Experience

Just had a really fun marathon experience. Achieved my goals for the marathon and had a good confidence boost. Read about it here.

There have been a few questions posted as comments. I decided I will not answer them with a comment as I have in the past as I lost all comments recently. Instead I will include them in a post. So a couple of questions (one on Ultras and the other on fueling) are answered at the bottom of this post.

I’ve recently had a couple of pretty scary experiences on my bike and it got me thinking about how both related to advice I’ve been given by experienced cyclists in the past but I guess have not taken seriously enough feeling I was experienced. The funny thing about experience is that it’s measured, normally, by time spent doing something. Someone that performs an activity a lot and does so successfully without accident or mishap is viewed as having good experience. Unfortunately, good fortune can merely reinforce a bad model of the world. The person that rides for years without a helmet and doesn’t have an accident is not proof that riding without a helmet is safe. The person that walks in the hills without a survival bag, waterproofs etc… and never gets caught out is not proof you shouldn’t carry them. Advice is best taken from someone thats experienced the accidents / mishaps and come through successfully. So … hows my experience measure up ?

RIDING ON ICE

I think I was ‘lucky’ enough to come off on ice very early in my cycling career and did so without mishap. It certainly makes me cautious in cold weather when approaching wet looking bends. I’ve ridden with people that don’t slow down at all for these and when asked invariably have never come off on ice. They don’t tend to heed the warning but are seen to ride slower once they’ve had their mishap.

FIXED DOWN HILL RIDING

I was told about the dangers of riding fast downhill on a fixed. Your chain might jump. I just couldn’t figure how that would happen and pretty much ignored the advice. Up till last week I had 15,000 miles of fixed riding ‘experience’ that reinforced my model of this. At about 15,050 miles of experience I had my chain jump off at 27 mph downhill with a car following. I was lucky to maintain control and lucky the driver was aware of what was going on. Seeing the massive scar in my chain stays is pretty scary. Now it’s happened I can see why – when going that speed you can’t pedal quick enough to keep tension in the chain. The back wheel can speed a little creating slack at the top, a bump at the wrong time can bring it off. At those speeds you’ll do very well to stay upright. Fixie riders out there – heed the warning.

WHEEL RIMS WEARING OUT

I’ve done a lot of riding. 91,000 miles since I’ve started keeping a training diary (just over 6 years). I knew that rims wore out. I’ve even replaced the odd rim. Recently on my road bike I’d noticed that the front brake was incredibly juddery under braking. I checked the rim for blemishes but saw nothing. I did notice the concaved section of the rim and concluded it needed checking and probably replacing. I figured it would last another week and I’d check it in for a service when i got back from Lanzarote.  Coming down the path from Taunton station on Thursday there was a MASSIVE bang. Like a gun shot or an engine backfiring. Enough that everyone around including drivers looked over. My front rim had quite literally exploded. Around a quarter of the rim a sliver of rim had separated abit like I’d gone round it with a tin opener. If I’d been going faster it would have been the whole rim and the wheel would have disintegrated. If last Wednesday I’d ridden one extra hill in Surrey it would probably gone then at 20+ mph rather than at 5mph …. I don’t want to think about the consequences. So …. 90,000+ miles of experience before I learnt that one.

INNER TUBES

Another one learnt recently. How many of you carry inner tubes in a saddle bag and just leave them there. I was out riding and had a puncture. Both the inner tubes I was carrying turned out to have corroded valves that snapped on inflation. Luckily I was riding with someone so there were other tubes. Speaking to the mechanic at Cycles Dauphin he said it was common and he recommended carrying them in plastic bags to keep the water off

CHAIN TOOL

It always surprises me how few people carry one of these. I luckily learnt my lesson in my youth and always carry one. I can think of 4 occasions since I started triathlon where I’ve needed one – twice for me and twice for someone I’m with. In all cases it was a simple task to get us moving again but without the tool then we’d have been on a minor road trying to hitch a lift. My advice is learn how to use a chain tool and carry one.

GRAVEL ON CORNERS

I have never some off on  gravel on a corner. Every time I’m with a group gravel is pointed out. I used to wonder why they’re doing that. Now I realise it’s because the combined experience of the group includes times when crashes have been caused by gravel. I’ve decided this is one I don’t want to learn myself so I now slow down for gravel.

It seems that positive experience will reinforce your model of the world but it doesn’t make it the right model. How does this translate to triathlon and training. I have been wondering. People say you always learn from a bad race but I’m not so sure it’s so straight forward. A bad race doesn’t mean your training is wrong and a good race doesn’t mean it’s right. With Ironman you race so infrequently and the variables are so many it’s a very tricky experiment with a sample of one. I believe the benefits come over the years and consistency in your approach despite good or bad races is key to find out if it works. I firmly believe it’s not that tricky. Well … let me spell that out. I firmly believe it’s not that tricky to get consistent decent performances. Ironman nicely rewards hard work. I don’t think I’ve ever not got the result I deserved. You put the work in you get a result. I think the tricky part is trying to get that stellar performance – the one that gets the maximum out of your preparations. I feel that it’s those final few weeks of build and taper that are key and it’s certainly where I falter. I’m great at consistent background training which is probably what makes me good at the Epic Camp game but as yet I don’t think I’ve ever brought myself to a peak of preparation for a race.

+++++ ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS POSTED AS COMMENTS +++++

  1. Why do I not aim for some Ultra Triathlon – double / deca etc… It had crossed my mind. I did an Ultra with Jo in May 2008 and we did very well. We did it together and were second overall. We both felt I’d have had a great shot at winning if I’d raced it on my own. So I entered another Ultra for June last year – unfortunately I snapped a tendon in my foot. Now I just don’t know whether my foot would handle the level of running and whether I’m willing to find out. The deca’s where it’s an Ironman each day does sound like my sort of thing though … a massive 10 day Epic Camp! Having said that I don’t see me doing one of those. Utlras though … if I this year the running goes well I may be tempted next.
  2. You asked about fueling. Before I let you know the typical things I eat I would just ask you to try stuff out for yourself and also think logically about ‘advice’ given and whether it’s logical. Try for yourself doing a long ride without carbs. If you have breakfast before you start then treat yourself to a nice big omellette with cheese and bacon – NO CARBS. Then head off and see how you feel. So many people just resort to munching carbs as soon as they feel a little peckish. Resist the desire. In my experience that just sets up a vicious circle where you’re blood sugars are never quite right and you just want for more carbs. I can do a decent pace 100 mile ride on zero food. Whether you need it when you are working hard I’m not sure. They say that carbohydrate metabolism gives off more energy but I just don’t know. i wonder whether this is another myth and i’d like to find some research on it. I don’t really notice a sudden increase in my energy after carbs … certainly don’t notice anything better than any other fuel.

I start by saying I’m not perfect when it comes to this stuff. I enjoy eating cakes and the like and regularly can’t resist. I try and limit them to the middle of rides where I’m pretty sure I’ll use the sugar pretty promptly and hopefully it won’t trigger too big an insulin response.

Day to day I would start my day with an omelette – 4 eggs, cheese and perhaps some meat or onion, peppers. Lunch often wouldn’t happen as I’ll be out training. For snacks whilst riding – peanuts though if I can find them roasted almonds. Pork scratchings, biltong, beef jerky. Sometimes I’ll eat a whole chicken if I can find a rotissary. Evenings – large portion of meat together with salad or veggies – we’re talking loads of salad / veggies. Minimal starchy veg though. Regularly follow that with a large fruit salad with full fat natural / greek yogurt. Normally add a large handful of nuts and more often than not peanut butter.

I’ve maintained massive training volume on a low carb diet. Epic Camp would see me eating LOADS of bacon, egg, peanut butter for breakie. Gordo estimated I was eating 8 eggs. Lunch I’d avoid the wraps but create my own by use cold meats as the wrap rather than bread. Dinner I’d just avoid the pasta, rice, potatoes. Last year I did 120 hours of training in two weeks at Club La santa. I’d breakfast on scrambled egg with tuna and walnuts. Then I would have the odd snack during the day and in the evening have multiple plates of meat and salad from their buffet. It’s probably the leanest I’ve been in recent years following that and ask Jo or Rachel I was eating a serious amount of food but zero processed carbs.

It seems a regular response, to suggesting that the evidence before our eyes over the past 20 years is that the low fat advice is not working, is that it’s because people aren’t following the advice. Being someone that is actively trying to not follow this advice I can tell you just how hard it is to do. Go to a supermarket and try to buy foods that are high fat, high protein and low carb. It takes a lot of effort and certainly more money. Given that I’d be surprised if there’s anyone out there that’s trying to follow the low fat advice but accidentally not managing it. In fact, those that are not trying to follow any advice will almost certainly end up with a high carb, low fat and protein diet by default. I think it would be very fair to say the majority are heeding the advice given and it’s not working. Why is it that, despite all the advice we’re being given and all the foods being manufactured that match this advice, the cost of health is increasing so hugely. Surely at some point we should start questioning it. I’m trying in my own little way to get people to question it. Hopefully eventually there’ll be enough momentum for governments to see the evidence and have the guts to say the advice given was wrong and was based on (very) bad science.

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