that’s when you need to be aero. Sitting up into a headwind is the worst thing you can do. Having said that, there are some little kickers along Nelson that may be sheltered from the wind, where you can sit up briefly to get some relief from being in aero for so long.
  • St Vrain Rd starts with a fast descent and two blind corners, but they can be taken at full speed. However, on laps 2 and 3 this section will be congested so please be very aware of other riders. There is one pothole on the flat section of St Vrain road but hopefully they fix it by race day.

For route maps, here is a link to the route on MapMyRide
Here is a link to the course on Best Bike Split
Here is the GPX file download

Here is a video I shot of the course



Cake Day 10

Posts have been a bit sporadic as we’ve been up in Breckenridge on a short ski vacation. It has been remarkably difficult to find cake up there, so I tweaked the diet to include anything that’s been part of it before. So I got to partake of a very good burger at Blue River Bistro which is a great little restaurant in Main Street Breck. 

I did manage to get hold of some ice cream sandwiches too, but they were just boring Klondike Vanilla Ice Cream sandwiches, which were very middle of the road and bland.

I found two donut shops but they were never open… go figure.

From a workout perspective, I had a surprisingly good run. I say surprising because it was at an altitude of 10,000 ft (peaked at 10,300ft/3140m) and I managed to hit 7:45/mile average on an 8 mile negative split run workout. The negative split was “designed”, by running the first 4 miles uphill and then back down for a total of 8. So not really the same as doing that on the flats. But anyway, usually my runs at an altitude this high are really slow, so I was happy with the performance. 

I should be able to get a weigh-in done by the end of the week. Due to the super high quality of my recent workouts, I’m guessing that I may have not been restricting calories enough. However I’m ok with that 1) it’s great to get some decent workouts in after 7 weeks of reduced calories and compromised training and 2) because I would love to continue eating cakes for a few more weeks.

PS here is the day 7 video – I did do a blog post for that day but it somehow got deleted…


Cake Day 6 – Red Velvet Cheesecake

Today was a day to look forward to – with the recently acquired red velvet cheesecake from last night’s dinner. I went out on a workout, not expecting much, but it ended up being superb! Almost 2 hours at around 250w, which in my current bike form is really good. So that’s 5 days in a row of solid bike rides… there may be some virtue to this whole cake thing after all…

 – link to video – 

The red velvet cheesecake was very good. I would highly recommend it. But I have no idea how one might fit that in after a meal at cheesecake factory. On it’s own was enough for sure.

Totals 3,785 calories 353g carbs 86g fat 77g protein

Cake Day 5 – Cheesecake Factory

Finally I actually got to eat some cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory… usually I’m too full by the time I finish my main course. I had the dulche de leche cake which was great, plus I took a red velvet cheesecake home for the next day.

 – direct link to video – 

Plus it was Donut Friday at work, so I started the day off well with a chocolate donut and a cream cheese danish. It was a big calorie day, somewhat offset by the bike ride fortunately! Post ride I had my Ultraman stage race staple, Kozyshack rice pudding, which is high carb and great for eating straight after a hard training session.

Totals 4,288 calories 459g carbs 78g fat 159g protein

Cake Day 4 – a dozen donuts!

I went to the grocery store to get supplies this morning, and happened upon a box of a dozen freshly baked donuts. It seemed irresponsible to turn that offer down – I mean a baker had slaved away in the early hours of the morning just to make this happen. So I bought a box. I also bought a cheesecake, two cannoli, and some chocolate lava cakes.

– Video –

I never thought I’d eat all 12 donuts, but it just ended up happening, and conveniently fitted well into my daily calorie goals (2040 calories for all 12).

Unlike day 1, I actually quite liked these donuts (clearly!), and I didn’t feel terrible either. Workouts were kind of average but not bad at all.

Totals 4,077 calories 484g carbs 190g fat 111g protein

Day 3 with cake Intervals – powered by lycra lederhosen

Today was a fun day. I tried two things; firstly was the next experiment in daily food distribution. I tried backloading the cakes to the end of the day, but with a high fat/protein breakfast, as well as cakes during my workout. Secondly, was to design my bike ride so that I routed past a few bakeries at around the time I’d be taking a short break.

Both of these things worked really well; the morning omelette kept me energized for a long without any dips in energy (like you get from a high carb meal), and the workout powered by cakes was very good. I rode hard for 2.5 hours but I felt like I could have done another 2.5 hours easily. This was in stark contrast to yesterday’s unfueled workout which felt like I was limping home after just 90 minutes. 

 Here’s a link to my workout on strava. So it was a great day! Excellent workout and the food distribution worked well – I wasn’t hungry at all in the evening – all I had was a red velvet bundt cake and I was 100% satisfied.

Here is a link to the video in case the embed below is not rendering for you…

Cake Day 2

Today I tried to spread out the cakes across the whole day. While it worked ok, I was still too hungry at night. So for me it definitely works best to back load everything to the end of the day, at least as far as cakes are concerned. What I will try in the future is eating my protein in the morning, and cakes at night. Lunch will be super light if anything at all. And I need to plan my workouts better so that I can ride past a bakery if it’s longer than 90 minutes…

I did have some great cakes. Cheesecake for breakfast, key lime pie at lunch, and red velvet bundt cake for dinner (with some ice cream).

Since I ate chicken at lunch, I didn’t consume any protein shakes. Wherever possible, I do like to eat protein from natural sources and not a shake, but on most occasions it is a shake that gets my intake up to the right levels. On a regular diet, it’s a lot easier to get the protein from natural lean meats and fish which is by far my preference.

Totals 3,574 calories 417g carbs 160g fat 133g protein