An Ordinary Bloke Vs. An Extraordinary Challenge: Ride to Eat, Eat to Ride. - Pedal Progression


20 April 2018

An Ordinary Bloke Vs. An Extraordinary Challenge: Ride to Eat, Eat to Ride.

It’s been a while since I last blogged, and not because there’s been nothing to write about. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with everything as well as documenting it all.

I have been attempting to ramp up the efficiency and focus of my turbo sessions. A local rider and friend of Pedal Progression, Paul, offered me the loan of a ‘Smart Trainer’. I honestly had no real idea what this did at first but it has been super useful and fun. At his recommendation I have been using it conjunction with Sufferfest. The online training videos provide help to get the most out of minimal time and they are pretty funny and engaging. The trainer feeds your power output into the software and the software controls the resistance, pretty clever and no options for cheating the system. For those (like me) who find the prospect of time on the turbo doing intervals fairly unappealing these videos are a life saver. The Sufferfest program also provides a fitness test which looks like it will be really helpful to assess my progress. Paul is a pretty accomplished endurance rider himself (2nd in the pairs category of the Strathpuffer in 2018) and has been giving me some useful advice based on what has helped him with his progress over the years – it’s been great to get another perspective and more useful advice!

Out in the real world, I was lucky to have a holiday to Mallorca booked during the Easter period. This was not planned as a riding excursion but a holiday with the family so I wasn’t riding all day every day. I did however take my road bike and got some super early starts for dawn raids on Formentor and Sa Calobra. Some stunning views, amazing rides and testing climbs! I ride bikes for lots of reasons, but getting to watch the sunrise with no one else about in spots like this is definitely up there in the top 10! Whether you’re a mountain biker or a roadie I highly recommend a visit. I also recently completed the first round of the ‘Scott Marathon Series’, had a couple of days trying to crank out as many miles as possible at Afan, as well as doing my best to keep up with the strength work. My daughter has been helping me to make my planking a little more challenging by jumping on back at every opportunity! It was new bike time for me too this month. For the first time ever I went for a 29er (Marin Riftzone), hoping for a bit more efficiency for the 24. So far I am loving it. It’s certainly been a busy period and I am starting to feel a bit more confident in my legs and better about my winter training.

Whilst getting all this done, my main focus has been to give much more careful consideration to what I am eating to support my training and events. I mentioned in a previous blog that I was going be working with Adam Fraser. Adam is a qualified nutritionist, and keen endurance athlete himself, his main passions are IronMan and ultra running. He is also a physiotherapist and trained in N.L.P. so when it comes to preparing the body and mind to go hard for a long time there is not much that this guy doesn’t know! Towards the end of March I went to see him for a consultation and we came up with a plan for how I should fuel my machine going forward.

Prior to our meeting Adam had asked me to clarify what I wanted to get out of it and why. My aims were to eat more healthily to loose weight and feel more energised. I figure that if I feel more energised I will find it easier to keep up with training, if I loose weight I will have less mass to drag up over the top of the hills… This has got to be a good thing right!?

I also wanted to know what best to eat when I had finished a work-out or ride to ensure my body recovered as quickly and efficiently as possible. As my training continues to build up I need to know I can do a hard ride on a day and wake up fresh the next to put in another.

The consultation was super detailed, whilst analysing my food diary, Adam explained how different foods would affect my body in the context of my training and achieving my aims. We went through all the bodies ‘systems’. Just a few of the areas we covered were blood sugar regulation, gut and liver health, different types of carbs, the role of cortisol and insulin, complex vs simple carbs and good vs bad fats. We went into great depth about the cause and affect of some of the things I was doing and as he continued to explain everything started to fall into place! How to counter the afternoon slump, how to make sure I got the best rest and recovery, how to make sure I had good energy levels at the times of day I needed to be exercising. I always find that when making changes it is really important for me to understand the reasons behind the changes rather than just being told what to do. Adams thorough approach was just what I needed to give me the best chance of success.

It became very clear pretty early on that Adam takes a very natural approach to nutrition. This might sound obvious to some, but maybe not. The world of sports nutrition is increasingly dominated by companies selling supplements, mixtures, meal replacements, tablets and random potions with scientific sounding names, all claiming to give you more power, more energy, more speed. This is very alluring to people like me, who are looking to make as much progress as quickly as possible. It was good to hear Adam talking about taking a more natural approach and giving clear scientific justification for why eating ‘proper’ food can feed your body just as well. I have been using protein supplements post exercise and was keen to find way to switch this out for real food. Why? I like eating. Supplements are convenient but I’d rather eat something tasty than drink a shitty tasting strawberry milkshake!

Time to ditch the flapjack and make some changes…

It was recommend that, rather than getting over complicated I focus on the, ‘low hanging fruit’, i.e the easiest changes with the biggest benefits.  The initial aim being to get my overall nutrition healthy and balanced and my blood sugar stable then to move on to looking more specifically at recovery. These are my areas of focus:

  • Boost my Omega 3’s – My diary showed I was not getting enough, these are important for many functions and processes in the body.
  • Focus on water – I have definitely not been keeping hydrated enough. I find it really easy to forget to drink especially when busy. So during a work day I will always ensure I drink at least a litre and half, force myself to drink at least one glass of water in the morning, one when I get home. When out on my bike, I need to make sure I always have enough for a litre an hour – twice as much for a turbo session.
  • Leafy greens – Most of us know that we need this stuff but still don’t eat enough! An easy rule to follow here is at every meal make sure your plate is half full of leafy greens. Simple!
  • Snacks – Between meals eat fruit paired with protein/good fats, to keep my blood sugar as stable as possible. If I want to avoid the 4 pm crash I need to avoid the 2pm flapjacks.
  • Portion size – Greens as above 1/2 the plate. A fist size of portion of protein and the same complex cabs, good fats, half thumb size.
  • Coffee! – I love coffee. Caffeine can have a major impact on cortisol regulation, melatonin and sleep!. Sleep is important for recovery so I need to sort this as a priority to rest and recover well. A few years back I was drinking 5+ cups of coffee a day, I cut back to no more than 3, but I think it’s time to give myself another push and come down to one, maybe even dare I say, get through a day with no coffee!! When I am trying to stay awake all night for 24/12 the last thing I need is to be chugging back the coffee on day one, I need to save the caffeine hit for when I really need it in the early hours of Sunday morning.
  • Eat Organic where possible – This can be expensive but here is a really helpful article that shows which foods are most important to eat organic and which don’t matter so much. For me, coffee is a really important one as it is one of the most sprayed crops out there.
  • Cut out processed foods – In short… full of stuff I don’t need and that will make me slower.

3 Weeks On:

So far it’s going pretty well I think. I found that concentrating on keeping really well hydrated on a recent trip to Afan worked really well. I rode a solid 10 hours, making sure I was really disciplined about drinking a minimum of 1 bottle (650ml) an hour – not quite as much as planned but a big improvement on what I was doing before. I felt no sense of dehydration at the end of the ride and (without begin too graphic) my bladder functioned as normal during the ride. In the past I have found no need to stop for a wee on longer rides, and it has taken a forced effort of drinking to get back to normal function post ride – this has been a lot less of an issue of late and has definitely improved my perception of recovering better.

My energy levels during the day are feeling improved. Although I still do sometimes admit defeat to the afternoon flapjack o’clock, at least now I can prepare for the impending crash. I found that managing my blood sugar has stabilised my energy levels and has made it easier to get out at times when I would previously have found it hard. Most of my training during the week is still done in the evening. So before I get to it I have done a full day of work, picked the kids up, cooked dinner, prepped for everyone for the next day and  put the kids to bed – I need to be feeling pretty good by this point to be able to convince myself to get out and ride, get on the trainer or start a strength workout, the changes to my diet have certainly helped here.

In terms of weight loss, I have lost a little, a few pounds, and although this is an aim of mine I am not worrying about it too much at the moment. I figure as I continue to train and continue to improve my diet this will come. With any luck I am building muscle at the same time so don’t necessarily want to get too hung up on loosing loads of weight really quickly. Adam seemed to suggest that hip to waist ratio is better measure to use, this again has improved slightly since my consultation, but it has only been 3 weeks so I think more time will bring results.

Recovery wasn’t something that we focused on too much in the first consultation, the plan being to move onto this in a bit more detail in the follow up. However, I am feeling a lot stronger in this respect. In my last blog I wrote about the Madax60 – my plan to ride it then get out again the following day for some ‘back to back fatigue’ training. I made it out the day after the Madax but it was hard. I rode a very slow un-energetic 40k around Ashton Court and felt pretty rubbish. Conversely on finishing the the Scott Marathon, feeling a little disappointed with my time but still having energy, I went home put the kids to bed and did 2 hours recovery ride on the turbo. The following day, I did a pretty intense work out on Sufferfest in the morning (for those who know it – ‘ISLAGIDATT’)  and went straight back into my weekly training plan as usual. I am increasing finding that no matter how hard I push myself during longer events and training sessions I am able to get onto an even keel again the following day instead of feeling drained for the whole week after.

So onward and upwards! Things are starting to feel like they are coming together and momentum is building with my training, I would say I am feeling cautiously confident. With 3 (ish) months to go I’m happy with that. Of course there are times when I could have planned better, trained more, ridden harder, faster and longer but I have tried to balance this with making sure I am always enjoying what I am doing – albeit often in a ‘type 2 fun‘ kinda way. And trying to have as minimal impact on my family life as possible, or at least integrate stuff into my family life, going out for rides really early in the morning or late in the evening and seeing it as ‘extra challenge’ rather than hindrance when my daughter jumps on my back every time I try and do a press up!.

I’m always looking for new ways to mix it up… I seem to have signed myself up for an off-road half marathon along the Dorset coast this weekend… should be fun! I’ll keep you posted.

If you are undertaking a similar challenge this year and want some help with nutrition give us a shout and we can send you Adam’s way!


Written by:

Ollie Cain