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Everest Challenge Training Diary

This is a reverse chronological training log. As a personal record, it might provide some insight into your own training in terms of its ups and downs, and tribulations.

September 30 — Great Race!

See my post-race notes on the Everest Challenge.

September 11 — on track for EC

A mild stomach flu interrupted training for 3 days, causing a forced rest of my legs, but this was followed yesterday by my 2nd fastest ascent of local Old La Honda Road, and that was after a 90 minute effort which included dropping a 200+ pound muscular rider with super deep dish wheels and an aero helmet. So I guess my legs appreciated the rest.

Body weight hit a new low today even as I was well hydrated in the morning, as the intense effort of the past few weeks is slowly paying off. DEXA scan due next week to confirm prrogress on muscle gain and fat loss.

With the Everest Challenge only 13 days away, I grow restive to head for the mountains, where I have set aside 4-5 days to acclimate to the altitude and dryness. This year it will be a personal-best effort in the Masters 45+ category, so that lead time is crucial.. My main concern is over hydration, at which I have not been so successful lately.

August 28 — no more weight loss it seems

As I discuss in Reader Suggests Cross Training for Breaking Through Weight Loss Resistance, weight is now stable at about 171 pounds, in spite of massive energy burn, I’m just unable to push it lower, no matter how much excercise I do. It might takes some time for my body to accept a lower weight, but in the meantime it feels like the legs continue to gain mass, and body fat continues to drop— both good things. But a net weight loss of about zero. Another DEXA scan is on the agenda to confirm these assumptions.

Recovery is largely excellent if incomplete each day— given the average calorie burn of over 2000 KJ per day this is not suprising. But I am maintaining the effort level and seem to be gettingh stronger, including nearly breaking my personal best up Old La Honda.

August 14 — very fit, weight stable

My exercise load is averaging about 1800 kilojoules per day now, and I’m just tolerating it in terms of recovery (hamstrings the weak link), even though some of those days are also at high intensity. In short, fitness is now superb. In spite of that, appetite has grown such that further fat loss is proving very challenging, with daily “calorie leaks”, naming chocolate bars and similar “oops” foods. I would like to hit the 165 mark, so my discipline must improve.

I guess I’m not riding where the tough guys ride, because even on hills the skinny guys get annoyed when I pass them. That’s progress for me, and due to both strength and body weight that is nearly 10 pounds lower than historically. I’m in the best condition of my life at present, and definitely ready for the Everest Challenge, since the Trek to the Summit of White Mountain Peak was no less hard than the first day of the EC.

Body weight 2011 training for Everest Challenge Stage Race

July 15 — progress comes in pauses and leaps

Buckling down since June by increasing the average daily caloric burn (now limited only by available time, not fitness), body weight and body fat are now at a 25-year low, climbing times are down, endurance is a deep reservoir, I am ready for the Everest Challenge, with two months of training remaining.

Last week, I rode all the Everest Challenge climbs over 4 days to re-familiarize myself with the road conditions, the grade and temperature, etc. The good news is that my ascent times are about 9% faster than in 2004, but it remains to be seen if that holds for back-to-back climbs in the actual race: will I be able to go faster still, or will the cumulative fatigue reduce that gain?

With two months of training remaining, training focus shifts now must remain on hard climbing, because it’s clear that the fatigue factor involves power on climbs, some of which do not allow a cadence over 60 or so.

And also raising my anaerobic threshold to 92% of max heart rate, because the altitude in the high sierra during recent training showed that the low oxygen drops the threshold down considerably, making stand-up efforts longer than a minute challenging, whereas at sea level such efforts can go on for 10 minutes or longer.

Also on the agenda are minimizing body fat, with the goal of dropping 5 more pounds for a target weight of 166 pounds. At a current 171 pounds, body fat can be extrapolated from the last DEXA scan to be about 10%, but it might be lower still if muscle has been gained. If it is 10%, that would mean fat of 17 pounds. So losing another 5 pounds is a realistic goal.

Read more about this graph or view a larger version.

Body weight 2011 training for Everest Challenge Stage Race

June 12 — More riding = weight gain

The good news is that I’m sure it’s muscle, based on power output and a fastest time for he year up the local Old La Honda climb, as well as 10% higher power output on 2 hour rides. The bad news is that a week of intense effort has resulted in steady weight gain, with a 2 week violation of the 5 month trend. Go figure.

I’m flummoxed, apparently my body weight set point is destined to be around 16, just as I found 12 years ago. But not if I can help it, so I’ve not given up on trying to get body fat to the 8% level or so. Appetite has become a demanding primeval force, and in spite of a calorie deficit, weight loss has now become elusive. I’m being to told to fatten up by powerful genetic forces apparently.

May 28 — Recovering from respiratory infection

After two weeks, the infection is broken, but it feels like a slog of at least another week for the gunk to clear out of my lungs and sinuses. I have cautiously returned to cycling after taking 3 days off in the past 7 days— funny how taking a day off feels unsettling, I’ve so much enjoyed the daily exercise for a while now. The good news is that most of my power has returned, and body weight dipped as low as 174.4 with the infection in full swing, with some recovery by deliberate over-eating until the infection was broken.

Once strength returns and the side-effects are completely gone, my plan is to make June/July an intensive climbing month, with the goal of beating my all-time best on Old La Honda Road. Ascent times are within a fraction of a percent of predicted times based on body weight.

May 17 — 180 pound goal achieved

I’ve met my 180 pound goal by May 12, but increased hunger is my body’s way of fighting back for the body weight set point, which I’ll have to break through as soon as I recover from my current respiratory infection, courtesy of my kids courtesy of public schools. My aim is for 170 pounds, with the gain of 2 more pounds of leg muscle.

The super good news is the gain of 2.2 pounds of muscle per leg, and the loss of 10.8 pounds of body fat in just six weeks as proven by the DEXA scan.

Quantization of fat/muscle/bone May 12, 2011

April 25 — appetite challenges, newfound power, aches and pains mostly gone

Unable to keep appetite in check past 3 days, blew my “calorie deficit” goal 3 days in a row now— either a small positive caloric surplus, or small negative deficit— compare that to 700 calorie deficits for preceding month. Must be “set point” time (where the body starts enforcing a desired weight), and somehow I think losing the next 15 pounds is going to be much more challenging than the previous 19 pounds. Now at 183 pounds. For the past 20 years, weight has never fell below 178 at 12% body fat, so that point approaches rapidly.

23rd felt weak after a long ride on the 22nd, so I rode a half-ride, but the 24th had the most powerful ride yet for the season: 264 watts for 62 minutes, which is still 60 watts under past peak efforts, but major progress over even a month ago. Leg strength seems to be growing, maybe some muscle gain involved. Aches and pains are all but gone.

Climbing on any hill as well as sprints seem much easier now, which makes sense, since carrying 19 pounds less body fat than on Jan 1. A good incentive to drop 10 more pounds.

April 23 — Aches and Pains mostly gone

The foot pain was bad for a while, but a bike fit helped a great deal, and the right foot is now better, with only a dull ache left. Some right knee pain after the bike fit and 4 intensive days of riding, but that too seems to have resolved.

Weight loss continues (182.9 as of this morning, but seems less than expected for the extra large caloric deficits for the past 10 days, so could be some muscle gain at the same time. First event of the season coming next Saturday: the Mt Hamilton Challenge.

April 10 — Foot Pain

I’m feeling some concern over foot pain that started 4 days ago. I switched to lighter weight cycling shoes about a week ago, but with my existing foot supports swapped in. But I also started speed skating one week ago, and my right foot wasn’t all that happy. Three days later foot pain just appeared out of the blue mid-day walking in my house. Maybe it’s plantar fasciatis, I’ve been icing it starting yesterday (had to cut short a ride), and also taking aspirin and massaging it and stretching my calves. Seems to be improving, so I’ll stay on it and hope it goes away, because it could be a disaster for training.

April 9 — 11,000 kilojoules a week drops the pounds, DEXA scan and body fat

2 weeks of weight trend

The weight loss trendline is back on course on April 9th. All it took was a 11,000 kilojoule burn for one week (11,400 kilocalories). But my fitness is now good enough that that level of effort can be sustained for about 10 days, though on April 7/8 I had to back off as recovery was not sufficient. The graph snippet at right shows the results of this concerted effort— no easy task either on the exercise or eating front.

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Body fat and DEXA

On the “good news and bad news” front, my March 31 DEXA scan shows that I’m a surprisingly portly 20.6% body fat at 191 pounds. When I asked a bike shop employee to guess my body fat, he guessed 10-12%. Which just shows that it’s easy to hide quite a bit of body fat and still look good; the fat swap place with muscle.

Example Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or DEXA scan for your author

The good news is that 20.6% fat means 39 pounds of body fat, of which it is reasonable to think that 20 pounds can be burned away, leaving me with 19 pounds of body fat for a weight of 171 pounds. But the challenge is to burn that fat away while also increasing muscle, because the scan shows a loss of 3 pounds of muscle in each leg.

Heart rate

My leg strength seem to be the weak spot now, with power from the SRM Power Control showing the hard facts relative to 2006. I’m seeing moderate heart rates at fairly hard efforts, suggesting that adding leg muscle mass needs to be a priority sometime in the next month or two— but I’m staying on the fat-loss goal for another 4-6 weeks for now.

March 27 — Pushing the Trend Line Down

The weight loss trendline slope has changed, and not in my favor. The trend had originally intersected 180 pounds by the end of May. Now it’s doing so at the end of June— risky in terms of the timeline, especially since I’d like to hit somewhere near 172 by race time.

I will focus on 1400+ average kilojoules per day burn in an attempt to reset the trendline to sub-180 by the end of June. As well, watching diet becomes critical.

I will have to ride longer but slower to hope to be able to maintain daily average of 1400 Kj, which equates to 10,000 kj per week. Yet that dovetails with the requirement for LSD (long slow distance) to build up aerobic ability.

March 23 — Riding Too Hard

Both by body feel and the calories expended chart, I’ve been riding too hard too early in the season, and I cannot recover from it each day. A more dire consequence is possible: failure to develop a deep aerobic reserve. So for at least the next two months, some discipline is needed to ride longer, but easier to build that aerobic reserve. Still, some more vigorous efforts and threshold training are still important in the overall picture.

March 15 — squats and soreness, weather

Still sore two days later from doing 70 squats of 135 pounds continuous. Rode in the rain two days prior— filthy bike filthy legs, waterlogged feet— no fun. Took the day off today as recovery is not there from two previous days efforts, and the thought of another wet ride is very unappealing.

Weight has stabilized at just under 194, with some better weather I hope to resume the steady downward trend.

March 13 — dip and a recovery

After 3 hard rides March 7/8/9, I felt the sinus thing coming on again— that bug apparently was not killed off. Tired the 10/11th, but Amoxicillin on the 12th and a day of rest restored considerable strength for the 13th, including 70 X 135 pound Olympic-bar squats. I hope whatever nasty little critter is up in my sinuses gets killed for good this time.

Of some gratification is the restoration of muscle mass and strength closer to 2004 ability, with that feeling of cranking the bike hard and being fully in control of its motion by sheer torque on the pedals. A nice feeling, and one to work on with continued weight training.

Of significant concern is the March 7 onwards upward spike of the weight-loss trendline. A broken trend is very Bad given the Everest Challenge schedule, so I paid close attention to diet today, and will keep doing so until I’m back on trend.

March 7 — yearly personal best

Sometimes forced rest (illness) allows key recovery processes to occur.

Coming off illness, with a lingering asthma congestion still harassing me, I started weight training last night with 50 continues repetitions X 135 pounds on the Olympic bar. My goal is to work up to 150 reps (continuous) at 135 pounds.

The result was very sore legs this morning, along with a 2.5 pound spike in morning body weight, which means increased fluid, which I often see after a hard workout. Some of that is blood volume, and that is good.

The result with sore legs: my best effort of the year: an average of 247 watts for 82 minutes at an average heart rate of 147 (85% of max). And the first half of that effort was just a normal effort, it was the second half that I rode at more like 270 watts, near 160 BPM (92% of max). That’s still well below my potential, but I’ll take it! Heart rate should drop 10 beats or so for that same effort later in the season when I’m more fit, and I should be able to do 340 watts for 45 minutes.

I have an inkling that the weight lifting triggered old neural pathways that unlocked past potential. I used to have all the trainers at the gym vying to see who could match my feats doing squats— very powerful legs. Gotta put that meat back on the quads.

Stretching observation: tight hamstrings reduce power output by resisting the quadriceps. Power always seems to jump 10-15 watts after I stop and stretch the hammies out.

March 1 — listen to the clues

OK, my sinus/chest/cough thing is still there, but I went out riding cautiously to find my legs as strong as ever, tempted to ride even longer, but I felt no need to prove myself stupid as hell. I kept it to an hour, so with a good night’s sleep I hope to be back in form soon. The antibiotics and nose spray and anti-histamines area all starting to do their job.

February 26 — get over illness before riding hard again

I was almost well in Death Valley, but a week of very early mornings (5am) and two hard night rides did me in— the sinus/chest infection came back with a vengeance leaving me feeling to weak to walk up a mild slope for 1/4 mile. I’ll have to rest up and bide my time. Still, the weight loss trend is intact and on schedule, so all is not lost.

February 17 — erratic

Well, two fun weekend days on 10/11 Feb took their toll, with the return of a cough from a not-quite-recovered cold. Erratic performance this week, and not enough sleep is not helping, nor is the weather, which turned cold on the 15th with rain, and is now a nasty drizzle all day long on the 17th— no ride today, just too uncomfortable at 50° in heavy rain.

February 10 — strong day, food and water, calories

Felt really strong two days ago, but then 2 days of sluggishness. I guess this cold virus still wants its way with me— except that today I rode for 2:40 as strongly as any day so far— so time on the bike is paying off!

Food and water— Learned a lesson today; did not take food or water. At the 70 minute mark I was thirsty and hungry. Stopped and bought a candy bar and a liter of water— wow that’s better! Always carry a few small bills in the underseat pouch, and better yet, take a bottle of Accelerade for rides over 90 minutes. Probably I’m still not in good enough shape to avoid burning a lot of carbohydrates (glycogen) instead of body fat, so the muscle stores deplete quickly.

Weight loss— it’s disappointing to have burned 40,000 kilocalories since Dec 31 and to have lost only 5 pounds of body weight. A pound of body fat, accounting for water, is about 3500 calories.

February 7 — fair weather cycling in winter, food for weight loss

A true training gift: last 2 weeks have been stupendous, about 70° or more with only one rainy day.

The hardest part of dropping weight (fat) is not snacking. Easy to overeat.

Secret so far: frozen wild blueberries with black walnuts, lean meat, fruit, soy milk and green tea, and chocolate when I really have to indulge.

Still not doing any significant climbing (ascents), just no fun at current weight of 197 pounds. Will defer to the 192 pound range, hopefully by end of February.

February 6 — cold virus, Ergomo Pro fails

Still have a sporadic hacking cough from my recent cold/sinus thing. But power the two prior days is a near-normal levels, so regular training at reasonable efforts can be continued without fear of recovering from this illness.

Ergomo Pro power meter has now failed. I guess 4+ years of use is reasonable. Pulled it out and restored original Shimano DuraAce crankset. New bike will have SRM 7900 cranks anyway. But until it arrives, no more power readout.

Was able to hunt down a guy on aero bars today, so I guess I’m in decent condition.

January 31 - Feb 1

Runny nose, the virus has me in its clutches. Miserable night coughing.

January 27

Some bug (virus) is at me, can feel it. Starting to drag me down.

January 26

27 days of training have taken their toll, power was really flagging today. Or maybe my kids have given me their cough.

Jan 9

Not bad, HDL cholesterol is at 93, which is exceptional. Bad news is total of 280. Will come down steadily as weight is lost.

Dec 31, 2010 — start of training

Mental commitment: ride every day starting today.

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