Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Journey to IRONMAN: But What If I Could?

On Monday of last week I was finally able to get my VO2 Max test.  When you enter into the world of endurance triathloning, this test is one of the best measures of where you are physiologically.  My coach really pushed to have the VO2 results because it helps her 1. do her job better, and 2. helps me do my job better.  But what is a VO2?  Well, hold onto your seats my friends, cause we are about to get a whole lot of science and a whole lot of data!

Lets talk definition.  VO2 max is:
 "the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise.  It is a 
combination of how much oxygen your lungs can take in, convert into the bloodstream which is 
then pumped throughout your body by your heart and finally how efficient your muscles are in 
consuming and converting that oxygen for use."

Layman terms Bethany:  
how much air can I suck in as my heart rate is going up during exercise.  Since
the body uses oxygen to power itself, how good am I at taking in that oxygen and 
making it power the muscles in my legs.  Since all of this requires energy(think fat and carbohydrates), what is my body using to fuel all of this consumption and conversion, 
and is it efficient and sustainable.

To do this test, I took my bike to a special endurance clinic and was put on a very high tech trainer with a Gotham like mask over my face.  In this picture, all of me was hooked up to a computer delivering more info than you ever wanted regarding my oxygen levels, fitness, and physiology.  The complete test was about 20 minutes.  The test starts with me finding that smooth easy, not working hard gear that I can easily pedal an 80-90 stroke cadence (how fast my legs are spinning).  Anna, my tester, was then going to remotely increase the resistance on my bike every 2 minutes.  My goal was to maintain the same cadence through it all, breathing as normally as I could.  The test would get harder and harder until I physically failed (yes it was interesting to know that one point of the test was at which point I failed).

Hold up Bethany......really, why do you need this? Good question.  I don't NEED it.  I can do all that I am doing without it, but I will never reach my full potential without training with this information in mind.  IRONMAN is a taxing event, it is a long season of training and a long day at the races.  Being strong isn't just about going the distance, but being strong on the inside.  This test revealed 2 things to me:
1. I have a strong and powerful internal engine capable of running at nearly an elite athlete level 
2. Its running on the wrong fuel, creating an inefficient, unsustainable, exhausted internal engine.

So lets talk fuel.  Our bodies use 2 sources, fat and carbohydrates.  Fats are long burning, clean, efficient fuel (think Tesla) and carbohydrates are fast burning, dirty, hot fuels (think every other gasoline vehicle). The GREATEST lie that has ever been given athletes is the lie of "carbo loading."  This myth has created a community and a world of carb dependent people.  A person simply cannot eat enough carbs to fuel the body correctly and so the endless cycle of  eat carbs, store as fat, run out of carbs, eat more carbs  is creating a bunch of obese people and chubby inefficient athletes who are doing big things while doing a lot of damage internally.  By changing the mindset, the diet and the training approach to encourage fat consumption and fat for fuel, not only can you get leaner and lighter, but become almost uncapped in your athletic potential.  To break this down  right now I have 24% body fat.  Based on my weight 124 lbs, this means my body has 29 pounds of fat on it (yes I really do).  If we know that there are around 3500 calories in 1 pound of fat, that means that I have over 100.000 calories on any given day in my fat stores.  If 1 IRONMAN uses around 7000 calories I could run over 13 back to back IRONMANS if I was only burning my fat.  Why is this so significant?  I don't have enough carbohydrates in my body to complete 1 IRONMAN without eating more.

Well....my VO2 test revealed that, at the moment, I am a 100% high carb burning individual.  From years of high intensity training and believing I needed a lot of carbs (even "good" ones), I have taught my body how to run on hot burning jet fuel from the moment my heart starts "working".  I have also experienced what it is like to crash in many events.   Yes....we as athletes use carbs, but for an endurance athlete to only use carbs is faulty......you simply can't put enough in!

Here's the basics:
  • 124 pounds
  • 24% body fat
  • Fat burning heart rate 110-126bpm (this is the bad part.......fat burning efficient athletes have an aerobic base in the high 150s and up)
  • Anerobic Threshold (AT) 130bpm (at 130 I am on all carbs....no bueno- I ran my marathons in the 150s)
  • VO2 at AT 24.6
  • VO2 at Max 54.1
So...whats the plan:
 To train the heart and body to burn fat and to increase my aerobic capacity (fat burning heart rate).

  • Diet Change- I am now a Primal/Paleo eater
  • No more sugar (Goodbye Starbucks!), grains, processed foods or things with industrial oils
  • Increase my good fat consumption significantly (YES!  I love good butter, avocados, coconut oil...mmmmm)
  • Train at low intensity (work to keep my heart rate in a fat burning zone which is LOW right now)-so basically this means I am now a nice, easy, slow athlete working on building my aerobic base.
I have been a very successful athlete in the past, but have also experienced a lot of bonking (think complete energy loss in an event), crazy appetites, stomach issues and other stuff that simply won't work when I attempt to complete IRONMAN.  By making these changes and making myself an efficient fat burning individual I just might find the answer to these questions.  I also might find an astounding athlete waiting on the other side.

What potential could I tap into?  I really wanna find out.

Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Journey to IRONMAN: 7 Months

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook on any kind of regular occasion then I am sure you have been bombarded with all sorts of triathlon posts.  In fact you may nearly be at a place where you are ready to unfollow me just so they will stop :)  Don't do it just yet as the past month my plethora of Instagram shots have been in preparation for this blog post.  If I was thinking I should have hashtagged them all #aweekinthelife but then you get into the crazy world of hashtag madness and well, keeping consistent with my IM hashtags is about all I can handle right now!

My life is full of triathlon right now.  I eat sleep and breathe it every day.  When I had my initial meeting with my coach a few months back, I told her I HAD to have a rest day.  I just HAD to.  There was no way that I could give 7 days to a training program.  I laugh now.......today marks the 35th day of continual training and, contrary to what I thought, I do not need rest days.  I am strong.  Don't get me wrong.  I rest, but its in the form of resting work, ie. long swims planned for distance and not time.  I love my Mondays. 

I have been chronicling this journey through the method that speaks most clearly to me.....a camera and this past month I wanted to show what I do through pictures.  I am 7 months out from IRONMAN today and well on my way.......come discover a week in my life.......

Monday:  My long swim.  I love this day the most.  I get up early and meet my girlfriend at the pool for a 6am session.  The sun hasn't quite yet burst over the Las Sendas mountain and we swim.  Some days it 2000m......others its as much as 3000m.....some day soon it will eek up over 4000m.  I love it. Its quiet and contemplative in that cool water.  I recover, I pray, I think, I dream about what it will feel like to cross that finish line.  I doubt and then get back to work.  I always finish as the sun rises and illuminates the day.  Mondays are good days. 

Tuesdays:  Work starts on Tuesdays.  I have both a 1.5 hour bike ride to get in as well as a 6 mile run.  I try to run first because my coach wants me to push.  What does that mean?  Well basically for 3-4 of those miles I need to be working....harder than I want to.  I recover, I eat, I drop Lily off at school, I go to MOPS, I meet a friend for a play date.  If I rode in the morning I find myself in the gym pounding the treadmill for 6 miles (thank the Lord for HGTV) and if I ran in the morning.......I find myself on the trainer.  I take the girls to swim lessons.  I have been known to be on the trainer at 7 at night.  IRONMAN doesn't care about life's chaos.  

Wednesday:  Another swim day.  This is a drill session usually.  It ranges in distance but is at minimum 2000m.  Sometimes its sprints, other times its paddle work, and sometimes its intensity work.  Its all work, but man is it satisfying.  Wednesday is a strength day too.  Pull ups, push ups, squats, planks, lunges, ab work, back work, stretching.  I find myself back at the gym or in our backyard. No excuses.

Thursday:  Little brick day is what I have come to call it.  Bricks are workouts done back to back.  Why?.....because its harder (and you thought there was going to be a fancy answer).  I do a spin class or hill repeats on the bike followed immediately by a 4 mile run.  Transitioning the body from pedaling to running is important to work on.  Making sure the body understands that it may be fatigued, but it can still change directions and move forward.  All of this happens before 7:15am.  Life doesn't wait.

Friday:  Open Water Swim day.  Up until 3 weeks ago these swims were done in the pool, but we are now back out in the Lake.  The first 2 times back in the cold, dark, grimy lake were challenging.  Calming the mind and body while keeping good form and resisting the urge to let the cold shake you is hard. But.....when you get it.....when you embrace the factors trying to derail you, the lake becomes a friend.  Its quiet and open.  I am free from the endless flip turns and line swimming.  When you find it........its euphoric.

Saturday:  Long Bike days.  I always have a minimum of 2 hours up to 3 hours to spend on the bike these days.  Leading up to races I get to incorporate longer brick sessions.  Last weekend I had a 2.5 hour bike and a 3 mile run (one I pushed at 8:15 pace).  These sessions are where the endurance really comes to play.  I watch my heart rate, I am vigilant about fuel and water and gauging my fatigue and energy.  I must learn now.......5 hour bikes are in my future.

Sunday: My Long Run.  AHHHHH the place I am the most at home.....on my feet putting down the miles.  I love my Sundays.  Before the sun rises or church happens I run.  I am holding steady at 8 to 10 miles right now and loving every second.  I listen to my music, I pray, I think about the week I have just finished, and ponder the week ahead.  I finish strong....congratulating myself on getting 1 week closer to my goal.  Its a good place.

I also find my Sunday's are the absolutely best days for napping.  I LOVE my Sunday naps when I get them.  Sometimes sleeping is the best thing I can do for my body and it thanks me.  

So there you have it....a week in my life. I train.......full time. I mother full time. I wife full time.  I have conquered the fear of "Can I?,"  my coach knew I could.  I trust her.  I trust my body, I trust the process. No guts no glory right? I can and I will.