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So, I had decided to attack the Marmotte again – mainly because the fear of it keeps me disciplined about losing weight etc. It’s like the ‘sword of Damocles’!

On the weight front, I switched to ‘intermittent fasting’ on Mondays and Wednesdays – by skipping breakfast and lunch. That has meant a steady reduction in weight down to 162.25 lbs at my lowest – just over a pound over my target, so I was quite plesased, especially as I had two extended overseas trips in May and June, with lots of temptation.  That’s 20lb down on two years ago and 14 down on last year – 66.75 down on 2006. Although I don’t feel fat, I could reduce my body weight more, I think.

weight

That was the good news. The less positive news is that I really found it hard to boost my FTP power level. Improving power to weight really needed a significant improvement in power. I have been using the plans in ‘The Time Crunched Cyclist’ and was pretty careful to stick to them. I went from the experienced century training plan to the endurance mountain bike plan. Work meant I didn’t get as many hours in as I would have liked, but steadily built up my workload to get to a Chronic Training Load of over 60 – well above what I thought I had done in 2012/2013 (although I wonder if I recorded all the rides so carefully in 2012/13).

pmc

Golden Cheetah has a good way of recording the critical power from rides, but I just haven’t got the numbers that I got in 2012/13 in critical power. I have read that their is a big variation in the ‘trainability’ of different individuals. I suspect that I may be ‘just not that trainable’. Certainly, when I first started to try to get fit thirty years ago, my coach had to give me a very intense workload after his initial plan didn’t seem (in his view) to make much difference.

I decided to stay with M. Lefebvre at the gite in Ornon. It’s well placed (it’s downhill to the start of the Marmotte) and I know it well. The Col d’Ornon is good for shorter work outs in a ‘taper’ week. I should have called him directly, as I could have booked for a non-standard stay, as a ‘regular’, but I booked through Gites de France, which is Saturday to Saturday only. Having done that, I found that the race had moved a couple of years ago to Sunday, so I had to frantically scramble to find a place for the two nights in Alpe d’Huez. I found something, but it was just about the last place! Liam wasn’t keen to try this time and Mike had arrangements with another friend, so I decided to go solo.

I travelled down fine, staying in Northern France after an afternoon ferry. I also invested in a Sanef chip for the French motorway tolls. I wish I had done that earlier! It was great, just driving through the toll gates and there were no dramas getting down to the Alps.

Bernard asked me if I could change gites to the lower of the two that he has as he had a bigger group booked. That worked for me – I would have booked the smaller if I had seen it available, anyway. He kindly refunded the difference in cost (and kindly posted me the books I left behind!)

photo-1164669321

I was in the lower gite – which was great!

I spent the week working, including a couple of days at Leti, in Grenoble – a high tech research institute. They were having an open day, by luck, so I got a good report from it. Bernard was very hospitable and I enjoyed a barbecue ‘en famille’, which was really great.

Anyway, I followed a proper taper  in my training, but otherwise, just worked! I tried Alpe d’Huez and it was obvious to me that I should have done more mountain-style work outs – I could feel the difference in the muscles being used in my legs and that wasn’t a good sign. In particular my inner thigh muscles seemed to be working harder than I had expected. They did ease up through the week, though.

I transferred to the (tiny) apartment in Alpe d’Huez on the Saturday and registered and handed over my medical certificate. I decided not to use special food as Cyclomundo, who I had booked with, because they supply some food support towards the end, had decided to drop that support point. So, the only advantage of not booking directly with the organisers was to get a guaranteed place. Hmmm, I wouldn’t do that again.

Anyway, I got down to the start and found I was fairly well positioned at the start of the second group. I lost a bit of position when we went to the official start as we were sent the wrong way! However, we got there OK and I rolled over the line as planned. So far, so good,

The first climb is the long Col du Glandon (which is most of the climb to the Croix de Fer). I had decided to try to match my times on the 2012 event, as I was too slow on the 2013 one. That basically worked, and I was putting out a steady 175W but I was worried as my heart rate was towards my lactate threshold, which I reckon is around 153/154 as I tired over the climb. Over the climb, I was basically between 147 and 152 bpm.

glandon

Lots of people were going past me and I passed few. The climb went well, although I had a bit of a fright towards the top, when I rock rolled off the mountain and nearly hit a rider just a few bike lengths in front of me!

I got some food at the top, but didn’t want to waste time, so pressed on. The weather was very cold, about 10 degrees C at the start and down to 6 degrees by the top of the Glandon, but I saw that as an advantage. The arm warmers hardly came off at all and in preparation, I was wearing roubaix shorts with leg warmers, which didn’t come off all day!

The descent from the Glandon was great and then there was the long ‘false flat’ to St Michel de Maurienne. I should have got into a group. In the end, by grabbing a wheel, I probably wouldn’t have done more work overall, but would have saved some time.

I was well on track when I grabbed some water at the bottom of the Telegraphe. On the last two rides, this is where heat had really played a negative role, but this time it was only 20 degrees at the start. It cooled as we rose and it was nowhere near as hot as the previous two attempts.  By the Telegraphe, I was going reasonably well and passing people who weren’t quite aware of the monstrosity that the ride is. By the top of the Telegraphe, there were quite a few who were ‘cooked’. At that point, I was reasonably confident.

descent_and_telegraphe

I got to the feedstop in Valloire feeling in reasonable shape and, broadly, on time. However, there was very little food – I got some fruit and some dry bread. That was the same as last time and is really a poor show that they run out of decent food – it’s not as though this is a cheap event and at that point I was a long way from the last person! I had some bars with me, so was existing on them, although I just can’t take the sugar in this kind of thing these days and was suffering quite a bit of gastric discomfort.

I set off up the Galibier, but after only about half an hour of the climb, I started to feel that my inner thigh was going to cramp and I had to get off the bike to try to ease and stretch. I decided to keep moving by walking and after the cramp seemed to have receded, I got back on the bike. However, I didn’t get far before it started again. That became the pattern, with the ascent just being about walking and occasional periods of riding. That was a killer as it meant that I was getting behind schedule – the walking got slower as we ascended.

Still with a couple of (slow) kilometres to go to the top, I realised that I could no longer make it to the cut off point at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez before the cut off time and I nearly gave up. By that point, a lot of people were struggling with cramp and other problems. I was nowhere near the weakest! One chap I talked to from the a club near my home was giving up for the fourth time – he has done the Marmotte six times – twice successfully and with four failures!

galibier

As the altitude got higher, I started to really struggle for oxygen and I found that even at around 128 bpm of my heart (steady gentle ride intensity), I was panting as though I was in a TT!

(late addition – on the way up the Galbier (iirc), a keen photographer was photographing some big birds that were circling. Someone shouted to him “What are the birds?”. “Vultures”, he responded. Clearly they understood our condition!)

I got to the top of the Galibier and it was horrendous. The temperature was down to 7 degrees and there was a howling gale over the pass. Fortunately, after the first 10 ks or so of the descent, the effect of the sun helped to raise the temperature, and my spirits, a bit. I genuinely enjoyed most of the descent.

Eventually, I made it to the bottom of Alpe d’Huez. Although I had sworn that, whatever happened, I would make it up the Alpe, I knew by the state of my legs on the few uphill parts of the long descent from the Galibier, that it would take me many hours even to walk up the hill, so I baled and took the bus.

descent

So that was it; round three and the score is Marmotte 3, Bob 0. Even though I had trained for fifteen months and lost the weight I wanted, it was beyond me.  The reality is that to meet the times I needed to do, I had to go too hard and that meant I couldn’t sustain the effort for long enough. Without another 50W or more, in my FTP, even with the reduced weight, I just can’t go fast enough up the climbs without going too hard.

I may have to accept that this ride is just beyond me. However, I haven’t, quite, done that yet. I don’t think I can do it in 2018, but maybe 2019, with another two years of training? I suspect not, but I will give it some serious thought.

Some things learned:

  1. Feeding has to be sorted – sugary bars are really no good for an event of this duration. I knew that, really, but it has been a while since I did such an event, and not since I went to LCHF.
  2. I need to calculate the W/kg needed to get over this event.
  3. I should have benefited from the cooler conditions – if it had been hotter, I think I would have failed sooner.
  4. You really need a lot of miles in your legs to do this kind of event
  5. You really need to have done a lot of serious climbing – the effect on the muscles is different when climbing.
  6. I may think about a coach or coaching service if I’m going to do it again.

M. Lefebvre has said that he would give me a special deal for a longer stay. Maybe, in 2018 a month in the Alps, just for training – and maybe the Vaujany race? Reduced workload and back in 2019?

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2016 Update

Once again, I have found myself with a little time on a plane and with no way to do more work as I need online access to do it. So, it’s, belatedly, time to update my blog.
After over three years on the low carb diet, it has become a way of life for us. I have been able to control my weight and have eaten pretty well as much as I wanted, as long as I choose from high fat foods. In this way, my weight did increase by three or four pounds per year, mostly put on around Christmas, when I have typically almost abandoned the low carb approach (a couple of times) or way over-indulged in wine and cheese and port and cheese and brandy and cheese and…. you get the picture!
Weight increase with low carb diet

Weight increase with low carb diet

For the last few years, I have wanted to take part in the Ride London event – a closed road 100 mile bike ride through Central London and the Surrey hills, following, more or less, the course used in the London Olympics. I have failed to get a place in the ballot, but in 2016, I managed to get a place through membership of the Cycling Club. (I could have got a place by taking a charity place, but I didn’t want the hassle of this). So, early in the year I suddenly found that I was due for a big ride in the summer.
Ride London course

Ride London course

Now, I had hardly been on my bike for two years, a combination of having a friend that got very badly injured by a car while she was out on her bike and also a very, very intensive workload. That was a problem with a 100 mile ride coming up, so I decided to get in shape. The first thing was to start losing weight.
Several friends, including some ‘veterans’ had had success using the 5/2 diet, so I decided to try that. Since February this year, I have been cutting the calories on Mondays and Wednesdays to help me lose weight and it has worked. After some months, I got back to the weight that I had in the summer of 2012 and 2013, just a couple of pounds above my lowest weight in the last twenty five years. However, at this point is I am a bit stuck at that weight, so I may have to do something more drastic. More of that later.
low_carb_with_5_2

This year, cutting the calories on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Anyway, I got back into training on the bike and rediscovered the joy of getting fit and making the most of the countryside. The Ride London event was set for just after my annual holiday when I got some wonderful miles in in Southern Brittany, so I was looking forward to it. The relative lack of traffic and fantastic road surfaces really made riding a joy.
Guerande - great place to cycle
I hoped to ride the event in about 6.5 to 7 hours, with an expectation that it would take around 7 to 7.5. In fact, I did it with an elapsed time of around 6:31, which included a long hold up for an accident and drink/food stops. My moving time was 6:06 and if I had realised that I was that close to 6 hours. I might have been able to go just a little faster, although I was definitely close to the limit at the end. What surprised me was how fast I was over the first two or three hours. Anyway, now I know that when  I do it again (not if), I will aim to get below the 6 hours. Fantastic! If you had told me when I started riding that I could achieve that, I would have said you were mad!
Anyway, getting back into training and losing weight stirred up my ambitions again and I started to think about another crack at the Marmotte. I have tried and failed to do this twice (see my blogs here and here) and it might be simply, beyond me, but I hate getting beaten, so giving up after the failure in 2013 has niggled me ever since.
However, to do it, I have to improve several aspects of my riding.
  1. I have to improve my power to weight ratio to make it easier, or at least quicker, to get up the hills.
  2. I have to improve my muscular endurance. In 2012 and 2013, it was legs turning to jelly on Alpe D’Huez that finished me off as well as slow times that saw me ‘timed out’ at the bottom of the mountain.
Now, improving my power to weight will be difficult, but possible if I follow a good set of training with plenty of intervals and using proper analysis and measurement. I have long been an advocate of training by power and that still seems to be the best approach.
I have to really work throughout this winter to boost my FTP which is, when I tested myself in September, around 7-8% down on 2013. I have to get that power back and then add some – a tall order at my time of life. The second thing I can do is to further to reduce weight, so my current plan is to get back to 160 pounds, around 24 pounds down on my weight in February 2016 and around 10 lbs down on my November 2016 weight. It should be possible, although I am a bit stuck at the moment. I may have to do something extreme like going teetotal for a while (I only drink at the weekends these days). Christmas will also be a real challenge.

Indoor Training

To aid my training, I also need to get more, longer, low intensity rides, so I bought a special table that is designed for invalids to use in bed, but which allows me to put my PC over the handlebars of my training bike. It works pretty well, but I also decided I needed a better trainer to allow accurate interval training over the winter. (a slightly strange effect of this purchase was that Amazon decided, as I was looking around at this kind of product, that I must be bed-ridden, so the online advertising that I was shown for a week or two was a bit wierd!)
This table is handy for using my PC while riding

This table is handy for using my PC while riding

Working while cycling I find as quite a challenge unless it is at very low intensity. It is easy for the concentration to go onto the work and for the legs to simply stop moving. As a result the training is not of high quality. However, one strategy that I have is to save up all my online reading and simple work such as editing the newsletter and doing that while I’m on the trainer. Real intervals at higher intensity need concentration, so work is impossible. However, I’m optimistic that increasing the amount of low intensity work might help my muscular endurance.

 I bought a Tacx Bushido trainer online on EBay at a very good price. It was new but the ‘packing was damaged’ according to the German reseller. I bought it and found that apart from the battered box, it was fine. I started to use it with software such as Veloreality (which has high quality online videos of rides such as the marmotte) and also Zwift.
Unfortunately, the Tacx was not very accurate in its power measurements which varied dramatically from what I know from years of using my Powertap (and even in comparison to my old Tacx Fortius system). That meant that I couldn’t mix and match data from indoor and outdoor sessions or rely on TSS and other power-based metrics to control my training schedule. So, I put on my best ‘pretty please’ face and talked nicely to my lovely wife who agreed to buy me an early Christmas present, a Wahoo Kickr. Fortunately, I was able to sell the Bushido for almost the same price that I paid.
The kickr
The difference between the Bushido and the Wahoo is like night and day. The Kickr connects directly to the cassette and is both quiet and smooth, with a really realistic feel in terms of resistance. So far, I have really enjoyed using it and that has helped to keep me motivated to use it a lot – up to five times a week, so far. I am using Zwift workouts, VeloReality and I have just started to try Virtual Training, all apps that work well with the Kickr.
(The only irritation in getting the Kickr is that I found that it was cheaper to buy direct from Wahoo than from Wiggle and Wiggle also dropped its price just after I bought it. It doesn’t price match except to a few select sites and while it will react to new prices within seven days on other sites, it won’t when it’s its own site that drops price. So I was a bit miffed with Wiggle!)

The Decision – and logistics

Anyway, at the beginning of November, I got the email from Cyclomundo to say that they had started to sell places on the Marmotte again, so it was decision time. With the weight loss and the better training, I decided to go for it, so I bought a place. The next issue was to find accommodation, which is incredibly expensive around the Marmotte. Fortunately, I was able to book the gite that I previously used and is reasonably priced and ‘known’ (it has reasonable wifi, for example). Unfortunately, after booking it, I realised that the ride had moved from the Saturday to the Sunday. Now, gites work from Saturday to Saturday, so I have to leave it a day before the ride.
After several abortive attempts, I was finally able to book an Airbnb in L’Alpe D’Huez for the nights before and after, so I’m nearly sorted. Unfortunately, Liam can’t make it next year and Mike Oliver, who shared last time, also has other plans, so I will probably be on my own, but that’s OK. It’s not as though I don’t do plenty of travelling on my own!

The Plan

Now, the question is, what is the best training plan? At the moment I am working on a structured training plan to work towards the FCCC Christmas TT that takes place in December. It’s only a 10 miler, but it’s good to have some kind of target. I have booked a place at the Dragon ride in South Wales, the Medio Fondo at around 80 miles rather than the full event as it might be a bit too much that close to the Marmotte, but it will be good training. I now need to develop a plan. I have thought about getting a coach, but I’m not completely convinced of the value and not certain I could find one. Having a coach doing tests does help and I would have done a metabolic test with Simon Kidd, but he has stopped doing them as his expensive analysis machine broke down.
Still, I probably ought to do something.
I am also thinking about an ‘overload’ week or camp in the spring. I need to look at the diary to see when I could do it. I suspect that February will be too busy, with ISE and quarterly data, and April will be a bit late, so it might have to be March, somewhere warmer than the UK – in the Mediterranean or the Canaries?
Maybe I should check out TTs to see if there are good 50s or 100s that I could have a go at to get me really working? I looked at my first 50 miles on the Ride London and it seems I did it in 2 hrs 50 mins, so I might have a go at a 50.
Anyway, still lots to think about and plan!!!
Bob

So, for a change, I am stuck on a plane with nothing that I can really get on without some web access. So much for the cloud…

Anyway, I thought it was about time to update my blog on the diet experiment. I’m over 18 months into the Low Carb, High Fat  (LCHF) regime and, basically, I have been very disciplined about avoiding carbs. I relented over Xmas, but I must say that I didn’t find the potatoes and other “treats” that had some sugar as appealing as I thought I would.
When I was young, I was generally not particularly sweet-toothed – I would eat sweets (to be fair, I ate everything!) but given the choice, I would tend to go for savouries. I think that changed later and I enjoyed sweet foods more. For some years, I overdid the ice cream on a regular basis, but not, of course, since I started to seriously watch my weight.
I should have been regularly monitoring my ketones to understand when I got into ketosis, and to allow me to calculate the level of carbs that I can cope with, but I have never got into the habit. I had some trouble gettting out enough blood for the tester and bought some heavier duty lancets, but have never got back to it. So, to be on the safe side, I have stuck with a very, very low level of carbs.
0000001799750_LA typical day’s food would start with a couple of 97% pork sausages for breakfast (with occasional egg and bacon). For a change, or if I don’t have time for cooking, I’ll have full fat Greek Yoghurt & some berries. For lunch, I’ll eat salad (with mayo) with avacado, some meat, some good quality coleslaw and some cream cheese or other cheese.
Dinner is usually some steamed or fried vegetables and meat, followed by some berries with double cream. Although I have had berries and cream for dessert almost every day, I just don’t get bored with it.
For snacks, I have nuts (sometimes salted almonds or other savoury nuts, sometimes mixed nuts) and pork scratchings, although I eat less of these than I did early on in the diet. I have a piece of fruit (other than the berries) about once a week or so.
SGN0321
When travelling, I usually do well for breakfasts, especially in Germany – no shortage of fats there! Cheap hotels can be a problem as the breads and cereals are verboten and fats and protein cost real money, so cheap hotels tend not to provide them. Lunch is usually light or skipped – again in Germany, a bratwurst makes a good gap filler. Otherwise a salad is often a good choice, especially if it’s based on mozarella or feta or some fish.
Dinner can be a challenge when travelling, especially where there is just fast food. In emergencies, the patty out of a burger has had to suffice! However, grills are usually available and most restaurants are happy to swap the chips or potatoes for extra vegetables.
While this sounds tricky, the reality is that I don’t get nearly as hungry as I did before. As that change has happened quickly, I’m ascribing it to the diet change, rather than age, as the change in hunger was quick. Still there could be an age effect there as I know many of us have lower appetites as we age.
My alcohol consumption has also dwindled over the last few years. When I started to lose weight, I cut out all drinking on Mondays to Thursdays, unless socialising. Many Fridays, I don’t bother and a bottle of wine can last two nights, That has probably helped to keep weight under control. I miss a cool beer in the summer, but I can’t think of a time in the past when my beer stock has sat around so long that it has gone “out of date” (not far enough to get thrown away, however 🙂
The disappointing aspect is that where I hoped I might lose weight, I haven’t, I have added a couple of kilos. However, given that I have eaten pretty well as much as I want for a year and a half, that’s a good result. If I had done that with a carb intensive diet, I would have put on a lot more, I’m sure.
The weight hasn’t been helped by a lack of exercise. I have been massively busy since July last year, working 7 long days a week, so cycling has had to take a back seat (or is that back saddle?). In recent weeks, a slight easing of the load has meant some static trainer sessions. I’ll try to keep those up. It would be sad to lose all the fitness gains of recent years.
Having looked at my weight chart for the last couple of years, it’s clear that the recent weight is still Christmas gain that hasn’t been lost. Time to lose it, I think.
Weightchart
My last big ride was in the late spring of 2014 when I did 145 miles or so – fuelled only by fat and protein. Even lunch was a fry up! I didn’t do a great speed, but I did the ride without any carbs and the vast majority of it on my own which is always harder. I finished reasonably strongly, after a large black coffee in Farnham perked me up.
For health problems, I have had only minor irritations that are more likely the result of the stress from the workload than anything else.
So, if I can, I’ll probably stick with this as a life diet now. If I continue to slowly gain weight, I’ll probably try to get into a 5:2 habit. Habits are a powerful tool to change behaviour, and that one looks tolerable. Friends in the cycling club have used it to lose weight.
Anyway, if you have been, thanks for reading!

Over the last couple of days, I’ve spent a fair amount of time with family. Yesterday, Kate and her brood arrived as a consequence of their camping weekend being rained off. We had a great time, mostly playing sports games on the PlayStation as I’ve just bought a second Move controller (two more needed, I think), but time also spent making homopolar motors with some neodynium magnets I bought on eBay a while ago. (The young ones also enjoyed pretending to have a seance or be mystics as the magnets could be moved from below the dining room table).
Today, we went out for a great dinner with Yvette’s parents and brothers and related others. So this was a weekend to spend talking to multiple generations.
When we got home, Yvette and I were talking about Pikkety and his book. Although Pikkety has impacted on the readers of the Economist, the FT and the Independent, his ideas have not yet percolated to those that are slightly less geeky in their news sources, as I found over lunch.

Yvette and I were talking about the idea that if you want to experience “The American Dream” (TAD), you’re probably best to be born in Denmark. (to [very briefly] explain; as I understand it, TAD is that your success and rewards in life are based on your own input and efforts. That implies a high level of social mobility – and that your future depends on you and your actions and not on the circumstances of your birth. As I understand the data, one of the countries that has the loosest “coupling” between your parents and your circumstances is Denmark, while one of the countries with the tightest “coupling” is the US). I have to confess that one of the most interesting books that I have read in recent years (and I get through a few) was “The Spirit Level“, an attempt at an evidence-based approach to income disparity that talks about some of the effects that the increasing difference between the rich and the poor cause. Pikkety, of course, suggests that the capitalist system inevitably leads to such disparities (at least so I believe as it hasn’t hit the top of my reading list, yet!).
The question about how much your life outcome depends on the circumstances of your parents got me thinking about my own trajectory from “launch” by my parents to now. When I was 19 or 20, I

  • hated sports (and despised sportsmen),
  • was overweight and unfit (and dismissed the importance of physical fitness to the human condition),
  • was convinced (as the direct result of some appalling teaching) that I was incapable of understanding anything related to computing
  • that I could not write to save my life
  • and was a lazy person

Forty+ years later, I’m

  • chairman of the local cycling club and an ardent MUFC and Woking FC fan (note for my US friends – they are soccer clubs)
  • am pretty fit (I rode a 200K bicycle ride recently and ride my bike thousands of miles a year)
  • am a complete nerd when it comes to computing topics (e.g. I reckon I have written software in 8 or more programming languages)
  • have written several million words for my own newsletter as well as writing over the years for significant titles in electronics and technology and professional journals as a freelance. I have also written technical white papers for major electronics companies including Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and others.
  • surprised plenty of people with my relentless focus and workaholic nature.

Now, I don’t write this to brag, but merely to point out that the human brain is immensely plastic and malleable, and that whatever you are at 20 does  not indicate what you will be at 60. Whatever you think you are at 20 is probably not what you think you are.

In the end, you are what you make yourself. Of course, I (and Yvette), were immensely lucky to have profited from the “Direct Grant” system that sent children that did well in the 11+ exams to very good private/grammar secondary schools at the state’s expense, and it could be strongly argued that the confidence that I got from such an education was what allowed me to change in the way that I have, but the moral is the same, regardless.

So, yesterday, 21st April and Easter Monday, was the first really severe test of the fat-burning strategy. A dozen or so of us from the FCCC did our regular annual trip down to Stonehenge on our bikes.
The total trip is around 130 miles. On the Sunday evening, I had a carb-light dinner (a little bit of sugar in the panna cotta, but otherwise lamb and vegetables). Breakfast was some 97% meat sausages, some greek yoghurt and cheese.
The first part of the ride, I tried to keep up with the pack, but after an hour or so, I realised that it would kill me, so I eased off and went along for a while with a couple of other slower riders. The fast group had to stop for a puncture, and I got ahead for a while, but they reeled me in.

Stonehenge trip
We got to Amesbury at around 12:25 – about 4 hrs 20, with one puncture stop. I ate half of one of my cheese sandwiches (made with LCHF bread, so few carbs)
Lunch was scrambled eggs, bacon and some baked beans and mushrooms.
The journey home was slower, especially the first couple of hours. I speeded up later and towards the end after a coffee stop in Farnham. I ate the other half of the sandwich, but wasn’t really hungry.

So, overall, I did about 130 miles over around 9 hours of riding, with very few carbs, confirming the value of the ketogenic policy. The legs were weak by the end, but I haven’t done anything near this intensity for nine months.

It seems that low carb is effective.

Dinner was the usual low carb regime.

Today, I got my ketone meter working and found I have a level of 1.9 mmol/Litre, so that would be a level consistent with ketosis, according to Phinney.

It was such a nice day yesterday that I thought I’d head out to Egham and back to Ash – a triangular route that I enjoy. It’s flattish, so good for steady efforts. The ride was great, although the bit in Windsor Great Park was less than I intended as there were a lot of walkers around.

Anyway, I thought I’d test the new regime, so deliberately kept my heart rate at 135 or above. It was only around 40 miles, but my average heart rate was 140, which would have been well above my fat burning level of a couple of years ago. Speed was only around 14.7mph, but I managed to ride it on just water – no carbs or eating. Given that it was around 2hours 38 mins, this suggests to me that I have re-set my fat burning. We’ll see.

 

 

So, I have been on the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) for about five months now and have learned some things. I have been doing a lot of reading and looking at YouTube talks by Steven Phinney and Prof.  Noakes among others. It has been interesting.

At one point, a couple of months in, I did think I was struggling a bit with tiredness and lack of strength when exercising. Looking at what Phinney says, this is common and typically means not paying attention to the requirement to boost salt in the diet. I started to adopt his “half a bouillon cube” a day as a drink and that sorted the problem out. (I have got out of the habit recently, because of travel, and must get back to it).

Christmas saw me really enjoying all the high fat foods for the first time for years. I particularly enjoyed the cheese (we overdid the cheese board!) and wine, but also overdid some carbs. ( and turkey dripping and jelly is not as good without the toast!!)  As a result, after losing weight on the diet for the first few weeks, I added weight right up to Christmas. From 77.9Kg at the beginning of September, my weight gradually crept up to 81kg by the time I flew off to CES.

So, the theory that you keen eat what you want in LCHF without gaining weight doesn’t seem to apply. Concerned at the beginning of the year that I had added weight, I decided to try a 5:2 plan, where you have two low calorie days and five “normal” days. I started this in early January, and had dropped down to 78.8kg by the end of Feb – pretty good considering the amount of travelling I have been doing. The fashionable version of 5:2 allows only 500 calories on “off” days. I’m not going that extreme, but am probably down at around 1,000

It seems that, as I have always found, calories  count! However, there is no doubt that I am eating a lot less often. I do get peckish for a snack from time to time, but nowhere near as often as I used to. Nuts are a good stand-by.

Ketosis
 One of the key points that Phinney emphasises is that for the diet system to work, you have to be in ketosis. He emphasises that it’s like going to Hawaii on holiday from California – going only halfway does not give half the benefit! Getting into ketosis is liking getting to the island. (he also emphasises that if you overdo the carbs on just one day, it can take 7-10 days to get back into “the zone”.
However, the only way to be sure if you are in ketosis is to do blood tests of your ketones. I was not keen on the mechanics and the cost, but finally, at the beginning of March bought a meter and some strips. Even on EBay, the test strips cost around £1.50 per strip.
I have tried to use the meter once, but used up three strips and failed to get a reading! The meter seems functional, but I suspect I’m not supplying enough blood – I will have to do more tests.
Riding
The wet weather and all my travel in January and February have really affected my ability to train and I feel I’m off the pace in terms of speed. I have been trying to ride without using carbs (although I did use some on longer rides in November and December, which might have meant I dropped out of ketosis).
There doesn’t seem to be a problem for me to ride quite long distances without carbs and without bonking. This weekend, I did a ride of around 3.5 hours (with a stop for a puncture after around 20 minutes) and although it was relatively slow, I had no real problem of feeling weak or hungry. I would like to take another metabolic test, but Simon has stopped doing them as he has a problem with his testing equipment. I may have to find someone else to do it.
After all, one of the reasons for doing all this is to see if I can significantly change the threshold for fat burning so that I can go harder on longer rides. Without knowing where the limit is, it may be tricky to find out!
Other health
I have had no adverse health effects from the diet. I eat a lot of “greens”, so the level of fibre is enough to keep the system moving. I haven’t noticed any problems with anything else and when I have felt “under the weather”, I have recovered very quickly. I usually reckon that the ability to fight off simple colds and bugs is a good sign of general health.
Challenges
One of the main challenges is to get enough calories without overdoing the protein intake, as too much protein is clearly a health issue. I am eating quite a lot of dairy (cheese, cream and yoghurt) but that adds protein as well. Even pork scratchings are 45% fat as well as 45% protein! Nuts can also be a problem.
Fortunately, Sainsburys does a very good line in 97% pork sausages – they are my breakfast most mornings.
I miss the fruit, especially after the excesses of the last couple of years, but I do feel that my hunger and blood sugar level is more stable. After eating grapes and other very high fructose fruits, I used to notice the effects. However, when Yvette has a banana (especially with cream), I do long for one!
One good point is that I am allowed some berries, so when I’m at home, berries and cream make a great dessert and boost the fats.
It’s irritating that there are so few snacks that are high fat. I go into a garage or convenience store and there are racks and racks of sugary products, bolstered by crisps and bread. It can be a struggle to find anything, although at least when travelling in Germany, I can usually find some good sausage.
The other day, I was flying from Barcelona to Munich. I found an italian cafe in BCN airport that offered “grilled vegetables”. That worked, but I was still a bit hungry when I got to Munich. Fortunately, there’s a bar at the HBF that sells €3.99 half chickens. It’s the first time I’ve had the veg for a meal in one country and the meat in another!
Bread is also a useful substrate for cheese, paté and other things. Celery works, but it’s not the same. I tried making some LC crispbread, but it took a long time and didn’t work unless really crisp, which was difficult to achieve. I have a recipe for LCHF bread that I’m due to try shortly – we’ll see if that’s better.
Cycling
Last weekend, I went out for a relatively low level (2/3) training ride and I was happy to do a slowish 3.75 hour ride, while just drinking water. I took a protein bar, but was not seriously tempted to consume it. It looks as though I might have reset the fat burning!!
Resources.
Here is a post I sent to a friend the other day when I had been ranting on!
http://www.artandscienceoflowcarb.com/ is a good resource. These guys are reckoned to have the best information in their book – The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living (available for kindle and on Amazon). It can be a bit (!) technical, but it is also fairly practical.

http://www.dietdoctor.com/ is quite a good site, although it is very, very biased towards LCHF.
There’s a great talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IYVIdztWWs about the evils of carbs.

Also, try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFD2q5iqevY