Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The big Sports Nutrition post: the recipes

The most recent renditions of my home-made sports drinks and mixes. Apologies for the mixed imperial and metric weights and measures, but I'm a Canadian who grew up next to the American border so I have an excuse. :)

The background and preamble to these recipes can be found here.

Basic Sports Drink Mix

Makes 24 servings @ 30g per serving (120 calories)*.

  • 5 1/4 cups or 720g maltodextrin
  • 1 tsp or 3600mg lo-salt
  • 2 tsp or 7200mg sea salt
  • 2 tsp or 2400mg calcium powder
  • 3.5 tsp or 1200mg magnesium powder
  • optional: some kind of flavouring to taste, as desired (i.e., cocoa powder, Kool-Aid packets or myprotein.co.uk powdered flavours, or a tiny bit of fruit juice once mixed)
  • optional: caffeine powder, use at your own risk but more than 50mg per serving is not recommended
Mix all ingredients well in a bowl, put into a container and keep dry. One 30g serving is approximately 60mL or 1/4 cup. Electrolytes can be adjusted to taste/need.

*Mixed with 375mL of water, it's a 7.5% solution, though maltodextrin's osmolality means it can be mixed as high as 24% in solution. 10-12% is recommended, but I like my drinks to be weakly flavoured as I generally only use them in intense activities or hot conditions.

Basic Endurance Mix

Makes 24 servings @28g per serving (113 calories) with 7:1 carbs to protein ratio.*

  • 1075mL or 615g maltodextrin
  • 140mL or 80g soy protein powder
  • optional: some kind of flavouring to taste, as desired (i.e., cocoa powder, Kool-Aid packets or myprotein.co.uk powdered flavours, or a tiny bit of fruit juice once mixed)
  • optional: caffeine powder, use at your own risk but more than 50mg per serving is not recommended
Mix all ingredients well in a bowl, put into a container and keep dry. One 28g serving is approximately 50mL or 1/4 cup less 2 tsp.

*I mix this into a paste, basically 3-4 servings in a small gel flask or many more servings in a regular-sized water bottle. See above notes for more dilute concentrations.

Basic Recovery Mix

Makes 24 servings @ 55g per serving (200 calories) with 3:1 carbs to protein ratio.*

  • 3 1/2 cups or 480g maltodextrin
  • 2 2/3 cups or 420 g dextrose
  • 780mL or 320 g whey powder
  • 1/2 cup or 108g glutamine
  • 2 tsp or 7200mg lo-salt
  • 4 tsp or 14400mg sea salt
  • 4 tsp or 4800mg calcium powder
  • 7 tsp or 2400mg magnesium powder
  • optional: some kind of flavouring to taste, as desired (i.e., cocoa powder, Kool-Aid packets or myprotein.co.uk powdered flavours, or a tiny bit of fruit juice once mixed)
Mix all ingredients well in a bowl, put into a container and keep dry. One 55g serving is approximately 95mL or 3/8 cup. Electrolytes can be adjusted to taste.

*Mixed into 500mL of water it's just sweet enough and not too salty. Some research (e.g.) has been done showing that drinks with mixed and single carbohydrate sources have similar absorption rates, and since this is a post-workout drink containing protein, I'm not so worried about sugar spikes and stomach upset. Therefore I mix malto and dextrose nearly 50/50 in this drink. 100% dextrose would be way too sweet and 100% malto is a bit bland for my taste in recovery drink.

*Edit September 2010
I've started adding a few more amino acids to my recovery mix to complement the glutamine. To the recipe above, add:
50g HMB
24g BCAAs
5g Tyrosine

By the way, if you like these recipes and want to order your own whey and carbo powders from MyProtein.co.uk, please use my referral code! MP107371

The big Sports Nutrition post: the background

If transitions are the fourth discipline in triathlon, surely nutrition and hydration are the fifth. Get it right and you set yourself up for a great Ironman; get it wrong and you're bonking/dehydrating/vomiting/passing out all the way to a DNF.

So following some of Jim's musings and experiments in making his own energy gels, and my recent posts to the TriTalk and BikeRadar forums on sports nutrition, I figured it was time to blog some of my own thoughts and experiences about this very important and sometimes frustrating side of endurance athletics. In the second part, I've posted some tried and true recipes for various sports drinks and concoctions.

A bit of background

When I first started training seriously for triathlon in 2004, I had been more of less following the Zone way of eating for the past 5 years; that is, moderating my carbs, protein and fat intake in meals and snacks to be 40%, 30%, and 30% respectively. I had found this was the best way both to eat well (lots of veggies and lean meats with a moderate amount of "good" fats) and to control my appetite and blood sugar to avoid those afternoon dips. In fact, I had gotten good enough at that way of eating that I switched to decaf coffee shortly after starting on the Zone, and never looked back.

The problem is, the Zone diet was designed for ordinary (okay, probably even overweight) people, living normal mostly-sedentary lives and needing a way to control their weight and blood sugar. It wasn't designed for athletes, and especially not for endurance athletes. Its negative skew of all things sugary meant that I started out as a triathlete thinking I needed to avoid taking in excess carbs in the form of sugar, and sticking to my 40-30-30 calorie distribution. Of course, this is only really applicable in the hours outside of training and its immediate recovery period. For time spent exercising and the 2 hours directly afterwards, a much higher concentration of carbs is needed in the diet. And the longer you train, the more important it is both to ingest enough calories during exercise and to recover well with enough calories afterward.

The Research

So I started Googling and reading about it. A friend gave me a free can of Accelerade and I used it as a recovery drink, finding that I suddenly felt much more refreshed the next day. I started buying all the different gels I saw at my favourite Canadian cycling/running store and trying them out. I looked at the ingredients of various sports nutrition drinks, researched what they did and how they worked, and started experimenting with making some myself. Given the simplicity of the ingredients and exorbitant expense of the store-bought ones (and with my unpredictable income as a freelance film industry worker), I was happy to invest some time and energy into a cheap and workable solution to my energy needs.

Right away I learned that simple sugars such as those found in Gatorade and most during-exercise sports nutrition products (glucose, dextrose and fructose) needed to be mixed in lower concentrations in order to prevent stomach upset, and that they tended to produce severe blood sugar spikes. With my sensitive stomach and history of rollercoastering blood sugar, I was therefore drawn to Hammer Nutrition, whose products contain only complex carbs in the form of maltodextrin (which produces a more even insulin reaction and can be mixed in higher concentration due to its greater osmolality). I browsed their website, read a bunch of their articles ("10 Biggest Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make", "15 Simple Ways to Improve Your Athletic Performance" , "Recovery - A Crucial Component for Athletic Success" and the mother of them all, "The Endurance Athlete's Guide to Success") and studied the nutritional info of their products. Then I set about trying to make my own.

The ingredients were pretty ordinary. Plain maltodextrin for short training sessions was easy to get at my local beer-brewing shop, and soy protein (needed for for longer training sessions) I found at the health food store. Whey protein and extra glutamine for my recovery drink was available at the sports supplement store. I managed to replicate electrolyte tablets and powders by mixing salt, lo-salt (containing potassium), calcium powder and magnesium powder in the appropriate ratio. Since moving to the UK, I've even found a source for powdered flavourings, so have said good-bye to the old unsweetened Kool-Aid packets. Jim has furthered the research into things like BCAAs and HMB, so that will be added to future versions of my concoctions as well.

The Current Favourites

Of course, since I started this sports nutrition project I've moved continents once, countries twice, been employed steadily making good money and gotten quite serious as an amateur athlete with Ironman Kona goals. So even though I still make my own training and recovery mixes -- particularly recovery mixes as that's where I don't need to worry about stomach sensitivity so much -- I also buy the following products regularly now from Hammer UK because I can afford it and because sometimes it's just easier. I should point out that unless otherwise noted, I always mix my drinks into a concentrated paste/liquid in a separate bottle or flask, so that I can isolate my water intake from my fuel intake.
  • Perpeteum - My staple for long bike rides including Ironman. The 8:1 soy protein/malto mix with added fat means it digests steadily and I don't get hunger pangs after 5-6 hours in the saddle. I'm going to try to replicate it using egg yolk powder for the fat as soy lecithin powder is not so readily available.
  • Hammer Gel - My staple for runs including marathons, as it's malto-based, easy to carry, easy to eat, doesn't upset my stomach, and comes in many different flavours, both in little packets and large jugs. Jim has a recipe for making gels like this but not a way to package them into one-serving foil wrappers (yet!)
  • Sustained Energy - The original endurance fuel, its 7:1 soy protein/malto ratio makes it a little less heavy in the stomach than Perpeteum. I've made my own and flavoured it with instant coffee granules to add some caffeine. Nice for medium-length rides or mixed half and half with Perp.
  • Heed - The basic carb-only sports drink, and my staple for short intense rides when it's logistically easier to combine my fuel and water into one bottle. It's got electrolytes added too, so great in summer.
  • Endurolytes -Electrolytes including Sodium, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium in the ratio of 4:2:1:1 respectively. I prefer to use the capsules rather than add the powder to my mix, so that I can control my electrolyte intake better and top up quickly when necessary. I do add my own electrolyte mix to my recovery drink however.
  • Anti-Fatigue Caps - Various hard-to-find ingredients which act as scavengers for the ammonia that's a by-product of protein metabolism. The body burning protein is something that happens after about 2 hours of training, making this good for long rides and runs. Haven't been able to test it "scientifically" enough to say for sure that it works -- it might be a placebo effect after all! -- but it seems to help with muscle fatigue once I get over 4-5 hours in the saddle.
  • Energy Surge - Pure ATP which is what sprinters burn through. Probably not so useful for endurance events unless there's a big climb coming up or a sprint finish predicted. Haven't figured out how to take these little pills when I really need them, like in a cycling circuit or road race, without dropping or losing them. Maybe stuffed inside something solid like a wine gum? Jim likes them for running fast 5km races as they do give an instant kick.
and shortly to try
  • Race Day Boost - Sodium Phosphate "loading" and glycogen storage supplement for endurance events, to set up the blood to buffer lactic acid. Interested to see how/if it works, as lots of users rave about it. Can't seem to find pharmaceutical grade sodium phosphate anywhere, so I haven't been able to make it myself.
and possibly
  • Liquid Endurance - Glycerol loading for hot weather events, which lets your muscles store extra water. Since I no longer reside in the tropics of southern Ontario in the summer, I don't really need this unless we get an unexpected heatwave.
So without further adieu, here are the latest renditions of my recipes for various training and recovery mixes.

By the way, if you've been inspired by what I've written and want to order your own whey and carbo powders from MyProtein.co.uk, please use my referral code! MP107371

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A slight bout of taperitis

A week from tomorrow is my marathon, so last week I started to taper a bit. Having done some good volume in the past few weeks -- 100km bike rides and 2+ hour runs -- it's been nice to stick to short and fast workouts instead this week. The weather helped me too; going from beautiful warm sunny spring to crappy rainy windy spring seriously curbed my enthusiasm for going outside to train. But fewer hours trained is fewer calories burned, so to stay nice and lean for the race I've had to fight the munchies a bit. I think I'm winning the battle though, as after yesterday's hard 17km run and pasta dinner, I denied myself the bread and chips (er, crisps) I was craving around 9pm and this morning was rewarded with 54.6kg on the scale. That's the first time I have been below 55kg since I moved to the UK, and hopefully I can keep up both the motivation to train hard and the willpower to eat better with results like that!

For the run yesterday, I did the same route I'd done last fall 2 weeks out from the Nice marathon: a 2.5km warm-up run to Richmond Park, a hard loop of the 11.7km outer path in the park, then the same 2.5km run home to cool down. In the fall I had run the loop clockwise (tailwind on the open flat, but ascending the steep hill) in just under 57 minutes. Yesterday in my super fast Asics Gel Banditos shoes and running counterclockwise (descending the steep hill but with a brutal headwind on the open flat), I managed 52:57! That's a 4:31/km pace, running on hard-packed dirt with 75m of elevation gain/loss, and it gave me a PB for 15km if the Garmin is to be believed. Needless to say, I was quite happy given that my last few longish runs have been somewhat painful and disheartening.

SportTracks has some cool plugins and one of them is the Map Overlay, which colours the track on the map to show different speeds, gradients, heart rates, etc. Ever the numbers and maps geek, I find it quite interesting to see where my pace slows down and speeds up relative to hills, headwinds and distance. Glad to see I finished strong in the last little uphill bit because by then I certainly wasn't feeling strong!

As for the marathon, I still haven't decided whether I should run the full distance or not, but I'm hoping that I feel good enough on the day to give it a go. I'll gauge it during my warmup and in the first few minutes of the race, and if I feel anything but completely rested and 100% ready to tackle 42.2km, I'll speed up and try to run a strong PB in the half instead.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Pack Fill

Yesterday was my first road race ever, and I was more than a bit nervous. Given the dearth of women-only races around here, particularly on the open road, I thought I'd try one of the Surrey League's mostly-men cat 3 races. There were 65 starters, of which only 3 were women: me, and the two teenaged Trott sisters (Laura, a junior cat 2, and her older sister Emma, a cat 1 international racer). Somewhat intimidating to say the least, but with my new cat 3 status, perfect sunny and warm weather, and seven other Kingston Wheeler teammates joining me, it was the ideal setting for my first race. In fact, the race itself was put on by my club so there was lots of support on the road and at the HQ. Felt really good to see so many club members marshalling and helping out -- and taking photos like the one above (thanks to Luke Wallis' dad for that one!)

Road racing, I quickly learned, is a bit different from circuit racing. We did eight laps of a 6.5 mile course which was basically a rectangular route through country lanes with left turns to keep us from having to cross traffic. The roads can't be closed to cars, so even though the race was at 9:30am on a Sunday, we had our share of oncoming traffic (but thankfully no cars tried to overtake us!) English country roads are barely two car widths at best, and often more like one and a half with a dirt shoulders, which divided by two is not a lot of room to fit 60+ cyclists safely. Fortunately the roads we used were neither very winding nor very hilly, so the whole route had a broken centre line, allowing us to use the oncoming traffic lane to overtake each other.

I had gone into the race just wanting to finish in the pack and not get dropped, so I wasn't intending to attack or ride up front at all. But after the opening descent when I found myself close to the back, I soon realised that I'd have to work to move up unless I wanted to spend the entire race suffering from the accordion effect. Racing with men at this level, my strength is my ability to ride a long time at threshold, meaning a steady peleton pace would have to be pretty fast for me to get dropped. But my weakness as a sprinter became quite obvious as my legs started to tire from the constant braking and accelerating that happened with every corner, made worse by how far back I was. The only answer was to take my life into my hands a bit and ride in the centre of the road, overtaking riders when there were no cars coming, because the curbside meant getting boxed in on rough asphalt and going backwards.

By the 3rd lap I was trying pretty hard to move up 15-20 places in the pack on the uphill and headwind sections of the course so that when the section of long sweeping downhill with a tailwind came around, I could desperately cling to wheels as the 80+kg riders I'd passed on the hills zoomed by me at high speed. At one point, the group must have been trying to bring back an attack because the pace on the downhill crept up such that I was actually spat out the back for a minute or so until we reached the short climb at the beginning of the next lap where I could make contact again. Thankfully that was the only point where I felt like the thread was going to snap, and after that I worked even harder to maintain a good position in the middle of the group and anticipate accelerations and gaps opening so I wouldn't be caught out again.

From my vantage point 40-odd riders back and blocked by (erm, I mean nicely drafting behind) bigger riders, I had no idea whether a break had gotten away and if so, who was in it. Turns out that a group of seven riders went clear, which then later split into a group of three and a group of four, both of which held off the rest of us in the bunch by less than 20 seconds at the finish. The last lap was surprisingly mundane given how close the break really was, but I was happy just to finish upright and strong, even overtaking a few guys who misjudged the final steep hill and died 50 yards before the finish line. Many lessons learned for next time, but overall a great 2-hour workout in the sun with 65 of my closest training buddies.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Ironman Racing for Beginners, the basics

I read a post today on the Timetrialling forum about a fellow who's trying to become an Ironman before he turns 50. Apparently he can swim and run but is a pretty weak cyclist, in fact hasn't ridden more than an hour recently. And he's signed up for Ironman UK, the same race I'm doing. His brother had posted to the forum under the title 112 Miles, training programme needed and started the post with "My brother is doing a 112 mile ride as part of a triathlon in August..." -- typical roadie's viewpoint!

A dozen or more people replied with good advice, but having been in this same boat more or less when I started triathlon (strong swimmer, reasonable runner, poor cyclist) I felt a duty to chime in. And while I do question why someone who's never done a triathlon before and hardly rides more than 10km at a time signs up to do an Ironman, I also think that anyone who takes on that challenge should be supported rather than ridiculed.

What I wrote in reply was worth a blog post, as it reminded me just how much I've learned and how far I've come in the past 5 years. The following info is compiled from my own experience, plus various expert sources, particularly Gordo Byrn, Joe Friel, and Rich Strauss. Their view of triathlon training and racing is a big part of how I've become competitive level age-grouper that I am.

Ironman Racing for Beginners

Swimming needs good technique, running needs frequent sessions, cycling needs volume.
  • If you can already swim 4000m in 60-80 minutes happily, you're good enough that you should quit swim training NOW and not pick it up again til May/June. Your swimming will not suffer between now and then, and your time is best spent now riding and running instead. The swim makes up only 8-12% of the race, but the cycling part will be nearly 50% of the total day.
  • Running is best served with 2-3 short runs and one longer run a week, building up to no more than 2 hours of running at a time. Recovery time after 2 hours starts to infringe on the ability to put in quality bike workouts. Careful attention should be paid to any nagging twinges, etc. from running, and you should back off from run training where needed. Good bike endurance and fitness will make up in part for any lacking run endurance anyway (i.e., being able to do a 6 hour ride comfortably will go a long way towards completing the marathon running, not walking, even if you never run in training more than half the distance).
  • Cycling is VOLUME VOLUME VOLUME. It's the sport with the least injury risk and the most to be gained in a short period of time. You should be riding at least 3 times a week, if not 4 or more, with 2 of those rides being long-ish. Between now and August, if you can build up to a weekend with a 6-hour ride on Saturday and a 4.5 hour ride on Sunday, that will make your chances of completing the IM much better. Any shorter rides you do (2 hours or less) should be done with faster paced intervals included. Build fitness at LT and the fitness at endurance level zone 1/2 will follow. I can't emphasise enough how important is it to find time to cycle, either by lengthening your commute (especially in the afternoon now that the days are getting longer) or getting on the turbo/getting outside in the evening. Given that the course for IMUK has a great big hill on it (to be done 3 times) and some open bits that could get windy, you should structure your training rides appropriately -- do hill training, and do flat open against-the-wind training to build muscular endurance.

Once fitness is built, don't blow it with a bad taper.
  • no more positive training adaptations can come within 14 days of the race, and it's better to go into the race 10% undertrained rather than 1% overtrained, so you need to taper very very well. Small amounts of intensity during the last 2 weeks before the race, but volume comes right down.

Nutrition and hydration are just as important as being able to swim, bike and run.
  • practise, play around with, test everything you're going to eat and drink on race day during training. 5 and 6 hour rides are the best way to find out what works and what doesn't. You have to learn about yourself and what your water and fuel needs will be or you could spend a very miserable day out there bonking/dehydrating/overhydrating/vomiting/in the med tent DNFing.

Go into the race with a plan and stick to it.
  • go easy in the swim and even easier on the bike. After 75 miles it will feel hard enough! Then easy on the run til you know you're going to finish the race. Even with the pros, the "true race" doesn't start til the second half of the marathon. I can't count the number of people who flew by me on the first climb of my IM last year, only to be seen walking the marathon hours later (as I ran by them strongly). It's a 12-16 hour race for most people, so treat the first 4-5 hours of it accordingly.

Of course there's a lot more that can be said about Ironman racing (witness the store shelves full of books about it, not to mention at least 3 major monthy magazines filled with articles and training plans). But if I had to sum up the basics, this is it.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Wool, who knew?

Driving back from our Chertsey races a few weeks back, we stopped in at a local-ish cycling shop that we'd never visited before and had a look around. Alas, my neverending quest for long-fingered bike gloves that actually fit my short fingers will remain unfulfilled, but I did come across a pretty nifty merino wool baselayer shirt made by Sugoi called the Wallaroo, regular price £50, on sale for £30.

Sugoi is one of my favourite companies, ever since I opened a box addressed to a long-moved and unreachable Vancouver housemate back in 2001 and discovered a Midzero top inside, conveniently in exactly my size. My first piece of Sugoi gear, it's still a staple of my winter wardrobe, though I've bought tons of Sugoi stuff since. They are a Canadian company after all! So despite my misgivings about wool, I decided to give this Wallaroo shirt a try.

Most people my age probably remember the wool of their childhoods as itchy, heavy, and definitely not anything to wear directly next to the skin (sorry, Nana!) but I've been quite impressed with this shirt. It's super light and thin, which made me wonder how warm it could be, but it holds heat impressively well, particularly when it's windy. A little too warm for running in anything above 5 degrees C, but it's great for fall/winter/spring cycling, either with or without a layer on top. After a wash, it's incredibly soft and not itchy, and it wicks as well as any synthetic baselayer. But what I really love about it is how it doesn't hold odours at all. That anything I've worn during a 100km bike ride can smell fine afterwards is a miracle in itself, but one I'll gladly accept without question!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Training volume + weight loss = getting sick more often?

Since my training year officially started the week of January 1, I've been trying more or less to improve my eating habits (i.e., eat less food in general, and less junk food in particular) and lose a bit of weight. Not lots, just the icing off the cake so to speak. According to popular research, each pound lost is a minute gained in a marathon, and of course climbing well on the bike is all about being lightweight.

After reading that Dutch pro triathlete and 2008 Kona runner-up Yvonne van Vlerken lost 4kg last year off her "athletic frame" (what a nice way to say short and stocky), improving her speed and performance, I figured losing the same would go a long way to achieving my Kona dream too. As of January 1, my own 5'2" athletic frame weighed over 57kg. The goal is to get down to 52kg for race day, August 2.

Right now, in mid-March, I'm at about 55.5kg. This is the lightest I've ever been in March and it shows -- my jeans are a bit loose now in the waist (though tight in the upper legs thanks to all those 14% hills I've been riding!) -- and I feel pretty toned. Since I don't have a body fat monitor, I have to use a combination of the scale, how I look in the mirror, and how my clothes fit, but I would say that even though I've been putting on muscle from all this running, cycling, upper body weights and core work, my body fat is still down. Apparently I'm now considered a hot roadie even, although I think there's a bias there....

In late January, we had a little holiday on Lanzarote to kick start the season with some high volume bike training, and as usual when we got back I promptly came down with a cold. No worries, within a few days of rest and reduced intensity training I was over it and back to the regular grind. Since then I've steadily ramped up my training volume to an average of 12 hours a week. I've been eating well, recovering well, sleeping mostly well (though never enough, it seems), and feeling fast, sleek and great. Strong as an ox, right?

Last week I had some shorter workouts with higher intensity, then the plan for the weekend was higher volume at lower intensity. Friday afternoon I ran 28 hilly km in 2:20, Saturday I rode 60km on flat terrain in zone 1/2, and yesterday was a 90km group ride with 750m of climbing spread over 3 major hills that I attacked reasonably hard, with the rest of the ride pretty easy. Came home, threw on my recovery tights, ate a good meal, and lazed in front of the TV for most of the evening. I even managed to make it to bed before 11pm as I was feeling a bit tired from 8 hours of training over the past 48 hours. But by 2am I was up and sneezing, coughing, completely congested... with what seems to be another cold.

My resting HR this morning was normal, so obviously I'm not too sick. Today's a scheduled easy day with just a short form run anyway, along with some core and upper body work at the gym that I may push til tomorrow. So I'm not too worried, but I am a bit frustrated and wondering what's up with my getting sick so often. This is my third cold in 5 months, and for someone who has more than once gone an entire year without a cold, that's pretty bad! Is it the weather in my adopted country? My increased training volume? My slimmed down physique? The fact that I'm now living full-time with a (wonderful and loving) night owl and poor sleeper? All of the above?

SportTracks has a great little plug-in called Training Load, which is basically a poor man's Training Peaks for those of us who don't have a power meter (yet!) It takes the time spent in various HR zones and intensities for training activities and calculates a TSS score for each, then graphs CTL, ATL and TSS over time. This is what mine looked like this morning:

Training Load 2009-03-09

blue = CTL aka fitness level
red = ATL aka fatigue level
pink = body weight
brown columns = the TSS or Training Stress Score for a given day's activities with general scales of low, medium, high and epic.

The "epic" event and accompanying spike on the farthest left is the marathon I ran on November 9, 2008. The following month I took it pretty easy as evidenced by the drop in both ATL and CTL, then got going again with serious training in the new year. The big jump in the middle-right, and corresponding drop in body weight is the Lanzarote trip. Since then my fitness has been steadily climbing, my fatigue is being managed through easy days and days off, and my weight has been dropping.

It's nice to see my hard work translated into pretty graphs showing improved fitness (being the data geek that I am), but I'm starting to wonder if 52kg is going to be too light to be both fit enough and strong enough for Ironman UK. Do I really have 3.5 more kg to lose, or is the risk of illness too great? If I keep going the way I am, I'll lose that weight just from maintaining my current diet and ramping up the volume in early summer when I start doing 5-6 hour rides. At that point, I guess I'll find out whether I get to eat -- must eat, even -- all the dessert I want again, just to stay well!