No new science in this post. Just some musing about my run of good form. If you have read the previous two posts then you know that I have been rebounding from a bout of apparent under-nourishment. Not sure if my increased feeding is responsible for my recent winning ways but it may be so I'm going to continue eating nearly everything. I'll get to last weekend's competitive outing in a bit.
Ahhhh…what a difference a week makes. Well, a week and a boat load of carbohydrate, anyway. Yeah, as you know, last week's stage race effort sucked hugely and thoughts of hanging up the bike to do something else briefly plagued my thoughts. If you've been following this then you know some of my theories about why the implosion happened. Further discussion with Mark Twight at Gym Jones reinforced my feeling that diet was the culprit. His experience with athletes playing with gluten-free or gluten-reducing diets reveals that these experiments can insidiously devolve into low-carbohydrate diets. For an endurance athlete, this usually yields competitive suicide.
No seriously. I'm thinking about taking out one of those milk carton ads because it was no where to be found this last weekend at the Elkhorn Classic stage race. And, man, did it suck ass! I'm just not used to riding that poorly. I mean, I've had an "off" day or two over the years but nothing like this. Honestly, I was not expecting to be great. I'm one month out from hitting my rib cage against a cement wall at the end of a criterium and separating a couple or rib cartilages. I followed that up with a nasty cold and bronchitis. Lot's of pus coming out of my lungs for a couple of weeks and a seriously impaired ability to cough. For better or worse, I trained through it and was feeling fairly fit on the other end. I tried not to do too much the week before and felt good riding to the line Friday afternoon.
This post was inspired by a recent experience I had at a local athletic event. It covers territory well-traveled by psychologists and anthropologists way smarter than me. However, the experience affected me enough to want to document it here with some musings on the topic. Mostly preaching to the choir, I imagine, but fun to think about nonetheless.
Two weekends ago I participated in a local fund-raising event, the Skinny Skis Run and Ride. This is a 5 km run followed by a 15 km bike ride done either solo or as a team. After hitting a cement planter box and injuring some ribs during a criterium a couple of weeks prior, I was not going to race. I had looked around for a fast runner initially but after getting hurt I stopped looking. Seemed like all the fast runners were already spoken for by other cyclists, anyway. As a local cycling team, we decided that some level of participation in home events should be maintained for appropriate sponsor exposure. I felt a little bad not doing my part.
In an effort to make these sub-topic posts on nutrition more digestible (ahem, sorry for that), I want to break them down sufficiently enough so that your interest does not wane in the middle of reading one. Any post about carbs and sports could get out of control long if I'm not careful.
From a performance standpoint, I don't think anyone will argue the fact that we need to ingest carbohydrate to continue to train and race in endurance activities. We've covered this before in these pages. Let's recap the salient points as a segue to this post's topic. First of all, training and racing is supported primarily by glycogen which is stored in a limited capacity in the liver and muscle cells. At race intensity, we can last between 90 and 120 minutes before this supply is exhausted. By ingesting carbohydrate (which is converted to glycogen) during exercise we can stave off exhaustion almost indefinitely. We seem to be able to process about 300 kcal/hour. Yes, I know, fat is part of this energy equation, too, but I want to keep things simple here for the sake of discussion. Some athletes use fat for energy better than others but glycogen and, thus, glucose is still the main player for most of us. Bottom line is carbs are are both good and necessary for athletes.